Sorry, We're Closed

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Let Joy be Unrestrained

The Chicago Cubs clinched the NL Central division last night. Their 6-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds, coupled with the pesky Milwaukee Brewers' 6-3 loss against San Diego, put the Cubs into the post-season for the first time since 2003.

And yet the thing I saw yesterday that made me cry was this video of San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders, a former Police Chief and committed Republican, announcing his support of the city council's vote to allow gay marriage.

Would that even a small minority of our politicians in this country be as honest and dedicated to soul-searching as this man. Mr. Sanders, I salute you. Now pass me the Kleenex.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Sickness...Raven Style

My friend and sometime musical collaborator Raven has a video on YouTube of her singing and playing a song by a group called Disturbed. I've only once heard the original song, and I can't say I'm a big fan...but I enjoy Raven performing anything.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Guilty Pleasures and Establishment Critics

What IS a "guilty pleasure," anyway? This issue came up for me this week when a friend referred me to Rolling Stone magazine's list of 25 "guilty pleasure" bands.

Now this list has some bands I like, and plenty whose appeal escapes me, but I damn well don't feel "guilty" for liking ELO, the Monkees, ABBA, or Bread. So where did this notion of feeling bad about the music you like come from?

Oh, yes. From rock critics. Intellectually constipated baby-boomer rock critics. From places like Rolling Stone magazine, where Jann Wenner cast his magic spells for years, making sure his pet bands got good reviews (and firing writers who wouldn't comply). It's Wenner who keeps bands he doesn't like out of the ridiculous, overblown Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. And it's Wenner whose rag now promotes models, emo bands he can't possibly relate to, and video games--video games!--in a ridiculous attempt to stay hip. Like it was ever hip.

Bozos like RS--and plenty of others--have, for years, been reminding us that nothing was ever as good as it was back in 1969, man, and if you weren't at Woodstock, you didn't rate. Music meant everything then, you see, and those of us who didn't experience that firsthand just don't get it. Janis wasn't just a singer, man--she was a warrior against the bad guys.

Well, then, count me as a counter-revolutionary and give me the biggest rifle, because I'd rather listen to the Monkees (or the Monks, for that matter) than Richie Havens or the Band. The very idea of feeling guilt about a record or band you like because some rock critic says so is the epitome of intellectual fascism. And I say that as someone who has more 60s records in his collection than his shelves can support.

Maybe we'll live to be old enough one day to see all the hoary old baby-boomer favorites--the Grateful Dead, Van Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, or even the Beatles--on somebody's list of "guilty pleasures." By then, we'll know the worm has turned.

Please feel free to listen, then, to one of my favorite that gives me no guilt to enjoy.

Monday, September 24, 2007


The strangest baseball fight I've ever seen. Dig this, from the Korean professional league...

What in the world is going on here? Are these guys serious? What's happening? Why are they trying to nuzzle each other? Is this a real fight?

Here's the story. Apparently this was a promotional gimmick whereby several popular Korean actors put on uniforms and acted out a silly idea of a baseball fight. The point was to have the players, instead of beating each other up, enact a grown-up version of a child's game in which kids balance on one leg and try to knock each other over.

I almost liked it better without knowing the real story...but wouldn't it be fun to watch Ray King and Ryan Howard battle it out like this? Or Smokey Burgess and Mickey Lolich?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical"

For those of you in the western suburbs and exurbs of Chicago, please be aware of a new show playing at the Pheasant Run Resort and Spa, 4051 E. Main Street, in St. Charles. The show, "Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical," produced by Noble Fool, just opened and has already gained a pretty good review in the Daily Herald.

The show plays 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 5 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 3; also 2 p.m. Sept. 27 and Oct. 11. I can't wait to see it; I can't believe I've already held out so far without mentioning that the best review in the Herald went to my brother Tom of the mad acting and singing skillz. I'm really proud of him.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Fab Four FAQ signings

Over the next few weeks, Rob Rodriguez and I will be doing several bookstore events, discussing our new book Fab Four FAQ and signing copies. Here's the upcoming schedule. Maybe we'll see you.

Wednesday 9/19 - 7:30pm Skokie, IL Barnes & Noble (Old Orchard) (Stu & Rob)
Saturday 9/22 - 1:00pm Downers Grove, IL Barnes & Noble (Rob)
Wednesday 9/26 - 6:00pm Chicago, IL The Book Cellar (Stu & Rob)
Saturday 10/13 - 3:00pm Oak Park, IL Wonderwall Emporium (Stu & Rob)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Doug Meech, R.I.P.

The original drummer of the Chesterfield Kings, Doug Meech, has died in New York. He was 57. Meech's pagan skin-pounding is one reason the Kings were such an effective 60s-styled garage band when they burst out of Rochester, N.Y. in the early 1980s. He's in the upper left in this photo, the cover of the first album--1984's "Here are the Chesterfield Kings."

Attached is an example of the band's raw power, a version from that first album of the Turtles' "Outside Chance." (The song was actually written by White Whale staff songwriter Warren Zevon in 1965.) While Meech hadn't been in the band for many years, his playing left a mark; I still hold a CK show at Batteries Not Included in '87 or '88 as the best rock show I've ever seen.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Songs You'd Never Put on a Mix CD

This started out as a conversation with Mark Caro. I sent him, as a joke, a short list of songs I don't like by bands I do--songs I'd never put on a band's "best" mix.

Stu’s initial salvo:
Squeeze, "Here Comes That Feeling"
XTC, "Leisure"
Procol Harum, "Monsieur R. Monde"
ELO, "Believe Me Now"
Camper Van Beethoven, "The Humid Press of Days"
REM, "The Wrong Child"
Pink Floyd, "Sisyphus"

Mark’s answer:
Elvis Costello, "The Deportee's Club"
The Byrds, "Mind Gardens"
Paul McCartney, "Morse Moose and the Grey Goose"
George Harrison, "Bye Bye Love"
John Lennon, "Attica State"
Ringo Starr, "Spooky Weirdness"
The Kinks, "She Bought a Hat Like Princess Marina"
Queen, “Sweet Lady”

Stu’s rejoinder:
Big Star, "My Life is Right"
Beatles, “Honey Pie”
Let's Active, "Mr. Fool"
Steely Dan, "I Got the News"
Supertramp, "Potter"
Love, “Revelation”

Whaddaya think? Comments? Suggestions?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Joe Zawinul

Joe Zawinul was a Swiss-born keyboardist who made a big mark in the jazz scenes of the 1960s and 1970s. After writing the hit “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” for Cannonball Adderley’s band in the mid-sixties, he went on, with Weather Report, to pioneer “fusion” as well as helping to birth the ambient music genre. He passed away today at age 75 in Vienna.

In his memory, I’m posting the unspeakably beautiful, Zawinul-penned title track from Miles Davis’ landmark 1969 In a Silent Way album. Rest in peace.

Three Weeks to Go

With about three weeks left in the baseball season, the playoff matchups are beginning to take some shape.

In the AL, Boston, Cleveland, and Anaheim (sorry, I refuse to call them the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) have what appear to be padlocked leads on their respective divisions, with the Yankees 3.5 ahead of Detroit for the wild-card spot.

While the Tigers have been winning some dramatic games lately, I don't see them catching the Yankees, especially since pitcher Justin Verlander, who's been awful for a month, now may be shut down for the rest of the way due to a bad elbow.

The National League picture is far less clear.

The Mets are six full games up in the NL East, and appear to have the division salted away. A big come-from-behind win last night in San Francisco put the Diamondbacks 3.5 ahead of second-place San Diego in the NL West.

Meanwhile, yesterday's Cubs win and Brewers loss lodged the two clubs into a tie for the NL Central lead. St. Louis has fallen 3 back, but certainly aren't out of it yet, since nobody in the division has been able to take control.

San Diego heads the wild-card chase by 1.5 over the Phillies. The Dodgers are just 2.5 back, the Rockies 3.5, the NL Central teams (Cubs and Milwaukee) 4.5, and Atlanta 5 behind. It should be a crazy last 20 games or so in the NL.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Fab Four Faq Website is Live!

Come on by and see what's happening. Thanks!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


It’s that time of year…when the crickets and cicadas sing in the trees in the afternoon and, especially, the night. The time when an ice cream cone seems like not just a luxury, but a principled stand for summer against the gray weather sure to buffet us in the not-so-distant future.

The very end of summer, when each 90-degree day is a bonus from the heavens and each strong wind a foreshadowing of the long winter to come.

And that ubiquitous noise, the whirrs, clicks, and hums of the winged ones, carries such weight for me. It’s such a lovely song, and yet one that for me, and others, has poignancy far beyond its literal meaning.

Nothing in the voice of the cicada
Intimates how soon
It will die.

The cicada is just living when it sings its song. We can’t sing that song—we have to sing our own, and we know just how short our time is to do it. Sometimes I wish I could sing like a cicada.

While I enjoy fall, and have strong sentimental attachments to the season, which involve such various topics as my wife Cecilia, green apples, Syd Barrett, and acoustic guitars, it’s also a sad time for me, because spring and summer are by far my favorite times of year, especially in Chicago. But the very end of the warm-weather months have their own gifts to offer.

Spider Time

One of those gifts is the influx of spiders of all sorts. You’ll see ‘em everywhere this time of year, in every eave, every store window, every doorway. Tons of spiders of all sorts, laying traps to capture unsuspecting small insects, flies, lacewings, etc. and make them into dinner. So it goes.

While waiting for a bus today, I spent 20 minutes watching the tableau of a spider-covered store window. When they rest at this time of year, spiders wrap themselves in a cocoon of thready, silky spider stuff. (Some crawlies are nocturnal, some are diurnal.) Today, I saw two diurnal spiders engage in a territorial battle that ended with the smaller spider having to find a new hangout.

This smaller spider, which appeared to have limited vision of some sort, kept bumping into sleeping, wrapped larger spiders while trying to find its way. It made me think of the darkness I walk in sometimes, having come up against something bigger or more frightening than I. It’s been a while since I had to make any kind of stand against a formidable foe, but every day we make decisions that forge our future and I have to remind myself to stay strong. In the past, I wasn’t always able to do that.

Season of the Witch

A few years ago, when I worked for several months at a publishing company, I got along well with everyone—except one colleague who seemingly had it in for me from day one. She was never supportive, went behind my back, and purposely denigrated my skills to other colleagues. Other folks either disliked her or even feared her, but her disregard for me felt especially personal, even if it was not.

And it hurt at the time. I wondered what I’d done to earn this person’s enmity, her sneering disregard, her insincere smiles. Certainly she must have had issues in her life, but why pick on someone else?

Why am I thinking about this now? A conversation with a friend, who once also worked with this person at the same company, brought out some incidents that I hadn’t known about before. And it’s got me uptight—again—several years after I should have let it go. Apparently, some of can say that we’ve come to terms with the past, and think that we’re done with it, even when we aren’t.

But fall is the ideal time to let things fall to the ground. This former colleague of mine should have no hold on me. Her transgressions are dying leaves, falling to the earth to become mulch. Would that my past transgressions on others be equally absorbed, allowed somehow to nourish the earth.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Michael Angelo, "Oceans of Fantasy"

In 1977, this guy from Kansas City released a self-pressed record album on the teeny tiny Guinn label. The damn thing is impossible to find now--just saw a copy online selling for $999--and there has, to my knowledge, never been an official re-release.

I've only heard one song from this album, the gorgeous psych-space floater "Oceans of Fantasy," and that only on the psychedelic comp Love, Peace, and Poetry. Like much of the music done in such private, far-from-the-metropoli circumstances, "Oceans" sounds a few years "behind the curve," but is no less the lovely for it.

Dig it below. And if anyone out there has this album, either on LP or CD, please let me know! Peace.