You're only as OLD as you feel...

I'm not old. I know I'm not. 48 years is NOT old, despite how much my son wants to tease me about graygrey hair or the way younger people, in their twenties and even thirties, seem to think it probably is. When I had my first bout with chest pains the doctor told me I was "still a young man" and that I was "reasonably healthy". Does this not count for something? Of course, as I stretched out on that observation table in the emergency room I could not help but be a bit apprehensive when the nurse asked me if I'd made a will yet and, if not, if I were aware of the advantages of a "living will". I even had to sign off on an official looking document that stated I was aware of the option and declined. I figured I'd think on it after the ordeal was over. I sure as hell didn't want to think about it at the time.

Well, that's been several months gone by...considering I'd never had anything like this happen to me before you'd think that I could remember not only the month and the day, but even the exact time. But it's been a spell up the road since then. Suffice to say that I have not given further consideration to a living will. I don't think about it. More importantly, I don't WANT to think about it. I live in denial of a lot of things, but that one is pretty close to the front of the line. Besides, what have I got to bequeath anyway? My massive collection of 3,000 CDs? This crappy Vaio I'm typing this on, with the DVD Drive shot and the headphone input on the fritz? Maybe all the books I've picked up at garage sales and library book fairs? The lot would fill a large closet, and set me back probably a total of ten bucks over the course of the last 30 years. Living will? I don't need no stinking living will. What I'll need is someone who is LIVING and is WILLING to throw it all out the curb.

But not really. I'm sure my son will enjoy the CDs. I know I will regret, and regret even now, that my legacy won't benefit him financially as he deserves. Not to mention my wife, who is entitled to a sum of money roughly equivalent to the national deficit for all she's put up with and all she's done for me. The Salvation Army will appreciate the return of many books sold for a quarter. Pure recycling and 100% profit for the bell ringers.

Still, 48...this ain't the 17th century...human life spans are considerably longer than they were even 50 years ago. Surely that's got to play into my situation? Vitamin enriched cereals, fluoride in the tap water, the ability to book time in the emergency room is as simple as going to the hospital website and clicking a few buttons. The comforts of home, central heating and air, the marvels of electricity and health advice dispensed by doctors whose show airs immediately after Oprah's. Everything seems to be going in my favor, right? Then why do I feel like I'm 10 years older than the man in the mirror?

The weight of experience. That's it.

No, that's not it. Everyone has their own personal &%#* they have to deal with. I'm no exception to that rule. It just seems like most folks hold up better than I have. I don't think that makes me a weak man. I've just been dealt a crappy hand that lowers my tolerance for the beatings that time dishes out. This particular crappy hand is called bipolar disorder and I'd just as soon not talk about it. Too many misconceptions floating around out there. It's like every time you hear about some wacky homicidal maniac emptying a gun on innocent bystanders, saving up that last round for his own noggin, he/she is said to "suffer from bipolar disorder". Which, I guess, is as good an excuse as any, but I'm not about to play Grim Reaper in the Shawnee Mall. I would just as soon not be subjected to the stigma...and anyone who says that our society has progressed enough to where people with mental health issues are treated with the same respect and dignity as well adjusted individuals is only fooling themselves. This is not my paranoia talking, it's just reality. "He must be bipolar" is the 21st century version of "He must be crazy". I'm not rallying for change here. Frankly, I don't see change coming anytime soon. People are people. Some things make them uncomfortable. I feel the same way about incestuous lesbians on the Jerry Springer show. But I'm no killer.

I digress. The original topic was how old I often feel. And it's not that I'm wanting to lay it all on bipolar disorder, but it most assuredly has worn me out. Maybe it's my efforts to keep myself pulled together that has made me tired. Not sure I can blame it for neglecting my health, but I guarantee that if you gave me a couple of hours I could make a good case for it.

You want to know how old I feel? I find myself enjoying the local "oldies" station increasingly more since the playlist progressed into the decade of the seventies. I'm liking songs I actually hated back then just because they remind of how crappy a lot of radio was at the time. I turn on the Sirius XM "70s on 7" channel, lay back and pretend I'm still a teenager listening to the radio in my room, head covered under sheets hoping my dad won't catch me awake after bedtime. No matter that my motto at the time was "Disco Sucks"...these days I have a developed appreciation and fluid knowledge of disco. I'll turn the radio down low when it's bedtime - can barely hear the music, but I recognize it instantly and the comfort it brings will help me fall asleep...with the help of Ambien, of course, but still, it's not as if the pill dissolves into the blood stream instantly. I've got to keep my wandering mind occupied until it comes to the end of the road and knocks me out. What I REALLY like is when they play a song I can just barely remember, a tune that maybe was a minor hit and only received minimum airplay in it's day. I may have only heard it once in 1975, but by God I'll recognize it in 2010. Hey, what do you know, my memory still has a little life left.

Unfortunately all that great (and not-so-great) music has to be processed through some significantly nerve damaged eardrums and the constant static, ringing and white noise associated with tinitus. I was a damned fool to think that volume was the desired result in the music I've played the last quarter century (live and on record/8-Track/cassette/CD/mp3 files). I'd warn the young 'uns, but I was a young 'un once and I know they won't listen or care: loudness is addictive. I fear that I will not be able to tolerate the total absence of silence for who knows how much longer. I cannot ignore it, but I do have a method I use that sometimes helps: I imagine that I'm listening to an 8-Track tape, with all the hiss and the music on the other tracks bleeding through. It didn't bother me all that much when I was a kid, so if I can find a way to put my mind in the same place I do alright. Then again, I wasn't listening to classical music at the time. I somehow doubt I could have tolerated the Adagio from Mahler's 5th Symphony through the tinny speakers of my Lear deck.

I won't bother complaining about the other 4 senses and the manner in which each has disintegrated into the performance ability they currently display. I could rant about the 2 years spent looking through a pair of eyeglasses that weren't the proper prescription, but I suppose I'd have to share too much responsibility for not realizing, after a few months, that it wasn't just a case of "getting used to them". I don't know how much damage was done. I've got a prescription now that I think are done right. But you just don't know. There is, of course, still the matter of "getting used to them", so who knows how much better they will work once that's accomplished. Maybe my eyes have adjusted to the point where they are as good as I'm gonna get. If such is the case I suppose I'll have no choice but to get used to them. It won't be easy, but at least I can see halfway decently already with them.

Here's the deal, though, and this is what keeps me feelin' like a spring chicken: I don't need Viagra. Never had to call my physician after 4 hours...never had to ask my doctor if I was healthy enough for sexual activity (I don't think I'd want to know the answer to that one)...To me, ED stands for "Extremely Delicious" and is used in reference to the prime rib at Chili's. I don't mean to insult anyone who requires treatment for impotency, notr do I mean to suggest that such impotency is always apparent in the elderly. I'm only trying to prove the more important point, that I am not an impotent man. Now you know.

When my boy says the hair on my head is now a 50/50 split between brown and gray, it does not hurt my feelings. At least I'm not bald, right? Then he points out that I am balding on the back top of my head. No big deal. I just politely remind him that "balding" does not mean "bald", and until it does there's nothing for me to be concerned with. When, while dining out, he complains about having to wait for me to finish a meal, seeing as how he took his last bite 30 minutes ago, I just tell him what my old man told me: "Chew slower and you'll enjoy it more". I don't chew slower deliberately. I chew slower because I want to make some good memories about what it's like to chew. It won't be too much longer...

"Age ain't nuthin' but a number", right? I guess that's real easy to say when you're 25. Yet, in the Grand Scheme of Things, it is true enough. They also say "You aren't getting older, you're just getting better", and I have a pretty good idea that's not typical. At least not on this side of the fence. If that ER doc says I'm "reasonably healthy" and "still a young man", who am I to dismiss him? I'll get through and get to it, with a little adapting and suspension of disbelief. To be honest I am kind of ready to revisit the past some and not worry so much about "the next big thing". That will be for my son to find. Time has come for me to rest in what I've found. One can only hope that it will be sufficient. I've searched hard enough. Time to dig out the treasure chest and see what we can find. 


I've seen a lot of bizarre films and movies, but this one tops them all. If your mind isn't boggled halfway through the video then you aren't paying attention.


Music Video of the Week: Flat Duo Jets

I used to have this clip on VHS, recorded from what was, at the time, one of my favorite shows, MTV's "The Cutting Edge". I thought Dexter Romweber was one mighty cool S.O.B.

"Think It Over"
Flat Duo Jets


Stare at this nifty image for 30 seconds, then look away. Amazingly the objects around you will begin to warp almost as if you were in the initial stages of an acid trip. Unfortunately the effect only lasts for a few seconds, but hey, it's free. I promise it is NOT one of those silly things you stare at for a long time until you're relaxed and then some demon comes out screaming, ostensibly scaring you shitless.


Ron Wood: "I Feel Like Playing"

Sent in this review today to vintagerock.com. I don't know that it's my best one, but I think I enjoyed writing it more than the others. I'm hoping I might get the opportunity to write the review for Springsteen's upcoming box. Now THAT one will be a blast to listen to, watch and write. This Ron Wood review should, hopefully if they like it, go live in the next few days.

Ron Wood - "I Feel Like Playing"

Ron Wood's got a day job. We all know that. As Keith Richards' sidekick he helped steer the Stones back to the rock and blues roots they seemed to be veering away from on the last couple of albums they released before he came on board. Almost as if they'd lost the spark after the classic double shot of "Sticky Fingers" and (the legendary) "Exile on Main Street". As fine a guitarist as Mick Taylor most definitely was, something just stopped working and it was glaringly evident throughout "Goat's Head Soup". It's a record that has it's strengths, but bogged down with even more weaknesses. Not the least of which, I might add, being how some songs didn't even sound like the Stones at all ("Comin' Down Again" and "Angie" are good examples). The follow-up, "It's Only Rock and Roll" continued the trend...and don't get me wrong here, folks, I LIKE both of these records. Maybe for sentimental reasons, but I do think there are some great songs..."Winter", "Fingerprint File", "Time Waits For No One"...but there's still a sense of "something's missing here" with these two albums.

Then Taylor leaves the band and the whole ballgame changes. It's "put-up or shut-up" for the Glimmer Twins and their partners. Enter Woodie. Like no one else he fit the mold so perfectly you have to wonder how they made it during all those years before he came on board. That's not to denigrate Brian Jones or Mick Taylor...not a bit...but Ron Wood was BORN to be a Rolling Stone. It was just a matter of fate catching up with the wild ride, or I suppose it was the other way around...regardless of who/what got there first, Ron Wood came along and a little bit of the raunch returned. If anyone needed proof that Mick & the boys had been rejuvenated it took only one listen to "Some Girls" and the point was understood

A lot of people think that "Some Girls" was, to a certain degree, the Stones' reaction to the blossoming punk/new wave movement of the time. No doubt it is that. But the one thing, in my opinion, that gave that album it's vigor, attitude and rawness was the new guy on the job. While Mick Taylor's incredible fluid guitar style was well-suited to the band's sound, providing a counterpoint to Keef's rhythm, Ron Wood turned the whole "rhythm guitar/lead guitar" dynamic on it's head. The two of them trade licks and lock in on a groove with such finely tuned rapport that one is hard pressed to discern which is which and who is who. Most likely their brand of ragged guitar slinging would not work with any other band, but for the Rolling Stones it was a lifeline to relevance. Just as there would be no Rolling Stones without Jagger, Richards & Watts, original members and all, the loss of Ron Wood, at this point in the band's reign, would be just as devastating. Not just because he's been with the band longer than Taylor and/or Brian Jones...For an enormous number of people (a couple of generations, even) Woodie might as well have been with them from the start. Visually he is the perfect counterpart to Keith Richards' staggering "barely able to hold on to his guitar" stage persona. He seems to share anothe quality with Keith: he looks like he can't be bothered with Mick Jagger's exaggerated dance moves and over-inflated ego. In fact, he sometimes comes off as if he thinks it's all a joke. Which it is, but it's still cool to know that most of the band are in on it...watch Charlie sometimes and you'll see exactly what I mean...his air of "I'd-rather-be-anywhere-but-here" is impossible to miss.

Who knows how long the Rolling Stones will keep on truckin'? I admit I thought their touring days were over at least 10 years ago. Maybe they should have been, but we're talking about "The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World" here. It's one of those things where people feel like they have to see the Stones at least once before they die (not the band, mind you...Too old to rock and roll? Well, records like "Voodoo Lounge" and "Bridges to Babylon" would argue for the postition that, yes, there comes a time when you should walk away. But from what I've seen of some of their later tours...admittedly only on DVDs...they just keep getting better when it comes to live performance. Yes, I chalk that up to Ron Wood's contribution to the band.

"What?" you ask incredulously. "Not Mick?" No. Mick looks like a fool primping and preening all over the stage like a male stripper from a nursing home. That's something to behold, I admit. How many of you have 70 year old grandfathers who can bust a move like Mick? But take this into consideration: How many of would want to WATCH your 70 year old grandfather busting that same move? Not many, I'd venture to say. And Jagger's voice has not held up well over the course of the years. For most vocalists that would spell the end of a career. Fortunately Mick was never all that much of a singer in the first place. He has a unique voice that is every bit as rock and roll as Sun Records and Muscle Shoals. We like it. I like it. I can't imagine ANYONE ELSE doing "Sway" (my favorite Stones tune). "Wild Horses" would be a lame duck without Mick's fragile, broken voice. No one does Lucifer like Mick Jagger, and so "Sympathy For the Devil" would not be half as menacing if not for him. For all that, though, years will take their toll. That endearing voice has turned into a croak.

"Okay, but surely Keith is the key to their success." A much better case can be made for this argument. I mean, if there's one thing in the world you can count on, it's how COOL Keith Richards is. Yes, if I'm going to a Rolling Stones concert, I'm going to see Keith. Keith doesn't NEED anyone. Jones at his side, Taylor at his side, even Wood at his side, he doesn't NEED 'em. Then again, a couple of solo albums proved that he DOES need the context that the Stones provide. The bulk of that context comes from his interaction with Ronnie Wood. Hell, for all I know, were it not for Woodie Keith might not even bother going on the road. I would wager that were it not for the return to rock that Wood brought to the table Keef very likely would have long ago retired from the Stones, consequently ending that band's remarkable tenure.

"Charlie?" you ask, desperately. Well, yeah, Charlie's an awesome drummer, not simply for the talent he displays but also for the tasteful, restrained style that allows the other musicians to shine. He knows what a drummer is there for. As a timepiece, a clock, a rock solid anchor for the band. I believe that his departure would put an end to the Stones every bit as quickly as the abdication of Jagger, Richards and Wood. Some people may disagree with me, but I don't care. They're wrong. They would relent if they ever had a chance to hear a Watt-less version of the band. What all this says about Bill Wyman is beyond me. Although I will say that his absence in the over-all sound is, to me, quite noticeable, I don't think it would be out of line to suggest that he may well have been expendable.

So, you see, it's Ron who is the glue that holds the band together. Content to stay, relatively, to the side and let the original members shine, he takes on a much greater burden than most people know. He does it well. Yeah, he had a real good gig going in the old days with Rod and Ian and the Faces. But his destiny was to stand beside Keith Richards, trading guitar licks and running through a battery of "wasted rock star" moves. Not, by any stretch of the imagination, an easy job.

But it is HIS job, and it's secure, and it pays for art supplies, and a stint in rehab and now he's used up some of his income to record a solo album. All that rot I wrote earlier about Ronnie being the engine that keeps the Stones viable as a live act? You can dismiss it as the foolish opinion of another man if you wanna. I'm not necessarily that man. I'm certainly not saying it's a theory that I, personally, subscribe to. Only that it is a logical one that no doubt can be defended successfully by anyone who actually agrees with it.

But today, Ron Wood has the day off. Not only that, he's not in the mood to break out the canvas and brushes. He's been home for a reasonable bit of time spent at one of those Betty Ford rehab places, so the temptation to return to hard drugs has not become strong enough for him to feel like spending the day on another planet. Nope, despite picking up the guitar and rocking practically non-stop all year long, Woody-O'-Boy feels like playing. That's right...he wants to sling that Tele 'round his shoulder, turn up the volume and let 'er wail without having to pick up the slack from the pirate to his right. A chance to hear the sound of his own voice instead of that lascivious, lecherous snarl from that skinny man who usually stands in front of him. The guy with the botox-overdosed lips. He's sick and tired of not even being asked by Jagger or Richards for his opinion of their lyrics. Which wouldn't be so bad if he didn't hate so many of them. He would have given some of those songs the red-light-thumbs-down get-the-hell-out-of-Dodge veto. But no, do you think they care about his opinions?

That treatment gets a man down. As well it should. But what are you going to do? I once had occasion to ask a very enlightened being that same question. And this is a guru whose opinions and advice are to be trusted. He's on a different wave-length, a pipeline to the Big Guy's chambers. So I asked this guy a question.

"What, O exalted Swami," I said. "What are you going to do?" His answer surprised even me (and I am not easily surprised). "Oh, Grasshopper," he said with a slight bow, "You are so inquisitive. 'What are you going to do?' you ask. Let me tell you, and be not surprised if you find yourself rubbing the back of your head, saying 'Why didn't I think of this?' when I have finished speaking. You didn't think of it because you aren't a fraction as smart as you think you are. But here's the deal: If you feel like playing, play. Play as long as you want, until you feel like doing something else. Then go do it. You've got the day off, you know. Best enjoy it."

Had Ron Wood been in my shoes, he would have embraced the wisdom of Maharashi and shouted "Damn right! I FEEL LIKE PLAYING!" So he did. Furthermore, he didn't just feel like playing, he also felt like recording the results, perhaps to listen to on the plane between Rolling Stones shows when he wants to remind himself of the music he's capable of making on his own instead of the same old re-treads his employers expect from him. Bowing to the fickle whims of Jagger often makes it difficult to remember that there was a time, not so long ago, when he shut it all out, called up some friends, took 'em all out for cocktails and weenies, then laid down some tracks of his own, if you get where I'm coming from, emphasis on "HIS OWN".

Pretty high profile friends he's got, too. That's to be expected, what with his notoriety as the man behind the Stones. But Woody counts as close companions, not one, but TWO potential back-up band members who opt to use "one-word names". No, not the ones you're thinking: Madonna and Cher. Both of whom would have added much to be lauded on "I Feel Like Playing" (...okay, maybe not really). These guys don't even use their OWN names (I assume...heh heh). Ronnie's gonna pair up with that Slash dude. You know, the one with the hunchback, always wears a nasty, dirty top hat, cigarette super-glued to his upper lip. He's been doing a lot of session work these days, and I'm sure it pays, but I would hope that the opportunity to jam with a legend of Woodie's stature would be all it took to talk him into that gig. I can't say that I'm a Guns-n-Roses fan. Oh, I suppose I could say that, but I would be lying. Even so, I do think that this Slash feller has some legitimate talent.

Then there's that Flea gentleman from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He, too, has done so much side work you'd be excused for thinking his main squeeze band had broken up. Flea is an odd duck, that's for sure. He's dyed his hair practically every color of the rainbow. He refuses to wear shirts or long-legged pants. He kind of has this look about him of general slovenliness and uncleanliness. It's not hard to put two and two together and get a good idea of how he got his name. But one thing that must be said about him, he can play a rock and/or funk bass like it's nobody's business. He may indeed have one of those "love-'em-or-hate-'em" personalities (of which I definitely veer towards the latter), but when it comes to workin' the ol' four-banger he is the man to call.

So Ronnie called him. Slash got an invite, too. Heavy hitters, right? Well check this out...BILLY GIBBONS! Yes, the beard swingin' axe man for Barbecue Cookout boogie rock monsters ZZ Top. For some reason I just can't get my mind around the idea of Gibbons and Wood collaborating. But hey. There you go. What are you gonna do, Zen Master? Much easier to conceive of Ron calling in a favor from former Faces cohort Ian McLagen. Or hooking up with Bobbie Womack, offering up a slot as a backing vocalist...who but a Rolling Stone could talk a talent like Womack into relegating his duties to BACKGROUND VOCALS??? But there you are. It's the same reason studio legends are drawn to him. People like Jim Keltner and Waddy Wachtel, who you probably have never heard of unless you read the liner notes to about 25% or every record ever released (not saying that as an exact number, even if it may well be close, but only to suggest how prevalent these guys are, and long have been, as prominent studio musicians).

And that's how it happened, no doubt. Or something a lot like it. Or maybe not, they might have just been sending tracks through cyberspace to work on in the privacy of their own homes. There may have been no bacchanal for Slash and Ronnie to fall off of the wagon in. There may have been no grand orgy break out before the sessions, Flea all dripping with mud as sweat pours down his body. No big party to inspire all the players to get on the same page and let Ron crack the whip. I don't know, I wasn't there, but I imagine it takes more than is humanly possible to get all these hot shots in the same room together. The easy money says it was finished in bits and pieces. Which, I don't suppose is such a bad thing, but it definitely lacks a certain raunchy nuance that seems limited to a group of like minded (or not) musicians playing TOGETHER, staring down each other, just waiting for the chance to impress one of the others.

"I Feel Like Playing", even though it may not be, often sounds like one of those "e-mail me the tracks and I'll do a few then we'll send it to the next guy" affairs. There's a certain "rawness" I guess I've come to expect from Ron Wood, having only heard him with the Stones. Though there are rough edges, there aren't enough, IMO. Keith Richards was able to transfuse this rawness to his solo albums and it's practically what saved them from banality. Wood lacks that quality, but "I Feel Like Playing" doesn't sink to quite that level, maybe because most of us DON'T really know what to expect in a solo record from him.

What we get is a collection of 12 songs that are basically solid throughout. Neither Slash nor Flea get a chance to show off too much. If you were to listen to the album until you were sick of it, and no one told you that these guys were backing Wood, you would never know. There would never come a time you would suddenly realize, "Hey! That sounds like Flea on that song!" or "Gee, that is definitely a Slash signature guitar riff, what the hell is HE doing on this record?" "Billy Gibbons? No way, you're just messing with my head!" All of which is a good thing, IMO. This is Wood's show, after all. They play very well. Excellent, even, for what the songs demand. But the last thing Ron Wood NEEDS is an all-star supporting cast. None of them are truly in his league...nope, not even Billy Gibbons.

As to be expected, Ronnie's strengths on the album are his writing and playing. The songs are engaging with a lot of potential. Unfortunately some of them aren't fleshed out to the extent that they reach it. I'm not so much referring to the songs themselves as I am the production and arrangement). Wood's not a bad vocalist. In my mind, though, he's become inseperable with Keith Richards so for some reason I expect him to sound a little like him, too. For the most part, he doesn't. For me this took a little getting used to. When I did, however, it was plain that Ron has his own voice, apart from anything I might have expected. And it is a very good rock and roll voice, even if there's nothing remarkable about it. I can live without that...but it's not as easy to let sub-standard lyrics pass me by. "Sub-standard" is a bit harsh, I guess. But I won't lie. You'll never get them confused with Bob Dylan's...but you may confuse Ronnie's VOCALS with Dylan's, on the opener, "Why You Wanna Go and Do a Thing Like That For" (a title which is alternately competing with many, many others as "Most Cumbersome Title of All Time" as well as "Title You Would Only Expect to Find On a Smooth Jazz Album"). RW, on this song and in other places on the album, sounds exactly like later period Dylan to my ears. I bet the similarity will not go unnoticed by anyone else who, shall we say, "knows their stuff".

Despite it's moniker, "WYWGADATLTF" is a highlight on "I Feel Like Playing". The only cover song on the album, a great and unique rendition of Dixon's "Spoonful", is another exceptional moment. Yes, yet another "Spoonful". But this one really is worth hearing. "Lucky Man", too, is a good opportunity to hear what Wood is capable of, as a songwriter, when he isn't tied and shackled to the Glimmer Twins. Despite bearing no revelations of Ronnie Wood's genius, nevertheless, "I Feel Like Playing" entertains and will remind you of why he was good enough to be a Stone in the first place.