Multnomah County Library is always coming through for me. Being low of budget and even lower in patience when it comes to finding new music, I was thrilled to hear that the Rolling Stones have a new blues album out. While it isn’t on the shelf in hard copy, I can stream it to my phone and play it through my TV, or the cute little speaker Rain gave me. It’s the size of a tennis ball and fills the room. (Great for jazz, Slipknot not so much.) While trying to connect phone to television, I saw David Spade and Angus Scrimm from Phantasm playing Come sail Away.
Oh wait. I’m watching Styx.
Back in my misspent youth, before weed and alcohol even, I had a couple Styx albums. They rocked about as hard as it gets on AM radio, and I liked their mystical side. For some reason I was allowed to study Greek mythology in grade school, and I knew what Hades was thanks to a Jehovah’s Witless upbringing. I’d often dreamed of swimming the river Styx and playing with the dog Charon. I discovered Jim Beam about the time The Grand Illusion came out, and it was “my album” for a year or so. Pieces of Eight followed, and I scooped that right up. My musical tastes were shifting from pop to heavier stuff. Led Zeppelin, Rush, Judas Priest, and of course all the “devil music.” Mom liked the ethic preached of in Blue Collar Man, so she left Styx alone.
I’d never bothered to see Styx in concert. Over time their focus shifted from hard rock to power ballads and poor attempts at rock opera. By the time I could afford Styx tix, they had broken up. The two albums previously mentioned seemed the pinnacle of their appeal to me, and if I wanted to hear them, all I had to do was switch on KGON-FM. Lady, or Lorelei can be heard once a day, and Renegade still gets played almost hourly after dark. And of course, the staple Come Sail Away…
So when I saw them playing on TV, I watched out of morbid curiosity. I cringe when I see a lot of the rock stars of my generation, but these guys were doing all right. Tommy Shaw’s nose hasn’t fallen off from coke abuse, and his hair appeared to be his own. James JY Young, the Phantasm caretaker doppelganger, rocked his business suit, and later in short sleeves. Hitting 60 doesn’t mean you have to go to hell. Topping it all, he was having fun! Getting paid to have fun is what it’s all about.
So I’ve been on a Styx kick the past week or so. Castle Walls echoed in my head, reminding me of the snow storms of 1978 when I worked at PCC and stared off toward the icy mountain tops. I can still taste Jim Beam when I hear some of the songs.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was when I clicked on Crystal Ball. I’d forgotten that song. I heard three different versions before selecting this one. The boys were just boys then; now they are grown-ass men.
Thanks MTV for that random week of nostalgia. Now I can get back to that new Rolling Stones album. It’s called Blue & Lonesome, it was recorded in two days, and it kicks ass.
I just got to hear that song one more time…
2016 has been one hell of a rough year, and it’s not over yet. Mrs Brady died last night. Damn. (Florence Henderson, not my Mrs Brady. She works at the weed store across from Rain’s.) I have lost friends, and mortal luminaries from the music and video world have gone to the great beyond.
So far, death has missed my immediate friends and family. Praise cheeses!
I am thankful, so thankful, for that. And a few other things.
A celebration of life was held in our backyard this morning. It was attended by Sister and I, as well as animal representatives Luna and Django. Luna, the ADHD-addled teenager, was all over the place, not understanding what was going on but having a great time helping. “We’re digging holes in the back yard?” Luna loves the dirt, and she loves rootballs that resemble human hearts. With her all-black coloring and demon-eyes, watching her rip and tear makes me proud, and a bit nervous.
I would use a three-pronged prospector’s pick to loosen the clay, until Luna would get nosy. Then I’d shovel some dirt out, toss an empty plastic bottle across the yard and shovel some more, before Luna would come dashing back to the top of the dirt-pile, knocking a bunch of dirt back into the hole. At one point I would pick with my left hand while she attacked the shovel in my right. Some days this might make me cranky and impatient, but today I was enjoying her insolent distractions.
The time had come to bury Sandy.
The past few months I’ve been revisiting music from my teen years, stuff I listened to that formed my musical tastes. After not hearing it for forty years, I wondered how some of it would stand up over time.
I’ve covered the basics. You all know I like Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, ZZ Top, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa. I’ve mentioned Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Bad Company and others as they blip on my radar. I have a Hoopla app on my smartphone (fancy!) and can stream albums from the library.
One musical act I’ve always loved to hate is Ted Nugent. This is Ted at the heighth of his glory. It’s a good thing he’s is there to watch everyone play guitar and sing lead. I wondered how his riff-heavy knucklehead rock would hold up, so I caught a righteous buzz and investigated…
I’ve been taking another musical stroll down memory lane.
My early musical tastes were not drug-inspired, and led toward the poppy. The first record I ever bought was Paul Revere and The Raiders’ Indian Reservation. My first albums were The Moody Blues’ Every Good Boy Deserves Favour and Three Dog Night’s Naturally. (“I never understood a single word he said, but he always had some mighty fine wine…” –Hoyt Axton, re Jeremiah.)
Over time I started leaning toward the harder stuff. I loved Heart. I loved the heavy guitars and chest-rattling bass, but if it was just noise? Pass… I needed sensible lyrics and cohesive melodies. I had paid attention in music class, goddammit!
During my twelfth to fourteenth years, I spent some time defrauding Columbia House out of penny-LPs, expanding my collection. I experimented with groups I’d read about in Rolling Stone. Hence I got copies of Born to Run, virtually all of Elton John’s catalog, and a host of other bands and albums I would not have been willing or able to spend $4.79 apiece on.
Two of the bands I loved most in my pre-teenage years? Bad Company and Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
Chuckles and I worked at a store before Master P’s, and over time I brought along him and Uncle Cliffy. While Chuckles was mostly immobile, he was as honest as the overnight is long. His inability to move was his downfall; Chuckles weighed over 600 pounds the last time I saw him, and he was walking then. Sorta.
The first time I saw Chuckles was a mindbender. I was in a roadside convenience store, being interviewed by Guy and Gayle, the names of my sister and brother-in-law. A huge redheaded guy named Chuck walked in, and by huge I mean jaw-dropping huge. I could tell by the look on his face that my shock had registered. Being fat at the time myself, about 450, it at once made me feel better and horrified about myself. I’d already lived through one hospital life-saving, where I weighed in at 528. Chuckles was walking around with about 150 more pounds than that. The fact that he could walk at all amazed people.
Chuckles loved guns and Jesus, hated drugs and hookers. I was cool with all of the above. (That was how people told us giant redheads apart. My hair was buzzcut to a quarter-inch, he was bald.) We both had a thing for black girls, but his took him for his life savings, so he hated black people too. This caused minor problems in conversation, because his racist commentaries would conflict dearly with what I had learned in life. I wouldn’t allow him to bag on people for being different. He was blessed to be born white, but cursed with the affliction that is mocked universally. He was fat.
I had some good times working with Chuckles. Whether pranking him, or pranking him, I always had him on alert. He needed it working the overnight shift at the Mothership. Eventually Master P had to let him go, and because of which, Master P even changed his store hours. Because he’d “eliminated the position” Chuckles could collect unemployment for upwards of a year while looking for a job closer to his home in the mountains. It’s the only time I know of Master P helping someone get unemployment. He also helped with Chuckles Social Security. Most bosses wouldn’t go out of their way like that.
And now, Chuckles has gone off to that great graveyard shift in the sky. Him and Jesus, hanging out, talking guns and eating pork ribs. Aim your guns at the south, Chuckles. RIP.
Well, it’s time once again for Unsolicited Reviews of Bands We Once Loved. Tonight’s target of affection: The Scorpions.
Back in 1979, when I worked at Day & Night Grocery on Broadway and Jefferson, (what was the store area is now the back dining room at Higgins) I was three blocks away from the Paramount Theater. I knew the stage manager, a stoned-out Kato Kaelin-turned-biker-type named Dan Hunt, and an occasional quart of beer or a joint got me special treatment, like sneaking into an Outlaws/.38 Special show. Dan spoke of bands I wasn’t familiar with. Some guys from Ireland called U2. They sold out the Paramount, though nobody (meaning me) had ever heard of them. There was lots of excitement over that one.
I had heard of Judas Priest, and would love to see them, but their show happened on one of my work nights. Being the responsible young adult I was, (laughing, now straight face) I went to work, and about 11 PM three members of Judas Priest walked in. They purchased five cases of Budweiser, making the groupies carry it back to the hotel. I was starstruck!
But nobody cared about them. They were all talking about Judas Priest’s opening band, The Scorpions.
The bar’s doorman came up to me. He was about 25, a redhead with dreadlocks. I gave him a neighborly nod, but he was all business. “Sir, you can’t loiter here. You can either leave or buy a drink.” He about-faced and returned to his post, leaving me to decide.
“Ain’t that about a bitch,” said Dr T.
“Apropos, considering our discussion.”
We had just been hoisting a cerebral toast to the fifth anniversary of my sobriety. Leave it to me to get kicked out of a bar without even drinking a drop…
“Are you guys cleaning again?” It was the neighbor across the street. We rarely speak, just keep our heads down and pretend the other doesn’t exist. It’s the great Southeast Portland way. Everyone behaves like it’s prison.
“Yeah, we do it every ten years, whether it needs it or not.” I smiled and tossed another load of yard debris into the construction dumpster. Bro-in-law had just come to help. It was last day of spring cleaning before they take the dumpster away.
We’ve been buying the same house in Lents for fifteen years now. It’s better now than it was when we bought it, mostly. We’ve replaced bathroom floors, hell, we replaced the bathroom. We’ve been through a couple bug infestations, and I’ve had a couple of girlfriend infestations as well. Her stuff has been harder to get rid of than the bugs.
In order to buy the house, all the adults have to work part-time as much as allowed to make bills. My sister has been throwing newspapers and working in a stable for years until recently. A cancer scare and some time to breathe showed her (with my encouragement) that there are easier ways to get through life than working yourself to death for nothing. She loves working with horses, but their attached humans can be the worst, so I helped her get a job cleaning human stables. (She’s a hotel room attendant now, in one of the mid-range downtown hotels.) It’s showing her the prettier side of Portland, and she can pop in to the Waterfront Store on her way home and drop off the daily newspaper. The Oregonian no longer gives her a free delivery paper, but the hotel put her in charge of recycling the dailies comped to the rooms. I get better Oregonian service from the Hotel!
So Sis is tired, and bro-in-law works until Tuesday, so it’s up to me to get this springtime yard clean-up rolling…
I love the Multnomah County Library. Without them I would be adrift in a sea of ignorance. Oh, I have the Internet, but how would I have access to the cool stuff I can’t afford otherwise? I mean, I’d love to hear Jack White’s new project, but I’m not dropping $20 unless I know I’m gonna love it. Radio? WTF is that? They only play Steve Miller, Queen and Def Leppard.
That’s fine, but I want new stuff. And old stuff I haven’t heard in a while. Stuff so old it’s new again.
Hello, public library.