Jim Walsh's weekly (Monday) mix of 20 (or so) must-have (or get 'em whenever you get time) tunes. And yes, I really do make these mixes and listen to 'em as I write. This week's mix (11/28):
1. The Hypstrz Live at the Longhorn: The Complete Recordings, The Hypstrz. I spent the day after Thanksgiving at the Mall Of America, interviewing shoppers about Black Friday. From an easy chair at Starbucks, I watched an alternative rock band, a reggae band, and a hip-hop crew decorate the red-carpeted stage. At Hot Topic, I bought some Green Day, Guns 'n' Roses, and Ramones gifts, browsed the trashy rock chick wear, and listened to one of the store's regulars go on about how the store hasn't "sold out" yet by stocking Avril Lavigne CDs or T-shirts. I finally collapsed in a leather chair in the Bose store, and did my best to avoid eye contact with the wheezing Don Henley DVD that was trying to sell me flat-screen high-def slow-death.
It all got me thinking about what the definition of "rock 'n' roll" is in 2005, and if it even matters anymore. As the chlorine of Underwater World found its way to my critical faculties, I decided that maybe "rock 'n' roll" is in the eye of the beholder, and that it has finally coagulated into one big happy slop of rebellion and spirit and half-off with your next purchase.
Then I went home, took a nap, and went to the Turf Club.
Where there were people smoking, getting dizzy from the nicotine, and drunk on the beer and whiskey. Where there were many of the old-school '60s- and otherwise-influenced punk/rock bands representing, including Whole Lotta Loves, Man-Sized Action, Funseekers, Conquerors, Good Joe, and TVBC.
Where there were youngsters with enough sense to catch 'em while they can, and oldsters flashing back on the golden years and comparing notes on all the cool new shit they've heard on the Current, Radio K, and KFAI. Where there was former City Pages music scribe Dan Heilman, rocking like there was no today or tomorrow. Where there was Eric Eskola, with a newspaper spread out in front of him, waiting for the band to come on, reading about the new Lenny Kaye Nuggets release for kids. Where there was local rock historian Todd Mahon, taking it all in for future reference.
And there were the Hypstrz. The Batson brothers, sons of the great Minneapolis Tribune columnist Larry Batson; Johnny Haga, drummer and guiding spirit of so many bands over the years, and Randy WEISS, the nimble-fingered bass wizard who one onlooker knowingly characterized as "not human." They soared through their set with more rock forgotten than most of us have in our holsters combined��""Action Woman," "6654321," "Can't Explain," "I Can See For Miles," "Don't Look Back," "Let's Talk About Girls," "Batman," "The Ballad Of The Green Berets," "You're Gonna Miss Me," and so on and so on and so much more. I bought two T-shirts on the way out, the kind you can't get at Hot Topics, and when they blitzed "My Generation," it was recast as not an anthem of youth, but as a secret code to everyone in the room, and a warning to all who would co-opt rock's true heart: Don't try and dig what we all say.
2. "This Is To Mother You," "Black Boys On Mopeds," "Thank You For Hearing Me," "Dancing Lessons," "Throw Down Your Arms," "Hold Back The Night," "Marcus Garvey," "Nothing Compares 2 U," "Vampire," "Haunted," "Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace," "He Prayed," etc. etc. Sinead O'Connor. As far as I can recall, she hasn't sung here since Riverfest in the early '90s, and as far as I'm concerned the news that she's going to be in my town tonight is cause for celebration, the kind reserved for heads of state and Big & Rich.
But that's not happening, probably due to some flotsam backlash from her pope-rip on Saturday Night Live, which, it turns out, is an entirely reasonable reaction in these Catholic-homophobic times. Or maybe it's because she's considered a relic of the '80s, or maybe it's because she's an angry woman-child constantly trying find inner peace; never a pretty sight.
I could go on. Or, I could go on about how I think she's probably the most heart-rending singer of my generation, or talk about how she got it right when she told the Irish Times that she's attracted to journalists because, "Singers and journalists are a lot alike; we're both a little bonkers." Or I could just bask in that voice, which almost always does it's healing thing, in whatever genuflection-worthy incarnation it finds itself in, like with Sly and Robbie tonight.
3. "Thank You Friends," Big Star. Driving around on Thanksgiving Day, post-feast and -family fun, Mark Wheat perfectly played this, my favorite prayer to friends gone but not forgotten.
4. "Catalina," Bellwether. Prettiest damn song on this mix.
5. "Our Time," Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Two lovers come out of the closet and gird their loins for "the year to be hated"; the rest of us shamelessly rubberneck.
6. "Going Home," The Rolling Stones. Anyone who thinks these cats are defined by their current corporate caricature should hear the grit and grime of Aftermath (1966) and this 12-minute radio-unfriendly blues work-up, which finds the singer unspooling and experimenting with his harp, diaphragm, and word-scraps.
8. "Outdoor Type," The Lemonheads. Heard this one in my head at the dog park by the river the other day, as he and his pals romped in the Narnia-like winter woods.
9. "You Tell Me," Thea Gilmore. If you're like me, you hear Mary Lucia play this and you want to call her up and say, "You feel like that, too? Wanna go get a beer and cry in it together?" But you don't, because, after all, it's just song, and talking about it would cheapen it; the way talking to singers about singing can sometimes feel silly. So you just listen to stuff like this and understand that when Thea talks about poetry being "self-defense," she's singing for everyone who makes songs and poems their own as a way of dealing. Plus, you can do the dishes to it.
10. "Addicted," Saw Doctors. A Celtic-folk version of the Gun Club's "She's Like Heroin To Me."
11. "Mucky Fingers," Oasis. Best rock song I've heard in ages. Listen to that piano ramp-up after he sings "walk on." (Hey, Bri, when are you gonna get me that file of Liam and Noel brawling in the studio?) Hearing it over and over the past few days made me want to read something I wrote about Oasis's Minneapolis debut, which in fact was not greeted by "a line snaking its way down Hennepin," but attended by about 300 people:
St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN) October 14, 1994 Section: Express Edition: Metro Final Page: 4C Memo:WHO: Oasis with special guests King Can WHEN: 9:30 tonight WHERE: Uptown Bar, 3018 Hennepin Ave. Mpls. TICKETS: $3 CALL: 823-5704
OASIS OFFERS A BREATH OF FRESH AIR IN STAGE STYLE
Jim Walsh, Pop Music Critic
In the mate-eat-mate world of British music journalism, the weekly rock rags New Musical Express and Melody Maker vie for readers the way American tabloid sharks vie for fresh O.J. juice: be first or be last; find a darling-du-jour, hype 'em far beyond any reasonable or realistic expectations, then shoot 'em down the following week.
Not exactly a formula that ensures measured coverage, but every once in awhile those zany Brits get it right. And in a big way, almost by mistake, they've gotten Oasis right.
The one-year-old Manchester quintet (singer Liam Gallagher, guitarist Noel Gallagher, guitarist Paul Arthurs, bassist Paul McGulgan, drummer Tony McCarroll) has appeared on the cover of both NME and Melody Maker, and in short order has become a fixture in the week-to-week gossip/gig guides. And for good reason: The group's debut album "Definitely Maybe" is one of the year's most delicious rock records - a tossed salad of dirty white boys T. Rex, the Stones, the Stone Roses, Bowie, the Pistols, the Who, the Soft Boys.
And, of course, the Beatles. "Definitely Maybe" is flecked with Fab Four references - both lyrical and musical, and at a recent live gig, Liam introduced John Lennon's "I Am The Walrus" by saying, "This is a song by the best band in the world." But unlike so many pop groups who claim the Beatles as an influence, there is nothing sugary or conventional about Oasis; their sound is as raw as it is melodic, irresistible as it is derivative, but steeped firmly in the present.
And like their influences, Oasis take their mission seriously. Interviews are invariably filled with brash, bold statements that claim superiority over most of their contemporaries, and that insist that their overnight success hasn't taken them by surprise. And by all reports, their live thing (regularly and curiously described as "debauchery") isn't exactly a pull-out-all-the-stops physical rock SHOW. Instead, the band is rumored to stand, cockily, stone still on stage, eschewing between-song patter in favor of a streamlined attack that spits out ragged ballads and glam-rockers such as "Rock 'n' Roll Star," "Live Forever," "Cigarettes & Alcohol," "Supersonic," and "Married With Children."
In the classic sense of the word (and "classic" is a good word to apply to Oasis), Oasis feels like an old-fashioned singles band, the likes of which hasn't eminated from merry old England since the Jam. Yikes. The mere invocation of the name of that hallowed Britband begs a question: can Oasis make it in America? Plenty of Anglo acts - from the Smiths, to Blur, Suede, Ride, and countless other recipients of the NME-Melody Maker baptism - have been sensations in the U.K., but barely dented the larger American consciousness, not to mention charts.
Never mind that, as you read this, there's probably a line of true believers snaking its way down Hennepin Avenue in front of the Uptown Bar for the Oasis gig tonight. And never mind the fact that in July, Noel played guitar with Crazy Horse at a gig in London, cementing his band's credit in Yank heaven. The fact is, guitar rock xenophobia is alive and well and living in modern rock fans, more and more of whom subscribe to the adage "Buy American."
But if Oasis is any indication, I for one am ready for the umpteenth British invasion to storm America. Because when Liam sings, in his best Johnny Rotten-cum-Marc Bolan squawk, "You're not down with who I am/Look at you now/You're all in my hands/Tonight I'm a rock 'n' roll star," he's not boasting. He's telling it like it is, how it will be, and echoing a sentiment his hero Lennon once demanded of his world: Gimme some truth.
Copyright (c) 1994 St. Paul Pioneer Press
12. "Bad News (Don't Bother Me)," The Sugarhill Gang. Thank you for reading the Star Tribune. Thank you for reading the Star Tribune. Thank you for reading the Star Tribune. Thank you for reading the Star.
13. "Gloria," Patti Smith. Thank you for writing this, Will Hermes, but it wasn't just New York kids who fell hard for Ms. Smith. I remember driving around Lake Harriet in 1975 with some of Catholic high school buddies, and cranking the opening line, "Jesus died for someone's sins, but not mine," which garnered a nervous laugh and an "OK, buddy," from the youngest in the back seat.
Thirty years later, it sounds as dangerous as she sounds wise: "Rock 'n' roll is our cultural voice. I saw it evolve in my lifetime��"I'm gonna be 59 in December��"and it was revolutionary, in every way. It gave young people an outlet to channel all this new energy. I mean, look at what's happening in Paris right now. Part of me wishes I could just go into the streets and say, y'know, 'What the fuck? Here-here's a Marshall; here's a Strat.' That's the beauty of rock 'n' roll. It's a voice."
14. "White City," Erin McKeown. I suppose it's easy to take the Current for granted, but there was a time in this town when the radio dial was a pre-programmed pit that could've been straight out of Anywheresville. I heard Thorn play this the day after Thanksgiving as I headed to the mall, and then the dog park. The first snow was fresh on the streets, the city was beautiful, and who-the-fuck-is Erin McKeown was going on about it all.
15. "Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow," Parliament-Funkadelic. Here's a cool piece on P-Funk that talks about the meaning of this battle cry; here's what Clinton told me about it a few years ago...
St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN)
December 14, 1993
Edition: Metro Final
UNCLE JAM (STILL) WANTS YOU!//AFTER FIVE DECADES OF FIGHTING FOR OUR FREEDOM TO FUNK, PRESIDENT GEORGE CLINTON BRINGS HIS MESSAGE TO A NEW GENERATION.
Jim Walsh, Staff Writer
The first time he said it, George Clinton didn't even remember what he said. It was 1967, and his band, the Parliaments, were performing at a club in Boston called the Sugar Shack. The Parliaments came well before Clinton's trailblazing Parliament-Funkadelic collectives of the '70s; a doo-wop outfit that eschewed the genre's matching sweaters and three-piece suits of the day and opted instead for helmets, fencing masks and robes that were more in line with the era's burgeoning psychedelic movement.
The first time he said it, George Clinton was tripping on acid. The Parliaments were experimenting with a raw melange of slow, dirty blues and embryonic funk. That night at the Sugar Shack, the band was laying down an especially nasty groove that was bathed in moody minor chords and bumped along by their leader's cosmic comic-book ad-libbing and hallucinogenic-inspired beat poetry.
The first time he said it, George Clinton might well have lost it forever to the moment, were it not for an "artsy-fartsy college friend who talked to me about Nietzsche and Ayn Rand and all that stuff." The kid had made a habit of sitting in the audience at Parliaments' gigs and meticulously scribbling down verbatim passages from Clinton's improvs. After the Parliaments ended their set at the Sugar Shack, he presented Clinton with a scrap of paper. It read: "Free your mind and your ass will follow."
"To me, it was nonsensical and pseudo-philosophical, and I cracked up every time I heard myself say something like that," Clinton says by phone from his 178-acre Michigan homestead, where he lives with his wife of three years and two of his grandchildren. "Years later, I realized things flow through you that you don't even have to know what you're talking about.
"But I was like everybody else: I learned later that it does mean something. I mean, I write lyrics all the time, and I knew it had a flow to it, but it's deeper than I even thought it was. Because now, everybody thinks that was genius to be able to do a record like that. When he came up to me and said, 'This is what you said,' I believed him, because he was knowledgeable. So whatever, if he said it meant something, I thought, 'I'm gonna keep it.' "
Good thing he did. Since that fateful night, "Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow" (which turned up on the seminal 1970 Funkadelic album of the same name) has become a cry of liberation in the '80s and '90s: En Vogue's cleaned-up (antiseptic?) reprise of it was a chart-topping smash last year, the Clinton-Red Hot Chili Peppers performance of it was a highlight of last year's Grammy Awards show, and it is currently invoked by rock critics and headline writers all over the world, at the clip of (and this is a modest estimate) 20 times per week.
16. "Old College Try," Mountain Goats. As durable a declaration of romantic love as it gets.
17. "The Zamboni Song," Gear Daddies. As fate would have it, two glossy publications saw fit to pay tribute to the Zamboni and the Dads who love them this week. Here's a little more ice-time from Martin Zellar...
St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN)
September 29, 2000
THE ICEMAN BUMMETH: ZELLAR'S 'ZAMBONI' IS JUST TOO DARN HOT
Jim Walsh, Staff Writer
At approximately 7:40 p.m. today at the Xcel Energy Center, as 18,000 hockey-starved Minnesotans bask in the afterglow of the first period of the first NHL game to feature a Minnesota team in seven years, another bit of history will be made.
Out of the p.a. speakers will come the sound of an acoustic guitar, a giddy-up drum beat and a shy country-rock shuffle. Beer glasses will be raised. Backsides will wiggle. Mouths will open, and the sing-along will begin.
"Well, I went down to the local arena, asked to see the manager man," sings a plaintive dreamer. "He came from his office and said, 'Son, can I help you? I looked at him and said, 'Yes, you can. Hey, I wanna drive the Zamboni. I wanna drive the Zamboni. Yes, I do."'
The song is "Zamboni," and the voice of the kid-dreamer is Martin Zellar who, as lead singer for the Gear Daddies, wrote the song in 1984 in about 15 minutes in the bedroom of his apartment in Uptown Minneapolis. It is included as a hidden track on the Gear Daddies' 1990 album "Billy's Live Bait," and, in terms of airplay, has become Zellar's most popular song. And most lucrative.
"It's made me a lot of money. A ton," says Zellar from his home in Austin, Texas, where he has lived for the past two years with his wife, Carolyn, and their two sons. "It's nuts, and it still is. I played hockey, and I sat on the bench a lot, so I did a lot of watching of the ice being cleaned."
That experience - of watching a local guy named Smokey (who is immortalized in the song) driving the Zamboni at Riverside Arena in Zellar's hometown of Austin, Minn. - has translated into something of a phenomenon, on a par with such arena rock-jock anthems as "We Are the Champions" and "Y.M.C.A."
"Zamboni" is now in regular rotation at every NHL and minor-league arena in the United States and Canada. It has been played at the NHL All-Star Game, has appeared in such films as "The Mighty Ducks" and "Mystery, Alaska" and in countless radio and television spots. Then there's the Zamboni Brothers, a novelty act that performs hockey songs exclusively, who have recorded it and adopted it as their theme song.
Ironically enough, Zellar has had a love-hate relationship with "Zamboni." The song was a staple of Gear Daddies shows in the '80s and early '90s, but when the band split up, Zellar stopped playing it because he wanted to distance himself from the Gear Daddies. But his fans had other ideas.
"I didn't play it for a long time," he says. "I thought it would go away, and the exact opposite happened. By not playing it, it became a big deal. It became bigger than it should have, and then I had to explain 400 times a night why I wasn't doing it.
"And the older I got, the harder it was for me to remember why I wasn't doing it. I never had a problem with the song, other than I had a real fear that it was defining me. It's not that I don't like the song, it's just that for too many people, it defined me. It's in no way representative of what I do, or what I've written overall, and I just got huffy about it, like, 'I don't want to be the 'Zamboni man."'
Much of Zellar's fear stemmed from the fact that he thought of "Zamboni" as a novelty song, though it can easily be heard as more than that. On one level, it is about the universal pull of dreams. And for any kid who grew up in Minnesota watching one Zamboni or another clean a rink, the song is a tribute to that magical, mystical machine that glides over the ice and metaphorically smooths over life's rough edges.
"I loved, and still do love, watching the Zamboni," says Zellar. "There's something Zenlike about it. This rough surface, very systematically, goes from that scratched white to this gleaming sheet, strip by strip. There's a real beauty to it."
Two years ago, Zellar broke his "Zamboni" silence and started performing it again in his regular set. While he's "thrilled" at the idea of it being played at the Xcel Energy Center, he says he's not willing to sing it at a Wild game anytime soon. To him, it's still too much of a novelty song.
"I play it because you can't fight it," he says. "You know, Chuck Berry, who was one of the greatest rock 'n' roll songwriters of all time, his only top 10 hit was 'My Dingaling.' Novelty songs just catch on. And now that I know about the money in sports novelty songs, I'm gonna start working on one called 'I Wanna Be an Infield-Groomer'."
Copyright (c) 2000 St. Paul Pioneer Press
By Craig Wright
It's that time again, people. Time to think about dying.
First, a couple magnificently mournful new songs by a friend came my way in an email. Then, I got an early morning phone call announcing that my brother-in-law was being rushed to the hospital after having had either a heart attack or a stroke. Third, I am haunted continually by concerns about my every ache and pain, and today is no different. Maybe even worse.
It is as if the whole world is saying to me:
We are going down. We are all going down together.
I look around. The world is silent and still, but, as Wallace Stevens wrote, "The stillness is all in the key, all of it is, the stillness is all in the key of that desolate sound."
Life as the Titanic, minus the lifeboats. Life as Flight 11. Life as, well... Death.
And yet, amidst all this credible bad news, we have before us the incredible unfailing reality of the pardoned turkeys.
This past Thanksgiving's Eve, President Bush (the American president) ceremonially "pardoned" two turkeys named, chillingly, Marshmallow and Yam. Instead of being murdered and eaten, they were featured in a parade and will now spend the rest of their lives at Disneyland with many other pardoned turkeys in a sort of Turkey Heaven.
What does this mean?
If I remember correctly, over 200 million turkeys were cooked this past Thanksgiving Day. The average American consumed 21 pounds of turkey in 2004. And America is only, need I remind you, half of the world. Do you know what that means? Do you know how many turkeys are being slaughtered, if I may be permitted to coin a term, "annuglobally?"
A lot. It's, like, a LOT.
It sucks to be a turkey on Earth.
So, to those who love a good cry, the fate of the average turkey seems like yet another fitting metaphor for the human predicament. Turkeys are systematically bred into existence, i.e., forced to live. They spend their lives making very few choices, if any, the conditions of their existence being so completely controlled by powers vaster and much more organized than they. And, though they are unaware of it, their time to die is rigorously appointed and certain.
Well, mostly certain.
Because for any given turkey, there is always a chance that he or she could be one of the two pardoned turkeys. There is always the chance that just as all a turkey's friends in the world are being force-marched up the grated ramp toward the assembly line where they will all be hung upside down and throat-slit with an electrified blade, there is always the slim, slim chance that he or she will be grabbed from the side, rushed like a football to a waiting car, driven to a large white house with a wide green lawn, cooed at, chased, kidded around with, photographed, treated like a god by dozens of babbling adorers, paraded before millions more, and finally deposited in a large, open-air facility full of happy strangers with similar stories.
There is always that chance.
And since there truly is always that chance, I'm forced to admit that I have a choice today in this world of limited choices. Faced with mournful songs of mortality, bad news from far away, and highly localized medical paranoia, I can choose to understand my life and the lives of those around me as "regular turkey lives" or "pardoned turkey lives." And while the odds seem after a casual glance to be weighed massively against the "pardoned turkey" model, all it takes is a second look to turn that beat around.
Look at it this way.
We all made it safely through nine months as zygotes and then embryos in our mother's wombs, the most dangerous place we've ever lived if you measure danger by mortality rates. We made it through the birth canal with little if any trouble. We all survived childhood and adolescence with minor scrapes. And while some lives have already ended in drunken car crashes, cancer wards, cave-ins, or on the battlefields of the world (the American world), we are still here.
We are getting emails. We are looking forward to the holiday season. We are being carried along a colorful, clangorous, culture-wide corridor, mostly by forces beyond our control. We are being smiled at, cooed at, photographed, babbled at, metaphorized, fed, stroked, and, let's be honest, loved.
We are all pardoned turkeys.
Here we are in Turkey Heaven, surrounded by survivors with similar stories. "They grabbed me at dawn on a Wednesday," says one old codger. "I thought I was a goner, for sure." Another one just spreads the love: "Hey! Beautiful day, huh? BEAUTIFUL day."
And he's right. The food is great and there's plenty of it. The weather is mostly terrific. Times are good. Screw that, times are GREAT.
Every day's a freakin' fabulous day in Turkey Heaven.
I know, I know, the end is coming, even in this Turkey Heaven. I'm no dummy. Some turkeys slow down. They stay in bed a little longer. They spend more time remembering other turkeys, old friends long gone, and less time chatting it up out on the green. Some go crazy. Some get sick all at once, fall over, and soon they're hustled away by handlers.
But to where? Even a turkey has to ask: "To where? Where are you taking my friends?
Hey! I thought we got away with this. I thought that was the deal. I thought this was Turkey Heaven! Where are you taking my friends? Where are you taking ME?"
Where are you taking me?
As the poet Gary Snyder reminds us, with not just useful but necessary optimism, "When making an axe handle, the model is close at hand."
Good morning, dear friends.