Video Fridays: R.I.P. Paul Kantner

Airplane's Paul Kantner At Altamont

Wow, January’s been one helluva month for deaths of musicians and entertainers that I’ve admired, so much so that I haven’t been able to keep up and post my reactions.

I managed to mark the passing of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, but then came Glenn Frey of the The Eagles (not someone I was a big fan of, but a ubiquitous figure who inspired a lot of people to listen to and make music); the lovable actor Abe Vigoda (this time, for sure), cuz face it, who didn’t love him as Fish?; and now, sadly…

Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane/Starship fame.

Kanter, and Jefferson Airplane more generally, were — along with other favorites of mine, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and others — part of the extraordinary late 1960s San Francisco music scene, a scene that produced music of incredibly raw, wild, psychedelic power, thoroughly reflective of the explosive counterculture of the period.

Kanter was an archetypal rhythm guitarist, eschewing the spotlight that lead guitar players naturally attract in favor of playing an essential supportive role. Indeed he, along with a handful of other players, were my inspiration for becoming a rhythm guitarist myself.

One of the first vinyl LP records that I ever owned was the 1970 compilation, with its wonderfully ironic title, The Worst of the Jefferson Airplane, given to me in the mid 1970s by a cousin determined to rescue me from Top 40 music.

Though I listened to the album when I got it, the rescue ended up taking a few years. Eventually, after revisiting the record several years later, it was obvious just how fantastic the music was and how much better it was, by magnitudes, in comparison to most of what was popular at that time.

So, thanks, Paul Kantner, for all of the amazing music, for inspiring me as a musician, and for singing about revolution, still relevant to me today, as the candidate I’m supporting for President of the United States is calling for a non-violent political revolution.

Bernie Sanders’ Non-Promise Promise

Bernie Sanders

Campaign promises are like helium balloons. They’re big, full of gas, and once the party is over, they’re absolutely useless.

Susan Gale

To be fair, it’s very difficult to nail down exactly what constitutes a campaign promise and what does not.

Certainly, it’s a candidate’s job to articulate what policies they propose and will pursue if elected, but VERY rarely do they use the phrase “I promise”, especially in the post-“Read my lips: no new taxes!” era and in these days of the viral interwebs.

Still, this doesn’t stop journalists and pundits and opposition campaign staff from wielding the word “promise” with abandon, hoping to nail someone for breaking their word.

Just googling around briefly before writing this, I found numerous articles with “[candidate] promises” in the headline, and when I read through the articles there is no actual promise to be found.

Certainly, promises can be implied, as it is with the use of the phrase “we will” (rather than “we might” or “we will try to”) in this example, from the candidate to whom I have pledged my support:

“This type of rigged economy is not what America is supposed to be about. This has got to change and, as your president, together we will change it.”

Bernie Sanders

Now THAT is a skillful promise, not suggesting he’ll do it all by himself, but rather making it clear that he needs help.

Indeed, Bernie is the only candidate who has actually declared that, if elected, he will not be able to change a damn thing, a non-promise promise, if you will, a promise that sounds ludicrous coming from a candidate for President of the United States of America … unless you listen to exactly what he said, in context.

This video of Bernie Sanders making his non-promise promise has already been widely seen, it’s very likely the shortest video clip I’ve ever posted, but it may be the truest message I’ve ever posted, more than justifying the choice.

 

Video Fridays: David Bowie

david-bowieSince I learned of David Bowie‘s passing earlier this week, besides writing an obituary post for him, I’ve been, naturally, listening to a lot of his music.

I started with and keep coming back to his last album, Blackstar, released just a few days before he died.

After my first time through the album, an admittedly less than focused listen, I didn’t quite know what to make of it, or whether or not I liked it much.

Some music, when I first hear it, I love it instantly, but some, arguably the best music, demands that you listen more closely, repeatedly, so as to unlock its secrets.

Now, having given Blackstar the time it deserves, I can honestly say that it is extraordinary; alternately haunting and beautiful and mostly both at the same time, especially when you consider that Bowie was dying when he made it and is gone now.

Additionally, songs like ‘Tis A Pity She’s A Whore and Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime) bring to mind Bowie’s edgier side, replete with raw, uncensored scenes from the darker corners of life.

Since it came out, I’d heard about the following selection for this week’s Video Fridays installment, the video for the Blackstar track Lazarus, I heard it was rather creepy, but I was hesitant to watch it, because I tend to avoid creepy things.

Anyway, now I have watched it, and it has shaken me, as of course it was intended to, as of course it should. And yet, it’s achingly moving and beautiful.

It is classic Bowie. Brave and unique.

Tweet of the Day: #RIPAlanRickman

Tough, tough week. First David Bowie, now Alan Rickman.

I’m sorry, Alan, that I’m unable to muster the time today to honor you as much as I would prefer, as much as you deserve.

All I have time to say is that I loved your work, from the first time I saw you in the 1991 film Truly, Madly, Deeply, through Sense & Sensibility, Galaxy Quest, the Harry Potter films, of course, Love Actually and Bottle Shock, just to name a few.

You always rang true, regularly stole scenes, showed us the human flaws in the villains you played, and did it all with panache.

Rest in peace Alan, and thanks for the memories.

R.I.P., David Bowie: A Delayed Reaction

david-bowieOk, folks. This post really IS about the death of David Bowie, but I hope you’ll indulge my taking a scenic, time machine route to his obituary.

On a hot Los Angeles, California summer night, July 10, 1989, having just read the New York Times obituary for the famous voice of Bugs Bunny and other Warner Bros. and Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters, I emerged from my room in the 3-bedroom apartment I shared with my two longest-standing friends from back in New Jersey, slowly walked down the hallway, through the living room, and into the dining area, where my friends Mike & Keith were seated, and the following, two-line exchange happened:

Me: I can’t believe Mel Blanc is gone.

Keith: I can’t believe he was here.

Ever since, for over 25 years, whenever someone dies who inspired, influenced, entertained, or was otherwise meaningful to us, either by email or text one of us sends the first line of that dialogue, and it’s a race to see who will first respond with the second line.

And while it may seem strange to crack a joke upon the loss of someone meaningful to us, it was never a reflection of a lack of caring. We’re from New Jersey. It’s how we deal with loss.

So, what does this have to do David Bowie?

Well, of all the people we have eulogized in this manner, Bowie comes the closest to someone who I really can’t believe was ever here, hence my delayed reaction.

Employing another anecdote, recently a Facebook friend posted this:

OK, been a while since I’ve done one of my random musical questions. This time I want to hear something that you think of as just utterly unique and off the beaten track … stuff where you hear it and just think, “What just happened?”

To me, THAT was David Bowie.

I had that reaction the first time I heard Space Oddity, Fame, or Heroes, or the entire The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars album, and if it wasn’t the entire song, it was specific lyrics:

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through

A small Jean Genie snuck off to the city
Strung out on lasers and slash-back blazers
Ate all your razors while pulling the waiters
Talking ’bout Monroe and walking on Snow White
New York’s a go-go, and everything tastes right

You’ve torn your dress, your face is a mess
You can’t get enough, but enough ain’t the test
You’ve got your transmission and your live wire
You got your cue line and a handful of ludes
You wanna be there when they count up the dudes

… or it was his constantly shifting appearance:

Bowie-gif

So yeah, to paraphrase my friend, What the fuck just happened?! This doesn’t sound or look like anything I’ve heard, read, or seen before!

David Bowie was the ultimate artist-musician. I might not have liked everything he did, but I never doubted that he was constantly evolving and striking out for new ground, and his massive success and critical acclaim speak for themselves.

That Bowie accomplished all that while boldly and unapologetically challenging deeply embedded, narrow, and rigid gender identities is nothing short of heroic. He made millions of people feel less alone for not fitting neatly into one of two prevailing and accepted gender stereotypes. An incredible gift.

So, thank you David Bowie, for all of the music and courage. Rest in peace.

 

 

 

Video Fridays: Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real, Keeping It Real

lukas-nelsonWillie Nelson‘s son, Lukas, and his band, Promise Of The Real, have been popping up on my music radar off and on for a few years.

As a longtime admirer of his dad, admittedly his pedigree is a considerable draw for me, but what has stood out every time I’ve come across some news and video clips of Lukas in action is that he is an outstanding artist in his own right, not simply going Country and following in his father’s footsteps, but embracing the electric guitar and heyday Rock & Roll of the late 1960s through the 1970s, and carving out his own path and sound.

Also, if you take some time to browse YouTube, you’ll find that he has impeccable taste in terms of the covers of other artists that he has done over time, paying respect and homage to his elders, to those who blazed the heyday Rock & Roll trail. (Another way Lukas honored his Rock & Roll forebears: this past year he took an extended break from working on his own music to record an album with Neil Young, called The Monsanto Years, and then toured as Neil’s backing band to support the album.)

Regrettably, due to the holidays and all that, it’s been nearly a month since my last Video Fridays installment, so let’s get 2016 started with two from Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real.

The first is his latest, the lead single and title track, Something Real, from what will be his 3rd studio LP, due out March 11th. It is a FANTASTIC early-to-mid 1970s-esque romp, a true promise that real Rock & Roll music is alive and well.

The second, a very tasteful and well-done cover of the Neil Young (mentioned above) classic Cowgirl In The Sand.

Enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Tweet of the Day: #StarWars

star-wars-wineFinally!

A substantive analysis of Star Wars: The Force Awakens!

Also, it points the way to a very real solution for those who disliked the new Star Wars installment but passionately love the franchise.

Simply drink a glass for each suggested wine pairing in this article while re-watching the movie, and I guarantee that you won’t notice all those nitpicky things you complained about the first time.

Bon Appétit!