Music musings, mostly of a sibling sort

A few notes about music (see what I did there?):

NPR is streaming the new release from the band Dawes, called All Your Favorite Bands. Highly recommended. Dawes features brothers Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith. Here’s the lead track, it’s a fun video too.


Waxahatchee is the stage name of Katie Crutchfield. Waxahatchee is fantastic. The touring band also features Katie’s twin sister Allison.



I wrote a post about Brandi Carlile a few months ago, but her album The Firewatcher’s Daughter is out now. Here she is with her band (including identical twins Tim and Phil Hanseroth) on Conan doing a song from the new album.


Last night I saw a free outdoor concert with Surfer Blood as the headliner. Their new album is called 1000 Palms. There are no siblings in the band. But they put on a great show and deserve some love too. Especially since their guitarist is battling cancer.


Not-So-Young Americans

Sorry David Bowie, but I no longer qualify as one of the “Young Americans”… and since you did that song on the Dick Cavett Show, neither do you.

Yesterday I had to renew my annual membership at my local rec center, and because I’m now 50, I get a discounted rate. The $10 in savings doesn’t come close to making up for the humiliation of hearing the teenager behind the counter chirping “you get a senior discount!”

Funny thing is, they originally had an incorrect date of birth for me – 4/15/75 – so they thought I was  40, not 50. Must be that Grecian Formula  that I’ve been using.

I’m OK with being 50 though. Heck, I have another decade and a half to go before I’m officially part of “Older Americans Month” (which is every May for Americans who are 65 or older). Not that there’s anything wrong with growing old… it certainly beats the alternative. However, listening to this gorgeous Courtney Barnett song about growing up and growing old will make you want to stop the clock.

Alright, enough of this newfangled blogging business. I’m going to have some prunes, watch “Murder, She Wrote” and take a nap. Get off my lawn!


But Sirius-ly, folks

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!



No more Late Nights or Late Shows

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.

In this photo provided by CBS, David Letterman, host of the “Late Show with David Letterman,” waves to the audience in New York on Thursday, April 3, 2014, after announcing that he will retire sometime in 2015. Letterman, who turns 67 next week, has the longest tenure of any late-night talk show host in U.S. television history, already marking 32 years since he created "Late Night" at NBC in 1982. (AP Photo/CBS, Jeffrey R. Staab) MANDATORY CREDIT, NO SALES, NO ARCHIVE, FOR NORTH AMERICAN USE ONLY

In this photo provided by CBS, David Letterman, host of the “Late Show with David Letterman,” waves to the audience in New York on Thursday, April 3, 2014, after announcing that he will retire sometime in 2015. Letterman, who turns 67 next week, has the longest tenure of any late-night talk show host in U.S. television history, already marking 32 years since he created “Late Night” at NBC in 1982. (AP Photo/CBS, Jeffrey R. Staab) MANDATORY CREDIT, NO SALES, NO ARCHIVE, FOR NORTH AMERICAN USE ONLY




Why is Dre such a Jerk? Beats me!

Here’s another guest post from’s most avid (and probably only) reader, Mookie: 

Is Dr. Dre the “Jerk” of this generation?

I say YES.
I recently got a pair of Power Beats by Dre which I use for music at the gym, podcasts and music all day at work and handsfree phone for the car. They are fantastic! Can’t imagine going back to the sub-par wired headphones I got with my iPhone. So what’s the problem, you say?

I rely on my Beats so much that I’ve noticed I have tinnitus now (that lovely constant ringing in my ears). Not from cranking up the volume to 11, mind you. Just normal listening levels, well below the levels you experience when you hear loud music and realize it’s some guy 35 feet away with headphones on. That’s the kind of volume that makes me jump online and look to buy stock in Miracle Ear.

The reason this makes Dre a Jerk? One word. OPTIGRAB.

That’s right the famous case of People vs Johnson, Navin R.
Steve Martin’s character in the 1979 classic The Jerk.


Once again I dip into my knowledge of crap classic movie with great quotes and memorable scenes for proof.

Exhibit A:
Both born a poor black child.

Exhibit B:
Both have a “Special Purpose”

Exhibit C:
Dre allegedly has water dispensers filled with wine near their tennis court, and cup dispensers with fine crystal wine glasses in them. Just like Navin Johnson.

Exhibit D and the most damning evidence:
Like Optigrab, Beats products are incredible devices you can’t live without – yet they cause physical harm. Although the evidence hasn’t been released, it’s rumored Carl Reiner is a victim in both incidents. His inability to hear cues and exclaim “CUT” during the filming of his latest movie has been rumored to cause horrible injury and loss of life from avoidable accidents on set.

Join Carl Reiner and me in a class action suit against Dr Dre and his Beat products.

This Jerk must be stopped!


The King is gone but he’s not forgotten

Blues legend B.B. King passed away earlier this week. I had the privilege of seeing him in concert three different times. Once was about 30 years ago at a club in Cincinnati. Another time was 20+ years ago at a theater in L.A. with two other blues forefathers, Albert King and Bobby “Blue” Bland. And I saw B.B. for the last time just a summer ago, when he opened for Peter Frampton. I must admit that when I saw him last summer, it saddened me a bit, because B.B. was nothing at all like the musician I saw at that club in Cincinnati. He was merely a shell of his old self, a former great just playing out the string, like Willie Mays for the New York Mets in ’72. As Willie himself said, “”growing old is just a helpless hurt.”

But then I remembered that B.B. was 88 years old last summer. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are the elder statesmen of rock and roll, but they’re 18 years younger than B.B. I don’t think Mick will still be strutting the stage like a proud peacock in 2033. Rather than be saddened by B.B. diminished skills, I should’ve been thrilled that he was still doing what he loved. R.I.P. B.B.



The sacrifices I make in the name of advancing science

It’s  tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. (Hic)

test beer l

Absence makes the heart grow… confused?

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:

Let’s hear it for the Thurl

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!

I don’t like Saturdays

In the words of the immortal Jim Anchower, “Hola, amigos. How’s tricks? Been awhile since I rapped at ya…”

I do have some breaking news for you: getting old is no fun. (OK, some maybe it isn’t breaking news. Actually it’s not even news.)

I used to enjoy sleeping in on the weekends. Now I simply cannot sleep past 7am. I think it’s because all of my bones and joints sound like Rice Krispies: Snap! Crackle! Pop! The noise wakes me up and keeps me from falling back to sleep.


I wake up at 5:40a.m. on weekdays to get our 8th grader out the door and on the bus by 6:30, so you’d think that I’d be able to rest my weary bones a bit longer on the weekend. But no dice. I’ve come up with a compromise – I count any time that I’m lying prone in bed as “sleep” even if I’m wide awake. How’s that for a Jedi mind trick?

jedi mind trick