Category Archives: original content

Digging in the Garage – Inaugural Edition

One great thing about the music blogosphere is being exposed to other’s musical tastes and experiencing great music you’ve never heard before or had forgotten about.

This is how I got turned back on to early garage rock.  Someone somewhere mentioned Nuggets, the great early compilation of garage and psychedelic singles of the 60’s.  The original Nuggets (official title Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968) put together by Lenny Kaye was a 2 disc compilation released in 1972 by Elektra Records.  Subsequent versions were released by Rhino Records in the 80’s.

Between listening to these, along with multiple episodes of Little Steven’s Underground Garage (as part of “research” for my blogs on Little Steven (here and here), I’ve heard some great tunes.

So I thought it would be fun to do a recurring feature highlighting 2-3 of my favorite finds (or re-finds) from time to time.  I’m going to be pretty broad in what gets in – if its shown up on Nuggets, or the Underground Garage, or by a band that was on either, its eligible.  Thus, the Digging in the Garage title!  Get it?

For this first one, let’s start as Nuggets does, with “I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)” by The Electric Prunes.  Great song title and band name!  The Prunes formed in 1965 in Los Angeles and recorded 2 albums before breaking up in 1968.  Their name apparently started as a joke, but they decided to keep it since it was so unusual, it would be memorable to listeners. Too Much to Dream was  written by Annette Tucker and Nancie Mantz, and was the band’s second single. In 1967 it reached # 11 on the Billboard Hot 100. The oscillating reversed guitar sound which opens the song was done by lead guitarist Ken Williams with his 1958 Gibson Les Paul and a Bigsby vibrato unit and then played backwards.

Next up, Don’t Look Back, by Barry and the Remains.  The Remains, from Boston, formed in 1964 and achieved a strong following in the New England area.  Their biggest claim to fame was opening for the Beatles on the Fab Four’s last US tour in 1966.  Don’t Look Back, written by Billy Vera, was from their debut album, 1966’s The Remains.  Ironically, opening for the Beatles didn’t break them nationally, and they actually had broken up prior to the album’s release.  I especially like the “Shout” type interlude midway through the song.

Next, let’s go to Cleveland for The Outsiders and Time Won’t Let Me.  The band had been playing as an R&B band the Starfires until changing their name in 1965.  Time Won’t Let Me, written by rhythm guitarist Tom King and his brother-in-law Chet Kelly, was a Top 5 hit in 1966 and became a million seller.  I love the combination of the 12 string guitar riff and the horn section chart.

Le’ts wrap up this edition in the Pacific Northwest, with Have Love Will Travel by The Sonics, from Tacoma WA.  The Sonics formed in 1961 but had their greatest success starting in 1964-65.  Have Love Will Travel was on their 1965 debut album Here Are The Sonics, and is a cover of the 1959 version by Richard Berry (fun fact: he also wrote Louie, Louie).  With its fuzzy guitars, booming drums, dirty sax, and screaming vocals, plus its primitive recording method, it seemed to come from an entirely different universe compared to most other songs of the time.  The Sonics are seen as precursors of punk, and this song is a great example.  If this song doesn’t at least get your toes tapping, check your pulse – you may not have one!

Well, that’s all for now.  I’ll have more nuggets in the future.

Source: Wikipedia

Nuggets image: By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10513930

 

Little Steven – The Renaissance Man of Rock and Roll (Part 2)

I have always admired Little Steven (Steve Van Zandt).  To me his actions both in the studio and out are the true epitome of what rock and roll is all about, and the power it has to be a force for good in the world.  In Part 1 of this two part blog, I focused on Little Steven’s career through the end of the 1980s.  For Part 2, I’ll focus on highlights from the 1990’s right up to the present.

Image result for little steven

As I mentioned in Part 1, Van Zandt had lost his recording contract at the end of the 1980s.  But he was still plenty busy.  Through the years, Van Zandt had written and/or produced songs for other artists, including as mentioned before Southside Johnny and Bruce Springsteen (Van Zandt served as co-producer on The River and Born in the USA).  Other artists that he has written and/or produced songs for include Michael Monroe, Arc Angels, Nigerian superstar Make Fashek, and Darlene Love, among others.  He also produced and wrote songs for the ill-fated LA cowpunk band Lone Justice‘s second album Shelter in 1986. (As an aside, I have always loved lead singer Maria McKee‘s voice – its a real shame that things fell apart after this album).  Here’s the title track, a Van Zandt song that should have been a massive hit.

Towards the end the 1990s, Little Steven suddenly became insanely busy.  First he went into acting, playing mob consigliere Silvio Dante in HBO‘s The Sopranos.  The show’s producer, David Chase, had seen Van Zandt induct the Rascals into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, and was struck by his “performance” that evening.  The show ran from 1999 to 2007.  While not directly musical, one of the highlights of the show was the songs that would play during the ending credits each week.  These include several Little Steven songs, including Affection, from a never released album he recorded with a short lived garage band he had formed called the Lost Boys.

At the same time in 1999, Bruce Springsteen decided to reform the E Street Band after about a decade after breaking it up to pursue new musical directions.  While Van Zandt had left the band in 1984, when Springsteen asked him to be a part of the newly reformed band, he was in.  Touring behind a box set of Springsteen outtakes and alternate song versions called Tracks, the 1999 Reunion Tour highlighted the new more powerful E. Street Band, since they now had a 3 guitar line-up – Van Zandt, Nils Lofgren (who had replaced Van Zandt in 1984) and Springsteen himself (who was no slouch on the guitar).  I saw Springsteen several times on this tour, and it was a real joy to able to see Little Steven as part of the band (he had left before I got to see Bruce live).  Here’s one highlight from those shows, Bruce and Little Steven duetting on the River classic Two Hearts.

As if acting in a ground breaking TV series and touring with Springsteen weren’t enough, Little Steven also found time in 1999 to release his fifth solo album, Born Again Savage.  Recorded in 1994, it was released on Little Steven’s own Renegade Nation label, and featured both Adam Clayton of U2 and Jason Bonham.  A tribute to the 60s garage rock that Van Zandt loved as a teenager, it was a return to the harder rocking sound of his 1984 album Voice of America and dealt with issues of politics and religion.  Here’s Salvation.

Born Again Savage, and its garage rock sound was a precursor to another major endeavor of Little Steven, the creation of his syndicated radio show Little Steven’s Underground Garage.  Premiering in 2002, and currently on over 80 stations in over 200 markets worldwide, the show has broadcast well over 800 episodes.  Van Zandt has said that he created the show in order to showcase the type of music that was heard on the radio during his youth, especially garage rock, that you don’t hear anymore.  The show, also heard on Sirius satellite radio, together with Van Zandt’s record label Wicked Cool Records, also promotes the current wave of garage and classic rock bands that you won’t hear on commercial radio.  According to the Underground Garage website, over 700 bands have been showcased on the show.  Here’s the humorous opening montage of the show.

During the rest of the 00’s and 10’s, Little Steven kept busy DJing the Underground Garage, touring with Springsteen, and writing/producing/starring in his own Netflix show Lillyhammer (about an ex-Mafia type living witness protection style in Norway).  In addition, in 2007 he founded the Rock and Roll Forever Foundationand its TeachRock project, to counter the widespread cut in arts funding seen in many school districts nationwide.  Using music (including rock) and provided for free to any school who wants it, the projects uses “interdisciplinary arts-driven materials designed to keep students engaged and in school.”  Again, using rock and roll to make society a better place by making learning and education fun and engaging for students!

In 2016 came the exciting news that Little Steven was going back into the recording studio to work on a new album with the Disciples of Soul!  The album Soulfire, was released in May 2017 and included both new and rearranged “rock and soul” songs from his previous work over the years.  The resulting tour for the album began in 2017 and looks to finish up later this year. Mike and Paul of this blog got to see the show when it stopped in Philadelphia and highly recommend it – one fantastic song after another; it was great to see Little Steven in top form!  One pretty cool aspect of the current tour leg is that Van Zandt has reserved a block of tickets at every show for teachers to attend free of charge, as a thank you to them for what they do educating the future generations of America.  One final song choice then, off of Soulfire – here’s Saint Valentine’s Day.  Classic Little Steven – I absolutely love the horn line in this one.  Just like way back in 1975 and Tenth Avenue Freeze-out, it elevates the song to a higher level.

Well, there you have it – my attempt to spread the love about Little Steven and all the good work he has done over the years using rock and roll as a force for good in our world.  I hoped you’ve enjoyed it.  I’ll close with the original liner notes that Little Steven wrote for Born Again Savage.  To me they get to the core of his view of what music can mean.

We live in an insane asylum. A barbaric, merciless cesspool. And in this purgatory filled with disease and ugliness and violence and hatred and injustice and greed and lies and pain and frustration and confusion there are brief, fleeting moments of peace and love and truth and beauty. They are rare. They are years and miles apart. But they are so meaningful that they make life worth living. Those moments give you strength to face the insanity with your balance intact and your eyes focused and you endure and tolerate and survive. And if you’re lucky, real lucky, you can tap that strength and hold on to it long enough to, in your own small way, try to make it all a little bit better. Just a little bit more civil and just. To serve. And you don’t do it for anybody else because no one is going to thank you or reward you or even notice. Don’t kid yourself. You do it for you. For your own soul. Because in this world that’s all the salvation you’re ever gonna get.

Thank you Little Steven for all your efforts – it is noticed, and appreciated! Your music has made my life and our world a better place.

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; littlesteven.com; underground garage.com; rockandrollforever.org;teachrock.org;

Little Steven – The Renaissance Man of Rock and Roll (Part 1)

Songwriter.  Guitarist. Band leader. Producer. Arranger. Actor. DJ. Political activist. Little Steven is all these and more.  In all of this, the common theme (in the recording studio, on stage, and off) has always been, in my opinion, keeping the true spirit, soul, and potential of rock and roll alive.

Smwknd-steven-van-zandt-3814.jpgBy Fuzheado – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

I’ve admired Little Steven (Steve Van Zandt) for several decades now, ever since I got into Bruce Springsteen back in the late 70’s/early 80’s.  While knowledgeable music fans may know him as the bandanna wearing guitarist in Springsteen’s E St. Band, his career and accomplishments actually go far beyond his contributions to Bruce’s music and live shows.  His tireless efforts and dedication both in the studio and out to preserve and promote rock and roll as a life changing force for good in the world is something that has always impressed me.  So I thought it might be fun to do a career retrospective to spread the love.

First, some quick bio information.  Van Zandt was born on November 22, 1950 in Boston MA.  His family moved to Middletown Township, NJ when he was a child, and he came up  in the 60’s Jersey Shore music scene.  Like many teenagers at the time, his life was forever changed after watching the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964. He formed a number of short lived bands, including one called the Shadows.  In 1966 or 1967, the Shadows were playing the Hullabaloo Club in Middletown, when another aspiring musician by the name of Bruce Springsteen showed up.  So began a life long personal and musical friendship.  Van Zandt was a member of several of Springsteen’s early bands, including Steel Mill and The Bruce Springsteen Band. Interestingly, he was not in the earliest versions of the E St. Band that recorded and performed with Springsteen in the early 1970’s.  But he came back in a big way with Springsteen’s break out (and classic) album Born to Run.

During the recording of Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, the session had come to a crashing halt because Bruce’s original horn arrangement was not working.  The two high priced session horn players that had been brought in (Randy and Michael Brecker) were having trouble translating Springsteen’s vision to tape.  Van Zandt was there that today, hanging out in the control room.  According to legend, Van Zandt said “I got it” and then proceeded to sing the individual horn parts to the Brecker Brothers.  And the rest is history as they say.  Here’s the track with the classic horn line.

Van Zandt officially joined the E Street Band on July 20, 1975 for the first show of the Born to Run tour and remained with the band until 1984 (more on that later). When not recording or touring with Springsteen, he found time to co-found Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, a Jersey shore “rock and soul” band that achieved its most success in the NY/NJ/Philly area in the 70’s.  Van Zandt wrote the majority of the songs on and produced their first three albums, including Hearts of Stone, which was named by Rolling Stone magazine one of the top 100 albums of all time in 1987 (fun fact – the title track was a classic Springsteen outtake that he gave to Southside Johnny).  I could highlight so many songs, but let’s go with the title track from their debut album, a Van Zandt composition called I Don’t Want to Go Home.

Little Steven’s solo career and political activism started to take shape in the early 80’s.  During Springsteen’s European tour to promote The River, Van Zandt was exposed for the first time to how the rest of the world viewed the US, and it was not entirely positive. This led him to start researching things himself, and soon to start writing songs with more overt political themes.

Little Steven’s first album Men without Women (with his band the Disciples of Soul), was released in 1982.  I have to say that it is a killer album – one of my all time favorites, definitely on my Desert Island Disc list!  The music is similar in style to the rock and soul sound of his work with Southside Johny, and  only hinted at his budding activism.  Here’s the opening cut, Lyin’ in a Bed of Fire, which deals with everyone’s individual responsibility to participate in political life.

In 1984, just prior to Springsteen’s Born in the USA tour, Van Zandt decided to devote himself full time to his solo career, and left the E St. Band. His 1984 album Voice of America fully embraced his new political activism with a more varied and rocking musical style, with most of the songs dealing with either general political issues or his disagreement with US foreign policy under President Reagan. Whether you agree with his politics or not, what can’t be disputed is Little Steven’s desire to use rock and roll as a source of inspiration and education about current events and to call for change in the world we live in.  Again, so many songs to choose from, but I’d like to feature I Am A Patriot.  This song, which has been covered by a number of artists, including Jackson Browne and Pearl Jam, gets at what true patriotism is.  It’s always been one of my favorites.

In 1985, Little Steven took his new overtly political musical outlook to another level, forming the organization Artists United Against Apartheid and writing the song Sun City to protest the apartheid policies of South Africa.  Sun City was a luxury resort in an area of South Africa called Bophuthatswana, which the South African government claimed was a separate nation but which was in reality where the government was forcing South African blacks to move to.  Many Western artists were playing the resort with the notion that they were not playing South Africa so it was ok. Little Steven wrote the song to bring attention to this hypocrisy and to the wider evil of apartheid.  Similar to We Are the World, the song brought together a wide collection of artists for the song’s recording and companion video. Except this group was much cooler than the Michael Jackson/Lionel Ritchie led group (IMHO), and included rap and hip/hop, rock, R&B and jazz artists. The song was a declaration of solidarity that this group of artists at least would not play Sun City.  I think its a great example of Little Steven using the power of rock and roll to try to affect social and political change.  Check out this video and see how many artists you can spot.

Little Steven continued his solo career output with two more albums in the decade, 1987’s Freedom No Compromise, and 1989’s Revolution.  Musically they included more dance and world music influences, and both continued his focus on political issues, with Freedom No Compromise for example tackling the US government’s treatment of Native Americans, its foreign policy in Central America, and South Africa.  Here’s one of my favorite cuts, Sanctuary (the message is self evident in the lyrics).

At the end of the 1980’s Little Steven lost his recording contract.  But did he fade into oblivion?  Of course not!  Since this post has gotten pretty long, I’ll end for now.  But I’ll cover Van Zandt’s activities from the 90’s through the present in a follow up post.

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube.com; Little Steven.com; Goldminemag.com 

 

Songs about Rain

“Into each life some rain must fall”   So said Longfellow

This past July was apparently the wettest on record for the DC/Baltimore area.  This got me thinking about rain, and songs about rain.  While everyone would agree that we need rain, most times its a bummer in that it ruins outdoor plans, keeps you inside, and is associated with a lack of sunshine.  How is rain used in songs?

There are literally dozens if not hundreds of songs about rain.  So this will be just a small sample of rain songs that I dig for one reason or another.

Sometimes the message is pretty straightforward – the songwriter doesn’t like rain.  The Travis song ‘Why Does It Always Rain on Me‘ (off their 1999 album The Man Who was written by lead singer Fran Healy after traveling to Israel for winter holiday to get away from his rainy Scotland home.  And what did it do during his holiday – rain!  But Healy then also uses rain as a metaphor for a unsettled mental state:

Why does it always rain on me?
Even when the sun is shining I can’t avoid the lightning’

I love how the violin perfectly captures the depressing message of the song.

 

One of my favorite bands, Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) had not one but two great songs about rain.  First up, ‘Have You Ever Seen the Rain‘ off their 1970 album Pendulum. Many people thought the song was about the Vietnam War or the loss of the idealism of the 60’s, but John Fogerty has said that in fact it was written about the creative tensions in the band and the imminent departure of his brother Tom even while the band was at the height of its commercial success. The lyrics capture this perfectly in the image of rain on a sunny day:

Have you ever seen the rain
Comin’ down on a sunny day?

 

The second great song from CCR is ‘Who’ll Stop the Rain’ off their 1970 album Cosmo’s Factory.  Again, many interpreted the song to be about the Vietnam War, but Fogerty has said it was actually written after CCR played at Woodstock.  After seeing the masses of fans singing and dancing despite being cold and muddy in the unrelenting rain, he went home and wrote the song.

Heard the singers playing, How we cheered for more.
The crowd had rushed together, Trying to keep warm.
Still the rain kept pouring, Falling on my ears.
And I wonder, Still I wonder Who’ll stop the rain.

Another sub 3 minute classic from CCR!

 

Let’s shift to the pop world.  A great example of rain as a metaphor for the complicated nature of emotional relationships is the Eurthymics song ‘Here Comes The Rain Again‘ from their 1984 album TouchDave Stewart has said that the melancholy mood of the song is due to “I’m playing a b-minor, but then I change it to put a b-natural in, and so it kind of feels like that minor is suspended, or major. So it’s kind of a weird course.” The song structure also repeatedly alternates between an A and B section with little variation, suggesting the monotony of continuous rain fall.  The lyrics captured in Annie Lennox’s beautiful vocals describe a tension between the complicated emotions that can happen simultaneously in a troubled relationship: resignation,depression, longing, but still love and desire.

Here comes the rain again
Raining in my head like a tragedy
Tearing me apart like a new emotion
Oh
I want to breathe in the open wind
I want to kiss like lovers do
I want to dive into your ocean
Is it raining with you

So baby talk to me
Like lovers do

 

Let’s go back a bit.  A great use of rain to speak to larger societal issues is the Bob Dylan classic ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ from his 1963 album  The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.  The song is written in the style of an old English folk ballad with a mother repeatedly asking her son questions, and he answering them in increasingly apocalyptic terms.  The song is generally considered an anti-nuclear war ballad, although Dylan has said the rain imagery in it is not meant to be nuclear fallout, but “some sort of end that’s just gotta happen.”.  The lyrics get increasingly dark, culminating in

I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner’s face is always well-hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number…..
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

 

Ok, let’s do one for the youngsters in the audience.  Only Happy When It Rains by Garbage (off their self titled 1995 album).  On the face of it, the lyrics are pretty bleak and depressing, veering towards being a bit over the top – but actually that was the intent.  The song is actually a tongue in cheek poke at the general view at the time that grunge and alt rock bands only sang about depressing angst ridden subjects.

You know I love it when the news is bad
Why it feels so good to feel so sad?
I’m only happy when it rains
Pour your misery down
Pour your misery down on me

 

Ok time to start wrapping this one up.  There’s only one song about rain that  I can imagine finishing this post with.  Purple Rain by Prince.  The title song off the soundtrack to his 1984 movie, and the song that launched him to pop super-stardom, was apparently inspired after Prince attended several Bob Seger concerts and noticed the huge response that slow songs like Night Moves and Mainstreet received.  The meaning of its lyrics have been much debated – clearly its a love song, although Prince has been quoted as saying this about it:

When there’s blood in the sky – red and blue = purple.. purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/God guide you through the purple rain

Ok, now that we have cleared that up….  What’s interesting to me is that it is one of the few instances (at least for a song that was this popular) of rain not having a negative connotation, but rather a joyous, cleansing, ok, even spiritual feeling.  Prince’s impassioned vocals, along with the equally brilliant guitar solo, take the song to another level.  By the end of the song, you feel like you have taken a journey to a new better place where you can start anew, “bathing in the purple rain”.  Even if you aren’t completely sure what purple rain is.

 

Ok that will do it for now.  As I mentioned earlier, there are loads of songs about rain.  These are only the ones that immediately came to mind.  Perhaps I will do a follow up post some time looking at other examples.

Now it’s your turn! – what are some of your favorite songs about rain?

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts.com; Genius.com; NME.com

Remembering Rich

We’d like to take a short interlude from sharing new music and current music interests for a more personal post to remember a dear friend, brother in arms, and our third amigo, Rich.  This one’s a bit long, just a heads up.

But the stars are burning bright like some mystery uncovered


I’ll keep moving through the dark with you in my heart

My blood brother   – Bruce Springsteen

 

It’s been 15 years since Mike and Paul lost Rich to cancer. 15 years of births, graduations and soon a marriage among our collective children. Children who have been regaled time after time with stories recounting the escapades, wit and wisdom of “Uncle Rich”. 15 years of new music from our favorite artists, of discoveries of new artists, of attending concerts.

So many of those memories  are enveloped in a soundtrack of our favorite music. So many memories that we made over our 20 year friendship with Rich were built on or  enhanced by our shared mutual appreciation that so much of what we do everyday can be better with the right music, even if it’s just in the background. Rich used to joke about wouldn’t it be great if life was a musical, which led to all kinds of funny jokes involving alot of bad singing.  If not a musical, our time with Rich was greatly deepened and enhanced by our shared experience of the music we loved.

A few short years from now  Rich will have been gone for  as long as we knew him, but to be truthful we’re not actually without him. So much of music we listen to now has its origins  in the music the three of us listened to in the 80s and 90s and early 2000‘s.

So what follows are a few memories of our time with Rich framed through the music we loved or were experiencing at the time.

Mike: I’m driving down the Garden State Parkway with Rich in his beast of a car. This was when the tolls were $.25. At the tollboth, from the passenger seat I would try hook shot the quarter over the top of the car into the collection basket. One particular time on the way to Wildwood, the  DJ from  WMMR in Philly teased the next song with “next, one of the greatest songs ever!” During the commercial break,  Rich and I threw out our predictions: Bruce Springsteen (naturally), the Stones the Who, or Led Zeppelin. The commercial ends, the DJ comes back and plays…… ‘In a Big country’……by Big Country. We looked at each other and burst out laughing.

Paul: As regular readers of this blog will know Mike and Paul are huge Springsteen fans.  We shared this passion with Rich (after all, he named his dog Bruce!).  I have many fond memories of Rich that involve Bruce.  But two stand out.

Back in the 80’s before the Internet and streaming, you had to turn to bootleg recordings if you wanted to more fully experience a favorite artist.  And so you would head down to your favorite independent record shop who carried bootleg records, and rummage through the backbins (sometimes you had to ask- “Do you have anything else from Bruce, WINK WINK??).  Rich had a copy of Springsteen’s famous concert from the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco in 1978 that we loved.  Only problem was that one day he left it in the back of his car (did we mention it was a beast?) and the sun had melted the plastic leaving it slightly warped.  But did that stop Rich from enjoying it?  Turns out it was still playable on a turntable, if you ignored the fact that at a certain part of the record the needle would do its best impression of rollercoaster ride going up and down and up… and that song (don’t remember which) would have its own unique set of pauses and stops.  But since it was a bootleg to begin with (and this was in the pre-digital days) it actually didn’t make that much of a difference!

Here’s ‘Because the Night‘ from that concert:

 

Another memory.  In 1992, Bruce pulled a Guns R’ Roses and released two albums at same time, Human Touch and Lucky Town.  The resulting tour without the E St. Band has been the subject of much debate over the years in terms of how the new band held up against the E. Streeters.  But of course since it was Bruce, Mike, Paul and Rich were there.  During one of the many highlights (I want to say it was Promised Land, but my memory is fuzzy) Rich was dancing like a maniac, slipped, and hit his face on the stairs.  He had a big gash above his one eye, but continued dancing like nothing had happened.  Finally his girlfriend at the time insisted they get medical attention, so they left and Mike and I stayed.  A while later (after all this is a Bruce concert!) right as the first song of the encore starts, his girlfriend comes back and says we need to take him to hospital for stitches.  Mike and I look at each other with that dilemma – leave a Bruce concert early?  I think one of us even suggested we wait until it was finished (after all it wasn’t an emergency at that point).  His girlfriend gave us a withering look and might have even said “I can’t believe that Bruce is more important than your friend!”  So of course we left…. we met Rich outside and what is the first thing he says??  “What the hell are you leaving a Bruce concert early for??!!”  It was at that point that I realized that Rich and his girlfriend probably wouldn’t be a long term thing.

Here’s ‘My Beautiful Reward from Lucky Town, the song we walked out of at that concert.

 

Mike: Sitting on the roof of Rich’s apartment building overlooking the Philadelphia skyline at night. I don’t remember what music was playing but whenever I remember it I hear Springsteen’s  Streets of Philadelphia playing, a song which seems prophetic in retrospect.

 

Paul: Another artist that we were really into during college was John Mellencamp.  His album Scarecrow was as much a part of the soundtrack of our college years as Born in the USA was.  My particular memory here was getting together with Mike and Rich the
summer after our senior year, right before we were all parting ways to go to med school or grad school, for one last 3 amigos bonding experience.  We went to Rich’s house, listened to music, shared memories, and drank alot of beer.  And then (perhaps because of the aforementioned beer drinking) Rich said let’s make some videos.  Remember this was before Iphones and camera phones etc, so setting up a video wasn’t that straightforward.  There was a concept video to the EaglesKing of Hollywood‘ that involved me in a rain coat, hat and glasses staring at a picture of Julianne Phillips (don’t ask).  But the best part was a performance video we did lipsynching (and airplaying instruments to a number of Bruce and Mellencamp tunes.  We had an old acoustic guitar, a broom and some pots and pans and kitchen utensils for drums.  It was a blast.

Where is the video you ask?  It is probably around somewhere on some form of old media that doesn’t play anymore, although I am not sure.  But instead, how about Mellencamp’s ‘R.O.C.K. in the USA, which I definitely remember we “played” that night.

 

Rich was a unique quirky one of a kind friend who was loyal to a fault – going through college together, post college, and the beginning of forming our families bonded us together like brothers.  While his tastes in music didn’t venture perhaps as widely as Mike and I’s, his passion for it and the meaning that it gave to our lives meant that we always had that connection to each other, regardless of whether we were separated geographically or involved in our own things.  Whenever we got together, the memories would be recalled, the new experiences shared, and the music, always the music, would be playing.

At his funeral, Rich requested that ‘Jungleland‘ off of ‘Born to Run‘ be played, and we honored his request.  Let’s honor it again.  Rich, we miss you every single day, every single time we share a song with each other, or go to a concert together.  But we know that you are always with us, in the songs and notes of the music we love.

 

Swim (for Kristin)

 

Swim

I have what some may call an overinflated idea of the power that music has in our lives. I often feel that I haven’t fully experienced something until I’ve associated that event with a “soundtrack”. 

So after my little sister Kristin revealed recently that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer I began to think about music’s value to a person faced with such a challenge. Could I gather a few songs that might , just a little, inspire, provide support or encouragement or maybe distract, for three or four minutes from the daily grind of treatments, appointments and side effects. 

I recognize the conceit of doing this. To assume I understand what it feels like to deal with such a diagnosis would be crazy. The shock, the fear, the uncertainty and anticipation of the upcoming battle and even the work of presenting a brave face to the world when the effort to do it is to much to bear is something I’ve been blessed not to have personally experienced.

 On top of all of that, what if the music I pick is not even music she  likes. So I decided this doesn’t have to mean anything more than this: Little Sis here’s a few songs that mean something to me and I hope they might mean a little something to you as you fight your fight. 

“Swim” by Jack’s Mannequin is pretty direct. The lead singer wrote this while undergoing treatment for leukemia. Obviously he gets it.

 

This Tom Petty song is especially poignant. Stevie Nicks on backing vocals. This was recorded at his last performance.

 

“Waiting on a Sunny Day” was written by Bruce after 9/11. I choose to view it as an ultimately optimistic song. Today may not be sunny but “things are gonna be ok”.

 

One of the most powerful uses of music in my lifetime was Live Aid. A mostly unknown singer Bob Geldof organized a trans continental daylong concert from most of the top artists of that time. Bowie’s performance of this song was one of the highlights. The song has been co-opted more times than I can count but I believe there are heroes in every cancer center who are heroes “just for one day” , who get up the next day and say it again.

 

U2’s catalogue is overflowing with majestic inspirational music. This one in particular got me. “ The Lights if Home” to me means that when you are struggling, keep your eyes on home,” your loved ones, family and friends to help you get through.

 

 

Of course this song pretty much explains itself. 

So there it is. Just a few songs for whatever that may be worth. Maybe they’ll give you a few minutes of distraction or a smile.

Love,

Your big bro

‘Eye of the Tiger’ as played by an Orchestra of 80+ Double Basses

My son plays the double bass, and each year takes part in a really cool summer camp called BassWorks – a one week summer music camp of only double bass players.  The camp includes students of all ages and levels of abilities, and the faculty includes some of the best double bass players in the country and world.

For their final concert, in addition to more classical pieces, they usually do one popular song.  This year it was Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’.  Check it out!

 

If you search for BassWorks on YouTube, you can also sample the entire 2.5 hour final concert which includes the different smaller ensembles and the full orchestra final concert.  The faculty recital is also worth checking out to see that the double bass is much more than just a accompaniment instrument in an orchestra.