Digging for Gold and Getting Dirty Fingers

I listened to a podcast of an interview with Glen Hansard of The Frames (backstage at the Austin City Limits festival that I attended in September) where he was asked what was on his Ipod. He said a few very interesting things. The first thing he said was, “no one will top Pink Floyd as a band.” I tend to agree. Roger Waters has put out some amazing music over the years, and I’m partial to Floyd with Rog, but David Gilmour is pretty impressive. The way they made music can’t be duplicated except by themselves, I guess that’s why no one has tried.
He goes on to say that he listens to Radiohead the most. He says that a band like Radiohead is searching, and that they are bored enough to be digging and digging. He describes Thom York as digging through the mud and finding Pyramid Song. Then he says bands like Keane and Coldplay take that gold that Radiohead dug up and make wonderful music with it, but emphasizes that Radiohead got its hands dirty. “They dug for gold and got dirty fingers, and a bunch of other bands are wearing the gold and their fingers are clean” was the exact quote after mentioning Coldplay and Keane. I think it’s pretty accurate. He also describes them as avante garde. He goes on to explain that in the battlefield the avant garde or vanguard soldiers went into battle knowing they were going to die. They were the frontline running towards the bullets spitting and screaming, the last man standing would plant the flag before he was killed and the rest of the army would know they could advance to the flag. He describes Radiohead as destroying their career experimenting to pave the way for hundreds of other bands.
I’ve often been heard saying, “I appreciate them as an influence, but I can’t get into their music.” I’ve never said this about Radiohead, but I’ve said it about Sex Pistols and Lou Reed and Grateful Dead.
Also in the interview Hansard is asked who his favorite songwriter is. He says there’s a trinity of songwriters for him. Dylan, he’s the actor wearing the mask. Leonard Cohen, he’s the poet. And Van Morrison, he’s the bull, the emotion. A fascinating interview from a fascinating time.

Destined for Cancellation


Love Monkey. The pilot was on last night. If you’ve watched CBS at all for the last couple of weeks, you know what Love Monkey is all about. It’s a Dramedy starring Tom Cavanaugh. You might remember him as “Ed” or as “Dan Dorian” on Scrubs. He teams up with a nice ensemble cast to play a music business guy who loves music. Much like his character on “Ed”, he’s a little idealistic. I watched it and I liked it. The reason I use the title of “Destined for Cancellation” is because shows that I tend to like tend to not make it. I mention “Ed”, perhaps one of the best shows on TV a few years back. “Sports Night” an Aaron Sorkin creation about a Sportscenter type show. “West Wing”, yes it’s still on TV, but every year people talk about it being horrible, though I still love it. Another great show was “Northern Exposure.”
Riche and I had a sort of game that started with him pointing out actors on other shows or movies that were in “Band of Brothers” by saying “Band of Brothers.” I would say “West Wing” if I saw a minor cast member or guest star in another show. Perhaps one of the best was while watching “Catch Me If You Can” and saying that Martin Sheen was in “West Wing.” We’re both TV and movie geeks, so it doesn’t take much…
With Love Monkey, we know that Tom Cavanaugh (also a producer of the show) isn’t doing to bad after Ed, here’s a look at a few other members of the “Ed” cast.

+ “Carol Vessey” aka Julie Bowen. She’s recently popped up as Jack’s ex-wife on “Lost”
+ “Mike Burton” aka Josh Randall. He’s been all over the place lately. He played Nathan on “Lost” who was mistaken for one of “the Others.” He played until recently Eliot’s boyfriend on “Scrubs” and now is in the sneaks for Jenna Elfman’s new show.
+ “Warren Cheswick” aka Justin Long. He was in Dodgeball and deleted out of Anchorman.
+ “Diane Snyder” aka Ginnifer Goodwin played Vivian Cash in Walk the Line.
+ “Stella Vessey” aka Nicki Aycox. She played a pretty minor character in Ed, but very memorable. She’s been on Cold Case lately.

Curt Flood Day

Anyone know who Curt Flood was? I’ll give you a hint; he was the first free agent in Major League Baseball. Okay, that may not be altogether accurate, but close enough to talk about. In 1970, on January 16th (Today’s Date), he won an antitrust lawsuit against major league baseball paving the way for free agency. You may or may not like free agency in sports, you may not like having to read through the roster of your favorite team every year to determine who plays for them now or who moved on, but I assure you it is better than it used to be. In the old days, before Curt Flood, baseball players were required to play for the team that signed them into the league unless they were traded or retired. This meant if you signed a three year contract, at the end of the three years, if you wanted to still play, you’d have to sign a contract with the same team. Curt Flood was traded by the Cardinals to the Phillies. Well, the Cardinals were coming off of a couple of World Series Titles (Lou Brock, Orlando Cepeda, Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton), but off of a tough loss that a lot of people pinned on Flood. The Phillies on the other hand were horrible, played in a horrible stadium, in front of horrible racist crowds. Sorry, Philly, but it’s the darkness of the sixties and seventies, deal with it. Flood wrote a nice letter to the commissioner of MLB pleading his case (I recently viewed the letter at a Cooperstown exhibit at the Museum of California in Oakland) , but the commissioner didn’t give him freedom, so he filed the lawsuit. He lost the lawsuit and went on to gain free agency by sitting out the 1971 season and then played for the Washington Senators coached by Ted Williams. When he arrived in the locker room there was a funeral wreath on his locker and he never played very well, at the time many players despised him, but now he is revered as a pioneer. He retired just 13 games into that season. His numbers before the dispute were on track for the Hall of Fame, but he never was inducted. It’s a shame that only the historic letter is in the hall that is so important to all professional athletes in today’s era.

Throwaway Song

First my definition: A throwaway song is a song that a band or musician doesn’t finish, but puts it on their album to fill a track. A lot of throwaway songs come out as the B-sides of singles (do people still release singles? more importantly, do people still buy singles?). U2 are kind of notorious for their throwaway songs. They’ve put them on albums, they’ve released them as B-sides, they’ve turned them into hits. I made a statement at one point that I was recently reminded of. I called “Crumbs From Your Table” a throwaway song, when I first listened to Dismantle. I’m revising my stance. It’s a good song; it’s about hunger, poverty, disease, etc.

Crumbs From Your Table – U2

From the brightest star
Comes the blackest hole
You had so much to offer
Why did you offer your soul?

I was there for you baby
When you needed my help
Would you deny for others
What you demand for yourself?

Cool down mama, cool off
Cool down mama, cool off

You speak of signs and wonders
I need something other
I would believe if I was able
But I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table

You were pretty as a picture
It was all there to see
Then your face caught up with your psychology
With a mouth full of teeth
You ate all your friends
And you broke every heart thinking every heart mends

You speak of signs and wonders
But I need something other
I would believe if I was able
But I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table

Where you live should not decide
Whether you live or whether you die
Three to a bed
Sister Ann, she said
Dignity passes by

And you speak of signs and wonders
But I need something other
I would believe if I was able
I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table

It Came to Mind

Fisherman’s Daughter – Daniel Lanois

I laid awake a whole night long,
waiting for the sun to beat down on my head
in this broken bed
I laid awake and dreamt of ships
passing through night,
searching for shelter,
stopping at no harbor

I heard the screaming waters
call sixty sailors’ names
Raging words, pounding on the sail
like an angry whaleI felt the iron rudder skip
the smell of seeping oil,
the heat of slipping rope.
Failing hands, failing hope

Every sailor asks…
asks the question about the cargo
he is carrying

God’s anger broke through the clouds
and He spilt the cargo for all to see -The fault of the sailor,
the fault of he who asks no questions
about the cargo he is carrying

Fishes and tales and a fisherman’s daughter
walks in the rain, she walks to the water
to the sea…

1989

It was a year that ended the 80’s and rolled into the 90’s. It was the year that the music world changed forever…

It was a year that pop music ruled. Here’s a review of the Billboard chart from 1989…

1. Look Away – Chicago
2. My Prerogative – Bobby Brown
3. Every Rose Has It’s Thorn – Poison
4. Straight Up – Paula Abdul
5. Miss You Much – Janet Jackson
6. Cold Hearted – Paula Abdul
7. Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Midler
8. Girl You Know It’s True – Milli Vanilli
9. Baby I Love Your Way / Freebird Medley – Will to Power
10. Giving You The Best… – Anita Baker

Now, the album “Forever Your Girl” by Paula Abdul was released in 1988, as was Bobby Brown’s “Don’t Be Cruel” and Poison’s “Open Up and Say…Ahh”. But that is not the point I’m making…

You may ask yourself, what is the point you are making?

The late 80’s and early 90’s were a haven for singles. No, not unmarried people, but for radio songs. How did this lead to the music world changing forever? Well, talented and gifted musicians created some really great music that the music industry couldn’t put on the radio, dubbing it Alternative music. Now, there was already a bustling underground “Alternative Music” scene in the 80’s but you can’t look past 1989 when writing the history of music. Here’s a little bit of what I’m talking about…

Nirvana released the first ‘album’ with “Bleach.”
Red Hot Chili Peppers released “Mother’s Milk.”
The Cure released “Disintegration.”
Faith No More released “The Real Thing.”
Guns N Roses released a stripped down “G’NR Lies.”
A little unknown band thought they would mix country with folk and rock and the Jayhawks released “Blue Earth” many consider it the birth of alt-country.
Nine Inch Nails released “Pretty Hate Machine.”
They Might Be Giants released “Lincoln”

I’d like to be able to say that I knew what was going on in 89, but I didn’t. I had some Faith No More because it was like nothing I’d ever heard. I was big into U2 by 89 and was still collecting the singles they were releasing from Rattle and Hum. But remember, this was before downloading music, CD’s were just starting to catch on, 970 the Beat (not FM 107.5!!) hadn’t launched yet to give these people their shot at being heard.

Bob Dylan responded to the Pop Music boom by releasing “Oh Mercy” produced by Daniel Lanois who released “Acadie.” Tom Petty released “Full Moon Fever,” Don Henley released “The End of the Innocence.”

The Ghost of Richard Hugo

Somewhere in the 440 pounds of stuff I own that is somewhere between Seattle, Washington and Sacramento, California is a book. Many books actually, but the book that got on my mind today is The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo. Richard Hugo was a poet who was part of a school of writers that put Montana on the map for creative writing. His poetry focused on the normal, the mundane of life, one of his ideas was what is normal and mundane to you could be fascinating to him. He once said, “Never write a poem about anything that ought to have a poem written about it.” He died too young at 58 but wrote this very influential book about writing while he was a professor at Montana. He suggested starting with a town; your town, my town, her town, his town…any town. Something about that town makes it unique and something about that town inspires (or triggers, as he suggests) a story or a poem or a song to come out of a writer’s mind. So I don’t know where my town is, I don’t know where the trigger is, but I thought of it today reading city names in the Bay Area. Sunol, Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore, Emeryville, Santa Cruz, and the list goes on, images come to mind with every town/city. Maybe it’s time to start writing again.
The trigger doesn’t have to be town, if you’ve got a few minutes, read this interview with Matthew Ryan. His triggers seem to be pretty normal too as he mentions the rain storm outside.

Songs rattling on the IPod today:

Me and My Lover – Matthew Ryan
Turn Around – Whiskeytown
Flame Turns Blue – David Gray
Can’t Stop Now – Keane
Fruits of My Labor – Lucinda Williams
A Long December – Counting Crows
My Favorite Chords – The Weakerthans
Levity – F/Stop
Breathe Easy – Minibar

I’m working on a year end list of bests.