Thursday, June 30, 2011

West Side Encounters III and IV

This morning's walk of Walker Evans produced a couple of interesting, and often typical, vignettes from Buffalo's West Side.
First, a couple of blocks from home, Walker Evans and I were approaching the Bryant-Ashland intersection, when a woman parked her car on the side of Bryant facing Elmwood, with her car past the stop sign and partly blocking the sidewalk.
A man already at the intersection, walking his dog, told the woman she was blocking the sidewalk and parking unlawfully, and creating a dangerous intersection situation (this is often a bad intersection even when everyone lawfully parks). The woman stopped, looked at him and loudly said "EXCUSE ME?" The man repeated himself, but the woman started walking away toward Elmwood before he finished.
After Walker Evans and I took a long walk (from there to Hodge, crossing Elmwood and down to Delaware Avenue, then back on Bryant), we caught up with neighbor and photographer Eileen Graetz and her new greyhound, Kat, at Bryant and Ashland, and we walked back to Norwood Avenue. At one point, Walker Evans and Kat stopped to sniff a bush; Walker Evans then decided to walk under Kat, who has the high back arch of greyhounds. Walker got only partway through before he got stuck and wouldn't move. I had to push him forward and Eileen had to coax Kat to step up and forward so we could untangle them.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

For My Listening Pleasure

I listened to one CD and am listening to a second CD tonight that are among my favorites, period, any time or reason, but they are also intimately connected.
The first CD I listened to was "Interiors," by Rosanne Cash, and I am currently listening to "Tremolo," by Blue Rodeo. While "Interiors" came out in 1990, I didn't really sit down and listen to it until early 1997; "Tremolo" came out at about the same time in 1997, and being a major Blue Rodeo fan since about 1990, coincidentally, I was thrilled to receive a review CD of it.
Without going into great detail (those who know me well, and even those who know me some, can flesh out things), these CDs were basically the soundtrack to one of the most serious, disruptive, painful and finally redemptive events/periods of my life. Both CDs, in their ways, depict and represent relationships falling apart, people hurting, not understanding what or why things are happening, and just looking to survive.
In my experience with music listening, appreciation and criticism, it appears that music that moves me in painful, uncomfortable ways, making me think and feel things I wasn't aware of or tried to avoid, stays with me and means more to me than even the best of the happier music.
This may not exactly be a stop-the-presses moment, but these realizations sometimes need to be directly stated or written. And I and many others don't listen to these kinds of albums just to wallow in sadness, but to feel things and often remind ourselves of feelings and situations, and to be glad that we are not in them and are in better situations now.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Another (Kind of) New Wave Commercial

I have been pointing out the use of older new wave (and occasional punk) songs in commericals here, and there is a new one of a song I rather like that kind of fits.
While not actually "full" new wave, but certainly unusual and angular for rock when it came out, "Moving in Stereo," from the Cars' self-titled debut album, is now being featured in a new Pennzoil commercial.
Having been a Cars' fan since their first album and getting to see the band live once, in 1980 on the Candy-O tour, I remember how some classic rock fans were shocked that the band was played on 97 Rock and similar stations at first, and how weird they thought the band members looked. With songwriter, singer and rhythm guitarist Ric Ocasek appearing (and sometimes publicized to be) about 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7, but actually about 6-foot-4 next to diminutive band mates; pale, very thin and with a champion black mullet behind sunglasses all the time, I can see why some people had problems with the Cars, amusing and dumb as it may have been.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Happy Aniversary to My Love, Val

June 23 is a great day in my life; on June 23, 2000, Val Dunne and I went in our first date; June 23, 2001, I asked Val to marry me, and June 23, 2002, we got married at the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas.
To say Val is my best friend and, indeed, the best thing that has ever happened to me, would be both true and a serious understatement. I can turn to her at any time for strength, support, advice and love on anything, and always receive it.
Here's to many more years of being this happy and loved, my dearest.

Monday, June 20, 2011

West Side Encounter II

Walker Evans took me on one of his new walk routes today; after going down a couple of streets, we crossed Elmwood Avenue at Hodge Avenue, from the Sunoco station to Ambrosia, then down Elmwood awhile.
After we crossed West Utica Street, Walker said hello to a woman at the Elmwood/Utica bus stop; she said hello and pet Walker while she ate her breakfast, a dish of baked beans. She asked if she cold give Walker some, but because Walker has had dietary issues and has recurring gastritis, I told her thank you but no thanks.
As we said goodbye and Walker and I walked away, she called out to us, "I hope you get a new dog when he or she dies."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

When the Big Man Joined the Band

Clarence Clemons, saxophonist and occasional backing vocalist for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, died of complications today, June 18, from a stroke he suffered June 12, at age 69.
I can still write the lead for an obituary as I did for years as a journalist, but it will be tougher for me to explain the effect Clemons and the E Street Band had on me as a teenager when I first heard and fell in love with their music.
While I had heard their first two albums, I was really only a minor fan of Springsteen and the band until the album"Born to Run" was released in August 1975, just before I turned age 15. Not only did "Born to Run" launch Springsteen to superstardom, it turned my musical fandom and appreciation into something more of an obsession and religion, something that became a major part of my life and indeed a vocation of sorts.
To me, the depictions of people trying to break free of whatever and whoever were holding them back, and to escape what wasn't working, to have the opportunity to find something better and more fitting, even from the oh, so woeful adolescence I thought I was experiencing, were stories, ideas and feelings I had never experienced before. I had never been reached like this by a rock band, hell, any kind of band, before, with such intensity and meaning, such power and understandable message. And, hey, having a saxophone as a key instrument and Clemons an upfront member were vital to this then-tuba player.
"Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," off of "Born to Run," was a story about the beginnings of the E Street Band and of Clemons joining the group, a joyous, upbeat story, but for a while was not paid too much attention with an absolute classic as the title song, possibly the ultimate rock and roll break-our-chains, escape-to-glory song, naturally gaining the spotlight. Clemons' playing on these songs, as well as "Thunder Road" and "Jungleland," grabbed me then and stay with me more than 35 years later.
I never listened to or looked at music the same again after "Born to Run," and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band became one of my all-time favorite musical acts, along with The Clash, Elvis Costello, Sonic Youth, Husker Du, Neil Young and X. The amount of enjoyment, thought and fulfillment I received from the band's music, as well as gaining the viewpoint of not taking the music for granted or to not challenge it when it deserved it, never died in me, and no doubt led in part to me first writing about music more than 30 years ago, and, to my good fortune, still being paid to write about music today.
I was fortunate to have been assigned to review "The Promise: The Making of 'Darkness on the Edge of Town'" recently for Artvoice. A powerful movie on the arduous recording of the followup album to "Born to Run," the film ends on a soaring, evocative cover of "Darkness on the Edge of Town." As it comes to a majestic ending, Springsteen and the band look a bit lonely and desolate, not only because of how fitting that emotion is to the album itself, but because this version of the song was recorded shortly after the death of E Street Band keyboardist Danny Federici in 2008. It was as if the musicians knew that with Federici dead, that this song will never sound and can never really be performed as it should be presented again. With Clemons now dead, the band will probably feel this way more, not just on signature songs such as "Born to Run" and "Badlands," but every song, and may finally mean the end of the E Street Band, at least as a name under which to perform.
It also means another piece in the slow end to my musical innocence, something that part of my mind says has been gone for a long time, but part of me never wants to surrender, still believing in the transformative power of rock and roll to change and improve lives. I will not only still be immensely moved by Clemons' solos on, say, "Born to Run" or "Jungleland," I will appreciate and enjoy them even more.
Peace, Big Man.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

An Oldie But Goodie Poster

This is the kind of stuff one finds when years and years of memories and memorabilia (often a nice way of saying junk) are received/dumped on you. And yes, I mean the poster, not my grim visage.
This Fleshtones concert poster from their July 19, 1983, Buffalo State College show was also the debut show for Nullstadt, then a two-piece (David Kane and Stephen Collins) if I remember correct, or was it a three-piece (Kane,Collins and Donald Kinsman)? I don't remember who did this poster (Michael Graphix? David Meinzer?), so if anyone knows, please drop me a line.
It is one of the posters I have proudly kept over the years and will keep for as long as I remain a music geek and chronicler of sorts of Buffalo's original music community. I have a few more in store for you in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

First Short Story Is DONE

I have wanted to write a short story for reasons other than a college writing assignment for years, and finally, after encouragement from my wife Val, friend/excellent writer Heather Holland Wheaton and others, I succeeded today.
It certainly wasn't easy; while I have been coming up with ideas for a while, I had not been good at writing them down. Instead, I went through them in my head, editing them as I thought about them (something I have done for my music writing for years). Sadly, I have forgotten way too much in good story ideas, dialogue and other fragments.
Indeed, I sat down at the computer after breakfast and some other work to write, having been inspired in the last week or so by Wheaton's reading of her new book "You Are Here" at Talking Leaves Books. But as soon as I opened a file, I came up absolutely, 100 percent blank. After spending too much time staring at the computer screen and my desk, I posted a frustrated status to Facebook, hoping to loosen up my mind and possibly get some inspiration from my friends.
As I read and responded to comments from my friends, I saw an item on my desk, a record and jacket from my late father Edward's collection. One of my ideas hit me clearly, and I started writing. I ended up with a 1,012-word story.
While I don't know if it is going to stay in its original form, whether or not it will be slightly changed, overhauled, lengthened or shortened, whether it is good, bad or mediocre, or way off target, it is done. The next step is for my best editor and critic, my loving wife Val, to read it and give me some feedback.
But I have finally gotten back in the saddle, and I have more ideas and inspiration flowing. I'm looking forward to where this will take me.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Dad's Vinyl Bait and Switch, Part Infinity?

Once again, while cleaning out and sorting my late father Edward's vinyl record collection, my hopes were raised and then lowered by reading and then checking the contents of an album.
One album/collection I recently found has a jacket reading "Vol. 4 This Modern Age" from "The History of Jazz" collection. The still bright green cover has a charcoal drawing apparently based on a session photograph, and the featured artists listed on the front jacket are Billy Butterfield, Benny Carter, Nat (King) Cole, Hank D'Amico, Vic Dickenson, John Guarnieri, Bob Haggart, Coleman Hawkins, Stan Kenton, Baby Lovett, Howard McGhee, Jay McShann, Eddie Miller, Bump Myers, Oscar Moore, Walter Page, Oscar Pettiford, Allan Reuss, Bobby Sherwood, Oliver Todd, Stan Wrightman "and many others." Inside, there are black and white photos of many of the artists listed.
There is no other information on the record jacket, including when it was recorded, but a quick Internet search shows that this and the other three volumes in this series were released by Capitol Records in 1945. Whether or not this record set was/is particularly valuable, it sounds rather interesting.
Of course, the records inside this jacket/cover are not those listed on, but instead there are five Vaughn Monroe and His Orchestra disks, in order front to back: "The Legend of Tiabi," b/w "Cool Water, RCA Victor 20-2923; "The Things We Did Last Summer," b/w "Now More Than Ever," RCA Victor 20-1972; "Rides in the Sky," b/w "Single Saddle," RCA Victor 20-3411; "Matinee," b/w "Someone Who Cares," RCA Victor 20-2671; "Tallahassee," b/w "I Wish I Didn't Love You So," RCA Victor 20-2294.
After seeing these records, I checked the piece of packing tape on the cover, and the faint yellow marker in fact reads "Vaughan Monroe" if you hold it up to the light. Oops. I hope you appreciate the image of this record collection above; I don't know why Photo Booth shoots these images in reverse, and I cannot figure out how to change this, so that is why the image appears like this for now.
I have found way more Vaughn Monroe records in my father's collection than the interest Dad ever expressed to me about him. Another mystery I'll never get answered.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

West Side Encounter

Among the reasons Val and I love living on Buffalo's West Side are the seemingly everyday encounters which provide smiles.
As Walker Evans and I approached the end of our walk this morning, we had crossed Elmwood Avenue coming back home and were on West Utica Street between Ashland and Norwood Avenues. Walker is strolling slower as his arthritis and other conditions progress, but he still enjoys and demands his walks.
As we walked on the sidewalk, a woman came up from behind, just on the street, pulling her two-wheel wire basket cart with several bags in it; she had probably just been to PriceRite down the street.
She noted that Walker seemed to be setting his own pace and taking the walk where and when he wanted to; I laughed and agreed, noting that as he slowed down, he was more determined to go where he wanted to go, and that while our walks have become shorter, he always insists on them.
She then asked me how old he was; I told her Walker was 12 1/2 years old. She smiled and said that he was getting on in years but looked good for his age, and God bless him. She then added, "I see that as he walks slower and more deliberate as you say, that you two are walking exactly alike."
Instead of being offended or confused, I laughed and agreed with her, as she walked to the bus stop. Honestly, a couple of blocks before that, I thought to myself that as our walks went slower, that I was walking more like Walker in these jaunts, slower and with a very determined, small-stepped gait.
But when I go to the library, PriceRite or the pharmacy, I still walk rather fast and use my long stride. Some things never fully change.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Now, It's the Jesus and Mary Chain

I had to run upstairs during the intermission between the third period and overtime in Game 2 of the Vancouver-Boston Stanley Cup Finals to mention the most recent punk/new wave commercial music bed.
As I watched the game on CBC, Hockey Night in Canada, I heard a commercial start with the familiar strummed guitar chord of the Jesus and Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey" in an advertisement for the VW Golf; the original recording, singing included, then kicked in. The man driving the car was apparently trying to find the courage to ask his significant other to marry him.
This is not the first television commercial to use an actual Jesus and Mary Chain recording (neither is an anonymous rerecording); "Happy When It Rains" was used by Chevrolet in advertisements during the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in 2007.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Full Circle Link

I checked this blog's statistics occasionally, mostly to see who is coming to and reading this fine online screed collection.
This morning, I had to smile; someone got here on a search "peter case plimsouls interview" from Newcastle upon Tyne, England, at 4:49 a.m. My maternal grandmother, the late Hilda Connelly (nee Elliott) and her family came from Newcastle upon Tyne, apparently at least some by way of Ireland.