I gotta admit, I love me some Steely Dan. Their musical complexity, humor, and overall vibe is just the best. Their shows are always first rate, with a wealth of material to draw from. Donald Fagen is the ultimate curmudgeon, looking like he’d rather be somewhere else in the middle of a standing ovation, trudging slump-shouldered off stage after the final song. Walter Becker is a phenomenal guitarist/bassist, and a major character in his own right. Together they’re the perfect combination, responsible for all those songs we know and love. One of my all-time faves is “My Old School”, and I recently heard the back-story of how it came to be. It seems they were going to Bard College in Annandale, engaging in the typical college endeavors (“smokin’ with the boys upstairs”) and ended up getting busted by an up and coming G. Gordon Liddy (even then a total douche!) who was looking to jump start his career, and chose to do so by harassing harmless pot smokers. Our heroes ended up spending a night in jail (but Liddy ended up in PRISON….YES!), and vowed they’re never going back to their old school! Can’t say I blame them, and I gotta admit, I like the song even more now!
It’s here. Finally. A return to normalcy (of sorts) for football fans like myself. The Packers’ first pre-season game, while not very promising, was a chance to re-connect with friends I hadn’t seen since the 2012 season ended. They have a number of issues, chief among them being backup quarterback, a better run game, and returning younger players expected to make improvements in their second year. While some fail to get enthused over pre-season, I take it for what it is: a chance to watch the team grow into the new season. Every year is different, with new players fighting to make the team, injured players returning, and others replaced. I’ve had my TV on NFL Network all weekend, casually watching things take shape. Life is about to be kicked up a notch, and I, for one, love it!
Like many musicians, I’m a huge Beatles fan. Quite simply, they changed my life, and are a major reason I decided to pursue music. Recently, I had the chance to meet David M. Spindel, the photographer who shot some beautiful photos of John and Yoko while they were working on Double Fantasy. David graciously invited me into his home and was incredibly obliging, showing me his incredible work, and telling great stories. Through the years he also worked with old school Hollywood royalty: Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Lucille Ball, and others. While we only spent an hour together, David managed to fill it with colorful tales and observations. What a pleasure spending that brief amount of time with him! I gave him and Barbara a signed CD, and he gave me some signed photos and a wonderful signed copy of the book “Starting Over”, which is a fabulous recollection of those involved in the making of that historical album, featuring many of his shots. A day I won’t soon forget, and a new friend I haven’t seen the last of.
I didn’t know him well. I met him in the early ’90′s when he was in town recording an album with my friend Gman. All I can tell you is everything you’ve heard about him is true. He was a talented, gentle man, whose voice was truly great and unique. His gravelly vocals owned every song he sang. His open- tuning guitar style suited him perfectly. He chose his cover tunes well, taking them and making them his own. He never hesitated to tell a story, whether it be hanging with George Harrison, or playing The Village with Bob Dylan. It is said back in those early folk days nobody wanted to follow him, for it was certain to be a letdown. When the opening act was late for Woodstock, he played for 3 hours, cementing his place in rock lore forever. I’m glad I had the chance to meet him, I am better for it.
Today is St. Patrick’s Day. In years past that would mean much partying with friends. The bars would open early in the morning, serving green pancakes and beer, and people would actually consume them. Friends would drive up from Chicago, and the house would be full of bodies sleeping anywhere they could find a space. One year, the only space for me to sleep was on the bathroom floor. It certainly wasn’t the cleanest place to lay my head, but I survived without any consequences. That was then, and this is now. While I still have fond memories of my sometimes reckless youth, a more mature approach is now in order. I’ll be spending time with a few friends, enjoying the usual corned beef and cabbage, and Irish stew. A couple of Guinness’s to wash it down, but nothing too outrageous. Which is fine by me. Older and wiser? Maybe. Like I said, that was then and this is now. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
This is the second Sunday since the football season ended. Much like any obsession, it requires a gradual withdrawal, and that’s where I find myself today. I don’t even remember what I did last Sunday. Probably not much. After five months of continuous activity with my Cheesehead brothers, it comes to a screeching halt. I miss the comrade-re, screaming at the refs, the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat. No more NFL channel as background noise. No more surfing various NFL sites. I’m starting to realize how much football occupies my life. Not just Sunday, but Monday night, Thursday night, and Saturday afternoon. I’ve got a stack of Rolling Stone magazines, dating back to last November, that I haven’t even looked at. Guitars that get played too infrequently. Songs yet to be written. I guess there’s life without football, and it’s time to get used to it. At least until the draft!
Today brings the 2012 NFL season full circle. The game that all players aspire to win will be played in a few hours. While I’m disappointed that Green Bay isn’t playing, I look forward to a great game. San Francisco has been the most consistent team all year, and now have an added offensive weapon in the pistol scheme run by Colin Kapernick. The Ravens are riding a wave of emotion surrounding Ray Lewis’ last game, and the emergence of Joe Flacco. Both teams made it to the conference championships last year and lost. It seems like that is a common theme: getting so close, but needing one more year to finally make it. Here it is, the last NFL game until August. (Say it aint so!) May the best team win.
I’ve always respected Jeff Lynne. As founding member of ELO he’s responsible for for a number of pop nuggets that we all know and love. But after watching his new documentary last night, I’ve gained a new level of respect for the man. He lives and breathes music. His entire house is a studio, each room specifically designed for a certain ambiance and acoustic function. He’s proficient on any number of instruments: drums, bass, guitar,and keys to name a few. When the surviving Beatles needed a producer for “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love”, he got the call. I’m sure the task of turning John’s demo of piano and vocal on the same cassette into a record was an astronomical task, and he nailed it. As a writer he”s co-written some of my favorite songs, including “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and “You Got It.” As a member of the Traveling Wilburys he often gets over-shadowed by his more famous band mates, yet without him there is no band. Plus, he seems to be a nice guy who appreciates his station in life while not forgetting where he came from. Truly inspiring. And I want his house!
The year has passed quickly. Christmas is here, and I’ve been blessed with many fine friends to celebrate with. My Christmas song, ‘Have A Happy Christmas’ has been available as a free download all month, and I hope many have taken advantage of it. My love of a good beer has resulted in a stout supply of my favorite beverage, and I am determined not to disappoint my gift-givers by overlooking their generosity! My beloved Packers are heading for the playoffs after another challenging year. My family is healthy and happy, and I seem to be accumulating new fans regularly. I’m hoping to take a major step in the coming year with the album. In the meantime, my heartfelt wishes for a happy holiday season, and best wishes to all!
As a performer, the last thing you want to encounter is feedback. It’s annoying, and certainly less than professional when doing a gig. However, during our gig last night, we were bombarded with a fairly consistent barrage of feedback and it was kinda cool. We played a private party in a relatively small club, something we rarely do. Even though we brought our “small” gear, the logistics of the place dictated that a certain amount of feedback would occur. And nobody cared. Not the audience, not the band, and not me. I actually enjoyed it. It took me back to a more innocent time, when you’re just starting out and playing for the sheer joy of it. Trying to sing without being able to hear your monitor isn’t fun, and my voice today is feeling the affects, but it was worth it. Last night was a blast. Feedback rules!