Country Confessions [Originally posted on FB 07.13.09]

First a bit of background for those of you who may not know: I was born in Staunton, VA, a place best known for two things: The birthplace of Woodrow Wilson, and The Home of The Statler Brothers. As I grew up in the 70s and 80s, the latter meant that, whether I liked it or not, country music would be something that would always be around me. I’ve always loved the Statlers and their music is now pure nostalgia for me, taking me back to my early childhood, before my parents split, when I was very happy.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve always had an appreciation for country music. Most times however, I couldn’t listen to it for any length of time and would quickly return to KISS, Zep, Cure or whatever metal band I was into. Lately though, my listening habits have changed. After commenting on it on FB this morning [and surprising my former sister in-law], rather than write a book under the comments section of that status, I figured I would expand on the matter here.

Last year, I listened to Bob Dylan’s radio show on XM [Theme Time Radio Hour] every week. His show always featured country. That’s where I heard a good deal of Buck Owens and realized the guy did so much great stuff, much more than just ‘Hee Haw’ which is probably what most people my age remember him for. For Christmas, I asked mom for a Buck Owens box set. I think she thought I was joking, but I told her I was serious, and I got the set for Christmas.

Since then, whenever the iPod was on shuffle, a Buck Owens song would come up and make me smile. He was a master at writing heartbreak songs with a wicked sense of humor.

Around Christmas as well, I heard George Jones’ ‘The Grand Tour’ [again on Dylan’s radio show]. As soon as the song was over, I not only downloaded the single from iTunes, but the Greatest Hits collection it was part of. Now, normally, George Jones would send me running to change the radio dial but, at this point in time, the songs [most of ’em anyway] resonated and I listened.

Fast forward to mid-May. I’m sitting in a doctor’s office waiting for the doctor to come in and tell me if I am a candidate for eye surgery. I was nervous and didn’t want to even consider what the road would be if I was told no. The office had a radio station piped in to the room, and I heard the DJ say that up next was ‘the new hit single from teen sensation Taylor Swift’. Now, what I mainly knew about Swift at this point was she was young, she was cute, and to her credit she wrote all of her songs, something unheard of in Nashville. The song was ‘You Belong With Me’. I heard it and thought it was good and catchy but that was about it.

Little did I know that for the next week, the song would be stuck on repeat in my cerebral jukebox. I bought the single on iTunes thinking if I played it a few times, it would leave my head. It didn’t. Instead I ended up downloading most of her material. Most of it is quite good.

Now we come to July 1. On this night I saw Hank III with Eddie [a friend of 20+ years who has always loved country]. I went because I knew Hank III also fronted a metal band so I was intrigued at how he could move from country to ‘death metal’ in the same show. The kicker turned out to be that I enjoyed the country set far more than the metal. The metal was fine, but nothing I hadn’t heard before. The country set though was something very unique. Imagine a Hank Williams Sr. song played about eight times faster than intended and you have Hank III in a nutshell. What was that, thrash country?? I don’t know but it really was unlike anything I had seen or heard before.

Now apart from an evening spent watching the fetching Jenny Lewis rock out at the National [July 3], I’ve pretty much been listening to country music exclusively. I’m adding stuff I have had on CD for years to my iPod and buying new stuff from iTunes that interests me. A KISSong still gets played every day [like I posted in response to some comments on the status that started the idea for this note] but otherwise, it’s been country.

So, I’m spending a lot of time listening to Reba, Cash, Buck, Patsy, George Jones, The Statlers, Taylor, and Miranda Lambert among others. I know this will eventually change and I will go back to a more well-rounded audio diet [I am seeing Cake Sunday night after all] but for now it’s been a fun trip with country on repeat on my iPod.

I usually describe myself as a ‘musical schitzophrenic’ because my tastes are all over the map. I think that description has never been more apt.

Barry

Three Shows In Nine Days — A Recap [Originally posted on FB 05.12.09]

My concert season for 2009 actually began in February. The first week of that month is when tickets for Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Working on a Dream’ tour went on sale. So, since then I knew that May was going to be at the very least eventful. Little did I know how emotional and in fact life-changing the events would be.

Show # 1

May 2, 2009

Greensboro, North Carolina
Greensboro Coliseum

Badlands

Radio Nowhere

Outlaw Pete

No Surrender

Working On A Dream

Seeds

Johnny 99

The Ghost of Tom Joad

Raise Your Hand

Seventh Son

Hang On Sloopy

Growin’ Up

I’m On Fire

Waiting On A Sunny Day

The Promised Land

Human Touch

Kingdom Of Days

Lonesome Day

The Rising

Born To Run

Cadillac Ranch

[encore]
Hard Times

Thunder Road

10th Avenue Freeze-Out

Land Of Hope And Dreams

American Land

Glory Days

I know it is pointless to reduce a show to simply the set list, but I wanted to post that first. I saw this show with my friend Meg, who was unable to get tickets to the Charlottesville show and thus happily agreed to drive to Greensboro to see this show with me.

The coolest thing about this show was our vantage point. We had seats behind the stage. I really liked being able to see the techs tuning the guitars before they would sprint onstage to hand them to Bruce. Seeing some bands from this vantage point would be a letdown or boring but I know that Bruce and the band play to the whole arena, whether you are on the floor among the masses, in the nosebleeds in the back, or behind the band.

Since drummer Max Weinberg will have to miss some shows in June to appear on Conan O’Brien’s revamped late show, the band has been ‘teaching’ Max’s eighteen year old son Jay. By teaching I mean splitting drumming duty with his dad onstage. Jay was behind the set at the start for the instantly recognizable intro to ‘Badlands’ and it only took me a few seconds to know that Jay packs as much power and precision on the kit as his dad. And, to look at him play, he is literally a ‘Mini-Max’ with the same arm action and concentrated gestures. The only difference I could discern [aside from the hair] is Max’s kick drum foot is a bit heavier, but Jay will get that with time. Jay is definitely adding to the fire and exuberance that the E Street Band display every night.

Having read some previous set lists, I was looking forward to hearing ‘Seeds’ [a song only available on the ‘Live 1975-85 box set] and ‘Johnny 99.’ The only versions I had heard of ‘Johnny 99’ were quiet solo acoustic affairs, which suited the lyric [it’s about a man sentenced to death row after killing a man]. Hearing the blistering full-on version from the band, I began to wonder if it was wrong that a song about a man who is about to die for murder should have people dancing in the aisles?

As I expected, Bruce had some surprises. Max came out to play the second half of the set [from ‘Raise Your Hand’ onward] and, it seems on this tour that the signs from fans are not always requests for Bruce songs, but instead its almost like a game of ‘Stump the Band’. Greensboro was no exception when the band played [maybe for the first time EVER?] Johnny Rivers’ hit from the sixties, ‘Seventh Son.’ The sixties flashback continued with an extended sing-along/jam version of ‘Hang On Sloopy’, even after Little Steven said at first the song was ‘too hard’. Next followed one of the songs I have wanted to hear live ever since I got the Live box set for Christmas in 1986: ‘Growin’ Up’.

Rather than bore you with my thoughts on everything that followed, I’ll sum it up with this: After six years and three concerts, that night in Greensboro was also the first time I heard ‘Thunder Road’ in concert. Hearing thousands sing back the line [and singing myself as well] ‘Show a little faith / There’s magic in the night..’ is the moment I will always remember, and further proof that concerts can be magical; ending with ‘Glory Days’ was simply icing on the cake.

Upon returning to Richmond the next afternoon, I had one thing on my mind. After getting through the day Monday, I was ready for my second Bruce show in four days on Tuesday.

Show #2:

May 5, 2009

Charlottesville, Virginia
John Paul Jones Arena

Badlands

Adam Raised A Cain

Outlaw Pete

Candy’s Room

Working On A Dream

Seeds

Johnny 99

Roulette

The Ghost Of Tom Joad

Raise Your Hand

You Really Got Me

Spirit In The Night

Gypsy Biker

Waiting On A Sunny Day

The Promised Land

The Wrestler

Kingdom Of Days

Radio Nowhere

Lonesome Day

The Rising

Born To Run

Hard Times

Thunder Road

Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

Land Of Hope And Dreams

American Land

Detroit Medley

I attended this show with two dear friends, Trudy and Eddie. This was their first Springsteen show so, even after seeing the show the previous Saturday night in North Carolina, I stayed quiet regarding set list specifics, knowing that the only real guarantee was a) a good time would be had and b) we were gonna hear Born To Run.

For this show, Max started behind the kit, which made me happy because that’s who Eddie and Trudy were expecting to see. Jay Weinberg played the second half of the set this time, starting with ‘Raise Your Hand.’ Stump the Band reappeared, this time with a request for The Kinks’ ‘You Really Got Me’, and the band didn’t disappoint. That was followed by ‘Spirit in the Night’ a classic that never gets old.

Musical highlights for me were ‘Tom Joad’ [the solos in that rang in my head for hours the next day], ‘Adam Raised a Cain’ [always one of my favorites], ‘Candy’s Room’ [a wonderful surprise from the ‘Darkness…’ album] and, once again ‘Thunder Road’, which I didn’t expect to hear since it was played in Greensboro.

The true highlight of the evening though was seeing the show with two friends, and watching the show thru their eyes. Whether it was seeing Trudy dancing in the aisle during ‘You Really Got Me’ or Eddie turning to me in amazement during ‘Spirit in the Night’, I enjoyed watching them as much as the show I paid for. The time spent with them, be it in the parking lot before the show, in the car, or seeing the show, made it an evening I will always hold dear.

As expected, each of us has agreed to catch Bruce the next time he’s close by. What I did not expect is that each of us actually showed up for work the next day; still not sure how I managed that.

That brings us to Show #3. Leonard Cohen at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland on Monday May, 11. I have tickets to many shows this year, and, each show is special. This show, however, is one I never thought would happen, or one I never thought I would have a chance to see. I’ve been a fan of Cohen’s since hearing his songs during my senior year of high school, and last year after seeing the movie ‘I’m Your Man’ I really began to wish and hope I could see Cohen in concert, knowing full well the man is in his early seventies [he’s 74 now] , so I never thought he would tour.

Thank God I was wrong.

I saw the show with my mom who wasn’t a fan initially but, I would play a song on the iPod and she would ask, ‘Wait, he wrote that? I like that song!’ So, with GPS in hand, mom agreed to venture north to Maryland to share this with me.

We had great seats [fifth row center] and immediately struck up a conversation with a woman named Karen who brought her son along to see the show. She was thrilled that there were ‘so many other people who [were] fans’ because, in everyday life, it seems a Leonard Cohen fan is hard to find. We were surrounded by thousands of like minds, and it was wonderful.

There is something that can’t be explained, sitting in a packed audience, listening to Leonard Cohen sing the chorus to ‘Anthem’ while the rain hits the pavilion roof. It was one of those moments in my life where I literally thought to myself ‘You’re here. This is an event. Take it all in because it will all end too soon.’

And end it did, but not before Leonard and his incomparable group of musicians played for well over three hours, with four encores and only a brief intermission halfway through. He’s seventy-four, but he sprinted onstage and off, danced, knelt before the audience on several occasions [and to my mother’s amazement, was able to get back up], all with a glint in his eye, like all of us were now party to a long-kept secret.

It was a cold, rainy night but Leonard and his band managed to make the huge pavilion seem like a living room; luxurious and quiet, rambunctious and bawdy. Let me take a moment to applaud those souls out on the lawn. As soaked as they must have been, they didn’t seem to notice the rain or care.

I knew that the evening was going to be an emotional rollercoaster. For the most part, it was a jubilant affair and there were smiles and screams of approval.

Then he played ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ and everyone else around me seemed to disappear. All I could do was stand in awe, near tears.

Here’s the setlist from the show, though, as I said about Bruce, the evening can’t be boiled down to a list of songs. If Leonard Cohen is coming to your town, don’t ask questions, JUST GO! [And yes Jenne, this means you…;)]

First Set

• Dance Me To The End Of Love

• The Future

• Ain’t No Cure For Love

• Bird On The Wire

• Everybody Knows

• In My Secret Life

• Who By Fire

• Chelsea Hotel #2

• Waiting For The Miracle

• Anthem

Second Set

• Tower Of Song

• Suzanne

• The Gypsy’s Wife

• The Partisan

• Boogie Street

• Hallelujah

• I’m Your Man

• A Thousand Kisses Deep (poem)

• Take This Waltz

Encores

• So Long, Marianne

• First We Take Manhattan

• Famous Blue Raincoat

• If It Be Your Will

• Democracy

• I Tried To Leave You

• Whither Thou Goest

Thanks again to Meg, Eddie, Trudy and Mom for being there and getting me there. And thanks to you for reading.

[Springsteen set lists taken from brucespringsteen.net; Cohen setlist taken from LeonardCohen.com bulletin board post by member westminster21157]

Barry

05.12.09

The Ten Songs I Can’t Live Without [Originally posted on FB 02.19.09]

My friend Patrick posted a list of the ten songs he couldn’t live without. After reading I immediately began compiling my own. This took longer than I expected. I originally had a top 25, then slashed the list to 20 and then the final 10. For me, songs are more than just music. They are memories. Each song here is great and important to me not just because its a great song, but because its tied to a memory. My only rule was one song per artist. So, here goes:

1) Detroit Rock City – KISS. Most of my friends know that I discovered KISS just before I turned four years old. To say that their songs are ingrained in me is an understatement. ‘Rock And Roll Over’ from 1976 was my first KISS album, for my birthday in 1977. That Christmas, I got ‘KISS ALIVE II’, and ‘Destroyer’ both of which contained ‘Detroit Rock City. I was hooked. I love the almost jazz type drum part that Peter Criss plays [a part I could never fully duplicate on the drums,despite hours of trying]. The dual guitar solo is perhaps KISS’ best moment on record, and it all ends with a car crash. At the age of four, the audio drama that unfolded in that song made quite an impression. I could make a list of just the ten KISS songs I can’t live without, but this is the one song that is still an adrenaline rush, whether its turned up to eleven on my stereo, or plays quietly in the background on my iPod at work. It still quickens my pulse and puts a smile on my face. And, like I said, car crash.

2) Rhapsody In Blue – Gershwin. My father had a Quadraphonic system in our basement in the 1970s. He bought a lot of Quadrophonic recordings, mostly on reel-to-reel tape. One of the tapes he played was called ‘Hugo plays Gershwin’, a tape of Hugo Montenegro and his Orchestra playing Gershwin classics. The last song on the tape was Rhapsody in Blue. Again, I was very young, and I had no opinion of classical music. But I loved this piece instantly. I would play that reel tape a thousand times in my life before the 70s technology finally wore down. In the late 80s, I saw the film ‘Manhatten’ for the first time and, if you’ve seen it, you know the opening scene is set to this song. One of the best moments in film ever. I even liked to watch/hear the Delta commercials from a few years ago because they used Rhapsody In Blue. A truly timeless and great song.

3) One Hundred Years – The Cure. Senior year of HS, September 1991. I am cast in the school play [J.B.]. Also cast in the play [as Job no less] was one Tony Abeln. This is where fate stepped in. See, I don’t drive, so, when it was learned that Tony and I lived in the same subdivision, he graciously agreed to give me a ride home after rehearsal each night. First night in the car, Tony puts in this tape by this band I don’t like [The Cure] and the song that comes on is…well to me at the time, it was sh*t. Understand, I was in my ‘Heavy Metal Headbanger’ phase of my life so I had little time or patience for anything that wasn’t played at a thousand miles an hour. Second night in the car, Tony puts in the same tape…long story short, by the end of the week I asked him if I could borrow his Cure tapes over the weekend to make a mix tape. The song of course was One Hundred Years, and to this day, if forced to pick a single favorite album by the Cure, Pornography would be the one. I always think of Tony when I play this album, and that makes me smile. The fact that I got to hear this song live in concert [followed by Disintegration] is a supreme concert moment that will not be topped. Thank you again Tony for forcing me to listen. 😉

4) I Hope You’re Happy Now – Elvis Costello. In my book the best, most bitter ‘F You’ Break up song ever penned. I first heard it in 1993 on the Costello Retrospective set ‘Girls Girls Girls’. At the time, my heart was relatively unscathed. Since then, the lyrics ring truer and truer with each listen. [True confession time: The set was my roommate’s. I made sure when he packed his things to move, that he did not get it back.] It must be one of Elvis’ faves too because the two times I have seen him in concert, he has played it.

5) Jane – Barenaked Ladies [BNL]. 1994 can be summed up in one word for me: HELL. In August, I was admitted to the hospital. This CD came out September 6. I had planned to pick it up, but I was stuck in the hospital. The day after the album came out, I was told by my doctor that I was going to be in the hospital for at least another four weeks, and that time would be spent not being able to eat or drink anything. As a way to recover from the shock that I had eaten my last meal for a long while [Hardee’s Fried Chicken], my dad asked if I wanted anything from Plan 9. I asked for the album ‘Maybe You Should Drive.’ To hs credit, he found the album [something I doubted at the time because BNL were not exactly popular in the US]. That disc became my food. And ‘Jane’ made me smile in one of my darkest hours. The line ‘She thinks it’s cooler if we just stay friends’, well that hit too close to home to admit. BNL’s finest moment.

6) I Want You, I Need You, I Love You – Elvis Presley. If this song were released today, as is, it would be a smash. I first heard this in the car, because my mom bought a bunch of Elvis albums on 8-Track [I know, I’m dating myself there…]. It probably was just after Elvis died in 1977, but I remember wanting to hear this song again, and asking to hear it again, not realizing that, with the 8 track, you would have to sit through three or four other songs before the one you wanted came on. One of the best love songs ever that’s not in the least bit sappy.

7) Help! – The Beatles. I discovered The Beatles in 1979. While staying at my grandmother’s house, I was in an upstairs room that had an ottoman with a removable top. Being my usually clumsy gawky self, I fell into the ottoman and knocked the top off. Looking inside, I saw a bunch of 45 records. These records had belonged to my aunt when she was a little girl. All of the 45s were First Edition US Beatle 45s. [Speaking as a collector, I can tell you they were worn and scratched, but to me, they were gold.] The singles included Twist And Shout/There’s A Place; I Want To Hold Your Hand/I Saw Her Standing There; and Help!/I’m Down. It really was like discovering a new world. ‘Help!’ especially grabbed me. For the rest of that week, I put away the KISS records I had brought with me to my grandmother’s house and played these new discoveries, all day, every day while I was there. My grandmother was just thrilled to hear something besides KISS, so, on the day I was to go back home, my grandmother stuck her head in the room I stayed in and said ‘You know, if you want to take those records home, you can have them.’ I couldn’t say Thank You enough. When I got home, my father pulled out a ‘Meet The Beatles’ songbook he had bought in 1964 to show me what these guys looked like. For the rest of that summer, I played Beatles music, and my life was happily never the same.

8) Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen/Jeff Buckley. I love both versions of this song. I heard Buckley’s version first in a foriegn movie [‘Juli’, I think it was German]. Soon after I ‘downloaded’ the song [a long way from the 8-Track] and it ran on my MP3 player on repeat for a week. Leonard Cohen’s version is very different but just as beautiful. A beautiful ode to a lost love.

9) The Winner Takes It All – ABBA. ABBA really gets a bad rap it seems and they get tagged with the ‘disco’ label. This song however is exquisite meloncholy. The vocal, the piano, the lyric. A great song to sum up the end of a relationship. Also, for me, ABBA reminds me of my father. He would play their records every Saturday morning while making breakfast [this was well into the 90s, when ABBA was anything but cool]. I never got tired of hearing ABBA, especially this song.

10) Be My Baby – The Ronettes. If I had to pick one song to define pure pop perfection, this would be the one. Phil Spector changed the game with this one. I mean, just the SOUND of this song is so different from anything that came before and it spawned a thousand imitators. A cosmic blending of the perfect song, the perfect singer and the right producer [before Phil went crazy]. And, the drum breakdown at the 2:13 mark is one of the best ever recorded. I can’t help but feel better or happier whenever I hear this song.

So, there ya have it. My irreplacable top ten. Thanks for reading.

Twenty-Five Random Things [originally published on Facebook 01.27.09]

[Even though this is one of those usually annoying tags that FB is famous for, I thought it would be a good ice-breaker.]

1) I don’t drive

2) I have an XBox but I rarely play it. Not that I don’t enjoy it, but, I find when I have free time, I would rather watch a DVD or listen to music.

3) I discovered KISS a week before my fourth birthday [1977]. My neighbor’s teenage son had KISS posters on his wall. Theose faces gripped me, excited me and scared me all at once. That same teenager [Chris Richards] saw my interest and played Side One of KISS Alive!. The next week, my mom gave me ‘Rock N Roll Over’ for my birthday because Chris’ mom told her ‘Indulge him. It’s a phase that will pass.’

4) I love foreign movies. I will watch a movie in French, even if it’s bad, just because I love the language.

5) I used to play the drums, but, after several orthopedic surgeries, my ankle can’t really move fast enough to play the kick drum.

6) I was the winner of The Patrick Crowling Courage Award, 1997.

7) I have been a Braves fan since the early 1980s.

8) The night the Braves won their only World Series in 1995, I watched the game at my aunt’s house because I had to DJ a cousin’s birthday party, instead of watching it with my father. That’s one of my few regrets in life and, since then I have never scheduled anything that conflicts with the playoffs if the Braves are in them.

9) I used to manage a rock band.

10) Despite that, I am really a morning person.

11) I met Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies after a show in DC, solely because I had to attend the show in a wheelchair following surgery.

12) It was at the age of 16 when I learned that backstage is not all it’s cracked up to be

14) I have the job I have now because I took the ‘computertraining.com’ entrance test on a dare. I passed, took out a huge loan, got two certs and landed at Wellpoint, where I discovered PTO.

15) I hope to move to Atlanta one day

16) While I love being an Uncle, I don’t want to be a dad

19) I really should clean my home office, but I swear I know where everything is

20) I watch the movie Annie Hall at least twice a year. It makes me laugh and sigh

21) I read Atlas Shrugged over a summer. It was good but I didn’t think it was ‘all that’

22) I once had to go 57 days without eating anything. I was in the hospital on IV Fluids only. After the first weekend, [which was pure hell], I didn’t miss food at all as long as I didn’t smell it.

23) The first meal I was allowed to have after 57 days without food was a cup of cherry Jell-O. Ever since, the thought of Jell-O makes me want to throw up.

24) I turned 21 during the same 57 days without food. I could not get drunk to celebrate turning 21 until 3 months later. My first alcoholic drink ordered was ‘Cold Gin’. I haven’t had it since, perferring vodka instead.

25) I’ve been in love, lost at love and had my heartbroken. And I am better for it.
 
–Barry

Ok, so now I have a blog

Hi,

I’ve decided to finally give this ‘blogging’ thing a try. I’ve been writing for years and, in the last year I have written several ‘notes’ on Facebook. As someone once said, a FB page is for those too lazy to have a blog. While I’ve never thought that I was lazy, I just didn’t think there was an audience who would want to bother reading my stuff. And, it seemed like a lot of effort, with the real possibility of getting no traffic or feedback.

So I put it off.

Recently though, friends have told me I really should write professionally or, at the very least start a blog. So, for now I have gone the cheap [free] route with a blogspot account thru google and, if this takes off, or even gets off the ground without crashing and burning, then I’ll look into buying a domain.

Anyway, I’m gonna start by posting most of my notes from Facebook. Most of these I haven’t read since I wrote them so, it will at least be a fun trip down memory lane for me.

In the coming days and weeks, I’ll add new stuff. I’m still unsure if I want to focus solely on reviews of concerts, movies and other media or, if I want to turn this into a kind of electronic journal. That remains to be seen I guess.

One question I’ll answer straight away: The name Longarm is a nickname given to me years ago by a very dear friend. I like it so I used it here.

Enjoy,
Barry