Friday, November 30, 2012

Good morning, it's the Friday Question!

That crowing rooster you hear in the background, the milk bottles chilling on the stoop and those streaks of light sneaking over the Eastern horizon can only mean one thing -- it's a stereotypical morning!
Enough about that, though, we at ROUTE 1 would like to know what happens during an *actual* morning, so let's get right to this week's FRIDAY QUESTION:
"What's the first thing you do in the morning?"
KERI M. -- Hit the snooze button.
JIM S. -- For the past year or so, it's been sit-ups, stretching and, every other day, light weight-lifting. I'm up to 225 sit-ups on off days, 300 on the others (reps of 75). No washboard abs expected as I still eat too much junk.
JOHN S. -- Brush my teeth.
RICK T. -- Wash my face to wake up!
BRIAN M. -- Aside from the "of course" answers, I get coffee and find something to read, whether it's something that I hadn't seen before in the Sunday paper that just strikes me or a piece in Sports Illustrated I hadn't devoured yet.
SANDYE V. -- Get up!
LISA Y. -- Grab a cup of Joe, while chatting with my 14-year old.
ERIK H. -- Switch on the coffee cup then let the dog out.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Enjoying an album-length blues love letter

One of the poignant passages of "THE BLUES," the book companion to MARTIN SCORSESE'S documentary series about the genre, relates how classic artists from the music's golden age were genuinely touched by the accolades they received from practitioners of the BRITISH BLUES BOOM of the early 1960s.
Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and others noted that although they often weren't recognized by their own next-door neighbors, they were repeatedly lauded by a bunch of white kids from England.
Today, I listened to an album-length love letter to these old bluesmen.
"CRUSADE" by JOHN MAYALL'S BLUESBREAKERS is not only one of my favorite records (it's the recording debut of guitarist MICK TAYLOR), the 1967 release is also found Mayall paying homage to his blues heroes, including Otis Rush, Sonny Boy Williamson II and J.B. Renoir.
I particularly like Mayall's rendition of "I Can't Quit You Baby," a Willie Dixon composition for Rush that was also popularized by LED ZEPPELIN in 1969.
Mayall's version of the song seems like a bridge between a straight blues reading and Zep's amped-up, proto-metal romp. Listening to it today, I wondered about Jimmy Page's familiarity with the Mayall version.
Taylor's solo is good, but his better work would come on the classic sides recorded by the mid-period ROLLING STONES -- yet another band known for loving homages to the original blues.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Eagles and the death of their "dream"

Remember when the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES signed Nnamdi Asomugha and they were being touted (mostly by Philly fans) as a "Dream Team?"
It seems so long ago, right?
It was 2011.
I'm listening to SPORTSRADIO 94 WIP from the CITY OF BROTHERLY LOVE today, a day when brotherly love is the last thing on the minds of Eagles fans.
The lowly Panthers beat the similarly lowly Eagles, 30-22, on MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL last night.
This morning, enraged and embittered Eagles fans are flooding the radio station's phone lines, decrying the present state of their team.
Their anger seems palpable, even over the Internet.
Is the anger deserved? Well, Philadelphia's baseball team (that didn't make the playoffs), the PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES, won a game more recently (Oct. 1) than the Eagles (Sept. 30).

Monday, November 26, 2012

When your dreams say "listen to Poco" you listen to Poco

I'm never certain what DREAMS mean, but I do know I'd better pay attention.
Last night, POCO provided the soundtrack to one of my dreams, so I am listening to the pioneering country rock band in the car today.
RICHIE FURAY and JIM MESSINA launched the band following the demise of BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD, and although Poco did score a few hits, in hindsight their lasting legacy was their influence on a genre.
Furay himself explained the band's impact in "Desperados: The Roots of Country Rock" by John Einarson:
"I think Poco gets overlooked. Poco innovated, it didn't copy, and that's what made us special. The ones who really did get it were Glenn and Don (Frey and Henley, of the Eagles), and Pure Prairie League, whom we definitely influenced. There couldn't have been the Eagles without us. Poco was the launching pad for the more commercial aspect of country rock music."
Today is one of the coldest days we've had this season. I'll warm myself with some Poco -- thanks to a message from my dreams.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

If Kelly era ends, elevate Helfrich

I guess I'd better get accustomed to the idea of CHIP KELLY ending his reign as coach of MY BELOVED OREGON DUCKS and leaving for the lucrative pastures of the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE.
Apart from that ever-elusive National Championship, there seems to be little remaining for Kelly to accomplish at Oregon, which wrapped up the regular season yesterday with a 48-24 victory over THE DANGED OL' BEAVERS in the 116th CIVIL WAR game.
If Kelly does leave -- for the Chiefs, Jets or some other NFL franchise that would be lucky to get him -- I hope his successor at Oregon is current offensive coordinator MARK HELFRICH (pictured).
Previously the quarterbacks coach at Boise State, Arizona State and Colorado, Helfrich has roots that reflect those in my own family.
Like my late father, Helfrich was born in MEDFORD, ORE., and like my father Helfrich attended SOUTHERN OREGON in Ashland, too.
Helfrich tutored Jeremiah Masoli, Darron Thomas and now Marcus Mariota while with the Ducks.
I feel comfortable with him taking the reins of the rest of the team, if the Kelly era does come to an end.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The strange songs of King Solomon Hill

One of my favorite things about the BLUES is how songs nearly 90 years old can still shock with their air of mystery.
The six known songs of Joe Holmes, a.k.a. KING SOLOMON HILL, fit this bill.
Strange guitar pickings and a high, clear tenor voice spill out of the speakers on tracks such as "Down on My Bended Knee" and "Whoopee Blues."
Not much is known about Hill/Holmes, except that he was a hobo who somehow found himself inside an antiquated recording studio.
Mystery exudes from the music as well as the man.
The Belgian-born American writer LUC SANTE described Hill as "an extreme case, an individualist who came from no identifiable school and left no immediate progeny."
Of Hill's documented songs, Sante wrote:
"They are among the strangest in the blues. The beat of 'The Gone Dead Train,' for example, varies constantly -- each vocal line is of a different length, as are the guitar fills -- and the whole thing constantly threatens to break down into formlessness. But it has its own logic, at once musical (the changes of the fills effectively correspond to those of the vocals without merely echoing them) and conversational; or maybe the word would be poetic -- his metric anarchy, startling in popular song, evokes the kind of unscannable but audibly dynamic music you find in the most rigorous free verse."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Best Wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bessie Smith weaves her sorcery

I spent last night gazing at the fog enveloping the street lights, sipping wine and listening to the magnificent BESSIE SMITH.
Smith was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 30s, but more than that, she was an icon with a lasting legacy.
Christopher John Farley wrote:
"Bessie Smith gave women a voice -- a voice that was big and assertive and unafraid to explore any issue, from the bedroom to the barroom, from the poorhouse to the jailhouse."
Covering a 1926 Smith concert for Vanity Fair, Carl Van Vechten tried to describe the powerful sway the legendary singer held over her audience:
"The spell once more was weaving its subtle sorcery, the perversely complicated spell of African voodoo, the fragrance of china-berry blossoms, the glimmer of the silver fleece of the cotton field under the full moon, the spell of sorrow: misery, poverty and the horror of jail."
I sat captivated by that very spell last night.
I think I'm still caught in it this morning, to be honest.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

49ers keep Annika's classmates quiet

ANNIKA enthusiastically cheered for the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS with me last night.
San Francisco defeated the CHICAGO BEARS, 32-7, in MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL.
Annika is surrounded by boastful Bears fans at middle school. They regularly mock Annika for her favorite team -- which has won five SUPER BOWL titles to their team's one, but hey, math isn't always a middle-school student's strong suit.
Annika is going to wear one of my old 49ers sweatshirts to school today.
We predict the middle-school Bears fans will be uncharacteristically quiet today.

Monday, November 19, 2012

"... strange, haunting, startling..."

"We know nothing about how the blues came to be, only that it was first noted just after 1900, in the vicinity of the lower course of the Mississippi River, and that the sophisticated observers who noted it -- W.C. Handy, Ma Rainey and Jelly Roll Morton -- all found it strange, haunting, startling."
-- Luc Sante

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A little Chuck Berry takes some of the sting out of it

I'm cheering myself up with some CHUCK BERRY before I head to work today.
I'm discouraged after Jordan Williamson's game-winning field goal in overtime helped STANFORD sink MY BELOVED OREGON DUCKS, 17-14, setting the Cardinal on the path to a Rose Bowl berth while knocking the Ducks from contention for a college football national championship.
The Chuck Berry helps.
His exuberant, pioneering rock and roll always makes me smile, even when I am licking my wounds after a particularly stinging defeat by my favorite college football team.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A horror movie masquerading as a rock film

After watching the new ROLLING STONES documentary, "CROSSFIRE HURRICANE" Thursday night, I watched the 1970 film "GIMME SHELTER" yesterday.
Although the former was a more comprehensive look at the band's complete history, the latter remains more compelling -- as a horror movie masquerading as a rock film.
The disastrous ALTAMONT free concert -- plagued by death, Hells Angels' intimidation and universally "bad vibes" -- taints "Gimme Shelter" like an unspoken, terminal disease.
What's truly horrific, though, is the eclipse of the 1960s ideals by the baser elements of man's nature. 
You don't just see it happening at Altamont in "Gimme Shelter." You see it happening everywhere you look.

Friday, November 16, 2012

What do we watch on TV?

Welcome back to ROUTE 1 and the FRIDAY QUESTION.
This week, readers answer the following query:
"What do you enjoy watching on television?"
KERI M. -- The news, Glee, HIMYM and Big Bang Theory.
JIM S. -- In the mornings before work, I catch a mixture of C-SPAN's Washington Journal and MSNBC's Morning Joe. In the evenings, it's almost all sports. As Kris likes to mockingly say, "There's ALWAYS a game on." But I also enjoy an old movie once in a while or a PBS special. I honestly do not watch a single weekly show on ABC, CBS or NBC.
LAURA C. -- The great series on HBO and Showtime. I like them even better than movies. These days I don't watch network TV at all...
MIKE D. -- A good action movie or shows on the History Channel.
RICK T. -- That 70's Show, Reba and Big Bang Theory.
CLINT A. -- John King with his magic wall of demographics election night on CNN, could watch that all the time. Crazy data there!
STEVE M. -- Breaking Bad!  It is fantastic.  Start from the beginning and savor each episode.  The final eight are coming up next summer.
KERSTIN H. -- I love Grey's Anatomy, Bones and Criminal Minds.
SANDYE V. -- Mostly PBS, especially the Newshour. Also "CBS Sunday Morning," "60 Minutes," "Amazing Race" and "The Good Wife," (all on CBS on Sunday.)
STACEY B. -- I absolutely love how "The Middle" and "Modern Family" are sometimes a little too close to reality.
ERIK H. -- My favorite two series ("Arrested Development" and "The Wire") no longer appear on TV, so my current favorite thing to watch is Saturday morning soccer from England.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A night with the classics

I spent last night enjoying some of the classics.
You know, MAMIE SMITH, BESSIE SMITH, BLIND LEMON JEFFERSON, BLIND BLAKE and other artists who pioneered the first commercially successful BLUES recordings in the 1920s.
They were the artists recorded during a nearly decade-long spate after record companies realized the profit potential of selling 78 rpm platters to a previously untapped black audience.
As Bernie Haynes wrote:
"Record companies such as Vocalion, Columbia, Okeh and Paramount wanted to tap into the market and soon began to market these special labels to African-Americans who could not hear the music they loved and wanted to hear. A new genre was born. Race recordswere such a hit that other record companies entered the marketplace."
Despite the temporary setback posed by the Great Depression, black commercial music was born.
It's fun listening to these scratchy milestones from the past. I like to pretend I'm in a small room, hearing these platters for the first time myself.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Taking talents away from South Beach

My team just won the World Series and I've never visited FLORIDA, but I sympathize with fans of the MIAMI MARLINS -- if there are any remaining.
The team traded five starting players to TORONTO last night in a blockbuster, lopsided deal that shed payroll and talent from a team that had finished in last place in their division during the past season.
The trade follows deals that jettisoned other players during the course of the season -- the first season in a $515 million publicly funded stadium.
I've been listening to enraged Miami fans venting on sports radio statios SPORTS TALK 790 THE TICKET (WAXY) and 560 WQAM and I feel their pain.
Imagine investing your money and your fandom in a club, only to have it gutted for monetary reasons. 
It makes me wonder: How much fan loyalty can sports team owners expect if they fail to show loyalty to the fans?
As empty seats proliferate in Miami next season, we might see the answer.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Grant Lee Buffalo type of days

I've been listening to GRANT LEE BUFFALO during the past few, chaotic days -- days that have included a trip to an airport, a high-school debate tournament, a high-school play and a Veterans Day ceremony washed out by heavy rain.
I still consider Grant Lee Buffalo to be one of the best bands of the 1990s. The band folded country, rock, folk and feedback into a style writer Dave Thompson described as "loose and evocative Americana."
It was a sound that seemed to fit perfectly with my surroundings this weekend, as even the weather seemed intent on packing as much diversity into a day as meteorologically possible.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Returning to "Sweetheart"

After hearing some early RYAN ADAMS tunes yesterday, I decided it was high time I went back to the original source material.
That's why I'm listening to "SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO" by THE BYRDS today.
Fueled by the vision of brief band member GRAM PARSONS, the Byrds' 1968 release is generally credited as the first country-rock record -- an album and a sound that launched hundreds of thousands of twangy combos, up to and including the present day.
The album provides a blueprint to a sound so ubiquitous today that it seems unfathomable to consider it was once new -- so new and alien, in fact, that "Sweetheart of the Radio" barely sold any copies upon its initial release.
However, the people who did purchase the album back in the late 1960s and early 70s were indelibly changed.
Writer Chris Smith describes the album's landmark combination:
"Incorporating traditional country instruments such as pedal steel guitar, fiddle, banjo and mandolin, 'Sweetheart of the Rodeo' recalled the timeless twang of Hank Williams without abandoning the strides the Byrds had made toward giving folk music a steady beat and an electric kick."
Today, I hear this album both as a collection of wonderful tunes and as the signpost it became.
You can't say that about too many other albums.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The song that had me driving around the block

I actually drove around the block before returning home from my rare overnight shift at the NEWSPAPER -- posting articles on the website for night owl readers.
I wasn't prolonging my trip home to revel in the many historic implications of the night's many results -- I was too tired for that.
No, I kept on driving so I could hear a song in its entirety!
"DON'T TELL ME" was a 1984 hit by (I think) the criminally overlooked British synth-pop duo BLANCMANGE.
The opening track on the duo's second album, "Mange Tout," "Don't Tell Me" isn't just a great synth-pop song. It's a great song, period.
It features one of the most indelible synthesiser riffs, but adds a "world music" wrinkle in the form of Pandit Dinesh on tabla and Deepak Khazanchi on sitar.
Well worth driving around the block, I must say.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Disconnected? Disengaged? Disoriented? Bring Kraftwerk!

Just woke up (I work an overnight shift).
Apparently, while I slept...
1) Everybody on Facebook already voted.
2) It snowed.
I peer outside and see some drizzle. I feel disconnected from reality. I feel disengaged and disoriented.
I feel like listening to some KRAFTWERK.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

My brief introduction to Indy

I spent the weekend briefly getting to know the 12th-largest city in the United States.
INDIANAPOLIS is the home to the Indy 500, the Colts, a university called "IUPUI" and famous pork tenderloin sandwiches.
Saturday, it was also host to the MONUMENTAL MARATHON, which brought me to the "Circle City" so I could cheer for my brother-in-law, who ran in the event.
While he ran, I snapped photos -- of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, of Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse and of the Kurt Vonnegut mural on Massachusetts Avenue.
It was a brief first visit for me. My brother-in-law completed the marathon in three hours and 16 minutes and we were back on the road, driving across Illinois en route home.
I want to spend a little more time exploring Indy in the near future -- after all, I didn't even get to try one of those famous pork tenderloin sandwiches!