Friday, March 29, 2013

The Jim Carroll Band "Catholic Boy" (Bonus Video Good Friday)

It's Good Friday.  I'm a Catholic boy.  As such, I wanted to post something appropriately Catholicized for Bonus Video Good Friday.  The first tune that came to mind was Jeff Buckley's rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," but that seemed a little too obvious.  (Obvious or not, however, I consider that track off of Buckley's Grace album to be the single best song that originated in the 1990's.  Yeah, I know that's a Big Statement and even a noted rock authority like my good friend Kyle Garabadian has definite reservations about the choice, but that's my pick for Cream Of The 90's Rock Crop.)  (Buckley's "Hallelujah" has, of course, been hopelessly overexposed, overplayed, overused and abused in countless movies and T.V. shows, but that doesn't mean it's not a great track.)  (Plus, for a song about sex it's used in an awful lot of funeral scenes.)

Anyway, then I searched YouTube for a live version of Jim Carroll's "Catholic Boy," but couldn't find one, so we'll have to settle for this.  R.I.P. Jim.......

inspirational verse; every lyric line of this song is truly great, but I hadda pick just one;
"I was a Catholic boy /  Redeemed through pain, not through joy" - Jim Carroll, 1980

ps. By the way, for those of you scoring at home, "Catholic Boy" is also
the title track of one of the seven best rock & roll debut albums of all time.   
(The other six; The Velvet Underground, The Modern Lovers, The New York Dolls,
Elliott Murphy, Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, and The Strokes.) 
(And yeah, four of those six are from New York City, I do find that problematic.)


Friday, March 22, 2013

Rodriguez "Crucify Your Mind" (Bonus Video Friday)

I've recently started contributing pieces to a new Columbus blogsite - - begun by my good friend Colin Gawel of Watershed and of The Lonely Bones (about whom regular readers of Growing Old With Rock & Roll have already read various & sundry stories).  It's a pretty great blog, focusing not just on music but on movies, sports, books, food and other aspects of popular culture.  You should give it a read.

My first contribution to Pencilstorm was a review of "Searching For Sugar Man," the winner of this year's Oscar for Best Documentary and easily the best rock & roll movie I've seen in the last five years.  Check out my review there and the video here.....

  inspirational verse; "Were you tortured by your own thirst /
In those pleasures that you seek / That made you Tom the Curious
That makes you James the Weak" - Rodriguez, 1970

ps. I realize that there are cynical smartasses out there among you (of which, I fully admit,
I sometimes am one) who are going to dismiss Rodriguez as "just another Dylanesque
singer/songwriter."  I actually prefer to think of him as Leonard Cohen if Cohen
had grown up in Detroit rather than Montreal, but that's just me.

All I can say to any detractors is rent the movie, and then we'll talk.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Sorry State of Rock & Roll Journalism, circa 2013

From the ages of zero to twelve years old all I cared about was reading and World War II.  When I was 12 The Beatles (and, more importantly, The Dave Clark 5) appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and my little seventh-grade Catholic boy head exploded.  As such, from the age of 12 to earlier this morning all I have cared about is reading and rock & roll.  (And maybe movies and sex, but not until much later on.)

Nowadays that means that I read way too many books about rock & roll that I get out of the library.  It also means that, problematically, I would now often prefer to read about rock & roll than to LISTEN to rock & roll.  But at one time it meant I devoured rock & roll magazines and fanzines for all the latest dope (pun intended) on my favorite bands.  I've come to realize from my catbird perch here in the 21st century that rock & roll magazines are like meteors; they flare, burn really bright for awhile, then fade to black and crash into irrelevance.  Following is a list of the five best magazines EVER about rock & roll, and the periods of their reigns..... 

1) Creem, 1973-1975
2) New York Rocker, 1976-1979
3) Phonograph Record Magazine, 1971-1975
4) Rolling Stone, 1968-1970
5) Mojo, 1994-2000

(Best fanzine ever, hands-down, was L.A.'s Back Door Man, 1976-1979,
which will someday have a Growing Old With Rock & Roll blog entry all its own,
and Who Put The Bomp, which kinda straddled the line between fanzine & magazine.)

It's pretty obvious from that list that I didn't really think much of rock journalism in the 1980's.  (Actually I didn't really think much of rock MUSIC in the 1980's.)  I guess I must have read Musician magazine in those days, but I'm not 100% sure WHY at this point.  Rolling Stone had been useless for 10 years by 1980, Creem for at least five, and everybody else seemed to be chasing their tails down their particular rabbit holes - New Wave, hardcore, heavy metal, prog, what-have-you.

I find us in a roughly analagous state here in 2013, except in the 80's I knew there were bands like The Del Fuegos, The Del-Lords, The Neighborhoods, The True Believers, etc. that weren't getting written about in what passed for The Rock Press, just below the level of The Replacements and REM, who were sometimes grudgingly being chronicled.  Spin, I guess, tried to do its best, but when was that mag readable for more than five issues in a row, ever? 

Now, at the elderly rock & roll age of 60, I find myself wandering the magazine racks at Barnes & Noble like Dusty Springfield, just wishin' & hopin' for something, ANYTHING interesting to read about rock & roll.  Mojo and Uncut, the last clear contenders, are both well past their prime and where in this century is ONE interesting rock writer?  Where is a Lester Bangs, a Greg Shaw, a Robert Christgau, an R. Meltzer, a Lisa Robinson, a Charles Shaar Murray, a Mick Farren?  Christ, at this point I'd almost settle for a Chuck Klosterman, and that ain't sayin' much, my rock & roll friends.

Anybody out there wanna refute this attitude and/or point me in a direction I'm not seeing? 

© 2013 Ricki C.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Dwight Twilley Band "You Were So Warm" (Bonus Video Friday)

I've been asked by followers of the blog to provide visuals for the characters in I Love Distortion (a rock & roll novel in 12 chapters).  It's a fictional story, readers, but let's say this: Sean in the story bore a striking resemblance to the post-New York Dolls Ricki C. in the March 8, 2013 blog, and Nicole looked just like this song sounds.....

inspirational verse; "Anyway, remember as time goes by that I didn't wanna go /
Oh no, I didn't wanna go 'cause you were so warm" - Dwight Twilley, 1975

(and is there any more heartbreakingly perfect pop production detail
than those tambourine overdubs at the 1:36 and 1:42 mark?
I don't think so, my rock & roll friends, I don't think so.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

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

(previous installments of I Love Distortion appeared in January & February, 2013)

I Love Distortion - chapter three

"Talkin' 'bout a summertime girl and a wintertime kid
Tellin' little stories 'bout all the things they did"
- Sean Richter, 1978

Nicole initially presented herself as a total "70's kid."  "70's kids" was the derisive term my 60's friends and I had come up with to describe the rock & roll generation that came of age immediately after us; a generation that seemed really, really interested in sex, drugs and rock & roll, but hopelessly disinterested in politics or social issues.  Then again, boys who turned 18 after 1973 didn't have to particularly worry about getting drafted into dying in the Vietnam War and girls with easy access to the Pill didn't particularly have to worry about getting pregnant.  It wasn't The Sixties anymore.

By 1978 an entire "70's kids" subculture had formed.  Corporate-rock bands like Styx, Foreigner and Journey were peddling an easy-living "get high and float along" message to the pot-smoking, quaalude-gobbling rock masses and more and more kids were hanging at the disco - getting blind drunk and mindlessly dancing & fucking to that robo-beat.  Everybody had Camaros and blow-dried hair and everybody liked Pink Floyd and Kiss.  Times were hard for a revolution-minded punk rock-loving boy on the West Side of Columbus, Ohio.

Before our cafeteria songwriting and poetry conversation Nicole had struck me as just another 70's kid - an astonishingly cute 70's kid, but a 70's kid nonetheless.  The more we talked over the next couple of weeks the more I realized there really was some depth there.  I really wasn't initially worried about how numerous those conversations were becoming - or how much I had started to look forward to them - because Nicole was sporting a diamond engagement ring and I was already a married man.  There was certainly no problem there; it was a harmless physical attraction/crush, we had things under control.  

One day as I was delivering merchandise to the toy department Nicole shook her head, smiled and said to me, "Sean, you walk like there's always music playing in your head."  My answer was a sheepish grin and she asked why I wasn't in a band anymore.  I explained the lead singer-inspired break-up of my last band  (see blog entry The Dressing Room, March 27, 2012) and she said, "Yeah, even at the Bean Dinner show that guy was kind of a jerk."  She told me about a poetry contest she wanted to enter, from a literary magazine in Vermont.  She showed me the paperwork; she'd have to enter three poems, all at least 21 lines long.  There were two problems with that, she said:  1) Her fiance said poetry was stupid and a waste of everybody's time, plus Nicole's writing took her attention away from him, and 2) Her poems were all really short, she didn't have any that were 21 lines long.

I told her I'd been cobbling songs together - mixing & matching totally unrelated verses & choruses - since I was 15 years old, and that she should bring me all of her poems that Friday, I'd take a look and see what I could put together on the weekend.  "You'd do that for me?" she said, a quizzical look on her lovely face.  "Of course I would, you should enter this contest, you could totally win."

Truthfully, I didn't believe a word of what I'd told her.  As mentioned previously, I had fallen in love with Nicole the first time I saw her, I volunteered the poetry assist just to have an excuse to keep talking to her.  I considered it part of the harmless flirtation we'd been carrying on, saw no reason not to continue.  Plus I'd been reading and improving bad schoolgirl poetry since I was a pimply-faced editor on my high-school newspaper (see blog entry Linda Finneran and Scoring Heroin, January 30, 2012).  I could knock out the project in an hour on the weekend and still look like a caring-guy hero.

That Friday Nicole bundled into work all excited, she was like a little kid as she handed me seven or eight notebooks of poetry and a bunch of loose pages plus the proverbial notes on napkins.  Actually I had forgotten I had even offered to help, but I wasn't about to admit that.  She said, with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, "I've only ever shown these to two or three other people, and you're the first boy."  (She actually said "boy.")  (Much later she told me that at one point she had shown two of them to Tommy, her fiance, and he hadn't even finished the first when he tossed it aside and went back to the football game he was watching.)

That night after Melanie had gone to bed I pulled out all the notebooks I'd stashed in my backpack.  (Even at that point I wasn't stupid enough to try to explain to my wife of four years why I was helping an 18 year old girl with her poetry project.)  I settled in to complete my task and very soon couldn't believe my eyes.  The poems were amazing.  I expected 70's kid schoolgirl drivel and I got beautiful, riveting literature instead.  The poems weren't just heartfelt, they were heartbreaking.  And smart.  And genuinely well-written & well-crafted.  It was precisely like that Dylan lyric: "And every one of those words rang true and glowed like burning coals / Pouring off of every page like it was written in my soul / From me to you / Tangled up in blue."

I stayed up for hours reading, poring over the poetry.  Two or three of them were full-blown rock & roll songs just as they stood, I could hear the music to them as I read.  (One of them later became "I Love Distortion" when I added the chorus of, duh, "I love distortion.")  By the time I got sleepy enough to go to bed, around 5 am, I knew I was now well & truly fucked.  Now it wasn't just physical attraction, now I felt a soul-deep musical and writing bond with this five-foot-seven, 18 year old slip of a girl.  I was finished.

I worked on putting together the 21-line poems on Saturday while Melanie was at work.  By Sunday I had decided on a course of action: On Monday morning I would hand Nicole all the poetry material back, give her the three poems I had worked up so she could enter the contest and that was IT, everything else between us was over, we'd never talk again, except about work stuff.  I was resolved.

Each department at the store - housewares, health & beauty aids, sight & sound, toys - had its own storage section in the downstairs warehouse.  Monday morning Nicole was waiting for me in the toy section, we'd gotten pretty used to beginning our day together there.  She was smiling really shyly as I walked up, but the smile disappeared pretty quickly as I said, "Okay, here's the deal, two things; 1) Here's all the poetry back, the three poems I put together for the contest are typed on top.  2) Either one of two things are true; either you didn't really write these poems or you're not the empty-headed little suburban girl you always pretend to be.  Either way, I can't really talk to you anymore."  Her eyes were just starting to glisten with tears when I turned and walked away.  I had gotten my prepared speech out and I knew if I didn't walk away right then & there that I would never be able to.

I think my resolve lasted for all of 45 minutes.  At the morning store meeting all employees had to attend Nicole's eyes were still red and she wouldn't look at me.  When the store opened she never went to her station on the sales floor, headed straight for the warehouse loft where she could be alone.  When I walked up to her she recoiled like I was going to hit her.  I discovered later that was something Tommy did fairly regularly, something I'd obliquely picked up from the poems, but desperately hoped wasn't true.  "I'm sorry, I don't know what I did," she choked out through tears, "I don't know what I did to make you stop talking to me."  "You didn't do anything, Nicole," I answered quietly, trying to calm the situation.  "I'm falling in love with you.  I liked you before but after the poems I'm falling in love with you and I'm married and your wedding is in three months and I don't think falling in love is the best idea right now."  I almost got her to laugh at that.  She managed a weak smile and shook her head.  "I know," she said, sniffling.  "I can't do this, I've gotta go," I said, as my eyes started to get wet.  "Promise me you'll enter that contest," I said over my shoulder.  "I will," she said softly as I walked away.         

We didn't talk at all for a couple of days.  The third day Nicole walked by me in the receiving area, handed me a folded-up piece of notebook paper and kept going.  I took it up in the loft, opened it, and read;

"You got nothin' on me
I got nothin' on you
Except perhaps my freedom
I don't understand how I missed you
Where were you when I was growing up
When people thought my ideas
were dangerous and contagious
I never knew there was somebody else
Outside of me

Who is your god
Who owns your soul
Who gets all your love at night
when I'm alone
on cold lonely sheets

Promise me forever
I want a lifetime of roses
Though it doesn't matter
I won't hold you prisoner
Don't tell me lies
Just fantastic stories
If how it might've been
If we'd met years ago

Who is your god
Who owns your soul
Who gets all your love at night
When I'm alone"

- Nicole Page, 1978

I have never in my life been as conflicted as I was the moment I finished that poem.  However desperately I wanted it to be about me, I knew if it was my life as I had come to know it was now over.  And if it wasn't about me, I longingly wanted it to be.  When I next saw Nicole I tried to keep it light.  "Is this an old poem?  It wasn't in your notebooks.  It's more than 21 lines, you definitely should use it for the magazine contest."  "It's not an old poem," she said, looking down at the floor and scuffing the toe of her shoe, "I just wrote it."  She looked up at me, "And it's not for the magazine.  It's for you."  We stood looking at each other and I realized a bright light was about to be shone on the shadow world I had been existing in.  I took a deep breath, and let it out.  "Let's start a band," I said.  Nicole just smiled.

That night I pulled my guitar case out from under the bed, got out my Stratocaster, went downstairs to the basement, plugged it into my Fender Twin and played it for the first time since the previous December.  Springtime started early that year.  

© 2013 Ricki C.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The New York Dolls "Pills" and "Trash" (Bonus Video Friday)

I've said it many times in the past, I'll say it again here: If it weren't for The New York Dolls, right at this moment I would have a long grey ponytail halfway down my back and be listening incessantly to The Grateful Dead's Dick's Picks series and old Jefferson Airplane retrospectives.  I'd probably also be sporting those little round hippie eyeglasses.

The New York Dolls came into my life in 1973 courtesy of Creem magazine, my rock & roll Bible at the time.  (By the way, for those of you scoring at home, the 12 issues of Creem magazine in calendar year 1973 were, and are, the epitome of rock & roll journalism now and for all time.)  (Come to think of it, a blog entry on the sorry state of rock & roll journalism in calendar year 2013 would not be a bad idea.  Watch for it on these pages.)

In 1973 I was still middling away through college, Dave Blackburn had moved to Boston, I was playing in some fucked-up little hippie band whose other main member idolized Pearls Before Swine.  (Don't ask, look 'em up on YouTube.)  Then that guy, Andy Boller by name, broke up the band by moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan to become a macrobiotic cook.  (No joke, although it sounds like a punchline.)

There are very few bands and individuals who have actually changed the way I view the world.  The New York Dolls are one of them.  (Again, for those of you scoring at home; Elliott Murphy and Jonathan Richman of The Modern Lovers are two of the others, both of whom I also discovered in 1973 courtesy of Creem.)  I can't say I ever adopted their fashion sense -you COULD NOT get away with this shit on the mean streets of the West Side of Columbus, Ohio, in 1973 or possibly any other year, before or since - but man did I learn a thing or two about writing a rock & roll song with full forward propulsion from these boys.

In this clip the guitars are out of tune in spots, the vocals are at times off-key, bassist Arthur Kane is sporting perhaps the WORST OUTFIT in the annals of rock & roll fashion, and still they're one of the five greatest bands I've ever heard or seen.  David Jo, Johnny, Sylvain, Arthur, Jerry; thank you, from the bottom of my pacemaker-driven heart.

inspirational verse; "A little pill for my leg, but that didn't ache /
Got the pills for my heart, but a little too late / Got some pills for my love, to get me at ease /
That's when the rock & roll nurse took me down on my knees!" - Bo Diddley, 1958

Rick Cacchione, pre-New York Dolls

Ricki C., post-New York Dolls

© 2013 Ricki C.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Dar Williams "February" (Bonus Video Friday)

After a self-imposed eight-year exile from playing music (1982-1990) I decided to reinvent myself as a solo acoustic singer/songwriter.  Rock & roll as such pretty much sucked in that grunge-dominated period of the 1990's (Limp Bizkit, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice In Chains, and other bands of that ilk ruled; my friends in Watershed were in the process of getting dropped for being too power-pop), so I was forced to turn to the likes of Elliott Murphy, Billy Bragg, Luka Bloom, Dave Alvin & Richard Thompson to teach myself the ins & outs of being a solo rocker with some semblance of dignity and integrity.  And then, when Hamell On Trial came along in 1995, that pretty much sealed the deal for me.

The feminine side of my quest of discovery brought me to Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin & Dar Williams.  My lovely wife Debbie & I both hate winter and are sick to death of it at this point, but we truly love Dar Williams, and we truly love this song.......

inspirational verse; "And February was so long / That it lasted into March" - Dar Williams, 1996