Monthly Archives: February 2012

Van Halen – Why No Love?

Back in the early 80’s Van Halen ruled my car cassette player. The album 1984 was literally not removed from my stereo for months. While the group were never my favorite band at any time they did seem to appeal to everyone I knew. Even my girlfriend didn’t complain (all that much) when I played them.

Something about those early albums will always remind me of driving with the windows down and not a care in the world. Summer nights in West Texas, pulling over drinking a beer on the sligh and waiting to find out what was going to kill the boredom on that night…would there be a party or would I end up at someone’s house listening to music and talking through the night?

I think it was shortly after David Lee Roth left the band that they seemed to fade from my musical radar. I always knew when they had a new album to promote or when they were on tour or when they were in the music press headlines over infighting, but I never seemed to care. Every once and a while I would catch ‘Running With The Devil’ or ‘Unchained’ or ‘Jump’ on the classic rock station when I was driving and I would turn it up and enjoy the hell out of it. But I never went digging through my music collection because I needed to hear ‘Women and Children First’ or ‘Diver Down’. I never felt the need to revisit the Van Halen party machine.

So a few weeks back when the new Van Halen album was released, with David Lee Roth back for lead vocals, I decided I must give it a listen. I was looking forward to the train wreck…and I love train wrecks (i.e. Lou Reed/Metallica). Something about the art of producing utter garbage appeals to me. This is why if I stubble onto the movie ‘2012’ when I am flipping around I always stop and watch with glee, cheering on John Cusak through every bad CGI moment and horrible plot twist.

So with great anticipation I loaded ‘A Different Kind of Truth’ (could they pick a worse title?) onto my iPod. And you know what? It wasn’t bad. I was prepared to have some major guffaws as I listened to it (or at least a couple of jarring moments), but they didn’t embarrass themselves. Sure David is no great vocalist and his range (limited even in his youth) has gotten more brittle with age. But he was never a singer. He is a front man, the cock to the rock, and he fills that part better than any of the other front men the band has hired. The band sounds really good and Eddie’s solos are still pretty amazing. Some of his runs had my head shaking in awe.

But I still have not played the album again after that one time. Why is that? This is a band I enjoyed in my youth, they have had a turbulent history and they are back together as a unit (minus the Jack Daniels bass playing dude) and they have released an album that while not classic is pretty good. Shouldn’t I be enjoying it and be happy that they have returned? After all, we all love the underdog, right? Why is it I just don’t seem to care?

The Archive – An Amazing Film on Record-Rama

Anybody want to loan me 3 million?

Song For the Rough Week Ahead…

Johnny Cash should have been one day into his 80th year on earth today, but it didn’t work out like that. We must live life like we are only here for a short time, for you never know when the ride will come to a complete stop.

Just Like Us…

Grace Slick with little China and Mom

Eric Clapton and his Gran

Frank Zappa and his parents

Vinyl Love

Last November my wife surprised me with a gift. It was going to be my Christmas gift, but she can’t ever keep a surprise for that long. She gave me a record player. She had heard me talking to someone about the newer players that can be hooked up into your computer by USB port. She thought that would make for a nice gift for me, so she got on (my wife feels that it is a moral sin to pay full price for anything) and found a record player. When she gave it to me I was overjoyed and amazed. Not because the turntable was awesome (it is actually a cheap plastic piece of shit), but because she gave me a present that she truly thought I wanted. That little turntable was by far the coolest gift she could ever given me. As I child I played records constantly, mostly my parents 45 records, when I got older music became the bonding agent for my friends and myself.

I grew up in a podunk town in West Texas. The nearest town with a decent record store was a forty minute drive away. Going record shopping was a big deal. I would spend hours in the stores trying to make up my mind to what I would purchase. Then the drive back home looking at the cover, reading the liner notes (but never reading the lyric sheet, I could only do that as the song played), that drive always seemed longer coming back than going. Once home I would lie on my bed and listen to the album, usually twice and if it was a really good one I would then call up my friends and invite them over for a listen. I recall having my bedroom full of people when I got the first Clash album on import.

And then came the compact disc. When CDs started to take over the floor space in the records stores I was fine with that. The sound was without the flaws of the pops and clicks that no matter how well I seemed to treat my records were always there. They were easy to transport and I still gave my attention to the music (the graphics were harder to read, but whatever). And over the years I sold off all my records. Got a nice price for some of them in the early days of ebay. I guess I had a few rare items I had picked up over the years.

Then along came MP3 and flac files. I remember the first time I downloaded a song on my dial up internet. It took 20 minutes, but damn I had a song. I could create a folder on my computer and store all my music files on it. I could play whatever I wanted whenever with just a click of the mouse. Then I signed up with this service called emusic. They offered (at the time) unlimited downloading. They had a small but decent collection of jazz and obscure rock and roll available. The day I got DSL service I went on an ‘unlimited’ download spree. The next day I got an email from emusic explaining that unlimited was going to be changed to 90 songs a month…I had downloaded four times that in one night.

I moved on to other services (some legit and some not so legit) and I amassed a big music file collection. Then my hard drive failed and I lost it all. So I started again and amassed an even bigger collection. I started buying external hard drives to back it up. This was my childhood dream come true. I had all the music I could ever want at my fingertips.

And then along came Spotify. With this service I did not even need to have the files. They were in ‘the cloud’. All I needed to do was think of what I wanted to listen to, type it in the search box and then I could listen to it. But more and more I noticed I was not listening to music…I was sampling and moving on. Music surfing my wife called it and she would remind me how much she hated having to listen to me doing it. I would play twenty or thirty seconds then click on to something else. When I did listen to a complete new album I wouldn’t even know the names of songs I had just listened to. That being because I didn’t look at my computer screen to see what it was. Cover art? Get out of here.

Back in November, when my wife gave me the turntable, I had two 45’s that I had bought on Record Store Day with the thought of reselling them on ebay but I never got around to it. As I pulled the vinyl out of the sleeve, placed it on the table and dropped the tone arm I felt this feeling that is hard for me to put into words, but I guess I must try. It was a mixture of nostalgia and belonging. It was the feeling I had forgot. And you know what happened? I listened song…LISTENED. Then flipped it over and listened to the other side. I had this feeling of real enjoyment of listening to music. This seemed to be the way I needed to play music for total submersion.

My wife told me the other day that giving me that record player was a bad mistake. You see I have gone a little bit crazy. First I upgraded the turntable to a nice mid-priced Technics. Then an amp and speakers. And then came collecting records. It has been four months since I started my spree and I have collected 738 albums. I am discovering some damn cool music. Reading the liner notes. Reading along to the lyric sheet if they are available. Just generally falling in love with vinyl all over again.

Song For the Rough Week Ahead

Home – is where i want to be
But i guess i’m already there

Book Review: In Heaven Everything is Fine

The full title of the book is ‘In Heaven Everything is Fine – The Unsolved Life of Peter Ivers and the Lost History of New Wave Theatre’. I would assume that most people have no idea who Peter Ivers was. And I admit I only knew the name from seeing it listed as a songwriter on what would become known as the ‘lady in the radiator’ song from the movie Eraserhead and, of course as the host of the USA network late night cable show ‘New Wave Theater’. But Peter Ivers was so much more. Author Josh Frank with Charlie Buckholtz have written a book about his life and his unsolved murder and it is a fascinating story.

The authors have structured the book that makes for a very entertaining read. Dropping in periodically on Peter’s life so the reader can get the sense that this person had the smarts, charisma and general luck to meet and cultivate friendships with people that would go on to have successful careers in entertainment. But all the immensely talented people that Peter surrounded himself with they all looked at Peter as the talented one of the group and thought of him as a good friend.

Peter’s close friend in his college days at Harvard, Doug Kenney, went on to start the National Lampoon magazine that soon would branch out to radio, plays and finally movies. Through Doug he met aspiring comics like John Belushi, Chevy Chase and Harold Ramis…later in his life when he was mingling with the LA punk/New Wave underground he would introduce those edgy comics to those edgy musicians.

One of the things I was blown away to learn was that Peter had an interest in blues harmonica, going so far as to track down the master harmonica player Little Walter and convinced the cranky blues-man to give him pointers. He had such an aptitude to the instrument that he became a master on the harp. So good, in fact, that after Little Walter was killed in a street fight Muddy Waters would point him out as the greatest living harmonica player out there. That is some pretty heavy praise. But he was so much more than that. Much more. He wrote theater scores, recorded albums for major labels, wrote TV and film scores, and probably most well known for being the host of New Wave Theater.

He landed the hosting job when he was at his lowest point; years of struggling and watching his piers move on up in the world, after the break up of his long term relationship he seemed to be going through a minor mid-life crisis. He is hired by the producer, writer and camera man of New Wave Theater…David Jove, a true life shady character. In this book the authors cast just enough light on David Jove for the reader to glimpse just a little bit of this man’s past. A past that put him in the center of an infamous chapter in rock and roll history.

Do you remember the bust of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Marianne Faithful and others at Keith’s home, known as Redlands, in 1967? Remember the rumor that when the police burst in they found Marianne naked with Mick eating a Marr’s bar out of her privates? Well, only part of the story was true. They did get busted and she was nude, but she was wrapped in a fur rug with no candy bars anywhere near her.

Here is what Keith wrote about the incident in his excellent autobiography LIFE

Others at Redlands that day were Christopher Gibbs and Nicky Kramer, an upper-class drifter and hanger-on who befiended everybody, a harmless enough soul who was innocent of betraying us, although David Litvinoff held him out of a window by his ankles to find out. And of course Mr. X, as he was later referred to in court, David Schneiderman. Schneiderman, who also went by the moniker of Acid King, was the source of that very high-quality acid of the time, such brands as Strawberry Fields, Sunshine and Purple Haze-where do you think Jimi got that from? All kinds of mixtures, and that’s how Schneiderman got in on the crowd, by providing this super-duper acid. In those innocent days, now abruptly ended, nobody bothered about the cool guy, the dealer in the corner. One big happy party. In fact, the cool guy was the agent of the constabulary. He came with this bag full of goodies, including a lot of DMT, which we had never had before, dimethyltryptamine, one of the ingredients of ayahuasca, a very powerful psychedelic. He was at every party for about two weeks and then mysteriously disappeared and was never heard from again.

You might be asking, so what? Well, David Jove (producer of New Wave Theatre) and David Schneiderman (Mr. X, the Acid King) are the same person. Schneiderman took the alias of Jove when he went into hiding after dropping the dime on the Rolling Stones. David Jove’s life story would be an interesting read, if the truth of it could ever be untangled. But it looks like that story will never be told as he died of cancer in 2004. David Jove was the creative force behind New Wave Theater. He was camera operator, editor and writer of Peter’s weekly monologues.

But why all the David Jove talk when this is a review of a book on the life of Peter Ivers? Because to book makes the reader seriously consider that David Jove, on the night that Peter told him that he was quitting the show to move on to other projects he had lined up, is the person that went into Peter’s skid row loft and beat him to death with a hammer. It makes for a very creepy and chilling section of the book.

It is still an unsolved crime and one that seems to forever remain a mystery. It does seem to be a crime of passion and not just a random violent act. It may have been one of the people interviewed for this book that did the murder. A pretty creepy thought. I loved reading it. Informative and entertaining and I highly recommend searching it out.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Song for the Rough Week Ahead…

Dhani Harrison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne get completely upstaged by Prince and one amazing guitar solo…

Book Review: Skydog – The Duane Allman Story

Have you ever listened to the classic Allman Brother’s Band album ‘At the Fillmore East’? If not you are seriously missing an amazing document of a band at it’s peak in every sense of the word. The band were well road seasoned by the time it was recorded. It is a recording that never fails to get me in a great mood. But its only southern rock, you might say. Yes, but there is so much more in these songs…Memphis Soul, improvisational jazz, hints of psychedelia. The out of this world sound of Duane Allman’s slide guitar work on that album alone is enough to name him as a legend in guitar circles.

Duane was only 24 years old when he was killed in a motorcycle accident, but played on some of the classics of the era. The Wilson Pickett cover of The Beatles ‘Hey Jude’ was his suggestion and his guitar work on the track is phemomenal. He played on some of the tracks Aretha Franklin recorded in Muscle Shoals including her take on The Band’s classic ‘The Weight’ with his funkiest slide work ever. He played on jazz flutist Herbie Mann’s album ‘Push Push’. He played blistering guitar along side Eric Clapton on the classic Derek and the Dominoes album ‘Layla and Other Love Songs’…in fact he came up with the riff that starts off the title song and that is him on beautiful slide on the piano outro.

But Duane will always be remembered best for The Allman Brother’s Band, his band of musical brothers that he hand picked to help make the music he heard in his head. Fluid and majestic is how I would label the output he made in his short time with the band. He only appeared on two studio albums and the a for mentioned live album. After his death the band went on to release the ‘Eat A Peach’ album that included some tracks featuring Duane. Recently more archival releases have been released from the band that include the Duane era like the excellent ‘Live at Ludow Garage 1970’ which is notable for the scorching 44 minute version of the concert staple ‘Mountain Jam’.

Author Randy Poe’s book ‘Skydog – The Duane Allman Story’ was released back in 2006 and revised in 2008 when it was released in trade paperback. I recently picked up a copy and was pleased to read the book. Mr. Poe seems to have captured the essence of this ‘gentle southern hippie’. The book is not just about Duane as the author covers the goings on in the Allman Brother’s Band since Duane’s death although not in detail as he spends with Duane’s life.

You can not help but wonder about the music the world lost when Duane lost control of his Harley. The man had his demons, but he seemed to be a smart enough person to get them sorted out with just a little more time to work them out. His death is truly a tragedy. Randy Poe’s book is recommended if you have even a small interest in the Allman Brother’s Band or the Muscle Shoals sound.

3.5 Out of 5 Stars

ipad moe.

Okay, so the new moe. album is pretty good and I found this video of the band playing their song ‘Crab Eyes’. It is a pretty unique set up. They play the song on their ipads which makes for some great visuals. The fish eye lens used on the face shots of the band are a little weird and makes the band seem to be a little demented, but this is a nice way to show off the ipad and the apps you can get for them.

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