Friday, December 28, 2012

Play Dead—so that your eyes will stay open

To die your whole life [he is quoting Kafka]. Despite the morbidity, I can’t think of a better definition of the writing life. There’s something about writing that demands a leave-taking, an abandonment of the world, paradoxically, in order to see it clearly.

Jeffrey Eugenides offered this pearl of wisdom in a speech give to the 2012 Whiting Award winners.  It's printed in the New Yorker and well worth a read.  He was talking to up-and-coming writers.  Writers who have been published, are young and probably have a long life ahead of them.  Musicians, actors, directors of all ages could also benefit from what he has to say.   

Don't listen to what others tell you. Don't let it cloud your creativity. Write for yourself.  Create as if you were dead or dying.  You wouldn't care what anyone thought at that point.  Kennedy Center Honorees Led Zeppelin and David Letterman have followed this path.  Do you think Zeppelin or Letterman care what others think of their art?  I don't and that is what makes them great.  Dance all you want to a different drummer. 

Eugenides closes with the line that should be in the forefront of every creative person's head:
Play dead—so that your eyes will stay open.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Trains, Trains & Buildings

If you're looking for something enchanting to do over the Christmas break, pull into the NY Botanical Gardens for their annual Holiday Train Show. 

Chrysler Building
If you've never been (this was the first time I finally went), it's a wonderland of buildings made from nature's gifts.  Most of the scenery is recreations of old New York.

And of course, there are the trains.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Don't Wait Until Tomorrow

If you're in San Antonio in the next few days, see Annie at The Playhouse San Antonio.  I will disclose that I'm close to the show.  Marissa Ramon who stars as Annie is my niece. I might be a little biased, but watch this clip of her signing Tomorrow on WOAI this morning, her talent shines  (Marissa starts singing with 2:11 remaining).  She takes the song to a place it hasn't been, which is refreshing and poignant.  Her performance is so touching there are more than a few tears in the audience.   Word has it that the interaction between Marissa's Annie and William McCrary's Daddy Warbucks is magical. 

We also have another family member in the musical. Sandy, my in-law's Golden Retriever, is Sandy. 

Annie runs until December 23rd at The Playhouse San Antonio, Russell Hill Rogers Theater. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Best Summer

The best summer was 1963. His dad took just him on a road trip in England.  They stopped in Liverpool, you might have a hint of what happened. 

The photographer Ethan Russell Tweeted a link to this story by the writer Bobby Stevenson.  It's a very touching account of the bond between he and his dad, that summer when he was 10 years old.  It would make a great movie. 

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Dave Brubeck

My husband and I have a dinner ritual that usually starts with firing up Coltrane, Monk or Dave Brubeck's legendary album, Time Out

In  1959, Take Five was the first jazz single to sell a million copies.  He was also the first jazz musician to grace the cover of Time Magazine.  Brubeck was touring up until last year.  He died this morning, one day shy of his 92nd birthday.

According to the NY Times, Brubeck's mother forbid listening to the radio.  She believed that if you wanted to hear music, you should play it.  He and his two brothers learned instruments.  He was born cross-eyed so he couldn't read music.  He played by ear. 

One of the more interesting stories in the article is crediting Brubeck's wife Iola for his early success.
She was a pioneer promoter.

In 1953 she wrote to more than a hundred universities, suggesting that the quartet would be willing to play for student associations. The college circuit became the group’s bread and butter, and by the end of the 1950s it had sold hundreds of thousands of copies of its albums “Jazz at Oberlin” and “Jazz Goes to College.”

The fur and hammer sound is what got me.  The songs are so melodious, but there was an aspect of attack.  I liken it to  living in New York City (even though Brubeck settled in Wilton, CT). 

Here's my favorite, Blue Rondo ala Turk.  Check out the use of "green screen" in this video.  The Quartet is magic carpeting over an LA freeway.  That would be the best way to get around LA.  The cops can't ticket you if you're playing music on a magic carpet. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Booking Agent Who Changed the Business

Frank Barsalona was probably the first "rock" booking agent.  He founded Premier Talent in the 1960's.  He believed in the longevity of touring rock bands.  Many of the band he booked are still working today.  The first acts he signed to Premier were the Who, Herman's Hermits and Mitch Ryder. 

Billboard's look back at his life is a testament to how influential he was.  Agents, managers and promoters can't say enough good things about him. He is the only agent in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

Last paragraph of the article:

Barsalona's kind probably won't come along again, (Danny) Zelisko and several others who worked with Barsalona believe, though Zelisko says he wouldn't completely rule it out. "They said there wouldn't be anything like Elvis either, and along came the Beatles," he says. "And you know who booked them."

Frank passed away on Thanksgiving.   He changed the music business.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Love The Dickey

Congratulations to R. A. Dickey who won the Cy Young award.
He was such a bright spot this season for Mets fans.
Here are his performance stats:
  • 20-6 
  • 2.73 earned run average
Lead the league in
  • Innings pitched 233 2/3
  • Strikeouts 230
  • Complete games 5
  • Shutouts 3

To complete 5 games in a season is a feat for current pitchers.  Of all the records, I think complete games will stand with the record holder, Cy Young himself at 749 games.  The list barely includes any recent players and by recent I mean those that pitched 30 or 40 years ago. The Mets won 74 games this year, so for Dickey to be responsible for 20 of those wins, is a big deal.  Dickey is 38 and his pitch is the knuckleball.  He is the first knuckleballer to win the award.

The humble R.A. said to MLB, "But for me, this is an honor to be shared. It's a great honor, and I am not a self-made man by any stretch of the imagination. There have been countless people who have poured into me in a way that has changed my life -- not only on the field, but off."

Note:  R.A. stands for Robert Allen. I'd like to think it stands for Really Amazin'

Friday, November 09, 2012

Great Memories of a Gas Shortage

We're back to gas rationing in NYC and Long Island today.  This leads to my second post this week involving Ian Hunter.   In the summer of 1979 before I went to college, there was odd/even gas rationing.  My friend Annemarie and I would take her parents car, the boom box (which ran on batteries) and wait in line at the gas station in East Rockaway to fill up their tank. 

That spring Ian Hunter released You're Never Alone With A Schizophrenic.  We loved that record! Still do. We'd wait in line for an hour or so to get gas, boom box blasting (I don't believe there was a cassette player in her parents car) and sing along to Just Another Night, Cleveland Rocks and Wild East.  It's nice to look back on a time of crisis with such fond memories.  Just proves what's been said a million times, good music can get you through any situation. 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Civil Wars Lead To Internal Discord

The duo The Civil Wars have either called it quits or are regrouping.  Just as their career is taking off they cancel their upcoming tour, citing on their facebook page:

However, due to internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition we are unable to continue as a touring entity at this time.

There are a few tidbits which make this interesting.

1.  They cite irreconcilable differences of ambition, not musical differences which is usually the response when someone in the band wants a solo career.

2.  They are both married, but not to each other.  According to the Huffington Post, Joy Williams is married to the band's manager Nate Yetton and they have a baby. 

3.  If I was their booking agent (it makes sense that it's Frank Riley), I'd be pulling my hair out.  It's so hard to find acts that can have a long career these days.  The Civil Wars looked like they were on the long road.

4. They realize fans might be taking a hit on ticket fees, travel costs, etc so they offer this not-exactly-a-guarantee, but a hopefully we can get you that money back offering:
Please email us at if there are costs incurred that you would like to be reimbursed for... and we will do our best to reimburse you for non-refundable charges.

5.  The cryptic ending to the post:
Our sincere hope is to have new music for you in 2013. 
 Does this mean they have music lying around that no one has heard, therefore it could come out as new music or are they ok in the studio just not on the road or do they think like the North and the South they will fight it out and whoever is victorious will see their ambition realized for the band?  I guess we'll have to wait till next year.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Fight For Your Right To Party

I just voted, which is sort of like fighting for the right to party.  The electoral college seems like an archaic way to elect a president, but those of us in NY are spared the constant onslaught of political ads that my friends in Florida are not.  I admire those who are voting in the makeshift tent booths that are set up in no mans land areas hardest hit by the storm.  A lot of the tents are without heat and they have to wait online in the cold. I was lucky, I waited inside a school.

I'll leave you with some inspiring music from Ian Hunter and the Rant Band: When I'm President.
Although Ian has lived in NY for years, he was born across the ocean, making him ineligible to hold the title.  

Cross my heart
Hope to die
When I'm President
Pigs are gonna fly

With a statement like that, don't you wish you could vote for him?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Stormy Songs

As we New Yorkers prepare for the worst, I was thinking of weather appropriate songs.
I like Windy by the Association and Stormy Weather.  My friend Lucia echoed Stormy Weather, but added Lena Horne's version.  Can't argue with that.

Hurricane by Bob Dylan only works because of it's title. Hurricane Carter has nothing to do with this storm.  It's a long one. 

Classic line:  I want to love you but I'm getting blown away of course comes from Neil Young's Like A Hurricane.

There there is the dreadful Stormy by Classic IV. That song was on the radio all the time in 1968.  I did not know they were from Jacksonville, Fl.

For those on the coast, Head Above Water by Hall and Oates might be appropriate.  

There are hundreds of rain songs and I seem to like all of them.

If you're in the path of the storm, stay safe.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Lots of Candles Plenty of Cake

The title grabbed me and then I heard Anna Quindlen on NPR talking about her memoir.  I related to her feelings on the Catholic Church’s hierarchy and how they are leading us Catholics in the wrong direction and not ruling by example.  She also feels, as a woman that we are disenfranchised from the Church. Men and only men run it.  I loved this part of the book.  She eloquently lays it on the line. 
As the title suggests, she is celebrating her age (She is in her 50’s) and the wisdom that comes with it.  I think the disconnect I felt with the rest of the book has to do with her being very retrospective (isn’t that what a memoir is suppose to be?) and analyzing herself at different ages and times of her life.  I don’t think I was unaware of myself as a young person and have finally found myself now. I don’t think I will every fully find myself which is a good thing.  I’m not that deep.  This doesn’t sound flattering. Quindlen is articulate in explaining myself. I am not.  I am laughing at this. 

Quindlen is a good writer.  I’m sure 80% of the women (and probably men too) in their 40’s and 50’s can fully relate to what she is writing about.  She is solid.  At the end of the book she writes, “sometimes a single moment can mark the dividing line between who you are and who you never wanted to be.”  She was referring to an elderly friend who mentioned that once you break a hip when you’re older, you’re finished.  This has a twofold meaning.  Sometimes the moment can be out of your control, such as breaking a hip and confining a vibrant person to a home.  It can also be a bad choice, a betrayal or saying something you don’t mean, but it comes out anyway.  Any of these things can change the course of someone’s life and possibly define it. 
Brooklyn Blackout

The takeaway:  Learn from your past, live each day to it’s fullest and don’t forget to enjoy cake every once in awhile, but only if it makes you happy.  On that note, I have a Brooklyn Blackout cupcake from Two Little Red Hens Bakery waiting for me.  Yum.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Who's War?

Pete Townshend just released his memoir Who Am I, which I will have to read.  Roland Kelt's blog in the New Yorker delves into Townshend's view of the world which is greatly formed by World War II.  Growing up in post wartime influenced his art. Roland had interviewed Townsend many times and each time, the conversation turned to the war.  Roland compares The Who's music to combat. Roland speaks of the combat on stage (windmills, breaking guitars).  I only came to appreciate The Who after seeing the movie The Kids Are Alright. I never realized how intense Pete's music is.

Here is the article: Pete Townshend's War

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Gone Girl

As I'm reading Gone Girl I'm thinking this is playing out like an episode of Dateline.  Needless to say, two pages later one of the main characters, Nick (the husband) says his life feels like an episode of Dateline

Amy (the wife) has been known to the world all her life, as her parents used their only child as the model for a highly successful series of children's books, Amazing Amy.  Amy and her amazing-ness will reveal itself.  This is a mystery, so it's hard to talk about details without giving too much away. Like any good episode of Dateline (my husband loves the show) all things seem perfect at the start and then Keith Morrison's voice over quickly changes things with a big "but....."  Am I the only one who thinks he tells a story like he's reading a Dr Seuss book? 

There are twists and turns.  Some are predictable, some are interesting.  The book is a page turner.  There isn't a feel good ending (which is fine). Could this be a modern day prequel to The Omen?  By the end of the book, I was left hating one of the characters and it might not be the one you think.  Ok, I hated Nick and on so many levels.  Maybe it's because I've met guys like him.  They kind of coast, not much of a spine, but they are good looking so they don't try as hard.  I predicted the ending, so by the time I got there I was disappointed. 

I haven't read Gillian Flynn's prior two novels.   Her bio says she saw the movies Bonnie and Clyde and Psycho when she was seven.  I could see how that would play into her writings.  It appears that Reese Witherspoon will produce the movie version with author Flynn adapting her own book. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Book Of Drugs

“When I do an interview and the writer apologized for not knowing anything about Soul Coughing other than Circles, I thank her or him exuberantly.” 

This sums up the book.  Mike Doughty hates a lot of things, but nothing as much as his first band and his most successful venture. Doughty rarely uses names in his memoir. The members of Soul Coughing are referred to as bass player, drummer and sampler player. 

If you read this blog, you know that I love musician memoirs.  The Book of Drugs is the first one I’ve encountered where the music takes a back seat.  It’s so far back that it’s the last row of the bus. It’s not until about 50 pages before the books ends that he actually talks about liking music and his songwriting.  Page 198:  “I make exactly the kind of songs I love.  So when I listen to them, I dig the hell out of them.”  Thank God (with a capital G, Doughty used the lower case g which comes with an explanation) he is finally able to celebrate his music.

If you’re a Soul Coughing fan, don’t read this book. You will be chastised for believing in the band.

Doughty is probably his own worst enemy. I’ve worked with many musicians who had everything going for them:  talent, creativity, people that believed in them and yet sabotaged their career.  Jen Trynin is the first one who comes to mind.  (Her book, Everything I’m Cracked Up To Be is a ‘everyone is wrong but me’ tome). 

He’s not a team player.  He doesn’t own up to his word. While on the road with Soul Coughing on a package tour, Redman left to be replaced by the Black Eyed Peas, who were unknown at the time.  Excerpt:  He describes them as “supergeeky and wanted every member of every other band they could round up to join them for a big jam at the end of their set.  I’d say ‘sure’ and then would find someplace else to be when the time rolled around.  These guys are going nowhere I thought.” 

He has a very high opinion of himself.  Excerpt:  We were a relatively successful cult band, but I think that had my bandmates chosen to let me be a bandleader, we could’ve been Led Zeppelin.”  Is there irony here?  If so, I didn’t catch it on paper.

There were a few moments of levity. This was a favorite line from the book.     Excerpt: “I spent one night in Bangkok before a holiday in Cambodia.”

The memoir was interesting when he was talking about others such as the thinly disguised David Johansen who he meets through a twelve-step program.  David has been known to stream the consciousness.  He ends one conversation with  “Did I ever tell you about the time I made Buddy Hackett cry?”  I love Johansen. 

The book is appropriately named. It’s what’s inside. If you’re looking for stories of scoring drugs, living while on drugs and making yourself and others miserable because you are taking drugs, this is your book.  Its not called The Book Of Music so maybe I’m misguided in thinking it would have been about the music. 

I met Doughty once at a Side One Christmas party. He told me he was in love with Tiffany Amber Thiessen, but had yet to meet her.  I've met bass player Sebastian Steinberg.  He has played with artists I've worked with.  He is a talented musician and a nice guy.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Is There No End Mike Love's Stupidity?

Mike Love issued a press release saying that after this week the Beach Boys will no longer have Brian Wilson, Al Jardine or David Marks in the touring lineup.  Brian Wilson was perplexed.  He has endured more than enough of Mike Love's insanity, so I'm not sure why this was any different. 

Mike Love cited financial reasons.  You mean you didn't get all the money from the 50th reunion tour Mike?  Is there no end to the Mike Love Horror Show?  It seems his trusty sidekick Bruce Johnston is as bad as Mike.  Love sued to get use of the Beach Boys name. I think Brian was so sick of him at one point that he agreed to it.  Brian Wilson tours under his own name and sells tickets.  Mike Love without the name The Beach Boys means no tickets. 

Read the full story at the Huffington Post

Andy Williams

He had a smooth voice, great sweaters and introduced the world to the Osmonds.  RIP.

Andy Williams sang Moon River, which I love, but Can't Get Used to Losing You is my favorite of his.  Mort Shuman and Doc Pomus penned the song.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Top Of The World

Because songs don't get much better than this.  Because live performances don't get much better than this. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Ray Davies' Waterlily Sunset?

Apparently I wasn't the only one who did a double take at the Monet's Garden exhibit at the New York Botanical Gardens.  The exhibit is lovely.  It's a tribute to the painter/master gardener's home and gardens at Giverny. 

The waterlilies in the outdoor ponds are stunning. There are magnificent colors and patterns that I'm sure some textile designer is copying right now for their next collection.  I came upon this waterlily labeled 'Ray Davies'.   I know Ray played at the Olympics closing ceremony because I read about it.  He performed Waterloo Sunset.  I didn't get to see it because NBC didn't bother to broadcast it.  My first thought was "Besides being a master songwriter and musician, is he also a botanist?  Are they naming plants after him?  Did he discover the species?" I know there are famous named roses (Cary Grant, Barbra Streisand, Mozart, Julie Andrews, etc), but I wasn't up on my waterlilies.

Turns out there was another Ray Davies, who according to the NYBG website took over the nursery once owned by Latour-Marliac who inspired Monet to build a waterlily pond.  Monet ordered waterlilies from him after seeing his exhibit at the Paris World's Fair.  Another Brit, this Davies is known as the waterlily guru and is famous for his Stapeley Water Gardens. This waterlily is named for him.

The exhibit runs through October 21st.  Make the trip to the Bronx.   Now there are clips posted of Ray Davies at the Olympics.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Kiko Live, Listen

It's the 20th anniversary of the release of Kiko, the Los Lobos masterpiece.  The band will be performing the whole album live tomorrow on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic at 11:15am PST.  
The band is also doing a series of live performances of Kiko including the 28th of this month in Tarrytown, NY. 

Kiko is the first album that I worked on with the band.  From start to finish it is one of the greatest bodies of music.  Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake should also be hailed for this incredible production. 

Friday, September 07, 2012

Shawn Colvin's Rough Path

A tip off to the direction of Shawn Colvin’s memoir diamond in the rough is revealed in an Anne Sexton quote that precedes the beginning of her story. If you’re not familiar with Sexton, she won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1967.  She battled with mental illness and took her own life via carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Thankfully Shawn doesn’t go there, but does battle depression.  Depression is the theme in about 50% of the musician memoirs I have read.  Prior to this book I read Rick Springfield’s and it was the same:  how to deal with your depression demons.  This of course leads to the question: does depression fuel the creative fire? 

I was interested to read Shaw’s story. I had met her a few times. She was in the same musical circles as Rosanne Cash, John Hiatt, Lyle Lovett and Greg Trooper (I worked with them). I’ve always liked her music and was really excited when she won the song of the year Grammy for Sunny Came Home.  I knew there would be a lot of people I’ve encountered in this book and I was right.  It was interesting to read about her relationship with the talented producer, songwriter and musician John Leventhal (he shared the Grammy with her as a co-writer). 

Shawn was born in South Dakota.  She never felt like she fit in, but when she got a guitar, her world was changed.  I get the impression she never thought she was good enough for her mother, a self-imposed theory.  She thought her mother was perfect.  Her father was angry.  She hated school and avoided going by hiding out in the family camper trailer parked on their property.  She peed on herself while in hiding, but it was better than going to school.  She eventually had a perfect attendance record at school. 

At 14 she designed her first album cover, so it was clear she knew the path her life would take.  She was an astute student of commercial jingles.  Aren’t they some of the most recognizable songs?  She quotes them in her book.  Like most female musicians of her time, she is influenced by Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell and starts writing songs.  The first concert she attends is Judy Collins. 

Anorexia and addiction play a part in Shawn’s story, as does deep depression.  She could always escape to the music.  This memoir is frank and Shawn does not hold back.  Her warts are exposed, but her love for music and her daughter prevail.  She gets to meet her musical idols and perform with most of them:  fantasies come true. 

This has nothing to do with her writing, but I really disliked the cover.  It’s a black and white childhood photo of her and she’s obviously been playing in the mud.  The photo is cute it’s just that everything is black and white.  The title is written in lower case and barely visible.  Why not plaster the cover with Shawn’s smile and put some color to the book? I guess that would play against the often-dark contents. Contrary to the cover, the book leaves you thinking she’s happy now and her demons are under control.  

Thursday, September 06, 2012

What a Diverse Group of Hits From Joe South

What a diverse group of songs and they were all hits.
Joe South who passed away today at the age of 72 wrote the following:

Down In The Boondocks
Games People Play
I Never Promised You A Rose Garden

Billy Joe Royal had a hit with Boondocks. It seems like that song was recorded at the wrong speed, much like Billy Joel's Cold Spring Harbor.  It doesn't matter. It worked.  He sounded happy, the lyrics were not.  As in Hush, the guy doesn't have the girl, but he's still hoping.

Down in the boondocks
People put me down 'cause
That's the side of town I was born in
I love her she loves me but I don't fit in her society

Jumping from Boondocks to Hush, a big hit for Deep Purple.

Does this clip at the Playboy Mansion get any groovier? Check out the hair and Hugh's pipe.

Of course there was Games People Play.  South had his own hit.

South was also an accomplished guitarist playing on everything from Dylan's Blonde on Blonde to Simon & Garfunkel's Sounds Of Silence.   What a legacy to leave behind.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Rabbits Rule

I've been obsessing over two songs and strangely enough they both make reference to rabbits.

The Fylls' Rabbit Hunting blatantly uses the word in the title.  The Avett Brothers have a line in Live and Die "Run like a rabbit /out and away."  The songs make nice bookends.

Artists like Chad and Jeremy and Crowded House use vocals which at the same time can be heard as both fresh/happy and a little melancholy. Listen to  Summer Song and Weather With You.

New York City's The Fylls  evoke the same on Rabbit Hunting.  The song begins with a lovely interplay of guitar.  The vocals kick in and they are charming, soothing and yes a bit melancholy.  A strong melody carries the song which at first listen is catchy in the sense of a great pop song, but there is something behind it.  Has the rabbit been hunted?  This song is haunting and you may find yourself listening to it over and over again.  It's a hidden gem. 

The first time I heard Live And Die, I did a double take (can you do that with your ears?).  Am I listening to new Guster? No.  The Avett Brothers borrow a page from the band on this song whether intentional or not.  I love it.  How can you resist these lyrics?

You and I, we're the same.
Live and die, we're the same.
You rejoice, I complain,
but you and I, we're the same.

The banjo seems to be the instrument of choice lately.  It's prominent here.  Melissa Etheridge was playing one on Good Morning America today.  It can make the most dire song happy.  Live And Die is about compatibility.  It's not dire.  The band discussed the song with Rolling Stone.

Live and Die can be streamed on the band's homepage (as well as on  I'm not sure how long the link will be present.  Their new album The Carpenter goes on sale a week from today.

It's raining in New York today.  It's the perfect setting for a round of Rabbit Hunting and Live And Die.