Wednesday, September 20, 2017

We're Back! And To Prove It We're Here!

I was in Google hell for the last couple of days -- don't ask -- and consequently unable to post.

Our long national nightmare is over, however, and regular postings will resume on the morrow.

I thank you all for your patience, and also -- fuck you, Google.


Seriously, why am I not surprised that somebody had already done the appropriate graphic to express that sentiment?

Friday, September 15, 2017

Grant Hart 1961-2017

Goddamn, this pisses me off. That's much too young.




And yeah, I know Hart didn't write this one, but it's my favorite Hüsker Dü song. So sue me.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Okay, You Dragged It Out of Me

From the Me, Myself and Irene soundtrack in 2000, here's the Brian Setzer Orchestra and their smokin' rockabilly-ish cover of the Dan's "Bodhisattva."



BTW, one of these days I'm gonna post something by Setzer's pre-Stray Cats downtown New Wave band the Bloodless Pharaohs. I really like the guy, but that outfit was the biggest steaming pile of crap you've ever heard in your life.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Okay, Maybe It WON'T Be Butch Walker Week

From 2000, and the soundtrack to the mediocre Jim Carrey vehicle Me, Myself and Irene (which is a de facto Steely Dan tribute album)...


...please sort of enjoy Butch Walker and the Marvelous 3 (who I had, deservedly, nice things to say about a couple of days ago) and their cover of the Dan's "Reelin' in the Years."



I'm sort of a born again Butch Walker fan, but I gotta say...this one doesn't do it for me. The phrase that comes to mind immediately is -- rinky-dink.

That said, the original is so perfect that I can't imagine anybody else doing justice to the song.

Your thoughts?

Press Releases We're Glad We Read

We get e-mails from publicists and occasionally we open them.

To wit, this one that came in over the transom last week:

In celebration of the band's 25th Anniversary, pop-rock trio HANSON are releasing their Middle Of Everywhere - The Greatest Hits, their first comprehensive career-spanning collection. The album includes hit singles spanning the last two decades, including "Mmmbop", "Where's The Love", "Weird", "This Time Around", "If Only", "Save Me", "Penny And Me", "Thinking 'Bout Somethin'" and "Get The Girl Back", plus their brand new single "I Was Born" that NPR music calls "impossible to resist".


The album includes 26 songs from the multi-Grammy nominated band's six studio albums, many of which are featured in their live show on the Middle Of Everywhere 25th Anniversary World Tour. The extensive world tour has seen the band performing to sold out crowds in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Latin America, and begins it's North American leg on September 12th.

"It's incredible to be able to reflect on 25 years of making music together, and even more amazing to have been able make such a strong connection with music fans around the world", said keyboardist Taylor Hanson. Added guitarist Isaac Hanson "The response to the tour so far has blown us away. Releasing the album and kicking off the US tour in the same week is very exciting."

I always thought those guys were a lot better than their initial teeny-bopper celebrity suggested, and I will never forget the time in 2000 when a rock crit friend of mine handed me a Walkman and said "Listen to this song and then guess who it is." When he told me who the auteurs were, you could have knocked me over with a feather.



As you will have noticed, it's a song about mortality, fer crissakes, and coming from a bunch of kids whose testicles had barely descended I think you'd have to admit it's pretty damn audacious and wise beyond their years. Maybe that's why it flopped. I still love it, of course.

Meanwhile, you can -- and should -- order Middle of Everywhere over at Amazon HERE.

And because I love you all more than food, here's a little piece about Hanson that's one of the funniest things written in English in the second half of the 20th century.

It's by Jon Stewart -- yes, him -- and originally appeared in his 1999 collection Naked Pictures of Famous People.


A VERY HANSON CHRISTMAS, 1996-1999

December 15, 1996

HEY Y'ALL!

Greetings and happy tidings to all, in this the beautiful season to celebrate the Savior's birth. The tree is up and the Christmas Ham is awaiting my apricot glaze, so once again it's time to check in for our yearly Hanson Family update. A promise from the heart to keep this year's news-letter as brief as possible (I hear you sighing, Uncle Jack! Just kidding, I can't hear you!). It's hard to believe that a year has passed since my last correspondence. Time sure flies when Jesus is flying the plane! It's a crisp afternoon here in Sooner Country. Gary and the boys are off hunting snow rabbits so the girls and I broke out the old Smith-Corona to fill everyone in, Don't worry, Peg, there's a Pumpkin Pie waiting for my men when they return -- hopefully with a fresh kill.

We're awaiting a wonderful Christmas. As is our family tradition, no gifts are exchanged but all the children will prepare a drawing, poem or play. This year's theme is Genesis. The girls are painting a beautiful mural of God's creation of man, using only the juices of fruit they grew themselves. Isaac and Taylor are preparing a heartwarming skit on the Garden of Eden (Taylor makes a beautifully innocent Eve) and little Zach, well, let's just say shouting "Let there be light" and Clapping the Clapper on and off doesn't show great inspiration. It doesn't matter. We love all our children equally, and still believe greatly in last year's Christmas theme, "Abortion Is Murder."

Some Hanson Highlights: Gary's working on a book about our methods of teaching the children called All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, at Home with My Parents; Who Taught Me Better Than Any Government-Run Public School That Denies Prayer Could. The girls once again won the yearly Hanson Home School Science Fair. They devised a method for testing the bacterial content of foods using only Litmus Paper, Paper Clips and a homemade Centrifuge. These girls are going places! The boys did well too. They built a mobile depicting the fallacy of evolution. As for Zach, well, let's just say sneaking something into our dinner and waiting to see if anyone would eat it and become ill didn't impress these judges. But we love all our children equally and hope one day Zach will tell us what it was, and why I can no longer hold down solid foods.

In Hanson Sports News, it was a very good year. The Hansons played a very strong schedule, going head to head with the only other Home School Team in the area, the Jurgensons. It was great fun.

Oh, before I forget, the boys continue with their little music project. They recently played the Devlin County Pan-Asian Wet and Wild Jamboree for Vietnamese Exiles. I don't want to go into too much detail, in this, the season of good tidings, but the crafty little Asian gentleman who organized the fair tried to cheat the boys out of their $50 performance fee. We nearly came to blows over the matter, but eased off when both parties quoted the same piece of foreboding scripture at the same time. I can't say I condone the boys' interest in this pursuit of popular music, but as I always say, "Encouragement is next to Charity, which is next to Faith, which is next to Cleanliness... and we all know what that's next to."

Jesus loves you,
Eileen and Gary Hanson and the Hanson Family

P.S. Any donations to the charity to help that poor boy in our neighborhood with the cleft lip would be greatly appreciated. We've raised some money, but he still looks odd when he eats in public, which is often. Remember, Charity begins at home, which, as you know, is where we have our school.

December 25,1997

Dear Hanson Super Fan Friends and Family,

Hey everybody! It's that time of year again! And what an amazing year it's been. I apologize for the Fan Club stationery, but it's all I could find. Normally I would just ask Carmen where she put the newsletter paper, but I gave her the day off. Most of her family is somewhere in South America, but bless her heart, she still seemed set on not working the holiday. Although I'm sure you could make a case that that's when I would need her most.

I feel bad about the stationery even though I'll bet none of you care. I'll bet you're just impressed that with all the amazing things happening to our family I still make a point of personally sending out the yearly holiday update. I agree! That is exactly what I told Gary, who was of the mind that if you all really need information, you can visit our official Web site like everybody else. But that's crazy. Being stars doesn't mean we can't take the time to stay in touch with our friends and family. By the way, the unofficial sites are not sanctioned and contain a great deal of fabricated information. I can't stress that enough. Our official site has received over two million hits to date!!

You're probably saying to yourself "Wow, that must be making them a fortune!" You would think!! Although perhaps you are not taking into consideration a poorly negotiated contract that paid a one-time up-front fee and neglected any back end or merchandising considerations.

But you know our Gary. I think when the Lord was passing out business acumen, Gary was downstairs getting good hair. Of course you can't tell that to Gary. I guess he figures his year and a half of technical school and previous work experience selling homemade knickknacks at mall art fairs qualifies him to manage a world-famous band.

A big "I'm sorry" on behalf of Gary, the boys and myself for not being at Ned and Irene's annual family reunion picnic. The girls told Carmen it was a hoot. Unfortunately that was the weekend before the Grammys and as you might imagine we were swamped. While the boys were sad to miss Irene's annual mock apple pie, their dinner with Fiona Apple softened the blow. I had heard through the grapevine that Irene was a little bent out of shape. I'm sure that's not true because Irene and Ned are God-fearing people and very aware that envy is a sin.

Ooops! Please excuse the sloppy penmanship. I'm jotting this update from the back of a Limousine the boys bought me for Christmas, and the slick leather interior doesn't offer great stability. Lincoln, my driver, and I have developed a very funny joke where he calls me Miss Daisy and I pretend that's my real name.

Well, enough chatter, I better have Lincoln take me home. The boys and Gary are in Dnsseldorf, but Zach still likes me to spend at least six hours a day in his room, cleaning the shag carpet, strand by strand, with my teeth. Anything for my little angel, because, as I always say, I love all my three boys equally.

It's been a wild year. The Lord sure works in mysterious ways, or as I like to say, "What a long strange trip it's been!"

Jesus loves us,
Eileen, Gary, Zach, Taylor and Isaac
(collectively known as Hanson)

P.S. You can stop sending money for the gimp boy with the Cleft Lip. It turns out we had enough money left over from just one mall show to ship him and his entire family off to Nebraska.

December 28, 1999

To Whom It May Concern,

HO, HO, HO! Zach has Herpes. There. Are you Happy now? You try controlling an eleven-year-old multi-millionaire with a hard-on for strippers. For those of you wondering about last year's newsletter, there wasn't one. If you must know, I was at a retreat in Hazelden, Minnesota, and they didn't allow pens, pencils or any other sharp implements for that matter. It's been quite a ride... quite a... I sit here, alone in my Hotel suite. Pen in one hand, bottle of Glenlivet in the other. A gun at my feet. Darkness all around me...

First of all, to all you Nosy Parkers in the crowd, I did not embezzle money from my family, I don't give a rat's ass what that judge says. I am their manager... co-manager... was their co-manager. I had every right to that money. I gave birth to those boys. What did Gary do? His three minutes of dirty business? Foreplay?! Please. Whispering "The Bible says be Fruitful and Multiply" before ejaculating and passing out isn't foreplay. Seven times I allowed that man to sully me... seven times.

I'm tired ... so very tired. Someone had to have some fiscal responsibility. Christ! Do you know what Taylor and Isaac did on their big "Africa Tour"? Sat in a hotel restaurant ordering Lasagna made from 1,000-dollar bills and White Tiger's Blood. Not all the time, of course. No, sometimes they would lock themselves in their hotel rooms doing what looked and tasted like high-grade Brazilian Heroin. Where was their father, you might ask? Oh I don't know, maybe shacked up in some Backwater Indonesian Fuckee Suckee bar. Maybe it's just me, but I still believe in a thing called Statutory Rape Laws.

You think I'm bitter? You think I'm beaten? You think I might take the pills I have in my hand, wash them down with Scotch and glide off into a world of euphoria where all my pain will cease? HA! No, this old girl has some fight in her yet. Believe it!! I know things. Things that would be worth a lot of money if they got out. And not the usual bullshit, the "Taylor is fucking Naomi Campbell" shit. I could put a lot of people in jail... Think I'm bluffing? Try me... I dare you... I... I miss my angels. I just want to talk to them. To tell them Mommy loves them... to ... tell them... I could fucking kill Gary with my bare hands and not blink. I could stare into his eyes as he begged for my mercy and forgiveness and I could snuff out his life and then go back to my lunch as though nothing happened. I miss them so much. Do they care? Of course not.

Hey, some crude garage mix of the little bastards rehearsing Christmas music just went to Number 1 on the Holiday Charts. Think Kenny G is choking on his own cock over that one? I believe these tiny ingrates, who I gave life to, could sing into a bag of their own shit and ten million girls whose life ambition is to someday get breast implants would spend their hard-earned abortion money just to cradle it in their arms.

But hey! It was a great run, huh? Better to burn out than fade away! What do I care? I still have more money than any of you will ever have in a lifetime of being paid by the government not to grow corn.

Merry Fucking Christmas,
God is dead,
Eileen Hanson

Friday, September 08, 2017

Annals of the Age of Consensual Hallucination

And speaking as we were yesterday of T-Bone Burnett's great Trap Door EP, here's my other favorite song from it.



Which is obviously a deeply prescient ode to our current Nazi-in-Chief, but let's not bring politics into it.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

[h/t William Gibson]

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Your Thursday Moment of Words Fail Me: Special "A Goddess Walks Amongst Us" Edition

From 1983. please enjoy the divine Emmylou Harris and her utterly astounding version of the Carol Channing/Marilyn Monroe classic "Diamond's Are a Girls Best Friend."



This is the same arrangement T-Bone Burnett did a year earlier on his great Trap Door EP, but how this happened and who came first is a mystery that I have yet to unravel. If any of you guys knows what the deal is, please enlighten me.

[h/t Capt. Al]

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Closed for Monkey Business


Real life distractions today.

Regular posting -- in this case, involving a genuine goddess -- resume tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Chicago and San Francisco Confidential: A Photo Essay

So, as you may have heard, a certain Shady Dame and I recently had a transcontinental vacation -- flying into Chicago for couple of days, and then taking the California Zephyr train to San Francisco.

We had a thoroughly splendid time (and I heartily recommend a similar train trip to everybody). So herewith, as is my wont on these occasions, a little visual look at our trip. (Click on the photos to enlarge).

We saw this in our cab from O'Hare Airport on our way into town. I think if you look at the second from the bottom fee, you'll conclude, as we did, that Chicago is a town that really knows how to party.


The Pritzker Pavillion and the famous Cloud Sculpture. The locals have assured us that these are actually the pods that ALIEN hatched from.



At the Chicago Art Institute. Who knew that Ivan Albright had painted a highly flattering portrait of me?



And speaking of the Art Institute, here's my favorite exhibit -- which is on display at their cafeteria year round. Artist unknown, but obviously pretty frosty.


A Catholic book shop near the museum. Have your picture taken with Pope Frankie giving a big thumbs up!


Near our hotel. Obviously, I was just about to get my kicks.


The view from the dining car on the California Zephyr, at our first stop (in, I believe, Bumfuck,Nebraska.)


In San Francisco. Why do I have the feeling that Orson Welles once visited this building?


Okay, these people need to get a life.


Seen in front of a hotel that caters to show biz folk. But how did she tell such funny jokes with such tiny hands? (They're bigger than Trump's, but still...)


Does anybody else find it weird that horrible medical conditions...have their own phone numbers and galleries in this town?



A famous Beatnik hangout in North Beach. As you can see, the late Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane was a regular.



The Roz Chast exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. The aforementioned Shady Dame seems somewhat nonplussed.


P.S.: Unlike as in my previous photo essays on Quebec and Stockholm, there was no evidence I could find that folks in either Chicago or San Francisco are particularly interested in mooses.









Monday, September 04, 2017

Walter Becker 1950-2017

The co-founder of Steely Dan has died from an undisclosed illness.

From 1994, here's my favorite track from his debut solo album.



I've said it before but -- damn, this death stuff is really starting to piss me off.

PS: To paraphrase Cameron Crowe, you still can't buy a better album than Countdown to Ecstasy...



...or Pretzel Logic.



Yeah, I know most people are more partial to the Dan's later, more self-consciously sophisticated records, like Gaucho or Aja, but those two have always struck me as just a little too mellow by comparison. Which is, I guess, to say that they don't rock as hard.

Not that there's anything wrong with THAT, of course.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Get Your Kicks Etc.

So as you may have heard, a certain Shady Dame of my acquaintance has snagged two tickets to see Bruce Springsteen on Broadway

On October 21. Which just happens to be a major milestone birthday of mine (don't ask).

In any case, when friend of PowerPop Phil Cheese heard this news over at Facebook he was moved to ask "Are you going to shout out for 'Route 66' like you did decades ago? Haha!"

And therein lies a tale.

If you've never heard it, here it is at it originally appeared over at the website of Barnes and Noble back in the late 90s. (The occasion was the publication of that huge coffee table book of Bruce's complete lyrics).

THE WILD, THE INNOCENT, THE E STREET SHUFFLE AND ME

That Bruce Springsteen changed a lot of lives is both a truism and a cliché, although at this moment, if one is feeling uncharitable, it may be a rather naive and adolescent cliché. After all, 25 years after his first album, "Greetings from Asbury Park," Bruce is an institution (he's now eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, if you can believe it), and his music has changed in ways few of us expected (although we probably shouldn't be surprised about it). Springsteen now resembles a plainspoken populist like Merle Haggard far more than a generational spokesperson/poster boy like, say, Kurt Cobain. And the people whose lives Bruce most radically affected are, of course, now comfortably middle-aged, with more on their minds, understandably, than rock dreams. Face it: To paraphrase an early Springsteen song, it's hard to be a saint in the city when you're worried about making your mortgage payments or finding a good preschool.

Still, cliché or not, Bruce did impact more than a few lives, and if you want to know why, at least part of the reason can be found in the just-published Bruce Springsteen: Songs, a massive coffee-table tome featuring the complete lyrics to every song found on every one of his albums (save the simultaneously released "Tracks"—more about that later) as well as Bruce's reflections on what he was thinking at the time. What's most surprising about Songs—for me, at least—is just how well the stuff holds up on the page. It's a given, of course, that Springsteen is a great storyteller. Back in 1981, I noted, in a review of his "Nebraska" album, that the song "Highway Patrolman" would probably make an interesting film someday, so I was not exactly shocked when Sean Penn adapted it as "The Indian Runner" a decade later. Still, given Springsteen's penchant for overheated, fuel-injected romanticism, I was pleasantly struck, seeing these lyrics in cold type after all this time, by how even the least of them are redeemed by flashes of humor and wordplay. I was particularly taken reading "Thunder Road" (from "Born to Run"): Bruce has gotten a fair bit of feminist flak over the years for the line, "You ain't a beauty but hey, you're alright," but such complaints seem misguided in light of the line that immediately follows: "Oh," he adds, in what strikes me as an ineffably funny, apologetic attempt to deflect that very criticism, "and that's alright with me." What a gentleman.

But we were speaking of life changes. My own Springsteen moment was in early 1973. At the time, I was a baby rock critic at the old Stereo Review, and "Greetings from Asbury Park" had just come out, accompanied by reams of Columbia hype, the gist of which was that Bruce was (what were they thinking?) the latest New Dylan. Little did I know, of course, that for the rest of the more jaded rock press, this tag had the sort of negative connotations associated with phrases like "serial killer" or "record company weasel." In any case, in my naïveté I gave the disc a spin, and sure enough Bruce was spewing the sort of freely associative lyrics that could most charitably be described as Dylanesque (if not, more accurately, verbose and in need of a good editor), and I recall being mildly unimpressed. And then suddenly: Boom! A drum beat and Clarence Clemons's near-mystic sax wail announced "Spirit in the Night," and I was a goner.

The music was perfect, like much of Bruce's stuff to come: a sort of Proustian mix of half-remembered licks from rock and R&B oldies that may or may not have actually ever existed, the whole thing sounding simultaneously sublime and absurd, like Van Morrison at his most uplifting, jamming at a South Jersey pizzeria. And the song's lyrics were—and are—the most dead-on evocation ever of what it felt like to be a post-Woodstock 20-something with no direction home. I personally had the eerie feeling that Bruce had been reading my mail, and I later found I was far from alone in that perception.

As it happened, Bruce was making his semiofficial New York debut that week, on a double bill with the similarly debuting original Wailers. (To put this in perspective: This was at Max's Kansas City, a club that sat fewer than 200 people. I don't want to say, "Those were the days," but frankly, they were.) Every rock critic in New York showed up for what would be their first exposure to live reggae, and yes, the Wailers' opening set was rapturously received by all (few bands have ever had two front men as charismatic as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh). After intermission, however, I realized that the aforementioned highly jaded press contingent, having already had their tiny minds blown by a bunch of Rastas turning the beat around, were not about to fall for any "New Dylan" hype and had beaten a hasty exit. This left me in the odd position of being alone in the back of Max's with 30 or 40 of Bruce's buddies from the Jersey Shore. I was, literally, the only stranger there.


And the show was everything I'd hoped for, and more. Bruce and his E Street Band opened with a version of "Spirit..." that made the album take sound anemic. He went on to preview the far richer material he had already written for what became his sophomore masterpiece, "The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle," going so far as to use a mellotron on a gorgeous "New York City Serenade" that sounded like a Phil Spector record made flesh. Most memorably, though, I got to witness an early incarnation of the sort of interactive, fan-friendly stagecraft that would soon establish the Cult of Bruce. "Any requests?" Springsteen asked at one point. "It don't have to be one of ours." I blurted out "Route 66," having been listening to a lot of early Stones that week, and to my amazement, Bruce and band immediately launched into the best rendition of that chestnut I had ever heard. Who'd have thunk it: On top of everything, these guys were the bar band of my dreams.

You know the rest of the story, of course. Bruce's live show became legendary, his fans became famous for their missionary zeal (the sort of people who bought tickets for unbelieving friends), and eventually the kid from Asbury Park made "Born to Run" and wound up, simultaneously, on the covers of Time and Newsweek. Around this time, Bruce also became the second most widely bootlegged solo artist in the history of recorded music; most of those fan favorites are now, finally, officially available on the four-CD "Tracks" box set, with the conspicuous and peculiar omission of "The Fever," perhaps the most mesmerizing performance Bruce ever committed to tape. So what's the bottom line? Even if you're a lapsed fan like me (mortgage payments and all that), Songs is going to remind you that, yeah, you weren't crazy. Maybe the guy didn't literally change your life, but he sure as hell enriched it. Thanks, Boss. -- Steve Simels

I bring all this up partly to gloat, which I think I'm more than justified doing under the circumstances, but mostly because over the years few people have believed this story when I've told it.

Until today, bitches. Because listen to what I just found on the intertubes.



Okay, it's not great, and it certainly isn't as good as the one I remember hearing at Max's. But still.

Have a great weekend, everybody!