Who’s Next-Name A Better Album-Sirius XM This Week

Tune in tomorrow, Tuesday March 19th, on Volume 106, 7 PM East, 4 PM West.

Phone #: 844-6-VOLUME, 844-686-5863

Twitter: @siriusxmvolume/#lefsetzlive

Hear the episode live on SiriusXM VOLUME: HearLefsetzLive

If you miss the episode, you can hear it on demand on the SiriusXM app: LefsetzLive

Saturday Night At Craig’s House

1

We sang. Starting in the first grade. I don’t remember singing in kindergarten, coulda happened, but my memory of that year is sketchy.

But the first grade classroom was right next door, we lined up outside, and the teacher was Mrs. Godfrey.

We had two recesses. The first one included milk, but no cookies. I never drank the milk, I don’t remember EVER drinking white milk, but if you put enough Bosco in, I was down. And those brown boxes of Hershey’s in the grocery store…I’d implore my mother to purchase them, sometimes she’d accede to my wishes.

And I don’t have that many memories of first grade either, except for making a map with Mark Levy. That was the assignment, a map of our classroom. And I insisted that it needed red lines, roads, because I always saw them on my dad’s maps. I drew one, from the bottom to the top of the heavy paper, and then Mark convinced me not to draw any more. I didn’t, he was right.

And there was always music in school. Mr. McCann taught the junior high students, but we saw him too, at this point the elementary and junior high schools were still in the same building.

But in the afternoon, before the clock hit 2:30 and we exited, we’d sing with Mrs. Godfrey.

Now you’ve got to know, this was back before the boomers became parents and were overinvested in their children. Sure, we had some kids records, but our parents weren’t enriching us, scheduling us 24/7, we went to nursery school, that’s what they called it, what’s up with “pre-school,” and learned in the classroom, outside of it we played. As for watching TV…it was illegal in the daytime, at least in my house, you had to go outside, but at five we’d sit in the den, the three of us, my two sisters and myself, and eat buttered noodles and watch “The Mickey Mouse Club.”

And in Mrs. Godfrey’s class we sang “The Volga Boatmen.” Funny thing about the internet, now I can listen to it on Spotify, but it’s different, I remember it in my head at six.

2

We took piano lessons. I didn’t know a house without a piano. Not that they were Steinways, mostly Knabes, compacts not grands. I started at six, a the Dranoffs’ house. With five other people. Three of us on each piano. I learned to read music, we played “Hot Cross Buns,” but then baseball interfered and practice was so boring and Mrs. Dranoff was a taskmaster and I stopped playing. For a while anyway, when the Beatles hit, I could play chords and did, occasionally.

3

We sang at summer camp. Mostly folk music. We had singdowns. That’s where you have to come up with a song using the topic provided by the other team. That’s right, you not only had to come up with it, you needed to SING IT! I remember faking “The Days of Wine and Roses” at Camp Laurelwood, but it got us over the hurdle.

And when I got to junior high, we had club period, I tried out for the Glee Club. One year they admitted me, the next I was cut. This was the sixties, when everybody did not get a trophy. I ended up being in the shop club, and ultimately didn’t build anything.

And when the Beatles hit, everybody got a guitar. It was kind of like everybody buying a computer to be on AOL back in the nineties. Then again, today’s college students may not have even been born in the nineties. I’m trying to think of something that ubiquitous. And instant. We all have smartphones, but it didn’t happen overnight. Ah, I guess you had to be there.

And you’d take your guitar with you, and you’d sit in groups, and SING!

4

Most of my social life revolved around the Aspen crew, Jim Lewi’s conference in Colorado. But a funny thing happened in the last twenty years. People lost their jobs. Labels became secondary to live. And now it’s a whole different slew of people. Some of whom weren’t even old enough to attend back in ’96.

Used to be everywhere you went you had an Aspen friend. Show up at a gig, there they were. You got privileges. Institutions roll on, people do not.

But in the last few years, some new people have come into the family and when Marty said he was gonna be in L.A. last weekend, Craig reached out and said we were all invited for a party at his house.

I came late. I was doing my taxes. I was lucky I could get a Saturday appointment as it was, I booked it a month in advance.

And the atmosphere was festive, and Craig made Mexican food. And we were hearing about how Craig and Rick marry people. Craig’s done ten, Rick eight, Craig’s had one divorce, Rick two. And then…

I moved over to the couch where the women were talking. The women’s conversation is much more interesting. It’s not about cars and sports, but people and feelings. And then when we heard the singing from the other room, Felice asked why I wasn’t joining them. I told her I was talking to Lewi. But when I was finished with Jim…

5

Craig Newman is an agent at APA. He came to L.A. and tried to make it as a performer, but that didn’t take, he had to make a choice, and he did.

But the truth is your passions never leave you. You can suppress them, but they’re still there.

So Craig has a music room. At one end of his living room. On the other side of the fireplace.

He’s got a bunch of guitars. A Martin twelve string, a mellow-sounding Gibson. And bongos. And a snare drum.

And a piano.

Turns out Craig showed interest and his parents got him lessons at six, and when he purchased this house, they bought a piano for him, believing every house should have a piano, a twentieth century construct if there ever was one.

And when I got to the music room…Marty, Rick and Craig were preparing to do “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant.”

HUH??

We never sang Billy Joel songs, and certainly not ones as complicated as this.

And the thing is, Craig hews to the record. He doesn’t cut verses, he includes it all. And he’s a maestro on the keys as well as the frets and off we went.

And suddenly I understood the story of Brenda and Eddie.

Oh, I’ve heard the song zillions of times, but when you’re singing along to your smartphone…

At first I just sang from memory, but I didn’t remember every word, so I dialed up the lyrics on my iPhone and…they made sense, they resonated, in a way they never have before. I could see Brenda and Eddie out on the Island, and I wondered where they were today. In their New York State of Mind.

Some folks like to get away
Take a holiday from the neighborhood

It was never a hit. But after 9/11, “New York State of Mind” really got traction. And if you grew up in New York or New England you get it.

It was eighty degrees in L.A. And I yearned for the change of seasons on the east coast.

And I thought what a marvelous song this was.

And now I was so energized I asked Craig if he knew “Summer, Highland Falls.”

What closed me on Billy Joel was the album “Songs In The Attic,” a live LP where he recut all his initial songs the way they should have been produced, after he started working with Phil Ramone. And “Summer, Highland Falls” is a keeper.

Craig explained the history, the war between right hand and left, AND THEN HE PLAYED IT!

No one else knew it, but Craig and I sang it at the top of our lungs, we felt so good.

And if you’re singing Billy, you’ve got to sing Elton.

And now Jamie and Greg are in the music room. Andy and Amy. Felice. We’re huddled around the piano singing the songs of our youth.

6

Now I’ll be honest, I thought this was an impossibility with today’s generation. The records don’t usually have melody, but it’s something more, back then music was everything, it drove the culture, we all knew the hits, people don’t today.

And Craig’s whipping out one after another.

And then we get to Simon & Garfunkel. He plays “Mrs. Robinson,” which he used to open his sets with when he moved to L.A. and played the bars.

And we did “Homeward Bound.”

I’m sitting in the railway station
Got a ticket for my destination…

What exactly was that destination?

I never wanted kids, except for when I turned forty and my ex was living separately and ultimately rejected the idea.

I never wanted to be rich. I mean I didn’t want to dedicate all my time in the pursuit of money.

I did want to go skiing, which I still do.

And I wanted to pursue feelings, explore my identity and art.

And “Homeward Bound” is wistful. The story is clear. The musician is on the road and he wants to get back to his love and his music and…he wants to feel comfortable, not out of sorts and lonely on the road.

And the truth is we all feel lonely a lot of the time. We go to the gigs of oldsters to assuage this feeling. We want to be connected. The music connected us. Sure, the players made money, but it was about feelings, setting your mind free primarily.

There was experimentation. There was always something new. New sounds, different styles.

And the thing was the music was made by the musicians, but it ultimately became ours, we own it.

And when you’re singing along to the hits of yore, the songs you think you know by heart, you’re brought back to who you once were, there’s a thread from then to now, you’re ten once again. You can see the old girlfriends, the teachers, the Little League games. It’s all laid out before you, both the victories and the losses, the good memories and the bad.

And you never run out, there are always more songs to sing.

And I’m always the last to leave. I guess I don’t want to be alone. But even more, I want that feeling, with the music in me, thinking of nothing else but the moment.

That’s the power of rock and roll.

Dating Around

They’ve broken the system.

We used to get it, there was a ladder to the top, a room where everybody was inside doing dope with the cool people. If you wanted to make it, you knew how to do it.

But not anymore.

Not that the media has been alerted. The media keeps going on like it’s the twentieth century, and we’re still interested in charts, lists, a veritable pecking order of what’s important and what is not.

But that just does not work anymore.

It started happening about six or seven years ago. The internet cacophony. Everybody was online, everybody had an opinion and they wanted to express it. Meanwhile, the institutions to do just that were established. We thought everybody was gonna have a blog, but the truth is we just wanted to post on Facebook and then tell stories on Snapchat and are now all on Instagram.

Actually, that’s not true.

Oldsters are on Facebook. Hipsters are on Twitter and vapidity rules on Instagram. As for Snapchat, it’s like Second Life, something overhyped that never broke through.

This is important. Because now you no longer get the jokes, you cannot connect with others on a superficial level, because they have not seen the same movies, the same TV shows or listened to the same records, even though certain products are vaunted as being ubiquitous. “Game Of Thrones” is not, it only reaches a small fraction of viewers of a hit show in the pre-cable era. Drake and Ariana Grande are acts inhabiting the lower half of the Top Forty in the sixties. As for politics, we’ve all got our own sources and don’t disabuse us of our beliefs or disbeliefs.

It’s a veritable crisis of culture.

But in America, where it’s only about money, don’t expect anybody to address this. At best we can debate climate change, but our society, its likes and its mores? No way.

Not that anybody studying for a business degree has any idea what a more is, at best they believe it’s part of the title of an Andrea True track.

So we’re isolated and lonely. Not because we have smartphones, they allow us to interact with our friends, but how do you become a part of the culture at large? It’s veritably impossible.

You go somewhere and everything they’re talking about you don’t know or you haven’t seen.

The only icons we know are the tech companies. Apple, Amazon, Google and the aforementioned Facebook and its variants. You can pledge fealty to one, abhor another, but it’s all we have in common.

To the point we’ve got a whole culture of “influencers” online. All in their own niche promoting products via these tech titans, they own a sliver of eyeballs. And it’s all about selling, even if it’s just yourself, and even though we’ve been told over and over again these people are icons, not a single one, from Jenna Marbles to Logan Paul to PewDiePie, have broken through in the culture at general. It’s like hearing over and over about a minor league pitcher who never makes it to the majors.

So you sit and wonder, am I the only one, who feels out of it, who doesn’t want to invest in trying to catch up and finding out it’s not worth it, like viewing every episode of “Orange Is The New Black”?

And the truth is a lot of what’s successful is not hyped, and takes time to percolate. Like “Fauda.” New episodes are in the past, but the show is just reaching critical mass.

This is the opposite of “news.” News is about the new, what’s happening now, it’s not about the old, it’s not even about trends. It’s as if you have to run and see all the movies that open each weekend, even though it would eat up all of your time, and then next week there’s a whole new crop and only one is successful and is not remembered that long anyway.

No wonder people live in their silos.

And the reason we’re in a golden age of television is it’s all about story. We’re searching for humanity. And you’re certainly not gonna get it in pop music, nor in superhero movies, but on the flat screen.

And it’s still like the internet in the early days. They’re not exactly sure what works, so they’re trying new things, which leads us to “Dating Around,” which I don’t recommend watching if you’re single, which I don’t recommend watching at all unless you want to delve into the human condition.

To what degree are we self-aware? Have we developed our personalities? Are we good conversationalists? How do we manage uncomfortable situations? These are the building blocks of life, pushed under the rug in the news, but more important than ever in a world where we feel lost, where we cannot identify with what we’re being force-fed.

Moving to the big city, in this case New York…

That used to be a thing, now most people can’t afford it. And they’re too tied to their families to do it.

Your career. Is it all right not to be on the path to fame? Certainly the media says you’re inadequate if you’re not striving to be a world-beater.

Are you willing to bend, or do you need to be accepted for who you are, to your detriment and ultimate aloneness?

Do you judge too early?

Beauty fades. You’re intrigued by the most beautiful people and then you know them and don’t want them.

And what we have in common is our fear, which very few acknowledge.

And do you know how to get along? You may be right, but is it working for you?

All these concepts come up in “Dating Around.”

Netflix green-lit this show obviously thinking they had to get into the reality/dating show genre. But it being Netflix, they needed credibility. The problem with network TV is it’s all manipulated, cut for drama, starring bozos who will do anything for their few minutes of fame.

But “Dating Around”…

Is inherently uncomfortable.

How do you meet people if you’re single?

This show is a great advertisement for meeting people at work or through clubs or charity. Where there’s no pressure. Where you can truly get to know somebody.

And is there a shoe for every foot? Watching this, I’m not sure. One woman says she never has a relationship and then abandons the man after dinner.

Then again, do you know when you know?

These are the questions we ask ourselves every day. These are the questions not in the media. How do we navigate our own lives? What should be the target? How do we meet people?

The twentysomething Luke is a bore. The women run circles around him.

The divorced Gurki really isn’t looking for a relationship, she hasn’t looked at herself, she’s too busy looking outward.

As for Leonard…

What happens when you’re single and old. Even if it’s not your choice. Leonard’s wife died of cancer.

Leonard looks weird and acts a little weird. Is there someone for him?

A couple of these people you think would have a hard time finding anyone.

And then there’s the widowed gym teacher who reads texts from her live-in post-college daughter during the date. Reminds me of a woman I went out with who took calls from her mother. Just hearing her revert to her adolescent self, servicing her mother, convinced me this was no one I wanted to end up with, even though we’d had such a good conversation the night we met.

Conversation. Do you know how to do it?

You might think dressing up nice solves all problems. And I’m not underestimating attractiveness, but if you think it solves all problems you’ve got a lot to learn.

“Dating Around” is a funny show. It can be boring, but you can’t turn it off. Because of its humanity.

That’s what we need to focus on more, we’re all just people, human, what’s it like to live in 2019?

It’s not about arguing about politics, dreaming of being a rapper… The truth is almost none of us will be famous, and fame ain’t what it’s cracked up to be anyway, neither are riches. Sure, a modicum of both are to your advantage, but overload yourself with these and you end up chasing something that doesn’t exist while you get more and more unhappy inside.

Watch a couple of episodes of “Dating Around,” you’ll have more questions than answers.

Just like life.

Dating Around

Jamey Johnson At The Wiltern

I didn’t want to go to the Wiltern. I’d already been back and forth to Hollywood earlier in the day. And in L.A. there’s substandard public transportation, so you have to drive, which is why we all believe Howard Stern is our best friend.

And I fired up all three map apps and compared and decided to go with WAZE, which is always funny, because of the detours. I’m on 6th Street and the app tells me to go up one block to 5th and back down Fairfax one block later to rejoin 6th. And I’ll be honest, I get angry at the people who won’t go right, who wait until the coast is truly clear…IT’S NEVER CLEAR! And you wonder why we have road rage.

But the reason I was going so early was to make sure I got a spot in the structure. It fills up really early and then there’s nowhere to park, and it’s not the safest neighborhood either, I know more than one person who’s had their car broken into there.

And I used to park underground, when Rena ran the building. But now Nederlander doesn’t even run the Greek. Time passes, and not so slowly like Bob Dylan says. I walk into the Wiltern and I don’t know a single soul. Is it me or them?

Actually, business was soft, way soft. Is it that Jamey Johnson hasn’t had a hit in eons or that L.A.’s really not a country town or both?

And it’s such a hassle going to a gig. Not only the driving and parking, which was $25, which seemed excessive, but the security. I get why people stay home. And the truth is people go to the big gigs of oldsters and hitmakers who’ve broken through, but in between…

Now the reason I went so early was to see the opening act, Marty’s new client Erin Enderlin.

First and foremost, she could sing.

And she can write. Actually, someone yelled out “Are you a songwriter?” And of course she said yes.

But Erin was a revelation. Because this is how it used to be, when it was about songs and one person and their guitar could get the message across. I’m standing there…and why they tore the seats out from the Wiltern…who declared that we must STAND to listen to music? They don’t at Disney Hall. And I’m getting into it. I’m suddenly glad I came.

But I couldn’t tell Marty how to break her. Country radio likes guys. And singer-songwriter music went out with the seventies.

Not that there aren’t singer-songwriters left, but most can’t write. Pull up the playlists on Spotify and wince. It seems the elixir has been lost.

But Erin has the next Reba cut and for her final number…

Jamey and the band came out. They duetted, it was so smooth, this is the kind of collaboration that should be featured on the Grammy telecast. But the truth is music doesn’t work on TV. You need to be there.

And Jamey Johnson sure was.

Now the guy looks like he came out of…THE SEVENTIES! Like an Allman Brother in his jeans. With his long hair and beard like he couldn’t do anything else. And he’s from Alabama and he was in the Marine Reserves and you realize…you don’t know people like this. Like Erin, who grew up in Arkansas. I mean I’ve stayed in a hotel across the river from Arkansas, but have never been there. And one night in Atlanta we took a wrong turn and ended up in Alabama, but otherwise…

Of course people live there. But so many of the coastal residents have no idea what’s going on there.

And Jamey’s featuring a ten piece band. Which makes no economic sense whatsoever, there aren’t even three hundred people there. There’s a horn section and a pedal steel player and a background singer and counting the bass player and Jamey, four guitarists.

And at first the numbers are noodling, kinda quiet. And you realize you’re at a Grateful Dead show. In that they don’t know where they’re going, you’re on an adventure together, and if you’re lucky, the building will levitate, with you in it.

Jamey’s picking out notes on his giant Epiphone. At times there’s a flute, there was even a Jew’s Harp solo, and you realize, not only can you not get this on TV, you can’t get it on wax, this is a one time only performance, and you are THERE!

Which is just about when Jamey pays tribute to Tom Petty and plays “Southern Accents,” which I get, but is not exactly the song I want to hear.

But that segues into “Room At The Top.”

Okay, these are the songs that resonate with him.

But then, the unmistakable riff… HE’S PLAYING MARY JANE!

And I have to run right down to the front of the stage, to get closer to the music, to feel it, to watch Jamey pick out the notes.

Last dance with Mary Jane
One more time to kill the pain

And I’m thrusting my arms in the air and singing along and thinking that after Erin I was contemplating leaving, wouldn’t that have been a mistake.

But then comes a super-slow version of “You Are My Sunshine.”

Yup, Jamey’s got a whole band, he’s not making real money, and he’s not even always using them!

And I’m checking setlist.fm. And every gig is different and some songs he’s never played when…

He goes into “Willin’.” Not the Seatrain breakthrough version, not Linda Ronstadt’s take, not even the remake on “Sailin’ Shoes,” but the slow talk/sung take from the very first Little Feat LP that no one knows.

I been warped by the rain, driven by the snow
I’m drunk and dirty and don’t you know…

This is bedrock. This ain’t evanescent Top Forty, but music that lasts forever. You know every word, and unlike when I first heard it, I’ve actually been to Tehachapi, but I’m still waiting to go to Tucumcari.

And there’s a Jerry Reed cover. And Tony Joe White’s “Rainy Night In Georgia.” And a Merle Haggard number. And, of course, Jamey’s cowrite of George Strait’s “Give It Away,” with the dancing matron next to me singing along with the chorus.

And then the band is chugging along with “Tulsa Time.” And you’re pinching yourself, YOU’RE ACTUALLY THERE!

Not that anybody seems to care.

There’s no backdrop, no fancy lighting, just music, the way it used to be.

And then comes the hit.

Jamey also played “Macon,” but every night he has to play “In Color.”

If it looks like we were scared to death
Like a couple of kids just trying to save each other
You should’ve seen it in color

I’ve been scared. Of my father. Out in the elements. In my twenties, thirties and even forties, wondering where it was all going, how it was all gonna work out. And when I hear “In Color” I resonate, especially with the concept of seeing it in color. It was so much worse than the retelling.

And I’m thinking of Hal Blaine. Who had to be a security guard after his studio heyday was through.

And no one is offering Jamey Johnson a sponsorship, he ain’t a brand, he’s a MUSICIAN!

And he isn’t the only one in Nashville, but they all seem to be in Music City. On the coasts it’s all about electronics and rhythm and it’s far from the basics, humanity.

And the truth is we’ve figured out distribution, but we’re still foundering with marketing.

I was talking with Jeff Garlin yesterday and he told me you can’t reference pop culture in standup comedy anymore, most people don’t get the joke, they haven’t experienced the underlying event/show/song.

That’s right, we parade the hits like most people know and care, but they don’t.

Jeff said the only thing that resonates is real life, living, relationships, those are universal.

And that’s the essence of a country song.

And big time music has lost the plot, lost its essence, lost its ability to resonate. It’s background noise. So why bother to go to the gig?

And most people don’t, even though the total is healthy.

But it used to be an addiction, to go out to see an act without dancing and pyrotechnics. Tech does whiz-bang better than any stage show. But AI ain’t human, it can’t make your skin prickle and have you thrusting your arm in the air.

Maybe Jamey realizes it doesn’t pay to make a record. What for? To be ignored?

Maybe we’re in the pre-recording era. Maybe it’s just about singing and playing, trying to capture the zeitgeist, climbing that mountain each and every night, a new adventure each evening.

Most big acts go on the road to replicate the show for dozens of nights. It’s an endurance test, done for cash, all aligned with digital triggers. It ain’t about music, it’s about celebrity, about brand extension opportunities.

Whereas music used to be made by outlaws. People who had to do it because it was the only place they fit in.

Like Jamey Johnson.