March 31, 2011

patio A beautiful Wednesday afternoon here in the Valley of the Sun. The air was so warm and fragrant with the scent of the citrus trees flowering, and the bottle of Bacardi Añejo to refresh my mojito from time to time looked great on the yellow “boat drinks” table basking in the late afternoon sun. Hard to believe, I thought, that some of my Goodboys friends were staring down another snowstorm later this week. I wished they were there with me.

Of course, in three months the tables will be turned when they have all that lovely summer New England weather and we’ll be here in the steamer roaster praying for the second week in October.

Everything has its time in the sun – people, places, even bottles of añejo.

Like the man says, “stay thirsty my friends”…

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March 30, 2011

petunias1

This is the kind of entry one might expect from Rob. A month ago I was ready to pull up the petunias because after the winter we’d had they were all gnarly stems. But when spring comes to the Valley of the Sun it doesn’t take long for all the flora and fauna to follow. I don’t remember planting all pinks in this particular container, but in the flower world only the strongest survive – in this case it is the pinks.

Hard to believe that in less than two months they’ll be fried. Petunias don’t tolerate 100-degree temperatures well. Out here in the desert southwest not much does.

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March 29, 2011

ringo It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Ringo Starr’s best recordings of his post-Beatles career would, of course, rely heavily on the participation of his former band mates. Still, he did some great albums early on, and they bring back some equally great memories:

6. “Six O’Clock” (long version), from Ringo. This is obviously a very Paul McCartney song with Ringo on vocals and drums; it could have easily appeared on Paul’s Red Rose Speedway, which was recorded around the same time. Here, Linda McCartney’s background vocals add a sweet touch. The original version stopped at the original fade-out; the extended version features some great vamping by Ringo, Paul, and Linda, and it really makes the recording.

5. “Goodnight Vienna”, from Goodnight Vienna. A John Lennon composition with Ringo on drums and vocals. I always liked the beat and sound to this, although now it sounds very dated to me.

4. “Beaucoups of Blues”, from Beaucoups of Blues. The title cut from Ringo’s second solo album, a country album featuring many prominent Nashville musicians and the legendary Jordanaires on background vocals. Funny story: after my band Top Priority had broken up, I had joined our keyboards player Jerry “Keys” Palma in another band, called Cotillion. This was around 1977-78, and I was listening to “Beaucoups of Blues” a lot, which drew me to other country music. I had become bored with my bass playing and bored with the kind of ’70s rock Cotillion was playing at the time, and suggested to Jerry the idea of starting a country band with steel guitar called Johnny “Red River” Burdette and the Saddlesores. He looked at me as if I were daft (and told me so in so many words). Shortly thereafter I quit the band, and Jerry and I didn’t speak again for more than thirty years.

3. “You’re Sixteen”, from Ringo. A very good remake of the original by Johnny Burnette (and a huge improvement, in my view). The late Harry Nilsson‘s background vocals are great. Paul McCartney is playing the kazoo lead, adding a whimsical touch to the proceedings.

2. “It Don’t Come Easy” (single). A very Beatle-esque sounding recording featuring a great George Harrison lead solo.

1. “Photograph”, from Ringo. Another very Beatle-esque recording. Richard Perry’s production sounds like he’s listened to Phil Spector’s work on All Things Must Pass. This is a big recording, sweeping and majestic in its production. Ringo and George co-wrote, and George is prominent on backing vocals. It’s the best recording Ringo has ever done, in my view.

Honorable mention: “Stardust”, from Sentimental Journey. This song brings back such great memories. The album was already more than three years old when I bought it in 1974. My musical tastes at that time were being influenced by the movies “The Sting” and “The Great Gatsby”, and I had recently broken up with my first girlfriend. Ringo’s album provided just the right tome and setting for my own feelings at the time. Paul McCartney arranged this tune. A nice job by Ringo.

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March 28, 2011

george Of all the Beatles whose music I came to appreciate after they went solo, George Harrison’s work stands above. From his recordings (including those with the Traveling Willburys) and the inteviews he’s done (especially on the Beatles’ Anthology series), I’ve found him the most honest, spiritual, and down to earth. He clearly was someone who saw the big picture in everything, and wanted to be seen as an artist completely separate from his Beatles persona, though even he had to know that was something that could never be. And I’m not so sure deep down he wanted to be 100% divorced from his musical iconic past.

Anyways, here’s six great tunes from George worth listening to:

6. “I Live For You” (outtake from All Things Must Pass). I’ve written about my deep feelings for the message of this song previously, it’s a wonderful cut with almost unreal steel guitar from the late Pete Drake. A pretty song, very deep, a very fine recording.

5. “You”, from Extra Texture (Read All About It). From 1975, a very ’70s sounding recording, it reminds me of my girlfriend at the time, Patti Gardner, and all the dates we went on. Seems like a lifetime ago. Great memories…

4. “All Things Must Pass”, from All Things Must Pass. Another pretty George recording, this was offered to the other Beatles back around the time of the “White Album”, it would have been a great cut back then. Lyrically, it’s very poignant, musically, it’s a fine Phil Spector production.

3. “Be Here Now”, from Living In The Material World. Lovely tune, wonderful lyrical and spiritual message about the one’s place in time. There are others on this album with a similar message “The Day The World Gets Round”, “The Light That Has Lighted The World”), but this is the best of them. Reminds me of those early days working as a stockroom clerk at Liberty Mutual. I was pretty green then…

2. “Isn’t It A Pity”, from All Things Must Pass. A big, majestic Phil Spector production. So big, in fact, that George almost gets swallowed up in the proceedings – almost. It’s a classic.

1. “Wah Wah”, from All Things Must Pass. Totally Phil Spector – lots of instrumentation (multiple guitars, pianos, drums, horns). Lots of echo, lots of power. This is a song you absolutely have to crank up. I love to blast it when I need to blow off a little stream. Every time you listen to it you’re bound to hear something new in the background. The dueling guitar solos between Eric Clapton and George make this a classic.

Honorable mention goes to “My Sweet Lord”, from All Things Must Pass. Another great Phil production. The opening guitars are riveting. Sure, he nicked it from the Chiffons’ “He’ So Fine”, but he ended up paying some serious compensatory damages for it. Personally, I think it’s a hell of an improvment on the original.

Same for “What Is Life”, again, from All Things. Another great tune, with some great slide guitar fills on the last verse.

Tomorrow: Ringo Starr.

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March 27, 2011

lennon As good as the Paul McCartney solo efforts I posted yesterday were, they don’t compare to the John Lennon tunes I’ll be discussing below. John Lennon remains one of my heroes – a true artist in every sense of the word. Flawed, passionate, fractured, depressed, alcoholic, redemptive at the end. In 1975, spiralling out of control and detached from everything he had connected his life with, he turned his back on the industry, got his life back together, and was prepped for an incredible resurgence only to be cut down by the assassin’s bullet. Dude laid it all out, all the time – something I respect in an artist. The day he was killed a part of me died with him, and I know a lot of other people feel the same way.

Here are my top 6 Lennon must-haves:

6. “New York City”, from Sometime In New York City. Pure, hard-driving rock and roll. Great tune. It doesn’t get better than this. Elvis could have sung this.

5. “Aisumasen (I’m Sorry)”, from Mind Games. Very bluesy, the solo by session guitarist Jesse Ed Davis is one of the top ten favorite lead solos of all time. This song makes me think of fall, and frost, and gray skies, and brown leaves, and feeling lonely even though I had a girlfriend at the time. This song has that kind of vibe, and it doesn’t get a whole lot better than this.

4. “Give Peace A Chance” (single). A fun tune. Brings back memories of driving back from Lake Ossipee in 1969 with my grandfather at the wheel.

3. Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down And Out)” from Walls And Bridges. Here, in 1975, Lennon sounds both weary and detached. Separated from Yoko at the time, his life was completely out of kilter and the work on this album shows it. Still, it’s a great tune; the next time we would hear from him would be five years later…

2. “Isolation”, from Plastic Ono Band. Very bluesy. I can remember hearing this song played over the speakers on the school bus back in 1970. People would try to talk to me, but if this song was on, I tuned them all out, it sounded so great. Got me a reputation for being kind of a freak, which wasn’t the worst thing in the world. John would have understood.

1. “Imagine”, from Imagine. Forget about all its radical socialist lyricism, it remains John’s signature tune. Phil Spector’s incredible production skills are on display throughout this song and the entire album. The sound is understated, very clean, and no one – and I do mean no one – could record strings like Phil could. I love the video – light and darkness co-existing. Look at the pain in Yoko’s and John’s eyes, it’s pretty amazing for two people to lay themselves out so bare like they do.

Tomorrow: George Harrison

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March 26, 2011

mccartney My post yesterday got me thinking back to those halcyon days of the early ’70s and listening to all the releases of the Beatles in their early solo years. I was in my final years of high school then, and my friend Bob Noftle and I were totally into the Beatles in every which way but loose. For me, this was a long time ago, both time-wise and musically – this was before I was introduced to the Beach Boys (by Bob as well, for which I will always be grateful), and, through their early releases, surf music.

During those early ’70s years, Bob and I would garf onto any Paul John George Ringo release as soon as they became available. I forget how we would have known that in the pre-Internet days, but we did – I think it was because seldom a week went by without a visit to some department store or local record shop. For me, I stayed with them all pretty regularly right up until 1975, when my interest in their music (and, to be honest, the quality of their work) began to wane.

For Paul McCartney, I hung in there through 1974′s “Junior’s Farm” (still a pretty darned good single), buying everything he would put out for better or for worse, then had to finally abandon ship with his 1975 release of “Listen To What The Man Said” (from Wings At The Speed Of Sound), which, to this day, I can’t listen to, it’s that limp-wristed, smarmy awful. But even though by that time I was well immersed into the Beach Boys and their wonderful post-surf catalog, I still paid enough attention to enjoy a tune he’d do if it warranted a listen.

All that being said, here are my top five favorite McCartney songs from his post-Beatles career:

6. “Every Night”, from McCartney. He nicked the chorus from Abbey Road‘s “You Never Give Me Your Money”, but it’s still a great tune. 12-string guitar, a nice little bass flourish on the final verse that reminds me of just how great a bassist McCartney was – after all, it was his work on Abbey Road that made me want to take up the bass in the first place. Homey, intimate, great tune. Reminds me of playing baseball with my good friend Paul Porcella in the back of the Shawsheen School.

5. “Little Lamb Dragonfly”, from Red Rose Speedway. LLD is a lovely, charming tune – achingly so – very pretty and melodious. One of the best I think he’s ever done, showing some really cool chord progressions and a melody that shows just how talented dude could be when he dropped trying to be so damned quaint. I especially like the song’s tag – the fade-out with the violins, hand claps, and piano coming in to drive it home. This song reminds me of a spring afternoon in 1973, and my brother Mark and me sitting out on the roof of our front porch (you could walk out through his bedroom window), taking the warm late afternoon sun in. A nice memory. The lyrics “I can help you out, but I can’t help you in.”. Indeed. A very soulful song.

4. “Give Ireland Back To The Irish” (single). McCartney could rock when he wanted to, and this is a good example. I remember picking up this 45 rpm back in 1972 when I worked at W.T. Grant’s (my first job, I think). What was cool was the 45 being in green vinyl (at least that’s how I remember it). Still a good hard-rocking tune – very grungy. I find it interesting that Paul’s response to the so-called “troubles” rocks harder than that of his former Beatles co-writer, who chose a softer, more melodious route.

3. “Back Seat Of My Car”, from Ram. Supposedly, this was McCartney’s tribute to Phil Spector (not sure how), and a song that was presented to the Fabs for inclusion on a Beatles release back in 1969. I love it – starts off kind of dreamy, but wait till the close where it just explodes off the vinyl! The brief tag at the end is very cool, the echoing drums very reminiscent of what Lennon was doing with Spector at this time. Brings back memories of 1971 and mowing lawns in Billerica, and how pretty Mrs. Kirk was (the lady I mowed lawns for!).

2. “Smile Away”, from Ram. I love this song so much. Why? Simply, it freakin’ ROCKS. The driving bass line throughout. The greasy sounding lead guitar introduced in the second chorus and rambling from then out. Linda McCartney’s charmingly droll (and slightly off-key) “oba dabba dooba” background vocals (very Brian Wilson-esque, BTW – compare this with this Sunflower cut released just months before. McCartney was a huge Brian Wilson fan, so it’s not stretching things to think where he might have got the inspiration). At any rate, it’s just a fun tune – be sure you play it very loud, as it was meant to be.

1. “Mull of Kintyre” (single). I can listen to this song all day. Maybe it’s because my mom and my Auntie Marge have always been a sucker for bagpipes, it’s a transcendent tune for me. My grandfather loved it whenever I played it on my record player when we lived together on the first floor of our house after my grandmother died in 1969. The seven+ years we shared that floor together (until 1977 when he passed away) are great times I always hope to remember. We’d play pool together, and every now and then he’d boil a bunch of chicken pieces in water with a ton of onions, and we’d have them for breakfast before I’d go to work! He was a wonderful guy, and this song just kind of reminds me of those days. While I love the bagpipe sound, I’d bet my next fifty fifths of Johnny Walker Red those bagpipes are actually played on a synthesizer – they sound just a little too clean to these ears, and I know McCartney was heavy into the Moog synthesizer during this period in his artistic career.

Honorable mention: “Jet” and “Nineteen Hundred Eighty Five” from Band On The Run, “Maybe I’m Amazed” from McCartney, which, although all instruments are played by Paul, still has an incredible ensemble feel that sounds like a Beatles Abbey Road or Let It Be cut.

You’ll notice, no doubt, that my last fave is from 1977, and I’m well aware that Paul has done a lot of good work since then. If Bob (a.k.a. “Tightwad”) still checks out this blog, I’ll ask him to provide his own fave list because I know he still follows their work regularly and can speak far better than me about McCartney’s wide range of work since then. Not to mention that I owe him a dinner the next time I’m back in Massachusetts.

If any of you out there have your own personal faves, feel free to comment.

Tomorrow: 6 from John Lennon.

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March 25, 2011


Thoughts while celebrating along with my across-the-aisle liberals and Democrats the one-year anniversary of Obamacare:

This is just a great story. ‘Scuze the language therein, but I love reading stories like this – as human beings we have so much potential for doing good but spend so much time destroying God’s creation and His created. I’m all about redemption, not destruction. Which leads me to…

You’ll never hear it from the mainstream dino-media, but Sarah Palin has a more cohesive doctrine about the intervention in Libya than Barack Obama does. I don’t think she’d be my first choice for GOP presidential nominee, but frankly, you can’t get any worse than the empty suit / empty office we have. Barack’s got me almost longing for the days of Jimmy Carter (the first presidential candidate I ever voted for, BTW, I’m ashamed to say).

Put me down as a favorite of any 2012 Republican ticket that features Herman Cain, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, or both. This bloated federal bureaucracy needs people serious about trimming government waste and spending, and these two are the ones who can do it.

This is a great book. As a fan of mid-century modern style architecture and design, I was just going nuts over the photos contained therein. I don’t belong in this world or this time. If I had my way I’d do my whole house in mid-50s to mid-60s furniture, accents, and colors: robins egg blue and white metal cabinets and appliances in the kitchen, pink and flourescent mirror lighting in the bath…

…upon which, Tracey would throw me out of the house, leaving me no other choice but to head to Gila Bend. :-)

Can we please stop all this nonsense about Michelle Obama being the second coming of Jackie Kennedy? I don’t know if Michelle is a nice lady or otherwise (my sense is the otherwise), but Jackie had more class in the fingernail of her right index finger than this Ms. Obama could ever dream of having.

Found this classic Paul McCartney and Wings tune from 1972 on YouTube. I always wondered what the lyrics of the song were – turns out, with good reason, as there are no lyrics, it’s just Paul doing vocal calisthenics. It’s a great cut, love the cheesy Farfisa organ and the feedback ringing in the background. McCartney must have been listening to a lot of early Steve Winwood, because that’s what it sounds like to me.

…but, while on the subject of McCartney’s post-Beatles career, it’s not as good as this great cut from “Ram”. Or this single.

…or this one that my grandfather loved to hear. I can’t hear this tune without thinking of the two of us living together on the first floor of my family’s two-story house after my grandmother’s death. Great memories…

Looks like this should have been a Paul McCartney music post, eh?

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March 24, 2011

empty_pool1

You can tell summer in the Valley of the Sun is right around the corner when it’s time to drain the pool and slap another coat of wood preservative on the tiki bar in preparation for the hot weather, which, for us, is right around the corner.

While swimming pools add value to the houses around here (whatever value is left, that is), they require regular maintenance to keep them looking sharp. I know for some of our neighbors it’s a constant battle, but for whatever reason I’ve never had a problem with green, black, greasy, or anything other than crystal clear water – even though, believe me, I don’t work hard at it. The guy at the pool place says I’m one of the lucky ones. I guess…

Every two years it’s time to replace the water and get the pool acid washed and glass bead blasted. The first step is making sure you’ve got $700 in the checking account because it is not an inexpensive proposition. The process for draining the pool is simple: the guy comes out, shuts the valve off that replenishes the pool water, hooks a big long hose from the water vacuum into a pipe that goes to the town sewer, plugs the sucker in and off it goes. It’s important to hook the hose into the sewer connection if you want to avoid a nasty letter from the HOA; four years ago, the pool guy said it was OK to let the water run into the street, but I guess the HOA has a car that drives the entire subdivision every day looking for scofflaws and we got warned not to try something so reckless and foolhardy again. Which is stupid, because we’re on a slight incline and all the water ran down the street directly into a storm drain. Go figure.

Our pool holds 10,200 gallons of water, and, hard to believe as it is, it only takes the sucker four hours to drain the entire pool. The next day, out comes the pool guy again, and he’ll acid wash the entire pool floor and sides. You talk about a messy job! After he’s done, this chick comes out with a machine that blasts the sides with glass beads to remove the calcium and mineral deposit lines at the water level – it’s pretty new technology, I guess, replacing the manual task of rubbing pumice stone against it, which never worked that great anyways.

Once this is all done the pool gets a final broom sweep and you’re ready to go. It takes the pool a good 12 hours to fill, but then, a few bags of shock and a gallon of acid and you’re back to looking like a desert paradise. Ideal pool swimming temp is 80 and above (84 – 94 is my personal favorite range), but once it’s 76, while a bit of a bracer, it’s still good to go. When the water started draining it was already 68 degrees, so it won’t take too long to achieve nirvava – especially now that the nights don’t go much below the mid-’50s and the days are all around 80. As they say, do the math.

This weekend, out will come the Olympic wood preservative and it will be time to slap a new coat on the tiki bar and the big kahuna tiki that guards us from black and green water in the swimming pool. It’s not the most fun job in the world – it’s amazing how much wood is on the tiki bar frame and roof – but it’s critical to tiki bar preservation. The sun and lack of humidity absolutely destroys wood out here, so it’s something you have to do every year. How necessary is the treatement? All my colored tiki head and Christmas lights with a western exposure have all been bleached white. It’s a pretty amazing thing to behold. But that’s desert living for you.

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March 23, 2011


Looks like it’s going to snow on the heads of most of Goodboys Nation again, so this brief moment of paradise is for all the boys.

The weather is here, wish you were beautiful.

Enjoy!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:54 | Comments (0)
March 22, 2011

Maybe it’s just me – although I don’t think so – but I just can’t help feeling this whole Libya military operation thing would never have been necessary had Barack Obama come out forcefully supporting the rebels and threatening Muammar Gaddafi with the choice of abdicate peacefully or implement a no-fly zone two weeks ago.

And speaking of Gaddafi, what’s with that gaunt, burned-out rock star look? He almost makes Keith Richards look good! The guy needs a hairdresser, a wardrobe specialist, a shave, and a good make-up man.

And speaking of Richards, he looks like it was he, not Sammy Hagar, who was abducted by aliens forty years ago. Sammy has held up well over the years.

Put me down as saying the Tampa Bay Rays are going to be a factor in the A.L. East this year. Not only do they still have one helluva rotation, now that they’ve lost Carl Crawford and a host of other veterans this past offseason they’re back in their accustomed underdog role and have nothing to lose and everything to play for. They are dangerous team….

…especially since, with the A.L. East improving with Toronto and Baltimore back in the upswing, the A.L. wild card is probably going to come out of the A.L. Central.

News item: Sex and exercise can trigger heart attacks in older people who don’t get much of either, a new analysis finds. Well no sh*t, Sherlock. I wonder how much taxpayer money funded that “analysis”. Still, if one is going to have a heart attack during one or the other, I’ll take the former over the latter.

Is it just me, or has the ratio of golf coverage to commercials on Golf Channel gone way down this year? It seems like you get five minutes of golf, some stupid thing on the FedEx Cup or golf instruction, then ten minutes of commercials (half of which are for Cialis or Viagra), then five more minutes of golf coverage before it’s back to commercials again.

And speaking of Golf Channel, why don’t they just rename themselves “Tiger and Sometimes Phil Golf Channel”? Because you can’t watch any golf-related show without Tiger Woods this and Tiger Woods that, with maybe a Phil Mickelson tossed in for good measure. The real story being written this 2011 season is the ascendency of a new generation of exciting and fearless golfers, and Golf Channel is missing the story completely with their incessent Tiger love.

And while on the subject of golf, is there a prettier combination on the face of this earth than Paula “the Pink Panther” Creamer and her golf swing? There are a lot of pretty girls out there and lot of pretty swings, but very seldom do you see them combined with abundance. She’s the real deal and fun to watch.

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