Music frames everything

March 29, 2018 Leave a comment

Writing about music is tricky because, honestly,  you shouldn’t be reading about rock and roll, you should be listening to rock and roll.

Music criticism is largely irrelevant, because we like what we like and that’s pretty much that. We may not want to admit that we like something, for fear of being ostracized by the cool kids, but c’mon, you think Barry Gibb is badass too.

walkMusic frames everything. All our memorable moments are defined by these songs. Our loves and losses, new roads taken and old ones abandoned…..all are accompanied by a soundtrack…..a transistor radio glued to the ear, or a boom box perched on a shoulder….AM and FM. Eight-track and mixed-tape cassettes. The at-the-time-glorious Walkman (I got paint splatter on mine…dropped it 100 times, still works). Our sister’s vinyl, and somehow being snookered into re-buying the lot of it on strange little discs that cost too much and sorta sounded worse. And now, entire collections in the palm of your hand. Or on some far-away cloud somewhere….hiding behind the sun for fear of having to pay songwriter royalties. But…well…never mind that for now.

Hearing those strange voices for the first time. Dylan….Neil Young. They sounded like they were from another fucking galaxy. But you’d cradle that cheap guitar in your hands, bleed your fingertips until they became manly, and, eventually, you realized that while what they were doing was magic, it wasn’t technically hard. I mean, anybody could play these songs. Even a rube like me could knock out the “Cinnamon Girl” solo. The trick of course was writing them. I later learned that Young wrote “Cinnamon Girl” while suffering from a very high fever….which somehow made it all sound even more exotic. And sorta explained the solo too.

My parents. Bless their gentle hearts. I asked my Dad to pick me up a Beatles record at Ralph’s Record City downtown on his way home from work, and he came home with some record by the “Beetles”, not understanding my pre-teen rage at all. “What’s the difference?” he said.

My Mom giving me spending money for a basketball trip we took in 8th grade, some tournament outside Philly, and me blowing it all on the first night buying Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains the Same” and Petty’s “Damn the Torpedoes” at a local mall. She knew but pretended she didn’t.

Towards the end of his life one of my Dad’s favorite records was Paul Simon’s “Graceland”. The old bugger eventually learned the difference!

I miss them both dearly.

And speaking of the Brother’s Gibb…..I would sneak into my oldest sister’s room and listen to “New York Mining Disaster 1941” from the “Here at Last….Bee Gees Live” album and feel really bad about it. Then I’d do it again. Forbidden fruit. Strange days.

And the British of course. Speaking of high fevers, I first fell in love with the Beatles while lying on my couch down with one, listening to the “Red” album. I was probably 10 years old. A penny was taped to the arm of the needle in an attempt to alleviate the skips that I got so used to I just assumed George Martin placed them there. I must have dragged that needle across “Paperback Writer” 1000 times, no earthly idea what it was about but in love with that loopy guitar riff. One of the great songs to sing along to alone in the car, because you know you try to nail all 3 harmonies at the same time. Don’t lie to me.

The Stones. Even in the 1970s you were convinced Keith Richards was either going to die very soon….or that he would live forever. They were gone, and then “Some Girls” showed up and Mick sang that line about black girls that pissed Jesse Jackson off and it sorta warmed your rock and roll heart a bit. Maybe you could grow old and nasty doing this. Back then 30 was old…..Jagger famously saying that he wouldn’t be caught dead singing “Satisfaction” onstage at that horribly advanced age. Keith taught me the 5 string (remove the low E, critical) open G tuning and suddenly I was band-worthy. Sorta like not knowing how to drive but having keys.

It was Pete Townshend who showed me that the best way to get around walls was to knock them down……and so I’d lay on the floor in the middle of a circle of beer bottles and listen to “Quadrophenia” and feel like Jimmy on the rock in the middle of the sea….the desperate seeker. And then “Empty Glass”, sort of a loud nervous breakdown, showing what happens to real artists who lay themselves bare in front of their audience, haunted by the human wreckage they’ve managed to leave behind (like 11 dead kids in Cincinnati). It ain’t always pretty, but if it’s loud enough, it can be cathartic as hell. I was 16 years old when I caught Townshend-itis, and this many years later I’m still manically, happily ill. I trust it will kill me in the end.

And from Pete to Saint Joe Strummer….as obvious a connection as Dylan to Woody Guthrie. Incidentally, Strummer was born “John Mellor”, but before he became Joe Strummer, he insisted on being called “Woody” (So you see how all this fits together, right? ). I could smell London burning, and rarely left Dunmore. No mean feat, that. And to this day I’ll say that the one of the greatest 3 minutes of my life was hearing “Train in Vain” when I expected I had come to the end of “London Calling”.

Then I took a year off and immersed myself in all things Woody Guthrie…..and wrote a play about him. Because this is what he taught me….and Strummer and Dylan…

“A folk song is what’s wrong and how to fix it or it could be who’s hungry and where their mouth is or who’s out of work and where the job is or who’s broke and where the money is or who’s carrying a gun and where the peace is.”

–Woody Guthrie

….and for years after I wrote songs almost daily….learning, spewing, falling and getting back up, laughing and crying and preaching the gospel that if you ain’t in the arena you got no right to pass judgement on the bleeding.

And oh so many more random moments after and in-between. In college I’d thrust my Walkman blaring REM’s “Murmur” and “Reckoning” into unsuspecting ears…..not wanting to hog the divinity all to myself. I had no idea what Stipe was singing, but still it was like listening to Pavarotti sing some foreign libretto…..you just let the it wash all over you and bragged about being there. I’d drive for 2 hours and listen to nothing but “Sarah Smile” and “She’s Gone” from Hall & Oates on repeat….over and over again…..and be thrilled like it was some Groundhog Day. We’d moodily drink Rolling Rock in front of roaring fire with Springsteen’s “Nebraska” droning from the bed of a pick-up, waiting for the girls to come. When they did we’d switch to “The River”. I mean….we weren’t idiots.

I tracked down every Bodeans record there was, wondering why they weren’t as famous as the Everly Brothers, and never telling anyone that Kurt Neumann’s solo on “Fadeaway” from “Homebrewed: Live at the Pabst” is my second favorite in the world after Dave Davies on “All Day and All of the Night”. Until now. Thank you Kurt.

I could go on….forever. Jason Isbell and the Drive-by Truckers and Glen Hansard and James McMurtry and the Hold Steady and Slobberbone and the Smithereens and the Replacements and crying when Cobain died and finally learning that Bret Alexander wrote “…but I hate hitting the ground…” in “Fear of Falling” and not “….but I hate it on the ground…”

It’s the little things, Bubba.

Today I try to emulate a little bit of ALL those folks….and 100 more I haven’t mentioned…..with words and music and action and the 3 chords that I know….from a whisper to a scream…and back again….in an infinite loop…until death do us part.

In a bit..

–tf

Advertisements
Categories: Uncategorized

The Kids Are Alright

March 25, 2018 Leave a comment

I have two daughters. One is 19 and a sophomore in college. One is 16 and a sophomore in high school. Both of them marched in Washington DC yesterday. They were 3 blocks away from each other, kept apart by how many hundreds of thousands of other kids. Yet still, they bonded. Sisters. Marching for their lives. And the lives of their generation.

When I tried to tell them how proud I was….my oldest, said “you don’t have to praise a fish for swimming.”

So there.

I’ll never stop learning from them.

My youngest told me that at one point her and her friends wanted to move closer towards the speakers. The adults in the crowd all parted like the red-sea, allowing them to pass over and over again, saying “we’re here for you today…..we’re here for you kids….go on….get closer.”

She told me this story when she got home last night. Excitement practically bounced in her eyes. I think she realized right then how powerful her generation is, and will continue to be. It was tangible now….she stood in the middle of it…feeling its peaceful energy.

These kids are direct descendants of the ghosts sitting at that Greensboro, North Carolina lunch counter….and the marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge…..and the Memphis sanitation workers. They refuse to accept that their lives don’t matter. They instantly spot hypocrisy, and stomp all over it.

Anybody who thinks these kids aren’t gonna be marching to their respective ballot boxes when they’re old enough is deluded.

Sure, they’ll surely look to adults for guidance and leadership, but if the adults aren’t up to the job, these kids are gonna cut the line.

march-for-our-lives-emma-gonzalez-3-gty-jt-180324_hpMain_16x9_1600Where to start about what happened yesterday? The haters are out in full force today, but that’s to be expected. They’re loud, but do not mistake decibels for numbers. Silence does not equal acquiescence. Anybody who thinks this didn’t see Emma Gonzalez’s extraordinary call to action yesterday, putting herself on the line using only grief, tears and 6 minutes of bated breath

Hate is vastly outnumbered. Lashing out is all they’ve got left. So to those spending your day thumb-typing vitriol at grief-stricken children, please go fuck yourself with something pointy.

But I digress.

One of the Parkland massacre survivors was so overwhelmed by the enormity of the moment that she vomited during her speech. Samantha Fuentes regained her composure, shouted that “I just threw-up on national television, and it feels great!”, and soldiered on. You wanna tell me that kids like this are gonna be cowed by Twitter-bots, inane Facebook comments, and the fucking NRA? Bitch, please.

They watched their friends die. Face to face. Saw it. Smelled it. They’re woke. And they’ll never sleep again.

And so now they’re organized. They speak with one voice. They are growing more media-savvy by the day, out of necessity. And the walls of power are shuddering. Oh to be a fly on the wall inside the NRA PR war-room these days. “From my cold dead hands” is gonna lose its sting when the congressmen and senators they own are voted out of office by the kids they ruthlessly belittle. When blood-bribes aren’t accepted in the forest and the tree falls, does anybody hear the money falling to the ground?

(Be advised that the President of the United States ran to his Florida playhouse this weekend, and though he found the time to proclaim today “Greek Independence Day”, and bragged about how many lawyers are lining up to defend him against charges of Putin-fellatio, he has yet to address the million kids who marched past his DC residence calling shenanigans.)

I’m an old white dude. By default I’m cynical and pretty miserable most of the time. But I’ve always considered myself woke.

But my senses are in overdrive now. They’re tingling, Because of these kids.

And you know what? Maybe us parents are doing a better job than we think. Because each child marching yesterday learned the empathy they showed yesterday. From a Mom maybe? Or a Dad? They’re not as they are frequently portrayed. Self-absorbed. Narcissistic.

No, that’s not them.

That’s the adults.

The Kids Are Alright.

In a bit..

–tf

 

Categories: Uncategorized

So the kids are forced to become the adults…

March 17, 2018 Leave a comment

180314105327-07-school-walkout-0314-exlarge-169So the kids are forced to become the adults.

I’m down with that.

These kids are old enough to get shot. So they certainly feel like they have a right to try not getting shot. Seems pretty straightforward.

Cult45ers may think otherwise, but history has taken a dim view of those caught in the web of a cult of personality. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. But still…..these are persistent little buggers. Nothing fires up a Jesus-ian more than a late night anonymous computer screen and a daily dose of Fox & Friends. Human-bots may not be able to spell or form coherent sentences, but they can hate like a boss.

We’re living in strange times.

Lies are truth. Truth are lies. What’s real is fake, and what’s fake is real. Ignorance is prized. Intelligence is elitist. We climb mountains to punch echoes if they don’t share our ideology.

We hate with much more intensity than we love.

Our national IQ has plummeted faster than our national reputation.

We could blame Donald Trump for a lot of this. He’s a paint-by-numbers idiot and about as dumb as a mound of piss-yellow snow. But our nation pulled enough levers so that he’s now President of the United States, so we really need to look inward. How the fuck do we let this happen?

Shouldn’t this have been a done deal when he mocked the handicapped? When he attacked a POW? When he bragged about assaulting women? When he told his 1000th easily proven lie?

It matters little to his supporters that McDonald’s has a higher level of employee retention (46%) than the Trump administration (44%), despite the President’s “drain the swamp” rhetoric. This is blind partisan bullshit, hero worship on a Stalinesque level, which is the main reason our own children have been forced to stand up and say”no mas”. They don’t do partisan, and they don’t do hero worship, and of course they do not wish to be peppered with automatic gunfire. They see right-wingers jizzing all over the 2nd amendment, while completely ignoring the 1st one, for exactly what it is. Partisan bullshit. And dangerous. Because it ain’t Hannity getting his face shot off. It’s 7 year-olds in Connecticut. And 17 year-olds in Florida.

So what we have now is the last gasps of dumb, scared, angry white people. A change is gonna come bubba. You ready?

Obviously those hiding under the bed with their guns are not, but that’s irrelevant. It is coming….and you don’t have to like it. But you do have to come to terms with it….

Tyrants all fall. Demagogues all fall. If you don’t believe me, you can do like Casey Stengel and look it up.

Half our nation is  too dumb to realize what they really should be scared of, and too scared to realize that their fear is entirely based on their own ignorance. We’re lurching towards fascism and nationalism for the same reason other nations lurched towards fascism and nationalism. Because we’ve been conditioned to ignore the astoundingly rich men behind the curtain, and to cast blame instead on those different than we are. Different color. Different sexual orientation, Different religion. It’s not very subtle. Donald Trump is now our President. How fucking subtle can it possibly be? He writes and speaks at the level of the 4th grader. And 60 million people voted for him. Nearly as many who voted for the lady….but such is the fuzzy math of our electoral process.

Voted for his wall. And his racist dog-whistles. And his frighteningly simple message of division. He’s very uncomplicated. Most 4th graders are.

People voted for him because he wasn’t a woman. And he wasn’t a black fella. They won’t admit to thinking this way, of course. That’s only because to do so is admitting to being sort of a douche. But it is the case. And deep in their cups they know this. They voted because they hated. They didn’t vote for. They voted against.

Half of us get more pissed off at kids walking out of classrooms in protest than we do at kids being carried out of classrooms in body bags.

That’s where we’re at.

You can spin that any way you want. But you cannot deny it. If you trash these kids, that’s what you are saying. These kids do not wish to die, and all you’ve got to bludgeon them with is “from my cold-dead hands”?

You need to bring something a little stronger than that fool Charlton Heston waving a flintlock over his head. That’s like bringing a knife to a gun fight.

That’s an analogy you can grasp, no?

111011_CB_margolick_EX.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlargeSorry son. These kids are pissed off. And they’re calling you out on your bullshit. And soon they’ll be voting. And you’ll be on the wrong side of history. You’ll be that scowling white lady showering spittle on the black school girl in Little Rock, Arkansas.

You’ll be the obscenity in the face of ramrod-straight dignity. And deep down, you know it. That fact that you don’t yet care is why this wound has been allowed to fester in the first place.

Hate unchecked is like cancer. It kills. But here’s a reminder. No one here gets out alive. It’s all about the scenery on the trip….and how many you help up, not how many you keep down.

I alternate between feelings of dread and hope, and I think it’s because I spend my days with adults and my evenings with my children.

Kids don’t see color or religion of sexual orientation. Kids judge eye to eye. Adults who judge by the group are pea-wits….and kids have no patience for pea-wits.

So they walked out of class last week. And they’ll March in Washington next month. All in an attempt to shame the adults into acting like adults.

Or in acting like the kids.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Something like madness

February 15, 2018 Leave a comment

You just get numb to it after a while.

The news filtered through the work-day haze, as it usually does. A co-worker sent me an instant message.

“Another school shooting. In Florida.”

I don’t think I even blinked. It just seemed so….routine. Being alerted of a school shooting is like being alerted that a winter storm is on the way. It’s the way we do business nowadays. It’s shameful, but that doesn’t make it not so.

The news dripped out. People were wounded. Shooter was still at large. Then….fatalities. Four. Six. A dozen. And the final butcher’s bill…

Seventeen.

180221-florida-shooting-tease_qodg0mThe only oddity here, it seemed, was that the shooter didn’t save a bullet for himself (it was, of course, a male….). He was arrested. We’ll see a lot more of him in the coming months surely. The new poster boy for weird, angry, white alienation, with easy access to an AR-15 and gobs of ammo. That last bit nearly goes without saying these days.

There’s an unworldliness about these things now….like it’s happening in an alternate universe. The 24 hour news cycle, along with social media, keep us all filled to the brim, yet somehow staggeringly disengaged at the same time. Florida suddenly seemed a million miles away. I went through the rest of my day, the equivalent, I suppose, of a temporary moral shrug.

But then….you get snapped back. You see your own child.

There was a photo that grabbed me. You’ve seen it over and over again by now. Only the location changes. Yet another frantic mother, squeezing her child. Her face was etched with millions of years of evolution….a mother protecting her own. But the day…..it was Valentine’s Day….but also Ash Wednesday too. I’d forgotten the latter. On the woman’s forehead was a large, black smudge. A cross.

How many thoughts and prayers have been offered up to the heavens over the last few decades after mass shootings? Probably 1000 just counting Congress alone. …..and that’s no exaggeration. We wear out our knees in prayer, bleating like sheep towards the sky while dodging the cross-fire hurricane. And somehow, these “thoughts and prayers” (what differentiates the two, I wonder?) disappear into the ether, f not entirely ignored, then surely unanswered. Because asking the clouds for help in protecting your child when he or she goes to school is a tricky business.

You’d have better luck with Congress and the President. They can turn “God, please don’t let some pissed off white kid shoot my 7 year old” into, “no son, you can’t have that gun because it’s against the law. Off you go…you little shithead…”

I mean, that’s their job. To keep the country safe. They’ve done some crazy things in order to do so in the past too. So..

Take off your shoes before you board that plane. Get rid of your mini-bar sized bottles of shampoo and mouthwash….and hope your name isn’t the same as some other dude who happens to be on some dark “no not fly” list. And that little sippy cup your baby is holding? Yea, we’re gonna need that bubba….

But, alas, we gritted our teeth and got used to it. It might be idiotic and a tad…er…theatrical, but we can talk ourselves into the fact that the powers that be, not always the brightest bulbs in the room, probably mean well. Nobody wants another 9/11

Just as nobody wants another school shooting. Right?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

We all know how this story ends. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Republican lawmakers are tripping each other to be the first to offer the aforementioned “thoughts and prayers”, while the President took to Twitter, not to talk about the ridiculous ease in which a mental defective can procure a AR-15, but to scold the dead kids for not being vigilant enough in informing law enforcement of the killer’s obvious weirdness. Trump later addressed the nation as our designated healer and chief and somehow never once managed to use to word “gun”. He pledged to “ease pain” but, much like how he was gonna pay for his wall, was a bit short on specifics. As in, he didn’t offer any at all.

Meanwhile, before the bodies were fully removed from the school (bodies survivors were forced to step over in order to get out of the building), Speaker of the House Paul Ryan went on right-wing talk radio and pledged to protect, not children, but guns. Kids don’t give Paul Ryan millions in campaign contributions, after all. So I guess it’s not personal. It’s strictly business.

And the rest of us….most just kinda sit here, painfully aware of the moral cowardice of our leaders, but for whatever reason lacking the will to get off our collective asses on election day to toss them over the side. And a very vocal minority just shrugs and says, “dead kids are the price of freedom I guess”. Until, of course, it’s their kid….and that red white and blue turns all sorts of grey.

But that’s not today.

Today it’s once again somebody else’s kid.

And thus we descend even further into apathy. And, to the rest of the world, something like madness.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

None of this is normal….

January 17, 2018 2 comments

None of this is normal. The fact that it seems normal now, due to repetition, doesn’t change the fact that it is not normal at all. The childish insults. The flagrant lies. The almost casual racism. The constant appeals to the lowest common denominator. Whatever standing we had in the world has eroded, and we’ve largely been left to our own devices as the rest of the globe watches in worried fascination. Nearly every utterance is something inane. Every decision is driven by petulance and mean-spiritedness. Every press conference is a shit-show of easily disproved falsehoods and distortions and Orwellian pronouncements…a bizarro alternate universe where, to echo the aforementioned Englishman, war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength (and Trump is the same weight and height as Albert Pujols).

We’ve gone from offending individuals, to offending races, to offending entire continents. And none of it seems to matter. The President’s supporters seem to revel in it, literally like pigs in shit. Forget Teflon. Stuff doesn’t bounce off the man. Rather, it all sticks and emboldens him.

flagThe more outrageous his idiocy, the more they circle his wagon, defending the indefensible like Sean Hannity on laughing gas. His talking heads invade news shows looking like David Duke’s family tree, a brazen cast of stupid white people who would be tossed out of any self-respecting city council meeting for wasting everybody’s time. Republicans lawmakers either remain silent, like somebody in the waiting room who won’t admit to farting, or will grovel with so much obsequiousness one wonders if they’ve been morally castrated. And finally there’s Trump, sitting in bed watching Fox and Friends, cheeseburger in one tiny fingered hand, his even little-er dick in the other, trying desperately to jizz over the picture of Hillary on his nightstand before Melania wanders in looking for her green card. Nothing to see here. Move along. It’s the new normal. And as such, we grow weary and care less and less. That first nail driven into our head? Hurts like hell. The 567th? Ain’t so bad.

Truth used to matter. Decency used to matter. It doesn’t anymore. We let it happen. We’re all to blame.  So when that North Korean nuke is falling on your head, it probably won’t do you much good to blame its trajectory on Hillary’s emails, but have at it bubba.

Does anything think he didn’t fuck a porn actress and have her paid off by his crooked lawyer? What’s astounding is that we know it’s true, and we justify it by saying “of course he fucked a porn star and had her paid off by his crooked lawyer, because he’s Trump”, and that’s enough to move the story to page 12….if indeed it’s reported at all. Meanwhile, Clinton being blown in the oval office remains the 5th gospel of the right-wing bible.

Evil flourishes when good men do nothing. But there will always be more good men than bad. It takes work to be a dick. Effort. A suspension of reality. To be legitimately evil is to be perpetually pissed off, to careen through life in some sort of perpetual road-rage….hating all who differ from you….hating all that you do not understand…..being unwilling to step into the shoes of another, and not feeling the lash on the back of another. A lack of empathy, in other words. A spot-on description of our current President and his staff perhaps, but not one that applies to the vast majority of Americans. We’ve got better things to do, more important things to concern ourselves with.

And, as such, we’ve been too damn busy. We do little but roll our eyes to combat the cancer in the White House. So it spread. And spreads. A malignancy that might be too big to be cut out at this point. How many steps are we, really, from having a David Duke as President of the United States? It sounds absurd on the face of it, but not much more absurd than Donald Trump, back in 2015, an avowed racist, a spectacularly failed businessman and reality TV star, becoming the leader of the so-called free world by getting poor white people to think he cares about them. Even Trump himself didn’t count on Americans being that fucking stupid. His was a PR exercise, a vanity license plate campaign meant to increase his own market share. He had no intention of actually winning. Winning made his wife cry.

No. Hillary would win and he would remain on the golf course and in his tower, nipping at her heels via Twitter….like men with small appendages are wont to do. He would link up with Fox news, the propaganda wing of the Republican party, attack women in private and brown people out loud, and hope his Mar a Lago retreat wasn’t washed away by some global-warming induced natural disaster….because that would be hard to explain to Joe the fucking Plumber, eh?

And yet, here we are. Churchill warned the world to never underestimate the stupidity of the average voter….a warning we neglected to heed with self-destructive glee. As a result, a child-like imbecile is in the White House, making Stalinist pronouncements about the free press, and sounding like Lester Maddox behind closed doors. A man of constant dog whistles, firing up Fox News viewers 140 characters at a time. Perhaps the ugliest of ugly Americans. Is ours a great country or what? 

Well, it used to be. Maybe it can be again…….if we’re not too busy or shell-shocked to take it back. Or if we refuse to learn from history, which has taught us that monstrous evil can sprout when fear preys upon ignorance.

In short, we’re most likely doomed.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Godspeed Pat DiNizio

December 23, 2017 1 comment

The year 2017 has sucked on many levels. Somehow Donald Trump is our President. We nearly elected a pedophile to the US Senate. We’ve managed to kick-start the cold war. Nazis are feeling suddenly emboldened. We’ve been battered by global-warming induced hurricanes and floods (yet continue to elect people who claim global-warming isn’t real), and currently our most populous state is on fucking fire. We live under a potential mushroom cloud because some dwarf in North Korea watches too many Hollywood movies. We’re racist. We’re mean. We’re frighteningly susceptible to the most blatant forms of idiotic propaganda. Our collective IQ has plummeted. When history is written, the year 2017 is going to come with a large * asterisk. Or a least a very large Parental Advisory Sticker.

Oh, and I lost my Mom. So there’s that.

Musically, we lost Tom Petty. We lost Fats Domino. We lost Check Berry. We lost Greg Allman. We lost Chris Cornell. And we lost Pat DiNizio.

The latter hit me the hardest.

pat-dinizio-2682-2-1-819x1024You may not know Pat DiNizio. But as the leader and songwriter of The Smithereens, he fronted one of the great underrated American bands, for over 30 years. (the first CD I ever bought was “Green Thoughts” by The Smithereens) They had some radio hits in the 1980s (“Blood and Roses”. “A Girl Like You”. “Only a Memory”), and then seemingly disappeared. Except they didn’t. They continued to release great records (“God Save the Smithereens” is my personal favorite)  and tour….ignored by all except a small, dedicated fan base. DiNizio wrote 3 minute pop gems, as tight as the sheets on an army cot. Simple, instantly, insanely memorable…..filled with crunchy hooks and heavenly harmonies and the wanderlust of one who refuses to give up on love. Timeless music that will only sound dated when the Beatles and Buddy Holly and early Who singles start sounding dated. He was frequently great….always good. The Smithereens never released a bad record.

In the last few years DiNizio was doing 50+ house concerts a year….playing acoustic shows in fan’s homes for $2000 a pop. When he got sick, these same fans rallied around him via online campaigns and helped pay his medical bills. He was as down to earth as a rocker who had touched the sky can be. He worked his ass off, and loved every minute of it. He never spoke down to his fans. Even something as modest as a stage made him nervous. He preferred to perform among a crowd, not perched above it.

And when he died I was gutted in a way I hadn’t felt since we lost Kurt Cobain. Ironically, I’ve since learned that Cobain had the Smithereen’s debut “Especially For You” on a permanent loop in Nirvana’s tour van during their early years, and tried to recruit Especially For You producer Don Dixon to work on Nevermind.

What made Cobain so special was his supreme gift for melody. Underneath the blitzkrieg, Nirvana songs are as melodic as anything McCartney ever cooked up. And one of the songwriters Cobain tried to emulate was Pat DiNizio.

What it all boils down to is this. If a band makes great music in the forest for 30 years and nobody hangs out in the forest anymore, is it still great music?

Like Cobain, I now travel with the Smithereens for company. I’ve listened to nothing else since DiNizio passed. It makes me happy. It makes me sad. As a songwriter it makes me jealous. I wish he was still here.

Pat DiNizio, a man responsible for some of the most enjoyable 3 minute snippets of my half-century long life, is dead. So yea, it’s been a shitty year and this is simply the cherry on the sundae.

But it’s the music that matters to me. More than the silly politics and all the dumb racist fools who clutter my world these days. When I close the car windows and turn “A Girl Like You” on….at Spinal Tap-ian volume….I’m at least reminded of what we’re capable of. And that gives me hope. And I’m reminded that it’s possible to do it all with class and decency, with grit and determination, with humor and a lack of hubris, with honest hard work, and with a merry band of friends who share your rock and roll dreams.

Thank you Pat DiNizio. For everything. Godspeed.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Where do we go from here?

December 9, 2017 Leave a comment

I don’t know where we go from here. I really don’t. We’re in uncharted waters. The President of the United States has implicitly endorsed a child molester. The Republican leadership, in their disgraceful silence and “let Alabama voters decide” dog whistles, have done the same. Even if he didn’t molest young girls, Alabama’s Roy Moore should have been pelted with rotten fruit the minute he walked on a public stage. He’s a repulsive human being. Homophobic. A blatant racist. A man who shits on the idea of the separation of church and state. An embarrassment to his state and his country. Mean as a rattlesnake and dumb as a 10 pound bag of fertilizer. The fact this he was deemed too creepy for even his hometown mall should be just be another nail in his well deserved coffin of shame. But instead….

171204131505-01-donald-trump-roy-moore-splitMoore is about to be elected to the United States Senate. Alabama’s republican voters either don’t believe the multiple credible accounts of Moore being a predator, or they don’t believe that being a sexual predator while running on the now typical “family values Jesus 10 commandment sharia law is coming etc…” platform is a disqualifying….you know….thing. (It is disqualifying if one is a democrat, of course…see “Conyers…Franken et al”). A large bloc of Moore’s support comes from women, which, in case you are keeping score at home, disproves the theory that ignorance has been largely perfected by dumb white guys. Sorry ladies.

George Wallace was paralyzed, so I’m not sure if he’d be able to roll over in his grave, but something tells me even the Nathan Bedford Forrest of the 20th Century would be groaning over this one.

And what of our nation’s leader? A man quite familiar with credible sexual assault accusations, currently fending off 19 of them. His defense? That every single woman is lying. The response of his supporters? “But her emails…..”

The President is leading the charge from his bully-pulpit, tossing red-meat over the Alabama border last night from a rally in Pensacola, Florida that sorta resembled something cooked up either by the Klan or the editorial offices of The Daily Stormer. The rest of the world looks on in appalled fascination. To a large degree, our nation has gone completely batshit crazy……allowing a pathologically lying, ignorant buffoon with a 4th grade vocabulary to become our moral compass. The man bragged of being able to “stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters”, and for once, he didn’t appear to be lying. Defenses I’ve personally heard of his support of a sexual predator include “but it’s Alabama”, “but he denied it”, “but her emails (seriously, people have invoked Hillary)”, “these women are all lying”, “this is what you get for 8 years of Obama” and “I don’t care, my 401k is doing great”.

This is Twilight Zone stuff, people. I mean….how low can we go? Are we not already approaching the water table?

And hey, I get it. I’m a libtard. A communist. A socialist. Whatever the insult du jour is. Bring it on. I really don’t care. You don’t agree with me. I think you’re nuts too. We can meet at a bar and drink to our mental illnesses.

I’ve got some far out views….I think college should be free for one (if only to prevent the staggering national dumbness required in electing Trump in the first place). I don’t hate brown people. I don’t hate gay people. I don’t give a shit that NFL players kneel during the national anthem to protest what they see as systematic racism. I want to slash your precious military budget like a paper-mache doll and use the savings for social programs.  I always considered Reagan a total knob. I don’t think Hillary Clinton drinks the blood of pre-aborted babies. I’m a raging atheist who wants to tax all of your silly little churches. I’d love to come and take all your automatic weapons away. And I don’t want to build your ridiculous fucking wall. So there. I said it. I’m the enemy.

And I’m just as patriotic as you think you are.

But still, I think sexual predators are a bad thing. And I always assumed you did too.

But now, we disagree on even THAT.

You are about to support the election of Roy fucking Moore to the United States Senate….in the midst of a string of ongoing Congressional resignations for sexual transgressions,….all the while taking your cues from a man who bragged of being able to “….grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” A contemptible, misogynistic piece of shit who just happens to be the President of the United States.

Well fucking done. Don’t just blame Alabama. This one’s on you too. Hell, maybe it’s on all of us.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized