This Is Us

 Posted by
Apr 012020

Here are some things I would have commented on during the interregnum since October 2016:

I would have continued championing Dylan’s Sinatra period as he released Triplicate. Here’s Dylan doing “Once Upon A Time” at a Tony Bennett 90th birthday tribute. Dylan does it far better than Bennett, as does Sinatra.

I would have mentioned the Len Price 3, one of my favorite “new” bands of the last 15 years.

I would have raved about Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder Review “documentary.” Personally, I love the phony bits in this; it’s so Dylanesque I’m surprised he hasn’t thought of it before. Hmmm? And you have to love the film if only for the performance of “Isis,” which immediately joins 1966 and the first Letterman performance as the best Dylan live performances.

And speaking of Dylan, Robbie Fulks’ album 16, a cover of Dylan’s Street Legal, is as great a Dylan cover set as you are going to hear. Little is a replication of the original; it’s a wonderful reinterpretation in much the way that Dylan reinterpreted Sinatra.

And speaking of Robbie, his collaboration with Linda Gail Lewis, Wild! Wild! Wild!, is another great one, on record and especially live.

And it was plenty of fun seeing Mott the Hoople in NYC last spring. Ian Hunter giving Ariel Bender and Morgan Fisher another chance to be in the spotlight and dress up glam. Bender pulled it off and Fisher had moments where he seemed to know where he was. At 64, I was one of the younger members of the crowd, many of whom were glammed up as well, even those with walkers and, I kid you not, in one case a walker and an oxygen tank. Not exactly all the young dudes.

Oh, and as long as we are talking about fun concerts, the oldies show with Freddie Cannon, Lou Christie, Bobby Rydell, and Darlene Love was lots of fun. Even if I didn’t get to hear Darlene sing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” live (apparently November 5 is too early for that); that was rectified this past December.

What would you have written about in the last 3½ years?


  9 Responses to “This Is Us”

  1. Wow, what may I have been commenting on the last few years? As usual, I haven’t gone out and seen as many shows as might be expected of someone so opinionated, but I really don’t like to be disappointed by a live show, so I often don’t bother going out.

    On the eve of our last presidential election, I took my then-19-year-old son up to NYC to see Elvis Costello & the Imposters play Imperial Bedroom in its entirety. Yes, I missed seeing my favorite bassist in the world, Bruce Thomas, but the big guy who’s replaced him is loyal to Bruce’s arrangements. The show was amazing. Costello opened with “Night Rally” and some pointed barbs at the Republican candidate. He got us worked into a frenzy over the coming election of our first woman president. How many times does an audience get goosebumps before the artist strikes an opening chord? The show went on like that: various songs from his catalog with a song at a time from Imperial Bedroom. He set up each of those songs with a story behind its writing or recording. “Kid About It,” I believe, was written after he’d learned of John Lennon’s shooting. I think he said he called up Pete Thomas, they got hammered, then he wrote the song. He introduced his background singers and said he needed them to re-create all the backing vocal parts he overdubbed for that album while smoking copious amounts of pot. I haven’t smoked pot since 1987, but I felt as high and elated that night as I did with my friends in the early ’80s, when we saw a fully reunited Temptations after having smoked a forearm-sized joint. Getting back to the elation and hope of that Costello show, about 24 hours later, I’d be going to bed with the knowledge that our country was still too uptight to elect a woman. That we’d be getting 4 years of Trump.

    I finally saw the Specials last year, with my then-21-year-old son. They were great; we had a great time. Terry Hall was really weird: he sang from the far side of the stage, wearing a rumpled, black trenchcoat and with the sort of stubble that’s become the norm for guys unable to go to the office these days. Even with his uncomfortable, Columbo-esque stance, he managed to hold the audience’s focus.

    The best live band in America, for my money, frequently plays free happy hours at Fergie’s, an Irish pub in Philadelphia. They’re called John Train. They include some band members who’ve been known to frequent the Halls of Rock, so I won’t embarrass them too much. They play rootsy, Americana sets – full of covers – and they mostly play sitting down. Beside the composition of the band, all excellent people with whom I’m friendly (including one of my closest personal friends), there’s almost nothing to suggest I would like this band, but I LOVE seeing them live at Fergie’s. The guitar/stringed-instrument playing is outstanding – the one hook for me that’s as strong as the great group of friendly people who make up the band. Band leader Jon Houlon couldn’t be more engaging with his between-song cracks and comments. They bring a cohesion to everything the play in their broad catalog, from the rootsy/folky originals to covers spanning all forms of Americana, from Hank Williams to Lou Reed and Television. I can’t do justice to describing how much I love seeing them on their Friday evening happy hour residencies at Fergie’s. Simply put, they should be booked on Austin City Limits.

    Other musical realizations of note include the confirmation that Little Feat’s “Willin'” – the version from Sailin’ Shoes – is the best Stones song of the 1970s, after “Tumbling Dice” and, perhaps, “Beast of Burden.”

    Last week, I also came across some fascinating realizations about a band I’ve long cut on. I’ll try to write them up separately, in the coming days.

  2. cherguevara


    Nice to “see” everyone again! I probably would have written about the Emitt Rhodes album, his first in decades, and the posthumous Harry Nilsson album which was polished off by his old friends and released. I haven’t given either album a fair shake, because I feel an aura of sadness around them.

    One of the weirder things that happened while we were away is that I went all-in on Alex Turner and his bands Arctic Monkeys and the Last Shadow Puppets. I had the first AM album and enjoyed it as one of those youthful, quirky first albums that won’t be bettered as the band grows and conforms to norms and commercial pressures. I played it on occasion and never bothered listening further. This was wrong, I like al of their albums, for different reasons. I highly recommend the Last Shadow Puppets “Everything You’ve Come To Expect” album, which is smart, lush and melodic. AM’s “Suck it and see” is a killer Brit-pop album. Nowadays Turner comes off a bit pretentious, which I suspect is a combination of it being a front, and the fact that he and his band became massively famous very quickly while they were really young. As a tangent from this, I opened my mind to the band that inspired AM, the Strokes, and also their NYC contemporaries, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, both bands have their moments for me.

    We probably would have discussed a few R&R passings, perhaps Neal Peart, Neil Innes… We’ve lost a few during the gap.

    Also, during this time I learned, via a post by Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws, that neither “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” nor “Street Fighting Man” have electric guitar on them. Maybe that is obvious.

    Looking forward to some fun banter, glad this is back!

  3. diskojoe

    I also enjoy the Len Prics 3. They seem to distill the essence of the “Substitute”-era Who. I also enjoyed seeing that Dylan Rolling Thunder thingie on Netflix. As for his recent output, it’s OK, but it’s been 8 yrs. since Tempest. I think that “new” song about JFK was probably recorded around the same time.

    I did get the VGPS & Arthur box sets, which I both liked. As for Ray’s Americana albums, I think there’s something missing.

  4. (1) Regarding the Harry Nilsson album, how do all these “lost” albums get lost and where do they hide until they are “found”? Doesn’t it seem that the last year or two has seen dozens of lost albums?

    (2) After swearing I wouldn’t for both, I caved twice and bought both the VGPS and Arthur boxes. I really don’t need them (again) and in fact the shrink wrap is intact. I guess it is just what I do. What I don’t do is (a) buy or listen to any Ray solo stuff and (b) read any interviews with Ray which always tease about a Kinks reunion or new album and always when he has some other product to sell. Call it the Mike Love school of pubic relations (or does Mike practice the Ray Davies school of p.r.)

    Regarding (1) and (2), Dylan said “there’s a brand new gimmick everyday, just to take somebody’s money away”. And it’s often mine.

  5. Al, as I mentioned in a recent e-mail and now can share more broadly in the newly revived Hall, I don’t think “New Pony” is about a horse. Also, did you ever mention the Len Price 3 to me?

    Mr. Mod, I heartily second your John Train recommendation and hope that anyone in the Philadelphia area, or just passing through on a Friday night, get over to Fergie’s to take in a show when they return, probably in the fall. I routinely have Friday dinner and take in the show throughout their three month run.

    cherguevarra, I really liked the sound of the first song that got played by the Arctic Monkeys and put them on my Wishlist whenever that was. (17 years ago?) There’s a hell of a lot things on that list and I never got to it. I’ll check it out now on the Spotify thing. I bought and loved the first Yeah Yeah Yeahs EP, and stuck with them through two albums and a few shows. I eventually lost interest, primarily because nothing ever hit me the way that their first song, “Bang” did. The same thing happened for me with Devo. I can still remember sitting in my bedroom in front of the speakers listening to the Booji Boy version of “Jocko Homo” and thinking “What the Fuck?” in the most positive way. After that, it was good, but never quite the same.

  6. Happiness Stan

    Before we get much older I’d like to write an appreciation of Neil Innes, who I met twice and whose passing at the end of last year I felt quite deeply.

    Mainly I’d like to catch up with old friends, walking back in here last night felt like being home after too long away.

  7. Geo pointed out to me a WFMU show from the other night which played “Murder Most Foul” over and over interspersed with chimps chattering. One of the comments on the song: “The Jim Steinman version of this song would be even more epic and a little more coherent”.

    Get this guy on RTH!

  8. alexmagic

    I have not seen HVB in the comments yet, so I feel free to say – without any worries of having to face comeuppance – that I was wrong: Donovan’s Barabajagal rocks in the appropriately sleazy way, and I have since become a fan of the whole album.

  9. I’ll reach out to HVB. I believe he was one of the people who reached out and requested that we revive the Hall as a means for coping through this pandemic.

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