Archive for June, 2010

I Was Born This Very Morning Singing This Here Song – Happy Birthday Todd Rundgren

Posted in Uncategorized on June 22, 2010 by pulmyears

Todd Harry Rundgren was born June 22 1948 in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, and almost immediately became enamored with recorded sound via the meager album collection of his parents, Harry and Ruth, which consisted largely of show tunes and symphonic pieces. Harry had even built his own hi-fi system, with his bare hands; a feat that surely made an impression on the young Todd. As a result of this exposure, he and younger brother Robin, and sisters June and Lynette were granted early immersion into the symphonic language of Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, and Gustav Holst, along with the musical theatre stylings of Richard Rodgers, Leonard Bernstein and, significantly, the operettas of Gilbert & Sullivan.

By the time he was 16, Rundgren had grown as attracted to music and records as he was alienated from his domestic life and family. Music had been a logical avenue of expression for Rundgren since the age of eight, when he had taken some guitar lessons after a less-than-successful dalliance with the flute. He had started on his father’s disused guitar, which he found hidden in the basement, but eventually broke the thing trying to tune it with a pair of pliers. Next, he acquired a cheap Japanese electric guitar, but no amplifier, but that was lost when the naïve youngster had lent it to a stranger whom he never saw again. By 17, Rundgren was ready to make his first steps on the path to musical expression when he and his best friend Randy Reed put together, with Randy’s younger brother,  a makeshift band they called Money.

“We used Randy’s tape recorder to record our meager performances,” Todd told me last year, in interviews that will appear in my book A Wizard A True Star: Todd Rundgren In The Studio (Jawbone Press, October 2010). “I remember one evening when the three of us went down to Lower Broad Street, where the Cameo Parkway Records offices and studios were. It was kind of Philadelphia’s label, and it was the only label we were aware of. It was the golden era of the dance craze song and they all came out of the Cameo Parkway Studios.”

By 1966, the 18-year-old  Rundgren left home to take a serious stab at being a professional musician. He packed a few belongings into an old typewriter case and boarded a bus to Ocean City, on the New Jersey shore where he met a drummer named Joe DiCarlo, who took him to see a local band called Woody’s Truck Stop. Having learned that the band would be playing later that same weekend at the Artists’ Hut, back in Philadelphia, Rundgren and DiCarlo introduced themselves and somehow wrangled themselves into positions in the group.

“By then,” Todd recalls, “I was able to play a convincing slide guitar, which nobody in the band presently did, so they agreed to let me in because it made the line-up of the band an exact duplicate of the Paul Butterfield Band. Over the course of weeks, we became like the hottest thing there.””

Rundgren says he was advanced a little money from Woody’s Truck Stop to pay down his first serious guitar, a used gold top Les Paul with ‘soap bar’ pickups, which he found in a pawnshop on Philadelphia’s notorious South Street. “It was still a borderline neighborhood then,” he says. “All pimp clothes, hock shops, and luncheonettes. I got the thing for $85. I don’t think the guy in the store knew how much it was really worth.”

With increased live work, Rundgren began to show real talent on the slide guitar, but as he became a sensation within the band, tensions developed between himself and bandleader Alan Miller. “People would come to see me,” Todd told me, “and I think he was also pissed off that I was considered ‘cuter’ in those days. We kind of became the most popular band in town and we had enough gigs to be making some money so that was enough at the time. I mean, we probably thought it would be great to make a record but we were doing mostly cover songs. How were we ever going to get to make a record?”

Of course, he did get to make his own records, first with Nazz and then his first solo album, Runt.

Chomping at the bit on that album, Rundgren created a nine minute song/suite, a sampler of styles, that is still as stunning as anything he (or anyone else) has ever done. The song was called “Birthday Carol” and it is used in this birthday video created by longtime Rundgren videographer, Ed Vigdor.

“Birthday Carol” by Todd Rundgren

I was born this very morning

And my brother he was also born,

In our first nine months we learned to speak

And we have been listening since early morn.

I love no one but my brother

Who spent those months with me

I hate no one and no other has so far hated me

But it isn’t yet the afternoon,

And things are still to be,

And when evening comes we all will see.

I am not very old and I won’t live long.

I was born this very morning singing this here song

Where The Streets Have New Names

Posted in Uncategorized on June 22, 2010 by pulmyears

“Somewhere In America (There’s A Street Named After My Dad)” - Was (Not Was)

I recently heard that in South Africa, in anticipation of the World Cup, the makers of tourist maps were freaking because, since the end of Apartheid, so many of the streets had had their Afrikaner or Dutch colonial names replaced by more African sounding names. It was a nuisance, yet it was still worth doing, because street names matter, and let’s face it, slave names are such a Boer. Ask people here in the San Francisco area old enough to remember when Cesar Chavez was called Army Street, some people still call it that. Around the world, you see, one of the highest compliments we can pay someone in our society is to rename a street after them. I ruminated on this all day, read a few online articles, raided a few peoples Flick’r and Photobucket pages (and asked for help from some Facebook friends), and here’s a few that I found.

I had started with Joey Ramone Place, in New York, named after the late Ramones front man.

And that street in Oklahoma City named after The Flaming Lips, Flaming Lips Alley

Then I remembered Paul Shaffer Drive in Thunder Bay

These two don’t really count…

Mathew Street in Liverpool is unofficially named Beatle Street.


I’m sure the Sex Pistols singer Johnny Rotten had nothing to with London’s Rotten Row,

nor did Pink Floyd have anything to do with Wall Street.


There are, however, actual streets named after The Beatles, in their hometown of Liverpool: John Lennon Drive, Paul McCartney Way, George Harrison Close and Ringo Starr Drive.

Dave Foster suggested Frank Sinatra Drive in Hoboken…

And I then found on in Las Vegas

and one in Rancho Mirage near Palm Springs, where Sinatra had a home.

There’s a street in Nigeria, named after Jay Z


Joanne Huffa reminded me about Run DMC – JMJ Way in Hollis, Queens.

David Macmillan sent in Paul Anka Drive (Picture not available)

Max Hutchinson suggested David Grohl Alley in Warren, Ohio, named thusly for the Foo Fightin’ Nirvana drummer.

and Max also reminded me of Roy Acuff Place and Chet Atkins Place, both in Nashville, Tennessee. (no pictures found).

Shauna Kennedy suggested a few, such as Les Paul Parkway in Waukesha, Wisconsin…

as well as  Tom Petty Road in Dickson, TN (photo not found), Muddy Waters Drive in Pflugerville, Texas (photo not found)  Jimi Hendrix Way, in Bellingham, WA and   Bachman Turner Drive in Cadiz, Kentucky. On that last note, Alison Spratt told me of a Bachman Rd, in Winnipeg (Photo not found).

Thanks for Dick Clark Street, Nashville, Loyd Elmore, but I couldn’t find a photo.

I did find one of Korn Row, in Bakersfield, California, though…

AC/DC Lane, Melbourne, Australia

And thanks, Scott McKnight, but I didn’t find pics of Presley Rd., Presley Pl., and Elvis Ln., Lanham, MD, outside of DC but I did find this one of Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis.

Stewart Mason tells me that the intersection of Mass Ave and Brookline Street in Cambridge was renamed Mark Sandman Square after Morphine’s fallen leader.

Garry Nordenstam suggested Bob Dylan Way in Duluth, Minnesota, and I found a picture of that…

but while I didn’t find one of Utopia Drive in Miramar, Florida, I did find one of Utopia Parkway, New York.

Which is also, of course on the cover of the album Utopia Pkwy by Fountains of Wayne…

Speaking of  New York, last year, U2 had Mayor Bloomberg temporarily rename a section of West 53rd Street U2 Way.


Apparently the legendary Irish guitarist Rory Gallagher is well represented too, there’s a Rue Rory Gallagher in Paris, a Rory Gallagher Place in Cork City, Ireland, Rory Gallagher Corner in Dublin, Impasse Rory Gallagher in Vaucluse, France.

According to a story in the Guardian,  13 streets it in Dartford, Kent, UK were renamed in honour of the town’s famous sons, The Rolling Stones. Apparently, these include Little Red Walk, Satisfaction Street, Angie Mews, Babylon Close, Stones Avenue, Dandelion Row, Lady Jane Walk, Cloud Close, Rainbow Close, Black Boulevard, Start Street, Sympathy Street and Ruby Tuesday Drive. The Guardian quoted Leader of the council, Jeremy Kite, saying he “thought Ruby Tuesday Drive sounded a “fantastic” place to live. It is a very groovy development – a very modern, creative community and I think people will enjoy the street names. We are very proud of the Rolling Stones and it is a little bit of our history we can celebrate.”

Every city seems to have a Main Street though…

Okay, finally, Bruce Springsteen has always been so loved in his native New Jersey that they named a street after him, BEFORE he named his band…

OKAY FOLKS, KEEP EM COMING – HERE IN MY COMMENTS SECTION – SEND ME YOUR BAND OR MUSICIAN NAMED STREETS AND BOULEVARDS AND BY ALL MEANS SEND PICTURES!

My Pilgrimage To Macca (Happy Birthday Sir Paul!)

Posted in Uncategorized on June 18, 2010 by pulmyears

Today, June 18, is Paul McCartney’s 68th  birthday.

This is where I usually trot out a Wikipedia file of facts about the man. You know: “Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE (born 18 June 1942) is an English singer-songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, entrepreneur, record and film producer, poet, painter, and animal rights activist. Formerly of The Beatles and Wings, according to Guinness World Records, McCartney is the most successful songwriter in the history of popular music…” blah, blah, blah.

I might go on to add that, after leaving The Beatles, McCartney is considered the “most successful musician and composer in popular music history”, with 60 gold discs and sales of 100 million singles in the UK.” Or add that “BBC News named “Yesterday” the most covered song in history—by over 2,200 artists and, according to the BBC, has been played more than 7,000,000 times on American television and radio. Wings’ 1977 single “Mull of Kintyre” became the first single to sell more than two million copies in the UK, and remains the UK’s top selling non-charity single. Based on the 93 weeks his compositions have spent at the top spot of the UK chart, and 24 number one singles to his credit, McCartney is the most successful songwriter in UK singles chart history. As a performer or songwriter, McCartney was responsible for 32 number one singles on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, and has sold 15.5 million RIAA certified albums in the US alone.” I could remind you that he is one of Britain’s wealthiest men, (estimated fortune of £750 million) and his publishing and entertainment company, MPL Communications owns the copyrights to more than 3,000 songs, including those of his childhood hero Buddy Holly, and stage musicals such as Guys and Dolls, A Chorus Line, and Grease.  I’ve got all sorts of other facts, here, about his charitable work and social cause awareness raising activities around the world, his work for animal rights, vegetarianism, autism and music education, his work to ban land mines, seal hunting, and to elimnate Third World debt.

But today, I’d prefer to share a personal story about the time I shook his hand.

It was February 13, 1993 in New York City, right after the taping of episode 339 of Saturday Night Live , hosted that week by Alec Baldwin, with musical guest Paul McCartney, who was at the time promoting his newest album, Off The Ground.

Full disclosure, and forgive me if you’ve heard this before, but my brother Mike was an SNL cast member at the time and as a result, I was able to fly down from Toronto (where I lived at the time) and check out the show pretty much whenever I wanted to. This was handy when the musical guest was someone I really wanted to see and or meet. I’ll never forget the first time I got to see Elvis Costello singing “Let Him Dangle” and “Veronica”, me up front, sitting in the swivel chairs at 8H to get a great view, or walking past a stairwell backstage and hearing diminutive Annie Lennox doing some warmup scales, the sound resonating through the entire area. Needless to say, when Mike told me that Paul McCartney was going to be the musical guest for the February 13th show, I made sure I was able to get down there. Adding to the fun, I was granted a couple of hard to obtain extra passes, so I invited my friend Richard Crouse and his then girlfriend to come with me down to NYC. The show was fun to watch, Alec Baldwin was then a slim youngish leading man known more for dramatic lead roles (his comedic skills were not as deeply tapped at the time) so it was still a revelation to see him nail the comedy. Our first glimpse of McCartney was the sketch before the first musical number, appearing as Chris Farley’s guest on The Chris Farley Show sketch. As you watch this, remember that I’m sitting about 9 feet away from them, behind the camera, off to the right.

After a commercial break,  McCartney and his band (featuring Linda McCartney, Robbie McIntosh, Wix, Hamish Stuart and drummer Blair Cunningham ambled out on to the right side stage where the bands perform. I was in a swivel chair on 8H (as opposed to the 9th floor bleachers) so I could get the best look, my closest ever to a Beatle. After a brief intro from Baldwin, the band opened with “Get Out Of My Way”. Here’s something I found on YouTube of the REHEARSAL for that, from earlier in the day…

After Weekend Update with Kevin Nealon, there were about five more sketches before McCartney’s second song, “Biker Like An Icon.” Here’s a different live version of from a TV special, Up Close, aired the year before.

But the moment I’ll never forget was when Paul closed the show, sitting at the big black grand piano to sing “Hey Jude” joined by his band. Since the grand piano was further upstage, I was now about five feet from it, almost the same view I’d only seen in the Let It Be movie, some twenty years earlier. I thought maybe this was my own personal moment, no one else could be on the verge of tears like me, no one else could have felt that time stood still, no one else felt the goosebumps. But I was way wrong. I looked back to see my brother, still in makeup and standing in the back of 8H near Lorne Michaels and the crew, he was crying but we both smiled like we knew this was so real that it was unreal. Then I noticed Sting and Trudi Styler off behind the bleacher stands, and was that Jon Bon Jovi? Hey, there’s Bill Murray! They’ve all come home to hear this. It was – and my apologies to all organized faiths – religious. The Beatles may not have really been bigger than God, as John Lennon once quipped, but then God didn’t write “Hey Jude.”

After every SNL show, there’s a private after show party, usually held at a restaurant or bar in Manhattan. Being with a cast member, I was allowed to go. Sitting at my table, probably having a few drinks but feeling neither drunk nor sober, I glanced around the room. Some of the females at the table swooned as Alec Baldwin, leading man handsome, came by the table to say hello to Mike. But I was craning my neck looking for Paul. Then I saw he and Linda over at a booth, they were talking to, no it can’t be! Allen Ginsberg! Really!  Two of “the best minds of my generation,” (or the generation just before mine) seated at one booth. I felt like I was in a historical novel. I was so proud of my brother’s talent and so grateful that he could share this moment with me. I don’t think I’ve ever felt the way I felt that night.

Earlier in the week, Mike had told me about a rehearsal where Paul had spoken with Mike and, since our parents are from Liverpool, they had talked about the old country and our relatives and stuff like that. Mike had told Paul and Linda about our father Eric Myers, a transplanted Scouser who had moved to Toronto with my mum in the late 50s and raised three boys there. Dad had died of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease the year before. Paul had lost his father too (albeit in 1976) and conveyed his empathy to Mike. Mike told Paul that our family always considered The Beatles family, even though we are not related in the slightest. Unlike my aunties, uncles and cousins from over ‘ome, however, I had yet to actually meet anyone from the Beatle side of the family. Now was my chance.

(not from the actual evening depicted in story)

As Paul & Linda made their way out of the restaurant, they table hopped and said their goodbyes to various cast members and to Lorne, their host. Stopping by our table, my brother seized the moment and, turning to McCartney, he said “Paul, this is my brother Paul who I was telling you about!” The Fab one reached out his hand to shake mine. I was dazed – I was shaking a Beatle hand. I noted, to myself,  that he had guitar player’s callouses on his finger tips. ‘Beatle callouses,’ I thought. The callouses that came from writing the “Paperback Writer” riff or the bass line from George’s “Taxman.”

“Sorry to hear about your Dad,” Paul McCartney said to ME, completely transforming what could have been a generic meet and greet (for him) into an intimate family moment. I don’t know about you, but it’s not every day that one of the greatest composers of the 20th century utters his condolences to me over the loss of a loved one . Suddenly, I had a lump in my throat.”You have no idea what this moment means to me I croaked out, “I’m a huge fan.” Then, smiling and feeling a little self-conscious about the tripping out, I added “Can you tell?”

“Yeah,” he said, half-laughing at the self-awareness, “You have that look in your eyes.” It wasn’t nasty, or a put-down, it’s just a fact. He was in the daily business of meeting people for whom the moment was sacred. He knows the drill, no more, no less. Like the Pope. Then Paul turned and said to Linda, “Hey Linda, this is Paul, Mike’s brother, remember he was telling us about him!” I’m not gonna lie, that kind of blew my mind. Noticing me, Linda swiveled around and leaned in to kiss me on the cheek. I didn’t know what to do, so I leaned in to kiss her and ended up smacking her on the lips. Awkward. “Thank god there was no tongue,” I thought to myself, “her being a vegetarian and all.” We all laughed at the awkwardness of the moment and I think I just pointed to my head in that swirling motion used universally to indicate that one is, you know, “kookoo for Cocoa Puffs”.   Smiles all around, though, and they kept moving to the front where they were ushered into waiting vehicle and then… they were gone.

Perhaps for Paul & Linda, it was just Another Day,

For me it was probably one of the greatest moments of my entire life.

Anyway, Paul, Happy Birthday!

Thanks for reading The Pulmyears Music Blog, written by Paul Myers. As usual, send any questions, comments or perhaps today your own stories of meeting a Beatle, to the COMMENTS section below.

“Well, in 1941, a happy father had a son…” Happy Birthday Harry Nilsson

Posted in Uncategorized on June 15, 2010 by pulmyears

Happy Birthday Harry Nilsson! (June 15, 1941 – January 15, 1994)

The man may have passed on to the great recording studio in the sky, but here among the living, Nilsson’s spirit has never been felt more strongly. Everywhere I turn, I hear his influence in contemporary alternative songwriters, and barring that, I hear artists who sound nothing like him claiming Nilsson as an archetype for their own music. Since his death, on January 15, 1994, Nilsson’s legend has only grown and today he’s one of the prime names to drop, along with Nick Drake or Brian Wilson or if we’re digging deep, Serge Gainsbourg or The Zombies’ Odessey And Oracle. How fitting for an L.A. legend who was actually born in Hipsterville, USA – Brooklyn, New York – on June 15, 1941.

Beginning his recording career in 1966, with  Spotlight on Nilsson, Harry continued to toil away at his bank clerk gig and his only early success came via covers of his tunes by the like of Glen Campbell, the Shangri-Las, the Yardbirds and even Fred Astaire. In 1967, he moved to RCA and released a landmark record called Pandemonium Shadow Show, which might have gone unnoticed had it not impressed one Derek Taylor, the Beatles ocean hopping press associate who is said to have heard “1941″ on his car radio waiting for his wife at the supermarket, and loved it so much he ordered a whole carton of Pandemonium, sending them out to various industry people including many influential friends, some of whom were Beatles. Here’s a clip of Harry on the BBC doing “1941″:

Beatles endorse Harry Nilsson (a photo simulation)

The Fabs must have been also flattered at Nilsson’s Beatles medley on “You Can’t Do That” (featuring 22 Beatles songs!) along with his cover of  “She’s Leaving Home”, because when Lennon and McCartney were asked who their favourite new artist was, (at their Apple Records announcement press conference in 1968), they told the reporters, simply “Nilsson.”

The Monkees covered Nilsson’s “Cuddly Toy” soon after, on the suggestion of a mutual friend, producer Chip Douglas, and Nilsson left the bank job forever.  Nilsson made this demo expressly for Davy Jones to sing:

Rarely playing live, Nilsson preferred the magic world of the recording studio, where he could layer his voice and control the sonic environment. In 1968, he made the album Aerial Ballet, which featured one of my favourite songs: “Good Old Desk”:

Aerial Ballet also debuted Nilsson’s aching cover of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’”, which gained more attention as the theme from John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy (starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight). That single went top ten and earned Harry his first Grammy.

Another Aerial Ballet song, “One,” was covered, to great success, by Danny Hutton’s band Three Dog Night. Here’s Nilsson’s though:

ABC soon asked him to write the theme for their popular TV series The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, starring Bill Bixby and Brandon Cruz.

Harry, released in 1969, featured his cover of Randy Newman’s “Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear” and he was reportedly so enamoured of Newman’s writing that, the following year, he asked Newman to play piano on an album devoted to his songs, Nilsson Sings Newman. Here’s an audio only clip of Newman’s “Love Story” as sung by our Harry:


Many people my age first got Nilsson fever after the animated TV movie, The Point!, directed by Fred Wolf, in the winter of 1971, and the songs from The Point! album became a hit, largely on the back of the catchy radio single, “Me and My Arrow.”



Working with producer Richard Perry in the UK, later that year, Nilsson released Nilsson Schmilsson, on which Harry made the Pete Ham and Tom Evans song “Without You” his own, becoming more widely known than Ham’s own version with Badfinger.

Here’s a rare demo version of that:

He followed it with a tropically themed novelty song called “Coconut”, a meditation on one chord (a C 7).

While the third single, “Jump into the Fire”, did well enough, it’s now better known for being included on Scorsese’s soundtrack to Goodfellas.

With three hot singles, he rushed out the followup, Son of Schmilsson in 1972, which didn’t connect as well as its predecessor but still featured the charting single, “Spaceman”. The downward spiral, commercially, continued with the Derek Taylor produced  A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night (1973), featuring orchestral versions of standards by Irving Berlin and others, arranged by Gordon Jenkins.

He soon moved back to California, where among other things he played the role of drinking buddy for John Lennon’s famous lost weekend period in L.A. (when Lennon was estranged from Yoko and dating May Pang). Their ejection from the Troubadour (after creating a scene at a Smothers Brothers gig there) made headlines, but the time also resulted in the two making the Pussy Cats album together. Nilsson had injured his voice during the binging and while he was back in form for 1975 Duit on Mon Dei and  subsequent 1976 albums  Sandman and…That’s the Way It Is. After 1977′s Knnillssonn was delivered, it got lost in the shuffle over at RCA after the death of  the label’s most golden of geese, Elvis Presley. When the label put out a Nilsson Greatest Hits collection without his approval, Nilsson bailed on RCA.

The next few years were quiet as far as public visibility was concerned, but after Lennon was brutally murdered by some meaningless idiot, on December 8, 1980, Harry became active in the gun control lobby and when he contributed a cover of “Zip A Dee Doo Dah” to Hal Willner’s Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films. in 1988, he is said to have donated his fees to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. He also did similar charitable work for Pediatric AIDS in the Los Angeles area.

Nilsson’s final live performance is believed to have been in Las Vegas, on September 1, 1992, onstage with Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band at Caesar’s Palace, where he performed “Without You” with Todd Rundgren taking the high notes.  His voice and his general health had diminished due to all the excesses of the 70s and 80s, and he suffered one more indignity when it was discovered that he had been swindled by a financial advisor, leaving him insolvent at the time of his premature death in 1994.

His financial adviser embezzled most of his fortune leaving him in considerable debt just prior to his death. Still, he stumbled forward, and after he had suffered a massive heart attack in 1993, and perhaps sensing his own imminent demise, he struggled to get together an anthology/ retrospective set, which was slated to include a brand new, and final, recording with producer Mark Hudson. On January 15, 1994, after his last vocal was cut  Nilsson’s heart failed for the last time at his home in Agoura Hills, CA. Personal Best, an anthology, came out a year after his death.

In 2006, David Leaf and John Schienfeld’s documentary, Who is Harry Nilsson? (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him, featured interviews with of Nilsson’s friends, colleagues and extended family discussing the highs and lows of his unique life and career.

Happy Birthday Harry, wherever you are. I picture your ghost, in a terry cloth bath robe near a grand piano, singing like your life and death depended on it.  That’s just me. Anyway, thanks for the songs, which is, I guess, The Point of this tribute. Remember?

Sister Golden Hair, Surprise!

Posted in Uncategorized on June 14, 2010 by pulmyears

10-sister-golden-hair (click to take you to a Soundcloud link of Sister Golden Hair).

According to some website I just went to, on this day in music history, June 14, 1975,  the pop song “Sister Golden Hair” by America went to the top the charts and although it only lasted a week, the song kind of cemented America’s reputation as bankable radio stars. Here’s a live version on Burt Sugarman’s Midnight Special

Since I no longer believe in the term “guilty pleasure” I will search for a new term to explain my qualified pronouncement of this song as a classic. Produced by George Martin, and written by Gerry Beckley (who along with Dewey Bunnell and Dan Peek, formed the core trio of America), the song was a breakout from their fifth album, Hearts (a lot of their albums from this era had one word titles beginning with the letter H).

All three were the children of American soldiers but grew up in London, where the eventually picked up some acoustic guitars, and took a decidedly Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young sound, especially on their debut single, “A Horse With No Name.” With its impenetrable lyrics, and Neil Youngish lead vocal, that song created an image of the band that was apparently at odds with their mid-Atlantic influences; while they did love the California sound of the Beach Boys they were equally influenced by The Beatles, which is why after three albums they went ahead and hired George Martin himself to produce them. Their first collaboration, the album Holiday, yielded instant results  such as “Tin Man”, by Dewey Bunnell, which climbed to #4, and “Lonely People”  which got to #5, and fully merged the Neil Young vocal style with a Beach Boys/ Beatles blend that they had sought in the first place, it even had strains of “Take It Easy” by the Eagles. Radio went nuts.

“I was aware,”  Bunnell told Rolling Stones’ David Rensin, in November 1973, “that I sounded like Neil Young on ‘Horse With No Name’, but I never put anything on. In fact, now I try to use a different voice so that I won’t be branded as a rip-off. It’s such a drag, though, to have to not sound like someone when you can’t help it in the first place. A voice is a voice, right?”

“All of our musical landmarks came before CSN&Y,” added Gerry Beckley, in the Rolling Stone piece. “I remember buying their album and getting off, but nothing’s really excited me since the Beatles and the Beach Boys.”

The band flew to Sausalito, north of San Francisco, to record their fifth album Hearts (their second with Martin) which was released in March of 1975.  “Sister Golden Hair” opened with a chunky acoustic guitar strum against a doubled slide guitar figure that was clearly influenced by the intro of George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.” The backing vocals on the choruses, however, are pure Brian Wilson/Beach Boys. The song shot up to number one despite no one being really sure what the song was about. Was it really about his “sister”? Was it about an African American woman with a blond wig? Was it about a nun?  Like most hit singles by the band that once sang about “Plants and birds and rocks and things…” the meaning was left wide open to interpretation. Beckley will only say that it’s “all poetic license. With ‘Sister Golden Hair,’ as far as my folks were concerned, I was writing a song about my sister, and I couldn’t quite fathom it; they must not have listened to the lyrics.”

On a lighter note, a visit to Songfacts.com, produces a plethora of mostly wrong assumptions about the origins of the song, sent in by fans.  Here’s a light sampling:

“I always thought the song was about how he had messed up a relationship. He had left his girlfriend and left town for a while “I’ve been too too hard to find” but he is back now and wants to patch things up “but it doesn’t mean you ain’t been on my mind”. He tried faking that he didn’t need her but he can’t live without her. He wants her to meet him in the middle to show she still cares about him and can forgive him. As for the altar bit, it’s not about leaving her at the altar, he feels too guilty and depressed (about what he has done to this woman) to go to church on Sunday (to confess his sins).” – Cedar, Perry, OK

“I always took the Golden Hair Surprise lyrics to refer to the fact that her head was NOT covered in blonde hair and that perhaps she was a brunette or redhead, but other, um, parts of her were in fact Golden Haired.” – Robert, Austin, TX

“Well I tried to make it Sunday but I got so damned depressed that I set my sights on Monday and I got myself undressed” I take this to mean that the guy is imagining his wedding day with this girl and it scares him and then he “sets his sights on Monday”‘ (the day after) it hopes that afterwards would be manageable. He is getting himself undressed after a day of work or whatever.” – Michael, Omaha, NE

“My take, is a man who finds out the women he loves is a man, hence the surprise. Also a women sure can be a friend of mine, reference to male friendship, not mutual consented sex…just thinking…” – Keith, centerport, NY

“…the singer likes this golden haired girl a lot, but he isn’t sexually attracted to her. She wants a serious relationship with all the trappings, possibly leading to the altar, but the singer doesn’t want that at all. He loves her like a sister, and he needs her in his life. But he can’t manage a sexual relationship with her, and he’s quite frank about it ( “I tried to fake it. I don’t mind saying, I just can’t make it.”) What he wants is for her to love him a little, not a lot, just enough so he knows she really cares. In turn he will offer his devoted friendship, but nothing beyond that. The key word is “Sister”. This is not a reference to a nun, but a reference to the nature of his ideal relationship with her.” – Al, Baltimore, MD

“OBVIOUSLY – the song is about finding out that Sister Golden Hair is a dude – SURPRISE! …” – Dona, Ladysmith, MN

“No. NO. NO. Sister Golden Hair is the real life story of a young man (Beckley) not ready for the altar (military service) looking out the window at his beautiful golden haired sister who is playing in the sandbox in the yard and knowing may miss her become a beautiful young woman. If you look at the album cover you will see the story illustrated. The house on the cover is the back of their home in Norcross Georgia. Her hair today is just as golden as the song describes.” – Paul, Carrollton, GA

“Okay I have taken into consideration the masturbation theory, but really, who can masturbate when they’re depressed, right? Anyway, seriously, he “tried to make it Sunday and got so damned depressed” because he can’t see her…” – Cristina, st. louis, MO

“Alright Everyone. I think that we are letting our selves get carried away just a little bit. First off, the song is not about someone who is masturbating. There is one line that could refer to this and that is the line that says he got undressed. That doesn’t make sense if you take it in context. Superseding that line he says he was depressed. This is why he got undressed. What that means is that he was just too sad to get out of the house to see her, and that seeing her hurt too much, so he got undressed and got back into bed. Second, the song is not about a nun. Just because he uses the word sister doesn’t mean it’s a nun. Nowhere in the song does it refer to A. Catholic School or Church. B. The context of the song isn’t about forbidden love. If it was he would probably use those words or something like it. The song refers to a love that for some reason did or did not work. Third, the song is not about his sister. He uses the term sister golden hair, as a poetic way of saying a heavenly girl that is blonde. Yes he uses the term sister as in the meaning of nun. It doesn’t mean she is a nun it means she is of that status. She is pure. It’s like calling her an angel. He even is quoted as saying that his parents thought it was about his sister and they must not have read the lyrics. The song is truly about two lovers that became friends. He regrets this and wants what he has back. He was suppose to meet her on Sunday as a “friend” but it was too hard. “ Well I tried to make it sunday, but I got so damn depressed That I set my sights on monday and I got myself undressed” The second part is that he is telling her he just wants to date her again, he isn’t asking for marriage. Then under his breath he says but I do agree theres times because in his heart he really does want to marry her. “I aint ready for the altar but I do agree there’s times” The next part says that she was a good friend even if not a lover. That the friendship made him realize how much she meant to him. “When a woman sure can be a friend of mine” Then he goes on to say how much he loves her. “Well, I keep on thinkin bout you, sister golden hair surprise And I just can’t live without you; can’t you see it in my eyes?” Next he apologizes for being a bad listener. Part of the reason they broke up was that he wasn’t there for her, but he still cares about her even though he didn’t show it. “I been one poor correspondent, and I been too, too hard to find But it doesn’t mean you aint been on my mind” Next he wants her to meet him in the middle, less than engaged but more than friends. He wants her to show some emotion for him, that she actually still cares for him in that way. He can no longer pretend just to be friends. “Will you meet me in the middle; will you meet me in the air? Will you love me just a little, just enough to show you care? Well I tried to fake it, I don’t mind sayin, I just can’t make it”- Alan Gocha, Detroit, MI

“It is so obvious, to me at least. The guy is suffering from ED. He needs Viagra! He tried, but he just can’t make it! And he’s trying to convince his girl to go along with his problem. It’s just hard to hear this song… if I were in his position, I sure wouldn’t be singing about it! Keep it in your pants dude.” – Allan, Brentwood, CA

Rock Docs And Biopics Friday: Films With Great Ghost Written Songs

Posted in Uncategorized on June 12, 2010 by pulmyears

Ordinarily, I use the Rock Docs And Biopics Friday list to give you suggestions for films about or featuring music (in general terms) that you can rent from Netflix, or your local dvd rental outlet, or buy outright for your home collection. This list usually features a common theme. Today, I’ll also break with convention (it’s my convention, after all) and also suggest a film that is actually in theaters now. Today’s theme is films with songs written by hired guns, where the actors in the film are supposed to have written them, where they turned out so well that you’d want to hear them again, even without the film. (did that make sense?)

PRIVILEGE (1967) Directed by Peter Watkins

The parable of mythical rock icon Steven Shorter, played by actual UK rock star Paul Jones as stunningly realized by cult genius director Peter Watkins. Stunning for its Clockwork Orange like, often reactionary, predictions of a pop dystopia in the near future (the glam 70′s) the film is actually spot on in places and appears to accurately depict the kinds of manipulations pop stars would be subject to and subject upon their fans. Alice Cooper’s act is surely informed by the imprisonment simulation scenes, and one has to think that Michael Jackson would have identified with Shorter’s isolation from reality.  Besides co-starring model of the day, Jean “the Shrimp” Shrimpton, the film survives and is included here because of the original songs written for “Shorter” by pop maestro Mike Leander, one of which, “Set Me Free” was covered by The Patti Smith Group for their Easter album in 1978.

Here’s the cheesy and dated trailer for Privilege …”laughter is cut out of you with a surgical knife…”:

THAT’LL BE THE DAY (1973) Directed by Claude Whatham

Rumoured to be both loosely based on the early life of John Lennon  or Harry Nilsson’s song “1941″, That’ll Be The Day tells the cautionary tale of young Jim MacLaine, played by David Essex, a frustrated school leaver who finds sanctuary in the world rock ‘n’ roll. He meets an artful dodger named Mike, played by Ringo Starr and starts his own rock and roll journey. Part of the charm of the film comes from the fact that Waltham hired actual rockers in the film, Starr,Keith Moon and Billy Fury, to play the roles, all of whom had lived the storyline in life. Almost doesn’t fit on the list because the soundtrack, curated by Neil Aspinall and Keith Moon, relied on existing rock and roll hits with no new commissions, but it did set up a rather good sequel…

STARDUST (1974) Directed by Michael Apted

“Show me a boy who never wanted to be a rock star,” claimed the tagline to this 1974 followup to That’ll Be The Day, “and I’ll show you a liar.” Michael Apted’s film continues with the story of  Jim Maclaine, who has by now assembled a band called The Stray Cats (not the real life American rockabilly band), gets touring, recording and some heavy use of narcotics. Oh oh! Essex reprise his role and the cast includes a returning Moon, plus Larry Hagman and Adam Faith and some real cats like Paul Nicholas, Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds (who was the official Musical Arranger for the film) plus veterans like Marty Wilde. Here’s a scene of the rockstar Maclaine given the documentary style treatment by interviewer Edd Byrnes:

Be careful you don’t get the other film called Stardust, a 2007 fantasy film from starring Clare Danes, or Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories. Good as they are, they are not the one I mentioned.

VELVET GOLDMINE (1998) Directed by Todd Haynes

A decade after an androgynous British glam-rocker Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) fakes his own death on stage and goes into seclusion, a tabloid journalist named Arthur, played by Christian Bale, tracks him down for the scoop. In the process of interviewing Slade’s cohorts and colleagues, the journalist gradually strips away the makeup and gets to know the troubled man beneath it. The friendship between Brian Slade and his rock friend Curt Wild, (played by Ewan McGregor) was directly inspired by the real life camaraderie of David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Eddie Izzard and Toni Collette (as an Angie Bowie type) are also great. Haynes had trouble getting the rights for actual Bowie songs for the film, but the director turned lemons into lemonade by bringing in contemporary musician respectful to the film’s musical era. For instance, the band called The Venus in Furs are actually Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood with David Gray, Bernard Butler of Suede and Roxy Music’s Andy Mackay. Curt Wild’s band, the Wylde Ratttz features the actual Stooges’ guitarist, the late Ron Asheton, with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Steve Shelley, Minutemen’s Mike Watt, Gumball’s Don Fleming, and Mark Arm of Mudhoney. Haynes had news songs written for the film by Pulp, Shudder to Think and Grant Lee Buffalo, while Placebo covers T.Rex’s “20th Century Boy,” and Teenage Fanclub and Elastica’s Donna Matthews cover The New York Dolls’ “Personality Crisis.” While they couldn’t get Bowie (whose song “Velvet Goldmine” inspired the title!) songs by Lou Reed, Brian Eno, T.Rex, and Steve Harley are featured.

THIS IS SPINAL TAP (1984 ) Directed by Rob Reiner

Yeah, I know, I recommend this every time. Well it fits in here, doesn’t it? The songs that Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean wrote for The ‘Tap (and for The New Originals and The Thamesmen) are all standalone classics. Where do I begin?

“Big Bottom”

or “Gimme Some Money”

Of course, Guest and his pals couldn’t resist doing it all again, this time parodying (tributing) the Folk Music boom of the 60s…

A MIGHTY WIND (2003 ) Directed by Christopher Guest

With many of the ensemble from Guest’s Waiting For Guffman and Best In Show, the film centers on a reunion show featuring major stars from the 60s folk boom, Mitch & Mickey, The New Main St. Singers and The Folksmen, at New York’s Town Hall, taped for a PBS special, in tribute to their promoter manager mentor who has passed away. As with Spinal Tap, however, the songs stand alone as great originals (with only the slightest sarcasm present in all of it).

or Mitch And Mickey’s big hit “A Kiss At The End Of The Rainbow”


THAT THING YOU DO! (1996) Directed by Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks wrote and directed this tribute to the bubblegum bands of early rock ‘n’ roll. In 1964, teenage garage band The One-ders — singer Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech), guitarist Lenny (Steve Zahn), drummer Guy (Tom Everett Scott) and a nameless bass player (Ethan Embry)  head to overnight stardom when their debut song, “That Thing You Do”  rockets up  the pop charts. Of course it wouldn’t be a movie if no one cried along the way. Nice little film, with a lot of heart and not a lot of grit, but Adam Schlesinger’s title song is the star for me, Liv Tyler is cute and Steve Zahn is his usual puckish self.

MUSIC & LYRICS (2007) Directed by Marc Lawrence

I didn’t really love the film, but I’m a sucker for stories about songwriters, even obliquely based on reality. The only reason I mention is that the pop star character, former singer from the Wham! like band PoP! named Alex Fletcher (played by Hugh Grant) had a hit single in the 80′s called “Pop Goes My Heart” which is actually sung by ABC’s Martin Fry and written by Andrew Wyatt (now the lead singer of the band Miike Snow), and there’s a bonus in that there are other songs in the picture by Adam Schlesinger (Fountains Of Wayne/Ivy/Tainted Windows), and that guy is a freakin’ pop genius.

GRACE OF MY HEART (1996 ) Directed by Alison Anders

Ostensibly, and loosely, based on the life of Carole King it’s the story of a New York, Tin Pan Alley pop songwriter who falls in love with a Brian Wilson like character and ends up finding her own voice in California as a singer-songwriter in a Tapestry mode. Anders brilliantly brought in everyone from Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach, Dinosaur Jr., Jill Sobule and even Joni Mitchell. J Mascis sounds nothing like Brian Wilson on the Californian “Take A Run At The Sun” but it’s such an awesome tune you kinda don’t mind. I have fond memories of this film, Ileanna Douglas’s “Denise Waverly” is a fun character, and there are solid performances from Matt Dillon, Eric Stoltz and John Turturro as a Phil Spector-like character.

Here’s the scene where Denise (Douglas, voiced by Kristen Vigard) sings the Elvis Costello/Burt Bacharach “God Give Me Strength”:

WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY (2007) Directed by Jake Kasdan

What would happen if you took EVERY rock biopic from Walk The Line through The Buddy Holly Story to Ray and blurred them all, adding in a bit of Brian Wilson / Beach Boys mythology and Beatles lore? You’d have this insane John C. Reilly vehicle about fictional pop icon Dewey Cox give rags-to-riches a whole new meaning. Packed with a lot of contemporary stars in cameos – Jenna Fischer, Justin Long, Paul Rudd, Jack Black, Jason Schwartzman, Kristen Wiig, David Koechner, John Michael Higgins, Ed Helms, Tim Meadows, Chris Parnell, Jerry Minor, Jack McBrayer and even music stars like Jack White, Lyle Lovett, Jackson Browne. The film is never boring, mainly because it never stays in one place. Either way, the original songs, written for Cox and mostly played and sung by John C. Reilly are as catchy as they are funny. Dan Bern and Mike Viola (of the Candy Butchers) wrote most of  the tunes, “There’s a Change a Happenin’” “Mulatto” “A Life Without You (Is No Life At All)” “Beautiful Ride” and “Hole in My Pants”. Charlie Wadhams provided “Let’s Duet.” Marshall Crenshaw wrote “Walk Hard”, and Van Dyke Parks sent up his pal Brian Wilson’s Smile era on “Black Sheep” (there were actual pets lending Pet sounds).

ONCE (2007) Directed by John Carney

Technicality here, as Frames singer Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova were playing characters in the film, even though they ended up becoming The Swell Season when the film took off. Hansard wrote all the songs for Hansard to sing…


GET HIM TO THE GREEK (2010) Directed by Nicholas Stoller

In theatres now. The character of rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) first appeared singing “Inside Of You”, his hit song with the band Infant Sorrow, in the 2008 film FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL (2008) and in this film he’s the main attraction. Therefore, there’s more call for music. The producers were smart again and got good people to write it, former Libertines’ Carl Barat, Dan Bern, Mike Viola, Jason Segel (who created the character of Aldous Snow), Lyle Workman, and Jarvis Cocker also wrote songs for Snow and for the character of his girlfriend “Jackie Q” played by Rose Byrne.

Here’s Aldous singing “Inside of You” in concert

and here’s the audio only of “Bangers & Mash”

Write Back Atcha: John Moe’s Hilarious Pop-Song Correspondences

Posted in Uncategorized on June 10, 2010 by pulmyears

First, a vulnerable share. I’m so jealous of John Moe. Okay, it felt good to share that.

The reason I am filled with professional jealousy is that Mr. Moe came upon a great idea before I did. And not only that, he does it so well that there’s no way I could just wade into his field and expect to be anything less than a rank imitator. They say it’s good to flag these emotions, rather than give into them, and move on. So here’s my flag.

Since the early part of the decade, John Moe has been the author of Pop-Song Correspondences, reply letters to popular songs, which appear on the McSweeney’s Internet Tendency website (http://www.mcsweeneys.net/links/popsong/).

Up until I read the works of John Moe, I considered myself one clever bastard indeed. But I am a pretender. John Moe is the man.

Currently the host of American Public Media’s Future Tense, he has hosted other radio programs like Weekend America and a tech biz show, The Works, for Seattle NPR station KUOW. Digging into his bio, I have discovered that he is also the author of the 2006 book, Conservatize Me: How I Tried to Become a Righty with the Help of Richard Nixon, Sean Hannity, Toby Keith, and Beef Jerky, where Moe (a liberal) tries to understand the right via meetings with political pundits and history scholars. He also writes a blog called Monkey Disaster, which he describes as “Pop culture and some news put through a filter of optimistic cynicism. Also, lots of vanity. And seemingly a great deal about children. More than some might expect.” Sounds like fun. Wikipedia tells me that, during the previous decade, Moe “fronted the band Free Range Chickens who, after a 5 year hiatus, re-emerged as Chicken Starship.” Do tell.

But the thing that makes me worship this man is the simple idea of writing literate and witty replies to songs which we’ve all heard and have long since repeated their lyrics into meaninglessness. Moe, by addressing these lyrics in frank, often reactionary missives, makes us look at the words again at face value. And in so doing, makes them “art” again, the way Andy Warhol, Douglas Coupland or Banksy might do with visual images.

Take George Thorogood’s “Bad To The Bone”,

John Moe did, in “A Memo From the Head Nurse Regarding Proper Care of Patients Born Bad to the Bone (6/25/09)”

To: All medical staff

A recent incident in one of our delivery rooms has raised questions not just of hospital procedure but of medical ethics. On February 24th, 1950, a baby boy was born to a Mr. and Mrs. Thorogood of Wilmington, Delaware. Several nurses assisted in the birth and as Head Nurse, I was on duty as well. After the boy had been cleaned and his vitals were checked, I noted that the nurses formed a tight circle around the baby and stared at him in a manner I could only describe as slack-jawed and doe-eyed. Recognizing this behavior, I took immediate action and ordered the newborn to be left alone. I could tell right away that he was born with a genetically anomalous condition commonly known in medical journals as Bad To The Bone. I acted in order to protect the safety of the nursing staff.

Bad To The Bone (BTTB) is an extraordinarily rare condition and the nurses were understandably shocked to hear that a newborn with it should be denied care. I assure you it is the best course of action. Sadly, Nurse Mosconi was unable to keep away from the baby and within seconds her heart was broken. And I don’t mean that in the emotional sense, she literally suffered a ruptured ventricle and had to be taken to intensive care (she’s recovering but will be working in geriatrics upon her return). Sadly, her heart will surely not be the first to be broken by the baby, who I believe is to be named George.

And that’s just the first two paragraphs.
How about Prince’s “When Doves Cry”?

Now read Moe’s answer: A Letter to Prince Regarding the Crying of Doves and the Fiasco That Resulted From the Presentation of a Speech on That Topic (4/30/08)

Dear Mr. Prince,

It’s been three days since you delivered your keynote address, “When Doves Cry,” to our organization, the American Ornithological Society. As president of the AOS, I wanted to wait a little while before contacting you to express my displeasure with what took place. Frankly, it took three days for my bewilderment and fear to begin to ebb. As you know, we paid you a hefty honorarium to deliver what we thought would be a scholarly presentation. We want our money back.

Despite the provocative title of the speech you proposed, we are not in the habit of hiring speakers who are not ornithologists. But frankly, Mr. Prince, your androgynous, highly charged sexuality hypnotized us. We went crazy; you were a star; we wanted you to take us with you. Also, as you know, we were all quite fond of your father, Tubold. Knowing how rigorous Tubold’s academic standards were, we thought his son would be just as thorough and insightful. But you are not like your father, Tubold….” (and continues like that)

Nothing is sacred, not even the exalted Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Moe offers “A Letter to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band From Sgt. Pepper” (8/31/06)

Gentlemen,

I can scarcely believe that it was more than 20 years ago that I first met a quartet of brash military recruits and, sensing that perhaps the “by the book” life of drills and forced marches would not suit their needs, I took those lads under my wing and taught them how to play musical instruments. You must realize that all other military officers held little hope for you. I, however, believed in you. This has always been my province: siphon off a small group of lads out of each class and turn them into a popular music combo. Many have been astonished to learn such an option exists within the British military, but it does. It was established by a young Queen Elizabeth II on a drunken afternoon. Nonetheless, it was and is legal…

…When I confided to you, Billy, all those years ago, after the band’s first practice, that my life was a lonely one, I thought it was a confidential conversation. You instantly got up and ran out of the room to fill the other lads in on my loneliness, and the four of you immediately decided to incorporate this information into the name of your band. Not wanting to squelch your nascent creativity, I consented (or, rather, stopped shouting “Please, God, no!” after 20 minutes, during which time you four chanted the name with the fervor of football hooligans)…

….Well, maybe they’re a flash in the pan, I thought. Lots of bands go out of style, after all. And you did. But then you would come back in style. You’d go out again, I’d breathe a sigh of relief, and then—pop!—back in. This has gone on for 20 years….

…I am writing to request a refund of the money I spent on the last album. You had offered a guarantee that the music would “raise a smile.” It did not. Please remit cost of album at your earliest convenience. Thank you and best of luck in all your endeavors, you miserable bastards.

Sgt. Pepper

When Elton John and Bernie Taupin wrote “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time” back in 1972, I  wonder if they had ever thought they’d hear back from one James C. Fletcher of NASA (a/k/a John Moe).

Dear Mr. John,

This letter is to inform you of your termination from the NASA astronaut program… we had hoped that after all the hundreds of hours of training you received, you would understand the measures in place to prepare a crew for a launch. So when you showed up, preflight, with a bag packed by your wife, that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way… Mr. John. I don’t know if that’s the way it’s done in the rocky-roll world that you’re used to, but at NASA we don’t pack our own luggage.

You should also know that many on the ground crew mentioned that at zero hour (9 a.m.) you seemed to be intoxicated, possibly “high,” as the hippies say… you moped about missing the Earth and missing your wife and being lonely in space. Well, goddamn it, Mr. John, you knew what you were getting yourself into up there! It’s not like riding on a rocky-roll tour bus!

…We expect a great deal from our astronauts, but perhaps the most important part of the job is an understanding of science… after demanding data from you for days, you were only able to offer this insight: “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids. In fact, it’s cold as hell. And there’s no one there to raise them if you did.” First off, if you did what? That doesn’t even make sense. … and another thing, the word is “astronaut.” When you run around Cape Canaveral saying “I’m a rocket man!” it’s embarrassing for everyone.
….Mr. John, and we realize that it’s going to be a long, long time until touchdown brings you back here. But NASA felt that your performance was so dismal that we must act immediately. You are simply not the man we thought you were when we hired you for this position. Please consider all future assignments canceled. Your place will be taken by Major Tom, who we expect will be a more dedicated and reliable member of the team.

Sincerely,

James C. Fletcher

NASA Administrator

I am only giving you highlights here, the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and I urge you to head over to Pop-Song Correspondences where you can read…

An Invitation to Joni Mitchell to Sing at the Opening of the Tree Museum (10/17/07)

A Note Placed in the Pay Envelope of Billy “the Piano Man” Joel (5/16/07)

And all Moe’s other hits including:

Regarding Pete Seeger’s Requests for a Hammer and His Descriptions of What He Would Do If He Had One (4/3/07)

To: Peter Criss; From: Beth (12/15/06)

Notes on “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” as Delivered to Axl Rose by His Editor (7/11/06)

Concerning Jon Bon Jovi, Wanted Dead or Alive  (4/6/06)

A Retort to Carly Simon Regarding Her Charges of Vanity (2/13/06)

A Letter From “The Power” to Public Enemy(9/2/05)

Attention, Mr. Axl Rose: We Did Not Feel Welcome in the Jungle (6/8/05)

Marvin Gaye Explains What He Heard Through the Grapevine (3/28/05)

A Memo Distributed Among the “Project Loverboy” Staff, Regarding “Turn Me Loose” (2/16/05)

A Letter Between Siblings Who Lived in the House Described in “Our House” by Madness (2/3/05)

A Letter to Elvis Presley From His Hound Dog (8/30/04)

A Memo to the Sultans of Swing, From Their Booking Agent (7/20/04)

Letters to Fogerty (6/23/04)

and

James Taylor Issues an Update on “The Friendship Promise” (6/10/04)

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

DON’T FORGET TO WRITE TO ME.  Send Questions, Reactions, Comments, Hilarious Letters To The Editor (Me) can be sent to the COMMENTS section below. Thanks for reading The Pulmyears Music Blog.


Viral Rhythm: The Mad Drummer Phenomenon

Posted in Uncategorized on June 9, 2010 by pulmyears

It started with that clip, This Drummer Is At The Wrong Gig, which was posted on a friend’s Facebook page about a week ago. You must have seen it by now…

We talked about how over the top the drummer guy was, I even wondered if he was playing so freely because the show was all coming from a concealed laptop, but my friends convinced me to watch again and I soon realized that, yes, this guy was really playing. Amusing. Fun. Thanks for sending it. Then it was banished to the Facebook trash bin, a one or two day story at best. Or so I thought.

Why am I always surprised when something goes viral? Yes, thanks to web redemption, Steve Moore a/k/a the Mad Drummer, is the new viral star. But Moore, the propulsive “Animal from The Muppet Show” force behind Rick K. and the Allnighters (“America’s Most Exciting Showband”) is different than, say, the dude who sang “Chocolate Rain” in that he is a work-a-day musician with endorsements and everything. Check out his site The Mad Drummer.com, http://www.maddrummerinc.com/. There, at the bottom of the  ENTER screen you’ll see his long list of sponsors, from Ludwig drums and Pro-Mark sticks to Randall May, a company that makes those little clips for miking drums.

You’ll also find a whole slew of media for the guy, including a great interview with Michael Alan Goldberg for Philadelphia Weekly, wherein Moore explains his how his journeyman instincts kicked in the minute the “Sharp Dressed Man” clip went viral.

“The first thing that went through my mind,” Moore told Goldberg, “I thought, “Oh man, what if this thing goes to the moon? I really gotta grab that name!” So http://www.viraldrummer.com is already mine. It’s set up to do the forwarding to my site, http://www.themaddrummer.com. I thought, “It’s 10-15 bucks, why not?”

He says going “viral”, a term he says he only learned by being at the center of the phenomenon, was akin to winning the lottery. But despite the fame, it’s the little things that blow his mind, such as learning, through a friend, that his favourite drummer, Mike Portnoy from the band Dream Theater, had Twittered about him, which lead to the two becoming Facebook friends within hours.

“I don’t care about money and all that,” Moore told Philadelphia Weekly, “but to get that sort of respect, you know what I mean, on that level? That guy doesn’t look at me and go, ‘Oh, that guy’s a joke.’ That’s huge to me, man!”

He’s also pleasantly aware that people often mock the anonymous road warriors in everyday working show bands, but explains that it’s like “spinach – not everybody likes it. I get that. But at the same time it’s really hard, to a degree, when you see everyone else in the band get ripped to shreds, because they’re nice guys// I gotta be honest with you, man — a lot of the comments on YouTube, man, they’re funnier than hell! I mean, I can laugh at ‘em, it doesn’t offend me because they’re funny, man. Some people really come up with some good stuff.”

He also discusses how he developed his flashy stage antics, and reveals that he’s been drumming since he was around six years old, and blown away by obvious forerunners such as Keith “the Loon” Moon or jazz legend Gene Krupa “… visual kind of players. But it didn’t do me any good …until l I first saw Tommy Lee with Mötley Crüe — he’s a great drummer, don’t get me wrong, but he did spins and twirls that I could do. I couldn’t do them as good as Tommy Lee and I still can’t, but as far as making an attempt at it, it was like, I could do that! So I watched a lot of Tommy Lee and then went out on a gig one day and when I finally worked it up I twirled my drumstick and a bunch of people in the audience pointed at me. So at the age of 12 or 13, whatever it was, I literally just went, “Ah ok, I get it!” And I started doing silly things, things that weren’t necessarily difficult — like if you lift your foot in the air or make a funny face, that’s not technically challenging but it would make people point. So a quote I’ve used for the last 20 or 30 years, ‘People hear with their eyes.’ They really do….but what I’m doing really isn’t that hard. If  you’re playing drums and you take your left arm and raise it above your head, well, anybody can do that … each move on its own is really simplistic. …It’s not hard twirling sticks, anyone can do that, but to not let the beat go to hell, that’s what’s so hard. And especially the hi-hat — it’s just such a sensitive instrument and I do a lot of back-sticking, and to make those sound the same when it’s two different parts of the stick, that’s what’s difficult, trying to make it sound halfway decent. Anybody can go apeshit, but making it sound decent at the same time is hard! And that’s something I constantly work at.”

“Well the thing is,” he admitted to Goldberg, “I do that same sort of thing most of the show. Not all of the show — I try to have some taste, if that’s possible [laughs]. But still, a lot of people aren’t catching the fact that Rick K., he’s not even in the video…Most people will watch “Sharp-Dressed Man,” and then they’ll see we do “Wipeout,” and maybe they’ll watch that…”

“…and that’s usually where their attention drops off,” he continues, “and they run along to the pissing cat or whatever else it is. By then you’re competing with the farting dog or something. So unfortunately, Rick gets the bad end of the stick because people never realize that it’s his organization and he’s the singer and all of that. I think Rick will probably keep things the way it’s been. As far as how it will affect things, I honestly don’t know. I mean, I would love to think it’s gonna affect things in a good way, and I know it will for me personally as far as endorsements and things like that. That’s already started — I’ve already gotten calls from two or three different companies as far as that kind of thing.”  For the full Philadelphia Weekly story go to http://blogs.philadelphiaweekly.com/music/2010/06/04/exclusive-interview-steve-moore-a-k-a-the-viral-drummer/

If you want to catch Steve with Rick K., they’re at the Grand Casino in Hinckley, Minnesota all this week! Don’t forget to tip your waitress!

Healing Wishes To Daniel Lanois

Posted in Uncategorized on June 9, 2010 by pulmyears

I’ve been away from the blog for about two weeks now, funny how a disorienting trip can derail your little routine enough that it just seems impossible to remember how you used to tie your shoes, let alone open a file and fill it with blather about music. But this blog isn’t about me…

This morning I heard, (on Facebook, of course!) that the great musician, producer and my fellow Canadian countryman, Daniel Lanois had been badly hurt in motorcycle crash near the Silverlake area of Los Angeles over the weekend, sustaining multiple injuries which will take months to heal and force him to postpone a planned summer tour with Black Dub, the group he recently assembled with drummer Brian Blade (Wayne Shorter, Joshua Redman) bass player  Daryl Johnson (Neville Brothers, Emmylou Harris) and vocalist Trixie Whitley.

According to reporting by Lynn Saxberg and Bernard Perusse, originating in The Ottawa Citizen and the Montreal Gazette, at press time Tuesday, Lanois was still in the intensive-care unit of an unidentified Los Angeles hospital and a spokesman for Jive Records (the label releasing the Black Dub collective’s music) said Lanois “expects to be released soon but will spend the next two months recovering.” They also say reveal that Lanois had recently been producing an upcoming album for another of my celebrated countrymen, Neil Young, and had completed an autobiographical book, Soul Mining.

The story also quotes a two-year old interview with The Ottawa Citizen where Lanois claimed to not own a car, but rather waxed poetic about his BMW and Harley motorcycles.

“We of the iron horse, we don’t mix up too many things together,” Lanois told The Citizen. “We concentrate on what we’re doing. We also exercise that part of our brain that embraces telepathy so we anticipate what people are thinking around us, which is what I do for a living, with my music.”When he’s riding a motorcycle, Lanois said he is able to focus. “I’m not on the phone. I’m not multi-tasking. I’m not trying to do too much. I’m concentrating on one thing at a time, which is part of what makes music beautiful, and what makes life beautiful.”


A friend of mine described Lanois as a “national treasure”, and I agree. Not just as the producer or co-producer of influential albums by U2 (The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby, All That You Can’t Leave Behind and No Line On The Horizon), Bob Dylan (Oh Mercy, Time Out Of Mind) as well as Peter Gabriel, Robbie Robertson, Emmylou Harris (Wrecking Ball), The Neville Brothers, Luscious Jackson, Willie Nelson and tracks for Ron Sexsmith‘s debut plus wonderful albums collaborating as an artist with Brian Eno (such as Apollo: Atmospheres And Soundtracks, where I believe they invented “ambient country” music) and with brass innovator Jon Hassell.

Then there are his own solo albums, which are all filled with soul, passion and outstanding musicianship. Beginnning in 1989, with the must-hear set Acadie, you should also hear For the Beauty of Wynona (1993), Shine (2003), Rockets (2004), Belladonna (2005), and  Here Is What Is, the soundtrack to his 2007 documentary of the same name. As folky as he is funky, Lanois the solo act may  not be so well known outside of the cult of musicians (and Canadians) but his wealth of music deserves your ears. Now.

Born across the water from Canada’s capital city, in the Quebec town of Hull, young Lanois was raised in the steel town of Hamilton, Ontario where opened the legendary Grant Avenue Studio, with his brother Bob and produced, among other things, one of the more notorious Hammer town punk/new wave acts, Simply Saucer as recently discussed in Liz Worth’s book, Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond (Bongo Beat, 2009). He also got his start on albums by Martha and the Muffins (his sister Jocelyne played bass) and the children’s entertainer Raffi.

So I say, get well soon Daniel Lanois, like Dylan, you will rise from the motorcycle accident and make lots of music, but until you do, allow me to show my friends around a little tour of your work.

“The Messenger” (from For The Beauty Of Wynona)

“Jolie Louise” (from Acadie)

“The Maker” (from Acadie)

“Shine” (from Shine)


Black Dub w/ Daniel Lanois: The Birth of Bellavista Nights from Daniel Lanois on Vimeo.

and

“Where Will I Be?” (from Here Is What Is).

Get well.

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