Republishing this post from 2020, because today is Joe Strummer Day, and because the number of dubbatrubba blog readers has doubled in the past 2 years (going from two to four!).
From an old article by Brian Doyle, republished this week in The American Scholar:
Can I ask you a strange favor? On Monday night, December 22, go outside with your kids, or your friends, or your neighbors, and start a bonfire… And when it is going well, when it’s leaping and steady and warmer than you remember bonfires being, stand around it with your friends or your loved ones, and tell stories, and laugh, maybe have a beer, maybe even sing a little.
Mr. Doyle asked us for that favor because Joe Strummer (musician, singer, songwriter, co-founder of The Clash) died on December 22, 2002.
his favorite thing to do was gather friends and family and make bonfires and stand around the fire telling stories and laughing and singing.
Brian Doyle, in the article linked above.
My friend Kevin read the article recently, and was happy to oblige the request. He organized a firepit gathering at my neighbor Mark’s house on Tuesday night. We were a day late for Joe Strummer Day, but better late than never. It was a wonderful way to celebrate the spirit of a man who touched a lot of lives with his music and his stories.
I’ve read a lot of autobiographies from rock and rollers. Many of them include “the first time I met Joe Strummer” tales. And I’ve yet to read an unkind word about him. From all accounts, he was generous with his time, and liberal with his praise and encouragement.
Joe was only 50 when he passed away. The folks gathered around the fire on Tuesday have passed that milestone. I hope we’re able to keep Joe’s spirit burning brightly.
Think of it as a way to say hey to Joe Strummer, who was a good man, much missed; but think of it too as a way to honor what he cherished and savored in his own life: the way standing or sitting together matters, and telling stories matters, and laughing matters, and singing matters. That’s Joe Strummer’s true legacy, I think, more than the records he sold
Brian Doyle’s piece is quite short, and well worth the read. Mr. Doyle passed away in 2017. Like Joe, he left us with food for thought, with something to savor, with fond memories.
See you next December 22nd. Until then, keep the fire burning.
Raise a toast to Saint Joe Strummer I think he might have been our only decent teacher
Lyrics from “Constructive Summer” by The Hold Steady
If I had to pick one word to sum up this past Saturday’s Royal Crescent Mob concert, that word would be “joyous.”
If I got to use two word to describe it, I’d use “joyous” and “sweaty.”
Joyous and sweaty were the hallmarks of any Royal Crescent Mob live show, back when they were a touring band, in the late 80s through the mid-90s. One of the best live bands in the entire world. Yes, a club band, with a mostly Midwestern fan base. But ask anyone who ever attended one of the RCMob shows and they will easily attest to the Mob’s punk ethos, their funk bona fides and their stellar showmanship. You had a 100% chance of leaving their shows feeling joyous and sweaty.
But it had been 28 years since the Royal Crescent Mob played together live. A lifetime ago. And now “lifetime” has a brand new meaning for the audience members, and especially the band members.
Time takes its toll on all of us. If we’re lucky, we manage to avoid cancer. In that department, the RC Mob has been decidedly unlucky. Lead singer David Ellison is being treated for prostate cancer. Lead guitarist Brian “B” Emch lost his wife to pancreatic cancer earlier this year. Drummer Carlton Smith has a rare form of brain cancer.
Rather than wallow in pity, the band decided to take their heaping helping of lemons and make lemonade… and sell it to raise funds for cancer research.
They played a fundraiser show in Columbus (their home base back in the day) on Friday, and Cincinnati (their second home, and strongest market, thanks in no small part to 97X radio station) on Saturday. Two shows in two nights. A limited engagement. Then again, life is a limited engagement.
It was a different kind of joyous this time around. For a couple of nights, for a couple of hours, they could focus on the music instead of mortality. So could their fans.
we’re four guys up there…and, you know, our audiences, our fan base is our age probably now. And it’s important for them to know there’s like, there’s this shitty thing about getting older, it’s like, things pop up. And, you know, I mean, hopefully we can raise some awareness about that as well. That’d be just extra special to be able to do that and it’s going to mean a lot for everybody to up on stage just to be playing together, that whole camaraderie.
We hate that we’re talking about Dan in the past tense.
53 years was all Dan got. He made the most of them, playing in a Grateful Dead-inspired jam band for 35 of them, alongside my wife’s cousin Mike, and carving out a great career at P&G.
But you can be a musician and be a jerk. Or you can be a musician and be like Dan – kind, positive, sharing the love of music with the next generation.
Dan’s passing was sudden, and totally unexpected. He was supposed to fly back into town this weekend and play a gig with his band, Spookfloaters. Instead, his family and friends will gather in Colorado for a celebration of life.
“Celebration of life” – it’s something we should all do, every day. Dan sure did. Rest in peace, friend. We love you.
As a live music fan, I am duty-bound to hate Ticketmaster (a.k.a. Ticketbastard). I’ve been railing against their ridiculous fees for years, and doing everything I can to avoid them – which usually involves a trip to the venue box office during the limited hours that it’s open.
But now the cavalry is on the way to help – the Taylor Swift Army. Because hell hath no fury like a Swiftie scorned (they learned from TS herself… just listen to her lyrics).
The Taylor Ticketmaster debacle might finally break up the Live Nation/Ticketmaster monopoly – a merger that never should’ve been allowed to happen in the first place. (Hmm, combining the largest artist management and venue company with the company that sells tickets to shows… what could possibly go wrong?)
I’m not against for-profit businesses making a profit. But I am against profiteering. And when the various and sundry “fees” for a ticket wind up adding an additional 50% to the price, that seems really excessive to me.
The Royal Crescent Mob reunion shows are a Exhibit A.
[Music-heavy sidebar – feel free to skip ahead if you’re not into that sort of thing – Hi Kelly! The Royal Crescent Mob was a punk/funk band from Columbus, Ohio – their heyday was the late 80s/early 90s. They disbanded in 1994, but are reuniting to play two shows in December — one in Columbus and one in the Cincy area — as cancer research fundraisers, because three members of the band have been impacted by cancer.
With drummer Carlton Smith recently diagnosed with brain cancer (Glioblastoma), singer David Ellison, recently treated for Prostate Cancer and the loss of guitarist B’s wife, Cincinnati Attorney, Sallee Fry in May, 2022, to Pancreatic Cancer, the four band members, decided there is no time like the present to celebrate life and revel in the joy of playing music together and the healing spirit music embodies in the human soul.]
Same band, similar venues in Columbus and Cincinnati on consecutive nights. The Columbus show tickets sales are through TicketWeb (a company that is dedicated to working with independent venues and promoters). Face value of the ticket is $30. TicketWeb service fees add another $7.95… and the fees are clearly shown on the site.
Meanwhile the Cincy show (it’s actually in Northern Kentucky) is a Ticketbastard show… Face value of the ticket is $30, but fees add $14.45 to the price tag… and the fees are hidden unless you know to click on the tiny carat symbol by the price.
“Service fee”… “facility charge” (keep in mind Live Nation/Ticketmaster owns a lot of these venues)… “order processing fee”… they just make up names for the various line items to make it seem like it’s not all going into their pockets. Don’t be fooled!
But the fees for a club show are chump change compared to the large venue shows like T-Swizzle and Bruce Springsteen. For a Bruce arena show in Columbus, the Ticketbastard “service fee” on a $518 ticket is a whopping $76.65. Oh, and don’t forget that order processing fee of $6. $82.65 for Ticketmaster to perform the same services that they were willing to do for a paltry $14.45 for a club show. Talk about paying the cost to be see the Boss!
How does Ticketmaster get away with it? You don’t need a top hat and monocle to see the answer:
Apparently the Justice Department has been investigating Live Nation. I say it’s long overdue.
They claim the investigation predates the Taylor fiasco, but Taylor’s travails will certainly add a bright, hot spotlight to the investigation. Ticketmaster has been ripping off customers for years… something music fans know “all too well.”
Heaven is having two of the best singer-songwriters in the whole wide world play a concert in your living room.
That’s Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker of the band Wussy. (Chuck used to front a band called Ass Ponys… as he readily admits, he’s 0-2 in band names.)
Wussy has released several albums to much critical acclaim (see below) and limited commercial success.
“Wussy have been the best band in America since they released the first of their five superb albums in 2005.”
Robert Christgau (“the dean of American rock critics”) in 2012
Chuck and Lisa (and the other band members) still have day jobs. It nearly breaks my music-loving heart to know that such talented artists are toiling in semi-obscurity. Then again, if they were international superstars, they wouldn’t be playing my living room. I still have goosebumps from hearing their songs, and am still on Cloud Nine from the house show.
Chuck and Lisa couldn’t be nicer human beings… they create amazing art… they get to play their songs for people who absolutely adore them. Who needs American Top 40 anyway?
Doug Balogh recently celebrated his 80th birthday. Doug’s name may not mean much to you, but Doug meant the world to a bunch of youngsters who worked at the radio station he and his wife Linda owned and operated for more than two decades in Oxford, Ohio.
97X was a tiny station in a small college town. It had a weak signal, and it played weird music. Not exactly the recipe for runaway success. In fact, it barely registered on the quarterly list of radio ratings for Cincinnati and Dayton stations. But if you define success by the joy that station brought to both the station staff and the small-but-mighty group of dedicated listeners, then Doug’s ratings are off the charts — on the good side.
Doug gave countless young adults – many of them still in college or recently graduated – a chance to work in radio. For that reason alone, he deserves a ton of credit. But he not only gave them opportunity, but also a ton of freedom to do what they thought was best. To play the music they wanted. To be total goofballs on the air. To learn on the job. To grow up under his tutelage.
I’m probably the poster child for Doug Balogh’s Radio Refuge. I worked in radio for a few years after I graduated college, doing behind the scenes work at a company that ran an AM oldies station and an FM country station. I discovered 97X because they played bands you couldn’t hear anywhere else (Replacements, Connells, They Might Be Giants… I could go on and on). I wound up weaseling my way into some weekend air shifts there. I probably spent more in gas money than I made in hourly wages, but I didn’t care, because I had a freedom I couldn’t find elsewhere in the formatted-to-death world of corporate radio, and a connection to the listeners that made it feel like we were all one big (or not so big) happy family.
But then I had my “lost years”… I wound up leaving the radio biz and was living with my brother in Bakersfield, California and working as a travel agent. I knew I was deluding myself but I was in a bit of a rut. When I finally worked up the courage to try to get back in the radio game, the first call I made was to Doug. He had no business putting out the welcome mat for some travel agent in Bakersfield who did a few weekend shifts at the station three years prior. But somehow, some way, Doug brought me back into the fold. Because he saw something in me that I myself often struggled to see. Doug was an ace salesman, but his greatest skill was talent scout. He had a preternatural gift for sensing the right “fit” in the people who came looking for a job there.
I worked overnights for a year, mornings for a year and afternoons for six months before leaving for a larger station in Cincinnati. 97X was where I found myself… it was the radio reboot I desperately needed. It was a second chance at my first love. It was all that and more, thanks to Doug and Linda.
That was 30 years ago. I’ve said many times since that 97X was the least amount of money I’ve ever made… and the most fun I’ve ever had. The latter is much more valuable, and more precious, by far.
Prior to Doug’s big BD, his son Marty and daughter Kristy asked me to reach out to a bunch of 97X alums and get a birthday greeting from them. Several responded, and I edited the clips together for an audio surprise (seemed like a fitting format for a radio guy) that Marty and Kristy shared with Doug during the birthday celebration. I won’t share the total clip here, but you’ll hear snippets from three folks who worked on the morning show (in order: Julie Maxwell, John “JJ” Jesser and Steve Baker)
“Mentor. Coach…. wonderful place”
“Best years of my life”
Some folks may think that Doug and Linda ran a tiny radio station for 20 years. But I know better – they created a magical place that still exists in our minds and hearts.
You done said…