May 202013


Bummer, man. No joke. Ray Manzarek, Doors keyboardist and Tonto to Jim Morrison’s Stoned Ranger, has died after a battle with bile duct cancer.

RayMan, as he was known to at least a few of us, brought much joy and laughter to the Halls of Rock—not to mention some actually cool musical contributions, both with the Doors and as producer of the essential albums by X!

The guy’s insufferable proselytizing of his allegedly late partner in crime and their band’s works began to charm me as the years passed. It’s rare that an artist is willing to talk in detail about the process of making music—and do so with an enthusiasm and belief in the greatness of his or her mates’ achievements that is usually only expressed among fellow bandmates. Let’s face it, whether it’s the Beatles, the Stones, the Doors, X, Jedward, or Nixon’s Head hunkered in their rehearsal space or studio, hammering out their latest creations, musicians experience a sense of godliness during the creative act. Most gods have the good sense to keep details of their creative process mysterious; Manzarek practically ran down Mount Olympus to tell us how the magic was made…man. We’ve got to learn how it’s done somehow.

Over time, the loyalty and love shown toward friends count for a lot, too. You know what I’m talking about, E. Pluribus Gergely!

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Aug 302012

I’ve always had a negative feeling about Redd Kross—just one of the many California hardcore bands. Sorta the way I feel about The Circle Jerks.

The problem is this: I never really listened to Redd Kross. Maybe it was their name. Or I saw a badly art-directed poster. Chock it up to being a close-minded dick.

Well anyways…I heard a cut from their new album yesterday in the car (on WKDU).  And damn, it was pretty darn good. Super poppy, fun and rockin’—sort of the smart/simple hooky pop/rock I love from Sloan.

And this after like a 7-year hiatus!!! These guys are old!!!

So Redd Kross, I’d like to officially apologize for grouping you into a group without really knowing who you were. My bad.

The whole album is really neat btw. Thanks itunes for your instant gratification. I will be buying more of their earlier stuff now.

Aug 062012

I want to ♥ Los Lobos.

I want to ♥ Los Lobos. For years I was happy to have no interest in them. I didn’t care for the movie La Bamba and quickly tired of hearing the band’s cover of Ritchie Valens‘ big hit, a song that had already worn out its welcome through its near-“novelty song” status since childhood. I didn’t tune into the roots-rock thing. I associated them with The Blasters and that album cover of the first Blasters record, the one with the cartoon image of the big, sweaty face. Phil Alvin’s voice gave me the willies. Somehow his voice colored my initial ability to ♥ Los Lobos.

After the band had been around for years I finally heard 2 songs that first made me appreciate the band: “Kiko and the Lavender Moon,” off the Mitchell Froom (of all producers!)-produced Kiko (1992) and a cover of the Grateful Dead (of all bands!) song “Bertha.” I’ve always had a soft spot for “Bertha.”

Years passed and I kept trying to get into Los Lobos. They were musicians’ musicians, the kind of musicians my uncle might have turned me onto back in my childhood, when he let me paint Day-Glo designs on his bedroom wall while listening to 8-tracks of Traffic, Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, et al… I bought Kiko and a 2-CD collection of Los Lobos in the late-90s. The former was OK; the collection had a live version of “Bertha” but too much of that jangly stuff from the early albums and live blooz jams, the sort of thing Stevie Ray Vaughn might do, the sort of thing fat guys with ponytails and soul patches might dig.

Jun 112011

Sounds of the Hall in roughly 33 1/3 minutes!

This week’s edition of Saturday Night Shut-In has been pre-recorded to allow Mr. Moderator to fly out to Los Angeles to visit sammymaudlin for a healing weekend of unadulterated Mandom! To prepare for his trip—his first ever trip to L.A. proper—your host meditates on the meaning of the trip to the accompaniment of the soundtrack album from Alan Rudolph’s 1976 film Welcome to L.A.

[audio:|titles=RTH Saturday Night Shut-In, episode 32]

[Note: The Rock Town Hall feed will enable you to easily download Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your digital music player. In fact, you can even set your iTunes to search for an automatic download of each week’s podcast.]

Nov 272010

Crabby Appleton

You may recall a recent Mystery Date featuring a proto-power pop song that Townspeople correctly identified as being from 1970 while puzzingly and incorrectly guessing was recorded by an obscure Dutch band. Our Mystery Date turned out to be an American band, Crabby Appleton, led by Michael Fennelly, who’d previously come to underground pop acclaim as a member of “sunshine pop” commercial flop and cult favorite The Millennium.

I first discovered The Millennium when Begin was reissued on CD, probably around 1990. My friends and I had started a Rutles-like offshoot band that we envisioned as one of the “second-tier” pop-psych bands we loved, including The Turtles, The Hollies, Grass Roots, and The Pretty Things. This new old band we’d discovered, The Millennium, was just the sort of band we’d envisioned. “It’s You” is one of the great songs from that era; I still get chills everytime I hear it. Little could I have imagined that, 20 years later, I’d piece together a long, vague personal history with the music of one of the writers of that song and get the chance to talk to him.

As mentioned in the Mystery Date thread on Crabby Appleton, when I first came across their album at my college radio station, in 1981, my late-night DJ shift friend and I didn’t get it. The band name and the hard rock elements threw us off. Revisiting the album with nearly 20 years of time to catch up on early 1970s’ hard rock I actually dug it! I played “Go Back” for my old college friend too, and he did too. One of the reasons we enter the Halls of Rock is to revisit stuff we didn’t get at earlier points in our lives. The good day of discovering that Crabby Appleton’s debut album was actually a solid, slightly ahead-of-its time piece of work that tied back to an earlier band I loved continues with our chat with Michael Fennelly.

Nov 192010

A couple times a year I meet someone at a party, a show, or even here here in the Halls of Rock, get into a deep conversation about music, and then get around to asking this music lover what instrument he or she plays. “Oh, I can’t play an instrument,” the person tells me, “I’ve got no rhythm!”

I usually don’t say much, but inside I’m blown away that this person who knows so much about the music he or she loves, maybe even knows some of the music theory behind it, claims to have absolutely no ability to play any instrument, not even poorly. You’ve got hands, I want to say, you’ll find some kind of rhythm! Maybe I shouldn’t be so idealistic, or presumptuous, but I’d like to hear every music lover take a crack a playing an instrument. I’d like to hear ever music lover’s song, or if not actually hear it know that it’s out there. File Under “Freak Flag.”

Earlier this year Townsman sammymaudlin told me about a new design project he was kicking off for a friend’s album cover and website. The story behind the debut album by Chris Amodeo was like something out of a Hollywood adaptation of an Oliver Sacks book: middle-age Master Rolfer (a body-centered form of psychotherapy) and voiceover artist buys his first guitar at a fundraiser for the dying son of his friends, begins playing Beatles songs to his own kids, is encouraged by his wife to write a song for their son, and soon thereafter is flooded with the gift of songwriting. Song ideas invade his activities of daily living. Less than two years after first picking up a guitar Amodeo is playing his songs for friends at some Oliver Stone-worthy shindig, where it is determined he must enter a studio and record an album of his songs. The resulting album, Homo Luminous, is not just an inspiring testament to a middle-age dog learning new tricks but an accomplished, melodic album of songs expressing the spirit and hopes of a grown man.

In anticipation of his November 20th show at The Coach House, in San Juan Capistrano, CA, I spoke to Chris about his latent awakening as a musician and songwriter, the making of the album, and his recent success in turning our mutual friend, The Back Office’s sammymaudlin, onto the elusive charms of Be Bop Deluxe. We concluded our chat with a round of Dugout Chatter and by looking forward to the completion of voiceover work this VH1 Behind the Music veteran is doing in support of a future Rock Town Hall initiative.

Apr 112010

This past Friday night I got to see most of the new Tom DiCillo documentary on The Doors, When You’re Strange. I say “most” because the DVD being used to project this film in Philadelphia’s cool, hip outdoor Piazza at Schmidt‘s condo gathering space crapped out twice for long stretches. It was a pretty cold and windy night, and after the second run of technical difficulties, with just the fat, bearded period of Jim Morrison and The Doors’ life left to tell, my son and I felt like we’d had enough of a great night out, talking music and life and all that good stuff. We listened to – and talked about – Pink Floyd and Yes on the ride home. It was a beautiful time, man, and although I regret not seeing my favorite period of The Doors covered, we’d gotten more than our money’s worth.
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