Lawr Michaels, Have Fun Til the End

I became friends with Lawr, like most, because of our mutual loves of baseball (real and fantasy) and rock ‘n’ roll, but much of our chatter when we would get together was about literature and storytelling, or food and cooking, or politics and wishing.

For most of the history of the Fantasy Baseball Guide Lawr put together the Mock Draft, assembling All-Star casts from his wide circle of friends and experts. Back in the early days his wife, Cathy, worked as proofreader and copyeditor on the Guide. She passed away not long after from cancer, and as one got to know Lawr one learned that his grand passion and enthusiasm for doing things came from a shadow of tragedy that trailed after him his whole life.

In 2011 he released a full album of original songs called Downward Facing Dog. I reviewed it on Amazon, where you can now find a copy for $32 cheap, to support my friend but also because I think it’s a terrific piece of work.¬†

Lawr was diagnosed a few months ago with some potentially serious problems and set himself on an even better diet than the good diet he already followed, and he tried to strengthen up by taking care. He said he would work on the Guide this year, but then stepped back. He passed on our Tout Wars meetings, and said he had Rock Remnants pieces to write but had to get better first. When I heard he’d taken a turn for the worse a few days ago I thought of his love for the Kinks and Richard Thompson, but when I’d heard the bad news this morning I thought of this Lawr original song.

Well, I thought of the studio version, which is neater, but this rougher version has video of Lawr himself, which is just a moment of comfort at this sad time.

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Pete Shelley is Dead.

One of the best records I ever bought was Singles Going Steady, the Buzzcock’s compilation of their 45s. On the other hand, I realized today that I played that one over and over and didn’t hear them all. Which is too bad.

This one is up third on the original SGS vinyl. I don’t mind. Great songs, great band.

https://youtu.be/MPcnXBj8Msw

Cecil Taylor Died Today.

I’m a rockist, but I have some jazz leanings. And when I heard today that Cecil Taylor died, I thought about all of his music that moves through me.

One thing I can say is that the two times I saw Cecil Taylor live I felt my life change. Both times. I would play the records and get caught up in the thoughts of what he and his combos were doing, but seeing Cecil Taylor and his band live was living a musical experience that pushed you to places you could not possibly have known about. Some of this was referential, Taylor freely sampled, he loved other music, but a lot of it was structural. He loved breaking down the usual form.

His was music that demanded great playing, and even greater creativity in the improvisation. Watching/hearing Cecil Taylor and his combo create was like becoming privvy to great minds operating at maximum capacity, and letting you see how the magic is made.

I can’t think of another musician who operated on both the sensual ground level and engaged the absolutely intellectual spheres so directly.
And maybe I should mention that these shows I saw pulsed, were full of musical exuberance and passion.

I happened to be out walking today and stumbled into a great used bookstore in Prospect Heights I rarely get to. The music playing was frenetic and sort of atonal but clearly not, and my guess was that it was Cecil Taylor. I didn’t know he had died, at that point, but I also admired the bookstore for its amazing hipness (in the good sense) and love of great writing.

This clip gets at how percussive, melodic, energetic and disciplined Cecil Taylor’s music was. As with any musician, there are many more shades. But the point is, even if you don’t know about him, he was a giant.

Steve Moyer Has Died

Steve with Ian MacKaye during a break during the Follow Fashion Monkeys sessions.

  1. Steve loved numbered lists.
  2. He was a good dresser. He always wore shirts with patterns, and often with snaps.
  3. He also recognized the dress of others, pointing out a drummer or bass player who had made a good or bad or interesting choice in a video.
  4. He and I invented the Fantasy Baseball Guide together. Steve was working for Rotowire, my partner in the Guides for a couple of years, and they gifted me with an excellent collaborator. Having a cool and smart partner on the payroll was a beautiful thing for me, and gaining a friend was even more important.
  5. Steve always had ideas, about everything. And his resistance to seeing the middle ground was sometimes frustrating, but often also endearing, which is why everyone ended up giving him a lot of space to be himself. His ideas were passionate and heart-felt and often right. Or valuable, even if you disagreed. Or when he was wrong.
  6. He was more punk than the rest of us. He said so.
  7. When we put together our Essential lists, at the start of Rock Remnants, there was no more surprising item on any list than Steve’s choice of More Specials.

  1. Steve always said the Guide was the best baseball mag out there. Who doesn’t like that?
  2. There were always surprising things about him that would come out in conversation. Like, I’m dating a minister. Or, My country band does [that song] this way…. Or, when I’m at the gym I have to listen to this crap. As if he didn’t know he had other choices to listen to what he wanted. But he did not take to the streaming world. To someone who has driven through Times Square listing to Supershit 666 at maximum volume with Steve, on DVD, these seem like oxymorons. Who is this person who contains such multitudes?
  3. And who gets pissed off when the music isn’t pushing it enough. Even when it is folk music, and it really shouldn’t.
  4. Steve suggested we include a broad range of fantasy voices in the Guide, and helped me to draw those voices in. I’d always been shy about the fantasy industry, a phrase that is particularly ludicrous on Oscar night, but Steve in real and important ways introduced me to people I already knew from LABR and Tout, and helped forge friendships with them that have become a central part of my life. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of that, but with Steve’s help I did.
  5. Steve named Rock Remnants. It was his name. And when my implementation of his name wasn’t to his liking, he was fierce in his defense of his vision. That led to some uncomfortable moments, and we all know what happens to muscle that is challenged.
  6. The perfect tribute would be to burn a CD of cuts Steve loved. A mix tape on CD. Because Moyer didn’t stream. In the meantime, how about this song from The Upper Crust:

 

 

RIP: Steve Moyer (1960-2018)

It is with extreme sadness that I must report the departure of one of the core Remnants, Steve Moyer.

Steve, with whom I have worked and been friends for over 25-years, was indeed one-of-a-kind: brash, opinionated, fierce, funny, direct, loyal with a mischievous mind and mouth like no one else I know.

Of course like the core Remnants I met Steve via our other common love: baseball. So for those of us driven by the forces of the diamond and the guitar, endless hours of talk just flew from our mouths when assembled.

And, that “assembly” happened a couple of times each year. In the fall we all gathered for the Arizona Fall League, and over the first three weeks of March. For, the coming of March means the annual Fantasy Baseball industry tour together among various First Pitch conferences, Spring Training, The League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR), the XFL, all culminating with Tout Wars in New York City.

Last night, as we gathered after the American League LABR auction, we got the news that Steve, who was to be drafting in the National League LABR auction tonight, had passed away in his sleep at his hotel after handling some business before joining us in baseball nirvana.

I will leave it with that.

But, since Steve was such a music junkie, as I got into the car to drive back to my hotel last night, I plugged in my shuffle and wondered just what song Spotify would deliver as the tune to contemplate the passing of Steve Moyer, and amazingly–and somewhat eerily–Elton John’s Funeral for a Friend/Loves Lies Bleeding came on.

Now, I know Steve well enough to know that he would hate being remembered by Elton John of all people, but sorry, the universe gave me what it gave me. Although below, I also added the vid to his favorite song, Search and Destroy by Iggy and the Stooges.

RIP Steve. Your friends. Your family. Your colleagues. Your industry will all miss you to the max.

 

 

The Temptations, Ball of Confusion

Dennis Edwards joined the Temps about the time their sound got harder, and the content of their songs political. Also when they became their most popular selves. He died earlier this week.

There are some great videos of the band singing this one, with psychedelic video, on YouTube, but the audio part of this version is the best.

Mark E. Smith Has Fallen.

Over the years I’ve listened to a lot of The Fall records, and liked all of them. But I never was a fan. There is probably a conversation to be had about that.

Mark E. Smith, the singular head of The Fall, the constant amidst constant change over 40 years, died this week. The first video of them I found was this, which doesn’t seem typical, but does kind of get a vibe going.

The younger Fall is what I remember better. And it isn’t that different.

Watching that Totally Wired clip I could imagine why I would fall in love with this band, this guy, this poet. But that wasn’t a connection I made. At the same time, I was totally down with the Fall as a great band. Why? Because of a Barbara Manning song. Her endorsement meant everything.