oh, the horror of it all...

now playing: marshall crenshaw, "monday morning rock"

today, i've gotten my sixth email asking not to buy gas on a specific day, and all the days have been different so far. the one today was especially funny, because it said that "september 1st has been formally declared 'stick it up their behind' day", and that people from the US and canada should not buy any gas on that day. now it goes without saying, of course, that this date isn't consistent with the dates in the other emails, but i also marvel at someone who would go through the trouble of FORMALLY declaring a specific day "stick it up their behind" day. i could see a proctologist perhaps subscribing to that notion, but i just don't know how formal you can make "stick it up your behind" day. kinda seems more like an off-the-cuff, spur of the moment kinda thing.

i think i'm going to start an email decrying the price gouging that campbell's soup has done in the time since buying up chef boy-ar-dee and ask people not to buy spaghettio's on september 23rd, so that their stockpiles of tomatoey goodness start to back up and overflow their warehouses to the point that they'll have to sell them for fifteen cents a can to clear their backlog or possibly face bankruptcy...or worse yet, people might just realize that it isn't as hard to live without spaghettio's as they thought, and they might stop buying them altogether! and if that happens, well - life as we know it would be completely turned upside down. i mean, what would they do? go back to - egad - cooking actual food?


i just can't continue this particular scenario. it's too painful, too scary, to consider.

i'm sorry if i frightened anyone.


paintin' a thousand words...or two...or five...

now playing: bruce springsteen, "secret garden" (the version with all the jerry maguire dialogue in it)

ok, kiddies, it's picture day...everybody pull their chairs up close...

this is a place that mitch and i drove by a couple of weeks ago as i was making my computer-fixer rounds...it was screamin' for me to take a picture of it. :)

the sun setting in the pasture on the other side of the road.

ok, a few gretna shots:

the view from the stage, over the shoulder of dean, our amazing pedal steel player, during a break in dress rehearsal...the theatre really is like a small outdoor concert shed.

the view from the corner of the stage closest to where i am.

looking across the stage from my side, to see three of our intrepid band members, with musical director nathan perry gesturing lewdly in the background. c'mon, nate...brittany is a hottie, but you can't be quite that obvious in expressing it, ok?

ok, so these two knuckleheads are known collectively as "pinky and the kid" - and they've kept me in stitches for most of the show. it's not something you can really describe in words, you really have to observe the way they play off each other to really get it. they're both on the stage crew (which, perhaps, explains it all right there.)

this is nate "dr. evil" perry with our boss, chris valentine - whom we've all been instructed to refer to simply as "mistress". actually, that's not true...i just call her that because i enjoy it.

mistress christina with the original Trainwreck Diva herself, michelle nagy - these last few shots were taken at the Timbers in gretna at nathan's birthday afterparty last week. ahhh, the stories we could tell...

i had a great picture of nate and chris - with nate in his outfit from the show - that i wanted to post, but it was blurry as hell, and even i have some standards...but it woulda been great, because nate looked like woody from toy story in it...maybe later this week i can get that one again.


a chill kinda place

now playing: lyle lovett, "north dakota"

day two of my two day break between weeks of gretna theatre shows - i have to say that i'm really glad i took this show on, even if for no other reason but to show me how a real theatre company does things. these folks are on top of everything. shows start on time, intermissions run the proper length, everyone is professional, everyone treats everyone else with respect and (generally speaking) mutual admiration, and they're a genuine pleasure to be around.

it would've been possible to say that about the band for the last show i did, but that's about it...everyone else was kinda all over the map.

i've been giving some thought to life after the summer theatre season - i've got a couple of things that are potentially on my plate, but nothing definite has formed up yet, so i can't really say that they're for certain...but i'm hoping that they both pan out...they'd be nice additions to the album project, in terms of things to have on my plate.

a few weeks ago, i was prowling about the internet looking for potential work, and i came upon an ad from a young girl who'd just lost her guitar player, and i went to her site to check her out...i was thoroughly impressed with her songwriting and how she'd put her album together, so i emailed her a link to my site, and she responded almost immediately and told me that she couldn't use me because i was too good.

i emailed her back and told her that i didn't see myself that way, that i wrote her because i dug her music, and that if she was OK with it, i'd really like to play with her, but i never heard another word.

too good. i've never heard that one before. too fat, too lazy, too moody? sure. but too good? how good is too good? is it really discernable as to whether someone is too good for a situation without putting them in the middle of it?

anyway, these other two gigs - one is playing in a band with a member of a national act from the philadelphia area whos' just put out a solo album, and the other one is a handful of area dates with a singer/songwriter from the chicago area who fronts a band with his wife that i'm a huge fan of...he's just released a solo album and he's preparing to tour behind it.

in other news, the studio is coming together nicely, and i should be rolling tape (disk? how do you "roll disk"?) for the poco album pretty soon.

i know what songs i definitely want to do for the record - but i only have a couple of things committed to tape as of yet...and some of it i like better than others...

(and yeah, i said 'tape' instead of 'disk'...it just makes more sense from a recording perspective, i think. if you anal retentive types have a problem with that, then...well, too bad, i guess.)

anyway, i've had a goal (in the time since wendy moved out) of making the basement more of a comfortable, hang-out, chill kinda place...and i've taken exactly zero steps in that direction in the time since. but i really need to think in those terms before i start work on this record in earnest...especially if i'm going to be spending a lot of time down there. i have to get the partitions delivered for the drum baffles and set all that up, i have to move some of the stuff to the room at the front of the house that i'd planned on moving, i have to do a general organization of the whole area and put aside some of the stuff that i know i don't use as much...it's a lot of work that needs to be done...

...but i also see a three day weekend on the horizon....


if i hadn't seen it with my own eyes....

...and held it with my own hands...

we ordered a late chinese takeout tonight, and this was dylan's fortune.

i almost pissed myself laughing.


tonight on 20/20

now playing: eastmountainsouth, "ghost"

tonight on 20/20, marc cohn will be on to talk about what happened to him in denver earlier this month.

marc's guitarist shane fontayne was in the van with marc when it happened, and posted a detailed account of what happened that night....

"...We were three blocks from our hotel and the street we were on wound through a building. If any of you know Park Avenue in New York and how it winds through and around what used to be the Pan Am building at 42nd Street, that is what it was like, except that where we were was newer and quite brightly lit. On this trip we traveled, as usual, in a fifteen-passenger van. Tom is driving. Jay is next to him up front. Marc is on the bench seat behind Tom and Jay, and I am on the bench seat behind Marc.

As we emerged back onto the "normal" stretch of road, we saw a man running in the opposite direction and on the other side of the street, obviously running away from someone or something. His right hand was clutched to his side as though he were holding on tightly to something and running for all he was worth. We all thought, "Wow - I wonder what he’s running from?" Our attention was focused on him as he ran in one direction and we drove in the other.

Now when our attention came back to the street ahead, a man had stepped out in front of the van. My memory doesn’t recall if we stopped to avoid hitting him, but Tom says we kept moving. What I do recall is seeing him stand in front of us, pointing towards us. In what can only have been a couple of seconds, we realized that he was holding a gun and I clearly saw the look in his eyes of an intent that left no doubt in my mind. I knew for certain that he was going to shoot...."

you can read the entire account here, on shane's website. shane is also among those interviewed for the 20/20 segment tonight.

(marc and i at the newport folk festival many moons ago...one of us had gotten too much sun)

wendy called me on my cell phone on the way to work the morning after it happened...she began reading the report off the computer screen and i was waiting for her to tell me that he was dead...i heard "shot in the head" and you just assume that "died" is gonna be one of the next few words you hear. then, if you don't hear "died", you start thinking about how much longer they have...until you hear "treated and released" - at which point you start thinking, "....WTF? is that a typo?"

obviously, God is a big marc cohn fan, too.

the first image that popped into my head was his son, max, who had been with him at newport that year. i have other pics that i'd taken that year, from the back of the stage, where the steps go up - if i'm not mistaken, it was just him and shane that year...i know it was just him and another guitar player, but i can't remember if it was shane or not. i know it wasn't long enough ago that it would've been jeff pevar - and i don't know for certain if there had been anyone in between jeff and shane in marc's band.

so between marc actually being able to walk away from this and news earlier this week of dan fogelberg's prostate cancer recovery, it's been a pretty good week for good news.


repetitive stress situations

now playing: new england patriots versus new orleans saints on fox sports

every now and then, something comes over my son and he slips into his comic mode, and he's just unbelievable to be around. tonight would have been, by all assumptions, jayda's night for attention - she finally, after much persuasion, got a consensus from her mom and i to get her belly button pierced...i took her to do the deed after work, went in with her (along with her friend frankie) to get it done...dylan was along, but he waited in the lobby. didn't want to see it, i'm sure.

so we went to boehringers' afterward, and he slipped into his zone...he started off with a remark about "blood veins"...blood veins, as opposed to all those other kinds of veins, ya know. so i said that we were gonna assign unnecessary adjectives to everything for the rest of the night. i started off with some remark about jayda not putting so many fries in her "chewing mouth" or she might choke on one of them if it got caught in her "swallowing throat"...and it only really got worse from there...culminating in dylan's perhaps-freudian slip about the "ejacuation proclimation"...

somehow, i made it home without pissing my pants...

we were all in pretty good spirits, considering the irrefutable proof we encountered, when i picked up the kids, that their mom is most definitely on crack...she told me that she really liked my hair the length that it is now, and that i "had a richard gere thing goin' on"...


a number of things have been pointing me to a definite necessity for a sabbatical soon. very soon.

first of all, i'm finding of late that something that i've been noticing as a passing fluke for the past year and a half or so has become entirely too regular, too routine, and has increased in its intensity.

it started out as an occasional odd failure on the part of my fingers to execute the orders sent to them by my brain...as far back as some of the stone road gigs, there were times when i could remember intending to play a certain phrase or run, and my hands would have other ideas. i just wrote it off to an intermittent brain fart or something equally harmless. and it happened so infrequently that i never had reason to consider it past the point in time that it happened.

however, i've been finding - now that i've been playing these happy hour gigs in tandem with the "tommy" schedule, that it's descended into many, if not all, of the traditional carpal tunnel symptoms. numbness that shoots up my wrist into my forearm, tingling in my fingers, inability to push down on the strings hard enough to form clean chords...it hasn't been perpetual, but it's been persistent enough to get my attention.

i haven't seen anyone about this yet...i've talked to a few people about it, but i haven't sought out any actual professional help. i will, soon, but i have the gretna show to get through now, i have viva gigs scheduled through the end of the year, and i have an album project that's very important to me that i'm beginning after the gretna show is up that i will finish before i undergo any kind of treatment.

so, long story short - i'm not sure what happens with my hands in 2006, but i have an agenda for 2005, and i'm going to do my best to get everything done that i have on my plate for now.

what this also means is that there won't be any side projects of note for the rest of the year, unless i'm called upon by one of my existing allies for something. i've had a couple of things ruminating (one of which i seem to have booked for the wrong week, at the same point in time that i had to replace my cellphone battery...mister murphy looks over my shoulder and laughs his ass off every now and then, i'm sure)..anyway, a couple of things ruminating that i was hoping to begin working on after the theatre thing had finally run its course, but i'm having my doubts at this point as to whether or not i should even be thinking that way. it's funny, though, man...there i'll be sitting, scanning gigfinder or craigslist looking for "musicians wanted" situations, even though i know that now probably isn't a good time. it's pathetic in the same way that a married man with a mistress sitting in a singles bar reading personal ads in the paper would be.

so i've made the only rational decision i can make - i'm going to finish what's on my plate and deal with following through on my existing committments, and then we'll see what the future has in store.

this album is going to be a very special record...i've committed to the project, but i haven't yet found a home for it. it's certainly possible that i might release it myself, but i'd rather find a credible place for it to lay its head. i haven't been working that hard at that part of it yet, frankly...i made a couple of phone calls to folks that i felt would be the best place to send it, but i haven't followed through on that as of this point in time. but i will.

here's the scoop.

for the longest time now, my buddy jon rosenbaum has had this running joke that i should do an EP of poco covers and call it pickin' up the pizza (a pun on the title of the first record, pickin' up the pieces, for those not in the know).

about six to eight weeks ago, jon and i were having dinner with the band before their show at the old mill in spring lake, nj, and the subject came up...and later that night, i talked privately with rusty about it and got the necessary blessing to evolve jons' brainchild into a full length album of poco covers, which i'd release as a benefit album for george granthams' medical expenses. i'm going to cut the record myself and keep the costs down, utilize the help of friends that i've already spoken with about working on the record (including wendy), and - if no label chooses to participate - sell it through the site and through whatever other avenues will participate, as long as they respect the non-profit spirit of the project.

i really, really want to have that available by 12/1, if that's doable. if this situation with my left hand pans out to be what my instincts tell me what it is, then i'll be as ready as i'm going to be to face whatever the hell this might be.

i've also been weighing a book project that i thought about delving into some years back that i found some renewed interest in recently when i heard from one of the guys who i'd planned to interview for it...so i might think about going down that road (although i can't see how typing is any less a repetitive stress situation than playing guitar could be)...but that's a long way away, for me.

i don't want to cast a shadow of gloom over what's happening for the next four to six months...to the best of my knowledge, this isn't a warren zevon situation...i'm not dying or anything, and life will go on. however, when you've spent this much of your life and you've invested this much of your self-esteem into your ability to do something like what i do, it's pretty daunting to have to think about a life devoid of that ability. certainly, i'm considering the worst case scenario far, far sooner than i should be...but i would have to imagine that most people, when faced with something with this much potential to change their lives, probably do the same thing. i don't think i'll still be thinking this way a year from now, no matter what the reality reveals itself to be...but i'm finding myself forced to consider some possibilities that i had no reason to consider not that long ago.


stupid human tricks, number 743259

now playing: richard shindell, "wysteria"

RICHMOND, Virginia (AP) -- A rush to purchase $50 used laptops turned into a violent stampede Tuesday, with people getting thrown to the pavement, beaten with a folding chair and nearly driven over. One woman went so far to wet herself rather than surrender her place in line.

"This is total, total chaos," said Latoya Jones, 19, who lost one of her flip-flops in the ordeal and later limped around on the sizzling blacktop with one foot bare.

More than 1,000 people turned out at the Richmond International Raceway in hopes of getting their hands on one of the 4-year-old Apple iBooks, which retail for between $999 and $1,299. The Henrico County school system was selling 1,000 of the computers to county residents.

Officials opened the gates at 7 a.m., but some already had been waiting for hours in line. When the gates opened, it became a terrifying mob scene.

People threw themselves forward, screaming and pushing each other. A little girl's stroller was crushed in the stampede. Witnesses said an elderly man was thrown to the pavement, and someone in a car tried to drive his way through the crowd.

Police would not immediately comment on the number of or extent of injuries, though witnesses said they mostly had scrapes and bruises.

"It's rather strange that we would have such a tremendous response for the purchase of a laptop computer -- and laptop computers that probably have less-than- desirable attributes," said Paul Proto, director of general services for Henrico County. "But I think that people tend to get caught up in the excitement of the event -- it almost has an entertainment value."

Blandine Alexander, 33, said one woman standing in front of her was so desperate to retain her place in line that she urinated on herself.

"I've never been in something like that before, and I never again will," said Alexander, who brought her 14-year-old twin boys to the complex at 4:30 a.m. to wait in line. "No matter what the kids want, I already told them I'm not doing that again."

Jesse Sandler said he was one of the people pushing forward, using a folding chair he had brought with him to beat back people who tried to cut in front of him.

"I took my chair here and I threw it over my shoulder and I went, 'Bam,"' the 20-year-old said nonchalantly, his eyes glued to the screen of his new iBook, as he tapped away on the keyboard at a testing station.

"They were getting in front of me and I was there a lot earlier than them, so I thought that it was just," he said.


(it has been noted by the editor of this blog that this event occured south of the mason-dixon line)



now playing: david wilcox, "you were going somewhere"

there are days when you just trip over the absolute funniest stuff...this was part of a journal here, and i just had to bring it over and share it. these really are priceless.

sometimes you get on a roll and they just don't stop coming...like those conversations you have with friends every so often where neither of you can stop laughing, and everything one says just makes the other laugh harder.

glad this guy managed to save these for publication.


The following is a transcript of an IM conversation between a friend & I that started out normally enough, with us bitching about euphamisms in the English language, but soon degenerated into us trying to outdo each other in coming up with ridiculous fake hyphenated words. Some of them were priceless, so they are recorded here, in context, for posterity.


Tidge314 says:

Tidge314 says:

Tidge314 says:

Wrongwinded says:

Tidge314 says:
what r u doin

Wrongwinded says:
on phone hang on

Tidge314 says:
you goin to game tonite>?

Wrongwinded says:
no game

Wrongwinded says:
i think im going camping this weekend

Tidge314 says:
why you not goin to game?

Tidge314 says:
you gotta go, its my first hockey game, fool

Wrongwinded says:
im workin here. you wanna go campin?

Tidge314 says:

Wrongwinded says:
with the Jones street boys, out at the cabin

Tidge314 says:
Ill see wut i can do

Wrongwinded says:
ill see what I can do...feh

Tidge314 says:
who you feh'ing?

I'll bah you...

Wrongwinded says:
I hate that phrase. what the hell does that mean anyway. You know what the hell you can do, so just say what youre gonna do.

Tidge314 says:
ok fine im not goin camping

Wrongwinded says:
thank you.

Tidge314 says:
waht happened to you today?

Wrongwinded says:
somebody said 'proactive' to me at the studio. i hate that word, it's a damn made-up word. Why is 'active' not sufficient?

Tidge314 says:
totally sufficient

Wrongwinded says:
one can be active or inactive; nothing in betwween.

Tidge314 says:
I'm down. are you sure made-up is hyphenated?

Wrongwinded says:
you just hyphenated it

Tidge314 says:
damn you

Wrongwinded says:
i'll show you hyphenated

Wrongwinded says:
you're euphamism-happy

Tidge314 says:
you're turtle-scented

Wrongwinded says:
youre sphincter-riffic!

Tidge314 says:
Youre snack-oriented

Wrongwinded says:

Tidge314 says:

Wrongwinded says:

Tidge314 says:

Wrongwinded says:

Tidge314 says:

Wrongwinded says:

Tidge314 says:

Wrongwinded says:

Tidge314 says:

Wrongwinded says:

Tidge314 says:

Wrongwinded says:

Tidge314 says:

Wrongwinded says:

Tidge314 says:

Wrongwinded says:

Tidge314 says:

Wrongwinded says:

Tidge314 says:

Wrongwinded says:
these are beautiful. I gotta make it look like Im working.

Tidge314 says:
fine. Sure youre not coming to the game? we got the box...

Wrongwinded says:
nah, Im out.

Tidge314 says:
alright. later.

another dan fogelberg update

now playing: shane nicholson, "life on mars"

it appears that my thoughts from last week regarding dan fogelberg must've been conflicting with the reality of the situation. the following is posted on the official site:

In May of 2004, Dan was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.

August 13, 2005
A personal letter from D.F.

First, let me send everyone some very good news. In our first 14 months of treatment, we have succeeded in slowing the progression of my prostate cancer down to an almost negligible level. Jean and I are thrilled and incredibly relieved and finally feel like we can at last take a breath. While we understand that what we’re dealing with is a long term condition that will have to be dealt with, monitored and treated for probably the rest of my life, we are terribly encouraged to have come so far, so fast. It has certainly been the most trying experience of our lives and yet has proven to be one of the most illuminating as well.

I cannot adequately express my gratitude to all of the thousands of wonderful people who have sent us such incredibly moving and supportive e-mails via the Living Legacy web site. I am quite certain that the love and prayers that have been directed to us from all over the world have had a tangible and potent healing effect. It is truly overwhelming and humbling to realize how many lives my music has touched so deeply all these years. Each one of you who have taken the time and effort to reach out to Jean and I have helped immeasurably to uplift our spirits and keep us looking strongly forward during some very rough moments. I thank you from the very depths of my heart.

I currently have no plans to return to the concert stage or the recording studio in the foreseeable future, but who knows? At least for now, I prefer to keep my options open.

Again my deepest thanks and love to all,


Now for the sermon.

To each and every man....
I cannot encourage you strongly enough to get a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test and DRE (Digital Rectal Exam) EVERY YEAR.

The medical community suggests this for men over 50, but black men and men with a family history of prostate cancer should start getting tested at 40 - 45 years of age.

The PSA test is a simple blood test...it only takes a minute or two. The DRE, okay, every man squirms at the thought of this exam, but hey, it too takes only a minute or two, and IT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE.

Prostate cancer can be very slow growing or very aggressive, but detected early while it is still confined to the prostate gland, it can usually be treated and cured successfully.

Once it spreads beyond the prostate it is called Advanced Prostate Cancer (PCa). At this point it becomes imminently more life threatening and harder to treat. Do yourself and your loved ones a huge favor and GET CHECKED REGULARLY. I promise you, you DON’T want to go through what I’m going through if you can avoid it.

Education and awareness are key, I urge you to follow the link below to the Prostate Cancer Foundation web site and read up on how best to protect yourself and reduce your likelihood of contracting this terrible disease.

prostate cancer foundation


i'm free....i-i'm free.....

now playing: john gorka, "morningside"

it's true....the tommy run is over. and i have to say, while i'm glad to be free of the perpetual claim to my time, i'll miss it.

we got together at the drummer's house on friday night...all of us, even jeff...and had the unofficial band party. just to cement the cast of characters, here are the actual names of the guys in the band....

drums - buzz saylor
keys - jeff miller (both of simon apple)
bass - gene orlando
electric guitar - fred bernardo

fred was the musical director, the guy responsible for getting me into this mess...i had met jeff before when he worked with a production of jesus christ superstar that jayda was in, but i couldn't really say that i knew him. buzz - i had no real knowledge of him other than his playing in JCS, and gene was the toddler of the bunch - at nineteen, he was far and away the youngest of the lot. i'd be lying if i said it didn't show at first, but he really got his shit together and played the show like a pro by the end of the run. jeff and buzz were no-brainers, and probably the only people who could've played this show they way they did. buzz is just phenomenally talented and makes everything he does look easy. jeff - wow. instead of gushing about jeff, let me just tell you this...there were three books for the keyboard parts on this show. when it ran on broadway, there were three keyboard players in the show, all playing separate parts. as a testament to jeff's talent, he covered all three of them - without missing a part. that's just an amazing feat. and he did it like a martial arts master - never outwardly reflecting any difficulty he might've been having with a specific passage, consistently calm and cool on the outside, and throughout the whole show, only made one audible mistake (which prompted me to tell him, "it actually comforted me, man, because i was starting to think that at some point you were gonna trip and fall and hit your chin on the way down..and then your faceplate was gonna pop off and reveal your terminator circuitry behind your face.")

fred is fred - what can you say? it was the first time i'd ever played with him, although i'd worked for him before at the store ages ago. all his idiosyncracies are still in place - we were discussing at the get-together on friday night the best way to mess with his head for the last show, but we never reached a consensus...so i took it upon myself. i know how wound up he gets about the clock, so i stood outside and talked to the security guy in the parking lot until 8:02, when the crowd in the ticket line was starting to dwindle, and i waited until then to walk upstairs to the loft. oddly, he didn't seem as wound up as i thought he woulda been...so all i really accomplished was to get in some totally unneeded sweating practice.

so we're all sitting around at the after-gig on friday night, and the analogy i made was that the show had been like summer camp in a lot of ways - there was the one annoying kid that you kinda had to deal with because he was always there, always telling the same stale joke at the beginning of every show, et cetera...but this year, there were a couple of new kids who became fast friends and really made the whole experience worth it.

buzz asked me early on..."you a beer guy?" i thought he meant of the variety that walked the bleachers at baseball games and such at first, but i caught on. wendy and i went out with buzz and his lady, sue, after the first weekends' shows, and ended up spending time together every weekend of the shows' run. i'd say that i'll miss that the most, but i'm pretty confident that we'll continue to do that on some level.

jeff's the george harrison of the group...very reserved, quiet...and most definitely not a beer guy. you kinda have to work to get him to offer anything up. but we did get his attention on friday night.

buzz had told me this story about a specific gig in ocean city, md many years ago, when they came up missing a keyboard player at four in the morning...and walked back to the gig to find jeff lying prone on the bar with a funnel in his mouth, being served up shots by the bartender. to know jeff would be to know how totally unlikely something like this could ever be...but there he was, nonetheless. apparently, he'd been there for some time, as well. buzz and their guitar player at the time carried jeff back to their room and stayed up with him all night to keep him from hendrixing (choking on his own vomit) and they carried him back and forth to the bathroom until noon the next day, when they poured him into the car to drive back to reading to play a show that night.

that's probably enough backstory to move on....

friday night, i came in with a large box, wrapped in christmas paper...fred was supposed to be there, but he hadn't showed, and as late as i was in arriving, i was pretty sure that he wasn't coming. i went almost immediately into my speech...

"jeff, you were the guy who turned this band from just barely passable into an amazing little outfit, and since the run is almost over, we all wanted to present you with this token of our appreciation, in recognition of what you've brought to this gig. thanks, man."

so i handed him the box, wrapped in christmas paper (it was all i had), and he opened it...

...to reveal a bottle of strawberry creme Mad Dog 20/20....and a large, red funnel.

we had a great time...stayed up until the wee, wee hours (including a food run at 1am by buzz and myself) and talked for a long time - buzzs' friend Kork was there as well, a new guy - who fit right in with the gang and most certainly meets the criteria for my "summer camp" analogy. i'm sure our paths will cross again, too. it was 4:20am when i glanced over at the clock before drifting off to sleep.

i woke up at 9am the next morning to a phone call from keith amos, beckoning me to the shop...he woke me from a dream so vivid, that i sprang out of bed to finish what i'd been doing even after we'd talked for a couple of minutes.

i dreamt that jayda was perhaps a little over a year old...she still had those thin tufts of bright blonde hair that she had when she was small (her hair took a long time to come in), and i was sitting on the sofa holding her, and she had her thumb in her mouth (which she never did), and i asked her if she was ok, and she shook her head no, and i said, "what hurts?" and she put her hand over her nose...indicating that she was stuffy. i asked her if she wanted a drink, and she said ok...i checked her diaper and saw that she needed to be changed as well, so i said to her that we'd go get her a drink as soon as we got her a dry diaper...and that's when the phone rang.

and as soon as i hung up with keith, i sprang out of bed to go change my daughters' diaper.

ok, so maybe it was a combination of lack of sleep and the vividness of the dream...

...or maybe i just miss my kids right now.

yesterday, i had planned on coming to work to finish a few things up, so i told my friend angela that i'd come by to look at her computer before i came in...and one of the fringe benefits of doing so is getting to spend time with her daughter alicia (who'll be two a week from wednesday) - she reminds me of jayda a lot - her precociousness, her wit, her energy...she sat on my lap while i was working on the computer and let me read books to her for a long time, and i was reminded of jayda bringing over her beat copy of "the fox and the hound" and asking me to "read tod and copper"....

if whomever reads these little rants and musings chooses to take anything from them, i would simply say this - if you have small children, or if you plan to have children, try to set aside as much time as you can for them while they're small. once that time is gone, you can never, ever get it back - and no matter how much you manage to squeeze in, it'll never, ever be enough.

for once it's gone, you will miss it more than you can ever know until it's too late to do anything about it.

for the better part of last week, i was weighing whether or not to accept a job playing guitar, mandolin and dobro in a gretna theatre production of a show called stand by your man - the tammy wynette story. i drove out on saturday to meet with the musical director and to time the drive - it took 55 minutes on the way there, but only 45 on the way back, so it might not interfere with other work i have - and we discussed the show a bit, and i spoke briefly with the other principle actor in the show, pat garrett for a while...we compared notes on all the folks he and i had in common, and i got a pretty good feeling from them, all in all. mount gretna is an incredible place - it's right on a lake, and it's surrounded by all these quaint little cabins inhabited by all walks of people.

so, i played a couple of songs with pat, and i agreed to sign on for it. nate handed me a contract, outlining the pay for the rehearsals and for the shows, and i signed it.

and i had no more than put the cap back onto the pen when the actress they had chosen to portray the lead walked in.

michelle nagy.

some of you are aware of my history with michelle - we were both managed by the same company at one time, and we actually toured together a bit...we've been from nashville to toronto together. after i learned to accept the fact that she's completely and hopelessly insane, we actually became friends - but i wasn't terribly sure how to process her at first.

so she comes dancin' up to me and says, "i knew i'd get you to play for me one day, tommy!"

rehearsals start this saturday...i should have some interesting stories to tell from this one.

i am, obviously, a little worried about timelines and the commute - during this run, i have three viva gigs, and i'm loathe to give those up, frankly. but i think that either tonight or tomorrow night, i'm going to make the drive again during the actual time that i'd be making it to re-time it. on saturday when i went, the drive turned out to be almost exactly 55 minutes, which would be unacceptable...but the drive back was ten minutes shorter, on the same stretch of road. there was a backup due to a national guard convoy being checkpointed at the turnpike exit, and that's hopefully not going to be an issue for the shows, but you just never know...and only three of the twelve shows would be affected by the viva gigs. one of them, however, falls between a 2pm matinee and that nights' 8pm show.

this could be hairy. very much so. but i feel like i can pull it off, if i can ease my mind about the commute and get comfortable with that aspect of it. i'm going to call jeff at viva and nate from the show and discuss it with the two of them to make sure they're both aware of the conflicts and see what we can do to make this acceptable and easy for everybody.

gretna appears to be quite the operation - they took my measurements for costumes, told me what i was expected to wear, that they'd be doing my laundry for me, et cetera...so apparently the band is actually gonna be onstage for this thing, part of the show. not sure specifically how i feel about that...i think i'd rather just play, but so be it. the paycheck (almost twice the amount for more shows over more time for tommy) will make up for whatever misgivings i have about being part of the show, i'm sure.

and after this one is over, i promise - no more for awhile. i have another project that i'm itchin' to get started on, and while taking this gig on has only really postponed it by a couple of weeks, i really want to be able to focus on it and get it started so i can have it done and in the can by november or so.

once the tape is rolling and i have some credible evidence that the project is moving forward, i'll make a formal announcement of what it's about and why it's happening.

patience, grasshopper.


my personal ticket to sporting immortality

now playing: jimmie spheeris, "i am the mercury"

maybe i shouldn't be sharing this, but this is my thought for today:

if sweating were an olympic sport, i'd be tiger woods, michael jordan and lance fucking armstrong all rolled into one.

people would be sick of the sight of me up there on the podium, saluting and singing the national anthem with the obligatory huge rings in the pits of my warmup suit...every four years, it'd be the same old same old. other countries would stop sending athletes to compete, concentrating instead on other sports in which they stood an actual fighting chance. i would so dominate the sport that i would actually discourage others from taking it up.

in fact, i might be singularly responsible for its death as a competitive medium, because no one could possibly hope to unseat me from the throne. every now and then i might see pete errich from shame manage to register a blip, a distant dot, on my radar...but for the most part my rear view mirror would be devoid of anyone remotely capable of challenging my prowess.

i'm really starting to hate summer. i don't mind the outdoors, when it's seasonable, but that really boils down to a couple of weeks in the spring and a couple of weeks in the fall - to the extent that spring or fall really even exist anymore as a viable entity.

in between those two periods, you can find me either in the shower or beside the air conditioner. that's where i'll be.

cue adam duritz and the boys...."iiiiii ammmm the swwweattt king..."


some kinda message comes through to you...

now playing: poco, "glorybound"

so i just got off the phone with keith at gruhn guitars...i was considering doing something totally irresponsible with a small financial windfall that'll be coming my way in a few weeks, and they've had four instruments belonging to dan fogelberg for sale on their website for some time now - one of them a vintage 1957 gretsch white penguin. now, that would be completely out of my attainable range if i sold every guitar i had, but they had one specific piece on there that was a little more realistic.

not surprisingly, the instrument was sold...but the distressing tidbit of information gleaned from the call was that they've moved over fifty instruments belonging to dan through the store in the past eight months or so. at present they have a ramirez classical, a washburn acoustic, a banjo, and the white penguin still in stock of the lot that they had. one of them, a roland gr-700 guitar synth, has shown up on ebay and is for sale as we speak.

this is not good. this tells an unspoken story that foreshadows some rather dire straits.

i have to go play now, and i have a rock in the pit of my stomach.

the next time any of you hear me whimpering about this carpal tunnel business, just kick my ungrateful ass.

watching your heroes grow old...and human....sucks.

as if this was really news to anyone.....

now playing: poco, "sometimes we are all we got"

well, folks, it looks like going indie has officially been "mainstreamed"...this article appeared on the cnn website today, picked up from the associated press wire.

fellow musicians, our secret is out.


Music acts 'go it alone'
Growing number of artists are going independent

NEW YORK (AP) -- In 2000, the Churchills thought they had it made.

The New York-based pop band had landed a major-label record deal and were fixed up with producer Mark Hart, former keyboardist with the seminal Australian band Crowded House.

Hart and the band booked a posh recording studio and the label, Universal, gave them a near-limitless budget. They recorded with only the finest guitars and ate gourmet lunches -- all charged to the album expense account.

Three months later, they had spent $270,000 and the record was finished. But strangely, nothing seemed to be happening.

"It felt like we were nobody's priority," said Churchills bassist-vocalist Bart Schoudel. "We would stop by the label's marketing department, and they would say, 'Oh, you guys made a great record and I think the critics are going to love it."'

Countless other bands have found themselves in a similar quandary: Signed to a major label, with promises of widespread distribution and big promotional budgets, yet going nowhere. They are casualties of an industry increasingly geared toward acts who can reliably sell millions of albums at a time.

As a result, a growing number of artists who do not fit that paradigm are going independent -- financing their own records and tours, securing distribution deals and serving as their own publicists.

For these so-called Do It Yourself artists, securing a major-label deal is no longer the object of their aspirations. They have either become disillusioned with the majors based on past mishaps or never saw a place for themselves within the establishment to begin with. Their efforts have been facilitated by home recording and the Internet.

The Churchills have released two albums since leaving Universal in 2001. And Christopher Dallman, a 26-year-old singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles, got private financing to record his first album, "Race the Light," two years ago. He shopped it around to small labels when it was finished, eventually piquing the interest of New Jersey-based Treasure Records.

He's since signed with a booking agent and will tour Ireland and North America this summer. He supplements his schedule by booking scattershot shows on his own, makes his own fliers and maintains his own Web site, all without the help of a manager or publicist.

"Most important are your songs, your live show, your album," Dallman said. "But it's a major mistake to think that your work ends there. I am on my computer all day long, making contacts, sending e-mails, researching different ways of getting my stuff out there. So time-consuming, but really worth it."

This allows him to maintain control over his own creative output. Major labels often exert pressure on artists to record material that is radio-friendly; a famous recent example is Fiona Apple, whose third album was rejected by her label allegedly for not being commercial enough and has since been leaked on the Internet.

"I can't imagine being creative with restrictions," Dallman said.

Since the 1970s, major labels have increasingly viewed musicians more in terms of their marketability than their talent, said Steven Zuckerman, executive producer of New York City's annual Global Entertainment Media Summit, a conference for independent artists.

Even by late in that decade, he said, "a business created by passionate music fans had become a business run by accountants and attorneys who treated an art form as nothing different than a box of shoes." Consolidation has been the major force behind that trend, he said.

The DIY business model has long been prevalent among punk-rockers, who began to record and distribute their own material in the early 1980s. But only recently have other genres begun to adopt DIY practices, inspired by the success of such artists as Aimee Mann and Ani DiFranco.

DiFranco is the unofficial DIY hero. She founded her own label, Righteous Babe Records, in 1990 and became famous based on her manic touring and recording schedule. Mann, meanwhile, releases records on her own Superego imprint -- though her profile got a big boost when her songs were included on the "Magnolia" soundtrack, released in 1999 on a major label.

The number of people recording music has also skyrocketed as home recording equipment and software have become increasingly affordable. A basic recording program, which can handle about 16 separate tracks, can now be bought for less than $100.

Skilled DIY musicians can learn to record music partially or wholly at home that sounds almost as good as what can be produced in a slick studio. The Churchills' new album, for example, cost them less than $10,000.

How are all these aspiring musicians marketing their product? The Internet has been a huge boon, because it allows cheap, direct distribution of music to -- and communication with -- fans. Practically every artist now has an official Web site, most offering free MP3 downloads, and they maintain e-mail lists to promote upcoming shows and releases. Many musicians also sign up with services that license their songs to pay-per-download sites like iTunes.

A growing number of DIY bands have also begun to license their songs to television. The popularity of youth-oriented shows such as "Scrubs," "Everwood" and "The O.C." has created a burgeoning demand for music to be used in the background of scenes or over closing credits.

Ron Haney, lead guitarist and vocalist for the Churchills, spends several weeks a year in Los Angeles pitching the band's songs to television insiders. "TV is the new radio," Haney said. "Kids don't listen to radio like they used to. TV is what's used now to break bands."

Since 1999, the Churchills have had songs placed in several shows, including all the ones mentioned above. Dallman has had a song placed in MTV's "The Real World."

In sum, artists say, the key is self reliance. Among the nine members of The Sharp Things, a New York-based orchestral pop band featuring horns and strings, are a music publicist, a Web designer, a journalist, a marketing professional, two video directors and a music business attorney.

Says lead vocalist Perry Serpa: "We're a very self-sufficient bunch."

The band self-released its first album, "Here Comes the Sharp Things," in 2002; it won favorable reviews and got the band noticed by New Jersey-based indie label Bar/None, which released the follow-up, "Foxes and Hounds," in May.

Still, the band -- like all DIY bands -- does not rely on its label to sell it to the public, as have bands of the past. Nor does it hire "outsiders" to do its legwork.

"What's the point of seeking out certain people who would have half the passion, take twice as long to get the job done and are not as invested?" said Serpa. "We tend to outsource only when it's completely necessary."

But if the bottom line becomes irrelevant -- or at least de-emphasized -- what defines success among artists who choose to do it all themselves?

"The beauty of it is that the ideal of 'success' can be defined by each individual artist," Serpa said. "If you manufacture 1,500 records with the intention of selling them all on the road over two years' time and you achieve that, then that is success. The deal is that you really no longer need the bottom-liners to define that for you anymore."


i'm personally quite fond of that last sentiment...the idea of defining success on your own terms, and not letting some asshole with a law degree who sidestepped into a job at a lable tell you what you have to do in order to be considered such.

if jesus walked into our midst...

now playing: marty higgins, "driving her home"

one of the highlights of this past weekend was sitting around with simon apple drummer buzz saylor and having our customary post-"tommy" beers and talking about music. this past friday night, we ended up talking at length about religion, and what revealed itself to be our mutual distaste with organized religion and the politics of the church.

then, tonight, i'm clicking about in an endless series of links from one page to another and ended up on john flynn's site, and found this entry in his journal. seems the catholic PR machine is working overtime, as usual:



I had arrived in Albany, New York about three o'clock on Saturday afternoon. Since I had a couple hours to kill before sound check, I decided to take a walk. With no particular destination in mind I was surprised to find myself, after a short amble, in front of St. Patrick's Catholic Church. Desiring to go in and light a candle for the pope I was delighted to find that 4PM mass was soon to take place so I took a pew in the back of the church and began to meditate. It had been a difficult few days - life stuff -and my troubled mind quickly melted into the stillness of this holy place.

I was there a few minutes when a man with a high pitched voice roused me from prayer saying, "You can't sit here!" Since the huge church had only twenty or thirty people in its two hundred long empty pews I was confused. The pew had no reserved seating indication so I asked, after the statement was repeated, "Why not?". "This is the usher's pew" said the balding middle aged man who did not choose to identify himself. My sleep deprived, road burned brain instantly sensed that caution was necessary as I was talking to an usher. With cunning and guile I masked my slight irritation at being rousted over a territorial dispute. I pointed the pew in front of me. "Can I pray here?" I asked in a volume calculated to be slightly louder than that necessary to span the 30 suddenly tension filled inches that separated me from the man's white belt and combustible neck tie. "You need to sit somewhere else" said the man. "You can't sit here! This is for ushers ONLY!" "Can I pray here?" I repeated. Anywhere but THIS pew" he said. "This is for ushers ONLY!" He was obviously becoming agitated, and no further fun could have been wrung from the absurdity of the moment so I stood, gathered my old felt hat and gloves, bowed to him and moved forward exactly one pew. I knelt down and began to pray again.

A few minutes passed and I heard another voice. This one deeper and more menacing than the last. "Hey Tex!" said the voice. Not being from Texas or dressed like a cowboy, I remember hoping dearly that I wasn't being addressed. In any event I chose to ignore the salutation, although its proximity and tone suggested that I was indeed its target. "Hey Tex!" repeated the voice, loud enough to be heard by others in the church, I opened my eyes and looked up to find an older Italian looking man, his arms folded imperiously above an expansive middle. "Tex?" I asked trying to stifle a smile. "You can't sit here!" said the man. "My name isn't Tex" I said. "It doesn't matter what your name is, you can't sit here!" said the man. "Why not?" I asked becoming annoyed. "Because this pew is for ushers only" said the man in a voice that was clearly intended to convey a "We know how to handle trouble makers like you around here!" sort of impression. "Wait a minute, I thought THAT pew was for ushers only" I said gesturing dramatically at my former seat. How many of these trees had they peed on? "So's this one!" said the man. "You have to move." "But that guy told me I could sit here" I said pointing toward the first man who was standing nearby in obvious dismay. "You guys should get your story straight." By now a dozen heads were turning around to see what all the commotion was about. "Look pal, you have to move somewhere else. Don't give us a hard time!" said the bigger man. "You guys ought to put up signs so strangers can figure out where it's okay to pray around here!" I said in an exasperated voice. I stood, picked up my stuff again and walked to an empty pew in the middle of the church. "Does anyone have a problem if I sit here?" I asked in a loud voice. Disapproving parishioners glared at me from all directions as the Italian looking man dismissed me with a disgusted waive of his hand and turned to admonish his colleague, apparently explaining yet again the complicate but ever so crucial "Two Pew Rule". I knelt down and struggled unsuccessfully to reclaim a sense of the serenity I had come into St. Patrick's to find.

At one point I looked back my shoulder to find that the balding usher had taken a seat directly behind the deep voiced one, each man commanding sole possession of an otherwise unoccupied back bench.

Eventually the mass began. We offered a prayer for the soul of John Paul and sang a hymn about triumphing over the grave. I got lost as I often do in the deeply mystical ritual of the mass and didn't give another thought to the pew police until I saw them begin to go from person to person taking up a collection. I quickly took a piece of paper and pen from my pocket and scribbled out the following note which I deposited in the collection basket:

I.O.U. :
Nothing for the unwelcoming attitude and discourtesy
you showed a stranger in your midst.
Peace, Tex

I know what your thinking... I could have handled this one a little better. Maybe you're right. But the thing is... There's a lot wrong with the church. Much of it of it we have no control over. But some of it we do! Someone once asked the Dali Lama what his religion was. "Kindness" he answered. Wouldn't it be nice if we each could respond the same way?


this would be the space where i'd normally add my thoughts, but there's not much left to say...


low cost distractionary tactics

now playing: air supply, "even the nights are better"

it's at times like today, when i'm sitting here with a winamp playlist full of songs like this, that i wonder if every generation ahead of us will be as forgiving with their nostalgic tendencies as we've been thus far. i mean, seriously - if i were able to be totally objective about it, why on God's green earth would i be sitting here listening to this song?

well, because when i listen to it, i remember the summer i started working for the "cool radio station" in my hometown - WKWX. there were two stations there, a country station (which i had worked for already), and K-93, which was what most of the kids in my high school listened to...and thus, the place i wanted to work. i wanted to be a celebrity with my classmates, and i saw that gig as my ticket to being famous, man.

in my high school, there was a pretty severe class separation between the farmer kids, the dirt poor, white trash trailer park kids - and the kids whose families were significantly better off than the rest.

i've found myself thinking about that particular time of my life somewhat more than i normally would ever since my recent trip home, and i'm not sure why those few summers stand out...probably for reasons no different than anyone else looks back fondly on their youth - the endless possibilities that lay before you, the abandon with which you live your life, the melodrama and intensity that encompass so many relationships and actions at that point in your short existence - it all combines to make those days one long rush of adrenaline and despair, sometimes with both rushing through your body simultaneously.

at that point in your life, it's all written off to youth. at my current age, it would be suspected as insanity.

and yet, i use music as a tool for my sense of nostalgia...i find myself listening to air supply and being in the control room at K-93 for the first time and hearing music over those huge, amazing sounding control room monitors that they had there...and being a teenager again, and knowing with complete certainty that at some point, some day, i'd be leaving there to find something amazing to do with my life that was a perfect fit for all the things that i wanted to do with it. knowing also, though, that i somehow had to survive long enough to have that freedom and take advantage of it.

some days, that was easier said than done.

the sad truth, though, is that when you're at that point in your life, the future is a precipice that you stand on the edge of...with virtually no choice but to fall. if you have a sense of purpose regarding what it is that you see as your destiny, you can't wait to get to the edge and jump.

i couldn't wait to jump, regardless of any sense of purpose i might've had, because i couldn't imagine a future worse than what i perceived my present as being. in retrospect, my vision of where it was that i was supposed to be and what i was to do with my life was a little unrealistic - made so by my failure to consider a few basic truths. one, that the future wouldn't wait for me to get there at my leisure - time would march on while i was taking the occasional (sometimes lengthy) detour from my path...and when i returned to it, i would find that the view from the road was a little more different each time i got back on track - and that times changed, people changed, music changed, and....yeah, even i changed over the endless parade of hours and days that somehow became years - and then, decades.

as would just about anyone my age, i look back over the miles i've accumulated with some definite ideas about what i would've changed if i could...but to think of life that way is to discount the importance of some of the things that happen as a by-product of some of those things that we can't wait to go back and "fix", given the chance.

for instance, if i correct what i see as my biggest mistake (my first marriage), then i eliminate one of my greatest gifts (jayda and dylan). keeping that in mind usually cures me of extended bouts of revisionism, but it doesn't make me immune from it.

today, i seem to be content with reliving select moments from my first K-93 summer - driving around town in my mom's 1976 two-door black monte carlo with melody and with my friends, playing in the great band i was in that year, engaging in my continuing crush on sharon cummings and downing many unnecessary milkshakes at the mug & cone as a result, and being a minor celebrity with all the people from high school who wouldn't have spoken to me if not for my job.

it's a very low-cost way to keep my mind off other things.


i come not to bury blake, but to praise him...

now playing: michael tolcher, "sun song"

so my buddy blake allen sends me his rough draft that he's been promising to send me for his bio, finally...after stonewalling me for ages, right?

so i sit down and hammer it out in half an hour or so, and i call him to get corrections and an opinion and he can't be bothered to answer his cellphone.

so i have this brilliant idea...i know he stops by here every now and then, so why not just post his bio (as it's currently written, obviously) on the journal? at least this way i know he'll get it, and all he'll have to do is cut and paste it, right?

so in between congratulating myself for my brainstorm and leaving multiple voicemails in several different dialects on his cellphone voicemail, i submit the following for your (and his) approval:


"From here on out, I'm only interested in stuff that's real," states fictitious Stillwater guitarist Russell Hammond to his road companion (fledgling rock writer William Miller) in the Cameron Crowe movie Almost Famous. Hammond is in the process of walking out on his bandmates after a heated discussion about T-Shirts, of all things...and is fed up with the business. "Real, real....real," he repeats, as if it's in the process of becoming his personal mantra.

Russell Hammond would have been a big fan of Blake Allen's music.

Blake's music is at once fresh and immediate, and yet manages to conjure images of the days when Russell Hammond and his like roamed the earth - Blake's warm, honest voice weaves stories over melodies created with tools both new and tried and trusted. Acoustic instruments and drum loops share space within a song as if nothing could be more natural, and every note played is there for a reason. His songs become old friends instantaneously.

Blake Allen was born in Seattle, Washington and grew up across the border in Saskatchewan, Canada - a neighbor of Joni Mitchell's family. Blake and his siblings learned the ways of the road early on - the result of being born into a professional sports family. "My Dad, Keith, is a member of the NHL Hall of Fame for building the Phildelphia Flyers' "Broad Street Bullies" team that won the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975...so I started skating when I was two and played hockey up through high school," he says, "until I discovered the guitar, beer, and my future wife." Blake's early interest in the family sport was borne less of passion and more of opportunity, and as he settled into his teenage years, he would find that he drew more inspiration from his musical heroes than the sports legends he encountered on a routine basis growing up.

After forming a romantic and musical bond with his wife, Mollie, Blake began doing impromptu shows at local bars with Mollie and her sister, Kerry, as the McShanes. Originally an acoustic trio, they evolved into a full-fledged family band with the addition of younger McShane brothers Michael on guitar and Brian on bass. "They were too young to get into bars, so we needed to get permission from the bar owners for them to play. They missed a lot of Fridays in high school."

Once their skills had been honed as a unit, elder brother Danny took over management duties for the band and they recruited a drummer for their leap from the coverband doldrums into original music. Re-christening themselves Aunt Pat, they played their first show of original music with their new moniker at The Bitter End in New York City "with a drummer we auditioned the day before," remembers Allen. "Danny believed in throwing us in the pool to see if we'd sink or swim..or tread water." Of Danny's management tactics, one local music industry vet confided to Blake that "the best thing that ever happened to your band is that Danny never learned to play an instrument." The first gig must have provided the necessary encouragement, for they found themselves settling into the original music circuit in Philadelphia with relative ease. Remembers fellow musician Tom Hampton: "The first time I ever saw them was as a trio, and they absolutely blew me away. It was at a time when popular music in general was making something of a return to honest songwriting...Counting Crows had just come along, The Wallflowers, Jeff Buckley - and we had the greatest AAA radio station on the planet right in our backyard back then. I thought they were gonna be absolutely huge." Indeed, WXPN played several tracks from their self-titled, homemade debut album, and before long they found themselves sharing bills with some of the darlings of the format: Dar Williams, The Nields, Erin McKeown, Vigilantes of Love, John Sebastian, and others.

The reception of their debut album was encouraging enough to head back into the studio and record a follow up, titled Patoo, in 1998. Working in Woodstock, N.Y., they managed to lure legendary Band alumnus Levon Helm into the project, singing and playing mandolin on the song Hard Inside. "I got to play both of Levon's mandolins, the Martin that he played at Woodstock and the Gibson that he played with Emmylou Harris on The Last Waltz," Blake gushes. Helm was very supportive, telling them at the end of the day in his trademark drawl, "You got yourselves a band here."

Patoo captured Aunt Pat at its absolute creative peak, firing on all eight cylinders. It's an album that leaps out of your speakers and whispers quietly into your ear at the same time. From the opening cascades of 13th Sign through the album's closer, South of Home, the album never stop asserting its greatness for a minute. The record recieved widespread airplay on AAA stations across the country, and propelled the band onto the I-95 corridor to promote it. The song Georgia made it to #2 on Garageband.com's Worldwide Talent Search in April of 2000, and Performing Songwriter magazine named it one of their top independent DIY albums of 2000. "I remember lying in bed listening to the radio in Georgia, and hearing the song come on the radio," Allen recalls, "and there's no feeling like that...hearing a song you wrote come on the radio and knowing other people are hearing it at the same time you are."

The strains of working, living, and sharing every waking moment with one another eventually began to take their toll on the band, and by the time 2002's Swim was completed, guitarist Michael McShane had already departed the band. When sister Kerry announced to the band that she was expecting a child, the wood began to splinter - soon afterward, bassist Brian announced that he was moving to San Francisco to pursue studio work. "By that time, I was showing up to gigs billed as 'Aunt Pat' and I was the only one on stage," Blake says, "So a solo career was born out of both necessity and circumstance."

Before throwing the towel in completely, Blake called longtime friend Tom Hampton to flesh out the Aunt Pat skeleton crew for the remaining shows - "a call I'd waited for for five years," he confided. Aunt Pat finished as it started - as a trio - comprised of Blake, Mollie, and Tom.

During rehearsals, Tom noted the presence of a large dry erase board in Blake and Mollie's basement that charted progress on dozens of songs with titles he didn't recognize. "What are these?" he'd ask - to be told they were all songs that Blake had written and began recording in various stages in his erstwhile basement studio. Tapes started floating back and forth between the two, to be followed by tracks being added and swapped. "Blake is singularly responsible for the fact that I have a studio in my house," Hampton confides. "It started with him loaning me an ADAT and a couple of mics to work on tracks, and then I'd go buy stuff, and he'd bring over more stuff, and I'd go buy more stuff...and the next thing I knew, I was awash in all this recording gear - it enabled us both to do our best work on this project, I think."

Blake adds, "I've been writing songs for over twenty years, but there's only so much room on a band record for each writer. Most people in my situation will tell you that the best thing about making a solo record after coming from a band perspective is that there's no one else to tell you what to do. Some of those people will also tell you that the worst thing about making a solo record is that there's no one else to tell you what to do. I wanted my record to feature traditional instrumentation like dobro, mandolin, banjo, lap steel..so Tom was my first phone call when I needed a sympathetic musician from the same ring of the tree. Songs like Little Leaping Frogs of Rain and Into Night took on new life when Tom got his hands on them."

The result of this collaboration is Ghosting - Blake Allen's debut solo record featuring ten songs that echo his musical and literary influences. It combines musical elements that reflect the admiration of artists like Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young, The Beatles, Springsteen, and Counting Crows with traces of Norman Mailer, Larry McMurtry, John Stienbeck, and Jack London.

Accustomed to the creative process being a family affair, Allen features the familiar Aunt Pat alumnus on the record, as well as his personal highlight - having daughters Shay (on electric guitar) and Chelsea (on piano) appear on the song Who Knows What Heaven Is. Former Aunt Pat vocalist and sister-in-law Kerry Kay's daughter Jamie sings the multi-layered harmony bridge on the same track, recalling a similar moment from David Crosby's Laughing. Other cameos include Barry Meehan, Fred Berman (currently on the road with Amos Lee), Don Zebrauskus, and Aunt Pat drummer Chuck Treece. The record was mixed and seasoned at Marc Moss' Target Studios, with Moss contributing to the tracks as well.

Ghosting will certainly sound familiar to fans of Aunt Pat - Allen was certainly their most prolific songwriter, but always content to allow the ladies to inhabit the front of the stage. The songs on this record are gentle reminders of what Aunt Pat could have been, and reveal the promise of Blake's career as a self-contained unit. It's a record that begs multiple listens, and introduces new twists and turns upon each repeated airing. It's a snapshot of Blake Allen's journey from the frozen lakes of Canada and his youth to where he stands today - indeed, to where we all stand today.

Ghosting will be available through BlakeAllen.com and several retail outlets - for information about where to get the record, and for upcoming performances and other information, visit www.BlakeAllen.com.


so there you have it. now, while you're thinking of it, send him an email at blake@blakeallen.com and tell him what a genius he is, and that you can't wait to buy his record.

now, i don't know whether it was blake's intention to reveal my identity as the author of his bio, but i guess the damage is done now (moral of the story: answer your phone, bitch)...but just let me say this in closing.

i don't needlessly flatter anyone. under any circumstances. if someone, for instance, were to come to me in a fragile state because someone had just told them that their short story sucked, i wouldn't tell them it didn't if it did. now, i wouldn't say, "well, duh" or anything that insensitive...i'd say something more along the lines of "well, that's their opinion, and if you really believed it was good, then don't let them discourage you" or something similary non-positional and vague. i won't accost you with my opinion - for instance, if you smell really bad, i wouldn't come up to you to be the first to tell you that you stink, but if you ask me how you smell, i'm not gonna lie to you.

it's in that spirit that i hope you'll consider what i've written about my friend. i loved aunt pat from the moment i first heard the three of them on that dank little stage at the old grape street, and i still love blake's music to this day.

but then, if you're a regular visitor, you know that i don't blow smoke where music is concerned anyway.


advice of the rich and famous

now playing: dan may, "enjoy"

i will say this...autumn is a much better time of year for extended introspection.

summer never really seemed to work for me, in that department.

it's been a long time since i've had anything of substance to say here (and yes, it's been pointed out to me a time or two...or seven...or so...), and i don't really know what to say about that, except that my silence hasn't been relegated strictly to this space. i've spent a lot of time in my head these past few weeks - not with any intent to freeze anyone out, but i simply haven't felt much like discussing anything with anyone.

this isn't a quirk that's exclusive to me, and it's not something that i pride myself in, but sometimes i just process information better when i chew on it for a while.

it's funny...when my kids were little and i was playing full time, i used to look at folks who cashed in their dreams early on with regard to how i perceived their pursuits in life...you know, the whole "go to college and get married and have a family and kids and buy the house and the minivan" thing...i used to feel sorry for them for not taking time to find something that they could be passionate about, something to do that they loved, something that brought some joy to their lives. i thought that because the path they chose was so conventional, that it couldn't possibly be exciting in any form or fashion. i loved the fact that what i did was so non-conformist, so rebellious (at the time), that i was living my life the way i wanted, outside the realm of what was expected of someone in my particular position. i played music for a living, i came home and spent the day with my kids and gigged at night, and while no one was getting rich, we were getting by.

now, though, i look around myself at people my age who have managed to save money, who have nice houses and nice cars and comfortable lives and i have to admit to myself that i feel a little envious at times. i question the choices i made earlier in life, with regard to how i went about things, how i tackled chasing my particular dream - and what i have to show for it all these years later.

now, i'm sure that if i were successful in some regard (which is to say "successful" by societys' standards...which translates to money more so than anything else), then i'd be singing a completely different tune. i'd be sitting here telling you that you should follow your dream no matter what, and to be prepared to struggle through the tough times, because there's a pot of gold at the end of the alleged rainbow, keep your chin up, when god closes a door, he opens a window...all that crap that people say to you when their own personal gamble paid off.

and the reason that you hear all that horseshit all the time is because we only really listen to people who managed to be successful in whatever field they chose. why? because when we want to know how to carry something out, we seek out people who have been successful in what it is that they do. if you want to know how to succeed in real estate, you go buy carleton sheets' home study course and start there...you don't seek out the advice of someone who failed miserably in the real estate game, you go immediately to the other end of the spectrum and find out all about what your chosen success story did to climb to the top of the ladder.

me? nowadays, i'm thinking that i'd rather hear from the guy who lost his ass to find out what he did to bring about his own particular catastrophe so i wouldn't make the same mistake.

aretha franklin's father, reverend paul franklin, is credited with saying that people who plan for failure are planning to fail...i don't know if i see it that way now. i guess it could be said, and applied to my career as a musician with regard to some of my thoughts nowadays. i mean, seeking out the stories of people who fell flat on their faces might not necessarily qualify as creating your master plan for world domination...

but then again, someone once said that those who refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

i'd like to think my motivation for collecting tales of failure would fall between those two camps, with a definite lean towards the latter statement.

where i stand now, though, is something of a fixed position. i know what i have to do to take the next step, in terms of continuing a career as a musician, but i'm paralyzed and largely unable to do so. i have a family, a job, and obligations that aren't going anywhere, and they keep me where i am. why? because i've allowed myself to become comfortable - which, in my case, translates to lazy. too lazy to do what's necessary to take that next step, anyway.

now when i say it that way, it sounds as though there's resentment on my part, but i guess what i'm trying to say is that by embracing those things, it points a person in a direction other than where i've thought my whole life that i'd be going. so that, in turn, means that i'm back on the path of all those people i used to look upon with a certain amount of inward scorn all those years ago.

in other words, i'm one of them now.

and i look around my life and the direction that these realizations points me in, and it occurs to me that i have a lot of catching up to do. more catching up, in fact, than i'm really capable of. in the short term, certainly.

so, at some point, i either have to come up with some sort of plan to get myself together and be a suburban middle-aged working class character from jackson browne's "pretender", or i have to make peace with who i've been and accept the losses that come with continuing to be that person.

right now, i'm none of the above, and yet i have elements of both.

i look around myself and i see parts of my life that i have a tentative grip on at best, other parts that i can't seem to shake, things that i'm perfectly content with and things that i would change in a heartbeat...and the list seems to change every day. i don't know what any of this means. the only logical conclusion i can really arrive at is that this many options and this much confusion must mean that i'm just not meant to make any decisions about anything significant right now...so i continue to bide my time.

i don't know, though, how much longer i can really continue to do that.


a trip back in time for my hippie burnout gearhead buddies

now playing: simon apple, "weight of the world"

this article recently appeared in an issue of mix magazine and i know there are about a dozen people who stop by here on occasion who would get a kick out of hearing this story...as usual, have your fingers on the scroll button if this doesn't apply...

if i could only remember my name - recording david crosby's laughing

At the dawn of the 1970s, David Crosby was on top of the rock world. Originally part of the Los Angeles folk scene in the early '60s, he first rose to prominence as an integral member of The Byrds in their first couple of years, then hit the serious Big Time in 1969 as part of the harmony-heavy folk-rock supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash. Crosby was the author of the chestnuts “Guinnevere” and “Long Time Gone,” and co-writer of “Wooden Ships.” By the time Woodstock rolled around in August of '69, Neil Young had joined forces with CSN and they spent several months recording the classic album Déjà Vu at the newly built Wally Heider Recording in San Francisco. That disc, released in 1970, included the typically idiosyncratic Crosby tunes “Almost Cut My Hair” and the title track.

Almost from the moment it was built, Heider's San Francisco facility became the place for Bay Area rock bands to record: Besides the CSNY sessions (which reportedly sprawled more than some 800 hours), Jefferson Airplane cut Volunteers there in 1969, the Grateful Dead made American Beauty in 1970, and Creedence Clearwater Revival, Santana, Brewer & Shipley and Seals & Crofts all tracked there. The Bay Area had been a close-knit music community since the heyday of the first wave of psychedelic bands. That translated to the San Francisco studio scene in that musicians were always helping out on each other's albums: The Dead's Jerry Garcia played pedal steel on Déjà Vu and Volunteers, and steel, electric and banjo on Airplane member Paul Kantner's 1970 sci-fi rock epic Blows Against the Empire, which also featured David Freiberg of Quicksilver Messenger Service and both Crosby and Graham Nash, among others. In fact, Kantner and Crosby were the driving forces behind a loose amalgamation of stoney Northern California rockers who came to be dubbed the Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra (PERRO), who fantasized they would make albums together whenever enough of them were in town and not on tour with their main bands. And actually, there are widely circulated bootlegs of various combinations of S.F.'s finest players jamming and working on songs at Heider's in '70 and '71.

A track here and a track there on different albums from the period show some of the inspired magic that took place at these sessions. But one album in particular — Crosby's 1971 solo debut, If I Could Only Remember My Name — shows the full flowering of those collaborations. Helping Crosby out were some of the best artists from the local music scene, including Garcia, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann from the Dead; Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady from Jefferson Airplane; Gregg Rolie and Michael Shrieve from Santana; Frieberg from Quicksilver; Nash and Young; and, up from L.A., former paramour Joni Mitchell. This month's “Classic Tracks,” “Laughing” is the album's shining jewel: a brilliant and beautifully recorded song featuring Crosby with Garcia, Lesh and Kreutzmann, and in a brief cameo, Mitchell.

At the time, Crosby was living on a boat docked across the bay in Sausalito and still nursing a heart broken by the death of his beloved girlfriend, Christine Hinton, in an automobile accident in Marin County in 1969 — she was his Guinnevere, and later he would dedicate If I Could Only Remember My Name to her. “I was in a pretty emotional state,” Crosby told writer Steve Silberman in 1995, “trying to stay so deeply in the music that the other thing — Christine — wouldn't drive me under. I needed to work all the time, so I would write constantly, and when I wasn't writing, I was recording, and when I wasn't recording, I would try to get some place to play. It was all I had to hang on to, so I was pretty prolific.”

When Crosby was ready to start recording his solo debut, he enlisted a young Heider engineer named Stephen Barncard to helm the sessions. Barncard had assisted engineer Bill Halverson on Déjà Vu, but didn't really connect with Crosby then. In the interim, however, Barncard had recorded and mixed the Dead's American Beauty, and it was allegedly on Garcia's recommendation that Crosby asked to work with Barncard. In fact, when the Crosby sessions began in September 1970, Barncard was spending his days mixing American Beauty on Studio C's DeMedio console with Garcia and Lesh, then tracking Crosby in the same room at night.

“At first it was pretty quiet,” Barncard remembers. “There wasn't a lot of people hanging out. It was largely [assistant] Ellen [Burke] and myself. David would sit in a chair with an acoustic guitar and play. What was chaotic about it is I had to switch into double-session mode. When I was mixing the Grateful Dead in the daytime, we'd start around 10 and go all day. I'd take a break, cook dinner — probably on a hot plate I had there. We'd have stewed prunes or some vegetarian goulash or something out of a can, and then by 7 o'clock, I'd have everything ready, and at 7:15, David would come in beaming from ear to ear. It was so much more leisurely than Déjà Vu had been, which was a real pressure-cooker, but also incredible — those guys were amazing; really larger than life in a lot of ways.”

Studio C, which Barncard once described as “ground zero for so many great records,” was simply equipped by today's standards. The custom console, designed and built by Heider associate Frank DeMedio, had 24 channels, eight buses and Gotham faders that went up and down in 2dB steps. DeMedio favored plug-in line amps made by United Audio and passive Universal Audio EQs on the way to the line amps. “It was really an incredibly well-built and simple thing,” Barncard says of the console. The monitor speakers in the small control room were Altec 604s. For outboard gear, “We had four 1176s in every room, two LA-2As, two Pultecs in portable cases that got moved around from room to room, this crappy-sounding Altec graphic [EQ] and some totally useless Lang equalizers,” he says. “And that was about it. We also had a Univibe for guitarists and also a Countryman phaser, which I used horribly on Van Morrison's ‘Wild Night.’” Barncard describes the echo chamber at Heider's as “probably the best chamber I've used anywhere, anytime. It was magic. That's what you hear on Garcia's pedal steel on ‘Laughing.’ What I would do is print the echo on guitars and some other instruments. I took a lot of risks — sometimes because I just wanted to and sometimes because I was young and didn't know any better.”

The studio had one of the first Ampex MM1000 16-tracks ever built, but Barncard preferred the 3M 16-track. “Everything I ever recorded on 3M [Scotch] tape is still playable today and sounds great. Every piece of Ampex tape I used in the '70s turned into glue and stops the tape.”

The songs on If I Could Only Remember My Name were a combination of personal tunes Crosby had written during the years and numbers that developed during jams in the studio. “Laughing” dates back at least to early 1968: Crosby cut an acoustic guitar and voice demo version at Hollywood Sound Recorders in March of that year for Elektra producer Paul Rothchild. In September 1969, when he was still shopping for a solo deal, Crosby cut a second solo version at Heider's studio in Hollywood. Later, he tried unsuccessfully to entice his CSNY partners to record the song on Déjà Vu. Perhaps the song was waiting for the right musicians and the perfect setting to come along.

Though the master tape box for “Laughing” is dated “11/3/70,” Barncard suspects that the tune's basic track was actually cut in September '70 and that the later date is when it was completed. Whatever the case, that initial tracking session comprised Crosby and Garcia playing electric guitar (probably a hollow-body Gretsch and a Gibson SG, respectively), Lesh on his original Alembic bass and Kreutzmann on drums. “I'm sure they ran though it at least three or four times [before cutting it],” Barncard says. “It wasn't one of those spontaneous tunes; it's one they had to work on to get it right because it has a few tricky changes in it. Garcia played very little on the basic track — just tiny little riffs because it called for that.”

Early on in his career, Barncard learned the value of “going in to record as soon as anyone was in the studio. You don't want to miss something because you're waiting for a downbeat. On this album, there were times when people were drifting in and out and sometimes they'd be kind of messing around and it would slowly turn into something interesting, so it was important to capture all that. Sometimes I had the luxury of actually going in and getting sounds, but other times, I had to wing it and just put up whatever [mic] was handy at the moment so I wouldn't miss it.”

For miking, Barncard used a relatively straightforward scheme: “On drums, I probably only used four mics — [Shure] 57s on the kick and the snare and [Sony] C37Ps as overheads, which also picked up the hi-hat and toms. I sometimes used [Neumann] 67s as overheads, too.” Garcia's and Crosby's guitars were captured by single 57s on each player's amp, but Lesh's beefy bass sound came from a combination of mics on two different amps — one large for more low end and a smaller one for the high-end part of his sound.”

According to Barncard, when Crosby was really “on,” he liked to work quickly, so he suspects that the gorgeous waterfall of harmony vocals created by Crosby for “Laughing” were done at the same session. “He has such a great ear and he would just go in and sing a part, double it, maybe triple it, then do the next part and the next one,” Barncard says admiringly. “I think you can put the vocals on that song next to the best stuff he did with Stills and Nash. It was amazing.” Barncard kept each vocal stack on a separate track. By the time Mitchell's small but still important vocal contribution to the song's bridge was recorded late in the process, Barncard had run out of free tracks, so “I punched in Joni's double of ‘In the sun…’ on one of Phil's two bass tracks for the duration of her part and compensated the level during the mix.”

It was two other overdubs that really helped define the song's character, however. The first was the clear, shimmering 12-string guitar part by Crosby on track 1. “On acoustic guitars, I liked to use an [AKG] C-60 with an omni capsule,” Barncard relates. “Before I did David's record and before I did American Beauty, I had this artist named Chet Nichols who was an acoustic guitarist and singer/songwriter, much like Crosby in the sense that he used interesting tunings and 12-strings and that sort of thing; a troubadour type. I'd always wanted to record him, so when he came to San Francisco maybe six months into my stay at Wally Heider's, I was able to do some spec sessions with him and experiment a lot on mic techniques and with vocals; he was pretty much my guinea pig for what would become David's solo album. It really gave me a lot of ideas to try. By the time I got to David's record, I was really tight with the room — Studio C was pretty much my domain at that point.”

At the time I interviewed Barncard at his home studio in San Francisco, just steps away from Golden Gate Park, he was completing some surround mixes for a 5.1 version of the Crosby album, so he had a handy version of “Laughing” broken out to its 16 tracks and was able to play me, for instance, the glorious vocal stacks as a unit and to isolate Garcia's ethereal pedal steel track, which truly sounds like it was beamed down from another galaxy — it's so strange and different. It, too, was captured with a 57 on the amp, but then drenched in echo. “It was from outer space and it was probably the first take,” Barncard says with a laugh. “It was absolutely beautiful.”

A number of years later, Garcia himself noted that during that era when he was playing steel on a lot of albums, “The nicest thing I did during that period was on Crosby's solo album. I like what I did on that, generally speaking. I particularly like the pedal steel on ‘Laughing.’ That was some of the prettiest and most successful of what I was trying to get at at that time.”

“There was such a great vibe around that song — really, all those sessions,” Barncard adds. “David was in his element with these people, and when things were going well, as they did consistently on this album, he was the happiest, cheerleading-est, funniest, most charming, most beautiful cat in the world. It was a party! But also, we were done by 11, which was great for me because I had to be back the next morning to mix the Dead!”

As for the mixes on If I Could Only Remember My Name, “We were sort of mixing everything as we went along because David was always having playback parties,” Barncard chuckles. “In fact at one point, he was bringing so many people by to hear stuff that I complained, and he almost fired me! But I started making up a master reel of the good stuff and that became sort of the rough, and every time we'd do a new mix, we'd put it on the rough reel. Then at some point, we just started making real mixes.” Mixing was on the DeMedio board to a 3M 2-track at 30 ips. “I'd also put it on a cassette for David — he was one of the first artists to take a cassette home instead of a reel-to-reel [tape] because he lived on a boat and had this little Sony stereo cassette recorder he'd listen to.”

Today, Barncard still views that Crosby album — and “Laughing” in particular — as among his greatest achievements. That's one reason he's had so much fun remixing it for surround all these years later: “I always felt ‘Laughing’ was the centerpiece of the album — one of the most important tunes and one of the most hi-fi tunes. If I only had one cut to do in surround, it would be that one. Everything about it is right: The vocals are right, the overdubs are right, the lyrics are right. It stirs the soul. Everything just fits together like a beautiful mosaic. It's so satisfying from the first note. That song is sacred.”


if you've never heard this song, you absolutely should...it's one of the best recordings i've ever heard. every instrument is in its place, and the whole track just floats...and the harmonies in the bridge with crosby and joni mitchell will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up and you'll never, ever be the same again.

i promise to have something to say soon that's actually from my own personal perspective...haven't been gathering my thoughts as much lately as i should...it's a phase i'm goin' through.

Al Aronowitz

now playing: tom petty and the heartbreakers, "straight into darkness"

The Rock Journalist At a High Point In Music History

By David Segal
Washington Post Staff Writer

If only there were a highlight reel. As one of the first pop music journalists in the business -- the godfather of rock journalism, he was often called -- in the '60s and '70s Al Aronowitz knew everyone worth knowing. The Rolling Stones, Ray Charles, David Bowie, Johnny Cash, Pete Townshend -- he either wrote about them, befriended them or both.

Aronowitz, who died Monday night at the age of 77, was a trove of great yarns. But one stood out. It was Aug. 28, 1964, in a hotel room in New York. That was the evening Aronowitz introduced Bob Dylan to the Beatles. It was also the night Aronowitz introduced the Beatles to pot.

A big deal? Well, it was to the man who arranged it all. "Looking back, I still see that evening as one of the greatest moments of my life," he wrote in an essay. "Actually, I was well aware at the time that I was brokering the most fruitful union in the history of pop music, certainly up until then," he modestly judged. And he wasn't referring to the dope.

Arguably, Aronowitz hastened the way the Beatles and Dylan influenced each other. The next year, 1965, you can hear the echoes of Dylan in John Lennon tracks like "Norwegian Wood," a moody and introspective number that was a long way from "Do You Want to Know a Secret." Dylan, for his part, would put more rock in his folk, performing with an electric guitar for the first time in 1965.

But we don't need to overstate the impact of this smoke-filled tete-a-tete to realize that it must have been one heck of an evening. Aronowitz might have been the only guy who could arrange it. Born in Bordentown, N.J., a graduate of Rutgers University, Aronowitz made his first splash in journalism in 1959 with a 12-part series for the New York Post about the "beat" movement, getting him close to Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

A few years later he met the Beatles in Liverpool, on assignment for the Saturday Evening Post. His cover story on the band, he'd later claim, sold more issues of the magazine than had ever before been sold, and he became chums with Lennon. Aronowitz had written for the Post about Dylan as well. Initially, neither of these titans wanted to meet the other -- Lennon because he felt that Dylan was already so big a deal that there'd be an imbalance of power if they met too soon. "Yeah, I wanna meet 'im," he told Aronowitz. "But on me own terms." Dylan dismissed the Beatles' music as "bubble gum." The idea of an audience of shrieking 12-year-olds horrified him, Aronowitz recalled.

Despite all these misgivings, Aronowitz persisted in trying to bring them together. When the Beatles took their second trip through the United States in '64, they stayed at the Delmonico Hotel in New York. Aronowitz received a call from Lennon. He was ready. Dylan came down from his retreat in Woodstock.

Aronowitz and Dylan didn't arrive empty-handed. Weirdly enough, the Beatles had never smoked pot until then, Aronowitz claimed. Like a lot of people at the time, Aronowitz recalled in his essay, the Fab Four didn't differentiate between marijuana and harder drugs, like heroin. At first, both Aronowitz and Dylan were incredulous. Wasn't Lennon singing "I get high! I get high!" on "I Want to Hold Your Hand"?

Actually, it was "I can't hide! I can't hide!" Lennon would later explain.

The Beatles offered some champagne. Dylan asked for his beverage of choice, cheap wine. Aronowitz suggested lighting up. Dylan rolled the joint, Aronowitz remembers, with some of the pot falling into a fruit bowl on the table. The battalion of cops stationed outside the hotel room door to protect the Beatles from their fans was apparently oblivious.

None of the Beatles, it seems, was eager to inhale, but somehow Ringo went first. ("You try it!" Lennon told him.) Instead of passing it around, he treated it like a cigarette and kept puffing. Soon enough, everyone had a joint of his own and then the whole thing turned into an outtake from a Cheech and Chong movie.

"In no time at all, [Ringo] was laughing hysterically," Aronowitz wrote. "His laughing looked so funny that the rest of us started laughing hysterically at the way Ringo was laughing hysterically. Soon, Ringo pointed at the way Brian Epstein was laughing, and we all started laughing hysterically at the way Brian was laughing."

Paul McCartney then instructed a road manager and friend named Mal Evans to follow him around with a notepad and write down everything he said. Not long after, the band began a new creative phase. As authors Peter Brown and Steven Gaines put it in "The Love You Make: An Insider's Story of the Beatles," the band "started to compose under marijuana's spell." In late '64 the band released "She's a Woman," which contained the line "Turn me on when I get lonely," a winking reference to pot, the Beatles later acknowledged. But the effect of both Dylan and drugs would surface most notably in the group's gradual evolution away from teeny-bop pop toward more mature and even dark themes like "Baby's in Black," a tune about courting a woman in mourning.

Aronowitz had many giggling evenings and many stories ahead of him. He would later become a music columnist for the New York Post, and he wrote for the Village Voice, among other publications. There were personal falling-outs -- so many of his tales ended with him explaining why he and one star or another never spoke again. Toward the end of his life, a tinge of bitterness crept into his writing that had something to do with his lack of money. To his chagrin none of his access and connections ever yielded a big payday. He also lacked friends.

But he was never one to understate his own significance -- and if you had introduced two of the greatest creative forces in the history of rock, maybe you would feel the same way. "The '60s," he once wrote, with no irony, "wouldn't have been the same without me."