Sunday, July 31, 2011

Coolest Video of the Year

Now if only MTV still showed videos

Please enjoy Paul Rudd, Bill Hader, Wyatt Cynak, Ted Leo, Kevin Corrigan, John Hodgeman, Jon Oliver, Donald Glover, Horatio Sanz, and tons of others in this video for "Moves" by the New Pornographers.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Craigslist Ads and the New Wave Songs That Love Them #9

Number Nine, Number Nine, Number Nine

You sat in the front row, texting.

I'm pretty sure your SmartPhone is smarter than your dumb ass.

I was there to see the comedian, not watch your phone light up and buzz when your idiotic friends sent you texts. (And even though I can't imagine what inane crap you were discussing, I couldn't be bothered to lean over and try to read it because I couldn't look past your insanely hyperinflated sense of entitlement.)

You wanna send texts during a performance? Save it for the Harry Potter movie, shithead.

When you're in a comedy club, shut the fuck up and listen.

I don't even care that you were hot. I won't fuck people who are so disrespectful.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Details of Your Days and Nights and Your Thoughts and Dreams

Do You Know What I Mean?

The world is a better place with Fountains of Wayne in it...

And their new album Sky Full of Holes comes out next week.

You can stream the whole thing on their Facebook page... or get a little taste right here:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Time Goes By in Instants

It's Some Golden Age I'm Still Afraid to Touch

The long winding street.

The slow descent of the clouds.

The soft sway of the trees.

The heat of the nights in the summer.

The scent of tea seeping in the mug.

The smile -- soft, inviting.

The screen door that leads into the yard that leads into the shed that leads into the path that leads back to the screen door that leads through the living room and back to the screen door.

Shuffled, mixed up, put back together.

Thrown into the air in an instant as a smell returns you to that time. That place. That warm lost instant.

Like a million others.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Wheat's Growing Thin

Some of it Was True...

Welcome Clashblog readers! Hang out a bit and let me know what you think...

Two bizarre covers and a summer rerun:

The following was originally published in January 2009:

My friend Julie loved the Clash.

When Joe Strummer was buried, his friends put two bumper stickers on his coffin. One said "Vinyl Rules" and the other said "Question Authority."

Julie was cool. She had the first Clash album (the UK import, not the American version, which she said was inferior, thus winning instant punk cred with everyone she knew). She bought London Calling on the day it was released and is one of the only people I've ever known who owned Sandinista on vinyl (and regularly listened to all six sides). She saw the Clash live once and proudly argued with anyone who'd listen that they really were "the only band that matters." The politics went right over her head, but she tapped directly into the passion that exploded out of her speakers when she played their records and that was really all that mattered. (And she was so committed that you could overlook the absurdity of a suburban American blonde girl singing along to quintessentially English punk songs.)

Every March, Julie would celebrate the release of the Clash's first single ("White Riot") by skipping school (or later calling in sick to work) and watching her old VHS tape of the movie Rude Boy and listening to her old records (vinyl only, no CDs) for hours. That's what she did in March 1987, on the tenth anniversary of the Clash's first record being released. Then she went out driving in her beat-up (but still gorgeous) white convertible, top down despite the winter weather, her long hair buffeted by a cold wind, listening to this song, written and first recorded by Sonny Curtis -- now better known for writing "Love is All Around," the theme song for the Mary Tyler Moore Show (link for Gmail subscribers):

Now I'm not a physicist, but I'm pretty sure Sir Isaac Newton said something about how impossible it is to drive slowly when you hear songs like this. And Julie was flying. A State Trooper pulled her over and said he'd clocked her going 86 in a 60 zone. He asked why she was speeding. She's pretty enough to have gotten out of the ticket by flirting, but instead she explained she'd been listening to the Clash because it was the tenth anniversary of their first record coming out. The Trooper then told her about how he had discovered the Clash and how he'd seen them exactly once. As it turned out, they went to the same show. So he let her off with a warning.

Joe Strummer died before the Clash were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. Later that year, there was a Clash tribute at the Grammy awards. It took Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, Steve Van Zandt, and Elvis Costello to take Joe Strummer's place (link for Gmail subscribers):

Julie reminded me recently that, when Joe Strummer died (a few days before Christmas in 2002), she went driving again. Different car, this one not a convertible, her hair a little shorter and the heater blasting. Also blasting was "London Calling."

Again, impossible to drive slowly with a song like that.

So Julie was pulled over; this time clocked at 70 in a 55. When the cop asked why she was speeding, Julie explained that Joe Strummer of the Clash had died. She talked about the band, she talked about the show she'd seen, and she even mentioned that she had just listened to Sandinista on vinyl. All six sides.

The cop patiently listened to Julie's story, eyes hidden behind mirror sunglasses, face stripped of emotion. Finally Julie asked him what type of music he liked.

The cop thought for a minute, then said "Britney Spears."

And wrote her a ticket for $78.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hard Not to Love This

Today in Rock History

Rolling Stones Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, and Bill Wyman are fined 5 pounds each for urinating against the wall of a gas station in 1965.

Thirteen years later, Elvis Costello releases his debut album My Aim Is True, backed by the band Clover (which would later form the nucleus of Huey Lewis's backing band the News).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Call Out the Instigators

We're Gonna Blast Our Way Through Here

The palm trees sway gently in the wind.

By the highway.

The pictures are still on the wall. Taped. No one seemed to mind.

The postcards are all in a row. Also taped. Above the photos.

The window is open and the cleaning crew has come through.

Everything will be boxed and someone will come pick it up.

The word will spread out from this spot.

And the awareness floats upward. Freely.

The nurses talked for a few days. Then they moved on.

There were other people, other problems.

One of them wondered about the strange visitors, the phone calls, the people with accents.

But she didn't say anything. She just wondered.

Some immediately forgot how cranky he could be, how difficult. They only wanted to remember the positive. Which is nice, but it's not real life. In trying to be nice, they unwittingly diminish the humanity.

Meanwhile, doctors and administrators talked about the family and speculated why so few of them had come.

Many questions remained. Questions that would never be answered.

Still the palm trees waved in the gentle ocean breeze.

They know the answers -- but more than that, they know when it's time.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Few Things to Listen To (and One to Read)

Live From the Interwebs

Thanks to the reader who pointed out that I had the old, wrong, dead link for Peter's Power Pop over there on the side -- it's fixed now. But speaking of which, go here and listen to Brian Hoffer, who humbly suggests maybe you just need psychoanalysis.

Hat tip to Whiteray over at Echoes in the Wind, who pointed me to The Goat 540, an album-rock Am station that streams on the web -- and might just represent the finest ideals of album rock, which I thought had died decades ago.

And finally, (with a hat tip to JB at The Hits Just Keep on Coming'), the Washington Post presents a history of the Cheesetastic "Afternoon Delight."


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Justin Has None

Last Night One Tried To Kill Me -- I'm Sure

"Meet me at that place. Down the block. The one that shouldn't be open but is."

So I did. I drove there.

New to Los Angeles, not caring that no one thought my crappy French car was cool, not caring what trendy cars the bottled blondes drove.

On the street were six Suzuki Samurais, all driven by newly blonde actress wannabes carrying plastic water bottles and yoga mats.

Five years later, they'd be driving some other trendy car. Then another one. Then New Beetles and Mini Coopers.

At the place where we met, she ate something organic. I tried a bite. It was disgusting.

"Why aren't the streets glistening?" she asked. "They always glisten in the movies."

I looked down the hallway, which was painted to look like a Japanese Pagoda. Now it looked like a hallway with peeling Pagoda paint. The bored vaguely Asian waitstaff scurried about, heating sake for the exclusively White patrons.

"I don't know that they're always glistening," I said.

She smiled. "Always. There's never been a movie where it's not raining in Los Angeles."

She wanted me to argue, to be logical. But I didn't want to. I was tired.

"It's like someone waved a magic wand at Los Angeles and made it rain. But only in the movies." She looked far off into the distance. "I wish I could make it rain here."

She finished her meal. I couldn't stomach mine.

Then she asked if I wanted any gluten-free chocolate cake. I didn't. I was tired of trendy food. "I've got an idea," I said. "Let's go somewhere and have real chocolate cake. Made with sugar and flour and eggs and chocolate."

She scowled at me. "That's disgusting."

I shrugged as she poured water from the bottle into her glass.

"I just wanted something real."

She stared around the room at all the women with fake breasts and said nothing.

"You know," I said, "Evian spelled backwards is 'naive.'"

She shook her head, looked at me across the table, and said the words every man in Los Angeles hates to hear: "I signed up for an acting class."

We said nothing for a very long time.

The French car outlived the relationship, but not by much. I got an equally untrendy but more reliable car.

In the restaurant, the paint continued to peel. The fake breasted women pushed food around their plates and eventually left. The newly arrived blondes went off to yoga in their cute cars.

Some of the details changed (the make of the cute car, the container used for designer water, the hairstyle), but the essence was the same. The same old thing that you saw 12 seconds ago.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Let's Live For Today

Guilty? Maybe. Pleasure? Definitely.

RIP Rob Grill, bass player, lead singer, and sometime songwriter for the Grass Roots.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It's All Been A Gorgeous Mistake

Down by the Statue

There's a statue in the middle of the lawn.

No one remembers who it is. Or what he did.

And certainly no one remembers why he's on horseback.

But late one night, Gina and I were walking on the lawn.

And we were talking about her problems. (She had a lot of problems, so this was not the first or the last time we talked about them.)

We stopped by the statue and I could sense that her personal cosmology and belief systems, which ebbed and flowed like mountain springs, were due for another radical change of course. "I'd die for you, you know," she said.

And I said something about how that would not be necessary. Because I didn't want the responsibility. Didn't want her even thinking that way.

And she bent down, picked up an empty bottle of beer someone had thrown onto the lawn.

She smiled. "It's not that big a deal. I've died a thousand times before. I've got a few thousand times to go still."

And she broke the bottle against the base of the statue.

I spun around, thinking someone would have heard us, somewhere security or the police, or a neighbor would come running out and we'd get in trouble.

But no one came.

"It's 3 am," Gina said as I turned back to face her. "No one cares. This is the one time of day when we can be honest with each other."

And she ran her finger across the jagged edges of the broken glass before continuing. "And I'm sure you'd die for me, too."

I looked deep into her eyes and realized this was no small request. She may not have wanted me to die right then and there, but she wanted to know that she could call on me to die whenever she chose.

I knew I wouldn't do that. Much as I cared for her, I wasn't going there. Not that night and not in the future.

I took the broken glass from her hand. And she must have seen the deep-seated fear in me, because she quickly backtracked, claiming she'd never hurt herself for anyone and would never want anyone else to die for her.

She laughed, insisted I'd misunderstood, and tried to play the whole thing off as a joke.

But I knew better.

And anyone else who'd been there knew better too.

But I had no one to share this insight with -- except for the statue. And he (like Gina) wasn't in the mood to listen.

Longtime readers may be interested to know that this song was always targeted for inclusion on my never-went-anywhere Codependency's Greatest Hits collection.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Two (of One) from the Other Two

Hari Krishna to You

Interrupting the summer doldrums for two versions of a song I've always loved (which seems appropriate since today is Ringo Starr's birthday).

Come for the great horn arrangements (and instrumental tracks played by most of Badfinger), stay for the goofy scenes of pianos in the snow, Ringo skiing poorly, and several snowmachine accidents waiting to happen.

There were rumors from the beginning that Ringo could not have possibly written this song (a huge step up from his previous ditties like "Octopus's Garden"). Decades later, a demo version surfaced with a George Harrison guide vocal (as well as a few extraneous "Hari Krishnas" that were buried in the final mix), raising questions about exactly how much of the song Harrison had written himself.

But as cool as the Harrison version is, there's something I've always loved about Ringo's vocal that Harrison didn't quite match.

Compare and contrast amongst yourselves:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How Sweet to Be A Summer Rerun

Note: I'm reasonably sure it's a coincidence that I kept thinking of the last song in this post after watching cable news coverage of politicians and political pundits...

Originally Published May 2009

After the Rutles album came out, there was a lot of talk about how similar the songs were to Beatles songs (including this article, which proves that scholarly study of humor will almost immediately spiral into self-parody).

Unfortunately, the owners of the Beatles publishing (but not the Beatles themselves) decided that the Rutle songs were too close to Beatle songs and sued. In the process, Innes lost all the publishing and songwriting royalties for all the songs from the first Rutles album (and was so disgusted with the music business that he dropped out of music for several years). Add in legal squabbling with Eric Idle about legal ownership of the idea of the Rutles, and you've got enough to make you want to smash everything in sight. (And blame it on society.)

But the universe does have a way of showing that there is such thing as Karma, even if it takes longer than we want. In the mid-1990s, Oasis, a band whose music is often ignored while people focus on their influences and frequent fistfights, released a song called "Whatever" which -- and I'm not sure how to put this delicately -- sounds exactly like the Neil Innes song "How Sweet to Be an Idiot."

And, perhaps in part to make up for mistreating him financially with the Rutles, the universe awarded Innes royalties and co-writing credit on "Whatever."


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hot Hot Heat

Even the Stars Sometimes Fade to Grey

I got a call from a friend back East. He was baking. It was a million degrees. He wanted to hear about the lack of humidity. About the cool ocean breezes. About the way the sun didn't bake us here the same way it was baking them there.

So we talked about snow.

About ice.

About the bone-chilling feeling of cold wet wind when the snow wouldn't stop falling.

About the feeling of wind chill on exposed skin, how it flowed through your core.

And about the feeling of shaking from the cold.

At the end of the call, I asked if it helped.

"Not really," he said. "But I'm going to go lie down in the bathtub for a while... and see if that helps."

The Weepies are two married singer/songwriters who had separate careers and met one night at a folk club in Cambridge, Mass.

They've had hundreds of songs placed in TV shows and movies, hitting the twee bullseye nearly every time.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Great Big Problem Stop Me In My Tracks

I Can't Stand Up and I Can't Sit Down

"You know the problem."

I know of the problem.

"That's not the same. But I know you know."

I don't know about that.

"You're talking in circles. Sometimes I think you like talking in circles."


"No you're not talking in circles? Or no you don't like it?"


"That doesn't answer my question."

No. No it doesn't.

"You circle around the point without getting there."

Maybe that's the only way to get there.

"Another riddle. I'm tired of riddles."

And I'm just tired. Because the whole point isn't the answer to the riddles or the answer to the questions, but the space between the riddles. The space between that defines what we can't define in the circles. Or the riddles. Or the words.

"I almost understand that."

Yeah. Me too.

Happy Independence Day.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hit the City and I Lost My Band

For long lost late-night friends

The wind never picked up all summer.

But it cooled down.

Late at night, in a city that had gone downhill for decades. A city that would come back, but not until we were all long gone.

Down the hill to a deserted downtown area filled with bars we never went to and a couple of rock clubs we did.

Somersaulting on the lawn in front of the State House at 2 in the morning -- grass freshly mowed, security guards safely asleep inside the building.

Past buildings soon to be torched for insurance money -- allegedly, because nothing was ever proven.

Walking in packs, thinking we were safe from anything that could be thrown our way.

Ignoring each other's foibles, as if talking about what was wrong would make things worse.

Working during the day in jobs that would expire in a couple months. Saving a tiny bit of money so the ones who had cars could drive us to the Beach every other weekend.

When the news came years later, it seemed inevitable to everyone.

The sadness was not a relief. The sense of loss may have been more for ourselves than the ones who were finally, definitely gone.

The question about why we hadn't done more lingered in the air that day like the heat that still rises from the sidewalks in the summer. We appeared dressed in black suits and black dresses, older if not wiser. And we talked into the night, ties loosened, the good times seeping through holes in our memories while the ghosts of our younger selves passed by the outdoor cafes downtown searching for the dingy bars and rock clubs that closed up shop long ago.