Friday, February 29, 2008

Smiley Face need not apply

Who wants to be happy ALL the time? Not ROUTE 1 readers!
This week, they share their misery by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What is your favorite sad song?"
LAURA C. -- "This Woman's Work," by Kate Bush, reduces me to a puddle every single time.
ANNIKA H. -- "Alyssa Lies" by Jason Michael Carroll.
MIKE D. -- When my first girlfriend broke up with me, I compiled a whole cassette of songs about heartbreak that I would play over and over, as therapy I guess. But one song that didn't make the list is a classic from the 1970s. "Alone Again (Naturally)" by Gilbert O'Sullivan is a painfully good song.
SCOUT S. -- "This is a Fire Door Never Leave Open" (by The Weakerthans).
INGER H. -- "Without Even Trying" by Firecracker. This song kills me every time. It's so wistful and defeated.
ELLEN B. -- "Wind Beneath My Wings."
RICK T. -- "He Stopped Loving Her Today" by George Jones. All others need not apply! The GREATEST Country song, by the GREATEST Country singer.
MIKE M. -- "Freight Train" by Elizabeth Cotton, written at age 11 more than 100 years ago.
BRIAN C. -- Two songs with nearly identical themes -- a chance reunion with a former lover -- come to mind: Dan Fogelberg's "Same Auld Lang Syne" and Harry Chapin's "Taxi."
MARY N.-P. -- "The Ballad of High Noon" sung by Frankie Laine -- a real old-fashioned heart-yanker.
ERIK H. -- Frank Sinatra recorded "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry" at least three times, including on his 1958 classic album "Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely." Actually, I prefer Sinatra's July 1946 recording of the Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn song, with a great arrangement by Axel Stordahl.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

If I listen real close and squint my eyes at the sun

I have been listening to KING SUNNY ADÉ's landmark 1982 album "JUJU MUSIC" today while driving to a couple interviews.
There is certainly nothing even remotely "winter" about this great album and the bubbly, infectious Nigerian dance music it contains.
The album's release in America almost certainly kick-started the "World Music" craze, a musical development that now means you can go to a record store and find albums from Africa, India, South America and other far-flung places in amongst the output of various failed "American Idol" contestants.
Beyond its historical significance, however, "Juju Music" is just flat-out fun to hear.
I especially love how Adé's band incorporated steel guitar into the mix. Hearing a sound I usually associate with country music in this unaccustomed setting is so refreshing!
It's almost enough to make me forget the current temperature is only 17 degrees Fahrenheit. Almost.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Staring at the piles of snow

I am sitting here staring at the snow piled up in the backyard and listening to THE ACORN.
Rolf Klausener (vocalist/guitarist) leads this Ottawa band. He's joined by guitarist Howie Tsui, bassist Jeff Debutte, drummer Jeffrey Malecki and keyboardist Keiko Devaux.
The Acorn are quite good.
I haven't heard as much of the band's music as I would like, but what I have heard seems like a perfect soundtrack for staring out at snow piled high in the backyard.
You can listen to The Acorn, and a bunch of other Canadian indie bands on CBC Radio 3 ("Breaking New Sound"), helpfully located on the Internet by clicking here. Good day, eh?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Viva Glasvegas!

GLASVEGAS sound like the Jesus and Mary Chain, if the Reid boys had formed their noisy band circa 1962.
I enjoyed listening to the Glasvegas song "Flowers and Football Tops" while contemplating heading outside to shovel the heavy, wet snow that fell all night.
Indie music guru Alan McGee recently declared Glasvegas to be "the best Scottish band for 20 years."
That's a staggering compliment, considering all of the great bands that have tumbled out of Scotland.
Singer/guitarist James Allan, his cousin Rab Allan on guitar, bassist Paul Donoghue and drummer Caroline McKay sound like "the Jesus and Mary Chain playing the 'Grease' soundtrack," according to the BBC, which named Glasvegas as one of the 10 new bands to hear in 2008.
I like the combination of brooding indie rock with girl-group harmonies.
You can check out Glasvegas by visiting the band's Web site, located here.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sinatra sings for only the earaches

"So drink up, all you people, order anything you see... the drink, and the laugh's on me."
Thanks, Frank!
I'm having some apple juice. It goes quite nicely with my Cephalexin and Pseudovent pills that I have to choke down because of my EAR INFECTION.
I am listening to "SINATRA SINGS FOR ONLY THE LONELY," arguably the saddest album in the FRANK SINATRA discography today. I am wallowing in "The Voice" while waiting for my antibiotics to kick in.
A trip to the doctor's office this morning confirmed by suspicion -- I have fluid in both ears, swollen lymph nodes and an ear infection.
Chris Ingham, in "The Rough Guide to Frank Sinatra," characterizes
"Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely" as "... not only the peak of the Sinatra and (arranger Nelson) Riddle collaboration, but also -- if artistic focus, technical excellence, bold and sensitive imagination, and penetrating, soulful performance are any criteria -- one of the great works of 20th century popular art."
Now, if only I could get somebody to explain why three of the advertisements on my prescription bag from the grocery store were for Behr's Funeral Home, Hospice of Dubuque and Lenz Monument Company. Don't they think these drugs are going to work?
"Willow, weep for me..."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"In Ridgemont? We can't even get cable TV here, Stacy, and you want romance."

Don't you hate it when you get sick on your day off?
That is what has happened to me this weekend -- a sore throat kept me laying low throughout the day yesterday. It sucked and I felt like crap.
One bright spot occurred when I watched "FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH" with the audio commentary switched on (FILM GEEK ALERT!).
Director Amy Heckerling and writer Cameron Crowe discussed the film at length, including a theory explaining why the filmmakers were left alone to produce this film -- arguably the truest picture of teen angst in the 1980s.
It seems the film studio were too busy with the problematic production of Colin Higgins' "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" -- a film overburdened with stars such as Burt Reynolds, Dolly Parton, Dom DeLuise and Jim Nabors.
The studio left the "Fast Times" creators alone -- to film fans' great benefit.
Heckerling, producer Art Linson and casting director Don Phillips were free to cast the film as they wished, and they selected a number of young actors who would populate film and television casts for the next couple decades. Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates (sigh...), Forest Whitaker, Eric Stoltz, Nicolas Cage, Anthony Edwards and Taylor Negron (trust me, you have seen him in countless films and TV shows) were among the youngsters given a big break by the "Fast Times" creators.
Would they have gotten the chance if the studio had meddled? My guess is no.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The sounds of spring

The sun was shining, some of our near-record snowfall was melting and "OSALOBUA REKPAMA" by SIR VICTOR UWAIFO & HIS MELODY MAESTROS was pouring out of my car's stereo speakers.
It sure seemed like spring, at least for three minutes and 22 seconds.
I have been listening to the marvelous compilation, "NIGERIA SPECIAL: MODERN HIGHLIFE, AFRO-SOUNDS & NIGERIAN BLUES 1970-6" for the past several days -- I think because we all have Nigeria on our minds.
My 12-year-old daughter KERSTIN is writing to a Nigerian pen pal for a school project, my coworker MARY just interviewed a visiting Nigerian author and I just finished reading CHINUA ACHEBE's incredible "THINGS FALL APART."
It just made sense to listen to Nigerian pop music: Africa's most populous nation seems close at hand these days.
The music on the compilation is infectious, catchy, memorable and bubbling with joy.
The band names are great, too.
Consider the following band names on this compilation:
+ DAN SATCH & HIS ATOMIC 8 DANCE BAND OF ABA (to distinguish itself from all of the other "Atomic 8 Dance Bands" not from Aba?).
The list goes on. And so does the feeling that with this brilliant music, the prospect of spring can't be far behind.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Red carpet? Check. Gold statuette? Check. Friday Question about favorite films? Check.

"Oscar Weekend" has arrived!
ROUTE 1 readers celebrate by answering this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What is your favorite film from this past movie season?"
KERI M. -- "Juno."
JIM S. -- It wasn't one of the better years for Hollywood, in my humble opinion. But I enjoyed several. "The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford" was a fascinating film with some great visual effects. It's a bit slow, but perhaps on purpose to study the psychological side of Ford (played brilliantly by Casey Affleck) and how his "assassination" was viewed by society at that time. Others I really liked were "Hairspray," "3:10 to Yuma" and, like almost everyone else, "Juno."
ANNIKA H. -- "Evan Almighty."
RICK T. -- "Wild Hogs." Funny movie. If you didn't laugh, you might want to be checked out, because you're most likely dead.
MIKE D. -- I only saw four-and-a-half movies at the theater during the past year: "Happy Feet," "Live Free or Die Hard," "Surf's Up," "Alvin and the Chipmunks" and "Spiderman 3" (arrived very late). My favorite was the Die Hard film. Not bad for the fourth in a series.

INGER H. -- "No Country For Old Men" was spectacular. I just love-love-love when I cannot tell where a movie is going, and this one had that quality in spades. Also, Javier Bardem was super-spooky. Besides, he should get an award just for having to put up with that haircut during filming. Poor guy.
MIKE M. -- Since I have small children, I'm still waiting to see a lot of movies from the past season. I'm especially eager to see the Bob Dylan movie "I'm Not There." "Ratatouille" was OK. If I'd been the food critic, the rats would've served chicken-fried steak. Or maybe grits.
CLINT A. -- "Into the Wild." Great music, wicked awesome photography, good story, sad ending...
KERSTIN H. -- "Juno."
LISA Y. -- "Juno" is my most recent favorite. Did you know the old theater at the mall will soon be opened with independent films running? Should be cool...
ERIK H. -- I enjoyed "Juno" (Ellen Page is great), but for sheer technical brilliance, my favorite is the Oscar-nominated animated short "Madame Tutli-Putli" by Montreal filmmakers Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski.
The film chronicles a woman's dreamlike/nightmarish train journey through a chilling forest by night.
The filmmakers used stop-motion animation to render the tale. The puppets used as characters are incredible, thanks in large part to a collaboration with portrait artist Jason Walker. Walker devised a revolutionary production process that gave the stop-motion puppets expressive, human eyes.
To learn more about "Madame Tutli-Putli," go to the film's Web site, located here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Would ZZ Top sound the same without the beards and fuzzy guitars?

I have been listening to ZZ TOP's "Greatest Hits" album, closing my eyes and trying to picture Dusty Hill and Billy Gibbons (pictured) sporting 1950s crew cuts and clean faces while playing standard-issue electric guitars.
The Houston, Texas legends have always been one of those bands whose image got in the way of me fully appreciating their music -- although I have always appreciated the irony of drummer Mike Beard being the only bloke in the band without a beard.
With eyes closed, I have been equally impressed by the tightness of the rhythm section and Gibbons' great lead guitar playing.
Actually, after listening to the album with eyes closed and picturing crew cuts and shaved faces, I finally determined the exact reason for my traditional unease with ZZ Top. It's not the image, it's the decision to laden their 1980s output with synthesizes.
I just don't think you can play the blues with a synthesizer, although Moby might prove me wrong some day.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Oscar fever... We've caught it!

The girls and I have officially come down with "Oscar Fever."
We just printed an Oscar ballot in advance of this Sunday's awards show. We will be attending a small get-together with friends to watch "Red Carpet" coverage and the early portions of the ceremony's broadcast.
This morning, we also watched Samuel Tourneux's "Meme Les Pigeons Vont Au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven)," one of the films nominated for animated short. You can see it on YouTube by clicking here.
A rather crooked priest attempts to trick an old miser (pictured) into paying for a contraption that ensures his journey into heaven.
The story is good and the animation is wonderful, including an impressive, overhead shot of the old man falling off a stool in slow motion.
I can't really predict the outcome of the various Oscar races, although a sweep by "No Country For Old Men" wouldn't surprise me.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A musical confession to make

I admit it: I have always liked the music of Daryl Hall and John Oates.
I mostly like their blend of soul and pop. Some of the lavishly produced stuff from the 1980s does seem dated, but I forgive the duo their flops because of classics such as "Sara Smile," "Rich Girl," "You Make My Dreams" (pay attention to that great arrangement) and the original "Everytime You Go Away," later covered with greater success by British singer Paul Young.
I have been listening to Hall and Oates while driving around today, peering through an ice-encrusted windshield that might not thaw until this weekend.
I am reminded of a cold night in Cedar Rapids, Iowa during the mid-1980s -- a night I saw Hall and Oates in concert.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I love it I love it I love it I love it

I have been reading "THINGS FALL APART" by CHINUA ACHEBE.
The book is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and if you have never read it or if you haven't read it in ages, you really should pick up a copy.
Achebe's novel looks at the life of Okonkwo, an Ibo villager in present-day Nigeria.
Okonkwo's traditional values come under threat when Christian missionaries and British colonial government moves into his village.
"Things Fall Apart" is now considered the archetypal modern African novel.
I don't argue with that. I just know for sure that the book is an amazing read, offering access to a culture that has since been submerged by Christianity and Islam.
I have always been fascinated by Nigeria -- a nation so populous that one in seven Africans calls it home.
That fascination has deepened thanks to "Things Fall Apart."
It is also a novel that has warmed me during these seemingly endless days of winter bleakness.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The sound of independence

I equate African highlife music with the ska of Jamaica. Both seem rippling with the excitement, possibilities and the unbridled joy of independence.
I was hacking away at the slush/ice coating the sidewalk in front of our house.
As I sloshed through the messy aftermath of yet another winter storm, I listened to "GHANA HIGH-LIFE AND OTHER POPULAR MUSIC" by SAKA ACQUAYE AND HIS AFRICAN ENSEMBLE.
Of the 11 or so musicians playing on this 1969 album, a story I read suggests at least five were drummers.
You can certainly tell.
This music is propulsive, blending elements of big-band jazz and Latin soul with African folk songs to produce tunes fit to fill the dance floor.
Ghana achieved independence from the United Kingdom in 1957 -- only a dozen years before the release of this album. The cover shows a vehicle with "It's Great to be Young" printed on the back, and Ghana was still a young nation in 1969.
Ghanaian dance bands led by musicians such as E. T. Mensah concocted the highlife sound by tossing the elements they liked from the Caribbean, America and other regions into the bubbling sonic stew.
Eventually, Western pop -- including hip hop -- infiltrated the West African musical scene, and songs began to focus on corruption and other problems, instead of simply having a good time -- much as Jamaican reggae turned toward politics during the roots era.
For a sparkling, brief time, however, there was nothing quite so enjoyable as African highlife -- even when you're breaking your back chipping away at the ice outside your door.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I wish I felt more like Barnsley

Instead, I feel like vanquished Liverpool.
Brian Howard scored in the dying seconds of stoppage time and visiting BARNSLEY of the Championship knocked Premiership LIVERPOOL from the FA Cup, 2-1, in a match I watched live on television this morning.
After the match, I struggled with the girls to get them to clean their rooms. Neither girl made much effort despite my pleadings, and I even got into a heated argument with my 12-year-old daughter Kerstin about household responsibilities.
I returned to the kitchen to finish my chores, but my FRUSTRATION would not ebb. When an "unbreakable" plastic glass slipped out of my hand while washing the dishes, I picked the glass up and threw it back down onto the floor as hard as I possibly could.
It exploded and shards scattered across the kitchen floor.
I calmed down, swept the plastic, finished cleaning the kitchen and nobody got hurt.
After getting the kitchen as spotless as I could make it, I sat listening to my 1970s music playlist. I smiled during Cat Stevens' "Wild World," but I lost it during James Taylor's "Fire and Rain."
When he sang "But I always thought that I'd see you again" I was reminded that yesterday would have been my dad's 81st birthday.
MY DAD passed away in 1992, and I am pretty sure he never hurled plastic glasses when he was unable to get his kids to clean their rooms.
Barnsley remained on the field after their victory today and celebrated with their small group of ecstatic, traveling supporters. Liverpool slunk back to their changing rooms, defeated.
That's how I feel this afternoon -- more like Liverpool than Barnsley.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Your voice is so... how should I say this?... SEXY!

Valentine's Day means cards, flowers, candy and romantic serenades. This week, ROUTE 1 readers mark the occasion by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"Which musical artist has the sexiest singing voice?"
RICK T. -- If you were to ask any country girl, they would all say Conway Twitty or maybe even Elvis. Me, it's Connie Smith. (She melts my butter!)
MIKE M. -- Dinah Washington, so eloquent and brash, especially in her radical interpretation of "All of Me." (You can see her here.)
MARY N.-P. -- Gene Pitney. The heartbreak heart throb of the 1960s with hits like "Mecca," "Town Without Pity" and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance."
BRIAN C. -- British singer Sam (as in Samantha) Brown. "Do Right By Her." (You can hear some samples here.)
MIKE D. -- My top choices for sexy serenade: 4. Shania Twain, 3. Gwen Stefani, 2. The chick from Sixpence None The Richer (Leigh Bingham Nash), 1. Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles.
ERIK H. -- I could name probably a half-dozen female singers who sound... so... sexy. This morning, I am listening to one of those singers -- Sarah Vaughan. Her 1960 version of "Have You Met Miss Jones" floats all across the room, beckoning.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A film about the greatest love

It's a bit of a bittersweet Valentine's Day.
Japanese film director KON ICHIKAWA has died age 92. His "Biruma no Tategoto (The Burmese Harp)" is one of cinema's greatest films.
The story follows Japanese soldier Mizushima as he decides to leave his comrades so he can bury the otherwise forgotten dead in Burma at the conclusion of World War II. By sacrificing his friendships and his own return to Japan, Mizushima can help hasten the fallen soldiers' entrance into the afterlife.
It might be one of the greatest of love stories -- showing a love for all humanity.
I'll watch some of "Biruma no Tategoto" during my lunch hour today. That will be my parting tribute to the filmmaker of a truly beautiful movie.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

No, not *THAT* Cuba Gooding, *THIS* Cuba Gooding

My friend Jim S. lent us some DVDs of performances from Burt Sugarman's "Midnight Special" television programs of the 1970s. Our two girls love watching the DVDs because the performances offer a rare view of the decade of their parents' youth.
I just watched THE MAIN INGREDIENT perform "Everybody Plays The Fool."
I was shocked at how the mannerisms of the lead singer, CUBA GOODING, seemed to mirror the mannerisms of his Oscar-winning actor son, CUBA GOODING JR.
It was uncanny, but did I notice the similarity because I wanted to see if I could spot similarity?
I don't know.
The facial mannerisms and body language just seemed so eerily similar.
I have always loved that song, but I can't remember the last time I saw The Main Ingredient perform it on television or video. Seeing it tonight felt like a revelation.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"First of all, Papa Smurf didn't create Smurfette"

Every once in a while, I feel the need to watch "DONNIE DARKO" again.
Richard Kelly's 2001 film might be impenetrable for a lot of people -- it is impenetrable for me sometimes -- but I love it.
It makes me think and enjoy myself, which is all I really need from a film.
The cast is outstanding -- Jake Gyllenhaal's performance made his career -- and the music is wonderful.
I might never really understand what Kelly was trying to impart with this film, but I will always return to it every once in a while.
I never tire of trying to understand it all.
"A storm is coming, Frank says/A storm that will swallow the children/And I will deliver them from the kingdom of pain/I will deliver the children back to their doorsteps."

Monday, February 11, 2008

"Still waiting 'til the freezing is over"

I stepped out of the office tonight to head home and the inside of my nostrils instantly froze.
I thought:
"The seemingly endless winter seems like it's never going to end."
I came home to wash a sink full of dishes, my efforts propelled by a trio of absolutely rousing songs on one of my CANADIAN MUSIC PLAYLISTS.
The New Pornographer's "The Laws Have Changed" kicks off the three-song grouping, and that catchy song feels like a gust of wind in sails. The Weakerthan's "Aside" follows, and that's a song that always compels me to dance -- even if only around the kitchen.
Then comes to true classic, in my opinion -- "SMILE" by Saskatoon's wonderful WIDE MOUTH MASON.
"I can't even think, I can't even speak, but I can still smile."
Shaun Vereault (vocals, guitar), Safwan Javed (percussion, vocals) and Earl Pereira (bass, vocals) look like poster boys for Canadian multiculturalism. They sound like a kick-ass rock band, however, which is all that really matters. Coming from SASKATOON, they know much more about cold weather than I ever will. That's fine, too.
I'll take the great music, they can keep the extreme cold weather.
I have honestly had my fill of it down here.
You can check out the video for smile by clicking here.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Everytime I see this film, my appreciation grows

Last night I watched Masahiro Shinoda's "Ibun Sarutobi Sasuke (Samurai Spy)" for the fifth time on DVD.
My appreciation for this 1965 jidai-geki film grows with each viewing. The first time I saw it, the complex plotting actually made the film nearly impenetrable. Now, I want to follow a viewing by seeing it again.
Koji Takahashi stars as a ninja/spy caught between two rival clans and their spies. He becomes a target for both camps and the authorities when he is the last person seen speaking with a murdered double agent.
Shinoda and cinematographer Masao Kosugi combine to give a master class on shot composition. The pair handle a variety of overhead views, long shots, extreme closeups and artfully composed scenes with characters framed by architecture, trees or other characters.
Each shot could serve as a work of art.
While serving up these sumptuous views, Shinoda also deftly handles a challenging, often rather complicated plot of intrigue, double-crossing and mistaken identity.
"Ibun Sarutobi Sasuke (Samurai Spy)" could be the best-directed film I have seen.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Just between you and me, there's something about Nova Scotia

I am listening to APRIL WINE and their 1981 hit "Just Between You and Me" and wondering what characteristic of NOVA SCOTIA helps the province maintain itself as a prime breeding ground for iconic music.
We have got a WIND CHILL WARNING for tonight and tomorrow and extreme cold weather always gets me in the mood for CANADIAN MUSIC.
At least five leading solo artists or bands have hailed from Nouvelle-Ecosse:
1) Hank Snow, Brooklyn, N.S.
2) Anne Murray, Springhill, N.S.
3) April Wine, Waverley, N.S.
4) Sarah McLachlan, Halifax, N.S.
5) Sloan, Halifax, N.S.
My guess is that the harsh, wind-whipped Maritimes climate keeps fledgling musicians cooped up in their rehearsal spaces for lengthy -- and ultimately productive -- periods of time. (The Scottish and Acadian folk music heritage probably plays a key role as well.)
I'll think about that theory today as I venture out into our cold day to cover an auto show. Brrrr...!
Ahh... I just heard that bit in "Just Between You and Me" where they sing in French. That bit gets me every time.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Let's get classical, classical, I wanna get classical!

Here at ROUTE 1 World HQ, we can't really tell our rondos from our allegros.
That's why the answers to the following FRIDAY QUESTION should prove so helpful:
"The ROUTE 1 staff finally have room on the iPod for
some CLASSICAL music. What piece or composer should they start with?"
INGER H. -- Vivaldi; "The Four Seasons." Complicated yet eminently listenable.
RICK T. -- Willie Nelson! Old and new!
KERSTIN H. -- Beethoven. He's as classical as it gets.
MIKE D. -- My 8-year-old son has been playing "riffs" of classical music on the piano since becoming enamored with Disney's "Little Einsteins" cartoon. One of my favorites has always been Strauss' "Blue Danube Waltz." Its soft, lilting melody is so soothing. If you prefer something full of life, nothing has more gusto than Rossini's "William Tell Overture." You can't help but want to wave your air baton as the crescendo takes over your soul. Special thanks to Grant, for rekindling my passion for the classics.
ERIK H. -- I once read that somebody called him "the Hendrix of the violin." Rumors persisted during his career that he had sold his soul to you-know-who to be able to play with such virtuosity. He was Niccolo Paganini (1782-1840). I just put his "Concerto for violin No. 2 in B minor, Op. 7 (1826) on the big iPod.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Green Manalishi and the veggie sub

I listened to some PETER GREEN-era FLEETWOOD MAC while munching on a sub sandwich at lunch today. I loved both.
Green co-founded Fleetwood Mac with Mick Fleetwood. He played with the band in its formative, blues-centered years before his career was derailed by drug abuse and mental illness. Oh boy, could he play guitar.
He also created at least three utterly enduring songs -- "Albatross," "Black Magic Woman" and "The Green Manalishi." The latter is apparently about the evil of money, represented by a devil-dog. I think. It was at that point in his career that Green attempted to persuade Fleetwood to donate the band's gig and recording proceeds to charity.
Um... No thank you, Fleetwood probably said, I think I'll create one of the richest commercial bands on the planet instead, thank you very much.
The veggie sub was terrific, too. Full of peppers and onions and lettuce and tomatoes and all sorts of other great things, too. Mmm...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Fifty years after the end of an era

I am listening to The Smiths today.
Listening to that Manchester band is my personal tribute to the victims of the Munich air disaster, which occurred 50 years ago today.
MANCHESTER UNITED were returning from a European Cup match with Crvena Zvezda (Red Star Belgrade) -- won by United 5-4 on aggregate -- when British European Airways Flight 609 crashed on its third attempt to take off from an airport in Munich, West Germany.
Twenty-three of the 44 passengers on board the aircraft died in the disaster, including eight members of a terrifically talented group of young Manchester United footballers, nicknamed the Busby Babes, after their manager Matt Busby. Possibly the most talented football player of his generation, Duncan Edwards survived the crash but died in the hospital 15 days later. He was 21 years old.
Ceremonies in Britain will mark the anniversary of the tragedy. Manchester United and Manchester City play Sunday, and each will wear special uniforms to mark the occasion.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

"Like a bubble headed for trouble"

My re-acquaintance with SEVENTIES POP MUSIC continued today, as I kept replaying POLLY BROWN'S "UP IN A PUFF OF SMOKE."
The Birmingham, England singer's 1975 single hit No. 16 on the American chart.
I loved that song back then, and I love it still.
Brown was the lead singer of the British bubblegum group PICKETTYWITCH before striking out on her own.
Like many songs from that era, "Up in a Puff of Smoke" combines an infectiously catchy melody with downbeat lyrics bordering on the suicidal.
"And I'm all choked up inside, to see my dreams just turn into ashes and all my hopes go up in a puff of smoke."
Did the people who bought the single really listen to the words?
I thought the 1970s were the "smiley face" decade?
I couldn't help myself -- I sang along to "Up in a Puff of Smoke" every time I heard it today.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Maybe I had them pegged all wrong

I am off work today and have been compiling a 1970s playlist for my iPod. More specifically, it is a playlist full of songs my sister Inger and I would have heard on KFRC 610 -- a former Bay Area Top 40 station we enjoyed during the heyday of A.M. radio.
I checked a bunch of CDs of largely forgotten Seventies pop hits from the library to assist my efforts.
While compiling my playlist, I have discovered three categories of songs:
1) Songs I will always love ("Chevy Van" by Sammy Johns).
2) Songs I will always hate ("Playground in my Mind" by Clint Holmes).
3) Songs I once hated, but now I think I might like them -- but -- maybe -- OK, yeah I like them.
This latter category includes "So You Are a Star" by THE HUDSON BROTHERS.
I always thought there was something phony about The Hudson Brothers when I was a kid. I watched them on "The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show," for one thing. The kids' show also featured Rod Hull and that Emu puppet of his. I hated them.
Now, more than three decades later, I am starting to think I might have been wrong about Mark, Bill and Brett.
"So You Are a Star" sounds a little like Wings, which is OK.
I also now know that Mark Hudson is a musical savant. He has co-written a dozen Aerosmith songs and produced Ringo Starr, among others. Bill Hudson holds the distinction of having married not one but *TWO* of my childhood dreamgirls -- Goldie Hawn and Cindy Williams. Brett Hudson became a television producer.
So, there was apparently some talent in those boys from Portland, Ore., even if I couldn't see it at the time.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

I'm pretty sure my lucky 49ers sweatshirt was the difference in tonight's game

As a lifelong fan of the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS, I just couldn't bear to hear much more about the perfection of the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS.
That's why I was cheering hard for the NEW YORK GIANTS during a SUPER BOWL PARTY we hosted tonight.
I even wore my *LUCKY* Niners sweatshirt -- which, come to think about it, wasn't really so lucky for me or the Niners this past regular season.
Oh well. No matter...
Eli Manning tossed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds left in the Super Bowl as the Giants upset the previously unbeaten Patriots, 17-14.
Are the Patriots the greatest team in NFL history? Nope, not after tonight, thanks to the Giants.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Harya t'day?

One of my favorite books is Mark M. Orkin's "Canajan, Eh?" -- a humorous look at Canadian pop culture disguised as a glossary of "Canajan," the true language of English-speaking Canadians.
I bought the book during an early 1980s' trip to British Columbia -- or "Brish Clumbya" a.k.a. "Bee See."
Orkin pokes gentle fun at his fellow Canadians by pointing out the quirks of their dialect. The definition of "Broodle," meaning savage or cruel, for example, offers the following common sentence: "I tellya, Rick, the Leafs' lass game was sumpm broodle."
I thought about the book frequently today, as I was awash in "Canajan Content."
I cleaned some of the house in anticipation of a scheduled Super Bowl party while listening to a pair of Canadian playlists I have compiled for my iPod.
The playlists feature 52 Canadian artists, ranging from The Diamonds (and their 1950s classic "The Stroll") to Arcade Fire (with recent indie hit "Neon Bible") with plenty more in between. All the old favorites are present and accounted for, including Hank Snow ("Nova Scotia Home"), Bryan Adams ("Summer of 69"), Rush ("Tom Sawyer"), Payola$ (the underrated "Eyes of a Stranger") the Diodes ("Tired of Waking Up Tired") and Neil Young ("Cinnamon Girl").
I have also been reintroduced to some fabulous songs I had forgotten, including "Echo Beach" by Martha & The Muffins and "Don't Stop" by Chilliwack.
Oh sure, Anne Murray
("Snowbird") is there, as are Gordon Lightfoot ("Sundown"), Leonard Cohen ("Avalanche") and Bruce Cockburn ("Wondering Where the Lions Are").
There is also room for The Band ("The Weight") and the Be Good Tanyas ("It's Not Happening"). I also included such guilty pleasures as "Sunglasses at Night" by Corey Hart and "The Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats.
I opted for "These Eyes" by The Guess Who instead of "American Woman" and "Takin' Care of Business" by Bachman-Turner Overdrive instead of "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet." I also chose "Willy" by Joni Mitchell instead of any of the other possibilities.
Sorry, but I deliberately neglected to include any Shania Twain or Celine Dion. The New Pornographers ("The Laws Have Changed"), The Demics ("New York City") and The Weakerthans ("Aside") are included. I had to include The Tragically Hip's "Wheat Kings" and Wide Mouth Mason's "Smile." Don't worry, Saskatoon readers, Irish Plantation Orchestra is there, too.
Sloan's "The Rest of My Life" is a centerpiece of the playlists, as is Tom Cochrane's "Life is a Highway." His original is so much better than the Rascal Flatts cover that it is ridiculous.
I probably should clean more of the house, but I think I might listen to more Canajan -- er, Canadian -- music instead, eh?

Friday, February 01, 2008

"Hometown is primarily used as a generic term for the city or town in which someone was born in or grew up in"

Today's headline is from Wikipedia, but their definition of hometown doesn't stop there. A hometown can also refer to a person's principal residence.
I have never really figured out the location of my "hometown," so I might have some difficulty when it comes to answering this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What is your hometown's claim to fame?"
MIKE D. -- The 1981 movie "Take This Job and Shove It!" characterized my hometown (Dubuque) as home to beer-drinking rednecks. Back then, our claim to fame was the nation's highest unemployment rate. My, how we've grown up since then! A diversity of population, employment sectors and entertainment and recreational opportunities. Our flagship is now the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium.
BRIAN C. -- I was born in Alton, Ill., where in 1837 abolitionist publisher Elijah P. Lovejoy was murdered by a mob, which tossed his press (his fourth!) in the Mississippi River. The press was fished out, and it sits in the lobby of the Alton Telegraph. Not something you'd see on the "Welcome to Alton" signs. You can read the story here.
MIKE M. -- Not much to report from "Sportsman's Paradise" Savanna, Ill. Notables include an early director of the American Red Cross, a minor big-band leader and a NASA astronaut. The now-closed Savanna Army Depot is a footnote in U.S. military history. Biker rallies and festivals are held nearby today. Manny's Pizza is still a regional favorite. In sports, the Savanna Indians lost a high school football game by over 70 points, I think during the 1987-88 season. Luckily, I was banned from the team because I had been seen smoking a cigarette downtown the previous summer. Otherwise, the score would have been much worse.
RICK T. -- The Mighty Mississippi River and being a river town.
LISA Y. -- I am from Waterloo, Iowa, USA, and the claim to fame there is the Five Sullivan Brothers. The five went down on a battle ship, and since then it is a law that siblings cannot all serve together.
ERIK H. -- Based on Wikipedia's liberal definition, I could pluck any number of communities out of my past and call them "my hometown."
Here are just a few of my "hometowns," and what they are famous for:
1) OAKLAND, Calif. -- My birthplace is the 44th largest city in the United States and the eighth largest in California. Oakland is tied with Long Beach, Calif. as the most ethnically diverse cities in America. Rand McNally has determined Oakland has the country's best weather.
2) CONCORD, Calif. -- On the evening of July 17, 1944, a ship packed with munitions exploded at Port Chicago, near Concord. Two-thirds of the 320 men killed were African American, making the Port Chicago disaster the single incident with the highest number of African-American casualties during World War II. The military is no longer segregated. Rest in Peace, Port Chicago victims.
3) PHOENIX, Ariz. -- The city where I went to high school has produced an array of celebrities, including CeCe Peniston. Peniston moved to Phoenix at age 9 and attended Trevor Browne High School. She was named "Miss Black Arizona" in 1989. Three years later, Peniston's song "Finally" topped three Billboard charts and reached No. 2 in the UK.
4) LAKEVIEW, Ore. -- At 4,800 feet, Lakeview has earned the accolade "Tallest Town in Oregon."
5) DUBUQUE, Iowa -- University of Chicago football star Jay Berwanger won the first Heisman Trophy in 1935. Berwanger was born in Dubuque and attended Jefferson Middle School (scholastic home for ROUTE 1 intern Kerstin) and Dubuque Senior High School.