This Was Quite A Ride

… experiencing it as it happened, and now watching this.

Some solid tunes amidst the abhorrent soft rock. Boney M was in here two or three times and I swear I’ve never heard of them.

Zillow Finds

My house went on the market yesterday. My office (that I never use and I threw a bunch of old hifi stuff and a midi controller I had laying around into to stage) has now flicked off almost 2,000 people on Zillow.

God Bless the Mats

52 Years Ago Today…


…I attended this show, age 12. Upon walking in the coliseum, I asked “what’s that smell?” “That’s pot, you idiot,” replied my friend, who apparently ran with a faster crowd.

It was quite a show, with generous use of a theremin during Heartbreaker and Whole Lotta Love. I’ll admit to getting bored with some of the longer ones, but much of it was stunning. Anyway, you can forgive them for overdoing it, because they loved to play and no one was playing better at the time (I doubt if they ever played as well as they did during these early years; they were clearly not as good by the time they made their concert movie, I think in ’73). They were pumped about playing here, you can hear Robert Plant announce that just before they begin. They’d spent much of the day scoring local rockabilly and blues records that were rare elsewhere, something you could still do fairly easily in Memphis back then.

However, as good as the show was and as well as they played, they did not depart on good terms. The police got very antsy and interrupted them during the last long medley (based around How Many More Times but including Tobacco Road, Honey Bee, and also Memphis TN and That’s Alright Mamma for the occasion) and kept harrassing them to get the crowd to sit down. This was still the era of violent Viet Nam protests, and the cops were just nervous. Before the encore you can hear Plant, at the behest of the police, beg the crowd to sit before a policeman chimes in. Plant obviously didn’t care about the crowd standing, but the band was under threat of arrest at that point. Then Page lashes out the first chords of Whole Lotta Love and the place goes bonkers again. The police had ordered all the house lights turned on during How Many More Times; they just wanted people to leave. But of course no one did, because the band was at full throttle.

Meanwhile, backstage, the promoter was afraid the authorities would ban him from ever staging another show in Memphis, so he pointed a gun at Peter Grant to try to make him stop the show. Grant called his bluff and reportedly looked him square in the eye and said “ya can’t shoot me, ya cunt. They gave us the key to the fuckin’ city.” And they had. Prior to their arrival, Mayor Loeb decided to award an official key “to that Led Zeppelin feller who can sell out the coliseum in an hour” (a record at the time). When the mayor saw their hair, he regretted the decision, but ever the southern gentleman, proceeded anyway in a short, awkward meeting the afternoon of the show.

As for me, I got grounded a few weeks for attending. The newspaper reported the widespread pot use and trouble with the police. When I’d asked permission to go, I said LZ were sort of like the Partridge Family. I had no idea they reviewed rock concerts in the newspapers. It was worth the grounding. I don’t think I saw such an exciting culture clash until the Sex Pistols came through in early ’78.

This tour was in support of Led Zeppelin II. The Memphis date came a few months after the legendary Royal Albert Hall show, so the set is similar but mostly better. They’d toured extensively in between, so they’d perfected it on the road by the time they got to Memphis. Just one of many examples: here’s the RAH version of their opener, “We’re Gonna Groove,” and here’s the Memphis one. Page had added some great guitar fills, and then there’s the extra funk groove in the middle.

Speaking Of The War…

If the Russian army has seemed inept to you, that’s because it is.

If you’re interested, here is the best site for war information. It’s geared towards military, and its contributors are mostly data-driven soldiers or wonks. As a result, there wasn’t the usual media and government surprise about the Russians’ difficulties. As far back as November, they were pointing out the Russians’ logistical shortcomings, and this week they reported a Marine Corps University war game that, prior to the invasion, predicted very closely how it would go.

As an old Cold War brat of the 7th Army in Germany, I remember that there was no respect for the Red Army back then. They had scary bombs and large troop numbers, but our army considered them 3rd rate in all other regards. In 2022, the only thing that’s changed is that they’re much smaller. Putin’s “build-up” has been in weapons, not in building a viable army, which hasn’t attempted anything like this since their 70’s-80’s Afghanistan disaster. I don’t think this cold war will be long, because Russia won’t have the money or manpower to sustain one, or even occupy Ukraine (assuming they win). That’s not to say this won’t get very dangerous.

Amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics.
-Omar Bradley

Never interfere with your enemy while he’s making a mistake.
-Napoleon

Speaking o’ Memphis

Here’s a radio show of some 60’s-70’s rarities.  I love the ones by the Breakers and Flash and the Memphis Casuals.  I bet they kicked ass live (I’m not old enough to have seen them, although I did see about half of the others on this list).  Unlisted after the Tommy Hoehn song is a pretty terrible cover of “I Walk the Line” by a band called Hot Dogs, who had some good songs;  why on earth was that chosen?  I find Chris Bell’s acoustic version of “I Am The Cosmos” too slow, sludgy, and depressing–which I guess makes sense, as he was chronically depressed.   It’s the sound of Quaalude abuse.  The official single version moves along better, although there’s still about as much sludge as I can endure.

Rick Nielsen’s Guitar Collection

Here’s something to pass the time while you wait on those COVID test results.

When it comes to guitar collections, some are so large, so special, and so rare, that even the best collectors can’t help but do a double-take. This is how you would define Rick Nielsen’s collection – a total head-turner.

In the latest episode of “The Collection,” host Mark Agnesi heads to Rockford, IL, to visit the godfather of guitar hoarding. Rick Nielsen, the lead guitarist for Cheap Trick, takes us through his cavern of guitars. Ranging from quirky and strange to the ultimate rare and last of its kind. And in a “The Collection” first, Rick shows off three original 1958 Explorers out of only nineteen in existence.

While Rick’s guitar bevy is superior to most, what’s striking is his irreverence for ‘value’ in a world full of collectors and purists. In Rick’s eyes, the guitar belongs to him, and how pristine the guitar is doesn’t really matter. His passion for guitars and the guitar world is apparent as he is still adding to the vault. Follow along as Rick takes us through his fantastic collection.

Musician?

I was bored at a relative’s home over the weekend and noticed a copy of the Neil Young biography, Shakey. I started reading random passages and ran across something interesting. Someone (I forgot who) recalls a meeting between Stephen Stills and Bob Dylan. After the meeting, Stills mentioned to the narrator that although he admired Dylan very much, he didn’t consider Dylan a musician. The narrator was horrified. The great Bob Dylan, not a musician?

Stills was correct.  Let’s look at the facts. As a guitarist, Dylan doesn’t display much that you couldn’t teach anyone. As for the harmonica (barely an instrument really, but let’s be thorough), his playing reminds me of why I hid our harmonica from my two sons when they were very young. As for his singing, you could argue that the younger Dylan’s voice gave an appropriate tone to some of his songs. But we’re talking about musicianship here, and his singing has never been good in purely musical terms. And as for his “mature” voice, it reminds me of the noise my stomach was making a couple of weeks ago after I ate too many ribs.

Then there’s songwriting. I won’t deny he’s written some good ones (hard not to do when you’ve written several million). At best, they are effective support for the main ingredient, his lyrics. Musically, there isn’t much going on in them. You can find great instrumental parts, but they’re the work of others such as Robbie Robertson, Al Kooper, et al.  Well-known covers of his songs are always better than the originals. Well, maybe not always.

So is Dylan a musician?  Nah.

Dylan’s talents lie in lyrics and self-promotion. But as a lyricist, he is not the infallible god of his most ardent fans. It’s been pointed out elsewhere that you can’t be “along” a watchtower. You can be in, on, around, or even buried under one (which might have been a better premise), but not along one. Nit-picking perhaps, but it has a reputation as a great song, and great writing must be precise, even where the meaning is obscure. Then, there are some real clunkers. “Mr. Tambourine Man” is just plain dumb. But to be fair, everyone has bad days, and you can’t write as much as he has without misfiring. I find the protest songs to be overly earnest and boring, but my anti-folkie bias might disqualify me as a judge of those.

His real genius has been in nurturing the cult of his own genius. I can’t think of an artist who has more deftly used aloofness and contempt to rope fans into a sort of narcissistic codependency. It has enabled him to carve out a career on his own terms, so good for him.  It has also worked so well that there will be no clear-sighted reassessment of Dylan until most boomers have downsized to the cemeteries.

That said, I’ve always liked his Live 1966 album where he gave a middle finger to the folkies by going electric. There’s real rock’n’roll tension there, and The Band play like gods. I also enjoyed his Theme Time radio show back in the aughties.

Do Ya Think I’m Sexy

Not really. But unintentionally funny? Yes!

“By now, you and I are very used to watching some of our most elderly and most British celebrities go insane. So allow me to introduce a new and oddly refreshing entrant into the English Boomer cinematic universe: Sir Rod Stewart. As far as I can tell, Rod isn’t against transgender people, or vaccines, or whatever Morrissey happens to be against at any given moment. He just wants to be horny… truly it’s an arse state of affairs when Rod Stewart — a 76-year-old man who has had eight children with five different women and marries a new supermodel once per decade — feels as if his resting libido is being held down. Luckily for us, the old geezer has decided to rebel against all of this millennial prudishness with a new album and a new video. AND WHAT A VIDEO.”

– Drew Magary, in a magnificent article.

Happy Birthday To Me?

I’ve never liked this song, but today I HATE it.  At least the Sgt. Pepper album allowed the convenience of skipping this song and George’s Indian drone. You could just flip to Side 2 and start at “Lovely Rita”–not a great one, but I’ve always sorta liked it.

Starchild and I

What do Paul Stanley and I have in common?  Chest hair?  Makeup?  Goofy stage banter?  Nope.  Not much, really, except for one formative event: at age 5, we were both pole-axed by Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto (Piano Concerto #5).  Here’s PS waxing eloquent on the subject:

I was absolutely god smacked. To know that music could have that kind of power, although I was so young, the music had such heroic qualities to it and mammoth chords. To this day it’s some of the heaviest and most glorious melodies ever. So that really was my introduction to the gravitas that music could have and how emotive it could be. So at the core of music for me is Beethoven.

As for me, it was the first piece of music I fell in love with when Col. Renfield brought home a copy and put it on the ol’ console.  The Beatles came a year or so later.

If you’re interested, there are many good recordings and a handful of great ones.  But to my ears, Rudolf Serkin owned this work.  Here he is with Leonard Bernstein and the NY Philharmonic competing with him for attention.  The winners are we, the listeners.