Thursday, December 30, 2010

Depression proof music

We used to know them as the magazine that covered "alt-country music (whatever that is). " Today they are an online emination self-described as the "roots music authority."

Whatever. We don't enjoy No Depression nearly as much these days, but they continue to provide a sanctuary of sorts for people with like-minded musical tastes, no matter what they call it. And once you sift through the confusing and convoluted process that was used to come up with their 2010 year-end lists (why in the world did they need three?), there is at least some listenable music to consider. 

We're sharing the Readers Poll below because it best reflects the Sanctuary's listening choices for 2010,  but there are also No Depression polls derived from the selections of featured bloggers and short people, and those can be found here. Wait -- that last one is a widget poll!  (Five albums made all three lists and are denoted by underlined italics.)

1. Justin Townes Earle, Harlem River Blues
2. Alejandro Escovedo, Street Songs of Love
3. Peter Wolf, Midnight Souvenirs
4. Drive By Truckers, The Big To Do
5. John Mellencamp, No Better Than This
6. Mavis Staples, You Are Not Alone
7. Robert Plant, Band of Joy
8. Black Keys, Brothers
9. Carolina Chocolate Drops, Genuine Negro Jig
10. Jamey Johnson, The Guitar Song
11. Elizabeth Cook, Welder
12. Neil Young, Le Noise
13. Patty Griffin, Downtown Church
14. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Mojo
15. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
16. Bruce Springsteen, The Promise
17. Ray Wylie Hubbard, A. Enlightenment, B. Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C)
18. Los Lobos, Tin Can Trust
19. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, I Learned the Hard Way
20. Tift Merrit, See You On The Moon

Monday, December 27, 2010

Get the Kinks out

The best list we've seen in some time: Tom Petty ranking his favorite songs of the British Invasion, from the Rolling Stone Playlist Special that we drilled into here prior to the latest artist listings.

Instead of loading up on Beatles and Rolling Stones songs, Petty spreads the wealth around by listing 10 different bands, each of which made a vivid imprint on the movement while spiking Petty's musical inspiration. As he mentions in his precede: "These guys brought the guitar to the fore. You weren't getting guitar off the Shirelles."

We were particularly pleased with the ranking of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me" at No. 2, just behind the almost obligatory Beatles' twin spin of "I Want to Hold Your Hand"/"I Saw Her Standing There." Ray Davies and the punkish Kinks rarely receive the credit they deserve alongside the Stones and Fab Four, but it's all there as the video above attests.

Here is Petty's list. Click on the following link to read what he says about each song:

1."I Want to Hold Your Hand" b/w "I Saw Her Standing There" The Beatles, 1963

2."You Really Got Me" The Kinks, 1964

3."We've Gotta Get Out of This Place" The Animals, 1965

4."She's Not There" The Zombies, 1964

5."When You Walk in the Room" The Searchers, 1964

6."I'm Alive" The Hollies, 1965

7."I'm a Man" The Yardbirds, 1965

8."Anyway You Want It" Dave Clark Five, 1964

9."I Can't Explain" The Who, 1965

10."(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" The Rolling Stones, 1965

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Oh Holy Mole night

Merry Christmas and the happiest of holidays to all of you, with a big assist to our good friend and fellow crusader Rick Hotton, creator of the wonderful Holy Mole comic strip....

Friday, December 24, 2010

The upside of Carey Ott

Carey Ott is an artist you should pay attention to. It may seem surprising to hear us say this because we don't spend a lot of time mining the pop genre. What is pop, anyway?

Carey Ott is pop, and this makes pop okay.  If Ott were to take a stage name that mostly aptly describes his craft he might be known as Pop Hook.  (Dr. Hook is already taken.) The man is a virtuoso at writing catchy lyrics and turning them into irresistable rhythms, melodies and beats that send you down the sidewalk with a skip in your step.  He's the artist most likely to have music appear on a TV episode (which has happened several times) or a movie soundtrack.  And what's wrong with that?

Take the song "Ain't No Upside (Living on tha Downside)" from his 2010 album Human Heart.  Play the clip above from an in-studio taping and give us your honest assessment.  It's not easy to isolate a single song because Ott is so prolific -- he had to whittle down Human Heart to 20 songs and probably has written twice that many since then, some of them even rising above "Ain't No Upside."  Many are collaborations with other artists in his Nashville studio.  Sow those lyrical oats any way you can.

Now go to his website and listen to how he goes about his craft.  It makes you wanna sit down and write a song because he makes it sound so easy. But it couldn't possibly be as good as this:

Ain't no upside living on the down side
There ain't no down side in looking up
Ain't no reason for living this way
You keep treading water day after day

And you stay so downhearted it can feel like a hurricane
When you don't feel any love come to ya, give some away
I say ain't no upside living on the down side
There' ain't no downside in looking up
Honey sometimes life can beat you up
I don't have any answers, darlin, only love

Ain't no problem baby we can't solve
We all hurt sometimes it ain't nobody's fault
You keep waiting on tomoorrow like it won't never come
When you don't feel any love coming to ya, give me some

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hook, line and Foucault

Jeffrey Foucault isn't new to Sanctuarians. The Wisconsin songwriter was our first Personal Six String Sanctuary Tout (Pssst!) back in February 2009:

Since then we've noticed a proliferation of online music videos featuring Foucault.  In particular, there was a Vox Concert Series in Marshfield, Wisconsin during which some quality music was recorded -- including the clip above of "Ghost Repeater." Can you believe the sound coming out of that little Martin O-18 guitar? 

We went to Foucault's website to check out his gear and among the various guitars he shares an image of one of our favorite fishing lures, the Lazy Ike. "I've never actually caught anything on this lure," he writes, "but I have a good feeling about it.  Also, I like the way it swims."

He may not have caught anything on that lure, but he hooked us long ago with his reflective story-telling and a gritty but polished baritone that plumbs deeply into the soul of things. Oh, and listen to the sound of that guitar.

Foucault has a great website, so turn there to learn more -- including news about about his latest release Cold Satellite:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The greatest soul on earth

If we could see just one more live music performance in our lives it would be a night with Pat McLaughlin at Douglas Corner in Nashville. Or anywhere else we might be lucky enough to find him playing. Hands down.There is nothing like it.

In the video above pay particular attention at the 1:53 mark after Pat lets loose with one of his spontaneous funkafied yelps. Check the reaction of bass player Michael Rhodes, who turns back to drummer Greg Morrow with a smile that says everything you need to know about McLaughlin.  Even his bandmates are continually amazed by the soul that reverberates through McLaughin's beat up Teleaster, sweats through his T-shirts, gurgles over the stage and envelopes the audience.

Peter Cooper of the Tennesseean calls McLaughlin's music "Groove and soul, slink and stutter, groove and soul, wisdom and pain, groove and soul."

We have nothing to add, except:  Go see him.  And check out his website at

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Catching up with Clay Riness

We first heard Clay Riness in the Eighties when he released an album of homespun songs from the Heartland like "Down to the Cellar," "Combine Boogie" and "Victoria's Kitchen."

We were particularly smitten by "Victoria's Kitchen, which conjured some warm and inviting images:

Sometimes it sings of fresh bread, sings of whole wheat
Plenty of molasses, raisins and apricot muffins
It's where she makes the cookies and dries the wild chives
Heats up the coffee and keeps it alive on the oven

Click this link to hear "Victoria's Kitchen" from back in the day. To borrow a phrase from Bob Dylan, Riness was so much older then, he's younger than that now -- as you can see watching the embedded video above.

We lost track of the artist from Coon Valley, Wisconsin, and it wasn't all our fault. Riness settled down to raise a family with Victoria, and his music took a back seat for a number of years. We were happy to reconnect with his music recently after doing a simple Google search.  Apparently he never put the guitars in storage.

Clay's website is under construction but you can find out more about him and his music at:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Floats like a butterfly

For the next few days leading up to Christmas we're going to share video clips of some of our favorite artists, all of whom deserve to be household names but in fact are often working purposely to grow beyond relatively small niches.

We hope Greg Trooper isn't unfamiliar to you, but if he is you're in for a treat. We LOVE this song from Trooper's 2003 album Floating. It's called "Muhammad Ali (The Meaning of Christmas)" and it has everything and nothing to do with the holiday season.

We saw Trooper one night a few years ago at the Fogertyville Cafe in Bradenton, Florida, playing that very same Martin you see in the video.  There seemed to have been a special story about the guitar but it escapes us at this moment.  We will never forget the way his "songs and delivery grab you by the throat," as one critic described him.

One of Trooper's biggest fans is fellow roots songwriter Steve Earle, who mentions on the album's back cover that after hearing Trooper perform "Muhammad Ali" he went home immediately and learned the song himself.  High praise indeed.

Trooper has a new album scheduled for release in February. Go to his website for more information: http:///

Sunday, December 19, 2010

This is heaven in hell

By Wayne Shelor
Open in a new window to listen as you read:

Let’s do something a bit different this Sunday in the Sanctuary. Why not pour yourself a cup-a coffee and let’s take 15 minutes this morning to explore something special. We’re going to visit with a remarkable songwriter from England -- a guitarist who many Americans have never heard of -- who I swear is as American as baseball and Chevrolet.

We’ll access our introduction via three songs from his 1989 album The Road To Hell.

This is Chris Rea, and he ought to be one of the world’s best-known songwriter/guitarists. Rea’s a 59-year-old Englishman who is celebrated across Europe; is well-known but not The Man in his own country; and has somehow largely stayed beneath the radar in America. This song, from The Road to Hell, is called “Texas,” and it’s a prototypical Chris Rea song with a soulful tune and lyrical hooks in every other stanza. Like many of Rea’s songs, it’s cultivated along an artery of blues, coloured by Rea’s gravelly, time-worn voice, and full of sustained slide guitar licks that’re as long and scenic as the roads of which he sings, the ones that go on … forever (check out his bottleneck work at the 2-minute mark).

Chris’ “Texas” is as fraught with the sounds and imagery of America as anything penned by Dylan, Cash or Springsteen. It’s the kind of song that you would have heard on American Top 40 radio … back when such a thing existed. Like it? Let’s let it finish, warm your coffee, and we’ll audition the title track:

Open in a new window and listen as you read

This is the album’s title track, “The Road To Hell,” and it takes Rea almost half the song (and this is an abbreviated version) to set up the piece and begin rocking. But “The Road To Hell” is a wonderful song commenting on the frustrations of 20th Century life, using an emotive description of London’s M25 motorway traffic as his vehicle of angst and frustration. Rea often uses cars, highways and travel as allusions and metaphors, references that come easily to the long-time car racing fan and collector.

Hear the various sounds mixed quietly into the mix? Rea is nothing if not atmospheric: he uses whispers, spoken snippets of conversation, bits of television and radio and all sorts of ambient sounds to set the scene in many songs. But above all, he’s a great storyteller (listen to his wily use of words in the second movement of this adroitly lyriced song).

Rea’s also a world-class slide guitarist -- you’ll love his lovely liquid licks throughout this song -- and an old school rock ‘n’ roller. The road to hell, indeed. Why not fill your cup as you enjoy the rest of “The Road” … and then we’ll visit Daytona.

Open in a new window and listen as you read

From the song titles, cultural references and … and even his (lack of an English) accent, you’d never know Chris Rea isn’t an American.

In this song, “Daytona,” he and his female chorus sing the praises not of one of Florida’s best known Spring Break and NASCAR locales, but rather of the Ferrari Daytona, a very special ‘70s-era sports car. Yessir, this is a paean to a haulin’-ass sports car, and as a hymn, it smokes more revved-up American songs such as “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Little GTO” and “Little Red Corvette.”

The “12 wild horses in silver chains” refers to the 12-cylinder, 268 cubic inch, 402 HP engine in a car heralded as one of the Top 10 Ferraris ever made. Chris knows his automotive iron, and from his muse to his music, let there be no doubt: this cat is a red, white and blue-blooded American boy in English clothes.

“Cloudless daydream/Oh dream of dances/To have tamed the sound of thunder/Oh Daytona, shine your light on me” may not be as earthy as songs about Mustangs, T-Birds and Oldsmobile 442s, but when Rea whispers about the screams of a Ferrari, it’s a respectful and understandable lust.

People all over the world long to visit Daytona and have the Florida sun “shine your light on me,” and a poet such as Rea can turn a universal idea into a slowly moving song about a fast car, and few are the wiser.

Hope you enjoyed meeting Mr. Rea. He plays like Allman, writes like Seger and his album The Road to Hell would be a great present for anyone on your list … maybe even yourself. Enjoy.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

How the music moves 'em

BTW, Happy 67th Keef!
We aren't always dissing Rolling Stone.  Their web newsletter has a cool Playlist Special where 50 artists were asked to provide Top 10 lists of the music they love.  There were really no parameters, so Patti Smith picked Bob Dylan's love ballads, Ray LaMontagne covered his favorite Band songs and Jimmy Webb revealed the songs he wish he'd written.

Check it out here:

Here are 10 things we learned from the RS Playlist Special:

1. Sam Moore (of Sam and Dave) lists Aretha Franklin's "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody" as one of his favorite soul songs: "I knew Aretha as a little girl — she must have been 10 or 11. We were all on the road around that time with her dad, who was part of Martin Luther King's world, and he would bring her onstage to play piano when Dr. King was speaking. I always associated this song with Jerry Lewis, who did a hell of a good job — but when I heard this, I went, "Holy shit, that's little Aretha!"

2. Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson was not an early fan of the Rolling Stones. But he got there, and the most memorable Stones song for him is "Midnight Rambler." "A woman told me years ago that she saw the Stones in '72 and masturbated when they played "Midnight Rambler." I was like, "It's a song about a guy breaking into a house and raping somebody!" How dark and weird, and yet it's an incredibly powerful piece of music."

3. Keith Richards tried to find some obscure songs that "slipped between the cracks" like Big Bill Broonzy's "When Did You Leave Heaven." But Keef couldn't resist giving props to Chuck Berry for "Memphis Tennessee:"  "I think he's playing everything except the drums and a little piano. There is something about the way the guitars mesh together. I have to doff the old hat. The greatest."

4. Rage Against the Machine guitar slinger Tom Moreno consider's John Lennon's "Imagine" the best protest song of all time: "Lennon described this song as basically the Communist Manifesto set to music. It's couched in such a beautiful melody and gorgeous singing performance that it's easy to miss the fact that it's a lullaby of socialist-style overthrow."

5. Ozzy Osbourne remembers listening to "She Loves You" on a blue transistor radio and he was transformned. "I feel so privileged to have been on this planet when the Beatles were born. They are and will forever be the greatest band in the world. I remember talking to Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols. He said, 'I didn't like the Beatles.' I said, 'There is something fucking wrong with you.' "

6. Here's how Pete Seeger sums up the folkiness of us all: "My father, Charles Seeger, was a musicologist; when he was 90, he put out a collection of papers he had read at various scholarly gatherings. The last paper he read was titled 'The Folkness of the Nonfolk and Nonfolkness of the Folk.' The last sentence was, 'Musically speaking, the people of the United States are divided into two classes: a majority that does not know it is folk and a minority that thinks it isn't.' What lovely lines, because we're all folk."

7. Another transistor radio, another musical awakening: Rod Stewart working his first job as a silk-screener and on comes Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang." "To explain what Sam Cooke meant to me, it would take a couple of hours just to scratch the surface. The man basically introduced me to soul music. The first time I heard him, his music hit me like a thunderbolt and just slapped me around the head. I was 15 years old, and he changed my life."

8. Rufus Wainwright's description of Leonard Cohen's writing: "Fantastic framed sculptures." Wainwright's favorite Cohen song is "Bird on a Wire." "It's so touching and true in terms of what we go through as human beings — all the attempts we make to do the right thing that just miss the mark. It's probably his most human song."

9. Canadian rapper Drake loves to watch a DVD of Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock before he performs, and when he was in Seattle he visited Hendrix's gravesite and left this note: "Still inspired."
10. Can you be moved by a song more than Erykah Badu, who said this about Earth Wind and Fire's "That's the Way of the World:"  "When I heard this, it was like there was something that burst out of the ground and surrounded me — like children and flowers and Africa were appearing out of nowhere. And those horns! When Maurice White's voice comes in, it sounds like the voice of God."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Now ain't that some shit

This is 2010 (barely), so we hope we aren't offending anyone by mentioning Spin's top song of the year.  If we called it anything other than "Fuck You" we just wouldn't be accurate.  We could write "F**k You" but, again, we're two decades into the 21st Century.   It seems a bit naive.  The kids are singing it. We just hope mom doesn't read this.

Here's what Spin had to say about Cee Lo Green's song:

Appropriately, 2010's most memorable song first existed as a goofy Internet novelty. But due to its universal sentiment, Cee Lo's holy-rolling gusto, and the year's shit train of woes, it actually resonated: We're broke, we're pissed, and we wanna curse out anybody who acts like they've got the slightest inkling; or, we could just cue up this hilariously ebullient, timelessly soulful middle-finger salute, and go about our fucking business. Thanks, Preacher Green, you win.

Society is in such a steep decline and music is so marginalized that it doesn't even make us flinch to say we think the song is great and the video is hilarious.  It certainly will go down as memorable, by any definition of the term.

Now ain't that some shit.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Best doggone tutorial ever

This one's for Matt, and anybody else out there who has purchased a guitar with every good intention of learning to play.  It isn't usually difficult to summon some inspiration, but once you place your fingertips on those steel strings you realize it ain't gonna be as easy as it looks.

Then there's that old song by Larry Crane whispering in your ears and casting doubt in your mind:

Mama said no good come from wire and wood
You never feel no pain like a guitar playin
Keep you from doin things that you know you should
Mama said no good ever come from that wire and wood

Mama is wrong, of course. Dead wrong.  There's plenty of joy that comes from the wire and wood.

And it's really not any more difficult than learning to drive a stick shift -- and there's no clutch!  Don't give up until you've at least tried this Johnny Cash styling of the Nine Inch Nails song "Hurt." 

Just a kid, his guitar and a dog.  Beautiful.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Making room for Mavis

Here they are, Rolling Stone's top songs of 2010.  We are not here to pass judgment on them, only to mention a curious trend: Eleven of the 50 are by artists who feature other artists, as in: Kanye West featuring Pusha T, which tops the list with a ditty (not Diddy) called "Runaway." What do you make of that?  Punks come in pairs?

We've been listening to the new Mavis Staples album and we're pleasantly surprised -- OK, stunned -- to see "You Are Not Alone" near the top of the list. This is probably because of the man-squeeze RS has on the Wilco frontman who wrote the album's title cut and produced the record.  By the new standard it should be credited Mavis Staples featuring Jeff Tweedy. (Click on No. 6 below to watch them play it in the studio.)

Whatever. We're just happy to see Tom Petty featuring the Heartbreakers on there.

Rolling Stone's Best Singles of 2010

1. Kanye West featuring Pusha T, "Runaway"
2. Cee Lo Green, "Fuck You"
3. Sade, "Soldier of Love"
4. Katy Perry, "Teenage Dream"
5. Arcade Fire, "We Used to Wait"
6. Mavis Staples, "You Are Not Alone"
7. Vampire Weekend, "White Sky"
8. Janelle MonĂ¡e featuring Big Boi, "Tightrope"
9. Broken Bells, "The Ghost Inside"
10. Kanye West featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver, "Monster"
11. The Black Keys, "Everlasting Light"
12. Mark Ronson and the Business International featuring Q-Tip and MNDR, "Bang Bang Bang"
13. The Dead Weather, "Hustle and Cuss"
14. Big Boi featuring Cutty, "Shutterbugg"
15. Drake, "Over"
16. Cold War Kids, "Coffee Spoon"
17. LCD Soundsystem, "I Can Change"
18. Jenny and Johnny, "Scissor Runner"
19. The New Pornographers, "Your Hands (Together)"
20. Best Coast, "Boyfriend"
21. Sleigh Bells, "Infinity Guitars"
22. Rick Ross featuring Styles P, "B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast)"
23. Jamey Johnson, "Macon"
24. Eminem, "Not Afraid"
25. Nicki Minaj, "Did It On'em"
26. Robyn, "Dancing on My Own"
27. The National, "Bloodbuzz Ohio"
28. Band of Horses, "Laredo"
29. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, "The Trip to Pirate's Cove"
30. Jakob Dylan, "Nothing but the Whole Wide World"
31. Gil Scott-Heron, "I'm New Here"
32. Die Antwoord, "Enter the Ninja"
33. Wavves, "Post Acid"
34. Gorillaz featuring Mos Def and Bobby Womack, "Stylo"
35. Massive Attack featuring Hope Sandoval, "Paradise Circus"
36. Drake featuring Nicki Minaj, "Up All Night"
37. Lloyd Banks featuring Juelz Santana, "Beamer, Benz, or Bentley"
38. Spoon, "The Mystery Zone"
39. The Gaslight Anthem, "The Diamond Church Street Choir"
40. Kanye West, "Power"
41. Junip, "In Every Direction"
42. Surfer Blood, "Floating Vibes"
43. B.o.B. featuring Bruno Mars, "Nothing on You"
44. Neil Young, "Love and War"
45. The Rolling Stones, "Plundered My Soul"
46. MGMT, "Congratulations"
47. Kid Rock, "Born Free"
48. Das Racist, "hahahaha jk?"
49. Elizabeth Cook, "El Camino"
50. Ke$ha, "We R Who We R"u

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Gaye old time

How was Motown Record Corporation doing on this day back in 1968?  Pretty damn fine, as a glance at the Billboard Top 5 will attest:

1. I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Marvin Gaye
2. Love Child, Diana Ross & the Supremes
3. For Once in My Life, Stevie Wonder
4. Abraham, Martin and John, Dion
5. Who's Making Love, Johnnie Taylor

It was an unprecendented 1-2-3 trifecta for Motown, led by Gaye's first of three career No. 1 pop hits. (He had 13 R&B chart-toppers.) "Grapevine," written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, was recorded first by Gaye but Motown's Berry Gordy declined to release it, and in stepped Gladys Knight & the Pips with a record that reached No.2 in 1967.

Gaye's "Grapevine" spent seven weeks atop the pop chart, finally ceding its position on Feb.1 to "Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James & the Shondells.  Oh, and Gaye's other No. 1 pop songs were "Let's Get It On" and "Got to Give it Up, Pt. 1."

As much as we like Gaye's fabulous original version of "Grapevine," we decided to share an a capella performance you might not have heard.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Buscemi hits us with his best shots

Today is actor Steve Buscemi's birthday -- happy five-seven, man -- and we couldn't wait to celebrate. Last night we finally watched the last episode of his new HBO series Boardwark Empire, and afterward we slipped in the musical coup de grace: the soundtrack to the 1996 movie Trees Lounge.

Maybe it's because we have lived above a bar and we spend much of our existence contemplating life from a barstool. We're very much at home with the patrons of Trees Lounge. Buscemi, in his writing and directing debut, plays a hopeless barfly who has lost his girlfriend and his job for raiding the till, drives an ice cream truck and tries to boink a yummy teen temptress played by Chloe Sevigny.

Buscemi's Tommy Basilio might not be quite as loveable as Jeff Bridges' The Dude in the Big Lebowski (in which Buscemi appears), but he's every bit the loser. It's really apples vs. oranges here, or rather shots vs. joints. Click here for a clip that shows Buscemi working his bar magic on a floozy played by Debi Mazar.

The soundtrack is bound together by weepers like "I've Been Hurt" by Bill Deal and the Rhondels and a pair of Brenda Lee chestnuts: "You Always Hurt the One You Love" and "Break It to Me Gently." 

Break it to me gently
Let me down the easy way
Make me feel you still love me
If it's just, just for one more day

We can't promise there won't be a tear in our beer when we raise a glass tonight at Walter's...

UPDATE: Trees Lounge is airing at 4:15 a.m. Wednesday.  Why not get up early and do a few shots with Stevie Boy.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Falsetto alarm

By Wayne Shelor

Sundays in The Sanctuary are for celebrating good music, such as the No. 1 hit “She Drives Me Crazy” by the Fine Young Cannibals, a song that to me defines the '80s music scene.

Clopping, electronically driven drums, sparse, chiming guitars and a steady, fat bottom helped ”She Drives Me Crazy” become a hit song, but only after the band changed three little words and sang the song a couple of octaves higher than written. This internationally popular, ska-influenced song – written by David Steele and lead-singer Roland Gift – took them six months to create.

A former saxophonist who’d been in a punk band called Blue Kitchen, Gift ventured to London where he ran into Steel and Andrew Cox, and joined them in a band project.  Their demo tape got them a recording contract, but their first record went nowhere. Still, the song-writing duo of Gift and Steele was able to pay bills by writing music for the John Candy/Steve Martin comedy movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Three years later - after spending six months perfecting their planned next single – the Fine Young Cannibals released the album The Raw and the Cooked, and the single “She Drives Me Crazy.”

The song was originally called “She’s My Baby,” and was sung by Gift in his normal baritone voice. But Steele fiddled with it for an inordinately long time, and finally changed the title to “She Drives Me Crazy,” and convinced Gift to sing it in falsetto.

The record clicked, charting in at No. 1 in the second week of April 1989.

And oh yeah … the band’s name, Fine Young Cannibals? It’s from the title of a Natalie Wood/Robert Wagner film from 1960, All The Fine Young Cannibals!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Pssst: Neil Young's northern lights really shine

We're dropping in Neil Young's album Rust Never Sleeps today and who needs an excuse for that? The song we want to isolate for this discussion is "Pocahontas," whose opening lyrics provide some crisp imagery connecting us to a day a day and time in history:

Aurora borealis
The icy sky at night
Paddles cut the water
In a long and hurried flight
From the white man
to the fields of green
And the homeland
we've never seen

Neil Young is such a brilliant, prolific and ever-evolving artist that it's not easy to keep his entire catalog in the front of the brain, even if we have most of the music within arm's reach.  So it's always a treat to go back and renew our acquaintance with gems like Rust Never Sleeps, an acoustic rock meets grudge sneak attack that belongs in every audio collection.

Now back to "Pocahontas" and that opening passage.  Maybe you've never seen the aurora borealis, or northern lights.  If you grew up or now live in the upper reaches of this country you've probably had opportunities to be awed by the polar light display.   And it's true they have been viewed at times on brutal, icy winter nights when you wouldn't consider stepping outside for any other reason.

The first noted occurrence in North America came on this day in 1719, although it was nothing new at the time to Native Americans like those depicted in "Pocahontas."  The phenomenon got its name back in 1621 from French scientific observer Pierre Gassendi, who combined the words Aurora, the Roman goddess of dawn, with Boreas, a Greek name for the north wind.  To the Cree it was known as the "Dance of the Spirits."

By any name it is, like the Neil Young passage, song and album, a wonder to behold.  We might as well put Rust Never Sleeps on the PSSST (Personal Six String Sanctuary Tout) list right now. Is it possible this is Neil Young's first time on the big board?  Shame on us.

Friday, December 10, 2010

First man on the Moon

As jazz standards go few can match the haunting beauty of Duke Ellington's "Moon Indigo," which was recorded on this day in 1930.  We've heard it played and sung by hundreds of artists through the years but no one tops the Duke's arrangement.

Players on the original recording:
Duke Ellington, piano
Arthur Whetsol, trumpet
Joe Nanton, trombone
Barney Bigard, clarinet
Fred Guy, banjo
Wellman Braud, bass
Sonny Greer, drums

The muting of the front line horns delivers what has been described as an "upside down" sound to balance Ellington's uptempo piano. It is very nearly repeated in another of Duke's classics, "(In My) Solitude" from 1932.

The origins of the song are traced back to New Orleans and Lorenzo Tio, who taught Bigard the clarinet and schooled him on a theme known as "Mexican Blues." It became "Dreamy Blues" when it was first broadcast for radio in 1930, and then someone -- probably Duke or Bigard -- changed it to "Moon Indigo."  A brilliant stroke to a brilliant piece. 

The lyrics are credited to Arthur Mills and have been sung by everyone from Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra to Joe Jackson and Kelly Hogan.  Warning: If you just lost your sweetie or you're feeling low this one can drop you right to the floor.

You ain't been blue; no, no, no
You ain't been blue
Till you've had that mood indigo

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pardon me boys

Florida's Clemency Board today granted a pardon to late Doors singer Jim Morrison that had been recommended by outgoing Governor Charlie Crist.

The matter was best summed up by Doors keyboard player Ray Manzarek, who has always maintained that Morrison never exposed himself in front of a Miami audience during a 1969 concert.

"Jim's legacy is one of Dionysian madness and frenzy and of a chaotic American poet," Manzarek told the Associated Press. "I don't think that the Miami episode has altered his image one iota."

The story noted two other posthumous pardons. Comedian Lenny Bruce was pardoned in 2003, 37 years after his death, for using obscenity in a Greenwich Village nightclub in 1964. And in 2007 Johnny Cash, who spent one night in jail for public drunkenness in 1965, received a symbolic pardon from a Starkville, Mississippi judge.

Rolling Stone's Top 30: Where's the Mojo?

Kanye West: Just plain nasty.
Rolling Stone has released its Top 30 albums of 2010 and we are impressed.  We probably didn't listen to more than two dozen new discs this year, being that we usually have to pay for them.  So giving 30 an honest listen, and shuffling them into some logical order, well they done good.

Except: Their list sucks. Yes, right, we admit we haven't heard them all. Who listens to some of this stuff? One we did hear that deserves mention -- Tom Petty's Mojo -- is nowhere to be found. If we remember correctly, RS gave it a smashing review when it was released. These days it's all about Kanye West, who leads the pack with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and other fashionable artists like Vampire Weekend, Kings of Leon and Eminem.  No slight to them, but where's the damn rock 'n' roll?

Meanwhile some people probably are complaining because Big Boi's Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty was relegated to No. 21.

Ain't no justice in this world. The list:

1. Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
2. The Black Keys, Brothers
3. Elton John and Leon Russell, The Union
4. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
5. Jamey Johnson, The Guitar Song
6. Vampire Weekend, Contra
7. Drake, Thank Me Later
8. Robert Plant, Band of Joy
9. Eminem, Recovery
10. LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening
11. The Dead Weather, Sea of Cowards
12. John Mellencamp, No Better Than This
13. Taylor Swift, Speak Now
14. Robyn, Body Talk
15. The National, High Violet
16. Kid Rock, Born Free
17. Beach House, Teen Dream
18. Kings of Leon, Come Around Sundown
19. M.I.A., Maya
20. Neil Young, Le Noise
21. Big Boi, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
22. Spoon, Transference
23. Elizabeth Cook, Welder
24. Maximum Balloon, Maximum Balloon
25. Superchunk, Majesty Shredding
26. Yeasayer, Odd Blood
27. Peter Wolf, Midnight Souvenirs
28. My Chemical Romance, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
29. The Roots, How I Got Over
30. Rick Ross, Teflon Don

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Morrison pardon appears likely

This bulletin just in from the Associated Press:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's proposed pardon of Doors singer Jim Morrison now has enough votes.

We weighed in on this topic in a post last week.  Click here to read it.

Read the news today, oh boy

Earlier this year John Lennon's handwritten lyric sheet for "A Day in the Life" fetched $1.2 million from an anonymous buyer.

It's an amazing song, the perfect closer to the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.  The other Beatles made significant contributions to the song, but the the ink was laid down from John's pen.

Today we remember the night in our lives -- exactly 30 years ago --  when Lennon was taken away from us.  Of all the tragic deaths we use as mileposts to mark the passage of time, this one strangely escapes us. We do remember the startling announcement we heard with so many others while watching Monday Night Football. 

“Yes, we have to say it. Remember this is just…a football game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy, confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City. John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City — the most famous, perhaps, of all of the Beatles — shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital. Dead…on..arrival. Hard to go back to the game after that news flash, which in duty, well, we have to tell you."

Click here to hear those words from Howard Cosell as New England kicker John Smith was lining up for a field goal against the Miami Dolphins.

After that everything is a blur...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Time out for a jazz master

Dave Brubeck turns 90 Monday and we are hopped up here at the Sanctuary to celebrate one of jazz music's most beloved and enduring pianists.  While we slip Jazz at Oberlin into the player, contributor Wayne Shelor weighs in on another of the artist's masterpieces.  For more background follow this link:

By Wayne Shelor

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You’ve surely heard of Dave Brubeck, the almost 90-year-old, still performing jazz pianist. And I suspect you may have a passing familiarity with an album he released in 1959 called Time Out.

It’s one of the most popular jazz albums in history, largely because of the song “Take 5,” written by saxophonist Paul Desmond.

"Take 5" is a complicated composition in 5/4 time, and if you listen to the quintuple rhythms of the song, you can get lost. Shoot, the whole album is made up of songs in compound time, and maybe that’s why it’s such a lasting hit. It was this very record that prompted jazz drummers everywhere to explore non-standard time signatures. You may not realize it, but your brain recognizes that there’s a lot going on in such structures, and most people find it inviting.

"Take 5” later brought Al Jarreau a Grammy for his interpretation of the venerable song, and this track is the reason that “Time Out” is the second-best selling jazz album – behind Stan Getz’s “Jazz Samba” – of all time.
In 1959 – the greatest year in the history of jazz music – Time Out even climbed to No. 25 on the pop music charts, largely on the strength of “Take 5."

Friday, December 3, 2010

And ye shall call him Ferlin

It's hard to imagine why someone born with one of the greatest country singer names ever would want to change it, but Ferlin Husky did exactly that. Twice.  He recorded for a spell as Terry Preston and also did a few humorous recordings under Simon Crum.

But he only arrived at fame under the God given Ferlin Husky, under which he scored three No. 1 country hits. The first was "A Dear John Letter," a duet with Jean Shepard in 1953.  The others were "Gone" in 1957  -- which he originally recorded as Preston five years earlier -- and his most famous of all, the Bob Ferguson penned "Wings of a Dove."  That last gem spent 10 weeks atop the country chart in 1960 and made CMT's list of the 20 Greatest Songs of Faith.

Husky is still alive and kickin' today on his 85th birthday, and we wish him the best. It's been 35 years since he charted with "Champagne Ladies and Blue Ribbon Babies," but you can't take away all those songs he gave us in his prime as Ferlin Husky from Flat River, Missouri, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame earlier this year.

20. Blessed, Martina McBride
19. I'm Working on a Building, Bill Monroe
18. Unanswered Prayers, Garth Brooks
17. Wings of a Dove, Ferlin Husky
16. Love Without End Amen, George Strait
15. Uncloudy Day, Willie Nelson
14. Angel Band, Flatt & Scruggs
13. I Believe, Diamond Rio
12. Farther Along, Emmylou Harris
11. Keep on the Sunny Side, The Carter Family
10. Long Black Train, Josh Turner
9. Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Roy Acuff
8. Love Can Build a Bridge, The Judds
7. Daddy Sang Bass, Johnny Cash
6. I'll Fly Away, Soundtrack
5. Three Wooden Crosses, Randy Travis
4. How Great Thou Art, Elvis Presley
3. Go Rest High on That Mountain, Vince Gill
2. Why Me, Kris Kristofferson
1. I Saw the Light, Hank William

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pardon Jim Morrison

We just read an interesting newspaper story that is certain to revive the debate over whether or not Jim Morrison should receive a posthumous pardon for his 1970 conviction in Florida for indecent exposure and public profanity.

But what's really to debate?  Nobody seems to know if Morrison actually whipped out his private part at a Miami concert in 1969.  He was certainly capable of such shenanigans -- and he definitely was loaded that night -- but dozens of police were at the show and didn't arrest him at the time.  No video has ever been produced, and other members of the Doors maintain to this day that it never happened. Keyboardist Ray Manzarek calls what happened in Miami "mass hallucination."

At least one witness who testified against Morrison at the trial has since admitted he never saw it happen. And the fact that Morrison wasn't charged until five days after the alleged crime, well, it's easy to draw the conclusion that this was a trumped up charge to make an example out of one of rock music's true bad boys.

Morrison was sentenced to six months of confinement at hard labor.  He was released on $50,000 bail and soon after took up residence in France.  The conviction was under appeal when Morrison was found dead on July 3, 1971 in a bathtub.

Florida's outgoing Governor Charlie Crist said last week he is considering a pardon because he isn't convinced Morrison did "what he was charged with here."  Neither are we.  It's not like this is going to repair Morrison's reputation. It just seems like the right thing to do.

Here's a link to the St. Pete Times story.  Draw your own conclusions:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A long run to No. 1

Beautiful faces and loud empty places
Look at the way that we live
Wastin' our time on cheap talk and wine

Left us so little to give

Not our favorite Eagles song by a long stretch, "Best of My Love" was released as a single on this date in 1974 and took its sweet time climbing the charts, finally hitting No. 1 in March the following year.  It was the first of five chart-toppers for the band.

"Best of My Love" has been a popular song at weddings, but did anybody take time to check the lyrics?  You might as well play "Heartache Tonight,"  which also ascended to No. 1.  Can you name the other three?  Shouldn't be too hard...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

And in the beginning ...

By Wayne Shelor

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 I’ve always believed the best place to start is the beginning, so this Sunday morning we’re gonna listen to the very beginning of rock.

It could be the subject matter that makes so many folks believe that “Rocket 88” was the first rock ‘n’ roll record. Of course it could be where the song was recorded, at Sam Phillips’ famous Sun Studios in Memphis. And an argument might be made that it was the participation of one Ike Turner that lends credence to “Rocket 88” being heralded as the First Record of Rock.

But whatever the legend, whatever the belief, Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats made history – and a lasting legacy and contribution – with the April 1951 release of “Rocket 88.”

The immediate popularity of “Rocket 88” heralded the beginning of a new kind of music … a lyric-laden, beat-driven integration of multiple musical roots … a type of music that was hard to define, but you knew it when you heard it. Built on a construct of standard 12-bar blues, “Rocket 88” was imbued with the sound of the ghetto: the sexual entwining of twin horns moaning, the raucousness of a wailing trumpet and the constant tickling of the other 88, the piano keys.

Almost 60 years ago, “Rocket 88” changed the way popular music was made and marketed, and this was years before white boys began writing car songs such as “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Hot Rod Lincoln,” “Pink Cadillac” “G.T.O” or even the Beatles' “Drive My Car.”

Ol’ Ike was onto somethin’ special early on. But today, we call it rock ‘n’ roll, in all its various guises and disguises.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Remembering a Brother

"I love being alive and I will be the best man I possibly can. I will take love wherever I find it and offer it to everyone who will take it -- seek knowledge from those wiser -- and teach those who wish to learn from me."

So reads the stone epitath at Duane Allman's gravesite in Macon, Georgia.  Skydog would have been 64 today.  He was our favorite blues guitarist, bar none, and his music catalog is as impressive as they come for someone who died before his 25th birthday. 

Play some Allman Brothers today, preferably Live at the Fillmore East, nothing later than Eat Peach, which was released the year after Duane's death in a motorcycle accident and was "Dedicated to a Brother."  The last three songs on Eat a Peach  -- "Stand Back," "Blue Sky" and "Little Martha" -- were cut by the full band.

Eat a peach, if you can find one.  The expression is taken from a quote attributed to Duane when asked how he was going to help the revolution.  "I'm hitting a lick for peace -- and every time I'm in Georgia, I eat a peach for peace," he said.

Read Randy Poe's excellent biography Skydog: The Duane Allman Story.

Discover some of his memorable session work with artists like Otis Rush, Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, John Hammond, Clarence Carter and Delaney & Bonnie. You can hear many of them on Duane Allman: an anthology.

Pick up a guitar and learn to play "Melissa."

Remember Skydog.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ahead of his time

Oh, our hot lips kissing
Girl, I'll beg mercy
Oh, hugging and more teasing
Don't want no freezing

A-work with me, Annie
Let's get it while the gettin' is good

Those lyrics from the Hank Ballard classic "Work With Me Annie" provide a pretty good understanding why mainstream radio wasn't interested in playing R&B music back in the day. It was 1954, after all, and suggestive lyrics like that just weren't going to cut it, especially coming from the mouth of a black artist.

"Work With Me Annie" did become a No. 1 hit on the R&B chart, so as Steve Earle can sing today with nobody even paying attention, "F*** the FCC."

Ballard was the real deal, an early rock 'n' roller who could make 'em squeal.  "If you're looking for youth, you're looking for longevity, just take a dose of rock 'n' roll—it keeps you going," Ballard once said. "Just like the caffeine in your coffee, rock 'n' roll is good for the soul, for the well being, for the psyche, for your everything. I love it. I can't even picture being without rock 'n'roll.''

Our kind of guy. He eventually got his due, scoring a pair of Billboard top 10 pop songs with the Midnighters ("Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go" and "Finger Poppin' Time"). And Chubby Checker never would have had a No. 1 with "The Twist" without Ballard, who wrote it for the flip side of his "Teardrops on Your Letter."

Ballard was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and died of throat cancer in 2003. He would have been 83 today.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A fine guitarist, Barre none

When we recall our introduction to Jethro Tull it was all about the theatrical voice of Ian Anderson and the incredible flute that wafted through our college domicile on Badger Street in La Crosse, Wisconsin.  So strong was Anderson's presence it was easy to overlook the excellent guitar work on the album Aqualung. 

And yet there it is. Martin Barre, whose name rarely is mentioned in discussions about great rock guitarists, provided a memorable solo on "Aqualung" and has been with Anderson almost since the start, having replaced Mick Abrahams in the band way back in 1969. 

We thought, it being Barre's birthday and all, it was time to shine the spotlight on him.  Two other members of today's Birthday Band, Gordon Lightfoot and Gene Clark, have previously been covered.

Get a load of these November 17 babies:

Gordon Lightfoot (1938): Songwriter
Sundown, If You Could Read My Mind, Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Gene Clark (1941-1991): Musician, The Byrds and New Christy Minstrels
Turn, Turn, Turn, She Don't Care About Time, Eight Miles High

Bob Gaudio (1942) Singer, Royal Teens and Four Seasons
Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk like a Man, Rag Doll

Martin Barre (1946): Guitar, Jethro Tull
Aqualung, Cross-Eyed Mary, Living in the Past

Ronnie DeVoe (1967): Singer, New Edition and Bell Biv DeVoe
Gangsta, Do Me, Poison

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

We think they're alone now

Back in 1987 while we were grooving on John Hiatt's underappreciated album Bring the Family, a strange thing happened on the Billboard chart.  Two of Tommy James and the Shondells' songs were lining up for consecutive runs at No. 1. 

Only thing is, neither song was by the Shondells.

On Nov. 7 Tiffany began a two-week run at No. 1 with her remake of "I Think We're Alone Now," which 20 years earlier the Shondells had taken to No. 4.  Then two weeks later Billy Idol scored a chart-topper with his cover of "Mony Mony," a song originally inspired by the Mutual of New York sign visible from James' NYC apartment.

It's the only time we're aware of that remakes have been back-to-back No. 1s, useful trivia that could win you a bar bet.

(The Shondells had two No. 1s, "Hanky Panky" in '66 and "Crimson and Clover" two years later.)

While Tiffany and Idol enjoyed their No. 1 runs in 1987 with James songs, their music hasn't exactly stood the test of time, not like some landmark albums from '87 such as U2's Joshua Tree, Prince's Sign 'O' the Times, Bruce Springsteen's Tunnel of Love, Paul Simon's Graceland and we would add the aforementioned Bring the Family.  And if you happened to be living in the Twin Cities at the time, a band by the name of the Replacements made you very proud of the local music scene with Pleased to Meet Me.

So don't feel bad if were too preoccupied at the time to notice those Tommy James covers.  In fact, it's quite OK to feel very, very good.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The fraternal family of funk

By Wayne Shelor

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We share, this glorious Sunday morning (well it's glorious  here in Florida), two minutes of fabulous funk and fraternity that defined a generation, even though the gentle vibe and fearless philosophy died right along with the decade that gave a generation so much hope.

Sly and the Family Stone’s 1969 No. 1 hit "Everyday People" was one of the most significant evolutionary left turns in popular music history; there was nothing like it before Sly, and most black, soul and urban music written since was influenced by the Family Stone.

Reared in a God-fearin’ church-goin’ music-playin’ family -- and a celebrated musical prodigy as a child -- Sly assembled his Family Stone band by including a close friend, three of his four siblings and a couple of white musicians; the validity of the Family Stone’s songs about love and brotherhood was never doubted.

Released in November 1968, "Everyday People" was, by early 1969, the top-rated song on both Billboard’s Pop and Soul charts, and the lyric “Different strokes for different folks” became more than a passing mantra, it became a cultural touchstone. The Family Stone’s horns, harmonies and hope dazzled a nation that danced to the music, and they took millions of celebrants higher and higher with their novel music.

Rock probably never knew a more optomistic man than Sylvester Stewart (Sly’s given name), who – once he took the Syd Barrett/Brian Wilson/Roky Erickson path to burnout – slipped into the dark void of drug abuse and mental instability. Sly’s shooting star burned out so quickly, many people forget that Sly and the Family Stone tore up the Woodstock festival with their incandescent pre-dawn performance in August 1969.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dearly departed in Detroit

Donations helped secure a marker for Florence Ballard of
the Supremes, who is buried in Detroit Memorial Park East.
Not to be morbid, but my colleague from Detroit has shared a link to a website revealing a fascinating look at resting places for some of his hometown's dearly departed musicians.

You don't have to be from Detroit, or even Michigan, to appreciate the wealth of information provided on artists both obscure and famous, many of whom have been all-but-forgotten over the years.

Kudos to the Detroit News for "Chorus of Angels: Here lie the people who shaped Detroit's musical heritage."  You can get lost for hours rediscovering artists like Renaldo "Obie" Benson of the Four Tops or hearing obscure cuts like "Rock and Roll Grandpap" by country crooner Don Rader.  Here's the link:

Just click on a cemetery and run your mouse over the mug shots for information on those interred.  For instance, a tour of Woodlawn reveals 19 notable "residents," including Earl Van Dyke (July 18, 1930-Sept. 81, 1992), leader and keyboard player of the Funk Brothers. You can read a short short bio of Van Dyke and hear a sample of a record he played on ("My Guy" by Mary Wells).  There's also a printable PDF map of each cemetery for folks who wanted to pay their onsite respects.

If we ever get back to Detroit we'd like to visit Memorial Park East, the resting place of Florence Ballard.  The former member of the Supremes is one of rock's great tragedies, living her final years in poverty and passing tragically at the age of 32.  The soundclip with her bio is "Buttered Popcorn" which featured her "churchy alto."

Friday, November 12, 2010

They can have their cake and play it too

Today's Birthday Band is an impressive group. Two of their songs listed below are included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. Can you guess them?

We'll help by eliminating songs by the Cowsills. OK, that really wasn't much help.  We loved the Flower Girl in "The Rain the Park and Other Things" but it's definitely not Hall of Fame material. How about we also toss out anything by Black Oak Arkansas, which may have been a cut above Molly Hatchet but still ranks near the bottom of the Southern Rock scale.

We see a half-dozen songs below that could make such a highly subjective list, but there are just two. Go ahead and hit us with your best shot.

LaVern Baker (1929-1997): Singer
Tweedle-Dee, I Cried a Tear, Jim Dandy

Roger Lavern (1938): Keyboards, the Tornados
Telstar, Globetrotter

Jesse Colin Young (1944): Singer, Youngbloods
Get Together, Songbird

Vince Martell (1945): Singer, Vanilla Fudge
You Keep Me Hanging On, Take Me for a Little While

Chris Dreja (1946): Guitar, Yardbirds
For Your Love, I’m a Man, Shapes of Things

Pat Daugherty (1947): Bass, Black Oak Arkansas
Jim Dandy to the Rescue, Memories at the Window

Jim Peterik (1950): keyboards, Survivor
Eye of the Tiger, Burning Heart

Paul Cowsill (1951): Singer, Cowsills
Hair, Indian Lake, The Rain the Park and Other Things

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Today's cover story

Rolling Stone, wanna see my picture on the cover
Rolling Stone, wanna buy five copies for my mother
Rolling Stone, wanna see my smilin' face
On the cover of the Rolling Stone

On this day in 1967 John Lennon was on the cover of the first issue of Rolling Stone, which promised to cover "things and attitudes that music embraces."  You know, things. Like music, politics, culture (and counter culture) and, well, music.

The Beatles or their individual members would grace dozens of these covers. Here were the first 10:
1. John Lennon
2. Tina Turner
3. The Beatles
4. Jimi Hendrix, Donovan and Otis Redding
5. Jim Morrison
6. Janis Joplin
7. Jimi Hendrix
8. Monterey Pop Festival
9. John Lennon and Paul McCartney
10. Eric Clapton

Five years after the magazine launch Dr. John and the Medicine Show hit the charts with the Shel Silverstein penned "On the Cover of Rolling Stone," and three months later they made it to the Promised Land.  Check out the link below, showing some very burned out hombres singing their hit song:

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Page in history

We don't get the nickname "The Singin' Rage," but we're glad she changed her given name from Clara Ann Fowler. Otherwise, who knows?  Patti Page might never have knocked us silly with "The Tennessee Waltz," which spent 30 weeks on the Billboard pop charts beginning about this time in 1950. 

Many artists have covered the song first recorded by Pee Wee King, but nobody topped Patti's version -- even if it was the B side to "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus."  We dedicate our next waltz to her.

Patti Page (1927): Singer
Tennessee Waltz, Doggie in the Window, Allegheny Moon

Bonnie Bramlett (1944): Singer, Delany and Bonnie and Friends
Never Ending Song of Love

Roy Wood (1946): Electric Light Orchestra
10538 Overture

Minnie Riperton (1947-1979)
Lovin’ You

Alan Berger (1949): Bass, Southside Johnny
I Don’t Wanna Go Home, The Fever, This Time It’s for Real

Bonnie Raitt (1949): Guitar, singer
Runaway, The Boy Can’t Help It, Something to Talk About

Ricki Lee Jones (1954): Singer
Chuck E.’s in Love

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Beau Brummels got the last laugh

By Wayne Shelor

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The Beau Brummelstones were a big hit in Bedrock.
If you wanted to make a record, say, in late 1964, that was an absolute sonic knockoff of the Beatles -- a song compleat with the British Merseybeat Sound -- what might be the ingredients? How about this:

Take a black California radio disc jockey who had tried in vain to work with Grace Slick and the Great Society ... mix in a former Philadelphia DJ who is part-owner of a little-bitty record label in San Francisco ... get a young band whose lead singer, two years earlier, recorded a song called "I Wanna Twist" ... and mix them all up in a recording studio.

Don’t laugh - that's the way it happened. And it worked.

Sylvester Stewart, later known as Sly Stone -- a Bay area radio personality who had given up trying to work with the loopy Grace Slick (you'll remember her from Jefferson Airplane) - hooked up with Tom Donahue of tiny Autumn Records to produce the record "Laugh, Laugh" for an American group with an intentionally deceptive British-sounding name: The Beau Brummels.

Sly - yes, he of the Family Stone - took the boys into the studio and, working with a song the band had written, crafted a jangling guitars-and-three-part harmony pop piece that shot right to the Top 20 in 1964.

"Laugh Laugh" sounds as if John Lennon himself is playing the harmonica, and the lyrics are pure Paul.

I discovered “Laugh, Laugh,” curiously enough, on the CD version of 1972's Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968, a now-historic compilation of garage band classics that is credited by some with inspiring punk.

"Laugh Laugh" provided the Beau Brummels their day in the California sun. Most of the band's members went on to smaller and lesser things ... except that the Beau Brummels were featured -- as themselves -- in an episode of the popular Sunday night cartoon series of the early 1960s, The Flintstones.

And that was years before the Beatles appeared in Yellow Submarine.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Everything you wanted to know about sax

Maybe they would have mastered the clarinet, trombone or flugelhorn, but we can't imagine anything in their hands other than the instrument for which they became famous.  We're talking about the saxophone and the splendid artists who have played them, and we tip our hats today to birthday boy Adolphe Sax, the inventor who made it all possible.

Here are 10 of our favorite sax players (recognizing there are dozens and dozens of other fabulous players who might make this list on any other day):

1. Ben Webster
2. Paul Desmond
3. Charlie Parker
4. Sonny Rollins
5. John Coltrane
6. Coleman Hawkins
7. King Curtis
8. Big Al Groth
9. Billy Novick
10. Clarence Clemons

Adolphe Sax (1814-1894): Inventor
Saxophone, saxotromba
John Philip Sousa (1854-1932)): Composer, bandleader
Stars and Stripes Forever, Semper Fidelis, El Capitan, King Cotton
Ray Conniff (1916-2002): Orchestra director
Theme From Dr. Zhivago; LP: S’wonderful, Somewhere My Love
Stonewall Jackson (1932): Singer
Waterloo, Me and You and a Dog Named Boo, Help Stamp Out Loneliness, B.J. the D.J.

Doug Sahm (1941-1999): Singer, Sir Douglas Quintet
She’s about a Mover

George Young (1947): Guitar, Easybeats, AC/DC
She’s So Fine, Wedding Ring, Sad and Lonely and Blue
Glenn Frey (1948): Musician/singer, The Eagles
Take It Easy, Lyin’ Eyes, Hotel California, Smuggler’s Blues

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dish up some Raven Under Glass

Get on your boogie shoes: Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Altar Boys are back home to kick off the seasonal Mitchell Park Domes concert series.  Click on the link below to hear a sampling of Chicago-style blues (and order their smoking hot new album):

The last time we saw the boys they were tearing up the Concertina Hall on the south side of town.  Since then they've been all over the country and back, and recently the good Reverend released Shake Your Boogie, a blistering 13-song free-for-all that captures the energy of the band's full-tilt live performances.

It's the best damn blues around, and it's Under the Glass tonight.  Be sure to check out the boys if you're in the area. Here's the concert schedule through December:

Thursdays 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Nov. 4, Rev. Raven, Blues
Nov. 11, Ed Franks, Lounge
Nov. 18, King Comets, Swing
Nov. 25, Johnny Rawls, Blues
Dec. 2, Streetlife, R&B
Dec. 9, Doo-Wop Daddies, Doo-Wop
Dec. 16, Card Studs, Lounge
Dec. 23, King Solomon, Reggae
Dec. 30, Mt. Olive, Country Rock

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Come along if you can

By Wayne Shelor

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In April 1968, a Detroit-based band called The Amboy Dukes released its second album. It was nothing to speak of chartwise, but the album’s same-titled single -- " Journeyto the Center of the Mind" -- became a song immediately associated with the advent of heavy metal music and psychedelic lyricism.

And it’s a song forever tied to the man responsible for its distinctive guitar histrionics: Ted Nugent, the Motor City Madman.

A heavy yet melodic song -- tune and tearin’-it-up by Ted, lyrics by rhythm guitarist Steve Farmer --  "Journey to the Center of the Mind" always invokes the portent of wide-eyed doom, what with its incessant bass line holding you down while the guitar delivers shot after shot after shot as the echoey lyrics swirl and seduce … so this is acid?

Nugent, his trademark Gibson Byrdland guitar in full-fretted attack mode, created one of the '60’s most memorable storming-the-parapets-of-convention songs. And he introduced to a rising generation of would-be rock stars a three-minute, thirty-second primer of primal playing that included two lead guitar solos.

Take a look at the “video” accompanying this song, made 15 years before the dawn of MTV: it’s not from a live show, but rather compiled from several studio takes, so someone was ahead of the curve, making this look like a performance from a program such as American Bandstand. The band mimes the song – accompanied by the requisite go-go girls - and there’s even “dance choreography” (watch Ted and lead singer John Drake, who must have stolen Tommy James’ performing outfit, turn around to play to the camera).

"Journey to the Center of the Mind" will forever be known – quite legitimately - as a guitar song, but what I find most remarkable is the galloping bottom. If someone told me Amboy bassist Greg Arama’s bass line was really played by another Detroit musician - James Jamerson of Motown’s house band, The Funk Brothers - I would have believed it without question.

I invariably find myself a bit bruised after listening to this song at high volume; why it may be the black-and-bluest song in history of recorded music. And although Nugent had several other charting songs in his here-and-there career, his first psychedelic hit (so to speak) will always be the high point of his legacy.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

After the flood

Found! Saved by a snarl of branches 50 feet from the river.
JIMINY SPRUCE ACRES -- We are back this weekend in search of the Lost Bench.
It is a small, simple wood-and-pipe bench that was constructed years ago by my father, who was always tinkering around with a project. He made one bench for each of his children, and this one wound up on the family land and was mentioned in a previous blog:

 My father purchased this land more than 30 years ago, with plans to build a modest home just above the river floodplain. It never got done, but we are not ready to abandon his dream. On Friday we took a wooden bench he built years ago and placed it on the sandy bank above the Trempealeau, a great perch from which to watch the river flow, read a good book and contemplate our small places in the universe.

Last month during the Great Flood of 2010 the usually peaceful Trempealeau River became a raging torrent that made national news by nearly swallowing the town of Arcadia 16 miles downstream and flooding everything in between.  Somewhere between here and there we hope to find the bench and haul it back home.  It's a longshot, which will make the recovery even more glorious.

UPDATE: The bench was located, miraculously upright in a thicket of branches, at 11:13 a.m. CDT.  Just before finding it we spotted a large whitetail buck with an impressive rack of antlers, making its way down Boy Scout Hill with a doe tailing closely, hoping to cross North River Road into JS Acres.  A glorious day indeed.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Color of Mole

Our friend Rick is now coloring his Holy Mole comic strip for some of his new clients.  At first we were skeptical, as when Ted Turner began to colorize classic black and white films.  As Orson Welles stated on his death bed, " Don't let Ted Turner deface my movie with his crayons."

Now Holy Mole is not Cititzen Cane, but after reviewing some samples we've decided that a splash of watercolor is not a bad deal. What do you think?