Galaxie 500, “Blue Thunder”

Again, Spotify drops a band and album on me I never heard of. This one came up on my “Discover Weekly” playlist, and I looked the guys up on Wiki and it seems there is some relationship between the band and The Reverend Horton Heat, but I could not track it down.

Galaxie 500, named wonderfully for the car, released this song and album (On Fire) in 1989 and it is sort of sweet melancholy and haunts in the same way Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark–which I call music to slit my wrists too and is go-to when I am sad–does.

I guess Blue Thunder is in a minor key because that does seem to help but man, I cannot pinpoint, and the song and album just get to me. I am not even sure of the words in this one as the mix is thick and the words sort of mumbled/slurred, but shit, I do like it a lot.

Booker T and the MG’s “Green Onions”

Green Onions holds a particular place in my life.

Certainly, prior to Booker and the MGs releasing the hit in 1962, I had many brushes with the radio and records.

I loved Little Star, Peggy Sue, Sorry, I Ran All the Way Home, the Happy Organ, and Red River Rock among great tunes released prior to Green Onions, but that was before I had a radio in my room, or our family had a phonograph player let alone a stereo.

Meaning I had no regular or consistent means of channeling the hits of the day aside from Dick Clark and Ed Sullivan.

The summer of ’62, however, we went to Lake Tahoe for a week, staying at a University of California family camp. I was nine then, and  The Locomotion, Runaway, and Sherry were all huge hits that lived on the juke box in the dining room at camp where the collegiate staff ruled the roost at night.

That made it great for my brother and I to hang with the kids we had met, and listen to those great songs as the entry to regular exposure of pop music, something that then never left.

That fall I entered 6th grade, and also began Hebrew School, being just a little ahead of three years before my suspected Bar Mitzvah date. Hebrew class was held at our Temple, and usually one of my mates in school who also attended car-pooled me with them while either my mother, or Cantor Cohn, whose son Ron was a great friend, would ferry me back home.

But, on one particular day, Miriam Costa, a neighbor from across the street whose family’s life has criss-crossed with mine in strange ways over the past 55 years, was there to take me back to our house.

I was quiet riding in the car, and Mrs. Costa had the radio on, and truth was I wasn’t paying that much attention save suddenly Green Onions came on and that is the first time I clearly recognized a song on the radio I had heard, and identified it by name and performer in what became my ridiculous mental data base of music trivia.

So, the song has always held a special spot in my heart.

Well, last week I was watching the wonderful Barry Sonnenfield film Get Shorty, a movie I also dig a lot and during an airport sequence, Green Onions came on the soundtrack.

Knowing that I had heard the song in both American Graffiti and The Big Lebowski, I began to wonder just how many films had included the great instrumental as part of their production.

So, I went to the Independent Movie Data Base (IMDB) and discovered 34 movies and TV shows had borrowed the song, which I think is kind of a lot.

It is a great tune, and, it both reminds me of Miriam Costa, and also of my love of song really kicking into full gear just after that fall, when my brother and I got a little Packard Bell radio for our room, while our parents purchased a Philco phonograph player and there was no looking back.

Japandroids, “The House That Heaven Built”

I do like my Spofity shuffle and mixes because they do indeed jumble eras and genres up, although the band in question here is one our friend, Kyle Elfrink, of Sirius/XM, another baseball/music junkie, turned me onto.

They would be the Japandroids. And, Kyle was right, for I like them having added a couple of their discs to my continually growing Playlist. Which means their stuff pops up out of nowhere, which is good fun.

This tune crushes it for me. You?

CarTunes: Paul Simon, “America” and Lucinda Williams, “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road”

I thought hard during the last presidential campaign if I had ever seen a political ad that appealed to me more in substance and presentation than this wonderful Bernie Sanders ad which features the ridiculously beautiful Paul Simon penned song, America.

It is just a 1:00 minute splash, but so effective, somewhat because the editing feeds right into Simon’s composition, which is indeed such beautiful poetry,  the whole thing just sort of transcends the words of almost any other song/ad I can think of.

The whole tune came on my shuffle the other day as I was heading off the golf links and America is also a great car tune; that is, a song that is great to listen to while driving, so I decided to drop a new category for songs that are a great listen on a road trip.

I guess it goes without saying that arguably the greatest of the “Car Tunes” is Roadrunner by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, a song that has been featured here before, but another great reflection of travel and riding and life and the open road is Lucinda’s Williams fantastic painting of a tune, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road from the album of the same name.

As it was, Car Wheels popped onto my shuffle right after America the other morning making this whole mess fall together in some kind of prophetic way, but make no mistake, Williams words are just as beautiful and evocative as Simon’s, which is indeed saying something.

So, what else kills in the car on that long ride? Radar LoveDon’t Fear the Reaper? You tell me.

1970 Classic Nuggets: Tighter, Tighter, and Ride Captain Ride

The good old Spotify shuffle dug these choice pop tunes from 1970 out the other day as I was driving to the golf course (was I driving in order to drive?) and I was reminded of a couple of things.

One, is both are just classic pop/rock gems from the era, with pretty lush and thoughtful productions. The second is both songs feature not just one, but two guitar solos, the first of which falls after a couple of verses, the second to close out the song.

What is different is that in both, that second solo gives the guitar player a chance to cut loose, and by most 1970 pop song standards, both guys shred and push their sound as much as anyone.

First off is Tighter, Tigher, by Alive’n’Kicking. Alive’n’Kicking were actually discovered by Tommy James, who got the group signed to his Roulette label. James wrote the song Crystal Blue Persuasion  for Alive’n’Kicking, but liked it so much he kept the song for the Shondells.

However, as a gesture, James gave Tighter, Tighter to the band who scored a hit in a song which does bridge 60’s pop (ie, there are trumpets) with the pop influenced by Psychedelia and Brit Pop. Add that great Hammond organ, and guitar work by Dave Shearer and a sparkling catchy tune is the result. (Note these are two of the funkiest videos ever: maybe even funkier than those early Clash ones.)

The Blues Image were a Florida-based band who moved to LA at just the right time, making it to the strip and signed to Atco, releasing a second album in 1970 that included Ride Captain Ride.

For Ride Captain Ride Kent Henry–who went on to play with Steppenwolf–played the first solo and fills, and then Mike Pinera did the shredding at the end. Pinera moved on to play with Iron Butterfly and then Alice Cooper, and his band-mates did work with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and Manassas. (This is one funky video, BTW.)

It is kind of sad that song production has changed from those lush 60’s sounds of Motown and Phil Spector and George Martin, to Jack Nietschze and Sonny Bono, and even into guys like Steve Lillywhite. Somehow, though, it seems like electronics have kind of purified music kind of like CGI has changed film.

I am OK with that progress, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss what used to be too.

Obituary: Chris Cornell (1964-2017)

Chris Cornell, singer, songwriter, guitarist, and driving force behind theband Soundgarden, and one of the leaders of the grunge movement in music has died.

Cornell had a fantastic voice, and his band was certainly a rock band, but they played with form and time much in the way the Allman Brothers did, using some jazz progressions and signatures to establish and develop the band’s sound.

I was a big fan of the album Superunknown, from which I drew the clip below, but Cornell, who was just 52, also played a bit part in Cameron Crowe’s lovely film, Singles, which also boasts a great soundtrack. Soundgarden were also featured in the film.

A sad loss. If you don’t know the band, check em out. They were good.

Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives

25 years ago I had a pair girlfriends, back-to-back, named Debbie, whom, in retrospect, I refer to as the “Deb-aucle.”

I guess the best way to describe the sensitivities of Debbie I, would be this little tale. I liked this woman, who was quite pretty, and who never seemed to feel acknowledged. So, I wrote a couplet for her that read:

“She is not the Deb you taunt,
That would not be fair.
She is just the Deb you want,
She’s so “Deb-o-nair.”

My beloved’s response to this epithet? “What in the hell is that supposed to mean?”

Well, Debbie I was a Top 40 girl of the highest order, although when we went together–and ashamedly I admit I endured a year with her–Debbie was seriously into country music. And, the worst shit in my view: Reba McIntire and Toby Keith and those kind of flag waving Jesus loving knuckleheads.

But, during that time, Marty Stuart released his album, This One’s Gonna Hurt You, and I bought that album and have kind of followed the fine guitarist (who began his career as a teenage guitar player with Lester Flatt’s band) and a guy I just liked.

Marty is now on tour supporting his latest album, Way Out West, and his band was set to play a wonderful little 400-seat venue called The Freight and Salvage in Berkeley. This is not a little dump either, but a cool downtown non-profit community supported venue that is modern, has wonderful sound, and killer acoustics.

So, I hit my friends and musicians Steve Gibson and Stephen Clayton up and we toddled off to see Marty and his band Monday night, and all I can say is they were one of the two best live bands I have ever seen.

This statement is kind of bombastic, going back to 1968, and including seeing acts like Pink Floyd, Cream, Derek and the Dominoes, The Who,  Jimi Hendrix and Buffalo Springfield and so on. But a lot of bands, and a lot of great ones over the past 50 years.

From, however, the first note by Marty, Kenny Vaughn (guitar), Harry Stinson (drums) and Chris Scruggs (bass, and yep, Earl’s grandson, and a guy who can play every instrument on the stage) came out of the blocks smoking, and just got hotter and tighter with a set that featured new stuff from the new album, old stuff (Running Down a Dream) and a monster cover of Charlie Christian’s, Bennie Goodman’s, and Jame’s Mundy’s Airmail Special, of which I looked for a YouTube link, but none exists.

So, I went for this clip from David Letterman which gives an idea of just how tight the band is and how exceptional their players are.

One of the “oldies” the band played was Marty Robbins incredible El Paso, a song I loved from first listen in 1959. When guitar player Grady Martin was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Stuart and his band were asked to play, and since Martin played the melodic moving part in the song, El Paso was what they performed. The band did cover it Monday, and I did find a link.

BTW, I said one of the two best bands I have ever seen. The other? George Clinton and Parliment (with Bootsie, Bernie, et al).

Shameless #Humblebrag

Last April The Biletones went into the studio to drop down five tracks for an EP, and while we were at it, a friend of the band, Andre Welsh, who does camera work in Hollywood, agreed to video the band in action. It was kind of fun and intense, but also ugh city.

As in for the Route 66 video, we played the song 11 times so the film crew could focus on different aspects and players during the song.

The four remaining tunes we played were It Takes a Lot to Laugh (check out Steve Gibson’s killer solos), It’s All Over Now (I sing lead), Don’t Cry no Tears, and lead singer Tom Nelson’s Rich Girlfriend. Do click to the third cut and check out Girlfriend. It is one of our strongest tunes (it is third on the playlist in the upper right corner of the Route 66 vid).

Rock’n’Roll Is More Than Three Chords

Before I retired, I was a pretty high level Project Manager at ATT, a gig I worked my last eight years with the company.

Of course at work we all have our own styles, and my boss decided to audit a meeting I was holding one day. This was fine: I liked my boss a lot, and was good at my gig and always got good reviews and such.

And, with my job, I usually ran between 4-6 meetings a day. As it happened, during one of the agenda items the day my boss listened in, a couple of team members got tasks accomplished that should have taken at least another month and I blurted out, “you guys so rock it.”

The only comment Yolanda made about handling my duties was suggesting maybe another word than “rock” was appropriate. But, after another year, she retracted since my clients mostly loved my work and style telling me, “Just keep doing what you are doing and be yourself. That seems to work quite well.”

It was a big moment, for being told professionally to be yourself, was not something I have ever been used to hearing in any environ.

I have thought about that incidentt in concert with the stupid and incessant discussions (nee arguments) on this site about what RockRemnants is about.

It is clear to me that in Steve’s view, we should only be writing around Rock’n’Roll for as he points out, that is in the name of the site.

But, aside from that being boring, not to mention smacking the face of Aristotle, our first literary critic, who said writing should “teach and delight,” Steve’s provincial view of the term as it applies is just a bunch of crap.

For one thing, we all have views and the site is for fun, so suggesting some category of music or art shouldn’t be included is specious. If all he wants to write about is the Germs, fine. Boring, yeah, but again, if that is what he likes, who am I to call him “an idiot” or suggest he “ramble incoherently?”

But, to me, as I have stated repeatedly, Rock’n’Roll is about attitude and the music is simply a subset of that mindset, irrespective of whether Allan Freed named the shit before he saw Elvis swing his hips or not.

For sure Rock’n’Roll is in the first licks of Johnny B. Goode, but it also lies within the words of Howard Beale (Peter Finch in Network) when he screams “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore.” Rock’n’Roll is in the soul of any teenager who ever sneaked out of the house in the middle of the night to meet a lover in secret, or see a forbidden band, or ride fast in cars with one’s mates. And, like it or not, it is within Johnny Paychecks words when he said “take this job and shove it.”

So, for fun, here are some things that define Rock’n’Roll as far as I see it.

  • Muhammed Ali’s poetry and left hook.
  • James Dean’s smile.
  • Johnny Rotten’s sneer.
  • The Doors saying fuck you to Ed Sullivan with Jim Morrison screaming “girl we couldn’t get much higher” rather than the “much better” Sullivan insisted upon.
  • Mick and Keith’s on-stage interplay.
  • Joni Mitchell refusing to sell her song rights for commercial use.
  • Prince refusing to allow Itunes and Spotify stream his songs.
  • Marilyn Monroe’s voice.
  • Raj Davis’s homer to tie the 2016 World Series, and Ben Zobrist’s tenth inning double to tie it back up.
  • The wings at Virgil’s.

I could list more, but I think I make my point, and well, this is how I will continue writing and supporting the site because to me, Rock’n’Roll is indeed a music genre, but it is also part of a musical bigger whole, and music is one of the arts–like movies and painting and writing and all the other slices of imagination–the Muses ruled over.

To make one more point, if by having the name RockRemnants we are supposed to be limited to just Steve’s definition of the words and art form, then I suppose “all men are created equal” should only be applied to rich white landowning men, right?

And, if this song by Gabby Pahinui doesn’t kill you and tell you Rock is in everything, well, I feel sorry for your parochial existence.