On Death and (Somebody Else) Dying


NOTE: Steve Moyer’s friends in the fantasy and baseball industries have begun a GoFundMe to help support his daughters, Harmony and Mary, who face college and adulthood without their pop. Please feel free to donate in honor of our friend. The link is GoFundMe Steve Moyer kid fund.

I have been trying to get my head around our friend and colleague Steve Moyer’s untimely passing last Thursday.

If you have followed my ramblings over the years, you know I have had a number of brushes with death myself, and that my own wife, child, and dog all left this plane within a year of one another between July of 2005 and April of 2006.

What these rather intense experiences seem to have made me, however, created a sort of paradox. On one hand, I accept the inevitability of our own human experience, understanding our time here is indeed finite and that there is no fairness within the amount of time we are granted here on earth.

Similarly, I can put it in a sort of detached-automatic mode, for lack of better verbiage, making certain the trash is taken out, that dinner is made, and that the appropriate persons are advised appropriately of the departure. 

Certainly, Steve was core to a lot of the fantasy industry, and having been colleagues for a quarter century I seem to be one of those who knew him the longest, and perhaps as well as anyone within our circle.

Still, it never occurred to me that Steve — hell, that any of us — would leave untimely, so soon. Further, I have had enough head butts with Steve that I was surprised to find myself at the center of coordinating updates about him, being the source for articles and news as well as disseminating funeral information.

I know I am not alone in banging egos with Steve, for as his fiance, Samantha Drennan — with whom I have unfortunately become friends under the worst of circumstances — acknowledged that Steve “argued with everyone about everything.” So I was happy Steve and I had a good clearing of the air last First Pitch, Arizona.

Furthermore, I was glad to help out during the couple of days subsequent to learning of Steve’s passing by sharing information and emailing so many who knew and cared about him. I helped my mate, Roto Expert’s Scott Engel gather information both for an article about Steve, and together we plotted a Hall of Fame Hour — one of the shows Scott hosts on FNTSY— on  Steve this coming Monday (listen from 7-8 PM, ET). I posted and commented on the Rock Remnants site that was Steve’s imagination, where Peter Kreutzer, Gene McCaffrey, and I made a musical home for our writing outside of fantasy sports.

The bulk of these activities occurred while I was still at spring training, usually one of my favorite trips of the year. For, in March, baseball is still fresh and optimistic, players are happy and mostly healthy, and drafts are gearing up.

Instead, within the throes of my “busy-ness” handling Steve things, I felt distracted. I was  disinterested in going to games and drafting and interviewing players. And, the truth was, I just wanted to go home and be with my family.

I did keep wondering, however: Why I was so ambivalent with respect to something I really enjoy?

Then it occurred to me that I was subconsciously being so busy detaching that I did not have to acknowledge how bummed I am. In discussions with several of the groups and leagues in which Steve and I both participate, I realized what an integral part of my life Steve was, and I guess vice versa.

And, that meant the bummed disinterested feelings I was trying to ignore were actually grief.

Life is such a silly ephemeral thing. So difficult to understand, let alone make reasonable. And yet it is wondrous and beautiful, for though in the end it takes us from one another, certainly prior to that life gives us the gift of one another.

It certainly is a shame, however, that we have forget to embrace this gift until that appreciation is no longer corporeal.

One of the bands that Steve and I shared a love for was the Small Faces, and perhaps their best-known song was “Itchycoo Park.” As a dog owner, and husband of an animal lover, I like to imagine The Rainbow Bridge in a sort of “Itchycoo Park” sense.

I hope I am right. I hope Steve is rocking out there, maybe with my son Joey and late wife Cathy, and our dogs Macaroni, Onyx, Jazzmine, and Mahina looking on. Miss ya Steve.

Classic Nuggets: Paul Revere & the Raiders, “Sometimes”

I am not sure why Sometimes of all songs from my past popped into my head the other day. I think someone asked me a question, and I answered “sometimes,” and poof, there you go.

But, I am glad because I remember loving the shit out of this song when I bought Paul Revere’s third album Here They Comethough it was never a hit or even released as a single. It was covered later by The Cramps and The Flamin’ Groovies, however.

The Raiders were certainly a hot band in 1963. I saw them twice in the early 60’s opening for the Beach Boys (whom I actually saw six times and was in attendance August 1, 1964 when Beach Boys Concert album was recorded) and with music and television growing, The Raiders became a house band on Dick Clark’s Where the Action Is, his follow-up to Bandstand aimed at the next generation of pop music kids.

But, talk about an advanced sounding song, recorded in 1965, Sometimes was produced by Terry Melcher. Melcher was a principal producer for Columbia Records at the time, and was the son of Doris Day. Melcher had a band–The Rip Chords–who had an early 60’s hit (Hey Little Cobra) and as part of Bruce and Terry (Here Comes Summer).

Bruce, was Bruce Johnson who eventually became a member of the Beach Boys, but Melcher also was tied to Charles Manson. Melcher rejected Manson’s audition tapes, clearly pissing Manson off. Melcher had owned the home where the Tate-LaBiancha murders took place, but (obviously) did not live there any longer when Manson’s minions did their dirty work.

Rumor has it that some of the recording of Here They Come was performed by The Wrecking Crew, but Drake Levin probably did play the guitar and his solo is pretty hot. Levin was a pioneer with guitar pyrotechnics, having been among the first to double-track a solo on Just Like Me.

To me, however, Sometimes sticks out as an actual substantive song as opposed to a lot of what turned into the car song pop dreck that highlighted pop music, along with surfing, before the Beatles and Brit Pop rescued us. Nothing represents this pre-genre better than Hey Little Cobra.

Compare that to Sometimes.

And, will try to write here more often. The re-launch of Creativesports, and work on my latest book have distracted me!

Robbie Robertson Goes to Little Willie John, and then to Hell?

A few weeks back Peter noted some great stuff about Little Willie John on the site.

And, that kicked my brain cells back to Robbie Robertson’s eponymously named debut album which is a killer in my meager opinion.

Employing Peter Gabriel and U2 and the Bodeans among others to help with instruments and especially vocals, the album really goes all over the map musically, with each song a little stronger than the cut before.

This one, Somewhere Down the Crazy River is clearly the one that tripped the Little Willie John wires:

But, this song, Hell’s Half Acre is as driving and kickass a rocker as ever lived. I can actually leave it in a loop for five or six playings on my phone it is so good and visceral.

Here is hoping everyone out there has a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving holiday!

Tom Petty (10/20/50-10/02/17)

It is hard for me to compartmentalize the passing of the great Tom Petty.

I was a little later to the party than Gene, for I noticed Petty in the similarly great Rather Ripped Records in Berkeley Valentines Day in 1977 when I was buying Frampton Comes Alive (laugh if you will, but I was a big Humble Pie fan and had Frampton’s three previous albums which featured George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and Klaus Voorman, to name a few).

But, I remember the stack of records and the debut album which held a sign that said, “his name might be Petty, but his music ain’t small.”

So, I bought both.

In April 1977, Petty and band played Winterland (with Greg Kihn) and a few months later–in September–he again played and I attended both, this time with the band opening for Be Bop Deluxe.

By then the group had become my favorite band, and this was all amplified when I went to London that fall and fell under the spell of the punks and Petty et al totally meshed with American New Wave to me despite the classic rock set-up.

In June of ’78 the band again played Winterland and again, I was there, and then again in December as part of the closing of the venue I had loved and seen so many great bands (in fact the final three acts were Petty, Bruce Springsteen, and then the Dead for New Years, and that was that for Winterland).

The following summer Petty was embroiled in a lawsuit and petitioned the court to tour and make some money since their next recording was tied up in litigation, so I saw the “lawsuit tour,” as it was known in Sacramento in the summer of 1979.

There were more. The Mountain Aire Festival (1983), Petty with Dylan at the Greek in ’86, Southern Accents in 1987, and unfortunately missed the Into the Great Wide Open tour due to strep throat. But, my ex-wife, Ava, who became a Petty fan used the tickets I got. In fact Ava said during Mountain Aire that she got the feeling Petty was looking at her for a moment, singing to her, connecting with her.

By then, Petty et al were an arena band so I saw them only once more, again at the Greek, in 2006 for the Highway Companion 30th Anniversary Tour.

I think that makes nine times, and aside from buying the bulk of the band’s albums (I am not a greatest hits guy) but, in 1979 I began working on a novel that became my Masters Thesis, a pretty chunky play on the Picaresque called Dirty Laundry and Petty and his band and that debut album–which I believe was among my essentials–were pivotal parts of the plot.

Petty was surely a rock star, and a wonderful song writer and lyricist in my view, but he was also a regular guy–or tried to be–and carried that attitude within several lawsuits he had with his record companies.

In the end, I am just at a loss how a guy, so vital on the stage, had a heart attack and poof, gone, but there you go.

If there is a West Coast/East Coast difference in sensibilities about the Heartbreakers and their name and band, I always thought of The Heartbreakers as Johnny Thunder’s band, as opposed to the West Coast band which was all lumped in with the name Tom Petty. As in “Tom Petty” included the Heartbreakers, and “The Heartbreakers” included Johnny Thunders, and I mean no disrespect to the great Thunders or his band in separating the two like this.

Here is an early live recording of a song of the band’s I always dug from the first record. There is a great story around this gig, and that the band got searched at customs getting into Germany. Apparently they had a big chunk of hash and were concerned, but the goods were never discovered.

Petty asked bass player Ron Blair, who was holding, what happened to the stuff and Blair smiled, showing off some very black teeth. And, he played this gig while blitzed.

 

Again, I just don’t know what to say, though. The Biletones have at least a half dozen Petty tunes in their setlist. I guess the only place I can go is thank you so much Tom, for your songs, your humanity, and for being yourself.

I hope things are as fun on the other side! RIP mate.

Obituary: Walter Becker (February 20, 1950-September 3, 2017)

Walter Becker, co-founder, guitar, bass player, and songwriter for Steely Dan has passed away from and undisclosed illness.

I pretty much dismissed the band following the release of their first single, Reelin’ in the Years, thinking it was a solid enough pop tune, but not thinking that much of the band, kind of the same as I liked Radiohead’s Creep when it was released never thinking what an incredible and rich catalog of tunes the band would produce.

In fact the analogy works for me since I bought both bands’ first albums, Can’t Buy a Thrill (Steely Dan) and Pablo Honey (Radiohead) liking the works in general, but never really suspecting how sophisticated the development of the band’s respective music would become.

But, starting with Countdown to Ecstasy, Pretzel Logic, Katy Lied, and then The Royal Scam, the Dan produced four albums that are as good, interesting, musically listenable and challenging as anything any performer could make

In fact, I think when I noted bands with three brilliant consecutive albums, Tom rightfully put Steely Dan’s–named for a chromed dildo in William Burrough’s Naked Lunch–list from above starting and stopping wherever you want, even adding Can’t Buy a Thrill on the front and Aja the back end.

I have to admit that with the band’s final big commercial success with Aja I became disinterested, slightly because it felt like I had been there before with the band, and partly because I was seriously into Punk and British Power Pop by then.

And, I had no interest in the band reforming and was no more interested in seeing their reunion than I would have been The Doobie Brothers or The Moody Blues.

Still, the band killed it for ten years with fantastic melodies and obscure interesting lyrics and a cluster of albums I still love.

Later Walter. Thanks for an incredible body of work and hours of pleasure. Here is a fave of mine.

Lunch Break: Sister Rosetta Tharpe, “Didn’t It Rain”

I feel like a stupid ignorant fuck, having lived nearly 65 years, being a music junkie, and having never heard of Sister Rosetta Tharpe till a couple of days ago, but I got a link to some of her stuff via my weekly NPR music email push, and there she was.

Not much I can say but, “wow.”

Check this out and you will see what I mean. Swear to fucking god.

 

“Pick On” Pink Floyd

Every week on my show on FNTSY (the Tout Wars Hour, 9-11 PM, ET every Thursday night he plugged shamelessly) I ask my special guest to reveal a favorite album, movie, TV show, athlete to watch, and food and the list, as Fantasy now spreads generations, is big fun.

There are wonderful surprises like Tim McLeod loving Sunburst Finish  by Be Bop Deluxe and Eno Sarris, being a fan of his namesake’s Taking Tiger Mountain by Storm.

A couple of weeks ago my special guest was Jeff Zimmerman, and when I suggested  that basic script for the show that week I also noted that during our final five minute  segment we do indeed review those pop items like players we like to watch and music  we like to listen to.

Jeff warned me in advance that he was not that much of a music person, and I  responded no problem, and there must be a Beatles or Stones or some kind of album or song in his head somewhere he liked and just do the best you can.

But, never, ever, ever, did I expect his actual entry to the list which is a blue grass cover of The Wall performed by Luther Wright and the Wrongs.

So, I went digging a little, and found the album, and during my guitar lesson that same week I asked my friend and mentor Steve Gibson if he knew about Luther and his band’s treatment of the Floyd.

Steve did not know The Wall specifically, but he was more than hep to Nashville musicians gathering and deconstructing famous albums and bands in a phenomenon known as “pick on,” as in “pick on Aerosmith” or “pick on AC/DC.”

I cannot say that this revisionism is totally my cup of tea as much as I like both the Floyd and blue grass. Clearly these guys are knockout musicians, but I think I actually prefer to hear them cover the Carters and Irish jigs, but just discovering this subculture of music was a kick and a half.

This is Luther’s treatment of my favorite tune from the Floyd album. I still prefer David Gilmour’s chorusy guitar ripping through, but this is still pretty good.

 

 

 

You Really Got Me: The Locomotion, Little Eva

Of course, once again I was in the car, driving to the links, when the Locomotion came on my shuffle.

I can write a lot about the song, How it nailed me (as documented) at family camp. How it is just a killer Goffin/King song with that monster sax grooving with the machine gun snare to start, and then drive the song.

But, when I was listening the other day I thought “man, I first heard this song in 1962 and it still sounds as good to me today as it did then.”

So, I started thinking about other  songs like that, and the Kinks, You Really Got Me was the first to pop into my head and that seemed an apropos title for a new category of fun.

The parms are just that: a song that nailed you first time and always, but, the caveat is that you have to remember distinctly where you first heard it.

So, here are six of mine in no particular order (and, though both You Really Got Me and the Locomotion match the category, I went to other songs for my list):

Drug Test, Yo La Tengo: I read about Yo La Tengo for the first time in the Utne Reader as their critic, I think named Jay Waljasper, waxed on for a couple of albums worth about how great this band I never had heard of was. So, kind of like Steve went to see Baby Driver to prove to himself it was lousy, I bought President Yo La Tengo/New Wave Hot Dog to prove to myself that the Tengo were nothing. This was 1998, and the opening track, Banaby Hardly Working was ok, but the second cut, Drug Test came smoking out of the car stereo and it remains an all-time favorite song. Needless to say, Waljasper was right: I own seven of the bands discs and have seen them three times.

Please Please Me, The Beatles: My family all lived in London and my cousin Eve sent us a copy of Please Please Me on Parlaphone records in 1963 and it completely knocked my socks off. I remember putting on our little Philco phonograph, and that we didn’t need to use the little center spindle thing for 45 rpm singles because British singles did not have that gaping hole in the middle. The couplet “It’s so hard to reason, I do all the pleasin’ with you…” still stands as one of my all time favorites.

Holidays in the Sun, The Sex Pistols: I had heard of Johnny and the Sex Pistols, as they were referred to in the San Francisco Chronicle and was dubious. But, in October of 1977 I went to London for the first time to meet my cousins and travel some. I was taking a bath in my grandmother’s house which was a 150-year old Victorian, listening to Top of the Pops on my aunt’s funky transistor which was on the floor and pow, the #1 song of the week blew me away.

Borrow Your Cape, Bobby Bare, Jr: I hit pay-dirt with an Amazon order around 2007 when I bought my niece Lindsay a couple of discs from Amazon for her birthday. At the bottom of the page was one of those, “people who liked this, liked that” and The Longest Meow by Bobby Bare, Jr and his Starving Criminal Brigade was the disc. “What the fuck?” I thought to myself and I bought it (a lot of four and five star reviews on Amazon) and man is it a killer album. And, Borrow Your Cape is my fave. The Biletones even covered it for a while.

Complete Control, The Clash: I was totally caught up with the punks and saw every band I could in the process, including the Pistols final performance at Winterland, and the Clash four times. I was going to sleep, though, shortly after my return from my European trip of ’77, smoking a doobie when Complete Control came on during Richard Gosset’s evening show on KSAN. By the time the second solo began I was totally lost in it. Still am.

Modern Love, Peter Gabriel: I was standing in Odyssey Records on the Ave in Berkeley in late 1977 when Gabriel’s first album came out, and the crew at the record store put the album on. So, as I was browsing Modern Love and Solsbury Hill came on and I bought the album without having ever heard any of the rest. I still love Modern Love.

Obit: June Foray (September 8, 1917, July 26, 2017)

June Foray certainly does not spring to mind as a name anyone would associate with music, let alone rock’n’roll; however, she was an integral part of the aging of the Boomer Generation.

June, who passed away a couple of days ago, just months shy of the Century Mark, was the voice of the following cartoon characters:

  • Rocket J Squirrel
  • Natasha
  • Granny on Looney Tunes (owner of Tweety)
  • Nell Fenwick
  • Witch Hazel
  • Daisy Duck
  • Mother Magoo
  • Betty Rubble
  • Cindy Lou Who (How the Grinch Stole Christmas)
  • Jokey Smurf

And, a host of other voices, participating in a list of shows that is, to say the least, overwhelming.

I am indeed a huge fan of animation, dating back to the first Jay Ward show, Crusader Rabbit wherein at the age of six I got my first puns. Crusader Rabbit featured a two-headed dragon named “Arson/Sterno” which didn’t really mean anything to me. I knew what Arson was, but it was a cartoon. (There was also a villian named “Dudley Nightshade,” a pun I never got till I was a lot older!)

One evening my mother was having a cocktail party and she had a chafing dish that needed a Sterno can to keep the contents warm and I saw her prepare the dish, read the label and a light went off in my head (it might still be going off).

From that all the cartoons of my youth became the filter for my  viewing and reading and interpretation of literature and movies and TV, for it not only taught about puns, but also how characters define themselves, often by action and nameAdditionally, I got the author gets to play with characters and names and situations to emphasize things like irony, hypocrisy, and many other personality traits.

As I delved deeper into literature as an undergrad, then grad student, and learned that Charles Dickens, for example, was among the best at portraying his characters as round or flat, modifying their names in deed and action. So, I got that the Arson/Sterno tradition was pretty old, going back at least to Chaucer in the English language.

I still watch toons. I love Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers and Adult Swim in addition to old Looney Tunes because they still push art in areas where live action human stuff cannot go.

Are they important? Just listen…

RIP June, and I hope where you are is as much fun as the shit you created!

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.