Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A song from the old days

Joyce Carol Oates has written that good nonfiction "is not place- or time-bound; it survives the occasion of its original composition." A dilemma for every music writer is this: how might a piece survive beyond its time-and-date stamp? Nick Kent's memoir Apathy for the Devil is a tad adjective- and simile-friendly, and reads on more than one occasion as if the thesaurus were open, but its sprint through mid-1970s music and journalistic excess is a blast to read. You want Iggy, the Stones, Bowie, Rod Stewart, sunny LA, grimy London, Led Zeppelin, the Sex Pistols, a little Dylan, highs, crashes, fuck-ups, and piles and piles and piles of cocaine? You got it.

I especially love the book's opening, where Kent takes on the limits of memory and the power of recalled songs to transcend time and bring it all back home:
When you get right down to it, the human memory is a deceitful organ to have to rely on. Past reality gets confused with wishful fantasy as the years march on and you can never really guarantee that you’re replaying the unvarnished truth back to yourself. I’ve tried to protect my memories, to keep them pristine and authentic, but it’s been easier said than done.

Music remains the only key that can unlock the past for me in a way that I can inherently trust. A song from the old days strikes up and instantly a film is projected in my head, albeit an unedited one without a linear plot line; just random scenes thrown together to appease my reflective mood of the moment. For example, someone just has to play an early Joni Mitchell track or one of David Crosby’s dreamy ocean songs and their chords of enquiry instantly transport me back to the Brighton of 1969 with its Technicolor skies, pebble=strewn beach and jaunty air of sweetly decaying Regency splendour. I am dimple-faced and lanky and wandering lonely as a clod through its backstreets and arcades looking longingly at the other people in my path: the boys enshrouded in ill-fitting greatcoats and sagebrush beards and the bra-less girls in long skirts sporting curtains of unstyled hair to frame their fresh inquisitive faces. i

It was at these girls in particular that my longing looks were aimed. Direct contact was simply not an option at this juncture of my life. Staring forlornly at their passing forms was the only alternative. This is what happens when you don’t have a sister and have been sidetracked into single-sex schooling systems since the age of eleven: women start to exert a strange and terrible fascination, one born of sexual and romantic frustrations as well as complete ignorance of their emotional agendas and basic thought processes.

Monday, July 16, 2018

File: Rock & Roll, definitions of

Allow the late, great Reg Presley and the minimalist Troggs to distill rock and roll to 100 or so words:
When my luck is down and I can't think of a thing
I just go to my bed, lay my hands on my head
I open my mouth and I sing, yeah I just sing

When we're out on a gig and you start moving that thing
Well, it goes to my head and I start seeing red
I open my mouth and I sing, yeah I just sing

When I think I'm right and you, you think I'm wrong
It just goes to my head and I start seeing red
I open my mouth and I sing, yeah I just sing
Despair, lust, and frustration—the Troggs nail it. Again.

The Troggs, "I Just Sing" (Wild Thing, 1966)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Aerial Tour Instrumental

The sky's variety of blue, the darting clouds, the bright sun: the flight from Portland to Chicago yesterday cast a spell.

Here's a minute of video I shot before we began the descent toward Chicago. This only gives a feeling for the dimensions of the clouds and the way light gave the whole sky the feel of a dreamy, complex structure.

Mount Hood, about 50 miles east-southeast of Portland.


And of course on the other, grayer end, the always hair-raising, just-in-the-nick-of-time landing at Midway Airport in Chicago. Buildings. Buildings! BUILDINGS!! Runway....

Midway, a neighborhood joint.

Top photo by Amy Newman

Sunday, July 8, 2018


My younger brother and I had just purchased KISS Alive II with our allowance money. My older brother's friend looked at the inner gate fold sleeve and said, "It looks like World War III!"

Everything you need to know about why KISS ruled when you were eleven.

Image via Why It Matters

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Wanna Be a Big League Batter?

I haven't availed myself yet of Stan the Man's sage advice; I'll probably wait for the dark of winter to spin this May of 1963 album, when my baseball joneses are bad. I have a feeling that the Hall of Famer's wisdom is stronger than the water damage and the vinyl's clicks and pops. Cost me fifty cents to find out, courtesy of a Salvation Army crate dive, not the friendly folks at Phillips 66.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

"High on drugs? Not us, baby!"

Here's some more rare Fleshtones footage via OnTourProduction from the short-lived Andy Shernoff Era, a March 1989 show at Green Parrot in Neptune, New Jersey, on the Jersey Shore. The band runs through "Moon Dawg," "I've Gotta Change My Life," and "The World Has Changed." Shernoff is characteristically rooted, but mugs a bit for the camera at one point, and a grinning Keith Streng loosens him up at the end of "Change My Life."

I like the moment when Peter Zaremba responds to a barked-out request for "High on Drugs" by Streng's side band Full Time Men: "High on drugs? Not us, baby! Not this generation, not this situation. We can't do that." He adds, "Not in public."

Ken Fox would join the band in a little over a year, bringing high leg kicks.

Peter Zaremba, Andy Shernoff, Keith Streng


Bill Milhizer


Shernoff, Milhizer, Zaremba

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