Posted in 2000s, Music, The Who

Twenty years of awesomeness

It’s finally here. My porcelain anniversary with Tommy, my very first Who album. How did twenty entire years pass by already? That’s half of my entire life gone! Half of my life loving The Who. I became interested in them in ’93 and liked them since ’94, but ’twasn’t till 2000 that I finally made the transition from a casual lawnseat fan to a serious, passionate, hardcore fan.

I detailed the story of my amazing journey on my crystal anniversary in 2015. Now that milestone anniversary seems an entire lifetime away. Most people don’t like reminders they’re getting older and that their youth will never come this way again in this lifetime!

When I turned forty at the end of last year, my first and primary thought was, “I’m now as old as John Lennon lived to. At my next birthday, I’ll have outlived him.”

The Who have been a huge part of my life for half of my life, roughly equidistant between my 34 years of being a Monkeemaniac on the highest end and a bit over nine and a half years of being a Duranie on the lowest end. In September 2000, I had no memory of anything that happened twenty years ago, and now I can remember as far as 37 years ago (plus my first, fuzzy memory of 38 years ago, seeing E.T. in the theatre).

Every time with Tommy is like the first time all over again. I’m swept back to that wonderful visit to Mystery Train Records with one of the few good roommates I’ve had and being twenty, my entire life still ahead of me, no idea what the future held. And then listening to the first three songs in Pittsfield after coming home for the weekend the next day, and listening all the way through the next night.

Side note: I really began blossoming and becoming a full part of the UMass Hillel community after I finally started staying on campus every weekend late in my junior year. I was held back so much by almost always going home prior, to say nothing of attending community college the first two years and missing out on formative underclass experiences. Learnt helplessness is very difficult to escape.

Proud lifelong tomboy I am, I take special pride in being a Who Rottweiler, the nickname Pete gave my fellow female fans. There are so relative few serious female fans of hard rock and metal bands, but I’ve never been interested in stereotypically girly trappings. Becoming a Who Rottweiler was a logical outgrowth of that.

Though as I came to discover over the first year of my amazing journey, I’m not as gender-defiant as I thought. I found myself loving songs a lot of guy fans slag off, like “Sunrise,” “A Man Is a Man,” “One Life’s Enough,” and “Our Love Was.” Many female fans swoon at those songs!

And while The Who have never been known as Tiger Beat pinups for teenyboppers, I also was (and remain!) quite physically attracted to the boys as they were in their prime. The music comes first and foremost, but Hashem (God) blessed all four of them with good looks. Perhaps a bit unconventionally handsome, but handsome nonetheless.

Pete’s vulnerability re: his appearance, esp. his nose (which I never found that big), increased my attraction and solidified my choice of him as my fave rave. He’ll probably be the first to tell you he hasn’t always been the easiest person to be around, but I admire his brutal honesty, and adore his sensitive soul.

It’s also fairly unusual I’m particularly physically attracted to a guy with blue eyes. I’ve always been all about brown eyes. (Fun fact: There’s no such thing as true black eyes. People described as having black, raven, sable, etc., eyes have VERY dark brown eyes that merely appear black.)

I’m so glad I finally bit the bullet and bought a Who album already, after about nine months of hesitation and longing. Sometimes we have to take a chance and try something new, and songs will never become familiar if we stick to greatest hits collections and the radio.

I owe so very, very, very much to this wonderful band. Pete is one of the principal writers of the soundtrack to my life, and his music, both in The Who and as a solo artist, means the world to me. I couldn’t imagine not having his songs in my life for so many years.

And it all started in Amherst with the story of a blind-deaf mute boy.

Posted in 1980s, 1990s, holidays, Music

Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day!—Celebrating my fave songs, Part II

To mark DDAD 2020, I decided to do a Part II of last year’s celebration of my personal Top 10 faves. The songs in the second half of my Top 20 are in no particular order. I can hardly believe Valentine’s Day 2021 will mark ten years since I became a Duranie! Where did all that time go already?

11. “The Edge of America,” eleventh track on Big Thing (1988). So many lovely, deep, thought-provoking lyrics. I particularly love the refrain, “Learn to love your anger now, anger here is all you possess.” This is the kind of political song I like, intelligently and respectfully making a point without angrily, one-sidedly ranting and condemning anyone who doesn’t think that way.

My 34-year-old little brother just disowned me, in a fit of rage, because I support J.K. Rowling and don’t share his toxic woke ideology, so this is a very relevant subject now. So many people, particularly the younger ones, have forgotten, or never learnt, how to have dialogue and state their case without a torrent of insults and ignoring anything that contradicts their ideology.

12. “Do You Believe in Shame?,” sixth track on Big Thing. This tribute to Andy Warhol, record producer Alex Sadkin, and Simon’s childhood friend David Miles has such beautiful, poetic lyrics. The music video is also great.

13. “Last Chance on the Stairway,” seventh track on Rio (1982). Once again, such lovely lyrics, pure poetry in motion. So many people criminally underestimate this wonderful band because of the stigma of throngs of screaming teenyboppers in the Eighties. Some bands who get really popular really quickly and are heavily marketed to teenyboppers have substance below the prettyboy image.

14. “New Religion,” sixth track on Rio. This is a quintessential example of a song with a very long intro done right. There’s over a minute of instrumentation before the first note is sung, but it’s more than worth the wait. It builds anticipation beautifully.

I love the haunting lyrics and vocal tracking. They work so well with the music. The title of my future sixth book with my Russian characters (to be set 1957–64) will be Seagulls Gathered on the Wind, after a line from this song.

15. “Khanada,” B-side of “Careless Memories.” I named my eleventh journal after this song (pronounced Ka-NAY-da, not like the country). The lyrics are like surrealistic poetry, and very evocative of a dream or fairytale.

16. “Serious,” fourth track on Liberty (1990). One of the two standout gems from an awful album that bombed for a reason. Even if the record company had promoted it a lot better, most of the songs are terrible. How did beautiful songs like “Serious” and “My Antarctica” end up among so many bottom of the barrel scrapings!

Warning: Video NSFW or under 18!

17. “The Chauffeur,” final track on Rio. Like “Khanada,” the lyrics are rather trippy and surrealistic, and like poetry in motion. At least twenty other artists have covered it, and it’s been sampled in several other songs. The music video is a prime example of how to be sexy without being smutty.

18. “Breath After Breath,” seventh track on The Wedding Album (1993). I love how part of it is in Portuguese (sung by Milton Nascimento). Romance languages have a natural poetry built into them. Though I’ve never studied Portuguese, either formally or independently, I usually understand a fair amount because it’s so close to Spanish, which I studied for seven years.

19. “Too Much Information,” first track on The Wedding Album. The message about a constant barrage of capitalist advertising and over-commercialized music industry is still relevant over 25 years later.

20. “Tel Aviv” with lyrics, bonus track on their eponymous début (1981). The instrumental version is the final track on the album, but this powerful song somehow went unreleased for 30 years. Though I want to live in the Lower Galilee (preferably Tiberias, right on the lake) when I make aliyah, Tel Aviv is also awesome. Hearing this song makes me wish I could visit Israel again soon!

Posted in 1970s, Music, The Who

Happy 50th birthday, Live at Leeds!

Image used solely to illustrate subject for an album review, and consistent with fair use doctrine

On Valentine’s Day 1970, The Who played one of the greatest live shows of rock history at the University of Leeds Refectory, a venue which seats 2,100. On 23 May 1970, six tracks were released with an album cover intending to give the feel of a bootleg.

In February 1995, the album was remastered and released with fourteen tracks. This is the version I bought myself as a 21st birthday present in December 2000, from Amherst’s B-Side Records. Sadly, that store appears to no longer be in business. Since they mostly sold CDs, and had somewhat higher prices than Mystery Train Records and Newbury Comics, I didn’t go there too often.

In September 2001, almost the entire show was finally released on two discs. Fans call this version LAL+T, Live at Leeds plus Tommy, since they performed Tommy live (with a few songs left off). There have since been a 40th anniversary edition and a 2014 deluxe edition (neither of which I have).

As you can see from the above, the complete version (which finally includes “Spoonful”) arranges the tracks in performance order. Even LAL+T didn’t do this. They put the Tommy material on Disc Two, though the band played that in between their other songs.

I got LAL+T as a present from my surviving uncle in December 2001, a bit over a year after I bought the ’95 remaster. Leading up to this, I’d heard a lot of complaints about the sound quality from audiophiles on the Odds and Sods mailing list (which I later unsubscribed from due to its infamously out of control nastiness). Some of them were even quoted in music magazines like Ice.

Guess what, I found not a thing wrong with the sound quality! No tinny, muted sounds or any other problems whatsoever. And the only reason the sound is somewhat softer on the Tommy section is because they turned their instruments down! After that was over, they turned them back up.

After that fiasco, I never trusted a single word out of their obsessed mouths ever again. I was so embarrassed I believed them. These people aren’t audiophiles, they’re audiomaniacs. Who the bloody hell has the time, money, and interest to buy dozens of different versions of the same albums, invest in expensive stereos, and notice tiny differences in audio quality?

You’re not focused on the right thing about music if you seriously declare, “The blue vinyl from China on XYZ Label from 1985 sounds so much better than the picture disc from Brazil on ABC Label from 1970.” No one normal cares or thinks about that!

The leader of these audiomaniacs also has quite the nasty reputation, both on that mailing list and in real life. He’s stalked people, and sent nasty messages to Pete about how he chose to release his own musical catalogue. Amazingly, he asked for five million dollars when he sold his giant music collection.

LAL was my sixth Who album, and I instantly loved it. When I got LAL+T, I loved it even more. It’s right up there with Who’s Next as a quintessential must-have album for newbies, one of their undisputed all-time greats. If you’ve got the money, you should get the complete version.

Of the non-Tommy tracks, my faves are “Tattoo,” “A Quick One” (which Pete gives a wonderfully hilarious, detailed intro to!), “Heaven and Hell” (sung by John), and “Fortune Teller.”

Posted in Music

Why I stopped doing album anniversaries

This was originally written on my old Angelfire page in 2008. Starting in 2001, I joyously played my albums on the anniversary of the day I got them, writing journal entries about them as I did so. I had a number of double, triple, even quadruple anniversaries.

When I wrote this, I planned to retain certain anniversaries, but ended up discontinuing even those. I cut out the second half of the original post, since it discussed which albums I wanted to keep, and why. The final paragraph is significantly edited down.

***

I’ve decided, without much difficulty, to cease and desist from creating any further album anniversaries. The reasons for wanting to stop while I’m still somewhat ahead are many-fold:

1. I don’t want to clutter up the calendar with excess anniversaries. Why feel obligated to have an anniversary anyway? If you love the album enough, you won’t need a reason to play it, or can just play it without writing about it.

And, particularly lately, I’ve been journalling almost nonstop about something I’d prefer to keep journalling about with no interruptions [i.e., my then-nascent relationship with that loser Sergey]. There will also be times when I want or need to journal about something else, not have to devote the day’s entry, or several entries in a row, to album anniversaries. It’s a very positive step that now I don’t find it a big deal at all to have belated anniversaries, even by more than a day.

2. Though every album is special and unique in its own way, not all albums are held in the same regard. I’ve often commented how nice it is to sit down and play something again after a whole year of not having played it, get reacquainted with it, remind yourself it still exists, but the fact remains that there are still some albums you’d prefer not to revisit at all, or at least would prefer to revisit on your own time.

Why stretch yourself thin having anniversaries for every single album you’ve got when you can concentrate your time and energy on your very favourites? I get more out of an anniversary for an album I absolutely love and have a special relationship with than something I don’t play that often.

3. Why even bother to do an anniversary for an album I don’t like? I don’t get anything out of it. Sometimes I even have difficulty coming up with much of anything to say for an album I do like, such as Walls and Bridges or McVicar.

4. If I have an anniversary for every single album in my main artist categories, eventually they’ll all come to feel the same. If they’re few and far between, I’ll have more to say and will treasure them even more. And if you don’t start having anniversaries for the new ones, then the habit won’t start to begin with and thus feel harder to break.

I can’t imagine what I’d have to say were I to do an anniversary for Extra Texture beyond “Well, this album still sucks. I’m embarrassed just listening to it. It makes me want to fall asleep. At least it was only $3. I expect so much better from George than this horrible excuse of an album.”

5. Not having an anniversary, or not starting the habit at all, doesn’t make it any less special.

6. I started this practice when I had far fewer albums. Eventually you run out of things to say, apart from the big guns like Quad or Tommy.

7. It’s ridiculous to schedule your life around these anniversaries, or lug along a record player, the stereo, the big bulky headphones, and vinyl albums when you’re just going on a ten-day vacation, or even just a smaller CD player and its own equipment.

I had to put Psychoderelict onto an iPod for my recent Israel trip, since my six-year anniversary happened during the trip. That anniversary is shared with Double Fantasy and More of The Monkees, but since they’re on vinyl, I had to wait till I got home to have a belated anniversary.

Now that I no longer have this stupid worry, I don’t have to worry about having enough time to do an anniversary if I get home late at night, having to hold off on playing new albums all on the same day, or waiting till well after a period of several anniversaries in a row. I’d be getting more time freed up to spend with my most cherished albums.

Trimming the fat means I get more time to spend with my most special anniversaries.

Posted in Music

Summing up Pete’s solo catalogue

Looking back, it’s hard to believe I was so nervous about getting into Pete’s solo work. For the longest time, I was afraid of committing to an album of unfamiliar songs, and preferred to know all or most already from the radio. If I hated it, I’d have wasted my money.

When I queried the ladies on my estrogen Who lists, Chinese Eyes and Empty Glass were unanimously recommended as ideal starting points, and they were right. You can’t go wrong with either.

Pete’s solo work is so intensely personal, saying “This is who, how, what, and why I am, so love me or leave me.” I love how he wears his heart on his musical sleeve, and cares less if people deride him as pretentious or not commercial enough.

“And I Moved” is a quintessential example of why he got so many female and gay male fans as a solo artist! Pete has more guts in his pinky finger than most male artists for choosing to sing a song about a sexual encounter from a female POV after Bette Midler’s handlers rejected it without showing it to her.

Over eighteen years after I first heard that song, it still gives me goosebumps, particularly the lines “And I moved/And his hands felt like ice exciting/As he lay me back just like an empty dress.”

I used to play Empty Glass every single day! That’s how much I adore that album. And after almost two decades, Side Four of Another Scoop never fails to emotionally transport me back to being a heartbroken 22-year-old.

The order in which I got Pete’s solo albums:

All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, 21 November 2001. I later bought a vinyl copy on 24 May 2002.

Empty Glass, bought 1 December 2001, first listen 19 December 2001, after finally getting a record player as an unbirthday present to myself. (Long story about how the Residence Director of the UMass Hillel House totally forgot about my birthday, and I didn’t finally have a party till the Senior Service in May!)

ScoopAnother Scoop, and Rough Mix, 27 January 2002

Psychoderelict, 16 February 2002

Who Came First, 2 March 2002

White City, late July/early August 2002. I first listened to it on 3 August after winning it on eBay.

Rough Boy bootleg, 18 September 2002

Iron Man, 23 March 2003

Deep End Live!, 19 May 2003

Scoop 3, about the spring of 2019 (via Spotify)

I’d personally recommend White City after Chinese Eyes and Empty Glass. They’re the classic triumvirate of Pete’s solo style. Scoop and Another Scoop are good choices to round out your first five.

Psychoderelict is awesome, though some people prefer the music-only version and don’t like the radio play version. I personally can’t imagine it without the dialogues tying all the songs together, since they’re an integral part of the story, though others feel much differently.

I’d recommend Who Came First and Rough Mix for about this point in your journey into Pete’s solo work, since they were made before he started recording as a solo artist in earnest. It took awhile for WCF to fully grow on me, and RM is half Ronnie Lane’s album, not just Pete’s. You’re getting two for the price of one, and need to like Ronnie’s music too.

If you like Pete’s music enough to keep going, Scoop 3 might be a good addition at this point. Since many of the songs are instrumentals, of a more experimental nature, and not Who demos, it’s more geared towards serious fans of Pete’s solo career instead of newbies.

Getting certain albums too early can turn one off, even if the music itself is awesome. You need to be at a certain place in your fandom to love and appreciate them.

I was really disappointed by Deep End Live!, and would recommend it for last. It’s not so much bad music, just presented poorly. There were 27 songs at this show, with eighteen on the video, and those were the ten songs chosen for the album?!

Only four of those songs are what I consider standouts. The rest are so disappointing. The entire live show was finally released on CD in 2004, which I’m long overdue to listen to!

The much-derided Iron Man made a better initial impression on me! It’s hardly one of Pete’s greatest records, but it’s intended as a children’s story, not deep, timeless, adult music. You also don’t want to miss John Lee Hooker singing “Over the Top” and “I Eat Heavy Metal.”

For almost twenty years, Pete’s solo albums have meant so much to me, on top of his songs for The Who being one of the predominant soundtracks of my life. They hold up so well, and listening to them for the first time in a very long time last year felt like the first time all over again. (My LPs are in storage 900 miles away, so I have to use Spotify for almost everything!)

I’m so glad I took a chance and stepped out of my comfort zone to discover such a special catalogue.