Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Fall; A Few Loose Ends


Ten CDs By The Fall You Should “Visit” Before You Die
: A Luggage Seller’s Guide

Without any kind of guide or map, this would be quite a daunting journey, since there are currently 99 releases by The Fall to encounter when you include various compilations, studio and live CDs. The Fall are a rock band that were formed in Manchester, England, in 1976, and since their inception have consisted of songwriter/vocalist Mark E. Smith (who is from nearby Salford, an important distinction) and whoever else he lets play and drink with him. While the band’s sound does change significantly at times through the years with these shifting line-ups of musicians, here is a brief quote from Mr. Smith to clarify his position as the central cog in this revolving-door aspect of group membership. “If it’s me and your granny on bongos, it’s a Fall gig.” A small cottage industry on books about Mark Smith and The Fall has developed in the last few years, but none of them specifically tells you what stops are crucial for a successful musical pilgrimage—and what areas you can bypass. I will break down possible itineraries into two categories: essential sites and interesting side trips, with a disclaimer for places to avoid.

Essential Sites: The first five years of the band from 1977 to 1982 will comprise a good hunk, but certainly is not all of the important terrain that must be covered. “Live at The Witch Trials” is their first LP that was released in 1979 and has all of their classic ingredients. Ranting vocals from Smith combine with musician’s Bramah, Riley and Burns to ensure a guitar driven sound that was remarkably tight for the evolving punk rock landscape. Bassist Steve Hanley and guitarist Craig Scanlon enter in 1980 and in quick succession, “Grotesque (After the Gramme”), “Slates” and “Hex Enduction Hour” become a must-hear part of The Fall canon. The Hanley/Scanlon axis adds slashing guitar and bass to at-times venomous lyrics from Mark E. Smith (M.E.S.). “Totally Wired,” “N.W.R.A.” and “An Older Lover,” as well as “The Classical,” rank among the finest tracks they ever recorded. This period holds the essence of their organized cacophony that other bands have frequently imitated, but never succeeded in duplicating. That correct blend of riffs, minimalist freedom and bile could only be directed by one M.E.S.

Another era of the band that must be checked out is the 1983 to 1989 period that saw the arrival of Laura Salenger. After marrying Mark, Laura was known as Brix Smith, and her influence and overall style coincided with the band focusing on tighter song structures and not sounding quite as shambolic. U.K. singles such as “Victoria,” “Ghost In My House” and “Mr. Pharmacist” gained some airplay, and it looked like The Fall might finally break out of their cult status. My personal favorite from this period is “This Nation’s Saving Grace,” which is from 1985. Other travelers that have explored this region hold “Perverted by Language” (1983) and “The Wonderfull and Frightening World of The Fall” (1984) in equally high regard. Moving forward, the early ’90s found the band unsettled with all of its constant personnel changes, including Brix leaving both the band and Mark Smith. The overall songwriting seems to have lost its consistent edge, and not until the “Real New Fall LP” of 2003 is released does the band find itself on totally solid ground again. The constant changeover in band personnel at this time now seems to have given Mark a new transfusion of energy, and the song “Theme from Sparta F.C.” shows that they collectively still know how to kick ass. The easiest way to follow this crooked path that we have traveled so far would be to purchase the 6-CD box set, “The Complete Peel Sessions 1978–2004.”

Interesting side trips off the main road should include the 2-CD set, “27 Points” (1995)—a solid, mid-period live document—“Levitate” (1997) and “Unutterable” (2000). These last two studio releases have some strong moments and find M.E.S. changing the drum rhythms, leaving behind well-worn patterns and even allowing a few synthesizer parts into the tunes. It is reassuring to note that the 50-year-old Mark E. Smith hadn’t lost any bite with the band’s 2007 effort, “Reformation Post TLC,” or on “Imperial Wax Solvent” (2008). After 30-plus years of bringing his songs to life in recording studios, Smith is still a master at keeping things interesting. His success has always been based on not just taking the roads less traveled, but about following his personal muse, no matter what the consequences or where it might lead him.

We have to talk about the places to avoid with The Fall. Due to some financial difficulties, Mark wound up selling a variety of live tapes and studio out-takes to different labels for a quick infusion of cash to keep the whole operation running. Titles that fall into this category include “Fiend With Violin” (1996), “Oswald Defence Lawyer” (1996), and “Cheetham Hill” (1997). “Are You Are Missing Winner” (2001) just doesn’t have much to offer in the way of songs or performance, and the subsequent live tour captured on “2G+2” (2002) is equally uninspiring by Fall standards. Having said all that, keep in mind that if you get lost and wind up at any of the above places, you are still in a more interesting location than anywhere John Mayer, Keith Urban or Chris Botti are playing.

If you decide to follow The Fall on tour, I would recommend you purchase a quality piece of luggage that can withstand such an arduous journey. The Briggs & Riley Transcend 21.5-inch carry-on model (TD-U521X) is durable, has a lifetime warranty and gives you enough room for your clothes, iPod, laptop and external speakers. Whenever you decide it’s appropriate to finally have The Fall Experience, be sure to give yourself enough time to do it right. One week is not nearly enough—like an excursion to any faraway country, you’ll need extra days to just get acclimatized to the new sonic landscape. Anything written about The Fall should at least have a brief mention of their biggest supporter, the deceased legendary British radio DJ and Fall fanatic, John Peel. John was playing songs from one of The Fall’s new releases at the time on his show, and afterwards simply said, “They are always different, they are always the same.” This is still a perfect description for a band that continues to defy classification. Don’t hesitate to bring your Granny, along with her bongos—not only will she enjoy The Fall’s music, but she might even wind up playing onstage. Have a safe trip.
-Jim Webb

Apropos Nothing: A Few Loose Ends

Ten most played French Pop tracks, according to my iPod (as of November 29):

01. Serge Gainsbourg - 69 Année Érotique
02. Brigitte Bardot - Je Voudrais Perdre La Mémoire
03. Keren Ann - Deux
04.Coralie Clément - À L’occasion Tu Souris
05. Françoise Hardy - Ton Meilleur Ami
06. Jacques Dutronc - Le Responsible
07. Julie D - Aiko-Aiko
08. Sylvie Vartan - Si Tu N’existais Pas
09. Aline - L’education
10. Jacques Brel - Il Peut Pleuvoir

“Chestnut Mare” is the last great Byrds song. Written by Roger McGuinn and Jacques Levy, it’s a retelling of Peer Gynt’s opening act—except in this version, a horse takes the place of the reindeer. The narrator, Gene Tryp (I presume) is, like Gynt, something of a bullshit artist. The difference here, though, is that Peer Gynt didn’t fall in love with the reindeer. And that’s what makes “Chestnut Mare” a horse of a different stripe.

Twenty most played Class of ’77 UK “I call it Punk” tracks:

01. Doll By Doll - Teenage Lightning
02. The Clash - Janie Jones (demo)
03. Monochrome Set - Love Zombies (Peel Session)
04. Wreckless Eric - Waxworks
05. Scars - Aquarama
06. Damned - I Fall (live)
07. The Fall - Bingo-Master’s Breakout
08. Outsiders - Calling On Youth
09. Sham 69 - The Cockney Kids Are Innocent (live)
10. Tonight - Stroll On By
11. Undertones - Hypnotised
12. X-Ray Spex - I Am A Cliché (demo)
13. Buzzcocks - Why She’s A Girl From The Chainstore
14. The Jam - All Around The World (live)
15. Madness - E.R.N.I.E.
16. Stiff Little Fingers - Breakout
17. Magazine - Recoil
18. Ruts - You’re Just A …
19. Sex Pistols - Holidays In The Sun
20. Slits - Love & Romance

Not very inspiring, I know, but that’s what the iPod says.

Dearly Departed
A number of talented people checked out this year, and I can’t say I blame them. The following list contains those whom I consider important to my own musical education. Yes, that includes Beatrice Arthur. May they rest in peace …

January: Ron Asheton, Steve Edgson, Dave Dee, John Martyn
February: Tom Brumley, Lux Interior, Jorge Reyes (for Jim), Estelle Bennett
March: Kent Henry, Uriel Jones
April: Bud Shank, Randy Cain, Bea Arthur
May: Clive Scott, Uli Trepte
June: Sam Butera, Hugh Hopper, Bob Bogle, Seething Wells, Sky Saxon
July: Drake Levin, Twyla Herbert, Gordon Waller
August: Willy Deville, Rashied Ali, Ellie Greenwich
September: Bobby Graham, Mary Travers
October: Robert Kirby, Dickie Peterson, Al Martino, Vic Mizzy, Soupy Sales
November: Jacno, Al Alberts

My favorite Fall LP is still Dragnet.

If you had your choice of seeing one of the following in Taos, whom would you choose?

01. Roky Erickson
02. Calexico
03. The Black Angels
04. Tony Joe White
05. Circle Jerks
06. Holly Golightly
07. Jackie Leven
08. Acid Mothers Temple
09. Ozric Tentacles
10. The Sonics

Please email your selection to or add a comment here.
Happy Holidays!
Michael Mooney

Editor’s Note: Jim Webb and Michael Mooney go back to the same ole ’hood in Philadelphia. Snows came and melted, planets danced in choreographed spatial arcs in such a way that Jim found himself living in Santa Fe and Michael living in Taos. Both, truly diehard music fans, write of music appreciation and music history that speaks to nourishment more than entertainment. Stay tuned and enjoy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bobbie Gentry: Seasons Come, Seasons Go; Number 12 With a Bullet: The Death of Vocalist Walter Scott

By Michael Mooney & Jim Webb

Seasons Come, Seasons Go

Bobbie Gentry’s “Touch ’Em With Love” reached the lofty peak of 164 on Billboard’s album chart in 1969. Typical of her solo, post-Billie Joe output, it tanked in America. On the strength of Bobbie’s chart-topping version of “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” (predating Dionne Warwick’s more playful American hit rendition by three months) however, the album was a UK hit. It’s a tremendous LP, possibly Gentry’s finest (there is no such thing as a bad Bobbie Gentry record.) The production is just right, and Bobbie nails every song. My only reservation is the lack of original material—just two of the 10 songs are self-penned. That they’re far superior to the covers (by the likes of Jimmy Webb, Bacharach-David, and Hurly-Wilkins) says much about Bobbie Gentry’s staggering talent. She is one of America’s great, underappreciated songwriters. Of the two, “Glory Hallelujah, How They’ll Sing” is a rousing and incredibly descriptive Countrypolitan Sunday Revival anthem (The Guardian includes it in their “1,000 Songs Everyone Must Hear” list. Here’s the entry: “Although it’s just ambiguous enough not to antagonize Bobbie Gentry’s large, hipster audience, Glory Hallelujah sees the Mississippi belle come, not to mock southern baptism, but to praise it. It isn’t in itself religious, but a celebration of the role faith plays in binding a community, from sing-songs at a country picnic to the barndance and church. The lyrics are fantastically detailed, and when the ecstatic gospel chorus breaks in, it would take a heart of stone not to feel the rapture.”) It’s that inspiring—almost enough to make me turn off the Fovea Hex this Sunday morning and get myself to church.

“Seasons Come, Seasons Go” is the other original track. At first spin, it sounds almost like a throwaway: predictable song structure, basic arrangement, no chorus, tacky harmonica, and the dreaded third (and fourth!) verse modulation. Six months ago, when Jim and I were researching numbers to feature at our (misnamed) 1969 Summer of Love dj session, this one very nearly made the first-round reject pile. But I listened again. Slowly, it began to reveal its melancholic beauty. One long crescendo, it’s a textbook lesson in how to layer instruments with subtlety, and Gentry’s casual phrasing reminds us that she would have made a terrific jazz singer. Heaven in two minutes, 50 seconds, and it’s all over much too quickly.

For me, after a bleak, nearly catastrophic winter, here was an encouraging song of renewed hope, the perfect balm for an unsettled spirit. Songs are funny that way. The good ones can sometimes be read like a map or guidebook. “Seasons Come, Seasons Go” defined my summer this year. Things happen for a reason, but the results are always for the better. “Don’t look back, good days ahead,” as Johnny once said. Except today, on a bright November morning, as I listen yet again, the future doesn’t appear to hold much promise. And while the sun is still shining, the air has turned cold. I realize now that I missed this song’s true meaning entirely. It isn’t about hope at all; it’s about loss. Songs are funny that way.

Now winter’s coming.

Dogwood blossoms float against
The ice encrusted creek bank
A tender blade of new green grass
Is bravely pushing upward through the melting snow
The Spring breathes ruffles through my hair
And whispers softly everywhere
Telling secrets in my eyes
Search the countryside for your hello
The seasons come, the seasons go

Lightning darts among the pines
Caught in a summer rainstorm
Soaking wet I look upon the new plowed earth
With rivulets between each row
I almost feel you next to me
And it stirs a memory
That hangs suspended with a sigh
And gently weaves its way through my bedroom window
The seasons come, the seasons go

See the grain lay scattered
In a trail that leads to nowhere
The rustling leaves beneath my feet
Swirl in a colorful kaleidoscope
A thousand spans of outstretched wings
Circle briefly, hovering
And they swiftly fly away
Leaving me to stay and face December snow
The seasons come, the seasons go

Ice encases blades of grass
Encouraging the wind to pass
And in the frosty morning sun
A field of diamonds beckon, waving to and fro
I stare into the fire a while
Think of you, my love, and smile
Wishing you were here with me
Sharing the security I know
The seasons come, the seasons go

-Bobbie Gentry

Michael Mooney

Number 12 With a Bullet: The Death of Vocalist Walter Scott

Bob Kuban and the In-Men were a rock band from St. Louis, Mo., who in 1966 had a top 40 hit called “The Cheater,” written by their bass guitarist Mike Krenski. Kuban was the drummer for the group and handled the business side of things like promoting the band and booking gigs. “The Cheater” is one of those tunes that, when you hear it on an oldies radio station, you can’t remember who did it, but you immediately start singing along.

Haven’t you heard about the guy known as the cheater
He’ll take your girl and then he’ll lie and mistreat her
It seems every day now
You hear people say now
Look out for the cheater
Make way for the fool hearted clown
Look out for the cheater

The lead singer for the In-Men was Walter Scott, a good looking young man who continued to front bands like The Kommotions after leaving Bob Kuban in the late ’60s. Walter divorced his first wife, largely due to his affair with another woman; he wound up marrying “the other woman,” JoAnn Calcaterra, in December of 1969. Walter Scott and The Cheaters was the band name that he settled on in the early ’70s, and he proceeded to lead a musician’s life of endless weeks spent touring before periodically returning home to the St. Louis area. By 1980 his marriage to JoAnn was in trouble due to his constantly being away from home, coupled with her fears that he was having an affair with one of his backing singers. In December of 1983 Walter mysteriously disappeared, his car found abandoned at the St. Louis airport. It turns out JoAnn was involved with a local contractor named Jim Williams who had recently done some renovations to the Scott’s home. In October of that same year, Jim Williams’ wife Sharon died in a very strange car accident. She was found alone and unconscious in her vehicle. An autopsy wasn’t performed until 1987, when it was revealed that a savage blow to the back of her head had killed her, not the car wreck which was assumed to be the cause of her death. Shortly after Walter’s disappearance in late ’83, JoAnn and Jim Williams started living together; they finally got married in 1986. In 1987, the police questioned Jim Williams’s estranged son—who was then serving time in Florida on an unrelated matter—if he knew anything about Walter’s disappearance. He told them it was just a guess, but to check the cistern located behind his father’s home. Walter Scott’s body was later found inside the cistern and, eventually, Jim Williams was arrested. The twists and turns of these two murders are detailed in Scottie Priesmeyer’s book “The Cheaters—The Walter Scott Murder.”

Bob Kuban and the In-Men watched in 1966 as their hit song “ The Cheater” raced up the charts. The music trade papers designate any song rapidly climbing the top hundred singles chart with a bullet next to the entry, to show that it’s moving fast. Even though “The Cheater” was number one in St. Louis, the highest it ever reached on the national chart was number 12. Walter Scott sang the words—“Look out for the cheater,” every night he performed live for the last 17 years of his life. Ironically, Walter was killed by a bullet from a gun at close range, the circumstantial evidence overwhelmingly pointing to the involvement of his wife’s lover Jim Williams. After a lengthy trial, conviction and appeal, Jim Williams was finally sentenced in 1992 for the capital murders of Sharon Williams and Walter Scott. JoAnn wound up serving 18 months on a five year felony charge—for making false statements and hindering the prosecution—before being released in 1994. Jim Williams is currently serving a life sentence with no chance of parole at the Potosi Correctional Institution in Missouri.

Haven’t you heard about the guy known as the cheater
He’ll take your girl and then he’ll lie and mistreat her
It seems every day now
You hear people say now
Look out for the cheater

Tough luck for the cheater
Too bad for the fool hearted clown
Tough break for the cheater
Who used to build you up just to let you down

“The Cheater”—words and music Mike Krenski

Jim Webb

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Issa Bagayogo: The Techno Griot of Mali

By Jim Webb

In the Wassalou region of Southern Mali is situated the small farming village of Korin. For many generations the people of this land locked region of West Africa have raised cattle and worked the soil. The constant cycles of drought have made their lives susceptible to famine, and food is never far from their thoughts. Issa Bagayogo was born in 1961 to a father that had four wives, and eventually was surrounded by fourteen brothers and sisters. All of the children at a young age were expected to work in the fields; it was the only way to stay alive. As a teenager Issa started to learn how to play the kamele n’goni, a traditional Malian six stringed instrument similar to a guitar. He was slowly getting a local reputation as a singer and performer when at the age of thirty Issa felt he had finally paid his family dues of working the land and headed for Mali’s capital city Bamako. He needed more out of life than the endless plowing of fields; it was time to try surviving as a musician.

In 1991 he wound up working briefly on a recording session at a new studio in Bamako that needed a n’goni player. In the evenings the studios engineer helped him make a cassette of his traditional sounding tunes, but still his music never reached a wider audience. He shuffled back and forth between his village and the big city for the next several years before finally becoming a mini bus driver in the capital. His lack of musical success led to excessive drinking and drug use that caused his life to spiral downward. His wife left him and some people thought he had gone crazy due to his many obsessions. He was uneducated by Western standards, but the one thing he had going for him was a determination and work ethic that can’t be taught in any book. He returned to the studio in 1998 with a clean lifestyle and a renewed purpose to achieve something with his music. The head engineer at Bogolan Studio was Frenchmen Yves Wernet, who talked to Issa about transforming his raw sound into something more modern. Yves wanted to use drum machines, keyboards, and female background singers to help give his songs a fresh contemporary edge. Issa was originally surprised at the results when he heard his voice for the first time wrapped around the layers of sound that had been added to his music. His vocals were still sung in traditional Bambara, his native language, but the additional instruments and electronic beats now helped make his traditional songs stand out in a marketplace full of aspiring musicians. Bamako was hungry for something new and his music started selling immediately; then the major label Six Degrees Records signed him to a contract and soon Issa’s music was available through out much of the world.

The hypnotic electro beat grooves of Yves Wernet and his crack studio musicians worked perfectly next to Bagayogo’s gritty vocals and the organic sound of his six string kamele n’goni. “Techno Issa” is now what everyone started to call him; 1999 was the year it all came together as he was voted Mali’s Brightest New Hope. In 2002, world music fans saw Issa on tour playing the influential WOMAD (World of Music Arts and Dance) Festival circuit drawing rave reviews. Tassoumakan was the title of his third cd in 2004 and means “Voice of Fire”, these songs speak about the evils of drugs, and the need for people to work together. For a long time now Issa had been carrying on the African Griot tradition in his music. The griot is not only a singer or storyteller, but someone who takes pride in teaching the history of its tribe to others. A personal highlight for him was performing in 2005 at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Who could ever imagine back home in Korin that Issa’s ancient kamele n’goni would be heard in one of the most prestigious venues in America? He has continued to record and tour globally through the years and with his countrymen Salif Keita and Toumani Diabate is another link between traditional and modern music in West Africa.

The only thing dirt poor farmers in Wassalou can count on these days is that the setting sun still ends their day in the fields. When darkness comes, a few will later look into the night sky and ponder their future plans and dreams. Issa worked some of these same fields for over twenty five years, and has reminded them that with enough determination even difficult goals in Mali can be reached. I enjoy listening to Issa’s music, but his past as an illiterate farmer from Korin who refused to give up and ultimately triumphed makes me appreciate the man even more. Issa Bagayogo has reminded us all that through the inspirational power of music, anything is possible.

Issa Bagayogo Discography:
Sya (1999)
Timbuktu (2002)
Tassoumakan (2004)
Mali Koura (2008)
Issa Remixed (2009)

-Jim Webb

Editor’s Note: Jim Webb and Michael Mooney, shared a childhood back in the old neighborhood in Philadelphia. Tides waxed and waned, stars swirled through Van Gogh’s night sky in such a way that Jim found himself living in Santa Fe and Michael living in Taos. Both, truly die hard music fans, write about music appreciation and music history in such a unique way that any university would be proud to have this pair in their curriculum. Stay tuned and enjoy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Yesterdays Protest Song for Today

By Jim Webb

On October 15, 2009 CNN reported that home foreclosures hit an all- time record high in the third quarter of this year. One in every 136 US homes is either in default, auction notice or bank repossession. In 1949, a New York State apple farmer named Les Rice wrote a song called Banks of Marble that detailed the plight of the working man, and their struggles against the Banks. Les was a neighbor of folk singer Pete Seeger, and a one-time president of the Ulster County Farmers Union. Pete’s group The Weavers recorded the song in 1950, and it has been a popular union song ever since, particularly in Ireland. American singer / songwriter Iris Dement has also performed the tune live on her recent tours.

Banks of Marble
We've traveled 'round this country
from shore to shining shore
It really made me wonder
the things I heard and saw

I saw the weary farmer
plowing sod and loam
I heard the auction hammer
just a-knocking down his home

But the banks are made of marble
with a guard at every door
and the vaults are stuffed with silver
that the farmer sweated for

I’ve seen the weary miner
scrubbing coal dust from his back
I heard his children cryin'
"Got no coal to heat the shack"
But the banks are made of marble
with a guard at every door
and the vaults are stuffed with silver
that the miner sweated for

I've seen my brothers working
throughout this mighty land
I prayed we'd get together
and together make a stand
Then we might own those banks of marble
with a guard at every door
and we might share those vaults of silver
that we have sweated for

-Les Rice

If Les was still around I know how he would feel about using tax payer money to bail out failing banks. All this talk about home foreclosures reminds me of an old adage: Buy land, it’s the only thing they can’t make more of. I hope no one else loses their job, and you can afford your mortgage payments, or you might wind up singing a certain tune from 1949.
-Jim Webb

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The First Time I Met The Blues

By Jim Webb

When I was in the eighth grade at Cecelia Snyder Middle School in 1971 we had a substitute one day for our regular science teacher Mr. Moser. Science class was the first period after the lunch break, and with time to kill I decided to head there early. I wandered into an empty classroom and sat down at my seat. Pretty soon everybody else would start to casually file in, just another routine in a school day that had plenty of them to spare. As I sat in my chair I glanced up at the blackboard, and a phrase was written in the middle of it.

"When a man is down, the Blues are his best friend." - Muddy Waters

I read it a couple of times, but had no idea why it was up there, and watched as a few classmates started to stream in. The substitute teacher finally made his appearance as an ordinary looking, middle-aged white guy with a beard. Most subs fall into two types, the ones who want to continue the lesson plan as if they were the regular teacher, or they just give everyone a free study hall to due anything they want, as long as it stays quiet. He said he wasn’t comfortable doing the science work left for us, and instead we would have a discussion. After he read the quote that had been written behind him in chalk, he asked if anyone had ever heard of Muddy Waters. No one responded, so he went into a brief history of the blues, and eventually he even got a few kids to ask some questions. Somebody asked if Muddy was his real name, and that set off another long story about how musicians sometimes had nicknames and different performing names, turns out Muddys actual name was McKinley Morganfield. Old stories and songs from long ago, the whole thing sounded like they could have known Huckleberry Finn. At thirteen years old, this blues thing didn’t seem too exciting. The whole conversation was unusual, but subs sometimes acted a little weird, and the hour seemed to go by quickly with everyone bolting the room as soon as the ending bell rang.

In September of 1975, I went to an Allman Brothers concert at The Spectrum arena in Philadelphia and the opening act was Muddy Waters. It was a sold out concert, so there was about 18,000 people crammed into this big airplane hanger of a building. Muddy sat on a stool near the front of the stage while his band was behind him, and played for about thirty minutes. The Allman Brothers were a blues – rock band, so the crowd treated Muddy with respect. Polite applause after each number, but everyone was there to get crazy with some Southern Rock a little later. For the last song of his set, Muddy got off the stool and really leaned into a tune called, Got My Mojo Working. The crowd started to catch fire as this legendary old man of the Blues gyrated across the stage, barking out words, he was gonna show that big rock crowd he still had some gas left in the tank. He gave a quick wave to the crowd, and left to a loud ovation.

The seventies came and went, as did most of the punk and new wave bands that I religiously followed. Never missed a local concert by The Clash, or The Ramones, but by 1982 that whole scene was getting a little stale to me. Fashion bands like Duran Duran and Culture Club were everywhere; it was time to go in a different direction. Between 1983 and 1987, I headed straight for the Blues. Buddy Guy & Junior Wells, B.B. King, Albert Collins, Willie Dixon, Memphis Slim, Otis Rush, and John Lee Hooker are just some of the names we saw. After Willie Dixon and his Chicago Blues All-Stars played at The Chestnut Cabaret we went backstage to say hello. You could do that after a blues gig, no heavy security or a big entourage to stop you. Willie was one of the all-time great Blues songwriters that also played bass and had written numerous hits in the ‘50’s like Little Red Rooster, Hoochie Coochie Man, Spoonful, and I Just Want to Make Love to You. He was a huge influence on The Rolling Stones, Cream, Led Zeppelin, and hundreds of other bands. Willie was a big man, well over six feet tall, but he was still carrying around a lot of extra weight. The sweat was dripping off him; his clothes were soaked with perspiration from just escaping the hot stage lights. He was close to seventy years old, tired from still pulling one nighters all across the country, but he greeted us like we were old cousins from Chicago. With a smile on his face he said,” How ya doin’ fellas, how was it.” I was fumbling around for words; did I just hear Willie Dixon ask me how he played? “You sounded great,” was all I said. There were a hundred questions racing through my mind that I wanted to ask him; about songs he wrote, and old Bluesmen that he’d played with. He looked content sitting there resting on an old wooden chair, but he also appeared worn down. The questions I had ready to fire at him suddenly didn’t seem very important. My friend and I settled for an autograph on a scrap of paper, we shook Willie’s hand and left.

When a man is down, the Blues are his best friend. I had no idea what that meant as a thirteen year old. Muddy and Willie were both African-Americans, born in Mississippi at a time when the color of your skin determined what kind of life you would lead. Growing up in the 1920’s outside of Vicksburg and Clarksdale, they knew what it meant to be down. Almost everything, and as far as they could see was down. They didn’t have any rich relatives with good paying jobs; most of their kin scratched out a living working the soil all day long, they called it sharecropping. When things seemed like they just couldn’t get any harder, music became a way out of the madness for them. Muddy Waters and his good friend Willie Dixon passed away many years ago. They left behind a lot of great music, but more importantly, inside the songs they left us their hard earned truths.
-Jim Webb

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

2012: The Return of Skiffle?

by Jim Webb

Modern day astronomers have calculated that on Dec. 21, 2012 our Sun will be aligned with the center of the Milky Way Galaxy for the first time in 26,000 years. I don’t think that it’s pure coincidence that the Mayan Long Count Calendar also predicts major changes at that same exact time. Some New Age shysters and general doom sayers have used this date to predict the end of the world. A closer look at The Dresden Codex (a historic Mayan work decoded) spoke of many things that were to happen on that date, and none of them specifically spoke of the Earth’s annihilation.

Here are some of the events that were prophesized over 1,000 years ago by the Mayan Indian Tribe for December 21, 2012; and why I feel they foreshadow the possible return of Skiffle.

1.) Physical or spiritual transformation will occur.
- Skiffle has this power over people, as witnessed during the 1950’s in the United Kingdom. It affected the lives and career paths of many people and was a positive life changing force.

2.) It will be a tremendously important event.
- After being exposed to a small dose of Skiffle in the mid to late 50’s, it has been estimated that from 30,000 to 50,000 British youths immediately created their own groups. Imagine what will happen if the whole world becomes infatuated with it.

3.) A major upheaval will take place.
- What could be more life changing than millions of people giving up their misguided enjoyment of rap, AOR (album oriented rock, for Rummy in El Prado) and general pop schlock for the organic vibrations of Skiffle?

Wait a minute, some of you might be thinking – what the hell is Skiffle? It originally started here in the good old U.S.of A. in the early 20th century. It was plain jug /string band music that had acoustic banjo, guitar, fiddle and even a kazoo thrown in at times. Homemade instruments made it affordable to just about anyone, but its popularity waned with the sophistication of Big Bands and commercial pop music. A revival of sorts occurred in British clubs of the mid fifties when jazz musicians took a short break or “Skiffle”, and certain players stayed for an up tempo set of old tunes in the traditional way. Lonnie Donegan became the most famous of these musicians and ultimately had twenty four successive top thirty UK hits. His, and Skiffle’s peak was 1957 when he ruled the airwaves with his no. 1 hit Gamblin’ Man. Such future rock luminaries as John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Van Morrison, Jimmy Page and Ritchie Blackmore (there’s a name The Secret Museum rarely mentions) were hooked on Skiffle at a young age and then spent untold hours banging away on their acoustic guitars. Skiffle was pretty wild for its day, but couldn’t compete with the uninhibited sexual energy and loud electric instruments of Rock and Roll, and like The Maya, mysteriously vanished.

The Mayan’s in their rituals and ceremonies were very aware of the cyclical nature of life. If they would have lived long enough they would have experienced and heard music go through its own cycles. Psychedelic Rock, Ska, Glam Rock, and Roots music have all come and gone in their popularity through the years. When we get tired of Alice Coopers Shock Rock, a few years go by, and then the next generation of youth thinks Marilyn Manson is something new and different. Who would have predicted that 1950’s style short haircuts for guys or Chuck Taylor sneakers would come back into vogue? Skiffle is like an earthquake fault line that is due for an eruption; minor shockwaves have been felt before, and in my opinion it’s just a matter of when. December 21, 2012 – Get your washboard ready, anything is possible, a new cycle is about to begin.
-Jim Webb

That's Entertainment! Sunset Strip Book Clerk Dialogues

The Secret Museum
by Michael Mooney

Michael Mooney
: Your total comes to eighty-three dollars seventy-four cents.
Madonna (to baby daddy companion): What did he say?
Michael Mooney (to b.d.c.): Tell her he said, "It comes to eighty-three dollars seventy-four cents".

Michael Mooney: Hey, Mr. Reynolds, we gotta close now.
Burt Reynolds: Just give me another minute here.
[Five minutes later]
Michael Mooney: I'm sorry, Mr. Reynolds, we have to lock up now.
Burt Reynolds: Okay, just give me another minute here.
[One minute later]
Michael Mooney: Hey, Mr. Re...
Burt Reynolds: I said give me another...
Michael Mooney: GET OUT!!!

Mick Jagger's minder: Excuse me, is it alright if Mick jumps the queue? He's got to catch a plane.
Michael Mooney: Sure, if it's okay with them. [Gestures to line of customers.]
Mick's minder: Pardon me. Is it alright if Mick jumps ahead here? He has to catch a plane.
The Customers: Yes. Absolutely.
Mick Jagger: Cheers.

Michael Mooney
: You can't park there. They'll tow you.
Leonardo DiCaprio: Aww, c'mon, man. Pleeasse?
Michael Mooney: Okay.
Leonardo DiCaprio: Cool!

Michael Mooney: Sorry, Lemmy, you have to take that cigarette outside.
Lemmy: Yeah, alright.
[10 seconds pass]
Michael Mooney: I kind of meant now.
Lemmy: Ah, fuck it!

Bruce Wagner (former hotshot LA novelist): Hey. This is Parker Posey. She's in Party Girl. See? [Gestures to advertisement on nearby billboard.] Can I get a picture of her with you for a piece I'm doing in Premiere?
Michael Mooney: No.

[Prince's driver knocks on locked door at closing time.)
Prince's driver: Can Prince come in?
Michael Mooney: Prince who? [pause]... Just kidding!

Billy Corgan: Where do you keep books on the 1830s?
Michael Mooney: What?
Billy Corgan: The 1830s. It's my favorite decade, history-wise.
Michael Mooney: Oh. Well, let's see. We may have a book on Andrew Jackson, or that new Hans Christian Andersen bio. They were both pretty busy in the '30s. Maybe something on the Greek Revolution?
Billy Corgan: Never mind. Where's the rhyming dictionaries?

Molly Ringwald: Do you have Joyce Carol Oates' On Boxing?
Michael Mooney: I think so. It should be over here in the Sports section.
Molly Ringwald: It's not a sports book; it's a novel.
Michael Mooney: No, it isn't.

Gregory Peck: You're holding a book for me. I'm Gregory Peck.
Michael Mooney: I know that!

[At book signing event]
Michael Mooney: Do you want me to put your jacket in the office, John?
John Lydon: Hah! You're not getting your hands on this. [He strokes the lapels between thumb and forefinger.]
Michael Mooney: Oh, like I'd want to steal that thing.

Suzanne Pleshette [sings]: Come on a my house, my house...
Michael Mooney [sings]: I'm gonna give you a Christmas tree!
Suzanne Pleshette: You have a nice voice.
Michael Mooney: So do you.

Peter Wolf: How do you get to Chatsworth?
Michael Mooney: No idea.
Peter Wolf: I gotta get to Chatsworth.

Co-worker: You remind me of Ice Cube.
Michael Mooney: Thanks. You remind me of Sharleen Spiteri.

1940s tough-guy actor Lawrence Tierney: You from Philly? I spent time in Philly. Good town. You're okay, kid.

Lawrence Tierney: Where's the dictionaries?
Michael Mooney: Just up the steps to the end. Turn left. You can't miss them.
Lawrence Tierney: Take me to them.
Michael Mooney: Sure. Just as soon as I move these books out of the aisle. Be a second.
Lawrence Tierney: Take a shower, you dirty rat bastard! Get a haircut!!
[He strikes Michael Mooney with his cane.]
Michael Mooney: Hey!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fred Van Hove: The Most Adventurous Belgian Piano Player You’ve Never Heard Of

The Secret Museum
By Jim Webb

If you speak Flemish, or are familiar with European improvised music, you might have heard of Fred Van Hove. He is a very talented pianist from Antwerp, Belgium who was born in 1937. His father was a self taught musician who sent Fred at a young age to study classical music. Be-bop became an early passion, but once he was exposed to the liberating music of Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler in the mid ‘60’s he quickly became a disciple of the new “free”sound in jazz. By 1966, Fred was right in the middle of the blossoming European jazz/improvised music scene that included his friends Peter Brotzmann and Willem Breuker.

He has a unique style of playing the piano that falls between the cracks (and keys) of jazz and classical music. If you enjoy free jazz icon pianist Cecil Taylor, than unquestionably you will like Mr. Van Hove’s sound. Writer Tom Greenland has likened Fred’s piano playing to a “ballerina in hiking boots.” I would add that he explores the keyboard like it’s a musical Potters Field, unearthing unknown sounds and note combinations to create something truly fresh and original. Danger Will Robinson – Fred has been known to dump a bucket of ping-pong balls on the piano strings to alter the sound of the notes he’s playing. With all this talk of free jazz playing and experimenting with ping-pong balls did I just hear you mumble that he probably sounds like his piano is being thrown down a flight of stairs? Granted, it is very challenging music that Van Hove has created. Sometimes when I’m listening to his solo work (Flux), it sounds like he’s actually building a house. There’s some pounding and hammering on the keyboard at times, like nails being driven into wood. He’s definitely not all high energy; his playing often segues into lyrical, introspective sounding passages that hint at his classical studies as a young man. Mr. Van Hove’s artistry is held in such high regard that in 1996 he was named a Cultural Ambassador by the Belgian Government.

I was lucky enough to see Fred perform a solo concert in 2004 at Victoriaville, Canada as part of the Musique Actuelle Festival. I saw twenty- three gigs over three days (with the legendary Steve O.), and Van Hove was the highlight of the trip for me. He sat down at the piano and proceeded to create a totally improvised forty-five minute piece of music that left everyone stunned at its conclusion. Thunderous eruptions of sound would give way to rolling waves of notes that started at one end of the keyboard and made their way across it until his fingers ran out of keys to play. He would also work inside the piano, hitting the strings with various objects to alter the sound he wanted. No matter how out - there the performance got, Fred never lost his musicality. On a good night, the added beauty of watching and hearing improvised music being created is knowing that these exact sounds would never be heard again.

He is a master pianist, but he will challenge your definition of what that means. It is easy to list some of the different styles he has played in: be-bop, free jazz, improvised music, classical, and church music to name a few. Restrictive labels though don’t apply to Fred; he is simply too big a musical maverick to ever fit into those limiting categories. So, now that you are aware of Fred Van Hove, he is no longer the most adventurous Belgian piano player you’ve never heard of. He’s now just an adventurous Belgian piano player. That’s all he ever wanted to be.

-Jim Webb

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Miles Davis: Fusion- His Final Frontier

The Secret Museum

October 04, 2009

By Jim Webb

Miles Davis
Fusion: His Final Frontier

Editor’s Note: Jim Webb and Michael Mooney knew each in the old neighborhood back in Philadelphia. Many, many, maybe too many? ... no, it’s all about the journey, right? Okay. Years later, events fell from the stars in such a way that Jim found himself living in Santa Fe and Michael living in Taos. Both, truly die hard music fans, write in an almost esoteric, conscious streaming that is reminiscent of fine jazz (Michael) and blues (Jim). Stay tuned and enjoy.

Michael Mooney wrote:
Lydia Garcia is the new publisher of Horse Fly. She has agreed to keep us on (in spite of her copy editor's delicate nervous system); in fact, we'll be appearing in this month's print edition. Jim and I applaud Ms. Garcia's excellent taste in writing, and sound editorial skills.

On May 25, 1961 President John Kennedy declared that we would land an American on the Moon before the end of the decade. That same week trumpeter Miles Davis played Carnegie Hall in New York City with his acoustic jazz group. Since the mid forties Miles had been a pioneer and innovator of such jazz styles as be-bop, cool jazz and now with Gil Evans they were even combining a symphony orchestra with his trumpet playing. Two totally separate events, but in July of 1969 man would land on the moon and be the farthest away he’s ever been from Earth. By the summer of ’69 Miles would have taken jazz far away from its traditional origins, leading an electric crusade into unchartered musical waters.

The manned U.S. space program had several projects to complete before they were ready to tackle landing on the moon. The Mercury and Gemini missions were needed to test out complex maneuvers that were essential for going to the moon and back. In 1964 Miles had formed one of his classic quintets and began a new phase to his music. In order to break down some of the established barriers in jazz, Miles needed a new crew to work with. One of his greatest strengths as a leader was being able to find the right musicians that would help him realize the new sounds he wanted to create. The band took off when Wayne Shorter’s saxophone and Ron Carter’s bass was joined by twenty - three year old Herbie Hancock on piano, and the even younger Tony Williams (17) playing drums.

Classic albums like Nefertiti, Sorcerer, and Miles in The Sky soon followed and established the quintets’ reputation for pushing the boundaries of jazz into new territories. Chord structures were being left behind as they played in a “free” form style and in 1968 electric keyboards and guitar were added to Miles’ sound palette for the first time. More changes in personnel occurred on two key releases in 1969. In A Silent Way not only brought guitarist John McLaughlin into the music, but keyboardist Joe Zawinul as well. In a Silent Way was an electric album, with the tapes heavily edited later by producer Teo Macero, and it helped point the way for the full blown jazz- rock fusion of Bitches Brew.

July 20, 1969 found Neil Armstrong planting the American flag on the moon and the whole world celebrated this historic culmination of technical and human achievement. The three Apollo 11 crew members returned to Earth as heroes and were given a ticker tape parade in New York City. August 19, 1969 saw the album release of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew. It was a cauldron of heavy electric riffs, long extended jams, and a volume level unheard of from a jazz musician. Miles started touring with keyboardists Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett, while drummer Tony Williams left to form a short lived group with John McLaughlin called Lifetime. This new style was a combination of rock music’s electric volume with Jazz’s virtuosity of musicianship, and was referred to as Jazz-Rock or Fusion. Miles had now not only left all the jazz “rules” behind, playing acoustically with organized chord changes, but he had left most of his original audience of the fifties and sixties behind as well. Hard funk’s influence from James Brown and Sly Stone was also being added to Miles’ new brew and he now played rock venues and sold more records than at any other time in his career. This new fusion of jazz, rock, and funk was beginning to become quite popular. Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul formed a group called Weather Report, and their success was rivaled by John McLaughlin’s new Mahavishnu Orchestra. Chick Corea founded another fusion band titled Return to Forever, and jazz guitarist Larry Coryell’s Eleventh House was also an early jazz-rock favorite. Herbie Hancock had left Miles by the early 70’s and in 1973 his new Headhunters group outsold them all with his funk fueled version of the fusion sound. Miles released Jack Johnson (1971) and then On The Corner, showing on the latter release that he was still in touch with “the street’s” need for funk. Big Fun and Get Up With It were next, both collecting various studio experiments from the 1969 to 1974 period. Tabla and sitar were now adding a world music feel to some of his new tracks, with the influence of modern classical composer Karlheinz Stockhausen affecting others. This fusion of many different styles of music with its increasing popularity was being looked at as something to be reckoned with, more than just the latest record company induced fad. Listeners were amazed at the advanced technique that these musicians displayed. Miles forged ahead at an unrelenting pace, recording such dark, intense live albums as Pangaea and Agharta that mirrored his own increasing drug usage and personal problems.

Apollo 17 was the final moon mission in December of 1972, and the Apollo program itself finally ended in 1975. The space program that had until recently been looked at with such necessity and pride by its citizens, now only caused a yawn. Been there, done that. The technological advances that caused such a sensation only a few years before now were looked at as an unnecessary expense. People were out of work and going hungry, who cares about moon rocks? By 1975 fusion was also starting to run its course, and was getting slammed for its cold, unfeeling technical virtuosity. Showing off dazzling technique had been looked at as a welcome departure from basic three chord rock and roll earlier in the decade, now it was becoming a liability in the fickle world of youthful musical tastes. Miles was physically exhausted from the last six years of touring and recording, he decided it was time to pack up his gear and head home to New York. He stopped playing music in July of 1975 and he wouldn’t perform again until 1981. When he returned it was a different world. The record labels had found out how to make money from television, the MTV generation was more interested in watching videos than actually listening to the music. Davis wasn’t even trying to be a trailblazer with his new band; he simply improvised on the melodies that interested him, and worked to get his rusty lip back in shape. I saw Miles live half a dozen times in the ‘80’s, and near the end of his career my favorite tune of the evening was always his instrumental ballad treatment of Cyndi Lauper’s hit Time After Time. The powerful hurricane force winds his bands generated in the seventies had dissipated long ago. He had some decent releases in the eighties (Amandla, Aura), but in my opinion there was nothing that we couldn’t live without. It is painful to write that about such a great musician. Miles may not have known it at the time, but he would never again help blaze a new path in music.

Some critics who only enjoyed traditional sounding jazz have blasted the seventies as a waste of time for listening to Miles Davis. They claimed he was just out to make a quick buck off the rock crowd, but what they forgot was that Miles whole career since the forties was always about change, and taking chances. Modern man has long looked at outer space as the final frontier in exploration, for Miles Davis and his jazz rock followers – the fusion era will be regarded as his last great musical journey.

Where Did All the Fusion Boys Go?

Herbie Hancock: 69 years old with numerous Grammies under his belt. Still experimenting with various styles of music; last release was a collection of Joni Mitchell songs.
Wayne Shorter: 76 years old, Weather Report broke up in 1986. Shorter is still highly regarded as a saxophonist and has been playing in a more traditional jazz style for years.
Tony Williams: Died in 1997 at age 51- a tremendous percussionist who is sorely missed.
Joe Zawinul: Died in 2007 at 75 years of age. After Weather Report he continued to lead a jazz/world music fusion style group.
Keith Jarrett: 64 years old, master solo piano improviser who is part of a long running acoustic jazz trio with Jack DeJohnette and Gary Peacock.
Chick Corea: 68 years old, still plays jazz on acoustic and electric keyboards. 2008 saw a Return to Forever reunion tour that was highly regarded.
John McLaughlin: 67 years old, after the original Mahavishnu Orchestra disbanded in 1976 he concentrated on his Indian/classical group Shakti. Now plays in a variety of jazz styles.
Miles Davis: Died September 28, 1991 at age 65. Legendary trumpeter who has played and been a major innovator in a variety of styles; Be – bop, Cool jazz, Hard bop, Third stream (with Gil Evans) and Fusion. His 1959 record Kind of Blue is arguably still the greatest jazz record of all time.

Recommended Listening
Weather Report – Mysterious Traveler
Mahavishnu Orchestra – Visions of the Emerald Beyond
Return to Forever – Where Have I Known You Before
Billy Cobham – Spectrum
Miles Davis – Bitches Brew, Big Fun, Get up With It, Pangaea

Jim Webb

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Uncovered: The untold showdown between The Isley Brothers and Nazareth

The Secret Museum
By Jim Webb

A lot of road tales from touring rock bands in the 1970’s are legendary. Hotel rooms destroyed, TV sets thrown out of tenth story windows, and even a Rolls Royce has been documented as being driven into a swimming pool. What hasn’t been talked about (until now) is an encounter that happened between two bands in 1976 in a Holiday Inn just outside of Detroit, Michigan. Both bands were at the top of their game, scoring with hit singles and playing to packed arenas across the country. It would seem like they had little in common, because the Isley Brothers were six black brothers(technically five brothers and an in-law) from Cincinnati playing a mixture of Soul, Rn’B, and Funk while Nazareth were four white lads from Scotland known for pounding out a furious hard rock attack. Nazareth had just finished opening for Ritchie Blackmores Raincoat at Cobo Hall in Detroit and had driven back to their motel in a thirsty mood. The Isleys had just finished a final recording session in the Motor City and the next mornings were flying to Atlanta to kick off their big tour. Nazareth lead singer Dan McCafferty was sitting in the lounge bar with guitarist Manny Charleton when unknown to them the Isley entourage wandered in. A top 40 cover band called Sin City was playing a lame version of K.C. & The Sunshine Band’s Get Down Tonight when Manny yelled out – “play a decent fooking tune.”

Ernie Isley walked in front of Charleton at that exact moment he yelled and stopped. He stared at him briefly, and then said – “cut’em a break man, it’s harder than it looks up there.” Manny was on his fourth Heineken at that point and quickly spat – “If you’ve gonna play a cover – give it a fooking kick, or leave it alone.” Ernie just laughed, “You kill me man, you don’t even have the balls to be up there, hidin’ behind that green beer.”
Dan was ready for a little fun and grabbed his bass player and drummer as he headed for the small stage. The lounge band ended their set and McCafferty told them the drinks were on him if they could borrow their instruments for awhile. Manny strapped on a Fender Strat with a scowl on his face, he was a Les Paul man all the way, but it would have to do. Dan said – “this is Vigilante Man by Woody Guthrie”, Manny played a long slide intro building up the intensity before McCafferty and his band mates cut loose with a roar. Ronnie Isley came up to Ernie and asked what’s up. Ernie didn’t say anything, too surprised at Charlton’s axe playing. A friend of Ronnie’s leaned over and told him – “I think that’s Deep Purple. Heard some of them was in town, those rock bands all sound the same, don’t they.” Ronnie didn’t say anything and took another sip from his Courvoisier. McCafferty announced Joni Mitchell’s This Flight Tonight and then the small room really started to cook. What was originally a soft, acoustic tune had been turned into something sharp and electric. Marvin Isley came over to Ronnie and said –“these are some scraggly lookin’ dudes – but they mean it.” Ernie piped in with – “I don’t dig no Joni Mitchell, she’s too wordy.” When the song was over Manny yelled over to the Isleys table – “that’s how you play fooking covers, make them yer own mate.” Ronnie unbuttoned his shirt and looked at Marvin, nothing needed to be said. You don’t make it in the music business for thirty years like the Isleys on talent alone; they learned the hard way you can’t back down from anything.

Somebody whispered in Ernie’s ear and then he came over to Ronnie and said –“that’s Nazareth, you know them guys. They did that heavy metal lullaby - Love Hurts.” Ronnie replied – “shit, that’s them? - they took that old Everly Brothers song and nailed that one too.” Ernie was getting worked up now. “What’s so special ’bout a man in leather singin’ sweet.” Ronnie looked over the top of his shades and softly slapped Ernie. “What the hell you think we did with Seals & Crofts Summer Breeze? It worked musically, financially and the women go crazy. We turned that baby inside out so much all them people bought it a second time from us because they couldn’t recognize it.” Nazareth’s manager walked up to the group and told the band the Isley Brothers were in the room. Dan walked over to Ronnie and shook his hand. “I love your band, and I love your voice.” Ronnie just smiled and said – “our turn.”

The Isleys jumped right into a high energy medley of Love The One Your With and Listen to The Music. If this was a cover contest, Nazareth picked the wrong Holiday Inn to start talkin’ trash. Ronnie then took hold of Todd’s Hello It’s Me and wrapped it all around his soul. The opening word - Hello - Ronnie kept repeating it like he had been hypnotized. Thirty-seven times he said the word, and each time he caressed it a little differently, adding an inflection that kept this one word mantra fresh, made it seem like a totally different song than what Rundgren had written.

Ronnie called Nazareth up to the stage, and he made sure Sin City was next to him as well. At this point no drinks were being served; the bus boys weren’t clearing any tables, the bartender lit up a cigarette. No one took their eyes off the stage; everyone was just waiting to see what was going to happen next. After a brief huddle between the musicians, Ronnie stepped to the mic and said – “here’s an old one from The Top Notes, we had a hit with it, and then some guys from England grabbed it.” Ernie kicked into Twist and Shout, and a joyous noise filled the room. Not everybody knew all the chords, but it didn’t matter. The bartender and waitresses knew how this one went and their voices filled in any musical cracks. When it was over Manny apologized to Sin City, told them he was wrong to say anything. Their lead singer said – “no man, you were right. Either make it your own – or don’t do it.”

It was time for both the Isleys and Nazareth to call it a night. The Isleys had to get to Atlanta to kick off a big tour, Nazareth had already been up a couple of days and it was time to crash for a least a few hours. The place cleared out after that special jam, and Sin City was left to play their last set of the night for the bus boys all sitting at one table in the far corner. A guy dressed completely in black walks into the lounge and sits down at the bar. He orders two Heinekens and swings around on his stool to get a look at Sin City. They start up Get Down Tonight, but before the lead singer says a word the man at the bar yells out – “Play a decent fucking tune.” One of the bus boys nudges his friend, “Hey, that guy over there is Ritchie Blackmore!”
-Jim Webb

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

King Crimson, Canned Heat

The Secret Museum:
By Jim Webb & Michael Mooney

Brian, Fripp, Gurdjieff & Me

Jim Webb wrote:

Mike -

I noticed in this morning’s news a small piece that said British authorities are going to re-open the case of ex- Rolling Stone guitarist Brian Jones death in 1969. We've read articles before claiming that there was more to that story than was reported, so it wasn't shocking. An hour later I was about to go on the elliptical workout machine and chose the cd Starless and Bible Black by King Crimson to be the soundtrack for this mornings exercise (penance). Through the years I've gone back and occasionally trying to figure Crimson out, but I never have gotten very far. I realized this morning that other than their first record, I just don't like 'em. Very little melody in their "songs", mostly dark, knotty passages to showcase their technical wanking. I remembered while listening to the cd that King Crimson made their breakthrough in July of '69 opening for The Rolling Stones in Hyde Park London in front of 500,000 people. That gig for The Stones was their first with new guitarist Mick Taylor replacing Brian Jones (who had either been pushed from the band, or stumbled out on his own). After Starless and Bible Black came out it wasn't very long before leader Robert Fripp disbanded Crimson in 1974. He was totally burnt out from the last five plus years of touring, and the pressures of leading the group. He wound up joining an esoteric school in the U.K. founded by John Bennett, who had been one of famed mystic, philosopher(charlatan ?) George Gurdjieff's advanced students in the 1920's. Bennett had kept searching for knowledge since Gurdjieff's death in 1949, and set up his own "school" incorporating a lot of his old teachers ideas and methods. I was done the work out and went back upstairs, on the counter was the current book I've been reading - The Struggle of the Magicians/ Why Ouspensky left Gurdjieff. The author in his preface claimed he could have called it - Why Oupensky, Orage and Bennett left Gurdjieff, but it was too unwieldy of a title. I stopped at that point and wondered if this was all just a coincidence, a silly version of the Kevin Bacon game, or was there a synergy of thought to this morning that when "busy" - I might never have noticed. The only other possibility that comes to mind is that I did have a magical piece of cake this morning from The Chocolate Maven in Santa Fe. I'll let you know if there is any more high weirdness later today.
-Jim Webb

Michael Mooney wrote:


I always loved that photo from his What Are We Living For, of Bennett and his wife Elizabeth, taken the day before he died. I’m looking at it right now, and he appears as if he’s found all the answers, is totally at peace and ready to move on. Also, now that I think of it, I believe I borrowed this book from you. Oops!

Last week one of the TV news mags did a piece on the unofficial theme song to the Woodstock Festival, Going Up The Country by Canned Heat. I sat there thinking "I've always liked that tune," and also their earlier hit On The Road Again, but never really got into the band otherwise. I knew that guitarist/ Blues scholar/ soul-of-the-group Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson (singer of the aforementioned) died under mysterious circumstances in 1970, and growly-voiced Bob "The Bear" Hite of a heart attack in 1980, shortly after we moved to Los Angeles. I decided it was time to fully investigate Canned Heat. After an hour's research that morning, I determined the place to start was their second LP Boogie With Canned Heat. I wrote the title on a post-it, put it in my pocket, then headed over to my neighbor Julian's house. He'd asked me a couple of times to sort through his album collection and see if anything was of value and/or worth salvaging, and I was finally getting around to it. Out of 400-odd records, only two were from the rock era: The Guess Who's Wheatfield Soul (horribly scratched copy) and a near-mint Boogie With Canned Heat. I told him what I'd been doing just prior to my visit, and showed him the post-it note. This sort of serendipity happens all the time around Julian, so I shouldn't have been surprised. Of course the record’s mine now, and a damned good one, too. Next on my list is Future Blues.

Jim Webb wrote:

Mike -

After forty plus years of being infatuated with pop & rock music I can honestly say I've never purchased a Canned Heat 45, LP, 8-track , cassette or cd. Not that I didn't enjoy their sound, but for some unknown reason there are still good bands that the youthful mind refused to latch onto,and only now in middle age on hearing them do I realize what a grave error I had made in ignoring ________ years ago. I'm gonna get me some Heat.


The liner notes to the remastered 1974 Crimson Starless & Bible Black cd listed the Top Twenty Sounds U.K. album chart as of March 23, 1974

1. Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans
2. The Who - Quadrophenia
3. Bowie - Pin Ups
4. Genesis - Selling England by the Pound
5. Deep Purple - Burn
6. Ringo Starr - Ringo
7. Wishbone Ash - Live Dates
8. Stones - Goats Head Soup
9. Montrose - Montrose
10. Dylan - Planet Waves
11. Lou Reed - Rock n' Roll Animal
12. Blue Oyster Cult - Tyranny & Mutation
13. Alice Cooper - Muscle of Love
14. ELP - Brain Salad Surgery
15. Todd Rundgren - Todd
16. Bowie - Aladdin Sane
17. Lou Reed - Berlin
18. Yes - Yessongs
19. King Crimson - Starless & Bible Black
20. Magma - Mekanik Destruktion Kommandoh
-Jim Webb

Michael Mooney wrote:

Possibly the only sales chart EVER to feature Tyranny & Mutation. Sounds seems around this period to have appealed more to the sophisticated listener than Melody Maker or the NME. No post-glam, Rollers or even Slade. Good list though.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Black Keys

The Secret Museum
By Jim Webb

Mike –

My sister from New Jersey visited with her husband and three kids around the July 4th weekend. While having a conversation about the music scene with my brother – in – law Brian, he suddenly asked me who I liked that was a newer band. He didn’t want to hear about any of the old groups that I’m listening to, but he pressed me if I liked anything that was current. It did knock me off stride for about three seconds, because I don’t really like much of the newer stuff I’ve heard. After a slight pause I didn’t hesitate in telling him – “I like The Black Keys a lot.” His response was immediate – “Who are they”.

The Black Keys Take Us Back to the Future -

Welcome to a very heavy two man wrecking crew of a band from Akron, Ohio. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney burst out of their basement in 2001 and haven’t let up yet. In a nutshell this is a back to the future mixture of blues rock plus. Mix in a heavy dose of souped up electrified blues riffs with a jigger of Garage rock fuzz, and stir with three minute songs of Punk intensity to wind up with a tall glass of The Black Keys. It’s easy to think they will be unoriginal in their sound, carrying that kind of old baggage with them, but what’s amazing to me is that Dan’s guitar riffs sound remarkably fresh. Blues based rock can quickly turn into clichéd licks and worn out vocal phrases, but they revitalize it with their youthful intensity. The younger Bonaroo crowd likes their straight forward guitar rock (musical cousins to The White Stripes), while the over forty crowd should enjoy Dan’s bringing back the lost art of Jimmy Page style riffing. Their first cd from 2002 titled The Big Come Up has a low fi garage feel, but never gets dull with some solid songwriting as well. This ain’t only blues rock; they’ve gone past that narrow label – how about just calling it good old basic rock n’ roll.


Their core sound hasn’t changed too much through the years, and after getting their first cd I felt compelled to start adding the rest to my pile. Thickfreakness (2003), Rubber Factory (2004) and Magic Potion (2006) are what followed, and their most recent release has producer Danger Mouse adding a sprinkling of organ, piano, and synth to spice up the mix on 2008’s Attack & Release. They are also familiar with and have strains of the Southern blues sound and spirit of Junior Kimbrough and R.L.Burnside in their music, the 2006 ep Chulahoma being a special tribute to Kimbrough. The Black Keys have taken that dull old recipe for blues rock and kicked it up a notch with Auerbach’s fat guitar sound, gritty vocals and Carney’s “less is more” sounding drum style. Dan’s rig (for Rummy in El Prado – this is muso talk for the type of guitar, amp, speaker and pedal/effects that he uses to get “his sound”) gives him a thick Billy Gibbons style punch that I welcomed back onto my stereo with open arms.

The Black Keys are just the latest group to find success blending rock with blues by adding their own special blend of intensity and influences to create some fresh mayhem. Dan Auerbach has said that Led Zep was an influence on him, as well as Devo, Captain Beefheart and Howlin’ Wolf among others. In 2008 blues rock icon and Cream bassist Jack Bruce accused Led Zeppelin of stealing his sound back in ‘69(I know it seems unbelievable that it took Jack 40 years to come up with that, but it’s true). I guess 40 years from now( Jack will be 106 yrs. old) we should expect to hear Bruce bellowing from his local pub stool that Dan & Patrick are really his bastard sons and owed all of their success to him. It won’t surprise me if Jack is still trying to take credit for every riff that came after him, and I also won’t be shocked if The Black Keys are still pounding away in the year 2049. Even if Bruce and The Black Keys are long gone by then, rest assured somebody will still be mixing blues and rock together. Why wait for what that future blues rock moonshine might taste like, we got a bottle of our own 2009 vintage right here to drink. Hey Brian – try some of The Black Keys, it’s got a nice kick to it.
-Jim Webb

Friday, July 17, 2009

Gimme Five

Jim Webb & Michael Mooney

Jim Webb writes:


After spewing forth some verbiage recently on mega selling bands Bachman – Turner Overdrive and Grand Funk Railroad, it seems like the right time to unleash our personal Top Five most underrated bands/artists. The only qualifier I would like to add to my list is that for me they not only had to be making great music that is overlooked by the masses; but also consistently played by me. I have bought and enjoyed a lot of cult favorites through the years (Big Star, Magnetic Fields, Tortoise for just three), but that doesn’t mean they were regularly played after initially checking them out. How much you actually listen to a given cd has to be the ultimate measure in anyone’s personal rankings of favorites – whether the group / musician is known or unknown. To summarize the immortal words of our ex-Secretary of Defense and neighbor Donald Rumsfeld – “There are known unknowns, and unknown unknowns.” I will apply Rumsfeldian theory in a musical context, rating each musician / group after a brief description of their work.

1.) Bill Nelson

Bill is a very talented guitarist who was the leader of U.K. 70’s rock band Be Bop Deluxe, and has been releasing his own solo recordings since the early eighties. Prolific would be an understatement since he has forty -eight full length cd releases since 1991. He works in a variety of styles from three minute slices of electro- pop with vocals, to half hour instrumental tracks that weave electric guitar with washes of synth and percussion that always have a strong melodic content. A one man band that works out of his home studio, his music never has an overly slick feel to it, and he always gets a great sound on his recordings. His piece de resistance for me is his 6 cd box set released in 2002 titled Noise Candy. When is the last time someone released six hours of new material? It covers the full gamut of his sound palette from guitar dominated rock tunes, to futuristic cosmic cowboy music and everything in between. With that many releases over the last fifteen plus years, one of his knocks is that parts of his recent work start to sound too similar. Anything he’s done since ’91 is very consistent, and the current period from 2002 to the present will be remembered as The Golden Age of Nelson. Bill’s still going strong though at age 61, and even with his extensive back catalogue I’m still greedy for more.

Rumsfeld Rating – Known Unknown.

Bill has been around the block, and some people might remember him from his Be Bop Deluxe days, but he hasn’t been played on American radio or done a proper tour of the U.S. since the 70’s.

2.) The Bevis Frond

Nick Saloman is The Bevis Frond. He’s another guitar maverick from England who has been making music since the late seventies. Nick is a totally different kettle of fish than Mr. Nelson. Saloman is a throwback to the late sixties when psychedelic guitar ruled. I’m not talking about the clean guitar leads of Jerry Garcia, but a blazing fuzz thrash that at times explodes out of your speakers a la the MC 5. Miasma was the first release in 1986 and was soon followed by Inner Marshland and then Triptych. If Jimi Hendrix style guitar is your cup of tea then hop aboard, and I’m not talking about the Stevie Ray Vaughn variety of safe blues rock, but the anything goes guitar freak outs that made America the home of the free in the sixties. Nick is a solid songwriter and guitarist whose recorded work is only hampered by his limited vocal range. Some people might say his early four track home recordings are too lo-fi in quality, and that he seems to be trapped in his bedroom with a lava lamp playing endless guitar solos. I’d counter that he’s simply stuck to his guns, and hope he finds a way to keep making great music. Any of the first three cd’s are worth hearing, and Through the Looking Glass, New River Head, North Circular, and Son of Walter are also prime examples of Nick Saloman’s musical creativity.

Rumsfeld Rating – Unknown Unknown

A few rare club tours in the early 90’s but The Bevis Frond are a classic below the radar group.

3.) Muslimgauze

Bryn Jones was a 22 year old white male from Manchester, England when he began his musical odyssey in 1983. He was heavily influenced by the Israeli / Palestinian conflict, and was outraged at what he considered to be Israeli racism and human rights violations against the Palestinian people; he vowed to champion their struggle. He taught himself to play various hand drums, and then became highly skilled in the intricate rhythms and patterns of Arabic percussion. All of his subsequent cd and song titles referred back to the Middle East conflict, and referenced events, Arab towns and Islamic imagery that are all bound up in this continuing struggle. The music besides frequently having a Middle – Eastern flavor is heavy on a pounding percussion bed that lets various tape loops and recorded Arab voices drift in and out of focus. Repetition plays a large role in the sound world of Muslimgauze. Repeating percussion tracks add to the hypnotic quality of his work, but the flipside to this is that some tracks just go on far too long without enough variation. Another musician with a large body of work, Muslimgauze has over one hundred different releases. At one point I had every one. Obsessive, check. Compulsive, check. I’ve since whittled it down to my key 30 or so titles (does that make me more normal?)Some are more stripped down bass n’ drum oriented (Lo Fi India Abuse), others more unrelenting in their rhythmic attack (Arab Quarter). My favorite are the cd’s that combined his intricate percussion with voices floating in and out of the mix like a dry wind blowing over the Sinai ( Al Zulfiquar Shahed, Return of Black September). If you only wanted to try one, I would go with the three cd effort titled Fatah Guerrilla. You get a little of all his different styles on this one, if you don’t like Muslimgauze after hearing this – don’t even try any of the others. Bryn died of a rare blood disease in 1999 and in my opinion the vault releases that have come out since then are for true fanatics only. They are sparser of the rich ideas that were abundant on some of his work that was released while he was alive.

Rumsfeld Rating – Unknown Unknown

Muslimgauze only ever played a handful of live dates, very little media coverage

4.) Jackie Leven

He released his first LP Control in 1971 while living in Madrid (Spain) under the stage name of John St. Field. It has since become a sought after folk, psychedelic classic for its haunting tales with unusual vocal arrangements. He was also the main writer, vocalist in the band Doll by Doll that was active in the U.K. rock scene from 1978 to 1982. After a brief attempt a solo career he retreated into a haze of drug and personal issues that took a number of years for him to sort out. He returned to the music scene with his 1994 release entitled The Mystery of Love, is Greater Than the Mystery of Death and has been averaging about one new cd per year since then. What puts Jackie on this list? A great voice and a unique vision that compels him to write about what most other singers have ignored. His songs will at times confront issues of loneliness and despair, or choices made in life with a frankness that will be too raw for some. There is a beauty to his words that makes me want to mention his influences like poet’s Rilke or Akhmatova over other modern day solo artists who simply churn out their personal dairies in boring detail. Leven’s way of doing things is definitely outside the box since he has Robert Bly and other guests regularly recite poetry on his cd’s in the space between the recorded songs, and he has also never toured the United States. If you’ve had your fill for a while of American songsmiths like Lyle Lovett or John Prine (whom I both like), or can’t seem to get into Dylan and the old warhorses anymore, give Jackie a try. He isn’t always soothing if you only want some happy music after a long day at work, but for discriminating tastes Jackie might just become your new favorite bottle of singer/songwriter wine. Personally I wish he would rock out more, we’ve seen that side of him in Doll by Doll, but that part of his music seems to be in the past. In thirty years of listening to him I’ve rarely gotten tired of hearing about his many traveled roads and the experiences on them.

Rumsfeld Rating - Known Unknown

Jackie has a small but devoted following in Germany, Norway and the U.K. When is that loveable fat bastard going to do a U.S. tour?

5.) The Flower Kings

Good god, how did a progressive rock band from Sweden sneak into the top five? Two words – Roine Stolt. He is the lead guitarist, sometime vocalist and chief songwriter for this group that began in 1994. All of the classic 70’s elements of Yes, Genesis and King Crimson are present in their sound, but that never bothered me like it has some of their critics. If Stolt and Co. can unleash an epic that is as good as Yes’s Close to the Edge (Stardust We Are), what do I care who their influence was on a given track? They do have a 59 minute song titled Flower Power, so some warnings need to be issued. If you have absolutely played out your Genesis and Yes cd’s, this is your band. I think their best period is from 1999 to 2002 which includes Space Revolver and the two cd release Flower Power. Their more recent work (Paradox Hotel) just hasn’t had the great songs that made their earlier releases so strong. This is not overplayed music by Prog-fusion tech heads that lacks passion or feeling. Roine Stolt writes in a variety of styles, but usually has great melodies attached to his down to earth lyrics. Too bad only their European audiences (and a few rare U.S. club tours) have been able to see what they’re up to.

Rumsfeld Rating – Known Unknown

The Flower Kings have played Europe semi - regularly and the occasional Prog Festival in the U.S.

The next time I’m in Taos I’ll see if Don Rumsfeld wants to get together for a scotch, and listen to some of these cd’s. What he thinks about them at this point is an unknown unknown.-Jim Webb

Michael Mooney


Here are five regular rotation selections from me (chronological):

1. Mellow Candle (Swaddling Songs- 1972) - Rumored to be the worst-selling LP in the history of Deram Records, Swaddling Songs is one of the Great Lost Albums of Rock. Sort of Prog, sort of English Folk, and sort of neither, it’s a one-of-a-kind recording that, for me, conjures up that in-between time of the early 70s (before the rot set in) when anything was possible. I probably play this CD more than any other. Reissues abound.

Also recommended: The Virgin Prophet (demos)

2. Kleenex (aka LiLiPUT) - The best Punk group not from the English-speaking world, Kleenex personifies everything that was right about the late 70s DIY musical revolution: fun, spirited, and slightly ridiculous. They should have been huge.

Kleenex’s Complete Recordings are readily available as a double disc set from Kill Rock Stars, and it’s great.

3. Microdisney
– Ironic before irony became just another stupid pop culture device; creators of yuppie-baiting yuppie music. Cathal Coughlan and Sean O’Hagan joined tuneful Pop with trenchant lyricism and created the anti-80s. Self-loathing but proud, spiteful yet compassionate, Microdisney foretold a future that, unfortunately, appears to be coming true: “No faith, no love. Nothing.” Whistle while you work.

The best: Everybody Is Fantastic (1984), We Hate You South African Bastards retitled Love Your Enemies for CD release (1984); The Clock Comes Down The Stairs (1985); Peel Sessions (1989)

The other two: Crooked Mile (1987), 39 Minutes (1988)

4. Ian Masters
(Pale Saints, Spoonfed Hybrid, E.S.P. Summer, I’m Sore, Friendly Science Orchestra, Wing Disk, Ashioto, Sore & Steal, etc.) For 20 years now Ian Masters has been creating some of Pop’s most adventurous music. Best of all is 1992’s In Ribbons, Pale Saints finest moment and one of the greatest recordings of the last 50 years.

Also recommended: The Comforts Of Madness (1990), Mrs. Dolphin (1990 EP compilation)- Pale Saints; Spoonfed Hybrid (1993), Hibernation Shock (1996)- Spoonfed Hybrid; E.S.P. Summer (1995); new Sore & Steal out soon.

5. Fovea Hex (Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent- 2006/2007) - Mellow Candle composer/vocalist Clodagh Simonds returns with a stunning 3-EP series (Bloom, Huge, Allure), and help from notables like Fripp, the Eno brothers, Carter Burwell, and Andrew McKenzie. The theme here seems to be Loss, and that notion is reinforced by the ambient solemnity of the recording. It’s hypnotic and quiet, yet also deceptively musical. Above all, though, is that delicately beautiful lived-in voice. I could listen to Clodagh Simonds sing all day long, and normally begin every Sunday by playing this set in sequence. Available individually or complete from Janet Records, Dublin.
-Michael Mooney

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Clash- Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg


Jim Webb wrote:

Mike -

Thanks for sending me the unreleased Clash cd - Rat Patrol From Ft. Bragg, I few thoughts on what happened to The Only Band That Matters

The Clash- The Unreleased Combat Rock Sessions

I could have just as easily subtitled this the Final Mission, because after guitarist Mick Jones was sacked the band was never the same. Plenty of ink has already been used on describing The Clash’s rock n' roll fury that burst onto the U.K. punk scene in 1976. Two guitars, bass and drums - that's the basic template that caused so much havoc, with songs that were shouted from two mouths that told of the pain and anger of living in a society that didn’t care what happened to them. Joe Strummer and Mick Jones were a classic British Rock tandem in the tradition of Lennon - McCartney, and Jagger - Richards. Joe had the swagger, Jonesy had the riffs, and with Paul Simonon on bass and eventually Topper Headon on drums their classic lineup was complete.

Combat Rock was an official release in 1982 and had two of The Clash's most radio friendly songs in Should I Stay or Should I go, and Rock the Casbah. The rest of the LP mostly showed a continuation of the neo-funk sound that was first born on their 3 LP Sandinista effort in 1980. Rat Patrol From Ft. Bragg was from the original Combat Rock sessions, but with material that was never released, and different mixes on songs that did make it to Combat Rock. I think this hybrid sound shows the band continuing to experiment in a variety of styles. The Beautiful People Are Ugly is a really catchy tune with nice keyboard work, I can't figure out why it never made the final cut. Ft. Bragg also has a couple of instrumental only takes on Overpowered by Funk and Rock the Casbah. Either you are a fan of listening to works in progress without vocals (I am), or these tracks might bore you a bit. Car Jamming, Cool Confusion and & Atom Tan all have an unusual groove that has grown on me through the years. Ghetto Defendant isn't bad with a guest appearance by poet Allen Ginsberg, it just reminds me too much of an earlier Clash tune called Bankrobber that I prefer over this. The only total disaster in my opinion is Red Angel Dragnet with Paul Simonon on a half spoken / half chanted dopey vocal that never seems to find its way. Straight to Hell is simply a great song, and one of lead vocalist Joe Strummers strongest efforts in a life that ended prematurely with his death in 2002. This tune has a haunting melody that is set against a tale that emotionally describes various injustices that have occurred around the world. I was under whelmed when Combat Rock originally came out, chiefly because I was let down with the variety of musical hats that they continued to try on. It seems a little fresher now never having played it to death like London Calling or their first LP from 1977.

The bigger problem for me is why The Clash kept drifting away from their strength as one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Their 1977 debut was an incendiary mix of thrashing guitars and burning vocals. Give Them Enough Rope in 1978 and The Cost of Living E.P. both continued with a big guitar sound. London Calling (1979) is an unqualified success, but their further branching out beyond two guitar rock was evident in Rudie Can't Fall and Revolution Rock among other tracks from that release. The brief diversions into new territory that were enjoyed on London Calling, started to be called into question by the faithful on Sandinista. Here was a sprawling 3 LP meal that had large helpings of funk, rap, soul, dub reggae and beyond that really should have been condensed into just a single record, and that’s not even addressing the bigger issue of its overall thin quality. Combat Rock picked up where Sandinista left off with a loose funk hybrid that was sometimes interesting, but ultimately frustrating again in its small doses of what they did best - rock n' roll.

The Clash got increasingly addicted to a musical cocktail of urban funk and experimentation. That ongoing hangover wound up leading them onto a road where they became trapped in a large traffic jam with hundreds of other groups. We didn’t need them for funky tales from the inner city, George Clinton and others were already on that corner. What we did need them for was blazing away on stage with a redhot intensity, playing as if their life was at stake. The Clash at full throttle was like no other, and showed the audience what it meant to be truly alive, and that was a rare and beautiful thing to be part of. After Mick Jones got fired he took the recipe for their urban funk cocktail, put a new olive in it and called it Big Audio Dynamite. Joe grabbed a couple of young kids and tried to call it The Clash, but we all knew it was in name only. For the next ten plus years Strummer entered his wilderness period before resurfacing with another multi – cultural sounding group - the Mescaleros.

Here’s a novel thought, why doesn’t someone just make straightforward rock n’ roll. In the last twenty- five years (if Mick’s new group Carbon/ Silicon is his answer, pray that Jah sends him more songs) only the U.K. band Wire has for me sporadically reached that same blast furnace intensity that was The Clash’s calling card. Everybody’s so obsessed with experimenting out on the fringe of electronica, funk, rap, and world music that we forgot about the template that has never failed when done right: two guitars, bass and drums. What we are still desperate for in 2008 is a real rock band. We need a group that could invent their own I Fought the Law, a group that plays every night like it might be their last. I read Mojo, and have listened to Franz Ferdinand, The Kaiser Chiefs and all the other latest Next Big Things that they trumpet about each month. What eventually happens is that they all wind up swiggin’ Dom Perignon in St. Bart’s with a supermodel on their arm, that’s the only thing you can learn from The Mick Jagger School of Rock. You can have U-2 with all their managers and accountants, I’m looking for something real, something that doesn’t have a marketing plan in place before they even plug in for the recording session.

I understand that The Clash needed to grow musically, and it's not up to me to decide where their Muse should’ve taken them. I don’t go to bed at night wishing that when I wake up it will again be the first day that London Calling was originally released. Some might say I’m a greedy, thankless bastard for wanting more than what Joe, Mick and The Boys gave us. To this day I still can't understand how The Only Band That Matters got so lost searching for new sounds that they could forget where their musical home base was. In the great tradition of the Bermuda Triangle, Area 51, and British crop circles - who really knows exactly what happened out there between Joe and Mick in the foggy marshland known as personal and musical differences.

The only thing we do know for certain is that after putting on their Combat Rock fatigues and leaving Ft. Bragg it all collapsed. They got lost, collectively and individually, and it’s been surmised that after being stressed out from too many drugs and living in each other’s pockets on the road for years they couldn’t even think straight. The sad truth is The Clash broke apart, and like any rare, one of a kind piece of art that is irretrievably broken, it is irreplaceable and gone forever.

Combat Rock is a good listen, and if you’ve never heard it, you should take the time and check it out. Look for Rat Patrol as well, you can find it at any of your better download sites. Even when not in a pure rock n’ roll mode, The Clash were still better than most bands.

Forget about all the accepted insider wisdom that claims to know how and why it all shattered at the end. Maybe there’s a much more simple answer as to what really happened. They were just overpowered by funk. That’s all. Funkpower over and out.
-Jim Webb

Friday, June 26, 2009

Grand Funk Railroaded; Michael Jackson; Sky Saxon

THE SECRET MUSEUM: Michael Mooney & Jim Webb

Michael Mooney wrote:

If he never recorded another note of music, Michael Jackson would still be remarkable for the initial run of singles the Jackson 5 released between October 7, 1969 and August 28, 1970 (the day preceding his 12th birthday.) Four great songs, four number ones. Michael the single-white-gloved moonwalking pop phenomenon never meant a thing to me; neither did wacko Jacko, the surgically reconstructed baby-dangling friend to all children. It’s those four songs: I Want You Back, ABC, The Love You Save, and I’ll Be There that I remember when I think of Michael, and that sharp, soulful little kid and his brothers on The Ed Sullivan Show and American Bandstand. He’s been gone a long time.

Far more important to me is Psych/Garage Punk titan Sky Saxon, who, in one of those weird Rock coincidences, died the same day as MJ. The Secret Museum will prepare a full appreciation in the upcoming weeks.

One of our readers asks: But is it really Grand Funk Railroad without Mark Farner?

No. In order to make claim to the original name, even if you legally own the right, like that piggish opportunist from the Guess Who, Secret Museum rules
dictate that you must have a minimum of one irreplaceable member/extremely important person (Don Brewer does not qualify- even though he wrote and sang their biggest hit, and is definitely an important component to the band, he's not THE guy; plus, he’s a drummer) and (with rare exceptions) one original deputy/up-there-but-not-essential member (Brewer does qualify for this, as does bassist Mel Schacher.) If Brewer left and Farner returned, we'd have us a Grand Funk Railroad. If Brewer and Schacher remain, AND Craig Frost returns, AND Mark Farner's son joins on guitar and vocal, it's still not Grand Funk Railroad (see Blue Oyster Cult for evidence of how this is supposed to work.)

To expound further, let’s look at the Stones. In my opinion, there are four sets of Rolling Stones:

Stones with Brian
Stones with Mick Taylor
Stones with Ronnie Wood (up until Bill Wyman left)
Post-Wyman Stones

I prefer the first version, approve of the second, and tolerate the third. And while I agree with Bob Dylan that the Stones without Bill are a funk band, I’ll concede that they’re still the Rolling Stones. Take away Charlie, Keith or Jagger, however, and you’ve got a different band entirely.

Same goes for Led Zeppelin. I would trade Robert Plant for Terry Reid any day, but without Bonzo, there’s no Zep. No Page, no Zep. No Jones, no Zep. Instead you’d have the New Yardbirds.

The Beatles equals John and Paul. Pete Best is proof that you don’t need Ringo. So’s Paul. George was a fab SOLO artist while IN the group, but not essential TO the group.

Fairport Convention could survive Sandy Denny’s departure, but after Richard Thompson left, so went Fairport Convention. Were he to return now, it’s still only barely Fairport. They would really need Ashley Hutchings to seal the deal. And Simon Nicol has to be there.

Reader: But what about Herman’s Hermits?

Good question. Don’t be fooled by Peter Noone. As we all know, Leck Leckenby is no longer with us. Therefore, Keith Hopwood is required to be on the stage in order for Noone to call it Herman’s Hermits.

The Kinks are Ray and Dave AND Mick.

There are three Secret Museum-recognized Fleetwood Macs:
1. Peter Green version
2. Post-Green, pre-Buckingham/Nicks variants
3. Buckingham/Nicks version.
Everything else is fraudulent.

Jefferson Airplane would require Grace, Marty, Paul, Jorma and Jack. It doesn’t matter who plays drums.

Wire: three out of four original members doesn’t work. I wish it did.

(As Jim reminds me) The Fall: one original member. Mark E. Smith said, “If it’s me and your gran on bongos, it’s a Fall gig.” Absolutely.

Sex Pistols: four out of four equals zero.

The Who hasn’t existed since 1978.

No Yes without Anderson, Squire and Howe.

Here are some acts soon to appear locally, grouped by authenticity-


Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
Cowboy Junkies
Mighty Diamonds (all original members since 1969!)
Earth Wind & Fire
Motley Crue
Judas Priest
Heaven and Hell (this is how it should be done)
Los Lobos
Cheap Trick
Def Leppard


Asleep At The Wheel
Chicago (RIP Terry Kath)
The Spinners


Grand Funk Railroad
English Beat
Sha Na Na
Lynyrd Skynyrd
James Taylor

PS- Is that William Topley I see returning to Taos? Haven’t we suffered enough? Hello, Upper Colonias!

-Michael Mooney

Jim Webb wrote:

Mike –

On July 9, 1971 Grand Funk Railroad played to a crowd of over 55,000 at Shea Stadium in New York, selling out all tickets faster than The Beatles did in 1965. Everyone remembers Beatle mania, but not many will recall that Grand Funk Railroad dominated the LP charts in 1970. They were known as the first popular “people’s hard rock band”, setting the table for later 70’s groups like AC/DC, and fellow Michigan native Ted Nugent’s solo success. 2009 marks the fortieth anniversary of Grand Funk Railroad and they are appearing at Taos Mountain on July 10 as part of a biker festival. Sadly original lead vocalist/guitarist Mark Farner is not in the band, that’s like going to see The Rolling Stones without old big lips Jagger at the mike stand, or having a Tull concert without Ian Anderson - it just ain’t right. The current group of Grand Funksters deserves to make a living; I’d just like to know how Farner lost control of the band’s name (and reputation). Let’s blame their first manager Terry Knight who could’ve cheated the musicians out of their own name for God’s sake. Speaking of God, Farner found Jesus a while back and released some Christian recordings in the nineties. That shouldn’t have surprised any body; way back in 1970 Mark wrote a song called Sin’s a Good Man’s Brother. How he went from being a teenager in Flint, Michigan to shakin’ his ass and singing the devil’s music in front of 180,000 people at the Atlanta Pop Festival in 1969 – and winding up singing for Christ is one of those great journeys that make us all proud to be born in America where anything can happen.

Mike, could you please fill in for the people who do want to go- who the hell are currently in this band? Keeping track of all the roadies and ex- Kiss members who are now plugging in onstage gives me a head ache. I can’t go and be a part of this madness, I’ll stay behind and hope Farner turns up with his own band one day at Camel Rock Casino, and then we can listen to some righteous foot-stompin’ music from Grand Funk Railroad’s real main man.
-Jim Webb

Michael Mooney wrote:

This is what dares to call itself Grand Funk Railroad:
Farner fill-ins:
Bogus Kiss member Bruce Kulick on guitar, and
journeyman vocalist Max Carl (who’s actually pretty good, so what’s he doing here?)
In the “Craig Frost” position: Tim Cashion
Why can’t they take a hint from Heaven and Hell??
-Michael Mooney
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