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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Wussy, Teenage Wasteland

This is another one h/t to the Dean of American Rock Critics, though he didn’t plug this song. I found it on the YouTube.

These guys are old and weird. The first two songs of theirs I listened to were called Gloria, and this one, which was once a Who song. Neither was a cover.

They skew to the indie side of rock, but I’ve put this clip on repeat. I liked them at first hear. They sound like they need to do this more than anything. That’s enough for now. Maybe more later.’

 

Imperial Teen, Yoo Hoo

Rolling Stone has a piece by Rob Sheffield ranking the top 98 songs from 1998.

Since it’s a celebration of the diverse weird styles and songs of a year that he says was known for being diverse and weird, it’s a grab bag of the unknown, forgotten, and other songs that are fun to remember. Like this one, ranked 48th, which I think would be good (love those breaths) even without the video (which is an able promo for the minor at the time, classic in the end teen flick Jawbreaker).

Bo-Peep Record Release Party in NYC.

Our friend Walker invited us to a short show by Bo-Peep, who promised some nuevo punk sounds from Fukuoka Japan. And saki, wine and sandwiches. The band was invited to the states by two guys, one of whom Walker knows, who paid their way over and set them up with some shows in Brooklyn over the weekend (including at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s cherry blossom festival, the blossoms will be rocking).

The place was an empty store on 8th Street in Greenwich Village, which is serving now as an art gallery, and the vibe was heterogenous, consisting mostly of young Asians, mostly women, and old American rockers. You can read what Bo-Peep has to say for themselves here, at their website.

I thought the band was terrific. This is high energy rock, but every song has musical ideas in it that make it stand out from the others. One tune had the pulsing drive of Golden Earring’s Radar Love, others had the straight-ahead drive of the Ramones. Others get a little herky-jerky, like this one from their album Vibe, which reminds me of Karen Oh’s band, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Live the vocals were a little undermiked, but the group’s dynamics comes across in this music video.

Here’s a cut of live footage with a studio version of another song.

Final note: The band had a little Pee Wee Herman doll sitting on the front of the stage. Don’t know why, but it made me think of Moyer.

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.