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.

 

 

 

Amuse Bouche: Pop Pandering

This little vid is so right on about how I feel about how Spirit in the Sky and that “I got a friend in Jesus” and other crap stuck in a pop song. Hardly spiritual like Beethoven or Eno or Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor which don’t even have lyrics.

But, even more than reflecting Spirit in the Sky, this clip says so how we are as a stupid culture of sheep.

Good Songs, Bad Songs (You Know I’ve Had My Share)

My buddy Les Ogilby, who plays a fantastic blues harp–on occasion with the Biletones–and is as much of a music junkie as the rest of us (Les has contributed to the site, in fact) gave me a great disc with a bunch of cool less than widely known tunes, and one of the songs on it was this fantastic cover of Louie Louie by the Flamin’ Groovies (note the drummer has a real Boris Karloff look to him, and the bassist is on a Hofner!).

As I was listening and thinking about how simple this song is, the thought brought me back to Spirit in the Sky, another simple song that was a hit, but that is flat out weak compared to Louie Louie.

One reason we know the superiority is Louie Louie I believe is the most recorded pop tune, while anyone covering Greenbaum has been crucified.

Some of what works are the words, for one thing that drives me nuts about Greenbaum’s song is the “couplet:”

“When I die and they lay me to rest,

I’m gonna go to the place that’s the best.”

To say that is third grade poetry is an insult to eight-year olds everywhere. I mean that second line could have been “I love god it’s in him I invest” or “I’ll sleep with a heavenly crest” or “I’ll be denied because of incest” or something slightly more sophisticated. Not that Louie Louie has complex words, but part of the charm is like a good rock tune, the words are garbled and subject to urban myth and conjecture providing part of the essence of how Aristotle defined what poetry should do: teach and delight.

But, then I was streaming some New Wave stuff and on came a fantastic Johnny Thunders cover of the Shangri Las Give Him a Great Big Kiss, another tune that could easily be so tawdry and awful in the Honey/Teen Angel kind of sense, but somehow the song kills both in the hands of the Shangri Las and Thunders.

Anyway, I am not sure exactly where this is going. For sure I dig both these covers and was looking for an excuse to write about them, but, again, Kiss is such a simple song (two chords for the verse, two more for the chorus) and like Louie Louie it all works so well.

Maybe someone can explain that fine line to me between genius and stupid? I do know Einstein said “the difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.” True words for these times.

Bad Music: “The Bottom Ten”

My Frankie Avalon post sparked some responses and ideas, and I thought, “shit, maybe a list of the worst songs ever is kind of fun.” I realize Dave Berry set the precedent, but times change and we all have our likes and dislikes, so I am suggesting we assemble a “Bottom 10.”

That is, if the best ten songs ever are the Top 10, then logically the worst are going to be the Bottom 10 by default, right?

In his response, Steve asked if we did this, if there should be criteria, and while at first I dismissed that to myself, I did reconsider. As in does Macarena belong on the same list as The Last Kiss (J. Frank Wilson, not Pearl Jam) and does that belong on the same list as You Light Up My Life (brilliantly suggested by my wife Diane as I was listing mine) which is just flat out bad?

As in, do cheesey maudlin, wildly stupid and popular in the “pet rock” sense, and fucking awful deserve to be lumped together, or does each own its own genre? And, are there more, I wonder?

My idea is to get some simple parms, and publish lists and maybe even keep a spreadsheet to determine an actual readers worst.

It not only would be fun, but we might see some funny stuff tumble our of our collective.

Thoughts readers? Comment below, or hit me up at lawr@creativesports.com with thoughts under the subject “Remnants Bottom 10.” (Note that this is not new territory for the Renmants, who forged to the awful three years ago.)

And, to show my heart is in the wrong place, I leave you with this:

Bad Songs: Frankie Avalon, “Bobby Sox to Stockings”

My Spotify does a cool thing: gives little subset genre playlists of my main giant playlist so if I just want to sample some new wave and no Motown, both of which are on the bigger collection, I can hear just that.

The other day I felt nostalgic, so I put on list that includes Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent and Del Shannon. I am not sure how Spotify associated this horrible Frankie Avalon song with those great artists, but it did, and the song I had forgotten came back to haunt.

This “music” represents the absolute worst of what people imagine of those wonderful nostalgic 50’s, when mainstream radio sucked, racism was rote, and despite the separation of church and state, we were forced to eat fucking fishsticks at the school cafeteria every Friday.

Aside from being a joke, though, the intro to this song from American Bandstand is cool because you can see the Top 10 at the time behind Frankie and Dick Clark. Other than that, the only thing worse than those Friday fishsticks is this song.

Afternoon Snack: PiL, “Cruel”

I was sitting in the Jacuzzi (a middle of the night ritual, since I have retired), smoking a joint, with a Daily Mix from Spotify playing and the psychedelic lights in our bathroom moving through the spectrum, sipping fizzy water when this song from Johnny Rotten’s second band came on.

I really dug this tune at the time, though I felt the rest of the disc spotty at best, but I sort of forgot about Cruel till the other day, and my, it holds up pretty well.

The thing that also got me about this song was for some reason, the cover of the disc was just freaky in some sort of erotic/exotic/perverted/”I don’t want to go there” way, but I have no clue why.

As for the song, I not only found this video (it actually starts at 7:36) but this TV show has some very weird shit going on, like a magician escaping from a washing machine into which he has been placed, and bound, with water and soap and such going full tilt boogie.

Weird, but fun, I think? And, the song still rules.