Monday, April 30, 2018


I've been playing this ultra obscure '66 Texan flip-side really loud these days. I discovered it years ago on the inestimable Back From The Grave series (God bless Tim Warren), and info on this blog filled in the blanks. I love the loner details in the verses—one mouth to feed, sleep all day up all night, no pals but lots of gals. And does he answer his phone or not? It's hard to decipher his punk mumbling.

I especially love the strange middle—1:09 to 1:45—where Denny Murphy shouts and yelps and graphically dramatizes the self-conscious plight of the born loser:
People, they just don't understand
They see me comin', they shake their heads
They say,"Look at him, he's a born loser
Well, alright. Were it not for the 12-bar changes under-girding this garage playlet of social dislocation, Murphy sounds just like another misfit 1,100 miles north, who'll be similarly yowling his outsider pain and glory a few years later. It's highly unlikely that James Osterberg heard this regional single—it was pressed in only 500 copies—but there was something in the air, alright.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Friday, April 27, 2018

Ah, Weekend...

'Cause when that yellow moon's on the wane... 

...bye bye, tomorrow... 

...back to somethin' that I'd lost somewhere, somehow along the way.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Move to It

I love this weird, abstractly affecting quote by Keith Richards, from Terry Southern's "Riding the Lapping Tongue" from 1972:
I usually do it with the idea of its being moved to.

Photo of Richards in New York City in 1972 by Bob Gruen, via Morrison Hotel.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Turn it Down, Turn it Up: Roberta Cruger on Creem

In Evelyn McDonnell's and Ann Powers's anthology Rock She Wrote, Roberta Cruger describes the heady days of early Creem Magazine, where she was a media editor. Detroit, early 1970s: "Our lives had been changed by music, maybe saved," she writes.
Inspired by such Dylan lyrics as “the vandals took the handles” or knocked out by Hendrix, Zeppelin,‘Howlin’ Wolf . . . the list is endless. It expressed our youthful ideals and our subsequent anger at not reaching them. We distinctly felt a necessary part of a chapter in history, as if we were making a difference by challenging the status quo. Something important was occurring and a revolution was at stake. Like the future’s bigger brother, we were willing to take our parents’ and society’s licks so the world would be a better place. “Turn it down” made us increase the volume. Humor was our safety valve—it helped give us perspective, relieved the tension. Creem tapped into this situation, connecting the dotted lines, trying to make sense of it and find our place in it all.

There was a sense that we felt fortunate to contribute to this legacy, an excitement akin to Liverpool, Memphis, a Seattle of the seventies, or any burgeoning center of talent. The synergy of ideas spawned in this fertile environment was a product of the uniquely displaced times. Fearful of the creative charge dissipating, avoiding the flaccid was paramount. Subject to heavy neurotic tendencies and fueled by adverse conditions, we were free to be raw and unchecked. The inmates were running the asylum—immature, to be sure, but writing was an outlet that kept us from self-destructing.
A bit later, she describes Creem's Lester Bangs's manic methodology, of a piece with so many other descriptions of the brilliant, complex writer:
He’d sit bobbing his head to Velvet Underground or Black Oak Arkansas or hollering along to James Brown for inspiration. His cockapoo puppy danced in circles for attention in front of him. Earphones spared the household during these weekends. We’d walk by, ignoring him, convinced he wasn’t from the same planet. By Monday morning, the den, where he’d camp next to a stereo, smelled of his ripe oxidation. The wall was lined with empty pints of Rebel Yell. He’d finally pass out with some megatreatise strewn about him, drummed out in an overnight spurt that magically linked the above acts into a cohesive concept. He blinded everyone with his prolific pieces that defied editing. He just couldn’t stop himself, in a number of ways.
Earlier, she recalls that when Bangs first showed up at the Creem offices, he'd arrived "like a lost cartoon character, his suitcase really wrapped in rope and wearing a wide goofy grin."

God, said Mies van der Rohe, is in the details.


Here is Scott Crawford's Kickstarter page for Boy Howdy! The Story of CREEM Magazine, a documentary in the works.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Baseball in Sunshine!

Yesterday I took in my first baseball game of the year—an aluminum bat affair in DeKalb, Illinois. My Huskies were taking on the RedHawks of Miami of Ohio, and I sat in the welcome sun right behind home plate. The afternoon was especially glorious after (?) the brutal winter that has settled gloomily over northern Illinois like penance, and the crowd, more than four hundred of them, were grateful, lively, and loud, helped in decibel level by the visiting NIU football and women's basketball teams who, with their coaching staff, filled one side of the bleachers and yelled and screamed in support. It was a blast. Football head coach Rod Carey eventually moved down to the front row to sit with his peers and family and to let his players have a good time without Dad around. He had to wipe away many a smile and smirk as his charges laid into the opposing team with a little coarseness and a lot of goodhearted ribbing. Families were in attendance, little kids were running around, the sun was high: a tonic.

I enjoyed popcorn, a beer, and the pleasing sight of young kids playing baseball with earnestness, skill, and enthusiasm. I had to leave after the fifth, by which time the Huskies were in control —behind Senior Brad Wood's two-run double down the right field line, part of a loud four-run fourth inning that also included two Huskies getting plonked by pitches with the bases juiced. Miami's crestfallen Spencer Mraz suddenly looked like one of my students out there on the mound.

Huskies won, 5-2, improving their MAC record to 3-9. Hey it's early, kind of.

And remember:

Monday, April 16, 2018

Wherever relief can be found

Robert Gordon's new book Memphis Rent Party: The Blues, Rock & Soul in Music's Hometown is wonderful. In it, Gordon gathers his many magazine pieces over the years, and in a pleasingly noisy kaleidoscope captures the warmth, freakiness, and unique history of Bluff City and its music-making  denizens, from Sam Phillips, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Alex Chilton to Tav Falco, the Fieldstones, and Bobby "Blue" Bland, and many more in between. Gordon writes with humor, great respect, and honesty about his city's unfortunate cultural divides, its hidden gems, its juke joints and dive bars and picnics, and its hard-earned humanity. So many of the places Gordon writes about are long gone, as are many of the people he profiles, but his writing is so detail-rich and narratively engaging that the city and its outskirts feel palpably present, page after page. I half-expected my clothes to smell smoky after reading about some of the dimly-lit bars and joints Gordon has obsessively, affectionately haunted over the years, and that he brings to life in his pieces.
Great stuff, the book is nearly worth it for the searching and self-interrogative preface alone, where Gordon writes about the siren-call and the difficulties of freelancing and of the ways his comfortable suburban upbringing both insulated and prepared him for his life's work, and where he lands on a gorgeous definition of the blues, and by extension, of his own aesthetic:
Blues is the mind's escape from the body's obligation. Blues amplifies the relief whenever and wherever relief can be found. The scarcity of that respite makes it ecstatic.

Saturday, April 14, 2018


I've been listening to Lyres recently, and pulled out 1988's A Promise Is A Promise today. I was struck by a shaming memory but also a feeling of loss. Many have written about and lamented the diminution in scale of album artwork since the CD era, a shrinkage doubled down, as it were, in the MP3/streaming era. Jeff Conolly's dubious artwork—a mean-spirited fifteen-act storyboard of rock and roll touring excess and sexism—was featured in full narrative glory on the cover of A Promise Is A Promise, and I won't soon forget the look of disgust on my girlfriend's face as we sat together in the Washington DC Metro after I'd bought the album. My face hot, I probably defended the cover with defensive, twenty-something irony; now I roll my eyes at it in embarrassment. I wish I'd bought it on CD or squinted at the cover on my phone. A hell of a lot less implicating.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Sonic Bliss: Ty Segall at The Vic

Ty flying high.

DOWN AT THE ROCK & ROLL CLUB—A little-known story: sometime in late 1973 or early 1974, Marc Bolan heard a rumor that the Beatles had wanted to record Revolver in Memphis, Tennessee, but logistics and other issues had made that impossible. Intrigued, Bolan took it upon himself to record his own version of Revolver in Memphis, with area musicians, at Muscle Shoals Studio. A tussle with his management and his label buried those tapes, which somehow—no one's sure how, exactly—ended up in the late 70s in the hands of a New York City dee jay, a funk devotee with a Move/E.L.O. obsession and stack of cherished prog rock records that he kept quiet about. Perennially stoned, he remixed those tapes, playing amateur sax on a couple tracks and bringing in a fuller horn section for others, playing Black Sabbath records on down times for inspiration. Those tapes languished in his apartment for decades, heard by a few friends, and had assumed Holy Grail status among Bolan fans. Only recently have they been discovered....

Well, none of that happened. But on June 8, 1987, Ty Segall was born, and he grew up to make Freedom's Goblin, a close sonic approximation of the imagined history above. Last night at The Vic in Chicago, Segall bust open his recent clutch of songs (there are many) in a riveting set, part low-fuse, part explosive. I'd seen Segall a few years back perform a terrific solo acoustic set at Empty Bottle, and I was amped to see him in front of a loud, electric band. Segall lives in the narrow place between major and minor keys, but his songs turn that small place into an wide vista. His growls, falsettos, and nasal singing are in service to stoner dirges, garage stomps, and surprisingly gorgeous melodies, sometimes all in the same song. ("Rain," from the new album, navigates these intervals especially wonderfully.) His Freedom Band—Emmett Kelly on second rhythm/lead guitar, Charles Moothart on drums, Mikal Cronin on bass, and Ben Boye on keyboards—were loud and on-point, yet finessed, and loose enough to relax some songs into jams, Segall and Kelly trading licks and harmonizing leads as Boye laid thick textures on top. Boye looked like a kid watching a magic trick, entranced and smile-struck, and that blissy countenance was repeated among fans in the packed venue. With his messianic hair and beatific face, Segall has something of the magic touch about him right now, and I half expected to see him on the street afterward playing for a crowd of knocked-out disciples, leading with vision. He was laconic throughout—he muttered thank you a half hour into his set, and asked for a hand for the horn section, but that was about all he said, letting his fluid guitar playing and weighty, vibe-channeling stage presence do all the speaking for him.


Driving into the city for the show, I listened to Freedom's Goblin, sent again by the rich variety of songs, rockers to ballads to jams, all held together by Segall's considerable chops and his sonic curiosity—you can almost see his concentration when you listen. The album ends with a heartbreaking, transcendent version of "Sleeper" (the title track to Segall's 2013 album) buried in "And, Goodnight," a twelve-minute mid-paced, Television-like, twin-guitar jam, and as I headed down into Lower Wacker Drive, the guitars reached a crescendo as I made a hard right turn down and onto the city's floor. "And, Goodnight" is the perfect song to listen to in the shadows and gentle turns of Lower Wacker, a favorite drive of mine as I emerge at the end with glistening Lake Michigan at my feet. The song ended just as I turned onto Lake Shore Drive, and it's not an overstatement to say that I was altered a bit after the grandeur of that song, a vibe I managed to keep alive while on the freezing streets in an a bar or two preceding the show, a warmth Segall and his band stoked over the course of a wonderful night.