Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Walking Rock Alphabet: M

I’m sure you’re a bit shocked to see a post this afternoon. After all, it is Halloween and I have tons of candy to give out (but probably will end up handing out a fraction of the treats).
I had to get out for a walk this afternoon, as I missed the last couple of days. A Rant-a-Bit podcast session on Monday, plus post-work drinks last night, are my sorry excuses. Plus, it was over sixty degrees with absolutely no wind on this fine October afternoon.
Today’s music choice was pretty easy to make, as I have been thinking about this band quite a bit the last few days. The album in question is Made to Be Broken, the second release by Soul Asylum. 
Why was this band on my mind? Earlier this month, founding guitarist Dan Murphy announced his resignation from Soul Asylum after thirty years of tenure. According to the statement he released, it wasn’t due to singer Dave Pirner or anybody else in the band. It was the music industry itself. 
I have a feeling this is going to be a common move over the next few years. With commercial radio and television reluctant to broadcast any music that’s not released by a “celebrity”, it is becoming next to impossible for any artist to get noticed these days. You can build the greatest Facebook or Tumblr page, but it does little good beyond the already-converted. Not to mention the controversy over illegal downloading, but that’s a debate for another time.
Just how long can an artist survive on hundred dollar gigs in every dive bar in the country? What good is an album release if only your longtime fans are willing to spend a few bucks?
At least Soul Asylum had their moment in the sun, which at the time was a shocking development in their career. For years they were considered the little brothers of Minneapolis legends Husker Du and The Replacements, and had ties to both bands. Besides sharing hundreds of concert bills, Husker Du guitarist Bob Mould produced many of their early albums (including today’s selection), and they were on the same label as the ‘mats. 
Yet it was Soul Asylum who received the big commercial break. 1992’s Grave Dancer’s Union dominated the charts, primarily due to “Runaway Train”, which, of course, raised plenty of cries of “sell out”. But while “Runaway Train” did become an annoyance, the album was actually pretty strong. Yes, it had major label gloss, but it also had quite a few great songs, including the track that spawned the album’s title, “Without a Trace”.
Unfortunately, the band could never recreate that success, and in my mind it was a simple deficiency - lyrics. Dave Pirner simply is not a gifted lyricist, which was evident on the embarrassment of a followup single, 1995’s “Misery”, from Let Your Dim Light Shine.
Weak lyrics can be hidden when the band is making a big, energetic wall of noise, and that is what was missing on their major label releases. 1983’s Made to Be Broken, however, is all raucous guitars and expressive vocals. It’s also one of their most diverse albums, full of lots of the typical Replacements-ish style of punk but also dabbling in country and metal. It’s full of tracks that they played up to the very end of their career - “Tied to the Tracks”, “Ship of Fools”, and especially “Never Really Been”, which contains the classic line, “and where will you be in 1993”? In SA’s case, they were topping the charts.
Best of luck to Dan Murphy, and I really hope that he really isn’t quitting the music business for good. Over the years he has moonlighted in The Jayhawks and Golden Smog, and I’m sure there are plenty of people like me who would like to see him again share a stage with the likes of Gary Louris and Jeff Tweedy.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Walking Rock Alphabet: L

After the difficulties I had in picking an album for the last couple of letters, my problem today was the exact opposite. The letter “L” is a treasure trove - two of my top three albums of all time (London Calling and Let It Be), along with many others that prominently sit in my Top 50 (L.A.M.F., Let It Bleed, Labour of Lust, Life’s Rich Pagent, Love Is the Law, etc.). I probably spent more time picking out the album than I did walking.
Somewhat interesting is that it was Bob Dylan of all people who helped make my decision. I’ve been reading Mikal Gilmore’s anthology, Night Beat, and in the middle of a 1986 interview, Dylan pulls out John Trudell’s AKA Grafitti Man. Calling it the best album of the year, he adds that “only people like Lou Reed and John Doe can dream about doing work like this. Most don’t have enough talent.”
It wouldn’t surprise me today to hear that Dylan is familiar with the work of the X leader, as Doe’s Americana-laced solo work isn’t far removed from what Dylan is releasing these days. But this is 1986, and X isn’t exactly a household name. I realize that his kids kept him in touch with acts like The Clash, but despite the Dylan-ish imagery of the best of Doe and Exene Cervenka, they just didn’t seem like they’d be in Dylan’s orbit.
As usual, being influenced by Dylan was a positive part of my life, though, as Los Angeles by X turned out to be THE perfect choice. While I generally avoid letting the music set my walking speed, D.J. Bonebrake’s tribal drumming style couldn’t help but set my pace today.
What an underrated album...and music scene! While the music press concentrated on the punk scenes in London and New York, what was going on in Southern California was just as inventive, influential, and (arguably) even more varied. X were the beatnik poets of the scene, so it made complete sense that former Doors keyboardist Rany Manzarek produced the album (and contributes his trademark sound to the Doors-ish “The Unheard Music”)...not to mention their cover of “Soul Kitchen”.
“Los Angeles” is the obvious favorite on the album, but there’s no letup. “You’re Phone’s Off the Hook, But You’re Not” and “Johny Hit and Run Paulene” stands up against ANY other album’s first two songs, and the power and lyrical wordplay never let up. It’s a short album, which means I had a short walk, but the combination created an invigorating half hour.

Rural Ledge-ucation #75: Matthew Ryan Interview

I have wanted to interview singer/songwriter Matthew Ryan for a long, long time...even before the creation of my music podcasts. In fact, it was during my time as music editor for Tempest that I discovered his first album, May Day, and hoped that somehow he would perform somewhere close enough to our fine little city that I could do a feature on him.
That obviously didn't happen, but I continued to follow his career through most of the nearly fifteen albums he has released over the past two decades. My opening to chat with him actually happened over a year ago when he was part of the festivities celebrating the screening of Color Me Obsessed in Minneapolis. While we did have a short interview during a smoke break outside of a Minneapolis restaurant, I still wanted a full-length interview.
It has finally happened. Ryan is releasing a wonderful new album, In the Dusk of Everything, this Tuesday (October 30), and he agreed to wake up early on this chilly Sunday morning to guest on Rural Ledge-ucation. Besides picking out the playlist for the show, we talked about not only the new album but about the music that set the foundation for his entire life, the songwriting process, participating in Color Me Obsessed, his favorite bands over the years, and the various issues that a current artist must deal with to get their music noticed. It's a marathon show, but it is well worth sitting through every second. Great thanks to Matthew for participating.
You can find In the Dusk of Everything, along with the rest of his catalog, at all of the various online music stores, or directly order it at his website. To hear my interview with him, you can stream it via Stitcher, download it in the iTunes store, or...


Here's Matthew's music choices for today's show:
1. Matthew Ryan, Lonely Not Homesick
2. The Ramones, I Wanna Live
3. The Constantines, Draw Us Lines
4. Bruce Springsteen, The River
5. The Pretenders, Middle of the Road
6. Kevin Salem, Will
7. The Replacements, Skyway
8. Rod Stewart, Mandolin Wind
9. New Order, Ceremony
10. Matthew Ryan, I Hate Everyone
11. Matthew Ryan, And It's Such a Drag
12. Jimmy Scott, Slave to Love
13. Neil Young, Hey Hey My My (1991 Arc Version)
14. The National, Bloodbuzz Ohio
15. The Clash, Magnificent Seven
16. Joe Strummer, Redemption Song
17. Matthew Ryan, Stupid World

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Walking Rock Alphabet: K

I’m back!!!
Are you shocked? Did you believe that I had reverted back to my usual laziness and dropped this project? Am I back to settling my skinny ass (one of the few portions of my body that hasn’t become supersized...wait, what?) on my couch to watch terrible reality shows?
Nope. I had a good reason for taking the past week off. Let’s jump back to Thursday of last week. No, not two days ago. I’m talking the previous week. I woke up that day knowing that there would be no walking as it was actually snowing in our silly little city, and while that snow had pretty much disappeared by the afternoon it was still cold and windy. 
Instead, I plopped myself down at the laptop and started to pull tracks for the Live Ledge that was supposed to occur the next night. Being it was Chuck Berry’s birthday on that very day, my plan was to have a night dedicated to covers of the Real King of Rock and Roll.
As I was coming close to filling out the necessary two-hour playlist, I begin to feel a great pain in my back. I wasn’t too concerned, due to back pains that I already documented in this series. Plus, I had similar pains the night before shortly before bedtime. Thinking they’d go away in a couple of hours, I downed some ibuprofens and carried on.
The pain didn’t go away, however. Instead, they got worse and worse. Sitting didn’t help, nor did lying down. All I could really do was pace around the house and hope the ibuprofens would take effect.
Finally, after dealing with actual tears due to the pain, this emotionless creep did the one thing I always hesitate to do - see a doctor. I struggled through the short drive to Acute Care, where I was diagnosed with kidney stones! 
For the next three days, I did nothing but lay around the house, falling in and out of consciousness thanks to the wonderful pain meds I was prescribed. Ok, I did attempt to work on Friday, but was forced home shortly after I came in. All I could do was read, sleep, drink water, and watch TV. Magical Mystery Tour actually made sense under these conditions; Honey Boo Boo had added depths of humor and humanity (yes, I was clearly under the influence when I watched that awful show).
At one point on Saturday evening, the pain overcame the meds, and I was back to pacing. Yet nothing that I could see appeared to come of my certain body part, so I didn’t know that this was probably the moment the stones passed. 
I returned to the doctor on Monday, and tests showed that this was indeed the case, but I still didn’t feel well enough to get back to my walks. On Wednesday I even had the pain come back. Thankfully, I still had some meds from my first doctor visit.
This leads us up to my return to the streets, but first I must thank all of those who showed concern. It means so much to me that so many people were calling, texting, and direct-messaging me with cheerful thoughts and offers to bring me whatever I needed. It really helped me get through those terrible days.
So today was the first day that I’ve felt somewhat normal, and I felt that I just had to make it out despite the fact that I had an almost full day of errands and other projects. It was a cool day, but almost no wind. As we get closer and closer to November, days like these are bound to greatly decrease.
But what would be today’s soundtrack? “K” is one of those letters where the choices are limited. There are a couple of John Doe albums that I considered, along with Key Lime Pie by Camper Van Beethoven. Ultimately, though, I chose one of the many Kinks albums, Kinda Kinks, that could be found in this section.
Why Kinda Kinks? First off, why not? As they’re one of my favorite bands ever, it’s hard for me to turn down the opportunity to listen to them. It’s also a record that is a bit of a calm before the storm when it comes to the maturity of Ray Davies’ songwriting. 
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that musically the album is “calm”. Far from it. What I am saying is that this is sort of a moment in transition for the band. The Kinks were still a singles band, and it was still unclear whether they would be just another British “beat” band or would find their place next to The Beatles and Stones in the upper echelon of the British invasion.
Being a singles band, little attention was paid on these early albums. Kinda Kinks is their second album, and it is clear that producer Shel Talmy cared little about LP’s. Coupling that element with a tired band that had just returned from touring Asia, and you have an album that could and should have been punchier that what was unleashed on the public in mid-1965.
Don’t get me wrong, though. This is the Kinks, after all, and the album is full of some great moments such as “Come On Now” and “Wonder Where My Baby is Tonight”, but they should have never recorded covers of “Dancing In the Street” or “Naggin’ Woman”.
As for that production issue that I noted earlier, all you have to do is listen to the bonus tracks added to this 2001 reissue. Single and EP releases from that period double the 25 minute original album, and there clearly is more production AND performance care on tracks such as “Who’ll Be the Next in Line” and “Set Me Free” than on anything from the original album.
The good news for this walker is that those classics tacked on to the end of the album actually aided me in my journey. Despite my time away from my walking shoes, I jumped right back on the horse, and those bonus tunes pushed me to make this the longest walk so far. Thanks, Ray and Dave (and the person that compiled this reissue)!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Live Ledge #85: Halloween

Halloween is my favorite far. Forget birthdays (please, forget that I'm an old man). Christmas is fine but stressful. The rest of them generally consist of whiskey and naps.
Having said that, I'm disgusted that the adults have stolen this holiday from the kids. This is supposed to be the one night that kids get to wander around the neighborhood, collecting treats from each house. Yet the combination of media scare tactics and over-protective parents have virtually caused the pile of leftover candy to grow and grow every year.
Halloween is also great for one more reason - the music. Christmas music stinks. Let's be real (even if I do a Christmas show every year). The vast majority of it audio vicodin, designed to make the most hyperactive person want to fall right to sleep.
Not so with Halloween tunes. There's a plethora of punk, garage, psychobilly, and other forms of tunes dedicated to ghosts, goblins, and every other Halloween fixture. It's only natural that for the third straight year I pull together two hours of these types of tunes.
Here's what I want you to do with this show. Unless the weather cancels Halloween, I want this to be the soundtrack for when the kids come for their treats. Since most of them are only exposed to garbage like that Bieber character, this will be a great opportunity for a cultural awakening. Do it, and make me proud.
In order to play it, you'll either need to play it on the The Ledge android/iTunes app, stream it via Stitcher, download it in iTunes (and leave me a review), or...


1. Alice Cooper, Welcome To My Nightmare Welcome To My Nightmare
2. Chuck Prophet, Castro Halloween
3. Howler, Back To The Grave
4. Thee Holy Ghosts, Seen a Ghost
5. Reverend Horton Heat, The Devil's Chasin' Me
6. Redd Kross, Meet Frankenstein
7. Sleeper Agent, Be My Monster
8. Shonen Knife, Ghost Train
9. The Sunburns, Monster
10. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Science Fiction Double Feature
11. Alkaline Trio, Over at the Frankenstein Place
12. Groovie Ghoulies, The Time Warp
13. Apocalypse Hoboken, Sweet Transvestite
14. The Cramps, Surfin' Dead
15. The Flesheaters, Eyes Without A Face
16. Wednesday 13, Halloween 13-13
17. 45 Grave, Night Of The Demons
18. The Misfits, Die Die My Darling
19. The Misfits, Halloween
20. The Misfits, Monster Mash
21. Agent Orange, Whistling Past the Graveyard
22. Anti-Flag, The Ghosts of Alexandria
23. The Horny Wackers, I Can See The Devil In You
24. The Sharks, Skeleton Rock
25. The Meteors, Do You Wanna Make A Monster
26. The Klingonz, Psycho Mansion
27. The Gazmen, Rigor Mortise Rock
28. Guitar Gangsters, Monster in a Nightclub
29. The Dead Brothers, Bela Lugosi's Dead
30. The Radioactive Chicken Heads, Boris the Spider
31. Groovie Ghoulies, Trick Or Treat
32. The Voronas, I Love My Monsters
33. Thee Gravemen, My Girlfriend Is A Werewolf
34. The Types, My Little Zombie Girl

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Ledge #91: Caryn Rose

It was just over a year ago that author Caryn Rose appeared on The Ledge to promote her excellent debut novel, B-Sides and Broken Hearts. She spent this past summer following Bruce Springsteen's European tour as it hit Paris, Prague, Vienna, London, and Dublin, and the result is the just-released epub, Raise Your Hand: Adventures of an American Springsteen Fan in Europe.
Released just over a month ago, the book has been a raging success, hitting the iTunes Arts & Entertainment charts in not only the US (#1!), but also the UK (#2), France (#5), German (#1), and many other countries. It is also a part of Barnes and Noble's NookFirst program.
Caryn joins host Scott Hudson on this week's super-sized edition of The Ledge, and discusses every aspect of her working vacation. Besides detailing each of the shows she attended, we talked about the differences between American and European fans, the concept of checking into the "queue", and the controversy surrounding when the plug was pulled during an onstage appearance by Sir Paul McCartney in London.
Along with the chat, Rose selected tracks from each of the show's she attended, and the combination of two long-winded fans and almost two dozen live recordings turned this into the longest Ledge episode to date. In fact, this may be the only podcast that is longer than the subject member's legendary performances.
For more info on both of Caryn's books, along with her opinions on other music-related topics, check out her website, Jukeboxgraduate. Raise Your Hand can also be purchased by following these links to iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Google Books, and Amazon.
To hear this show, you can grab it in iTunes, stream it via Stitcher, or download The Ledge app in iTunes or Google. Or...


The tracks played on this broadcast include:

1. Thunder Road (London)
2. Independence Day (Paris 1)
3. 4th of July, Asbury Park (Paris 1)
4. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out (Paris 1)
5. The River (Paris 1)
6. Incident on 57th Street (Paris 2)
7. Seven Nights to Rock (Paris 2)
8. My Love Will Not Let You Down (Prague)
9. This Hard Land (Prague)
10. Loose Ends (Vienna)
11. Tougher Than the Rest (Vienna)
12. Take 'Em As They Come (London)
13. Johnny 99 (London)
14. Spirit In the Night (London)
15. Shackled and Drawn (London)
16. Jack of All Trades (w/Tom Morello) (London)
17. I Saw Her Standing There (w/Paul McCartney) (London)
18. Twist and Shout (w/Paul McCartney) (London)
19. I Fought the Law (Dublin 1)
20. I'm a Rocker (Dublin 1)
21. Rocky Ground (Dublin 2)
22. Rocking All Over the World (w/John Fogerty) (London)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Walking Rock Alphabet: J

Nothing like old man injuries to let you know just what a mess you are. Two days ago, I told you about how I gave up a lazy day on the couch to make my way around the neighborhood to the sweet and spiky sounds of Archers of Loaf. 
It turns out I should have not strayed from the couch. Late in the night, my back stiffened up. Getting up from my chair became a struggle. I got almost NO sleep that night because it hurt too much to move. 
How could an activity that is so low-impact cause so much pain? (Cue the fat loser jokes.) A lot of it is due to the fact that I still do think I’m 15 (emotionally, this is true.) Stretching is for wussies. Proper attire is a waste of time.
As I continued to lay in pain last night, I put the question out on twitter. How do you mend an achey back? Thankfully, I didn’t receive any crazy-ass answers, as I followed ALL instruction. A heating pad...then a cold pack...then a hot bubble bath. Stretching instructions from my fabulous yoga expert. I kept hoping for somebody to tell me to down a bottle of whiskey, but that didn’t happen.
By bedtime, I was back to my normal level of uncomfortableness, which continued on to this day. Being that it was once again 75 degrees outside, no way could I skip another day. Since proper shoes was yet another suggestion from the previous night, I dug through my box o’ shoes in the basement and found a forgotten Christmas present from two or three years ago. Yes, it is time to fuck myself up again!
Sunday’s post also pointed out my musical issues for this portion of the alphabet. Since my attempt to re-sync some additional albums failed, I only had two choices for today’s walk. Thankfully, one of them was a classic - Jesus of Cool by Nick Lowe. 
Unintentionally, Nick Lowe has become the all-star of the Hudson walkathon. Two albums he produced (Damned Damned Damned, Armed Forces) has already been soundtracked, so I guess it is only fitting that I include what I believe is his greatest solo album.
Never heard of the Jesus of Cool album? That’s because a bastardized version of it was released in the US under the name of Pure Pop For Now People. Both versions have been out of print for over 20 years...and that’s a crime. Labour of Lust may have had the hit single (“Cruel to Be Kind”), but Jesus of Cool is the template for his entire career.
Lowe is a power pop master, but lyrically he’s way more clever than almost anybody else in that genre. Jesus of Cool has songs about the music industry (“Shake and Pop”, the b-side “I Love My Label”), a castrated Fidel (“Nutted by Reality”), and a tribute to the tragic silent-film actress “Marie Provost”. Add to that poppy parodies of metal (“Music For Money”), The Bay City Rollers (“Rollers Show”), and disco (“I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass”), plus the perfect radio pop sound of “So It Goes” and “Heart of the City”, and you have an album that should be in everybody’s collection.
Since my plan was to take it easy today, coupled with a full-length reissue that includes eleven bonus tracks, I admittedly skipped from track to track today. Sue me for not sticking to my format, but I still ended up with an album-length’s worth of tunes.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Rural Ledge-ucation #74: New Releases

It has become a monthly tradition for an episode of Rural Ledge-ucation to primarily consist of new releases. Today is the October version, and there's new music by Bettye LaVette, Wanda Jackson, R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, Mark Eitzel, and so many more! Plus, there's also a sampling of the albums that have accompanied me on my new exercise routine that has filled up the pages of my blog.
Nab this at the usual online spots, or...


1. Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs, Hard To Be Humble
2. Bettye LaVette, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
3. Bettye LaVette, Everything Is Broken
4. Wanda Jackson, Its All Over Now
5. Wanda Jackson, California Stars
6. Neil Young, Four Strong Winds
7. The Jayhawks, Two Angels
8. Paul Westerberg, As Far As I Know
9. Peter Buck, Some Kind Of Velvet Sunday Morning
10. Old 97's, Broadway (Demo)
11. Mark Eitzel, I Love You But You're Dead
12. Tim Rogers, Beefy Jock Guys and Modern Dance Music
13. Jason Collett, My Daddy Was a RocknRoller
14. AC Newman, Encyclopedia Of Classic Takedowns
15. Matthew Ryan, Am, I'm Letting Go

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Walking Rock Alphabet: I

Sunday’s are a tough day to find the time and energy to wander out of the house. Besides starting the day with Rural Ledge-ucation, there’s a full afternoon of football and most of the handful of prime-time shows I enjoy are on Sunday evenings. The couch just begs for me to plant my fat ass and waste the day.
I was determined to still make it out, but once again technology had other plans. Since I didn’t care too much about today’s early games, my plan was to hit the sidewalk around the time most of these matchups were in the third quarter. I could then get back in time for whatever fourth quarter theatrics were in store for the day.
I’m at a portion of the alphabet, though, where I don’t have as much choice as I’d like, so I hooked up the iPhone to load a few more albums. Big mistake. Those who follow me on twitter or Facebook have heard my constant issues with management of my music library. A few months ago, I purchased a network drive to house my 115,000 song library, but this move has created more problems than anything else. Not only is a network drive slower than an external USB drive, iTunes itself moves at a snail’s pace.
So when I hooked up my iPhone to the laptop, it took FOREVER to sync. Then the process of picking more albums was met with an unmoving iTunes. I finally just gave up, and unhooked the device.
It turns out that I could have delayed updating the player, as there really was only one candidate for today’s walk music. Icky Mettle by Archers of Loaf is one of the great guitar records of the last twenty years. While it was released in the aftermath of the record industry’s rush to find another Nirvana, it has little to do with that band. Well, let me take that back. Like Nirvana, Archers of Loaf specialized in the explosive, lurching singalong chorus. Unlike that Seattle band, though, Archers of Loaf’s jump into a fourth gear truly comes from a punk rock background and not just the ironic shirts worn by the lead singer.
Icky Mettle was released at a time of change in my life. I was recently divorced, and in the process of moving into a newly-built home. Due to the ever-changing emotions of the time, music was even more important to me than ever...if that’s possible. I was still doing a college radio show, and was inspired by the current crop of DJ’s and staff at my former school’s station (KAUR).
This wasn’t always the case. During my time as music director, I had to deal with a tiny percentage of DJ’s who knew anything about college rock, and in the first few years after graduation the staff cared more about padding their post-college resume than pushing the types of music that wasn’t aired on commercial radio.
That was no longer the case. The staff at this point in time knew exactly the direction the station should point towards, primarily due to a wonderful woman who was the music director. I adored this girl, and we spent many nights drinking beer and listening to records. Archers of Loaf was one of our shared favorites, and when they visited Minneapolis shortly after Icky Mettle came out, a group of us made the trip to the fabled 7th Street Entry.
Honestly, I don’t remember much of the show. I recall being right up front, and hearing every single song that I wanted to hear them do. Most of all, I can remember how the dynamics between quiet and loud were even more extreme than on record...which only makes sense, really.
“Web In Front” may have been the “hit” off the album, but it’s a fantastic disc from start to finish. “Wrong” and “Might” are just as catchy, and the slow build of “Toast” was a song that I can remember jumping around to on that cold night in Minneapolis.
After three more albums, Archers of Loaf called it quits in 1998, but reconvened in January, 2011. Later that year, Color Me Obsessed director Gorman Bechard filmed a couple of concerts at the legendary Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill, NC. After making the film festival circuit over the last few months, the resulting movie, What Did You Expect? The Archers of Loaf Live at Cat’s Cradle will be released on DVD on November 20. But it. You won’t be disappointed.
Here's one of the trailers for this great concert movie.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Walking Rock Alphabet: H

I seriously needed some angry punk rock for today’s adventure, as I made the mistake of venturing to the grocery store on a Saturday. Yeah, I know. I’ve done it plenty of times in the past, though, with little aggravation, and I seriously needed some food in the house...especially when I saw the shape of the steak I was saving for tonight. How could a t-bone look so unhealthy a full three days before its expiration date?
I knew I was in trouble when I had to park at the outskirts of the parking lot, and I should have just turned around that very moment. Instead, I grabbed the iPhone and plugged in the ear plugs and decided to make the best of it.
Within minutes, I was enraged. Generally, one of my favorite parts of grocery shopping is the sightseeing. I love seeing the extremes of our population...not only the beauty but the beasts. The supermarket is generally a minor step below the treats I encounter at Target, but today it was on a par with the messes of Wal-Mart. Entire families of heavyweights were the rule of the day, which usually followed the pattern of a mom spending forever comparing prices, followed by a disinterested father who would rather be ANYWHERE else and at least two unsupervised kids who could drop a load on the floor without their awful parents even noticing.
Normally, I can blot out the presence of these cretins, especially when I have music blasting. Not today. On this early afternoon, seemingly EVERYBODY in this fucking joint had no care for anybody other than themselves. Entire families were causing logjams in the aisles; chitchat between multiple families were making it impossible to move around anywhere! I won’t even bring up my rage wherever there were free samples.
I need somebody to explain how I can have more knowledge of my environment while listening to music, tweeting, and checking email. Why am I the most considerate person in this building? The very thought of me as considerate certainly must have ALL of you spitting out your drink. Yet I seemed to be the only person who would step aside to let a person walk by, or would slow down at the end of an aisle to make sure I don’t run over somebody coming from the next aisle.
By the time I finally was able to get out of this hellhole, I was steaming...even after switching from Sticky Fingers to Never Mind the Bollocks. Certainly there was an album worthy of this anger for today’s walk.
Not today. My choices in the “H” section of my iPhone were a bit limited, and I ended up with an album that couldn’t be further from what I had initially desired. Yet it turned out to be perfect.
My album of today was Hollywood Town Hall by The Jayhawks. As most of my friends know, I went through a huge alt-country/Americana phase from the early 90’s to just a few years ago. While Uncle Tupelo is the band most associated with the rise of this genre (and I do love that band), the ultimate band for me during this time period is definitely The Jayhawks. They are my Replacements of Americana, and it’s not just because they’re also from Minneapolis.
Hollywood Town Hall may have been their third album, but it was the first I ever heard. I was in love the moment I heard that crisp opening guitar riff of “Waiting For the Sun”. The Jayhawks are the Neil Young of my generation, and HTH is their Harvest. Not that it’s as laid back as that album. After all, the band has their roots in the legendary underground Minneapolis scene of the 80’s, so even their laid-back country-rock sound has an edge missing from most bands of their ilk.
It turned out to be the best choice possible for this warm October afternoon. It was so perfect, in fact, that I didn’t even notice that the temperature was way too warm for the flannel shirt that I was wearing. Even though I had just ventured out to the grocery store, I had no clue it was 75 degrees out! 
The sweat began pouring within minutes, but I was determined to make the most of this beautiful day. I ended up walking the longest of this series so far; not only making it through the entire 50 minute album but the vast majority of bonus tracks from the reissue. I’m a proud little butterball curmudgeon today...even if I look like I just ran a marathon. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Live Ledge #84: Anniversaries

With rock 'n' roll now well over a half-century old, every day has some rock 'n' roll history associated with it. This week is no exception. In fact, so much happened on this week's dates that today's show completely ignores the biggest one of the bunch - John Lennon's birthday.
To be fair, we have celebrated the oldest Beatle in previous years, so there's really no reason to do it again. Instead, we concentrate on a few others...and some aren't the best memories. For example, today marks the 34th anniversary of when Sid Vicious woke up from a heroin-induced stupor to find his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen dead from stab wounds. A pretty gruesome story, for sure, but one ripe for a set of Sid tracks.
Today also marked the 41st anniversary of the death of legendary rockabilly pioneer Gene Vincent. Best known for the rock 'n' roll standard, "Be-Bop-a-Lula", Vincent's 50's input rivaled anybody else from that time...or anytime, really. Unfortunately, he was also injured in the car crash that killed Eddie Cochran, and his career was never the same after he recovered.
On a more positive note, this week also marked the 10th anniversary of the release of the first Libertines album, Up the Bracket. Produced by former Clash guitarist Mick Jones, Up the Bracket was one of British releases of the early part of that decade that once again established Rough Trade as a label that deserved attention. While it's not unusual for indie labels to have albums hit the charts these days, back then it was a rare occurrence, and set the stage for plenty of other artists to achieve more notoriety than in previous years. Besides one track from said album, we also heard a trio of covers from a recent NME tribute album.
What else happened on tonight's show? Plenty, really. We discussed Dan Murphy's decision to leave Soul Asylum, debuted new music by The Jim Jones Revue, Ty Segall, and Wanda Jackson, and even took a sneak peak at the just-released single by The Rolling Stones, "Doom and Gloom". Oh yeah, and there's also some tunes from my neighborhood walk soundtracks.
While we had some issues with last week's Live Ledge files, this episode should be easy to grab from the usual online spots - The Ledge iPhone/Android app, Stitcher, iTunes, or...


1. The Hold Steady, Most People Are DJs
2. Old 97's, Timebomb
3. Lemonheads, Pin Yr Heart
4. Husker Du, Eight Miles High
5. Guided By Voices, Chasing Heather Crazy
6. The Rolling Stones, Doom and Gloom
7. Hickoids, Have You Seen Your Mother Baby Standing In The Shadow?
8. Hoodoo Gurus, Like Wow Wipeout
9. The Hard-Ons, Bye Bye Girl
10. Soul Asylum, Cartoon
11. The Quakes, Anti Social Girl
12. The Hypstrz, Let's Talk About Girls
13. Guitar Gangsters, Bad Bad Girl
14. The Hellacopters, Dirty Women
15. Ty Segall, Inside Your Heart
16. Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs, Goddamn Holy Roll
17. The Meteors, I Hate People
18. Allah-Las, Tell Me (What's On Your Mind)
19. Howler, Up The Bracket
20. Splashh, I Get Along
21. Eyes On Film, Horrorshow
22. The Libertines, Boys In The Band
23. The Jim Jones Revue, Where Da Money Go?
24. The Jim Jones Revue, Relentless People
25. Wanda Jackson, Pushover
26. Sid Vicious, My Way (take 2)
27. Sex Pistols, Something Else
28. Circle Jerks, Love Kills
29. The Clash, Stay Free
30. The Damned, 1 of the 2
31. The Ramones, I Want You Around
32. Gene Vincent, Rip It Up
33. Gene Vincent, Hold Me Hug Me Rock Me

The Walking Rock Alphabet: G

The few of you that actually read this silliness may be surprised there is a post this afternoon. After all, I have my Live Ledge internet radio broadcast on in just over an hour. Since I had just enough time to do my walk, and had been forced to skip yesterday due to an interview for a future Ledge program, I decided I had to put in the effort this afternoon. Expect a short entry, though, as I need to get ready for my show.
Today’s choice was another obvious one. The Clash, after all, are the “only band that matters”, and Give ‘Em Enough Rope is an important album in my musical life. While I had a couple of Clash singles, at this point I knew the name more than the actual music. Their debut album had not been released in this country at this point, and the import version would come a few months later. 
In the official history of the band, this album comes under a lot of scrutiny, primarily because of their choice of Sandy Pearlman as producer. Known primarily for his songwriting and production work for Blue Oyster Cult, Pearlman certainly applied some “real rock” techniques to the album. While early Clash recording were crude and relied on few overdubs, this album saw Mick Jones record multiple guitar parts, and Joe Strummer reportedly was forced to record take after take for his lead vocals.
Yet to this Midwestern teenage moron, this record was a revelation. Besides the power and intensity that marked the band’s sound until London Calling, I know there were no other albums in my collection that dealt with Central America, airplane hi-jackings, and Middle Eastern terrorism. Ok, maybe I had a disc or two that referred to a drug bust, but nothing as explicit as “Julie’s Been Working For the Drug Squad”.
While I was immersing myself in this new sound that was percolating in London, New York, and other places around the world, this was really the album that cemented in my mind that there was more to rock ‘n’ roll than the Molly Hatchet/Kansas/Styx dreck that I was forced to endure on my after-school pot smoking excursions in Tuthill Park.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Walking Rock Alphabet: F

Today’s choice was a no-brainer, although a visit from my nephew almost made my walk not happen. Luckily, my son was home and they were off in video game land, giving me the hour I needed to head out on this PERFECT fall day.
My album of the day is by far the longest of this little project, but it just had to be chosen, and given the weather conditions I had no worries I’d make my longest venture to date. The recording in question? Folker, Paul Westerberg’s 2004 masterpiece. 
A masterpiece? Yes. Sure, it’s no Let It Be, Tim, or Pleased to Meet Me, Westerberg’s legendary Replacements albums. As far as his solo career, however, Folker tops the list, and was not only my favorite album of 2004 but my choice of Album of the Decade!
It’s certainly not for everybody, particularly since it is one of Paul’s home recordings where he plays every instrument (including somewhat annoying plodding drums). Among the Westerberg faithful, Mono’s garage band sound quite often gets the nod, while that album’s folk-ish companion, Stereo, contains many of his best solo songs.
It’s Folker for me, though, primarily because of the album’s full sound. While many of his one-man band albums sound like first-take demos, Folker is almost lush. Or as lush as a person can get fiddling around in his basement. Ignore the drums. They are shit, and I’m sure Paul would admit to such. His guitar playing is top-notch, and the layered mix of electric and acoustics are on a par with anything he could have recorded in a “real” studio.
None of that would matter if the songs were garbage, and anybody reading this would know my answer to that. With the exception of a throwaway opener (“Jingle”), and a mid-album lull (“$100 Groom” and “23 Years Ago”), these are all top-notch tracks. In fact, I’ll take the six-song stretch run after “23 Years Ago” up against even the best Replacements half-album. The melodies are strong, the wordplay is typical top-notch Westerberg, and the album flows from power pop (“As Far As I Know”) to folk-rock (“What About Mine”, “How Can You Like Him?”) to Faces-ish raunch and roll (“Folk Star”).
Speaking of Westerberg, yesterday Rolling Stone released their full interview with him regarding that upcoming reunion EP with Tommy Stinson, and I’m starting to believe he’s ready to crawl out of his suburban Minneapolis home (I hope, at least). You should all head over there and read it, as it’s full of some great self-deprecating lines about himself, Slim, Tommy, and “the R word”. He even has a tongue-in-cheek response to Color Me Obsessed:
“I recognized most of the people, and some of them I thought, How dare you, you shameful so and so? Why don't you get a life? I was embarrassed by it more than anything, I guess. Wouldn't you be, if a movie described every little intricate thing about your life? That thing, the R band, the 'Mats, they don't even really belong to us anymore.”
Great stuff, and I’ll be posting more on the EP to benefit Slim as further news comes out. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Walking Rock Alphabet: E

It would have been very easy to skip today’s little romp. Besides a return to chilly temps, a serious breeze had been blowing all day. Combine that with way too little sleep last night and a shit day at work, my couch was calling for me.
Yet I had to make it out, as my day started with a great message from a friend. Let me speak for a second about my buddy, Jason. A Ledge listener from the very beginning, he took time off from a business trip to Omaha to drive up here to cohost an episode with me. 
Jason had mentioned that he was contemplating duplicating this rock ‘n’ roll exercise format, but he hadn’t written for fun in years. I encouraged him to just join blogger and get the ball rolling, and this morning I received a message that was live! Congrats, buddy.
Today’s musical selection was an easy choice, as yesterday marked what would have been Johnny Ramone’s 64th birthday. Unfortunately, my “E” choice, End of the Century, was Johnny’s least favorite Ramones album, and was also the record that created the lifelong personal issues with vocalist Joey Ramone.
End of the Century was the band’s fifth album, and marked a relatively huge change in their sound. Well, to be completely honest, any change from the template that made them legendary and semi-famous would be a huge change.
Most of these alterations to their sound was due to the controversial and contentious hiring of Phil Spector to produce the album. It was reportedly Joey’s dream to work with Spector, but the rest of the band quickly grew tired of Spector’s quirks. It is a bit unsettling to hear the double-tracked drums on “I’m Affected”, or the wall of guitars used on many tracks...not to mention a version of “Chinese Rocks” that pales next to the already-released Heartbreakers version.
I’m willing to sit through any of the album’s deficiencies for one track on this record, and that is the cover of “Baby, I Love You”. Primarily known due to The Ronettes’ 1963 hit version, this is in my eyes Joey’s finest vocal performance of his career. Never known for his range, I’ll take the sincerity and emotional outpouring over any of the multi-octave technical divas that plague the charts these days. (It’s safe to say that this was due to the ongoing issue with Johnny “stealing” his girlfriend had much to do with this performance.)
Back to “Chinese Rocks”. This may shock a good percentage of you that know me from afar, but one of my two public vocal performances was on this song. Let’s go back to the mid-90’s and my friends in Violet, my favorite local band. Most of the members were also in a Johnny Thunders tribute band, and I had been invited to sing along at one of their shows. 
This isn’t the performance I’m talking about here, though. Sometime around this time, Violet was playing the Pomp Room, and I was told ahead of time they were going to throw in a couple of tunes from the Thunders catalog in their set...including “Chinese Rocks”.
It should be pointed out that this was at the peak of the Sioux Falls music scene, where not only did we see tons of great national acts hit our city but at least a half dozen local bands were drawing up to 1,000 people on a regular basis. This was one of those nights. 
A few minutes before it was time for “my” song, I hit the bar for a couple of shots of courage and made my way to the side of the stage. The next five minutes were a blur, and the next thing I know I’m jumping off the stage...and spraining my ankle! What a fucking dork!
Limping along to the bar for some “pain medication”, an acquaintance stopped me and said, “I didn’t know you were a singer!” “I’m not”, I laughed as I carried on to get my whiskey-coke. So ends my music career.
Back to End of the Century. As I stated earlier, it’s not generally listed along with the great albums of their career, and that’s too bad. It has its deficiencies, but it also has “Danny Says”, “Let’s Go”, “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School”, and “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio?”. Nobody can argue that those aren’t career highlights.

Monday, October 08, 2012

The Walking Rock Alphabet: D

What a difference a day makes (again)! After trudging out in winter clothes yesterday, my journey today happened in nearly 70 degree weather! No jacket necessary, bitch!
So we’re up to “D”, and I had a number of potentially great albums to choose from, including classics by Sonic Youth, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Grandpaboy (aka Paul Westerberg), Jawbreaker...the list goes on and on. I decided to go with another overlooked classic - Damned Damned Damned, the debut album by The Damned (obviously).
It is strange to me just how under-appreciated this band is these days. Not only were they first UK punk band to release a single (“New Rose”), but this album was the first punk album to make the UK charts. Plus, they were the first band to attempt to bring their music to America, and their theatrical stage presence helped set the stage for the goth movement of the 80’s.
Let’s go back to that point about coming to our fine country. Unless you were a chart-topping arena rock band, there was little to gain from British rock bands to hit the U.S. It was tough enough for punk bands to perform in their home country, as evident by the disastrous Sex Pistols tour that saw 25 of 26 shows cancelled (or something like that). At least the cities in the UK were relatively close to each other. 
It’s another thing to try to conquer a country as big as the U.S., especially when you can count the number of cities that had even a small resemblance of a punk rock scene at that point of time. New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco...and where else? 
As can be expected, the tour was a disaster. The impetus for hitting our shores was reportedly to find a record deal, and that didn’t happen. Frustrated, drummer Rat Scabies left soon after they returned to Britain.
Back to Damned Damned Damned, though. While they may not have found that elusive US record deal (the album wasn’t released here until 1989), this album set the stage for their entire career. Scabies’ Keith Moon-ish intensity on drums, Captain Sensible’s guitar-ish approach to bass, Dave Vanian’s spooky vocal style, and Brian James’ take-no-prisoners, Stooge’s-ish lead guitar all combine to create a furious wall of sound perfectly captured by producer Nick Lowe.
The singles (“Neat Neat Neat” and “New Rose”) may get all the attention here, but there’s not a bum tune to be found here. “Fan Club”, “Stab Your Back”, “1 of the 2”, and “Feel the Pain” are also noteworthy, but to fully experience the album one should purchase the triple-disc 30th anniversary version that also includes covers of The Beatles (“Help”), The Stooges (“I Feel Alright”), and The Who (“Circles”), along with b-sides, outtakes and live tracks. 
Needless to say, though, but my venture out on this warm, fall day was only the original version. I’m not yet ready to even think about extending these walks to include bonus material.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Rural Ledge-ucation #73: Happy Birthday Tommy Stinson

Tommy Stinson turned 46 yesterday, so it only made sense that I turned Rural Ledge-ucation into a birthday celebration. Besides a few Replacements tracks, we sampled some tracks from his days fronting Bash & Pop and Perfect, along with tunes from his two solo albums, Village Gorilla Head and One Man Mutiny. As always, there's a few rarities thrown in, including covers of The Clash and Undertones.
Of course, we also had to discuss the exciting news that Tommy and Paul Westerberg have recently reconvened to record four covers for an EP to assist in paying for guitarist Slim Dunlap's medical bills. As you may expect, I'm extremely excited by this project, and will bid whatever it takes to obtain a copy.
Grab this from the usual sources, including the iTunes store or Sititcher, or...

1. Bash & Pop, Fast and Hard 
2. The Replacements, Sixteen Blue 
3. The Replacements, Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out 
4. The Replacements, I Hate Music 
5. The Replacements, Satellite  
6. Bash & Pop, Never Aim To Please 
7. Bash & Pop, Friday Night (Is Killing Me) 
8. Bash & Pop, Harbouring A Fugitive 
9. Bash & Pop, Making Me Sick  
10. Perfect, Better Days 
11. Perfect, Alternative Monkey 
12. Tommy Stinson, Hateful  
13. Tommy Stinson, Teenage Kicks 
14. Tommy Stinson, Not A Moment Too Soon  
15. Tommy Stinson, Match Made In Hell  
16. Tommy Stinson, Zero To Stupid  
17. Tommy Stinson, It’s A Drag
18. Tommy Stinson, Don’t Deserve You 
19. Tommy Stinson & Friends For Done To Death, You Can't Always Get What You Want 

The Walking Rock Alphabet: C

I’m back! I bet most of you thought I had already dropped this whole exercise idea. Nope! I had no time to walk on Friday due to Live Ledge, and I had other things going on yesterday. Here I am today, though, braving the elements on this chilly Sunday afternoon.
I’m not cold, though, as one of my errands yesterday consisted of actually purchasing clothing conducive to this kind of activity. Shocking, I know! Instead of freezing my balls of during today’s romp, I was actually sweating a bit.
Enough about me – what about today’s soundtrack? Having a couple of days off made me go through the various albums that start with the letter “C”. My initial idea was the self-title Clash debut, and then I moved on to Paul Westerberg’s Come Feel Me Tremble. Ultimately, I went with one of the most under-appreciated albums by Neil Young, Comes a Time.
Why this album? Simple. Two weeks ago, I purchased Young’s new autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace, and I finally started reading it a couple of days ago and am finding it impossible to put down. It’s not a typical autobiography. It’s not chronological, nor does it cover every little aspect of his life. It’s almost a cross between Keith Richard’s Life and Bob Dylan’s Chronicle…with one major difference.
Unlike almost all rock stars, Neil Young’s life is much more than his art. Like his art, though, he has an oar in many, many boats. Besides his steady pattern of record releases, Neil is also attempting to create new forms of audio playback, automobile fuel, and model train technology. He’s spending his own money on each of these innovations, but in his mind the need is more important than his personal fortune.
As a music fan, I’m most interested in his audio work. Young has long been an opponent of mp3’s, and has created a playback system called PureTone that is supposedly a format that comes close to recreating the original sounds created in the studio. Most of the promotion of his book, in fact, has been about PureTone, including unveiling a stereotype player on Letterman last week.
While a huge percentage of the early pages of Waging Heavy Peace is dominated by his non-music work, the music sections are fascinating as he jumps around from his work with Crazy Horse, CSNY, Buffalo Springfield, and every other musical lineup and genre that has been a part of his career. It’s also worth noting that Young wrote this book in the months immediately after quitting both booze and pot. Besides his recollections of his life, he also has worries about not only his health but whether he would be able to create once again after dropping those crutches. (The answer must be yes, as there is a new album, Psychedelic Pill, in three weeks.)
Back to Comes a Time. As I said earlier, it is one of the most overlooked albums of his career, but it is probably in my Top 5. Critics at the time complained that it was a second-rate rehash of Harvest, but in many ways I feel that it may be even better than that album. One reason is that for the first time in years, it feels like a coherent album instead of the multiple sessions and lineups of albums such as American Stars & Bars and Zuma.
Bookmarked by two great covers, Goffin & King’s Goin’ Back and Ian Tyson’s Four Strong Winds, Comes a Time is the prototype album for an Americana genre that had yet to be named. In fact, I could see a band like The Jayhawks recording a song-by-song tribute to it. Country-tinged folk-rock, full of acoustic and steel guitars, and featuring some lovely harmony vocals by Nicolette Larson, the album turned out to be a surprisingly perfect album for a nice walk amongst falling leaves and fellow walkers.
So I have indeed made it to one of the letters in my name, and the plan is to carry on…for a little while, at least. What will be tomorrow’s musical accompaniment? It’s hard to say, as there are plenty of candidates in the “D” section of my library. Check the site out tomorrow night to see…or to just point and laugh at me.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Live Ledge #83: Odds & Sods

After the "blah" week I had, I didn't feel up to creating some sort of grand theme. Hell, I barely felt up to doing a show. That means that this week is an "odds and sods" type show, with just a bunch of new and old tracks thrown together. Included in the mix, though, are two songs from the upcoming Titus Andronicus album, Local Business, which will be released on October 23. Add to that some bitching and moaning from Scott about home construction, the weather, and the godawful Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominations and you should find tonight's show a little bit entertaining.
Grab this from the typical spots, including Stitcher, iTunes, and Scott's android/iPhone app, or...


1. Grandpaboy, Get A Move On
2. Eddie Spaghetti, Hey Sexy
3. Grant Hart, The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill
4. Frank Black, I Could Stay Here Forever
5. Television Personalities, I Was A Mod Before You Was A Mod
6. Felt, I Worship the Sun
7. F.U.2, Sniffin Glue
8. My Bloody Valentine, You Made Me Realise
9. Shoes, She Satisfies
10. The Barreracudas, Don't Roll Your Eyes
11. Gentleman Jesse, Eat Me Alive
12. The Exploding Hearts, I'm a Pretender
13. Avail, Pink Houses
14. Goo Goo Dolls, Million Miles Away
15. Circle Jerks, Put A Little Love In Your Heart
16. The Forgotten Rebels, Save the Last Dance for Me
17. L'Assassins, 7PM
18. The Eyeliners, Broke My Heart
19. Genya Ravan, I Won't Sleep On The Wet Spot No More
20. Against Me!, Bastards of Young
21. Challenger 7, Left Of The Dial
22. fIREHOSE, Revolution Pt. 2
23. Titus Andronicus, Ecce Homo
24. Titus Andronicus, Upon Viewing Oregon's Landscape With The Flood Of Detritus
25. God's Favorite Band, Cut Bait
26. Eddie & The Hot Rods, Till the Night Is Gone (Let's Rock)
27. The Cramps, Garbageman
28. Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Goon Squad
29. The Gories, Outta Here
30. Dwarves, Lick It
31. Gas Huffer, Girl I Need Your Lovin' (Right Now)
32. Agent Orange, Bloodstains
33. Crass, A Rock 'n' Roll Swindler
34. Eater, Debutantes Ball

Thursday, October 04, 2012

The Walking Rock Alphabet: B

Here's a little warning for day two (or is it "day B"?) of my little project. There will be more whining about the weather, which is something that I dread to see coming from my typing fingers. I've always hated the cliched "how about this weather" conversations that seem to dominate every casual chat the "normals" have in public. Will I be transforming from an ageing hipster wannabe to a typical middle-aged Midwestern drone?
Now that I've warned you, here's the weather griping. Yesterday, the problem was that it unseasonably hot - over 80 degrees! Surely today wouldn't be much different, or so I thought as I dressed myself this morning. Since I don't listen to local radio or view those godawful TV news, I wasn't aware of a cold front coming into town. Imagine my surprise when I was confronted with temps in the mid-30's!
I still expected the weather to improve, but when my workday ended it was still roughly half the temp of yesterday. Oh well. I threw on a jacket and grabbed the iPhone to pick out today's selection.
There's a lot of great albums that start with the letter "B", but today I was in the mood for the classic Bad Music For Bad People by The Cramps. In some respects I'm cheating, as it is a compilation of their early singles. Fuck that. Bands like The Cramps deserve some bending of the rules.
As I make my way off my property to the scintillating reverb of "Garbageman", my mind races back to the announcement of the finalists for the next induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What a pile of bullshit! Randy Newman? The Meters? Chic? Rush? Kraftwerk? Procol Harum? Donna Fucking Summer?
Awful. Just awful. Sure, I am a fan of Joan Jett, but is she really a hall of famer? I also am an admirer of Kraftwerk, but this isn't the krautrock Hall of Fame. It's the ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME! Let's keep out electronica, disco, hip hop, etc. They can all have their own gaudy building and overlong celebration specials.
No, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should be all about the guitar and the backbeat. It should be sweaty degenerates causing your ears and loins to react on primal instinct. It's about 2 1/2 minutes of debauchery, not thirty minute guitar and drum solos.
In other words, today's soundtrack should be blasted 24 hours a day in that gaudy Cleveland building. Few bands of the last three decades can even dream of coming close to the raunch and primal animal roll Lux Interior, Poison Ivy, and anybody else who dared to share the stage.
Bad Music For Bad People is exhibit one of why The Cramps is one of the Hall's worst snubs. Songs like "New Kind of Kick", "Goo Goo Much", "Human Fly"...the entire album is perfect! Their sound is the history of rock and roll in a blender - 50's juvenile delinquent rock 'n' roll intensity, 60's surf guitar, and 70's punk rock rawness with lyrics of blatant sex and drugs. I dare anybody to make it through this album without wanting to do shots of booze, shoot or snort some illicit substances, and do things in the bedroom that would have you arrested in 46 states.
Settle down, Scott. You are walking the mean streets of Sioux Falls suburbia. Let's just say that it's no energy drink I'm consuming now that I have successfully completed day two of my (almost) daily Rock Walk! 

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Walking Rock Alphabet: A

I am a fat fuck.
There, I said it. I'll be completely honest here. While I was a tiny little chap as a youngster, I've had a beer gut my entire adult life. Given my hatred of beer, I don't know how this is possible.
Well, I do know the reason. I'm also a lazy sod. I drive everywhere I go. I spend most of my day either sitting at a desk or lying on a couch. I eat shitty food and live on caffeine.
Yet I'm not giant-sized. Somehow, despite all of the terrible attributes listed in the above paragraphs, I'm just chubby (or so I believe). I've even maintained the same weight (give or take a few pounds) for the last twenty years.
I've decided it's time to do something about this situation. Why, I don't know. Could it be due to the significant birthday I didn't celebrate three weeks ago? Or is it some psychological response to my summer-long home improvements? Who knows, but earlier this week I decided something needed to be done...and soon. After all, shouldn't my body shape match the compliments I get on Realpunkradio about having a "panty-melting voice"?
The dilemma, however, is what exactly is realistic for me to accomplish such a feat. Unlike my friends, I'm no swimmer and doing yoga would ultimately end up as a viral YouTube video. I'm also not a runner. Biking is out as we head into winter. I'm too embarrassed to head to a gym.
In recent years, I have attempted some of those activities, and it's not just the physical aspects that caused me to quit. Exercising is boring. I need an activity that allows me to exercise my mind while improving the rest of me.
It was just yesterday that I came up with a plan that combines exercise, music, and writing (not all at the same time, though). (Almost) every day for the next month or so (and hopefully beyond), I'm going to pick an album for each letter of the alphabet and walk until said album is finished. Day one will be a record that starts with "A"; day two will be "B", and on and on. When I'm done, I am then going to blog about the walk AND the album I've chosen.
Knowing my futility in fulfilling these types of ideas, there's a good chance I won't even make until we hit a letter in my name. If that happens, you can all point and laugh at me...just like you should all laugh at me for doing something lame like walking. Well, screw you all. It's something, and it may lead me to do other things. "May" is the key word.
So today was an unseasonably warm day (80!) and extremely breezy as I stuck in the ol' ear buds. My "A" album? Armed Forces by Elvis Costello & the Attractions, the first Costello album I ever bought as a new release. Almost 35 years later, it is still my favorite Costello album, so it is a natural choice. Plus, it's less than 40 minutes. No way I was going to start this project with a Use Your Illusion-length release.
I could be a cliche and comment on how my inaugural walk is accompanied by Costello's "Oh, I just don't know where to begin" lyric, but I won't. Wait, I just did. Oh well. "Accidents Will Happen", the opening track, perfectly illustrates why this is my favorite Costello album. Nick Lowe's production is simply perfect. I'm a huge fan of Lowe's work with not only Costello but with his own albums, and all of those wonderful Stiff Records releases. Armed Forces is in many ways typical of Lowe's producing work, but is also a bit of a departure. The emphasis on a perfectly recorded snare drum is prevalent, but Armed Forces is much more lush than what we expected from Elvis at that moment in time.
The production wouldn't matter a bit if these weren't some of Costello's greatest songs. Besides "Accidents", songs like "Oliver's Army", "Party Girl", "Goon Squad" and so many more could and should sit on any career retrospective. There's so much goodness on this album that I had actually forgotten about the pure pop treasure of "Busy Bodies".
Armed Forces is also noteworthy for the emergence of the Attractions. While a bit tentative on This Year's Model, their first full album back Costello, by the time of the Armed Forces sessions the band was on top of their game. Lengthy tours of Europe and the U.S. had obviously cemented their roles as Costello's cohorts, and their live sound at this time wasn't unlike the mysterious "thin white mercury" sound that Dylan and The Band had created on their infamous 1966 world tour.
As I made my way around the neighborhood with these songs ringing in my ears, I discovered my first problem with my exercise/blogging plan. How exactly do I time this activity to end when the album concludes? I pondered this for a bit, and decided to just wing it and hope I come reasonably close to my goal.
At the same time, I was definitely starting to realize that I wasn't dressed for eighty degree weather. It's fucking hot out! So hot that the wind wasn't doing anything but blowing leaves in my face! Plus, it was too sunny to read my twitter while walking! See what I mean about needing to have distractions? It was around this time I decided to just turn around and head back as I was kind of close to the halfway mark of the album.
The walk back was against the wind, which meant I had even more leaves hitting me in the face. About a block before my street, I was still three songs away from finishing. Yes, this loser wimped out, and ended up at home with almost two full songs left.
Did I fail on this first day? I guess I can't say I was 100% successful, but even getting through 90% of the album was that much more than the zero exercise I usually endure. Tomorrow I'll make it through the entire of whatever "B" record I choose...or at least I plan to succeed. Ugh.