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Tunesday: The Minutemen, Corona

If you kids ever wonder why we olden shits scoff at your Beeber and all that empty Disney crap, it’s because the music we played to make the double-hung windows shake was unimaginably awesome. You know nothing about the 1980s–Patti Labell and Duran Duran?  I never once saw a girl wearing leg warmers on the street. Screw that.

Yes, I am that old guy shaking his fist at you and telling you to get out of my yard, but the Minutemen were the coolest band ever.  Ever.

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Tunesday : 1988 Cowboy Junkies

20130212-cowboy-junkies-306x306-1360704485In one magnificent moment, the time it took for a needle to drop on a vinyl disk, everything I thought about music changed.  I was a big admirer of the Velvet Underground, and for a while spent a lot of time arguing with people–often strangers at parties–that the Velvets were bigger and more important than the Rolling Stones and Beatles combined.  So, it was a no brainer when I read a review in the pages of Spin magazine in which a Spin critic raved over a new Canadian band, Cowboy Junkies, and their new album, especially their cover of “Sweet Jane.”  The reviewer went on to describe the album as “the perfect 3am listening music.’

I was sold. I immediately–within an hour–ran out and bought the record, brought it home, and was stunned by the sweet, resonant a capella voice that embraced me, with a mournful, unanticipated beauty.

Sweet Jane. 1989.  The Johnny Carson “cameo” is a nice bonus.

The rest of the album, the Trinity Sessions, was equally remarkable. Recorded at Toronto, Ontario’s Church of the Holy Trinity on a cold day in late November 1987,  the band huddled around a single microphone and made what is quite possibly the most intimate album ever made, its eclectic mix covers and originals begging the question: was it rock, or folk, or country, or blues?  My friend Brett Day, the notorious, British-born Pittsburgh-based sculptor, musician, and all-around renaissance man,  once proclaimed, “when I first heard “Trinity” I thought, “my god, punk rock music can absolutely be played at 1 mile per hour.”  He came as close as anyone to hitting the nail on the head.

There’s a moment, on the live album 200 More Miles, when a fan shouts “Rock and Roll!” between songs, and singer Margot Timmins, who always seems to have a cup of tea and a vase of flowers on hand for performances, leans into the microphone and says. “Well, before I rock and roll I always like to sit down….” which is deeply informative.

More than a quarter of a century later, the Junkies remain my favorite band.  I’ve seen them several dozen times live, more often than not for free (for a long time they had a real penchant for doing festival shows) and the love affair continues….

http://latentrecordings.com/cowboyjunkies/

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Tunesday video

Tunesday : 1988 Revolution Music–Tracy Chapman

1988 was probably the most pivotal year in my developing taste in music. Until that point, I’d pretty much been a bit of a drifter, taste-wise, taking what I liked from what 51jMBp+m6pLmy friends exposed me to–I could still remember being excited for months before the first “Asia” supergroup album came out in when I was junior high, and a year later I was sitting in my friend Andy’s room, blown away by bands I’d never even heard of before, like Husker Du, The Minutemen and The Jam.  Thanks, Andy!

The radio soundtrack to my youth was vintage Pittsburgh Classic Rock, pretty much the same three dozen songs iconic radio station WDVE still plays today: Journey. Zeppelin. Styx. That shit. I knew all the words to way too many Kansas songs, and like a lot of people  I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Journey.  Those summer nights are callin’.  Don’t stop believin’ , man.

In college I listened to what the local college radio played–some cool stuff and some not so cool stuff.  We joke in hindsight–it was the eighties, but on the other hand, it was the eighties.  Billy Joel was the King of Rock, and Bono was just some Irish Dude with a bad haircut standing in the snow--not the most earnest dick in rock spending the rest of his career trying to match that big, perfect anthemic single.

In 1988 a lot of things changed.  I’d been listening to more hippie music thanks to a room-mate in that old yellow craftsman bungalow on South Sixth Street, a great college house with beautiful woodwork and a ping-pong table that we nicknamed “The Slaughterhouse” after meeting Kurt Vonnegut, who was an both an unapologetic asshole and just as magnificent as I’d hoped.  We thought it was a cool name, but it never stuck–not even with us.  We called it “the house.”

1988 was the year of N.W.A.’s eye-opening and mind-blowing album Straight Outta Compton, the subject of Part 3 of this post (coming next week at this time), and the equally fantastic Eric B. & Rakim album Follow The Leader, the playing of which earned my a “what the fuck are you listening to?” from another roommate.  This, of course, made me want to play it again.  And louder, if only to drown out his John Cougar Mellancamp.

It was against that background that I stumbled into some very different revolutionary music–a friend and I took some girls to see my favorite band, Cowboy Junkies (another 1988 band, deserving of their very own post), in the Dormont Theater, and the opening act was an unknown folk singer named Tracy Chapman.  None of us knew the first thing about her, and we were curious.  Now, our idea of what a folk singer should be was an amalgam of, say, Joni Mitchell or Joan Baez filtered through the only contemporary folkie getting any college radio play at the time, Suzanne Vega.

We expectied a soft spoken little pale girl–not a waif, but maybe a sprite. Probably in a little sundress. What we didn’t expect was a powerful, yet quiet and unassuming young black woman who stunned us to near silence for the entirely of her too-short set.  She was dressed all in black, like Johnny Cash. I still remember the uncertainty in her eyes, the embarrassed smile at our applause, and the way single spotlight reflected off the frets of her acoustic guitar.  I’d never before seen an audience demand an encore from an opening act, but we couldn’t get enough.

I also remember thinking: and this is what regular people get from church.

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Tunesday

Tunesday: 1988 Throwing Muses–Juno, Bright Yellow Gun & More

614Y9SNK81LKristen Hersh and her band, Throwing Muses, have been among my very favorites since I initially heard the song “Juno” from their first full length album, House Tornado, grind it’s way out of my stereo speakers back in 1988.  I’ve begun to realize what a magnificent year that was for my musical tastes–maybe there was something special in the air, maybe something in me, but I discovered a phenomenal number of artists that year that still hear regular play at my house, and for the next several Tunesdays I’ll be sharing some of them with you.

That album, House Tornado, was utterly vital and fantastic, and Hersh’s deeply personal writing struck a note with my poetry-addicted mind.  And doesn’t she look cool in her modest skirt, cardigan, and bad-ass rock and roll guitar pose?  Of note: I bought House Tornado on vinyl a few weeks after its release, then bought it again as one of the first three CDs I ever bought (the same day I bought my first CD player–I was a late and reluctant adopter) because, at the time, it was my favorite album.

Juno (1988) Not the best quality video, but….

kristin h trim

Bright Yellow Gun (1995) Doesn’t this one want you to break traffic laws?

Not Too Soon (1991)

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Are We Not Men? (Hey Sarah, This is for Steve)

I was sitting on a candlelit patio with some friends in the northern corner of the county several months ago,  digesting some damn fine burritos, followed by the best homemade brownies I’ve ever had (really, Sarah) and chocolate chip cookies baked by an expatriot Frenchman,  clop clops of Amish buggies rolling by, scoffing at a redneck imbeciles “rolling coal” through a crossroads village so small that it’s not even a four-way stop, and roiling over old bands from the 70’s and 80’s. (And no, I don’t mean Foreigner and Foghat).

Today, I stumble upon this:

feeling1978_19780701_n007

Then add this:

whip_it_flow

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Sheena…

What else could follow my last post?

Sheena

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Commentary Funny and/or Strange Uncategorized video

The Homecoming Queen’s Got A Gun

The coming weekend will mark Homecoming celebrations in our community–a football game, the crowning of a king and queen, corsages and whatever those guy-corsage things that get pinned to lapels are called, kids dressing up and dancing and memories of –good god, it’s 30 years. Ugh. I wore a wool sweater under a brown wool herringbone jacket because I thought it would be better than a tie, and I nearly died from overheating.

m_julie_brown_homecoming_queenThose memories–really the only details I can recall from that night–bring to mind an old Julie Brown comedy song called “The Homecoming Queen’s Got A Gun”–a tale of a possibly PMS-ridden beauty turned sniper that was hilarious in 1984, when the idea of a kid taking a gun to school and rampaging was so absurd it was funny–not the least because it was a parody of the teen-angst songs our parents listened to.

It ain’t so funny now, and that’s a real shame.  I know how each generation thinks that things started going all to hell the moment they “age out” of a stage in life, but us Gen X’ers are truly living the dream–we’re the ones.  Who would have thought, when Coupland wrote his book, that it was the pinnacle?

You know you’re old when you can look at such a huge cultural change and think of one’s youth as “simpler times” when all we had to worry about was Reaganomics and the hovering threat of impending worldwide thermonuclear war. Sigh.

 

It was Homecoming Night at my high school
Everyone was there, it was totally cool
I was real excited, I almost wet my jeans
‘Cause my best friend Debbie was Homecoming Queen
She looked so pretty in pink chiffon. (Chiffon)
Riding the float with her tiara on. (Tiara on)
Holding this humongous bouquet in her hand. (Bouquet)
She looked straight out of Disneyland!
You know that Cinderella ride
I mean definitely an E-ticket. (E-ticket)
The crowd was cheering, everyone was stoked
I mean it was like the whole school was totally coked or something.
The band was playing ‘Evergreen’
Then all of a sudden, somebody screamed:
Look out! The Homecoming Queen’s got a GUN!!!

Everybody run, the Homecoming Queen’s got a gun!
Everybody run, the Homecoming Queen has got a gun!
Debbie’s smiling, and waving her gun
Picking off cheerleaders one by one
Oh! Buffy’s pom poms just blew to bits
Oh no, Misty’s head just did the splits!
My best friend is on a shooting spree
Stop it, Debbie, you’re embarrassing me!
How could you do what you just did
Are you having a really bad period?

Everybody run, the Homecoming Queen’s got a gun!
Everybody run, the Homecoming Queen has got a gun!
Stop it, Debbie, you’re making a mess
Powder burns all over your dress
An hour later, ,the cops had arrived
By then the entire glee club had died – no big loss
You wouldn’t believe what they brought to stop
Tear gas, machine guns… even a chopper!
Throw down your gun and tiara and come out of that float!
Debbie didn’t listen to what the cop said,
She aimed and fired, and now the math teacher’s dead!
Oh, it’s really sad, but kinda of a relief,
I mean we had this big test coming up next week…

Everybody run, the Homecoming Queen’s got a gun!
Everybody run, the Homecoming Queen has got a gun!
Debbie’s really having a blast!
She’s wasted half of the class!
The cops fired a warning shot and she dove off that float.
I tried to scream Duck! but it stuck in my throat.
She hit the ground and did a flip; it was real acrobatic.
But I was crying so hard, I couldn’t work my Instamatic.
I ran down to Debbie, I had to find out.
What made her do it, why’d she freak out?
I saw the bullet had got her right in the ear.
I knew then… the end was near.

So I ran down and said in her good ear.
Debbie, why’d you do it?
She raised her head and smiled and said.
I did it for Johnny.
Johnny, well like whose Johnny? Answer me Debbie whose Johnny.
Does anybody here named Johnny?
Are you Johnny? There was one guy named Johnny.
But he was a total geek. He always had food in his braces.
Answer me Debbie whose Johnny.
Oh God this is like that movie Citizen King
You know where you later find out Rosemary was a slut
But we’ll never know who Johnny is because like she’s dead

Everybody run, the Homecoming Queen’s got a gun!
Everybody run, the Homecoming Queen has got a
Everybody run
Everybody run the Homecoming Queen’s got a”

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Friday Morning Rock and Roll Idols: The Traveling Wilburys

25 years ago I snobbishly failed to appreciate how really, really great this was.

Jeff Lynne, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, and Bob Dylan…

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Friday Morning Rock & Roll Idols: The Reivers

Man, I loved these guys.  If a band ever deserved to be rich and famous, it was The Reivers

The Reivers: In Your Eyes

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Friday Morning Rock & Roll Idols: Husker Du

The best live bad, maybe ever…Diane, Hate Paper Doll, and Green Eyes.