GIVE TIL IT HURTS!

Kings of the boogie

That’s what they used to call Canned Heat, whose “Goin’ Up The Country” vid I posted last night as accompaniment to a post on a topic other than music. It’s hilarious, how the boys keep poking fun at the fact that they’re lip-syncing, with the flautist and bassist not even bothering to pretend they’re playing at all here and there.

Then I saw this comment at NC Renegades:

Great old song there from my youth. My first born daughter was inspired by it so much she took up the flute as her 1st instrument in school band class. It would make a most excellent boogaloo song too.

…and that’s when I knew I simply HAD to embed another great Canned Heat tune as an encore. So Robehr Orinski, this one’s for you, buddy.

Ohhhhh yeah, Kings of the boogie is RIGHT.

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” THAT TIME IN 1968 WHEN JIMMY PAGE AND THE YARDBIRDS PLAYED AT A CINCINNATI HIGH SCHOOL PROM”

Full props to Ed for a truly great catch.

IN 1968, JIMMY PAGE AND THE YARDBIRDS PLAYED AT ST. XAVIER’S PROM
Months before the legendary guitar player formed a little band called Led Zeppelin, he and his bandmates took an unexpected gig—and made quite an impression.

Oh, I just bet they did. I just bet they did at that.

By all accounts St. Xavier High School was a pretty buttoned-up place in the late 1960s: an all-male student body with a coat-and-tie dress code, daily Mass (confession optional), and a special Jesuit brand of detention called J.U.G., or Justice Under God (still in place today; ditto for the all-male thing). The chief rule enforcer back then was Patrick J. Boyle, S.J., the school’s assistant principal and unofficial dean of discipline, legendary for incidents like sending boys home mid-day for a haircut if their locks even grazed the tops of their shirt collars.

At the very same time, out in the world-at-large, the times they were a-changin’, as the song lyrics sort of go. Between war, devastating assassinations, increasingly violent protests, political theater, and even the world’s first manned lunar orbit, 1968 in particular would end up being one of the most pivotal and tumultuous years in recent U.S. history. High school and college students nationwide had begun advocating vehemently for a freer, less restrictive, and more open society; in the process they’d also managed to usher in a new era of rock music that aptly reflected the times (sex, drugs, et al). Such was the cultural landscape when St. X’s class of 1968 entered its senior year and a new principal, Father Ed Smith, arrived on campus for—among many other things—his first meetings with the student council.

One of the group’s first orders of business: planning the prom.

Even if you’re not a classic-hard-rock fan—which I am—a Led Zep fan—which, ditto—or a Yardbirds devotee—which I ain’t, and never have been—you’ll still find this a fun read. It’s an amazing story, albeit an all too familiar one to any poor lost soul who’s ever seriously attempted to embark on a career as a full-time professional musician. The weddings, bar mitzvahs, birthday parties, and sundry private gatherings any such misguided fool must endure so as to eke out their paltry living in the biz are indeed the curse of the calling.

No, whether or not you do manage to scratch and claw your way to the top of the rock and roll heap, the road there is a long and thorny one, guaranteed to be liberally salted with what my erstwhile partner in musical crime Mookie Brill (yes, that’s moi with Mook in the top-left photo, thenksveddymuch; there’s video of our old power-duo, the Parodi Kings, available for perusal there also, looks like) un-affectionately used to call “menu venues,” along with the whole panoply of other painful life experiences. Not to complain or anything, it’s all just part of the working-musician life.

I remember one wedding the BPs played in DC, for one of the steepest tolls we ever did charge, wherein the minister responsible for the preceding nuptials introduced the band by turning to us to glare in goggle-eyed horror and sneering over the mic, “Guess it really does take all kinds to make a world.” My brother the doghouse bassist was so offended by the obvious insult he immediately started lobbying me hard for just up and walking out then and there (direct would-be-exit quote: “Man, SCREW this, let’s just pack our stuff up and leave!”), before we’d struck the very first chord and/or rock-star pose.

The bride and groom were so mortified by this incident that, in addition to our exorbitant fee (of which we damned well earned every fucking penny), they were moved to ship us an entire case of pricey Knob Creek small-batch bourbon and a nice note when they got back home to San Francisco by way of apology. Handsome is as handsome does, as they say; they were actually very nice people, one of many couples who had met at one of our Double Door shows back when they were living in CLT.

In one of life’s great ironies, the majority of those couples at whose wedding receptions we later played, those that I know of anyway, ended up divorced after a few years. It got so bad that, before the last few we did before giving them up forever, we went out of our way to warn the soon-to-be-unhappy couples when they first inquired about us playing for them of our dismal track record to date, and what it might well wind up meaning to them ere the (bitter, acrimonious) end.

Anyways, the thing that really grabbed me about the Yardbirds-prom article is this photo of Jimmy Page:

Whaaa....?
Page goes nearly all-Fender, shockingly enough

Yep, that is indeed Jimmy Page—renowned throughout the guitar-playing universe for his strict insistence on running various Gibson Les Pauls through several serried ranks of Marshall full-stacks, with a doubleneck SG along for the ride on “Stairway To Heaven,” natch—working not just a chop-shop Fender Tele (GASP!!!) but what looks to my jaded eyes to be a silverface Bassman head, alongside a Vox UL4120, through three (count ’em, 3) Dual Showman cabs.

A replica of Jimmy’s beat-up, junky old Tele can now be had from Fender as the obnoxiously-overpriced “Jimmy Page Signature Model Telecaster,” no less, available in various colors including “Natural with Artwork” at selected music stores near you. Really, what can one say but, “YIKES!”

Hell with them Yardbirds, sez I, have yourselves a little Led Zep as a palate cleanser instead.

ZOMG update! Scanning the comments over at Insty, there’s a whole slew of similar stories, including this one, from 1971:

Black Sabbath plays Union Catholic High School
From Master of Reality documentary
On the second night of their tour, February 18th, they played an uncommon stop for most rock bands. Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. The student body contacted the band’s booking agent, asking if Sabbath would play at their school. Tired of the usual dull bake sales and dances, the students of Union Catholic endeavored upon a novel approach to fundraising. It first started with The Who concert at the school in 1967, followed by other notable bands such as Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears, and Cream. Black Sabbath would be the last.

One first-hand account said: “As the concert started, Ozzy came out with his band from our left. Then FROZE midstage. Facing him right up front were rows of seated priests and nuns in the audience. I still remember the puzzled look on his face. He then shrugged his shoulders and began.” Apparently, the nuns and priests had commandeered the first two rows.

The Marist brother, who was assigned to the student council, took one look at Ozzy, wearing a big cross and chain around his neck, and turned a member of the student body and said, “Finally. (YOU booked) A Christian band!”

The sold-out concert, with an estimated 2,200 attending, would gross $8,803.50, over $60k in 2022 dollars. Black Sabbath would go down as the biggest revenue generator in all of Union Catholic High School’s concert history.

Heh. And probably made about 300 bucks themselves, if that. There’s also this:

The Way It Was – The Who, 1967
The night of Nov. 22, 1967, is indelibly etched in the memories of local music fans lucky enough to nab a ticket to The Who’s performance at Southfield High School’s gym. “It was packed to the gills, and I was in the front row,” recalls Don Henderson, who shot this photo. The British group was preceded by warm-up bands The Unrelated Segments and The Amboy Dukes (with Ted Nugent). Singer Roger Daltrey’s back is to the crowd in front of drummer Keith Moon while guitarist Pete Townshend puts the finishing touches on his signature windmill move, in which he wound up his arm in anticipation of striking a furious power chord. Not pictured is bassist John Entwistle. Henderson, who was just 17 at the time, was himself then in an established local group, The Gang, which was one of the house bands at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom. Lead guitarist Henderson also saw The Who in June of ’67 at Ann Arbor’s The Fifth Dimension club, now long gone. He and his bandmates were smitten by the English group. “Our band looked up to The Who,” Henderson says. “They were what we wanted to be like and sound like and we did their songs.” By the time they appeared at Southfield High, The Who already had a string of hits, including “I Can’t Explain,” “My Generation,” and “Happy Jack.” Their signature concert finale was smashing their instruments. Henderson says they did so at Southfield High — after a fashion. “They didn’t go too crazy,” he remembers. “Pete Townshend knocked his guitar to the floor a couple of times and Keith Moon tipped his drums over.” Incidentally, the fellow peeking out of the curtains is Tom Weschler, a respected music photographer in his own right who also became Bob Seger’s road manager. Henderson continues to keep in touch with Weschler and Nugent.

Mind-blowing pics from the Sabbath show are included with that article, too. Other brushes with future greatness from Glenn’s/Ed’s comment section include Van Halen, REO Speedwagon, Chicago, Ted Nugent, and more. Every professional player, every band, be they exalted or humble, is gonna have skeletons of this nature rattling around in their closets.

Calls for another embed, I think, of the dead-bang greatest Sabbath tune of them all.


Not sure if that’s the original Sabbath drummer in that vid or not, and my apologies to Geezer Butler and all, but as far as I’m concerned as long as you have Ozzie and Tony Iommi in there, then hey, it’s Black Sabbath.

Repost update! After much thrashing about trying to figure this whole Substack business out, this post can now be viewed at my grubby, disreputable hangout there also: The Eyrie, Mike’s CF Adjunct. I left comments open, if you feel like giving it a whirl.

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Rock in a hard place

I can agree with most of this. But not all of it.

From Vinyl Roofs to Classic Vinyl
REVIEW: ‘The Lives of Brian’ by Brian Johnson
Brian Johnson joined AC/DC in 1980 after the death of the band’s original singer Bon Scott. Before we proceed to Johnson’s amiable rockography, The Lives of Brian, we should clarify the musical technicalities. AC/DC are not a heavy metal band. They are frequently hard rock, but essentially they are a rock ’n’ roll band. Like Motörhead, and like the early punk bands that shared their energy and glee, they are the last, late progeny of ’50s rock ’n’ roll. They are loud and bluesy, and have more in common with Johnny Kidd and the Pirates than with Metallica or Def Leppard. The boogie in their early albums carries echoes of the age before Elvis. Like Motörhead’s Philthy Phil Taylor or The Damned’s Rat Scabies, the drumming of AC/DC’s first drummer Phil “The Stud” Rudd swings with the ghost of Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich.

Second, AC/DC are Australian. Formed in 1973, they came up the old way, which is the hard way, on the Australian pub circuit. The “pub” part might evoke cozy and ramshackle British country inns, but Australian pubs, according to those who have visited them and survived, are cavernous beer halls full of raging drunks. These bracing conditions made AC/DC what the Irish call a “show band,” playing other people’s hits, and entertaining the punters like a very loud vaudeville act. Hence their guitarist Angus Young dressing as a schoolboy, complete with satchel.

Third, Bon Scott was and always will be AC/DC’s singer. This is the Raft of Theseus part. Scott had been with the band for six years before he choked on his own vomit after an especially exuberant night out in South London. Brian Johnson replaced him in 1980, and freely admits that he is a singing caretaker, preserving Scott’s songs and the band that made them. Johnson’s 42 years on the job begin where The Lives of Brian ends. This is the story of what Johnson did before he became famous, and what he did to become famous. It is, as Bon Scott wrote, “a long way to the top if you want to rock ’n’ roll,” but the scenic route is much more interesting than the rock star’s cycle of arena shows and private jets.

“Caretaker”? Like hell. No slight of any kind to the inimitable Bon Scott intended, of course, but AC/DC has done some of its very best work with Johnson up front and center. I’ve been fortunate indeed to see Oz’s gift to real rock and roll live four times over the years, including my first time shortly before Scott passed on, and I can say without fear of contradiction that Johnson stepped up and filled some unimaginably oversized shoes with aplomb, class, and style. He never tried to make anybody forget about Scott, or to supplant him; he made the wiser choice to go his own way and add to Scott’s legacy instead, which is greatly to his credit both as a singer and as a man.

Yes, Bon Scott was AC/DC’s singer—WAS. But now Brian Johnson is, and not just the band itself but all of its fans have benefitted greatly from that. And if you try to tell me that this doesn’t stand on its own, no reference to the late great Bon Scott needed, well, I’m gonna tell you you’re as full of shit as a Christmas turkey.


WHOA, that’s good squishy.

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Good ol’ Franky

Since I used up “Monster Mash” and “Haunted House” already, the two greatest Halloween songs EVAR, allow me to present another selection which I think is appropriate for the occasion.



Yes, there’s a drum solo—two, actually, even one of which is a big, fat strike against any live rendition—and it weighs in at a hefty 9:18 long, much of which is Edgar Winter just basically making a bunch of goddamn racket on the synth towards the end. But it’s still pretty good overall, if you can put up with those two highly objectionable things.

On the plus side, you really get a sense from it of just how short Rick Derringer is.

Believe it or not, I came across another live version from 2007 with truly terrific sound quality, but 1) it was over twelve (seriously, twelve!!!) minutes long, and 2) Rick Derringer ain’t in it. So, y’know, screw all that noise. In a manner of speaking.

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Skynyrd and DeSantis kick out the Southern jams

Some of you may remember when I posted on a new Van Zant brothers tune celebrating “Sweet Florida” and its governor not too terribly long ago.



Well, don’t look now, but the other shoe has officially dropped.

Watch: Ron DeSantis Makes Surprise Appearance at Lynyrd Skynyrd Concert, Crowd Chants ‘USA!’

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) made a surprise appearance at a recent Lynyrd Skynyrd concert in Hollywood, Florida, where the stunned crowd erupted in loud applause and chanted “USA!”

DeSantis appeared onstage with his wife, Casey, and their children, during the band’s show Sunday at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

Lynyrd Skynyrd has made no secret of its admiration of De Santis.

Earlier this year, lead singer Johnny Van Zant and his brother, Donny Van Zant, released a new single dedicated to the governor titled “Sweet Florida.”

The song includes the lyrics: “You can take it to the bank, he don’t care what Brandon thinks at the White House / He’s fighting for the right to keep our state free / Well he’s taking on the swamp and he’s calling out Dr. Fauci / He’s the only one fighting for you and me.”

Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis has reportedly announced that the Jacksonville band has donated $100,000 to help those affected by Hurricane Ian, with the amount matched by the Seminole tribe.

A hat tip and a hearty “good on ya, fellas” to all involved. I know some folks don’t quite trust DeSantis; certainly, he ain’t perfect, just like all the rest of us ain’t. But speaking strictly for myself, barring some truly monumental betrayal, this immortal quote alone guarantees I’ll always love the guy: “I will not, Joe, and you can go fuck yourself.”

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The crowning accolade

Ronnie D gets another feather in his cap, courtesy of some legendary fellow denizens of the Sunshine State.

Johnny Van Zant, lead vocalist of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and his brother Donnie Van Zant created a song to celebrate freedom and Florida, thanking Governor Ron DeSantis for his leadership over the past few years.

As Governor DeSantis heads into a reelection campaign, he mentioned to Van Zant it would be great if they created a song for Florida in the same genre as their famous hit Sweet Home Alabama. The two brothers took the challenge and wrote and recorded “Sweet Florida.” It’s a catchy tune.

Governor DeSantis joined Johnny and Donnie Van Zant this morning on Fox & Friends to discuss.

Catchy it most certainly is, a stirring Southern rock anthem in the true old Skynyrd style. Dear departed big brother Ronnie would be damned proud of his junior siblings, I think. Sundance includes vid of DeSantis promoting the Skynyrd tribute on Fox, as you might expect. Meanwhile, have yourself a taste of the song itself.



As if all that weren’t enough rich, buttery goodness for even the greediest gourmet, the song has its very own website, here.

Yeah, we’re free down in Florida; our governor, he’s red, white, and blue. Hott-O-Mighty DAMN, but I love it. Big ol’ Southren-fried hat tip to Barry.

Update! Just watched it again, and the song not only has the same key signature—D Major—but the exact same 1-7-4 (D-C-A) primary chord progression as Sweet Home Allybammer does. God bless Florida, the South, the Van Zants, Ron DeSantis, and good ole Southern Rock.



Ahh, the 70s. What the hell, since we’re well down the rabbit hole at this point, let’s just dive a little deeper so’s I can share with y’all what always was my own personal favorite Skynyrd tune.



Smash ’em up-date! And the hits just keep on coming.

DeSantis broaches repeal of Disney World’s special self-governing status in Florida
Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis addressed on Thursday the suggestion of repealing a 55-year-old state law that allows Disney to effectively govern itself on the grounds of Walt Disney World, following the company’s public opposition to a controversial parental rights law in Florida.

“What I would say as a matter of first principle is I don’t support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful and they’ve been able to wield a lot of power,” DeSantis said during a press conference in West Palm Beach, Florida on Thursday.

DeSantis’s comments comes after Florida State Rep. Spencer Roach tweeted that he has met with legislators to discuss repealing the self-governing law in response to Disney’s recent actions.

“Yesterday was the 2nd meeting in a week w/fellow legislators to discuss a repeal of the 1967 Reedy Creek Improvement Act, which allows Disney to act as its own government,” Roach tweeted. “If Disney wants to embrace woke ideology, it seems fitting that they should be regulated by Orange County.”

While I’m viscerally against any flexing of government muscle in the private sector just on general principle, it’s clear we’re way beyond the point where stubbornly standing on principle can help us much. This is a war we’re in here, and out-of-control Woke mega-corps who think to dictate to state governments what they may and may not do is a bridge too far for me. As DeSantis has said:

“This state is governed by the interest of the people of the state of Florida. It is not based on the demands of California corporate executives,” DeSantis said. “They do not run this state. They do not control this state.”

Nor should they, nor should they be allowed to summarily act as if they do. With the announcement that “Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts…” Disney declared war on the very concept of self-government. Fine then, motherfuckers. You want a war? You got one—with Ron The Knife as our commanding general. Let’s see how that works out for ya.

Disney’s wildly mistaken notion of what their “goal as a company” should be needs to be corrected, badly and most ricky-tick. DeSantis and his like-minded cohorts in FLA government just might be the perfect teachers to straighten Disney’s ass out but good, seems to me. It’s absolutely imperative that US corporate execs, whatever their employer’s field of endeavor, are reminded of the proper role, priorities, and boundaries of American businesses. Given their own outsized power, influence, and reach, this reminder must be firm, unequivocal—even painful, if that’s what’s required to force them back into their own lane again.

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Golden opportunity: JUMPED ALL OVER

I may attempt a post later on the closing arguments in the Rittenhouse Kangaroo-Court Show, or then again I may not. What I do want to get to right away is the golden opportunity emphasized below:

Richards (the defense attorney) has finally woken up. Although he’s still not the clearest-thinking or most articulate guy in the world, he is hitting most of the most important points.

He called the prosecution’s dishonest photo manipulation “Hocus pocus that’s out-of-focus.” Rekeita’s panel liked this. Pretty cornpone.

“Cornpone”? Au contraire, mon frere. In my own estimation, at least, which is that Richards may have been giving a wry, undercover shout-out that Ace didn’t pick up on.



The golden opportunity I’m talking about is the serendipitous chance to expand on last night’s “offend the Progtards to death, literally” post and, better yet, to toss a third post into this here hat too.

Y’all may or may not remember the story about some moronic Wokeist bint proposing in a NYT op-ed that the next candidate for erasure from Western cultural history her fellow mental defectives needed to consider setting their sights on was classic rock. As you would expect, my response to said fascist bint was then and ever shall be the usual resounding Not just no, but HELL no, amongst several other choice expletives, personal insults, and marrow-freezing threats of crippling bodily injury and/or death.

So essentially what we have with the above embedded vidya might be thought of as sort of a lather, rinse, repeat. Of which I got plenty more, and ain’t a-skeered to use ’em, either, for as long as it takes these meddlesome, dictatorial baglappers to either give up and go home, or else wind up shot in their fucking empty gourd by some fed-up-and-then-some Deep Purple fan like, say, myself, don’t care which. I say again: Now go ahead and try to tell me something else you think you’ll forbid me to do, Proggy shitstain.

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Hey brother, can you spare a Doobie (Brother)?

Was listening to something called the IHeartRadio ICONS Event earlier, which featured an interview and live performance by the Doobie Brothers as promo for the recently-released album LIBERTÉ. The first tune, “Better Days,” was pretty much MEH, or so I felt. But after a little more Q&A, the boys lit into this one, and…



Not bad a-tall for a buncha old geezers, no? A bit more MOR than I usually like ’em, but still…not bad.

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RIP Charlie Watts

A bit belated, I know, but still. One of the all-time great drummers just shook these mortal coils to join Heaven’s Own Band.

In a previous piece, I described Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham as the overall rock drummer par excellence. Extraordinarily dynamic, Bonham had a lot of gears. He could play louder and heavier than anyone, but could also finesse quiet passages, zig-zag between funk and reggae and swing, and, well, you get the picture.

Charlie was a different sort of drummer, at least while playing with the Rolling Stones. If Bonham was a six-gear, $100,000, 230 horsepower, hot-rodded Harley (with Batmobile-style mods like a smoke-blower, mini-machine guns, and oil-slick dispenser), Charlie was your English grandfather’s vintage Raleigh bicycle. It never broke. It was easy to maintain. You could cruise along on it all day long year after year, decade after decade. It had only one gear, but for a bicycle, it was the perfect gear. And it is with drummers and vehicles as it is for everything else: horses for courses. Which one’s best depends on what you need.

Simple, steady, rock-solid—that was Charlie Watts in a silver-sparkle Ludwig nutshell, and is exactly why I always loved his playing. No flash, no trash, just a backbeat you can feel deep in your soul, if you have any at all. The very best rock and roll drummers are like that, or so I believe. I never have been just a huge Stones fan, I can take ’em or leave ’em alone, but I DO love me some Keef, and some Charlie too.

No eight-bazillion flavors of crash cymbals; no racks-o-toms surrounding him; no gongs behind him, nor tympani he might hit one precisely (1) time over the course of a two-hour set; no synchronized kick-drum pedals by the dozen, when you only got two feets to play ’em with anyway. Just a simple trap kit, a no-nonsense, smack-it-silly snare-drum crack, and…well, just sheer nonchalant elegance, really.

I saw Buddy Rich a couple times years ago, and he was pretty much the same way, at least as far as his bare-bones kit went. The nonchalance and elegance…ehh, not so much; Rich’s facial expressions alone were absolutely maniacal, truly a sight to behold. Both times I saw him, he was sweat-drenched and purple-faced from early into the set, and he weren’t no spring chicken by then either. The energy level and overall vibe he exuded was powerful, not something easily caged or controlled. Joyful too, which I didn’t expect, having heard the stories and the infamous recordings confirming all the rumors of what a total bastard he was to work for, onstage and off. It was a little like watching a precocious teen on his first trip to the titty bar or something.

Anyhoo, back to Charlie.

First, you might never guess, listening to his recorded Rolling Stones drum performances, that Charlie was a precocious jazz drummer. With the Stones, he was a paragon of percussive minimalism. In fact, I’m not sure there’s a single drum fill on any Stones song a five year old couldn’t play.

But that’s no sleight. What matters is playing the right thing—not the complicated thing—and as it happened, Charlie always played the right thing. He played what he played because that’s what he should have played in the Rolling Stones song he was playing. That’s what good musicians do, after all.

Bingo. I’m reminded of something I saw in the Creem mag letters section soon after Van Halen had hit big with their debut album, wherein an EVH fanboy got himself all worked up and slobbery over Eddie’s otherworldly virtuousity, which nobody was trying to argue with anyway. He ended his long, effusive rant thusly: “Why play three notes when you can squeeze in ten?” Which flabby sentiment one of the editors blandly eviscerated with one of the pithiest yet most profound comebacks I ever did see, one that’s stuck with me ever since: Why play ten notes when you can say it in three?

I’m sure that statement went right over that kid’s head, but it’s a more important point than most non-musician types might realize. In all pop music, the Thing, the essential, crucial Thing, is to not overplay, to not burden a good tune with a lot of extraneous self-indulgence. Every talented professional will get his chance to show off his chops and shine a little, in every set he plays. But the REAL pros know that when you throw in everything but the kitchen sink in every damned song, you dull the impact of your sharpest material. First rule of showbiz, taught to me by my dad, my uncle, my early-childhood piano teacher, my church-choir director and high-school band director (same guy), and pretty much every musical mentor I’ve ever had: always, always, ALWAYS leave your audience wanting more. ALWAYS. Playing with discipline and restraint rather than letting it all hang out and flop around all over the place is one of the ways you do it.

This is the key to every Rolling Stones song. Charlies never breaks character. He starts the song, pumps along underneath, hits the fills where needed, but never plays a single gratuitous note. Then the song ends. Then he starts a new one. On it goes. As each song begins, everyone else hangs on, so to speak, to his chugging rhythm. It’s no wonder Keith once said “Charlie Watts is the Stones”.

Not to shortchange Charlie here, but there’s another great drummer who also lived his musical life by the less-is-more rule I gotta mention: Cheap Trick’s Bun E Carlos. Way underappreciated, in my view, but he’s another one who eschewed the flashy sturm und drang for just quietly doing an impeccable job of holding down the bottom end and keeping the proceedings rockin’ right along with neither fuss, muss, nor excess of any kind.

And this KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid, not their 1977 tour-mates) approach from the drummer of a band that, for years, opened every show with a fucking DRUM SOLO, mind you. I mean, NOBODY likes drum solos, ferchrissakes. Not even other drummers.



Ahh, but simplicity wasn’t always the Bun E Carlos Way. As with almost every aggressive but unschooled young hotshot whose only thought is to swing for the fences on every pitch, holding back was an acquired taste for Carlos too.

In 1973 or 1974, Carlos gained a major insight into his drumming. He told interviewer Robin Tolleson in 1986 that, like most young drummers, he was mostly interested in making his drumming stand out (“Where can I get the most licks in, and how cool can I sound”). While listening to a tape of a Cheap Trick concert, he realized he was rushing the beat and interfering in the performance of the other band members. Afterward, he began taping every Cheap Trick show to study his own drumming much more objectively, focusing on keeping time and supporting his bandmates. The band also played several gigs alongside Mahavishnu Orchestra about this time. Carlson says he learned a great deal about ambidextrous drumming from drummer Billy Cobham.

Making yourself a part of the music instead of trying to dominate or overwhelm it—recognizing that YOU must be all about the music, rather than the music being all about YOU—is a critical step in every player’s career, and sometimes a quite difficult one as well. Given my own background in hard rock/classic rock, I struggled mightily with it myself, and never really managed to master the thing. In fact, that’s why I never was able to play traditional blues at all well, and eventually just pretty much gave up on ever getting it right consistently, aside from the occasional (VERY occasional) fluke solo.

When it comes to restraint, blues is a particularly demanding genre, maybe the toughest of any modern popular music styles. It’s often said that blues lives and breathes in the spaces between the notes, not in the notes themselves. With blues guitar, what you DON’T play is every bit as important as what you DO play, very often moreso. Of equal importance is playing those notes correctly, what BB King meant when he used to talk about making his trademark single-note solos “sting.” Shaping the notes you play is paramount, and attack is all.

All of that is a little different for drummers than it is for guitarists, of course. Nonetheless, the basic principle of Less Is More still applies. Both Bun E Carlos and Charlie Watts spent long and notable careers providing an excellent education for all of us in how it was fucking done.

Update! Almost forgot another thing I always dug about Carlos: when onstage with Cheap Trick, he actually had a drum tech whose primary responsibility was this: whenever Bun E’s ever-present cigarette was near the end, said roadie would light up another, run out, and replace the expired butt with the fresh one, thus averting the unacceptable calamity of Carlos having to play without a gasper dangling from his lips. Too funny, that.

THIS SHALL NOT STAND!!

I have been saddened and dismayed by the rather blasé response to Dusty Hill’s death from my local classic-rock radio stations, which I listen to sometimes while I’m out delivering food or picking up/returning the young ‘un or whatever. When Tom Petty died, it was pretty much a three-day orgy of tribute to the man, which I had no problem with. I mean, I was by no means a rabid Petty fan, but on the other hand he WAS a truly gifted songwriter, with a top-notch band behind him. All in all, Tom was okay with me, and he had a long string of hits, so give the man his due, right?

By contrast, I’ve heard very little at all in the way of mention, recognition, or repeat ZZ Top spins in the wake of Hill’s death apart from a brief notice that their tour dates would go on more or less as scheduled. Commercial-free two, three, or four-play song sets,, interviews with the band, obscure live tracks, all that sort of thing? Not on your life, or not that I’ve heard, anyway.

Well, screw that. When I said the other night that I considered ZZ to be one of the greatest rock bands that ever was or ever will be, I meant every word of it. So have yourselves a couple bonus slices of musical genius from that li’l ole band from Texas, gratis. No need to thank me, y’all.



For anybody who might not know already: the trademark deep, rough-and-ready grizzly-growl on their records is Billy Gibbons, who handled most of the lead vocal duties. The higher, somewhat smoother, sweeter croon swapping verses with Gibbons on some songs, and holding forth on its own on others, is Dusty Hill. Of course, that’ll be obvious in the video footage. But still.

I repeat: God rest him, and may His comfort and love bless Dusty’s bandmates, family, friends, and fans.

Just a li’l ole band from Texas

RIP Dusty Hill.

Dusty Hill, the bassist for blues-rock trio ZZ Top, has died. He was 72.

“We are saddened by the news today that our compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, Texas,” wrote ZZ Top drummer Frank Beard and lead vocalist Billy Gibbons in a joint statement Wednesday, Rolling Stone reported. “We, along with legions of ZZ Top fans around the world, will miss your steadfast presence, your good nature, and enduring commitment to providing that monumental bottom to the ‘Top.’ We will forever be connected to that ‘Blues Shuffle in C.’ You will be missed greatly, amigo.”

Hill served as the still-active group’s bassist for over 50 years. In 2004, Hill was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the group, which was founded in 1969.

ZZ Top is, of course, the only band ever to have kept its original lineup for that many years. I’ve always loved ’em, and I still consider them one of the greatest rock and roll bands that ever has been, or ever will be. Out of so much exemplary material to choose from for posting purposes here tonight, I just gotta go with my young ‘un’s personal hands-down fave—not only because it really is a great song, but also because it features what might be the best opening stanza ever:

Well I was rollin’ down the road in some cold blue steel,
I had a bluesman in the back, and a beautician at the wheel

Schweeeeet.



Rest easy, Dusty, and thanks for all the choice tunes. You will be forever missed, and never forgotten.

3

Testing, testing

As mentioned the other night, I have now set up genre sub-categories under the Twangin’ and Bangin’ parent cat for our musical posts. Plus, in light of the recent spate of posts on the completely un-American trend towards risk-aversion, I also felt it necessary to create a new ‘un which I’m afraid is going to see a lot of hard use from now on: A nation of pussies. This post is just to make sure they’re working right, that’s all.

Update! Hmm, very interesting; the sub-cats don’t present either on the page or in my third-party posting software exactly like I thought they might, and don’t seem to appear in the sidebar “Categories” dropdown menu at all, or at least for me they don’t. But that’s okay, they seem to work just fine.

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