I’m Listening To

"Crest Of A Wave"
Rory Gallagher

So I’m driving down Bundy behind some asshole in a Pontiac on the cell phone.  If you can’t drive fast while talking, PULL OVER!  I actually beeped.  Twice.  That’s taking your life in your hand in L.A.  But this guy was so wrapped up in his conversation he didn’t bother to slow down further, he didn’t bother to wave a gun out the window, he just poked his way down the highway.  Then, at wit’s end, after turning onto Ocean Park, I heard a sound.  I don’t think you can understand the late sixties unless you were there.  We bought these albums and PLAYED them.  They were a refuge from life as we knew it.  We didn’t cherry-pick "Sunshine Of Your Love" from "Disraeli Gears", we spun the album from beginning to end, over and over again.  It was about the mood.  And the guitar playing.

Somehow, it’s not a badge of honor to be a fluid axeman anymore.  The punk ethic has taken over.  The guitar is ACCOMPANIMENT, not an instrument unto itself.  But we were into guitar HEROES!

Rory Gallagher was a minor guitar hero.  Who never broke through in America.  His finest moment was "Laundromat".  Eventually he drank himself to death.  And has been almost completely forgotten.  But DECADES later his music is a revelation.  It’s not only the guitar playing, it’s his rushed vocal.  A classier, less flashy Alvin Lee.  Download this.  You won’t be beaten over the head, you won’t be wowed, this is not a Clive Davis special.  This is something that has to PENETRATE you.  Just imagine being alone in your bedroom.  Or sitting on the couch of your apartment.  Years ago.  Play it a few times.  You’ll get it.  And you’ll know why we miss the old days.

"Brighter Than Sunshine"

Speaking of the old days.

I could give a flying fuck about this act.  I was so overhyped by the guy at the label.  He peppered me with press.  He pushed advance CDs on me.  Let me ask you.  Do you want to go out with a girl who THROWS herself at you?  Especially one with no obvious endearing traits?

You’ve got to understand.  We don’t pay much attention.  Yours is not the only album we listen to.  If it doesn’t jump out, we’re not interested.  It’s not our job to sort through the morass.  That’s someone else’s gig.  The DEEJAY’S!

That’s a profession you know.  It’s not just someone who reads cards, emitting snappy dialogue between tracks picked by some higher-up at the station.  If you want to get your music heard, exposed, don’t e-mail it to me, don’t send it to me, get it to a DEEJAY!

The number one deejay in America today is Mike Marrone at XM’s Loft.  He’s built a whole culture at his station.  He’s not punching the clock, he’s INTO IT!  He slogged through this Aqualung album and found a track that RESONATES!  This is the kind of stuff you’d hear in someone’s dorm room and want to buy the album.

That’s the way it used to be.

"I Predict A Riot"
Kaiser Chiefs

A GREAT radio track.  A great DRIVING track.

An incredible breakthrough in…1965.

Back then, we were only interested in the single, we didn’t expect any more.  Except maybe ANOTHER single.  Who knew Ray Davies was a GENIUS?  We just hoped for another track.

I expect about as much from the Kaiser Chiefs as I got from the early 80s English MTV bands.  In other words, not much.

Oh, they could surprise me.  But shit, all those U.K. bands blend together.  There’s the fashion, the hysteria, and then you’re left with…nothing.

"Blue Sky Blues"
Ryan Adams

What to do with Ryan Adams.  An arrogant prick who’s so fucked up he’s not in touch with his genius, all he knows is he IS a genius.  This guy puts out album after album, and there’s always a gem or two on each record and the rest is…bland and irrelevant.

This guy should not be putting out albums.  He should be selling track by track.  GIVING THEM AWAY!  On his WEBSITE!  Then we’d forget the crap, and maybe the cream would rise to the surface.  Maybe people would trade the good stuff.  Because, when Ryan Adams is good, he’s VERY VERY good.

But his new album "29" is not so good.  Or, it’s just not good enough.  You just don’t want to play it.  But OH there’s this track, "Blue Sky Blues".

They used to make tracks like this back in the early seventies.  Before strings got a bad name.  This is SO intimate, and then when the change comes and the curtain pulls back and you hear the strings, you melt.

I try to live in the present.  I don’t do such a good job.  I’m always remembering the past.  Fantasizing about the future.  That’s the kind of song "Blue Sky Blues" is.  A quieter Elton John song.  A Randy Newman song with a better singer.

"Blue Sky Blues" won’t change your life.  But it will be your best friend at two in the morning.

There’s no place for this on the radio.  It’s something to only be played at home.  When you’re in the exact right mood.

"Please Don’t Go"

I don’t know what I was doing in the fall of ’79.  But it certainly wasn’t listening to AM Top Forty radio.

Top Forty didn’t hit FM until ’82.  By ’79, it was a completely irrelevant format.  Oh, I hate those who weren’t there.  Who point to the Joel Whitburn books, point out statistics.  It just wasn’t happening in singledom in that era.  Everybody had an FM radio in his car.  AM was OVER!

I know this song.  By the act K.W.S.  Maybe from KROQ.  Maybe from MTV.  It was hip.  K.C. & the Sunshine Band were not.

Please don’t go
Please don’t go
Please don’t go

Babe, I love you so
I want you to know
That I’m going to miss your love
The minute you walk out that door
Please don’t go

There’s that heavy bass beat.  The cheesy synthesizers.  A club hit back before all the deejay/mixers.  When they still used to play complete songs at the danceterias.

Maybe this is evidence of gay culture.  Only gay men could be so upbeat about their baby leaving them.  If this song were done by straight people, it would be a cry in the beer weeper.  But FUCK, if it’s all over, what are you supposed to do but DANCE!  God, if your moves are that good, maybe they’ll come BACK!

Actually, there’s another upbeat dance version of this song, by an act entitled Double You.  It’s VERY similar to the K.W.S. take, but the singer is testifying, he’s a bit more self-conscious how he sounds.  Whereas in the K.W.S. version, it’s straight from the heart emotion.

Still, when I heard K.C.’s original last week on XM, I was BLOWN AWAY!

It’s MAJESTIC!  It’s not cry in your beer.  It’s like the last dance at the PROM!  The closer in a John Waters film.  It’s atmospheric.  The music SWIRLS!  Oh, it’s slow, but it’s not depressing.  It’s kind of like your entire high school years encapsulated in 3:51.

At least in my lifetime
I’ve had one dream come true
I was blessed to be loved
By someone as wonderful as you

The funny thing is this is untrue.  When we ultimately reflect, we realize they really weren’t that great, there’s a reason it didn’t work out.  Maybe they were a social climber, maybe they were insensitive, maybe they were just a prick.  You realize this decades later when you reconnect.  But when it’s ending, you think you’re never going to have this kind of connection again.

K.C. seems to know the person he’s singing to in this song ain’t never coming back.  But that’s all right.  He’s caught up in the reverie of those incredible moments when they were together.

This is a gem.

"Turn Up The Radio"

This seemed so CHEESY twenty years ago.  But, two decades later, on the radio, this sounds FANTASTIC!

Maybe it’s the subwoofer in my car.  It POUNDS!  You know how it feels, in the back of the arena, when you can feel the bass in your gut.

It sounds nowhere near as good at home.  Radio isn’t just advertising for records, like the major labels think.  It’s a medium unto ITSELF!  It lives and breathes.  We used to be addicted.  Boy did that culture die.  That’s the most interesting thing about satellite radio, not an unfettered Howard Stern, but deejays able to recreate theatre of the mind, whole environments.

Daytime nighttime, anytime
Things go better with rock

When rock ruled, this seemed hokey.  But now that rock’s on the ropes, seen as done by those in control of the media, these lines are a rallying cry.

Sure, hip-hop’s got bottom.  And grooves.  But usually no melody.

You might want to dance.  I want to SING ALONG!

I want the sound to ENVELOP me.  I want to thrust my arm in the air, look to the sky and sing from the bottom of my heart.

Maybe this is why Bon Jovi is still big.  Despite not putting out a decent track in eons, despite Jon Bon Jovi being an edgeless fake nice two-dimensional icon.  We’re all living on a prayer.  But, what gets me going on "Slippery When Wet" is the opening cut, "Let It Rock".  Still, the high point is "Wanted Dead Or Alive".

I’m a cowboy.

It’s all the same, only the names will change
Every day it seems we’re wasting away
Another place where the faces are so cold
I’d drive all night just to get back home

One of the highlights of my life is singing this with someone I can’t remember at my ex-wife’s brother’s twenty first birthday.  Face to face.  And back to back.  Like Rod Stewart and Ronnie Lane doing "Maybe I’m Amazed".

Life’s a journey.  It’s personal.  The music is supposed to ride shotgun.  It’s supposed to help get you through.

We love the musicians not because they’re cute, or pretty, but because they create this aural companion out of thin air.  They channel God and end up with a composition which we can carry with us at all times, whether it be on a CD, iPod or just in our head.

I used to think the music was enough.  Until I hit forty and fell off the edge of the planet.  No, you need people to get through.  But music can really help smooth out the rough spots.

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