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