Monday, March 29, 2010

No Future?


Apparently,, the former 97X, has stopped broadcasting.

And I'm not feeling so great myself.

The former Cincinnati rock station, which billed itself as "the future of rock and roll," survived the end of its over-the-air broadcast, reinvented itself as one of the few viable internet radio stations, went bust, was rescued by, was sold, moved to Austin, and now apparently went bust again.

Barely Awake in Frog Pajamas has more...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Conversation About Tone Poems

Skateboards? I almost made them respectable.

"I've been reading it," she said. "And I like it."


"But. I don't understand."

There's not much to understand. It is what it is.

"Yeah. But what is it?"


I think of it as a series of tone poems.

"But it's not. I don't think you even know what a tone poem is."

Sure I do. It's a short piece of prose designed to evoke a certain feeling or emotion.

"No. A tone poem is a single-movement symphony that tells the story of a poem or painting. That thing you're talking about? It doesn't even exist."


Well that's how I think of it.

And that's what 'tone poem' should mean.

"This is your problem," she said. "It's always been your problem."

And I stared at her, wondering why she became so rigid and so literal. I knew then what I'd never known before -- how lucky I was that we didn't wind up together. And I couldn't get this song (a perfect modern tone poem as far as I'm concerned) out of my head:

And she shook her head sadly and said "When are you going to learn that you can't just make shit up?"

Not yet.

Not just yet.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's Propeller Time...

Peter Gabriel, eat your heart out.

Remember when you were a kid and every inanimate object was a toy. You'd invent stories about the salt shaker having a blood feud with the candlestick and various utensils would root for their favorites.

Robyn Hitchcock does.

Times like these make me wish MTV still played videos. This one would be in heavy rotation for sure.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Lost Bubblegum Album

And they said "We Don't Understand."

Just before XTC went on strike against Virgin records, Andy Partridge pitched an off-kilter wild idea. XTC would record an album that would be marketed (with a nudge and a wink) as a collection of hit bubblegum songs from the late 60s and early 70s. Virgin would announce that they'd acquired the rights to the imaginary label Zither and release an album of Zither's hits from bands with names like The Lemon Dukes, Sopwith Caramel, The Twelve Flavours of Hercules, Anonymous Bosch, The Brighton Peers, The Lollipopes, Cake's Progress, The Piccadilly Circus Tent Rip Repair Company, etc. All these "bands" would really be XTC and XTC fans would recognize this (in the same way they recognized the Dukes of Stratosphear as XTC).

The songs were all classic bubblegum numbers -- sweet and seemingly innocent but filled with double entendres that would rank them among the filthiest songs ever recorded.

Partridge and Colin Moulding even had demos for a dozen or so of the bubblegum songs. (Link for Gmail subscribers.)

Virgin didn't get it. They wanted XTC on Top of the Pops. Failing that, they wanted to hire young bands to dress up in period costumes and perform the songs on TV.

A couple of these songs leaked out on compilations over the years and more surfaced on Andy Partridge's Fuzzy Warbles demo series.

It could've, should've, would've been amazing. In an alternate universe, it would have knocked Nirvana and all the grunge bands off the radio and out of the stores. We might even have been spared the boy-band craze of the mid-90s and American Idol.

But then again, Virgin never knew what to do with XTC (and XTC didn't have the desire or clout to do anything to resolve their situation with Virgin).

So the album remains lost, unfinished... and legendary.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

RIP Alex Chilton


Alex Chilton, who had a worldwide number-one hit at the age of 16 singing "The Letter" with the Box Tops, died yesterday of an apparent heart attack. He was 59.

After the Box Tops split up, Chilton and Chris Bell formed Big Star, a band cursed with being infinitely influential and unappreciated.

When Big Star broke up, Chilton moved to New York, where he dabbled in punk and played with Chris Stamey (from the dBs) and Richard Lloyd (from Television). His solo career never quite took off and he never achieved the commercial success of the Box Tops (or the influence of Big Star). But he did inspire my favorite song by the Replacements.

I'm sorry I never got a chance to see him live... or tell him how much his music meant to me.

"Children by the millions wait for Alex Chilton to come around..."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

If I Should Fall From Grace With Shamrock Shakes

Pinch me, I'm not wearing green.

Patrick, patron Saint of Ireland, supposedly rid the island of snakes. Never mind that there were no snakes in Ireland.

He supposedly introduced people to the concept of the Trinity by showing them a three-leafed clover. Never mind that he had to resort to magic to explain four-leafed clovers.

He carried a walking stick that he thrust in the ground whenever he would preach. Never mind that Christian dogma took so long to sink in that the walking stick supposedly took root before anyone understood what he was talking about.

He was accompanied by warriors who traveled through time to help him preach. Never mind that time travel goes against strict Biblical teachings.

And he was captured by the British and returned to Ireland as a slave (and may have lost his mind during that time). He regularly heard voices and did what they told him to do. Never mind that the Druids thought he was insane -- or that they may have been right.

So celebrate your own eccentricities, preach loudly, and don't worry if modern-day Druids call you insane. Just belly up to the bar (or head over to McDonald's -- also not Irish -- for a sickly-green seasonal confection), gather up a fiddle, and sing along with several dozen like-minded people you'll never see again.

Because today we celebrate St. Patrick as the universal symbol of Ireland, recognized all around the world. Never mind the fact that he was not Irish.

And neither were the Waterboys.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Like a Ballroom Glove in the Moonlight

I don't know how many miles we traced across the snow -- maybe a thousand.

We were hundreds of miles off the road system.

In a tiny village of 400 -- augmented that day with several hundred volunteers: trail breakers, trail sweepers, vets, pilots, dog handlers, cooks, and general workers.

Dozens of journalists trekked down to the checkpoint, watching on the GPS and speculating when the first team would come through. The VIPs from the corporation that would give a prize to the first team came by in the late afternoon. And we waited.

The sun went down. The temperature was already ten below and it just kept getting colder. There was light snow on and off, but no real accumulation.

Someone built a small fire. And we waited.

Sometime after dark, someone called out "dog team on the river." And we flowed outside. The Mayor was there and more than 100 villagers. When the headlamp finally became visible, everyone started cheering.

For hours, it was like a party. Teams would come in and be met by camera crews, veterinarians, dog handlers, the Race Marshall, and various well-wishers. Most teams stayed no more than a few minutes before heading back out onto the trail.

By 3am, the villagers had gone home. The camera crews were sleeping somewhere warm. The VIPs were gone.

Now it was quiet.

Now it was still.

And someone ran inside to tell us: "dog team on the river."

So we went outside. The temp had dropped to 30 below. It hurt to breathe.

The snow had stopped. And everything was quiet.

So I waited with two vets, the lead checker, and four others. We huddled by the fire.

This time there was no cheering crowd. Just the stillness.

And then a light. Visible from far off, slowly coming towards us.

And a sound: quiet paws pushing off cold, fast snow. The gentle breathing of 16 dogs, athletes acting at peak efficiency.

The guy on the sled called the dogs to stop. And they did. Immediately. He pushed a heavy hook deep into the snow. The vets carefully looked after each dog. The checker talked to the guy on the sled. Like most of the others, he wasn't going to stay. Moments later, he pulled the hook and the dogs took off.

"Gee, Gee!" he called and the dogs banked right, down a chute, and back out onto the river. A moment later "Haw! Haw!" and the dogs turned left. "On through."

The others went inside, but I walked down the chute to the frozen river. The sound of paws running over snow carried in the cold night air, long after I could no longer hear the dogs breathing.

I stood alone, watching the light move off into the distance. Until it was gone.

All was still again, a stillness that was so complete and total that it felt like the world had frozen and nothing could ever move again.

And I was alone, in the middle of nowhere, in a wild motionless expanse of snow and ice.

But if I closed my eyes and concentrated really hard, I could swear I could feel someone singing:

And, yeah. Part of me never went home after that night.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Disturbing Trend

I Used To Be Disgusted...

But now I try to be amused by the fact that people who should be asking me to join in their hijinks are now calling me "sir."

It's enough to make me angry.

But I'm not Angry anymore...

(Because it's boring as hell...)

Still, while we're on the subject... cut it out.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Dogs & Everything

Iditarod XXXVIII starts today.

Or tomorrow, depending on how you define it.

The race had a ceremonial start in Anchorage today. Mushers and "Iditariders" went about 10 miles through downtown Anchorage and out into the woods on ski and bike trails.

About 15,000 people came out to watch the mushers live and tens of thousands more watched it live on Alaskan TV.

No one kept track of times today because it didn't really count.

The real race begins tomorrow in Willow (about 70 miles away) and the winner will likely arrive in Nome 9 or 10 days later.

Which reminds me of this.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Olympics Withdrawal

Nope, driving down Olympic Blvd. doesn't help.

Okay, I'm officially going through Olympics withdrawal.

But one thing I won't miss is this.

At the risk of being rude, can you think of a rock 'n' roller less athletic than Lou Reed?

And at the risk of being snarky, wouldn't Lou Reed's perfect day feature a lot less snowboarding and a lot more heroin?

And at the risk of being overly obvious -- isn't this a crappy commercial because nearly everyone remembers it but almost no one remembers what it's supposed to be advertising?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fabulous Wealthy Tarts Not Included

Synthesized Hand-Claps and All.

We stood on a hill on a Spring afternoon.

We'd spent hours loading heavy equipment from a visiting band off of a huge truck and out onto the field. Monitors. Amplifiers. All manner of electrical devices.

And now the band was playing, holding back their single hit to try to force the gathered college kids to bring them back for an encore.

And when they played the hit. And she got up to dance and sing along. And the irony was that I'd introduced her to the band. Then layer that irony with the fact that her life was an exact opposite of the lyrics she was singing along to.

A friend grabbed my shoulder.

"Don't take it personally."

"It's hard not to. It was just a few months ago."

"You know she's never gone more than 10 days without a boyfriend. Ten days since she was 14."

"I know."

"And you didn't think you two would stay together. Did you?"

"I did."

"Well then you're an idiot."

And I watched her dance. And had to agree.

My friend paused, then said. "It's a reflection on her, not on you."

I knew that then. And I know it now. And yet... she was dancing with some guy who wasn't me.

And my friend said "Plus, she dances like a spazz."

True enough. "I just wish she hadn't done that. So soon."

"Ten days, dude. Since she was 14. It has nothing to do with you."

I must have known that deep down. But I wanted to believe something different. Or maybe I just wanted to be the guy on the hill dancing and not the guy who'd seen how burned out and bored the band was backstage and would have to load tons of equipment back onto the truck so they could travel the next night to Maine. Or Virginia. Or some other place where the girls sway like spazzes and sing along to love songs they could never live up to. (Link for Gmail subscribers.)