The Music Blog: Melsie


Sometime around 2005 I came home early from work and found that my wife and son were gone, moved in a single morning leaving me with little furniture and having to pick up the pieces. It’s an ugly tale which I have long since processed. My ex and I are actually pretty good friends now and this is certainly not a bashing blog because I simply don’t feel that way nor do I understand why people remain bitter and angry years after divorce unless of course there is abuse in the past. Again this is not about any of that. After dealing with the initial shock I was determined to get back on the horse. Now despite those of you who think you know me, I am terribly shy with the opposite sex, sometimes wickedly scared. Again I don’t need to go into detail. When I tell people this they instantly start to dispute it, tell me how wrong I am. I know who I am. I wanted to explore online dating thinking it might be a better way to meet people so I joined a dating site that was both a dating site and not a dating site. It was more of a single parents support group than it was anything. Sure there was dating but mostly it was something bigger. Many of my friends who I value today come from this group and this time frame.  Oh and it was way too much fun. We all had these catchy user names. I was Samurai because I love samurai movies. Melsie was Down_2_Earth.

I will say it was not an easy group to get to know. Sometimes it was like high school, childish games, sexual jokes and innuendos I had not heard since junior high. It was very cliquish and I almost quit. There were a few really nice people though who showed me the ropes. A woman named Shawna helped me out a lot and at least encouraged me to get involved with the message boards or the chat rooms. The message boards became my playground. Even then it was not easy and sometimes downright abusive. There were some nasty individuals there which is sometimes what you get when you have anonymity through the internet.  You can make yourself out to be anyone you want. This was definitely a problem. Partly this was because of a member who had angered a lot of people and since there were a few fake profiles it was thought that I was this guy Good Companion. I wasn’t. One thing, he was still lurking around although not for long when I joined. Mel knew everyone, and she seemed at the center of everything so I started to give her a hard time on the message boards and she responded by giving me a hard time. We exchanged emails and she helped me navigate this site and make some friends. I have a million stories. But again this blog isn’t to share a bunch of stories. This is a music blog.

Now me and Melsie seem at odds a lot. In fact we don’t seem to have a lot in common. We still bash each other and probably way too much so lately I have not been trying to bash her as much. I am on a spiritual journey and I want to share that with her and have told her this. I told her I would call but I am scared even though she is the least likely person in the world to make light of this. I have not told a lot of people. I am still working through it and spend every day studying and learning.

So as not to make this 25 pages long which I could easily do let’s get to the heart of this matter. There are a thousand things I love about Melsie, things that make me laugh sometimes hysterically. First of all she is about 6’9”, really she is a giant. She could kick Wonder Woman’s ass if she wanted to. We joke with her because she always wears something that looks very close to combat boots and she is not afraid to use them. I am more than a little askeared of her. I told you we seem to have little in common. I have this theory, of course I do. I have a 100 theories all of them bad but this one is that there really are only 2 kinds of people. There are music people and there are lyric people. Now some people are going to say they are both. Nah these people are either too wishy washy or if they sit down and think they realize that I am right. Now this doesn’t mean that a person who is a music person can’t love some songs because of the lyrics and vice versa but mostly they are going to stick to one or the other. I am definitely a music person. People want to say to me all the time, don’t you love the lyrics to that song. Yea no I don’t even know the lyrics to a lot of songs. I know some but my mind just doesn’t go that way. I love guitar riffs and melodies how songs and the parts of songs fir together. It’s why I love classical music. It’s why I can listen to opera and get it. I am not listening to the words anyway. Melsie is definitely a lyric person. I cannot tell you how this makes me laugh, how it amuses me because she is constantly talking about lyrics and how so and so got right to the heart of it and it speaks to her soul it was written about her and it has so much meaning. Another time I will tell you all why lyrics don’t much matter to me. Coupled with this insane love of lyrics which I find endearing is that Melsie is excellent with names and she knows everyone. She also knows the name of every band member of every band that ever existed including probably bands that never made it. You could say to her man I heard those kids playing in the garage down the street and Melsie would chime in Marcus is a brilliant songwriter, he writes songs that mean so much to me but that band will never work because Kevin is going out with Joe’s girlfriend who’s  really a cross dresser named Hortense. You think I exaggerate? Okay maybe a little. Melsie drops names like she has these people on speed dial. I just chuckle. It’s passion. If you know me then you know that’s the way I feel about music too just different expressions.

Now listen my friend isn’t really that bad I exaggerate for sure. She is a lyric person and she does know band members. I feel good I know who the fab four are. John, Joe, Paul and Rusty right? Wait I think Ace was in the Beatles too. Aren’t they from Cincinnati?  Or is that Dayton, Ohio? For the record, there is nothing bad about being a lyric person or a music person. One is not any better than another it’s just how they express things. In fact, I am willing to bet there are more lyric people than music people. If anyone is an oddball it’s me.

Look before you think this is a bashing thing. It’s not. These qualities are endearing to me. I wouldn’t want her to change one single bit. Don’t think for a second she doesn’t have the goods on me. Don’t for a second think I am not going to pay for this. I miss my friend. I have not seen her in a while. Do you want to know what kind of friend she is? I don’t have a lot of friends. I never have. The friends I have had though and have now are special. They would do anything for me and I would do anything for them. Melsie is one of the few people I would bleed for. I would sacrifice everything in a single toss of the dice to help her. If I had a dollar to my name and she asked to borrow a dollar I would give it to her. I love her as much as I love a family member and that’s the truth. In my darkest times I know I can pick up the phone at 3 am and tell her I need her and she would stay up all night with an 8am meeting to look forward to and not blink at all. She would probably threaten me, maybe call me a name or two but she would do that if I didn’t need anything. That’s how we are, I would do the same. I can’t name more than five people right now I could depend on more than her.

So other than the music and lyrics thing you are probably still wondering what the hell this has to do with the music blog which follows my music collection.  Hmmm, so in 2006 I got a phone call from Mel and she asked if I would make her an 80’s cd. I said sure but there was a lot of music in the 80’s. There were hair bands, speed metal, new wave, electronic, the early stages of what would become grunge and on and on. She said yea all of that. I like all of that.  On one cd. Hmmm I said. Could you maybe send me a list of some songs, doesn’t have to be everything just some songs that you want. So she did and her list had songs from the 70’s, from the 90’s and from the 80’s. I asked if I could make her one for each decade and she said sure that would be wonderful. So here is something to know about me. Don’t ask me to make you a cd. I can’t do it. I know too many songs and every time I think of one song it makes me think of 15 others. I started working on it focusing just on the 70’s. I forget how many I ended up with. I let Mel know and she laughed. I started to work on the 80’s yea same thing. Now the 90’s especially the early 90’s that’s my thing right there so I told Mel I was going to have one 90’s to current. I also told her I was likely going to have over a 100 cd’s. She thought this was hysterical but she said if you make 100 cd’s I will drive personally and get them. So we had a deal. I ended up with 105 cd’s, 80 minutes long. I moved to Atlanta in December of 2006 which is actually closer to Mel. She came out to spend New Years Eve because I didn’t know a soul. That entire trip is worth its own story. Melsie sweet Melsie never once asked about her 105 cd’s, never once asked for them and so they remain in my collection and now of course they are mine. They are also next on the playlist so yes I have 105 cd’s to listen to titled Mel’s 70’s collection volume whatever and Mel’s 80’s collection and so on.  Every time I tell the story and we dispute ownership and a few people who just don’t get it will tell me to get over it without really understanding what those cd’s mean to me.

I can hear Melsie from here reading this saying even shouting, “I am not” and “I do not do that” and I am pretty sure even a few “I am going to kill him.” What I hope she gets from this is the value I have for her, the absolute unconditional love I feel for her the times  I didn’t think I could take another step only to see her post something about the deep secret meanings of lyrics and name dropping the song writer like they talk to each other discussing the mysteries of the world. She is not 6”9”. She is only 6’7”. She is one of the most important people in my life even though we go months and maybe even years without really talking. All that doesn’t matter because we all have those kinds of friends where you can talk to someone after a long time and it’s like you talk every day. I am glad she is my friend. So thanks Melsie.

Mike out

The Music Blog: The Great American Songwriter

I know. I really do. You see this title and then you read the blog and the first thing that is going to run through your head is that you disagree and you will come up with more than a few other American songwriters who you think are better. You won’t be wrong either. In fact whoever you are thinking about I may have already blogged about or am going to but just haven’t gotten there yet.

John Mellencamp, as the great American songwriter is going to rub you wrong. So maybe you don’t like his politics but I am not writing a political blog. Oh by the way I get really frustrated when I see people complaining that certain stars should keep their mouths shut about politics that no one wants to hear it and they should stick with acting or singing or whatever. This frustrates me because they live here too, and some of them were born in other countries and now make this country their home. They have a right to share their political opinions and if they use their own popularity so what. You would do the same. Both sides do it. I am a big fan of Tim Allen. I have loved him since his stand up days, since Home Improvement and I love his current show Last Man Standing. I don’t like his politics and I believe he is wrong but I love how he presents those arguments on his show and he has other characters who have the opposite position and they cover things with humor which says a lot about Tim Allen the person.

See what you did? You got me off on a political rant. It’s your fault. This is about John Cougar or John Cougar Mellencamp or John Mellencmp or whatever name he goes by next. Mellencamp has always written songs about small town life, about growing up in this country of ours, about Midwest values, the heart of the country. He has shared through his music the ugly truth of the plight of the small or mid-size farmer in this country. He tells a good story. He sings songs about his wife and about his kids about himself. He performs all over the world but he is singing songs to me and you.

My interest in Mellencamp and my eventual love for him wasn’t always there. In fact the first song I remember is Jack and Diane and I would say that is one of my least favorite songs ever from any artist. I don’t like it Sam I am, I don’t like Jack and Diane. Needless to say I didn’t jump on the John Cougar train. Another of his songs rubs me equally wrong, ROCK In the USA. It makes me want to gag, spew vomit. So I struggled with him and it took me a while to warm up. Then I heard Jackie Brown and just fell in love with the song. I heard Paper and Fire and loved the song. I heard Rain on the Scarecrow and fell in love. Like I always do I started to explore and what I found I loved minus Jack and Diane and ROCK in the USA. Key West Intermezzo became one of mine and my wife’s favorite songs. I love that song and when my son wanted to make his first cd and we were putting songs together it pulled on my heart strings when he sang the song because he didn’t know the title. Like many artists I have blogged about I now have the vast majority of Mellencamp’s studio albums. I started with a few, bought a few more and then ultimately I decided that I wanted the rest. He is an artist that matters to me whether he matters to you or not I don’t know. I find him a lot like Tom Petty. I don’t mean the music they play although I believe both try and sing to that everyman, to those values that make up most of us. My point is that you don’t realize how many songs Mellencamp has that were hits, that are songs that you love until you sit down and hear a really good collection of greatest hits. In that way Petty and Mellencamp are very similar. You could probably say the same about Springsteen or Neil Young. If they didn’t appeal to a lot of people they wouldn’t have 50 year careers. That I can get behind, well except for Jack and Diane.

Mike out

The Music Blog: Hello Its Me Again

You have to say this in your best Sean Penn stoner surfer valley voice.

“It’s better than death man, you now they’re mega. Megadeth brah.”

Dave Mustaine and his band Megadeth.

I am sure you know the story. Dave Mustaine was the original guitarist for Metallica but his drinking and drug use got too much for them so one night they tossed him and his gear out of the van. He was angry and certainly felt his behavior wasn’t any worse than any of those other guys. So he made a vow, sort of a vow of revenge do it better faster harder than Metallica and he named his band Megadeth to send that message. Some say that feud is long over some say it isn’t. He wasn’t invited to Metallica’s Rock Hall of Fame presentation and felt slighted. I have always wondered why Metallica made the hall of fame anyway. It’s ridiculous to say they are some sort of legendary band. They aren’t. They are sellouts, every last one of them and it aggravates me a little that Dave Mustaine, who I love so much, would want to be affiliated with them anyway.

Sellouts? Really Samurai Mike? That seems harsh. Are you drunk? Excuse me have you seen the title of my page.

First if all this isn’t a blog about Metallica which by the way in my home is pronounced Metal-Licka. I am not a fan of theirs. Don’t for a second think I resent them or call them sell outs because of their black album which was clearly a successful attempt to give them access to a wider audience and make a little money. Bands are entitled to make money anyway they want and anyway they can. Believe me if I felt or thought for a second I could make money writing plays I would do so even though I don’t particularly like plays. I would do it just so that it might give me a little inroad into getting something I do love published. So I don’t fault Metallica for changing their music a bit. Dave Mustaine actually followed their lead and did the same. Metallica doesn’t quite reach my hate category because of some of those more commercially successful songs several of which I love. I still think their Whiskey in the Jar cover is drop dead amazing. My issue with Metallica is their position on Napster.

Now before you go all nutsy on me I will explain. When the big downloading craze hit many people jumped in enthusiastically. I know I did. Then one day this realization hit that what I was doing was stealing. Even if I were downloading an Aerosmith album and those guys are gazillionaires it was wrong. I know how hard it is to get something published and I know what those repeated rejection letters do. It’s why I don’t like the term one hit wonder. People say that in some mocking way not realizing how much work how many rejections went into that one hit song. Those artists should be enormously proud. I feel about the same when people tell me to keep putting myself out there or chastising me because I complain because no one is reading my blog as I do when people minimize my vision impairment. Just get out there its easy just do it. They aren’t the ones who have to deal with the falls the running into things with getting lost 2 miles from your house and not being sure how to get home, the fear I have of crowded places, the fear of getting on a plane. Just like that they don’t have to deal with the heartbreaking rejection that eats away at your confidence and at your heart and your soul. Being told how long it took Stephen King to get published or JK Rowling doesn’t help it just adds pressure and they don’t have to deal with that either.

I don’t blame Metal-Licka for wanting to be paid for their music, for their work because they are entitled to get paid for their work. I am angry with them for being the face of the stance against Napster. Metallica had to work their ass off almost double what other bands had to because when they started it was all spandex and hairspray and that’s what clubs wanted. No one wanted speed metal. Venues were few and far between and because of that Metallica built their fan base brick by brick, fan by fan through the underground, which meant young people who loved that style of music handing bootleg tapes to their buddies and saying, “listen to this.” It made them look petty, clueless and unappreciative to their fans to be bashing Napster. They should have left that to another band or bands, other artists. They were right but they should have realized better who their fans were and they didn’t.

Of course this isn’t a blog about Metal-licka. Oops! My bad!

For the record I am not a big fan of speed metal. If you know me then you know that for the most part speed metal violates one of my rules that music should be easy to digest, meaning it has a melody and speed metal just doesn’t meet this requirement. I have some too, beyond Megadeth and Metal-licka. I became interested in Metal-licka because of a seminar I went on about the evils and dangers of rock music and part of that seminar dealt with album covers, Master of Puppets a Metal-licka album was one of those covers. So naturally since the entire seminar was comical I had to have the album. I have other albums by metal-licka because of the very human story of Cliff Burton. Megadeth was not a band I was interested in until the Cryptic Writings album which was really Mustaine’s response to Metal-licka’s black album. On that album there is the song Almost Honest and I fell in love with the guitar riff. Because of that song and album which I bought I wanted more and so I bought more. I bought everything up to that time and discovered something unique about Mustaine. Sure he has some music I just don’t care for, but he also is incredibly intelligent and witty which comes out in his lyrics. He really had a lot to say a lot more than what I ever expected. He had some genius songs and I think he is a brilliant guitarist. Countdown to Extinction, Peace Sells But Who’s Buying and Symphony of Destruction are amazing songs. Hangar 18 is a speed metal masterpiece. My favorite though is Sweating Bullets for the absolute absurdity of the song, the brilliant conversation with himself. There is a tremendous depth to Mustaine as a songwriter.  Mustaine has fought demons including a serious drug addiction. He has fought through injuries related to a serious accident where he was told he wouldn’t be able to play again. He found God, lost his sister to cancer and then had to fight his own cancer. I have followed him on Twitter and I find him honestly a lot like Marilyn Manson, witty, sometimes charming, sometimes humble and sometimes snarky as he can be. He is not almost honest, he is incredibly honest something you don’t get from a lot of other stars. I have enormous respect for him. Megadeth isn’t for everyone. You can say that about any band. The Beatles aren’t for everyone. Beethoven isn’t for everyone. Zappa isn’t for anyone, seriously, Zappa isn’t even music. I am certainly not going to suggest that you run out and buy all of his music or even spend time listening to the music I will share on facebook over the next couple of days. I expect that most of you know what you like and what you won’t like. Me? I will listen to anything once and most things twice except for, oh we don’t need to go there again.

If you think though that Megadeth is just heavy speed metal then you will be right and a little wrong. There are many songs that are just good old fashioned rock and roll songs. Mustaine has clever riffs and hooks can really play and has a really rare ability at tongue in cheek lyrics that will at times leave you chuckling. I always love an artist that doesn’t take himself too seriously. I think Dave Mustaine is one of those guys.

Mike out

The Music Blog: McCartney


Even if you don’t love the Beatles, you probably have your favorite. Maybe it’s John, the anomaly or at least to me. He is a man who sang of peace and love yet was cold hearted mean, passive aggressive, a horrible bandmate, a horrible husband and worse father. He was abusive. Maybe it’s quiet George you love, he of the impish grin and a quiet spirituality that vied with the burning rage he sometimes felt. Maybe it’s loveable Ringo, comic relief not as cute as the others and a bit of a goof who provided the band with the steady hand of rhythm they needed. He too had his demons.

For me it’s always been Paul McCartney. Many still blame him for the breakup of the Beatles. They would be wrong and they would also be a little right. All of the fab four had a bit of responsibility. If you don’t know the story then I will summarize. The festering began with the recording of the White Album when John allowed an outsider, a disruptive horrible outsider, Yoko Ono into the recording studio. It was the first time and John passive aggressively allowed her to wreak havoc on the band offering criticism and suggestions because she called herself some sort of an artist. Meanwhile John wanted to quit but sat idly by when he did show up usually high on heroin. When the Beatles began recording the next album anger boiled over. Paul had said to George that on Hey Jude he didn’t want any of the ideas for fancy guitar riffs that George suggested and rehearsed, It was Paul’s song and he wanted it done his way. George got angry but he was angry anyway as he was sitting on a cache of songs that he couldn’t record because John and Paul wouldn’t let him.  So he drank. So did Ringo and the sessions disintegrated. Ultimately these sessions would be gone through by Phil Spector who somehow some way managed to create Let it Be out of the mess. Before that the Beatles found their way back together for one more album, the compromise album Abbey Road. Paul was thrilled and thought it was the solution to working their way out of the issues they had and so he suggested another album. There was no polite response from John, Ringo or George and the four Beatles went their separate ways without breaking up. Paul retreated to his country estate. He made numerous offers to return to the studio and get back to work. He had ideas and he had songs. No one was interested. Meanwhile Phil Spector began cleaning up the mess and creating Let it Be. Paul began recording on his own. He wanted to work, wanted to record. Since no one else was interested he recorded an album, what would become the Bowl of Cherries album, or the Cherries album, named for the cover. The actual title is simply Paul McCartney. He set a release day which unfortunately coincided with the release of Let it Be. Suddenly everyone was interested with what Paul was doing. They asked him to change his release date, to delay it. He said no. They offered to go back into the studio and record again. Paul said no. They sent Ringo to his house to plead the band’s case and Paul said no. Now it was Paul who was realizing that he could have a life outside of the band. I truly believe if John had gone to speak with Paul it would have changed things but John Lennon was not that kind of bandmate, not that kind of person. When the media asked Paul about the solo album and if the Beatles had broken up he said that he guessed they had.

I remember what a big deal it was. I remember driving around one night, the entire family stuffed into a Volkswagon and going from store to store looking for Let it Be but nowhere could that album be found. Ultimately we settled on a single of Let it Be. I wish I still had that.

I was born in 1963 so the Beatles were introduced, thrived, and ended without me being overly familiar with their music. I remember the song Hey Jude playing on the radio my mother ironing and that ending that never ends na na na na. It’s not my favorite song however it always brings that cherished memory with it, one of my earliest. I remember the breakup only because we went searching for the album. I remember Paul McCartney and Wings though. I loved Paul and for the longest time I wanted the album Band on the Run. I loved that song and I loved the song Jet. I make up songs for my dog Rosco and one of the songs I use to do that is Helen Wheels. I remember that so well especially considering that I didn’t own the album for a very long time. Paul wrote pop songs, songs that you could love and songs you didn’t have to do a lot of work with to figure out. They were simple and enjoyable and they make people happy. They make people sing along. It is the best kind of music.

In junior high I fell in love with the album London Town for that song but more for the hit song With a Little Luck. I still love that song. In college I discovered Venus and Mars and played it all the time loving the song Magneto and Titanium Man which still makes me smile. The title track and Rock Show make my heart skip a beat when I hear them. These are fond memories, songs and music that I love. Later in my life I grew to really love George Harrison and gained so much respect for him, his deep spirituality and the fact that he didn’t dwell on the past. He was always asked to play Beatle songs, songs that he wrote and performed with the fab four but he just didn’t and I loved that about him. Paul loves being a Beatle to this day and why shouldn’t he? A lot of the Beatles favorites are his songs. Certainly a lot of my favorite Beatle songs are Paul songs. You can tell which ones he wrote for the most part. John always disliked those simple songs and always had something to say but that’s the very reason why I have always loved Paul. His music has always matched his spirit, his smile and almost laughing personality never taking his self too seriously.

I am discovering that one of the worst things about being born in the 60’s is that so many of the great rock stars I grew up on and loved are slowing dying. No matter how much people joke, Keith Richards will die, and so will Mick and so one day will Ringo and Paul. While they will leave a huge legacy of music their deaths will be huge and the world will be a lesser place. For now we get to still enjoy them as they all remain active and touring. Others have not been that lucky. Until that day…

Mike out

The Music Blog: Jim Ellison

Jim Ellison

I can almost sense you staring at the title of this and wondering if you know who the person is. I am guessing most of you won’t and that’s okay. I have a friend who seems to think it’s her life mission to know every band member of every band and she throws the names around like she knows them personally. I have a few bands that I deeply love some still active some gone and most of these bands I know at least most of the members. Some of that comes from when I was a kid. A good example is the band KISS. They were an important band to me in my youth for a while but while I can name the classic line up of Gene, Paul, Peter and Ace I cannot name any member who has been in the band other than them. Ace was still the best.

So it doesn’t surprise me that you would know Jim Ellison. It also would not surprise me at all if you didn’t know his band Material Issue. We think of bands who made it and those who don’t and some of you even throw a few other categories in there, tragic bands, one hit wonders but the truth is not all bands are created equal. I have some bands I genuinely love who made it big, think Pearl Jam. There are other bands I love a lot and some I think might have even been better bands, like Urge Overkill or Screaming Trees but it would be ridiculous to suggest that those bands are equal even though they play roughly the same kind of music.

Artists paint, or sculpt, or write stories or songs because they have an urge a drive to do so. I have no doubt that there are likely some brilliant songwriters out there who will die without being discovered without making it, or maybe they sell a song and it makes it to someone’s album and that album never does well or the song is never a single. All artists have dreams, maybe that’s what separates us from everyone else; the kinds of dreams we have. Everyone wants to be paid for the work they do. Think about your job, do you love it. I hope so, but if you don’t get paid for it you will find another. It’s why social workers do what they do, they love it and they do get paid but not their worth. Some of that you can live with. I have always missed the sincere thank you’s I got from people or knowing I made a difference even if it was only for a day or even a brief moment. Now as a writer I am going to write. I have dreams though. I would love to write a best-selling novel, have it be made into a movie have people talk about it and yes receive a lot of money for the work. Of course I would. It’s always a part of that drive, but I write anyway knowing it’s unlikely I am going to be published. I would love to have a successful blog something that more than two people read and have those people be people I don’t know that leave me comments about how much they enjoyed it, how meaningful it was how it made them happy or sad or cry or want more because it was that good. Hopefully that makes sense to you. One thing that drives me nuts is when people tell me to write for me. Of course I write for me, I write because that drives tell me to. I don’t have to share it at all but I do. It’s that sharing, that sending something to a publisher or magazine like stepping on to a ledge and leaping. You hope someone reads it, you hope they catch you. When they don’t it’s a horrible feeling, like being hit in the gut. I don’t write just for me. I write for you. I want you to smile and this blog is about striking a chord, pulling an old memory off a dusty shelf and seeing it still resonates with you, still matters.

Jim Ellison was the ringleader, guitarist, lead vocalist and songwriter of a pop rock trio out of the Chicago area. They had a little punk to them for sure as well. They wrote quirky 3 to 4 minute rock songs and began making a name for themselves in the Midwest. Like many bands they released an EP and then were lucky enough to get their big break and were signed to a major label where they released International Pop Overthrow and scored a hit with the song Valerie Loves Me. Now there is a pretty decent chance if you were into the post grunge alternative scene and listened to a lot of radio at that time that you heard that song and probably a couple of other of their songs. They had a few hits. Critics loved them, their fans loved them only there just never seemed to be enough of their fans for them to sell enough records to stay with a label. So they were dropped and another label signed them. In 1992 they released Destination Universe which was better than the first album but had poorer sales. It did have the song What Girls Want, which I probably need to listen more carefully to and take notes but that’s for a different blog. Again they were dropped and signed by still another label. In 1994 they released what is absolutely their best album Freak City Soundtrack and the song Kim the Waitress was a fairly big hit. There isn’t a bad song on that album. Personally I love the song Goin’ Thru Your Purse which is about a man who goes through his girlfriend’s purse and he is apologizing while he is doing it.  Regardless the band was dropped again.

In 1996 Jim Ellison had a break up of a long term relationship. That coupled with the lack of success despite critics loving the band is suspected to have been too much and he committed suicide. While he left a suicide note the contents of that note were never released by police and family which I believe is a good thing. Sometimes fans or even just nosey people believe they have the right to know everything, even the most intimate time in a person’s life; their death. I always get a little upset when I see that suicide letters have been released because it’s not our business whether that’s your neighbor or Kurt Cobain or even Jim Ellison. They deserve our compassion and their families deserve peace, whatever peace they can manage.

When Material Issue comes around on my playlist I am always a little happy and a little sad. I miss that band. I miss a lot of bands and a lot of artists. I believe Jim Ellison and Material Issue deserved better but we don’t always get what we deserve. The nice thing about music is that it’s never too late to fall in love with a band. Material Issue released an album after Jim’s death Telecommando, songs they were recording and working on. You can still find their albums. Honestly, if you like power bands like the Ramones, or the Smithereens or Urge Overkill there is a very good chance you would like Material Issue. I would like to think Jim would appreciate a few fans or even just to be remembered. As I have written before sometimes I feel like it’s one of the reasons why I am here; to remember and to share the music that I love so much in the hopes that you might love it too, I relate to Jim pretty well. No matter how hard I work on this blog or wish that people would read it they don’t and so it’s not too hard to believe that you just don’t matter and that what you do does not matter. I know it does but it never hurts to have someone say I really loved that.

So here’s to Jim Ellison gone way too soon and way too long.

Jim Ellison 1964-1996

Mike out

The Music Blog: Nesta

Think about this one. Don’t argue or spend your time trying to think of why I might be or even are wrong. What I want you to think about is rock and roll, the music, the genre. Think of that one artist who defines that entire genre. Can you do it? You might think of the Beatles, but is that all that rock and roll is and is that the universal answer. What about the Rolling Stones? There might be a few of you who define it as Pink Floyd or Queen maybe a few weird people who think the answer is The Who. There might even be one or two disillusioned souls who somehow someway think its Frank Zappa. Yea probably not.

What about country music? That has to be much easier. Hank Williams am I right am I right? What about Haggard? Or Willie Nelson? What about the Statler Brothers? Yes made you laugh or maybe chuckle. I am sure there is some moron who thinks its Blake Shelton. And you wonder why modern country music makes me nauseous.

You can do this for any genre. Blues? Well Eric Clapton thinks he’s god so why not? Well to start with he is white and an Englishman and overrated to boot. I have given you my thoughts on this I have three number 1’s and I have probably listened to more real blues music than most of you. Why should I be right anyway? Who put me in charge.?

The truth is you cannot do this for any genre of music including Classical music. You say you love Mozart? I give you Beethoven’s nine great symphonies.

You also have to consider what’s included in that statement. Take rock and roll music since most of you, at least the two people who read my blog, love rock and roll. There are more than a few sub-genres within rock and roll so how do you pick one artist who can define and symbolize all that. You see, I say you can’t. Then there is the genre of Reggae

See I know who you think about when I mention the genre Reggae music. For most of you Bob Marley is the only reggae artist you know. Some of you might know two, a very few might know three. At least four of you who read my blog on this artist are squirming in their seats and doing a Horschak imitation, “Ooh, ooh ooh.” I see you and your Burning Spear answers. Even if you love reggae, and because of that know many artists like I do you would say that Reggae begins and ends with Robert Nesta Marley. Bob Marley is the face of Reggae, considered a prophet by many Rastafarians, and a symbol of Jamaica, a national treasure.



Bob Marley was born in the mountains, in a small town. His father was a white man, an overseer on a plantation. The myths of Bob Marley, of which there are a few, say that as a young child he could read the future from the palm of your hand. For many reasons but mostly opportunity Bob’s mother moved to Kingston which meant as a black mother, a common worker at that they lived in one of the many shantytowns in Jamaica, in fact the most notorious of them all where the burning embers of revolution, equality, freedom and Rastafari were born. They moved to Trench Town. There both small of frame and stature Bob learned to fight, to defend himself with the knife common to Trench Town, a steppin’ razor. Later Peter Tosh wrote a song of that name and could have been describing Bob for he was a steppin’ razor, dangerous. Fighting wasn’t all Bob learned, music was another way out and there were many places to gather and learn. The music of the day and of Jamaica was ska and Bob learned it well. Bob’s best friend was Nathaniel Livingston. Livingston’s father had married Bob’s mother and they had a child together which only brought Nathaniel and Bob closer. Together they shared and explored their love of music and one day came across a tall gangly young man named Peter Tosh. Together they formed the Wailers and began writing and playing songs together. Livingston would change his name to Bunny Wailer. They began playing and recording songs around Kingston.

Bob actually left Jamaica for a while and moved to the United States where he worked in a factory. He continued to write songs. When he returned to Jamaica he quickly hooked back up with Bunny and Peter to share the songs he had been writing. Music though had changed to what became the Reggae beat and Bob struggled at first to adapt, but adapt he did. Bob also discovered the growing Rastafari faith and was soon converted and began growing his dreadlocks as did Tosh and Bunny. Reggae music had always been affiliated with Rastafari and the themes of Reggae are Rastafari themes. The Wailers not only caught up but they began forging the ground of Rastafari. Songs like Get Up Stand Up, People Get Ready and albums like Soul Rebel, Catch a Fire, Burnin’ and Natty Dread. Peter Tosh left in 1973 to pursue what would be a tremendous solo career of his own. Tosh and Marley disagreed on a peaceful movement to equality and they were often pitted as antagonists. I can tell you they loved each other but they did have different beliefs. Bob advocated peace and Tosh wanted even demanded equality immediately. The three had always been equal members in the Wailers but more and more Bob had come center stage. Many, Tosh included believed it was due to Bob’s lighter skin. Bunny Wailer left in 1976. Both Tosh with Legalize It, and Bunny with Black Heart Man had debut albums that are among the greatest Reggae albums of all time. Sadly Bunny is the only surviving member of the Wailers.

Bob reformed the Wailers with new personnel and continued to play. There was a failed attempt on his life and Bob left Jamaica for a while due to safety concerns. He released the album Exodus in 1977 a masterpiece, Kaya in 1978, Survival in 1979 and Uprising in 1980. For most of you, if you have any album at all, it’s likely Legend which was released after his death and is essentially a greatest hits album. It’s a great album and I think everyone should have it. For me though it’s difficult to see people who post on facebook how much they love Bob Marley without owning any album other than Legend or no album at all. It’s easy to love any artist if you only listen to their hits. If you want to really learn about the man you have to dive deeper and buy one of his studio albums. You hear how deeply religious he was, you hear his thoughts his emotions and you get a tremendous sense of the man. Regardless, saying you love Reggae because you love Bob Marley is ridiculous.

Bob was an avid football (soccer) fan. It’s the one thing that in poor nations that is easy to play, you just need a ball. Bob almost always played barefooted. One day Bob injured himself. It was a cut and like most of us he didn’t think anything of it. Things like that had happened before. Bob went about his business playing his very busy concert tour, writing and taking care of his enormous responsibilities. When he went out to play again he found he couldn’t. The pain that it brought in his foot was severe so Bob like most of us went to have it checked out. Why wasn’t it healing, why was it worse? Bob was diagnosed with Melanoma; however it was still localized to his big toe on his foot. The treatment plan was amputation. Bob refused, and he refused because of religious reasons. Rastafari faith believes that you have to leave the world with what you came into it, meaning complete. Amputation violated this belief. Bob was advised it would get worse and it would spread. Bob sought other opinions and received the same treatment plan. Bob kept touring until he collapsed on stage some time later, the cancer having spread just as he was told. He tried alternative treatment, traveled to other countries and was willing to try anything all the while growing more ill. Eventually he agreed to have the toe amputated but the cancer had spread. He underwent chemotherapy and his beloved dreadlocks, such a powerful symbol to Rastafarians and Jamaica fell out. He grew frail, until there were not any more options and he returned home. One of the last things Bob said to family was that money can’t buy you life. Robert Nesta Marley died on May 11, 1981 In Miami, Florida.

You might guess based on me writing this blog how I feel about Bob Marley. Your thoughts probably barely scratch the surface. There are artists I grieve over, feeling the loss like I would a dear friend or family member. Music lifts me up and is my companion in good times and bad times. Many of these blog posts I cry over. They take a lot out of me as this one has. Like most of you the only way I could know Bob Marley was through his hit songs through the album Legend. When I wanted to dive into Reggae I didn’t start with Bob Marley. That was too easy. I still feel that way. Reggae is a rich very textured genre. It’s like most women I know very hard to get to know. It has a language unique to itself a beat unique to itself. When I got around to Bob Marley I started with Soul Rebel which came out in 1970. It was not his first album but it was pretty early. This was the Bob who was alive. He recorded that album as a living breathing soul. Knowing Bob Marley isn’t the easy thing you think. It really is like picking up a book on Abraham Lincoln and trying to discern who he was, what he loved. You can get glimpses but you will never get the full picture. Listening to an album is like hearing the beating heartbeat of a soul. The album Legend is clinical, it’s posthumous even though all those songs except for Buffalo Soldier were released when Bob was alive. It’s still a carefully put together clinical look at an artist. Listen to Natty Dread, or. Burnin’ and you get something different. Bob is the only artist who I believe should never be covered unless your last name is Marley. I love him that much. It’s very difficult to see and hear David Marley sing (Ziggy) because he sounds and looks so much like Bob.

There are many images of Bob all available all easy to find. With the exceptions of him frail and dying I love them all. My favorites though are of two types. The first is Bob sitting, smiling. He never appears as if he is posing. It’s like taking a candid shot of someone and capturing them perfectly. The other is later in his career when he had the really long dreadlocks and the pictures are all live performance shot. Bob playing or singing those dreadlocks flying around his head like some strange Medusa, so free and so joyful.




Mike Out

The Music Blog: The Golden Age of Grotesque

A Master’s Degree in Social Work is a 64 hour program. That might seem long to you especially if you have a graduate degree. The reason for the length is that many social work students do not have Bachelor’s degrees in social work so the first year of graduate school is for learning what Bachelor’s graduates know already. So a person with a Bachelor’s degree in social work the program is reduced to 32 hours if and only if you attend graduate school within a certain time frame. I missed that time frame but received credit for the work I had done in social work already and the fact that I was a Licensed Social Worker already. My program was reduced to 59 hours. Now, this was actually good because that 5 hour reduction was one of 2 field placements.

A field placement is a course that includes some classwork but mostly working in the field. You are required to interview like you would for a job with a select number and it’s quite a few social work agencies in the area and do a certain amount of hours. There are a lot of hours and it can be really difficult if you already have a full time job. Getting one of these 2 field placements removed from my requirements was a big deal. I only had one and was very lucky to get mine at the Tarrant County Probate Court Guardianship program. Now the guardianship program was really one of the best in the country. Lots of people need guardians. There were people with traumatic brain injuries, developmentally disabled, a few kids who had no relatives and so a family friend had become their guardian, elderly with Alzheimer’s. Essentially anyone who was unable to make decisions for themself was eligible for guardianships. Some had guardians who were their parents, a developmentally disabled adult who could not make decisions for themselves. Some were guardians for a parent. Some were in group homes, some were in nursing homes and some lived at home. Some worked, some were in vegetative states. Part of the guardianship program consisted of a yearly visit to both the guardian and their charge. The purpose was to ensure that all was well and that guardianship needed to continue. There were other aspects to this program that are not pertinent to this blog. After all, this is a music blog and not a blog about my social work career. Remember music? We’re here for the music.

Now I loved doing yearly visits. I could grab a handful of files and knock them out easily in a week by doing visits in the early evening or on weekends. I learned a lot about all sorts of things and sometimes it required challenging my pre-conceived notions like the best nursing homes are in the best areas of town and cost more. I found that to be incredibly untrue. I found sadness. I found joy. I found hope sometimes in the most hopeless of situations. If you knew me back then you would be surprised that my cocky nature, really a façade, had also found humility. I was humbled by all that I saw and experienced.

I had great visits, visits that made me laugh, that made me happy and visits that made me sad and mournful. They ran the gamut of emotions as varied as the many paths I saw that a human life could take. One of my favorite visits was with an adolescent. Of course, adolescents have always been one of my favorite groups to work with. This kid was about 16 and had no living family and so a family friend had taken on the role of guardian for this young man. He was distant which was not surprising and had been under guardianship for a year or two. As I walked into his room the first thing I noticed was a poster of Marilyn Manson. There was an album on the bed that was also Marilyn Manson.

Now almost immediately the guardian said that she had heard everything this kid listened to and had heard all of Manson’s music and said that she even liked some of it. All of his friends listened to the same music and there was no way she could keep him from listening to it. The kid also chimed in telling me how Manson had something to say and that yea some of the album covers and videos were pretty shocking but to please not let it affect his guardianship. I did my interviews and I told this adolescent to remember that I had been a kid his age once too. I thought about my mom listening to Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies to make sure that my soul was not going to be endangered or that I wasn’t going to go out and become a mass murderer or something. I talked to my field supervisor and she was concerned about the kid listening to such disturbing music. I asked her if she had ever listened to a Marilyn Manson song. She said no. I asked her when she was in school if she had ever been exposed to shocking music that her parents would not approve of and she said of course. I defended this kid and I defended Marilyn Manson and I told my field instructor that this kid was in a great home, that he had been through enough and had somehow come out with hope for a better future and to mess with his guardianship which his mother had arranged when she was dying seemed wrong and so we took it to the Director of the Guardianship program who listened to the argument and said that I was right. I felt pretty good except for the fact that I had never heard a Marilyn Manson song and was repulsed by his looks and his outrageous videos which I wouldn’t watch.

In 1999 Marilyn Manson was heavily criticized even blamed outright following the Columbine shootings along with video games and anything else to deflect the blame onto something tangible. Marilyn looked evil therefore he had to be evil. Modus ponens logic if today is Monday the moon is made of green cheese. Today is Monday therefore the moon is made of green cheese. It was ignorant and yet it continues because there are many who would rather judge him for the weirdness, for the album covers than accept him as an artist. Marilyn Manson responded with intelligence, thoughtfulness, and sensitivity to youth, which is how he is in every interview.

I didn’t listen to Manson until after my guardianship visit. I had seen him interviewed. I did not think he was the devil’s child out to spread evil. I did not think I would like his music. I was surprised. I first downloaded a selection of songs, most of them his bigger songs, The Fight Song, The Dope Show, Cake and Sodomy. It wasn’t a mess. It was not what I expected. There was and is intelligence behind his music. Like Alice Cooper before him though it was the presentation. That’s the point though. There is some work to be done to become a fan. A younger person gets through that easier, and the music and lyrics feel more at home than someone older. That doesn’t mean it’s beyond understanding but you have to want to. I loved his covers. Sweet Dreams is absolute genius. Another though Suicide is Painless again drew heavy criticism which he never responded to probably because he was laughing so hard. That song is actually the theme song to M*A*S*H. That’s right, the actual title of the theme song is Suicide is Painless which was actually sung and has a special moment in the film if you ever saw the movie starring Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould which came out in 1970 as a dark comedy. That’s what you find with Manson’s music. I mean seriously he named himself for a beauty queen actress and a notorious cult leader and mass murderer; one of the most loved women on the planet and one of the most feared men. He has a sense of humor and it’s throughout his music.

I bought Portrait of an American Family, the first full length Manson album, first and absolutely loved it. I have most of his albums if not all and love them more or less as you would any artist you love. I don’t need to go into all of the songs. Some of you won’t be able to move past your own revulsion, your own judgment and that speaks more about you than it does him. Some of you are going to love him, and some of you are going to like him. There will be others who dislike him and some even will hate him. Come on he is not Zappa. What I would hope is that if you are one of those in the last two groups that you have at least moved beyond your own fears and listened to a few songs.

Mike out