Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Friday music the day after Black Friday

also, the day after the Iron Bowl (whew!).

today's $1.99 offerings include Mavis Staples, John Mayer, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, the xx's debut and The National's High Violet.

I haven't heard the first (though I've purchased it), don't care about the second, would be surprised if you don't already own the third and recommend (actually highly recommend, but not as highly as yesterday's Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend) the fourth and the fifth.

and not sure how or when I missed, but Robert Plant's Band of Joy is also $1.99.

remember to use your coupon (good today and tomorrow) - GET3MP3S - to get three dollars off (so that you can buy two of the above selections for a total of 98 cents).

War Damn Eagle!!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Back Friday music on Black Friday

yeah, though we've got No Country for Old Men (a sentiment I feel almost every damn day) on the television and a spare casserole dish of dressing is being made (because we underestimated dressing yesterday's dressing consumption and you have to have dressing for a proper Turkey Terrific and you HAVE TO HAVE Turkey Terrifics at least twice a day for the three days following Thanksgiving), today, really, is all about waiting for Alabama-Auburn to start at 2:30 Eastern.
no 5 a.m. trips to anywhere but the bathroom and back to a warm bed for this household.

but Amazon has another five or so album-sized downloads for $1.99 today: the Sara Bareilles and the John Lennon (not the most recommendable John Lennon album or we'd spending more time here) and the Big Boi and The Suburbs by Arcade Fire (which I'm sure you already have because I've been so insistent on the Arcade Fire since the summertime) and one that I don't actually own but soon will: Weezer's Hurley.
and don't forget the $1.99 Contra (official "Cousins" video above) if you haven't already purchased. definitely a top 10 pick for 2010.

and, of course, the $3 off coupon code - GET3MP3S - will still work for another couple days. so get to downloading while you've still got two hours and 15 minutes of free time.

War Damn Eagle!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Black Friday music on Thanksgiving Day

so the Lions are on television and Liz Phair's new album is on the stereo and the potatoes have been peeled and cut and they're now soaking and the dressings - both gluten-free and non-gluten-free - have been concocted and the language is all very passive and the turkey's been in the oven over two hours and there's likely not enough hot water for us all to enjoy showers and Amazon's marked a few more albums down to $1.99 each:

the $3 off code - GET3MP3S - is still good for a few more days and Kanye's new album is still $3.99 and Belle and Sebastian's Write About Love is still $1.99 and Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings' I Learned the Hard Way is still $1.99 and Vampire Weekend's Contra is still $1.99.

but the new $1.99 offerings (the $1.99 offerings as of today) include the latest (all 2010 releases) from She & Him, Interpol and Sade.

happy Iron Bowl Eve, one and all.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Black Friday music on Wednesday

once again (with gusto):

Amazon is running a special on their mp3 music downloads through Monday, November 29th.
just enter code GET3MP3S and get $3 off any mp3.
and right now Kanye West's new My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (which he performed track by track last night at the 550-capacity Bowery Ballroom) is priced at $3.99 (with Late Registration at $4.99 and 808s & Heartbreak and The College Dropout are $5.99 each).

further specials:
Belle and Sebastian's Write About Love is $1.99, as is Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings' I Learned the Hard Way and Vampire Weekend's Contra (get this now if you don't yet have it).

Arcade Fire's Funeral, Beyonce's I Am...Sasha Fierce, Ra Ra Riot's The Orchard, The Stranger by Billy Joel, Neil Young's On The Beach, The Magnetic Fields' The Charm of the Highway Strip and the very seasonal Christmas in the Heart by Bob Dylan are just $5 each (and that's BEFORE the $3 off).

happy, happy.
merry, merry.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

this is not the moon (they're filming Tower Heist outside my apartment), cont'd

okay, okay.
enough already.

we've been inundated with phone calls since my last post.
primarily folks calling to say that I'm a big, fat liar.
or that I'm a big, fat so and so.
or that if I'm not particularly big then I've at least put on a little weight recently and I wasn't exactly rail thin before I started, you know, putting on the weight, and so I'm very much on my way, possibly even very close, to being, if not big, then at least, you know, fat and prone to prevaricate.

and frankly with so many calls of that nature coming in we've had to add more phone lines and if the volume of "fatty fat fat" calls increases any further then we'll have to look into outsourcing some of the work, and, again frankly, I really can't afford to get into the whole international relations/trade agreement thing because I let my passport expire like two years ago.

the few phone calls that have not fixated on a recent weight gain have pretty much fixated on a specific line from my previous blog entry: "you can watch the DVD a year and a half from now to see if I'm lying."
and this mention has been followed by a rather specific question, namely, where will you be in eighteen months so I can ring you up and call you a fatty fat fat falsifier and fabricator?

and therein lies (no pun intended) the problem: I don't know where I'll be in eighteen months so you can call me a fatty fat fat falsifier and fabricator.
I really, really don't.
I mean, yeah, I'm old and the older we get (or at least the older I get) the less likely we are to move.
and I don't really mean move across the country or down south as much as I mean, you know, move off the couch, but still it could, you know, happen.

so in an effort to save us all a lot of heartache and name-calling eighteen months from now, I submit to you, humbly, what I hope will pass for proof that yes, they really are filming Tower Heist in my neighborhood and yes, Ben Stiller really has been outside my apartment.

or at least the top half of Ben Stiller's head has been outside my apartment.

if you look closely, or maybe even squint a bit (and I'm not opposed to you using the zoom feature on your computer's photo software if you can find it), you can definitely determine that the top half of Ben Stiller's head is visible just above that gorgeous golden New England in the fall (though we're still in New York City) leaf.
now, this is not an actual filmed scene.
in fact, in the actual filmed scene he will be walking the opposite direction and carrying a very large backpack over his left shoulder while peeking over his right shoulder at an argumentative couple to see, in a very New York City way, if he should stop and involve himself while ultimately determining, nyah, I shouldn't get involved, and continuing south on 29th Street.
it's the actor in the man.

in any case, this picture was taken from my apartment window, the same window from which my "this is not the moon" picture was taken, only in the daylight instead of the nighttime, and angled further down so that it captures, very definitely (I hope, I think), the top half of Ben Stiller's head (with his left jaw hidden behind a gorgeous golden leaf) as he returns for yet another take of a scene where he walks away, intrigued by but uninvolved with an argumentative couple on 29th Street for the movie Tower Heist.

so unless you feel inclined to point out that I'm like a fatty fat fat stalker-type with a camera and a zoom lens, please quit calling. my passport's expired.

Friday, November 19, 2010

this is not the moon

but it is New York City.
I know.
it's crazy, but it's true.

actually, this is the current view from my apartment if you face east.

but they're not filming Arthur.
Dudley Moore's dead, and buried in Plainfield, New Jersey (did you know that? I knew that, but I don't know where Sir John Gielgud is buried).
and I believe the remake (with Russell Brand and the woman from Greenberg) wrapped several weeks ago, though they did quite a bit of filming just a few blocks from here.

so here's your six (or two) degrees of separation:
Ben Stiller, a/k/a the man from Greenberg (a/k/a Greenberg), walked right past me today without saying a word. walked right past me like I was a stranger, which I guess is appropriate because to Ben I am a stranger. I mean, if he's blogging in his trailer right now (maybe 100 yards from where I'm currently typing), it's not like he can say, You know, Rob, the guy from Greenberg (because I wasn't in Greenberg or Night at the Museum or Night at the Opera or Night of the Living Dead or Night of the Iguana or anything like that).

but it's night right now and just underneath this moon-like light they (you know, "they") were filming Tower Heist, which is the reason that Ben Stiller's in my neighborhood (hell, right outside my apartment building).

see the person sticking their head out the window for that unique overhead view?
that's not me.
I'm the guy taking the picture so I'm not in the picture.
but still, that man (it's a man, baby) has a pretty cool view.

they (you know, "they") were filming a scene with two police cars pulled up onto the sidewalk, red lights flashing, while an arrest is being made (with the perp yelling "Police brutality!" (what pithy dialogue) which I could hear from my apartment. a lot (they did several, several takes)).

I swear this happened. many times.
you can watch the DVD a year and a half from now to see if I'm lying.
and if they end up editing the scene out then I wasn't lying and they wasted a whole bunch of money because there have been close to 100 movie crew types hanging around all day today and they'll be back again tomorrow and at least 30 folks have been here since Tuesday/Wednesday setting up cameras and screens and filters on at least three different rooftops.

and though the light is still on, I believe they've wrapped (at least that scene has wrapped) for the night.

earlier they filmed a rooftop scene next door (well, actually the apartment building on the other side of the two-story house next door) and a guy on the fire escape of that building spent most of the early afternoon generating fake snow.
very distracting to have that kind of thing going on outside your window all day.
it's kind of like your neighbors are hosting a party and you don't really want to go to the party but you don't want to feel like you missed anything either so you maybe walk by or through the party a couple of times during the day to see what you're missing and then when you're back at home (eating either Chinese food or pizza because your beloved, who doesn't really eat a lot of Chinese food or pizza, is out of town and you kind of had a hankering like you were pregnant or something (minus the pickles, though you kind of have the heartburn that's supposed to go with it)) you're thinking that maybe you should walk by or through the party to see if you're missing anything.
kind of.
but at least you're not hungry.

anyway, everyone finally seems to be calling it a day now.

and Ben, if you see me again tomorrow, don't be afraid to say Hi.
not all of us non-movie people in Queens are, you know, stuck up or too vain to speak to a stranger (as long we've seen them on the television and they say Hi first).

(I spoke too soon. the police lights are going again and now there's even a floodlight on in our building's side yard, but Carolina's playing basketball on ESPNU and Chapel Hill's more important than Hollywood.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

do not try this at home

do not try this at home, because it's really not any fun at all.

so, I'm doing this kind of spur of the moment interview with former Violent Femmes bassist Brian Ritchie. and Brian turns 50 on Sunday so time's getting to be somewhat of a premium.
and the difficulty, or one difficulty, is that Brian now lives in Tasmania, not Wisconsin so about the time I'm going to bed he's getting up and vice versa.
plus he travels, parties with Engelbert Humperdinck (not kidding there; he's a busy and popular man) so we'd gone well over a week without finding a suitable time.

but Brian e-mails that he's got some availability and we try to do the Skype thing and it doesn't work (bad delayed audio) and so I try calling through my Gmail phone and that doesn't work any better and so we're trying to do the written chat thing even though every other interview I've done for both projects has been oral, not written, and so the tone is, well, different.

but I'm typing questions and Brian's typing answers and since we started without much notice I decide to run to the kitchen to grab a Mountain Dew while Brian's answering, and in my hurry to return, my effort to make sure there is absolutely no lag in the "conversation" I run back into the other room and kick the shit out of a heavy wooden footstool (actually it's an antique commode with a pillow on top).

surprisingly I cuss more in the previous paragraph than I did at the time, but make no mistake, it was painful and looked even worse (photographic evidence above).

so we walk to the emergency room (just in case it's, you know, empty), walk back home when the emergency room's not empty, spend a good portion of the night looking for orthopedists or podiatrists within walking distance for this morning (since my GP, who I like, doesn't have an x-ray machine in his office and doesn't open until 3 today).

and then it's time to, you know, get back to work, or at least try, so I'm dealing with the various iPods (I have three now and we use four between us (don't ask)) and the iTunes library says that the iPod I own that's in the process of dying (which is why I just bought a third) is corrupted and must be restored.
so I restore it. and it still says it's corrupted. and so I restore it again.
etc. etc. etc.

and so then I decide to actually update the iTunes software whose advances I've been rejecting for several weeks and a screen pops up saying that I don't have enough room on my hard drive (which started out at 750 GB) to update iTunes software.
and this, my friends, is scary, scary, scary as hell (speaking of which, the podiatrists I end up visiting are Dr. Axman and Dr. Savir (pronounced Severe)).
so if the panic of having a broken toe, a broken interview and a corrupted iPod isn't enough, now my Mac hard drive is so damn full that I can't even update my iTunes software.

what's that thing that Charlie Brown used to say?

and my beloved is watching Parenthood in the room with the footstool/commode which, like Weeds, stresses me out in a rather off the charts fashion, you know, to see these relatively smart, relatively identifiable characters do the most stupid, self-involved shit ever (like accosting another parent over your child not receiving an invitation to that parent's child's birthday party).
meanwhile, back in the other room, after updating the iTunes application now says that not only the dying iPod is corrupted but my other two iPods, the brand new (though scratched and gashed), week-old 160 GB iPod Classic and well as the newish nano (with built-in microphone) are also corrupted.
which would not only mean no more recording on these devices (you know, like for interviews which, if you haven't figured out, is pretty much what I do) but no transcribing from these devices since these devices are, you know, corrupted.

thankfully, just before I threw the Mac (with little or no available hard drive space) and the three corrupted iPods out the window, my beloved (who had earlier walked with me to the emergency room and then later conducted the search for nearby podiatrists that accept our insurance) removed the iPod holster from the cordage (is that a word?) so that the iPods now connect straight to a cord rather than a stand-up holster, and the whole corruption problem (well, except for the dying iPod which can't be read or filled or . . . ), at least for the time being, went away.

not so with my broken toe or the hard drive fullness and this and that and the other thing, but at least we don't have a car that we're used to parking on the street because the movie Tower Heist (with Ben Stiller and Casey Affleck and Eddie Murphy and Alan Alda and Tea Leoni and Gabourey Sidibe and Matthew Broderick, but don't expect Alan Alda to show up in my neighborhood because he plays a rich guy who lives in Manhattan, not Queens) is filming on our street at week's end and they've not only already constructed lighting and camera platforms on the roof of our building as well as neighboring buildings but they've pretty much taken up the entire street as well (i.e., so do not even think of parking here for a week), so at least in our pedestrianship we slipped that particular noose.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Graham Parker turns 60 today. or Thursday.

so Graham Parker (he of the Squeezing Out Sparks, Howlin' Wind, Your Country, Don't Tell Columbus fame) turns 60 today (if you believe
or Thursday (if you believe Wikipedia).

regardless, it is almost certainly the 60th anniversary of Graham Parker's birthday week.
unless it's not.

but just in case, here's a five year old (conducted in May of 2005, just after the release of his Songs of No Consequence album) unpublished (mostly) and unpolished (mostly) interview with the man on the topic of songwriting.

so happy birthday, Graham Parker (unless it's not).

I know there’s more to you than just being a musician, but in terms of musicianship, is it fair to break it down to three parts of writing, recording and performing?

Uh, that’s pretty much it, yeah. That’s musicianship, yeah.

Which one of those three is your strong suit?

[laughs] Um, I think you’ve got to have a bit of each, you know. The writing thing, it’s always a mysterious process. You’re never quite sure what’s going to come out of it. I sit there with a guitar and thrash away, and usually very bad things come out at first which I put aside and keep working. And then you get into a pure flow if you’re lucky and start writing good stuff. That’s the idea anyway. So, you know, it’s kind of hard work because you have to face the fact that you might be . . . You know, every time I start into a writing spree, as it were, you’ve got to face the fact that maybe you haven’t got it anymore, you know what I’m saying? So it’s a kind of scary thing.

Is it one of those “if it rains it pours” things? Like if you’re in a groove you might get maybe three good songs in a week, and then maybe a month’ll go by and everything’s crap?

Yes, it could be. I mean, what I usually do is start off with ideas that maybe I’ve scribbled down, which are basically just ideas to get me to actually sit down with a guitar, and when I start singing the phrases I’ve got I realize they’re bad, they’re subpar. But they start me off somewhere. And it’s nearly always that way. Occasionally there’ll be a phrase or a song title that pops up which just takes my fancy, and that actually works and becomes a song. But it doesn’t usually become the song I thought it was going to be.

You know, you often think, Oh, this is a ballad, this is going to be an aching kind of love thing, and it turns out to be something else entirely. And once you’ve got there, then other ideas start springing up. It’s true. Sometimes it’s, Wow, where did those three songs come from. Boom. And then I’ll be struggling with one for a long time, with a riff or an idea that I’m just hammering away at, and sometimes it will actually turn into a song months and months later, and sometimes it will just lead to something else.

So the writing part is that, and the recording part is, that’s always a bit scary as well, because you’re going in there wondering if the songs will hold up. Will there be some terrible thing that the musicians are trying to play, and they don’t come out like anything? But luckily that’s never really happened. It happens with a few songs over the course of a career, but for the most part these days I have the songs that I’ve written pretty much down to a final draft by the time I get into the studio.

I like to do demos. I go to a small studio and record with me and a guitar and do some overdubs and I often have a few guitar parts, like lead guitar parts, keyboard parts, even bass parts, drum ideas, so I have that for the musicians and so it’s a very quick process for me, recording these days. The new album, Songs of No Consequence, that took nine days to record and mix. With the ProTools, the mixing is speeded up because if you’re doing it right you’re kind of mixing as you go along, and because it’s in a computer you don’t have to go back the next day and fiddle with all these knobs on the board, wondering what you had and why it isn’t as good. There’s drawbacks, because I think the computerized sound isn’t as good as tape. It hasn’t got what tape has got, but you know, as I say, we ain’t going back to vinyl any time soon, so you’ve got to kind of get with the program. And it certainly made this record go pretty quickly, I think.

ProTools is certainly more efficient.

Yeah, it is pretty amazing what you can do. And The Figgs, the backing band on the record, they like to work fast. They recently released their own double album. And they know about not having a big budget and working quickly, because I come from the sort of school where you take two or three months to do albums. But it’s been a long time since I’ve done that. It’s unnecessary and the money isn’t around anymore, you know. That was back in the old days with the huge budgets that were basically a waste of money. But you only realize that in hindsight.

So there’s that part and performing. I do a lot of solo work these days which is very expansive for my material. I can have a large set list and just pick and choose, and if something isn’t going right and I go, Okay, better throw in an old favorite or a rocker here, you know. So that’s good. The flexibility of that is good.

Where did you record Songs of No Consequence?

It was recorded up in Pennsylvania, in a place called Bryn Mawr. It’s near King of Prussia, not far from Philly. The bass player, Pete Donnelly, runs a studio there and it just seemed to be a good idea to use him as the main producer. I mean, I’m usually the producer of my records these days, but this time I said, Okay, you call yourself the producer and just sit there and deal with that and I’ll be the co-producer. He just knows the studio inside out, and it’s a good room and it’s got a lot of analog gear there that everything was fed through to give you a good, fairly warm sound on the old ProTools, you know. So I stayed a hotel there and got up every day and went down to the studio and we cut four or five tracks and do a few overdubs and then we’d have the keyboard player in and it was a good situation. The last album I made in LA so I’m kind of branching out, doing things in different places.

You mentioned mapping out the demos of the songs. Is there anything on the new record that didn’t come out pretty damn closely to the sound you had in your head before you went into the studio?

Ah, that’s a good question. Let me think. Um, well, no, not really. It all came out pretty much as I thought. I mean, I’ve got it that together these days so I can do that. The variety of the album, as a whole, surprised me. For some reason, I thought doing it with The Figgs, and doing a very opposing album to that last one which had a very country bend to it, I thought it would be much more zany in a way somehow. And I don’t know why I thought that because looking back at the songs, they’re all very varied. They’re eclectic, really, so that kind of surprised me.

It was also very pleasing to see how The Figgs managed to tackle different styles, one after the other, you know. The funk of “Chloroform” to the kind of elegiac, is that word maybe, for “She Swallows It,” the big fat ballad sound. You know, we got that on there. “Ambivalent,” as well. And then the Stonesy groove of “Bad Chardonnay” and “Suck ‘n’ Blow.” They came out pretty much as I’d hoped. I’d just sort of forgotten exactly how varied the songs were and that may be due to the fact that five or six of them I’d had for a while. I had them before or during the period I wrote Your Country. I just left them there and thought, These have got to wait for a more pop/rock album, you know. I wasn’t going to confuse the stew by throwing them into the country thing, you know. So I just wrote seven more songs, fairly quickly, to go with it. I guess “Bad Chardonnay,” “Dislocated Life,” “Vanity Press,” they’re new ones, and I kind of thought that I was fitting them all together so it would be one cohesive thing, and it is cohesive but sonically cohesive. But the songs are quite varied, I think, and hopefully it’s entertaining.

Can you take me through the process of one particular song?

Uh, let’s see. One particular song.

Whatever’s foremost in your memory. Of if everything’s fresh, maybe “Dislocated Life.” Tell me how that song goes from your head to a finished product, if you don’t mind.

Right. Well, from writing it, it’s one of those mystery songs that’s suddenly there in front of you. It really is.

Songs of No Consequence kind of fit with the idea of a song like “Bad Chardonnay,” which is about, you know, bad wine and cigarettes. There’s more in there than that, of course, if you know my writing, but it’s not much more than that and “Local Boys” is kind of a flippant kind of idea, you know, like the flip side of “Local Girls,” one of the songs from way back, so you’ve got that. So I’ve got songs like this and suddenly “Dislocated Life” is in front of me and all I know is that I started playing the D and G riff, which reminded me a bit of one of my older songs, “Don’t Let It Break You Down” which is on the Mona Lisa’s Sister album. It’s the same thing, but there is an added note to the G chord, and I’m not technical enough to know what that G chord would be called, that added note, but it makes a whole lot of difference.

But I did a similar kind of trick, or device, on the chorus part, the refrain. It could’ve been very dull if I’d just stayed with the major chords, so I found myself descending from A major to A minor, and to G minor. Not G major to G minor, but straight to G minor, which is very unusual. And this all came very naturally and organically, but I think it’s because I wrote that song, “Don’t Let It Break You Down,” all those years ago, a song that I struggled with for years and years before, before I realized, before I suddenly hit on it that I could put the chorus in D minor. So the song was in D major and then suddenly the chorus is in D minor. That’s what you have to find sometimes to make a song really great. And so that happened with “Dislocated Life,” and suddenly it was in front of me. There it was and all these lyrics, I have no idea where they came from.

They just shot out.

They just shot out. I have no idea who that relates to or what, but there it is, you know. I guess it’s a sign of the times. “Dislocated Life,” you know.

Was repeating the word “dislocated” in the chorus a conscious decision? Obviously you’ve got a rhythm that you’re filling. You’ve got a line that you’ve got to fill, and repeating that one word in the chorus is an odd choice, but it works. Did that just come out or was it a conscious decision?

It just came out. You know, there are rock and roll words, and you’d never think that “dislocated” would be one of them, but it is. It really sounds great and it’s cool to sing it. You know, I’m always pleased with my songwriting when I come up with something that is patently rock and roll but it has a word like “dislocated” in it. So that’s a buzz, you know. And it comes and you just sort of say, Thank you, God. Where the hell did that come from?

Yeah, that’s a word that shouldn’t work but does. And the repetition in the chorus actually fits the theme of the song, too.

It fits the theme of the song, and it’s good you picked that one because you were talking about the recording process from when I wrote it. When I wrote it I knew it was a sit up and beg winner. The guitar sat there as fat as a hog. And when we got into the studio, it was the same thing really. I just said, Give a big kind of U2 kind of thing. Springsteenesque. It could have that kind of feel. Born in the USA kind of power to it, you know. So they just started playing like that, with that big, fat loping bass line and the big open drum kit and, you know, we probably got it in the first take or the second take. We probably did half of it and stopped. I think that was the usual way. You’d say, There’s something wrong here, and then you start talking. You know, Try this on the drums when you get to the bridge leading into the chorus. And try this and that, and blah blah blah. And then, boom, we did it and there it was. And that’s how we recorded most of the songs, really. Halfway through, stop, a quick chat, and then we’re back into it and recording it.

And I had the rough mix of it which I would take to my hotel every night. Take some mixes and listen at night and then listen the next day and listen driving in and it sounded really great, and then we went to mix it and Pete started doing different things, and I took that mix back with me and listened and it was no good. One of the guitars was just slightly too loud, which actually took away the fatness of it. So I said to Pete, The original rough mix is the mix. We don’t even have to tinker with it. I’m sure of it. Put it up. So we played it and I said, Yeah, that’s it. Everything was great. Everything. So that’s Pete doing a good job of getting good sounds on the tape as it were, on the virtual tape, in the first place, so that you could get what’s called a rough mix and it turns out to be the mix.

When is a song finished for you? Do you have to record it? Do you have to play a song live a certain number of times for it to be finished in your head? Or can a song be done when you hit that last chord in the living room the first time through?

It can be, yeah. I mean, I sometimes write three different sets of lyrics, but you know those are the difficult songs. With the ones that just fly out while you’re in the flow, the whole thing can come and it’s pretty much there. I just tinker with the words here and there. I’m not a perfectionist in some ways, but when it comes to lyrics I’m pretty much a perfectionist. Every word has to just flow for me. You know, there are a few things I’m disappointed with occasionally because I couldn’t get them to flow properly, but very rarely. Usually everything is right. And so it’s finished and I go into the studio and I’m often singing almost exactly the same way as I’m singing when I did the demo. Only when you take it on the road do you start singing differently, usually to preserve your voice.

Also, the song stretches over time and you find different ways of singing songs. The solo act has helped me do that a lot, you know. Because when I started that solo thing in ’89 - Live Alone in America was the album – I was singing and playing things almost like they were the original versions. And it wasn’t very good, I don’t think. I know a lot of people liked that record but I’ve done better live solo albums since then because I’ve learned to sing the songs differently, slow them down, you know, open them up. There’s quite a lot you can do.

But that’s just experience, right?

Yeah, that’s experience really, because you have to remember, when I started I got a record deal. I was 24, it was 1975, and I wasn’t one of these guys who was playing endlessly in different bands in clubs. That wasn’t me. You know, this mythology about me being some pub rocker is entirely wrong. I was at home. I mean, I’d traveled around in Morocco and done the whole hippie thing and all that, but that’s what I was, a hippie, laying around doing very little. And I came back to my parents in my early 20s and said, Okay, the next time I travel I’m going to get paid for it. And I started writing and writing hundreds of songs until I came up with good ones. And though I had a little band when I was 13 and one when I was 15, we weren’t serious. I mean, I couldn’t even play properly. I mean, I’m a very slow study. It took me a while, so I didn’t have this experience at playing live. I just had no idea. I had never seen a monitor system until I walked on the stage with this incredible band The Rumour behind me. So I’m still learning, but maybe that’s a good thing.

Otherwise it gets boring.

Yeah, I could’ve learned my craft and been finished after five albums. It’d be like, Okay, that’s it. Where am I going now? But I’m still going places with it.

Since you mentioned The Rumour, let me ask a larger, broader question. I’m looking at these press notes and it says you and The Rumour have two albums in Rolling Stone’s Top 100, but I’m not finding that. I’m finding Squeezing Out Sparks at 335.

Okay, that’s right. No, what happened was back in the 80s – and I found a copy of it the other day in my attic – Rolling Stone had the 100 best records of the last 20 years. And that was out in the 80s, and they had Squeezing Out Sparks and Howlin' Wind.

So Howlin' Wind is what’s missing here.

Yeah, that’s right. So now that it’s gone to the 500, Howlin' Wind’s disappeared somewhere in the shuffle.

It obviously doesn’t hurt sales any to be on such a critical favorite list. I’m not saying it makes you a millionaire, but any attention’s got to help sales.

It means it just goes on and on and on. You don’t really get forgotten. It may be peripheral, but that always keeps the profile there, doesn’t it?

Does it mean anything other than the keeping your profile up? Is it special to you to have one of your albums selected as one of the top 500 albums in history of rock?

It’s better than nothing. I think it meant more when it was the top 100 of the last 20 years because there were two albums in there. And Sparks was fairly high up there, like 40-something or other. And Howlin' Wind was in the 50s. I mean, that really meant something.

Is Sparks even your best album?

Uh, it’d be hard to top it, let’s put it that way. It’s very special. If people want to think that, that’s great. You know, I’m not going to argue with it. It is a pretty special record.

Let me ask you one last big, impossible question: who’s the greatest songwriter alive?

[much laughter] Well, you know, I don’t think anyone is completely and utterly that great that I would put them in that bag. A few years ago I’d say one of my favorites, and definitely one of the best was and still is Lucinda Williams. A friend of mine who played on the Your Country album, Tom Freund, who’s pretty much ignored everywhere, I’ve often said he’s the best songwriter operating now. You know, I think he’s absolutely great but that doesn’t always mean anything these days. You know, I mean, people always say, Your career’s been dulled by record companies, but I always tell them, I’m pretty lucky because I had three major album deals in a row. That’s four albums and four albums and four albums, and you don’t get that now unless you sell pretty big straight off the bat, you know what I’m saying?

Rock and roll is not known for its longevity.

Yeah, I know. You could be the greatest writer operating now and remain on an indie label or be selling them on the Web on your own site, you know. It’s a different world in that respect.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

it's my mother's birthday

and as part of her present I will not post an accompanying picture on this here interweb.

as further evidence of gift-giving I will confess, truthfully, that it's certainly not her fault that her eldest child grew to be the type to gratuitously throw the f-bomb in a Village Voice piece on The Books' upcoming performance at Carnegie Hall.
just dreadful, that.

so the above pic is the album cover of The Way Out, the group's latest.

the band's website, by the way, is a compelling one, if difficult to navigate,particularly if you're interested in the restoration of New England farmhouses so I've provided a shortcut.

Monday, November 8, 2010

while this could not be said

for most of the past couple weeks, today has been a good day.

this has little, if anything, to do with the Spalding Gray papers headed to the Ransom Center, Matt Lauer's interview with the 43rd President or Conan O'Brien's debut on TBS, but several sets of pdfs - for an upcoming Village Voice piece on the Books, the Tusk book (again)(finally) and a Kevin Stallings piece for the Nashville Scene - being put to bed over the past few days are likely contributors.

huzzah huzzah.
hurrah hurrah.

Friday, November 5, 2010

the last book I ever read

I try to avoid the hyperbole (so let's sneak in some qualifiers), but I'm fairly certain that this is the quickest I've ever read a book of this shape and size (approximately 258 pages without bibliography). or at least certainly the quickest I've ever read a book that wasn't written by Barry Hannah (though Ray, certainly, is much shorter) or the quickest I've ever read a book-length work of non-fiction.
total time elapsed (including just over five hours of sleep): less than 13 hours.
and though I may hold a suspicion or two, I honestly have no explanation as to why:

Ben Mezrich's The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal (yes, the subtitle is a bit over the top and yes, this is the book that The Social Network is based on)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

so although the weather's not cooperating

(it's pretty sunny) it's a pretty easy day to be depressed.
and watching (500) Days of Summer (or having it on in the background) doesn't help.