Evel. Pure evil.

As a 70s kid, I grew up with Evel Knievel on the brain. Motorcycle stuntman extraordinaire. (But “Skycycle” failure.)

It was the 70s. ‘Nuff said.

A perennial performer on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Jumping fountains, jumping buses, jumping a pool of sharks before Fonzie did.

Before Bodyglove wetsuits existed, people often wore their leather jackets in the ocean.

Evel was all the rage, and so were his toys.

Naturally my brother and I would attempt to emulate Evel. Usually that involved setting up a piece of plywood on a log as a makeshift ramp and attempting to jump over some obstacle on our Schwinn bikes with slick back tires and banana seats.

But once we just decided to try a long jump – sans bicycles – in our living room. We marked out a launch line and would track our landing spots, trying to jump a bit farther with each attempt (and probably making motorcycle “vroom-vroom” sounds with every launch). On my final attempt (and the reason it was final will become perfectly clear by the end of this sentence), I set a new record… but in true homage to my hero Evel, I got a bit wobbly on the landing, stumbled, lost my balance, and tried to stop my fall… by putting my hand through one of the panes in a living room window.

Luckily, my hand came out unscathed. But the window wasn’t as lucky. Because my father wasn’t much of a handyman and our meager household budget didn’t have room for repairs, we just thumbtacked a Hefty garbage bag over the missing windowpane. That damn garbage bag was up for years, a constant reminder of my failed stuntman career. Which is why I force my kids to take out the trash… the Cinch-Sak memories are simply too painful.

Why do you taunt me so?

On a brighter note, a few decades later, I stumbled again… but this time it was stumbling across a true gem of an album.

If you ever see this album at a flea market, buy it! It has excerpts of Evel interviews prior to the ill-fated Snake River Jump, and even a song sung by Evel himself (and I’m using the term “sung” very liberally). The album wraps up with this lovely ballad (and by “lovely” I mean “cheesier than a pound of Swiss”).

He can move a mountain

Leap across a winding river

Once he’s made his mind up, there’s nothing he won’t try

There’s something deep inside him, lusting for the thrills that drive him.

Yet he knows someday he’s gonna have to face that canyon in the sky.

I miss you, Evel. The world needs more risk-takers like you. And stronger windows.

 

Pick a day, any day

For the stoner set, today’s an “earth day” of sorts.

4/20 dude!

The official date is this Sunday, April 22nd. It’s been that way since 1970. I really didn’t know that much about the origin of Earth Day, but this page on the EarthDay.org website sheds a lot of light on it. Here are my favorite excerpts:

The idea for a national day to focus on the environment came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda.

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. By the end of that year, the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean AirClean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. “It was a gamble,” Gaylord recalled, “but it worked.”

Wow, that’s powerful stuff! Can you imagine anything uniting such disparate groups today? In some ways, it’s depressing to see where we are… it feels like we’re regressing. On the other hand, it’s energizing to know that amazing things can happen on a global scale thanks to the efforts of a tiny team of dedicated folks.

It’s almost Earth Day. It’s time to answer the questions about Mother Earth posed by Dramarama back in 1991:

What are we doing here?
and what are we doing to her?

What are we gonna do?

 

Prine, always in his prime

John Prine has a new album out tomorrow.

Friday the 13th is our lucky day, because the new album is fantastic. Which is par for the course for Mr. Prine, a living legend who ranks right up there with Dylan and Townes Van Zandt in the songwriting pantheon. If the old adage about the Velvet Underground is true — they only sold 1,000 copies of their albums, but every person who bought one started a band — then for John Prine, every person who bought one of his albums became a songwriter. His music can best be described as “Americana” but really HE is Americana. A boy from the ‘burbs of Chicago, an Army vet, a former mailman, a cancer survivor, a folkie whose music is both timely and timeless.

You can stream the entire album on NPR.

You should stream the entire album on NPR.

You must stream the entire album on NPR.

It’s good for your heart and good for your soul.

(Or if you’re a lazy bum, you can just check out this song from the new release, featuring background vocals from Brandi Carlile.)

God bless John Prine.

A dream deferred for a decade

Perhaps you’ve already heard about Andre Ingram. Maybe you’re a big fan of the Utah Flash, or the Los Angeles D-Fenders, or the South Bay Lakers.

Those are the NBA G-league teams for which Mr. Ingram has been toiling for the past 10 years. A decade of cheap hotels, bus rides and mostly empty bleachers. 10 years of working side jobs just to make ends meet. Chasing that dream.

On Monday, he got the call-up to the NBA… the one that he’s always hoped for. Not just hoped for, but worked for. Check out this excerpt from an article on ESPN.com.

Ingram makes it clear he is not bitter or filled with regrets after waiting this long to make it to the NBA. He says he remembers it all.

“Just staying with it,” Ingram says of what has been toughest about his journey here. “I mean, you get commended for kind of hanging in there and sticking with it like there wasn’t any doubt at any point. There was doubt. There were hard times. There was uncertainty.”

“They were fond memories. They’re not like, you know, angry memories: Man, I should be here. No it’s not any of that,” Ingram added. “… It’s a handsome reward for time put in. I’m thankful I have the opportunity, but there’s a lot of people that work hard. I’m grateful man. That’s all it is. I’m grateful.”

Last night, Andre Ingram made his NBA debut, in a playing-out-the-string game for the Lakers. He scored 19 points, going 6-for-8 from the field, including 4-for-5 on 3-pointers. By the end of the game, the home crowd at the Staples Center was serenading him with chants of “MVP!”

In that game, in that moment, the hard times are forgotten, the thousands of yesterdays don’t matter anymore.

How old is “too old” to chase your dreams? When is it time to give up? Never.

 

Snowy synchronicity

I hate Winter. Especially when it happens in the Spring. Woke up this morning to find a dusting of snow on the ground. Enough, Jack Frost! Game over… I surrender, you win. But there was some good that came of it. I got to wear my Buffalo Tom knit cap while waiting for the bus.

My kids need to teach me how to take selfies.

And that reminded me of the Buffalo Tom song “The Bus”…

Obviously, it doesn’t take much to take my feeble mind off the weather.

I love those little moments of synchronicity, or at least of loose ends all tying up neatly in ways you’d never think of ahead of time. On Friday, I stopped by the offices of Cincinnati Magazine to pick up a copy of the April issue. Seems my subscription had lapsed in March, and I was never notified. But my old friend John Fox is the editor, so I hounded him for a copy – after all, it was the music issue, which is right in my wheelhouse. The cover photo is of the Cincinnati-bred band The National.

Lead singer Matt Berninger has a side project called EL VY. Their song “Return to the Moon” name-checks Cincinnati landmarks Eden Park and the Serpentine Wall. I heard that song yesterday afternoon… in friggin’ Big Lots! (Don’t judge me – it was their 20% off storewide sale, and I’m a cheapskate. Also, props to whoever programs the Big Lots Muzak channel.)

The magazine features a profile of Bootsy Collins, written by Gil Kaufman. Gil’s wife Stephanie was the teacher’s assistant for our son Andrew in grade school, and our daughters have played on the same soccer teams. Saturday night I went to the FC Cincinnati soccer game with my friend Phil, who had gotten the tickets from — you guessed it, Gil and Stephanie.

The April issue also features an article about Chuck Cleaver from the band Wussy. Before Wussy, Chuck was in a band called Ass Ponys (Chuck’s not big on having a band name that has broad appeal, clearly). I love both bands, but Ass Ponys will always have a special place in my heart because they were big when I was at 97X. Back then, John Fox (hmm, where have we heard that name before?) was the editor of Everybody’s News, and he and his staff would come in once a week to do on-air segments about local events.

Yesterday, our son Andrew had a soccer game. He’s one of two Andrews on the team. The other one? Well, he’s the son of Dave Morrison… drummer for the Ass Ponys! But wait, there’s more… they have a song called “Last Night It Snowed”!!!

All roads lead to music. Just be careful, those roads may be icy in spots.

Radio Daze Part 2: I’ll have what he’s having!

Sure, Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica to “scrape” the private data of 87 million users, and then use that data to help elect a self-aggrandizing, womanizing, bigoted man who is rapidly hurtling the country toward World War III. But let’s look at the bigger picture: Facebook also helped me track down some audio clips from my time at 97X in the early 90s. In the grand scheme of things, isn’t that more important?

Here’s a clip I had totally forgotten about until it popped up on the 97X alumni FB page. My friend and fellow DJ Dave and I had some fun with choosing the winner of a contest, by making it sound like it was ripped from the pages of a Harlequin Romance.

Eat your heart out, Fabio. We are the real champions!

I have a six-pack too. It’s in my fridge.

And now, since we’re already on the topic of criminally-underappreciated artistry that you could find only on a station like 97X, let’s enjoy these two chestnuts:

 

 

 

 

Radio Daze: an interview with Lou Reed

At the Cincinnati airport recently, I saw this sign:

I first spied the sign from afar, and my 53-year-old eyesight isn’t what it used to be, so I originally thought it read “Toni Basil.” Probably just wishful thinking on my part… after all, who wouldn’t want to see an airport food court restaurant named after the famed one-hit wonder singer of the global 1982 sensation “Mickey”?

Actually, before she found fame as a faux cheerleader, Toni was a founding member of the groundbreaking “pop and lock” dance crew known as The Lockers (along with Fred ‘Rerun’ Berry).

She also choreographed David Bowie’s tours in 1974 and 1987, and a couple of Talking Heads videos, including Once In A Lifetime:

So she’s NOT a one-hit wonder. But I digress. Seeing the Toni Basil sign…er, the Torn Basil sign, reminded me of an afternoon long ago when I was working at 97X, and my friend and fellow DJ Dave and I did an on-air bit where I impersonated Lou Reed.

Dave was kind enough to send a recording of that bit my way:

(In hindsight, my impersonation sounds vaguely like Lou Reed… mixed with Steven Wright…  but good enough for radio’s “theater of the mind.”) True story: one 97X listener, a rabid Lou Reed fan, heard the beginning of that bogus interview while he was driving in Cincinnati and immediately changed course and started speeding up to Oxford, Ohio (where 97X was) in hopes of meeting his idol. As soon as he heard “Lou” mention Toni Basil, he knew that he’d been had. It’s the closest I’ll ever come to an Orson Welles “War of the Worlds” moment.

Speaking of Orson Welles, you simply must watch (and rewatch) this video of a drunken Orson trying to record a wine commercial.

If you’re keeping score at home, we went from an airport food court sign to Citizen Kane. Sorry, that’s just how my feeble brain works. And finally, the real Lou:

 

 

 

 

Odds and ends

Some photo phun (and one deep thought) to start your week:

Only in California can there be such a thing as an “organic” blow dry. It’s just air, right?

 

G is for ground, and S is for… Second Floor? Maybe it’s the Willy Wonka elevator and it stands for Space…

If it’s truly a hand-picked team, why are they looking for folks to apply? They must not be very good at hand-picking. 

 

Love the “diversity” shot, but the kid on the lower left looks like he is being held hostage.

 

Clearly the language has changed since this album was released.

 

I wish another small, Jesuit university had made the Final Four, but this is a nice consolation prize. Ramble on!

But seriously…

[No need for a caption on this one.]

 

Colvin and Lovett? Love it!

Last night I saw Lyle Lovett and Shawn Colvin in concert at the Taft Theater in downtown Cincinnati. I brought along the missus because it was a perfect date night show: acoustic, sit-down, 8 p.m. start time on a “school night.” Plus, my wife is a big fan of Lyle, and I love Shawn… win-win.

 

Both of them took turns joking around with each other… and playing songs from their rich catalogs, with the other person adding harmony vocals on quite a few tunes.

Just for fun, Shawn threw in bits of a couple of show tunes (“Edelweiss” from The Sound of Music and “Try to Remember” from The Fantasticks) because those were the type of albums her parents had (along with albums from folk singers like Pete Seeger and The Kingston Trio). She also played the Talking Heads “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” during the encore – brilliant! [Sidebar: She’s always been great at covering songs from other folks. Steve Earle gives her a lot of credit for helping him turn his life around: “When my [drug] habit had taken me out of everything, she recorded my song, “Someday.” That was a little light in a lot of darkness. Part of me originally starting thinking that maybe I was worth saving.”]

A few observations about the gig:

  1. Both Lyle and Shawn have 30+ years of performing under their belt (Lyle’s debut album came out in ’86, Shawn’s in ’89) and their voices are still amazing. (Videos below are songs from their respective debuts.)
  2. Lyle could easily have been a stand-up comedian, in the Richard Wright mold… he’s got a deadpan delivery that lands subtle punchlines every time, and is a master of the pregnant pause.
  3. They were able to command an audience of 2,000 with just their voices and their acoustic guitars because their songwriting is so strong.

Toward the end of the show, Lyle mentioned “Shawn and I would be doing this anyway if we went over to each other’s houses… thank you for letting us pass this off as a ‘show’.” But he’s being too humble, as usual. Sure, if I were picking the set list, I might’ve chosen a few different tunes than the ones they performed, but there’s a magic in their words and their voices that’s rare indeed.

This is NOT the view from our seats… we were in the nosebleeds.

Lyle also said that being able to do what you love every day is truly a blessing. Here’s hoping they keep sharing their incandescent talents with us for many years to come.

 

Hawk(ing) eyes

World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking passed away last week. He left us with several gems worth pondering:

This seems like a fitting song for Professor Hawking…