… except for 2 of the 3 days we’ll be there.
That’s OK, we’ll still have fun.
NPR is streaming an album of outtakes, demos and alternate tracks from the 1996 Wilco double album Being There. I love listening to it, because that album was fantastic, and a quantum leap forward from Wilco’s debut A.M. the previous year. The difference-maker was Jay Bennett, who joined the band between those two albums. A multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, engineer and producer, he took Wilco from their alt-country roots to a more expansive, experimental sound. Ask pretty much any Wilco fan and they’ll agree that the three Wilco albums that feature Jay Bennett are the golden era of Wilco. My buddy Joe and I saw them play during that era at a crappy little club in Cincinnati (R.I.P. Ripley’s), in front of about 40 fans, and Jay was amazing, moving from guitar to organ to piano to pretty much whatever instrument was lying around on stage, cigarette dangling from his lips, long blonde hair flopping in front of his face. It remains one of my top 5 concerts of all time.
Jay got kicked out of Wilco by bandleader Jeff Tweedy in 2001, shortly after they finished recording their epic Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album. (Some of the drama is captured on camera in the documentary I Am Trying To Break Your Heart.) He released a few solo albums but largely faded into semi-obscurity, a footnote in the career arc of Wilco. That’s a shame, because without Jay Bennett’s prodigious contributions, Wilco might never have become the critic’s darling that they are today.
“When Jay was with Wilco, he really expanded the palette of the kinds of sounds and the instruments and arrangements that they were doing,” Loerzel says about him today. “You know, maybe Jeff Tweedy would have moved in that direction on his own, but Jay certainly helped him, and I think the two of them grew together in the band.”
What’s even sadder is that Jay Bennett died in 2009, from an accidental overdose. His health insurance wouldn’t cover his much-needed hip replacement surgery, so he was using a prescription painkiller – a fentanyl patch – to fight the pain while he worked to raise money to cover the surgery. (Think about that when you hear talk of repealing the Affordable Care Act.) He died in his sleep, at the age of 45.
I can’t listen to the outtakes album without thinking about Jay. Wilco is much more polished now, but I miss that grit, that soul, that energy. A couple of folks are making a documentary about Jay, and have already reached their Kickstarter goal. Check out the trailer below.
And check out these articles for more about Jay.
Looks like Cincinnati is a good place to be for New Year’s Eve if you really want to cut loose… in a fiscally responsible way. WalletHub crunched the NYE numbers using criteria like “legality of fireworks,” “average price of a New Year’s Eve ticket,” and “forecasted precipitation” to rank cities and the ‘nati wound up #6 on the list.
After you ring in 2017, you can stick around for the beer. Cincinnati is #4 on the smartasset 2016 list of top cities for beer drinkers…
… and we got some pub(licity) from Thrillist (“The 15 Coolest Things Coming to US Cities in 2017“) for our beer tour.
I like indie/alternative/cutting-edge music, but within that broad and hard-to-define genre, I tend to stick with bands that have a traditional guitar(s)-bass-drums setup ala my old favorites like the Replacements. I’m not a dancer (as my wife will readily attest) and usually don’t go for the newer bands that skew toward dance/electronic music. That said, I’m really digging the new album from Chvrches, a band that consists of two dudes on keyboards/synths/sequencers/whatchamacallits and a female lead singer.
Check out this video from their performance of “Clearest Blue” from The Late Late Show. Granted, the instrumental break sounds eerily similar to Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough”… but it’s a real toe-tapper for sure, and I love the lead singer’s frenetic energy.
Lead singer Lauren Mayberry also has some strong words for the trolls that populate the interwebs. Here’s a key passage:
“It’s just one of those things you’ll need to learn to deal with. If you’re easily offended, then maybe the music industry isn’t for you”
But why should women “deal” with this? I am incredibly lucky to be doing the job I am doing at the moment – and painfully aware of the fact that I would not be able to make music for a living without people on the internet caring about our band. But does that mean that I need to accept that it’s OK for people to make comments like this, because that’s how women in my position are spoken to?
I absolutely accept that in this industry there is comment and criticism. There will always be bad reviews: such is the nature of a free press and free speech. When you put your work out there, you are accepting the fact that people will comment on it, but it is your choice whether you read it or not. (Kathleen Hanna sums this sentiment up nicely in this interview.)
What I do not accept, however, is that it is all right for people to make comments ranging from “a bit sexist but generally harmless” to openly sexually aggressive. That it is something that “just happens”. Is the casual objectification of women so commonplace that we should all just suck it up, roll over and accept defeat? I hope not. Objectification, whatever its form, is not something anyone should have to “just deal with”.
Chvrches new release is called Every Open Eye. It’s wonderfvl.
Saw this “news alert” on my phone recently:
Wow, turns out heroin is bad. Who knew?
In fairness to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the report is a thorough examination of the flaws in the current arrest/treatment system, and well worth a read. But they really need to work on their teaser headlines.
My 15-year-old son likes:
Not necessarily in that order. Last weekend I took him to a few yards sales, and was really intrigued by the things I saw at them. A few observations:
You could safely sum up 99% of the electronics that you’ll find at any yard/rummage/tag sale as “stuff that’s been replaced by smart phones.” Digital cameras are a dime a dozen (sometimes literally). Cassette recorders. Mini-cassette recorders. Micro-cassette recorders.
P.T. Barnum said “there’s a sucker born every minute” and apparently every one of those suckers bought a fondue set in the 70s.
Yard sales are where officially over-the-hill kids TV show characters go to die. Barney now truly knows what it means to be a “dinosaur.”
Some folks have never heard about the switch to digital TV. Or flat screens. Or even cable.
How lazy do you have to be to not be able to flip through ties?
But our rummaging wasn’t all in vain. We went to the sale at the nearby Catholic grade school and got a couple of old school desks for $5 a pop.
(Unfortunately they didn’t come with a guarantee that my kids will study. I’d have paid another $5 for that feature.)
That school sale was also trying to unload this sweet Sprite backboard from back in the “lymon” era:
I would’ve bought it except for the warning:
Sorry, I’ve still got hops and was going to go all Darryl Dawkins on it.
One of our cars has Sirius/XM satellite radio in it. Having worked at a “college rock”/indie/alternative radio station in my younger days, I like to listen to the XMU channel that plays, according to their description “new indie rock.” (It’s a vain attempt to keep up with what the kids are listening to these days, I realize.)
I do like most of the music they play, but their variety is sorely lacking. They will play the heck out of a handful of songs, over and over. I take the bus to work most days; the only time I drive the car is when I’m shuttling kids back and forth to sports practices – about 20 minutes a day at best. And I wind up hearing the same songs each time… right now I’m almost guaranteed to hear Best Coast or Jamie XX on my short commute. Sufjan Stevens has a great new album out, but they only play one song off of the album… and they play it constantly.
There’s plenty more variety in the indie rock world, but you’d never know it by listening to XMU. Where’s the Calexico? Where’s My Morning Jacket? How about the new one from Surfer Blood? San Fermin? Bueller?…Bueller?
I suppose part of the issue is the 200 channel universe that Sirius XM has created – it tends to segregate artists into tidy little compartments, whereas I prefer more of a grab bag approach to playlists. I shouldn’t have to flip channels to hear a singer-songwriter followed by a raucous rocker.
At least there are still some radio stations that do a great job of mixing things up. KEXP out of Seattle is the one I like the most… and I can stream their station via the web. Check out their playlist from this morning – a great mix of new songs, with some New Order and Dylan as well. That’s more like it!
Tonight’s the final Late Show broadcast for David Letterman. The end of an era. Now I know how the older generation felt when Johnny Carson signed off, because just as they grew up with Johnny, I grew up with Dave. I’m old enough to remember his ill-fated, short-lived daytime show… which I thought was hilarious.
When Dave debuted on Late Night in February of ’82, I was a senior in high school and living in an apartment without adult supervision. (We’ll save that story for another blog post.) So I had no curfew, no set bedtime… I tuned in to Dave, Paul and the gang and their nutty antics darn near every night, and recited the skits and witty banter the next day at school. Dave was my hero. Some found him to be too snarky or too aloof, but I absolutely loved his wink-at-the-camera/it’s- all-a-facade style. Through the rest of high school, college and beyond, I was a regular attendee at his late night cavalcade of craziness. I got in to see a taping of his NBC show once, via a standby ticket, and was thrilled beyond words. I even had a “brush with greatness” when I was visiting my dad in Brooklyn and happened upon Larry “Bud” Melman, who lived in the same neighborhood. I was going nuts like a teenage girl at a Beatles concert, and my father had no idea why I was so excited to meet this elderly, elfin man.
Of course, real jobs, marriage and kids have greatly curtailed my late night viewing habit. But just knowing that Dave was there if I needed him was comforting. Hard to believe it’s been 33 years.
Good night, Dave. Good night, Paul. Good night, Guy Under the Seats… and thanks a million for a million laughs.
Ah, the merry month of May. This past Sunday was Mother’s Day, and Cinco de Mayo is my mom’s birth date. She would’ve been 80 this year. She barely made it to 33, going home to Jesus in her “Jesus year.”
I was three years old when she passed away, so I really have no memories of my mom. But I’ve been told by other family members that she was feeling tired all the time back in ‘68. And with four kids under the age of 7, what mom wouldn’t be tired? She finally went to the doctor, and they discovered she had leukemia. They gave her six months to live… about a month later she was gone forever. My father never really recovered. My whole family never really recovered.
I’ve read so many studies that say the years from birth to age 3 are so crucial to a child’s development, and I’m grateful my mom was around back then. I’m also doubly grateful that my father did such a great job raising four kids by himself. But I’ve spent the rest of my life desperately trying to conjure up any memory of my mom – a song she sang to me as she tucked me into bed, a smile she gave me, a special moment we shared – to no avail. It’s a riddle that can’t be solved, a blank that will never be filled in.
Singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens has a new album out called Carrie & Lowell, named after his mother and stepfather. His mom Carrie, who suffered from depression, schizophrenia and alcoholism, abandoned her family when Sufjan was 1. She later married Lowell, and Sufjan and his siblings spent a few summers with them when he was between ages 5 and 8. In an interview on Pitchfork, he says something I can certainly relate to:
“Her death was so devastating to me because of the vacancy within me. I was trying to gather as much as I could of her, in my mind, my memory, my recollections, but I have nothing. It felt unsolvable.”
So I’m never quite sure what to make of Mother’s Day. I know tradition dictates that those with a deceased mother wear a white carnation, but wearing a giant question mark would seem more appropriate.
I’m not even sure if I went to my mom’s funeral. But now I’m at the age where many of my friends’ parents are passing away. I go to their funerals and blubber like a baby, and then get mad at myself because I know my tears are for my younger self, and not for my friends.
At least I can find some comfort in music. Here’s lyrics from Sufjan’s song “Should Have Known Better” on his new album:
I should have known better
Nothing can be changed
The past is still the past
The bridge to nowhere
I should have wrote a letter
Explaining what I feel, that empty feeling
And a song by one of my favorite singer/songwriters:
As someone who worked in radio and did a fair amount of character voices and celebrity impersonations, I’ve always admired voice actors. Folks like my old boss Gary Burbank, as well as Harry Shearer, Seth MacFarlane, Dan Castellaneta, Billy West, June Foray, Daws Butler and the immortal Mel Blanc.
But how about a little love for the person who was behind not one, not two, but three indelible childhood memories for every old geezer like me? The man was Thurl Ravenscroft. First of all, fantastic name. He didn’t really have to do anything… just saying “Thurl Ravenscroft” is fun.
You may not recognize his name, but I guarantee that you’ve heard his voice:
If you’ve ever been to the Haunted Mansion at a Disney park, you’ve heard Thurl’s dulcet tones as the lead singer on “Grim Grinning Ghosts.”
If you watched Saturday morning TV commercials at any time over a five-decade period beginning in the 50s, you heard Thurl extolling the virtues of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes as “Tony the Tiger”
Best of all, Thurl’s voice rings out every year at Christmas time, because he’s the voice of the classic song “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” from Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas.
And here’s the kicker. Thurl’s name was accidentally left out of the credits for the Grinch TV special (how can you forget a name like Thurl Ravenscroft?), so most folks think Boris Karloff sang the song.
Let’s give credit where credit is due. Let’s hear it for the Thurl!