So I thought that, since Summertime's Hippiefest Tour of '09 provided me with the time on my hands to become proficient touch typing on my iPhone, that I would try to write an entire column on this thing to see if this process could bring me closer to writing the great American novel. So far, I'm doubting that big time. But I do love this thing, and that qualifies as "media” in a huge way.
All summer long, I was able to send home daily video postcards of every city, each show and even the weird occasional hotel rooms. I was able to talk to my new puppy too, so he wouldn't forget me by the time his third month on earth was over. The iPhone held my favorite movies, so I could watch "The Big Lebowski” during those pesky airport delays or my precious Boosh episodes, but more about that in a minute. Total Internet meant watching yesterday 's Daily Show and Ferguson. I checked out YouTube and read USA Today and the Huffington Post. All of my music and eleven pages of apps from the Apple site had this guy playing 3D video games and customizing my pix with Photoshop without ever needing a laptop or even a wi-fi connection. When I was a kid, I dreamed of having a Dick Tracey video watch, but I never even imagined that I would actually own a device in my lifetime that would do all that this current generation of smart phone is able to accomplish. I know- I'm the old gummer that can't comprehend the marvels of modern technology which puts me only steps away from "hey you kids, get off my lawn" -and yet, I guess I am that guy. Still, it does take a lot to get me motivated, so thanks to the iPhone and the following other obsessions that continue to get me to open my eyes on these grey Seattle days.
First, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a second to thank Bono and Hal Wilner for inviting Mark and me to sing along with U2, Gavin Friday, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Courtney Love, Scarlett Johansson, Chloe Webb, Joel Gray, Lady Gaga and Lou Reed and others at Carnegie Hall last month. It was truly amazing and definitely one for the memory book.
Second, thanks to my pals Yo La Tengo for a similar invitation to join them here onstage at the Showbox in Seattle: the final show of their American tour. They do all of Europe before the end of the year and their annual holiday shows at Maxwell's in Hoboken. That's worth a plane ticket right there. But if you can't afford to either physically or mentally make the trip to New Jersey, may I recommend their latest offering, Popular Songs, which has been at the top of the alternative charts for many weeks. Really, one of their best albums in years, and this from a guy who owns them all. Great compositions brilliantly performed. You really do feel the love on the YLT records. Kudos to Ira, Georgia and James for the latest in the countless hours of enjoyment you have given me.
So I was telling Ira about this group that a buddy of mine, and fellow Sub-genius, recommended to me. Of how I loved the open and airy studio sound and organic arrangements, the innocence of the vocalist's amazing gifts and the simplicity of the song content. That was the sound of music hitting home, folks. So thanks to Bill Kates, aka Dr. Bleepo Abernathy, for giving me something to believe in with The Bird and the Bee. Yep. That's their name. Not exactly catchy, but then either is Flo and Eddie. Ah, but the records. And I own two. I know there are e.p.s out there too, but you gotta start somewhere. Inara George, daughter of Little Feat's legendary Lowell, is the vocalist and her fellow bird or bee-whatever-Greg Kurstin, does everything else. The recordings sound like Western Studio 3, circa 1967, and that, unto itself, is a fantastic achievement. Put on the headphones for their first, self-titled effort as well as their sophomore CD, Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future. You're going to thank me.
So Ira asks if I’ve heard HIS fave new band, which I hadn't. Yet. Then I ordered 2 CDs from the Nashville-based Lambchop. Beautiful stuff. Intimate and catchy. Ira was playing either OH (for Ohio) or their earlier record, Nixon, at the club between sets. A terrific band, and that's how it happens. He tells me and I tell you and so on and so on, like that old shampoo commercial. Even before the web, there was word of mouth.
All of that summer traveling gave me the chance to read a bit, too. And not just my typical genre stuff either. I began the season with the most atypical read of my year, Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. It's a 600 page epic period piece about the golden era of Super Hero comic books, the Manhattan agents and publishers and the two immigrant kids who come to America to make their fortune and what happens when... Well, that's the other 599 pages. It's wonderful, though. And you know I wouldn't say so merely to appear literate. I don't care.
American On Purpose by TV’s Craig Ferguson is a pretty revealing autobiography, considering this guy's on network television nightly. The book is funny and touching too, in places, and doesn't mince around the Scotsman’s drug and alcohol addictions nor his punk- rock drummer's life of eighties debauchery or an agonizing rehab following his stint on the Drew Carey Show. A cautionary show biz tale from the only late night TV host who acts like he doesn't need us.
Also, try Things the Grandchildren Should Know by Mark Oliver Everett, aka "E" of the musical group known as the Eels. Pete Townsend is quoted on the book jacket as calling this "one of the best books written by a contemporary artist," this is much more than a music book. E's life is touching and tragic and, at times, only his talent pulled him through. It's about God and Rock and Mortality and it's very beautiful, indeed.
And if there are any copies remaining, actual readers may want to try to order A Time To Cast Away Stones by one of America's finest authors, Tim Powers. This is the 20th anniversary of Joe Stefko's Charnel House publishing company and, since his first production was the famous, Stress of Her Regard, by the same author, this new and original novella picks up exactly where Stress left off. Beautifully conceived and executed, Stones takes our story and brings it full circle 2 decades later. An immensely satisfying read.
Re-reading Jeff Tamarkin's fantastic Jefferson Airplane bio, Got A Revolution. It's out of print, I believe, but you should hunt down a copy if you want to know what a real rock book should be. Amazing research and bundles of Truth, whether the band liked it or not.
There is only one truth.
And there is only one FUNNY.
And the funniest thing I've seen in many years is the British television import known as The Mighty Boosh. It's a BBC series based on the comedy of Noel Fielding and Julian Barrett. And they're wonderful. Hilarious. And highly addictive. They list Pee Wee Herman and Frank Zappa as among their influences, and although I see where they're coming from, in this case, the whole is more than just the sum of its parts. I can't really describe this show with any justice. Suffice to say, it runs late Sunday night on Adult Swim @ the Cartoon Network, but it's not animated. Our heroes have many strange and wonderful adventures. Inside jokes, very trendy too. It's highbrow, lowbrow comedy with great rock songs and the most psychedelic visuals since 200 Motels. But this is better. If you are old enough to remember what it felt like to be " in on something" when Monty Python’s Flying Circus hit the states in the seventies- and I was, having seen them live at the Hollywood Bowl- you'll recall that water-cooler, want to tell everyone you know feeling. Jump on board the Boosh train now, my Droogies, and catch up with the first three seasons, either via individual outings or the deluxe-boxed set, before season 4 begins and the new movie comes out.
On film, Pirate Radio is finally out in America. From the director of Four Weddings, Notting Hill and other UK successes, this one tells the tale of Radio Caroline, the ship that broadcast rock and roll music to England in the sixties, when the government banned rock from the airwaves. The soundtrack did great in Britain; topped the charts for weeks (Elenore and She'd Rather Be With Me are prominently featured), but the movie, not so much. We'll see how it does here in states.
And a reminder- the holidays are upon us. Wouldn't some one you know and love enjoy receiving a copy of My Dinner With Jimi?
or an autographed Dust Bunnies CD?
ho ho ho...
The spirit of giving, kids.
I’m just sayin'...
the artist formerly known as Eddie