Saturday, April 4, 2015

in heavy rotation, next installment

Here is the short list of some goodies that have been in heavy rotation here at Scat HQ. Some old, some new, some pop, some blues, hopefully there's something in here for you...

The maestro on his first album for the peerless ECM label, "Facing You", which is on mostly everyone's top piano jazz lists. Beautiful stuff for an early Saturday morning or a late Wednesday night.

When you want some dirty, raw-assed delta blues in your life, you can't get any better than this bad ass motherfucker. Robert Pete Williams is not easy to listen to but he is as real as it gets.

THE WHITE STRIPES: Ball and Biscuit
Jack White has recently joined the consortium of artists who have become owners of the hi-fidelity music streaming service Tidal, and although I have my misgivings about this, I still love him. He is a true keeper of the blues flame, clearly evident on this great live version of his "Ball and Biscuit".

A new sensation out of Australia, I predict this band to be the next darlings of indie rock. Despite that, their debut "Sometimes I sit and think..." is one of the best releases so far this year; this line in the featured song, a sarcastic account of house hunting, should make some of my real estate agent friends chuckle (I hope!): "If you have a spare half a million; You could knock it down and start rebuilding."

This one's a neat little folk-rock gem from a band out of Canada, but don't hold that against them. Joking aside, I often retreat to earnest, well-intentioned songs like "The Great Exhale" whenever I get tired of all the noise and clatter in the world. Enjoy.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Underplayed vs Overplayed, the List

I found myself in a very unfortunate situation the other day: I was stuck waiting in a shop that had classic rock playing on their sound system. Now don't get me wrong, I love classic rock, but as we all know, the genre is subject, more than others it seems, to having its hits played over and over until our ears bleed. And many other songs from these artists are rarely, if ever, played on the airwaves. I know, I know, classic rock radio and streaming strictly hew to one cardinal rule: "Play what they know and play it often." But, for those of us who have a brain and two ears that still function creatively, I've compiled a list of some of these classic rock artists and their songs that I never need to hear again, and some that I would love to hear more often, and I welcome all comments. Except the ones that I might disagree with.

1. Bruce Springsteen
Don't ever need to hear again ("No"): "Born to Run"
Would love to hear again ("Yes"): "Adam Raised a Cain"
My Jersey brethren will have me strung up by my balls for this one, but, really, is there any relevancy remaining in "Baby, we were born to run"? None of the rebellious spirit that the song celebrates is to be found anywhere, in my view. It's more like, "Baby, you were born to conform." Let's instead put into heavy rotation "Adam Raised a Cain", a badass song with badass guitars, badass lyrics and a badass attitude.

2. Eagles
No: "Hotel California"
Yes: "Good Day in Hell"
Hey, I love "Hotel" as much as the next fool, and I usually find myself singing the lyrics and playing double-necked air guitar alongside the boys whenever it's playing, but I've heard it maybe a thousand times, whereas "Good Day in Hell" is a song I've heard maybe fifty times. It's a great little rock and roll song with a killer slide guitar solo, an awkward change of octave after said solo and it's just long enough, at four minutes, twenty-six.

3. Billy Joel
No: "Piano Man"
Yes: "Vienna"
"Vienna" might be a tad too schmaltzy for the typical classic-rock-Joe-six-pack, what with it's string section and accordion solo, but it is a pretty little song that gives the world just enough Billy Joel, that is, if we ever need to hear Billy Joel, ever again.

4. The Romantics
No: "What I like about You"
Yes: "Talking in your Sleep"
Never mind that I actually hate this band's biggest hit, the one song, along with Southside Johnny's "We're having a Party", that I never need to hear, ever again. I have a secret place in my heart for the lesser-known "Talking in your Sleep", because it was one of the first songs I would cue up when I was deejaying dance parties in the 1980's. It would sometimes meet with curious looks, but eventually it caught on, in all its minor scale glory, and I had them all eating out of my hands by the time the floor was ready for "The Politics of Dancing".

5. Boston
No: "More than a Feeling"
Yes: "Hitch a Ride"
On the day that this album was released, I waited patiently for three hours for my dad to come home from work so he could take me to E.J. Korvette's to buy it because I fell in love with whoever Marianne was from the hit single "More than a Feeling". Thirty-nine years and countless radio plays since, I can safely say that I am no longer in love with her. "Hitch a Ride" was always the cut I would skip to when I realized that Marianne had 'walked away' from me for good.

And, finally...

6. Kansas
No: "Carry on Wayward Son"
Yes: not applicable
Sorry, but there is nothing from the band Kansas that anyone, anywhere, has to hear again, anytime.

With all of this talk of moldy oldies and the songs that should be replacing them, I leave you with this gem from a partially-reunited version of Bad Company, your 'Scatter-in-Chief's greatest guilty pleasure. Few would argue that Paul Rodgers possesses one of the greatest singing voices in rock history, even at 60 years old, as he is when this tour was on. Enjoy and keep your ears on.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Word Turds, Volume 2

We've got a couple of quick little Word Turds for you today that just pooped (oops, I mean 'popped') into my head this morning. They are very target-group-specific, so I don't expect much play from the general public on these.

AUDIOPHOOLE: A play on the word "audiophile", which by definition is "a person who is especially interested in high-fidelity sound reproduction". It's the sort of guy who owns a great stereo system and continues to swap out equipment, try new things and setups all in the quest for the perfect sound. But like most hobbies, the costs can get absolutely insane, and with those rising price points, the law of diminishing returns is in full force... thus, an "Audiophoole" is that guy who drops $15,000 on a pair of speaker cables or $10,000 on wall-mounted sound diffusers thinking that he might be missing a pluck or two of a violin in Ravel's "Daphnis et Chloe". Oh, and also the guy who thinks nothing of paying $4,450 on a machine that spin-cleans your vinyl LP's. Yes, almost $5,000 for what can basically be done in your kitchen sink.

BORE-MULA ONE: For you racing fans out there who might at least be familiar with the world's premier racing series, Formula One. Over the last couple of seasons however it has been anything but premier. The series is managed by a pathological, 84-year old power-hungry control freak midget, Bernie Ecclestone, whose megalomaniacal behavior has all but ruined the sport. The participants are so far apart in performance and engineering design because of this man's policies that one team out of ten is winning races. Often times, the cars of that team, Mercedes AMG Petronas, are so far ahead that they actually slow down to conserve fuel and wear and tear on the car and driver. Thus, Formula One has now become Bore-mula One.

That's it for now, Turdheads, look for the next edition of Word Turds whenever inspiration strikes again.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Manly men, doing manly things. That only manly men can do.

This one's for the manly men out there, I know there's a few of you still standing...

I did a very manly thing the other night. I watched the fights. Yes, fights, as in boxing, not that bullshit hybrid boxing-kicking-jabbing-grappling thing that is so popular. Just two guys hitting each other with their gloved fists. Granted, most of the rounds were full of aimless swinging and missed targets, but it was a lot of fun watching one guy pummel the other one every so often. Very manly.

Also very manly: ball-sack cupping. Not fondling, mind you, that's just creepy. I'm talking a guy reaching into his pants and cupping his balls while sitting on the couch, watching the fights. It's our way of telling those two boys that they are, indeed, needed, cared for, loved. I often cup my balls while watching television.

Barber shops: one of the last outposts of manliness. Of course, now my local barbershop has been infiltrated by moms accompanying their young sons to the barber, and I understand this is out of necessity what with busy working schedules, commitments of the 'modern' family in this new economic reality and all of that, but the barbershop is still a refuge for me. I can drop F-bombs to the barber, well within earshot of anybody in the shop, without fear of reprisal. We can carry on a conversation about anything, usually mundane shit like 'how's business?" or "did you see the fights the other night?", stupid shit even. But manly nonetheless. And, if the stray mom and her young man-in-training happen to catch an earful of this conversation which may or may not be liberally spiced with profanities, so be it. My grandfather's barbershop, Chubby's in Teaneck, New Jersey, had Playboys piled up along with the daily paper, Time magazine and even The Daily Racing Form. Those were the manly days.

Whiskey: is there a beverage out there that can be any more manly than whiskey? I don't care how you prefer it, whether it be Bourbon, Scotch, Canadian rye or Irish. Nothing says "manly" quite as much as a rocks glass half full of the good brown stuff. In a perfect world, there would be a barbershop where the owner had a secret stash of whiskey that he pulled out for his best customers and then turned on the t.v. with the fights on. That is a slice of manly heaven.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Curioser and Curioser

---I hereby predict that, soon, emailing for personal use will go the way of the Model T, the telex and the telephone landline. You thought that actual handwritten letters were the stuff of crusty old nostalgics? Enter emailing; nobody does it anymore it seems, and those who do tend to keep the communiques extremely brief. I suppose one of the reasons is the volume of emails that many people need to deal with at the workplace; it becomes a matter of fatigue. But it's also another example of the continuing Fed-Ex Syndrome, wherein everything that once took three hours to do, then three minutes, now takes three seconds. Hey, life is short, so why waste it writing an actual letter to someone?

---Mystery. For as popular as it is in literature, movies and television, mystery as a concept remains hugely unpopular. Rare is the person, even the religious type, who is comfortable with mystery. In short, we need to know the reason or cause behind everything. Why else would we have so many sources for information at our very fingertips? Medical mysteries in particular continue to fascinate me, but almost in equal measure to frustrate me. Your Scatter-in-Chief was recently in a world of hurt due to what is still inexplicable leg pain; it came on suddenly during the night and lived with me for three days. Medication and rest are proving so far effective, but neither the doctor nor I have been able to identify the actual problem nor the cause. As a massage therapist, I deal with this sort of guessing game day in, day out, but when it happens to me, I feel a peculiar sense of failure when I can't figure out where the pain came from.

---The short story, or novella, or "novelette" or whatever it is, that I'm writing, "The Captain's Letters" is really teaching me a thing or two about writers, and that is this: it's no way to make a living. To make it work, you really need to: a) know what you're doing, b) a skilled and experienced editor at your beck and call, and c) the time to indulge this ultimately pointless pursuit. It's one thing to have a great idea, or even a riveting plot, and to put them into a collection of words and sentences that will keep the readers entertained, or at the very least, interested, but it's quite another to keep track of all the technical elements that a good story should contain: strong characters, accurate sense of time, place, and location, climate, geography, history, et cetera et cetera et cetera. It's no wonder that I've only completed six very small installments in the last 19 months. Good thing, then, that I don't do this for a living.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Captain's Letters, Chapter 6

After a brief debate which featured the Captain in a rare display of uneasy disagreement, that is to say he is typically quite confident when offering a dissenting view on the subject at hand however this go around had me thinking that he wasn't quite sure that all of his supporting facts were lined up, we decided against the short hop to Old Castle, instead figuring to grab a bottle of the fine bourbon I had stocked up on while he was in Brazil, sit in the truck at the foot of the driveway and pass the bottle back and forth to settle down a bit, waiting for Joanie to finish up with whatever she was doing on the porch.

This adventure took some planning to prevent the old woman from becoming aware of our presence, so after making a hasty turnaround at the end of the road, Packy suggested one of us might sneak around the east side of the cottage where one of us would be adequately shielded from view by the bamboo Joanie had planted a few short springs ago, and make a path undetected to the Bilco door in the back, which was always left opened, rain or shine.

We needed to keep the truck running so as to keep the defoggers going, as certainly one of us, which of course turned out to be the Captain, would need to keep an eye on things. This was a curious decision because the truck created a fair amount of racket, even after the full and complete tuneup I had just given her, but it was a risk that he thought was worth taking. I parked a few yards down from the foot of the drive, hidden partially by some of the tall grass that I always let grow along the edge of the road.

Sure enough, the Bilco was still flung open, reluctantly though, like the wings of some giant iron butterfly with tight shoulders, and I padded down the stairs, opened the equally chronically unlocked basement door, grabbed a fifth from the storage rack near the workbench and headed back out. Ninja tactics, all to avoid interaction with someone who had already occupied a ghost-like status with me, a mysterious and lonesome figure, slightly-built with short but neatly-cropped hair and beautiful, kind brown eyes.

I returned to the truck, rain still pissing down, with the Captain staring out the windshield as if he was holding sentry on one of his platoon's missions in the 'Nam. Not a word traded between us for a full two minutes, maybe more.

"Packy, I don't think I ever gave you any meaningful details about my old man and his angry ways, but lemme give you an idea about how deep the scars run. Some shrink would probably say I'm suffering from PTSD or some other shit but, whenever I remove my belt from my pants, and at the very end, when I pull the last bit of leather through the loop, you know that little SLAP sound it makes? That reminds me of him taking his belt off, winding it around his wrist, and aiming up to whack my ass. It's a few long seconds of terror, and I feel a cold shiver, but then I realize, I'm safe, it's my own belt and I'm just taking the damn thing off to hang it in the closet. Crazy, yes?"

"No, Captain, that sounds like a normal type of recall reaction to a bad memory.

While we're on the subject, I noticed you had a little shudder when you spotted Joanie on your porch. Did she shake up anything else in that complex head of yours?"

An extended silence henceforth ensued wherein the Captain took another slug from the bottle, now about a third empty, him staring straight out the windshield, then gently handing it back to me. He looked over, waiting for me to take another hit, which I did, out of respect.

Just at that moment, Joanie went into the cottage, reemerging with a small brown bag in one hand, locking the door with the other, and proceeded to walk back up the hill to her house.

This sudden development provided the Captain with the perfect opportunity to not only avoid answering my question, but to suggest that we were now free to finish the bottle in the relative warmth and comfort of the cottage.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Captain's Letters, Chapter 5

Miss Joanie, I know your secret,
but I'm not quite sure I want to reveal it

for fear that it may reveal me.
Not to protect you
or your kind

which of course are not my kind, except for their powerful livers.

Have you ever watched a bumblebee flit from flower to flower
sucking up all that honeyed goodness just to pass it along to the next

without ever getting any real benefit,
any profit,
any fame?

I'm that bee but without the ability to pass along any goodness
just to suck it up, spit it out.

So few know that, or me.

Just keep watering the goddamn hanging plants, you silly woman.