Saturday, April 26, 2008

I Can See The Future....

Well.....I hope my prediction for a San Jose Shark's Stanley Cup goes as well as my prediction for a bad end for the creep that robbed my workplace. He wasn't taken alive.

This And That...

The San Jose Sharks lost the first game against the Dallas Stars yesterday, but I think they’ll do fine in this second round of the NHL playoffs. The Sharks looked great to me. They were skating fast, passing the puck ok, and hitting hard. Some of their players that needed to step up, did. They have not played well at home this season, so I think it may take another 6 games to sort this series out. This particular team, while infuriatingly inconsistent, has all the pieces. I really think they’ll win the Stanley Cup this year, and if they don’’s only a stupid game!

Speaking of stupid game, the gun toting robber that held up the 3 women at my workplace seems to be on quite a spree. They now know who he is, and since last Sunday’s robbery at City Hall Records, he has allegedly struck 2 more times; later that same day in Fairfield, Ca., and last Wednesday, a home robbery close to my hood in El Cerrito. His family has reported that he has a long history of drug addiction and he vows to not be taken alive. I predict that he won’t.

I also predict that I am getting so fed up with American politics and the media that reports it, I may just withdraw from the whole damn thing. It’s gotten stupid and I blame everyone involved. The politicians, the media and the average American citizen. The campaigns are vicious and mean spirited. The media is a joke. I keep hearing the conservatives endlessly shouting about the liberal media. I don’t see it. I do see an asshole media that is intent on feeding John Q. Public pure crap. 24 hour cable news has destroyed journalism. “Why aren’t you wearing a flag pin?” Jesus Christ, give me a break! I think the average American really does want to know why the pin wasn’t worn and that is the most disturbing part of all of this. America insisted on re-electing Bush, even when all the facts were there - he lies, he’s deceitful, he’s arrogant and he is not only responsible for our soldiers’s and innocent Iraqi citizen’s deaths, he has bankrupted this country and no one seems to care. The U.S. economy is broke, and it wasn’t that way when he first took office. There will be little consolation when history shows that he was the worst modern day U.S. president. It’s just gonna suck.

Go Sharks!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Just Another Day At The Office, Dear....

My workplace was robbed this weekend. Fortunately, it was on a weekend morning, and not many people were there, including myself. The owner's wife was, and so were 2 health insurance reps she was having a meeting with. The robber entered the building, put the 3 women in an office at gunpoint and took the usual stuff that gets taken in situations like these. There was another woman working in the warehouse, but was oblivious to the whole deal. I'm really glad no one was hurt. I also think it probably was a good thing that no males were at work. Could of changed the whole dynamic, possibly for the worse. Not sure why the robber thought a distribution warehouse would be a good place to rob, but there you go... You can read about it here.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

It's All About The Guitars! Part 2

Here’s my Aria Pro II Strat copy. It was the very first brand new guitar I ever bought (at Trend Music in Charlotte N.C.), sometime around 1977 or so. I think it was around $200. It’s got a nice twangy sound, plays well and most importantly, has a whammy bar !

Like a cat spraying it’s territory, I guess I felt the need to add those goofy stickers. Aside from my horrible heavy metal bass, it’s the only guitar I would do that to. Sorry ‘bout that...

Anyway, you can hear this guitar and it’s whammy bar at it’s twangy-est best on a surf-style instrumental I wrote called X-Ray Beach

And like a very proud papa, I was thrilled when I saw that my pals and fave Bay Area band, the Bye Bye Blackbirds actually opened a set with this tune at a gig I was unable to attend this past week in Sacramento. I'm thrilled!
Thanks,'ve made my day!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Music 2008 - The First Quarter

Recently, the Loud Family message board thingy had a thread assessing 2008's first quarter of music releases. Usually, the stuff I acquire is stubbornly out of step with that particular demograph, due to what I guess could be a mid-life crisis that has been going on for about 8 years..My tastes have leaned heavily on hard rock from the 70's ( possibly the equivalent of a red sports car???).

This time around has been different, though. While I haven’t purchased a whole lot of CD’s so far, there are 2 titles in particular that I think will be of interest to most folks that read this blog. Further more, these were brought to my attention at work. City Hall Record’s purchase of Runt Distribution has not only brought us more business, it is bringing a new customer base that is heavier on the cred of cool alternative music (Walker Bros., Elliott Smith, Dillard & Clark, Judee Sill etc...)

The coolest thing I’ve heard yet is Van Duren’s Are You Serious?. I’ve gone through it twice now, and it is truly amazing. Liner notes compare him to Big Star, Todd Rundgren and Emitt Rhodes. To some degree I agree, but I’m also hearing a bit of Stories (with the vocals pitched down a tad!). It was recorded in 1977 and I think that puts the sound and the production in a weird and unusual place. There are some un-ironic synth parts mixed in occasionally, that while I love ‘em, they do tend to give this record a strange... aura. The dude sings well. It’s on the Water label and hopefully our shipping department can get it into the stores by the weekend.

The other very cool release we have at work is on Big Beat, a subsidiary label of the U.K.’s Ace Records. It’s a 2 disc set called Thank You Friends - The Ardent Records Story. It’s pricey ($31.98 list), but damned essential. I found Disc #1 of most interest. The Terry Manning tracks are great. The 2nd disc is almost entirely Alex Chilton, Chris Bell and Big Star demos and alternate mixes. If you’re a huge Big Star fan, you’ll need this. If you like them just fine, it could be a bit of overkill - I have found that in general the best versions of songs end up on the record and demos sound like...well, demos! Cool tracks by Rock City and The Hot Dogs are included. This could be hard to find - we way under-ordered - but should be getting more in soon!

I love the newer stuff by Ween, but their latest: La Cucaracha only made 2 trips through my player before I yanked it out and gave it to Stacey to trade back in at Amoeba Music. Hated it.

Speaking of Stacey...she brought me a copy of Pride Tiger's The Lucky Ones. Great hard rock the sounds like Thin Lizzy meets...I dunno..Pat Travers and Cactus. I usually don't think a whole lot about lyrics, but the ones here are pretty dumb. But it rocks!

Many people have been discussing the new REM album, but frankly, I was more interested in getting the new Black Crowes CD - Warpaint. Hard to justify this, I just like rockin’ out to these guys. It’s good, but not great, but a keeper nonetheless. Someday I’ll need to address my REM aversion, but it goes deep and not all that interesting, but I do hope it does well for them!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

DDDDDDisco Duck!

Yet another entry regarding my musical life - the Disco Years 1977-1978 !

While Rhapsody was a business venture, it was not without it’s fair share of drama. I guess drama is indeed a prerequisite in any band, but Rhapsody’s drama seemed to raise the bar quite a bit.

Shortly after I joined and Joe had gone off to prison, we needed to hire a 5th member. We were being booked as such, and as I mentioned before, bands of this type were paid based on the number of players in the band. Female vocalists were desired, and keyboard players were looked upon favorably by booking agents. Horn sections could put you in a whole different (much higher) pay scale.

Mike, the guitarist had been talking about leaving the band, so John decided to hire another guitar player as soon as possible. Not only would that make us a 5 piece, it would give the new guy some time in settling in, alongside Mike. He hired a guy from California named Richard. I’m pretty sure he was the first Hispanic I had ever met, which of course is no big deal, but having spent my life in what was at that time the very white-centric suburbs of Charlotte N.C., it was indeed unique. Richard had lots of experience playing in high energy show bands. He could play well, sing back up...fairly well, and lucky for me, get very philosophical. He also stuttered badly when he spoke, and he loved going off on extremely heavy tangents regarding our purpose to entertain, winning over an audience, objecting to being treated as a musician for hire etc...etc... and that lead to many unbearably long evenings as I was his usual roommate. He intensely idolized his previous band’s front man, and told me countless stories of the wisdom and truth he learned from him. It seemed like this guy was Richard’s personal guru. Don’t get me wrong though, I liked Richard very much - he was a great guy - he would just go on and on. And on. Fortunately, he was also into meditation, and while it was a little unnerving to look over and see him in full lotus position flowing with peaceful relaxation at the Holiday Inn, it did afford me some much needed quiet-time.

Another unusual quirk Richard had was an almost forbidden love for his gigantic Akita dog named Sumo. It’s hard to imagine, but if the hotel would allow it, not only would Richard be my roommate, but Sumo would join us on these trips! The only requirement that John had was that if the dog was coming, Richard had to bring his own vehicle that Sumo could ride in, instead of John’s deathtrap of a van. I welcomed this because I could usually ride with Richard and Sumo. While I had to put up with even more hours of Richard’s transcendental ruminations, I was relieved to not be riding in John’s van. Not only did it have a small hole in the gas tank, there were no real seats other than the front two that were always occupied by John and Pam. Just lawn chairs that were in no way bolted to the floor! This wonderful machine also pulled all of our gear (including P.A.) in a trailer, which could make a long journey even more of a white knuckle affair.

I admit that Sumo was a great and well behaved dog, but it took me a while to adjust to the fact that Richard and the dog would actually shower together. Not only would Richard’s electric blow dryer be used to dry and style his hair, it was also used to dry Sumo’s thick coat. You can imagine the surprise many poor hotel maids got when Richard would forget to put up the Do Not Disturb sign! At least this behemoth of a dog was very well groomed.

Did I mention that John and Pam were having a mad affair? Well, they were and to make it even more exciting, Pam was married to John’s cousin, who was a very intimidating, redneck gangster kind of dude. Great. What could possibly go wrong here?

Many things. There must have been some history involving Mike in all of this because I noticed that he seemed to have something personal against Pam. This manifested in some very uncool actions on his part. At times Mike would intentionally sabotage Pam by playing over her vocals, or hitting bad notes on purpose to screw her up. This wasn’t too terribly difficult because she really needed all the planets to align to have better control of her pitch. If an instrument or a vocal was just a tad off, it could easily send her vocals out of control.(This made John obsessive regarding tuning, but more about that later). I could always tell when Pam was having trouble with her vocals because I had the best view on the stage of her backside, and when the notes went south, her ass would start to shake and wiggle in a really weird uptight manner. She would also send John evil, darting glances that hopefully only the band members would notice.

It was good that Mike was leaving the band; his actions against Pam were not only cruel, but it could also affect our livelihood. Richard quickly absorbed all of the material and was ready to take over the main guitar spot, so it was time to say goodbye to Mike, but no one was quite prepared for the colossal bang that he went out on!

It was our last show of the week at a hotel lounge right next to Carowinds Amusement Park directly on the N.C. and S.C. border. It was a Saturday night, and being in South Carolina, that meant a relatively early closing time - clubs that served alcohol were not allowed to sell the evil liquid after midnight on Saturdays. My girlfriend had come to the show that night as did Pam’s husband. Mike was getting pretty hammered as the night went on and his anti-Pam antics were escalating. Not only was he cranking up his guitar to drown her out, he was messing with her vocally, frequently overpowering her by singing either off key, or just downright bellowing his vocal parts. Tension was high and unbearable. As soon as our last set was finished, I grabbed my girlfriend and told her that we needed to get the hell outta there. As we were leaving, something caught my eye. I turned to look and I saw Mike leaning over and speaking to Pam’s husband. Suddenly the now very pissed off husband rose, overturning his table. I heard yelling. I saw a cocktail glass go flying over my head and shatter on one of the club’s walls. I saw Pam crying and running out of the club being followed by her angry husband. That’s all I remember. That was enough. Glad I ducked!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Record Sells!

Weird. Yesterday was one of those strange sort of days that I found myself in a very wonderful and happy mood all day at work. Don’t know exactly what was going on - I still love/hate my job because the work has gotten busier and harder (due to this bizarre resurgence of the vinyl LP), and my poor little paycheck shrinks a little bit every damn day. While LP’s are saving our jobs, the folks that do all of the heavy lifting, receiving, pulling, packing, filing damage claims (LP’s do not travel well) and shipping are not reaping any of the benefits that the extra business is bringing.

It’s frustrating and depressing, but it beats the hell out of not having a job. 250,000 American workers have lost their jobs so far this year. Not a good climate to give the boss an ultimatum. Once I saw the news articles concerning our rapidly tanking economy (thank you very much, Georgie boy!), I suddenly felt a calmness float through my usual angst-filled doom and gloom self. It was liberating. My heart lifted, my brain cleared out and I felt great! WTF?!?

I get the feeling that my boss is setting us up to become the premier vinyl distributor in this country. I do not think this LP thing is just a short-lived trend. A growing number of folks out there are demanding better audio quality in their music. CD’s are indeed slowly dying, but LP sales are rapidly increasing. Stacey has certainly noticed this at Amoeba Records, also.

I’m going to embrace the change. I am not going to worry as much as I have about dreading the day when this 50+ year old guy with no real college education and a bad back has to go looking for a job.

I am going to adapt to the strenuous work. I am going to manage more, lift less. I am going to manage my assistants by cracking the whip and making them either work as hard as I do, or tell them that they will be replaced.

Our warehouse will need to be reconfigured. Dead stock has got to be removed. Dead CD labels must go. Younger and stronger warehouse workers will need to be hired. I will come up with the perfect way LP’s should be boxed.

And then I will go my boss and have a meaningful discussion. See how simple it all is? I am free.