Is it the end of AC/DC?

I’ve always said to my friends that this sounds a lot like ZZ Top’s song “Jesus just left Chicago” which I just found out came out two years earlier than this AC/DC jam. They probably drew some influence from the song, but let’s face it, both songs are awesome and are milestones in the Pantheon of Rock and Roll. 

I’ve made a few fuck-ups in my life…..ok, quite a few but who is counting? A major one just revealed itself in that it appears Malcolm Young from AC/DC  has had a stroke and although it’s not clear yet, it sounds like they will hang up their rock and roll spurs. I never saw the band live and this is seriously depressing. If you don’t like them, you should. Only the the Rolling Stones match them in longevity and in the pure essence of everything that is rock and roll. If this rumor is true, it is truly a sad day not only for rock and roll, but for existence itself. I sure hope they ride on. 

“It’s a Long Way to the top” is one of the finest rock songs ever and it sets the whole pace for the band on this title track to their seminal album of the 70’s.

Apparently, they are just taking a break and the AC/DC camp will not confirm or deny that it was in fact  a medical reason that has derailed the band. This is understandable, they have always been a very private band that has never aired their personal problems for the public to scrutinize. I have a good feeling that this is the end though and as much as I love the band and still want to see them, it might be time. As anyone reading this could see, I am mostly playing videos with the original lead singer, the immortal Bon Scott. He died in 1980 and the band soldiered on with about the only man in the world who could attempt to fill those shoes, Brian Johnson. They say they will not continue if Malcolm can’t come back into the fold and I see this is a matter of integrity, not copping out,

I far prefer Bon Scott era AC/DC to Brian Johnson era because I received my first AC/DC album as a sophomore in high school and it was the international release High Voltage which began with “It’s a Long Way to the Top”. This album blew my mind and still does to this day. The straight forward rock and roll that remains simple yet refined will never lose it’s mass appeal. It’s a wonder to me why anyone would not like AC/DC , but one person told me it’s because of their high pitched vocals. I feel bad for them.

It is a profound statement that the band got big right after Bon died from misadventure, with Back In Black being their biggest album ever and Bon’s contributions figuring into the mix.  They kept going in 1980 because they had yet to find global success even though the Young brothers joining with Bon Scott is what made the original band. Since then, they have maintained that if either one of the Youngs cannot perform, then the band is done. In the era of the Rolling Stones STILL performing and bands claiming they are doing a final tour and then coming back three years later because they are broke, it’s nice to see someone who maintains integrity and bow out gracefully. I love the Stones as I’ve professed many times, but it’s probably time they move on with their lives because the last few dates did not sound great from the recordings I heard and Keith looks like hell.

This relates so what I was just saying in two ways. First, this was one of the last songs Bon wrote and recorded with the band as well as one of the most well known.  Second, Keith Richards looks like hell so perhaps he is well along that road. Even though I’ve heard this song one million times, I still turn it up whenever I hear it in the car.

Oddly enough, prior to me getting that first AC/DC album, my major aural interaction with the band was through the wonderfully bad Stephen King movie Maximum Overdrive. It is about a meteor that passes within Earth’s orbit that somehow causes all mechanical things from trucks to electric carving knives to lawn mowers to come alive with a homicidal streak. Emilio Estavez stars as a tough truck stop cook who ends up saving the day. AC/DC did all of the soundtrack and “Who made Who” was written for this flick. It works well and besides the comically bad acting/special effects, it really made the movie.

This actually has scenes from the movie! I apologize for the ads but I wanted this video specifically.

I mentioned briefly why someone wouldn’t like the band conceivably, the vary high pitched. I could see why someone who is into complicated music like progressive rock would see this music is overly simple and why women could see some of the songs as being chauvinistic. Regardless of all these nuances, AC/DC remains one of the last straight forward rock bands in the land. They haven’t changed much in their almost 40 year reign and right now could be the death knell. Maybe it’s fine and my memory of the band will be listening to the first track I played at high volume while drinking Natural Ice in my freshmen year of college or showing a new girlfriend how amazing Bon Scott was in his prime. AC/DC represents a desire we all have for a simple time when rock was basically one speed, only a few topics that included women and rocking, and guitar solos were concise. We will all grieve the loss of the band even if we don’t realize it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Longest Winter Ever

I used this song first for a Valentine’s Day post because it’s about my favorite love song ever,  but I think it also aptly describes the love I had for my dog Remy. I don’t want to harp on this subject because it is painful and I am trying to feel better not worse. This song does coincidentally sync with my feelings with the dog, from my first feelings against him when my parents got him as a puppy to my disapproval because I didn’t think they’d take care of him to getting close after taking over ownership and the dog barely making it through my Dad’s passing to my eventual real love for the dog. I’ll be brief in my writing on the grieving process, but it’s obvious we love our pets in this family and it’s never easy when they die.

This is easily the longest winter I can remember experiencing and I think everyone’s seasonal affective disorder is boiling over. You can see it in people’s faces, from the despair at the grocery store to the five fights at the dive bar last Friday which far exceeds the norm and it makes me happy that I gave up alcohol for Lent so I was not at all involved. Losing my cat and then my dog was the nail in the coffin for this being the worst winter I’ve had so far in my life, except behind my father’s passing three years back in January.

For a few days there, I was the second most depressed that I have ever been, spending much of last Friday night staring at the ceiling. I’m coming out of it now, as time and activity will heal most wounds, as well as my recent acquisition of a two year old orange cat named Hunk from the refugee league who seems like he will fit in well at the Brothers J family compound in Maine. Nothing will ever replace Remy the Golden retriever I inherited from my Dad, but I will slowly not feel so sad and be happy for the time I shared with him.

 

I go back to this song a lot, it’s totally a mantra I say when I get really down about hard times because all things do pass whether you want them to or not. I also sing “Let it Be” in my brain when I get stressed out so maybe I can design and market a whole program os using Beatles’ tunes and solo tracks as a philosophical framework. I’m sure they’d get all the royalties. Lastly, this is a different version than I normally listen to and I dig the horn section.

The times the loss of my faithful friend Remy are most powerful are times of transition, like when I expect to see him sitting there when I get out the shower or when I come home from school and he would wait by the door so I could bring him for a walk. This will pass and I will be left with positive memories, but Spring would sure help this process along. It’s the first of April tomorrow and sleet/snow covered the roads this morning during my commute. This much snow and this much cold weather has literally turned everyone into angry and depressed people who should all change after the first consistent run of warm weather. The Stones said it pretty well.

This is the first time I have heard this song which is very odd as I am a pretty avid Stones fan. I like it, it’s very much like a tune on Exile on Main Street.

It’s funny how fast our perceptions change. I couldn’t imagine living in my house without the dog living there too because that’s how it has been for the last nine years, but sadly enough, I’m slowly adjusting to the cat greeting me instead of my dog. We will all complain about the weather, but after a week of warm temperatures, we will all be talking about how amazing it is here in the Northland and all the rednecks will start reminiscing about how good the snowmobile riding was this winter and how they can’t wait until next year. As stuck in our ways as humans are, we can adapt quickly even if we don’t want to.

“I don’t mind the sun sometimes, the images it shows”. We all need some sunshine now and also maybe softly spoken lies and the knowledge that you never know just how you look through someone else’s eyes.

While the fall is kind of a death knell for the other three seasons, spring is the beginning after a long winter of bone chilling cold that ruins everything from your positive outlook to my furnace which broke down yesterday keeping me home today so it can get fixed on April Fool’s day. Is this sunny day going to be like a giant joke in itself, suddenly turning into a blizzard with negative temperatures, one last cruel joke from that unrelenting force of Mother Nature? I wouldn’t be surprised in the least. I am going to think positive thoughts because one way or another, spring is coming. I miss my dog, but I know that some time I won’t  be so depressed about it and I’ll mostly be able to look back on all the good times I had with him. Everything passes with time and the only constant is that things will change. I just hope we get a few months of sunshine to revitalize our souls and forget how cruel a winter it was.

 

I have been very into this song for a few months, kind of like the mental hip hop vacations I took this winter to relieve some stress. This jam is on like every list for the top ten best rock instrumentals of the 1960’s and deservedly so, it’s a real jam that makes me want to strut around somewhere sunny and forget all the ills of the world. Hell, it makes me want to dance.

 

Favorite New Discovery: J. Roddy Walston and the Business

This doesn’t sound like a lot of the piano driven rock that J. Roddy and the Business is known for, but it is their newest single and a certifiable jam. It could just be my rudimentary knowledge of music, but it sounds like the main guitar hook was composed on a piano or at least would sound pretty cool played on one. Maybe even the tasty licks of a Hammond B-3 organ?

Right around my case of the Mondays and the subsequent breaking of my muffler, I got really into the Baltimore band J. Roddy Walston and the Business. I included them on my best of 2013 list and this wasn’t very accurate because I listened to them once back in the spring time and not again until the aforementioned. My friend who teaches science played them for me during an evening spent fishing and I recognized it embarrassingly from a shitty Mark Wahlberg movie I’d not finished watching during a rare day off. As always with me, my favorite thing about the band and what I find most striking is their incredibly unique sound. It’s a great mixture of old school Rock and Roll with the loud/soft dynamics of a grunge band ripping off The Pixies in an honest and ill way.

This has been my favorite song for weeks now. My favorite moment is when they harmonize on “like slavery she saidddd” and the subsequent marks that they hit those notes. I love this band because their heavy musical songs are amazing as well as these slower songs that depend on vocal delivery with minimal instrumentation. These are signs of a versatile band which whose recipe is awesome.

They actually not a new band at all and have been in existence since 2002. They hail from Baltimore, Maryland and within a month of moving to a house in that city, the lead singer was mugged at gun point. I guess The Wire was correct in its portrayal of the former murder capital of America, the illustrious title that has now been taken by Flint, Michigan, but I digress.

J Roddy grew up on a steady diet of gospel and country music interspersed with a love of Led Zeppelin,  the Rolling Stone’s Ian Stewart and the immortal Leon Russell.  The additional listening to glam rock superstars like T. Rex and obviously influenced by the grunge rock he couldn’t avoid in high school creates this amazing mixture of sounds that is totally unique. It’s been a long  and difficult road for this band, but I just heard the song that introduced this post from their new album on the local alternative rock station and I have a good feeling they are about to blow up.

This is a song that J. Roddy arranged after his Grandmother, loosely-related to the Grand Ole Opry, played him this song as a youth. It’s one of their first widely known tunes because it was used on an MTV show about cage fighting. The original title was something like “Sally Let your Bangs hang down” and has come pretty clear sexual connotations so I find it quite humorous that his elderly relative played him the song. This is my least favorite of his work I’ve heard, although still awesome and indicative of where they started.

For the last ten years, the band has traveled around the country playing music in a Church van they have dubbed “the Diaper” because it’s “big, white and carries all their shit”. They even left the name of the Church painted on the side of the rig in the hopes that it will lesson the chances that they get pulled over.  J. Roddy transports a 300 pound Yamaha traveling piano on tour, saying ” I play piano. You’d never see a guitar player playing a keytar”. Their reputation has been built on an energetic live show that the New York Times said made “James Brown look lazy”. At one show on a boat in New York, J. Roddy got so fired up that he ended his set by throwing his piano stool out a window, narrowly missing a bystander before it crashed into the East River. They are road warriors, through and through, and no sign of 1920’s style clothing.

This song is another prime example of the loud/soft dynamics I mentioned early as well as a very vintage feel in both the sleazy Exile on Main Street rhythms and epic yet succinct guitar solos. Ok, they got going a little bit live here, but it’s a sweet jam so it’s ok. By the way, this performance is from Lebowski fest which they played this year and it makes me think that perhaps the Elder and I should write a post about our varying opinions on the film using the indisputably awesome sound track.

In an age where everyone steals samples, identities, and styles from everyone else, it’s refreshing to find a band that wears their influences on their sleeves while still forging their own sound/style. I read some reviews of their concerts online and the common thread seems to be that their shows are amazing and most people did not expect the balls to the wall rock of the band when they opened up for the Lumineers on tour. People went expecting this pseudo-bluegrass folk music and saw this badass band open up instead, which is probably why they’ve been gaining some exposure. I know the live show of a band is a huge part of how good I think they are and a major point of argument on why I think the Rolling Stones are a better band than the Beatles, but I digress again.

This is such an obvious nod to the blues-rock crunch of the Stones and Zeppelin  great enough that it deserves the comparison. I didn’t even know the band had a song with slide guitar! 

I need to see this band live. There’s no tour date in the far Northeast yet, unless Rochester, NY counts and it doesn’t, but I’m sure the radio play of “Heavy Bells” will bring them at least to Boston in this calendar year. I will gather up troops and head down 95 to see this band and I hope this post has helped in some small way to spread the sheer awesomeness that is J. Roddy Walston and the Business. I really hope the Elder J likes this band because hopefully I am headed south in a few weeks to visit him and if things progress as they have, I’ll still be listening to this band non-stop. So crank these tunes up this morning and jam hard to Mr. Walston. Rock and Roll will never die as long as bands like this keep grinding on the road and keeping it real in the studio.

A great enough jam that I don’t care that I’ve included it in at least one other post, probably two. Go see this band, buy their record, and wile out when you hear them.

Target(ing) Profitability: Corporate (T-Shirt) Rock Whores

A few months back I was shopping for clothing for my toddler son at Target and I was immediately taken by a pint-sized Pink Floyd t-shirt. I know: I recognized immediately that this was a simple but effective ploy to play upon a combination of adult nostalgia and a parental desire to make children look ‘cool‘ (especially for those Gen Xers and younger who were always too cool to want to appear to try to be cool.)

Welcome to the corporate jungle, Axl. Is this what you were afraid of when you spent a decade working on Chinese Democracy?

My wife mocked me a little. I felt both less and more self-critical when I saw not one but two little boys at day care wearing the same t-shirt. I over-compensated by getting a science officer Star Trek (original series) shirt for my son and trying to squeeze him into a one-year old’s shirt emblazoned with Carthago Delenda Est.

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New Job Soundtrack

1. “Telephone Lines” -ELO

I listen to this song like three times a day. It’s about calling your ex and I’m not doing that but I love the vibe and the very high vocals. Further, it reminds me of the scene in BIlly Madison where Adam Sandler calls Steve Buscemi’s character to apologize for the former’s treatment of the latter in high school. As a result, we see Steve cross Billy Madison’s name of of his hit list and then apply lipstick, all to the tune of this song. I dunno, it just makes me laugh and my drummer George Harrison also plays thing song though the PA during band practice. Oh yeah, and Jeff Lynne is awesome.

I have started my new job and it is nothing like last year. Because we are spending some time developing a new alternative education program and curriculum, we don’t have assigned kids yet, much to the chagrin of many classroom teachers. Let me be forthright in saying I agree and empathize with them as much as I am excited for this opportunity. Most teachers are coming around and see that this is what our admins want us to do and that’s just how it is, but I’d imagine some will never see our viewpoint and will forever view us as slackers. I will have to live with that and try to kill them with kindness as the Elder J has advised me many times.

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Music, Marijuana and Misery: A Case for Casualization?

Ok. I may be blowing up the blog with this one. But here it goes.

Wiz Khalifa featuring Snoop Dogg, “Young, and Wild and Free”

A few weeks back, my brother wrote a great post about dealing with his students’ attitudes about life and, in passing, things like substance abuse. He talked about their difficult lives and the way that music influences their views about the world. He self-mockingly provides a PSA when he writes:

I love the vibe of this song  and dislike much of the content. My one major problem with Wiz is the constant reference to and glorification of marijuana. I personally don’t care what he does on his own time. However, he definitely influences young folks all around to think that smoking pot is not only ok, but actually a good thing that will make you have fun all the time

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On the Radio: Melody’s (not) a Fool

While driving to work during a run of recent rainy days–which is a rarity in my state where it is sunny 90% of the time–I was contemplating some weather-appropriate emotions of weariness, worry and frustration. I know that a great deal of this came from the weather, but it seemed to be bubbling from within and spilling over without.

As usual, I was listening to the radio. This day was a jazz day because I just couldn’t handle commercials or, I thought, anything with words in it. The children were strapped in their car seats. The traffic was beginning to clear. The rain stopped and the sky seemed to lighten. And then this song came on the radio:

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Seasonal Affective Disorder

My brother wrote a few weeks ago about dealing with winters in the north and their effect on your psyche. He also stated that this issue basically disappeared when he moved to a southern climate; but I think this has a lot more to do with the fact that the man has no time to be morose with two young kids, a full time job as a professor and so on and so forth.

One of the many things that add to Seasonal Affective Disorder is that when it is extremely cold and/or snowy, you can’t do much outside unless you thrive on a winter sport like skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling or whatever. Snow removal generally sucks as well (which we will discuss a little further along). The bad weather coupled with the come-down from the holidays and the crappy economy of the last few years has really made me feel this S.A.D. thing. I also tend to miss my father more around this time for the obvious reason that the anniversary of his death comes at the end of this month and the holidays really emphasize his absence.

So I had a long talk with my brother on the phone on this subject and one of the many ways we talked of dealing with these generally shitty feelings is to write about it in our blog. He has already sort of covered it and I will add my own experience right now. I’m lucky to have a brother that not only listens  about why I feel like shit but also helps me look at various ways I can combat this yearly phenomena.  Exercise, limiting of alcohol consumption and a renewed focus on finding a real job were key points. So here it is.

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Procrastination Station

Recently my brother posted about his battle with procrastination. Although I like to hassle him about it (as he makes clear in his post!), I must protest that this is not something I particularly find fault with in him. See, there are good reasons to put things off. The modern world, moreover, makes distraction and procrastination into preexisting conditions for all of us.

This has more import for this blog than I think my brother knows. This blog is both a product and cause of procrastination. And, there is also some important connection between music and time. I want to explore both of these things and, along the way, give you some songs about time.

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