Mar 012013


Last week, I was in England visiting friends and family, and during my journeys several songs came to mind relating to the places I was traveling. You may be able to imagine what was going through my head at Baker Street Station, Waterloo Station, Victoria Station, and along The Strand.

On my flight back to the US, I picked up a copy of The Guardian, and came across an article that also referenced music and place, “Beltway Belter.”

“In 2007 Laura Barton wrote an ode to a Jonathan Richman song. Inspired, Massachusetts now wants it as a state anthem. What is it about Roadrunner?”

In the article, Ms. Barton mentions about her previous newspaper piece, for which she traveled along good ol’ Rt. 128 to visit the locations mentioned in the song. Apparently, the article has since spurred a bill that “seeks to anoint Roadrunner the official rock song of Massachusetts,” and if passed, will join the other official Massachusetts songs (a folk song, a glee club song, a polka, and The Official Song).

So tonight I did a little web research and found the original article, a pleasant foray into music obsession that I believe many of us can relate to:

But wait, there’s more. If you thought Jonathan Richman had the nomination for Official Rock Song of Massachusetts wrapped up, you can Dream On:

What do you think? I’m reaching out to you, bostonhistorian, misterioso, diskojoe, and others, to help us understand, weigh the evidence, and sort out with this controversy of Official Rock Song of Massachusetts.

And while you all are mulling over all this, does your state have an official song? Apparently, Oklahoma locked on to the Flaming Lips‘ “Do You Realize” in 2009; that’s a lovely song, but is it worthy enough to be official? Does it match Ohio’s “Hang On Sloopy”? Or Washington’s “Louie, Louie”?

RTH, help us determine, ONCE AND FOR ALL, what should Massachusett’s Official Rock Song be, AND what is the best official state song?

Feb 242013

I am severely challenged by matters of time and space—and even the thought of looking at a map makes me dizzy—but watching the video someone made of this excerpt from The ResidentsThird Reich ‘n Roll got me thinking about rock’s coordinates, or maybe the term I’m seeking is polar forces. You know, all that stuff that has todo with latitude and longitude.

The Beatles and The Rolling Stones are not “opposed” to each other, in the negative connotation of that term, but they are clear points on rock ‘n roll’s map. The coordinates of our position relative to those points tells us something our about place in the rock universe, maybe even who we are.

I hope someone more geographically minded can make sense of what I’m getting at and smooth out what I know I’m getting at. When and if this makes sense, are their other pairs of artists that serve as rock’s coordinates?

Sep 222012

Rock museums. Just the idea of them is questionable. I mean, I’m resigned to rock’s total acceptance by mainstream culture and acknowledge the plus sides of that as well as the downsides. But even if there is a significant chunk of rock’s history that is now well and truly in the distant past (beyond the memories of most people alive today), rock museums seem to me, just, un-rock. I even approved when the Sex Pistols said fuckyouverymuch to the RNR HOF’s induction ceremony.

That didn’t stop me this year from going on a pilgrimage to Memphis, the Mississippi Delta, and New Orleans, where I paid entrance fees to Halls of Culture to see (and hear) what until recently would have been considered mass culture ephemera by the custodians of such places. Really, I just wanted to go to 706 Union Avenue. That alone would have had meaning for me as a historical place, and it was indeed the highlight of my trip.

I will blurb below about the places I went (with Mrs. Kid), but I’m more interested in your feelings, ideas, and experiences about Rock Museums.

Sun Studios (Memphis, TN) – It is a goldmine for someone, but I didn’t mind the commercial aspect at all. They had exhibits in the old boarding house upstairs showing Phillips’ original recording gear and a presentation including loudly played prime Sun cuts. They have Marion Kiesker’s office as it was, and paid her huge props as an unsung figure in the creation of rock, but the drab studio itself was the best bit. It looks like it has never been changed since it opened. The ugly soundproofing tiles on the wall are the same ones seen in the iconic Million Dollar Quartet photo. They have the original vocal mike set up where Elvis, Johnny, and Wolf stood, the original piano Jerry Lee played. If I were any younger, I would have really felt something, but even in my jaded old age I felt some kind of tremor as they dimmed the lights and played “That’s All Right.”

Graceland (Memphis, TN) – We went because why not? Another highlight. The house and grounds were tremendously more modest than I expected. The décor did not offend me at all – it just reminded me of the ’70s. The many museum exhibits across the road were hit and miss. I’m not a car nerd, but I loved seeing Elvis’s impressive collection, and I also enjoyed boarding the Lisa Marie Convair 880 jet parked outside. Because I allowed for the excessive commercialization upfront, I was able to screen out the vulgarity of the sheer number of gift shops (I bought exactly one postcard) and simply enjoy soaking up the level of Elvisness that I was comfortable with.

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Aug 272012

Left to right: Mod, Conan, Sammy.

Stick with me for a few minutes, OK? I want to tell you about some cool behind-the-scenes workings that sammymaudlin and I experienced a few weeks ago, during a taping of our first appearance on Conan. First, it may be out of our jurisdiction, but I’d like to issue an official RTH SUMMONS for the show’s host, co-host, band members, and crew to join us in the Halls of Rock.

I’ve long suspected that Conan O’Brien would make a fine Townsman. He’s got a self-deprecating sense of humor, for starters, which helps when any one of us decides to duck away from work or family responsibilities for a few minutes to chat about an obscure record label sampler album or the role of the headband in rock. As many of you know, there are times when we find ourselves taking this stuff a little too seriously, at which point it helps to know the joke’s on us.

Conan’s always been comfortable with the musical aspects of his show, from his rapport with his always excellent band (originally the Max Weinberg 7 [?] and now known as Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band) to his enthusiasm for his musical guests. I remember the night he introduced The Soundtrack of My Life, a band I’d not yet heard, with the anticipation of a teenage boy ready to rock. Thirty seconds into their performance I extended a virtual high-five to Conan to share in his appreciation for the band’s ability to tap into the Power & Glory of Rock. I bought the album the next day. Another time he had one of my heroes, Nick Lowe, on with Conan’s his band backing him up. It was magic. I had tears of joy streaming down my face, and it was all the better knowing Lowe was performing this magic under Conan’s watch and not some soulless asshole like Jay Leno. (Leno strikes me as one of those guys who doesn’t actually hear or perceive the qualities in music. Yeah, I like all kinds of music, he’d say, shrugging his shoulders unconvincingly. As a side thread in whatever discussion ensues, Quick: Name an album Jay Leno may actually own and know!)

In recent years Conan has been more open then ever about his love for rock ‘n roll: buddying up to Jack White; performing with White and others on his NBC show’s farewell; and as I was lucky enough to witness, popping up on stage to sing “My Bonnie” with The Fab Faux, the awesome Beatles cover band featuring Vivino. Whenever I’ve seen Conan onstage playing music it’s a kick. He’s not a “real musician,” but he’s clearly in heaven whenever he gets a chance to play onstage with real musicians. It’s a feeling with which many of us can identify.

I don’t know about Andy Richter‘s tastes in music, although I’ve read his is rumored to have appeared in the film Tommy. Regardless, he makes me laugh my ass off. If he’s got any rock nerd chops I could see him working under alexmagic‘s wing. It’s easy to register, Andy.

The story behind our appearance on Conan (indisputable proof can be seen here) still amazes me. My wife, boys, and I were a couple of days away from our grand West Coast tour. We were at the kitchen table running through the itinerary. “We should have looked into getting tickets for a taping of Conan,” I said.

“I’ll try Quinn,” my wife said, “she knows everyone!”

Continue reading »

Aug 262012

I read that Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, died on Saturday. In celebration of his feat, an event I remember watching in the middle of the night with my family in some hotel room in Ocean City, New Jersey and then falling out of the top bunk in my sleep later that night, let’s have a Last Man Standing for songs specifically about travel to the moon (or at least into space, where the traveler will at least pass the moon). The song can’t simply be about the moon; someone’s got to be going there, living there, what have you.

Aug 072012

What's your town's MMI?

Need some kindling for sparking your rock-nerd sense of pride or outrage, as appropriate? Then you would be wise to check out this article on “The Geography of America’s Music Scenes,” as appearing in The Atlantic Cities site.

Thanks to a neighborhood friend who recently discovered my secret life as a blogger for passing this along. Our apologies for the new avenues in time mismanagement we are providing him.

Jul 242012

I saw this little blurb in my newspaper back home about a New Yorker article on Bruce Sprinsteen (aka “The Boss”). Dave Marsh, who is quoted here,  has long been rock’s reddest, rawest smacked ass, but The Boss does his part, as always, to build his legend. I don’t care if he ever writes 30 songs I love, I’ll always be annoyed by this guy’s routine and the fawning that refuses to die. Too bad. He does and stands for some things I love.

I’ve been in Monterey, California the last 24 hours. It’s my second or third time in this delightful town. One thing, however, really bugs me: the only reason I ever knew and cared about Monterey growing up was the Monterey Pop Festival of 1967. The film of that festival was part of young hippie education. I’ve not yet found a Monterey Pop Festival t-shirt in this town. No offense to fans of Steinbeck, sea life, and the old canning industry, but is that too much to ask?


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