If I owned…


If I owned a TV Network

Primetime would start at 7pm, I know it would put Pat Sajak and Steve Harvey out of some work but shit, they got enough.

Any writer submitting an evil twin or doppelgänger script would be immediately fired and that goes for goofy-ass time travel, too.

A Western and a Star Trek series would always be on the schedule, it’s my network right?

We would do an hour-a-week of classic Warner Bros and Hanna-Barbara cartoons,  uncut dammit. Frying pans, eye balls bulging out of the sockets and the Coyote getting’ his ass flailed while consistently trying to kill RoadRunner, hell every kid needs to see that shit. Hell, I need to see that shit!

The only reality show would be The Kardashians Krumble and a show that follows that TMZ ass around all day with a camera asking him stupid inappropriate questions.

Finally this cat below would never ever be an actor on any show on the network. He may be a fine guy and a good actor but … never mind I just can’t stand him.


If I owned a Rock Radio Station

I would have Cerphe as my only radio personality.

The only musical mandates would be, Foreigner and Styx are never to be played. Hotel California, Dream On, Brown Eyed Girl, Moondance, Free Bird, Turn The Page, Good Ol’ Rock n Roll, Black Water, Satisfaction, The Joker, Another One Bites The Dust and More Than A Feeling are off the playlist.

You would hear more 50’s and early 60’s stuff, more Dylan, more Elvis, more The Band, more Kiss, more Beatles and early British invasion, more prog rock, more singer/songwriters and only the good new rock, which face it aint much, so it will be heavy on the classic shit but with…wait for it… deeper tracks.

Did I say no Foreigner and Styx?

BADFINGER – A primer

20140320_532a5e9028fcaFormed in 1961 as the Iveys, Badfinger was one of the first acts signed to The Beatles’ new record label Apple. Their first album, Magic Christian Music, was a home run with their first smash single, written by Paul McCartney, Come And Get It.

They followed that single with No Matter What You Are, Day After Day and Baby Blue, all worldwide hits. They were all over George Harrison’s opus All Things Must Past, they backed up Ringo on his hit It Don’t Come Easy, they played on most of John Lennon’s Imagine album and they were the stage band for George’s famous Concert for Bangladesh.

With a pedigree like that you would think they would be part of rock’s canon. But no. Badfinger was plagued by bad management, lost opportunities and sadly, two tragic suicides.  You can read a good synopsis of their journey on their Wikipedia page.

So this post is just a introduction to some Badfinger you may not be familiar with, but should be, let’s get to it.

The followup to Magic Christian was the album No Dice.  This work contained the hit No Matter What and a soon to be world wide hit for Harry Nilsson and eventually Mariah Carey, Without You. Every cut on No Dice is great and each one moves further away from The Fab’s shadow.  Here is a beautiful song about the tragic life of a London call girl, beautifully rendered cinematically by writer Peter Ham, Midnight Caller.

The album Straight Up followed and became the band’s biggest seller. Both Day After Day and Baby Blue were on this seminal album, but they were not alone. Here is the poignant Perfection, whose lyrics are as relevant today as they were in 1971.

Also on this album was the great Name Of The Game.

Subsequent albums followed, all worthwhile, but none as powerful as No Dice or Straight Up.  Leaving Apple Badfinger signed with Warner Bros., their second Warner release Wish You Were Here was released in October 1974 and garnered glowing reviews. Unfortunately the bird was mired in management and label woes, thus the album never received any push from either. The band then went on a sad and tragic spiral. (Note:Today, Joey Molland, guitarist and vocalist, keeps the band’s music and legacy alive, you can follow him on Twitter @BadfingerJoey). Wish You Were Here is now considered the band’s masterpiece and one of the great lost classics of rock and roll. I agree, it is a beautiful work. It is hard to find, but if you can ever get a copy, get it. The above Amazon link has it in stock periodically.  Here is a fantastic cut from Wish You Were Here, No One Knows It.

I hope this will open the door for you to discover more of Badfinger. There are some very good Best of collections available, but start with the three albums above, No Dice, Straight Up and Wish You Were Here.

Five Favorite Album Covers

I love album covers. It’s the thing I miss the most about vinyl. I know vinyl is back, but most of the time the cover is designed for the CD, digital image AND the vinyl album. Not much room for nuance when the design is made for a .375 inch square avatar instead  of a square foot canvas.

The following are five of my favorite covers, I’m not saying they are the best, just five art/designs that hold special to me. I also admit what sound came from their sleeves made an impression on the choices.

5. Sailin’ Shoes – Little Feat  This was not only my initial introduction to the band but to their cover artist, Neon Park. He went on to make many more Feat covers and became a much in-demand  illustrator. Sailin’ Shoes remains my favorite Feat album and my favorite Park cover. I mean an anthropomorphized slice of cake on a swing, half a blue boy and a voyeuristic  snail, come on!


4. Led Zeppelin  This album burst out of the speakers like a rock blues hurricane, and the album art captures that explosion. All of Zeppelin’s covers were fantastic but its first, and starkest design, is the best. Note: the band and friends thought this album would fail like a lead ballon, thus the band name and the art: crash of the Hindenburg.


3. School’s Out – Alice Cooper  A perfect album cover for me at the time. Released in the Summer of 1972, I had just graduated high school and the single and the album became athemic. The cover was also interactive. It was a desk. Using great photography, oragami and wicked attention to detail, this design stood as art or at least a good high school shop project. Note: the original release album sleeve was a pair of girl’s panties soon replaced by a regular paper sleeve. Alice knew his audience, huh?

album-schools-out-front-cover-09-06-11 schoolsout

2. The Band – The Band   Designed by the great Bob Cato, using an Elliot Landy photograph, this simple cover speaks volumes of what waits inside. Their first album, Music From Big Pink (and a contender for this list) did not show the members of the group on either the front or the back; you had to open it up to see the group. Here they confront you head-on, staring at you from another time. This was the time of paisley and psychedelic design and fonts. Not this band, there were dressed as workers, laborers, as if they stepped out of 1940’s  America. Hell, they could’ve been mistaken for hobos then. The album was sepia toned as if taken from our grandparents’ scrapbook. And the music reflected it all, and magnificently. A masterpiece.



1. Revolver – The Beatles  Now you know I could’ve put lots of Fab covers here, as a matter of fact all five spots could be Fab covers: With The Beatles, Rubber Soul, Sgt. Pepper, The Beatles (White Album), Abbey Road. But Revolver is my favorite. Designed and drawn by their friend and fellow musician Klaus Voorman, the cover captured the band as they were moving from Fabdom to somewhere else. It captures this space in time and the music within perfectly. As a professional graphic designer I think it is beautifully rendered and remains timeless. It also won the Grammy for Best Album Cover Design, that’s one they got right.



OK, one more, not really a favorite but this design for Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats freaked me out in 1969 and still does today. Some cats have nightmares about bogeymen and monsters, I have nightmares of Hot Rats.


I’d love to know some of your favorite covers and why.



I’m a belatedly a friend of The Friends of Eddie Coyle


I came to this party late. The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a crime novel written by George V. Higgins and published in 1970. I didn’t read it then. It was on a tertiary reading list in my college American Literature class, I didn’t read it then. Two of my favorite crime authors, Elmore Leonard and Dennis Lehane count it as a masterpiece and a major influence on their work, I still didn’t read it. Not until until I heard chef/author/TV personality Anthony Bourdain say that he has been obsessed with this book for years did I finally give in to its power.

The power of this short, tight, taunt, tough novel is the narrative movement. It is moved by dialogue. I would guess that 85% of the book is pure dialogue. Beautifully written words unique to a tough Boston and unique to each individual character. I cannot remember any novel where the flow of the story and the places it goes are all captained by speaking.

The story is a standard crime drama, cops and robbers blurred by the lines they cross, heists, murder and betrayal. But it’s not the story that matters, what matters is how it is told.

If you are interested in the art of writing, if you are enthralled by words and how they create voice, if you are thrilled to read a master at work, I cannot recommend The Friends of Eddie Coyle high enough. I know that I will visit them many more times, they are that important.

Warren Zevon – Five Songs You Should Hear


Warren Zevon burst from the wellspring of 1970’s Southern California songwriters, artists such as Jackson Browne, J.D. Souther, Don Henly, Glenn Frey and others. But Zevon was a tad different; he was bitterer, funnier, darker, scarier and tenderer. He was an oxymoron of a writer, and we are better for it.  He died at the age of 56 in 2003 but he left behind a treasure of work – you just have to find it.

Now you can easily uncover his ubiquitous “Werewolves of London” (a financial blessing but a creative curse because some people only remember him for this, so much so they think him a novelty writer) and the songs covered by other artists such as Linda Ronstadt . Her covers of “Poor Poor Pitiful Me”, “Mohammed’s Radio”, “Carmelita”, and “Hasten Down the Wind” are staples in her catalog.

But he was so much more, so much that I want you to hear some of his best but overlooked work and hopefully dig deeper into his work.

Desperados Under The Eaves

From his masterpiece album simply titled Warren Zevon, it is a cautionary tale of California life and its quest for success.

Accidentally Like A Martyr

A heartbreaking love song of days sliding by and love lost from his album Excitable Boy. One of his best.

Jeannie Needs A Shooter

From the album Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School and co-written with Bruce Springsteen, this song of love, lust and betrayal is a self contained Peckinpah Western. Brilliant.

Splendid Isolation

From Transverse City, well this lyric says it all:

Michael Jackson in Disneyland
Don’t have to share it with nobody else
Lock the gates, Goofy, take my hand
And lead me through the World of Self

Keep Me In Your Heart

The last song on his last album, The Wind, was recorded as he battled terminal lung cancer. It is the last song of a short life and a fitting stone for his monument of work.

Note: Amazon has Zevon’s first five albums packaged in a box set for an amazingly low price, click here. I have no clue to how long this will be available but man it’s fantastic.


Take a walk down Kentucky Avenue with Tom Waits


Warning: This is a participatory post.

I’m not allowed to play Tom Waits at home while my wife is there, I can only listen through my headphones. The voice, well she just doesn’t get it. I can understand that, he is an acquired taste, but even she admits the power of his lyrics, well the ones she can make out.

I think everyone should listen to Tom, I know that ain’t gonna happen but I’m going to do my part to introduce you non-Waiters to one of the most original artists of our times via a song called Kentucky Avenue. It is a remembrance of his childhood and his friendship with a wheelchair bound pal stricken with polio. It is an amazing song, one that still moves and astounds me with its beauty. It captures that time so perfectly that it transports you.

So  click here, hit play, then come back to this page and read the lyrics below as Tom sings, do this, you will not regret it.


Well Eddie Grace’s Buick got four bullet holes in the side

And Charlie DeLisle is sittin at the top of an avocado tree
Mrs. Storm will stab you with a steak knife if you step on her lawn
I got a half a pack of Lucky Strikes man so come along with me
And let’s fill our pockets with macadamia nuts
And go over to Bobby Goodmanson’s and jump off the roof

Well Hilda plays strip poker with the Mummers ‘cross the street
Joey Navinski says she put her tongue in his mouth
And Dicky Faulkner’s got a switchblade and some gooseneck risers
That eucalyptus is a hunchback there’s a wind down from the south
So let me tie you up with kite string and I’ll show you the scabs on my knee
Watch out for the broken glass put your shoes and socks on
And come along with me

Let’s follow that fire truck I think your house is burnin down
Asnd go down to the hobo jungle and kill some rattlesnakes with a trowel
And we’ll break all the windows in the old Anderson place
And we’ll steal a bunch of boysenberries and I’ll smear em on your face
I’ll get a dollar from my mama’s purse and buy that skull and crossbones ring
And you can wear it round your neck on an old piece of string

Then we’ll spit on Ronnie Arnold and flip him the bird
And slash the tires on the school bus now don’t say a word
I’ll take a rusty nail and scratch your initials in my arm
And I’ll show you how to sneak up on the roof of the drugstore
I’ll take the spokes from your wheelchair and a magpie’s wings
And I’ll tie em to your shoulders and your feet
I’ll steal a hacksaw from my dad and cut the braces off your legs
And we’ll bury them tonight out in the cornfield
Just put a church key in your pocket we’ll hop that freight train in the hall
We’ll slide all the way down the drain to New Orleans in the fall


You’re welcome.

Kentucky Avenue is on the album Blue Valentine.





Overlooked, initially underwhelming and woefully underplayed classics.


Before Jive Talking and Saturday Night Fever, the Bee Gees were a great pop band. Consisting of three brothers Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb. They were responsible for hits like To Love Somebody, I Gotta Get A Message To You, Massachusetts, Words and many others. After the release of their 1969 double velvet encased album Odessa, Robin left the group to pursue a solo career. Odessa remains their crowning pop achievement, but it is the next release, Cucumber Castle, minus Robin, that we touch on here. From the album cover, with the two remaining Gibbs dressed as Knights, plumes intact, to the music’s over the top production, everything about Cucumber Castle is in excess.

Through my many years of listening to music, this is without a doubt the most overproduced, lush, bloated, garish, dense, beautiful mess I’ve ever heard and I love it. Don’t Forget To Remember Me, Bury Me Down By A River and I Lay Down And Die seem as if they were written in an English manor with a baroque quartet during the 17th Century then updated with a bit of pop sensibility pepper. The album is a masterpiece of production that holds up to any of today’s rock, pop or classical release engineering. It is stunningly beautiful. The only clunker on the album is the song My Thing, I’ve never understood its inclusion as it breaks up the thick sonic cycle before and after it.

Cucumber Castle was not a hit album release and didn’t birth the usual Bee Gees top singles. It was and is overshadowed by its predecessor Odessa, the follow up album 2 Years On, featuring the return of Robin and the smash hit Lonely Days, the subsequent Top 40 hits and finally the mega success of the Saturday Night Fever era and their mirror ball future. Buried in that hubris of great pop and decadent disco are the bold shining nuggets and crystals of Cucumber Castle. It is a place worth visiting.

Note: I have no idea why the CD of Cucumber Castle is so high on amazon, so here is a link to the mp3 version and a iTunes download.


When your first two albums are true musical masterpieces the third has the potential to add to your legacy, disappoint and question the preceding work or take a back seat to it. In the case of The Band’s Stage Fright the majority view lies with the latter, mine the former, very few the middle. A tiny number of artists create their seminal works with their debut and sophomore release, but with Music From Big Pink and The Band (aka The Brown Album), The Band did just that. Seasoned musical veterans of years on the road with Ronnie Hawkins, a tour as Bob Dylan’s backing band and months of wood shedding songs together gave birth to these two incredible albums. Hailed as heroes of the new country rock genre with a cover feature in Time Magazine, lauded by critics worldwide, the pressure on their third release was enormous.

The critics were not kind to Stage Fright, but every critique was based on what came before, and what came before was different. There was less cornfield and more rock in the grooves of Stage Fright. Less sharecropper observations and more street views. Less in-the-moment songs and more remembrance. It was also a work by a successful band instead of struggling musicians in search of not only a career but a steady paycheck. They had stopped living and working together,  they now had families and separate lives and paths. Looking back on Stage Fright, time has lessened the critical web surrounding it. It was unfair to expect The Band to stay the course and not explore their rock and rhythm and blues alleys. And really, how can any album containing songs as rich and remarkable as Stage Fright, W.S. Walcott Medicine Show, The Shape I’m In, Daniel And The Sacred Heart and The Rumor be considered anything other than triumphant.

Though musically estranged from its older siblings, I believe Stage Fright stands with them as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, consecutive first three albums by any musical artists.

The Basement Tapes Complete – Raw Myths


In 1967 in Woodstock, New York recovering from a motorcycle accident, Bob Dylan gathered his then touring band (who by then had become close friends) in a basement of a frame house painted pink to record a few songs for shits, giggles and history.

This gathering and these songs became a treasure hidden by layers of dust and fable. The house became Big Pink and the friends became one of the most important groups in American rock and roll, The Band. For years those songs swirled around the music universe, some released in bootlegs such as The Great White Wonder and finally in 1975 an authorized truncated double album called The Basement Tapes. This release was sweetened in the studio and only contained 24 songs. Although it satisfied the hunger for these sessions we all knew there was more to hear from those months of woodshedding.

Finally those days and those songs have reached the light of day with the release of The Basement Tapes Complete. A sprawling 6 CD set of 138 songs capturing a pure moment of time and artists. From experience I can tell you nothing is as spiritually lifting and exuberant as making music with friends, and second to that is being able to listen to it being made. This release fulfills the latter.

The songs run from traditional folk and blues covers, Johnny Cash and Curtis Mayfield tunes to hammering out new original works. Some of those dents hammered into classics like I Shall Be Released, You Aint Going Nowhere, Tears Of Rage, This Wheel’s On Fire, Quinn The Eskimo and many others. You hear the sheer happiness and fun these musicians are having; thankfully a reel to reel tape recorder was on capturing every guffaw and every perfection. Don’t expect a shimmering sound, this is raw stuff, recorded in the absolute lowest fi, but it’s real. It was the first trek on the genre road we now mark as Americana.

Dylan takes lead vocal on every song while The Band works out backgrounds and harmonies. This is also Dylan’s finest recorded vocal performances. He is relaxed and uses his honey soaked throat (think Lay Lady Lay) on many numbers while on others he is full of irony and bitterness. But never too serious, the setting and the musicians around him didn’t allow it. The other revelatory aspect of this set is to hear the interplay of The Band, just off years of playing electric blues and rock, including the just concluded first Dylan rock tour, they expertly handle the acoustic country folk arrangements. Some of their work here is jaw dropping with a vast canvas of instruments and voicing. This music is flesh, blood, laughter, heart and history all unfiltered and magnificent.

This release finally opens and closes the chest containing one of the most sought after troves of musical enlightenment by one of the greatest songwriters and bands to ever strike a note. It is myth making and it’s a true, you just have listen.

Note: a slimmed down 2 CD version is also available, The Basement Tapes Raw. 

Jackson Browne – Standing In The Breach, still fits.


To me Jackson Browne is that old worn flannel shirt that you love to wear. You’ve had it for almost 40 years but it still fits great, it’s well worn and reminds you of your past days with a smile of remembrance. It’s your go-to shirt for rainy days, perfect with a hot cup of coffee and a dog curled by your feet.

I think Jackson Browne’s first five albums (Jackson Browne, For Everyman, Late For The Sky, The Pretender and Running On Empty) are at the pinnacle of the singer/songwriter genre. Each one is heartfelt, introspective and beautifully rendered. They make up the majority of the material on that flannel shirt. The work after those seminal albums is very good, singular moments are as good as his strongest moments, but as albums they don’t measure up.

Standing In The Breach not only measures up but adds to the shirt’s wove.

Starting with a tune he wrote as a teenager, The Birds of St. Marks could be an early Byrds’ album cut,  full of jangling guitars and hook laden it’s like a letter from an old friend. And after all these years his voice remains as beautiful and expressive as ever. Later he returns to the scene of one of his early successes in the song, Leaving Winslow. It’s beautiful bouncy jaunt that’s a perfect sequel to Take It Easy.

Like much of his “Post Empty” work many of the songs are political, but here they are more spoken to you than preached, approached in the same manner as his songs of heart and heart break. The Long Way Around and If I Could Be Anywhere are the best examples of this softer but just as moving approach.

The album closes with Here, a beautiful love song that would fit seamlessly on any of his first albums.

Standing In The Breach is Jackson Browne at his best, ten songs of love, honor and hope, all conjured by the affairs of the heat and of State.



Counting Crows – Somewhere Under Wonderland, A Review



I  am a fan of Counting Crows. I am the first to say sometimes I find them ponderous, especially in ending their songs and in their signature drop out vocal interludes. That said, after seeing  the first track on their new CD, Somewhere Under Wonderland, clocks in at 8:22, well, I thought the worst. Fortunately Palisades Park is a tight composition in movements flawed only a little by the two aforementioned Crows’ traits, but the ear candy hooks make up for it.

But what follows are four of the tightest, rock solid compositions that Counting Crows have ever unleashed.

Earthquake Driver is a uptempo rocker that gallops along with melody and vocal hooks that grab you from the first listen; if there was still AM rock radio this puppy would capture lots of airplay.

Dislocation reflects Adam Duritz ever changing views on fame, but again most of those views are fascinating in a voyeuristic frame. The song is a guitar driven rocker with all the patented Crow dynamics present, a standout rhythm section pushes it in overdrive.

God Of Ocean Tides slows the pace and proudly displays this band’s overlooked Americana roots. I never understood all the Van Morrison references, from the start Counting Crows took some earth from Big Pink’s basement and built their own foundation, something Van aspired to but his Gaelic blues usually beautifully betrayed him.  God Of Ocean Tides is not only the best song on Wonderland it may be the best song in the band’s strong and varied catalog. Lyrically it’s just beautifully rendered:

Truck stops and river Gods
Gas stations of the Cross
Following a ghost,
Following a ghost,
I pray the water wash away
The memories and the cost.

Carry me south, to the sea
Along with your memories of me
We are born in the water
Now we return to Thee.
Colored lights
And birthday cakes
Candle wax
On paper plates.

Breathe the water
Hush-a-bye, hush-a-bye.
You can see through water
All the way up to the sky.

The next track Scarecrow sounds like it dropped right from August And Everything After. It’s classic Crows and Duritz, both in composition and performance. You’ll be singing out Geronimo before the song ends.

The rest of the album is sturdy work, it holds up the running time with solid hooks, lyrics and musicianship. In fairness it would be near impossible to top the 4 previous tracks, tracks that stand with the best of Counting Crows work.

Somewhere In Wonderland is the best Counting Crows album and the best album I’ve heard in 2014.