Friday, April 30, 2010

Getting crazy on the waltzers but it's the life that I choose (Dire Straits)

Confession is good for the soul I'm told. So here goes. I am a rock snob. I'm not proud of it but there we are.

If you read these posts this will be old news - I've managed other true confessions about my dark side - Peter Frampton, Carpenters, and John Denver, but I've never admitted to rock snobbery before.

My friend Greg is not, nor has he ever been a rock snob which is something I've always liked about him. He happily listens to, collects and has lent me non cool items along with the cool. He never seems to discriminate between - say - Dylan and Denver or Mark Knopfler for instance.

Me - I've had a problem with Mark and his band Dire Straits for years.

I loved the single Sultans of Swing when it came out but I could not really move beyond that (an exception was the Making Movies album which I love and, back in the day, used with students in English classes). I'm not really sure why. The only thing I can point to is rock snobbery. When they became mega with Brothers in Arms I turned away. Too slick, too embarrassing, too commercial, too broad in it's appeal.

That's something we rock snobs hate - when a little known band (or low level one) makes it huge. Don't wanna know anymore. Daft innit?

I bought a live Dire Straits at the BBC CD recently and I'm proud to say it has not left the car stereo system yet.

Speaking of little known bands - I can't see Black Sheep Boy pulling off a Brothers in Arms but you never know do you. My cuz sent me a copy and it's been the soundtrack for a few days now. And is further proof that Tom Waits and the Velvet Underground have forged an alternative career path for musicians. This is fractured deconstructionist-put-together-with-glue-and-scissors -a-la-Swordfishtrombones type of music.

Dr Dog is another of my favourite exponents of this genre where The Beatles sensibility is put through a blender, roughed up and held in front of circus mirrors.

I can tell why Black Sheep Boy appeal so much - there is a Killers vibe at work here but rather than chiming rock anthems we have vignettes and the guitars are replaced by pump organs. Interesting and it definitely burrows under the skin.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The hungry and the hunted explode into rock'n'roll bands (Bruce Springsteen)

This is again about Clarence Clemons - I've now finished his book and I have a few more fairly random things to say.

It's a great rock book. One I will keep and put alongside my other rock books that are worth keeping (ie dipping into from time to time) like The Real Frank Zappa Book and Dylan's Writings and Drawings. Yep - bits of it are that good.

The mythic aspect present in Bruce's music and the Scooter/Big Man history is well represented. Tough to pull that off but they do.

The genuine love between Scooter and The Big Man personas and between Bruce and Clarence is etched into every sentence. Don Reo captures it well.

I love the Frank Sinatra story - it reminds me of Rock Dreams (another rock book that's a keeper). Actually that book is name-checked at the end of Big Man so they were obviously conscious of the similarities/connections.

I was forced back to the music. Bruce (as reported in the book) says that Jungleland is C's signature song (I'm not arguing with the Boss). I love the moment in the 2001 New York concert after C has had his moment in the spotlight and before Bruce ends the song. Bruce says something to Clarence as he walks out (7.35 minutes in after an outrageously passionate Big Man solo). I don't really want to know what he says...okay - I do! It's gotta be more that "great stuff C".

Here it is - a great version of a great song.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Scooter's searching for his group... and the Big Man joined the band (Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band)

Walked in the Virgin Megastore at Villaggio (Doha) and the first thing I see in a huge cacophony of products (T shirts, magazines, CDs, DVDs, stereo gear, TVs, phones, books etc) is a book. Seriously - the first thing!

It's BIG MAN by Clarence Clemons and Don Reo (yes it upper case glory). The cover picture is sublime - Clarence smiling backstage in his BIG MAN persona (black hat, black shades, dreads, big shoes...and his sax).

I walked up to it (or maybe it walked up to me). I reached for it (or maybe it reached out to me). I picked it up (it seemed to glow and grow BIGGER in size). I opened the cover to the promised foreward by Bruce Springsteen. The words read like they were ripped from the gospel of the ministry of music.

I'm 222 pages in (read over two days in a rush) and if you have ever been touched by the magic of The Boss (aka Scooter) or just music in general then you must read it. It's worth it for the hilarious bullshit story of Frank Sinatra wanting to record Born to Run alone.

I love the story of how Bruce named the band too. Who knew?

If you want more of the Big Man - try his website.

And to leave you - here's the awesome E Streeters doing some self-mythologising!Two from '75 (my first year in thrall). Big Man joined the band indeed!! Rosie is my favourite Springsteen song!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

This old guitar gave me my life, my living (John Denver)

DEEP BREATH...I bought a John Denver CD!!

Man that feels better - now that guilty pleasure is out in the open.

At the risk of completely alienating my regular visitors let me explain my long standing... (I hesitate to use the word 'relationship' but it has to be labelled that)...with Mr Far Out himself.

It goes way back - deep into the mists of a foggy male teenage hood (in my case from about 1971 to 1978 = age 13 to 19). John Denver was huge and his songs and TV show were everywhere in that time frame. But I listened to Black Sabbath (Masters of Reality and Paranoid), Deep Purple (In Rock and Machine Head), Uriah Heep (Wizards and Demons) and Frank Zappa (Live at The Fillmore and Just Another Band From LA) among other things. Not John Denver!

John Denver was wildly uncool - the glasses (I wore glasses), the terrible fringe hairstyle ( I had a terrible fringe hairstyle), the nerdish demeanor (you're no doubt getting the point). I loved the songs and watched the TV show but the overall package was enough that I NEVER bought a JD album EVER (the Far Outs and other attempts to be hip were and still are embarrassing).

The closest I got was when my good friend Greg lent me a double live concert called, cozily enough, An Evening With John Denver (I bet his sister or mum had bought it) and I taped about 5 songs off it onto a cassette.

Fast forward 30 years and I have finally succumbed - a double CD The Essential John Denver. I have looked and almost bought compilations over the years but each one has had the dire Grandma's Feather Duvet thing on it and I just couldn't. This one however, is free of that horror and instead compiles some unbelievably great pop songs.
Top 3 - Take Me Home (Country Roads), the obligatory Rocky Mountain High, and the orgasmically great Farewell Andromeda (Welcome to my morning).
My only quibble is they couldn't find a place for This Old Guitar - a great song that ends the live album on my old cassette tape and sums up his genius.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Beyond the palace hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard (Bruce Springsteen)

I now have a car to drive around Doha's streets (of fire). This is cool because I can now play some of the CDs I've been buying while living here in Qatar. Yesterday I bought The Best Of Lobo. Yes, I did! Who? Lobo!

You will probably know him via the seventies big hit - Me and you and a dog named Boo. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the collection - mostly laid back countryish west coast pop, He knew his strengths and rocking out wasn't one of them. A perfect CD for the cool interior of a Nissan Tiida on a 35 degree day in Doha while waiting for the lights to change.

The liner notes are almost as entertaining and refreshing as the music. A great quote from Lobo (Roland LaVoie to his mum) connects to my last posting on high/low culture:
"I was merely good as a pop writer, only acceptable as a singer. Whatever makes a commercial singer, I had it. And it was never that I sounded so good. As far as I can figure, it had something to do with believability and was simple stuff: no hidden meanings, no fancy workups, no musical advancements."

Here he is in his bad hair, bad shirt, bad miming, simple but believable prime with another of his huge hits.