Monday, October 24, 2005

Indispensible Seventies Music - Part 1

I've said numerous times in past posts that us POTS should be very careful not to get caught in the past, musically speaking. A regular feature here is newer music that POTS would enjoy. And there is a LOT of EXCELLENT music out there to be explored and enjoyed.

But I also don't want to leave the music of the seventies completely behind. There was some INCREDIBLY good music that came from that generation. With this regular feature I will attempt to list MY favorites. Not VH1's, or Rolling Stone's, or any other columnist's favorite. The favorites of a regular guy, Jon, born and raised in Heartland, USA.

Steely Dan's Aja.

One of the most unique albums of the decade by one of the most unique "bands" of the decade. How do you even begin to describe The 'Dan?

Steely Dan is 2 people - Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. After the 2 constants comes a long line of some the the world's best musicians from the world of pop, rock, and jazz. Steely Dan is NOT about live performances, although they have and do tour from time to time. Steely Dan is about complex melodies and changes, biting lyrics, and musical perfection. All wrapped up in a pop package. How they became a pop fixture is beyond me, but it all works. I'm going purely by memory here, but through the seventies, they released 7 albums, every one a true classic. I believe Aja was their last album of the seventies. The eighties brought more good music, by Steely Dan and Fagen solo, but that's a different post.

Aja was something completely different in the pop world.

In the mid to late seventies pop music had been moving a different direction. The hard rock of the early seventies was not as prevalent. Jazz was becoming a force on popular music, as the fusion movement gained momentum. Several bands, such as the Doobie Brothers, moved to a lighter, jazzier sound. Personally, I didn’t care as much for the Doobie’s later work, but it was successful for them. Aja captured that sound without losing The ‘Dan’s edginess. Pretty incredible, when you think about it. It included the pop hooks Steely Dan is famous for - “They call Alabama the Crimson Tide, call me Deacon Blues”, but also included lyrics such as “Spanish kissin', See it glisten, You came ragin', Love rampagin', I got the news…” from the little known classic “I Got The News”.

But out of all the incredible Steely Dan tunes over the years, the title song Aja is maybe the best. It opens with a beautiful piano, light and airy. The drummer, light on the cymbals, catches your attention, and the bass, showing classic Dan restrained bass work is melodic. The tempo speeds up, slows down, speeds up, and the chord changes would challenge an experienced classical musician. A xylophone (?) shows up, and even a police whistle. The guitar, weaving it’s way through the complicated melody is incredible. Into the mix jumps a raucous saxophone while the drummer picks up his presence to complement the intrusion. It slows down to reprise the opening melody again, and prepare for the finish. I slows to nothing, then a drum solo kicks in, and an incredible solo it is. Steve Gadd is the drummer, a well known fusion studio musician. If you’re looking for a John Bonham drum solo this ain’t it. It’s subtle, laid back, and kicks ass. And rumor has it that Steve Gadd's drum work on Aja is the ONLY track ever laid down in a Steely Dan recording session that was done in a single take.

Steely Dan is a lot like Scotch Whiskey. It’s an acquired taste, one that doesn’t appeal to everyone. It takes some getting used to, and when you start to develop a taste for it you can spend a lifetime exploring the nuances.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Leon Spinks

I have your attention, don't I?

Sports fan or not, who could forget Leon Spinks? He beat Muhammad Ali in 1978 for the championship. He smiled his way into America's heart.

Today he smiles his way into the hearts of residents of a small town in Nebraska. He lives in Columbus, Nebraska and cleans the YMCA several days a week. He also does a lot with the kids in that town.

Here's an article done by the Lincoln (NE) Journal Star. Very well done, and The Champ sounds like he's happy and doing well.

Ex-champ Leon Spinks cleans up in Columbus

Music for Products of the Seventies - Part 4

The Eels are a very unique band. They have done everthing from music too vulgar to be played on the radio to songs featured in Disney movies.

A recommended album is Daisies of the Galaxy, released in 2000. While their lyrics are sometimes dark, their music is almost always uplifting, and sometimes downright ditty-like "...cause I like (dit-dit-dit): birds"...

Below is one of my favorites. There is an obvious link for POTS, click the picture above and click the "Indian in Canoe" link to view the original commercial. Beware the lyrics, they might offend some:

The smokestack is spitting black soot into the sunny sky
The load on the road brings a tear to the indian’s eye
The elephant won’t forget what it’s like inside his cage
The ringmaster’s telecaster sings on an empty stage

God damn right it’s a beautiful day ahah
God damn right it’s a beautiful day ahah

The girl with the curls and the sweet big ribbon in her hair
She’s crawled out the window ’cause her daddy just don’t care
(come on!)

God damn right it’s a beautiful day ahah
God damn right it’s a beautiful day ahah

The clown with the frown driving down to the sidewalk fair
Finger on the trigger I tell you he is quite a scare

God damn right it’s a beautiful day ahah
God damn right it’s a beautiful day ahah

The kids fit their lids when their heads hear that crazy sound
Their neighbour digs the flavour still he’s moving to another town
(and I don’t believe he’ll come back)

God damn right it’s a beautiful day ahah
God damn right it’s a beautiful day ahah

And I don’t know how you’re taking all the shit you see
You don’t believe anyone but most of all openly agree

God damn right it’s a beautiful day ahah
God damn right it’s a beautiful day ahah

Saturday, October 08, 2005

My Name Is Earl

I caught this show for the first time tonight. What a great show! He made a list of the 200 + things he's done wrong in his life, and he's out to correct every one of them. He believes in karma, and thinks he has to make amends for everything.

It made me think about all the things I did wrong.

Ome time, I talked the majority of the low brass section of the high school pep-band into chipping in for several cases of beer before a basketball game road trip. So we're slamming beers just before getting on the bus. People are filling their instrument cases and pockets with cans of beer. Just as I was getting on the bus, they said it was full, and asked for volunteers to drive. I ended up riding with a couple of senior tuba players, and we drank heavily on the way. By the time we got there, I was trashed. So was the entire trombone section. The problem was, they got caught. Every person I talked into this scheme was kicked out of school for a few days, and kicked out of band for the remainder of the year. Except me. I didn't ride the bus, there was no physical evidence I participated, and all they knew was that I was stumbling around the bleachers.

Another time...

Well, this could go on forever. I do know I'm not going to miss this show, it's GREAT stuff!

Cornhusker Heartbreak

Growing up in Nebraska, I became a big Cornhusker football fan. To a person in Nebraska, Cornhusker football is all there is. And what a time for college football it was. It started with National Championships in 1970 and 1971. Heisman winner Johnny "The Jet" Rogers, Jerry Tagge, Jeff Kinney, Vince Ferragamo, Steve Runty, Dave Humm, and COUNTLESS other quality people. Coached first by old school coach Bob Devaney, then by Dr. Tom Osborne. Osborne set the mold for the Huskers for the next several decades. No matter what critics might say, Dr. Tom ALWAYS had the best interests of his kids at heart. He had many successes, and a handful of failures such as Scott Baldwin and Lawrence Phillips. He and his staff ALWAYS sounded like true professionals, always kept their composure, and always made me proud to say I was from Nebraska.

That is why the events of the last several years are so hard to take. Athletic Director Steve Pederson has gutted the program in favor of starting over. He has brought in a former pro coach, and a complete stable of new assistants. No longer do we brag about our in-state walk ons. No longer do we brag about our graduation rates, or student athletes, or the number of Nebraskans on the team. In general, the pride is gone. We have traded our soul for the chance to win with a different type of game.

Today the Huskers lost a close heartbreaker to Texas Tech. They showed some very good things, but made some critical mistakes also. But you know what? I really don't care in the least.

Steve Pederson, for making me and other life-time Cornhusker fans feel this way, may you rot in hell.

Dialogue (Parts One and Two)

When I was a younger teenager, my favorite band was Chicago. I loved how they worked the horns into a rock band. I saw them in concert in 1975, and LOVED the show. In fact it was my first "real" concert.

But, Chicago was an interesting band. They turned out some decent rock and roll on each album, but they also turned out some real trite garbage. It was like the members couldn't decide if they wanted to be a rock band or a pop band. Pop won out, unfortunately.

But they still put out some very good, and I would say important, music.

A song I haven't heard in a long time came up the other day, and it struck me how relevant it was today. Other than the single line about the campus being very free, it could have been written today. And the song is done very well, and delivers the lyrics very effectively. A very good song, WELL worth another listen today.

Dialogue - Parts One and Two
Chicago - From Chicago 5

Part i

Are you optimistic ’bout the way things are going?
No, I never ever think of it at all

Don’t you ever worry
When you see what’s going down?

No, I try to mind my business, that is, no business at all

When it’s time to function as a feeling human being
Will your bachelor of arts help you get by?

I hope to study further, a few more years or so
I also hope to keep a steady high

Will you try to change things
Use the power that you have, the power of a million new ideas?

What is this power you speak of and this need for things to change?
I always thought that everything was fine

Don’t you feel repression just closing in around?
No, the campus here is very, very free

Don’t it make you angry the way war is dragging on?
Well, I hope the president knows what he’s into, I don’t know

Don’t you ever see the starvation in the city where you live
All the needless hunger all the needless pain?

I haven’t been there lately, the country is so fine
But my neighbors don’t seem hungry ’cause they haven’t got the time

Thank you for the talk, you know you really eased my mind
I was troubled by the shapes of things to come

Well, if you had my outlook your feelings would be numb
You’d always think that everything was fine

Part II

We can make it happen
We can change the world now
We can save the children
We can make it better
We can make it happen
We can save the children
We can make it happen

Friday, October 07, 2005

Earth Wind & Fire Back With "Illumination"

Regular readers know how much I love NPR radio programs. The best radio in the world, bar none.

They did a show about a new album by Earth, Wind and Fire. EWF has always been one of my favorite bands. From slow dancing to "Fantasy" to boogie-ing to "Shining Star", EWF was a band that seemed to be able to transcend pop music. They were one of those bands that were able to achieve commercial success and still crank out great music. And when you bought an Earth, Wind and Fire album, it wasn't about one or two hit songs. The entire album was always worth hearing.

To this day, I can't hear the song "Reasons" without loooking for someone to dance with. The music was THAT significant to me.

A few years ago one of my kids bought me an EWF concert video. Incredible. I never had the opportunity to see an EWF show, and it showed me what I missed.

Here's a link to the NPR Audio story. The song clips they play will take you back.

Earth, Wind & Fire, Back with 'Illumination'

You can find the new album here: Illumination

Thursday, October 06, 2005

George Carlin Quote

Please… save me from people who are told what to like and then like it. In my opinion if you’re over 6 years of age and you’re still getting your music from the radio, something is desperately wrong with you. I can only hope that somehow mp3 players and file sharing will destroy FM radio the way they’re destroying record companies. Then, even though the air will probably never be safe to breathe again maybe it will be safer to listen to.

I love George Carlin. He's such an incredible wordsmith.

The Pig

Several years ago, after a number of difficult years, the wife and I finally made the decision to sell a business we’d owned for many years. We set a date by which it would be sold, and proceeded to set a price that would allow us to accomplish this. Essentially, we gave it away to get out from under it. But I found myself at 40 years old searching for a job. I decided to go back to school, so I enrolled in an accellerated programming course by a well respected private university. Looking back, I let an opportunity pass by, I should have used this as a reason to fill a dream, and go to law school. But I wanted to be out earning an income sooner than 2 years in law school would have allowed. So I put in my 8 months of intense education, finished at the top of my class, and missed the tech bubble by a couple of months. I worked my ass off to land a job that paid me $23,000 a year. I really blew it by not doing the law school thing. But I digress.

While in school, I was interviewing at every opportunity. One day I had an interview with a small software company, and as part of the interview process they gave me a blank piece of paper and told me to draw a pig. I was taken aback, a little annoyed, and thought it was ridiculous. But I drew the pig, and did my thing. I don’t remember how Idrew the pig, but I was never called back for a second interview, so I obviously wasn’t what they were looking for.

I came back to class that afternoon, and told my classmates about the pig drawing. One piped up and said it was a personality test. I did the research, and here’s what I found:

If the pig is drawn:

Toward the top of the paper, you are positive and optimistic.
Toward the middle, you are a realist.
Toward the bottom, you are pessimistic, and have a tendency to behave negatively.

Facing left, you believe in tradition, are friendly, and remember dates (birthdays, etc.)
Facing right, you are innovative and active, but don't have a strong sense of family, nor do you remember dates.
Facing front (looking at you), you are direct, enjoy playing devil's advocate and neither fear nor avoid discussions.

With many details, you are analytical, cautious, and distrustful.
With few details, you are emotional and naive, you care little for details and are a risk-taker.

With less than 4 legs showing, you are insecure or are living through a period of major change.
With 4 legs showing, you are secure, stubborn, and stick to your ideals.

The size of the ears indicates how good a listener you are.
The bigger the better.

The length of the tail indicates the quality of your sex life.
And again more is better!

Ummmm – OK. I took all this in while shaking my head. I still thought it was pretty ridiculous.

Shortly after our discussion about this, a classmate walked in. She was a semi-attractive farm gal who was married, but I got the impression she might have strayed from time to time. She heard a snippet about drawing a pig, and she jumped up and exclaimed “I know how to draw a pig!”

Knowing nothing about why, and not knowing about the personality test, she marched to the large white board at the front, grabbed a marker, and went to work. She started with an inverted “U” that was the rear end of the pig, it was obvious the rear end of this pig was the focal point of this drawing. She went on to quickly draw this pig, very little detail, but obviously coyly looking over it’s shoulder at you, rear end prominently on display. It was large, taking the entire grease board. It had a single small ear that was visible, and only the rear legs were visible. It’s tail of course, was larger than any pig I had ever seen, and the pig was actually winking at you from under long eyelashes.

It was all I could do to keep from rolling on the floor laughing on the spot. The other guys were obviously struggling to maintain composure themselves. I glanced at another lady that was in the class, she looked to be in shock. The artist finished with a flair, adding a little emphasis to the end of the tail (I’m not making this up!) and dropping her marker walked away proudly rubbing her hands together.

I don’t think anyone ever told her about the personality test, but she was certainly MUCH more popular with the single guys after that. She ended up spending quite a bit of time with a young classmate who was at least 10 years younger than she was.

I would have expected no less.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Sweet Caroline And The Red Sox

While technically recorded in 1969, this trite ditty of a song has become an anthem of sorts for the Boston Red Sox.

This story is exceptionally well done, and had me laughing till tears were in my eyes. It's an audio file from NPR.ORG.

The Mystery of 'Sweet Caroline' and the Sox

Monday, October 03, 2005


Back in the seventies, everyone wanted peace. Some supported the Nixon Administration, but virtually all wanted peace. And almost nobody under 30 was in favor of the Viet Nam war.

This is why I find the number of people supporting the war in Iraq mind boggling. I mean, how could people change so drastically? This is not a war about America's freedom, we weren't worrying that Saddam would lead ground troops into the US with a surprise landing in New Jersey. And Iraq never was a war about terrorism, no matter how badly you want to believe it is. The administration will NOT say this, they never have. Of course, they don't want people to stop believing it, either.

People say Iraq isn't Viet Nam, and I agree, it's not. But we're there for the same reasons, we can't extract ourselves in a reasonable manner without plunging the area into massive unrest. Of course, this eventually happened in Viet Nam, so why do we think we can do it better this time around? So far it's been every bit as massive a clusterfuck as Viet Nam ever was.

I was talking to a twenty-something co-worker the other day. He is a supporter of the Iraq war, and is a walking, talking, Dittohead. He accuses me of being an old hippy, and can't understand how I could oppose the war, as it makes so much sense to him. I asked him one question, would he let his son fight the war? What do you think he said? Uh-huh. No way would he allow his son to fight.

Before we undertake our next war, let's add a constitutional amendment. Now I'm a STRICT constitutionalist, but would support this amendment. With any war vote, congressmen need to give up the selective service registration information for their closest family member eligible to serve, and those kids will become soldiers.

Whatta you want to bet we would never fight another war?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

I'm Officially An iPodder

I've never been one to be stuck in the past. Appreciating the past as a reference to where I've been, but trying hard not to live there. I strive to embrace technology, and all the promise, potential, and pitfalls it brings.

Yesterday I picked up my first iPod. For those of you who don't know, an iPod is a portable music player. Plus a lot more. You can get iPods that have from 512 megabytes of storage to 40 gigs (40,000 megabytes). Mine holds 30 gigaytes, which is many thousand songs. It also holds and displays pictures, so I can walk around with a portable electronic photo album. Sound quality is incredible, and it's small enough to easily fit in a shirt pocket. And if you want to talk about cool, next time you have people discussing oldies, such as the lyrics to Clarence Carter's Strokin', or Vince Gill's guitar work in Pure Prairie League's Amie, or how much cowbell there really was in Blue Oyster Cult's Don't Fear The Reaper, you can whip out the 'ol IPod and show them. And yes, I do have all those songs on my iPod, plus Franz Ferdinand, Hank Williams Sr., Radiohead, Miles Davis, Dr. Dre, The Butthole Surfers, Magic Slim, The Black Eyed Peas, The Gourds, The Jets, and, of course, Hendrix.

Another really cool thing you can get are "podcasts". These are like radio shows you download into your iPod to listen to later. So if you commute to work, or have downtime at any time, you can listen to these shows. Anything from blogs to opinion to news. If people talk about it around the coffee pot, you can find it on a podcast.

These things get the POTS "Far Out" seal of approval.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Music for Products of the Seventies - Part 3

This time around, I'm not posting lyrics, but recommending EVERYTHING by a particular artist.

Ben Folds is the Billy Joel of this generation. That's heavy praise considering Billy Joel was the superlative showman, songwriter, and all around musician. As a song writer he has a wry, pessimistic view at times, and at times is even vulgar. But it's not vulgarity for the sake of vulgarity (he blasts that concept in his song Rocking The Suburbs). He has a good reputation as a showman, which I unfortunately can't attest to, I haven't been able to attend a show yet. And as a piano player, well, the guy has chops. He can PLAY. His covers are also exquisitely done, covers of bands from Steely Dan to Dr. Dre. Name me ONE OTHER musician who would attempt covers from either of those, let alone BOTH. Incredible.

As a producer he's also at the top of the heap. Within the last year, William Shatner (that's right, Captain Kirk) released an album. It was, believe it or not, quite good. It was produced by Ben Folds. If he can make Shatner sound good...

Here's an album recommendation: Whatever & Ever Amen. Grab it on Amazon, or search it up on You won't be disappointed.