I've been enjoying the Lefsetz newsletter for most of the year--just put "Bob Lefsetz" in your search engine and I'm sure you'll be able to get it via email.
Anyway, the newsletter is brutally honest commentary about what's going on in the music biz, and of course I don't always agree with it. He's a really good writer but doesn't know how to use anything but commas for punctuation, so if you're looking for pure journalistic poetry a la Greil Marcus or Peter Guralnick, forget it. But I learn a lot every time I get an edition of the newsletter.
You all probably remember when, sometime in the '80s, word got out that Van Halen insisted that their promoter provide them with M&Ms backstage at their shows--
M&Ms, but none colored brown. Everyone laughed, and called Van Halen a prima donna band, spoiled rock stars, all that stuff.
But in reading the Lefsetz newsletter the other day, one of the people writing in said that the reason the band requested no brown M&Ms was to see how well the concert promoter followed the rider in the contract. If the promoter noted something as minute as their request about backstage candy, then the band could relax a bit about the more
pressing details--those would be taken care of. This makes sense, eh?
It just goes to show that we shouldn't really slam artists--even those we love to hate--as much as the leeches higher up in the music industry machine. Yeah, that's it.
Somehow, in the midst of yet another wretched baseball season in Seattle, there's always a glimpse of what looks like a bright future. Accomplished and developing players still come up with something enjoyable to experience almost every night. Maybe I'm just hopelessly hooked on baseball, because this glimmer of excitement pertains to a last place team.
Wednesday was really special as the Mariners' ace, Felix Hernandez, became the third youngest pitcher since 1952 to record 1,000 career strikeouts. It's been a blast to watch him all year. Though just 10-10, his ERA (earned run average) is something like
2.40, and he continues to be among the most feared hurlers in the game, as he blew past both the Yankees and the Red Sox (Wednesday) in two of his best and nastiest starts. What a pitcher.
Mariners third baseman Jose Lopez was asked afterward if he realized during the game that Hernandez had achieved that remarkable feat of quickly getting to 1,000 strikeouts. "Oh yeah," said Lopez. "I count them."
It's a nice morning in Olympia, Washington. Shame on me for discovering guitarist
Ava Mendoza so late. She's played with many musicians for years, and has released her first solo record, Shadow Stories (Resipiscent Records), in 2010. What variety--everything from distorted experimental and noise to light and swinging versions of old time songs such as "Goodnight Irene."
Mendoza's album is a nice backdrop for the book of interviews from "Seconds" magazine
I'm going through, .45 Dangerous Minds (edited by Steven Blush & George Petros,
published by Creation, 2005). The cast of interviewed people ranges from John Waters to Lyndon LaRouche to the MC5's Wayne Kramer--and several totally seedy, strange
folks who are or were dangerous indeed.
But I always can temper the disturbing parts with fun. From a 1995 David Bowie interview (where DB ends up quoting someone else):
"Seconds": Is there any music you've consciously avoided?
Bowie: Country & Western. I have no idea how to get anywhere near that. When they
were carting Buddy Rich into the hospital, the doctor leaned over and asked if he was allergic to anything and he said, "Yeah, Country & Western."
Hey...I actually did a good deed today.
I was in the food court at Costco when I spotted a boy about 12 years old, carrying a piece of pizza that he'd just bought. It fell off his skimpy plate and onto the soiled tile floor. He was embarrassed and a bit miffed with himself and went to throw it away. I told him that he should take the pizza back to where he paid for it and they'd probably give him another one.
He looked at me a little out of sorts and that's exactly how I would have felt at that age
--not assertive in the least. Then the boy's mom walked over, looking a bit disappointed, and I told her the same thing I suggested to him. He came back with a new, clean (unless you count the grease and cholesterol) hunk of food and she thanked me.
Since finding a job has been a disappointing thing so far, I've been volunteering at my local library. In the break room today was a piece of paper with several jokes on it, built around wordplay--"wordplay" is a nice way to put it. Dig this one:
"If a quiz is quizzical, what is a test?"
Who says they don't make good albums anymore?
Bobby Bare, Jr.--A Storm, a Tree, My Mother's Head (Thirty Tigers): No reason to pity Bobby Bare, Jr. for having to dodge his famous father's shadow--he's extremely good at it as an artist in his own right. This is a record full of punch and surprise, with barely a trace of country music at all. In fact, the dark humor and superior dynamics throughout remind me of classic rock but without the hollow, crusty aftertaste of what you hear over and over on today's corporate radio. My early favorite on A Storm is "Swollen But Not the Same."
The Plimsouls--Live! Beg Borrow and Steal (Alive/Naturalsound): Recorded on Halloween night at the Whisky a Go Go in 1981, the band led by Peter Case is riveting, if not at the top of their game. It's a meaty balance of classic originals ("Shaky City," "A Milion Miles Away") and a rash of fab covers (Little Richard and Gary U.S. Bonds, where they're joined by the Fleshtones). Hooks, drive, melody--the band had it all. Worth the thirty year wait.
Bettye LaVette--Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook (Anti-): Is there a wiser,
tougher vocalist than Ms. LaVette? With the exception of a few dull choices (songs by Elton John and the Moody Blues), LaVette brings a new dimension and richness to every old warhorse she touches. "It Don't Come Easy" gets a swampy treatment while the covers of "All My Love" and "Salt of the Earth" are compelling indeed. Don't forget that LaVette recorded Free's "The Stealer" back in '72, so the triumph of Interpretations is hardly unexpected. This project may have been inspired by the live version of the Who's "Love Reign O'er Me," performed in December 2008 at the Kennedy Center Honors, which concludes Interpretations. If you were watching that telecast, you'll remember that three of the honorees, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend and Barbra Streisand, were sitting in the same row while LaVette delivered her staggering performance of the song. According to Townshend, Streisand turned to him and asked, "Did you really write that?"
Random events, coincidences, etc., are always a fun part of my life.
Walking into the pet store store Saturday, one of my favorite all-time Soul tunes was
on their music system: "Open the Door to Your Heart" by Darrell Banks (Revilot Records, 1966). You might not say that Banks was a brilliant vocalist, or that the song is
remarkable, but could that guy emote. What a joy to hear it at random.
It was also just by chance that Gina and I ended up at a great restaurant following a meeting she had in Tacoma. Next door to the coffee place where she met with her webmeister was an interesting looking restaurant (Asado's, on Sixth Street) with one end of the building open. The steak there was out of this world--it ended up being one of our favorite discoveries. So then, a week later, I've got a Seattle sports radio talk show on in the background, but not really listening because they were hyping the over-hyped phenomenon known as football, and I was too lazy to get up and change the station. Somehow I heard someone mention Asado's in Tacoma and how the steak there was fantastic. What are the odds of going out for dinner infrequently but catching raves (it wasn't a recorded or live ad, just a mention) about the same place on the radio?
I had Hank Williams on the car stereo and was out doing some errands Friday. I was grocery shopping and a woman older than me--perhaps Hank was from her favorite era of music--returned her grocery cart to the bunch about the same time I did. She was slightly hunched over, but still walking briskly. I watched her walk back to her car at the same time I returned to mine. But there was no car. She was putting on a helmet and jumped on a motorcycle with (presumably) her husband driving. Pretty cool--and so much for stereotypes. I got to catch a fun sight...at random.