Seattle & Pearl Jam Twenty Years On

Photograph by Dean Fox, Photolibrary

Twenty years ago this summer I was working for Microsoft Corporation. I experienced Seattle, Washington as a beautiful sprawling metropolis for the first time in the fall of 1992. Little did I realize it would become the most visited city (exclusive of New York City) I would travel to and cherish in the United States. I have been to Seattle 14 times in the past 20 years. Seattle is an exciting and vibrant place to experience. I developed an affinity for Pearl Jam that year as their album, Ten was gaining momentum in parallel to my new career. The city was living and breathing a unique music art form that Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Soundgarden were evidencing to the world.

I love travelling back to Seattle and visiting the Experience Music  Project, a Rock and Roll Museum in Seattle Center, next to the Space Needle and Seattle Center Monorail. The architecture of the building is amazing. The exhibits give extensive information about the Seattle music scene. It cements the understanding and the linkage Seattle, Washington has with rock music history. We are members of this museum and love the affinity we have with the art and pop culture it expounds.

I have spent time with the music and history of Pearl Jam. We had intended to attend the premier of the Cameron Crowe documentary Pearl Jam Twenty but Snowtober disrupted our plans by knocking out the power to the theater in our market. Biding my time I took advantage of my Barnes & Noble Christmas gift card that my loving wife gave me. I purchased the Pearl Jam Twenty book(at a 60% discount!) and the companion DVD. This will be my weekend music sojourn. I look forward to digging in deep to learn more about the musical evolution of Pearl Jam and the music of related groups in Seattle.

It’s time!

Love Goes To Buildings On Fire – Will Hermes

Radio Ethiopia
Image via Wikipedia

This is the time of year I catch up on music journalism and associated listening. I have several books at my disposal that are raising my music consciousness

One such read is an authoritative and extensively well researched book by Will Hermes, entitled Love Goes To Buildings On Fire. My son, Matthew, gave it to me as a Christmas present this year. Matthew and I have an inherent music connection that we actively share. I am proud of what he has accomplished with his skills in graphics design and music production.
I had browsed the two New York Times articles about Love Goes To Buildings On Fire, 1) “Books of the Times: When Dreamers Were Breaking The Music Apart” by David Gates and 2) “The CBGB Effect” by Gerald Marzorati earlier in the month. I had made a note to reconnoiter with this book in the music aisle of Barnes & Noble. Thankfully my son picked up on that interest and took the step for me.

I am not far along enough in the book to divulge how pivotal these five years of music evolution in New York City have been.The premise of the book as the cover art wildly articulates is that New York is an entertainment petri dish that cultures music genres with great aplomb. The era from 1973 to 1977 flourished music in fervent splendor.

I recall and relate to this era of music with my music industry past.

I was senior at the University of New Haven in 1973. I had an afternoon radio show that I did on WNHU-FM 88.7, West Haven, Ct. My goal when I graduated in 1974 was to work in artist and repertoire (A&R) for a record company. I sent my résumé to every record company in New York City. 1974 was a recessionary time. I received 23 rejection letters from each record company. I never did get to realize that dream.

I also recall it was a time that I would hop the Conrail train to New York City and go record shopping for hours on end. I would visit the East Village, Greenwich Village and the Park Row (J&R Music World) record haunts. I would come home with bags of loot that contained specialty EPs and vinyl LPs by such artists as The Talking Heads, Television, and The Patti Smith Group.

I plan to write more about Will Hermes book when I have completed reading it. I look forward to more revelations and flashbacks to follow.

My one regret with the hard copy edition of this book is that I can’t hyperlink to the citations as I would like to do. It slows down my reading to cross-reference the references.

The Doors A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years by Greil Marcus

The DoorsI love to haunt the stacks in a book store that feature books about music. Whenever I enter a new book store I make a beeline for the Music and Arts section of the store. I will find at least two-three new titles or thumb through old favorite books I don’t own yet.

My two favorite music book authors are Greil Marcus and Peter Guralnick. They are each articulate writers who write authoritative, well researched works. My admiration for their writing stems from their superior command of the music subjects they cover. They each paint a poetic landscape that is captured in stunning prose and incredible descriptive depth. Their passion for music, its artistry and the artists who create the sounds reaches way inside of me.

The Doors

Greil Marcus has released a new book, The Doors, A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years, published by PublicAffairs books. The book is receiving  solid press and there are two Web articles in particular about the book, the author and The Doors I want to bring to your attention. One was written two weeks back for the New York Times by Dwight Garner, “Listening Again to Rock’s Wild Child and Finding Grandeur and Dread”.  That article stimulated my interest and I thumbed through a copy at Yale Bookstore on Black Friday.

I didn’t buy it that day but I placed it back in the stack with gingerly care as if to say, “I’ll be back for you someday soon…”

Then today I saw a Facebook share post about The Doors on NPR. “The Doors Prove Strange Days Are Still With Us.” It was a continuation of Greil Marcus and his subject The Doors. So I got to read a chapter excerpt and to hear Greil Marcus’s thoughts about this eternal band I love so much.

So Santa Claus I am adding this book to my Christmas list 😉

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Jim Capaldi &Traffic

This morning I received an interesting e-mail from Genesis Publications. They are a limited edition, specialty music book publisher from England that “produce lushly designed rock photo books.” – N.Y. Times

I received advance notification of a book title of keen interest to my music collection.  Mr. Fantasy, The Lyrics of Jim Capaldi. I greatly admire and respect, Jim Capaldi the backbone of Traffic.

There was a time in my life (1968-1971) where the only two bands that mattered were Jethro Tull and Traffic. I was a fervent fan of these two English music groups. I went to their live concerts at the Fillmore East and the Capitol Theatre in Portchester, N.Y. 

I even bought an exact replica of the stars shirt that Steve Winwood is wearing on stage in this photograph. It caught him by surprise that I was wearing that same shirt in the audience (7th row center) on the evening that this set list was based upon. Notice that Scott Muni introduces Traffic that night 😉 (A correction to the dates of these recorded June shows, they were June 26 & June 27 ,1971, I know I have the ticket stubs to prove it!)

File:WNEW1027.pngTraffic was a special group with a magical mix of musicians. I learned about Traffic by listening to the radio show, Things From England that Scott Muni hosted on WNEW-FM102.7 on Friday afternoons. WNEW-FM, a Metromedia affiliate out of New York City had a major influence on my musical tastes. WNEW-FM’s progressive rock format created an intellectual music platform that we devoutly followed all hours of the day and night.

My favorite Traffic album is Traffic (1968).

File:Traffic (album).jpg

George Harrison – Living In The Material World

Cover of "Living in the Material World"
Cover of Living in the Material World

The Martin Scorsese picture, George Harrison: Living In The Material World is harvesting a spiritual renewal in the life, music and teachings of George Harrison. I am grateful that Olivia Harrison trusted Martin Scorsese with the task of putting together George’s story through archive films from the Harrison estate. I can think of no other film producer more worthy of sharing George Harrison‘s legacy with the world than Scorsese.

Whenever Paul McCartney speaks of George at live concerts, he refers to him as his little brother. I find comfort in Paul’s words. George Harrison was the spiritual disciple who commanded respect by the very nature of his silent religious smile.

Olivia Harrison is also releasing a coffee table book with Abrams Books which is a companion compilation to the film.  Living In The Material World  the book features photos, diaries and other memorabilia in conjunction with the documentary.

Rolling Stone Magazine’s latest issue (September 2nd) gives us an exclusive look at this new book with many never seen before pictures, along with a cover story about George Harrison’s life by Brian Hiatt.

rs1139 cover george harrison

Our Adventure: Janis Ian, Great Camp Sagamore, and Outrunning Hurricane Irene in Upstate NY

Sagamore Camp, Long Lake, New York
Image via Wikipedia

I was in the midst of writing a music blog series about Patti Smith‘s curated collection of songs Outside Society (which I will get back to shortly). Major weather events of this past weekend altered that path of writing the past two days. Hurricane Irene’s landfall surge up the east coast had a major impact on our lives and the lives of millions of others.

Rosemary and I began the weekend with earnest Saturday morning as we drove to upstate NY for a Janis Ian concert at Great Camp Sagamore, in Lake Raquette, NY. We had trepidation about leaving our home in the wake of Hurricane Irene. I was thankful that we might escape the wrath of the swath of the hurricane. Little did I realize what was in store for us.

We had never vacationed in the Adirondacks before, save for the times we had stayed in Lake George, NY. We found our roadside motel in Old Forge, NY, registered and headed out to find the concert site.

It was an adventure to find the Barn at Great Camp Sagamore. The dirt and gravel strewn road to the private land preserve was a three-mile drive through the woods. When it ended it placed us on the former Vanderbilt property, where we sequestered as “visitors” to Great Camp Sagamore. The tour guide at Sagamore asked us not to roam the property as it was a private estate. He did offer us the chance to watch a video about Great Camp Sagamore while Janis Ian did her sound check in the barn. It was an exciting proposition to see Janis Ian perform for an audience of 120 people in such an intimate setting.

Janis Ian was superb. It had been 36 years since we last saw her at the Pinecrest Country Club folk festival in Shelton, Ct (1975). She performed two one hour sets for us. She wove stories and personal reflections with her tapestries of music. Janis Ian was in great voice. I was very impressed with her guitar playing. I found myself mesmerized with her picking style as it occurred to me that she lived now in Nashville, Tennessee.

This is a picture of her set list taped to her floor monitor.

Rosemary encouraged me to buy her paperback autobiography, Society’s Child, My Autobiography and 2 CD set, Best of Janis Ian, The Autobiography Collection before the show. I’m glad I took her advice as they sold out of both items early that night. Janis Ian stayed after the concert to sign each for us. We loved the chance to speak with her. She commented on my Grateful Dead t-shirt as she recognized the Capitol Theater in Portchester, NY. I said to Janis Ian, “I am happy to meet you after all these years.” She was so gracious to us, which made the evening even sweeter. Rosemary has been devouring Janis Ian’s book ever since. I can’t wait to read it next 🙂

The following day we tried to decide if we should stay in Old Forge, NY one more day due to Hurricane Irene or head back to Connecticut. We decided to embark for home. It was raining with a slight wind in the Adirondacks. As we travelled amidst the rain of the storm’s surge we soon learned that I-90 and I-87 were closed. We were forced to take an alternate route on I-88 West. It took us 9 harrowing hours to get home to our destination instead of the five hours it took to arrive in Old Forge the day before.

The ride was scary and exhilarating at the same time. We found ourselves out running the water on the roadsides as it poured through the rocks in waiting trenches. The water was travelling the troughs as fast as we could drive. The wind pushed the trees all along the roadside as we called relatives and friends to get help find our way back home. The Hudson Valley was flooding and we were moving as fast through it as we could to get back home. We met an entire flooded valley that was blocked off by a huge tractor on I-145 in Coblesville.

The ride along I-88 West finally calmed down some and offered us the majestic beauty that upstate NY has to offer. When we drove along I-84 in Goshen County the bright, setting sun alighted the green hilled mountains ahead of us like two giant spotlights. Then we saw the most beautiful rainbow at the top of I-84. It was a most encouraging and reassuring sign for us. Rosemary took a picture of it with her iPhone camera.

We arrived back home safely to find our house untouched but without power. We were very thankful to be home again once more.

Revisiting The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Thomas Wolfe

Its been 42 years (yikes) since I last read and savored Thomas Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. The release of the recent documentary film, Magic Trip has reawakened my energies in the literary journalism work.

On impulse I went online to the Barnes & Noble Website and reserved a copy of the trade paperback edition. I like that Barnes & Noble via the Internet identified that their superstore around the corner from my house had a copy in stock, located it and held it in reserve for me at the cashiers area. This was all accomplished via Barnes & Noble’s Web application which sent me a follow-up SMS text message indicating it would be held for 3 days. It made it effortless to pick it up and use my Barnes & Noble Member card. A lot has changed in 42 years in buying a paperback book.

Envisions sipping ice tea in my favorite reading chair, listening to early Grateful Dead music and hearkening back to 1964.