Video Fridays: Dire Straits Didn’t Give A Shit

dire_straitsA few weeks ago, I received an email from Keith, one of my High Fidelity friends. (For a full explanation read my January 2012 post titled I Lived High Fidelity Before High Fidelity Was High Fidelity!. Shorter explanation: Keith’s a longtime friend who, like me, is a music geek.)

Anyway, the email had no subject line, and the entire body of the email consisted of this:

Toro, Toro taxi. See you tomorrow my son.

I’ll pause a minute as folks try to place it…

Ok, so, it’s a line from a song called Skateaway, from the third album, Making Movies, by now-defunct band Dire Straits.

And even though I hadn’t heard the song in years, in fact hadn’t listened to any Dire Straits, except on accident, if it just happened to come on the radio, I recognized the lyric and the song it came from instantly, within seconds of reading it I opened Spotify to intentionally listen to Dire Straits, and I’ve been listening to them off and on ever since.

This morning, I wrote this, in response to Keith’s original email:

Keith, I hold you personally responsible for sending me off on a Dire Straits binge.

Thank you. I haven’t listened to this stuff in years.

Seriously, their first three albums are frickin’ incredible…

(Yes, there’s some great stuff after that, like Telegraph Road, a very Springsteen-ish song from their 4th album, Love Over Gold, and some of the stuff on Brothers In Arms.)

…and I think it’s stunning to think about them in the context of what was going on in music at that time, the late 70s and early 80s, so dominated by punk, post-punk/new wave, etc., and there wasn’t much else out there that sounded like Dire Straits. Maybe Tom Petty and a few others.

Early Dire Straits was like a great early to mid 70s rock and roll band, full of American roots music influences, who stubbornly decided to just keep making great early to mid 70s rock and roll.

And there I was, thinking I was making a keen observation, perhaps even a unique observation, but as I was researching for this post, I came across this in the Wikipedia article for Dire Straits’ 1978 debut album (emphasis in bold added):

In his review for Rolling Stone magazine, Ken Tucker wrote that the band “plays tight, spare mixtures of rock, folk and country music with a serene spirit and witty irony. It’s almost as if they were aware that their forte has nothing to do with what’s currently happening in the industry, but couldn’t care less.

Oh well.

Since this is Video Fridays, this post must include a video, and boy what a video I’ve got for you, nearly an hour and half of early Dire Straits, a 1979 concert that includes songs from their first two albums, tight, clean, rootsy music in a year dominated by wholy different, seminal albums by The Clash, Joy Division, Talking Heads, The Police, Elvis Costello, B-52s, etc., proving that Dire Straits, indeed, didn’t give a shit.

Enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

AbaloneFest 2013: Back, But Not Really

ab

Me on the left, my friend Dennis on the right.

As I mentioned last week, I’ve just been gone on a 5-day road trip to camp, dive for abalone, and to revel around the campfire in that age-old male ritual.

And, while I might physically be back here in Bellingham, the rest of me has not caught up yet. After a combined 1,600 miles of driving, 34 hours on the road, VERY late nights, and sleeping in a tent in the cold, I feel weary to my bones…but filled with epic memories, the warmth of friendships, the gorgeous images of Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, Mt. Shasta, the rolling countryside of Washington, Oregon, and California, the majestic redwood trees, and the rocky Pacific coast.

The weather was absolutely perfect, the water clear and filled with abundant sea life, the abalone plentiful and delicious, and the music around the fire fan-frickin’-tastic!

jam

Best of Fish & Bicycles: AbaloneFest 2011: Of Mollusks and Men

Originally Published: May 4, 2011


If you’d asked me a couple of years ago if I could ever see myself driving over 1,600 miles in one long weekend, from Bellingham, Washington to Mendocino, California and back, so that I could don a full-body wetsuit and snorkel gear and dive into the frigid springtime waters of the Pacific Ocean in search of food, more specifically a mollusk called abalone, that I’d never even seen much less consumed…

…well, I would have said, “That’s just crazy talk!”

And yet, here I am, a few days after having returned from that very adventure — AbaloneFest 2011 — and I can honestly report that it was, indeed, the very best variety of crazy.

A man needs a little madness, or else he never dares cut the rope and be free.

Zorba The Greek

Now, I’m not an adrenaline junkie. That’s right, I’m decidedly NOT one of those guys who feels more alive when I’m doing something that could badly injure or kill me. And yet, at the same time, I do occasionally think that I’m too careful, too addicted to my comfort zone, that I miss out on some fun things, and that I could do a lot of those fun things if I pushed myself a little, worked at those activities, to gain the skills and confidence I need in order to not be so scared of injury or death.

So, that freedom that Zorba talks about, maybe it’s a freedom from fear, maybe it’s that exhilarating feeling of having accomplished something for the first time, perhaps something that you’d never thought you could do.

Not everything about this trip presented risk to life and limb, of course. But being in a car for many, long hours and sleeping in a tent with nighttime temperatures in low 30s are not the most comfortable conditions, and the diving, well, it was scary, I did it anyway, and doing it made me feel alive in an exquisite way.

Middle-aged Man And The Sea

Continue reading

Out of Office: AbaloneFest 2013 Edition

diver

Me, at AbaloneFest 2011

Back in May 2011, I wrote two posts about a journey I took, a journey of discovery, of conquest, and of male bonding. (Post 1, Post 2)

That journey, a guy-only road trip to Mendocino, California to dive for abalone (aka: sea snails), camp, and jam on guitars around a fire was also known as AbaloneFest 2011, the 17th annual occurrence of the event, but my first time in attendance.

Sadly, I had to miss AbFest 2012, but, as you read this, I’m in a car with three Bellingham buddies, tearing down Interstate 5, en route to our first stop in southern Oregon, and then tomorrow our destination.

Needless to say, I could have done without reading this news just a few days ago (via Salon):

Three recreational abalone divers died in separate incidents over the weekend in Northern California, where powerful rip currents were reported…

Deaths from abalone diving are common during the recreational harvesting season. However, three in a single weekend was a shock, even to authorities…

Since the early 1990s, dozens of people have died in their quest to collect the prized sea snails. One diver was decapitated by a shark in Mendocino County in 2004.

I immediately emailed the article to my buddies, and the following exchange happened between me and one friend who happened to pass on going diving the last time:

Me: I might be hanging out with Tom on the beach this weekend.

Tom: Very important job, holding the beach down. I could use some help, thanks!

Me: I’m thinking we need a flask of something to sip on while we’re “holding the beach down.”


And so, I’ll be away from the interwebs at least until I return from AbFest 2013 on Monday, potentially longer if I do decide to dive and something bad happens.

In the meantime, as I’ve done the last few times I’ve been away from the blog, I’ll once again be featuring some older posts of mine, as part of my continuing Best Of Fish & Bicycles series. I’ve selected a post that will appear each day, and I’ll start later today by reposting my piece on AbaloneFest 2011.

Cheers!

The Music Business’ 1%

buskerSo, I saw this headline on PasteMagazine.com, and I was like, “WTF?! This guy is EVERYWHERE right now!”

The CW to Air Justin Timberlake’s Album Release Party

And then I read on, and, yeah, he’s EVERYWHERE right now!

Justin Timberlake, who recently hosted another highly rated SNL episode and is in the middle of his weeklong guest appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, is keeping the TV ball rolling.

According to Deadline, Target will present “The IHeartRadio Album Release Party With Justin Timberlake” on the CW.

The special will be an hour-long TV event including performances and interviews with Timberlake in an effort to promote his upcoming album, The 20/20 Experience.

Now, usually when I think about economic inequality I think of corporations and corporate executives as the overly-privileged 1%.

Yet, even though it’s always been the case that a relatively select few musical artists rise to the level of superstar, it didn’t really hit me until just now the extent to which the current state of the music business resembles the 1% vs. 99% economic inequality problem.

99% of musical artists either don’t make a living from the music they make, barely get by on the music they make, or struggle to sustain any ounce of success they do manage to achieve, often slipping back down the ladder or giving up on music entirely, and they all work their asses off!

Enter Justin Timberlake, who is already a mega-mega-megastar, many, many, many times over a millionaire, and when he comes out with a new album, he’s automatically gonna make many, many, many more millions by merely releasing the album on iTunes, Amazon, etc. and circulating a press release to announce its arrival.

But no, that’s not enough. He gets to appear on Saturday Night Live and has a week-long residency on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and an hour-long infomercial!

Meanwhile, a good friend of mine, like millions of other musicians, is straining his marriage and his family’s expenses to pull off a brief regional tour of tiny, tiny venues in order to promote his album, with absolutely no support from a record company. He will likely spend more money on transportation, lodging, food and other expenses than he’ll make at the gigs, all in the hope that people will like his music and maybe, just maybe, buy his album and spread his name around, and it breaks my heart that, in the vast, vast majority of cases, not even that will happen.

It’s ridiculously unfair and it pisses me off!

(Disclaimer: Yes, I know that this is also the case for the arts in general, and the same could be said for athletics as well, but since I’m a musician, this is what struck me today.)

What I Did Saturday Night

So, I’ve mentioned numerous times that I play guitar and sing in a Rock & Roll band, and once I even provided a link to my band’s Facebook Page: Bakertown

But, I’ve never provided any visual proof here at Fish & Bicycles, so this is what I did this past Saturday night:

bakertown-main-st

Those are my friends, John on the far left, Tim on the drums, and Dave on the bass. (Sadly, Richard the keyboard player is just out of frame on the right.)

Another thing you can’t see in the photo is the throng of dancing people right in front of us, and that’s the best part of the whole story. There is absolutely nothing more thrilling, in my experience, than to be on stage rockin’ out, while an appreciative, gyrating crowd is grooving to the music you’re playing.

I can’t wait for the next gig!

Video Fridays: The Eagles

eaglesThis week’s Video Fridays installment is very much a companion piece to last week’s.

Like the music of the Steve Miller Band, mentioned a week ago, The Eagles, in my opinion, suffered severely from being overplayed on the radio.

If, like me, you ever lived in southern California (Los Angeles, 1988-1993), this effect was amplified to such an extent that my feelings toward The Eagles eventually came to resemble those of The Dude’s, from The Big Lebowski (warning, multiple F-Bombs):

So, you can imagine my reaction when several of the guys in my band suggested that we play an Eagles song.

Now, I believe in democracy, I was outvoted, and it was more important to me to keep my bandmates happy than to be stubborn about one song…

…and, it turns out, the song is good, clean, rockin’ fun!

Already Gone, from 1974 is mostly a three-chord workout, screaming out for some creamy tube amp overdrive, and I just can’t help getting swept up by it.

Who woulda thunk it?

Here’s The Eagles from the year it came out, playing before 300,000 people at the California Jam music festival.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Happy Beatles Rooftop Concert Anniversary Day!

beatles-rooftopRemember those friends of mine I’ve written about twice before (here and here), my buddies from high school and college back in New Jersey who share my deep obsession with music?

Well, two days ago one of those friends messaged this to me on Facebook:

Keith: This Wednesday will be the 44th anniversary of the Beatles rooftop concert. Time for a F&B post if you ask me.

Much to my great shame, I admit here and now, in full view of the public, the date had slipped my mind.

So, I responded to my friend, and the following exchange occurred:

Me: Brilliant idea! Thanks for the tip! Still one of the greatest performances…EVER!

Keith: When I get my hands on a time machine, I’ll save you a seat. First stop Abbey Road, January 30, 1969.

Me: I’m SO there. Top five time machine destinations, for sure!

Especially telling, revealing the level of obsession and devotion to the music and it’s many trivial details, this was not to be the 40th anniversary or 50th or even 45th. No, Keith felt it was important and blogworthy that this will mark 44 years since the Beatles, in the midst of recording and filming Let It Be, performed a surprise 42-minute show on a rooftop in London, January 30, 1969. (For details, check out this great fanpage, full of juicy details and quotes concerning the event, including the reveal that Keith got the location wrong. The concert was performed on the rooftop of the Apple Records building, not the Abbey Road Studios building.)

Anyway, here we are! It’s Beatles Rooftop Concert Anniversary Day, and it is, indeed, a day to celebrate, for it WAS one of the greatest performances ever, great for the music as well as the gimmick, and I stand by my conviction that, should a time machine make itself available to me, one of my first stops WILL be that rooftop, on that day, 44 years ago.

By way of celebrating, here’s some video from that hallowed day:

…Oops!!! Sorry, that wasn’t The Beatles, that was a Japanese Beatles tribute band band called The Beans! (I knew something was wrong when I noticed the guy playing Paul McCartney was playing righty, when Paul’s a lefty, and, of course, the guy playing Billy Preston isn’t black.)

Let’s try this again.

By way of celebrating, here’s some video from that hallowed day:
(Note: The video and audio are out of sync, this is only part of the show, and it will probably be removed from YouTube for copyright reasons, but it’s still an amazing document.)

Video Fridays: Benjie Howard’s Latest

benjieI’ve written twice before about my friend, singer/songwriter Benjie Howard, once at the completion of his new album, Secrets Like Bones, then again, when the album became available for purchase online: iTunes, Amazon.

Benjie’s, been out doing shows, promoting Secrets Like Bones, and, shout out to all you Bellinghamsters out there, Benjie and Gentri Watson are playing in town this week:

When: Wednesday, January 30th, 9:30pm
Where: The Green Frog, 1015 N. State Street

Additionally, here’s a new video that Benjie’s just released, a song, Arizona, performed here in collaboration with his New Wilderness Project partners, Maketa Wilborn (percussion) and Wade Colwell-Sandoval (vocals).

In keeping with the New Wilderness Project’s social justice mission, to quote Benjie, “This song…speaks to the crazy injustice that has been and continues to be perpetrated in that state.”

Have a good weekend, everyone, anda locals, go and see Benjie on Wednesday if you can.

Video Fridays: It’s A Wonderful Life

It's a Wonderful LifeSo, the family and I watched It’s A Wonderful Life last weekend, and I continue to be amazed at how much this film has stuck with me over the years, how meaningful it is to me, and how it never fails, no matter how many times I watch it, to move me to tears.

And I really think you have to be horribly cynical to write the movie off as overly sentimental Norman Rockwell-ish kitsch Americana, as some unfortunately do.

Sure, there’s a thread of post-WWII triumphalism, but focusing on that is missing the forest for the trees.

I LOVE the unapologetic romanticism in It’s A Wonderful Life, from kiddie Mary Hatch’s secret declaration that she’ll love George Bailey until the day she dies and George’s offer to lasso the moon so that Mary can swallow it, and it would all dissolve, and the moonbeams would shoot out of her fingers and toes and the ends of her hair, to George’s plea on that snowy bridge, that he didn’t care what happened to him, if only he could get back to his wife and kids.

In a way, you could say that the country needed this giant expression of the power of love after having been through the nightmare of war.

On a more personal level, I actually didn’t see the movie until I was in college, and I related strongly to George’s central challenge: wanting since he was a kid to escape the confines of a small town, to see the world and do big, important things with his life, while one obstacle after another thwarted his dreams.

I remember being rather lost at the time, not enjoying school, not sure what I wanted to major in or do with my life, fairly common young adult angst, but it was somehow isolating. And so, George’s story broke through that isolation, helping me feel ok about wanting those things and justifying my struggle with not being able to manifest them.

Choosing just one scene for this Video Fridays installment, was difficult, but ultimately I chose the ending, because one of the only things that has ever gotten me through difficult times was experiencing the truth of the note to George that Clarence the angel wrote in the copy of The Adventures of Tom
Sawyer
that he left behind, and I paraphrase: no man is a failure who has family and friends.

Happy Weekend, everyone!