From sweet and smooth classics, to new names, to old names with new music...the focus here, is to shine a little light on some damn fine music.

I'll find it. You can listen, review, or tell me I wouldn't know good music if it kicked me in the ass. I personally don't give a shit.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

House of Essex: Blending Musical Influences, Creating a New Sound

Learning that Maplewood, NJ had become a hotspot for music and musical talent surprised no one more than this New Jersey native. But apparently, it has. Starting with a two-day music festival called Maplewoodstock now nine years old, the township of Maplewood, located twenty miles outside of New York City, is quietly becoming a landing spot for musicians. This year’s Maplewoodstock provided the debut performance of local band House of Essex, an eclectic, vintage rock band oozing with talent and experience.

House of Essex lead vocalist, songwriter and keyboardist Tim Welch, formed the group, adding each complementary member slowly and methodically. Veteran drummer David Longworth was the first on board, bringing the experience of playing nationally and internationally with renowned artists such as Phoebe Snow, Southside Johnny and Bruce Springsteen. David also can be found playing with LaBamba and the Hubcaps. Bassist Gregory Jones involvement with top tier artists goes back to Sly & the Family Stone. With Brazilian, Cuban, Afro and Funk influences, Gregory adds his unique style with David’s in creating a first-class rhythm section. Guitarist Courtney Sappington does more than just play guitar, he creates punctuation with it. Think exclamation point. A veteran of Broadway orchestras, Courtney has also toured extensively with artists from Garland Jeffries to Bobby Womack. Lora McFarlane-Tazewell brings her R&B, Soul, Jazz and Reggae influences into the band, empowering her rich vocal range.
While each member of the House of Essex equation is a skilled, stand-alone musician, the sum of its parts is absolute magic. The band sat down for a talk about beginnings, creativity and of course…music.

Kats's Theory: You all come from various musical backgrounds with huge amounts of experience. How did you all actually meet?
David Longworth
David: I was doing a local collegiate theatre prep production, I was in the pit and Tim was the conductor. We met at a great time, hooked up and he said “Well, I was thinking, do you do drum lessons? Why don’t you come over and do a drum lesson?” So I said sure. I go over there to do one lesson and he says ”Well I have some original tunes, you want to hear them…maybe you could do the recording on some of my tunes.” I said yeah and we started getting to know each other in a different kind of way. In one of the sessions he goes “Would you know a bass player around?”Gregory is someone I’ve known for years, more professionally than anything else, and I said I’ll give him a call. Greg came over and the three of us for six months every Thursday from 10-12, we got together working out tunes. I mean religiously. And it ain’t about money or anything else, we didn’t even know if we were gonna gig or anything like that. We just really enjoyed each other’s company, musically speaking and personally. We started to form a sort of bond and some of the songs on the CD were from the original trio thing.

Tim plays everything: the guitar, piano, keyboards. We started to think we really had something going here, if we wanted to play live, how are we gonna recreate all the stuff that he (Tim) does? That’s when we started thinking about guitar players. Courtney is somebody I’ve known for decades at gigs, and Gregory has known him too, and they're all Maplewood (NJ) people.

Kat’s Theory: And Lora, when did you come into the group?
Lora McFarlane-Tazewell
Lora: Tim is my vocal coach and I started working with him, I think it’s going on two years. I was working on getting back into singing and I was prepping for a special recording project. It was like a godsend to be able to work with him. Then he started working on this project and asked me if I’d like to be a part of it, because he knew that I really wanted to sing with a band.

Kat’s Theory: House of Essex bills itself as an eclectic, vintage rock band, which I think is pretty accurate. Tell me how you ended up going in that direction. 
Tim: You know it’s funny, our first gig out, we played 15 songs I think, all originals. Now our library of 17 or 18 songs are even more diverse than what we play in our 6 or 7 song set. The songs all came over a time period of maybe five years of writing. They were never necessarily ready for any purpose other than I have a creative idea. I’d be inspired by an artist and write a song

Tim Welch
Then it became a matter with the group, it was sort of “let’s try out these songs” and they really became more of a skeleton, or a template around which this sound that we have now kind of happened. Courtney’s addition was really a huge sonic change to the music. He brings a very specific, unique to his own playing, sort of style of guitar playing that added a thumbprint to the sound. And Gregory has a distinct style of playing; it’s not always straight rock, it’s not always jazz, not always Motown, it’s a real hybrid type of thing. So the songs that were all scattered in the beginning, were thrown into this fusion of whatever harmonic and sonic things that were happening with us getting together. So the sound hasn’t really been a formulated or calculated “let’s go this or that route” per se, because I’ll write a song and drop it into the machine, and out comes whatever House of Essex sounds like now. It becomes its own thing.

Kat’s Theory: "Right to Love You," I love the heavy keys at the beginning, then Courtney comes in with the accent of the guitar. As opposed to most rock songs, with the heavy guitar and the keys come in as an afterthought. Is that a trial and error kind of thing, or just absolute genius on your part?
Courtney: Oh, it’s just trial and error. It’s just accident really. It just comes out. I hope it just sounds good.
Tim: We’re still changing things all the time and it’s very much feeling it out. We’re interjecting ideas all the time. We just changed “Learn From You.” Lora’s going to sing the second half of the verses now, as opposed to me singing all of the verses. We just did that about 20 minutes ago before you called and it was like “that’s kind of perfect.” So it’s very organic.

Courtney Sappington
David: And then we’re trying to find the right key to make the vocals and the song fit and feel the best, so it’s all part and parcel. But I think the overall thing, is there’s an element of trust here that’s a rare kind of quality that allows you to go out on a ledge and still feel like there’s always a safety net around you. It’s because people are going to take your ideas seriously, give their best effort and let the chips fall where they may. And if it sounds good, it sounds good. But we’re really getting to the point where we are really trusting each other along the way. I think that’s one of the essential ingredients to this kind of thing. 

Kat's Theory: Now do you think that it’s coming from the fact that you guys are not kids and have been around the block, or is it that you think you have the exact right group right now?
Lora: A Combination
David: Yeah a combination that’s extremely rare. I can get in the room with four or five other men and women who I might know really well, but we might just not find that kind of quality. It really is almost an unspoken thing. To find it, it’s a really rare quality.

Kat’s Theory: Either during the recording process or in rehearsal, what was that moment like when you looked at each other and said “Yeah, this works. This is gonna be good”
Tim: It was in the beginning, we had a good time playing, getting together and experimenting on things, but I don’t think it was until we actually heard the first rough mix of “Right to Love You.” And we were like “Holy Cow, this kind of sounds cool.” I think maybe that was the moment when we thought maybe we had created something cool.
David: The three of us (Tim, David, Gregory) were all kind of reacting the same kind of way

Kat’s Theory: Tim, how do you do this? You have vocal studios, you teach, you have three bands in progress, you are trying to get a cabaret act going with your wife Elizabeth, and you have a life. How is this even possible?
Tim: I’m not a big fan of sleep and I love coffee. First of all, I have an extremely understanding and supportive wife, that I am happily married to, and she really supports my music projects a lot. As far as my creative time, she’s on Broadway, so she working in the evenings and my daughter goes down about quarter to nine or so. Then until she (Elizabeth) gets home around 11:30, that is a very sort of protected time for me. That’s my creative time: mixing songs, recording, writing music. I also have some time during the day. It’s all a juggling thing I guess like it is with all of us. You’re balancing spending enough time with the family, enough time on this project, that project. It’s the same that we’re all doing. I just drink a lot of coffee.

Kat’s Theory: Gregory, Your bio mentions Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, Jazz and Funk among your strengths. I can't think of any better influences for a bassist. Did you naturally drift into those genres or was it a case of being handed an opportunity?
Gregory: In the case of jazz, I grew up in Boston at a time when jazz was everywhere, and very accessible. Funk, and Soul, was the music we all heard on the radio, as well as more sophisticated bands like Steely Dan, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, and the like were played on college radio.

Gregory Jones
Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, African, and various other world music, was the result of being a little familiar with latin jazz through some of my favorite players like Anthony Jackson with Michel Camilo. I could fake it a bit! I got a call to do a last minute restaurant gig with a brother and sister group, Cidinho and Vera Mara Texeira, and drummer Vanderlei Pereira. All from Brazil. I was a really strong sight reader, and could groove. They offered me steady weekends, and proceeded to school me on the vast music of Brazil mixed with their jazz approach. That led to working with bands from Peru, Uruguay, Argentina, West Africa, South Africa, Parisian-Afro scene. It's a lifelong study, as each country, and region have their own rhythms-just the individual islands in the Caribbean alone, one could spend years absorbing. It has also given me a deeper appreciation of our own music, such as soul, rock, and jazz

Kat’s Theory: Courtney, You've done a lot of work in Broadway orchestras, and also touring with some very well known artists. I would think it's a lot easier to have a normal life playing on Broadway but it's probably more fun to be on the road. Other than the economic factor, what would make you choose one over the other?
Courtney: Many factors come into play. The economic factor is very important, but so is the fun factor, the quality of the music, the travel conditions when on the road, the company, etc. And of course, once you have a family, it can be hard to leave home for extended periods.

Kat’s Theory: David, playing drums behind Ben E. King, The Shirelles, Southside and playing at the New Jersey Hall of Fame (NJHOF). Was that two different years you played at that event?
David: They started that four years ago and I’ve been in the pit band there every year. Originally I played with LaBamba & the Hubcaps since 1982. And though they were still located in New York when we did the first year at the NJHOF, now of course they are located in California. But he’s come back each year to do those, and I will still fly somewhere….to do a Hubcaps gig. It’s a great little gig for us to do, it’s a solid packed weekend and we always get to play with some nice people. And to play at that performance center (New Jersey Performing Arts Center) is really beautiful.

Kat’s Theory: Now do you go into it with a different mindset when you’re playing with somebody like Phoebe Snow?
David: Well, I played with her and had done international touring with her before and she was a Jersey girl. Everyone in the band has known her and done some stuff with her, so that was easy.
I will tell you a very funny story about the NJHOF. It was in 2011 and it was all politicians, scientists, doctors and athletes. It’s the governor, Woody Johnson and it’s just to create some publicity for New Jersey, so to speak. They had Susan Sarandon, Jack Nicholson, Yogi Berra, I mean all these famous New Jersey people bought into the concept. So they’re given some sort of award and they have some other famous people introducing them… that maybe have a relationship with them. We start to rehearse during the week because there’s always a special guest,  And Southside was a guest in 2011.

It’s a long day, lots of rehearsing. So we do the show and we’re at the last three minutes of a two-hour show. “We’re Having A Party” with Southside Johnny, and the producer of the whole event is standing in the wings and Joe Piscopo is standing with him…with a pair of drumsticks in his hand. We’re in the last song, the last part of the last song, and the two of them come over to the drum riser and he points to me “Joe sits in.” I’m like“You’re kidding right.” But I didn’t have a choice. All the guests were on stage, like sixty people on stage and so I sort of move over on the drums. So Joe comes up and sits down and I take literally a step and a half and I’m going “Oh my god, he can’t play drums.” He can’t play and we’re in the encore.

It was like a tidal wave from the back of the bandstand through to the front. The groove is destroyed. Joe Piscopo cannot play and I’m pissed and upset all at the same time. So really quickly this tidal wave hits the front of the stage and Southside turns around like “What the fuck?” And it really messed him up, and the gig had gone great. His songs beforehand were great. So he throws the mic down, storms off the stage and there he practically runs into me. We are standing about two inches from each other and he’s spitting at me “How could you fucking do that to me? What the fuck did you let him go up on stage?” “Don’t be yelling at me, I had no choice.” I mean we’re like face to face spitting at each other. And I did eight years with Southside, I know him. So he leaves and the show sort of just collapses at that point in time. We made up, it was fine and everything like that, but to me it’s just another Southside story.

Kat’s Theory: Lora, You step out in the front for “Bright Lights.” Great vocal. How did you approach that vocal and did you have to fight Tim to get the lead on it?

Lora: Actually Tim wrote that for me. Being the amazing vocal coach that he is, he created a song that he thought really complimented my vocal register and helped take me out of my shell a little bit. He really had me in mind with that song and said Lora “I have this idea, can you come over and hear it?” And we went through it maybe five or ten minutes and it was so natural. It was a natural fit. Before I had even performed it or recorded it, it felt like it was so much a part of me. So that’s a very special song.

Kat’s Theory: “To The Bone” You have this big wall of sound that comes at you and it’s just fabulous. How did you come up with huge tidal wave of sound to start it out with?

Tim: Well, as we’re playing out live more, we’re starting to get a feel for how we want to interact with the audiences and what sort of energy to bring. When we did our first gig, our library of songs, maybe half of them are mid tempo, some of them are ballads, bluesy…very much not this kind of raucous, wild, in your face live energy six song, half hour set. Our whole library of music is much wider ranging. Real diverse. So sometimes it feels we need, in a six or seven song set, to bring a little more energy, more punch. Because in the sort of in-and-out half hour set, sometimes the slower songs feel like they dip the energy too much. When “To The Bone” came out, it was like "let’s do something raucous, a little dirty, a little sort of wild" and think of a great opener. That was how that idea started and then the whole lyrical content really came more from the chord progression. Usually the lyrics always come second for me. The chords come and I’ll get the energy of the song.

Kat's Theory: You don’t seem to get writer’s block…
Tim: See, the trick to not having writers block, in my opinion is, to in any moment write a crappy song. And be ok with it. Just don’t stop. I just don’t stop. I try to be very careful at what stage I edit. I’m a big believer in complete, unjudged brain-dumping, look at what comes out and sort of move it around. Turning off that editor for a large part of the initial creation of a song. I haven’t had that (writer’s block) in a while

Kat's Theory: What does the future hold in store for House of Essex?
Tim: We’re just gonna keep playing and trying to reach people that would connect to our music.
David: We’ll see how it goes. There’s going to be bumping and bruising along the way. I mean the gigs we’re doing right now, we just sort of throw ourselves up on stage. At the level we’re at, there’s no sound check or nothing. Just going up and hittin’ and quittin’ and that’s just part of the process. So it’s all good. I know we’re just all excited about keeping our momentum moving forward.

Follow House of Essex:

Twitter @HouseofEssex1

Article first published as House of Essex: Blending Musical Influences, Creating a New Sound on Technorati.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Iko Iko...Get Those Feet Moving

Who hasn't heard this song?

There's a reason why everyone knows it...even though guaranteed we don't know the right words. The reason we all know it is because it's just a great, infectious tune and it really doesn't matter if you know the words or not. All you need to sing is "Iko Iko," and your feet start moving and your face brightens as a big grin comes across it.

The story about Iko Iko goes something like this. In the 50's a New Orleans musician named James "Sugar Boy" Crawford, wrote a tune called "Jock-A-Mo" which eventually morphed into Iko Iko. The story of the song centers on the confrontation of two different "tribes" or Mardi Gras Indians. Crawford used many of the phrases used by the tribes in the song, but in the end it has always been the feeling and melody of the song which has kept it a favorites of bands even today.

A few tastes of "Iko Iko"

Possibly the first recording was by the Dixie Cups...remember "Chapel of Love"? Legend has it they were at a recording session when they began singing "Iko Iko", accompanied only by a bit of percussion. Priceless.

Belle Stars " Iko Iko"
For the Deadheads and you know who you are..the Grateful Dead "Iko Iko"

My personal favorite version, Dr. John "Iko Iko"

The hurricane's coming, might as well dance til it gets here.

"If your feet ain't tappin', baby you're dead."


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Clothes Don't Always Make The Man

Bored by the conversation of her sorority sisters, Sam aimlessly looked out the window.  The frat boys they spoke of with such veneration were nothing more than well dressed mannequins; handsome but vapid.

She thought of Jesse. The way he looked in jeans as he nailed the floor boards on the deck. How the sweat ran down his back, finding its natural path. The way she felt when he’d pick her up and spin her until she was dizzy.

She thought of her brother, smiling broadly as he greeted his friend, instantly reminding her she was just the little sister.

ZZ Top "Sharp Dressed Man" ...Maybe not all girls are crazy for them.

This post is for the prompt of Sharp Dressed Man for Lance's 100 Word Song
My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Horses and Bayonets: The Sopranos Connection

"Next time you come, you come heavy or not at all.” 

So said Uncle Junior to Tony in Episode 4 of the first season of The Sopranos.

What does that line have to do with the debate last night? Hold your horses, yep I said that, I'll get around to it. 

First of all, I did not enjoy the setup for the debate. I want my politicians standing up, pacing and looking like they are ready to pounce on their opponent. Sitting at a table with their hands folded, does not make for a riveting show.

Now I was watching the debate on CNN. I missed the explanation, so can someone tell me what the hell that flat line graph of Florida undecided voters was supposed to mean? I think it might have been a veiled reference to the age of the population of seemed everyone was sleeping peacefully. Eh, I hope they were just sleeping.


While last night wasn't nearly as interesting as the week before, there were still a few fun quotes. Unfortunately, when the moderator ends the night with the best one...well maybe it's a good thing the election is only weeks away.

So let's just savor the few honorable mentions from last night.

"Syria is Iran's only ally in the Arab world. It's their route to the sea" Have you looked at a map at all?

"It still doesn't work" I believe the subject was MittMath, unless they were referencing the "yours is bigger than mine" quote from the last debate.

"Attacking me is not an agenda" But let me attack you and call it policy.

But of course the best line came from President Obama...

"We also have fewer horses and bayonets..."

So here we have a vision of unnaturally large horses, armed...ready for battle, or as Uncle June would say...Heavy

I give you Jethro Tull's "Heavy Horses"

"Iron-clad feather-feet pounding the dust
An October's day, towards evening
Sweat embossed veins standing proud to the plough
Salt on a deep chest seasoning
Last of the line at an honest day's toil
Turning the deep sod under
Flint at the fetlock, chasing the bone
Flies at the nostrils plunder.

The Suffolk, the Clydesdale, the Percheron vie
With the Shire on his feathers floating
Hauling soft timber into the dusk
To bed on a warm straw coating.

Heavy Horses, move the land under me
Behind the plough gliding --- slipping and sliding free
Now you're down to the few
And there's no work to do
The tractor's on it's way.

Let me find you a filly for your proud stallion seed
To keep the old line going.
And we'll stand you abreast at the back of the wood
Behind the young trees growing
To hide you from eyes that mock at your girth,
And your eighteen hands at the shoulder
And one day when the oil barons have all dripped dry
And the nights are seen to draw colder
They'll beg for your strength, your gentle power
Your noble grace and your bearing
And you'll strain once again to the sound of the gulls
In the wake of the deep plough, sharing.

Standing like tanks on the brow of the hill
Up into the cold wind facing
In stiff battle harness, chained to the world
Against the low sun racing
Bring me a wheel of oaken wood
A rein of polished leather
A Heavy Horse and a tumbling sky
Brewing heavy weather.

Bring a song for the evening
Clean brass to flash the dawn
Across these acres glistening
Like dew on a carpet lawn
In these dark towns folk lie sleeping
As the heavy horses thunder by
To wake the dying city
With the living horseman's cry
At once the old hands quicken ---
Bring pick and wisp and curry comb ---
Thrill to the sound of all
The heavy horses coming home."

Oh yeah, the best of the night. Bob Schieffer quoting his mother "Go Vote. It Makes You Feel Big And Strong." 

Mom always knows best.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

George McGovern: The Times Are Still A Changin

In this election year, as in so many others when times were less than ideal, many look for a change. And just as many hope the experience of the past four years will provide a clearer path for our future. 1972 was one of those years. Viet Nam, the Civil Rights movement...the country was tired of conflict of every type. The presidency of Richard Nixon, while improving international relationships, did little to quell the unrest here in the States.

The hope that year was a young Senator from South Dakota...George McGovern. A dove in a time of war, McGovern represented the change the country so badly needed.

George McGovern died today. The promise of his presidency never achieved. In his memory, today we offer another song from the 60's as relevant today as the day it was written. Released in 1964 as the title track of his album, this Bob Dylan song also showed the promise of an incredible songwriter.

A beautiful cover by Eddie Vedder.

"Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'"

Easy journey George.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Take It From The Top: Rebels

Back in February I wrote a blog called "Take a Ride Down the Tunnel of Love."  In it I talked about what I thought was one of the best ever opening lines to a song.

"Fat man sitting on a little stool, 
takes the money from my hand 
as his eyes take a walk all over you"

Perfect imagery. The song of course is Springsteen's "Tunnel of Love."

Today I have another memorable opening line. While it doesn't compare on any level with Bruce's beautifully crafted song, every time I hear it, I smile and say to myself  "that is such a great opening line." Overall, it's an interesting song, has several layers to the lyrics, and whether you are from the South or a Yankee girl, it's an excellent sing-along.

"Honey don't walk out, I'm too drunk to follow"

Fabulous. Simple, but it gets the message across loud and only nine words.

From the Southern Accents album, the song is "Rebels" by Tom Petty.

"Honey don't walk out, I'm too drunk to follow
You know you won't feel this way tomorrow
Well, maybe a little rough around the edges
Or inside a little hollow,
I get faced with some things, sometimes
That are so hard to swallow, hey!

I was born a rebel, down in Dixie
On a Sunday mornin'
Yeah with one foot in the grave
And one foot on the pedal, I was born a rebel

She picked me up in the mornin', and she paid all my tickets
Then she screamed in the car
Left me out in the thicket
Well I never woulda dreamed
That her heart was so wicked
Yeah but I keep comin' back
'Cause it's so hard to kick it, hey, hey, hey

(Repeat Chorus)

Even before my father's father
They called us all rebels
While they burned our cornfields
And left our cities leveled
I can still feel the eyes of those blue-bellied devils
Yeah, when I'm walking round at night
Through the concrete and the metal, hey, hey, hey"

One foot in the grave and one foot on the pedal...well that line's not bad either.


Play Guitar? What Else You Got?

So you play the guitar. Nice, I wish I could. Think you're pretty good...real nice, great to have that gift. Let me tell you something...ya got nuthin'.

Today, I've got a guy who plays guitar...some mean blues if you please. But he also takes it another step...he makes his guitars. uh huh.

Out of Mississippi, James "Super Chikan" Johnson, grew up on the delta. His first instrument was a piece of wood with baling wire wrapped around it, what is known as a "diddley bow." Growing up in a musical family, by his 20's he was playing bass around the south. Working as a truck driver, he found himself with a lot of time on his hands. That's when the songwriting began. His first album Blues Come Home to Roost, was released in 1997 and instantly garnered critical acclaim.

As his grandfather before him, Super Chikan began to fashion instruments out of discarded items. Old army gas cans and cigar boxes were made into guitars. Crazy stuff, check out some of them here. Soon his hand-made guitars were gaining as much interest as his music, even receiving an Artist Fellowship from the Mississippi Arts Commission.

But let's get into the music. Man, does he look like he's having fun...

Playing a diddley bow on "Sippiseekansas"
How about a ceiling fan on "Hookin' Up"
and closing out a show playing a Shotgun Guitar

For a short documentary on the man check out "Cluckin' and Pluckin'" and find out how he got his nickname and creates his one-of-a-kind guitars.

Some good blues to start the day, end it, or just to boogie in the middle of it.

"If your feet any tappin', baby you're dead."


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Birds Again? The Presidential Debate

In my defense, one reason I could never run for office is the debate thing. OK, so the whole shady past is another, but I digress. I know if I was in a debate on nationally broadcast TV, there would come a point where I would look at my opponent and say "...are you really that fucking stupid?" sigh

However, as luck would have it, there are plenty of other candidates ready to be seen as buffoons. Case in point...there was a little debate last night. I swear they do these things just so all of us have something to write about.

So here are a few comments from last night. Let's play the match game...I'll give the response, you figure out the candidate.

"Government doesn't create jobs" ...Elect me into office and I'll create jobs. WTF?

"It's not as big as yours" ...I think they were talking about pensions, but maybe not.

On oil drilling: "What was the cost, 20 or 25 birds were killed" ...Was Big Bird one of them?

"Now all of a sudden, you're a big champion of coal"  ...How nice, we all need to excel in something.

While tweeting last night about this prime time entertainment, a connection between a couple of things came to mind. In the spirit of good citizenship and with tongue planted firmly in cheek, I give you the musical taste of the day.

The Police "Canary in a Coal Mine"

Tweet, tweet...


Monday, October 15, 2012

Barry McGuire: The Eve of Destruction

Happy Birthday Barry McGuire.

The 1960's were a time of turmoil both domestically and around the world. In the states, we had the Civil Rights Movement and the War in Viet Nam front and center. The treat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union seemed an ever present possibility. Schools had fall-out shelters with canned goods and supplies of water. If there had been an attack, none of that would have done a bit of good.

Protest songs were everywhere. Dylan, Baez, Seeger...all sang about the issues of the day. The one song that rang true for me and still does, is a song by Barry McGuire. Written in 1965 by one of the more successful songwriters of the day, P.F. Sloan, the song was originally intended for the Byrds. Over the years, it was recorded by many, but the raw version by McGuire projected the sentiment of the song perfectly.

The song is "Eve of Destruction"
The story goes that it was recorded in one take on a Thursday and by Monday, you could hear it on the radio, where it soon went to number one. Please read the lyrics as you listen.

"The eastern world it is explodin', violence flarin', bullets loadin'
You're old enough to kill but not for votin'
You don't believe in war, what's that gun you're totin'
And even the Jordan river has bodies floatin'

But you tell me over and over and over again my friend
Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction

Don't you understand, what I'm trying to say?
Can't you see the fear that I'm feeling today?
If the button is pushed, there's no running away
There'll be none to save with the world in a grave
Take a look around you, boy, it's bound to scare you, boy

And you tell me over and over and over again my friend
Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction

Yeah, my blood's so mad, feels like coagulatin'
I'm sittin' here just contemplatin'
I can't twist the truth, it knows no regulation
Handful of Senators don't pass legislation

And marches alone can't bring integration
When human respect is disintegratin'
This whole crazy world is just too frustratin'

And you tell me over and over and over again my friend
Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction

Think of all the hate there is in Red China
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama
Ah, you may leave here for four days in space
But when you return it's the same old place

The poundin' of the drums, the pride and disgrace
You can bury your dead but don't leave a trace
Hate your next door neighbor but don't forget to say grace

And you tell me over and over and over and over again my friend
Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction"

"Hate your next door neighbor, but don't forget to say grace," brilliant way to end the song. It's 47 years later and not much as changed. Different places and wars, but it's still relevant today. 


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Matthew Shepard: Too Young to Die

October 12, 1998.

A date which marked the death of a young man, who was killed for no other reason than he was different from the men who killed him. Matthew Shepard was gay, and it cost him his life.

Sometime after midnight on October 7th, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson drove Matthew Shepard to a remote area of Laramie, Wyoming. He was beaten so severely, his brainstem was affected. Matthew was tied to a fence and left to die. Eighteen hours later, his comatose body was discovered by a bicyclist, who at first thought his limp body was a scarecrow. All because he was gay.

Matthew died a few days later, never regaining consciousness. His death brought outrage and deservedly so.
Legislation was introduced to create a hate crime bill which would be inclusive of bias attacks concerning sexual orientation. After several failures, the Matthew Shepard Act was signed into law by President Obama on October 28, 2009.

When thinking about a song for today, I remembered one which dealt with another type of prejudice. Written by a teenager in 1965, "Society's Child" dealt with interracial romance. While today, a relationship between different races barely causes the blink of an eye, in the 60's it was unacceptable, even illegal in some places, and was spoken of in hushed tones.

Though the struggle between being accepted as gay is not the same as loving someone with a different skin color, the old mores and narrow-mindedness come clearly into the picture. Prejudice is prejudice.

On the anniversary of his death, let's shine some light on the issue of fear and hate of other human beings for no other reason than they are different.

Please read the lyrics as you listen to the song.

Janis Ian "Society's Child"

"Come to my door, baby,
Face is clean and shining black as night.
My mother went to answer you know
That you looked so fine.
Now I could understand your tears and your shame,
She called you "boy" instead of your name.
When she wouldn't let you inside,
When she turned and said
"But honey, he's not our kind."

She says
I can't see you any more, baby,
Can't see you anymore.

Walk me down to school, baby,
Everybody's acting deaf and blind.
Until they turn and say, "Why don't you stick to your own kind."
My teachers all laugh, the smirking stares,
Cutting deep down in our affairs.
Preachers of equality,
Think they believe it, then why won't they just let us be?

They say I can't see you anymore baby,
Can't see you anymore.

One of these days I'm gonna stop my listening
Gonna raise my head up high.
One of these days I'm gonna raise up my glistening wings and fly.
But that day will have to wait for a while.
Baby I'm only society's child.
When we're older things may change,
But for now this is the way, they must remain.

I say I can't see you anymore baby,
Can't see you anymore.
No, I don't want to see you anymore, baby."

Matthew Shepard may have died for no reason, but he did not die in vain.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

110 Years of Gibson Guitars

Exactly 110 years ago, the The Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Company Ltd was formed in Kalamazoo, Michigan. We know it as the birthplace of the Gibson Guitar.

Now based out of Nashville, Tennessee, the Gibson company started out making mandolins, progressed to flat top acoustic and hollow body electric guitars. In the 1930s company founder Orville Gibson introduced their first electric model. The ES-150 was labeled as a Spanish Electric guitar and was the first commercially successful electric. The game changer came with the design of their solid body electric guitar designed by the man whose name it bears...Les Paul.

Les Paul
Later models included the Gibson SG, the Explorer and the sexy as hell Flying V. But enough about history, let's hear how they sound. A few picks today from legendary musicians all playing a Gibson.

Flying V
Let's start with arguably the singularly most famous Gibson... BB King's Lucille. If you've never seen BB play, well... he has a conversation with Lucille. He never plays and sings at the same time. First he lets Lucille do some talking, then he sings back to her. Just so fun to watch.

Listen to BB doing "How Blue Can You Get" and if you want to hear BB tell the story of how Lucille got her name, check out this Tribute to Lucille.

Another man who can take a Gibson to another level, Jeff Beck doing "Air Blower"
To listen to Jeff Beck talk about and play his guitar collection, click on the Jeff Beck Guitar Collection. Really cool.

Mark Knopfler "Money for Nothing"
Johnny Winter "Fast Life Rider"

Jimmy Page with Robert Plant "Since I've Been Lovin' You"
Jimmy Page talking about his Gibson Les Paul

And of course, Les Paul "Sleepwalk"

The list of musicians using Gibson guitars goes on forever...and each one creates his or her own sound.

...just keep on pickin'.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Celebrating A Life: John Lennon

John Lennon would have been 72 years old today.

The songwriting team of Lennon-McCartney was my first and perhaps my greatest musical influence. If you were alive when The Beatles entered the picture, you would know they changed everything. The sound, the look, the attitude of the era...all turned on its head.

While both John and Paul went on to successful careers on their own, the sum was always greater than the individual parts. Nothing they did alone could ever compete with the musical genius of Lennon-McCartney.

As we celebrate John's birthday, let's taste a couple from the Fab Four, then go into some solo stuff.

"The Night Before" the Help album. For fun music, you can't get much better than this album.
"Revolution" The White Album. Released a year later, this album showed the direction they took with Sgt. Pepper, was just the tip of the iceberg. This clip has a few words from John about the song.

And a couple of solo tastes...

"Watching the Wheels" ...from Double Fantasy. Is there a better song describing finding contentment in your life...don't think so.
"Imagine" ...To write a hundred memorable songs in your lifetime is a feat done by only a few. John also wrote an anthem for the world.

Thanks John.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Little Story About An Earring

A long way to go perhaps, but sometimes you just need to tell a story...

It had been four months since he left.

Life hadn't changed very much, other than the nights. They were long and unsettling. It was time, she thought, time to do a cleansing. First was the bathroom. With waste basket in hand, she grabbed the razors, the deodorant and the toothbrush. Things he had left behind, just as he had left her behind.

Methodically she went room to room, as if removing each object that belonged to him, would also remove him from her mind...and heart. She left the bedroom for last. Most of his clothes were gone, the only ones still there were the ones forgotten in the hamper as he rushed to leave before she came home.

She dusted, vacuumed and disposed of every item with a memory tied to their life. As she moved an end table, something on the carpet caught her eye. She remembered instantly the trip to St. Maarten where he surprised her with it. When their connection seemed unbreakable. When he loved only her.

It had been a pair, but sometime around the breakup one had been misplaced. In her foolish heart, she hoped he had taken a reminder of a time when the heat was intense, the love deep. But as she saw it shining in the bedroom light, she knew he had not.

Golden Earring "Radar Love"


Friday, October 5, 2012

Well, I Could Have Just Said "Happy Birthday"

The one thing about writing and publishing your work online, is you want other people to read it. Finding people to do that is not as easy as you think. Everyone who does this as a living or just as a passion, needs a little help. Along the way, I have been lucky enough to have had some.

With all the bloggers out there vying for any little bit of attention, you would think competition and jealousy would be rampant...and maybe it is. Just not with the bloggers I know. The group I know is supportive and eager to help another writer dance in the spotlight.

Today I'm going to return the favor and shine the light on a fellow blogger and music maniac, who also happens to be having a birthday. So for today's musical selections, I thought we might listen to a few of his favorites. Since one of his posts on music was how I originally found him, deciding on a few songs won't be too hard.

Journey "Wheel in the Sky"
Survivor "Desperate Dreams"
Lita Ford "Kiss Me Deadly"
Asia "Heat of the Moment"
Night Ranger "Don't Tell Me You Love Me"

and because we both do...
Joan Jett "I Love Rock and Roll" filmed at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ, where I saw my first concert a hundred and forty two years ago.

Happy Birthday Jim, thanks for the laughs, the music, the good reads and the support.
Check out his stuff at


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Debating the Debate: You Haven't Done Nothing

So did you watch the debate last night? I listened to it...sort of.

C'mon, it was game 162 of the regular baseball season and it meant something. The outcomes of several games actually determined the playoff schedules. And, at the top of the beloved Yankees. Yes, we did it, we won the AL East. It's a long road til the World Series and I don't have illusions of grandeur, but there is that Kentucky Wildcat thing...hmm. But that's a story for another day.

Back to politics. ugh.

Every four years when you think the candidates can't get any worse...they do. Now due to the fact that I write a couple of blogs, I thought I should at least pay a little attention to last night's pissing contest.

So, I had the Yankee game on TV and the debate streaming on the laptop, listening through my earbuds. During commercials, I switched to the testosterone tiff to get the visual effect. From what I could assimilate...Big Bird won by a huge margin. Everything else was pretty much blah, blah, blah.

I've decided during this political season, for each presidential debate, I should showcase a song to reflect my feelings of the moment. No, I won't be watching or commenting on the vice-presidential debates unless something REAL FUN happens, because quite frankly...who the hell cares. After the vice-presidental debate when Dan Quayle (Mr. Potatoe Head) was handed his hat and told in no uncertain terms by Lloyd Bentsen to "go home little boy," and was still voted in as VP, I realized that no one really gives a shit who the VP is going to be...unless it is Sarah Palin. But I digress.

So one tasty treat today. Mr. Stevie Wonder, who always gets it right.
"You Haven't Done Nothing"

"We are amazed but not amused
By all the things you say that you'll do
Though much concerned but not involved
With decisions that are made by you

But we are sick and tired of hearing your song
Telling how you are gonna change right from wrong
'Cause if you really want to hear our views
"You haven't done nothing"!

It's not too cool to be ridiculed 
But you brought this upon yourself
The world is tired of pacifiers
We want the truth and nothing else

And we are sick and tired of hearing your song
Telling how you are gonna change right from wrong
'Cause if you really want to hear our views
"You haven't done nothing"!

Jackson 5 join along with me say
Doo doo wop - hey hey hey
Doo doo wop - wow wow wow 
Doo doo wop - co co co 
Doo doo wop - naw naw naw
Doo doo wop - bum bum bum 
Doo doo wop

We would not care to wake up to the nightmare
That's becoming real life
But when mislead who knows a person's mind
Can turn as cold as ice un hum

Why do you keep on making us hear your song
Telling us how you are changing right from wrong
'Cause if you really want to hear our views
"You haven't done nothing"!

Jackson 5 sing along again say
Doo doo wop
Doo doo wop - oh
Doo doo wop - co co co 
Doo doo wop - sing it baby
Doo doo wop - bum bum bum 
Doo doo wop - um 
Sing it loud for your people say
Doo doo wop - um um um 

Doo doo wop - stand up be counted, say
Doo doo wop - co co co 
Doo doo wop - ow
Doo doo wop - bum bum bum 
Doo doo wop - ah hum"

Politics...what a way to make a living.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Lot of Heart

Today marks the release date for one of Rock & Roll's most enduring kick ass bands. Fanatic, the new album by Heart drops today.

I have always been a fan of Heart, but then I've always had a soft spot for women rockers who take no prisoners and have the talent to back it up. Heart has always belonged in the Big Boys League. Great stage show, those vocals; hard rockin' while still able to do soft ballads...and they did it in high heels.

Today, I offer a little tribute to Heart, but we're not gonna listen to a bunch of Heart songs. A fellow blogger commented on a post last week that he would use one of my highlighted songs in a mixed CD for his lady. So that got me thinking about what to  do today. As a twist, let's hear a few good songs with heart in the title. Now there are a kazillion songs with heart in the title, a lot of very well known ones at that. Just for S&G's let's taste a few songs, while lesser known, are still really good listening.

"Hot Rod Heart" ...John Fogarty
"Heart Turns to Stone" ...Foreigner
"Half of My Heart" ...Survivor
"Heartache" ...Lou Gramm
"Chrome Plated Heart" ...Melissa Etheridge

And just a few beats from Ann and Nancy.

Thanks for the inspiration Sean...maybe you can add one or two of these.