He Knows all the Chords

J. Geils
1946-2017

Just over two months ago J. (John Warren) Geils passed away at the age of 71.  He was best known as the lead guitarist in the eponymous J. Geils Band, a group that had their heyday in the 1970s and were last heard from, in recorded form, in the 1980’s.

In recent years,  Geils had reinvented himself in a way few aging members of Baby Boomer rockdom have chosen–as a ‘serious’ musician playing ‘grown-up ‘music. I was fortunate to encounter that as close to in-person as possible last September, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

For all my love of music based in the blues, the J. Geils Band never really made it on to my roster of must-listens. There were a lot of reasons for that, some more valid than others. A major stumbling block for me was that in many ways they were a cover band.

That’s a criticism that doesn’t apply only to them. The fact is any number of bands that formed in the 1960s  were at some point cover acts. That includes The Rolling Stones at the start of their career and, arguably, The Allman Brothers Band at the beginning of theirs. I kind of prefer the Stones in cover band mode so I’m not exactly dogmatic about this being negative.

The J. Geils Band in New York in what appears to be 1970 or so. I picked this one for the Checker cab and the rank, dank Times Square that’s been replaced by a movie set.

In this case there were other factors in play. You may recall they were considered a Boston hometown band and somehow that didn’t seem right, at least 200 and some odd miles down the coast. For me, though, there was a problem even bigger than Magic Dick’s afro.

That would be the band’s frontman, Peter Wolf. A hyperkinetic kid from the Bronx, Wolf had a lot to do with the band’s live reputation. Even worse than being a cover band, though, Wolf always struck me as a cut-rate Jagger imitator.  I dislike preening fools and that’s how he always appeared to me.

While the band had a deserved reputation as a live act, radio play proved more elusive. I have vague memories of an R&B medley–sort of like the Mitch Ryder tribute that Springsteen always plays–that would emanate from WNEW-FM or one of the other rock stations in the area. But radio play was inconsistent. My friend John always said that if you wrote a song about radio it got played. Wolf, a one time WBCN jock, offered a corollary: radio guys who joined rock bands always got airtime.

What saved the band and gave them their brush with superstardom was the advent of MTV. Before music videos became short films laden with imagery and meaning, they typically revolved around the band. The ensuing scampering about a set required a suspension of belief–much like watching a movie musical–on the part of the viewer.

A still from the video for ‘Freeze Frame.’ MTV made it possible for the band to check out being bubble gum pop stars.

In that earlier genre, and still in Disney films, people burst into song, and often dance, for narrative but not necessarily sensible reasons.  In early videos, frontmen mugged for the camera and tried to hold the viewer’s interest. It was an approach tailor-made for Wolf who was not exactly a blues vocalist of the first rank.

Starting with the January 1980 release of ‘Love Stinks‘ the band crested. The 1980 album showcased distinctly AOR fare and while the title song was a hit single, as was ‘Come Back,’ the best, or worst, was yet to come. With 1982’s #1 album ‘Freeze Frame’  the band rode MTV to the top of the charts in a pre-cursor to 1984 when album after mainstream album started spawning singles like salmon.

Amazingly, Peter Wolf left the band at this point over differences in direction and pursued a solo career. That never truly panned out and for much of the last 30 years the J. Geils Band was a nostalgia act with a heavy road schedule. If Wikipedia is right, the original members wandered in and out of the lineup over that time.

The art for a Napster roots rock playlist. These three are as representative of the genre as any.

You couldn’t have bungled the timing any better if you tried. Just as these R&B fans turned pop the roots rock that I love exploded simultaneously in half a dozen cities. Boston sported at least two bands–the underrated Scruffy the Cat and the moderately successful Treat Her Right-while right down I-95, in Providence, Roomful of Blues was busily resurrecting the jump blues and swing music of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

It’s that last bit that’s important.

Roomful has seen more guitar players and vocalists than I can name in their 50-year career. In the beginning there was Duke Robillard, handling both chores. He’s an amazing guitar player in his own right and maybe someday I’ll write of my thirty-plus year love affair with his playing.

One of my observations would be that those who play guitars against a horn section play better. I think it’s because the key signatures that work for horns force guitar players to learn how to transpose. From there it’s a short step to moving through the melody and playing over the changes. So J. Geils did.

Mr. Geils, it seems, played jazz trumpet in high school. And at some point in the last couple of decades he got serious about the guitar.J. hooked up with the Roomful/Providence contingent and set about developing a deserved place among the musicians who play that music.

Guitar Summit
J. Geils, Duke Robillard, Gerry Beaudoin

You needn’t believe me. Listen to any of the more recent J. Geils’ records.  Then give Charlie Christian on an old Benny Goodman record, or T-Bone Walker or Roomful with or without Robillard a spin. You’ll hear fabulous,  sophisticated guitar playing that is noticeably the blues and yet a breed apart from the blues-rock that too many think is the real thing.

Last September I found myself in Boston for a couple of days. My hotel contained a jazz club where J. Geils was playing both nights I was staying. Dinner plans precluded me from getting a ticket. But my second-floor room, it turned out, was right above the stage.

I sat up with a mini-bar beer listening to a man who loved the blues in any form playing his heart out.  He’s still doing that somewhere, I hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Try to Save a World

Summerland
Michael Chabon

It had to happen. It happens every time.

I get a few novels and some literature under my belt and start to feel cocky. “See,” I think, “I still know how to do this. Maybe I even learned something since the last time.”

Then reality intrudes. Continue reading

Days of Miracle and Wonder

Goodbye Columbus
Philip Roth

This week I’m revisiting a modern classic. You didn’t think I’d lived this long without reading Roth, did you?

Roth is Philip Roth, the one-time enfant terrible of American letters, a man who long ago crossed the great divide into the land of literary writers. This volume, originally published in 1959, contains the title novella and Continue reading

Time to Sit Back and Unwind: A Six Pack and Playlist

Memorial Day 2017

Rituals are important, they remind us of what is not trivial. So while there will be plenty of sales and BBQs this weekend there will also be parades and moments of remembrance. That’s appropriate given why we have Memorial Day in the first place.

Unofficially, it’s also the start of summer. Last year I kicked off the season with a baker’s half-dozen of Continue reading

In Every Dream Home

The Sense of an Ending
Julian Barnes

Two novels in a row. They’ll pull my union card if this keeps up.

Years ago, I worked for an entrepreneur who favored enigmatic statements. Why, for example, address a staff issue when you can say, “A job is a problem that takes care of itself.”

Unfortunately, I picked up the habit. Here’s a favorite: Continue reading

Hear Me Roar

I Am Charlotte Simmons
Tom Wolfe

Readers of the last post should have seen this coming.

Before the sociologists got to the subject of campus sex, the novelists had gotten there first.  Well, one novelist and because the scrivener in question is Tom Wolfe you get a two-fer. Wolfe the novelist is also Wolfe the Continue reading

Physical Conversations of Different Kinds

American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus
Lisa Wade

As a young social science student  I took a class sure to be easy. A 200-level course, it promised to use popular culture to illustrate major concepts in sociology.

Piece of cake, I thought. I like to read, it’s popular culture. How hard can it be?

Sixteen weeks later I was  dead from the punishing pace of reading 600-page novels, such as Thomas Mann‘s Continue reading

I Hate People When They’re Not Polite

Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness
of Everyday Life
Lynn Truss

I think Lynn Truss might be one of those people who instantly understands what’s wrong in this story:

A little more than a year ago I attended a compulsory ‘training’ session organized by the firm for which I then worked. Thinking people will recognize these as Continue reading

Your Momma’s Gone Away

S is for Silence
Sue Grafton

Editors, I think, are a lot like brand managers. At least the ones striving for commercial success. I don’t envy them that job. Soap doesn’t push back or have an ego that needs tending to.

It also has to be easier to maintain consistency with soap.

Successful mystery writers generate franchises. That Continue reading

Dancin’ in a Ring Around the Sun

Love is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-1970
Varrious Artists Boxed Set

I hesitate to write about music. In part that’s because I know others do a far better job of it than I ever will. It’s also in large part because I am skeptical of treating commercial products as though they  belonged among the great art works of western Continue reading

Kids Growing Up Too Soon

67 Shots: Kent State and the End
of American Innocence
Howard Means

The first unsupervised business trip I ever went on with a client took me from New York to Tampa, Florida. But I went by way of Ohio to pick up Larry so we could work on the plane.

You’re riveted, aren’t you?

Here’s what I discovered at dinner that night. The mild-mannered man sitting across from me, deacon in his Continue reading

Paranoia Strikes Deep

The Paranoid Style in American Politics
Richard Hofstadter

Americans are a famously ahistorical people. And so, like a bad dream scripted by George Santayana, the same tropes, for better and for worse, keep turning up.

The rhetoric in these parts has been ugly for the past couple of years and its pace seems to have accelerated since the calendar turned. What, I have found myself Continue reading

Too Much Money in Too Few Places

Other People’s Money: The Real Business of Ecance
John Kay

opm_kay“I’m just a banker, doing God’s work.”
Lloyd Blankfein, CEO, Goldman Sachs (11/2009)

“The culture of anonymous trading is divorced from economic context, devalues or eliminates personal relationships and fosters the self-aggrandising self.” (p. 269)
John Kay, 2015

American economists don’t make statements like the second  quote above. Doing so could be hazardous to their career health. Thankfully Dr. Kay is British and so is Continue reading

Dig That Jazz Band Ball

Snoopy jazzMusic  gets me through the day and I can be a bit fascistic, especially when it comes to breadth. My kids don’t even get much TV since I think the radio is a better alternative. And the station they listen to most often is WBGO, the jazz station hereabouts.

I might be the most improbable person to listen to jazz since, in musical terms, I don’t know what I’m listening to. I just followed Continue reading

A Whizz of a Wiz

the_producer“Did you know there’s no Academy Award for producing?”-Stanley Moss in Wag the Dog

Years back I’d spend countless hours with a pair of Creative Directors I know trying to make sense of why the Grammy Awards needed to separately recognize the Song of the Year and the  Record of the Year.

The distinction we settled on was that Record of the Year was the producer’s award, which makes little sense once you realize that, unlike the Academy Awards, the Continue reading

Lies Lies Lies Yeah

Tangled Webs
How False Statements are Undermining America
from Martha Stewart to Bernie Madoff

James B. Stewart

tangledWe live in an era of truthiness and alternative facts. That makes me wonder if ether the title or the cover image of this book will  be recognized by all but a narrow, possibly aging, swath of the public.

For those who don’t know  the author, James B. Stewart has been found between hard covers for just about 25 Continue reading

Be Fire Next Time

Wildfire
Nelson DeMille

wild_fireWhat should we make of best-selling books bearing  cautionary author’s notes?

Under other circumstances I might not be diverted to pondering such a question. But the 45th President of the United States was sworn in the other day and he pledged to “unite the civilized world” in removing “radical Islamic Continue reading

Solitary Man

One Shot
Lee Child

one_shotI don’t always interact with the popular culture on a timely basis. This year, though, I find myself hiding in best-selling books. I seem to do that every winter but this year, with the extra time I’ve gained from a career interruption, it seems the only thing I’m capable of.

Off to the library I went, intent on stocking up on the light stuff. Among my haul was a new, for me,  writer. That makes me clueless since Amazon says he’s the #17 author based Continue reading

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

Dinner with Edward: A Story of an Unexpected Friendship
Isabel Vincent

edwardIn a former life we’d play the film pitch game.   You know that one. You describe a recent (or yet unmade) film in terms of existing films. Allegedly it’s how business is done in Hollywood where seeing every movie ever made is evidently a requirement for employment.

You can do the same thing with books. Witness: the Continue reading

Like a Christmas Tree on Boxing Day

LPThe Year in  music: A Titular Playlist

It’s time for my annual listing of the songs from which I borrowed my post titles. And in keeping with an old C-90 era custom I’ve also provided a Spotify playlist.

This year, I toyed with the idea of adding a blurb to each song listed below. But I think some things ought to just speak for themselves. These are all really great albums, Continue reading

You Must be Real Far Gone

Exuberance: The Passion for Life
Kay Redfield Jamison

exuberanceHere’s a head-scratching editorial proposition for you: much of the psychological literature is about depressed states.  Our author suggests that going back to the time of the ancient Greeks, melancholy and other less-sunny moods have dominated thinking about, and interest in, mental health. So why not examine the opposite end of the spectrum?

The short answer was given in the first sentence: there’s a Continue reading

Everybody Hurts

Regarding the Pain of Others
Susan Sontag

sontag_painI have said before that I have a dead spot in my brain when it comes to that  iconic triumvirate of 60s writers,  Didion, Vidal and Sontag,  You may recall that I came up goose eggs when I ventured beyond Didion’s masterwork into Continue reading

Give ’em the Old Double Whammy

Double Whammy
Carl Hiaasen

double_whammyA holiday week calls for a holiday sort of book. So it’s appropriate that I’ve finally finished what was supposed to be my vacation reading this past August.

It’s even sadder that half way through I realized the book, which I’d checked out of the local library,  was already sitting on my shelf. Pitiful. And also instructive because as Continue reading

Hotel, Motel, Holiday Inn

Hotel Bemelmans
Ludwig Bemelmans

hotel_bThey left the house at half past nine
In two straight lines in rain or shine-
The smallest one was Madeline.

Those lines ought to be instantly familiar to anyone who’s spent time reading as, or to, a child. My love of Paris may have started with childhood exposure to the Madeline Continue reading

Your Soul to Keep

Faust Pt. 1
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, trans. by Randall Jarrell

faustBack to the heavy stuff.

As I’ve said before, there are books you’re supposed to read if you fancy yourself a product of the Enlightenment. That doesn’t mean mindless adherence to the canon but it does suggest you have to be more than merely dismissive of it.

Still, I am a busy, perhaps more accurately a lazy, man , and I Continue reading

A Good Job in the City

A Big Life (in Advertising)
Mary Wells Lawrence

big-lifeFall, it seems, exists so I can renew myself. I know, the light is dying, the sky is more likely to be gray than blue and the nip in the air will soon turn to unwelcome arctic blasts. Why that seems to turn me back to the literature of my trade will have to remain a mystery.

Enough about me, let’s talk about Mary. Continue reading

You Were Temptation

The Screwtape Letters
C.S. Lewis

screwtapeSin. What a quaint term. No one cares about sin anymore, do they?

Maybe they do. It’s hard to imagine that a trilogy about a lion and a piece of furniture is solely responsible for most of the works of a long-dead author still being available in Continue reading

Light in the Darkness of Insanity

The Economic Consequences of the Peace
John Maynard Keynes

consequencesOnce I read a novel, by Camilo José Cela, that was published under the most wonderful imprint ever to appear on a spine: Lost Books of the 20th Century.  Judging by the number of extant editions, the present work is anything but lost even though I’m thinking of Continue reading

Hello Old Friend

A Man Without a Country
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

amanwithoutacountryI hate giving up on people although I’m not quite sure why that is. I suspect that it verges on hopelessness and I have this deep, abiding belief that hopelessness is the greatest sin.

Still, you must know what I mean. Everyone has, lurking in their past, a person or two they were once close to and Continue reading

The Rush is On

Looking for Alaska
Peter Jenkins

alaskaGasoline. I couldn’t shake the thought that this entire book, if not the entire state of Alaska, existed only because of the availability of gasoline.

It was not what I’d expected when I set forth.

For decades now Alaska has loomed large in my imagination. In an earlier lifetime, when I had reconciled myself to existence as one half of a couple, I planned to Continue reading

In Walked Bud

Too Soon to Tell
Calvin Trill

too_soonI’ve visited with Calvin Trillin before and it’s usually a reliably enjoyable sojourn. The man is one of the more amusing fellows to peck at a typewriter, especially when the subject is food and/or travel.

Trillin is also one of those guys who is too versatile to be believable. Just when you think you’ve got him pigeon-holed as a humorist, you pick up his Civil Rights era Continue reading

Back in the Garage

Little pink houses have been known to come with built-in bullshit detectors.

Little pink houses have been known to come with built-in bullshit detectors.

We come from garageland….

Roget, were he alive, might be persuaded to list authentic as a synonym of garage.

That thought occurred to me this week as I crisscrossed the back roads of LSD. Prompted, as I often am, by a particular song I realized that there is one genre that Continue reading

The Living is Easy

DE_Beach_codeEndless Summer

Comes the middle of August, when the days are noticeably shorter and the light is longer and yellower, I yearn for the beach.  With the water at its warmest and the crowds beginning to thin there’s no better place to be.

Maybe next year I’ll kick  summer off with music. This year, I was set to thinking by a Mark Spitz post on Salon. Spitz has a late summer ritual built around a Continue reading

The Values that we had Once Upon a Time

Part of Our Time: Some Ruins and Monuments of the Thirties
Murray Kempton

time_kemptonIf print media are dinosaurs then newspapers are  apatosauruses .

But I grew up with these now-lumbering beasts. We were a two-paper a day household and my first job was delivering the now long-defunct Long Island Press, a broadsheet like the Times. Our competitor was Newsday.

I don’t know why we were a Press household. We also took the Daily News and that was the paper I preferred–it had better (and more) comics, including Bill Gallo in the sports section. Like Newsday, it was Continue reading

Fruit of Sweating Golden Inca

The Tupac Amaru Rebellion
Charles F. Walker

TupacWhat do a dead rapper, a failed group of urban guerillas and colonial era insurrectionists have in common? Stick around, you’ll find out.

History grabbed hold of my imagination more strongly than fantasy ever did. And if it happened in the western hemisphere I was on top of it. I honestly can’t keep all the dynastic nonsense and interminable warring of Europe Continue reading

Upside Down

Photo by Grey Villet/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images no infringement intended

Photo by Grey Villet/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
no infringement intended

When I was trying to get into the  ad business I quickly learned to be shameless. Wallflowers and polite young people taught to say Mr. and Ms. were at a distinct disadvantage.

So I changed my ways in order to get someone, anyone, with a job in advertising to hire me. A friend of a friend worked for legendary copywriter Tom Messner, pictured at right, who was part of an attempt to reconstitute the Tuesday Team, that group of top shelf ad guys who created Continue reading

When Your Bird is Broken

That Girl from Arizona

LRWhen it comes to writing about music I seem to find myself stuck in the 70s. Maybe it’s easier to make sense of the songs I’ve been listening to  for most of a lifetime.

Or maybe I just can’t stand today’s Swedish-produced pop music.

In any case, no female performer from my teen years stands out more than Linda Ronstadt. More than once I’ve referred to her as the first Mexican-American girl I ever had a crush on. That ethnic bit is true. The Ronstadts were immigrant farmers from Continue reading

From Diego to tha Bay

Where I Was From
Joan Didion

Didion-WhereOver the course of my life I have, on more than one occasion, had the opportunity to meet a ‘native’ Californian, a rare breed that harkens back to covered wagons and geographic touchstones in the middle of nowhere in a way that certain New England families, even those of what might be termed a lesser station, trace their origins to the Winthrop Fleet or the Mayflower.  So aligned are the tales that one wonders whether the proper way into either is through a frame labelled immigration, flight or protest.

There’s a reason that paragraph reads the way it does that I’ll come back to. For the moment let us turn to this early 21st century work by Joan Didion, formally Joan Didion Dunne,  which she published in the year of her husband’s death. That event led Continue reading

It’s a Gas Gas Gas

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt
Michael Lewis

flash_boys

In a perfect storm of coincidence the subject of this book was legitimized the week I finished reading it. Legitimacy is welcome since this is a tale, in part, about selling the immeasurable as the irreplaceable even though what it may really be about is behavior that is irredeemable.

That’s a lot of  words starting with im- and ir-. If I were you I’d be wondering just what had gotten  ahold of me.

The subject, once again, is Wall Street. Most of the time I Continue reading

I Must be Rhythm Bound

The Anthologist
Nicholson Baker

AnthologistI had novel-reading days. Great heaps of literary fiction inhaled at a ferocious rate. Then I stopped and I’m still not sure why.

Maybe I got to a point where the thrill of the first encounter was gone.  Maybe I was dismayed, having burned through all the writers I’d discovered whose work resonated with me. Maybe feeling I was always missing something finally caught up with me and I gave up.

So I stopped almost cold turkey. There were a few false starts, moments when I hoped I’d encountered a new voice–maybe one more Continue reading

Running into the Sun

The  Best American Sports Writing 2015
Wright Thompson, Guest Editor; Glenn Stout Series Editor

Best_Sports_15Cutting corners. It’s what we do to survive.

And yet I have a suspicion that doing so doesn’t sit easily with many of us. In my own case, blessed with the near-eidetic ability to recall every flub and deliberate act of incompleteness, it’s a glued-on hairshirt. Others, I  hope, have saner ways of coping.

Perhaps that explains the general  fascination with sports. I have said before that I have a complete inability Continue reading

My Grammar Ain’t So Good

grammarTrue confession: most of what I know about grammar starts with ABC. That’s why this post about language will devolve into math.

I’m certain that would be unwelcome news to the Sisters of St. Joseph who did everything in their power to make the prescriptive case for language. Their chosen texts, as I recall, were arranged in numbered sections, like a technical Continue reading

It’s Memorial Day: A Six Pack and Playlist

Park_Ridge_Memorial_Day_Parade,_May_2012On Monday morning, like many Americans in many towns, I’ll wander down the block with my son to watch the Memorial Day parade. For him it will be about the candy the paraders throw at the crowd (and it is a crowd). For me, though. it’s always about something more profound.

War is an ugly word. It draws out the worst in us and Continue reading

An Old Man Kind and Wise with Age

Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year Old Author
Herman Wouk

Wouk_SailorAfter my mom died my dad took on more charitable activities. Already involved in Parish Outreach, he adopted, seriatim, a string of what he sometimes referred to as his “old ladies.”  The first of these was Ida.

Ida lived about 5 blocks from my dad, in a tiny house on a neat lot that I remembered from my childhood because my grandparents lived across the street. I have no childhood Continue reading

Amber Waves of Grain

The Pit
Frank Norris

the_pitOpen outcry. It may be the romance in finance, to turn the old Tiny Grimes lyric on its head,

Readers of a certain age may not even recognize the term. But from the earliest days at the buttonwood tree until about 10 years ago open outcry was a way, and for a very long time the only way, traders communicated with each other. A trading floor in full roar may be the ultimate Continue reading

And Men Plunder

Plunder and Deceit: Big Government’s Exploitation of Young People and the Future
Mark R. Levin

plunderEver since I was a kid I’ve enjoyed getting a package in the mail. Paradoxically, the mystery contained in the big envelope or box remains even when I’ve place the order myself.

So when I found a Jiffy bag on my doorstep one day last fall I was intrigued. I hadn’t ordered anything. What could Continue reading

Science is Mankind’s Brother

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2012
Dan Ariely, Guest Editor; Tim Folger, Series Editor

Best_science_12Human beings love patterns. We seek them even when they don’t exist. So I’m not in alien territory when I wonder whether the pattern I’m stuck in with these science annuals is reading them at 12- to 18-month  intervals or picking volumes from  years divisible by two.

More likely there’s no pattern at all although I do have a common reaction which is that I cheat myself by not Continue reading

Turning Rebellion Into Money

Has it Come to This?
Rolling Stone’s 40 Greatest Punk Albums of All Time

14_ST_in_the_Day

The streetscape that defined an era. You can’t go back again. East 14th Street at 3rd Avenue, I think.
Photo (c) Ann Sanfedele and borrowed from Jeremiah Moss’s inspired blog ‘Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York’ with apologies. Click the shot to visit this fabulous site.

The first kid I knew who listened to punk rock was Danny Perlowitz. I have a distinct memory of him in 1978 bouncing on the balls of his feet, clad in a leather jacket that never came off and blue jeans, making his way through a crowded high school Continue reading

There is a Road

Tao Te Ching
Lao Tzu
Trans. by Stephen Addis & Stanley Lombardo

taoThere are three books I reread in more or less constant rotation. While you’ll never see them written about here they mean the world to me and keep me sane.

This is not one of those books.

It is however the basis for one of those books. More importantly, it is one of those books lying at the core of human civilization that we really ought to read. Think of the Continue reading

Social Structure Seemed a Simple Thing

Selected Works of Herbert Blumer: A Public Philosophy for Mass Society
Herbert Blumer, Stanford M. Lyman and Arthur J. Vidich, Eds.

Blumer

If you wait long enough, everything comes around again.

At least that’s how it seems to me. Those long gaps between acquiring a book and actually reading it are just me waiting for the zeitgeist to align with the author at hand and my interest of the moment.

So as soon as I picked up Blumer there he was in The New Yorker. Well not him, of course–Herbert George Blumer’s Continue reading

June 5, Birthday of Laurie Anderson (b. 1947)

Reblog: Laurie Anderson (by Kurt Nemes)

Laurie Anderson and her dog Lolabele.
(© Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times no infringement intended.)

Something different from a blogger I follow. Kurt Nemes, a man far more knowledgeable about music than I, and someone I learn from regularly, today focused on Laurie Anderson.

Laurie and her husband, Lou Reed, were never my cup of tea. This is worth reading, though, especially the lovely tribute to Kurt’s parents.

The music is worth exploring, too. I added a comment with links to two songs I like which weren’t in the original post. Happy listening.

Kurt Nemes' Classical Music Almanac

When I heard “O Superman” in 1982, I became an instant fan. “Big Science” was like nothing I had ever heard–witty spoken word pieces that commented on absurdism in the US set to haunting and sometimes minimalist inspired music. Next came “Mr. Heartbreak,” which still mesmerizes me. But I stopped there, though I knew she continued to write, tour and perform. When I heard that she had married Lou around 2008, I went, “What?” I thought he was gay. After that, I rarely listened to her.

Then in October of 2013, Lou Reed died, and I thought about her. Having lost both my parents since 2008, when people fall in love and marry and then one dies, it really makes me sad. My father was married to my mom for 67 years and took care of her until she became obstreperous at the age of 92. Even after that, he…

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