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 d├ęcor, 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