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.