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Jaco Pastorius and Mt. Everest.

April 8, 2021

I’ve been thinking about Jaco Pastorius lately.

You might not know who he is.

To give you some idea…

Ok, that didn’t help all that much. Maybe this will..

Still not impressed?

Ok.. well..

Then let’s just say that, when I started getting into bass playing, and talking to bass players, this name kept coming up. A name I had never heard before.

Why? Well..

The only famous bass players are those who can also sing, are primarily known as singers, such as Paul McCartney, Gene Simmons, and Sting. If you were into strange music in the ’90’s, then you might have heard of Les Claypool, the singer and bassist of a very very strange band called Primus.

Yeah, you know who they are. Except for maybe Les Claypool.

The most famous pop culture bass player who doesn’t sing, or rather, is not famous as a singer and leader of a band or whatever, at least if you are over 40, like I am, is Flea, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

So who is Jaco Pastorius then?

Well.. talk to enough bass players and Jaco is considered the greatest bass player who ever lived.

He was beaten to death in 1987.

No, not some victim of a random crime, not entirely.

He had been suffering from mental illnesses, got stuck on the usual substances, and bashed his way into a night club.

A bouncer with a particular proclivity for violence beat the bassist, and the bassist died of his wounds.

At age 35.

Before some of you were even born.

Why am I writing about this person?

I’m trying to get at that myself.

And I sometimes get ideas.

But now my brain is floundering.

And to be honest, no one reads this blog.

And on facebook, what, I get a few likes, three at most, no matter the quality of content.

But whatever.

So, Jaco then.. and the purpose for writing.

It’s the incredibly strongly held belief that reaching the pinnacle of success, of one’s profession brings happiness and will cure all one’s ills.

Whe Jaco was fairly young, he declared to his parents that he was going to become the greatest bass player in the world.

Why bass?

That I don’t know..

Maybe because bass is considered to be SO much easier and less desirable to play than guitar.

You want to become the greatest guitarists the world has ever known?

Get in line.

Yeah.

Behind Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Pete Townsend, Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Page, Carlos Santana, and the list goes on..

The best bass guitar player?

Crickets.

Well.. during Jaco’s time there were a few, such as Bootsy Collins, who was in James Brown’s band for awhile, Stanley Clarke (I forget what band he was in), and the bass players I don’t know the names of, but who were in such bands as Parliament/Funkadelic, Sly and the Family Stone, and one of the greatest early bass players, the ultimate dude in the Motown House band, called The Funk Brothers, James Jamerson.

Yeah, there were some greats.

But they didn’t play at the level this guy got to.

I don’t know if Jaco and Miles Davis crossed paths. Reason I bring up Miles Davis is, first of all, Miles, long past his death, is still one of the all-time greats of Jazz.

And the guy happened to invent or co-invent several Jazz genres, including Jazz fusion, which, as the name suggests, is a blend of Jazz and other genres.

Jazz had reached an evolutionary culdecac, to borrow a phrase from the great science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke.

In order for Jazz to continue to exist and progress, Jazz musicians adopted other styles, like rock and funk.

Miles was at the forefront of this movement, with his album, Bitches Brew (a pun, a bad one.. from “Witch’s Brew”.. that phrase might have gone back as far as Shakespeare.. I am thinking of the witches in the play “Macbeth,” or more likely, much before Shakespeare’s time..

But anyway..

Jaco played Jazz fusion, with a band called Weather Report, with Joni Mitchell’s band, as she continued to change her style. And change and change..

I am just starting to get into Joni Mitchell’s music, and may not get much further in than I am, as I have so many interests, be they musically related or otherwise.

And Jaco had a solo album as well.

So..

I have been half-heartedly getting into bass playing yet again..

I am, to be honest, more a writer and several other things than I am, and probably will ever be, a musician.

But I wanted to explain to you why I have had Jaco on my mind tonight, this late night, as all my nights are, and why I wanted to write about him.

I wanted to call this blog lonely at the top..

But that doesn’t really cover it. I just can’t think of titles sometimes, that are not a cliche. Plus cliches get your attention. You can’t help it. Neither can I.

As much as we may not like cliches, and be sick of them, they are wired into us..

But my point is this..

Reaching the top of one’s field is not always a recipe for happiness.

It can just as easily, and perhaps, even more often, be a recipe for the collapse of one’s relationships, substance abuse, and, if one is already suffering from mental illness or illnesses, as so many of us are.. a far more precipitous decent than what may have been experienced when a person was still climbing the ladder of accomplishment and recognition.

The question is simply this.

Where do you go up..

If..

You are already..

Up?

If you’ve been striving really really hard, so that your only goal is, day and night, misery upon misery, minor to major success after success, amidst all the avoidable and unavoidable failures along the way..

To reach the top.

And you reach it.. what then?

Some people have climbed Mt. Everest more than once.

There is such a thing as the law of diminishing returns.

Meaning, do the same rewarding thing over and over again, that thing. that activity.

Becomes less rewarding.

I wonder if some people only keep climbing Mt. Everest until they die.

Because..

Metaphorically and literally, they have reached the top.

Some people, the better adjusted ones, or the particularly obsessive, and at the same time particularly lucky, find new goals.

But many do not.

And some, and perhaps some of the least fortunate among them, suffer mentally.

Jaco was one of these.

He had “mental health issues,” as we call them these days.

And he likely realized that, once he reached a certain age, and a certain level of prowess, a level only he and he alone was qualified to measure..

He had reached the top.

When you reach the top, “there’s nowhere to go but up” no longer applies.. not necessarily.

Granted, one can continue to improve, and innovate, and reach new heights..

But one starts to wonder, what is the point?

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen what the very tippy top of Mt. Everest looks like.

It’s a tiny little spot. Only one person can stand on it at the same time. Or at least, that is how I have seen it depicted, in film, and in photographs.

This is appropriate.. a literal and metaphorical truth.

Stand at the top, and you are truly alone.

And being alone is lonely.

But that is not even the worst problem.

If there truly is nowhere to go, because one has already reached “up,” has gone farther than anyone else, and one has gone as far as one can..

Then what?

I wonder how many people who, once they have reached the very top of their field, have become addicts, withdrawn into seclusion, or who have committed suicide.

In my thinking, Jaco became the best, knew he was the best, lost purpose, succumbed to substance abuse, mental illness, became homeless, and lost himself in his own madness.

On the night he died, so I have read, he, in an intoxicated or manic state, burst into a night club, and tried to force his way onstage.

And a bouncer hauled him out of the club..

And proceeded to beat the greatest bass player of all time.. to death.

Maybe, in the dark pockets of his mind, Jaco was relieved.

Death..

The end.

The end of all suffering.

So why am I writing about this guy, this both great and terribly tragic figure?

Because of a lesson that is counter-intuitive, and certainly not what we have been taught by our culture.

That, instead of what we might think, and what our culture tells us, it can be FAR better to be climbing the ladder of success than to finally reach the top.

Because some, perhaps many people who have truly reached the top, have then encountered the truly horrifying question of..

What Now?

This is a question they had never faced before, had not anticipated. Why not? They were focused on their goal.

Some people stay at least somewhat sane, and like Bob Dylan and Michael Jordan, intentionally fade into a quiet, and hopefully contended retirement. I don’t know what they do with their time, but maybe they are at least somewhat happy.

They are the more well-adjusted.

For those who are not so well-adjusted, who have been overcome by mental illness, or the abuse of alcohol or drugs, or, as often as not, a combination of mental illness and substance dependence..

Well..

Some have gone mad..

And some have died.

All this is to say..

Be careful what you aspire to.

That old adage, “Be careful what you wish for,” is correct.

The vast majority of people striving for ultimate success won’t reach it.

This is its own kind of heartache and hell.

But perhaps an even worse damnation awaits those who do reach the top of the mountain.

Perhaps, better to be satisfied with being the best guitarist on your block, and having a happy and healthy family, or running a beloved coffee house in your hometown, and calling it good.

Do you really want to strive and strive for success, sacrificing anything and everything to get there.

Once you have reached the top of Mount Everest..

Then what?

Jaco found out.

A very very short post on hell, sex, and two songs.

April 6, 2021

On the radio, I just heard “Highway to Hell,” and then, “Sexual Healing.” I was taught these things went in the opposite order (unless of course, the sexual healing takes place within a marriage). Perhaps I shall avoid both hell and sexual healing. Sexual healing can lead to hell, but isn’t life without sexual healing also a kind of hell? I continue to struggle with life’s dualities. Even when these dualities occur only in my head. And I still don’t even know if these dualities only occurring in my head is a good thing or bad.

Good.

March 31, 2021

Good.

I am not writing about good as related to morality.

No, I am writing about good as in different from amazing.

Good as in a day to day something that we appreciate as good, and not needing amazing.

Some people chase amazing all the time.. and they ruin their lives.

Amazing once in a rare while is fine.. is good.

But good is better for the day to day.

Why am I thinking about “good” in this way?

I just came home from a taproom that I’m surprised I had not been to until this evening.

No, I’m not just writing about beer. I’m going deeper than that, although for me, beer is close to being a sacrament, as close to a sacrament as I get..

I am being both literal and metaphorical tonight..

So this taproom and brewery. One of the two largest local brewers in Boise. The two biggest are Sockeye and Payette. Their beers are sold in local and national grocery store chains, not just at their own locations.

I’ve been to the Sockeye brewpub several times, but this was my first trip to the taproom of Payette. I’ve been driving past it in the evenings for years, on the way home from the downtown library, where I tutored ESL students.

But I never stopped in.

Tonight, I met a friend out there. He is much more dialed into this town, even though I’ve lived here longer. He follows the food trucks on instagram, knows the taprooms, the restaurants, and he suggested the place.

I’m thinking, great, because Fly Line Viennese Style Lager is my favorite lager, and Payette makes it. I’ve been buying it at Trader Joe’s for over a year.

It is flat compared to Bud or Coors or whatever.. not nearly as bubbly. Not perfect, but it was a certain flavor.. a very mellow brew.

It is good.

It is a high quality, very subtly unique, day to day beer.

Tonight at the taproom, before I had a pint of Fly Line, I had what is called a “flight.” I don’t know why. It is a beer sampler.. 5 oz. glasses.. usually 4, 4 different brews.

Were any of these amazing? No.

But they were good to very good. Payette beer is good.

Fly Line is good.

The other kinds I sampled were also good.

None of them were amazing. I have found amazing at other small breweries in the area, but I hardly ever go to these places, and I almost never buy their beers in the stores when available. Not only do these beers cost more, but they are amazing, and I almost never want that. Too amazing for me.

Amazing can overload the senses. That is not something I often want. Alright, maybe overloading the senses.. a little.. in a good way..

Most of the time I need good, which, to meet my standards, is very good, but not the so amazing that I only want this amazing whatever it is maybe once a year or so.

Day to day good. That is what matters. This is what sustains us. This is what blesses us.

Do I need incredibly fancy and expensive restaurants? No. I need Good.

Do I need the latest trends and cultural obsessions?

No, I need Good.

I’m the same way with musical instruments. I don’t feel the need to pay thousands of dollars for an electric guitar or bass, when I can go to a pawn shop or music store, and buy a used, foreign-made instrument for $200 or less.. If I choose the right one, it is good.

Clothes.. same thing. I get them from thrift stores if I can, or else buy clothes new from wherever there is a sale. But I am selective. A used or deeply discounted pair of Dockers or Cabella’s khakis. Or some random brand of jeans I’ve never heard of, but it is a durable pair of jeans and fits well enough? Yes. Thank you, good.

Do I need incredibly fancy clothes from some shop in Beverly Hills, or, much more locally, the mall or some pricey store near here? Do I need to pay $300 for a pair of jeans?. I do not. T

The car I am driving. A Toyota Corolla. The one I am driving is 18 years old. As long as I am not dealing with heavy snow and ice, this is the only vehicle I want to drive. Why? It is good.

My philosophy of Good not only applies to food and drink and things we can buy, but people, as well.

What about women?

Do I want a woman who looks amazing and has the perfect body and who is glamorous and always exciting and needing to be out on the town and..

No. I want a woman who is Good. Good in many ways. Day to day good. Or rather, Good.

I hope that I, also, am good.

In its own way, Good can be Amazing.

That’s the real good.

Ok. I’m going to keep this post short. I have consumed some good beer, had good conversation with a friend of mine, not a woman, but still.. it is good to talk to a guy once in awhile too.

I had food from a truck called Bistro Babes. The food was simple..a Cuban sandwich and spiced fries.. and very good.

And I am now back home, in a good home.

Is the home where I and my relatives live fancy? No. Is it perfectly spotless? No. Do we have an amazing yard? Are we in an exclusive area? No.

But is our home good and do good people and a good little dog live in it? Yes.

And Boise.

Is it Paris? No. I’m not interested in Paris.

Actually, for me, Boise and surrounding area is amazing in many ways.. and I am certainly going to call it Good. How long it will remain this way, with three story apartment complexes popping up like mushrooms after a rain in almost every vacant lot, I don’t know.

I will choose to be optimistic, instead of worried, if I can.

And believe Boise will continue to be Good.

The Good is there.. where you are.. if you look for it.

Am I am in a perfect state of well-being now? No. I still have some pain, some confusion and frustration and.. I can focus more on all that or just realize that, despite all that..

I am feeling good, and am grateful for Good.

I hope you are too.

My Saturday: Boise, Restaurants, Musical Instruments, Music Stores, Thrift Stores, and a Rather Good Day.

March 14, 2021

Note: I do not get paid to endorse any products or restaurants or whatever in this post. I write about what I like, and am not an affiliate. You will find no links to buy these items.

If you want to learn more about bass guitars, I have a written a very lengthy bass guitar buyers guide for beginners that covers not only the instruments, but amps, straps, etc. You can find it by clicking “bass guitar” or “music” in the tag cloud.

My Saturday.. One worth writing about..

Most days off I just take care of stuff around the house, run errands, etc. But this past day, Saturday, I finally decided that even though my room is a bit messy, and there’s pruning to be done on some bushes in the backyard, and my car could do with a wash and..

It was time to leave, drive for awhile, and have some fun.. my kind of fun, anyway.. Perhaps not something some people would consider to be worth writing about.. But this is my post and..

Alright.. this post is going to mostly be about happily wandering through town, musical instruments, as well as music shops, a thrift store, and my favorite restaurant in the city. I don’t have pictures of the interiors of these places. I wasn’t planning on writing this post, so I did not take photos of where I was. Apologies to those of you outside Boise who like seeing various places in town, and photos of the town in general.

Right then.. Boise.. I think this city is amazing. For lots of reasons. One big reason is that.. well, I suppose this is, to some extent true of any city.. travel a mile or two in any direction and you will feel like you are in an entirely different city than where you were when you left home.

Just a few things that make Boise unique though.. Slight changes in elevation can make a big difference in what you are seeing. Drive over an overpass, and you can see hills in several directions.. including some hills you forgot were there. You might be driving on a level road, and then, off to your left another road dips down, and opens up to you a view of lowlands and more hills in the distance, just before dark with the lights of the houses shining, and it’s just lovely. This happens a lot, on many roads and residential streets.. and I am still surprised when I drive..

I live on the Northwest end of town, almost in the neighboring city of Meridian.. actually I’m also close to several border streets with the tiny town called Garden City, which is entirely surrounded by Boise.

This Saturday, I headed into Southeast Boise. I find pretty much everything about my surroundings anywhere to be interesting, not just here in town. So it is no wonder I enjoy seeing the different neighborhoods and restaurants and shops along the way to wherever it is I’m going.

Today I went first to a music shop and then to a thrift store. These are in a small plaza with some great shops and interesting restaurants.

The music store is called 12th Fret Music, formerly Broadway Music, and the thrift store is one of many St. Vincent DePaul locations. My two favorite types of stores.. those that sell musical instruments, and thrift stores.. and these two were right next to each other, in a plaza that also includes a Pho (Vietnamese) restaurant, and a Himalayan Cafe. I have not been to either of these yet, but I will go to both.

Before I reached my destination, I took notice of some of the restaurants I have been wanting to visit for years, and then, once in the parking lot, wrote them down in a notebook.. These places are.. On Orchard St. .. A Korean place called Gangnam, a carnerceria I forgot the name of, an Italian restaurant called Lucianos.

On Boise Ave., one of my all time favorite roads to drive on, because it meanders through many parts of town.. a taco wagon in the small parking lot of a gas station and convenience store, Cricket’s Bar and Grill, a cute breakfast and lunch place called Addisons’s.And on Broadway, where the shops I went to are, the Vietnamese and Himalayan cafes, and the Pho restaurant across the street from them.

Yes.. I plan on enjoying myself. I have goals! Goals that involve food! Yay!

And now.. 12th Fret Music. Oh yes, just a moment.. I need to mention one other place first. I have often been a customer of a pawn shop called Pawn 1.

There are a chain of pawn shops with that name, but the one on Overland and Maple Grove, in Southwest Boise, has half the shop converted into a music store. If you are in the market for used electric and acoustic guitars, amps, etc., this is the place to go! I’ve been a customer there for over 5 years. Talk to a guy named Chris. He knows his stuff. I had bought a guitar online that I wanted worked on, and Chris told me to head over to a music shop across town called 12th Fret Music. Chris said there is a skilled guitar tech there named Steven.

12th Fret Music used to be called Doyle’s Broadway Music, because it in on Broadway Ave., and because it was owned by an eccentric man named Doyle. Are there any dudes named Doyle who are not eccentric? I sometimes wonder how the names we are given shape our lives.

Doyle’s shop used to be in a location down the road from where it ended up. A rather dusty, cramped shop that was fun to browse in. But Doyle never bothered to dust the place, so some of his gear had electrical problems.. something you don’t want.. layers of thick road dust to get into the instruments if they are the kind you plug in! Doyle, some years back, moved his strange store to a better and slightly larger location, then retired and sold the place to a guy named Rob. Hence the name change. Rob does not seem eccentric, and I seriously doubt he engages in any thievery. Sorry, bad pun.

This music store is amazing, and I am sorry I did not take a picture for you. It is small, but has a massive assortment of electric guitars, some basses, and plenty of acoustic guitars, as well as a few mandolins and ukuleles, and amps.. watch your step in the electric instrument section.. very difficult not to trip over the amps.

We have a Guitar Center in town. I’ve been going there off and on for close to 10 years. You might be wondering how independent stores can compete with Guitar Center. GC, at least the one here in Boise, stocks many guitars of the same kind. For example, you can buy a Fender Stratocaster in about 5 price ranges.. from less than $200 (Fender’s cheap line, called Squier) to over $1000. But there’s not much variety there, and many brands they do not carry.

This is not the fault of the local staff. I know one of the managers at GC, and I asked him if the corporation told him what to stock, and he said yes. They put up for sale what they are shipped.And apparently they have been shipped far less inventory than usual lately. Last couple times I’ve been in, the place looked like it had been gutted. Don’t blame COVID. A lot of people have been buying instruments during this weird time. I don’t know why the GC inventory has shrunk so much. I feel bad for the local staff.

How have Mom and pop stores been competing when GC was more in its prime? These smaller stores can be more selective about what brands they sell. 12th Fret (What is significant about the 12th fret on guitars? That’s where the notes are the same as when the strings are played without being fretted, just an octave higher), sells brands that I like, including Yamaha (electric guitars, basses, and acoustic guitars, I especially like Yamaha acoustics) Danelectro (funky electric guitars) and Spector (pricey basses), Reverend (pricey electric guitars), and some brands I’ve not heard of.

One is called Tegami. Seems like a Japanese name, but I talked with the owner of the shop, and he says this brand comes from Brazil. Why not. Ibanez and Fernandes are brands of instruments based in Japan. Tegami makes Fender copies, mostly. Of good quality, as far as I can tell. The cheaper ones are made in China. Instruments even in the $500 range or higher might be made in China, or, more likely, in Indonesia.

Even Eddie Van Halen’s foreign-made (much cheaper than the American made) signature line of guitars are made in Indonesia. This is appropriate I suppose, since Eddie’s mom was either Indonesian or half-Indonesian, depending on what you read or what youtube video you watch.

Actually, I’m not sure if there are any American-made electric instruments at 12th Fret. I did not look at all of the most expensive ones. I saw a couple American-made acoustics. They were probably over $1000. Some guitars and basses and etc. are still made in Korea. The reason I use the word “still” is because up until maybe 20 years ago, South Korea was putting out more instruments than any other country. Then more factories were moved to Indonesia, and many were relocated to China. But still, some are crafted in Korea. Even the Spector basses costing over $1000 are made there.

Most of the instruments at 12th Fret are not cheap, and are new, so keep this in mind if you plan a visit. Very few used instruments there. I first made the trip out to the store about a month ago. I’d bought a “parts caster” on ebay awhile back. – That is an electric guitar that is a Strat (Stratocaster) copy, put together of used or new parts from various guitars, which may or may not include parts from Fender or Squier guitars. These are custom builds that don’t take a massive amount of skill to make. Some builders get creative with their rewiring of the instruments, or make interesting guitar body and neck combinations, etc.

There’s a problem with buying an instrument online.. I can’t play it before buying. I used to have a rule never to buy any instruments I had not played. Something I of course learned the hard way. I have been buying, selling, and donating instruments for many many years, and I thought I had learned my lesson.

Nope.

Learn from me. Even if you have to pay a little more, don’t buy an instrument unless you have played it first in a store and really like it. Even if you buy the same model online, it won’t be the same instrument. But even I don’t learn from me sometimes…

I bought a partscaster from one vendor, didn’t like it, donated it, later bought one from a different builder.. this one was better, but I didn’t like that one either, so I donated that one. The folks at St. Vincent put it on sale in a display case right away, at a price much cheaper than what I paid. I included a deluxe gig bag with it, and an very good 2″ strap.

Notice there is no logo on the headstock. Some builders leave the headstocks blank, some put on their own logos, and some put on Fender decals, and enough lacquer so that the Fender logos look real.

Why not try and sell these instruments I’ve bought? I got tired of selling instruments on eBay and craigslist. I’ve almost never bought expensive ($500 or more) instruments, so if I don’t like one, I’m not out a lot of money.

But I don’t buy junk. Just because I don’t like a guitar or bass doesn’t mean it is not good. I do not donate stuff to thrift stores unless I think it is of sufficient quality that a shopper will feel blessed when finding what I have donated. Donating instruments is great because besides helping people (I donate stuff to St. Vincent DePaul, which is not an official Catholic charity, but was started by Catholics. It is very reputable and helps lots of people), I also share the joy of music with whoever buys what I brought in.

I do wish I’d realized I wanted to donate the second parts caster before I had it worked on though. I could have saved $50, because the modification to the wiring I had requested wasn’t necessary. I just wanted more tonal options.

As with genuine Fender and Squier Strats, there is no tone control for the bridge pickup. I got the idea from an ebay vendor to have the tone control for the neck pickup be wired up to the bridge pickup as well. Good idea!

Steven at 12th Fret did a great job. The labor was not cheap though. $75.

If I’d planned on donating the guitar, I would have just paid $35 to have the fret wires on the edges of the neck filed down so they were smooth and not sharp.

While I was in 12th Fret the first time, after talking with Rob about the changes to the partscaster I wanted made, I bought an electric guitar that sold new for $179 plus tax. The brand is called Cort, based in Korea, but this guitar was made in Indonesia.

I like buying straps on Etsy. Thousands of great designs. Takes me ages to pick one, but that’s part of the fun, until I drive myself nuts. But then I’m nuts already, as you can probably tell.

You might be doubting your own sanity right now, as you ask yourself.. “why am I reading all this?”

The Cort guitar.. it sounds great, and has several features I really like, but, although I prefer light guitars to heavy ones, this is one of only a few guitars I’ve ever played that really feels too light. I also don’t like the feel of the neck of the instrument. Too narrow and too curved. Bad combination for me, but this guitar might be very good for a middle-schooler or other small human being.

Not sure what I will do this one. I feel like I’ve donated more than enough instruments, so I might try to sell it at Pawn 1 if I find something I like better. My second visit to 12th Fret, I picked up the partscaster that had been worked on, and brought it to St. Vincet a couple days later.

Something odd happened right after I donated the guitar. Often I make a donation, in the back of the store, and just go home, but sometimes, since I am given a 25% off coupon, I go into the store and browse. When I donated a guitar and accessories last year, I found three small items of furniture for my room that I really like. This time, I wandered through the furniture section first, though not needing anymore furniture, just curious what was available. I had an intuitive moment.. look to the left. The room widens, and there is almost a little alcove.. surprisingly, it was in this small space that I found a battered classical guitar.

Made in Taiwan, (I’ve never seen a guitar made in Taiwan), with the unusual and somewhat unnerving brand name of Gremlin. No logo on the headstock, but I know to look into the sound hole of acoustic guitars and read the label.. make, model, and sometimes a serial number and country of origin are listed there. I already have access to a good classical guitar at home.

My aunt owns a Gibson guitar made in Michigan, which she purchased in Michigan in 1967. Surprisingly, it is not worth very much. Were it a steel string acoustic or electric guitar that old, it would be worth a lot. But it is a nice guitar to play.

So why was I happy to find a beat up classical guitar at a thrift store? I remember when I was young, friends of mine would find great bargains at garage sales, including at classical guitar that was in good shape and very cheap. I wanted a super-cheap guitar too.

This one was not in nearly as good of shape as the purchase my friends had made decades ago, but that’s alright. I kind of wanted a “beater.”

A beater is an instrument that has dents, scratches, etc, that can be taken to a beach, to parks, to the homes of particularly clumsy or drunk friends, and who cares if the guitar gets a few more scratches or dents as long as it still works. I bought my beater classical guitar at St. Vincet DePaul for $22.50. It was priced at $29.99, but I had a coupon.

I have yet to determine if the tuners on it are good enough so that the instrument doesn’t go out of tune every few seconds. I still need to restring it.

Back to the music store.. My 3rd vist to 12th Fret was brief. My nephew and I were on our way to my favorite restaurant, Westside Drive-Inn on Parkcenter. The music store was mostly on the way. I wanted to check to see if they had a particular guitar cable, and strap, one called Lock-It.. cool art on these straps, with a strap lock feature built in, so you don’t have to have strap locks installed. Nice. I didn’t find any of this kind that I liked at the store, and the cable I was thinking of was over $50 for one of 10′ length.. to expensive for me at this time. I also went to in to show my nephew the store.

This past day was my 4th visit. I had only planned to spend $10 to have a strap button put on the bottom of the beater guitar. Most classical guitar players do not play standing up, using the usual guitar strap, but I am unconventional (also, I can barely play as of yet, so I guess I am an aspiring classical guitar player).

I browsed for awhile, and tried some instruments. I was not planning on buying any, because I have a bass, which I bought used on ebay.. not entirely a mistake.. a good bass for the price.. a Fernandes Gravity 4X (probably made in China, no label on the instrument though),

..But it is a bit too heavy to be within my comfort level, even though I use a 3″ wide strap with a backing made of glove leather. I have tried MANY kinds and brands of guitar strap, and for instruments such as basses and heavier guitars like the Les Paul, I recommend Franklin straps, unless you are a vegan. If so, try a brand called Couch. They have a few 3″wide straps, which might be good. I’ve only used their 2″ straps. And no I don’t get a kickback by mentioning any brands or whatever. I’m not a sellout.

The neck on the Fernandes is surprisingly long. It even looks a bit freakish. The neck is also too narrow until it becomes too wide. You can see the blue Fernandes in one of the photos. Most basses have 20-22 frets. This one has 24.. Even a dude like me, who is 6’3″ and has long arms.. the guitar neck is still a bit of a stretch.

Also, although it does not look like a Fender Jazz bass, it is based on one, and has the same neck, which is very narrow at the top, the headstock, and gets wider toward where the neck attaches to the body. I don’t like this. Were I aware of how this bass would feel, I would not have bought it online. But oh well, I had made up my mind to practice anyway.

I wasn’t planning on buying an electric guitar either. If I buy a different one, I will likely purchase a used instrument from Pawn 1 and try to get an ok price for the one I have. I don’t want to donate any more instruments. I’ve donated so many. I did not walk out of the store with an electric guitar… but.. 6 or 7 years ago, I owned a base-model (lowest price and quality of the Ibanez Soundgear line) 5 string Ibanez bass, a GSR-205 with a spalted maple top (doesn’t improve the sound, but sure looks nice.. a very very thin layer of decorative wood) that I liked.

The 5 is because of the bass having 5 strings. The GSR-200 is the 4 string model. GSR stands for Gio Soundgear. Ibanez makes Gio model guitars too. (The Gio line is like the Squier version of Fenders.

But for some reason I do not know, even though I quite liked this bass, I lost interest in playing it shortly after I bought it, even though it was quite good for the money. I’d paid $300 for it new at GC. I sold it to one of these high school music genius kids.

As time has passed though, I have sometimes regretted selling it. I never did buy another one, because I wanted to try other basses. But I’ve really been struggling with the bass I have, wanted something more comfortable to play.. a bit lighter, wider neck.. and one with more strings.

What is the percentage of bass players who use an instrument with 5 or more strings? 0.000099%, or less than that. Just a guess. The main genres for basses with more strings are smooth jazz, which I am not fond of, new age music (which I mostly like), and various forms of progressive metal.. some of which I also like.

6 string basses are too much to handle and I have never owned one. But I have had several 5 strings, all made by Ibanez.

Have I ever become proficient at.. actually playing bass? No.. why not.? Sometimes I’ve gotten so obsessed with the idea of practicing bass or guitar that by the time.I had time to practice, I didn’t want to anymore. And also I’ve spent a staggering amount of time window shopping online, looking through instrument catalogs, reading about instruments, buying and selling them.. easier to do than practice? I don’t know.

But anyway…

Tucked into the far corner of the music store was.. an Ibanez 5 string bass with spalted maple top, almost identical to the one I sold many years ago. And it turned out to be used, and sold at a surprisingly cheap price. $179. Yeah, I bought that one.

Business at 12th Fret happily concluded (and the store was busy!), I went next door to one of the larger St. Vincent shops I’ve been to.

I was hoping to find some art for my bathroom (which I did not find), and also browse the books and DVD’s. Amazing selection of books. One buck each. I bought at least 10. Some for myself, several for my dad, who has been devouring religious books and novels for many months, and two Catholic books that I think my mom and aunt, both being very very devoted Catholic converts, would like. I also bought a bunch of DVD’s.. also a buck each, and one sampler CD.

I already have over 100 sampler CD’s I want to go through before I sell them on ebay (CD’s are a lot easier to sell on ebay than instruments. Less of a burden to take to the post office), but I spotted a double CD sampler, called “Afternoon Chillout,” that I figured I might like, and harvest some songs from for my computer and iPods, before selling the CD.

I spent a long time at St. Vincent, and enjoyed myself. Also, I had an old 25% off coupon in my car, which helped.

After that.. a pleasant drive, mostly though town on Boise Ave., to Westside Drive-in on Parkcenter.

Boise Ave. does not go right onto park center though. I took a short, intriguing road through a small but fancy area called Bown Crossing, which looks nice and lit up at dusk and after dark. Bown took me to Parkcenter, where I made a left.

There are two Westside Drivein locations. The other is downtown on State Street. That one does not have a dine-in option, except sort of.. during the winter, there is a heated tend on the blacktop where the tables are. I almost never go to that location, even though it has its own charm. I like heading more southeast.

It’s quite pretty in Southeast Boise where the Parkcenter location is, and that one has more of a diner feel to it. Plenty of places to sit, but inside and out. These two drive-ins were created by a trained chef, and the food.. so much variety.. even prime rib dinners.. wow.

For me it is the culinary equivalent of heaven. No, I don’t need prime rib. My favorite is a large meatloaf sandwich with onions and tomatoes and cheddar cheese and, admittedly, too much lettuce for my taste, but I can take some off. Mac and cheese, yes please, and some spiced sweet potato fries. Normally I just have the fries on the side, but this time I wanted more dairy besides the small vanilla malt, and so brought home the sweet potato fries, along with the honey-whipped butter dip, for my dad, along with his favorite, the Maui burger, complete with some form of sliced pork, and pineapple.

The drive home.. after dark, pleasant, but I was feeling pretty tired. Once home though, energy level back up to the usual too intense feeling. Something I suffer from. Every day.

I plugged in the bass I’d just bought. Crackle crackle.. severe static, then nothing. Hmm.. oh yes. This is the type of bass that requires a 9V battery to function. After having some difficulty unscrewing and prying off the battery cover, and putting in another 9V, and only making one tiny scratch on the guitar, which has a beautiful finish both front and back, better. No problems when I plugged it in.

I blasted through a bunch of random notes on each bass.. back and forth between the two for over an hour.. time goes really really fast when I’ve done this at music stores.. and at home too. I finally decided to put the Fernandes bass away, and spend more time instead on the Indonesian-made Ibanez.It is more comfortable, and has that extra low 5th string.

And that’s mostly been my night, except for over an hour of feverish writing. Time to read through the post, and fix a few things. Here is the box of most of the goodies from St. Vincent, including a little essential oil candle burner.

I have an electric diffuser, but think it might be nice to use a votive candle diffuser. Why not. This one has a nice falling leaves motif that I like. Price for all the books, DVD’s, and diffuser, with 25% coupon.. under $17. Awesome.

Gosh.. time changing.. in the next hour we will spring forward an hour.. so it will soon be 2:34 am, not 1:34. I usually go to bed between 3 and 4 am. It will be 5am when I fall asleep tonight, I’m guessing, considering the time change. I worry about getting enough sleep, but have difficulty getting to bed any earlier. I almost always get enough sleep anyway. Unless Tucker, the family dog,

finds something or someone to bark at. I can’t always sleep through all that. Schnauzers are incredibly loud for being little dogs! Time to finish this post I guess.. and try to relax. Hope you enjoyed reading all this! I sure needed a good day.

I enjoyed my Saturday.

Eastern Thought, Western Thought, Determinism, Free Will, The Self.. And Water.

February 17, 2021

Water has no mind. Water has no choice. Water does not determine its course. Water is subject to greater natural laws. A creek evaporates. A river flows into the ocean.

Water does not choose.

Is being like water really.. good?

Being formless, “you pour water into a cup, it becomes the cup,” and so forth. That is a quote from Bruce Lee, but he was just parroting the writers of the Tao Te Ching.. ancient Chinese thought.. at least 3,000 years old.

Is being like water good?

Water has no identity.

From an Eastern perspective, this is good.

From a Western perspective, this is inconceivable, and can lead to madness.

But for Easterners, deep within them..

“The nail that stands up is pounded down.”

This is an old Asian proverb.

Conformity.

Homogeneity.

Part of the whole, the individual diminished, destroyed.

That is the goal of Eastern thought and religion.

Nirvana.

Die, finally without rebirth, and merge into all that is. That is the ultimate. Not only ultimate in the literal sense, “ultimatus” Latin.. “to come to an end,” but also, in our more Western and Modern definition: The Best.

To lose our individuality is the opposite of trying to be, and being, The Best, according to Western Thought.

The best is Ego.

Individual Glory.

The Super Bowl game-winning touchdown pass caught by the wide receiver, having outwitted multiple defenders, just over the line of the end zone.

One who achieves true rock star legendary status.

The individual who has made his or her first billion dollars. Who has reached the perceived pinnacle of financial success.

Or just the first middle class person on the block to purchase a luxury German-made automobile, whether he or she can afford the monthly payments or not.

We cannot relate to the Eastern.

Is the Eastern any better?

To be an individual, is that truly worse than to work and work at being the best completely nondescript, unnoticeable worker bee in the hive?

For we in the West, this is Anathema.

So it is also for those in the East who have adopted our Western ways, and who have become even more extreme than we are. Or rather, they have tried to adopt our Western ways, and have failed. They have unwittingly fallen back into conformity. Consider the Japanese “salaryman” (both men and women). The person who dresses the same as everyone else, fills one of endless middle management positions, and who cannot cope with his or her existence except by, after finishing the working day, getting off the subway and heading straight to the bar. Getting drunk until the small hours.

Stumbling home, and upon arrival, without a kiss for the spouse or acknowledgement of the child, falls into fitful sleep, for too few hours, only to repeat the experience again. And again. And Again. And.

That is the Eastern version of Western individuality, only to be turned into another form of Eastern conformity and Loss of Self.

The Eastern mind was not suited for this form of modernity. Some adopted this Western mindset, and have gone even more mad than we in the West.

Is free will an illusion?

What does religion tell us?

Even the Islamists have a saying, “It is Written!”

The Hindus, and the Buddhists who piggybacked onto the Hindus.. The promoters and self-appointed expositors of the messages of Christ, or rather, their myriad interpretations of it, who piggybacked onto Judaism, as Christ did (for how could he not.. as Buddha was a Hindu, so was Christ a Jew.. reformers never forget their hometowns, even though there, a prophet is without honor) do they have a denunciation of free will?

The Christians..

They are divided. Some, those holding with iron-fisted grip onto Calvinist tradition, say that there is no freewill, there is only Predestination. That God, in His “infinite mercy,” before the beginning of time, predestined some of we pathetic humans, we dust dwellers, to be lifted up, glorified, transformed into heavily creatures, so privileged as to enjoy God’s company forever, while the rest, the hapless and damned masses.. burn.

No wonder some Christians have a problem with ego.

But getting back to the Easterners..

To Taoism, where Bruce Lee found his inspiration for his “be like water”..

For the Hindus and Buddhists, who believe in karma..

For those whose ultimate goal is to shed all individual identity, and merge with the One, or the Nothing, depending on one’s interpretation of what nirvana even means.. (Maybe the One and the Nothing are the same? The One is Nothing?)

Is this lack of self any better than glorification of the self?

Or is it just…

Nihilism?

I do not know.

I was raised Christian, but could not help (determinism, not free will, seems to me) but abandon that path.. no matter how obsessed with it..the way of Christ, the apostles, the saints, the Church, the thousands of denominations, breaking down to even more infinitesimal expressions of ego: the tiny, non-denominational “churches” polluting our strip malls and office parks.. this path that, no matter how strongly and miserably compelled…

I Cannot Walk.

And so I have, in the past, this path, or rather, this wandering of faded or too heavily-trodden paths of Christianity, tried to abandon. And in so doing, have become even more confused, perhaps even more severely agitated and insane.

There is a saying, “Putting one’s right foot in a canoe, and one’s left foot in another canoe, does not give one the ability to walk on water.”

For me… having studied Buddhism for years, and having dipped my toes into Taoism and Hinduism..

I am trapped between East and West.

Better to be one or the other?

I do not know. I have not the experience of being only Western or only Eastern. It is too late for me now, for that.

But maybe, this.. both this and that and yet neither.. gives me a little insight..

Perhaps at least the first of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism is correct:

Life. Is. Suffering.

And maybe that is the only Noble (perhaps.. not so noble, but.. blatantly obvious).. Truth that is accurate.

Whether we have free will or not, whether we reach a glorified state of egoism, that of the Western Mind, or attempt to lose ourselves entirely into the Eastern Mind.. mired in the attachment of striving to attain non-attachment..

Do we not suffer?

That is all we are guaranteed.

I do not know if free will is illusion or not.

I partook of well-crafted wine and dark beer tonight, ate much tasty food, and finally, after much thought, somehow came up with an idea for something I thought was actually worth writing down..and editing, and revising, as the hours passed. For writing is like sculpting stone. It is a pain-staking task of creating and refining. As none of us are perfect beings, if indeed any such beings exist at all, mistakes always remain. Some visible only to the sculptor or author, and some, tragically, visible to all.

I came downstairs, to my small room, in a hurry, in a semi-inebriated state.. (Was this truly an act of free will?)

And typed these words. And slaved over this post, which I am still uncertain of, and which, for better, worse, or neither, you now read (and do you not find yourself in doubt, wondering if your time was well spent just now?)

For what you have found..

Is.. at best..

Yet more scribble about infinite and unanswerable questions we all deal with.

For most people their religion (whichever it may be, I care not) provides at least a semi-satisfactory answer.

For some of these people, politics is the new Faith, the new Creed, in which they all too happily drown themselves.

But regardless..

For all of us, we who are Eastern or Western, it is the self we cannot bear.

And if we truly have free will, we cannot bear that either.

Succumbing to addiction.. social media, the next episode of the show we are binge-watching, religion, politics, sex, substance abuse, mindless entertainment…

It seems to me this perverse aberration of nature called the Self is something we cannot bear.

So it may be that Bruce Lee, and the Taoists from thousands of years ago, were truly wise.

Be like water.

Water does not think.

Water does not choose.

Water has no self.

© Tom Meninga. Yes, putting my name on here is a sign of egoism, but I don’t care, or if I do, does it really matter?

The Curse of Ugliness, The Curse of Beauty: Two Songs.

October 11, 2020

Two songs by two women..

Most people would agree that ugliness is a curse. Men who are ugly can still get lots of women if the men become rich, famous, or both.

But women, not so much.

Beauty is not so commonly seen as a curse. But it can be.

After reading the lyrics to the first song, I think it actually covers both curses, a little.

This song is called “At Seventeen,” and was released by Janis Ian in 1975. It was the second single off her seventh album, called “Between the Lines.” The single became a massive hit, won Ian a Grammy, was covered by many artists, and eventually sold over a million copies.

It is a heartbreaking and somewhat bitter song.

As with my other song posts, I’ll present the lyrics first:

I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired

The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth

And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phoneWho called to say “Come dance with me”
And murmured vague obscenities
It isn’t all it seems
At seventeen

A brown eyed girl in hand-me-downs
Whose name I never could pronounce
Said, “Pity, please, the ones who serve
They only get what they deserve”

And the rich relationed hometown queen
Marries into what she needs
With a guarantee of company
And haven for the elderly

Remember those who win the game
Lose the love they sought to gain
In debentures of quality
And dubious integrity

Their small-town eyes will gape at you
In dull surprise when payment due
Exceeds accounts received
At seventeen

To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball

It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
When dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling girls like me

We all play the game, and when we dare
To cheat ourselves at solitaire
Inventing lovers on the phone
Repenting other lives unknownThey call and say, “Come dance with me”
And murmur vague obscenities
At ugly girls like me
At seventeen

.. Most of the lyrics are pretty clear – about the heartbreak of not being beautiful, and the advantages the beautiful have..

But..

Remember those who win the game
Lose the love they sought to gain
In debentures of quality
And dubious integrity

… Wouldn’t the first line refer to beautiful girls? Those who win the game?How do they lose the love they sought to gain?

“Debentures” – I had to look up that word. It means an unsecured loan. A loan not backed up by anything.

Debentures and dubious integrity.. I think I understand these lines, but I’m going to go down a few more before I get to what I think is the meaning..

Their small-town eyes will gape at you
In dull surprise when payment due
Exceeds accounts received
At seventeen

So.. I’m thinking this is quite a contrast with previous lyrics, which are about beautiful girls having all sorts of advantages, even when they are elderly.

These later lyrics seem like a bitter sort of view of what will happen to beautiful girls who were banking on their looks to get them through life, but their looks faded, and bad things happened, such as the women losing their love.. being abandoned by their men.

Since their looks were all the women had, they ended up with nothing, and people were unpleasantly surprised to see them after they had aged.

That’s the meaning of the second song I want to get to, but first I will post Ian’s song for you to hear.

I usually don’t like to post live versions, because those can be visually distracting. Better to post the audio-only video.

This second song is less well-known. It is called “Drive-In Movies and Dashboard Lights,” and was released as one of the songs from an album called “Storms,” in 1989, by Nanci Griffith. “Storms” was Griffith’s eighth album.

Here are the lyrics:

Sister had a crystal voice
She played a Silverstone from Montgomery Ward
Baez songs and Monroe hair
She sure could turn the boys heads to stare
Swimwear saunter, tan and haunt them
Was all she learned in school
Books were for the other girls
And the other girls were fools
Texas back in ’69 was drive in movies and dashboard lights

Father waltzed her down the aisle
‘Cause college didn’t suit her style
The sad truth was she could barely read
But if you told dear father, well he wouldn’t believe you
The telephone rang and drove mother insane
From all the hearts left on the shelf
Sisters gone and she won’t be home
Cause she didn’t take care of herself
Texas back in ’69 was drive in movies and dashboard light
s

Where is she now
The backseat queen of fraternity
Where is she now
She’s heavy on thigh
And light on integrity
Someone should have told her
When beauty’s all you offer
How soon the world discovers
That your beauty’s gone
Its gone

Mother can’t you hear your daughter crying
Father wake up her youth is dying
The kids are gone
Husbands gone away
And its a shame cause she had such a lovely face
Can’t you see she needed more than
“Oh what a pretty child”
You never taught her truth from lie
All you told her was to smile
Texas back in ’69 was drive in movies and dashboard lights

Where is she now
The backseat queen of fraternity
Where is she now
She’s heavy on thigh
And light on integrity
Someone should have told her
When beauty’s all you offer
How soon the world discovers
That your beauty’s gone
Its goneTexas back in ’69 was drive in movies and dashboard lights.

Beauty is a curse, if the person is objectified and not cared for and raised well.

Interesting how both songs mention the word “integrity,” and how beautiful women in both songs do not have it.

“The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.”

“The state of being whole and undivided.”

“Internal consistency or lack of corruption.”

If all a woman has is beauty, and her personhood is not nurtured, then her growth as a human being is severely stunted. It is possible she will become someone lacking in morals, who has a divided self, and who has become corrupt.. corrupted or corrupting or both.

Here is the song:

One last thought before I go..

I first encountered the lyrics to “At Seventeen” long before I heard the song. Even though the song was released in 1975, I did not hear it until I was an adult… probably sometime in the ’90’s, when I was in my twenties.

I was maybe 12 years old, and listening to a lecture series on adolescence by Dr. James Dobson, a well-respected Christian psychologist, that I heard the lyrics.

Dobson talked about the difficulty of not being attractive, and quoted some of Ian’s lyrics.

I think it was in the same lecture series that Dobson mentioned a study of who stayed married and who was happy… how looks affected women.

According to the study, women who were of “average” appearance tended to have happier and longer-lasting marriages.

These women were neither especially ugly, nor especially beautiful.

Make of that what you will.

That’s all for now. More posts on music.. someday..

The Covers: XV: “Woodstock.”

September 15, 2020

Time to get your hippie groove on!

This song is about going to and arriving at the Woodstock music festival, which took place in 8/15-8/18, 1969, in Bethel, NY. The festival did not actually take place in the town of Woodstock. The people who ran the town turned the concert promoters down.

A dairy farm in Bethel was their fourth choice. They liked the name “Woodstock,” so they kept it.

And that is why the song I am writing about today is not called “Bethel.”

As with so many of these songs, what I thought was an original turned out to be a cover. Many years ago, I heard the classic, “Woodstock,” as performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Pretty much anyone who is either old enough to remember the ’60’s. (and yes, I am familiar with the quote, “If you remember the ’60’s, you weren’t there!), or who went through a ’60’s music phase decades after will be familiar with the music festival and this song.

Ok, so, this song was released in 1970, news to me.

Something stranger: Three versions of this song were released in the same year.

The version that I heard, which is a cover, was released first. if Wikipedia is to be believed.

But Joni Mitchell wrote the song, and was the first to perform it live, in 1969, shortly after the festival ended. She did not perform at Woodstock, because her manager thought it would be better for her to be on the Dick Cavett show. Dick Cavett interviewed many many celebrities – even John Lennon and Yoko Ono, if I remember correctly.

So Joni Mitchell did not go. Crosby, Stills, and Nash performed, with Neil Young, according to what I’m reading online. However, Young was not in the film.

Mitchell’s boyfriend at the time was Graham Nash. Nash told her all about the festival, and Joni felt inspired to write the song. Then she performed the song at the Big Sur Music Festival in 1969.

She recorded it, CSNY recorded it as well, and so did a band I’ve never heard of until now, Matthews Southern Comfort. If you are from the UK, you are nodding your head, and if you, like me, are an American, you are thinking.. who?

Alright then..

I quite like the lyrics to this song. Woodstock being a sort of Garden of Eden, and a “child of God” walking along the road.. a child of God not necessarily being a religious person though.. someone spiritually tuned in to all the good going on in 1969. Yes, many horrible things went on that year, and the Vietnam War was still raging, and would not end until 1975.. but there were some good things going on too, like the Woodstock music festival.

The lyric “Yasgur’s farm,” that is where the festival was set up. If you haven’t seen the film.. it’s amazing. Some nudity.. It rained hard during part of the festival, and .. yeah, lots of naked hippies in the mud, tripping on acid..

“Do not take the brown acid..” went on repeatedly over the loudspeakers. Someone had cooked up a bad batch. Most people had better acid than that though.

Alright then..

First the lyrics, written by Joni Mitchell.

I admit, I don’t get all the references..

I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, where are you going
And this he told me
I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm
I’m going to join in a rock ‘n’ roll band
I’m going to camp out on the land
I’m going to try an’ get my soul free

We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it’s the time of man
I don’t know who l am
But you know life is for learning

We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation

We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

….

… We are stardust, billion year old carbon. Scientific fact. We are made up of the elements of the stars.

Half a million strong at Woodstock? Possibly. Hordes of people who did not pay for tickets crashed the party. It’s pretty much impossible to find an accurate total online of how many people were there.

Bombers in the sky.. obviously on Joni Mitchell’s mind.. bombers that were used in the war. I like the image of the bombers turning into butterflies.

Caught in the devil’s bargain? I don’t know about this one. I looked up the phrase, and I found the term defined as being a really bad deal.

But I also think about the old crossroads stories.. musicians meeting the devil in a rural area, at night, at the crossing point of two roads. And selling their souls to the devil for great musical skill.

These stories go back awhile. The most famous is about Blues pioneer Robert Johnson, He died in 1938. A charter member of the 27 club… so many musicians died at age 27..

But I digress..

Back to the song..

I’m going to post the version I’m familiar with first, then Joni Mitchell’s version. I didn’t hear her version until a few months ago. I’m not very familiar with Mitchell’s music.

That’s a good rocker, that is.

Mitchell’s version is more mellow, which should not be surprsing.

Totally different vibe, but that really works too. I like it. When I first heard her version, I quickly googled the song, to figure out who wrote it.. and was surprised it was Mitchell.

Here’s a bit of bonus content, for those of you who have not seen the Woodstock film..

Before I post it though, I feel the need to point out there were two Woodstock festivals held in the 1990’s. The festival went well in 1994, but there were riots and lots of destruction at Woodstock 1999.

So let’s just focus on the original festival.

I can’t post the original trailer, apparently. It is age-restricted, and requires signing in.. so here is the trailer for the PBS American Experience film.

That’s it for now, star children!

The Covers XIV: “Summer Breeze.”

September 11, 2020

Alright. This is the second of two posts featuring a cover by goth metal legend Type O Negative. They did several more covers, but these are the two I’m familiar with and like. The previous one was “Cinnamon Girl,” originally recorded by Neil Young.

The original recording of “Summer Breeze” was written and recorded by the folk duo Seals and Croft. The album was also called “Summer Breeze.” It was released in 1972.

From Wikipedia:

Seals and Crofts were an American soft rock duo made up of James Eugene “Jim” Seals (born October 17, 1941) and Darrell George “Dash” Crofts (born August 14, 1938). They are best known for their Hot 100 No. 6 hits “Summer Breeze” (1972), “Diamond Girl” (1973), and “Get Closer” (1976).

Here is the original. It’s pretty good.

I really like the opening riff, but I think it is odd. Kind of dark and almost mournful, compared to the rest of the song. Perhaps that is one reason why Type O Negative covered it.

Another reason is of course irony.

Type O Negative was a very very dark band with many songs that have quite disturbing lyrics. Also, the leader of the band, Peter Steele definitely had a sense of humor, and probably thought it would be funny to make this song really heavy and dark.

I first heard this cover on the soundtrack for the 1997 horror film “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” The film was a hit, but I thought it was pretty bad. A dumb slasher movie. If you want to see a good slasher film from the ’90’s, watch “Scream.” It is a classic. And I don’t even like horror movies, generally. Skip the “Scream” sequels though.

The only thing good about “I Know What You Did Last Summer” was this song.

The cover was first released not in 1997, but in 1993, on Type O Negative’s first big album, “Bloody Kisses.” It is often considered to be their best album.

This is the 1993 version, which is a blend of two songs. The other is called “Set Me On Fire.” I don’t remember the second one being on the soundtrack, but anyway.. here it is:

That’s it for tonight. (I always write these posts after midnight. I don’t know why).

More covers to come.

The Covers XIII: “Cinnamon Girl.”

September 6, 2020

I like picking cover tunes that are at least somewhat different from the original recordings. This one counts.

I’m not a huge Neil Young fan. He’s got the sort of voice that gets on my nerves after a few songs, like the voices of Bob Dylan, Robert Plant, and Geddy Lee (from the band Rush),  but I really like some of his songs. “Old Man” and “Heart of Gold” are my favorites, but I like this one quite a bit as well.

What would a cinnamon girl look like? I picture a brunette with light brown eyes – the sort of look I’m really attracted to.

Anyway.. this is one of Neil Young’s rockers. It’s fun.

Since Neil Young is such a legend, I’m not going include info about him.

The song is an original by Young. It was released on the “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” album in 1969.

According to Wikipedia..

“The lyrics have the singer daydreaming for a girl to love, singing that he waits “between shows” for his lover.[8] Young has said that he wrote the song “for a city girl on peeling pavement coming at me through Phil Ochs‘ eyes playing finger cymbals. It was hard to explain to my wife.”[5] The city girl playing finger cymbals is a reference to folk singer Jean Ray.[8]

Here is a photo I found of Jean Ray:

img_2007

She was part of a folk duo I’ve never heard of until today, called Jim and Jean.

And here is the original version of the song, performed live by Young in 1991.. some hot women in this video!

 

 

Alright then..

Type O Negative..

Their cover can be found on their fourth album, “October Rust,” which was released in 1996.

Why the name?

“Steele came up with the name “Type O Negative” after hearing a radio advertisement requesting donations of type O negative blood.[26]

More about the band..

“Type O Negative was an American gothic metal band formed in Brooklyn, New York in 1989,[3][4] by Peter Steele (lead vocals, bass), Kenny Hickey (guitar, co-lead vocals), Josh Silver (keyboards, backing vocals), and Sal Abruscato (drums, percussion), who was later replaced by Johnny Kelly. Their lyrical emphasis on themes of romance, depression, and death resulted in the nickname “the Drab Four”[5] (in homage to the Beatles‘ “Fab Four” moniker).[6] The band went Platinum with 1993’s Bloody Kisses, and Gold with 1996’s October Rust, and gained a fanbase through seven studio albums,[7] two best-of compilations, and concert DVDs.

— Wikipedia.

Back in the ’90’s, I was aware of Type O Negative, but had probably only heard them once or twice. The alt-rock station I listened to back in Modesto played some heavy groups as the big four from Seattle: Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, and Nirvana, as well as other bands such as Stone Temple Pilots and Smashing Pumpkins.

I do not know why Type O Negative did not get airplay on this station! They had a very heavy, very dark sound, which would have fit in well with the Seattle bands, especially Soundgarden.

But nope, I didn’t hear them.

I became a student broadcaster at the college radio station at a small university near Modesto, and quickly got into a LOT of music that wasn’t mainstream. Many many indie bands, and lesser known groups.

I would not have been allowed to broadcast the bands I mentioned, the ones that got regular airplay on the commercial stations, but Type O Negative was just obscure enough that I could have played them over the airwaves.

But still, I never attempted to listen to them, I don’t know why.

One reason could be that the band was considered goth metal and associated with the goth scene. I only had one friend who was into that stuff. And he was the only goth person I could put up with.

He was a hardcore Marilyn Manson fan, loved horror movies, mostly wore black, and occasionally liked books on satanism and demonic magic.

And yet he was easy to get along with and not particularly creepy.

I don’t remember him mentioning this band, but he might have. Whatever band he mentioned was easy for me to take no notice of, because he was into it.

I did buy a goth sampler album from the most notorious and evil store in malls at that time, Hot Topic.

I thought the music was ok, but never really got into it.

And I never paid much attention to Type O Negative much more recently.

And I don’t know why.. why now?

Most of their songs I don’t care for. Their lyrics are dark, disturbing, sometimes heavily sexual in a rather creepy sort of way, and occasionally quite blasphemous.

Ironically, or perhaps not so much, the singer, Peter Steele, became a Catholic. Actually, more accurately, was raised Catholic, became an atheist, was for much of his life, and then re-converted.

Catholicism is gothic and morbid. Morbid? Oh yes. Catholics believe that when a priest blesses the bread and wine, it literally becomes the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. Which the priest and parishioners then consume.

And of course the logo of the Catholic Church is an emaciated dead man with a crown of thorns, practically naked, and hanging on a cross.

Morbid? Yes!

I can see how that religion appealed to Steele.

Plus, he was fond of red wine.

Here’s some info on Steel and Catholicism:

In April 2007, Steele revealed that he began identifying himself as Roman Catholic in recent years, after decades of self-professed atheism.[15] In an interview with Decibel magazine, Steele explained:

There are no atheists in foxholes, they say, and I was a foxhole atheist for a long time. But after going through a midlife crisis and having many things change very quickly, it made me realize my mortality. And when you start to think about death, you start to think about what’s after it. And then you start hoping there is a God. For me, it’s a frightening thought to go nowhere. I also can’t believe that people like Stalin and Hitler are gonna go to the same place as Mother Teresa.”[55]

Peter Steele was the most macho-looking rock star I have ever seen. Dude was 6’6″ and a body builder. Also, he had a bad-ass look and a deep voice. And he played bass with a heavy, distorted sound to it.. quite rare. Most bass players like a clean sound.

Ironically, Steel suffered from mental health issues, including various anxiety problems, including bad stage fright. He also suffered from bi-polar disorder, other health issues, and was a heavier substance user. He looked like the epitome of someone with great confidence, but he was not that way.

He was also reported to be a very nice guy, generous and easy to get along with.

He was even a parks dept. worker in NYC. Park maintenance and etc. Really liked the job and had it for seven years before the band got big enough to pay the bills.

You might not be able to tell that from the interview just below..  But I think he and the woman who interviewed him were pals. Some people are playful in their insults.. a form of flirtation.

In the interview, Steele talks a bit about doing covers.

The interview contains some adult content.

 

According to one wikipedia article, Steele died of an abdominal disease called diverticulitis. Another wikipedia article reports his death as caused by heart failure –  aortic aneurysm. I don’t know what is true. Steele passed away on April 14, 2010. He was 48. The band broke up after that.

I’ve been thinking about Steele.. one of the most unique rock stars I’ve read about. I like unusual, creative people, who are pretty deep.

Also, no other band really sounded like Type O Negative. There were some other heavy goth bands, like Ministry and The Sisters of Mercy, but they didn’t sound like Type O Negative.

The other goth metal acts, the ones that got big, also had their own sound.. Marylin Manson and Nine Inch Nails. But I like Type O Negative best.

I may not like a lot of their songs, but I certainly admire their sound and originality and performances, even when they were doing covers.

Here is their version of “Cinnamon Girl.”

 

 

Next post is going to be another of the Type O Negative covers, and then after that on to other bands.

 

The Covers XII: “God Gave Rock and Roll To You.”

September 1, 2020

If you are new to my covers posts, or to my blog in general, I want to let you know that I like to ramble on a bit. I’ll take you on a journey.. a musical one, yes, but occasionally back into my past.

“God Gave Rock and Roll To You.”

This is a really fun song! I first heard it back in 1985, on an album called “Beat The System,” by a Christian Rock group called Petra. (Petra means “rock” in Greek, so I’ve heard) I had no idea the song was a cover.

Petra was very popular in the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) scene, and had been for years, but was not at all well known to the public at large.

The only Christian band to have major crossover success was Stryper, and Stryper would not achieve their success until the following year, with their 3rd release, “To Hell With the Devil.” That was in ’86.

In ’85, I turned 13, and was living in Chicago. I’d already been a Petra fan for two years.

My dad was a graduate student at North Park College and Seminary. Our family moved out from the Central Valley California city of Modesto to Chicago, so dad could earn a Master’s of Divinity degree. He was hoping to become a chaplain. That didn’t work out, but that’s another story.

It took dad three years to earn his M.A. The first year, he, my mom, my little brother, I and our two pet rats lived in a very small apartment. After a year passed, dad was able to get us into a much larger apartment, in a big old building – a classic Chicago brownstone.

Amazing square footage for an apartment. Not fancy at all, ancient radiators, no air conditioning except those AC boxes that fit in windows. We had the third floor apartment, which was the top floor. The first floor was a walk-up, because there was a basement apartment beneath, that was not quite a basement. I loved the place.

I spent a LOT of time in that apartment listening to music. Not just Christian music, but ’80’s top 40. Such a huge variety! I first became a music fanatic in that apartment. I had a little off-brand boom box which I listened to every day.

I had been a fan of Petra since 1983, when I first heard them. That was the year we moved to Chicago. Dad took me to a Petra concert that was part of their “Not of this World” tour. Someone, I don’t remember who, gave us free tickets.

Quite an experience for a 5th grader! Pretty big concert for a Christian band. Even had pyrotechnics. I was amazed, thrilled. And temporarily deafened. I didn’t mind. Such a powerful experience!

At the time, I didn’t know the tour name. I was hoping to purchase a cassette with the songs from the concert that were most memorable to me, but by mistake, I bought a previous album, “More Power To You,” which was released in 1982. Not a bad mistake that I made. The album was excellent. I eventually bought “Not Of This World.”

Two years later, “Beat The System” came out. It is hard for me to describe the sound. More distorted – not a crunchier guitar sound – but a weird use of synthesizers and sound effects – not exactly an album that would fit into a genre later called Industrial, but moving a bit in that direction.

The only two songs I liked on that album were “Witch Hunt,” which was a bit humorous, and “God Gave Rock and Roll To You,” which was very enjoyable. Also, this song sounded more like the music on their previous two albums than the other songs on “Beat The System.”

One of the most famous bands ever, Kiss, later covered this tune, in 1991. It was released on the soundtrack for “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.” The film was the sequel to the classic, strange and hilarious comedy, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” In the first film, Bill and Ted (Ted played by Keanu Reeves, who surprisingly because hugely famous.. he played the dumber of the two characters) traveled through time in a phone booth, collecting historical figures.

In the second film, Bill and Ted were killed. I forget how exactly. Most of the rest of the film was their funny and bizarre journey through various realms of the afterlife.

Although I’m not a Kiss fan, I think that band did a heck of a job covering the song.

Their cover was really a shock to me. Why? Because up until doing some research for this post, I thought the 1985 Petra version was the original. I was stunned that Kiss was even aware of Petra, and that they’d heard and liked the tune.

But the Petra version I heard in ’85 was.. not the original..

The original song was recorded by British band Argent (not a Christian band). Argent was started by a guy named Ron Argent. Argent means “silver” or “silvery white” in French, by the way. I had a feeling the name meant something, so I googled it.

The band Argent recorded the song in 1971 during their sessions for their album, “All Together Now,” which was released in 1972. However, the song was not on that album.

If you are an American, and not very familiar with Argent, don’t feel bad. They only had one hit over here, called “Hold Your Head Up,” from “All Together Now.”

“God Gave Rock and Roll to You” did not show up until their next album, “In Deep,” released in 1973.

Here is the original by Argent:

Here are the original lyrics. I’m posting the lyrics because Petra later got permission not only to cover the song, but change the lyrics. And after that, Kiss tweaked the lyrics.

God gave rock and roll to you
Gave rock and roll to you
Put it in the soul of everyone
God gave rock and roll to you
Gave rock and roll to you
Saved rock and roll for everyone
Love your friend and love your neighbour
Love you life and love your labor
No it’s never too late to change your mind
Don’t step on snails, don’t climb in trees
Love Cliff Richard but please don’t tease
It’s never too late to change your mind
God gave rock and roll to you
Gave rock and roll to you
Put it in the soul of everyone
God gave rock and roll to you
Gave rock and roll to you
Saved rock and roll for everyone
If you wanna be a singer or play guitar
Man you’ve gotta sweat or you won’t get far
‘Coz it’s never too late to work nine to five…

Cliff Richard? Mentioned in the song, but, as I am an American, I’ve never heard of this guy. Some pop stars in the UK don’t make it over here. However, Cliff Richard was so successful in his native land that he was made a Knight of the British Empire. He’s called Sir Cliff Richard. He is 79 now.

The lyric “please don’t tease” might have been a reference to Richard’s practice of Christianity, and his softer music sound that contrasted with his earlier recordings. Maybe he became less popular because of this choice. He was very popular before the Beatles became famous.

Enough about Sir Cliff..

I want to return to Petra for a bit..

After doing some reading, mostly on Wikipedia, I learned that Petra actually covered this song twice. The first Petra album I bought was their 5th release, “More Power To You.”  I didn’t go that far into their back catalog, and so was unaware of their second album, called “Come and Join Us,” released in ’77, and the first of two Petra albums to feature this song.

Petra’s sound had changed over time. Their first four albums were sort of generic rock, although in their 4th release, “Never Say Die,” it was clear they were starting to develop their own sound.

“More Power To You” and “Not of This World” were a lot more interesting than their previous albums.  A prog rock sound that was heavier than their earlier recordings, more bold, and had much more focus on keyboards.

And then, as I already mentioned, they made “Beat the System.”

But back in ’77, Petra didn’t have an official lead singer. They got a guy named Greg X. Volz to sing a couple songs on “Come And Join Us,” including the song I am writing about. Volz eventually became the lead singer, (I still think he was a truly great rock singer.. very unique voice) and recorded the song with the band a second time, in 1985.

Here are the Petra lyrics.. obviously Christian..

God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Put it in the soul of everyone.
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Put it in the soul of everyone.
You can learn to dance
Or you can be a square
You can let the music take you anywhere
But where will you be when the music’s gone?
You can learn to sing
You can play guitar
You can learn to rock
You can be a star
But where will you be when the music’s gone?
If you love the sound
Then don’t forget the source
You can turn around,
You can change your course,
‘Cause it’s never too late to change your mind.
You can love the rock
And let Him free you soul
Or you can let the old man take his toll
It’s never too late to change your mind.
Here is the second of Petra’s renditions, and the one I first heard..

On to Kiss..

Because Kiss, like Petra, changed the lyrics some, Kiss released the song as “God Gave Rock and Roll to You II.”

Here are the Kiss lyrics..

God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Put it in the soul of everyone
Do you know what you want? You don’t know for sure
You don’t feel right, you can’t find a cure
And you’re gettin’ less than what you’re lookin’ for
You don’t have money or a fancy car
And you’re tired of wishin’ on a falling star
You gotta put your faith in a loud guitar
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Gave rock and roll to everyone (oh yeah)
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Put it in the soul of everyone
Now listen
If you wanna be a singer, or play guitar
Man, you gotta sweat or you won’t get far
‘Cause it’s never too late to work nine-to-five
You can take a stand, or you can compromise
You can work real hard or just fantasize
But you don’t start livin’ ’till you realize
I gotta tell ya
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Gave rock and roll to everyone
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Put it in the soul
God gave rock and roll to you (to everyone he gave the song to be sung)
Gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to everyone
God gave rock and roll to you (to everyone he gave the song to be sung)
Gave rock and roll to you, saved rock and roll for everyone
Saved rock and roll
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Gave rock and roll to everyone
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Put it in the soul of everyone
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Gave rock and roll to everyone
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you put it in the soul
I know life sometimes can get tough and I know life sometimes can be a drag
But people, we have been given a gift, we have been given a road
And that road’s name is rock and roll
Gave rock and roll to everyone
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Put it in the soul of everyone
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
Gave rock and roll to everyone
God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you
And here is Kiss, with plenty of clips from the film.
https://youtu.be/ybmEK64OkjA
Damn. It is not showing up.. hopefully at least the link will work. I haven’t had a youtube glitch in years. I don’t know what is going on now.
That’s it for this entry. Coming up in later covers posts.. Neil Young, Type O Negative, Joni Mitchel, and Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Stay with me..