Monday, February 26, 2024

#NewMusicMonday • February, 2024 • John Leventhal

John Leventhal is one of those great musicians that you probably have never heard of before. Like most people, I learned about Mr. Leventhal through his famous wife, Rosanne Cash. In 2018, I got to see both perform at the wonderful 700+ seat Edmonds Performing Arts Center in Edmonds, Washington. I wrote a blog about it, Rosanne Cash Duo - Edmonds Center for the Arts, 1/25/18. Recently, I have seen them billed as Rosanne Cash & John Leventhal. Today, I'll just focus on John and his new album, Rumble Strip, that is also the same name of Cash's and Leventhal's new record label. 

Rumble Strip is Leventhal's first solo album, but with 6 Grammy's under his belt has made a career being a very successful record producer. (Click on the link to go into several good articles about Leventhal, Rumble Strip, and his 30 year relationship with Cash.)

My interest in Leventhal (who is 71) is basically my interest in people continuing to create, and maybe getting a little attention after a lifetime of already excellent work. It is so inspiring to see older people continuing to work their craft and just keep doing it year in and year out. John Leventhal, you're a new hero of mine!

The playlist this week has a smattering of new songs from new albums that are coming out soon. I have saved the end of the playlist for all of the remaining songs on Rumble Strip not featured at the top of the playlist. Rumble Strip is the perfect listening album for my taste in music in 2024, writing and arranging with acoustic guitars that just soothes the soul.

Enjoy my friends!

Monday, February 19, 2024

Fifty Years of Running • The Ramble

50 years later, with a lot of miles down the road. January 31, 2024

This post takes me back to the spring semester of 1974 with my buddy and long-time part-time running mate, Paul Hobbs. Actually, I'll let Paul kick this thing off with several thoughts I asked him to jot down.

Doug and I first crossed paths at the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department Junior Olympics. We were pitted against one another in the standing broad jump event. Though I was a 4th grader and Doug was a year behind, he kicked my ass and I’ve never forgiven him, end of story.

No, just kidding. Doug’s family, as mine had done, moved from the west side of town to the east side, and wound up living next door to my friend Ron Zieman. We became dear friends and spent a lot of time together.

We ended up, eventually, attending Hancock College and signing up for a jogging class. It was very loose. We met in the morning and ran for an hour or so, showered up and moved on to our next class. Our only responsibility was to map out a course, measure the distance, and submit it for a book of courses to be provided to future classes, as ours was the maiden voyage of Jogging 101. Great idea.

The class instilled a running discipline in Doug and I that we’ve somehow maintained for about 50 years. We were running buddies for that brief time but over the years rarely ran together. We have remained friends and running enthusiasts and have shared information regarding treatment of injuries, running shoes, events, and love of the sport. Now, we get together a few times a year for a glorious run on the beach, lunch, and a couple of beers. What a grand way for a pair of old friends to spend some time.
–Paul Hobbs

Up until that point in 1974, I would do what many people do in having that start-stop inconsistency with running. Running is not pleasurable for a large part of the population, so I imagine even reading about it here might be annoying at best. If so, just skip to the playlist below as I've been tweaking it for several years now into a nice upbeat rock 'n' roll listen. However, I am going to press on, even start sprinkling in a few running quotes.

“Most of us have enough areas of our lives where we have to meet others’ expectations. Let your running be about your own hopes and dreams.” 
– Meb Keflezighi

My first running partner was my early childhood friend, Bill DeVoe. In high school, Bill would put his German Shepherd, Leroy on a leash, and we would all run together from his house to the very same Allan Hancock Jr. College. We'd would run around the exterior of the school and then head back to his house without Leroy missing a beat.

Beach walk on Vashon Island, 2021

50 Years later, Bill is still running, and runs with a small group of guys on Vashon Island in Washington. Recently, Bill told me that the group of 60+ year old guys had to insert a new rule into their run routine overlooking the beautiful Puget Sound. New Rule - If anyone brings up their current aches and pains, they have to 1), quickly explain their ailment, and then 2), cannot talk about it the rest of the run. Sounds like a plan. Like Paul, Bill has been a long-time part-time running and walking partner based on our distance from one another.

“I always loved running… it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.” – Jesse Owens

For most runners who are consistent with it over the years, it's a solitary event, where your mind goes inward while your body gets expressive.

“Running is alone time that lets my brain unspool the tangles
that build up over days.”
 – Rob Hanisen

After two years of Hancock, I moved into the dorms at San Diego State in 1975. There, I met another dear friend, Mark Hunter. Mark and I would move out a year later and become roommates for a couple years after that. Mark being a Health Science major was into running and we would often hook-up for a run in the streets of San Diego. We would also run the trails together at Palomar Mountain as camp counselors for a couple of summers. I don't think I was ever in better shape in my life running those dusty trails in our shorts and hiking boots.

A tired Mark and Doug after leading campers with disabilities
on a two day hike and camp @ Camp-A-Lot, Palomar Mountain 1977
(a shout out to my trusty Wolverine boots)

“There is something magical about running; after a certain distance, it transcends the body. Then a bit further, it transcends the mind. A bit further yet, and what you have before you, laid bare, is the soul.” – Kristin Armstrong

After college, I started teaching in 1980 and after several years in the special education program in San Diego Unified School District, I met a wonderful guy named Bob Morris. Both of us were married with two kids each, and one day, we just started running together after work. We'd solve all of our work problems mostly running the San Diego Bay. 

Eventually we started running half-marathons together and then ran the San Diego Marathon sometime in the early 90's. Bob was also a street bicyclist where a 50 mile ride was nothing to him. I called him, "The Mountain Goat' because he came from Montana and told me about riding the freezing roads with the wind and prairie in his face. Bob and I would go up a steep hill and he'd just leave me in the dust. 

Although, I do remember running our first half-marathon together from the Del Mar Fair to La Jolla Cove. On the way, there is a very long stretch climb from the coast up to the UCSD campus. We're in our late 30's, and this grey-haired woman in her 60's just comes up gliding next to the two of us, and then just passes moving at her pace. We both look at each other as she's already 20 yards ahead of us. Yes the sport is humbling, but as one learns, always at your own pace. Thank you Bob for your friendship and all those running years together!

“Running allows me to set my mind free. Nothing seems impossible.
Nothing unattainable.” 
– Kara Goucher

In the list of running partners in my life, I must include - 

My daughter Katie. 
We ran together after her high school years while she was in college and mostly before she had children. Katie is the closest running partner I've ever had. It's like running with myself next to me- same gait, same pace. I miss our runs, maybe one day after her boys grow older we will run again.

Pictured left to right -
Susan's husband Rick, Susan, Stephanie and me.
My sisters Stephanie and Susan. 
Stephanie and I started running together sometime in the early 2000's. At some point, we invited our sister Susan to a couple of half-marathons and a couple of Thanksgiving Turkey Trots that we all really enjoyed together. I started this idea of calling my running and anybody who ran with me, "Team Tortoise." I created a logo, and Susan printed up some t-shirts. Here we are on a very blustery Thanksgiving day at Pismo Beach in 2019, at the annual Turkey Trot walk or run. 

“We run to undo the damage we’ve done to body and spirit. We run to find some part of ourselves yet undiscovered.” – John Bingham

At some point in my 40's, I began to really enjoy running by myself again. Maybe at heart, runners are loners. Speaking for myself, it's free therapy where my mind and body stays connected. Young people don't even think of this, but as you get older you physically have to be moving, or else...

“Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must;
just never give up.”
 – Dean Karnazes

This past Saturday (February 17), I celebrated 22 years of life after my heart attack. In retrospect, it was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me. In my mid-40's, I still hadn't learned to let things go. My heart attack although mostly rooted in heredity was more than a family trait, it was about me owning my place at the table. I could create, contribute, and care with confidence, without the baggage of what anybody or everybody thought. I didn't have to metaphorically run from my life, rather I could choose to mentally and physically run to my life. My heart attack experience helped me actualize my self value.

“I breathe in strength and breathe out weakness.” – Amy Hastings Cragg

You may have noticed (other than the group poses above), there's not a single picture of running here. In fifty years, I don't think I have an actual picture of me running, because I don't think I have any pictures of me brushing my teeth either. Good habits are practiced on a weekly basis without any fanfare. In whatever form of exercise you choose, your habits of mind will determine how you move your body. Perseverance is characteristic of the practice one puts into one area, that can transcend into the wholeness of a person. Running has provided me an organizational foundation to be confident and task-oriented in both my personal and professional life.

I guess it's time so show some running. If someone were to ask me, What is the most inspirational clip you've ever seen on running? It would be Dave Wottle's 800 meter gold metal run in the 1972 Olympics. I think it's the single most reason I dedicated myself to running. Here's also the excellent sports commentary by Jim McKay and Marty Liquori that may have also simultaneously inspired thousands of young people's journalism careers.

   


"Taking a walk, most everyday is one of the foundational cornerstones of an engaged life." – Doug McIntosh  

In the 1970's running and tennis were big sports and thus began popular exercise with the average person. Today, the everyday exercise is walking and pickleball. Let's stick to walking here.

Solving the world's problems
on a walk in Santa Monica with
Ken Forman, Paul Hobbs, & Ron Zieman
Taking a walk is liberation from buildings. Back in the 20th century, it just used to be the old lady out for
a walk around the neighborhood, while her soon to be dead husband was home on the couch. Today, millions of people have reserved that walk as that "me time" to stay healthy. Doesn't matter if you're solo or with a friend, or dog or two, walking will save your life. Taking a walk is the most accessible aerobic activity that is going to keep a person young in spirit, because if you give up on your body, that spirit will follow. 

I'm most inspired by friend Ron Zieman's semi-retirement 7 and 10 mile walks, or what he calls "The trail of tears" up and down the steps leading to his local Santa Monica Beach, and then some more steps in and around the beautiful coast and canyons. You rock Ron!

For runners, most of us have the simple rule that we are going to run... until we can't. And when we can't, we're already walking... until we can't. The thing is, if you take a walk everyday, the time that you have on this earth will probably be a lot longer than the short time you can't walk at all. 

Walking is problem-solving. You can be walking with someone, or by yourself, as forward movement stimulates the brain, and a stimulated brain is an active agent for change. 

“I run because it’s so symbolic of life. You have to drive yourself to overcome the obstacles. You might feel that you can’t. But then you find your inner strength, and realize you’re capable of so much more than you thought.” 
– Arthur Blank

This past year, I made the choice to transition from running on my favorite hilly and sometimes rocky trail to the flat back of a middle's school baseball fields and large dirt field, about .6 of a mile round. Over the course of time on my trail runs, I had begun to trip and fall every couple of months on the little rocks jutting up from the ground (snipers), and decided that was enough of that. Besides, I had become so slow on the trail for fear of falling, that I was missing the joy of running.

Over Christmas break, I pulled a groin muscle playing tennis with my twin grandsons. I waited a month or so, and then finally ran with Paul on the same day the Hancock picture was taken. Later that same morning we ran at Grover Beach, and I pulled that same muscle, again.

The past two weeks, I've been sick with a pretty strong cough and chest cold and have not been able to run. It's been almost two months. I'm not really a patient person like when I was younger, but what running has helped me understand is the process of adaptation. Life throws stuff at you, and it's how we adapt to situations and events that allows us to cope and problem-solve our way through. So, right now I'm just walking everyday with my beautiful wife, just like we always do.

They are moments in time when running allows you to see
how wonderful your life is.” – Kara Goucher

It's a morning last November, about 8am at the baseball fields and the back 40 dirt lot behind De Portola Middle School. I'm about half way through my 5 mile run. As I recall, I'm on a good clip running 4.7 mph and the sun just coming up over the east side line of trees. Several people are walking their dogs and chatting in the right field grass at the largest ball field. Got my phone strapped on my arm with my music library of 30,000 or so songs, set to "Random." Tom Petty's Running Down a Dream comes on, I pick up the pace, just looking at my feet hit and return, hit and return. I'm movin' I'm alive, and another day on this earth to feel it, love it and later, get some stuff done.

TeamTortoise.org

Hey my editor did find one of me running!
Crystal Pier Pacific Beach, California

Enjoy the playlist my friends, 
it's enough to keep picking them up and putting them down!

Monday, February 12, 2024

Beatles Tribute Bands • The Analogues • Rain • The Fab Four


“He’d say, ‘Where are we goin’, fellas?’ And we’d go, ‘To the top, Johnny!’
And he’d say, ‘Where’s that, fellas?!’
And we'd say, ‘To the toppermost of the poppermost, Johnny!’
And he’d say, ‘Riiiiight!’ And we'd all sort of cheer up."
–Ringo Starr

In my tribute to 60 years of The Beatles in recent posts including last weeks, Sixty Years of Music • The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show • February 9, 16, and 23, 1964, I thought I'd focus on three Beatles tribute bands that I think are the toppermost of Beatles tribute bands.

But first, let's talk about the cultural phenomenon The Beatles created after their first visit to the United States as a band in February, 1964. What follows for millions of young people across the globe is talking mom and dad into buying them, an acoustic or electric guitar, bass, or drum set. 

Suddenly, the family piano became a friend and if your piano teacher was cool enough, they were starting to buy pop band sheet music and introducing it their students. My only experience in this area was convincing my 80 year old piano teacher to let me learn how to play, Windy by The Association a #1 hit in 1967.

In the months and years following Beatlemania and the British Invasion, kids started forming garage bands and started learning rock 'n' roll songs, together. Any musician and band that was ever born, started in someone's garage, basement, or bedroom, playing cover songs of their favorites. From 1964, Beatles songs were the bread and butter go to songs for such bands and their dreams.

Today, it's still so amazing that a band basically known to most Americans from 1964-1970 could still have such a hold on us today, from that 6 years and the body of work created by the best band of all time. 

The Beatles not only launched thousands of bands world wide, but in the decades following 1970, launched hundreds of professional Beatles tribute bands. Most of us never saw The Beatles live. But, you can recapture that live magic again by going to a Beatles tribute bands concert worthy of their namesake heroes. Here are three tribute bands worth talking about, even though I've only seen two of them live.

My top Beatles tribute band, and one I have never seen live other than through the wonders of YouTube, are The Analogues. I might even postulate that they are the "ultimate" Beatles tribute band. And, for what it's worth, I cried while listening to their live performance of the entire The Beatles (White Album).

The Analogues are a Dutch tribute act to The Beatles. Founded in 2014, the Analogues' ambition has been to perform live the Beatles' music from their later studio years, using analogue and period-accurate instrumentation. The Analogues distinguished themselves by performing songs and whole albums live, which the Beatles never played live. While the band does not attempt to look like the Beatles, they have been noted for accurately recreating and reproducing their music and sound. Wikipedia

Note- From what I can tell, The Analogues from The Netherlands mostly stay in Europe 😞. 

The next two are California bands, Rain, and The Fab Four. I've seen Rain twice, and The Fab Four once, all in either San Diego or Los Angeles. I actually don't have an opinion if one is better than the other, with both building a brand name even as band members come and go. I can tell you how I have felt after all three shows as audiences will concur; we were all one in the pure joy and happiness of having an "in the moment" experience of excellent live Beatles music in the 21st century. Note- Please bear in mind the sound quality from many of these two bands video clips were mostly shot in the audience with smartphones. Watching Rain, and The Fab Four live is really what's it all about.

Now I've also seen Paul live and Ringo's All Starr band live, and both of course were fabulous shows. Nothing like the real thing. But, be on the look out for these two California tribute bands, when yearning for that Beatles fix and its poppermost high.

Maybe Paul said it best a few years ago on Stephen Colbert..."These songs get into people's heads and they have this meaning."


Tribute bands are like horseshoes where close really counts to a paying audience. Enjoy this Beatles mix from The Analogues, Rain, and The Fab Four my friends!

Monday, February 05, 2024

Sixty Years of Music • The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show • February 9, 16, and 23, 1964

In past blog posts I have written about my personal experience of February 9, 1964 viewing The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show for the first time. Here, I thought I'd put together a series of quotes and videos that amplify an astonishing moment in American cultural history that changed our lives forever. For the generation who knew where they were on the sorrow of November, 22 1963, and then the pure joy of February, 1964, we never seem to tire of these images and sounds, placed at the beginning of the mix tape of our lives.

Ed with the lads February 8, 1964
Note- George would be confined to his hotel room most of that day with a sore throat.


The February 9th Performances in New York
Sullivan began the show by telling the audience that Elvis Presley and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, had sent the Beatles a telegram wishing them success in America (though it was reported later that Parker sent the telegram without Presley's knowledge). Sullivan then introduced the Beatles, who opened by performing "All My Loving"; "Till There Was You", which featured the names of the group members superimposed on closeup shots, including the famous "SORRY GIRLS, HE'S MARRIED" caption on John Lennon; and "She Loves You" The act that followed the Beatles in the broadcast, magician Fred Kaps, was pre-recorded in order to allow time for an elaborate set change. The group returned later in the program to perform "I Saw Her Standing There" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand". Wikipedia 

 

"The minute I saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show -- and it's true of thousands of guys -- there was the way out. There was the way to do it. You get your friends and you're a self-contained unit. And you make the music. And it looked like so much fun. It was something I identified with. I had never been hugely into sports. ... I had been a big fan of Elvis. But I really saw in The Beatles that here's something I could do. I knew I could do it. It wasn't long before there were groups springing up in garages all over the place. "
–Tom Petty

"This was different, shifted the lay of the land. Four guys, playing and singing, writing their own material ... Rock 'n' roll came to my house where there seemed to be no way out ... and opened up a whole world of possibilities."
–Bruce Springsteen

"I remember exactly where I was sitting. It was amazing. It was like the axis shifted ... It was kind of like an alien invasion."
–Chrissie Hynde

"That one performance changed my life ... Up to that moment I'd never considered playing rock as a career. And when I saw four guys who didn't look like they'd come out of the Hollywood star mill, who played their own songs and instruments, and especially because you could see this look in John Lennon's face -- and he looked like he was always saying: 'F--- you!' -- I said: 'I know these guys, I can relate to these guys, I am these guys.' This is what I'm going to do -- play in a rock band'."
–Billy Joel

"The lightning bolt came out of the heavens and struck Ann and me the first time we saw the Beatles on 'The Ed Sullivan Show.' ... There'd been so much anticipation and hype about the Beatles that it was a huge event, like the lunar landing: that was the moment Ann and I heard the call to become rock musicians. I was seven or eight at the time. ... Right away, we started doing air guitar shows in the living room, faking English accents, and studying all the fanzines."
–Nancy Wilson

The February 16th Performances in Miami Beach
After a February 11 concert in Washington, D.C.'s Washington Coliseum and two February 12 shows in New York's Carnegie Hall, the Beatles flew to Miami Beach on February 13, where Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali) was in training for his first title bout with Sonny Liston (on February 18, the Beatles would eventually pose for publicity photographs with Clay in a boxing gym). The Beatles held rehearsals on February 14 and 15. The band stayed in the Hotel Deauville, which was also the broadcast location for the show. The Beatles rehearsed in the hotel's basement.

On the evening of the television show, a crush of people nearly prevented the band from making it onstage. A wedge of policemen were needed and the band began playing "She Loves You" only seconds after reaching their instruments. They continued with "This Boy" and "All My Loving", then returned later to close the show with "I Saw Her Standing There", "From Me to You", and "I Want to Hold Your Hand". The audience for this show was about 70 million, nearly equaling the prior week's performance.
 Wikipedia


The February 23rd Performances Taped in New York
The Beatles' third appearance aired on February 23, though it had actually been taped on February 9, before their first live performance. They followed Ed's intro with "Twist and Shout" and "Please Please Me" and closed the show once again with "I Want to Hold Your Hand". Wikipedia

Monday, January 29, 2024

#NewMusicMonday • January, 2024 • Women Rule 'n' Roll

Over the course of the last several years I have noticed a trend in my #NewMusicMonday posts, women are ruling the Americana genre of music. Even as I explore Indie or Alternative genres, they are now either led by a woman or one or more members of a band now consist of women. 

You don't have to look deep in any field and realize that women are qualitatively front and center. One stat that I recently read was that nearly 60% of women attend a college or university, whereas men are at just over 40%. But, as usual, the flip side of that statistic is that it's also harder for women to get accepted into these same colleges, as admissions offices are aggressively looking for more men. 

I'm not here to make this about bashing men. I've always had a large musical preference towards women musical artists that all started with Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmy Lou Harris in the 1970's. And, even though I'm not a big Beyoncé and Taylor Swift fan, They are currently at the very top of the music business.

All my big male rock 'n' roll heroes, like most of my friends, are over 70, or "almost 70" as my buddy Paul has been told. 

For me, popular music in the 20th century was about making hits. As the young artists of the 70's, 80's and 90's grew older, their hits started dropping off at some point, but I didn't stop listening to them. As a maturing music listener, my music tastes have expanded to other genres, but more importantly, it's discovering the deep cuts, the one's that never get played on the radio, or late night television shows.

Several years ago, I found Sarah Jarosz and Madison Cunningham on YouTube. These two young women for me represent the best of 21st century music, women of heart and mind. 

Recently, Rosanne Cash celebrated her 30th anniversary of the album,  The Wheel as she and husband and collaborator John Leventhal remastered and released the album on their own new label, Rumble Strip. I think of Rosanne Cash as sort of a new pioneer who took her daddy's music with elements of folk and rock 'n' roll back to its roots, and moved it forward to the future. 

I hear those roots and future in Sarah Jarosz and Madison Cunningham, and in new music by Brandy Clark and Dori Freeman this month. Not to fear, I have a new Mark Knopfler song, a couple of Real Estate and Bleachers songs, and new song from The Black Keys to create a little 80/20 women to men ratio here in the playlist this week. But whose counting?

Enjoy the playlist my friends.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Back in the PNW

Flew in from Miami Beach B.O.A.C
Didn't get to bed last night
On the way the paper bag was on my knee
Man, I had a dreadful flight

Back in the U.S.S.R., Lennon and McCartney

On January 5th, shortly after takeoff from Portland Oregon, an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 blew out its sealed "Door Plug" causing an uncontrolled decompression of the plane. The plane managed to land safely with all the passengers and crew still all seated and buckled in. On January 6th, Alaska Airlines grounded all its 737 Max 9's which make up 20% of their fleet, causing a cascading effect of cancellations and rescheduling for many flights.

Portland Physics Teacher, Bob Sauer with the Boeing 737 Max 9
"Door Plug" found in his backyard.

Meanwhile...

In a much needed change of scenery, my wife Mary Kit and I had planned several months ago a Thursday, January 11th flight from San Diego to Seattle and the great Pacific Northwest. We were going back to see our PNW families, including a three-day trip to Cannon Beach in Oregon. I was also back to see my life-long buddy Bill and continue our tradition of meeting and spending a couple of office days together in downtown Seattle.

On January 10th, we got an email from Alaska Airlines telling us our flight had been cancelled and they would write us back. They did write back about an hour later and said they had rescheduled our flight to the next day at 2:20pm. So, we Lyft to the airport, get checked-in and wait for two hours to catch our flight. About 30 minutes before we board, an agent announces that the inbound flight that came from Mexico "had some maintenance issues" and there was going to be a 15 minute delay before boarding. Then the next bulletin, a one hour delay. At the two hour mark, Mike the mechanic rolls out from under the plane and says, "She ain't goin' nowhere today pilgrims." We're then told, "Please proceed back down to Baggage Claim and pick up your luggage, and thank you for flying Alaska Airlines."

We go down get our luggage, and everyone's on their phones calling Alaska Airlines reservations and getting the same message, "Please hold, there is currently a four-hour wait time before an agent can assist you." Mary Kit says to me, "You sit with the luggage and I'll go back to the Alaska Airlines ticket counter and see when we can get another flight." Actually, that's not exactly what she said, but just go  with it. Anyway, she goes to the counter, and sees about 150 people in line. Then she notices, only two people in line for First Class/Priority Customers. She goes to that line.

She approaches the ticket agent, and in her sweetest Grandma voice tells the agent she has to get to Seattle ASAP, the agent tells her to "go to other line" when she fails to produce the Priority Customer number. "But sir, I have to get to Seattle before my family leaves for Oregon on Saturday." The agent looks at the other line, now growing to 200, and says, "Let's see what we can do." He spends about an hour with her trying to find multiple connecting flights scenarios, etc. when a coworker tells him, "Try John Wayne" (in Orange County). He then miraculously finds the last two seats on a 7am Friday flight out of John Wayne to Seattle. She takes it, and works out a free voucher (hour and a half) Lyft ride and hotel stay near the airport. The next morning, we actually take off, seated in separate middle seats a row back from each other. She's Chatty Cathy with her seat mate having a good conversation. My row mates are already fast asleep and sprawled out while I'm in a zen-like state, body straight with my arms tucked in for 2 hours and fifty minutes. I'm delusional, sitting in the middle seat with strangers and thinking this must be just as difficult as the yoga "crane pose."

We land, it's f!!!ing 23 degrees and this San Diego wuss is grumpy. However once in the elements, the change of environment is spectacular and worth all the time spent on various planes, buses, ferries, and automobiles! My mind needs and welcomes this change in the days ahead.

I'm back to my see my three step-children, their spouses and six grandchildren. I'm back to see my childhood friend, Bill who I have known since we've been five years old. Yeah, we go way back. 

I'm back in Tacoma, and back in Cannon Beach Oregon on a sunny day with frozen sand at Haystack Rock. I'm back in West Seattle, and back in downtown Seattle, eating at Matt's in the Market and then Serious Pie the next day. I'm back in Edmonds, and back in the beautiful PNW were I have been welcomed and loved by the wonderful people we keep coming back to.

 

Now, I'm writing this on the following Friday night before I wake up at 3:00am to catch a 6:45am flight back to San Diego... on Alaska Airlines. Okay Mike, your mechanics better make this my last sentence here talking about dreadful flights... We land safely and on time. That afternoon it actually rains in San Diego and the Pickleball players at the tennis courts next to my house scatter. Serenity now!

Enjoy the Playlist my friends, with all the videos from artists and bands from yes, the Pacific Northwest!

Happy Birthday Shawna and Abby!

Monday, January 15, 2024

Fifty Years of Music • January, 1974 • Forever Young

I rarely include every song from every album I feature, but I believe the January, 1974 releases were that good. 

Court and Spark, Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell's most popular album of her career and is the album that cements her as one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time.

Wild Tales, Graham Nash

Graham Nash puts out a good solid album, nothing that compares to his old girlfriend, but he's in a very large group when being compared to Joni. 

The Phosphorescent Rat, Hot Tuna

Hot Tuna is a band I never listened to as a young person. As an older person I can now appreciate Jorma Kaukonen (guitars) and Jack Casady (bass) talent as musicians not only as former members of Jefferson Airplane, but also their ability to write very catchy songs that should have gained them more popular attention back in the day as Hot Tuna.

Grievous Angel, Gram Parsons

Gram Parsons makes the best album of his far too short career, cut short by a combination of a alcohol and morphine overdose. Parsons died at the tender age of 26 on September 19, 1973. I believe if Parsons had lived to see many more years, we would be talking about him in Willie Nelson terms. From my perspective, I see Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris as the modern birth parents of the Americana genre.

Planet Waves, Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan can still sing in 1974 and Planet Waves is one of his most passed over albums. Anybody who has The Band as their backup band is going to make an album people are going to listen to. I love that he includes both the fast and slow version of Forever Young on the same album. Bob's average work would be other artists greatest albums. 

Hot Cakes, Carly Simon

She and James are making babies and great albums together and I'm going to be shattered in a few years when they break up. It would be just another chapter in my personal end of the innocence moments of my early twenties. 

Billboard Top 100, January, 1974

Here are a few picks scattered about from the January, 1974 Billboard 100 as most of these songs were released in 1973 but hey, you don't mind.

Enjoy the playlist my friends. May you stay forever young.

Monday, January 08, 2024

60 Years of Music • January, 1964 • How Many Album Versions?


Meet The Beatles

Meet The Beatles was released on January 20, 1964. It was actually their second album released in the United States and their first album on Capitol Records. From there, it gets a bit more complicated as Capitol Records (originally an American company) was sold to British owned EMI in 1955. Capitol as a subsidiary to the very powerful EMI, would often not follow the parent company as American copyright laws and procedures would allow Capitol's leadership to often deviate from EMI's rule. 

For example, why does With The Beatles (the original second release in England) have 14 songs and the American Meet The Beatles only have 12? Why does the American Meet The Beatles have their smash single hits, I Want to Hold Your Hand, and I Saw Her Standing There while England's With The Beatles does not? 
If you were ever confused why Meet The Beatles says right on the front cover, "The First Album by England's Phenomenal Pop Combo" you are in a very large worldwide group of fans who often received different album covers, titles and song selections from the early releases of Beatle albums, compared to the original Beatle releases from England. Maybe, all these different versions of songs on essentially the same albums are the genesis of "The Mix Tape."  

I recently found a great YouTube video from "Adam from Parlogram" who does a 15:40 deep dive that explains all these little mysteries, and highly recommend you circle back here to this video if you're doing a quick skim and scan of this post now. 


The Rolling Stones (EP)

The Rolling Stones (EP) was released January 10, 1964. Decca Records was not quite ready to fully commit a full album by The Rolling Stones and this four song EP was a testing of the waters to see if the band was going to be worth the risk.

The EP follows their first hit, I Wanna Be Your Man a song written by Lennon and McCartney and given to The Rolling Stones by the eager song writing duo. I Wanna Be Your Man is also a track sung by Ringo on both With The Beatles and Meet The Beatles. Both Beatle and Stones live versions are included here in the playlist, and exhibit A to all the stupid naysayers doing The Beatles vs The Rolling Stones nonsense. 

Muddy Waters folk singer

Muddy Waters folk singer was released January 30, 1964. Chess Records wanted to bring in new fans to Muddy following the early 60's Folk Music movement, and convinced him to do an all acoustic guitar album with his protege Buddy Guy, and Willie Dixon on string bass and producing the album. This album would not generate any hits but later would be critically acclaimed and voted in 2003 as the 280th of Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. 

This album is indicative of Muddy's influence on the impending British Invasion of artists who revered Waters and would shortly pass him in fame and fortune. The Rolling Stones name actually comes from the 1950 Muddy Waters song, Rollin' Stone. The man is simply the OG of rock 'n' roll.

Stay With The Hollies

Stay with The Hollies was released January, 1964 in England, and in the United States with the title, Here I Go Again. This debut album was released under The Beatles label, Parlophone as EMI was quick to jump on new groups that could replicate The Beatles harmony magic. 

The Hollies are also named after rock 'n' roll treasure Buddy Holly as the influence of American artists propel post World War II babies like Allan Clarke, Graham Nash, and Tony Hicks. (I mention Tony Hicks here because I really liked his guitar playing in The Hollies, and he rarely gets a shout-out). 

1964 is really the year that rock 'n' roll changes the world and I hope you can make the time to listen to some of these songs from these four albums. It's a fascinating time to see the upstarts take over from their heroes- Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Buddy Holly who collectively made 1964 happen in the first place.

Enjoy the playlist my friends.

Monday, January 01, 2024

#BestSongIHeardToday • Volume 28 • Tom Smothers and 49 Bye-Byes

 Happy New Year my friends! 

This is the beginning of another 52 week musical adventure where I post a Monday morning music blog with an embedded playlist. Sometimes, I wander from music in the writing, but the playlist itself is mostly music unless a scene from a movie or a TV show grabs me, or I include a comedy bit or two, as I will do today.

So here we go, let's keep the streak alive and thanks for your click and read!

This past week, Tom Smothers pasted away at age 86. I loved the Smothers Brothers growing up in the 1960's as The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour played an important role in bringing the counter-culture or the 60's into our mainstream living rooms. The Smothers Brothers had this fantastic musical/comedy act duo that was highly entertaining and totally disarming. Tommy's genius as the leader of the Comedy Hour was to bring the whole family together and embed topics of the day like the Vietnam War, religion, politics, and even drug references.

Tom and Dick Smothers

The Smothers Brothers also introduced many up and coming pop and rock 'n' roll bands in their short run from 1967 - 1969 before CBS cancelled one of it's highest rated shows as being too controversial. 

The series showcased new musical artists that other comedy-variety shows rarely gave airtime to, due to the nature of their music or their political affiliations.George Harrison, Joan Baez, Buffalo Springfield, Cass Elliot, Harry Belafonte, Cream, the Who, Donovan, the Doors, Janis Ian, Yank Barry, Jefferson Airplane, Peter, Paul and Mary, Spanky and Our Gang, Steppenwolf, Simon and Garfunkel, Ray Charles, Hello People, Pete Seeger and Ike and Tina Turner were showcased during the latter years of the show despite the advertiser-sensitive nature of their music.

Seeger's appearance on the season two premiere which aired on September 10, 1967, was his first on network commercial television in 17 years since being blacklisted in 1950. His performance of "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" was dropped from the broadcast after his refusal to comply with CBS's request to remove the sixth verse. The song, its story related to the present by the controversial stanza, was a metaphor for President Lyndon B. Johnson and his Vietnam War policy. Seeger was eventually allowed to reappear on the show to perform the song again on Episode 24 later that season.

In 1968, the show broadcast several promotional films (later known as "music videos") for the Beatles' songs "Hey Jude" and "Revolution" and several songs of the Bee Gees. Before a rowdy crowd at the Los Angeles Forum, Jimi Hendrix dedicated "I Don't Live Today" to the Smothers Brothers, as heard on The Jimi Hendrix Box Set.
from Wikipedia

In 1969, Tommy was invited by John Lennon to play acoustic guitar on Give Peace a Chance, and I have included that song here in the playlist this week. (In the video, look for Tommy to the left of John). Thank you Tom Smothers for all the joy you brought to Americans of all stripes. 

I wish you all peace and sanity in 2024 because we're all going to need it! 

Enjoy this crazy eclectic playlist my friends as the Smothers Brothers just kind of took it over by the final omits and inserts on Sunday night. The late 60's win again! (Now is he talking about the era or his age?) The only cohesive bit here is 49 videos that end with 49 Bye-Byes