Monday, April 6, 2020

Peter and Gordon, Chad and Jeremy, and now Peter and Jeremy

Photo of James Taylor & Peter Asher at the
Sweet Baby James photo shoot by Henry Diltz
Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog called,  Sweet Baby James and 50 Years Down the Road

While writing that blog, I had also began to read a book by James Taylor's original manager and the producer of Sweet Baby James, Peter Asher.

Thanks to Paul Hobbs 
for the book loan



The book is titled, The Beatles from A to Zed and is simply a wonderful journey through the alphabet with everything Beatles, plus more interesting sidebar stories including: Peter's direct experiences with the Beatles, his days in Peter and Gordon, and life in the music business. If you're a Beatle fan, this is a must and a very fun read indeed. The book got me interested in Peter Asher and I began to look into his life and professional career as a musician and record producer.

Some early facts about Peter Asher and his one degree of separation-
  • Peter's father was a doctor and his mother was a professional musician and Oboe teacher, who once taught a young lad named, George Martin (the future producer of The Beatles).
  • Peter went to the prestigious Westminster School in London where he met his future band mate, Gordon Waller whose father was also a doctor.
  • Peter was a child actor along with sister Jane Asher, a life-long actress. 
  • At seventeen, Jane had an opportunity to interview the Beatles in April, 1963 at the Royal Albert Hall in London, and began a five-year relationship with Paul McCartney. In December 1963, McCartney took up residence at Asher's family Wimpole Street town house and stayed there until the couple moved into McCartney's own home located in St John's Wood in 1966. McCartney wrote several Beatles songs inspired by her, including "And I Love Her", "You Won't See Me", "I'm Looking Through You", "We Can Work It Out", and "Here, There and Everywhere." Wikipedia
  • At the Asher's Wimpole St. home, John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in the front basement room, while McCartney wrote the tune to "Yesterday" in a box room at the top of the house. Wikipedia
  • Paul McCartney and Jane Asher
  • For two years, Peter's and Paul's bedrooms were right next to each other at the top of the house, and Peter as a young musician himself had constant direct access to one of the greatest singer-songwriter's of all-time. I guess I could go on about Jane's and Paul's access... what were her parents thinking?
Anyway, John and Paul were constantly writing new songs and always revisiting and even workshopping older songs they wrote before the Beatles formed in 1960. One such song, A World Without Love was written by Paul when he was sixteen but John could never get past the first line, Please lock me away without cracking up with laughter.

Peter Asher and Gordon Waller
As John rejected A World Without Love as a Beatles song, an astute Peter Asher asked Paul if he could have the "orphan" song for his newly signed band, Peter and Gordon. Peter even persisted Paul to write the bridge of the still uncompleted song. Paul finished the song and gave it to Peter and Gordon who took it to their first recording sessions for EMI Records. Least to say, the rest is history as the song went all the way to #1 on the UK and American Billboard Charts in 1964 and launched Peter and Gordon as a worldwide duo.

This past week, I thought the A World Without Love lyrics quite appropriate for our #StayatHome times even though they were written by a young Paul McCartney about waiting for a true love to finally show herself.

Please lock me away
And don't allow the day
Here inside where I hide
With my loneliness

I don't care what they say I won't stay
In a world without love

Now another thing that struck me when viewing the color video of A World Without Love is that Peter Asher is the spitting image model of Mike Myers' Austin Powers character. I am of course not the first to make this observation, but I want you to play the song here and pay attention as the camera zooms in on Peter at the 0:27 - 0:37 mark. You'll see exactly what I'm talking about- Peter's expression with mop top, Buddy Holly glasses and teeth... Yeah Baby!



Peter's close relationship with Paul McCartney proved invaluable as Peter and Gordon recorded several songs written by McCartney but credited to Lennon–McCartney. Those hits included "A World Without Love" (US & UK #1), "Nobody I Know" (US #12; UK #10), "I Don't Want To See You Again" (US #16, but not a hit in the UK), and "Woman." With "Woman", McCartney used the pseudonym Bernard Webb to see whether he could have a hit song without his name attached. First pressings of the US Capitol single listed the composer as "A. Smith". The song reached #14 in the US and #28 on the UK Singles Chart in 1966. Wikipedia

Phil and Don Everly
As duo groups in the 1960's started popping up such as Simon and Garfunkel, Peter and Gordon, Chad and Jeremy, not to mention such bands as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, The Hollies, and Bee Gees- all getting their harmonic inspiration from the well of The Everly Brothers. For Peter and Gordon, it's very interesting to hear two very different singing voices come together to make their harmony work so well. Needless to say, without the Everly Brothers, the evolution of harmony in the early to mid-sixties for singing duo's and bands just wouldn't have been the same.

Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde
Chad and Jeremy is another interesting duo from England as they too rode the British Invasion to America with a number of hits from 1962 - 1968.

The duo had a string of hits in the US, including "Willow Weep for Me", "Before and After", and their biggest hit, "A Summer Song". Wikipedia

For Peter and Gordon and Chad and Jeremy, the 60's wave ended as both groups disbanded in 1968. For Peter Asher, his life changed in 1968 as he briefly worked as the A&R (Artists & Repertoire) Director for Apple Records where he signed James Taylor to his first record contract and then moved to the United States to manage and produce James and later, Linda Ronstadt. Peter went on to produce many acts, and in 1995-2002 was Senior Vice-President for Sony Music Entertainment.

Peter and Gordon, 2005
But what attracted me to write this article and playlist this week was Peter Asher's reunion with Gordon Waller in 2005, first playing benefits, Beatlefest, and then doing clubs together. Sadly, this ended in 2009 when Gordon Waller died of a heart attack at 64 years old.
Chad and Jeremy, 2005

As for Chad and Jeremy, Chad Stuart continued to work in the music industry while Jeremy Clyde became a film and stage actor. In the early 1980s, the duo reunited to record a new album and perform concerts, including a multi-band British Invasion nostalgia tour. After another long period of separation, in the early 2000s Chad & Jeremy began performing again and developed a semi-regular schedule of touring for many years. Wikipedia

Peter and Jeremy, 2020
Incidentally, both Peter and Gordon and Chad and Jeremy often played venues together as all were life-long friends.

In 2018, Chad Stuart retired from performing and low and behold, Peter Asher and Jeremy Clyde started performing together as, Peter and Jeremy. That kind of takes us full circle as I would like to present a mix playlist of Peter and Gordon, Chad and Jeremy, and Peter and Jeremy this week in both older and more recent videos. Make sure to watch the last two videos with a bit of fun commentary by Peter and Jeremy. Enjoy my friends!


Note- I also want to give a big shoutout to jarichards99youtube (subscribe here) who does a fantastic job of taking old music videos and creating a Digitally ReProcessed ReCut Video and STEREO ReMix.HiQ Hybrid = Live Video Performance PLUS Studio Quality Sound.

Monday, March 30, 2020

50 Years of Music: January - March, 1970

Simon and Garfunkel at the 1971 13th Annual Grammy Awards | Bettmann/Getty Images
Something old, something new... part of the good luck tradition for a bride on her wedding day. In the past several months I haven't seen any brides floating about, but thought I'd borrow the expression.

Three weeks ago, I put together a playlist of "something new" music releases from January-March, 2020 thinking that might be popular with so many people home and online. It wasn't a dud but maybe not the #ComfortSongs to go along with maybe some of the #ComfortFoods you've been wanting or having at your #StayatHome. By the way, has cooking made a comeback at your house too?

Last week, I put together the 50th anniversary of CSN&Y's Déjà vu album, and Joni Mitchell's Ladies of the Canyon, and that got a pretty good bump of blog hits coming in. With that in mind, I'll continue the "something old" theme by highlighting albums released from January - March from 1970. It's an amazing collection of albums and the number of great songs within those albums are truly impressive.

Here are a few thoughts I strung together while putting this 100+ Playlist together derived from my Wikipedia source, 1970 in music.

I'll start with the Grammy album of the year for 1970,
Bridge over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel. What's not to like on this entire album. If I have to pick one to start off the playlist, I'm going with Cecilia an all-time favorite which also reminds me of a quick story growing up in a Baptist Church. I remember when Love The One You're With was a hit by Stephen Stills in late 1970 and a girl in my youth group commented to me, "I just can't stand these dirty songs like Cecilia and Love The One You're With." About a year later, I came up to her at church and said, "Guess you'll have to add Change Partners to your dirty songs list."

The Magic Christian was a February 1970 movie starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr. The soundtrack, Magic Christian Music is by the band Badfinger and features their first big hit written and produced by Paul McCartney, Come and Get It. I thought this was going to be a quick skip-through album, but I kept saying to myself, "wait a minute, this one's good...this one's good" and so on. Like so many albums I discover fifty years after their release, Magic Christian Music's a gem from a truly great band as most people only know their hits.

Last week I watched a 2011 documentary about George Martin (the 5th Beatle) on Amazon Prime called, Produced by George Martin (link here) that I highly recommend. George Martin produced Ringo's first solo album, Sentimental Journey and the two make a great team doing a complete album of "standards" that had not had been attempted by any rock star until Ringo did it. Ringo has always been maligned by the press over the years, but now most critics say he's not only a great drummer but a very good singer to boot. Listen to Ringo sing Night and Day by Cole Porter.

When I was fifteen, I would have never have listened to Frank Sinatra's Watertown, much less Ringo's Sentimental Journey. In Watertown, Sinatra takes a 1970 ride on the singer-songwriter wave with a themed-based album.  All the songs were written by the same team of  Bob Gaudio and Jake Holmes which is something Frank had never done before. This indeed was a risky move as Watertown was Frank's worst selling album, but the critics loved it and I think it's a wonderful album too. It's a heartbreaking tale of a wife who leaves her husband and two children searching for stardom. Make sure you listen to, The Train.

If I didn't mention the band Mountain here, I'd probably get a concerning phone call from my old friend and childhood next door neighbor Ron Zieman wondering if I lost my mind. Ron introduced me to the best "heavy" rock bands over the years starting with Cream. Felix Pappalardi who produced some of Cream's albums started Mountain with Leslie West and their first album Climbing climbed the charts with their big hit, Mississippi QueenWhen the group proceeded to record "Mississippi Queen", Pappalardi insisted on numerous takes. Growing weary, Corky Laing the drummer started using the cowbell to count off the song. Pappalardi liked it so much he left it in the mix, creating the song's recognizable intro (Wikipedia). And as Christopher Walken would say, "More Cowbell."

Moondance is simply one of the greatest albums of all time. As a teenager I really didn't appreciate Van Morrison until I got to San Diego State and started rooming with my buddy Mark Hunter. Mark was from Millbrae CA, just south of San Francisco and if you're from the Bay Area you know "Van the man." Every song on this album is fantastic. In the last several years, I've really taken a deeper dive into his music and loved seeing him in Las Vegas in February. Check out Into the Mystic, this song is right up there...

The personnel on Leon Russell's debut album is largely a who's who of rock 'n' roll royalty, not to mention half of England. Again, so many great songs on this album including the all-time, "A Song for You", written by Russell, is a slow, pained plea for forgiveness and understanding from an estranged lover, the tune is one of Russell's best-known compositions. It has been performed and recorded by over 200 artists, spanning many musical genres. Elton John has called the song an American classic (Wikipedia).

I purchased Nilsson Sings Newman in a used record shop after Harry Nilsson become really famous with his 1971 album, Nilsson Schmilsson. Again, this album is filled with great songs. Both albums followed me to college and I listened to them often in my dorm room and then in a series of forgettable apartments. In fact in my first forgettable apartment, my complete stereo system was stolen (a high school graduation present) with Harry Nilsson's 1974 Pussy Cats album on the turntable. I'll never forget coming home, opening the door and seeing a large empty space where the stereo system used to be with now the Pussy Cats empty album jacket laying in its place. My first thought was F***!!!!!, then I thought, well Pussy Cats was not Harry's finest hour on vinyl. But as long as I'm talking today about great "standards" albums like Sentimental Journey and Watertown today, check out Nilsson's 1973 A Touch of Schmilsson in the Night, a classic and one of Harry's finest hours.

Mary Kit says to me, "108 videos this week, man you must have some spare time..."

Monday, March 23, 2020

Déjà Vu • March, 1970

 déjà vu (from Merriam-Webster)
a: the illusion of remembering scenes and events when experienced for the first time

b: a feeling that one has seen or heard something before


In March 1970, I turned fifteen. This week I turn sixty-five and as my music blog is often an exercise of personal reflection, I wonder if my long-term memory is really just a mix of illusions and feelings all woven seamlessly together in my current-thinking brain.

Sometime in that spring of 1970, I'm at the house of my friend Gary Hill. Gary has just purchased Déjà Vu, the new Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Album. It has the best album cover I've ever seen.

I'm in Gary's living room looking out of his large front window and listening to the album by myself. Gary has gone outside to wash his light green family station wagon and as his custom, he dries the car by speeding off to the nearby US 101 freeway to let the wind finish the job. All alone, I listen to the album a couple of times. In fact his mom, the always smiling Madeline Hill has come home before he is back. She doesn't seem to mind that I'm alone in her house listening to a record on her stereo console. That memory is etched in my brain.

The release of Déjà vu with the addition of Neil Young to the band was a pleasant surprise to me. The album did not disappoint as the band had surpassed the first album and elevated themselves to even a higher level. As a freshman in high school, I thought it was one of the best albums ever made and nothing has changed my opinion of that music in these last 50 years.

In the ensuing years, what did change was the déjà vu-like experience of either/or David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young in never-ending breakups and makeups in just too many incarnations to describe here. As I write this, I'm currently reading Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young: The Wild, Definitive Saga of Rock's Greatest Supergroup by David Browne. My friend Paul Hobbs highly recommended it to me awhile back and I pass along the same if you are a CSN&Y fan.

Paul's assessment kind of threw me back when he said, "Doug, they're all assholes."

Okay, we all know David Crosby's is the obnoxious self-indulgent asshole. He's said it about himself many times on stage and in rock documentaries, not to mention the overarching reason he was kicked out of The Byrds. Yes, Stills was always demanding to be the hard charging alpha general, Nash the very pleasant and chatty hitmaker and peacemaker with social skills, and Young the aloof alpha, the restless free agent who often took his ball and went looking for different players to play with. But all of them, assholes? Well I'm up to 1974 in David Browne's comprehensive behind the curtain book and yep, they're all assholes.

I call it the Mickey Mantle effect (my first hero). As a child or young person, you admire that person's public persona because their art or talent were truly special and influenced you. You only find out later in life that the actual person was in fact an arrogant ass, or sometimes even worse...

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Fifty by Four
In addition to David Browne's book, Paul texted me on Sunday and recommended, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Fifty by Four (linked here), a 2 hour 44 minute documentary free on Amazon Prime. I watched it last night and again Paul is spot on calling it, "a visual embodiment of the book more or less." Damn it Paul, I'm going to have to start paying you reference fees...

Okay, how about two more memories in Gary Hill's station wagon.

First, it's late May 1970 after the Kent State shootings. Gary is behind the wheel of the green station wagon. Ron Zieman is riding shotgun, and I believe Paul is with me in the backseat, but maybe it's Steve Spencer too. The radio is on and the DJ introduces Ohio, the Neil Young song by CSN&Y recorded and released in what would appropriately be, record time. Neil's and then Stephen's electric guitars start and we just all look at each other as Gary is turning up the volume.



Second, it's maybe 1970 or '71, same scenario, Gary's driving the wagon, Ron's in the front bench passenger seat, and I'm by myself in the back bench seat, left side. Gary's moving fairly fast on the back country two lane CA Route Highway 166 . We come upon a VW bug going very slow. Gary moves in the oncoming lane to pass the bug as we're approaching a crossroad. Suddenly without any form of signaling the VW suddenly makes a left turn striking a glancing blow to the right side of the station wagon as we're exactly parallel with the bug. The wagon skids sideways left across the crossroad intersection.

At that moment, I realize I don't have my seatbelt on and instinctively dive to the floor and hold on to the backside of the driver's lap seat belts bolted down to the floor directly behind the driver's seat. The wagon skids for what seems like an eternity and then stops. I sit up from the floor and look out the left window and there's no ground! I then look down and we have stopped about a foot from a 20ft steep embankment leading down to a ditch. The guy driving the VW with long black hair and beard who looks like Tommy Chong is walking towards us, and in no rush. He comes up to us as we are now out of the car and just staring down at the f***ing embankment.  In what seems like a Cheech and Chong  skit he says in perfect Tommy Chong stoner voice, "Hey man... you dudes ok?"

For CSN&Y, as strange as the band members were on and off with each other (and their many associates) for over five decades, the music on those first two albums is so very special to me and helped elevate my appreciation of top-tier rock 'n' roll in a special time and place.

I highlighted the first CSN album in a blog a while back- Crosby, Stills & Nash - Celebrating 50 Years of Their Debut Album and here, I present the entire Déjà Vu album in the following YouTube Playlist.


Now, if you go back to the first three months of music in 1970, it will blow you away. Fact be told I was preparing to write another blog this week, 50 Years of Music: January - March, 1970, but heck that's now my teaser for next week's blog. I'm already feeling somewhat guilty because Bridge Over Troubled Water was released in January, 1970 and I didn't make that a blog feature as- Simon & Garfunkel release their final album together. The title track and album stay #1 on the Billboard charts for six weeks and go on to win a record six Grammys at the 13th Grammy Awards, including "Record of the Year", "Song of the Year", and "Album of the Year." Wikipedia

Then in my Wikipedia search, I get to March 1970 and there are these two albums a couple of weeks apart, Déjà Vu and Joni Mitchell's, Lady of the Canyon.

The fact that these two albums are released in the same month is not really astonishing once you know a little about the history of Joni Mitchell with CSN&Y. Think back, we get Joni's acoustic Woodstock song version that is preceded a few weeks earlier by CSNY&Y's rocking version of Woodstock!

As I recall, I'm listening to the full Ladies of the Canyon album for the first time with Paul in his bedroom. The music business in 1970 was still as misogynistic as it could be, but here are two young teenage boys listening (and learning) to songs from a female's perspective. Back then, boys grew up listening (and learning) to songs mostly from a guy's perspective, songs like Under My Thumb by The Rolling Stones comes to mind. In the 1970's, Joni gave us all a fresh if not introspective look at relationships, now from both sides. One of my favorites songs from that album is about her soon-to-be former boyfriend, Graham Nash.

Willy

Willy is my child, he is my father
I would be his lady all my life
He says he'd love to live with me
But for an ancient injury
That has not healed
He said I feel once again
Like I gave my heart too soon
He stood looking through the lace
At the face on the conquered moon
And counting all the cars up the hill
And the stars on my window sill
There are still more reasons why I love him

Willy is my joy, he is my sorrow
Now he wants to run away and hide
He says our love cannot be real
He cannot hear the chapel's pealing silver bells
But you know it's hard to tell
When you're in the spell if it's wrong or if it's real
But you're bound to lose
If you let the blues get you scared to feel
And I feel like I'm just being born
Like a shiny light breaking in a storm
There are so many reasons why I love him

Willy is my child, he is my father

As I look back, what a pair of albums to have in your collection if not your soul for a lifetime. Here's the playlist for Ladies of the Canyon.

This blog post is dedicated to Gary "Crazy Legs" Hill. 
Rest in Peace ol' pal, your friends will never forget you.

Monday, March 16, 2020

New Music Releases • January-March, 2020

Yesterday, I was supposed to go see Livingston Taylor at Humphreys Backstage Live in San Diego. This blog was going to be about that show with a Livingston Taylor playlist. On March 24th, I was supposed to see Joan Osborne with the The Weepies in Edmonds, Washington. Both shows were of course cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic as any public event or activity has been cancelled or postponed in the last couple of weeks. In May, I'm hoping to see The Rolling Stones, Sting, and Sheryl Crow. I wrote the previous sentence a couple of days ago and now those concert dates will be probably cancelled as well. I've now tried to see the Stones twice in my life, and both shows cancelled...

Today, maybe finds you at home. Most of my family in San Diego and in the Seattle area are home today with their children. I have three children who are teachers who will be teaching from their laptops at home using online communications and apps with their students and staff this month and possibly into April. I have other family members in various jobs able to work with their colleagues from their laptops as well. Safe to say, people are close to home these days.

These next several weeks may be a good opportunity to retreat into your album or CD collection. It may be a good time to take a deeper dive into your music streaming service. It may be a time to look to music to either calm or rock your soul, maybe both.

Greenbelt trail a mile from my house
This is also a good time to get outside and take a walk or run everyday. Find places away from a crowd. Your neighborhood sidewalk is right there and not filled with people. There literally is no better time to get out there and expand your lung capabilities. The great outdoors is calling. When you get back home, those books you've been meaning to read are also calling. I guess the dust devils are calling too and maybe some time spent spring cleaning?

I was going to save this week's playlist for the last Monday of this month but decided to go ahead and put out this collection (56 and counting) of new music releases from January - March now. Maybe you need the comfort of hearing some old tunes right now, but maybe it's also a good time to spend the time to hear some new stuff as well.

So enjoy this new playlist my friends as I wish you and your family well in the weeks ahead.

Note- I'm sure you can't help but appreciate the irony of Mike Campbell's band being named, The Dirty Knobs as much as I do. The Dirty Knobs kick off the playlist with a very Rolling Stones-like song, Wreckless Abandon (new album expected March 20th). Now wash your hands.

p.s. The last two songs on the playlist are for Vinny.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Team Tortoise Part IV: Running Iterations

Team Tortoise -  Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

Source: Altra Running Shoes





This is the fourth article in a mini-blog series about walking, running, diet and of course, music. Like a streaming TV show, you may want to go back and quickly recap the series from the menu at the top, before proceeding with this latest installment.


In April 2018, I started this team tortoise blog series to motivate myself to achieve three goals.

My 3 BIG GOALS (with no timeline restraints attached)
  1. To slowly lose 30 pounds (from 215 to 185), and keep it steady at 185 for the foreseeable future.
  2. To run a 12 minute mile for 5 miles (12x5= 60 minutes), and keep that as my new pace and distance for the foreseeable future.
  3. To listen to new and old music while running to inspire my writing for Monday Monday Music. 
I knew Goal #1 would be the hardest for me as 185 was setting a high mark to get down to. As of this writing- having gotten down to 199, back up to 210, I'm currently settled at 205. My current short term goal is 200. Losing weight and keeping it off is just a damn hard thing to achieve. These last sentences are hard to write, but I stay persistent to accomplish this goal and (mostly) practice what I have written.

Goal #3 is basically a ringer as I knew it would be a no-fail proposition for myself. I do listen to music on most every run where I can simply lose myself and move into a meditation-like state that is active, thoughtful and peaceful. I truly believe music has saved my life and is an important part of my well-being. Music and running, individually or together are free therapy sessions in themselves.

Goal #2 is why this #IV blog is written, because I promised myself to write this article when I achieved- To run a 12 minute mile for 5 miles (12x5= 60 minutes), and keep that as my new pace and distance for the foreseeable future.
My greenbelt up and down trail run- elevation starting at 394 ft. up to 509 ft. during Mile 2



Goal #2 actually evolved into two distinct objectives using the greenbelt trail run by my house.

From my RunKeeper App,
I'll explain further down...
1. Run 5 miles in 60 minutes. I accomplished this a couple of months ago after finally getting through a number of calf pulling injury setbacks (originally sustained from a severe knee to ankle calf muscle tear injury ten years ago). Two things have sustained my success in this area - Compression Socks (Amazon), and a deep tissue massage by a professional masseuse at least once a month to prevent future muscle pulls and tears.

2. Run each of the five miles at a 12 minute mile or faster split time pace. This was the much harder objective, just accomplished by me this past week after almost two friggin' years!

 Okay Tortoise Yoda, how did you make your miracle breakthrough in just... TWO short years?- like you're now going to be some social media influencer or something...

An Old Dog with Some New Tricks Through Running Iterations

Iteration is the act of repeating a process, either to generate an unbounded sequence of outcomes, or with the aim of approaching a desired goal, target or result. Each repetition of the process is also called an "iteration", and the results of one iteration are used as the starting point for the next iterationWikipedia

Iterations are not about repeating the same patterns and expecting to get different results. It's about planning-implementing-and evaluating your progress, and then getting back out there to make it better the next time. If I was going to improve my running as I approached my 65th birthday, I would need some reflection and research, specifically on my body mechanics. I would need to go way back to the beginning and think about when I started running regularly at 18 years of age.

We all grew up wearing Converse sneakers. I had the black high tops and also the white/beige low tops which I preferred for running during early adolescence. The model shown here is a Nike remake of the Chuck Taylor All Star shoe of the 1970's. This shoe is commonly referred as a "flat shoe" with a flat insole cushion and flat bottom sole.

The 1972 Nike Cortez
In 1972, Bill Bowerman created "The Cortez" and Nike was born. At some point in 1973-1974 I got a pair and loved them straight out. Again, look at the flat bottom design. A flat bottom shoe is designed as- Most runners should land close to midfoot with their foot parallel to the ground. From Altra Website

Striking at the midfoot is essential, it's where the heel is naturally cushioned from the blunt strike force to the ground, and is closer to how humans run without shoes.

Hoka One One Stinson Running Shoe
Think of running shoes prior to the 1980's as vinyl records, more of an authentic feel.

Most running shoes manufactured today have a widened cushioned curved heel designed to basically force the runner to strike heel first and then roll the foot forward. Sometime in 2018 or early 2019, I purchased my first pair of Hoka Stinson running shoes and thought my feet had landed in the clouds.


In actuality, the extensive cushioning and forced heel strike were creating a strong and painful case of plantar fasciitis in my right heel. By tricking my brain to not feel the ground, my heels were being driven straight into the ground absorbing the force of all my weight.

After relaying this latest injury to my ol' pal Paul Hobbs, he handed me a book that started a series of iterations to change my running technique back to the days of my youth. That book was, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall. Thank you Paul!

Born to Run blew my mind and fixed perceptions! Chris McDougall basically opened my eyes as my body started to break down age-wise in my 40's through a long succession of buying expensive hi-tech heel striking running shoes. One might could call it, The Low Spark of the High Heeled Boys...

On the left side of my body: I've had constant lower back pain, meniscus knee surgery, and left foot plantar fasciitis surgery, not to mention my 2010 severe calf tear while... wait for it... dancing to Lady Gaga at my step daughter Abby's wedding party. As a musical side note- This past Monday, I took a treadmill heart stress test for my cardiologist (heart attack 2/17/02). When I told the three nurses administering the test how I injured my left calf, they all burst out in gut-belly laughter, and I think I made their day.

Altra Timp 1.5 - My favorite running shoe in memory,
not to mention the cool Seattle Seahawk color scheme
After reading Born to Run, I started researching running technique and finding shoes with a 'zero drop' design that promote a mid-foot strike while running. I found a shoe manufacturer, Altra that makes a wide (Birkenstock) type toe box for my 4EEEE wide feet. In the last 6 months of running, my right heel plantar fasciitis is slowly going away, I have no back pain, and have had only one minor left calf strain.

The following chart is from Altra again, hey maybe I am an influencer... without the pay.

Source, Altra: Improve Your Form

This chart is me in my back-to-the-future running form from the left- 1980's to my current right- striving to recapture the form of that 18 year old running at Waller Park in Santa Maria, CA. In blog Part I of this series, I called myself a Scottish Clydesdale. Now I think of myself as an old thoroughbred (maybe not quite put out to pasture)- a bit worn for wear but still ready to go at a slower pace with a balanced forward posture.

A Couple of Technology Tips

In this past couple of years, I've found a couple of cool product for runners that I highly recommend.

  • The free Smartphone Asics Runner's App - RunKeeper. (I originally used an app call RunTracker, but found the GPS to be rather inconsistent on the same 5 mile course and switched to RunKeeper.

    In the RunKeeper settings, I get audio feedback every 1/4 mile for: Distance, Average Pace, Average Speed, and most important, Split Speed. The Split Speed reading every 1/4 mile keeps me sharp and kicks my ass in gear. I hate to admit it, but this app works like a musical metronome to keep me in time. Here is the download page for iPhone and Android.

  • Bone Collection (Run Tie) Running Armband Phone Holder, Lightweight Sports Cell Phone Armband for iPhone and Android. I've tried a couple of brands that keep slipping down my arm once I start sweating, but this product has the best armband on the market and simply does not slip. It's $25 but well worth it!


Two More Books from Christopher McDougall


I highly recommend you read Born to Run as mentioned above, then proceed to his second book, Natural Born Heroes: Mastering the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance. If you love World War II stories, this is a real page turner mixed with Chris' runner spirit DNA for great storytelling.

Then read, Running with Sherman: the donkey with the heart of a hero, an absolutely heartwarming story of a rescue donkey to complete this runner's trilogy.

Christopher McDougall in addition to being a fantastic storyteller is also a wonderful person. I got a chance to see, listen and meet him at an October, 2019 book reading and overview backstory of Running with Sherman in San Diego.

me with Christopher McDougall at his
Running with Sherman book signing in San Diego.
He signed my copy - "To Doug and Team Tortoise, Run Wild!"

Now for the Playlist this week

Over the past couple of years, I've added a bunch of videos to my Born to Run Playlist created with mostly upbeat songs to keep you rocking on that walk or run. Enjoy my friends!



Monday, March 2, 2020

JD Souther, hey he wrote that song...

Photo: Patrick Breen/The Republic























Well, I guess I'm standin' in a hall of broken dreams
That's the way it sometimes goes
And every new love never turns out like it seems
I guess the feelin' comes and goes

Faithless love like a river flows
Like a raindrops fallin' on a broken rose
Down in some valley where nobody goes

Faithless love has found me
Thrown its chilly arms around me
Faithless love, faithless love like a river flows
from Faithless Love, JD Souther

Many rock fans may have never heard the name John David (JD) Souther, the singer-songwriter with a fantastic singing voice matched by his mastery of lyric and rhythm in crafting haunting love songs mostly made famous by other people including, the EaglesLinda Ronstadt, and James Taylor. In relation to the Eagles and Ronstadt, Souther directly participated as a songwriter or co-songwriter of some of their biggest hits, not to mention being a close friend, confidant and essential collaborator for two of the greatest acts in rock 'n' roll history.

In 2013, Souther was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and called "a principal architect of the Southern California sound and a major influence on a generation of songwriters." Wikipedia

JD Souther was born in 1945 in Detroit, grew up in Amarillo, Texas and like so many of his contemporaries moved to Los Angeles in the 1960's.  During this time, Souther was Linda Ronstadt's boyfriend and lived with her, and was also roommates or close neighbors with Glenn Frey, Jackson Browne, and Don Henley in the Hollywood hills. In 1969, Frey and Souther formed the band Longbranch Pennywhistle and released one album with the same title as both were at the forefront in creating country rock as a genre in the 1970's.

In 1972, Souther released his first solo album, John David Souther and in 1974 formed the super country rock band, Souther-Hillman-Fury Band that made two albums and broke up in 1975 as the three continued to pursue their solo careers.

JD Souther (second from left)
If you've followed the Eagles from the beginning with their first album in 1971, you've probably wondered or even wished like I did, why JD Souther was never a formal member of the band? With co-writing credits on Best of My Love, James DeanNew Kid in Town, Victim of Love, Heartache Tonight, and How Long, this guy should have been in the starting lineup. I've read that Randy Meisner the original bass player in the Eagles rejected the idea of Souther joining the group, but I think, like Jackson Browne that their solo careers were their primary focus. Also, I think Souther's life-long friendships with Henley and Frey were more important than being another chef in the Eagles kitchen.
Eagle's Desperado Back Album Cover - Photo Henry Diltz
Jackson Browne (dead guy far left)
JD Souther (dead guy far right)

I have a tendency to play- Should've Could've, but I personally think if JD Souther had been a full-time Eagle that band would have soared even higher, maybe even into the 80's? And, when Glen Frey died in 2016, I think JD should have become an Eagle and not Vince Gill. Don't get me wrong, Gill was a wonderful choice, but he is a country star and not part of the Eagles rich history like Souther. Who knows the private conversations that took place between Henley and Souther, but that's just me being a fan...

Now if you're a fan of Linda Ronstadt and who isn't, JD Souther is so much more than a former boyfriend and duet singer on some of her albums. In fact, Linda recorded ten songs by Souther, three of which are bonafide rock 'n' roll ballad classics and all-time favorites of mine- Faithless Love, Prisoner in Disguise, and Silver Blue. In this week's playlist I've included Linda's versions of these three songs with JD's stellar backup vocals on these classic tracks that never get old.

Ronstadt & Souther in the 1970's
Last Thursday, I got to see JD Souther live at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach. It was a great show and I spotted Jack Tempchin (Eagles songwriter, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Already Gone) coming from backstage to sit down for the show. Souther performed solo and moved between acoustic guitar and piano to play a great setlist for the mostly boomer faithful crowd who were respectfully quiet during the songs. JD is also a great storyteller and I appreciated his setup stories between many of the songs- like the drunk Australian who was driving on the wrong side of the road and hit Souther's Lotus sports car stopped at a Stop sign. Souther had a split second to turn the car a little left so that it wasn't a straight head-on collision that probably saved his life as the fiberglass shell disintegrated around him.  He got out, staggered to a lawn as Don Henley drove up from behind a minute later. He tells Don, "Go look inside the glove box and make sure there's no cocaine," before the police showed up. There was no cocaine, but another interesting story from the high flying 1970's in the hollywood canyons.

In putting together the playlist this week, I came across an absolute gem of an album that had escaped my attention during my many years working a day job. This is Souther's 2011 album of new stripped down acoustic versions of many of his hits by to other people or his personal favorites. I've included most of the recordings in the playlist, but I highly recommend you go out and buy JD Souther Natural History immediately, it is that good my friends!

Monday, February 24, 2020

The Unraveling • Drive-By Truckers

I think I'm like many people who finally heard about the Drive-By Truckers as the band that kicked out Jason Isbell in 2008 for his heavy drinking.

It's that kind of back-asswards approach to getting into a band as I started to follow Isbell and then played my way to the Drive-By Truckers and started streaming their albums into my favorites on Amazon. Time after time, I'd be on a trail run with shuffle mode on and I'd have to stop and look at my iPhone screen in the sun and say, "Who are those guys?"

Well those guys are Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley who co-founded the Drive-By Truckers in 1996 in Athens, Georgia. The Unraveling is their 12th studio album. After a couple of listens, I realized it's a sobering album best experienced in its entirety rather than picking a few songs for a 'best of' playlist (which I of course will do in a later blog). This album rails against a 'Trump America' as some of the song titles are literally taken from our current headlines. As one of the Youtube comments say under one of the songs, [if this album is not for you simply] "don't listen." But hey, at least dig the very cool album cover.

These southern rockers are writing their lyrics from their hearts and I'm hearing the message on this very current and downbeat album. I encourage you to give it a full listen.

Here's an insightful review of The Unraveling by Chris Randle for Pitchfolk.

The Unraveling for purchase on Amazon.


Monday, February 17, 2020

Sweet Baby James and 50 Years Down the Road


Sweet Baby James, the second studio album by James Taylor was released on February 1, 1970. The photo above was taken by Henry Diltz as a black and white photo promo. Diltz instantly saw that the picture would look great in color and wisely got out his color camera quickly and snapped what would be the iconic album cover after James slightly adjusted his pose.

The first single, Fire and Rain reached #3 on the Pop 100 Billboard Chart and James has been a household name ever since.

My friends and I wore out the grooves on this album. The title song, Sweet Baby James is viewed by James himself as his best song. Personally, it is one of my top ten songs of all-time and I currently have it in the #1 spot on My 100 Songs YouTube Playlist in honor of the album's 50th anniversary.

Here's the Sweet Baby James Album Playlist along with a funny update to Fire and Rain by James and Stephen Colbert.



As for 2020, James has just released his audiobook titled, Break Shot: My First 21 Years: An Audio MemoirI just got a download copy by doing the free 30 day trial on Audible, click here for details. I recommend you take a hour and a half of your life and sit down in a quiet place and listen to this fascinating story mixed with song. I simply loved it!

James' new Album, American Standard will be released February 28th. I've already started the new playlist below with a couple of songs pre-released on Youtube plus a new Jane Pauley piece on James that recently aired on the CBS Sunday Morning TV show. 2/28/20 UPDATE - I've just completed the playlist below this morning!

If you live in the San Diego area, James Taylor and Jackson Browne will be playing the Pechanga Arena (old Sports Arena) on May 29th. James will be touring with Bonnie Raitt for his Canadian shows and then Jackson will join him for his tour dates in the States.

Source - California Beaches, Pismo State Beach - Grover Beach
James is simply timeless. My ol' buddy Paul Hobbs got me listening to Sweet Baby James 50 years ago and I've followed him ever since. Last Friday, Paul and I had a nice run at Grover Beach on the California Central Coast. It wasn't exactly walking on a country road, but we could feel it. Being outdoors with an old friend is the past and present all rolled together in a familiar bundle of emotion and rhythm. The conversation picks up from where you left off the last time together, a 50+ year journey down a road where muscle memory takes over, effortless. Having the time to be with one another again and again is the reward in itself. James would identify and has been a master of telling such stories in song for a long time. I can't wait for the new album.

Note - I will complete the American Standard Playlist shortly after the February 28 release date.

Here's some Liner Notes for American Standard by James.

And, if you got some kids or grandkids hanging around, buy this pop-up book of Sweet Baby James to explore and read together. I believe my personal copy will be a real collector's item among the kids I hang with long after I'm gone to think about such things.



So goodnight you moonlight ladies
Rockabye sweet baby James
Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose
Won't you let me go down in my dreams
And rockabye sweet baby James


2/28/20 Update -  American Standard Album Playlist



Source - Henry Diltz, Morrison Hotel Gallery