Humor: The Key To A Strong Marriage – Burt Reynold’s “Sharky’s Machine”

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As I’ve often referred to in BourbonAndVinyl, I was single for a long, long time. And then I met a really cool chick, The Rock Chick, and settled down and got married. One might think that this late entry into the realm of marital bliss might leave me somewhat clueless on subject of a successful, happy marriage. How could a bourbon drinking bounder figure out the intricacies of something so complicated as marriage. I turned for wisdom on the subject, where I always turn, to the culture of the late 70s and early 80s. In the case of marriage, I turned to Burt Reynold’s and his 1981 movie, ‘Sharky’s Machine.’ I had tried to glean something from watching Kojak reruns but there was no wisdom on marriage there…”Who Loves Ya, Baby.”

Even though I married an extremely cool woman, with a great sense of humor, she’s still a woman. Men and woman have been inexplicably getting married since the dawn of time. I read somewhere somebody describing men and women as being “members of two distinct and warring tribes.” I think that sums it up. How any two people can set aside the differences that daily life generates, especially when you take into consideration the raising of children and the conflict that generates, is a mystery.

Marriage is minefield. I mean, it’s a happy thing if you’re doing right, but there are always mines out in that field. The mines typically come in the form of questions… for example:

“Do these pants make me look fat?”

“Do you like this outfit?”

“Which shoes do you like best with this skirt?”

“I know the game is on, but can you come in here and help me unload the dishwasher?”

“My mother is coming to visit, isn’t that great?”

“Don’t you remember, I told you we were going to the “Phantom Of The Opera” over a month ago…”

“Can we do something with all these albums of yours?”

The list could go on. The entire mood of the household is dependent on how I answer those questions. Things can go from blissful to sullen and angry at the drop of a hat. I learned this, as I’ve learned everything in my life… The Hard Way.

But then I remembered the old Burt Reynold’s movie, ‘Sharky’s Machine’ and it all became clear to me. As the lead character, Sharky, Burt plays a tough, streetwise, wise-cracking, Atlanta police officer. He has a steak-out go incredibly wrong and gets moved out of Narcotics and into the Vice Squad, a unit of misfits and burn outs. Ah, the 70s… I could have written the standard plot lines they used, or at least I like to think I could. Anyway, Sharky’s partner in the Vice Squad is a man named Arch played by Bernie Casey.

Arch is into Zen. In a great scene that can be found on Youtube if you search on the words “Sharky’s Machine Ghosting Scenes,” Arch explains how  he used Zen to avoid being shot when he was out on a domestic violence call. He was circling the house when the culprit comes out of the back door with a sawed-off shot gun. He thought for sure he was dead. It was then that he applied his Zen theory and he completely “disappeared.” He ceased to exist. His face went blank, his arms went slack. He was putting off zero energy, zero emotion. Instead of shooting him, the culprit just walked past him.

Later in the movie, Arch gets into a gun battle with the crazed, coke-addled villain, Victor. Arch is injured and so is Victor. Victor manages to disarm Arch. Once again Arch is faced with a sawed-off shotgun in his face. And you watch Ben Casey, in what should have been an Academy Award winning performance, in my humble opinion, do his “Ghosting,” Zen disappearing act. His arms and jaw go slack. His eyes are a complete blank. He is literally out of his body. Victor screams at him twice, I guess to see if he’ll react. Arch knows if he reacts in anyway, Victor will shoot him in the face. So he stays Zen disappeared. Victor just turns and walks away down the hallway leaving Arch alive. I have no idea why those scenes made such an impression on me, but I’ve always remembered them.

Then, years later I got married and suddenly I realized why I was meant to remember ‘Sharky’s Machine’ and the Zen-disappearance scenes.

When my wife comes into the room and says, say, “Were you eating potato chips in the kitchen, because you got crumbs, EVERYWHERE…” in the past I would have defended myself. Or blamed the cat. But not now. Now, I do what I like to call, “The Sharky’s Machine.”

I let my arms fall to my side. My jaw goes slack. I emit no emotion, zero energy. My eyes go blank and I completely disappear. I know that if I react in anyway, I’m likely to get shot in the face with a metaphorical, emotional shot gun. Oddly, the Sharky’s Machine seems to work. The other night my wife asked me if I wanted to get a winter place in Phoenix to be nearer to her daughter. Early into the conversation she said, “Are you Sharky’s Machining me?” The lesson there, is that the Sharky’s Machine Maneuver works even when she knows I’m doing it.

The Sharky’s Machine has saved me countless arguments, apologies, flowers and chocolates. It’s literally saved me thousands of hours of anguish. And I owe it all to Burt Reynold’s and Bernie Casey. I knew it was a must to share this bit of wisdom with the rest of the world.

I’m sure it would work for women out there too, when your husband asks you, say, “Do you want to skip our anniversary and go to the football game instead?” Or, “Do you think your friend would be interested in a threesome?” Or worse, “What do you think of my blog?” I think the Sharky’s Machine is a perfect move for you ladies out there.

Remember folks, marriage is a compromise. And, more importantly, “Nobody leans on Sharky’s Machine.”

Cheers! (Youtube.com, search on “Sharky’s Machine Ghosting Scenes.”)

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LP Look Back: The Overlooked Gem, AC/DC’s “Powerage”

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We’ve reached that dreaded time of year when the holidays have descended up on us, and bands have stopped releasing new albums. Oh sure, I’ve spent most of the past few weeks listening to the superb new Stones album, “Blue and Lonesome,” but as I found myself shut in because of the snow and ice outside, cabin fever has set in. Which is odd, because I’ve only been shut in since I got out of bed this morning. I began to flip through my album collection but I didn’t get any farther than the A’s… more specifically, AC/DC.

Is there a joy more pure and wonderful than listening to AC/DC? They’re just a fun band. When I first met my wife, the Rock Chick, one of the first things I liked about her was she was one of the first chicks I’d ever met who knew the difference between the Bon Scott-era AC/DC and the Brian Johnson-era. Most women I’d known didn’t know the difference. It was the Rock Chick who got me back into AC/DC, who I thought were spent creatively after “For Those About To Rock,” when she turned me onto “The Razor’s Edge” and more importantly “Stiff Upper Lip” which are great, great late period albums. The first concert I ever took the Rock Chick to was AC/DC on the “Stiff Upper Lip” Tour… ah, fond memories. That was a  wonderful evening with Angus’ guitar solos and women taking their tops off… and that was just on the ride down to the show…

I will admit, if the Rock Chick has a flaw musically it’s her complete dismissal of the Bon Scott-era of AC/DC. Although I will give her credit for loving “If You Want Blood, You Got It.” As most people know, Bon was the original, charismatic lead singer of AC/DC. He tragically died sleeping in the back seat of a car after a night of drinking when he choked on his own vomit. Which frankly, is how I think every great rock star should go out. The man has been described as a “street poet” and for once I think they got that one right. His lyrics about the grimier, darker side of life are nothing short of brilliant – the Nobel Committee ought to put on the “Highway To Hell” LP and start considering following up the Dylan nomination with Bon… but as usual, I digress.

Most people focus on the Brian Johnson-era of AC/DC’s career probably because a) it’s lasted longer and b) they were much more popular during Brian’s tenure. After “Back In Black,” one of the best selling albums of all time, AC/DC became international superstars. I can see where that kind of LP sales could eclipse the earlier, lesser-known work. If you look at the macro picture though, under Bon Scott, the band was headed that way. With each successive album, from “High Voltage” to “Dirty Deeds” to “Let There Be Rock” AC/DC’s following and stature continued to grow. While they didn’t even tour in the US until 1977, hitting small venues no less, like CBGB and the Whiskey (underscoring once again, if I could time travel, I’d spend all my time at concerts), they were building toward that eventual breakthrough which came in the form of “Highway To Hell.” While everybody loves “Back In Black” it was “Highway” that broke them. If you listen to Bon’s lyrics you can discern several things… he truly believed he was battling for rock and roll as an art form and that he was going to go to Hell for doing that. Although it certainly seems like  he was having an extraordinarily good time doing so. One could imagine him crossing the River Styx, with his shirt off and a bottle of Old Crow whiskey in his hand, howling…”Don’t stop meeee!”

Eventually, after “Back In Black” people began to go back and discover AC/DC’s earlier albums and many, many of their songs began to get airplay that before weren’t getting much play at all. The early albums added depth and context for “Back In Black.” And while all that is great, there is one album that for reasons that are inexplicable to me, remains overlooked. That album is “Powerage.” Maybe it’s the odd cover art. I absolutely love this dark, dark record. I realize that there wasn’t really a discernible single on the record. I realize that “Highway To Hell” eclipsed everything that came before it but to overlook “Powerage” is criminal. Keith Richards, of all people, has been quoted as saying “Powerage” is his favorite AC/DC album, and frankly does anybody need more of an endorsement than that?

As the 70’s went on, as I mentioned, AC/DC’s fame and fortune continued to increase on the international rock scene. They opened for Black Sabbath… wouldn’t you have loved to drink with Ozzy and Bon back then? I know I would… They were gaining attention, especially in Europe. They were poised to break through in a big way… and then it’s like Bon Scott knew the end was near, and right before the breakthrough, they paused and went into the studio and recorded a dark and foreboding LP, “Powerage”….and it’s fucking brilliant.

This album finds Bon’s lyrical gifts beginning to blossom. The LP opens with what was ostensibly the first single, “Rock N Roll Damnation.” It starts the LP off with a MONSTER riff… and then Bon comes in with, “They say that you play too loud, well baby that’s tough.” The chip on Bon’s shoulder is as big as a car. This song sets the table and signals, this is going to be a dark ride and Bon has some scores to settle. I really don’t think of AC/DC as a “singles” band and frankly I think “Powerage” is an album that you need to listen to in it’s entirety, like Pink Floyd. It sets a mood. I listen to this album and I just want to take a shot of whiskey and do some brawling… and I haven’t been in a fight since grade school and I lost that one.

“Down Payment Blues” and “Gimme a Bullet To Bite On” are just great tunes. In “Down Payment Blues” Bon sings, “I got myself a Cadillac but I can’t afford the gasoline.” This is dirty, dirty bloozy rock. “Gimme a Bullet…” is a classic Bon break up song… He’s got a “pain in his heart” and he’s calling for a bullet to bite on… and he’s going to make believe it’s his ex… I think we’ve all been there…

The centerpiece of this record, for me, is the tune “Gone Shootin’.” The riff is infectious. The dark story about a man lamenting that his girl friend has gone out in their bad neighborhood to score herion is harrowing, but the way Bon growls, “My baby’s gone shootin’… she’s gone, gone, gone,” it brings chills to my spine. Likely the subject matter kept that one off the radio… it’s the heart and soul of this record. It is my all time favorite AC/DC tune.

I would be remiss at this point if I didn’t mention the amazing lead guitar playing of Angus Young. With Malcolm Young on rhythm guitar, these guys lay down gargantuan riffs throughout the album. The song “Up To My Neck In You” may be Angus’ finest hour as a guitarist. “Riff Raff” is a colossus of a guitar party. The Young brothers set the scene with their one of their best riffs as Bon takes us into “Sin City” another gem of a song on this album. The guitar riff on that song makes me feel like I’m in the car with the band at the city limits of Las Vegas… and some shit is going down. There isn’t a bad song on this record. The frantic LP ender, “Kicked In The Teeth Again” is a break neck hard rocker… You can barely keep up with Angus’ solos on that one. These guys don’t really slow down at all on this record.

I’ve turned a few of my esteemed rock friends onto this album, Matthew and Stormin’ out in Denver and both of them at some point have turned to me and said some version of, “how did I miss this album?” You true rock guys out there, and you know who you are, should do yourselves a favor and get this record on the turntable as soon as you can. You will not regret it…

As always my friends, on this cold, cold winter day, stay warm, pour something brown and murky, put on “Powerage” and enjoy… Although don’t give into that mood to start brawling… I’m a pacifist… a lover, not a fighter.

Cheers!

Metaphysical Wisdom: The 1986 Ozzy Concert, The Preacher and the Pot Smoker

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It’s rare that you find any “Universal Wisdom” at an Ozzy Osbourne concert. Somehow, in the 80s, I managed to do so.

It was 1986, right in the heart of the 80s, when a group of friends and I loaded up in the car and drove from Manhattan, Kansas down to Wichita to see the Prince of Darkness, Ozzy Osbourne, in concert at the Kansas Coliseum. We were especially excited to see the Oz-man in Wichita because the arena had “festival seating,” where you show up, line up at the door, and when the doors opened, you sprinted as fast as you can to get a seat near the stage, or better yet, get to the open area in front of the stage. I saw Van Halen in Wichita once and actually stood right in front of the stage, hanging on to it for dear life. God Bless Eddie Van Halen, but as usual, I’m off topic. The opening band for Ozzy was some dark metal band we’d never heard of, Metallica, but that’s another topic. We didn’t fight to get down to the stage but found some nice seats on the lower deck, really close to the stage.

This being the 80s there were a lot of stimulates among the pirate crew I’d journeyed to the concert with. We were drinking a lot of beer that day, which could be said of most of our days at the ol’ University. As the old song goes, “for it’s not for knowledge that we came to college but to drink beer while we’re here…” We had a rule when road tripping, not a very smart one, that you had to have a six pack for each person in the car at all times. (Don’t Drink and Drive kids, it’s a bad idea.) I was with several herbal enthusiasts as well. I’ve always been a fan of dark, murky fluids and was never a smoker but I’d probably list myself as a “pot sympathizer.” You enjoy your vices, I’ll enjoy mine. For some reason we had a bunch of black beauties with us. I was never big into stimulates, but speed was always prevalent at college, especially during finals. If you needed to stay up cramming, rather than drink a pot of coffee, take a black beauty or a “No Doze” and zoom, you’re up. Soon we realized it was fun to take one with beer – one foot on the gas, one foot on the brakes. We were so riled up by the heavy metal and speed, we were on our feet, high-fiving like amateurs and sloshing beer all over. Even before Ozzy came on, the poor high school kids in front of us politely moved off to find safer seats. We were young Vikings on a quest for Heavy Metal Valhalla.

Finally, after playing louder, faster, louder, faster these dour guys calling themselves Metallica (how did we not realize what we were seeing, perhaps it was the beer?), left the stage and after a short intermission to remove Metallica’s white-cross cemetery stage set, a giant Ozzy Ghoul descended from the rafters. The stage prop was designed to look like the cover of his latest album, “Ultimate Sin.” The arms/wings of this Ghoul opened up and sitting on his throne was Ozzy, in all his glory. He leapt out of the chair, launched into “Bark At The Moon,” and didn’t stop moving all night. We went bonkers. I think at one point I may have actually barked in the general direction of the moon…Ah, youth.

Ozzy had had an up and down decade. He’d started his surprisingly successful solo career with the legendary guitarist Randy Rhodes but then Randy was killed in a freak airplane accident. Ozzy had finally recovered and pulled a new band together with Jake E. Lee as his new lead guitarist. Jake was with Ozzy that night and while he was no Randy Rhodes, he held his own. The man could “shred” as the kids say. The song “Shot In the Dark” was our favorite and we went appropriately insane when Ozzy played it. “Never Know Why (We Rock)” was another highlight because let’s face it, Ozzy was right when he sang “they’ll never know why we RAWK!” By the time Ozzy played “Paranoid” as the encore, we were certain we’d reached that Heavy Metal Valhalla we had been seeking.

We slowly began to file out of the Kansas Coliseum to find the car when, in the midst of the exiting metal fans we saw a giant cross. I couldn’t help but wonder what the heck was going on, was this more Ozzy theater? It was then that I heard the Preacher’s voice over the loud speaker, decrying the “Evil” that we had just been a part of. The 80s were a weird decade. Ronald Reagan was President and it was “morning in America.” Out of nowhere Heavy Metal and hard rock came under siege from religious groups. Ozzy and his fellow Metal buddies, Judas Priest had been sued for their dark music being wrongly considered to cause suicides. You had the PMRC, the Parents Musical Resource Committee (or was it Center), led by the uptight Tipper Gore who was attempting to censor rock lyrics. For me this all reached it’s apex when my mother went so far as to warn me that Rush was Satanic, “Ruled Under Satan’s Hand.” Sigh. Ozzy in particular seemed to like to goad these “enemies of rock” as we dubbed them. The Ghoul on the cover of his album and the LP title “The Ultimate Sin” seemed to be aimed right at his religious critics.

Apparently inspired to respond, this Preacher had set up a giant cross in the parking lot and had a bullhorn he was shouting scripture through, along with extended diatribes about why we were all going to Hell for attending an Ozzy show. I never thought nor do I think the music you listen to can condemn you to a life of eternal damnation (unless you listen to Wham) but sure as shit, this guy was telling us it could. My friend SB and I stood at the edge of the crowd that had assembled around this guy, merely for amusement purposes. The guy was really into it, screaming into his bullhorn and foaming at the mouth. Most of the Ozzy fans around him were chuckling and a few had the temerity to make fun of the guy. I was worried the Preacher might stroke out in front of us and we were going to need to clear out of there pretty quickly if that happened. I never liked to hang around when the cops showed up.

It was then that a diminutive kid in the hard rock uniform: jeans, concert t-shirt and flannel shirt over it, came forward to ask a question. “Excuse me, Sir…” The Preacher looked stunned and frankly a little joyful that someone had paid close enough attention to ask him a question. Most of the concert goers were merely walking past him. The intrepid Pot Smoker then posed this metaphysical question to the Preacher, “So, if God created the natural world, and pot grows in nature, doesn’t that mean God put pot here for us to enjoy? I mean, doesn’t that mean God wants us to smoke pot?” My mind was blown. Unfortunately for the Preacher, I think his mind was blown too. He didn’t have an answer. The stunned look on his face betrayed his confusion. He began to sputter and stutter into his microphone…The crowd was hanging on what his response was going to be. After what seemed an eternity, the Pot Smoker turned and walked off toward his car. He was pretty sure, as we all were, that the Preacher couldn’t answer that “Big Question.” When the Pot Smoker walked away, the Preacher suddenly composed himself and muttered unconvincingly, “He doesn’t want an answer, look, he’s walking away…he doesn’t want an answer.” Like the rest of the crowd, I just shook my head and we headed to the car. Game, set and match for the Pot Smoker. As we walked to our car, I could hear the Preacher bellowing through his loudspeaker again and maybe it was my imagination, he seemed to have lost a little of his vim and vigor.

I felt like I’d walked away from that great concert a little smarter about the universe and how it works. While I’m a bourbon man, I certainly don’t think a little pot and a lot of heavy metal is gonna send anybody to Hell or anywhere else. I know I realized that night that you should never allow a judgmental individual or group to influence your behavior or your listening. As long as you’re not hurting anybody I say, go for it.

It’s a dark ride folks. Find someone you love, put on some good music and enjoy yourselves.

Cheers!

Playlist: The BourbonAndVinyl Election Day Playlist To Relieve Election Fatigue

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And I ain’t no communist
And I ain’t no capitalist
And I ain’t no socialist
And I ain’t no imperialist
And I ain’t no democrat
And I ain’t no republican
I only know one party
And it is freedom  

– “I Am A Patriot” – Little Steven

I think I speak for everybody in America and beyond, no matter what your political persuasion, your political party, right or left, when I say, I’m tired of this Election. I am suffering and have been for quite a while now from Election Fatigue. Just once I’d like to watch television and during the commercial breaks see a wacky local car dealer who mistakenly thinks he should be in his own commercials. Or I’d like to see a commercial for Cialis with the couple sitting in adjoining bath tubs holding hands, which I’ve never really understood, if you’re on Cialis shouldn’t you be sitting in the same bathtub (the guns loaded, you need to pull the trigger)? Who would have thought I’d miss those commercials? All I see these days is point-counterpoint. I often see opposing politician’s commercials in the same break. Politician A accusing Politician B of being a traitorous bastard only to have the next commercial accuse Politician A of being the real traitorous bastard. None of this shit gives me a very positive vibe. I don’t know exactly when we became such a divided nation, but it appears to be getting worse.

Putting all the bile aside is becoming increasingly more difficult. I have stopped watching the news altogether, it’s too depressing. I am just pleased that in a mere five days, this great National Nightmare will be over. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely lucky to have been born and raised in a free, democratic country. The fact that every four years the populace is allowed to stand in line and go to the polls for a peaceful transfer of power is one of the greatest things on the planet. Not only is it a great thing, it’s a God damn inalienable right. But as much as I love Democracy, it took a whole lot of bourbon to get me through this one.

Well, if you’re like me, although I’m five days early, the only thing besides bourbon that’s going to get you through this negative, spiteful election is rock and roll. I’m not a political person per se. I vote, I always have, in every election from Reagan to Obama. I’m not tied to any party, I’m just looking for the best guy at the time. I like to think of myself as a hedonistic, moderate, centrist independent who enjoys fermented liquids and loud music. Although to the right I look like a communist and to the left, well I don’t know what I look like to them. I am genuinely concerned about the state and direction of my country.

In reaction to this Election season B&V put together a little play list with tunes that I feel should be taught in high school Political Science classes. The lessons may not sink in, but what a fun class. There’s not strident stuff here. In music I always lean a little more to the hippy, freedom, peace thing. I feel like peace and freedom is something both sides in this quad-annual tussle can agree on. And if you can’t agree on that, you probably aren’t a B&V reader in the first place. As usual, my play list is all over the place – loud/quiet, metal/acoustic… The Rock Chick is probably right, I shouldn’t do play lists… So if I’ve missed any of your favorite Political Science songs, please make suggestions in the comments. I’m always looking to expand these things.

  1. Alice Cooper, “Elected” – What better place to start than some manic hard 70’s rock and it sums up what the goal seems to have become.
  2. Little Steven, “I Am A Patriot” – My favorite song about politics. Jackson Browne does a great version as does Pearl Jam if you can find it on one of their live bootlegs.
  3. Jimi Hendrix, “Freedom” – That’s what it’s all about.
  4. Warren Zevon, “Disorder In the House” – “Helicopters hover over rough terrain,” great guitar solo by Springsteen.
  5. CSNY, “Stand And Be Counted” – Great hippy voting anthem.
  6. Ozzy Osbourne, “Civilize The Universe” – Ozzy’s plea for world peace & one of the Rock Chick’s favorites.
  7. The Cult, “Wake Up Time For Freedom” – From the great ‘Sonic Temple’ LP.
  8. Green Day, “Revolution Radio” – “I wanna revolution, I wanna hear it on the radio.”
  9. The Doors, “Five To One” – “They’ve got the guns but we’ve got the numbers.” I almost went with “Peace Frog,” which is funkier.
  10. Credence Clearwater Revival, “Fortunate Son” – Also love the Dead Daisies cover of this one.
  11. The Who, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” – We probably will be…
  12. John Mellencamp, “Hard Times For An Honest Man” – Amen.
  13. Bruce Springsteen, “We Take Care of Our Own” – Damn right we do.
  14. Fitz & The Tantrums, “Dear Mr. President” – One for the kids…
  15. Jackson Browne, “For America” – I always liked this track.
  16. Bob Marley & The Wailers, “Get Up Stand Up” – I could have included half his catalog…”Them Belly Full But We Hungry” springs to mind… I settled on this one.
  17. Sam Cooke, “A Change Is Gonna Come” – One of the greatest songs of all time.
  18. Little Feat, “A Apolitical Blues” – “The telephone is ringing, if it’s Chairman Mao, tell him I can’t talk right now.” Van Halen with Hagar did a great cover of this too.
  19. Pete Townshend, “Give Blood” – “Give blood, but soon you’ll find it’s not enough.”
  20. The Beatles, “Revolution” – There’s also “Revolution #1” for you more acoustically minded folks.
  21. Neil Young, “The Campaigner” – “Even Richard Nixon has got soul…” Did he? An acoustic gem from Neil.
  22. John Lennon, “Give Peace A Chance” – My hippy side is showing through…
  23. The Vaughn Brothers, “Tick Tock” – Stevie Ray with his brother Jimmy and a plea for a better world before the clock runs out. God we miss Stevie Ray Vaughn.
  24. Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth” – A little something for the paranoid.
  25. John Mellencamp, “Love And Happiness” – One of his best hard rock, political songs.
  26. Bob Dylan, “Political World” – Yes, I could have put all of Dylan’s first three albums on the list but I was trying to stay away from the acoustic guitar/harmonica stuff.
  27. John Lennon, “Imagine” – Well, you knew this was going to be on here.
  28. The Eagles, “On The Border” – “I’m just tryin’ to turn this water to wine…”
  29. The Clash, “Know Your Rights” – Something everyone should know.
  30. Randy Newman, “Political Science” – The funniest song ever written about geopolitics.
  31. Marvin Gaye, “What’s Goin’ On” – What the Hell is going on?
  32. Jackson Browne, “Lives In the Balance” – I double dipped on this record, one of my 80s favorites by Jackson.
  33. Bob Seger, “Long Song Comin'” – Great song about a blowhard politician. I can’t listen to one more speech.
  34. Cream, “Politician” – “Get into my big black car,” sounds more like a threat than an invite…
  35. Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Things Goin’ On” – “‘Cause there’s things goin’ on that you don’t know.” Great obscure track from their debut album.

If this track list isn’t to your liking, put on something that you do like. Season to taste, as they say. We all need a little music these days. If the Election doesn’t break the way you want it to – celebrate Veteran’s Day (aka Armistice Day) on Nov 11th like my pal Drummer Blake, by playing some loud rock and roll (Although in Blake’s case he’s actually playing the instruments not the radio, like me). At least Veteran’s Day is something we can all agree should be celebrated.

These are dark times… pour something strong and turn it up loud… Cheers!

My Fever Dream: Dark Days, A Hopeful Wedding And A Glimpse To The Future

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I love the fall. As the Red Hot Chili Peppers once sang, “autumn’s sweet, we call it fall, I’ll make it to the moon if I have to crawl.” Autumn is usually sweet for me. It’s a time for football and breaking out the dark and murky fluids… it’s my bourbon season. Even the holidays are great. Halloween is always fun (hello to all those Naughty Nurses out there and sincerely, thank you all) and who doesn’t love Thanksgiving. All I have to do on Thanksgiving is show up eat, drink too much and watch football. Besides Saint Patrick’s Day, Thanksgiving is the PERFECT holiday.

And yet this year I’m feeling more of the grim determination of the second part of that Chili Pepper’s quote, “I’ll make it to the moon if I have to crawl,” than my usual autumn joy. It’s been a bit a tough year this year. Things are pretty grim at the office… lay offs and more threatened. I’ve been traveling almost all of October for work and as usual have had my annual bronchial infection that knocked me on my ass. Perhaps it’s my illness that has me down. With the exception of going out west to see my wonderful daughter fall has been a drag.

I must admit that a lot of this dark juju I’m feeling stems from this year’s Presidential Election. I think I speak for everybody who isn’t a cable TV news commentator that I’m suffering from “Election Fatigue.” My wife, the Rock Chick won’t even watch the news any more. Dark pronouncements, anger and contention is really getting to be a drag. Even the local commercials are full of bile, lies and accusations. It’s like being in the middle of a divorce trial. Why is daddy yelling “wrong” at mommy, if you get what I mean. I’m not a political person per se. I never talk about religion or politics, but it’s just been impossible to avoid this year. It’s really set a dark vision of the future.

Against that back drop, my oldest and dearest friend Jack’s eldest daughter got married last weekend. I was honored to have been invited. I know that it makes me sound like a sentimental sap, dressed in a fluffy robe, clutching a half-empty bottle of Maker’s Mark, singing “Send in the clowns, there oughta be clowns…” when I say this, but I do love weddings. I was always that guy people called when they had an extra slot in the wedding party. “We need an extra usher… let’s call Ken, he’s fun… but keep him away from the Vicar…”

This particular wedding last weekend was a beautiful, hippy-esque ceremony, and I mean that in a good way. The ceremony was held outside under a copse of trees on a beautiful Indian Summer day. It was cloudy and a beautiful breeze pushed the leaves around. A gauzy tapestry of green and lime hung behind the make-shift alter. The groom danced down the aisle with a smile that lit up the park. They were playing a rap song I vaguely recognized (Hey, I’m a Stones guy…give me some slack) and there was a palpable sense of joy. It felt like the trees were dancing along with him in the breeze. Jack’s daughter looked glowing in her beautiful gown. The vows were beautiful and emotional. What can I say, I was moved. I felt something for the first time all fall, and frankly for the first time in a long time. I felt a glimmer of hope.

Weddings have always been hopeful affairs in my mind. The joining of two people into one couple, the merger of two disparate families. The wonderful ceremony where friends and family join to witness and consecrate the union. The joy emanating from the couple and their families is always contagious. I’m not a religious person, but weddings and funerals do bring about a spirit of community that’s possibly akin to religion. Despite all the horrible shit that’s happening in the world, these two kids, bravely and beautifully standing up in front of everyone they know, holding hands and vowing to share their lives together felt almost defiant in their hope. And that in turn, gives me strength.

I began to think of the Rock Chick and my future. Our daughter isn’t too much younger than Jack’s eldest. They knew each other slightly when they were growing up. I couldn’t help but wonder what the future holds for my daughter. She’s smart, educated and a hard worker. I don’t worry about her at all. But as I watched this new couple wed last weekend I wondered what that’ll be like when my own daughter gets married. As a step dad, my role in the wedding will likely be largely ceremonial, like paying for stuff, but it’ll be a life changing event. Then, inevitably there will come grandkids some day. I’m hopeful that’s a long way off. I was extremely immature when I married my wife (not that I’ve changed much since), and I like to say my stepdaughter and I grew up together… but grandkids? I’m not old enough for that yet…

I know a lot of people who are into this whole “grandparent” thing. They call themselves P-Paw or Nana or G-Maw… I want none of that shit. My daughter has always called me by my first name, Ken. I’m cool with that, as I never intended to supplant her dad. My vision of being grandparent, and this may seem odd, is based on the movie Cool Hand Luke. I don’t want my future grandkids to call me Grandpa, I want them to call me by the name I deserve – Boss Ken. I envision myself sitting in a big rocking chair out by the pool, straw hat on my head and mirror shades on, a large tumbler of bourbon that I’ll call “Boss Ken’s iced tea” in my hand. The children will call out to me things like “movin’ on into the pool now Boss Ken,” or “getting some water now Boss Ken.” They’ll whisper to each other things like “Don’t cross the man with no eyes…” like George Kennedy did. They’ll wonder why Boss Ken’s iced tea smells like gasoline. For their rapt obedience I shall reward them by teaching them about rock and roll. They’ll learn all of Jimi Hendrix’s catalog. I’ll sit in my rocking chair and say things like, “Wha, wha, what we have here is a failure to communicate. That’s the way this chirren wants it, well he gets it… he’s in timeout.” I’ll have to work on developing a southern accent.

In turn, my wife, who is the most elegant woman I know, should be called “The Duchess.” I think that’s better than Nana. I can see my future grand kids asking their mother, “Do we get to go and see the Duchess this weekend? She always has presents and baked goods for us…but is Boss Ken gonna be there? He said we were going to have to listen to something called “Goats Head Soup” this weekend… that doesn’t sound good.”

Oh yes, Boss Ken and the Duchess… this does give me great hope for the future and it has a nice ring to it. I can see it all so clearly now….Maybe it’s the excess of cough syrup I’ve been drinking.

It’s a long dark ride people. Keep your friends and family close and as always, Cheers!

LP Review: Van Morrison, “Keep Me Singing” Rock’s Curmudgeon’s Understated, Rootsy Return

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I have to admit upfront that the Rock Chick hates Van Morrison with the same passionate distaste she usually reserves for the Eagles. Oh well, no two people’s musical tastes are ever going to match up perfectly… with the Rock Chick and I, we’re a Venn Diagram… with significant overlap, thank God. I couldn’t be with anybody with crappy musical taste. I once stopped seeing a beautiful, rich girl after two dates because she liked Barry Manilow. Gads man, Barry Manilow. Somehow, I’ve digressed way off point here. Anyway, I love hard rock and heavy metal as much as the next rock and roller, but there are those moments that I need to turn the volume down. Those 3 am, everybody’s asleep and I’m out on the deck, waiting for the sun to come up and join me, with a tumbler of bourbon in my hand, ruminating about “the big questions.” Oddly, I never find any solutions out there, just more bourbon. For those moments I can’t hear screaming guitar. I need more contemplative music… like Peter Wolf’s “A Cure For Loneliness.” In a word, or in this case a name, I need some Van Morrison.

My college roomie, Drew was the one who turned me on to Van Morrison. He played me “Astral Weeks” for the first time and after that I was hooked. In his early days I’d say Van was second only to Bob Dylan as rock’s premier poet. There was something about that crazy, Irish mystic that I found irresistible. That voice… Those early records were simply transcendent. 1968’s “Astral Weeks” is as close as this pagan ever got to a religious experience. I felt like I was listening to a groovy jazz monk chanting. Van was an Irish Soul Man extraordinaire. Emphasis on the Soul… Van was a searcher, always reaching out for some truth that just exceeded his grasp. He expressed his longing for enlightenment in almost every thing he did.

“Moondance” from 1970 was his best known LP and his other masterpiece but he did a lot of other great work. “His Band And the Street Choir” is a great, great album, that was a heavy influence on both Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger. Seger even covered “I’ve Been Workin'” from that LP on “Live Bullet.” It’s hard to exaggerate Van’s influence on popular music in the ’70s. “Tupelo Honey” is one of the most romantic songs I’ve ever heard. If it weren’t for the Rock Chick’s antipathy for Van, we would have danced to that song at our wedding. As it turns out, I snuck a Van song in for that first dance with “Have I Told You Lately,” but I used the Rod Stewart version.

That purple creative patch that Van had during the late 60’s, early 70’s drew to a close around the time he recorded “St Dominic’s Preview” in ’72. That was another set of mostly long tracks full of mystic poetry. “Listen To the Lion” still blows me away. Shortly after that he recorded one of the greatest live albums ever, “Too Late To Stop Now.” Do yourself a favor and pick that one up. Turn it up loud and just…groove, baby. He called his band in those days the Caledonia Soul Orchestra and they sounded like nobody else.

After that period Van’s music was kind of hit and miss for me. It’s hard to sustain that kind of creative genius. I know he went through a divorce somewhere in there. Like Dylan, he even went through a Christian period, although not quite as overt and strident as Dylan. I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise, the spiritual had always mixed with the sensual in Van’s music. But as I said, it was always a little inconsistent for me. For every great album like “Poetics Champions Compose,” or “Enlightenment” there was a “How Long Has This Been Going On,” or worse, “Days Like This.” I sort of consigned Van to the past. I continued to cherish those early albums but gave up on hearing anything new and exciting from him. His personality turned sour and he became the quintessential curmudgeon. I was waiting for him to record a song entitled “You Kids Get Off of My Lawn.” His latest interview with Rolling Stone can only be described as “prickly.” He’s always got that porkpie hat on… It’s like he’s channeling Boris from the old Bullwinkle cartoons. Bitter party of Van…your table is ready.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere Van released “Down The Road” in 2002. It was jazzy, bluesy and Van sounded really committed. It’s like suddenly he was focused and trying again. He even evinced a sense of humor on that record on songs like “Whatever Happened To PJ Proby.” Van wasn’t breaking any new, transcendent ground here, he was just playing great music. He continued that streak with 2003’s “What’s Wrong With This Picture,” another jazzy, rootsy album. It was official in my mind, Van was on a hot streak. This was the kind of late career stuff that inspired B&V. He capped all of that off with “Magic Time” which was a return to those mystic, searching grand songs of his early period. “Magic Time” really blew me away. “Gypsy In My Soul” from that record is a song they should play at my funeral.

His follow up album, “Keep It Simple” was still strong but it paled in comparison to the three preceding LPs. Other than a great live performance of the entire “Astral Weeks” album recorded at the Hollywood Bowl I slipped away from Van again. He put out a critically lauded album, “Born To Sing: No Plan B” but I thought, if he couldn’t bother to come up with a better album title than that, why bother. If Van wasn’t going to make the effort, why should I? He followed that up with “Duets: Reworking the Catalog,” which screamed “cashing in,” although the critics were very kind to that record as well. It wasn’t like he was recording with Lady Gaga or any current pop singer. He mostly recorded with old friends and did obscure deep album tracks so perhaps my judgment on that LP was a bit harsh. I did pick up the song “Streets of Arklow” from that disc, the duet with Mick Hucknall from Simply Red – and believe me, I know how that sentence looks (Simply Red?) – and it’s an amazing song. I almost want to put on a kilt when I hear that one… almost.

I was in my car a few weeks ago, with the satellite radio on when I heard, “Too Late” a rollicking bluesy thing from Van’s new album “Keep Me Singing.” I really liked that song. It was catchy, well sung and gave me hope for another great LP from Van. I must admit, he’s delivered just that. This is not a party record, or a screaming guitar album. It’s Van’s usual mix of jazz, blues and Sinatra-era pop standards, a truly rootsy brew that is great late night music. Listening to “Keep Me Singing” makes me feel like I just walked into the basement music joint in Westport, Blaney’s, and the band is grooving. Van’s music is so anachronistic these songs could have been recorded 40 years ago or 40 days ago. Just hearing this album, makes me want to go up on the roof and pour a bourbon and it’s not even 3am.

There is a palpable sense of longing on this album. It’s not melancholic, but Van is clearly missing someone or some period of time, now distant and past. “Every Time I See A River” and “Out In the Cold” are both great “I still miss someone” songs. “Out In the Cold” is a true stand out here. “Memory Lane” again looks to the past as the title would obviously suggest. “In Tiburon” harkens back to Van’s halcyon San Francisco period as he name checks people and spots where he used to hang and “Going Down to Bangor” also is tied to Belfast memories. Van actually quotes the old spiritual “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…” in the great song “Holy Guardian Angel.” While this all sounds like sad stuff, it doesn’t come across that way. The title track is another of Van’s songs about reaching out for something just out of his grasp. His voice is spectacular as always. His “instrument” has aged quite well. I love his bluesy growl on “Going Down to Bangor” and “The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword.” I just wish John Lee Hooker was still alive to have done one of those with Van as a duet…

While the theme here seems to be looking back, perhaps longingly, it’s with a certain joy. I don’t sense regret here. It’s more of an acknowledgement of the impact the past can have on you, on all of us really. It’s all heady stuff and really enjoyable music, if you dig music grounded in the traditions of jazz and blues. This is a triumph for Van to put out something this strong at this stage in the game. I always worry about craft over creativity with Van, but in this case, creativity wins out. There’s passion on this record.

Pick up “Keep Me Singing,” pour something strong after everyone has gone to bed and head out to the deck… those “big questions” need contemplation and this is just the soundtrack you need.

Cheers!

The Cult: Hidden City Live, Kansas City

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Editor’s Note: While blogging about drinking and rock and roll is OK, blogging while drinking and listening to rock and roll isn’t always great… We’ll try to restrain Mr. B&V from his drunken, ecstatic post-concert ramblings, like those below, but we can’t guarantee anything…

Man, what a shitty week I was having… and then live rock n roll happens and everything is ok…

I took the Rock Chick out tonight to see the Cult on what was our second show on the “Alive In The Hidden City Tour” tonight… our first show was in Chicago back in, I believe April or maybe March. What a difference 5 months can prove to be. Many of the same songs were played, but in a much different order and with a lot looser approach. Noticeably missing was “Dark Energy” which is the first song on “Hidden City” and was the opening song in Chicago…

We stood next to a couple of guys, Sean and Terence who hadn’t seen the Cult since the “Sonic Temple” tour, many years ago. It was great to meet two guys who were inspired by Billy Duffy to pick up the guitar and start a band. I may have had way too much vodka tonight but as I write this I’m pretty sure I’m still going to be impressed by all of this in the morning. Wow, what a healing experience a concert is. All the tension I was feeling is gone now.

The Cult were loose and clearly having fun. This was the first show I’d seen them from up in a balcony, instead of down on the floor amongst the masses. The difference in viewpoint was startling. Billy Duffy was just man-handling the guitar tonight and I mean that in a good way. From my elevated view point I could see Ian Astbury and the joyous dancing he was doing. He was more animated than I’d seen him since the “Beyond Good and Evil” tour when I first saw these guys live. Tonight’s show may have even topped that first Cult show on “BGE” but that may be the vodka talking.

Highlights for me tonight were “Deeply Ordered Chaos” and “GOAT” (the first encore tune) from the new album. These are tunes that they should play in every show from now on. I also liked the loose, jammy version of “Sweet Soul Sister” they played, but I should mention the Rock Chick doesn’t like that sort of thing, and was vocal about Ian’s loose approach tonight. I thought it was great, but hey, I’m full of Ketel One…. “Fire Woman” was the crowd pleaser it always is. “Rain” is another personal favorite of mine, as is “Phoenix” both from the “Love” album.

Ian, at one point, asked if we had a “rock station” in KC…and further pondered why they wouldn’t play the new Cult album. I have to ask the same question… He said he was as depraved and debauched as anybody else, why not play the Cult’s “Hidden City?” Again, I have to ask the same question. It’s great to hear hard rock played live, why not play some of that music on the damn radio…

If you haven’t already done so, pick up “Hidden City” on vinyl, CD or iTunes, and turn it up loud…

Cheers!