Thursday, December 31, 2009

Yup, a Resolution

It’s a universal ailment, a constant source of personal dissatisfaction; yet another incremental dollop coagulating in that big ol’ fifty-gallon drum of all pervading ennui. Ain’t no way around it---one’s ambitions always seem to exceed one’s actual capabilities. Intentions, however sincere, somehow become thwarted, and then it’s throw-away-the-list time, or let-me-downgrade-my-goals time, or even. let’s-have-a-few-drinks-and-obliterate-it time.

I’m right there with the stumbling herd, jotting to-do lists down with pent up ferocity, modifying mental notes all the livelong day, awakening daily with a new found and etched-in-sincerity pathway. Then, of course, I really wake up.

Ironically enough, one of the more pleasant aspects of the whole holiday season –the reception of presents—has made me somewhat blue, bringing into sharp focus yet another of misspent endeavors. Try as I might, with the noblest of intentions, to read more books, and get my nose outta the dozens of publications I subscribe to, or the three daily newspapers I peruse in hard copy, never mind the predictable daily attention-grabbers like the Internet, the television, the radio, the CD player, at the end of the proverbial day the unread books seem to gather around me, much like the silent and predatory winged creatures in Hitchcock’s The Birds, piled above my shoulder on the end table near the couch, loosely placed on the outer edges of the built-in book shelves, artistically splayed throughout various nooks and crannies of the house and office.

I finally get through one, energized again by the extended and engaged experience of reading, yet there is always three or so (ever-changing it seems), in the on deck circle, and a heap more crowding the edge of the dugout bench, all vying for a brief spot in the to-be-read line-up. (I think I’ll call my team the Sisyphean Nine.) Having just finished Frankly My Dear: Gone With the Wind Revisited by Molly Haskell (Yale University Press, 2009), I easily transitioned into Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master by Michael Sragow (Pantheon, 2008), and then, came the thrill (and burden) of the Christmas deluge. My challenge for the months ahead (couldn't make this up):

A New New Deal: How Regional Activism Will Reshape the American Labor Movement by Amy B. Dean, David B. Reynolds, and Harold Meyerson (Cornell University Press, 2009)

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, by Lydia Davis (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009)

Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon (Penguin, 2009)

Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression, by Morris Dickstein (Norton, 2009)

Cooperstown Confidential: Heroes, Rogues and the Inside Story of the Baseball Hall of Fame, by Zev Chafets (Bloomsbury, 2009)

Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend, by Larry Tye (Random House, 2009)

The Greatest Game: The Yankees, the Red Sox and the Playoff of ‘78, by Richard Bradley (Free Press 2008)

Baseball Americana, by Harry Katz, Frank Ceresi, and Phil Michel (Smithsonian, 2009)

Frank Sinatra: The Family Album, by Charles Pignore (Little Brown, 2007)

Big Man: Real Life and Tall Tales, by Clarence Clemons and Don Reo (Gran Central Publishing, 2008)

High on Rebellion: Inside the Underground at Max’s Kansas City, by Yvonne Sewell Ruskin (Thunder Mouth Press, 1998)

The Authorized and Illustrated Story of The Stooges, by Robert Matheu (Abrams, 2009)

The Velvet Underground: New York Art, Edited by Johan Kugleberg (Rizzoli, 2009)

Warren Oates: A Wild Life, by Susan Compo (University Press of Kentucky, 2009)

Tell Me How You Love the Picture: A Hollywood Life, by Edward Feldman with Tom Barton (St. Martins, 2005)

Robert Altman: The Oral Biography, by Mitchell Zuckoff (Knopf, 2009)

Whew, wow, damn, I just, well, … don’t know. Maybe I can conveniently break my leg, that oughta truly free up some time. My kind of resolution.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Drinking

Way back in 2000 or so my long time pallie Mark Cutler extended to me an offer I truly couldn't refuse, which was to collaborate with him both lyrically and (gulp) thematically, on a potential full length album about the fine art of drinking. Mark had written untold songs for the likes of RI legends The Schemers, Atco recording artists The Raindogs, and others bands formed by him as well, so I considered this a unique and truly special opportunity, and also a great chance to have some creative fun with my other pallies, jazz-guitarist-turned-rock-and-roll-bassist Mike Tanaka, and drummer and motormouth extraordinaire Bog Guisti. (Later on, Marks trustiest of sidekicks, ex-Schemer and ex-Raindog guitarist and vocalist Emerson Torrey, would join what was to become The Dino Club, a name derived from our collective fascination with American showbiz legend Dean Martin, and the brilliant, best showbiz book evuuuuh, the 1992 Nick Tosches penned Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams.)
Our concept album, self-released in 2002, was called Hey! Drink Up, and I have to say I'm quite proud of our efforts, and many of the songs still kick it hard and strong delivered live or as listened to in the orginal recordings. All of this comes to mind, since Mark suddenly put togther a self-made video to accompany the CD's anchor song, "Drinking in the Afternoon", so many years down the road. Well, drinking, my friends, is still drinking, and "The Day After", will forever be indeed the day after. Merry Drinking, watch and enjoy, these might be the best Christmas cards I've ever sent out...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bar Talk # 2

Overheard Friday Night (12-4-09) at Nick-A-Nees ,

Providence, Rhode Island

(Purty much reported as close to verbatim as possible.)

“I went from apocalyptic Christian to aspiring Jew to semi-agnostic to a possible Wiccan.”

“Can I come over to your house tomorrow and use your computer to pay my gas bill?”

“I had a thoroughly unproductive night Tuesday. I just kept drinking and listening to music and sitting on my couch. By the end of the night the notes were just hovering over my head.”

“My Mom and Dad adore this dude ( as Dylan’s “Mississippi” plays in the background) , but he always sounds like an escapee from Area 51 to me.”

First guy: “ I’d like to see her do the old school twist.” Second guy: “I’d like to see her in a cat suit.” First guy: “You ought to borrow one from your mother and give it to her.”

“Everyone constantly talks about rich kids and I am not one, but right now I am so one.”

“I gotta learn how to operate a vacuum cleaner real soon.”

“The thing about drinking is the thought of drinking precipitates the act of drinking which is often more glorious than the end result of drinking, and a lot less thinking seems to go with a lot more drinking.”

“If I have any more of this buca I’ll probably try to screw some of those ants that keep pouring out of my kitchen cupboard.”

“Deval Patrick tipped the scales in the wrong direction. All the blue New England states must have a Republican Governor. It’s all about balance, man.”

“They talk about Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson and that GG something guy but I think Lady Gaga is scarier that all of ‘em.”

“Whenever a stable boy pops up in a western, he’s a goner for sure.”

“Text me in a half hour to remind me I’m long, gone, and done.”

Friday, December 4, 2009


(As monomaniacal as I might truly be, maintaining a blog of this high degree of purity and insight (heh-heh) gets wearying. I realize I have enough know-it-all-pallies, informormed buds, and sharp hipster connections, that I oughtta let one or two of you bring it on home occasionally. Here’s the basic premise: 1-3 concise paragraphs about a CD (or as we old schoolers still refer to it-an album) that wasn’t necessarily an all-timer, a Blonde on Blonde or a London Calling. Instead, spotlight a possible peripheral release that stands the test of time and delivers on its small promises, or simply executes succinctly and manages to remain on yer personal playlist--- a sideways record, an overlooked effort, a self-contained minor gem, ya know, a record that’s got Shelf Life. Send me your brilliant overview in simple Word form, and I’ll post ‘em up, giving my avid and obsessive readers (heh-heh-heh) an occasional breather from the sound of one man pontificating. Weighing in this time is Robot A. Hull, one of the all time great Rock and Roll nitcrits, and the man behind the curtain at PopKrazy.)

The Hombres--Let It Out
(Verve/Forecast FTS-303,1967)

This is one of the great American garage albums that just don’t give a hoot. A Memphis combo, the Hombres opted for the lighter side of garage-punk. The Hombres’ album cover (which is their only album cover since no record label was brave enough to release another record by them) is an obvious reference to the Trashmen’s Surfin’ Bird LP, released in ’64, which shows the infamous surf band from Minneapolis clustered around a garbage truck.

Ironically, the Hombres had originally intended to be a surf band. In 1967, they traveled through Houston posing as a pop version of a West Coast surf group and somehow got tangled up with Texas producer Huey Meaux. In ’65, Meaux had already transformed a band of San Antonio punksters into an ersatz British Invasion act, the Sir Douglas Quintet (featuring a very young Doug Sahm). And so, with the Hombres, Meaux saw an opportunity for reshaping the rebellion of a garage band into a comedic sensibility.

With Huey at the helm, the Hombres’ first 45 was “Let It All Hang Out,” a clear parody of Bob Dylan’s vocal style. It is still the only pop hit that’s ever begun with a raspberry. In late ’67, the single went to #12 on Billboard’s pop chart—but only after the title had been censored to “Let It Out.”

This irreverent album includes all of the Hombres’ self-penned attempts to follow their initial punk/novelty hit—“Am I High,” Mau Mau Mau,” and “It’s a Gas.” (The latter song is not to be confused with Mad’s Alfred E Newman’s infamous song of the same name.) The Hombres’ gas record features the inspirational verse: “Don’t worry about the future, forget about the past/Whether it’s good or bad, its’ a gas!”

Most of the material on this album is marked by an offhand good heartedness as if the group is perfectly aware that their own musical ineptitude is beside the point. Meux’s typically lackadaisical production-style only enhances the sound of the cheesy organ and sloppy guitars.

Perhaps the most telling moment on the album occurs during the middle of yet another garage version of Van Morrison’s “Gloria.” It is a remarkable version. The song is untamed and yet focused, but it remains remarkable because it appears, suddenly, all six (6) minutes of it, out of context in the midst of a Southern-punk work of utter buffoonery. And then, right at the heart of the song, the Hombres forget—or seem to forget—the tune they’re playing, detouring into a charming, albeit primitive, stab at the Byrds’ “Eight Miles High.”

With warmth and spirit, the Hombres album seems to explicate Alfred E. Newman’s famous maxim: “What, me worry?”

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Guilty as (Re)Charged

I agree with most of the charges, gotta face up to the basic facts. Yep, I am a hipster dinosaur. Yeah, I spend far too much time on pop culture artifacts, and not enough exploring contempo happenings. Sure, I can’t resist a whopping dose of kitsch whenever (and however) it’s served. Certainly, I do despise 95% of what might be termed remakes, or even (gulp) reimaginings, and 70% of any and all tributes. The past is a gas, the future uncertain, and any attempt to put a firm finger on the pulse of the pop cult as it unfolds in front of yer ears and eyes can often be strained, pretentious or unholy. Yet, that hasn’t stopped me yet from boldly extending my rusty antennae or spuriously whipping out my gnarled and flaky divining rod, all part of a lifetime quest for that which is adventurous, tasty, beckoning, thrilling, ethereal, transcendent, piercing, stupefying, disquieting, detestable, and, well, basically just cool, daddio.

My lastest find is a relatively new blog site, PopKrazy, devoted to a wonderful array of pop cult junk, trash, treasure, ephemera, found objects, lost sounds, 60’s and 70’s heirlooms, campy antiquities, eye-winking relics, mainstream nuggets, sideways pleasures, with (uh-huh) even an occasional dose what’s happening today. (Or at least yesterday.) PopKrazy is overseen by the one and only Robot A. Hull, one of the more gloriously inspired gonzo writers from the Great Rock Writing Period of Yesteryear and Sarah James, another smarty pants and true hostess with the mostest, and it mutates daily, spotlighting a wide array of eye-poppin’, head-spinnin’, ear-teasin’ plain ol’ good stuff, with a neat array of revolving writers, pop cult philosophers, and cool daddy ethnologists, including (ahem) myself. Nuff said.