12.30.2004

the ballad of the little band that couldn't...

now playing: aunt pat, "the saddest cowgirl"


(all printed copies of the first aunt pat album are history...so i'll be keepin' mine pretty close to my chest.)




nik everett seems to be a member of the very, very small circle of people i can talk to and bitch, moan and complain about the music business in a completely unbridled fashion and yet not feel as though all fuckin' hope is completely lost when i hang up the phone. i think that's because i know he's doing this for the right reasons.

that's probably why i'm in his band, too...it sure doesn't hurt.


we were talking today and something popped into my head that had never occured to me before today...no, it wouldn't be our discussion about how even the bad music in the seventies was better than the bad music now (my quote: "i'll take kung fu fighting over i'm too sexy for my fuckin' shirt anyday, man. anyday.").

but we did get drawn into talking about bad music...and about how the open mikes nowadays have been taken over by hacks who feel it's their right and privelege to learn to play guitar before an audience, no matter how unimpressed they might be...and i wondered aloud about what it must be like to be an A&R rep for a major label in the midst of all this. we were talking about how out of touch they seem to be with what's worthwhile and what's not, and it occured to me that if i were in A&R, i'd be just as lost as they are.

here's why.


let's say that you're an A&R rep for a major label, and a scout or an attorney acquaintance of yours brings you a tape (because that's how it works nowadays...you have to connect with someone on the outer perimeter of the business who'll be willing to call in a favor for you in order to be heard), and this tape just completely blows you away. you listen to it over and over in your car on the way home from work, and you actually take it out of the stereo and bring it inside with you...it's that good. you contact the band, find out they've been playing to very receptive audiences in their hometown and getting a little indie radio play, and that they're very professional and a solid unit to the last member. they're in this for the long haul. you ask for more music, and they send you a CD with 16 songs on it, and every single one of them is amazing.

you just can't believe it...you don't understand why some other rep hasn't already scooped them up. you put together a package on the band and start lobbying your bosses on their behalf. you bring their CD to the weekly staff meeting and you play it for the whole room, with a big shit-eating grin on your face as you watch their jaws drop. you champion their cause to the label until they relent and sign the band. they turn over the masters from the songs that they sent you, and you decide to release them as-is, based on the fidelity of the masters - their record will be out within six weeks.

the machine has kicked into gear.

you're already planning on how you're going to spend your bonus money when they pick up the nest new artist grammy the week the record comes out. the disc hits stores on tuesday, and the following week, you stop at the newstand on the way to work to pick up the newest billboard because you can't wait until you get to work to see how you've done this week.


you get into your car and put your coffee into the cup holder as you're frantically flipping the pages towards the hot 100 chart, and you feel your heart sink directly into your pancreas as Reality Sets In:


your band...and at this point, you're calling them your band...the band that has been your passion for three months - debuts at number 89.

at number one on the hot 100 that week, for the fifth straight week, is macarena by Los Retardos, or whatever the fuck they were called...


and you watch in horror for the next month as their masterpiece of an album fails to crack the top seventy, while simultaneously watching willard scott and katie couric doing the fucking macarena on the today show, as this irritating non-song pours out of every car that works its way next to you at a traffic light, out of the stores at the mall, out of your kids' room, even.


the band you championed ultimately sold about 65,000 units, thanks to some sparce promotion at AAA radio and a solid following that they brought with them to the album deal, but that's it. before the year is up, brass at the label has already decided that they'll be dropped at the end of the year...and you're in line at best buy with a copy of the macarena CD in your hands because your kid wants it for christmas.


what do you do at that point?


i think, much to the detriment of music in general, that most of these poor bastards decide that they obviously were wrong about the band that they championed, even though that wouldn't be the case...they were right. absolutely right. had this happened in 1970 instead of 1995, the band would've put out a second album, and then a third...and they'd have gotten an opportunity to build support in pre-clear channel radio, and they'd have stood a fighting chance to be heard.

but it doesn't work that way now.

so, if you want to continue to be an A&R rep, you learn to look for what will sell quickly...what will capture the attention of the dyslexic record-buying public long enough to get them to part with their money, and you become part of the problem...because being part of the solution lies further up the chain of command than you can reach...

...and, after all, a man's gotta eat.









watching from the bleachers

now playing: shawn colvin, "ricochet in time"



tomorrow is a sanctioned day off from work...last three day weekend of the year. well, last weekend of the year, for that matter.


i talked to blake for a while yesterday as he was driving home - he and i have this game we play where we leave messages on each others' voicemail, assuming voices of people we both are most definitely not. his favorite seems to be my "bluesman", which could in reality be pretty much any elderly black man with a history of drinking problems...every time i do it, i remember a train ride to chicago not too long ago when i was sitting a few seats away from an old man who grunted and groaned all night long - after a while, i started doing his noises every time he'd make one, and i had the people around me cracking up after a while. i'd like to say it got less annoying after it got dark and people started to drift off, but that wouldn't be true.

every so often, i'll share a thought with blake that gets a reaction along the lines of, "that's your next song...". and of course, that doesn't happen - since i don't really use that muscle anymore (which brings me to another conversation i had with pete errich of shame earlier in the week, but i can only cover one thought at a time in my old age...stand by).

yesterday, he'd asked me if i was playing for new years' eve, and i said (with very little effort to hide my satisfaction in saying so) that no, i'd be sitting at home this new years' eve - maybe watching regis sub for dick clark, but most likely not...maybe watching a movie, piddling around the house - i still have a couple of computers that i need to get off the table (to include my own, eventually), and i'll probably work on clearing that up this weekend, plus cleaning up the studio and getting rid of the christmas debris that still permeates the house...he replied that he wasn't really planning on doing anything, either, save for going to see his brother-in-law's band at the north star tonight - he started down the "if you're not doing anything" road, and i squelched him before he even got started - at which point he pointed out my obvious glee regarding having nothing to do this weekend...i said to him that i think that all of us are born with a certain number of counters on our personal abacus, and that we get a certain number of new years' eves, a certain number of st. patrick's days, a certain number of cinco de mayos, et cetera - and when they're used up, none of this stuff holds any appeal anymore. personally, i've spent so many nights in bars that if i never went into another barroom in my life, i'd be perfectly content with such a fate. when i was younger, i saw it much differently than i do now...it felt good to be out and alive in the world, "observing the human condition" as it were, and swinging for the bleachers - i used to think that people who sat at home and did nothing were sad shells of their former selves, feigning contentment with their miserable, accepted lots in life and living empty excuses for an existence. i was convinced that they'd given up on life and were just making do with whatever came their way.


a little perspective certainly clears things up for a fella.


now, i think the 50-year-old guy sitting at the bar with the gold chains around his neck is the more pathetic of the two potential scenarios - the poor bastard pretending to be half his age while he ignores his receding hairline and expanding waistline, trying to be something he's very obviously not (to everyone but himself, anyway)...

...and i'm pretty sure that i've used up an awful lot of the beads on my abacus, where the need to be "out" is concerned. it just holds no appeal whatsoever for me anymore. i actually remember thinking about this on christmas eve, when ragu and i did the coachlight show...looking around the room at some of the folks who'd come out for the show and wondering what it was that brought someone to a bar on christmas eve afternoon. given my druthers, i'd have probably still been at the mall watching the kids in line to see santa. much as i enjoy playing with ragu, i wasn't gonna pass up the opportunity - but i could've certainly thought of some other things to do that day that didn't have anything to do with being in a bar.

and oddly, i don't feel like the pathetic picture i used to paint when i was lumping everyone who chose a more sedate path into the "boulevard of broken dreams" class...i feel like i fall a little further back up the chart - perhaps somewhere in the vicinity of the main character in jackson browne's "the pretender":


i'm gonna rent myself a house in the shade of the freeway
i'm gonna get up every morning and go to work each day
and when the evening rolls around
i'll go on home and lay my body down
and when the morning light comes streamin' in
i'll get up and do it again...amen

i want to know what became of the changes we waited for love to bring
were they only the fitful dreams of a greater awakening?
i've been aware of the time goin' by
they say in the end, it's the wink of an eye
but when that morning light comes streamin' in
i'm gonna get up and do it again....



i remember him saying that one of the inspirations for that song was a studio guitarist he knew, fred tackett (who's now a member of little feat). he said that while they were working on the record, fred would come in every day, plug in, and play the perfect part for whatever was on the burner for that day..."he was like an appliance", he said..."you'd plug him in and out came the part." he said that contemplating what fred's life must've been like was what led him to consider the central character of the song...since he'd never really had that perspective on life.

when i was younger, i used to think that song was written from a sympathetic point of view - and certain parts of it still feel that way to me. but i think now that the song could just as easily be thought of as a celebration of survival in the face of what the world throws at you during the course of its massacre of our collective innocence...


...aaah, the laughter of the lovers as they run through the night
leaving nothing for the others but to choose off and fight
they tear at the world with all their might
while the ships bearing their dreams sail out of sight....

i'm gonna find myself a girl who can show me what laughter means
and we'll fill in the missing colors in each other's paint by number dreams
and then we'll put our dark glasses on and we'll make love until our strength is gone...

...i'm gonna be a happy idiot and struggle for the legal tender
while the ads take aim and lay their claim to the heart and soul of the spender
and believe in whatever may lie in those dreams that money can buy
y'know, true love could have been a contender....



my take on the song from my perspective now - as i stand on the precipice of waving goodbye to my thirties - is that each of us has a finite amount of impact upon whether or not we're able to actually achieve whatever our personal dreams or goals might be, and that there's a certain dignity in living well with the hand we're dealt. "you live your life,", he once said..."you don't fit your life to some ideal...at least i don't think so. i mean, if you can, then i've been burned..."

the bigger question for me has been one that wasn't addressed at all in jackson's song, but was asked in another song by a different artist...

what do you do when your dreams come true and they're not quite like you planned?*

i'd probably phrase it somewhat differently...in my own situation, it'd be more akin to "what do you do when your dream reveals itself to be much less fulfilling and much more complex, frustrating, and burdensome that you ever thought it'd be in your wildest dreams?"

of course, that doesn't really sing, though, does it?


when i was a kid, the dream was, essentially, to be dan fogelberg - to make an album every year or so, go on tour, live on a ranch in colorado and have a summer house in maine and do the "happily ever after" dance. as i grew up and actually started exploring the realities of the road and the changes in the music business, i altered my ideal considerably - instead of being dan, i wanted to be john gorka instead. john made records aimed at a specific, yet substantial audience that were well received by those sympathetic to the genre, he was able to tour regularly and play for people who came out specifically to see and hear him - not to watch the football game on the big screen or to partake of fifty cent drafts - and he was able to do so under the radar of the mainstream, and - one would assume - live a somewhat normal life in the process. i was a father now, after all, and the thought of occupying the guns 'n roses echelon of the music business was both unappealing and completely unrealistic. even dan fogelberg himself no longer occupied this rung of the food chain, and was making some of the most awful music of his career at this particular point in time (and frankly, he's never really recovered from it).

but as i played shows and made records and courted management and legal representation and so on and so forth, i found that life on this rung of the food chain was really no different than i would think it is further up...it's just that the sharks down here wear different clothes. it's no less competitive, no less frustrating, and no less soul-scarring.


so...when you arrive at a point in your life that finds you looking upon the only thing you'd ever really wanted to do with your life as something that's no longer an option, what do you do then?


my personal answer has been to find a way somehow to distill the parts that i loved and separate them from the parts that i detested in a way that would allow me to continue to materially participate in my dream somehow without totally turning my back on it...so now i play as a sideman for other artists and in cover bands. and i don't deal with managers or booking agents or venue owners or talent buyers or the bartender who books the bands or the pierced punk from campus activities...all of them are out of my personal loop now.

and, oddly enough, i've managed to reconnect with the things that i loved about doing this in the first place as a result.


the doubt that lingers as a result, though, is the question of whether or not that makes me a failure in the eyes of the world...."didn't have what it took". "couldn't stick it out".

"not good enough" doesn't really enter the fray, because there's no doubt (cocky as it may sound) that i was good enough to have gone whatever distance it might've taken for me to feel as though i was a success.


and, in this day and age, what is it exactly that defines "success" anyway? selling an assload of records or concert tickets? being on mtv? sleeping with paris hilton?


i've reached a point in my life where none of those things are worth the accompanying strife that they introduce into your life (not to mention the potential communicable diseases).


i play music because, simply put, i can't conceive of a life that doesn't involve playing music. i don't know how not to. it's part of what i do, of who i am. it's as natural a part of my being as breathing in and out, and no more separable from my life.


so that's why i do it. not because i crave the trappings that accompany what we consider to be success, but in spite of them.



pete called to ask me if i'd considered exploiting my publishing for the songs on our mutual angels and whatever other songs i had that were completed...he'd just gotten back from a co-writing session in new york with a lyricist and he was somewhat excited about what they'd managed to come up with, and he wanted to send me the songs to add parts to...and the subject came up of publishing.

pete loves me, and the feeling is mutual. pete has managed, through some means i'm not privvy to, to actually hold on to the enthusiasm that you see in the eyes of the kid who just walked into the music store with his guitar in his hand, on his way upstairs for his lesson. he's still very much hungry, but he also still has that twinkle in his eye that he had when i first met him, playing in a band with his friends from high school and working at a record store. i dig that about him.

but, the thing with pete is that he's often trying to gently elbow me back into something that i'm perfectly content to watch from the sidelines...he seems to take it personally that OMA wasn't nominated for a grammy, and he's still out there championing the record whenever the opportunity presents itself....and i thank him for that, really - but i personally don't have any more gas in that tank. i'm planning on making it available again through the website for anyone who wants a copy of it that doesn't have one, but that's really about it. if i were to decide to make another record - a concept that i've flirted with of late - it'll be done in the same spirit. i'll make the record, post most (if not all) of it on the website for people to download, and sell actual copies to anyone who wants the better-sounding end result, and that'll be it. i won't be driving to new york city on a tuesday night to play four songs at the living room for no money and getting back home just in time to shower and go to work anymore, ever. it didn't work for that record, and i doubt it'll work for any future records.

this isn't to say that i'll be dragged kicking and screaming against my will into any opportunity that might present itself, but i'm perfectly content to watch the battles in the trenches from my seat in the stands, when it comes to duking it out with everyone else whos' fighting and clawing to get to the front lines.



there's a lot more serenity up here than there is down there.






*from after the thrill has gone, words & music by don henley and glenn frey




12.29.2004

phantom voicemail

now playing: mary chapin carpenter, "only a dream"



i turned on my cell phone last night as i was walking out of the building to my car and saw that i'd accumulated 4 voice messages since i'd last turned it on.

two of them were from my sister, who'd called on christmas day. jayda had told me that they called them on christmas, but hadn't said much else about it...i assumed that she probably hadn't gotten our new phone number yet, so they weren't able to call us, but i never really gave much thought to calling her back...those conversations are almost always awkward, and not much is ever said, so i tend to avoid them most of the time. i have gotten caught on occasion in the past, and i do my best to be a good little soldier and get through them as best as i can.


to the passing acquaintance, or to those who only know me through what i write here, it probably appears that i come from a family of phantoms - i seldom discuss my family, or where i'm from, or anything historic of that nature. those who know me a little better may think the same thing, actually - in fact, i've had friends who've known me for ages tell me as much. michael o'hagan, who served as best man in my first wedding, once told me that as well as he felt he knew me, he didn't know anything about me...my family, where i grew up, things of that nature. and at that point in time, he'd have been right. and at this point in time, i'm sure there are quite a few people who could attest to the same statement. and these are people who probably know me as well as anyone is really capable of knowing me, too.

it's just not something that i talk about very often.


i never really considered my childhood to be traumatic, or unhappy - i never felt neglected in as many words, or anything of that nature...i just always felt like i was "misplaced", if that makes any sense. i felt like i had been swapped at birth with another boy who was happily living the life i was supposed to be living a thousand miles away from where i was...or maybe he felt just as misplaced as i did, i don't know.

all i know is that i had absolutely nothing in common with the people around me who were preordained to have been my family, and it was apparent in just about every passing hour of every day. i couldn't have been more out of place among my family if i'd been a tribal west african child with a loincloth and a bone in my nose.

i don't hold them responsible for any long-term emotional wreckage, nor do i think ill of them - they are who they are, and that doesn't make them bad people by any stretch of the imagination. it's just the way it was.

that doesn't mean that i didn't get my ass kicked by my cousins, or made fun of for stupid shit...but my family didn't corner the market on that kind of thing. and, honestly, 95% of the time, there really isn't too much about my childhood that i would change. i could've done without the outdoor toilets and houses with no running water and waking up to the bitter cold that permeated every corner of the house in the mornings until the fire that my mother built in the stove managed to take the edge off the chill - i'd have been glad to leave that to someone else, but as a whole i don't look back in anger or with regret about much. i'd probably sing a different song if i hadn't had the means and the motivation to remove myself from all that to the extent that i have, though. now, it all feels like water under the bridge, and it's part of who i am, and what's made me the person i am today.

whether that's a good or bad thing is debatable on a number of levels, i'm sure...

i don't doubt, for instance, that the fact that i grew up with the absolute bare minimum necessary to survive is pretty much directly responsible for the materialistic streak that i've developed as an adult...and when i say materialistic, i don't necessarily mean in the fashion most people immediately think of when you say that word - i don't go out and buy a new car when one of my neighbors comes home with one, and i'm not constantly playing the "keeping up with the joneses" game...but if i want something, i get it - whether i need it or not, as often as not. same with my kids...if they ask for something, they usually get it - because i remember what it was like to want things that i couldn't have.

as personality flaws go, it's probably my biggest one - by a lap or so, even.

(of course, if you've visited the guitar page of the photos section of my site, none of this comes to you as earth-shattering news.)


i think everyone's flaws and strengths can be traced back to their childhood, in various ways - and most psychiatrists would probably tend to agree with me, based on what i've been told...and certainly, all the old cliches apply as well: whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger, blah blah blah...

but i think that i use the "i coulda done a lot worse" cliche to avoid asking myself what could have been done differently. certainly, there's nothing i can do to change it now...nothing's going to make those christmas phone calls any less of a glaring example of how different i've become, and how much more detached i am with every passing year.


and yet everytime i hear this song, it makes me sad to the very center of my heart in a way that no other song does....



...i can recall the sound of the wind
as it blew throught the trees and the trees would bend
i can recall the smell of the rain
on a hot summer night coming through the screen

i'd crawl in your bed when the lightning flashed
and i'd still be there when the storm had passed
dead to the world 'til the morning cast
its light all around your room

we lived on a street where the tall elm shade
was as green as the grass and as cool as a blade
that you held in your teeth as we lay on our backs
staring up at the blue and the blue stared back

i used to believe we were just like those trees
we'd grow just as tall and as proud as we pleased
with our feet on the ground and our arms in the breeze
under a sheltering sky

twirl me about, and twirl me around
let me grow dizzy and fall to the ground
and when I look up at you looking down,
say it was only a dream

a big truck was parked in the drive one day
they wrapped us in paper and moved us away
your room was no longer next door to mine
and this kid sister thing was old by that time

but oh how our dreams went bump in the night
and the voices downstairs getting into a fight
the next day a silence you could cut with a knife
and feel like a blade at your throat

twirl me about and twirl me around
let me grow dizzy and fall to the ground
when I look up at you looking down
say it as only a dream

the day you left home you got an early start
i watched your car back out in the dark
i opened the door to your room down the hall
i turned on the light and all that I saw
was a bed and a desk and couple of tacks
no sign of someone who expects to be back
it must have been one hell of a suitcase you packed

twirl me about, twirl me around
let me grow dizzy and fall to the ground
when I look up at you looking down
say it was only a dream...









12.28.2004

milestone

now playing: level 42, "i sleep on my heart"




for the first time in some time, i actually scrolled all the way to the bottom of my blog tonight, to the counter...and i seem to have eclipsed ten thousand hits at some point in the recent past.


that's somewhat unfathomable to me...and kinda awkward, in a way, to think that this page has been revisited that many times. feelin' a little "truman show" vibe at the moment.

however, i want to thank those of you who've taken an interest in the thoughts and twisted diatribes that go on inside my head on a semi-regular basis. i'll continue to share them with you for as long as you continue to stop by.


with much gratitude,



T







sick of christmas....or sick for christmas?

now playing: jim photoglo, "will of the wind"


...or, both perhaps.


i took a last minute gig with lil' ragu on the afternoon of christmas eve, and it really became apparent then...my throat wasn't what it was supposed to be, to the extent that i could only sing three or four songs. i felt ok for the most part, but my chest hurt and my throat was in a sorry state. otherwise, i was fine. but by sunday night, i was hurtin' all over. yesterday, i slept most of the day - all but about six to seven hours. didn't shower until about 10:30 last night. when i finally went up to bed, i coughed and stared at the clock for a while, and listened to the whistling sound coming from my chest every time i exhaled until i finally decided to go downstairs and return to the sofa, lest wendy wake up and not be able to go back to sleep due to the noises coming from the other side of the bed.

the few minutes before i dozed off on the sofa were consumed with thoughts of taking today off as well...but i knew that to be a non-option, even as i was entertaining the thought - i'm out of vacation time as of yesterday, and i simply can't afford not to work at the moment. my guardian angel sent some computer work in my direction to get me through, but there's something screwy with my bank account at the moment - a deposit i made last week doesn't appear to have gone through, and i need to find out why, because some transactions that depended on that deposit have hit the account and it's glowing bright red right now. it's only temporary, but i hate when that happens.


other than that, christmas was - well, christmas.

the concept seemed rather foreign and surreal until i got up on christmas eve and made my way to the mall to do my remaining christmas shopping...that day, it started to feel like christmas for the first time to me. i grabbed a couple of auntie anne's pretzels and a soda and sat down close to center court and watched the kids line up to get in their last minute face time with santa claus - one little girl was particularly precious..she had brought her favorite doll to visit santa, too. (i tried to get a picture of her, but it was a little too thick in the space between she and i for me to get a good one).

the one thing i was able to do on christmas eve was to actually buy my daughter a present, as opposed to just giving her money - and i have to give props to her mom for her help on that front. i mentioned to her that i had no idea what to buy her, and i didn't - i hate it....no, hate it - when people buy me clothes. no one has ever managed to come out of that particular task without a scratch. you'd think that someone who puts as little emphasis as i do on what they wear wouldn't be so particular, but the truth is, i have a very narrow window with regard to what i deem "acceptable". there are certain colors that i'll wear, and there are a lot more colors that i won't. certain fabrics i'm ok with, others i refuse to deal with. and, time has taught me, no matter what the tag says, i really kinda need to try it on before it leaves the store with me.

so, over time, most folks associated with me have learned not to buy me clothes.

and that makes me happy.

however, this was pretty much all my daughter wanted for christmas....and heaven knows i'm the last person she wants buying her clothes - because that's just asking for trouble. so i don't - i give her money and take her shopping and we buy her clothes together. or, as it'll probably be this year, i'll just give her money and she'll go with whomever she decides to go with, and that'll be that.

but her mom gave me an anonymous tip regarding a gold necklace that she really wanted, and i bought that for her - and that got the all-so-important "whooooaaa" look from her when she opened it.

"i was gonna buy this!"


that's what i was going for.

so thanks, jill. i owe you one.


i probably would've stayed at the mall a lot longer than i did, were it not for the aforementioned gig with ragu - that went well enough, thanks to the fact that ragu was content to carry the material for the show...since i was largely unable to sing. a couple of fellows showed up to jam, one with a trumpet and one with a very small set of bongos....older fellows, both capable players certainly...but it did make for a pretty surreal little band - acoustic guitar, stratocaster, bongos, and trumpet...not your everyday outfit, to be certain.

but when i got home, i got out the traditional bottle of champagne and sat down in front of the tv to wrap presents...only i didn't wrap a single one. i ended up watching "a christmas carol" without getting out a single present, and then fell asleep on the sofa afterward with the "christmas story" marathon on and didn't wrap anything until the next day.


i think that might've been my first hint that i wasn't feeling my best...that's not like me at all.


so the kids came by at around 4pm on christmas day and opened their presents...and dylan made his customary run to the basement. he'd gotten two new video games that he'd been jonesing for, and he couldn't wait to try them out. so much so, in fact, that he stayed home to play while wendy, jayda and i took advantage of an invite to ragu's house for christmas. i was a little apprehensive about going because i knew there'd be a lot of people there that i didn't know...but in the spirit of the day, it didn't really matter. it felt like family. i managed to get a toddler on my lap within half an hour of getting there, so i was in my element. ashton, his name was. this kid could eat. i mean, seriously eat. he must've put down over half a dozen slices of ring bologna, a couple of pickles, and a handful of triscuits just while i was holding him...and he was still reaching for stuff on the table when i gave him back to mom and dad as they were getting ready to leave. jayda actually sat on my lap on the sofa while we were talking to mrs. ragu in the living room - i don't know where that came from, but it doesn't happen often, and i loved that she was so willing to be affectionate that way.

i'll take it when and where i can get it. the older our children get, the more infrequent that becomes.


we had to leave just as keith and his wife were getting there, because i was starting to feel guilty about having left dylan at home for so long by himself, but as it turned out my worry was unfounded - he hadn't moved from the spot where i left him some three hours before when we came home.

jayda dashed upstairs to catch up on her phone calls, dylan sequestered himself in the studio with his playstation, and i opened another bottle of champagne and settled in to watch "it's a wonderful life"...followed by the tail end of the Titans game, followed by a james taylor concert on public television....followed by falling asleep on the sofa, yet again.


oddly, the only sense i really got of the season was a few hours at the mall the morning of christmas eve. the whole weekend, it felt essentially as though i was going through the motions. christmas takes on such a different complexion when your children surpass a certain age. once, it was all about christmas morning - about having them come running in to wake you up to let you know that santa had been there, and watching with a sense of fulfillment as they rip into their christmas presents with smiles on their faces...that's really when christmas is in its element - those fleeting moments at the beginning of the day when you have a few instances of sheer, unbridled delight that you can share in with your children. the rest of it pales in weak comparison to that...the whole frustration-wracked process of deciding upon and then buying gifts, the god-forsaken promenades of dysfunction that are "the family dinner"....and the worst part of it?

i decided, late on christmas eve, while wendy and i were at queen city diner, that i think i understand why so many people decide upon suicide during the holidays.

it doesn't have anything to do with despair as a result of loneliness, or depression...

it's the fucking music.


seriously.


let's take but a single example...not to disappoint those of you who hate "rockin' around the christmas tree" or "grandma got run over by a reindeer" as much as i do, but i want to use a more traditional example.

how many of you are searching the medicine cabinet for razor blades by the last verse of "twelve days of christmas"?

what a repetitive, vomit-inducing piece of garbage.

it has all the musical appeal of "ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall"...and by the time day twelve rolls around, you're ready to strangle someone...and, dare i say, rightfully so.

and, obviously, we're just discussing the staples here...the traditional tunes. heaven help me if i'm ever actually exposed to anything so obviously ill-conceived as the lynyrd skynyrd christmas album. now, c'mon - what useful function could that possibly have? why? WHY?

same to you, dan fogelberg...hasn't your reputation suffered enough these past few years? and, along the same what the fuck lines...as i was checking out at borders on friday, i heard none other than the King of the pretentious middle aged white guys in hawaiian shirts and sandals, Jimmy Fucking Buffett, doing jingle bells over the store speakers.

the one thing i'm proud of, with regard to my short stint as a songwriter, is that i never succumbed to the pull of the twisted urge to record one of these rotten-assed christmas chestnuts. because, frankly...i never had said twisted urge. in all honesty, i think i'd look forward to committing my own version of "santa claus is coming to town" to tape almost as much as i'd cringe with anticipation at the prospect of recording have neguila or ave maria or copacabana...

the lone solace in the bittersweet moment at which christmas passes over into history is knowing that i won't have to hear any more of that bullshit for at least, oh, nine months or so. that estimate seems to grow shorter with every passing year, though. soon, you'll be able to hear little brenda lee crooning about having seen mommy kissing santa claus on your way home from the shore on labor day weekend.

and, of course, if the weather patterns continue to move in the direction they have been, you won't be able to tell the difference between christmas and labor day weekend...we had a brief cold snap early last week here, but by the time christmas rolled around we were back up in the high forties. when i left for lunch earlier today, i did so with nothing on but a long sleeved shirt, and suffered not at all for it. i'm told that it'll be in the sixties this coming weekend, although it might rain.

were ol' bing around today, he'd be dreaming of a partly cloudy christmas....at best.


anyway, one last thing i have to make a note of before i call it a day...

when i woke up this morning there on my trusty sofa, i was in the middle of the strangest dream...i dreamt that a country act that i'd arranged an audition for earlier this year was the subject of a reality TV show...i think it was called "chasing the nashville dream" or something similarly absurd. i don't remember if i was in the band or not, but in the dream, i wasn't seeing all this from the perspective of a viewer of a tv program, so i was actually there for some reason.

these people were filming every minute of everything, and the final product was edited to make this guy look like an asshole....serious, go-out-of-their-way, extra effort turd polishing - and in the dream, it was workin' like a charm. they got footage of temper tantrums during soundcheck, they got the poor bastard putting on makeup, picking out clothing, doing something to his toenails - you name it. and when the show was done, he got to put out an album, and it tanked. i mean, it could only have done worse if they hadn't bothered to print any copies at all. and after the record, he ended up on one of those VH1 shows where they put all these people into a house....

...well, at least he didn't get caught in a three-way with flavor flav and bridgette neilsen. not in the dream, anyway.

when i woke up, i felt bad for the guy - as if all this crap had actually happened. but then i remembered that he had a picture of himself with bachelor bob on his website...and it reoccured to me that these idiots who end up on reality tv end up there because they want to, and for no other reason...


....oh, and then i remembered that it was only a dream and none of this meant anything, nor had any bearing on what kind of a person this particular individual was in the first place.


by the time i was rooting through the sock drawer for two socks that vaguely resembled each other, i'd forgotten all about it.







12.22.2004

surreal yule

now playing: tim finn, "persuasion"


i can't remember - certainly not in recent memory, anyway - a christmas that felt less like christmas than this one.


there are decorations in the yards in my neighborhood, and yet not only have i not put up a tree, i haven't even given it a thought.

there are commercials on tv, songs all over the radio...those awful sweaters are starting to show up at work...

you know the ones. the ones with the little santa clauses and snowflakes and such embroidered onto them, or fastened to the front of them...my personal favorites are the ones with the bells. those awful fucking bells.

and it's always women of at least 50 or so who wear these things...and i can't help but wonder - do they go through life despising those things on other people like i do, only to arrive at some magical point in their evolution where they realize how horribly wrong they were and come to the conclusion that those jingly fuckin' sweaters are just the coolest thing anyone could have ever come up with?

now, don't get me wrong...if i ever reach such an age, i fully intend to dress like an old person. and i'll make peace with it somehow. because there's nothing less cool than an old person who slips on the leather pants or the hiphugger jeans and tries to be something they're not. that's both incredibly tacky and poignantly sad, at the same time.

but if you ever see me manning the salvation army kettle at the supermarket wearing a red and green jingly sweater, i'd appreciate it greatly if you'd take the time to gently put down your groceries and strangle me.


anyway, clothing choices aside - i'm still not sure why it is, but christmas seems like something other people are doing this year.

i think that part of it lies in the fact that my children are older, and have different expectations of the holiday than they did when they were younger. they're at the "money age"...they just want money so they can buy their own stuff.

and that's fine - hell, i can relate...i usually buy my own gifts, because no one knows what i want better than i would. and i've been perfectly happy with that arrangement for some years now. but i've always managed to come up with things for them that they either didn't know they wanted or needed, or didn't know i was getting them...but that seems farther out of reach for me with each year that passes, and with its' accompanying accumulation of familial age. i get older, they get older, and it feels like the chasm between us gets a little larger and more awkward when this time of year rolls around...and it becomes apparent just how much less enthralled we all are by the whole christmas process.


maybe next year.






12.21.2004

another one bites the rock and roll fantasy

now playing: marc cohn, "dig down deep"



so have you guys heard that ex free and bad company frontman paul rodgers is going to be fronting queen for a reunion tour in freddie mercury's place?


just who the fuck is gonna pay to see this, i wonder? certainly all those classic rock fans who couldn't wait to stay home from the ian astbury-as-jim morrison doors reunion debacle are probably already getting in line to find something else to do when this show comes to town....


seriously, once more....what the fuck?


i don't have any qualms about a patchwork version of queen hitting the road...and i'm a huge paul rodgers fan.

BUT-


didn't anyone bother to tell these folks that they're totally and hopelessly stylistically incompatible?

don't believe me?

try to picture, in your head, the man who sang can't get enough and shooting star belting out the operatic strains of bohemian rhapsody....


is that workin' for ya?


somehow, i didn't think so.


but, ya know, what the hell? why not? in fact, why don't we team some other living legends with surviving members of pop royalty and throw 'em on the road? i have some thoughts....


pretenders lead vocalist chrissie hynde and richard carpenter in the new carpenters....

"just like me, they long to be....BACK ON THE CHAIN GANG!"
now who can argue with that, huh? genius!

pearl jam frontman eddie vedder fronting the revitalized grateful dead

"jeremy spoke in....claaaaas toodaaaay...and he said a friend of the devil is a friend o'mine...."
eddie and his flannel and camoflauge would fit right in with the aging hippie demographic, right? well, maybe.

heavy metal's fleet-fingered steve vai filling the late lowell george's shoes in little feat

"'if you'll be my dixie chicken...i'll be your tennessee lamb...and we can play eight thousand notes a second down in dixie land..."
hopefully, he wouldn't bother slipping the 3/4" spark plug wrench over the ol' pinkie and going down that road...



ok, it's starting to get a little ridiculous...but you get my point, right? paul rodgers? hell, why not get liam gallagher from oasis? why not get fuckin' kid rock? how about maybe toby keith? josh groban? clay aiken? fred durst? willie nelson? bob seger? bobby mcferrin? art garfunkel?


stop the insanity, man.



you know what i'd pay to hear? queen fronted by brad roberts of the crash test dummies.


now that would be something to see.




12.20.2004

so you wanna be a rock 'n roll star....

now playing: grateful dead, "terrapin station"


(my all time favorite GD song, by the way...)




i've been put in the position, of late, to give some thought to how it was that i came to learn the things i've learned about playing guitar...or any of the instruments i play, for that matter. i have a son whos' learning to play, a daughter who wants to take piano lessons, and a wife who is looking to me for guidance to learn to play bass.

i've been asked before - and have attempted, once or twice - to give lessons. "you play so well", people would say. "if you can play that well, surely you can teach other people to do that, too, right?"


well, frankly - i haven't gone about this in the normal manner. and, given my druthers, i'd have done some of this considerably different than i have. if i could stop/rewind, i'd find a traditional teacher and learn the way everyone else has. i might not have some of the stylistic quirks that i have now, but strangely, i don't see that as a bad thing.

i have a lot of handicaps. by handicaps, i mean that there are a lot of things that schooled players can do that i'm unaware of how to execute properly. i don't have the musical vocabulary of a traditionally schooled player, i don't think. and i've certainly developed a lot more bad habits than any schooled player would've been allowed to...and at this late stage in the game, i'm kinda stuck with them. at this point, i'm not sure i could unlearn any of them.


so how the hell did i ever manage to learn anything, without any proper guidance, you might ask?


if i had to give it a name, i guess i'd call it subtractive intuition.

my first instrument was the drums, and there sure as hell wasn't anyone around to teach me jack shit about that. i built a makeshift drumset out of buckets and lids and whatever i could find lying around, and i sat out in back of my grandfathers' house and beat on them incessantly. i'd listen to the radio and i'd try to figure out what it was that they were doing, and if there was music anywhere, i'd beg to go and i'd watch every move the drummer made, and then i'd go home and emulate what i saw. i'd stay up late to watch the midnight special or saturday night live or even the country music shows that aired on saturday afternoons, just to try to figure out what it was that they were doing, and then i'd try to apply it.

in the fall, there was a harvest festival at the elementary school in my town, and there'd usually be a band for that...i'd sit as far around the side of the band as i could and watch the drummer's every move. i probably creeped a few of them out, but they didn't let on if i did.

in my teens, my mother got me a clock radio for christmas, and it went everywhere i did...i'd take it to my grandfathers' house and i'd play along with the radio for literally hours at a time.


my point is that i was hungry for every morsel of knowledge i could attain about music - drums in particular. i absorbed everything i could about them, and i became a kickass drummer very quickly.

later, when i decided to try my hand at the guitar, i did the same thing...i'd watch the guitar players in the bands i was in, i'd ask questions, and i'd go home and try to apply what i'd seen, or what i'd been shown. i'd read articles in magazines, watch tv, anything i could - just to try and pick up something new.


heaven knows what i'd have been like if i'd had the internet when i was a kid.


i marvel now, as i watch my son flirt with the notion of playing an instrument, at his general indifference towards the instrument. now i fully realize as i say that how much it must sound like i expect him to take the same path i did, and truthfully, i don't. if he doesn't want to play, i fully respect that, and he's free to flirt with the notion as much as he wants...if he ever actually gets hungry, then i'm there for him. same thing with jayda, or wendy for that matter.


to anyone who would be considering this path...learning to play an instrument...i'd ask that simple question first.


are you hungry?


seriously. do you find yourself compulsively tapping out drum fills and rolls on the desk? do your fingers rise and fall on the table as if they were playing hammer-ons and pulloffs, a la jimmy page? does the music play in your head constantly? do you draw pictures of your instrument in the back of your notebook? are you constantly listening to music, trying to get inside the head of the person who inspires your hunger?


none of these things are prerequisites to playing an instrument...playing it well, even.


but if you want to learn, there's no substitute for being hungry.




and one other point i'll make about learning an instrument...a point that applies to learning anything, really. write this down.


no one ever learned a fucking thing while their own lips were moving.




that's all. class dismissed.







Stone Road, 1997-2004

now playing: sportscenter


a brief note about my old buddy michael tolcher - he's going to be playing in allentown on january 15th (for those of you who are local), and he's going to be appearing on last call with carson daly on wednesday night (the 22nd).

also, if you haven't been to david lindley's page lately, stop in and read the "latest news" entries from the road. funny, funny stuff.


so, with that out of the way...


stone road has now officially passed on. we had our last show on saturday night.

pepetual sweetheart pete errich from shame called me saturday afternoon to wish me a good gig...he also dropped off a copy of the new version of "sparkle" from their new record, this one with strings on it this afternoon.

ever the thoughtful bastard, that pete guy.


we passed the day on saturday by having some lunch with dylan and driving to philadelphia to guitar center, once i got back from my saturday morning meeting at keiths'. lil' ragu came in a little hung over, from having played santa claus the night before (and having gone to see another band with his santa suit still on...and got up and played "pride and joy" dressed as the jolly old elf himself), and jerry from black hills stopped in, too, with an old gretsch lap steel that i think he wants to sell me, although he didn't say as much on saturday...


but, once dylan and wendy and i got back from philadelphia, dylan had to return to his moms' and i had to get ready for the inevitable. i waited as long as i could for mitch to show up...called his house a few times...but ultimately, it was past time to go to darryl's house to meet up for the gig, so i had to leave without him. he called me as i was on my way through leesport to tell me that he'd slept well past when he'd wanted to, and probably wouldn't be coming to the show. we talked about some other rather distressing developments (of which i was sworn to secrecy) before he conceded that he probably wouldn't be coming to the gig. i was disappointed - we've had no bigger fan than mitch during the entire duration of this band. he's driven to reading from philadelphia more times than i could count to come see us play, and i felt it would be symbolic for him to have been at the last one. but it wasn't to be.

there were a lot of old friends of the band at the show, though..brian, darryl's brother - the person responsible for the initial introductions that got the band started. hank and jodi - friends of darryl's who've been coming to see us for years...there were other faces there that i knew, but who'd never had names in my mind...but i recognized them as we came in to set up for the show.

so we arrived and i staked out my corner, in front of the christmas tree, and started setting up my stuff. i brought my old les paul, the epiphone with the correct gibsonesque headstock, to use that night. it's a screamer, but i've been so enthralled by the dillions lately that it's been neglected. so much so, in fact, that i had to change the strings on it before the show to avoid a case of tetanus.

the whole first set was plagued with problems...low-end feedback, whines and howls of every kind coming from the monitors and from the mains...barry was trying to troubleshoot it, and it took a while to nail it down, and it still returned every so often at the precise moment that we thought we'd gotten to the bottom of it...but by the middle of the second set, it was negligible.

we all played well - it felt like everyone put a little extra into the night, knowing it would be the last one...but in terms of what we played, it was still a pretty average gig. i went in determined to shake things up a little bit - to, at the very least, throw in some stuff that we'd never done before. in the first set, i just started playing "crossroads" during a lull after a song, and everyone jumped in and held on for dear life...and it worked out fine. in the last set, someone asked for a tom petty song, and i turned around and yelled out, "e minor, d and c....here we go!" and started playing i need to know...which we'd never, ever played before - it was fun to watch darryl's expression go from one of panic and confusion to total enlightenment when i sang the first line of the song and the little light bulb over his head went off...

...now that's what stone road was about, for me. that sense of adventure, and the courage to jump off into something without knowing what the outcome was gonna be. and for that one song, it was back.

for three minutes, we were the old stone road. but that was about it.

there were a couple of other tricks in the works, too...darryl had soaked a set of sticks in lantern fluid and had them lit up for his solo, which we dueted on...i walked around to the side of the kit and started playing the hi-hats to keep the groove going while he lighted his sticks, and we ended up playing through the whole thing, with me on one side playing cymbals and him behind the kit. i reverted to my old cabaret inn-era trick of playing the first solo in tush with a slide on my finger, then picking up a full rolling rock with my teeth and turning it up in the air and drinking the whole thing during the second verse and then playing the next solo with the empty bottle...and at the end of the night, during the lap steel solo on rocky mountain way, i had put the lap steel down on a speaker and picked up the bottle and finished the solo with it, and at the end of the song i was beating the neck of it with the bottle and with my open hand, practically bouncing it up and down while everyone else was thundering in the background....

....and then i picked it up, turned to the band, and (as has been the custom), held the lap steel up in the air and yanked the cord out of its jack as we crashed down onto the end of the song.

and, just that quickly, it was over.


we milled about, talking to people for a while, most of us doing so within the confines of our own acquaintances...then kathy, barry's wife, bought a round of shots for the band and we all raised our hands and toasted the end of the band.

i slipped the shotglass into my pocket. souvenir.

i took a bunch of pictures with my cellphone - none of them very good quality, but good for nostalgia purposes nonetheless. karen was uncharacteristically hard to pin down, since she's usually not anywhere near that quick when she's in the state she was in on saturday night, but i got a couple of good "karen faces" anyway. kathy was uncommonly proud of her cleavage on saturday, too, for some reason...not that anyone was complaining or anything. anyway, we all talked (separately and together) about the band, about the end of the band - with the folks who were there...and then, one or two at a time, everyone spilled out into the parking lot and left.

after everyone was gone, i was sitting at the end of the bar closest to the dancefloor, by myself. someone had turned on the jukebox, and the first song was bob seger's you'll accompany me...


"...a gypsy wind is blowing warm tonight
the sky is starlit and the time is right
and still you're tellin' me you have to go
before you leave there's something you should know..."



i sat there for a minute or two and soaked in the end of the night...the crowd had dwindled down to roughly a dozen people, and everyone associated with the band - the rest of the guys, spouses, friends, fans - all had left. i sat there and looked over at the floor where we'd been set up a few hours ago, now empty save for the christmas tree - and wendy came back in and sat down next to me. she said something, but i can't recall what.


...so i got up and walked to the exit...

and it was over.


we went to queen city diner for the customary post-gig breakfast/last call fashion show, for what will probably be the last time in a long time.


i've let everyone know that i'm taking the winter off...that i'm not going to entertain the thought of getting involved with another music project until at least april or may. i'm going to get somewhat caught up at work, i'm going to finish the studio, and i'm even entertaining the thought of taking some actual lessons as well. i feel like i've been in something of a rut lately as a guitarist, and i've blamed that on the rut that the bands' been in. i've done some other things in this time, obviously - playing occasionally in nik's band, gearing up for the odd "fifth beatle" shame thing...i need that to get myself outside my box every now and then.

but before i decide to do something else, i want to get out of a few of my own personal ruts.



goodbye, stone road.


you'll be missed.





12.17.2004

groovin' on nostalgia

now playing: stillwater, "fever dog"



"when faced with the past, the strongest man cries..."

dan fogelberg, "souvenirs"




as a result of staying awake well into the early morning hours the night before, i was a little groggy driving into philadelphia last night...i felt like everyone around me was driving in slow motion, and i could feel myself starting to get a little spongy in the consciousness department. consequently, as i was approaching center city, i made a mistake that i've made once or twice before when i'm not as awake as i'd like to be going in - i got off on spring garden street instead of at the 30th street station exit, and had to circle back around to get back to where i was supposed to be.

so i was driving up walnut street from well further into the city and who should come walking out into the street in front of my car but the legendary tom del colle...i slowed down and waited for him to recognize me, and he opened the passenger door and said, "what the fuck are you doing here, man?"

i told him i was headed up the street to play with nik, and told him to look up my number sometime, and had to keep moving (since traffic was starting to back up behind me)...so i drove off after just a few seconds of face time.

talk about surreal.

that was one of those things that you could imagine happening more often than you hear about it...you see someone you don't see for years in a fleeting moment, and just that fast, they disappear back into the rear view mirror...certainly, it felt like something that could potentially happen a lot more often than it does anyway. but i sure felt funny as i drove away.

i remember one other moment similar to that, while i was still in the navy - i was sleeping in my room, and i heard a voice outside my door that sounded just like a guy named mike mulvin that i was stationed with at a previous duty station...and i opened the door to my room, and sure enough it was him. he had his back turned to me, talking to someone down the hall...and i tapped him on the shoulder and he flipped out when he turned around...

...i told him that if there were ever a moment in my life when i wished i could've just vanished into thin air, that would've been it, just to see the look on his face.

but anyway, getting back to the present...

later that night, as we were packing up, i had my back turned to nik and i heard lee schusterman's voice behind me, talking to nik no more than three or four feet from where i was, but i don't think he ever saw me...he never made eye contact with me, at any rate, and he never acknowledged that i was there...and i left without talking to him, because he disappeareed not long after i finished packing up.


i picked up spruce street to head home, and drove past the UPENN hospital and the penn tower hotel...i remembered having gone to my first PMC there, and coming out of the elevator onto the roof of the parking garage and seeing this amazing sunset over the philadelphia skyline and watching the lights all coming on as darkness settled over the city...watching the letters scroll around the top of the PSFS building and feeling like i had started down this amazing path...

as it turned out, i was wrong about most of the things i had considered at that point in my life...but i was right in ways i hadn't considered.


angela (our beautiful HR assistant) included me in their chinese takeout order today, and my fortune cookie said:

you will never regret the present, you live life to its fullest!


something to add to the sentiment from the takeout order from home last week....

someone from your past has returned to steal your heart.



now i just have to figure out if they meant tom del colle or lee schusterman....







where's gunther....?

now playing: blake allen, "ghosting"


i finished up my RAM business and got out the door at a little after 6:30 last night so i could sprint to the house, collect my barebones gig rig, and drive to downtown philadelphia to play with nik at the new world cafe live upstairs room. it was the second time within the span of a week that i had to do it, and i wasn't terribly pumped at the prospect of playing last night, honestly...this whole week has been preoccupied with the huge backlog of crap at home that i'm trying to get through, and it's been hard to think about much else of late.

it was a decent gig, though...the room strikes me as having a pretty pretentious air, not unlike the new grape street - it seems like the music rooms in philadelphia are all chaing the central perk vibe at the moment. gimme the good old north star bar vibe anyday, man. now that's a music room...but it's in a part of town that people feel less than comfortable parking their cars, and as such it's hard to draw people there for most bands.

i'm not down with the whole "shiny, happy" approach to putting together a music room. now, don't misconstrue this as an opinion that every club should have that wonderful, piss-soaked-floor vibe that CBGB has, nor do i think it's a punk ethic or an indie thing...but i think that when you walk into a place like the new grape or the world cafe live upstairs room, it doesn't exactly emphasize the fact that there's music going on. when you walk into the back of the north star, there's a stage at one end of the place and there's a floor in front and tables and chairs around it...the room isn't bare, but it's not so chic that it distracts ones' attention from the stage. nor does it create the living room ambience that everyone seems to have an erection for these days, which is poisonous from a live music standpoint.

the only reason the gig gets a "decent" rating is that i thought we played relatively well...i turned my little "wolf in sheep's clothing" princeton amp towards the wall and cranked it up, because i was apprehensive about pointing it out and setting it up at the volume that i would have to use to get the necessary tone from it...but as it turned out, that wasn't really necessary...i could've probably put it up on a chair and cranked it, because the room soaked it up rather well. i didn't have my volume pedal, though - it's in my road case in the back of the stone road trailer this week. i rely on that thing a lot - i'm definitely going to have to get another one, or maybe two more, so that i have spares.

overall, though, i did feel pretty good about the performance...and having leigh goldstein, our keyboard player, back in the fold was really nice, too.


of late, i've been scouring my "archives" of recordings, putting together what i hope will be a somewhat representative audition demo - i've found a few pretty cool things, and i'm tracking down a few other things that i'm going to mix into a three or four minute segment that hits on a little bit of everything i do. i may end up just writing an instrumental of some sort and recording it - something that'll cover all my bases. as it is, though, there is a bunch of stuff that i've played on that i'd like to either augment something like that with, or at least make available on a request basis.


it'll be a nice project for my short retirement period.





12.16.2004

travelling

now playing: marty higgins, "big city lights"



good music...i mean really good music...it's like transportation. you put it on, and it doesn't matter what's going on around you. it doesn't matter that you overslept this morning and got to work over an hour late, or that the entire mexican executive hierarchy has descended upon headquarters (timed perfectly for the christmas party) with laptops in hand, and they all have a fuckin' problem that they expect you to fix before they retreat back across the border...it doesn't matter that your kitchen table is literally littered with parts from a potentially unfixable laptop that's going to break your heart to have to deliver the diagnosis for...it doesn't matter that, at approximately 3:45am this morning while you were working on it, you unknowingly put a 2" scratch in the kitchen table somehow (it had to have been me...no one else has been able to even see the kitchen table for over two weeks now, and it looks fresh) - and you know you're going to catch hell for it.

it doesn't matter that you have to scramble to leave work to drive to philadelphia for the second time in less than a week for a gig that you're not really terribly pumped about playing...it doesn't matter that you're staring a mechanic's bill for the van in the face, now that you've made an appointment to take it in next week for the whole stuttering/jerking thing that it's been doing, or that two people who'd committed to pricey PC repairs have yet to pay up...


all of this will matter at some point...but when i put marty's record on, that stuff goes away.

marty has the power to make me feel...and not much in this world has that power these days.


i can't remember who it was - i want to say it was blake, but i can't remember for sure if it was him or not - asked me (about this record) why marty had both todd and i come in to play on it. he was curious as to why marty didn't just have me play everything...and to my ear, the answer seems obvious, but i could see why someone else would ask.

the non-musical reason would simply be that we're all good friends, and marty wanted us both on the record. but i think (and marty has never said this, this is purely my opinion) that todd seems to fit these songs.

while there are obvious reasons why todd and i should have very similar styles, that's not necessarily the case. todd watched me for a long time, but the fact is - he's got his own voice on the instrument. todd has this lazy technique - i know that sounds negative, but it's not...quite the contrary, in fact. todd will stretch a slide or a bend out well past where i would, and he does it to great effect. for instance, the sound that so many people equate with steel guitar - the slide of one note into the next - something as simple as that...todd will take that transition and milk it for all the tension it's worth from the first note into the final one, and it'll make you ache. he's really the best at that, that david lindley-style slow, melodic, single note stuff. i can do it, and i can do it quite well, but todd has just developed his own unique voice on the instrument, with regards to that style....and i think it makes perfect sense that marty asked him to do those songs. they're better for it.

marty also had a top-shelf cello player put tracks down on his last album...and she adds a layer of sorrow onto those songs that just kills me..."driving her home", the song that closes the album, and "california" - amazing work.


i'm going to have to put the woo on marty to come to the sterley street sonic playground to do his next record...i'd love to lock him in the house and keep him there until we had thirteen or fourteen songs down on tape.

blake told me earlier this week that his brother-in-law michael (another aunt pat expatriate) had cut an entire record in a weekend - quite the antithesis to blake's process, to be sure.

i don't know if i could do that or not...'course, one doesn't know until one tries.


well, i've got one more visit from my repairman and i can put the pieces back in place and get back to work on putting the room right. then i'm going to jump headfirst into the jodi project, i think. it's time. i'm also going to be getting some leftover cubicle walls from the company to use as baffles around the drums, and i'm going to build a custom enclosure for muffling guitar amps, too.


now that i'm staring all this time off in the face, it all seems possible.






new years' schmaltzy eve

now playing: aunt pat, "up here"


so, move over on the bandwagon....because, fact is, i'm not any happier about the prospect of new year's rockin' eve with regis philbin than anyone else is.

but, i can't help but wondering - if not regis, then who?

the first other candidates that come to mind would be leno or letterman, but abc obviously isn't going to be making any gestures in their direction...jimmy kimmel? billy crystal?

there really isn't any other feasible choice, in terms of a suitable replacement for dick clark.

so regis is screwed either way you look at it. no matter how good a job he might be capable of doing, he's not dick clark, and that's his problem.

or our problem, depending on how you look at it.


i finally moved forward with uploading the redesigned tomhampton.com last night, in between scouring the web for a hacked copy of the program that AT&T wants to charge me $30 for in order to be able to use all the functions of my new cellphone and troubleshooting a stack of computers that have piled up in my kitchen to replace the ones i've managed to fix and move out...it's becoming obvious that i'm going to have to find a spot somewhere in the house to designate as a work area - perhaps along the wall underneath the stairs in the laundry room. that seems like the most likely candidate at this point, anyway.

i've never really put all the tools that i have at my disposal into my site - i've always kept it somewhat minimalist, in terms of what i've put up, simply because it's easier to change that way, and i don't really need the flash treatment to get my point across - although eventually, during a time when i don't have a lot going on (should that day ever come), i'll probably succumb to the urge to build a bells-and-whistles version of the site.

right now, that doesn't feel necessary. but i did need a facelift. it was time.

next is an update of the links on my blog, and a replacement look for my seldom-to-never visited forum as well...right now, it just doesn't "match".

i'm also contemplating starting a mailing list, but i don't know if i want to add myself to the legions of mass mailers that already exist out there...nor do i know what exactly i'd put in these alleged emails, other than crap that's already on the site, like where i'm playing at a given time...crap like that.

i have a ton of photos to upload to the site, too...that's gonna be some work, man. especially considering that i can't remember what parameters i used to create the thumbnails when i put up the initial lot.

ah, well. it'll come to me.


i stopped at darryl's house last night on the way home from work - i had to drop off some jack stands that i'd borrowed from him, and pick up a computer that i'm redoing for him before christmas. we were talking about the potential for doing some crazy shit for our "last waltz" gig this weekend - i don't know if i have it in me or not, but i'm thinking about preparing for the possibility that i just might.

i think that it started to sink in that this was almost over last weekend, but i've been so busy this week that i've been distracted from the fact...it occurs to me in fits and starts as the week goes by, but i haven't dwelled on it at all - certainly not enough to slip into much of a funk over it.

and yet, when i wake up on sunday, five days from now, it'll all be over.


i feel somewhat disconnected of late - i haven't been on top of my game, in terms of staying in touch with people, answering emails, returning phone calls, responding to comments on the blog...things of that nature. and i don't know that it necessarily means anything other than the fact that i've just been feeling disconnected. so if i owe you an email, or if you're wondering just where the hell i've been - i don't think it's anything major. in fact, it may be somewhat obvious from perusing these entries and taking in the thinning of the posts that i haven't been terribly verbose of late.



this never lasts for very long, though.








illegitimizing the rock and roll hall of fame

now playing: john gorka, "a saint's complaint"


there is no justice whatsoever in this. whatever you might think personally about this band, the fact that a one-hit wanker like percy sledge (whose only contribution to rock and roll was to create material for michael fuckin' bolton to cover) is walking into the hall of fame while lynyrd skynyrd is on the outside looking in...well, it's just fucking wrong.



The Florida Times-Union
December 14, 2004

Once again, rock hall won't play Skynyrd

By EYDER PERALTA
The Times-Union

For the sixth consecutive year, Jacksonville band Lynyrd Skynyrd was nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And for the sixth consecutive year, it was jilted.

"Hell, we don't even talk about it," said Johnny Van Zant, the band's lead singer. "Skynyrd just hasn't gotten its just due."

The hall announced its 2005 class on Monday. U2, The O'Jays, Percy Sledge, The Pretenders and Buddy Guy were selected. And for the sixth year, Skynyrd wasn't.

The band from Jacksonville's Westside has come to personify the American South. It formed in the late 1960s, when original lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Gary Rossington attended Lee High School and guitarist Allen Collins attended Forrest High. The band was completed with bassist Leon Wilkeson, pianist Billy Powell, drummer Bob Burns and third guitarist Ed King.

The band released classic songs like Free Bird and Sweet Home Alabama and was at the peak of its popularity when a 1977 plane crash in rural Mississippi killed Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and his sister, back-up vocalist Cassie Gaines. The band's assistant road manager and the plane's two pilots also died.

Lynyrd Skynyrd reunited in 1987 when Johnny Van Zant took his brother's spot as lead singer. It is still touring and releasing albums.

"I think it's despicable," author Marley Brant said about the hall's vote. Brant wrote Freebirds: The Lynyrd Skynyrd Story, and she said the main reason keeping Skynyrd out of the hall is because voting for the band remains politically incorrect.

"In [the voter's] eyes, Skynyrd were Southern rednecks who aren't worthy of their consideration," said Brant, who is from California. "The rock 'n' roll elite are biased [against] the working-class Southerners who aren't black. It's not racism, [it's just that] Southerners aren't taken seriously."

A group of about 1,000 performers, rock writers and music industry insiders votes for entry into the hall, located in Cleveland. The induction ceremony will be March 14 in New York.

Johnny Van Zant said he would like to see this happen for his brother. He said at first he thought the band's exclusion had to do with the band continuing to tour without core members. "[Or] maybe it's just different people in the music business think we're a bunch of rednecks."

Steve Waksman, professor of music at Smith College, said that reasoning is logical.

"At the time when Skynyrd were around, people looked at them with suspicion, because they were Southern," he said. "[But] to anyone who looked at them closely, they were more than good ol' boys playing rock 'n' roll. I think Skynyrd was the best band representing the Southern rock movement."

The Allman Brothers Band is the only act from that movement in the hall.

Waksman said Lynyrd Skynyrd is more deserving than many of the acts that are already in the hall.

"If Billy Joel is the rock hall of fame," he said, "Skynyrd should be, three times over."




wise beyond his years

now playing: john gorka, "poor side"


found a quote while surfing the web and fixing computers that i think it might be a good time to ponder....


"develop your talent, man, and leave the world something. records are really gifts from people. to think that an artist would love you enough to share his music with anyone is a beautiful thing."

--Duane Allman




12.13.2004

not your ordinary church

now playing: dan fogelberg, "the innocent age"



after getting to bed sometime after 3 am on saturday night/sunday morning, i got up at 7 am to accompany my ex sister-in-law to church.

i know how crazy that sounds, but hear me out.



here's the necessary backstory...



many years ago, when chris and i split up for the final time and i found myself in therapy, a good friend of mine (whom i've taken to calling my adopted mom) recommended that i come with her to an ACOA (adult children of alcoholics) meeting that she went to on occasion - and i was desperate enough for insight that i came along. i don't know what i expected, and what i got certainly didn't resemble my assumptions in any way, shape or form...but that first meeting changed my life. i actually ended up suspending my sessions with my therapist, because i felt that my group understood me better than he possibly could've - they seemed more real to me. my therapist represented something that seemed unattainable to me...he seemed so incredibly emotionally healthy that i had a hard time relating to him in some instances. and certainly, being completely honest with him about how fucked up i felt was out of the question, because i wasn't ready to reveal that to him at that point.

this is not to say that he wasn't brilliant, because he was. somehow, he knew a lot more about me than i think i was ever willing to show him, and i'm not sure how he was able to pull that off. but he said things to me, about me, that stick with me to this day.

but he just didn't seem as real to me as the folks at my wednesday night meetings.


these were people who'd fucked up, who'd made mistakes, and who'd managed to learn something about themselves in the process - and were willing to share some pretty sordid things about their lives with other people. i felt almost instantly at home with this group, and i started going every wednesday. it was like getting my batteries recharged.

i made some great friendships, though...i even became a sponsor for a time, for a gentle soul named barry, who was suffering from hepatitis C and waiting for a liver transplant. i talked to barry on the phone, drove him back and forth to philadelphia for treatment, took him to meetings...he had another sponsor, a great guy named glenn who had helped him settle into the YMCA when he first got into a treatment program...glenn was one of those perpetually happy guys who just made everyone around him feel good. once, when barry had been taken to the hospital in philadelphia, i drove to the city with glenn and his girlfriend and barry's mother. we went in to visit him for a while, and then went to geno's for cheesesteaks (barry's mom had never had an actual philadelphia cheesesteak before). later, we drove home singing old motown songs the whole way. barry's mom told me later that she'd never been around such nice people in her life.

barry brought some drama to my life, to be certain - i got a phone call in the wee hours of the morning from a nurse at the UPENN hospital on christmas eve, telling me that they had a donor for barry and that they needed him at the hospital within hours in order to give him the organ. i went nuts - i couldn't get barry on the phone, and i ended up calling the police to go to both his house and his mother's house to try to find him. i was on the phone with the cops one minute, and with the nurse at UPENN the next - and several hours later, time ran out and they had to pass the organ on to the next person on the list.

i was devastated that i wasn't able to connect the dots and get barry where he needed to be...but glenn was the grounding force - he reinforced the point that everything happens for a reason, and that this just wasn't barry's time.

barry did get his day, though...he got a new liver around valentine's day of the following year.

as my life changed, though, and as my career path veered down the path it ultimately ended up on, it became harder and harder to make the 7 pm meetings, and i gradually stopped going...not because i wanted to, but because the number of hours in a day has remained pretty much static over the centuries, and i kept finding myself trying to pack more and more into my days...and then, at some point, my "kid nights" went to mondays and wednesdays for a time, and that was pretty much the fatal blow to my wednesday night routine. and, over that time period, i fell out of touch with barry, too.

i've always regretted that i let that slip away, to some extent - those wednesday night sessions were a grounding force in my life, and i took so much good away from that room...but i had only just begun to walk the tightrope that is my life at that point, and it hasn't gotten much better in the time since. at that point in time, i had my kids on tuesdays and thursdays, stone road rehearsals on mondays, and my meetings on wednesday nights...which left the weekend, a portion of which would be taken up wither with gigs or with being a father...and something had to give. as it turned out, it was easier to phase out my wednesday nights than to try to rearrange anything else.



now, during that time, i had often heard about the sunday morning services at caron foundation with "father bill", whom i'd heard about but had never actually met...marie, my aforementioned adopted mom, had worked at caron for a time, and was a big fan of father bill's.


now, i haven't talked much about religion publicly - certainly not much in this particular space - so there are a couple of things i feel compelled to mention at this point.

first of all, i think that one's religious beliefs are personal. i think there can be no more intimate relationship than the relationship a person has with their higher power, and i think that the more intimate that relationship is, the more successful it is. i think that the more public we try to make that relationship, the more superficial and fake it appears.

secondly, i think that organized religion past a certain scale is nothing more than a business that renders God as a product. once a church grows to a certain level, there are echelons of power and politics and financial motivations...and it falls into the same corporate quagmire as any other business. i've often wondered if i'd live to see the day when tithing was replaced with ticketed admission, and i haven't given up on that concept yet. i may yet live to see that...as it stands right now, the fact that this hasn't yet taken hold is the only thing holding back our churches from the precipice of religious prostitution - drop a few bucks, get your Jesus on, dip back to the crib and pretend nothing ever happened.



still, marie had often asked me if i wanted to go to one of the services at caron, but it didn't feel relevant to me - i didn't have a substance abuse problem personally, although i was willing to acknowledge the effects it had on my life...and it didn't feel like the same fit to me as my wednesday night family, so i never went.

but on sunday, i went.

and, it must be mentioned - this is no ordinary church.

jodi asked me if i'd be willing to go with her to sing a song with her at the service for her son, ryan...he's been in and out of trouble with the law and with substance abuse for ages, and he's had varying degrees of success on a sporadic basis in trying to overcome his demons.

she didn't have to tell me how important this was to her, and i didn't have to ask. i didn't even have to think about it.

i knew i'd be up all night the night before, but i agreed to do it anyway.


jodi is an enigma to most of her family (a trait that she shares with my daughter) - they don't know what to make of either of them, in a lot of ways. jodi has stuck by ryan when other, lesser-willed people would have written their children off as a loss and would've tried to forget that they ever existed. as many times as her will has been tested, i've often wondered myself what it is that keeps her centered and allows her to stick by him.

you'd think that as a parent myself, there wouldn't be any great mystery to why she does it, but i can't help but wonder sometimes, too...how is it that she's able to remain so steadfast in her support of her son, when he's let her down every time thus far?

ultimately, i know the answer to that question...because i'd do the same thing myself. i've threatened otherwise to my kids at times, but they know too that i'd stand by them through anything i'm able to stand for.


so jodi came over last week and we ran through the song, and i set my cellphone alarm and slept on the sofa when i got home from the village late saturday night and i got up and made my way over to jodi's house (only five minutes late, even...who knew i had it in me?) bright and early sunday morning.

we walked into the chapel and made our way down the kleenex box-lined aisles to find a seat ("allergies must be pretty bad up here, huh?", i later joked to jodi) and wait for the service to begin. i made a mental note that father mike looked like he could've been howard dean's twin brother..and a very familiar looking fella in a pullover sweater got up to start the service...

"hi, everybody, my name is glenn...."

i had asked jodi before the service if she knew who he was, because i was almost certain it was him, but i wasn't sure. it had been a long time, after all. but it was him.


anyway, this service was almost exactly what i'd expected it to be, based on my experience with the program - it wasn't denominational at all, and referred more to our "higher powers" than to a God with a name. it was comprised almost entirely of testimonals - "sharing" - after a brief message from father bill at the beginning of the service...and sharing could consist of pretty much anything - poetry, music (either played live or prerecorded), or just personal experience, meeting-style. this was a family service, too, so there were a lot of family members of patients in attendance.


there were a few poignant moments...

there was a guy on the other side of the chapel who was in line to speak...i remember thinking something goofy when he walked up to the podium, because he looked like john mccain - and howard dean was standing right behind him.

but he was a parent.

he was visibly choked up as he talked about his need to work on his own issues, and he looked right in my direction and addressed "thomas", his son - which fucked me up for about eight to ten seconds until i realized that his son was sitting in front of me - and he stood there before everyone and committed his resolve to his son and to himself to change...and then he walked over to meet his son halfway and hugged him for a long time.

i can't imagine what kind of courage that must've taken for him to do that.


one young guy, maybe 22 or 23, drove all the way out from philadelphia after driving a cab all night long and scoring after work, to be at the service. he actually got up and did an a cappella rap that he wrote that was amazing. at the end of the service, father charlie gave him an address on west lehigh street in north philly and told him to go in and ask for clarice and to tell them that charlie sent him and it wouldn't cost him a cent.

after the service, i went up to him and gave him my number and told him that i didn't know if he lived in reading or philly, but that if he needed a place to work here that he could record for free in my studio, once it's up and online.


there was a clergyman there from northeast maryland (that's actually the name of the town - northeast, maryland) who admitted before this group for the first time in his life that he was an alcoholic...he said that he'd heard about caron from his hairdresser, of all people, and that she told him that he needed to come here and get some of what they had and bring it back to their congregation.


as jodi and i stood in line, i kept scouring the faces in the crowd to see if glenn had gone back to a seat in the chapel, but i didn't see him anywhere.


as i was walking outside to head home, though, he was standing outside. i went over to him and asked him if he remembered me...he said that he saw me come in and he didn't know if i remembered him, but he couldn't remember my name.

he told me that barry died about a year and a half after getting his liver transplant.


he'd battled infections, he'd had episodes of heightened vulnerability to viruses and the like, and finally his body just out-and-out rejected the organ. he'd ended up in a home and had wasted away to 115 pounds or so before he died...but he did get the one thing he wanted after he got his transplant: he went to the jersey shore for a week and stayed at the beach.


the last time i saw barry was at soberstock, the year i played there (the same year jayda got up and absolutely knocked the crowd out with her version of "you were meant for me" by jewel). we talked for about twenty minutes or so that afternoon, and he didn't look good...certainly not as good as someone that far past a transplant should have looked at that point, and i knew something was wrong, but that's not something you say to someone you've been out of touch with.

he lived less than a year after that, from what glenn told me.


i left alone - jodi and her husband had gone on ahead to a class they were scheduled for after the service. i don't even remember how i got home...i just pulled out of the parking lot and started driving, and somehow i ended up in sinking spring - the rest kinda took care of itself.


and now i find myself wondering if they still have those wednesday night meetings...








12.12.2004

one last song at the village

now playing: alison krauss, "now that i've found you"



saturday night, we played our last gig at the place where it all started for stone road...a little roadside tavern in a town about fifteen minutes north of reading called the village tavern.

we started there almost seven years ago...played our first gig there as a band back when we were a three piece band, careening our way through cover tunes. the room was a lot different then, too...we used to play in the corner under the tv set, next to the cigarette machine.

it was what it was...the village was a roadhouse, and we were a roadhouse band. it was me, darryl (the only drummer stone road has ever had), and dale, our first bass player. we'd do anything - if someone asked for a song and it was something we were even remotely familiar with, we'd take a swing at it. every now and then, we'd fall on our faces, but we usually pulled it off somehow. we didn't use setlists at all...we'd play every night by ear, for the most part.

it was fun...and at the time stone road went from being the backup rhythm section for my original music to becoming an actual named entity, doing cover songs, it had been a long time since playing music had represented something enjoyable for me. at that point, i had been so caught up in my own songs and my own thing that i'd forgotten that this was supposed to be fun. and this was a breath of fresh air.

now, though, seven years or so have passed, and stone road has lasted longer than my first marriage did...but next week, stone road will join my first marriage in becoming a historical entity.

but i had figured that this past saturday night would be our most significant "last gig", since it was at the village.

it felt more like we went out with a whimper, though, as opposed to a bang...aside from a few inspired moments (darryl tearing up a solo during "one way out" among them), it didn't feel as though we put much into it. the crowds have been thinning at the village for some time...and i'm sure everyone has their own personal theories as to why this is, myself included - but it just didn't feel like the Village of Old to me. hell, it hasn't for some time. i miss the old days when there wasn't so much separation from the crowd, when people danced right in front of you, when the response was more immediate and the connection to the people in the crowd was more tangible.

but those days are gone, now...and soon, so shall we be.

i think it's only just starting to hit me, though...i had accepted this as reality after talking to darryl a while back, when he said that he felt that after the first of the year, he was ready to call it quits as well. i've been looking forward to it, in fact, on a number of levels...it's going to be nice to have some of the weekends to myself over the winter, and there are things i want to do with the extra time...jayda wants to take piano lessons, dylan is making progress on guitar, and wendy got her own bass for christmas this year, and i want to re-approach guitar from a new perspective, too...i want to dig into some of the tools that i have at my disposal and take some lessons myself, in addition to working with everyone else in my family who wants to do this on their own level.

my plate always has some combination of things on it...and i'm feeling good about being able, for the time being, to see through the gravy to the porcelain at the bottom for a while.

donnie, our newest member, is putting a band together, and has asked me to be a part of that, and i'm going over at some point this week to sit in with them and get a feel for everybody...i had decided, in principle anyway, to take the winter off - to take some time and not do anything for a while. i don't think i've ever allowed myself the luxury of that...and it's still a pretty attractive proposition. it's weighing pretty heavily in my head, and right now i'm feeling like donnies' new band is gonna have to kick some pretty serious ass to beat that proposition out.

and the thing is, i've been looking forward to that...in fact, i've been looking forward to it so much that i don't think i've fully taken in the finality of what's about to happen here.

i got a healthy dose of it on saturday night, though.

it didn't occur to me early on...i hadn't had time to think about it. i was running late getting there in the first place, and i was playing through donnie's loaner amp - a dual showman head with a peavey speaker cabinet (one thing i learned on saturday night - i'm pretty sure i'm a combo amp guy. i don't think the "stack philosophy" applies to me. i don't know if it was just that particular stack or not, but it was definitely a weird vibe, and i don't think i sounded much like myself all night long...no matter how much tweaking i did) - and my energies were focused elsewhere the whole first set, really. it wasn't until after the first set, when i had a chance to catch my breath, that i started taking stock of the situation.

i looked around the room - there were any number of the usual demographics present...a couple of guys latched onto the corner seats at the bar, one with a santa claus hat on....a beautiful girl playing pool who looked a lot like lisa loeb (she was with a couple of guys, one of whom asked for an allman brothers song later that night)...the usual array of dirty dancers, including a fifty-something couple who couldn't keep their hands off one another....

...the village has never suffered from a lack of crowd-sponsored entertainment, to be sure.

and there, during the break after the first set, it hit me...this was it. there wouldn't be any more of these nights after this one. this place, for whatever faults it might have, has been our home - our little gig oasis. we'd played here on a steady basis since late in 1998, and now it was ending. there wouldn't be any more of these nights after tonight.

and that was the first point at which i remember actually starting to feel a significant sense of regret that this was ending. i had often told friends that a bit of the wind had gone out of my sails after quin left the band, and it was certainly true that we'd all fallen into autopilot for some time....and i still think this is the right thing to do. it's time for this to be over, to be sure - but it doesn't make the finality of it all any easier to digest.

at the end of the night, after the lights all came up, i took a couple of minutes to walk around the place and took a few pictures with my phone to remember the night by...and took a last look at the empty floor where we had been just an hour or so before, where we've been so many saturday nights and followed darryl and karen out the door.


one week from that moment, this chapter will be closed forever.






12.11.2004

just a lowly sinner....

now playing: stillwater, "love thing"



i actually slept through this morning's meeting of the Mentally Guitarded Support Group.


i think i might be going to hell for this.





12.10.2004

angels revisited

now playing: bryndle, "on the wind"


today i was looking through a stack of papers for a phone number and there was a copy of our mutual angels underneath a pile of faxes and copies of crap that i seldom look at...i held it up and stared at the picture on the cover, of jayda and dylan frozen in time on a late april afternoon in 1997. they were five and seven then, now they're twelve and fourteen...more years have passed since then than they had lived at that point in time.

i remember that day quite well...standing on the side of that road with our entourage - derek dorsey, my manager...steven wellner, my producer...and susan bulkin, the photographer...and jill and the kids. we spent about an hour taking pictures on that narrow, tree-lined drive, as jayda and dylan were completely into just being jayda and dylan.

earlier that month, i had said goodbye for what i thought would be the last time to a woman whom i'd considered my soulmate - thinking it was destiny intervening and telling me that she was not to be my focus, that my work was to be my focus, and making perfect sense of it all...she was supposed to be moving away, as it was the only logical way for things to happen. i was married...unhappily so, but married nonetheless...to someone who was emotionally unfulfilling, but it was the way things were, and i had my music and my children to think about...


that afternoon, as the sun was beginning to set, everyone drove out to reading to meet me and we all went to the spot i'd picked out for the pictures...it was perfect. i'd wanted to do it in the fall, but timing hadn't been kind to my wishes...as it was, the not-quite-bare-and-blooming trees that lined the waist-high brick walls were the perfect complement to the subjects of the pictures. jayda and dylan walked, hand in hand, towards susan as she snapped picture after picture of the kids.

the one that made the cover was the perfect shot...jayda was holding dylans' hand, and she caught the precise moment that they looked at each other in a way that would make the masters envious. jayda had lifted her opposite hand to her chest, and dylan was looking over and up at her...their faces shone in that picture, and it was the obvious choice for the cover, of the rolls and rolls of pictures that she took that afternoon.


i have a lot of things - pictures, home movies, souvenirs - that have frozen moments of their lives in time. i guess it's natural for parents to take these things out from time to time and gaze backward longingly at time thats' passed...and certainly, i probably have more of those kinds of artifacts than most. i've always been a nostagia buff, to be sure, and not just where the kids are concerned....certainly, no one who reads my rants here on a regular basis is shocked by this revelation.

today, though, finds me wondering if i'll look back on the present day with the same misty sentimentality...wishing dylan were still sitting silently on the sofa, playing game boy and watching comedy central and jayda upstairs in her room blasting that Godawful music she listens to...

somehow, i think i'll miss this too someday.


but today, i seem to find myself sitting at the kitchen table at 127 belvedere avenue with my inner circle, discussing my then-unreleased album and developing a strategy for conquering the world while the kids played in the living room floor with the TV on.


it was an emotionally tumultuous time...my heart and my head were in a lot of different places at once, and it seemed like everything and nothing was possible at the same time. i was making a lot of new friends, i was writing songs constantly, i was playing all the time and all over the place...and i was ripping the storm door off the front of the house in anger because i was locked out with my arms loaded with groceries. i was driving the blue ford van i bought from the maintenance guy at chiyoda, wedging two pennies underneath the tapes in the tape deck to keep them from dragging across the heads...

i was hungry. i still thought that there was no reason i couldn't be john gorka, and i was gonna be, one way or another, if it killed me.

and it seemed perfectly possible at the time.






12.09.2004

what to do, what to do....

now playing: allman brothers, "blue sky"




in nik everett news, we have our next full band show at the grape street...tomorrow night...it'll be the first time i'll have seen the new space.

i'm not sure how i feel about that.

actually, yeah i do. i'm not really too psyched about the whole thing.


the grape has become, over the years, another in a long list of clubs that cram as many bands into one night as they can, one after another, in order to get as many bodies in the room as they can. check this shit out - our showtime tomorrow is at an almost ridiculously early 8:30, but we've been instructed to tell everyone we're playing at 8:00, and anyone who shows before that gets in free...now, today i find out that we're not even the first band on the bill! there's actually a band playing at seven-fuckin'-thirty!

who goes out at 7:30 on ANY night of the week, weekend or not?

instead of a band, they should have fuckin' bingo at 7:30. that'd put bodies in the room.


if you're a person who frequents this kind of club, you probably don't get much of an idea of the utter chaos that ensues at a place like this...the rush to get the last band the hell off the stage runs headfirst with the rush to get the next band up and playing as quickly as possible, soundcheck be damned, so they can cram as many of these kinds of transitions into one night as they can...so you can imagine what that must be like when the process repeats itself every 45 minutes. one band has no more than gotten their shit off the stage before the next band comes in and one is trying to get out the door while the other one is coming in...then it all starts over again.


now, nik says that load in is at 6:30 and everyone has to be there and up at that point...but that doesn't go very far in explaining the 7:30 band...and when he says "everyone", does that mean that every band playing tomorrow night will be there trying to cram onto the stage at the same time?


i hope nik will forgive me if i'm not jumping up and down at the prospect of playin' this show.


oh, he also sent me a link earlier this week to a web review of the release party show...

last rehearsal, though, we actually spent more time talking after rehearsal than we did playing...george manney, our drummer, is one fascinating sonofabitch. it's amazing to consider the sheer multitude of historic events he's been present for...he's also in the process of putting together a documentary on the philadelphia music scene. he's conducted a ton of interviews and has probably already collected a shitload of archival material for it...right now, he's looking for seed money to put it together.

yet another one of those moments when i wish i had a lot more money than i actually do....


i got an email from one of my musical heroes last night...george marinelli. my buddy charlie degenhart is the first signing to george's new label, wingding records, and his new 5 song EP, april's fool, is their first release. i've had some rough mixes of some of the songs as they've evolved over time, and i'm anxious to hear the finished product...i was in the kitchen last night, working on computers at the kitchen table, and i could hear wendy in the office listening to a clip from "momentary bliss" from her computer, so i'm pretty sure the site has all the info on charlies' record.

i also emailed him back and told him that his guitar solo at the end of bruce hornsby's version of jack straw from deadicated is on my all time, top ten favorite guitar solos list. it kicks ass.


charlies' EP is out, nik's album has been out for less than two months, and blake's album is in the can...

and stone road has two shows left before disappearing into the oblivion of Bands That Are No More.


offers have been creeping in from the strangest places - a guy i bumped into at the annual Ragu Bash a while back called me about playing in a band he's putting together, and i was giving it some serious thought until he said the two magic words - "chick singer".

been there, done that, learned my lesson.

donnie is putting a band together, and i've agreed in principle to come over and jam with them next week, to see what it sounds like - i can't say that i'm too terribly excited by the prospect, but it's something i might end up doing.

also, in the meantime, keith amos re-extended his invitation to join his band after i sat in with the country band that he's joining last weekend...and while that's tempting, i'm not sure i have the constitution to play in a country band full-time. i think i'd enjoy it if i weren't a full-fledged member of the band, and could just play some of the gigs as a special guest or something like that...but i don't know if i could buy into the proposition of doing that as my main pursuit. i think i'd end up hating it if i had to do it all the time.

the joint venture with Ragu wouldn't be taking shape until the spring, as we've both expressed a desire to take the winter off...he's working on a new blues album, and i think that personally, i'd like to take a couple of months and find out what it's like not to be in a band for a change. i think i'd like to spend some time getting the studio up and running the way it should be, and possibly work on the album i promised jodi i'd help her with, and just not have to BE anywhere on weekends other than home.

in an odd and foreign way, that'd be pretty nice right now.


certainly it would until i manage to find out where exactly it is that i fit into the grand musical scheme of things...



i'm aware that i've been unusually quiet lately. and i can't blame it on my old scapegoats. i'm very nearly completely finished with the computer backlog at home now, and there remains only my own machine to redo at this point. work remains a figurative boot on my ass, but i'm not without opportunity to post, should i choose to do so. with all the work i have right now, my brain doesn't seem to drift free as often as it used to, but the day is often rife with other opportunities to loosen it a bit from the perpetual grip of mediocrity that seems to have a stranglehold on my thoughts these days.


i feel like there are an unusually large number of paths in my life that are reaching their inevitable, eventual end at the moment.


and you'd think i'd have something to say about that, but i just don't seem to have the energy to summon my thoughts in this direction.


yet.







12.03.2004

taming the trainwreck

now playing: blake allen, "ghosting"


soon begins the Weekend of No Commitments.


i told todd i would go to see his band play at the silo tomorrow night, but that's it. i have told no one that i'd do anything in particular all weekend long.

i said earlier when todd and i were talking about it that i was torn between going directly home after work and locking the door and not leaving the house all weekend long until it was time to go to work on monday, or leaving work and not going back to the house at all until it was time to get ready for work on monday, and i hadn't made up my mind which it would be just yet...


as is usually the case, the answer tends to lie somewhere in between the extremes.


i'm feeling as though i've made quite a bit of progress in terms of taming the general trainwreck that the house has been since we've moved in...and i feel pretty good about that. i think that this weekend i'm going to allow myself the luxury of not feeling obligated or committed to any task or job in particular, for once.

i probably will go see frog holler at the silo tomorrow night. and i'll probably get up in the morning and go down to keith's in the morning, too. then i'll probably pick up some stuff at the supermarket and go home and hibernate for the rest of the weekend.


hell, i might even do something that i've yet to do all year long...

...watch an entire football game from start to finish.



blake was over last night for the first of what i'm sure will be several rehearsals of the material from the album...i didn't have much energy left from the week to contribute, but it did paint a pretty graphic picture of the differences between the material as it exists on the record and what we're able to pull off between the two of us.

i don't feel as though he took the material to a place where we can't reach it, but when you're accustomed to listening to all the parts that are currently on the record, you tend to forget the original picture of the song as it existed when it was written...one song in particular is going to be challenging, though...i played dobro, mandolin, bass and sang harmony on it, and i can't do all that live, obviously...but i do have pictures of rusty young in my head, sitting at his pedal steel guitar with a banjo strapped on...

..delusions of grandeur....


one thing, though, that i'm making a personal commitment to doing this weekend is committing the Ballad Of The Ass Doctor to these pages...it was just too funny not to pass along, really.


now, though, the end of the day approaches...and i just don't feel as though i have a whole lot to say.






12.02.2004

the faces that pass in the hallways...

now playing: julie miller, "ride the wind with me"


man...

have i ever been one uninspired dude this week.


not for the lack of crap flying around the inside of my head, though...


inasmuch as this week has been concerned, it's essentially been a weeklong wait for the week to be over. not terribly optimistic, i know, but true nonetheless.

i've started entries several times, but haven't been able to focus to the extent that i need to in order to meet my own standards for what gets posted here, so i've essentially killed them off before investing too much time in them.

i guess that's been a combination of a lack of both motivation and inspiration, where this space is concerned.


i think i'm in need of some solitary downtime. seriously.


i think i'm feeling that more because i was expecting quite a bit of it, in the absence of my perpetual domestic companion - i thought that while wendy was away, alone time would be a lot more plentiful than it's been, but there hasn't been much of it. wednesday was the only day thus far that i've had totally to myself, and that day was less than productive as a result of the way i spent it. since then, the only night i've really had to myself was monday night - when i was supposed to be at rehearsal but instead, i spent the night chasing after tires for the van...then, upon getting that situation straightened out, i ended up falling asleep on the sofa...

i think i talked about this already, didn't i? joss stone at 2:30 in the morning?

yeah, it's all coming back to me now.


i have gotten some things done this week, though...i did go through a lot of the crap that's been sitting untended in the office area of the house. i threw out a ton of stuff that never should have followed us to the new house, and it's actually possible to walk through that room now without having to consider your steps too thoughtfully.

dylan's PC and the laptop are on the kitchen table, and jayda's will be rejoining it soon, since there still seems to be a problem with her machine detecting the CDRW drive when it boots up....i still need to get through those, plus todd's machine, plus my own, over the course of this coming weekend. plus, i have a ton of stuff i want to take to keith's on saturday, too. i'm still holding out some semblance of hope that jeff crater will follow through on that house call he'd promised me this week so i can get the studio squared away...it's a mess right now.

my priorities for the weekend are relatively simple - get the computer situation squared away, hopefully be able to do some basement work, and finish moving useless shit into the attic, where it belongs. after that, it's all icing. this is, of course, provided that i'm somehow able to transcend my usual ability to still have a list at the end of the week.


something amazing happened last night, though...my son actually sat and did his homework in front of the television. without any prodding to focus. i was considerably impressed.

i picked him up after i got home from work, we went to loew's to pick up lumber to make reinforcement slats for jayda's bed (one of them keeps popping out, sending the head of her bed crashing to the floor...the other night, she just left it that way and slept with her feet in the air for the night. she's a goof)...we then stopped at arby's for strawberry shakes and went home, where dylan got out his homework and parked himself on the sofa and cracked into it.

it was just dylan and i last night...and i think he craves that kind of downtime as much as i do. for one thing, i never encounter the anger issues with him that his mother reports to me on a constant basis. when i ask him to do something or meet one of his responsibilities, there are never any whimpers or negotiations...for the most part, his behavior is perfect when he's around.

but then i hear the stories about how he behaves at his mother's house, it doesn't even sound like the same kid to me. jayda has pointed this out a number of times, too, but it tends to fall on deaf ears within the circles where she brings it up.


i'm thinking, lately, that classmates.com must be undergoing a growth spurt...either that, or a whole lotta folks from central high school have gotten computers lately...whereas i used to get maybe an email a month from them telling me that i had new classmates, i've gotten an assload of them in the past couple of weeks...i'm not sure when she showed up, but my Class of '83 Crush finally signed up....

Kelly Finch.

she's kelly something-else now, i can't remember (i haven't looked at it since i saw she was on)...she was getting married, though, the summer after we graduated - i do remember that much, but i can't remember what the guys' name was (big shock, i'm sure).

i got to know her about as well as i ever would in mr. mcadams' science class in eighth grade. she sat behind me and to my left, and i had no idea what to say to her to break the ice, so i started drawing a sketch of her...she caught me, and saw what i was trying to do, and smiled at me. she asked if she could see it, and i pulled my chair over to her desk and showed it to her. i don't remember it being very good - i'd have had to have been pretty damn good at that age to capture her on paper, that's for sure.

she had all the qualities at that point in time that i came to appreciate in women, both physically and personally - deep, beautiful eyes...a great and easy smile, a shy sort of girl-next-door demeanor...easy to talk to, once i got the nerve up - i remember she was a big cheap trick fan...she didn't have the typical tennessee accent. i found out from my friend steve anderson that her dad lived in new england, and she went to live with him during the summer, and that's why her accent wasn't as pronounced as the other girls i knew.

(as a side note, when i was writing ghost along the road, the first line was originally "you had the greenest eyes i'd seen, you were a vision to behold...", as a nod to her...but i changed it later in reference to someone i'd had a somewhat more substantial relationship with. it would've had to have been a much longer song to have worked her in, unfortunately...)


there was never anything more to develop than a friendly dialogue in science class...we moved on to high school eventually, and after time passed we hardly spoke anymore. i never heard anything through the grapevine about who she dated, if anyone, and she remained an enigma to me the rest of the time i knew her. in tenth grade art class one of the students from another period (the obviously gay brian farley) did an amazing pastel drawing of her that was hanging in our art teachers' classroom for weeks...he'd captured everything that was so beautiful about her in that drawing, and it used to break my heart to see it every day...a combination of envy that he had been able to capture what i had not, and longing for someone whom i felt was several weight classes out of my league.

our senior year, light years from mr. mcadams' science class, we had a vocational office education class together. i still didn't talk to her much, but my heart had moved on and taken up residence elsewhere (in an equally insane one-sided, unrequited, "my best friends' girlfriend" situation), and it didn't feel so intimidating to talk to her anymore. and when she told me that she was getting married, i gave her a big hug and told her that her boyfriend was a lucky guy...and i never spoke to her again.

there aren't any songs attached to her, no specific "triggers" that automatically bring her to mind...because i never managed to get close enough to her to establish any of those things. but i can still see her face as clear as day, the way she looked sitting at her desk in mr. mcadams' classroom...and that's been almost twenty five years ago.


the only other serious "crush" i remember to this day was sharon cummings. now that i'm allowing myself to give this some space to think about it, she was a lot like kelly...but her features were somewhat darker. actually, she looked a lot...a lot...like beth cherry - she had a subdued demeanor and a natural beauty that hinted at something under the surface that would require some effort to reach.

she and her sister regina used to work at a hamburger stand in my hometown called the mug and cone, and i used to walk there with melody (the aformentioned girlfriend of my buddy tommy yarbrough, who lived just across the street from me) - melody was a freshman at freed-hardeman college, and i'd go there with her under the pretense of studying just to be bear sharon, because i thought she was so amazing. in retrospect, i'm not so sure what it was that gave me that indication...but then when you're that age, i'm not so certain you're at your most clear-headed demeanor about such things. also in retrospect - probably not a good idea to constantly go into Crush's place of employment in the company of other women if you're interested in conveying interest.

(insert chris-farleyesque slapping of head here, simultaneously repeat the word "stOOOpid!" over and over...)


i'm not sure how much i want to say about melody - she's blog-aware and she knows where to find me...actually, at some point, i'll probably give that some thought here as well...but for some reason, kelly finch's face won't get out of my head today.

tomorrow is up for grabs, though, i'm sure.


this, my sporadic friends, is a snapshot of my brain these past few weeks or so. i don't know where this shit comes from, but it pops up, and it comes back with just this kind of clarity, and sometimes i'm able to chew on it and take it in, and other times i'm so scattered that it flies around my head long enough to flash before my eyes and then it's gone. plus, the friggin' sundance channel is trying to drive me over the nostalgia cliff this past month...after the tom dowd biography the other night, they followed that up with standing in the shadows of motown this week...

you guys are killin' me.

keepin' me up nights, too.



...i don't know how many times i'll have to say out loud that we long ago turned a very sad corner in music until i'm satisfied that i've made my point.


but i digress...

i guess my nerve endings are pretty close to the surface of my skin right now. i don't know where all this is coming from. my past seems to be on the offensive right now.


curse you, classmates.com! curse you!