Monthly Archives: January 2009

The Pretenders

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After months of dithering about on how to celebrate our 25th anniversary – silver is so tacky in a down market, and it’s not as if you can just give the paper gift 25 times – we finally settled on having an old-fashioned night of ear-blasting rock ‘n’ roll with Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders at the Palace. We’ve seen them twice before, once at the Landmark where we were way too close to the speakers, and once at the Palace, and both times they just rocked. The new album, “Break Up the Concrete,” is rock solid and I knew we wouldn’t be disappointed to hear the new stuff in with that pretty deep catalog of old stuff. Our seats were way up in the balcony, eye level with the cherubs, a fantastic view of the stage. The second I took the stage I realized I’d forgotten how incredibly sexy her performances are. 57? I’d still do her in a heartbeat. The band was tight and I was surprised to learn that Martin Chambers was drumming again (having been fired years ago, and with Jim Keltner drumming on the current album). Great mix of the old and the new, with a beautiful version of “Back on the Chain Gang,” one of those songs that gets me absolutely every time, and a version of “Bad Boys Get Spanked,” a song I didn’t really remember, that was a transcendant wall of sound. All in all, just a great show.

Note to the drunken a’hole who stands up from the start of every show and screams out for the one song he wants to hear, so that the rest of us can barely hear the song the band is actually playing; and to add to your stupidity, you have the name of the song wrong, dumbnuts. It’s not called “Ohio.” Sit the hell down and shut the fuck up. (In this case I think it was actually the same fucknut who screamed for “Voices,” also the wrong name, all through Aimee Mann’s show this past summer. But some version of this guy has been at pretty much every show I’ve been to for more than 30 years, and I would like all of them to just shut up.)

And while we’re turning the thrilling energy of a massively exciting rock show into a morning-after rant: could I please go to just one concert in my life without having to smell patchouli? Nearly everyone in the house was the same age as we are, give or take (but mostly give) 10 years. And that age is way too old to be wandering around in a patchouli stink. Give it up.

Sarcasm: it’s genetic

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So we’re sitting around of an afternoon listening to audio clips from The Onion Radio News, and one of the stories features an area man’s failure to buy bread for sandwiches for 62 consecutive weeks. I simply allow as how that’s not beyond the realm of believability, and opine that, domesticity-wise, men on their own is not a good idea. Beloved elder daughter, apple of my eye but, more critically, direct offshoot of my thought processes, and by now well aware of the semester or so during which I sustained myself almost entirely on peanut butter and marshmallow concoctions, flatly states, “No personal experience, Fluff boy.” I am hurt to the quick.

Mythbusters, Rock ‘n’ Roll Edition

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  1. The man who shot Liberty Valance was not the bravest of them all.
  2. No one put the the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp. It just grew there.
  3. It does not make your brown eyes blue. There are some contact lenses that will, however.
  4. Phone, fax, voicemail, e-mail, telegram, letter, in-person, through intermediaries, or total disappearance without saying a word – there are, at most, nine ways to leave your lover.
  5. Anyone can do the shing-a-ling like you do. Anyone.
  6. She ran away because she was sick of all the drama. Where will she stay? She’s at her sister’s, in Hoboken. No big mystery.
  7. “American Pie” wasn’t about pie. At all.
  8. Not everybody has heard about the bird. The surfin’ bird. My mother, for instance, had no idea what I was talking about.
  9. Indiana doesn’t want you.
  10. The beat actually does go on. Myth confirmed!

There are rules, people

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Listen, it’s very simple. You shouldn’t even have to be told this. If you’re at the coffee shop in the train station, and there is a line of people waiting, the server is slower than molasses in this very month, and the train is boarding, you do NOT order a latte. You just don’t. It’s wrong. Take a coffee with milk and like it, dammit. Anything else is just asking for a caning.

So it became clear that that latte wasn’t going to get made anytime soon, and that she wasn’t the kind of server who could ring up additional drinks (like, actual COFFEE, the kind men like) while the flaming latte did whatever it does that makes it a latte, so despite being the next person in line, I had to bail. You don’t go when they call, god only knows what seat you’ll get stuck in. That 6:55 train can be Lord of the Flies sometimes.

Of course, this came after a morning for which I had thought I was prepared mostly came apart, including having to hunt for my wallet, skipping breakfast, and deciding that the bottled water I keep in my truck at all times would be useless to me on the train because it wouldn’t thaw out during my lifetime. So I had to take the train entirely without recourse to drink. So it goes.

You people with your lattes – you’re on my list.

Home taping is no longer killing music

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After thinking I had given in to reason, age and obsolescence and had actually tossed a number of my oldest homemade cassette tapes, I found a secret cache of them. Now I’ve been busily transferring them onto the computer, reasoning that I will never get around to putting all this varied vinyl into digital form, and finally accepting that if I was happy enough with the sound quality on cheap magnetic tape for all those years, I should be happy enough with it now. So direct into the computer it goes.

These tapes are mostly from about the time I was 19 and got seriously into avoiding my schoolwork by making compilation tapes until about the time I was 28 and got seriously into . . . well, you know the rest. The early tapes fed our daily music fix and were played incessantly on those early Walkmans. (High kudos to TDK for making tape that didn’t break and really didn’t deteriorate too badly over time.) They’re so familiar to me that if I hear a song from one of them in any other context, I expect the next song on the tape to follow. And yet, there were still songs and even groups that I had essentially forgotten about. For instance, there was a time when there was much more Laughing Dogs and Herman’s Hermits in my daily listening, not to mention The Vapors and The Undertones. Now some of it is still good, some has nostalgia value only, and some of it I wish would go away — which is convenient when I have to edit down a 90-minute tape (timed to the second, I assure you) to fit on a CD.

Not that I’m really playing CDs anymore. I have literally hundreds of them, but these days most of my music is played from the computer (low-fi sound and all), or on satellite radio. Sometimes I play them in the truck, but otherwise they’re basically a storage medium now. As soon as I get done recording these cassette tapes, both the tape deck and the minidisc player (do not laugh) are going into storage, and I think the CD collection may leave the living room.

Embarrassing playlists from the past are likely to follow. Stay tuned.

Discovered, forgotten, never known

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  • Discovered: The absolutely brilliant Who Killed Amanda Palmer. I’m not sure how this Ben Folds effort completely escaped my notice in 2008, though in fairness I’m only vaguely aware of the Dresden Dolls, and while I loved “Has Been,” I’m not a major Ben Folds fan. But I see enough indie-rock info that somehow this should have filtered through sooner than it did. It came to me through Howard Stern playing a clip of Amanda taking a ukulele to Radiohead’s “Creep,” which always struck me as uncomfortably close in every way to Phil Everly’s “The Air That I Breathe,” a big late hit for The Hollies. (“Uncomfortably close,” as in, if The Verve had to turn over credit for “Bitter Sweet Symphony” to the Rolling Stones because they ripped off the Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra’s version of “The Last Time,” then I think somebody owes Phil Everly some money). So that got me curious about Amanda Palmer, and then I learned she had this Ben Folds collaboration, a somewhat surreal post-modern cabaret concept album – but, you know, brilliant. Stand-outs: “Runs in the Family” and “Ampersand” (“i’m not gonna live my life on one side of an ampersand”). Highly recommended. “Ampersand” could have been my top song of 2008 if I’d discovered it sooner! Better luck next year.
  • Forgotten: the brief, regrettable, now laughable fad of wearing kneepads. I know it wasn’t just Mick Jagger, but he certainly did, all throughout Hal Ashby’s “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” which as a concert film now pales in comparison to the quality of “Shine A Light,” but preserves the boys in a much younger state. So young that wearing football pants with kneepads outside looked like a good idea. I think it was an answer to the shoulderpads that infected the early ’80s, an idea that was cute in a number of things but then, like bacon last year, were stuffed inside everything. Oh yes, I had unstructured jackets with shoulderpads, but I swear I never wore kneepads. Not outside my clothes, anyway.
  • Never known: I read the credits for movies. Have since they were much, much shorter. Nowadays I tend to tune out after the major credits until we get to the music credits, which inevitably alert me to some song that was used in a way that it couldn’t even be heard in the movie (but which likely shows up on the soundtrack because the rights were cheap). I’m always interested in who has done a cover that I may not have been aware of. So, the other night, after our 400th viewing of “Dodge Ball” – and I assure you, people getting hit in the crotch with big rubber balls does not stop being funny, and that a wrench is even funnier – I was looking for who did the cover of The Cyrkle’s piece of ear-candy, “Red Rubber Ball,” and learned to my absolute shock that it had been penned by Paul Simon (along with Bruce Woodley of The Seekers.) I’m not a Paul Simon fan or anything, but you would think that sometime in the 42 years since that song hit #2 on the charts I would have become aware, somehow, that Paul Simon had been involved in it. But I was not. And if you were not, now you are. No thanks are necessary.