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is it live or is it memorex

Today I picked up yet another copy of The Allman Brothers at Fillmore East. This thing has gone through a lot of versions over the years. The concerts were recorded in 1971, and the album was originally released in July of that year. It got played over an over, not just by me ... I only ever had one copy on vinyl, but I'm sure many people wore out more than one copy. Then Duane died, and in 1972 the band released Eat a Peach, which included more music from the Fillmore shows, most notably a version of Donovan's "First There Is a Mountain" that ran for more than half an hour (it was split over two sides on vinyl). The first Fillmore album ended with "Whipping Post," which clocked in at just under 23 minutes, and finished with "Mountain Jam" just starting as the album faded out.

So you had to know that in the CD era, they would manage to re-issue this stuff with "Mountain Jam" now loaded right after "Whipping Post." Which they did in 1992 with The Fillmore Concerts.

But ... and now I need to back up again. One of the most famous crowd shoutouts in rock and roll history came on the original album. Duane says "We got a little number from our first album we're gonna do for ya. Berry starts her off." At which point some anonymous fan yells out the immortal "Whipping POST!" This became one of the most treasured moments ever, and for most of the 70s, you couldn't attend a concert without someone at some point shouting out "Whipping POST!"

OK, back to The Fillmore Concerts. This release not only featured "Whipping Post" and "Mountain Jam" one after the other, it had a little bit of editing in other places, as well. Yep, you guessed it ... there's no guy shouting out "Whipping POST!" What the hell is up with that? Of course, by the time I find this out, I've already bought the damn thing.

But not to fear. In 2003, the original album was re-released as the "Deluxe Edition," once again with the Eat a Peach material worked in (along with a few other songs). And this time, that guy in the crowd is back in the mix. I finally picked it up today, so now at last I have "Whipping Post" and "Mountain Jam" back-to-back, with the guy in the crowd barking his immortal yell, and all is right with the world for a day or two.

At this point I have no idea what the "real" concerts were like ... all three of the albums have been fiddled with, as are virtually all concert albums. Only thing that really matters is that the band plays on all of them ... at the end of the day, that's why I've been listening to this album for almost 35 years.


viva blackpool

Viva Blackpool is a BBC mini-series (known simply as Blackpool in England) that reminds one of many other productions. This one is better than some of those productions and worse than others, although the end result is certainly entertaining enough.

The basic story combines a murder mystery with a love triangle. The catch is that the characters frequently burst into song, so it's kind of a musical, too. But the songs they burst into are not originals but pop songs (like "Viva Las Vegas," "Should I Stay or Should I Go," and "Don't Leave Me This Way"). The actors sing over the original versions, although often they sing so quietly you can't hear them ... it creates an odd double-tracking feeling.

The obvious connection would be to Dennis Potter's Pennies From Heaven and The Singing Detective, but Viva Blackpool has little of Potter's relentless grimness. The plot is simultaneously confusing and uninteresting, but it hardly matters. The musical numbers are all staged with abandon, and the songs are properly chosen to reflect whatever is happening at the moment. David Morrisey and David Tennant are great as the two male points in the love triangle, while Sarah Parish is just the kind of mature voluptuous semi-babe that always wins me over. Six episodes is just about right ... I never got bored, but boredom felt just around the corner, so while I liked watching it, I'm not sorry it ended.

I'll give it a B.


rock hall inductees

The 2006 inductees have been named:

Black Sabbath
Blondie
Miles Davis
Lynyrd Skynyrd
The Sex Pistols

Just to get it out of the way ... the four rock acts fall right in line with my theory that rockers age more like athletes than like artists. Miles is different, and he's a jazz guy ... what that means, I don't know.

Black Sabbath certainly fits my theory. Acclaimed Music has their first six albums making the top whatever ... 2500, I think it is. No other album by the Sabs makes the list. AMG gives their first six albums rating of 4 1/2 to 5 stars (on a scale of 5) ... in the 30 years since then, only one album has gotten as high as 4 1/2 stars. Is this band Hall-worthy? Acclaimed Music has them 78th in the artist rankings, just ahead of Metallica ... that's good enough. I'm not a big fan myself, but for influence and for Paranoid, I can see why they're in.

Blondie ... once again, the first four albums make Acclaimed Music's list, none since. They come up at #88 on the artist rankings, between Captain Beefheart and the Temptations, which is an interesting way of looking at Blondie's music. For the first album, for Parallel Lines, for Debbie Harry, once again, I can see them in the Hall. (A tip of the cap for "The Attack of the Giant Ants.")

Miles Davis. I'm not qualified to judge jazz music, but based on Miles' influence on rock music, he belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Jack Johnson is just a great album period, but it's also a great rock album. Acclaimed has him at #36, with rated albums ranging from 1954 to 1986 ... he doesn't fit my theory :-).

Lynyrd Skynyrd ... guess I can no longer say they're underrated. I never got tired of "Freebird" ... in fact, once back in 1980, or maybe it was the end of 1979, I took a poll in Rolling Stone and chose "Freebird" as the Song of the 70s. Christgau thought the last album of the original pre-crash band was their best, so who knows how high their bird might have flown. A terrific band with a smart songwriter in Ronnie Van Zant.

The Sex Pistols. Well, it's the old "peak/career" argument. This often arises in baseball, where you'll have a player, say Sandy Koufax, who was world class for a few years but whose career was cut short, and you'll have another player, say Don Sutton, who was never world class but was good for a very long time. How do you compare the two, and how do you decide which one should go in the Hall of Fame? Both? Neither? The career guy? The peak guy? Well, the Sex Pistols are Sandy Koufax, or maybe Mark Fidrych is a better example. Despite the fact that they've released more posthumous albums than Tupac Shakur, they only released one true album in their short lifetime, and that album drew most of its power from the handful of singles that preceded it. Yet I'd vote for them in a second. "Anarchy in the U.K." ranks with "That's All Right" by Elvis and whatever Beatle song you heard first as the greatest "here we are" debuts in rock and roll history. The only thing that has matched it since is whatever rap song was your first ... "The Message" or "Walk This Way" or even "Rapper's Delight" or "The Breaks." Plus, it's hard to fault the band for breaking up so quickly when their entire output, artistic and otherwise, demanded that break up. Miles Davis is far and away the most important artist on this list, and I've got soft spots in my heart for both Skynyrd and Blondie. But the Sex Pistols are the one artist on the list that truly mattered to me. So if I'm making a personal canon, there's no question they belong in the Hall.

You can make a reasonable case for all five acts here, which makes this group a lot smarter than the one two years ago, which included Bob Seger, ZZ Top, and George Harrison.


the time is here

Aidin Vaziri explains what we already know, but since most of us don't know that we know, it's good that he tells us:

R.I.P. CDs

It will be fun to read the letters to Aidin ... I could write them myself, blindfolded, and come pretty close. "Oh, the joys of liner notes ... oh, the fetish of the object ... oh, the clear-as-a-bell sound ... oh, the pleasures of the record store ..." Of course, Aidin Vaziri gets a lot of letters anyway ... he alienates a large portion of the Chronicle's readership.

Here is my favorite of Vaziri's "10 best ways to get the most out of the next musical revolution."

3. Digital music services: Owning music is so last century. With everyone bent on cutting the clutter, it makes sense to sign up with a digital music service that puts a head-spinning, commitment-free music library at your disposal.

There you have it: "Owning music is so last century."

Every, and I do mean every, song that appears in my weekly "Friday Random Ten" lists come from my MusicMatch library. OK, that's a big duh, since the point of the Random Ten is to use the shuffle mode on your player. But I don't use my Karma, which is my portable MP3 player, for those posts, I use MusicMatch, which also includes streaming "On Demand" music. There are 3,655 MP3s in there right now, but also 2,084 On Demand tracks. So figure that 3-5 tracks from each Random Ten come from a streaming digital music service.

And the library is mostly for convenience, anyway ... I stick stuff I like in there, but I can't remember everything I like, and of course there's always something new. MusicMatch claims to have 900,000 songs, all of which I can listen to if I want. Rhapsody is as good or better, but it costs $40 more a year, at least as it is currently priced.

Here, a bonus, comment-free, Random Five before I go to bed:

1. Bruce Springsteen, "Tougher Than the Rest."
2. Sleater-Kinney, "The Fox."
3. The Allman Brothers Band, "It's Not My Cross to Bear."
4. Madness, "Tomorrow's Just Another Day."
5. Bruce Springsteen, "Iceman."


siblings

Almost ten years ago I wrote a piece about personal home pages on the Internet that was well received. Several years later I wrote a sequel that looked at the transformation of home pages into blogs. Both of these pieces are occasionally taught in college courses on a variety of subjects, so in some vague way I suppose I'm a low-level "expert" on the subject of representing ourselves via the "public online" world.

Most of my siblings have an Internet presence. The one holdout is Geoff, who is a programmer and thus, I suspect, someone who already spends enough time on the computer without maintaining a website. Both of my sisters have blogs: Chris shares hers with Karen, Sue just started hers recently. (Sue's daughter, my niece Julie, also has a blog.) Finally, my other brother David goes old school with a personal home page.

What might I conclude if I examined my family's various websites and blogs, using the kind of approach I followed in the two essays I wrote back in the day? Well, for starters, I'm not sure I'd do it, because I don't think it's appropriate for me to examine my family in a public arena like this blog. Nonetheless, I'll try to break my rule a bit here.

You can go back and read those old pieces of mine if you want a sense of where I'm coming from, but basically, I point out that I myself construct a public face, "Steven Rubio," and draw attention to the constructed nature of that face, so that people will understand that "Steven Rubio" isn't really me but just an imitation of me. After which, the theory goes, I can actually be quite honest about myself, because everyone will think I'm writing about "Steven Rubio" instead of about me.

Except I'm not very tricky, so everyone knows what I'm doing and I don't get away with anything. Besides which, my notions about how to expose the "real" me have little to do with, well, exposing the real me ... I am mostly non-sappy here, I try not to get too emotional. I write about stuff I like or dislike, thinking that I am truly defined by my taste preferences. When I say I like this musician or that television show, what I am really saying is that I am the type of person who likes that musician or show.

Well, just to take my sisters' blogs as examples, my methodology is not one that is followed by my siblings. Both Chris and Sue like to post things about how they are feeling. Since she and Karen bought their house in Oregon, Chris likes to talk about that, and Sue has only posted six times, but three of them are thoughtfully insightful about the human condition, which for Sue includes her appreciation for the natural world around her home. There you have it: both of them like to write about the place that they live.

Me: I am what I consume. Sisters: they are where/how they live.

It's pretty obvious which model is the less "real."

So what do I do? I'm not about to turn sappy. I seriously doubt I'm gonna spend much time being "real." But it wouldn't kill me to acknowledge all of the people out there who make a positive difference in my life, people who exist outside notions of consuming or taste preferences, especially since my previous posts on Thanksgiving, which in my deluded way I thought were cheerful, seem from the comments to have been taken in a different way. So here's to all of my family and friends, wife and kids and siblings and nieces and nephews and friends and colleagues and the rest. If you were gone, I would miss you very much.


friday random ten

1. Coco Montoya, "Fear No Evil." Blues-Rock, a good way to start.

2. Arc Angels, "Living in a Dream." Blues-Rock part two.

3. Bruce Springsteen, "Fire." The version from the '75-'85 box set. I was at the concert where this was recorded ... at one point, I slammed my hand down to simulate a drum beat and smashed it into the cement railing. For a decade or more, I had a numb spot.

4. Clarence "Frogman" Henry, "(I Don't Know Why) But I Do." From Bruce to Clarence.

5. Kim Carnes, "Bette Davis Eyes." I don't know what this song is about, and the synths date it. Still sounds pretty good, though.

6. Geto Boys, "We Can't Be Stopped." "Keep lettin the government dictate what you hear, next they'll put stickers on your ears."

7. Dave Van Ronk, "Romping Through the Swamp." Apparently there's an autobiography ready to be published. I'll read it.

8. Leonard Cohen, "Waiting for the Miracle." He's a better singer than Julie Andrews. Honest.

9. Big Brother & the Holding Company, "Women Is Losers." That first Big Brother album wasn't as bad as its reputation.

10. Randy Newman, "Big Hat, No Cattle."

Oftimes I wondered what might I have become,
Had I but buckled down and really tried.
But when it came down to the wire
I called my family to my side
Stood up straight, threw my head back and I lied, lied, lied
Big hat, no cattle
Big shoes, well you know...


thanksgiving

We went to my brother Geoff's house. Attending were Robin and I, Sara, my other brother David, my niece Julie, and my nephew Sean. Food included turkey, mashed potatoes, a bunch of kinds of stuffing, rolls, wine, grappa, soda, water, some vegetable that stayed at the other end of the table, gravy ... I can't think of anything else. Well, there were appetizers beforehand. Later there was two kinds of pie, pumpkin (yummy) and pumpkin-pecan (nice experiment that didn't quite work).

Everyone acted suitably goofy. Alice's Restaurant played on the teevee. My sister-in-law Nikki showed up later in the evening. Everyone had a fine time. My sister Sue called from the East Coast. We all lived happily ever after.


nothing to see here, move on

Jon Carroll runs the same damn Thanksgiving column every year, because people like it.

I don't have a boilerplate Thanksgiving column. Looking back, I've posted pictures on Thanksgiving, I've described spending Thanksgiving in Spain, and last year I posted a message called "Things to Be Thankful For" and left the body of the message blank.

So if you want a touching moment here, go read Jon Carroll. Me, I spent yesterday with in-laws, and it was nice, and I'll spend today at my brother's house, and it will be fine. This is what meds do to you: you don't even hate holidays anymore. This is also what meds do to you: I have nothing interesting to say about holidays.

But then, looking back, I never did have anything interesting to say about them. So I guess this is progress.


triumph vs. the republicans

If you're like me, you wanted to watch Triumph the Insult Comic Dog on that global warming thing that was on teevee the other night, but couldn't force yourself to sit through all those other crumbums like Robin Williams, Tom Hanks, Wanda Sykes, and Bill Maher. Well, here's the link for you:

Triumph with the Republicans

Sara, once you get to this link, I believe you'll have access to the entire show.