There are no second acts in American lives

I spent some time crate-digging over the weekend, looking through the albums at the thrift shops near my house. (Yes, thrift shops – plural – we live in a classy neighborhood!) Two albums from 70s pop idols caught my eye.

Donny Osmond and David Cassidy… it doesn’t get any more 70s than that. No, I did NOT purchase them! Mainly because I don’t care for bubblegum pop… and also because the Donny album cover seems a bit too, shall we say, pedophile?

But those album covers gave me a chance to contemplate a few things:

  1. Why am I spending weekends in thrift shops?
  2. Why is Donny’s album twice the price of David’s?
  3. What’s the price of fame?

Donny and David had a lot in common. Hit songs, hit TV shows, multiple TigerBeat covers, huge fan clubs… and amazing hairstyles. But they wound up on different paths. Donny fell off the pop culture radar for most of the 80s, but has had top 10 songs since then, done musical theater, hosted TV game shows and syndicated radio shows, won a season of Dancing with the Stars, and has been appearing in Vegas (where else?) with his sister Marie since 2008.

David Cassidy‘s post-teen-idol path was a bit rockier. He had modest Top 40 success after the Partridge Family, dabbled in musical theater and acting… and had the requisite reality TV appearance (Celebrity Apprentice, 2011). He also had multiple drunk driving charges from 2010 on, filed for bankruptcy in 2015, and died of liver failure (due to alcoholism) in 2017.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “there are no second acts in American lives.” In Donny’s case, he was wrong. In David’s, he was correct. Fame is fleeting, and it can extract a heavy toll from your life. Gaining fame is great fun… but losing it isn’t.

Some are born to move the world
To live their fantasies
But most of us just dream about
The things we’d like to be

Sadder still to watch it die
Than never to have known it
For you, the blind who once could see
The bell tolls for thee….

When it’s time to change…

Our youngest child is 13 and a half… and his voice is starting to crack. Of course, the first thought that springs to mind for someone my age is the Brady Bunch episode where Peter’s voice was changing.

But then when I clear the TV Land cobwebs from my puny brain (it takes roughly three hours to lose that stupid little Sha-na-na-n-na-na-n-na-na… sha-na-na-na-na! riff), I realize that our youngest child… our baby boy!… is leaving childhood behind.

That makes me sad, because if he’s moving to another phase, that means I am too. The phase where parents aren’t needed as much. We’re becoming accessories rather than necessities. Heck, we already have a kid in college (and another who will be there by August), two teenage drivers and another with her temps… They can fend for themselves. They’ve been off school for the past three days thanks to frigid temperatures and snow — and they probably didn’t even notice their old man was gone.

I’m not ready to be an empty nester just yet. In fact, the “failure to launch” concept is starting to sound appealing.

I know change is inevitable.

But that doesn’t make it enjoyable. At least not for parents.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste… on musical minutia

An email from my friend Steve:

Our office men’s room has a paper towel dispenser…

….that makes me think of Peter Tork of The Monkees at least daily.

You are one of the few people who can understand my daily frustration of picturing that goofy chap in my head!

Yes, that’s true, Steve. I do understand your frustration, perhaps better than anyone else, because I grew up just outside of Clarksville, Arkansas.

Thank goodness neither of us live in Pleasant Valley.

Something fresh from The Bakerman

After publishing yesterday’s post, I realized it was an inadvertent rerun – it had the same “inspirational quote” content as a post from mid-December. Clearly, I need to stock up on gingko biloba or some other memory aid (real or imagined).

To make up for yesterday’s stale post, today we have something piping hot and fresh from The Bakerman. Also known as Steve Baker… or just plain “Bake.” He’s a broadcasting legend, and I don’t use that term lightly (just ask Joe Buck).

“The Bakerman”

Steve’s current role is Assistant Athletic Director – Director of Broadcasting for Miami University. But in a prior life, he worked at 97X for 20 years, as a news reporter, midday host, morning show host, station manager, play-by-play man for Miami U. football and basketball (he still does that in his current role), assistant engineer, only person with any technical expertise for live/remote broadcasts, etc. I had the privilege of working with him for a few years back in the late 80s and early 90s. He’s one of the best play-by-play people in the universe, and a great guy to boot.

My friend Dave (with whom Bake and I both worked at 97X) and I have started a podcast about the good old days at 97X, a tiny station in Oxford, Ohio that was one of the first in the country to play “college rock/indie rock/alternative” music and did so for more than 20 years, earning national accolades in the process. The station had a crappy, hard-to-pickup signal, but it also had an oversized influence on its listeners (and employees).

In our most recently published episode, we spend 20 minutes chatting with Steve. If you listen, you’ll hear some great stories from Steve – including how he started at “that damn punk rock station” and how his stellar voice (“great pipes” as we say in the business) wound up in the Academy Award-winning Tom Cruise/Dustin Hoffman movie Rainman.

If you’re so inclined, you can visit the podcast home page for three other episodes, and you can even “follow” it to be alerted when there’s a new episode (about every two weeks… provided the co-host/recording engineer/editor known as dubbatrubba doesn’t have too much other stuff going on.)

American Flop 40

I’m your host, Spacy Kasem, and we’re counting down the top albums of 2018, as voted on by dubbatrubba.

Checking in at #11 on our show is Lush, the debut album from teenager Lindsay Jordan, who records under the name Snail Mail.

Next up is a brilliant album from Alejandro Escovedo, The Crossing, which deals with the topic of immigration in a very human way.

At Number 9, it’s an EP from three talented young singer-songwriters: Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker. They’re great on their own, too, but the “songbird supergroup” combination is unbeatable. Here’s boygenius performing “Me & My Dog”

Now, we’re up to #8, and it’s a return after a long absence for the Boston band called Belly. Leader Tanya Donnelly was also a founding member of Throwing Muses and The Breeders, so she’s got a mountain of 80s/90s indie cred. Their first album in 23 years, Dove, shows they haven’t missed a beat.

The lucky 7 slot belongs to an old and dear friend, a living legend who still remains relevant, Mr. John Prine, with his album The Tree of Forgiveness.

Checking in at #6, it’s the amazingly talented Brandi Carlile and the equally talented Hanseroth twins, Phil and Tim. They record under Brandi’s name, but they are a team in every sense of the word. Their 2018 release By The Way, I Forgive You continues their streak of fantastic albums.

The #5 album of last year was the 9th release from the Arizona-based band Calexico. Leaders Joey Burns and John Convertino offer up a diverse array of tunes, all tied together by their expert musicianship.

The Philly indie rock band at #4 features the sister/brother combo of Frances and Mark Quinlan. They’re a band that I’d never heard of at the beginning of 2018, but after listening to their album Bark Your Head Off, Dog and seeing them live in concert, I’m a big fan.

The top 3 features a trip to the Land Down Under. Aussie band Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever gave us a debut album, Hope Downs, that’s filled with gems.

#2 comes from power punk elder statespeople Superchunk. They’ve been crushing it since 1989. Their release What A Time To Be Alive shows they can still channel righteous indignation about the current state of American culture into superb songs.

And now we’re up to the top album of 2018, and the pick should comes as no surprise to the three people who actually read this blog. It’s another band that’s been around for more than 30 years. Their first album in 7 years, Quiet and Peace, deals with grown-up topics like the passage of time. The lyrics are often bittersweet; the songs are as fantastic as the tunes from their halcyon days in the early 90s. Seeing them live in L.A. and Chicago last year was a rare treat. Here’s Buffalo Tom:

Small Room, Big Love

Last night I went a house concert. Not just any house concert, but the debut house concert at the home of my friends Jacqui and Dave.

Photo credit: Jameson Killen

They’re music heads, just like me… although they actually have musical talent. We’re talking “graduated from Berklee College of Music” level talent. Chops aside, we’re similar in our passion for live music. Here’s a snippet from the About Us page of the website they set up for their house concert series, which they’ve dubbed Parlor & Patio:

Years ago, we were just two crazy college kids who haphazardly met in a living room while listening to music. You could say that was a life-changing moment.

For us, music has always been more than background ambiance. It’s an experience we crave and cherish. We also believe it connects people in ways that are meaningful and universal. Through Parlor & Patio, we hope to foster some new experiences and connections by bringing friends, community and traveling artists together in a listening room environment.

Amen to that! And Dave & Jacqui aren’t just dabbling in this new venture, they are going full throttle. They’ve already booked a show a month for the next several months!

They kicked things off last night with a solo gig from Rob Fetters, a local legend who should be a national legend. He’s been playing in Cincinnati bands for decades, first with The Raisins, then The Bears and finally the psychodots. All stellar, all woefully underappreciated. As his website bio says:
Rob Fetters has spent decades making records and performing music on the edgy fringe of American power pop. 

Photo source: Robfetters.net

Rob’s a great singer, songwriter and storyteller. And he can pick and/or shred with the best of them on guitar. He also happens to be a wonderful human being.

Two amazing hosts + one phenomenal artist = One-of-a-kind concert. Rob played two sets, 20+ songs, told some hilarious stories (and some sad ones too). And the 40 folks in attendance were there to listen, not to chit-chat or Snapchat.

I can’t wait for the next gig in the Parlor & Patio series. It’s music from the heart that nourishes your soul. And we all need big love now…

Radio is a sound salvation… and podcasting is the new radio.

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, I worked at 97X, a small-but-mighty radio station in Oxford, Ohio.

My friend Dave worked there as well (that’s how we met and became friends). Now that Dave’s two sons and my four kids are a bit older, we have some spare time on our hands. So we decided to create a podcast about our adventures (and misadventures) at 97X.

I don’t think Marc Maron and the folks at My Favorite Murder or This American Life have to watch their backs, but if you listened to 97X before it went off the air, you’ll probably find the podcast semi-entertaining. Even if you never heard (or even heard of) the station, you might get a kick or three out of the podcast. Or not. But hey, it’s only 18 minutes of your day. You’ve probably got some time off for the holidays, right? It’s the perfect aural accompaniment to taking down the Christmas lights, trying to assemble kids toys and/or scrubbing congealed ham/turkey/goose fat out of the roasting pan.

Three episodes are posted here: https://woxy.podbean.com/

You can subscribe via that same link, so you’ll never have to miss a single scintillating episode. (And you won’t miss the boring ones either.)

You can also listen/download below.

Please don’t feel obligated to listen. Dave and I just have to call it “podcasting” because that sounds fancier (and more productive) than “hanging out in the basement and reminiscing about the good old days.”

Monday morning music

You can be a corporate drone and still find a means of artistic expression (like a blog, maybe?). And you can be a real estate agent and still rock… just like Bill Janovitz, the lead singer of Buffalo Tom. 

Back in the 90s, he and his bandmates Chris Colbourn and Tom Maginnis released several albums on a major label, and toured the world.

But things have changed. 

First came love, then came marriage, then came a baby in a baby carriage… and Bill needed to provide a bit more stability to his family than the rock and roll lifestyle could offer. So he became a real estate agent. 


“Now it’s more about getting up and wearing a decent collared shirt”

You can listen to Bill talk about his day job in this Public Radio International interview.

Source: https://www.pri.org/stories/2018-11-15/making-life-and-living-after-buffalo-tom-s-heyday?amp&__twitter_impression=true

As Bill’s real estate bio states, he and his bandmates “still play and record music to this day.” Indeed they do… and they do it quite well. Here’s a great video for a song from their new album:  

Thank you Bill for so poignantly profiling middle-age malaise in your music… and for setting such a good example for other family-centered folks. 

Richard the Great

Oops, I did it again… I went and saw Richard Thompson live in concert again last night.

I’ve posted about him before. And I’m going to do it again, because he’s so doggone good. Nay, great. Last night it was the Richard Thompson Electric Trio, featuring RT, a bassist and a drummer (and occasionally Richard’s guitar tech on guitar, making it, as Richard said, “a very large ‘trio'”). They absolutely rocked the Southgate House – a former church… saints be praised!

To see a man who is 69 years old (and has been in the business 50 years) absolutely shredding on guitar is life-affirming to a middle-aged dude like me. Although it’s a double-edged sword – a couple of friends of mine who are in local bands (Wussy and Pike 27) were in the audience, and they joked about donating their instruments to needy kids after seeing Richard Thompson because they realized they’ll never be as good. But there’s no shame in that; millions of performers aren’t fit to carry his guitar pick. He’s a quadruple threat, as I mentioned in my previous post (with a few updates):

The show was a typical RT show… which is to say, amazing. I don’t think you’ll find his rare combination of talents in too many folks:

  • virtuoso guitarist – I’d put him up against any teenage phenom. 
  • phenomenal voice – so strong, even at age 69. 
  • fantastic songwriter – great, sometimes twisted lyrics and wonderful melodies. It’s no wonder his tunes have been covered by the likes of R.E.M., Elvis Costello, Bob Mould, Bonnie Raitt, Reckless Kelly, The Neville Brothers, Marshall Crenshaw and Dinosaur Jr. (that’s a festival lineup I’d like to see).
  • entertaining stage presence – that droll British wit is always in evidence.

The Electrio Trio was fantastic (you can catch their entire Shrewsbury Folk Festival performance from a few months ago here). The songs from Richard’s latest album 13 Rivers are a great addition to his oeuvre. Back catalog highlights for me were “Wall of Death” and “Tear Stained Letter.” But late in the show Richard played back to back acoustic numbers that are utterly brilliant: “Beeswing” and “Dimming of the Day.”

 

Most artists would kill for just one song as good as those. But for Richard the Great, they’re just par for the course. I still have goosebumps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blossoming when it’s cold and dreary

Let’s talk about blossom.

Wait, wrong Blossom.

I’m talking about this kind of blossom:

“Let us be grateful for the people who make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

— Marcel Proust

Thanks for reading. I’m grateful for you. And that’s not a bunch of bullsh…er, fertilizer.