Wednesday, November 30, 2011

No. 918 – That’s the Way

Performer: Led Zeppelin
Songwriters: Jimmy Page, Robert Plant
Original Release: Led Zeppelin III
Year: 1970
Definitive Version: None

When my and Debbie’s relationship went public, the resulting blowup made it impossible for Debbie to continue to work for my Dad, which she didn’t want to do anyway. Fortunately, Debbie was able to find another job. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen for a while. That made for many uncomfortable days and my ears hanging low from being bent that evening.

But finally, at the end of the year, Debbie got a better job for way more money. And true to her stick-to-itiveness, Debbie stayed around long enough to train her successor.

Debbie’s new job was assistant to the vice president of Les Wexner’s charitable organization. Anyway, this move led to a major relocation that ultimately had personal implications. Instead of going from the East Side to German Village—my Dad’s office was only two blocks from my apartment—Debbie was heading north on the outerbelt.

The organization was located near New Albany, which at the time was a farm community. It’s now a gigantic—and extremely wealthy—suburb on the northeast side of Columbus. But when Debbie joined, the whole office was in a somewhat-decaying whitewashed farmhouse forgotten on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

The things I remember most about the place when I would visit were how saggy the whole building was. You know the kind of place: where nothing looks even because the floor’s not entirely flat. And then out by the garage/storage barn was a huge patch of lilies of the valley that made the whole parking lot smell softly sweet.

Midway between downtown and the Dispatch and Debbie’s new office lay Gahanna. The importance of that should be obvious but wouldn’t become clear to us for a few months after Debbie started her new job. But that’s a story for another time.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

No. 919 – Skinwalker

Performer: Robbie Robertson
Songwriters: Robbie Robertson, Patrick Leonard
Original Release: Music for The Native Americans
Year: 1994
Definitive Version: None

Debbie is part Cherokee on her Mom’s side. She’s not an activist, but she does embrace that part of her and is interested in the history. Soon after we started dating, a special on Native Americans was aired on PBS, and she made sure I knew when it was on, because she wanted to come over and watch it on my new TV.

That was fine, but I was even more geeked for the special for another reason: Before it aired, Robbie Robertson released a new album of music dedicated to the special. It was in many ways a return to the sound of his first album, which I loved. If I remember correctly, this song wasn’t actually aired during the special.

Anyway, this song—and album—is the sound of Fall 1994 to me. I hear this or Pisces Iscariot by Smashing Pumpkins, which came out at about the same time, and I can’t but help to think of my Mondays off when I’d go out shopping for something else for my apartment. German Village, being an old neighborhood, was loaded with Sycamores, Maples and Oaks, so falling leaves were everywhere—as was the smell of wood-burning fireplaces that were in every building (including mine).

Monday, November 28, 2011

No. 920 – The Forgotten

Performer: Joe Satriani
Songwriter: Joe Satriani
Original Release: Flying in a Blue Dream
Year: 1989
Definitive Version: None

When I joined the Flint Journal, my first job was to copyedit stories on the news section, which meant metro (local) and wire (national and international). The hours were 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. That meant that to have enough time to get ready for work and drive in from Grand Blanc, the alarm went off at 5:30.

Needless to say, this was quite an adjustment from my previous stint at the Daily Herald, which had a standard 3 to 11 p.m. copy-desk shift and a whenever-I-felt-like-it wakeup time. But you do what you have to do, right? And that meant I essentially woke up in the middle of the night every morning during the wintertime.

As I mentioned, I bought Flying in a Blue Dream right after I moved to Flint, but I didn’t yet have a new boombox that I could play tapes on. I got one later, and it became the centerpiece of my stereo system for the next five years, but those first days all I had was a standard tape recorder. But it was portable, so I’d have it on my dresser and would play it quietly enough to not bother neighbors but still loud enough to hear while I was getting dressed.

So when I hear this song, I have a clear vision of getting dressed with only the lamp by my bed switched on, spookily illuminating the room just enough to see what I was doing while throwing shadows against the wood panel walls. A slightly musty but not unpleasant pine scent of fall fading to winter filled the air. Outside, it was pitch black, silent and cold.

Time to pay the piper.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

No. 921 – In the Blood

Performer: Better Than Ezra
Songwriter: Kevin Griffin
Original Release: Deluxe
Year: 1993
Definitive Version: None

By February 1995 when I bought Deluxe (moving through the second-tier acts now), I had just about completed the shopping for my apartment. I had a new bedroom set, a desk and fold-out sofa for guests, a dining set, a new stereo setup, rugs, lamps, chairs. I wasn’t going to get a washer and dryer for the German Village apartment, because it was going to be too much of a pain in the butt to get it down the stairs.

So there was one thing left to buy—a sofa for the living room. I had my dad and stepmom’s hand-me-down, but the broad and multicolored stripes were a bit dated for even my less-than-cutting-edge tastes. A new sofa was going to be a commitment: I had my eye on a leather model that was going to run north of a grand.

So what was the problem? Well, I knew Debbie had nice stuff, and both of our leases ran out in the summer. If there was a chance that we were going to move in together, I didn’t want to blow $1,200 on a couch only to have to sell it four months later or stuff it into storage.

And that’s more or less how I laid it out to Debbie: Do you want to move in together this year? I want to know so I can either buy this couch or stick with what I have. OK, so it wasn’t quite that unromantic, but practicality and frugality demanded a direct question, and, yes, it was a sofa that prompted the question. Pretty lame, right?

She was taken aback, although she confessed she had been thinking the same thing (not about the sofa), but she had never lived with someone she wasn’t married to, and I wasn’t ready for that. Well, based on the previous post, I think you know the outcome: The sofa stayed at Sofa Express.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

No. 922 – Shame In You

Performer: Alice in Chains
Songwriters: Jerry Cantrell, Mike Inez, Sean Kinney, Layne Staley
Original Release: Alice in Chains
Year: 1995
Definitive Version: None

When Debbie and I moved in together, the prime locations in our apartment defaulted to the person who had the better stuff. The living room was Debbie’s room, because she had much fancier living-room furniture than I had. I got to put my stereo and TV in her entertainment center, because my stuff was newer and better. (Hers went upstairs in the master bedroom.)

But aside from the stereo and TV, which really could have belonged to anyone, there was almost no evidence based on the living room that I lived there until you looked above the sofa. We skirmished a bit over this, but in the end I won by using the simple argument. This is OUR place; we should mix things up a bit.

That wasn’t the issue; the issue was WHAT I wanted to put up—two very cool posters of baseball cards that I had received as a Christmas present years before and had framed. My counterargument: They were part of an exhibit at Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. If it’s good enough for the Met, why can’t it be good enough for a living room in Gahanna, you know, as pieces of contemporary art? Debbie dubiously relented, but in time, she came to love the posters, but they were demoted from the living room to the family room at our house. So much for art.

Anyway, this album came out not long after we moved, and I can’t help but think of the Gahanna living room, which is obviously where I played it when it first came out. As I recall, it was a somewhat gloomy November day, and that couldn’t have been a more appropriate backdrop. The baseball-card posters looked cheery on the walls, though.

Friday, November 25, 2011

No. 923 – Good Vibrations

Performer: The Beach Boys
Songwriters: Brian Wilson, Mike Love
Original Release: single, Smiley Smile
Year: 1966
Definitive Version: None

This supposedly was my favorite song when I was a little kid. I called it “Good Bibrations.” However the earliest memory I have was when I was almost 4, so instead I’m going to recount the time I saw the Beach Boys in concert at the Ohio State Fair.

I wanted to see the Beach Boys, because, why not? They were legendary, and even though they were more than a decade from their last hit, they still were cool. I knew all the songs and Beth was keen to go too, so that would be our first concert together.

Back then, the big live acts played the (now long demolished) grandstand by the trotter racetrack. The deal was you paid admission to enter the Fairgrounds and then the shows were free. All you had to do was get there early enough to get seats, because the shows were festival seating.

In the summer of 1983, when it was announced that the Beach Boys were going to play the Ohio State Fair, it was a big deal. As you might recall, they had been the center of a controversy earlier that year involving James Watt, Reagan’s notoriously uptight secretary of the Interior. I wasn’t very politically informed back then, so I didn’t really care other than the fact that … the Beach Boys? Really? They bring in the wrong element? Yeah, I suppose compared to Donny & Marie, they do.

But what that meant in practical terms was that the Beach Boys, finding themselves in he news for the first time since who knows when, were suddenly a hot ticket. Beth and I got to the Fair two hours before the Beach Boys’ afternoon set, and the grandstand was already almost full. Fortunately, we were able to get two seats at one of the far ends, so we were in the shade. We both have fair skin, and it could’ve gotten ugly.

It had been a big summer for waiting fa long time or stuff. In May, Beth and I waited in line for 2-1/2 hours to see Return of the Jedi on the first day. Anyway, the grandstand filled up and then the track started to fill up. Beach balls were everywhere.

It was a fun show: The Beach Boys opened with this song and played everything you’d want to hear. And when we got home, we learned that we had been part of a Fairgrounds record crowd: More than 17,000 were estimated to be in attendance.

As it turned out, that record lasted six hours. That night, The Beach Boys somehow drew 51,000. They showed video from a helicopter, and people ringed the entire track. There was no report on how much of the crowd at either show was part of “the bad element,” but I can vouch for at least two of them, Mr. Watt.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

No. 924 – Southern Cross

Performer: Crosby, Stills & Nash
Songwriters: Stephen Stills, Richard Curtis, Michael Curtis
Original Release: Daylight Again
Year: 1982
Definitive Version: None

I suppose this is natural, but some songs are so closely associated with a particular visual image that when I hear the song, I can’t help but to think of the video. This is one of those songs. I hear the chorus, and I see Stills on the boat and CSN’s silhouette. That video must have been on every time I turned on MTV my freshman year at college, and I liked that one of my old-school faves was on there amidst the Duran Durans of the world. This was essentially CSN’s last hit, nearly 30 years ago.

I could tell a story from my freshman year, but I have so many of those still to come that I’m going to tell something different and to which only this song applies. I saw CSNY for the third (and hopefully not final) time in 2006. That time, they were essentially touring as Neil Young’s backup band. He had just released Living with War and decided for whatever reasons—financial, I’d think, because they played and sold out the Your Corporate Name Here Amphitheater in Tinley Park, or Neil wanted more people to hear his stuff than would have otherwise—to tour with the rest of the old gang. And I’m pretty sure they were glad to be with him.

Anyway, I took Laurie, who had seen CSN several times but had never seen Y solo or with CSN. I told her: It’s a whole different ballgame when you see all four together, because Y totally changes the energy. With the exception of having the new stuff sprinkled in, the set was a near carbon copy of earlier shows at first. But the middle acoustic section had a number of different and more obscure songs than previously. They featured various members in solos or duos of various configurations when suddenly the full band stepped on stage and broke out this song in all its warm-breeze glory.

It was a shock, because the setlist that night—and the two previous times I had seen CSNY—was skewed so heavily towards their career poles. Either they played something off the latest album or it was something from 1971 and back—the exception being Rockin’ in a Free World. I’d almost wondered whether they’d forgotten there was a 30-year gap of music in there.

This song sounded great, and it took me right back to a time when I was 18 and being on a sailboat in the Caribbean accompanied by pitch-perfect three-part harmonies seemed idyllic.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

No. 925 – Poor Tom

Performer: Led Zeppelin
Songwriters: Jimmy Page, Robert Plant
Original Release: Coda
Year: 1982
Definitive Version: None

The Led Zeppelin box set wasn’t the first CD I bought after I went digital in 1990, but it had to be one of the first.

Box sets, of course, had become popular not too long before that, but at that point it was reserved only for the biggest bands who had enough songs to fill four discs. And buying one was a commitment—as much as $60 if you bought it in a record store, which I did. But that was no sacrifice for Led Zeppelin. It really was the first chance to get a big collection of their songs.

I bought the set at the Genesee Valley Mall west of Flint, and the thing I remember most about that day was that it was the only time I ever ate lunch at the mall. I had finished work around lunch as per usual, so I went straight to the mall, bought the album and went upstairs to the open food court. I remember sitting close to the wall and looking over the song list on the back. What I ate that day was lost to the sands of time.

Poor Tom, of course, was one of those songs, and I realized in reading how little I knew of Led Zeppelin’s songs. I knew all the hits and everything from IV to Physical Graffiti, but that made up only about half of the box set. There was a lot to learn, and I couldn’t wait to get started when I got home. I’m pretty sure I blew through the whole box set that first day.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

No. 926 – Love Ain’t for Keeping

Performer: The Who
Songwriter: Pete Townshend
Original Release: Who’s Next
Year: 1971
Definitive Version: None

When The Who announced that its 1982 tour was going to be its farewell tour (ahem), they announced that the last show would be broadcast on pay per view, which we were fortunate to have in Columbus. As it happened, that was the day I’d get home from Wabash after my tumultuous first semester there.

Beth and I couldn’t wait to see each other, of course, but—and this is likely because we hadn’t been dating long—she let me watch the event as long as I took her out to dinner first to somewhere nice. Fair enough. I don’t remember where, but I’d have to guess it was DaVinci’s—a standard low-cost but fancy Italian date place. That would be why I was wearing a suit when The Who took the stage for what was billed as their final performance.

To capture the event for all of posterity—or at least until the tape gave out—Scott set up our standard audio recording equipment. This consisted of propping up a cassette recorder so the mic was right on the TV speaker and made sure the volume was turned up as loud as it would go before the neighbors—or Mom—told us to turn down that infernal racket. It was an imperfect low-tech solution, but in all honesty, I’ve heard worse quality bootlegs.

I suppose it was teen-age naivety to believe that The Who would do nothing but go out with a bang, but it was in actuality more like a whimper. Beth fell asleep during the second half, and Scott and I almost went too. My favorite song of the night was Naked Eye to start the encore, but the finale of Twist and Shout was tepid, and of course, no guitar was sacrificed, alas.

They did play this song right after the one-two Tommy punch of Pinball Wizard and See Me, Feel Me. Pete said it was one they didn’t play much on stage, and that was kind of cool. And cool was the right word. The fire had obviously left years ago (RIP, Keith), and they couldn’t turn it back on that last night.

Fortunately, that was not the last time we’d ever see The Who on stage.

Monday, November 21, 2011

No. 927 – Driven

Performer: Rush
Songwriters: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neal Peart
Original Release: Test for Echo
Year: 1996
Definitive Version: Different Stages, 1998

Shortly after the NFL announced that Cleveland would get another football team, it was announced that the new stadium would be built on the site of the old stadium, so Municipal Stadium—The Mistake By the Lake—was going to become Lake Erie reef. The city had a huge auction of stuff from the stadium, and after that the sale of what was left was open to the public.

Even though, regrettably, I had never seen a ballgame there, I had to have a seat to go along with the one I already had from Comiskey Park in Chicago. The cost was only $100—a steal, if you ask me. At this price, I had to see if Dave wanted a seat as well, and he gave his enthusiastic assent. My only demand: He had to come down and get it. No problem.

Well, almost no problem: Stadium pickup had to happen on a particular day of the week, and I was out of vacation time. It was going to have to be a windsprint up-and-back before work. So, I got up as early as I could and still get about 6 hours of sleep, popped in a new homemade tape of Test for Echo and headed north. I arrived at the stadium about 11 at the east gate behind the Dog Pound—the infamous end-zone bleachers. I paid my money, and the guy said, “OK, go ahead and drive on down. You’ll see the seats down there.” Really? I get to go down on the field and pick out the seats myself? How cool is that?

I pulled down to the end of the drive and parked the Happy Honda right at about the spot in the end zone where Red Right 88 broke the Browns fans’ hearts in 1981. There were a few trash piles of seat debris. (The seat backs were all connected and had to be cut apart to get individual seats. A cut had to be made on one side of the iron support, which rendered the next seat on either side as junk.) But at about midfield, chairs in allotments of one, two and four were lined up in neat mustard-yellow rows.

I picked out two singles that seemed to be in pretty good shape with no paint chipping and loaded them in the trunk. The seats had been bolted to the concrete, so I’d need to build a base to get them to stand up for use at home—an easy enough chore. I took a big, long last look around, noting the history of the place and the two concerts I had seen there and finally headed out.

I got home about 2:30, which was plenty of time to unload the bounty, clean up and get to work with stories to regale of my day’s adventure.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

No. 928 – Cowgirl In the Sand

Performer: Neil Young
Songwriter: Neil Young
Original Release: Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere
Year: 1969
Definitive Version: Road Rock Vol. I, 2000. If you’re into the teeth-rattling guitar stylings of Neil Young, this 18-minute treatment is not to be missed.

When you own a home, if you take any pride in ownership, suddenly your schedule and priorities change. Take raking leaves, frinstance. If you don’t want your lawn to die off so you have to replace big chunks of it every spring, you need to attack those fallen leaves ASAP. And I did with relish. Fortunately, we had a bunch of ash trees in the back yard, so we didn’t have wave after wave of leaves falling at different times.

But by the fall of 2000, I’d decided to hold off as long as I could for three reasons: One, raking leaves is not one of the more fun lawn-and-garden chores. Two, this year, the leaves were taking an unusually long time to drop, and I had a pretty good handle on the early ones from mowing. (I don’t recall that it was a warm fall, but it must have been.) And three, I wanted to see exactly how many bags it would take to do them all at once.

Now, I admit that I might have the timeline off a bit, but I have a crystal clear vision of a bright sunny day with this album and particularly this epic song on as I raked those piles. However, this album came out in December, and I don’t recall that I would have waited past Thanksgiving to do the raking, but since this was the last fall I was at the house, it had to be this fall. And why let the facts get in the way of a good story?

When the time came, I knew it was going to be an all-day job—or at least one that would take me all day from the time I got up to the time I had to clean up to go to work. I had about 6 hours. I fired up my Discman, put on my grubbiest outdoor clothes, which consisted of a thick sweatshirt, my crumbling jean jacket from years before, a beat-up pair of Levi’s and a nasty mesh baseball cap, and I began to rake. I kept the piles fairly small so I could load them more easily into bags without re-raking constantly to collect the leaves. I’d start close to the house and deck and move slowly but surely out to the lot line, which was ankle deep.

My record for lawn bags left out for the trash collector was 14. On my most recent trip to Lowe’s that year, I bought two more packs of paper lawn bags—6 bags to a pack. With the remaining bags from the last pack, I had 16 bags. That wasn’t enough. I had to make a Lowe’s run, which meant I could grab lunch on-the-go via the hot-dog stand that all home-improvement stores now seem to have for the home-improvement guy or gal on-the-go.

In the end, as Neil’s tortured Gibson was ringing in my ears, I hauled 18 bags of leaves out to the street. (I bet the trashman absolutely loved me that week.) The backyard looked immaculate, and I still had time to spare to toss my clothes in the laundry, shower up and get to work with a real sense of accomplishment.

What I didn’t know then was that that would be the last time I’d do any serious raking. Turns out, like Crash Davis, I hit my dinger and hung ‘em up.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

No. 929 – The Dolphin’s Cry

Performer: Live
Songwriter: Ed Kowalczyk
Original Release: The Distance To Here
Year: 1999
Definitive Version: None

After the Reds’ brutal collapse at the end of the 1999 season denied me my first postseason game, I regrouped and set my sights on Atlanta. When World Series tickets went on sale, I bought two in the upper deck. Now all I had to do was root for the Braves to make it there.

This was a risk to be sure, because the Braves had failed on their previous two attempts to make it back to the World Series, and I had lost $30 on my Ticketbastard bet that the Reds would make it to the playoffs. (For the uninformed, if you buy postseason tickets from the box office, and the team doesn’t make it, you get your money back minus Ticketbastard’s bogus service charge. This is not unlike the vig you pay at a Vegas sports book—Ticketbastard ALWAYS takes a piece of the action regardless.)

But it was a chance worth taking. First, the Braves had a good team. Second, I had free room-and-board at Debbie’s aunt’s house in Sandy Springs, north of town. The drive was only 9 hours from Columbus. It was a perfect set-up. I went for Game 1 on a Saturday, because I wanted to see the introductions and the teams all lined up on the first- and third-base lines.

Now all that needed to happen was the Braves to weave the wicket that the Reds could not and make it there. They had ripped through Houston in three straight and were up 1-0 on the Mets. It looked good.

It looked even better when they went up 3-0. I was one game away from my first postseason game—and a World Series game at that. But when the Mets were 2 innings from being eliminated, they got their game together. They pulled out Game 4 and won an epic Game 5. I was at work for Game 6, and before anyone knew what was happening, the Mets had scored 5 runs. What in the name of the Curse of Will’s Postseason Bid was going on here? First the Reds, now the Braves?

Dave, of course, was in heaven. To say he’s a Mets fan would be like saying Kim Kardashian doesn’t hate attention. Dave is MetsGuyInMichigan; he bleeds Mets orange and blue. The Mets, of course, had put the final nail in the coffin of the Reds season—not that the Reds ever should have let them have that chance, but that’s a different story. Now they’re going to do the impossible and climb out of a 3-0 hole to kill my postseason bid a second time?

No. The Braves weren’t ready to roll over. They got the 5 runs back. The Mets went back ahead; the Braves tied it up. The Mets again went in front; again the Braves said, not tonight, not this year. The Mets—AGAIN—took a lead in the 10th. (This was turning into a pretty amazing series, but I was in agony and getting next to nothing done at work.) But the Braves tied it and loaded the bases. They—and I—were 90 feet from going to the World Series.

Now Dave might have a slightly different opinion about what transpired next, but from this writer’s vantage point, I saw Kenny “The Great” Rogers throw an immortalizing pitch high and wide on a full count to Andruw Jones. No sooner had the pennant-winning run scored on a walk-off walk that I was on the phone to Debbie: WE are going to the World Series.

Somewhere some poor soul might have been calling (OK WAS calling) Rogers every name in the book, but I was doing the Yes-Yes dance with joy. And because Live had just put out a new album, I’d have something to listen to on the drive.

Friday, November 18, 2011

No. 930 – Lost My Mind

Performer: Matthew Sweet
Songwriter: Matthew Sweet
Original Release: 100% Fun
Year: 1995
Definitive Version: None

Shortly after 100% Fun came out, I was going to have Debbie over to my place in German Village, when I noticed something odd in the kitchen. I had a yellow dishwashing sponge that was pulled out from the sink on the counter. It appeared that a few small pieces had been pulled out of it and strewn about on the counter. What the hell?

It didn’t take me long to figure it out based on the small gaps in the sponge: It was a mouse that probably thought it had hit the cheese motherlode. Oh great. The last thing I was going to do was tell Debbie I had mice. I hid the offending sponge and never said a word.

The next morning after she left, I went to work. It had to be in the basement, but where? The basement was just glorified storage, and I noticed that it had small holes at the base where the old cement had fractured somewhat. I plugged the holes, because if the mouse got into the walls or foundation, I’d never find it. My apartment had a storm cellar door that led out to my small back patio that I never used. I opened that up.

So my brilliant and humane strategem was to roust the offending mouse and somehow chase it up the steps and out the cellar door. I grabbed a broom and began whumping it on stuff. Nothing. I went to the single-bed mattresses I had stacked up against the wall and gave them a shake. A rustling told the tale, so I yanked them away and there it was—your basic small, grey house mouse. It made a bead for the hole that I had just plugged with a brick. Foiled!

It then sprinted to the corner below the stairs. OK, now I have to somehow convince it that the proper course of action was to come back out into the middle of the room a bit and run up the stairs outside. I backed off a bit to give him room and swung the broom to one side of the stairs. It bolted to the other side and would have made it back to the pile of mattresses and boxes, but I swung around and gave it a sweet backhand brush that put it at the base of the stairs. Eat your heart out, Pete Sampras. The mouse jumped up the first step, then the next. I did nothing but drew close enough to convince it that reversing direction wasn't an option. Sure enough, the mouse made it all the way up the stairs and out into the sunny day. Triumphant, I pulled the cellar door shut with a bang.

I shook a few more boxes, but I heard nothing more. It was a solitary mouse, so now that I was satisfied that I had taken care of my vermin situation, I told Debbie about it. She said it didn’t bother her, but I can’t remember that she ever spent another evening at my place after that.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

No. 931 – Zaar

Performer: Peter Gabriel
Songwriter: Peter Gabriel
Original Release: Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ
Year: 1989
Definitive Version: None

You might recall that The Last Temptation of Christ caused something of a stir when it hit the theaters. I didn’t see it (and haven’t gotten around to it since), not because of any boycott, but just that I wasn’t going to a lot of movies in 1988-89 due to a general lack of funds. (I didn’t even come close to cracking $20K until I moved to Flint.)

But when Jin told me that Peter Gabriel was releasing an album of music that he did for the movie, that interested me. It was one of maybe a half-dozen tapes I bought during that time. Passion was summer of 1989 music, and as such, I have a very clear memory of grilling out with this song on.

My apartment in Mount Prospect, as I’ve noted, was among a colony of three-story chalet-style apartments of the type that were big in the 1970s. In fact, my dad’s first apartment after he and my mom split was in something similar. Doug and I were on the second floor, and we had a balcony that was big enough to hold two folding chairs and a little grill. We had a view of the complex’s tennis courts, where I don’t remember ever seeing anyone play in my year there.

I had this recipe I’d make sometimes when I’d have a night off. I made pork chops or chicken, and the sauce was a homemade concoction that wasn’t your typical BBQ sweet red sauce. It was more orange and tangy—straight from the good old Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, you know, the one that has the red checkerboard cover. The color was due to including butter and mustard.

It was always difficult to keep the sauce mixed, because the ingredients wanted to separate, but it was good. It reminded me of the sauce at Buffalo Joe’s, the first Buffalo-style chicken-wing place I ever heard of, which was near the Northwestern campus. I don’t make the recipe anymore, but when I hear this song, I can still taste it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No. 932 – The Bomber: Closet Queen

Performer: James Gang
Songwriters: Jim Fox, Dale Peters, Joe Walsh
Original Release: James Gang Rides Again
Year: 1970
Definitive Version: Any version that includes Ravel’s Bolero, which, apparently had been cut out of original pressings due to licensing issues.

I got tickets to see Steve & Garry, who were making their first live appearance in more than a year at Horizonfest 1987, and I got 10th row seats. Steve & Garry were warming up for Joe Walsh, thus the tie-in. (And, yes, he did play this song, complete with the Bolero section, but I’m getting ahead of myself.)

Horizonfest was a combination carnival, swap meet and concert series that was held at the Rosemont Horizon near to O’Hare. It sounded like fun, and by then I was in total Steve & Garry love, so I bought two tickets at the prospect of having a date, but Renee, the woman I was sort of seeing, begged off. It wasn’t a full-fledged stand-up; I knew I was taking a chance in buying two tickets.

I offered around to a few friends and at the YMCA office but no takers—no surprise since I had just started there that week. Because it was June, I still had a part-time gig at Northwestern as part of my previous quarter’s job-study program. At this time, I was working behind the desk at Medill’s tiny library. I had a chance to meet a lot of people, including Renee.

That’s how I met Vicky. Unlike others whom I’ve chosen not to name, I honestly don’t remember Vicky’s name. In any event, Vicky was an incoming Medill grad student, and she was on campus for early orientation. Well, what the heck: So I asked her out of the blue if she wanted to go see Joe Walsh at Horizonfest. And probably against her own best judgment, she said yes.

And with that, we’ll bring today’s entry to a close.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

No. 933 – Honestly

Performer: Zwan
Songwriter: Billy Corgan
Original Release: Mary Star of the Seas
Year: 2003
Definitive Version: None

When I knew that I was leaving the Columbus Dispatch, I stopped buying music for the most part due to my upcoming lack of disposable income. I made an exception for Zwan when it came out just before I left for Cleveland; it was as close to getting new Smashing Pumpkins music as I was going to get. Oh, let’s not mince words: It WAS Smashing Pumpkins in all but name.

Most of my day in Cleveland was built around baseball, which isn’t a bad thing as I'll relate, but between being at the library all day and then working at night at home, I didn’t do too much that wasn’t baseball-related.

The main exception was dinner. Given that every penny was precious during this time, dinner was a big thing. I cooked, and the more I would make the merrier, because I could get a week out of a couple of meals that generated lots of leftovers. One of my faves during this period was a clams tetrazzini recipe that Debbie’s friend Susie gave her years before. It’s easy, doesn’t cost much to assemble, makes a casserole sheet’s worth, lasts a long time in the fridge. I could get four dinners out of it—sometimes more if I was nursing it.

My dinner routine was to come home, change into shorts—even in the winter; the apartment was THAT warm—pour myself a glass of wine, put on a CD and get to cooking. Zwan was in heavy rotation during this time, so I’ll always associate it with the time in my life when I decided to jump out of an airplane without a parachute and see what happened.

Monday, November 14, 2011

No. 934 – Your Own Special Way

Performer: Genesis
Songwriter: Mike Rutherford
Original Release: Wind and Wuthering
Year: 1976
Definitive Version: Genesis Archive 2: 1976-1992, 2000

Through my college years, I developed a Christmas-shopping routine. At Wabash, on the last day of exams, I’d stop at Castleton Square Mall on the northeast part of town and do my shopping during the day and drive home and arrive in time to go out with Beth. When I was at Northwestern, I maintained the tradition.

But in 1986, I had one particular gift in mind for Beth. Beth enjoyed elegant and old-fashioned things, so I thought a good idea (among other things in mind) would be a perfume atomizer. I looked for one in Chicago a little bit but figured I would have better luck at Castleton. No such luck.

When I got home, Scott, Jin and I got together for a shopping outing and went to several places in Columbus. At the time, Scott had just discovered the in-between period of Genesis—the time in between when Peter Gabriel left and when Genesis became the power-pop trio that had become one of the biggest selling bands of the Eighties. So we had Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wuthering on the tape player during that whole trip.

I don’t remember where all we went, but I’m pretty sure it would’ve included trips to Northland (now gone) and Westland (more or less gone) malls. I think we also went through Clintonville and Ohio State. (We had to make a trip to Magnolia Thunderpussy records, of course). There was little doubt I’d find the atomizer I was desperately seeking.

Alas, doubt turned into certainty which turned into luck and then the finality of it all: There was no atomizer to be had, at least on this shipping trip. The conclusion led to my dejected sentiment, which became the mantra of that Christmas and subsequent Christmases for a few years after: I’m not in the Christmas spirit. (For full effect, repeat as Scroogifically morosely as you can.)

So … would Christmases forever be ruined—would I always and forever be not in the Christmas spirit—by my inability to find just the right gift for my girlfriend in 1986? Tune in again next time, kiddies. Same bat time, same bat channel …

Sunday, November 13, 2011

No. 935 – Crawl Away

Performer: Tool
Songwriters: Maynard James Keenan, Adam Jones, Paul D’Amour, Danny Carey
Original Release: Undertow
Year: 1993
Definitive Version: None

It took a while, but because of the constant bombardment of Sober just before Beavis & Butthead, I finally decided to check out Tool just before I moved to Columbus. So I was listening to Undertow quite a bit when I moved into my new apartment.

It was my first real apartment that was all my own. I’ll talk more about the place specifically in the weeks and months ahead, but it was a two-bedroom townhouse that was part of a six-unit building in German Village, which is Columbus’ oldest neighborhood, located just south of downtown. As I think I’ve recounted, it was less than a 5-minute drive to work from there.

But when I got the apartment, it wasn’t quite ready. The owners wanted to repaint it and resurface the wood floor, so I lived at my Dad’s house for a week—with most of my stuff piled into the garage.

And the apartment was going to need a lot of work from me. I had my great-grandfather’s bed, a weensy TV, my stereo setup and a few other things—books mostly—and that was it. I was promised a few hand-me-down tables, but I’d have to round up everything else on my own.

I moved in on a Sunday and I distinctly remember how alive I felt that first night. I also recall how alive I felt the next morning when I looked outside and saw that someone had tossed a Mountain Dew bottle through the rear window of the Happy Honda. There was a big hole and glass pieces were scattered all over the back seat. Nothing was taken, so it was just some random buttwipe. My guess, looking back, was that my Michigan license plate fewer than 5 miles south of Saint Woody’s Place might have had a little something to do with it. As I would later say to much consternation of the Ohio State fans in my life, Columbus could be nothing more than just a glorified Norman or Tuscaloosa—a one-track college-football town.

Funny thing is, the vandalism worked out for me. I drove my car downtown to a glass shop—I had Monday off—and called Dad to see if he wanted to get together for lunch … and so I could get a ride back home. (What? Make the 1-mile hike home?) Dad was out, so Debbie came to get me, and the same offer applied. We went to Schmidt's, a legendary German place in—go figure—German Village, and it was there that we, unknowingly at the time, began to set the wheels in motion for our relationship. We set up two friends dates to see the Reds and go to Cedar Point.

Little did I know what a bottle through my car’s rear window would lead to.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

No. 936 – Rock Me Baby

Performer: The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Songwriters: B.B. King, Joe Josea
Original Release: Historic Performances Recorded at the Monterey International Pop Festival
Year: 1970
Definitive Version: The Monterey International Pop Festival, 1992

I’m not exactly sure of the timeline, but I’m pretty sure that sometime in the spring or summer of 1980 I discovered Jimi Hendrix.

Not that I didn’t know who he was. You pretty much had to be living in a cave to not have at least crossed paths with Hendrix in the ‘70s, but I didn’t really know his music.

That changed when a friend suggested going to see the Jimi Hendrix movie showing at the midnight movies on Ohio State’s campus. Because my birthday is in June, I was always one of the youngest in my class, which meant I was the last one among all of my friends to get a driver’s license, so he’d drive.

I can’t recall whether I had already seen Woodstock by this time—my guess is no—and if not, then this was my first, ahem, experience. I can’t say I’d never seen anything like it, because I had been exposed to The Who in full flight in The Kids Are Alright, but this was something different.

As you might know, the movie opens with an interview with Pete Townshend talking about how great Hendrix was and then Eric Clapton doing the same. The first performance is Rock Me Baby at Monterey, followed by another Townshend interview about Monterey and how Hendrix lost the coin flip and had to follow The Who’s act on stage that night, and how Hendrix subsequently promised that he was going to “pull out all the stops.” And then came Wild Thing. As you can imagine, I was hooked—even before he pulled out the lighter fluid.

So that’s what I think of when I hear this song: Being some 15- or 16-year-old punk feeling as if I snuck in somewhere I didn’t fully belong, surrounded by college kids who had “prepared” for the show and were continuing to “prepare” with their funny cigarettes.

Friday, November 11, 2011

No. 937 – Fall Down

Performer: Toad the Wet Sprocket
Songwriters: Todd Nichols, Glen Phillips
Original Release: Dulcinea
Year: 1994
Definitive Version: None

Maybe I’m an old fogie—OK, I AM an old fogie—but I’m not a Halloween guy. It was cool when I was a kid, but by the time I was 13, I was over it. I suppose if women dressed up in slutty costumes when I was younger, I might have been more into it as an adult. Unfortunately, that’s something of a recent (as in past 10 years) development, so I never got back into Halloween.

I’ve worn costumes recently for a charity event in Chicago. (I’m going to name it, because Mookie Jam is a worthy cause meant to raise money for artists who have MS, if you have a couple of extra bucks lying about.) But the last time I dressed up as anything specifically for Halloween was in 1994 shortly after Dulcinea came out. I did it to amuse my little brothers, Matt and Casey, who were 10 and 6 at the time. I also did it, because with the exception of a little construction paper, I already had everything that I needed.

So what to wear? In 1994 there was only one choice: I put on my Frank Thomas jersey, White Sox cap, black softball pants, knee pad, sanitary socks and cleats. I applied a little eye black and grabbed my mitt and the sign I made from the construction paper I bought. The sign told the tale: On Strike.

It was the fall of my discontent, so why not go with it? I even rang the doorbell trick or treat style and held up the sign when the door opened. Matt and Casey loved it, and with that, I retired from Halloween.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

No. 938 – Flying in a Blue Dream

Performer: Joe Satriani
Songwriter: Joe Satriani
Original Release: Flying in a Blue Dream
Year: 1989
Definitive Version: Time Machine, 1993

Within a week of moving from Mount Prospect to Grand Blanc in 1989, I was back in Chicago. Dad had scheduled before my move a trip to see me and Jin, and to take in the Ohio State-Northwestern game. I felt obligated to attend.

And besides, I wanted to see Jin and be back in Chicago. The whole Flint Journal scenario happened so quickly (as I will recount at another point), and it caught me by surprise. I needed the big pay boost I would get, but I was bummed that I was leaving Chicago right when things were starting to get interesting. I had really been looking forward to hanging out and exploring the city with Jin. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

Anyway, we took in the game, which was a typical OSU rout, and then—and I don’t remember why—we ended up down on Rush Street. (Jin lived near there, and I was now a tourist, so it made perfect sense, I guess.) The thing I remember most about the weekend was walking in a crisp, November evening as the sun began to set to the brand-new and now long-gone Tower Records store on Rush.

Tower, of course, was a legendary record store from NYC, and I never had been in one. In all candor, it didn’t seem like anything all that special, although perhaps its charms were lost on me at the time. But I had been in enough small records stores in Columbus that bigger didn’t necessarily equate with better—or cheaper.

Still, I didn’t leave without making a purchase—Flying in a Blue Dream. I was still fresh off Surfing with the Alien, so having some new Satriani music was a-OK. I bought the tape—this being before I got a handle on my debt and my first CD player—and listened to it pretty regularly for the next month. But when I hear the title track, I always think about coming back to Chicago and already missing it after one week away. And I take note of how money makes you do things out of necessity that left to your own devices you wouldn’t do otherwiselike leave Chicago for Flint.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

No. 939 – Trick of the Light

Performer: The Who
Songwriters: John Entwistle
Original Release: Who Are You
Year: 1978
Definitive Version: None

When we moved into the condo, as I mentioned earlier, Scott and I got one bedroom, and Jin got the other. They were in the front of the building over the garage, and we had a scenic view of the construction across the street where more condominiums were built.

Jin, being a girl, had her bedroom decorated like you would expect: bright pink carpeting and white wallpaper with reddish-pink rose-adorned stripes. It fit with her white, girly furniture, which actually was pretty cool in retrospect. She had a four-poster bed that at one time had a canopy. I suspect that all of that stuff has long since been scattered to the four winds.

And we had dueling stereos. More often than not, they were playing The Who, although when I’d had enough of Jin’s music, I could retreat behind closed doors to my trusty headphones.

As I mentioned, Jin got Who Are You and played Side 2—Trick of the Light, Guitar and Pen, Love Is Coming Down and Who Are You—to death in late 1979, early 1980. I have a clear vision of sitting in her room talking about something, although that detail eludes me, with this song on, and there’s just this pink glow from the unrelenting carpet.

It’s one of the few good memories I have of the time when Jin still lived with Mom at the condo before everything blew up—not much longer after this.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

No. 940 – Hold On

Performer: Sarah McLachlan
Songwriter: Sarah McLachlan
Original Release: Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
Year: 1993
Definitive Version: No Alternative, 1993

By the fall of 1993, going over to Doug’s house after softball to hang with him and his (now ex) wife, Teresa, and have a few drinks after he’d put his kid to bed was becoming a regular occurrence. Sometimes we’d deconstruct the various softball teams that we played on. Sometimes we’d talk shop.

Most of the time, we talked music. Doug almost always would have something brand new on the stereo. And why not? As the Journal's music writer, he got CDs to review all the time, so there was always something new—and lots of it.

Every once in a while, he’d fire up MTV just to see what was on—back then it still played music videos regularly—and one night the video for Possession came on. Fumbling Towards Ecstasy had just come out, and Sarah McLachlan was starting to blow up on Alternative Nation. We watched the Canadian chanteuse warble about her seductive charms, when Doug opined: “Sarah McLachlan is hot.” I couldn’t agree more.

But I don’t know whether his opinion of this song agrees with mine: I prefer the No Alternative version, which, coincidentally was released the same day as Fumbling. It’s a little jammier and smokier. Yes, definitely hot.

Monday, November 7, 2011

No. 941 – The Gates of Delirium

Performer: Yes
Songwriters: Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Alan White, Patrick Moraz
Original Release: Relayer
Year: 1974
Definitive Version: Yesshows, 1980

I’ve had a rather up-and-down relationship with Yes over the years. After I had my big rock breakthrough in high school, Yes was one of the bands that I listened to a lot. Well, I should say that I listened to Fragile and Classic a lot; the rest of the catalog, not so much. But I was on a big Yes upswing in the mid-90s when I bought Yesshows after joining the Dispatch.

My job during this time was to put together BusinessToday. BT was the Dispatch’s Monday business tab. It focused on small, local businesses and workplace issues and was heavy on the advice. My weekly schedule consisted of two days doing first reads on free-lance columnists—the ones the editors didn’t want to concern themselves with—while working the business rim (copy editing and sending business pages). Thursday I’d lay out BT and then Friday I’d be back on the rim. Saturday I would send the Sunday section with full stock pages and then read and wrap up BT.

Thursday was the best day. After dinner break, about 7, I’d get the ad design layouts, and I’d design the section. Because this required a page-design ATEX machine—and only one of those was in the business department—I’d go work upstairs in the features department on that machine. Features had nothing going on in the evening, so no one was in that part of the building. That meant I could turn on the TV and have a baseball game on—just like the old days in Flint—or I could bring my Discman and listen to music.

Because Yesshows was in heavy rotation at that time, I can’t hear this song and not think of my fourth-floor hideout on Thursday nights, where I’d stay until I got done, which meant midnight or even 1 a.m. if it was a larger section—or if I were called in to help get the Friday section out. At the time, I really liked doing my own thing and having a particular niche.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

No. 942 – Hope

Performer: Rush
Songwriters: Alex Lifeson
Original Release: Snakes & Arrows
Year: 2007
Definitive Version: Snakes & Arrows Live, 2008

My buddy Dave sent me the word last year: Rush was touring, and to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Moving Pictures, they were going to play the entire album start to finish—as if I needed any more incentive to see them for the 10th time!

They were going to play two dates in July in Chicago at Your Bank Name Here Pavilion on Northerly Island, which I had been to for the first time only the year before to see Crosby, Stills & Nash. It’s a cozy outdoor venue, and I loved that I would have the chance to see Rush there. Laurie and I chose the second night—it would be the day after we got back from a long weekend at Torch Lake after the Fourth—and I got tickets when they went on sale about 25 rows back and to the side. They’d be great seats for sure.

Laurie, being unemployed at the time, was coming from home; I’d be coming from work. We’d meet up downtown and hike out to the show, which was out past Adler Planetarium. (It’s where Meigs Field used to be, until Mayor Daley snatched up the land and tore up the runway, because he could.) I took a change of clothes to work; it was supposed to be in the 90s.

There also was a chance of rain, and the tickets said rain or shine, so, well, OK, rock ‘n’ roll. We didn’t have ponchos, but it’s supposed to be warm, so what would getting a little wet matter? We’d be oblivious to that soft summer rain.

Well, you would have had to have been oblivious, period, to not notice the rain. The show was scheduled to start at 7:30, and at about 6:30, a massive thunderstorm struck. We cabbed it from where we met up for dinner downtown, and by the time we made it to the show, the rain was easing up--temporarily. We were drenched by the time we made it to our seats. Fortunately, it was warm, so it wasn’t cold. It could have been worse: The beer taps could’ve been dry.

The rain eventually did stop, but the tarps stayed on Rush’s equipment. When I saw on my cellphone that it was almost 8:30, I said to Laurie, we’re right at cut-off time. Because of curfew, they had better get out on stage soon or call it.

No sooner had the words left my lips when a stagehand trudged out sheepishly and asked, “Well … how’s everyone doin’ tonight?” Yep, they called it. No show: the first concert cancellation I was a part of. It was rain or shine, not thunderstorm or shine. I can’t say I disagreed with the decision. Fear not: A make-up date would be announced shortly.

So back home we trudged through the puddles; our shoes squishing with each step but with Hope in our hearts (if not in our ears) that a pleasure delayed was not in fact a pleasure denied. I’ve waited this long to finally see the boys play The Camera Eye—the centerpiece opus of Moving Pictures—I can wait a little longer.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

No. 943 – The Ghost of Tom Joad

Performer: Bruce Springsteen
Songwriter: Bruce Springsteen
Original Release: The Ghost of Tom Joad
Year: 1995
Definitive Version: None

I bought Tom Joad as soon as it came out, which is notable, because I’m not really a big Boss man. But I read that it was essentially Nebraska II, I was geeked to get it.

But I was even more geeked for that year’s Ohio State-Michigan game later that week. If you know anything about college football, you know this is a big game. In 1995, I made it clear to Debbie, my family and all my colleagues at work: I was rooting for Michigan. Although this was tantamount in Columbus to saying I was throwing in with Saddam, everyone—and I mean everyone—gave me special dispensation to openly root for Michigan that year.

Why? The week before the Big One, Northwestern, my graduate alma mater, had racked up Purdue to finish the Big Ten season undefeated. It had been a stunning year that had included defeats of Notre Dame and Michigan (they didn’t play OSU), but because NU had lost to Miami of Ohio (WTF?), the only way my beloved Mildcats—no WILDcats—would go to the Rose Bowl was if Michigan beat Ohio State.

Fortunately, this was when OSU uniforms read “Property of Michigan” on the inside and OSU’s coach couldn’t win a big game if he were given a 50-point lead in the fourth quarter. The game was somewhat close but the outcome never really in doubt, and when the clock read 0:00, Northwestern was headed to its first bowl game in my lifetime, and it was THE bowl game.

I immediately got on the phone to call about plane tickets to LA, but as soon as I figured out that it would cost me at least $1,000 just to get there with no guarantee of a ticket, I bagged that harebrained scheme. My buddy Jim went, but I honestly don’t regret that I didn’t go, even if it’s the only chance I might have to see my team in the Rose Bowl. And I still proudly wear my 1996 Rose Bowl sweatshirt.

Friday, November 4, 2011

No. 944 – Hold On, I’m Comin’

Performer: Sam & Dave
Songwriters: Issac Hayes, David Porter
Original Release: Single, Hold On, I’m Comin’
Year: 1966
Definitive Version: None

This song is a big night-time song (think of the scene in The Blues Brothers when it’s played), so of course I think about when I transferred from news to sports at the Flint Journal in December 1990. I began what I called the Vampire Shift. It was well-named.

If you were the head copy editor in charge of laying out the section, you went in at midnight; otherwise, 1 a.m.-ish. The boss would roll in about 7:30, and the section would go out about 8. If there was anything late (early?) breaking, you’d stay until 9. Most of the time, the sports editor would take the ball, so I was usually gone by 8 or so.

My schedule at that point was to go home and go to bed. I’d sleep till about 6 and then have the evening to do whatever. That part was kind of nice. If you’re a newspaper copy editor, the odds are you work in the evening, and that really sucks, because your schedule never synchs with anything. When I moved to sports, I worked while most people slept and vice versa. The evenings aligned, so now I could finally do things like play softball and go to concerts.

Of course, a problem is the weekends if you ever planned to do anything with anyone. I kept the same hours—stay up till about 6 or 7 a.m. and sleep till the late afternoon—so I didn’t screw up my schedule too much. On event weekends, I’d do a power switch where I’d go home and get a two-hour sleep and be up and gone by noon. By midnight that night, I’d be so shot that I’d be ready for bed, and now my schedule was in alignment.

But the worst part by far would be in early January—the dead of winter—right after Christmas when nothing was happening. Sometimes I’d go an entire week without seeing the sun. I’d wake up and it would be dark. I’d go to work and it was dark. I’d leave and it was dawn, and by the time I’d get home, it would just start getting light. It was as if I were a vampire scurrying off to my cave before it got to be light out.

Is it any wonder that Flint was where I really learned how to drink?