My wallet a sacred relic?

While inspecting my wallet to decide whether or not I should ditch it for a new one, I noticed that there is a ghostly image of the Lord Jesus Christ etched in the leather on the back. It looks, to me, a lot like the face on the Shroud of Turin. Here are a couple of photos of the wallet, the second one with a circle around where I see the face. Am I going crazy?

Click on images to enlarge.

Farewell Garageband

An integral aspect of my Internet experience is no more. As of July 15th Garageband will cease to exist. The site has been the primary host for my Bambo Syndicate music for several years. There are BS songs scattered amongst some of the other "Music 2.0" sites on the Net, but I preferred Garageband because there was no time limit on the songs you uploaded. I had a couple in my list that were over twenty minutes long. Most sites that provide this service have a limit of just around 4-5 minutes per song. The majority of my stuff...or at least the stuff that I want people to hear...is longer than that. I've got a selection of solo material on Garageband as well.

I am not too sure why Garageband is closing up shop. They have been in cahoots with iLike for some time now and that's where all the songs are going...the uploading will have to be done from a MySpace artist page which I'll have to set up if I continue using the service. That will depend on the song length restrictions. If they've been shortened I will abandon ship and get serious about my Bandcamp account. I would have done that sooner except that I have to convert all of my mp3s into wav files...I could kick myself in the ass for not mastering to wav files in the first place. Live and learn. It won't be hard to convert them, but somewhat time consuming....which shouldn't matter, either, since I've got nothing but time on my hands. The Bandcamp set-up looks to be a lot better than Garageband, anyway, so news of it's demise shouldn't be that big of a deal to me, but for some reason I am saddened.

Garageband wasn't just a place to host your band's mp3s. One of the cool things about it was that you could review other users' music and get feedback on your own. It was a laborious process, where you had to review fifteen pairs of two songs in order to submit one of yours. It would be paired with another and sent out for users to review and choose between the two. If you were lucky you could get quite a few reviews. Not all were exactly of constructive criticism, but for the most part you could depend on at least a little insight. I think I've posted the Garageband reviews I've received on this blog, so you can do a search of "Garageband reviews" and probably get all of them.

Nothing to do about it. Tom and his MySpace crew, pissed that all the site's users have absconded to Facebook, have become very serious about this whole "music" thing. I've avoided it so far, but perhaps now is the time to check it out.


Falls Creek Memories

Summer time is here again, with it's sweltering heat, oppressive humidity and the scent of chlorine wafting from the municipal swimming pool a mile down the road. The kids are just now getting used to their vacation routine, but in no hurry whatsoever to return to school. For the Baptist youth in town Summer means one thing: Falls Creek Baptist Assembly...or maybe it's Falls Creek YOUNG Baptist Assembly. Or some variation thereof, all we ever called it was Falls Creek. It was our "Summer Camp", and since we lived in the buckle of the Bible Belt it was also "church camp".

With little motivation as of late to write practically anything I have decided to share a few of my Falls Creek memories, fading even now as I type them onto this computer screen. None are monumental, but the ones I do remember are fondly recalled.

It was at Falls Creek that I learned how to "short sheet" a bed, or maybe I should say it was where I learned what such a thing was. Basically it's a practical joke where the perpetrator folds the flat sheet on the victim's bed in half so that he won't be able to get his legs in all the way down the length of the mattress. I've tried to describe the hilarious outcome of this tried and true prank, but words fail me. In a dark room full of rowdy boys, tired from a long trip but excited by the prospect of the coming week, this was just one of the shenanigans we got ourselves into.

Falls Creek is located near Davis, Oklahoma, nested in one of many mountains that fill the horizon. The scenery is beautiful, if not quite awe-inspiring. There is a peacefulness in the air just waiting to be shattered by rowdy teenage boys and girls who are blissfully unaware of nothing else except each other. When they grow up they will remember the majesticism of the location, but for the time being they are distracted by hormones, libidos, urges, desires, wants & needs, a virtual Mulligan Stew of budding teenage sexuality all kept on a tight leash by the all-watching eye of God and church. The highlight of their Falls Creek day is when the last "Amen" has been spoken at the evening church service. They are dismissed into the warm night air to mingle. Like a subdued meet 'n' greet to anyone with the guts to actually step up and speak to a stranger of the opposite sex. Most of 'em just look at each other and wish they were half as bold. But when you're 14, 15, 16 years old LOOKING is all that's really required. You can head back to the cabin without having spoken a single word but if you'd been lucky enough to cast your eyes upon a fair lass or a budding handsome prince it was all good, regardless.

But none of that happens until after church. And, oh my God, what a lot of church there is. Morning service. Afternoon service, Evening service...hours of church service that's mandatory for everyone. They don't call it a Baptist Assembly for nothing. There may have been another daily service (or even two) that I'm forgetting about, but even without them you've got for yourself here THREE separate opportunities to accept Jesus Christ as yer personal Lord and Savior. Multiply that by the six days you're at camp and you've got a whopping EIGHTEEN chances to get your life right. Eighteen LOOOOONG sermons to sit through. Hard-ass wood pews to scoot around on, trying to keep your rump from falling asleep. I'm sure these days the congregations sing those wimpy praise and worship songs accompanied by a full band, but in the late 70's, when I was there, it was still good old hymns from the Baptist Hymnal (I first heard my favorite hymn there, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"). Instead of acoustic & bass guitars, drums, pre-programmable samplers and digital keyboards, a full horn section, a "praise team", full-on youth choir brightened up by rock concert lighting we had a piano. That's it. Oh, sometimes there was a choir at the rear of the stage, during the evening services, and even a wind band (I played saxophone in that one a couple of times), but suffice to say there was very little that could be considered "cool" about any of this. But for some unknown reason it all became sort of interesting after a while (at least it did for me).

I actually played in the wind band during one of the three times I attended Falls Creek. There was an audition process, but it wasn't very hard to make the cut. It was not exactly a first-tier ensemble, but really not all as bad as you might expect. I remember one afternoon during rehearsal when a little rain began to fall on one side of the building. I mean to say that if you looked through a window to one side you would see a pretty decent amount of rain coming down. But through a window to your other side you would have seen a sunny sky, dry as a bone. Maybe this kind of thing happens often. I'd never witnessed it before and have not again since then.

There is (was?) a souvenir store located in the center of the main thoroughfare, where you could buy books, trinkets, t-shirts and all sort of knick-knacks with Jesus or the Falls Creek logo printed on them. One year I bought a copy of Norman Vincent Peale's "Sin, Sex & Self-Control" from that store. I don't think I ever read it, but the title alone sort of clues you in on the issues I was facing at the time. They also had a huge selection of "Jesus Music" albums. There was, like, this entire sub-culture of Christian rock bands and religious music artists who had released several albums I'd never heard of. It was as if I'd stepped into another world where all my familiar Beatles & Stones were replaced with the Imperials, Dallas Holm & Praise, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Joni, Keith Green, Gary Paxton, on and on and on. All of it middle-of-the-road pap...there was no heavy rocking Resurrection Band or...well, I guess Res was just the only bunch of bible thumpers who were really rockin' out back that far. At any rate, it didn't matter in the long run because I didn't have any money to blow on that stuff. I wound up hearing it anyway (I was a DJ for a short time and hosted a radio show called "Gospel by Radio", so I heard a LOT of that crap). Even came to like some of it (no matter how wicked I get, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Keith Green and John Michael Talbot).

The first time I went to Falls Creek it was by invitation of a good friend. I'd never even heard of it. Assured that it would be a lot of fun, I decided I'd see what it was all about. That first year was probably the best, accompanied by David M. I don't remember too much about the second time I was there. I don't think David made it to that one, or perhaps it was a situation where we were both there but pissed off at each other, not talking.

My third Falls Creek experience may not have been what I consider the "best" one, but it was definitely the most memorable. I had just gotten out of high school by then and was deep in love with a girl whose name or eventual relation in my life I will not reveal. I have no doubt we were really in love, but it was kind of juvenile, immature affair where we were all over each other any and every time we were together. So the whole week we were basically inseparable. One day we were out walking by ourselves and wound up in a secluded spot. We were a promiscuous pair, that's for sure but I'll spare you all the finer details and just blurt it out: I enjoyed a nice bit of oral sex from my girlfriend at church camp. There. That's it. Everything I've said in this essay has led up to this particular moment, the one that is, and always will be, the most vivid recollection of my days at Falls Creek. Things were going along fine and dandy when we heard the sound of some people coming up the trail. At which point I was obliged to stand and button my trousers, frustrated but thankful that we weren't caught.

Now, this was all in the late 70s, as I think I mentioned above. Falls Creek is not only probably but LIKELY a completely different kind of place now. I couldn't tell you because I haven't been back since 80. For awhile there a few years ago I had a strong desire to return. Maybe see how much things had changed since the old days. But now I'm glad I didn't. I don't want to know what goes on now. I am sure I would say to myself, "well, it's not nearly as good as it was in the old days", which would be complete bullshit, because there wasn't a whole lot "good" about it then. It was US that made those weeks memorable. Not meaning "David & I" or "Unnamed Lover and I", but EVERYONE that was there in those cabins. I don't know how much all the accepting of Jesus Christ as personal lord and savior on the part of 90% of the kids had to do with it. Maybe it's just the "camp experience". Or maybe it was all the opportunities for discreet sex (haha!). From what I've read I have learned that the outdoor tabernacles, where we sweated it out morning, noon and night have been replaced by a huge building with air conditioned comfort. Hell, the hard wood pews are probably gone, traded for cushioned seats. I could almost bet that the atmosphere in that building is more that of a rock concert than a church service...and I suppose that's what church has turned into...a huge show.


CD Review: This is the Blues, Volumes 1 & 2

My third piece for vintagerock.com went online last night. I wasn't so sure it would make it because I don't think it's as good as the previous ones. But I'm glad it did, and hopefully can do more soon.

This Is The Blues, a new series of CDs from Eagle Rock Entertainment, has a title that I found slightly misleading. Not that the music can't be considered "blues". It most certainly is that. Down-on-your-luck laments abound. Guitar strings bend almost to the point of breaking. Sexual metaphors, subtle and not-so-subtle, are tossed about without a second thought as to whether someone might find them offensive. That's definitely the “blues" and describes the biggest chunk of the first two volumes in what will become a four-volume set.

For some reason I was expecting a more comprehensive overview of the genre. Maybe I misunderstood. This Is The Blues would ideally, correct me if I'm wrong, feature the legends of the genre. Performances by Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, Bessie Smith, Son House...wouldn't they be essential to any comprehensive overview? Not to mention Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Blake, Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Joe Reynolds & Blind Willie Johnson. Now that's the “blues” — am I wrong? Songs by Muddy Waters and Leadbelly. B.B. King with Lucille. Maybe a couple of jaw-dropping performances by Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page, who, in their own respective ways, stretched the whole musical idea of the blues to breaking point. And what collection with the nerve to call itself This Is The Blues would dare not feature at least one track by the man who almost single-handedly put straight-up blues back on the map: the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughn?

No doubt publishing rights are the culprit in why Eagle Rock's selection doesn't meet those admittedly high (impossible?) standards. They probably also have a lot to do with why Peter Green, troubled co-founder of Fleetwood Mac, has writing credits for no less than 13 of the thirty songs on these initial volumes. John Lee Hooker comes in second, with a relatively measly five. I can understand the difficulty in procuring material, but my mind remains boggled at the relative overabundance of Green tunes.

And so, without the wherewithal and, I assume, inclination to offer a blues anthology, the producers of This Is The Blues have chosen to refer to the series as a "tribute" to the blues. A "musical collective interpreting some of the greatest blues and blues-rock tunes of all time," it says. I can dig that. Even if I don't recognize a good portion of the collective, that's OK. I know a few of 'em, and I've heard of a few of 'em, so listening to these discs should be a good primer for me, right?

The ones I can peg down are heavy hitters, even if only to the long-time classic rock devotee. I doubt the guy who listens to the local classic rock station on his way to and from work has ever heard of any of these players. The exception being a HUGE one, Mick Jagger, who adds a harmonica part to his brother Chris' contribution, "Racketeer Blues". A Lonnie Johnson standard, the song lends itself well to this particular arrangement. Still, there is nothing about Jagger's harp blowing that sets it apart from any other moderately talented harmonica player's skills. If not for liner notes, it is almost guaranteed that nobody, even Mick's biggest fan, is going to know it's him tooting in the background.

Mick Taylor turns in a tortuously long rendition of Willie Dixon's "You Shook Me." Taylor, who played lead guitar for the Rolling Stones through the late 60s and early 70s, made his mark with that band but has continued, in a less public way, to build for himself a reputation as a premiere bluesman. His work on this tune isn't bad. Then again, he is a consistent, top-notch guitarist who has rarely released a substandard recording. But this sucker clocks in at almost 11 MINUTES! That's about seven more minutes than this particular version deserves (maybe eight-and-a-half). It seems to try a few times to pick up some steam, but never quite builds enough to reward the time invested. Still, to those of us who know his playing primarily from his stint with the Stones, it is very interesting to hear him in this element. His vocals have a nice sloppiness that is in marked contrast to the other version of "You Shook Me" that everyone knows. Led Zeppelin shot it with sexual energy and Robert Plant sounded like he was up for some more then and there. Taylor sounds like the experience wrecked him and it's gonna be a long recovery.

Another track on the first volume of This Is The Blues that's saved by a vocal performance is "I'm In The Mood." Hanging on to the microphone, sounding like a rough night spent with Jim B. and Jack D., Jack Bruce doesn't so much sing the lyrics as growl them in a lecherous, slightly creepy manner. He sounds like he's channeling one of the pioneers of the pre-war blues era. Of all the songs on this album, "I'm In The Mood" best captures what I personally think of as the blues. It's sloppy. It's dirty. For this session, Gary Moore, one of the most well-respected blues axe-men currently on the scene, has been paired with Bruce and drummer Gary Husband to fill out the trio. He does an admirable job. Neither of them quite have what it takes to conjure memories of Bruce's partners in Cream (Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker), but it is a solid combination nonetheless.

That kid who is still discovering the treasure chest of classic rock has probably not dug deep enough discover Jeff Beck (or Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, for that matter). But it's only a matter of time before he will, and when that day comes, he will rejoice. Old timers, such as myself, have long wondered how Beck can have released so much quality music and wielded such considerable guitar skills and yet still be virtually ignored by classic rock radio programmers. Well, I suppose there is the take on "People Get Ready" he did with Rod Stewart in the mid-80s, but that one hardly ever sees the light of day. "Hobo Blues" won't win him any new fans, but it definitely is worth hearing, especially if you've followed the man's career over the last 35+ years. His playing is restrained throughout most of the song, which only makes it more exciting when he lets loose for a teasing bar or two.

Not quite as well known as Beck, the late Rory Gallagher is in fine form opening the second volume of This Is The Blues with Peter Green's "Leaving Town Blues" (did I mention that there are 13 Peter Green compositions on this collection? Oh, I did? What the hell is that all about?). The majority of the songs on the compilation seem like platforms for electric guitar solos, but Gallagher makes the mandolin the most prominent instrument in this re-working, and employs a lap steel instead of the Fender Stratocaster that seems to dominate the rest of the album. It's a refreshing change and ranks with the Bruce, Moore and Husband song as one of the best here.

John Lee Hooker is one of only two composers on This Is The Blues to claim both writing and performing credits. The other is...uh...three guesses? That's right — Peter Green, who is given the honor of covering the great Robert Johnson's "Traveling Riverside Blues" with Nigel Watson. A subdued affair that will never be confused with the original, nevertheless it is one of the album's more soulful efforts. Hooker's "Red House" will certainly never be confused with the original, either. He plays the Hendrix classic straight and is probably the biggest name in blues working within "the collective" (okay...maybe Peter Green is just as big, I just don't know...).

There are a few other recognizable names...and I feel as if I should point out at this time that when I say "recognizable" I mean it in an entirely relative way. I won't pretend that I've heard of every one (or even most) of the names printed in the CD booklets. I'm not a blues enthusiast, as you might have guessed by my relative unfamiliarity with Peter Green's influence. I like it enough, and have played it enough in bar bands over the last few decades, that I feel qualified in writing about it. I have a good idea of the difference between the good and the bad, as it pertains to this style of music. But I have not kept up with it, and as a result I am, in many ways, like that kid driving to work with the old folks' music on the radio. Except with me, it's a blues station and might as well have been programmed by a close relative of Peter Green's.

It's an interesting mix. Some of the unfamiliar artists make me want to go deeper into the genre (T.S. McPhee, Larry Mitchell), while others make me want to change the channel (Zakiya Hooker, Harvey Mandel). But the essence is there, and I certainly recognize IT. I appreciate the variety offered and the obvious respect the compilers had for the material (especially Peter Green's). I look forward to exploring the catalogs of more than a few players I've heard for the first time on these records, and I think a lot of you will feel the same way.

Earlier in this review I said this first set of discs in the This Is The Blues series would make a good primer for me to become familiar with the newer artists featured here. Having listened to the music several times since first receiving it, I would have to say that it has been just that. I think it will work both ways, though. Newcomers to the genre itself will find copious examples of what makes the blues such a special form of musical expression (including, but not limited to, the work of Peter Green). Hopefully Volumes 3 and 4 will continue in the same vein, introducing a new generation to the masters of a timeless tradition. Oh, and at the risk of sounding redundant, you are gonna LOVE these albums if you're already a fan of...THE BLUES!!! (Betcha thought I was gonna say Peter Green, didn't ya?)


So, it's been almost two weeks since I last wrote about my "new" health issues (the skin turning red, the pressure in my head, the shivers, etc.). I guess I should give an update to anyone who might be following the situation.

I had a third attack the Sunday following my last report. The first time I had hoped it would be a one-time only thing. The second time I hoped it wouldn't happen again before my doctor's appointment, figuring he could tell me what it was. But I told myself that if it happened a third time I would go straight to the emergency room and see what was going on. So that's what I did.

It was pretty bad that time...I won't say it was worse than the previous two, but definitely their equal. After waiting for what seemed like forever...and after the symptoms had long since subsided...the doctor came in and informed me that it was almost certainly a side effect of the Niaspin my heart doctor had prescribed a few months back. He didn't know why it had not manifested itself sooner, but had no doubts that was the problem.

My heart doctor appointment was yesterday morning and he confirmed what the ER doctor had suspected. A severe reaction to the Niaspin. I was instructed to discontinue the medication, which I happily agreed to do. I can't stress enough how awful it felt when one of these came on me. My head felt like it was about to explode. Perhaps it was just my anxiety, but I really felt like I might actually die. It was the feeling of pressure in my head and upper body, almost like rocketing blood pressure, that put that fear into me.

Actually I'd stopped taking the medicine immediately after learning that it was responsible for the attacks, I wasn't going to wait for my doctor to tell me. I've had no trouble since then, so hey hey hey!

Thanks for the well-wishes and prayers.


This is probably about as far as I'm going to get with Cradle of Rome...


Sigur Rós band siting!

Sigur Rós win at Mojo awards

On Thursday night, June 10th 2010, Sigur Rós won “the Mojo outstanding contribution to music” award at the Mojo awards show in London.

Phil Alexander (Mojo’s editor-in-chief): “Sigur Rós are widely recognized as men of mystery. their enigmatic presence is matched by their music. having a member of Radiohead, Philip Selway, present this award tells you just how much fellow musicians love them. they are like a latter day Pink Floyd – transporting and epic. and their contribution to music can be heard and felt everywhere.”

The band were in attendance to accept the prize.


Bryan's 2nd Recording Session

I took Bryan to Jeff's yesterday for the second recording session for his upcoming album...actually I think he's downgraded the scale to ep length. He laid down 2 guitar and 1 vocal track on "Fall", which I added a bass line to...although it probably isn't good enough to keep and I'll have to re-do it.

And one last shot of the bass man.

Thought I'd share this recent facebook exchange between my son and his girlfriend. Pretty cool for a fifteen year old. Click on the image to enlarge, if you need to.


A strange exchange took place a couple of moments ago. I was sitting out on the porch reading, as I am in the habit of doing when the weather is agreeable. I happened to be reading the bible. It's been a long time since I last made the effort, and I decided to plow through the New Testament over the course of the next couple of months.

The neighbor's kids were outside playing in their yard and there was this guy sitting on their porch who, I assume, was watching over them while their parents were gone. This is the same guy who was there last night, parked out front in his red truck and yelling at someone on the phone, using a startlingly high number of profanities (with an emphasis on "goddamn" and "motherfucker").

For some reason he calls over to me, "What are you reading?"

"Oh, just a book," I said, not really wanting to let him know it was the bible. Not that I'm ashamed of it, but I didn't want him (or anyone else, for that matter) to get the impression I was a bible thumper. Lots of those around these parts, and I don't want to be associated with them in any degree.

"What book is that?" he asked again, and I got the impression he already knew the answer.

"Umm...it's the bible."

Whether he actually did know or not, he didn't sound surprised. He said, "What chapter?"

"Chapter 3."

I turned my attention away from him for a moment, then he asked, "Will you do me a favor?"

"What's that?" I replied.

Inexplicably he said, "Matthew 23. 1 through 5." He wanted me to read this passage of scripture out loud, as he told the kids to gather around and listen.

I couldn't rightly say "no", could I? I got up and walked a few steps towards him, saying something about not wanting to have to raise my voice too much.

So I read: Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long..."

When I finished he just sat there for several seconds before saying, "That's the way I live my life."

"Well, that's a good way to live it," I told him, then turned and walked back into the house.

Not real sure what he meant.

Lou Reed: Metal Machine Music

The last couple of days I have re-discovered the joys of Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music". Panned universally by critics when it was first released in 1975, the "noise-scapes" that filled the 4 sides of this double album were considered a drastic attempt at commercial suicide and a hearty "fuck you" to his label. RCA, salivating at the prospect of another chart-topper like "Walk on the Wild Side", were goading him into writing another one in a similar (ie. financially successful) vein, so they probably got exactly what they deserved when Reed delivered his magnum opus to them.

"Walk on the Wild Side", from the "Transformer" album, was not your typical 70's radio hit. Seldom do you hear references to prostitutes, oral sex and trans-gender issues sent out on the same airwaves as David Cassidy, Bread and The Captain & Tennille. But Reed had never been "typical" about anything. The song's success must have surprised everyone involved with the project, from producer David Bowie to the nameless RCA hot shots who thought they could get what they wanted out of an artist whose only real success (if you could call it that, at the time) was as the leader of the Velvet Underground. No doubt the positive response to "Wild Side" surprised them...well, they were in for an even bigger surprise.

He wasn't going to do it. He was unhappy with RCA and it seemed that his main priority was to get out from under his contract with them. So, for his next "post-'Transformers'" album, he didn't bother hiring musicians and studio time. Instead, he invented a gizmo he called the Amine β Ring. It sounded like a short wave radio placed in the middle of a nuclear reactor. An overstuffed collage of industrial machinery panned, left to right and back again, in an apparent attempt to induce a feeling of numbness in the skull. As if he'd spent the night in Karlheinz Stockhausen's studio, swept up all the edited tape clips from the floor and pasted them back together in a random order. "Metal Machine Music"...the album's title had it 2/3rds right. A lot of metal clashing against metal. Machines making love with other machines. But MUSIC? Ah, indeed. The eye of the beholder. Or, I should say, the EAR of the beholder. The post-modern dilemma. What IS music, right? Are there any rules anymore? From George Crumb and Penderecki all the way to Einsterzende Neubauten and My Bloody Valentine the boundaries of what is acceptable as "music" have stretched to the point of breaking into chaos. Crunching, distorted noise has always been a part of heavy metal music, so what would happen if you took away all semblance of structure, form, satanic lyrics and guttural gibberish? I dare say you would be left with the mind boggling cacophony of "Metal Machine Music".

In reality the Amine β Ring was little more than a four track tape recorder but only God knows what he did to create all those tuneless sounds. If asked to come up with a label for this kind of "music", I think I'd call it "ambient chaos" or "chaotic ambiance". It is, I suppose, odd to think of this material as "ambient" and it's unfortunate connotations with "background music". It's the polar opposite of what most consider "ambient" music, which usually provides a more relaxing experience. "Metal Machine Music" is about as relaxing as a bumpy ride on a train bound for Hades. In a hailstorm. And a broken chrome bumper dragging the asphalt, screeching and throwing sparks.

And yet, I love it.

I bought my copy on 8-track not too long after it was released. It didn't take long for the title to find it's way into the bargain bins. Those bins were the ones where I usually hung out because I was not blessed with financial riches. I discovered a lot of great music in those bins because the truth of the matter is that a lot of the greatest music in the world just didn't sell. Didn't hit the charts. Didn't meet the standards of a successful debut album (as determined, of course, by label suits and Joe Public). I mean, the bargain bin is where I found my copies of "The Stooges" and the New York Dolls' second album, for crying out loud, and those are just a couple of examples. Sometimes I knew what I was getting, sometimes not. I knew exactly what "Metal Machine Music" was when I first spied it in Sound Warehouse's clearance section. I'm sure I was the only person in the entire state of Oklahoma who counted himself lucky to snag that tape for a whopping 50 cents. Moreover, I was probably the only one in the tri-state area who thought it was worth every penny.

Yes, I had a solid idea of the sonic experience I was in for. Every single review I'd read of the album (an there were many) had knocked it so hard you could practically hear the record label execs moan. Rolling Stone likened it to "the tubular groaning of a galactic refrigerator". Billy Altman, also with Rolling Stone, said it was "nothing more than ear-wrecking electronic sludge, guaranteed to clear any room of humans in record time." Even Trouser Press, known for embracing unusual and alternative musical styles, called it "four sides of un-listenable oscillator noise". Creem gave it two different reviews, one by a critic whose name I don't recall. It consisted entirely of the word NO repeated at least 500 times. The other was one of the few positive write-ups it received. It was by Lester Bangs and was probably the main reason I wanted that 8-track at Sound Warehouse. Of course, Lester was probably Lou Reed's biggest fan. And the review is dripping with sarcasm, so who knows what he REALLY thought of "Metal Machine Music". I was happy to ride along on the coattails of his opinion.

I listened to MMM, for the first time, through headphones. I was determined to sit through the entire thing, regardless of any initial impulse to turn it off if it became boring. I opened my mind and paid attention to the sounds...the bleeping, the blipping, the static, the dit-dit-dit-dash-dash-dash-dit-dit-dit pseudo Morse code jumping through the airwaves from left to right, the total, formless chaos coming from nowhere before returning to blessed silence about 16 minutes later... A house full of short wave radios tuned to different frequencies, the harmonics stacked layer upon layer upon layer. I'd try to discern some semblance of order in the more prominent tones, but no luck. But instead of being frustrated by this, I found myself fascinated. With no anchor in this "music" it became easy...no, it was impossible NOT to drift away, to get out of my mind for a little over an hour. It's an aural workout. And you KNOW you've been through something extraordinary when the experience ends. It's not one you'll want to repeat any time soon, if ever, but definitely a trip.

There's a good entry for "Metal Machine Music" on Wikipedia where you'll find some quotes concerning the record from David Bowie & Brian Eno, amongst others. They give some insight into the "importance" of the work. The article includes several other interesting facts, trivial and otherwise, and makes the valid point that MMM belongs in the same critically respected vein as the works of Iannis Xenakis & Karlheinz Stockhausen. This is a valid, fair assessment. Despite it's initial reception it is still one of the most unique, original pieces of art ever hoisted on the general public.

But that said, do I recommend it? Now THAT is a difficult question. I hope I've been descriptive enough in this review that the reader has a pretty good idea what he/she will be in for in a serious listening to Reed's "black sheep of a record". There aren't too many artists whose work I could compare it to...maybe SunnO))) or Earth, but even their brands of noise seem more "restrained" (in a completely relative way). Obviously if you're wanting to hear "typical" music, you will be sorely disappointed. If you're the kind of person who likes to immerse yourself in sound while imbibing in recreational drugs you may well find yourself lost in Lou's sound world, but it will very likely freak you out to the point of no return.

So who, exactly would I recommend it to? No one. No one at all.

That said, anyone REALLY serious about music should hear it at least once in their lifetime. The key is to think of it as MUSIC even if that's not really what it is...because who is to say that's not what it is? Would it be any worse than Slayer to a classical music snob? Or vice versa? Maybe. Not by much, though.

Ear of the beholder, my friends. Ear of the beholder.


Genesis: Supper's Ready

This is a real find, even if it IS truncated severely and shuts down a minute or two before the song actually ends. I suppose the guy selling the DVD considers it a "teaser". Okay, very well. I only hope he leaves this up on YouTube long enough for me to see it again in a couple of years.


Last night I had another "attack", for lack of a better word. At least as bad, if not a little worse, than the one on Tuesday. I didn't even have to look to see if my skin had turned red...I was too hot for it NOT to be. Serious pressure in my head. Tingly all over. And the shakes. I was REALLY hoping it might be a one-time-only thing. No such luck. I felt like crap all day today, like some kind of weird hangover. I'm kind of worried now...not that I wasn't worried Tuesday night. I probably should have gone to the ER last night. I don't know why I didn't. I'll tell you this, though...if it happens again that's exactly where I'm going. I've got a scheduled appointment with my heart doctor in a couple of weeks so hope hope hope hope hope it doesn't happen again between now and then. He can probably give me an idea of what is going on...I'm sure it's not something I'm going to want to hear. If that sounds pessimistic, I don't mean for it to. But there's no way this thing can't be a serious concern.

Anyone who happens to find their way to this blog, intentionally or otherwise, I'd appreciate a positive thought or a prayer. Thanks, and I will keep you all informed.


Tuesday night I had another health-related scare. I was watching WWE Smackdown on Hulu when all of a sudden my head gets kind of tingly...I know, it sounds like I'm setting up some dumb joke. But no, this was real enough. I began to feel a warmth in my head flowing down into my body as it heated up. Next thing you know my skin has turned an unsettling shade of red. There's a pressure I can feel all over me, and I immediately thought it might have something to do with my blood pressure. My wife checked and it was at 150/90, which is pretty doggone high, but I don't know if it's high enough to produce the kind of sensation I was experiencing. Then I started to shiver and shake, exactly like I did when I had the serious chest pains about a half a year ago. It was as if I had a high fever, you know, the way you get the chills, but the wife felt my forehead and said it wasn't warm at all. So I don't know. It settled down a few minutes into it, as I tried to relax and breath. I'd hoped it was a one-time thing (duh!) but yesterday afternoon a little bit of the tingling came back. I felt uncommonly warm at one point while I was with Bryan at the studio. I was a little worried, but nothing came of it. So far today I've been okay. I can't imagine what it could be. The onset of diabetes? I have experienced some circulation problems in my legs lately. I had eaten a ton of Starburst candies before it happened. Or maybe my hypertension acting up? I don't know, but I'm sick of being reminded of just how mortal I am.

Bryan in the Studio

My son, Bryan, finally got the chance yesterday to go into the studio and begin work on his first ep of original songs. Having put together a collection of cover songs during the last year, he has been excited about recording his own music for the last couple of months. I think there will be seven tracks on the ep, maybe more, maybe less depending on how much we can get done. Seeing as how he basically bashed out an entire song in one session it is very possible that the release will expand from an ep to an LP. He's certainly got enough material written.

Frankie Nazardo

This incredible imagery by NYC artist Frankie Nazardo is from the Netherlands magazine I LOVE FAKE. See more of his unique work HERE. Click on images to enlarge.

A slice of Oklahoma history...


I shot some video of our "adopted" cat, Oliver. Not very exciting, but still...