On tomorrow's "Retroactive" radio program (10am Pacific Time/U.S.): The All-Michigan/Motown special.
It's a blast from my past, and from yours, too, no matter where you live, because music from that great state has touched everyone. Two hours of Rock'n'Soul from Michigan folks, people who moved there (like Marvin Gaye) or just made records there. Texas may have a little deeper historical importance (T-Bone Walker, Milton Brown, Bob Wills, Ornette Coleman) and songwriters coming out of every crevice, but Michigan is awfully close in terms of cultural impact.
It started as a tribute to mark the birth anniversary of Motown's incredible bassist,
James Jamerson, Jr. (1936-1983) during the second full year of my "Retroactive"
program in 1996. Preparing for the show unleashed warm memories of growing up in Michigan, so I decided to keep going and dig up my Michigan records from every genre and add them to the fab Motown set that initiated the whole idea.
Now I know that some Michiganders would prefer to be called "Michiganians" because they don't like the goose connotation. Nothing wrong with geese--I like being labeled a Michigander, or at least a former resident. It sure beats the term Ineffective Politician.
If you've got comments on my KAOS radio show, or don't wish to see your blog input published, or you're an old pal trying to contact me, my email address is: email@example.com.
I am, as usual, creeped out by technology and what's supposedly good for me. I'd go back to pen and paper (not to mention vinyl records and the way they were fairly priced) anyday, as I've wasted more time waiting for something to reboot or get back online for hours and hours if you total it up. Yeah, there are some positives about the computer age. Right now, only misery comes to mind.
Cancelled a myspace account about eight hours after getting one; it's tacky. Maybe I'll do it again once I see a description of my pals' interests in those little cutesy boxes and they read "anti-war activist" or "anarchist." (Oh, that's right--since I've cancelled, I'm not allowed to return. Good!)
Who knows? Maybe Facebook will happen someday (I'm on Facebook as part of my weekly commercial radio gig at KXXO/Olympia) . If you like it, swell, but I just can't be pushed into that stuff--I don't want myspace/i'm spaced/distaste, or facebook/mistook/get rooked. Didn't want my MTV, either.
Thanks for understanding. Email works fine.
Just enough of this came over the radio for me to determine that it was a radio host becoming annoyed with his producer. And it went something like this:
"Hey man, you're eating on my show! It's only a four hour program, man. Either eat before the show, or after the show!"
It's not too late to enact a New Years Resolution, and one of them ought to be for radio stations who occasionally do "theme" sets. They ought to put away the computer printouts and feel the music, that's what.
Yesterday, one of those tired syndicated shows played songs about dancing, and it was
"Dancing This" and "Dancing That"--looked like they just put the word in their computer search engine or viewed a music store listing of titles to come up with their content. Time and time again, the music redeemed the rather blase attitude of whomever structures these kinds of sets, but the half-assed planning was obvious.
One reason I dug Dave Marsh and Kevin Stein's "The Book of Rock Lists" so much is that you had to be a Rock'n'Soul maniac to put it together: looking at a bunch of song titles alone for "research" wasn't gonna get it, and the love that runs through that book is evident. In an age when anybody can go to the computer and find source material for mass consumption, it's much more penetrating to list what's really at the heart of the music we love.
The dreary show I mentioned would never have the smarts to include the Kinks' "Something Better Beginning" in their set of "dancing" songs. Here's to everyone whose ongoing resolution is to go that extra mile in whatever they do.
Holy crap! I've got The Beatles in Mono box at long last!
Yeah, I know it came out way back on 09/09/09. Good for you--you've got what used to be called petty cash, so you could spring for the mono (or stereo) box if you felt like it. I couldn't and tried to convince myself over several weeks that I didn't really need or want that damned thing.
But I got the itch late last fall and...here we go! Some radio stations were giving it away! Alas, the competition there was insane. Next, I saw that the syndicated radio show "Beatle Brunch" (they really should make that plural) was holding a contest. All I had to do was just sign up. Then I found out what the signup was for: receiving their emails is free, but to enter the contest, you need a yearly membership in the Beatle Brunch Club...39 bucks. You've got to be kidding. That would buy me two of the remastered stereo albums that are not part of the mono box, Abbey Road and Let It Be.
It finally dawned on me that I could get together some old records and CDs I no longer wanted and get credit for them at my local music store (Rainy Day Records) in my silly, ambitious quest. Some folks aren't lucky enough to have a store in their town anymore. That's a sad thing.
Naw, I wasn't giving away my collection. The most rare music I have will eventually be placed on an online auction. In the meantime, I had a ton of records I now own on CD, and other items just taking up space, like 12 inch singles. Cool stuff, but I certainly could nudge myself to part with lengthy singles and a bunch of rootsy stuff I say I'm going to eventually play on my radio show but never do. I'll never stop enjoying vinyl, but looking around at shelf after shelf of it made me realize that I've got too much. After a lot of toiling and deciding what I should keep and what I could stand to lose, I had enough store credit to get the mono box.
Anyway, it's just brilliant to hear The Beatles the way I enjoyed them when I was so young: Ringo's metallic high-hat on most of the early tracks; George's ringing and then harsh guitar; John and Paul's emotional, incredibly accomplished singing. And group dynamics that leave you breathless--power, melody and so much more, in natural mono and not fake stereo. This is where I came in.
Details later. Wow! I feel so alive. Hey, did I tell you that I've got The Beatles in Mono?
Oh no. I've heard about this. Is 3D (as in Three Dimensional) going to be the big hype
job of 2010?
I caught a DJ telling listeners that "you really need 3D glasses to fully enjoy the Grammy experience--the Grammys will be airing soon."
The movie industry is poised to push 3D technology on us, so be ready for the big sell that undoubtably will be most noticeable on the night of the Grammys. Did you get your High Definition radio yet? I'll bet you didn't. It's insulting the way big business pimps things we don't need; the HD radio selling phrase was, "It's time to upgrade."
Sorry, I don't follow orders from advertisements (but excuse me while I go to the fridge and get something).
As lame as the Grammy Awards so often are, I always find something moving in the presentation. It could be an unusual musical pairing, or a tribute to a music icon who has left the building of life, etc. I'm cynical about trends, not music itself. If someone really needs 3D glasses to enjoy the Grammys, they're not truly into music,
A devastating time for the people of Haiti now, and in a different way, the U.S. media is almost as hopeless. In the latter case, it's a mess we've created ourselves.
It's unbelievable that Rush Limbaugh would accuse President Obama of shifting Red Cross donations intended for the earthquake victims in Haiti to the Democratic Party cache. But that's what we can expect from this one-dimensional broadcaster, one of the nation's most mean spirited people pretending to be a nice guy.
So I'm escaping to the music of the 4 Seasons, as my daughter Mirelle took my mom
(Shirley) to see the touring production of "Jersey Boys" last night, and I've been playing those old tunes. By the way, Frankie Valli has had hits and the 4 Seasons have had a lot more, but there's never been a hit credited to "Frankie Valli & the 4 Seasons."
The 4 Seasons (my Billboard book does not use the word "Four") aren't on Classic Hits radio much anymore, except for their 1970s stuff. The 1960s tracks are probably considered to be based on doo-w0p too much, which radio has an aversion to (just like anything that came before the Beatles). It's a real shame that these fabulous records, full of dynamics and dimension, are missing from the airwaves. The percussion alone is enough to make you smile.
"Dawn (Go Away)," "Let's Hang On!" and "Rag Doll" ought to be all over Oldies radio.
The oboe that ends "Big Man In Town" was my initiation to that instrument (which really touched me years later when I heard how Nick Drake used it), and "Tell It to the Rain" is one punchy track (such a masterful production), which I still have on a 45rpm single.
Get your copy of "Beggin' " (1967) out if you have one--and play it! That is by far the most underrated 4 Seasons record, with nagging guitar (similar to the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On") and unexpectedly funky bass and piano, not to mention Valli's desperate vocal. There's a French language version by Madcon that's currently getting airplay in Canada, but it can't compare.
I really miss pop music with a kick, and the 4 Seasons had it. Wish they were on the radio, rather than that hatemonger.
On my Saturday program this week: The 80th birthday celebration of Bobby Blue Bland, whose stellar catalog is going to be featured (plus a recent cover version).
Singers who can go from a whisper to a wail--and can do it with grace and vocal control-- get my utmost admiration, and Bobby is one of the all-time masters. Most versions of "Turn On Your Lovelight" are laughable compared to his (covers of the song fail to include those almost out-of-control horns, or find a strong replacement for them in terms of excitement).
As a kid, I was attracted most to uptempo songs, but in another phase of my life, it's the ballads that really bring Bland into the upper ranking of vocalists for me. "Two Steps From the Blues," "Stormy Monday," "Lead Me On," and "I'll Take Care of You" are all from his seminal mid-'50s to mid-'60s tenure at Houston's Duke Records, but even by the 1980s, with "Members Only" (recorded for Malaco), he found newer, reflective ways to communicate.
While in his early seventies, Bland was still recording often, but he's slowed down lately. It's going to be great to put some absolute classics on the air this week.
"I go to the movie, and I go downtown
Somebody keep telling me, 'don't hang around'
It's been a long time comin'
A long time comin' but I know
A change gonna come. Oh yes it will"
--Sam Cooke, "A Change Is Gonna Come"
(1964. Verse deleted at the insistence of RCA Victor
and not released until 1986)
Although I barely scratched the surface today in my Bobby Charles tribute on my "Retroactive" radio show, it sure felt nice, if bittersweet.
I played Bobby's original "Later, Alligator" (re-titled "See You Later, Alligator" by Bill Haley & his Comets), which he cut in 1955, plus Ray Charles doing "The Jealous Kind" and Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth's "Tennessee Blues." That left out Fats Domino's "Walking to New Orleans," Clarence "Frogman" Henry's "But I Do" and his recent work with Dr. John, but I'll be getting to Fats when it's his birthday next month. Fats and Bobby had that Louisiana feeling down.
Hearing these lovely songs that he wrote, especially the ballads, reminds me that Bobby Charles was more than just a record label credit on some classic tracks--he was like the Hoagy Carmichael of Rock'n'Soul.