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.