The Rolling Stones 2

After the death of Brian Jones the Stones moved in a slightly different direction as they adjusted to a new guitarist. Then when this hit the 80’s they seemed to get lost & their lps became more aimless – shall we say, uninspired attempts to remain relevant.

As either stand-alone or mp3 I have Let It Bleed (1969), Sticky Fingers (1971), Exile on Main Street (1972), French EPs, Goats Head Soup (1973), It’s Only R’n’R (1974), Black & Blue (1976) Some Girls (1978) Deluxe Edition, Emotional Rescue (1980), London Singles Collection (2002), Blue & Lonesome (2016).

Bleed & Fingers are well focused & have some of the best writing of their career. Richard’s guitar work is often amazing & I find myself going back to these lps with great pleasure. The set of French EP’s – as you might guess, were released in Europe & each had 3 songs on them – the mixes are different from the lps versions. They ended with the release of Exiles. The London Singles Collection – 3 cds that ends with Sympathy for the Devil. The singles were mixed for radio & the sonics are different & in some cases totally different from the lps versions (Honky Tony Women) – some were never on lp (We Love You/Dandelion) well worth having, whereas the French EP’s are for fanatics lol. Blue & Lonesome  (2016) is their last new release – they return to their roots with a fine set of blues. 

Rounding out the mp3 collection are The Troggs: Trogglodynamite (1967) best known for Wild Thing The Trigs never made it big in the USA but were relatively popular in Britain. Solid bar band stuff. The Rumour was Graham Parkers backup band for many years I did some recording with out him: Max (1977) is an excellent set that shows the band didn’t need him. 

The Beach Boys: Smiley Smile (1967) – more a cult favourite & the studio sessions that nearly destroyed the band. Sweet & sonically dense. Wolf Call! is a fun compilation of various rock-a-billy songs. Rock-a-billy being another of the prime influences on British rock. As are The Esquires: Very Best of  (2012) with funky songs like Get On Up, this is the sort of funky sound the Stones tried to achieve but failed. 

Secos & Molhados is an innovative Brazilian glam-rock band that defies real definition. YouTube videos are wild, the music is tight, rocky, experimental & fun. I have A Volta do Gato Preto (1988). Finally U2’s Songs of Innocence (2014). not one of my favourite bands but they were forcing this lp free on anyone, even those who didn’t want it I opted take it lol. Solid rock but unexceptional.

 

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Brothers Glen and Buddy

Between 1962-66 Righteous Brothers had a string of hits thanks to the production work of Phil Spector. They did record other songs but even those have often been given the Spector treatment. I have ‘Gold’ a great collection of their best & their not so best. Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley had great voices but they were, as you might guess, not brothers. I have strong memories of hearing the hits on the radio but, at that time, wasn’t that taken by them – too adult & also it was considered romantic music for girls – not rock enough for boys. I’ve never heard a bad version of Unchained Melody – a song with a depth of longing that is hard to resist. The song was originally the theme song for the movie ‘Unchained’ about – of all things – a prison break.

Another hit-generator that just preceded my radio years is Buddy Holly (1936-59). On this mp3 compilation I have a hits collection ‘Gold’ & Rave On from June 2011, a tribute compilation with covers by the likes of Modest Mouse, Lou Reed etc. His tragic death turned him into an instant icon. His songs, for the most part are bouncy radio fodder. My favourite is Everyday. His clean-cut image is the opposite of  Elvis – Buddy was a safe idol for innocent teenage girls.

Yet another inescapable hit generator was Glen Campbell (1936-2017). Here I have The Best of, which includes Wichita Linesman. This was another singer I had little or no patience for in my teen years. Too laidback, too country, too romantic & banal. When he died in 2012 I gave a listen to some of those songs & the emotional pitch of his voice in Wichita Linesman is amazing. Subtle & sincere I suddenly wanted to have an affair with a linesman. lol.

I also downloaded his final studio lp Ghost on the Canvas  (2011) – recorded while he battling the Alzheimer’s which killed him. It’s a compelling, emotionally resonant & raw piece of work & stands well with similar ‘death bed’ works by David Bowie or Warren Zevon.  



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Quicksilver Spirit

It’s easy to think groups like King Crimson, ELP ‘invented’ progrock forgetting about the California explosion in the late 60’s. I am talking about two bands in particular: Quicksilver Messenger Service & Spirit. Adventurous, challenging & timeless. Though at the time I didn’t see them as ground breaking merely as interesting & psychedelic. I have two mp3 cd collections that pair them.

By Quicksilver Messenger Service I have: Quicksilver Messenger Service (1968), Happy Trails (1969), Shady Grove (1969), Just For Love (1970), What About Me (1970), Maiden Of The Cancer Moon (Live 1983). The first two & the Live ‘Moon’ reflect the more experimental side of the group with extended explorations that transcend standard pop into a sonic avant gard. On the other three lps they have added keyboard genius Nicky Hopkins to the group & the songs become more pop oriented with a more ELP sound. Some great moments but not as adventurous in the same way.

Quicksilver were progressive in an experimental way while Spirit went in a jazzier direction that influenced groups like Weather Report. Here I have Spirit(1968), The Family That Plays Together (1968), Clear (1969), Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (1970), Feedback (1972). There is a definite change as the band matures. I loved the first two lps with amazing production work & jazz-rock instrumentals. One of the few non-folky bands at the time with a strong ecological message ‘Uncle Garbage.’ They even managed some radio friendly hits.

To round out this look at the psychedelic sound I’ve included the much more radio friendly Jefferson Airplane’s Live At The Fillmore East 1968 (released 1998 – just after After Bathing at Baxter’s was released this a great live lp. Finally the Electric Flag’s A Long Time Comin’ (1968) grounded by Mike Bloomfield’s guitar this was an ambitious mix of soul, blues, rock & horns. Not radio friendly though & over shadowed by Bloomfield’s work on Super Session.  

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Pink Floyd

By Pink Floyd I have Piper At The Gates Of Dawn 1967, Saucer Full Of Secrets 1968, Ummagumma 1969, Atom Heart Mother 1970, Live 1970, Meddle 1971, Live at Pompeii 1972, Dark Side of the Moon 1973, Wish You Were Here 1975, Animals 1977, The Wall 1979, Delicate Sound of Thunder 1988, The Division Bell 1994, Pulse 1995. And Return to the Dark Side of the Moon a tribute lp (2006). Some as stand-alones, others as mp3.

Ummagumma, Atom Heart Mother & Meddle are perhaps my favourites. Their first two lps were trippy pop songs, radio stuff but in those next three they they became experimental, stretching the notion of what rock pop could be. The mp3 of Atom Heart contains the full tracks, the lp had some of edited down to fit the limits of vinyl. I loved the choral work on it. The band owed more to Booker T & the MJs than was recognized at the time. Electronic groups like Underworld owe a debt of gratitude to Meddle.

Dark Side was their return to more ‘tradition’ song form & length & it was a stunning success. The Wall hit the right rebellious notes but I wasn’t that big a fan. The many live releases are excellent but they seem intent on reproducing studio work than expanding & exploring it. If you are unfamiliar with Pink Floyd I suggest you crawl out of your cave lol.

Mixed in with the mp3 collections are: Procol Harum: Home 1970 – they leave their organ based sound to embark on blistering guitar work; King Crimson: Starless & Bible Black 1974  – this is true progrock with amazing freeform – almost jazz like sonic explorations. Then the US band Formerly Anthrax: Show Of Hands 1970 – I had this sweet lp & eventually replaced it with mp3 – organ based pop. They are not to be confused with the British group Show Of Hands. I have a ‘hits’ compilation by them – Backlog 87-91. A version of Traffic. A band I only found searching for Formerly Anthrax 🙂

Give Me A Little Sign

<>

a bluejay feather dances over snow 

the first full moon of the new year

a silent wrap of smoke

forms the letters of a name

whose name   mine   yours 

our hopes for the future

a dangling curtain moving at dawn

a pale   handless shape

peers out into the fog

before the fire burns pure ashes 

to scatter sooty on the snow

for the next fitful omen

<>

a bus pulls up at the right moment

an old friend alive

where you least expected to see them

the number nine keeps popping up

how many times before it has meaning

like that bluejay feather 

it has to have a meaning

a good moment to do something

but I don’t know where to begin

play the lottery  submit that manuscript

make that phone call I’ve been putting off

<>

should I act blindly

or bide my time for a better opportunity

a voice in an empty room

a phone call that goes unanswered 

was that wrong number the right one

where are my lucky shoes

what do the stars have to say

<>

entrails of run over squirrel tell me 

it isn’t wise to dash across a busy street

grounds in the bottom of my Tim’s cup

tell me it’s time 

they cleaned that damn machine

that look in your eyes tells me 

it’s time to drop my guard

<>

will our clothes piled on the floor

the fold of pants legs and t-shirts

twined accidentally in the dark

be a sign of more than pleasure to be had

is there a message 

in the goosebumps on your back

in the fevered breath on my thigh

can I let a kiss be a kiss 

not the next fitful omen

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Peters and Pixies

By Swedish indie pop/rock band Peter, Bjorn and John I have stand-alone’s Writer’s Block (2006), Living Thing (2009). I read decent reviews of the band & having Swedish roots myself I felt it was time to nurture those roots with some music. There are many bands with a similar sound – wry lyrics, sweet melodies, song nicely with a solid, if gentle, rock beat. Think a slightly more rock, folk-rock Simon & Garfunkel. Two cds were enough to satisfy my roots.

The next on the shelf is Peter and Gordon: The Ultimate Collection. Tight harmonies, radio friendly songs & a direct line to The Beatles via Peter Asher’s sister Jane (who nearly married Paul McCartney). They had hits written by McCartney & charted too many songs to list here. The cd collection is a rich introduction to the British sound off the mid60’s. 

Though at the time they were regarded more as bubblegum than serious like, say, The Yardbirds, thanks in part to their often lush orchestral arraignments. The production work is still amazing on songs like A World Without Love & Woman. Once their moment passed Peter Asher went on to become one of the most influential music producers in California with several top of the charts lps by Linda Rondstadt, James Taylor, Cher.

Further along the shelf are Pixies who were critical darlings in the early 90’s. They influenced bands such as Nirvana & Radio head with their alt-rock sound that as a fun mix of surf, punk & experimental with surreal lyrics. I had as cassettes Doolittle & Bossanova – but, as all too often happened, both tapes stopped working. I eventually replaced them with a stand-alone best of compilation. 

Tracks from the first couple of lps often show up in movies, TV shows to quickly establish a character as a nerdy nonconformist who is more hip than the room. My favourite track is This Monkey Wants To Go To Heaven. Quirky fun music & worth tracking down if you want to be more hip than my blog 🙂

A Convenient Truth

it was the truth

at the time

I believed what I said

I believed your body told me

this would last forever 

but every moment comes to an end

<>

it all was so promising

the vast endless tract of future before us

hand in hand

heart to head

pushed to whatever was there

the opportunity was to discover

not to solve

<>

when it came down to solutions

neither of us was prepared 

to do more than we had done

which was enough for the moment

not enough for a life time

perhaps that moment

wasn’t meant to last forever

only to seel like it could

the comfort of hope

not the fulfillment of every demand

<>

I felt I could do and be all that

I know now I can’t

was I lying just to get more of you

while you faked it 

to keep from being alone

were we caught up 

in romantic fantasy

the Hollywood scam

of the right lighting

the perfect delicate song 

floats in the sunshine

<>

a song about fragility and sensitivity

a plaintive voice

plucks of an acoustic guitar 

a hum of harmony

one that makes it to weddings 

<>

we were never heading for a wedding

were we

that was what neither of us realized

something neither of us wanted

breaking dishes breaking windows

breaking hearts

rather than facing the truth

(Jan 2008)

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Nilsson Sparks Perth and the Frogs Beyond

Over a two cd mp3 collection if have Nilsson’s Aerial Pandemonium Ballet (1971) – reworking earlier material – “Without Her”; Nilsson Schmilsson (1971) “Without You” “Gotta Get Up”; Son of Schmilsson (1972) “You’re Breaking My Heart” “Joy”; A Little Touch of Schmilsson In The Night (1973) “Lazy Moon”. You might say I am a fan 🙂

Some of these I had as lp at the time, some were added later. He hit big with Everybody’s Talkin’ used in the film Midnight Cowboy. His songs run from ultra-romantic to hilariously bitter. His vocals on ‘Without You” are heartbreaking in a way Ed Sheeran can only dream about. Things apparently didn’t go well with her though, resulting in “You’re Breaking My Heart” – ‘so fuck you.’ On ‘Little Touch’ he does sublime work on classics while adding little touches of humour to them. A genius who got destroyed by booze, drugs & John Lennon.

‘Sparks’ Maels brothers group overflows with off kilter humour. Here I have Propaganda (1974) “Don’t Leave Me Alone With Her”; Indiscreet (1975) “Hospitality On Parade” “Tits.” Similar to the smart-ass 10 c.c. these guys are witty, musically gifted & relentless. The cover art on these is also amazing.

One of my mid60’s top-ten hit-parade loves was Crispian St. Peters’ ‘The Pied Piper’ the recorder was seductive & the engineering excellent. I may have had the 45 at the time. So a few years ago I tracked down his lps & here have The Pied Piper (1966) & Follow Me (1966). The 2nd has the radio mix  of “Pied Piper.” The earlier version is more sweetly folksy while the 2nd has more of a rock feel. His voice & other material is very Van Morrison Them period.

Alan Price made the Animals hit parade worthy & then departed the band. I have his lp with Georgie Fame and Alan Price: Together (1971); & the must have Oh Lucky Man soundtrack (1973). Fame is a British blues, r’n’b legend who never made it big in America; which is also true for Alan – except for the Lucky Man soundtrack. That lp was a must have thanks to the wild movie it is from. Price appears in the film – not seen it? Find it asap.

Barry McGuire: Anthology. If you are looking for a ‘lost’ Mamas & Papas lp his second is the one to find. Produced by John Philips & with all backing vocals by the M&P it is classic California flower power. The bulk of it is in this Anthology including the still relevant Eve of Destruction (by P.F. Sloan). After his initial pop splash he escaped rock evils into contemporary Christian music.

Another early 70’s must have Canada’s Perth County Conspiracy out of Stratford Ontario. I loved Does Not Exist (1970) & enjoyed Alive (1971). Sweet harmonies for a folk-rock commune when everybody wanted to love down on the farm & in a commune. Love songs, anti-war songs, amazing engineering. Free love overflows from these lps (now mp3s) though it was hetero love so the farms were safe for kids.

Not safe for kids was Jackie Shane: Live (1967) Jackie was a pioneer transgender performer who shook up the Toronto r.n.b scene. Think James Brown in drag (not be confused with Little Richard). Jackie became too popular & ended up deported back to the States. The music is solid soul with a fearless nod to queer lives. I have a collection of Jackie’s studios recording on another mp3 bonanza.

Finally is The Frogs: It’s Only Right & Natural (1989) gay garage band with cellos! Wildly funny, almost deconstructed pop with cellos! A clear influence on The Hidden Cameras. A track was posted on Tumblr & I had to have more. You want a slice of out queer music history this is for you.



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Kinks Kooper Pharaohs plus

This mp3 cd of retro fun contains Britain’s: The Kinks: Kinks (1964) – includes: You Really Got Me, Stop Your Sobbing. You Really Got Me has one of the classic guitar riffs which dominates this propulsive lps of basic muscular rock that has inspired countless bands. Tough songs of love & heterosexual triumph. Over the years the band has changed its sound, direction but always maintained powerful creative energy. This is where it all started.

The pop history of Al Kooper stretches back to the late 50’s but he really surfaced in the late 60’s thanks to his work with Bob Dylan & Blood Sweat & Tears. He released some of the first ‘super group’ lps. Here is his Kooper Sessions/Super Sessions 2 (1968): with Shuggie Otis (only 15 at the time) includes a great Bury My Body. Not quite as successful as Supersessions 1 but good.

The Left Banke (NY): There’s Gonna Be A Storm: Complete Recordings, the first 2 lps plus some singles i.e. Walk Away Renee. The sound baroque rock with strings/harpsichord. Because this was American it was never called progrock. A definite prelude to the chamber pop work of Antony & the Johnsons. Articulate love songs that aren’t cloying or condescending to women. 

Poco: (Los Angles) Crazy Eyes (1973) Richie Furay and Jim Messina after Buffalo Springfield – country rock at its finest. This is one of my favourite lps of the 70’s. I had the cassette, which finally gave way to tension & replaced its with the mp3 version. Each song is excellent. My favourite is the simmering Magnolia – you sweet thing. A must have for any collection.

Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs (Dallas): Their Second Album (1965) (Witchcraft; Love Potion #9); Anthology: Wooly Bully (1964) – was their Egyptian look cultural appropriation? The groups was mainly Latino musicians who specialized in novelty songs, like Little Red Riding Hood, with swampy/rock-a-billy sound. I loved hearing these guys on the radio & dancing to Wooly Bully. Lead singer Sam Samudio has a great Eric Burdon type voice. His solo lp ‘Hard and Heavy’ is good.

The Yardbirds (London): Roger The Engineer (1966) combines elements of blues rock and psychedelic rock on tracks like Over Under Sideways Down & my personal favourite: Hot House of Omagararshid. Jeff Beck was still with the band – Roger was their sound engineer (& no relation to The Who’s Ivor the engine driver). A rock version of Pink Floyd & this lp is a delight.

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Motherly Love


On the shelf by the Mothers of Invention I have: Freak Out 1966 MOFO Project includes original plus out takes etc; Absolutely Free 1967; Only For The Money 1968; Cruising With Ruben & The Jets 1968; Uncle Meat 1969; Weasels Ripped My Flesh 1970; Live at Fillmore East 1971; The Grand Wazoo 1972 – big band mostly instrumental; Bongo Fury 1975 w Captain Beefheart. We’ll get to Frank Zappa when I get to ‘z’ 🙂

The Mothers expanded my music consciousness with their humour, their sometimes complex engineering, their fearlessness & their musicality. I can still hear ‘Susie … Susie Creamcheese.’ The endless layers on ‘The Money’ is a headphone extravaganza. The lyrics are timeless – who are the brain police – what’s the ugliest part of your body – brown shoes don’t make it.

Musically they veer from doo-wop, to rock, blues, avant-guard, Motown – sometimes all in the same song 🙂  One of few really prog-rock bands that continued to grow & show their listeners radical political & musical theories. I have to admit those first three lps were my favourites & can still be challenging to listen to today. the MOFO reissue of Freak Out is excellent. It includes full tracks of the pieces that were edited down for the lp. 

Absolutely Free defines the anarchic hippy counterculture in a way no other band at the time does. It spared no one, including the hippies themselves. ‘Money’ from its all out cover attack on the Beatles is sonically stunning, lyrically merciless & musically stunning. Plus Eric Clapton on guitar, if you can find him in the mix.

Ruben is a tribute/parody lp of doo-wop & bubblegum pop that verges on being the real thing. I love it. Uncle Meat is a sprawling mixed bag highlighted by the King Kong variations with Jean Luc Ponty. The cover is wild, but not as visceral as the cover for Weasels Ripped My Flesh: mix of live & wild studio work. If you are unfamiliar with the Mothers start with Absolutely Free.

Zappa’s musical influence is reflected in there work of Plastic People Of The Universe Czech rock band from Prague 1968–1989: Apokalyptikej Ptak (Live), Co znamená vésti koně (1981). A video of their’s turned up in my Tumblr feed so I tracked them down. This is an amazing, radical band that I dig. Check them out of YouTube.

Anticipation 2

Even today, just thirty-one years after that first reading of The Book Martin could still taste that vomit. He rinsed his mouth out with hot water & spit it out. ‘Oh God, why me?’ he thought. Inhaling ‘Thank You’ held in, breathed out ‘God.’ After nine breaths reversed the sequence.

Towelling down he recalled that by the day of his tenth birthday he had forgotten all about The Book. He had his first bicycle to look forward to. A fire-engine red two-wheeler. The Martin Flyer he had named it weeks before even asking for it. He ran alway home from school in anticipation of that bike. Sure enough it was there on the front veranda. A big red bow tied to the parcel carrier. In the house there was a cake on the dining-room table.

“Did’ja get ice cream, Ma?” He asked. “Let me go to the store & get some. I’ll ride the Martin Flyer & be back in a jiffy.”

“We have plenty.” She laughed. “But …”

“Yeah, Ma, what?”

“It’s not important.”

“What Ma?”

“Well, I thought maybe you should meet Dad down at the bus stop. He may have something for you to carry home.”

Martin was out of the house by the time she said bus. Much to his disappointment his Dad was at the front gate already.

“I was just coming down to meet you!” Martin exclaimed.

“Well, don’t let me stop you.” His Dad laughed, “I could still be there waiting for you, too.”

“Ah, Dad.” Martin half-laughed.

“You’re home early dear.” His mother came to the door & kissed his father.

“Well, I wanted to be here when …” He stopped & nodded at Martin.

Martin suddenly remember The Book. His stomach began to ache.

“I don’t want to know,” he said louder than he intended. “I need to know what any weird book says about me.”

Now looking at himself in the mirror he still didn’t want to know. Strangely he really didn’t know anymore about it all than he did then. Except that he would finally know today, at 1 p.m. All would be revealed.

It was several days after that birthday he finally rode his Martin Flyer. The ache in his stomach turned out to be his appendix. An ache that was not in The Book. At first his parents thought he was reacting to what had been written for him in The Book.

He, Martin, would heal the world. The phrase ‘heal the world’ made him dizzy for many years. No mention of how. Just the bare fact of when – ‘In his 41st year on February 14, 1 p.m.’ That ‘when’ was finally here. Or would be in a couple of hours.


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Morphine Machine

The Music Machine: Turn On! Yes, let’s turn on to 1966 with this amazing garage band. This was one of the first lps I remember buying. Still in high school & ‘innocent.’ I loved the hair, the black leather gloves they wore on stage, the turtlenecks. The front cover is reminiscent of the Beatles but the music is not, even though they do a cover of Taxman. I dug them 🙂 Listening to it now it is well produced with good studio use of echo, even a touch of flute. Reminiscent of early Steppenwolf or Grassroots. 

The lp was worn grey. The band was lost in the wake of the British Invasion & my interest was washed away by Hendrix, the Stones – you know, music that wasn’t built around Farfisa organ & bass. Definitely teen boy music. I bought the cd in September 1994 when I was deeply involved with Bushwack Theatre. I remember walking from the Lab on Britain St. to Sam’s on Yonge St & looking for this in particular. It was there but as a high-priced import, with no bonus tracks. I think I went back to Sam’s twice before I gave in & bought it. That year I played it over a dozen times for the powerful nostalgia it brought. I do not have any specific memories to go with it though 😦 except of me loving it in 1966.

The first track I heard by Morphine was either Honey White or French Fries With Pepper. I don’t remember where I heard it but I loved the sax driven sound. I was also taken by the lyrics & the voice of their lead singer; he reminded me of Tom Waites in delivery & the jazzy sound was perfect for me. I have Cure for Pain; Yes; Like Swimming; B-Sides & Otherwise. All are my favourites 🙂

Because of its instrumentation Morphine is considered ‘alternative.’ It’s definitely not U2 but the music is not that challenging or abstract. Solid, propulsive, hummable & relatable; adult music not teen-boy pop. They were on the verge of going mainstream when their lead vocalist died of a heart attack onstage in Palestrina, Italy, on July 3, 1999. What a way to go. If you are unfamiliar, start with any of their lps.

This piece goes back to late 80’s.

Anticipation 1

The electronic alarm bubbled. He took several deep breaths. Inhaling he thought “Thank you” held it, breathed out “God.” Then reversed the sequence. He didn’t want to feel he was breathing God out but inhaling the strength that his feeling of God gave him.

The telephone burbled. He thanked God for electronics. No more thought jangling ringing. The telephone continued to burble. Now, was that one burble or two? He wondered, as he picked up the receiver.

“Good morning, Martin.”

“Mother?” What did she want?

“That’s right dear. You remember what day this is?”

Martin glanced as the read-out glowing on his clock. “February 14, 19 …”

“Now Martin don’t tell me that you’ve forgotten …”

“To send you a card? Of course I did but …” Then he remembered. “Not that February 14?” Shit! Shit! Shit! This was not going to be such an ordinary day.

“That’s right Martin dear. The prophesy will be fulfilled today.”

God Thank You God Thank You God, he breathed in & out deeply. “Thank you, Mother.”

“One o’clock.”

“I know! I know! I’ve lived with the damn thing for … ”

“But you forgot.”

“As was foretold. ‘His mother would remind him.’ Isn’ that what it said in The Book. Thank you Mother. Now can I take a shower before …”

“It doesn’t matter what you do, dear. The prophecy will be fulfilled today.”

“Please, mother, give it a rest. Good-bye.”

As he hung up he heard her say, “Christ be with you.” 

Thank God, he breathed in, I’m not, he held his breath, a Christian, he breathed out. He repeated that nine times on his way to the shower. With the water almost too hot to tolerate he remembered the first time he had read The Book. 

It was a week before his tenth birthday. The Book was kept in a chest under his bed since he’d been born. He knew it was in there from having seen his parents look at it late at night when they thought he was asleep.

For the few months before his birthday he’d felt an urge to see it. As soon as he thought they were asleep he pulled the chest out & lifted up The Book. It seemed to resist him the way like poles of a magnet repel each other. It wasn’t very thick but took all his strength to lift it. The cover, as thin as it was, resisted his effort to open it. Once he had it open the heaviness was gone.

In the half-light of the moon he couldn’t make out what was printed on it. The typewritten pages, ragged along the edges, were covered with finger smudges & circle stains where cups had been set on them. As he turned the pages they became clearer & easier to see & to understand.

His heart beat faster & he uttered a little cry when. at the top of one page he saw, in capital letters, MARTIN. His eyes skimmed the page & fell on ‘At ten years of age he shall be told, but he will already know. He will want to escape, but he will never stop knowing.’

Suddenly fearful, he shut The Book & shoved it back inside the chest, pushed the chest back under his bed, ran to the bathroom & vomited.

(what else is in The Book – tune in next week for another trilling episode)

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The Monkees

I have to admit the first time I heard ‘I’m Not Your Stepping Stone’ I wasn’t impressed, main key because I was a snob who felt only the British groups made real music. The Monkees music was dismissed because they didn’t even play the instruments on their lps & some doubted if they even did their own singing. They were a live action version of the cartoon Archies – in fact both groups shared the same musicians & songwriters. The TV show was madcap fun & more anarchic than, say, Bewitched.

Over a couple mp3 cds I have The Monkees 1st; More of The Monkees; Headquarters; Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones; The Birds,  The Bees & The Monkees; Head, 33.3 Revolutions Per Monkee;  Instant Replay; Changes. Over time they wrote & played on more of their songs, toured, worked with Frank Zappa but never lost the taint of being a package product. Finally they became a nostalgia circuit feature.

Today I love those early lps, full of solid innocent songs that are well-crafted & beautifully produced. I know enough of their history to know the actors were musicians but like many musicians they were boxed in by commercial needs of the industry. The songs would be just as solid by any band. The construction of boy/girl bands is an industry manufacturing process that continues today. Listening to them I hear a sexual innocence in the lyrics & performances. I knew girls who loved the guys in the band & who drummed of kissing & hugging them. I doubt if they dreamed of gang bangs in motel rooms.

Rounding out the cds are Tommy James & The Shondells: Cellophane Symphony; Anthology – some of this is prime radio psychedelics. The unneeded version of Crimson & Clover is wild. Symphony is worth seeking out if you don’t have. Three Dog Night: Harmony – more prime radio music that is well-crafted & my favourite of theirs. Finally Paul Revere and The Raiders: 63-67: The Essential Ride – more golden oldie hits that bring back memories of high-school sock-hops. It was perfect doing homework music.

This story goes back to mid 80’s.

Cooler

part 2

A leather number from behind Dan said. “Gimme a Blue, Carl. Looks like a slow night.”

Carl had already gabbed a Blue before the guy had asked for it. “It’s early, Mike.”

“We met before?” Mike asked.

Before Carl could answer there was a ruckus in the front bar. He couldn’t see around his cooler to find out what it was, until a very drunk man fell into the middle of the dance floor.

“You bunch of fuckers. You bunch of dumb fuck fuckers.” The man was weeping. “None of you gives a shit about anyone but yourselves.”

Carl recognized the man as Jim, the doorman who had been let go just before he started. Something to do with missing money.

Jim got up unsteadily, pulled his jacket off & started swinging it around over his head. “He’s dead & all you ass holy queens want to do is drink & fuck. You don’t care. You don’t even care about yourselves.”

The he that was dead was Wilson, the man whose bar station Carl now had. Let Will wet your willy was the sign that used to be where Carl’s Cooler was now. Jim was in front of Carl, glaring at the new sign.

“God, I loved that man.” He was on his knees crying into his hands.

Those men who weren’t stunned, looked away embarrassed by this unexpected display of reality. 

“Interesting floor show.” Carl heard someone snicker as he passed.

“It wasn’t his heart, you fuck heads!” Jim shouted at no one in particular. “This bar killed him. He died right here. You cunts don’t even have the decency to respect his memory.”

“What did you expect us to do?” Jack asked, firmly pulling Jim to his feet. “Have his cooler sign bronzed? We sent flowers. We closed the day of his funeral. We …”

Jim shoved him away. “Big fucking deal. Flowers. We all owe that man something. All of us. You throw away his sign & people’ll forget him. You can’t forget him, ever. Please don’t forget him.” He grabbed Jack & shook him. “He was a good guy. Not like these other assholes. He cared about people.”

“I know. We all know.” Jack sighed. 

Carl shook his head knowing Jack was bullshitting Jim. When he was hired Jack had told him he was glad to be rid of Will. Will was too fond of organizing bar nights for the local AIDS group, fundraisers, that seemed to attract an uptight bunch, who rarely spent enough to cover the cost of lights for the night. To Jack, Will was a community pain in the ass.

“You don’t give a shit & you all don’t give a flying fuck. You bunch of simpering self-centred cunts. Especially you Jack …”

“Calm down Jim. We’re even …” Jack paused to think “ … setting up a fund in Will’s name for the AIDS hospice. Yeah, that’s it. All the boys are going to chip in one night a week’s tips, too, to keep it growing. Right Carl?”

He turned to Carl for help in getting things back to normal.

“Oh, yeah. Sure.”

“How come no one knows about it? I don’t see nothin’ anywhere.”

“We haven’t had time to get signs. Carl, you were going to look after that, weren’t you?”

Not wanting to get drawn deeper into Jack’s deceit, Carl answered, “They’ll be up before the night is over, Boss.”

“Jeez,” Jim became sheepish, almost apologetic. “Sorry.”

“Come on,” Jack guided him firmly to the front bar. “Have a drink on the house & I’ll get you a cab home.”
Carl put up a Back in 5 sign & went to the supply room. It took him almost twice that long to find pieces of cardboard, finally torn from a beer case, to make a couple of signs that said: 

Will’s Hospice Fund

Once there was a Will

Now there is a way

He taped it to a water carafe & propped the carafe at the end of his counter. He hadn’t known Will at all, but could sense how much he regulars missed him. Will had worked there since Matthew’s first opened nine years ago. Some still half-expected him to to be there when they came to the cooler.

The crowd quickly got over Jim’s reality reminder & business picked up sharply. Carl like it best when there wasn’t much time to think. Just bend, grab, open, make change, thanks, next, repeat, jokes, thanks. It gave him no time for anything except what had to be done. No time to dwell on the past, future or Jack. Just smile, say thanks, & drop his tips into Will’s can. He briefly thought about Dan & wondered if he wanted to be bothered with this whole meeting someone routine.

“Miss a turn on the Yellow Brick Road?” a young guy is a black t-shirt asked.

“That’s right. Now don’t get this on your red shoes, Frank.” He passed the guy a beer.

“How did you know my name? Better yet how did you know what I wanted?”

Carl tapped the side of his nose & winked.

“Well, smell her. A real witch. ” Frank smiled to his companion. “No wonder there’s weird vibes back here.” He went on. “Is it colder back here or is it just me?”

Now that it had been mentioned, Carl realized that he had been feeling chilled, but moving in & out of the cooler made it hard for him to judge how warm the space was.

Don’t miss the thrilling finale next week 🙂

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