In honor of today's holiday, here's the legendary Joe Garden:
Monday, February 19, 2007
JERRY LEE LEWIS: LIVE AT THE FRENCH LICK RESORT AND CASINO, FRENCH LICK, INDIANA
I've regretted going to my share of concerts over the years, and sometimes not even because they're bad. There's a Tortoise show that stands out as something that would be a truly memorable experience if the band was playing in your living room as you drifted off to enjoy a nice nap. But I've never once regretted turning out for one of the old guys. One of my favorite concert memories ever is seeing Johnny Cash at the Glastonbury Festival in 1994. This was around the same time the first American Recordings album came out. He was that year's token old-timer and I don't think he expected the reception he got. It's not like he ever stopped touring, but I don't think he'd ever played to a sea of black-clad, pierced English youth who could sing along to every song. And I mean every song. Not just "Ring Of Fire" but "Ghost Riders In The Sky," too.
On Saturday night Stevie and I saw Jerry Lee Lewis, like Cash another member of the Million Dollar Quartet. The last one, actually. He even named his last album Last Man Standing and put a picture of himself with Cash, Elvis, and Carl Perkins inside. I've been on a big Jerry Lee kick ever since writing the (apparently still in the editing process) article on Memphis music movies and picking up the aforementioned Last Man Standing. (A side note: It's actually quite good, unlike most of the oldsters-duet-with-younger-stars albums. Of particular note: A duet with Keith Richards called "That Kind Of Fool" on which they lament they were never the kind of fools who could just have one drink and go home to their wives.)
I'll spare you the harrowing ordeal of getting there via Google Maps directions that took us through the back roads of a national forest where no house is apparently complete unless there's half an automobile or a broken stove on the lawn and mention only in passing that southern Indiana is (otherwise) really pretty to get to the show. Once again: No regrets. Lewis' long-serving band warmed up the show with a handful of oldies which the drunken louts behind us dimissed is "bullshit" that quickly got downgraded to "third rate bullshit." It wasn't, but it wasn't star time either. That came when Lewis ambled out, explained that his plane had been rerouted and that he hadn't had time to change then launched into "Roll Over Beethoven." His voice was problematic on some songs, in fine form on others but the playng remained, as always, an inimitable force of nature. And, despite the environment--which offered excellent acoustics but little else in the way of atmosphere--it felt like a Jerry Lee Lewis show. The drunken louts wandered up to the front of the stage to do some dancing, prompting security to escort them to one side, but not before one of them engaged in some spirited finger-pointing in Lewis' direction and Lewis returned the favor. Later Lewis complained about how it wasn't a rock and roll show if people could tell you how to dance and when to dance. This was shortly before a fight broke out (also involving one of the louts.) For a good 90 seconds or so it was more Memphis roadhouse than sterile casino.
One particular highlight was Charlie Rich's "Don't Put No Headstone On My Grave," which Lewis played as a country lament that turned into rockabilly then back again. These are the official words:
"Don't put no headstone on my grave,
All my life I've been a slave,
Want the whole wide world to know,
That I'm the man that loved you so"
For some reason I heard "loved you so" as "loved his soul." I could be wrong. But I do know he finished the song by slamming the cover of the piano keys against the piano and then looking out at the audience in defiance of something. It might have been death or maybe just the woman he took to task for putting her fingers in her ears with the words, "And people say I'm crazy."
As I was hoping, he also did his rendition of "Over The Rainbow," which just kills me. And he closed, of course, "With Great Balls Of Fire" and "Whole Lotta Shaking Going On." For the final passages of "Shaking" he rose, kicked over the piano bench, and played standing up. There was great effort involved in every part of that action and to close the show he simply wandered off and let the band play the final notes. But the spirit behind the gesture was unmistakable. One more rock and roll show down and The Killer was off to join the night, even if now it was at a slower pace.
Below's the setlist. Both it and the photo above come via the thorough European fansite The Jerry Lee Lewis Start Page.
1) Roll Over Beethoven
2) Over The Rainbow
3) Sweet Little Sixteen
4) Memphis, Tennessee
5) Before The Night Is Over
6) She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye
7) Why You Been Gone So Long
8) Don't Put No Headstone On My Grave
9) I Dont Want To Be Lonely Tonight
10) You Win Again
11) Hadacol Boogie
12) Great Balls Of Fire
13) Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On
ANALOG TO DIGITAL: DANCE, GREEDO, DANCE
I've had this album, Patrick Gleeson's Star Wars laying around for years without really recognizing what it was all about. I picked it up mainly because it looked like a hilariously kitsch Star Wars cash-in and featured this impossible to pass up subtitle: "Selections From The Film Performed On The World's Most Advanced Synthesizer." This, of course, must be heard. It is, pretty much as I suspected, an awesome relic, setting John Williams' score to a disco beat and throwing in every flourish that the world's most advanced synthesizer circa 1977 has to offer. (For the record, that's, per Gleeson's liner notes, "an E-mu (pronounced ee-mew) systems synthesizer. It is polyphonic--that is it plays 16 notes simultaneously when instructed to do so--and it is computer driven. The computer, which stores up to 8000 notes in from one to nine memory banks, is based on the Z-80 central processing unite, a popular chip among 'homebrew' computer folks.")
What I didn't realize was the Gleeson was the electronic music guru who put a heavy stamp on Herbie Hancock's early-'70s albums like the awesome Sextant. He's still active, too. There's a short article about him on endlessgroove.com and he's got a MySpace page.
So now I feel a bit bad about being disrespectful to this album for all these years since the man behind it is a legitimate talent whose work I've enjoyed immensely elsewhere. But that doesn't really make the album itself any better. Gleeson provides some detailed liner notes about wanthing to take "another approach" to Williams' score "one that did involve synthesizers and which was more surreeal than the scoring of the original." He also talks about embedding "semi-hidden references back to the film." For instance: "On the main theme track, which is Luke's theme, if you listen carefully to the bassline you'll hear that it is divided into two sections, one of them a hip funk line which is very 1977, and the other one a kind of remembrance of the way basslines were in the late '50s. This is because to me Luke is both a contemporary hero, and also a kind of throwback to the science fiction hero of the fifties--he hardly even kisses the girl."
Well, the reasons for that would come out later. Meanwhile, all I hear is disco John Williams.
Listen: Patrick Gleeson, "Star Wars Theme (Luke's Theme)"
Listen: Patrick Gleeson, "Cantina Music"
Saturday, February 10, 2007
ANALOG TO DIGITAL: WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
Okay, I know I'm way, way behind everyone else with this, but I'm still thrilled I've learned how to do this. And by this I mean convert records into MP3s. I got my turntable back from my pal Bryce and had it figured out pretty quickly. And I will share with you the first fruits of my labor: A Moog version of the theme from Alfie as performed by someone named Christopher Scott. It's from the 1969 album Switched-On Bacharach. More to come, I'm sure.
Listen: Christopher Scott, "Alfie"
Thursday, February 08, 2007
So, this is why my week has been a little hectic: Exploding pipes. Namely, one exploding pipe at our office that flooded us out. Kyle came back from the bathroom saying it had "exploded" and that water was headed our way. I thought he had to be joking or exaggerating. He wasn't. This is what it looked like (all photos courtesy of Kyle Ryan):
My first thought was, "Oh, this sucks. I should just go work at home." It didn't really occur to me until I saw firemen on the stairs evacuating the building that I had to go home. Here's my on the stairs (please note the water cascading down):
And here's what the hardest hit part of our office looks like:
As of now, we're all housebound, which is okay by me. I'm pretty productive when working at home. But who knows when we can go back? Apparently there's no guarantee against bacterial infections and other troubling possibilities. (It was sewer water after all.) I'm planning on stopping by tomorrow to pick up some mail and some recording equipment. This week has taken a strange turn, to be sure.