Tag Archives: Records

Thanks I’ll Eat It Here – Lowell George

Lately I have found myself fixated on death. Not the actual cause or philosophy of grief, but the thoughts before death, the victim’s own self awareness of a death that could otherwise be categorized as sudden and unexpected. Patsy Cline claimed for years she had feelings that she was not going to live past age 30. Cline went as far as to hand write a will on a commercial airline just a short time before her death which coincidentally came in the form of a plane crash in rural Tennessee. Brian Jones went as far as to write his own epitaph before his death at the age of 27 which read “Please Don’t Judge Me Too Harshly”

The reason for these thoughts is the fact that my father, in his last year, had grown more wistful, emotional and responsible. He retired, cleaned out his workspace and displayed his collection of locker 37 memorabilia which he had accumulated over the last 30 years. This collection contained cut outs from the newspaper, pictures of my brother and I throughout various years of awkward adolescence, notes from a younger version of my mother she had ages ago packed lovingly into his lunch. We spent time discussing his music collection and the fact that after he had died I would be left with nothing but good music to remember him by, not the Big Band cassettes my grandfather had left him.

A week before his death my father led my Mother, Brother and myself to a house on a quiet street in Newport. This house was where my father spent a lot of his time until his grandmother passed away around the time he was 6. We stood there quiet in the slim beams of sun while the cold February morning warmed to a barely tolerable temperature. He spoke of the vineyard they kept in the backyard they used to make their own wine and how his Grandmother used to call him “Peaches and Cream Cheeks” due to his rosy young complexion. We waited patiently while he finished a conversation with a mailman we had run into and then made our way back to the car.

At the time I didn’t think much of this journey. My father was just telling a story we had never heard before. After a few months I began thinking more about how he had acted that day. Many animals have an instinct which enables them to be self aware of the harsh fact of death. When Wolves die they leave the pack to die alone. Elephants wander off to graveyards which are designated for the death of their species. It’s tough to know if the actions of my father were due to confusion on how to react to a sudden change in his life and inability to fill time during a retirement, or if somehow he was subconsciously aware of his limited time. A week later, down the street from his grandmother’s house, 3 blocks away from his childhood home, my father passed away. Another seemingly poetic foreshadowing on the end of an otherwise private average life.

Lowell George Died of a heart attack at the age of 34. Hours before, he performed his last song ever, 20 Million Things (to do)

If it’s fix a fence, fender dents
I’ve got lots of experience
Rent gets spent
And all the letters never written don’t get sent
It comes from confusion, all things I left undone
It comes from moment to moment, day to day
Time seems to slip away

But I’ve got twenty million things to do, twenty million things
And all I can do, is think about you
With twenty million things to do

I’ve got mysterious wisteria hanging in the air
The rocking chair I was supposed to fix
Well it came undid
And all the things that I let slip, I found out quick
It comes from moment to moment, day to day
Time seems to slip away

But I’ve got twenty million things to do, twenty million things
And all I can do, is think about you
With twenty million things to do

And all I can do, is think about you
With twenty million things to do

Waiting For Columbus – Little Feat

2 am, 8 years old, Milford Massachusetts visiting family friends my Mother and Father had known since high school. Long after the children went to sleep I walked up the stairs and was invited to a rare event, my parents enjoying themselves in the company of other parents. Old Folks Boogie played loud in the foreground while they discussed what it was like to age. I had no idea what they were speaking about but was happy to be a part of the fun time they were having. This was not the first time I was exposed to this Little Feat album, but it was my first distinct memory. As the oldest child I was allowed to stay up with them, have soda (while they had their drinks—Budweiser for the hosts and Dewars and water for the guests) and watch them dance and enjoy the music. This was my first introduction to my parents as the people they were before children, the persona parents usually expose post high school graduation. I noticed two things this evening, one, getting older does not necessarily mean getting bored, and two, my father was a lot more into the music then anyone else.

My aunt had a framed picture that my father drew of his favorite musician; this was a mainstay in every house she ever owned. From the time it hung above a piano I played on when I was five to my cousin’s 18th birthday party when it was a fixture in her dining room. This portrait was of Lowell George, the founder and front man of the band Little Feat. Lowell George’s death in 1979 affected my father much like Elliott Smith’s affected me. There are few musicians I can pay attention to for their full careers and Elliott was one of them. My life wasn’t affected by the deaths of Kurt Cobain, Brad Nowell, or any of the modern day rock and roll casualties (with the exception of Joe Strummer), and my father was the same way, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, they were all givens. With the exception of Keith Moon and John Bonham, my father was only really devastated by the death of Lowell George…hence the name of my brother, Kyle Lowell George. Little feat reformed in 1988 and continues to play today, but the songs of the original founder are still the most soulful and skillfully crafted.

5/15/2003—Three days after my high school graduation (thank you, internet): My father bought tickets for myself, my mother and his friend to see Little Feat at Lupo’s in Providence. I drove while the elders passed a bottle of booze around the car on the 40 minute drive to Rhode Island’s corrupt capitol city. I was able to see my father enjoy his favorite band at the same venue I had watched NOFX, Boy Sets Fire, Goldfinger, H20, Madball, Foo Fighters, Ignite and all the other bands that made my high school years what they were. He made sure I had seen Duke Robillard, Little Richard, Percy Sledge, Bob Dylan, and a ton of other musicians before it was too late, but it wasn’t until he had me see his favorite band did I truly realize what it was like to love music. I wanted to say about 700 different things about this album, but I’ve decided just to leave you with the lyrics to Willin.

I been warped by the rain, driven by the snow
I’m drunk and dirty don’t ya know, and I’m still…willin’
Out on the road late at night, Seen my pretty Alice in every head light
Alice…Dallas Alice

I’ve been from Tuscon to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonapah
Driven every kind of rig that’s ever been made
Driven the back roads so I wouldn’t get weighed
And if you give me: weed, whites, and wine
And you show me a sign
I’ll be willin’, to be movin’

I’ve been kicked by the wind, robbed by the sleet
Had my head stoved in, but I’m still on my feet and I’m still… willin’
Now I smuggled some smokes and folks from Mexico
Baked by the sun, every time I go to Mexico, and I’m still

And I been from Tuscon to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonapah
Driven every kind of rig that’s ever been made
Driven the back roads so I wouldn’t get weighed
And if you give me: weed, whites, and wine
And you show me a sign
I’ll be willin’, to be movin

Sticky Fingers – The Rolling Stones

Growing up I remember running through my father’s records looking for anything your average classic rock loving 5th grader would recognize. Jimi Hendrix, Led Zepplin, Eric Clapton, anything the local rock radio station was playing. Although it took me time to truly understand the greatness of The Rolling Stones, I still stopped to look at the Sticky Fingers album during every perusal. The album-art was a close up shot of a tight-jeaned man covered from all angles, when you removed the liner notes from within the record the man was in cotton briefs, as if he had just removed his pants. Andy Warhol conceived the cover design and conducted the photo sessions. Many speculate that the cover model was the eccentric artist’s boyfriend at the time, others claim Warhol used a variety of models during the session and secretly chose the shots without crediting any of the men. The reason I stopped at this record was not the album art or the music, it was the fact that the album itself featured a working zipper on the front, something that set it apart from everything else in the mass of musty cardboard and dirty plastic sleeves. Little did I know that more than a decade after first recognition I would drunkenly battle Beatles fans in dark bars stating that The Rolling Stones are a better band. My weapon? Sticky Fingers

This record is dark, written with drug addiction, alcoholism, money and fame washing over Mick and Keith like a Pacific tsunami. The meter of the music was the only thing keeping an even keel. From rock, to blues and country, they weren’t afraid to test the limits. I equate Brown Sugar to a one night stand. Drunk, steady and dangerous, this is still an 8pm barroom staple. Wild Horses is a country song through and through right down to the crawl of the rhythm and cry of the pedal steel. Many artists would write about heroin, alcohol, sex and money, but The Stones didn’t have time to dress up their songs in pretty words disguising drugs as women, women as nature, nature as religion. They were raw. Sister Morphine (drugs), Brown Sugar (sex), Dead Flowers (social seclusion and heroin use) all told stories of pain and pleasure that could be understood blatantly and unmistakably across the board.

“Well, when you’re sitting back
In your rose pink Cadillac
Making bets on Kentucky derby day
Ill be in my basement room
With a needle and a spoon
And another girl to take my pain away”

I love the Beatles, but when it comes to experimenting with sound or lyrics, The Stones will always win.

Rock On-Humble Pie

This album was a stab in the dark. I chose Rock On by Humble Pie for three reasons. 1) My father owned two copies on vinyl and copy on CD. 2) This record was released in 1971, the same time my father was stationed in Germany while serving in the army (draft, not volunteer) and 3) Humble Pie features the lead guitar and vocal styling of one Peter Frampton, who left the band a year after Rock On was released to pursue a much more lucrative solo career (i.e. play guitar with the annoying “talk-box” and write songs like “Oo, Baby I Love Your Way) Needless to say once I heard about Frampton’s involvement I began to have second thoughts, maybe I’d turn to something with a little more meaning behind it, something we shared, something we both liked…but no. That’s not why I got into this. At the least, I needed to listen, to try and find out why my father had so many copies of this album (and why he had so many other Humble Pie records.)

Wow.

Steve Marriott was the leader of the band and it is apparent on this album that he took artistic control. “79th and Sunset” features lyrics that would pink the cheeks of most mid-seventies Frampton fans. Most of the songs have a deep Zepplin-esque blues-metal feel to them, while they lacked the thunderous drumming of John Bonham they were able to deliver a powerful sound because of the two guitarists, one who switched to keys intermediately. Sure, they were a good band who would tour in the 70’s with the heavy hitters people of Generation Y still idolize, but you’d be hard pressed to find a trace of them in today’s popular culture. I can understand why Humble Pie didn’t quite stand the test of time; they fit in, but didn’t stand out.

Why does this album have such a large presence in my Father’s collection? I think it has a lot to do with where he was at that moment in time. It was 1971, he was drafted into the army and spent a lot of time hanging out with the various other recruits who had the unfortunate luck to have their numbers drawn. They weren’t army material and they spent the majority of their time listening to records, altering their minds, and trying to avoid the shell shocked and mildly insane Vietnam transfers. I can tell which records he took overseas with him and which ones he bought there by the initials on the inside of the sleeve (GWC written in marker) or by the language in the liner notes (German). These records were different then what he usually listened to. My father preferred Blues, Funk, Indie Rock and Soul, but through his army years he had Led Zepplin, Black Sabbath, Steppenwolf, a lot of heavy music. While most of us have music that defines a period of our lives, in this I feel that my father had a time in his life that defined the music he enjoyed.

Two side notes.
1) Humble Pie is mentioned as a touring band alongside Stillwater, Bad Company and Led Zepplin in the movie Almost Famous.
2) Peter Frampton wrote the 2 most radio friendly, pop-oriented songs on this album. Although it pains me to say this; he is actually a damn good rock guitarist.

Turning to the Turntable

Hendrix would sit his girlfriend down and have her — almost make her — listen to Dylan songs. Pointing out the poetic phrasings of the lyrics, begging her to feel what he felt whenever he heard it. It was never hard to see where his inspiration came from. Give any musician a few drinks and access to his music collection and the truth will come out. You watch the eyes close, fist clench, eyes widen, the desperate struggle to find the right pitch, note, strain, grunt, etcetera. To this person, at this moment in time, even God cannot match that which mere mortals have created. What is life without pain metastasized through the psyche via flowing poetry over 2 octaves of fingers and hammers on wound strings, dressed in reverb and delivered through overdriven tube amps? Not everyone relates to music this way; the select few, the people who equate living life not only to feeling joy and love, but to feeling pain and torment can say that music touches them to their very core. Only in this sense can sorrow cure sorrow, madness cure madness. This runs against anything we are taught. You can’t fix a fracture with stress, you can’t treat a burn with fire, but in music, sometimes the cure can be more of the disease.

I decided to write for 5×500 after the acquisition of my father’s record collection. My fondest memories of him all involve music in some shape or form. Whether he was behind his drums, cigarette with a steady 2 inches of ash hanging out of his mouth, a bobbing head creating some of the oddest faces known to man, or sitting on the couch with headphones on listening to Frank Zappa. This man loved music, plain and simple.

I will choose an album from this collection to listen to and write about each week. They won’t necessarily be albums I’ve listened to before, but ones I know he particularly enjoyed. I have a pair of studio headphones, a record player complete with a brand new needle, close to 200 pounds of grooved vinyl tucked between colorful cardboard sleeves and a bottle of whiskey to aid me in this journey each week. I should be able to gain some inspiration to write, or at the very least perhaps some insight into how my father went about living his daily life. Although I am not a writer in the purest sense of the word, I am a reader. I equate that to the mantra of a rock journalist whom spends his life writing of what he cannot do. While perhaps I don’t have the skills to produce a piece of work like the kind that Kerouac or Vonnegut would sit and write, I know what sounds good and what sounds terrible. I look forward to writing again and find it quite exhilarating to have my work read by three or four people a week. See you in a bit for album one.