Something Different: Real Estate, The Las Vegas Hooker and Dignity/Kindness


*None of us here at B&V support prostitution nor should this post be construed that way. We don’t consider it a victimless crime. If you suspect something untoward is going on contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 1 (888) 373-7888. 

Like almost every other February I found myself in Las Vegas, Nevada again this year. My corporate overlords send me out there annually for “training.” You would think Vegas would be a BourbonAndVinyl kinda town. And I’ll admit I have seen some great rock and roll out there… Rod Stewart and No Doubt to name but a few. But if I’m being honest, I hate Las Vegas. Hunter S. Thompson was inspired to write ‘Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas’ when he was out there and it’s not hard to figure out why that setting inspired that much madness. The NFL let the Raiders move out there… frankly I think it’s going to be like an away game each weekend as that’ll be the game every other team’s fans will travel for, but we’ll have to see. There seem to be Raiders’ fans everywhere.

I found my schedule in Vegas full of dinners with “big wigs,” or the execs I report to. I’m just a sergeant in this man’s corporate army. In the old days we all had to wear blues suits, white shirts and red ties… Now it’s hard to tell the execs from the aging hipsters attending poker tournaments. I’d sit soberly at the cafes and look out at the people walking by. There is no place like Las Vegas for people watching. You can kind of spot the small town couples who have gotten away to get crazy in Vegas… I don’t know how many couples I saw walk by where the dude was dressed like he just got off the back nine – brightly colored, almost tropical golf shirt, skinny jeans (nothing funnier than a fat man in skinny jeans) and topsiders. It was usually the wives that caught my attention. You get the idea that the wives – as part of the whole getting crazy thing – decided they were going to wear clothing that they wouldn’t be caught dead in at home… I saw a woman walk by in a micro mini – and I mean micro… if this was 25 years ago I’d have seen pubes – that looked more like a terrycloth hand towel, split up her hip. The top revealed a heaving bosom struggling to free itself from a push-up bra. Rage on ladies! You get the vibe she’d never wear that in sight of the local pastor… but what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. We don’t judge here at B&V. The faces of the husbands in these duos are hysterical – these dudes always vacillate between a look of defensive rage (“don’t look at my woman”) to the smile of the cat who swallowed the canary. I wanna stagger up and shake their hands… eh, maybe not.

Vegas is famous for a lot of things. Gambling, conventions, bachelor parties, big time shows and of course, prostitution. I have a friend, I’ll call him Lou, who was out in Vegas at the Rio one time. He came back and was bragging about how all the women in the bar were all over him. When I asked if they were hookers, he said, “Yes, they were.” He was somewhat taken aback when I casually commented that being hookers was probably why they were “all over him…” Apparently he doesn’t know how prostitution works. I didn’t mean to upset him by removing the illusion he was irresistible. If my job is to critique a movie, you’ll probably find me in the theater, if you follow me. Hookers gonna hook.

Around fifteen years ago, I was a newlywed. I was a late bloomer but marrying the Rock Chick was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was out at my annual training event in Las Vegas and I was hanging out at the center bar on the casino floor at the Venetian. I had been there most of the week and by day 4, I’d started drinking heavily to try and drive out all of the training I’d absorbed. You can only take so much of Vegas before you start to turn into Hunter S. Thompson. If only I could have found some ether. I’m standing at the center bar, and this thing seemed to be the main trolling spot for the local hookers. They walk around that bar like they’re in a military parade. I had earlier in the evening been menaced by one rather tall hooker when I didn’t tip her for getting the bartender to serve me a beer. I’m a lover, not a fighter so I moved to the other side of the bar to mind my own business.

I’m just standing there, innocently, when a guy who used to work for me approaches me at the bar. We’re talking some inane work subject and out of the corner of my eye I see a woman waving at us from the spot where the menacing hooker had been earlier. This was a petite, ginger young lady wearing a tube top that was barely containing what appeared to be cantaloupe sized implants. She looked like she had two kittens wrestling under her shirt. Why she had chosen to wave at this employee of mine and me is a mystery. I think perhaps I had a bit of a party vibe going. Who knows? The guy talking to me, whose wife worked for us too, notices the waving woman. I can see in his eyes, he’s confused. Apparently my friend Lou isn’t the only one who doesn’t understand how prostitution works. Before I could say, “Don’t wave at that woman,” the idiot in front of me is waving at her. She pops off her barstool and before I know it, she’s standing in front of me.

The bar was full of my fellow employees. When this woman came up to us, it was as if the entire casino fell silent. I knew everyone at the bar had stopped speaking and had turned toward me and the hooker. In my memory it seemed like someone had turned on a spotlight, but that’s probably just how I felt. The idiot who waved her over was now standing behind a slot machine, hunched down to hide so he wouldn’t be associated with this untoward business. Gee, thanks pal. At the time I was working for a rather intensely God-fearing man who would have frowned on this whole prostitution thing. I once said “Jesus-Fucking-Christ” in front of him and you’d have thought I punched him in his bulbous stomach. All I could think about was how I was going to get this woman to go away. At the same time, I didn’t want to be rude – I really am a lover not a fighter – I wanted to treat this person with dignity. I’m the guy who in my youth, if I went to a strip bar for a bachelor party, would ask the girl, “Who hurt you?” It all feels uncomfortable to me. So I’m trying to shun this woman, but in a nice way. Karma, baby.

I bought her a drink because I didn’t know what else to do. She starts prattling on about whatever is on her mind. She seemed bright and I almost said, how’d you end up doing this? At one point she sticks out her tongue to show me her piercing. I’m with Robin Williams who once said, “who would take something as elegant as a blow job and introduce a nail?” When she stuck her tongue out the entire bar gasped… I figured I was being filmed for HR training purposes. Every second she stood there the feeling of mounting peril increased exponentially.

Finally, in an effort to drive the conversation to the point, I said, “So what do you do here in Vegas?” “Oh, I like to go out to eat, I love to go dancing, stuff like that.” Clearly she wasn’t picking up on the fact that I was trying to rid myself of her presence. Either that or she just wanted to torture me which I would have thought I would have to pay for. I quickly redirected the conversation, “No, no, I mean what do you do for a living?” And I don’t know why, but I gave an example, “Like, you know, are you in Real Estate?” I could see in her eyes, that she’d realized I was driving the conversation in a certain direction. She smiled and got a witty grin in her eyes, “Well,” she said thoughtfully, “I guess you could say that…I rent really small spaces for short periods of time.”

I don’t know why, but to me that was a mic drop moment.

I did laugh, it was the first relaxed moment I’d had since being approached. I smiled and held up my left hand with my newly minted wedding ring. “I’m sorry, honey, I already own and I’m not interested in any additional property.” At last, she walked away, but she did so with her dignity in tact. The lemmings at the bar, who actually looked disappointed that I didn’t engage the woman’s services, went back to their drinks and the conversation became audible again.

I don’t know whatever happened to that witty woman. I hope she’s ok and I hope nobody hurt her. But mostly I hope she got out of that life. I can’t imagine what circumstances would drive someone that direction. I’m lucky that way.

It’s a dark ride out there folks. Treat everybody you come across with dignity and kindness. As Pete Townshend once sang, “For the sea refuses no river, remember that when a beggar buys a round.” I’m not sure I even know what that means, but its seems relevant somehow.





The B&V Ultimate Anti-Valentine’s Day Songs For The Broken Hearted Playlist


“You took my breath away and now I want it back,  you should have killed me baby, you always looked so good in black…” – “You Don’t Know Me At All,” Don Henley

I see from the calendar that we’ve finally crawled through the slow slog of January and early February until that most dreaded of “Hallmark holidays” has come back around…Valentine’s Day. I was never a big fan of Valentine’s Day, but then what dude is? Valentine’s always seemed to come at an inopportune time for me. I usually had just met somebody and it just seemed awkward, (I barely know you, here are some flowers). Or, it snuck up on me somehow, “Oh, it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, I need to stop at a convenience store and get a card.” It always just seemed like a total hassle, fraught with social pressure and unrealistic expectations and always felt rather disappointing…

I will say, and I believe this is encouraging news for mankind, that I’ve evolved my feelings on this holiday. As with all things, the Rock Chick has transformed Valentine’s Day from something I dread to something I look forward to. Don’t get confused, I’m not all flowers, cards and chocolates… When I first got married, my stepdaughter was seven years old. She and her mother had been on their own for a long time. Their apartment was like a girl’s club house: “No Boys Allowed.” I was really just an interloper. I’m still surprised they let me through the front door. I realized pretty quickly after that first Valentine’s Day that the child felt left out. An angry mini-me meant a volatile household. It was the Rock Chick who devised a more family-oriented Valentine’s Day feast. Instead of she and I dining out, we started doing fondue. The three of us would stand around pots of boiling oil and eat, laugh and actually, well, enjoy each other’s company. It was a fun way to transform Valentine’s from cheesy love thing to building a family. Our daughter lives farther away now, so we’re having our friend RJ over to join us as we keep the tradition going. Don’t get me wrong, the cat still gets my wife a card… you can’t completely kill this holiday. That said, Valentine’s Day fondue is one of my most cherished family memories…

But prior to the Rock Chick… Valentine’s Day was a day to be dreaded. I was single until I as well into my 30s… I was alone on most Valentine’s Days. I was also, as they say, the King of Break Ups. I was an emotional gypsy with no solid roots… and that energy attracted equally…for lack of a better word…unstable people. I’ve seen and experienced it all. I’ve been ghosted. I’ve ghosted. There was cheating on many sides. There were many very nice, well grounded women in the this crowd, but I had more than my fair share of head cases, sociopaths and nut jobs. Don’t get me wrong, I own my part in all of it now. Back in the day I was not as, shall we say, self-actualized about it. Some women I was glad to be quit of. Others, I was truly sad about the break up. My hope for all of those women is that they’re in a happier, better place. The way I was wired back then, they can’t be in a worse place… Consider this my blanket apology…

That said, I was reminded recently that one woman in particular, a troubled soul, actually once inspired me to put a “mix tape” together about our break up. For those of you millennial types out there, a mix tape was a cassette on which you would record an assortment of songs that would hopefully fit together and in this case, deliver a message. Thinking back on it now, many of these songs were kind of hateful. In my defense, this woman could veer from adoring me to seemingly despising me in the course of a meal. I realized early on the relationship was doomed and broke it off. That only seemed to encourage her. I would break up with her and she would suddenly find me fascinating and pursue me. Foolishly, I would give in and as soon as I showed interest she would treat me like an unwanted party guest. Clearly there was some odd approach/avoidance thing going on. I was drawn in one final time when she cheated on me. I was hurt and mad, probably more at myself for falling for her bullshit again. I had the dignity to walk away but not without putting this playlist together… When my walking away suddenly had her interested in me again, rather than staying on that yo-yo ride, I delivered the playlist. She left me alone after that…

Years later I heard a DJ on the rock station here in Kansas City, 98.9 “the Rock” playing requests for people with the theme being “Anti-Valentine’s Day Songs.” I loved that. And frankly, most of the tracks I had on that earlier, relationship ending tape fit the theme. Now I’ll admit, the listeners that night tended toward songs that I felt were too violently themed for my taste. You won’t find GnR’s “Back Off Bitch,” or “I Used To Love Her (But I Had To Kill Her)” on this list. Someone requested Aerosmith’s “My Fist, Your Face.” Come on people, this is love and you should never hit a woman. No one should hit anybody if it can be avoided… I’m a lover, not a fighter.

On this Valentine’s Day, I know many of you may be alone – and believe me you only feel alone, you have friends and family out there. Don’t fall into that Valentine’s Day bummed out trap. Instead, I’ve provided the cure here in this playlist. Turn it up loud and leave that broken-hearted shit behind. The songs on this list do tend to be upbeat, but have a bit of an angry shading. I always felt anger was a strong enough emotion to help me push through sadness. Some the mellower tracks may sound sad, but really if you listen they express a strength and determination that I found myself drawn to. The playlist has evolved over the years as I’ve added some songs and removed others. I tried to add some lighter moments to make it seem less hateful. I also included a couple of female artists to get a woman’s perspective. While most of the songs are from a male perspective, I like to think they’re universal enough to fit for any rock fan out there going through a tough day today. I hope it helps… rock n roll can be medicine.

As always, you can find this playlist on Spotify under the title “ Ultimate Anti-Valentine’s Day Songs For the Broken Hearted” playlist. If you have a favorite song that fits the theme, by all means please mention them in the comments and I’ll add them on Spotify. And again, no tracks advocating violence.

  1. B.B. King, “The Thrill Is Gone” – Bad relationships are fun at first, but when the thrill is gone, it’s gone. “I wish you well…”
  2. The Who, “Trick of the Light” – This is probably the angriest song here… Entwistle basically calls his ex a whore.
  3. Led Zeppelin, “Heartbreaker” – “Go away you heartbreaker…” I know I’ve thought this a time or two.
  4. Led Zeppelin, “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)” – A song about a groupie they didn’t like… I felt the energy fit here.
  5. Smashing Pumpkins, “Zero” – “I’m your lover, I’m your zero.” Corgan is just raging on this song.
  6. Fleetwood Mac, “The Chain” – This sounds like a breakup set to music.
  7. Robert Cray, “I Guess I Showed Her” – I felt the playlist needed a more tongue-in-cheek moment.
  8. Alanis Morissette, “You Ought To Know” – Her greatest song. “When I scratch someone else’s back I hope you feel it…”
  9. The Eagles, “Already Gone” – “You’ll have to eat your lunch all by yourself.”
  10. Rod Stewart, “You’ve Got A Nerve” – Rod’s ultimate kiss off song.
  11. Don Henley, “You Don’t Know Me At All” – The best song Henley ever did.
  12. Paul Butterfield Blues Band, “Get Out Of My Life, Woman” – The greatest blues band ever.
  13. Tom Petty, “Change of Heart” – This song got me through my freshman year in college.
  14. AC/DC, “What Do You Do For Money, Honey” – This song is for someone specific… and she still owes me money. Bygones.
  15. Triumph, “Say Goodbye” – Canada’s overlooked trio’s best song.
  16. Motley Crue, “Don’t Go Away Mad, (Just Go Away)” – Haven’t we all felt this way?
  17. Foreigner, “The Damage Is Done” – A mellow, but firm good bye… “It’s ooooover.”
  18. Neil Young, “Drive Back” – “I want to wake up with no one around.”
  19. Pete Townshend, “Second Hand Love” – A slow burning bluesy burn.
  20. The Byrds, “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better” – “…when you’re gone.” Oh, yes I will.
  21. Alice Cooper, “Under My Wheels” – Please don’t run over anyone… I always thought this song was humorous, but I have a bit of a gallows humor streak.
  22. Steely Dan, “Black Cow” – “I can’t cry any more, while you run around…” If you’re tired of the bullshit, walk.
  23. Bad Company, “Gone, Gone, Gone” – “I don’t know if I’m happy, I don’t know if I’m sad, I better get the boys ’round and do some drinkin’ fast.”
  24. Allman Brothers Band, “Stand Back” – From the fabulous Eat a Peach. 
  25. Bob Dylan, “Idiot Wind” – “…it’s a wonder we can even feed ourselves.” Epic anger. Directed at both his lover and himself.
  26. Warren Zevon, “Finishing Touches” – A brutal take down from Warren.
  27. The Rolling Stones, “Bitch” – Love is the titular bitch, not a specific woman.
  28. John Lee Hooker, “It Serves You Right to Suffer” – I’ve been on both sides of this equation.
  29. Pearl Jam, “Rearview Mirror” – Some people do look a whole lot better when they’re in your rearview mirror. Put them in the past. Cut the cord.
  30. Sam Cooke, “That’s It – I Quit – I’m Movin’ On” – My dear friend Nancy turned me onto this Cooke nugget.
  31. Linda Ronstadt, “You’re No Good” – I’m really into Linda these days since I saw her documentary, Documentary Review: The Sublime ‘Linda Ronstadt, The Sound Of My Voice’, and this track fits.
  32. The Band (with Eric Clapton), “Further On Up the Road” – Blistering guitar to augment the blistering commentary on an ex.
  33. E.L.O, “Evil Woman” – While they’re mostly derivative of the Beatles, this is one standout track I love. And, well, I knew a number of just evil women.
  34. Bush, “Cold Contagious” – “…you will get yours… you will get yours…” Gavin Rossdale, how do you really feel?
  35. Sammy Hagar, “I’ll Fall In Love Again” – A lovely, positive sentiment. And believe me, you will fall again. Just be more careful next time.
  36. Phil Collins, “I Don’t Care Anymore” – You shouldn’t care any more…
  37. Fleetwood Mac, “Go Your Own Way” – “…tell me why, everything’s turned around?” Oh, sigh. Been there.
  38. Elton John, “I’ve Seen That Movie Too” – This is one of Sir Elton’s greatest songs that many people have never heard.

There you have it… Sadly this could have been a much longer list. Hang in there through this ridiculous Hallmark Holiday. My advice… and it’s not worth much… if you’re on your own, go old school and  head to a bar and start that next great adventure.




The B&V List of Artists Who Really Should Be In the Rock Hall of Fame


*Image of the Rock Hall from the internet, specifically gettyimages and is likely copyrighted

I think it was the “American Pie” guy who sang the line, “February made me quiver with every paper I’d deliver…” I never really liked that song but he’s got a point about February. I forget how hard February is as a month. Maybe that’s why it’s only 28 days (29 in the Leap Year). The holidays end (thankfully) in early January. NFL football ends in early February. And then… the grey, cold nothingness of winter. Rarely do we see any new music this early in the year as most artists prefer to release stuff for the big Christmas season. Green Day finally released Father of All… I won’t be reviewing that one… there’s enough hate and negativity out there and I don’t want to add to it by telling you the new Green Day is unlistenable crap. Oops, well, there… I’ve said it. I feared it’d go that way when I heard the first single, Green Day: New Single, “Father of All…” – Trying Something New?.

Being stuck inside with what borders on cabin fever, I’ve been able to let my mind wander. And oh does it wander. I was recently musing on the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, or as I call it, the Rock Hall. I was watching the NFL announce their latest batch of Hall of Famers and it got me thinking about the Rock Hall in Cleveland. Ahmet Ertegun had the original idea in 1983 and they chose Cleveland in 1986 as the permanent location. I guess any institution that sticks around long enough has to open a Hall of Fame. It’s no secret to long time readers that I’m a big enough music nerd that I think the Hall of Fame is kind of, well, cool. I’ve even commented on the Rock Hall before, to express my displeasure with some of their choices, The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame 2018 Inductees: Getting It Wrong, Again. I was perhaps a bit hasty in my determination that Dire Straits was a bad choice… hindsight is 20/20.

In the early days of the Rock Hall it was easy to support the selections. It was a new thing, and all the great bands were being inducted. Chuck Berry, James Brown and Ray Charles, and Elvis were being inducted along with the Beatles, Stones, Who and Kinks. How can you argue with those selections? I’ll be the first to admit that its seems odd that a force as subversive as rock and roll would put on tuxes and induct each other into a “hall of fame.” It’s kind of what Ray Davies of the Kinks said during his induction, “Seeing everybody here tonight, it makes me realize that rock and roll has become respectable.  What a bummer.” That point aside, the Rock Hall’s decisions on inductees was never terribly controversial because we could all agree Johnny Cash should be in there.

As the years have gone by, and I can’t believe it’s been 35 years since they opened the building in Cleveland, the choices have become more controversial. This year the Rock Hall is inducting Whitney Houston. Whitney was an extremely talented singer. She was indeed many things but rock and roll is not one of them. If you’re going to induct people like Whitney or Madonna, you should call it the Pop Music Hall of Fame. I’m not too hung up on hip hop artists being inducted, like this year the Notorious B.I.G. is getting in – rap has always had a rock n roll danger to it, but does Tupac belong in there beside say, Hendrix? The music styles are so incongruous, one could argue whether rap artists belong in the Hall? Smarter people than I am can make that call. I will say I’m thrilled Depeche Mode made it this year. I can even dig the Doobie Brothers and NIN. T Rex I can take or leave.

I’m such a big music nerd, the Rock Chick actually surprised me with a trip to Cleveland to see the Rock Hall. I have to say, Cleveland gets a bad rap. I thought it was a charming city and I found some great Lebanese food. The Rock Hall itself, designed by I.M. Pei no less, is a beautiful building tucked away on Cleveland’s Lake Erie shoreline, nestled next to the Indians’ and Browns’ stadiums. I had a great weekend there and absolutely loved the Rock Hall. It’s a trip every rock fan should make. Oddly it never occurred to me to rent a car and drive to Canton to see the Pro football Hall of Fame, although looking back that would have been a nice add-on to the trip.

As the Rock Hall’s choices on who to induct seem to cause more and more uproar each year – this year Tom Morello roasted the selection committee for snubbing Rage Against the Machine – I found myself listing off in my head artists who really should be in the Rock Hall but for some reason or other have not been inducted. Hard rock especially seems to get short shrift in the inductee category. I will say, Motorhead isn’t going to be on my list. I can’t stand Motorhead. There are other, very obvious choices here like the White Stripes, but I don’t think they’re eligible yet. You have to wait until 25 years after your first release. Without further adieu, the following rock acts deserve to be in the Hall… certainly before Whitney Houston anyway…

  1. Bad Company/Free – When Free collapsed under the weight of drug addiction and apathy, Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke formed Bad Company. I see these bands as two separate ones but ever since they inducted the Small Faces/Faces, I’ve felt they could do the same for Bad Co/Free.
  2. Beck – The man is simply brilliant. If he’s not eligible, he soon will be. From “Loser” to his latest hit with Cage the Elephant, “Night Running” the man always kills me.
  3. The Cult – The Rock Chick’s favorite band should be in the Rock Hall and I’m not saying this to schmooze the boss. They’re a great band and can be found on hard rock and alternative rock stations around the dial. Music that rocks needs to be recognized.
  4. Eurythmics – Annie Lennox’s wonderful vocals and Dave Stewart’s songwriting and production. These guys should be in the Hall.
  5. Peter Frampton – The best selling live album of all time, yes!
  6. J. Geils Band – I wish we’d seen these guys inducted before we lost J. Geils but what a great posthumous honor for him. I love everything these guys did before “Freeze Frame.” They were one great, slinky blues rock band. And they boast Magic Dick on harmonica.
  7. Jane’s Addiction – Perry Farrell invented Lollapalooza. That ought to be enough to get them in, right? Perry, Dave Navarro and company were a cornerstone to alternative rock.
  8. Judas Priest – It’s astounding that heavy metal gets snubbed by the Rock Hall year in and year out. It’s baffling why this enormous band is not in the Rock Hall yet.
  9. Lenny Kravitz – Another great artist who is definitely eligible and who definitely should be in the Hall.
  10. Dave Matthews Band – They were on the ballot for 2020. Here’s hoping for next year.
  11. John Mayall – The Bluesbreakers were such a seminal influence on blues rock in Britain. Cream and Fleetwood Mac were all formed by guys who’d met under Mayall.
  12. Motley Crue – These guys first five albums should be enough to seal their induction, but alas, hard rock bands get snubbed.
  13. Harry Nilsson – Sure he avoided fame – for his commercial breakthrough he chose a grainy picture of himself in a bathrobe… not exactly making an effort? The voice is one that should be enshrined.
  14. No Doubt – I don’t like anything Gwen Stefani has done solo, but oh when she was young could she rock!
  15. Ozzy – Yes, he’s in with Sabbath, but he should be recognized for his incredible solo career.
  16. Robert Plant – The same as Ozzy. Great solo career that should be recognized in it’s own right.
  17. Iggy Pop – It seems I have a string of these artists who are inducted with their original bands, here its the Stooges, but not their great body of solo work.
  18. Rage Against the Machine – They do belong and I didn’t want Morello to get mad at me too.
  19. Scorpions – Germany’s greatest band.
  20. Smashing Pumpkins – Billy Corgan is a genius. This band was enormous. And they’ve been putting out some great stuff over the last few years.
  21. Social Distortion – One of the inventors of CowPunk. This band has always been under appreciated.
  22. Soundgarden – Tragic that they weren’t inducted before Chris Cornell ended his life.
  23. Thin Lizzy – Also on this year’s ballot but snubbed in the end. It’s a mystery why these guys aren’t in yet.
  24. Joe Walsh – Already in as an Eagle, the man behind the James Gang and countless spectacular solo albums deserves to get in on his own. The riff on “Turn To Stone” should be enough for his application.
  25. Lucinda Williams – Rootsy and bluesy, I love her. Car Wheels On A Gravel Road alone should get her into the Rock Hall.
  26. Steve Winwood – Again, in with Traffic, needs to be in as a solo artist. If they’re going to induct every single Beatle, then some of these other great artists deserve to be in.
  27. Warren Zevon – I agree with what Letterman said, “It’s about time you invite me back here to induct my friend Warren Zevon, it’s overdue.” It’s long overdue. He was a great, great songwriter and absolutely should be in. He’s never even been on the ballot.

That’s my list folks. Heavy on solo careers of currently inducted guys, but they all still deserve to be in. I’m sure I’ve missed some favorites of yours. If so, please list them in the comments section.




B&V Playlist: Chasing the Dragon – Songs About Heroin


*Image taken from the internet and likely copyrighted

Is it just me, or does it seem like the bad guys are winning a lot lately? January was one of the most awful months that I’ve ever endured… personally, professionally, politically… you name it. Of course it was a Dry January… that might have had something to do with it. I just sort of feel better with a tumbler of bourbon in my hand. At least I have my local NFL team, the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl as a distraction. Otherwise I might be found downtown at the bus station, screaming “The End is Nigh” at all the passersby. It’s hard to watch my country lurch ever closer toward the specter of authoritarianism while Australia burns. The 1% has the world bought and paid for while so many of us struggle. Even Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer have been knocked out of the Australian Open. Dammit.

On top of all this, Big Pharma has gotten rich cramming so many pain pills down our collective throats we are now in what is called “The Opioid Crisis.” I guess the ruling class wants to keep us all mildly sedated so their rapaciousness won’t be noticed. The horrible side affect of all this opioid stuff is its caused a resurgence in that most evil of drugs, heroin. Call it what you want – smack, junk, dope, China White, Chasing the Dragon, horse – its death in a syringe by any other name. It’s going to be hard to calculate the human cost of all of this, because human life is priceless. When people’s doctors cut them off the opioids, they have no where to turn but heroin or worse, fentanyl.

This resurgence in the use of heroin has me thinking about when I was a young kid back in the 70s. Just the word “heroin” was enough to strike fear in our hearts. I used to love the TV cop show, Kojak. Say what you want, but there hasn’t been a decent cop show on television since they cancelled Kojak in 1978. Telly Savalas had a style that all of us here at B&V absolutely loved… “Who loves ya, baby?” I watched that show religiously when my parents weren’t around… they could be strict about programming. There was often some character who was a heroin addict as part of the plot line of so many episodes. The way that show portrayed heroin is probably what kept me far, far away from that stuff – despite a healthy curiosity about all things nefarious. You gotta draw the line somewhere, and heroin was certainly way over the line for me.

I may have felt that way, but back then heroin was everywhere. John Lennon, Keith Richards were the vanguard of cool and rock and roll and they were both on heroin. Janis OD’d on heroin. Heroin was cool and subversive. William Burroughs was a junkie. Even as late as the early 80s, John Belushi died from doing a speedball, a combination of heroin and cocaine. Sounds like one foot on the gas, one foot on the break to me, like putting booze in Coca-Cola or coffee. Finally as the 80s wore on we saw the scourge of heroin recede like floodwaters back where it came from. Although, admittedly that was probably because cocaine replaced it. I remember when Grunge took over the world in the 90s the media would talk about “heroin chic,” as if there was such a thing. Cobain was on heroin… I don’t think it helped him. So many of that generation OD’d or killed themselves later after recovery…Scott Weiland, Layne Staley… Why do we have to keep learning the same lessons over and over again?

And now, here we are 30 years on, and heroin is back and bigger than ever. I thought by the time we got to 2020 problems like heroin would be all gone. Of course I thought we’d have flying cars by now too… Whoever said “Greed is Good” must have worked in Big Pharma and was lucky enough to not have a heroin addict in their family.

As usual, musicians and artists are always in the vanguard of drugs and subversive culture. We’ve lost too many people to heroin overdoses. There’s so much music we might have had… it’s a staggering loss. These poor people. At least they’ve left behind an impressive body of work. You’d think a list of songs about heroin would be harrowing…or at least a bummer, but actually there’s a deep range of emotions and styles that make up my list of favorites. I’m sure I left a few off, so please mention your favs in the “comments” section and I’ll add them to the Chasing the Dragon – Songs About Heroin playlist on Spotify.

I put this list together to honor all those we’ve lost to heroin and opioids. I want to honor all of those people and families that have been upended and touched by this tragedy. It’s a dark ride folks – take care of each other.

  1. AC/DC, “Gone Shootin'” – One of my all time AC/DC favs with Bon Scott on lead vocals singing about his lady whose gone out to score smack.
  2. The Beatles, “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” – Took years before I realized Lennon, who was using at the time, was singing “I need a fix, ‘cuz I’m going down…”
  3. The Tubes, “White Punks On Dope” – A personal favorite I remembered from college. Rich white kids in Hollywood going off to score heroin.
  4. Warren Zevon, “Carmelita” – His best song…”I’m all strung out on heroin on the outskirts of town.”
  5. Alice In Chains, “Junkhead” – “What’s my drug of choice? Well, what have you got?” Layne Staley was alas a casualty of heroin. RIP.
  6. Guns N Roses, “Mr. Brownstone” – I don’t know who was on heroin, I just know Axl was not happy about it.
  7. Black Sabbath, “Hand of Doom” – “You push the needle in…”
  8. Pete Townshend, “Somebody Saved Me” – Pete singing about his recovery. The first part is about someone saving him from a woman or infatuation that would have killed him… I’ve been there… but then he sings about a friend who nursed him while he got clean… only to find his friend dead when he did.
  9. David Bowie, “Ashes to Ashes” – Poor Major Tom… “we all know Major Tom is a junkie.”
  10. Lou Reed, “Perfect Day” – Reed insisted this was just about spending the day with his woman… but that part about “you just keep me hanging on” at the end has always made people think he’s talking about a perfect day, on heroin.
  11. John Lennon, “Cold Turkey” – This might be the only song I know of about quitting heroin cold turkey and suffering through it.
  12. Alice In Chains, “God Smack” – Another gripping track from AIC. Perhaps the hardest track here.
  13. The Black Crowes, “She Talks To Angels” – “She never mentions the word addiction, in certain company…” but she’s going to “smile when the pain comes.” Lovely song about the local hot chick on heroin.
  14. U2, “Bad” – Epic and full of emotions, one of U2’s best songs ever. “I took the poison, from the poison stream and floated… out of here.”
  15. The Rolling Stones, “Dead Flowers” – Sticky Fingers was such a druggy album, I could have included most the tracks here. I left off “Brown Sugar” even though it was rumored to be about heroin and not black women… This song finds Mick sitting with a “needle and a spoon.”
  16. The Velvet Underground & Nico, “Run, Run, Run” – Running to meet the drug dealer…
  17. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Under the Bridge” – Autobiographical lyrics from Anthony Kiedis, about where he used to score his heroin.
  18. The Rolling Stones, “Coming Down Again” – This time with Keith on lead vocals… the loneliness of coming down alone. Desolation personified.
  19. Pink Floyd, “Comfortably Numb” – I never felt this was about heroin, but the doctor does give the guy a shot (“pinprick”) and I couldn’t resist adding a Pink Floyd track.
  20. Placebo, “Song To Say Goodbye” – The Rock Chick bought this album and I sort of ignored it, until I heard this song. A friend is frustrated with his friend turned junkie.
  21. Ozzy Osbourne, “Junkie” – Ozzy rocking out and preaching baby.
  22. Social Distortion, “Drug Train” – Not specifically about heroin, but Mike Ness is a recovered heroin addict… what else could it be about?
  23. Nine Inch Nails, “Hurt” – I was so tempted to put Johnny Cash’s version here but this version feels more on the nose.
  24. Billy Joel, “Captain Jack” – Captain Jack was a drug dealer. Joel used to watch suburban kids scoring heroin from him across the street in his apartment.
  25. Jane’s Addiction, “Jane Says” – Another song about a pretty junkie.
  26. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Fight Like a Brave” – “When you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired…” I love that Kiedis wrote lyrics about the struggle of wanting to get away from heroin.
  27. Depeche Mode, “Never Let Me Down Again” – The singer asking heroin to never let him come down. Scary when you think about it.
  28. The Velvet Underground & Nico, “Heroin” – The track that inspired this whole list.
  29. Steely Dan, “Kid Charlemagne” – Great track about a heroin dealer… “I think the people down the hall know who you are…” All the paranoia you need is in this song.
  30. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Knock Me Down” – “If you see me getting high, knock me down.” A cry for help, really.
  31. Lynyrd Skynyrd, “The Needle And the Spoon” – “And any trip to the moon…”
  32. U2, “Daddy’s Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car” – Another song about heroin by U2 off the great Zooropa album.
  33. Mike Ness, “Dope Fiend Blues” – Call it what you want, it’s all heroin.
  34. Iggy Pop, “Lust For Life” – Vague references to itchy skin here. The use of this in the movie, ‘Trainspotting’ made this a must.
  35. The Rolling Stones, “Sister Morphine” – Again from Sticky Fingers. 
  36. James Taylor, “A Junkie’s Lament” – People forget JT was an addict.
  37. Humble Pie, “30 Days In the Hole” – A song about being arrested for possession. That Newcastle brown isn’t the famous beer.
  38. James Taylor, “Rainy Day Man” – Once again a song where the addict waits for his dealer.
  39. Velvet Underground & Nico, “I’m Waiting For the Man” – Ditto what I wrote about #38. Of course in this case, the addict is in Harlem waiting to meet his guy.
  40. U2, “Running To Stand Still” – One of my all time favorites. “I see seven towers but I only see one way out…”
  41. Prince, “Sign O the Times” – All the bad shit that Prince sang about back then, is current here. I liked the line, “In September, my cousin tried reefer for the very first time, now he’s doin’ horse, it’s June.”
  42. Neil Young, “The Needle And the Damage Done” – A perfect place to end. Neil saw plenty of damage…

There you have it folks. Give us a listen on Spotify and let me know what you think. Cheers!

And, Go Chiefs!

Pearl Jam: New Song, ‘Dance of the Clairvoyants.’ Old Dog With New Tricks?


I found out about the new Pearl Jam song, “Dance of the Clairvoyants” the way I do most new music now. It was a text from the Rock Chick.

What do you think of the new Pearl Jam song?

“I haven’t heard it”

“What I heard is different. Might be good though. First listen…”

A new Pearl Jam song is kind of a big deal these days… They haven’t done anything new in the studio since 2013’s Lightning Bolt. For those of you who aren’t into the whole math thing… that’s seven years. They did have a one-off single, “Mind Your Manners” that I hoped would herald a new album, but alas it was just that one song (New Single: Pearl Jam’s Feisty, Great New Song “Can’t Deny Me,” Their First New Music In 5 Years). I was excited to hear about new Pearl Jam music as it’s something I’ve been clamoring for for quite a while now. However, the Rock Chick’s second text gave me pause. I trust her musical instincts, implicitly. “What I heard is different…” 

There’s a song by Lou Reed, “Doin’ The Things That We Want To” from the fabulous album, New Sensations. Lou sings about a play of Sam Shepherd’s he went to see and then goes on to sing about the movies of Martin Scorsese. He’s clearly a fan of both those gentlemen. In the last few lines he says, of Marty and Sam, “I wrote this song ‘cuz I’d like to shake your hand… in a way you guys are the best friends I ever had.” That last line has always stuck with me. I feel the same way about certain rock artists I’ve listened to over the years. In many ways the musicians and lyricists I’ve heard have expressed things I’ve felt and thought more so than the people I see day to day. To paraphrase Lou, “in a way (those) guys are the best friends I ever had.”

I think it’s because of that feeling that I’ve actually formed what I’d call “a relationship” with certain bands. Nothing stalker-y or creepy, but an emotional connection to their art. That connection is what keeps me coming back to the catalogs of certain artists like Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones or yes, Lou Reed. Springsteen considers his body of work to be a “conversation” he’s having with his listeners and I don’t think that’s too far off. Many artists, like the Stones, have always stayed fairly close to the sound they started with. They do disco and country-rock but they’ve stayed blues/blues rock/rock pretty much their whole career. That doesn’t mean they don’t surprise me all the time, but the “conversation” is consistent. Artists like David Bowie are more “shape-shifting” in terms of sound. Bowie went from Ziggy to Philly Soul (Young Americans) to the Berlin Trilogy. Still, the conversation continued.

Now I would never fault an artist for wanting to change creative directions. I stuck with Dylan even through the “Christian Period.” I’ve followed Springsteen from E Street to dark acoustic stuff (Nebraska or Ghost of Tom Joad) and back again. It’s a conversation. All of that said, Pearl Jam have been pretty consistent in terms of sound and style for the bulk of their career. I kept wondering why it was taking so long for them to get their shit together in the studio, I thought it was Vedder being reluctant to record, but perhaps it was a desire to go in a new direction. It was great eagerness, when I returned home, that I put on “Dance of the Clairvoyants.” As always with a Pearl Jam record, I had hoped to hear some kind of arena sized, rock and roll anthem. What I heard, was quite different indeed. Not bad, just different.

“Dance of the Clairvoyant” starts with a bass line that swings like nothing I’d ever heard on a Pearl Jam record. The drums from Matt Cameron sound… programmed. It’s not his usual aggressive drumming. There was a little tickle of keyboards and I thought, oh no. I was gripped with the fear that they’d gone the route of U2 and are trying to be, I don’t know, Imagine Dragons? That bass line is almost… dare I say, danceable. Then Vedder starts singing and it sounds like he’s channelling twitchy, Fear of Music-era David Byrne. He spits out phrases instead of lyrics. “Imperceptibly big, big as the ocean…” I half expected Eddie to sing, “Same as it ever was, same as it ever was…” They don’t sound remotely like Pearl Jam until the chorus, “Expecting perfection leaves a lot to endure, When the past is the present and the future’s no more, When every tomorrow is the same as before.” The track has a long coda, “I know that girls wanna dance…” I won’t tell you what boys wanna do…

As usually happens when an artist heads off in a new direction sonically, I was confused at first. I remember being baffled the first time I heard U2’s “The Fly” from Achtung Baby. I will say, if “Dance of the Clairvoyants” is a stab at “being current” or being “relevant” it’s a better job than U2 has been attempting lately. After my second or third listen to this new Pearl Jam song, I have to admit it, it grew on me. I would have liked some searing Mike McCready lead guitar…but perhaps they’re saving that for other songs on the album. I like this track but it leaves me with no idea what this new Pearl Jam album Gigaton will be like. Which is probably what they want. I will say, this is an artist who I’d prefer to continue my “conversation” with… this threw me at first, but I’m on board and ready for more.

Women In Rock: My Search For Female Singers Leads to the Rock Chick’s Top 10


*Photo of Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks, unidentified woman, and Emmy Lou Harris taken from the internet and likely copyrighted

I’ve been thinking about women a lot lately… in truth I think about women all the time but in this case I’m talking about singers… female singers. I am a huge fan of women. Frankly I think they should be in charge, the world would be a better place. Like Lou Reed once sang, “I love women, I think they’re great, they’re a solace to the world in a terrible state.” Lou was right about so many things… and indeed I can emphatically agree with his words, “I love women, we all love women.”

But that said, I’ve been wondering about women in the context of my music collection. I watched this fabulous documentary on Linda Ronstadt last week, Documentary Review: The Sublime ‘Linda Ronstadt, The Sound Of My Voice’, and in it they talk about what a male dominated world rock and roll was in the 70s. Frankly I’m not sure that’s changed. Pop music may be dominated by women like Beyonce, Lizzo and someone named Cardi B (?) but rock and roll? That’s another story. I tended to agree with Ronstadt’s opinion and I couldn’t help but think about my own music collection and indeed, BourbonAndVinyl itself. If I flip through my vinyl collection, it’s overwhelmingly male in nature. If I look at the blog posts on this humble enterprise it’s mostly about dudes and dude bands. I’m the biggest equal opportunity guy you’re ever going to find – be that gender, orientation, race, creed, color, etc. I like what my friend The Mayor once said, “Live your life, man.” And yet examining all of this makes me wonder, have I fallen into the sexism of rock and roll just by default? I started examining my past…

My parents weren’t into music like my brother or I am. They bought a stereo (that was rarely used) when I was in grade school and eventually acquired a small and very eccentric album collection. They had some interesting stuff like Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits or the Beatles’ 1967 to 1970 (aka The Blue Album). They had some “cool-adjacent” records like albums from Jim Croce and Elvis’ Live In Hawaii. But then they had a Roger Whitaker album. Like I said, these were not musical people. Thinking about it though, they didn’t have a single album by a female artist that I can think of. I didn’t grow up listening to women singers.

One Christmas after I was married, I asked Santa for some old school country music from the likes of Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. Having met the Rock Chick’s family, I had started to become exposed to that kind of music and dug it. As part of this Christmas booty, I got a greatest hits double-disc by one of the greatest singers in history, Patsy Cline. I was playing all this stuff, mesmerized by it really, and Patsy’s belting out hit after hit and my father-in-law leaned over to me, nose wrinkled in disapproval, and said “Hey, put that Haggard back on, I can’t listen to this chick.” I’m beginning to wonder if my lack of a selection of female singers was handed down from the generation who raised me…

When I started to get into rock and roll, the first female singer I became aware of, and whom I heard on the radio was, of course, Janis Joplin. I love blues and blues rock but I never really connected with Janis. I dug her rather shambolic live stuff and “Mercedes Bens” is a good bit of fun. I was aware of Aretha, you couldn’t not be aware of the Queen of Soul, but I never really got into her until I saw The Big Chill. I was never really into Motown and don’t like the Supremes (I know, blasphemy). I did love certain tracks by Martha and the Vandellas, “Nowhere to Run” is one of the all time greatest songs ever.

It was tough as a teenage boy, full of testosterone and low on brains or life experience to commit to buying a record by a woman. Masculinity is fragile when it’s most raging, I guess. In the late 70s, early 80s, the aforementioned Linda Ronstadt was big but I was always afraid of buying something that would be considered “mellow.” I avoided her, to my detriment. If you were going to shell out $9 for an album, man it better rawk. There were  only a handful of artists who were Dude Approved… Pat Benetar was the Queen of Rock for us boys in the suburb. Beautiful and classically trained in opera, she just rocked. I loved “Hell Is For Children.” I bought her third album, Precious Time, which is where she began her creative decline and even the black guys who lived across the hall would listen to that album. None of us were cool enough for Patti Smith so we cranked Benetar.

Heart and the glorious Wilson sisters, Ann and Nancy were also big when I was discovering rock and roll. They’ve been described as a poor man’s female Zeppelin and the comparison is not without merit. Tunes like “Crazy On You” and “Barracuda” were more rock n roll than a lot of what guy bands were putting out. Sadly though the Wilson sisters were always plagued with rumors that they were incestuous lesbians. The Stupid 70s.

The woman whose albums we all owned and would gladly admit is Stevie Nicks. We all dug Fleetwood Mac, and props to Christine McVie, but it was Stevie who went solo with smash hits like Bella Donna and The Wild Heart. I always jokingly refer to Stevie as the Mistress of a Generation, not because of her varied love life, but because we all wanted her. She was like that cool chick you would see smoking cigarettes and joints out behind the school. She was everybody’s naughty girl. She hung out with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, her songs were the best of the Mac, and she was just cool. She was dancing around in shawls and throwing doves in the air while singing about Witchcraft and Wicca. Talented, dangerous and hot, what’s not to love?

As I got older and more secure in my rock fandom, I started to branch out into more female singers. Lucinda Williams is a huge artist that I just love. My friend Doug turned me onto the Cowboy Junkies and I love Margo Timmins as as singer. Doug had a girlfriend once who contended that women singers had to be quirky to get on the radio where as any dude could sing and they’d play it. I’m not so sure about that, but I rarely hear the Cowboy Junkies on the radio (other than NPR) any more. Norah Jones may not “rock” but her voice is like that of an angel. I’ve gotten into chicks who can really rock, like the Runaways (Lita Ford and Joan Jett’s 70s band) and I like No Doubt (although I hate Gwen Stefani’s solo work). I recently really got into Starcrawlers (LP Review: Starcrawler’s Sophomore Effort, ‘Devour You’) and I think Arrow de Wilde is someone to keep your eye on. This band is gonna be huge.

All of that said, I still felt like I needed to really branch out and explore the world of female rock stars. I wasn’t sure where to turn or which direction to head, so naturally I reached out to my “North Star,” the Rock Chick. As usual, she had some great suggestions. I finally asked her to give me her Top 10 Female Rock Singers list and I want to share it with B&V. These are all artists you should check out, I know I’m better for having done so.

  1. Karen O (The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs) – This punky band rocks! “Maps,” “Zero,” and “Heads Will Roll” are all great tracks. She’s got an intense, frosty voice that really drives their songs. Definitely a great listen.
  2. Alanis Morrisette – The Rock Chick is the only person I know who owns more than Jagged Little Pill. Having listened through all of these albums, I have to say, wow, she’s a great songwriter. Jagged Little Pill is her magnum opus, but there’s a lot more to love here. “You Owe Me Nothing In Return” is the greatest song ever about unconditional love.
  3. Annie Lennox (Eurythmics, solo) – Annie could simply be the best singer ever, male or female. I largely ignored the Eurythmics in the 80s but everything this woman has done has been great.
  4. Alison Mossheart (The Kills, The Dead Weather) – A rocker so cool she dates Jack White. They formed the Dead Weather together. Both her bands are kick ass.
  5. Dale Bozio (Missing Persons) – I love this band. My roommate in college actually bought their debut album. She was Lady Gaga before there was such a thing.
  6. Debbie Harry (Blondie) – Blondie was one of the few artists with a female singer that punctured my male-centric teenage consciousness. New Wave goddess with a phenomenal voice.
  7. Joan Jett – I love her in the Runaways, love her solo. She’s amazing to this day. I remember when her first single, “I Love Rock and Roll” came out and everybody went wild, especially the girls.
  8. Shirley Manson (Garbage) – Garbage is an amazing band and I’m so delighted the Rock Chick turned me onto them. She saw them live and said Shirley brings it live too.
  9. Courtney Love (Hole) – I love Hole. I actually always did and love that Rock Chick digs them too. Courtney was one of the greatest grunge singers of that era. Her voice is slightly ravaged now, but I still love it.
  10. Siouxsie (with her Banshees) – Oddly I always got Siouxsie confused with the gal in Bow Wow Wow. The Rock Chick sorted me out on that. She’s an amazing vocalist. She owns Iggy Pop’s “the Passenger,” and the Beatles “Dear Prudence” in this house.

There you go folks. I recommend all of the Rock Chick’s favorite female singers/artists. You will be rewarded if you take the time to do a little musical exploration on the pink side! If you have additional female singers that you think I should check out, by all means, please put it in the “comments” section and I will turn it up, post haste.




Documentary Review: The Sublime ‘Linda Ronstadt, The Sound Of My Voice’


I’m on record here at B&V as being someone who hates the holidays. Well, “hate” is too strong a word for how I feel about the holidays. Perhaps I’m best paraphrasing that classic movie, Barfly when describing my feelings about the holidays, “I just sorta feel better when they’re not around.” Since I met the Rock Chick, I will admit, things have gotten at least a little better for me at the holidays, Confessions of an Ex-Grinch: My Christmas Epiphany. Now that we’ve all gutted it out through the Yule cheer and have made it safely through New Years Eve (aka, Amateur Night) we can settle nicely into the New Year, right?

Sadly, as much as I hate the holidays, January has quickly become the worst time of year in my estimation. Winter starts in earnest and you don’t have all the decorations and Xmas lights to distract you from the weather. I’m beginning to understand why Shakespeare used the words, “Now is the winter of our discontent.” Back in the old days, all my coupled friends would go into hibernation after the holidays until about St Patrick’s Day. I get that strategy now. It’s cold outside, there’s no new rock and roll music and nothing is going on, everybody is paying off that holiday debt. Frankly, it’s what the Rock Chick and I do now in January – pull up the drawbridge and hibernate. I must admit this year’s January is infinitely worse as I’m participating in what is known as “Dry January,” where you eschew alcohol. It’s not been difficult to quit booze, except for the excruciating boredom of nothing else to do. I will admit, early on I did find myself wrestling for my sanity (wild mood swings for $1000, Alex), but that quickly passed. And contrary to rumor, I did not suffer the delirium tremens. Oddly I feel and sleep better without bourbon, and my weight has dropped precipitously but don’t tell my wife, I don’t want her getting any ideas about reevaluating my sobriety.

Luckily, since we’re barricaded in our home for winter, I can catch up on some of the backlogged viewing I’d intended to do… DVR and chill as the kids say… although I’m still under the impression that means something other than watching recorded videos and falling asleep on the couch. This will require further study. Anyway, last night was a nice example of catching up on my viewing. I watched a great Austin City Limits that featured Jack White’s band The Raconteurs and they played a lot from their last album that I loved, LP Review: The Raconteurs’ (Jack White) ‘Help Us Stranger’. They were followed by a groovy R&B/Soul act, the Black Pumas who are nominated for a “Best New Artist” Grammy. I dug the Pumas, although I might not rush out and buy their album. Although I plan on returning to that slow groove music. “Colors” is a great track you should check out…

The highlight of last night’s viewing is a CNN documentary about Linda Ronstadt, entitled creatively, Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice. I’ve been looking forward to checking this thing out. In the interest of full disclosure, I was never a big Linda Ronstadt fan but I’ve got to tell you, her music was ubiquitous in the middle and late 70s when I was growing up. She was monstrously huge. And yet, I never really paid attention, I feared she was too mellow. I do remember my friend Steve (and oddly more than half of my friends were named Steve, so I feel there is some anonymity preserved here), and he had a poster of her on his wall. I don’t think Linda ever wore a bra and well, we were all big fans of nipples – we’d never seen one up close. Juvenile, perhaps…but more evolutionary if you think about it. Regardless, that poster of Linda on Steve’s wall was about the extent of my knowledge about her. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to appreciate her much, much more and was really looking forward to learning about her in this documentary. I will say this, the documentary was aptly titled – her voice is the absolute star here, as it should be. I was blown away by her.

The documentary is mostly chronological in nature and narrated in large part by Linda herself. It quickly frames her more than ten year battle with Parkinson’s disease (diagnosed in 2009) which has robbed her of her ability to sing. Silencing that voice is one of the most tragic things I can think of. While the movie is chronological, my one complaint here is they don’t frame any of the events in time other than when she left Arizona and moved to California with a big “1964” on the screen. So when they talk about a specific album or event, it left me scrambling to the Google to figure out when that event happened. I’m nit picking but it’s a problem for those of us with musical OCD. Other than that this was a fascinating, entertaining look at one of Rock N Roll’s most important artists – folk, country, country rock, rock and roll, ballads, light opera (operetta), standards and Mexican folk – the woman could sing the phone booth. She was Norah Jones before there was such a thing. The Rock Chick said to me, “I’m surprised you’re going to write about her…” Rock and roll is a big tent, let’s include everybody whose talented.

Besides Linda narrating this thing, there’s a who’s who of Southern California rock giving commentary as well. Jackson Browne, songwriter J.D. Souther (who dated Linda in the 70s), Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, Emmy Lou Harris, Dolly, David Geffen, filmmaker Cameron Crowe all show up to talk about Linda. Karla Bonoff, who I’d forgotten about shows up. Of all people, the prickly Don Henley shows up. Linda hired him as her drummer (and later hired Glen Frey and they went on to form the Eagles) and Henley is downright reverent about Ronstadt. He’s kind of a dick most the time but not here – his loyalty and devotion to Linda is unwavering. He’s so complimentary, it’s nice to see. He says, “the record company didn’t know what to do with “Desperado,” and then Linda recorded a perfect version of it.” High praise from a man who doesn’t give praise.

Born in Arizona, Ronstadt’s grandfather was an inventor. The music came from her father’s side, he was the singer. Although her mother sang and played piano as well. She had Mexican heritage on her father’s side, which with a name like Ronstadt, we never knew about, but heritage she was justifiably proud of. She started off singing folk music, like many in that generation. After moving to L.A., the Byrds hit and suddenly it was folk rock for her. She formed a country rock band, the Stone Ponys and had a hit before the record company wisely said, uh, we want the chick singer not the band. When she went solo she hired Henley as a drummer and Frey as a guitarist inadvertently creating the Eagles. She eventually hired former Beatles associate Peter Asher as her producer, signed with David Geffen on the Asylum label and her career took off. This is the period of her career we at B&V are most familiar with.

From 1974’s Heart Like a Wheel onward she kind of owned that soft rock crown for the next decade. She had 5 multiple platinum albums in a row. That’s a hot streak comparable to Elton John’s in the early 70s. She was a woman in a male dominated industry and I love how she nurtured and helped other female artists. Emmy Lou Harris, despairing and lost after Gram Parsons OD’d on heroin, was in what she describes as a “very dark period” and Ronstadt started singing with her and promoting her. She saved her. I mean in a five minute period in the documentary they sum up what an important vortex Ronstadt was to country rock and southern California rock. Everybody from the Eagles to Gram Parsons gets a mention. She was at the center of it all. While Ronstadt never wrote her own material she had impeccable taste in what she was going to cover. Either early rock classics by Chuck Berry or Smokey Robinson, a man people fear to cover, or country classics by Dolly, the woman could pick them. She recorded contemporary songwriters as well, helping their career – Neil Young (who didn’t need the help and who she opened and sang back up for), Warren Zevon (my fav, “Carmelita” and “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” about Jackson Browne), Jackson Browne, Little Feat’s Lowell George (“Willin'”) all had songs covered by Ronstadt. Hell, she even does a great version of the Stones’ “Tumblin’ Dice,” perhaps her greatest rocking moment.

She had grown tired of the road and hanging out with all the dudes you encounter in a rock band so she turned to Broadway and joined the production of The Pirates of Penzance, which I’d forgotten about. She crushes the operetta stuff. Again, that voice. After that, inspired by her mother’s passing, she did an album of standards with Nelson Riddle, the first artist I remember making that leap. The record company didn’t want her to do any of this – and yet both were enormously successful. She went back to her country roots following that to record the huge Trio LP with Dolly and Emmy Lou Harris, another smash success. Then she turned to traditional Mexican songs on Canciones De Mi Padre which remains the highest selling Spanish-language LP in history. Everything this woman touched turned to gold. Why, you may ask? The sound of her voice.

As you can tell, I was really taken by this documentary. Other than giving no time of reference in terms of what year certain events happened, this is a thorough, loving look at the career of one of rock and roll’s greatest singers. Her induction into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 2014 was long overdue. I just wish they’d inducted her prior to Parkinson’s taking away her voice – I’d love to have seen all the people who would have showed up to perform with her. While mellow is usually outside our wheel house here at B&V, watching the warm hearted, generous artistry of this woman warmed the frozen heart of a Dry January sober, winter blues, B&V music fan. And that says a lot.

Cheers! Enjoy this documentary!