An overlooked pairing

1 02 2019

I don’t know how I never picked it up on radar. I had been a staunch supporter The Black Crowes, but I didn’t know this was coming out (way back in 1999). I think I played it once, thought it was good, and moved onto other stuff.

But I’ve been revisiting Crowes stuff after having seen Magpie Salute last week. So it seemed to make sense to dig out this one. Think about it: the Crowes got to play with Jimmy Page! How many bands can sag that? Fucking cool! And Jimmy got to play with a fucking groovy band. What a great moment in rock.

I don’t think the Crowes get enough credit for what a great band they were. I’d put them right in the Hall of Fame if it were up to me.

I’m Taking Whiskey To The Party Tonight…

18 01 2019

If Women And Children First had a smell, it would be a mix of whiskey, weed, cigarettes and pussy.

Dig those moves, vampire…

10 01 2019

Over the 35 years since its release, I’ve come to take for granted Van Halen’s 1984. It’s a rock album for fuck sake. Nothing more, nothing less.

But it really changed my life in a very real way, and was sort of a simultaneous celebration of one the handful of amazing periods in my 47 years on this planet. I suppose it was more about Van Halen, but that album was the first of theirs that I really had a chance to digest.

It all started with “Jump.” That hit the airwaves right around Christmas break during 7th grade. My dad gave me a Sanyo boombox with a cassette player-recorder, and I wasted no time recording the hits of the day onto cheap tapes that I would play over and over on my paper route. In a few months I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say I played that song 100 times. I already liked Van Halen, but I became a dedicated fan the minute I heard that song. The rest of the album was just gravy.

Perhaps part of it is simply the title, but I often cannot separate that album from the year of its release. So much good happened in that school year. I had just started junior high and made a number of friends that are still in my life in some way. Junior high was so much more exciting than elementary school. And it was filled with what I felt at the time to be fantastic beings – Girls!

A great school year, where I had finally started getting good grades across the board, bled into a “rad” summer. I had no responsibility. I spent my time at my friend’s pool, playing baseball, hanging out in large groups of guys and girls, flirting, giggling, telling ridiculous jokes, and basically burning limitless amounts of teen energy. I remember some cool dude playing the whole album in his boombox one day at the beach.

I couldn’t care less about it now, but then baseball was one of my passions. The Detroit Tigers got out to a 35-5 start and won the World Series that year. I even got to see Game 3 from the left field lower deck of Tiger Stadium. I’d almost forgotten how much that mattered to me at the time!

Oh, yeah, the USA 🇺🇸 killed it in the Olympics in LA (cuz the Soviets boycotted.) Very cool Cold War shit right there.

It was a very transforming, exciting time. And it was a big year for my relationship with music. Not only did I basically turn away from the softer pop of the time, the seeds of wanting to learn to play guitar were planted then, and bloomed later in high school. Eddie Van Halen supplanted The Beatles as my favorite musician. If not for him, I wouldn’t have picked up a guitar and later moved on to bass.

Rarely to I dwell for more than a split second on wishing I could relive my past. I think if we’re all honest, any of us would at least be curious about what you could do if you went back in time. But if I land on that thought, I look at that as a year that was maybe the single best calendar year in my life.

That record is that year. That year is that record. For me, anyway…

That Which Passed 48 Years Ago

27 11 2018

George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass – more ambitious than the White Album in scope – is just brimming with rock beauty. Masterpiece is so cliche, but that’s more or less what it is. It’s easily the best of all the Beatles’ solo output. I hope one day we’ll hear a version of this with a deconstructed “Wall of Sound”®️ . It’s just too cluttered in spots, but nothing could keep these great songs from getting through. Let’s hope in another 48 years, people are still digging it.

The…Fall of Ziggy Stardust…

3 07 2018

45 years ago today, David Bowie, without previously informing most of his band members and inner circle, killed Ziggy Stardust on stage at the Hammersmith Odeon.

Artistically, I see this as significant because it’s about as rare as a $3 bill for a music superstar to flush the very formula that lead to his (or her) superstardom. Imagine the Beatles getting brush cuts and singing doo-wop in 1965.

My personal interest in Ziggy’s “retirement” is that it watching that very concert on VH-1 Classic is what turned me from enthusiastic Bowie supporter to slightly overboard devotee. Even more specifically, “Moonage Daydream,” blew my (you might think small) mind.

A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

29 06 2018

David Bowie “killed” Ziggy Stardust because he felt like the character had subsumed him, and he was worried he’d be driven mad like so many of his family on his mum’s side. Truth be told, he was probably bored with it all.

Anyone that really gives a shit about Bowie knows this; I’ve said nothing profound. It’s Bowie cannon, part of the official story.

Bowie-ites also know he created this character from an amalgamation of Vince Taylor, The Stardust Cowboy, and a wee bit of Iggy Pop. Again, nothing terrifically revealing.

But what I’ve never really heard anyone seriously suggest is that Ziggy was Bowie. The song “Ziggy Stardust” tells a story of both what Bowie already was and what he’d come to be after the character made a rock god.

The song is so autobiographical – we see in hindsight only – as to be prophetic, if that makes sense. And the song really is the character. Most of the rest of the The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars masterpiece is either about Ziggy’s world, or nothing in particular.

Consider this…

Ziggy played guitar, jamming good with Weird and Gilly,

And the spiders from Mars.

He played it left hand

But made it too far

Became the special man, then we were Ziggy’s band

Weird and Gilly are Trevor Bolder and Woody Woodmansey, his bassist and drummer. The real band didn’t become The Spiders From Mars until after the tour in support of the album picked up steam. Fiction became reality in that sense.

Of course Bowie played guitar…though not left hand. But he made it too far, nearly self-destructing within a two-three year period.

Now Ziggy really sang, screwed up eyes and screwed down hairdo

Like some cat from Japan, he could lick ’em by smiling

He could leave ’em to hang

‘Came on so loaded man, well hung and snow white tan.

Aside from Marty Feldman, there isn’t likely a celebrity in history more known for his “screwed up eyes” than DB.

Bowie was massively influenced by Japanese culture, especially kabuki. No one knows what screwed down hair is, but his flame orange mullet – coming after the song – gave the character a distinct look. That Bowie look is the most emblematic of his many amazing styles.

And supposedly he had a big dick, attested to by many lovers. Snow white would certainly describe him.

So where were the spiders,

while the fly tried to break our balls

With just the beer light to guide us,

So we bitched about his fans and should we crush his sweet hands?

I’d be completely bullshitting to cram a lot of autobiography into those verses.

Ziggy played for time, jiving us that we were voodoo

kid was just crass, he was the nazz

With God given ass

He took it all too far but boy could he play guitar

Making love with his ego Ziggy sucked up into his mind

Like a leper messiah

When the kids had killed the man I had to break up the band.

Ziggy played guitar

Bowie certainly was crass, though in a tasteful way, if one could make such a contradictory conclusion. The nazz – it means he was cool as fuck, the shit, da bomb, bad ass… I’ve seen lots of rock shows, live and otherwise, and his Ziggy stage presence was second to none.

Where this gets prophetically autobiographical is in his descent into a personal hell from ’74 to ’76. Cocaine psychosis. Heavy occult practice – he had his swimming pool in L.A. exorcised as he believed Satan dwelt therein. Fascination with fascism, Nazi/Third Reich history, and to some extent Hitler himself. With the help of massive quantities of coke and booze, he really “sucked up into his mind” and was lucky to have survived to tell about it.

So, what started as a fictional character around which he could tell an apocalyptic yarn, ended up being a road map for his climb to the top and near tipping over the cliff.

“Here I am with the mighty and the high, feeling like I don’t belong…”

13 02 2018

You may enjoy these videos from Noel Gallagher’s Detroit appearance on February 9. What can I say, I had a great seat!


“…I’m gonna let you join my one-man band…”

10 02 2018

Noel Gallagher and this third iteration of his High Flying Birds (including two members of the final Oasis lineup) rocked the Masonic Temple in Detroit last night. Consider this more of a photo essay. I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

The European Cannon Is Here!

23 01 2018

On the 42nd anniversary of the release of David Bowie’s Station to Station, my heart wants to attempt a thorough dissection of this most fantastic work. But I’m tired and feel like crap due to a sinus infection, so – probably to your delight – the dissection ain’t gonna happen. Yet I can’t let this day pass without sharing some thoughts about Bowie’s 10th studio album.

  • The Thin White Duke, given form by DB’s long, lean frame, with slicked back peroxide mane, and finely-tailored clothes, looks every bit the cold, fascistic Aryan nobleman DB said he was. The European Cannon, indeed! This character looked like he stepped out of a 1940’s film noir.
  • DB “killed” Ziggy Stardust only a few years before creating the Thin White Duke, for fear that the line between Ziggy and David Robert Jones had almost completely vanished. But it seems that the Thin White Duke was a lot of what DB became in the mid 70s – an emaciated coke addict that was nearly incapable of any meaningful human connection or attachment, with a penchant for fascism and some interest in Hitler. Ironically, he had to flee to Berlin of all places to “kill” the Thin White Duke.
  • Station to Station was DB’s second album with heavy soul leanings. But it was the first to convincingly fuse black soul or R&B with white Euro rock. His guitarist, bassist, and drummer – men of color, as they say – brought a ton of funk to the table. Still, he ended up with a rock album… with a lot of groove. Not until the Red Hot Chili Peppers came around did an so masterfully knit together white and black pop.
  • In a way, Station to Station is DB’s Slow Train Coming. Just as Bob Dylan became born again, and proudly proclaimed that through a couple of LP’s, DB expressed his dedication to and cry for help from the Christian God. DB recalled having been “reborn” in that era. “Word On A Wing” is a beautiful plea to the Lord, something the Psalmist would write if he lived in 1975. “Station to Station” might sound like we’re talking about Train depots, but DB has clearly said he was talking about the stations of the cross.
  • What is crazy about all that is that DB’s flirtation with Christianity was all jumbled up with black magic and Kabbalism and other occult practices. In a cocaine haze, he sat in magic circles, imagined he was being vexed by witches and tormented by demons. He even had his place in LA exorcised.
  • On the most basic level, the songs are great. Listen for yourself. Put on some headphones, lay down, turn the lights off and let it flow.

As I recently told a friend, Station to Station will change your life…if you let it.

January 8, 2016

8 01 2018

A cold, quiet Friday night, alone in the modest living room in the house of my childhood. I had returned to live in that place after my divorce, but I only expected to be there a few months. By that time it had been a year. I don’t know where they were but my daughter and girlfriend were elsewhere, so I took advantage of the solitude, got a good buzz on, and turned on VH1 Classic.

I had no notion it was his birthday, but I had to pause to watch The Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars Motion Picture. I liked Bowie and had never seen it so I figured, “Why not?” and decided to end the channel surfing. At the rest of sounding corny, that decision had a massive impact on my emotional life. Of course, I only know that now in retrospect…

The concert was enthralling! Even with the lousy TV audio quality and the seemingly endless commercial breaks, I sat there as if tied to the old, faded and ripped green leather couch that had belonged to my grandmother. I couldn’t get enough. Before the first song, “Hang Onto Yourself,” was over, I went from slightly-more-than-casual Bowie fan to mega-admirer. It was then, and probably always will be, the coolest recorded rock show I’d ever seen.

Mind you, I knew most of those songs well, even liked them. I knew a fair bit about Bowie’s Ziggy period, but I never imagined he’d absolutely owned the stage. You couldn’t take your eyes off Ziggy, nor could you ignore Ronno and the other Spiders. I know I wasn’t just imagining my reaction or buzzing hard. The kids in that crowd in July 1973 swayed and sang and screamed in ecstasy, too.

I’m quite sure VH1 Classic was celebrating both the man himself’s birthday and the release of Blackstar. Those details escaped me then.

But then they hit me – it felt like me anyway – with the video for “Lazarus.” I’ll never forget the “What the fuck did I just see?” feeling I had after the video ended. I’m not a stranger to arty, dark material, but I’m mostly a straight up rock fan at heart. Ziggy has just given me a couple of hours of the kind of stuff I normally live on music-wise, with a lot of theatrics of course…but I digress. “Lazarus” – I simply wasn’t ready for its haunting beauty. It was disturbing much like Picasso’s “Guernica.”

I fell asleep on that couch some hours later and woke up a different person. Again, that sounds really trite, but that’s what happened.

I must’ve been waiting for something new musically to love deeply, to get to know intimately. I tend to obsess over personal interests, especially music. This blog was once one of my obsessions.

Bowie, in response to questions about his sexuality after the wild and crazy 70s, said of himself that he had always been a “closet heterosexual.” I think I’d always been a closet Bowie fan and simply didn’t know it.

Bowie had always been there, like road noise outside your window. When I was little, stuck in otherwise boring department stores, I would beg my mom to let me hang out in the record section. I gravitated to the Bs because I was already very into the Beatles, with a mild like for the Beach Boys. Well, Bowie’s right there. Diamond Dogs freaked me out. This …person… or…thing on these covers has a man’s name but looks like a woman…sort of. The covers to that and Pinups were almost confusing for me as a six year old. I think it was then that I caught the virus, if you will, that laid dormant for much of the next 40 years. More on that later, perhaps.

Today, two years since Blackstar was released and DB turned 69, I can only think about that rocking evening on the old green couch, and how my musical experiences have been otherworldly since.