Archive for the Rock Rant Category

Rock & Roll Drama Queens

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , on January 27, 2013 by 30daysout
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Annie Lebovitz’s (in)famous photo of Fleetwood Mac, back in the day.

This week the music world will celebrate the 35th anniversary of the landmark album Rumours, by Fleetwood Mac. The occasion is marked by the release Tuesday of a super deluxe, three-disc set of the 1977 album that went on to sell more than 40 million copies worldwide.

We’ve all heard the album many times, almost as many times  as we have also heard the soap opera that went on as the album was being recorded. Producer Ken Caillat told us a little about the intrigue, but apparently that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Apparently the best rock and roll is created when there’s tension, pressure and drama. Abbey Road, some of the Beatles’ greatest music, came together when the four members of the band could supposedly barely stand to be in the same room with each other. Elvis Presley’s finest hour came during his late 1960s “comeback,” dramatically righting a career that had become a series of horrible movies and bland soundtracks.

Rockers have had their share of hard times and downright tragedy, just like all of our other beloved entertainers. So let’s slap on a vintage vinyl copy of Rumours, and while it’s popping and ticking away, come with us down memory lane:

David Bowie is gay – Forty one years ago this month, David Bowie shocked no one when he announced to Melody Maker: “I’m gay and I always have been.” Well, probably the shocking part was that he had already been married to a woman.

Nevertheless, the announcement gave Bowie’s career new life. His album at the time, Hunky Dory, became a hit, and “Changes” would appear on the U.S. Billboard charts while “Starman” went to the top 10 in England. Later in 1972, Bowie released The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, also a hit and a critics’ favorite to this day. He’d close out the year with the single “John, I’m Only Dancing,” with homosexual overtones that would prevent its release in the United States.

Four years later, Bowie would confess to Playboy that he is really bisexual. At that point, very few people cared about his sexual orientation any more.

YouTube: David Bowie with “Oh You Pretty Things”

Eric Clapton is a heroin addict – Perhaps insecure about his abilities as a guitar player (despite the graffiti “Clapton Is God”) Eric Clapton became a serious drug addict in the late 1960s. Heroin was his drug of choice, and in his autobiography Clapton says when he wrote “Layla” to woo Patti Boyd from her then-husband George Harrison he was spending about $16,000 a week on the stuff.

Patti, in her own autobiography, remembers that when she finally hooked up with Clapton he kicked heroin by becoming an alcoholic. “He began in the morning and drank all day until four o’clock when Roger Forrester, his minder and later his manager, made him stop,” she writes. Clapton also dabbled in cocaine and hallucinogens along the way.

Clapton eventually cleaned himself up, long after he’d left Patti Boyd/Harrison/Clapton. He had some real tragedy in his life in 1991 when his four-year-old son (with another wife) fell out of an open window and was killed. Clapton channeled his grief into the hit song “Tears In Heaven,” which earned three Grammy Awards.

YouTube: Eric Clapton with “Cocaine”

Jerry Lee Lewis marries his cousin – In 1957, piano-pounding wild man Jerry Lee Lewis had already been married twice. He married his second wife before the divorce from his first was final, so it shouldn’t have been a shock if he married his third wife before the second divorce was also final.

Nobody noticed – because the Killer married Myra Brown, his third cousin! Who was only 13 years old! Both husband and wife downplayed it, saying it was pretty common in the part of the country they were from. Well, hardly anyone else saw it their way; it became a huge scandal in the U.S. and Europe and pretty much shut down Jerry Lee’s career.

Lewis would manage a bit of a comeback in the late 1960s-early 1970s as a country music performer. He and Myra would divorce in 1970. Lewis, still alive today at age 77, will always be remembered for his wild, unrepentant attitude and his “cradle robbing.”

For the record, when asked about his fellow Memphis musician’s troubles back then, Elvis Presley reportedly said if the two were truly in love, then getting married was all right with him. Of course, Elvis would later fall in love with a 14-year-old girl … but that’s another story.

YouTube: Jerry Lee Lewis with “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”

Jim Morrison’s penis – Perhaps the greatest rock and roll drama queen was Jim Morrison, front man of The Doors. He was no stranger to run-ins with the law, but his most (in)famous arrest came in 1969, in Miami.

Visibly intoxicated during the concert, Morrison asked the crowd “You didn’t come here for music, did you?” He continued to rant and finally asked, “You want to see my cock?”  Ray Manzarek recalls that Morrison did some little peek-a-boo striptease thing with a bandana or something, and supposedly Mr. Mojo’s Risin’ was indeed seen.

At any rate, he was not charged until three weeks later, only after the incident became a huge media scandal. Morrison was charged with lewd and lascivious behavior (a felony with a maximum three-year sentence), indecent exposure, public drunkenness and such. After a lengthy and much publicized trial in 1970, Morrison was found guilty and sentenced to six months of hard labor on one charge, and 60 days of hard labor on another charge.

But he never went to prison – the sentence was still on appeal when Morrison died in Paris in 1971.

YouTube: Jim Morrison’s arrest coverage from 1969

Is it cold? Fix up some gumbo!

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , on January 4, 2013 by 30daysout
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The ladies look like they are pretty cold.

Ooh, baby, it’s cold outside! In Texas that means it’s about 53 degrees, and a warm front is going to blow back from the Gulf tomorrow, kickin’ everything up to about 75. Hey, we take what winter we can get. Anyway, let’s dig out a deep pot and make some gumbo today.

Gumbo is, of course, that stew-like dish popular in South Louisiana and crummy restaurants across the country. Although it apparently originated in New Orleans, gumbo is most closely associated with the Cajuns of South Louisiana – like my mother from Catahoula and my dad from Cecilia.  Those folks used to make gumbo that was thicker than Atchafalaya Basin swamp water.

Hwy AJ Crawfish GS-297x300

A.J. Judice knew a lot of stuff.

I don’t know how they did it – our good friend Dr. Michael DeBakey (from Lake Charles, La.) used to insist the secret to good, thick gumbo was okra. And he lived to be 99 years old and was pretty much always right …  so who knows?

And our good buddy A.J. Judice used to say “good gumbo is the secret to a happy life,” but he never told us how to make it. He knew a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff, or at least he said he did. “When you know, you know,” he used to say in his thick Cajun accent, “and when you don’t know … it’s hard to know.” But we loved him anyway.

OK, let’s get started. The important thing about gumbo is that it always needs a roux. This is made by melting equal parts butter and flour (about 2 tablespoons each) and heating it up until it’s chocolate brown.  If this sounds too hard, you can always buy a mix like Zatarain’s Gumbo Base. Or you can buy the stuff pre-made in a jar (Douget’s Rice Milling company makes a fine roux).  Once you got this goin’, the rest of it comes together like this:

Chicken, 2 1/2 to 3-pound cut up, or boneless chicken cooked

Sausage (that packaged stuff in the supermarket is fine)

1 1/2 quarts water or chicken stock

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped green pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Put your roux, water, veggies and seasonings in a deep pot.  Heat it all up to boiling, toss in the meat and simmer it for about five beers.  Serve this on hot rice.   MMMM!

If you don’t like our recipe, you can check out these tried and true sources:

Chef Paul Prudhomme’s gumbo recipe

Chicken and andouille gumbo recipe from Tabasco

Alton Brown’s shrimp gumbo recipe (Food Network)

And finally, here are a few tunes you can play while fixin’ your gumbo.

MP3: “Gris Gris Gumbo Ya Ya” by Dr. John the Night Tripper

MP3: “Gumbo” by Phish

MP3: “Casses Mes Objets (You Broke My Stuff)” by Mama Rosin

MP3: “Allons a Grand Coteau” by Clifton Chenier

MP3: “La Jolie Fleur Dubois (The Beautiful Flower of the Wood)” by The Revelers

MP3: “Fire On The Bayou” by the Neville Brothers

MP3: “Rad Gumbo” (live) by Little Feat

Very Superstitious: Can You Actually Help Your Team Win?

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , on December 8, 2012 by 30daysout
Arian+Foster+Dallas+Cowboys+v+Houston+Texans+sLZM0pzeuF_l

Arian Foster (23) of the Houston Texans is pretty good.

The answer to the question posed in the headline is: no. But it’s fun to think that maybe, there’s an all-powerful force somewhere guiding the universe and making sure the planets revolve around their life-giving or death-dealing stars, who says “Yeah, if Bubba doesn’t brush his teeth on game day his team will win.”

However, on every game day for every sport, there are probably thousands of people who believe that something that they may do or not do, something they may say or not say, or even something they may think or not think, will help their team win. Or lose.

Texans

What do you think? This?

The most casual observer – usually a non-sports fan – would most likely say people who nevertheless have  sports superstitions are just plain nuts. Yeah, but it’s fun and it takes our minds off that nasty day in November when our candidate would have won if we’d just worn our red sweater to the polls.

So, on Monday, our hometown team the Houston Texans are gonna face the mighty New England Patriots in cold Foxboro, Mass. The gamblers and pundits will tell you the upstart Texans are underdogs, despite having the better record (11-1) vs. the Patriots’ record (9-3), etc. The Texans haven’t lost a road game this season, but they will play in a place where a visitor hasn’t won in December since 2002.

You will hear the TV announcers say that on Monday night. Of course, if you place too much stock in that stuff then you are really no better off than those guys who think that red sweater is a key to their team’s victory.

Super Bowl

Or this?

Naturally we want our hometown Houston boys to win, but we realize (hope) it’s gonna be a heck of a game either way. So this morning we’re at the supermarket to purchase some adult refreshment for the weekend and we see our team’s logo on a famous brand of beer. It doesn’t help that this particular company is running a commercial about fans and their stupid superstitions … to hell with that, let’s drink that stuff on Monday night!

Ha, we’re gonna help our boys win! We’re going to overcome that formidable Patriots mystique with some Texas mojo of our own.

But wait, just down the aisle there’s another display – the same brand of beer, with a different logo: Super Bowl XLVII (what number is that? Somebody please email the answer)! Hmm, what would be a better choice? Drinking a beer with my team’s logo, or swilling the same exact beer with an ever more hopeful Super Bowl logo?

Well, we bought our beer and really, we’re gonna have it all gone by Monday night. So we have to make this brutal choice again on Game Day. Life is hell sometimes.

MP3: “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder

MP3: “The Autumn Wind” with John Facenda

MP3: “Lombardi” with John Facenda

MP3: “Pain Is Inevitable” with John Facenda

MP3: “Be Savage Again” with John Facenda

MP3: “A Golden Boy Again (Up She Rises)”

MP3: “November” with John Facenda

MP3: “The Pony Soldiers”

MP3: “75 Seasons Suite”

Our own Texans fight song, by George Kovacik and Jeff Balke of Orange Is In, this blog’s house band.

MP3: “What It Was, Was Football” by Andy Griffith

MP3: “Backfield In Motion” by Mel & Tim

MP3: “Flyin’ Helmets” by Kyle Turley

MP3: “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over For Monday Night Football” by Hank Williams Jr.

And do you remember Faith Hill? Of course you do. Sorry, we love this!

Shaken, Not Stirred – James Bond Theme Songs

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , , , on October 7, 2012 by 30daysout

Last week, producers of the new James Bond movie Skyfall dropped the epic theme song from the movie, by British singer Adele. When it comes out in the United States Nov. 9  (Oct. 16 in the U.K.), Skyfall will be the 23rd James Bond movie since 1962, and each has had its own theme song.

Some of the world’s biggest artists performed these songs, including Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Nancy Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Paul McCartney, Madonna and Alicia Keys. Which one is your favorite? “Skyfall” certainly measures up to some of the better songs from years past – so let’s take a listen to that one first.

Aside from Adele, which theme songs from James Bond flicks are the best? Let’s pick a handful of our favorites:

The best known song from all the Bond films may also be one of the best: Shirley Bassey sang the theme from 1964’s Goldfinger. This was the Welsh singer’s only U.S. Top 40 hit.

Flip the coin and you get Matt Monro, a British singer who was a huge international star in the 1960s. He cut the title song for 1963’s From Russia With Love, but it didn’t run over the opening credits, as has become the tradition. Instead, an instrumental version ran at the beginning and Monro’s vocal version was heard on a radio in the film and over the closing credits.

OK, so you may have noticed something else up there in the From Russia With Love clip – it starts out with a shot of Bond through a gun barrel, or an eyeball. That iconic opening actually comes from the first James Bond film, Dr. No, from 1962. That little ditty you hear over it was composed by Monty Norman and arranged by the great John Barry – it was the first true James Bond theme song. It’s followed by a highly stylized main title sequence, usually both created by Maurice Binder, but in this case Binder only designed the gunbarrel sequence. Robert Brownjohn is responsible for the title sequence in From Russia With Love.

MP3: “James Bond Theme” by Monty Norman Orchestra

MP3: “From Russia With Love” by Matt Monro

One of my favorite James Bond movies when I was a kid was Thunderball, from 1965. Bond took it to a new level in this one, with some of the coolest gadgets in and out of the water. Shirley Bassey actually cut the first song for this movie, something called “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” but the movie’s producers yanked it at the last minute because the song doesn’t have the movie’s title. So they wrote up a new one and got newcomer Tom Jones to cut it. Here’s Jones doing the song on some TV show back in the day.
By the time they got to You Only Live Twice, the producers of the Bond series were chucking out most of Ian Fleming’s novels and coming up with plots of their own. This fifth Bond movie, from 1967, is Sean Connery’s last Bond film from that decade (he would later return in 1971 with Diamonds Are Forever and the off-brand Never Say Never Again, from 1983). Anyway, here’s Nancy Sinatra doing “You Only Live Twice.”
We get out of the 1960s and into the 1970s with certainly the most acclaimed Bond theme song, “Live And Let Die,” by Paul McCartney & Wings from 1973. What can you say about this one – it’s tuneful, it’s exciting, and it was a HUGE hit on the radio. To this day, it’s a showstopper for Sir Paul whenever he plays live – he whips out the coolest pyro this side of KISS every time he plays this song. If you haven’t yet caught McCartney live, you have a chance in November when he plays a handful of U.S. and Canadian dates.
McCartney’s success inspired the Bond film producers to use more rock and pop stars to do their theme songs, with varying success. We like Duran Duran’s “A View To A Kill” (1985), Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better,” the first Bond song to be titled differently than the film it’s in (The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977), and Tina Turner’s “GoldenEye” (1995), written by the Edge and Bono.
MP3: “A View To A Kill” by Duran Duran
MP3: “Nobody Does It Better” by Carly Simon
MP3: “GoldenEye” by Tina Turner
One more – probably the best of the bunch; let’s go with Shirley Bassey’s “Diamonds Are Forever,” from 1971. This was Connery’s return to the Bond role after his one-movie retirement (do you remember who played in only one Bond movie after Connery? George Lazenby, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969) and Bassey’s second Bond theme after “Goldfinger.” Shirley would do one more Bond theme song, “Moonraker” in 1979; she is the only artist to perform three theme songs from James Bond pictures.

The Most Bad-Ass Riff

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , , , on September 28, 2012 by 30daysout

Muddy Waters at the Houston Juneteenth Blues Fest, 1977.

Rock and roll has some killer riffs, mostly played on the electric guitar, and there is no riff more bad-ass than the da-dum-da-DUM riff from songs like Bo Diddley’s “I’m A Man.”

Bo had some killer riffs in some of his songs, but the original source seems to be “(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man,” by Muddy Waters from 1954. Written by Willie Dixon, it seems to be the first use of this motif that has shown up in blues and rock music ever since. Bo Diddley, a Chess Records label mate of Muddy Waters, cut his “I’m A Man” in 1955 and Muddy actually answered that record with his own “Mannish Boy.”

Remember Muddy singing “Mannish Boy” in The Band/Martin Scorsese film The Last Waltz? That was actually Muddy’s own remake, modeled after his version on the 1977 album Hard Again. The Rolling Stones copped that same song and riff the same year, for their album Love You Live.

Many others have used the same riff, either covering the blues classics of Bo and Muddy, or doing their own originals. “Bad To The Bone” by George Thorogood to the very recent “Early Roman Kings” by Bob Dylan have used this riff.

It’s lasted this long, and shows no sign of ever going away. That is because it’s bad-ass.

MP3: “(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man” by Muddy Waters

MP3: “I’m A Man” by Bo Diddley

MP3: “Mannish Boy” (live) by the Rolling Stones

MP3: “Bad To The Bone” by George Thorogood and the Destroyers

MP3: “A Night With the Jersey Devil” by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

YouTube: “Early Roman Kings” by Bob Dylan

Music on TV: “Treme”

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , on September 25, 2012 by 30daysout

Wendell Pierce in “Treme” as trombonist Antoine Batiste (Photos courtesy of HBO)

If you care anything about the history and deep roots of American music, you owe it to yourself to seek out the HBO series “Treme,” which just had its season 3 premiere this past weekend.

“Treme” is an ensemble drama created by David Simon (“The Wire”) and Eric Overmyer (“Homicide” and “Law & Order”). The series is set in post-Katrina New Orleans, and it tells the story of a diverse group of residents as they rebuild their lives and their city. “Treme,” pronounced Truh-may, takes its title from the name of one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, an historically important source of African-American music and culture.

Season 1 begins in the fall of 2005, three months after Hurricane Katrina. Season 2 picks up 14 months after the federal levees failed. While many of the old challenges persist, much has changed. The profiteers have arrived, though the insurance checks haven’t. Crime is on the rise, but the ability of the police department to keep pace with the criminals is questionable. Life in New Orleans is getting better, but it’s not happening fast enough to keep residents from wondering whether things would be easier, better, elsewhere.

Lucia Micarelli, who plays Annie in “Treme,” has played with the Trans Siberian Orchestra and Jethro Tull.

What keeps the city afloat through all of this is its culture. “Treme” is rich with music and food, the two things for which New Orleans is best known. Actors like Wendell Pierce (Bunk Moreland in “The Wire”), Rob Brown (who plays trumpeter Delmond Lambreaux) and Michiel Huisman (who plays street busker Sonny) mix fluidly with musician/actors Lucia Micarelli (as Annie Tee), a violinist, and the great singer/songwriter Steve Earle, who plays street busker Harley. And each episode is rich with cameos from even more musicians playing themselves: Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Coco Robicheaux, Kermit Ruffins, George Porter Jr.,  Spider Stacy (of the Pogues!) and many, many more.

The food comes in by way of Janette Desautel (played by Kim Dickens), a New Orleans chef who owns a restaurant and fights to keep it going as the series opens. Her struggles and her odyssey take her at one point far away from the place she loves, all while we sample (as best we can, on TV) some of the coolest looking food ever. As they say (and you are gonna have to watch the show for context): “Drizzle something on it, baby!”

The show immerses itself deep in the culture of a great American city, veering from the rich musical heritage (including the Mardi Gras Indians) to include some very modern touches, like the bloggers whose rage after Katrina kept the city’s hope alive and the inevitable carpetbaggers who swept in to make a buck as the city began to rebuild itself.

The show also features actors Steve Zahn (Happy, Texas), Clarke Peters (“The Wire”), John Goodman (The Big Lebowski) and Melissa Leo, an Oscar winner for The Fighter. As with any show with a rich cast of characters, some may come and go – and some go away for good. Tune in to find out who.

Like many of these HBO series, “Treme” is acclaimed but viewed by very few people. In fact, it’s already been announced that next season, Season 4, will be its last. But you even if you don’t subscribe to HBO, there is no excuse not to catch this incredible – and incredibly musical – show. The first two seasons are readily available on DVD (try Amazon), and surely the last two will be available in the next year or so.

MP3: “The Treme Song” by John Boutte

YouTube: Trailer for Season 1 of “Treme”

“Treme” home page (via HBO)

Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson: A Real Jokester?

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , on September 19, 2012 by 30daysout

The Beach Boys sign autographs and answer questions on Twitter from Los Angeles on 9/18.

If somebody would have told me 30 years ago that there would be this thing called the internet, and on it would live this other thing called social media, where people could communicate instantly with masses around the world … well, that’s right up there with believing in space aliens and moderate Republicans.

Social media has taken away any sort of false modesty about the world and installed a big, widescreen picture window in our lives. Through that window we can see a topless princess, a starlet’s sweet ass or a football player’s weenie. And if we want to draw a curtain over that picture window to hide something from the world, well, sometimes it’s not so easy.

Which has nothing at all to do with why we’re here today, and that’s to talk about the Beach Boys and Twitter. Think about it – the Beach Boys’ best tunes are like musical tweets from the past, a glimpse into a long-lost world of surf, sand, sun, hot rods and bikinis, all in 140 characters or less.

Certainly you know the Beach Boys – a legacy-rich lineup of Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston and David Marks – are touring to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary. You probably knew they wrap up this tour next week with two dates in London, then the Mike Love/Bruce Johnston Beach Boys hit the road again in the States. You might have caught them on the road, or even have heard their all-new studio album That’s Why God Made The Radio.

And you probably heard they’re about to release yet another greatest hits set, 50 Big Ones, coming out Oct. 9. Which explains why the Beach Boys found themselves in a room yesterday (Sept. 18) talking to fans over Twitter.

There were a few good questions, and a lot of goofy ones. One Tweeter asked Brian Wilson, “What is your favorite track on Smile?” Wilson (or someone) answered, “Heroes and Villains.”

The Beach Boys sing the national anthem on Opening Day for the Los Angeles Dodgers in April.

Another question elicited more than a single response: “What is your favorite Beach Boy (sic) song or album?” Bruce replied, “Warmth of the Sun and Sunflower.” Marks said “Surfin’ USA for album and hard to say fav song. Probably God Only Knows.” Love chimed in with “Good Vibrations for Song and our live album in Sacramento, CA. It was the excitement that was so great!”

Wilson, who is credited with creating much of the Beach Boys’ music, had an interesting answer: “California Girls for song and 15 Big Ones for album!” Interesting because 15 Big Ones (1976) was the first album that Wilson produced for the Beach Boys since Pet Sounds, 10 years earlier. After doing that 1960s classic,  Wilson had a breakdown caused by mental illness and a lot of drugs and spent the next decade in a haze.

And Wilson wrote or co-wrote only four of the album’s 15 tracks, which were mostly oldies (Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music” was a Top 5 hit). So, an intriguing answer – or maybe a joke?

The reason I say that is because of another Tweet: “Brian, if you could go back and remake one album, which one would it be?” (Full disclosure: that one came from me.) And Brian’s answer? “Endless Summer. I think it could have been better.”

Endless Summer? That 1974 album was a greatest hits set, a collection of singles from the period before Pet Sounds. Even though the original double LP didn’t contain the group’s biggest hit single (“Good Vibrations,” from 1967) it did monster business back in the day. Wilson did oversee the compilation at the time, but you wonder – why would he want to go back and re-do a collection of singles?

As I said, maybe he’s just pulling my leg. Or maybe that damn Mike Love slipped in and answered when nobody was looking!

No matter; this version of the Beach Boys is about to fade away into history, maybe never to return. “Summer’s Gone,” as the final song on the new album says. Thanks Boys – it sure was fun, fun, fun.

You can read a transcript of the entire Beach Boys Twitter exchange here.

The Beach Boys official web site

YouTube: “Good Vibrations” live in NYC, 5/8/12