Saturday, December 31, 2005

see? I told you

The New York Times ran a piece today entitled "If the Sidewalks Feel Jammed, Well, They Are" which states that midtown sidewalks are 57 percent more crowded with pedestrians than one year ago. And I definitely felt it when trying to maneuver through the Radio City crowds (yes, the Christmas Spectacular is ongoing) on the way to MoMA to see The Incredibles, part of the Museum's Pixar series.

Pedestrian traffic was much more tolerable in the West Village where we had a lovely meal at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame followed by drinks with two Woggles (in town to play Little Steven's New Year's Eve party tonight (to be broadcast of ESPN and ESPN2)) and friends at The Spotted Pig (which, truth be told, was about as crowded as a midtown sidewalk).

Happy New Year's Eve.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

tourists take over manhattan


oh mah gahd - the damn turistas are fricking everywhere (at least everywhere in midtown): not the elderly tourists who arrive by the busload for the matinee performance of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and not the red jacketed band tourists in town for the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, and not the tracksuited tourists left over the Monday following the New York City Marathon. no, we're talking full families of tourists (probably Long Island and New Jersey residents bringing the kids in during the week off from school) walking three abreast on sidewalks made more narrow by the excessive crap (your name (Robina?) written in a decorative style on a large, rectangular piece of paper? tell me, just what in the hell do you do with it when you get home?) offered by the rapidly multiplying street vendors.
and it'll only get worse as we get closer to New Year's.
a fun week, I tell you. come on down.

last book read: The Third Man (BFI Series) by Rob White
the book before that: The Third Man by Graham Greene
the one before that: One Day in September by Simon Reeve

last DVD watched: Love, Liza

last movie seen in a theater: Munich
the movie before that: Capote

Thursday, December 22, 2005

elrod hendricks

Longtime Baltimore Oriole player and coach Elrod Hendricks passed away from a heart attack on Wednesday at the age of 64, one day shy of his 65th birthday. Elrod played parts of twelve major league seasons and caught over 600 major league games. He served as the Orioles' bullpen coach for a record 28 seasons and was one of the most popular players in franchise history. This past Monday Hendricks played Santa Claus at the team's annual Christmas party for underprivileged children.

I spent an hour with Elrod Hendricks on the visitor's dugout bench at Yankee Stadium a couple of years ago and he struck me, as I'm sure he did everyone, as a kind and decent man. The photo for this blog, and the author photo I've used for each of my first two books in the Baseball Behind the Seams series, is of me walking with Elrod Hendricks following that talk. I'm very happy that the Shortstop book, which is now in production, will carry that photo as well.

God bless Elrod Hendricks.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

another day, just like any other

unless you live in New York City and were faced with the choice of walking to work, catching a ride with a stranger looking to get four in a car so he/she could access below 96th Street or a possibly price-gouging cab or livery service.
Or, you could do what I did and just stay home (as opposed to walking a mile and a half just to have the opportunity to walk over the Queensboro Bridge in 20 degree weather and still be a mile from the office). Though that option will no longer be an option fairly soon.

(photo by James Estrin/New York Times)

Last CD played: Randy Newman's Good Ole Boys
Last Book read: Mark Jacobson's Teenage Hipster in the Modern World
Last DVD viewed: Six Feet Under: The Complete Third Season

Thursday, December 8, 2005

december 8

My string of accidental celebrity sightings continued on Tuesday when I passed The Today Show's Ann Curry (not a fan) waiting for her car service after a stint at Saks (if her shopping bag is any indication of how she spent her afternoon).
Not an earthshattering event, obviously, considering Saks is about 30 yards east of her workplace and I walked past her about 30 yards west.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon. His album Shaved Fish provides a soundtrack of better days.

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

five days in december

This morning NYC received its second snow dusting in the last three days.
And after spending the first five nights in December out (the earliest holiday party in history, Spamalot, Vong, Balthazar and Iron & Wine/Calexico (w/ special guest Sufjan Stevens)) I may have never looked so forward to a Tuesday night at home.

Last book read: Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking

Last celebrity seen on the street: Tim Curry (Union Square)
The celebrity before that: Chris Parnell (Rock Center subway)

Saturday, December 3, 2005

song of the day: the white stripes' "my doorbell"

To commemorate their Thursday appearance on "The Daily Show" (the first musical performance in that show's short but illustrious history)," today's pick to click: from their Get Behind Me Satan album.

Friday, November 18, 2005

song of the day: lambchop's "up with people"

From the Nixon album.

Just because.
Or rather, I'm thinking of bathing in Lambchop now that The Shortstop's turned in.
But maybe I'll immerse in something else.
Who knows?
The world is my fricking oyster.
Gumby.

Last book read: Philip Roth's The Plot Against America

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

song of the day: iron & wine's "sodom, south georgia"

From the Our Endless Numbered Days CD.

Because I've got a small advance due on Iron & Wine's Philadelphia show with Calexico upcoming.
Just doing my homework, teacher.

Friday, November 11, 2005

song of the day: the shins' "young pilgrims"

From the Chutes Too Narrow album.

Because it's coming up on that time of the year to compile the top ten lists, and nothing, really, stands out like this record did in '03.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

major fricking faux paus


Of course, very little time had passed following last evening's post when it was pointed out, with more than a hint of accusation, that I had failed to add adulation for Latvia's favorite daughter, Jelena Prokopcuka, also known as the women's champion of the 2005 New York City Marathon.

My apologies and congratulations all rolled into one . . .

Monday, November 7, 2005

2005 nyc marathon


It happens once a year. Twenty-four hours after the NYC Marathon, midtown Manhattan is nearly consumed by extremely thin folk in European track suits wrestling with fold-out subway maps.

Thanks for staying the extra day.

And congrats to 2005 men's winner Paul Tergat of Kenya, and all marathon finishers.

Friday, November 4, 2005

don rowe 1936-2005


I learned just the other day that former major league pitcher and pitching coach Don Rowe passed away on October 15th. Mr. Rowe was kind enough to talk to me for my chapter on single game starters for the Starting Pitcher book in October of 2004.

Don Rowe pitched in 26 big league games, all for the 1963 New York Mets, and finished 12 of them. He was the starting pitcher in just one major league contest, April 22 on the road against the Philadelphia Phillies.

God bless Don Rowe.



A: One of the things they did is they called a lot of balks on me.

Q: Really, that was an unusual thing for that time, wasn’t it?

A: Yeah, right. But that year they were bearing down on guys cheating, throwing to first base.

Q: Now I’m sure you didn’t do it, but what were they accusing you of with the balk move? Were you not coming to a stop?

A: Yeah, right. It was on my front leg, but you know something that I did that nobody else did is when I pitched in the International League, I think it was the year before, and when a man would get on and I was in the stretch, I’d pound the ball in and out of my glove. They didn’t know what to do about it. So in the International League they said, If you pound that ball in and out of your glove while you’re getting the sign, if you drop that that’s going to be a balk. So when I got to the big leagues they had to have a meeting about me and that move.

Q: Because your foot was on the rubber at the time.

A: Yeah, right. My left foot was on the rubber and I leaned out over my right foot, then my hands were extended towards the ground and I’d pound the ball into my glove and then pop it out and catch it.

Q: Now is that something that you had always done?

A: Well, I’d always done it in the International League, but in the International League I was a quick pitcher. In other words, one of the veterans there was a guy named Diomines Olivo from the Dominican Republic, and he taught me to pitch fast. I got the ball and got it in there. I pitched fast. Don’t let the hitters get a chance to sit and play at their pace. Make them play at your pace. So that’s why I did what I did there.

Q: So you were just keeping active at all times.

A: Yeah, I had a short, quick stride and throw the ball in there.

Q: Well, was that what the balk move was about?

A: Yeah, the balk move was about me going too fast. You know, and that was my only start, but I’ll tell you a funny thing. Just remind me here. I went back to the bullpen. I pitched my way out of the bullpen by doing a pretty good job against Cincinnati. Anyway, went to Pittsburgh and I came in to pitch. We were ahead, I think, by one run in Pittsburgh. I came in to pitch the ninth inning and Stengel, he came out there you know to change the pitchers. He said, Now, don’t be too quick. Just don’t go quick. Don’t go quick. When I was coming in, Marv Throneberry, he was the first baseman, he said, For God’s sakes, don’t go quick. And then as I walked back with the umpire, the umpire said, Now listen, don’t go quick or I’ll have to call a balk on you. It went right down the line. So when I got on the rubber to take my practice throws I went quick. Oh God, they all jumped up and started screaming. Well, anyway.

Q: How much notice did you have before the start?

A: Well, I pitched in Cincinnati and then we went home and I was supposed to start a game there, but somebody couldn’t make the start so they said, We’ll start you in Philadelphia, so I knew two or three days ahead of time.

Q: Was this a big deal to you? Was it enough to be playing major league baseball or was starting a game really something extra?

A: Well, I always wanted to be a starter in Triple A. I was ten years in Triple A, so I wasn’t nervous. Let’s see. What was I going to tell you? What was the question?

Q: Was it something extra to be able to start a game?

A: Oh, I had already pitched about 100 innings. I mean, I pitched a ton of innings and stuff. I was drafted by Pittsburgh, signed by Pittsburgh, and I wanted to play in Pittsburgh. I told Joe Brown – in fact, we had a get together of all the Pirate guys – so I told him, that’s the first time I’d seen him. I got drafted over to the Mets, you know the expansion draft, so I told him, In 1958 or '59 I had good enough stuff I could’ve helped you. He says, You know, one time you were the number on left-handed prospect in our organization. But then we got a guy named Bob Veale and there just wasn’t room enough for you on the club. So I never did get to pitch for Pittsburgh.

Q: Now were you a starter in the International League?

A: Oh yeah. In 1962 I started the All-Star Game against the Baltimore Orioles, pitched three innings of no-hit ball.

Q: Okay, so starting that game you’re not nervous because you’ve got thousands of International League innings, but is it a big deal? Do you call your folks or your girlfriend or anything to let them know that this is going to happen?

A: I don’t think my folks. My wife probably knew. I mean, she kept a notebook of stuff like that, so she knew but she was as much a veteran as I was.

Q: But no problems sleeping in the hotel room the night before.

A: No, but I’ll tell you something that happened before the game started. I took batting practice. I was a pretty good hitter, so I took batting practice before the game and they had a left-hander named Steve Dillon and sure enough it was cold that night, and he was just pitching batting practice, and I got jammed up there. That bothered me more than anything.

Q: Getting jammed in batting practice by Dillon?

A: Yeah.

Q: Now how did you do against Ray Culp?

A: Ray Culp. He was the guy that started against me. Ray Culp. I pitched a lot of games against him, you know, in the International League and other places.
I hit .231 in the big leagues. Every team that I played on in pro ball I pinch-hit or. In Columbus I played right field and Willie Stargell played first base. I didn’t want to play first base so I said, Willie, you play first base and I’ll play right field. As things worked out, a guy named Tom Parsons pitched that game for Columbus. I missed a ball in right field and he lost the game 2-1.

Q: How did you feel during the game?

A: Okay, Johnny Callison got a couple of hits off me. I pitched 5 2/3 innings, so that’s almost six innings, and I don’t know exactly – my wife would know better than me because she has that scrapbook – but I had trouble with Callison. The other thing is, when I left the ballgame, Stengel came out and got me. I said, Well, I feel pretty good. I think I could get this out. He said, No, that’d be the longest you’ve gone so I’m going to take you out. So he took me out and Tracy Stallard came in and Tracy Stallard blew the game.

Q: Yeah, he got lit up pretty good.

A: Yeah. What happened was then I went into the clubhouse and there was Tracy, you know, and he was feeling bad enough. He said, I messed up your start. I said, Ah, don’t worry about it. There’ll be a lot more. So then we got dressed and went downtown. Well, Stengel, after the game, wanted to talk to me and I’d already left the ballpark. He was madder than hell.

Q: Did that have anything to do with you not starting again?

A: No, I don’t think so. It just didn’t work out that way.

Q: How are you after the game? I mean, if you and Stallard are going downtown and already dressed and gone you couldn’t have been too upset by the performance.

A: Well, you know, I’d done well I thought. I had a pretty good streak going there. I pitched in Cincinnati I think four innings over there and did pretty good, and then I pitched 5 and 2/3rd, almost six innings. You get guys today, they pitch six innings they think they did great.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

death cab and daylight savings

You'll really can't have too much Death Cab can you?

The band has cancelled their Halloween show in the hurricane-ravaged South Florida area, yet two versions of my feature interview with Ben Gibbard remain - the longer ran in New Times Broward-Palm Beach while the slightly abbreviated take appeared in Miami New Times.

Happy Daylight Savings.

Friday, October 28, 2005

song of the day: freakwater's "good for nothing"


The Mercury Lounge, especially when full, is a tough place to take photos, but, hey, it was worth a shot.
And yet our photographic challenges had little effect on Freakwater's stellar, Smothers Brothers-esque performance (that's Catherine Irwin in the background (red) and Janet Beveridge Bean in the foreground (blue)) in New York on Thursday night.
We also very much enjoyed the opening set by John Parish and company.
Both John and Freakwater can be found domestically on Chicago's Thrill Jockey label (those with too much computer free time might want to consider entering the label's uber-unique Mash Up Contest (deadline November 9)).

Anywho, symbolic hats off to Freakwater. Which means we're making last night's opening number, "Good for Nothing" (from their End Time CD), our song of the day.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

top ten for thirteen months




October 27th is the thirteen month anniversary of my iPod ownership. And following is a list of the top ten most played songs over that thirteen month period (make of it what you will):









"Perfect Situation" by Weezer (from Make Believe)
"This Boy Is Exhausted by The Wrens (The Meadowlands)
"Dead" by They Might Be Giants (Flood)
"She Sends Kisses" by The Wrens (The Meadowlands)
"As Far As I Know" by Paul Westerberg (Folker)
"Cosmopolitan" by Nine Black Alps (EP)
"$100 Groom" by Paul Westerberg (Folker)
"Headache" by Frank Black (Teenager of the Year)
"Over The Ocean" by Nine Black Alps (EP)
"Hopeless" by The Wrens (The Meadowlands)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

song of the day: drive-by truckers' "(something's got to) give pretty soon"

Patterson's playing the Mercury Lounge this rainy New York evening. Good enough reason to make Decoration Day's "Give Pretty Soon" our pick to click.

And Happy Birthday to the Staten Island Ferry, 100 years young today.

Monday, October 24, 2005

death cab and rosa parks


I saw Death Cab for Cutie at Hammerstein Ballroom here in New York last Wednesday night (the photo is of bassist Nick Harmer and drummer Jason McGerr). I interviewed Jason last Friday for a future drum project. And, assuming papers are actually published (given today's Hurricane Wilma landfall), both New Times Broward-Palm Beach and Miami New Times are scheduled to run my feature this week based on an interview with Death Cab leader Ben Gibbard.

And Civil Rights pioneer Rosa Parks died today in Detroit at the age of 92. God bless Rosa Parks.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

nada mooch

Tired.
Exhausted.
Meaning today's songs of the day are The Beatles' "I'm So Tired" and The Wrens' "This Boy Is Exhausted."
Not really.
Most of the past 24 hours has been awash in Death Cab for Cutie's Plans, as my piece was due this morning for a run in both New Times Broward-Palm Beach and Miami New Times next week. Then I began to move on to the second disc of Randy Newman's expanded Good Old Boys (a concert review is due next to No Depression) but it was muy dificil to hear the spoken sections on the subway.

The photo of Rivers Cuomo was taken last Friday night at the Foozer show at the lovely Continental Airlines Arena. Tomorrow night is the first of two Death Cab shows at Hammerstein Ballroom.

No rest for the weary.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

a miserable day in nyc

I guess Tammy's finally here. It’s raining buckets. Umbrellas are little defense.
All day I expect to be introduced to a man named Noah.

This morning I’m walking up the steps to the subway, listening to Randy Newman’s “I’m Dead (But I Don’t Know It)” from his Bad Love album. The entrance to the southwest corner is taped off. Upstairs it’s taped off in the other direction, effectively forming a cordon around a portion of the platform. A policeman is standing next to the upstairs tape and a homeless person is asleep in the blocked off area, except they’re probably not asleep, you know?

Last week my preview of Fall rock lit ran in Philadelphia Weekly, and Cleveland Scene was kind enough to reprint the Weezer piece.
And just out in New Times Broward-Palm Beach is a short feature on Fall Out Boy.

This week also marks the release of Daddy's Live at the Women's Club. The band is fronted by former bis-quits buddies Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack. And I was fortunate enough to be in Frankfort, KY back in February when the album was recorded.

When I haven't been asleep, working the day job, writing, transcribing (right now an interview with Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard) or interviewing (most recently System of a Down drummer John Dolmayan), I've been scouring the Internet for photography (photo auctions are in progress at most of the New York houses) and just general info.
For instance, I can't wait to turn in the Shortstop book (boy, it's really weird to see your book listed on Amazon before you've finished writing it) so I can have the time to read Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. So I was looking to see if she had any book signings in the area and I came across an announcement that Spalding Gray would be reading from his new work, Life Interrupted: The Unfinished Monologue, but unfortunately I don't think there's much chance of that happening.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

world series predictions









More house cleaning items to come, but before the League Championship Series start let me say:

Cardinals over the Astros
ChiSox over the Angels

Cardinals over the ChiSox in five

Monday, October 10, 2005

www.askmoses.com

My Beloved and I are just about thirty minutes from hitting the Birmingham airport for the flight back to New York. And we've seen nieces and nephews and brothers and sisters and mothers and friends and in-laws and Randy Newman and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (good; but not the greatest movie ever).

And also, just this morning, My Beloved ran across a really cool website: www.askmoses.com with an equally cool motto: Live! One-on-One. 24/6.

The site answers questions like "What is the significance of The Shofar?" Would've come in handy at the day job last week when a co-worker asked if it would be appropriate to wish her client a Happy Yom Kippur. I'm sure www.askmoses.com could've told us.

Happy Columbus Day.

Friday, October 7, 2005

top five at 1:17 a.m.

#1 Freakwater's "Loserville" from Thinking of You . . . (because I interviewed Catherine Irwin Wednesday night for an upcoming Cleveland Scene piece)

#2 Fall Out Boy's "Sugar, We're Goin' Down" from From Under The Cork Tree (because I turned in an FOB feature that'll run in New Times Broward-Palm Beach next week)

#3 Randy Newman's "Birmingham" from Good Old Boys (because Saturday night we'll see Randy Newman perform in Birmingham, and I'll write a review for No Depression)

#4 Pixies' "Subbacultcha" from Trompe Le Monde (because last Sunday we drove up to Kingston, New York to catch the last show of the Pixies tour)

#5 The Wrens' "This Boy Is Exhausted" from The Meadowlands (because it's the song I want playing as family and friends exit my funeral)

Saturday, October 1, 2005

wonderdog

Wonderdog

I've spent too much time this morning dreaming of Lexington (I have my reasons), catching up by phone with long gone friends (always enjoyable but still, there's work to be done), avoiding both the broken rod in the closet and task of transcription (today - my interview with NL MVP shortstop Dick Groat).
But the transcribing is about to happen (albeit in front of the television - Yankees vs. Red Sox, Florida vs. Alabama). I swear.

My buddy and former roommate Inman Majors' wonderful (pun intended) novel Wonderdog has made it to paperback - a well-deserved feat. W'dog is funny and insightful (especially if you're caught in the gravitational pull of the ever growing class of lawyers who wish they weren't lawyers).
Consider this a recommendation to click on the cover art and pull out your credit card.

Friday, September 30, 2005

taylor talks: a conversation with foo fighters drummer taylor hawkins

When it came time to replace former Foo Fighter William Goldsmith in the figurative hot seat – you know, the drum stool behind the most famous rock drummer since Keith Moon – Dave Grohl reached out and plucked a young Taylor Hawkins from the maelstrom that was Alanis Morrissette’s career. That was eight years ago. Hawkins is still strapped in as Grohl’s anchor and, from his hotel room in Germany as the band headlined its way through the European summer festival circuit, he’s got a few things to say about living la vida rock ‘n’ roll.

* * *

We’re in Munich right now, and we’re not even doing a show in Munich. Where are we doing a show? I don’t know where we’re doing a show. Isn’t that funny? Isn’t that typical?
Because we’re doing these festival shows it doesn’t feel like a tour. It feels like appearances almost or something. You know what I mean? That sounds strange, but it’s kind of the little things that make things different. The food, you know, and the language barriers, even though most people here speak a lot of English.
I enjoy it more now than I used to. I mean, the first time I came to Europe it was all really exciting, just because you’ve never been there, you know, and everything’s new and everything’s weird and everything’s different. And then like once you become a crusty old bastard, you know, a boring bunch, you’re kind of like, Ah, I wish I could have a fucking burrito right now. You know, the typical things, because it’s just work literally.
I mean, I look around a lot more now than I used to, because I used to be all about the nightlife sort of situation. When I was younger, in my 20s, it was about going out and getting fucking plastered and trying to get laid every night.
But now that I’ve grown up a little bit and kind of grown out of that I tend to spend more time kind of looking around. On show days, I really take it easy. I really don’t do much on show days. I try not to. I don’t go for long walks or anything because what I do is pretty physical. I find that I perform best when I’m sort of easy and calm all day.

* * *

A lot of hard things about shows for me are just dealing with stage fright and stuff like that. I mean, I still have the gnarly, insane butterflies before shows. What you try and do is kind of lose yourself in the show, you know. You play better if you’re not having to think about it.
It’s that thing where like you don’t want to lose that to a certain degree because I think it definitely creates a certain energy. But at the same time, it would be nice just to be really comfortable once in a while, because you know you play a little bit better when you’re a little calmer and more relaxed. So it’s just a combination of feelings that you get when you go onstage. It just can be exhausting mentally, really.
I mean, that’s the most exhausting thing on the road for me. It’s not the traveling. It’s the sort of – and this sounds like a wimpy fucking thing - but like it’s the mental anguish I go through every day before I go onstage.


* * *

Who’s my favorite drummer? Well, you know, I have three guys that I loved for all three different reasons when I was kid. I loved Stewart Copeland (The Police) for not only his technique but his energy. I mean, he was a ball of fucking energy, you know. He gave Sting balls basically, I think, which he doesn’t have anymore, in case you haven’t noticed. He’s a brilliant songwriter. I just think he needed that smartass American behind him going, You’re a fucking kook, dude, to make his music kind of have balls, you know what I mean? So Stewart Copeland’s probably my most major influence, and probably the guy I rip off most blatantly.
Roger Taylor (Queen) was a big influence on me. Partly because of his sort of musicality, his orchestrated sort of style of drumming, you know. Because of the music that Queen did, he almost was coming from almost like a Hal Blaine thing, you know. He played very orchestrated-wise. Plus, he had just an awesome rock voice. I don’t know if you know, but like he sang on almost every Queen record. And he had that really high voice. Nobody realizes in “Bohemian Rhapsody” the highest voice back there is his, this screeching witch voice. And you know, I just thought he was cool, too.
The other guy which, you know, God strike me down, I will be forever kicked out of the book of hipness for saying this, is Phil Collins. You say, Phil Collins, and everybody just all of sudden gets “Sussudio” in their heads, you know. But I got turned on to like the early prog rock Genesis stuff when I was a kid. Most people don’t realize that he is really and truly a gifted drummer.

* * *

I don’t really see myself as totally that famous. I see Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston as famous, you know. And I may even see Dave as famous to a certain degree, but I don’t see myself as famous. You know, all day long people don’t run up to me and go, You’re the drummer in the Foo Fighters. I mean, that happens every once in a while but not all the time.
And when someone asks for your autograph you feel like it’s kind of like a joke. It’s not like someone really signing an autograph. You’re just kind of writing on this piece of paper going, Oh God, that really means something. Right. It doesn’t mean anything. It’ll probably be in the trash on the way home, you know. And that’s the way I see it. Really I see myself as a fan who got lucky enough to be in a band, you know, that’s on MTV every once in a while.

* * *

One of the funniest memories I have when I was with Alanis is I remember I was off tour for, you know, three days or whatever because we never stopped, and I was driving somewhere with my brother and we were listening to the Foo Fighters record, and he said, You should be in this band. And I said, Fuck, I wish.
And then we did shows with them and I made friends with Dave and all the guys in the band, even the drummer Will, you know. I didn’t think, you know, he was going to get kicked out of the band or quit or whatever happened really. You know, I thought they were just going to be. They were a band, you know.
But when I joined the band I loved the first album so dearly. I mean, there were three albums I had that year that I just played over and over and over, and they were the first Foo Fighters album and Jeff Buckley’s
Grace – fucking beautiful, I think – and Supergrass’ first record, which I loved too. You know, I was just so overjoyed.
I was playing with Alanis, and that was cool and great and I saw the world and did lots of neat things and was in kind of the biggest act in the world at that period of time. But you were just kind of a piece of the machine sort of, and I feel less like that with the Foo Fighters obviously. I feel like, you know, one of the messengers of Dave’s music.
Now we’re all involved to a certain degree, but you have to let go of your ego a little bit. And you even have to let go of your ego when you’re creating music with Dave, you know, and realize that this guy’s got the vision, and part of that vision is his, you know, drumming style and stuff. We’ve gotten really comfortable with the last two records. It’s kind of realizing the drum parts together to certain degree. He comes up with the basic framework of what he wants the rhythm to be like, but he’s not a hoggish person in that way.
Fuck, I have a song on this record, on the acoustic record. One of the songs on that record is my song, which just goes to show right there that he is not the control freak that a lot of people kind of think he is.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

springsteen, bowie and freakwater

This past week I've been listening, for various reasons, to Springsteen, Bowie (primarily Low) and Freakwater (primarily Thinking of You . . . ). Which is an odd enough mix to possibly explain the recent rather trying days.
Elvis is dead and I don't feel so good myself.

Two pieces, one in Westword (my first appearance there: a slightly abridged version of the Weezer) and one in Boulder Weekly (my fourth: Foo Fighters), published this week.
I write; therefore I am published in Colorado.

The Foo Fighters piece, a talk with drummer Taylor Hawkins formatted oral history style, worked better at conception so I'm posting here.

Monday, September 26, 2005

a typical day in nyc

Ralph Eugene Meatyard

Kind of a typical New York day. Worked eight hours (well, almost) at the day job, with a lunch stop at a MoMA Brown Bag lecture on Meatyard, then an hour and forty minutes trying to get home at day's end (average time: 35 minutes):

Got on the N train at 49th Street, waited maybe five minutes before the conductor announced that neither N nor W trains were going past 57th Street (one stop north) due to a “track fire” between Queensboro Plaza and Ditmars Boulevard. So about three-quarters of the train exited. And then about two minutes later the conductor announced that the problem had been corrected so we all shuffled our asses right back on.
At Lexington (two stops up) the train stopped once more and R trains were added to the list of moving conveyances not entering Queens.
After another ten minute wait another announcement was made: This train is turning back to Brooklyn. If you want to go to Queens, the announcement said, you should either take this train back to Times Square to catch the 7 train, or take the 4, 5, or 6 to Grand Central to catch the 7 train to Queensboro Plaza where you can take an N or W train to Astoria.
So off we go to Grand Central and onto the 7 train with absolutely no problems whatsoever. Until we got to Queensboro Plaza.
No trains. At all. At least no trains going towards Astoria.
However, if you go down to street level, semi-official looking people were saying, you can take either the Q1 or Q 2 bus to Astoria.
Uh, no.
About 500 commuters were lined up on the north side of the street with no bus in sight.
Thus began the long walk home.
But at least it didn’t rain.

Friday, September 23, 2005

more mcelwee

Fairly busy day today - worked the day job of course, interviewed Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy for an upcoming article, ate dinner with spouse and in-laws at Blue Water Grill and went back to MoMA for another Ross McElwee film. Tonight's feature: Something About The Wall.

Also, Phoenix New Times reprinted the Weezer piece and Cleveland Scene ran the piece on System of a Down.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

song of the day: the wallflowers’ “i am a building”

For the second time in less than a week, logging onto blogger.com is causing a Netscape error. And Netscape’s not even the browser I’m using.

Up early (too early) because I dreamed about my friend and North Carolina native Will Blythe. I woke up because, in the dream, I got my feelings hurt, which really kind of stays with you longer than one of those simple boogeyman dreams from youth.
The whole episode’s most likely a byproduct of attending last night’s Ross McElwee screening and discussion at MoMA (which continues through the weekend). McElwee is also from North Carolina, and the state plays heavy in his films.

Song of the Day, “I Am A Building,” is in my head, I’m pretty sure, for its infectious, near circus-like instrumentation. I haven’t written about The Wallflowers in months, so I’m not certain why it’s coming back now, unless it’s that Jakob Dylan’s vocals on this song sound exactly like Bruce Springsteen, who, of course, was accused of copping Jakob’s father’s vocal (and lyrical) style on his own early works. And I do perform a hit and run on Geoffrey Himes’ Born In The U.S.A., one of four new 33 1/3 works just released, on the Phila Weekly piece I just submitted.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

the death of jimi hendrix

Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix

Today is the 35th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix's untimely death. I can recommend Charles Cross's new bio, Room Full of Mirrors, which I'll soon (very soon) be writing about for a Philadelphia Weekly piece.

Yesterday my beloved and I ventured into the city to have lunch at Jean-Georges (where we saw Slash) with her father and his spouse. With a Disfarmer gallery visit on each side (Edwynn Houk before, Steven Kasher following), it made for a nice afternoon, an appreciated break from the workload.

Monday, September 12, 2005

song of the day: randy newman's "louisiana 1927"

The city's drying out and Michael Brown's gone home. But it ain't over yet. Not by a long shot.

If'n you got the time to read, this is a real interesting article from the October '04 issue of National Geographic.

And while you're at it, take a listen to The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol. 1

Sunday, September 11, 2005

the four year anniversary

It's been very hard to watch as the relatives of World Trade Center victims read the names aloud today. Very hard, also, to watch the many filmed remembrances of 9/11 survivors broadcast. But probably more difficult not to.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

weezer and . . .

For those of you keeping score at home (have your pencils and scorepads ready), another two, or three, or four (depending upon your choice of scoring system) pubs have appeared in the world since, well, since I last posted an announcement of recent publications.

No Depression's "Tenth Anniversary Spectacular" also marks my first contribution to the magazine. And hey, if you're going to do something, why not do it as much as you can? It's, as they say, the American Way. The point being, I've got two pieces in the issue.

No Depression doesn't post their articles online, but the mag is well worth the price of admission. My review of Michelle Shocked's afternoon Disney set at Joe's Pub here in New York City can be found beginning on page 21. And a profile, I guess, of a house (the piece focuses on the home studio of Nashville engineer Eric McConnell who refuses to name his studio or answer to "engineer." But his East Nashville residence has played recording host to my friend Will Kimbrough, Todd Snider and the recent Grammy winning sessions of Loretta Lynn, produced by Jack White), entitled "Eight-Track Mind" can be found on page 172.
But I can offer the photograph that ran alongside. Look up (now, a little to your left).
And while we're on topic, and with full knowledge that I might be labeled a suck up, I must mention that it was a pleasure to work with ND editor Grant Alden.

Also - both New Times Broward-Palm Beach and Miami New Times were kind enough to run my feature on Weezer's Rivers Cuomo.
It kindly felt like a big deal in the writing portion, as Rivers doesn't do so many interviews and I rather expect this piece will run at least a couple more places.

Tonight also marks the beginning of Weezer's North American co-headlining tour with Foo Fighters (they started just north of Atlanta). And tomorrow evening the band will serve as musical guest on "The Late Show with David Letterman" (check your local listings).
Which is as good a reason as any to make the song of the day Weezer's "Perfect Situation" (from their latest album, Make Believe).



Tuesday, September 6, 2005

yes virginia, we're having a CONTEST!


Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the evidence suggests that yours truly has owned an iPod for exactly 49 weeks. And as you enlightened members of the civic pool no doubt realize, that means that three weeks hence will mark my one year anniversary of ownership. So here's the deal:

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to name as many of the 25 Most Played Songs in my iTunes library as of 11:59 p.m. Eastern on September 27th.

Each entrant should e-mail their top ten song selections to robblog2005@yahoo.com

1) The entrant with the most correct selections will receive valuable prizes which may include music, literature, and possibly apparel.
2) In case of a tie, a sophisticated ranking formula based on the top 25 Most Played Songs will determine the sole winner.
3) There's no chance in hell that you'll be receiving mine or any other iPod.
4) Leprechauns and residents outside the United States and Canada are not eligible.

Hint #1 - I've written, for legitimate publication, about approximately half of the top 25 artists (which certainly includes duplicates) in the past 12 months.

Friday, September 2, 2005

song of the day: bob dylan's "i'll keep it with mine"








Ev'rybody will help you,
Some people are very kind.
But if I can save you any time,
Come on, give it to me,
I'll keep it with mine.

- Bob Dylan, Biograph

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

song of the day: professor longhair's "ball the wall"


News reports over the past couple days suggest that the Crescent City is little more than a watery hell. And that it'll be a good long time, if at all, before New Orleans will even be recognizable again.

So here's to better days. From his New Orleans Piano) album, the incomparable Professor Longhair.

God bless the Gulf Coast.

Friday, August 26, 2005

seven days

In the past seven days I've interviewed Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters (at 6 a.m. - he was in Munich), Rivers Cuomo of Weezer (12:30 p.m. - he was in London), former major league shortstops Daryl Spencer and Don Buddin (Kansas and South Carolina respectively) and Wrecking Crew author John Albert (L.A.).

Which may explain why I'm tired.
And why I haven't had a chance to look at the Madeleine Peyroux piece (who is not only no longer missing, but alive and well and fighting her record company from New York City).

Sunday, August 21, 2005

paradise lost

Well, not actually paradise per se, but nonetheless the vacation is over.

While away, Phoenix New Times reprinted the 33 1/3 piece, I celebrated yet another birthday, finished Mary Karr's The Liar's Club, Stanley Booth's True Adventures of the Rolling Stones, John Albert's Wrecking Crew, Greil Marcus' Like A Rolling Stone and Jim Fusilli's Pet Sounds, got a little sun and learned that Madeleine Peyroux had gone missing.

I'd thought about Ms. Peyroux recently because Birthday 2004, owing to unusual family circumstances, was spent with Madeleine in Brooklyn's Prospect Park in preparation for an East Bay Express feature. Her Careless Love album was about a month away from release date. What a difference a year makes.

Though next week's schedule looks very hairy indeed (details at a later date), my intention is to look over my interview with Ms. Peyroux and get it posted in the near future.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

radio, radio

(almost) back from vacation with a full week to look forward to, including two Baseball Behind the Seams interviews on radio.
On Tuesday, August 23 I'll be on KERA FM in Dallas for thirty minutes beginning at 1:30 PM Central, and on Friday I'll be taping an interview with Orlando Magic GM Pat Williams for his Sunday morning show on 740 The Team.

Monday, August 15, 2005

a conversation with buddy miller


Last year I interviewed Buddy Miller for a Cleveland Scene feature a little more than a week before the Sweet Harmony Traveling Review – a month long tour featuring Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, Patty Griffin and Buddy – played it first summer gig, and just about six weeks before the release of Buddy's Universal United House of Prayer.
I’d been a fan ever since my friend Will Blythe made a recommendation several years back. In fact, I even bought Buddy’s first four discs (Your Love and Other Lies, Poison Love, Cruel Moon and Midnight and Lonesome) with money from my own pocket – a statement as large as Lyle Lovett’s band if you know anything about the amount of free discs and equally low pay music writers receive. Each has been well worth it.
The excellent photo of the self-deprecating Mr. Miller was taken by Nashville photographer Thomas Petillo (thanks Thomas).
I spoke with Buddy Miller on August 4, 2004.


Q: It’s a pleasure to talk to you.

A: Yeah, likewise. I’m sorry. I’m just driving in the car on the way someplace, but if that’s okay with you it’s great by me.

Q: That’s fine. You’re not going to put yourself at risk, right?

A: Um, no more than usual.

Q: Okay, good. I’d just rather not do Buddy Miller’s last interview.

A: I hope I can be of some help to you on this thing. I’m not very good at the interview.

Q: Well, I read that you didn’t like talking on the phone but it seems like everybody else has gone into hiding and left you with the chore. Sorry about that.

A: Yeah, I know that people are in the studio and Dave and Gill I think are in Europe, so here I am. You’re stuck with me.

Q: Let me ask you a couple of quick questions that I haven’t heard you talk about in other interviews. You’re born when and where?

A: I was born in Fairborn, Ohio in 1952.

Q: Okay. I know you spent time in Texas and I know you spent time in New Jersey and I know you spent time in New York and California, but you grew up in Ohio.

A: No, I was born in Ohio. My father was in the Air Force, and so we moved around. I was born in Fairborn, outside of Yellow Springs, and then he moved to Annapolis and he was working at the Naval Academy, and then we moved to Pennsylvania and then to New Jersey.

Q: And New Jersey’s around the time of high school?

A: Yeah, kind of where you grow up, I guess.

Q: Do you have older siblings?

A: No, I’m the oldest.

Q: Are either of your parents musical?

A: No.

Q: So where do you learn about music? If you’re the oldest and your parents aren’t musical, where do you learn what to like?

A: Well, that’s a good question. I just think some people are just drawn to it, and I was apparently drawn to it when I was just crawling around and probably couldn’t speak. I was told that I just loved music, and I think they had a record player and there was a radio, and it’s just kind of what grabbed my attention and still does.

Q: Do you remember the first record you ever bought with your own money?

A: Um, well you know, I think I was too young to have my own money because I was a tiny little kid, but that "Flying Purple People Eaters" song. It might’ve been that or it might’ve been the Everlys. I don’t know what it was but, I mean, I was a tiny little kid and I liked that song.

Q: I think when I was five I had a copy of "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy" by the Ohio Express, so I can appreciate that a young child might have the Flying Purple People Eaters song.

A: Yeah. I mean, it actually had a pretty cool groove to it. At least it still does in my mind.

Q: First guitar?

A: Uh, the first guitar I remember, I had one little nylon string generic guitar, but then I got an electric guitar, which is what I wanted, and the first one was a Zimgar.

Q: And about how old are you?

A: Uh, nine maybe. Ten. I don’t know.

Q: Is that like a birthday present? Christmas present? Or are you just a good kid and you deserve things?

A: I think it was a birthday present. It was. My first good guitar came several years later.

Q: But you’re in a band by the time you’re 15, 16 years old?

A: I think younger than that. As soon as I could play I wanted to play with people, because it just makes more noise. And then as soon as I could get an electric guitar, which is what I wanted, I wanted to make as much noise as we could, so yeah we were in the garage and in the basement. Probably more like 12 and 13.

Q: So it only takes you 30 years of playing guitar and playing in bands to become an overnight sensation.

A: Now don’t make fun of me now.

Q: I’m not making fun of you.

A: No, I know. I’m just kidding. Yeah, I guess I just don’t have a whole lot of focus maybe. I don’t know. I moved around a whole lot. I think that doesn’t help.

Q: I also heard somebody say that you were going to end up being a star in spite of yourself, as if maybe you had added to the resistance, or hadn’t really been interested in that kind of thing.

A: Well, I just like to play. I never really had a lot of - I don’t know if you’d call it drive or whatever, but the ambition to like be a star. I just love playing, and would move around to just get into different places where there was a lot of playing. I ended up in Austin that way. That’s where I met Julie. We played in a band together.

Q: And how long did you play with Jim Lauderdale? I mean, I know you’re still working with him and stuff, but about how long were you Jim Lauderdale’s guitar player?

A: I want to think it was maybe six years. Something like that. I’m not sure. I met Jim way before that. We were good friends when we were both living in New York in like 1980. We’ve had bands and run parallel paths and played together, so I’ve known Jim for quite a while.

Q: And then like eight or nine years with Emmylou?

A: Eight, yeah.

Q: You’re likely the most visible player of Wandre guitars. Can you tell me about the sound of the Wandre and why you like it? I mean, I know that Teles sound thin and Les Pauls sound fat, but can you tell me why you like the sound of the Wandre?

A: Well, it’s actually a pretty versatile sounding guitar. It can sound a little Tele-like, a little Strat-like, but it has its own sound to it. Really, the Wandres are just a big mess. But they’re like your favorite old shirt that has too many holes in it, you know, but you’ve had for 15 years. It has the elbows, your arm’s coming through, and it just doesn’t even look good in anybody’s eye anymore, but you can’t stop wearing it. And that’s the way it is with me. I’m just so comfortable with them. I’ve got a lot of good guitars by now, you know. I didn’t used to. When I first started playing with Emmylou I pretty much just had the Wandres and one or two other things, but now I’ve got a lot of, really, what you’d think of as good guitars, but all my hand feels comfortable on are those Wandres.

Q: How’s the neck? The Fender neck is thinner than a Gibson neck. Where, on that scale, is the Wandre?

A: It’s like big and chunky and the fingerboard is flat. It’s an Italian guitar. The fingerboard is completely flat, which isn’t really that comfortable, and it’s kind of deep and the back of the neck is plastic, or plastic-covered aluminum I guess. I don’t even know. It’s a mess and it’s sort of got a lot of plastic in it, so that means it breaks a lot and you’ve got to dump some glue in it but then it’s still got that same feel of your favorite old shirt.

Q: Does it still have original pickups?

A: Oh, it’s got original everything except the strings.

Q: How does this Sweet Harmony tour come about, and what’s the format like? Is there going to be a band or is this just going to be interchangeable acoustic part for a couple hours?

A: Well, I think Patty is going to have a band. Outside of that I’m not really sure what’s going to happen. We haven’t rehearsed yet, and actually we haven’t even talked about it all together yet. And I don’t know when we’re going to. We’re supposed to rehearse like a day or two before we go out, so really I could safely say we don’t know what we’re doing. But it’s going to be great. I mean, I’d pay a lot of money just to go and listen to those three girls every night.

Q: You’re the only male who gets billing.

A: Well, there’s Dave Rawlings. I guess we get our own dressing room is how I look at it.

Q: Any idea how many people this is going to end up being? I mean, there’s five as far as front people, and if Patty brings a band that’s four more. You’ve got to have a crew. Are we talking about fifteen people on this trip?

A: That sounds about right. I don’t know. I’m not sure what all we’ve got. I mean, really we haven’t been able to get together. I know that the crew people have talked among themselves, but we’re getting together next week and we’re going to sit around and play some songs and see what happens.

Q: And figure out, All right, you do three and then I’ll do three and then we’ll do two together? That kind of logistical work.

A: That’s my guess, but who knows? And you know what? I think it’s going to be sort of an evolving. It might be something one night, and it could be something else another night. I hope.

Q: Well, that’s the way you do it. That’s the way Emmylou does it. I haven’t seen, I think those are the only two shows that I’ve seen, but ya’ll change set lists from night to night.

A: Oh yeah. And I like surprises.

Q: I read where someone called you “a country Richard Thompson.” Is that a comfortable label? Do you recognize a county Richard Thompson in the mirror when you go to shave in the morning? Or does that just feel weird.

A: I certainly take that as a compliment. And I think being called country as a compliment. I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m a Richard Thompson fan. Who wouldn’t be?

Q: You’re right there. Are your parents Southern?

A: No.

Q: Where does your voice come from? And I know that’s an impossible question, but can you give it a shot?

A: I don’t know. I don’t know. When I open up my mouth that’s what it kind of sounds like. I guess just listening to the music I listen to.

Q: I know you play some blues-styled material, and I know that country’s not what country used to be, but I don’t see really how you can sing lead on a song and it not be a country song by the end. Is it all right if I feel that way?

A: I don’t necessarily think that way. I just think I’m singing a song, but I think my wife thinks that way. That’s why she doesn’t want me singing on most of her songs. She thinks it starts sounding too country, and that’s why she doesn’t let me sing that much on her records.

Q: But it’s a good country. It’s like the honky tonk wing of country.

A: Well, that’s the music I love. Or a lot of it. I love all kinds of music. I could go to a bluegrass festival one weekend and then the next weekend I went to Woodstock. And then I’d go to the Fillmore all the time. I liked it all.

Q: Is there any type of music that you’d rather not listen to? What about jazz? Classical? Is there anything that you’re not interested in musically?

A: No, I’ve got respect for most all of it. And there’s some jazz I listen to, although I’m not allowed to around the house during waking hours. Julie and I, we don’t see eye to eye on all music, but there’s a big point of intersection for us. I don’t listen to that much music. If I do it’s usually really old stuff.
I have a big collection of music, and I take that collection of music with me but I don’t keep up with much of what’s new, in almost any genre. I should a little bit more. I do hear some things that I really like.

Q: Well, if you’re like me, sometimes when you’re surrounded by musicians it’s like a full-time job just listening to the music that your friends were making. And you have a moral obligation to listen to your friends’ CD when they bring you a copy.

A: Right.

Q: And so there’s not a lot of time to listen to anything else. I would guess you’re close to being in that situation, aren’t you?

A: Yeah, and I do get to listen to all my friends’ music and that’s a lot of what I listen to. And I do try to keep up with things too. I do listen to a fair amount of music actually, and I listen to a lot on the road, but when I’m home I try to work on it.

Q: Well, tell me about the road music. Do you take a CD player? An MP3 player?

A: I’m an iPod guy.

Q: For how long?

A: Well, since they came out with them, I guess. I got that first generation.

Q: You produce, you write, you play guitar, you have your own recording career, you work with all these other people. Do you need all of that? Could you do just one thing? Could you be just Buddy Miller, guitar player? Or could you just be Buddy Miller, songwriter? Are there any of those that you could let go?

A: Well, I love playing live. That might be my favorite thing to do, but I love it all. Working in the studio, it’s a different kind of being creative. And it’s harder. And I enjoy the challenge, but just playing live usually feels so good that that’s something I want to do as long as I can get away with it.

Q: You once said that you’d play with Emmylou forever unless she fired you. Do you still feel that way?

A: Yeah, are you kidding me?

Q: I’m just asking. I was talking to David Sanborn, and he’s played with everybody it seems like. And he was talking about being onstage with Eric Clapton and Clapton’s playing Layla and just kind of having one of those moments of realization. You still get that with Emmylou, right?

A: Every night that I have that voice in my monitor. Yeah, I get that with Emmylou, and I’ll play with her as long as she wants me there.

Q: You’ve got a new record (Universal United) coming out soon. Are you excited about it?

A: Yeah, I’m actually happy with some of it. I mean, I won’t listen to it, but I feel pretty good about a lot of it. It’s got a theme to it and I think it holds up.

Q: So you’re not ready to go back and listen to it quite yet.

A: You know, I heard enough of it when I was working on it. Usually I’ll end up hearing it about a year later. And then hopefully it’s okay.

Q: Just to give yourself some distance and some objectivity.

A: Yeah, my whole goal in making a record is to make something that doesn’t make me cringe a year later.

Q: Are you still not as comfortable in the studio as a performer as you are onstage?

A: No, that’s just not what I do.

Q: What about as a session player, a musician on someone else’s record?

A: At my own place I’m fairly comfortable, but I’m not one of those guys that can have a 10, a 2 and a 6. With every note I play I feel like I’m ruining somebody’s career. And it makes me sweat too much. I’d just as soon, you know, do the things I do. I don’t think that’s one of them. There’s a lot of guys that are amazing at that.

Q: When’s the last time you had a vacation, Buddy?

A: It’s all a vacation. It’s one big vacation.

Q: Okay, let me ask this a different way. When’s the last time you didn’t touch the guitar for a week?

A: Well, I don’t know, but why would I want to do that?


END