Sometimes

Fellini FrontSometimes you visit family and friends in the wooded, open-air state in which you grew up. Sometimes you cry from laughing so hard, you wear stocking hats in the early afternoon, you run the same route you did in High School Cross-Country, and sometimes you eat a whole, 1/3 box of Honey Maid graham crackers in one sitting.

Sometimes you throw away tiny mementos of your childhood to make room for tiny mementos of your adulthood, you discover a workman’s jacket your grandfather used to wear, you weave and dodge deer crossing rural roads at night, you attempt to snap pictures of the house cat chasing a chipmunk from the kitchen to the dining room and back, while your parents scurry from room to room attempting to get the poor zoo creature out of the house, you enjoy a severe thunderstorm, you visit your grandmother’s new apartment, you adjust to the idea of your grandmother living in an apartment, you drink countless, hearty cocktails, and eat at all your favorite restaurants that Los Angeles reluctantly ignores.

Sometimes you visit Half Price Books and find the soundtrack to Fellini’s 8 ½ for $2.99, you get your picture taken with your favorite MLB mascot, you delightfully peruse your parents’ record collection, you laugh ad nauseam with friends you haven’t seen in nearly 8 years, you play with cats, and you create new memories with which to bring up and enjoy in the future.

Sometimes you play Atari and drink Wisconsin’s finest beer with your girlfriend while laughing hysterically, you enjoy a bucket of balls at the driving range with your father, you play games at the kitchen table and your mother adorably invents a number of priceless one-liners, you build a bonfire, you visit the lake in which you learned to swim, and you wonder why you don’t visit more often.

Sometimes… it’s good to go home.

I Just Started Hatin’ Cheatin’ Songs Today (AKA, Arguably the Best Album Cover of All-Time)

Moooooooooe BandyVery few albums capture the soul-crushing heartache brought on by the ailing dark side of love. “I just found out my woman is the devil” is a picture-perfect tagline for this seminal 1974 release that not only defines the rural mindset of a love-lost victim, it also calls for, rather DEMANDS a visual representation (via means of album art) so classic, so surreal, that it goes down in history as one of the best concepts of all-time.

Moe Bandy… the name in and of itself brings (emotional) mountains to mere rubble. With a scorned look, and a drunk, blackened heart, Mr. Bandy sits with the company of sorrow and misery, amidst a muted, bruised, and tattered jukebox full of shattered, and as you’ll notice, empty, Evan Williams bottles. When the cause of your broken heart is outside your bottle-throwing range, take it out on the jukebox.

I Just Started Hatin’ Cheatin’ Songs Today is, as you can imagine, two parts love-sick country, one part hurtin’ western, and 24-parts OUTSTANDING. Whether you have the stomach for long, drawn-out whimpers of melancholy depression or not, this album is nothing short of a necessity, if only for the unparalleled cover.

Dear Mr. Bandy… I wish I could tell you that things will get better, but as you well know… they won’t. Have another bottle, on the house.

Happy Birthday, Mother Groove!

Betsi Two-StepShe’s known for an uncounted amount of selfless, kind gestures, for possessing an incredibly energetic personality, and for being unbelievably thoughtful. But above all else, she’s known for the a little jig we call, the Betsi Two-Step.

Play a song… any song… and if there’s a backbeat, you can bet your pulled-pork sandwich that the Betsi Two-Step will be out in full force. For the few of you who aren’t in the know, the Betsi Two-Step is a rhythmic groove-dance that crosses the Riverdance with the Electric Boogaloo, but with excessive grace and charm (complete with an atmosphere of uncontrollable merriment and boisterous laughter). You know, that when the Betsi Two-Step makes its appearance, you’re at exactly the right place at exactly the right time.

I’ve tried the Betsi Two-Step, and failed… miserably. It’s an art form not unlike poetry, stained-glass murals, and/or the delicacies of a delicious seven-course meal. It’s certainly a sight to behold, and is as contagious as the Bubonic Plague, but you know, in that insanely wonderful way.

The Betsi Two-Step is often imitated, but very seldom is the proper justice served. Many things are best left to the masters… and the Betsi Two-Step is positively no exception.

Happy birthday, Mom! Thank you for all your continued support, for your enormous heart, for your infectious laugh, for your open arms, and for creating a little rhythmic hustle that we’ll never forget! Now, let’s start the music and get this party started!

First Artists Presents: 311 with No Doubt (Saturday, September 16, 1995)

311 Stub311 catches a ton of flack. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve thrown my fair share of insulting tongues towards this Omaha band… but before I wrote off this relax-happy, genre-bending five-piece musical act (for reasons I’m not willing to explain at the moment), they acted as a brief, three year favorite for me and a few of my close, rural Wisconsin friends.

1995 seems like a dream being quietly suffocated by a nightmare these days. I guess I was a sophomore in high school, but I really can’t remember. All I can remember from this show is 1) Gwen Stefani was nearly booed off the stage (what the hell was No Doubt doing opening for 311 in the first place?), 2) an avid fan attempted to pass a jay past a security guard to frontman Nick Hexum. Nick dropped it, then politely ordered the security guard to fetch the fallen, illegal substance, which the portly guard did. Nick took a deep drag, and then gave the doob back to the ecstatic fan. Oh, and I also remember catching 37 types of hell from a judgmental girlfriend for attending a concert where such “barbaric” things took place.

Rural Wisconsin can be a bit of a drag sometimes, know what I mean?

Saturday, April 21, 2001

RFTC at The MetroThe day: Saturday, April 21st, 2001. The venue: Chicago’s Metro. The event: International Noise Conspiracy opening up for Rocket from the Crypt.

It had been two, LONG years since I’d last seen Rocket from the Crypt in concert. I had been living in Milwaukee for little over a year at this point, and in that time, when San Diego’s finest came within driving distance (essentially any venue in any state bordering Wisconsin), you dropped whatever you were doing and you got your ass to the show.

This was the third time I’d seen Rocket from the Crypt, and before even fueling up the car to head some 90+ miles into Illinois territory, I had already made up my mind that, amid the enormous amount of live acts I’d seen up to that point, no other experience had topped the raw and ecstatic vigor of Rocket from the Crypt. I’ve seen a plethora of shows since that cloudy spring day, and my assessment has since proved to be 100% accurate.

Being an avid Refused fan and never having the esteemed opportunity to see them perform live, my youthful self was barely able to contain the restless fever of seeing Refused’s frontman, Dennis Lyxzén and his new, post-Refused band, The (International) Noise Conspiracy. To see a fraction of Refused open up for the greatest live act I had, and would ever see, was enough to blow the feeble mind of my 21-year-old self.

RFTC StubI escaped the evening intact, but only barely. It would be exactly 3 months (July 21, 2001) until I saw Rocket from the Crypt again, and I had to close the Hollywood Video where I worked an hour and a half early in order to do so, but that’s a story for another time.

Groove on the Run

BluebirdJust having returned from a 3.8 mile run through my hometown (and back), 1973’s Band on the Run seemed like an appropriate choice for this post-run, early Monday afternoon.

I’ve only recently begun collecting solo Beatles’ work, but my father owns just about everything, so for the next week or so, I’ll enjoy perusing through his Beatles-heavy collection and making a well-thought-out checklist.

George Harrison’s Wonderwall Music is next on the platter, but will more than likely NOT yield a post. Busy day over here… off and running!

In-A-Gadda-Da-Velveeta

Iron HalftimeNothing, and I quite literally mean NOTHING says Sunday afternoon football and snacks with family and loved ones like the throat-piercing hook of Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.

While my folks and SO are upstairs enjoying halftime snacks and drinks, I’m riding the psychedelic roller coaster in the basement (man, do I miss basements), enjoying some homemade sangria, and of course, this 17-minute opus.

Halftime should be long enough for an entire album, don’t you think? Anyway, I hope everybody is enjoying this wet, rainy Midwestern day as much as I am.

Happy Birthday, Big Guy!

Abbey RoadI was a needle-nosed 12-year-old when I endured my first, of many, very important lessons in the ways of essential music listening. That topic… The Beatles. The coach… my father.

Back when my only CDs were Gonna Make You Sweat by C+C Music Factory and Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em by the illustrious MC Hammer, you can imagine my childish shock upon hearing Maxwell’s Silver Hammer and Polythene Pam for the first time, let alone I Want You (She’s So Heavy). It was the summer of 1992, and all I listened to, all summer, was 1969’s Abbey Road. It was a stern suggestion from my father, and was a crucial, and unforgettable introduction to the boundless universe of planet Beatle.

Needless to say, that summer changed my life. I hit the Beatles accelerator (on my VW Bug… sorry, had to) and have yet to look back.

Thanks for the scholarly advice, dad, and for opening the door to a lifetime of euphoric, and essential music. Happy birthday, Big Guy!

Good Lovin’

The RascalsGenerally, I’m not a fan of spoon-fed Greatest Hits albums. Personally, I feel too much vital material is all-too-often left on the cutting room floor in order to make room for the handful of songs everybody and their brother has heard several thousands of times on commercial radio. That being said, and with limited options while on holiday, I present Time Peace by The Rascals.

I certainly can’t complain too much about Greatest Hits albums. I own SEVERAL of them, including this particular 14-track compilation. Originally billed as The Young Rascals, this “blue-eyed soul” band saw three #1 hits with Good Lovin’, Groovin’, and People Got to Be Free. They disbanded in 1972, and had to wait a quarter decade to be officially immortalized as rock n’ roll Gods upon their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Another gem (I almost typed Jem… remember the 80s cartoon, Jem?!) in my parents’ collection, Time Peace is a great introduction into the mischievous world of The Rascals. It is strongly suggested, as with any other undiscovered act, that an unseasoned listener start with an artist’s first album, and work through that catalog in chronological order. But hey, what the hell do I know?

Hey, Rich!!!

Little RichardCertain quintessential artists, I’m ashamed to admit, go overlooked from time to time. And sometimes, that “time to time” duration, which started out as an innocent week or two, grows into a decade of selfish neglect.

I’d seen and heard of Little Richard in the wee days of my youth, and his story was one of the first that drew sympathy and frustration (as far as sympathy for the record industry goes), even at an early age. He was famous, but not as famous as he should have been, if you catch what I’m throwing down.

Little Richard!!! is both an essential compilation of this master’s incredible work, as well as an album in my parents’ record collection. When I get back to Los Angeles, Little Richard will FINALLY get my enthusiastic and undivided attention.

You Never Forget Your First

Baby PhonoIt’s not every day an obsessive-compulsive collector is reunited with his first turntable. Today was that immortal day. While on holiday in the muggy bayou that is (currently) Southern Wisconsin, I (actually, my father found it) discovered a crucial piece of my record loving history, this late 70s, Disco Mouse, Sears, Roebuck and Co. phonograph.

Still in working, albeit cosmetically challenged, condition, this little guy provided countless hours of Pac-Man adventures, abridged versions of my favorite Star Wars, and Star Wars related fantasies (think The Ewoks Join the Fight), and spun my very first picture disc, 1977’s Main Street Electrical Parade. (It was most recently the spinner of Louie Louie by The Kingsmen, Volare by Dean Martin, and Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin. Oh how times have changed.)

A collector exhausts many a turntable throughout their lives. Some rest in unrepaired ruin, while others lay in storage for over 30 years, waiting to once again offer a plethora of new memories.

Many thanks to my folks for introducing me the wonderful world of recorded music.

When the Block’s A’Rockin’ Don’t Come A’Knockin’

BeatsBlock Rockin’ Beats was the first Chem Bros track I’d ever heard. Stupidly mistaking it for Hip Hop, I was properly schooled, then introduced to the slam-happy genre that is Big Beat.

Chances are, you’ve heard this Grammy winning song on TV, in a film, or blasting from the alley around the corner from where you get those delicious French pastries. If you haven’t enjoyed this, which I’m convinced is the Chemical Brothers’ most popular track, you should take it for a spin around the ol’ block.

Editor’s note: I’ll be out of the office on holiday for a bit and will, obviously, be away from my music library. I haven’t decided exactly what I’ll post about, but come hell or higher gasoline prices, I’ll post something after every sunup. I’m sincerely looking forward to getting the hell out of Los Angeles for a little while.

Play it Loud, Mutha!

TSTwisted Sister, to a five-year-old in rural Wisconsin, was a bit of an eye-opening spectacle. Back before the (ridiculously) small town in which I grew up (1200 open air loving residents) collectively banned MTV from the township limits, the roots of my rebellious nature were beginning to seep into the ground of my shielded childhood. Twisted Sister’s classic video to We’re Not Gonna Take It was always a personal favorite, for many adolescent reasons, and it acts as a significant, early-adulthood bridge to the burgeoning days of my foolish innocence.

DeeSo, I’m an early 20-something attending the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and working at Hollywood Video. Remember brick and mortar video stores? Neither do I. Anyway, I was closing up the store one hot, summer evening and a guy approached the check-out with a movie I’ve long since forgotten. I greeted this man with both a courteous smile, and curious stare. The man was Mark Metcalf, the legendary barking father from the We’re Not Gonna Take It video. I didn’t call him out, as you can possibly imagine, celebrities of any caliber, NEVER walk into a Hollywood Video on Milwaukee’s north side. I worked there for another year or so, and never saw Mr. Metcalf again, but I’ll never forget that immediate wave of childhood warmth felt only for those 30-odd seconds.

Look, I’m just gonna go on the record and say that Stay Hungry still holds up! I don’t care who mocks, scorns, maligns, or even shin-kicks. My favoritism towards Dee Snider, Mark Metcalf, Twisted Sister, and this striking album is not unlike a bonfire that’s been burning for nearly 30 years, and every delicate spin of this angst-ridden album adds more fuel to that never-ending flame.Play it Loud, Mutha!

GameDay 2K13!

SamsonWelcome to GameDay 2K13, kids! Ok yes, officially (American) football started last Thursday, but the first Sunday of the NFL season is the ceremonial GameDay, so that Thursday garbage can go suck an egg as far as I’m concerned.

I need to admit a few things about today’s album pick. First off, I’d never heard of Samson when I purchased Head Tactics. I only paid $0.99 for it, so uncharted territory came at very little cost. Second, I was (stupidly) deceived by (one of the many) advertising ploys promoted on the cover. “Featuring Bruce Dickinson,” to me, meant that this album would contain plenty of cowbell, as, well that SNL sketch of Blue Öyster Cult recording (Don’t Fear) the Reaper was, after all, historically accurate, was it not? What I found, by listening to the 10 tracks, and by researching the band, was something that certainly cannot be tackled in a throwaway post such as this.

ThunderstickHas anybody ever heard of Thunderstick? He’s Samson’s drummer. Here is a picture of Thunderstick. Say hello, Thunderstick. “Grrrrrrrrrrrrr!” I didn’t notice this back picture until just recently, and I can’t wait to dive into the enigmatic world of Samson, their drummer Thunderstick, the REAL Bruce Dickinson, and the band the REAL Bruce Dickinson went on to help make famous, Iron Maiden. All that is for another time.

Happy GameDay 2K13, everyone!

Happy 77th Birthday, Mr. Holly

Buddy Holly LivesToday, Charles Hardin Holley would have been 77 years young. In the 22 years he walked this Earth, the legendary trailblazer, in the most modest of senses, achieved, in terms of profound influential force, more than any other artist ever to wade in the fervent pool of rock and roll. The Stones, the Beatles, and the giant led balloon would certainly not exist, in any fathomable form, had Buddy Holly not first set foot upon that timeless and immortal stage.

The GreatI don’t listen to near as much Buddy Holly these days. This will be amended… starting today.

Happy 77th Birthday, Mr. Holly!

Frankie Say War! Hide Yourself

AnnihalationIs that a Ronald Reagan look-alike grabbing his nether regions in apocalyptic agony? Why, yes, it is. Following the international success of their first single, Relax, Frankie Goes to Hollywood released the anti-war, half tongue-in-cheek, half a bit-too-close-to-home, funk-friendly dance anthem, Two Tribes.

Accompanied by an outrageous video, Two Tribes broke a whole bunch of UK chart records that, at the time, I was completely oblivious to. To be fair, in 1984 my daily routine consisted of dropping my Bespin Han Solo action figure from a covered bridge in a suicidal leap just in time for my electric train to speed by and run him over. Han survived, and was able to go on fighting the good fight (that was, until Joe & Cobra infiltrated my childhood just a few short years later).

ReaganFocusing on the hyper-exaggerated (he said jokingly) possibility of global nuclear war, Frankie & crew regurgitated a positive product from an extremely negative scenario. If you ask me, and you didn’t, Two Tribes withstood the test of time, and should serve as a welcome accompaniment to any record collection, regardless of which side of the fence your political beliefs may fall.

Daft or Dumb

Stormy PinknessOkay, either I’m extremely daft, or my short-term memory is completely shot! I’ve had this (ahem) “Limited Edition 4 Track 12” Featuring Daddy-O Remix + Colour ‘Flood’ Poster” (phew) of the gonna-break-your-head-it’s-so-damned-catchy single, Istanbul (Not Constantinople) by a personal favorite, They Might Be Giants for more years than I’m willing to admit. Fact.

White Tornado My FootOkay? So what, you ask. Well, upon perusing my collecting looking for something to catch my ear, I noticed this nice little sticker indicating how this 12” originally came with a poster. Remember when posters were a thing? Shamefully, I do too. Anywho, not thinking much about it, I nabbed it and offered a whimsical yet vaguely hopeful gander to confirm what I already knew… there would be no poster. Imagine my jaw-dropping surprise when, there was, in fact, a “Colour ‘Flood’ Poster!” It was almost like rediscovering a thumb! Okay, maybe not that monumental, but now all I have to do is convince my GF that our apartment needs, no, DESERVES a Colour ‘Flood’ Poster. My money says the poster will stay right where it is.

Great! Now I’m on a They Might Be Giants fix!

On a side note, if you play the beginning of Flood at 45rpm, the intro sounds like something straight out of Munchkin Land. Just sayin’.

The Journey

PG Office 1_smallerTrying to draw a roadmap of an individual’s personal music highway is like trying to find the island from Lost. There may be a straight line, that lasts for maybe a few weeks, like say my current Tim Hardin kick, but then the familiar landscape disappears into a dark, and uncomfortably moist alley of say, the Wax Trax! catalog, or God forbid, the salivating sounds of the time-sucking Minutemen. Both destinations I know and love all too well.

Like never-ending roots stemming from a strong and unmoving base, our own personal music paths are as organic and ever expanding as a giant Sycamore. Is that by design, or are we fishing bobbers floating atop a steady stream awaiting a dip below? (Waiting for Country Joe and the Fish perhaps? I had to.)

Ok, fine, enough with the metaphors. This will never happen, but I’d LOVE to attempt a personal map of my music listening history. I have no doubt it would take me several years, would necessitate several “gray areas,” and would likely require the X, Y, and dreaded Z axes. It’s all coming back to me now… I should have paid more attention in Math class.

The Personality Sound of the Sixties!

Sound of the SixtiesAccording to Liberty Records Inc. (Los Angeles 28, California), Martin Denny’s Exotic Percussion, Around the World With the Chipmunks, Bud and Travis in Concert, and 60 Years of Music America Hates Best are definitively, the personality sounds of the 1960s.

Forget about The Kinks, 13th Floor Elevators, Tim Hardin, Silver Apples, The Monks, Them, The Zombies, and the man in black… and for that matter, forget about the entire UK Encroachment (that’s what it’s called, right?), because Johnny Burnette, The Fleetwoods, and Bobby Vee are decade-defining personalities that history has proved to be as monumental as the title of this record label.

Liberty Records, like a symbolic statue of freedom, knew personality when they heard it. And thank goodness, because I don’t know what I’d do without ­all the tree-hugging, acid-dropping, tie-dyed skirt wearing, marvelous wonders provided by Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan.