I fall to pieces

Had a phone convo with the ex-wife earlier, wherein I inquired whether she might have any thoughts or feelings on this fantastic song.

Like her former hubby and our amazing daughter (15 in August—FIFTEEN!—Heaven help me, has it really been that long?), Suzie is also a hugely talented multi-instrumentalist, hence my curiosity regarding her opinion of the tune, if any. Never having been much of a CSN fan herself (she’s a lot younger than me, I mean a LOT, so it was well before her time), she couldn’t really remember it, so I sung a few lines over the phone for her, thereby unveiling the powerful emotional effect it’s had on me since the very first time I heard it, back when it was originally released in the late 70s/early 80s.

Y’know, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. In days of old, when knights were bold, and condoms not invented.

See, whenever I hear “Southern Cross” on the car-raygia, I crank the volume way the hell up and sing along with the low-tenor part of the arrangement, as sung by…who, Steven Stills, maybe? Or Graham Nash? DEFINITELY not scraggly old David Crosby, I know that much. Which works out just fine and is a lot of fun, right up until they/we get to the “I have my ship/And all the flags are a-flying/She is all that I have left/And Music is her name” stanzas.

And that’s when I always just lose it completely: my throat closes, my eyes sting and burn, I feel my heart shatter inside my chest, and I have to struggle mightily not to burst into tears and sob like a itty-bitty baby—sometimes successfully, usually not—every single last time, even after all these years. Don’t ask me why, I’ve never understood it myself. Admittedly, there are a few others that hit me deep inside hard, make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and raise goose-bumps on my forearms, and can even choke me up like that sometimes, particularly certain Classical and Romantic-era pieces. But for whatever reason, “Southern Cross” is by far the worst of the lot, and has done it to me Every. Single. Time.

Such was the case day before yesterday, when I heard it played again for the first time in I don’t know when. I halfway thought that, being older, presumably wiser, and out of the music-biz game altogether for nigh on a decade now (which beggars belief for me, I must say), I might have developed an at least partial immunity to falling completely apart at those lines by now. WRONG-O, boy-o! I tootled along with nary a hitch when, all of a sudden-like, at “She is all that I have left,” the same old feeling of overwhelming sadness and inexpressible grief flew all over me again.

It being a glorious day out—warm but not hot, cloudless sky, low humidity, gentle breeze—I had my windows cranked all the way down, as did the girl sitting next to me at the stoplight. So naturally, the poor dear gawped in affrighted wonderment and concern at the bizarre spectacle of this broken-down, crippled old relic at the wheel of the bashed, smashed, ’n’ trashed Burick Grampamobile© flivver alongside her in the right lane, going all kerblooey for no apparent reason as he attempted a sing-along with some stupid Oldie-but-Mouldy she’d never heard the likes of before in a cracking, wavering, old-man warble—what, something-something about a ship, and flags, and an ocean, and some islands or some other such ancient tripe-o-la. Mighta been a long-gone lover in there with the rest of it too, who knows. Or cares.

I mean, this girl clearly didn’t know whether to shit, go blind, throw rocks and head for the hills, or call for a fucking hearse to come sweep up the remains and cart ‘em off to the morgue where they belong. I laid off singing, smiled and waved cheerily at the startled young ‘un, then took off like a scared rabbit when the light finally went green again. When I was safely back home, I pulled up the vid on YewToob and started putting this post together.

Some things never change, I guess.



Okay, so I’ve never been much of a Rod Stewart fan, I do admit it. Even his supposedly legendary stuff with the Faces was kind of, ummm, meh for me. As for the Disco Rod era…well, the less said about that, the better. “Maggie May,” “Hot Legs,” “You Wear It Well” I like, maybe a couple others. The rest of it, not so much, frankly.

But after tonight, Rod Stewart is a-okay with me.

See, there’s a local FM radio station, 95.7 (The Ride), which on Saturday nights plays recent “Live In Concert” recordings by two, sometimes three artists. It’s almost always a good listen, even when I don’t really care for the band or artist in question. So it was with this evening’s broadcast, featuring Rod Stewart as the “headline” performer. Not so much for the music itself, as for the between-songs patter.

First, Stewart brought his old Faces PiMC (Partner in Musical Crime), grizzled guitarist Ron Wood—now sharing guitarslinging duties with Keith Richards as a Rolling Stone—to the center-stage mic to be introduced to the howling throng. This tour was by way of being Old Home Week for the pair, reuniting them after many years of not playing together.

So Wood makes a crack about his and Stewart’s famously-oversized schnozzes, to which Stewart shot back brilliantly: “Yeah, you’ll notice tonight that we always stay on opposite sides of the stage from each other. That’s because when we stand back to back, we look like a pickaxe.”

Love Stewart or hate him, that’s pretty dang funny right there. But wait, it gets better still.

A few tunes later on, Rod’s stage patter went as follows:

“I’d like to dedicate this next song to our wonderful military personnel all over the world. Iraq, Afghanistan, anywhere else: whether you think they should be there or not, they’re out there fighting for all of us, risking everything for us and for our freedom. God bless them all!”

I was gobsmacked. Also highly, highly impressed. IMNSHO, Rod Stewart expressed it about as perfectly as anyone possibly could have, without the sentiment either coming across as mindlessly jingoistic, condescending, or in any way just an obsequious pander to Mark-1 Mod-0 shitlib pseudo-peacenick pacifism, with which his concert audience just about had to be packed to the rafters.

A welcome change from the obnoxious Leftist sermonizing we’ve come to expect from entertainers these days, rock stars especially. Perhaps I’m full of shit, perhaps not, but the feeling I got from his words was sincere and heartfelt gratitude, and I gained a new respect for Rod Stewart as a result. So hats off to the man, I say. I still ain’t crazy about most of his musical output, but from here on out Rod’s all right as far as I’m concerned.

No Tune Damage embed, though; I got big plans for that later on, or mebbe tomorrow, we’ll see.


The greatest story ever told

When it comes to guitars, at any rate.

“So many people lost their guitars. I lost 44”: Peter Frampton recalls how he lost and recovered guitars through floods and plane crashes as he shows off his eye-watering gear collection on Gibson TV
Gibson TV has released its latest episode of The Collection – a web series that sees the firm sit down with big name players to pick apart their vintage guitar gear, and reflect on the stories behind each historic piece.

For its newest hour-and-a-half installment, Gibson’s Mark Agnesi visited Peter Frampton to explore the guitars behind some of his most iconic cuts – as well as recount the tales of loss and recovery that have defined the rock master’s collecting career.

As far as guitar collections go, Frampton’s is especially steeped in history. Not only did he effectively have to restart his guitar collection after losing 44 individual guitars – and numerous pieces of other gear – in a flood in 2010, he also experienced what has become one of the most famous tales of lost-and-found guitars in history.

To that end, the most notable instruments in Frampton’s episode of The Collection are the ones whose histories are interwoven with such stories.

The “Phenix”, for example, takes center stage. The mid-’50s era triple-humbucker Black Beauty Les Paul Custom needs no introduction: as seen on the cover of Frampton Comes Alive!, it is one of the most iconic Les Pauls of all time, and made its way on “just about every track [Frampton] recorded between 1970 and 1980”.

However, in 1980, the “Phenix” went down in a cargo aircraft – which crashed while taking off from Curaçao – and it was believed to have been lost forever. Miraculously, 31 years later, the Les Paul was reunited with its rightful owner after it had been picked up and played over the years by a local musician.

“It was just one of the best feelings in the world,” Frampton recalls of being reunited with the “Phenix”.

Yeah, I just bet it was at that. What a great, heart-warming story, eh? You gotta love it. Didn’t watch the vid, because I almost never do, but I have a sneaking suspicion I may be making an exception in this case.

(Via Lonesome Ed Driscoll)


On Buddy Preston and Billy Miles

In a comment to this post, AWM helpfully reminded me of something I already knew:

That’s Billy Preston, not Buddy Miles. I know, they all look alike…..

To which I responded with this:

Heh. Yeah, I was just kidding around with that one, hence the big buildup before the vid. I’d just been listening to some Buddy Miles earlier, and the strong physical resemblance between the two–especially the classic 60s/70s Nee-grow coifs and cool threads, duuuuude–kinda struck me as funny. No racial slurs or anything intended (this time–AHEM), they’re both fine musicians and I love their stuff, which in the end is all that matters to me.

My thanks to AWM, whose good intentions provided me with an unassailable excuse to repost this:

Man, ain’t never the wrong time to rock out on that fat, butt-rocking-good groove, if you ask me. One of the very best rock ‘n’ soul/jazz/R&B crossover hits the era ever gave us, in my opinion.

Them Changes is an album by American artist Buddy Miles, released in June 1970. It reached number 8 on the 1970 Jazz Albums chart, number 35 on the Billboard 200 and number 14 on the 1971 R&B albums charts.

Writing for Allmusic, music critic Steve Kurutz called the album “quite simply, one of the great lost treasures of soul inspired rock music…definitely worth the extra effort to try to locate.” Conversely, Robert Christgau wrote “His singing is too thin to carry two consecutive cuts, his drumming has to be exploited by subtler musicians, and the title cut is the only decent song he ever wrote.”

Yeah, well, y’know, Robert fucking Christgau. He always was a consummate bitch-ass little prick, according to all I’ve heard from people in a position to know firsthand. Now the NYT’s longtime lead music crit, Jon Pareles, on the other hand…

Pareles BPs

A-HENH! That blurb was just one of the first of quite a few favorable reviews Parales went on to bestow on us, from which you can easily discern that here was a man who knew what the fuck he was talking about.

Anyway, to press ”ESC” on the self-congratulory digression and get back on-topic: It just kills me how, given the way classic-rock stations keep spinning the same well-worn old tunes over and over and over—many of which I do love, mind, but I mean really now, COME ON!—somehow you never, ever hear this one. It’s as if programmers, DJs, and/or station managers are completely unaware that these great artists actually recorded and released a helluva lot more material than just the five or six all-too-familiar songs they’ve boiled entire careers’ worth of output down to and are even now running into the fucking ground. I just don’t get it, I really don’t.

Update! What the hey, one golden musical memory from my childhood deserves another, right?

Buddy Miles, as I’m sure y’all know, filled the pounding-skins slot for Jimi Hendrix (among other notables) for a goodish while there. Preston, for his part, worked the 88s for pretty much everybody who was anybody in the classic-rock days. Wrote or co-wrote a fair few hit songs recorded by other artists, too; pretty much anyplace you looked on the Billboard Hot 100 in the late 60s/early 70s, there ol’ Billy Preston would be. God bless ‘em both, sayeth I.


The CF Fall Begathon is back, baby!

For many years, I did two fundraisers per annum here, one in the Spring and one in the Fall. I fell off that wagon a few years back, and haven’t really thought much about it since, seeing as how the fine, fine folks at Hosting Matters up and cut me a seriously sweet deal on hosting after I’d repeatedly gotten into serious arrears with them.

Alas, now that I’m without any real income other than the pitiful few shekels brought in by this h’yar blog and the Eyrie, I find myself forced to reinstate the Fall fundie at least; renewal of the domain name is coming up soon, and I’m ashamed to say that I’m broke as a joke and without other prospects.

That being the case, then, I must with great regret extend the battered tin cup in y’all’s direction and beg for alms. The donation links are at the top of the blog, as you’ve no doubt noticed; I ditched PayPal a while back, although my account with them is still active. Offensive an imposition as it no doubt is, I’ll affix this post up top for the remainder of the month; don’t know what that will mean for the Donnybrook post, having two designated “sticky” posts up there. We’ll see how it goes.

Update! Hey hey hey, the two-sticky-post thing seems to be working just fine. Looks like the old dog just learned hisself a new trick.

Hail Mary update! Since response to the Fall Begathon so far has fallen what you might call way short of overwhelming, in desperation I’ve reinstated the PayPal donation links both above and in the sidebar. Hit ‘em early, hit ‘em often. My thanks to the readers in advance.

Goin’ down for the last time update! Last day for the Fall Begathon will be tomorrow, the 30th; I’ll be renouncing this post’s “sticky” status sometime on Sunday, after which it’ll sink down out of the way, something I know y’all will be as happy about as I admit I’m a-gonna be. If nothing else, a lot of pain-in-the-ass scrolling will be eliminated thereby. So we got that going for us, anyhow.

My sincerest and most humble thanks to all of you who paved your way to Heaven with good intentions via parting with a little of your hard-earned gelt to help out the World’s Greatest One-Legged Blogger in his time of direst need. As always, I remain awed and grateful by/for the generosity of my readers, in terms of both financial considerations and your kind attention.

The total take this time out was a good bit less than that of Begathons past here, which usually only ran for a week or two. Not that I’m complaining, mind, not a bit of it. In these, the days of the Biden Economic MIRACLE!™, such hardship is only to be expected. Things are pretty tough out there nowadays for just about everybody, no matter what Praetorian Media wants us all to believe. And hey, in the lean times every little bit helps, right? Right.

And now, the confession even a blind man coulda seen coming, given the title of this h’yar update: The main point here, gang, was really to provide me with an excuse (as if any were needed) to repost one of the verymost classics of the classic-rock oeuvre. Hell no, I ain’t ashamed of this cheap little subterfuge of mine; I’m PROUD of it, dammit! Why do you ask?

What a great tune that is. Funnily enough, out of all the who-knows-how-many bands I’ve shared stages with over the years–including several top-line classic rock acts such as BTO and Blue Oyster Cult as well as latter-day small-fry types who covered the music of the original masters–I cannot for the life of me recall ever seeing a single band attempt that Head East nugget in their set. Dunno, must be that cheeseball synthesizer line, which is absolutely vital to the song. Or those tight, crisp vocal harmonies, maybe—which, y’know, ditto.


Ringing (dis)endorsement

Another aging-out 70’s (both age and era) classic-rock superstar has come out swinging against Wokistry in all its guises and pretexts.

Rock legend Alice Cooper — who pioneered performative gender-bending on stage — believes that generation woke’s obsession with transgenderism is a “fad” that has gotten so out of control that it is now “laughable.”

Alice Cooper took particular issue with gender transitions for children in an interview this week with Stereogum.

“I’m understanding that there are cases of transgender, but I’m afraid that it’s also a fad, and I’m afraid there’s a lot of people claiming to be this just because they want to be that,” he said. “I find it wrong when you’ve got a six-year-old kid who has no idea. He just wants to play, and you’re confusing him telling him, ‘Yeah, you’re a boy, but you could be a girl if you want to be.’”

He continued:

I think that’s so confusing to a kid. It’s even confusing to a teenager. You’re still trying to find your identity, and yet here’s this thing going on, saying, “Yeah, but you can be anything you want. You can be a cat if you want to be.” I mean, if you identify as a tree…And I’m going, “Come on! What are we in, a Kurt Vonnegut novel?” It’s so absurd, that it’s gone now to the point of absurdity.

Cooper, a devout Christian, went on to say that the desire to “respect” others’ gender non-conformity has gone too far.

“It’s getting to the point now where it’s laughable. If anybody was trying to make a point on this thing, they turned it into a huge comedy,” he said.

“I don’t know one person that agrees with the woke thing. I don’t know one person. Everybody I talk to says, “Isn’t it stupid?” And I’m going, “Well, I respect people. I respect people and who they are, but I’m not going to tell a seven-year-old boy, ‘Go put a dress on because maybe you’re a girl,’ and he’s going, ‘No, I’m not. I’m a boy.’”

Cooper said that biological reality is a fact that cannot be rationalized away.

“If you have these genitals, you’re a boy. If you have those genitals, you’re a girl,” he said.

Not to put too fine a point on it, or to come off all dismissive and disagreeable, but if you don’t know a single person that agrees with “the woke thing,” Alice, I’d say your circle of acquaintance isn’t terribly broad—particularly for someone in the music biz, which is brimming over with shitlibs every place you care to look.

Not that I’m disagreeing with him, of course; he’s perfectly correct, in every least particular. Alice Cooper is known far and wide as an extremely nice, easy to get along with, and considerate person to hang out with, evincing not a jot or tittle of the ego-tripping and sniffy stand-offishness that seem to go hand-in-glove with a certain level of celebrity. He’s also quite astute in his political views, which makes him a signal departure from the usual run of famous-person-dumbassery endemic amongst the showbiz glitterati.

Kudos to him for unabashedly telling it like it really is, knowing full well the condemnatory hue and cry one is likely to get in return for such frank honesty in Amerika v2.0. Unlike Paul Stanley and Dee Snider, I very much doubt Alice Cooper will be tippy-toeing away from his common-sensical, scientifically correct slam of “transgender” lunacy anytime soon due to the political backlash.

So well done, Mr Furnier, well done indeed. Calls for not one but two Tune Damage embeds, I think, if for no other reason than that I absolutely adore both these songs.

Love that Rich Mockingbird Pete Friesen is playing (I think it’s Friesen, could easily be wrong about that though) in the vids. Don’t see a lot of those out there nowadays, but they’ve always been damned fine instruments, a player’s guitar for sure.

Crossfire hurricane

Another Jimi Hendrix thang from Quora Digest, one part of which I especially dig (in bold, natch).

Was Jimi Hendrix a significantly better guitarist than his contemporaries?
Yes, with some very minor reservations which I’ll get to in a minute.

Hendrix raised the bar and changed the game, when it came to electric guitar. Jazz musicians like to talk about a musician’s ‘conception’, meaning that musician’s general approach to the instrument, and to making music. Another musician might find it difficult to play with someone whose conception they couldn’t understand. (Ornette Coleman sometimes had this problem, until he attracted musicians like Ed Blackwell, Don Cherry and Charlie Haden, who grasped his conception very well.)

The recorded evidence shows that, in terms of his conception—his understanding of what the electric guitar was good for, and could be made to do—Hendrix was simply head and shoulders above his peers. He effortlessly incorporated controlled noise and feedback into his playing, when his peers were tentatively mucking about with them. He was a superb rhythm player: most of the other guitar heroes of his generation were at best workmanlike rhythm players, and not even the best rhythm players of the time (Townshend, Page) could match the fury and precision of Hendrix’s part on ‘Killing Floor’—there’s a reason why he chose that song to introduce himself to American audiences at the Monterey festival. His leads were almost endlessly inventive and expressive: listen to what he can do with just one chord in ‘Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)’. His expressivity on guitar was supreme. Other guitarists, like Clapton, took a plank of wood and an amp the size of a fridge, and in the words of Philip Norman, made it sound like some kind of strange but haunting wind instrument, but Hendrix made it sound like a whole orchestra, playing in a hurricane.

With all respect to other answers to this question, and their authors, many of whom are people whose other answers I have enjoyed and admired, I have to laugh when I see Hendrix being considered as if he belonged in the same company as players like Clapton, Mike Bloomfield or even Jeff Beck. They belong in each other’s company; they do not belong in his.

VERY well said, sir. I chose not to put that last line in boldface as well, but it was a near-run thing, and a difficult decision indeed.


How the sausage is made

I’ve never been in the habit of watching videos linked or embedded by other bloggers; don’t know why that would be, I’m by no means opposed to it, and I certainly hope CF readers will watch the ones I embed. Hypocritical of me, perhaps, but hey, it is what it is. Don’t hate me ‘cause I’m beautiful, to swipe one of my favorite Little Richard quotes.

That said, though, for some odd reason I felt compelled to watch one MisHum included with last night’s ONT, the first half of it anyway. And in so doing, I learned something I didn’t know before, namely the backstory of how a great ‘70s classic-rock tune came to be.

“No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature” is a medley by the Canadian rock band The Guess Who. It was released on their 1970 album American Woman, and was released on the B-side of the “American Woman” single without the “New Mother Nature” section. The single was officially released as “American Woman/No Sugar Tonight” and peaked at #1 on the RPM magazine charts and #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, for three weeks on both charts. In Cash Box, which at the time ranked sides of singles independently, “No Sugar Tonight” reached #39.

According to Randy Bachman, the inspiration for the song arose after an incident when he was visiting California. He was walking down the street with a stack of records under his arm, when he saw three “tough-looking biker guys” approaching. He felt threatened and was looking for a way to cross the street onto the other sidewalk when a little car pulled up to the men. A woman about 5 feet tall got out of the car, shouting at one of them, asking where he’d been all day, that he had left her alone with the kids, didn’t take out the trash, and was down here watching the girls. The man was suddenly alone when his buddies walked away. Chastened, he got in the car as the woman told him before pulling away: “And one more thing, you ain’t getting no sugar tonight”. The words stuck in Bachman’s memory.

Bachman then wrote a short song in the key of F♯ called “No Sugar Tonight”. When he presented the song to Burton Cummings and RCA, he was told that the song was too short. Bachman and Cummings expanded the song by adding to it a song Cummings had written that was also in the key of F♯, “New Mother Nature”.

The narrator of the vid over at the Ace place goes on to relate the tale of how the A-side of which “No Sugar” was the B, “American Woman,” was put together as well, and it’s a doozy in its own right.

The music and lyrics of the song were improvised on stage during a concert in Southern Ontario (the guitarist, Randy Bachman, recalled it being at a concert in Kitchener, although Burton Cummings, the lead singer, said it was at the Broom and Stone, a curling rink in Scarborough). Bachman was playing notes while tuning his guitar after replacing a broken string, and he realized he was playing a new riff that he wanted to remember. He continued playing it and the other band members returned to the stage and joined in, creating a jam session in which Cummings improvised the lyrics. They noticed a kid with a cassette recorder making a bootleg recording and asked him for the tape. They listened to the tape and noted down the words that Cummings had extemporized, and which he later revised.

The song’s lyrics have been the matter of debate, often interpreted as an attack on U.S. politics (especially the draft). Cummings, who composed the lyrics, said in 2013 that they had nothing to do with politics. “What was on my mind was that girls in the States seemed to get older quicker than our girls and that made them, well, dangerous. When I said ‘American woman, stay away from me,’ I really meant ‘Canadian woman, I prefer you.’ It was all a happy accident.”

Heh. Upon the single’s release “American Woman” quickly raced to number one on the Billboard chart, moving on from there to worldwide commercial success and writing the Guess Who into the hitmaker-history book forever.

The music biz is just brim-full of fascinating, fun stories like those; that’s among many other factors that attracted me so intensely from a very early age, inspiring me to devote my entire life to chasing that most beautiful of dreams. Plenty of barbed hooks to be found in the briny deeps of the musician’s world, I assure you, and once they’re set in ya there just ain’t no wriggling off of ‘em. As I recently said in a comments-section response to a Quora query concerning the cons of playing the guitar:

The biggest “con” of all: it’s TOTALLY addictive. Back when I was taking students, if it was a newbie first thing I’d tell them was, “sell the guitar now and walk away. Otherwise, it’ll get in your blood and you’ll never have a pot to piss in for the rest of your life.” None of them took my sage advice, go figure.

With the guys who already knew how to play and just wanted me to teach them my own particular style, I didn’t bother saying anything. I knew they were lost already, and would never, ever recover. 😉

S’truth, and I know whereof I speak on this one. Learning to play; training yourself up to proficiency; screwing up the nerve to climb up onto a stage and play before an audience for the very first time; getting used to committing that unnatural act until you’ve reached the point where the stage is the one and only place in all the world where you feel truly alive, truly yourself—tougher to kick than heroin, that is, but a WAY better, more enjoyable high. Plus, there’s not all that puking right after you geeze up to contend with, either.

Yep, it’s a sickness, that’s what it is.


A becoming humility

Quora provides a sterling example of one of Man’s finer qualities.

Rik Elswit
Musician for 60 years. Professional musician for 55

What are some rock songs that were just filler, but became huge hits?
My band went into the studio to make our fourth album after having had to declare bankruptcy in order to get out of a contract with CBS records where we were getting no support. Nobody would even take our phone calls.

So we signed with Capitol, and went to work at Pacific Recorders. This is where we found out that our manager/producer was of little use in the studio without having the CBS engineers holding his hand for him. We released three singles off it that he was sure would be hits, and they all stiffed. Finally, in frustration, the brass at Capitol actually ordered him to release our cover of Sam Cooke’s “Only 16”, which we’d recorded simply as fill to flesh out the album.

This was a tune that we had begun playing at gigs just because we liked to play it. Our lead singer really got it, and it was just like home. The sort of thing we could do in our sleep. We produced and arranged it ourselves, and it only took a couple hours, total, to get it in the can. We were even breaking up a pound of monstrously good smoke in the drum booth while we were doing the sweetening. I had to hand the scales off to the drummer when they called me out to lay in the guitar solo and fills.

It went gold. We had worked our own way out of bankruptcy on our own, and we made Sam Cooke’s widow very happy.

FOURTH album? Jumping from a contract with CBS over to Capitol, seemingly at will? A gold record the result of said major-label leap? One can only assume that this Rik Elswit fellow must be, or at least once was, a real Somebody in the music biz.

As it turns out, we quickly learn from the comments that one would not be entirely incorrect in one’s assumption.

Neil Matthews
I’d like to give Rik’s answers more upvotes, it’s a glimpse of what Quora could be; informative answers to genuine questions by someone who knows what they are talking about.

Huw Pritchard
No small amount of humility either – I’ll be honest, I ended up googling Rik because I didn’t know his name but figured out it might be an interesting search.

If I was in his shoes I’d start everything I wrote with “I was in Dr Hook for 13 years”, even if it wasn’t relevant to the answer.

Well, I will be dipped in shit, how ’bout that? For those of you out there who are a hell of a lot younger than me, here’s Rik Elswit’s band’s biggest hit—in days of old, when knights were bold, and condoms not invented.

And what the hell, since Rik mentioned pounds of weed, and it popped up after Dr Hook in my YewToob list, PLUS it’s still one of the songs that make me bounce around in my seat the hardest, let’s do this thing.

Man, you might not agree, but in my book that’s about as good as the rock GETS, right there.

Update! Okay, since I’m on something of a roll here and all. Rik mentioned major-label tapeworms refusing to even take the band’s calls back in their darkest days just before the dawn, so what do you suppose that reminded me of? Why, this, of course.

Just occurred to me that, if someone stumbled in here who didn’t know me personally and got a load of these, shall we say, wildly electic musical selections I’m always putting up here, then found out I mostly listened to classical music radio all day long, they’d probably think I was schizophrenic or something.

Says it all update! While we’re on the topic of rock and roll, I hijacked this from shit the great Ken Lane posted on Fakebook.

AC DC3BlocksAway

Really, what more can one say but: Heh.

Strung up, strung out

Yet another excellent Quora digest edition drops into my email inbox.

Why does Billy Gibbons use 7-43 guitar strings? It seems odd.

Billy uses 7–38.

Billy used to use 11s & 12s because he thought that’s what all the blues guys did: Big string = Big sound

He was in the green room of a gig with B.B. King and BB wanted to see Billy’s axe. BB was noodling with Billy’s guitar and asked Billy why he was running such heavy strings? Billy said, “I thought that’s how all you blues guys got your tone.” BB said, “Why do you want to work so hard?” I think Billy dropped down to 9s almost immediately and eventually worked his way down to 7s and 8s, which is what a lot of the classic music of the 50s, 60s, and 70s was done with.

7’s will teach you about control PDQ because they respond so easily. If you want to sound super-tight on 9s or 10s go play on 7s and 8s for while.

.007s? Dang, I don’t think I ever have played with strings that light; in fact, I don’t recall being aware that they even made ‘em that light. My uncle started me out on .008s, a jazz set of his preferred Black Diamonds with the wrapped G (as a snot-nosed punk kid already gravitating heavily towards rock and roll, I didn’t like that worth a damn, believe me; wrapped third strings on electric guitars is definitely a jazzbo thing). Then, once I’d mastered the essential chords, scales, and runs, followed by guitar adaptions of a few old songs, most of which Murray had transposed and committed to staff paper himself (Sweet Georgia Brown*, I remember ye fondly, old girl!), I went out on my own hook from there.

POINTLESS CF DIGRESSION™: I still have one of those jumbo-sized plastic totes crammed full of Murray’s old sheet-music transcriptions in climate-controlled storage over in my friend Wendy’s living room, safely tucked away between her two (2) pianos. It’s all promised to my friend Jeremy, a great player in his own right, who damned near collapsed in stunned but delighted disbelief when I first showed him that plastic-tub treasure trove and spent an evening pawing through it with him. Jeremy took guitar lessons from me back when I was still willing to take on students; he’s probably the best pure musician I’ve ever known, and I’m happy indeed to turn over all that 24-karat musical history to him, knowing as I do how much he’ll love it, and what good care he’ll take of it.

Anyhoo, when I began playing professionally, I had to change strings before every show, either in the green room or at the hotel. I could count on breaking at least one any night I got lazy and didn’t—usually the D or B, don’t know why that would have been. And believe me, I tried like hell to figure it out. It was annoying as hell, but then again all the onstage angst and aggro was easily avoided just by the simple expedient of changing the blasted things.

Uncle Murray, by contrast, only replaced his strings once in a blue moon; he’d boil ‘em when they started to feel limp and flaccid, then put ‘em back on for another year’s worth of abuse. Murray and I never discussed the way I went through strings; I figure he would have been genuinely horrified at the needless waste, the grotesque profligacy of any nephew of his buying strings not by the pack, but by the case. Why, the very idea! Surely he’d taught me better than THAT!

I DO know that Stevie Ray Vaughn famously used strings so painfully heavy they more closely resembled low-register piano strings, or perhaps telephone-pole guy wires. Don’t know how in the world he managed to play the way he did—bending notes with no apparent effort, fingers zooming wildly all over the fretboard like honeybees in a field of wildflowers—on strings that big, night after night after night, for years. But then, that’s why he’s Stevie Ray Vaughan, and I, y’know…ain’t.

My own calluses, laboriously created by set after set of comparatively wimpy D’Addario Jazz/Rock .011 to .049s, are still there, and I haven’t picked up a guitar since 2017. Hell, I can still feel the lip-callus you get from trumpet-playing when I run my tongue across my upper lip; apparently, they never do go away completely. The calluses on Stevie Ray’s left-hand fingertips, then, must have been something to see indeed. By the time he died, his fingertips must have been rutted as deeply as a New Mexico desert valley after a sudden monsoon.

.007 to .038 gauge strings, Gibbons? Ya fuckin’ pussy.

Update! Having mentioned Jeremy up there, please enjoy one of my all-time favorite songs from his surf band nonpareil, the Aqualads.

Great band, great tune. Written by the late, lamented Bob Nelson, may he forever rest in peace.

* I keep thinking of stuff I want to add to this post, so I put in a link to Django Reinhardt and Stephan Grappelli’s version of SGB, just because they were two of Murray’s favorites.

No-so-famous last words

Do we get some sort of weird premonition, some uncanny sense of impending doom, when our death approaches? Sometimes, yeah.

What were Jimi Hendrix last words?
Jimi Hendrix, one of the most influential guitarists of the 1960s, died at Samarkand Hotel in London on September 18. 1970. He was 27 years old.

Cause of death: Asphyxia due to aspiration to vomit, contributed to by barbiturate intoxication.

His last words were “I need help bad, man”.

Aside from that, a poem he wrote was found at his deathbed. This was the last sentence of the poem:


Thank you.

Kinda creepy, no? Also beautifully poetic, and all too true. But still. Calls for another Hendrix embed, I do believe.

Man, dig that crazy wad o’ homemade pop filter on his mic! As the video shows, it was awfully windy in Howaya that afternoon, which explains it.

Also, note ye well at :29 in the vid, how deftly Jimi steps off the Vox 846 wah pedal and onto the trusty ol’ Fuzz Face, to call forth the legendary Hendrix crunchiness from that pretty white Strat. Then, at around :36 seconds in, watch in humbled awe as he swats the pickup selector switch to fastly transition from the fat, throaty sound of the neck-pickup position to the twangy squall of the wrong-way-tilted (since he was playing a right-handed axe upside down, see) bridge p/u, swapping one trademark Hendrix sound™ for the other in a lightning flash of truly inspired playing.

It’s Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell for backup, alas, nary a Buddy Miles or Noel Redding in sight. But DAMN, that stage-full of Marshall DSL Pro full-stacks makes me drool.

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)


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?

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.


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