Thursday, September 27, 2012

DIRTY ROOTS RADIO - September 27th Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) at www.wgrn.net.

T-Model Ford – Talk to You
Social Distortion – Far Behind
James Brown – Get Up Offa That Thing
The Monkees – Goin’ Down
Gary Glitter – I Didn’t Know I Loved You (Till I Saw You Rock & Roll)
Kathy Young – A Thousand Stars
The Squires – Mustang
The Mynah Birds – It’s My Time
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – School Days
Dexter Romweber – Blues That Defy My Soul
Bettye Lavette – Just Dropped In to See What Condition My Condition Was In
Bare Jr. – Why Do I Need a Job
Jerry Lee Lewis – Money (Live at the Star Club – Hamburg, Germany, 1964)
Jerry Lee Lewis – Great Balls of Fire (Live at the Star Club – Hamburg, Germany, 1964)
Andre Williams & the A-Bones – The Way You Dog Me Around
The Clash – Wrong ‘Em Boyo
Mike Ness – Gamblin’ Man
Jerry Lee Lewis – Mean Woman Blues (Live at the Star Club – Hamburg, Germany, 1964)
Billy Bob Thornton – Smoking In Bed
Hasil Adkins – No More Hot Dogs
Louvin Brothers – Satan Is Real
The Sex Pistols – Pretty Vacant
James Leg & Left Lane Cruiser – Shake It
The Count Five – Psychotic Reaction
Tom Waits – Step Right Up
Ralph Stanley – White Light/White Heat
The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat
The Persuasions – Buffalo Soldier
Bettye Swann – Don’t You Ever Get Tired (Of Hurting Me)
Kris Kristofferson – Best of All Possible Worlds
Captain Beefheart – Diddy Wah Diddy
Jerry Lee Lewis – Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On (Live at the Star Club – Hamburg, Germany, 1964)
Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Mansion On the Hill
Bob Dylan – Soon After Midnight
Scott H. Biram – I Want My Mojo Back

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"Elmore James only knew one lick, but you had the feeling that he meant it."  - Frank Zappa

"When I die, they'll say, 'He couldn't play shit, but he sure made it sound good'."  - Hound Dog Taylor

"If you don't know the blues...there's no point in picking up the guitar and playing rock and roll or any other form of popular music."  - Keith Richards

"If you've gotta think about being cool, you ain't cool."  - Keith Richards

"For so long we plowed different furrows...the greats...be it of country, rhythm & blues, rock 'n' roll...you know what they were doing?  They were messing with your heart and soul.  That's what it was.  Nothing has the strength, the power of music."  - Sam Phillips

Thursday, September 20, 2012

DIRTY ROOTS RADIO - September 20th Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) at www.wgrn.net.

Robert Cage – Easy Rider
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – I Shot the Sheriff
Lead Belly – Black Betty
Lucinda Williams – Joy
Ike Reilly – I Don’t Want What You Got Goin’ On (Goin’ On)
Motorhead – Leavin’ Here
Ketty Letster – Love Letters
Alexander – Truth
Bottle Rockets – White Boy Blues
Bottle Rockets – Nancy Sinatra
Perry Como – Juke Box Baby
Muddy Waters – I’ve Got My Mojo Working
Bob Dylan – Maggie’s Farm (live)
T-Model Ford – Ask Her for Water
Mike Ness – I Fought the Law
Conor Oberst – I Don’t Want To Die (In the Hospital)
Johnny Dilks & His Visitacion Valley Boys – Comin’ On Thru
Steve Earle – Breed
Jeff Chapman – Imagination
The Music Machine – Talk Talk
Jimmy Lee Williams – Hoot Your Belly
The Peddlers – On A Clear Day You Can See Forever
Bo Diddley – Pills
Jason & the Scorchers – 19th Nervous Breakdown
Jimi Hendrix – Crosstown Traffic
Fats Domino – I’m Gonna Be A Wheel Someday
Richard Hawley – Long Black Train
The Seeds – Can’t Seem To Make You Mine
The Shadows – Rhythm And Greens
Gram Parsons & the Fallen Angels – Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man
Steve Earle – Guitar Town
Tom Waits – Filipino Box Spring Hog
Ike Reilly – God And Money
Bob Dylan – Tin Angel

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"If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space."  - Bob Brozman

"Anyone who used more than three chords is just showing off."  - Woody Guthrie

"Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid."  - Frank Zappa

"All I'm gonna do is just go on and do what I feel."  - Jimi Hendrix

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

IDAHO (Some Thoughts On the Conspiracy...)


I don’t believe Idaho is a real place.

I mean, I know it’s a “state”.  I know that there is a piece of geography that is a part of the United States.

But I don’t think it’s a state like all the others.  I don’t think real stuff goes on there.

Think about it…

Do you know anyone from Idaho?

Have you been to Idaho?

Do you even know anyone who’s been to Idaho?

A while back, I met a college student who said he was from Idaho.  My immediate response, without even thinking about it, was “No you’re not.”  He laughed, as if he instinctively knew what I was getting at.  “No one is from Idaho,” I said.

Napoleon Dynamite was set in Idaho.  Just look at that movie.  The weird combination of 80’s style and complete cheesiness…that’s not because the filmmakers were being creative; they just didn’t know how else to portray this place “Idaho” that supposedly exists.  Either that, or they were trying to give the impression that this place "Idaho" actually had some unique culture of its own.

I have a new boss at my day job.  He’s from Idaho.

Allegedly.

That’s two people I’ve met now – in my entire 34 years of meeting a countless number of individuals – who hail from Idaho.

Then this morning, about two days after meeting my new boss, the car in front of me in the drive-thru at McDonald’s had Idaho plates.  It wasn’t the college kid; he has Illinois plates now.  It wasn’t my new boss or any of his family; they haven’t actually moved here yet. 

I think Idaho is a place that was given a name so it would blend in, but where the government does all kinds of weird, secretive, and scary stuff they don’t want us to know about.

Which explains why no one is really from there.

But what about these people who do say they’re from there?  What about the Idaho license plate this morning?  Surely the government forces people to say they’re from Idaho from time to time, just to keep up the illusion of it being real, right?

It wouldn’t take much effort; just a person here and a person there, scattered around the US, claiming to be from Idaho.  That way when you have a conversation, started by the universal question, “Hey…have you ever met anyone from Idaho?” (as countless people no doubt do every day), some people could actually say “yes”.  Not too many, mind you – that would be suspicious.  Just a few.

But, now, a couple of years after I met the Idahoan college student, I bump into two Idahoans in the same week?  Why the sudden increase?

What are they up to in Idaho that they have to step up their efforts?

And what did these people who’ve been forced to claim Idaho as a home do that made the government force them into being pawns in this nefarious plot?

And why so much Idahoan focus in MY town?

Psh.  Idaho.

PS – I used to think this same thing about Rhode Island.  But, then my cousin moved there. 

Rhode Island is totally a real place…


Thursday, September 13, 2012

DIRTY ROOTS RADIO - September 13th Playlist

Tune in to Dirty Roots Radio every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. (central) at www.wgrn.net.


Bob Dylan – Hurricane
R.L. Burnside – Everything Is Broken
Bo Diddley – Hey! Bo Diddley
Alex Chilton – Jumpin’ Jack Flash
The Clash – Police & Thieves
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – You Don’t Know What You’ve Got
Bob Dylan – Thunder On the Mountain
The WhiteTrash WhipLash – Spodie Odie Hey!
The Shadows – Rhythm & Greens
Chuck Berry – Crazy Arms
Solomon Burke – Maggie’s Farm
Jack Scott – The Way I Walk
The WhiteTrash WhipLash – My Buick Goes 180
Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited
The Flamin’ Groovies – Money (That’s What I Want)
The Flamin’ Groovies – High Flyin’ Baby
Johnny Cash – Ring of Fire
Social Distortion – Ring of Fire
Johnny Cash – The Mercy Seat
Bob Dylan – Ring Them Bells
Sex Pistons – God Save the Queen
Vince Taylor – Brand New Cadillac
The Cramps – Fever
MC5 – Baby Please Don’t Go
Gene Vincent – Be-Bop-A-Lu-La
Buddy Guy – Baby Please Don’t Leave Me
Bob Dylan – Beyond Here Lies Nothin’
Bob Dylan – Dirt Road Blues
Buddy Holly – Early In the Morning
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
Townes Van Zandt – Loretta
Tom Waits – Goin’ Out West
Tom Waits – Train Song
Steve Earle – I Am a Wanderer
Gil Scott-Heron – I’m New Here
Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros – Junco Partner
Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros w/Mick Jones – White Riot
Mike Ness – No Man’s Friend
The V-Roys – Mary
Junior Kimbrough w/Charlie Feathers – Release Me
Bob Dylan – High Water (For Charley Patton)
Muddy Waters – Champaign & Reefer
Johnny Thunders – (I’m Not) Your Stepping Stone
Bobby Fuller Four – I Fought the Law
Bettye LaVette – What Condition My Condition Is In
Charles Bradley – Heart of Gold
Bruce Springsteen – Pony Boy
Andre Williams – Jaw Dropper
Motorhead – Louie Louie
Iggy Pop – Some Weird Sin
Bottle Rockets – Floataway
Mavis Staples – You Are Not Alone

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"We didn't have any instruments, so I had to use my guitar."  - Mother Maybelle Carter

"All music is folk music.  I ain't never heard no horse sing a song."  - Louis Armstrong

"In fact, punk rock means exemplary manners to your fellow human beings."  - Joe Strummer

"You don't find a style...a style finds you."  - Keith Richards

"A bad rendition of you is better than a good rendition of somebody else."  - Willie Dixon

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Rambling with Bob Dylan...


I’m a little intimidated to throw this post out into the cyber-world.  Writing about Bob Dylan is a daunting task for me because I know there are many very devoted Bob-ologists out there who know far more about the man and his music than I ever will.  So, if you’re one of those devotees, please read this knowing that I’m a mere fan – certainly no expert.

Clearly, all of these thoughts are very subjective and are only my own.  These are thoughts not truths.  I don’t presume to know the real truth about Bob Dylan, I can only try and explain the impact he and his work have on me personally. 

I know good and well that he would hate this blog post that seeks to define him, just as he hated the “voice of a generation” tag, the “Judas” tag, and everything else that’s been stuck on him through his 50-year career.

But, damn if the man isn’t so incredibly interesting, right?  I can’t think of many other artists who invite such analysis the way Dylan does.

---

I bought Bob Dylan’s new album, “Tempest”, yesterday.


I haven’t listened to it yet, though.  In part, that’s because I’ve been busy and I’ve been looking forward to giving the album a good solid listen.  Sometimes I don’t mind listening to an album for the first time in piecemeal fashion, but something tells me I’m going to want to really focus on this one.  I also haven’t listened to it yet because all the hoopla surrounding the release of “Tempest” has sent me digging back into Dylan’s catalog.  I’ve been listening to familiar favorites, rediscovering forgotten gems, and, even, buying releases I didn’t own yet, to fill in gaps in my collection (also, wonderfully, providing me new discoveries to fall in love with).

Dylan is one of those artists that I go through cycles with.  I always like his music, but I go through phases where I don’t listen to much, and then it will cycle around and I’ll completely immerse myself in it for a while.  It seems to be a feast-or-famine kind of situation.

Each time the feast comes around, and Dylan occupies my ears, he also occupies a good portion of my mind.  I think about Dylan’s place in our world.  I think about his artistry and his talent.  I wonder what his songwriting process is like.  I often wonder what his daily life is like.  What are his hobbies?  How does he spend his time?  What would it be like to hang out with Bob Dylan on a random Tuesday afternoon?

Bob Dylan isn’t like normal people.  At least I don’t think he is.  His mind clearly operates on a different plane than most people.  But, even with that unique status, he holds a special place. 

There are other artists, in my view, that fit the bill of “not being like normal people”.  Leonard Cohen is a good example; a songwriter of Biblical magnitude who seems so dark and mysterious, thinks deeply, and sometimes lives in monasteries with monks.  But that kind of “not being like normal people” still isn’t the same as Dylan’s.  As much as Leonard Cohen may be on a different plane than most folks, when you watch interviews with him or see him in concert, I get the sense that while he’s very gifted and unique, his brain does indeed operate fairly normally.  I think I could hold a conversation with him.

Someone like Tom Waits certainly has an artistry that would be comparable in some fashion to Dylan’s or Cohen’s.  But, while he definitely is weird in his own loveably unique way, Waits seems like one of the most normal guys you could ever want to meet.  He’s special, for sure.  But as he told David Letterman a few years back, people in music stores and museums don’t recognize him…but he IS always recognized when he goes to the city dump.  (How often would one go to the dump?  With Waits, who knows…?).

I’m working on a blog entry about artists that I think are prophets.  I believe Bob Marley fits the bill.  I also believe Kris Kristofferson is a prophet and Joe Strummer was.  As Steve Earle sang in his recent song “God Is God”, “…Some folks see things not everybody can see.”  In that way, Bob Dylan would seem to be a prophet.  One can hardly argue that his early albums exhibited universal truths of equality and justice, similar to what Bob Marley, for instance, sang about.  But the designation of “prophet” doesn’t seem to fit Dylan to me.  It just doesn’t feel right.  For one thing, look how vehemently argued against the title of “protest singer”.  He hated people calling his work “topical songs”.  True, some of that was probably just a young artist being rebellious and not wanting to be pigeon-holed, but I still feel that Dylan is something different than a prophet.

The best phrase I’ve ever heard anyone apply to Dylan came in Scorsese’s “No Direction Home” documentary.  Legendary Columbia Records producer Bob Johnston, who worked with Dylan during a highly-prolific period, said, “He’s got the Holy Ghost about him!  You can tell that by looking at him.  Instead of touching him on the shoulder, God kicked him in the ass!”

That sums it up for me.  There IS something different about Bob Dylan.  What whatever difference that is makes him different than all other artists we might call “different”.  Whatever is special about him makes him special in a different way than anyone else we could refer to as “special”.

Many artists have multiple careers.  I’ll use Tom Waits as an example again.  His first career was his singer/songwriter phase, where he played the part of a wino/Beat poet, telling tales of hard luck at the piano.  That career concluded with his “Heartattack and Vine” album, which began to move in a more R&B direction, experimenting with weirder sounds.  When Waits left Asylum Records, he started a new phase of his career; the truly weird and experimental one.  His first album for Island Records, “Swordfishtrombones” was the sound of Waits destroying the first career and rebuilding something new.  His Island Records tenure ended with “Bone Machine” (at least studio-album-wise…maybe one of his theatrical releases was the last), which saw him moving in yet another direction.  Then Waits moved to Anti- Records, where he has incorporated elements of his first two careers – the hard luck tales, weird instrumentation, and bizarre tales of bizarre people – into a hobo/Americana character.

Dylan’s career, likewise, can be divided into a few segments.

The first phase, of course, is the folkie; the voice of a generation.  This phase, like most folks, is the phase I first came to know.  We sang “Blowing in the Wind” in my middle school chorus class.  I learned Dylan’s songs from this phase of his career before I knew who he was.  When I got interested in him, around high school or so, this was the access point.  I must say that while I recognize the importance of this segment of his career, it is also the one that now means the least to me.  The songs are amazingly great and beautiful.  But they have become such a part of not just my musical DNA, but of our musical DNA collectively, that I don’t have to listen to them much.  They’re already there.  In my subconscious.  In our very molecular makeup.  They’re all around us.  In the air. 

I suppose the next phase is the “Going Electric” phase.  Judas!  This is perhaps my favorite portion of Dylan’s career.  It’s also one of the newer ones for me.  I jumped from his earliest stuff, to his most recent stuff, as I explored his catalog.  Eventually, I went back and fell in love with these early “rock” records, especially “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde on Blonde”. 

I look at Dylan in this time period, and the years leading up to it (“Another Side of Bob Dylan” and “Bringing It All Back Home”…the period chronicled in “No Direction Home”) and am amazed.  This is the point for me that you can truly see Bob Johnston’s quote in action.  You can see the Holy Ghost about Dylan.  He’s glowing somehow.  He’s electric.  You can almost see him vibrating.  I see Dylan around this time – the time of the afro with the Ray-Bans, the skinny pants, pointy boots, and polka dotted shirt – and I see a young man struggling to keep up with the creativity that’s bursting out of him.  I envision him writing songs, having them on paper before his brain even recognized where the thoughts were coming from.  I’ve always heard this was a period of very heavy drug use for Dylan.  In my mind, the drug use was surely just to keep up with the creativity.  (Again…COMPLETELY speculative from my own mind…I’m just having fun sharing a personal theory).  I can’t think of another artist that you can almost SEE struggle to keep up with their own creativity.

The next phases – at least the ones I see – are the two I’m most unfamiliar with at this point; the 70’s country-ish, post-motorcycle accident, Rolling Thunder Revue era, and the 80’s.  These phases seem to be the points that Dylan was the most “normal”.  After the motorcycle crash, which maybe saved his life, by forcing him to slow down (again, conjecture), through the next period of albums, you can see Dylan settle a little.  These are great records, but they’re not nearly as frenetically creative. 

The “80’s Dylan” seems the most like a “normal guy” to me.  In his other career segments, he dressed a certain part.  The folkie in the early 60s, the hipster in the later 60s, kind of a cowboy troubadour look in the 70s, but in the 80s, he wore the same cheesy clothes the rest of us did.  His music bore the production values of the 80s.  A lot of it is great, but as far as I’m aware, most of whatever Dylan released that was panned critically was released during this period.  I’m making my way through many of these albums now.  A lot of it hasn’t landed with me.  But what is great, is truly awesome.

Then there’s the latest phase of Dylan’s career.  The 80’s phase and look seemed to conclude, in my eyes, around “Good as I Been to You”, a collection of old folk standards.  With the next album, “World Gone Wrong”, Dylan introduced a new phase: reinventing early American roots music for the 21st century, complete with references to Alicia Keys and Leonardo DiCaprio, with the look of some kind of “new troubadour”, a dandy, modernized riverboat gambler persona.  This is my other favorite phase of Dylan’s career.  After “World Gone Wrong”, he experimented with Daniel Lanois’ production on “Time Out of Mind”, a wonderful album, but a bit of a stand-alone in Dylan’s catalog.  It was back to the roots stuff after that.  He disagreed with Rolling Stone when they asserted that he started a new “trilogy” with “Time Out of Mind” that continued with “Love and Theft”.  He said if anything, “Love and Theft” was the start of a new trilogy.  The next album, “Modern Times” certainly fit the sound, but “Through Life Together” (a record you can tell Dylan made strictly for the fun of it – and what fun it is!) was definitely not the competition of a thematic trilogy.  Perhaps “Tempest” will prove to be.


What’s next?  Where will it go from here?

It’s like each of these phases are occupied by a completely different person.  I can’t picture that folkie growing old.  And I have a hard time envisioning the latest incarnation, this modern-day bluesman, ever having been an innocent young person.

And, yet, they're all the same man.

What an interesting mind.  What an amazing creator. 

I feel like I need some way to nicely and neatly wrap this all up.  But, honestly, I got nothin’.  Just thinkin’ out loud (or at the keypad, as it were…).

What other artist has had such an impact?  There’s never been anyone quite like Dylan.  People say he’s one of the great minds or great artists of our time.  I think it should be “of any time”.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go listen to “Tempest”…

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Musical Memory of 9/11


A while back I had a request to play a song on my radio show that I didn’t have with me: The Who’s “Baba O’Reily”. So I planned to play it the following week.  As I made my way to the next show, I put “The Who’s Greatest Hits” CD on in the car and listened to “Baba O’Reily”.  It had been a while since I’d heard it.  I’m not what you’d call a major fan of The Who, or classic rock in general, but that song is one of my favorites from their catalog and that genre in general.
As I was listening I had a memory that pertained to 9/11, which I will forever associate with that song.

On October 20, 2001, Paul McCartney staged a benefit concert that he’d organized at Madison Square Garden, called “The Concert for New York City”. By that time, the smoke from 9/11 had begun to clear, but the wounds were still very fresh.

Many in attendance were New York firemen and police officers. Families of the victims of the attack and the heroes that responded after the attacks were also invited. Throughout the concert, people held up photos of family members they had lost. Many famous bands performed that night.

I caught part of it on TV and happened to tune in while The Who was playing. I remember when they launched into “Baba O’Reily”, the camera lingered for a few seconds on a man I will never forget.

He was in an area of the crowd populated by members of the New York Fire Department – most had their FDNY T-shirts on.

The man was very unassuming – he gave the immediate impression of a stereotypical blue collar, hard-workin’ man. He had a mustache, a big beer gut, wore simple jeans, t-shirt, and tennis shoes. He looked to be of very modest means.

But when The Who launched into the huge power chords that characterize “Baba O’Reily”, the impact on the fireman was unmistakable.

He raised his beer, he played air guitar, he pumped his fist, and screamed in joy.

And the reason that made such an impact on me was here is a man who has seen his world turned upside down. We all saw that happen on 9/11. But he lived in New York. He was closer to it. He worked for the FDNY. He knew men and women who were killed doing their job. He had probably worked in the days surrounding 9/11 to rescue people from the rubble. Who can forget the sight of firemen weeping, with bleeding hands, as people nearly forced them to stop digging, so they could take a break? Many went days without sleeping.

Those horrific events went on for days and days after 9/11. And this man surely experience all of those things on a far, far, far greater scale than you or I.

So, here was this man, attending a concert that a British pop star had organized in his honor – and in honor of his brothers. Must have been a good feeling.

I also got the impression from the man – and this may very well be just my own creative license – that he hadn’t had an experience like this before. As I mentioned, and I don’t mean this judgmentally, but he seemed to be of meager means. He reminded me of the hard working people I know who don’t treat themselves to special things very often. Who have a good work ethic. Who do what they have to do with no frills.

But I’ll betcha he grew up listening to The Who. He looked to be late forties or around 50. I bet The Who was a big part of his musical experience in life.

And when they launched into that big ol’ song…and he got caught up in the healing power that is rock-and-roll…and the adrenaline that always accompanies a live rock concert came over him…and he began to let go of over a month of the worst emotional stress one can imagine…

Just think of that feeling. The release.

Raise your beer and pump your fist, indeed, my friend. And scream your lungs out, hero. You’ve earned yourself a rock-and-roll night to remember.

I came away from that experience thinking that maybe a bit of healing had begun for that guy. And the concert actually seemed to do a lot of healing for a city that had been hurting. We were all New Yorkers for about a month, remember?

It sounds “wrong” to say I have a “favorite” one, but I don’t know how else to describe it. That is my favorite 9/11 memory. One that rewards heroes. One that highlights the importance of music in our lives. One that initiated a bit of healing.