Didn’t He Fight at the Alamo

So I have this friend, beautiful friend, love her to death. Like most people she has flaws. We all do and quite honestly it’s the flaws to me that make people so interesting. Try as we might we can’t be perfect. Now my friend she doesn’t think she has any flaws. She is right about every single thing has to win every single argument and naturally is the best at everything even if she isn’t. You actually can prove her wrong and then she will deny ever saying what she said that you just proved wrong. Yes this can be frustrating.

Me, I am just the opposite. I tell everyone everything. I have had a lot of success and yet I know I am not successful. I won’t be remembered for much and I know I am not very well liked. I guess its why I value the few friends who do take care of me. Since my blindness I am fragile as hell. I am the most flawed person on the planet. Except for a brief converstion with a friend who stopped by I have not had an extended conversation with anyone in almost a month. I am actually losing my voice from not using it. Now I know here we go again what the hell does this have to do with anything musical. I am getting there. So one of my flaws is a deep fear of space travel. I saw the movie Planet of the Apes when I was around six. Now you may be appalled but honestly the movie didn’t bother me except for one brief moment in the beginning of the movie when they are landing. They land and then find that one of the astronauts died because her glass covering cracked. It gave me nightmares. Like everyone else in 1969 I watched the moon landings. It scared me. I am sure when Apollo 13 had their issues I watched along with my parents yet I don’t remember and I wonder if I just blocked it all. In 1986 the Challenger explosion gave me nightmares for weeks. I have never read what happened and I don’t want to. When Columbia crashed same thing. I had nightmares. Some people want to travel in space but not me. It scares the hell out of me.

In 1969 David Bowie released Space Oddity. I have no idea when this really hit widespread play in the United States but I remember the airplay of the song after my family had moved to Hurst in 1972. Naturally the song scared me and I wanted nothing to do with it. I would ask that the station be changed and even later would change it myself. I would walk from rooms. To date I still don’t like it. It makes me uncomfortable the same way the movie 2001 Space Odyssey does. Now I can see the wheels turning in my friends heads oh we will make him listen to it. Its ok I can manage it so do your worst, I have heard the song a million times. Given how the song has traumatized me and given the very few friends I have I would doubt that a true friend would want to put me through it but some yahoo will.

Now the other thing I really remember about early Bowie was American disc jockeys struggling with the pronunciation of his last name. Now I have no idea why they made this so complicated or maybe they were just stupid, or it could have been coming from Bowie’s management or marketing team as he really pushed into the USA. Who knows but first it was Bowie like Jim Bowie who single handedly fought off over 10,000 Mexican soldiers from his bed duting the final assault of the Alamo with a Bowie knife in his teeth and 15 pistols firing. So we are taught in Texas. Heck I wondered if David was somehow related to Jim Bowie. He wasn’t and for the record Jim Bowie was dead before the final assault on the Alamo no matter what the damn movies tell you. Then it was David Bow-ie as in bow wow wow here doggie. Geez it seemed to take forever before it was decided or figured out that it was Bowie as in Bow tie.

Now to me Bowie is one of those guys that provides balance to the world. I would like to think that for every bad dude or jerk there is someone to balance that. Bowie is one of those guys. He is like George Harrison you can see the kindness in his eyes. That’s no small thing. Musically though for me there was someone else I was always spending my money on. In fact I don’t think I ever walked into a music store to buy an album by David Bowie until I bought Aladdin Sane in the mid 80’s and by then that album had been out for more than 10 years. He just didn’t spark my interest in that way and that had nothing to do with Space Oddity. Yet he has probably 20 songs I love and when they come on the radio its just automatically turn them up, from The Man Who Sold the World, to Ziggy Stardust, to Jean Genie and Hussshhhhhhhhhhhhhhh China Girl which is probably my favorite all time Bowie song. There are always artists like that and then one day if you are like me you ask the question why don’t I have more music by Bowie.

Somewhere around 2007 I asked this question. So I asked a friend of mine who is David Bowie all the time greatest ever has everything every re-issue knows every detail and I got some help on where to start with Bowie’s massive collection. What a start my friend gave me. Recently I posted a question on facebook asking for the 5 greatest albums of all time which was somewhat disastrous as it turned into the 5 albums you would take with you if you were stranded on a desert island which isn’t actually the same question at all no matter how you spin it but I did appreciate the people who actually answered honestly. Bowie at the Beeb is an album I would want to be stranded with, if of course it was a weird island that somehow offered you no way to escape but a way to play albums. Think about that one if you will, The album is early live recordings of shows on the BBC. It is amazing, most of it all early stuff even before he was a big star. The song Amsterdam is about the most amazing song, or most amazng performance of a song I have ever heard.

I now have about 90% of Bowie’s stuff, maybe more. One thing you notice when you start listening to it is how many great songs he had and secondly how much he eveolved as an artist. I love him. I do but I still don’t just adore him. He has multiple albums in a row that I struggle to find the good in. I guess when you have 25 plus albums that stuff will happen and you could probably say that about anyone similar. He was influential, a great song writer, a great performer a great human being and left a legacy that is not easily duplicated or matched. While I might still get the shivers when Space Oddity comes on, China Girl will always make me bounce and sing Husssssssssh.

The best thing about him is that he didn’t fight at the Alamo but I think he watched from a nearby hill and then moved to a small town in Texas that was soon named after him and that’s the story behind Bowie, Texas where when he wasn’t making music made knives. Hah!

Mike out

The Blues

So it seems a good time to maybe tell you my thoughts on what the blues is and what it is not. I want to do this before I get to one of the many great blues artists that I might want to write about and I don’t want to get distracted by explaining my thoughts on the matter then.

Right now blues music seems as popular a genre of music as it has ever been. Every day I see someone post or hear someone say what a great blues man Eric Clapton is, or Johnny Winter or Joe Bonamassa or maybe fifty other guys that aren’t bluesmen. They all play a blues based highly electrified rock and roll, some better than others but not a one of them are or will ever be a blues man. Now that doesn’t mean they don’t play some great music. I love a lot of music that many categorize as blues that doesn’t fit my definition. Whatever you might believe myth or fact about Eric Cllapton locking himself in a room and doing nothing but playing blues music for weeks months years decades eons, whatever you believe none of that made him a blues man. He learned the notes, he learned the chord structures the scales and he learned the slide. There is no doubt that he loves blues music. All these guys do. That’s great music and it should be loved and cherished but loving something does not gve you ownership. You see not a one of these guys or gals out there shredding guitars in venues of all sizes have done a single thing to create or forward the blues. All the work all the creation all the sorrow sadness and hope was given by others, Many of these guys died paupers, forgotten. Many have a fraction of the fortune that Clapton has. And not a one of these men or women because there were women too ever pointed at themselves to say look at how great I am.

The Blues is a lot more than notes on a page, a lot more than some scales a lot more than some chords put together. Someone once said that the blues was nothing but a good man feeling bad. I can tell you the blues is a lot more than that. You see the blues comes frm a place that no white man in Hurst, Texas, or Austin, Texas and certainly no Englishman has ever been or could ever go. The blues so universally loved by many was actually just another thing stolen from a black culture without ever understanding the cost it took to create it. Its music and there is no way you are going to hide music forever so it was bound and even determined to make its way in the world and it was needed. Blues has given country and rock and roll needed bursts of energy. The blues was born in the fields born out of that hopelessness that started before the sun came up and usually ended when the sun went down. It was little better than the slave conditions that their fathers or grandfathers endured. If you were lucky you might have enough time to work your own small plot of land but more than likely your day ended with more debt than when it started. the blues was born in the towns where a black man would walk with his eyes averted and quickly step off the sidewalk to let a white man pass any white man. The blues born in the night when you might have to walk a lonely stretch of road alone praying to God that you would not encounter anyone. It was born from the cold dread of seing those headlihts and hoping that this night they would pass you by. The blues was born in that place, a place that could see you pulled from a street or even your home in the middle of the night for no crime at all other than being black. You might only get a beating your house burned or maybe they would castrate you and leave you to maybe bleed to death because no white doctor or white hospital was going to save you or even try. You might end up with a gang of ugly white faces around you a rope tied around your neck and tossed over a tree and those would be the last things you would see on this earth. You might be fourteen years old and beaten to death and dumped in a swamp because someone said you whistled at a white woman. The blues was born there.

It was also born of finding hope to do it all again even amidst all the hatred and despair. Not all blues musicians sit around playing sad songs. B.B.King sings my favorite ever blues line in the song “How Blue” and it goes, “I gave her seven children and now she wants to give them back.” Blues had to have a sense of humor a sense of hope a sense that there could be better tomorrows. Most field workers worked six days a week but were generally let off a little early on Saturday and many of these workers would find their way to local juke joints to hear whatever musicians were playing. They were crowded loud and dangerous places to be but living was dangerous. They wanted to dance they wanted to drink and for a couple of hours they wanted to be among their own kind not worrying about what awaited them on the outside world. No white man could feel that or even understand it.

Robert Johnson wrote one of the greatest saddest blues songs ever. Its not any that you might know although the Rolling Stones have a great version and they were careful not to come close to what Johnson did because they could not. Most of Johnson’s life is as much myth as fact and this could be myth but it has that tinge of the real about it and I have always believed it true. Johnson rattled around the blues circuit for years mostly playing harmonica and he might earn a few nickels or dimes on the corner but playing in a juke joint was really beyond him, in fact he was frequently laughed at. He might have given up or he might have worked harder but in Johnson’s case he fell in love and soon married and began working in the fields next to his wife who was soon pregnant. Around this time he also lerned how to play guitar, again he wasn’t very good. Robert tried. He worked. When it came close to her time to deliver Johnson’s wife went by train to where her family could take care of her after the baby was born. Robert promised he would be there for the delivery. He got a little side tracked trying to be a blues man. It was in his blood. Robert was a little late and his wife delivered a little early so that by he time he arrived they were both dead having never made it out of childbirth. Johnson never worked in the field again and the story is the source for Love in Vain.

That’s my thoughts on the blues. Now I don’t really care who you listen to or what music you enjoy. Most of my dislike for Claptin has little to do with his music. Its who he is as a person I don’t like the reprehensible things he has done. I also think he is one of the most overrated musicians ever but I will get to Clapton later I promise.

What i really want, if i had 2 wishes for the blues and how you listen to them would be 1. Have a little care on what you call the blues and who you call a blues performer. Most of what you are listening to is just good old fashioned rock and roll with a blues twist which actually describes all rock and roll. The origins of rock is the blues. I know none of you will do that but that’s my wish. My other wish is that you go out and listen to real blues music. My love of the blues began with listening to Billie Holiday. That was my first exposure. Then I heard a song by Howlin’ Wolf, Killing Floor and from there it was an easy journey. The blues, that first time you hear Muddy Waters sing Mannish Boy. That first time you see Freddie King or Albert King and you begin to see what all those English guys in the 60’s fell in love with. I leave you with a quote from an 80’s movie horribly miscast but the music is great Crossroads. Joe Seneca looks at the old beat up guitar and tells Macchio that he probably thinks it makes him look like a blues man. They go to a pawn store and buy an electric guitar “Muddy Waters invented electricity.”

Those are my thoughts those are my wishes.

Mike out.

He’s Not an Animal, He’s Not

American slang

It drives me stupid crazy. Its lazy and sounds ignorant. All of it. Everything has to be chopped down, dumbed down because we are too lazy and too ignorant to think of more intelligent ways to communicate so we pick the way that makes us sound like the biggest idiot and it usualy works.

I cringe when I hear the words baby daddy and baby momma. Do people not have names? My son used this expression an intelligent young man into science and things I could not possibly understand but I told him h sounds ignorant. He asked what was he supposed to call them. I said I didn’t know, Joe, Jane whatever their names were.

In sports and music we love the word GOAT, we even capitalize all the letters to make us look cool. Doesn’t work. It is supposed to stand for greatest of all time. Someone works their ass off all their life so we can call them a goat, an animal that spends its time, crapping, eating everything including your socks and head butting random things and we use that to describe a person who has reached the very top of their profession. Its demeaning. Call Tom Brady what he is great maybe the greatest of all time. He is not a GOAT. Lazy ignorant people.

You are wondering okay what has this to do with music. Well I have written about the greatest album of all time so now I have reached a point where I can tell you about the man I think is the greatest guitarist of all time. He isn’t flashy. His name used to be thrown out there all the time and now its like he has bee passed by. He didn’t spend months closed up in a room learning blues songs. He doesn’t call himself a blues guitarist. He doesn’t call himself great. He has never been threatened by other guitar players likr Jimi Hendrix. So right off the bat since I am on the letter b and I just metioned Hendrix you know its not him. Hendrix once said Terry Kath from Chicago was better than him.

Its not Jimmy Page either. I have a problem with Page and Led Zeppelin and their blatant theft of blues music and lyrics used in their songs without acknowledgment Just another white man taking advantage of music created by someone else.

There are tons of great guitarists. For my money the greatest is Jeff Beck. A lot of this is because the last person you will hear call him great is Jeff himself. Jeff loves to play and he loves to play with other people. He doesn;t claim to be a blues guitarist he is just a guitarist and what a guitarist he is. In the 70’s he opened the door for guys like Joe Satriani, guys who had no vocalist but just played. Blue Wind is forever my favorite Beck song. My favorite album though is the first one, Truth. He put together his best band Ron Wood on guitar and Rod Stewart on vocals and if you have never heard it you should listen to it today. Its amazing. Sometimes you can measure a person’s greatness by how people treat them. Everyone wants to play with him and that is symbolic of a man that people respect.

Don’t call Jeff Beck an animal just call him great.

Mike out