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

The Music Blog: The Drop Zone

Some time in 1997 or 1998 I settled down with my then wife to watch some movies at home. Our toddler was with my mom and we had gone to rent movies. We rented a few and both of us really enjoyed Murder at 1600 with Wesley Snipes. Now truthfully, I liked Wesley Snipes movies. Like some types of music or bands we need movies where we don’t have to think, the plot is simple the good guys win and get the girl and that’s the kind of movies Snipes did. I still use “What’s your boggle?” from the Wesley Snipes, Sylvester Stallone movie Demolition Man. It is my favorite question to ask my dog. Now this particular night my wife and I watched this fantastic movie about a murder in the White House. After the movie, my wife, a nurse asked me the question “So I don’t get it. The murder happened in the early hours of the morning not at 4pm. Where does the title come from?” I stood there looking at her and then it struck me all that military time nurses use and said with a straight face, “The White House is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” Yea it still took her a second to realize that should have been common knowledge. I will get back to Mr. Snipes though.

Look I get that I am pretty weird. Sometimes I don’t like a song or a band because of the name of the song or band. I will judge a band based on their name. I know and yea I pay for it sometimes. Had Hootie and the Blowfish not had a huge hit song on their first album I would have never bought a single thing from them. No, this isn’t a story about Hootie, or the blowfish but the band I am writing about was loved by Hootie, and I guess the Blowfish too.  In 1994 Wesley Snipes, yea remember I said I would get back to him starred in the movie Drop Zone.  Now, to be fair as much as I mostly liked Snipe’s movies this one just wasn’t very good, but since the theme centered around skydiving some of the cinematography was breathtaking. There was a song too, a great song that was up tempo and seemed perfect for the movie. That song was about all I took away from that movie, well that and I didn’t want to ever skydive. I searched for the song and found one of those bands with one of those names that I was all not into and had avoided even when other people suggested I give them a try. I had judged them and now here they were with a song that was stuck in my head.  Sure enough the song was on their latest album which had also been released in 1994. The name of the song was Fall Down, the album Dulcinea, and the band Toad the Wet Sprocket. I must have listened to that song ten times before I ever listened to the rest of that cd. Now somewhere my friend Steve who I have known since childhood is squirming because I already know he loves this album. The first song on the album is Fly From Heaven and that song, all by itself made me fall in love with the band. Right about now Steve is nodding his head vigorously in agreement. The song is just that good and for that matter so is the album. If you have never heard the song, find it now and listen. That album I just cherished for a long long time and that was my journey with Toad the Wet Sprocket. I just didn’t need to buy anymore. Then somewhere around 2004 while I was listening to that album for the one millionth time I asked myself why I had never bought another, because I knew they had other really good songs like Walk on the Ocean, All I want and Hold Her Down. The time seemed right so I bought their albums and loved every single one.

Like many fans I follow my favorite bands on Twitter and/or Facebook including Toad the Wet Sprocket and Glen Phillips the sInger and a primary songwriter for the band.  During the pandemic Glen Phillips has put on twice weekly short shows from his home. Each show lasts about 30 minutes and each show allows you to donate money to that day’s charity which he always speaks about. Over the past year he has raised thousands of dollars for charity. He takes requests, sometimes has guests, doesn’t just play Toad songs but also songs that are covers and even songs that he has written lately. He is always kind, patient, great with fans and like clockwork he plays twice weekly. He has helped keep many of us sane, often playing in the daytime for a quick respite from worry and stress and for good causes too. I think that says a lot about him.

Whether he did those things are not I would still love this band that I almost never knew and I owe it all to Wesley Snipes.

Mike out

The Music Blog: Comfort Food

So, if you have ever read any of my music blogs then you will know a few things about me. You know how much I love music, all music of all genres. After all, why else would I have a music blog? You also know that the way I am hard wired has a lot to do with music. My memories are all wrapped up in music, categorized neatly, well actually sometimes chaotically. Most of the songs or bands I rave about have strong memories attached to them; heartbreak, sadness, joy, moments in time all recalled by a song or an album. I know more than a few of you feel the same.

There are few artists I love that don’t have some great memory attached to them, or a memory of a girl or something. It would also be a little disingenuous to say that an artist I love doesn’t have any memory attached to the music.  So, I won’t do that to you.  There is at least one artist who I love though that the memories associated with the artist are completely neutral.  There is no heartbreak, no grief, no sadness, no moment of fun with friends, nothing scary or tragic.  Every memory completely neutral and maybe that males a little sense considering the artist.

I remember hearing the song Sweet Baby James on the radio. I was young, nine or ten years old. It was so easy to sing, rock a bye sweet baby James. It was just a great song, and still is. I remember talking about James Taylor and Carly Simon and thinking with my young brain that the two of them being married made sense. They should have been married. As far as memories go that’s about it.

When my parents went shopping and offered to buy me an album, meaning one album, there were usually 10-20 albums I could think of before any James Taylor. Later, after I was working and making my own money and deciding how to spend, James Taylor also wasn’t high on my list.  Yet , he always had songs on the radio, great songs that you could not help but sing along to; songs like Fire and Rain, How Sweet It Is, Shower the People,  and Handy Man to name just a small few. James Taylor always seemed to have a song on the radio and no matter what was going on in the world or in your life you could stop and sing along, or drive and sing along. For just those brief few minutes you could leave the world behind.  The music of James Taylor is like comfort food.

In 1991 James Taylor released the album New Moon Shine. Right about now you are saying so what? I said that like in 1969 we landed on the moon. It is significant though because for the first time I walked into a music store and bought it. Me buying an album not surprising right? This time though I walked into that store with the purpose and intention to buy that album. I had fallen in love with the song Copperline; in fact it’s still my favorite James Taylor song. Buying that album made me wonder why I hadn’t bought a record of his before. From that point on I did start to slowly build up my collection of his works.

James Taylor isn’t flashy, he never has been. The nice thing for me is that the music doesn’t make me remember things that happened long ago. I can just listen to his music sing along and fill myself with harmony, a lot like comfort food.

Are you ready?

Think about your favorite comfort food, chicken and dumplings, soup on a cold day, your mother’s meatloaf maybe even some amazing chicken fried steak.

Here we go, the albums of James Taylor.

Mike out

The Music Blog: Come Sail Away

There are about a million things about music that I just love. When I was in college, I met people from all over the country, although for some quirky reason Illinois people and I seemed to gravitate towards each other. I was always sort of surprised to find that the music we each grew up with was different even though we all loved rock music primarily. In high school we were sort of homogenous in that regard, everyone mostly listening to the same bands so that if you got into someone’s car you could expect they were playing the same music you had in your car. Now that isn’t to say that there were not some small differences. I had a friend who loved Molly Hatchet something that still makes me scratch my head. Hey at least it wasn’t Zappa, right? My friends from Illinois listened to and loved bands that were bands I liked but not really bands that I just loved.  Back in the 70’s a band could be fairly successful, have gold albums without being huge nationally or internationally.  One band that they loved and that I loved was Styx.

          It took Styx a while to become a huge nationally famous band. Their first 3 or 4 albums sold well but not enough to really be a national hit. This really began to change to me when they added Tommy Shaw. Tommy Shaw was not an original member of Styx, but he grew so much in importance and prominence that it was hard to tell the difference. Styx finally hit it big with the album The Grand Illusion when I was in junior high. Up until that time, I had never heard of Styx and had you told me it was their first album I would not have questioned you. Oddly enough The Grand Illusion was their 7th release. I loved that album, still do although its really hard to sing along to Come Sail Away without slipping into an Eric Cartman voice. Maybe that’s just me.   The follow up album was Pieces of Eight. Friends loved that album and always wanted to play it when they would see that album at my house. I loved the song Blue Collar Man which is one of my favorite Styx songs all time.  I still am not too crazy about that album and  a lot of friends still love it. Some things don’t change.

As I moved into high school and later college Styx was one of those bands that just sort of faded for me, replaced by bands that I liked better. I was really upset that my high school senior class decided to make Best of Times our Senior song. Gag spew vomit hurl hurl hurl. That’s an industry term for gag spew vomit hurl hurl hurl.  I thought the song sappy, stupid and in hindsight probably perfect for any and all high school graduating classes.  While in college Styx broke up and it wasn’t hard to see why. Tommy Shaw and Dennis DeYoung hated each other. Mostly the band was sick of DeYoung’s insistence on silly sappy ballads and concept albums. They wanted to rock. Both DeYoung and Shaw released solo albums within a very short time in almost the same week.  Tommy Shaw delivered a great album with Girls With Guns, a great 80’s rock album with his amazing vocals. DeYoung released an album that seemed to be an attempt to show that he could rock. It really failed to connect with younger audiences and other than the title track which was excellent, Desert Moon reflected the vast chasm between Dennis DeYoung and the rest of Styx.

That should have been the end, but bands like Styx always seem to find new life and usually it’s the same exact way by releasing a greatest hits album. That album was simply too good and soon the band was back together. For me, that album introduced me to songs I had never heard; songs like Suite Madame Blue, and Crystal Ball. I was soon collecting the rest of Styx’s catalogue of music. DeYoung proved that he had not changed and was soon dictating to the other members of Styx how they would move forward. Instead of breaking up the band simply fired him.

Today my feelings towards Styx is as enigmatic as the band. Some days I love them and some days I don’t and a lot of days I find myself a little indifferent. Right now though I feel warmly towards them as I get ready to start playing the music of this band. You can come along for the ride, just make sure to sing like Eric Cartman when Come Sail Away plays.

Mike out