The Story Of The Grimm Generation – Part 1

Some things you can only see in the rearview mirror. And as is often the case, the objects do seem larger than they appeared.

When we co-opted the name Grimm from said Brothers, it was not a mistake. There was always an element of fairytale about what we attempted to do. And quite like the actual stories from the Brothers Grimm, much of it was terrifying.

I had a dream. And I had someone to dream with, which is this story.The dream was always the same: World Domination. Or at least validation. Being recognized for what you did versus who you were. Fueled by a teenhood full up on rock magazines (Creem, Hit Parader), classic FM radio and that Monday after the big concert when everyone in class wore the same t-shirt.

Currently, that seems quaint. And it is. The Music Business was always a business. If the greatest musician you ever heard never left their bedroom, they would not be the greatest musician you ever heard. They would be your cousins’ friend, your coworker, your Ex.

We started The Grimm Generation with a simple concept: Children of the 70’s at 40. And what I do not believe I have ever considered was how Rock music culture of that era affected us. Infected us. 

Before the Internet, records were passed around between friends, hand to hand, and the receiver would offer something back. 

And the World grew larger. 

We dealt in myth. And we were our best customers. When you try to do impossible things, you need to think in impossible ways. I could not do it alone. And I did not have too.

The tale of The Grimm Generation is the story about a house. A domicile that gave us the space and time to create, the raw desire to reach out further. Every element of what we would become was co scripted with a collection of walls and windows. 

This is a story about a band that did not make it. A story with real magic, real tears, love and intrigue, creation and re-creation of ourselves. There is not a moral to the story. Morals are for fairy tales and despite our personal preferences, this takes place in the very real time of the late 2000’s. 

The Internet was born and we were reborn with it.

It starts with ‘The Story’. ‘The Story’ that started a whole unknown Universe of Grimm…a story that was shared by CC and Me on every form of radio, tv, print press interview available. 

And it goes a little something like this….(hit it!)

‘Carmen and JpK met on Match.Com. They went on a date that went well but it was not a love match. Both retreated to their separate worlds until a note went from Carmen to JpK asking ‘Do you like Sparklehorse?’ 

That simple question bloomed into more notes, more sharing, more details of the damages done to us by a life of suburban excess. Marriages, divorces, kids, cars. And New Wave, Glam Rock, the effect of Led Zeppelin on our growing years. 

It never stopped. For years. They realized that despite the romantic missing, they had some type of undefinable chemistry. Notes lead to cups of coffee. Stories transformed into larger lessons the more they wrung them out. Carmen would send poetry and JpK would send demos. 

These reflections became the basis of a book ‘Dispatches from The Grimm Generation’ a collection of vignettes birthed by choosing a single subject and the two writer’s impressions of it. What was discovered was this errant chemistry was a true partnership as lovers came and went. And usually left a tale or two in their wake.

The Grimm Generation was coined based on the ideas of kids of the 70’s turning 40 and how our generation was sold fairytales as a future. We were given the American Dream but the anxiety kept us awake.

This constant communication, text, emails, (never a call) led to JpK moving right into Carmen’s refinished basement, henceforth known as The House of Grimm. And the pair set out to learn about how to promote a book.

JpK was songwriter mainly, good in a short sprint, ran out of breath on a marathon, with a genuine love of good Pop songs. He had some success, but much more debt. While beating his head against the cinder block cellar one Sunday, he heard Carmen and her kids playing ‘Rock Band’. 

When he heard Carmen sing an AC/DC song, he thought ‘I could work with this’. And invited her down to sing a few of his songs…’

This is ‘The Story’. And this became what we did for the next 5 years. And what The Grimm Generation defined became our banner. We were already too old to start a Rock Band, but we were cagey promoters and had the benefit of a young Internet culture that suited us. We were both born posers and would take a position at the first click of a camera. This was when Facebook was still based on living people versus dying industry. 

We were ready for our close up.

I have known Carmen for over a decade now, with a level of sharing that brought us closer to kin than friends. 

That does not mean I know her, truly.

Carmen keeps it close to the vest, always. She is not what you would call effusive. Unless she is drinking. Then she was a red headed charm bracelet that sang out loud.

She was born in Hartford, CT and was the first American baby from a family with deep French-Canadian roots. When her extended family came round to visit, it was all Crown Royal and crazy Canadian food stuffs. And a deep, bracing whiff of redneck.

We grew up similarly as she had a few brothers and sisters, went to school, flirted with college, married young and had a few kids.

Then as was in vogue in the Nineties, divorced. As we all did that decade.

I was from Fairfield, CT about one hour south. I had a good childhood as I recall, though in telling some stories of my misguided youth, I have noticed eyebrows climbing ever higher. 

As a kid, I had a deep love of language and what can be done with it. Being very fat kept me inside with my books, comic books, pads and pens. I wrote my first song at age 9 proclaiming my love for Kara. She never heard the song. 

Many Kara’s followed. I was a World Champ’een Unrequited Lover. And it fueled my writing.

In time I discovered Pot and my worlds turned stranger and my sense of being a responsible person slipped away. I started writing more songs.

I started with bands when I was a kid. We did what bands did back in the Actual 80’s: we started at Teen Center shows, graduated to shitty club gigs with covers, write and record original music and break up. Over and over again. Some victories, a lot of laughing, some crying. 

Repeat.

I held a job, married, had a child ….  divorced….  married again, gained a step child…. divorced…

Repeat.

I tried to push back the creative need and limousine dreams to try my hand at being a decent Husband and worthwhile Father. I did not want to tell anyone I ever even wrote music as I tried to settle. 

It was fruitless. It was what I was good at. I acted like a bon vivant living on lottery winnings. Immaturity was my brand. I operated with a dangerous combination of ego and absolute anonymity. 

This dogged me as I came up, moved away from home (by only an hour, but in Connecticut that matters), needed new pot connections and consequently made new friends. Of course, they were musicians.

I have always had an odd and maybe strained relationship with musicians. I think because I was The Songwriter my end goals were always different than the dudes I played with. Everyone wants to have a good time, jam, pack the clubs, make a little cash and do it again next weekend. That was never my goal.

I had my musical heroes but they were also my competition. And my artistic vision went beyond what I could explain to even the most open minded and dedicated players. I was scattered, I was over blown, and absolutely pretentious. I would talk about crescendo where the musician would talk about where the solo was. 

I was fated to be a solo artist as very few could deal with me for that long.

This created a situation where I was ever earnest about my work, my Art, always attempting to write a legitimate hit, mainly alone in my bedroom. I took to the recording bedroom style as the equipment became affordable.

I had a simple enough schematic for what I wanted to produce: a good chorus, short, words that were a bit darker and more detailed than will fit in a Pop song. Aiming for hooks, melodies. The fruit of what captures the ear and makes you turn to face the radio. 

Songs were a means to an end. Originally it was therapy for me. If I never sang a note these songs would still exist moldering in some low drawer. I used my frustration to create. This also led me to involving myself in personally dangerous circumstances and rationalizing I was doing it for my art.

I read the 70’s / 80’s Rock magazine like they were Greek myths. At that time, they practically were. Consider the images of the wild flowing hair, lit from behind like a perfect capture in oils. Coliseums shake as the masses gather and call their name. In unison. Loud. And lighters fill the night. In tribute to these Gods who walk with men. 

Who wouldn’t want that?

In those days it was the alternative papers that featured the local music sections. Anytime I was involved in something, I would send constant Press Releases to keep a generally uninterested World on where my mighty muse may lead me.

In 2009 I had an all-acoustic group named The Citizen Spy in the era just before Indie Folk had a genre. We were chosen as the Best Folk Group in Hartford by the Hartford Advocate. It was work to get it, to network, to suggest, cajole, beg for people to vote for me for, a band that very few had heard.

I collected the members though the tried-and-true musicians want ads. 

The Musician Want Ads were always sketchy at best. First those same alternative weeklies had their ‘Musicians Seeking …’ section and then CraigsList. These were like dating sites where no one got lucky, even by accident.

You could find someone and review their work and express interest. And never hear from them again. Maybe they died. Maybe they were arrested for ‘rocking too hard’. Maybe they were still a little drunk from last night’s gig.

You become immune to this quickly (much like Internet dating) when you recognize it’s a numbers game. Reach out to more and you will get more. The ‘more’ you get is often unworkable, unstable stuff but it makes you feel like you’re actually participating in a type of Music Business.

On the Musician Want Ads, a Bass Player or Drummer would be considered the ‘pretty girls at the dance’ as everyone wanted them. They string you along (‘play original music for little cash? Sign Me Up!’) until their ship comes in (‘play covers and make a lot more cash? Sign Me Up!’) and then disappear. 

The term that offended me when relating this to other musicians was that the people you find on the Musician Want Ads are ‘hobbyists. That made me angry. Despite being absolutely true.

I dedicated myself to finding players who could help me build something larger, grander in scope. I believed that if a group of people, even absolute strangers, can come together with a common cause, a sound that matters to those involved, they can produce something lasting, something beautiful. Something that can transcend social relations and slip into a higher airstream for all to see, all to experience. A labor of true love.  

Which brings us back to the Best Folk Group in Hartford. I worked hard to get that award. I figured it would be a stepping stone to get my name a bit more public. I campaigned for it.

And won. It was a shock. 

When it came time to play the gig, The Citizen Spy had already broken up. Because they were hobbyists. I had conceived and achieved and succeeded, and found myself alone again, not a step further ahead than I was

I was heartbroken. Until that Sunday night about a week later when I heard CC playing Guitar Hero.

2007…. or so

I was renting a room from a bandmate at this time and decided I needed to go. Carmen and I had already been in a constant conversation on every conceivable method of communication. It was a natural step.

It was the emails that bonded us. Texts are quicker, Instagram can show fine details, but sending emails was a perfect form of communication for us. It was like writing letters and throwing them into a virtual Sea. There was a weight and breadth to them, despite being composed of circuits and electric ink.

We started with Sparklehorse and coalesced into something deep, then deeper still. It was all about feelings that neither of us shared with other friends or family. We allowed ourselves to let go and share with someone who would not judge, even as we clicked through a series of actions we were less proud of.

This is where the talk of the Grimm Generation really started, as a code for ‘Children of the 70s at 40.’ We felt that what we were taught growing up was a very soft glow version of what life would really be like. 

We missed the Drug Era but of course, drugs were appropriate for every Era. We missed the movements of a real Culture that we were too young for. These lessons never set in with us as a generation, and we fail spectacularly. We marry because it is what we believe we are supposed to do. We have kids because we are married, whether we wanted kids or not. We bought houses that we lost when the market crashed.

In retrospect, was this a series of excuses for not having our shit properly together? You’re damned right it was. 

The true political intent was just a false flag. We had someone to talk too after being on Match.com too long where every communication was either someone selling you something you do not really need or you selling yourself. 

The unceasing communication we struck was about the book that we were co-authoring. Neither of us had any type of experience in marketing a book, my scant experience in marketing a record was good but ultimately not useful.

With my living situation deteriorating, when Carmen mentioned that she was refinishing her basement, I jumped on it. I have always had a lovely relationship with basements and the House Of Grimm basement was perfect. And would allow us to really focus our attention toward the book.

All of this was happening in the background of my personal Waterloo, the Hartford Advocate Poll debacle.

It wasn’t anyone’s fault. Even by this point, less and less people read print media. These proud giants of alternative thinking were rotting in their boxes. 

Where once the Grand Band Slam was a multiple night affair, everyone was involved and partying, playing a variety of clubs, outdoor gigs. Just a real general hullabaloo. it was shrinking in significance almost daily. The print media. The Scene itself.

I was offered an outdoor gig that was cancelled. I set up my own celebration gig on the day after New Year’s. Even the band did not show. No one came except for Carmen and her beau du jour. I was crushed.

And wallowed in it. Constant angry pacing in my 15-foot square underground sanctuary. Carmen was upstairs with the kids (approximate ages: Boy – 10, Girl – 6) playing Rock Band. And then Carmen took the mike and sang an AC/DC song. And I heard something there. Something undefinable. Something I needed.

Carmen had no background in music aside from a grammar school chorus and years of listening. There was something in her voice that was dusky and true. Not a traditional sound, but something that called out from late nights, broken hearts, too much liquor, on a loop. 

It was a sound my more traditional voice could not convey. It wasn’t ability, it was atmosphere. And as I listened, I considered what if I took my decidedly pop songs and put them through that voice. I had no idea what would happen, but it kept me from thinking about the great expanse of what was not happening for me.

Since we lived together and had working projects, there were a lot of shared cigarettes on the screened in porch overlooking Park Ave in Windsor. This time was always about what happened next for the book marketing. 

The book was The Thing. The book was our shared vision, our lopsided child. We went back and forth, story for story, until we selected the best subject and best writings that we produced. One of us would pick a subject (‘Lust’, ‘Butterflies’, etc) and we both would write our take on it. Some of the stories were long. Some were 3-line poems. It was an individual choice as to how to best capture the subject.

We felt like we were doing something so far unknown to the Market. The ‘Story’ and the stories we shared would leap out from the page and engage people our age. That was our market, clearly, as we wrote this about turning 40 in the high 2000s. We presumed that people would hear about it and reach out with their own tales of Grimm Generation excess and a community would be built. 

Nope.

We sent out the book to a hand-picked focus group who read it and provided insight, accolades and grammar hints. 

Just like real authors do. 

We then adjusted the tales through the insight provided group and built the book as suggested by the several thousand websites that offered encouragement and advice.

Just like real authors do.

We started shopping the book. When we received the first rejection (like real authors do), we laughed at the lack of imagination of the Big Book Business. By the third and fourth rejection letter, we were laughing a bit less. Seven and Eight hurt like Hell.

This process, unsuccessful as it was, really forged the Grimm dynamic that would become our trademark. We were hucksters, shameless.  Specifically, together. We brought out the carnival barker in each other.

Individually we were still both a bit shy, closer to unknowable.  United, we were glamorous grifters. We were good at it. Marketing that was funny, a bit salacious, but never uncomely. It entertained us greatly.

I expected to go into the book using this same level of grating glory, but I could not have anticipated the addition of Carmen. We fed off of each other, each idea discussed among smokes and bigger cups of coffee till we tore down every idea and rebuilt it to hold up to the GG standard. 

We were in a single clear conversation for about 8 full years. The circumstances changed, the band members came and went and we were always looking at what is next to advance the Grimm agenda.

I have worked with people before, but it was nothing compared to what CC and I had. 

We believed we could sell ice in the Antarctic. And because we believed it, we could do it. I always thought that if we tried hard enough, the two of us could will the house leave the ground and lift off into Space. Simply because it never dawned on us that we couldn’t. 

We were not invincible. The rejection letters cut us in the places still exposed: lack of confidence, a genuine shared and fought against pessimism, old childhood ghosts of limits to what we can expect and what we could accomplish.

This January Sunday night, when a text was received and I slipped upstairs for a smoke, a new conversation began.

‘So…by now you do recognize I am quite mad. Right?’ I started with.

CC looked wary…trying to assume what angle this conversation was going. ‘I am aware.’

‘I heard you singing on Rock Band. And I have to say…. I could do something with that voice.’

‘Something … like what?’

‘A band!’ I exclaimed while she looked at me with an almost sympathetic nod noting I was indeed quite mad.

‘What am I going to do in this band? Sing??’

‘Yep. You’re the Singer, I’m the genius behind the scenes that plays guitar and broods.’

‘Genius?’

‘W.E. I think we can do something…. something bigger than the book, using the same philosophy. Children of the 70’s at 40. We may not know what people are reading, but we know what they are listening to. Their Facebooks are lousy with the stuff.’

‘True.’

‘So, I have the songs and you have the voice. It is something I am far more familiar with than book marketing. Why not?’

‘Because I can’t sing.’

‘You can. And really…who cares? Need I produce the list of non-traditional singers who have populated the pop charts? Dylan anyone?’

‘C’mon! You are high.’ (Note: I was.)

‘Yes…. but that doesn’t mean I am wrong. Let’s do this. For the next book meeting, I am bringing my guitar and you bring extra wine. If I am wrong, it will not take a lot for time to discover that.’

To Be Continued ….

Sunday Night Radio: What Is This That Stands Before Me?

Hello Beautiful. I will start with the most obvious question: Is this post a cheap ploy to bring home the fact that Cursive is Code (my band) is being played on the Mighty WPLR 99.1 Sunday night at 10 PM on the Local Bands Show (https://www.wplr.com/2020/12/10/the-local-bands-show-12-13-20/)?

Maybe to bring up the fact that it will be stream able the following day on the replay through Cygnus Radio at Noon (https://cygnusradio.com/)?

Of course not, Silly. But do listen.

No.

This post is about growing up in the shadow of this particular 50,000 Watts station and why being featured on Sunday nights makes me feel like I have magic shoes that allow me dance on ceilings.

When I was growing from boy to older boy, before all of my comic books were traded for a single Alice Cooper ticket (it is a great Rock and Roll story and a poor plan), this station is why.

It was the King Biscuit Flour Hour and the show was ‘Black and Blue: Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult).

I was about 12 at the time and comics were my life. I was into the X Men (as any right thinking outcast kid in the suburbs should be). Everything was comics. They covered my walls, my few friends were collectors and we would trade all day long.

So, a quick study of this is I was a kid who was into fantasy. Not the wizards and sword and sandals stuff. The deepest I could go into that vibe was the Frazetta posters that also adorned my tiny teen bedroom. And I’m not convinced I hung those there for any reason than I was 12 and the girls started to interest me.

This was my life. My parents even brought me to my first Comic Convention which was NOT a Comic Con. It definitely had more the vibe of the Waterbury Record Shows (on Sunday Mornings!) held at Ramada (or w.e.). Meaning it was generally middle aged dudes who smelled foul.

It was not until the Waterbury Record Shows that I realized poor hygiene was a tactic. Smelling bad was an excellent way to make sure nobody stands to close to you as you are digging for gold among the crates of vinyl.

So I was a nerd, but so were you, don’t lie.

I had always had older brothers and sisters and cousins who brought around music. Despite my young age, I was raised on Yes records and first albums James and I received for Christmas which were ‘Queen: Live Killers’ and ‘Aerosmith Live Bootleg’. Also an 8 track of ‘David: Live’.

Which if you boiled down the elements, you get my musical career.

So I was aware of rock music, considered myself a fan but it was comics. Until that Sunday Night ….

I was getting ready for school and had 99.1 Rock on because I believed that was what I was supposed to do. I barely owned any records of my own aside from a few single 45’s my Dad would get for James and I whenever he hit it in the Lottery. Understand I am not talking about ‘Lottery Winners’. That term itself is an oxymoron. If he made a few bucks on the horses or daily numbers, we would know when we received a 45. I remember my first one was Thin Lizzy ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ and James opted for David Bowie ‘Golden Years’

(Which if you boil down the elements….etc.)

So it was 99.1 Rock Radio on all the time. Dr Demento was likely what brought me there. The real prize was ‘The King Biscuit Flour Hour’. In a pre-YouTube universe this was where you heard performers live. It was the only way, at the time.

So, getting ready for School Monday on a Sunday night and the show starts. The opening sponsored announcements. I barely paid attention.

Then the bell.

The fucking bell changed everything.

On the Heaven and Hell Tour. Opening number ‘Black Sabbath’. I knew none of this at the time (my sister listened to Volume 4 which when I hear again I knew every word without knowing I did).

All I knew was the sound of wind and rain, howling and the Bell. My ears perked up like a dog who heard a can being opened. I sat right down and stopped everything. The World itself stopped spinning and all focus was on me and my speakers.

‘What is this that stands before me?’

See The Boss Pedal, Be The Boss Pedal: An Argument For Digital Effects In Normal Conversation

As a clear sign that I have been driven mad, I have permanently effected the affects of this particular medulla oblogata with my recording within Dante’s digital pit, I have come to the realization that digital effects are not just for music.

Furthermore, I need to make a miracle machine (which is tricky as the dog ate my engineering degree) that puts digital effects where they belong: conversations. This may require we all walk around with permanent earphones on to get the effect (big and fat), but what are words worth? They are worthless unless you can EQ them to a listenable form and then blast them through BIG reverbs.

Effects will be the new punctuation. They will say. When I create the machine. I will be hailed as yet another distraction (like iphones and Instagram and insulin) that is keeping us from becoming the species we should be, in our most perfect and docile form.

Dull. Dullllllll. Im So Bored with your plain, simply heard speeches. Do me a favor…ask me that in Flanger. Phase me, baby.

Consider how it can really emphasize the conversations you are already having?

Don’t you feel cheated when you are angry and yell at someone and it simply dissipates? Try that with a big hall reverb. Now THATS angry and impossible to ignore.

What about ordinary dull conversations with people in the grocery line? Slip in some Digital Delay…and slowly build it, so your words leave your mouth and are suddenly bouncing, bouncing everywhere, every direction, every corner and crevice of the subconcious till theres no option for anyone but to turn away and look at the Star or People Magazine.

Late night and early morning? Need to talk to people but your too wasted to form words? Compression. Everything you say will have more impact, even if that statement is ‘I’m sorry I dropped the ball on the Perkins account.’. Your manager can only admire your honesty, forthrightness and deep sonorous tones. And this is how you get a promotion.

Tryin to explain away a prior bad act? Speak clearly through a Heavy Metal distortion. Raise the gain. Speak slowly and stare directly into their eyes and watch as they get confused, a little sad and go away.

Need a lil pickup in the bedroom? Ladies love a good Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, brother. Get all Issac Hayes and shit and lay it down.

My point being that we short change ourselves in terms of appropriate dramatics. Sometimes it takes a bit o’ science.

The REAL point being this record is killing me.

(dictated but not read in Vibrato)

BOSS-Pedal-Wall

How Deep Purple Brought Me To Jesus

I have the image clear: about 7 years old in my older sister bedroom, her and her friends laughing and I’m twisting the long coil of the soup can style fat headphones (the fatter, the better. …I still stand by this, ear buds can’t hang …) and laying on the floor leafing through the LP covers as the vinyl discs get listened to and piled on top of the speaker, long dried wax and incense dust in a permanent drip on the space age black plastic stereo cover.

And though I know there was more, the art, the impossible comic book of album covers, of 4 records sticks in my head:

Black Sabbath ‘Volume 4’, Elton John ‘Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy ‘, Chicago….the chocolate bar covered one and Deep Purple ‘Made In Japan’.

Being 7 or so, the ‘Made In Japan’ cover fascinated me…..and in retrospect, maybe cause it’s the only of these records to show the band in photo. So you can imagine Highway Stars and Space Truckers and examine the front cover action shot and think ‘Yup. That’s what someone who drives a truck on space looks like.

What I did not know at the time was the Deep Purple I was listening too was as close to a true team of comic heroes Rock music would ever produce. And what they did would inform and inspire what I did for the rest of my life.

Because Deep Purple was unique and always would be. They were that Avengers style super team where each member was a fifth of the power, and without these 5 you have….oh I dunno. …Vanilla Fudge. Every member was necessary …. not the instrument they played…..them playing it.

And of course these 5 dudes created a song that went far beyond their generation, far beyond their own life span as a band….and surely as corporal beings. You know the tune. ‘Duh Dunh Dunhhhhh, Duh Dunh Dunh Dunhhhhhh….’ etc.

THE riff of Rock written by bass player Roger Glover, who wrote others. He was perhaps the most restrained, most common in appearance. …and there lied his mutant ability to produce timeless riffs.

Ian Paige was always a cult figure, a deeper Neal Pearl style worship amongst those who know. This was beat (in perfect paradiddle) into my head by my old friend Vic who was so stupidly talented, he learned these Paice driven monsters beat for beat. And to simply watch him play with (big and fat) headphones on was a revelation to me if what drums REALLY did if you watched someone who knew how to play them proper. Ian’s ability was to make it look easy and simultaneously impossible.

Jon Lord. He was the heart if this sound. This was not simple worship of Hammond B3. It was using it as a tool, and pushing the good taste and warm whirly tones into an over driven groans and wails and the low rumble of (big and fat) American automobiles. He was the strong one, the honorable one, the mad scientist who ain’t that mad.

And the difficult one, the dangerous unpredictable one. The one who played with black magic and risked his soul within the complexity of each incredible solo. And the one who started me on my vague obsession with megalomania. Mr Ritchie Blackmore. He was Dr Strange with a stratocaster.

And on vocals and bongo, Jesus Christ.

Ok. Ian Gillan was not actually Jesus Christ. But he did play him on the stage. And through this, at a later age than church would prefer, I came to know The Passion Of The Christ.

It’s hero worship. When your a fan. …a real fan….you track down where your hero’s come from. And in this fashion, me and my friends came to know Jesus Christ Superstar. And despite being Sabbath obsessed darklings, we came to know every word. Every plea, every plot of the Christ story. And to this day, this is where my true understanding of Christ came from.

But one doesn’t get defined by being Jesus. ….Jesus aside. Ian Gillan was one of the best singers in and out of Rock. And looked damned good doing it.

There is no band that ever sounded like Deep Purple. And there will never be again.

Jon Lord left this plane for farther shores. And I think he is still out there, awaiting the call to save us.

SAVE US.

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Cock Rock Cage Match: Jonathan Richman VS Bad Company

It is a too rare treat to discover something unknown that completely confounds and compels you. Not something that you understand, not something that is reminiscent of some greater Universal work that you have loved all your known life. Not a genre or movement or draw on your hipster gland (‘this was made for US. THEY don’t get it’).

Something that steps into your head, pops the top and rearranges the contents until it fits. And starts subtly changing the definitions, the limits, of an art form. Personally, if not globally.

Something beamed in from some alternate dimension that was watered and fed on the culture your part of. But the zipper shows up the rubber monsters back. That’s not a regular monster. Not the monsters we’ve come to expect.

And where others get these particular kicks in deeper, darker LSD infused fugues, I opt for a more simplistic mind blowing. Make mine a Jonathan.

I never saw ‘There’s Something About Mary’. I never invested time in discovering The Modern Lovers. So I was completely unprepared.

With my first listen to Jonathan Richman, via a single dollar find at a flea, I was….uncomfortable. It’s hard to describe why. It’s almost felt like I shouldn’t be listening to this as a heterosexual male. It was effeminate. It was light and spare and the singing sounded like a joke. And the songs were simple and dumb.

Problem is I couldn’t stop listening. Morning, noon and night, that record became my constant companion. I wasn’t aware how much I was enjoying it; it was more akin to liturgical study. There’ was a great mystery within these songs. A personal X File.

I understood why I liked it. He is a walking history of Pop music as art form. Whether accurately describing, influence and actual sound of the ‘Fender Stratocaster’, or liberally borrowing everything in the American Rock and Roll canon for ‘Parties in The USA’, I recognized him as someone whose simplicity belied a truth, maybe a nostalgic truth, but still a truth.

And the arrangements he chose to work in were pure JpK bait. Spare, fat electric or thin electric, snare drum, maybe a bass. Some grand doo wop harmonies. I like my listening music to have lots of space for interpretation; let me make the melodies in my head, whether lyrical or musical. That way it’s a shared sport.

It is a universal truth and not one I’m the first to mention: the awesomeness of a rock and roll song is directly related to the number of instruments on it. Too many instruments, you are left to ride along. Too few instruments is like a Chinese fire drill. Everyone drives. Interactive and anonymous kicks. Good for everyone.

But….it took me a while to get here. Cause at first listen to Jonathan Richman, I could only think of Fred Schneider. In time, I came to love and admire the B-52’s, but that was not my first reaction. No. My first reaction to hearing the B-52’s was to take the tape out of the player (not my tape, nor my car) and whip it out the speeding cars’ window. But I was a kid. One expects to have such knee jerk reactions to alternative lifestyles at that age. Kids are dumb.

Which made my reaction to Jonathan Richman more….concerning. Cause I have evolved far beyond teens (I tell myself) and an adult isn’t allowed to have such juvenile reactions to things different. Not if they are NOT an asshole.

If you still believe all the things you did at 14 in the decade of 40’s, you may be an asshole. Ask someone you know. They will likely be honest, asshole.

And as usually happens, my immediate, visceral reaction revealed far more about me than the work of Jonathan Richman. Cause Jonathan is a man who loves woman. I would say he is right there with Paul Rodgers in terms of He Man chick slaying. Except in place of the scads of ex Zep groupies Paul dropped his bell bottoms for, I imagine that Jonathan had one woman he wrapped his twisting libido around.

Lets take Bad Company’s ‘Feel Like Making Love’. Demanding. In the vocal, you don’t get the sense that Paul doesn’t mean ‘making love’. I picture poses and literal fireworks. He sounds demanding. The girl may want to fake it and not upset the Tarzan of Love.

Now compare that too ‘Closer’ by Richman. A song about sharing a marital bed. With Jonathan proclaiming ‘closer…closer…’. He’s not discussing a close feeling or close deep talk. He wants in. He describes the dynamic with much grinding. Perhaps some frustration on his wife’s part cause the dude never stops needing to be ‘closer’. It’s erotic and truly identifiable for any guy whose ever been married.

Compare ‘Can’t Get Enough’ from Bad Co to ‘Every Day Clothes’. Now despite Paul’s insistent ‘I take what I want. And baby, I want you.’ I’m not convinced there’s much in it for said groupie aside from a night of telling Paul ‘It’s OK. it happens to lots of Cock Rock Stars.’ It’s not that it’s unbelievable. Its just a really authentic cartoon from a hack writer.

Jonathan digs his girl in her sweats and those unimaginable over sized sweatshirts. He’s likes that jussst fine. Jonathan is a realist. He loves his woman. He doesn’t need sheer fabric to remember whats beneath those figure flattening threads. It’s on his mind con-stant-ly. Closer. Below the clothes. Closer. Between the sheets, the clothes removed. Closer.

Take ‘Rock and Roll Fantasy’ and match to ‘Monologue About Bermuda’ for a real taste of fame and life on the road. Maybe it’s cause the concepts, the ideas that Bad Company existed in became so outdated so quickly that they couldn’t see….or just didn’t care….how cute they would be some day. Limousines and record companies covering the bar bills is so quaint it might as well have an ‘Olde’ before it. And sell Maple candy.

Where in the talk piece that is ‘Monologue About Bermuda’, you get the real sense of life in a traveling band: shifting sands, new influences, frustration, boredom, anxiety. A sense you are constantly repeating yourself. Plus it’s much funnier.

But…. boys love Bad Company. Everybody loves Bad Company. They are the waffle of Rock. Who doesn’t like waffles?

Richman is more of a crepe. Even I don’t like crepes.

But…I like Jonathan. I’m OK with that.

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Lessons Best Learned Via Parasite

It is NOT a dog eat dog world. If it was, there would be many more half eaten dogs laying about. It IS a dog eat dog food world. But as axioms go, it’s a bit thin.

No, the world itself is a dog. Domesticated, generally, but still a wild creature. Unpredictable. It will greet you with slippers almost everyday. But will occasionally bite you. Hard.

No, if you want a lesson within the dog dynamic, let’s call it for what it is: you can’t find a better teacher than the tick.

This doggy world has two types of travelers: the fleas and the ticks. The fleas are not particular in their needs. They have abilities to leap into different worlds (like perhaps your needs would be best served by taking up residence on an Irish Setter?). They have no commitment to this dog in particular. They are shallow and light as air. Bright light would shine right through them.

You know fleas. They generally come up in cautionary tales. Someone who had such potential but they lacked patience. So they bounce. And they will forever bounce until their short life span ticks down. And in those last seconds they wish desperately to come back in some next life as a butterfly or a Datsun.

They lack the courage of their convictions. They bite and run. They irritate and….well, flee. And ultimately the endless fleas become a memorial roll who you barely bothered attaching names too.

Be the tick. Focused. Visceral. Get your hooks in and feed. Become part of your doggy world; let its blood flow into you, become one with it. Own it, at last. Own it. Have no fears of the cigarette end nor tweezer. When they come for you, dig in. And if you can’t stay, can’t outlast, persevere, leave something deep down to remind them of you.

Infect this world. Ride it out. Don’t let yourself be thrown away.

Do not let go. Never let go.

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Sometime’s I Almost Feel. (In Memory Of The Attractions)

A blog on Memorial Day Weekend? Why???

Why not just write it and bury it in the ground? (Cause the geocache’ers will find it and sign there own name and let the coordinates slip).

Is it at least in some way relevant to this Holiday based on memorializing our fallen heroes? (No. Not even a little. I’ll save that for people who just MIGHT get read on Memorial Day)

Why aren’t you outside? (causes your Mama’s not. So there.)

Since I am clearly writing for an audience of one, I’m gonna throw a shout out. Hey JpK! (Hey! High Five! )

No. This ones for me. And it’s about what to me equates to the best band Rock and Roll ever produced. And I’m clearly not seeking a consensus on this.
Take a truly masterful and epic tick tock madmeister of timing, who creates big weird rhythmic Universes within simple and short A-B-AA-B-AA-B song styling, drummer to the Sultans, Pete Thomas)…

Add the quirky twin to this soulful cyborg, a bass player capable of holding down, driving on, creating weird hooky high lines (his work on ‘This Years Girl’ still operates as ‘perfect bass’ to me), a perfect touch for a kiss or a stomp, the 4 string king of suburban soul, Bruce Thomas….

Factor in musical prodigy quality music theory and farfisa based dramatics, part Leonard Bernstein, part the Che Guevara of melody, a real Mad Doctor feel and just killer imagination for turning ordinary basic songs into deeply felt cinema scene and themes, the best name in Rock and Roll, Steve Nieve…

And lead by the scurrilous, scabrous bespectacled bard of longing and liking, skilled with abilities to weave syllables into fabric that can coat poor misunderstood boys and girls, to bright for their own goods. The slash and absolute-itude of rhythm guitars, the contorting emotional cannibal originally known as Declan but upgraded, evolved, promoted into royalty, Elvis Costello.

Ladies and Gentlemen (meaning Jason), I introduce to you your favorite music if your not a dickweed, Elvis Costello and The Attractions.

I don’t expect nor care if you agree. Based on all the bootlegs a boy can buy, this was an incredible and unmatched set of lads live. On fire isn’t enough. We need discuss the atomic to get even in the ball field.

Live they combined punk fury fueled by the good ole’ days of cocaine, the beauty of listening to the appropriate amount of music from all over the planet, so the country is country, the soul is soul, the snozzleberries taste like snozzleberries. Wicked twists and turns of tight practiced over toured enthusiastic burning out and upwards.

Let’s talk Long Player records. From ‘No Action’ to ‘I Want to Vanish’ that is decades of brilliant adult themed pop music. And each record has a different feel, a different sound, but is corralled by Elvis’s spit phrasing and Steve’s kooky carnival or sub classical leanings. When you consider that only 2 records separate ‘This Years Model’ with it’s pissed off youth fused punk rock pop to ‘Imperial Bedroom’, which is a different animal, big British, tribute laden by whatever drove the Little Hitler. But clearly the same species.

And consider ‘Brutal Youth’ and ‘When I Was Cruel’ and recognize they not only held there own against the clock, but improved, fleshed out colour with visible brush strokes. While most bands that late into career would be hailed for still being relevant, The Attractions bent the bar into twisted shapes just to make it more interesting to hop over.

And I include ‘Goodbye Cruel World’, considered one of their worst records. But still better than most other bands best. I speak of ‘Inch By Inch’ which is as perfect a tribute to online stalking as any, though written far before the Internet. ‘Worthless Thing’ with it’s accurate view of Rock and Roll myth making. ‘The Comedians’ just for that chorus (and yes, a better version was done by Roy Orbison).

And the songs. Man, the songs.

‘I Want You’…epic and terrifying and beautiful.

‘Less Than Zero’… empty apathy deeply felt, perfectly rendered. OK, his perception of America was a little bit comic book, just like Bowie. But …why not? Elvis Costello was a provocateur. A major mensch.

‘Lipstick Vogue’….Wow.

‘Beyond Belief’… Jumps into the track from the first beat and spins the lyrics, the sheer volumes of syllables and imagery attached and a vibe that is unmistakeably Elvis.

‘It’s Time’….a genius F.U. song…devastating, if the type of relationship ending at all falls in line…

‘Uncomplicated’….plodding, Goon Squad (oh yeah, and ‘Goon Squad’!!!) stomps in the room and lays you to waste, belittles your belief’s, your culture, your very DNA. In short, don’t break up with genius songwriters.

‘Night Rally’…specifically the existing footage from some long gone British pop show….my original VHS copy had weird distorted lines that ran down the left side…and based on the energy, the darkness, the fire that spilled out of every speaker and flickering tube, I miss that distorted stripe. It made this vision of a true warning of impending cataclysm and Nationalism seem like it was viewed in a loop in Anne Franks attic.

Anyway. As you go about your BBQ’s and Parades, as you soak in that sun and soak down them suds (I guess), Remember Elvis And The Attractions. Or don’t.

No one will read this anyway.

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The Battle For Your Attention

There is a thousand crab legged combatants circling, circling in the sand in the battle for your attention.

A Thousand (times a thousand, times a thousand)
Bands and boys and shows
Heroes and villains and bystanders with a story to sell
A Thousand creeping horrors, or hot pix, or ways to Salvation from the Hell of
A Thousand diets and relationships and birds tap, tap, tapping at you pane / pain

(Are you listening?)

New movies and gently worn classics, A Thousand matters that mattered before you were born
A Thousand holidays in the name of God and Country, both of which may be myth
A Thousand drunks a drinking and staring glassy eyed across the room, or country or time itself
A Thousand new technologies to keep us aware of all of the above and the below

(Are you listening?)

A Thousand (times a thousand, times a thousand) bells to answer and streams to shut down

And everyday, the battleground shrinks a little bit more as A Thousand  (times a thousand, times a thousand) new sensations/ relations begin

Brevity Is The Soul Of What?

ATTENTION

The End Of Nostalgia

I have overdosed on nostalgia (my own, others) and it has deposited me here, with this empty page and an odd aftertaste, like copper and chocolate. The copper could be blood. The chocolate is likely chocolate.

I have pored through and re dug the trenches of my hourglass memory, allowed the sand to flow back in and obliterate details, leaving me to restore. I have considered the erotic, the emotional, the historical…reconsidered the erotic (I like the erotic) and tried to walk around within these memories as I am now, keening my hearing to catch the songs playing that allowed the acts to happen, listening to the words of the songs that gave me reason or gave me pause before I made yet again another big, dumb decision.

I’m not sure that these remasterings of the memory make for a better end product or just act as historical lip-synching. I can discuss my first kiss. But what would my first kisser’s story be? I could talk about the effects of a national tragedy. But am I really sure I wont lapse into someone else’s story of heartbreak, survival, triumph? I can discuss great personal horrors with a laugh and a joke and I can create great (self indulgent) emotionally wracked tales about Van Morrison records. Which I probably stole from Lester Bangs.

The erotic is clear, though. I made it my business to remember every second of minute as they happened. I like the erotic.

I have used my past as a venue that my present plays out of. I’m not even sure it matters that these tales are true, or maybe an amalgam of my smoky memory and 80’s sports movies, where we all triumph in the shoes of the loser in the opening scene. Which, of course, could also be me.

I have looked for great meaning in small interactions and looked past tons of bullshit. I haven’t considered the worst of these moments…or maybe what I ACTUALLY am is a ‘constant state of considering the worst of these moments’.

The things from the past…the important things…I have kept.

Friends and lovers and a thousand practice tapes.

Old books with fresh inscriptions.

Art from first, then second, then third grade (and so on) from Miss C-Rae.

And this still doggedly determined heart that wont allow the past to be my best days. And this mad internal clock that runs backwards and makes me faster and thinner as the world grows fat.

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Does Your Monkey Do The Roll? Well, does it????

The Devil is in the details. This ancient axiom (as old as the papyrus it was likely never even scrawled down on. Cause we know this. We all know this. Don’t bother writing it down, Flaubert. We came in with this innate knowledge. Jerk.)

It’s also a fine place to start today’s discussion on genres, and specifically in the family tree of Rock Music. Cause a lot of Rocks rocks, but some will never Roll.

Describing what Rock and Roll (the type, specific too, but not limited to, the greater Rock family) means to me specifically is like trying to describe movement with words. Like trying to describe desire beyond moans. It is amorphous.

In the playing of Rock and Roll, there are core places to start: guitars, bass, drum, a piano is always nice, and a rock and roll singer. Of course, these same tools make up most of the Rock family.

Add pedal steel? Americana. Add distortion? Metal or Stoner Rock. Make it suck completely? Jazz Rock.

So what make a Rock band Roll? Action. Action, Action, Action.

It needs to feel like it’s barely keeping itself attached to the rails. It needs to wail out a frustration that is relatable. This is why it started with teen culture. Teen culture, of any generation, develops shortcuts around the language. These short cuts take the largest matters of the heart and transforms them into spitting visceral slogans. Which bears repeating. And is repeated. Repeated.

Rock and Roll is eternally optimistic. When the greatest fear in your life is that Peggy Sue will go to the prom with some football player, honestly, your life is going OK. It’s about cars going faster and girls wearing less and dancing slower and dudes too cool to be caught. It doesn’t consider growing old and dying. It doesn’t consider what forever really means. There’s no divorce in Rock and Roll.

Rock and Roll is mischievous. Its single minded double entendre (though less sex laden than blues lyrically, but more suited for the rhythms of the act (especially when a teen) and small folk tales of sticking it to the man, your principal, the cops, the bartender, your own blessed parents.

Rock and Roll is the pure uncut stuff, not to be confused with Rockabilly (which I also love) due to the fact Rockabilly bands might as well be traditional folk bands….they are paying dudes to higher Gods, they worship at the no longer in existence Soda Shoppe.

Proving My Work:

The Alice Cooper Band was Rock and Roll. Alice Cooper solo was not.

The Blasters are Rockabilly and deliciously predictable. X is a Rock and Roll Band.

Eric Clapton never rocked or rolled.

The Rolling Stones were THE Rock and Roll Band. The Beatles are not.

Despite how weird this says to say, Led Zeppelin was Rock and Roll.

The Hold Steady are Rock and Roll. The Replacements? Hmmmm…. Yeah, The Replacements too.

Now….one mans opinion. Though I stand by the Jazz Rock comment.

To me, Rock and Roll is the ocean and every Rock genre is just a stream.

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