Tubes!

What does it mean when White Punks on Dope has become an oldie? Shit, I dunno. My big bro was introduced to them in college (Thanks Cormack!), and brought them home to baby brother. They were a band for rebellious teens to love and parents to hate. I had one of these stickers on my Bel Air.

'80s era KLOS promotion sticker for The Tubes

’80s era KLOS promotion sticker for The Tubes

Quay LewdThe Tubes have never been a typical rock show. They are a theatrical experience, with props and costume changes that immerse you in the performance of a song in ways your ears alone never could. I ‘think’ I’ve only seen The Tubes once before (my memory sometimes fails me), no wait… definitely at least twice (mental images of different stage perspectives have confirmed). Whatever, it would have been in the early ’80s, following the release of their album The Completion Backwards Principle. I remember the concert with elaborate costumes used in the numbers for Sushi Girl, Sports Fans (with the Tubes Cheerleaders, including Cynthia Rhodes of Flashdance/Dirty Dancing fame), and Mondo Bondage. But the moment everyone in the audience was really waiting for was the appearance of Quay Lewd, a persona adopted by Tubes lead singer Fee Waybill, most typically when performing their most memorable anthem, White Punks on Dope.

I dragged my friend TJ to see The Tubes in DC at The Hamilton last night. He understood that for me the opportunity to see the Tubes again was a ‘must see’ concert, and also that among my friends he was most likely to be able to appreciate them. The Hamilton is a beautiful new DC restaurant and live music venue just a block from the White House. I was their once before for a free jazz show when they first opened, but this was my first time seeing an act I meant to see. The venue, food, drink and service are top notch. Go there. It did feel a bit odd to be sitting at a table for a show, rather than spending the whole time on your feet as is often typical. But somehow being seated seems to sap some energy. When the Tubes took the stage, it was to an uncomfortably quiet room, not able to manage the energy to maintain an anticipatory chant of ‘Tubes!’. But mine wasn’t the only balding head in the room, on the contrary, we were in the majority. And one nearby table had a fans walker propped against the table.

But a small crowd and aging act and audience didn’t diminish seeing The Tubes live again at all. Fee still dons a variety of costumes as expected for each song, and Roger still rocks his guitar with every bit as much energy as back in the day. My favorite Tubes album is 1979’s Remote Control, songs from which were notably absent from their setlist for the night. But there were many bonuses, not least of which was learning a little Virginia Music history when I looked into the background of the instrument ‘Rumble’ that they covered, and the opportunity to meet the band after the show.

I managed a couple of video snippets during the show, attempting to catch WPOD from the start. I ended up instead getting his intro, and then just the beginning of the song before my iPhone self-censored and shut down. It was the best I could do, but you had to be there.

Thanks Tubes! Hope I see you again.

The Specials

“If you were 16 in 1979, the Specials were easy peasy lemon squeezy the greatest band on the planet. If you’re 46 in 2013, nothings changed.”

That’s what is says on the Twitter account for one of my favorite bands, The Specials. Well in 1979 I was 14, and now in 2013 I’m on the eve of my 48th birthday. So while their math is wrong, the sentiment is right, nothing’s changed. I was introduced to Ska music through the 1981 multi-act concert film ‘Dance Craze‘, a movie which opened and closed with The Specials, and also introduced me to favorites The English Beat and Madness.

Seeing The Specials live tonight was a major ‘bucket list’ concert for me. I came close to skipping, overcoming my evil apathetic instincts to drag myself and my ever patient wife to Maryland to see one of my favorite bands of all time. But I realized that I may never get a chance again to see them, so I had better damn well seize the moment now. So glad that I did!

Here’s what they played:

Do the Dog
Dawning of a New Era
Gangsters
It’s Up to You
Monkey Man
Concrete Jungle
Blank Expression
Rat Race
Hey Little Rich Girl
Why
It Doesn’t Make It Alright
Friday Night, Saturday Morning
Stereotype
Man at C & A
Do Nothing
A Message to You Rudy
Nite Klub
Little Bitch
Too Much Too Young
Enjoy Yourself

Encore:
Ghost Town
You’re Wondering Now

And here’s a couple of iPhone snippets…

A Message to You Rudy

Nite Klub – audience sing-a-long

Two Suggested Features for iTunes

itunes.jpgDear Apple,

Thank you for iTunes and iPods. For several years now they have brought music back into my daily life, while running, commuting, shopping, driving and at dinner with my family (not really on the last two). Thank you also for the ‘shuffle’ feature. It turns my iPod into my own personal juke box loaded only with my songs. It’s great to explore and re-discover my own music library through the random play of ‘shuffle’.

But I have two ideas to share with you, that I think would be very well received; rock blocks and linked songs.

Often, hearing a song by an artist makes you crave a little more of the same. Radio stations figured that gimmick out long ago. Why not have an iTunes shuffle setting to allow users to play their own shuffled ‘rock blocks‘? The iPod settings would allow the user to specify how many songs by an artist should be played in a block, 2… 3…4… and voila! The same benefits of shuffle, but with the bonus of blocks.

The second idea struck me while listening to music on my bus ride home. The song I was enjoying was ‘The Crooked Beat‘ from the Album Sandinista! by The Clash. It’s a mellow song about going out to listen to music, rhythmic and sleepy, with some nice horns and trippy echos. And in the last 15 seconds of this 5:29 song, the echos come back strong and a guy shouts out what’s always sounded to me like ‘birddog’, and the pickup in speed leads immediately to the fast opening of ‘Somebody Got Murdered‘, among my many favorites from this album. Only in shuffle mode, it didn’t. My iPod didn’t know any better and randomly pulled something totally wrong for the next song. I wanted to cry. Were I able to do so, I would adjust the settings for ‘The Crooked Beat’ using linked songs to ALWAYS have it be followed by ‘Somebody Got Murdered’. And that is but one of thousands of other songs I would similarly link.

But Chris, you ask… if you’re so eager to hear rock blocks and songs played in their album order, why don’t you just listen to whole albums as you grew up doing? Well, from time to time I still do. I suspect it’s a shrinking audience among iTunes users who think of an ‘album’ as a collection of songs intended to be listened to in sequence. Years ago CD players introduced shuffling and multi-disk options that began the birth of the personal jukebox, and the demise of straight through album listening. But with these features, iTunes could give listeners a nice middle ground between shuffle and album play. I know I’d like them.

Sincerely,

Chris

Ben Folds @ UMW

Ben Folds Shot GlassThis week Katie and I caught a great concert at the University of Mary Washington. The draw was Ben Folds, who has been a recent favorite on my iPod and whose new album, Way to Normal, is particularly great. And due to musical associations with Amanda Palmer and Regina Spektor, my daughter Katie was willing first to give Ben a listen, and then actually excited to join me at the concert. And the night began with a concert first for me, a free gift at the door in the form of a commemorative plastic Ben Folds shot glass. The night was filled with promise!

A commenter on Katie’s Facebook page tipped her off to pay close attention to the opening band, Jukebox the Ghost, and they did not disappoint, we really enjoyed them.

Ready then for Ben, there was one more surprise opener, The Virginia Sil’hooettes, an all-female a cappella group from the University of Virginia. Later this month, Ben is releasing an album titled Ben Folds Presents: University A Capella, a compilation album of, obviously, University A Capella groups performing Ben Folds music. The Virginia Sils performed a couple songs, including their rendition of ‘You Don’t Know Me At All‘.

After a painfully long wait, Ben and his band took the stage, starting off with ‘Errant Dog’, followed by ‘Annie Waits’, and from there heading into a lengthy and fun performance o songs new and old. During ‘The Bitch Went Nuts’, Ben stopped twice, having messed up the words. And that led to a brief bit of storytelling, about a time he was performing in England and stopped mid song about 20 times. He said each time there was the slightest noise from the audience, he would stop and start the song at the beginning, and he did eventually finished when they achieved absolute silence. They thought he was an uptight performer, he says he was just fucking with them. And speaking of ‘Fuck’, that was of course a shouted sing-along highlight of the song ‘Rockin’ the Suburbs‘.

As is typical, I tried to share some tunes, calling my brother Kevin to share ‘Effington‘, and my sister Jennifer to share ‘Brick‘. Not sure if either got through, but it’s the thought. Later, I finally got around to getting my sibs something for Christmas (yes, last Christmas, yes, I know it’s April), buying each of them Jukebox the Ghost’s album titled Let Live and Let Ghosts. I hope they enjoy it, I am.

Thanks to Katie for joining me on a great night of music. It a pretty cool thing, taking your daughter to a concert (maybe less so from her point of view, but cool for a dad anyway).

dig deeper …

Review of ‘Let Live & Let Ghosts’
The Washington Post – March 7, 2008

Life’s Been Good

My friends and I have a long standing tradition of sharing a live song with each other via cell phone whenever we’re at a concert. It’s a nice way of saying, “Wish you were here”, and a treat to be on the receiving end of such a call (although frequently you’ll hear nothing but a unrecognizable cacophony of noise).

So it was a not unexpected when my brother Kevin called one night last week, just as I was tucking in for bed. We didn’t speak, but knowing he was at the Eagles concert in Columbia, Missouri, I had an idea what was in mind, and I thoroughly enjoyed a few minutes of Joe Walsh singing his hit “Life’s Been Good“.

Last Saturday, I listened to music from my iPhone for the last four miles of the half-marathon that I ran with a friend. And from the shuffle play of my ‘workout’ playlist, guess which song brought me across the finish… Life’s Been Good.

The two encounters with the song brought me back. I was 13 years old the year ‘Life’s Been Good’ came out, a summertime hit that reached #12 on the Billboard charts. I have one specific memory of singing along, while in the family station, loaded with friends and on our way to the beach.

Anyway, the The coincidence led me to enjoy a Joe Walsh tunefest. I certainly have more in common with the ‘Ordinary Average Guy‘ that Joe sang about in 1991 than the rock star of ‘Life’s Been Good’ from ’78. Regardless, I’m a fan, and there are many classics and favorites in Joe’s library. Thanks for the great tune’s Joe.

read more about Joe…

Joe Walsh Rides Again
Rolling Stone, 8/9/2006

‘It’ Songs

it.jpgI love iTunes, it really brings out my OCD side.. I love making playlists, paying attention to play counts, and searching out themes in my music library. And it can be fun to mess around building random ‘smart playlists’, just to see what turns up. Tonight, the subject of my latest such list was to pull every song from my library that contained the word ‘it‘ in the title. Read through this list, and ask yourself, what is ‘it’ and how does it get so much attention? Do we love it? We obviously want to do it. Or do we hate it? Why do we want to smash, lick, kick, spin, throw and whip ‘it’? I don’t know. ‘It’ just ‘is’. Here’s my it playlist…

Add It Up
And So It Goes
Baby Don’t You Do It
Bang A Gong (Get It On)
Bring It On Home To Me
Call It Quits
Can’t Keep It In
Check It Out
Could It Be Magic
Cut It Down
Did It In A Minute
Do It Again
Do It Clean
Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is
Doesn’t Make It Alright
Even It Up
Everything About It Is a Love Song
Explain It To Me
The First Time it Happens
Give It Up or Turnit a Loose
Have You Ever Had It Blue
Here It Goes Again
Hold It Baby
Hold It Deep
How Does It Feel
How It Ends
How She Threw It All Away
How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)
I Had It Made
I Heard It Through The Grapevine
I LIke It Like That
I Like It There
I Must Have Lost It On the Wind
I Wanna Make It Alright
I Want It All Now
I’m Finding It Harder To Be A Gentleman
If I Had It All
If It Happens Again
(If You’re Not In It For Love) I’m Outta Here!
Interlude No.1 /Play It All Night Long
Is It My Body
Isn’t It Grand, Boys
It Ain’t Easy
It Ain’t Gonna Be Easy
It Amazes Me
It Coulda Been Me
It Didn’t Matter
It Doesn’t Matter To Me
It Don’t Come Easy
It Don’t Matter To Me
It Had To Be You
It I Had Possession Over Judgment Day
It Is You (I Have Loved)
It Must Be Love
It Must Be Tough
It Never Entered My Mind
It Started All Over Again
It Takes A Worried Man
It Takes Two
It Won’t Be Long
It Would Be So Nice
It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
Keep It Comin’ Love
Kick It In
Kick It Out
Knock It Right Out
Let It Be
Let It Be Me
Let It Grow
Let It Rain
Let It Shine
Let’s Get It On
Lick It Up
Make It Go Away
Make It Happen
Make It With You
Mash It Up Harry
Maybe I’m Doing It Wrong
Move It On Over
Nobody Does It Better
Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels)
Paint It Black
Prove It All Night
Pump It Up
Rip It Up
Rock It (Prime Jive)
Rub It Better
Save It For Later
Say It Isn’t So
Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud
Shake It Up
Shout It Out Loud
Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves
Smash It Up (Parts 1 & 2)
So It Goes
Sock It To Me
Spin It On
Start It Over
Stir It Up
Take It As It Comes
Take It Easy
Take It Easy On Me
Take It from Me
Take It Off
Take It To The Limit
Takin’ It To The Streets
Tell It Like It Is
That’s The Way To Do It (Aka Odd Job Man)
This Time It Must Be Love
Throw It Away
Tojo (Never Made It To Darwin)
Underneath It All
We’re Not Gonna Take It
What It Is
What It Takes
Whatcha Gonna Do About It
When It Began
Whip it Out
Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?
Will It Play In Peoria?
Wouldn’t It Be Nice
Wrap It Up
Yes It Is

Instrumental Two

magic_8_ball.jpgThis one came from my daughter Katie, it’s a fun little game that requires you to brave your iTunes library as you use it essentially as a Magic 8-Ball and allow it to answer a series of questions. Most answers will come out as nonsense, some are surprising and will test your ability to live up to Rule #3. After one false start, I took another try at it and came out with the below results. Song title links lead to SongMeanings.net or other lyrics sites for those that want to pursue further psycho-analysis.

RULES:

  1. Put your iTunes, windows media player etc on Shuffle
  2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
  3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER HOW SILLY IT SOUNDS
  4. Put any comments in brackets or parentheses after the song name

If someone says “is this okay?” you say:
Room With No Number – Elvis Costello

(‘While the sign outside says there’s no vacancy’ – probably means I’ll respond ‘huh’ and they’ll need to ask me again)

How would you describe yourself?
Beyond the Sea – Bobby Darin
(‘I know beyond a doubt my heart will lead me there soon’ – confident and positive about the future)

What do you like in a guy/girl?
Cheat – The Clash
(‘Want excitement, don’t get none, I go wild’ – I dunno, hard to say I like lying and cheating in anyone, but maybe I just wouldn’t know?)

How do you feel today?
Birthday – The Beatles
(‘We’re gonna have a good time’ – Nice, every day is my birthday 🙂

What is your life’s purpose?
St. Thomas (Don’t You Know How I Feel) – Peter Frampton
(‘I’m gonna win ya’ – I’ve got nothing for this one)

What is your motto?
Tango Atlantico – Joe Jackson
(again, nothing)

What do your friends think of you?
Barefootin’ on the Wicket Picket – Black Randy and the Metrosquad
(Many of my friends would indeed associate me with Black Randy)

What do you think of your parents?
From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come) – Bruce Springsteen
(‘Well from small things, mama Big things one day come’ – maybe more like what my parents hope for me, than what I think of them)

What do you think about very often?
‘A’ Bomb in Wardour Street (Live) – The Jam
(‘A Phillistine nation, of degredation, And hate and war.’ – Sad, but true)

What is 2 + 2?
Just Like Paradise – David Lee Roth
(‘Make it out to cash, We’ll spend it later’ – some math even I can do in my head)

What do you think of your best friend?
Museum of Love – Daniel Johnston
(an unfamiliar tune from my own library)

What do you think of the person you like?
Aubrey – Bread
(‘And I’d go a thousand times around the world just to be closer to her than to me’ – yeah, so I have some ‘Bread’ in my iTunes, what of it?)

What is your life story?
My Daughter’s First Date – David Cross
(ah, some comedy, we’ll see if it’s funny when I’m actually faced with my daughter’s first date)

What do you want to be when you grow up?
People Are Strange – The Doors
(‘No one remembers your name when you’re strange’ – sounds like me)

What do you think of when you see the person you like?
Kosmos – Paul Weller
(‘But its to the kosmos – men dare – to look for something’ – um, my friends are spacey?)

What’s your wedding going to be like?
If She Knew What She Wants – The Bangles
(‘If she knew what she wants (He’d be giving it to her)’ – I’ve been doing my best 🙂

What will they play at your funeral?
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word – Elton John
(‘What do I do when lightning strikes me, And I wake to find that you’re not there’ – I always knew it would be a lightning strike to get me)

What is your hobby/interest?
A Bullet For Everyone (Live) – Paul Weller
(‘When it comes to the gun there’s a bullet for everyone’ – sorry, no gun hobby/interest here)

What is your biggest fear?
A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy – The Kinks
(‘He just spends his life, living in a rock ’n’ roll fantasy’ – strike two, seems more like a dream than a fear)

What is your biggest secret?
I’m Only Thinking of Him – Man of La Mancha Soundtrack
(‘I’m only thinking of him’ – strike three, I’m not being ‘outed’ by my broadway show tunes!

What do you think of your friends?
The Hungry Wolf – X
(‘i roam ready to tear up the world’ – yeah, sounds like us)

What will you post this as?
Instrumental Two – Paul Weller
(A suitable ending, nothing but music 🙂

Thanks Katie for the laugh, that was fun. Who will be tagged to carry on the iTunes 8-ball fun?

The English Beat @ The Birchmere

The English Beat @ The BirchmereI confess I was a bit skeptical. After having recently watched VH1’s failed attempt to reunite one of my favorite bands, The English Beat, I knew that the bill being called ‘The English Beat’ tonight at the Birchmere in Alexandria actually only included one original band member, lead singer Dave Wakeling. But I need not have worried. Although it would be great to see and hear the whole band together again, Dave and his band were perfectly capable of taking me on a nostalgic tour of my musical youth.

I first heard The English Beat in a movie theater, watching a midnight showing of the 1981 Concert movie Dance Craze. I remember the night, it was memorable both for the music it introduced me to, and for the fact it had us dancing in the theater aisles. Later, in 1982, I would see The Beat open for the Clash at the Hollywood Palladium, one of my best concert memories.

So tonight at the Birchmere, with an intimate and appreciative crowd of about 550, it was a joy to again hear The Beat. And my buddy TJ stepped up big time as an impromptu roadie. After doing Tears of A Clown, Dave told the audience that he’d broken a guitar string and that they were too cheap to have a roadie, so he asked if anyone in the audience could string a guitar. TJ raised his hand and got the job, earning Dave’s thanks and a dedication of Twist and Crawl to him for his efforts.

Here’s the set list…

Whine & Grine / Stand Down Margaret
Ackee 1-2-3
Hands Off She’s Mine
Best Friend
Doors of Your Heart
Tears of a Clown
I’ll Take You There
I Confess
Twist and Crawl
Sole Salvation
Rough Rider
Two Swords (Dave shared a good tale of his brick-throwing youth before this one)
Can’t Get Used to Losing You
Never You Done That
Tenderness
Ranking Full Stop
Mirror in the Bathroom
Click Click (noted as a point of pride as having been the fastest song in the movie Dance Craze)
Save It for Later
Encore – some appropriately picked encores…
End of the Party
Jackpot – I’m sorry to say that I’m on my way, I won’t be back for many a day, so Goodbye Everybody!

Rock Art

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Are your LPs gathering dust in some old milk crate? Mine were. I don’t even own a turntable anymore, so I couldn’t play them if I wanted to. But they used to be such treasures. And face it, looking at album art on a CD case, or even worse some tiny postage-stamped size album cover in iTunes will never be the same as holding a full-size LP in your hands and drinking it in while you listen to the tunes.

While thinking about how to decorate my new basement manspace, it occurred to me that maybe I could build some kind of wood frame that I could slide an album cover into to display it like a piece of art. And while it was an idea of genius, I’m humble enough to recognize that it couldn’t possibly be an original idea. And it’s almost always easier to buy something than to build it. Next stop, The Google, and after some searching and comparing, I placed my order with Rock Art Picture Show for four acrylic frames with mats into which you can easily slide a standard LP. They’re great. Here’s my initial four, but this will be an ever-changing exhibition. I’ll probably start shopping LPs on eBay, just to add to my cover collection.

Rat Scabies & The Holy Grail

For many years I have known Rat Scabies only as the drummer from The Damned, you know, the one licking the pumpkin pie off of his bandmates head on the cover of their self-named 1976 album. But recently my brother, as he often does, made a gift of an interesting looking book for me, Rat Scabies & The Holy Grail.

Christopher Dawes is a music writer who learned shortly after moving into his home in the London suburb of Brentford that Rat Scabies was a neighbor living just across the street, and in a short time a friendship was struck. Rat introduced Chris to his hobby, or obsession, with unraveling the mystery of the cathedral of Rennes-le-Chateau in France, and the suspected connection between the church and the Holy Grail. And the two pursue an Indiana Jones-ish quest, but from the back of a tour bus. It’s a fun tale of friendship, travel and adventure. You don’t need to be a fan of The Damned to enjoy the book, but it doesn’t hurt.

In hunting for links for the blog post, I came across Rat’s page on MySpace. It was a cool find, especially for the YouTube videos that Chris and Rat took of their travels and described in the book. And I’m glad to say Rat accepted my ‘Friend Request’, making me his 2,997th friend on MySpace, and he is my 15th. Stay tuned to lear more, as me and my friend Rat will set out in search of the Ark of the Covenant someday.

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