Tuesday, May 31, 2011


It's hard to beat the Beatles in concert. The sound systems were primitive, the girls were screaming, the lads could barely hear themselves play, but the thrill of their live show couldn't be matched. This was definitely not a Vic Damone concert. Sound systems would improve over the years and the lads would soon retreat to the studios to create artistic masterpieces, but this catches them at a transitional period in 1966, Revolver-era Beatles, a time of rocking riffs and soaring harmonies.

This show was recorded July 1st, 1966, in Tokyo, on their last tour before they dove into the studio for good. Nobody had heard such a joyous sound.

Here's the setlist:
Rock & Roll Music 1:13
She's a Woman 2:45
If I Needed Someone 5:59
Day Tripper 8:55
Baby's in Black 11:58
I Feel Fine 14:33
Yesterday 17:05
I Wanna Be Your Man 19:30
Nowhere Man 21:59
Paperback Writer 24:23
I'm Down 27:04
End of concert 29:10
Credits 29:45

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Hitchhiking is neither an art nor a science, but something that requires stamina and maybe a good luck charm. I wouldn't recommend it to any but the stouthearted. To hitch, you need to throw comfort out the window, overcome your fear of strangers, and get used to standing in the rain and singing every song you ever heard. I've hitched all up and down the west coast, down California into Mexico, across Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Arizona. I've even hitched in upstate New York. Still, I'm far from an expert, and when I've thumbed I've relied on luck as much as anything. I don't hitch anymore, and not because it's more dangerous nowadays, but because I've gone soft. I'm spoiled by comfort and would rather get somewhere quickly and sleep in a bed, then get somewhere slowly, if at all, and sleep on the roadside or under a bridge en route. Ha ha. But the ghost of Jack Kerouac, er, Sal Paradise, is still out there hitching with Dean Moriarty and they're are still plenty of kicks to go around. Plenty of folks without the dough still have adventures on the road. Suit yourself. Gas is expensive. We may all be hitching soon!

Friday, May 27, 2011


Dark Girls: Preview from Bradinn French on Vimeo.

It's a shame that society defines beauty so narrowly, and that children absorb what society considers to be beautiful. A certain look--skin, hair, body-type--is foisted upon us in commercials, billboards, magazines, advertisements, television shows, films, and videos--and it's not easy to shake it off and be proud of yourself when you "know" what beauty is supposed to look like.

The film clip is from an upcoming documentary exploring the deep-seated biases and attitudes about skin color---particularly dark skinned women, outside of and within the Black American culture. This film was directed by Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Bob Dylan turns seventy tomorrow. Love him or hate him, this old geezer changed your world by expanding the possibilities of songwriting and infusing pop music with poetry. He influenced everyone from the Beatles all the way down to those annoying buskers on the street. Forever changing and eluding your little net, this chameleon didn't sit on any rock long enough to stay one color. He doesn't seem to care if you get it, and he doesn't try to placate you. He undermines your expectations at every turn, and scrambles up the Great American Songbook while stealing snippets of Civil War tunes, Tin Pan Alley, surrealism and Blakean visionary poetry. His songs are not just Top Forty radio fodder--he could write that stuff in his sleep--but more like short stories. Maybe you hate his voice--yes, he can bray like an Old Testament prophet or some heartsick riverboat captain with a bad cold, but if you want sweetness and sentimentality he can do that, too, but he won't just give you a scoop of vanilla ice cream even if it is his birthday.

The long strange trip of Bob Dylan unfurls in this video, "A Series of Dreams," an outtake from the "Oh, Mercy" sessions recorded in 1989. The song is a brooding journey through the darkness, and the film clips from Dylan's career are priceless.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Y'all still here? Thought so. Yesterday the world was supposed to be the end of the world. To be more precise, according to a rather large group of deluded Christian fundamentalists, the Rapture was due yesterday at about 6pm Pacific Standard Time, and all good God-fearing Christians were supposed to be lifted from their tasks--whether digging a ditch or driving a car or swindling an old lady with a sub-prime loan--and raised into the glorious heavens. Well, it didn't happen.

Of course it didn't happen. Predictions of the end of the world are nothing new. They happen frequently, in fact, since it's such a good way to solidify the ranks of the faithful--and to get them to make generous contributions. Con men, hustlers and snake-oil salesmen have long realized that imminent doom is a good motivator, and those "men of the cloth" are happy to make you feel like one of the chosen few, as long as you have a Mastercard or Visa.

Getting ready for whitebread heaven in this artist's depiction of "The Rapture."

Of course, this all seems a bit foolish to me--but then I was never in the target demographic. To be honest, I think religion itself is a con game--and it squeezes people for money, directs them politically, appeases them from anger at their conditions, and deludes them about their own freedom by installing an ...internal rulebook--God? Policeman?--of social control. With all due respect to those who are genuinely searching for spiritual answers and trying to lead a selfless, non-materialistic, transcendent life of love and service--the genuine seekers whom I respect--the lion's share of religion, and certainly organized religion, is a king hell con game and instrument of social control.

As for end of the world predictions, they happen all the time. Loren Madsen was kind enough to collect some of these predictions at this webpage. Check it out and we'll see you at the next end of the world party.

Elvis Costello sings the timely tune, "Waiting on the End of the World."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Maybe something is wrong with the music industry when someone as talented as Raphael Saadiq is virtually unknown. Formerly Charles Ray Wiggins, born in Oakland in 1966, Saadiq is a musician, singer and songwriter who plays "old school" R&B like nobody's business. They say he won a contest and played with Prince many years ago, and then got fired up to form Tony! Toni! Toné! back in the 80s.

As a solo artist, his 2002 album "Instant Vintage" received five Grammy nominations. "Ray Ray" followed, and was Saadiq's tribute to the great "blaxploitation" soundtracks of the seventies. His 2008 album, the critically acclaimed :The Way I See It," featuring artists Stevie Wonder, Joss Stone and Jay-Z, and received three Grammy Award Nominations. It was voted Best Album on iTunes of 2008. All that, and maybe you haven't heard of him. He just came out with a new album "Stone Rollin'" just came out. Get it.

Why am I all fired up about Saadiq? I hate to say I knew next to nothing about him before the last weekend. Now I'm not one of these geezers who only listens to records that were released when he was in high school--I try to keep up with the good stuff in all genres--but somehow, to my chagrin, I missed out. Radio sucks, and they play the same handful of pop artists over and over, the Brittneys and the Ga Ga's--and the "classic rock" stations play the same mega-hits over and over ("Stairway to Heaven," anyone?), the urban hip hop stations repeat the beats--even the so-called "alternative" stations are scarcely any better, playing the same skinny bearded bands with names like Deer Antler and Bear Claw that can't play their instruments or hit a note with their wheedling, emo voices. Nope, radio doesn't help. It didn't help me find this, but I'm glad I did. Listen to this and enjoy.


After a five year study that cost nearly two million dollars, the Catholic Church has concluded that neither the all-male celibate priesthood nor homosexuality were to blame for pedophile child abuse in its ranks, but caused by "priests who were poorly prepared and monitored, and were under stress, [who] landed amid the social and sexual turmoil of the 1960s and ’70s."

The "blame Woodstock" defense, so popular among conservatives who blame all our social ills on the Sixties, again rears its ugly head--this time wearing a bishop's mitre.

The New York Time reported on the study ("Church Report Cites Social Tumult in Priest Scandals," May 17th, 2011).

"The 'blame Woodstock' explanation has been floated by bishops since the church was engulfed by scandal in the United States in 2002 and by Pope Benedict XVI after it erupted in Europe in 2010,"according to the Times. "Since the scandal broke, conservatives in the church have blamed gay priests for perpetrating the abuse, while liberals have argued that the all-male, celibate culture of the priesthood was the cause. This report will satisfy neither flank."

When in doubt, blame someone else. In this case, blame the kids who questioned the moral authority and piggishness of archaic institutions--such as the Church--and wore different hairstyles and listened to music. Evidently that was enough to drive these poorly supervised priests to sexually assault children. And I guess all the priests who assaulted children before this time (and there were many) were driven by jazz.

All in all, it's another case of Church bullshit. You might as well blame the bossa nova.

In the excellent documentary,"Deliver Us From Evil" (shown above, in it's entirety), filmmaker Amy Berg tells the story of a serial child molester priest, Oliver O’Grady. "O'Grady (pictured here) was a Catholic priest who served in a number of parishes in Southern California during the 1970s and ’80s. O’Grady was also a habitual child molester who abused dozens of youngsters who were entrusted to his care, and while his superiors in the church were aware of O’Grady’s crimes as early as 1973, they opted to simply move him from one congregation to another rather than turn him in to authorities or strip him of his ordination."

Sadly, this case is not that uncommon. Many times the Church has simply shuffled the deck and sent the troublesome priest to a new parish to prey upon new children. They've tried to sweep it all under the rug, or worse: cast public doubt upon the victims. Now they want to blame it on the Beatles and strawberry incense, or whatever. Maybe this flimsy explanation is sufficient for those parishioners still desperate to believe, in spite of all the evidence, that the Church did the best it could, but it certainly isn't enough for those who suffered as innocent children under its predatory priests. Until the Church can honestly search its soul and confess its sins, criminals like O'Grady will continue to find protection under its black wing.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


There was always a radio playing somewhere and sometimes it was just background wallpaper noise and sometimes it was the soundtrack of your life, the song of that summer vacation, that love affair, that road trip, that special moment. From big old spooky consoles to tiny transistors, you've listened to the hit parade over the years and maybe you've sung along. Here Elvis Costello and Bruce Springsteen play a radio medley--Radio Silence, Radio Nowhere, and Radio, Radio--testifying to the wonders of the wireless with the power of tent revival preachers. Too bad Guglielmo Marconi wasn't here to see this.

A tune from the quieter side of life-- with special meaning for those who write and those who love--a sweet version of "Everyday I Write the Book," with Elvis Costello and Ron Sexsmith, joined by Jesse Winchester, Neko Case, and Sheryl Crow.

Finally, Elvis sings a classic from The Wizard of Oz with the amazing guitar player Bill Frisell. Tasty licks.

All these clips are from Elvis Costello's show "Spectacle," in which he interviews and jams with musicians in a relaxed and intimate setting. The first season is currently streaming on Instantview Netflix, so don't miss it if you like good music.

Friday, May 13, 2011


It's Friday the 13th, and we dug up "Born Under a Bad Sign" played by Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Talk about Double Trouble. These blues legends may be dead and gone but they sure left their mark on the killing floor. On a day like this, you might carry your black cat's tooth and a mojo hand, some special powders and horseshoe and a rabbit's foot, 'cause if it wasn't for bad luck you wouldn't have no luck at all.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Eric Burdon turned seventy years old today. The lead singer of The Animals was born May 11, 1941, and led these Newcastle toughs to international stardom with his aggressive bluesy growl. Others performed this age-old folk song, including Dylan on his very first album, but after this Burdon owned the song. You will probably never forget this tune--that rising chord progression on Hilton Valentine's electric guitar and Eric's howling voice that sounded like it belonged to an old bluesman three times his age--and you'll probably never forget the other tough, working class anthems they put on the radio, "It's My Life," "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood." When most Top-40 radio songs were singing about cars and girls, they were warning us that it was a hard world to get a break in--and that all the good things had been taken. They told us about the dirty old city where the sun refused to shine, and let us know that Daddy was in bed dyin' from working and slaving his life away. They warned us about a house in New Orleans that ruined people, that had ruined them. Their world was dark, but they were getting out--you could stay if you wanted--but there was a better life and they were going to get it. "Can you believe?"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Intrigued by the clash of high and low art? How about high society fops colliding with Jersey meatheads? Like, yo, whatever. You might appreciate the cast of Broadway's "The Importance of Being Earnest" delivering lines from "Jersey Shore" a la Oscar Wilde. Bad manners indeed, and hellishly funny. Now fuggeddaboudit.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Norman Mailer on whiskey and marijuana

What is it with these writers? If they're not drinking--like Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Dylan Thomas, Cheever, Denis Johnson, Poe, Lowell, Lowry, Sexton, Mailer--they're smoking dope--like Baudelaire, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Kesey and Mailer again--not to mention taking antidepressants like David Foster Wallace, snorting coke like Jay McInerney and Sigmund Freud (who rationalized that "repeated doses of coca produce no compulsive desire to use the stimulant further; on the contrary one feels a certain unmotivated aversion to the substance"), dropping acid like Kesey, Aldous Huxley, Anais Nin and Robert Stone, shooting heroin like William Burroughs, and drinking lots of high-octane coffee like everyone else. (And let's not forget Hunter S. Thompson, whose pharmacology alone could fill a book)

It's a wonder they ever got anything written. But they did. In 1822, nearly two centuries before the Oprah showcased a generation of confessors, and long before we were inundated with tell-all rehab memoirs, Thomas de Quincey spilled the beans in "Confessions of an Opium Eater." He admitted he'd written of Xanadu and Kubla Khan under the influence of opiates. Kerouac wrote "On The Road" in a furious Benzedrine binge in less than three weeks. Ken Kesey was high on psychedelic drugs and working in a mental hospital when he wrote "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." With or without drugs, these were extremely talented writers to begin with and only a fool would believe the drugs were doing the necessary heavy lifting, but perhaps these altered states allowed them to see things from a different angle. Alcohol is a constant companion of writers, and there is an almost mythical connection between the two, but rather than a search for a transcendent epiphany most drinking writers seem to be self-medicating, using the booze to relax after a hard day's work. Of course, with some the drinking got out of hand. Cheever used to drink after work, and then he started drinking at lunch--looking forward to noon as he worked in the morning--and finally he would wake in the morning with his hands shaking, ready for a drink before breakfast. That was an extreme case, a real "Lost Weekend," but Cheever wasn't alone. Malcolm Lowry chronicled his struggle with the bottle in "Under the Volcano," a booze and blood-soaked nightmare in hell during the Day of the Dead in Mexico.

If this sort of thing interests you, Marcus Boon wrote a fascinating book on the subject, "The Road of Excess" (Harvard; $29.95). Is the link between drugs and literature purely circumstantial? Drugs have certainly affected literature, but can they actually aid the writing process?

"Each of the book's five chapters focuses on writers (e.g., Baudelaire, Burroughs, Coleridge, Freud, Huxley, Kerouac, and Southey) and works associated with a particular class of drugs: narcotics, anesthetics, cannabis, stimulants, and psychedelics. Boon originally intended to confine himself to writers from the Romantics to the present but expanded his scope when after questioning the apparent lack of drug literature prior to Thomas De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium Eater [sic] (1822). This is an ambitious effort, but as Boon himself notes in his chapter on cannabis, readers 'will notice a tendency in my writing toward digression.'" -The Library Journal

Ken Kesey on LSD

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Since it's Mother's Day, here's "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother." In case you've forgotten, back in the late sixties and early seventies there was a war going on--no, not Nam--a war between the freaks and the rednecks. In any rural area, showing up with longhair could get you into a mess of trouble. Let me give a shout-out to Shane Riley and Michael K. for backing me up one summer night in a tavern full of pool-playing rednecks in North Plains. Nowadays that tavern is a fancy fern bar for foodies and there is no trace of our battle, no brass plaque commemorating that hot night in 1974, just an upscale hamburger kitchen for yuppies. The parking lot is no longer full of rusty olf pickups, now it's a fleet of shiny SUVs with baby-seats in the back. The rednecks are gone, dead of emphysema and alcoholism, and the hippies vanished into thin air like the Sioux Nation. But back then it was different. That night we left with our teeth, and even showed some courage (dumb courage, the common variety) when a score of rednecks in T-shirts surrounded us with pool cues and started thumping our chests. We took off, but on our own time--which is where the dumb courage came in. We should have left immediately and not argued with the stupid bastards, but hey, you live and learn.

Back then, there was probably no worse a place to be a longhaired hippie freak than in the Lone Star State. Texas was cowboy country through and through, but even there--in the heart of the heartland-- the counterculture grew in the shade of the saguaros, fuled by loco weed and the outlaw country music of Willie Nelson, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jerry Jeff Walker, Kris Kristofferson, Gary P. Nunn and Waylon Jennings. While bucking broncs and longhorn steer were shit-kicker mascots, the freaks were represented by that tough little tank crossing theTexas highway, the armadillo. There was even an Armadillo World Headquarters--and plenty of Texadelic posters by Jim Franklin. This was before the big truce, before everyone liked Willie, and the mood was still tense. This is when you still picked up longhaired hitch-hikers and still flashed the peace sign at any like-minded soul you spied on the macadam. This song says it all.

And it's up against the wall Redneck Mother,
Mother, who has raised her son so well.
He's thirty-four and drinking in a honky tonk.
Just kicking hippies asses and raising hell.

M is for the mudflaps you give me for my pickup truck
O is for the Oil I put on my hair
T is for T-bird
H is for Haggard
E is for eggs, and
R is for REDNECK!

The clip (above) was recorded in the thick of it, back in 1974 at Willie Nelson's 2nd Annual 4th Of July Picnic in College Station, Texas. Up on stage is Ray Wiley Hubbard, Jerry Jeff Walker, and the Lost Gonzo Band. That was a time!

Years later, Ray Wylie Hubbard tells the story of his inspiration behind "Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother". This clip filmed at Jerry Jeff walker's Birthday Bash at the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas. "I made this story a lot better since the last time you heard it," says Ray to Jerry Jeff.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Comida Tipica

It's Cinco de Mayo, which means next to nothing to most Mexicans even though it's a drinking holiday in plenty of gringo-style Maragarita mills. It doesn't matter to you, either, since you shot a man in Juarez and rode all night and now it's morning as you tie up your horse and come out of the sun. Inside it's dark and cool. The tables are giant spools and there are limes and knives on each one. The ceiling fan has a narcotic effect. You have tequila and a shot of sangrita. On the table is a bowl of peppers and onions and carrots. You eat Calabacitas Guisadas and wash them down with cold cerveza. Memories swirl around you like smoke. Seems like you've been down this way before. No matter. They'll be along in a while. You might have to overturn these tables and disconnect these cables, but for now you'll have another drink.

"Senor," performed by Willie Nelson & Calexico


It doesn't take a genius to see we've come a long way from this scenario. Most of us, anyway. (All he wants is a decent cup of coffee! Even the girls at the office make better coffee!) This housewife's nightmare of trying to please hubby, as depicted in countless TV advertisements, has gradually died out, thank God. Somewhere along the way we figured out men could make coffee, for one thing. And we discovered coffee comes from actual coffee beans, not just dusty old cans of Folgers.

Of course, there was always good coffee--but it was mostly in Europe back then. By the same token, there were always strong and intelligent women though many got hammered into very narrow, gender-defined roles, and mainstream television certainly didn't encourage non-conformity. That hasn't changed. We've got more channels these days, and the coffee is decidedly better, but the cultural net cast by TV broadcasting--especially commercials--is still extremely narrow. As long as television is advertising-based, and as long as advertising makes most of its money needling the insecurities of those dying to fit in, television will reward conformity. It makes sense. Why would advertisers encourage you to think for yourself? Inner-directed rebels might just walk away from the game and not buy their product.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


It's nuclear winter with an ice cold martini and Astrud Gilberto singing about a beach in Brazil. It's the Cold War, baby. Everybody is a secret agent. Check out the band. That's Stan Getz (did you have that Getz/Gilberto album?) and check out the drummer. Nice apres-ski wear. The Russians are coming, act cool.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


President Obama skewered that orange-wigged bantam rooster Donald Trump before the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, DC, and it's about time. With all due respect, that arrogant little prick deserved to be knocked down a peg, especially after jumping on the "birther" bandwagon to insist that Obama produce his birth certificate ("Your papers, please!") implying that Obama is a foreigner and "not one of us." Obama produced the long form birth certificate--and Trump immediately poo-pooed it, and at the same time gave himself credit for uncovering the truth. What an ass. This shabby con man will do anything for attention, but frankly we're getting tired of his shtick. Donald, you're fired.

Fire, bad.