Jun 042013

I can’t stand Journey. I never liked them, not a thing about them. (Well, there was that brief moment in time when I had some interest in them.)

For a variety of reasons, I assume, we tend to go easy on African-American musicians. It’s understandable. Rock ‘n roll fans have been raised to praise the “authenticity” of the genre’s predecessors and colleagues from the extended soul world. Most, if not all, regulars in the Hall seem to be white. (I’m not asking for anyone to step forward and prove that assumption wrong, mind you.) Most of us did not grow up with the music of African-American artists as our initial source of music, so we lack the visceral reactions that come from growing up with a particular strain of music that is in the crosshairs of our culture. That’s cool. Hell, some of you don’t know a soul artist exists unless some white dude has gotten behind the production of the artist’s “comeback” album.

However, we’re adults. We’re mature. We’ve developed our hard-earned tastes. We know what we like and what we don’t like. We can spot a white rock turd from a mile away. Some may point to Journey or Styx or REO Speedwagon (or all 3) or Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show or Billy Joel, for instance, or a more contemporary artist of that “minitude.” I bet there’s an established African-American musician who makes your stomach turn—and I don’t mean a 1-hit wonder, like that nephew of Berry Gordy who wanted to be Michael Jackson.

Don’t hold back for fear of ignorance or cultural insensitivity: Who’s your African-American Journey?

After considering Donna Summer, I thought about it and landed squarely on the following:

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Mar 202013

I dare you

Three words used to prod each other into doing or sharing stupid things. We’ve all done stupid things in our past. A rock nerd’s past is probably chock full ‘0 stupid things worth being prodded to share. In that spirit, I dare you to play along with the following game, a game in which we dare each other to step into the RTH Confessional

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Sep 142012

The home page gives a mission statement for RTH. I’ve also referred to RTH as the Uni-Mind for Rock.

I think there is another purpose it can serve. In AA, recovering alcoholics have a sponsor, the person they can call when they feel the urge to fall off the wagon weighing heavy, someone who can talk them out of making such a big mistake.

RTH should serve the same purpose. For instance: Please don’t ever let me buy another sunshine pop/orchestral pop/Brian Wilson-inspired album again!

The latest mistake I made was buying The Critters, Awake In A Dream: The Project 3 Recordings.

I don’t know what I was thinking. I’ve been burned so many other times on stuff like this.

“Maybe there will be something as good as ‘Mr. Dieingly Sad’.”

“Maybe this one will really be of Brian Wilson-like quality.”

“Maybe, maybe, maybe…”

Never is though. File this one next to The High Llamas, The Beau Brummels, and others even more forgettable.

Please help me—and tell me how I can help you avoid such mistakes.

Aug 312012

Shock me, Townspeople, with some buried secret from your rock ‘n roll past. Not small-potatoes stuff like the fact that you kind of like Supertramp or the time you and a friend once stole 70 record albums from a suburban mall record store. Not the time you were hanging with another friend who convinced you it was all right to break into his friend’s parents’ house while they were on vacation so you could listen to the Elvis Costello & the AttractionsImperial Bedroom while getting high! No, I mean really shocking stuff, like the fact that you have simply got a soft spot for David Bowie‘s Let’s Dance.

It’s RTH Confessional time, my friends. Shock me.

Apr 112012

Last week the family and I were in the car for a short trip out for dinner. I switched on the local Classic Rock station and  “Waiting on a Friend” came on the radio.

“This song isn’t up to your high standards, is it?” my wife asked with a mocking glance from the passenger’s seat.

“Actually, I like this song,” I said, leaving out the fact that for a good 15 years I did not allow myself to like it. “It’s ‘Start Me Up’ that is the last straw for me and the Stones.”

With each passing year I really do like “Waiting on a Friend.” I like the video even better. I value friendship above just about everything else. It’s really nice how patient Mick is waiting for Keef to show up and take a walk. In contrast, the guy sitting at the cafe window at the 1:33 mark looks so sad, doesn’t he? He clearly doesn’t have a great old friend like Keef who’s running just a few minutes late. I’ll stop now before I tear up at the site of Mick and Keef eventually meeting up with Ronnie at the bar, where they swig beer; sashay to the music; lean into each other; and practice multiple means of self-stimulation by running hands through messy hair, playing with a scarf, and taking deep drags off a cigarette.

With each passing year I like “Start Me Up” less. I didn’t like it the day I first heard it, when it was released. I don’t like it even one bit today. It’s the musical equivalent of Mick’s stupid football pants. It’s a real ass-kisser of a song by a band that made its bones kicking ass. It’s Mick run wild with his penchant for 17-year-old Brazilian models. It’s musical Viagra, before there even was such a pill. It’s Keef doing that stupid knee bend while pulling off one of his patented “no-hands” 5-string guitar moves. It’s the sound of all the wrong people suddenly getting excited over a band that meant a lot to me.

I didn’t tell my wife any of this stuff that was running through my sick brain, but I did tell her this: “Did I ever tell you about the time sophomore year when I turned down second-row seats for that Stones tour in Chicago?”

“Huh?” My wife has good taste and is a snob in her own right. She knows that Stones were beginning to head downhill at that time, but she doesn’t read deep meanings into “Under My Thumb” and the groove of “Beast of Burden.” She can enjoy “Start Me Up” for what it probably is: a fun dance song.

“Yeah, a guy in our frat’s dad was some kind of union head,” I explained. “He got us an entire row of seats, the second row, front and center. I was offered a ticket for $20. I was already certain the band sucked. I turned it down.”

“You need to turn yourself into Rock Town Hall for one of those Rock Crimes,” my wife exclaimed. “You’re sick! If you don’t turn yourself in I’m going to log on and out you. Turn yourself in and see if they find you guilty!”

So here I am, Too Cool for School, circa 1982. Was I justified in turning down that second-row ticket—maybe even visionary—or am I guilty of having been Too Cool for School?

Is Mr. Moderator innocent or guilty of "Too Cool for School" Rock Crimes charges for having turned down second-row seats to the Rolling Stones' 1982 tour?

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Mar 242012

I just caught 5 minutes of Grace of My Heart, basically the fictional account of the life of a Carole King-like Brill Building songwriter who comes into her own after a series of failed relationships with goofy, sensitive, creative men. I’m a sucker for this movie. I loved it when it came out, and I easily get sucked into it every time I’m flipping channels and come to a screeching halt. There’s a big fundraiser dinner party at my place tonight, so I had to rip myself away from the TV to get back to work (after this quick post). Anyhow, the whole middle-class ’60s women’s empowerment message is an easy selling point for me, and the movie is loaded with many of my favorite six-pack worthy actors, goofy, sensitive types like John Turturro, Matt Dillon, and Eric Stoltz.

As with another similarly themed movie that I get the sense I alone absolutely love, Peggy Sue Got Married, I don’t expect you to share my love for Grace of My Heart. Laugh at me, if you must. Pull this chink in my exquisite tastes out of your back pocket when you find yourself pinned to the mats by my rock logic. I share this fact with you in hopes of learning what rock-related thing you sense you alone love?

I look forward to your admissions.


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