Ok, I've had a decent cry, collected myself, put Tom Petty on the Ipod (that could take a few days or more to finish) and I'm ready to put my thoughts and feelings on screen.
I don't know how you feel about your favorite rock stars, songwriters, musical heroes (Tom Petty was all of these things to me), or if you even have any. I feel a little selfish about my musical heroes. I don't really want to read what some pontificating music journalist in Rolling Stone has to say about Tom Petty. I don't want to read what Wikipedia says about Tom Petty or hear the little local news tribute. Maybe it's just too soon, and that will change.
It's so strange to feel so close to someone you've never met; often a public figure. Maybe this is a sign of my obsessiveness (I prefer to call it passion), but I feel close to my musical heroes. I've had the good fortune to meet and even talk with many (see my Rock Star pics photo album on FB), but even that is a strange feeling. Here I am meeting one of my musical heroes and thinking that I know something about them because of their song lyrics, interviews I've read or watched, and being privileged to watch a tiny piece of their life unfold in the public eye. And I do know something about them unless they are a completely insincere artist. But they know nothing about me. Nothing. They know they've touched, moved, affected many people with their music; enough to thankfully make a living doing what they love (which still takes a lot of hard work).
So when one of my musical heroes passes away, it affects me, sometimes very deeply, especially if it was unexpected or horrific. I still cry any time I am reminded about Buddy Holly's death through reruns of the movies about him or mentions of him in songs or news or documentaries. It's almost as if a friend has died: John Lee Hooker, J.J. Cale, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard are just a few that have passed in my lifetime. If I'm fortunate enough to live that long, I'll see every Rolling Stone (well maybe just 4 out of 5), Joan Jett, Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Willie Nelson and many more pass on. It's just a little strange to imagine a world without Tom Petty. And I will say that again about others. He was young, just finished a tour, and was working on releasing a "Complete Wildflowers" as well as doing an intimate acoustic tour. Damn, I would have loved to have seen him on that tour.
One thing we do have is a sprawling document across various media formats documenting his life and his music, and our memories. I've seen him 8 or 9 times in Maryland, Philadelphia, D.C., and Seattle. I have those memories. I even met Mike Campbell (Petty's wonderfully creative and simple guitar slinging friend and partner since the beginning) after I was lucky enough to see him drop in on a J.J. Cale show at the Triple Door. He just sat on his amp and noodled along while watching Cale be the master that he was. We also have the memories that bring us together. Your memories help me be a little less selfish and realize that my heroes touch others as deeply as me or in different meaningful ways.
Thank you Tom Petty for all that you've given to me, my friends, and the rest of the world. Some days are diamonds, some days are rocks.
And yes, I'm still Learning to Fly. I think I always will be.
The landscape of American Music is littered with broken dreams and rarely heard masterpieces spun by musicians of mesmerizing talent. I can list dozens, maybe hundreds, of examples, just in my own Ipod, of artists and bands with unquestionable talent, soul, passion, and skill whom I'll wager you and probably no one you know have heard of, not to mention all of the albums and songs that fall into the same category. You probably feel the same way about your own music collection and you're probably right. How do all these talented bands fall by the wayside in popular music? How come they never "make it" or get a hit or radio play? Of course, the internet and independent radio stations are changing that some. And yes, many of the artists are still, thankfully, making a living out of music. But still, there are mountains of wonderful, beautiful music out there just waiting for you to discover.
I discovered Carolyn Wonderland maybe in 2002 or 2003 when she played a summer festival in Seattle. She told her manager she wanted to play a small, local venue, and thus she was routed to the Lock & Keel on Ballard Avenue, where I and my then girlfriend, Marina worked at the time. She was small and slight and adorable and humble. She was a fantastic guitar player and performer. She was quite personable and kissed Marina full on the mouth as we were all hanging out at the bar after her blistering set. I bought one CD that night, I believe, Alcohol & Salvation. As is my tendency, I eventually had every album she'd recorded and have enjoyed them all. One song, "Walk On," I used a lot to get kids moving while teaching Music at Maple Elementary School.
The other night July 23rd, 2017, she played at the Triple Door to a maybe 1/3 full room. It was Sunday night, but still. I swear watching her show Sunday, I feel like this must have been what it was like for people to see Jimi Hendrix for the first time. She went from 0 - 100 in the first song, and only went up from there. Her energy and intensity never waivered. I've rarely, if ever, seen anything like it. Maybe she had a particularly good night, but I think passion is her standard. She played like a woman possessed channeling spirits from beyond. The guitar was an extension of her body as she rocked back and forth on her chair (broken toe and sciatic problems) with her eyes closed, wild red hair flying all over the place, especially in her face and every note was intentional, well placed, and soulful. She played with furious speed and unrelenting accuracy, barely ever looking at her guitar as her fingers traversed the length of the neck from frets 0 to 21 seamlessly. Did I mention her singing? She has a powerful voice filled with feeling and passion. Honestly, the only show I can remember rivaling her in intensity and sheer force and passion, is Margo Price. She is also a great songwriter and a great song interpreter playing songs by people ranging from Bob Dylan to friends of hers that she wants to honor and give recognition to. She ends every song with a humble thank you with the slight ducking of her head and a warm smile. If you didn't hear her jokes with the audience and the band, you knew she said something funny by her adorable, raspy, almost childlike little cackle after interacting with her band or the audience.
After the show, she met fans, including me and remembered my story from the Lock & Keel. To make it even between me and Marina, she planted one on me (on the cheek).
Carolyn Wonderland is an absolute jewel in the vast catalogue of American Music. Check her out. She's often found in the blues section in record stores (if your town has any of those and you ever visit them), but of course, she is online as well. If you know me, check out my video posts on FB from the show at the Triple Door Sunday night. I haven't seen anything on YouTube that matches the show I saw, but check her out. Her records are great, her shows are better. And next time you discover a band or musician you just love and no one knows, pass it on. :-)
As a child (10 yrs old) first getting turned onto music, my favorite bands were the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead. I thank my brother for my early musical influences and his friend, Hamza, who turned me onto Chuck Berry and Ike & Tina Turner, soon two of my other favorites. Of course, within this new world of wonder and discovery, the favorites just kept bounding into my life, beginning to shape and mold a love for music stronger than anything I could ever explain. This all lead to, a spider web effect with many of my favorite musical acts turning me onto many others. This has never been more true in my life than with the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead.
As a kid, I didn't know any better. I thought whoever was singing the song, it was there song. For so long I thought "The Boxer" was a Bob Dylan song, "My Girl" was a Rolling Stones song, "Good Golly Miss Molly" a Creedence (later I learned CCR was John Fogerty) song, "Cocaine" an Eric Clapton song, "Call Me the Breeze" a Lynyrd Skynyrd song, and the list goes on and on. Kudos to those artists for making those songs their own and earning boat loads of money (sometimes) for the people who actually wrote (and usually first recorded) the songs.
"Me & Bobby McGhee" in particular, sticks out to me. I thought that was a Grateful Dead song, then I heard Jerry Lee Lewis do it. And really freaking well. Then, I heard the definitive Janis Joplin version which is so good that it got the airplay and everyone knows it by her. I'm not saying this was the procession of my enlightenment, but like many Americans (The Boss and Tom Petty for example) who got their motherland's music handed back to them by the Rolling Stones, I started to did a little deeper. Of course, way back then, you couldn't just type J.J. Cale into the internet and get back a dozen or more other artists you'd also like if you liked him. I started reading the record labels and seeing the names under the song. "I'm Movin' On" didn't say The Glimmer Twins or even Jagger-Richards below it. It said Snow. Hank Snow. Who are all these people writing all these great songs?
Well as I dug deeper into the Grateful Dead (this took a while - I thought all their songs were there own), it really opened my eyes. I'd already started with the Rolling Stones and oh my the discoveries...Elmore James, Marvin Gay, Hank Snow, Chuck Berry (he was a little more obvious), Robert Johnson, Fred McDowell, Robert Wilkins and again, the list goes on. In turn, those artists turned me onto more music. I could have sworn I was not a country music fan as a kid. Here I was listening to The Rolling Stones, CCR, Lynyrd Skynyrd, John Prine, and the Grateful Dead and swearing I didn't like country. Ha!
As I began to look at the labels on Grateful Dead records, I discovered names like J.R. Cash, M. Haggard, E. Cotton, Reverend Gary Davis, Marty Robbins, Jimmy Reed, George Jones and the phenomenal list of legendary American blues and country artists just kept rolling on and on. The Dead covered a LOT of great music, just like the Stones. There is a great collection called "The Music Never Stopped - Roots of the Grateful Dead." The cover art is by R. Crumb and he only gets involved with high class projects. This is a collection of the songs that the Grateful Dead have covered, but by the original artists. It's a wonderful collection and could easily morph into a box set based on all of the material they've done.
I am truly grateful to all the people, famous, not famous, friends & family who have turned me onto good music. Of course, at the time, my brother knew not what he had done in awakening the obsessive monster within. I've said before that if I could have a super power, it (one choice) would be to be able to listen to as many songs as I want all at the same time, coherently. There's just so much music, and so little time.
Finally, if it hadn't been for all of these musical heroes, I never would have badgered my parents for a guitar to replace the baseball bat that I jumped up and down with in front of the mirror pretending to be Keith Richards, and I also never would have started writing songs. Now, these things are the most important things in my life and they define who I am and what I love.
Two excellent Grateful Dead albums with lots of covers and originals are:
The Grateful Dead (Skull and Roses)
So I can't figure out for the life of me how to change that God-awful and way-too-light color font in the title bar above, so...sorry about that.
Today, I want to tell you about Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs. Its odd when I can't remember how or where I first heard an artist that I really like. However, that may be getting more common as I continue to stuff my brain, ears, and computer until beyond boatation. I may have heard them on KEXP, but I'm really not sure at all.
Holy Golightly has quite a few albums out under just her own name (it is her birth name: Holly Golightly Smith). I've gotten 2 from the library and they're ok. From what I've read and sampled online, her "solo" albums vary greatly in genre and production from garage rock, to soul, to lounge, etc. That's great, but not for me (yet). You may want to check those records out as well.
One reason her albums with The Brokeoffs (basically her and bandmate Lawyer Dave under a different pseudonym, as far as I can tell) resonate so much more with me is that they stay in the same vein: country, blues, old timeyish. I say if you got something good, milk it for all it's worth. Turn it inside out and upside down. 'Jumpin' Jack Flash' is just 'Satisfaction' turned around. This is mainly why I've lost interest in Neko Case and Lucinda Williams (they strayed too far from their good thing for me) and not in AC/DC or Chuck Berry (one trick ponies with a lot of mileage behind them).
Holly Golightly and The Brokeoffs are British (at least she is). Another fine example of the Brits interpreting our music and handing it back to us dusted up with style, grace, taste, and the respect that our rich musical heritage deserves.
So yes, they cover songs that they didn't write and they do them well, but they are also fine songwriters in their own rite and have a knack for writing songs that sound like they were written 100 years ago and have been in the American lexicon all along and are now newly rediscovered even though they sound so familiar.
They couch their songs in a comfort that can only be found in spare, tasteful arrangements and simple production. They create jangly, spooky, yet luring atmosphere with a lot of fairly simple slide guitar and beautiful harmonies. Not beautiful like today's music icons. Beautiful like the Carter Family singing quietly at your bedside as you doze off to sleep (but with far more irreverent lyrics). And they use them a lot. When the two of them sing together, there is a very plain and lovely magic in what they come up with. They just sound right together. But they also know how to rock, how to swagger, how to lope, how to groove. They just got that little sumpin' sumpin' that is truly special.
Lastly I love their album titles. They're hilarious. I have the ones with an *.
You Can't Buy a Gun When You're Crying *
Nobody Will Be There*
Dirt Don't Hurt*
No Help Coming
Sunday Run Over Me
All Her Fault*
Coulda Shoulda Woulda
Here's a taste. but check out more on your own! :-) And let me know what you think!
I have been obsessively listening to and collecting music since 1980 when I was 10 years old. I fell in love with my brothers Rolling Stones records and the train still hasn't stopped. The Rolling Stones turned me onto blues, soul, country, reggae, and more and more rock & roll. Those of you who know me know that when I get into something and am passionate about it, I go all out. Much of my life has been centered around music: listening to it, collecting it, writing it, playing it, and sharing it.
I have made mix tapes for the bar where I bartended, given away mix tapes at my birthday or going away parties, given the remains of my tape collection to a restaurant who swears to play them, been a radio DJ for an hour sharing rarities, paid the toll for the car behind me and given a mix tape to the attendant to pass back to that same car behind me, given away mix tapes to people I met on my travels while on the road (from the cute bartender at the Hideout in Chicago to a campsite in Utah) made mix tapes and CDs for friends and girlfriends. That's how I am. I love music, and I love sharing it.
So, what to share? I have well over 34,000 songs in my Ipod, over 2,000 CDs, and far more than that in my computer. I obsessively buy music, receive music as gifts, and borrow music from the library. Often, while listening to a song, I'll literally be bursting with the desire to share this with someone who may appreciate it as much as I do. So this blog will be my ramblings and musings about music: songs, artists, albums, eras, books, movies, live shows, history, corrections (who wrote that song?), personal stories, odd little facts, whatever comes to mind. I will not commit to a consistent schedule, but I will write when I feel like it and work toward at least once a week. Obviously, this will start off with me posting pretty often, as the idea is fresh and exciting, and may waiver as time goes on. Hopefully, some audience participation will fuel more excitement on my part.
So here goes: Post #1
I am listening to Dan Baird now and have the first CD by one of his former bands currently in the car CD player. You may have heard of his first band; The Georgia Satellites. Remember that great video for the one big hit, "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" with the band playing on the back of a truck rolling down the road and the narrative from the song being interspersedly (I also make up words) acted out throughout the video? Yeah, that song kicked ass and so did the Georgia Satellites. I saw them (in 1987?) on the Rock & Roll Caravan Tour where they took the middle set between the Del Fuegos and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.
They went on to record a few more records. There sophomore attempt (Open All Night) was ok, not great and their 3rd album (In The Land of Salvation and Sin) is really good. BTW, their first album (self titled)? Fantastic all the way through. Highlights Include "Battleship Chains" and "Railroad Steel."
So what happened to Dan Baird; writer, singer, guitar player of the Satellites? He moved to Europe where people truly appreciate American Music and show it by spending money, going to shows, dancing, and being generally excited. This is why several of his solo albums (some made with the band Homemade Sin) retail for $15+ and rarely show up used on Amazon or in my favorite hunting grounds, used record (CD) stores. But his first two solo albums (I believe) were cut in the U.S. and you can find them used sometimes. You can also go to his website and buy any of them new and he gets all of the money.
The one album I'd like to recommend is "Love Songs For the Hearing Impaired." That had another hit you may have heard, "I Love You Period." Well the rest of the album is one raucous guitar driven, balls out, no holds barred ride through true American rock & roll with country and blues influences. The songs are catchy, well written, and just flat out rock. My favorites are "Knocked Up" and "Julie and Lucky." Get that CD or buy it digitally where you buy music. It is the most accessible of his solo albums, but it may turn you on enough to dig a little deeper. So I'll stop there to leave you more of his music to discover on your own. Thanks for reading! Until next time...
I have recently started making YouTube video Guitar lessons.
I plan to get better equipment, but for now, here is a link to my channel:
You can also:
Go to YouTube
Go to Braintwang
Select the folder titled Braintwang Guitar Lessons
Please subscribe and ask questions, request lessons, and offer feedback and suggestions!
I look forward to hearing how I can better serve your guitar playing needs!
I'm very excited to announce Braintwang Guitar Instructions' 3rd Student Recital!
When: Sunday - October 30th
Where: Grumpy D's Coffee in Ballard
7001 NW 15th Ave
What Time: Noon - 1
James has been with me since the beginning; since I started teaching private guitar lessons, three years ago. In that time, his skills and guitar playing interests have grown exponentially and now, into areas out of my reach. James is becoming what, in the world of guitar playing, is commonly known as a "shredder." I am proud to have gotten James started and to have been a part of his journey thus far. There are still areas in which I can support him and help him improve his playing, but his guitar playing interests now lie outside of my own skill set. The student has become the teacher. Rock on, James!
I am very excited to announce BrainTwang's first student performance on June 28th at Grumpy D's Coffee in Ballard. It will be cozy and intimate with three students performing two or more songs each. Please see the flyer below for all the details!