Jan 182021

Go ahead find something positive to say about this. I double-dog dare you!

I will start. At least for me, it was followed by a pro-shot (Apple FiIms) T. Rex concert at Wembley, 18 Mar 1972.

Jan 012021

WB was the kind of friend who could get you into awkward and troublesome situations, but if things didn’t go wrong, then we had a whole lot of fun (bonus: he was shameless about talking to girls while I played the part of the quiet sidekick). There we were at the Spectrum, waiting for the Psychedelic Furs to take the stage. Pretty In Pink was a big hit, the joint was packed. WB turned to me and said, “When the Furs come on, we have to go up front!” I looked around from our seats in the 12th row and said, “We ARE up front! We can see, we can hear, we have room around us, this is great – we’re good here.” “No,” he said, “we have to go ALL the way up front!” He was resolute, no point in further discussion. Not wanting to get ditched, I reluctantly agreed. Much of our dynamic was this way.

We pushed our way into the crowd at the edge of the stage, no doubt ticking off a few kids whose (correct) perception was that there was no room for any more people. I found myself jammed up against a metal fence, crushed and uncomfortable. My left arm was pinned. I worried that if the crowd started moving, I wouldn’t be able to protect myself or keep my balance. I figured I could wriggle my arm up and rest it atop the fence, but once I got my arm free, I realized the fence was higher than my shoulder and unless I got a foot taller, broke my arm, or came down with a case of Rickets, there was no way my plan would work. I had two choices – put my arm back down where it was immobile, or hold my arm up in the air like an idiot. I chose the latter.

So there I am, standing there with my arm aloft like a New Wave Statue of Liberty, the lights go down, the crowd cheers, the band comes out and launches into the first song. Eight bars go by and a spotlight reveals lead singer, Richard Butler, sauntering onto the stage with that laconic confidence that screams, “love me” to his loyal followers. As he walks downstage, he makes a beeline – to me! He struts over, grabs my hand and gives a vigorous shake! Richard Butler shook my hand, HOW COOL IS THAT?!

I felt energized by the handshake from a rock star and it tamped down how silly I felt about standing there with my arm in the air. A few songs later, Butler made his way towards me – and shook my hand AGAIN! Well, that was also cool. A few songs later, he did it again but the excitement was turning sour. When he shook my hand for the 5th time, I began to feel tormented. “Hey Richard,” I wanted to say, “stop shaking my hand! You don’t understand – I can’t put my arm down! Please make it stooooooooop!”

Of course, after a while the crowd had spaced out a little and I was able to lower my arm. It was then that I realized why WB wanted to get close- he’d brought a water pistol to the show and was getting a kick out of trying to squirt the band members. Yes, that is a weird thing to do.

What about you – have you had brushes with greatness at a big rock show? I’m not talking about singing Freebird at your local with your friend’s band. I mean, did you get a handshake? Did the singer hold the mic out to you to sing the chorus of the song? Did you get pulled onto stage to dance? Did the lead guitarist jump into the crowd and play a solo right in front of you? Maybe you got the jackpot – going backstage after the show? Hopefully your experience was less of a torment than mine!

Dec 282020

I’m a bit of a prude when it comes to cursing, or swearing, as some call it. While raising our boys, I frequently stressed the importance of not cursing too liberally. I probably shared the following Dad Lesson with them 50 times through the years: An interviewee was cruising along toward a job offer, as I grilled her, when she casually dropped the word “shit” into one of her answers. In my mind, I thought, “Oh no, that’s a clear display of poor judgment in the professional world in which we work.” One of those giant canes from a burlesque-set cartoon came out and yanked her off the stage.

“But Dad,” they have told me at least 200 times, “you curse.”

“Yes, but usually that’s only when I’ve lost my temper or knocked over a glass of water.”

Each boy, at points, has played me a favorite song of theirs that I found a little too crude for comfort.

“But Dad,” they remind me, “you listen to songs with curse words and crude content. You make us watch movies with stuff like that.”

“Yes, but that’s in the service of the Truth. I’m fine with all sorts of things if it’s in the service of Art and Truth.”

It’s probably a pain in the ass, excuse my French, to be one of my sons.

I just got a note from an old friend, and for some reason my favorite curse-infested line from Public Enemy came to mind. I should have it cued up in the video I posted.

Elvis was a hero to most

But he never meant shit to me you see

Straight up racist that sucker was

Simple and plain

Motherfuck him and John Wayne

I have no evidence that Elvis or John Wayne deserved such a crude verse in “Fight the Power,” but in the middle of all that song’s fury, it perfectly meets my criteria for allowable, even necessary crudeness.

You are welcome to your own standards of crudeness – I know some of you to be real potty-mouths! What’s your favorite use of cursing in a song?

Dec 282020

I don’t know about you, but Christmas is a good time for receiving (and giving, to the appropriate loved ones) music-related gifts. Santa got me the Chris Frantz book, Remain in Love. I’ve been blowing through it. Frantz writes like he drums: direct, concise, and not afraid to land a hard accent when the content calls for it. It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s good getting a totally unpretentious point of view on the typically pretentiously portrayed Talking Heads. To be fair, David Byrne was refreshingly down to earth when discussing the band in his excellent How Music Works book, which I read this summer.

Santa also got me Patti Smith‘s Year of the Monkey and what promises to be an incredibly pretentious book: Brian Eno: Visual Music. I haven’t gotten into it yet, but’s loaded with imagery that I assume is associated with Eno’s ambient music, and the text is in 3-point type. I’ll don’t often need my reading glasses, but I will in this case.

How about you? Any new music-related items in your household? Any music-themed gifts you gave your loved ones?

Dec 242020

Flunk Punks “Guitar Tech” Paul Shields, with THE INFAMOUS YAMAHA DT 175 IN THE BACKGROUND!

Happy holidays, Rock Town Hall members and hangers-on!

As has become a bit of a tradition ’round these parts, on this festive day of the year, I present you with the annual telling of my greatest moment of rock embarrassment — namely, the story of The Day I Rode My Motorcycle On-stage at School Assembly and Proceeded to Suck Mightily. This year, however…there’s more!

First of all, there are pictures to share, culled from dusty old photo albums–including, as you’ll see above, a picture of the actual motorcycle! I wish I had pictures of all the members of the “band,” but there seem to be just a few in my possession. Perhaps more illuminating, I’ve managed to gather a few recollections of the event from other members of the Flunk Punks! This year, I managed to track down two: David “Bertie” Bertram and Peter Horn. Peter was characteristically taciturn about the whole affair, but Bertie remembered something I’d long since forgotten: the Flunk Punks “groupies!”

Anyway, the story proceeds below, followed by our star witnesses’ commentary. Enjoy, and–best wishes for the season, RTH!



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