Friday, November 30, 2012

HIO/Mora Collective - "Fractions" EP

In which 66% of two different bands mashes it up, live at the Cellar (where else?). You receive full enjoyment!

Johnny Case December gig schedule

Saturday, Dec. 1 – Brian Reilly Quartet @ Kirby’s Steakhouse in Southlake.   8:00 – 12:00

Wednesday, Dec. 19 – Johnny Case plays solo piano @ Lili’s Bistro  6:30 – 9:00 PM

Saturday, Dec. 22 – Brian Reilly & Johnny Case Duo @ Terrelli’s in Dallas.   6:00 – 10:00 PM

Saturday, Dec. 29 – Johnny Case Trio @ Lili’s Bistro.  6:30 – 10:30

Monday, Dec. 31 – New Year’s Eve with Brian Reilly in Colleyville. (May be private. Email closer to the date to find out.)

What's Updoc?

Updoc is the eclectic radio program hosted by noted jazz scribe Rafi Zabor (of The Bear Goes Home fame). It airs on at 8pm Friday and noon on Tuesday (Eastern time), and Zabor says "old shows turn up now and then across the week."

Zabor adds, "There are, or were, some bugs with the newest, highest bitstream rate: everything came out sssssllooooow, so check to see if it's fixed before settling on that one. The middle-speed one's fine."

Gonna have to check him out.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ho, ho, ho, 'tis the season for a Stooges coverband that wears Santa suits

I give you the Scrooges, from Boston. The audio sucks, but the video's hilarious. And it kind of rankles that they're playing a song that Stoogeaphilia could never seem to get right.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

11.28.2012, FTW

Writer's block is active. Today I sent something to the widowmaker that I'd been working on for a week. I'm feeling uninspired, and absent any challenges from mad Aussies, I'm likely to remain this way for awhile. Some days are diamonds, some are dogshit. Tomorrow's another one.

Practicing guitar, laying the groundwork for a possible intermittent/low-time-commitment music project. Planning to sit in with HIO at the Cellar in December if they haven't lost the gig. I heard that Hickey and Kitchens mixed it up with two of the Mora Collective boys last week and got along really well. I'm also planning to be a participant in the recording of HIO Live In Babyland, using all acoustic or battery powered instruments and the crappy mics and speakers from a baby room monitor. Film, as they say, at 11.

New rules for crate digging: 1) Pay no more than $15 for an LP/$25 for a 2LP, and 2) If you already have it on CD or download, you don't need it. The upcoming year will be one of austerity at mi casa.

I ignored the outgoing Dallas Observer music editor's call for a year end top 10 because I'd already pubbed a very premature one here, submitted one to the I-94 Bar, and will probably get polled by the Village Voice again this year (unless I don't). Fun's fun, but there are limits.

Just for shits 'n' giggles, here are the ten records I currently want to hear the most -- alphabetically, because that's how Shreevie I am. (I'm trying to promote the use of "Shreevie," for the Daniel Stern character in Diner, as an adjective. "Petraeus," too.) All of them are ancient, of course.

1) Jeff Beck Group
2) Miles Davis - Bitches Brew
3) Jimi Hendrix - First Rays of the New Rising Sun
4) Phil Manzanera - 801 Live
5) Move - Shazam!
6) Pretty Things - S.F. Sorrow
7) Rolling Stones - Exile On Main St. (Even still!)
8) Bunny Wailer - Blackheart Man
9) Neil Young - Decade
10) Frank Zappa - Roxy and Elsewhere

Today I watched the '73 Hendrix biopic on DVD as a belated 70th birthday celebration and tried to follow it with the Stooges' Live In the Hands of the Fans, which besides having shitty production values, caused me to realize that six years of playing in Stoogeaphilia has robbed me of my enjoyment of that music. Now, in my head, it's "material." Wha-wha. Be careful what you ask for.

Learned via the wonders of social networking that the new "super deluxe" Velvet Underground and Nico includes the '66 Valleydale Ballroom bootleg that I covet. One hopes that as they continue milking it, Universal will see fit to release Valleydale as a standalone, kind of like they recently did with, um, Live At Hull.

Also, lit Brit/rockaroll Renaissance man Mick Farren has just pubbed his collected works. I must find a way to lay hands on this.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Rolling Stones' "Exile On Main St."


I’ve written way too many words on the Rolling Stones of late, and there’ve been plenty more written over the last 50 years by others. But when a mad Australian issues a challenge (“First to a good 4,000 words on Exile On Main St. wins, um, bragging rights”), I’ve got no choice but to respond. All I ever need is an assignment.


“What a fucking ugly cover.”

That was my initial response to Exile when it arrived in the store I’d wind up working in a year later. It was the spring of ’72, and I was within rock-throwing distance of turning 15 and getting my first electric guitar. I wasn’t a Rolling Stones fan, my loyalties leaning more toward the Who and the Yardbirds (obscurantist snob that I was; I didn’t like Led Zeppelin because they were too popular), but I owned a small handful of Stones albums (the first one, Now!, December’s Children, and Beggar’s Banquet). It seems quaint now, but back then, the arrival of a new album by certain artists was a real big deal to lots of people, and there was always a modicum of anxiety over whether or not your fave raves were going to disappoint you. (Talk about your First World problems: remember that back then, the war in Vietnam was still raging.)

Recently I was re-reading St. Lester on the ‘70s Stones in Mainlines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste and was struck by what a crybaby the kid from El Cajon came across as – the kind of fan that takes a favorite band to task for changing. This wasn’t that uncommon; there was also Jon Landau’s lengthy pan of Sticky Fingers in the San Francisco-based rag that took its name from the band, in which Brooce Springsteen’s future manager compared that album unfavorably to everything they’d done before it. (It sucks not being who you were five years ago.) Funny, since for people my age -- born just a few years before the Stones came into existence -- that’s kind of where the Stones thread starts, and they were creating the template what people would mean for the next couple of years when they referred to “rock ‘n’ roll.”

Of course, latter day conventional wisdom has it that the ’71 Stones were in the middle of their greatest run, which culminated the following year with Exile. Living well is always the best revenge. The collective rockcrits of the time went through the same gyrations with Exile that they had with Sly Stone’s There’s A Riot Goin’ On the previous year, first lambasting it, then instantly bending over backwards to rehabilitate it. Was it payola/drugola, one wonders, or just adjusting their expectations (what they used to call “coming to terms”)?

Back to that cover, Andy Warhol’s zipper on the Sticky Fingers sleeve had been a good gimmick, but Robert Frank’s photo collage – the B&W images grainy, out of focus, seeming to ooze sleaze and degradation – was something Entahrly Other. If this was the packaging, what could that possibly portend for the contents within? Of course, it turned out to be totally appropriate.


I recently listened to Exile on vinyl for the first time in damn near 20 years and was amazed. First of all, there’s the sound: I remembered murk, and heard something a lot more immediate. The drum sound in particular was a lot more present than I recalled, perhaps because I’d done most of my listening to the album on cassette and CD. But producer Jimmy Miller was a drummer, after all, so it’d make sense for him to be attentive to that fundamental detail. I came away with a new appreciation for Charlie Watts. While he might have lacked the flash of other British drummers like Ginger Baker, Mitch Mitchell, and Keith Moon, he had more of Fred Below and Earl Palmer in him, which made him a better fit for the Stones, who were always more roots-bound than their contemporaries.

More to the point, the songs seemed suffused with warmth, soul, and compassion, even as they described people at the end of their tether chemically, psychologically, and dare I say, spiritually. (I’m not generally a lyric listener, but once I’ve listened to something a few hundred times, a few of them inevitably sink in.) The wreckage at the end of the ‘60s lasted well into the ‘70s, and the Stones gave us as honest a reflection of that moment as anybody. In that regard, Let It Bleed’s “Gimme Shelter” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” are the songs that always get mentioned, but for my money, Exile songs like “Rocks Off,” “Torn and Frayed,” and “Soul Survivor” do the job in a more practical, less existential way, while “Loving Cup,” “I Just Want To See His Face,” and “Shine A Light” reach for redemption like something off the third Velvet Underground LP. (The Stones’ secret: their albums have always been longer on slow songs than rockers.)

I’ve talked a lot of shit about the Stones over the years, and it’s largely because over the years, I’ve known so many people who used them (specifically Keef) and their “daring,” “glamorous” substance abuse proclivities as a way of rationalizing their own poor life choices. I once dated a girl who actually told me she thought it’d be cool to try heroin “because, y’know, Keef does it.” (Luckily for her, she didn’t.)

My best friend when I was a teenager was a heroin addict. He died from an overdose, aged 28, the year I joined the Air Force, although I didn’t learn of it until much later. When I think of him now, it’s with the knowledge that he was barely getting started in life when he took himself out. What a sad, stupid fucking waste, and yeah, he was one of those people who thought he had to live the “rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle” to be able to play (or appreciate) the music. I’ve seen that drama played out now by too many of my contemporaries and our kids, and I am not going to lie: I am tired the fuck of seeing people destroying themselves in the name of something they think is “rock ‘n’ roll.” Speed, smack, coke, whiskey and tequila, all down the line. It’s not the Stones’ fault, but it’s an aspect of their mystique that I reject.

It’s the same reason I couldn’t listen to Hendrix (the water I grew up swimming in) for a decade after college, where I encountered one too many seemingly intelligent people who’d addled themselves with acid in an attempt to “be like Jimi.” (Don’t even get me started on Johnny Thunders.) Whether Keith Richards survived his excesses due to smarts or luck is irrelevant. To this listener, at least, what makes him interesting at all as an artist and a potential exemplar is the music he made, not the self-abuse he survived. So there.


All of that business aside, is there a more distinctive sound in rock than Keef’s five-string open G tuning? I think not. Sure, he cribbed it from Ry Cooder, but for all his fine ethnomusicology and politics, has Ry Cooder ever written a song as great as “Rocks Off?” Again, I think not. Jagger sounds dazed and bleary singing, and then what in the hell is this Tijuana Brass shit? “Only get my rocks off when I’m sleeping,” sounds like he’s been on the tour bus too long. Except that by ’72, the Stones traveled by jumbo jet.

When they came back in ’69, they hadn’t been a real band in years (if you can bear it, watch their performance in The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus), and they were still breaking in new boy Mick Taylor, fresh from Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, his leads pouring down like liquid silver but still not fully integrated, the guitar-weaving between Keef and Brian that defined the band for its first couple of years gone, left along the roadside somewhere after Brian got stars in his eyes. RIP, Brian – poor bastard.

So now the Adam Smith division of labor instituted itself in the Stones, with Keef the rhythm guitarist onstage. Watching Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones! – my Stones DVD of choice, at least until Charlie Is My Darling arrived – it’s hard not to notice how wooden Taylor appears. He’s a mechanic; there’s no joy in this for him. Sure, he’s concentrating really hard on playing all those good notes, but da-a-amn, son. Lighten up! You’re a Rolling Stone, for chrissakes!

Then Woody came, and we were reminded that too much unanimity in a band isn’t necessarily a good thing. While he’s a lot more fun to watch than Taylor, when he and Keef are both soloing, which is often, the sound loses its grounding and becomes downright shrill. I understand they’re getting Taylor (and Bill Wyman!) back for some arena shows. It’s been 36 years since he quit and I’ll bet he’s still wondering, “What in the fuck was I thinking?”


Listening to “Rip This Joint” on the cassette player in my ’71 Ford Torino with the Boss 302, crossing the Mississippi River at Memphis on the way to Texas, late June ‘78. The Stones are going for the land speed record for rockaroll, faster even than their rampage through Larry Williams’ “She Said Yeah” on December’s Children. And buddy, that’s fast. Pure adrenaline rush; I dare you to play this on the highway and not speed up.


“Hip Shake” is Louisiana swamp blues courtesy of Slim Harpo, the man who contributed “I’m A King Bee” to England’s Newest Hitmakers (worst album title of the Brit Invasion). The Stones dream themselves into a fictive Deep South roadhouse that exists only in their collective imagination. (All honors and praises to Jay Miller from Crowley, Louisiana, a racist redneck, but one who recorded Slim, Lazy Lester, Lonesome Sundown, and Lightnin’ Slim.)

Let us now try and get a sense of what it felt like for these war babies, children of a dying empire, who grew up in a bomb-gutted city, in a land where wartime rationing lasted almost until Elvis arrived, where connoisseurs worshipfully studied the music of their former colonies’ most disenfranchised citizens, made a fetish of it, devoted themselves to mastering its intricacies from records in cold-water flats, scuffling and starving, taking their discoveries into Clubland, sitting down when they played but driving the hip cognoscenti wild with their tough sound, lucked their way into a record contract because Decca had passed on the Beatles and didn’t want to make the same mistake twice, coming to America and being spit on by the straight white folks but embraced by black folks to whom they must have seemed a weird anomaly.

Joe Nick Patoski wrote it, and I believe it: Jimmy Reed kicked the door open for MLK. And the Stones played their part in this, too. They made pilgrimages to the Apollo Theater and Chess Studios. They stole guitar licks from Chuck Berry and stagecraft from James Brown, but always gave credit where it was due (unlike some of their countrymen), and even had the audacity to insist on beaming larger-than-life Howlin’ Wolf into teenage America’s living room. Once you’re grooving to the music from the other side of the tracks, it’s inevitable that you eventually have to own up to the possibility that the Other is a human being. Open that door, and there’s no going back.


Was there ever a more magnanimous man than Ian Stewart, butch as a steak and kidney pie, the ivory tickler who pulled them together and then allowed himself to be squeezed out of the lineup (but not their sound) for not having the right look?


“Casino Boogie” is a song that really doesn’t do anything for me. In his book, Keef writes that the song “came out of when Mick and I had just about run ourselves ragged,” which explains a lot. Sounds like they’re waiting for something to happen. There are a lot of songs like this on Metamorphosis.


“Tumbling Dice” was the single. Back when it was new, it seemed to lack the punch of “Honky Tonk Women” and “Brown Sugar,” not to mention “Bitch.” But then, as I said earlier, those songs were just a small part of what the Stones were really about. This is one of those songs that went right over my head when I was 15 (when I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to gamble and lose, then get up to play again), but makes perfect sense to me at 55 (like Neil Young’s “Tell Me Why”). The backup singers are crucial, one reason why this song doesn’t really work live; there’s too much ground for Jagger to cover without Clydie King and Vanetta Fields.


Side Two is the “mellow side” (like the second side of the masterful “mop tape” Tattoo You). I wish more records did this. It’s late at night as I’m writing this, and this side is the perfect record to put on around midnight when everyone else in the house is asleep.


“Sweet Virginia” is the obligatory joke country song that had been appearing on every Stones LP since Beggar’s Banquet. For my money it’s not as good as “Dear Doctor” or “Dead Flowers,” but it’s better than “Country Honk.” After Exile, they let the tradition lapse for a few albums before reviving it with “Far Away Eyes” on Some Girls. When Exile was new, this was one song you were guaranteed never to hear on the radio because of the line “Gotta scrape the shit right off your shoes.” It was still easy playing “Shock the Grownups” back in ’72.


To these ears, “Torn and Frayed” feels like the album’s first peak. I always assumed this song was about Keef, but then why would he have written this song about himself? “His coat is torn and frayed / It’s seen much better days / But as long as the guitar plays / It’ll steal your heart away.” (I know, O’Neill – quoting lyrics is cheating.)

With this song, and in many other places on the album, the idea begins to emerge that Mick Jagger – silly ass-wagging white boy, fake-ass Lucifer who got his head handed to him by the Hell’s Angels at Altamont – had a better idea of what was going on as the ‘70s got under way, and was writing about it more artfully than anybody else. (By this time, Dylan and Lennon were reduced to slinging slogans, and Townshend was too obsessed with his own band and fixated on his own navel to comment on the decade’s fallout in the broader sense.)

It was the good fortune of this London School of Economics dropout to hit American shores as the most visible member of the band their manager and resident image-monger (who’d done publicity for the Beatles, so he knew how these things worked) had positioned as the most objectionable to adults and threatening to the old order in general, right around the time when teen rebellion was becoming big business for real here, making Presley look like small potatoes.

Within a few years, the most catered-to generation of young people in history – postwar American brats, getting ready as I write this to deplete Social Security -- would be calling the tune and the changes to a greater extent than any of their Greatest Generation forebears could imagine, and the Rolling Stones chronicled their concerns o’ the moment -- from “Satisfaction” and “Get Off of My Cloud” to the aforementioned “Gimme Shelter” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – more memorably, in simpler, more direct language, than anybody else.

The other big icons, the Beatles and Dylan, had taken themselves out of the “generational spokesman” role one way or the other, so as the turbulent ‘60s flamed out into the general malaise of the ‘70s, the Stones were the biggest mouths left standing. It was then that Jagger had his finest hour, counting up the casualties while rendering the impression that behind the trappings of celebrity and layers of security (there to ensure there were no more Altamonts as Stones tours and rock shows in general got bigger and more impersonal), he felt the same anomie and confusion as everyone else. By the time Goat’s Head Soup was served up, this would have coalesced into another pose, but for Exile’s moment, it at least felt real.


I suppose “Black Angel” could have been Jagger’s radical chic move, or perhaps the Stones were still chasing the Beatles. (John and Yoko also had a song about Angela Davis on Sometime In New York City.) If Neil Young can put the faces and names of the four kids killed at Kent State on-screen in a concert movie released in 2012, perhaps this story bears a brief retelling here.

Davis was an activist African-American college professor – Communist Party member, Black Panther familiar -- who was jailed in 1970 after purchasing firearms used in the takeover of a California courtroom that resulted in the deaths of four people, including a judge. Seventeen-year-old Jonathan Jackson, killed in the incident, had been attempting to free his brother, George Jackson, and two other black inmates at Soledad Prison – the “Soledad Brothers” -- who were accused of killing a white prison guard. George Jackson was killed in an uprising at San Quentin in 1971, days before he was scheduled to stand trial. The other two Soledad Brothers were acquitted of the guard’s killing in 1972. Yes, kids: It was a violent time. Bob Dylan wrote a song about George Jackson, and apparently in the last decade there was a punk-blues band called the Soledad Brothers.

Davis was acquitted of kidnapping and murder charges, and continues working for prisoners’ rights. One wonders what she, a feminist and Marxist, thought about being immortalized in song by the Stones, who had a history of misogyny (“Stupid Girl,” “Under My Thumb”) and racism (“Brown Sugar”) in their lyrics. (To any angry white guys who feel like the question is “too politically correct”: How does it feel to be on the wrong side of history?)


“Loving Cup” belongs to session ace Nicky Hopkins, whose pianner carries the day (when Stu’s not around), and its lyrics are like a healing balm; they fall down and soothe like warm rain.


At the top of Side Three, “Happy” is Keef singing about himself (with lots of help from Mick on the choruses), and it’s the song he’ll be remembered for, in my ideal world. It doesn’t sentimentalize, like “Before You Make Me Run,” which makes it seem truer to the spirit of the man. If I’m going to play one of these sides first thing in the morning, this is the likely candidate.

I saw Keef toss his cups onstage once, with the New Barbarians, here in Fort Worth. It was in the middle of a vocal, and he just turned his head away from the mic for a second and blew chunks, then came back singing. Professional. My ex-wife swears it didn’t happen, but uberfan and Eight Track Museum impresario Bucks Burnett was there, and he confirms that it did.


“Turd On the Run” is a silly song that actually sounds like its title. It’s another frenetic rocker, but somehow it just doesn’t kick as much ass as “Rip This Joint” did. Mick’s harp here is a highlight. As are Charlie’s rim shots.


“Ventilator Blues” opens ominously, with a slide part that fairly oozes menace. It’s an archetypal Stones song; they could probably play stuff like this in their sleep. Some of the album’s most effective horn work is here, and Taylor takes it out with a snaky solo. Does anyone else but me find it odd that he never played anything else on record as memorable as his solos on “Sway,” “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’,” and the live “Love In Vain?” (We could argue the merits of “Time Waits For No One,” but he probably has to pay Carlos Santana royalties on that one.)


“Just Wanna See His Face” should have been on Side Two. It drifts by like a remembered dream, Jagger’s falsetto gliding over the bed of electric piano, twin basses, and tympani. It’s a spiritual, of all things, but one odd enough, if not demented enough, to have come from the acid-addled mind of George Clinton. “Relax your mind,” indeed.


“Let It Loose” is great soul music, from the Leslie-treated guitar to the backing vocals (a far cry from the ramshackle “Woo-woos!” on “Sympathy for the Devil,” hilariously captured on film by Jean-Luc Godard for One Plus One, which is at least an interesting period piece of a flick) to the horns, which really work here (and sound suspiciously close to what Jim Price had done for Mott the Hoople on Brain Capers’ “Second Love,” which was also engineered by Andy Johns and released around the time the Stones were beginning overdub sessions for Exile in L.A.).


Opening Side Four, “All Down the Line” is the album’s great rocker, nicely decorated by Mick Taylor’s slide (although if you want to hear the real business, listen to what Johnny Winter did with “Silver Train” the following year; after his version, I’m surprised they even bothered to cut it for Goat’s Head Soup). Again, the horns make it (that great 16th-note run up to those two hits), rendering latter day live versions inadequate. Is there a better example of rock ‘n’ roll as joy and abandon? I think not.


“Stop Breaking Down” has about as much to do with Robert Johnson as Eric Clapton’s version of “Ramblin’ On My Mind” on the Bluesbreakers album does, which is to say, they captured the letter of Mr. Johnson’s law (the form), but the spirit (the creeping sense of dread) evaded them. That said, it’s still good dirty fun, although not as much as Junior Wells’ version on South Side Blues Jam. As always, Keef and Charlie pull it through, with Taylor’s slide and Jagger’s harp (“Whooo!”) as the icing on the cake.


“Shine A Light” is the album’s second reference to the Christian deity or His son. It’s also the title of a Francis Ford Coppola documentary about the Stones. It’s the album’s benediction to all of us sinners, with Billy Preston providing real gospel organ and piano, and those backup singers again.


“Soul Survivor” is loaded with nautical imagery and keeps coming back to the phrase “gonna be the death of me.” So who survives?


Mick and Keef came into the Exile sessions on a creative roll, and they contrived a way to allow themselves to maximize it. Smart. And at that particular moment, they had the momentum to steamroller a double LP through the typical litany of label objections. So, did these guys realize that this was their last good shot? Or did they think that the train of their creativity was going to run forever?

I remember seeing them on TV, The Midnight Special, I think it was, around Goat’s Head Soup time, and they just seemed very mannered. I heard “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll” on the jukebox in a diner in Albany and thought, I swear to God, that it was Bachman Turner Overdrive. Or maybe it was BTO’s “Taking Care of Business” that I thought was the Stones; my memory’s not clear on this. Sure, they had some good moments after that, “Memory Motel” and a lot of Some Girls, but it felt like their moment had passed, and the music they’ve released since then has never had the life-and-death quality that’s present in every track on Exile, even the lesser ones.

They’ve become a tourist destination: “My Grandparents Went To See The Rolling Stones And All I Got Was This T-Shirt.” (I saw ‘em in the rain at the Cotton Bowl in ’81; even in the Jumbotron, each of the Stones was smaller than my pinky nail.) Their catalog continues to sell (at premium prices, thanks to Allen Klein), and they periodically release new product, but that’s hardly the point. (Remember their Persian Gulf War song?) They’re a spectacle, and they make bank when they tour, every five years or so. Keef’s a best-selling author, and Sir Mick, who looks fitter pushing 70 than lots of guys half his age, has had the decency to age naturally – no bizarro George Jones plastic surgery for him. They’ve been at it for half a century now, and more power to ‘em. But if they’d broken up after Exile On Main St., their place in the pantheon would still be secure.


There, O’Neill: I took out the papers and the trash. All told, it took me about eight hours. I hope you’re happy now.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

11.21.2012, FTW

Practicing guitar for the first time in many moons, going back to things I haven't worked on since I was 19. Sometimes I'll get stuck in a loop trying to develop muscle memory. Not sure where this will lead (if anywhere). The last time I tried to do this, I spent a year teaching myself rudimentary harmony and practicing chromatic scales, at the end of which I was laughed out of jams with guys I'd helped learn to play. "You used to be good; now, you suck." So much for self-improvement.

Valderas got me thinking about fusion (the other genre that dare not speak its name, along with prog) for the first time in 30 years. Thinking about how that whole development came out of Miles Davis' electric music, with all of his sidemen going on to lead their own bands and make bank. In the end, it all game down to velocity and starpower. I wonder how Miles felt about that, as dismissive as he was of instrumental facility for its own sake ("I know you can play, now play something I like"). The music he made after he got wise to JB, Jimi, and Sly still stands up, however.

Watching the DVD of Miles at Isle of Wight, and the one of Jeff Beck at Ronnie Scott's. A year after Bitches Brew, the leader's trumpet chops were still at a peak, and the live band had transformed the material. Jack DeJohnette and Dave Holland, who together made an imposing rhythm section, would both go on to be great composer-bandleaders. Chick Corea, who looks so intense here, went on to make cosmic fluff with Return to Forever and introduce two of the worse offenders in the look-how-many-notes-I-can-play stakes. Pete Townshend's fave rave Keith Jarrett, who hated playing electronic keyboards and said he was brought into the band to interject "excitement -- certainly not music," does the Ray Charles/Stevie Wonder head dance.

Like Miles and Ornette, Jeff Beck never changed the way he played; he just changed the setting in which he did his thing. I've been a dyed-in-the-wool fan since I was a snotnose, and have a stack of '68 Beck Group bootlegs to prove it. The Rough and Ready band was my favorite of his; you could take anything he played in that band and stick it one of his post-Blow By Blow albums and it'd still work, something I only recently realized. Sure, he's not much of a writer; since he stopped ripping off Willie Dixon, he's always relied on keyboardists (Max Middleton, Jan Hammer, Tony Hymas, and now Jason Rebello) for the tuneage. He's a master technician, no more, no less. There's more finesse in any one piece he plays than in most guitar-slinger's entahr sets. And it's nice to hear him rip into "Stratus," a Billy Cobham tune I don't believe he ever played back in the day. (I first heard it done by, um, the Good Rats, back when Mickey Marchello was still wearing a kaftan.)

Trying to figure out a way to move my meager technique forward while retaining the penchant for mess and noise I've developed over the last few years.

JATSDFM's "A Dream Over the Atlantic"

Hickey's latest is a moody guitar instrumental. Who'd a thunk it?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pinkish Black signs with Century Media

Monday, November 19, 2012

HIO's "Hentai Is Forever" on Bandcamp!

Now you can download Hickey's recording of my last performance with HIO for just seven bucks. Lucky you.

ADDENDUM: Being a realist, Hickey changed it to "name your price." That's more like it.

Improvised Silence/Drink and Draw @ The Cellar, Sunday 11.25.2012

Terry Horn sends:

Music by Hentai Improvising Orchestra and other possible contributors.

We are inviting visual artists to come out and draw, paint, cut, and glue things as you listen to the music provided by HIO and their fellow contributors. Hopefully, the inclusion of artists will be a regular thing.

Artists bring some supplies to draw and/or paint with and on. Anything is possible if you just participate.

The Cellar is located at 2916 West Berry St. in Fort Worth, just east of University Drive.

Although I'm not in the band anymore, I'll be sitting in at the one in December.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Jeff Adcock - "Looper madness"

Grilled cheese deluxe by the MC5's Michael Davis

Arthur mag redux

That's right, you heard right: Jay Babcock's li'l indie rag that could, right up until it ceased publication in 2008, is back, with Issue #33 out on December 22nd. What's different: It's no longer distributed free. You gots to order online now. Costs a five spot, plus $2.50 shipping in these here United States. Worth every penny.

11.17.2012, FTW

1) Saw a recent pic of Neil Young playing with Crazy Horse: legs splayed, teeth bared, gold-top Les Paul slung low. Poncho Sampedro and Billy Talbot look on, smiling. Sixty-seven years old. Gives me hope for the rest of us. I don't even care that the prices for his show tickets and vinyl are extortionate.

2) On a '70s Stones/Miles tear. Was re-reading St. Lester's Mainlines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste, which I originally started reading in a vacant lot across from the 8th Street Taproom in Lawrence, KS, while I was waiting for Nathan Brown to show up. (The guy that booked us there wound up taking me to a decent authentic Mexican place -- where he allowed me to pick up the tab -- a cool old hotel bar, and the William Burroughs house.) St. Lester's rants on the '70s Stones are almost as legendary as his ongoing love-hate affair with Lou Reed. Reading him now, though, he sounds like a crybaby, the kind of fan who gets mad at a band for changing (or not changing). He vacillates on Miles, too. I miss the times when critics used to have to work that hard to try and like/understand an album like Exile On Main St. (before it became the consensus "masterpiece" it's now regarded as). Sly's There's A Riot Going On hit them the same way; I remember Creem reviewing it twice, panning it one month and praising it the next. But it makes for less than satisfying reading. More insightful is Greg Tate's take on '70s Miles from Flyboy In the Buttermilk. Dig this bit on Live-Evil: "Listening to this music is like listening to a 'History of the Blues' as told by Richard Pryor, George Romero, and Sun Ra. In it wretched excess is the norm, sinister-but-sarcastic sums up the tone, and blues riffs are continually being splattered like blood bags and revived like cartoon zombie figures." Or Tate on In A Silent Way: "It just might be the epitome of the beautifully designed and recorded artifact, being something like a Taj Mahal of music: that rare, manmade thing of beauty which rivals nature in its fixed and dreamlike universal perfection." Wish I could write like that.

3) Hickey sent me his recordings of Skutch, the trio with Terry Valderas and Robert Kramer that I played a couple of shows with at the end of October, opening for HIO at the Cellar. While we were heavier and more exploratory at the Yucca Halloween party the night before, when Terry wasn't down with the flu, Terry and Robert have a great rapport, and it was a gas doing a kind of playing with them that I hadn't done in years: improv like PFFFFT!, but with some forms as springboards. I had my old PFFFFT! tone back, using Ray Liberio's "Frankenstein" SG-1, my Hughes & Kettner with the Phase 90, the Vox wah, and the new fuzzbox I got from Jeff Adcock. Listening to Hickey's recording was kind of like playing through an amp for the first time after eight years back in '91: I'm surprised how much I sound like myself (lots of big wobbly vibrato on everything). I wanted to play "In A Silent Way" kind of like the Miles quintet did "Nefertiti," where I'd just repeat the head with different treatments while those guys went off behind it. It kind of worked. The "Third Stone From the Sun"/"Beck's Bolero" mashup was something I used to play with Bruce Wade and John Klein in Colorado, winter of '79-'80. I did a better job of blending rhythm and lead at Yucca; those chords (Emaj7-Bm7) reminded me of Manny Alvarez playing "Pop Poppies" with Scott Morgan in the Jones Bros. "Hallogallo" was our big psychedelic raga. Terry and Robert locked in on the motorik beat and I played lots of drone-y modal shit on top, inspahrd by Roy Wood on "Fields of People." It was really interesting playing "Led Boots" because Jeff Beck was always the guy I aspired to copping when I was young. While I'm still far from attaining his Zen-like mastery, if you strip away all the finesse, he's still a blues player (albeit a highly melodic one), so I can handle the form, anyway. These days I try to channel Pete Cosey and Sonny Sharrock. It's too bad I didn't remember the intro chords until three weeks later. After that, Terry quit (he was dizzy and his hands were shaking). Robert and I kept trying for a couple of minutes after we should have quit too. I look forward to playing with those guys again in the future.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pssst! Hey, kid! Wanna hear Pete Cosey going off with the Miles Davis band in '74?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

HIO accompanies dancers at Texas Dance Improvisation Festival, 10.6.2012

Here's one I missed.

The Better Death's "Day of the Death"

Dallas-based experimental heavy rockers The Better Death took their name from a Leonardo da Vinci quote ("a life well spent brings happy death"). They got together in 2006 and released a CD in 2009, but since early 2011, their drummer Danny Handler has been battling an inflammatory bowel disease, resulting in a lengthy hiatus from the stage. They haven't been entirely idle, however, recording an album which they just took the novel step of releasing on a USB Flash drive, complete with artwork, lyrics, computer wallpaper, and a video. In this way, perhaps, the Romance of the Artifact survives in the era of the cloud.

Day of the Death is a brief (the six tracks total 20 minutes) but impactful communique, replete with the band's signature strengths: singer Sean Dailey's passionate, powerful projection, the pugnacious pummeling of drummer Handler and bassist Ricky Wolking, and guitarist Ed McMahon, who personally awards a giant prize of heavy rifferama and Tom Morello-esque noise on every track. (Ed brought an experimental edge to Reggie Rueffer's too-smart-for-their-own-good pop songs in the Hochimen, and has also jammed with shadowy jazz legend Ronald Shannon Jackson.)

The music has the feel of a sci-fi epic (think Styx or Rush), an impression that's not borne out by a perusal of the lyrics, which are redolent of decadence and ennui that might only exist in the narrator's imagination ("We'll make a smoke signal from incense and leaves / Lay your head down and fall asleep to my CDs"). The buzz track "E.G.G. (Everybody Get Gay)" is reliant on a usage that, in context, hits the same way as "retarded" (um, ain't no more "last acceptable prejudices" out here, last time I looked), although the line "'Cause it's hipster time and I'm so L.A." indicates ironic intent. No matter; Day of the Death succeeds on pure sonics, its only non-snazz element being its abbreviated length.

Here's hoping Handler continues on the mend and The Better Death are able to take it back to the stage soon.

A Danny Fields documentary? Yes, please!

The best special feature in the bootleg DVD of MC5: A True Testimonial is Danny Fields, telling the story of the time the Five played at the Fillmore East in NYC and ran afoul of a group of Lower East Side radicals that called themselves the Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers. Fields -- a Warhol Factory regular who invented the Doors, signed the Five and the Stooges to Elektra Records, and wound up managing the Ramones -- is a raconteur par excellence, and the camera loves him. Now, filmmaker Brendan Toller (I Need That Record!) is at work on a documentary about Fields. Here's the rundown from the Village Voice.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Matt Hickey takes the piss out of me

Oh, and there's this:
***Call for Artists***
HIO is extending an invitation out for visual artists to come out and create artwork as Hentai Improvising Orchestra performs. Fort Worth's very own "Drink and Draw". Bring something to draw/paint on, bring something to draw/paint with, and participate. 
First session is this month, November 25th, 8pm, The Cellar Fort Worth Tx.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stuffs 'n' such

1) Love, Forever Changes (LP). Back in the early '70s, when "Alone Again Or" and "You Set the Scene" were underground FM staples, it went right over my head (not enough loud guitars; Arthur Lee sounded like Johnny Mathis singing something by Bacharach-David with overdubs by the Tijuana Brass). Today, it sounds more up-to-date than any other record released in 1967, its depressive pop succeeding on pure melody alone. Lee foreshadowed latter-day sad bastards like Elliott Smith and Conor Oberst, but none of them ever wrote a line as great as "The snot has caked against my pants."

2) The Better Death, Day of the Death (USB Flash drive). This Dallas-based experimental heavy rock band has been on hiatus from live performance since their drummer was stricken with ulcerative colitis. Undaunted, they've released their new album in a novel format. Review to follow.

"Zoot Allures"

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Oh wow. Another VU bootleg.

Newest Forced Exposure list has a new UK CD release of La Cave 1968, Doug Yule's second performance with the band, from Jamie Klimek's tapes, with Uncle Lou supposedly on fire on guitar. How can I resist?

ADDENDUM: On vinyl, too, of course.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

HIO @ The Cellar, 10.28.2012

Uncle Lou said it, and I believe it: "When you quit you quit, but you always wish that you knew it was your last shot."

Friday, November 09, 2012

Hank vs. Ig

You can't top the Pop!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The Move - "The Lost Broadcasts"

Dammit, here comes another one. Mostly Lynne era, but still...dig me some Message From the Country, too.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Rolling Stones - "Charlie Is My Darling: Ireland 1965"

Wha-a-at? An unseen documentary about the Stones with Brian? Yes, please!

Sure, there's The TAMI Show, but who wants to sit through Jan and Dean, not to mention Freddie and the Dreamers, to see the Stones (and JB) burn the house down? Now there's an alternative.

Stones Svengali Andrew Loog Oldham commissioned filmmaker Peter Whitehead to shoot Charlie Is My Darling during a short (two dates!) tour of Ireland in '65, when the Stones were hitting their first peak with "Satisfaction." Viewed today in its restored configuration, it's a revelation. If it had been released when it was new, one thinks, it would have wiped the floor with the Beatles' films, with its human-scale portrait of its subjects at a crucial juncture in their career's trajectory. But then, watching the director's and producer's cuts that are included on the DVD, one realizes that the real hero of this project (besides the restorers, who did yeoman work in fixing over 50 reels of grainy, damaged film) is editor Nathan Punwar. His work on the restored version makes both earlier edits seem clumsy and amateurish.

Besides restoring yards of ace performance and backstage footage that originally wound up on the cutting room floor, Punwar has vastly improved the film's rhythm, flow, and pacing, better integrating the interview and concert footage into a coherent narrative flow (travel, fan interaction, backstage, performance, etc.) and dispensing with dated "arty" effects from the earlier versions. Punwar and 2012 director Mick Gochanour have done modern-day fans a tremendous service by placing more of the film's focus on music and performance. When a live performance of "The Last Time" explodes across the screen, you get a better feel for the early Stones' purity of essence than is possible from any previously existing representation.

Much of the film's resonance comes from context: We know what happens in the future. Thus, Brian Jones' remark that "the future as a Rolling very uncertain" takes on a poignancy in light of his death in 1969, and his comments on success strike a very different chord for viewers who've read Keith Richards' Life than they would have back in the mid-'60s.

The pandemonium of a live show, where fans crash the Stones' stage in the middle of "I'm Alright" -- the song's apex of excitement giving way to chaos and terrifying violence -- and the aftermath, with a fan being carried from the hall on a stretcher, anticipates the Altamont murder scenes in Gimme Shelter. The post-show comments from Bill Wyman and Mick Jagger are a harbinger of the mute horror the '69 Stones would display, watching the Maysles brothers' rushes. Director Gochenaur chooses to present the events with naturalistic audio, eschewing the corny echo effects that were added in both the director's and producer's cuts, providing a much better representation of the sound of things coming apart. And the climactic, uninterrupted "Satisfaction" is appropriately cathartic.

In interviews, Charlie and Bill are appropriately humble, while the future Sir Mick waxes eloquent on success, popular music, performance, and youth culture. "It's not until people that are 21 now reach 75," he says. "Those people have to be grandfathers before the whole thing is changed." Almost there, man. He poses for pictures with someone's family, and flirts with middle-aged gawkers while the Stones eat a restaurant meal.

Keef never speaks to the camera, but he's aways around, playing: strumming an acoustic in the hotel room, demonstrating his facility as a folk-blues picker, writing "Sitting On A Fence" with Mick, goofing on the Beatles (and themselves, Mick singing their first original "Tell Me"), playing the piano while Mick and Andrew Loog Oldham get drunk and goof on Elvis, singing some bit of music hall tripe on the train with Oldham. (Remember Nick Hornby's observation that the major difference between Brit rockers of the '60s and their American counterparts was that the Brits liked their parents better.) It's his music that binds the film together, and I suppose, has held them (well, Mick, Keef, and Charlie, anyway) together for 50 years.

Makes me want to reach for The Rolling Stones, Now!

SRB on vinyl

Sonic's Rendezvous Band might be my favorite band of all ti-i-ime. I wrote a history of the band that Easy Action Records in the UK borrowed a chunk of to use as liner notes for their monumental six CD box set (currently out of print) that's the most complete compendium of SRB recordings extant. However, being a vinyl junkie, I had to start seeking out SRB releases in my preferred medium, and found a few.

The most commonly available is Bomp's Live, Masonic Auditorium, Detroit, January 14, 1978, which, to these feedback-scorched ears, isn't the best of the four complete shows included in Easy Action's box. That distinction belongs to the better-recorded and longer April 4, 1978 show from SRB's home base, the Second Chance, which Mack Aborn Rhythmic Arts released as Sweet Nothing in CD, red and black vinyl formats back in '98. (A black vinyl one goes for about 40 bucks now.) Mack Aborn also released a 12" City Slang that includes one song that didn't make it onto Easy Action's box: the soundcheck instrumental "China Fields," which has replaced the "Guitar Army" intro as my warmup noise. That one'll set you back around 30 bucks, if you can find it.

Masonic Auditorium, available in purple and black vinyl editions, documents a compact, energetic show (headlined by the Ramones), opening with Scott Morgan's "Electrophonic Tonic" and closing with Fred "Sonic" Smith's masterpiece "City Slang," as was SRB's custom. Both men were more varied songwriters than their latter-day imitators have been, penning hard rock songs with more chord changes than anyone this side of Blue Oyster Cult and capable of a range of dynamics that seems to have left the music in the last 30 years.

The emphasis here, however, is on high energy. Fred's "Sweet Nothing," like "Slang," is rock 'n' roll trance music, driven by once and future Stooge Scott Asheton's tribal thump, with Fred attacking his guitar like a man possessed. Morgan's "Asteroid B-612" careens ahead with the momentum of a speeding locomotive, and is the only rock song I'm aware of that was inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupery's children's classic The Little Prince. Here and elsewhere, Smith solos with unbridled abandon; by the time SRB was off the ground, he'd progressed a long way from the Berryisms he'd favored back in his MC5 days, ripping off fleet-fingered runs of remarkable melodic invention with a thick, midrange-heavy tone. The band fairly rages through Morgan's "Love and Learn" and Smith's "Gone With the Dogs" and "Song L." Blink and you'll miss 'em.

Too Much Crank, released by Brit label Devil's Jukebox in white (edition of 666, 2006) and black (edition of 500, 2009) vinyl versions, skims the cream from the sixth disc of the box set. It includes both studio tracks that SRB recorded during its existence: "City Slang," their only official release, and "Electrophonic Tonic," which got bumped from the B-side of the single in favor of the mono version of "Slang" because Morgan had the effrontery to record some demos while the rest of the band was touring Europe with Iggy Pop. (Michigan rock 'n' rollers must be the most fractious people on Earth.)

I'd have picked the cover of Jagger-Richards' "Empty Heart" over Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen" included here, but that's quibbling. Covers weren't always SRB's strong suit; the Stones' "Heart of Stone," sung by Fred, is the one duff track on Sweet Nothing. My favorite is Fred's hilarious take on Claudine Clark's "Party Lights," but that was on a different disc in Easy Action's box. Wha-wha.

Too Much Crank's a great showcase for Fred's songwriting, less so for Scott's. Morgan's only represented by one tune, "Love and Learn," in a hot version from a performance at the Executive Ballroom in Sterling Heights, MI, which also supplied the version of "Sweet Nothing" that's included here. Morgan, a soulful shouter, was perhaps the greatest unheralded American rock singer, having beaten Aretha Franklin to Otis Redding's "Respect" with his teenage band the Rationals and passed on an offer to replace Al Kooper in Blood Sweat & Tears. Smith, on the other hand, only possessed a serviceable guitar player's voice, but he sang everything he wrote, which probably did as much to diminish SRB's chances of scoring a recording contract as its members' past in bands as controversial as the MC5 and the Stooges.

"Clock With No Hands" is a slow, sleazy version of Fred's observation of "the serious side of drug addiction, and lives destroyed on the streets of a big city in the Midwest." The same song is also included in its faster incarnation as "It's Alright." Myself, I find the latter less effective, but they're both here, so you can take your pick. Fred's lengthy mood piece "American Boy," featuring its composer on saxophone, wasn't included in this compilation -- it'd have taken up a whole LP side by itself -- but his "You're So Great," an ace pop song recently covered by Wendy James (with Stooges guitarist James Williamson), was, to good effect.

Bottom line: Do yourself a favor and lay hands on any SRB music you can. You owe it to yourself.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The MC5's "Thunder Express"

When I'm in a certain frame of mind, MC5 and Velvet Underground bootlegs -- a subspecies of record I got obsessed with after reading Clinton Heylin's From the Velvets to the Voidoids back ca. '93 -- are my auditory equivalent of comfort food. This one here is one of the best of the former.

Originally released on Skydog, the French label responsible for the very first VU boot (Evil Mothers), not to mention the original Stooges Metallic K.O., and subsequently reissued on Jungle in the UK, the 220-gram manhole cover that Munster in Spain put out in 2007 is currently at the top of my list of vinyl slabs to seek out. Back in '95, when I stumbled on a copy of the Skydog CD while working at Blockbuster Music, it rekindled my love for '60s and '70s Detroit ramalama in the same way as The Kids Are Alright revived my Who fandom at the ass-end of the '70s, or Live At Winterland arrived in the late '80s and made me want to listen to Hendrix for the first time in over a decade.

The business part of Thunder Express comes from a session recorded for French TV back in '72. (There are clips of a couple of the songs on Youtube.) The disc is filled out with pre-Elektra single tracks that have also appeared on other releases, including Babes In Arms and '66 Breakout (to name two of the better ones). The live-for-TV set consists of four songs from Kick Out the Jams, one newie (the title track), and a Rolling Stones cover. There's a "last gasp" aura about the proceedings.

By this time, the Five had alienated most of their U.S. audience, and were barely surviving by touring Europe (which they first visited in 1970 to play the Phun City festival after hooking up with Radio Caroline impresario Ronan O'Rahilly, who'd superseded John Sinclair and Jon Landau as their mentor). Bassist Michael Davis was out of the band, replaced for this tour by a Brit called Steev (sic) Moorhouse. Atlantic Records had put the wheels under 'em. (I remember a '71 Rolling Stone piece in which they spoke of the possibility of recording a live album for Roulette Records. From John Sinclair to Morris Levy in just two moves: the mind boggles.)

Even with all that baggage, this is a highly listenable recording, and makes the case that on purely musical terms, the Five continued to improve as their fortunes ebbed. Kick Out the Jams documented a moment in time and space when they were at the top of their game (in the same way as Monterey did for Hendrix, or Live At Leeds did for the Who). There's an intangible spark there that's missing from the frequently-booted June '68 Sturgis Armory set, and is just beginning to manifest itself on the September '68 Unitarian Church recordings. (Earlier on, they were an OK-but-unremarkable Brit-R&B-derived garage band; cf. the live stuff on '66 Breakout).

By 1970, they'd become more of a "professional rock 'n' roll band," but lost a bit of that X-factor (cf. the New Year's Day Saginaw Civic Center show). The big leap forward that year -- when they'd fallen off nearly everybody's radar -- was in Fred "Sonic" Smith's songwriting and guitar playing. Previously content to languish in Wayne Kramer's shadow (except for brief moments like the dual-guitar rave-up at the end of "Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa" and the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" solo on "The American Ruse"), Sonic stepped out to write half of the material on terminal Five LP High Time, where he also soloed to good effect on 75% of the songs.

Hearing the song "Kick Out the Jams" played by the '72 band without all the the noise, feedback, and shouting that are such a big part of its LP version is a little like watching an NBA player start out flat-footed and execute a five-foot vertical jump. Before the last verse, the song almost careens off the track until Dennis Thompson manages to steer it into the Stones' "Empty Heart," a song that must have been beloved by Detroit bands ca. '64-'65. The band cranks out the changes, the dynamics ebbing and flowing as Rob Tyner extemporizes over the groove, Fred occasionally bellows in the background, and Wayne repeatedly plays a favorite lick.

"Ramblin' Rose" also misses J.C. Crawford's rabble-rousing intro, but it's nice to be able to actually hear the bass and drums, and Wayne's solo is a little more involved than the double-stop bend he got hung up on while tripping his balls off and playing an unfamiliar guitar (Gibson SG) on the Zenta New Year in '68. "Sacre bleu!" indeed. The song "Thunder Express" is a Berryesque car tune, with Rob's joy palpable as he sings lyrics celebrating the Motor City car culture that formed him and his bandmates ("I lay a patch of rubber for a block and a half / When I push it on down to the floor"). Fred rips off a couple of choruses of the Chuck-via-Keefisms he loved, while Wayne's ride appears to get stuck in the double-stop ditch again.

"Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa" gives the band a chance to stretch out the way they did on the '70 studio jam "Head Sounds" (see Power Trip), or the multiple takes of "KOTJ" they filmed for the German Beat Club TV show (viewable on Youtube), here displaying the linkages between their energy model James Brown and their "little brother" band the Stooges at their Funhouse apex. The blustering blooze "Motor City Is Burning" trumps the KOTJ version, if not the outtake from those sessions that Sinclair later released on Human Being Lawnmower.

The added filler tracks mean that this release gives you a chance to hear the "alpha and omega" of the Five. I first heard "I Can Only Give You Everything" on the jukebox at Soap Creek Saloon in Austin, when I went to hear Doug Sahm play there. "I Just Don't Know," the B-side from the '69 reissue, is a psychedelic Bo Diddley stomp; I preferred the original vocal harmony-enhanced Stones "Down Home Girl" rewrite "One of the Guys." Depending on which version of Thunder Express you buy, you might also get one or both sides of the '68 "Looking At You"/"Borderline" single. The original "Looking At You" makes hash of the tight-assed Back In the U.S.A. re-recording, while "Borderline" is essentially identical to the live take on KOTJ.

I still say that while the Five tried much harder, the Stooges always win. That said, you could do a lot worse than immersing yourself in a sonic bath of MC5.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Now THIS is how to do a large noise ensemble

Paul Quigg

The Kessler Theater tech director and ace guitarist (ex-Superman's Girlfriend/Nervebreakers/Decadent Dub Team/Vibrolux) shows his stuff, from a 2010 performance when he opened for Marc Ribot at the Kess.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

JATSDFM - "Gender's Cruelty"

Here's Hickey at his most VU-via-Eno yet.

Terry Vernixx

Behold the electronica alter ego of my pal, Fort Worth expat (now living in Albuquerque) and ex-ESP/Toadies/Gideons/Parasite Lost drummer Terry Valderas. He's house-tastic, I'm a-thinkin'.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Johnny Case November gig schedule

Thursday, Nov. 8 - Johnny Case w. Dave Williams, Steve Waller & Jeremy Hull @ Piranha Killer Sushi, 859 N.E. Green Oaks Road, Arlington, TX, 7:00 – 10:00

Saturday, Nov. 10 – Johnny Case Trio featuring Keith Wingate and Chris White @ Lili’s Bistro, 1310 W. Magnolia Ave. 6:30 – 10:30 PM. No cover. Call to make reservations: 817-877-0700

Wednesday, Nov. 14 – Johnny Case plays solo keyboard for “Jazz Night” @ Sapristi Bistro, 2418 Forest Park Blvd. 7:00 - 8:30 PM. Call to make reservations: 817-924-7231

Friday, Nov. 16 – Johnny Case Trio @ Lili’s Bistro, same info as previous Sat. @ Lili’s.

Saturday, Nov. 24 – Johnny Case Trio @ Lili’s Bistro. See details above (Sat. Nov.10)

Wednesday, Nov. 28 – Johnny Case plays solo piano @ Lili’s Bistro, 1310 W. Magnolia, Ft. Worth. 6:30 – 9:00.

You've Got To Hide Your Love Away

My big one can sure play 'em and sing 'em. We used to do this together. And "Two of Us."

Skutch @ The Cellar, 10.28.2012

Photo by Matt Hickey. (Click on image to make it bigger.)

ADDENDUM: Kramer and I are attempting not to cross the streams.

How I learned to stop worrying and love the Dead

The man that brought me here says (and I agree) that for most people, the '60s didn't happen until the '70s.

I was 12 at the cleavage of the decades, and turned 18 the year they ended the Vietnam Era draft. I remember it was almost like somebody threw a switch, and my age cohort shifted on a dime from at least a nominal concern for human rights and freedoms, and for peace, to dull careerist consumerism on one hand and hedonism on the other. "The Me Decade" sucked.

Back then, I espoused a disdain for "hippies," even while my ass-length hair and shitty goatee marked me as one to folks that didn't know me. Nowadays, when I hear folks of A Certain Age profiling skinny jeans-hornrimmed glasses-facial hair-and-porkpie hat wearers as "hipsters," I think it's funny the way we grow up to become the people we hated.

Not being a hippie, of course, I couldn't possibly be a Grateful Dead fan. Even when I was getting "experienced," I loathed the smug hipness of every Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test-and-Carlos Castaneda-quoting instant mystic, a type with which their claque -- enormous in the Tri-State (NY/NJ/CT) Area -- was riddled. On that score, I must concur with Mad Men's Don Draper, when he dismisses his recently turned-on coworker with a curt, "Oh Christ, Roger. Lots of people that haven't taken LSD know that."

But I loved (and still love) the Dead's 1970 album American Beauty, which was one of the pleasures that sustained me -- via the wonder of underground radio, which I'd just discovered -- through a few weeks I spent in bed the season when it was released with a respiratory complaint, a tank of oxygen, and a copy of The Lord of the Rings.

More earthy than cosmic, its impact derived from vocal harmonies as lilting as CSN's (but less precious) and songcraft as antique-sounding as the Band's (but more folk-bound than Robbie Robertson's crew, who secretly channeled Ray Charles and Bobby Bland while looking like Civil War throwbacks). Robert Hunter's Zen-like lyrics made hippie utopias like "Ripple" (" still water, when there is no pebble tossed or wind to blow") and "Box of Rain" ("This is all a dream we dreamed one afternoon long ago") sound mighty inviting.

Musically, Jerry Garcia showed his bluegrass roots on "Friend of the Devil," and he'd go on to make some of his best music with mandolinist David Grisman, who guested on the track. "Sugar Magnolia," sung by Bob Weir, just might just be the Dead's best song, while bluesman-wannabe Pigpen's "Operator" takes a leaf from the Lovin' Spoonful songbook, a relic of a time when "blues-rock" might refer to Piedmont as well as Chicago. "Brokedown Palace" could have been written by Stephen Foster, while the stately and majestic "Attics of My Life" sounds like an Anglican hymn. "Truckin'," an account of a drug bust, was inescapable after its release as a single in '71.

Although I didn't realize it at the time, I'd heard a couple of the songs on a PBS special that was broadcast around the time the album was released. The song that stuck in my mind the most from that broadcast was the Pigpen-sung "Easy Wind," which shifted back and forth between the Dead's signature loose-limbed syncopation and a conventional slow blues drag. Phil Lesh, a former jazz trumpeter and student of composer Luciano Berio, didn't lock it in the pocket like a typical rock bass player, which gave the Dead's jams an unusually free-flowing sound.

When I went off to college, I encountered scores of Deadheads, from the two coked-out kids down the hall who used to entertain the really neat girls by singing along and playing air guitar to Dead (and early Beatle) records they spun on their expensive stereo system, to some hippie-type guys I jammed with while wandering the wilderness from one band to another. But one of the most transcendent musical experiences of my life occurred one Sunday afternoon in springtime, when I was wandering around stoned in the park and stumbled upon a bunch of guys playing Dead music on a flatbed truck. I don't know who they were, but the memory of the gig is still with me, nearly 40 years later.

I saw the Dead live once, after I'd moved to Texas, with a friend of mine who was a fan. During the show, I'd look over at my friend after Garcia had played some particularly striking quicksilver run (his upper-register soloing had the same quaver to it as his singing voice did, but he played beautiful pedal steel-sounding things on straight guitar), and notice that he was asleep. When we were leaving the concert, I kidded him that I'd thought he was a fan and he replied, "The secret to being a Deadhead is knowing when to wake up."

In the late '80s, I got reminded of the Dead by experimental guitarist Henry Kaiser's album Those Who Know History Are Doomed To Repeat It on SST (!), which, in its CD version, included five Captain Beefheart songs as well as covers of the Dead's "Mason's Children" and "Dark Star/The Other One." (The Beefheart tunes aren't on the vinyl version I now own. Wha-wha.)

"Dark Star" is, of course, the Dead's magnum improvisational opus, and Kaiser's version got my attention at a time when I was obsessed with '70s Miles Davis and Funkadelic. When I got out of the service and moved back to the DFW area, I became a regular listener to KNON-FM's "Lone Star Dead" show, and hearing different versions of the piece gave me a better appreciation for the side of the Dead's music that's "psychedelic" in the sense of trying to approximate the experience, rather than just being the product of people who've had it.

(More recently, while jamming at a party with Terry Valderas and Robert Kramer, I experienced the shock of recognition when I heard them playing a theme from "The Other One" in the middle of one of our improv forays. So much so that I failed to pick up on it myself. Feh.)

Is there a place for the Dead in a world where, musically, Black Sabbath is the most influential band from 1970, while sartorially, the Band holds the same distinction? Closing in on two decades after Garcia's death, it's easier to separate their music from its social milieu (the rich ex-hippies that followed them wherever they played; remember, Ann Coulter was a Deadhead). The Dead were rehabilitated in the late, lamented Arthur magazine, but sadly, Daniel Chamberlin's appreciation and a couple of mixtapes by Greg Davis haven't survived in their online archives. [ADDENDUM: Arthur's Dead revisionism subsequently resurfaced here and here.]

Myself, I still have the copy of American Beauty I bought when I was a snotnose and recently salvaged from the wreckage of my sister's marriage. The album before it, Workingman's Dead, has my favorite song of theirs, "Uncle John's Band," but also one I don't ever care to hear again, "Casey Jones" ("Drivin' that train, high on cocaine..."). You also owe it to yourself, in my opinion, to hear at least one version of "Dark Star." You could do worse than starting with the one on Live/Dead. So there.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Ben Trail's gravesite

I received an email this morning from Dock Burke, a friend of my TCJC writing mentor, B.D. Trail.

Stash Dauber,

I just read your thoughtful piece about Ben Trail in which you mention  you would like to visit his graveside:

I want to find out where he's buried, so that someday I can pay him a visit. I imagine that I'll leave him a package of cherry sours and some little aromatic cigars, and say to him (as he does to a deceased academic in "In Memoriam: Professor Maenchen-Helfen"), "Rest easy in your grave, for you rode with Attila."

Ben is buried in the Bryan City Cemetery in Bryan, Texas in the Marburger Family plot which includes his maternal grandparents, his mother, and an aunt.

I am attaching a photo of his marker.


Dock Burke

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Stoogeaphilia - "Marquee Moon"

Our most popular song for exactly one year: from my 50th birthday at the Wreck Room in 2007 to Sir Steffin's "retirement" at the Moon in 2008. He's invisible in shadow in this vid of the first time we ever played it, but he sure did light up them strings.