Monday, September 30, 2013

Yoakam kept the honky tonk faith

I've been listening to DWIGHT YOAKAM the past couple of days.
The classic twang of "GUITARS, CADILLACS, ETC., ETC." fits the warm autumn weather.
It also reminds me what an important public service Yoakam provided back in the 1980s.
Mainstream country music was beginning its merger with pop -- and losing touch with its roots in the process.
Yoakam brought the music back into the era of roadside joints, with big helpings of steel guitar and fiddles.
Yoakam's intentions are clear on "Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.," based on the covers. He includes "Honky Tonk Man" by Johnny Horton, "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash and the Harlan Howard classic, "Heartaches by the Number," popularized by Ray Price.
Yoakam's compositions keep the faith -- just listen to "South of Cincinnati" or "It Won't Hurt."
Yoakam proved that country doesn't necessarily need to marry pop music. It can thrive on its own.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The first pick in the inaugural NFL draft said: 'No thanks'

This era's winners of the HEISMAN TROPHY -- college football's highest honor -- can parlay that accolade into a top-earning contract in the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE.
Such was not the case for the trophy's first winner, DUBUQUE native JAY BERWANGER.
In "FIRST HEISMAN: THE LIFE OF JAY BERWANGER," biographer Brian Cooper details how the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES selected Berwanger with the first pick in the inaugural NFL Draft.
The Eagles subsequently traded the draft rights of the UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO star halfback to the CHICAGO BEARS.
Berwanger wasn't interested.
The star collegiate player was more intent on track and field competition and ultimately a career in business than a shot at pro football glory. There simply wasn't enough money in a Depression-era NFL career to make it worthwhile.
My, how times have changed.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What sounds like Mount Kimbie's 'Made to Stray?' Maybe 'Beaucoup Fish?'

"This is that song I love. Listen to it, and then can you find me a CD that sounds like it."
(Reads note with name of the song, "MADE TO STRAY" by MOUNT KIMBIE.)
"OK. I'll try."
Hear the song.
"Try this one, 'Beaucoup Fish' by Underworld. It's not exactly the same, but it is rather similar, and comes from the same vein of great British electronica."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A comedy posing as a horror tale or a horror tale posing as a comedy?

Was it a comedy posing as a horror tale or a horror tale posing as a comedy?
I wondered as I watched a couple of episodes of the 1999 first season of "THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN" last night.
The British series looked at inbreeding, animal mutilation, murder, adult bullying, transsexualism and a host of other unsightly topics in the guise of a sitcom set in an isolated small town.
The genius of the show is that writer-performers Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith and writer Jeremy Dyson kept the audience laughing throughout.
There haven't been many television shows quite like it.
I always saw elements of the classic British horror film, "THE WICKER MAN," in the show's setting and tone. "The League of Gentlemen" featured a similarly remote location characterized by strange local customs threatened by intrusion from the outside world.
"The League of Gentlemen" has the memorable ability to both horrify and delight. Watching it always entertained and made me think, too. That's why I return to it often.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I wish I had more Broncos on my fantasy football team

Three weeks into the season and I have had a FANTASY FOOTBALL revelation.
I should have picked more members of the DENVER BRONCOS.
After defeating the OAKLAND RAIDERS last night, 37-21, the Broncos lead the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE with 127 points.
My problem is that my fantasy team doesn't benefit enough from all of those points. My team lost this week to fall to 0-2-1 (yes, my team tied in the first week -- the closest I have come yet to a win).
Last night, Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas caught 10 passes for 94 yards, but was kept out of the end zone.
My only other Denver representatives, the defense/special teams, produced a mere three points. They didn't have to produce many points, with the way Denver's offense is playing.
I clearly needed to draft more Broncos.
I also already recognize I have one too many members of the struggling NEW YORK GIANTS on my team.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The classic Rod Stewart single that almost wasn't released

I heard the 1971 ROD STEWART single "MAGGIE MAY" driving back to work after lunch today.
The classic song's "late September" lyrics and mandolin riff seemed perfectly suited to the sunny autumn day.
Oddly, Stewart himself originally viewed the song as a misfit with few commercial prospects.
Stewart describes "Maggie May" as a "nice-enough song" in "Rod: The Autobiography."
Stewart writes:
"Good little tale. Nice mandolin part, played by Ray Jackson from the folk-rock ground Lindisfarne -- and you don't often hear mandolin on a pop song, but it was a texture I had always loved in folk music."
Stewart didn't consider releasing "Maggie May" as a single.
"Actually, I even wondered for a while about leaving it off the album. It didn't have a chorus. It just had these rambling verses. It didn't really have a hook. How could you hope to have a hit single with a song that was all verse and no chorus and no hook?"
Stewart ended up releasing "Maggie May" as the B side to "Reason to Believe."
Disc jockeys apparently preferred "Maggie May," playing the track so often that the record company reclassified it as the A side.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Athletics' success in such stark contrast to Giants' demise

I watched the OAKLAND ATHLETICS defeat the MINNESOTA TWINS yesterday, 9-1, to move closer to a playoff berth.
The A's can clinch a postseason trip today, with a victory of a loss by the TEXAS RANGERS.
Alberto Callaspo, Kurt Suzuki and Yoenis Cespedes homered for Oakland, and as I watched, the differences between the A's and my struggling favorite team, the SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS, became clear.
Oakland can pitch, field and especially hit. This season, the disappointing defending World Series champion Giants have never been able to get those three components of the game working in conjunction.
Oakland's progress does make me happy. A great team in a terrible stadium (sewage issues have plagued the club this year) is poised for an extended season.
Oakland's progress also makes it seem San Francisco's World Series victory was very long ago.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Blaring guitars, surfeit of sneers and Buzzcocks

It's no lie.
I never had the spiked hair. I never wore a dog collar. I never spit on a band.
But the music that shaped me after early adolescence arrived with blaring guitars and a surfeit of sneers.
Punk rock music formed me.
I'm reliving those formative years by listening to the BUZZCOCKS today.
It started when I had to drive to the grocery store early this morning and "Breakdown" blared out of my car's speakers. I knew I would have to listen to more of the band as the day progressed. The song sounded too cool.
"Promises," "Fast Cars," "Fiction Romance" and "Automony" have me in a revelry this afternoon.
Here's a message for the POP-PUNK fans who only know Rancid, Blink-182, The Get Up Kids, New Found Glory and Fall Out Boy.
The glorious Buzzcocks were there first. Give a listen to where it began. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Berwanger book surprises: Subs can't speak and reform-school boys win wrestling matches

JAY BERWANGER won college football's first HEISMAN TROPHY.
The star running back also hailed from my current city of residence, DUBUQUE, IOWA, and went to the same elementary and middle schools as our girls -- albeit about 80 years before.
Here are three surprising facts I've learned while reading "FIRST HEISMAN: THE LIFE OF JAY BERWANGER," by local author (and our newspaper editor) BRIAN COOPER:
1. In addition to winning the first Heisman Trophy, Berwanger was the first pick in the first NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE draft. The University of Chicago product turned down the pros for a more lucrative career in sales.
2. Substitutes were prohibited from speaking for their first play upon entering a game during football of the 1920s. The rule aimed to thwart the relaying of messages from the sideline. (Now: Radio receivers in NFL players' helmets!)
3. Also a top prep wrestler, Berwanger once lost a district championship match to a wrestler from the Eldora State Training School -- Iowa's juvenile justice institution.

Monday, September 16, 2013

We've almost come to expect these mass shootings

I've been busy this morning at work, posting updates to the newspaper website about today's NAVY YARD SHOOTING in WASHINGTON, D.C.
Today's incident apparently follows Aurora, Newtown and other mass shooting episodes -- crimes that have become so commonplace Americans seem almost to expect them. The shock gives way to solemn resignation.
Today, I pray for the victims. I also pray that this type of violence can be curbed -- if not eliminated completely.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Bartholomew's 'Big Beat' unveils birth of driving rhythms

Our morning low temperature fell to 41 degrees, but it's hard to feel cold with Bobby Mitchell's "I'm Gonna be a Wheel Someday" pouring out of the stereo speakers.
Mitchell's 1957 R&B classic is included on "THE BIG BEAT OF DAVE BARTHOLOMEW: 20 OF HIS MILESTONE PRODUCTIONS," a collection of some of the greatest songs to emerge from the mashup of jazz and blues that occurred in NEW ORLEANS during the middle of the 20th century.
Bartholomew's paramount place in the development of popular music is described in Theo Cateforis' "The Rock History Reader:"
"Bartholomew was an important New Orleans songwriter, producer and bandleader whose ensembles were among the first to navigate the transition from jazz to rhythm and blues. It was most of all commercial considerations, as well as their encounters and musical interactions in the studio with dynamic young performers like Little Richard, that helped shape the driving rhythms that would come to define the rock 'n' roll big beat."
"The Big Beat of Dave Bartholomew" collects tracks by Chris Kenner, Smiley Lewis, Fats Domino and other Crescent City notables. Listening to it is a fantastic introduction to the musical ideas bursting out of New Orleans as genres blurred during the early and mid-1950s.
Hearing it is also a great way to stay warm on a chilly morning.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Kickin' off the weekend with classic rhythm 'n' blues

I'm putting together a killer CLASSIC RHYTHM 'N' BLUES playlist on my day off.
It kicks off with Richard Berry's "Have Love, Will Travel" and The Rivington's "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow," so you know it's full of some delicious rockin' tracks from the 1950s.
Some days, I just need to hear Thurston Harris' "Little Bitty Pretty One" followed by The Drifters' "Ruby Baby" and Nappy Brown's "Don't Be Angry."
Today is one of those days.
The sun is shining, the temperatures have finally cooled off to an excellent example of beautiful fall weather and I am off work.
Play those tunes!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Great escapism with the hard-boiled Paul Cain

PAUL CAIN'S 1933 tale, "ONE, TWO, THREE," is one of the classics of the PULP FICTION genre, and a great way to relax after work.
I read Cain's story in a collection tonight. I've read it before -- it's an old favorite.
A private eye becomes embroiled in a blackmail scheme that turns to murder, with a victim who turns out to be just the opposite.
Cain -- in real life the Iowa-born Hollywood screenwriter George Caryl Sims -- takes the reader to the gambling dens of the Nevada desert and to the luxury apartments of Los Angeles to show how greed and lust can cloud minds.
It's great escapism.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Quick Chip blitzes the NFL

I had two compelling reasons to match last night's NFL contest pitting the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES against the WASHINGTON REDSKINS.
Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III is on my FANTASY FOOTBALL team. After a rusty first half, RG3 threw for 329 yards and a pair of scores.
I also had to see the NFL debut of CHIP KELLY, the former coach of MY BELOVED OREGON DUCKS.
Would Kelly be able to adapt his frenetic offense to the rigors and defensive speed of the pros?
At least after the initial showing, Philadelphia's 33-27 victory, the answer is a definitive "yes."
The Eagles unleashed a first-half offensive blitz against the 'Skins, with their first five scoring drives averaging 1 minute and 44 seconds. At the end of the first half, the Eagles had piled up more yards -- 341 -- than 15 teams had total during Sunday's games.
I must be too accustomed to watching Oregon, but I actually thought Chip's Eagles offense seemed a little slow.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

I think I might be too emotionally tied to the 49ers

I survived the first SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS game of the NFL season.
I say "survived," because I never really enjoy their games unless they are convincing, blowout wins. I have too much emotional entanglement with the team to be able to just sit back and enjoy the game.
That's probably because the 49ers in my mind are inseparable from the person who taught me to like them -- my late father, GEORGE HOGSTROM.
His fervor was apparently contagious. 
I remember my dad as living and breathing 49ers football until his 1992 death. My girls probably think the same of me.
I have snapshots he took of San Francisco playing at Kezar Stadium -- the team's pre-Candlestick Park home -- and the photos serve as a reminder that my family's connection with the team trace back about a half century.
The 2003-2010 struggling era of the 49ers didn't impact me too badly, I admit. I think this relatively calm was because as seemingly perpetual losers, the 49ers' games really didn't seem to mean much -- except as frustrating reminders of the Super Bowl-winning glory years.
Now the acute emotional connection is back, now that the team is expected to perform well.
That emotional chain between us means I struggle to simply sit back and enjoy the contests.
Of course, I could be tired after a day at work and none of this theory makes any sense.
I suppose that remains a distinct possibility.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Reggae is the true sound for me

I just cleaned both BATHROOMS and the CAT BOX.
I'm sweating like a pig, my hands reek of bleach and the cats are still staring at me like I am from Mars.
Yet I'm smiling!
That's because I am listening to the fantastic compilation "BOSS REGGAE."
It gathers 40 top reggae tunes that filled British clubs circa 1968-70.
Justin Hinds & The Dominoes' "Drink Milk," Jimmy Riley's "Walking Proud," Roland Russell's "Rhythm Hips" and Winston Shand & The Sheiks' "Throw Me Corn" are just a few of the classic tracks that have kept me skanking and smiling while scrubbing.
No matter how musical phases I go through -- and I go through many, many phases -- I always come back to this classic reggae music of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
It's the true sound for me -- even when I scoop poop out of litter to the cats' utter horror.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Play the 'Secret CD' game -- if you dare

My MUSIC-LOVING DAUGHTERS play a funny game en route to school.
They grab a labelless mix CD and play it in the car, guessing the songs and registering some of the surprise that comes when a rather random tune appears.
I helped this week, crafting a "SECRET CD" to aid in their fun.
Don't tell them, but here are the tracks on the labelless CD I presented to them:
1. .38 Special -- "Like No Other Night."
2. Eagles -- "Already Gone."
3. Loverboy -- "Working for the Weekend."
4. Judas Priest -- "Living After Midnight."
5. Bob Seger -- "Still the Same."
6. Glass Tiger -- "Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone)."
7. Smashing Pumpkins -- "Disarm."
8. Rod Stewart -- "Maggie May."
9. April Wine -- "Just Between You and Me."
10. The Rolling Stones -- "She Smiled Sweetly."
11. Steve Earle -- "My Old Friend the Blues."
12. Take That -- "Back for Good."
I know it doesn't seem to flow very well -- apart from shifting the tempo from fast at the beginning and slow at the end. I figured I would craft a mix CD with more than a hint of CLASSIC ROCK but with a few outliers to maintain the randomness that is part of the fun of their game.
There's also a little French for KERSTIN (thanks, April Wine), as well as some orchestration for violin-playing ANNIKA (thanks, Smashing Pumpkins and The Rolling Stones).
You should try this game at home -- ask someone to make a labelless mix CD that collects good songs, but presented with enough randomness to keep you on the edge of your seat, waiting for the next tune -- and guessing.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Audible evidence of Led Zeppelin's early potential

I have been listening to LED ZEPPELIN'S DEBUT ALBUM and one of the band's 1969 live bootlegs while reading about the early rehearsals for the group that would become iconic messengers of rock.
Guitarist JIMMY PAGE carefully selected the three other components of the band, including vocalist ROBERT PLANT and the rhythm section of bassist (and keyboardist) JOHN PAUL JONES and drummer JOHN BONHAM.
The chemistry was noticeable from the group's earliest practices.
In "Led Zeppelin: The Story of a Band and Their Music," Keith Shadwick writes:
"With the bottom end meshing from the start, Page knew he had the right musicians. In Plant, already an accomplished blues shouter and someone he privately knew to be interested in and capable of a great deal more than that, Page was also aware that he had the perfect front-of-stage focal point. The band already had more potential than he could reckon with."
The earliest LED ZEPPELIN songs provide audible evidence of this potential.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Go! Fight! Win!

"Everybody do that Mustang rumble, everybody, rumble!"
We had a big weekend, with youngest daughter ANNIKA making her public debut as a HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL CHEERLEADER.
A member of the HEMPSTEAD HIGH SCHOOL freshman team, she performed a cheer for the school fight song before Friday night's varsity game -- her first public cheer at a game.
Her team then cheered the entire game during Saturday morning's freshman football contest.
We watched intently. We could tell she was enjoying herself thoroughly, and was marking the beginning of a memorable school year.