238 years old and counting. We aren’t perfect but I’m proud to be an American. As I said in the title…..Let’s Rock!!!
I hate doing “best of” lists! It is really hard to decided what’s best and I change my mind day to day. I can really identify with the sentiment of that great old song by the Loving Spoonful…..
But I have a post to so let’s make some decisions…..
TOP FIVE SONGS OF 2013
Go In Peace – Sam Baker
She Will – Savages
There’ll Be Hard Times – Joe Matzzie
All The Kids – Iska Dhoof
Used – Ashley Monroe
And the best song of 2013 is Used by Ashley Monroe. This song speaks to me on a very personal level and I just can’t hear it enough!
Top Five Albums Of 2013
Silence Yourself – Savages
Stories Don’t End – Dawes
Say Grace – Sam Baker
Let’s Be Still – The Head and The Heart
Like A Rose – Ashley Monroe/Same Trailer Different Park – Kacey Musgraves
I just couldn’t decide between these two albums so I’m recognizing both of them. There are some brilliant new female country singer/songwriters coming out of Nashville and these are two of the best!
And the album of the year is Stories Don’t End by Dawes. This album is close to perfect and has been my go to album since it was released this year. It shows the incredible songwriting growth of the band over the past few years and includes some amazing music. Here is one of my favorite songs from the album…..
At the scene of all I’ve left unlearned, in the directions to your house
In every swing I took to crack the code
I need a cold beer from a dressing room, I need a string of dates back out
I think there are a few of us that still belong out on the road
Biggest Musical Disappointments 0f 2013
Trouble Will Find Me – The National
An incredible let down, and a big step in the wrong direction, after the brilliance of High Violet!
Best Music Related Movie Of 2013
Springsteen and I
After being a rabid Bruce Springsteen fan for over 40 years I didn’t think that anything could make me love the man more than I already do. I was wrong! Springsteen & I is a movie about Bruce from the fan’s perspective and it shows that Bruce is not only a great musician but he is also a great human being. You need to watch it! I got an email from my friend Gerard from the Netherlands just this morning indicating that he had seen it and enjoyed it….you will too!
I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it in this blog but I love Formula One and Indycar open wheel auto racing. My two racing heroes, Aryton Senna and Michael Andretti, actually tell you a lot about me and how I approach life and work.
Michael drove the wheels off of race cars, sometimes literally, because as a driver he only knew one speed……full throttle. He still holds the record for leading the most laps of the Indy 500 without ever winning the race. If he would have taken better care of his cars, he might have won multiple Indy 500s but my, my, my he was wicked fast (until his cars blew up). Watch the following clip from the 1992 Indy 500 and you’ll l see what I mean. (The start of the race is about 17 minutes into the clip.) Michael qualified 6th (on the outside of the second row) and if you watch closely you will see him go from the outside to the inside and around the leader by the first turn. Absolutely amazing. I was there to see it in person and it was a performance I’ll never forget…….
Michael ended up leading 160 laps of that race but his car broke 10 laps before the end. Like I said….wicked fast as long as his car was running.
Aryton Senna was arguably the greatest race car driver of all time. He was, is, and always will be a hero for me. The man was incredible in a race car and an absolute magician in the rain. Watch this clip from the 1993 Formula One race at Donnington Park. In wet conditions that were absolutely atrocious you can observe Senna go from fifth to first within a few corners into the race. This first lap performance may be the best single race lap of all time.
Senna won the race and had lapped all but the second place car by the end of it. It was a stunning performance but only one of many similar performance in his career.
You are probably asking yourself what’s the link between me and these racing legends? The answer is that in life I only know one speed….full throttle. I firmly believe that if something is worth doing it’s worth throwing yourself into 110%. I work hard, harder than just about anyone that I know. Not bragging, it’s just a fact. My equipment (in this case it’s my body and not a race car) might wear out before the natural end of my race but by God I’m running full throttle until that happens.
Two of my musical heroes produced songs that helped shape my approach to life. To close out this post let me share those songs with you.
First up, Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen. The message of this song is pretty self evident so let’s listen to it without any further explanation.
Next up, My My Hey Hey (both the Out of the Blue and the Into the Black versions), by Neil Young. The two versions of this song are absolutely brilliant and capture the way I feel about life in a couple of key lines:
It’s better to burn out than to fade away
It’s better to burn out that to rust
It’s better to burn out cause rust never sleeps
I firmly believe that if I move fast enough the rust will never catch me……burning out, well that’s probably something that can’t be avoided. Let’s listen to both versions…..
Got an email from Bruce yesterday about a new album that he’s releasing early next year. Here’s what he had to say about it…..
I was working on a record of some of our best unreleased material from the past decade when Tom Morello (sitting in for Steve during the Australian leg of our tour) suggested we ought to add “High Hopes” to our live set. I had cut “High Hopes,” a song by Tim Scott McConnell of the LA based Havalinas, in the 90′s. We worked it up in our Aussie rehearsals and Tom then proceeded to burn the house down with it. We re-cut it mid tour at Studios 301 in Sydney along with “Just Like Fire Would,” a song from one of my favorite early Australian punk bands, The Saints (check out “I’m Stranded”). Tom and his guitar became my muse, pushing the rest of this project to another level. Thanks for the inspiration Tom.
Some of these songs, “American Skin” and “Ghost of Tom Joad,” you’ll be familiar with from our live versions. I felt they were among the best of my writing and deserved a proper studio recording. ”The Wall” is something I’d played on stage a few times and remains very close to my heart. The title and idea were Joe Grushecky’s, then the song appeared after Patti and I made a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. It was inspired by my memories of Walter Cichon. Walter was one of the great early Jersey Shore rockers, who along with his brother Ray (one of my early guitar mentors) led the ”Motifs”. The Motifs were a local rock band who were always a head above everybody else. Raw, sexy and rebellious, they were the heroes you aspired to be. But these were heroes you could touch, speak to, and go to with your musical inquiries. Cool, but always accessible, they were an inspiration to me, and many young working musicians in 1960′s central New Jersey. Though my character in “The Wall” is a Marine, Walter was actually in the Army, A Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Infantry. He was the first person I ever stood in the presence of who was filled with the mystique of the true rock star. Walter went missing in action in Vietnam in March 1968. He still performs somewhat regularly in my mind, the way he stood, dressed, held the tambourine, the casual cool, the freeness. The man who by his attitude, his walk said “you can defy all this, all of what’s here, all of what you’ve been taught, taught to fear, to love and you’ll still be alright.” His was a terrible loss to us, his loved ones and the local music scene. I still miss him.
This is music I always felt needed to be released. From the gangsters of “Harry’s Place,” the ill-prepared roomies on “Frankie Fell In Love” (shades of Steve and I bumming together in our Asbury Park apartment) the travelers in the wasteland of “Hunter Of Invisible Game,” to the soldier and his visiting friend in “The Wall”, I felt they all deserved a home and a hearing.
Hope you enjoy it,
Let’s listen to the album’s title track……
It’s a little bit of a different sound…can’t wait to check out the rest of the album next year. I’m really looking forward to hearing his studio version of The Wall. Here is a rare live performance of the song from back in 2005….
While we’re waiting for the new album, here’s a bonus performance of Secret Garden from Bruce’s stop in Leeds this year. It’s one of my favorite songs and it really sounds great here….
I love this man and his music!
So…..today it seems like the Senate might be on the verge of a deal to temporarily end the Government Shutdown and temporarily raise the Debt Ceiling. Not the long term solution that we need but one that is being touted by the media as a big break through. I don’t want to bring anyone down but I suggest that we not count our chickens before they hatch! Here’s what I predict is going to happen……
The Senate is going to reach a deal on a bipartisan bill, pass it, and send it to the House relatively close to the debt default deadline. The House will get the bill, load it up with ransom demands, and send the modified bill back to the Senate where it will not pass. Game Over……..US defaults on debt!
I hope I’m wrong but time will tell……part of my rationale for this prediction has to do with a recent statement by Mo Brooks (as reported on AL.com). Here is what he had to say……
Mo Brooks says he’s not bluffing
on debt ceiling
Congressman Mo Brooks says he is not bluffing.
If Congress does not slash welfare programs, or take steps to adopt a balanced budget, he will vote against raising the debt ceiling.
“We address the cause of the problem or else I vote against it,” said Brooks, R-Huntsville, during a phone interview with AL.com this afternoon. He said public benefits program would also include Obamacare.
Brooks, who campaigned on the issue of a balanced budget in 2010, said the nation’s greatest threat is bankruptcy.
He said he would rather face the consequences of an unprecedented federal default — which could happen if Congress fails to raise the borrowing limit within the next 10 days — than allow the nation to continue piling up long-term debt and face “total devastation” of insolvency.
“We’re down to bad choices,” said Brooks, ”due to decades of financial irresponsibility and we’re having to choose a path that does the least amount of damage to our country.”
Brooks compared the current government shutdown to a 3 or 4 on the Richter scale. A few folks felt tremors and there was some localized damage. He said failure to raise the debt ceiling could be a greater earthquake of 5 or 6, with greater economic damage. But he said insolvency would be a devastating 10.
Earlier today, Brooks told the House: “As bad as government shutdown and debt ceiling risks may be, they are relatively inconsequential compared to the economic devastation resulting from an American bankruptcy.”
During his remarks in Congress, Brooks compared the trajectory of the United States to Greece and to Detroit, arguing pensions would be lost, assets seized or left valueless in the face of a federal bankruptcy.
“No question, not raising the debt ceiling poses economic risks. No one knows for sure how much risk because America has never crossed this threshold before,” he said on the House floor. “Whatever it is, it can be overcome.”
And he did not adhere strictly to partisan lines. Brooks said he was combating financially irresponsible members of both parties. On the phone, when asked, he said it was irresponsible not to budget for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Specifically, Brooks said he would urge Congress to reduce spending in two areas, public benefits and foreign aid.
He said he would limit public housing and food stamps and other welfare programs to the physically disabled. “The welfare programs, we don’t have the money for them,” he said, adding later: “It will force more people to work.”
He mentioned Obamacare only when asked, but added: “That is a big one.”
As for foreign aid, Brooks said he would maintain aid to Pakistan and Israel, as well as Afghanistan while U.S. troops are still present. “Outside of that, the rest of it has to go,” he said, adding: “I’m at a loss why we would borrow money to give it away.”
The only alternative to steep cuts, said Brooks, would be a long-term deal to break with the federal practice of deficit spending. The nation is approaching $17 trillion in debt and estimates show roughly $750 billion more in deficit spending this year.
He said a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution would require that federal spending cannot exceed tax revenues except during extraordinary circumstances approved by a supermajority in both houses of Congress.
When asked why now was a moment to draw a line in the sand, Brooks said it’s not. He noted that in August of 2011 he also broke with fellow Republican and voted against raising the debt limit.
Brooks had earlier shared concerns that Republicans would be blamed for the shutdown, but today he said the White House “overreach” was changing perceptions, as federal agents blocked off access to national monuments. “They are open air. You actually have to spend money to shut them down,” he said.
Thanks a lot Mo for pledging to destroy the US economy. Unless I’m mistaken that’s not what North Alabama was hoping for when they decided to vote you into the House of Representatives! So guess what…..you gotta go……
Although things look grim at this point we (all reasonable non-Tea Party Americans) all need to remember two things: 1) we have the power to change things and 2) this land is our land.
People Have The Power – Patti Smith
This Land is Your Land – Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen and his band just wrapped up their Wrecking Ball tour and he distributed this letter to his fans.
As a special treat for his fans Bruce has also released the following video that includes some amazing tour footage. Bruce has amazed and inspired me for over 40 years and this video is no different. Gerard – I’m sending this one out to you……
September of 1973 had some amazing album releases including Bruce Springsteen’s sophomore release; releases from Poco and Uriah Heep when they were at the top of their game; a release from Linda Ronstadt who was on the verge of becoming a superstar; and the first solo album from Art Garfunkel after he and Paul Simon went their separate ways. I bought each of the albums back in 1973 and I love them as much today as I did when I purchased them.
In today’s post I feature a favorite song from each of the above albums plus a bonus song/interview/concert that is related to the album in some way. So……step into my musical time machine while we travel back to September 1973 and enjoy some great music…….
Bruce Springsteen – The Wild, The Innocent, & The E-Street Shuffle
My featured song from Bruce’s second release is New York City Serenade which I think is Bruce’s most beautiful song ever. It was an amazing accomplishment for such a young songwriter/musician/composer.
The bonus I have picked out for The Wild, The Innocent, and The E-Street Shuffle is a Bruce concert from 2012 where Bruce and the band play the entire album. This is a real treasure….I hope you enjoy it.
Poco – Crazy Eyes
Crazy Eyes was Poco’s most ambitious album of their career. The title song is an absolutely amazing song (written about Gram Parsons) and I have selected to feature it today.
The bonus I have picked out for the Crazy Eyes album s an interview with Richie Furay about the title song.
Uriah Heep – Sweet Freedom
Sweet Freedom is the one and only Uriah Heep album that I purchased but it was a good one. My favorite song was called Stealin and I have chosen to feature it today.
The bonus post for Sweet Freedom is the entire album. If you haven’t heard the album, you really need to take advantage of this and listen today. It’s good stuff!
Linda Ronstadt – Don’t Cry Now
Don’t Cry Now was Linda’s release that preceded her break through album, Heart Like A Wheel. It featured songs from some of the hottest young songwriters and musicians from the Southern California sound school of music. Today I have chosen to feature what I think is Linda’s greatest vocal performance ever, Love Has No Pride.
The bonus post for Don’t Cry Now is a version Love Has No Pride that was recorded by American Flyer, a band that featured Eric Kaz who wrote the song. Although I think Linda’s version is the best ever recording of the song, the American Flyer version is great in it’s own way. It features Craig Fuller on lead vocals…. you might remember his voice from Pure Prairie League.
Art Garfunkel – Angel Clare
Angel Clare was Art Garfunkel’s first solo album. Art could sing the New York city phone book and I would buy it but fortunately for us his first album featured some really great songwriters, including Jimmy Webb. Jimmy wrote All I Know, my favorite song from the album, and I have chosen to feature that song for you today.
For his third album release, Watermark, Art chose to release an entire album of Jimmy Webb songs. The first song on that album was called Crying In My Sleep. I personally think it is the best thing that Art has ever recorded and I have chosen to feature that song as a bonus post. Sadly, Crying In My Sleep was released as the first single from album and was not a hit. The album was immediately pulled and rereleased with an additional song called (What A) Wonderful World (not composed by Jimmy Webb) which produced a hit single.
I found this Bruce documentary online this week. I had never seen it before so I was pretty excited. Here is how it was described…..
Bruce Springsteen documentary from 2011 – How different the career and music of Bruce Springsteen could have turned out had it not been for his legally enforced recording hiatus, witnessed between the release of his celebrated ‘Born To Run’ album and the delayed but extraordinary follow-up, ‘Darkness On The Edge Of Town’ – almost three years later. Despite the undeniable strength of his ’75 opus, during this break from the studio, many wondered if ‘the future of rock n’ roll’ was a one trick pony who had somehow managed to capture the imagination of the media for a brief moment, but in reality was just yet another ‘new Bob Dylan’ who got lucky. This film examines the period between the start of the lull and the threat of the storm, when Bruce Springsteen recorded and released, arguably, the finest music he was ever going to make. Featuring rare and classic performance footage, archive interviews with the Boss himself, contributions from those who know the man best and who were around him during the 1975-1985 period, plus seldom seen photographs, news reports, newly discovered film material and some of the finest music ever made!
I think the Bruce fans will love it for sure (I’m talking to you Gerard 🙂 ). Everyone else let me know what you think.
Protest Music has always been part of American music and it still is today. It is not something that you hear about on a daily basis but it is always there lurking in the background.
In some ways, it is somewhat like the “room of requirement” from Harry Potter in that was always there when it was really needed. Think about the song Ohio from Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Neil Young wrote the song immediately after David Crosby showed him Life Magazine photos of the National Guard gunning down students at Kent State during an antiwar protest. The band recorded the song that night and it was released in a a matter of a couple of weeks. There was a need and the perfect song was there. Let’s listen…..
I can still remember hearing the song on the radio the first time. Of course I had already heard of what happened at Kent State. I couldn’t believe that our government had shot down innocent college student but I felt powerless and alone. Ohio captured every emotion I felt but was unable to convey and, most importantly, after hearing the song I knew I was not alone in having those feelings….I was part of a group. It was perfect.
In other cases protest music is already written and is just waiting for the right moment. In this way it is like a lot of modern technological innovations that get invented before there is an application for them. Let me give you an example from a recent article that i read in Wired Magazine.
Don Stookey knew he had botched the experiment. One day in 1952, the Corning Glass Works chemist placed a sample of photosensitive glass inside a furnace and set the temperature to 600 degrees Celsius. At some point during the run, a faulty controller let the temperature climb to 900 degrees C. Expecting a melted blob of glass and a ruined furnace, Stookey opened the door to discover that, weirdly, his lithium silicate had transformed into a milky white plate. When he tried to remove it, the sample slipped from the tongs and crashed to the floor. Instead of shattering, it bounced.
The future National Inventors Hall of Fame inductee didn’t know it, but he had just invented the first synthetic glass-ceramic, a material Corning would later dub Pyroceram. Lighter than aluminum, harder than high-carbon steel, and many times stronger than regular soda-lime glass, Pyroceram eventually found its way into everything from missile nose cones to chemistry labs. It could also be used in microwave ovens, and in 1959 Pyroceram debuted as a line of space-age serving dishes: Corningware.
The material was a boon to Corning’s fortunes, and soon the company launched Project Muscle, a massive R&D effort to explore other ways of strengthening glass. A breakthrough came when company scientists tweaked a recently developed method of reinforcing glass that involved dousing it in a bath of hot potassium salt. They discovered that adding aluminum oxide to a given glass composition before the dip would result in remarkable strength and durability. Scientists were soon hurling fortified tumblers off their nine-story facility and bombarding the glass, known internally as 0317, with frozen chickens. It could be bent and twisted to an extraordinary degree before fracturing, and it could withstand 100,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. (Normal glass can weather about 7,000.) In 1962 Corning began marketing the glass as Chemcor and thought it could work for products like phone booths, prison windows, and eyeglasses.
Yet while there was plenty of initial interest, sales were slow. Some companies did place small orders for products like safety eyeglasses. But these were recalled for fear of the potentially explosive way the glass could break. Chemcor seemed like it would make a good car windshield too, and while it did show up in a handful of Javelins, made by American Motors, most manufacturers weren’t convinced that paying more for the new muscle glass was worth it—especially when the laminated stuff they’d been using since the ’30s seemed to work fine.
Corning had invented an expensive upgrade nobody wanted. It didn’t help that crash tests found tat “head deceleration was significantly higher” on the windshields—the Chemcor might remain intact, but human skulls would not.
After pitches to Ford Motors and other automakers failed, Project Muscle was shut down and Chemcor was shelved in 1971. It was a solution that would have to wait for the right problem to arise.
The right problem for Chemcor ended up being one posed by Steve Job from Apple Computers in 2007. He needed Corning to produce millions of square feet of ultrathin, ultrastrong glass that didn’t yet exist for a new device that Apple was working on called the iPhone. The work that corning had done on Chemcor allowed them to produce what is now know as Gorilla Glass, a product that is now featured on more than 750 products and 33 brands worldwide. Chemcor had finally found its problem.
(Read the full Wired Magazine article at: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/09/ff-corning-gorilla-glass/all/)
Some protest music is like Chemcor. As an example, Charles Albert Tindley wrote a song called “I’ll Overcome Someday” in the early 1900s. Here is a 1930 performance of the song by Caldwell Bracy at the King Edward Hotel in Jackson, Mississippi.
The song was brought to the Highlander Folk School (a school that trained union organizers, in the 1930s by tobacco workers from Charleston, South Carolina. Songwriters including Pete Seeger and Guy Carawan, heard it at the school and altered Tindley’s refrain “I’ll Overcome Someday” to “We Shall Overcome” and the resulting song became the theme song of the US Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. I’ll Overcome Someday had found it’s problem. (Thanks to Wikipedia for providing source material about We Shall Overcome) Here is Bruce Springsteen’s version of We Shall Overcome that he recorded as part of his tribute to Pete Seeger. Let’s listen…..
The next installment of the American Protest Music series will start to investigate the some of our earliest examples of Protest Music. Stay tuned…….
As always, let me know what you think!