Traveling for a few days. That means taking to the not-so-friendly-skies, where for some reason I’m always treated like a shoe-bomber in-waiting. I travel alone with one bag and Ipod earphones jammed in my ears and a book held about 6 inches from my nose, the perfect way to let the yahoo sitting next to you that you don’t wish to communicate at all. Like most people I despise the entire process of going anywhere by plane, where people are instantly transformed into sheep lest some government contractor making $8 an hour decides to pull you into a side room and taser you all in the name of national security. So I suppose I may look a bit sinister. And since I’m a raging insomniac with horrible allergies the circles around my eyes are generally the color of anthracite coal dipped in blood. So maybe that has something with what was once called my “vaguely middle-eastern” look by this guy I used to know who lived on nothing but drugs, Miller Beer, and cornflakes. I do miss my old friends. I wonder if they’re still alive?
Sorry. Off on a bit of a tangent there I suppose. Last time I flew the East Coast got hit with a biblical blizzard and I was stranded for 3 days with not very much to do except complain and drink endless Diet-Cokes. I’m hoping to keep to more of a schedule this time. Actually, there are parts of hotel life that suit a shut-in like myself. I really like the multiple locks on the doors and the fact that nobody is yelling at me for not doing stuff. I like room service, especially when it’s on somebody else’s tab, although I do feel a bit pretentious when the guy comes up my cheeseburger and fries on the tray and lays it down on the room table like it’s something reverential. I’d be just as happy if he wrapped it up in a paper bag and tossed it to me like a football. I like how you can feel like some big shit executive and get a wake-up call even in the shittiest of hotels although for some reason I never take advantage ’cause there’s a perfectly decent alarm clock right next to the damn phone. I like that feeling of being done for the day and entering a room that’s all made up and being able to use about 14 towels to dry yourself just to spite them when they put up those “safe the environment by using dirty towels” signs. I like being able to make the room ice cold ’cause I love to sleep when those gargantuan (and garish) hotel bedspreads are put to good use.
But the best part about leaving home is that feeling you get when your plane is preparing to touch down to bring you back….home. You just feel good….even if, when you really think about it, “home” isn’t all that great of a place really. But it’s not about the physical location. It’s where your loved ones are….and that can lift up a sad and mostly depressed place into one that can still make you smile.
Safe journeys. And get back home.
In a bit…
Just read an 800 page book on John Lennon, and wanting to be fair, picked up a 900 page book on Paul McCartney. You’ve got to be damn interesting to carry books as thick as the Bible, and sometines even Beatles leave me wavering over 1700+ pages. There’s only so much you can read about John climbing into bags with Yoko or Paul pissing off the rest of the group with his arrogance during the Let it Be session. But still, it does get you back into the music, which is still a relevation all these years later. There’s never been a better straight ahead rock and roll band, that is when the Beatles were a straight ahead rock and roll band. It was the simple things really. John and Paul had 2 of the greatest rock and roll voices of all time. And when their voices blended, it was bliss. Had they never written a single song, their cover versions alone would have made them legends. Nobody could out Chuck Berry Chuck Berry….except the Beatles. Nobody could out-do Little Richard, except the Beatles. Nobody could out Isley the Isley Brothers. Except the Beatles. Not bad for 4 scruffs from an English shithole. The fact that together Lennon and McCartney were perhaps the greatest pop songwriters of the 20th century, to me, is almost incidental. It’s the sound they made that grabbed me as a 11 and 12 year old.
But let’s face it. John was pretty fucked up. Yoko really put the zap on his head, and had he lived he might not be the secular saint he’s subsequently become. His final record, “Double Fantasy”, became iconic not because it was any good, but because John was killed shortly after it’s release. Paul, with a few glorious exceptions, has largely spent the last 40 years releasing unmitigated drivel. The men needed each other to be great. Alone, they were merely above average, like musicians who might live in Lake Woebegone and have nice middle class homes and manicured lawns.
Easy to blame the chicks though eh? Hard to decide who was the least tuneful. Yoko was so odd and intimidating that nobody really had the nerve to tell her to shut the fuck up when she started shreiking into any live microphone she came across. And Paul’s wife Linda sang so horribly that Paul’s soundmen started to simply turn her down so far in the mix onstage that nobody could hear her. But to her credit, at least Linda never insisted on following Paul into the bathroom.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years since Lennon was shot. And nearly 10 since George Harrison died of cancer. “Taxman” has always been my favorite Beatles song. Everybody always held out that thin hope that maybe…if the stars aligned the right way….that we could see them again. The four of them. Somebody would surely throw such a ridiculous amount of money at them that it was bound to happen. I’m so glad it didn’t. There’s nothing to dilute the Beatles. From “Love Me Do” to “Abbey Road”…..as close to a perfect catalog as a rock band could or would achieve. No “comeback album” during the disco era. No out of tune wank-fast at Live Aid. No insufferable Bono walk-ons.
They blazed a trail. Then they flew away….and every person who ever hummed a melody was the better for it.
How in the world have I survived this long without a steady supply of “The Bottle Rockets”, perhaps America’s greatest unknown band? The mind reels. Such genius is rare these days. Hilarious, biting, poignant songs filled with slashing guitars and enough balls to make Woody Guthrie proud. Veering from rockers that make the Clash seem tame, to country laments, to outrageous stomps like “The Bar’s on Fire, Somebody Save the Beer” that alone should secure their place in at least a broom closet of the rock and roll hall of fame. I am absolutely giddy over my discovery. I dare say I haven’t felt this smug since I stumbled upon “The Gourds” and first heard their song “Promenade”, which is every bit as good as “The Weight” by the Band….and I say that with a completely straight face.
Music is forever surprising. It takes the place of drugs for me. Well, mostly anyway.
Someday we’ll look back at all the pissing and moaning about rock and roll being “dead” these days and it will all seem funny, because it’s better than it ever was. A great song not played on the radio is still a great song, and a pile of mindless, soulless dreck played ever hour on every corporate-owned FM station in the country is still a mindless, soulless pile of dreck. I hate to break it to you, but it’s time to accept the facts and move on. Rock and Roll never went anywhere. It’s alive in garages and barrooms and dingy little clubs that make you feel the need to move your wallet from your back pocket to your front pocket almost instinctively. It’s loud and raw and might stumble around a bit like a drunken sailor with a 24 hour pass, but it gets asses moving and blows cones out of amps and turns musicians into roadies and roadies into musicians because they’re one in the same. That van in the alley at the back door of the club can fit 4 comfortably but there are 5 guys in the band, and the guy at the used car lot never took into consideration that a drum set, guitars, and a PA have to fit in there too…somehow. So there’s lots of sleeping in shifts and 3 guys sitting in the front talking turns driving to the next show, which is only 6 hours away in some town nobody has ever heard of because nobody who lives there really wants to admit such a shitty place exists. But enough will come out so that the bands just about breaks even…..as long as they don’t worry about things such as eating and laundry.
I wish Iwas young again. I wish my liver was in better shape. I wish I had the DNA that made me bored staying in one place for more than a few days. I wish I met some kindreds spirits years ago who were willing to toss normalcy out with the plastic dishes and empty beer cans and were allergic to becoming discouraged by the intrusion of reality.
I do wish.
But I can watch from here. And I can listen. And the Bottle Rockets can keep me company.
In a bit…
Writing songs again.
I like the sound of that. Just writing the words makes me feel better.
Writing songs again.
This is what I do and have been doing for 20 some years. But six months between songs? Never been that long. Maybe six days.
But I’m not going to stop and analyze anything. The words are tumbling out onto my trusty legal pads, and I’m writing in all sorts of places….the most interesting no doubt being the various parking lots of my daughter’s school functions. I admit that it’s not a very social thing to do…..sitting in my car with furrowed brow searching for rhymes while other parents are conversing like normal people. But I’m not a normal person. I write songs. Acting normal would ruin everything.
The words come first. They always do. Maybe a title. “That Ring it Don’t Fit Your Finger Anymore”. I thought of that. When Pop was sick he lost so much weight his rings were sliding off. Open the spigot and a billion stories could tumble from that line. “So Far So Gone”. I like that play on words. And so I was off again.
So far so gone
sleeping on the floor
this hearing my own breathing
don’t suit me anymore
I want to write rock and roll. And blues. And folk. I want to write songs that mean something but can still be danced or fucked to or used in partnership with various pharmaceuticals. I want to sing and play just for the sheer bang of it. So in other words, I’m doing this for all the right reasons, which I trust will bring me some decent karma. I want my guitar to be all scratched up when I’m done with these songs.
So how are you by the way? If you haven’t already (and judging by sales figures, you haven’t), you should download a copy of my latest record “Pete Townshend’s Ghost”, which I’m very proud of in a reckless, warts-all-over-it sort of way. The songs were written for a band….and what I recorded were one-take guides to teach the other musicians. But I didn’t so much run out of money as realize that I didn’t have any money to start with, so I just decided to release the songs as they were…..mostly brand new and some still searching for where they wanted to go. Some near train wrecks but I got away ok. Minor cuts and bruises…..and a somewhat coherent song-cycle methinks. It’s always fun to write about 17 year olds…especially as you’re trying to be one yourself.
So any final thoughts?
Well, not really.
But then again…
Sitting here listening to “The Pines”….an acoustic duo who’s latest record “Sparrows in the Bell” has been in frequent Ipod rotation lately. They make a distinctly American sound….a sort of eerie, understated brand of mountain music that is easily accessible at the bottom of the hill. You listen to the Pines, and you think, “I can do that”…but the beauty of them is that you probably can’t. It’s so tantalizingly simple….on the surface. But there’s a lot of living under the 3 chords….and a lot of heartbreak in the vocals as they veer to and fro….never perfect but always in tune.
That’s sorta what I want.
Tomorrow, maybe something different. But for now at least….
In a bit..