More Ashes Than Wednesday

If I had to guess, YouTube would be responsible for the first time I heard this somewhat obscure Eric Clapton song called “Slow Down Linda.” It was originally released on his 1983 album “Money and Cigarettes.” I can’t tell you how many times I looked at the album cover in my local record shop and wondered what was happening there…it’s the one with the melting electric guitar on an ironing board while Clapton is smoking a cigarette.

If I had to describe the song itself, the word(s) that pop to mind might be boogie-woogie, rockabilly, or even country-rock. Of course, the presence of guitarist Albert Lee might be reason enough for that. I don’t think “Slow Down Linda” is what I would call musically complicated or sophisticated, but I think it works. Maybe that’s the beauty of it and/or why I like it?

If you haven’t heard of Albert Lee, it’s unusual to see him without his Einstein-esque-white-gray hair so consider this video a visual anomaly. (One website I found had Albert Lee at the #1 spot for Clapton’s best/favorite guitarists.)

Getting back to Clapton, I think this song is a good example of how varied his musical career has been. E.C. is revered among blues guitar players, but he has had plenty of well-known songs which don’t really fall into the blues category…”Tears in Heaven”, “I Shot the Sheriff”, “Wonderful Tonight”, etc. I think “Slow Down Linda” is a bit more like the country-rock of say “Lay Down Sally.” Besides, it has a good beat and is apparently easy to dance to.

Somewhere along the way, I remember Clapton talking about how The Band’s “Music from Big Pink” changed his life. I think this is pretty good example of that. Blues purists might write this song off as insignificant or a throwaway, but I say it’s just rock and roll.

In college, I remember giving this acquaintance of mine a ride into town and I had Eric Clapton’s Time Pieces Volume One playing in the cassette deck. When Clapton’s version of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” started playing, he wasn’t really into it. It’s pretty obvious Clapton must have a spiritual side. I don’t know where the line “I’ve got more ashes than Wednesday” originated, but I think it’s a good one.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

The Original Metrosexual

There I was…searching YouTube for the song “Oh Lonesome Me” — a buddy of mine likes The Kentucky Headhunters’ version of it. (The original was written and recorded by Don Gibson and produced by Guitar God Chet Atkins.) One of the versions that popped up during my search was by a group called The Beau Brummels. I can’t say I’m especially crazy about it.

Nevertheless, this led me to check out Wikipedia re: the origin of the band’s name. Beau Brummell was an English dude who lived during the early 1800s. He wasn’t “O.G.” (Original Gangster), but he was apparently “O.M.” — the Original Metrosexual. He sounds like he was a bit like Paris Hilton…he was famous for being famous. Apparently, he was quite particular about his appearance and set the bar for all of the other gentlemen of his day. I don’t know if “metrosexual” is a term in England, but I guess Beau Brummell was also the “O.D.” — the Original Dandy.

“Dandy” isn’t a term I can ever say I’ve really heard used in my neck of the woods, but you get the idea — a pretty boy. What cracks me up about this whole thing is Wikipedia mentions a few different eras including Later Dandysim — that sounds like an essay question. (Essay Question Number One: Define and give the historical significance of Later Dandysim.) Geez.

The Wikipedia entry has some interesting pop culture references to Beau Brummell including a mention in the lyrics to Billy Joel’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me”, film/TV, and a razor advertisement. Apparently, Brummell loved to gamble, and ended up fleeing to France and going into debtor’s prison.

There’s a statue of Beau Brummell at 53 Jermyn Street in London if you’d like to take a selfie with his likeness. Maybe San Francisco, the home of The Beau Brummels, should follow suit. We can only hope no one gives Paris Hilton the same recognition.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

p.s. Did the band think spelling it with one “L” was snappier?

A Shot of Rhythm & Keef

I’ve always been a fan of The Rolling Stones. I’ve blogged about some of their lesser known tunes, some of their hits, and even different eras including Brian Jones and Mick Taylor. While I think you have to give the hyperactive-rooster-strutting Mick Jagger his due as a front man, lead singer, and songwriter, that goes DOUBLE for Keith Richards.

Maybe I’m wrong about this, but isn’t a band member who sings (on stage) AND plays an instrument (on stage) automatically twice as valuable as one who only does one? In any event, my main purpose of this particular blog entry is to recognize the solo efforts of The Mighty Keef. Oh yeah, and he also co-wrote those Stones hits with Mick Jagger.

I can’t remember when exactly, but sometime in the past few months, I came across one of Keith Richards’ solo tunes I had not heard previously. It’s called “999.”

How would one describe this tune off the “Main Offender” album? Stream of consciousness is the phrase that pops into my mind. Lyrically, it’s more Dylan than Stones. Keef mentions a “damn monkey” on his back that’s “either too tight or it’s too slack.” Addiction? Yes, I think Keith has had his share of it like most rock n rollers. Maybe more. He also says he needs something in his Dixie cup. But then again, this cool cat says he has “a pocket calculator”….is he a Nerd in hiding? Beats me.

The bottom line is this…no matter how “cool” Mick Jagger is, he’ll NEVER be as cool as Keith Richards is. Keef’s group of musician friends is known as The X-Pensive Winos…include guys like Ivan Neville and Waddy Wachtel. That’s probably as cool as “The Rolling Stones” sounded in 1964. By the way, I think I still have 1988’s “Talk is Cheap” effort from Keef on cassette. Does that make me cool or a Nerd? Apparently, some people even dress up as Keith for Halloween.

Viva, Keef!

Honky Tonk: Hyde & Seek

If I had to pick one of my favorite songs by The Rolling Stones, it would be a tough choice, but one of the leading contenders is “Honky Tonk Women.” Why, you may ask? Well, the song itself has an outstanding GROOVE or feel to it. Warning: I’m going to get musically nerdy about it.

First of all, I would point out that Open G Tuning is used on Keef’s guitar as it is on many of their songs. (Instead of using standard low to high string E,A,D,G,B,E….it’s tuned to D, G, D, G, B, D. Actually, Keith usually removes the low E string if you really want to know.)

Before watching this clip, see if you can find all of these things in the video:

  1. Bullfighter pants
  2. Palm trees
  3. Hell’s Angels denim jacket
  4. Mick Taylor
  5. Yellow bandana dude freaking out
  6. A twelve sting guitar headstock
  7. Vox amplifier
  8. Bigsby tremolo
  9. Someone yawning?
  10. A guy wearing a paper hat

I’m sure there are plenty of other live versions of this song out there, but when I go to practice it, this 1969 Hyde Park performance is my go to version. I think the tempo of the song is a little slower than the studio version.

I’m pretty sure I first saw this clip in a documentary. According to Wikipedia, The Stones in the Park was a free music festival held on July 5, 1969. This was Mick Taylor’s first gig with the Stones following the recent death of The Rolling Stones’ Founder Brian Jones. Another clip I’ve seen of this concert shows Mick Jagger reading a poem in tribute to Jones with white butterflies released as well. A musician friend of mine says he only likes the Brian Jones Era Stones, which I found hard to believe, but opinions vary. This song is a big point for the post-Jones era in my humble opinion.

Getting back to the actual song, it’s basically made up of four chords: G, C, D, and A. It can be played in standard tuning, but I don’t think it has quite the same feel as playing it in Open G. I think it has a very bluesy, raw feel to it, and works well with harmonica and slide guitar, too. I won’t get into the origin of the song, but reserve the right to revisit it.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

White Water, Cults, and Cream

If you have an affinity for 80s cheese, you might want to check out 1987’s “White Water Summer.” How would I describe the film? Definitely cheesy. A nerdy kid (Sean Astin) is sent on a wilderness outing because his father thinks it will make a man out of him or something like that. He’s joined by 3 other guys his age and a guide. The borderline psychotic guide is played by Kevin Bacon. I feel obligated to describe Bacon’s character as shaggy-haired, but completely bald-chested. (Viewers get to see him doing breathing exercises in the woods for some reason. I’m pretty sure he’s also barefoot.) They all do outdoorsy things like camping, fishing, rock climbing, starting fires, and peeing in the woods.

I don’t remember this film from the 80s or ever seeing on it reruns, but a couple of things about the film soundtrack jumped out at me. The first couple of tunes are by Bruce Hornsby and The Range (“The Wild Frontier” and “Western Skyline”), but what I’m always going to associate with this film is a song called “Aphrodisiac Jacket” by The Cult.

(Since I had to know, an aphrodisiac jacket was some sort of dinner jacket covered in cocktail glasses. I guess Salvador Dali was its creator.) To my ears, the lyrics are basically unintelligible, but I still enjoy the singing and the music. I could be wrong about this, but some of the descending chord changes sound like “White Room” by Cream. Musically speaking, there’s a “walk down” from the D chord. There are a couple of generic 80s hard rock tunes on the soundtrack, too.

So what do The Cult, Kevin Bacon, and Bruce Hornsby have in common? Well this cheesy 80s movie is the first thing which pops to mind. Maybe they should have a tribute concert and invite all of the soundtrack musicians to play. Naturally, they should all be shirtless and barefoot. That or they should wear aphrodisiac jackets.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Vax, Sax, and Michigan

Jeff Daniels…man, that guy is funny! I was scrolling through my streaming options when I came across the 2002 film “Super Sucker”, which features Daniels. He also wrote and directed the film. I hadn’t heard of this one, but I definitely won’t forget it.

“Super Sucker” does a great job of lampooning work culture — more specifically, being part of a sales team. If you’ve never had the pleasure, it usually consists of over-the-top positivity and enthusiasm along with undue pressure to achieve one’s goals. The goals, though, are not really emphasized as actual sales, but really just a byproduct of how awesome whatever you’re selling is. (During one stint at a for profit trade school, my boss used to say, “We’re in the business of changing people’s lives” — yeah, that and a nice chunk of commission. )

One thing I learned while researching this underrated film is Jeff Daniels grew up in Chelsea, Michigan. Another of this film’s connection to Michigan is the soundtrack work of Alto Reed — he was best known as the saxophone player in Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band.

There are some familiar faces in the film including Dawn Wells (best known as MaryAnn on “Gilligan’s Island”) as the spokesperson for the Super Sucker product. Again, that all goes back to how happy you’ll be once you own one of these home appliances. Who wouldn’t be reassured by her approval, right?

I was surprised this film wasn’t rated higher on, but it’s not a film for everyone. It definitely has some dark humor in it, which I love.

Apparently, Daniels founded The Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea, MI and it’s still alive and kicking.

Viva, Jeff Daniels! Viva Dawn Wells!

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Me and BLOBBY McGhee

Okay, just to be clear, this is neither a blog entry about Janis Joplin nor Kris Kirstofferson. This is a Blob Blog entry — actually, The Blob” to be more specific. While I would hope most people are familiar with this classic 1958 sci-fi film, I can’t help but bring it up. I remember watching this on network TV as a kid and I thought it was pretty wild. Watching it now, I still think it’s a pretty creative film with a whole life of its own.

One thing I didn’t know when I first watched it is the film starred a late 20’s Steve McQueen as the supposedly teenage male lead in this one. I guess my pop culture IQ wasn’t that high in the 70s when I most likely saw it the first time. Now my pop culture IQ is high enough to find this groovy little number called “The Blob” by The Five Blobs.

I think this film has some interesting themes like the generation gap between teenagers and adults — that, and complete paranoia. Before deciding on the now infamous title, “The Glob” and “The Molten Meteorite” were considered. (Kay Linaker was the screenwriter and Irvin Yeaworth was the director.)

Another interesting fact about “The Blob”, is the film was actually inspired by some real events. Apparently some substance called “star jelly” was discovered in Pennsylvania in the 50s. Apparently, it’s part of the aftermath of meteor showers. That was news to me.

According to Wikipedia, the film was shot near Phoenixville and Downington, PA. The best part is Downington has hosted a “Blobfest” since the year 2000. It looks like it was held in early July this year. Nothing like running from a blob to beat the summer heat, right?

There was a 1988 remake of this film and some sort of a sequel in the Seventies as well.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

My Best Friend’s Riff

The Cars. They had massive radio airplay and hit records, not to mention frontman Ric Ocasek wound up with supermodel Paulina Porizkova somewhere along the way. Recently, I’ve been learning the guitar parts to “My Best Friend’s Girl”, which is an absolutely great piece of catchy pop music. There’s one thing I didn’t realize about the song until I started playing it. It falls into a special category of songs which were recorded in one musical key (E), then the recorded tape was sped up into a higher key (F). There are a good deal of these songs which fall into this category, but that’s a whole other discussion.

Something I recently noticed while watching a video guitar lesson, is one section of the song sounds a lot like the Bo Diddley song “Crackin’ Up.”

Listen around the 4:30 second mark on this lesson, and you’ll hear what I’m saying.

It took me a minute, but I knew I recognized that guitar riff from another song. I can’t remember if I heard the Bo Diddley original version of “Crackin’ Up” first or the version by Paul McCartney on his Russian Album.

This part is a repeat, but years ago, I took some guitar lessons with this ponytailed dude. He was the one who told me “My Best Friend’s Girl” borrowed heavily from a song on The Beatles’ White Album. I scratched my head at first, but then determined he was talking about the beautiful Paul McCartney song “I Will.” As a whole, the songs don’t really sound alike, but there is a guitar riff which certainly does.

Ric Ocasek got the songwriting credit for this song, but give some credit to Cars’ guitarist Elliot Easton for his contribution on this one. I even found a YouTube video with Easton showing how he played the guitar solo on it. All in all, it’s a psychic convergence of music.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Amadeus Kommissar

Consider this blog entry an 80’s music retrospective…a time capsule if you will (or even if you won’t). I recently reconnected with a couple of friends I have known since the 1980s and we started joking about some of those silly songs from that era. My buddy mentioned the animalistic tunes “Shock the Monkey” and “Eye of the Tiger”. Another friend mentioned “One night in Bangkok”.

It’s weird how looking back at certain time periods, some things get more attention than others. Yes, there were fads like Rubik’s Cubes, parachute pants, legwarmers, and….what else…Duran Duran? Some people were really into “Miami Vice” and some weren’t — personally, I opted for “The A-Team” on NBC Thursday nights. One song I remembered was called “Rock Me Amadeus” by this German dude named Falco.

I never owned this on a record or cassette tape, but it was around on pop radio and the then-new MTV. So what’s the big deal about the song? I mean, it’s about composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but that’s basically immaterial. It’s just a catchy pop tune — and I don’t think Eddie Van Halen was involved in any way, shape, or form. There was some epic movie about Mozart that came out during the 80s, but I don’t think this was related.

Another 80s tune was also recorded by Falco, but popularized by a British band called After the Fire. I really liked this song called “Der Kommissar.”

There are a lot of pieces to this song that grab your ears….synth, guitar, “Cha, Cha.” I made a half-hearted attempt to look into the meaning of this song. I’ve seen the drug cocaine mentioned a lot. That was news to me. Does all pop music have to be meaningless or about drugs? Not really, but both songs have good beats and are easy to dance to. Maybe the Euro-Asian vibe just made them seem exotic at the time? It’s hard to say…I mean, those songs were around on MTV and on the radio. Maybe part of the appeal is the mystery. I still really know very little about either one of these recording artists, but maybe these songs stand on their own? I really don’t remember a thing about the videos either.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Workingman’s Rush

“Working Man” by the Canadian power trio Rush popped into my head today so I had to listen to it repeatedly and dissect it. I’ve always loved the guitar in this song from their 1974 self-titled debut. As a whole, this song ROCKS!

It’s not just the guitar that makes this song enjoyable for me. I love the lyrics and the driving feel to it. I think this song has an angry undertone tone. I mean, who is happy to be doing nothing but working your ass off, right? “I got no time for livin’, Yes, I’m workin’ all the time.”

When I was growing up, I would see tons of fans wearing their Rush concert t-shirts. There was also a subdivision entrance with the circled-star-Rush-2112 spray painted on the street. There are a lot of die hard Rush fans, but I wouldn’t put myself in that category. There are also rallying cries I’ve heard about the band over the years: Neil Peart/Geddy Lee is the best rock drummer/bassist ever, etc. That, or, they’re a great band, but I can’t stand Geddy’s singing voice. I have no problem with his voice, but maybe that’s one reason why this tune appeals to me. “Working Man” actually features Neil Peart’s predecessor John Rutsey on drums as well.

Getting back to the guitar, there are plenty of parts to dissect: the opening lick, the siren lick, and lots of hard driving solos in the E minor pentatonic vein. What’s not to love about it! Oh by the way, the guitarist’s name is Alex Lifeson.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!