As promised

Time for those two excellent vids I mentioned earlier. First, we have your feel-good vidya of the week, featuring what I keep insisting ought to be the end result every time a few pAntiFa fascists dare to venture forth from Mom’s basement.

And yet again, we see the Bastards In Blue dashing to the rescue…on the side of their pAntiFa pals, of course and as usual. Maybe it’s about time they started featuring prominently in some of these beatdown-vids their own selves, just to help them get their heads screwed back on straight.

Next up, the legendary Sister Rosetta Tharpe busts one out for us.

One of the most amazing singing voices ever, and the ol’ gal could really rip on that gloriously Bigsbyfied SG Custom too. Believe you me, cranking out those simpler-is-better blues licks on guitar is way, WAY tougher than it looks. I never could do it worth a damn myself, and I did NOT suck on guitar otherwise, either. Try as I might, and I surely did, Sister Tharpe could’ve easily stomped mudholes in my po’ white ass when it comes to blues pickin’, then backed up and walked ‘em dry.

Note too, that she’s doing the right hand proper: finger picking it, although she DOES cheat just a little bit, using a thumb-pick on there. Ah well, as I always say: pobody’s nerfect, right?

Update! Just remembered something my longtime partner in musical crime, Tom “Mookie” Brill, always told me: “You can’t play blues with a pick, man, it’s just impossible.” Being entirely reliant on the Dunlop yellow Tortex picks my whole life, I can testify that the man was 100% correct on that.

And if you click on the Tommy Brill link above, then on the profile pic therein, yes, that’s me in the pic with him, playing my good ol’ pinstriped Gretch Electromatic reissue. A sweet, sweet git-fiddle my girl was, complete with a full-custom Craig Landau neck carve (the “Hendrix profile,” he named it) and a set of TV Jones Magna’Tron pickups that were bright, glassy, and just ballsy as hell all at once.


The oldest instrument?

In the interest of keeping things somewhat light and pleasant around here on a holiday-weekend Friday night, enjoy something truly gorgeous.

Simplicity itself; just variations on a most basic theme, yet heartbreakingly lovely just the same—calming, elegant, mellow, engaging, and utterly spellbinding. This is one of those pieces that really bring Congreve’s old “music hath charms to soothe the savage breast” adage right on home.

Claudia Antonelli, in case you didn’t know, is generally regarded as one of the world’s best-ever harp virtuosos, and rightly so. If you’ve never seen a harp being played live, it’s a helluva mind-blowing experience. The European pillar harp with pedals, see, is one of what I refer to as a full-body-involvement instrument—fingers, arms, back, legs, feet, all come fully into play for the harpist, as with the pipe organ, say, or the double-neck, ten-string (per neck, that is) pedal-steel guitar. It all depends on which variant of the harp they might be playing at the time; some of the four or five-string handheld harps are so simple and basic they can look downright primitive in comparison. Because, y’know, they are.

Don’t hate it me ’cause it’s beautiful, y’all.


Lightfoot redux

Owing to Mark Steyn’s near-total absence from his SteynOnline site because of his long, slow convalescence from two (2!) heart attacks, I scarcely bother checking up there these days. So I missed his Gordon Lightfoot SteynMusic post, which as per usual is the definitive Last Word on the subject.

On February 18th 2010 Gordon Lightfoot was driving in Toronto en route to the office when he heard on the radio that he had died. In such circumstances, most of us would turn round and go back to bed. But Lightfoot kept on, to the office, and to new tour dates and live albums – for almost another decade-and-a-half. He died, for real, a few days before the Coronation, having been garlanded with every bauble in the gift of his native land – Commander of the Order of Canada, recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal – and honoured by his peers around the world. Here is what Mark had to say about him on the occasion of his eightieth birthday:

Gordon Meredith Lightfoot Jr was born on November 17th 1938 in Orillia, Ontario, which is a straight shot north of Toronto, although you’ll be driving your Honda Civic through Lake Simcoe if you try it as the crow flies. Gordon Lightfoot Sr owned a large dry cleaner’s, and Mrs Lightfoot thought Junior had the makings of a child star. His first public solo performance was in Grade Four, over the school’s PA system for Parents’ Day, singing “Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral”, an early example (1913) of a commercial pop song that everybody thinks is a(n) ancient traditional tune, which isn’t bad practice for a chap who’d eventually emerge in the “folk revival” of the early Sixties. He was a boy chorister in Orillia, and by the age of twelve singing in Toronto, at Massey Hall. At eighteen he went to Westlake College of Music in Hollywood to study jazz composition and orchestration, which I can’t honestly say I hear a lot of in his music. At any rate, he missed Canada and came home, and landed a spot in the Singing Swinging Eight, the square-dance group on the CBC’s “Country Hoedown”.

One day a couple of years later Gord thought back to how homesick he’d felt in Los Angeles. So he set down his five-month-old baby in a crib on the other side of the room, and wrote a song about it:

In the Early Morning Rain
With a dollar in my hand
With an aching in my heart
And my pockets full of sand
I’m a long ways from home
And I miss my loved one so
In the Early Morning Rain
With no place to go…

On rainy mornings in Los Angeles, a lonely Lightfoot liked to go to the airport and watch the planes take off. If you try that now at LAX, even if you survive the tasing or shooting, you’ll be on the no-fly list for thirty years. But back then it was different, and so a young songwriter wrote, in effect, a train song for the jet age. Just as Johnny Mercer heard the lonesome whistle blowing ‘cross the trestle, Gordon Lightfoot heard a wistful echo in the 707s on runway nine:

Hear the mighty engines roar
See the silver wings on high
She’s away and westward bound
Far above the clouds she’ll fly…

Except, of course, that there’s no boxcar on Pan Am or TWA:

You can’t jump a jet plane
Like you can a freight train
So I best be on my way
In the Early Morning Rain.

It was on his debut album – the exclamatory Lightfoot! – in 1966, by which time Ian & Sylvia, the Canadian folk act with the arrestingly prosaic name, and the Grateful Dead, the American rock band with the prosaically arresting name, had both recorded the number. And Judy Collins, George Hamilton IV and Peter, Paul and Mary had put it, respectively, on the Billboard album, country and pop charts. “Early Morning Rain” isn’t quite the first song Gordon Lightfoot wrote, but it was the first to get any notice internationally, and I do believe to this day it’s the most recorded of his compositions. Jerry Lee Lewis did it, and Paul Weller from The Jam, and the Kingston Trio, Eva Cassidy, Billy Bragg… oh, and Bob Dylan, on one of his worst received albums (first line of Greil Marcus’s Rolling Stone review: “What is this sh*t?”). It’s a simple song, and for my tastes it can go awry in the wrong key or an insufficient travelin’ accompaniment. The composer likes Elvis’s version, and so do I.

We probably should mention one other take on “Early Morning Rain” – as a marching song for the US Army:

In the Early Morning Rain
With my weapon in my hand
With an aching in my heart
I will make my final stand…

I’m not sure how the author feels about the rewrite, but maybe he could do a Canadian version for the Princess Patricias.

An oldie but goodie, the piece carries on from there in Mark’s usual surpassingly brilliant vein, of which you will surely want to read the all.


How the rock and roll sausage gets made

The sublime and the ridiculous, butting heads with one another.

Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary”
A Masterwork Conceived, Composed, and Recorded in Less Than 24 Hours

In late September 1966, Jimi Hendrix landed in London, leaving behind the hardscrabble life he’d led in New York City. Within a couple of days he began a relationship with Kathy Etchingham, who worked as hairdresser and part-time DJ. While still in the first blush of romance, Jimi and Kathy discovered that although they’d grown up an ocean apart, in some ways they shared similar backgrounds. They’d both had challenging childhoods with at least one alcoholic parent. Both of their mothers had abandoned the family. Kathy had spent her earliest years in Derby, living in a working-class house without an indoor bathroom. After her mother left, she and her brother were sent to stay with relatives in Ireland. During her teens she was placed in Dublin’s Holy Faith convent boarding school.

Jimi had mostly grown up with his father, James “Al” Hendrix, and, on occasion, his younger brother Leon. They lived in a variety of rented rooms, apartments, and small houses around Seattle. When times got hard for Al, he shuttled Jimi to stay with relatives and friends. “He’d had a very unhappy childhood,” Kathy wrote in Through Gypsy Eyes: My Life, the Sixties and Jimi Hendrix. “He did talk about how he had no food, no shoes, hadn’t got to have a change of clothes, had to go to other people’s houses to be fed, how his dad used to punch him in the face and shave his hair, and how he would run away but had to go back because, of course, he had nowhere else to go. He didn’t really consider that he had a family.”

Throughout Jimi’s initial nine-month stay in London, the couple shared lodgings with Jimi’s discoverer/producer, Chas Chandler, and his Swedish girlfriend, Lotta Null. In December 1966 Ringo Starr offered to sublet them his flat at 34 Montagu Square for £30 a month. They accepted the offer, and on December 6th Chas, Jimi, Kathy, and Lotta moved to Montagu Square. “We were lucky to get it,” Kathy wrote, “as Paul McCartney had just moved out of the flat before us. The neighbors weren’t too happy about having musicians in the flat. Paul had been using it as a [demo] recording studio and I’m sure it wasn’t very soundproof. The elderly lady who lived upstairs could be rather grumpy. She wouldn’t let us have the keys to the communal gardens when the photographer wanted to take some photos of Jimi in the gardens.”

Away from public view, Jimi and Kathy’s life together at 34 Montagu Square was not always peaceful. Chas and Lotta were sometimes taken aback by the volume of the arguments coming from the rooms downstairs. During one disagreement Kathy smashed her foot through the back of an acoustic guitar. Another one led to a broken sitting-room door. For Jimi and Kathy, though, heated arguments were nothing new. “Having rows never worried either of us much,” Kathy explained. “I guess we both had listened to them enough throughout our childhoods not to take them too seriously. We could be shouting and screaming one moment and forgetting about the whole thing the next…. Both of us operated on very short fuses, and neither of us was ever willing to climb down, so we could only end them by one or the other of us storming off – usually me.” At one point, Chas Chandler and Experience manager Michael Jeffery called Jimi into the office and urged him to break up with Kathy. Hendrix told them to mind their own business. In truth, he felt possessive of Kathy, and their most violent exchanges tended to occur when he felt jealous or suspicious of her.

An especially heated argument on January 10th inspired Jimi to write one of his most achingly beautiful songs. As Kathy described, “He was moaning about my cooking again and I felt I had put a lot of effort into whatever it was – mashed potatoes, probably. I didn’t take kindly to being told they were disgusting, so I picked up the plate and smashed it on the floor. ‘Hell – what are you doing?’ he screamed at me, so I picked up a few more plates and threw them around the room as well, yelling back at him. Eventually I turned on my heel and stalked out, crossing the street to find a cab. He followed, trying to persuade me to come back, but I refused to listen. I found a taxi and jumped in, and without letting Jimi hear I told the driver to take me to Angie and Eric [Burdon]’s place in Jermyn Street. When I returned the next day, having cooled down, I asked him what he had done while I was away. ‘I wrote a song,’ he said and handed me a piece of paper with ‘The Wind Cries Mary’ written on it. Mary is my middle name, and the one he would use when he wanted to annoy me. I took the song and read it through. It was about the row we had just had, but I didn’t feel the least bit appeased.”

Lots, lots more here, all of it completely spellbinding for any fan of the great James Marshall Hendrix. Which, of course, I am and always have been. Don’t doubt me on that, people; in fact, when I was a teenager I once took a huge piggy-bank stuffed full of a cpl hundred bucks’ worth of small change to purchase a grotesquely-abused old Fender Strat from a dealer who was a longtime friend of my uncle’s, Carroll Dill, owner and proprietor of Carroll’s Music.

The guitar was a total no-hoper which was so entirely rat-fucked it wouldn’t make a sound when I bought it; the fretboard was actually, literally rutted down its entire length, from nut to body-join. The poor old thing had a blue body with white stars painted on, with a red-and-white striped pickguard. It had been the property of the guitarist for the house band at a venerable old CLT tittybar, the Paper Doll Lounge, still extant after all these years. The Spontanes, they were called, and the American-flag Strat was trotted out for their nightly rock and roll set, in semi-mufti as Harley Hogg and the Rockers.

None of which backstory I gave a tinker’s damn about at the time, of course. Jimi Hendrix played a Strat, so by God I needed me one too. That added up to me trotting off to Carroll’s to trade all those pennies plus my insanely valuable, immaculate 1964 Jazzmaster (the exact same shade of blue as the soon-to-be-spraybombed Stratocaster, it so happens) for a Strat that was incapable of producing so much as an annoying buzz when plugged into an amp, to my uncle’s undying fury.

No shit, he actually rode over to Carroll’s Music to cuss his old friend out for rooking his nephew in such a bald-faced, egregious way after he’d found out what his stupid-ass nephew had gone and done. They’d been good friends for thirty-some-odd years, but Uncle Murray never spoke to Carroll again after he’d cussed him up one side and down the other. Never said word One to me about it; I found out years later, when my Dad told me the whole story with a rueful shake of his head at both his genuinely dangerous big brother and his damnable fool of a teenaged son.

Meanwhile, I proudly hustled my new acquisition home and proceeded forthwith to disassemble it completely, so as to A) investigate the obvious electrical fault that had rendered my poor baby voiceless, and B) spray-paint it bone-white like the one my idol Jimi played. I did just that, too: a rattlecan of Krylon obscured that obnoxious flag-pattern paint job quite nicely, thanks, although for the next several years of wielding that poor old raggedy-ass axe, I was left with a big smudge of white paint smeared all over my right forearm where it rested against the body every time I played it.

Didn’t matter a whit to me; I finally had myself a Jimi Hendrix guitar, dammit, and despite her crippling flaws I loved her all to pieces.

My dear friend and guitar-hero Steve Howard, a fellow Hendrix fan and an extraordinarily talented player in his own right, eventually ended up unwinding one of the Strat’s pickups right down to the magnets, walking around and around and around his house trailing an endless stream of copper single-coil-pickup-wire in a bootless effort to try and suss out what the hell was wrong with the damned thing. No joy, alas; I replaced all three pickups with brand-new DiMarzios, bought new pots and input jack, and rewired the whole damned thing myself, which I had no clue how to go about doing until I, y’know, did it.

NEVER try to stand between a young man’s Hendrix obsession and his quest to requite same, trust me.

Actually, “Mary” was never one of my favorite Hendrix tunes. This, on the other hand, was:

Another of my Hendrix faves, featuring Jimi mercilessly working over a…a…a Gibson SG Custom, of all unexpected, bizarre things? WOW.

I dunno, man; it’s kinda like seeing Stevie Ray flogging a Les Paul, or, say, Charlie Christian wailing away on a Telecaster, or something. It just…doesn’t…compute, somehow.

Be all that as it may, the above vids are a far cry indeed from Jimi’s days as Little Richard’s guitarist, wouldn’t you say? No lie, even after thirty-some years as a professional player myself—someone who’s spent all of those years studying this stuff minutely, with every ounce of passion, will, and energy he has in him—I couldn’t even begin to tell you what Jimi was doing there, or how he did it. It’s simply beyond belief, that’s what. There’s never been anyone quite like him, before or since.

(Via Ed Driscoll)


Dirty blues & boogie woogie

Whenever I’ve heard some dumbass libtard—usually a 60s refugee, but by no means always—deride the 50s, 40s, or anytime before the Sexual Revolution as pretty much a barren desert in terms of human sexuality, I’ve always just had to shake my head and smile to myself. The musical evidence against such an obviously specious supposition abounds; herewith, a mere few examples that present an airtight case to the contrary, which I’ll tuck below the fold for safekeeping. Trust me, folks, this stuff is NOT safe for work, wives, or young children, not even a little, tiny bit.

Continue reading “Dirty blues & boogie woogie”

Heaven’s own band just got a little bit better

Aww, no.

Gordon Lightfoot, a folk music and soft rock icon of the 1970s, is dead … according to his publicist.

Gordon, best known for his hit, “If You Could Read My Mind,” passed away Monday evening in Toronto, where he’d been hospitalized. His publicist, Victoria Lord, did not say why he was getting medical treatment or release a cause of death.

Ummm…best known for “If You Could Read My Mind,” SRSLY? Forgive me for saying so and all, but I doubt very much that that’s the one which will spring immediately to mind for most people. Personally, this will always be one of my faves.

There’s a cpl of latter-day in-concert pics included at the above-linked and -quoted obit which are truly ghastly. No matter, though; Lightfoot’s “Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” is a pluperfect example of stellar songwriting and nimble, understated performance—a rare earwig of a story-song that, once you’ve heard it, will forever remain in your head and heart..and you won’t mind at all.

When suppertime came the old cook came on deck/Sayin’ “Fellas, it’s too rough t’feed ya.”/At seven P.M. a main hatchway caved in; he said/“Fellas, it’s been good t’know ya! Now THAT is some seriously good squishy, folks. I must’ve heard it a blue million times, but those lines STILL give me chills every time I hear ‘em again. From the song’s Wikipedia entry:

“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is a 1976 hit song written, composed and performed by Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot to commemorate the sinking of the bulk carrier SS Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. Lightfoot drew his inspiration from Newsweek’s article on the event, “The Cruelest Month”, which it published in its November 24, 1975, issue. Lightfoot considered this song to be his finest work.

The song recounts the final voyage of the Edmund Fitzgerald, as it experienced troubles then sank in rough seas on Lake Superior, late in the shipping season. Written before the wreckage of the ship was found, it deviates from the known sequence of events, and contains some artistic omissions and paraphrases. In a later interview, Lightfoot recounted how he had agonised over possible inaccuracies while trying to pen the lyrics, until producer Lenny Waronker advised him to play to his artistic strengths and “just tell a story”. Lightfoot’s passion for recreational sailing on the Great Lakes informs his ballad’s verses throughout.

A relatively minor hit when it was orginally released, “Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” has lived on on classic rock radio playlists ever since, its near-universal popularity with listeners never fading—which is pretty danged good for an easy-listening, subtle folk-rock ballad, I should think. Rest easy, Gordon Lightfoot. You won’t soon be forgotten.


Tales from the tour bus

Commenting on last night’s Junior Brown post, Skeptic said:

I’ve been fortunate enough to see Junior, the Reverend, and Big Sandy live (although not on the same bill). Great entertainers all.

Indeed they are, and excepting Brown, who I’ve never met, just really great guys as well. So I began my response to Skeptic thusly:

Man, Big Sandy (Robert Williams, actually, as you probably know), in addition to being enormously talented, is without doubt one of the sweetest, nicest human beings I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. When my wife was killed, he was one of the very first to call me. He had been friends with both her and her mom since way before I’d met them myself, and you could easily tell he was just heartbroken over it. I’ve never forgotten that act of kindness and open-hearted generosity, and I never will.

First time I ever did a show with him was out in LA, at Ronnie Mack’s Barn Dance. There was just all kinds of big rockabilly names on the bill that night; hell, even Brian Setzer showed up to make a surprise appearance to close out the evening. While Brian was on, me, James Intveld, Sandy, and a handful of others were brought onstage with him as well.

I got that far in, and that’s when it hit me: this story is just too damned good to let it languish in comment-section obscurity, it really merits a main-page post of its own. So here’s the rest of it, blockquoted just becuz.

Brian called out for us to do Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” to end the set, which the backing band launched into. Setzer sang the first verse, then frantically waved all his fellow frontmen into a midstage huddle before going on with the song–he had forgotten the rest of the lyrics, and wanted to know if any of the rest of us knew ’em!

Naturally, being under pressure like that, smack in the middle of actually PLAYING the song in front of a packed house, the spots circling us like hungry sharks, every damned one of us immediately lapsed into a total brain fart, failing to come up with so much as a single syllable of the blood-simple lyrics to one of the hoariest old RaB chestnuts known to man.

I mean, really, now. “Summertime Blues”? Hell, plenty of people who wouldn’t know rockabilly from Adam’s housecat probably know the words to that song! KNEW them? Of course we knew them! We’d all played and sung the blasted thing a million and one times; every one of us was a professional player, with years of onstage experience under our belts, so stage fright couldn’t have been an issue.

But still—there we all were, drawing a total blank, as the backing musicians went right on endlessly repeating the lead-in to the second verse whilst darting looks of confusion, wonderment, and dismay at our little stage-front conference as we all went right on NOT stepping up to the center mic to take charge and get the stalled-out show moving again.

Finally, I did so myself, just repeating the first verse Brian had already sung in hopes that it might jar something loose in my bourbon-addled brain which would bring the rest back to me again. But it’s what happened right before then that still makes me laugh to this very day.

See, Big Sandy was absolutely high-school drunk at that point, drunk as a boiled owl—or, as my friend Joe used to say, fucked up as a nine-eyed nigger. The guy had this goofy, vacant grin smeared loosely all over his slaphappy mug, the look of a man totally at peace with the entire world, delighted to be where he was in that golden moment—wherethehellever THAT might have been.

One of the other players, can’t remember who, nodded me over to where he was struggling to hold Sandy more or less upright by his right arm, in an unmistakable plea for assistance—Sandy is a big, heavy dude, see, and whoever-it-was, well…wasn’t.

So I got myself over there straightaway, latched onto Sandy’s free left arm, and our two-man rescue squad proceeded to walk/stagger/drag our cheerfully-inebriated charge over to the area of the stage known amongst showbiz types as the backline—ie, the row of guitar/bass amps and drum kit prepositioned for all the night’s bands to use, standard practice when a big venue has an unusually large number of groups booked, so as to shorten the time needed to break down the stage and set up for the next act.

And the backline is where we dumped Sandy, gently lowering him to sit atop a tweed Fender Bassman amp, his back against the rear stage wall. He was a sight: that same smile on his face, tapping both feet to the music, his body precariously swaying, a bottle of Heineken clutched tightly in each hand. Years later, I asked him if he remembered that auspicious evening, to which he replied, “YES! Ummm, maybe. Well, okay, parts of it.”

Too, too funny. I told him if he ever needed help remembering any of the more lurid details, I’d be glad to remind him, because I was never gonna forget it. We both laughed, and then headed on back to the bar.

Big Sandy was by no means the only one deep in his cups that night, mind; it was also the night I hung out after the show with a cripplingly-blasted Janeane Garofalo, which I told all about here. An auspicious occasion indeed, all the way ‘round.

Update! Added a green-room pic from after the Horton’s Holiday Hayride show to the Junior Brown post, in case any of y’all might be interested in such piffling trivialities.


Just a-doin’ my job

I’m the Highway Patrol.

That’s guitar-pickin’ legend Junior Brown, working out on his classic “Highway Patrol.” Brown is surely one shit-hot guitarro, one of the best there is, in fact. Some background on that peculiar-looking git-fiddle he’s wailing away on.

In 1985, Brown created a new type of double-neck guitar, with some assistance from Michael Stevens (former Fender Custom Shop designer and luthierM). Brown called the instrument his “guit-steel”. When performing, Brown plays the guitar by standing behind it, while it rests on a small music stand. The top neck on the guit-steel is a traditional six-string guitar, while the lower neck is a full-size lap steel guitar for slide playing. Brown has two guit-steels for recording and live work. The original instrument, dubbed “Old Yeller”, has as its standard six-string guitar portion the neck and pickups from Brown’s previous stage guitar, a Fender Bullet. The second guit-steel, named “Big Red”, has a neck laser-copied from the Bullet neck; but in addition to electric guitar pickups, both the standard and lap-steel necks use identical Sho-Bud lap-steel pickups. There is a pocket in the upper bout of the guitar to hold the slide bar when it is not in use. Brown also commissioned a “pedal guit-steel” which adds pedals to the instrument for more musical control. Brown has stated that the invention of the guit-steel was always a matter of convenience so that he could play both lap steel and lead guitar during live performances and not directly motivated by a desire to be a “one man band”.

A danged Fender Bullet, of all things—an el-cheapo piece of junk if ever there was one, but somehow Junior makes that humble plank sound awful good, which is the mark of a seriously outstanding player.

As it happens, the BPs did a show with Brown once—Horton’s Holiday Hayride, early in Dec of 2017 (Christ, has it really been that long since I last set foot on a stage?!? That can’t possibly be right, can it?)—a performance that turned out to be our farewell show, although we hadn’t actually planned or announced it that way beforehand. All in all, it was a fantastic night; the Playboys dug down deep and just positively killed it, as did everybody else on the bill.

Here’s what really frosts my nuts about that night, though: I did not see one single damned note of Brown’s set, dammit. I was hanging out in the green room chatting away the whole while with Horton Heat and Big Sandy, both of whom are dear old friends I hadn’t seen in a good, long while. The green room at Neighborhood Theater was situated far enough from the main stage and insulated thoroughly enough that I couldn’t even hear the other bands from in there.

Can’t honestly say I much regret taking the opportunity to catch up with those guys, but still.

Ah well. Don’t know what got me to thinking about Junior Brown earlier today, but something or other did. That’s okay, now y’all get to reap the benefits of my earlier unfocused mental meandering.

Update! It only just occurred to me that I really should’ve appended a Horton’s Holiday Hayride post-show pic to this post. Ah well, better late than never, right?


And to think, you assholes just assumed I was making the whole thing up. Ahem. Pictured, from left: moi, Big Sandy, Jim Heath a/k/a the Reverend Horton Heat. Foreground, a chick I pest-listed for the show. Can’t recall her name, but she was a bartender at my erstwhile CLT haunt, The Diamond. Told me she really wanted to go one night at the D, so I fixed things up for her so’s she could, gratis. As you can see, she was quite the happy girl when she got to hang out with the Boys In The Band après les festivités.

Good times, good times.


Get Woke, go…

Well, not broke, exactly. Somehow, that never seems to happen. But still.

Country Music Mega-Star Travis Tritt Drops Anheuser-Busch Products From His Tour
With Bud Light going ultra-woke by embracing transvestite Dylan Mulvaney as their new spokesman, conservatives across the spectrum have spoken out and threatened a boycott.

Country music mega-star Travis Tritt is one of them. He has removed all products of Bud Light’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch, from his tour’s hospitality rider.

For the uninitiated, which I’m guessing would be most non-showbiz types, that “hospitality rider” business simply means that there will no longer be any Anheuser-Busch products chilling down in big buckets of ice in Tritt’s backstage Green Room. I’d like it a lot better if he’d announced that, henceforth, there would be no A-B pisswater beer being sold at his shows, but of course he doesn’t have control over that; no artist, however “mega” a star he may be, does. Kudos to Tritt anyhow, for doing what little he can to slap back at the cringing, cowardly rumpswabs at Anheuser-Busch. Calls for a celebratory embed, I do believe.

The old Charlie Daniels chestnut, of course, capably done justice to by Tritt, who’s a damned fine guitarist. I’ve been known to pull that one out of the hat now and then my own self, back in my pickin’ and grinnin’ days.

Update! Kid Rock goes Tritt one better.

TELL it, Grampa.

(Via GP)


Everything’s coming up Cowboys

BCE commended this vid to my attention on the phone the other day, and despite the fact that I am by NO means what anyone would call a New Country fan, it’s actually pretty good.

There’s an equally good backstory to the vid, the band, and particularly the old dude who takes a real star turn in it, which you can click on over to Big Country’s joint to check out.


Is it plagiarism if I steal from myself?

Maybe “Joe Biden” would be the one to ask about that; he is, after all, an expert in the field, a past-master of the craft.

Anyways, yesterday’s Eyrie post, in addition to bringing about a most gratifying e-mail exchange with GoV’s Baron Bodissey, also featured a classic video by 70s prog-rock mainstays, Yes.

One of my best friends in my misspent youth as a long-haired, gaudy-polyester-shirt clad (BEWARE: mystery click, not for the weak of stomach or faint of heart), Whalebones-platform-heel shod ne’er do well teen circa 75-76 was a YUUUGE Yes fan. We whiled away many an hour ensconced in his bedroom at his folks’ place endlessly spinning The Yes Album, Fragile, Tales From Topgraphic Oceans, and of course Yessongs on his top ‘o the line Technics turntable, blasting ’em loud and proud through an audiophile-level Marantz system.

It was great fun, although he never did convert me to being as big a Genesis fan as he was. Nor King Crimson neither; as a dyed in the wool hard rocker myself, that stuff was just way too flaccid and lame for my sharper-edged, rowdier taste.

But I did dig Yes, and through the years I’ve remained quite fond of ‘em, for whatever reason. Go figger, eh?

Like ‘em though I did, and do, somehow the backstory of “Yours Is No Disgrace” as an antiwar but pro-soldier anthem had gotten by me completely, until I stumbled across this at-length explainer on YewToob yesterday. In my own defense, Yes’s lyrics were always obscure to the point of being completely opaque, even after multitudinous listenings. As a teen I had long since stopped even trying to make sense of them, but here we have it in their own words.

Yessongs depicts a Yes concert at the Rainbow Theatre in London during the band’s Close to the Edge Tour on 15 December 1972. “Close to the Edge” and “Würm” are the same performances as heard on the Yessongs album.

“Yours is no Disgrace” is the opening track from the band’s 3rd studio album titled “The Yes Album” recorded at Advision Studios, London with audio engineer Eddy Offord as their co-producer in autumn months of 1970 & released Feb 19, 1971. It was the band’s first album to feature guitarist Steve Howe, who replaced Peter Banks in 1970, as well as their last to feature keyboardist Tony Kaye until 1983’s 90125. The album was the first by the band not to feature any cover versions of songs & was a critical success and a major commercial breakthrough for Yes, who had been at risk of being dropped by Atlantic due to the commercial failures of their first two albums.

“Yours Is No Disgrace” originated from some lyrics written by Anderson with his friend David Foster. This was combined with other short segments of music written by the band in rehearsals. Howe worked out the opening guitar riff on his own while the rest of the band took a day’s holiday. The backing track was recorded by the group in sections, then edited together to make up the final piece.

According to Edward Macan, “Yours Is No Disgrace” “is generally recognized as Yes’ first antiwar song.” Anderson has stated that the theme of the song was recognition that the kids fighting the (Vietnam) war had no choice but to fight and that the war wasn’t their fault.

Governments fight wars, not men and women – therefore yours is no disgrace. The message is that war has no winners & no real meaning – as Jon Anderson has explained, the young people going off to fight the war had no say in the matter, and the war itself was certainly not their fault.

“Death defying, mutilated armies scatter the earth, Crawling out of dirty holes, their morals, their morals disappear” – killing is brutal & cruel, but the disgrace falls not on the soldiers, but on those who orchestrated the war.”

The lyric in this song, “Caesar’s Palace, morning glory, silly human race,” helps explain the story behind it. Caesar’s Palace is a casino in Las Vegas, and an interesting reference for a British band to make. Anderson: “Well, I’d just been to Vegas and it was amazing how crazy the place was and how silly we are. Silly human race. It was something to do with how crazy we can be as a human race to be out there flittering money around and gambling, trying to earn that big payout, when actually that’s not what life is truly about. Our life is truly about finding our divine connection with God, if you like. You know, that’s why we live.

“And whenever I sing that song, it always comes back to me that I’m singing about that kind of Caesar’s Palace, morning glory, sweet human race – it’s on a sailing ship to nowhere, planet earth. The planet earth is not going anywhere. It’s going around the sun, of course, but we’re on this sailing ship to nowhere, leaving anyplace. It’s like Earth Mother. So don’t worry about stuff, it’s not our fault if things go wrong.”

The entire band is credited with writing this song. Steve Howe has said that his guitar part is one of his favorite contributions to Yes. With modern equipment, they were able to do overdubs, which was new to Howe. “It was a ‘studioized’ solo because it was made up in different sections,” he said. “I became three guitarists.”

I’d say he did at that, yeah. What really struck me about this particular video is the playful rockabilly jam at the beginning, showcasing Howe’s easygoing facility for a style I would’ve assumed he barely even knew existed at all until I saw this. As you can see, Chris Squire and Rick Wakeman jump right in with Howe joyously and entirely competently—a real musical revelation that’s as unexpected (to me, at least) as it is delightful.

Funny, innit, that I had to wait all these years for Jon Anderson to finally make sense of those damned lyrics for me. Now do “Roundabout,” willya Jon?

Jump you fuckers!

Ladies and gents, may I present what really ought to be our new national anthem.

Against all odds, the vid does have a happy ending after all, so stay tuned for it. Via WRSA, who has also thoughtfully included a transcription of the lyrics in toto for your enjoyment and edification.


Everything old is new again Part the Eighty-Nine Hundred Thousandth

One for BPs drummer, my cousin Mark.

Sales of vinyl albums overtake CDs for the first time since the late ’80s
Streaming still accounts for 84% of music revenue, but vinyl is having a moment.

Sales of vinyl records have been on the rise for years, but according to the RIAA’s 2022 year-end revenue report for the music industry (PDF), record sales hit a new high last year. For the first time since 1987, unit sales of vinyl albums outpaced those of CDs, vindicating all the people who have spent decades of their lives talking about how vinyl “just sounds better.”

Although vinyl unit sales only surpassed CDs last year, revenue from vinyl records has been higher than revenue from CDs for a while now. In 2022, the RIAA says that vinyl albums earned $1.2 billion, compared to $483 million for CDs. The growth in vinyl was more than enough to offset a drop in CD revenue, helping overall physical media revenue climb 4 percent over 2021 (which was already way up over 2020).

Streaming services still account for the vast majority of all music revenue in the US—84 percent, up from 83 percent in 2021. The RIAA says there was an average of 92 million streaming music subscriptions active in 2022, which, together with digital radio and ad-supported sites like YouTube, generated $13.3 billion. The growth of streaming services and physical media comes at the expense of paid digital downloads, which accounted for a mere 3 percent of all music revenue in 2022.

There have always been people who have asserted that music played on vinyl sounds better than digital music, but that probably doesn’t explain vinyl’s increasing popularity this long after the advent of CDs, MP3s, and streaming music. A vinyl album is large enough to double as an art piece, and there’s something appealing about the tactility of physical objects in an age where media is increasingly ephemeral.

I do have to admit, CDs DID kinda render album-cover art—which, during the rock era many audiophiles and record geeks truly did consider it to be such, and a lot of it was at that, or had artistic ambitions anyway, with both bands and designers crafting it with that precise intention in mind—pretty much immaterial, since you’d need a magnifying glass to be able to see it well enough to really appreciate it.

Oh, and the reason I mentioned Mark above is that he has a vinyl collection that one has to see to believe—boxes and boxes of records, in 45 and 33 both, all neatly tucked away in plastic sleeves to keep the dust and moisture out. All arranged in alphabetical order, no less. There are some real gems in those boxes too—limited editions, vintage rarities, colored vinyl, the whole kit and kaboodle. It’s any record geek’s wet dream.

Every city, town, village, or burg we’d hit for a show, time allowing, off Mark would jet to the local used-record emporium, returning to the hotel with multiple whacking-great shopping-bags fairly brimming over with deluxe finds. Same-same when we were off—because hey, that’s what Saturday afternoons are FOR, capisce?

Over time, he’d come to learn what was really worth purchasing and what wasn’t, winding up as a bona fide expert when it came to sniffing out 24k LP gold—however obscure, wherever it might be lurking. God only knows what the whole collection might be worth by now, but it would have to tot up to some serious money. So yeah, this one’s for him.

(Via Ed)


Serendipitous embed

So I recently re-connected with an old and very dear friend of mine from New Jersey I had lost touch with for the last several years, which reunion I was happy enough about to be inspired to make a custom ringtone for her on my sail foam. I settled on this great old song from the Fastest Guitarist In The West, otherwise referred to as the great Alvin Lee. It’s good enough that I thought I’d put it out here, just for grins.

Lee’s star began its rise after his performance at Woodstock, his fame then cemented by a confirmational tenure as singer/guitarist/songwriter/frontman for Ten Years After—a pop-chart-hitmaker outfit he decided to walk away from in preference for a long, stellar solo career playing more bluesy stuff like the above toothsome confection. He would go on to work with just about everybody who’s anybody in the rock and roll universe, bless his heart, and kept on a-rockin’ until his death in Spain in 2013. God rest ye, Alvin, and thanks for all the good music you left for us.



One for Kenny, in honor of his comment here: The Young-Holt Unlimited’s unforgettable 60s soul classic “Wack Wack.”

Update! What the hell, while we’re on the 60s soul music, here’s two more for my old friend, legendary CLT lounge-lizard Mr Roy.

Great stuff, that. Might’s well throw in one of my own personal faves while we’re at it.

Background on Mr Roy: Roy is an elderly, diminutive black fella who also happens to be one of the most dapper men of any age I’ve ever had the privilege of hanging out barside with. Roy is a truly dedicated lover of the good old blues, soul, rockabilly, and zydeco music. To my knowledge, he never missed a BP’s performance at the late, lamented Double Door Inn, even with as loud and rowdy as we were notorious for being.

Every year, without fail, Roy would pile in his pristine Cadillac and make the 12-hour drive down to New Orleans for Jazzfest. Way back when, I made a pact with Roy that I was gonna make that particular trip with him sometime. Alas, the scheduling never worked out for me to be able to do it, to my everlasting regret.

Everybody around town knew and loved Mr Roy. A fixture on the local dive-bar and live-music scene, Roy could reliably be seen sitting on a stool at one bar or another sipping on a Scotch and milk, a bevy of dynamite young white chicks in close and hanging on his every word.

And what words they were, too; he had a store of catchphrases he would toss off, like “Mighty fine, might fine” or “I’m a charming motherfucker!” That one led to years of debate between me and Mr Roy; one night in some gin-joint or other, he declared me a “bad motherfucker,” whereupon I responded in the only way I could think of: “No, Roy, YOU’RE a bad motherfucker!” He shot back, “No, I’m a CHARMING motherfucker, YOU’RE the BAD motherfucker!” I can’t even begin to tell you how flattered I was by that. This good-natured ribbing was taken up again many times after that first night, and we’d both just about kill ourselves laughing when it did, every time.

So popular was Mr Roy and his catchphrases around here that a local artist got a snapshot of Roy, highball glass in hand, which he then did up in the style of those old Shepard Fairey posters—logoed with one of Roy’s notable catchphrases, natch, not “Obey Giant” or any of that later “Hope & Change” malarkey—and did a limited-edition run of them to give away at various local dens of iniquity. I had Mr Roy autograph my copy for me:

Mr Roy
And ain’t it just!

Had to take a photo, because it’s way too big to fit into my scanner. The lighting is all wrong, but hey, don’t hate me ’cause I’m beautiful, aiight?

I referred to Mr Roy in the past tense a couple times above, but having aged out of the bar/live music circuit myself a few years back after the curse of Viking Disease had junked my guitar-playing hands, I really couldn’t say if Roy is still around or not. I sure hope he is; there never was enough like him out there, and once they’re gone, they ain’t coming back. Whether he’s gone or still kicking, his poster will have a position of honor on my living-room wall wherever I may live, for as long as I do.


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