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never travel far without a little big star (rip alex chilton)

I owe everything I know about Big Star and Alex Chilton to the dB’s, who namedropped them to enough of an extent I had to check it out. And then it was the Eggleston cover photo that drew me in, teenage photography snob that I fancied myself to be, followed by listening to Radio City nonfuckingstop. I was too much of a music snob to buy the double album reissue, oh no, I had to plunk down $20 I did not have to buy the ‘real’ album, and then of course once I’d heard it I had to go buy the reissue anyway because I had to have everything, immediately, all at once, and I immersed myself completely and totally, the way you could when you were 19 or 20 and could spend an afternoon drowning in music. I even spent a pretentious six months listening to his stuff with Panther Burns to the utter annoyment of my roommate at the time (who could tolerate Big Star, but as she would remind me, “NOT ON FUCKING REPEAT SIXTEEN TIMES A DAY.”)

And then there were the legends, the stories about R.E.M. going to Memphis for the first time and Peter Buck going to look for Alex and being told to go to the big hotel, that he’d be there, and Peter thinking he lived there, only to be told, no, he drives a cab and would be waiting there for a fare. We thought we were on the verge of losing Alex back then, but then we didn’t, and he was out, playing with everyone. And we took it for granted, you know, at least I took it for granted, that he was just there and around and then we had the luxury of GOING TO SEE BIG STAR (or what he decided he was ready to call Big Star). Watching the happiness on Ken Stringfellow’s and Jon Auer’s faces getting to sing those songs. Watching the faces of people who thought they’d never get to hear Alex sing “September Gurls” live and in person.

The songs were dense and carefully layered and rich and rewarding, Alex’ voice a palette of multiple levels of longing. I always thought the timbre in the vocals was the reason for the layers and layers and layers, because it would have cut you like a knife otherwise. It still did, but the notes were there to cushion you.

Westerberg encapsulated the zeitgeist of everyone I knew when he wrote: “Never travel far / without a little Big Star”. Big Star was lingua franca. You looked for those records in someone’s collection the first time you went to their house to see if they were worth knowing. Those were some of the first records I bought with the advent of CD. Those were some of the first albums I loaded onto that gizmo called an iPod back in 2003. Those are some of the songs on the eternal soundtrack that rings in my head, now and forever.

Children by the million indeed.

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Patti Smith: A Salute to Robert Frank


The Metropolitan Museum of Art
17 October 2009

I keep trying to figure out what it means to be American.
When I look at myself I see Abyssinia, nineteenth-Century France, but I can’t recognize what makes me American. I think about Robert Frank’s photographs – broke down jukeboxes in Gallup, New Mexico, swaying hips and spurs, ponytails and syphilitic cowpokes, hash slinges, the glowing black tarp of US 285 and the Hoboken stars and stripes.

Patti wrote the words above in 1971. I thought about those words as I walked through the new Frank exhibit at the Met. I thought about Bruce Springsteen describing Bob Dylan a few weeks ago – “it was the country I recognized” – and how both of those sentiments describe what it was like being in the same room with “the Hoboken stars and stripes”.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should. You should go see the exhibit or at least know the work. Maybe I’m a cultural snob. Maybe I’m completely unoriginal, just another pseudo-bohemian claiming the usual cultural touchstones. But it was powerful to be in the same room as those photographs for the first time. They are as much a part of my cultural DNA as anything I have ever read or listened to. They are as much an influence on me as an artist as anything else.

It was the country I recognized.

The event at the Met today – as Patti put it, “This year’s event” – was to celebrate that. It was songs and readings that tied back into “what it means to be American”. She relayed some stories about Robert Frank (who was supposed to have been there but was unable to be at the last minute). She read Walt Whitman and EB White and sang “Southern Cross” for Jim Carroll. She read Burroughs and Lenny sang Paul Simon’s “American Tune,” Patti sitting cross-legged on the stage watching him. She read Carl Sandburg and sang Sons of the Pioneers, read Emma Lazarus and sang Gogi Grant. Patti talked about what she remembered, what she thought she remembered, what she wanted to remember. The songs were supposed to be songs Robert and his family could have heard while driving around the country taking the photos that became The Americans.

Jesse and her boyfriend (and at this point I should have his name, and I’m sure someone will come on here and chide me for not remembering it) provided instrumental accompaniment to the readings. Patti noted that the music was composed by the two of them. It provided a pleasant background.

They finished with “Ghost Dance” and “People Have The Power,” and then Patti came back out, pulled out what I recognized in row O as the Pocket Poets volume of Howl (Patti noting that this particular book was usually kept in a box as she had it with her as she sat in vigil at Ginsburg’s bedside), and proceeded to read “Footnote to Howl,” which was, to me, the most astonishing part of the performance. Part of it was because it came at the end and the audience wasn’t interacting with it in any kind of traditional way, it caught them off guard, there was no polite, confused applause at the end of it. At first I thought it was an afterthought, but then realized that of course it was not, that it tied all of it together, all of the influences and backstory of the work.

I have to go back, and see it again, and think about it harder. I first saw these photos when I was 17 and they still make me think. Patti noted that Robert still teaches her. I understand, I think, at least a little.

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jim carroll

I spent a lot of time seeing Jim Carroll when I was in college. This was when I went to poetry readings and gatherings and everything I possibly could, and Jim Carroll was, well, Jim Carroll. I also got to see his band play, a lot. Lenny Kaye was in his band, and while I would probably cringe today if I found a live recording of one of their shows somewhere, at the time I thought they were great.

Jim was accessible. Jim was kind. Jim never treated me like a stupid kid from the suburbs, which is what I was at the time. He would answer questions patiently for as long as I asked them. I was never a good poet; I’m still a crappy wannabe at best. But Jim’s words were something that gave me the courage to at least put the words on paper.

Selfishly, this shit is getting entirely too close to home.

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ben, the two of us need look no more

It was 1971. It was a little tiny town in Michigan (a town so podunk that when I visited it 25 years later, I called my mother to demand she explain where on earth we bought clothes). It was me, and a little black GE transistor radio. It was me, and a brand new school. It was me, and my friend Linda Fisher, who could dance, trying to teach me how to dance like the Jackson Five did in their Saturday morning cartoon.

My elementary school had two Jewish kids (me and my brother) and one African-American girl, who was adopted. Overwhelmingly, the music of choice in grades 1-5 was stuff like “Seasons In The Sun” and the DiFranco family or the Osmonds. I listened to it all, got the 45’s for birthdays, but hated it. I tuned into WLS across Lake Michigan, and would pull in bits of Motown coming in from the other side of the state. At that point it was just sheer feel, sheer instinct. What I loved. What I hated. What was interesting. What I couldn’t possibly understand.

But I loved the Jackson Five. I could watch them in cartoon form on Saturday mornings. I owned the singles, I did the moves as best I could (in the playground near the 5th grade classrooms, where there was a little corner out of sight). I tried to talk about it but didn’t have the words yet, not that anyone wanted to talk about the Jackson Five, exactly. All I knew as that the music made me want to dance. It made me feel happy.

It was a place to start.

When I did a list of my top 40 songs for my 40th birthday, “I Want You Back” was easily at the top of the list, without even thinking about it twice.

It would be so nice if this would be all that mattered, if the rest of it could be overlooked, and perhaps I am ungracious and unkind but I can’t sit here and innocently embrace all of Michael Jackson’s career or say that it was only the music that mattered. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth to try to do that. But I will remember how it was something else, something different, my first foray into liking something because I liked it and turning my back on what everyone else said they loved.

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randy bewley, and reminiscence

The Idolator obituary, if you hadn’t seen it yet. It is sad and tragic and far too young, and this is where I kick myself for not going out on a school night to see the reunion. (Part of it, of course, is that sometimes I want the magic to continue to exist in my head as it always was, and not as a reconstituted version. Which is why I only half-lobby for a Replacements “reunion” [in quotes because with Bob, it’s not a reunion].)

This is more about the chain of events, how things were, and how they are now. I’m trying to remember how I first heard that Randy was in the hospital, which was the initial report. I know I saw it come through some information stream which I cannot recall, and promptly sent that story to Miriam (living in Belgium, she would have seen it sooner or later, but I knew she would want to know sooner). Miriam and I have been friends since the mid-80’s. We started talking to each other after a show one night, after seeing each other at show after show after show of the same kinds of indie rock bands, on the Maxwell’s “circuit” (if you will – there were other clubs, of course, but the idea is, the types of bands who played Maxwell’s back then were in one group, and everything else was in the other).

Then, not long after that, the notice that he had passed started coming through. I should have timed the filter from the old-school PR guy or rock journo I surely got it from, until it hit, oh, say, Brooklyn Vegan.

I compare this to when D. Boon died, when I got an anguished phone call in the middle of the night, from someone in South Jersey who had heard the news – which was still an unconfirmed, but very reliable rumor – on a college station. It could have been WPRB, it could have been one that only broadcast at night and doesn’t exist any more. In a few days, we had the information confirmed – I believe even MTV picked it up – but the chain of information was slower.

I look at the quantity of people writing about Randy and I wonder if they ever saw Pylon or had been old enough to have seen Pylon. Not that the latter disqualifies you – it’s not my fault my parents had sex before yours, as a friend of mine says – but the volume seemed out of place compared to the proportion of Pylon’s importance in the large Music circle. In my group of friends, it would have ranked another late night phone call, but I wouldn’t have expected someone working in Tower Records, say, to have known or cared. I look at some of the younger music bloggers posting about Randy, and I think, “Are you doing this because you genuinely feel this loss somewhere or because everyone else is posting about it?” I will honor the former. I deride the latter. I read those blogs and think, You know, people who know and care about this will have found out in some other way besides your blog, and the people who read your blog do not know or care, and your inclusion of this here as just another thing to give you traffic or make you look smarter cheapens it, and does not give you any more credibility or authenticity.

Irrational? Maybe. Selfish? Probably. Elitist? Quite likely. So fucking what.

Maybe I am bothered because it is just so easy now, to find out about a random band in a random town, without having to dedicate any effort to it. You don’t have to go to a record store, you don’t have to send carefully-wrapped dollar bills in an envelope to a P.O. box in St. Louis or Minneapolis or Austin or somewhere in the places inbetween those dots on the map in order to get back a photocopied fanzine where there might be an article about a band you heard about but have never seen or heard (but want to). If you want to find the other people who care about the same music you do, you get online and go to whatever blog or MySpace or Facebook or a message board and voila. You’re not special ordering records (and I do mean records), you’re not staying up late and jury-rigging your antenna to pick up stations left of the dial (there’s a reason behind that song title, it’s not just a pretty turn of phrase).

I guess this is the place I turn into a cranky curmudgeon. It is all so fast. It is all so much. And I am not entirely sure it is better. In fact, I am pretty sure it is not. There is so much I love about the internet, so much it has given me. There is no way I would have pursued writing about baseball in any other way, and no way I would have had the kind of success I have had as a sportswriter without the internet. It would be so much harder to get my photography in front of people. It would not be so easy to stay in touch with friends, although I wonder sometimes if we weren’t better off with the phone and the parameters of watching long distance charges on phone bills. But I do not know about what it has done to music. It is probably 50-50, but the 50 on the other side just kills me sometimes

All of this sparked by Randy Bewley’s death, because the days I loved and cared about Pylon were those days when you found out about it because Michael Stipe mentioned them or someone brought home a copy of Flagpole from a trip to Athens or someone in a record store was playing the single when you came in. I remember hearing them on WNYU back in the days of the New Afternoon Show (I would sit in the parking lot at the end of my after-school job and listen as long as I could and prolong the drive home, since I got the best reception in my mother’s VW Rabbit).

I will stop right now by saying that I wish his friends and bandmates my deepest sympathy, and may his journey thrive.

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mr. n. cat, 1994-2009

I don’t like cats.

I like dogs. I wanted to own a dog. But I like traveling, and I like working, so I got a cat. I project managed this pet acquisition, dammit. I researched shelter cats online, and I turned up at Seattle Animal Control on a Saturday morning in February of 2001, with a cat-knowledgeable friend in tow, and my shortlist of candidates from their website.

All of whom were all already adopted.

I know God wanted me to go get Nebula and bring him home, because the volunteer working with the cats that morning was terrible, did everything he could to discourage people or make them feel bad. I ignored him, and looked down the line of cats in cages. He was the only black cat, which, believe it or not, was a criteria. He was a boy cat. He was older. He was sitting there, calmly.

I asked to see him.

The volunteer made a face, sighed, opened the cage, took him out, and put him on my lap.

Nebula sat there calmly and started to flick his tail. Let’s go, he seemed to say. What took you so long?

You know they don’t do that, my cat-friend said.

I looked at the cat and I got cold feet. I panicked. How could I take care of another living thing? No, I said, it wasn’t right. Part of it was the icky volunteer, but the other part was just sheer panic. I handed the cat back. I couldn’t face it.

We walked out of the building and stood at my car. Are you sure, asked my friend?

I thought about the cat’s face when he was put back into the cage. Oh, no, are you really going to leave me here to go home with some family from Lynnwood???”

No, I said. I’m not sure, actually. I’m going back to get the cat.

I went back inside and walked up to the desk and said, I want the cat I just looked at. Here’s the paperwork. Here’s my landlady’s number.

They looked up in shock. Someone is really going to take a 7 year old cat home? Okay, they said. we’ll get him ready.

25 minutes later I walked out with a cat in a cardboard carrier. I carefully put him on the floor of the passenger seat and drove up the hill to my house. (I literally lived two blocks away from the place.) I carried him in the house, opened the door to the bathroom, and gently coaxed him out.

He promptly walked all the way underneath the counter to the back corner. I was Warned about this. You Won’t See Him For Days, my cat-friends said, don’t take it personally.

I made a quick litterbox, and got back in the car to run up to Petco. I came home, set everything up, and opened the bathroom door.

I got down on the floor and looked at him, with his back against the wall, in the corner. Hello, cat, I said. How you doing?

He slowly made his way out from underneath the counter.

Great. Why don’t you come over here?
I ushered him out into the apartment.

I showed him the litter box.
I showed him his food.
I sat down on the couch, and he promptly hopped up on it. It was my $200 New Year’s Eve couch, I didn’t care much about what a cat might do to it.
I grabbed a fleece blanket and put it on my lap and stretched out my legs.
He climbed up onto my lap.
I fell asleep.
So did he.

Nebula had the poor fortune of coming into my life right when Pearl Jam released Binaural. The artwork, featuring the Eagle Nebula, was all over my house. Thus, Nebula. By rights, my classy, tuxedo-wearing gent should have been Otis or Sam or Jackie. Instead, he got stuck with a name that no one could ever pronounce or understand.

(Buddy, I am so sorry about that.)

Victoria called him Nebbie Cat, and she was probably the only one of his many lady friends he would tolerate a nickname from. The boyfriend was the one who started the Mr. Nebula honorific when we first started dating, out of deference to the existing man of the house. It stuck. Mr. Nebula, or “Buddy”.

The two of them bonded almost instantly. Nebula did not like everybody. Heck, he vetted the movers coming to the house to take estimates when I left Seattle. But he liked the boyfriend, and the boyfriend, not a cat person, would fall asleep with Nebula lying on his chest, claws sunk into his sweater.

Don’t worry, they were very manly snuggles between two manly men.

Nebula was what they call “a shoulder sitter.” I called him “the amazing snuggles cat”. I had a cat that HUGGED me. Seriously, how awesome is that? You have a crappy-ass day, you come home, the cat wants attention, you pick him up, put him on your shoulder, and he starts rubbing his head against you and purring 50 million miles an hour. I dare you to be upset or sad or angry after that. You are filled with love and light and your brain flashes images of grassy meadows and babbling brooks and suddenly your lungs can fill with air again.

Our first night together, he wanted to sleep on the bed. I was fine with that, but he had a shelter cold, so he was sneezing, and he wanted to sleep ON THE PILLOW RIGHT NEXT TO ME. I kept relocating him to the end of the bed, patting him into place as though that was going to magically affix him to that spot. He wouldn’t have it. We compromised with him in the middle of the bed.

I woke up with him sleeping on my pillow, right above my head. I discovered this when I woke up, turned over, and immediately got a mouthful of cat fur.

We eventually learned to work this stuff out. But I could never get him to sleep under the covers.

They say owning a pet changes you. I don’t know about you, but I know a lot of crappy pet parents. I think it changes you if you want to be changed.

Nebula changed me.

You absolutely cannot be stupid or self-centered or careless and take care of an animal. You have to constantly stop and re-evaluate what you’re doing. You have to deliberately be inconsiderate and nasty if you are taking care of an animal, because the very act of taking care of another living thing is going to require you to be human.

Nebula would wake me up. He would nag at me to go to bed. He would not leave my side if I was sick. He would let me know if something, anything was wrong.

He also saved my life on more than one occasion, or at least saved me from terminal stupidity. No matter what I wanted to do, at the end I’d think, “…but then what do I do with the cat?”

Yeah.

He was also great in smacking me out of my own self-pity. I would be sobbing and crying and lying on the floor listening to Gram Parsons or Heartbreaker on repeat, and using the cat as a large tissue. He would certainly allow it, but after a point he only tolerated it, and after another point he would stand up, shake himself, wash his face, and then sit there with a look that said, “Enough already, lady.”

And he would always be right.

Like all cats, Nebula didn’t like when we went away. There was pouting, there was sulking, there was climbing into the suitcase, there was sitting on the newly drycleaned clothes waiting to be put into the bag.

And then, there was this incident:

The debris is the boyfriend packing to move to Chicago temporarily. I trust that the gesture needs no explanation.

The little guy survived a cross-country move in a car with no air conditioning at the beginning of July, manned the ramparts in a Lower East Side tenement, and then, finally, moved to what was known by some people in my house (not me) to the “Nebbie Palace of Love” in Greenpoint. He was probably happiest there, carpet and hardwood, enough hiding places and windows and sunbeams and dark corners, and two people – not just one – attending to his every need. This was, of course, besides the endless parade of lady visitors.

He was handsome, and he was a charmer. He was loud and loquacious. He did not like when you talked on the phone, and yes, he knew the difference between talking on the phone and talking to another person (and he could also tell if you were faking it). When I worked from home, he woke me up as soon as the office phone rang for the first time, and once he was sure I was awake, would go into the office and climb onto the extra chair, ready for work. He liked sitting in boxtops and on cordura, and preferred reclining on the back side of a seriously low-fi High Sierra daypack to the $45 “Snuggle Ball” I bought with a particularly grand windfall.

In short, just like your cat. Or some other cat that you know. Not that it makes him any more or less special.

He was just Nebula.

Nebula started to lose weight, and then one day there were bones where there used to be cat, and trips to the vet and bloodwork. They said thyroid, we feared diabetes, and in the end, it was the big C, lymphoma. Even then, he was doing as well as could be expected, and we had an appointment to see the oncologist on Wednesday. We went to DC on Sunday, knowing he would be grumpy at having been at the vet all day Saturday for the sonogram and would want to be largely left alone, and no one at the vet was acting like he was seconds away from shuffling off this mortal coil.

I was home on Monday, and after being awake for 20 hours straight on Sunday, couldn’t motivate myself to do much. So I had a normal day, reading, talking to the cat, watching tv, talking to the cat, cleaning, moving the cat, writing, talking to the cat and then, finally, I tried to get him to nap with me and he wouldn’t have any of it. He wanted to be near the baseboard heater in a corner in a cat bed.

When Glenn came home around 6:30, something was wrong. We found him in an odd place, under my desk, and when we coaxed him out, he went under the ottoman.

My heart froze. I knew what this meant. I don’t know how I knew this but I did.

Panicked, I called the vet, who wasn’t there. And so I called Missouri, and told Jean that I couldn’t get ahold of my vet and that I was going to have to ask her to be my vet, that I thought Nebula was dying. Jean and Tony have taken care of dozens of cats at this point. They are cat people. They know cats.

She agreed with me, and she and Tony stayed on the phone to talk to me and try to talk me down and through it and I don’t remember much but I remembered enough.

The boyfriend was not ready. We were going to the oncologist. Our cat was not dying tonight.

I got him to walk up to the grocery store and get some cans of tuna and salmon. Maybe we could get Nebula to eat.

Nebula climbed onto my reading chair, propped his head up on one of my travel pillows, and looked at me with sad and miserable eyes. He couldn’t talk any more; his quack was now a rare squeal, reserved for moments he was truly unhappy or uncomfortable. I found a classical station online and put that on for him, hoping it would calm him. He would rest his head on his paw but wouldn’t close his eyes. The other paw was extended, and I gently reached out and slid my finger underneath it. He used to like that, he would close his paw around my finger tightly. He didn’t have the strength to do that right now, but when I tried to move away, he definitely wouldn’t let me go.

I didn’t go.

We kept trying to tell him that it was okay, that he could go, that the boyfriend would take care of me, that he shouldn’t be scared. He kept trying to get comfortable, finally ending up in a washtub full of laundry in the bathroom.

It was when the boyfriend brought him to the kitchen to try to get him to eat some canned salmon that we realized how bad it was, or had just gotten. I will spare you the end, since he was a dignified fellow who would be mortified that I was sharing his personal business with the internet, but it was not good.

And that was when the boyfriend said, “How much longer are we going to let him suffer?” and I changed “Let’s see how he is in the morning” to “I want to take him tonight.”

The boyfriend cleaned the snow off the car and at 12:45, I gently set the cat into an archive box with his cushion and his blanket – not the carrier, he hated that damn carrier, and he loved boxes and box tops – and we drove through the dark icy quiet Brooklyn streets to the emergency vet. Nebula sat calmly the entire way, sitting up, facing me, looking me right in the eye, those big green eyes. I told him where we were going and why but I don’t know if he heard me any more at that point. We told him stories the whole way there, reminded him that he was the strongest cat in Brooklyn and the most handsome cat in the whole five boroughs. I told him that all of his friends everywhere were thinking about him.

When we got to the vet, there was a parking space right out front. In Cobble Hill, on a snow day, this was a minor miracle already.

The people there were truly wonderful. The vet confirmed that we were doing the right thing and praised us for making the decision. That they could admit him if we wanted but he wouldn’t go home with any quality of life.

They left us alone to say goodbye, although we had been saying goodbye all night.

He went so quickly, one deep breath and he finally relaxed, finally went to sleep, while the boyfriend and I talked to him about salmon and sunbeams and attractive lady friends of the feline persuasion that awaited him.

I kissed him one more time, and we went home. I couldn’t prolong it, because if we had stood there much longer I would have started screaming. We told funny stories about the cat the whole way back. I wasn’t expecting to feel relief and lightness, and even happiness that he was gone but he wasn’t in pain and wasn’t miserable any more. The boyfriend poured the whiskey, I put on “Rhapsody in Blue” (which came to me in a flash as something he would have approved of), and we toasted our cat’s spirit into the Brooklyn night.

I am still lost and lonely and alternately numb and crazed with grief, and when I’m home, if I turn my head quickly I see him out of the corner of my eye. I’m praying for this period to pass about as much as I’m praying for it not to.

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“You better fucking rock you assholes, you’re holding up the Stooges.”

When I first discovered the Stooges, somewhere in the 13-15 year-old-range, if you had told me that I would have in my back catalog three reviews of having seen them, I would have told you that you were insane. I was never going to see the *Stooges* live. Yes, I saw Iggy, just this much too young to have seen the tour with Bowie, I saw Iggy repeatedly, I played the Lust For Life album so often in college that my roommate complained to the RA (but yet, you had no problem with “Total Eclipse of the Heart” on continuous repeat from the Christian girls downstairs). I once traded seeing Townshend at the Fillmore for my first Iggy glimpse in years. And, and, Iggy came to Israel about two weeks after I first moved there, four months after I had left the states, when I was confused and homesick and disoriented and starting to forget who I was.

But this is not about Iggy. This is about the Stooges. Because Ron Asheton left us today.

They never made it into the R&RHOF (and I am done ranting about that pathetic institution) but the silliness of last year’s stooges-sing-Madonna, like seeing Ciccone Youth on steroids, or something, was, quite honestly, the correct context for that band in that setting. I wish more people had been prepared to say ‘hey jann wenner, fuck you’ in such a fashion (I just wish I knew who was responsible for it).

I saw him play. At least I got to see him play. As a member of the Stooges.

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crocodile rock.

Crocodile Cafe abruptly closes its doors

The Croc was home and refuge and hangout and stomping ground. You could be there every night and sometimes it felt like I was. The bar, the booths, the dining room, the show room, the plate glass windows onto Blanchard, the long walkway from the front to the bar. When I broke up with a boyfriend, I didn’t care so much about custody of the friends, I cared about custody of the Croc, dammit. I went there alone and I went with large groups, I went on good dates and on bad dates. I had nice guys ask for my phone number and idiots try. I stood there stone cold sober and stumbled out drunk and happy and screaming.

I’m not trying to make it into more than it was, which was a great club in the right place at the right time with the right booker and the righteous soundperson. Eventually the magic fades. Eventually the rundown, forgotten neighborhood is reclaimed, the reclamation of said neighborhood being a movement the club was probably a big part of.

Kevn McKinney’s Thanksgiving shows; Bumrush (Mike McCready in drag); the first Wellwater Conspiracy show; Mudhoney; the Young Fresh Fellows, Scott McCaughey standing at the corner of 3rd and Blanchard; Sunday brunch; watching the band vans park in The Croc Parking Lot (3rd between Blanchard and Bell) when I lived at 4th and Blanchard: moving to 4th and Blanchard and being able to run out of the house sans coat, catch the headliner, and run home; three nights of Cheap Trick at the Croc; front row the night Pearl Jam opened for Cheap Trick at the Croc; eating dinner at the club night of show to “beat the line” and watching the eBay vultures stalk the likes of Mudhoney; Robyn Hitchcock debuting “Viva Seatac” at the Croc (“Viva viva viva/Viva Seatac/you’ve got the best coffee, computers and smack”); watching the Knitters while Steve Nieve walks by with Peter Buck, and six of us yelling, “Hey, Pete, going to throw some crockery?”; the Electric Six; watching Handsome Dick Manitoba mock the Mariners the first time the Dictators ever came to Seattle; ‘KURT BLOCH IS NOT A NICE MAN’ graffiti in the ladies’ room; the neon sheep in the bar; Tuatara; Supersuckers; Gas Huffer; Young Fresh Fellows; John Doe playing a half empty club the night after X at the Sky Church; seeing Mike Watt right after 9/11, seeing Mike Watt right after Elliott Smith died, seeing Mike Watt just about any time; R.E.M. at the Croc, “secret” anti-Bumbershoot shows (aka, “we can’t play anywhere in Seattle two weeks before or after Bumbershoot so we’ll play under another name”). The Fastbacks. The D4. Dead Moon. Bands long since forgotten that at the time seemed like the most important thing in the entire world.

And, of course, THE POLE. I usually stood down front so it didn’t bug me, but trying to find a spot BEHIND it that was acceptable is of course another thing entirely. If you have never been there, you likely do not know what I am talking about, but if you have ever frequented a rock club, I guarantee there is some similar fixture that causes you the same kind of agita.

God, what am I forgetting? I know I am forgetting so very much.

Funnily enough my last show at the Croc was Marah, long after I left town, which is more than fitting. At least I got to sit at that bar one more time and order drinks for my friends and tell them how much I loved the place.

Thank you and good night.

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obits

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the man on the radio says

She drew out all her money from the Southern Trust
And put her little boy on a Greyhound Bus
Leaving Memphis with a guitar in his hand
On a one-way ticket to the promised land
Hey little girl with the red dress on
There’s party tonight down in Memphis down
I’ll be going down there if you need a ride
The man on the radio says Elvis Presley’s died

We drove down into Memphis, the sky was hard and black
Up over the ridge came a white Cadillac
They’d drawn out all his money and they laid him in the back
A woman cried from the roadside “Ah he’s gone, he’s gone”
They found him slumped up against the drain
With a whole lot of trouble running through his veins
Bye-bye Johnny
Johnny bye-bye
You didn’t have to die
You didn’t have to die

Played every time Bruce had a show on 8/16, except when he played PNC Park on 8/16/03. (Thanks to the boyfriend for that trivia).

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obits

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vonnegut

ah, crap.

Slaughterhouse Five fucked me up BIG TIME in high school. Like turned my world upside-down big time. That’s such a good thing.

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