Friday, April 27, 2012

Mott The Hoople "All The Way From Memphis" 1973 (Bonus Video Friday)

As the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in my home state of Ohio inducts yet another questionable group of candidates (joining such past "rockers" as David Crosby, Billy Joel and The Dells) into its hallowed halls, I am again reminded and saddened that Mott The Hoople have never even been considered, let alone inducted, into said Hall.  Sad.  Shameful.  For Chrissakes, Ian Hunter wrote "Cleveland Rocks" and put our fair North Coast city on the rock & roll map.  And while I am a proud Ohio boy, everybody knows the R & R Hall Of Fame should have been built in Memphis.
inspirational verse; "Yeah, it's a mighty long way down rock & roll / As your name gets hot, so your heart grows cold / And you've gotta stay a young man, you can never be old / All the way from Memphis."  - Ian Hunter, 1973

© 2012 Ricki C.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Elliott Murphy “On Elvis Presley’s Birthday” (Bonus Video Friday)

Okay, quite simply stated: Elliott Murphy is the best singer-songwriter ever on the planet.  Yes, the best.  Yes, I am aware of Bob Dylan.  (In fact I witnessed Dylan’s first electric tour November 19th, 1965, at Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum when I was in the eighth grade, but that’s a different blog for another time.)  Yes, I am aware of Leonard Cohen.  I am certainly well aware of Bruce Springsteen, a contemporary of Murphy’s back in the days of the "New Dylan" sweepstakes, and probably my second favorite singer-songwriter of all time.  (Or is Bruce just a flat-out rocker?)  Yes, I am aware of Neil Young, Lou Reed, Richard Thompson, Steve Earle, and a host of others, hundreds of others, since rock & roll became my way of life in 1964.  For my money Elliott Murphy is better than all of them.  (He would almost certainly disagree.  In my admittedly limited personal dealings with him I have found him a humble, gracious man.)

The song presented here is "On Elvis Presley’s Birthday," Elliott’s elegy/memoir/tribute to his late father, whom he lost to a heart attack in his teens.  I also lost my father to a heart attack when I was 17 years old in 1970.  I would say it was one of the things that first attracted me to Elliott’s music, but I wasn’t aware of the fact until much later, certainly after I bought Murphy’s first LP, Aquashow, the day it was released in 1973, on the recommendation of Creem magazine, my rock & roll bible.  (I was hitchhiking to my after-college job at a hospital parking lot and intentionally scratched up the door of a Corvette when the driver who was nice enough to pick me up on that rainy day badmouthed Elliott, but that too is another blog for different day.)

It might have been the deep-down vein of sadness shot through with an almost unhealthy dose of romanticism that first hooked me into the music of Elliott Murphy back in those long-lost days of the 1970’s.  I remain hooked to this day in 2012.  It just now occurs to me that next year I will have spent 40 years with the music of Elliott Murphy as a constant in my life.

That music has been a gift for all of these 40 years.  Tonight as I type this in Ohio, somewhere across the Atlantic Ocean Elliott Murphy is likely headed from his home in Paris to a gig in Aurillac, France, according to his website,, which you should definitely check out, if only for the brilliant, insightful, gorgeous prose musings Elliott regularly posts (but don’t you dare call it a blog).  Elliott is still on the road after all these years, still bringing people just a story from America.

Elliott Murphy & Olivier Durand, in Andoain, France, 2011.
(please note, Elliott is still fully capable of rocking a pair of black leather pants in his 60's.
I'm not sure even Jim Morrison would have been able to pull that off had he lived this long.)
reproduced below is a piece I wrote for the old Elliott Murphy Newsletter (LMN) in 1992
about an only partially disastrous bus trip to New York City

© 2012 Ricki C.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Watershed and The Strange Case of the Somnabulistic Stickman Streaker

It was the mid-2000's, I was on the road with Watershed somewhere in the South.  (Colin and I were recently discussing the fact that "Somewhere In The South" might not have been a bad back-up title or subtitle for the upcoming Watershed book, Hitless Wonder, penned by bassist and co-founder Joe Oestreich.)  (Wait a minute; now that I think about it I just remembered that we were always either somewhere in the South in the middle of the summer or in Marquette, Michigan, way the fuck up in the Upper Peninsula, north of some parts of Canada, in the winter.  Those Watershed boys just had no concept of temperate zones.)  As usual we were six to a room, everybody was asleep except Biggie, who was working away on the computer when I dozed off.  What seemed like only a few minutes later I woke up to some kind of ruckus in the room.  Biggie was dashing by the bed I was in towards the room door and I said, "What's wrong?  Is it the van?"  (I think I had just been dreaming the van was being broken into, a paranoid roadie-dream I used to have all the time on the road.)  "It's fine, go back to sleep," Biggie said over his shoulder as I heard him go out the door and into the hall, still running.

A couple of minutes later, before I could fall asleep again, Biggie led drummer Dave Masica back into the room and got him to lay down in his sleeping bag.  (Dave, owing to back problems, always slept in a sleeping bag on the floor of our Courtyard Marriott rooms.  See Colin and The Stairwell, January 2012 blog entry.)  This shepherding of the drummer by the road manager was unusual in and of itself, but was made even more unusual by two facts: 1) Drummer Masica was stark naked, and 2) Drummer Masica was still sound asleep.

It turned out that Biggie was computing away when Dave got up out of his sleeping bag and started looking around the hotel room.  "Is everything okay, Dave?" Biggie asked, but instead of replying Dave walked over and started hugging the television set.  Realizing that this was anything but a normal night on the road, Biggie nervously repeated, "Dave, you okay buddy?" as Dave started walking towards the bathroom.  (Biggie told me later that his main fear at that point was that Dave was gonna start pissing all over everything in the room.)

Instead of going into the bathroom, however, the next thing Biggie knew the door was closing behind Dave's bare buttocks as he exited the room.  That was the point at which Biggie woke me up dashing outside to retrieve Dave.  Once in the hall Biggie realized that Dave was sleepwalking and that he had to find a way to guide him back inside our room.  (I'd have paid money to see Biggie and Dave in that hallway, encountering some other late-night Marriott guests.)

None of the rest of the band woke up throughout the entire episode.  When we related the story to Dave the next morning he had no recollection of the hallway incident.  "Oh yeah, I do that sometimes," he said matter-of-factly of the sleepwalking, "just wake me up if it happens again."

Less than two months from now I will be back on the road with Watershed.  I will turn 60 years old in the course of that tour.  I am SO looking forward to the trip.

Watershed, somewhere in the South, summer 2005
left to right; Pooch, Biggie, Colin, Dave and Joe

ps.  Apropos of that June Watershed trip, there is a Kickstarter link to raise funds for tour support.  Click here and help us ruin our lives.

© 2012 Ricki C.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Paul Westerberg Band, 1993 (Bonus Video Friday)

Okay folks, something we haven't dealt with earlier in Growing Old With Rock & Roll, the fact that I am actually chronologically OLDER than rock & roll.  While rock historians might argue endlessly over what was the first "rock & roll record" (from Ike Turner's early-50's "Rocket 88" to Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock" in 1955) nobody places many records much earlier than 1952, my birth year.  (And let's face facts: Does anything really matter much rock & roll-wise before Elvis in '56?)  As such I have lived and listened through six complete decades of rock & roll - the 1950's, '60's, 70's, 80's, 90's, and 2000's.  By far the worst decade of those was the 1980's.  Easily the worst, hands down, no contest.  In fact I might make the argument that the only good things about the 80's were Prince, The Replacements (both from Minneapolis, Mn., incidentally, what was up with that?), The Neighborhoods, The Del Lords and Del Fuegos, The Pogues, maybe The Bangles (perhaps because I had such a huge crush on Susanna Hoffs) and precious few others.  (REM started out strong, but soon transmuted into the whimpering pussies we initially suspected they were all along.)
As such, when Paul Westerberg drafted 'Hoods frontman David Minehan into his first post-Replacements touring band for the 14 Songs tour in 1993, it was pretty much a match made in heaven for this little Ohio boy.  I saw the band in this video play at Peabody's Down Under in Cleveland, Ohio, on that tour and it was pretty much a top-20 all-time live show experience.  Westerberg & Minehan were blazing, trading guitar leads back & forth like it was their first band in the garage when they were 14 years old and rhythm section Darren Hill & Jim Reilly rolled right underneath 'em like a fine Persian rug.  Were they a better live band than The Replacements?  Damn straight they were.  (blog note: I mis-identified Jim Reilly as the drummer of this band, see Comments section at the end of the blog.  It was actually Josh Freese.)  
Folks, you can believe who you wanna believe, but I saw The Replacements live in their prime and they were always astride a line between brilliant and embarassing ALL THE FUCKING TIME!  The first time The 'Mats (as I never called them) played Columbus, Ohio, I was standing next to local musician, raconteur & tastemaker (and ex-member of 80's indie favorite Great Plains) Ron House at a club called Stache's.  The first 20 or 30 minutes of the show the band was a drunken, shambolic mess; nobody seemed capable of finding and/or keeping the beat, despite the herculean efforts of drummer Chris Mars to keep 'em on track, guitars were woefully out-of-tune, lyrics were forgotten or mumbled unintelligibly, or both, and some tunes didn't end as much as subside.  I remember very clearly Ron asking the musical question, "These guys are the best live band in America?" (as we had been led to believe by fanzines and Spin magazine, which constituted the "alternative" rock press of the day). 

And then, amazingly, almost miraculously, The Replacements slammed into "Take Me Down To The Hospital," and it was one of the most incredible pieces of rock & roll I have ever seen in my life.  For that threee minutes the band was The Who, The New York Dolls and The Sex Pistols all rolled into one.  And they followed that with the most unbelievably spill-your-guts-on-the-stage version of "Unsatisfied" you would ever have been privileged to hear.  It was mind boggling.  Ron and I literally stood there with our mouths hanging open.  It was like an entirely different band had taken over the stage, like those four Midwestern boys had been possessed by the ghost of Keith Moon, by the very Spirit Of Rock & Roll.  They were fantastic.  And then, just as quickly after those two songs, they went right back to the chaotic mess they had been just three songs earlier.  

They peaked at least twice more that night, pulling it all together into rock & roll masterpiece territory and then running right back off the rails into first-rehearsal noise.  It was one of the strangest rock shows I have ever attended.  And it was pretty much like that the rest of the times I saw them live while Bob Stinson was in the band.  When Slim Dunlap came in they became less schizophrenic but never played with any real fire again.  And a more professional, tamed, merely servicable Replacements was not really what we were looking for, was it?

So say what you will 'Mats fans, I'll take Westerberg, Minehan, Hill and Reilly live over that band anyday.

inspirational verse;  "A dream too tired to come true / Just a rebel without a clue /  Searching for something to do"  - Paul Westerberg, 1989 (years before Tom Petty ripped off the line  "rebel without a clue" after The Replacements opened a Heartbreakers tour).

© Ricki C. 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Neighborhoods part 4 (Bonus Video Friday)

Hey gang, Debbie's back from Jersey & Massachusetts, so at least we got a Bonus Video Friday entry out, hopefully next week we can get a little blog action reboot.  Hang in.  Here The 'Hoods honor their 60's forebearers.