Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fake blood and "The Bellshill Beach Boys"

While driving to a couple interviews today my mind has wandered into the past, thanks in part to the music I've been playing.
I am listening to "Bandwagonesque" by the Scottish band Teenage Fanclub.
The music of "The Bellshill Beach Boys" always puts me in a nostalgic mood, because I remember playing a battered cassette of "Bandwagonesque" to the point of unusable destruction. That shows you the merits of this 1991 album.
The music also seems so timeless.
Today my nostalgia brought me back to Halloween nights when I was a kid in Concord, Calif.
Now, authorities have only allotted a two-hour window for trick-or-treating. Back when I was a kid (oh, oh, here we go), we grabbed pillowcases for candy and didn't come back home until our legs gave out.
We wore fancy costumes occasionally, but it was just as easy to put on a bunch of ill-fitting old clothes and dab yourself with fake "Vampire blood."
Halloween seemed so simple back then. I wonder if it seems simple to my kids, what with the addition of officially sanctioned trick-or-treat hours and elaborate, store-bought costumes of television characters and the like?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Rip City Junior?

Coworkers will tease me about the 106-97 loss, but it was fun watching the visiting PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS play the San Antonio Spurs tonight on television.
Portland has the youngest team in the NBA, with an average age of about 24, but they stayed with the defending NBA champions for most of the game -- even climbing back from a 16-point deficit.
LaMarcus Aldridge (pictured) looked like a real star, scoring 27 points to lead all scorers (even Tim Duncan). Fellow youngster Martell Webster added 21, while one of the few "oldsters" on the Blazers, Joel Przybilla, added 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Blazers are the NBA's youngest team (even without the injured first pick in the draft, Greg Oden), and their relative youth showed at times, with the players making some questionable decisions on offense and defense (losing wide-open players while attempting to play zone defense, for example).
Still, the relative youth also means MY FAVORITE NBA TEAM boasts plenty of potential.
We haven't yet returned to the days of Clyde Drexler, Cliff Robinson or Jerome Kersey, but the dawn of a new, great era seems closer to reality than it has in years.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Eine Symphonie des Grauens

Kerstin and I stayed up last night watching F. W. Murnau's "Nosferatu: Eine Symphonie des Grauens" on DVD.
It's a famous film that remains famously frightening even 85 years after its release.
Max Schreck stars as Graf Orlok, "Count Dracula" in all but name, and a "nosferatu," or vampire.
Murnau's film is an excellent example of German Expressionism, and Kerstin and I both remarked about how much dread the director could wring out of elongated shadows.
It's a perfect film to welcome Halloween!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Band like no other

It never fails to amuse me: A band that forged a lasting link between rock and American rural music was four-fifths Canadian.
Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson emerged from north of the border, joining with Southerner Levon Helm to first back Ronnie Hawkins, then Bob Dylan before setting out on their own as The Band.
I watched Martin Scorsese's "The Last Waltz" -- a chronicle of The Band's final gig -- last night (while still flying high after MY BELOVED OREGON DUCKS held off USC for an important college football victory).
I made a big pot of chili this morning while listening to "Rock of Ages," The Band's double-live album account of a gig from New Year's Eve 1971.
All five members were supremely talented musicians and the principal singers -- Manuel, Danko and Helm -- each brought a unique sound to the complex compositions.
Music journalist Anthony DeCurtis wrote in the New York Times in 2002 that The Band avoided the "lengthy jams, rococo arrangements and trippy lyrics" prevalent during the latter years of the 1960s and earliest years of the 1970s.
Rather, DeCurtis wrote, "songs like 'The Weight' and 'Chest Fever' were at once carefully structured and rhythmically loose, plain-spoken and receptive to endless interpretation."
"The group's morally ambiguous songs," DeCurtis reckons, "harked back to the oldest traditions in American music -- to medicine shows and spirituals, to murder ballads and eccentric folk character portraits."
I enjoyed listening to The Band today. Putting on an album such as "Rock of Ages" is akin to renewing a favored acquaintance from the past.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Don't worry about me -- I'm listening to Aztec Camera

I must work a relatively rare Saturday shift, but it's not all bad: I am listening to the debut album (1983) from AZTEC CAMERA.
"High Land Hard Rain" has always been among my favorites. It seemed delightfully out of step upon its arrival, because while everyone else was fiddling with synthesizers, Aztec Camera's Roddy Frame was happily strumming his acoustic guitar.
Here is what rock critic Robert Christgau says about the album, obviously after significantly mulling it over:
"At first I did the obvious thing and pigeonholed this as high-grade pop--richer and truer than Haircut 100 or even the dB's or the Bongos and ultimately feckless anyhow. Now I think it's more like U2 with songs (which is all U2 needs). For sheer composition--not just good tunes, but good tunes that swoop and chime and give you goosebumps--Roddy Frame's only current competition is Marshall Crenshaw, and unlike Crenshaw he never makes you smell retro. His wordcraft is worthy of someone who admires Keats, his wordplay worthy of someone admired by Elvis C.; he sings and arranges with a rousing lyricism that melds militance and the love of life."
Now, if only MY BELOVED OREGON DUCKS could play with "rousing lyricism" and "militance" against the USC Trojans this afternoon...

Friday, October 26, 2007

FRIDAY QUESTION on a nonfiction film kick

This week, ROUTE 1 readers answer the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What is your favorite documentary?"
Mike M. -- I saw a couple of Les Blank documentaries about 10 years ago, "J'ai Été Au Bal" (1989) and "Yum, Yum, Yum!" (1990), and I still think about them today. They're about French Louisiana, Cajun food and Zydeco music, but also about society, culture and life in general. Other favorites: "Crumb" (1994) by Terry Zwigoff, "Roger & Me" (1989) by Michael Moore and "Gimme Shelter" (1970) by Albert and David Maysles. Some documentaries I want to see: "Titicut Follies" (1967) and "High School" (1968) by Frederick Wiseman and "Shoah" (1985) by Claude Lanzmann. Also, "Hearts of Darkness" (1991), a documentary about the making of the movie "Apocalypse Now," out on DVD this November.
Brian C. -- Ken Burns' "The Civil War." Now that you mention it, after visiting Gettysburg and Antietam on summer vacation, I need to find those VHS tapes and watch it again!
Mike D. -- While I look forward to watching the Civil War, WWII and other documentaries by Ken Burns when I get time (probably after retirement), I HAVE seen his baseball series twice. It was so entertaining, educational and inspiring that I began making my own videos, documenting the history of my family, our band and our softball team.

Rick T. -- Anything about the ill-fated Donner Party or Donner Pass, Calif.
Bob H. -- The best documentary I have ever seen is the current "Planet Earth" series from The Discovery Channel and BBC, available on DVD from Netflix. A must see for everyone with eyes. Hold onto your hats -- it's a wild ride.
Inger H. -- "Spinal Tap." Sometimes reality just needs to be filtered and distilled a bit before the real truth can come out.
Dave B. -- "The Civil War" by Ken Burns.
Scout S. -- "Man Bites Dog."
Jim S. -- Ken Burns' "Civil War." It's very long, but I still have copies of it on tape (maybe I should update them with DVDs!). On a smaller scale, I loved "Hoop Dreams," which followed a couple of young, inner-city Chicago basketball players through five years of their lives.
Roseanne H. -- We have been watching "Planet Earth," produced by the BBC. It is just amazing and I recommend it to everyone. I can hardly wait to see the next episode.
Erik H. -- Martin Scorsese is a masterful storyteller. It should come as no surprise, then, that his 2005 documentary on Bob Dylan, "No Direction Home," is a master class in historical narrative.
Scorsese gives us glimpses of the future animosity of folk fans -- people shouting "Judas!" at concerts -- as he portrays Dylan's evolution from the idolized young singer of songs such as "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" to the often vilified (by the folkies) electric guitar-toting singer of songs such as "Highway 61 Revisited."
Scorsese was also able to interview just about EVERYBODY involved, which gives numerous viewpoints to an often complicated story about an almost impenetrable, complicated artist in Dylan.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Now *THIS* is a guitar solo

We were laughing at work today, marveling how readers of GUITARIST magazine in the UK ranked the guitar part from a Carpenters' song as rock history's 18th best solo.
Granted, Tony Peluso's fuzz-guitar ending to "Goodbye to Love" is fabulous. Still, I wonder how many electric guitar fans have waited through the entirety of Karen Carpenter's warbling before getting to Peluso's whacked-out solo.
Perusing the list, yet another memorable solo caught my eye: Clocking in at No. 6, I saw GARY MOORE (pictured) and the solo on his 1974 single "Parisienne Walkways."
"Now *THIS* is a guitar solo," I said to myself.
I couldn't wait to get home to hear it again.
Sure enough, "Parisienne Walkways" starts off sounding like all the song contains is one long guitar solo by Belfast-born Moore.
Then, Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy starts to sing.
I closed my eyes just to let the song sink in to my soul.
"Parisienne Walkways" is easily one of the most beautiful songs in the rock canon.
The solos from "Hotel California" by the Eagles and Van Halen's "Eruption" took the top two honors in this particular ranking.
For my money, though, it's that captivating solo -- and the song it calls home -- in the sixth spot that makes the top of my list.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Death robs us of one of the Ruts

"Babylon's Burning" has always been one of my favorite songs, so I was dismayed today to learn of the recent death of Paul "Foxy" Fox.
Fox was the guitarist and co-songwriter with the Ruts, one of the best of the second-generation punk bands to emerge in late-1970s Britain.
Foxy was brilliant.
According to the obituary in the Guardian, Fox
"helped create some of the best loved and most enduring work of the punk era."
I echo that sentiment.
"Babylon's Burning" simply rages away at the poverty and discontent rife in British cities during the last years of the 1970s.
Ruts were obviously inspired by reggae, which was one of the things I loved about the band.
The band's early promise was arrested in 1980, however, when vocalist Malcolm Owen died of a heroin overdose.
The remaining members carried on for awhile as "Ruts DC," but the commercial peak reached by "Babylon's Burning" (No. 7 on the UK charts in 1979) were never scaled again.
However, Foxy remained an influential and much-admired guitarist. Ron Wood and Keith Richards appeared with Fox on two later albums and Pete Townshend and Jimmy Page were both said to be admirers.
I listened to "Babylon's Burning" and the similarly hard-driving "S.U.S." as I drove home for lunch today. It was my little tribute to the passing of a mostly unheralded guitar great.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums"

"Should I leave them by your gate? Or sad-eyed lady, should I wait?"
I have spent my final of SIX DAYS OFF constructing one of those RIDICULOUSLY LONG playlists that I often cram onto my poor, cramped iPod.
This one is a BOB DYLAN playlist of 65 songs and clocking in at five hours and five minutes.
I called it "Dylanmania," because after watching "No Direction Home" I feel as if a mania has swept over me.
I based the playlist on MOJO Magazine's list of 100 GREATEST DYLAN SONGS, as compiled by musicians and music journalists.
I fallen madly in love with the second song on the list and the second song on my playlist:
Although I love the lyrics and the music, I especially love the fact that Dylan never told the backing band when to quit playing!
Drummer Kenny Buttrey explains:
"He ran down a verse and a chorus and he just quit and said, 'We'll do a verse and then a chorus and then I'll play my harmonica thing. Then we'll do another verse and chorus and we'll play some more harmonica and see how it goes from there.'...Not knowing how long this thing was going to be, we were preparing ourselves dramatically for a basic two to three minute record, because records just didn't go over three minutes... If you notice that record, that thing after like the second chorus starts building and building like crazy, and everybody's just peaking it up 'cause we thought, Man this is it. this is going to be the last chorus and we've got to put everything into it we can... After about ten minutes of this thing we're cracking up at each other, at what we were doing. I mean, we peaked five minutes ago. Where do we go from here?"

Monday, October 22, 2007

And not a drop of ketchup in sight

The girls and I recently discussed Chicago-style hot dogs and how good they taste. The basic ingredients of a Chicago-style hot dog include:
* Beef hot dog.
* Yellow mustard.
* Chopped onions.
* Sweet relish.
* Kosher dill spear.
* Tomato wedges.
* Sport peppers.
* Dash of celery salt.
There can be variations, but the above are probably the most traditional components.
Notice how a Chicago-style
hot dog challenges the convention of what a hot dog should be? No ketchup. No cheese. No chili.
I thought about that this morning, while watching Martin Scorsese's masterful "No Direction Home."
Lent to me by my friend Matt, this 2005 documentary chronicles BOB DYLAN and his evolution from a folk singer idolized as some sort of musical savior to a electrified performer vilified by the crowd as some sort of musical traitor.
An artist, he says in "No Direction Home," should always be aware of being in a constant state of becoming.
I think Dylan has always been striving to challenge convention, reacting against pigeon-holing by critics and fans.
I love the film's depiction of the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. The crowd of folk purists unleashes a torrent of boos as Dylan's band plugs in and Pete Seeger frets backstage.
What does Dylan do?
He sings "Maggie's Farm:"
"I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more. No, I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more. Well, he hands you a nickel, he hands you a dime, he asks you with a grin if you're havin' a good time. Then he fines you every time you slam the door. I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more."
What does that mean?
I think it means people should be true to themselves. If you want to plug in an electric guitar to deliver your message, then plug in an electric guitar. If you want to put sport peppers and no ketchup on your hot dog, well, you know what to do.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Smoke and screams

I have been listening to live coverage of SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA fires this afternoon on KNX 1070 online.
The 1,200-acre Malibu fire has destroyed at least three homes, three businesses and a church. Hundreds of people have been evacuated -- including students at Pepperdine University -- and authorities have closed the Pacific Coast Highway.
Overnight winds gusted as high as 108 mph, and these winds are fueling several fires in the Southland.
Additional Los Angeles County fires are burning near Castaic and Agua Dulce (north of Los Angeles). A fire near Portrero, Calif., east of San Diego, has killed one person and injured four others.
Scary stuff from my native state.

Earlier this morning, the girls and I prepared for Halloween by listening to SCREAMING LORD SUTCH.
The future leader of the OFFICIAL MONSTER RAVING LOONY PARTY was a pioneering shock rocker, influencing the likes of Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne.
On the 1964 single "She's Fallen in Love With the Monster Man," Sutch was joined by session guitarist JIMMY PAGE -- four years before the creation of Led Zeppelin.
Sutch and his horror-themed songs -- including "Jack the Ripper" and "All Black and Hairy" -- were designed to delight. The news I am hearing from Southern California, by contrast, chills me to the bone.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

"I said we're only trying to get us some peace"

Merseyside wasn't the center of your universe today?
It sure seemed to be at the center of mine.
This morning, I sipped coffee and ate marmalade on toast while enjoying the 206th Merseyside derby.
Dirk Kuyt's second penalty -- in stoppage time -- lifted visiting LIVERPOOL to a 2-1 victory at EVERTON. The home side had two men sent off in an action-packed match.
Later, I compiled an iTunes playlist that replicates the first BEATLES album I remember hearing.
My late, jazz-adoring dad owned a copy of a rather strange compilation from 1970. The album was titled "Hey Jude" on the spine of the cover, but was titled "The Beatles Again" on the label.
Side one included "Can't Buy Me Love" and "I Should Have Known Better" from "A Hard Day's Night." Then the compilation skipped ahead a couple years to include the 1966 classics "Paperback Writer" and "Rain." "Lady Madonna" and "Revolution" rounded out side one.
Side two opened with "Hey Jude," in all its seven-plus minutes of glory. "Old Brown Shoe," "Don't Let Me Down" and "The Ballad of John & Yoko" closed out the album.
It seems rather cobbled together, but in reality the track list did a great job of introducing me to one of the central ideas of The Beatles: That songs of increasing complexity can still be catchy as hell.
"Hey Jude/The Beatles Again" was one of my most-cherished albums that I inherited from my dad.
Oh, and I forgot to mention: Liverpool's Jamie Carragher seemed to drag Everton's Joleon Lescott to the ground
in the penalty area during the dying seconds of the Merseyside derby, but the referee waved play on and the home side felt much aggrieved.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Happy Birthday, high school!

I have a few days off work, and I sure wish I could have flown down to Phoenix, Ariz.
My alma mater turns 50 years old this year, and CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL celebrates in style tonight.
Campus tours and receptions will preface tonight's homecoming football game against Mesa High School.
Central's Bobcats have struggled a bit this season, going 1-6, and most of the Valley of the Sun's focus will be on the traditional rivalry game between St. Mary's and Brophy.
Still, seeing the red-and-grey of Central in action once again would have been so fun.
After the game, anniversary celebrants are scheduled to gather at Alice Cooperstown, local rocker Alice Cooper's downtown sports bar/restaurant.
I wish I could be there.
I have many fond memories of Central High School.
I have just learned of the death of LUCKY DUBE.
The South African reggae legend was killed by apparent carjackers in the Johannesburg suburb of Rosettenville. He was 43.
I listened to his song "House of Exile" when I heard of his death this morning. Dube served as a powerful social force -- much like Bob Marley -- for South Africans struggling against apartheid and then struggling to overcome the economic inequities triggered by that evil regime. His music was great, too.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

"I never lose. Not really."

Days off are great!
Especially when you can watch a great film.
This afternoon I watched Jean-Pierre Melville's "Le Samouraï," starring Alain Delon as the ULTRA-COOL hit man, Jef Costello.
The film masterfully combines French existentialism with film-noir gangsterism.
Delon is the epitome of cool, while Guadaloupe-born Cathy Rosier provides an ice-cold exoticism.
I could watch this 1967 film over and over. Although there is very little dialog, I glean additional insight every time I see it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A real gem of a song

When Kerstin and I grabbed our iPods and left the house for our early morning walk today, I clicked on "Led Zeppelin III" and "Immigrant Song" helped me keep up the necessary pace.
Tonight, after a busy, day-before-vacation eight hours at work, I relaxed while listening to the mandolin and acoustic guitar showcase that is "That's The Way."
If you only knew Led Zeppelin's work from listening to classic rock radio, you would probably miss out on "That's The Way," which is possibly the most pastoral song in the band's catalog.
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant wrote the song in 1970, during their extended songwriting break at Bron-Yr-Aur cottage in Wales.
As opposed to "Immigrant Song's" breakneck lines about "the land of the ice and snow," "That's The Way" tells a sad song of loss:
"I don't know how I'm gonna tell you, I can't play with you no more. I don't know how I'm gonna do what mama told me, my friend the boy next door."
Stressing the song's beauty, the All Music Guide says "Led Zeppelin skeptics could conceivably start here."
A song for skeptics or not, "That's The Way" is a real gem.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Let's drive to the Wombats

Kerstin requested some British radio this morning after our predawn walk, so we clicked on BBC RADIO ONE online and the Edith Bowman Show.
Among the songs we liked were "She's So Lovely" by Scouting for Girls and "Had Enough" by Enemy.
Kerstin was disappointed not to hear McFly. I was disappointed not to hear The Wombats, so I played "Let's Dance to Joy Division" on the iPod as I drove her through the dripping fog to school.
"Let's dance to Joy Division, and celebrate the irony. Everything is going wrong but we're so happy," the Liverpool indie band sings on the new single.
The release of a song that revels in Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris seems perfectly timed: Anton Corbijn's biopic about the band, "Control," is being released to acclaim.
The track provided the perfect soundtrack to this morning, and I plan to listen to it on repeat en route to work, too.
"So let the love tear us apart, I've found the cure for a broken heart. Let it tear us apart, so let the love tear us apart, I've found the cure for a broken heart."

Monday, October 15, 2007

"This... next... one... is... from... our... first... album..."

"I think you know this one," Robin Zander carefully enunciates as he speaks to the boisterous crowd in April 1978 at Japan's Budokan hall. "It's called 'Speak Now...' and it starts with Mr. Tom Petersson on the bass."
Kerstin and I grabbed iPods and hit the sidewalk for a big walk this morning.
I listened to "Cheap Trick at Budokan: The Complete Concert."
The two-disc set collected all of the songs Cheap Trick performed at their career-making gig in Japan and placed them in the correct set order.
It has been written before, but the hysterical, Beatlemania-type Tokyo crowd does function almost as a fifth band member. Their wall-of-sound screams electrify the already great songs.
It made for a bracing soundtrack to my walk.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Klaatu Barada Nikto!

Last night I introduced the girls to "The Day The Earth Stood Still," surely one of the best films of the 1950s.
The girls are by no means science fiction buffs, but Robert Wise's 1951 feature is more about humanity than spacemen and they related space visitor Klaatu's concerns about widening conflict to our present situation in the world.
"I am fearful when I see people substituting fear for reason," Klaatu says in one of the film's many memorable lines.
"I wonder if the president ever saw that movie? I highly doubt it."
Kerstin and Annika watched in rapt attention as Klaatu brings all power on Earth to a shuddering stop to prove his point of the importance of his message. All power, that is, except for hospitals and planes in flight, the girls reminded me.
The girls also enjoyed the irony of young Bobby Benson showing "Mr. Carpenter" (Klaatu) the spacecraft on the mall.
The only aspect of the film where the girls and I differed was on the score.
I have long considered Bernard Herrmann a genius ("Citizen Kane," "Psycho" and "Taxi Driver," to name but three classics), and he scored "The Day the Earth Stood Still" with pianos, harps, electrical organs, a large brass section (including four tubas) and -- crucially -- a pair of theremins.
I loved the "other worldly" aspect of the theremins -- basically two pitch and one volume radio frequency oscillators with a pair of metal antennas. Running your hand around the antennas changes the frequency and volume, creating the eerie music.
Well, the music of the theremin was too eerie for Annika: She had me turn down the volume on the TV whenever the volume of the theremin became too great.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

At the top of my Christmas list!

God Bless the University of Illinois Press and author Diane Diekman!
ROUTE 1 reader, good friend and REAL COUNTRY MUSIC STALWART Rick T. alerted us to the publishing of Diekman's FARON YOUNG biography, "Live Fast Love Hard: The Faron Young Story."
You can read about the book here.
I go through so many listening phases -- 1950s jazz, 1960s reggae, 1970s soul, 1980s British heavy metal, 1990s Chicano hip hop -- that my iPod crashes from all the changes.
Some musical artists have never left iPod, however, and Young -- "the Singin' Sheriff" -- tops that list of ever presents.
You can search high and low and find very little information about the Young, the Country Music Hall of Famer. If I could quit my job, I would learn some HTML and create a Web site for Faron. Until that glorious time, however, I need to gather as much about the Louisiana Hayride and Grand Ol' Opry star as possible.
Diekman's book will surely help, so I have placed it at the top of my annual CHRISTMAS LIST.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Holiday: A day off with no work or school

ROUTE 1 readers, dismayed by the lack of sanctioned time off between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, chime in with answers to this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What holiday would you like to see added to the calendar?"
Mike D. -- Earth Day should be a national holiday, where everyone has the day off work to spend time outdoors, enjoying nature and eating granola bars.
Kerstin H. -- The day after ITBS (the Iowa Test of Basic Skills). They can't teach you anything anyway that day.
Rick T. -- National "Take The Day Off" day. It has to fall during the week, or it wouldn't be any fun.
Annika H. -- My birthday. Everybody would have the day off!
Dave B. -- Earth Day. Have a massive clean the Earth day. You get the day off if you spend it making the Earth a better place to live.
Erik H. -- Seeing how Annika's birthday is in early January, and knowing what a post-holiday letdown the month of January has become, I will echo her answer. Let's all have Annika's birthday off!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"Coz I Luv You"

I love SLADE.
I love Noddy's atrocious, mutton-chop sideburns.
I love Dave's crazy outfits (how did he ever stay on top of those platform boots).
I especially love the music.
Say what you must about Slade, but surely even the most ardent haters have to admit they produced among the CATCHIEST SONGS in history. "Cuz I Luv You?" "Mama Weer All Crazee Now?" "Take Me Bak 'Ome?" "Cum on Feel the Noize?" All classics.
So why didn't they make it big here in the U.S.?
I'll never know.
I do know that I have been experiencing some high-stress days recently. It's been hard to smile. It's been hard to sleep. But today I listened to Slade and things seemed better.
I also watched some clips on YouTube of the old "The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer" show -- some clips of the "Slade on Holiday" sketches. I couldn't stop laughing (see one of them here).
I don't have to trumpet the greatness of Slade: Plenty of their peers have done their own bit to champion this band.
In parting, here is what Noel Gallagher of Oasis (who surely patterned "Some Might Say" on Slade's sound) had to say:
"Slade was never pretentious. It was just music to them. Pop, rock, soul... it was all the same to Slade. They wrote great songs. And, besides, I'd like to raid their wardrobe."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Let's hear it for a little "Instant Rubbish!"

"In it's own cute way, 'Blockbuster' -- THE SWEET's first Number One record -- is something of a masterpiece," wrote NICK KENT in a February 1973 edition of the NME.
Kent continued:
"Loud, synthetic, and crass as hell, it adheres itself gracefully to that genre of popular known as Instant Rubbish."
To which I say:
"Thank goodness for that!"
I am relaxing from another stressful day by listening to some of the LOVELY RUBBISH produced by Brian Connolly, Mick Tucker, Andy Scott and Steve Priest.
Yes, Connolly looked ridiculous in his shiny clothes and body paint. Yes, the lyrics and dumb and the simple riffs could never be mistaken for Jimmy. Page.
Kent wrote: "The Sweet form a soft, white underbelly so trivial and musically insubstantial that it can easily be ignored."
So, why then, when I hear the siren sound effect that kicks off "Blockbuster," do I just want to start dancing, 34 years after this song's release?
Perhaps it's not so wrong to enjoy a little rubbish.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Like a cool glass of water

I have been reading so much about Jimmy Page lately -- in Keith Shadwick's excellent "Led Zeppelin 1968-1980: The Story of a Band and Their Music" -- that I almost forgot about GRANT GREEN.
Thank goodness I remembered Green when I arrived home after a long and stressful day at work.
I put on the "Grantstand" album from 1961 and settled in to the song "Blues in Maude's Flat."
After remarkable solos by tenor saxophonist Yusef Lateef and organist Brother Jack McDuff, Green plays a typically sublime solo.
Nat Hentoff wrote:
"Grant's thoroughly uncluttered thematic improvisations appear deceptively simple but represent a postgraduate skill in spacing and selection of notes while keeping rhythmic substructure from sagging."
After a long hard day at work, Grant's improvisations had an effect like a tall cool glass of water for me.

Monday, October 08, 2007

If you listen closely, you can hear the chairs fall over

Kerstin and I grabbed iPods and walked up one side of our street and down the other this morning. Only the garbage collectors, the paper boys and the fellow walkers were out at that early hour.
I listened to FAIRPORT CONVENTION as I walked. I paid particularly close attention to "Si Tu Dois Partir," the band's famous French Cajun approximation of Bob Dylan's "If You Gotta Go, Go Now."
Legend has it that the band used a pile of canvas chairs as "drums" during the catchy song, that reached No. 21 in July 1969 -- the biggest "hit" of a band that would influence hundreds of similar folk-rock collectives.
I listened closely to the track as we walked, because legend also has it that the pile of canvas chairs collapses in a heap toward the song's conclusion.
Sure enough, about three-fourths of the way into the track you hear a loud clattering sound. It must be the chairs!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Fairport and Anfield, then "The Big A"

We returned from an overnight stay in Cedar Rapids, Iowa just in time to tune in to a live Premier League match on Fox Soccer Channel.
What a match it was!
Fernando Torres scored on a header in stoppage time as LIVERPOOL salvaged a 2-2 draw with visiting TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR at Anfield.
Andriy Voronin opened the scoring for the Reds in the 12th minute. Robbie Keane then gave Spurs a surprise lead with goals on either side of the interval.
It looked like a Spurs victory until Torres leapt for the winning header.
Later, I relaxed with a brandy stinger while listening to a "best of" compilation by FAIRPORT CONVENTION.
I have often thought of Fairport as "the English Jefferson Airplane." At their peak, both bands benefited from outstanding musicianship and a stunning female vocalist -- in Fairport's case, the sublime SANDY DENNY.
Now, I am listening to the Angels and the Red Sox live from "The Big A" on 710 ESPN, courtesy of Major League Baseball's Gameday Audio subscription package.

Friday, October 05, 2007

"If I played guitar I'd be..." well, duh, Jimmy Page!

It's a spot of role-playing for ROUTE 1 readers as they answer the following FRIDAY QUESTION***:
"What famous musician do you wish you could have been?"
Mike D. -- Beethoven. His work has lasted for centuries! I don't think he got many chicks, though. I also admire musicians such as Paul McCartney and Prince because they not only compose their own work, but can play virtually all of the instruments needed to produce a record, which Prince apparently did on his first album.
Dave B. -- Gheorghe Zamfir, master of the pan flute -- 50-year-long career, won an overall 120 golden and platinum disc awards and sold over 120 million albums. How can you not want to inspire to be him?
Mike M. -- Kenny Rogers, so I could have my own chicken chain. "It's the wood that makes it good!"
Ellen B. -- Madonna. She rocks!
Rick T. -- Steel guitar player Weldon Myrick, who played with the Grand Ole Opry staff band and recorded with just about everyone who recorded in Nashville in the 60s and 70s.

Erik H. -- I would have liked to have been Led Zeppelin guitar hero Jimmy Page, with the following caveats -- no heroin addiction, no obsessive fondness for Aleister Crowley, no 15-year-old groupies (18 or older only, please) and no bandmates losing children in car accidents and no drummers choking to death after a day of binge drinking. Those aren't too many conditions, are they?
**(For our South Korean reader(s) just joining us, FRIDAY QUESTION is a weekly feature in which readers chime in on a variety of topics and I wake up extra early on a Friday morning to type the questions, because if I just try to cut and paste the answers, the font doesn't come out the way I want it.)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

HELLO South Korea!!!

It has been an historic day for SOUTH KOREA.
First, the leaders of South Korea and North Korea agreed to develop economic projects following a rare summit between the two nations, still technically at war.
Second, thanks to today's report from GOOGLE ANALYTICS, I have learned that someone from South Korea has visited ROUTE 1.
Google Analytics is a free service that tracks visits to a Web site. I signed up for it yesterday.
Today's report revealed 14 visits to ROUTE 1, coming from five different countries on the globe.
Here is why I believe these various nationalities have visited this blog:
UNITED STATES: The 10 visitors from America are either related to me or feel an obligation to visit because I often visit their blogs about what it's like to be the executive editor of a newspaper, what it's like to be the adult services manager of a public library, or what it's like to travel around the world snapping photos while seeking Nativity scene presents for my wife.
CANADA: Someone probably googled "Cannibal & The Headhunters" and clicked on Page No. 13 of the search results.
AUSTRALIA: I often write about cricket and the Australian Football League, which recently crowned GEELONG as this year's GRAND FINAL winners. Good on ya, Cats!
THAILAND: Full of drunk Australians. See above.
SOUTH KOREA: I have no idea.
Although I do not know why someone from South Korea visited this site today, I heartily welcome them to the ROUTE 1 family.
Here, you will find my latest musings about whatever music I seem to be obsessing about at the time (currently Led Zeppelin), the last DVD I watched (I loooove Japanese films) and overexcited missives about my favorite sports, which range from soccer to baseball and from the Trail Blazers to MY BELOVED OREGON DUCKS (the latter range, admittedly, is not very wide).
So, I would like to formally welcome our reader(s) from SOUTH KOREA:

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Predawn garage-rock extravaganza

I said a-na na na na na, na na na na na-na-na-na-na-na!
I dialed up a 1959-1969 garage-rock playlist for a predawn, 30-minute walk this morning.
I had forgotten the excitement generated by this largely do-it-yourself early rock.
At one point in the playlist, "La La La La La" by The Blendells gives way to "Land of 1000 Dances" by Cannibal & The Headhunters (pictured), for a great one-town Chicano rock punch.
Later, The Nightcrawlers' wonderful "The Little Black Egg" comes on, sounding like the best JANGLY AMERICAN POP by a band other than The Byrds.
The Seattle thrash-fest "My Woman" by The El Caminos with Woody Carr capped off my morning of music and walking.
That's why I said "WHEW!"

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

"It was because we were paying attention"

I have been immensely enjoying KEITH SHADWICK's book, "Led Zeppelin 1968-1980: The Story of a Band and Their Music."
In my reading, I have reached early 1970, just as Robert Plant and Jimmy Page are about to withdraw into the Welsh countryside to concoct "Led Zeppelin III."
I have often equated Led Zeppelin in particular, and Page in particular, with Miles Davis. Both musical entities never felt comfortable with the status quo -- instead, they always tried for something different as their music progressed. Page and Davis were also incorrigible perfectionists, apparently.
Both Davis and the MIGHTY ZEP shared another trait, according to Shadwick: Both found their greatest musical expression in improvisational creation.
Shadwick quotes John Paul Jones (Zep's unsung hero), on the improvisational experiments the band engaged in nightly on stage:
"You had to be on the ball in those days, especially in the improvised parts, because stuff would change all the time. You'd have to watch each other for cues. There was a lot of eye contact. Page always looked as though he was looking at the floor, but we'd watch each other's hand movements all the time. There would often be seemingly amazing unrehearsed stops and starts. We'd all go BANG -- straight into it. The audience would think, 'How did they do that?' It was because we were paying attention."
I love bands that pay attention!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Wow! What a ballgame!

When the COLORADO ROCKIES and the SAN DIEGO PADRES concluded the 162-game regular season in the National League, they sported identical records (89-73) and shared the lead in the standings to determine the Wild Card playoff spot.
The teams quit sharing that lead tonight, but only after Colorado claimed an epic, 9-8 victory over San Diego in 13 innings.
In the bottom half of the frame, KAZUO MATSUI and Santa Clara, Calif., native TROY TULOWITZKI hit back-to-back doubles. MATT HOLLIDAY tripled to tie the score and eventually scored the winning run on JAMEY CARROLL's sacrifice fly -- all three of the Rockies' runs in the inning were scored off San Diego's ace reliever TREVOR HOFFMAN.
It was amazing stuff.

Thanks to the Major League Baseball Gameday Audio subscription we purchased this spring, we listened to tonight's game on XX Sports Radio, the flagship station of the Padres.
TED "My Padres" LEITNER and ANDY MASUR handled most of the play-by-play, save for a couple innings featuring Padres' legend (and San Francisco native) JERRY COLEMAN, who has been broadcasting San Diego's games for 35 seasons.
XEPRS-AM 1090 is based in Rosarito, Baja California, Mexico, and boasts a memorable history.
In the 1960s, this "Mexican border buster" broadcast WOLFMAN JACK into the United States as station XERB-AM, "The Mighty 10-90."
Now, as "Double-X Sports Radio," the station is home to the Padres and University of San Diego Toreros basketball broadcasts.