Video Fridays: Belated R.I.P. Chris Squier

chris-squierI’m WAY late in acknowledging the passing of a monster bass guitar player, the now-late, great Chris Squier of the band Yes.

I don’t love all prog rock, and I don’t even love all Yes music, but the Yes music that I do love has stuck with me for nearly 40 years, via powerful memories of songs like Yours Is No Disgrace, Starship Trooper, I’ve Seen All Good People, Roundabout, Long Distance Runaround, Close To The Edge, and And You And I getting regular airplay in the 1970s, and then, once I bought the albums, regular airplay at home, where I was entranced by what sounded like Classical music being played with Rock&Roll instruments and Rock&Roll sensibilities.

As The New York Times‘ Peter Catapano declared in his wonderful eulogy, of all the members in the band, Chris Squier Made Prog Rock Rock:

Squire, who was well known for being the band wild man, was a virtuoso of sorts who also poured a Stones-like street fighting spirit into Yes’s ethereal music, and saved many a song from descending into Hobbit-land (being human, he wasn’t always successful). Out of the mist of organ tones and castrati vocals would come a growl, disconcerting, oh-so-low, almost too low to be music, a primordial beast raising itself from the mud with a giant yawn. It was impolite, indelicate, wrong, and soon to be funky.

Indeed. Like I said. A monster bass player.

It took me no time to decide what song I would feature in this Video Fridays installment, as a testament to Chris Squier’s artistry and bad ass-ry, the first song I always think of when I think of him, Heart Of The Sunrise from the 1971 Yes album Fragile.

The song kicks off with a quintessentially wicked-fast Squire bass line, which it comes back to several times, the intro moves into a lush, slower, synth-drenched segment with seriously funky Squier bass, and there’s just wonderful bass throughout the whole song.

R.I.P., Chris, and thank you SO much for all of the wonderful music you left behind.

Video Fridays: Marriage Equality Edition

marriage-equalityThe news this morning, that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states can no longer deny same-sex couples the right to marry is a major breakthrough for justice and civil rights.

We still have VERY far to go, so many areas where inequality — racial, gender, age, ability, economic, etc. — remains, here in the U.S. and around the globe, and yet today’s victory feels particularly poignant.

After all, as one of the catch phrases of the marriage equality movement points out:

Love is Love

I’m still one of those dreamers, though not the only one, who truly believes that All You Need Is Love, and we need LOTS more love to overcome the remaining inequality challenges, to end violence and war, to save the planet from global climate change.

Let all people love each other and make lifelong commitments to each other and tell me how that can have any other effect than to heal the world?!

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Video Fridays: Father’s Day Weekend Edition

Me & Julian, Father's Day, 2013
Me & Julian, Father’s Day, 2013
Since I likely won’t be able to post anything on Father’s Day this Sunday, and since my son, Julian, is now 17-1/2 years old and his days in the nest are painfully dwindling away, I thought I would dedicate today’s Video Fridays installment to him, for I wouldn’t be a father if he hadn’t come along.

Today’s video, Ben FoldsStill Fighting It, featuring touching homemade-movie-esque footage of Ben and his son Louis, and lyrics about the experience of fatherhood, on one hand, and growing up, on the other, never fails to choke me up.

The song was released in 2001, when my son was about the same age as Louis, and as much as I’ve loved and cherished some aspect of every age Julian has attained, there was something particularly special about that age, when walking wasn’t so new and treacherous, when verbal communication was beginning to get easier thanks to a growing vocabulary, when the innocence and infinite sense of wonder of childhood was in full bloom, when playing was so much damned fun, and when simply holding hands as we strolled in public felt like I had an umbilical cord connecting me to an infinite pool of love.

Being a parent is an experience of extremes. There’s the infinite pool of love and the unbridled joy of play, but there’s also the anxiety concerning the future, the fear of terrible things happening to your child, the frustration when your child has the gall (wink) to remind you that they are an actual person, with the right to self-determination, the pain you feel when they feel pain, the excruciating guilt you feel for the mistakes you’ve made raising them, particularly when they pick up any bad habits that you have been unintentionally modeling for them, and the emptiness at the thought of them one day flying the coop.

Ben Folds captures this all so perfectly:

Everybody knows
It hurts to grow up
And everybody does
It’s so weird to be back here
Let me tell you what
The years go on and
We’re still fighting it, we’re still fighting it
And you’re so much like me
I’m sorry…

It was pain
Sunny days and rain
I knew you’d feel the same things…

You’ll try and try and one day you’ll fly
Away from me

Somebody get me a hanky, stat!

Anyway, it might seem that that list I wrote above, of the goods and the not-so-goods, suggests that the not-so-goods far outweigh the goods, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

When you love someone as deeply as you love your child, you never, EVER see it that way, you would NEVER prefer the alternative — losing your child, or not ever having had a child. You just hope that the Buddhists are right, that if we practice mindfulness awareness we can be totally present for them despite our fears, and if we practice non-attachment we can celebrate their departure when they come of age, feeling satisfied and sustained by all of the years of glorious memories, and excitement for the possibilities that life will present to them.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Vinyl Records Are Magic!

recordplayerWAY back in December 2009, in a post titled Nostalgia: Vinyl Records Edition, I wrote about a trip with my son to a local eatery, an eatery known as much for their Russian dumplings as they are for the record player and vast vinyl record collection they have in the main seating area, available for use by customers.

In that post, and in a subsequent follow-up titled Vinyl Update, a year later, I described how my son, 12-13 years old at the time, discovered the joy — dare I say magic? — of vinyl records at that restaurant, and then at home, when I purchased a used turntable and dusted off my collection of 200 or so LPs.

Well, it seems I’m not alone in finding vinyl record technology to be magical.

Casey Chan, over at Gizmodo.com, in a post yesterday on this subject, wrote:

I don’t care that I supposedly understand how vinyl records work because I still totally think they’re the work of at least some low level sorcery. Trapping sound and music and voices? Come on!

Sorcery indeed! I mean, just look at this GIF footage of a record player’s stylus traveling through the groove in a vinyl record, as seen through an electron microscope:

vinyl-at-work

What the what?! That makes music come out of a speaker, filled with instruments and voices, melodies and rhythms?

That’s some crazy magic!

Casey also includes a 9+ minute video that explains how the footage was shot and how vinyl record technology works, you can watch it if you want, but I chose not to, agreeing with Gizmodo reader JoshMC in the comments section:

Don’t anyone try and explain it, it’s all magic to me. Dark sorcery? Yeah…

Video Fridays: Monty Python & The Holy Grail

monty-python-grailIn the early days of my Video Fridays series, I was apologetic about posting Monty Python clips so often.

But then, a funny thing happened, not ha-ha funny, but odd-that funny: I haven’t posted a Python clip since September 2012.

What the what?! That’s crazy! This must be rectal … I mean … um … rectified!

And so it shall be.

Back in April, a longtime friend from our days growing up in New Jersey emailed me and the rest of our Jersey gang, he’s a member of the Writers Guild of America, the Guild is compiling a list of the 101 Funniest Screenplays, and he asked us to name our suggestions, hoping we might trigger some memories of movies that he had overlooked, and, without hesitation, the very first movie that I named was Monty Python & The Holy Grail.

Comedy is an amalgam of various elements, chief amongst them are physical gestures, writing and/or improvisation, and the timing of the delivery of written or improvised lines, and it seems to me that the measure of a great screenplay is how quotable the writing is, and I while I can certainly think of other quotable comedies, I have personally quoted Monty Python & The Holy Grail FAR more often, by magnitudes, than any other movie, comedy or otherwise.

From the following scene alone, the famous Killer Bunny scene, the number of lines that I have committed to memory and have recited in social interactions are too numerous to estimate accurately.

And so, presented now for your enjoyment, the Killer Bunny scene in all its glory … um … any moment now … on a count of three, no more, no less, three shalt be the number I shalt count, and the number of the counting shalt be three. Four shalt I not count, neither shalt I count two, excepting that I then proceed to three. Five is right out! Once the number three, being the third number, be reached then shalt thou click the Holy Play Button, so that thou canst view the video presentation.

Here we go … ready? … one, two, five … no, three!!!

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Video Fridays: Welcome to Late Night TV, Jon Batiste!

Jonathan Batiste and Stay HumanThere are traditionally, with a few exceptions, three primary personality roles in the late night talk show format: Host, Sidekick, and Bandleader.

Sometimes there’s a sidekick and a bandleader, like Ed McMahon & Doc Severinsen, from the Johnny Carson era Tonight Show; Conan O’Brien‘s Andy Richter & Max Weinberg; or Steve Higgins and Questlove, from Jimmy Fallon‘s Late Night and Tonight Show, but sometimes the bandleader is also the sidekick, like Paul Shaffer from David Letterman‘s Late Night and The Late Show, and Fred Armisen from the Seth Meyers incarnation of Late Night.

However these duties are allocated, it is an enduring formula for sure, and hosts, sidekicks, and bandleaders are high-profile gigs that, for many who have held these positions, marked career peaks.

With the departure of Late Show host David Letterman, we’ve known for over a year now that Dave would be replaced as host by former Colbert Report star Stephen Colbert, but today it was announced that Paul Shaffer’s replacement as bandleader will be…

…um, who the HELL is Jon Batiste?!

Embarrassingly, before today, I’d never heard of Mr. Batiste: embarrassing, because he’s a Julliard-trained member of a distinguished New Orleans musical family, and his music, a typically bluesy-funky New Orleans-style jazz, is something I enjoy VERY much.

It’s a huge boost in exposure for someone who has already garnered considerable critical acclaim, and the only downside is that Jon Batiste and his band, Stay Human, will be on The Late Show at the same time as The Roots are on the Tonight Show, forcing viewers to choose one over the other … or DVR one or the other on a regular basis.

I can’t embed it here, but Batiste’s appearance on The Colbert Report gives a nice preview of the chemistry they have together, and the videos I do have here, for this week’s Video Fridays installment, include today’s announcement, and a clip of a Jon Batiste & Stay Human performance that is guaranteed to get you excited that they will be on TV on a VERY regular basis starting in September.

Enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Video Fridays: Double Hit of Rickenbacker 12-String Cover Song Goodness

rickI’m pretty confident in guessing that most guitar players who have stuck with the instrument for a number of years have at least tried playing a 12-string guitar, and from my experience as a guitarist, and from chatting with fellow guitarists for nearly 30 years, it is VERY common for said guitarists, myself included, to have purchased a 12-string guitar, only to sell it not long after, once we realize that it is pretty much a one-trick pony.

It’s a strange musical phenomenon, really. There are numerous unquestionably iconic songs, in folk, blues, and rock music, that feature the 12-string, either acoustic or electric, yet VERY few artists specialize in 12-string, and even if they do they eventually move on, either abandoning the 12-string altogether or featuring it in only a relative few songs in their repertoire.

The reason: A 12-string guitar almost always sounds exactly the same, lush and jangly, and VERY few musicians want every song to have that sound in it.

It almost seems unfair. How can something so pleasing become tiresome so quickly? Well, listen to more than three songs featuring the 12-string guitar in a row and you’ll get it.

That said, in small doses, the 12-string — especially, to my ears, the king of the electric 12-string, the Rickenbacker — is hypnotically beautiful, and so this week’s Video Fridays installment brings you a couple of mighty fine examples.

First up, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers do their version of a song, So You Want To Be A Rock & Roll Star, by The Byrds, THE band most associated with the 12-string electric guitar. Their earlier music, before they went Country, is likely the longest stretch of 12-string-centric music ever recorded.

The next clip features Matthew Sweet and John Hiatt covering a wonderful, underrated early Beatles song, composed by George Harrison: If I Needed Someone.

Enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!