Saturday, January 22, 2022

January 2022 Reads

I read a lot. And maybe it’s time to share what I read out into the endless chamber of the internet where no one will care. 

Books

I took a lot of time over the winter holidays to read. You know, just curl up in a chair in the afternoon with a cup of coffee and a book for a few hours. And I ripped through a few books quickly.

"A Man Called Ove" by Fredrik Backman

I know I’m a bit behind on this book, as it was released in 2014 and everybody loved it. But reading the synopsis didn’t exactly fire up my enthusiasm. My mother insisted it was a fantastic read, so I dove in. And my mother was right. Backman does a fantastic job hinting at why Ove is the way he is, weaving in details of his live slowly into the story.

"The Storyteller: Tales of Life" and Music by Dave Grohl

I love Dave Grohl. I love the Foo Fighters. This book started out as Instagram stories Dave would tell during the COVID lockdown because, well, Dave can’t sit still. Told in mostly chronological order, It’s more a collection of stories than a tell-all biography. It’s amazing to see how Dave’s life and career have evolved from being an eighteen-year-old touring in a van with his first band, Scream, to having Paul McCartney at his house playing with his young daughters. It nice to see someone who is not an a-hole succeed in that business.

"Indy Split: The Big Money Battle That Nearly Destroyed Indy Racing" by John Orevicz

If you didn’t know this about me, in the mid-90s I spend a lot of time in the summer driving around the Midwest to watch Indycar races. From my first taste of Indycar at Road America back in 1991, I was hooked. Sunday races were appointment viewing. Michael Andretti, Al Unser Jr., Paul Tracy, Bobby Rahal, Jimmy Vassar, Alex Zanardi, all the cars and stars.  We went to races in Milwaukee, St. Louis, Michigan and Mid-Ohio.  Indycar/CART was huge. NASCAR was not. And then…well, read the book. I was surprised by how much I remembered from the time, but also by how little I remembered. With some distance it seems obvious when the people in charge made the wrong decisions. John Orevicz does a fantastic job pulling all the history together and presenting the facts, tamping down the heated passions of the fans on both sides of the split.  Fifteen years since reunification, Indycar still isn’t as big as it was in 1993, although the series is growing, and the racing is getting better. But how many Indycar drivers can you name?

Magazines

The New Yorker, December 20, 2021 Issue


I’ve been a subscriber to the New Yorker since college and because it is a weekly and still can run to a hundred pages, I’m generally an issue or two behind (expect for the cartoon caption contest: I look at that the moment the issue arrives and someday I am going to win). The rapid collapse of the Afghan government the United States had been trying to help build over the last twenty years gets the deep dive in the issue. If you really want to know what went wrong, The Secret History of the U.S. Diplomatic Failure in Afghanistan | The New Yorker will tell you. Also in this issue, a fantastic short story, “Lu, Reshaping,” by Madeleine Thien | The New Yorker. 


Poets & Writers, January/February 2021


Reading Poets & Writers every other month both gives me anxiety (I should be writing, why am I not writing, why have I not submitted, omg, I know that writer whose book is getting published) and motivates me (I can do that, that’s a great story starter, this writer writes ten minutes a day on her phone). This issue’s theme is “Inspiration” and Blair Hurley’s essay Tiny Doable Things stuck with me so much that I read it twice.



The Atlantic, January/February 2022

This issue is stuffed with great stories, with a focus on the events of January 6, 2021 and their aftermath. If you want to hear about how ordinary people get sucked down into the fake conspiracy rabbit hole, read The Great (Fake) Child-Sex-Trafficking Epidemic - The Atlantic.





The Chicago Reader

Listen, it’s been a hard ten years or so for all local news outlets, whether they are print, radio or on-line. While the reader will never be as fat as it was in the 90s when it was the de facto place to go apartment hunting, it has now turned fifty! The Covid-19 pandemic reduced it’s print run to bi-weekly, but new content hits their website regularly, Ben Joravsky’s weekly column on Chicago politics is can’t miss reading. There is not a person in the world who understands the deep, dark, inner workings of TIF districts better than Joravsky does. In the current issue, Ben takes on the Chicago Bears.


For the kids

My youngest is deep into the Star Wars Jedi Academy books, reading them before he heads to school in the morning and again as part of his reading time right when he gets home.  The series of graphic novels, originated by the talented and fantastic Jeffrey Brown, follows a group of students enrolled in the Jedi academy, which turns out is really just like any other middle school except with light sabers.  The series followed Brown’s original Star Wars cartoon books (“Darth Vader and Son, Vader’s Little Princess, and Goodnight Darth Vader), where Darth Vader has a hand in parenting Luke and Leia.

A strange, related note: I was lucky enough to do a reading event with Jeffrey Brown way back in 2012 before the Vader and Son book had come out. After my oldest started reading the books, he did not believe that I knew the author of a book he was reading. Flash forward a few months to the Daddy Cool release event at the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square, where my son was line to purchase “Vader’s Little Princess,” and I was again insisting that I knew Jeffrey Brown and my son was having none of it. But lo and behold, who is behind us in line but Jeffrey Brown himself! Sadly, my son was unimpressed.

General note: If you are interested in buying any of these books or magazines, please go to your local independent bookstore to get them. Amazon doesn't need your money. Plus, you may discover your next favorite book. I'm a big fan of the following stores:

The Book Cellar, Lincoln Square

The Book Table, Oak Park

Bookends and Beginnings, Evanston

Bookie's, Chicago/Beverly

If you don't have a local independent bookstore, go to Bookshop.org and order there

Thanks for listening 


Sunday, February 14, 2021

Ten Albums: Number 9 - Weezer (The Blue Album) by Weezer

 

Ten Albums: Number 9 – Weezer (The Blue Album) by Weezer

 


1994 was a good year for music. There was so much good stuff.  Soundgarden - Superunknown, Alice in Chains - Jar of Flies, Pink Floyd - The Division Bell, Stone Temple Pilots - Purple, Eric Clapton - From the Cradle, R.E.M - Monster, Live - Throwing Copper, The Reality Bites Soundtrack, Sugar - File Under Easy Listening, Oasis - Definitely Maybe, Beck - Mellow Gold, Dream Theater - Awake, Beastie Boys - Ill Communication, Pearl Jam - Vitalogy, Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral, Green Day - Dookie.  Man, there was just so much great music. No wonder I spent all my money and time at Tower Records or Best Buy  Many of these albums I still listen to (okay, not Oasis).  But one album from that year keeps coming back.

 

I remember the first time I heard “Undone-the Sweater Song” on the radio.  It had made the regular rotation on Q101 summer of 1994. I was working a mix of temp jobs (that’s a story for another time) which had me driving around a lot and that damn song kept coming on. Like a dozen times a day. It was such a stupid song, but it was not to shout along with the chorus.  Still, I didn’t bite on the CD yet, not until “Buddy Holly” and “Say it Ain’t So” made the Q101 rotation. By then, Q101 was probably playing a Weezer song every hour.

    If you want to destroy my sweater

    (woo oo woo oo wo ee o)

Any song that pops a key change for the solo then comes right back down, just brilliant. Oh, and it was easy to play on guitar.

    Lying on the floor, I’ve come undone!

So, it was summer and I wasn’t on campus so I had to schlep to the Tower Records in Schaumburg to the Weezer album. I popped it in my six disc JVC CD cartridge and listen.


My name is Jonas my not be the best ever punch you in the face first track song of an album, but it is close. Starting with an acoustic guitar riff, then BAM heavy guitar, crashing cymbals, drum fills. Oh, but then it backs off again with just the acoustic riff, only to punch you in the face again. Glorious vocal harmonies, offbeat lyrics that I didn’t fully know until a couple years ago. And then the solo and madness of the last half of the song.

Just wow. Could be why Missing Ted loves to play it live.

There isn’t a song to skip on the album anywhere. They all are great. The brilliance of Buddy Holly and it’s even more brilliant video, the punchy sadness of “The World Has Turned and left me here,” ripping riff, loud quiet loud of Surf Wax America, In the Garage, a song about being in a garage band. Just all brilliant.

And then Only in Dreams, the eight-minute closing track. The bass riff beginning, quiet drums, a simple guitar riff. Massive build up as the song passes the five-minute mark, then three more minutes of awesomeness as it fades then builds then fades again, a great track to close the album.

The Blue Album has never cycled out of rotation for me.  Everyone knows how much I love music and how I’ve tried to share everything I love with my kids. Besides the Beatles, Weezer might be the one band I’ve tried to get them to listen to that all my kids enjoy.

It wasn’t until Weezer was touring with Foo Fighters in 2005 that I finally saw them live. They are a band I want to see every time they are in town.

So, anyway, that’s nine. It’s getting hard. One to go. I think I have it. But there is going to have to be an honorable mention list. 

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Ten Albums: Number 8 - August and Everything After by Counting Crows




What starts silence and ends with change, change, change  with some king of the rain, blue buildings that may or may not be perfect in Omaha, some dreaming musician named Jones and a ghost train in between?

It was Friday November 5th, 1993 and I was on a Red Line CTA train with five other DePaul University freshman, headed to the Metro, a two stop ride from our Lincoln Park dorm. We were there to see Cracker, who had just released Kerosene Hat. Maybe you remember me talking about that one. We got there early so we could be right up front. I also liked seeing the opening acts. Sometimes what they played stuck. And that night it stuck.

Counting Crows was the opening act and I had never heard of them before that night. . But from the first note of the first song, I was hooked.

$13.50 for a ticket!

The single guitar line, a very mellow three notes over and over, the lead singer with these messy dreadlocks, a brown jacket with tassels, such emotion in his voice, in the lyrics. Just a beautiful song. Another mellow song. Then one that stuck in my head, as much for the way the singer danced and sway and swung his dreadlocks while singing.  Ah, the first time I heard Mr. Jones.

 

They were the opening act so they only had about forty minutes, but they played nine songs, and ended with A Murder of One, a great way to close. (The joys of setlist.fm made it so I could find the setlist from that show. It opened with the first song on August and Everything After and closed with the last song on August and Everything after. Whoa!)

 

The next night I saw them again, with a different set of five freshman. They played a slightly different setlist but I still loved it. The next day I hiked the five blocks east to Tower Records at Webster and Clark and bought the Album – August and Everything after.  It was the perfect album for winter in Chicago. Some mellow songs, some upbeat songs to get you moving and get you warm again. Right after that show, my roommate, Paul, apartment sat for his boss. His boss lived in an older brick high rise on Lake Shore Drive and encouraged Paul to have people over. So we all went there on a Friday night in late November, dark early, cold, looking out over Lake Shore Drive. I brought August and Everything After and it was the perfect album for that type of night, just a group of us hanging out in a fancy apartment we didn't really belong in. 

It starts with twelve seconds of silence before the echoey guitar riff starts the song, three notes over and over.

Step out the front door like a ghost

Into the fog where no one notices

The contrast of white on white

 

Omaha, get right to the heart of matters

Ah, Mr. Jones. A song about chasing success

When I look at the television, I want to see me staring right back at me.

 

Oh boy, was Adam Duritz right because a few months later he was on TV everywhere. He got so popular he date Rachel and Monica!

Anna Begins: There was a girl in my freshman creative writing class named Anna. I thought of her every time I listen to this song. 

Time and Time Again, the Rain King. The superbly sad and mellow Sullivan Street covered frequently by the best known DePaul house party cover band, Azure Blue (ah, costume shop parties). Ghost Train and Raining in Baltimore, keeping things mellow until the final song.

A Murder of One.

Boom, you’re back up on your feet. The Crows have been lulling you into a state of mellowness and now they are bringing you back up.

All your life is such s a shame,

All your love is just a dream

You don’t want to waste your life.

 

You’ve been mellow, you’re sitting in that couched knocked down, tired, and now the Crows are urging you to get up and go to something about. Go ask out that girl Anne from your creative writing class you thought was cute (I never did). Go chase those dreams of music stardom (still doing that in the suburban dad band way that I can.).

By January I’d listed to this album as much as Cracker’s Kerosene Hat. I learned how to play most of the album on guitar and would whip out Mr. Jones  or Round Here to impress the ladies (it didn’t work, well, except once).  I’m pretty sure my roommates were tired of both albums, but August and Everything After became my album to fall asleep to.  It still is regularly in the rotation (like last night for instance).

You know its my CD because of the MS on the UPC
It would be nine years before I saw Counting Crows again, at the UIC pavilion in 2002. I haven’t seen them live since, although I do have everything they’ve ever released. WXRT still has Mr. Jones in the rotation, but my favorite Counting Crows song isn’t even on that album (It’s Angels of the Silences if you were wondering.

 

Every time I listen to this album, I’m taken back to that Counting Crows show at The Metro, to my freshman year at DePaul, room 305 of Seton Hall, all the things that happen that first year, new friends, new things, new music.  Everything in the future. All the things ahead. 

You don’t want to waste your life.

Thanks for reading


Bonus Feature: The Setlist from that show back in November of 1993

Round Here

Another Horsedreamer's Blues

Mr. Jones

Anna Begins

Rain King

Time and Time Again

Open All Night

A Murder of One

 

Saturday, December 05, 2020

Ten Albums: Number 7- Kerosene Hat by Cracker

Tom Petty’s ‘Free Falling’ was the first song I learned to play on guitar. It’s a simple two chords song, with a pinkie note added to one of the chords. That’s pretty much it.



“Teen Angst” by Cracker was the second song I learned to play on guitar. It is all of three chords, with a slight change in chord order from verse to chorus. The Iron Potatoes, my first band, played that song nearly a million times when I was in high school.

I stole my brother’s copy of Cracker’s first album, aptly named “Cracker” and played it so much that I had to buy him a replacement copy because I scratched it so badly it would get stuck. Songs from that album made in on dozens of mix tapes I made for myself and my friends, creatively labeled “Recorded at Mikesmo Studios.”

I loved that album. And everyone around me knew that I loved it because I made them listen to it so much. In my car, on the bus going to cross country meets (not as much as Rush – Roll The bones) and, well everywhere. So, when my friend Brian V, who worked at a record store, told me he could get me a promo copy of Cracker’s new album Kerosene Hat in the summer of 1993, I was stoked. I delivered him a blank cassette tape (I was partial to Maxell XLII-90s) and a few days later, I had the album, a full month before it was officially released until August 24th. By then I knew every word of every song.


The album starts out with Cracker’s most well-known song “Low,” the Johnny Hickman sticky intro guitar riff repeated throughout the song, and David Lowry’s smokey voice. It’s just four chords, over and over, but the video, featuring Sandra Bernhard boxing Lowry, got heavy airplay on MTV. Cracker was become big time.

Track two, ‘Movie Star,’ another blazing riff by Hickman, Lowry’s witty lyrics, a blazing solo. Movie Star became a staple of my college cover band, Phat. To this day, when I hear the last chord of Low fade out, I hear the into to movie star in my head.

Track three, ‘Get off This’ just one of many Lowry kiss-off songs. Another catchy riff, another song of just a few chords over and over.


Boom, Boom, Boom, three hits right in a row. Guitar riffs everywhere. But Cracker likes to mix things up, slip in some slow songs, some ballads.  Track four, Kerosene Hat, the title track. A sweet sad acoustic song. Years ago, David Lowry started a blog called 300 songs where he tells of origins of his songs, including Kerosene Hat.

Lots of words so far and I’m on track four. But there’s more.

“Nostalgia,” a song about Stonewall Jackson’s arm. It’s buried on some farm. “Sweet Potato,” the Johnny Hickman penned “Lonesome Johnny Blues.”  And finally, a cover of the Grateful Dead’s ‘Loser’, which was the Grateful Dead song I’d ever heard that I liked. And that was it. Twelve great songs, just like on my bootleg cassette tape.

I knew it was mine cause it had my initials

But, wait, there was more. “Hi Desert Biker Meth Lab,” a forty-one second mix of bits from the recording of the album. And that was, wait…the CD is still playing.

Kerosene Hat was the first CD I’d bought that had hidden tracks. Tracks 16-18 were each three seconds of silence. Then, track 69 (because, why not) was “Euro-Trash Girl” the epic eight minute song from the hard to find “Tucson” EP. Tracks 70-87, again 3 seconds of silence each, then track 88, “I Ride My Bike” tracks 89-98m, more silence the track 99, an outtake of Kerosene Hat.  Cracker had snuck their previous EP on this disc. Sneaky.

You could never leave this CD in your multidisc player on random, because you were very likely to hear lots of three second silent tracks.

After a month of listening to my bootleg tape, then a few weeks of the CD before headed to start my Freshman year at DePaul, I was all Crackered up. I listened to that album every day. My roommates must have hated it. Cracker played two shows at the Metro in October of 1993 and I bought 6 tickets to both shows, bringing a new crew of people with me each night. One night, the band almost got into a fight with Metro security when a bouncer accidentally tackled Johnny Hickman on stage while trying to keep stage divers off the stage. Cracker played "Don't Fuck Me Up (With Peace and Love)" then took a quick break to regroup before continuing the show. There was also this opening band that really stuck in my head (more on that later in the top 10).

I’ve seen Cracker dozens of times. For a while, I think they recognized me when I was standing at the rail for every show in Chicago. I’ve got everything they have ever released. It’s been a long time since I have seen them live and when the world stops sucking in 2021, I’ll go see them again.

Oh, and I could totally be in a Cracker cover band. I know every note of the first two albums and lots of others beyond that. Maybe, someday, when they are touring, Dave and Johnny will call me up on stage to play Kerosene Hat with them and I will nail it so well, they will add me to the band. You know, if they need a third guitar player.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Ten Albums: Number 6 - Rush - Clockwork Angels




Listen, it could just as easily be Moving Pictures, often regarded as Rush's best album. Or it could be their self-title first album, the rawness of a new band who showed hints of Led Zeppelin. Or, for me, Grace Under Pressure, the 1984 album which was my introduction to Rush. Or Roll the Bones, the first Rush album I bought when it came out and which featured prominently in my life during my junior year of high school (ask the Buffalo Grove High School Cross Country Team). Or Counterparts in 1993, which came out the same day as Pearl Jam's Vs (I stood in line at Tower Records at midnight on release day, outnumbered by Pearl Jam fans 25 to 1) .  Or the epic 2112. Or the awesomeness of Signals and the first notes of Subdivisions. Or even Fly By Night, with Geddy screeching the title song.

You see, when Rush is your favorite band, it's hard to pick just one. It changes all the time, sometimes daily.

But there's something about Clockwork Angels.

The nineteenth and final studio album from my favorite band came out on June 12, 2012 (happy birthday, Sis). A concept album with a themed story running through all off the songs. The theme, well, I'll get Kevin J. Anderson, a friend of Neil Peart, describe it (Anderson wrote a novelization of the album):

"In a young man's quest to follow his dreams, he is caught between the grandiose forces of order and chaos. He travels across a lavish and colorful world of steampunk, and alchemy, with lost cities, pirates, anarchists, exotic caravans, and a rigid watchmaker who imposes precision on every aspect of daily life."

Whew.

Just like the last ten or so Rush albums, every Rush fan bought it on release day, me included, and it hit number 2 on the Billboard Charts. I eagerly listened to it several times the first few days, between work, home, kids, and whatever the else we had going on (I find it is much harder to focus on listening to music now that when I was younger).  And after a few listens, it didn't really stick. I put the album to the side for a little while.

Then the tour started. Rush was set to play the United Center on September 15 2012. ACK!  I had a wedding so I missed a Rush show in Chicago for the first time since the late 80s. But I couldn't not see Rush, so my brother and I secured tickets to the show in Sta. Louis the next weekend.

We listened to Clockwork Angels a few times on the way down, and I started getting more into it. But it was really the show that cemented my love of the album. Rush added a ten piece string ensemble to play with them on this tour, and this was not a sit properly with perfect posture string section. This was a stand-up, rock your face off string section, playing the string parts from the songs on the album.

As the story unfolds through the songs, Rush is at their best. The blistering pace of The Anarchist and Carnies, the quiet sadness of rejection in The Halo Effect, the bass riff that opens the blistering Headlong Flight, seven minutes and twenty seconds of Rush as it's rocking finest, as the narrator looks back his adventures:

        "I wish that I could live it all again."

And then finally the album's closer, The Garden. 

Where to start? The opening, just Geddy's bass accompanied by a string section, then Alex joining on guitar as Geddy sings. A full verse and chorus before Neil's drums join the song. Looking back on the past, what is the future.  It can best be told by the song notes from the album:

"There is a metaphorical garden in the acts and attitudes of a person's life, and the treasures of that garden are love and respect. I have come to realize that the gathering of love and respect- from others and myself- has been the real quest of my life."

I could quote the entire song here. It's almost as if Neil knew that would be the last song he every wrote.  The last lines?

The future disappears into memory

With only a moment between

Forever dwells in that moment

Hope is what remains to be seen

Starting in 2004 with the R30 Tour, it felt like every Rush show I went to could be the last. So I started seeing them in other places besides Chicago. I dragged my family to Colorado so I could see Rush at Red Rocks. I had a friend in Dallas who invited me to shows there. Milwaukee was close. My brother and I went to St. Louis, too.

The last of the 32 Rush shows I attended was June 12, 2015 at the United Center. I didn't think it would be the last but it was one of the best I'd ever seen.  That tour still had six weeks of dates and I was hoping they would come back the next spring.  I happened to be in Los Angeles during the last two shows, one in Irvine and the final show at the Forum in LA. I considered staying another day and scoring a ticket, but I didn't. Knowing what I know now, I should have.

R40 in St. Louis, May 2015
R40 in St. Louis, MO, May 2015


It took a few years, but by 2018 Rush said they were done. On January 7, 2020, Neil Peart died from glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer that he had been battling for three and half years. In typical Neil Peart fashion, the world didn't find out until three days later when the band announced Neil's death on their website. It was hard to reconcile the death of someone I'd never met in person but who I felt I knew. I re-read Neil's book "The Ghost Rider" written from the dark place he was in after his daughter and wife both died in a period of nine months. I listened to a lot of Rush. 2020 has pretty much been a shit show from the get go. At least there is still music.

 "Now we must tend to our garden."

Thanks for reading





Saturday, May 09, 2020

Ten Albums: Number 5 - Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream

A friend tagged me in a Facebook challenges to post 10 albums that have influenced my musical taste. One record a day for ten days. No explanation, no review, just the cover.


Yeah, I can't do that without an explanation. Plus, it gives me something to write about. So, here, over the next ten posts will be my ten albums followed by a bunch of words.


Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream


Siamese Dream came out in July of 1993, the summer before I started college. I had not listened to the Smashing Pumpkins much after Gish came out in 1991. But, when I moved into the Seton Hall dorm at DePaul when school started, this really cool kid who lived on our floor was a huge Smashing Pumpkins fan and played this album all the time. Since he was cool and I wanted to be cool, I listened it all the time, then went Tower Records to buy it for myself and my roommates were just happy to hear something that wasn't Cracker's Kerosene Hat album (more on that later).

This was alternative rock prime time, although to me, Siamese Dream still sounded like a prog rock album, which was a lot of what I had been listening to (I was happy to find a bootleg with Billy Corgan playing an acoustic version of Rush's Limelight). This album was everywhere my freshman year, and since we were in Chicago, they seemed even bigger. 

Cherub Rock, the great opener, the happy sound of Today, with lyrics that are not at all happy, the almost nine minute blistering epic Silverfuck, the sweet come down of Luna to end the album. The album had dynamics, loud songs, slow songs, quiet songs. My favorite by far is Mayonaise (it drove me nuts that many of Billy's song titles seemed to not be easily related to the lyrical content). Starting with a multiple clean guitars playing a simple before a blazing into a wall of distorted guitars ablaze. And the lyrics. Wow.

Fool enough to almost be it
Cool enough to not quite see it
Doomed
Pick your pocket, full of sorrow
and run away with me tomorrow
June

Great lyrics, a great solo, quiet, loud, quiet, loud, quiet loud.

No more promise no more sorrow
No longer will I follow
Can anybody hear me?
I just want to be me.

Billy sure had some angst when he wrote the lyrics for this album. And then rerecorded the other guitar and bass parts. I became a huge Pumpkins fan, burned through the backlog and saw them live for the first time at Redbird Arena on ISU's campus, a great show at the height of Siamese Dream's popularity, stood in line at Tower Records in Chicago at midnight when Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness came out with several hundred others. I've seen them play many times, but I've seen as many bad live Smashing Pumpkins shows as I've seen good ones. And Billy Corgan is kind of a dick, which I guess we all kind of knew anyway.

Besides Siamese Dream. I don't listen to the Smashing Pumpkins much anymore. Nothing after Mellon Collie (which probably could have been condensed to a single disc) stuck with me much, and I listened to everything before I wrote this. I do still really love the song Drown, which appeared on the Singles Soundtrack (and not the crappy 4 minute version with the solo edited out. 











Saturday, May 02, 2020

Ten Albums: Number 4 - Dada - Puzzle

Ten Albums: Number 4 - Dada - Puzzle


A friend tagged me in one of those annoying, yet fun, Facebook challenges to post 10 albums that have influenced my musical taste. One record a day for ten days. No explanation, no review, just the cover.

Yeah, I can't do that without an explanation. Plus, it gives me something to write about. So, here, over the next ten days will be my ten albums followed by a bunch of words.



Dada - Puzzle

I've never been to Disneyland. In all the times I've been to Southern California, mostly for work, I've only ever been to Anaheim once, and that was to see the Ducks play. Not the kid Ducks. The professional ones. 

The song Dizz Knee Land (see how they did that so WDC wouldn't sue them) I've heard thousands of times, played the riff on guitar a thousand times, been in someone's living room with Mike Gurley, the singer and guitar player from Dada, accompanied by my brother on guitar, and sang along to Dizz Knee Land with the forty others squeezed into the house party. I've made every band I've been in learn Dada songs. I've sat at Gamekeepers with my brother and the three guys from Dada after they played across the street at the Park West. I learned how to play Surround in college because the girl I liked loved the song and wanted me to play it for her. I still have the first Dada concert t-shirt I bought, the green one with the dirty song lyric on the back. I've seen Dada live more than any band except for one. And I can't for the live of me figure out why this band wasn't more successful.

My brother had this CD (are you getting tired yet of hearing how my brother shaped my musical tastes? Don't worry, it's my sister's turn soon). Back then my car only had a tape deck, so I put pretty much every CD we had on tape. I didn't listen to this much until one day, when I was mowing the lawn, I wanted something new to listen to. So I popped the Puzzle tape I'd made into my Magnavox Tape player (sorry, the Sony Walkman was too expensive) and listened as I cut the grass.

Power. Pop. Perfection. A three piece band, highly melodic, vocal harmonies throughout, face melting guitar solos. Radio ready singles. No songs to skip. My favorites are the opener, Dorina, Dizz Knee Land, Dim, and Moon, the angsty track that builds up to a blazing solo that ends the album.

Why don't more people know about dada? Why have their five studio albums not sold better? 

Dada fans are pretty nuts and very loyal. Going to a Dada show is like a fan reunion where everyone knows and recognizes each other. My brother knows most of them. They know my brother. He did some photography work for them, including for the Live: Official Bootleg (vol 1) CD. One of his shots also ended up on a t-shirt.
Photo by Dave Smolarek, signatures by Joie Calio, Phil Leavitt, and Michael Gurley

Dada isn't touring right now. They started recording new material in 2011 but stopped. Mike Gurley has been battling carpal tunnel syndrome for 25 years and he's had to adjust how he plays and during shows and dunking his hands and arms in buckets of ice kept near the stage.  We're all hopeful something new happens. Until then I keep Puzzle on regular rotation.



January 2022 Reads

I read a lot. And maybe it’s time to share what I read out into the endless chamber of the internet where no one will care.  Books I too...