Recap: The Who, Live in KC 4/29/16

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I love to be pleasantly surprised. I have only seen the Who twice, once in ’89 and again at an exceptional show in 2000 in Denver with my buddy Stormin’. In ’89 they had a huge ensemble on stage with them and they were o.k. In 2000 it was just Daltrey/Townshend/Entwistle (RIP) with Zak Starkey on drums and a keyboard player. My general rule of thumb with the Who since that 2000 concert is simply, the less people they have on stage, the better the Who are. They are a primal force to be reckoned with.

I was supposed to see the Who in 1980 but due to some rather nefarious circumstances my father ended up confiscating my ticket and grounding me for a month. At the request of the guilty and my friend Brewster I can’t go into those details here. It has left a gaping hole in my concert-going experience that I will never be able to fill. Regardless of all that, I probably wouldn’t have attended this Who concert if a friend hadn’t given me two tickets on the floor. I love the Who but at this point, without Entwistle my expectations are pretty low. Couple that with Townshend’s continuing denunciations of touring and refusal to record any new music, and I just thought maybe it was time to cherish my memories of the Who but not invest the time in going to see them. As usual, I was wrong. Besides, free tickets, going with the Rock Chick and getting to see my pal SB and his brother Doctor Jimmy (names changed/obscured to protect the guilty) made this a no brainer.

I saw Bruce Springsteen interviewed a couple of years ago and he was talking about the guitar playing of Tom Morello. He said Morello, like Pete Townshend, could really create a “soundscape” with his guitar playing. That comment jumped out at me. I quickly put my iPod on shuffle and listened to the different stages of the Who’s career and damn if Springsteen wasn’t right. Townshend’s guitar playing is so distinctive I think we take it for granted. Before there was a Jack White, or an Eddie Van Halen or a Jimmy Page, there was Pete Townshend. The guy is simply masterful on his instrument. Yeah, the windmilling power chords are cool, but the guy bends the strings and pulls notes out of the guitar like a zen master. I had forgotten until seeing them last night what an amazing guitar player he is. He was playing up and down the neck of the guitar, dragging his pick over the strings and at one point used the mic stand to rub the guitar strings in a slide guitar solo. He put on a clinic. He alone was worth going to the show.

Townshend was in a funny and feisty mood last night. He did most of the in-between song patter with the audience. He made some pointed, humorous remarks about North Carolina’s ridiculous bathroom laws. He said, you never know which bathroom he might use, but if you were to come into said bathroom while he was in there, “you’d get to see the “Real Me,” well, depending on what you look like.” Funny stuff, Pete. Townshend reminds me of the odd uncle at the family reunion who the adults scorn but all the kids crowd around to listen to and hear in the hopes that he might say “fuck” in front of grandma again.

Daltrey was in fine voice and it was nice to see him fully recovered from the meningitis that sidelined him for the original date of this show, back in the fall. When Pete announced Daltrey during the band intro’s at the end of the show, he seemed to show some genuine affection for his old band mate and sincere relief that he’s fully recovered. Daltrey’s biggest vocal moment was during a powerful, emotional “Love Reign O’er Me.” Daltrey just nailed the vocal on that song. The rest of the band was fleshed out by the amazing drummer Zak Starkey, Pete’s brother Simon on guitar/vocals, groovy bassist Pino Palladino (who has the Entwistle “still as a statue” act down pat) and three keyboardist/backing vocalists. They utilized a lot of backing vocals which really enhanced the earlier Who material.

The show started with “I Can’t Explain” a favorite of mine but they were a tad sluggish. Things improved a little during the second song, “Who Are You.” It wasn’t until “The Seeker” that they seemed to click into gear. When they got into “The Kids Are Alright” the Rock Chick turned to me and said, “why would they play this one, it’s too pop…it’s not rocking’?” What does the Rock Chick not know about music. I thought things went up a notch a few tunes later when after a few misfires starting, Pete finally got the opening notes of “5:15” down. That song got the crowd really going.

Things continued to get better with a double dose from “Who’s Next,” “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Bargain.” They followed those tunes with an all time favorite of mine, “Join Together” and after that they were just on fire. They followed that up with a great version of “You Better You Bet” from my first ever Who LP purchase, “Face Dances,” an album I still love. Pete then announced they were going to do 3 songs in a row from their best rock opera, “Quadrophenia” and that trio of songs was the emotional center of the show. It began with “I’m One” during which Pete mentioned he noticed the “pensioners and older members of the crowd are sitting down.” Who knew Townshend was such a wise ass. The next “Quadrophenia” song was an instrumental “The Rock” that was powerful musically but made more so with the political imagery on the video screens behind them. That song led into the aforementioned “Love Reign O’er Me” that Daltrey just crushed. I let out an audible, “wow” after that.

They followed that up with a very muscular version of “Eminence Front” another fan favorite. The whole band kicked it into another gear on that song. “Dress yourself to kill” Townshend kept intoning passionately. He’s spoken in the past of his disdain for that song, but he sure looked like he was having a ball singing it. That led to a handful of “Tommy” tunes which were amazing to behold. They finished things up with “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” where Daltrey again nailed the loud scream at the end… the chick in front of me, who despite being older than I am danced her ass off all night, turned to me after Daltrey’s scream and said, “He nailed it!” Indeed. I have to agree with SB when we spoke after the show that “Won’t Get Fooled Again” just seems to get more relevant and more true with each passing year. It’s a shame nothing has changed in the 45 years since the Who recorded it.

After the show, SB and Doctor Jimmy, the Rock Chick and I convened at our favorite post-concert bar, the Drum Room and over martini’s discussed what we’d just seen. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “shit, I almost skipped this.” If you’re out there and you’re on the fence about going to see a band, any band, always make the effort and go. Especially make that effort if it’s a legend like the Who. There’s a reason these people are legends. They continue to put on exceptional live shows. I can only hope that Townshend relents and takes the fire he showed on stage into a studio with Daltrey. I think they’ve got some songs left to sing and some more things to say.

If the Who come to your town, do yourself a favor and get out and see them. Short of that, get to a bar tonight and catch a live band, it’ll get your heart pumping.

Cheers!

 

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Review: Iggy Pop, “Post Pop Depression”

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 I won’t lie, this one took some home work. There are some artists I just think you have to be “ready” for as a listener. Either it’s a maturation of your tastes, or a change in your thinking that causes the re-evaluation of the artist, or maybe something just “clicks.” For me, it’s often just one song by the artist that I happen to hear (usually on satellite radio) and it causes me to completely reassess the artist’s entire catalog. Something about the artist crystalizes for me.

I have not traditionally been an Iggy Pop fan. You won’t find me, like Anthony Bourdain recently, strolling down Miami Beach, shirtless with Iggy, whilst in whispered, almost religious terms discussing the meaning and influence “Raw Power” had on my adolescent years. This either makes me unqualified to review this album or uniquely qualified to judge it on it’s own merits. Again, it’s about that timing thing. Someone gave me a greatest hits package of Iggy’s a few years ago and I was largely unmoved. I guess I just wasn’t “ready” for Iggy. I was always more a fan of punk rock’s effect on music in the 70’s, pushing the existing artists out of their mid-seventies malaise, than the actual punk music itself. Over the years I’ve gotten into the Ramones, but only mildly. I love the Clash but they were more of a great rock band with a punk ethos to me. I always feared punk music would sound like a cat in blender… I was terribly wrong about that. I love the stripped down, primal energy of punk rock. It’s lack of polish is often the best part of the music. Rock music, like all art, needs to be dangerous.

In parallel, I was never really into the Queens of the Stone Age. I do respect their “musician’s band” ethos. I was in my car a few years ago, and a local DJ had just received a copy of QOTSA’s “…Like Clockwork” album and she was playing the entire thing, start to finish. Afentra, the local DJ (truly the last great DJ on air), couldn’t contain her excitement. She’d stop the album after each song and talk about what she’d just heard. It was real old school DJ style. I loved that record and went out immediately and bought it. There are some stand out songs on that album, but like a Pink Floyd record, it feels better when you listen to it as a whole vs just a song at a time. An event like that would usually send me on a buying spree through the entire QOTSA catalog, but I don’t why, I just never investigated them further. I now know I must rectify that omission. Maybe I wasn’t ready for them either…

I must admit, my new interest in Iggy Pop and “Post Pop Depression” was piqued because of his connection with David Bowie. Bowie was one of the Stooges and Iggy’s early fans and benefactors much like he was with Lou Reed. He produced Iggy’s two first solo albums, “The Idiot” and “Lust For Life” and many of the reviews and articles about this record have referenced Bowie and Iggy’s relationship and collaborations. I have a huge soft spot for Bowie right now, I’m still not over that loss, much like Prince. Since many have suggested similarities in those early Bowie-produced albums and “Post Pop Depression” I felt compelled to go back and listen to them, in order to have a frame of reference for the current work.

Collaborations are a funny thing. I don’t think you ever find any collaboration to be a 50/50 proposition. Maybe some of the early Beatles compositions were really John and Paul trading lines but that quickly faded. Dylan dominated his collaborations with the Band. So too are these Bowie/Iggy collaborations. First and foremost, I have to say both of those early albums, “The Idiot” and “Lust For Life” are, and I don’t say this often, fucking brilliant. I don’t know how I missed these records. You didn’t hear a lot of Iggy on the radio in Kansas. However, I would say “The Idiot” sounds more like Bowie was the lead collaborator. I’m not suggesting Iggy didn’t contribute, but he’d just come out of a mental institution and was regarded by many as a foot note and was probably not in the most confident place. “The Idiot” feels like Bowie leading Iggy out of the wilderness. “Sister Midnight” immediately sets the tone for this superb album. I like Iggy’s version of “China Girl” as much as Bowie’s later version. Iggy’s second record with Bowie at the production helm, “Lust For Life” feels more like Iggy was driving the car. It’s louder and more rocking. Iggy sounds more confident on this record. It has more of a Stooge-y feel to it. Their both great, but you can tell whose influence was stronger on each album. “Tonight,” from “Lust For Life” has a great Iggy rant before the song starts that Bowie later described as “idiosyncratic” but it’s a stronger version than Bowie’s version done years later.

Which all leads me to “Post Pop Depression.” This is a great, great album. I must say, the choice of Josh Homme and QOTSA as collaborators was an inspired one. While I said earlier that most collaborations are generally lopsided, this one feels equal parts Iggy and equal parts Queens. The music is muscular and rocking, although nothing really as hard as the Stooges. The lyrics are dark but provide a giddy pleasure to listen to. Iggy brings a brilliant subversive element in his lyrics. You can hear the “fuck you” sneer in his vocals. After an up-and-down career, Iggy brought his A-game to this collaboration. When he says, in “American Valhalla,” a stand out track, “I’m nothing but my name,” you believe him. The album kicks off with “Break Into Your Heart” and this album really does that. “Sunday” captures some of that atmospheric, cold funk that the Bowie-produced albums captured. “Chocolate Drops” is my favorite song here. I can’t stop humming that song. I love it when a mature, established artist comes up with an album this fantastic.

In the last song, “Paraguay,” Iggy sings about dropping everything and moving off to be alone and it is awesome. “Tamales and a bank account are all I need, so count me out.” I think we’ve all been there. The end of the song turns into a rant from Iggy. He says, “There’s nothing awesome here, not a damn thing.” If this is, as has been rumored, Iggy’s last album, it’s a hell of a goodbye. I can totally relate to that song, on levels I’m afraid to admit to myself. Although I don’t think Iggy will ever be just a “basic clod.”

The thing that was so rewarding for me in this experience was going back to those early recordings, “The Idiot” and “Lust For Life” to frame “Post Pop Depression” and I can say this record holds up very well in comparison. You don’t need to do that to enjoy this record, but it was sure fun to do so. I grew up in Kansas, “The Passenger” was not in high rotation so this allowed me to make up for that. Sometimes when an artist puts out a late career gem like this one and you realize you’re finally “ready” for them, it can be a wonderful thing. Now I have the glorious duty of going back through not only Iggy’s catalog but the Queens Of The Stone Age catalog as well… It’s going to be a fun summer.

I can only hope Iggy has at least one more collaboration with the Queens Of The Stone Age left in him… I’d sure like to see these guys work together again. It’s a Hell of an album. This one is a strong, strong recommended buy.

So, buy this album, turn it up loud, pour something strong, stage dive from the couch, break something glass and Enjoy!

Cheers!

Another Giant Gone, RIP Prince

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“It was a pretty good year for fashion, a lousy year for rock and roll” – Don Henley, “The Garden of Allah”

Wow, not again.

It appears the music world has once again been turned upside down when Prince was found dead in his home earlier today. I had heard he was ill last week, but I don’t think anybody had an idea that it was this bad. What a shitty year it’s been for rock stars. And have no doubt about it, Prince was a Rock Star in capital letters.

So much can be said about Prince. I’m sure the obits will have these words: enigmatic, genius, prolific, ground breaking, mercurial, androgynous, eccentric, influential… the list goes on. And all of these things are correct.

In the spring of 1983 I was finishing up the 2nd half of my freshman year of college. At Christmas break I had left my beloved Kansas State University for the University of Kansas in what is a very sordid story. I consider that “the dark semester” in my college career. I changed schools for the worst reason anybody can change schools – a girlfriend. Love is fickle people. Luckily the girl did me a favor and broke up with me in time for me to return to KSU my sophomore year, but as usual, I digress. I was living in the dorms with a guy from my high school who it turns out was a sociopath and my girlfriend broke up with me. It was a rather low point. Except for the two gents who lived across he hall from me.

My neighbors across the hall, Brian and Robert were two very cool guys from St. Louis with a stereo with enormous speakers. They played this album I had never heard before, over and over again… that album was entitled “1999” by a guy named Prince. I can’t count the hours I spent hanging with those two guys listening to that momentous double album (I’d have done anything to avoid my roomie, thank God these guys had great musical taste). It literally got me through the last six weeks of my freshman year. I still can’t hear “Little Red Corvette” without thinking about sitting in that dorm room, but that doesn’t make it any less a classic tune. “DMSR”, the title track, “Lady Cab Driver,” even the obscure song “Free” are amazing. Prince was able to blend funk, dance music, sex and a Hendrix-like guitar that was like nothing I had ever heard before. Michael Jackson ruled the music world in those days, but I liked Prince infinitely more because he seemed dangerous. Maybe it was the androgyny thing. I mean, you could see the guy’s ass crack on the inside sleeve. Despite that, I bought the album as soon as I got home that summer.

By summer of 1984 Prince had returned in a movie, of all things. Everybody was talking about how kick ass this Prince guy was… I hadn’t seen the movie, I eventually did, but knowing “1999” had blown my mind, and having already heard “When Doves Cry” I bought the album “Purple Rain” immediately after I got my first paycheck from my summer construction job. I was going out drinking with my buddies WW and Matthew that night and I only had time to hear the first side (ah, vinyl). We were in the bar when the DJ played “Purple Rain” and I couldn’t wait to go home and turn the vinyl over to make sure that song was on this new album. I was pretty obsessed with that song for a very, very long time… And I think I’m safe in saying I’m not the only one who was. The album was so huge it kept Springsteen’s “Born In the USA” from the number 1 spot. It’s a true masterpiece. It’s hard to conceive, today, how huge he really was in the mid-80s…

I hadn’t realized until today that Prince would have only been 25 when “Purple Rain” blew up. I can’t imagine having that kind of fame, power, money and well, women at the age of 25. I would probably be dead now, but man the stories my friends would be able to tell about me. Anyway, I think at that tender age, the success freaked Prince out a bit. I’ve seen it happen countless times – an artist hits it big and then faced with the daunting task of outdoing themselves, the artist retreats into a different “more artistic direction.” Fleetwood Mac went from “Rumors” to “Tusk,” the aforementioned Springsteen went from “Born In the USA” to the scaled down “Tunnel of Love.” I remember being shocked when I bought the follow up to “Purple Rain,” “Around the World In A Day” the day it was released at how wildly experimental and different that album was. I was so disappointed I sold it at the used record store. I wasn’t as musically broad minded in those days. It didn’t completely sour me on Prince, but I was a much less enthusiastic fan.

Over the next decade or so, there were still the occasional great song by Prince. “Kiss” was ubiquitous. I did really like the title track to “Sign O the Times” although I didn’t think the album was the masterpiece the critics heralded it as. I was slightly disappointed with Prince’s work on the original “Batman” movie soundtrack but he kept me interested. “Thieves In the Temple” was another standout. I wasn’t buying his albums any more but I always kept an ear on what he was doing. He was always doing something new. Like everybody else I bought the “Hits/B-Sides” package later in his career, which is one of the better curated greatest hits packages out there.

A buddy of mine turned me onto a clip on YouTube of Prince performing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne on George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Prince owns the stage – not only was he visually captivating – his guitar work on that song makes Clapton’s work on the original seem tame. You can actually buy that tune on iTunes and I strongly urge that purchase.

Now the genius is gone at a frightfully young age. He was such a prolific artist, it seemed like he put out an album every 90 days, that the rumors about what he’s got in his vaults are the thing of legend. I saw him in a rare interview, long ago, where he said the best of the Revolution (his backing band in the “Purple Rain” days) and tapes of him jamming with Miles Davis were all in the vault. He went on to say those tapes would come out some day. Sadly if there is anything positive we can take away from his passing maybe this man’s amazing unreleased music might finally see the light of day, although losing him was a huge price to pay for that reward.

That’s the one thing we’ll always have from Prince – the amazing music. I’m shuffling all my Prince as I sit typing this and I’m still awed by his talent. Tonight, I pour a dark and murky tumbler full of bourbon and head to the turntable… I still have that vinyl copy of “1999,” and I will not mourn, I will celebrate the genius of the man known to the world as Prince.

My heart goes out to Prince’s family, fans and friends. It’s a dark ride people, enjoy it while it lasts.

Cheers!

Review: Peter Wolf, “A Cure For Loneliness”; A Solid, Rootsy Return

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 As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never been a huge fan of the J. Geils Band. I do love the song “I Musta Got Lost” because, as my theory says, every band has one good song. “Flamethrower” was kind of a funky, fun tune, but past that I never got into J. Geils. The lead vocalist of the J. Geils Band was Peter Wolf and he always brought a little too much “Great Googly Moogly” schtick to the role of front man for me.

With that as a backdrop, imagine my surprise, when in 2002 I was driving down to the Plaza area of Kansas City and a Peter Wolf song came on the Public Radio station I was listening to. I had long since given up on terrestrial radio, public radio was the only place to find interesting, new music by the artists I loved. There’s only so many times I can listen to “Born To Run”. Anyway, I’m in the car and this song comes on, “Nothing But The Wheel” by Peter Wolf. It’s an amazing country-tinged weeper with none other than Mick Jagger warbling along on the harmony vocal. I almost lost control of the car the song was so good. I immediately went out and bought the album it was from, “Sleepless” and I must say it’s not only a great Peter Wolf album, it’s a great album period. It’s clearly his masterpiece. I read somewhere a critic who said, Wolf had put out a better Van Morrison album than even Van Morrison’s last record. High praise indeed. Not only Mick shows up, but so does Keith Richards on the bluesy duet “Too Close Together”. In the liner notes it’s funny to hear Wolf describe the different approaches Mick and Keith take to their craft and to the recording of a song. Keith’s guitar tech brought in a case of vodka and a case of orange soda. Who knew Keith drinks like a teenage girl. I love every song on that album but especially “Hey, Jordan” (“that’s a boy’s name on a girl…Hey, Jordan, don’t go home alone”), and “A Lot of Good Ones Gone”. It’s a must have in my books.

Then I went backwards in his catalog to “Fool’s Parade” his album from 1998 and while it was not the revelation that “Sleepless” was, it was real solid, rootsy album. I’m not sure what people mean when they say “rootsy” but I know it when I hear it. It’s real music, recorded by real musicians. There’s a grittiness to this music that I like. It’s not music you’d play at a party, it’s “sitting on the deck, having that last bourbon nightcap” kind of music. It’s 2 am, and you’re about to slip into bed with her…. or him, or both of them, I don’t judge. I think that pretty much captures the ethos of BourbonAndVinyl. After listening to “Fool’s Parade” I was a certified fan. Usually I go crashing through an artists entire catalog at that point, but I didn’t with Peter Wolf. Probably because one of his strongest albums, other than “Sleepless,” his first solo album, “Lights Out” is unavailable on CD, vinyl or download. I’m a completist and if you can’t get ’em all, why start.

At that point I thought I was done with Peter Wolf. It took 8 years, until 2010, for him to put out his follow up to “Sleepless”, “Midnight Souvenirs”. “Midnight Souvenirs” was another great album, better than “Fool’s Parade” but just shy of the greatness of “Sleepless.” There are two really great duets on the album – “Tragedy” with Shelby Lynne, probably the best song on the record and the amazing “It’s Too Late For Me” with the late legend, Merle Haggard (whose vocal is simply as smooth as smokey whiskey). There are many good songs on this album but “Lyin’ Low” is probably my favorite other than “Tragedy.”

Flash forward 6 years and Peter Wolf has again returned with a good, solid album in “A Cure For Loneliness.” I really like this record. I never really write bad reviews, if I don’t like something I choose to say nothing. I don’t want to fall into the “haters gonna hate” category. I’m more in the “eaters gonna eat” column. Anyway, “A Cure For Loneliness” is not a life changing record like “Sleepless” but it’s a great, solid record. It’s got that same, nightcap feel to it. There are a number of great songs here. The opener, “Rolling On” sets the mood with a story of a man quietly on his way. “Peace of Mind” and “Fun For a While” are beautiful songs, beautifully sung. Wolf brings so much emotion and dare I say, soulfulness to his singing, that I could listen to the guy all night. All of these songs have a touch of country, a touch of the blues and a whole lot of beautiful singing. “It’s Raining” is probably my favorite of the up-beat tunes, and by up-beat I mean non-ballad, there’s no full out “rock the house” tunes here.

My issues with the record are knit-picky. There are 2 live tracks here. I don’t know why but I’ve always felt like putting live tunes on a studio record is cheating but that’s just a personal thing. One of the live tunes, “Wastin’ Time” is one of the better tunes here but the other, a bluegrass version of the J. Geils’ song “Love Stinks” is awful. I wasn’t crazy about the original version of “Love Stinks”, although I certainly agreed with the sentiment for most of my young life until I met the Rock Chick, but the world didn’t need a bluegrass version of “Love Stinks”. “How Do You Know” is a good song here, but it was already released as a bonus track on “Midnight Souvenirs” years ago. Again a knit but it feels like cheating. In six years you couldn’t write one more tune? He does a ballad here, “Tragedy” (not the same song as the duet with Shelby Lynne on “Midnight…”) that borders on maudlin. “It Was Always So Easy (To Find an Unhappy Woman)” is a bluesy/country stomper that should resonate but for some reason misses the mark with me.

But again, I’m knit-picking here. There is a lot more to like here than to dislike. Peter Wolf is an older artist who is flying under most people’s radar and this record, or any of the records I’ve mentioned here, are worth checking out. And while tonight, in Salina, my pals the Four Horsemen of the Salinapocalypse will be enjoying Generation Axe’s guitar hysteria (Steve Vai, Zakk Wylde, and yes, Yngwie Malmsteen) I’ll be slipping up to my rooftop deck with a tumbler of bourbon, my headphones and “A Cure For Loneliness” to watch the dawn come over the Kansas City skyline. Peter Wolf will be the perfect soundtrack for me…

“A Cure For Loneliness,” despite it’s flaws, still gets the BourbonAndVinyl recommendation to buy. Pour something strong, and as always, Enjoy!

Cheers!

BourbonAndVinyl: A Music Theory, One of Many

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 Here at BourbonAndVinyl we have many theories about music. Unfortunately the excessive thinking we do about music could be classified as “obsessive compulsive.” I truly need to develop some hobbies that don’t involve pouring murky brown liquid into a tumbler and hitting “play” on the stereo. Anyway, I have always believed that if you’re going to marry someone, or live with them, or even date them, it’s very important that they have good musical taste or at least similar musical taste. Looks and physique fade (well, not for the Rock Chick, but mine have). What you choose to put on the stereo lasts a life time. Nobody wants to spend their lives wrestling over the stereo remote. I once stopped seeing someone who admitted to me they liked Barry Manilow.

I was fortunate, later in life, to meet the Rock Chick. And while her musical taste was exceptional, our musical tastes as a couple are more of a Venn Diagram – two interlocking circles, with some overlap but a lot of unmatched space on each side. Of course, in any relationship this is to be expected, no two people’s musical tastes match exactly. That’s why compromise is so important in a relationship of any kind. While the Rock Chick loves AC/DC, Motley Crue, Green Day and the Cult among many other bands, I was horrified early on to find out she hates Van Morrison, the Eagles and wasn’t terribly crazy about Springsteen. She’s much more into music that is current and I’m more likely to find that strange B-side from a side project of a guy in a band that was popular in the early 70s, before the guy o.d.’d. We all like what we like or as I’m fond of saying, “the heart wants, what the heart wants.”

In the early days of our courtship I remember trying to turn the Rock Chick onto some of the deeper cuts in my vast collection of music. Most of this “musical education” was met by the Rock Chick with a frown and crinkled nose, as if I was holding a piece of limburger cheese under her nose. Oh, well. I used to hold my hand up, fingers closed in a ball and holding a coin in my other hand feign trying to push the coin into my closed fist while exclaiming in a shrill voice, “nothing gets into a closed mind.” Oddly this behavior never got me laid. I finally gave up.

Eventually, through a lot of tense and drawn-out negotiations I finally got the Rock Chick to agree to the BourbonAndVinyl Basic Theory of music. It goes something like this:

Theorem A. Every band whose ever had a recording contract has at least one good song. On the low end you have the 1-hit wonders, Sniff and the Tears’ “Drivers Seat” for example, or Billy Thorpe’s “Children of the Sun.” On the other extreme you have the Beatles, who many (not the Rock Chick) would agree have mostly all great songs, with the only exception I can think of being “Revolution No 9.” I’m just not avant guard enough for that “tune.” Most bands people like have many great songs, not just one, but even the haters of a certain band have to agree, there’s always that one likable song. I’m not suggesting here that each band only has 1 good song, I’m merely arguing that even the Rock Chick has to agree that despite her hatred of Van Morrison that “Have I Told You Lately” is a great song, if you get my meaning. I have certainly used this trick repeatedly over the years to get the Rock Chick to listen to bands she normally wouldn’t… “Honey, this might be the song you’d like by Little Feat…” while the album plays on.

Corollary 1 To the BourbonAndVinyl Theorem A: Two people can disagree on what that “one good song” is. For example, in my opinion the only good J. Geils’ Band song is “Musta Got Lost.” That is just a great song full of longing and regret yet oddly joyful. I can’t stand most of their other stuff. My wife likes “Centerfold” which, lets face it, every chick in her generation digs. I remember it being played over the loudspeakers at lunch in my high school and the chicks would all go nuts. All the girls would start dancing in their seats when the lunchroom DJ put that on and the room would take on a musky air… ah, the power of music on girls, but I digress, as usual.

Corollary 2 To the BourbonAndVinyl Theorem A:  The one exception, i.e., the one band who doesn’t even have one good song is the fucking Moody Blues. No one will ever convince me that the Moody Blues ever did anything worth listening to. “Knights In White Satin” makes me want to commit harikari.

Currently, I’m using the BourbonAndVinyl Theorem A of Music to convince my wife to listen to the Doors in an attempt to help her find her “one good Doors song”. Frankly, I love the Doors, but alas they aren’t on my wife’s Venn Diagram. While it has helped me slip more of my music onto the stereo, it’s a tough road with the Rock Chick. Hopefully using the B&V Theorem A will help you too, faithful readers, convince someone to listen to music they might not otherwise listen to. It’s worth a shot.

Remember, compromise is key in any relationship folks. Cheers!

A Bit of Humor: The Phantom Shitter (not for the faint of heart)

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I’m going to admit to you right off the bat, that this story is gross. It’s not vulgar, it’s just kind of sick. It’s out of the ordinary for BourbonAndVinyl, but it still makes me laugh in that junior high, National Lampoon kinda way. So, with that in mind, read at your own discretion, you’ve been warned. Hopefully, you’ll get a chuckle.

There aren’t many advantages to working for a multi-national, enormous corporation. One of the few advantages is that you get to meet a lot of people from a lot of different places. From Paris and Rome to Arkansas and Alabama. A friend of mine, Michael was shipped off to one of those small, backwater towns that only my company has representation in and he shared this story with me. We have two small office buildings located next to the headquarters of a large company in this small town. Our complex is across the parking lot and over some ancient railroad tracks. It appears we’re on the wrong side of the tracks, if this story has any validity.

Most of the hard core sales guys reside in Building One of the complex. In Building Two we house a large contingent of people from other cultures who do a lot of our IT work. These two populations, the sales guys and the IT guys rarely co-mingle as they have separate missions like they have separate buildings. However, the hard core sales guys often have to hold meetings over in the IT building, as meeting space is sparse. One of the hard core Sales Leaders in this office is a fierce, crew cut, belt-and-suspenders-at-the-same-time guy named Sarge. Sarge is a ginger with fiery red hair and when he gets fired up about something he turns purple his face turns so red. Sarge is usually fired up about something, it doesn’t take a whole lot to turn his face red with rage or happiness. Both emotions look the same on the guy.

Sarge got in the habit of hosting meetings over in the IT building because nobody ever wanted to make the effort to walk the short distance to the second building and thus the meeting rooms were always open. Plus the second building had the advantage of being “away from the maddening crowd” and the prying eyes and ears that are so prevalent in any small office setting. Pretty soon Sarge got in the habit of setting up in a conference room over in the IT building and working there all day. He’d get to the office early and leave late. He’s just that type of guy. He probably does push ups in there for all I know. I’ve always taken a more casual approach to work.

Late one night Sarge went into the men’s room in the IT building to splash a little water on his face to keep himself alert while he worked on the current proposal he was immersed in. He realized immediately upon entering the men’s room that something was amiss. It smelled like somebody had killed a goat in there. He literally gagged upon opening the door. It didn’t take long to surmise what had happened. Someone had taken a shit in the trashcan. Sarge was dumbfounded. There were two working toilets in the bathroom, merely feet away from this defiled trash can. Sarge was horrified… worse yet, Sarge was motivated for justice. He was going to find this man, this animal, this….Phantom Shitter.

He raced across the parking lot to his boss’s office, his boss liked to work late too apparently. Sarge stammered with rage, “Boss….somebody…. somebody…” he was struggling to even get the words out, Sarge was that horrified. “What is it Sarge, what’s wrong?” his boss inquired. “Someone shit in the trash can in the men’s room in Building 2”. I would have paid cash money to have witnessed all of this live. Well, from afar anyway. Feces makes me wretch.

Sarge’s boss was a man full of good humor and much to Sarge’s chagrin, his boss laughed out loud when he heard this news. It was gross yes, but it was nothing to turn red in the face over. Sarge’s boss quietly had his secretary type up a secret memo about hygiene and proper use of the bath room, something very HR-centric and in a sealed envelope, sent the memo with Sarge over to building 2 so he could tape it, without a lot of fan fare, to the inside of the bathroom door. I’m not sure what the note said, but I think it had to be something like, “Please don’t shit in the trashcan,” but who knows. As he taped the note to the door, Sarge smiled to himself. This trashcan shitting would surely come to an end.

Late that evening, despite his misgivings, Sarge had to use the men’s room. He felt confident as he walked down the hall to the bathroom, the office was deserted and certainly the memo carefully taped inside the door would have done it’s job and he wouldn’t discover a shit stained trash can. But still, he was nervous. It’s very unnerving to find something like shit in the trashcan.

Upon opening the door to the men’s room all of Sarge’s worst fears came true. The room once again smelled like a goat who’d been eating curry for a week had exploded. As the door closed behind him, Sarge’s eyes began to water as the smell almost overwhelmed him. He could feel himself on the verge of swooning so bad was the smell. He turned to run from the bathroom and it’s shit filled trash can. And that’s when Sarge first saw the inside of the men’s room door… And there, to Sarge’s horror, smeared over the door and his carefully taped-up memo about not shitting in the trashcan, was a giant Smiley-face…written in, yes, smeared shit.

The Phantom Shitter had a sense of humor.

Sarge ran from the bathroom horrified, but he was also transformed. He was now a man with a mission. This was personal now. The Phantom Shitter’s shit stained smiley-face was clearly a message to Sarge, at least in Sarge’s mind. His obsession with the Phantom Shitter quickly jumped the rails to “out of control” territory. He had, in his little conference room that he now kept locked with the shades drawn, a wall with work schedules of all the IT guys. It looked like something out of the TV show, “Homeland”, with strings connecting different memos and hand written sticky-notes with Sarge’s mad musings scribbled in magic marker on them. He was going to slowly narrow down, based on work schedules, who was in the building at the time of the shitting incidents. This man, this smiley-faced bastard was going to be caught and then Sarge himself would march the smart-ass fucker out of the building.

After three weeks and two more shitting incidents, Sarge’s boss decided to bring in an HR expert to have a meeting with all the hard-core sales guys and the IT guys to talk about culture and hygiene when it comes to the use of the restrooms. I think Sarge’s boss scheduled the meeting more out of fear that Sarge was going to snap vs concern about the actual shitting. He had to include the sales guys in the meeting because he didn’t want it to look like he was assuming it was one of the IT guys. So half the meeting was rapt-attention, IT guys listening respectfully and the other half of the room was like a high school class with a substitute teacher. They did everything but throw spit balls. During the entire meeting, Sarge stood at the front of the room, behind the HR person glaring at each IT guy, in an attempt to see into their soul, to find out, if he could, who the shitter was.

Sadly, to date, the Phantom Shitter has never been apprehended. But after the HR meeting, all Phantom Shitting behavior ceased. We may never know who the culprit was, but it’s pretty unnerving to think… somewhere, he’s out there, defiling trashcans… Meanwhile, Sarge generally drives down the street to the Starbucks when he needs to go to the bathroom. He’s having trouble putting this behind him.

Cheers!

Springsteen: The River Tour, Kansas City 4/7/2016

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I must pause in the writing to acknowledge the passing of a legend… RIP Merle Haggard. I saw the Hag with Dylan about 10 years ago and frankly I enjoyed Merle more than Dylan. His voice was craggy velvet on whiskey. Haggard and Johnny Cash are all anybody needs to know about country music. Everything after them isn’t worth the effort to drop the needle onto the vinyl….. On with the review…

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I went down to “The River” last night and I knelt to pray and I was cleansed. I haven’t had a chance to write much lately because my corporate overlords have been making life a living Hell. Nothing solves that work-despair like a good, old fashioned, rock and roll show. Especially when that concert involves the legend, the myth, Bruce Springsteen.

In the midwest in 1979-1980 you were hard pressed to find a Bruce Springsteen fan. A few of his tunes would make it to the radio but he wasn’t a wide spread phenomenon like he probably was in say, Philadelphia. I grew up in the provinces people. I like to think of myself as a drunken, much less talented Mark Twain. I remember February of 1980, getting up and scouring the paper for a review of the previous night’s Bruce Springsteen concert in support of his new album, “The River.” The reviewer said, “without a doubt we’ve seen the concert of the year and it’s only February.” I went to school and saw my buddy Brewster and lamented that we hadn’t gone to the show. Brewster and I would always go to shows together. He said, “Uh, Ken, uh, you might not have gone, but I went. I didn’t know you were into Springsteen… it was amazing.” It may have fundamentally altered Brewster and my friendship. Bitter, party of 1, your table is ready. Ironically Brewster was in from The Tall City, Texas last night and at the show and whilst his wife managed to keep us from speaking we were texting each other during the show.

“The River” album conjures so many memories. Unlike most people, “The River” not “Born To Run” was my first Springsteen album. (I bought “Born To Run” after sneaking into a Senior Skip Day party when I was a sophomore and making out with a beautiful girl… I had to stop to ask her what music was playing…”Born To Run” you idiot…”) “The River” was the first double LP I ever purchased, which was a huge commitment of lawn-mowing money back then. It was 12 bucks, much more than the usual 8 you’d plunk down for a single LP. Oh, my God, was it worth it. It’s a sprawling masterpiece. Springsteen said last night that he was attempting to capture the E Street Band’s mammoth live show on a record. I would say he succeeded. What I loved about “The River” was that Bruce let Little Steven (harmony/backing vocals/guitar) and Clarence “The Big Man” Clemons (saxophone) run wild on this album. The album was big but felt intimate. It was like listening to the world’s greatest bar band explode like a nuclear bomb. There was so much more joy on “The River” than “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” that it’s hard to think both albums came from the same group of guys.

The show opened up with a muscular version of the outtake “Meet Me In the City Tonight”, which like “Thunder Road” is a great invitation to an adventure. My buddy SB said, “Hey, which album is this on?” There are so many great Springsteen songs that no one has heard, but I digress. (Everyone needs to buy the box set “The Ties That Bind”, the outtakes are worth it, trust me). Then Bruce gave a nice preamble speech about “The River” and what it meant to him as an artist. As the band launched into “The Ties That Bind” I must admit, and not to be a chick about it, a tear welled up in my eye. Clearly this album meant a lot to me as a listener too. I can still remember, nervously dropping the needle on the vinyl for the first time, wondering if my huge investment in a double album by this “Springsteen guy” was worth it. I was taking a huge risk. When that riff burst out of the speakers it was like what I imagine heroin hitting the brain pan, my temples exploded with joy. I was hooked on Bruce and haven’t given up the habit yet.

The band was leaner last night – no back up vocalists, no full horn section – it was just the basic band, albeit with an extra guitarist, Nils Lofgren and a violinist Suzee Tyrell who weren’t with Bruce on the original “River”tour that Brewster caused me to miss (did I mention I’m still bitter). And, predictably, I have to say that Jake Clemons is a big dude, but he’s no Big Man. His uncle Clarence, whose loss still brings tears to my eyes, was a much more powerful player than Jake. But I will give Jake an A for effort.

As always with me, it was the ballads that were the most arresting moments of the concert. “Independence Day” which comes early in the show, (and closes side 1 of the vinyl LP) was particularly moving. It’s what Bruce described as a conversation between two people at a kitchen table. If you’ve ever had a problem with your father, this is the Springsteen song for you. People talk about “Adam Raised a Cain” as his ultimate “father” song, but “Independence Day” is a heart wrenching, moving song that sums up everybody’s relationship with their dad or at least my relationship. Eddie Vedder used to leave his house with his acoustic guitar and slip down to the park and play that song as a form of escape. I wish I’d been hanging around because Vedder and I seem to like the same music. The version of “Point Blank” with a long piano driven preamble was the highlight of the night. It was the most amazing version of an amazing song that I’ve ever heard. It was gripping and live music at it’s very best. You should buy a ticket to this show just for that song. The version of “Stolen Car” they played last night will haunt me, in a good way, for the rest of my life. “Drive All Night” has always been a personal favorite of mine, and last night’s version did not disappoint me. It’s the greatest love song ever written. I only wish Clarence was here to play that beautiful sax solo, but again Jake did fine, I’m knit picking.

The set after “The River” was explosive and fantastic. He managed to play over half of “Born To Run” including a fabulous version of “She’s The One”. It’s the songs you don’t hear on the radio from that album that make it so special. “Backstreets” was sprawling, rocking and amazing all at once. I had two firsts last night, “Because The Night” and finally after all these years “Rosalita” which I’ve waited a life time to hear. Late in the set they broke into “Tenth Ave Freeze Out” and again, when Bruce sang, “the change was made uptown and the Big Man joined the band” I felt tears well up in my eyes again. I toasted Clarence with a large, deep tumbler of rye after the show. “Tenth Ave Freeze Out” is a gentle reminder that the E Street Band is more than a band, more than a group of musicians, it’s a brotherhood. And the magic of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band is that on any given night, even out in the provinces of Kansas City, they can make you feel like you’re a part of that brotherhood.

Do yourself a favor. If you live in a city that Bruce is coming to in the next month or so, get a ticket and see his show. Dance in the aisle, sing along and for a beautiful 3 hours, forget you have to go to work the next day. Love life like it’s 1979 again and your buddy Brewster has called with tickets to the big show…..

Cheers!