music friday

A couple from the 1970s, and a couple from the 2000s. Every one of these were opening acts.

Ike and Tina Turner, 1971. Opened for B.B. King. Quite the double bill!

Derringer, 1977. Opened for Led Zeppelin. Rick Derringer got his start with The McCoys, who had a hit with "Hang on Sloopy" when he was 16. He then hooked up with first Johnny Winter, and then Edgar Winter. In the 70s, he was best known for this one:

Awesome Color, 2009. Confession: even though these next two are the most recent, I can't remember anything about them. This band opened for Sonic Youth:

Grass Widow, 2010. And they opened for Wild Flag.

music friday

(Acts that we saw from the mid-70s to 1980.)

Flora Purim, 1970s. Purim is a jazz singer from Brazil. In the 70s, we went to several shows at the annual Concord Jazz Festival (Robin's dad would give us tix). When we saw her, she played with Airto, her husband and a noted percussionist. 

Mink DeVille, 1977 or so. At one point in the early 70s, they were Billy de Sade and the Marquis. They moved to New York just in time for the CBGB explosion, and were put in the same genre as the other NYC punk bands, but they were soul and R&B. We saw them at the Old Waldorf, capacity 600, when they toured behind their first album. Here he is in 1982, by which time Willy DeVille was the only remaining original member. 

George Thorogood and the Destroyers, 1977. George is probably best known for "Bad to the Bone", which became iconic over the years ... just ask Al Bundy fans. We saw him at the Keystone Berkeley, a tiny club on University that was the home of more than 200 Jerry Garcia Band gigs. Robin was pregnant with Sara, notably so. We were at a small table next to the stage, and at one point, George climbed on our table while taking a guitar solo. This video is from 1980. 

Sector 27, 1981. This was Tom Robinson's first band after TRB broke up. We saw them at Keystone Palo Alto, another of the "Stone" venues. The guitar work by Stevie B was in marked contrast to the more rock-ish work of the great Danny Kustow in the Tom Robinson Band. If memory serves, Robinson had laryngitis at this show and could barely sing. 

The lights of home are burning low
And time ran out a little time ago
The ranks are closing and the lines are drawn
They call for surrender but it's almost dawn
I'm not ready, I'm not ready

music friday

Can't stop, won't stop with artists I've seen live.

Arthur Lee and Love, 1974. Opening at Winterland for Lou Reed on the Sally Can't Dance tour. Love, an L.A. band that had released its first albums in 1966, was by 1974 essentially an Arthur Lee solo act. "Be Thankful for What You Got" was a hit for William DeVaughn early in 1974 ... Lee included it on the last album under the Love handle.

Hootie and the Blowfish, 1995. They were artists (there were a few) who I saw only because they appeared on a bill with lots of other acts, in this case the Bridge School Benefit in 1995, which I attended because Bruce Springsteen was there. I know they were popular, I know the singer's name was Darius Rucker who later became a country artist, and that's about it. In 1995, they were still riding the huge success of their first album. "Only Wanna Be with You" was one of several hits from that album ... here, they sing it at Farm Aid in '95:

Daniel Lanois, 1995. Lanois was at that same show, playing with Emmylou Harris. I confess I'm never quite certain what Lanois does in his production work, but that's just me. I've always liked Emmylou. Here they are on Letterman in 1995:

Kid Cut Up, 2018, 2019. We saw him DJ at two Pink concerts, and he was a joy to listen to. I wrote at the time, "He does a great job of bringing the crowd into his sets, even when the people aren't there to see him in the first place. His blend of current and older music appeals to an interesting cross-section ... at least, he knows what Pink fans want, from 8 to 80. My wife (65) isn't much of a fan of opening acts, but she likes KidCutUp, and it's fun to see her as she sings along to things like 'Just a Friend'." Here he is in the studio:

music friday

Continuing the theme of artists I've seen live over the years, with a slight nod towards the events of the week.

We saw Randy Newman in 1976. To put that in perspective, this was five years before Randy got his first Oscar nomination. The video is from later, but the album it comes from was the most recent for Newman when we saw him, Good Old Boys.

Dana Carvey isn't known as a musician, although his "Choppin' Broccoli" will always be a favorite. When we saw him, he was opening for ... I think Mink DeVille, although I could be wrong about that. He was maybe 22 years old, known in the Bay Area but almost ten years from Saturday Night Live. He didn't go over too well that night ... hard to be an opening act anyway, much less a stand-up comedian when the crowd came to hear music. My wife wrote him a note on a napkin to let him know at least one person appreciated him. Fast forward to 1996, long after SNL made him a star and Wayne's World solidified his stature, when Carvey was given a weekly show on ABC, which featured an enormous array of soon-to-be-famous talents like Steve Carrell, Stephen Colbert, and Robert Smigel. The show was canceled after seven episodes, with one episode not even shown. It was considered controversial at the time. Here is the first skit from the first episode:

We saw the Tom Robinson Band in a club in 1979. I was such a fanboy for guitarist Danny Kustow that I brought a sign gushing over him ... I got to go backstage after the show, where the band signed it.

I also saw the Dead Kennedys in 1979, opening for The Clash, a performance that was noteworthy for Jello Biafra jumping into the crowd and emerging with most of his clothes torn off.

music friday

Last week, I wrote that I was "going to turn Music Friday into a random look at concerts I've attended over the years." The choices aren't really random this week ... Bruce Springsteen has a new album out, so I'll showcase Bruce and three acts I saw with him.

One thing the pandemic does is prevent us from going to concerts. I've seen Bruce 36 times, and more than most musicians, his music benefits from the live setting, such that I've never been able to really judge one of his new albums until I've heard it live. And that's not going to be happening for a while. So any response I have to Letter to You is partial. For now, I'll repeat what I said on Facebook ... the sound is interesting in its retrograde feel ... it always sounds like old-school Bruce, but it never sounds like the same old school ... one song sounds like it came from Working on a Dream, another from The River, another from some random Tracks era. Based on sound alone, it's obvious why some people are so taken with it. (And I'll add, where's Soozie?)

Bruce famously drops in on the shows of others. We got to experience that once, in 1981, when Bruce turned up at a small club for five songs with Gary U.S. Bonds when Bonds was touring behind his Bruce-enabled comeback album, Dedication.

1978 was the greatest year of my musical life, when we saw Bruce three times during his legendary 1978 tour.  He would close with this Gary U.S. Bonds number ... we saw him sing it on five different occasions:

While Bruce has appeared with other performers as part of benefit shows, we only saw one person open for him at a regular Bruce concert: John Wesley Harding. It was the first time in 20 years that anyone had opened for Bruce. Harding has written four novels under his real name, Wesley Stace.

We saw Bruce on his 39th birthday as part of an Amnesty International show. Joan Baez was one of the many artists who appeared, and she sang him "Happy Birthday". She was in the crowd in 2006 when we saw him with the Seeger Sessions Band ... she came onstage to help sing "Pay Me My Money Down". Here is Baez with Mercedes Sosa in 1988:

Finally, here is the Seeger Sessions Band with "Pay Me My Money Down":

billie eilish, h.e.r., and adele

On Saturday, Billie Eilish performed a live-streaming concert. It was amazing ... Eilish was in fine form, but the thing that got people's attention was the special-effects production. While Eilish, Phineas, and their drummer spent the entire show on one stage (this wasn't apparent at first), a group of effects wizards transformed the visuals with every song. I don't know how they did it ... I was halfway through the show before I realized Billie wasn't going anywhere, that there was really only one trick, to make the stage look like something other than what it was, but there was a new version of the trick for each tune. It was an imaginative way to accept that a virtual live-stream concert is not the same as a live show with an excited audience.

There was nothing unusual about the setlist:

Bury A Friend / You Should See Me In A Crown / My Strange Addiction / Ocean Eyes / Xanny / I Love You / ilomilo / No Time To Die / When The Party’s Over / All The Good Girls Go To Hell / Everything I Wanted / My Future / Bad Guy

Eilish was good enough, the show would have worked fine without the effects, and "No Time to Die" remains a killer. It wasn't entirely "live" ... there were backing tracks, but that kind of added to the artificial presentation. She also pushed a message of "VOTE!", and via effects had a couple of songs where fans on the stream were shown on big video screens singing along. For much of what remained of Saturday, Eilish was a topic of discussion, pretty much all of it positive. It would be great to offer some video examples, but as of this writing, they are all being taken down as quickly as they go up.

Later, on Saturday Night Live, Adele appeared as the host. Adele hadn't been on American TV since 2017, and her last album came out in 2015. But she's been missed ... as Rolling Stone said, "Adele Reminds the World Why We Need Her More Than Ever". When Adele sings, she doesn't need special effects ... her voice is her special effect. (Billie Eilish, a different kind of singer, startles us when she hits the high note in "No Time to Die", but Adele hits those notes regularly. Neither is better, but different.)

She insisted in her monologue that she was only hosting, that she wouldn't be singing. There was a musical guest for that, H.E.R., and she was great:

But SNL and Adele got sneaky during one skit, and it got more admiring chatter than even Eilish's remarkable show.

The winner was the audience, entertained and more by three vital women artists.

music friday

Feeling the need to change things around to keep my attention, I'm going to turn Music Friday into a random look at concerts I've attended over the years. Might last one week, might last one year, who knows? Obviously, I'll repeat myself at times ... been writing here for 18 years, I've probably told these stories more than once. Here are four artists to start it off.

The J. Geils Band. I think I saw them four times. They were a big favorite of mine in my factory years ... saw them once a year from 1975-1977, then added one more show in 1982. This video is from the show I attended in 1977:

The Clash. Saw them five times, including their first-ever show in the USA. Those shows were from 1979-1984, with the last one being what I think of as the Faux Clash after Mick Jones was kicked out of the band. The night after that first U.S. show, they played a show in San Francisco with little advance notice. I wasn't there, but I was there the night before, so this is as close as I can get to my own experience seeing them for the first time.

The Blasters. Saw them once. This is one where memory serves me poorly. As I recall, it was early on, and they played at Slim's in San Francisco. But Slim's didn't open until 1988, by which time The Blasters had effectively broken up. So I don't know when I saw them, I don't know where I saw them, but I saw them. Once you've seen Phil Alvin's facial grimaces, you don't forget them, no matter how bad your memory gets.

Finally, here's another one where I was actually at the show on the video. This was at the first Bridge Concert, an annual charity show put on by Neil Young and his wife Pegi. While these shows went on for 30 years and took place at a venue close to us, I only went to two ... the ones Bruce Springsteen played at. One thing about these multi-act shows is you see people you might have missed otherwise, which is how I was able to add Don Henley to my list of musicians I've seen, even though I never much liked Don Henley.

music friday: fillmore west, october 16, 1969

It was the first of a four-night stand at the Fillmore. Opening the show was The Move. The Move are best known as a precursor to the Electric Light Orchestra, which at the beginning included three members of The Move: group leader Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne, and Bev Bevan. I can't be sure, but I don't think Lynne was in the band yet when they appeared at Fillmore West. I believe they were much bigger in the U.K. than in the States. In 2011, they released an album, Live at the Fillmore 1969, taken from these shows.

Next up was Little Richard. A month earlier, Richard had appeared at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival. To some critics, this performance revitalized his career. He was only 36, although he was likely considered an oldies artist by then. (For reference, Katy Perry will be 36 in a couple of weeks, Avril Lavigne is already there.) John Lennon was a surprise performer at the show, and he demanded that Richard hit the stage before the Plastic Ono Band. Bumps Blackwell describes what happened, in Charles White's great The Life and Times of Little Richard:

When Richard hit that stage … oh, man! I had double-miked the guitar and the piano and put the mike right inside the saxophone. Richard hit the stage with the spotlights on him and jumped up on top of the piano. He did everything he knew. He got that crowd just screaming. He invited people onto the stage to dance. He whipped the audience into a frenzy. And boy, when Richard finished, he laid the audience out so much that when Lennon and Yoko came on, they were washed out. Lennon and his band did some Rock’n’Roll numbers, but I felt sorry for them trying to follow a giant like Richard.

At those Fillmore West shows, it was left to Joe Cocker and the Grease Band to follow Richard. It was soon after Woodstock, and might have seen some of the last shows Joe played with the Grease Band. My memory is that Woodstock didn't really hit everyone's world until the movie and album came out, so I don't know the crowd at Fillmore West realized how big Cocker was about to be. He had already released one album in 1969, and a second came out in November. Here is the title track from that first album:

I guess if anyone was going to follow Little Richard in 1969 without embarrassing themselves, it would have been Joe Cocker.

oh, it's the last time

When I was young, and going to concerts on a regular basis, I used to think I would never tire of them. I couldn't imagine ever being too old to quit wanting to go.

In my later years, I've accepted that growing older does mean I don't go to that many concerts any more. But I don't think I'm done going, even if it's just to once again see Bruce Springsteen (36 times so far), Sleater-Kinney (17 times), or Pink (catching up at 6 times).

But this virus ... I have barely been out of my house for the last seven months. Concerts seem like the worst possible place to go right now. And I feel like it's not going to end. I'm like religious folks who despair of attending services during the pandemic.

I bought a ticket to the Billie Eilish livestream concert in ten days ... $30, cheap for a concert! That appears to be the closest I'm going to get to the concert experience for the foreseeable future.

I saw New Order once, back in 1985. They were far and away my all-time favorite synth-pop band. And "Temptation" was far and away my favorite of their songs ... I even wrote a short story about it, once. And my concert, they played "Ceremony", of course they played "Blue Monday", they even played "Sister Ray".

They didn't play "Temptation".

So I spent a lot of time hanging out on YouTube, watching dozens of videos of New Order performing "Temptation" live. When I do it now, it's as if I watching the last concert of all time.

Up, down, turn around
Please don't let me hit the ground
Tonight I think I'll walk alone
I'll find my soul as I go home

music friday: pj harvey, "rid of me"

Here I go again. Maybe I do this when I'm lazy ... suffice to say, "Rid of Me" has been featured on Music Friday more than once. A good one came in 2013, when I wrote

I should probably be prevented from ever posting this song again, after I used a bunch of versions to fill an entire Music Friday awhile back, which was met by complete silence. On the other hand, there’s “Matt Darbs”, who wrote in the comments section of this video, “Do you know why this has 2 million views? Because 1 million of them are mine!

Rid of Me the album was ranked #153 on the recent Rolling Stone list of greatest albums. She turns 51 today, and that blows my mind for no particular reason ... she's been active in music for more than two decades. She was 23 when Rid of Me came out, so what I'm really saying is merely that Rid of Me is ancient history by now. I am obsessed with the song, in any event. I'll hold back a bit, though, and only post two versions of her performing it. First, her 1993 appearance on The Tonight Show:

This is the one I keep coming back to:

OK, I lied, one more, from when PJ Harvey was the name of a band, and the drummer sang the "Lick My Legs" part. Doesn't work for me, but it's an interesting artifact.