The Wanderer: A Serial Story in Small Parts

When the door chimed, announcing a new customer, or an exiting customer, Maria’s head turned automatically, smile pasted on her face, the lessons of her grandmother, and mother branded into her brain to always smile. So, despite her pain, Maria smiled, and the ordinary man smiled back, only to Maria he didn’t seem ordinary at all.  The man seemed downright strange to her but harmless. For some inexplicable reason Maria felt better as she made her way to seat him.

            “Just one today?” she asked.

            The man made a tsk tsk noise while shaking his head, the smile never leaving his face. “Except for that lazy vagabond laying on your front porch. Believe me, I tried to encourage him in the strongest of words to go somewhere out of sight, that no one wanted to look at his mangy carcass. Really madame, he has the worst habits imaginable and a mind of his own.”

            Maria peeked around the man to see who he was referring to, only to see the most adorable Labrador Retriever she had ever seen, and it appeared, yes he was wearing a polka dot tie. She laughed loudly, “He’s adorable, what a cute little tie he is wearing.”

            “Oh no, please tell me it’s not the polka dot one. He has no idea about fashion and proper attire.”

            “Would you like to eat?” Maria asked hopefully.

            “I am absolutely starving, and I could smell the wonderful food from your establishment for miles.”

            “From here?” Maria sked skeptically.

            “Yes indeed. Is there perhaps a booth where I could sit, somewhere I can watch that mangy mutt?”

            “Of course. This way.”

            Maria led the man to a recently vacated booth, where cleanup was just being completed. From there the strange man had a clear view of the front entryway and the shaded area where the dog in the polka dot tie rested with his head resting on his front paws. The dog’s tail, Maria noticed, wagged when anyone crossed in front of him. She thought that the dog might be the sweetest dog she had ever seen.

            As the man sat, removing his hat, Maria said, “Menus are right there on the table. Can I get you anything to drink?”

            The man laughed and said, “Oh my I think a glass of refreshing iced tea would be perfect. I don’t think I need a menu at all. I have been dreaming of your meatloaf for the last twenty minutes, with some of those wonderful mash potatoes and I think some green beans would be just lovely. If it would not be too much of a bother could the cook whip up a hamburger patio for that rascal laying out there. He may cook it anyway he likes. For that matter, the dog would eat it raw.”

            Maria seemed genuinely surprised. No one had ever described the food at Carlotta’s in that manner. She just knew the man would be disappointed. At least the dog would be happy.

            “I think we can manage a couple of hamburger patties for your dog. Does he have a name?” she asked.

            “Oh, I believe nowadays he is going by the ridiculous name of Rosco. Its as good as any I suppose.”

            Maria smiled and as she did the strange little man could not help but notice the many people that were staring.  Much of the attention centered around a group of tourists from the northeast who had traveled to Cordova to eat at Carlotta’s. For three days this group of friends who took food trips every year had come to Carlotta’s at least twice a day to laugh, carry on and criticize Carlotta’s. Before the strange man had arrived, they had been talking loudly non-stop about everything they had been served. They had criticized the tea, which was much too watered down. They had criticized the coffee which they suspected was three days old at least. They had spat out the soft drinks which had no carbonation at all. The fries were too soggy one day, and raw the next. The hamburgers were horribly overcooked. The meatloaf was the worst conglomeration of food they had ever seen or tasted. The mashed potatoes were watery. The Mexican food tasted more like German food. Everything they had said with horrible derision was said loudly so that the entire staff had heard. Maria had cried all three days after they left. Of all the miserable tourists that had ever entered Carlotta’s this group was by far the worst.  Now they stared at the man who smiled back at them, his eyes twinkling with wry amusement.

            As they finally turned back to their food, suddenly a small thought entered the mind of one of the women, who was named Marge.  She suddenly remembered a moment from her childhood when she had a horrible accident and wet her pants. For days she was laughed at and ridiculed and for over a year she found it difficult to make any friends. For the rest of her school days at different times one of her classmates would remind her and she would be embarrassed all over again. One of the men, named Ted remembered his late wife and how when they had first married his wife had been a horrible cook and he often consoled her as she cried over the terrible meal she had served him.  His wife was now dead, and he missed her terribly. So it went, as one by one this group of friends remembered individually horrible moments from their past. They remembered humiliations, failures, losses, and broken dreams.  Slowly the table grew quiet.

Nearby, the strange man sat unconcerned, sipping his iced tea. He was unconcerned with the lot of them.

            Finally, the group rose to leave, checks in hand and walked to the cash register. Instead of the mean-spirited comments of the days before each wished the cashier a pleasant day.

            Marge though sought out Maria. Embarrassed, her head hung low, she said, “Your café is wonderful, so clean and bright. We have been horrible, and I am so sorry. Your food doesn’t deserve the criticism. Please apologize to your staff for me.”

            As Marge joined her friends and left the café, Maria stood there in shock. Somehow the lady had slipped a new one-hundred-dollar bill into her hands.

The Wanderer: A Serial Story in Small Parts

The storm formed quickly over the mountains, as mountain storms sometimes do. Had there been a casual observer to this rising confluence of cloud and wind, they might have believed the storm’s coming was even preternaturally quick. The sheer power developing in the black gathering clouds might have given rise to flights of fancy that two heavenly angels were fighting among themselves, engaged in some great wresting bout. The tiny flicks of lightning within those clouds slowly gaining in intensity might have brought a wonder that it was God himself angry with some humanly misdeed, an ancient God. The smell of brimstone might have been detected with just a hint of the far away sea. A different kind of observer might have felt the storm was the result of some other worldly presence and somewhere beyond the cloud lurked a strange ship from some distant star. Whatever the source of this storm might have been, the eeriness was set off further by the sound of dogs barking, every dog on the planet.

            The focal point of this storm appeared to be a single location, that place where mountain and desert floor blend perfectly into one singular landscape.  As quickly as the storm formed, the breaking point was like a small bomb going off, intense, as sheets of rain, vertical and horizontal lightning flashed all at once. As with any desert storm, the desert floor soon became treacherous as every gully, dip and dry stream bed became raging floods within seconds. The storm was terrible in intensity and rather than diminish with the breaking maintained this awful power for some time drowning out the dogs who continued to bark from both everywhere and nowhere all at once.

            Out of the midst of this deluge, in fact, the very focal point of the preternatural storm walked a most ordinary appearing man. He might have been as young as thirty-five or as old as fifty. He wore a rumpled golden brown suit which hung about him carelessly. His hair was a wispy sandy color and upon his head was a brown porkpie hat. He carried on his shoulder a weathered backpack by a single strap because a single strap was all there was left. Despite the storm raging about him., he seemed quite carefree. He strolled to a small stand of scrubby aspen muttering that yes, they would do nicely, and there he sheltered. He lifted to inspect first one shoe and then the other, old brown oxfords.  Then he began to whistle a strange almost mournful dirge. He seemed to notice the dogs barking which caused him to smile which broadened when they suddenly stopped. Had they been there at all?

            This ordinary man in his rumpled sodden suit, was soon joined by a dog. The dog was completely normal, in color almost matching the man’s coat. He appeared like any Labrador Retriever, except for the yellow rain boots he wore. The man scoffed loudly when he saw him.

            “You again? Really? You’re the best they could do? Where did you get those ridiculous rain boots? You won’t need them. The storm is passing.”

            “Crikey,” the dog answered, or at least that’s what it appeared he might have said.

            “Well never mind, we must be off. I believe some distance that way,” the man said pointing away from the mountains, “we should find our road. Come along then.”

            The dog waited a moment and then followed, without the rain boots. The unlikely pair never looked behind. This was just their way. They had traveled together before, actually being quite fond of each other. Behind them though, the scrub aspen trees were lush and luxuriant offering ample shelter.

            About twenty-five miles away as the crow flew stood the small town of Cordova. Cordova was like many towns, having never been a boom town. One had to wonder why it existed at all. Exist the town did though, despite dips of misfortune and tiny successes occurring much like ebb and tide.  Located on the desert flat, the storm which had developed over the mountains had not been noticed in poor Cordova. Instead, children and teenagers had gone to school, the bank had opened, and the single teller had done a steady business. The drug store had opened, so too had the hardware store. People gathered at a few spots for breakfast and morning coffee and just to say hello to each other and spread the local gossip. This was small town life. Nothing out of place ever happened in Cordova. Yet the town did have some notoriety, some prosperity and attracted the odd tourist.

            One mile down the two lane black top which served as both highway and main street for Cordova, was Carlotta’s Café, the source of that prosperity, notoriety and of course the odd tourist.  Carlotta’s was much like any café. You could get just about anything at Carlotta’s from typical diner food like meatloaf, to Mexican food favorites to hamburgers and sandwiches. You could get breakfast anytime. The current proprietor was Maria, Carlotta’s granddaughter. Like her grandmother, and mother before her, Maria ran a tight ship. Everything was neat and clean, shiny clean. The kitchen sparkled and despite a steady business was kept that way because Carlotta had insisted. Maria was the third generation to run Carlotta’s Café, yet faced the same dilemma the first two had faced. No matter what was done, Carlotta’s Café served the worst food in the world.   The strangest aspect of this phenomenon was that Carlotta’s was still the local favorite. There were rarely empty plates at Carlotta’s. People came to be amused by how Carlotta’s could mess up even a simple hamburger, or a shaved turkey sandwich. There was a lot of chuckles at Carlotta’s. Maria, just like her mother, Dolores, who was just like Carlotta hated that no one loved the food. Maria was an excellent cook, like her mother and like her grandmother. 

            Over the years, Carlotta, Dolores and Maria had taken over the cooking duties themselves. They had all hired expensive chefs, experienced line cooks, invested in the very best of ingredients and nothing had worked. Maria had hired paranormal experts and discovered nothing. Carlotta’s had been the subject of countless cooking show specials which was the source of the notoriety and the tourism. The lengths in which people would go to amuse themselves knew no boundaries. Maria went home crying many nights and lately was contemplating her options. She was considering hiring someone retired from the military who had experience feeding many people. She was considering changing back to an experienced line cook or even a new chef wanting to find fame. Mostly she was considering closing this place that she really loved but caused her so much pain.  She was thinking this very thought, walking from a table of northerners who had traveled down to eat the bad food and make fun of the cozy café Maria called home when the bell to the door rang, and in waled the ordinary man from the storm.

The Music Blog: The Wrap Up

That’s it, the last cd has played and there isn’t anymore. Of course, you know what I am going to do right? I am going to start over with the letter A and do it all over again, because that’s what I have always done, but for this music blog there is an ending and maybe a new beginning.

I started the music blog portion of my overall blog for a specific reason with a specific goal in mind. You see I am a writer. Whether you want to call me a struggling writer, or a failed writer or any other kind of writer that’s up to you. I wrote my first novel in my 20’s. I still have it unpublished. I co-wrote another, also unpublished. I wrote a novella that is a series and have started a second, and I have started a third. I started the great American novel or that’s what I call it and then grew intimidated by my own writing. I rarely think anything is good that I write, but that is my Mona Lisa. I am stuck on it. I started another book with the same results, The Bonding and I am stuck on it, and back in the perfect vision days I could bludgeon my way through blocks. I find it hard to do that, and harder still to write for more than an hour. I thought that since I was ending the letter Z that people might like a blog to go with the sharing of my music that I have done on facebook for the last ten years. I grew excited about the prospect and wrote three prequel postings to the music blog. I thought that I could grow my blog and attract some new readers and start a project that would have an ending. So with ZZ Top now posted the blog has ended. There were a few grumbles but the more I thought about it the more I was sure that ending the music blog was the right decision. That was the plan all along, to start a project and complete that project. I have completed that task. I have also decided to stop sharing music on facebook, because that process is time consuming, and I really need to spend my limited vision resources doing something more productive. I would really like to submit some of my work again so it can be rejected. Getting published is extremely difficult. Somehow that type of rejection hurts less.

I still don’t know what the music blog has taught me, what it actually means.  I can break the blog into some easy numbers. If you take away the first three prequels, then I wrote the first blog entry for the music blog and posted on June 1, 2019. I wrote the last just a few days ago. From start to finish getting through the music in my collection took 23 months, almost 2 years of my life. In that time, I wrote 83 music blog postings.  In that nearly 2 year period I played 3, 594 albums, all vinyl or cds and that included compilations of bands that I made.  The average readership of the postings was 5. On average 5 people read the postings I made. The most widely read posting was titled Melsie, which will tickle my friend Melissa to no end since this was about her and the quirky timeless friendship we have.  There were 22 of you who read that post. There were none who read my post on Evan Dando.  There are 11 posts which had only a single reader. In effect when I felt like no one cared enough to read I had ample evidence to support my feeling.

I have grown used to rejection of my serious work, the work that was submitted to publishers even the times when clearly they took my offering from one envelope and placed it in the return envelope and sent it back as soon as they received the package without reading it at all. Some never came back at all. This rejection though was expected and I knew up front getting published is hard. The rejection I felt sometimes over my music blog was much more personal.

Why, you might ask? I decided early that anyone could give you details. Hey this band was formed in this location by these people and they recorded this many albums. I tried to do more than that. In fact, I gave you part of my soul with each writing. There were some entries so difficult that I felt drained afterwards. At times I had to weigh whether I really wanted to share what I was sharing and open myself up to ridicule or criticism. I shared anyway. I worked hard, harder than I should have because I am passionate and in love with all of this music, except for Zappa. That guy, yikes.  I wanted to open your minds, introduce new sounds and emotions to you and impress upon you just how much the process meant to me. I failed. There is no other way to really look at it. I failed to capture your imagination your love. Sometimes you commented. Those lifted me. Sometimes you liked a post and made me smile, gave me hope. Other times it felt like any failure except that I would open myself up all over again.

I don’t know what it all meant. I struggle with that.  I succeeded in that I met my goal of completing this project but really failed in every other aspect.

Where do I go from here?

The blog domain stays the same. There will be a new direction. I have something creative in mind, a serial story. I hope its easy writing and whether you read or not won’t matter quite as much. Don’t get me wrong, I still plan on giving this full attention in the moment and then I will move on. I will have more time to finish a short story I am working on and then maybe bludgeon my way through some of those other blocks.

For the last time (at least this version) Mike out

The Music Blog: That Little Band From Texas

December, 31  1980

I was half-way through my senior year of high school and was already feeling pretty done with it all.  Just short of my 18th birthday I was ready to move on to something different. High school had mostly made me feel how completely inadequate I was. I never really seemed to fit in. I was athletic, but not quite athletic enough. I was too accepting of everyone, which had only set me up to be lumped into categories and name calling, which were not true, but still struck cruel blows anyway. I had little confidence and was already afraid that the world was not going to be different once I moved on. I also can’t say that New Years eve, the promise of a new year had ever meant anything to me. It still does not. Rosh Hashanah has so much more meaning, so much more promise.

I don’t remember New Year’s eve being any more special than any other night. I remember being home more and watching things on television rather than party hopping. We were kids though, and anytime we went out that meant driving around and going to parties if there were any.  My friend Guy had tickets to a concert though and I was going with him.  Going out with Guy, could be a raucous affair and Guy usually made pretty good plans. Neither of us were the legal drinking age, which was 18 at the time in Texas, like that could stop us. The band was one I had seen before and I enjoyed seeing live. We were expecting a really good time.

Guy picked me up early in his Trans Am that he drove like a mad man, which always had me laughing hysterically and holding on for dear life. The show was at Reunion Arena in Dallas which was a new venue but I had already been to a few shows. We were up high but that didn’t bother us and we ended up sitting with some awesome people, all young but older than we were. There were 6 to 8 of them and they were easy to talk to. Like many young people in that situation, they had no problem buying us beer so we settled in and watched the arena slowly filling up with people. For the record, Guy and I may have had a few before we got there.

The Bus Boys were the opening act. We didn’t know who they were, but they had several hits in the 80’s and made it to a few soundtracks. Looking up that concert I recently discovered Rick Derringer was also a part of that show but for the life of me I don’t remember him. The Bus Boys were absolutely great, they had the entire arena pretty much hopping and rockin’. I enjoyed them immensely. They did what opening acts did although Guy and I wondered why they came on so early. When their show was over the lights came up and I noticed that the arena was still filling up. Our new friends got more beer for us and it wasn’t too much longer that the lights went down and the band we had all come to see was on stage, early, way too early. ZZ Top played for about an hour. I say that just to be generous. They came out for one encore and wished everyone a Happy New Year and then the lights came up and everyone was filing out. It was by far the worst concert I had ever seen.  We were home by 10:30. We managed to find a party and hung out for a while. The next day I searched for a review of the show to see if someone had been sick but found nothing.

ZZ Top back then was a rite of passage for any Texas boy. In college I would have friends from other states who reported that ZZ Top was a good rock band, but they were nothing like they were in Texas. They were as much a part of Texas culture as cowboys, Indians, oil and the Dallas Cowboys. Everyone grew up with their music and there likely was not anyone my age who could not rattle off a dozen songs at the drop of a ten gallon hat. Beer Drinkers Hell Raisers was our anthem, our call to battle. When we sang Jesus left Chicago we were sure he would stop in Texas to hang with the bearded boys. Every cover band of 70s rock and roll better have some ZZ Top in their repertoire to play. They just better.

I saw them after a couple of times, and they never disappointed me again. Maybe that night something was happening because they knew how to entertain a crowd and always did.

So let’s play the last of my collection as a shout out to that little band from Texas.

Mike out

The Music Blog: Zola Jesus

As I come to the end of this musical journey, and there most certainly will be an end, and very very soon, don’t be surprised to see me meander. This has been introspective for me since mostly I have been writing to myself.  In the course of my life, I have met many people who state they love music, but the vast majority of these people do not. I feel some raised eyebrows out there. What most people are saying is that they love jazz, or they love rock and roll or they like country music.  When they make these statement, I truly believe they do love music. If you speak to them about music you find yourself in a spinning drain that goes something like this; I love music, actually I love rock and roll, actually I love rock and roll except for this kind of rock and roll and oh that kind of rock and roll too until what you are left with is I love rock and roll but it has to be classic rock, and then classic rock only from like 1965 through 1979.  They don’t really love rock and roll at all. Its more than just not liking a band. Not every band even should be universally liked. I hope this makes sense and I hope that in writing this I am not singling any one person out. I know a lot of people like this, in fact most of the people I meet who say they love music. I think this Is the reason I love my friend Melsie so much, because she really appreciates all sorts of music.

I have made it pretty clear that I do not care for the country music of today. I have listened to it though before I made that statement and even then, there are some country artists, like Kenny Chesney I really love. I am not crazy about the direction hip hop has taken my beloved r&b but I have a lot of that music and I had a co-worker once who played some neo-soul that I just loved. I do not have a lot of that music, but I am recognizing I do not have the resources to do everything to buy everything. Still there are some things happening in music the really make me smile and encourage me, like the Weekend. I just don’t know how you can listen to his music and not be enthused.

I have written all of that as a pretext for this moment. The rise of Netflix has been very good to music. I can watch the show 13 Reasons Why just for the music alone. So it should not surprise you that I discovered Zola Jesus on Netfflix.

One of the shows I have really enjoyed is the science fiction show Another Life. The show stars Katee Sackhoff as a captain of a long-range space faring ship. She is fighting some trust issues with her crew mostly because of a previous posting she had to another ship in which there was an incident in which several crew lost their lives. She has been widely blamed for the accident.  In fact, she followed a procedure to save the ship and most of the crew but the result of that was the loss of some crew. She did everything right but like the crew she has blamed herself. The show only has one season to date and there will be a second season but I do not see everything so its not unusual for me to watch a series two or three times. This show I have seen three. It was the third viewing where I discovered Zola Jesus. There is a moment in which the crew is trying to wake the captain from a cryo-sleep but cannot because she is trapped in a dream loop. She is reliving that accident and trying to change the outcome and until she goes through every possibility she is trapped.  Each time she changes her decision the outcome is worse until there is a slow realization that she has to live with her decision and that she did the best she could. Now we all do this maybe not in dreams, but we all have some regrets, some things we wish had turned out differently. While she is going through these permutations there is a song playing, and the words of that sone kept repeating, “If it doesn’t make you wiser, doesn’t make you stronger, doesn’t make you live a little bit what are you doing?” That song captured the moment so well and I wanted to know who sang the song. So, I searched for the song and found it.

Nika Roza Danilova is an American singer song writer mostly from Wisconsin. She took her performing name from the French writer Emile Zola and some religious guy that you might have heard of (I kid because I care.) I don’t know why I have grown so fond of her. I admire the massive creativity that she has shown in her music which is mostly Goth. She has a big voice and I have watched two live performances on youtube and just loved them. For many, anything electronic means that what is produced is not music. I am sorry that is just not true. There is a mighty creative energy behind her music, and I have been following her on Twitter and she is absolutely an artist, a musician and a tremendous creator and actually a really sweet person who wants the pandemic to end so independent performers like herself can get back to work, get back to what they love doing.

I just love her and her music.

Look, you have many options in this life so why not be open minded and give something new a try. I love the old bands too and I don’t quite obviously sit around listening to tons of new music but its out there and some of it is amazing. Among the things I have learned from this blog is sometimes you gotta shake things up a bit. Search out new music because some of that music will knock your socks off.

Mike out

The Music Blog: The Dreaded Zappa Post

The blog posting you have been waiting for anxiously. Your popcorn is buttered and at the ready. Maybe you have a frosty beverage by your side. Margarita anyone?

Honestly, don’t expect fireworks.

Some time ago, about a million years or so, I wrote something or other about how all music fits neatly for me into four categories; music I love, music I like, music I dislike and music I hate or despise, aka, Frank Zappa. I find nothing redeemable about his music, nothing at all. I have seen various music articles proclaiming him to be a genius, another claiming he is one of the greatest guitarists to ever play the instrument. I don’t care.

A long time ago, I commented on a post or created a post that said pretty much everything I have ever said about Zappa in just a few words. I hate everything about him and his music.  So someone felt he had to prove me wrong and replied and said what about this song. I said everything means everything. So the guy mentions another song and another until I told him to stop because I was ready to unfriend and block.  Honestly, I didn’t care that the dude loved Zappa, I was annoyed because he just kept trying to prove me wrong. I don’t care.

Like any artist I have ever made a statement about, I did not come to this decision because of a single song. I listened to a lot of Zappa.

So since I have mentioned my absolute disgust for this so called artist in nearly every blog posting I have made, you have a right to know why I feel this way.

Remember this is my opinion and if you feel differently that’s just fine with me. We can still be friends.

Music to me needs a melody, needs something to bring you along with it, to carry you to a place.  Zappa treats music like a gigantic joke. Look I am not a big fan of Weird Al Yankovick either but some of his stuff is down right funny but you also know he is trying to be funny. Most of Zappa’s music seems to have the goal of convincing you that he has produced a work of genius. I believe Zappa sat in a room and tried to make something horrible as a gigantic experiment to see what he could sucker into buying. He serves up rotten food with a smile and has you convinced that it’s a gourmet’s delight. That goes for Zappa disciples like Captain Beefheart as well. I can see him sitting in a room, guitar in hand, thinking how bad can I make this and still convince people to buy it. He treats it as a joke. Did he somehow produce some gems out of this chaos? No, he didn’t and that’s what separates him from artists I dislike. They still have songs I tap my feet to or sing along. Zappa doesn’t even give you that. Whether its his work with Mothers of Invention or later solo work, thare is nothing he has done that I respect or remotely like.

That’s how I feel about Zappa the clownstick. Now I don’t get a lot of comments on my blog. Seriously I only have four regular readers but if you somehow read this and decide that you are going to prove me wrong then I have the right to publish all comments or not. I have only once not published someone’s comments and that’s because the person was a wacko (clinical term). So there you have it.

Mike out

The Music Blog: Bakersfield

When I was a kid evening life meant gathering around the television watching shows your dad selected. This was a pretty common occurrence on the block. I was about ten years old when my parents bought me a small black and white television but even then, most nights the family gathered around and watched something together at least for a while. One of the shows my dad really liked and really everyone liked was Hee Haw.  It was a fascinating show full of Opry, and comedy and of course was really centered on the talents of two men who always seemed part musician and part comedian. My dad loved Roy Clark and every time Roy played he marveled at how amazing a musician he was. Who didn’t like Roy Clark, the sheer talent and brilliance of how he played. It was that other guy though who I loved. I don’t know if it was the red, white and blue guitar, his band the Buckaroos or that my mom always joked that he was so ugly he was cute, but Buck Owens was the reason I sat and watched. I waited for Buck to have his one song with his band that he got. I knew absolutely nothing about who he was, figured he was some low-level country star that had found a home on Hee Haw. It would be years before I knew better. Eventually I just became more and more introverted, wanted to spend more and more time alone in my room listening to my music and watching my shows and dreaming my dreams of having girlfriends who in reality would never notice me. We all grow up a little and grow apart.

I am deeply sorry if I have ever trapped you in a conversation about music. While everybody may love music to some extent or another, I can get a little nutty. I want to know what connects bands, the back stories, the breaks they got, the inner struggles and the inner demons. I love it all and at different times in my life I have been in love with pretty much every genre there is. I grew up listening to country music, its all my dad played and its all he plays now so naturally at different times I have loved country music. I have some strong opinions about today’s country. I am not a fan, and I certainly don’t really enjoy the bubble gum country and wanna be rock stars.

In 1988 Dwight Yoakam released his third album Buenos Noches From a Lonely Room. I liked Dwight, I liked that he was not so much a Nashville driven musician, and I loved his voice.  That album though really made me a fan and really made me love Dwight. That album and the song Streets of Bakersfield took me back to a guy with a red, white, and blue guitar. It was the first time I realized there was a connection between Buck Owns and Dwight Yoakam that went beyond a song on the radio. That guy who I believed in my young mind to be a minor country star had in fact been a big star and who along with others, most notably Merle Haggard, rebelled against the Nashville polished country scene to create something different, harder, more electric with a back beat and a drive like rock and roll. Buck Owns helped make the Bakersfield Sound.

Dwight Yoakam may have been born in Kentucky and raised in Ohio, but his musical roots were formed and forged in Los Angeles and was as diverse as you could imagine including punk music. He had moved to Los Angeles because Nashville had rejected the hillbilly honky tonk country he was playing. He found a home in Los Angles so no wonder he would form such a powerful relationship with Buck Ownes and the sound of Bakersfield.  He is one of my absolute favorite musicians. I absolutely adore his music and yea I can hear a whole lot of Buck when I listen to him. As you might expect he has paid homage to Buck including an entire album devoted to Buck. Now if he would only play a red, white and blue guitar.

Mike out

The Music Blog: Who Cares?

So I guess given the title and where we are you are probably guessing which band this blog is about and that I might just not like this band very much. If you are thinking the Who then you would be right on both accounts. But since I really don’t like them, not quite Zappa level and many of you do then you at least ought to get an explanation.

To be honest, I don’t really owe you an explanation. I have spent a long time bashing Frank Zappa so when we get to the letter Z you can be sure I will lay it all out for you and you can either agree or disagree. The Who is different though. There are lots of bands I don’t like. I have certain rules that I like to keep regarding bands I don’t like. Recently I shared on facebook music from four early albums of Kanye West. You see where I am going? Many people can’t stand him and will tell you so and they won’t listen to his music because they have already judged it. It’s rap music, or eeew Kanye he is a horrible person.  I don’t particularly care for his politics for his attention seeking behavior but his early stuff, was sensational. I don’t like the person Ted Nugent is but I don’t throw his albums away which in my teenage years meant so much to me because he is a gun nut and a crazy whack job. That’s a technical term.  I don’t generally make pronouncements about bands without listening to their music because that’s all I am judging.  I decided I didn’t like the Red Hot Chili Peppers only to find how wrong I was. I always have considered that a lesson learned.

Regarding the Who you must understand that I grew up in their hey day for the most part. When I was a kid My Generation and Behind Blue Eyes and Magic Bus, were songs played frequently on the radio. Just of those songs My Generation is the only song I actually like. They might have four or five songs I could say I really enjoy. Some of my reasons are a bit personal. I don’t care for Roger Daltry including his voice.  To me he always seemed to be measuring himself and trying to emulate or outdo Robert Plant. Pete Townsend many consider a tremendous guitarist but to me he seemed to have a huge chip on his shoulder. I can see where it was probably not easy to live in a country the size of England and have guitarists like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, David Gilmour and George Harrison. Townsend is nowhere close to those guys in ability.  He also seemed to be in love with the power stance and stage theater and maybe this was because he was in a band with Keith Moon.  I think Keith Moon was an amazing drummer like a mad scientist full of uptempo jazz with the heart of mad rock and roller. It’s a shame he died when he was so young. Another big issue I have with Townsend is that he really is a one trick pony.  Take David Gilmour for example so I don’t have to use Clapton who I think is a bit overrated. You can put an acoustic guitar in Gilmour’s hands and its magic and he is equally good electric. Townsend limited himself by so much electric that you can’t see him any other way. He probably would be great on acoustic or maybe not.

All those criticisms are style critiques but I have already said that I don’t like their music either. Too many concept albums that I just can’t get into. A quick One, The Who Sell Out, Quadrophenia I think are all horrible, too structured and just not good enough from first to last. There are little gems on each of them but to me a great album ought to have more to it than a concept and one or two good songs.  Quite honestly I like the Kinks a lot better.

Now I know I might get pushback. If you like the Who then fine that’s okay with me. I have got at least two days of music for you. I have more than a few albums. I have given them more than a chance and yea Baba O’Riley is a great  great song, probably in my top 50 of all time. I know enough that I grimace when someone calls it teenage wasteland.  So there. I know at least one person who thinks Townsend hung the moon and not Keith Moon either and the Who is one of their real all time favorite bands. To each their own.

Mike out

The Music Blog: Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love

I think every generation believes the music of their youth was the best ever, but my generation’s music really was. Born in 1963 I have been truly blessed to grow up with the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath and a host of others. I literally could go on and on. My generation appreciated album cover art, in fact there are albums I bought because of the cover alone. When Grunge came to life I was of an age where I could really appreciate it, as those guys were my age. No wonder my life is filled with music and it holds such prominence in my life. We all die though, and inevitably that generation of rock stars that I idolized so much are all slowly inexorably dying. Some of those deaths hit me harder than others, and some who will eventually die are going to devastate me. There have been times in my life where it seemed the music I loved was my only friend and when I couldn’t relate to my parents at all I could perfectly relate to the music I listened to. That music comforted me, was the soundtrack to amazing times, and horrible sadness.

Eddie Van Halen died October 6, 2020.

If you had asked me a month or a week before his death what it would mean I am very sure I would have said something like that it would be sad, but I would be all right. I loved Van Halen but I can’t say I lived and died by what that band was doing. I am one of the few who think the band was better with Sammy Hagar than David Lee Roth but I like the band’s music regardless of who was singing. Yes, I ignore the Gary Cherone debacle.

Eddie Van Halen died October 6, 2020.

I was surprised, but my reaction baffled me.  I couldn’t stop crying for hours and was saddened for a week. His death hit me so hard that I had to really think about what it meant and why it meant so much. Everything in my life is tied up in memories all built around music and songs. The grief I felt was about more than Eddie. It was about a memory of kindness, in fact one of the kindest moments that has ever happened to me.

Some time in my freshman year of high school, which in my school district we just called the 9th grade as we were still housed in the junior high, my dad started traveling more and more for work, assisting rural post offices with their accounting problems. More and more he was away from home and more and more the distance between us grew. My mom worked a lot. It did not take a genius to figure out there were problems. Eventually they would separate and divorce. Life happens. On my 15th birthday my mom worked and my dad was out of town. My sister graduated high school that year and was gone from home more than she was home. She had a steady boyfriend, a man she would marry and the father of her two children. I thought Tim was a great guy. It did not take much for me back in those days. He would sometimes buy me and my friends some beer or even a bottle of something stronger if we asked. He would always tell me to be careful. Every time he came over to our house he stopped by my room to say hello.

As I moved into my sophomore year things for me just fell apart. Over the next year they would get worse and really I felt this way until about half way though my junior year and I have never once in my left felt as lost as I did then. The first Van Halen album was released in 1978. I loved that album. High school is not easy for many people. I have a friend my age and high school is literally the best years of her life. My life only got better after high school and that’s true of most people I know. The friends I had in junior high didn’t seem to be as available in high school. I played sports and they didn’t. My sophomore year though I was really the bottom of the barrel athletically. I was picked on a lot. One of the worst was a guy who was an ass to me for three years but his bullying was worse in my sophomore year. One day I was leaving the locker room and was confronted by this jackass who was about double my size. He blocked my way and called me a few names shoved me against a wall and all the while Van Halen’s Running With the Devil was playin weg in the weight room. I was rescued that day by a coach and I went home. I was going to throw Van Halen away and put the album on my bed. I felt so alone. Then Tim walked in just to say hello. He saw the album on my bed and started talking about how great the album was, took the album put it on to play and was air guitaring right there. Just hanging out and it meant the absolute world to me. He loved the song Ain’t Talking Bout Love which is still my favorite song on that album.

Tim died way too young. He married my sister and they had two beautiful, amazing kids. He was not the guy my parents would have picked for my sister. I always loved him no matter what he did. Eventually they would divorce and Tim at a young age had a really big stroke. He was disabled for the rest of his life, He loved his kids a lot though and I think he always loved my sister. I did not see him a lot but when I did he would light up with that big smile and he always had something kind to say.  His ashes are buried next to my mom’s. Whenever I go to pay my respects I always say something kind to Tim.

Eddie Van Halen died October 6, 2020.

Mike out

The Music Blog: Magic Power

Long ago before there was any real conception of something called social media teens gathered in places or went to certain places to find out what was happening. Now don’t get me wrong as we spent a lot of time on the telephone with long twisty cords that would ultimately get so tangled and twisted that no amount of work could get them back to normal. Every town no matter the size had that certain place where you went and sat or did some other activity to see what was going on in your tiny world. Whether it was sitting in the drive in or sitting out front of the dairy queen. If you sat there long enough someone would come by and tell you about a party or where everyone was going. Mine was the carwash.

Our lives, my generation, revolved around the car. It didn’t matter if you drove a Maverick, a Z-28 Camaro, Trans Am, beat up pick up truck or any vehicle of the 70’s. You took care of your car, and that meant you went to the car wash. The carwash is where I met nefarious individuals who sold me ground up weeds from time to time. In the great words of Eddie Murphy, I may have fractured a few laws in my youth. Its where I went when I was bored or looking to get away from my dad and sometimes even my mom. You could pop something into the old 8 track and listen while you did your wipe down, applied armor all and windexed your windows. One day while I was there a guy showed up from a rival school. I knew him slightly. He was playing something that seemed familiar. I was sure of the band but could not name the song. He was a rich kid and had a really awesome car although I cannot remember exactly what he drove. We exchanged greetings and I asked what was playing. I had been right about the band but the album was new, really new. So he turned his up, and I turned mine off and we finished our cars listening to Allied Forces. Every time I hear the song Magic Power its like I am in that car wash again.

Next to ZZ Top, Triumph is my absolute favorite trio. Yes I know about Rush but I am not a big Rush fan. At that time Just a Game was an album I played a lot. I loved the vocals and I loved the drums. I still think Gil Moore is one of the most underrated drummers of all time. I cannot figure out why he isn’t considered one of the great drummers.  Triumph really became my band in college as they were one of the few rock bands I still listened to. The album Thunder Seven was a cruising favorite. Just hop in the car and pop that in and turn it up. They are also a band that I have never gotten tired of. I like them as much today as I did back in the day. I can always measure how much I love a band by the memories they stir up. Triumph stirs up many. I picked up a girl cruising on Arlington’s Cooper St. and she wouldn’t get out of my car when we found her friends. So I drove her home and her mother wanted to know who I was, wanted to see my driver’s license and then called the cops on me. The girl, embarrassed, retreated to her room. The cops were super nice and told the lady she should be thankful that someone was nice enough to drive her daughter home. The girl called me the next day and wanted to go out on an official date. Maybe I should have said yes, but her mom was a freak!! Why do I have that memory because she jumped in my car in the first place because I was playing Never Surrender, a pretty good Triumph song and I can remember that moment like it was yesterday. I couldn’t tell you what that girl looked like but I remember her jumping in my car and shouting let’s go, turn it up. I remember that song.

Now you might think that with memories like that maybe I should try some good old fashioned repression or at least have a little less regard for Triumph. That memory is hilarious to me. She called the cops on me for goodness sake. I shared that story and laughed about it a hundred times. I had friends telling me that’s what I got for being so nice but it was funny. Everyone of those guys I was friends with would have done the same thing and some of them would have said yes to the second date.

So if you like Triumph here we go.I have a fair amount of albums to play.

Mike out