Mr. Moderator

Mr. Moderator

When not blogging Mr. Moderator enjoys baseball, cooking, and falconry.

Jun 302021

When I was younger and more idealistic, I might have crafted a 10,000-word essay this question. I don’t think I have that much idealism left, but I’ve got to ask anyway.

I got turned onto Steppenwolf as a little kid, thanks to the faux-live album with the snarling wolf on the cover. Their half dozen or so nasty rock classics were staples of AM radio, also bridging over to FM, when I finally got around to listening to FM radio. Their music was featured in Easy Rider, another key learning opportunity that my parents somehow turned me onto when I was about 7 years old. Steppenwolf was biker cool, man.

I still love listening to a Steppenwolf hit when it comes on the radio. Years ago, I tried listening to something other than the live album or their greatest hits. If you’ve been wondering if the deep cuts are worth the effort, trust me: they are not. That said, the band’s 5 or 6 killer singles retain their staying power.

OK, “Magic Carpet Ride” isn’t as mind-blowing as it was when I was 7, and “Born to Be Wild” has lost something thanks to overexposure, but “Hey, Lawdy Mama” came up on a playlist the other day, and I was as ready to pick a fight with a stranger as ever. That is possibly the most badass song ever. Some of those little guitar hooks could take down the best guitar hooks by the mighty Lynyrd Skynyrd.

And don’t get me started on “The Pusher.” It’s as ominous and unintentionally funny as ever.

We could be talking more often about the 5 or 6 great singles by Steppenwolf, but instead, we go on for days over T. Rex or lazy-ass Alex Chilton. Why?

I look forward to your thoughts.

Jun 212021
Am I the only person who finds the author’s name inappropriately large and confusing, in the context of the artist and his real name?

Townspeople, it’s that time for cracking open summer music reading. My birthday just passed, which means I’ve got some new books piling up. I’ve been digging right into this oral history on David Bowie, listening to all the Bowie albums being covered as I read. So far, for all my complaints, I’m clearly enjoying it, but maybe in a bit of a “hate-read” way.

You may recall my longtime difficulties with Bowie. Despite the fact that I love 30 songs by him, he’s just…not my kind of guy. The focus of this oral history is on his devouring – aesthetically, sexually – side of him. It confirms so much of the foreign – to my sensibilities – vibe I’ve always gotten from him. He seemed like he was so ambitious, so eager to create a persona – two qualities I actually don’t have an issue with – but he wasn’t doing it for himself, the way my natural music hero John Lennon seemed to be doing. Instead, he seemed to do all this to insulate his inner void, or whatever. I’m thoroughly enjoying this book, I am ashamed to say, but the story so far, through Aladdin Sane and his dumping The Spiders, is making me a bit queasy.

I’m curious to see if this rock bio can end without chapters on our hero hanging out with Phil Collins and Sting at exclusive Caribbean resorts. I hate when that happens.

What music reading do you have underway or lined up for the summer?

Jun 062021

In our recent Nitpicking thread, I picked a nit over Pink Floyd‘s most down-easy song, “Wish You Were Here,” for copping out with wind effects rather than find a more graceful end to the song. I am here to apologize for picking that nit.

Today, The Rolling Stones‘ “Wild Horses” started. It has a similar intro to “Which You Were Here,” which made me regret my nitpicking with that song and say to no one in particular, “I wish the Stones had cued the wind machine and left me wanting more!”

Maybe it’s just me, but I think “Wild Horses” goes on for a good 3 minutes longer than it has any business going on. The “plaintive,” on-bended-knee lyrics and delivery by Jagger are up their with “Lady Jane.” Or down there, I should say. It’s a charming, promising song at first – and I like the version by Flying Burrito Brothers a little better – but both bands should have had the good sense to cue the wind machine.

What song would you like to turn up the wind on?

Jun 042021

I don’t know what compelled me to look up a live version of my least favorite song in the world, Blood, Sweat & Tears’ version of Laura Nyro’s “And When I Die,” but I’m glad I did. This live version is even worse than the studio version.

Let’s be real: Nyro’s version is almost as terrible as the better-known cover. At its songwriting heart, it’s like an outtake from a thwarted musical version of Gone With the Wind. Or Birth of a Nation. Blood, Sweat & Tears, led by the self-satisfied David Clayton-Thomas, milk the the Plantation Party vibe for all its worth. Yuck!

Have you ever found a live version of a song you can’t stand that maximizes all you can’t stand about the studio version?

May 272021

Driving home after a wonderful anniversary dinner tonight, U2’s “New Year’s Day” came on the radio.

“There are enough U2 songs I like.” I said to my disinterested wife, “I wish this one would go away.”

She is expert in tuning me out when I go on such tangents, so I continued my conversation in my head.

“Why do you particularly dislike this song?” I asked.

“It’s nothing but the overly emotive crap that I can’t stand about Bono,” I said. Then I added, “And he ruins it right out of the gates with an unnecessary banshee wail.”

Bono has had more space to emote than any person in earth. He does a pleading banshee wail on every U2 song. Did he really need to start this one with a pleading banshee wail?

Then “we” (is, I and I) got to talking. Beside The Stooges’ “Loose,” does any song warrant opening with a banshee wail?

I don’t think Daltry, Lennon, Jim Morrison, or PJ Harvey, some of rock’s best wailers, opened a song with a banshee wail. I could be wrong.

May 112021
He was a great…man!

Even in his prime, Van Morrison wasn’t ever accused of being remotely “hinged.” He hasn’t married his wife’s daughter yet, so for me, I haven’t quite reached the level of discomfort I feel over Woody Allen. I wonder if he’s fully losing his mind, maybe getting dementia or some other condition that people at his age can get.

I scanned through his new album, with some generic title and clip-art cover. It is as execrable as you might have read in reviews. It’s got that anti-Semitic single you’ve probably heard about. And another song calling those of us on Facebook idiots. All that’s missing is a duet with Clint Eastwood entitled “Get Off My Lawn.” It’s not worth discussing the music. It’s as generic as the album title and cover art. The lyrics are pathetic.

I wonder how much more of these meltdown albums we’re going to be subjected to as the first wave of rockers who wrote their own songs reaches their final years of fear and misery. Pre-rock artists like Sinatra could be spoonfed classics written by others as their personal worldview might have been caving in. That generation of artists didn’t stand for anything personal. They could “Put on a Happy Face” from the American Songbook with the help of a nurse.

Sadly, Van Morrison still has access to his original voice while bitterly rocking away on his porch and watching the world around him become a place that threatens him. He once had the ability to “Listen to the Lion.” I’m going to keep that part of the artist alive and let this present-day crank die off.


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