This stuff scared me. It probably scared me away from my biggest vice. It's legal in all 50 states except for Kansas. Then again, by the time you read this post it may well be illegal across the country. It's sold as "incense"/"aromatherapy", and there is a label on the back of the package that reads "Not for human consumption". There are no labels on dime bags of weed, either, but pot heads aren't too concerned with that, are they? People who buy K2 aren't paying heed to the label. It's smoked and, believe it or not, the effect is VERY similar to marijuana. And I'm not talking about low grade dirt weed. K2 packs a punch that rivals the best I've ever imbibed. Not quite as "clean", but potent as hell. At 35-40 bucks for 3 grams t's too expensive. You might as well be buying the real thing. But K2's appeal is going to be to those who CAN'T use but still want to. People who want to keep their jobs but face random drug tests on a regular basis. People who have a hard time hooking up. People looking for something a little different...I'm thinking it might be quite interesting to mix it with the bona fide article.

Whatever...I'm not buying any more. It tapped into my paranoia a few times in a manner almost as frightening as the worst experiences I've had with cannabis. I'm gonna back off for a little while.

Here are a couple of my favorite Diane Arbus photographs.


Southbound Plane to Ride

From Bipolar Confessional...

"Southbound Plane to Ride"

Skirting 'round the boredom of the day
Is a skill
I have developed
Through the long, empty years
Thrust upon me by mean 'ol One-Eye
A temporary fix
Still useful for a time
It keeps the push from becoming a shove
A defense mechanism
Manipulation of time, streams of ballast
All the while
This becomes obvious as
The voices tell me it is so
They keep me awake at night
There's no shutting them up
Not hateful tones
These shadows don't accuse
They only want to help
But they don't have a goddamn clue how to go about it
They don't listen well
Because they aren't sure if I'm the one doing the talking
They don't trust the other
Or maybe they don't know the other
Perhaps they feel as if they are anchoring me to reality
Telling me I should hoard
That I need these things for my own
That I could actually own these things
When all the while I have no illusions
Any of it could ever be kept
I know something they don't
It's not worth keeping
They won't be convinced, though
And so their benevolence
Drives me out of my mind, for a short break

They dropped the charges
The killer got off
No one ever knew
He went to his grave
Happy, smiling
Guiltless in his own mind
With blood on his hands

I saw her lying on the road as I drove by
The ambulance had only just arrived
No shattered glass on the ground
No smashed vehicle for the rubber neckers
Just some old guy bent over her
Checking to see if she were hurt badly
I didn't see any blood
But she wasn't moving


My Uncle Elmer

I must have 16 or 17 years old when I first learned that I had an uncle who had been killed by a drunk driver. He was only 17 himself, walking home from a movie with a friend when he was struck from the curb.

My dad, who passed away at age 65 in 1999, only mentioned him once in all my life. We were arguing bitterly (as, I'm ashamed to say, we often did) and for some reason or another he brought the subject of his brother into the fight. It rattled him pretty bad just to talk about it, and he never brought it up again. I don't think he even told me his name.

It was Elmer.

My aunt Wanda was giving me some pictures from her countless photo albums when we came across the ones below, which she let me borrow to scan. There are a couple more he's in, but I'll save them for later posts. I've got some other great pictures of my grandparents that I'd not seen before, including the only photo I've ever seen of my great grandfather. For that matter, I'd never seen him OR uncle Elmer at ALL until yesterday.

So it's been a pretty cool weekend.

Click on the bottom image to enlarge and read the newspaper piece about the accident that claimed his life.


AC/DC: "Iron Man 2"

This is the second review I submitted to Vintage Rock. Hasn't been published yet, and I have no way of knowing, at the moment, if it even will be. But I like it enough to post it here.

(Update: the review was published on May 23, 2010. See it, in it's grammatically corrected form, HERE)

"Iron Man 2"

I was talking with a friend the other day about the state of contemporary rock music. At one point the conversation turned to the mega-successful Canadian band Nickelback. Neither one of us had a favorable opinion of them. He reeled off a laundry list of reasons for why he could not abide the sound, style and basically everything else about the group. By contrast, I was able to sum up my disinterest with one single word: PREDICTABLE.

He agreed with me and said he would put it close to the top of his list, directly beneath “boring” and just above “lame”. “They’re predictable, all right,” he said. “Predictably BAD! If there’s one thing you can count on with Nickelback, it’s the undeniable SAME-NESS of each and every song in their repertoire. Their fans must not mind, though, and they’ve sure got a lot of them.”

Rock music has never really been about sitting still, in one place for the duration of a career. Or has it? I mean, it’s impossible to imagine the Beatles still churning out pop ditties like “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on “Abbey Road”. The Stones took their cue from the Fab Four and evolved from a standard blues cover band into something arguably as influential as the music they adulated during their early years. Brian Wilson, the master tunesmith and driving force of the Beach Boys, would never have remained content trotting out songs like “Surfin’ USA” or “Barbara Ann”. Instead he drew inspiration from “Sgt. Pepper” and produced the legendary “Pet Sounds”. Would the Beach Boys be revered as much as they are now if not for that album? I highly doubt it. Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Bob Dylan…real heavy hitters here…each and every one not content to regurgitate the “same old same old”. Some fared well by that decision. Others not so much. But they make a strong case for the proposition that great music should always be in a constant state of flux and that artists must be willing and able to follow their muse in whatever direction she may lead.

Sounds great. Seems logical. But then, how do you explain bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and a host of others who achieved greatness while confining themselves to a specific template and rarely, if ever, deviating from it? Perhaps not “predictable” in the same way the dreaded Nickelback are, but predictable nonetheless.

The strongest argument for the positive side of predictability is the libidinous Australian band AC/DC. If there’s one thing you can say about them, whether you like them or not, it’s that they are as predictable as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. You know EXACTLY what you’re going to get when you buy one of their CDs, download their songs or score a ticket to one of their concerts. Ham-fisted power chords and 5 capable musicians exploring the infinite possibilities of three, maybe four of them. You can expect the eardrum popping dirty crunch of a Gibson SG, it’s strings bent almost to the point of breaking in search of the right note. Testosterone-soaked lyrics stuffed with enough sexual double entendres to keep the kiddos guessing until they’ve reached the age of accountability. Punch drunk vocals that make you wonder if the singer has recently broken into a case of high point Budweiser and still has one or two left to share with you.

These things will never change. Predictable. The very dictionary definition of it. Engraved in stone, for everyone, fan and non-fan alike, to see: THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT! THIS IS WHAT YOU GET! Of all the truly great classic rock bands I can think of, AC/DC surely proves that you can make a decent living cranking out a myriad of variations on a very small theme. They do it well. Even if they didn‘t it wouldn‘t matter because the thematic meat of their material, with it’s amped-up macho sexuality, is timeless and insures it’s longevity.

The band’s latest album, “Iron Man 2”, is the most recent example of how they bucked the whole “musical evolution” system and come out the other end with flying colors. There’s nothing new WHATSOEVER about this collection of 15 classic AC/DC tunes. Every one of them has been previously released, the eldest of the lot being 35 years old (“TNT”). That’s a long time to be mining the same ore. Yet they keep on keeping on, every few years releasing a new album of the same songs bearing different titles and slightly revamped lyrics.

It’s a formula. But it’s a formula that works, as the selection of rockers on “Iron Man 2” proves.

Many people were upset with the marketing concept behind this disc. For one thing, only two of the songs appear in the actual movie. “Shoot to Thrill” kicks things off and “Highway to Hell” ushers moviegoers out of the theater during the end credits. So, for all intents and purposes, this is NOT a legitimate “soundtrack” album. It’s just a bunch of AC/DC songs thrown together by two or three executive producers for Marvel Entertainment hoping to cash in on the proven popularity of the group. In cahoots with AC/DC’s management, of course, who surely jumped at the opportunity to tie in with such a successful franchise as “Iron Man” and Marvel in general. Easy money.

Not a popular concept, it would seem, amongst many of the group’s more faithful followers. Obviously they would have preferred at least one or two new tunes to justify purchasing an album loaded with songs they already have in their collection. It’s a legitimate gripe. Still, as an introduction to the band’s one-of-a-kind power boogie it works surprisingly well. It’s hard to imagine that there is an entire generation of potential fans who aren’t even old enough pack up their morals and get on the highway to hell yet. Once that happens there’s no turning back and that spells L-E-G-A-C-Y for the Aussies. Uninterrupted cash flow as well. Their music is invulnerable to the cruel work of time. It’s ageless and will remain so until the human race evolves into a sterile, asexual species. Until then we can look forward to saluting countless problem children who are about to rock. (I know…ugh! That was my inner Rob Sheffield trying to take over)

To the uninitiated the “Iron Man 2” record is a teaser. A taste of what lies in store, waiting to be discovered. Practically every song on this disc is rock solid. Only “War Machine” (from 2008’s disappointing “Black Ice”) and “Guns For Hire” (from 1983’s even more disappointing “Flick of the Switch”) fail to rise to the standards of the other 13 tracks. The vocals are split fairly evenly between the weasel-snarl of Bon Scott and Brian Johnson’s cajone busrting, larynx shredding screech. It’s a good opportunity to decide whose style you prefer. One, both or neither, you’ll hear ample examples of the best from each singer. “Iron Man 2” could be easily be mistaken for “An AC/DC Primer” or “AC/DC 102”.

“AC/DC 101” would be the 1986 compilation “Who Made Who”, which, coincidentally, was ALSO a soundtrack album. This one was for the less-than-successful film adaptation of Stephen King’s short story “Maximum Overdrive”. The movie may not have been all that impressive, but at least the AC/DC songs from the soundtrack were all actually IN THE FILM. And they were a top shelf lot, to boot. “Hell’s Bells”, “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) and “You Shook Me All Night Long” are entrenched in the pantheon of classic rock so it’s no surprise that “Who Made Who” is an extremely strong offering. Pull “Back in Black” and “Thunderstruck” from “Iron Man 2”, mix it with that album and WAA-LAH”! There’s your “Greatest Hits” album, albeit a lopsided affair that would suffer from the exclusion of so many Bon Scott tunes).Even so, such a combination would go down in history as one of the most potent collections ever released. At least Bon Scott is represented admirably on“Iron Man 2”. A hits disc from the days he was still amongst the living is surely going to feature “T.N.T.”, “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be”, “Let There Be Rock” & “If You Want Blood (You Got It)”, all of which are skillfully programmed here between the more familiar post-’80s rockers.

It does no good to bitch and moan about how this new album comes off as an incomplete “Greatest Hits” of the band itself. It’s pointless to rattle on about how their label doesn’t seem willing to mix and match songs from both AC/DC soundtrack recordings to produce one awesome compilation. You could complain, whine grouch, grumble and murmur until you’re sick and tired, insisting that such an undertaking would not be very difficult…but in this age of iTunes and customizable play lists it seems a waste of time. After all, anyone with a little taste in music and 15 bucks for the downloads can make one for themselves. Probably a lot better than the suits at the record label could.

I suppose now would be a good time to tell you that I have NOT seen “Iron Man 2” and that I have no plans to watch it anytime soon, if at all. I didn’t viddy the first “Iron Man” and I’m 95 % sure I won’t stand in line to experience “Iron Man 3, 4, 5, 6, 7” or “8”, either. I’m sure it’s quite good. After all, it’s box-office receipts rival the GNP of several third world countries COMBINED. They don’t need one more ten dollar bill from out of my pocket. Besides, the last time I went to an IMAX theater, to see “Avatar”, I walked out with a ringing in my ears that kept me from enjoying the quieter passages of Mozart’s “Requiem for days. I’d bet good money that there even more explosions and miscellaneous thunderous discharges in “Iron Man 2”. I’m an aging musician…I need to preserve what hearing I have left, eh? I’m gonna pass, thank you very much.

Besides, I could never envision Iron Man as a hero. In my world he will always be pissed off for having been sent to the Great Magnetic Field to save the future of mankind and the ungrateful betrayal of people who don‘t even know if he has thoughts in his head. The Iron Man I know is not lookin’ to make any friends. On the contrary, he seeks vengeance from the grave and is driven by the solitary impulse to kill the people he once saved. Weapon of choice? Heavy boots of lead. Can you believe that? This is one terrifying S.O.B. so it shouldn’t be difficult to understand why I’m hesitant to make a hero out of him.

I’m not a huge fan of action movies in the first place. You’ve seen one fireball, you’ve seen ‘em all. Combustion, guns, destruction, guns, chaos, guns, vigilante justice, guns, payback, guns, death, guns, speed, guns, guns, guns, guns…hell, I have enough of that in my own day-to-day life. I don’t want to pay money to sit in a theater and watch it all over again, with the stench of stale popcorn wafting in the air and clueless commentary from the noisy bozos in the seats directly behind mine.

Maybe that’s why I find the “Iron Man 2” “soundtrack” somewhat unsettling. That stuff ain’t got nothing’ to do with the music of AC/DC. Not as far as I can see. AC/DC’s music is about hormones out of control. Libidos run amok. It’s about the kind of sex you should never call “making love”. It’s about being so full of yourself that you could explode at any moment, spattering huge chunks of ego all over the walls. It’s about telling the world what a badass you are. It’s the very macho essence of rock and roll, vital for it’s existence, rolled up into one stinky little ball and thrown at the mirror. When Brian Johnson says he’s gonna “Shoot to Thrill” he may well mean it, but he sure ain’t talkin’ about using a firearm. When Bon Scott says “Watch me explode” you can bet he’s not using dynamite to get the job done.

Ahhh, but enough of my rambling. I’m in the mood for a little Australian boot stomping, so I guess I’m gonna go hunt for that copy of “Iron Man” that Shawn sent me to review…I seem to have misplaced it right after I brought it home from the post office and haven’t seen it since. Don’t tell him, okay? Please?

Perhaps predictability isn’t such a bad thing after all…unless, of course, you’re Nickelback.

(Note: I’m sorry if I offended any Nickelback fans out there who may be reading this. I only use them as an example in a purely hypothetical way. I would have used Three Doors Down instead, but my wife likes them…)


The Case Of ZZ Top: 'The Best Of' vs. 'Greatest Hits'

This is the link to the Vintage Rock website where my first review for them is posted. Did I say anything about it the last couple of days? If not, the big guy at VintageRock.com asked me to write reviews for the site, after reading a spot on Deep Purple that I wrote for this blog and later published on the Classic Rock Forum. I knocked out this ZZ Top feature in a couple of days. My next project is a review of AC/DC's "Iron Man 2" soundtrack. I'm figuring it will be published, seeing as how he sent me a CD copy to work from. I'm pretty deep into it already and it's shaping up to be a good read.

I'm really happy about the whole situation. Being "published" is very encouraging, and encouragement, for me, always brings with it inspiration. With the writings of Lester Bangs as a motivating influence I hope it will be the beginning of a new phase for me. We'll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, follow the link below...

"The Case Of ZZ Top: 'The Best Of' vs. 'Greatest Hits'"

...or, if you don't want to see my first real by-line, here it is in it's entirety.

One evening, while enjoying the company and hospitality of friends, I was introduced to an old man who claimed to loathe ZZ Top with a passion unrivaled. More than the Tea Party hates Obama. More than a cook at McDonalds hates his job. More than a Macintosh devotee hates a PC. Even more than I hate Billy Joel. Serious enmity there, as you can see.

When I asked him why he detested that particular band so much, he was hesitant with a reply. He shuffled and shirked, then tried to change the subject. I pressed him. He avoided it like the plague. He turned to walk away, but I grabbed him by the sleeve of his jacket, pulling him back towards me before he had a chance to get even three steps.

“Dude,” I said. “It’s no big deal! I don’t think anyone here cares all that much. But there has to be a crazy explanation behind such malevolence. You’ve piqued my curiosity now, and I don’t intend to let you leave until you’ve spilled the beans. I mean, I can tell you exactly why I hate Billy Joel in five short words: ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’. So what’s your story?”

“Well…uh…I suppose that IS a pretty good reason to show no love for the Piano Man. I’m afraid mine isn’t quite so solid.”

He took a look to the left…then he took a look to the right…making sure no one would be able to hear him. He bent toward me and whispered, in an almost conspiratorial tone. “Okay, I’m a-gonna tell ya.”

And so he began.

“Well, you see, it was some time in the early or mid seventies when I left Chicago for a joy ride. I’d recently quite my job as a carpenter. The pay sucked and I had a frightening suspicion that my boss had it in for me. So I packed my bags and fled.

“I’d just got paid and had a lot of extra pocket change, so I decided to look up an old friend in Austin. It wasn’t too difficult tracking him down and, as I suspected, he was open to my suggestion that we find a biker bar where we might be able to hook up with a little ‘tush’. I think he must have lived behind a rock somewhere most of his life, because he had no idea what ‘tush’ even was. He thought it had something to do with bacon and eggs. When I filled him in on the details he became extremely excited and put the pedal to the metal.

“So we found us a broke down pre-fabricated building with one of those hoaky yellow signs in front…You know, the kind with the light bulbs and pointing arrow? I know you’ve seen ‘em — they’re everywhere. Big black tile letters spelling ‘WELCOME’ and the name of the establishment that owns it…This one said, ‘HARLEY CHARLIE’S DEN OF INIQUITY: BIKERS WELCOME’.

“‘I think we’ve just found the place,’ I said to my tush-challenged friend. He pulled the car into the drive and shut down the engine.

“Apparently Harley Charlie was a very popular individual because his den was packed to the gills. We could hear the sounds of drunken debauchery at least 50 yards from the building, parked in the car, splashing liberal doses of Hai Karate on our chests to make a good, solid impression on the ladies. My friend turns to me and smiles. A lecherous smile as I’ve ever seen, and says one word: ‘JACKPOT!’”

I had no choice but to agree as I opened the door and stepped in. All the rumors about insanely wild biker parties? They’re true! That place was ALIVE with foul talk, the smell of burnt weed and rancid breath, ugly chicks with their shirts off, more Harley Davidson paraphernalia than I’ve ever seen in my life. Hell, someone had even put a nickel in the jukebox and played a Steppenwolf tune. John Kay’s intoxicated, weary voice was pumped loudly through speakers that sounded as if they had been blown a long time ago. He was singing something about smoking a lot of grass and popping a lot of pills. For some reason or another, he seemed to be extremely ungrateful to the man who had sold them to him.

“Now I like Steppenwolf a lot. Always have, always will. So it pleased me to no end that the patrons of Charlie’s seemed to appreciate it when I fed the jukebox a quarter and played not one, not two, but FIVE Steppenwolf songs. I figured that if this gesture didn’t endear me to the hoodlums, nothing would. ‘Sookie, Sookie,’ ‘Jupiter’s Child,’ ‘Never Too Late,’ ‘Rock Me, Baby,’ ‘Magic Carpet Ride’…a veritable iPod playlist of Steppenwolf songs. Now THAT, my new friend, is some honest-to-God kick ass motorcycle humpin’, fuel pumpin’, sweat drippin’, tattoo-gittin’ music for ya there. This also appeared to be the opinion of a buxom redhead with a huge red rose tattoo that covered roughly a third of her left breast. She gyrated, shimmied and shook like a meth-infused contestant on Dancing With The Stars.

“OK…just as ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ fades out, replaced by the sound of smacking pool balls and profanity, I got the undeniable impression that my plan had been successful. Several people had smiled in my general direction; a couple had even spoken to me. The fact that I was even still alive counted for quite a lot. With our shared love for the Wolf, I actually began to feel a kinship with these rough boys. A kinship, if I may add, which I hoped to parley into a night of hard lust and soft pillows, if you know what I mean ***nudge nudge***wink wink***say no more.

“It was at that moment that I heard, on the jukebox, crisp tickety tack snare drum taps…the subdued, hushed guitar plucking…a voice that sounded as if it had barely survived the carnage of 1,000 cartons of unfiltered Camels. The singer’s voice had a leering cockiness to it that got on my bad side. I knew I was probably mistaken, but I’d already had a belt or two, and for some reason I thought the guy was singing about a nursing home. Then, just before the rattlesnake drum sticks got serious and the song kicked in for real, I heard him say, ‘They got a lot of nice girls.’

I was aghast. Offended past the point of reason, because my mother was in a nursing home and I know exactly goes on in those places. I turned to my friend and I said, in retrospect, I suppose, a little too loudly, ‘Man, this is SICK. What is this shit, anyway?’

“I guess my voice carried a little farther than I thought it would. The bar became deathly silent. Someone kicked the electrical cord on the jukebox from the socket on the wall. The tension in the room was as thick as exhaust fumes from an overheated hog. Every one of those behemoths was staring straight at me, eyes gleaming with the prospect of violence. The rustle of leather jackets and chaps broke the stillness, and next thing I know I’ve got a whole club of motorcycle enthusiasts surrounding me.

“One of them, a toothless giant with at least 20 Harley Davidson logos on his arms and chest, stepped up to me, looked me square in the eye and said, ‘Don’t you know where you are, boy?’

“I didn’t have a chance to answer that million-dollar question, as I felt the blunt force of 69 fists pummeling me to the sawdust-sprinkled floor. I’m positive I would have wound up dead, had it not been for the intervention of my friend. Apparently, he calmed them down with promises of smoked ribs, fried okra and a huge sack of CDS I’d bought so the two of us wouldn’t get bored if the whole ‘tush’ thing didn’t work out. (not compact discs, but Controlled Dangerous Substances).

“‘Dude! What’s wrong with you?’ he asked. “That was ZZ Top you just slagged! Don’t you know where you ARE? You don’t go bad-mouthin’ the Top in Austin. ESPECIALLY in a place with a name like Harley Charlie’s!’

“I took his message to heart. As bitter a pill as it was to swallow, I felt as if I’d learned my lesson. There and then I made three resolutions I planned to keep until my dying day:

“Number One: Never, and I mean NEVER, dis ZZ Top in a biker bar.

“Number Two: Stay the hell away from biker bars.

“Number Three: Go back to Chicago and beg my boss for my old job back.”

…As the old man took a break from his tale, guzzling a swig from a bottle of Lone Star, I said, “Wow! That is one hell of a story! No wonder you hate ZZ Top so much. I’m glad it wasn’t me…I would have made the same mistake. I used to work in a nursing home myself and I know what goes on in them.”

“Hmmph,” he grunted. I probably should not have told him about my long forgotten season at Parkland Manor.

“But you have to admit, they DO have a lot of nice girls!”

He almost came unglued at those words, but I settled him down by insisting I was talking about the Nurse’s Aides. It was a lie, but hey, I wasn’t in the mood to be spit on and sucker punched.

“I see what you’re saying,” I told him. “But ‘La Grange’ ain’t such a bad song. At least it isn’t when you take out the whole mistaken ‘mother in the nursing home’ element. But you just can’t tack it onto the heels of a Steppenwolf marathon like that.”

“Amen, brother. It’s a legitimate reason to hate those three bozos, but surely not to the extent that I do. My bitterness runs much deeper.”

“Oh my God,” I gasped. “You mean there’s more to the story?”

“Oh, yes, sonny boy. There is, and none of it would have happened had I kept my second resolution.”

He continued his fascinating tale…

“It was about 10 years later. I was watching MTV, hoping they‘d show that Flock of Seagulls video again. I was out of luck on that front and was feeling depressed because of it (I loved those haircuts). But then they played a video that was even better! I’d never seen or heard anything like it before. There were three guys in the band, you see, and two of ‘em were sportin‘ some really, really crazy looking beards. There’s hot chicks, a sweet automobile, and the strangest thing I’d ever seen in my life: FURRY GUITARS! I didn’t have a chance to see who they were, as I had an appointment with a quack chiropractor I was already late in keeping. But it was easy to suss out the song title from the lyrics: “Legs.”

“A day or two later and I’m riding around town with a business acquaintance when the same song comes on the radio. I said, ‘HEY! Stop the car! I LOVE that song! Who is that?’

“You should have seen the look on my face when he answered with two letters and one word: ‘ZZ Top.’

“As you can imagine, I was shocked and confused. I simply could not reconcile this glossy, practically new wave ear candy with the nasty barbeque bar band boogie I’d heard that fateful night at Harley Charlie’s…the night I lost my left eye.”

Sure enough the old geezer had a glass eye. I hadn’t noticed in the dim light, but there was an unnatural sparkle shining from that side of his face.

“I thought about it for awhile and came to the conclusion that I liked this song ‘Legs’ so much that it didn’t matter to me WHO did it. ZZ Top, Mike and the Mechanics, the Outfield — it was all the same to me. I had a hard time believing it was even the same band. A personnel change, maybe? Whatever it was, I found myself in the rather ironic position of being a new convert…a true blue ZZ Top fan.

“I even bought their ‘Greatest Hits’ record. It immediately went into heavy rotation on my stereo, eventually replacing my worn-out copy of ‘Steppenwolf 7’. ‘Tube Snake Boogie’, ‘TV Dinners’, ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ — this was stuff I could relate to. You could keep your 10 dollar whores, give me a pair of cheap sunglasses, ya know?

“I went to a couple of their shows and marveled at those incredibly long beards and the guitars that looked like some kind of weird, extra-terrestrial stuffed animals hanging from their shoulders. The only bad thing about the entire concert was when they played ‘La Grange’. I had to excuse myself at that point. The enthusiasm of the crowd when that song began made me a wee bit uncomfortable, if you can sympathize. I availed myself of the arena’s restroom facilities and took the opportunity to clean my glass eye. All the pot smoke in the air had irritated it. I got back in my seat just in time to hear them throw down ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’.

“I decided then and there that I would go back to that biker bar in south Texas. After all those tattooed love boys had done to me…all the pain, all the humiliation…I STILL yearned to be ‘one of them’.

“So I hopped in my car and made that long journey down south. I had no trouble remembering how to find Harley Charlie’s. When I got there, it was almost as if nothing had changed since the days when Jimmy Carter steered us through the oil shortage and motion lotion was at a premium. Raucous noise poured from the open door. The stench of tobacco smoke and old beer wafted, cloud-like, through the windows. It was almost as if the party had never stopped, all the way down to the music on the jukebox: John Kay still rambling about how much he wanted God to punish his dealer. I felt an overwhelming sense of déjà vu which, for obvious reasons, was absolutely terrifying.

“None of them seemed to recognize me. I do look quite a bit different than I did way back then, what with this little crystal ball in my noggin. Still, I was not deterred. I was gonna get in good with these bikers if it killed me.

“I walked over to the jukebox with 50 cents to feed it. I could have played 10 Steppenwolf songs for half a dollar in the 70s. Now it was only good for one. I scanned the menu until I found THE one.

“B-13 — ‘Legs’ by ZZ Top.

“The first few chords hadn’t even played out when I heard the familiar sound of silence as the cacophony in the den abruptly came to a screeching halt. Someone barked out, ‘What the hell is THAT shit? ’ Next thing I know, I’m surrounded by 30 or 40 really mean looking gentlemen and the girl with the red rose tattoo on her tit.

“I felt the *crack* of a pool cue breaking against my back. Fists jabbed at me, punches landing, hitting their mark with a sickening, muffled sound. A bolt of pain went through my torso, as a rusty blade slashed in a downward motion from my navel to my groin. I hit the ground, fast and hard, and I felt the unique sensation of my glass eye being scooped from its socket. Beer bottles broke on my head, the sharp glass edges tearing the skin of my face until I looked a lot like Jim Cavaziel in The Passion of the Christ.

“I have no idea when they stopped. All I can remember is waking up in the intensive care ward at Austin Regional with a sharp pain where my eye used to be. I was a little pissed off because I‘d sort of become attached to that mini-globe. Not to mention the agony of having it fitted and inserted. I never found out what happened to the old one. I figured it was probably broken in the melee…but no, my friend returned to the scene of the crime to buy a dime bag from Harley Charlie and he swears he saw it floating in a jar of pickled pigs feet. He asked Charlie what it was. ‘A trophy,’ the grizzled vet with the black P.O.W. cap told him. Said he had no idea what became of my real eye…the one they’d poked out on my first visit. God, it pissed me off. I really missed my real one, for obvious reasons. But the prosthetic one? It was NOT a cheap eye! I wanted to retrieve it, but I sure as hell wasn’t going back to that crazy temple of hedonism and hatred.”

His expression turned melancholy as he politely excused himself. I never found out exactly WHY he wanted to buddy up with bikers, unless he thought it would help him procure some of that legendary ‘tush’ he was after. But I did feel like I’d gained a good understanding of why he hated ZZ Top so much. It may not have been a valid reason, but it was a good one. I would have felt the same, had it been me. Especially if they’d jabbed out my eye, then stole the replacement. It really was ZZ Top’s fault, I’m certain. You can’t just turn into a new band for MTV and expect your old school fans to hop on the bandwagon with the newbies.

I’d enjoyed our conversation, but I was glad he’d left. I didn’t want to have to tell him I’d been rooting for the bikers.


This is the first band flyer I ever made. 1984 I think it was. Pretty funny. Practically no one showed up.


R.E.M. Relics

Here are a few relics from my days as an R.E.M. fanatic (1984-1985). The top one even has a handwritten note from bassist Mike Mills. The two in the middle are fan club offers. The bottom is a postcard I recieved that showed the piece of notebook paper upon which the band had written down potential names for their second album, "Reckoning".

You will definitely want to click each image to enlarge.


The goal of the soul encased in a human shell is to break free from time and space. The goal of the soul in eternity is to get back into a different one and do it all over again.


Bambo moving to bandcamp

Since the DVD drive in my laptop bit the dust I haven't been able to access the loops on the Acid Studio disc. As a result I seem to have lost some inspiration. Oh, I can still make the free form stuff. I like to do that, but have been more in the mood to do something musical with it. As a result, I have not done much with the Bambo Syndicate lately.

That may soon change, when I break down and purchase an external drive (I don't think I can afford to replace the one inside the Vaio). Plus, I am excited about moving my main base of operations from garageband to bandcamp. Nothing wrong with garageband (usually, I should say), but the new one has one distinct advantage: stat reports. You have to pay for those on garageband. That sucks, and it's kind of a cheat to artists who use the site. I would have jumped ship a long time ago for that reason, but all of the other band site hosts I looked at had time limits of 4-5 minutes for all song uploads. Not so, bandcamp.

Even better, the service offers embeddable players for your individual songs and/or albums. I can share them instead of having to settle for sending a link to my garageband page...

I have not done anything with my site there, because I just found out about it a couple of hours ago. But I did upload one of my favorite Bambo tracks and I'll post it here. Of course I'll post a link as soon as I get it up and running. Hope you enjoy it...

<a href="http://thebambosyndicate.bandcamp.com/track/snow-white-8-ball">Snow White 8 Ball by The Bambo Syndicate</a>

Sigur Ros videos on Vimeo

Long overdue, here is a link to the Sigur Ros page on Vimeo. Enjoy.

Sigur Rós: "nýja lagið"

nýja lagið from Sigur Rós on Vimeo.


First Saturday of May, every year, it's the day of the Festival. The local merchants have a lot riding on this day. Small town needs something like this to boost the economy. Parade, carnival, weak-ass musical acts and bands, a queen crowning later tonight all capped off by the festive polka street dance. I suppose it does sound like it might be fun.

Indeed, it probably is, but not when you've seen it as many times as I have. I reached that point some years ago. I can hardly remember the last time I had fun at the Festival. Oh, I like to watch my son march with the band at the head of the parade. But really, that's about it. I don't like carnivals...hate the barkers, will not get on the out-of-date rickety rides and generally distrust carnys. Lots of noise, bustle, too much chaos...screw it.

When I was young the Festival was MUCH bigger than it is now. I have no idea what caused the dwindling attendance, but I wouldn't doubt that the number of people who have showed up the last several years is no greater than 1/3 of that in the late seventies and early eighties. Part of the reason might be because it seems to inevitably rain during the Festival. Back in the day it was ALWAYS sunny. Sometimes down right hot. I have no idea what happened to the weather patterns between then and now, but whatever it was has not helped commerce in this one horse town.

Parade's over, I'll let the wife wind up her visit with relatives, then we're getting out of town for the rest of the day. Standard operating procedure on Festival day.