Letters Of Note: 7/12/2016

Birthday Power Quartet Of The Day

Ray Gillen(1960, Black Sabbath?) on vocals, Eric Carr(1950, KISS?)on drums, John Petrucci(1967, Dream Theater) on guitar, and Philip Kramer(1952, Iron Butterfly & various attempts to discredit Einstein) on bass.

For the obvious reasons, and because I weirdly want these guys to have fun, I’m gonna have them play “Wild One” from the silly/shitty Dio album, Lock Up The Wolves. The obvious reasons are Ronnie James Dio’s and Simon Wright’s(yes, he drummed on this album) history as second fiddles. Gillen and Carr know that feeling too well. Also, Dio got some hotshot 18-year-old kid named Rowan Robertson to play guitar on that album, who I bet Petrucci absolutely hates. I mean, look at the way Petrucci plays…

… compared to the slutty-commando-jeaned slopfest of Robertson:


I’d listen to their version for sure. Then fire everyone from the fake band I just put them in.


Temple Of The Dog

My dog, Dixie, has been very sick, so I took some time off. Also, I haven’t been able to sleep in six weeks. Medically. Good times. We are both much better now. Look at that sweet girl:



Let’s All Die In 2016: Ralph Stanley

Beyond Ralph Stanley’s influence and brilliance, the best story about him is a Bill Monroe story, namely how much Monroe hated the Stanley Brothers. His good reason to have hated Ralph Stanley was that the Stanley Brothers just played amped-up versions of Monroe’s songs in their early career. His bad reason was that Bill Monroe was notoriously bitter towards anyone not loyal to him or his claim as the inventor of “bluegrass”. Not that Monroe didn’t hold that claim rightly. The Stanley Brothers’ technical prowess was a constant challenge to the stable of musicians he kept, Frank Zappa-wise, to corner the market on the bluegrass sound. Monroe hated them enough that when Colombia signed them he left and signed with Decca.

That move to Decca was without Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, though, and Monroe hired Ralph’s brother, Carter, to play guitar while Ralph was in the military, swapping out his long-held vitriol towards The Stanley Brothers for the newly-formed Foggy Mountain Boys, a feud that lasted even longer. Get a load of this catty business here:

Carter Stanley died young, but Ralph Stanley carried on.  Carter had the better voice, but that’s never stopped any good bluegrass player from singing, and Ralph Stanley’s voice came to become the standard for his peers and contemporaries. All the arrangements and harmonies from groups like the Del McCorey Band, and the authenticity of the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack, are all because of this voice. RIP.


Also Dead: Elvis Presley

Worth re-mentioning here: Bill Monroe gave his blessing to Elvis’ version of “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” for mainly financial reasons, but it didn’t hurt that it stole the thunder from The Stanley Brother’s version, also a hot-stepping 4/4 rendition. Catty as fuck.

Letters Of Note: 6/7/2016

Birthday Power Quartet Of The Day:

Eric Kretz(1966, Stone Temple Pilots) on drums, Leopold Auer(1845, classical musician) on violin, Prince(1958, various funky scenarios) on guitar/bass guitar, and Tom Jones(1940, Used Panty Wholesale Warehouse) on vocals.

This will work, but not without its kinks. Prince is no stranger to overdubbing parts, but for the song I’ve chosen, Frank Zappa’s “Willie The Pimp”, I’m not sure how he’s gonna handle it; it would make much more sense as an ensemble if he played the bass live and added his guitar parts later, but Maestro Auer is, even though he won’t be able to keep up with Prince and Tom Jones in the puss-hound storytelling downtimes, gonna fucking murder his extended violin solo so much that Jean-Luc Ponty would immediately surrender(ok, maybe not such a great feat among the French). Prince is gonna either want to feed off that energy or be there live with his ax to cram his talent in Auer’s Hungarian mug. I only hope Tom Jones can pull off the sleaziness, it’ll kick ass.


Happy Birthday, Iggy Azalea:



We Hate The Music You Like, Small Town America Edition:

It was announced today that “country” “superstar” Luke Bryan would be playing a concert this year in the little town of Prairie Grove, AR, not too far from where I live, as part of his “Farm Tour” of small country towns across America. I note or two: one, his current album has fifteen different writers on it, down from twenty on the previous album. I don’t care for Beyonce either, but that’s not a good look for a country boy. Two, I live roughly 20 miles from the “small town America” venue he’s playing at, and I’ve been listening to the Sodom catalog today:



Letters Of Note: 6/6/2016

Birthday Power Quartet Of The Day:

Jeremy Gara(1978, Arcade Fire) on drums, Tom Araya(1961, Slayer) on bass guitar and vocals, and Steve Vai(1960, various spankings and guitar stunts) and Clarence White(1944, mainly The Byrds but tons of important studio work) on guitar.

Honestly, Araya might not be up for this, and Gara might not be able to keep up, but I’m going to have them play “Country Boy” by Heads Hands and Feet. If you took Steve Vai’s virtuosity and add Clarence White’s clean picking and b-bender propensities, you’d get Albert Lee. And, actually, if you offered the band the same amount of drugs that the band in this video were on, Gara might have to keep up just to burn off that German amphetamine energy, and Araya will find it a tad more ammissible:



Let’s All Die In 2016: Muhammad Ali

There’s a few ways you could talk about Muhammad Ali in a music blog and remain germane, but after all the tributes I’ve read this weekend, addressing his ties to “hip hop” are the most important. Eldridge Cleaver, in his “Lazarus, Come Forth” portion of Soul On Ice, and the musings of Nelson George and other writers about hip hop’s history, paint a picture of race relations and racial self-identity that separate the birth of Muhammad Ali from the chrysalis of Cassius Clay and the birth of hip hop. Too many of the essays I read tried to merge the two.

Their are lots of geographical plot points for hip hop’s influence, but its birth was undoubtedly in The Bronx, in discos that shared, like the scofflaw ares were jazz was born in New Orleans, a racial harmony. Hip hop would certainly become a media outlet for under-served African-Americans, but those early DJ’s shouting out people in the clubs were frequented by white people and black people alike. Yes, Debbie Harry is a horrible rapper, but she was honestly rapping in Blondie’s “Rapture”. She didn’t just pull Fab Five Freddie’s name out of a magazine; they hung out. The white producers, like Rick Rubin, were not taking advantage of the black performers but were championing them and their musical ideas, giving musicians the freedom to make music that no other A&R people, including black A&R people, would risk. Racial harmony was important to the birth of hip hop.

There wasn’t much in the way of racial harmony for Cassius Clay, and the birth of Muhammad Ali wasn’t an attempt at being more harmonious, instead taking the absolute value of the inherent racism of the Antebellum ideas of having a a black boxer fight for white men and redirecting it towards whites. Ali would denounce The Nation Of Islam in 1975, but in 1964, after his famous fight with Sonny Liston, Ali embraced The Nation’s polarizing ideas so much to the point that before he was Muhammad Ali he was briefly calling himself “Cassius X”. Someone in your Twitter feed this weekend either said or retweeted someone that said that Ali was a Muslim racist. It’s partly true. Ali shouldn’t be demonized for it, though, and not just because he changed his ways later in life. Muhammad Ali’s “racism” didn’t really manifest in the misogyny and anti-Semitism of The Nation Of Islam. Ali wasn’t born in the melting pot of New York, like hip hop was; he was from Louisville, Kentucky, a place where people are still plenty racist and were overtly so in 1964. His demands for being treated like a human were still radical enough then, but his direct confrontations with white people about being white made him dangerous. Be sure to comment on those tweets with one word: “good.” 1964 sure could have used more outspoken African-Americans in 1964.


Also Dead: Elvis Presley

Late in his life, Elvis became friendly with Muhammad Ali. His ties to Vegas got themelvis_presley_muhammed_ali_robe introduced, but they remained friendly for years. Not too much is known about their friendship; Ali was outspoken about keeping Elvis’ privacy. Elvis did make Ali a custom robe, not too gaudy, with “PEOPLE’S CHOICE” on the back, a necessary slogan after Ali lost his title for refusing military service. It’s an odd pairing, those two; I can’t imagine Ali was doing much drugs or white women then, and, by the look of his weight in this picture, Elvis was doing enough for the two of them combined. Ali had said of Elvis, “I don’t admire nobody, but Elvis Presley was the sweetest, most humble and nicest man you’d want to know.” This Ali, still getting in a jab about how Elvis might not be admirable but still giving praise about another, is the Ali we should be remembering. It’s certainly the one he would want you to.


Letters Of Note: 5/30/2016

Birthday Power Quintet Of The Day:

Nicky Headon(1955, The Clash) on drums, Geoffery Lyall(1949, aka Klaus Flouride of The Dead Kennedys) on bass, Jen Carney(ageless/timeless, The Mod, Mod Music Hour, The Vinyl District) on piano, Stephen Malkmus(1966, Pavement) on guitar and lead vocals, and Wynonna Judd(1964, The Judds) on backing vocals.

This will work! They’re gonna play my fave rave song from Exile on Main Street, “Loving Cup”, and it’s gonna be sloppy and great. I do wonder how long it will take for Wynonna to loosen up, but I have no doubt that she would eventually.

{Note: my caveat to this daily Romper-Room writing conceit is that I go with my gut on the first instinct I have for the band/song and not put too much thought in it. Admittingly, my first choice was to replace Malkmus with Tom Morello, Wynonna with Cee-Lo Green, and have the band do a “modern” cover of Clash’s “Rock The Casbah.” I know and love Jen Carney though and couldn’t subject her to Cee-Lo in a confined rehearsal space, even though it exists as a complete fantasy. Anyhoo, the choice I went with would be fucking bangin’. Happy birthday, lady.}


Memorial Day Remembrances Of Three People That Didn’t Ditch Out On Service Like Chickenshit Ted Nugent:

Howlin’ Wolf(d. 1976)

Jimi Hendrix(d. 1970)

John Coltrane(d. 1967)


Also Served, Also Dead: Elvis Presley

I wanted to post The Fakest Moment From An Elvis Presley Movie, and even though it’s an exhausting contest to have to judge, I think this is our winner: “Bossa Nova Baby”, from Fun In Acapulco.

FAKE! – The sound of dancing feet!

FAKER! – The King’s lame attempt of pretending to play the organ fill!

FAKEST! – Elvis never left Hollywood while the entirety of the rest of the cast was actually in the titular city, to keep sure he wasn’t killed my Mexican Mafia members for 1) not accepting a blank check to play at a Quinceañera and 2)inciting a national riot when a fake bit of gossip ran in a Mexican paper, claiming that Elvis said he would rather kiss black women than Mexican women.


Letters Of Note: 5/26/2016

Birthday Power Sextet Of The Day:

Jackie Liebesit(1939, Can) and Levon Helm(1940, The Band) on drums, Mick Ronson(1946, most of the successful British talents with highly questionable sexuality) on guitar, Verden Allen(1944, Mott The Hopple) on keyboards, Vernon Allen(1915, various jazz ensembles) on bass, and Lauryn Hill(1975, The Fugees) on vocals.

As long as Lauryn Hill shows up on time(or at all?), this would be a pretty good working group. Unfortunately for Liebesit, he’ll have to play it somewhat straight; I’m picking a typically-long version of The Allman Brothers Band’s “Please Call Home”. Other than Liebesit and Vernon Allen egging each other one to jazz it up a bit, this is the perfect group to let Lauryn Hill shine with the vocals.

(Note: the first ever .mp3s I ever, um, acquired, in the early days of WinAmp, were songs from The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill. So good, miss U gurl.)


Belated Birthday Notes: Hal David

You would think, as a kid starved of pop culture in Eighties, Bible Belt, small-town Arkansas, that every music video offered up on TBS’ Night Tracks would be precious to me. Not so, and I can remember one of the major offenders being the too-adult and not-adult-content-enough-for-perpetually-horny-youths video for “On My Own”, with Patti Labelle and Michael McDonald.

The video is poorly aged cheese, but the actual song is… good? Am I old? God damn, I’m old, aren’t I? The music could be dismissed as double divas over vaporwave fodder synths, but listen to Big Jim Ross holler out, “Good God, that’s Burt Bacharach’s music!”

In the most important era of my musical, and social, growth, I learned to love Burt Bacharach, and by extension the lyrics of Hal David. I am old, but there’s too many great tracks to mention. I watched this particular performance live, and cried like a big liberal baby before he even picked up the harmonica:


I Know You Don’t Believe Me But This A True Story Of The Day:

There was a older couple in the row of chairs facing me at the doctor’s office today. When I say “older”, I mean “hearing impaired to the point that they have grown accustomed to yelling at each other to communicate”. They were talking, at a wincing volume, about all manner of both benign and personal information.

Every once in a while the office door would open, and you could hear the noise of the inner workings of your average medical office, complete with telephone rings, computer clicks, the global FM radio, and the copy machine. The copy machine was the most noticeable, but I didn’t imagine the couple were capable of hearing any of it. I was wrong.

“What in the world is that noise,” the man said, referring to the whirring of the copier.

The woman leaned right into his ear and bellowed, “It’s Journey.”

Letters Of Note: 5/19/2016

Birthday Power Quintet Of The Day:

Jane Wielden(1958, The Go-Go’s) on guitar; Steve Currie(1947, T-Rex) on bass; and vocalists Joe Cocker(1944), Cher(1946), and Trevor George Smith, Jr., aka Busta Rhymes(1972, Leaders Of The New School).

This will work. This will work! And I’m gonna make them do a cover of “Talk Dirty To Me,” by Poison.

No no no, don’t go! Just think about it for a second: Cher and Cocker trading versus and harmonizing in the chorus, an extended verse for Busta to rhyme over, Weilden and Currie doing an almost pop-punk, churning backing… can you see it now? Holy shit this will work!


Head Nodders While I Cooked Banchan In My Goddamed Underwear And T-Shirt Of The Day:


Straight Underoos, Son:

Squeezing They Spinach, Mayne:



Also Born Today: Pete Townshend

As corny as it sounds, it was actually impactful to me to hear him, in the VH1 commercial I looked to post but could not find, say out loud that he wanted to fuck a man(the man, in this case, being a Twist-ing Mick Jaggar).

Happy birthday, you old bugger. In lieu of that commercial, here’s the next best tribute for him: a video in which Roger Daltrey is reduced to doing nothing but looking like he’s a costume change away from knife-fighting the Kwisatz Haderach:



Letters Of Note:5/17/2016

Birthday Power Quartet Of The Day:

Jim Moginie(1956, Midnight Oil mainly but try his weirdo album, The Blessing, he made with some flute player named Andy Richardson that goes by “Howlin’ Wind”…I know, just try it) on guitar, Mark Mothersbaugh(1950, Devo) on drum machine/mechanical percussion, Martika(1969, Kids Incorporated), and Rick Wakeman(1949, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe) on every keyboard ever made.

They’re not gonna get along. There’s no way. Wakeman’s Twitter handle is @GrumpyOldRick for God’s sake. But as professional musicians, and a pinky swear that Mothersbaugh will only make percussive noises, maybe they could make it through my pick.

My pick is “Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall”, by Aphrodite’s Child. I would ask Martika to do a fake, Brian Ferry-esque accent, but I’ll settle for her just keeping up.


Let’s All Die In 2016: Guy Clark

Guy Clark’s death won’t affect many, but most of the unaffected have heard a Guy Clark-penned song and just don’t know it; he wrote music that everyone wanted to record. His most famous works were recorded by superstars like Ricky Skaggs and the country supergroup The Highwaymen, but the biggest gap his passing will leave will be his kinship with the other great songwriters keeping the folk/”old” country traditions alive at the time, like Rodney Crowell, Emmylou Harris, and Steve Earle. He was famously close to Townes Van Zandt, and a good enough friend to Townes to have outlived him. Here’s most of those folks together in Guy’s kitchen from the highly influential Heartworn Highways documentary. RIP.


Also Dead: Elvis Presley

If you took a monk from a life of cloistering in the most remote monastery, void of knowledge of world culture and even the most rudimentary information of wellness and medical science, and played this recording to him, he would say “oh Lord, we need to make some sort of facility where this person can convalesce and heal. I hope he’s ok.”

Patton Oswalt does a great bit about how you can hear how fat he’s become by the sound of the “b” words that he says. This is the terminal version of that joke. Still, RIP.


Rap Song That Dates Itself By Mentioning The Year Of The Day:

Still a banger.



Letters Of Note:5/16/2016

Birthday Power Trio Of The Day:

Robert Fripp(1946, of various fames) on guitar, Krist Novoselic(1965, of Nirvana) on bass, and Billy Cobham(1944, associated with various funky people, but my heart wants to remind you that he played on the Shaft soundtrack) on drums.

This would work! Maybe! If no one’s egos clashed! Maybe not! Damn it!

What would I want to hear, though? A 14-minute-long version of some track from In Rainbows turned into a space jazz feature. Any track would probably work.


We Hate The Music You Like, Algorithm Edition:

Google thinks I would like “What Part Of Forever,” by CeeLo Green…

This selection must be from listening to Outcast, Dungeon Family, and Gnarls Barkley this past week, but damn. Even coming out of the “get some hot people to make a ‘music inspired by’ album or something who cares” era of soundtrack recording, this is too poppy and aloof for me. Vampires live forever, yeah yeah…


We Like This, Though:

You can’t tell me the world’s sad boy vampires don’t prefer this. It’s pitch-prefect European dour heartbreak. Your Lost Boys reboot has a raging boner right now.