The Drummer On The Couch

March 29, 2012

I spoke with a college buddy last week. He had called days earlier to inform me that a young drummer friend of his was moving to town.

I’m old enough to know better than to let him follow me home.

Years ago, I spent twelve months or so managing a band.

(and actually managed to get a label to offer them a deal)

Not long after meeting them, the drummer crashed on the couch in the house where I was living. Within a couple weeks, he was living on that couch.

It wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened. He coughed up a third of the rent.

He could have the couch. I had a mammoth room – the biggest in the place – and a hundred dollars more a month to spend at the watering holes.

Cooper was an asset. I could depend on him to diffuse tensions within the band with his antics.

At home, he could be a source of entertainment. I returned late one night after closing one of our local haunts. I slumped down down on one of the couches in our living room. Coop was sitting there with another roommate whom we had dubbed The Chinaman, watching a rerun of The X Files.

I soon noticed the smell of something burning.

“Yeah, those are probably ready,” Coop noted to The Chinaman, shuffling off to the kitchen.

I followed and watched as he pulled a tray of Pillsbury rolls from the oven, charred beyond reasonable – even drunken – edibility.

“You’re not going to eat those? Are you?”

The Chinaman looked at me as though I was crazy as he and Coop headed to the front porch with the busquits and a couple of wedges.

“Where the hell did you get golf clubs?”

The two were standing in the front yard, illuminated by the glow of the street light and the odd car. Mostly the neighborhood was still.

“Fore!” Coop bellowed as he chipped one of the briquettes and we watched it arc lazily into a neighbor’s yard across the street.

One by one, the two of them took turns until a dozen or so freshly-roasted Pillsbury rolls had landed on the green. Apparently this neighbor had invoked their ire and this was their vengeance.

It became a late-night ritual, though we soon opted for using foodstuff that had already spoiled.

Here are four songs featuring drummers I dig…

Smashing Pumpkins – Tonight, Tonight
from Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness (1995)

I don’t often notice drummers, but I’ve come to realize that the ones that do seem to catch my attention are propulsive and primal which is exactly how I’d describe Smashing Pumpkins’ Jimmy Chamberlain.

(coincidentally, the drummer on my couch claimed to have known Chamberlain back in Chicago)

As for Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, Paloma and I spent countless hours listening to the double album during the autumn of ’95 and, from the first time I heard it, Tonight, Tonight was among my favorite tracks.

(though it’s still strange to hear it on the Major League Baseball playoff commercials)

The Who – Baba O’Riley
from Who’s Next (1971)

And, if you want propulsive and primal, you want Keith Moon.

(yes, Won’t Get Fooled Again better fit the bill, but I prefer Baba O’Riley)

Peter Gabriel – Secret World
from Secret World Live (1994)

I suspect part of my affection for Manu Katché is his name which is lots of fun to say.

(Manu Katché, Manu Katché, Manu Katché)

However, I do quite like Manu’s mystic rhythms which seem perfectly suited for the songs of Peter Gabriel. Coop once spent twenty minutes pointing out Katché’s prowess on video to me and, given a bit of insight, I was duly impressed.

(and I’m thinking our next addition to the menagerie might be named Manu Katché)

Rush – Tom Sawyer
from Moving Pictures (1981)

There were few concerts for me before I reached college and the opportunity to see Rush was a day-of, last-second opportunity.

A ticket, t-shirt, and the chance to see a sold-out arena full of never-would-be musicians airdrum to Tom Sawyer on the Power Windows tour cost me less twenty-five years ago than it did to fill up my car with gas last night.

The Walkman Is Dead

October 27, 2010

I’ve come across several articles over the past few days announcing the end of Sony’s Walkman. The final batch was shipped to stores in Japan.

The groundbreaking portable cassette player hit the shores of the States in 1979 as a fifth grader deep in the heart of nowhere was just beginning to warm to music. I hadn’t even committed to buying music at the time much less feel a need to have the stuff at my beck and call at all times.

And, at that time, even if I’d wanted a Walkman, the cost would have made having one a pipe dream.

By the summer of ’82, I had the radio on as often as possible and had begun to buy cassettes. My buddy Beej was always ahead of the curve in electronic gadgetry and he was the first among my friends to snag a Walkman. He brought it home from his annual summer visit to see his dad in Arizona.

Months later, a portable cassette player was part of my take for Christmas.

I think it was a Panasonic.

It didn’t matter to me as the mere ability to block out the world and be lost in music anywhere, at any time, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship and an oft-needed refuge.

It must have been the next Christmas that I received my first Walkman. The following summer I didn’t remove the Walkman’s headphones once during our family’s two week trip to Florida.

(I was sixteen, sullen, and adhering to teenage protocol)

It’s odd that I don’t remember the details of my first Walkman. That part of my brain might have been blown out in the ’90s

Or, maybe it’s because I had a number of portable cassette players of different brands over a two decade period. The prices dropped making them more economical to replace and replace them I did as, though I did treat mine with care, I put them through an excessive workload.

The last time I remember having a Sony was toward the end of high school. It was one of the first to reduce the size of the device down to just slightly larger than the size of the cassette being played.

It ended up heading to college with me, served me well, and is likely now in some anonymous landfill.

Time and techology marches on.

I remained true to the concept of the portable cassette player until the first few years of the 21st century when I bought an mp3 player. Now, it’s hard to imagine not having tens of thousands of songs at my fingertips.

Here are four random songs courtesy of the iPod…

Robert Palmer – Every Kinda People
from Very Best Of Robert Palmer

I knew only a sliver of the work of the suave Robert Palmer prior to the doubleshot of his solo album Riptide and the debut by The Power Station in 1985/1986. Then, he was inescapable on radio and video.

But, I’ve come to appreciate the earlier records by the late singer especially since Paloma and I started buying vinyl. Every Kinda Of People has a breezy feel and, though the song – which echoes the legendary Marvin Gaye – has a serious message, it’s uplifting as its theme of acceptance is delivered with a soulful vocal by Palmer that soars.

Duran Duran – Save A Prayer
from Electric Barbarella

I really liked the first couple albums by Duran Duran after the group hit the US shores in late ’82.

(I had to discover their self-titled debut after Rio hit)

The shimmering ballad Save A Prayer was a favorite.

Manic Street Preachers – Suicide Is Painless (Theme from M*A*S*H)
from Forever Delayed

I know that even as a small child, I immediately recognized the heaviness of the theme song from M*A*S*H even before I became a viewer of the show. Later, I was surprised to learn that the teenaged son of director Robert Altman had written the lyrics.

(I had to wonder if he was truly miserable or merely able to conjure up such despair)

For quite awhile, this anthemic cover wasn’t the easiest song to find for Manics fans in the States.

The Smashing Pumpkins – You’re All I’ve Got Tonight
from The Aeroplane Flies High

Paloma and I loved The Smashing Pumpkins and I can still picture the toy ray gun that she wore in her hair when we saw them live on their tour for Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness. I wouldn’t hesitate to name them as one of the best bands of the ’90s.

The prolific band released a number of cover songs including this one by The Cars. Toward the end of the Pumpkins run with the original line-up, I saw them again. I told Billy Corgan that I had dug the solo record he had produced for The Cars’ Rik Ocasek.

He smiled as soon as I mentioned the little-heard (but truly groovy) album.

Bedouin Bait Shops And Giant Pumpkins

January 28, 2009

This global economic crunge has added a delightful extra layer of stress to the usual drudgery of working for a living. I’ve expressed a desire to Paloma of vamoosing from the rat race.

“We should open a bait shop.”

She nods.

“How do we become Bedouins?”

She reminds me that I like to say the word Bedouin.

(I wonder if the Bedouins fish)

Of course, if Paloma and I end up running a bait shop, we’d likely be living in a setting which would allow Paloma to assemble an ark-worthy menagerie.

I think that I might try to grow a giant pumpkin.

“We saw that show on giant pumpkins,” she says.

It’s true. We stumbled across a documentary one night on PBS about people who grow giant pumpkins. We had to watch.

After a grueling day working at the bait shop, trying to produce a pumpkin the size of a small car seems like it might be a good way to unwind.

I wouldn’t be entering the competition chronicled in that documentary. It seemed like it made things too much about the people when it really should have been about the pumpkins.

I feel more Zen already.

And tomorrow, if things should get stressful at work, I vow to take a moment to stare into space and think of giant pumpkins.

I have one song with pumpkin in the title, but I have numerous songs by Smashing Pumpkins. Paloma and I saw them in ’95. The show was more memorable to me for the tiny toy raygun Paloma found and wore in her hair as an accessory.

And, yes, Jackie Blue and Landslide are cover versions of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils and Fleetwood Mac.

Smashing Pumpkins – I Am One

Smashing Pumpkins – Disarm

Smashing Pumpkins – The End Is The Beginning Is The End

Smashing Pumpkins – Jackie Blue

Smashing Pumpkins – Landslide