Thursday, January 24, 2013

I Love Distortion (a rock & roll novel in 12 chapters) - January

(My idea for I Love Distortion (a rock & roll novel in 12 chapters) is a serialized set of
fictional stories; one per month, for all of this coming year, finishing Christmas week 2013.)

I LOVE DISTORTION - chapter one

The first time Billy Ray smacked his girlfriend in the mouth - in the back seat of the car on that long, dark drive back from a gig in Buckeye Lake - nobody said a word.  The second time, when the girl started crying softly I whirled around from my shotgun seat, put my finger in Billy Ray's face and said, "If you hit that girl one more time I'm going to put my fist right through your face."  As I turned back around to face the road it got really quiet in the car.  Nobody talked to Billy Ray that way and nobody in that band had ever threatened anybody else with physical violence.  After a long moment Billy Ray's girl said softly, "Thank you, Sean," sniffing back tears in the dark in the back of the car.  "You can shut the fuck up too, Nicole, I'm not that crazy about you right now either." 

Billy Ray's girlfriend shared a first name with my ex-girlfriend Nicole.  My Nicole - with whom in the past year I had decimated my marriage - had dropped me just a couple of weeks earlier, three days before Christmas 1978.  She cut me loose in order to return to the mentally and physically abusive guy she was engaged to before we met, so I was in no mood for any Battered Woman Syndrome bullshit.  (The fact that both our girlfriends had the same name brought about no end of conversational confusion in the band.  Whenever the name Nicole came up in band stories, there was always an exchange of "Billy Ray's Nicole or Sean's Nicole?"  You'd think we would've come up with nicknames, but we never did.)

Nobody in The Apartments - Billy Ray's band - had held out much hope for the Buckeye Lake gig.  It was at a suburban, almost rural, high school 30 miles east of our hometown of Columbus, Ohio.  In 1979 the Midwest live music scene was strictly the province of cover bands playing heavy-metal, its first cousin corporate-rock and/or country-rock.  Plus the ever-present threat of disco loomed over everything.  In that context the band's mindset was that The Apartments' punk-power pop style of all original rock & roll - not one cover tune to be heard - was just not gonna go over out in the sticks around Buckeye Lake.

Billy Ray was in a foul mood because the show had gone great, was possibly the best gig to date in the band's short career, and because Doug - the band's drummer - and I had been propositioned in no uncertain terms by two high school girls after the set.  I was standing in the wings at my roadie station when Doug exited the stage.  An impossibly pretty brunette girl who couldn't have been a day over 17 stepped between us, grabbed the lapels of the vest Doug was wearing over his now sheened-with-sweat shirtless chest, pushed him up against the backstage wall and stated, with real authority, "I want sex with you, RIGHT NOW."  Eyebrows of the nearby band members - including Billy Ray - went up as Doug laughed, looked down at the girl and said, in his best honeyed West Virginia-born & bred drawl, "Well, that's fine, little missy, but what about my good friend Sean here," pointing to me.  The girl, never taking her eyes off of Doug, gestured over her shoulder to a petite blonde girl standing a couple of feet away, "My friend will come along for your friend."  "Well, all right!" Doug said as Billy Ray stormed lividly through our little teenage groupie tableau.

There were probably 300 kids at that tri-county high school dance and obviously at least some of them were ready and raring to go.  I should have realized early in the evening that something was up when I was helping The Celluloid Toys - the all-girl band Billy Ray had put together to open Apartments shows - set up and get their set started.  We had expected maybe 50 or 60 bored teenagers at the show, but there were already probably 150 kids there by 7 pm and more pouring through the door every minute.  I was hyped.  The Apartments were fairly popular on what passed for an "alternative" scene in Columbus in those late-70's days and if we could get 30 people to a gig in our hometown it was cause for celebration.

By the 7:30 start time there were at least 250 kids in the huge school gymnasium and 100 of them were pressed up against the stage, staring at the girls in Celluloid Toys and waiting for them to start.  The Toys were certainly cute enough - 3/5 of them anyway - but hardly a group of girls to be stared at.  Looking back I can see where they must have looked really exotic - in mascara, black jeans and the odd leather jacket - to that crowd of exurban high-schoolers.  I remember right before they started the lead guitarist yelled over to me in a panic, "Sean, Sean, how do I get this guitar to stop feeding back!!?!!"  I walked out onstage, adjusted her guitar & amp volume to stop the feedback, glanced at the other girls in the band and realized they were all scared to death.  They had never played on a stage remotely this big, to an audience nearly this large, in a venue this cavernous and they were completely stage-struck.  "Want me to introduce you?" I asked the lead singer. "Yes," she nodded back quickly, wide-eyed with stage fright.  I turned to the band, said, "Play it loud, girls, give 'em hell," then spun around and yelled into the mic, "Buckeye Lake, put your hands together for greatest all-girl band in the world, The Celluloid Toys!!!!!"

The audience exploded in applause, the band kicked off the first song and damn, if those girls didn't nail it.  The Toys also played all originals but it didn't matter, those kids ate it up.  By the third song The Toys loosened up, began to enjoy their newfound rock star status.  Joyce - the lead singer - started playing with the little girls at the front of the stage, flirting with the boys, and I thought, "Holy shit, if the crowd likes THEM this much (and let's face facts, those girls could barely play their instruments) The Apartments are gonna KILL."  Five songs into The Toys ten-song set (and they only knew ten songs all the way through) I beat it back to the band's dressing room (actually, to be entirely accurate, the boy's gym locker room) and said, "There's like 300 kids out there and they LOVE The Celluloid Toys, you guys have got it made."  Bass player Glen - who had been with Billy Ray since their high-school bands seven or eight years before - said slowly, "There's three HUNDRED kids out there?"  "Yes," I replied breathlessly, "and they think The Celluloid Toys are rock stars and are the best thing they've ever seen."  The whole band, and the entire room, lit up.

That was the atmosphere at a gig that Billy Ray had chosen to bring his girlfriend to.  When The Apartments took the stage that night and blasted into their first tune - with Billy Ray deploying Pete Townshend scissor-kicks and Chuck Berry duckwalks as he was born to do - the crowd went CRAZY.  It was like they'd never seen a rock & roll band before ever in their lives and, at that point, maybe they never had.  They had certainly never seen a band as good as The Apartments that close up.  The magic was almost stifling.  The band played more than 90 minutes to a mass of dancing, raving, screaming teenagers.  I worked for The Apartments and a few of Billy Ray's later bands off and on from 1978 until the early 1990's, I must have seen well over 200 shows, and that set was absolutely one of the top three ever.  They could do no wrong, the crowd loved every single minute.  The Apartments COMMANDED that stage for close to two hours until the faculty chaperones shut things down.  For awhile during the show I went up in the bleachers to show the kids running lights how to do it better, stood watching that throng of happy dancing kids and thought, "All of rock & roll could be like this if radio would just let punk and new wave happen."  But it never did. 

So after the show everything should have been peaches & cream but the atmosphere in the dressing room was sheer poison.  Doug and I told our new little blonde and brunette friends to give us ten minutes, we'd be right back.  When we entered the dressing room Billy Ray EXPLODED, "You two have 20 minutes to get all the gear broken down and get blow jobs or whatever from those little sluts or we're leaving without you."  "Come on, Billy Ray, it's not me and Sean's fault you decided to bring your girlfriend along to the gig where we strike pay dirt," Doug spat back, red-faced.  Everybody else in the dressing room - including Billy Ray's Nicole and John, the band's lead guitarist - tried desperately to pretend they weren't there.  "You guys have 20 minutes, get out of my dressing room," Billy Ray replied, turning his back on us.  "Oh, so now it's YOUR dressing room?" I asked, but Billy Ray wouldn't look at me.  "Billy Ray calls every play, everything belongs to Billy Ray," I said in a sing-song voice as Doug and I exited, slamming the locker room door behind us.

Doug and I conducted a hurried conference in the hallway.  Neither of us had driven to the gig or even had a car back home in Columbus.  No way could we afford a motel for the night, even if we could find one at that hour in Buckeye Lake.  We seriously doubted we'd be welcomed with open arms into the homes of the schoolgirls' parents.  We tried to think of somebody we knew with a car who would be willing to drive over and pick us up on Saturday even if we did find a place to stay and came up empty.  Finally we just gave up, told the girls it wasn't gonna happen, made out with them a little while the gear got packed in the van by the band and English Todd, the other roadie.  (By the way, for any 2013 readers out there with teen or tween daughters tut-tutting our behavior that night long ago: It was 1979, AIDS hadn't been invented yet, I was separated from my wife and headed for divorce.  Doug was single, the girls were willing participants, we were rock stars and the valet of rock stars, so deal with it.)   

As Doug walked toward the group van for the return trip to Columbus he bumped Billy Ray's shoulder with his own and said quietly, "We wouldn't have done this to you.  I thought we were a BAND."   Billy Ray said nothing, walked over to the car where Glen & his girlfriend, myself and Billy Ray's Nicole were already sitting in silence.  Doug and I would soon be retired from The Apartments for our effrontery that night in Buckeye Lake.  It was the third week of January 1979, exactly one year after I met Sean's Nicole.      

© 2013 Ricki C.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mrs. Children, The Whiles and The Beatles Marathon (Bonus Video Sunday)

Armed with a gorgeous command of melody and a fresh sense of wonder & intellect in their songs, Mrs. Children first burst onto the local Columbus, Ohio, music scene in 2002.  Actually "burst onto the scene" is probably something of an overstatement; it was more like they sidled into the scene, twisting a cloth cap in their hands, averting eye contact and murmuring, "Uummmm, we have these songs we wrote and like to play and we were wondering if you might want to hear them?"

I first met the band's main songwriter Joe Peppercorn in maybe January of 2002.  It was at my day-job at Ace In The Hole Music Exchange, an indie record store in Columbus, when he came in the day after I had co-hosted a local record review radio show.  "Was that you on Invisible Hits Hour last night?" the kid on the other side of the counter asked.  "Did you like the show?" I queried.  "Yeah, it was great," he answered.  "Yeah, that was me," I replied.  He paused for a moment, then said, "What were you gonna say if I DIDN'T like it?"  "I was gonna say it was the white-haired guy who owns the store.  The last thing I need is little 311 fans coming in here hassling me because I bad-mouthed their favorite band and I can't walk away from them."

Joe laughed, then got serious and said to me, "I just wanted to come in and thank you because five or six years ago you were on that show and you played The Velvet Underground and I had never heard them and got into them because of you."  I just stared at him for a second, then said, "You have just validated everything I've ever gone through to be on that show.  I owe Lou Reed a gigantic rock & roll debt and you just helped me pay some of it off."

We talked a little more about music & such and when he was leaving Joe said, "I'm in a band.  If we made a record would you sell it in the store?"  "Absolutely," I replied, thinking that was the end of it.  I would say at that point every tenth kid under 25 that came in the store was "in a band, and they were gonna make a record, and would we sell it at the store?" and not more than three of them ever returned.

That summer, amazingly to me, Joe came back into the store with the Mrs. Children Break My Back e.p.  I told him I'd give it a listen and if I liked it maybe we could play it on Invisible Hits Hour, which I was co-hosting what seemed like every five or six weeks back then.  I didn't really mean it, not one of the two or three other kids who brought in their little demo CD's could EVER have been played on the radio.  They were hopelessly derivative of whatever passed for rock & roll in those early days of the 21st century; bad Nickleback, bad rap-rock, bad Blink-182, etc.  Joe brightened up, said "That'd be great," and left me a phone number.

I waited until there were no customers in the store, threw the e.p. on the CD player and holy shit, it was GREAT!  Really melodic, smart lyrics, the band played like they'd known each other forever (which maybe they had, for all I knew).  The last tune, "Pictures," took me all the way back to the first time I heard The Zombies or The Left Banke back in the 1960's.  The last thing I expected from a bunch of 20-something Columbus kids in 2002 was a folk-rock record with inventive piano breaks.  It was the first local band I ever brought to Curt Schieber, the host of CD 101's (now 102.5) Invisible Hits Hour to play on the show.  He had serious doubts, wasn't crazy about hyping local unknowns on the air, but once he got a listen he had to admit there was something serious happening in those CD grooves, or whatever they are.

Joe and I kept in touch after we aired the band.  They started playing out a bunch live and I soon discovered  they had a great three-part harmony thing going between Joe, lead singer Zack Prout and bass player Chris Bolognese that hadn't been evident on the e.p.  Somewhere along the way Joe's younger brother Matt was incorporated into the band, playing Beatles-inspired guitar leads, always enhancing the tunes rather than taking away from or trying to overshadow them.  The same went for drummer Paul Headley, who almost played like a jazz drummer at times, actually listening to and complementing the songs, rather than just driving them along.  (I knew Mrs. Children were onto something when my drummer friend Jim Johnson - who played with Willie Phoenix and The League Bowlers and whose musical tastes run the gamut from The Rolling Stones to The Rolling Stones - hated the band and pronounced them "non-rock.")

I was touring with Hamell On Trial pretty constantly in the early 2000's and was on the road for weeks at a time at some points.  I remember coming back to work at Ace In The Hole in April of 2003 after one tour and there was a stack of burned CD's in our giveaway section on the ledge in the front window of the store.  (This was back when people still actually bought CD's and the record companies still gave away promo materials for said CD's and whatever Pepe, the store owner, or I didn't want to keep went in the front window for customers to take home.)  The CD's were just in plastic slip-cases and had "Mrs. Children demo" written in magic marker on them.  My first thought was, "Cool, Mrs. Children must have recorded two or three songs and put 'em out."  I remember staring at the display on the CD player when it registered 18 tracks and 60:07.  There was an hour's worth of music on a demo CD?  A FREE demo CD?

It turned out Mrs. Children had put out a CD of 12 brand new songs (most of which would comprise the band's Colors Of The Year release after they changed their name to The Whiles) plus the six tunes from the first e.p. AND WERE GIVING IT AWAY FOR FREE!  Even more surprising, the 12-song demo was AMAZING.  There had been an exponential growth in songwriting from Joe after the e.p. and there was nothing even approaching a weak tune in the bunch.  It was, quite literally, breathtaking.  The demo CD was all I listened to the rest of that day at work.  I called Joe and said, "What are you doing giving these songs away?  You've got to make a cover for this and start selling it right away, as merch at your shows if nowhere else."  Replying quietly to my raving Joe said, "Well, they're okay for demos but we're going to be going into the studio and I think we can do even better, so we're comfortable giving them away." 

Still to this day, nine years later, I consider that demo, cut in somebody's basement, the second-best recording EVER by a Columbus band, after Watershed's The More It Hurts, The More It Works CD.  (And I didn't begin working for Watershed until 2005, so nobody was paying me to say that back then.)  I was also certain back in April 2003 that Mrs. Children would get into the studio and some producer would ruin the magic I heard and cherished in that demo.  (Musicians reading this blog will be all too familiar with the phrase; "They shoulda released the demos.")  I was wrong.  Producer Jon Chinn did a fantastic job interpreting and enhancing the demos and the Colors Of The Year record stands to this day as a masterpiece.

So somewhere between the demo and the CD release the band changed its name from Mrs. Children to The Whiles, largely because they did an internet name-search and discovered there was a band in Japan called Mr. Children.  "So what?!?" I argued, "You guys plan on touring Japan anytime soon? After you're huge they'll have to change THEIR band name."  (My favorite rejected name-change bandied about early on; Battleship Gay.  Joe also liked it, but the rest of the band thought it needlessly provocative.)

So the newly-christened Whiles had a killer CD release under their belt, they played a summer-long Wednesday night residency at local club Andyman's Treehouse (it's one of my top ten Columbus rock & roll regrets that I didn't attend more of those shows), they were on the verge of signing a management deal with nationwide representation and, WAIT FOR IT; lead singer Zack quit the band to go back to college.  It was heartbreaking.  It was heartbreaking to ME and I wasn't even involved with the band as anything but a fan.  I can't imagine how they felt.  In Watershed terms, it was snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  Still, to their eternal credit, I have never heard ANY of The Whiles utter one negative word about Zack and his decision.

Joe took over center stage as lead singer.  It was really their only rational move.  The band was so insular, so closely interlocked I don't think they ever even considered auditioning an outside lead singer.  And as the songwriter Joe was the natural choice as lead singer.  However - and this is coming from somebody who loves the guy and who has seen him grow by leaps & bounds as a vocalist and a frontman - Joe Peppercorn was just not as good a singer as Zack back in those days, and the lack of a third voice in The Whiles' three-part harmony flow was problematic.  Plus the national management deal fell through when the band wasn't prepared to tour after Zack's departure.  The band continued, but a lot of momentum was lost.

Sleeper's Wake was released in 2007 to good local reviews, the band played out to a faithful local following, opened shows for the likes of Arcade Fire, The National and Andrew Bird, but there was no large-scale touring.  The Whiles' third record, Somber Honey, recorded in 2008 and 2009 wouldn't see the light of day until 2012, owing to a host of factors; problems with the band's record label, neck surgery that sidelined Joe for months when he literally couldn't lift his guitar (or his newborn son Giuseppe), Headley relocating to Cleveland for career opportunities, etc.  In 2011 Joe declared dual rock & roll citizenship and joined local favorites Watershed as second guitarist, contributing crucial songs to that band's Brick & Mortar release.

And, for the past three years, Peppercorn has mounted The Beatles Marathon; every Beatles album played in its entirety, chronologically, without a break.  That's 214 songs, people, in a row.  I missed the first year, 2010, snowed-in at Newark Airport during a blizzard while visiting Debbie's family for Christmas in New Jersey, when Peppercorn played the Marathon solo at Andyman's Treehouse (now The Tree Bar).  For the December 29th, 2011 edition he moved the show to Kobo and played with a four-piece band: Brandon Barnett from Ghost Shirt on guitar, bass player Bolognese from The Whiles and alternating drummers Jessie Cooper and Dan Murphy.  As we were loading-out of a Watershed gig the month before that Marathon, Joe asked if I wanted to roadie the show and named a figure more than twice my per-night fee from Watershed. 

"I'll work the show, Joe," I laughed, "but we'll talk about the pay later, that's way too much for one night."  "Uummm, there's quite a bit of work involved," was Joe's reply.  The Marathon that year began at 4:30 in the afternoon and ran until 2:45 the next morning.  Without a break.  Of any kind.  Joe never left the stage once.  The rest of the band came off here and there, drummers Cooper and Murphy played two or three albums in a row, alternating, but Joe never left the stage, even to piss.  It was mind-boggling.  He sang virtually all the leads (I think Brandon sang three or four, Chris one or two), played rhythm guitar and keyboards FOR MORE THAN 10 HOURS STRAIGHT!  It was really quite unbelievable.  By one in the morning I was so tired I was going to lay down on the pool table just to rest for 10 or 20 minutes while there were no guitar changes but I was afraid I'd fall asleep, and I wasn't even playing.  It was the most grueling, exhausting rock show I've ever witnessed, and I saw The Who in 1969 and Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band all through the 70's and 80's.

At the beginning of the show Joe handed me a stapled sheaf of papers.  It was nine pages of Beatles songs, single-spaced, with notes next to each about which guitars he and Brandon would need on which songs, special tunings for said guitars and all the places where there would be double switches.  (Thankfully Chris used only one bass - a Hofner of course - from the beginning until he switched to a Fender after Revolver.)  Plus Kobo was so jammed, so packed, so body-to-body for almost the entire show (certainly from 8 pm on) I couldn't GET to the stage to hand off the guitars.  (At one point I was holding two guitars over my head, trying to wend my way through the crowd and hit something really solid behind me.  I looked around and there was a kid with his hands over his eye, clearly in pain, and I thought, "Oh, fuck me, I hit that kid HARD," and prayed I didn't put out his eye.  Answering my prayers, no rock & roll law suit ensued.)

So now it's 2013, I've survived a second Beatles Marathon, December 29th, 2012, again at Kobo, much more of a Whiles family affair this time.  Paul joined the drum corps of Jessie Cooper and Dan Murphy and  relatively new member Jake Lumley (who produced Somber Honey and joined the band in the process) came in as a third guitarist.  Due to family matters Brandon Barnett had to drop out THREE WEEKS before this year's Marathon.  That resulted in a quick call to Matt Peppercorn, who came in to learn and rehease 214 Beatles songs in three weeks' time.  (I TOLD you he's a mathematical guitar genius.)  The show was on a Saturday this year, all ages from 2:30 pm 'til 8 pm, 21 and over after that.  The band played from 2:30 pm 'til just before 2 am Sunday morning, more than 11 hours, or approximately 10 hours longer than The Beatles ever played outside of Hamburg, Germany, or The Cavern Club in Liverpool.

Plans for the coming year include a new Whiles album, recorded and released immeasurably quicker than the long-delayed Somber Honey.  If the new songs introduced by the band at shows in autumn 2012 are any indication, this could be their best record since Colors Of The Year.  One of the new tunes featured Joe Peppercorn out in front of the band sans guitar, testifying like an alt-rock James Brown, leaping on stagefront speaker stacks, raving and wielding the mic stand like an unholy bastard child of Rod Stewart & Freddie Mercury, neatly exemplifying how much he's grown as a frontman since those first halting days after Prout's abrupt departure.

A new record from The Whiles in 2013, I can't wait.

Our Boys onstage at The Beatles Marathon / December 29th, 2011 / Kobo, Columbus, Ohio
(that's your Humble Author handing off an SG for a Jazzmaster at the outset)

© 2013 Ricki C.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Horrible Rock & Roll Movie Alert and Odd Zen Ends

Hey kids, welcome to 2013.  My New Year's resolution was to be more positive this year, but David Chase has made that early goal impossible.  Here's where our rock & roll year begins..... 

For the uninitiated, Not Fade Away is a new movie that ostensibly tells the story of a mid-1960's New Jersey rock & roll band, one of those countless one-hit or hitless wonder combos that sprouted in the wake of The British Invasion rock & roll era launched by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.  I really, genuinely looked forward to the release of Not Fade Away - a rock & roll movie written & directed by Sopranos creator David Chase and executive produced by Little Steven Van Zant of the E Street Band, who also served as musical director and is one of my true rock & roll heroes.  Then I ruined all of my hopeful anticipation by actually paying my money and entering the theater.  I'd say it didn't take much more than 20 minutes to realize I was in for a long, bumpy ride down the rock & roll slide.

There were things I suppose I could have excused; the painfully obvious "sixties haircut" wigs on the male protagonists, the Lifetime TV network-level dialogue (from the writer of The Sopranos, for chrissakes!), the anachronisms present from the very first scene (Jersey teens with Beatle haircuts in 1963, months before The Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, no, no, no, didn't happen).  To make matters worse, both Chase and Van Zant are New Jersey boys, born & bred.  As such, given this criteria, that pedigree, one would think Chase and Van Zant could have done better than this clusterfuck of a film.  THEY WERE THERE!  THIS IS THEIR HISTORY!  THEY'RE NOT SOME 20-SOMETHING AUTEUR WHO READ ABOUT AND RESEARCHED THE 1960'S ON THE FRICKING INTERNET, THEY WERE WITNESSES!  JUST TELL THE STORY!

The biggest problem with the movie, really, is Chase could not decide which of 19 different movies he wanted to make: a simple story of how even local rock & roll renown can come between friends as one grows more popular than another; a searing indictment of how drugs ruined an innocent age of social exploration; a reflection on how the Vietnam War came between fathers of The Depression and World War II and their sons who were raised in relative post-war affluence; the changing mores & attitudes towards homosexuals and Negroes as they became gay and black; a portrayal of a callous, clueless music business in the face of rock & roll idealism and creativity, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., virtually ad infinitum.

I'm serious, there are at least ten different subplots introduced in this movie and not a single one of them is resolved.  As my lovely wife Debbie observed, some SCENES weren't even developed, let alone finished.  Conversations ended almost literally mid-sentence.  There had to be a massive amount of film on the cutting room floor where Not Fade Away was edited.  And that's probably the whole deal; Chase is a television guy.  He's accustomed to the luxury of letting a story develop over weeks, months or even years, to have characters evolve over time.  I find it difficult to believe no one had the temerity or the power to say to Chase, "Seriously, have you watched this movie from beginning to end?  Do you think it makes sense to anybody but you?"  I lived through all of the events portrayed in this film, I essentially lived the entire story in Columbus, Ohio, rather than New Jersey and I had trouble following the sequence (or, more accurately non-sequence) of events portrayed by Chase.

From some certain point in the film, which seemed to last FAR longer than its 1:42 run-time, I found myself wondering if Not Fade Away was worse than The Runaways, my former record-holder for WORST rock & roll movie ever made.  Not Fade Away is certainly more ambitious than The Runaways, but at least The Runaways biopic told only one story badly, rather than 12 or 13.  Far and away the best thing about Not Fade Away is the incidental music, chosen and deployed by Steve Van Zant, which is impeccable.  Any movie that contains The Left Banke's sublime "Pretty Ballerina," Moby Grape's "Omaha," and The Sex Pistol's rendition of The Modern Lover's epic "Roadrunner" (again, anachronistic to a mid to late-1960's movie in either incarnation, but still pretty great) is gonna score a solid 90-plus on the Ricki C. rock & roll meter.  But the soundtrack is hardly enough to save this celluloid mess.     

Not Fade Away - see it at your own risk.  I warned ya.

Odd Zen Ends

1) I was laid-up with a bad cold this first week of January, 2013 after stage-managing Joe Peppercorn's December 29th Beatles Marathon at Kobo here in Columbus (much more in the upcoming Mrs. Children, The Whiles & The Beatles Marathon blog entry).  As such, I had a lot of time to delve into one of my Christmas presents from the in-laws, Rod Stewart's Rod - The Autobiography.  It's - kinda totally unexpectedly to me - pretty great.  Rod's writing style is totally engaging, really warm, funny, self-deprecating and completely draws you in as a reader.  It is, in fact, almost everything the Pete Townshend bio should have been but wasn't.  (see Shows I Saw In The 1960's part two blog entry, December 2012.)  Inevitably you find yourself asking, "How can one English rock star end up as such a miserable, whiny, drunken, philandering, coked-up bastard and another as a comfortable-in-his-own-skin model train enthusiast and serial marry-er of tall blonde models & actresses?"

Longtime readers of this blog will remember me castigating Rod Stewart as one of the Top Five Wastes Of Talent of all time in rock & roll, and I stand by that statement; this is the man who led The Faces, one of the ten greatest rock & roll bands ever to walk on a stage.  This is the man who wrote "Maggie May," "You Wear It Well," & "Stay With Me," and now records easy-listening albums for aging baby boomers like myself (not that I would ever buy any of that tripe or treacle).  There's also some extremely problematic disco-rock crossovers I've chosen to forget from the late 1970's, but damn, this autobiography is one great rock & roll read.  And really, who am I to judge an English boy growing up in bombed-out post World War II London being totally seduced and ruined by Los Angeles, California, in the early 1970's?  Just how strong did I want Rod Stewart to be?

Rod - The Autobiography.  Recommended.
2) Apropos of my earlier David Chase TV-writing comment above, my current guilty-pleasure TV show is Nashville, created by Callie Khoury of Thelma & Louise fame, with music by T Bone Burnette.  It's a total unrepentant soap-opera, but with great original songs and an attention to detail you never get in network TV shows about music.  It's a big sprawling mess of a show - taking in love, joy, major-label deals, cheatin' guitar players, stand-up guitar players, small-club politics, songwriting couple-trysts, death, doom, terror & destruction, mayoral campaigns, sleazy managers, put-upon managers, etc. - all with a great soundtrack of original songs that relate to, advance and/or comment on the action in the storylines.  For a show about country music Nashville is more rock & roll than any 20 episodes of American Idol, X Factor or The Voice combined.

3) I want this blog to be entertaining.  I want to know from you, the readers, what you would like to see in Growing Old With Rock & Roll in 2013.  More Shows I Saw In The 1960's?  More Watershed?  Less Watershed?  More Columbus, Ohio, rock & roll stories?  Less?  More Hamell On Trial road stories?  More of my run-in's - good or bad - with the famous, near-famous or infamous of rock & roll?  More or less reviews and recommendations?  It's all up to you, readers.  Comments, please.....

© 2013 Ricki C.