Summer Drinking: The Food Center Liquor Store, Brookline, MA

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“Time is a jet plane it moves so fast” – Bob Dylan, “You’re A Big Girl Now”

I was texting with my drummer friend yesterday. He’d read my review of the RHCP’s new song, “Dark Necessities” and had reached out. Like me, he’s a huge fan of bands with strong rhythm sections like the Who, Rush, Rock Garden and of course, the RHCPs. Give me that bottom. He was complaining about the overly-produced sound of the drums. I have to admit that Danger Mouse put so much polish on the record I can almost see my reflection in it, but I still love the song. It’s in high rotation here at the house. He then mentioned his band had a gig that night, and said, “It’s almost like summer, man!”

Ah, summer. It always makes me think of Boston and the Food Center Liquor Store, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

There’s nothing better than summer drinking. And while I have to consume some bourbon today (I’m working on a “deconstructed” mint julep, straight bourbon from the bottle with a peppermint in my mouth) for the Kentucky Derby, the world’s greatest sporting event, when summer comes it’ll be time to put away the dark liquors and heavy beers. Time to dust off the vodka lemonades and the Blue Moon. I would suggest buying stock in Ketel One immediately, they’re about to have a sales surge. When summer comes to the Midwest the entire region opens like a flower.

This time of year always takes me back. It’s not only summer’s arrival, but the fact that it’s graduation season takes me back to my own college graduation.  At the time, I took all the money I’d been gifted for graduating and bought a ticket to fly to Boston to join my buddies Matthew and GP who were both living out there. Matthew was in Law School and GP was peddling soft drinks. I had somehow convinced GP to move out there with me…I’m not sure he’s forgiven me yet. My corporate overlords didn’t need me until September, so I thought, “What the Hell, why not?” Once I arrived in Boston and got myself ensconced at the apartment the three of us shared on Commonwealth Avenue, I immediately spent the rest of my Graduation Money at the used record store two blocks up from us, “In Your Ear.” I found all the Faces records on vinyl I’d been searching for in that used record store and I can close my eyes and still see myself standing there, mouth agape at my “huge” discovery. Unfortunately spending all my money on used albums wasn’t going to sustain me for the summer in super-expensive Boston.

Matthew and I went to the local grocery store on the outskirts of Brookline, the birthplace of JFK, and after watching Matthew fail while hitting on the beautiful, Hispanic store clerk, I noticed a “Help Wanted” sign on the window of the liquor store adjacent. My reduced circumstances made me bold and I strolled in and inquired after the opening. I was told the job was in the “other store,” two miles away, in the main village square of Brookline.

The next day, I set off on my adventure to find the Brookline Food Center Liquor Store. I walked for what seemed like forever until I finally spotted it, situated on a main street, next to a police station which I regarded with suspicion at the time. I strolled in and a man with sunglasses on (while inside) and a 70’s porno-star mustache was behind the register. I introduced myself and asked about the job. Being from Kansas, I had always thought I had no accent at all. Apparently to this hardened, Boston liquor store owner I sounded like I’d just wandered in off the plantation in Mississippi. He probably couldn’t delineate between Mississippi or Missouri as I was to find out later… He smiled at me and immediately started on my accent… “You ain’t from around here are you (it sounded like “ah yoo”)? You from down South somewhere?” I told him I was from Kansas and that was suddenly my name, “Kansas.” I asked again for the job and he replied “Uh, Ok Kansas, you uh, wanted for anything criminal? I got cop friends, I’ll know so don’t fucking lie to me.”His Boston accent was so thick I struggled to understand him. It took a while to adjust (he kept saying Food Center as Food Centah). It was an odd interview question. I replied that I had no record and I wasn’t wanted for anything criminal… well, nothing that would stick. “Ok Kansas, welcome to the Food Centah, you start (staht) tomorrow, be here at 3pm.” I had a job!

The next day, and really for the rest of the summer, it was my job to show up at the liquor store and a) stock the beer fridge and b) take the Massachusettes 5 cent beer can returns. The man with the mustache who was named Doug but referred to himself as “Uncle Chico” explained it to me my first day. He took me out of the cooler to the front of the beer display. We stood a few feet back and he said, “Kansas, look at that, do you see any gaps in the beer coolah?” There were none. “Thats how I wanna see my coolah from now on, no gaps.” I was literally responsible for walking into the cooler and pushing six packs forward so people could easily reach them. Every now and again, I’d get busy with beer can returns and I’d hear, in that thick Boston accent, “Kansas, Kansas?” and I’d run out to the store floor from the back cubby hole where we took returns and he would always say, when he was upset about the beer cooler, “Do you love Uncle Chico? Do you love Uncle Chico?” There was only one reply, I’d mumble “Yes, I love Uncle Chico…” “Then, uh, Kansas, will you do the fucking beer coolah, I see gaps.”

There were a group of guys that I worked with, salt of the earth guys, Kenny, Wardy, and Matt. The guy who was the night manager was named Murph. One was an artist, one was going to be a cop and one of the others was always looking for a construction job. People always speak of folks from the East being cold or stand-offish but those guys embraced me almost immediately. I have to admit they asked me if I grew up on a farm, I was from Kansas after all. I had to explain I didn’t grow up with a cow in my yard. I used to tell them the only thing different between Kansas and Boston was that in Kansas everything was in black and white and here in Boston everything was in color. They liked the Wizard of Oz comedy…

These guys went out drinking every night. The liquor store closed at 11pm and everyone on the shift was allowed to drink one beer of their choice. It was where I really developed a taste for good beer – not this American piss that passes for beer here – but good, exotic beers from far away places. That one beer after shift usually led us to the bar across the street. After the first couple of nights drinking with these guys, on a Tuesday night, I demurred when Matt asked me where we were gonna get beers later. He looked stunned when I said I was just gonna walk home. “Kansas, what the fuck are (ah) you talking about? It’s summah (summer)… you drink… you know, with your friends.” It was wisdom I carry with me to today. It’s what I always think of when I think of summer drinking. I was embarrassed I’d been so stupid and said “no” and at the same time I was honored that these guys had already accepted me as a friend. Although, I must confess they continued to ask me if Kansas was in the South… apparently I had an accent I was unaware of and they don’t teach geography in the Boston schools.

Now, here I am, all these years later and I’m on the cusp of summer. Another summer has snuck up on me. I’m not sure where all the time went… It slips away, people. Dylan was right, “time is a jet plane.” I’m happy, with a great family and my job now doesn’t entail pushing six-packs forward to the sound of “do you love Uncle Chico?” Although I have to admit, pushing six-packs forward was a lot more fun and it didn’t keep me up at night…

I always try to remember the wisdom of the Food Centah…. And, I hope you all will remember this wisdom folks – “It’s summah (summer), you drink beer, you know, with your friends.”

Cheers!

The Faces Reunion Show for Prostate.UK, a Recap

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I think it’s pretty obvious if you’ve read any of BourbonAndVinyl, I’m obsessed with Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood’s former band, The Faces. How great was it to see this picture on Rod Stewart’s Twitter account of Rod, Ronnie and drummer Kenny Jones taken after their reunion show for the charity, Prostate.UK. If you look closely, you’ll spot a glass of wine in Rod’s hand… ah, just like the old days.

From what I’ve read, it appears that the Faces only rehearsed for a couple of hours before the show. They only played for about 45 minutes in what was a rough and shambolic set. Under-rehearsed, a bit sloppy and Rod has a glass of wine in his hand – so, basically a typical Faces show. 40 years down the road and nothing has changed.

The set list was brief, but man, was it great. Here’s a picture of the setlist, again taken from Rod Stewart’s twitter feed:

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  1. I Feel So Good – off of their second album, my favorite, Long Player, I think this song had to sum up the mood of the band.
  2. You Can Make Me Dance – one of my favorite of their songs. It was wasted as a single and wasn’t released on an album until Rod’s boxset, Storyteller
  3. Ooh La La – the title track of the Faces final album, although Rod did cover this on When We Were the New Boys as a tribute to his fallen comrade, Ronnie Lane. This song was written by Ronnie Lane, but on the album sung by Ronnie Wood. I love that Wes Anderson played this song over the credits of his movie “Rushmore”.
  4. I’d Rather Go Blind – People forget what a great blues singer Rod is. This song was off his 4th solo LP, Never a Dull Moment, but all the Faces played on it and it was a staple of Faces concerts from way back. Great selection!
  5. I Know I’m Losing You – Great Temptations cover with some mammoth drumming from Kenny Jones. Again, a Rod solo track, but the Faces backed him on this track too.
  6. Stay With Me – their biggest “hit”, although they were never a hit-single kind of band. This is probably the only Faces tune people broadly know.
  7. Sweet Little Rock ‘n’ Roller – a raucous cover of Chuck Berry from Rod’s final solo album on the  Mercury label. Again, a live staple of the Faces live sets and some of Ronnie Wood’s best guitar work.

I love the selection. An even spread between Rod tunes and Faces tunes. Just like the old days. I don’t know what this holds for future Faces reunions, but I hope it sparks something with these guys. Rod played a show a week or so later at BBC2 Live In Hyde Park and his set list included: “Ooh La La”, “I Know I’m Losing You”, “Gasoline Alley”, “Angel” (his Hendrix cover from Never a Dull Moment), and “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” an old blues cover. There were also some of his, what I consider, weaker tunes, but it does appear the Faces reunion did spark some of that old classic Rod spirit. I love both of the new songs I’ve heard from his upcoming Another Country. Fingers crossed!

The Faces – Had Me a Real Good Time

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It’s strange how a man’s “train of thought” works….

I was at yet another party tonight, it was maybe the tenth in 2 weeks, celebrating my wife’s birthday. Her birthday has become more of a festival than a birth “day”. I was sitting at the end of a very crowded table when someone who was discussing current events leaned over and asked me if I’d heard of “Operation Chokehold”. I was taken aback but responded quickly, “Hey, I’m no stranger to rough sex, I came of age in the 80’s… My safe word, was ‘umbrella’…” Well, apparently his question had something to do with a federal investigation not S&M. Oh, well, times change.

Reflecting back on such things, pleasurable things, had me thinking of what a good time it had all been. Pretty soon a song by The Faces had popped into my head, “Had Me a Real Good Time.” The lyrics seemed to resonate: “I was glad to come, I’ll be sad to leave, so while I’m here, I’ll have me a real good time…” Are these not words to live by? The Faces are probably rock n roll’s greatest overlooked band of all time. And so, sitting at this table full of friends, I began to think of the new box set that just came out, You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything: 1970 to 1975. I’m not sure how I got there from my wife’s birthday, but there you have it, a man’s train of thought is a wonderful thing.

The Small Faces, not to be confused with the Faces, were formed in 1965 and consisted of Kenny Jones (drums), Ronnie Lane (bass/vocals), Ian McLagan (keyboards) and Steve Marriott (guitar/lead vocals). They were all short guys, hence the “small” in Small Faces. They had a series of hits and were very popular with the Mods, very stylish 60’s London kids. The Who were also very popular with the Mods, and Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane were actually close friends. In 1969 Steve Marriott up and quit the Small Faces to form a new band, with twin lead guitars, with a gentlemen named Peter Frampton. Hmm, that name seems familiar. Anyway, the Small Faces were devastated. Undaunted they began to seek another front man and guitarist.

Meanwhile, in another part of London, in 1967, recently sacked Yardbirds guitar wizard Jeff Beck formed a band creatively named, The Jeff Beck Group. He found a young singer and realized that while his guitar would bring in the dudes, a good looking singer would bring in the chicks. (Jimmy Page was watching closely…see Robert Plant). He finally found his man in Rod Stewart. Yes, that Rod Stewart. On bass guitar was none other than Ronnie Wood, later of Rolling Stones fame. They had various drummers, the most lasting being Mickey Waller. Jeff Beck and the record company basically treated Rod, Ronnie Wood, and the rest of the band like ‘sidemen’ and Jeff was “mercurial” to say the least. The band was slated to play Woodstock but Jeff Beck, who was partial to fast cars, wrecked one and was injured and had to cancel. In the interim Rod Stewart recorded his first solo album in ’69, creatively named, The Rod Stewart Album. After Beck fired Wood, The Jeff Beck Group was no more.

Somehow, Ronnie Wood ended up hooking up with the remaining Small Faces, Lane/McLagan/Jones and joined, not on bass but on his true instrument, lead guitar. Rod started dropping by rehearsals, at first sitting down the hall in the control room, and finally taking the walk down the hall to join in. Suddenly the Small Faces were now The Faces. Rod and Ronnie were a head taller than the rest of the band, so “small” no longer seemed appropriate. Rod still had a solo contract with Mercury records, the first artist to actually have a dual career – in a group and solo – which would spell their doom. They released a Faces album and Rod released a solo album every year between 70 and 75.

Which leads me to the box, You Can Make Dance… which compiles all four of their original studio albums, First Step, Long Player, A Wink Is As Good As a Nod (To a Blind Horse), Ooh La La. It’s, in my mind, a companion piece to 2004’s box set Five Guys Walk Into a Bar. Five Guys Walk Into a Bar is the best box set out there, with the possible exception of Bob Dylan’s Biograph. Five Guys Walk… is the greatest snapshot of who the Faces were – it has b-sides, non album singles, album tracks, rehearsals, BBC live tracks – it’s simply brilliant. The new box set, You Can Make Me Dance… perfectly compliments that with the studio albums. Buy this on vinyl – the album covers alone are worth the price. I especially like the Ooh La La cover, when you push down on the front the guy in the top hat makes a funny face ala Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame.

First Step was the first album by the Faces, despite being called the Small Faces on the album cover. It has the great, great songs, Three Button Hand Me Down, Flying, Shake Shudder Shiver, and the Dylan cover Wicked Messenger. Its a typical first album, but it gels perfectly. These guys had to know they were onto something magical. On this enhanced version there are several unreleased songs, mostly rehearsals and early takes but there are a few hidden gems: Behind the Sun and Mona – The Blues are amazing outtakes. Even if you have this record, those songs make this worth the purchase.

Long Player- This one is my favorite. From the opening track Bad and Ruin, which was once used on The Sopranos, to Tell Everybody and Sweet Lady Mary, this album is a stone-cold classic. I think the only reason it wasn’t more popular was because several of the tracks were recorded live – an attempt by The Faces to capture their incendiary live chemistry. There are two fabulous bonus tracks on this album in the box, both live from the Fillmore East, Too Much Woman and Love In Vain (the old Robert Johnson standard made famous by the Stones). These are great additions to the Faces canon.

A Wink Is As Good As A Nod (To a Blind Horse) – This was their best known and highest selling record. Their only “hit”, Stay With Me is on this record. Ronnie Lane turns in his best song, Debris, with a beautiful harmony by Rod. The Faces even cover Chuck Berry on Memphis. It doesn’t get much better than this album. I will say, the 2 bonus tracks here were available on Five Guys Walk Into a Bar… but this record is so perfect it doesn’t need extra track adornment.

Finally, Ooh La La. The band was in conflict. Rod’s solo career had taken off with Maggie May and Ronnie Lane, the heart and soul of this band, felt his songs were under appreciated. There was a lot of “you save your best stuff for the solo albums” talk going on. Rod was starting to check out as the hostility was too much. Keith Richards was hanging out with Ronnie and pretty soon Mick Jagger was around to coax Ronnie into the Stones after Mick Taylor bolted. All the drama aside, I love his record. The title track is pure Ronnie Lane. Silicone Grown (about fake tits) and Cindy Incidentally are Stewart/Wood classic compositions. If I’m on the Late Side may be one of Rod’s best songs. Of the bonus tracks, John Lennon’s Jealous Guy, a Faces live staple, from 1973’s Reading Festival is the standout bonus track.

My advice – if you haven’t bought Five Guys Walk Into a Bar, do so immediately. My further advice, buy this one first. Start with these great 4 studio albums, plus bonus tracks and build to the other box set. Rod Stewart was at his creative zenith with these guys and the pay off with this band is worth it.

Tonight, or rather last night in England, Ronnie Wood, Kenny Jones and Rod got together and played a concert for charity, to raise money for prostate cancer in the UK. It’s the first time the Faces, with Rod Stewart, have played together since the late 80s. I’ve prayed for this reunion for years. Sadly, Ronnie Lane and Ian McLagan have passed away. But the rest of the lads got up and bashed away tonight. I can only hope someone had a tape recorder. And maybe, just maybe Rod will finally put the money aside and record some new music with his old mates before it’s too late. Regardless of whether they ever do anything together again… listening to the Faces…well, I had me a real good time….

Stray Cats (Random Music Notes) – Keef, The Faces, Rod and JT

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As I mentioned in the ‘Mission Statement’ for Bourbon And Vinyl, I am very focused on older artists making new music. These older “classic rock” artist’s new music tends to get overlooked or ignored completely these days. I have already tried to shine a light on the amazing Fats Domino tribute album, Goin’ Home and will from time to time try to throw some light on other newer music from the artists who have meant the most to me. Occasionally this will take the form of what I call “Stray Cats”, named for the great Rolling Stones tune, which is my way of organizing a few random thoughts.

Keith Richards has a new album coming out in September, Crosseyed Heart. Keith’s first solo album, Talk Is Cheap was a tour de force. It’s been described as the best Stones album not made by the Stones. His follow-up Main Offender didn’t quite have the same energy as Talk, but still had some great tracks like, 999 and Demon. I don’t know what the new album will hold but I can not stop listening to the first track, Trouble. It’s a classic Keith riff. He’s working with his old buddy and X-Pensive Wino partner Steve Jordan on the production. Jordan also provides some great drumming on this track. Intrepid studio guitarist Waddy Watchel (Steve Nicks, Don Henley, Warren Zevon) provides some Mick Taylor-esque guitar solo’ing. This tune is just fun to turn up loud. It doesn’t hurt that it could be the theme song for my wife’s cat, but that’s another story and I don’t want to get off topic.

One of rocks greatest and most overlooked bands, The Faces, has finally answered my prayers and will reunite. Well, I should say partially reunite as Ian MacLagan sadly passed away last year and Ronnie Lane passed away quite a long time ago. The Faces boasted Rod Stewart as their front man, Ronnie Wood (later of Stones fame) on guitar, Kenny Jones (later of the Who) on drums, with MacLagan on keyboards and Lane on bass. The period of 1970 to 1975 when the Faces were together were not coincidentally the time period of Rod’s greatest solo work. These guys have been rumored to be getting back together for years but it always gets scuttled at the last minute. Rod didn’t even show up when they were inducted to the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. I tend to agree with Ronnie Wood that Rod’s money guys and handlers don’t want him doing anything where he has to split the check. So we have to settle for a one night, one-off reunion for Prostate Cancer in the UK on Sept 5th. Lets hope a) someone has the sense to tape these guys and b) that this might spur on some further Faces activity in 2016.

Speaking of Rod Stewart, he also has a new album coming out in October, Another Country. Have no fear Rod isn’t going country music on us. Many of us had given up on Rod Stewart when he quit writing his own songs and then started doing those awful American Songbook schmaltzy, crap records. While writing his autobiography Rod apparently became inspired to write again and released the album Time a few years ago. Well, I’d given up on Rod but since I’d been publicly bitching about him not writing his own stuff any more, when he finally did, I felt obligated to buy the album. And I’ll tell you what, I was damn surprised. It was a solid record. Now, apparently inspired by current events, Rod wrote a collection of songs from the view point of soldiers who are away from home, in “another country”, hence the title. Rod has always been a fan of the “letter to home” style songs, just put on You Wear It Well as a refresher. His first single from the song is another tune that’s in high rotation at the house. Its a Mumford-y thing called Love Is. You can find the video on YouTube. I shouldn’t like this song as much as I do, but damn is it catchy. It’s a very folky tune, back to his roots. I have no idea what the album will be like, but this catchy Love Is has me hopeful.

Finally, James Taylor has also returned to writing his own music. He hadn’t released an album in like 10 years but returned recently with Before This World. Now, James isn’t exactly rock ‘n’ roll, but the guy sings like an angel. I used to put on his Greatest Hits album, and it was money with the ladies… of course, those records are sealed. The new album is brief at only 10 songs, and it sort of quickly glides by but its a solid effort. It’s nothing earth shaking but its a pleasant album for a hungover Sunday. And I will admit, my daughter came in the room while I was playing this album and said, “I feel this is a guy we only listen to at Christmas…” Out of the mouths of babes, as they say.

Thus concludes the Stray Cats for today. My advice is check out a few of these tunes. You may find something you like. Enjoy!