Review: John Mellencamp, ‘Strictly A One-Eyed Jack’ – Curmudgeon Rock?


I’m going to admit right off the bat, that much like 2017’s Sad Clowns & Hillbillies, this new Mellencamp album Strictly One-Eyed Jack is going to be an acquired taste. It’s going to need time to grow on you, in much the same way wine needs to breath a bit when first opened. It’s like olives… who liked olives the first time you ate one?

It wasn’t always that way. I think when you mention Mellencamp’s name to most folks it conjures his late 80s, early 90s heyday. Most people think of “Jack And Diane” or “Little Pink Houses” or some other big anthem. Squint your eyes and in your memory you can see John in a video in a wheat field strumming a guitar while we all sang along. He was one of the biggest artists on the planet. I can even admit to remembering when his name was John (or to some people, Johnny) Cougar. His manager at the time gave him a stage name based on the type of car the manager drove. I’m not sure I’d trust anybody who drove a Mercury Cougar to guide my career but then I was in middle school back then so what would I have known? And Cougars were sporty… While we were all vaguely aware of John Cougar he wasn’t a household name by any means. If you’d asked me in 1979 who sang “I Need A Lover” I’d have told you it was a Pat Benetar song. She covered the song, albeit without the great, extended guitar intro and that was the version that became a “hit.” They didn’t play the Cougar er, Mellencamp version until later… at least in Kansas City anyway.

It wasn’t until 1982’s American Fool that John Cougar broke it big. “Hurts So Good” was a good song but it was “Jack And Diane” (a track I don’t like) that was the big hit. I would urge everyone to seek out the song “Thundering Hearts” from that record. I wasn’t on the bandwagon until the 1983 release, Uh-Huh. Yeah, the video for “Crumblin’ Down” was cheesey – John dancing around parking meters like he was a young Cool Hand Luke – but damn if it wasn’t a great song. “Play Guitar” and “Little Pink Houses” drove me to the record store. It was the first album to bear the “Mellencamp” name. It was credited to John Cougar Mellencamp in what we didn’t realize at the time was a rebranding campaign. The great meat and potatoes rock that he was serving up continued on the more politically charged Scarecrow, which is probably my favorite LP of his. And, naturally, my sainted mother even liked “Small Town” on that record because well, she’s from a small town.

Mellencamp then took a stylistic left turn and got more “rootsy” on his true masterpiece, The Lonesome Jubilee. It was instrumentally speaking a much more varied sounding record. There was violin and more acoustic guitar which was like stumbling across plutonium in the 80s. There were still great rock songs like “Paper And Fire” but it felt like a real left turn for the heartland rocker. I think we all thought it was a diversion, a one off but it turned out that more rootsy style came to define almost everything Mellencamp has done since then. “Cherry Bomb” is more his signature style than say, “Small Paradise.” The last really hard rocking album Mellencamp did was Whenever We Wanted. I still love that album. Tracks like “Get A Leg Up” and “Love And Happiness” are all slashing guitar and crashing drums. After that album my interest in Mellencamp waned slightly. I loved his ’98 album John Mellencamp, as did the Rock Chick as I found out later we both owned it.

From there Mellencamp settled into this T Bone Burnett, murky almost old-timey style. Well at least after Freedom’s Road he seemed to. That and his blues cover album Trouble No More were my final Mellencamp LP purchases. As he became deeper attached to that more roots oriented sound his vision became considerably darker. The titles gave away where he was coming from: Life, Death, Love And Freedom (which sounds like a Johnny Cash title) or Plain Spoken. To go with his darker vision, the cigarettes he smokes finally ravaged his voice to the point where he’s in that Howlin Wolf, Tom Waits area. I’m a huge fan of emotive vocals versus polished vocals so the disintegration of his voice has never bothered me. All of that said, Mellencamp remains an amazing songwriter. The vision is dark but the words stick with you… more so for me than a song like “Jack And Diane.”

On Strictly A One-Eyed Jack we find John has kept his signature band together. Long time guitarist Mike Wanchic is still in the band. As is, Andy York/guitar, Dane Clark/drums, John Gunell/bass, Troy Kinnet/accordion & keyboards and perhaps most importantly Miriam Sturm on violin. Sturm’s violin is perhaps the most prominent instrument here. Thematically we find John talking a lot about lies – two songs have the word in the title, slander (“Did You Say Such A Thing”) and rain. The tracks about rain might just end up on our Playlist: Rainy Day Songs. One thing that does come across clearly from Mellencamp’s lyrics… he, as the kids say, gives zero fucks about what anybody thinks. He’s said publicly he’s not into writing hit records, he just wants to make great albums. I would say that Strictly A One-Eyed Jack is a very good, nearing great album indeed.

One thing different this time out is the sporadic appearance of that other 80s icon, Bruce Springsteen. Yes, Springsteen is credited with vocals on a few songs but more importantly he brought his guitar. The song “Wasted Days” is my favorite of the Bruce songs, and perhaps on the album. I still don’t know why I’m not hearing more about that track – if it was 1986 it’d be the biggest hit of the year. Bruce does a harmony vocal and guitar solo on “Did You Say Such A Thing” where Mellencamp accuses someone of “talking shit” on him. Springsteen’s guitar is more important than his harmony vocal on that track and it’s a livelier moment. Springsteen only adds guitar to the ballad and album end-er “A Life Full of Rain.” All three of these tracks deserve a listen.

The album opener “I Always Lie To Strangers” is a dark, gravelly affair. It can be a little off-putting on first listen like that cover art painting. Did someone poke John in the eye? What are we to take from that opening song? Is John telling us lies over the next 12 tracks? Things do pick up on the second track, “Driving In The Rain,” the first of two rain tracks. It’s a lilting waltz of a song with a great melody and comes complete with Andrews Sisters type female backing vocalists singing, “Ooo.” We get more into Mellencamp’s state of mind on “I Am A Man Who Worries,” which just might be my theme song. The song is all snarling vocal and violin with my favorite line, “I come across as dangerous and unforgiving.” Sounds like Mellencamp and I have a few things in common these days.

As usual it’s the quieter moments that I like the most. “Streets of Galilee” is a beautiful piano and acoustic guitar ballad. It’s one of my favorites. “Gone So Soon” is the saddest ballad Mellencamp has ever done and from a sonic perspective it could be something Sinatra did. “A Life Full of Rain” is another Tom Waits-ian ballad. It’s all piano and craggy vocals but a beautiful rumination on life’s mistakes while Bruce plays guitar. When Mellencamp gets quiet and sad, count me in.

The title track comes across like an old Dylan track where a bunch of fictional characters play a game of cards. I love the way the drums drive the song along… “The Gypsy King is dealing from the bottom of the deck…”Sweet Honey Brown” has a bass-line that reminds me of “Under the Boardwalk.” When the violin kicks in we know this is not anything that happy. “The show is over… the monkey’s dead.” It seems to be Mellencamp’s farewell to show business. “Lie To Me” continues the theme of lying. It’s another stand out track with the great line, “Lie to me, Lord knows I’m used to it.” The only track that really left me cold – other than the opener – was “Chasing Rainbows.” It’s like a bizarre (almost drunken) sing-along that wouldn’t be out of place at the end of a Monty Python movie. It’s sung with more of a grimace than a smile.

Mellencamp, in my mind, remains an important if overlooked artist these days. I love that he’s brave enough to share his dark vision of life with us on Strictly A One-Eyed Jack. You aren’t going to hear these tracks on the radio – and it’s criminal “Wasted Days” isn’t being played more – but they are important, well written songs nonetheless. I recommend everybody pours something strong, throw another log on the fire and turn this one up.



New Song! Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs Return With “Wicked Mind” – A Great Tuesday Rocking Surprise!


What a pleasant surprise on a Tuesday! I got up this morning prepared to face the usual January drudgery brought on by winter, in conjunction with my corporate masters (who have really upped their game this year) when a friend texted me that former Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers lead guitarist and “co-captain” (Petty’s words) Mike Campbell and his new band The Dirty Knobs had put out a new song, “Wicked Mind.” As most of you know, I was all in on the Dirty Knobs (Campbell, Jason Sinay on guitar, Lance Morrison on bass and Matt Laug on drums) after the release of their sensational debut album Wreckless Abandon. In fact, it made it onto my list of “best of albums” for 2020 a couple years back.

I guess the Dirty Knobs have been around since long before the untimely and sad demise of Tom Petty, who was a true American Treasure. Campbell met Sinay during a recording session and liked the way their guitars sounded together. Well, let me be the first to say – well, probably not the first to say – I love the way their guitars sound together. I was wondering what would happen to Mike Campbell after the Heartbreakers dissolved in the wake of the tragedy. He’s just too good a guitarist and songwriter to go idle. He co-wrote so many great songs with Petty. He also, and some don’t know this, co-wrote the Don Henley track “Boys Of Summer.” I think that was Henley’s biggest hit. I was glad to see him take the Dirty Knobs “mainstream,” (if you will) by actually recording Wreckless Abandon in 2020 versus keeping them in the shadows. Of course Campbell was part of the duo of musicians who joined Fleetwood Mac to replace Lindsey Buckingham (along with Neil Finn of Crowded House fame). I thought that would be interesting for Fleetwood Mac as Campbell would bring back that Peter Green era vibe for those guys – and he did end up playing some of that original Mac material. But it doesn’t look like that’s going to materialize into any new music from them.

I had no idea the Dirty Knobs were even recording. I really dug Wreckless Abandon. It was truly uncanny how much Campbell’s vocals sounded like Petty. His phrasing and vocal style are very similar… obviously Petty was a better singer but still his ghost was hanging all over that album… but maybe that was just me. Losing Petty blew a big hole in my rock n roll universe. Wreckless Abandon rocked a little harder than the Heartbreakers had in a while. Campbell himself described it as a more “loose limbed” affair, whatever that means. It was kind of Stonesy to me. Other than the rocking songs I also loved the ballad “Irish Girl.” They also showed their sense of humor with songs like “Fuck That Guy.”

“Wicked Mind,” from the upcoming March LP External Combusion picks up right where Wreckless Abandon left off. It’s a barrel house rocker. Campbell and Sinay twine their guitars together for a big riff with an acoustic guitar being strummed aggressively along just for fun…over the bedrock rhythm section of Morrison/Laug. This band is growing tighter and tighter. I love the lyrics, “High as a kite, hiding from a searchlight, I didn’t get home until way past midnight.” That sets the tone for the naughty good times on this record! “I’ve got a wicked mind with a heart of gold…” which is how I always thought of myself in the old days…well, maybe not just the old days. The guitar solo’ing on this song is out of the world. Campbell and Sinay torture those guitars. The song ends with them riffing until the end when a second fabulous guitar solo breaks out. Here is the track, everyone who digs guitar driven rock should check out:

All of us down here at B&V are looking forward to the new Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs LP, External Combustion. Between the new Mellencamp album that we’ve been listening to all week and this surprise single, it looks like 2022 is going to be a cookin’ year for rock n roll.


Playlist: 1972 – A Celebration, We Look Back 50 Years


*Image above taken from the internet and likely copyrighted

I’ve spent the last week exploring and really reveling in the music of 1972. You might say I’ve been having my own private “celebration” of 1972. Now before you start to think I’m an octogenarian or I’m Connor MacLeod from the movie Highlander – an immortal warrior born in the 1300s, living in the shadows while occasionally dueling other immortals who are attempting to decapitate me – fear not, I’m not that old. Although, admittedly I wish I were the Highlander. No, in 1972 I was alive but I was as Tom Petty once sang, “a boy in short pants.” I was barely in grade school. So this might beg the question, “Why 1972?”

Now that the calendar has rolled to 2022 it’s been 50 years since 1972 and a 50th anniversary is always worth celebrating. So far 2022 has been a nightmare for me, the sum of all fears, so I need some musical distraction… Last year I started reading all of this stuff on how 1971 was a landmark year for music. Many articles I read contended that ’71 was the greatest year ever for rock n roll. I’m not sure about that, but last year when I researched 1971, I was stunned at how amazing the music is that was released that year. It truly was the landmark year that everybody was raving about. I ended up doing one of my playlists (Playlist, We Look Back 50 Years to: 1971 ) and it was groovy! I’ve always thought, since I was in college that the music of the 60s and 70s was just inherently better. In the 80s while people were listening to Motley Crue (who I now love) or Madonna (who I still don’t like) I was ignoring them and listening to the Stones and Crosby, Stills, Nash &/or Young. It’s like I was made to write about music that came out 50 years ago… Maybe I’ve just always been an outcast. 

Since I was late to the party on 1971, I figured I’d get in on the 1972 celebration early this year and publish my playlist in honor of that year now. I’ll be the first to admit that 1972 was no 1971. It was not a landmark year for music in the same way. Many big acts like Led Zeppelin, The Who and Paul McCartney (by then with Wings) decided not to release any new music in ’72. All of that said, it was still a kick ass year for rock n roll. I think ’72 was the year the era we now define as the “Seventies” finally truly began. I’ve never subscribed to the idea that music changes or shifts with the passing of a calendar year ending in “9” to a year ending in a “0” ie, 1969 to 1970. Culture shifts at it’s own pace. But it’s hard not to say that the 60s, hippy vibe ended in 1972 and the 70s began in earnest.

A lot of it had to do with, in my opinion, the re election of Nixon. When the hippies couldn’t vote that thug out of office they retreated to communes in the woods or went to work in jobs at insurance companies. It was no longer “save the world,” it was “save yourself.” They did both the Winter and Summer Olympics in the same year back then and even something as awesome as the ’72 Olympics was marred by the Munich Massacre. I was a kid but even I remember seeing those images on TV. Ireland was in the midst of “The Troubles.”  The reactionary forces swept back into power. Musically, the Beatles had broken up, the Stones had gone into tax exile, CSNY had all retreated into their won corners. Hendrix, Janis and Jim Morrison were dead. The Sixties didn’t so much end as they were snuffed out.

In 1972, when compared to 1971 we do see the seeds of the next decade sprout. We see great debut albums from huge acts like Steely Dan, Eagles, Jackson Browne and Big Star. We see solo debuts from stars we’d known before like Paul Simon, Peter Frampton, and Lou Reed (who released 2 LPs in 72). Soul music had one of it’s strongest years and that music is hopefully represented here by Stevie Wonder, Aretha, James Brown and Al Green amongst others. Some of my favorite music on this list is probably soul music. Linda Ronstadt finally found her voice. David Bowie, the Stones and Neil Young released their best LPs. Hell even Creedence breathed thier last breath… for all the Dudes out there. There’s so much great music to like from 1972.

In 72, as I mentioned I was just a kid. But I can clearly remember riding in the backseat of the car with my sainted mother driving around running errands. My dad bought her this hunter green Ford that broke down randomly at weird times. I can remember looking at my mom with her bouffant hair scraping the ceiling of the car like a real life Marge Simpson, watching her nervously drive and hoping the car would make it home. Often it would stall in traffic and the cops would have to drive us to the garage while the car was towed. But I remember she always had the AM radio turned on. My brother would crank it up. Many of the songs that I put on this list are culled from those memories. The music on this list is some of the first music I can remember hearing. And while I didn’t put any cheesy stuff from the Pure Prairie League or Loggins & Messina, I did put on some Jim Croce for mom and dad…he was the only artist my parents owned multiple LPs from. 

I hope you enjoy this music as much as I did. As usual you can find this playlist on Spotify under the title, 1972, like all my other playlists. You can listen in order or shuffle these. If you’re like me you’ll suddenly feel like you’re in a polyester leisure suit with the silky shirt unbuttoned to your navel… My thoughts on each track are below.

  1. The Allman Brothers, Eat A Peach, “One Way Out” – The Allmans were mourning the loss of founder Duane Allman on this record and they included sensational live stuff along with studio stuff… a “hybrid live/studio album” if you will. I’ve always loved this live, old blues cover.
  2. Linda Ronstadt, Linda Ronstadt, “Rock Me On The Water” – There’s a saying in music that when an artist does an eponymous (self-titled) LP later in their career it’s a rebirth of sorts. Ronstadt’s career hadn’t really “birthed” yet so rebirth is generous. But this is where everything gelled. She kills this Jackson Browne cover with future members of the Eagles in the back up band. How did I not include on my list of critical third albums is a mystery. Sensational stuff.
  3. Paul Simon, Paul Simon, “Me And Julio Down By The School Yard” – Simon’s first solo LP, emerging from the embers of Simon and Garfunkel. You can hear the world music influences that really took over years later on Graceland already present in his music.
  4. Aretha Franklin, Young, Gifted And Black, “Border Song (Holy Moses)” – I probably should have gone with the title track but I couldn’t resist the Queen of Soul covering Elton. There was always a gospel-vibe in John’s music but Aretha takes us to church. Goosebumps!
  5. Al Green, Lets Stay Together, “Lets Stay Together” – Did the Reverend Al ever do a sad song? The title track here is one of his greatest. He actually did 2 LPs in 1972, both represented here.
  6. Jackson Browne, Jackson Browne (aka Saturate Before Use), “Doctor My Eyes” – From his sensational debut. No wonder Ronstadt covered him (see #2).
  7. Dave Edmunds, Rockpile, “I Hear You Knockin'” – This song is timeless, I thought it came out a decade later than this. Classic.
  8. Neil Young, Harvest, “Old Man” – Neil’s masterpiece LP. I could have picked any track on here but this one is the Rock Chick’s favorite.
  9. Todd Rundgren, Something/Anything?, “Hello It’s Me” – I only recently bought this record despite Arkansas Joel telling me I needed to 30 years ago. He was, as usual, right.
  10. Elvis Presley, Elvis Now!, “Help Me Make It Through The Night” – The King was trapped in Las Vegas and his soul was slowly dying, but every now and then he’d step to the mic and remember who he was and belt out a winner.
  11. Stevie Wonder, Music Of My Mind, “I Love Everything About You” – From the first of two sensational LPs from Wonder in 72 that signal the beginning of his greatest era. It sorta sums up how I feel about the Rock Chick…
  12. Deep Purple, Machine Head, “Highway Star” – Zeppelin may not have released anything in 1972, but hard rock is well represented. I could have gone with “Smoke On The Water,” but wouldn’t that have been cliche?
  13. Humble Pie, Smokin’, “30 Days In The Hole” – My hand to god, I thought it was a woman lead singer when I first heard this song. Humble Pie’s first LP after Peter Frampton (#24) departed for solo pastures.
  14. ZZ Top, Rio Grande Mud, “Just Got Paid” – Early ZZ is some of my favorite ZZ. My buddy Stormin’ just texted me last week to extol the virtues of their first LP… this one is from their second.
  15. Graham Nash/David Crosby, Graham Nash & David Crosby, “Southbound Train” – CSNY had split into different directions. Stills was off with Manassas, Young was creating a masterpiece, so Nash and Crosby teamed up for this great album. I chose this track because, well, I love songs about trains, but who doesn’t?
  16. Fleetwood Mac, Bare Trees, “Sentimental Lady” – From the pre-Buckingham/Nicks version of Fleetwood Mac. Bob Welch, who wrote it and sang it, had a bigger hit when he redid as a solo song.
  17. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Mardis Gras, “Sweet Hitchhiker” – Great song from their last gasp…
  18. Dr. John, Dr. John’s Gumbo, “Iko Iko” – I’ve only recently dove into the depths of the Night Tripper’s catalog. I felt this playlist needed a little “flavor.”
  19. Arlo Guthrie, Hobo’s Lullaby, “City of New Orleans” – Another classic from Woody’s son. I can close my eyes when I hear this one and I’m in the backseat of the green Ford.
  20. Stephen Stills, Manassas, “Johnny’s Garden” – Classic track from a great double-LP. I just found this on vinyl in a used record store in North KC. Only vinyl could draw me up there.
  21. Jim Croce, You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, “Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels)” – Ok, call me sentimental but my parents owned this record and I remember sitting my our tiny living room listening to this album. Dad loved this guy.
  22. The Rolling Stones, Exile On Main Street, “Tumbling Dice” – The greatest Stones LP. I am terribly fond of double-LPs.
  23. Elton John, Honky Chateau, “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time) – I remember hearing this song for the first time, not on the radio, but at the Smithsonian in the Space Exhibit.
  24. Peter Frampton, Winds Of Change, “Jumping Jack Flash” – One of my favorite Stones’ covers from Frampton’s criminally overlooked solo debut.
  25. Randy Newman, Sail Away, “Sail Away” – Randy Newman is the greatest American satirist since Twain.
  26. Bill Withers, Still Bill, “Use Me” – One of my favorite of Withers. He was just so great. Truly missed. This track was also covered by Mick Jagger with Lenny Kravitz. 
  27. Little Feat, Sailin’ Shoes, “Sailin’ Shoes” – I think the cover art for this, their second album, was censored in the south… Great song. “Put on your sailin’ shoes…”
  28. Eagles, Eagles, “Take It Easy” – Co-written by Jackson Browne who seems to be the King of 1972. This is where it all started for these country rockers…
  29. Looking Glass, Looking Glass, “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)” – Call me cheesy for including this but It’s another song I can remember sitting in the back of mom’s crappy Ford, listening to this on the radio. The Chili Peppers covered it on a live album, so I feel like my credibility is in tact.
  30. David Bowie, The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, “Suffragette City” – One of the few Bowie tracks that got play in KC… Bowie. Ziggy. Enough said.
  31. John Lennon, Sometime In New York City, “New York City” – Great, Chuck Berry-style track from a terrible album.
  32. Jethro Tull, Living In The Past, “Living In the Past” – I’ve always dug this tune. I should be deeper into Jethro Tull.
  33. Leon Russell, Carney, “Tight Rope” – Leon should have been way bigger than he was…
  34. Free, Free At Last, “Little Bit Of Love” – Great band I came to late in the game. Like most Americans. If you dig Bad Company, you should check out Free.
  35. Big Star, #1 Record, “Don’t Lie To Me” – Great band I’m embarrassed to admit I discovered on a Showtime TV show…
  36. Alice Cooper, School’s Out, “School’s Out” – Is there a student of public education who doesn’t know this song?
  37. The Doobie Brothers, Toulouse Street, “Listen To the Music” – My friend from Indy Big Dave always said he couldn’t get into the Doobies. Listen to this album Big Dave, listen to the music!
  38. Jimmy Cliff, The Harder They Come, “The Harder They Come” – One of the all time greatest reggae tracks.
  39. Rod Stewart, Never A Dull Moment, “You Wear It Well” – From my absolute favorite Rod LP. My roommates and I used to crank this up in our apartment until the neighbors would complain.
  40. T. Rex, The Slider, “Metal Guru” – I was late to the T. Rex party but man I dig this crazy, glam rocker.
  41. The Temptations, Flying High Together, “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” – Such a great, great song. The Temps were simply sublime.
  42. Foghat, Foghat, “I Just Wanna Make Love To You” – I saw Foghat open for Triumph once, great show. From their debut, they take an old blues tune and turn it up to 11. The live version is probably more famous, but I like this version as much.
  43. The Kinks, Everybody’s In Show-Biz, “Celluoid Heroes” – Great song about Hollywood. I first heard the live version, which is probably definitive.
  44. Van Morrison, Saint Dominc’s Preview, “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile)” – A short burst of soul on an album dominated by long, beautiful, evocative tracks.
  45. Curtis Mayfield, Superfly, “Freddie’s Dead” – This is such a stupendous record and I don’t know why I don’t hear about it more. I could have picked any track but this one hits me hardest.
  46. Bob Seger, Smokin’ O.P.s, “Let It Rock” – I chose this Chuck Berry song from one of my favorite “cover albums” because Bob seemed to uphold that Berry ethos better than almost anybody.
  47. Black Sabbath, Vol. 4, “Changes” – Yeah, I chose the lone Sabbath ballad, but it’s awesome. I had a guy I worked with say to me one time, “What would have happened if “Changes” had been a hit? It would have ruined Sabbath?” Um, who knows dude?
  48. Bonnie Raitt, Give It Up, “Love Me Like A Man” – I wish I could accurately describe how much I love early, bluesy Bonnie Raitt.
  49. Al Green, I’m Still In Love With You, “Love And Happiness” – No Al, I’m still in love with you! From his second knock-out album in less than 12 months. Imagine that happening today?!?
  50. Stevie Wonder, Talking Book, “Superstition” – My favorite track by Wonder. Saw my sister-in-law’s country band butcher this one night in a tavern. Sigh. Another guy who did 2 albums in 1972, Stevie at his zenith.
  51. Joe Walsh, Barnstorm, “Turn To Stone” – This is the all-time greatest guitar riff of all time. I’ll fist fight anybody who argues, and I’m lover not a fighter. I’ve heard this riff in my head for years even before I knew where it came from.
  52. Stealers Wheel, Stealers Wheel, “Stuck In The Middle With You” – Yes, the lead singer of Stealers Wheel was Gerry Rafferty. I believe this song is universally loved. It is here at the house.
  53. Pete Townshend, Who Came First, “Pure And Easy” – The Who did this later as a band but I’ve always dug this solo version from Pete. His demos were always fully fleshed out.
  54. James Taylor, One Man Dog, “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” – One of Taylor’s greatest tracks. Not a great album, admittedly.
  55. Joni Mitchell, For The Roses, “You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio” – I’ll admit I’m not a huge Mitchell fan, but I’ve always dug this album written in the wake of her heartbreak over James Taylor’s leaving her for Carly Simon. Torn from the tabloid headlines.
  56. Lou Reed, Transformer, “Walk On The Wild Side” – Produced by Bowie and his guitarist Mick Ronson, its Reed’s best known LP. Reed always said he didn’t remember much about recording it.
  57. Marvin Gaye, Trouble Man, “Trouble Man” – From a soundtrack… Great song but I’d hoped for more from the follow up of What’s Goin’ On.
  58. James Brown, Get On The Good Foot, “Cold Sweat” – The dawn of the 70s didn’t phase Soul Brother Number One. He delivers on this album.
  59. Steely Dan, Can’t Buy A Thrill, “Reelin’ In The Years” – One of their most recognizable tracks from one of the greatest debut LPs of all time...
  60. The Edgar Winter Group, They Only Come Out At Night, “Free Ride” – One of Winter’s biggest tunes and judging from his lack of tan, perhaps he only did come out at night.
  61. War, The World Is A Ghetto, “Cisco Kid” – I can still remember this song from when I was a small child. It was just one of those tracks that stick with you…

There it is folks. Turn this one up loud and like the Cisco Kid and Pancho, “drink the wine.” If there’s a song or an album I missed, slip it into the comment section and I’ll add it to the Spotify playlist. These playlists I do, in an attempt to bring people songs/music they might have missed are really “our” playlists, not “my” playlists… they are a dialogue between music fans, much like B&V itself.

I’ve had a disaster of a year so far, so it can only get better. Hope this music helps you get a little further down the road toward the good times. Cheers!

David Bowie: ‘Toy – Box Set’ – Bowie’s Lost Album Finally Sees Official Stand-Alone Release


OK, let’s get the monkey-boy, er I mean the elephant in the room out of the way right off the bat. This cover art is amongst the worst I’ve ever seen. The Rock Chick wandered in yesterday and said, “God that picture is freaky,” in an almost frightened voice. Bowie was a beautiful man, why he chose this cover art will just have to remain one of life’s mysteries. Please don’t judge this book by it’s cover. Now, on the with the post…

Last Monday, January 10th marked the sixth anniversary of rock n roll icon David Bowie’s passing. I’m still sad about that. Bowie was indeed a titan, a true rock star. His image can still be found everywhere. Every time there’s an art fair in town, whether it’s on the Plaza, Westport or Brookside, there are always works featuring Bowie’s visage. The most popular seems to be the image from the cover of Aladdin Sane, with the iconic blue/red lightning bolt drawn across Bowie’s face, his spiky hair deep orange. Bowie was a hero to all the misfits and outcasts. He sang from a real outsider’s point of view on songs like “Is There Life On Mars?” and “Changes.” He came out as bisexual when to do so could have ended his career. He blasted MTV in it’s early days for not featuring enough (or really any) black artists. Even though he’s gone I still see his face on t-shirts of young girls wandering Westport or painted on murals several stories tall. I can’t help but think, when I see people with Bowie shirts on, have they actually heard the music or is he just a symbol of something bigger?

I’m a huge Bowie fan. Now that he’s gone I look forward to his birthday, January 8th, every year as his team releases something new on or around that date annually. A few years ago it was the EP No Plan and last year it was the previously unreleased double-single, “Trying To Get To Heaven” with “Mother.” I will admit to you, I wasn’t always keenly watching for new Bowie releases. I grew up in the American midwest and frankly I was aware of Bowie but really knew very little about him. Our rock radio station (remember them?), KY102 would play select tracks. I remember hearing “Suffragette City,” “Rebel Rebel” and “Changes.” I think they’d occasionally play “Heroes.” His most played track in Kansas City was probably his duet with Queen, “Under Pressure.” If Bowie ever came up in conversation it was sort of like Elton John at the time – he was maybe gay so you had to keep your distance. Ah, the insecurity of the adolescent male. I’d like to say I was cool even in junior high and I was early on the Bowie bandwagon and bought Low or Hunky Dory at an young age, but alas, my journey to Bowie was slow and likely to most of his true fans, very uncool indeed.

I’ve written before about the fact that most people end up making their first purchase of an artist whose been around a while by buying whatever is then current. For example, my first Stones LP was the (at the time) recently released Some Girls. My first Who album was Face Dances, which I think only I like, because the first single “You Better You Bet” was played constantly on KY102 at the time. I can’t even claim being so cool that I did that with David Bowie. When I was in junior high he came out with Scary Monsters. I’d like to tell you I jumped on his bandwagon at that point and bought that album. I liked the song “Ashes to Ashes,” who didn’t, but it was my brother who bought that record. And he’s 3 years younger than I am. Even Scary Monsters would be a cool LP to begin your Bowie journey on… nope, not me. I was holding out.

I waited to make my first tenuous step into Bowie’s music until I was in college. Yes, it was the song “Let’s Dance” that brought me into the fold. Let’s Dance came out in 1983 and I think it’s Bowie’s most commercially successful album. Even worse than admitting “Let’s Dance” was my real entry point for Bowie, I was really enticed by the amazing video that was in high rotation on MTV. I loved the line from that song, “Put on your red shoes and dance the blues.” After hearing “Modern Love” I broke down and bought the album which I’ll admit was a bit uneven but with Nile Rogers producing and on rhythm guitar and the then unknown Stevie Ray Vaughan on lead guitar, you couldn’t go wrong. I know Let’s Dance was shamelessly pop-friendly and not hipster, avant garde like say, Lodger, but I don’t care. I remember a friend from high school, Brewster, who had ended up in Lubbock sending me a Bowie bumper sticker he bought at the Bowie concert from the ensuing tour entitled The Serious Moonlight Tour so it appears I wasn’t the only one on the bandwagon after Let’s Dance. I still have that sticker in a box somewhere. Everything I own is in a box somewhere these days.

At that point I went out and bought his greatest hits package, Changesonebowie figuring that was all I needed of Bowie. I was playing “Space Oddity” one rare sober Friday night and I remember the guy across the hall asking me “Why I was playing Sunday morning music on a Friday night?” It was one of my roommates Drew who plunged into Bowie at that point, leaving me behind. He brought home Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, Bowie’s masterwork, and I was at least moved to tape it onto cassette. That was the entire extent of my Bowie collection for the next fifteen years. I bought Tonight when it came out because I liked “Blue Jean.” But to me, it was a huge disappointment and I sold it quickly at the used record store. I was aware of the release in spring of ’87 of Never Let Me Down and the ensuing Glass Spider tour but I largely ignored it. After that Bowie retreated into his “side project” Tin Machine and floated out of my consciousness. In the 90s he went into this heavy electronic/industrial thing and even worked with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame. I had begun to think of Bowie as basically an artifact struggling for relevance. Although I loved the song, “I’m Afraid Of Americans” which was the only track that reached my ears during those days.

But then in 1999 something happened. I was listening to the radio and I heard a song “Thursday’s Child.” It was from a new album from Bowie, Hours… and I loved it. I know, another odd entry point back into Bowie, but I’m not a music snob. If a song hits my lower brain stem I’m in. Critics were lukewarm on the album, it was composed as a soundtrack for a video game and had a song with lyrics composed by a fan in a contest, but I really thought it was a return to his classic sound. It’s described in Wikipedia as the beginning of his “neoclassicist period,” whatever that means. It was only then, at the end of one millennium and the dawn of another that I plunged into Bowie. I went back and started buying all of his LPs, from The Man Who Sold The World up to Scary Monsters. I joyfully followed Bowie’s every twist and turn on that back catalog and that’s when I became a huge fan. I also realized how much I’d been missing out on… That newfound fandom was only solidified when Heathen came out in 2002. It’s an album everyone should own and it’s exactly the type of late-career type of LP B&V was founded on. He followed up with the brilliant Reality in 2003 and it was on that tour, that I finally joined my friend Brewster in actually seeing Bowie in concert. “Station To Station” was the highlight of the evening. The Rock Chick, sadly, was a bit baffled by the evening as she wasn’t as familiar with his stuff as I was… but marriage is a compromise.

It wasn’t until nearly a decade later that I discovered there was an unknown chapter to that fruitful 1999 to 2003 period. Apparently jazzed with how his backing band had sounded on the tour for Hours, Bowie decided to head into the studio. He was excited to have a band honed on the road, doing live shows and he wanted to capture that. On that tour he had decided to start revisiting songs from his early pre-fame period when he was just a struggling Mod in London. They were playing various tracks on the tour like, “You’ve Got A Habit of Leaving.” Bowie’s plan was to hole up with his touring band, Mark Plati (multi-instrumentalist/producer), Earl Slick (guitar), Gail Ann Dorsey (bass), Mike Garson (keyboards), and Sterling Campbell (drummer) and record an introspective version of Pin Ups his 70s LPs of cover songs that I featured on my list, B&V’s Favorite Cover Albums: Singing Other People’s Songs. While he covered other artists on Pin Ups, on this new album Toy he was going to go back over 30 years and cover himself. The plan was to do a surprise release of the album which is common now but way ahead of its time in 2000 but that’s Bowie for you… a visionary. Apparently there wasn’t the technology available yet to go from studio to release in a matter of weeks. Unfortunately the record company wasn’t as excited about Bowie revisiting his early catalog as he was, they wanted an album of new songs, and they rejected Toy. Let me just say, I doubt the cover artwork helped any. The sessions did lead to Heathen…so there’s that.

As I mentioned, a decade later in 2011 Toy was leaked to the internet and became a widely bootlegged album. I don’t condone bootlegging but I won’t lie I’ve been an owner of a number of bootlegs since I was in college. I had a copy of Toy on a CD that I got from sources that shall remain hidden. While most Bowie aficionados look down on this record, I think it’s damn good music and a hell of a lot fun. A couple of tracks from Toy had been released as b-sides for Heathen so some of it had seen the light of day. I loved that it was Bowie singing passionately with a band that does sound road tested and rocking these old songs. It was modern and yet it had that mid-sixties mod energy. Listening I felt like everyone involved was wearing a suit with a parka and riding a scooter while taking pills. With titles like “I Dig Everything” you definitely get a sixties vibe which is nothing but a good thing.

Toy was finally released in last year’s box set Brilliant Adventures (1992 – 2001). The running order and track list was slightly altered from the 2011 bootleg but the sound is better and I think it’s an even better version of Toy. The day before his birthday, last Friday, Bowie released Toy as a box set of its own with the original LP, a disc of alternative versions and a third disc entitled Unplugged And Somewhat Slightly Electric. The original Toy is all rock and roll. He was right his band was really tight. The track I’ve been obsessed with since it came out as b-side is “Conversation Piece.” It’s a melancholy rumination from the eyes of a young person wondering if they’ll ever amount to anything or connect with anybody. I think it ranks amongst his best deep tracks. “I Dig Everything” is a ferocious rocker and the perfect opening track. “You’ve Got a Habit Of Leaving” is an elastic rock song. “Karma Man” is my current obsession as it wasn’t on the bootleg. “Shadow Man” is a beautiful ballad. Most these tracks just rock, “Can’t Help Thinking About Me,” and “Let Me Sleep Beside You” are prime examples. This isn’t Bowie setting new directions, this his him rocking out and gads, having a great time doing so.

The second disc, full of alternative versions, might be the bootleg versions I had in 2011 although I can’t be positive. It kicks off with “Liza Jane” a great bluesy, harmonica tune that I just love because well, everything I dig can be traced to the blues. I think this may just be a remastered version of the 60s original although the vocals sound 2000 to me. I’m like most people, I’m not familiar with Bowie’s pre-“Space Oddity” work so this is all a new treat to me. There’s also a track “In The Heat Of The Morning” that’s a solid rock tune that’s not on disc one. Disc two is interesting but it’s probably for obsessives like me who ruminate over different tempos and guitar parts.

Disc three, the Unplugged & Somewhat Slightly Electric disc, is as advertised, Bowie’s band playing the Toy tracks in a more stripped down fashion. I don’t know if this disc was recorded in 2000 or Plati, who produced all of this just went in and re-recorded the backing tracks behind Bowie’s vocals like they did for the “updated” version of Never Let Me Down a few years ago. I like the stripped down versions of the Toy material, it’s like a lost Unplugged concert that we never got to see or hear (not that these performances are live). If you like Toy you’ll dig the Unplugged versions on disc 3.

Once again Bowie has a birthday and he gives us the gift of his music. I really think Toy is worth checking out for any Bowie fan. Especially if you dig his latter day work like Heathen, Reality or even the great LP The Next Day. It stems from a great period for Bowie and he had a great inspiration trying to capture the magic that a great band delivered live in a studio. I highly recommend pouring a nice glass of wine and kicking back with Toy, you will be rewarded.


Review: Documentary, ‘Under The Volcano’ – A Wonderful Lookback At AIR Montserrat Studios


As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m in the throes of the dreaded Dry January these days. It’s very hard to self entertain during the coldest, grayest time of year, especially without booze. Let’s all admit it, January sucks. The Holidays, however you feel about them and whichever you choose to participate in, are over and it’s just a long, dark slog until Spring. Or at least until Valentine’s Day if you’re into that sort of Hallmark Holiday. But with the cold, Midwest weather there’s really no outdoor activities to help divert the winter blues. All there is to do in Kansas City these days is eat and drink… not that there’s anything wrong with that but currently I’m not doing one of those things.

This last weekend my beloved Chiefs played their game on Saturday instead of the usual Sunday football game. My friend Doug came over to watch the game with a couple of boxes full of non-alcoholic beer. While Doug isn’t joining me on the long, slow slog of Dry January he was kind enough to support me. I was surprised how good that beer was, but perhaps I just miss beer. I don’t miss the bloating beer brings on…  Anyway, when Sunday rolled around there were a ton of NFL games on to watch, all of which had playoff ramifications but I could tell the Rock Chick was not enjoying being a “football widow.” I knew I needed something on Netflix and I needed it fast. Some buddies of mine have me in that most dreaded of things, a group text. But last week on the aforementioned group text one of my friends mentioned a documentary that came out last March, Under The Volcano. He said to me specifically, “You’ve probably seen this already, but if you haven’t, you’ll dig it.” I had seen that it was on Netflix (and it was actually on Showtime this last week) but for some reason both the Rock Chick and I thought we’d already watched it. We tend to watch anything about rock n roll if it looks like it’s well done but in fact, we had not seen it. I knew this might be the thing to save my wife from the football induced boredom I was subjecting her to.

Apparently in the mid to late sixties Beatles’ producer extraordinaire George Martin formed a company, Associated Independent Recording (aka AIR). I had no idea George Martin was going to be at the heart of this story. As soon as I heard that, I sat up straight in my chair and started paying more attention. Martin started this company and opened his own state of the art studio in London, on Oxford Street. I think Martin produced Rubber Soul there. The man was genius. Growing tired of the big city and feeling the need to get musicians away from all of that and more isolated for focus, Martin discovered and fell in love with the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean. Known as the “Emerald Isle of the Caribbean,” Montserrat was this sort of unspoiled gem. Martin fell in love with the island but he especially loved the warm and wonderful people there. He bought a property there and eventually bought built a studio down there in 1979, long after the Beatles had gone their separate ways.

In today’s world of Pro Tools, digital files being sent around on email and folks recording music on their phones, it’s hard to understand how musicians and producers used to actually all get together in the same room and play music together. And, lets face it, in the late 70s and 80s, the time covered in this documentary, record companies had bigger budgets. It was a time of decadence but it was a time of great music as well. Often bands or solo guys with their backing band would retreat to the country or some remote location with a studio and live, party, write and record as a group, or some might say, like a family. And what better place to get away from the distractions of the world than in paradise. Many of the guys would bring their family and make it a holiday. They’d work a few hours on music and then off to the beach of if you’re Sting, off to windsurf.

I was aware that there was a studio on Montserrat and vaguely aware that some of my favorite albums were recorded there but had never really investigated it. Again, I had no idea that George Martin was involved. He lived there and would often pop in to check out how things were going even if he wasn’t producing the record. That’s like having Roger Federer come down to check on how your tennis game is coming along. The island of Montserrat is simply beautiful. However, the island has a “dormant” volcano that stands over the island and the proceedings here like a silent, dangerous, smokey sentinel. It’s like recording at the feet of the famous “Iron Man” of Black Sabbath. I knew AIR Montserrat studio closed in 1989 and I kept thinking… “my god, what happened, did the volcano go off?” The studio itself was like a resort. They had a pool right outside the studio – lots of rock star photos jumping into the pool – and an onsite cook and bar. Many locals who worked at the studios or who had gotten to know the rock stars are interviewed and I enjoyed hearing them as much as I did the rock stars. This documentary reminded me a lot of Dave Grohl’s documentary Sound City, only with much better surroundings.

The first album produced at AIR Montserrat was by the Climax Blues Band for those of you who feel like getting in the “way back” machine. Jimmy Buffett was the second artist to record there because – hello, he’s Jimmy Buffet the island guy. So influenced by the island and it’s primary geological feature he called that record Volcano. I love that he bought out the whole bar at the studio one night. If they weren’t drinking at the bar, many of these rock stars would venture out to these little, rundown neighborhood bars nearby and hang with locals. How cool would that be? Especially for the rock stars… to be able to act like a normal person.

So many great acts did records at Montserrat. McCartney did Tug Of War and Pipes Of Peace, his first work with George Martin since the Beatles broke up and sadly only weeks after John Lennon was murdered. The Police recorded Ghosts In The Machine and Synchronicity there and Sting fell in love with the place. He recorded his first solo record there too. Artists from Gerry Rafferty to Duran Duran did albums there. They talk about the studio having its own particular sound, like the island was in the space between the notes. That laid back Caribbean vibe soaked into the music like rum into a pineapple. I knew without checking the internet, for example, that Eric Clapton must have recorded Behind The Sun there. Keith Richards brought the X-Pensive Winos down there to record Talk Is Cheap and vowed he’d get the Stones back together and bring them down. As it turns out, the Stones did reunite and recorded Steel Wheels there. Again, so many great albums were done down there.

Alas, the Stones were the last group to record there. Spoiler alert – it wasn’t the volcano that destroyed AIR Montserrat, that honor went to Hurricane Hugo. The destruction caused by that hurricane brought to an end a really wonderful point in time in the annals of recorded music. The property now is “returning to the jungle.”

I was really entertained by this documentary. If you’re into music and how it’s recorded… nay, how it used to be recorded this documentary is for you. It’s really cool seeing all these guys like Dire Straits down there doing their most famous albums. You even learn the truth about how Sting ended up singing on “Money For Nothing,” a story I won’t spoil here. Check it out… it’s January, you’ve nothing else to do, especially if you’re going dry like me!


Reflections On And The Beginning Of The Dreaded ‘Dry January’ – A Cleanse From Bourbon


“I stand here at the bar, I hold an empty glass” – Pete Townshend, “Empty Glass”

A belated Happy New Year to all of you out there! I hope everyone had a safe and fun holiday season. I have to admit, I’m just happy I survived it… all the events, the family politics, the sensitive feelings… Covid. Thank God it’s over. I know not everybody feels that way. I know the Rock Chick has gone into her annual post-holiday funk. She invests so much into it – and she really does a lovely job – when Xmas is over she can’t help but feel let down. I know there are a lot of people like her. I think even those of you who love the holidays can use a break when January rolls its ugly face onto the calendar. My corporate masters have seen to it that both the end of every year and the beginning of another are painfully busy so I haven’t had a lot of time for rock n roll. Oh sure, with the advent of the “mute” button one might walk past my home office and hear both conference call discussions and at the same time Neil Young singing “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” in the background. My 13 year old self would be proud.

What people tend to forget this time of year is that Winter really only just began. Winter’s official start is on December 21st, aka the Winter Solstice. Strange we celebrate Christmas around that time… it’s almost as if the Church co-opted Pagan holidays and aligned their significant dates to that calendar. It gives you pause or it should. Anyway, since Winter only officially began, we have 3 hard months ahead of us. Seasonal affect, the depression some people feel during this gray and cold time of year is real. I dated a woman, years ago, who would wilt like a flower without the sun. I took her to Miami one January and it was like she’d gotten a blood transfusion. The next thing I knew she was cavorting around the beach topless. I can’t say much about those days only that I love Miami but I digress. Sadly I don’t live in a sunny climate. I live in the American Midwest so it’s relentless gray cold. If you’re out there and you’re feeling blue, reach out to a friend. You’re not alone. We should all treat mental health issues very seriously.

In terms of all of this post-holiday funk, winter blues, crappy time at work I have resorted to the dreaded Dry January, as is my annual habit. I actually started doing this, in miniature, years ago in my mid-20s. I spent a lot of New Year’s Eves/New Year’s Days in Chicago visiting my friends Doug and Bert (name changed to protect the guilty). Every year was the same thing. We’d go out in the cold slushy streets of Chicago to some party a bar was throwing and drink a whole lot in search of that elusive New Year’s Eve hook up. The closest I ever came to that goal was a guy we knew named Brian ambushing me with a head butt. I think I was concussed. Of course there was the one year Doug disappeared with a woman leaving Bert and I alone in some tent. It was virtually impossible to get a cab as there was a sniper at Cabrini-Green in the projects. We finally had to fist fight a couple of South Side chicks in order to get a cab. After one of them body checked me against the rear quarter-panel, I jumped in and pulled as hard as I could to close the door and the handle came off in my hand. Bert was left to slug it out with those ladies. I think he had a black eye. I’m certain one of those gals had done time. He had to battle around the cab in order to get in. He still accuses me of cowardice in the face of the enemy on that one. Bert, I broke the cab’s door. I’m sorry.

After those big, long weekends in Chicago I did something strange for a man in his 20s. Who am I kidding, I did this into my mid 30s. Whether I was in my Arkansas exile or Kansas City in the later years, I would take the first weekend in January, like this very weekend, and I would retreat to Pittsburg, Kansas, a small hamlet in the southeast part of the state, to see my grandmother. Both my grandmothers lived in Pittsburg but at the time one of them had gone into a home with dementia. I loved both my grandmothers. My Grandma Marj was a wonderful woman and I loved her with all my heart.  She would sit at the kitchen table for hours talking to us. She’d ask about our lives and oddly for an adult in those days, she seemed interested in the answers we gave. She made you feel like an adult, like you were important. I’m sad that I didn’t get to spend time with her in those later years. My presence seemed to confuse her. I asked her, the last time I went by, if she knew who I was. She pointed to a picture of me she had on her shelves and said, “You’re the man in that picture.” I remember wiping tears from my eyes as I walked to the exit. Mom told me to stop going by…

So in those later years, I’d go to Pittsburg the first weekend in January, post-New Year’s Eve in Chicago and I’d have my “Dry Grandma’s Weekend” with my other grandmother, Frances. I wish every day I had met the Rock Chick earlier so she and my stepdaughter could have met Frances. She was a ton of fun. She always wanted to play a game. She and I would have epic Crazy-8 card games when I was a child. While I loved her dearly, she was an ungracious winner who constantly accused me of cheating…which I would deny. But in truth, because of her habit of standing up and dancing around the table when she would beat me, yes, I cheated. There it is Grandma. Again, I’m sorry. As an adult I’d call her on a Friday morning and ask if I could come visit. She usually had plans to play bingo – the woman loved to gamble – and she’d sound bummed that I’d ruined her games of chance. But by the time I pulled in on Friday night she’d have a jar full of freshly baked chocolate cookies and a pie made from scratch. She’d pull that off in a matter of 4 hours. We’d always go to Chicken Mary’s with Frances’ sister, my beloved aunt Molly. Frances would slip me 40 bucks before Molly arrived and tell me to insist on paying. Molly never let Frances pay for her dinner but she’d let me. “Games people play, when they wanna say ‘I love you’…” Sadly all of that ended in 1999 when Frances passed. She’d been at the hair dresser and was heading home to watch an NFL playoff game (I’m guessing she had money on the Broncos) when she passed. I wept like a child that day as I did for both my grandmothers.

Those weekends in Pittsburg, where I drank absolutely nothing were a strangely refreshing thing in my life. It was like a booze and emotional reset. I’d relax in the company of these old ladies and do everything I could to make them laugh. It was like getting off the party treadmill I was on for just that brief moment to get clarity. Its probably not dissimilar to the Buddhist concept of letting go of the wheel of suffering…and believe me my life had a lot of suffering in those days. I’d take time during the dry weekend to contemplate the coming year and assess how little I’d accomplished up to that point. When my grandmother died, I decided I’d start doing a Dry January in earnest to honor both my wonderful grandmothers. I remember when my friend Al (named changed to protect the guilty) who I was hanging out with at the time, joined me one year. He hated hanging out in bars trying to talk to women while we were both stone cold sober but he hung in there with me.

Anyway, last year my friend Doug joined me in the endeavor, but this year at the request of his family he’ll not be joining me in Dry January. So I’m going it alone this year. And like those years so long ago in Pittsburg, for me it’s a chance to reset. I love a good tumbler of bourbon on a cold winter’s eve but not so in January. I’m going to get through the mess that is my work life right now, listen to as much rock n roll as I can and try to get my bearings. I read on the internet recently – so it’s gotta be true – that even quitting drinking for one month has amazing health benefits so there’s that. I’m more focused on the mental health benefits. I hate to admit it but I tend to lose a few pounds during Dry January. I actually sleep better. Like most people I’ve got a few things I need to sort out this year and a clear perspective may just help me do it. I’m like all of you, I’m just trying to fight off the darkness inherent in our existence and fight toward the light.

To all of you out there, again, Happy New Year. I hope you’ll join us here at B&V in 2022 for what appears to be an exciting year for rock n roll. I don’t make resolutions but I will say, I’m hopeful to see a few more concerts this year. I really dug getting back to the live music experience – standing in the dark with strangers in a communal setting, vibing on music – at 311 and Joan Jett/Cheap Trick last year. I want to get back to that!! And maybe, just maybe, we’ll get that new Stones album I’ve been hoping for over a decade now…  Hopefully you’re all safe and happy. Stay warm and stay cheerful. It’s too easy to get down in January.