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.


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