Wednesday, January 25, 2012

John Lennon Vs. Neil Young...

ALTERNATE TITLE: "Can't We All Just Get Along?"

I've been mad at John Lennon lately, for something he said back in 1980 about Neil Young. Yes, I know he's not around to defend himself these days. This puts me in a really difficult position, because as much as I like(d) John Lennon, I like Neil Young More, at least as far as their solo careers are concerned. It all started when I read Lennon's 1980 Playboy interview for the first time. I'd long heard that was one of Lennon's landmark interviews, where he calls 'em like he see's (or saw's) them. He enumerated a lot of intriguing descriptions of the Beatles' music, revealing who wrote what and other details about the Beatles legacy-creating music. At one point, Lennon was asked something about Burning Out vs. Fading Away (A Neil Young-ism). Young, sings "it's better to burn out than to fade away", and Lennon didn't buy into that at all. Lennon went as far as to say that if Young actually felt that way, he (Young) should just disappear immediately. After all, Young kept coming back over and over and over. It was at that point that my jaw fell open and I haven't closed it since. (Just kidding!)
This leaves me Terribly Conflicted. And makes me think that if I'd personally known John Lennon, we probably wouldn't have been great friends. Yes, I admire John Lennon for what he did with the Beatles...if you listen to their earlier material, Lennon wrote a whole heck of a lot of it. Later on, as drugs, Yoko, bagism, drugs and protest came along, Lennon didn't write so much. I have a Beatles book which awarded points to each Beatle as far as songwriting contributions were concerned, and Lennon came in first-place, with McCartney coming in a fairly-distant second-place. Even though most of the Beatles' songs were said to be composed by "Lennon-McCartney", most of the time, one of them would have most of the song done, while the other might end up throwing in a chorus, or a few words here and there. Rarely did Lennon or McCartney write an entire Beatles' song. As far as Lennon's Solo Career, to me, his songs either are weak on ideas or irritatingly shrill and provoking. I wasn't proud of his Peace Movement things, and in the later '70s, I found his albums "Mind Games" and "Walls and Bridges" to be, overall, fairly weak, monotonus or just plain Uninspiring. His "Plastic Ono Band" album (1970) featured a lot of wailing, teeth-gnashing and shouting, and although I respect him for laying his soul open, it's an album that is Hard To Like. I don't play it much. I would have to say that his "Imagine" album (1971) is probably his best Solo Album; it's provoking, yes, but it's a heck of a lot easier to listen to, because it is more Musical, and give me a combination of melody along with message-lyrics anytime; that combination is always compelling. As far as his "Comeback" (which was, of course, ended due to circumstances beyond his control), his songs on "Double Fantasy" (1980) and the unfinished "Milk And Honey" album (released 1983) were okay, not great, but he was getting it together, sounding better, and who knows what he would've done had he not been Elimated. (Something I'm still, over 30 years later, very angry about).
'''I cannot say enough good things about Neil Young. I admire him for who he is and what he does. He writes from the Soul. Yes, there are some albums he has totally "bombed" on ("Trans", his 1980 computer-vocalized album, and "Everybody's Rockin", an early 1980's album that was barely half an hour long on which he sounded like someone who'd been dumped from the "Stray Cats"). But...he's recorded some achingly beautiful music (1997's "Harvest Moon" or 1978's "Comes A Time" come immediately to mind), and then he turns around and rocks like a Man Possessed (on such albums as 1979's "Reactor", 1975's "Zuma" or 1989's "Ragged Glory". Many is the time I've put on one of his albums and he seems to be speaking to me, making me ask (to myself), "Neil, how did you know?" As a listener, I never know what kind of music he'll be coming with from album to album, but, that's half the fun. He's written zillions of songs over the years, and more than once, a current album of his has at least a few tracks that he'd recorded years before, but had never been released. I cannot stress how much I've come to value his musicianship, quality of song lyrics, but more than anything, just being who he is and who does what he does. Neil's not the greatest guitarist or vocalist, but neither am I, and that's one reason his music hits me so hard. He keeps trying to Get It Right, and mostly succeeds. Back in the 1970's and '80s, I wrote a whole bunch of songs; I've got a CD laying around my place somewhere that features My Music. Most of my song lyrics got lost, and I haven't even tried to write a song since the mid 90's. Neil has said that songs just invade his mind, and he has to write down what he hears in his head. And he's kept writing, and Writing and WRITING. I haven't been to one of his concerts, but I've got almost everything he's ever recorded. And no matter how old or new his songs may be, they always sound fresh. And that's the trademark of a great artist.
So that's why I feel so conflicted about John Lennon, and what he said about Neil Young. Lennon does have a point, which also frustrates me. Telling Neil to Just Go Away, just like that. Burn out and go away, Neil. On the other hand, no matter how many relationships Neil may have had through the years, he wasn't conned into cocooning himself away from doing anything musical for five years. So John Lennon was a house-husband for 5 years, taking cae of his kid while Yoko did whatever she does. He composed during that time, and made home-taped recordings. C'mon, much time can an album take...many are recorded in less than a month. You wouldn't have had to tour...we would've been buying your music anyway. Have I solved anything here? No. I'm still conflicted. But this has been on my mind for the last couple of weeks, festering away. So I had to Write It Down. Now if I could just put these words to music...
Finally, a closing note: Evidently a singer named Justin Bieber has really been popular over the last half-year, causing what's known as "Bieber-Fever". Really. That must explain why, when I was shopping at a thrift store today, I saw one of his CD's in the rack for two bucks. That means Justin Bieber is on the fast track to obsolescence, and when he gets there, The Backstreet Boys will greet him.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Fine Art Of Blog-Meandering...

It is Winter on the South Coast, and with the Winter comes the Rain. And more rain. And still more rain. And...well, you get the idea. So far, though, the year has been unremarkable, but I'm sure that'll change. After all, we've got a Prezzidential Campaign coming up this year. I've been fairly ignorant of things political ever since Mr. Obama became President. I haven't heard anything disgusting; he's given some Dignity back to the Presidency. I give him points for remaining (relatively) scandal-free over the last 4 years. Various officials, mostly Republican stooges, have made a big deal over his Birth Certificate issue...born in the USA or not? And you know what? I don't give a damn. He made sure that the tax reduction thing has been extended for at least a while. True, no one is going to become a Zillionaire because of that, but still... Also, we're getting out of Iraq this year, if not already. His timetable has been stuck to, and really, I don't have any complaints. And, Social Security payments have also risen slightly due to cost-of-living issues. Just perhaps, we're reaching a scenario of Government actually doing something for us. How about that! I'm satisfied that the President is actually being Presidential, unlike the buffoon he replaced. I shouldn't call him a buffoon...maybe a Bonehead. Which reminds me of a joke:

"So what if I drink a lot of milk? It's a great Calcium Source"...
"Oh yeah? Kinda looks like the drinks are going to your HEAD!"

RINGO STARR, that ever-lovin' king of the Backbeat for the Beatles, is coming out with another new album this year; in fact, I believe it'll be released very very soon. Like his previous CD's, I'll probably play it once and shelve it for the ages. Already, the new album is being Dissed. Seems he re-did a song called "Wings", which he originally recorded and released in 1976. In short, his unremarkable new album features an updated, and equally unremarkable version of his old unremarkable 1976 tune. And in one word, before even hearing the album, I can tell it's going to be..."unremarkable". Sometimes these comments just seem to write themselves, y'know?
PAUL McCARTNEY, That ever-aging Beatle Boy-wonder, is in love these days. He married whats-her-name who comes from a rich family, so he (allegedly) doesn't worry that they'll divorce, and that if she does, he'll be taken to the cleaners ($$$) once again. He is so in mushy-love that he's recorded an album of Old Standards for his Laidy Faire. "So you think he's taking a chance with such an out-of-character release?" No, no, not at all. Rod Stewart, a fellow Britisher, has been doing that for ages. You know, he used to Rock. Didn't he? Anyway, Paul has done much the same thing. His new album will feature the old Chestnut "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter"...which features the line which doubles as the Album Title: A lot of "KISSES ON THE BOTTOM" (he'll be glad he Got 'Em). Ugh. What a title. Until I learned where he got the song title, my brain was springing forth with all kinds of Ugly Pictures.
THE SEATTLE MARINERS Already are headed for another "unremarkable", if not downright awful, new season. I get "Mariners News" e-mailed, and the only thing of note this season, is that they've traded away a Proven Power Pitcher (PPP), Michael Pineda, for a young kid who can (allegedly) hit, but still needs two or three (or however many) seasons to develop into a Major League Catcher, the position he's played in the Minors. The M's already HAVE a couple of catchers! Why trade away a Pitcher that can PITCH? The M's have bought some developing young players for their farm system, and as a result, the M's are going to have another what-is-known-as-a "rebuilding season". Or should I say, "ANOTHER rebuilding season". Which makes me think that they've had "rebuilding seasons for the last four or five seasons", which makes me also think that we're in store for many more "rebuilding seasons". Which is why I place the quote-marks on the term "Rebuilding Season". "Rebuilding Season" is Mariners'-speak for "DISASTER SEASON". So we'll see. I'm not very optimistic at this point.
I'VE GOT THE MUSIC IN ME: Quick! Who did that song? Answer in the Italic print at the bottom of the post. Oops...there's that word ("bottom") again. Anyway, after hiding myself away for the last year from going to musical jam sessions due to anxiety/depression symptoms, I started Going Back. Making myself do it. It's scary sometimes. A music store here has converted the adjacent Coffee House building into two Recording Studios, plus on Friday Nights, jams are being held there, in the same Coffee House building where jam sessions were held before. When I play guitar and (try to) sing in front of everyone, I get a pit in my gut which feels like taking Final Exams back in College. Ulp...
There I am in the middle bashing away on my twelve-string guitar, and I don't feel so alone (and vulnerable) when I'm up there in front of an audience who is trying to figure out What The HECK I'm Doing. I spend most of the time asking myself that as well. I have to perhaps realize that I'm judging myself too harshly. This whole business of re-orienting my personality is tough sometimes. But I've met some good people at the Jams, so it might yet be all worth the effort of Getting Myself Out There.
THE CREDIT CARD CRUNCH: Mostly, when I hand my debit card to a store clerk, they still ask, "debit or credit"? It really doesn't matter to me since I know I've got the money. That's the biggest fault of Credit Cards; you're basically hoping that you Will Have the money, and you have to pay back that money, plus interest if you take too long to pay it...if ever. Actually, I've been in the "credit situation", borrowing money from my bank 'cos I fell a few dollars short of what I needed. I did that too much last year, and got my credit option suspended for a while. I'd started putting away money last year, but then my computer fried its brains and Whoops, there goes another $400 dollar expense. But at least I was able to do what I did. I paid all my taxes at once, rather than spreading payments over 3 months, which really felt good. Well, I had "mixed emotions" actually, knowing the taxes were paid, but having to wait 2 or 3 weeks for more Disposable Income. 
If you've experienced the Credit Card Crunch, the common remedy, of course, is to Cut your card into little pieces. But that's a waste of energy if you don't make something useful out of those pieces. Here is one suggested use. Slice your plastic into little guitar-shaped pieces like what you see at left. Sometimes guitar picks get a bit slippery after a lot of use, and here's where Credit Cards are actually an improvement; you've got the raised numbers which give you more Finger Traction so you won't drop your pick. One of the people at the Jam managed to get a machine that cuts pieces of plastic into pick-shaped pieces. I should try that! I could use it on vinyl records that are cracked or don't play. Lots of traction in those grooves!
If you've read this post all the way through, I asked, "who did the song, 'I've Got The Music In Me'?" It was done by the Kiki Dee Band back in the mid-1970's; 1974, I believe. Kiki Dee is probably best-known for her duet with Elton John, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart", a song that I got sick and tired of hearing on La Radio. She was a rocker in the Susie Quatro mode before heading for the Middle Of The Road. Also, the group "Heart" recorded a live version of "Got The Music" and can be found on their album, "Magazine". And that's all. Probably too much. Oh well...

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Sunday, January 01, 2012

Just about done with 2-0-1-1...
...and this time, I'm doing the New Years' countdown MY way...

11:43PM: In a way, I'd like to see Dick Clark on TV, just to see how he's doing. But at the same time, in past years, I've felt sorry for him, and maybe I don't want to see him. I like Dick Clark and always have. I've got the TV on the ABC network...that should be the network Dick Clark would appear on...

11:46PM: In-between New Years' festivities, some of the currently famous musical performers are performing, and I haven't heard or seen these acts...who is this rapper-guy, I think they said his name was "Drake" or something that sounds like it?

11:48PM: I'm noticing that the host of this ABC New Years'  broadcast looks a bit like a younger Dick Clark. I watched so many of those Dick Clark programs in the past. I used to watch "Bandstand" back when I was a kid. Now I'm feeling really old.

11:51PM: I've switched over to the FOX network to see what they're doing. So far, Fox has been showcasing newer Country Singers I've never heard of. One of them sang about how an alcoholic beverage will cause women to take off their clothes or some such thing. Yee-Haw...

11:53PM: Oh, so that's Carson Daley. Yeah, we're now back to ABC. I've heard his name a few times but I never actually watched him...he does look a little like Dick Clark. A very little. Dick, hope yer havin' a rockin' New Years' Eve, buddy. Rock and Roll!

11:55PM: Carson Daley and his co-host, a bubbly woman who I've never seen before, are talking about how the music from John Lennon's "Imagine" song will start the ball falling down. The female says that when she hears "Imagine", she gets all "warm and bubbly". Meantime, some black guy with no hair is now singing "Imagine". He's doing a good job on the song, but How I Wish that John Lennon himself was here to sing it.

11:59PM: The countdown is underway, the clock is ticking, the crowd is counting down...HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!! And I hope everyone has a happy and safe 2012. Oh, by the way, that Black dude singing "Imagine" was See-Low Green (not sure exactly how to spell his name)...and he butchered the last verse of "Imagine" when he tried to sing it an octave higher than when he started the son. I thot he was gonna rupture himself. And I'm hearing booms and pops coming from my own neighborhood. The dogs'll be barking all night tonight!

12:02AM: Well, Carson Daly says another country-music performer is gonna sing, and I've had my fill of exposure to that musical genre, so we're back over to the FOX network. There's a guy in a cowboy hat and white athletic trunks interviewing people in Times Square, and it's making me a little green-in-the-gills...quick! Switch Networks!

12:06AM: Back to ABC! There's yet another Country-music guy I've never seen before. Hey, we're really partying right now. And hey, More Country Music after these commercials!!!

12:12AM: Carson Daly says that "all the people who came out to Times Square are starting to pack in". And seeing as how there's currently another Rapper on stage, it might just be time to leave. I've been asked why so much of this Latter-Day music is so unmemorable...I suppose it's memorable to fans of the genre, but music is so segmented nowadays, what with all the differing Musical Styles out there. I have no idea what it is that attracts people to this stuff. It's quite the mystery to me.

In past years, I've been stone cold sober on most New Years' Eves. My days of Hard Partying are waay behind me. My idea of "Hard Stuff" has changed somewhat as I get older and Older and OLDER. I don't need to party anymore. At my age, I feel like the cartoon in this post without drinking ANYTHING.

I've got my trusty can of Diet Root Beer at my side. And, for some reason, I bought a bottle of whiskey a couple of months ago and its' still just over half full. I have a shot every now and then, although I'm not sure why. And it's pretty rough stuff. I think the time is right for another shot.
I like to think of that bottle of whisky as my "dirty little secret".

12:25AM: Tony Bennett just sang "Watch What Happens", and he's still looking healthy and strong and sounding pretty good. I used to play some of his records on the radio. The station kept a copy of his "San Francisco" album in the studio, and his version of the old country tune, "Candy Kisses", and his version is pretty doggoned good. But now, the same rap group (The Roots?) is doing me another song, and since I have my bottle of whiskey here, I think Mr. Rapper is gonna drive me to drink. Ackthptf.

12:32AM: I've just had that shot of whiskey. Ackpthf!!!!! Well, it's time to end this post, but before I do, I'd like to wish everyone a...