Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Joy of Sax

Saxophones rule. They are at once responsible for both the happiest and the saddest sounds in music. But popular music these days, (outside of The Dap Kings/Amy Winehouse) seems to have forgotten about horns altogether. And that, in my humble opinion, is part of the reason contemporary music—what passes for both rock'n'roll and R&B—sucks.

Saxophones are scary. There is no avoiding them—they are confrontational and they are in your face. They express deep emotion, and let's face it, most of us would rather not do that most of the time.

But sometimes you just need that release. That's where the sax comes in. So much great rock'n'roll features the saxophone that it's hard to imagine the music without it. can take away the piano, you can take away the organ. But please don't take away my sax.

Joey Stann and Ed Manion (Asbury Jukes)
Clarence Clemons (E Street Band)
Maceo Parker (James Brown)
Arno Hecht, Crispin Cloe (Uptown Horns)
Junior Walker
Andrew Love, Lewis Collins, Ed, Logan, James Mitchell (The Memphis Horns)
Bobby Keys (Rolling Stones)
Lee Allen (Little Richard, Fats Domino, Clarence "Frogman" Henry)
Steve Douglas, Jay Migliori, Jim Horn, Plas Johnson (The Wrecking Crew)
Hank Crosby, Andrew "Mike" Toney, Norris Patterson, Thomas "Beans" Bowles, Teddy Buckner, Ronnie Wakefield, Lefty Edwards, Eli Fontaine, Ernie Rodgers (The Funk Brothers)
Louis Jordan
Gene Barge (Church Street Five)
Gene Upshaw ("Come Go With Me")
Herb Hardesty (Fats Domino)
King Curtis. Duh.

There are more, and that list is biased. That's the point. And feel free to advise me of major omissions (though I may not listen).

PS—even Mr. Westerberg has saxophones on "Can't Hardly Wait" (courtesy Jim Dickinson and the Memphis Horns). Need more proof than that?


NOTE: I am currently reading Pattie Boyd's memoir, Wonderful Tonight. Yes, I know Eric Clapton is a major league tool and responsible for what is perhaps the most annoying, offensive song in the annals of rock history (unfortunately, also the title of her book). But it turns out that Pattie's a) a pretty good writer and b) far more interesting than Clapton will ever be. Plus there's lots of good Beatles gossip, and for those of us who can't get enough, that's more than enough reason to read.

We need more intelligent rock chicks like her (both onstage and off), but that's the subject of another blog for another day.

Selling Points Too

By popular request:

I like it on top.
Size 8 1/2, but my left foot is a little bigger than my right.
Corona with lime and tequila shots. Vodka tonics and margaritas with salt. And sometimes Bloody Marys.
Bob Dylan is a genius. Clapton bores me to tears.
Fishnets and (occasionally) cigarettes.
Cheese ravioli, french fries, grilled cheese on rye and corn on the cob.
I'm a good kisser but I don't get much practice.
I took ballet for 4 years and totally fucked up my knees.
Yes, that's my heart on my sleeve.
I have big hands and my ears stick out.
There is nothing better than a rock'n'roll road trip.
Independent record stores and independent bookstores.
I'm a pretty good swimmer and used to be a certified lifeguard.
I'm not really a girly girl but don't be surprised if I get a manicure now and then.
I love Paul McCartney. Why won't he call me?
I've never been to Europe but I love Canada.
Boys with guitars.
Long slow dinners by candlelight.
I used to know how to sail but haven't done it since I was a teenager.
I played one of the rats in a production of The Nutcracker and got to wear a badass costume with a big rat head.
Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall and Susan Sarandon.
Brown hair, brown eyes.
I can't cook and I don't care.
I am from Washington DC, birthplace of Marvin Gaye, Duke Ellington and Henry Rollins.
Bikini underwear and bikini bathingsuits. Just not on men.
Red wine at room temperature. Pinot grigio chilled.
I love mankind, it's people I can't stand.
Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding.
I love the outdoors and enjoy hiking and camping. Just don't make me put up the tent.
Jack Lemmon, Paul Newman, Henry Fonda and Humphrey Bogart.
Hot bubble baths and hot sex.
Truman Capote before alcohol and fame ruined him.
"I love the boys, I really do. But there's a reason ladies my age are as pissed off as they are." – Raff (my hero)
Walking in the rain and violent thunderstorms.
Leather jackets, tight jeans and motorcycle boots.
I'm a beach bum. Just give me a good book, some sunscreen and a cooler full of diet Coke with lime (and maybe a couple Coronas) and leave me alone.
Austin, San Francisco, Chicago. St. Louis, Boston, Philadelphia.
George Lucas lost it after American Graffiti.
Wrap your legs 'round these velvet rims and strap your hands 'cross my engines.
Um, Paul Westerberg.

For J.T.

My heart hangs on my sleeve it is a dead weight that grows heavier by the day.
But I don't know who else to be so it beats there and will not be silenced.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Reach Out and Touch Me

So last night I'm minding my own business (as much as one can on these here Internets) and I decide to stop by the Myspace to see what's what, when lo and behold I have a message from Jim Walsh. Must be some sort of mistake, I say to myself, he doesn't even know me.

But no, he read my Myspace status update and emailed me about it. Now, you're saying to yourself, just who is Jim Walsh? Welp, he's a musician and writer and Minneapolis scenester who recently released All Over But the Shouting, an oral history of The Replacements. And better yet, he knows Paul Westerberg (sigh). So what's he doing contacting little ole me? Damned if I know, but he said to look him up when he's in the city in July. Perhaps go out for drinks. He's hosting some sort of music series and invited me down for it. Out of total nowhere. I guess I'm cooler than I thought.

Also out of the blue, my friend Jesse (no, not the one who Won't Speak to Me, the other one) emailed me and wanted to get together to "get drunk and listen to music." Which I haven't done in a long time, and which I have never done with him (though I have spent the night at his house (long story). Said he was "concerned" about me. As well he should be given all that's happened. But how nice of him to get in touch.

It's funny, the more ways of communicating we have, the more ways we have of ignoring each other, of isolating ourselves. We always carry those cell phones and iPods and whatnot to "stay in touch," but it seems like we're more out of touch than ever.

I guess that's why the iPod my brother gave me several years ago sits untouched in its box, why I insist upon walking around without some damn headset thing in my ear. (Who would've thought back in the '60s that we'd be sporting phones with earpieces that look like some Star Trek costume?) Because I believe in paying attention, in listening to what's going on around me. To the birds singing, the breeze blowing through the trees, the pounding surf. To the car horns and babies crying and random chatter of people on the street. Because it's all life, and it's all we have.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Past and Present

It's been a weird Memorial Day Weekend 2008. Let's see:

On Friday night, I was supposed to meet up with some friends for the reopening of The Wonder Bar but I fell asleep after drinking a couple glasses of wine.
On Saturday afternoon I was in the sun too much with my sunglasses on and now look like a raccoon.
On Saturday night, a guy who had to be 20 years younger than me tried to pick me up in a bar by discussing Dave Matthews.
On Sunday night, I drank more Coronas than I should have while listening to a Springsteen cover band (Hey, they were $1 till 5, $2.50 after that. C'mon, now).
On Monday I had to work. Then I came home feeling like shit. I was supposed to meet up with some friends in the city and go to The Living Room. Didn't happen. Went to bed instead.

Well, I still feel like shit but I can't sleep. (Noisy neighbors.) So I'm playing on the computer for a while and I come across this piece. It's been 8 years already. Wow. Anyhow, there have been a couple memorable Memorial Day Weekends here on the Jersey Shore since I wrote this (not the least of which was a Southside Johnny/Graham Parker double bill at which Bruce showed up and played for a good 45 minutes despite a tornado warning). I originally wrote it for Backstreets magazine, but it never got used. So since I'm not feeling particularly well, I'm delving into the vault for today's post. The piece is a bit gushy but I'm too lazy to fix it. Whatever.


Tonight I'm Ready to Grow Young Again

Memorial Day Weekend 2000 was a special one in Jersey Shore music history: the legendary Stone Pony, scene of many a magic night, staged a “grand re-opening” celebration featuring names and faces from the glory days such as Lance Larson and Paul Whistler. Many of my friends decided not to make the pilgrimage. Some told me it was due to of lack of funds, but several I spoke to commented that the whole thing was not going to be any good because there was no resurrecting the past, that there was something happening in that time and place that could never be repeated. In some ways, I agreed with them, but nevertheless made a last-minute decision to head north to the Jersey Shore. Some of it was admittedly curiosity, but this whole affair came at time when I was questioning a lot of things in my life and needed to remember some of the steps I had taken along the way.

I hadn’t seen either of Saturday night’s acts in many years, and feared that time would have taken its toll on both John Cafferty and Gary U.S. Bonds. In addition, there was the fear that the Pony would be nothing like its former self. There was definitely potential for major disappointment on both counts. Filled with eager anticipation as I drove down Kingsley Street, my heart sank as I took in the decimated surroundings. While Asbury had been frightening before, it had now assumed the feel of an abandoned war zone. This was not blight, it was catastrophe.

We made the turn onto Second Avenue, and there was the Pony, same as it ever was. The new owner, Domenic Santana, had rented searchlights for the weekend’s activities, and they illuminated the sky in front of the club, lending it the aura of a Hollywood theater on premiere night. We had left late, and surprisingly, the parking lot was almost full. Being veterans of this place, my husband and I braced for the inevitable ill treatment we had come to expect on entering the club, and were pleasantly surprised by the friendly and efficient staff that greeted us at the door.

Inside was mostly as expected: an improved sound system, clean bathrooms (at last!), minor changes to décor, but it was undeniably the same old Pony. Much of the same photography graced the walls, and there was still that same old uneven black and white tile floor that had always lent it the careless air of an amusement park. There was a feeling of anticipation in the air, and as we walked through, we saw many familiar faces from the old days. As always, there were musicians hanging around the back bar. We thrilled to see John Cafferty and several of his bandmates walk right past us, looking the same as they ever did. There was always something about this place: you never knew who was going to walk in, and some nights, you could just feel the magic.

Amongst the more notable changes was the absence of the Stone Pony’s DJ extraordinaire, Lee Mrowicki, who always seemed to play the right song at the right time. The place wasn’t particularly crowded, so we headed outside-the new owner had preserved the previously installed outdoor patio, which provided respite from the heat and smoke (how had we ever withstood that?). At the outside bar, a few feet away and looking slim and happy, stood Gary himself, happily chatting up a local reporter. It struck me how unusual this place was in terms of the respect given to musicians who graced its stage. Previous to 1984, Bruce Springsteen used to come in and sit at the back bar virtually unnoticed. Here was a place where you could see the artists as people, and you truly felt like one of them. The value of this lack of distance between performer and audience cannot be overestimated in terms of the level of intimacy and trust that existed at those storied nights at the Pony . I am convinced that this was a major factor in the consistently high level of performance we had witnessed within these hallowed walls.

Introduced by Lee Mrowicki himself (to our surprise and delight, he had been invited back for opening weekend), Cafferty & Co. took the stage, and we hurried back inside. An enthusiastic crowd greeted them, and they responded with their usually high-energy set, which featured both the hits from the “Eddie & the Cruisers” film soundtrack, as well as the usual well-chosen cover. Cafferty leapt down from the low stage and into the crowd, climbing on top of the bars to perform with the energy of someone half his age. He told us that he had cancelled an appearance in his home state of Rhode Island to be there, and jokingly wondered how many disappointed fans would show up that gig. It was worth the risk, he said-who would turn down a chance to play on this stage again?

There was a short set break, and Gary took the stage. He looked and sounded great, and the band , which featured Joey Stann on sax and Gary’s wife and daughter as backup singers, was tight. It was crowded and hot, but something drew me to the front of the stage. Gary told us a story about when Bruce had first contacted him about working together. He was playing some cheap place in Las Vegas, and Bruce was taking time off at home in New Jersey in the midst of a major US tour. “How ironic,” said Gary, “tonight he’s playing Vegas, and I’m in Asbury Park!” His joy at being there again was evident in his beaming face and his unique voice, which was stronger and more versatile than ever. It was just like the old days--the fans knew all the songs, and sang along vociferously, often drowning him out. I think he was even a bit surprised--he had started a call and response, and muttered “holy shit” to himself at the boisterousness of the crowd, and we all picked up on it and started singing that phrase back to him. During the quiet moments between songs, a bemused look would appear on his face, as though he couldn’t quite believe this was really happening, a feeling that was shared by those of us in the audience.

As I stood there under the hot lights, breathing in the smell of sweat, cigarettes and stale beer, I knew that there was nowhere else on earth that I would rather be at that moment (well, maybe front row center in Vegas…). All the years melted away, and I was youthful and innocent again, free of the responsibility and the regret of decisions made and things left undone that had made me feel old and useless. Let the word go forth to a new generation of Americans: there is still no better music venue in the country than the Stone Pony.

Rock’n’roll at its best is the great liberator. It frees us of our inhibitions, of our self-doubt, and of the social constrictions that keep us apart as people and indeed, as a country. Its powerful spirit lifts us up and gives us hope. The Stone Pony’s resurrection may fail, and it may fall victim to the seemingly inevitable decay afflicting the once-proud seaside resort of Asbury Park; that would be a shame. Those who love this music can only hope that this does not happen. We should try desperately to keep this special place and this transformational spirit alive for others to experience, if only for nights such as this one. When I had lost faith in myself, at a time when what passes for popular music is nothing more than soulless product, the Stone Pony gave me the greatest gift I could possibly have received--a chance to be young again, if only for one night.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Look me in the eye
Then tell me that I'm satisfied
Was you satisfied?
Look me in the eye
Then tell me that I'm satisfied
Hey, are you satisfied?

And it goes so slowly on
Everything I've ever wanted
Tell me what's wrong

Look me in the eye
And tell me that I'm satisfied
Were you satisfied?
Look me in the eye
Then tell me I'm satisfied
And now are you satisfied?

Everything goes
Well, anything goes all of the time
Everything you dream of
Is right in front of you
And everything is a lie

Look me in the eye
And tell me that I'm satisfied
Look me in the eye
I'm so, I'm so unsatisfied
I'm so dissatisfied
I'm so, I'm so unsatisfied
I'm so unsatisfied
I'm so, I'm so unsatisfied
I'm so dissatis,dissattis...
I'm so

(c) Paul Westerberg
Published by NAH Music ASCAP

Any questions?

Selling Points

I apologize a lot. I'm sorry about that.
Jerry, Johnny, David, Arthur and Syl.
I can drive stick and check the oil.
I probably have an opinion about it and am not afraid to tell you.
Nashville and Memphis, Asbury Park and Coney Island.
I have a nice alto voice and I can sing harmony.
I like my coffee black and my men intelligent.
Thunders, Richards, Berry. Moore, Vincent, Harrison.
i can stay up all night and go to work in the morning. With a hangover.
I will walk a mile in your shoes. Just don't make me go to the gym.
I love and embrace my potty mouth. Motherfucker.
Marty Scorsese, Billy Wilder, Howard Hawks, George Cukor.
I have been to Poland and would go again. Just don't ask me to eat there.
I can groom, saddle and ride a horse. English style.
I love animals and don't eat them.
Marah and Malin. When they're speaking to me.
I can recite the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. And I Know My Rights.
Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Lowe.
I used to be able to read and speak a little German, and probably still could with a day or two of practice.
Mary Weiss kicks Mary Wells' ass.
I can explain the infield fly rule and the third strike rule.
I can drink you under the table.
I don't eat anything I can't pronounce.
Beer and wine, not Jaegermeister and Sambuca.
Love men, just don't marry them.
Jones & Strummer. Leiber & Stoller. Whitfield & Strong.
I have a Master's Degree but I love "Beavis & Butthead."
I know who Tom Dowd is and can explain why you should too.
I have read War and Peace.
New York style pizza with onion, garlic, oregano and enough cheese to choke me.
Beatles and Stones. Apples and oranges.
I can read music and play the piano decently if you let me practice first.
I know the difference between the Wrecking Crew and the Funk Brothers.
I can copy edit and proofread just about anything.
5' 8" but I wear heels and I don't care if I'm taller than you.
I can assemble just about any computer or stereo system. Just don't ask me to program them.
Moon and Starr. Helm, Blaine, and Fontana.
I love Uncle Jimmy's Dirty Basement and think it kicks Rocky Horror's ass.
I can't play the guitar but I love power chords.
I know just enough HTML to fuck it up.
Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Dickens, Austen.
I throw like a girl and I don't care.
Italian American with a little bit of Irish.
I take myself way too seriously. Feel free to smack me upside the head at any time.
I wear Chuck Taylor and Salvatore Ferragamo (when I can afford it).
I remember rock'n'roll radio.
I do not understand women any better than you.
"Let's Do it Again." "Sexual Healing." "Let's Get it On."
I have a big mouth and I'm not afraid to use it.
I suck at calculus but kick ass at algebra.
I can quote extensively from Diner, Raising Arizona, Dazed and Confused and The Godfather.
I know the difference between the Brill Building and the Chrysler Building.
Baseball, hot dogs (veggie, with mustard and onions) and a red 1968 Camaro.
I'll ride any rollercoaster. Just do shots with me first.
I love to laugh but don't do it nearly enough.
I hate myself for loving you.
I'm very, very sorry.

Any questions?
(There's more. I'll tell you if you ask me.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Under The Sun

There are some songs that just seem to define your life. "Under the Sun" is one of those for me. I first heard it years ago on Southside Johnny's excellent At Least We Got Shoes album. But it really came to life in places like my beloved Stone Pony, where Bobby Bandiera's beautifully evocative tenor pierced my heart. It's a song that has always seemed to resonate for me, though when I first heard it I never knew why. I guess it's only now that I really understand how accurately it presaged my own life. And I think, also, that it has always gotten to me because although it's sung to a woman, it's clearly written with the kind of self-knowledge that only a woman could have. That it was co-written by the multi-talented Patti Scialfa, then, is no great surprise. But let's not leave out Mr. Bandiera, whose own vast talents, long undersung, finally seem to have been acknowledged by the music world at large. (It's about time.)

But back to the song. I don't listen to it often even though it's one of my favorites--not just by the Jukes, but by anybody--because it takes me back to my misspent youth, to the sweaty, beer-soaked summers spent inside the Stone Pony. To a time when anything seemed possible. I'm older now, and a lot of the dreams I had then have faded. Time passes, people move on. We grow up and priorities change. But those times will always live in my memory as some of the best of my life, and no one can take them from me.

Both Patti and Bobby have gone on to bigger and better things, but in my opinion this song still ranks with their best work, and in my mind's eye, I can still see them as they were then, standing in the middle of the Stone Pony stage, leaning in to share the mic and singing this incredible lyric that still rings so true for me. If you're lucky, you can catch Southside performing this song every once in a while, too, but it's usually by request only. Maybe singing it reminds him of those days, too...

Under The Sun
(B. Bandiera/P. Scialfa)

Queen of sorrow ain't that your name
In a world of darkness with no one to blame
You watch from a distance and wonder how come
Some people walk so easily under the sun

Tell me darlin' what are you thinking of
When you give your loyalty to strangers
And betray the ones you love
Is it because of all those strangers
They help you go on hiding from
Your loss of faith to your rightful place
Under the sun

Once you walked so proud to a rebel drum
But all your victories were too hard won
And all the precious gifts of the land
Fell through your tired hands

Queen of sorrow ain't that your name
What's born in anger ends in shame
Trust me darlin' we shall overcome
Take my hand and face your rightful place
Under the sun

Bandiera Songs BMI/Rumble Doll ASCAP

It's My Life

Hey, why don't you just chill out?
Settle down, relax.
You drink too much, you talk too much
You say whatever's on your mind
Don't you know that's dangerous, that it scares people?

That's right I'm a pretty scary person until you get to know me
Then I am even more scary because I say things you don't want to hear
Tell you things you don't want to know.
I need too much, I want too much, I feel too much.
it is my blessing and my curse.

But if you let me in just a little
If you really listen to me.
i will give you my heart.

(Please don't break it.)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Actual Lines Musicians Have Fed Me

(quoted verbatim to the best of my memory—why would I lie?)

You look really sexy tonight.
You're a really pretty girl.
So are you coming in?
Where are you spending the night?
I think you're a really great person.
Relax, you're too uptight.
You have a good heart but you're really moody.
I was just admiring your ass but then I realized you were my friend.
I like the way your tummy shows.
You look really hot.
Come lie on the bed with me.
Where are you spending the night?
I think you're really sexy.
Are you driving home tonight? I have a foldout couch. (said while holding hands with his date for the evening).
You're a really beautiful girl—you shouldn't look so sad.
You sure you don't need a place to stay?
Come outside and watch the sunrise.
You have a big heart but you have a dark side.
Where are you spending the night?
(the same person kept saying it—don't they know we remember this shit?)
I think you're really sexy but I can't invite you in.
I like your hair better loose (said while attempting to undo my ponytail).
You look really nice (while staring at my chest).
I think you're really beautiful and really smart and really cool but I'm not into you that way.
You need to get laid.

What's Your Damage?

I opened up my heart to you
It got all damaged and undone
I believed in you but you only believe in yourself
In your monster ego that needs to be fed over and over again
Who was it that helped you, that supported you
That loved you unconditionally for so long
Asking nothing in return except to be treated as a friend
With courtesy and kindness and respect
Like any human being deserves

You are all alike, you all need to be reminded that you exist
Need to have people love you, different ones every night
Looking up at you in rapt wonder, in awe at your talent
At your brilliance

Well guess what we all get older, we all need to be loved
and admired and respected, need to have others to believe in us
because it's sometimes so hard to believe in ourselves.
You are not as special as you think.

Those who look on you in awe, in rapture and admiration
Will not be with you tomorrow when you wake up alone in
some hotel room wondering what city you're in
or if anyone will show up to hear you play
There are always bright new shiny faces, but the ones
who really care about you, who love and respect you
for who you really are -- that list grows shorter and shorter
because of the gnawing black hole inside you that will not be filled
because you push us aside we are nothing we are disposable we are
Too Much Work
It's so much easier not to get close, not to deal, to look at only the shiny surface of

Whether it's free or whether they pay thousands of dollars it's you,
it's what's inside your head you must live with.

So when you wake up tomorrow, alone or with someone, you
will always be alone in your head until you deal with what's
inside you that makes you hate yourself so much that you
lower yourself to associating with shallow meaningless people
Demand so much to be in your presence that only those who don't know
the cost are willing to pay it

You are better than that, or at least you used to be. If you look in the
mirror, maybe you can still see that person looking back. Don't look
twice, don't look back, don't look don't look don't look

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Stay Positive

Stay positive things will get better we are all getting older age gracefully
But women do not get to age gracefully we are pushed aside and
forgotten like yesterday's newspaper
We are nothing if we are not young and beautiful
It doesn’t matter how smart you are how graceful or accomplished
Doesn’t matter what you’ve done with your life because
You don’t exist anymore.

No one looks at you no one listens you are irrelevant.

When you are a young woman they don’t care what’s inside your head only what’s outside
what you look like your hot body they want to use that body for their own pleasures and move on
They tell you it’s not true go ahead develop your mind don’t worry about it the right person will come along
But he never does she never does most people spend their whole lives alone.

Stay positive age gracefully get older and smile there is always hope
Yeah sure there is if you shut down your brain the part that thinks the part that sees things as they really are
Hope is the thing with feathers that takes a crap on your dreams
That taunts you with possibilities and flies away and is gone.
Evil wins don’t you see, it has feathers too and it sits on your bedpost in the darkness and watches and waits

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sometimes You Gotta Wear it On Your Sleeve

Jesse Malin's covers record On Your Sleeve is the shit. But don't take it from me--buy the damn thing yourself from One Little Indian.

That is all.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Get Up and Dance

"Good music makes you wanna sing along and dance and feel like anything is possible, right? That's what I want my music to make people feel! And if I'm ever in a position to have a platform to change something in my world for the better I hope I'm brave enough to accept the challenge and inevitable criticism and questioning of motive to follow."

Dave Petersen just said everything that needs to be said about why music is essential, and why it can still change the world. I love him.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Obama For President

With Edwards gone, is there really any other choice? Caroline Kennedy said it best in a recent speech at American University in Washington D.C.:

"I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved."

What she said. Enough incompetence--we need change and we need it fast.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Farewell Mr. Edwards

A good man dropped out of the presidential race this week. I supported him from the beginning because of his stance on poverty. If he did nothing else in his run for the White House, he forced the two major Democratic contenders to make that a part of their agenda, and for that we are forever indebted to him.

Thank you John, for running because you believed in something so strongly that you could not be silent. And thank you Elizabeth for supporting him. You both are true class, and you will not be forgotten.

Here's John's speech from Wednesday:

Thank you all very much. We're very proud to be back here.

During the spring of 2006, I had the extraordinary experience of bringing 700 college kids here to New Orleans to work. These are kids who gave up their spring break to come to New Orleans to work, to rehabilitate houses, because of their commitment as Americans, because they believed in what was possible, and because they cared about their country.

I began my presidential campaign here to remind the country that we, as citizens and as a government, have a moral responsibility to each other, and what we do together matters. We must do better, if we want to live up to the great promise of this country that we all love so much.

It is appropriate that I come here today. It's time for me to step aside so that history can blaze its path. We do not know who will take the final steps to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but what we do know is that our Democratic Party will make history. We will be strong, we will be unified, and with our convictions and a little backbone we will take back the White House in November and we'll create hope and opportunity for this country.

This journey of ours began right here in New Orleans. It was a December morning in the Lower Ninth Ward when people went to work, not just me, but lots of others went to work with shovels and hammers to help restore a house that had been destroyed by the storm.

We joined together in a city that had been abandoned by our government and had been forgotten, but not by us. We knew that they still mourned the dead, that they were still stunned by the destruction, and that they wondered when all those cement steps in all those vacant lots would once again lead to a door, to a home, and to a dream.

We came here to the Lower Ninth Ward to rebuild. And we're going to rebuild today and work today, and we will continue to come back. We will never forget the heartache and we'll always be here to bring them hope, so that someday, one day, the trumpets will sound in Musicians' Village, where we are today, play loud across Lake Ponchartrain, so that working people can come marching in and those steps once again can lead to a family living out the dream in America.

We sat with poultry workers in Mississippi, janitors in Florida, nurses in California.

We listened as child after child told us about their worry about whether we would preserve the planet.

We listened to worker after worker say "the economy is tearing my family apart."

We walked the streets of Cleveland, where house after house was in foreclosure.

And we said, "We're better than this. And economic justice in America is our cause."

And we spent a day, a summer day, in Wise, Virginia, with a man named James Lowe, who told us the story of having been born with a cleft palate. He had no health care coverage. His family couldn't afford to fix it. And finally some good Samaritan came along and paid for his cleft palate to be fixed, which allowed him to speak for the first time. But they did it when he was 50 years old. His amazing story, though, gave this campaign voice: universal health care for every man, woman and child in America. That is our cause.

And we do this -- we do this for each other in America. We don't turn away from a neighbor in their time of need. Because every one of us knows that what -- but for the grace of God, there goes us. The American people have never stopped doing this, even when their government walked away, and walked away it has from hardworking people, and, yes, from the poor, those who live in poverty in this country.

For decades, we stopped focusing on those struggles. They didn't register in political polls, they didn't get us votes and so we stopped talking about it. I don't know how it started. I don't know when our party began to turn away from the cause of working people, from the fathers who were working three jobs literally just to pay the rent, mothers sending their kids to bed wrapped up in their clothes and in coats because they couldn't afford to pay for heat.

We know that our brothers and sisters have been bullied into believing that they can't organize and can't put a union in the workplace. Well, in this campaign, we didn't turn our heads. We looked them square in the eye and we said, "We see you, we hear you, and we are with you. And we will never forget you." And I have a feeling that if the leaders of our great Democratic Party continue to hear the voices of working people, a proud progressive will occupy the White House.

Now, I've spoken to both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. They have both pledged to me and more importantly through me to America, that they will make ending poverty central to their campaign for the presidency.

And more importantly, they have pledged to me that as President of the United States they will make ending poverty and economic inequality central to their Presidency. This is the cause of my life and I now have their commitment to engage in this cause.

And I want to say to everyone here, on the way here today, we passed under a bridge that carried the interstate where 100 to 200 homeless Americans sleep every night. And we stopped, we got out, we went in and spoke to them.

There was a minister there who comes every morning and feeds the homeless out of her own pocket. She said she has no money left in her bank account, she struggles to be able to do it, but she knows it's the moral, just and right thing to do. And I spoke to some of the people who were there and as I was leaving, one woman said to me, "You won't forget us, will you? Promise me you won't forget us." Well, I say to her and I say to all of those who are struggling in this country, we will never forget you. We will fight for you. We will stand up for you.

But I want to say this -- I want to say this because it's important. With all of the injustice that we've seen, I can say this, America's hour of transformation is upon us. It may be hard to believe when we have bullets flying in Baghdad and it may be hard to believe when it costs $58 to fill your car up with gas. It may be hard to believe when your school doesn't have the right books for your kids. It's hard to speak out for change when you feel like your voice is not being heard.

But I do hear it. We hear it. This Democratic Party hears you. We hear you, once again. And we will lift you up with our dream of what's possible.

One America, one America that works for everybody.

One America where struggling towns and factories come back to life because we finally transformed our economy by ending our dependence on oil.

One America where the men who work the late shift and the women who get up at dawn to drive a two-hour commute and the young person who closes the store to save for college. They will be honored for that work. One America where no child will go to bed hungry because we will finally end the moral shame of 37 million people living in poverty.

One America where every single man, woman and child in this country has health care.

One America with one public school system that works for all of our children.

One America that finally brings this war in Iraq to an end. And brings our service members home with the hero's welcome that they have earned and that they deserve.

Today, I am suspending my campaign for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency.

But I want to say this to everyone: with Elizabeth, with my family, with my friends, with all of you and all of your support, this son of a millworker's gonna be just fine. Our job now is to make certain that America will be fine.

And I want to thank everyone who has worked so hard â€" all those who have volunteered, my dedicated campaign staff who have worked absolutely tirelessly in this campaign.

And I want to say a personal word to those I've seen literally in the last few days â€" those I saw in Oklahoma yesterday, in Missouri, last night in Minnesota â€" who came to me and said don't forget us. Speak for us. We need your voice. I want you to know that you almost changed my mind, because I hear your voice, I feel you, and your cause is our cause. Your country needs you â€" every single one of you.

All of you who have been involved in this campaign and this movement for change and this cause, we need you. It is in our hour of need that your country needs you. Don't turn away, because we have not just a city of New Orleans to rebuild. We have an American house to rebuild.

This work goes on. It goes on right here in Musicians' Village. There are homes to build here, and in neighborhoods all along the Gulf. The work goes on for the students in crumbling schools just yearning for a chance to get ahead. It goes on for day care workers, for steel workers risking their lives in cities all across this country. And the work goes on for two hundred thousand men and women who wore the uniform of the United States of America, proud veterans, who go to sleep every night under bridges, or in shelters, or on grates, just as the people we saw on the way here today. Their cause is our cause.

Their struggle is our struggle. Their dreams are our dreams.

Do not turn away from these great struggles before us. Do not give up on the causes that we have fought for. Do not walk away from what's possible, because it's time for all of us, all of us together, to make the two Americas one.

Thank you. God bless you, and let's go to work. Thank you all very much.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Things I Like Vol. 42

Ten People/Places/Things That Rock My World:

1) Marah. Like a phoenix from the ashes, baby.

2) "Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution" - New from The Black Crowes. So what if it's another Stones ripoff--it rocks. Plus it's got Luther Dickinson on slide guitar...

3) Brighter Than Creation's Dark - The Drive-By Truckers. Still mining that goth-Skynyrd meets Springsteen vein. And the problem is?

4) On Your Sleeve - Jesse Malin. Expected and unexpected covers that shed new light both on the songs themselves and on the person performing them.

5) Paul McCartney. Staying alive and just trying to be yourself is a lot harder than it looks when you're an ex-Beatle. Plus "I'm Down" is, like, the best two minutes of Richard Penniman ripoff you'll ever hear. Don't believe me? Watch for yourself:

6) Jeff Raspe - DJ extraordinaire.

7) Frankie & Kelly McGrath - Two of the best people you'll ever meet. Thanks for everything.

8) Play it As it Lays - Patti Scialfa. Still one of the most underappreciated women in rock, and a hell of a nice person besides.

9) Convention Hall, Asbury Park NJ - Come see before it morphs into Disneyland.

10) Daniel Wolff. 'Nuff said.

Hero of the Week: CF, for caring enough to tell me things I need to hear, and for putting up with my endless psychodrama. You are a true friend.

Villain of the Week: Gary Mottola, Madison Marquette. For totally misunderstanding Asbury Park's past and thereby fucking up its future. Read a book, dude.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Simple Twist of Fate

Driving home to the Jersey Shore yesterday, I heard local up and coming singer/songwriter Nicole Atkins performing at WXPN radio's Free at Noon show in Philadelphia, and it brought the reality of what has happened to Philly's own Marah this week into sharper focus and just made me sad all over again.

On the radio was a woman who, like Marah, started from nothing, who pushed her way up from the street--sleeping in cars, recording in a makeshift studio--to get her music out. Like them, she worked hard and finally got lucky. She got noticed by the right people and ended up with a major label deal. Now, in this day and age, that's a dicey thing--most new artists who sign with Columbia Records live to regret it, as misguided record production and lack of tour promotion (amongst other things) are the usual result.

But Nicole has gotten luckier still--the folks at Columbia seem to actually know what to do with her, and have really kicked her career up a notch in a relatively short time. She's been on national television (Letterman), had some excellent bookings (The Bowery Ballroom), even done an American Express ad. And yesterday she was on WXPN sounding great --in complete control and enjoying herself. I should be happy for her--another local Jersey Shore musician getting props--but I can't help feeling more than a bit resentful at the odd twists of fate life hands people. Several of my friends have signed to that very same label and received the royal screw--they all worked just as hard and made the same sacrifices as Nicole, and for that they ended up with nothing. How did she get so lucky, and why?

As for the members of Marah--current and former--they are most likely still pondering what has happened to them; how they went from the highest high (a national television appearance, a brand new record receiving stellar reviews, a hotly anticipated national tour) to the lowest low (postponed tour, dismembered band) in a few short days. But they can't afford to linger too long with their thoughts. After all, there are new tours to prepare for, lives to be led, and this is only a brief pause before they move on to the next stage of their lives.

And that's all it can be--for now. "You just gotta keep on livin', L-I-V-I-N" (Wooderson, Dazed and Confused, 1993). But one day they'll be out on the road again--on a lonely tour bus in the middle of Nowhereland, or lying in bed staring at the ceiling late at night--and their thoughts will inexorably turn to the events of this week, and to what might have been. The regret and pain they feel at those moments may be something they carry with them for the rest of their lives.

So congratulations, Nicole--you deserve every minute of your newfound success. With any luck, you'll never experience anything like what happened to Marah this week. Never know what it is to falter when your dreams seem so close to coming true, to fail with the whole world looking on--to hold the brass ring for a brief instant only to have it slip through your fingers.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Shys Return

With all the recent news of band implosion, isn't it nice to know that a totally rockin' band is still together and will soon A) be releasing a record and B) hittin' your town? I though so. New tunage and photos are now up on their myspace page. These guys are the shit. But don't take my word for it. See/hear/experience the magic for yourself.

That is all.


Monday, January 14, 2008

R.I.P Johnny Podres

It's truly a sad day for Dodger fans--and God knows they've had more than their share. (Just HOW did Walter O'Malley--aka Satan--get elected to the Hall of Fame, for example?)

Yep, Johnny Podres is dead. For those of you who don't know, Podres shut out the Yankees 2-0 on eight hits to win the deciding game of the 1955 World Series, the one and only time that Brooklyn ever conquered their nemesis.

"Just get me one hit and I'll beat 'em," Podres supposedly said. The Dodgers got him two, and for one year, joy finally reigned in Mudville as the long-suffering Brooklynites finally had their championship. But it was to be short-lived, as the aforementioned O'Malley would soon set plans in motion that would result in the team moving to--EEEK--Los Angeles.

The day Ebbetts Field was torn down was one of the saddest in the history of baseball, for it signaled the end of an era when teams lived in the towns they played in, when you could walk down the street and bump into Duke Snider or live next door to Pee Wee Reese. The players were not only your heroes, they were your neighbors. The unique relationship they had with the citizens of Brooklyn will never be duplicated, and the loss to baseball was incalculable.

So R.I.P. Johnny. And as for Walter O'Malley, well, let's just say it's pretty hot where he is...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Marah on Conan

My Marah boyz (and the lovely Christine) on Conan. Righteous!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Things I Like Vol. 41

Ok, so it's a New Year and I promised to keep this here thing up, so here goes.

Ten People/Places/Things That Rock My World:

1) Vodka tonics. I have recently rediscovered the joys of Absolut over ice. Yay.

2) Panera, all locations - I know, it's a franchise. But damn, that sourdough bread is addictive like crack.

3) Speaking of crack - Clancy's, Neptune NJ - the potato soup is, well, you guessed it...

4) Scene of the Crime - Bettye Lavette. Yeah, right on, sis. Being an older chick fucking rules! Don't even try to tell me I'm irrelevant cos I don't dig Hannah Montana--this is music by and for adults, baby!

5) Just A Little Lovin' - Shelby Lynne. All of the above, plus it's all (or mostly all) Dusty Springfield music. Righteous.

6) The Twisted Tree, Asbury Park NJ - Acoustic Maybe Pete, candlelight, health food and BYO wine. Plus it's stumbling distance from my front door.

7) The New York fucking Dolls. Better than most bands even on a bad night (sorry to disagree with you, JM). Coming soon to the legendary Stone Pony for a return engagement. Gotta love Syl's gold Les Paul!

8) Hillary. Ok, so I'm not a huge fan. I thought she and the hubby kinda sold out. But I'll admit it, the crying bit got me.
Can anyone say America's Family Reunion (on the Mall) Volume 2? (If you don't know what that is, use the Google, dummy!)

9) "Lowlife (Livin' the Highlife)" - Kid Rock. Ok, so he didn't get the joke. It's still a great song, and the money goes to one of my oldest, dearest friends. What's the downside?

10) Peter Criss lives in Wall NJ. No no WALL NJ! I know a couple people who might be up for some stalkin'...

Hero of the Week: John Edwards. Everyone's counted him out, and yeah, he probably is out. But he's not going without a fight. Not bad for someone who continues to accept no corporate donations.

Villain of the Week: Roger Clemens. I'm sorry, but you're a lying sack of sh*t. You have been blessed with one of the best arms in the history of the game, and you go and blow your reputation for the sake of a couple of extra years. Say it ain't so.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Another Year

Listen to me watch me
I will hold you in my thrall and
You too will be stars

In the light the moths flit to and fro
Vacant eyes
Different dresses same pain
Dissipated dance
Vodka and hesitance will you won’t you
One night full of empty
Desperation but

The hole will not be filled until you dig deeper.