June 8, 2010

For several years, there was a group of us that were together more evenings than not. Sometimes it might only be three or four of us; sometimes there might be as many as a dozen.

Almost all of us – me, The Drunken Frenchman, BK, KB, The Frail Jew, Mustafa, Vegas – had reached a position of tenure in a very large record store. If none of us were rock stars (and none of us were), the popularity of our workplace gave us a bit of celebrity that could make you feel like one.

(our store had a reputation for a staff that was genuinely indifferent, sometimes bizarre, and – on a couple memorable occasions – borderline sociopathic)

The members of our group – no matter what quirks we might have possessed – were relatively benign and we all loved music. There were at least a couple shows each week – a local act, perhaps some friends, or acts on labels either indie or major – that we’d attend.

And we had our regular watering hole, a dark cantina in a triangle of more upscale bars where major players in the local (and national) music world would frequent. We would often close the place doing great damage to our meager funds, except for The Mogul, who was a rising star working for a major record label.

(we actually got our drinks on the cheap from the staff, but we gave the savings back in gratuities – sometimes unitentionally)

Our usual barkeep, a slight, blonde cat who I think had once played in a band, would be playing Elvis Costello or Black Crowes and The Drunken Frenchman would invariably remind us that “Earl knows when I’m here it has to be rock and roll.”

(Earl usually played rock and roll whether the Frenchman was there or not)

There was considerable banter about a usual slate of subjects – movies, women, current events, sports, the next round – but the two subjects that dominated the conversations were harebrained schemes and music.

After several rounds, the discussions invariably got more boisterous and the focus of the mass conversation would splinter, going in several directions and coming at one all at once…

…the Frenchman touting the merits of The Zombies’ drummer Hugh Grundy…

…BK telling of some obscure performance by John Coltrane. “It was ’57, Heidelburg…”

One particular night, the din had reached a drunken crescendo, no one really listening to anyone else.

And, then, it stopped.


I glanced over at The Frail Jew.

He was a singer/songwriter and an articulate guy.

He was also easily rattled. Behind the wheel, he navigated with the self-assured cool of my grandmother and you could literally observe his hairline receding from the stress.

There he sat, hand around a half empty glass, catatonic.

From his trancelike state, he was jarred to speak by the sudden end of the overwhelming barrage of conversation.

And, from his mouth, one word escaped like a burp.


For years to come, when we’d gather, at some point we’d try and decipher this cryptic utterance, but it would remain a mystery; not even The Frail Jew knew what he had meant or why he had said it.

Of course, now I pull up a newsite and I’m deluged with BP, unemployment, tea parties, immigration, aid flotillas to Gaza, Iran, North Korea, Gary Coleman…

And all there is to say is “Ed.”

I believe that we were drinking whiskey on that night in honor of BK’s birthday. So, here is a trio of whiskey songs…

Drive-By Truckers – Women Without Whiskey
from Southern Rock Opera

I’ve never been a big fan of Southern rock. Tom Petty, sure, but most of the acts tagged as such just never really moved me much. Drive-By Truckers are the exception and why shouldn’t they be?

And, if the gloriously ragged Women Without Whiskey is any indication, they’ve certainly managed to run up a bar tab or two.

Thin Lizzy – Whiskey In The Jar
from Dedication: The Very Best Of Thin Lizzy

Someone else who most assuredly accumulated some hefty tabs at his local was the late Phil Lynott. Lynott and Thin Lizzy earned immortality and a spot on every classic rock playlist ’til the end of time here in the States with The Boys Are Back In Town.

Good for them, but, personally, I’d be contented enough if I never heard the song again.

I’m full.

But, Whiskey In The Jar is another matter – the outlaw’s saga, Lynott’s charisma, “musha ring dum a doo dum a da,” and Eric Bell’s solo…

Willie Nelson – Whiskey River
from Essential Willie Nelson

There needs to be a Willie Nelson fantasy resort. Who wouldn’t pay good money to spend a week living like Willie?

Paloma’s mom has a picture of her and Willie from the years that she worked for a record label. Sometimes Paloma will speak of her mother and beam as she asks, “Isn’t my mom cool?

Yes, sweetness, she is.

The Chinese Strike Back

June 8, 2009

Well, it seems that I must have pissed someone off in China. It was widely reported of the great lengths to which that country went last week in order to see that the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre passed as quietly as possible.

So, in addition to the attempts to keep people in China from accessing information on that event via the internet, they have exacted revenge upon me for writing about it.

My access to the internet went down the morning that I made that post.

The result was several hours on the phone with my ISP – sometimes even with an actual human – and several days without a connection. Coffee isn’t the same without being able to surf the morning’s news online.

I read a lot of news and used to buy a newspaper daily (sometimes being skinned enough that it was a luxury), and, these days, reading the news online is far less shrill than the stuff you ingest from television.

Even the most stridently idiotic commentary online is reduced to the manic babbling of a small, sugar-buzzed child in my head. Eventually, the child tires and collapses in a heap.

On television, the rancorous ranting seems to never end and it’s visually obvious that most of those jabbering away are old enough to, theoretically, know better.

Anyhow, China, if you’re reading this, thanks for letting me back on the internet.

More likely, rather than being back in the good graces of China, I suspect I’ve made a return because I finally reached the least inept person at my ISP’s support center.

Enya – China Roses
from The Memory Of Trees

I like a little Enya now and then, although I could only name a few of her songs. Like Bjork, I easily believe that she is from another world. Unlike Bjork, I picture that world to be more like a Maxfield Parrish painting rather than a Dr. Seuss illustration.

Red Rockers – China
from Good As Gold

I know nothing about the band Red Rockers aside from the fact that their song China seemed to pop up on every other ‘80s compilation. It is an engaging song, clean, angular and wiry. There’s something about it that reminds me of the theme from Mystery Science Theater 3000.

In the late ‘90s, I spoke with a roommate whom I hadn’t heard from in five or six years. It turned out that she was dating one of the guys from Red Rockers.

Thin Lizzy – Chinatown
from Chinatown

I feel no hesitation in stating that if I never hear The Boys Are Back In Town again, it will be too soon. For me, it’s on that list we all have.

But Thin Lizzy deserves more acclaim than they’ve received (at least here in the States). In addition to an impressive string of stellar guitarists that passed through the band’s ranks, there’s the late, great Phil Lynott, a man who personifies the overused term “rock star” as much as anyone.

Romeo Void – Chinatown
from Benefactor

A bit art rock, a little new wave, and a dose of punk – San Francisco’s Romeo Void weren’t around long, but they did manage to produce the ‘80s classic Never Say Never and even notched a Top 40 hit on the Billboard charts with the moody A Girl In Trouble (Is A Temporary Thing).