1) The FW Opera's production of The Mikado was surprising and fun, with contemporary Tokyo-styled lighting, lots of Japanese pop culture references, Nanki-Poo and the three wards costumed like anime characters, choruses of salarymen on cellphones and schoolgirls in school uniforms with Hello Kitty backpacks, and the Mikado and Katisha riding in on Segways. Plus a few up-to-date and Fort Worth-centric rewrites to the libretto. Still one more performance, next Saturday 6.4.2011. You owe it to yourself.
2) Next Stooge prac is 6.20 unless Elle and Richard's baby comes earlier. We had to pull out of the FW Weekly music awards showcase, but should be back in action by late August. I'm currently trying to book dates at the Basement Bar for Matturday in September and the Wild Rooster for Jamie and Linda's birthday in October. Film, as they say, at 11.
3) Only slightly less difficult to book, HIO is playing at Doc's Records on 7.30.2011 with Darrin Kobetich, the Panic Basket, and possibly some of the Big Rig Dance Collective dancers. We'll be in Denton with the Big Rig folks on 8.19.2011. We also may be accompanying Big Rig's Sarah Gamblin at the Houston Fringe Festival, which runs 8.12-14.2011. And we might perform with the dancers at Yogurt Fusion in Denton in June, if they have a date. I asked for a show and for my sins, they gave me several.
Time once again to vote for your faves in the FW Weekly's annual music awards thingy. I'd only like to mention that: 1) while both of my bands are nominated, one of 'em is in the same category as my favorite hometown band, Pinkish Black, so I was forced to vote against HIO; 2) Joe and the Sonic Dirt from Madagascar is nominated in the "Electronic/DJ/Dance" category; and 3) this year, there are categories for best guitarist/drummer/bassist, and my favorite riddim boyzzz on Earth, Jon Teague and Matt Hembree, are both nominated for their respective axes. Do your duty.
In the summer of '73, when I still thought there was going to be a big hipi rockfest in upstate New York every four years for the rest of my life, I went to visit my best friend from junior high school, who'd moved upstate after seventh grade, and we wound up scoring a ridiculous amount of some drug and spending three days jamming at some kid's house instead of going to the Watkins Glen festival. This was when I discovered that it's easier to play guitar with light strings than with Black Diamond Heavies, and when I made the mistake of leaning down in front of a Vox Super Beatle I was plugged into and receiving a blast of feedback in my right ear that I'm still feeling the effects of. What did we play, you ask? Interminable versions of "Smoke On the Water" and "Savoy Brown Boogie."
"Savoy Brown Boogie," in case you don't know, was a track from the third U.S. Savoy Brown album -- they had another, earlier one in the U.K. -- 1969's A Step Further. It took up the entahr second side of the LP, running about 20 minutes long, and it was recorded live at a club gig in England, although the photo inside the gatefold sleeve showed a sea of hands from Detroit's Grande Ballroom, where they'd gone down a storm on a recent U.S. tour. The mammoth jam starts out with a variant on John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillen" before winding its way through interpolations of Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lotta Shakin'," Little Richard's "Little Queenie," Hendrix's "Purple Haze," and "Hernando's Hideaway" from The Pajama Game before winding up back where it started. Lead singer Chris Youlden -- imagine a less histrionic Eric Burdon with, by his own account, "terminal acne," who compensated for an absence of "big hair" by sporting a top hat and cigar onstage (see the interview in Ugly Things #22) -- importunes the crowd to respond to the band's performance, and it sounds as if a high time is had by all. Indeed, you have to go all the way to Bill Kirchen's marathon "Hot Rod Lincoln" to find a live track that appears to have been so much fun to experience in the moment. They don't take themselves seriously, but it's not the kind of burlesque that Canned Heat's "Fried Hockey Boogie" was, either.
Savoy Brown was a lower division (no "names" or John Mayall alumni in its ranks) British blues band that sprung up around the time the original '63-'64 wave of Brit R&B despoilers, with their rough, raw, rowdy rave-ups and worship of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, was giving way (in response to "God" Clapton's vaunted virtuosity) to a more musicianly claque who worshipped at the church of the three Kings, Albert Collins, Buddy Guy, and Otis Rush, before some of 'em (I'm thinking of the Jeff Beck Group and Led Zep in particular) rode a love of Gibsons-through-Marshalls for its own sake into the abyss of heavy rock.
I say "lower division," but that's not to imply that they weren't estimable in their own right. The rhythm section of Tone Stevens and Roger Earle was fine, and second guitarist Lonesome Dave Peverett was enough of a leather-lunged screamer to do the business himself when Youlden failed to show up for a live gig that was recorded for second U.S. album Blue Matter. In the fullness of time, the three of them would quit Savoy Brown and go off to form Foghat with Rod Price and move to the United States, where I'd sell Rod and Dave records as a teenager on Long Island in the '70s and my sweetie, who'd seen Foghat at her first big rock concert at Chicago's Soldier Field, would encounter Roger Earle at a club in Iowa, still slogging around the sheds with a version of the band well into the '90s. And mustn't forget pianist Bob Hall, who frequently augmented Savoy Brown's lineup in those days and was the finest ivory-tickler in the British Isles after Nicky Hopkins and Ian Stewart.
More to the point, Savoy Brown founder and bandleader Kim Simmonds, who was still on the road himself as recently as five or six years ago, was a blistering guitarist, a little rough starting out but more assured with each successive album, and Youlden was the goods: a singer of wit and humor, whose vocal stylings gave you more testosterone than poor old John Mayall's falsetto whine, and a songwriter who did more than recycle his influences on songs like "She's Got A Ring In His Nose and A Ring On Her Hand;" the rockabilly-inflected "I've Made Up My Mind;" "Life's One-Act Play," which came as close as any white bluesicians ever have to copping Two Steps from the Blues-era Bobby Bland, complete with horns and strings, for Savoy Brown didn't fear such embellishments; and "I'm Tired," which featured a strange coda with Earle on congas.
Youlden's finest moments came on Raw Sienna, the album which followed A Step Further, with the Kenny Burrell/Grant Green jazz-influenced "A Hard Way To Go" and the first side's closing combo platter of "Needle and Spoon" and "A Little More Wine," the subject matter of which led me to believe for years, erroneously, that Youlden's subsequent departure from the band was substance related. He made a couple of solo albums, then went back to English obscurity all because he didn't want to "go heavy." He's still making music, too. Bless him.
ADDENDUM: I neglected to mention that their videographer got a better angle if you wanna see them dancing, rather than us staring at our feet. Also, you can see my daughter and granddaughter in the audience, which definitely made it an event for me.
I remember hearing the Sir Douglas Quintet's "Mendocino" on AM radio in New York when I was 12 years old. The song -- Tejano polka infused with a mellow San Francisco hipi vibe -- was as hard to relate to culturally as Desmond Dekker's "The Israelites" (also a hit that year), but there was something about it that made it irresistible. Maybe it was Doug Sahm's friendly bray of a voice, which seemed to invite you to sit down on a big wrap-around porch for a spell. Or Augie Meyers' roller-rink organ, which made it sound like a hell of a party. (Just ask Hef.)
A couple of years later, I read a review of the Quintet's last album for Smash, The Return of Doug Saldana, in Creem. It'd be years before I'd hear the record, let alone contemplate setting foot in Texas (and realizing that you really _can't_ live here if you don't have a lot of soul), but to my 14-year-old self, as obsessed with the idea of a community built around music as I was alienated from my immediate environment, Sir Doug's San Antonio sounded like a multiracial Utopia. On The Return, he covered Chicano country star Freddy Fender's "Wasted Days, Wasted Nights," and in the '90s, they'd share stages as bandmates in the Texas Tornados.
I was aware of his Doug Sahm and Band and Texas Tornado albums via selling them to older cats at the record store where I worked in high school. Their interest stemmed primarily from the Bob Dylan connection, since Dylan sang along on a couple of And Band songs, but at that point in my life, I could've cared less about Bob Dylan. (It took a mixtape I got from John Bargas in 1994 to change that.) When I was stationed in Korea in '82-'83, however, I found a copy of And Band in the base library, and used to go listen to it through headphones because it reminded me of Texas, especially the song "Is Anybody Going To San Antone?" It impressed me that the record's stylistic range spanned everything from western swing to Tejano to T-Bone Walker styled blues. (As Oliver Lake wrote, "WHAT KINDA MUSIC U PLAY? / 'GOOD KIND.'")
Sahm was born in the same year as Dylan and absorbed as many different strains of American music as the Minnesota bard, but did so from the standpoint of a working musician -- stylistic adaptability was a must if you wanted to gig regularly in San Antonio. He'd been a child prodigy on steel guitar, fiddle, and mandolin, performing on the radio from age five, having his picture taken sitting on Hank Williams' lap at seven, and cutting his first record at 14. Post-Beatlemania, producer Huey P. Meaux tapped him to make a fake English band, dubbed the Sir Douglas Quintet, and had them photographed in silhouette to hide the Chicanos. (Less successful on TV -- see "crazy eyes" clip below.)
Sahm decamped for the West Coast in '66 following a drug bust. Signed to Mercury subsidiary Smash, a reformed Quintet cut four albums (Mendocino, Together After Five, 1_1_1=4, and The Return) that were a rich gumbo of rock, blues, R&B, country, jazz, Tejano, and psychedelia. The Quintet drifted apart, with Doug and Augie Meyers embarking on solo careers, then reformed again in the wake of a "New Wave" over which they were muy influential (cf. Elvis Costello's Attractions, Joe "King" Carrasco's Crowns).
I was fortunate to see Sir Doug live at Soap Creek Saloon when I lived in Austin for four months in late '79. It was a special time that I only came to appreciate in retrospect: hipis, cowboys, frats and punks, all living together in relative harmony; the Armadillo and Liberty Lunch; dragworms and Salvation Sandwiches; the Huns and the Big Boys (I took Tim Kerr's job at Record Town in Dobie Mall); stumbling into a 6th Street dive and hearing Stevie Ray Vaughan, whom I recognized from a tape my Fort Worth compadre Jim Yanaway had recorded; breakfast tacos at the Lazy Daisy and flirting with the waitresses at the Buffalo Grill. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Doug's music and vibe were part of what started me thinking that maybe I had a place in what had previously seemed like a strange and foreign location to me.
I saw Sahm again a decade later, when I was stationed in Abilene. He was touring with Lou Ann Barton, and they performed in a strip joint because it was the only place in town that had a stage and a P.A. At that point, he was concentrating on blues, and he was as conversant at that style as roomfuls of earnest guitar-slingers with gassed-back hair and soul patches. His Hell of a Spell record focuses on that facet of his music (except for the inexplicably reggae-inflected title track, which blows). Much better is The Last Real Texas Blues Band, cut live at Antone's in Austin, which includes a beautiful version of the standard ballad "When I Fall In Love" that's a stunning departure. (But hell, T-Bone Walker used to sing ballads, too.)
For the country side of Sahm, you owe it to yourself to hear the deceptively-titled Texas Rock for Country Rollers, produced by Huey Meaux, which includes Doug's song "Texas Ranger Man," covered live to good effect by Texas punks including the Hickoids, the Loco Gringos, and once-and-future Nervebreaker Barry Kooda. Near the end of his life, Doug returned to those country roots on the posthumously released The Return of Wayne Douglas (the pseudonym under which he originally released "Be Real"), on which he revisited songs from his catalog like "Beautiful Texas Sunshine," "Cowboy Peyton Place," "Dallas Alice," and "Texas Me." Hard to believe that his great, strong heart gave out on November 18, 1999.
I met the drummer from this band at the Arts Goggle thingy Saturday. They're from Cleburne and only like 19, but they've already toured the West Coast, played a godzillion shows at SXSW, etc. Me like lots.
I'm not familiar with the Graves Brothers Deluxe's earlier work, so I came to San Malo without preconceptions (although after hearing it, I did learn of a 2009 collaboration with Acid Mothers Temple's Kawabata Makoto and the Boredoms' Yamamoto Seiichi that sounds intriguing). But from the opening notes of "San Malo National Anthem," which begins in minimalist fashion and builds to a full-blown funk overture, it was clear that something extraordinary is afoot here.
Fronted by NOLA native Stoo Odom (who sings and plays bass), the band plays a post hip-hop psychedelic rock, like a bayou Led Zeppelin oozing swampy funk, urban grit, and instruments that sound like they're sampled even when they're not. The music on San Malo was inspired by the story of St. Malo, Louisiana, a fishing village founded by ship-jumping Filipinos who participated in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812 and somehow managed to keep their village's existence a secret from the outside world for over a century, until journo Lafcadio Hearn lifted the lid in an 1883 Harper's Weekly story. The village was destroyed by the New Orleans hurricane of 1915.
You wouldn't glean any of the aforementioned historical details by listening to the rekkid, and that's fine. It's more of a spiritual inspiration than a literal foundation. The music is tense and edgy, with a tinge of apocalyptic dread that's hammered home by tunes like "Five Foot Category Five" and "My Heart Burned Down Today" (sample lyric: "See my love in the black smoke in the sky").
You don't need any knowledge of the programmatic intent, however, to groove to jams like "Papio Papio (The Swamp Ape Again)," which lends cinematic sweep to what sounds like a demented Dick Dale on the loose with a wah-wah pedal; "The Ballad of San Malo," which boasts a drunken-sounding, dissonant riff like the one that powered Led Zep's "Dancing Days;" or the climactic "Noisy Kind of Nothing," which unleashes the full force of guitarist/saxophonist Willy the Mailman's unhinged chaos-slide. The closing "Song for Mating Mailmen" is a free jazz blowout to rival the Stooges' "L.A. Blues." Overall, a fine mess to wallow in.
Here's a collaboration by my HIO bandmates: a short film by T. Horn with a soundtrack by Hickey in his guise as Joe and the Sonic Dirt From Madagascar. Yeah! (Hmmm, I hope they're not forming a faction.)
Reissues of the Nervebreakers' 1978 Politics EP (including the original version of "My Girlfriend Is A Rock") and 1979 "Hijack the Radio"/"Why Am I So Flipped" single are out on sweet, sweet vinyl, released by estimable Pittsburgh-based garage label Get Hip. You know what to do.
Went to the big rawk show at the Moon Friday night to see the Loco Gringos and the Hickoids return to the Fort for the first time since 1989, along with the mighty Me-Thinks. Jon Teague's squeeze Kara was celebrating her law school graduation and number one Stoogeband fan Amy, nailing her target GRE score. While I failed to suit up, Asian Media Crew-wise, I did perform cape duty for Sir Marlin during the Me-Thinks' set.
The Gringos have a powerful mythos from days gone by, revolving around their late frontman Tom "Pepe Lopez" Foote (namechecked in the Me-Thinks' song "Burnout Timeline"), their old pad Gringo Manor, hay bales, corndogs, and Schaefer beer. In their current incarnation, they're surprisingly slick and pro, with matching sparkle-toned Music Man guitars in the colors of the Mexican flag, a giant sombrero, and stage patter right out of Gig magazine. I particularly dug lead guitarist (former bassist) Grant's guitarissimo on an axe with three P-90s. The sound at the Moon was the clearest I've ever heard there, too; another plus. It was a real treat to hear the Gringos play faves like "Mezcal Breakfast," "Ain't No Corndogs," "Nurture My Pig," and the song of the evening, Doug Sahm's "Texas Ranger Man," which the Hickoids also covered. (I suggested to Marlin that the Me-Thinks should do it to, to make a trifecta. "I wish we could," he said.)
The Hickoids have an illustrious history similar to the Gringos', an odyssey of messy psychedelic punk, leaving tales of legendary depradations, fallen bandmembers, and flying bales of hay in their wake. Consisting of up to seven musos, they brought a stripped-down lineup to the Moon, leaving those members whose instrumental colors highlight the country side of their sound (pedal steel, harmonica) back at home. Guitarist Davy Jones (an affable cat a little older than me whose first concert was Hendrix, when he was 14) also left his guitar at home in Austin. He told my sweetie that his girlfriend walked 13 blocks and jumped a fence to peer in a window to make sure it was still there. Now _there's_ a keeper! He performed on a borrowed PRS with a Fender neck and made a beautifully anarchic sound, oozing with punk, psych, and country elements.
Head Hickoid Jeff Smith's the consummate frontman, and his performance was like a catalog of classic glam-punk frontman moves. (Ray sez his Stoogeaphilia stage trip is completely cribbed from Jeff.) He took the stage barechested, wearing duct tape pants with a "mangina," looking like a cross between '73 Iggy and Alice Cooper when he was still scary. When he sang an hilariously feelthy song about a steamy night at San Antonio's Tacoland, you could practically smell the sex and funk. The Hickoids are entertaining and funny in the same way as the Gringos, but there's a lot more _danger_ in their show. They're one of the best and most individuated punk bands currently treading the boards. Besides the aforementioned "Texas Ranger Man," they also played their versions of Elvis' "Burning Love" and Sir Elton's "Bennie and the Jets," the latter a highlight of their new Kicking It With the Twits platter, of which I now own a red vinyl copy that's been chasing all the other records away from my turntable. (Thanks, Jeff!)
Saturday arvo, my sweetie 'n' I joined T. Horn for lunch at Carshon's deli before heading over to Landers Machine Shop for the Arts Goggle event where HIO and the li'l Stoogeband would perform. The space has come a long way since HIO last played there in November. A lot of clutter has been removed, and a couple of spaces rented out to a dance studio and a local politico's campaign headquarters. The event was better attended than last fall's; it seems there are more businesses open and buildings being refurbished in the area, too -- a good thing. Breaking Light had some power problems, so we helped him move to another location in the big room where he could run his amp without blowing the circuit. He played some nice stuff along with the drummers who accompanied the hula hoop people. HIO set up and played there, too, before the dude that donated the PA showed up to make things work onstage.
HIO performed with Denton's Big Rig Dance Collective for the second time. We like working with the dancers, and it makes us less prone to meander, which probably makes our noises more accessible to civilians. They seem to like working with us as well, and they told Hickey while we were loading out that they have an event planned at Dan's Silverleaf on August 19th that they'd like us on board for. Terry also spoke to a woman who's apparently an internationally known improvisational dancer, affiliated with TCU, who expressed interest in doing something with HIO. He gave her a Sustrepo CD. Film, as they say, at 11.
Austin Craver, who put the event together, asked if the Stoogeband would play later than scheduled so the band that donated the PA could play before us, so we got to hang out and socialize for an extra hour while the last band loaded in their shit. The sound in the big room was surprisingly good, in a cavernous, echoey kind of way. It made the other bands I heard sound HUGE; perhaps it did for us as well. I broke the low E string on the Epiphone on the first song. The Telecaster sounded really thin, and my cord kept falling out until Rat from the Asian Media Crew found a roll of duct tape and I was able to tape it in place. Perhaps I need to take my long-suffering axes to the cat that was able to fix Hembree's shattered Fender in a week for just $90, including some things that Matt didn't even know were wrong.
Teague had some problems with his kick drum wanting to travel, too, but we managed to play through the whole setlist (minus "1970," which is probably the hardest song for us to play, for some reason). Now we just need to wait and find out what our slot is for the FW Weekly Music Awards thingy on June 26th (we're playing at 7th Haven again), and see if we can do another Caves Lounge show a little earlier in the month (which is doubtful, as Richard and Elle's baby is due around that time). In the interim, perhaps we'll have time to reactivate "Ain't It Fun." (And note to self: Remember to include "Looking At You" in the next setlist.)
Twenty-four hours without access to Blogger makes me think that perhaps I have put a whole lot of eggs in a basket that has a hole in it. I guess I should start archiving anything from here that I want to keep. Fun, fun, fun. But not today.
Matt Hembree just uploaded his recording of the li'l Stoogeband's 1.8.2011 Lola's stand to his Stoogeaphilia archive. The Dangits and Elvis Took Acid were also on the bill. Branden Smith from the Dangits let me play his SG, bless him. A pretty good night.
It was kind of an extravagance, but this 4CD box set is now old enough (released 2004) to be Amazon-obtainable used for about seven bucks a disc, and it's that rarity: an artifact of the CD era that does a better job of documenting a band I grew up loving in the '70s -- those avatars of boozy camaraderie, without whom the Replacements, for one example, would be unimaginable -- better than anything they released during their actual existence. Sixty-seven tracks, two thirds of them unreleased on CD and nearly half unreleased in any form: B-sides, live and rehearsal recordings, all lovingly sequenced like a good live set -- screw rekkid-geek chronological formalism! -- by Faces keyboardist and Austinite Ian McLagan, whom I swear that I'm going to see perform one of these days, if he ever has a show when my sweetie is out of school and I can get off work.
I first encountered the Faces in 1970 via the video clip below, which originally aired on some forgotten TV show not long after I'd read a review of their First Step album in the second issue of Rolling Stone I ever bought, which had a bunch of pages missing and Little Richard on the cover. My memory is hazy; I _might_ have already discovered Jeff Beck's Truth album, which featured future Faces Rod Stewart and Ron Wood in what I still believe to be one of the great rock bands of the late '60s (and I have the stack of bootleg live CD-R's to prove it). It took me longer to actually hear the Small Faces (the band that Ronnie Lane, Kenny Jones, and Ian McLagan were in before frontman Steve Marriott quit to form Humble Pie) after reading Nik Cohn's description of them in Rock From the Beginning and getting further intrigued. In fact, it wasn't until the spring of '72 that I'd walk into the record store where I'd wind up working later on and stumble upon a copy of the Small Faces' fairytale psych masterpiece, Ogden's Nut Gone Flake. (It used to be _hard_ to find stuff, back in them days.)
By that time, I'm sure I'd already heard the post-Small Faces work of Marriott and his former bandmates. At 13, I responded more to Humble Pie's Performance: Rockin' the Fillmore a whole lot more than I did to the Faces' Long Player and aforementioned First Step. In fact, after Live At Leeds wore off, Performance became my obligatory four-times-a-day listen, much to my Joni Mitchell-loving sister's consternation. Marriott was A SCREAMING BITCH, and Peter Frampton (yes, he of the future pink hair and the godzillion-selling album that, today, no one will cop to having owned back in '76) wasn't yer conventional rockaroll guitarist, what with his Django/Kenny Burrell reachings, in the same way as Ritchie Blackmore wasn't with his Bach borrowings and "chance music" leanings. Today, however, I'd have a hard time sitting through the Pie's interminable throttlings of "I Walk on Gilded Splinters" and "Rollin' Stone." But the Faces just satisfy in a way that they didn't back in the day. The reasons for this are several.
For one thing, they had the misfortune to team up with Stewart and Wood at the precise moment when Stewart was launching his solo career, and as things unfolded, Stewart understandably saved the best songs he and Wood wrote for his own albums. That said, Ronnie Lane was every bit his match as a songwriter, and _the soul of the band_, but the balance between the two writer-singers on Faces albums was never comfortable. It's instructive to remember that their early models were Sam Cooke (for Stewart) and Booker T. and the MGs (for the Small Faces): saturated in soul, these boys were. In a time where rock songwriters stole at will from the Chuck Berry canon (unlike today, when yer average upstart rockarolla prolly wouldn't know a I-IV-V progression if it bit 'em on the tuchus), the Faces penned songs in same spirit (if not adhering to his strict letter) as Berry that actually displayed the same lyrical wit as those of the man himself. You have to go all the way up to the '80s-'90s emergence of Dan Baird and Terry Anderson to find white rockers who pulled off the same gambit so well.
And no rock songwriters captured the idyllic ambience of Cooke's "Good Times" as well as Lane and the early Stewart did: little snippets of life that rang true rang true even if you hadn't lived them. I mean, half of Lane's songs were about his _dad_, proving Nick Hornby's point that the main difference between American and British '60s rockers was that the Brits liked their parents more. And I'm convinced that in his young days, before he decided he wasn't comfortable doing so anymore, embraced phony glitz and rode People magazine notoriety all the way to Vegas, Rod Stewart sang from his football-loving drunken lout's heart the truth of life as his 20something self had experienced it. For that, may he always be remembered. And not for "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?"
Beyond that, there's no escaping the fact that their recorded sound, by the standards of the time, ranged from lackluster to pretty horrible. Remember, this was the era when Jimmy Page was using ambient mic'ing to make John Bonham's kick drum, and the unisons he himself would play with John Paul Jones, sound like THE THUNDER OF GOD. Even on their most successful record, A Nod Is As Good As A Wink...To A Blind Horse, co-produced by Glyn Johns (who got clearer and fuller sounds with the Who, among others), the Faces' sound is a muddy morass of midrange sounds, _almost_ as bad as the Move's Looking On (the worst sounding album ever by a band I like). They sounded like they could give a shit about the niceties of recording; better to knock down a few at the pub and loosen up before cutting the tracks (as is borne out by some of the banter on the studio recordings included in this collection).
That said, they could groove harder than the average Brit band of the time, as well as lots of American ones. As a rhythm section, Lane and Jones had some of what Wood and Mickey Waller had in the Jeff Beck Group, a kind of sloppy tightness. Lane's bassplaying had an amiable lope that was reflective of his personality, while Jones' drumming showed the influence of the producer on his very first recording session, who warned him not to play any fills he couldn't mime to on TV. McLagan is a master of the full array of classic keyboard sounds -- acoustic piano, Rhodes and Hammond -- while Wood is a guitarist of underrated finesse and taste who clearly absorbed some of the same R&B influences as Hendrix, albeit from a greater distance.
Listen to the live versions of some of the songs from Stewart's albums -- "Cut Across Shorty," f'rinstance, or especially "You're My Girl (I Don't Want To Discuss It)" -- included on Five Guys Walk Into A Bar, and hear a fiery abandon missing from both their studio versions and lots of other bands of the time. These guys might not have taken themselves seriously at all, but they could surely deliver the goods. (Remember, playing music is supposed to be fun -- isn't it?) Or try the version of Howlin' Wolf's "Evil" from their very first rehearsal session -- an arrangement identical to the one that Cactus waxed on Restrictions. Now bear in mind that Cactus' riddim boyzzz, Tim Bogert and future "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" composer Carmine Appice, were supposed to be in a band with Beck and Stewart before Jeff wrecked his car and was out of action for awhile, so it's almost certain that the aborted quartet had played this tune before fate intervened to make them a non-starter. In Cactus' hands, it's played for maximum bombast, while the Faces give it a more organic rhythmic feel that's closer to something Wolf might have imagined.
Anyway, in due course, Lane quit, frustrated at the band's getting lost in Stewart's shadow, and after a couple of years slogging around the sheds, the band broke up, Wood went off to join the Rolling Stones, and Stewart went off to America to become a caricature. It's been sad these past 35 years watching a writer as fine as Wood once was serving as Keef Richards' doppelganger (although I reckon the paychecks have been nice). Lane's death from multiple sclerosis in 1997 means that there can never be a true Faces reunion, although I thought the decision to use Glen Matlock in his stead for the recent run of Faces shows was an inspired one. Stewart wasn't interested, so Mick Hucknall from Simply Red took his place and did a credible job from the vids I've seen. There are still rumors that Stewart and Beck will record together again; I suppose that Rod sees that venture as worthwhile since Jeff is kind of hot again at the moment. I can't help but think, though, that he's going to have regrets at the end of his life that Jim Osterberg, for one, isn't going to, and what a terrible shame that is.
Here's T. Horn's vid of last Friday's Yogurt Fusion extravaganza, which featured HIO accompanying Denton's Big Rig Dance Collective on their home turf. In spite of Terry having chosen the ultimate wrong camera angle, it's a document of our part of the collaboration, at least, and the dancers say they have some vid of the performance, too. This Saturday at 6pm, they'll return the favor by joining us at Landers Machineshop for the Arts Goggle event.
Also, Lisa Blackmon's vid of the li'l Stoogeband playing at Lolaspalooza on Sunday night is here. Watch it and you might get an idea of why this is my favorite band that I've ever played in. (You may need to be a Facebook victim to see it.) Not shown in the vid: How Hembree managed to trash his long-suffering black Fender bass and in the coveted Stoogeaphilia Equipment Destruction Award, previously held by your humble chronicler o' events for beating the living hell out of a Peavey Classic 50 at the Chat Room. It'll be interesting to see what he does for a bass when the li'l Stoogeband performs at Landers at 10pm the same night at HIO. (He's also playing with Goodwin at Avoca Coffee at, I believe, 6:30pm.) Film, as they say, at 11.
Ate a hearty breakfast, ran, dumped compost/greywater, cut the grass, talked to my mom on the phone, emptied the trash and la caja de los gatos, showered, then my sweetie made Brazilian chicken with coconut milk for din-din. Due to a noise complaint, the li'l Stoogeband wound up playing inside Lola's at 10:30pm-ish rather than outside at 9pm, after Brandin Lea (who appeared with a pickup band of young Berry Street dudes and Tone Sommer, whom I first encountered when he was playing with Robert Ealey in the '90s), Sally Majestic, and Rivercrest Yacht Club and before Spoonfed Tribe. We killed. We always do. I don't know why. Only downside was that my sweetie had to leave before we hit. Teague had a pizza in his van and Hembree gave me a ride home. Just about perfect.
1) It took Terry and me an hour longer than planned to get out of Fort Worth. Hickey called from Hooligan's just as we were clearing the city limits. Then, after dinner and abbreviated crate-digging at Recycled, we drove around for half an hour looking for a parking spot when we were originally parked closer to the spot than where we wound up parking. Reminder: Must do a better job on geographic location homework.
2) Aimee brought Mad Flo, accompanied by her friend Iris. She said that Mad Flo was singing along from her carrier, then kind of lost interest when the Big Rig dancers went to the floor, so she took her out and held her up where she could observe the rest of the performance. Terry said that Mad Flo threw something at him, which is pretty amazing for a four-month-old. I told him she was just trying to participate.
3) The advertised yogurt eating contest between HIO and Big Rig never took place. Maybe next time.
History of the Ukulele: From Uncool to Instrument of the Future!
Uncool: This guy looked like the pediatrician my sister and I went to when we were kids, but he was also instrumental in establishing Hawai'i as a tourist destination, so bless him, I suppose.
Camp: Only in the fullness of time did this guy seem like some mad pop genius. When I was 11, he seemed like an oddball, as bizarre as the Legendary Stardust Cowboy.
Novelty: This is the new song I want played at my funeral, instead of the "Theme from Shaft." Preferably played by a ukulele orchestra made up of my grandchildren.
Virtuoso (note pronunciation -- all short vowels): He's a sensation now, but the first time I saw this, all I could think was, "Damn, he looks like me when I was 10 years old if I'd had the haircut I had when I was 35."
The new mainstream (sorry about the stupid ad): With Mr. "Rrrrr" on board, all bets are off.
1) I found a tab for a Who song called "Sunrise" (from The Who Sell Out) that I decided to learn after seeing the extra shit from their 2000 Royal Albert Hall DVD and discovering that Townshend wanted to play it with Paul Weller but the ex-Jam man demurred (too many jazz chords, I'm guessing). The tab actually looks reasonable, unlike a lot that I've seen that look like they were transcribed by people that don't know many chords or have very good ear training. There's still some bullshit (the guitar is _not_ tuned down a whole step), but it's serviceable enough for me to use and easier than Captain Beefheart's "Peon," which I asked Ron Geida to transcribe for me a decade or so ago and which I've been struggling with ever since (speaking of not having good ear training -- or is it memory?). Hope to play this with my eldest daughter, who sings beautifully, next time we get together.
2) Played an HIO show tonight at Yogurt Fusion in Denton with Big Rig Dance Collective. My middle daughter brought her baby up to see us, so I made sure we regulated our volumes, which is no sacrifice, as we seem to do our best playing at low-to-moderate volume. (Something about it being easier to hear each other that way, methinks.) Having the added visual element to respond to kept us from running out of ideas and Terry ran video, which he'll hopefully have online sooner than later. We want to do more performances like this, and like a candygram from the gods, Big Rig will be joining us next Saturday (5.14.2011) at Landers Machine Shop for the Arts Goggle thingy there. We hit at 6pm.
3) Also on the card that night, albeit a bit later (10pm), is the li'l Stoogeband. Before then, the Stoogeband will also be playing at Lolaspalooza this Sunday night (5.8.2011) at 9pm, outside. It's a four-day event this year, with lotsa cool bands that we know, but as I am old and tired, I've elected to sit out all the other nights besides the one we're playing. Probably my loss, but you've gotta pace yourself.
Gimmick-laden teenage exhibitionists, led by an arty outsider, they connected first with their age cohort, then with the world, before their moment ended and they died off, one by one, until all that remained was the friendship between two old men.
Duke Ellington's "All-Star Road Band" (both of 'em)
I came late to an appreciation of big-band jazz, which was one of the two kinds of music that the "good music" station (e.g., the one listened to by people around my current age) used to play when I was a teenager (the other being songs sung by greasy Italian baritones named Al and Tony, which my sister and I covertly referred to as "Mafia music"). It finally came to me via the back door of Mingus, who was always inspahrd by Ellington, compositionally, and by recordings like Benny Goodman's "Sing Sing Sing," which my then-teenage daughter proclaimed "a rock and roll song" after hearing it on the car radio.
This appreciation was cemented by accompanying Dave Karnes to hear Rick Stitzel's TCC Jazz Band with a few ringers at Mambo's Cantina a few seasons ago. There's nothing quite like hearing massed brasses and woodwinds being propelled by a swinging drummer in a live situation, in the same way as there's nothing quite like the athleticism of live ballet dancers, as I discovered when I took the aforementioned daughter to see Swan Lake at the convention center around the same time.
I now own two Duke Ellington albums entitled All Star Road Band. One was recorded in 1957 (a year after Duke's triumphant Newport Jazz Festival appearance) in a high school gymnasium in Pennsylvania, the other in 1964 (three years before his LP watershed And His Mother Called Him Bill) at a ballroom in Chicago -- the kind of informal gigs that allowed Duke to keep making his art, writing music and hearing it performed on the stand that night, long after most big bands had become commercially unviable.
Both were produced by Bob Thiele, and feature a band propelled by Sam Woodyard (a drummer who reminds us that before there was such a thing as a "blues drummer," guys like Fred Below played in swing-style jazz bands), with a reed section that includes Harry Carney, Paul Gonsalves, Jimmy Hamiton, Johnny Hodges, and Russell Procope. Four tunes appear on both albums: "Mood Indigo," Hodges' features "I've Got It Bad and That Ain't Good" and "Jeep's Blues," and Gonsalves' Newport showstopper "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue."
I bought the 1964 album on CD first, after reading a description of the '57 in Gary Giddins' Rhythm-a-ning, and was initially confused; I gave up reading liner notes around the time the print on CD slicks got too small for my myopic old eyes to decipher. A couple of years later, I stumbled on a vinyl copy of the '57 at Doc's, and after timely pause, the mystery was solved. (Looking online, it appears that more recent issues label '57 and '64 as "volumes 1 and 2" respectively -- what a concept.)
I like the smoothness of the reeds on the '64 date and its inclusion of "Happy Go Lucky Local" (from which Jimmy Forrest, and through him, James Brown borrowed the hook for "Night Train");" the return to the fold of Cootie Williams, celebrated by "Tutti for Cootie;" Hodges' blowing on Billy Strayhorn's "Isfahan" and Duke's "Timon of Athens" (Stanley Dance speculates in the liner notes that Duke was punishing Hodges for drankin' too much by featuring him on a half dozen numbers); and not one, but two versions of "Satin Doll," the song Dave Karnes hated playing most of all at the old Black Dog jazz jams.
The '57 boasts not one, but two versions of "Take the 'A' Train," one featuring Ray Nance's scat-singing; Strayhorn's "Such Sweet Thunder;" Clark Terry's hot trumpet on "Perdido" and Harry Carney's championship baritone on "Sophisticated Lady;" and an intimate live ambience where you can hear Gonsalves' bandmates egging him on during his ride on "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue." Both albums present a balance of live spontaneity and the elegance for which the Ellington band was justifiably well known. Listen to 'em back to back and discover a wealth of musical riches from a master and his men at their ease.
I first set eyes on James Talambas at a Theater Fire gig at the Wreck Room, where James came off the stage during his percussion solo banging on everything that didn't move. "That's different," I thought. When Yanari/PFF(F)T! (the aggro that would evolve into HIO) played at the Firehouse Gallery, James was running sound. And when HIO played at "Other Texas Music" at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center last July, the act before us was James playing prepared guitars and autoharps, accompanying a live-sketching graphic artist.
Now he's recording an album with Bjarke Bendtsen, aka The Migrant, who released the album Travels In Lowland (streamable/downloadable via the website, also available on CD or sweet, sweet vinyl) last year. My sweetie successfully bid for a copy of the LP at last night's Thrift Art Show at William Campbell Contemporary Art, where The Migrant performed accompanied by James and Austinite/Fort Worth-expat/once-and-future Top Secret...Shhh mastermind Marcus Lawyer.
Bjarke's Danish, although he sings in English in a manner evocative of the late Tim Buckley and Elliott Smith, or the still sentient but strangely silent Roy Harper. His music's sweet acoustic psychedelia that's reminiscent at times of Daniel Katsuk's (or Donovan's). Underneath the rustic/old-timey instrumentation (recorder, violin, clarinet, non-trap percussion), a lot of the chord progressions have a rock feel, although they're played on acoustic instruments.
In a just universe, and one in which broadcast radio was still relevant, the sing-along chorus to "Lullabye (Play It On the Radio)" would be on everyone's lips, as would the whistled hook from "The Migrant." "Don't Turn Tidal Wave" and "You Think You Know" have the same shimmering dreamscape quality as Syd's Pink Floyd, albeit a little lighter on the whimsy. So far, I've connected more with the second side of this platter than the first, which probably just means I have some enjoyable discoveries awaiting me in the future.
ADDENDUM: "Nothing But Clues" sounds like a hit for Robert Plant, methinks.
I'm writing an autobiography in record reviews. I blog at
I've written about music for publications (hard copy and online)
including the Dallas Observer, Fort Worth Weekly, I-94 Bar, First Church of Holy Rock and
Roll, Polish Jazz (Poland), Shindig (UK), Funhouse (Italy), and The Big Takeover.