Monday, March 31, 2008

I was listening. Listening REALLY HARD.

One of the best things about listening to BASEBALL ON THE RADIO is that you can drift in and out of consciousness and explain it by saying:
"I was just listening hard."
"You were snoring."
"Oh. I was listening REALLY HARD."
Ah well, at least I was alert enough last night to catch the PRESIDENTS' RACE during the WASHINGTON NATIONALS' home opener.

CHARLIE SLOWES and DAVE JAGELER called the action on TALK RADIO 3WT as the NATIONALS beat the BRAVES, 3-2, on a two-out home run by RYAN ZIMMERMAN in the bottom of the ninth inning.
I was awake for that part, too.
We have subscribed to the Audio Gameday package from MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL for the second straight year. That means we can hear home and away broadcasts of every big league game for $15 per season.
I know a lot of games show up on television. That's fine. I prefer listening on the radio. It reminds me of summer days at my grandparents' home in MAXWELL, CALIF. My grandmother caught every GIANTS game she could on KNBR (and previously KSFO).
I plan to do the same thing this year, even though I live 2,000 miles away.
That's the other great thing about "listening really hard" to baseball on the radio -- I can dream I am back there.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

"Wu-Tang Clan is for the children!"

WU-TANG CLAN must have been the perfect hip hop crew.
Among their attributes:
1) There were so many of them, and yet they were all distinctive.
2) RZA's production was rather spartan (mostly sampled piano and drum beats), focusing attention on the rhymes.
3) Kung Fu cinema dialog. Need I say more?
I listened to "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)" early this morning (I didn't sleep well, so I dialed up some hip hop on my iPod). The Clan seem like "The Beatles of hip hop" in some respects. Supremely talented and innovative, their talent was confirmed by the members' various solo projects.
The Clan are just that -- a big group that includes some relatives.
Robert Diggs (RZA), Gary Grice (GZA/The Genius) and the late Russell Jones (Ol' Dirty Bastard) were cousins. Joining this trio were Dennis Coles (Ghostface Killah -- named after a kung fu cinema villain), Clifford Smith (Method Man), Jason Hunter (Inspectah Deck), Corey Woods (Raekwon the Chef), Lamont Jody Hawkins (U-God) and Elgin Turner (Masta Killah).
"I'm confused now," Shawn Colvin said in 1998, when ODB memorably stormed the stage to address the crowd at the Grammy Awards. (You can see it by clicking here).
Following the Wu-Tang Clan can be confusing at times -- there are so many of them and it's sometimes tricky negotiating their surreal, comic-book kung fu references. Stick with them, though, and you'll be rewarded with some classic moments of music.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I swear right now it feels like underground

It was hard dragging myself to work today, and not just because it is a gorgeous Saturday and I have to cover a MONSTER TRUCK SHOW.
One of my friends lost his position here recently -- blame it on the bad economy -- and the place seems overwhelmingly somber, even with nobody else on the premises.
I think that's why I listened to LLOYD COLE & THE COMMOTIONS and their 1984 college rock classic, "RATTLESNAKES."
This jangly British pop album served as "comfort music" for me in college. Hearing songs such as "Speedboat" conjure memories of homework-free days with a bunch of us sunning ourselves on the side of a reservoir.
I could also relate to Cole's lyrics, too:
"It wasn't my style to find surf in my eye, it was much more my style to find sand in my eyes."
I thought about Cole's words as I drove to work today.
There's a line from the track "Four Flights Up" that seems particularly appropriate today:
"We're living four flights up, but I swear right now it feels like underground."
Well, I'm currently on the third floor, but everything else rings too true.

Friday, March 28, 2008

I'm thinking of a certain Rick Dees novelty song

This week, ROUTE 1 readers look back with a degree of disco disdain by answering the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What was the worst thing the disco era gave us?"
KERSTIN H. -- The hair, the shoes and the clothes!
RICK T. -- Disco shoes! Platform shoes for guys?
MARY N.-P. -- OK, the disco era was kind of a guilty pleasure for me (I remember my date and I winning a disco dance contest at this hoppin' club once -- oh Lord, did it really happen...), but my husband would say that everything about the disco era was awful and should be eliminated from musical history accounts.
BRIAN C. -- Polyester suits.
KERI M. -- I wasn't alive during the disco era, but I am going to say: Staple itself into our musical history books.
MIKE D. -- Tight pants and leisure suits.
MIKE M. -- Disco Demolition Night sounds bad.
ERIK H. -- Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots released (unleashed) the song "Disco Duck" when I was 10 years old. I will never forgive him.
It was catchy enough to bore its way into everyone's heads, where an abrasive "duck"-sounding voice would plague people's good sense.
I still hate that song, decades later.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"That's exactly what it is -- a musical collage!"

Sure, when 9-year-old ANNIKA and I did the dishes last night it resulted in a clean kitchen. Surprisingly, it also resulted in a musical education session.
We toiled while listening to "ENTRODUCING," the pioneering 1996 album by DJ SHADOW.
The album is notable as being among the first to be created entirely by sampled bit of other songs, with the Davis, Calif., deejay combining elements from hip hop, jazz, funk, psychedelic rock tracks as well as horror film music, television shows and interviews. Despite the disparate sources, the songs on the album really swing, driven along by innovative percussion backing.
On the first track alone, "
Best Foot Forward," Shadow's list of sampled songs includes "It's My Turn" by Stezo, "Real Deal" by Lifer's Group, "He's My DJ" by Sparky Dee, "Poison" by Kool G. Rap & DJ Polo, "Dynamite" by Masters of Ceremony, "Cold Chillin' in the Spot" by Jazzy Jay, "Do or Die Bed-Stuy" by Divine Sounds, "Party's Gettin' Rough" by Beastie Boys, "You Can't Stop the Prophet" by Jeru the Damaja and "Concerto for Jazz/Rock Orchestra, Parts 1-4" by Stanley Clarke.
As you can probably tell from that last track, the album features plenty of jazz, and among the publications that has lavished praise on "Endtroducing" during the past 12 years is Jazz Times.
Annika likened the album to an elementary school art project.
"It's like a musical collage?" I asked her.
"That's exactly what it is -- a musical collage!" she said.
See, the dishes were cleaned and I was a little more enlightened about the music, thanks to Annika.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ohayo Gozaimasu besabaru!

OK. I admit I am crazy.
I woke up at 5 a.m. today so I could listen to OAKLAND take on BOSTON in TOKYO to begin the baseball season.
I am listening to KEN KORACH call the game on the Athletics Radio Network, via
I know the game is probably on TV, but there is something special about listening to baseball on the radio.

I'm not really an A's fan, and I don't much care for the Red Sox, but I do love baseball, which is why I got up more than an hour early to hear this game.
Listening to the A's broadcast also means I get to hear Bay Area commercials.
I still miss the Bay Area, despite all the years that have passed since I lived there full time.
JACK HANNAHAN just hit a two-run home run to give Oakland a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning of this game.
Local hero DAISUKE MATSUZAKA of the Red Sox struggled to open the game and Oakland scored a couple runs. "Dice-K" eventually settled down, however, and struck out six Athletics in five innings.
I was off on vacation yesterday, and "Spring Fever" prompted me to listen to a pair of exhibition games from Arizona.
My second year as a subscriber to means I can listen to any team's radio broadcast this year.
I'm looking forward to the season, even if my SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS will likely struggle!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hip hop on a spring day

I originally took today off as a vacation day thinking we would be tired after traveling back from central Iowa for Easter.
Little did I know influenza would strike, canceling our trip.
Now, we are all feeling significantly better, so today's vacation day feels like a celebration of good health -- finally!
I am listening to my ALTERNATIVE HIP HOP playlist while the girls (who are also off today) are doing some homework. Annika missed the entire week of school last week because of influenza.
The sun is shining (after sporadic snow flurries yesterday) and it finally feels like a spring day -- following an exceedingly long winter.
My playlist opens with "Rock and Roll (Could Never Hip Hop Like This)" by Handsome Boy Modeling School and includes plenty of tunes by Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Ugly Duckling, Living Legends, A Tribe Called Quest, Digible Planets and The Pharcyde. All fun stuff.
There's a definitely West Coast bias, but hey, what would you expect?
You can take the boy out of Cali, but you can't take... well, you know.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

"If they say why, why, tell 'em that it's human nature"

We're digesting the contents of our Easter baskets while re-evaluating MICHAEL JACKSON's landmark album, "THRILLER."
Oh -- and following the big MANCHESTER UNITED v. LIVERPOOL match live online. Wes Brown has scored to give United a 1-0 half-time lead. The visitors have a mountain to climb in the second half, after Javier Mascherano was sent off for two bookable offenses. Naughty boy.

Now, getting back to "Thriller" -- it has been ages since I last heard the gazillion-selling album in its entirety.
I am struck by two things:
1) I had forgotten how extensively Quincy Jones employed synthesizers on this album. There are as many synthesizers on "Thriller" as there are on a Depeche Mode album!
2) My favorite song of the bunch is "HUMAN NATURE." Which is quite comical, since it amounts to Michael Jackson singing over a TOTO song.
Steve Porcaro of Toto co-wrote the song with lyricist John Bettis (of "Crazy For You" by Madonna and "Slow Hand" by the Pointer Sisters fame). Porcaro's late brother Jeff drummed on the song, which also featured Toto members David Paich and Steve Lukather.
It's quite a beautiful melody, and it's not as ubiquitous as "Beat It," "Billie Jean" or "Thriller," so it still sounds fresh to me.
I'm not the only person who ranks "Human Nature" highly after re-evaluating the "Thriller" album.
Here's SLATE magazine from 2003:
"(Human Nature) is probably the best musical composition on the album and surely one of the only adult contemporary ballads of its era worth remembering."
See what I mean?
Oh yeah:
Happy Easter everyone!
"If they say why, why, tell 'em that it's human nature, why, why does he do me that way."

Saturday, March 22, 2008

God-fearing bluesmen and "La Vecchia Signora"

The Delta BLUESMEN didn't just sing about WOMEN AND WHISKEY.
They also sang about the Church, the Saviour, the Good Book and the dangers of ignoring RELIGION.
Revenant Records' AMERICAN PRIMITIVE VOL. 1 RAW PRE-WAR GOSPEL (1926-38) is one of my favorite records. Blues legends such as Charley Patton, Blind Willie Davis and Jaybird Coleman sing about crossing the River of Jordan, that sinners need Jesus and that they are troubled about their souls.
Eighty-year-old songs sound as powerful as anything released in the past decade on this great compilation, culled from scratchy 78s. Find out more about the album by visiting Revenant Records, here.
I listened to it today, before lingering fatigue from INFLUENZA caught up with me.
Fellow flu sufferer Annika and I also enjoyed watching the 150th Derby D'Italia live on TV. The "Derby of Italy" pits INTERNAZIONALE against JUVENTUS. Today, visiting Juve beat league-leading, defending champions Inter, 2-1.

After a goalless first half, Mauro Camoranesi put Juventus ahead in the 49th minute. The great Alessandro Del Piero set up David Trezeguet to score the second for "la Vecchia Signora" in the 63rd minute. Maniche scored a late consolation goal for "nerazzurri." Like the pre-war gospel music, this match was magical.

Friday, March 21, 2008

"Kickin' you around like a hackey sack!"

I was supposed to be spending this vacation day traveling to Des Moines for Easter.
Instead, I have been sitting at the kitchen table, laying my head on the table while I battle INFLUENZA.
Tamiflu helps blunt the symptoms, but I remain aching and fatigued.
It is certainly not how I anticipated spending my little vacation.
This morning I have cheered myself up briefly while watching the gloriously funny video for "SMACK" by Long Beach, Calif.'s UGLY DUCKLING.
You can see it by clicking here.
In a send-up of creativity deficient hip-hop artists everywhere, the song's lyrics take on "all you cats wearin' retro jerseys with matchin' hats and too much jewelry, rockin' that gangster pop ringtone rap."
The video refers to the colorful pop art approach of the 1960s' "Batman" television series. It's funny, and it took my mind off the hospital ward that our house has become the past four days.
The FRIDAY QUESTION feature will return next week.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Life's a riot with influenza

I've got to make this quick -- I only have about 1-1/2 hours of productivity before I slip back into the abyss of INFLUENZA.
The Tamiflu I am taking is supposed to blunt the effects of the disease. However, I am still coughing, still fatigued, still wondering why my knees and elbows hurt and I am still having feverish dreams in which goose-like birds with raccoon faces chase me around a shopping mall parking lot in Phoenix, Ariz. So, I'd hate to think what I would feel like without the Tamiflu.
I am listening to BILLY BRAGG, chugging apple juice out of a jar and wishing I felt better. Bragg is great. His strident songs, accompanied by his acoustic guitar, take me back to the 1980s and how his stripped-down songs were such a welcomed antidote to the heavily produced efforts that usually populated alternative radio back then.
Happier times than right now, with influenza slowly infiltrating the family after first striking Annika.
Our plans to visit the Des Moines area are now in tatters, and for the first time in about 15 years I didn't get the opportunity to participate in a workplace NCAA BASKETBALL POOL. Damn. I bet this is the year I would have won.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Music often comforts us in trying times, but...

Music often provides comfort during trying times. True, but does that really explain why I find myself singing along to "LONGFELLOW SERENADE" by NEIL DIAMOND today?
I'm not even that much of a Neil Diamond fan -- not because I don't appreciate his obvious songwriting gifts, but because of the ubiquitous presence of his songs on the radio when I was growing up.
"Such were the plans I'd made, for she was a lady and I was a dreamer, with only words to trade."
My wife JILL is spending the day at a wake for her uncle, who passed away Saturday.
I have spent most of the day with 9-year-old ANNIKA, who is battling a confirmed case of INFLUENZA.
The poor thing -- she has been wiped out by the disease.
"I'll weave his web of rhyme upon the summer night, we'll leave this worldly time on his winged flight."
Annika is the first person in our family to contract influenza, and I am currently praying she'll be the last. Jill received an influenza vaccination, I did not.
We're supposed to travel to the Des Moines area for Easter this weekend. Such were the plans we'd made?
"Then come, and as we lay beside this sleepy glade, there I will sing to you my Longfellow serenade."
Of course, if I do happen to get influenza, I will inevitably become feverish. If I am feverish, perhaps I'll finally have some sort of insight into whatever the heck it was that Neil Diamond was singing about.
"Ride, come on baby, ride, let me make your dreams come true."

Monday, March 17, 2008

Funny, he doesn't look like a disco king

We're listening to the "SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER" soundtrack as we try to wake up this morning.
It was a hectic weekend: One of Jill's uncles passed away, and all of the girls' cousins were visiting from Cedar Rapids and Des Moines.
After all of that, we're hoping the disco music can get us moving on a sleep Monday.
The Bee Gees take center stage on the album, of course, but I have really enjoyed hearing how DAVID SHIRE transformed a film orchestra into a floor-filling disco band.
Shire composed the incidental music for "Saturday Night Fever." He is probably best known for composing the soundtrack for Francis Ford Coppola's "The Conversation" and for marrying Coppola's sister Talia. Shire won the 1979 Oscar for Best Song for "It Goes Like it Goes," from "Norma Rae." Shire has been married to Didi Conn (Frenchy in "Grease" since 1982.
"NIGHT ON DISCO MOUNTAIN" is one of three Shire instrumentals that appear on the soundtrack. It is based on Modest Mussorgsky's classical piece "Night on Bald Mountain," and Shire's song really swings along.
Is it enough to shake us awake on a dark Monday morning? We shall see.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Never listen to early Pavement in an indoor waterpark

I should have known: Never listen to early Pavement when you are sitting in an indoor waterpark.
I accompanied seven kids to Dubuque's Grand Harbor Resort & Waterpark today.
I had a headache, so I didn't partake in the wet and wild fun myself.
Instead, I read some of Rob Jovanovic's "PERFECT SOUND FOREVER: THE STORY OF PAVEMENT."
I tried listening to the songs from Pavement's debut EP, "Slay Tracks (1933-1969)," that included on the compilation "Westing (By Musket & Sextant)."
Big mistake.
It never occurred to me that the ceaseless white noise of the cascading water and the shrill cries of the soaked children would completely negate the lo-fi hiss and jagged guitar shrieks that characterized the early Pavement sound.
Rather than accentuate my reading of the band's early history, my failed attempt to hear some Pavement only exacerbated my headache! D'oh!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Early morning laughter

The cats teamed up, and with a combination of turbo-powered purring, licking and biting, managed to wake me up at the bleary-eyed time of 5 a.m.
I couldn't get back to sleep, so I poured myself a cup of coffee and logged on to the BBC RADIO Web site and listened to RADIO FIVE LIVE's FIGHTING TALK.
Fighting Talk is a Saturday staple on British radio. Colin Murray hosts a nominal quiz show, as sports journalists, comedians and other pundits answer questions related to the week's sports news. Murray dishes out points to the funniest answers, denoting the point totals thanks to sound effects such as a cash register's ker-ching, an arrow hitting a bull's eye and the Hallelujah chorus.
The quiz show concludes with the final two contestants having to "Defend the Indefensible," in which they must discuss their agreement with whatever outrageous thing Murray says -- even if he forces the contestants to slur their favorite teams.
I suppose you must know a bit about the current state of affairs in British football, but I do find the show uproariously funny -- even after fur-covered alarm clocks jolted me out of sleep prematurely.
Check out the Fighting Talk page on the FIVE LIVE Web site, located here.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Question: Wearin' o' the green edition

Sure and begorrah, ST. PATRICK'S DAY is just around the corner. To test the theory that "everyone has got a little Irish in them," ROUTE 1 readers have responded to the following FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What Irish song would you like to hear on St. Patrick's Day?"
MIKE D. -- I don't know too many Irish tunes since I don't imbibe in the spirits, so I'll go with something by U2.
RICK T. -- "Tru Rah Lora Lora," the Irish lullaby.
MICHAEL PATRICK M. -- While enjoying corned beef and cabbage and Guinness, I'll hum along to "High Part of the Town" by Jez Lowe, a North Country lad with Irish roots: "Well, my father said someday we'd live in the high part of the town, But every time he gets a job they close the colliery down, But it's not when the pits are closing where my father's troubles start, It's when they close the pubs as well, it nearly breaks his heart."
BRIAN C. -- "Danny Boy." It's a beautiful song -- but if you actually follow the lyrics, it's quite sad, too.
KERI M. -- "Wasn't that a Part" by The Irish Rovers or anything by U2 or the Irish Plantation Orchestra.
ERIK H. -- Vocalist/bassist Paul Linehan, his guitarist brother Niall Linehan and drummer Ashley Keating came out of Cork in the early 1990s, calling themselves The Frank and Walters, after two local eccentrics they knew.
They briefly flirted with the UK charts, but never really made a dent in America -- except in certain limited cases, such as mine.
I could listen to their songs "After All" (the UK hit -- No. 11, you can probably see the video by clicking here) and "This is Not a Song" all day long. Take your U2. I'll take my Frank and Walters, sure and begorrah.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Solidarity of the Abandoned"

I am reading a real page-turner -- "MEMUSHIRI KOUCHI (NIP THE BUDS, SHOOT THE KIDS)," the 1958 novel by Nobel Prize-winner KENZABURO OE.
Set in Japan during the latter days of World War II, the novel follows the exploits of a group of reformatory school boys evacuated to a remote mountain village to avoid increased aerial bombing.
Shortly after their arrival, the villagers flee the village, abandoning the adolescents in the face of a growing threat of plague, which has already killed domestic animals and a few humans.
I have read that "Memushiri Kouchi" is the Japanese version of "Lord of the Flies," but thus far the characters have interacted well in the face of the sudden departure of the villagers.
I really enjoy this novel, and I might next turn my attention to Oe's 1967 classic, "Man'en Gannen no Futtoboru," a.k.a. "Football in the First Year of Man'en," but best known in America as "The Silent Cry."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Pavement were so cool

I have been listening to "WOWEE ZOWEE" by Stockton, Calif.'s famed PAVEMENT this morning.
They were a band who could do seemingly anything they wanted.
They could be noisy, they could be pop-infused, they could rock quite hard, they could grate, they could make you sing along and on "FATHER TO A SISTER OF THOUGHT" (sleeve of single pictured) -- drenched in pedal steel guitar -- they could almost out-twang the country folks.
Pavement were so cool.
I always laugh at the criticisms that Pavement tried to sound too much like The Fall.
Except for a few exceptions, Pavement sound nothing like The Fall.
I love both bands, and today I am devoting my music listening to the slacker Californians.
Like 9-year-old ANNIKA said the other day:
"Spring is almost in the air."

Monday, March 10, 2008

He certainly influenced me

Historian Luise White called ALICK NKHATA "arguably the most influential of Central Africa's influential guitarists."
I don't really know about too many other Central African guitarists, but Nkhata and his delightful music certainly influenced me today.
The pioneering Zambian pop star's 1959 single "CHIPERONI" influenced my mouth, making it smile, and influenced by head, causing it to bob up and down to the music.
Nkhata was a radio announcer who later became the king of Zambian pop.
"Chiperoni" is a catchy number, highlighted by brilliant guitar playing. The title apparently refers to an influx of cool, moist air that can usher in refreshing drizzle during Zambia's May to August dry season.
I have been listening to African pop from the 1950s and 60s for the past couple days (I know, I know, but I am not *TRYING* to be obscure -- I just love good music).
I was sad, though, to learn of Nkhata's demise.
The Zambian hero retired to his farm in the mid-1970s.
He was killed in 1978, caught in a crossfire between the forces of Ian Smith's Rhodesia and ZAPU guerrillas who had set up a camp near Nkhata's farm.
His music never died, though. I can attest to that.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The 70s song that had... EVERYTHING

I am reading THE ATLANTIC (and a great story on the modern Hollywood paparazzi) and listening to some 1970s music while waiting for BRISTOL ROVERS to host WEST BROM in the FA Cup quarterfinals.
My 70s playlist just served up "HOCUS POCUS," the 1971 progressive rock opus by Dutch band FOCUS that somehow managed to crack the U.S. Top 10.
I really shouldn't be surprised the song shipped so many copies -- it is jam-packed with every possible element you could imagine!
YODELING? It's in there.
WHISTLING? Uh... oh yes.
POUNDING DRUMS? In place, thank you sir.
The song has everything, that is, except comprehensible. There's some rather high-pitched gibberish at the three-minute mark, then that crunching guitar comes back into play.
Inspired lunacy. They just don't make them like "HOCUS POCUS" by FOCUS anymore. Whoah! There's that flute again. When do they yodel again?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Now *THAT* was fun!

It might not have been "just like watching Brazil," as the supporters sing, but it certainly was fun watching BARNSLEY send holders CHELSEA crashing out of the FA CUP just now.
We watched live on TV as Kayode Odejayi headed the winner in the 66th minute (pictured). Barnsley then spent the remainder of the game defending wave after wave of Chelsea attacks while clinging to their lead. When the full-time whistle blew on Barnsley's 1-0 victory, the fans spilled out onto the pitch just like in the old days.
I never cheer for the Tykes in the league (especially in their South Yorkshire derbies with SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY). I cheered like crazy for them today, though, as they head into the semifinals.
MANCHESTER UNITED also felt the bitter sting of defeat in the Cup today. Sulley Muntari scored from the penalty spot against stand-in goalkeeper Rio Ferdinand -- substitute 'keeper Tomasz Kuszczak had just been sent off -- to give PORTSMOUTH the 1-0 win.
The legendary romance of the FA Cup is alive and well. I feel fortunate having experienced a little of it today.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Trading places

Every now and then we wish we could swap places with someone else.
This week, ROUTE 1 readers imagine a life much different from their own by answering this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
"If you could trade places with any musician for a day, with whom would it be?"
KERSTIN H. -- It would be fun to be Hannah Montana, if only for a day.
BRIAN C. -- Any one of the Beatles (well, except for Ringo).
KERI M. -- I'm not sure. Maybe Gwen Stefani, maybe Norah Jones. Maybe Cratch McGarnigle.

GARY D. -- Keith Richards. If you're going to make the trade, may as well go for the greatest.
ELLEN B. -- Beyonce.
RICK T. -- The front man for Ernest Tubb. To be able to open for him would have been the greatest. He was a true entertainer and he loved his fans. To be a member of the Texas Troubadours would be the highest honor any true country fan could wish for.
MIKE M. -- I'd trade yesterday with Arlo Guthrie, when he came to Dubuque. Arlo told stories and sang songs about everything from his dad teaching him "This Land is Your Land" in their backyard to playing concerts in the Gulf states to raise money for Hurricane Katrina victims. I wonder what was going through his mind when Dubuquers gave him two standing ovations. I wonder what Maggie and the kids would think of having Arlo Guthrie as husband and dad for a day!
ANNIKA H. -- Selena Gomez.
MIKE D. -- Chris Daughtry, because then I could jam onstage with his touring act, Bon Jovi. What the heck, maybe I'll just be Jon Bon Jovi!!!
ERIK H. -- King Sunny Ade. He's a king, for one thing. Secondly, the juju music he makes is so fun to hear, it's got to be fun to make as well. It's good to be the king.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Derek Dooley, 1929-2008

I don't usually post twice in one day. I also don't usually get a chance to pay tribute to a true legend.
Who else but DEREK DOOLEY could unite the Steel City? Sheffield's hero passed away today.
Dooley scored 62 goals in 61 appearances for SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY from 1949-52.
On Feb. 14, 1953 the unthinkable happened. Dooley collided with Preston goalkeeper George Thompson. Dooley's leg was badly broken. When he lost that leg to an amputation, his glorious playing career had been cut tragically short.
Dooley managed the Owls from 1971 until his Christmas Eve sacking in 1973.
That's when he swapped sides, joining SHEFFIELD UNITED and serving the Blades in a variety of capacities, including chairman, eventually.
Despite abandoning Hillsborough for Bramall Lane, Dooley remained a beloved figure for both sets of supporters.
It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye.

This morning's bewitching sound from Jos

Miles Cleret calls attention to the alleged otherworldly powers of THE SAHARA ALL STARS OF JOS in his liner notes for "NIGERIA SPECIAL: MODERN HIGHLIFE, AFRO-SOUNDS & NIGERIAN BLUES," which I am enjoying while preparing for work this morning.
"According to many of the musicians who I've spoken to, there was a feeling that the band had some sort of witchcraft on their side," Cleret writes, "and that playing at their open-air club was, for visiting bands, usually fraught with difficulties, which had been created to make the house band look better."
Frankly, the Sahara All Stars of Jos needn't have bothered. I am listening to their 1974 song "Feso Jaiye" right now, and it is delightful.
Backed by a slow guitar-and-saxophone jam, a high tenor voice sings in Yoruba, recommending that the listener "take life easy."
It's a beguiling track, and I have played it repeatedly now three -- hang on... Maybe it *IS* a bit too beguiling!
Maybe there is something to this witchcraft allegation after all.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Enjoying some "Help!"

I watched RICHARD LESTER's "HELP!" last night, and instead of rapturously following The Beatles throughout the film, which I usually do, I focused my attention on some other elements that make the movie so fun to watch.
DAVID WATKINS' cinematography is brilliant, particularly in the smoky studio scene. Watkins passed away a few weeks ago. News reports mentioned his Oscar-winning effort on "Out of Africa," as well as his work on "Chariots of Fire" and Lester's "Musketeers" films. "Help!" was one of Watkins' first films, but his genius was already apparent.
The Beatles' films included some wonderful supporting casts, and "Help!" is no exception. I love watching British character actor ROY KINNEAR. He played henchman "Algernon" in "Help!" He also played Veruca Salt's dad in "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory" and Planchet in Lester's "Musketeer" films. His demise is one of the saddest in film history, I think: He bled to death after breaking his pelvis during the making of "The Return of the Musketeers" in 1988.
The DART-THROWING OPENING CREDITS credits are marvelously inventive, and apparently continue to resonate with rock bands.
Scots band TRAVIS referenced the dart-throwing idea in the video for their 2001 hit "Sing." The Travis video also includes one of the most memorable food fights you will ever see, complete with flying octopus. Check it out here, and watch "Help!" soon. You won't regret it.

Monday, March 03, 2008

I must have different ears

I'll never quite figure it out.
Some of the bands I absolutely adore send members of my family scurrying out of the room.
Do I hear something they don't when I listen to someone like SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE?
What about THE FALL?
My family nods in agreement when I mention my adoration for Mark E. Smith and his various incarnations of "the northern white crap that talks back," but I know they have no clue what I talking about.
Do I have different ears?
I thought about that today as I drove around listening to "Live at the Witch Trials," The Fall's 1979 debut.
The song "Rebellious Jukebox" came on, and there I was, singing along in the car.
Why do I love this band, when some of the people I am around can't even stand to hear them?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Saluting the King of Highlife

If Fela Kuti is the Bob Marley of West African pop, then E. T. MENSAH is probably its Tommy McCook.
Marley and Kuti both made catchy, political music for dancing. McCook (and Don Drummond and Rolando Alphonso) and the Skatalites become synonymous with ska, the joyous sound of Jamaican independence.
Mensah his his band, The Tempos, likewise are forever linked with highlife, the bubbly sound of independent West Africa.
During our coldest days of winter (and there have been many), I have blanketed myself with West African pop. It can't help but warm a person, this buoyant music.
Multi-instrumentalist Mensah (1919-1996) was a pharmacist by trade who was among the many Ghanaian musicians who incorporated various Black American and West Indian styles, thanks to military men stationed in the Gold Coast during World War II.
By the 1950s, Mensah had turned to music full time as the leader of the Tempos, whose brassy danceable highlife sound soon spread to Nigeria and beyond.
For a taste of Mensah's greatness, click on YouTube and listen to his classic "Ghana Guinea Mali Union," a song celebrating cooperation between West African neighbors. Look for it here, and enjoy the King of Highlife.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

It all started with a dream

Early yesterday morning -- just before waking -- I dreamt my family and I were on a canoe trip through a canyon. We had pulled over to the bank for a picnic, and 12-year-old KERSTIN grabbed some black-and-white photos of THE BEATLES out of her backpack.
We were remarking about how effortlessly cool they all looked, when the alarm jolted me awake.
Later, when I approached Kerstin to tell her about my odd dream -- why were we on a canoe trip? -- I saw she had selected a Beatles T-shirt to wear to school that day.
OK, that was enough of a sign for me, even though Kerstin deflated by theory of fate by proclaiming: "It was the only thing I had that was clean."
I listened to the FAB FOUR throughout the day yesterday, and last night we all gathered around the television and enjoyed Richard Lester's "A HARD DAY'S NIGHT" on DVD.
Just now, I have completed a rather brisk, invigorating walk around the neighborhood while listening to "HELP!"
Would The Beatles have played such a role in the past two days if I had not dreamt about them?