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After years of steadily going to see bands, I am out of the habit. I don’t, however, feel like that’s the reason that every show I go to see these days seems odd in some way. I think the shows I go to these days are just odd.

My brother gave me a very nice birthday present of a ticket to go see the B-52s. The show was at the auditorium at the Marin County Civic Center. As we walked to the event I realized that the last time I had been there was about 1982 or 1983 when Robin Williams did some benefit there for the public schools. Mr. Williams went to my high school (a long time before I did) and did an encore of nothing but imitations of some of Redwood’s most memorable teachers. No matter how many “Jumanji”s and “Patch Adams”s, I will always have a soft spot for him in my heart for this.

Anyways, why was this show weird? Let me list the reasons.

1. The B-52s are a drunk party/dance band and the auditorium had no dance floor- just seats up to the front row.

2. I didn’t see anyone there between the age of 13-35. People brought kids, but otherwise it was an old event. I was on the young side.

3. I have never been to a show with so many blonde people. I’ve spent a lot of time at punk shows so I am used to a white crowd, just not a blonde ones.

4. I don’t know how to describe the way most people were dressed, but I’ve never been to a show with so many Dockers. That doesn’t really do it justice though. I think I’m just not up on Marin casual attire anymore and a lot of the folks seemed to know all the words. Some folks were representing in tight animal prints too though, no worries.

5. There was only one band and the show started promptly at 8 PM. Over by 9:30.

6. People would stand up and dance in their seats. That’s not weird. But then after each song was over they’d sit down. Hey, I’d been working at 6:30 that morning receiving cheese so it was actually ok with me. Just saying.

7. It was 2008 and we were going to see the B-52s

Still it was a lot of fun even if Kate’s voice is kinda shot. They played my two favorite songs: “Private Idaho” and “Give Me Back My Man”. I’d never seen the b-52s before so it was all good. The most interesting thing was observing with my brother that – while many of these songs sounded incredibly weird in 1979 – the songs just don’t sound very odd these days. Thirty years will do that, I guess.

Nick Lowe

Apr. 13th, 2008 05:09 pm
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I like Nick Lowe. I’ve always liked Nick Lowe. If my dear readers don’t know his music, he started out as a power pop/pub rock pioneer ala early Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, and Joe Jackson. As he’s aged he’s gotten more country singer/songwritery. He’s written a ton of songs over the last 30-odd years. Maybe it’s just in San Francisco, but Lowe appears to be playing the biggest venues of his life at nearly 60. Good for him. Seriously.

I really enjoyed seeing him at the Fillmore last night even if I was there under some false assumptions. A co-worker, who usually know about these things, kept saying that this was the 30 year anniversary of Lowe’s best album “Jesus of Cool/Pure Pop for Now People”* and that he was going to play most of those songs. With that in mind I paid the $30.

Mind you, I didn’t expect the Bay City Rollers song. I still think it’s funny but it’s clearly dated. But almost every other song on that album stands the test of time (“Marie Provost”, “So it Goes”, “Heart of the City”, “They Called it Rock” even “Nutted by Reality”). I still listen to that album. “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass”** is still one of my favorites, much quieter than the lyrics and the time period in which it was written would imply.

Instead Lowe played a set like almost any other musician in the world, promoting his latest album. Even though that album sounds good, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed. Clearly though, my co-worker is to blame for the expectations, not Nick Lowe. Lowe was just doing his thing.

At some point during the set, as a full day of work then standing at a venue started to annoy my pretty-well-healed-but-still tender-stress-fractured-foot, I realized I would rather be seeing him perform at a bar. His music isn’t danceable, but it’s fun to watch him, to see how much he means it, to catch the clever word play. Sitting down at a sticky table filled with empty beer bottles would be the perfect place to see Lowe play. Lowe writes a lot of songs worth paying attention to.

That said, there’s one Nick Lowe song that always disappoints me even if it is a crowd favorite: “What’s so Funny about Peace, Love, and Understanding?” When Elvis Costello sang it*** the contrast between Costello’s image (especially at that time. In the late ‘70s Buddy Holly glasses were scary) and the hippie lyrics created an interesting tension. Costello even sang it in a different voice than usual. Did he mean it? Was it sarcastic? Was this what he really thought? And I’m no Steve Earle expert, but I think the same thing applied there. Performing a song that seems to be at odds with one’s persona is thought-provoking.

Nick Lowe performing that song sounds like “I wish it was the ‘60s again”. No tension, just nostalgia for the never-was.

I did hear Lowe play one song off the album (“Heart of the City”) as a second encore I had to rush home before [livejournal.com profile] slantedtruth drank all my wine. The 22 didn’t let me down. Packed with Friday night revelers of every background, the 22 is a place of (sub)cultural sharing. People talked to whoever they were crammed into of music, venues, jail, tattoos, and parties.

And, in a time-honored tradition or oral history, old-timers shared knowledge with SF-newbies by yelling things like “Move to the back!”, “Back Door!”, and “Step down!”

*”Jesus of Cool” was the UK title. His label made him change it for the US release.

** l love the sound of breaking glass
Especially when I'm lonely
l need the noises of destruction
When there's nothing new
Oh nothing new, sound of breaking glass
Safe at last, sound of breaking glass

***Record geek trivia alert: Elvis’s “Armed Forces” was originally called “Emotional Fascism” and “Peace, Love…” replaced a song about English racism and the aftermath of colonialism from the UK version.

**** Confidential to [livejournal.com profile] sdn Robyn Hitchcock opened but I was on the bus from work while he was playing. I did see him do a few encores with Nick Lowe though. I would have said hello from you if I’d gotten close enough but he was on the other end of the stage.
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Since Joan Jett never changes, it’s either really easy or really hard to review her show at the Marin County Fair last night. I’m going with easy. She played all the "hits" . She played enough songs of the new album to have made a good faith effort to sell some copies. She wore something tight and black. She growled. She smiled. She sneered. She winked, at times enough to make it seem something was in her eye. She played power chords.

She was the object of lust for the entire audience which I’d have to guess was a lot more queer than the usual county fair. Hell, I saw more people I recognized from SF than at most shows I go to back home. Even people I just know from the cheese counter were there. At one point some folks got on other people’s shoulders to display their homemade bed sheet banner that read (as far as I could tell, I was behind them and off to one side), "Dirty Dirty Queerdos Love Joan Jett" with a sweet portrait of her. I felt Joan could have been more appreciative beyond her smile and nod.*

I went with my brother and his wife. My brother and I spent the previous few hours watching the Minutemen documentary together including all the extras.** I told him about my LJ so hi Jim!

I hadn’t been to the Marin County Fair since 1985 or so and except for the huge Ferris Wheel it was pretty much exactly the same. Except you couldn’t rent paddle boats anymore. That was my favorite part of the fair! I didn’t know how I felt about being in Marin, but I figured I was sure to run into some high school people. Fortunately, the reunion made me realize that I probably wouldn’t recognize them if I did.

We crammed in up front and almost imediately the woman on my left starts eyeing me. "Don’t I know you?" she asks. I think my, "Ugh, did you go to Redwood?" answer wasn’t very friendly but no, she had gone to Novato and was a few years older than me. In fact we didn’t know anyone in common and we tried. She introduced me to her husband who said, "Redwood huh, did you used to go to Lark Creek Inn *** at lunch?"

"No, they’d deliver it straight to our Beamers," I replied.

God I’m glad I don’t live in Marin anymore. In fact the only person I saw from high school was a small scale rock star who’s an awesome drummer in a million garage bands. I know her mostly through others and she was in a group so I didn’t say hello. The Novato woman and I did laugh together when Joan tried to say something specific like, "Wow, Marin knows how to rock!" or "Do You Wanna Touch Me, Marin?".

So I know it came up in this space before that Joan Jett plays USO shows in Irag and Afghanistan. Is she a war supporter? Just there to show the working class kids she’s on their side? Desperate to sell records? I don’t know. I heard there’s some kind of anti-Bush song on the new record, but I haven’t heard it. And that doesn’t really make a controversial statement unless you sing country. At one point she swapped out guitars and her backup one had a Gits sticker, a leather flag, and a Dean for President one. Clearly, I’ve never looked to Joan for consistent political leadership. Cop out? Maybe.

But I do enjoy the irony of seeing someone who was a childhood idol, singing in basically my hometown at the most wholesome event possible, when back in the days (before " I love Rock and Roll") I lived here liking Joan was enough to make someone yell "Devo!" out of a car window at you. Social ostracism comes back around, I just wanted to be there to witness it.

*A quick internet search shows Dolly Parton to have been more receptive, A group of women towards the front waved a bed-sheet sign that read "Dirty Dirty Queerdos Love Dolly" to which she replied, "Well, I love you too."

**One of the best music videos ever made was the one for "This Ain’t No Picnic" (It’s starts about 3:25 in on that link). Found government footage of Ronald Reagan shooting at, then bombing the Minutemen as they try to sing about the interests of the working class. Made for $900!

***If it’s not made clear by the New Yorker cartoon, it’s one of the most expensive restaurants in Marin
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As noted in yesterday’s post, I watched the Metallica in therapy documentary "Some Kind of Monster". I had heard lots of bad things about it so I had put it off. I shouldn’t have. It was a thoroughly enjoyable movie. In fact, I laughed most of the way through.

I gotta say, I’m buying the hype on this one. In the end I was convinced that they released the movie, despite often not showing our men in a very good light, because they really felt therapy helped them and wanted to send that message out to others. I’m sure there was some recoup the investment cost discussion. But these guys seem to own half of Northern California and they paid a therapist around half a million dollars a year for two years so I imagine they could have buried it if they wanted to.

Most of the reason the movie is fun is because it’s incongruous. Watch the metal band use "I" statements! Look at the macho dudes talk about their feelings! Follow every moment of the creative process and realize the band isn’t handed the lyrics and melodies directly from Satan!

Basically the story is that our boys are on the verge of breaking up. They’re trying to record a new album but they are territorial about their individual contributions and all harboring grudges and slights that go back 15 years or so. Part of the way they try to combat this is by hiring a therapist used to dealing with big ego millionaires who have to work together. They are paying him $40,000 a month! The beginning is fairly painful and you might find yourself wondering why you should care. But then one goes off to rehab, leaving the others rudderless. He comes back looking cute for the first time ever and the band fights and creates, finally releasing another album that makes them all millions.

As a co-op person it was great fun to watch their band meetings and see how they would have been improved with decent facilitation , ground rules, and an agenda. In fact, under the guise of therapy-speak, that is a big part of what happens to get the band cooperating again.

Maybe I’m falling for an intricate ploy to humanize the band after they pissed off their fans, and all good people, with the Napster lawsuit. But I found myself liking them more than I thought I would, especially Kirk. Kirk is my favorite. There is some Spinal Tap to the whole thing except that the decisions they make as a band are cunning and smart. Dumping that horrible song about temptation, choosing a name for the album, hiring the bass player from the Suicidals instead of one of the generic metal dudes, buying Basquiat paintings low and selling high. That’s why unlike Spinal Tap, in the end the joke is not on them.

My favorite moment was when they bring Dave Mustaine to group therapy to let him vent about the way they fired him nearly 20 years before. Oh man, that guy is still living the pain from that. Because I’m mean, I was howling when he talked about metalheads taunting him on the street by yelling "Metallica" at him. He made it sound like they were waiting outside the door at that moment to mock him. He preemptively and defensively brought up the record sales from his band Megadeath* but the best moment was when he talked about the hurt he felt in getting kicked out and says, "What happened to my little Danish friend (Lars). He’s not there anymore."

Watching the therapist "rock out" during the recording sessions and start to use "we" when talking about the band is also a highlight. Metallica has never been one of my favorite bands. I haven’t listened to them since "Master of Puppets" really, but I did wanna go find my tape of that or "Kill ‘Em All" after the movie. I always resented the fact that they encouraged way too many people who shouldn’t have been playing one bass drum to try and play two, but I can’t deny that some of their songs are pretty great.

*I actually saw Megadeath and Overkill at a small club (the Stone in San Francisco) because I won tickets. It was the only metal show I eve went to and I hated it. Megadeath did cover a DOA song which weirded us out and made us flee.
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I may be all punk and shit, but sometimes I have to admit that there may be no better song that "You make me feel (mighty real)" by Sylvester. If [livejournal.com profile] prof_southbay wasn't driving cross country again, I know she'd agree.
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Making observations on the people you see while driving across country is fraught with the danger of pretentious first-year-in-college prose. It feels so right and Kerouacian (or even Cometbusian. Actually, I don’t know why I wrote "even" since I like Aaron’s writing better than Jack’s) but that’s only because it’s usually so thread bare as the tires on the trucks of the Oakies who left the Great Plains during the Dust Bowl years.* Salt-of-the-earth, how-do-people-live-like-this, or oh-shit-they’re-gonna-Easy-Rider-us, we’ve all read the narrative. They write themselves as most cliches do.

We stopped in Sioux Falls, South Dakota at the Food Co-op we found on the internet. We needed to replenish our sandwich supplies both because it was cheaper and neither of us could deal with stopping at Perkins twice a day. It was exactly the way a small city Food Co-op should be: a commingling of hippies and punks. The punks were so cute I wanted to take them home and cuddle them. I still feel guilty that I laughed when one of them asked if we had just moved to town from San Francisco. I mean, it could happen…

But we were the walking cliches, in town for a half hour. First stocking up on food and then both yacking on our individual cell phones in the parking lot because it was the first place in 1000 miles we’d gotten reception. ([livejournal.com profile] tubyred that’s where I called you from). What a couple of urban assholes!

No, what I feel qualified to write about is the dashboard of the car. And other tourists. And the bad indie rock [livejournal.com profile] prof_southbay likes so much. Actually she was very nice to not inflict very much on me. It was, after all, her car. She never made me listen to Interpol, for example, though we did listen to Postal Service. I’m sure it says something deep that these angsty boys name their bands after government agencies. Is it about being so filled with emotions when the world is an unfeeling, faceless bureaucracy? Or just pure lack of imagination? When I start my indie rock band I will call it "Weights and Measures". Feel the awesomeness.

I love driving across the country because it’s empty and relaxing. To be sure, it’s relaxing because I don’t live there. Though I have connections with rural folk through my job, it never really dawned on me that my family has been urban/suburban for all the generations back to people’s homelands. Though I was born in Michigan, my parents were only there a few years between coasts and since we left when I was 2 and a half my only tangible reminder is an "a" I occasionally lose control of while talking. Those formative years really are important I guess.

I don’t want to speak for the Prof, but it was amazing to see her see the old downtowns of small towns for the first time. It made me feel a little like a jaded jerk because I wasn’t feeling the wonder as much. But that stuff is infectious. It wasn’t like we wanted to move to Sheridan, Wyoming but built-to-last, untrendy buildings and a nice café certainly made it a great rest stop. We didn’t get to find out if the "Rainbow Bar" with the neon "Welcome Strangers" was queer or not but maybe next trip.

In rural Wisconsin, where I made us go for the lame-ass cheese replica, the myth of California was still alive, albeit in the confused way that it is for people who don’t know how big California is. The woman behind the hotel desk asked the Prof if she saw a lot of "stars" walking around. I think the answer she got was "not so much". In other places, people were amazed to meet Californians who actually grew up in California.

Outside the Corn Palace, actually inside the "Mad Cow Café", the person in line in front of us asked if the "King City" on my shirt referred to a town in Texas. I told him it was a city in California but a band from San Francisco. He said he lived in SF for a year in the early ‘70s and asked if Nob Hill still a "wild place". I swear he got a little lost in time for a second and was disappointed to hear the answer was "no".

I’m surprised when I see the myth of California living on. But then, having grown up here I’m not sure I really get it either. Sure, I’ve got the inherent smugness of a Californian whose parents moved here, but I long ago stopped trying to get people to move here. In the words of fellow Bay Areans Rancid, who I don’t tend to quote often, "This ain’t no Mecca man, this place is fucked". But it’s still home.

*This hackneyed metaphor was used to drive home the point. The "drive" pun is your bonus treat.
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I know I’m late on this but I’ve been listening to the Epoxies pretty much non-stop since I drove to LA. They’ve managed to perfectly distill early important ‘80s new wave theme and improve the music. I love them for it.

Here are all the subjects that any neo-new wave band should cover. The Epoxies hit them all.

1. I am oppressed due to my fine fashion sense.
2. I am resigned to dying in a nuclear war.
3. I am superior to you because I am a more like a robot.
4. Love is a mean-spirited lie.
5. I feel awkward in a way that is hard to describe with human words.
6. The "kids" are united in some sort of generational way that also defies human words. We acknowledge this by all doing the same dance that adults don't understand.
7. I am a beautiful space alien. Are you a beautiful space alien too?
8. You are striking in an unusual way. Let us have modern sex together.

Did I miss any?
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I know it's not funny, but I can't stop laughing at this. I also heard Bob Geldof is up for UN President and Sting was nominated to the World Court but I can't find documentation to support it.

Which washed up rock star should be the next Pope? Oh duh... Sinead O'Connor! Of course!
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woah, check out Eminem getting political. I guess the Black Bloc is now the universal symbol of resistance. Of course, just when it looks like the crowd is gonna fuck shit up they get coopted back into the system. But still...

(Thanks [livejournal.com profile] slanderous)
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I don’t know if I can make the argument that Carl Perkins is underrated. I mean, he sold millions of records. Even though Elvis had more success with "Blue Suede Shoes", Perkins is certainly regarded as one of the founders of modern (white) rock n roll.. But I realized while listening to my tape of "Carl Perkins 20 Golden Hits" what I love about him. For his time, he was as bad ass as any rapper.

Check it out. Carl’s catalogue contains tales of capricious police harassment and resistance:
"Dan was the bravest man that we ever saw. (at this point Dan has already pulled a straight razor and fought with cops trying to arrest him) He let us all know he wasn’t scared of the law.
Through the black cross bars he tossed a note to his date. He said, it ain’t my fault that I’m in here."
"Dixie Fried"

"Took some honey from a tree, dressed it up and called it me. / Woke up last night half past four, 15 women knocking at my door." "Everybody’s trying to be my baby." Can’t you just see the video for this one?

Regional rivalry:
" They make bombs that can blow up the world, Dear. A country boy like me, I would agree. But if all you folks out there will remember, they made the first atomic bomb in Tennessee." "Tennessee"

The everyday threat of violence AND use of his name in the third person:
"Let me take you to the show so I can hold your hand. Oh, It ain’t that I don’t like your house, it’s just that doggone man. A double barrel behind the door it waits for Carl I know. . ." "Movie Magg"

And of course what is "Blue Suede Shoes" but a song about the importance of fashion for self-esteem and a veiled threat of violence if Carl’s style is disrespected.

Imagine if Carl Perkins became the new James Brown of sampling. Maybe Yo Yo could resurrect her career with a new version of "Right String Baby but the Wrong Yo Yo" The possibilities are endless.
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While listening to my iTunes on shuffle, I was reminded of how many songs I misinterpreted before I was acquainted with English slang. Partly because my obsession with English music was in my pre-early teen years I made up explanations that really, in the end, made no sense at all.

For example, The Specials "Too Much too Young", a pro-contraception song, had the mysterious ending lyrics of "Keep a generation gap / Try wearing a cap!" I know those English winters were cold, but was wearing, as I imagined, a wool hat actually going to keep people from having sex? Was there a big problem of people just fucking to keep warm? The adult world was so mysterious.

That it was referring to cervical caps, contraception not available in the States at that time, made it extra obscure. Now it’s more of a quaint look back at the pre-AIDS world.

The classic English-ism, misinterpreted by generations of political punks was, of course, the end of "Anarchy in the UK". Hearing "Get pissed! Destroy!" as an American was a call to arms. Understand who is oppressing you and rise up against them! Get angry at this fucked-up society and take action!

It was disheartening to discover the message of Get drunk! Break stuff! later in life.

Anyone else have some to share? Misinterpretations, not mis-hearings.
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Ok, Sir Ivan has me baffled.

I went to my parents for Mother’s Day and found a four-remix CD of his techno-reprise of "San Francisco", the old Scott Mackenzie song. You know, the one that goes, "If you are going to San Fran-cisco / Be sure and wear some flowers in your hair." Ok, I realize that most of you probably know neither song. Bear with me.

Back before our candy raver radio station (The Party) turned into a 24-7 Tupac station, which then turned to second-run pop hip hop station, The Party played the techno version of "San Francisco almost every day. I always had a mocking dislike for the original even though, and I swear I’m not lying this time, it was playing on the radio as I got in the car to leave upstate NY for good and move back home in 1989. That’s the kind of thing that’s supposed to give you a soft spot for a pop song. It didn’t.

I think it’s the "You’ll be sure and meet / some gentle people there" line. A crucial formative experience for me were the 1984 Democratic Convention protests that were dubbed "The Summer of Hate". The Afflicted, a local punk band, even wrote a song about it. Kinda. It ended with the lyrics, "Summer of Hate / Ain’t it great? / Rock in the new fascist state!" Anyways, the original line was always too embarrassingly sappy for me not to cringe when I hear it.

The real question however, is what the hell was it doing at my parent’s house? My parents were not hippies and they certainly don’t listen to techno. I’m the only candy raver in the family. The CD was unopened. I unwrapped it and put it on. My Mom’s going a little deaf so just smiled and pretended to be mildly disapproving. My dad said, "What the hell is that noise?" It was like I was in high school again.

Neither of them would admit knowing anything about it at first but my mom finally said she thought it came in the mail one day. I was trying to figure out what they were hiding. Had they made a major lifestyle change? Where they doing x on the weekends and making younger "friends"? I found it hard to believe that some record label was mass mailing techno CDs at random to the suburbs of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Hmmmm. It was a cut out though. And the more I looked at the sleeve the weirder it was. I didn’t realize Sir Ivan was so old. He looks like he could have been on the younger side of the original hippies way back when. Maybe he was just trying to find his demographic.

Then I read the liner notes and found that his version is "dedicated to the memory of the 1.5 million Jewish children under the age of 12 that were murdered by the Nazis and all victims of hate crimes – with the hope that there will one day be peace in the Middle East and everywhere else in the world". Well, that seems rather random for a song about wearing flowers in one’s hair at Golden Gate park.

So I found his website and some promo materials . It turns out that Sir Ivan is the son of a Auschwitz survivor and lost "59 relatives" to the Holocaust. He also performs under the superhero alias "Peaceman" and considers himself a philanthropist. So maybe he really was just sending his message out with a request for donations. It would be like my mom to recycle the cover letter but be unable to throw out the CD which would sit, never touched again, until one of her sons found it and began mocking her.

I can’t believe I pretty much accused her of lying on Mother’s Day. I’m a bad son.

Oh, btw you can get your free copy from the first website linked above. The song still sucks though.
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After dinner last night, my housemates and I somehow got on the subject of our perceptions of the queerness of rock stars when we were little. Maybe things are different for today’s youth, but I remember my sister vigorously defending The Village People to her friends’ scurrilous accusations that they were queer and my brother doing the same for Queen.* I might have done the same for Boy George except that I hated Culture Club. I do vividly remember high school conversations where his defenders would say things like, "He’s not a fag, he just likes dressing in women’s clothes."

We also had all heard the rumor about some famous rock star who had to go to the emergency room to get "gallons of sperm" pumped from their stomachs.** The thing about that is that when I heard that rumor, stereotypically in a locker room, my two classmates were arguing whether it was Barry Manilow or Andy Gibb. My housemates, separated by nearly ten years and 3000 miles, heard the rumor later about Jon Bon Jovi. Dear Readers, which rock star did you hear had a stomach spermectomy?

We did confirm that we all heard the one about Richard Gere and the gerbils though, so we decided that one must be true.

*Actually, an even funnier story is when I took an "Intro to Mass Media" class in college. On a day about the emergence of rock video, the professor showed what he considered, "the most self-aggrandizing video ever". It was a Freddie Mercury solo video with him dressed in leather and getting chased around by stereotypical "hot babes". It was a hilarious parody of mainstream rock videos and Professor didn’t even get it. Nor did he try to explain why Mercury was in drag for another good portion of the video.

**That should be on an episode of E.R.:

"Get him into surgery stat! He’ll die if we don’t pump his stomach of sperm!"

""My God, how much did he drink?!?"

"Too much, that’s all I know. Move it!"
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Obsolete stuff always gives me a rush of memory. If you use something all the time, it’s hard for it to fix itself with just one meaning. Cassette tapes were once my only format for music, now they’re trapped in the history of 1979 to somewhere in the early ‘90s. On the rare occasion when I listen to one, it often brings me back to when I last listened or first recorded it.

Today’s example, an Elvis Costello bootleg that I recorded off my brother in 7th grade. It’s labeled "PUNK" in my just slightly worse motor-skilled than now scrawl. Handwriting has always been a sore point for me. I often had to spend lunches and after school hours working on my bad handwriting in 2nd and 3rd grade, tracing proper penmanship over and over until they finally gave up. Or until proposition13 killed the handwriting budget, whichever. Now I write in non-cursive, 90% caps. Occasionally a lower case letter sneaks in. I don’t think it’s quite random when this happens but I haven’t figured out the pattern. I think it has something to do with where the letter is in the word I’m writing. Mostly e’s, h’s, and t’s. I know you care.

Anyways, I put on the Elvis bootleg this morning. It’s labeled "PUNK" because I originally recorded some TV news special report about punk rock open-air-style from the TV. Though it contained some of my favorite bands, even I couldn’t stand listening to the poor recording quality. If there was a god, he/she would know I tried very hard before I gave up. Punk-oriented youth just didn’t have as many options back then. Still, I kinda wish I had just kept it instead of taping over it because he only thing I remember about it, besides the background murmur of my parents arguing in the next room, was someone describing her band as "the sound of trash trucks mating".

Not that the Elvis Costello boot has much better sound quality. First off, it’s his early demo tapes which probably didn’t have the best sound quality to begin with. Second, I recorded it on a boom box, not a stereo system, so the labored gear squeak that it made with every rotation is also recorded for posterity. Third, I must have listened to it hundreds of times trying to develop an angsty yet worldly and smart-assed personality and it wore both of us out.

It is however, a tape that I know every second of though I didn’t realize that until I put it back on. Exactly where side A ends halfway through "Watching the Detectives". The beginning of side B where I recorded a few seconds of a "Mad Magazine" flexi disc. The moment the record gets stuck in "Miracle Man". Ten seconds of vacuum cleaner white noise when someone, undoubtedly my mom, accidentally hit the record button while cleaning.

It’s because almost everything about it except, arguably the actual music, is so shitty that it can bring me back to that 7th grade year so easily. My parent’s old living room with peeling up back and white vinyl wallpaper that in retrospect seems more like contact paper, the beautifully ‘70s orange metal cabinets in the kitchen, the insane calico cat that used to sit on one counter all day just hoping someone would walk close enough that she could sink her claws in …

Obsolete technology gives us the gift of these mini time capsules. Like any other time capsules they let loose the flood of memories, intentional and unintentional. Most of the little glimpses of the past I got aren’t even worth putting down on paper or cyberspace. Most are of the why-am-I-wasting-brain-space-on-this variety, but some are very comforting to have back in the front of my mind. For example, I finally I have a reason to dislike most cats and treat all of them with survivor wariness.

I’m a pat rack by nature so looking through my messy room, I know I have more of these little time bombs than I can ever use. I both look forward to and dread that fact.
gordonzola: (Default)
Really, I liked "The Teaches of Peaches". It’s not like the concepts behind "Fuck the Pain Away" or rhyming "rock show" with "cock show" were revolutionary or anything. But it was funny and obnoxious in all the right ways for a new-fad type of album. If I was still a teenager, I would have loved playing it in front of my parents.

But the new album? Eh. [livejournal.com profile] bornbent was kind enough to burn me a copy for my birthday but I think she’ll appreciate my honest review. It’s just not doing it for me.

"Fatherfucker" starts off badly. Peaches yells "I don’t give a fuck" and "I don’t give a shit" repeatedly over a sample of Joan Jett’s "Bad Reputation". Don’t get me wrong, I love Joan Jett. But Peaches’ bratty yelling makes Joan Jett sound pensive and thoughtful in comparison. And that’s not why I listen to Joan Jett.

But the next song is even worse. First it’s at a speed that just doesn’t work for electronica. Way too slow. But it does illuminate a big problem for the whole album. Way too much weight is placed on lyrics that just aren’t very clever, fresh, and have already used up their cultural resonance. During "I’m the Kinda" the music drops out. The listener waits, anticipating a meaningful or amusingly strong lyric. What do we get? "Knocking you out like Rocky Balboa" What? This is 2003. Who the fuck is Rocky Balboa?*

It’s a continuing problem. The I-like-fucking-boys-up-the-ass song has the horrible load-bearing lyric "Sweet buns, let me be your gun" repeated over and over. Besides, isn’t the whole fucking-boys-up-the-ass thing a little played out as a daring sex-pos statement? Everyone’s already doing it. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next Brittney Spears album had a song about it. Or maybe I’ve just lived in San Francisco too long, I can’t tell anymore.

There are some good songs too. The duet with Iggy Pop where they throw each other’s lyrics back and forth was really funny, even if Iggy’s voice has seen better days. "Shake your Dix" and "I U She" sound like they could have been on "Teaches". But overall, Peaches seems a little stalled. It’s just not shocking to sing about the same things over and over. And honestly, compared to say, Tragic Mulatto, Peaches really isn’t breaking any new ground.

Being slutty and into s/m just isn’t enough anymore. For the next album I suggest more songs about rimming, piss play, and maybe even furry-sex. Push it Peaches. Stardom awaits if you dare.

*Yes, that is a rhetorical question. We’re talking avant garde pop here. I don’t want my dad to understand the lyrics. Hell, I’m 36. I should only be able to understand about half of it.
gordonzola: (Default)
So many things to write about. My five city tour (London, Brighton, Portland, Seattle, Olympia) is finally over and I have to go back to work soon and of course I wish that I could not work again ever. But, oh well.

We’ll return to England soon enough. But today, since only the extremely bored read LJ on Sundays, I’m going to make a self-indulgent post about the musical observations I had while driving many, many hours by myself. When alone, I often have conversations with the bands I’m listening to, especially while I’m trying to stay awake and between the yellow highway lines. Some of these bands are eminently forgettable so like two of you out there will even know what I’m talking about, but hey, it’s LJ isn’t it?

I think everyone has forgotten about The Red Rockers. They achieved a small amount of fame in the mid-‘80s after they kicked out the political member of the band and recorded the de-fanged minor new wave hit "China". But before that, they were the first punk band* heralded as the "American Clash". I still listen to their first album "Condition Red" because I love how in-your-face it is. How can you argue with these lyrics?

"Guns of Revolution
Burn the Constitution
Scared little rich man
You better start running. . .

That would never be confused with an ambiguously "political" indie rock song. Still, that song contains one of the contenders for "worst forced punk rhyme ever"** with, "You should have listened while you had the chance / Now we’ll do a victory dance".

Is it just because Ice Cube raps about his black steel-toe boots that I like "The Predator" so much? Punk as fuck.

The Big Boys remain a vastly underrated punk band. Besides Rick James*** they are the obvious kings of punk funk, though admittedly that’s not a huge honor. They hold the title for "Best Recording of Breaking Glass" because even though I know it’s coming, the bottle smashing sound in "Funk Off" still makes me flinch and look around.

But it’s "Fun, Fun Fun" which always makes me wonder. I believe I quoted it here before, but here are the memorable lyrics:

"I’m a punk, and I like Sham
Cockney Rejects are the world’s greatest band
But I like Joy Division. Public Image too.
Even though that’s not what I’m supposed to do"****

Usually I mention it to show how strictly the lines were drawn back then. It’s hard to remember that bands like Joy Division were hated by many punks because, among other reasons, they weren’t hard and fast enough. But that The Big Boys, who cover "Hollywood Swinging" and owe much of their later sound to contemporary Black music, didn’t come out and say, for example, " But I like Rick James. Kool and the Gang too." Is fascinating. Obviously they listened to Black music, (almost universally derided as "disco" in most of the punk scene), but by mentioning bands much closer to punk in their song about having broad musical taste, did it enable them to still keep a distance from it?

Don’t get me wrong. They’re the band I most wish I’d been able to see live. "The Fat Elvis" compilation is one of my favorite punk CDs. And blending funk and punk took nerve, especially at the time they were playing when battles between Nazi skinheads and punks were common. They were pushing boundaries that were a lot firmer back in those days. That there were limits is a good reminder against being too nostalgic about the olden days of ‘80s American punk.

By the way, "Neptune’s Jewels" by Mystic is a great song. Who imported it into my computer?

Much as I like Beat Happening, it’s impossible to listen to the entire box set in one sitting even if you have the time. I tried it on my 11 hour drive home. I only made it through one and a half CDs before getting homicidal impulses. Then I started thinking, that singer must really be a jerk if he can never keep a lover.***** Then I started to yell, "Maybe people get tired of all this cutesy shit. Just grow up!" at the CD player and removed it before I tossed it out the window.******

Like most American punk rockers, when I first heard "Police and Thieves" by The Clash, I had no idea it was a cover. In high school, a friend into reggae played me the original Junior Murvin version and I’ve always loved it. I found it on a compilation of Lee "Scratch" Perry-produced songs in Olympia and I’m very happy now.

Rosie Flores is almost as good driving music as Hank Williams. Hank 3 should not be listened to within the same hour as his "grandfather". He just pales too much by comparison. Not as much as Hank Jr., but close.

I hope Zombina and the Skeletones come to the U.S. The lyric "And if I still had eyes / then I would surely cry" cracked me up. A band of dead people with senses of humor: that’s certainly punk and not goth. I would imagine their stage show is amazing.

*But obviously not the last

**Title still held by D.I. (or was it re-formed Adolescents?) for "Reagan’s our führer /We need someone newer!" whose clumsy coupling begs the question, "So a younger Nazi would be ok then?"

***I’ll never forget seeing Rick James (C’mon, you remember "Superfreak") on American Bandstand declare himself "Punk Funk", saying "In England, punk rock is about poor kids playing their own music. That’s what funk is for me."

****Those aren’t the exact words of the last line. But it’s close enough.

*****Don’t know him in real life. This is not punk slagging. Just a reaction to the music.

******Which I did with a House of Pain tape during a cross country trip back in 1993.
gordonzola: (Default)
Ugh. I’m feeling too crazed and busy to write anything substantial today. I could list everything I have to do before I leave town in two weeks but that would be boring.

"Pride" was yesterday but I missed everything I wanted to do because inventory and cheese cooler cleaning took longer than expected. It’s a paid holiday for me but unfortunately it fell on June 30 this year so I had to go in to work anyway. Sigh. Poor me. I do need the money to pay off my dental work though.

Instead I spent a nice alone day at home because all my housemates were gone. I made mixed CDs and listened to bad music really loud. Still I need to pay tribute to possibly the best pop song ever written: "The Thong Song".

Some of you might mock, but I know there are many supporters out there too. I was introduced to the Thong Song over the radio when it first came out. I was driving from Olympia to Seattle for a date that tragically never happened (Hi S-K) and listening to the hip hop station when they had their weekly song vs. song contest. They played "Thong Song" against some forgettable track and overwhelmingly listeners voted "Thong Song" as the pick of the week. Then they played it over and over for the NEXT HALF HOUR nonstop. They even had someone’s kids come in and sing along with it live on the radio.

What can I say? I was hooked. Hip hop dance track or sappy R & B ballad? It’s both! The emotion Sisqo can pack into a song about such a tiny amount of fabric is incredible.

And I love those summer songs that are everywhere you turn. If anyone hadn’t heard it, all you had to do was turn on the radio and turn the dial until you found it. My tire blew out once and it was playing at the garage I went to in Barstow. . My co-worker and I would sing it while wrapping cheese, sometimes changing the lyrics to "That cheese is strong strong strong strong strong." Or "That PLU is wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong." Actually that worked everywhere. At a Bar-B-Q? "Hand me that Tong tong tong tong tong." Eating Chinese food? "I want the Prawn prawn prawn prawn prawn."

I was at a party on Friday where the DJ played it. The dance floor went crazy.



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