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.


Hear my now and believe me later! Seger’s Live Bullet may be the greatest ever live rock records.

22 01 2013

I’m not a particularly big Bob Seger fan, but he’s responsible for the best live record ever made.  I can only think of one live LP that might Live Bullet beat.  If the Who’s Live At Leeds ain’t the top dog, put Live Bullet at the top of the list.

Seger and The Silver Bullet Band really rocked, even with instruments I hate to hear, organ and saxophone. They were fairly to be seen as rock, blues and funk.  Lots of white boy soul.

I grew up listening to this one on 8 Track, the worst medium ever dreamed up, and really appreciate it for its sentimental value.  More than that, it’s just something helped form me in childhood in a way I couldn’t explain.

Give it a listen. You can’t go wrong!

Farewell to Don Cornelius

1 02 2012

Suicides never sit well with me.  Sadly, an entertainment legend, Don Cornelius, took his own life.

If you don’t know him by name, but you’re over 30, you probably know his work.  Don’s best known as the creator and host of Soul Train, a cool, primarily Afro-American dance show that ran from 1971 to 2006.  It was a groovier, funkier, more urban cousin of American Bandstand.  Don was so cool and smooth.  The dancing and music was great R&B, funk, disco and eventually hip-hop.

I was a white kid that grew up in an all-white area.  Despite living only about a dozen miles from where all that great Motown music was made, I didn’t listen to the kind of music that was played on Soul Train.  But I watched it a fair amount.  I was always amazed by the cool polyester outfits, big afros and the great dance moves by those in the audience.  Don always set up the next tune or artist so that you couldn’t help but stay glued to the set.

Don’s death came to my attention by way of a sports talk radio show.  One of the black hosts asked the audience whether we white folks watched Soul Train.  I obviously can’t speak for everyone, but I think we did.  I don’t know anybody that didn’t turn it on once in awhile.  It was great stuff in its heyday.

Here’s one of my favorite artists performing on the coolest show around.  Rest in peace, Don.

My year in music

31 12 2009

The year started out with a bang.  I had just seen Oasis in mid December and was quite interested in the current British music scene.  Before January was up, I got my hands on both Fratellis’ albums, two from the Kooks and Arctic Monkeys’ Favourite Worst Nightmare.  Credit for these finds goes to magazines like Mojo and Q, which I was reading heavily at the time.  I did my level best to get my hands on Fleet Foxes’ self-titled album from the local library, but that took until Spring.

Luckily, Dennis Wilson’s revived classic Pacific Ocean Blue got a lot of love late 2008, early 2009, particularly from the Brit mags.  That has been one of the best albums I’ve bought in years.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

February was also quite interesting because the Beatles’ Take 20 of “Revolution” surfaced, and exploded across the ‘net.  EMI and/or Apple Corps made sure, within a day or so, that it vanished from some of the more notorious sites like youtube.  I wasn’t immediately convinced it was an authentic Beatles track – seemed possibly to be a mash-up of some kind – but “Beatles historians” roundly came out with opinions that it was the real deal.  That it was squashed within 48 hours of hitting the world wide web seemed to be good evidence that it was the real thing.  It’s a very cool track.  It’s basically “Revolution No. 1″ from the White Album, with loops and audio bits that ended up on “Revolution No. 9.”  As a big Beatles fan, I’m not one for second guessing them, but I think, in retrospect, “Revolution Take 20″ (let’s just call it that) would have fit better on the album than having two separate Revolutions.  No. 9 is just too long and goes nowhere.

The Beach Boys are frequently in my playing rotation (though not at the moment.)  Last Spring, I really wanted to go back and full up my collection from their post-Smile late 60’s, early 70’s catalog, but never quite got around to it.  I did dig out my copy of Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys, and played discs 2 and 3 quite a bit for a few weeks.  I came to love Dennis Wilson’s “Little Bird” from the album Friends.

Speaking of Beach Boys and Wilson brothers, Brian Wilson’s performance of Smile from a few years was an amazing surprise.  I’ve had the bootleg tracks (and songs from the box set) for years, but his performance of the aborted album from start to finish is something special.

Virtually out of nowhere, I felt this draw toward bass guitar.  My six string had been in the case for years; I played it a bit and decided I wanted to be a bassist.  In March I picked up my Dean EABG and jumped right into it.  I got Bass Guitar for Dummies and started playing (or learning) quite diligently.  In April I bought a 1997 Epiphone Accu-Bass and a Kustom 80 watt bass amp from a pawn shop in Detroit.  I have not played the electric much, but it’s there if I need it.

Late spring and early summer came.  I still played quite a bit of bass, taking my acoustic with me on family trips and weekends out of town.  I didn’t quite finish Bass Guitar for Dummies, but I’m planning a return to the book.  Because of my love for bass, anything with excellent bass found its way into my rotation.  I picked up What It Is! Funky Soul And Rare Grooves (1967-1977), an absolutely fantastic 4 disc set put out by Rhino.

Midsummer my MP3 player completely crapped out.  I couldn’t replace the battery for it, either.  We traveled a lot on weekends so my daughter had frequent requests for the Beatles or the Beach Boys, so that’s most of what I heard.

Christmas came early, on 09/09/09 in fact.  Apple Corps released the Beatles’ entire catalog, remastered, in stereo and mono (at least up through 1968.)  I got the Beatles in Mono box set before the stereo set.  I burned the CDs and put ‘em back in the packaging immediately.  I never even looked at the booklets, liner notes etc.  I got the stereo set a few days later, but still have not opened it.  September and October were Beatles-filled months.  Even now, at year’s end, I’m listening to bits of Abbey Road quite a bit, mostly because I’ve picked up the bass again and am trying to learn some of the licks.

Noel Gallagher “quit” Oasis but, surprisingly, this didn’t bother me a bit.  I’d love to see them make music forever; but if it ends it ends.  Noel’s the heart and soul of the band and he could go on making great music without his pesky little brother.  Here’s to a solo career that he will hopefully launch…and soon.

They never made sense to me in 38 years on this planet, but I finally gave in and got a few Pink Floyd albums, The Wall and The Dark Side of the Moon.  I would never have bought them at the store, but they’re at our public library, so I’ve given them a whirl.  I have to admit that I quite like both of those albums.  I’m not quite convinced that I like PF enough to start buying up their other albums, but I certainly am at least open to considering a bit more exploring.

The burden of sick loved ones and the “death” that comes in late Autumn probably put me in something of a slight funk.  I found solace in U2’s song “40.”  I think God wanted me to hear that when I did.

I’ve kind of fallen in love with music again in the last week or so.  I recently replaced my MP3 player and loaded it with really great stuff.  Of course it’s got all the Beatles stuff.  But I really love that I’ve got a few Miles Davis albums, Elvis in Memphis, a great two-disc set from his 1969 work, Little Richard and Ray Charles compilations/anthologies, Johnny Cash’s Personal File and a bunch of his compilation discs, and the new Black Crowes double album, Before the Frost…Until the Freeze.  I almost can’t take my headphones off these days.  I’ve already used up all 8 gig on this player and I like everything on it.

It’s hard to say what next year will bring.  If I’m going to resolve to do anything, one of those things will be to play more bass.  Perhaps instead of listening to and writing about other people’s music, I’ll make more of my own in 2010.

Disco Mac

20 05 2009

Somewhere in the late 70s, I lost track of what the Beatles, as individuals were doing.  Come to think of it, other than some of Paul’s mega-hits on the radio, I don’t think I knew much about their solo careers.   There’s no doubt that albums like Back to the Egg went unnoticed by me.

It wasn’t until I went to college in the late 80’s that I discovered much of McCartney’s back catalog of solo and Wings stuff.  I bought Back to the Egg on the advice of a good friend and fellow Beatles freak.  One of the first songs I really took to was “Arrow Through Me.”  It’s groove sounded perfect for unwinding with a cool autumn breeze blowing through the window and the lights low (not necessarily romantic, just relaxing.)  It’s never too late to discover old stuff.

Fast forward another 20 years and tonight, for the first time, I saw the video for “Arrow Through Me.”  I never knew there was a video for it. 

Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)

22 04 2009

This song’s a Marvin Gaye classic.  It’s the best Marvin Gaye song I’ve heard (I admit I haven’t heard every song in his catalog.)  The vocals get right to the agony and pain of the subject matter.  It’s very spiritual.  I’m not big on songs with a social message or with social commentary but “Inner City Blues” actually moves me.  It seems very timely in these hard economic times.

What can you say about the Funk Brothers?  [EDIT] Bob Babbitt’s simple but powerful bass line would carry the song if Marvin hadn’t.

I can’t seem to get this song out of my head.  I’m not sure why this song doesn’t get more recognition as one of the greatest songs of the last 40 years.  It’s that good.