Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Back when album covers were closer in size to small windows instead of a coaster you could be enthralled, even seduced by them. Anyone with a sizable collection has purchased one or more albums because of its cover. Don’t say you haven’t. No doubt you even positioned one or more in the front of a stack as a statement, if only to upset your parents. Today you have to scrounge around on the floorboard of your car just to retrieve one. That’s if you purchased it instead of downloading it, or simply burning someone else’s copy.

Anyway back to the post at hand, while moving some things this evening I came across this album. I have never gotten rid of it because of the striking impact the cover carries for me. I think it’s one of the best album covers ever for several reasons. It works on many levels as a sign of its time. It perfectly conveys the sounds inside the cover, as a photo it is flawless, the design work by Peter Whorf Graphics respects both the artist and the intended audience. Compared to most covers today I consider this one art.

The year is 1966 and jazz instruments have given way to guitars as the way to grab a girls attention. The trumpet was on life support as a hip instrument despite the best efforts of Herb Alpert and Chet Baker at this point. (Miles Davis on the other hand made the trumpet seem more like weapon than an aphrodisiac) Chet and Herb could have made the didgeridoo look hip. Chet of course is the go to guy as the epitome of cool among musicians alive or dead. If the photo happens to be black and white then we‘re talking near freezing. Herb gets overlooked because of his pop leanings and long life I think. Herb projects a less threatening cool.

What Now My Love” was released in May of 1966 and would top the Billborad charts for nine weeks. Other chart toppers that year included “Rubber Soul,” “Revolver,” “The Monkees,” and “Ballad Of The Green Beret.” Times were changing, but not nearly as fast or as radically as history would have us believe. At least in terms of popular music.

This cover is also that rare instance where a second photo from a previous cover session is used. The photo is an outtake from the photo sessions for the “South Of The Border” album. Why I’m not sure. On that cover he and the girl seem to be sharing a laugh. On this one he’s distracted, deep in thought as she tries to get his attention. She seems to be failing. Maybe he’s thinking about the Beatles or maybe Dylan. The summer of love is still a year a way, but he’s now thirty and these new groups are young and have guitars that drive the younger generation wild. His band offers individually powered brass, these other bands are powered by electricity.

The nameless girl doesn’t understand what it’s like to be hot one day and cool in a bad way on another day. Her biggest problem is that he’s prettier than her. His casual caballero clothes exude a style and grace comparable to the music he plays. He holds the trumpet like the true mistress that it is. Women will come and go, the horn will be there at the end of each day and night and will ultimately define his very existence on this earth. She will ultimately find another musician.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


(Paul Simon)

Some songs set a mood like few others can. This song always makes me rush to a window checking for snow flurries or at the very least steam rising from a manhole. The opening guitar run feels like a fall breeze turning quickly to a winter chill. The kind where despite what the weatherman says you’re underdressed. The saga of a poor kid on the streets of New York “runnin’ scared” and concerned about the winters there comes through loud and clear. (To my thinking this is probably another chapter in the story of Lincoln Duncan)

The song has haunted me since the first time that I heard it. Not in a Stephen King kind of way, but more like Hemmingway and a snifter of cognac at closing time kind of way. It was such an adult sentiment coming out of my transistor, and later the attached speakers of my first GE Veg-O-Matic stereo with the rusty nail stylus. I was becoming aware of the adult world through the eyes of an unknown, never was, boxer. As an adult it even inspired a photography project where I tried to find the essence of what it must have been like to be “the boxer.”

The most alarming thing about this song is that I don’t think we get a definitive version on the released single or studio album cut. This is a case of a song itself transcending its accepted version. Don’t get me wrong, the studio version of this is quite striking for many reasons including those already cited, and I always reach for the volume knob when it arrives from the satellite. One of those striking reasons isn’t the near over the top production however. It starts out perfect but keeps building when it should have stayed in the ring. By the end when the tale takes its most poignant turn it borders on throwing in the towel. The short piccolo flute coda at the end pretty much redeems it though. I blame the production and the extended ending on “Hey Jude,” and “Atlantis.” There seemed to be a bit of that song structure going around at the end of the sixties for some reason. The difference here is that those songs can’t stand on their lyrics alone, they are merely a dimension of the “record” while “The Boxer” strays into timeless territory by virtue of the lyrics alone.

All that aside, there have been several live versions (legit and boot) that I think take the song to where Simon originally envisioned it. For reasons unknown, to me anyway, there is an extra verse that comes and goes depending on the evening as far as I can tell. I think it works fine in the song and more for the fact that I wish the song would never end, so anything extra is welcome to these ears.

From the outtakes that I have heard of various Simon recordings over the years I would venture a guess that there’s an un-dubbed demo in a vault somewhere that would knock us out.

“Now the years are rollin’ by me, they are rocking evenly,
I’m older than I once was, younger than I’ll be, that’s not unusual.
No it isn’t strange, after changes upon changes,
We are more or less the same.”

Friday, September 22, 2006


My ten favorite Rolling Stones songs, in alphabetical order. (This week anyway) At any given moment they are given too much, and too little credit for their accomplishments. Say or think what you will, I just couldn’t imagine what my music collection would look like without their music. This is my desert island disc with a few bonus tracks.

Crazy Mama From their most underrated album (Black And Blue) comes this strolling rocker that soars in it’s few live renditions. It’s a throwback to another era for a band that was aging and surrounded by new groups who sought to take them down regardless of their stature. This rocker kept the newer acts at bay for a few more years.

Gimme Shelter If I had ranked these songs this one would be number one with a bullet the size of a mortar shell. This song deserves a book not a blog entry. It is so ominous that it has to fade in just to keep from paralyzing us before the vocals start. The apocalyptic lyrics are sung as though a match is being struck at the start of every line. By the time Merry Clayton appears to fulfill Jagger’s most perverse fantasies even he’s weakened by her power. In her vocal turn she wipes away nearly every female vocal of the sixties and reduces the future female vocalists of the seventies to consider a new career. The guitar riff carries with it the weight of every lick that Chuck Berry ever collected a royalty on and weathers a storm of feedback that still rages somewhere in the ether. Their first album of the decade opened with Buddy Holly’s riffing promise that their love would Not Fade Away. Their final album of the decade opened with them content to just stay dry.

I’m Free This one proved that when they wanted to just be one of the many “British Invasion” acts who could come up with catchy pop they were equal to the task. A song that could have only come out in 1965.

Play With Fire There was a time when they were too scruffy and unkempt to attract the kind of women that could elevate their status and position. Once they achieved that lofty stature they never forgot the sting of rejection and consigned themselves to a life of punishing those that now professed undying love.

Ruby Tuesday The Beatles had a way of taking a song like this and making it something ethereal and breezy. For the Stones that was never an option. They had cast their lot with those who lived a smaller more paranoiac existence. Even when they tried to be tender and get close to someone it came off sinister and with a hardly concealed motive. Closing the song with the line “still I’m gonna miss you” lets you know that they don’t clean up behind themselves very well.

Stray Cat Blues (Live) A nice slinky studio version surfaced on Beggars Banquet that unfolded as a cautionary tale for parents of young girls everywhere. However by the time it appeared on Get Yer Ya’s Ya’s Out it had been transformed into a strutting, salacious tale as told by the Midnight Rambler.

Sway Why rehearse when a first run through sounds like perfection? The first time I heard this I thought it was going to fall out my speakers. Probably their least self conscious track ever. Credit Mick Taylor and the session guys for getting them to go with the flow and just “let it loose.”

Time Waits For No One One of the few times that Jagger let his guard down and faced his own mortality. He was still young in mere mortal years, but aging rapidly as a relevant rocker trying to move his band from one decade to the next. He succeeded, but was showing the strains of being at the wheel for over ten years with a hundred more to go.

Torn And Frayed Ian Stewart’s piano drives this tale of another wasted soul who lost his way in the world of rock and roll. To this band though it’s just another loose end that they don’t have time to go back for. But it gave them a nice song by the time the ashes were spread.

You Can't Always Get What You Want Forget the orchestral intro from the album version and flip over your single of Honky Tonk Women for this version that starts with Al Kooper on the flugelhorn. His mournful notes slowly raise the curtain on yet another swirling, drug fueled, dirge of a daydream about trying to ignore the world around you while heading to the next score. A perfect way to let the sixties die its inevitable death while looking the other way.


Harlem Shuffle An odd choice for sure, but something about the way they approached this cover at this point in their career draws me in. They were at a crossroads and nearly adrift despite a fat new contract that left them no doubt satisfied, but seeing nothing but distant shores in a changing musical sea. This attempt to re-connect with a groove that had inspired them years before revealed that they could hear the whispers and knew that there was more on the line than their signatures.

Moonlight Mile What better way to close out Sticky Fingers than this song. On this track they acknowledge the fact that the decadence and drugs of the sixties were now a part of their lives. In some circles they would be forever defined by these vices. For the rest of us they would be judged by what they came out of the studio with, not what they took in with them.

Street Fighting Man In America we dance in the streets, in England they have to clear a path first before any dancing takes place. A snapshot of how the youth in another country view their dwindling options. Too acoustic to be hard rock, too hard driving to be acoustic. It meets us in the middle.


I’m not sure whether a song can truly change the world or not. As noble as that sounds it‘s just too much of a stretch for me. A song can however change an entire day when heard at the appropriate time. Yesterday morning it was raining and I was running behind. When I tapped the on button of my car radio just such a thing happened. The first song I heard was Tom Paxton’s “I Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound.” He’s written a lot of memorable songs in a long career, but the melancholy of that one fit the morning like few others could have. (Several Leonard Cohen songs are capable of the same magic)

That song along, with “Ramblin’ Boy” and “The Last Thing On My Mind” form a triumvirate of songs that you’d swear were handed down mountain ballads from before there were even trains. No one could have possibly taken a guitar and a sheet of paper to the park and come home with one of them. The timeless quality of those songs never ceases to amaze me when I hear one of them. All are available by him and countless others. Seeking out any version of these songs will at the very least change your day.

“May all your ramblin’ bring you joy…”

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Kansas City’s Drum Room at the President Hotel is a throwback to an era that no longer exists. For most of us it mainly existed in films and album covers featuring Frank, Dean, Nat and others engaged in being cooler than anyone we would ever know personally.
The renovated Drum Room on the bottom floor of the hotel offers an abundance of the elegance that once graced the interior walls. Walls that echoed with the sounds of the afore mentioned acts and other jazz greats that worked the circuit in the forties and fifties when Kansas City was known for more than an also ran football team and baseball team that is better at hitting the skids than a curveball.

It was an era where acts played rooms this size regularly and could look everyone in place square in the eye while performing “My Funny Valentine” or maybe “You Go To My Head.” There was no one by the door selling shirts and mugs with their picture on them. Just outside the door was someone who would park your car for you and open the door for the dame on your arm.

I took the misses there for our anniversary and we had a wonderful dinner and split a martini that resembled an elevated candy dish. As Raymond Chandler might say “the drink packed more of a punch than Lamotta in his prime.“ The music didn’t come within a light year of the ghosts that hovered in the air. The “jazz stylings” of Max Groove saw to that. Aimless faux fusion jazz misses wildly on the hip scale at this blog.

The tab eclipsed my last couple of cable bills, but it was worth every penny. We left with a great photo and a sense of a time before the internet and the hurry up and wait times we live in. We now know that there was once a time where you could live in the moment and savor it because you couldn’t go home and hit rewind. You could only wait until the next time you could get out for another round.


Waylon firing up a smoke on the cover of this 1968 album is kind of cool. He wasn’t the acknowledged outlaw that he would later become. He was more or less a “greaser” country act that had made some nice singles and was getting more and more popular. I didn’t start smoking because of Waylon, but he certainly looked like his own man smoking his freshly rolled coffin nail. As Lou Reed once said “those were different times.”

What’s not so cool is his family allowing the use of this photo of a later, more mature Waylon holding a cigarette like he was selling dish soap on the cover of his new box set "Nashville Rebel." Cigarettes didn’t kill him in 2002, but they didn’t add any years to one of the most storied careers in country music. As a fan for over thirty years of the man and his music, I have seen hundreds of worthy photos that would serve as a better reminder of the man and the music contained on this set. The music inside is first rate, the cover is ill advised to say the least. As Bob Dylan would say "Things Have Changed."



This blog, not to be confused with every other blog, will be used primarily to offer my rants, raves, suggestions, reviews, sometimes useful information, photography (I have a separate blog that is completely photography based) and anything else that comes to mind. My main job is online music sales after a lifetime of retail music sales.
Most of my entries, regardless how informative or lame, will be music or media based since that’s about all I have time for. If you learn something that you didn’t know that will be a plus. If you get angry about something that I post or think that bloggers should be locked up you will most likely be making my day. Feel free to drop me an email with any love letters, correspondence and advice of your own if you don’t want to comment on the blog directly.

One last thing. I will be using lyric quotes in most, if not all posts. All are used without permission to save time. If you happen to be the legal copyright owner of any of them and feel that my use of them on a blog emanating from somewhere in Kansas will cause you irreparable harm, public scorn and ultimately take food from your children’s mouth please contact me and I will remove them. Keep in mind however, that I have spent over forty years of my life buying, selling and promoting your music throughout the world with only a weekly salary to show for it. Again, just something to keep in mind.