Monday, October 23, 2017
Saturday, October 21, 2017
I like what Steve Harley, late of the glam band Cockney Rebel, has to say. Squarely facing a trend and movement, he reacts honestly and reminds us what it was all about:
I like the principal behind it all. I never really pretended to understand what was going on. I can't pretend that I understand. I'm 28. I can't pretend that I understand 18-year olds. Writing songs about being on the dole, and living in high-rise council blocks of flats, and being underprivileged and deprived. I can't pretend to understand that because it's not part of my lifestyle, so I won't lie and say, "Oh, I'm hip to that!" Because I'm not. I'm from another world. Well, what the Pistols did, and their ilk, was important in that they made it very obvious that anyone can do it.
Friday, October 20, 2017
My students weren't being humorless about this, or overly earnest. Most of their comments were offered with half-grins, yet their reactions were authentic; no English Major posturing here. It's fascinating to me how different generations read and react. My students admittedly couldn't imagine how a literate, pre-Second War audience would respond to the essay. One particularly bright student suggested that since her generation of twenty-somethings is so attuned to trigger warnings and danger signs of depression, it's apt that they would read "My Face" with a diagnostic eye, open to signs of toxic self-deprecation or mental illness that might be helped with counseling (or medication). Another bright student suggested "LOL I Hate My Life" as a subtitle to the essay. Another said the essay reminded her of Louis C.K. in its darkness and relentless self-scrutiny. Benchley, dark! Fascinating. My students keep teaching me, and I'm grateful for that.
My dad owned three of four Benchley books, and I have fond memories of sitting with my family in the living room after dinner, and my older brother reading Benchley aloud, and all of us falling over ourselves laughing. I guess that in another fifty or so years a group of college students might respond very differently again to "My Face," perhaps on the pendulum swing back to identifying with Benchley's laid-back, witty tone. Who knows. I wonder what Benchley would make of all of this.
Monday, October 16, 2017
I really hope that she went to a bootleg showing of Cocksucker Blues later.
Dick Cavett: Are your children with you?
Woman: No, they're at home.
C: Where are you from?
W: Port Chester, New York.
C: Are you a housewife?
W: Yes. Mother.
C: And you're going to the concert?
DC: How did you get tickets? And how many?
W: I bought one off the street.
DC: Hold on to it, because people have been known to get them away from people.... Are you going or are your children?
W: No, I am. They're going tomorrow night.
C: Do they know you're here?
W: Yes. I hope [laughs]
C: Is your husband a Stones fan?
W: No. No.
C: Just you?
W: And my children really turned me on to the music and that's why I grew to love it and that's how come I'm here. Oh, I feel foolish! [laughs]
C: You shouldn't feel foolish. Do you have a poster of Mick Jagger up in the kitchen or anything?
W: No [laughs]
C: Nothing like that. You just like the sound.
W: Yes, I just like them. . . .
C: Would you want to meet Mick Jagger? I can't arrange it, but if you did do you have any idea what you'd talk about?
W: I have a son that reminds me of him. [laughs]
C: How old is the son?
W: He's eight-years old.
C: But Jagger's twice that old!
W: Ah, just something about him reminds me of him. I have a few children, and he's just different from all all the rest.
Screen grab of The Dick Cavett Show via Decades
Friday, October 13, 2017
When a player dives back to first in response to a lightning-quick pick-off move, he by definition hurls his body through air, and occasionally his foot or leg will come up off the bag even after he's arrived safely. That's physics. That's poetry. It's not a mistake. It's a body moving through space. Instant Replay should be used to reverse bad calls and obvious mistakes made by the umpires and players—it should not be used to penalize a player for being six feet and an inch and weighing 205 pounds and, against gravity and with brutally-honed instincts, lurching to his left to touch a bag and—for an instant—lift off.
I was texting with my brother, who was at the game and didn't have access to the replays I was watching. I thought I'd cool off about this overnight, but nope.
Thursday, October 12, 2017
Rocky and the Riddlers' garage stomp "Flash & Crash," released on the Seattle-based, Jerden-affiliated Panorama label in 1966. Recently, Ric Ulsky, who played organ on the song, contacted me at my YouTube channel, 3 Chord Philosophy. I asked him for any memories of the session:
I remember it being very exciting. An actual recording studio! Wow! Plus I was the youngest member of the band so I was even more excited. It was 1966 technology. I believe we were in a 2 track studio downtown Seattle. Jerry Dennon was the Producer, I'm pretty sure. Carnie Barton was the engineer, I think. Hell, he was old then. He just sat there reading the paper and eating an orange. I was playing a Farfisa through a 147 Leslie and a Sears and Roebuck Silvertone amp. Hell of a rig for those days.Hell of a sound. Turn it up, if you dare.
Photo of Rocky and the Riddlers via Pacific Northwest Bands
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Mourning a musician you've never met is inevitable and complicated. I can't say that I'll miss Tom Petty, the man; I never knew him. His family, friends, band mates, and musicians who've played with down the years—one in the same, at the end of the day—will miss him, and I feel awful for their grieving that begins today, and will never really end. What I and millions more are grieving is the end of a generous and supremely gifted musical career, a career that gave deep pleasures to so many in so many different ways during so many eras. Petty will never write or sing another song. That hits keenly today. I didn't pay close attention to his career from the late 1990s onward, but his songs will stay very close to me. It's always been my impression that Tom Petty was the Great Leveler. Put a handful of music fans of different stripes in a room—a Rockabilly obsessive; a garage rock hound; a Punk/New Waver; an MTV kid; an Indie Rock stalwart; a millennial streaming Classic Rock into Hip Hop back to 60s AM hits; college kids raiding their parents' music collections; drunks, stoners—and I'm pretty sure they'd agree on Tom Petty. His greatest songs were formalist gems that were so true and clear-eyed about what it meant to be alive that they cut across bias, taste, and generations, as all great popular art does. I hope that he knew this. I hope he knew how it feels.
The timing of one's fandom is crucial. I was a teenager by a few months when Damn The Torpedoes came out in the fall of 1979, and his songs—the hits, especially—scored that year and the next in graphic, indelible ways. The backing vocal on "Refugee" sounded exactly like a friend's voice, the same timbre and tone; Petty and his band were familiar already. And when I'd listen to the mumbling verses in "Here Comes My Girl"—so masculine in their bitter, shrugging defenses and talky inarticulation, on guard against powerful sentiment and emotional surprise—and then the lyrical melody bloom in the chorus, Petty, moved, singing at the top of his register, the room and the song lighting up with her and her presence, I had everything laid out before me, a lot of which I'd experienced but hadn't named: crushes; love; lust, the power of intimacy; looming adulthood; surrendering; all in one song. Thanks, Tom Petty, for this song and so many others.
My buddy Marty owns a cabin in West Virginia overlooking the Cacapon River. We'd fantasize about inviting Petty to hang with us for a weekend—jamming to tunes; drinking beer and smoking weed; laughing; busting on politicians and talking rock and roll; just hanging out. So many fans have adolescent fantasies like this, but with Petty we could actually picture it, see him in front of us hanging onto the deck, peering into the trees below, a half grin on his face, making some crack, the way we couldn't imagine Keef or Prince, or even Bruce. We knew, somehow, that we'd all get along, that he'd put his fame and fortune beside him and just chill. Ridiculous, I know. But his songs and low-key demeanor made the fantasy tantalizing, asked that we keep him close to us. We'll miss you, Tom. Rest in Peace.
Monday, October 2, 2017
I, again, have no horse in the race. I'd like to see the Nationals win it all for my Dad, brother, and longtime buddies back in Maryland. But the 'Stros and Dodgers feel right to me to play for it all. Not a controversial prediction, I know, and anything can, and will, happen. Here's to taut, well-played games and each Series going to a decoding game! Play October Ball!
Yankees > Twins
Rockies > Diamondbacks
Indians > Yankees
Astros > Red Sox
Dodgers > Rockies
Nationals > Cubs
Astros > Indians
Dodgers > Nationals
Astros > Dodgers in 7
Photo via Time: "University of Pittsburgh students cheer wildly from atop the Cathedral of Learning as they look down on Forbes Field, where the Pittsburgh Pirates are playing the Yankees in the 7th game of the 1960 World Series...". George Silk—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images