Sorting Vinyl

Freak Scene had a song, “Mother’s a test tube / Father’s a creep / Freak, freak, freak of nature”    Good stuff!

It’s time to sort out some of the vinyl – the Keep and the Keep Not piles.  Thinning the collection, just slightly; I plan to move in the spring.  (A move within city limit – no big relocations yet.)

I went back through the Keep Not stack, just to make sure.  There are some pleasant surprises.  It was mostly bands from the 1980s, some 1990s; quite a bunch of long-gone Seattle bands probably none of you have heard of, and other stuff.  I lot of music I used to love just doesn’t have the staying power; some music just has their place in time.  My tastes broaden, I become more discerning, and my interests take a generation of left turns.

The Church

There was a time that The Church was my favorite band.  Unabashedly.  Their jingly-jangly guitars, ethereal sounds, and groovy paisley clothes were just too much!  Then I decided there were too many great bands to signify one.  And now they simply don’t stand the test of time – they can sound thin and tinny.  The Church is dead – godspeed.

I had ‘em all – albums, singles, special releases.  I think I saw them play twice.  I remember I was walking home from school one day – we were planning to see the Church play the HUB ballroom that evening.  I was really excited.

I walked past the Travel Lodge on 25th Avenue and these really short guys with long hair were jumping off the bus.  One smiled at me, and I just kept walking.  I probably had headphones on.  (Remember the Sony Walkman?)  I got home – just up the street – put my key into the lock and exclaimed to myself, “Dammit.  That was The Church.”  I’m keeping Heydey, for memories’ sack.  A whole bunch is going into the Keep Not pile.

Green Pajamas

There’s this song that I hear on the radio once in a while – maybe once every couple of years.  It’s a classic Seattle song – I’ve been hearing it for thirty years.  It’s not a great song, I think; I mean if some bloke walked up and heard it being played, he might not think anything of it.  But it’s part of my history – part of Seattle’s music history; it means something.  Every now and again a local DJ will put it on for a spin.

No other song makes me feel like Seattle is where I should be living.

GP is actually a pretty clever band – good mix of 1960s psychedelia and 1980s pop sensibility.  Guitars mixed with revolving array of other instruments.  “Kim the Waitress” is not on the album I have; Book of Hours is gone to the Keep Not pile.

Cat Butt

I never bought very much of the grunge music.  I went to all the shows, and loved all those guys, but never thought the energy translated to studio work very well.  (My first Nirvana purchase was a 7” of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  They turned out to be a huge exception to my rule.)

I saw Cat Butt once, and it might be the greatest show I’ve ever seen.  (Well, except Nirvana at the HUB ballroom, playing stuff from Bleach)  Energy defined Cat Butt – the energy, the gross name, and the incredible guitarists.  Both were pretty hot, but the one, tall and scrawny with huge, skinny fingers, laid his guitar neck right in front of my face and played the wildest slide/psychedelic guitar riff fucking ever.

The Vogue, a batcavers haven in Bell-Town going way back in the time machine, was a wild place.  That night, that show, was an incredibly sweaty delight.

The album, Journey to the Center Of, was actually really pretty fucking good to listen to today.  This was in the Keep Not pile, but shockingly, the green vinyl moved to the Keep pile.

And I said
Mother, the lead guitar
Goes just like thaaaaaaat

 The Housemartins

What the hell is this doing in my stacks?

My college housemates and I would make our rounds to the record shops almost weekly, it seems.  Wendy would tag along and almost never buy anything.  Back then, “imported records” was a big deal.  There was a lot of stuff being pressed in the UK or Australia or wherever and not available in the US.  There was a shop on Capitol Hill, all the way north, up near the Hwy 520 underpass on 10th Avenue, this guy had a promotional company that worked with acts that would come play in Seattle.  He was in London all the time negotiating contracts, and he said he’d grab armfuls of records when he was over there and sell them here.  He just wanted give us kids a chance to listen to stuff, and to monetarily break even with the shop.

He wasn’t open for very long.

But one day, Wendy bought the album from The Housemartins because she wanted to know what they sounded like.  She listened to it once in my room, and I’ve had it ever since.  Off to the Keep Not pile.

Peter Gabriel

Surely sacrilege for many, I was never into Peter Gabriel.  I have two 12” singles that a friend bought and I inherited.  He liked the politics of “Biko”.  I do, too, but I had no awareness at the time.  Gone to the Keep Not pile.

That’s five stories for you guys.  I ended up taking 45 records to the shop; I salvaged 15

Tons of playbills, set lists, and assorted things get stuck into my album sleeves.

from the Keep Not pile before all was done.  Then I realized I had another 12 to figure out (The Rousers?).  Other surprises: I kept Wild Billy Childish – lovely.  I kept Chemistry Set – unexpectedly fresh.  I kept Variant Cause and their earlier incarnation, Koo Dot Tah.  (KDT’s song “Illegal Shirts”, about high schools banning T-shirts, is a really cool song.)

With my store credit I bought 4 Yoko Ono albums.  Not the Plastic Ono Band and not John & Yoko.  I’ve been obsessed with Yoko for months.  I’ve written about half of what I want to say for a blog piece, and the piece is about two-times too long already.  Stay tuned to this space – especially if you think you hate her – stay tuned, please.  I have things to say.


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Reconsidering the Flute

Over the summer, I noted the flute in several pop songs from the 1970s, something I hadn’t noticed in more recent pop music.  I mean prominent flute lines.  Through some research, I noted the flute on The Beatles’ “You’ve got to hide your love away,” but I became interested in songs where the flute was a strong contributor to the overall feel of the song.  A couldn’t find anything recent and it got me wondering, “Am I imaging all of this?”

I mean, as a writer, I hope that I have a wild imagination.  Curious: was this a 1970s trend? Was it something to do with the soul movement?  Is there a common link to the arrival and disappearance of the flute in popular music?  Can I infer something about more modern arrangements?

Let’s listen to some.  Remember the rule:  these are songs that I like and love, otherwise they couldn’t be featured at

Eric Burdon, with the Animals and with War, is a basic element of my 1960s musical diet.  I’ve featured this beloved song before, “Spill the Wine”.

The band includes guitar, bass, drums, frontman / lead singer – basic rock band stuff – but the bongos and flute steal the song.  And that’s the angle I’m looking for – adding instrumentation can really make a song.  Make a band.

I grew up on and, by the miracle of DVDs, I continue to watch the early years of Saturday Night Live.  Curious collection of live musical performers back in the day – the cast invited who they listened to.  That’s how I noticed Brick – a jazz band that started playing disco music in the early 1970s.


It’s a shame Gill Scott-Heron is not better known and better recognized for his music.  A poet coerced into singing with a band behind him, he is a brilliant story teller, bringing his life-on-the-streets views with a dash of love.


The flute thing seems to be something that grew out of folk and jazz genres, then to soul, and then died.  It’s a shame.

More generally, I think rock–n–roll, over time, has found itself in a rut, for a handful of reasons.  Eventually, my opinion, the rock–n–roll stagnated in the 1990s under the weight of the corporate machine, and inability of A&R and marketing people within that machine to actually think creatively, and encourage bands that sounded fresh and new.  I think a big part of that was falling in love the 2-guitar, bass, drums, lead singer structure of musical composition.  The blues, soul, disco, new wave, and other musical style innovations rested on the brilliance of embracing an ensemble or embracing new ways of making noises.

Instead of finding the way to be just like everyone else, an artist needs to find the best ways to make themself unique.  Only when the artist is at their best as an individual, or as an individual ensemble, do we build a meaningful community – rich in texture, full of colors and vibrancy.  It’s like that in life, too, but people don’t always think that way either.

Which reminds of something Brian Eno said, ”What is possible in art, becomes thinkable in life.”



If the reader is interested, here’s a few more that I came across.

Van Morrison –   

Canned Heat –     

The Rolling Stones –

That last track has a really nice flute blowing back there, beneath the vocals and keyboards – you have to want to hear it, and it’s there.


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Happy Halloween. Please don’t kill people.

The best music introduced to me in 2017 (so far I optimistically parentheticalize) is Eighth Blackbird, a wonderful ensemble from Chicago.  They played Seattle in June.  Folk singer Bonnie “Prince” Billy joined them to sing some murder ballads.  At one moment, with really complicated contemporary music playing, every person on stage was screaming.  Blood curdling shrieks.


I was in Albuquerque in September, willingly dragged along to see Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn.  They had a murder ballad with dueling banjos.

Narrative songs about killing, I had to ponder.  I knew some.  I found some more for you.


The Beatles had one.  (I’ll re-iterate.  The Beatles trust have exceptional skills at copyright protections.  Tough to find on YT.  This is a rehearsal version.)

Kinda catchy.


The Violent Femmes had one


The Dixie Chicks had a righteous one


Our next song was actually written by Sting, but no one listens to him anymore – he’s too popular.  It’s more appropriate that Johnny Cash sing it for us.


Finally,  I can not find an appropriate example of my Eighth Blackbird memory on YT, but I offer these these:


Happy Halloween.  Please don’t kill people.


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HBO’s Vinyl

There I was, roaming around the public library, picking up random whatever and – WAMMO – I pick up a DVD called Vinyl and it turns out Martin Scorsese did a TV show.  Well, I’ve got to watch this!

I watched all 10 episodes in 2 days.

You’ve got to watch this.

It depicts a record label in the transition of rock and roll in the early 1970s – proto-punk bands, disco, glam.

How often does this happen: you hear a new song, and you’re stopped in your tracks.  I mean, literally, you’re walking across the room and something comes on the radio and you stop, turn, and ask aloud to nobody, “What is this?”  It’s what we all want, right?  It’s what we’re listening for.  But how often does that actually happen?  Like this:

The show just keeps giving.  Ten little movies, one after the other, with deep scenes.  Like this: “Everything has a foundation: Shakespeare sonnet, bookcase, Empire fucking State building.”

It is wild.  Great, great TV; and I don’t watch a lot of TV.

Watch how well crafted this scene is … patient … nuanced … I’m shaking my fucking head in wonderment … the racial tension is honest, careful, checking each other out.  Beautiful.

You’ve got to check this out.

From Bohemia to Benaroya in Six Generations: a World Premiere

If you live in Seattle, sorry for the late post; this show is this afternoon (Saturday at 2pm).  However, the story is so interesting, that I hope people can read it and enjoy the history.

From Bohemia to Benaroya in Six Generations: a World Premiere/



A John Cale Primer

It was Songs for Drella.

I’ve been trying to remember how I introduced myself to John Cale.  I’d been listening to Drella, the album that John and Lou Reed put together in memory of Andy Warhol.  I was enamored with the gently harsh sounds, the funny lines, the sweet adieu.   [“There is only one good thing about small town / You know that you want to get out”]


But it was Words for the Dying that set me loose.  This album put together everything I was learning about the academy-trained Cale.  All the pieces came together in my head – avant-garde, punk rock, classical, contemporary, straight-up dirty rock and roll, and a sort of mutant Welsh folk.  Most of this album is setting symphony and choral music to Dylan Thomas poems.  Listen to ”There Was A Saviour Interlude I”.


I think of three things when I think of John Cale.  He is intense.  He is stylistically restless – every album is different, always moving on, trying new things.  He looks nice in his page-boy haircut.  A fourth thing, I really like his deep baritone (?) voice, and it’s that vocal quality that gives so much of his music a comfortable trauma.

My objective is to select a clutch of songs for my reader, to help demonstrate the range of his discography, his inimitable ability to flow between styles and themes.  If I can get you interested, I can set you free.  A lot has already been written about John Cale, and I’m going to dispense with a biography.  I like what Rolling Stone entered into their encyclopedia:

His work shows a fascination with opposites: lyricism and noise, subtlety and bluntness, hypnotic repetition and sudden change.

The Velvet Underground, or course, is famous for Lou Reed: street wise lyrics and New York cool.  But co-founder John Cale brought the musical sensibility: arrangements, aggression, and experimentation.  Cale gave VU the drone.  “Venus in Furs” is a superb example.

Pay attention, if you are not familiar with VU.   There’s an odd, sweeping, sound, that I’m not sure I can identify.  There’s antagonism in the music – that’s all John’s experimentation – and it plays nicely with the antagonism of Lou’s poetry.  His electric viola is a clear contributor to the feel of this song.  If you have a taste for the macabre, you should also listen to Cale’s voice deliver “The Gift”.  (If you do not have a taste for the macabre, have a couple of shots and give it a listen.)

From The Academy in Peril, I want to offer “Legs Larry At Television Center”

The narration, by someone called Legs Larry Smith, is simple production instructions.  I guess we hear this sort of thing all the time.  I’d like to be able to hear the piece without the narration, but I like that it’s left in.  I know nothing about this, but assume the song title and narrated words tell the whole story.

Camera two, cut to two
Lovely, hold that, hold that, hold that
Right, pan in on Ronnie then, come to Ronnie
Watch the cello love, watch the cello
Mind your boom – for blimey’s sake
OK, OK, lovely
A little more rain, a little more rain
Silly cow, smashed his make-up now


John has worked on several soundtracks, including this one, 23 Solo Pieces for La Naissance De L’Amour, consisting entirely of solo piano.  There’s texture, emotion, and thoughtful sounds.  Here’s a sample

I was record shopping with friends once, and bought the Cale compilation, Seducing Down the Door, a Collection 1970-1990.  We went back to their place to listen to what we bought.  After the first CD (it’s a 2-CD set), Pat said, “Wait, I want to see something…” And put a Madonna record on.  It was such a breath of fresh air.  I’d never noticed how intense John Cale was, I’d always just loved his music.  The juxtaposition with Madonna was edifying!  (This is not an endorsement for Madonna.  I can neither confirm nor deny that you should listen to her.)

Heartbreak Hotel demonstrates what he does to rock and roll.  Give him a classic crooner’s love song and Cale breaks it.  It becomes an intense study of emotional pain.


I’ll hazard a guess that any contemporary musician would deal with Lucifer to be so enabled.  Actually, with research, I’ve chosen a live version instead of the studio version.  If I’m going to post YT vides, when I am able, I’d like to give you something to look at besides the album cover.  Plus, serendipity, I think this odd version shows more examples of what I’ve tried to demonstrate for you, dear reader.

There are two particular joys that I’m finding as I continue with this blog.  First is the gained edification; I have to think about why I like a piece of music, and I have to think how to put that into words – and that creates a nice circle of think-write-learn-repeat.  The second unexpected enjoyment is the things I find as I research a piece or a topic that I think I already know pretty well.  And that is the story for my lsat selection in this primer.  In 1963, well before the Velvet Underground, John Cale was on the TV show I’ve Got a Secret.  This is the story of “Vexations”, and at the end, a sample of the score played on piano.

There is so much I have left uncovered.  I counted 15 studio albums, another 6 live albums, and 4 collaborative studio albums (which seams sparse, maybe people have trouble counting).  He has scored movie soundtracks, and assembled compilations for many other movies.  The list of people and bands he has produced is uncountable; his work with Nico, Patti Smith, and The Stooges, to just name 3, is legendary.

Tell me, dear reader, what you’re loving, what I’ve missed, what you’ve found that’s new to you.


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