Wednesday, October 30, 2013

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

(I Love Distortion (a rock & roll novel in 12 chapters) appears monthly in
Growing Old With Rock & Roll; January to December, 2013)

I Love Distortion - chapter ten

"And then October came, and with October came the rain
Falling on that apartment on Beacon Hill Lane"
- Sean Richter, 1979

One unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon in October Nicole and I took off for Yellow Springs to work on songs.  (See blog entry I Love Distortion, July 2013)  We were sitting in the soda fountain of Yellow Springs' lone drugstore (iPad kids, ask your grandparents what a drugstore soda fountain was) having french-fries & milkshakes and the little girl in the next booth over started playing with Nicole's hair.  The obviously harried young mom - whom, we noticed, was not sporting a wedding ring - of the two-year old looked like she could use a break, so Nicole played with the little girl all through her mom's meal.  When they left, the little girl stopped at the door, looked out shyly from beneath her blonde tousle of curls and blew Nicole a kiss.  Nicole broke down sobbing the second the little girl was out of sight.

"What's wrong?" I said, my fork frozen in mid-air, halfway to my mouth as I sat truly dumbfounded at Nicole's reaction.  "N-n-nothing," Nicole choked out, "it's nothing."  Somewhere deep down in some part of my heart I knew there was another girl underneath the rocker persona that I loved so dearly, but that's where I kept that knowledge: deep-down and buried.  That was my mistake.

I knew the girl who stood up one dreary, rainy Sunday afternoon in my crummy Lincoln Village apartment and executed a breathtakingly perfect pirouette apropos of nothing except that I was reading an article about ballet in the arts section of the Sunday newspaper.

I knew the girl who could elevate into a Pete Townshend-style scissor kick - with guitar - and, due to her  middle-school cheerleader training, could come down into splits, sometimes in a dress, and not expose anything beyond a little thigh.  I have never seen any other guitarist, male or female, pull off that move.

gig-night sidelight, number one;
Somewhere by a backstage door, after a gig, my arms on Nicole's shoulders, looking into her eyes,
Sean - "Someday you are going to break my heart into a million little pieces."
Nicole - "Silly boy."

I knew the girl whose short auburn hair would fall in perfect slow-motion waves over her lovely face as her head tossed in orgasm when we made love.

I suppose I was aware of the wannabe-wife & mother underneath that rocker girl, but I just blotted it out.  Sometimes blindness and amnesia are the first victims, best friends and mortal enemies of true love. 

gig-night sidelight, number two;
Nicole takes off on a girl’s-night-out excursion to Zachariah’s Red Eye Saloon, a High Street 
country-rock stronghold   She wants to see Spittin’ Image, the little brother band to McGuffey Lane,
 our local scene’s top-drawing band, so she can check out Mimi Rousseau, purportedly
 Columbus’ best female singer, our hometown answer to Linda Ronstadt.
I’m dozing on the couch when she gets home, but rouse myself to ask, “How was Mimi?”
“She was really good," Nicole replies with genuine enthusiasm, “she has such a great voice.”
“How was the band?” I inquire sleepily.  “Oh, they were just balding, fat guys with beards,” Nicole
chirps, and I smile to myself at the not-altogether-positive effect I am having on her musical outlook.

Gigs for TheTwilight Kids gigs were becoming more sporadic that autumn.  There were problems with Jake's drumming - Nicole was making a concerted effort to slow the songs down so she could inject a little more melody into our punk-style proceedings and Jake could really only handle four-on-the-floor hard-rock bashing.  Plus I was spending more time away being a roadie for Billy Ray's band.  Lovely & Sonic was getting really hot, they had a single out and were getting great opening gigs with national acts, most of which I ran lights at.  I was no Marshall Brickman with Bruce Springtseen, but I was pretty damn good.  Nicole and I would spend hours on the telephone when I worked out-of-town shows she couldn't come to.  I can still conjure up that feeling of being ensconced in a tiny phone booth (iPhone kids, ask your grandparents what a phone booth was) talking to Nicole, totally at peace in my warm, dark rock & roll world.

By October, The Twilight Kids and Lovely & Sonic had already run hopelessly askance of the Columbus punk-rock community.  Billy Ray and I had no interest in being tattered punk-rock loser-heroes, we wanted to be rock & roll stars.  We had no interest in being The Sex Pistols - who we saw as a paper-doll dress-up art-project of Malcolm McLaren's - or Johnny Thunders' Heartbreakers - who we saw, quite rightly I would assert, as a circus-mirror junkie edition of our beloved New York Dolls.  I wanted to be The Who; Billy Ray wanted to be The Beatles.  (He always did aim higher than I did.)  We had no interest in playing basement parties for punk-rock scenesters, snotty campus record store employees and fanzine editors, we wanted to play for teenagers, for real kids.  To that end, we offered every high school in Columbus and the surrounding area a free show by our two bands.  Only three schools ever took us up on the offer (see blog entry I Love Distortion - January 2013) but that's how committed we were to our Populist Rocker Credo.

Billy Ray and I didn't just play in bands, we lived rock & roll.  We considered it our Holy Mission to save the music that had saved our lives from the likes of Journey, Styx, Foreigner & Kansas. 

Billy Ray really did have it all.  He was a consummate rocker: an incredibly charismatic performer, great rhythm guitarist and an unbelievably prolific songwriter.  Billy Ray turned over Lovely & Sonic's entire set-list at least three times in 1978 alone.  They had to have performed roughly 50 different originals that year.  And those weren't throwaway, tossed-off tunes, they were fully thought-out, fully-formed GREAT rock & roll compositions, not more than 10 filler-songs in the bunch.  Plus the rest of the band was great.  I had my darling girl Nicole as a lead singer, but on his right hand Billy Ray had Glen - a killer bass player and second lead singer who threw the occasional choice original song into the Lovely & Sonic embarrassment of sonic riches.  To Billy Ray's left was John, lead guitarist extraordinaire - an incredibly tasteful guitarist, playing exactly what Billy Ray's tunes called for and never one extraneous or intrusive note more.  And in the backline Doug was just a powerhouse Keith Moon-with-control style drummer, with the added bonus of poster-boy blonde rock star looks to balance Billy Ray's more exotic gypsy-rocker persona.  It was like having Roger Daltrey playin' drums for Bob Marley.

It didn't take long for Lovely & Sonic to rise to the top of the pops as the go-to Columbus New Wave/Punk/Power Pop band.  They got all the plum opening slots at the Columbus Agora: The Ramones, The David Johansen Group, Talking Heads, in addition to their own headlining shows at campus clubs and the Ohio State University student unions. 

I learned so much from Billy Ray that year.  I learned how - after 10 years of playing in bands and 5 years of leading them - to properly rehearse a band.  I learned how to focus my songwriting down to a searing laser-beam precision-point from the somewhat scattered, shambolic, shotgun approach I had previously employed.  I learned stage presence and how to pace a gig; how to take the temperature of an audience and then turn up the heat to leave the crowd wrung-out and wet at the end of the set.

Billy Ray really did have it all.  And then he threw it all away.

gig-night sidelight, number three;
Billy Ray, Nicole & I are in the back seat of a car going somewhere on campus after a
Lovely & Sonic gig when Billy Ray says absently & quietly, while looking out the window,
"Jesus, I just want this band to get a record deal and get three albums out
so I can be done with all this group stuff and get my solo career going."
My heart drops through my stomach.  At that point I viewed Lovely & Sonic as a perfect
rock & roll band; a group of brothers, arms around shoulders, us-against-the-world.
To Billy Ray, they're the means to an end.  I'm crushed, and I'm not even in the band.
When I relate all my disillusionment to Nicole on our ride home to the West Side, she says,
"I can kind of see his point.  Sometimes in this world you've gotta look out for yourself first."

I should have taken that exchange for the red-flag warning that it was.  But I didn't.  Because one dreary, rainy Sunday afternoon Nicole had done a perfect pirouette in my cold living room.

© 2013 Ricki C.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lou Reed 1942-2013

I'm sure by now almost everybody who reads Growing Old With Rock & Roll knows that Lou Reed died yesterday, Sunday October 27th.  I'm also sure anybody who has ever seen me play knows that there was no bigger influence on my music and songwriting than Lou Reed.  My five favorite rock & roll performers of all time are - in chronological order - Pete Townshend, Lou Reed, Bruce Springsteen, Ian Hunter and Elliott Murphy.

I fully realize Bob Dylan is not on that list.  Lou Reed was my Bob Dylan.

I was introduced to the music of The Velvet Underground by my best friend ever - Dave Blackburn - when he and I first met at Bishop Ready High School in 1968.  (There's a song about it, kinda, in blog entry If All My Heroes Are Losers, Sept. 26th, 2012.)  I have to admit I didn't get The Velvet Underground in '68 or '69 when Dave was first trying to indoctrinate me.  (Dave was at that show at the Valley Dale Ballroom here in Columbus, Ohio, that came out on one of the box-set reissues of The Velvet Underground & Nico.  I didn't go because I found the Velvets "too noisy."  I would think I stayed home that night with my Lovin' Spoonful and Paul Revere & The Raiders records.)

By 1973, however, when I came back from trying to start a band in Boston with Dave and moved into my first apartment, Reed's Transformer album and a German import best-of Velvet Underground double-record set (that I got for two bucks at an Ohio State University campus used-record store) became my touchstones, my muses and my Masters course in rock & roll songwriting.  (see blog entry The Apartment, March 9th, 2012.)

If you had told me in 1973 that Lou Reed would still be alive in 2013, I'd have just laughed, dismissed you, and walked away.  If you had told me Iggy Pop, Keith Richards and Bob Dylan would still be alive in 2013 - let alone still playing music - I'd have called you a fuckin' idiot to your face.  (And Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis?  Fuggetaboutit.)

And maybe that's kinda the entire point of this whole Growing Old With Rock & Roll Concept.  I cannot reconcile which side of "It's better to burn out than to fade away." I believe in.  I realize how awful a thing it is to say in the wake of Lou Reed's passing, but a large part of me wishes Pete Townshend HAD died before he got old, just so I wouldn't have to dislike him and all that he stands for more with each passing year.  I was sad in 1978 when Keith Moon died, but Keith wasn't meant to get fat and wasted and useless as he had already started to do even 35 years ago.  We're not all supposed to get old and have long careers in rock & roll.

Bruce Springsteen is.  Ian Hunter is.  Elliott Murphy is.  Alejandro Escovedo is.  Maybe Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Richard Thompson, Steve Earle and Dave Alvin are, but I haven't bought a record by any of those five artists in years.  And David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash certainly shouldn't still be out there. 

And does it make me sad that Lou Reed's last recorded work is that debacle duet record with Metallica from a coupla years ago?  You'd best believe it makes me sad.  

But I digress.......

I think before I lose control of this blog and start down too many rabbit holes, I'm just going to turn it over to Elliott Murphy.  The following are the liner notes to 1969 - Velvet Underground Live, released by Mercury records in 1973 to capitalize on Lou Reed's post-"Walk On The Wild Side" popularity.  It's my favorite piece of rock journalism/poetry ever, and it says more about rock & roll and loss than I ever could, in a hundred years.  

© 2013 Ricki C.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Nominees - 2013

I have a host of problems with the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame (hereinafter referred to as R&RHOF).  Some of these have been previously dealt with in this blog, but let's restate them here in a nutshell:

1) Rock & roll music was once a free, living, anarchic Wild Thing.  (The Troggs - who hit with "Wild Thing" in 1966 - are not in the R&RHOF, by the way.)  Once an art-form/force of nature such as rock & roll starts getting codified and rigidized into establishing a Hall Of Fame, that art-form/force of nature is OVER.

2) Sports should have Halls Of Fame because the contributions of its members can be quantified in some definitive manner: home runs hit, touchdowns scored, baskets or goals made, championships won, contributions made to the players' teams, etc.  By its very nature, rock & roll is not quantifiable: i.e. if we were going to go simply on one quantified measurement - say, record sales - then Michael Jackson and The Eagles would have been the first acts inducted into the R&RHOF and thank God, Allah, Buddha, Jehovah, L. Ron Hubbard (fill in your own chosen deity), they were not.

3) To extend the question of quantifiability: who can REALLY say who is important to rock & roll music, and HOW important they are?  Sure, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Bruce Springtseen and David Bowie (to list the first five off the top of my head) are important to rock & roll, but are they any MORE important than One or Two-Hit Wonders like The Left Banke?  Would 1960's rock & roll have been as wonderful as it was if "Walk Away Renee" or "Pretty Ballerina" had never existed?  How about The Syndicate Of Sound's "Little Girl" or "Psychotic Reaction" by Count Five?  And what about 60's bands that have never even been NOMINATED to the R&RHOF even though they had a fuckload of hits: The Beau Brummels, The Standells, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Herman's Hermits, Manfred Mann?  Pertinent question: Why are The Hollies and The Small Faces - both talented but essentially hit-making hackmeister British Invasion bands - in the R&RHOF, but Gerry & The Pacemakers and The Searchers are not?  My Answer - Because The Hollies contained Graham Nash (later of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) and The Small Faces morphed into The Faces which contained Rod Stewart & Ron Wood, a future Rolling Stone.  And let's face facts, folks: Jann Wenner loves him some Rich Hippies and Big Names.

Which brings us to the current crop of nominees.......

1) Deep PurpleYes - Deep Purple?  Seriously?  I liked Deep Purple.  I liked them when I was in high school in the 1960's and they were goosing mediocre Joe South and Neil Diamond tunes ("Hush," "Kentucky Woman") into Heavy Rock Hits.  I liked them for being a reliable mid-level Heavy English band. I liked them less later when organist Jon Lord came up with Concerto For Group & Orchestra and moved them into Ponderous Orchestrated Symphonic-Rock (?) Territory, a genre later perfected by Yes.  (And let's face facts: if it wasn't for Yes we would not have been subjected to their hopelessly inferior American copies - Styx, Marillion, Pegasus, Journey, and, the most-dreaded of all, Kansas.)  Are either Deep Purple or Yes more important to rock & roll than fellow Englishmen Mott The Hoople?  I think not.  (And Mott's Ian Hunter wrote "Cleveland Rocks" for chrissakes, but still can't get a nomination to the Rock Hall on the shores of Lake Erie.)

2) Kiss - Kiss?  Kiss?  I really have to laugh at this one.  I hate to run afoul of my good friends Colin Gawel & Joe Oestreich of Watershed here, but I think even they would agree that it's lamentable that The MC5 and The New York Dolls (without whom, let's face facts, Kiss would not exist) have never been considered for the R&RHOF, but Kiss gets nominated.  I suppose I should be heartened that the Rock Hall has relaxed its rather genteel May-I-Pour-You-A-Cup-Of-Tea-Darling? Standards to include a hard-rock band like Kiss in the nominations, but why choose a mediocre, overblown Spectacle-Over-Music hard-rock band when you could consider the melodically-inventive, most perfectly-balanced combination of power & pop hard-rock band EVER - Cheap Trick?  (Oh yeah, now I remember, because Kiss are from New York City and Cheap Trick are from the Midwest.)  

3) Linda Ronstadt - This nomination is just sad for a number of reasons, most of them completely unrelated to music.  Ronstadt's fellow California Soft Rock Compatriots - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Eagles, Jackson Browne - have been in the R&RHOF for years, if not DECADES, but Ronstadt has never gotten a nomination until this year, when it was revealed she has Parkinson's Disease.  Condescending?  Yeah.  Sexist?  Yeah.  Ronstadt was a reliable hit-maker all through the 1970's and a fairly good interpreter of singer-songwriter material  (I'm sure Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon and even Elvis Costello appreciated the publishing royalties that lined their pockets from Ronstadt covers of their songs), but she can't get a Rock Hall nomination until she contracts Parkinson's?  Sad.

4) Chic / LL Cool J / N.W.A. - Okay, I have no problem with these three acts being considered for a Rap Hall Of Fame or Soul/R&B Hall Of Fame, but the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame?  Please.  And before anybody levels a Racism Charge, allow me make my point.  There are many black artists who belong in the R&RHOF: Chuck Berry (without whom rock & roll might not even exist, and certainly wouldn't be as much fun as it is), Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Sly & The Family Stone, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, etc.  If we're going to nominate Chic, LL Cool J or N.W.A., where are the nominations for Love, The Chambers Brothers, Bad Brains, or Living Color, all of whom are more vital black contributors to the legacy of rock & roll?

5) The Paul Butterfield Blues Band / Peter Gabriel / Hall & Oates / The Meters / Cat Stevens / Link Wray - ZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  Why bother?

6) The Zombies - These guys certainly deserve to be in the R&RHOF, but I would hate to think they were only nominated this year because of Pop Culture Zombie Mania - The Walking Dead, World War Z, etc.

7) Nirvana / The Replacements - As a rocker, I suppose these were the two nominations that made the most sense.  But it's going to be sad to me when Nirvana makes it into the Rock Hall on their first try and The Replacements don't.  It's probably not entirely fair but I kinda blame Nirvana - and specifically Kurt Cobain - for the current Dire Straits Of Rock & Roll.  (note; Mark Knopfler's band is not in the R&RHOF either.)  First Cobain knocked Hair Metal (which, though I certainly wasn't a fan, was at least FUN in a rock & roll sense) off the charts, radio, and MTV, thus ushering in The Age Of Alternative.  He then went on to CONTINUOUSLY bellyache (literally, he had an ulcer) about Fame, His Fans, The Pressures of Rock Stardom, etc.  That is not a Good Message to send to aspiring rock stars.  And when The Biggest Rock Star In The World blows his brains out in a Seattle garage, the lesson to young boys & girls with guitars is that Genius Is Pain and you should just roll around and wallow in your grief rather than use rock & roll to escape that darkness.  And that's not Rock & Roll.

The Replacements are rock & roll.  And that's exactly why I'm betting they don't get into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2013.  We'll see.

© 2013 Ricki C.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Flo & Eddie "Days" (Bonus Video Friday)

Upcoming next week in either Growing Old With Rock & Roll or in Colin Gawel's pencilstorm blogsite (or perhaps both) will be my rundown on the latest crop of nominees for The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.  (And I do mean rundown, it's a pretty spotty troupe of nominees.)  Today's question would be: "Why aren't The Turtles - led by Howard Kaylan & Mark Volman, aka Flo & Eddie - in The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame?" 

Longtime readers of this blog will know that previous queries along this line of questioning are: "Why isn't Mott The Hoople - and/or Ian Hunter - in The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame," "Why isn't The MC5 in The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame," and "Why Isn't Cheap Trick in The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame?"  (Colin Gawel of Watershed had to form an entire BAND to pose that last musical question, for Chrissakes.)  (see blog entry Why Isn't Cheap Trick In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, April 26th, 2013.)

(editor's note; Ricki, you're drifting.......)

Okay, okay, okay.  We wind up Week Four of Autumn Songs with "Days," penned by Ray Davies of The Kinks (thank God they're in The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, at least) in a gorgeous cover version by Flo & Eddie.  (The Kinks version is also great, of course, but the Davies brothers have been previously featured in October.)

inspirational verse;
"Thank you for the days / Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me /
I'm thinking of the days / I won't forget a single day, believe me /
I bless the light, I bless the light that lights on you, believe me /
And though you're gone, you're with me every single day, believe me /
Days I'll remember all my life / Days when you can't see wrong from right /
You took my light, but then I knew that very soon you'd leave me /
But it's all right, now I'm not frightened of this world, believe me /
I wish  today could be tomorrow / The night is dark, it  just brings sorrow, let it rain"
- Ray Davies, 1967 

© 2013 Ricki C.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fairport Convention "Time Will Show The Wiser" (Bonus Video Friday)

Week three of Autumn Songs brings us to Fairport Convention, England's answer to Jefferson Airplane and Richard Thompson & Ian Matthews' earliest claim to fame.  I've probably stated it multiple times elsewhere in this blog, but my two favorite forms of music from birth to now were 1960's folk-rock and 1970's punk-rock.  Everything else I like grows out of those two forms. 

(sidenote question - Has there ever, in the history of television, been a rock & roll performer more 
 ill-at-ease onscreen than Fairport singer Judy Dyble in the first 35 seconds of this video clip?)  

inspirational verse; "I don't know which to go by; my mind or my heart /
And this is so confusing, it's tearing me apart" - Emmitt Rhodes, 1967 

ps. While we're (kinda) on the subject of folk-rock and pop music, the record from which Fairport Convention would have learned "Time Will Show The Wiser" was by a band called The Merry-Go- Round, led by Emmitt Rhodes, who later had a Beatle-esque (or, perhaps more accurately, a Paul McCartney-esque) hit in the 1970's with "Fresh As A Daisy."  I'm not sure if The Merry-Go-Round record was ever issued on CD or is available for download (in true SNL Weekend Update Drunk Uncle fashion, I don't do downloads - "Spotify me! Spotify me!"), but it's a prime example of the style of great elevated-Monkees style Southern California pop records that were totally obliterated by the Haight-Ashbury Summer Of Love ilk of (shudder) The Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service.  Once the hippies and nascent prog-rockers stuck their stoned maws into my beloved rock & roll things were just never gonna the same.  I believe to this day that rock & roll's most perfect form of expression was the 3-minute 45 rpm single.  If you could not make a statement in six minutes over two sides, that statement didn't need made.  Albums suck.

Actually the record I mainly blame for introducing pretentious navel-gazing into rock & roll is The Beatles' (hopelessly artsy, overrated) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, but I'm not going to state that in print because I have roadie gigs coming up with Colin Gawel & The Lonely Bones and I don't wanna have to argue all night with Rick Kinsinger about that record. 

© 2013 Ricki C.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Kinks "Autumn Almanac" (Bonus Video Friday)

In the humble opinion of your author, The Kinks are the Undisputed Kings of Autumn Rock & Roll.  (Fairport Convention are second.  And Southern California's favorite sons, The Leaves, are, kinda predictably & inevitably, third.)  "Autumn Almanac," "Waterloo Sunset," "Death Of A Clown," "Days," and "Sweet Lady Genevieve," are all Autumn Song classics to me.  (And who dressed cooler than The Kinks in 1967?  Dave Davies' tie alone in this clip is worth the price of admission.)

inspirational verse; "From the dew-soaked hedge creeps a crawly caterpillar /
Well, the dawn begins to crack / It's all part of my autumn almanac" - Ray Davies, 1967 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ian Hunter & the Rant Band in Kent, Ohio, and the Greying of Live Rock & Roll

My lovely wife Debbie and I made a road trip this past weekend to see Ian Hunter & the Rant Band at Kent Stage, a truly great venue in Kent, Ohio.  Kent's rather unfortunate claim to fame is that it houses Kent State University, where on May 4th, 1970, four Kent State University students were shot to death and nine wounded by a detachment of National Guardsmen.  I was a senior in high school on that day and harbor my own 1960's-derived conspiracy-theory thoughts on the subject - i.e. that then-President Richard M. Nixon called up then-Governor James Rhodes and said, "Let's put an end to this Vietnam War campus-protest nonsense.  Kill some solidly Midwest students.  No one will really take it all that seriously if it's New York City or California, we need to make a statement and an example in Middle America."  (I offer as evidence of my theory that two black students were killed and 12 were wounded by police gunfire on May 15th, 1970, just eleven days later at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi.  Nobody seems to remember that incident and Neil Young never wrote any songs about those kids.)

However, Governmental Murder For Hire is not our topic today.  Today's topic is Ian Hunter & The Rant Band live.

The weekend started promisingly when the desk clerk at the Akron Comfort Suites - Brittany, by name, who couldn't have been, to paraphrase Chuck Berry, a minute over 22 - knew who Mott The Hoople was.  While making small talk during check-in I mentioned we were seeing Ian Hunter in Kent and Brittany didn't know who that was.  "He was in a band called Mott The Hoople that you are far too young to remember," I said, rather condescendingly.  "I know Mott The Hoople," Brittany replied brightly, "they did 'All The Bad Dudes,' right?"  "All The Young Dudes" I corrected, but simulteously totally impressed that a 20-something year old even REMOTELY knew of the existence of Mott The Hoople.  "I make it a point to know my rock & roll," Brittany replied.  It was a promising omen at the beginning of the trip.        

My live rock & roll encounter previous to this Ian Hunter show was a Rolling Stones tribute band at the Columbus, Ohio, Hollywood Casino.  (My full account & review of that show can be found on my good friend Colin Gawel's music/arts/sports/entertainment blogsite - - where most of my local Columbus-based journalism is posted.  You should check out the site, it's really good fun.)  It's becoming increasingly problematic to me that, at 61 years old, I find myself attending only shows that connect back to my 20's in the 1970's, my heyday of rock & roll.  I don't necessarily want to be one of those people who won't go see young, up-and-coming bands, but I am.

I mainly blame an act called Dr. Dog for my bands-under-thirty live-act antipathy.  Back in 2008, when I was still totally immersed in music culture - actively on the road with both Hamell On Trial and Watershed and working at an indie record store between tours - Dr. Dog were being touted as the Next Big Thing.  That August my young rocker friend Kyle - who gamely, earnestly tries to keep me abreast of and interested in "new" music trends - attended Summerfest, a day-long music festival sponsored by CD 102.5 -Columbus' great locally-owned & operated alternative-rock radio station.  Dr. Dog headlined.  And they sucked.  Badly.  They sucked badly.  Really, really badly.  At one point I turned to Kyle (who wasn't crazy about Dr. Dog's performance, but certainly wasn't as traumatized as I was) and said, "I don't even know what kind of music this is supposed to be.  Is this supposed to be rock & roll?  Do these guys think that they are playing rock & roll music?"

As a result of that summer Saturday I have turned my back and disassociated myself from an entire generation of live rock & roll.  I'm sorry Arcade Fire; I'm sorry Mumford & Sons; I'm sorry Black Keys; I'm sorry Of Monsters & Men; I'm sorry Lumineers.  I'm sorry to whoever is the next pale, weedy group of boys & girls with wispy goatees & peasant dresses that I see on Austin City Limits: I will not be at your show.  I realize that in the future I will very likely be missing some good music, but there you go.  Blame it on Dr. Dog and their non-rocking, sucking ways.

(editor's note: Congratulations, Ricki, you've reached the 700-plus word mark in this blog entry and have not typed one single sentence about Ian Hunter & the Rant Band live in Kent, Ohio.)

Alright, alright, alright!  After an enjoyable opening set by Amy Rigby & Wreckless Eric (who, by the way, sounds EXACTLY like he did back in 1978 on the Stiffs Live record) the mighty Rant Band took the stage and slammed into "What For" from the new When I'm President album, not-so-subtly announcing that this was not going to be an Oldies Show, that new Hunter material was going to be featured.  Ian ambled onto the stage, making a great entrance in a long-sleeve white shirt & black jeans, looking incredibly fit, trim & vital, belying his 74 years on the planet.  The second song of the set was "Once Bitten Twice Shy," serving equal notice that Ian wasn't going to ignore The Hits in the show.

And therein might lie my problem with The Greying Of Live Rock & Roll: audience resistance to New Material in lieu of Crowd Favorites.  I may not be giving the audience at Kent Stage enough credit, but it seemed to me that a rather large majority of the crowd were there for a Nostalgia Night.  They wanted to hear Mott material like "All The Way From Memphis," "Golden Age Of Rock & Roll," and, of course, "All The Young Dudes" and Ian solo hits "Just Another Night" (just about the only Radio Hit that didn't get played) and "Cleveland Rocks."  (Kent is, after all, a stone's throw from the hometown of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.)

I really have to wonder how many audience members in attendance at this show have bought - or are even aware of the existence of - Ian's four brilliant 21st-century releases: Rant, Shrunken Heads, Man Overboard and When I'm President.  (More on that in my August 2nd, 2013 blog entry Ian Hunter (w/ Mick Ronson) "Once Bitten Twice Shy."  And all the Bonus Video Friday blogs in August featured Hunter and/or Mott The Hoople.)  Also, disturbingly, there were precious few young people at the show - fifty & up seemed to be the order of the day.  My wife Debbie, many years my junior, might have been one of the youngest people in attendance.

So the Rant band plowed through a truly rocking set, mixing in newer tunes like "Black Tears," "Shrunken Heads" and "Just The Way You Look Tonight" with the Crowd Favorites mentioned above, before smashing to a close with the new album's "Ta Shunka Witco (Crazy Horse)" - delivered with a venom wholly in keeping with the song's message of America's betrayal of her indigenous people - and "Life."  I think Ian has penned "Life" as a ongoing dedicated set-ender, to replace the now 40-year old "All The Way From Memphis," or the 39-year old "Saturday Gigs," the songs that have concluded Hunter shows the last few times I've seen him, further reinforcing that this is not an Oldies Show, that this is a band that can look fearlessly into the future and "Laugh, because it's only life." 

© 2013 Ricki C.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Winter Hours "Roadside Flowers" (Bonus Video Friday)

My theme for Bonus Video Fridays in October was originally intended to be Autumn Songs.  However, as I type this October 4th blog installment it's projected to be sunny and 85 degrees in Columbus, Ohio.  This is not autumn weather, and I find it hard to concentrate on leaves-are-falling tunes when I could just as easily be running Elliott Murphy's cover of The Beach Boys' "Surfin' U.S.A." from an old Max's Kansas City live tape I have.

I don't want my readership to think I'm going to go all ecological or political on you (since that's what ruined Rolling Stone as a music magazine back in the day) but it's just a simple fact that global warming is happening.  It's just a simple fact that growing up in Ohio in the 1950's and 60's it was not routinely 70-degree weather all through September and it was certainly not 85 degrees at the beginning of October.  When I walked to St. Aloysius anytime beyond the second week of school I was wearin' a jacket.  I don't wanna come off all Drunk Uncle from Saturday Night Live Weekend Update here, I'm just sayin' - Ohio's getting warmer all the time.

Anyway, I can't remember why I bought Winter Hours' first record back in 1989.  I couldn't possibly have heard it on Columbus radio in 1989 and I doubt they were on MTV, so it must have been a review in Musician magazine.  (I was long done with the likes of Rolling Stone or Creem back then, Mojo and Uncut hadn't been invented yet, and Spin was already quite useless.)  Maybe I found out somewhere that Lenny Kaye produced the record, I really don't know.  But it's a good laid-back record (and those of you who know me well or have read this blog extensively KNOW I don't normally tolerate laid-back) and "Roadside Flowers" is a great Autumn Song.........

inspirational verse;
"Passin' through the small towns with their clapboards houses beaten down /
I could hear a distant church bell ring /
There beneath the maple trees it all comes rushin' back to me /
A simple thing forgotten long ago"
- Joseph Marques, 1989 (w/ Michael Carlucci & Bob Perry)  

© 2013 Ricki C.