The Volume is a Little Lower: Goodbye Glenn Frey

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Identity and youth is such a strange thing. What one is willing to grasp on to in order to fill a void can seem like a whim but have implications that last a lifetime. For whatever reason, the music of the Eagles was what attached itself to me, and I in return, clung to them for more years than they themselves remained together in their initial run.

I remember hearing them from the crackling transistor AM radios that my older siblings owned and through the fuzz of the car stereo on the trips up north as a child. There was something that made them stick. I wasn’t even 10 when Hotel California was released, but it was the first album that I didn’t just want to buy, but somehow be a part of. More than the Beatles or the Stones, the Eagles were who I identified with. Of course, as a kid it was an oversimplified Scooby Doo type community I craved, but at that age you’re allowed to project those desires into your favourite tunes.

As I became a teen, my notebooks and textbooks would have the lyrics of their songs hand written into the covers. I knew that J.D. Souther was a frequent collaborator and that Jackson Browne had co-written “Take It Easy.” I was familiar with previous bands too; that Randy Meisner had once been in a band called Poco, that Bernie Leadon had been a member of the Flying Burrito Brothers, that Joe Walsh had opened for the Who as a part of The James Gang and mostly, that Glenn Frey and Don Henley were members of Linda Ronstadt and ultimately the masterminds behind my favourite band.

This wasn’t in the days of Google and Wikipedia. Every bit of information you got about the artists you loved was from careful study of an LP’s liner notes; gathered from magazine articles you were lucky enough to have picked up; or even books you searched for in the library… which was strange, because I only seemed to be there for this very reason. I learned about these artists from the radio itself. For years, I was tuning into Q107’s Six O’Clock Rock Report to get any little scrap of information about all my favourite bands. Before I even hit high school, I was a huge music fan with a doctorate in The Eagles. I could wax poetic about tons upon tons of rock bands; bore you with details about groups from the Beatles to Barnstorm, but the kings of the Southern California sound were my first love.

To that end, the passing of Glenn Frey hits home and hits hard. No, I never met him, and to be honest, his image as seen through History of The Eagles is that of someone who is wrapped in arrogance… but that doesn’t mean much to me. What mattered was that he helped provide a soundtrack to my life. His music gave me a reason to socialize and interact in a world that I felt desperately alone in during those early formative years. When I later lost interest in their music, it was still that initial connection that drove me to take a further interest in the sounds of other bands. Even as a music journalist, I would hear artists through a lens, that for better or worse was established with the same enthusiasm I had for The Eagles when I was child. As an adult now, I can both sing their praises and slam them in a single breath… but the truth is; every record from their debut to Eagles Live is sitting just a few inches from my turntable. In the basement, where an old stereo with a cassette deck is ready to resume work with a single button push, my old Eagles/Don Henley/Glenn Frey/Joe Walsh and James Gang cassettes wait to roll.

Earlier in the week, as I was discussing the death of David Bowie with an acquaintance, I said to him that “I’m hitting a crappy age.” It’s a time when the heroes, friends and mentors of our childhood start to disappear; a time when we seemingly attend more funerals than celebrations. Glenn Frey will live on through his family and his music… but platitudes seem rather empty at the moment. Today another part of my youth died, and no matter how much I wish for it, life will never sound the same. Still great sounding, but the volume is forever a little lower.

RIP Glenn Frey

Aimee Mann: She isn’t the Ramones… but she is pretty damn cool! (A first concert story)

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Back in university there was only one major thing I was envious about regarding my roommate/friend – his first concert. The first band he ever saw live was the Ramones; only the ‘coolest’ band to have ever graced the planet earth. Oh, you can mention ‘better’ or ‘more popular’ bands like Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, the Smiths, the Cure, etc and so forth… but unless you can tell me you saw James Brown live at the Apollo, or the B 52’s in an Athens dive as your first show, he had you beat.

Of course, his first concert outshone mine easily. I’m embarrassed to say, but that first for me was in the freezing cold at Nathan Phillips Square featuring Platinum Blonde. Sure, there are many bands that could rank worse as a first show, and it wasn’t a bad night either, but “It Doesn’t Really Matter” isn’t exactly “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.” A few years later, with one four year old at my feet, and another child on the way, I vowed to make sure that my kids would get a cool first concert; something ‘worthy’ of telling college roommates about in a childish game of ‘mine is better than yours.’

So it was that in 2008, a couple things had lined themselves up. Local record store Sonic Boom (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World filmed a couple scenes in there) had acoustic concerts every so often in the basement of their Bloor Street location. I attended a Nada Surf show with the ‘former roomy’ and when it finished I saw the bands singer/songwriter Matthew Caws hanging out with some kids. Not ‘kids’ as in a middle-aged definition of people of the teenaged variety… but honest to goodness children. Not being the most perceptive of individuals, it only dawned on me right then, that… well, um, a record store is a safe and… dare I add, perhaps even ‘cool’ place to see a concert.

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Five months after watching Nada Surf, and barely 8 weeks after my second child was born a quick e-mail announced that Aimee Mann was going to be playing a set at Sonic Boom. Since the early 90’s I had become a pretty big fan of Mann’s music. She had put together a consistent string of outstanding records that caught a great balance between power-pop (Big Star), new-wave (Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe), and the alt-rock scene of the times. Bachelor #2 was a staple in my house as the new millennium began and 2005’s concept album The Forgotten Arm seemed to be just more proof that she should be a household name. In other words, Mann had become an essential part of my life’s soundtrack. Alas, critical praise doesn’t always result in record sales. Of course, and from a purely selfish perspective, it also meant that seeing a ‘bucket list’ artist in a strange different style venue was about to happen.

So it was that during the early evening May 9th, 08 my wife and I took the boys out to see Aimee Mann. Needless to say, the youngest was in a car seat hanging out with my wife just in case he expressed any discomfort with the noise level. However, my 4 year old and I were sitting cross-legged in front of the small riser where he began to ask me a thousand questions about the small soundboard and the instruments on stage. He had a poster clutched in his hands and was smiling from ear to ear. Since his birth he had seen me playing guitar and singing songs and was now completely enthralled by the prospect of seeing a real music artist. Mann didn’t disappoint. Playing a few selections from @#%&*! Smilers, which was due for release a couple weeks later, she had everyone in a great mood. By the end of the set my son was convinced that Mann was the world’s greatest songwriter, and that she was smiling at him between songs. (I didn’t have the heart to tell him she was looking at where she was placing the capo on her guitar… and that the neck of the instrument was pointed in his direction.)

After the set, we waited around for about 30 minutes to see if we could get the poster signed. I’m not usually one for signatures, but I figured a momentous occasion like a first concert would be a great opportunity for my kids to have a keepsake. So we looked at the vinyl and cassettes which shared the basement with the stage, and kept an eye on the door for her exit. Unfortunately, whoever was interviewing her after the show was getting a really good chat, because she just never came out of the backroom in time for my son to get it signed. The baby needed to get home, and so we jumped into the rusty old minivan with a poster, our memories and a great first concert story.

Eighteen months later, my first born would get his second concert poster signed by a confused looking J. Mascis and a very gracious Lou Barlow after a Dinosaur Jr. acoustic set at Sonic Boom. (I mean come on, how many times do alt-rock legends get five year-olds walking up for an autograph.) Since then we’ve been to a bunch of small sets or shows. Both my boys (now just about to turn 12 and 8) enjoy going to shows at Sugar Beach where they can play in the sand before a band breaks into song.

Over the years, I’ve seen Mann perform a couple times, each time more impressive than the last and yet she still remains on my bucket list for a couple reasons. One, I’d eventually like to get to one of her annual Christmas shows. But, even more importantly, I’d like to have the kids go to a full concert that they’ll actually remember without daddy reminding them of when playing music on the stereo. When she last came to Toronto with The Both we were away on holidays and missed the chance. All joking about bragging rights aside, taking my kids to a concert isn’t about bravado, it is about bonding. Doing those things that allow memories to grow and be sustained.

So my old roommate has the Ramones… and that is pretty cool. But, on some future day when they’re at college and a friend asks “what was your first show?” both my children will be able to give a sly grin and reply – “Aimee Mann… and I wasn’t even in kindergarten yet.” The older one can even add “and, it’s on youtube. You can see my dad and I on the floor waiting for the music to start.”

Thanks for the memory Aimee

A personal reflection on David Bowie!

Recently, I lost a childhood friend. Going through his online memorials I was struck by a thought. The relationships we have when we’re young always seem to be the most powerful; having influence far beyond nights spent looking at stars. The memories linger as a reminder of who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be.

Like the news of my friend, the news of David Bowie’s passing hit me with a great deal of force. Through a challenging adolescence, his music had been a soundtrack, a lifeline, a confidant and a means of reassurance to me that things could get better. Like many, Ziggy Stardust had been my entry point; it was a record steeped in mythology, despair, futility and ultimately, hope. Although, I fully admit that I projected my own life’s trials onto his music, like the best albums, you connect to it on some kind of transcendent level. It didn’t matter that I really didn’t understand Bowie’s depth at this point, it only mattered that somehow I didn’t feel alone for those minutes the cassette was running through my Sony Walkman or the crappy 80’s tape deck on a no-name 60’s stereo.

The magic of Bowie was that his genius wasn’t temporary or fleeting. Not only did he reinvent himself every few years, but his artistic vision remained intact. Even when he went in directions that were less accessible for many fans to follow, no one ever believed it was due to a loss of talent. He was the king of ‘other’, a person who revelled in the fringe and gave voice to the weird and disenfranchised with heroic nobility; his personas all broken and in vivid technicolour. He took influences from all directions and warped them into something very much his own. Sure, he was a sponge, taking the sounds of the Velvet Underground and the Stooges and mixing them with soul, funk and tunes that were genre defining in the moment; but he also added colours and textures that outshone his contemporaries.

For my part, the best example of this was found not in those classic albums hailed as the greatest LP’s of all time, but in his covers record Pin Ups. Bowie took the artists who had inspired him and turned their songs into something new. While most covers done today retain much of the tone of the original, Bowie sought only to capture their energy while honouring the artists with a piece of his own vision. The original Kinks version of “Where Have All The Good Times Gone” is full of angst and confusion. Bowie turns it on its head, adding a sense of vitriol and sarcasm. If the original was despair, Bowie brought to it a sense of sanctimonious anger. It was the last line used against the person who made you feel like shit in the first place.

In the last few hours, I’ve found myself reading the memorials to David Bowie; articles bestowing accolades on the importance of his artistic achievements. They mention his music, his style, his accomplishments; all playing into the personification of a genius. It is well deserved and you’ll get no argument from me. However, as I sit back, those things are not what draw my hand toward the volume on the stereo. They are not what I think of as I watch the record spin. When I listen to Bowie, I hear the possibility of individual growth. I see the idea that even the most fucked up amongst us can accomplish something meaningful… beautiful even. Listening to Bowie, I’m not content to look at the stars. I want to reach for them. And should I fall, then let it be spectacular. Let it be epic. Let it be with that sly smile, a wink, and the gracious goodbye that one has after a life well lived. I mean come on… did you see “Lazarus”. How can you not be inspired?

Thank You David, for just sharing a bit of your life with us.

Circumstances & Connections: Music Memories or Vic Chesnutt – Drunk

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Fucked up beyond all recognition, I pace the floor wildly with pen in hand, scribbling indecipherable notes for a movie script I’m writing. Thirteen types of prescription medication, ten of which are treating my “so-called depression” (depression caused by the painkillers themselves) and three for the nearly severed sciatic nerve in my back (depression caused by the painkillers themselves). My thought processes are in all places at once, perhaps I’ve reached cosmic enlightenment, or maybe I’m just screwed. Vic Chesnutt is in the background singing “Supernatural” and I’m wondering how to incorporate my own scene of waking up in a hospital bed after surgery, with my push button for morphine drip in my arm and nothing else. That is to say, completely naked because apparently I’m a “bleeder.” I catch the lyrics “Out of body experience / I flew around the hospital room once / On intravenous Demerol / It weren’t supernatual” and I’m running for the rewind. Sure I had heard the song many times before, but a baker’s dozen of different coloured medication gives you a different perspective on what you’re hearing.

Several months later I’m detoxing from the one psychiatrist’s human experimentation by being in a hospital full of head shrinks. My boom box has Chesnutt singing “I tried to learn from the psychiatrist / how to stay calm and minimize risk / I should have kept all those appointments / I’m gonna need em / I’m coming disjointed” as I simultaneously weep and draw the now abandoned script idea.

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Listen now children – drugs are bad – getting off them – worse!

Still, Chesnutt keeps me grounded. Inspired. If he can get past all the shit and turn it into beautiful art; my penny ante crap should be a cinch.

A few weeks later, my wife and I are in sitting in our car at Fundy National Park having stopped for an odd little animal. This porcupine has its ass in the air threatening our Ford Contour with a face full of quills if we proceed. Vic is again providing the soundtrack. “I showed my behind so frequently / my dear old mother wouldn’t recognize me.” Sure it is entirely out of context, but my wife and I are in stitches at this little bit of coincidence.

2001 was pretty much the most challenging year I had faced in my adult life (up to that point anyway), but Vic Chesnutt and his album Drunk certainly made me feel like I wasn’t alone in my journey.

Thanks Vic, I hope you’ve found peace in whatever smoke filled dive you’re playing in the great beyond.

Pan Am Adventure pt2: Beer & Pizza at Aquatic Centre… When the F%!K did Swimming Become So Cool?

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One guy with his hand hanging out of an SUV raises his middle finger in salute to our high occupancy lane entitlement. We fly past; I smile and say to no one in particular “should’ve won those Edge interns from Fred & Mel dingus.”

My eleven year old Rowan asks “What Daddy?”

“Nothing”

“Were you talking at other drivers again?”

“I would never dream of it!”

Walking through the gates at the Pan Am Aquatic Centre, I notice huge differences between the Ajax Ball Park, and this new state-of-the-art sports centre. Ajax had tents serving hot dogs and hamburgers, while Scarborough got hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza and a tent devoted to shawarma. Dammit, I would’ve eaten here if I’d known I wasn’t limited to chip truck food.

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Taking our seats, I see people walking by with beer and pizza in their hands. WTF – when I was a Speedo-wearing teenage swimmer we couldn’t get a frickin’ chocolate milk into the stands. When did swimming become cool? Could it be swimming is on par with… dare I say… curling. Here, I see smiling patrons walking up the stairs with their hops and barley delights stacked three cans high. That is, until they try to find their seats. The stickers on the metal stairs are small and one gentleman is already so confused he can’t figure out row numbers until I actually count them out for him… three times. Of course, this could be about the heat. The pool seems to be kept at hot tub temperatures, meaning the humidity is worse inside tonight than it was several days ago at the softball game in full afternoon sun.

The first race is the Women’s 400 Individual Medley. Seventeen year old Emily Overholt is taking Canada on a thrill ride. The crowd is going insane. You would swear it was a Stanley Cup playoff game, with fans on their feet screaming encouragement in Portuguese, Spanish, French and English simultaneously. For all of a minute it looked like we would be hearing our national anthem, until some official takes it upon themselves to change the soundtrack.

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First in the women’s 400 IM and then in the men’s, the gold medal wasn’t decided in the pool, but by some overzealous officials in plastic chairs at each end of the pool who disqualified them. First Overholt and then Brazilian Thiago Pereira were stripped of places atop the podium for a non-simultaneous wall touch. This rule, that no one actually enforces, is very hard to catch and is pointless as it doesn’t give a swimmer any clear advantage. Boos rang out and later appeals by the teams were to no avail.

Still, Canadians were undeterred by officiating gaffs, putting in outstanding performances resulting in medals for every event. Sydney Pickrem was bumped up to silver in the Women’s 400 IM and Luke Reilly moved to silver in the men’s event. Noemie Thomas and Katerine Savard finished 2-3 in the Women’s 100 M Butterfly while Santo Condorelli finished with a bronze on the men’s side. Canadians finished the night with a bronze in the 4 x 200 M Women’s Freestyle Relay. By the night’s end Canada took home five medals, a great performance.

Without the familiar “O Canada”, my seven year old son had refused to stand during one medal ceremony, disappointed by hearing an unfamiliar anthem. After it finished playing, I leaned down for a chat.

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“Evan, do you know why I stand and respect national anthems from other countries.”

“No”

“Well, it is because they are us! People come from all over the world to live in Canada, and every flag you see being raised is a part of our flag.”

“No it isn’t.”

Seeing his blank expression I realize a few things. He is seven, this isn’t a TV show life lesson and I’m not Kermit the Frog.

“Ok, here’s the deal. You stand or I can talk at you about trouble and punishment until you cover your ears and beg for mercy.”

In return I get the pouty look of wrath; Evan’s eyes promising that if he remembers this moment in ten years, he’ll make my life a living hell by becoming the teenage version of me.

Leaving the venue I look over at the Shawarma tent and envision athletes gathered around the table like Avengers. Voice over: “After a hard battle against tremendous odds, our heroes enjoy a quiet meal of tangy goodness. All is right again in the world.”

Pan Am Adventure pt1: This Episode – Put Your Shoes On Dude!

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With empty water bottles and sunscreen packed I walk to the rusty old mini-van realizing I have forgotten a couple things…um… ah… oops. With empty water bottles, sunscreen, kids and tickets we jump into our family transport with every intention of pissing off hundreds by passing them in the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle – 3 people or more needed) lanes. Of course, it is noon and there isn’t enough traffic for anyone to even notice the need for such things so I failed to catch so much as a dirty glance – damn.

Arriving at AJX/President’s Choice Pan Am Ballpark, I accidently drive into the field/parking lot for handicap spaces and get directed to the adjoining field/parking lot for other rusty mini-vans. Fortunately, the orange shirt volunteers stuck on parking duty are a good natured bunch who direct me to the appropriate place with patience and only snicker once I look in the rear-view mirror.

Sunscreen is applied and a short walk on temporary rubber sidewalks later brings us to the box-office. By this point, my second born Evan (7) is crying because, well, I must have accidently applied lotion to his eye. My first born Rowan (11) strikes up a conversation with a volunteer even as she offers me water to fix “the worst hurt ever.”

Disaster averted, I offer my extra ticket to a person walking alone toward the box office. After a minute of convincing him that I am neither a scalper or a crazed lunatic offering him an exploding piece of paper, he tentatively accepts, taking the ticket into his hand like a contagion. Yet another orange shirt having watched the conversation starts to laugh while telling me how awesome both I and the exchange were. I notice the lucky recipient of the free collectible bar code finally relax when he is allowed entrance into the park.

Gaining entry ourselves my kids are offered various freebies from even more smiling volunteers who take time to talk to both my kids in turn. Rowan tells each new orange shirt that they are “the nicest person I’ve met today.” Evan in an effort not to be left out explains that we’re going to see “Mexico play Argentina, and I want Mexico to win. It’s softball – not baseball.” Now wearing his new “VIVA PAN AM AJAX!” pin, Evan is all smiles as we take our general admission seats behind the Mexico dugout.

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The crowd is sparse as the teams take the field, but the Mexican fans make up for low attendance with vocal enthusiasm and tambourines. Rowan starts to yell encouragement to Argentina and Evan starts an argument. “He’s bugging me by wanting Art-ina to win…” I ask them to stand by the first row for a picture as a distraction. After a couple clicks, I ask them to try again: “Act like you actually love each other.” A group of spectators start laughing as the ‘little brother’ attempts to push his ‘big brother’ further away.

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Mexico gets on the board first in the third inning eventually scoring five runs by the bottom of the sixth. However, they lose two players to injury in the process. In both cases the players just kind of dropped while action was elsewhere. First the pitcher crumbled with a leg injury suffered as the ball left his hand, and later the short stop fell from what looked like heat-exhaustion. As we were waiting for play to resume on the second occasion, Evan asks me “what is that smell?” No sooner do the words escape than the odour of a dead animal left in a hockey bag comes wafting with the wind.

“I don’t know” I reply honestly.

“I’m standing down there” he informs me and walks away.

It is then that I turn around and notice that a gentleman three rows up has taken off his dock shoes to air out his tootsies. How do you politely say “put your shoes on Dude!”

At this point Argentina attempts a last inning rally. Our breath held I move down a couple rows… you know, um, to get closer to my escaping seven year old. Fortunately/unfortunately, depending on which child you ask, Mexico beat Argentina 5-3.

As we leave, Rowan personally thanks every volunteer he sees and ends each pat on the back with “hope I see you at the swimming events on Friday.”

I wonder… does the future still freak them out? Or Motion City Soundtrack – I Am The Movie

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Box after box opened, pulling out the literary contents and placing them on carts to be shelved by other peons. Day after day, month after month, year after… ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! It’s good to work, but the isolation of a receiving dock can sometimes get a little, um… mind numbing.  So the 2003 version of me brought in a boombox with auxiliary for my first gen ipod to keep me company and I kept in search of energetic music to distract myself.  The second cycle of Brit-Pop with the Kaiser Chiefs leading the way helped a bit, but I needed more.

At lunch I started reading magazine reviews and a name kept popping up – Motion City Soundtrack. Like most Epitaph albums I Am The Movie started out with a flood of guitar but as things progressed it became something else, something really cool. A friend had a Napster shit download copy on a burned CD. Light synth backing up a dual guitar attack put together with lyrics that had tongue planted firmly in cheek emanated through crappy speakers and I smiled. Songs were sarcastic, confessional, and ridiculous. Like life they played through all the various range of emotions, but most all, it was fun.

So after my shift finished, I journeyed the suburban strip mall sidewalk to the big box record store and they of course looked at me like I was an alien.

“What soundtrack?”

“Not a soundtrack, a band! Motion City Soundtrack!”

“Why would they call themselves a soundtrack?”

“Not sure, but if I ever get to LA, I’ll ask?”

Eventually I ordered the thing online, because, well, the dead eyes of mindless big box suburban record store floor staff that see boy bands as high art really piss me off.

Fuck yeah – I’m a music snob. If you got a problem with that we can thumb wrestle.

It’s been more than a decade, and like most music I love have an attachment to, I want it on vinyl. With only two options open to me, the decision is pretty easy. Sealed copies of the now out of print original 2003 pressing run for about $35 and up on reseller markets.

Or

Hot Topic just recently released a limited orange translucent version of I Am The Movie. While I had thought it sold out back in March, it showed back up and is now spinning on the turntable. My 11 year old is even trying to “bust a move.”

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See what I did there… oh never mind. Buy the record and you’ll get the joke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Most Expensive Film Ever Made… Until Someone Spent More or The General

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We all have our prize possessions; those items that mean more than some calculated amount. It could be a key, a stuffed toy or a simple picture, and for many there is certainly more than one. So on a shelf of DVD’s and Blu Ray discs stands one of mine. There is no lego or posters to honour it within my home like so many other films in my collection. It has no place of tribute other than it always sits within inches of the electronics in which it is placed for viewing. Despite it being a ‘silent film’ I can’t imagine it without surround sound and even though it is black and white the story is more vibrant than anything I’ve seen since taking a film class in university. The man often credited with creating the greatest film ever made (Orson Welles – Citizen Kane) calls this film the greatest ever made, and who am I to argue.

So here it is folks, Buster Keaton in The General.

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If you’ve never had the pleasure, you really should. It is a stunningly crafted action filled comedy with stunts that one could not believe are real. However, not only are they real but Keaton directs and does his own stunts running around on a moving train. Literally folks! He jumps between box cars, jumps off the moving train, jumps on the moving train, sits on a cow-catcher of a moving train with a railroad tie in his arms, and sits on the trains coupling rods… no safety wires, no studio trickery, coupling rods as train starts moving. HELLO, but that is INSANE!

In its time (1926), it was the most expensive movie ever made. Oh sure, you’ve seen cars planes and even trains blown up over the years in which you’ve watched all kinds of action movies but that is the glory of special effects and a green screen. In 1926, if you wanted it to look real – then you had to do it. So not only is The General one of the greatest “chase” movies ever made, but Keaton actually takes out the whole frickin’ train and a bridge in a scene with 500 hundred extras.

So, I’m not even going to pretend this is a critical movie review and I’m Leonard Maltin… nope! It is hard to be objective when something this good blows your mind.

In a blue case, sits a piece of plastic with encoded information which is decoded in a machine and sent to a screen and speakers. The other day I showed it to my eleven year old with expectations he would get bored after he finished his popcorn. Instead he asked if we could watch more Buster Keaton films. How cool is that!

Just thought I would share… and yeah, it’s a good thing I have more Buster Keaton films.

 

When do we get there Dad? Or Gordon Lightfoot – Sundown

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Rotating between having her head out the window or on my lap in intervals of less than ten seconds, Mugs would bounce around the inside of the Jeep like a canine pinball. The A.M. radio would play those adult contemporary hits which blurred the line between folk – rock – country and polite crooning intended to placate the masses who found The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour funny. Between being stepped on, loved and driven to distraction by the sounds of Hot Butter’s “Pop Corn” that my friends was seven year old me in my dad’s AMC Jeep in the summer of ’74.

It wasn’t all bad, slipped in between the greatest hits of Neil Sedaka and Anne Murray came Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundow,” a subversive little number promising murder “if I find you been creeping ‘round my backstairs.” I had no idea what that meant, but it sure sounded bad. That song and the follow up single “Carefree Highway” helped propel Sundown into #1 in both Canada and the U.S. in June of 1974.

Of course, vinyl was still king back then and plenty of records were issued in the year of its original release, but… what since?

Surprisingly, for a hit record, Sundown hasn’t seen much in reissues and remasters with two notable exceptions. In 1979, Mobile Fidelity gave Sundown the all-star half-speed recording treatment. You can find used copies for around $20. (Saw a still packaged one selling for over $200.00 on E-Bay, but let’s not get insane just yet). Then just last year a remastered 180 gram edition showed up for Record Store Day and you can still find them easily for about $40. Sound on it is outstanding.

If you’re crate digging you can still find decent copies of the original kickin’ about for under $5.

So, the vinyl spins I think of my Dad, my dog, and drives to the cottage along a carefree highway. Wish I knew where the hell that is! “When do we get there?”

Musical Memories – Get The F#!K Outta My Way! Aug 18, 1993: Neil Young w/Booker T & the Mg’s / Pearl Jam / Soundgarden / Blues Traveller

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Sitting alone on the bus bound for Toronto I looked down at my feet and exclaimed “Oh shit!” louder than I should have. People turned to see this large man who looked more biker than student, wearing a pair of headphones shaking his head at his own stupidity. Sandles… I was wearing sandles to a freakin’ big ass concert at the Exhibition Stadium. Worse, it was general admission floors and I realized that I had made a huge mistake.

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I hook up with my girlfriend at the bus station, and meet with my roommate at the show as Blues Traveller put on a set that was entertaining to the few people who had arrived. I had expected a large crowd for Soundgarden who were still touring Badmotorfinger but that didn’t really materialize either. Despite low turnout for their set Cornell and co. put on a great performance. When they left the stage, that’s when things started getting weird. The crowd started filling in, but it wasn’t too bad until Pearl Jam walked on and the opening chords of “Go” rang out. Finishing the last dates supporting Ten, and having just finished the as yet unreleased VS. Pearl Jam was at the top of their popularity. Suddenly every kid who had a seat relinquished it and started breaking for the floor. Security was helpless as hundreds of people started to rush the stage.

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I was perhaps 50 – 60 feet from the band when this started and within just a few seconds I was thirty feet from them; except I had not taken a single step. It was a current of kids turning into rapids. My girlfriend started to stumble. At that moment a mixture of fear, anger and adrenaline took over. I grabbed my future wife, said excuse me to the first couple people, and with no other choice just started pushing through the crowd sideways. Each step I became angrier and despite the music I could hear screams of pain in the distance. Finally, the three of us came into a bit of a clearing when some poor kid, who had my height but was twig thin, ran straight into me.

BANG!

He looked down, went white and murmured, “I’m sorry.”

I didn’t have to look down to know what had happened. His Doc Marten kicked my big toe nail, and ‘pop’ my foot was now a bloody mess. All that adrenaline went straight to my chest and I bellowed “GET THE F#!K OUTTA MY WAY!!!” He disappeared in a shot. We went to a concession stand got a few napkins and then watched the rest of Pearl Jam’s set from the furthest seats of the stadium. Pearl Jam finished with a rousing rendition of the Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and left the stage. As they did so did the Pearl Jam fans. Hundreds just left.

We made our way back to the floor which was now civilized and found ourselves pretty much where we were standing before all the chaos.

Neil Young took the stage with the legendary STAX band Booker T & the MG’s and knocked through a set that pulled from both his acoustic and electric sides. The crowd was mostly in awe at the aging veterans who were putting on an awesome spectacle. For the first encore Young pulled out his harmonica and began to play the familiar whistle opening to the late Otis Redding classic “(Sittin On) The Dock Of The Bay” (Booker T &b the MG’s play on that Redding original). Unlike other covers by artists like Michael Bolton, Young didn’t use the song as some opportunity to emote through musical masturbation of vocal range, instead he stuck to the true dreamy nature of the original. Then he went electric again and broke into the Dylan stomper “All Along The Watchtower.” When the band finished everyone left the stage.

For the second encore Young & the MG’s were joined by Pearl Jam for “Rockin’ In The Free World” which delighted fans both young and old.

My girlfriend decided to drive me home when the radio started announcing several injuries due to the crush of people. I looked at my foot, considered myself lucky for only losing a toe nail, and popped Harvest Moon into the tape deck. That was the last time I ever went to Exhibition Stadium. It was torn down in 1999.

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