Wednesday, May 31, 2006

By "Tumbling Dice," I'm nearly convinced

I am listening to The Rolling Stones' "Exile on Main Street" as we prepare for a youth soccer match.
Here is what you hear from the onset:
"Rocks Off" -- great song
"Rip This Joint" -- cool song
"Hip Shake" -- "Forgotten" Stone Ian Stewart on piano, so it's great
"Casino Boogie" -- no let up here
"Tumbling Dice" -- OK... maybe this record *IS* the greatest rock album ever.
"Exile" has been endlessly eulogised as an enduring, creative high-point for the Stones.
I'm no Stones expert. Indeed, I have always fallen on the Beatles' side of rock's GREAT DIVIDE.
However, I know how things make me feel, and "Exile" always makes me feel like I'm at a great party with an ultracool dude spinning a variety of discs as an accompaniment. That's what makes this record great to me.
Besides, "Sweet Virginia" and "Torn and Frayed" are such heartfelt homages to Gram Parsons. What's not to like about that?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Uncommon sounds for uncommon heat

It remains uncommonly hot.
It's so uncommonly hot that the heating and cooling guy who began the installation process for our air conditioning unit when we purchased the house has not yet scheduled a time to complete the task (which couldn't be performed in the dead of winter, for unexplained but probably plausible reasons).
It's so uncommonly hot that I slept on the floor of my daughter's room last night. A gathering of overnight guests meant that available beds were in short supply and the temperature in my other daughter's converted-attic bedroom -- the site of the only empty bed -- must have been in the upper 80s at 11 p.m. last night.
It's so uncommonly hot that the cats won't stray from the kitchen tile, where they splay their arms, legs and tails to take full advantage of the surface cooling.
Oh wait...
It's so uncommonly hot that our traditionally jazz-hating girls don't complain when I play the Stan Getz bossa nova albums in the car as we drive around.
"Jazz Samba," by Getz and Charlie Byrd, and "Getz/Gilberto," the classic by Getz and Joao Gilberto, lazily waft from the car speakers in perfect accompaniment for the type of summer heat (in May?!?!) that slows everyday movement to a trickle.
The girls don't complain about jazz? Now that's uncommonly hot!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

It's a Wynn Stewart Sunday!

It's actually a SWEATBOX Sunday.
The National Weather Service forecast calls for a high temperature of 94 degrees today -- exactly 20 degrees above normal. After some rainy, dreary weather a couple weeks ago, it feels as if we have leaped right into mid-summer.
I just depleted myself of the last few drops of moisture in my body with 30 minutes on the treadmill. Now I am sipping water and steeling myself for the worst-possible work assignment on such a hot day. I cover a high school graduation in a stifling civic auditorium.
Oh well.
I listened to Wynn Stewart on the treadmill, so I am happy.
Diminutive Wynn (5-foot-5) paved the way for Southern California's rich country music tradition, only for Buck Owens to reap much of the reward.
For some reason, Wynn's career never really took off, despite a wonderful voice and brilliant songs such as "Wishful Thinking," "Big Big Love" and one of my absolute favorite tunes, Howard Harlan's "Above and Beyond."
"Wishful Thinking" hit the Top 5 in 1959 and "Big Big Love" cracked the Top 20.
Wynn Stewart deserved much, much more.
I'll do my part today: While I sweat my way through a searing Sunday, I'll play Wynn Stewart songs and sing along.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

It's too HOT to headbang

I just removed the heavy metal from my iPod.
No offense meant to Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and the others.
It's just too darned hot to headbang.
In exchange, I threw on a bunch of Stan Getz (pictured), Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins I had held in reserve for a weekend such as this one.
Sax solos seem so much more appropriate when the temperatures and humidity levels both threaten to reach 90.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Goodbye Desmond

I gasped in horror today, when I learned of the death of Desmond Dekker.
The Jamaican music pioneer died age 64.
His classic song "Israelites" introduced me to Jamaican music a long, long time ago. Now, fully a third of my music collection originated from Jamaica. That's how influential Desmond Dekker was for me.
I listened to a "best of" CD throughout the day, as I drove to various assignments.
I can't speak for anyone else, but Desmond Dekker will surely be missed by me.

I know a place

Route 1's FRIDAY QUESTION wants to prove it knows as much as the brainiacs at the Geography Bee with this week's query --
What city has been the most influential in the history of popular music?
Rick T. -- That's a no-brainer! Memphis, Tenn. Home of the King of Rock N Roll, Elvis Presley!
Kerstin H. -- Nashville. Because I love country music and that's where a lot of country music comes from.
Ken B. -- Seattle
Brian C. -- While Liverpool spawned the British Invasion, and it's hard to argue against Nashville (Music City), I'd vote for New York City. One big reason: 1619 Broadway. That's the address of the Brill Building, where songwriters and music publishers churned out countless hits. Imagine a single building where Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Howie Greenfield and Neil Sedaka, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich were all at work, writing songs that are classics 40-50 years later. Then, if you need a tiebreaker, consider that New York City is where Ed Sullivan hosted his TV show, which made or broke the careers of countless bands.
Annika H. -- Nashville.
Matt K. -- Elkader, Iowa
Erik H. -- There are so many places that have spawned great music, making this FRIDAY QUESTION one of the most difficult to answer. I have considered many alternatives, but my answer remains Memphis.
The earliest Delta blues singers gravitated to the Mid-South's primary city. Mixed with some jazz and country, this Memphis music became rockabilly and of course, rock 'n' roll.
Memphis wasn't finished. Stax and associated labels produced a gritty, powerful R&B alternative to the pop-oriented Motown sound. In Booker T. & The MGs, Memphis possessed arguably the tightest band of all time.
Later, Alex Chilton and Big Star demonstrated the resilience of great pop songs and Tav Falco's Panther Burns blazed a roots rock trail still followed by lesser acts.
We recently watched Craig Brewer's "Hustle & Flow" on DVD. It demonstrated that a lively hip-hop scene has ensured Memphis' preeminent place among musical cities.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

We go back a long way

I am watching "Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows)" tonight on DVD and remembering a little milestone in my life.
I was in college and my work-study assignment required me to produce posters promoting the first night of the Mount Mercy film series.
The first night featured Francois Truffaut's debut, and I crafted a poster featuring a large photo of Jean-Pierre Leaud as protagonist Antoine Doinel.
I plastered the posters all over campus, and it marked the first time I used my creativity to inform the public.
I now write for a daily newspaper, so I suppose you could say that poster is where it all started.
I was eagerly anticipating the film. I am one of those people who always wishes he had majored in film studies (at USC or UCLA... somewhere warm but not humid!).
The film certainly did not disappoint.
"Les Quatre Cents Coups" served as my introduction to the Nouvelle Vague and I was amazed that life could be portrayed so realistically.
Tonight I am watching the film for the first time since those college days. It has lost none of its magnificence.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Manc Music in MOJO

MOJO Magazine has a special edition devoted to the Manchester music scene. I have been poring over it for days.
The magazine's features trace the development of the bands chronologically, beginning with the "ground zero" of Manchester music -- the Sex Pistol gigs on June 4 and July 20, 1976.
The audience for those 30-year-old gigs included people who would subsequently form Buzzcocks, Joy Division (Ian Curtis pictured), The Fall and The Smiths.
You could argue the audience eventually had a greater impact on alternative music than the band on stage!
I find it most interesting reading the recollections of the scene's unsung heroes, members of bands such as A Certain Ratio, the Drones and World of Twist.
I think I'll put together a Manchester playlist on the iPod for this weekend. It would provide a perfect soundtrack to my reading materials.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Mysteries of Daily Life

Today's rare Monday off work has given me plenty of opportunity to ponder the deepest mysteries of daily life.
I have been listening to "Ukrainski Vistupi V Johna Peela," the 1989 mini-album by Leeds indie rock stalwarts The Wedding Present. The band celebrated guitarist Peter Solowka's heritage by compiling a catchy set of traditional Ukrainian folk songs. It doesn't get much more "alternative" than that career move.
That unlikeliest of indie rock detours prompted me to consider other MYSTERIES OF DAILY LIFE:
1) Why do the cats favor playing with discarded gum wrappers over the expensive toys we purchased for them?
2) What do we have to do to make the girls simply pick up the towels on the floor of their rooms without constant reminding?
3) How on Earth does the Mr. Clean MAGIC ERASER really work?
This last mystery really has me stumped. I just cleaned all the grime off the bottom of the bathtub with about three swipes of a MAGIC ERASER. How?!?! It appears to be nothing more than a white block of foam! Yet a simple pass over the grime rendered it completely invisible. Hold on...
...Yep... I just checked: The grime is still gone!
Forget Jesus marrying and having a kid -- Somebody make a film about the MAGIC ERASER. This thing is incredible!!!
NEXT WEEK: Route 1 ponders yet another astounding mystery of daily life:
Why does Drambuie taste so damned good?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

I'm Telling You Now

The pop stars of old are reaching that age. That age when they might not be with us much longer.
One such pop star of old, Freddie Garrity, passed away yesterday age 69.
Garrity led Freddie and the Dreamers, who hit big in 1963 with "I'm Telling You Now."
With his black-framed glasses, Freddie echoed the geeky rock look first pioneered by Buddy Holly. Others have used the look to set themselves apart from the crowd, notably Morrissey and even James Dean Bradfield of the Manic Street Preachers.
"I'm Telling You Now" is a great song, and it makes me feel old myself to think that the singer has gone.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Rrrrrrrrr!!! Rrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!! uhh! Rrrrrr!!!

Dentists are fine and nice, but a trip to the dentist's office can become a RECURRING, FEVERISH NIGHTMARE.
ROUTE 1 recognizes this dichotomy with the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
What song reminds you of a trip to the dentist?
Roseanne H. -- Heavy metal. It would remind me of the drill!
Dave B. -- Jackyl's "The Lumberjack." That stupid, annoying chainsaw in that song reminds me of the drill.
Lisa Y. -- I can't think of a song bad enough to make me think of the dentist... Going there is a complete assault on the senses -- smells bad, tastes bad, sounds awful.
Brian C. -- "Brand New Key" by Melanie. Intentionally annoying. And somewhat painful to experience -- like the dentist's drill.
"I ride my bike, I roller skate, don't drive no car
Don't go too fast, but I go pretty far
For somebody who don't drive
I been all around the world
Some people say, I done all right for a girl."
And to think it was No. 1 at Christmastime 1971. No accounting for taste, I guess.
Erik H. -- The first song I heard after leaving the dentist will forever remind me of the place. I scrolled to a punk rock playlist on the iPod and the Stranglers' 1977 rant "Something Better Change" blasted out of the car stereo speakers.
"Something's happening and it's happening right now
You're too blind to see it
Something's happening and it's happening right now
Ain't got time to wait
I said something better change."
This strident call to arms perfectly encapsulated my feelings as I tapped my numb cheek and waited for the inevitable soreness to arrive. But I'm better now.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Cum on Feel the You Tube

I have been enjoying some excellent GLAM ROCK vintage videos thanks to You Tube this morning. Check out Slade's classic original "Cum on Feel the Noize" by clicking here.
I have also been singing along and nearly dancing in my seat to classics such as "Tiger Feet" by Mud and "Blockbuster" and "Little Willy" by The Sweet.
I still need to do some more exploring over at You Tube. It is very much in vogue right now, but thus far I have only viewed some of the old music videos. I am sure there are some cool old cartoons and TV commercials and what not on there as well.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Celebrate Suomi!!!

I received a new NOKIA cell phone this week, so today Route 1 celebrates FINLAND, the 113th most populous nation on Earth! (Take that, 114th-ranked Kyrgyzstan!)
To show our respect for all things Suomen, here are SIX GREAT THINGS ABOUT FINLAND!
1) JAVA JUNKIES! Finns consume more coffee -- between six to seven cups per person per day -- than any other nation on Earth, according to a report by the U.S. Library of Medicine.
2) JORMA OLLILA! In the early 1990s, this CEO of NOKIA decided to abandon the television manufacturing side of the company's business and solely concentrate on making cell phones. Good choice!
3) THE WINTER WAR! Little Finland, its soldiers on skis, fought the mighty SOVIET UNION to a standstill during The Winter War of 1939-40. The Commies grabbed Karelia, but lost out on Helsinki. So there!
4) ALVAR AALTO! One of Finland's great architects, he designed the BEAUTIFUL Mount Angel Library in St. Benedict, Ore. Thanks Alvar!
5) SISU! One of the defining traits of the Finns, sisu refers to the combination of stamina, tenacity and will power demonstrated by a lengthy list of FINNISH LONG DISTANCE RUNNING LEGENDS, including Hannes Kolehmainen, Paavo Nurmi and Lasse Viren.
6) FISKARS! If you know scissors, you know the greatness of Fiskars!
There you have it! Six great things about Finland!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Thath rallyth thuckt

It was the sort of dentist appointment that would send shivers down the sturdiest of spines.
The dentist had to deliver an additional shot of novacaine to my lower jaw, after his initial drilling nearly sent me skyrocketing out of the chair.
He replaced a couple of decayed silver fillings, then cautioned that a crack in one tooth might require a crown some day.
I apparently grind my teeth at night, so the dentist suggested wearing a "night guard," a type of retainer. His recommended, long-term solution to a bite problem? Revisiting my junior-high school days (Oak Grove Middle School, Concord, Calif.) by submitting myself to additional orthodontal work.
If I could smile, I would offer up a wry smile right about now.
Instead, I have been listening to ENGLISH PUNK ROCK and telling myself at the peak pain from my bound-to-be-sore jaw should coincide with our hour-long staff meeting this afternoon at work.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Cartoon blogs

I have been visiting some great cartoon blogs tonight.
I recommend visiting:
1) The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive Project, located here.
2) The great Classic Cartoons blog, located here.
3) Remember the great "Ren and Stimpy?" Creator John Kricfalusi has a cool blog, All Kinds of Stuff, located here.
All three provide a wonderful escape from the "real" world.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The perfect crime film?

Happy Mother's Day!
We are about to embark on an evening of Mother's Day shopping. Before we go, I thought I would share my latest film adventure.
Last night I found Jules Dassin's masterful "Rififi" at Borders.
It is fabulous. This 1955 classic details the meticulous planning of what should be the perfect crime: The heist of the contents of a diamond store's safe.
The 30-minute, wordless depiction of the robbery is famous. It deserves its fame, as it holds the viewer enthralled as the four crooks thwart ceilings, alarms and the safe. The perfect crime unravels in imperfect fashion, however, as Dassin serves up a number of surprising twists and turns.
Dassin's story is also rather famous: The American director of "Naked City" and "Brute Force" fled to Europe when he was blacklisted during the anti-Communist witchhunts.
He spent time unemployed in Paris until the opportunity to helm "Rififi" came along. All the Parisian spots he spied while wandering unemployed came to good use as locations for the film. Dassin won big at Cannes with "Rififi," and his reputation soared as many considered "Rififi" the perfect heist film.
It was one of those films that I wanted to see again as soon as it ended. I can't say that about too many films.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Merry Merry Merseysiders

Liverpool won the FA Cup, 3-1 on penalties after playing a memorable 3-3 draw with West Ham United. Steven Gerrard equalised twice for the Merseysiders. Finland's Sami Hyypia is the celebrating blonde in the far left of the photo.
Finland! That's almost as good as Sweden!
John Arne Riise is in the far right in this photo. He is from Norway.
That's a shame.
Here's some consolation for the Hammers: They get to play in the UEFA Cup next season.

Kicks and quotes

OK, I'll bite.
I was following today's 125th FA Cup Final between Liverpool and West Ham United live online on the Guardian newspaper's Web site (located here) when the commentator asked about the greatest cover versions of all time.
Well, Route 1 rose to that bait like a hungry crappie.
I dashed off a quick e-mail in which I also complained that the BBC Radio Five Live Web site could not broadcast the final, except to residents of the UK.
At half time my comments appeared in the commentary:
Covers etc
"'Everything I Own' by Ken Boothe is the best cover version of all time," says Erik Hogstrom. "I am an American who could only listen to the build-up to the Cup Final on Radio Five Live online. Then they cut the broadcast because of "contractual restrictions." Why doesn't the FA license audio worldwide? Shame on them."

Friday, May 12, 2006

FQ parties out of doors

Route 1'’s FRIDAY QUESTION returns this week with an eye toward warmer weather.
What song would you like to hear at a cook-out?
Mike D. -- "Cheeseburger in Paradise" by Jimmy Buffet. It always reminds me of the open-air restaurant of the same name that my wife and I ate at during our trip to Hawaii!
Dave B. -- "Gin and Juice" - Snoop. Because of the video, when I have or I am at a cookout it reminders me of a barbeque.
Annika H. -- Honky Tonk Badonkadonk
Mary N.-P. -- "On the Road Again" by Canned Heat - I don't know why - might have something to do with cook-out venues - warm summer nights, the time when wanderlust often strikes...
Rick T. -- "It'’s a Great Day to be Alive" by Travis Tritt
Inger H. -- Who else but the shimmery, summery sounds of The Mayflies?
Ellen B. -- Garth Brooks - "I got friends in Low Places"... "Where the Whiskey drowns, And the Beer chases my blues away and I will be okay!"
Erik H. -- I will choose "Shake Some Action" by San Francisco legends the Flamin' Groovies. "Shake some action's what I need, to let me bust out at full speed. I'm sure that's all you need, to make it all right."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I was just there!

I am watching the Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece "Vertigo" tonight and I was just struck by the most powerful feeling of deja vu.
Scottie (Jimmy Stewart) has just followed Madeleine/Carlotta/Judy (Kim Novak) through the Presidio and out to Fort Point.
My sister Inger and I walked from Crissy Field to Fort Point recently. Approaching the fort, (middle aged) surfers were plying the waves that broke in the bay to our right. I glanced at them, then glanced up at the hillside to our left, where small rivulets of rainwater attracted my attention.
Well, one of Hitchcock's shots of Scottie in his car features THAT HILLSIDE.
I was thunderstruck!
I remember walking up to Fort Point and a group of Junipero Serra High School (of San Mateo!) students (one kid wore a SWEEEET blue hoodie with "Serra Padres" emblazoned in gold) and turning once again to face THAT HILLSIDE.
It was the EXACT view that Hitchcock's camera had in "Vertigo" just now. Whoah.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

More stone-cold classics from the Bay

A foggy morning reminded me of the Bay Area today.
One of the CDs I purchased in San Francisco is packed with Bay Area goodness.
Any compilation of 1960s' R&B that opens with Rodger Collins' "She's Looking Good" earns four stars in my book, regardless of the remainder of the tracks.
"Moaning, Groaning, Crying: A Galaxy of Soul and R&B" is packed with enough stone-cold classics in addition to "She's Looking Good" to earn my coveted SIX-star ranking.
Songs such as "Daddy Rollin' Stone" by Ozz & The Sperlings, "Love's Philosophy" by the Casanova II and "You're a Winner" by Harold Andrews should have been well-known throughout the land. A variety of circumstances, though, consigned these singles to regional airplay in the Bay Area alone.
That's a shame.
This import CD from Ace Records' Kent imprint reminds me of the richness of the Bay Area's musical heritage.

Monday, May 08, 2006

A few words chosen at random

Three weeks earlier... A pile of money... An English class... A house by the river... A romantic young girl...
Well, it looks like I have a new favorite film... AGAIN.
I watched Jean-Luc Godard's "Bande à Part" on DVD tonight and I am hooked.
Godard said he wanted to break all the rules. He did so with style.
"They say you can't use handheld cameras for tracking shots? Let's do it."
"Bande à Part" is pure, fun cinema.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Another sad loss for music

I am listening to "Bachelor Kisses," "Cattle and Cane" and other classics by the Go-Betweens today while I lament the loss of co-leader Grant McLennan.
He died in his sleep last night, age 48.
McLennan formed the band with Robert Forster in 1977 in Brisbane and they remained among the classiest of all Australian bands.
Today is yet another sad day for music.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Get Directly Down!

It's party time at my house!
The beverages are on ice and the guests will be arriving soon for a 40th birthday party my wife Jill is throwing for me.
The weather is brilliant, so we can hang out in the backyard until the night chill arrives. Then we can chill inside to some good music. We can GET DIRECTLY DOWN, as this rather obscure album cover instructs. Check out more album covers at this Web site located here.
Party on!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Slim, cats and the Room of Doom

Well, I am back home.
I timed my return just right: San Francisco is socked in by fog and Dubuque shines in sparkling sunlight.
I return to work tomorrow. In the meantime, I am carrying totes of winter clothes down to the very back of our basement, a rather dank and quasi-sinister space the girls have christened "the Room of Doom."
It is increasingly apparent the room is aptly named: The cats are taking turns playing chicken with my legs as I carry heavy totes down the basement steps, between the treadmill and some garage-sale items and up into the Room of Doom.
It is only a matter of time before one of them trips me up and I spill myself and the contents of a tote onto the floor of the Room of Doom.
At least I will have Slim Smith to help me convalesce.
I have been listening to the sweet-voiced reggae legend throughout the morning (which feels like REALLY EARLY, as I have not yet recovered from the two-hour time difference).
Someone once said: Slim Smith could read a collection of traffic citations and it would still sound like the greatest song you have ever heard. That's what kind of a voice he possessed.
Now, back to my tote-carrying day off. Mika! Lorelei! Get out of the way, you crazy cats!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Life begins at...

At least, that's what I am hoping, since I turned 40 today.
In the above photo I actually look 50. That's because I need a haircut.
I am sure I am not alone, but when I think about my life it sometimes seems like it all occurred in the blink of an eye.
Then, when I think of all the states I have lived in (five -- California, Montana, Arizona, Oregon and Iowa) and all of the people I have met and Jill and the kids and...
... and then my life seems like an incredible journey.
Here's hoping the next 40 (50? 60?) are as enjoyable as the past 40.
A GIANTS World Series victory will help immensely, by the way. Just not this year, probably. I heard them on KNBR the other day and they sound terrible...

Monday, May 01, 2006

Four reasons I'll be in the doghouse when I get home

1. "Moaning, Groaning, Crying: A Galaxy of Soul and R&B" -- it includes Rodger Collins' lost classic from 1966, "She's Looking Good."
2. "Keep that Lovelight Shining: Slim Smith Anthology" -- a 40-song collection of songs by my fave reggae legend.
3. "Wynn Stewart: California Country" -- a 29-song collection by the pioneer of the "Bakersfield Sound."
4. "Bay Area Funk 2" -- the real reason I stepped into Amoeba Music, San Francisco's massive emporium of tempting musical titles.
Yep. I will have plenty of music to write about in coming weeks. Just no money for soda or beer.