Game Changers

What follows is a semi-autobiographical list of records that in some way shaped my life.  The real game-changers.  Some were more important than others, and (when applicable) I’ve bolded them.  Others were just kind of “around” during benchmark moments.  I’ve included a couple of notes here and there as well—some of them need some explaining.  I’m not necessarily claiming that all of these are the BEST records these artists have to offer…they’re just the ones that really mattered to me, either personally or as a song-writer.  It’s a long list…it’s a little self-indulgent…and it’s probably a little boring if you don’t know the artists…but here we go.  Here are the game changers…and I’ll vaguely separate then “when” for you as well—all dates (VERY) approximate.  In fact, some of them flat-out overlap…

 

  • Pre-Sixth Grade:
    1. The Beatles – “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
    2. Styx – “Caught in the Act (Live)” and “Kilroy Was Here”
    3. Neil Diamond – “Hot August Night”
    4. Aerosmith (Self-titled) – This was the first record I ever bought with my own money–on vinyl.
    5. The Who – “Tommy”I saved up all my money for WEEKS to buy it (on tape).  I think I had like $7 in loose change, and the clerk wasn’t too happy about that.
    6. Meatloaf – “Bat out of Hell”
    7. Pink Floyd – “The Wall”
    8. RAMONES – “RAMONES-MANIA”
    9. Metallica – “…And Justice for All”
    10. REO Speedwagon – “Hi Infidelity” – This was the first CD I ever got.  A birthday present from my parents when I turned 10, along with my first CD player.

  

  • Sixth Grade Through Junior High
    1. Yes – “Big Generator”
    2. Queensryche – “Operation: Mindcrime”This might’ve been more relevant in High School…but I know I was into Queensryche before Mom died, so that puts this in the Jr. High area…
    3. Dream Theater – “Images and Words”This started a love-affair with DT that lasted for about a decade.  I still like them…but I think they’ve declined in recent years, frankly.
    4. Rush – “Counterparts”
    5. Michael Manring – “Thonk”FOREVER changed the way I thought about the bass guitar.  One of the biggest influenced on my playing.  Again, though…this might be a little early in the time-line…can’t quite remember when it came out.
    6. Nirvana – “Nevermind” – What can I say?  If you were aged 10-18 in the early 90s, you had this record…
    7. Neurotic Outsiders (self titled)
    8. Van Halen – “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge”
    9. Queen – “Live at Wembley ’84”

  

  • High School/Early College (Here’s where the timeline gets REALLY cloudy!)
    1. The Who – “Quadrophenia”STILL my favorite record.  It saved my life in high school and my SOUL in college.
    2. Iron Maiden – “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”
    3. Queensryche – “Promised Land”
    4. Yes – “Talk” – In fact, I was playing this record the night my mother died.  “I Am Waiting” may have been the last song she ever heard, wafting down the hall…kinda sad, but it’s an excellent record.
    5. Pearl Jam – “Vitalogy”
    6. Sammy Hagar – “Marching to Mars”
    7. Van Halen – “Balance”
    8. Frank Zappa – “Ship Arriving too Late to Save a Drowning Witch”
    9. Rollins Band – “Weight”
    10. Stone Temple Pilots – “Purple” – (I think…either that or “Vatican Gift Shop” I get them mixed up.)
    11. Rush – “Test for Echo”
    12. Spoondrift – “Alone with Others”And I’m still in touch with Jimmy Manno…
    13. KISS – “Destroyer” and “Revenge” – …and I’m just a little embarrassed by that now…
    14. Rich Mullins – “The Jesus Record”
    15. Les Miserables – Soundtrack
    16. Black Crowes – “Amorica” and “Three Snakes and One Charm”
    17. Elton John – “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”

  

  • Stuff Prevalent During my Years in Uncle Dick or Thereabout
    1. The Descendents – “Everything Sucks”
    2. Cheap Trick – “Cheap Trick ’97”BIG influence on Uncle Dick, and Dave and I were in the Cheap Trick Fan Club for a few years.
    3. Live – “The Distance to Here”
    4. The Pixies – “Surfer Rosa”
    5. Alice Cooper – “Brutal Planet”
    6. The Get Up Kids – “Something to Write Home About” and “On A Wire”
    7. Iggy Pop – “Beat ‘Em Up” and “Raw Power”
    8. Glimmer – “Silver Zone”
    9. Hard Core Logo – SoundtrackReally shaped a lot of the attitude of Uncle Dick.
    10. Headstones – “Oracle of Hi/Fi”
    11. Madison Greene – “The Whitestone Gathering” and “Think the Dancers Mad”
    12. Stiff Little Fingers – “Inflammable Material”
    13. Misfits – Boxed Set, mostly…
    14. ALL – Best of… and “Pummel”
    15. Spice Girls – “Spice” I know…shut up…  I got hooked on the music because I saw the movie and thought it was a good, funny movie.  Plus, I feel no need to apologize for liking the Spice Girls when so much of the other stuff on my list is pop, but just with guys singing it…I mean, hello?  Cheap Trick, much?

 

  • Later College that Didn’t Really Intersect with Uncle Dick
    1. Drive-By Truckers – “Decoration Day”
    2. Johnny Cash – “American IV” and “Live at Folsom”
    3. Hank Williams III – “Lovesick, Broke, and Driftin'”
    4. Denison Witmer – “Of Joy and Sorrow”
    5. David Bowie – “Heathen”
    6. Tree By Leaf – “Postcards from Rome”
    7. Neil Young – “Greendale” and “Prarie Wind”
    8. Son Volt – “Trace” – Major apologies to Marc for not getting it when we were in union jack together…
    9. Warren Zevon – “The Wind”
    10. Stone Temple Pilots – Whichever one isn’t the one from above…
    11. Pete Townshend – “Live”

 

  • More Recent…
    1. Aimee Mann – “The Forgotten Arm”
    2. Michael Penn – “Mr. Hollywood Jr. 1947”
    3. Tom Waits – “Akron”
    4. Over the Rhine – “Ohio”
    5. Devin Townsend Band – “Accelerated Evolution” – Which almost re-kindled my interest in modern prog music…then I read up on things the guy’s said and I realized he’s just a huge dork and it sort of turned me off…I mean, who doesn’t like the f***ing Who???  …but this is still a great record.
    6. Reverend Horton Heat – Best of…It’s why I bought a Gretsch…
    7. …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead – “Worlds Apart”
    8. Bruce Springsteen – “Devils and Dust” and “Live in Dublin”
    9. Modest Mouse – “Good News for People Who Love Bad News”
    10. Ray Davies – “Working Man’s Cafe” – Which has sparked my new-found fondness of the Kinks.

 

…okay…I’m sure I left off a bunch of stuff…but this is super-long, and that’s a good loose framework, anyway.  Hope someone out there enjoyed it.

 

————

 

Current Listening:

  • Leonard Cohen – “Live in London”

Oh yeah…by the way…

I’m going to Farm Aid.

 

It’s in St. Louis this year.  That’s a once, maybe twice in a lifetime thing.  If you’re unaware of what Farm Aid is, it’s essentially an annual concert designed to help family farms avoid being shut down due to foreclosure.  (This may be very important to my family one day if my aunt Stella doesn’t get back on her feet and the feds want to invade Goobertown.)  It actually started when Bob Dylan commented at a Live Aid in (I think) ’85 that he hoped a little of the money would go to family farms to help them not have to sell to the government.  Willie Nelson took it one step further than Dylan (who got his applause and walked away) and organized a concert alongside Neil Young and John “Don’t Call Me ‘Cougar'” Mellencamp.  It’s been a recurring thing since 1985.  There have been 20+ shows.  This is the first time in St. Louis.

 

Okay…so I’ll have to put up with Dave Matthews…but at least he’s doing an acoustic-duo thing and won’t have the whole Dave Matthews Bland there…

 

But I’m excited about the show.  I’ve seen Willie before, and he puts on a good show.  Never seen Neil Young, and I’m a big fan.  That’s going to be great.  I like seeing guys like Neil do their thing, anyway…but how much cooler will it be to see him doing a show behind a cause he believes in?  (Other acts are being announced…I’m hoping for like a last-minute Springsteen add or something like that…but I won’t hope too hard, ha ha.)

 

The show takes place on October 4th (which might make for a cold show out at the pavilion).  That’s the day before my Dad’s birthday…so Dave and I bought him a ticket.  That’ll be fun.  It’s been a long time since Dave, Dad, and I went to a show like this one.  Sure, we saw the Drive-By Truckers (twice), but this is a BIG show.  An amphitheatre.  Acts that are household names.  I love DBT (also a good choice for the tour, if they’ve got a free night…but again, I won’t hold out too much hope), but y’know…there’s just something special about seeing a show where there’s 20,000 other people there, as opposed to 1,000.

 

Plus, as I’ve said elsewhere, I kind of believe in the cause.  I’m not a member of the organization or anything.  I’ve never given money to it in the past…but when it’s in my hometown and I’ve got the cash…why not?  They do good work on behalf of people who need help keeping the bankers off their lawn.  That’s something I’m always behind.  No one PLANS to get behind on their payments and lose a farm that’s been in their family for five generations.  No one plans on the crop being miserable because it rained too much (or too little), so there’s nothing to sell.  No one plans on the person who runs the farm getting sick or dying, and suddenly you can’t make a living off of it anymore—even though it’s all you know.  But it happens.  A lot…  And in the fast food world, farms just don’t get any attention anymore (unless they’re the government-run ones that are accidentally selling cabbage that’s carrying e-coli).  I can get behind this kind of cause.  I’m glad to do my little bit—even if I’m more motivated by the concert than anything else.  Sure, I’m getting some bang for my buck…but since when is that a bad thing?

 

So anyway…that’s cool…and I’m sure I’ll say more about it as it gets closer and more bands are announced.  For now, I’ve got my ticket, and I’m happy about it.  🙂

How’d I Arrive at THAT?!?

I found a couple of compilation CDs I’d made around 2000/2001-ish…  I remember the circumstances around when I made these CDs, but I don’t specifically remember the year.  There are two of them.  One of them kind of still works…the other does not.  So, as a trip back in time…here’s the bizarre playlists of two weird mix CDs I found.  (Neither of them are titled or dated…they’re just weird…)  Apparently this is what I was listening to at the dawn of the new millennium.

 

Let’s start with the stronger playlist…

 

  1. A Little is Enough – Pete Townshend
  2. Iris – Goo Goo Dolls
  3. I’m A Loner Dottie, A Rebel – The Get Up Kids
  4. Broken – ALL
  5. Frog – ALL
  6. 8 Miles Low – Cheap Trick
  7. Run to the Water – Live
  8. High As the Moon – Get Up Kids
  9. Still Remains – Stone Temple Pilots
  10. Robin’s Song – Union
  11. Dance With You – Live
  12. Wishlist – Pearl Jam
  13. Falling – James LaBrie/Mullmuzzler
  14. Everyone Says ‘Hi’ – David Bowie
  15. Wonderful – Stone Temple Pilots
  16. Amanda – Boston (This one comes straight from the “WTF?!?!? file.)
  17. 5 Shots of Whiskey – Hank Williams III (Bizarre transition to country)
  18. Hurt – Johnny Cash
  19. Love Boat Captain – Pearl Jam
  20. One Year Later – The Get Up Kids

 

Okay…that one got weird toward the end…but this next one’s weird all the way through.  I don’t have any idea how I made the move from The Spice Girls to Dream Theater…but…here you go!

 

  1. Monkeywrench – Foo Fighters
  2. Flavor of the Weak – American Hi/Fi
  3. I Alone – Live
  4. Long Distance – ALL
  5. Say Goodbye – Cheap Trick
  6. Love (I Don’t Need it Anymore) – Union
  7. Saved – Queensryche
  8. Good Times Bad Times – Led Zeppelin
  9. Cursed Diamond – The Black Crowes
  10. Wishlist – Pearl Jam
  11. Everyone Says ‘Hi’ – David Bowie (Apparently I loved those two songs…)
  12. I Turn to You – Melanie C (I stand by this one!)
  13. Surrounded – Dream Theater
  14. Enormous Room – Michael Manring
  15. Viva Forever – The Spice Girls
  16. Speak to Me – Dream Theater
  17. Thursday’s Child – David Bowie
  18. Rise – Rubyhorse

 

So…I was a little too emo and a little too prog…and apparently very confused.

 

…the more things change…  🙂

 

Anyway…in honor of that time period…here’s a picture of my old band from roughly that era, Uncle Dick.

 

Left to right: Thatcher Bell - Drums; Dave Brink - Vocals (he's not bald anymore); Chris Teague - Guitar (he's got a beard now); and yep...that's me...I looked like that.
Left to right: Thatcher Bell - Drums; Dave Brink - Vocals (he's not bald anymore); Chris Teague - Guitar (he's got a beard now); and yep...that's me...I looked like that.

 

In case you’ve never seen the long-hair before…lemme give you a better look at it…

 

This was at the last ever Uncle Dick gig, which was also my brithday that year.  People kept handing me Guinness.  I'm thinking this was like Guinness #7...
This was at the last ever Uncle Dick gig, which was also my birthday that year. People kept handing me Guinness. I'm thinking this was like Guinness #7...

Wedding Day Stuff…

I performed a wedding about six-and-a-half hours ago.  John and Julie now have the same last name—or WILL once she signs the legal papers at the government offices or where-ever you do that.  Congratulations to them!

 

The wedding went pretty well.  The DJ brought a big, bulky, hand-held microphone and didn’t provide a stand.  I had to manuver that, my notebook with the notes in it (which was a manuscript—first time I’ve ever used a full manuscript—because it was being translated for the deaf, and the person translating needed it in advance), and at the specific point in the service, also the rings.  It was a little difficult.  I was expecting a lapel mic.  …but basically, everyone said yes when they were supposed to and no one did anything very weird…so it was good.

 

The reception was pretty good too.  I noticed that one man was wearing the same suit I was wearing.  Weird.  Weirder, though, was the quintessential 80s guy who was there.  Shiny, light grey suit.  Swayze hair.  Shirt unbuttoned down about three buttons.  I kept expecting him to do the Footloose dance…or start talking about Reaganomics (which I think time has proven was just as stupid in practice as it was in name, by the way). 

 

At one point, someone called Angela joined our table, because she didn’t really fit in at the one she was at previously.  She was pretty.  She was single.  She sat by me.  She touched my leg (intentionally) twice.  She mentioned a couple of times that she’s a Christian…  I thought, “There may be something here…”  But, as the hour she was seated by me wore on, she also revealed the following pieces of information.

 

  1. She has two kids.
  2. She’s a gym teacher.
  3. She’s a Republican.
  4. She used to be in the army.
  5. She likes Merlot.

 

Okay…any two of these things together might be manageable.  Any three—we’d fight a lot, but it might work…but there was no hope here.  Let’s do this in order… 

  1. I don’t really want kids.  Even if I did, I’m not really too keen on moving in on someone ELSE’S kids. 
  2. I can’t do a pull-up, and I might not be able to pull off a sit-up anymore, either. 
  3. We all know where I stand politically (ie- the completely unnecessary shot at Reagan above), so let’s not even talk about that. 
  4. Now…I don’t have anything against the troops exactly, but I’ve never really met one I’d want to date, either.  There’s a particular mindset of those who voluntarily join the military—and I can deal with that mindset in a FRIENDSHIP…but I don’t want to date it.
  5. …but come on…  Merlot?  MERLOT?!?  I’m not drinking any ****ing Merlot!  (That was from “Sideways.”  Heh.)

 

Moving on…

 

Probably the coolest part of the reception (other than the Prime Rib) was seeing Johnny’s brother do the dance from “Thriller.”  The music started up and, what with my feelings toward Michael Jackson, I was thinking, “Ugh…”  But then Johnny and his brothers started doing the zombie dance from the video.  Now, I’ve seen a million people do that dance at weddings—usually pretty passably.  But Johnny’s brother was DEAD ON.  And here’s the kicker…  Johnny’s brother is deaf.  He was on beat.  He was in time.  He was excellent.  I don’t quite understand how he did it (and I hope I’m not coming across in any way unkind in my ignorance)…but it was awesome.  And it was really touching to see Johnny hug him after he was done.

 

All in all a good day.  John and Julie are good together.  I’m happy for them, and I’m proud of them…but I’m still a little pissed that I had to pay to park when the invitation said parking was free…

 

————

 

In other news…  I somehow did not see “Watchmen” when it was in the theatre.  I was excited about it.  I planned on it.  And I missed it.  So I bought the extra-long Director’s Cut this week.  Watched it last night.  It’s pretty good, and pretty faithful to the comic.  They changed the ending…but I thought the ending in the comic SUCKED anyway.  The movie ending is a massive improvement, if you ask me. 

 

The only real problem is that if you haven’t read the book, you’re going to have to watch the movie twice.  It’s so densely layered that you’re just not going to know what the hell is happening the first time.  If you’re going to watch it for the first time, either read the comic, then watch it…or watch it, get horribly confused, and watch it again the next night.  If you can follow it, it’s pretty good…but if you can’t, just watch it again…and remember that you’re watching a COMIC BOOK movie, so not all of it is going to feel “real.”  (Although, I will be the FIRST to say that the makeup crew did a HORRIBLE job on the old-lady makeup on the first Silk Spectre…just horrible…) 

 

Also, word to the wise…there’s a sex scene—no worse than any other you’ve seen, though; in fact probably worse-lit than a lot of the ones you’ve seen.  Also, be forwarned that it’s really, really violent and disturbingly graphic in places—probably MUCH more than a lot of other movies you’ve seen…unless you’re really into the splatter-flicks.  In all…B or B-plus, as a non-comic nerd…A-minus, as a nerd.

Hodge-Podge

^ I’m not 100% sure I spelled that right.

 

Here’s the stuff in my noggin…

 

  1. Blue Tattoo’s recording is progressing pretty well.  Listening to the playback of the stuff that we’ve been laying down, I’m really excited about the band.  I’ve said before that this band is the thing I’ve done that I’m proudest to be a part of (so proud that I’ve put my solo-career on hold to focus on it)—and the tracks are confirming that for me again.  I know it sounds vain, but I listen to it and I just keep thinking, “Why aren’t we HUGE yet?!?”  🙂  For the record, I kind of lose myself in the performance of the OTHER THREE guys more than in my own.  I’m a big fan of THEIR work, and that helps me detach from knowing I’m listening to stuff I wrote.  When I’ve got the songs playing, I’m not a member of the band anymore, I’m just a fan—and I’m a BIG fan.
  2. More on Blue Tattoo — I was getting frustrated a little bit ago thinking about the fact that we kind of hit a brick wall for getting gigs…but then I thought back on Uncle Dick.  It took us about three years (and two drummers) before we got our first gig.  Blue Tattoo formed in 2007…so actually, by previous standards, we’re a little ahead of schedule.  Good for us.
  3. “New Year’s Eve” update.  I’m posting it shortly.  I’ve got a mix I like, but for some reason I can’t get the pages to form properly for the upload.  Working on it.  You’ll hear it soon.  Sorry for the delay.
  4. Johnny and Julie’s wedding is this Saturday (rehearsal Friday).  I’m excited about performing the ceremony, and I’m excited for THEM.  They’re good together.  Should be a nice experience.  I did a lot of work on the service in the past two weeks, and I like the outline a lot…realized that the copy I sent to Johnny (who had to get my notes to a translator for the deaf for his brother, who is hearing impaired—and a big KISS fan, which isn’t really relative, but is worth mentioning) didn’t have the couple’s “kiss” in it.  Oops.  Of course that’s at the end…I should probably e-mail him on that one.
  5. QuikTrip is now serving Red Dogs (aka “Red Hots” or “Hot Links”).  I’m super-excited!  So far I’ve eaten four.  Not the best I’ve had, but considering it’s a gas-station hot dog, it’s pretty freaking great!
  6. Saw the Old 97s last weekend on my brother’s birthday (he was there, too)—late happy birthday, Dave.  Great show.  Posting a few pics at the bottom of this post.
  7. So…what is it about guys in pick-up trucks driving like assholes?  I’ve been cut off three times this week by guys in pick-ups.  It’s never a mom in a mini-van…it’s a guy in a pick-up.  And then they usually have the nerve to give YOU the finger, like they didn’t just pass you on the shoulder of the road.  …but I think I scared the hell out of the one I tailgated for three blocks yesterday…so at least he and I are even.  Schmuck.
  8. Bought a new briefcase.  It’s made by the Fender guitar company.  It’s a tweed-covered case that perfectly matches my amp.  A little ridiculous, but I’ve been getting compliments on it, and it’s probably the STURDIEST briefcase I’ve ever owned.  Is it sad that I’m excited about that?
  9. My friend/Blue Tattoo guitarist Chris has been working a lot of overtime lately.  He works for MoDot, monitoring traffic.  They made him work late the night of the Kid Rock/Skynyrd concert in St. Louis, because traffic was NUTS…I feel bad for Chris…but mostly that just got me to thinking that if we’d have just been able to convince President Obama to drop a bomb on the amphitheatre that night, we could’ve rid St. Louis of all of its white trash in one swoop…and probably greatly reduced the number of people cutting me off in their pick-up trucks, to boot.  Missed opportunity, there…  (Not that I actually wish these folks harm, of course.  I wish them education and elocution…but I’m a realist…getting the white trash to un-trash themselves is about as likely as getting President Obama to drop a bomb on the amphitheatre…)
  10. Speaking of the amphitheatre…  Farm Aid is coming to St. Louis.  Tickets go on sale to the public on Saturday.  That’s a once—maybe twice in a lifetime event for this town.  It happens the day before my Dad’s birthday.  Dave and I are trying to get tickets and take my Dad with us as a gift.  That’d be pretty cool.  Apart from supporting a cause I kind of believe in, I’d also get to see Willie Nelson and Neil Young in the same day (the latter of which I’ve never seen).  How awesome would THAT be?  Hope we get tickets…people will come in from all over the country for Farm Aid…  I’ll keep you posted, I’m sure.

Okay…that’s enough…  Here are those Old 97s pics…they’re all blurry, because my phone isn’t really designed for shooting bands on stage…but this proves I was there, anyway.

 

Decent side-view from where we were first sitting.
Decent side-view from where we were first sitting.
Tried to take another side-shot, but a man with a big shirt (re: fat guy) got in my way. Thought it was funny. :)
Tried to take another side-shot, but a man with a big shirt (re: fat guy) got in my way. Thought it was funny. 🙂
Moved closer and tried to get a full band shot...Ken moved and blocked Murray...so this isn't quite what I was hoping for...
Moved closer and tried to get a full band shot...Ken moved and blocked Rhett...so this isn't quite what I was hoping for...
Whole band's there this time, but Ken turned away...why does that guy keep spoiling my pictures?  Maybe he's just so much better than me on guitar that it's not worth his time to look at me...which seems about right.
This time, Ken turned away and blocked Phil...why does that guy keep spoiling my pictures? Maybe he's just so much better than me on guitar that it's not worth his time to look at me...which seems about right.

Rest in Peace, Frank McCourt

Frank McCourt died.

 

He’s one of my favorite authors.  Non-blinkingly, I will put him right up there with Vonnegut, Salinger, Manning, and Hornby—all geniuses in their own fields.  “Angela’s Ashes” is one of my favorite books.  It even made me decide that if I ever have a daughter (ahem—ladies…) I’d strongly push to name her Angela.  I always meant to write to him and tell him how important his work was to me.  I didn’t.  Whoops.

 

Frank McCourt came to fame late in life.  He was an Irish immigrant.  He grew up poor and nearly died a number of times from diseases the poor don’t have the money to fight.  He overcame.  He saved his money.  He got out.  He came to America and stood on his own two feet, eventually becoming a teacher.  He taught for years.  He grew in dignity and respect…

 

…but that was not his dream.

 

He started writing.  He fudged some of the details and names to avoid lawsuits…and in 1996, after 30 years of teaching, at the age of 66, he published “Angela’s Ashes” and became a semi-household name.  He dreamed.  He wrote.  And, older than most who “break through,” he succeeded.

 

I’ll miss Frank McCourt…but I’m not going to mourn him.  A main thrust of his writing is moving forward and not letting anything stop you.  It wouldn’t be appropriate to mourn.  Instead, I will dream.  I will KEEP dreaming.  And if my name’s ever up in lights, or if it’s just in black and white in an obituary one day…  I will live knowing that I have succeeded, because I never stopped believing that dreams can be achieved.

 

Thanks for giving me and millions of other readers that lesson, Frank.  I hope you’re enjoying the rest you so richly deserve.  Sorry that some people are only NOW going to read your work.  So it goes.