25 Years of Lists

A friend of mine posted a Facebook status listing his favorite movie for every year he’s been alive.  (It started with Spaceballs…which I saw in theatres…so I’m old now.)  Hi list got me thinking about doing the same thing, but with albums…which got me thinking about a retroactive list I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.  Friends of the blog will know I put a lot of time and effort into putting together my annual “Top Ten Albums” lists every year.  Well, I’ve long-since wanted to do top ten albums lists for every year I’ve been alive…but fuck, that sounds like a lot of work.  So I’ve done the next best thing…

As you’ll see below, I’ve scrolled through Wikipedia and just noted the stuff I’d definitely put on those lists if I did make them–just the no-brainers.  In most cases, there weren’t 10 to consider, playing by that rule–a couple years only have TWO entries!  (I could probably still pull off top tens, but I don’t want to do it and you sure don’t want to read it, so this is shorter.)  There’s some stuff that would have made a top ten that isn’t here at all because it wasn’t a “no brainer.”  I’m just listing the stuff that might’ve contended for top-spots.  No runners up.  (Difficult task, believe me!)  And since I did this all in one sitting and just scanned through each year on Wikipedia ONCE, please pardon any omissions.  For the most part these lists are in no particular order–although I am listing my album of the year for that year as the first entry each time.  And there’s some occasional commentary here and there I hope you’ll enjoy.

One more thing…  I’m only going from 1980 to 2005.  From 2006 onward, I’ve got top ten lists on this blog, and you can start reading them here, if you’re interested. Now…let’s go!

  • 1980:
    Queen – The Game
    Rush – Permanent Waves
    Pete Townshend – Empty Glass
    Tom Waits – Heartattack and Vine
    Motorhead – Ace of Spades – (That’s right…when I was born, Motorhead released Ace of fucking Spades.  You’re welcome.)
    REO Speedwagon – Hi Infidelity
  • 1981:
    Rush – Moving Pictures
    Frank Zappa – Tinsel Town Rebellion
  • 1982:
    Iron Maiden – Number of the Beast
    Lou Reed – The Blue Mask
    Willie Nelson – Always on My Mind
    Frank Zappa – Ship Arriving too Late to Save a Drowning Witch – (My all time favorite album cover.)
    Judas Priest – Screaming for Vengeance
    Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska
    Prince – 1999
    Descendents – Milo Goes to College
  • 1983:
    Styx – Kilroy Was Here – (Yeah, I stand by it!)
    Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind
    Yes – 90125
  • 1984:
    Van Halen – 1984
    Prince – Purple Rain
    U2 – The Unforgettable Fire
    Replacements – Let it Be – (By far the ballsiest album title they could’ve released.)
  • 1985:
    Descendents – I Don’t Wanna Grow Up
    Tom Waits – Rain Dogs
  • 1986:
    Queen – A Kind of Magic
    Elvis Costello – King of America
    Metallica – Master of Puppets
    Van Halen – 5150
    Husker Du – Candy Apple Grey
    Judas Priest – Turbo
    Iron Maiden – Somewhere in Time
    Slayer – Reign in Blood
  • 1987:
    Replacements – Pleased to Meet Me
    Husker Du – Warehouse: Songs and Stories
    U2 – The Joshua Tree
    Anthrax – Among the Living
    Prince – Sign O’ the Times
    Sammy Hagar – I Never Said Goodbye
    Def Leppard – Hysteria
    Pink Floyd – A Momentary Lapse of Reason
    Rush – Hold Your Fire
    Yes – Big Generator
  • 1988:
    Iron Maiden – Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
    Pixies – Surfer Rosa
    Weird Al Yankovic – Even Worse – (I am absolutely not kidding.)
    Queensryche – Operation: Mindcrime
    Living Colour – Vivid
    Van Halen – OU812
    Elton John – Reg Strikes Back
    Metallica – …And Justice for All
    REM – Green
  • 1989:
    Replacements – Don’t Tell A Soul
    Lou Reed – New York
    Pixies – Doolittle
    The Cure – Disintegration
    Queen – The Miracle
    Tin Machine – Tin Machine
    Pete Townshend – The Iron Man
    Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine
    Rush – Presto
  • 1990:
    Queensryche – Empire
    Primus – Frizzle Fry
    Damn Yankees – Damn Yankees
    Extreme – Pornographitti
    Pixies – Bossanova
    Anthrax – Persistence of Time
    REO Speedwagon – The Earth, A Small Man, His Dog, and a Chicken – (Still one of my all time favorite album titles.)
    Styx – Edge of the Century
    Uncle Tupelo – No Depression
  • 1991: (VERY hard year to pick a favorite! Also a banner-year for marking how much changed with the influx of grunge.)
    Pearl Jam – Ten
    Motorhead – 1916
    Queen – Innuendo
    Mr. Big – Lean Into It
    Yes – Union
    Primus – Sailing the Seas of Cheese
    Van Halen – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (aka “FUCK”)
    Metallica – Black Album – (I’m not a big fan of the album, but it deserves to be listed.)
    Spin Doctors – Pocket Full of Kryptonite
    Rush – Roll the Bones
    Nirvana – Nevermind
    U2 – Achtung Baby
  • 1992:
    Dream Theater – Images and Words
    Lou Reed – Magic and Loss – (Probably Lou’s best work.)
    KISS – Revenge – (A rarity to see me give props to KISS, but it’s a great album!)
    Elton John – The One
    Cure – Wish
    Pixies – Bone Machine
    Extreme – III Sides to Every Story
    Tragically Hip – Fully Completely
    REM – Automatic for the People
  • 1993:
    Rush – Counterparts
    Living Colour – Stain
    Anthrax – Sound of White Noise
    Pete Townshend – Psychoderelict
    Nirvana – In Utero
    Posies – Frosting on the Beater
    Pearl Jam – Vs.
    Motorhead – Bastards
  • 1994:
    Queensryche – Promised Land
    Johnny Cash – American Recordings
    Kings X – Dogman
    Cheap Trick – Woke Up With a Monster
    Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral
    Yes – Talk
    Rollins Band – Weight
    Live – Throwing Copper
    Stone Temple Pilots – Purple
    Alice Cooper – The Last Temptation
    Dream Theater – Awake
    Black Crowes – Amorica
    Pearl Jam – Vitalogy
  • 1995:
    Van Halen – Balance
    Extreme – Waiting for the Punchline
    Primus – Tales from the Punchbowl
    Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill
    Son Volt – Trace
    David Bowie – Outside
    DC Talk – Jesus Freak – (Which I’m maybe a little embarrassed about…but it is very well constructed and mixed.)
  • 1996:
    Descendents – Everything Sucks
    Audio Adrenaline – Bloom – (I know…but this was actually a good year for Christian rock, and this record is one of the reasons I say that.)
    Newsboys – Take Me to Your Leader – (The other reason I say that.)
    Lou Reed – Set the Twilight Reeling
    Stone Temple Pilots – Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop
    Sloan – One Chord to Another
    Black Crowes – Three Snakes and One Charm
    Rush – Test for Echo
    Spice Girls – Spice
    Johnny Cash – Unchained
  • 1997:
    Cheap Trick – Cheap Trick (’97)
    David Bowie – Earthling
    Live – Secret Samadhi
    Queensryche – Hear in the Now Frontier
    Foo Fighters – The Colour and the Shape
    Sammy Hagar – Marching to Mars
    Radiohead – OK Computer
    Dream Theater – Falling Into Infinity
    Spice Girls – Spice World
    Modest Mouse – The Lonesome Crowded West
  • 1998:
    Dropkick Murphys – Do or Die
    All – Mass Nerder
    Sloan – Navy Blues
    Refused – The Shape of Punk to Come
  • 1999:
    David Bowie – Hours – (One of my favorite Bowie records, in general.)
    Paul Westerberg – Suicaine Gratifaction
    Black Crowes – By Your Side
    Misfits – Famous Monsters
    Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile
    Get Up Kids – Something to Write Home About
    Live – The Distance to Here
    Dream Theater – Metropolis Pt. 2 – Scenes from a Memory
    Melanie C – Northern Star
    Foo Fighters – There is Nothing Left to Lose
  • 2000:
    Queens of the Stone Age – Rated R – (This might be the only QOTSA album I genuinely like, and it’s a work of genius.)
    Union – The Blue Room
    Aimee Mann – Bachelor No. 2
    Pearl Jam – Binaural
    Johnny Cash – American III
    Iron Maiden – Brave New World
    Alice Cooper – Brutal Planet
    All – Problematic
    Modest Mouse – The Moon & Antarctica
    Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
    Sammy Hagar – Ten 13
    U2 – All That You Can’t Leave Behind
  • 2001:
    Drive-By Truckers – Southern Rock Opera
    Dropkick Murphys – Sing Loud, Sing Proud
    American Hi-Fi – American Hi-Fi
    Mark Lanegan – Field Songs
    Rufus Wainwright – Poses
    Stone Temple Pilots – Shangri-La Dee Da
    Live – V
    Tenacious D – Tenacious D
  • 2002:
    David Bowie – Heathen – (Another of my all-time favorite Bowie records.)
    Dream Theater – Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence – (Although it took me YEARS to come around on it.)
    Flogging Molly – Drunken Lullabies
    Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
    Get up Kids – On a Wire
    Bruce Springsteen – The Rising
    Aimee Mann – Lost in Space
    Foo Fighters – One by One
    Johnny Cash – American IV: The Man Comes Around
    Hank Williams III – Lovesick, Broke and Driftin’ – (A great album that is so deeply connected with some memories in my life that I have trouble listening to it.)
  • 2003:
    Drive-By Truckers – Decoration Day
    American Hi-Fi – The Art of Losing
    Neil Young – Greendale
    Warren Zevon – The Wind – (Recorded while Zevon knew he was dying of cancer. A moving listen, with that in mind.)
    Iron Maiden – Dance of Death
    My Morning Jacket – It Still Moves
    Frank Black – Show Me Your Tears
    David Bowie – Reality
    Billy Talent – Billy Talent
    Alice Cooper – The Eyes of Alice Cooper
  • 2004:
    Modest Mouse – Good News for People Who Love Bad News
    The Hold Steady – Almost Killed Me
    Alanis Morissette – So-Called Chaos
    Motorhead – Inferno
    Old 97s – Drag It Up
    Drive-By Truckers – The Dirty South
    Arcade Fire – Funeral
    Elvis Costello – The Delivery Man
    Brian Wilson – Smile – (I’m cheating with this one, but it deserves to be recognized.)
    James Blunt – Back to Bedlam – (I know…shut up…)
    U2 – How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
  • 2005:
    Aimee Mann – The Forgotten Arm – (Probably my favorite Aimee Mann record.)
    …and You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – Worlds Apart
    Antony and the Johnsons – I Am a Bird Now
    Ryan Adams – Jacksonville City Nights
    Bruce Springsteen – Devils & Dust
    Dream Theater – Octavarium
    Sufjan Stevens – Come on Feel the Illinois
    Frank Black – Honeycomb
    Michael Penn – Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947
    Coheed & Cambria – Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness In Space
    Neil Young – Prairie Wind

Congratulations if you read all that…boy the movie-list idea sure would’ve been shorter and more fun, huh?

On Writing “Worse”

I’m going to go about this a little differently than I have in the past few years and start talking about it WAY in advance.  I’ve mentioned that I’m working on some new music, but I don’t really know where it’s going, etc, etc…  Well, I’ve made some directional decisions over the past week or two, so I’m going to start talking NOW, knowing that it’s not coming out until 2018.  But, yeah, as of now, the new album is officially in progress, as far as I’m concerned…

I’m taking my time with this one and I plan to finish it, shelve it, relisten to it a month later, and tweak it THEN, after I’ve had time away.  I’m approaching this one differently from all perspectives, and the key element for me on this project is TIME.  I keep rushing and regretting, so we’re taking this one slow.  (VERY earliest I’ll even be CLOSE to done will be November or December, but I’m thinking a February or March 2018 release seems right for this one.)  I think the only time rushing a release ever served me well was “Something to Look Forward To,” which has become one of my favorites in my catalogue…but lightning in a bottle and all that…

Anyway…  I’ve got a “track one.”  And I’ve got an album title.  Both of those are critical and mark the “start” for me.  And we’re there…  Now, I don’t know everything that’s going to be on it yet, but there are presently seven songs on the slate to at least demo, three of which are revived material from the dying days of The Social Gospel. (Respectively “Fighting Drunk,” “That Was Then,” and “What I’m Dying For” are under consideration–they might not all make the cut, but I want good studio versions of those at some point.  In particular, Dave and I did do “Fighting Drunk” on our Two Hangmen EP, so it might get the axe just based on that–we’ll see.)  The rest are new.  I’m thinking a total of 10 songs.  11 tops.  I want a nice short listen on this one.

I’ve floated the album title by a few people and gotten a range of responses; mostly positive.  I like it…  It’s one of those titles that can be taken a couple different ways.  It can either be seen as optimistic or pessimistic, and I think that’s going to be a good summary of where the lyrics seem to be heading on this record…  So the title is (at least as of now) going to be “It Could Be Worse.”  (I briefly considered releasing a follow-up record one week later titled “Worse,” but I don’t think I have the energy to commit to that long of a joke.)

I’m going to be going for “Americana meets Punk” with a Big Star acoustic tone.  I’m re-structuring my guitar pedal board right now to fit the project.  I see the main guitars being the 1973 Martin, the Rickenbacker 360 (electric), and the Rickenbacker 4003 (bass).  There might be a Strat or something that slips in on some solos, but I want to keep myself limited to just a few instruments to lock in a unified tone, even though I’m planning on going back and forth between punky yelling and sad ballads. I’ve demoed one song just to test some ideas for mic-placement on the acoustic and I liked what I got…so it’s time to start talking

…and I’m going to talk about this one a lot more than the others…promote it…get excited about it…  Hopefully that generates some interest.  But even if not, I’m a big fan of PROCESS.  I like seeing how things unfold for other musicians, so why not open the door on my own stuff?

So that’s where we are… I think this is going to be a good one.  I just hope you don’t get tired of it listening to me talk about it for up to a year!


Current Listening:

  • Aimee Mann – “Mental Illness” – I’m a huge Aimee Mann fan.  “Mental Illness” came out today and it’s already in my top 10 for the year.  (Probably top 5, but the year’s still young.)  It’s a really beautiful, sad, warm, quiet little record.  Really acoustic-based and rooted in dysfunction and sad stories.  I’ve taken to saying that Aimee’s music makes feeling screwed up feel a lot less lonely.  And that’s a gift.  This is a great album, and the broken among us need it in their collection…we’ve probably needed it for years.  Glad she gave it to us.

But Only If I KNEW I’d Succeed…

I’m sick, but SUPER awake, so I thought I’d share something I’ve had saved in a note for a while for a rainy day…

I don’t remember if I talked about it at the time, but several months back, I attended a church function that posed a question I couldn’t answer.  It was one of those fun, “imagination-land” questions that should’ve been a relatively easy answer, but I couldn’t come up with a good answer.  I’m probably butchering the exact wording, but it was to the effect of, “If you could do any ONE thing, and you knew God would give you the money or resources or whatever you need to accomplish it, what would that thing be?”

The answers around the room were a wide spectrum.  One kid said he’d shut down Trump Tower.  One woman said she’d set up a group to help underprivileged urban teens.  Another person said they’d finish their college education.  Another would write a book.  I passed on answering.  Because I couldn’t think of anything to share.  In part, I think it was an age and experience gap.  The person asking the question was approximately 25.  I’m 36.  A good, honest, real answer would’ve been, “…it’s cute that you’re still young enough to have the “what if?” dreams…but I’m creeping up on 40, my lights are on, and I’ve got extra cash to buy stupid crap.  I’m fine.”

I do think goals change like that over time.  You get hit with some realities…or at least you get to know yourself better and figure out who you are and where you’re content…  Or…  You just don’t want to give the real answer, because it’s too hard of a left turn…

Because the truth is, I’d build a pudding pool.

It’s exactly what you think it is.  A pool big and deep enough to swim laps in, filled with pudding instead of water, and you eat while you swim.  Banana pudding.  And the pool itself is made of Nilla Wafers.  I’d be happy there.  I’d even be happy if that were the last thing I ever did and I died there.  Because, let’s face it…that’s a single-use item.  And it’s a solo-use item.  Just think about your own body and hair and things…there’s no way you’d want company in that thing.  But then again, that might be a good litmus test for a relationship…if you’ve found the person you’d let into your pudding pool, you might’ve found THE ONE.  (That might’ve sounded more sexual than I intended, and I apologize.)

But…  That doesn’t really help anybody.  I don’t think God would go out of His way to let me have that.  Seems like the kind of thing I’d have to fund myself.

I really don’t know if the church-discussion would’ve gone anywhere else if I’d shared that.

The WORST Theology I’ve Ever Needed

Last week, a couple of my friends went through something awful.  And it’s something that doesn’t stop just because it’s been a week…or a year…or whatever…  I’m not going to name any names, out of respect to the family, but the husband is one of my oldest friends, the wife is a friend I got to know through having the honor of performing their marriage ceremony…and her son/his step-son took his own life last week.  He was 24.

I met the young man a number of times.  (By the way, I’m at the age where 24 now sounds as young as it is…)  He was, of course, in the wedding.  I had the opportunity to meet him a few times afterward too. The few times we talked, we talked about heavy metal.  Metal fans are a strange brotherhood, and when you find someone else who speaks the language it’s kind of like finding another unicorn to talk to.  Through his step-dad, I got to hear the success stories of him graduating and how much he excelled at things like science, etc…and I got to hear the pissy-complaints that come with being a parent, that I’m sure my friend is haunted by this week, but that paint no less an accurate picture of who the young man was.  The less-pleasant pictures just mark the development, as it were…

It’s been a sad week.  It was a sad funeral.  As one fellow mourner remarked to me, “We weren’t made for times like this.”  He hit the nail on the head.  I found those words more fitting than anything the preacher had to say.  So often, the theology offered at those services is full of holes.  Proof-texted stuff quoting a verse, skipping one in the middle, and quoting the one after it; conveniently skipping the part that didn’t fit…  Quotes from only the poetic or prophetic books that may or may not be literal, that may or may not be talking about anything at all to do with salvation.  I don’t envy any preacher the job–it’s a hard one and you play whatever cards you have.  Which motivated me to share the following…I feel like it’s time I share the cards in my hand.

One of the best pieces of advice I received in ministry and have relayed to others is also one of the saddest pieces of advice I can imagine…  “You’re going to need to develop a theology of suicide.”  As regular readers of the blog will know, I’ve got some experience in dealing with this kind of loss.  It’s been a useful theology to have in my back pocket.  When someone dies this way, the same set of questions always seems to pop up, and any believer worth their salt better have at least a couple answers if they’re asked, in my opinion…  Now…  I know we’re not all going to agree on this.  And that’s okay…  I hope you find ways to speak to people in mourning that are comforting, even if they’re not the same words I’d use…  But here’s my theology of suicide.  I consider it the most useful theology I’ve got to offer, but also the WORST I’ve ever had to consider.

To start with, I’m not going to be quoting scripture here.  Quotes are useless.  When you’re looking in the eyes of a mom who lost her son/daughter, you need to use your OWN words.  They’re not asking you what the Bible says.  They’re asking what YOU say.  Your words need to be your own–Biblically based, but not quoted by rote.  One of the experiences I’ll never quite be able to get over (and it’s happened more than once) is having a mom look in my eyes and ask if I think someone who commits suicide can go to Heaven.  You damn well BETTER be ready to say something, and you better not have to turn any pages in a book they may or may not believe in.

Here’s what I’ve said.  Here’s what I believe.

It isn’t for me to judge anybody.  I’m not the one who decides who goes to Heaven.  But, I know this…  I believe in a God who is perfect, who does nothing wrong, who does not misjudge…and more than that, I believe in a God who FORGIVES.  I believe in a God who saw people with whom He could not keep company and who decided to break His own rules and forgive us so we could be together.  I believe in a God whose grace is unfair, but unfair to the benefit of the sinner; even to His own detriment.  I believe in a God who so desperately wanted to be with us that he died for it.  In fact–please put some space between yourself, the computer screen, and the lightening–over the past few years, I’ve come to realize that when I think about what Christ did…  I believe in a God who committed suicide.

And all He asks is that we call out to Him.

I’m sure Billy Graham or somebody like that would shit a brick to hear someone put it that way…but that’s where I am as a believer.  Now, I don’t think God WANTS us to kill ourselves.  But I think he understands how hard it can be to live when everything feels out of place.  I think He wants to help us THROUGH that…but I don’t think His grace stops working just because we did something awful.  In fact, I depend on that.  I do awful things all the time.  I did awful things TODAY.  And God offers me grace and forgives me.  I don’t think I can think about the horrible things I’ve done, say that the blood of Christ covers them, and then deny that same, healing blood from someone who needs it more than I do.

But, nevertheless…  Bringing it back to Earth…

Don’t stop fighting.  God might forgive you, but you’re causing permanent pain and damage to the people who care about you.  And maybe for some people, that’s the goal…I don’t know…  But as a person who’s lost count of how many people he’s know who’ve died by their own hand, I can say that I’d be a whole lot less fucked up if they’d just talked to somebody and worked it out.  I’d be less hurt, I’d be less angry, and I’d be less haunted.  I’m not going to get over missing some of those people.  (The anniversary of my cousin’s death is just around the corner on April 1, by the way.)  Even if you’re theologically okay…speaking as a human, what you’d put everybody else through with your actions is NOT okay with me.

As Churchill said, “If you’re going through Hell…keep going.”  And if you’re mourning, I hope and pray that your mourning will turn to dancing when you’re reunited with your loved one on the other side, by the blood of Christ.

I don’t know if this helps anybody or not…but I needed to write it, and it’s my damn blog.

“I was using my WHOLE ass…” – Homer Simpson

Been a couple weeks. Let’s get a Simpsons quote in the title and do a random post!

  1. I’ve been writing some new music. I don’t think I’m releasing anything in 2017, but I’m digging into the process and the goal is to make something DIFFERENT from my other records.  Maybe TWO things that are different.  There are some old songs I’d like to have on a record and some new stuff I’m looking forward to working out…  If I do two projects, one will be more Americana-meets-Punk and the other will be more experimental, maybe even proggy.  But this is all in the future.  I don’t even have titles for the projects, just a list of “spare songs” that has like 25 titles on it.  As a window into my process, no album is ready to go until I have a “opening track” in mind…and I don’t have one.  So I’m not looking to do anything in the immediate future. It’s just fin to talk about.
  2. Went to a new church on Sunday. It’s a place called Renew out in Maryland Heights.  Small crowd; they’re a fairly recent start-up.  I liked the service a lot and had lots of nice people come up and say hello.  I’ll probably go back.  On the other side, I’ve officially bowed out of Pursuit.  I’m not even keeping up the pretense of being on a “small group” Facebook page.  I’ve attended so few group meetings in the last year that I can count it on one hand…so it’s just time.  Pursuit moved into a direction I can’t follow, so it’s time to admit that to myself.  Here’s to new beginnings I guess.  And maybe to Renewal…
  3. Been building myself an office at the house in the room my old roommate vacated when he moved out.  (I think I’ve mentioned it before.)  I’ve got my grandpa’s old desk in there and a couple of bookcases.  Going to be setting up some music stuff, maybe putting some art on the walls, etc…  Only real problem I’ve run into is that the office chair I have isn’t adjustable and it’s slightly too short for the desk!
  4. Watched the Oscars.  The false-finish and gimmie-gimmie-gotcha they pulled on La La Land was a shame.  I didn’t see any of the movies nominated.  I don’t doubt that Moonlight deserved the win or anything…but that kind of mistake is just inexcusable.
  5. I’ve got a lot of concerts to attend soon!  Deep Purple with Alice Cooper…  Iron Maiden (with Ghost)…  The DESCENDENTS (which I’m just incredibly excited about!)…  It’s gotten to the point that I’ve had to decide NOT to go to a few!  Looking forward to each show, but the DESCENDENTS is just a dream come true.  Never thought I’d get to see them.
  6. I picked up a book I’m really enjoying.  Paul Auster’s “4321” came out in hardback recently and came with the endorsement of a couple of people I trust.  So I grabbed it.  It’s about a boy who’s born and then his life takes a multiple-choice of paths.  You get to simultaneously read four different versions of the same guy’s life pan out…just one little change here or there and the kid’s life goes on a different course.  It’s really good.  Problem is that it’s also LONG…  I’m 230 pages in and that’s maybe a quarter of the book!  But it’s worth the read, if you’re looking for something.
  7. Picked up the new Ryan Adams album, “Prisoner.”  It’s really good.  Felt like an old friend after the first listen and I highly recommend it as “probably going in my top ten” already.
  8. I was sad last week to hear that George “The Animal” Steele passed away.  Steele was a WWF-era wrestler in the days when Hogan and Savage ran the earth (and lines of cocaine).  Steele was known for “eating” the turnbuckle pads during his matches, rarely being knocked down, and being either the fiercest villain or gentlest big-man in the squared-circle, depending on the angle.  And by all accounts, the latter was closer to the truth.  I don’t know of anyone in the industry that didn’t have good things to say about Steele–and this is an industry where talking shit is as common as discussing the weather.  Steele being “in love” with Miss Elizabeth is one of my very first memories of caring about a wrestling angle, and I even had the George Steele wrestling figure that they sold back in the 80s.  He was a big part of my wrestling heritage and he will be missed.  As I said while I was watching the WWE’s tribute to him last week on Raw, “I’m not crying…I’ve just got some turnbuckle stuffing in my eye.”
  9. I’ve been playing the new guitar a lot, but also one of the older ones…  The new one’s so nice, it’s motivated me to fix up the old one and make it into the guitar I always meant to make it.  So I’m making some upgrades to my 2009 Martin that I’ve had a while.  It’s been used on some of my past records, I’m sure…  Think I bought it after the “Out from the Light” record, so probably “New Year’s Eve” onward has featured it here and there.  The action has always been too high on it and I’m trying to fix that.  The 1973 Martin (“Helen”) is inspiring a lot of what I’m doing to the other one…got some good ideas of what to do to fix up the 09 guitar by looking to the 1973.  Funny how the old ways are often better.  Only thing I’m nervous about is that I’m going to have to sand-down the bridge saddle, and I’ve never done that before!   Fortunately, replacing it will only cost $12 if I fuck it up.  🙂

I think that’s it for now.  Kinda sleepy.  Blog ya’ later…

Her Name is Helen

I walked into Guitar Center tonight after a long, hard day of work with it in mind to buy some strings and maybe a pedal or something.  At the most, I thought maybe I’d walk out with a small practice-amp or some gadget to help me bring my big-old Fender amp down to bedroom volume so I can practice through it more readily…  But then I wandered into the acoustic guitar room and there was a guitar just hanging there, waiting for me…


I saw her on my way out.  I had played a newer Martin and thought, “Cool guitar, but I’m not ready to pay that much for it–plays about like the Parkwood I already own anyway…”  Then I turned and saw the vintage, 1973 Martin D18 of my dreams.  I’ve bumped into D18s before, but the price has always said, “Not in your wildest dreams, kid” to me…but out of curiosity, I looked at the tag.  I won’t disclose what it was here, but the price was so low my first thought was, “What’s WRONG with it, then?”  (It was the kind of price that was comparable to finding a ’73 Camaro at an Enterprise lot and they said you could keep it if you just rented it for a couple weeks.)  So I wandered out and saw the same guy who’d sold me my Rickenbacker bass milling about.  He asked if he could help me and I said, “I’ve got a couple of questions I kinda hope I don’t like the answers to…” and I asked him to tell me more about the ’73 Martin hanging on the wall.

Zack pulled the guitar down for me and I strummed a few chords.  I saw some age-wear on it, but it was stuff comparable to your 1973 Camaro having scuffed paint on the rear fenders, a non-original tail-light, and one of the hub caps is there, but dented.  I asked foremost, if they were solid on the asking price and he said that it’d just come in on January 2, the previous owner trading it in to buy a Taylor guitar, and on the vintage stuff they don’t haggle in the first 90 days.  I nodded my way through that answer and said, “Well, it’s beat up.  There’s scuffs and the pick-guard’s peeling up, and that’s an aftermarket pickup in there…but honestly that stuff makes it look cool…  What can you tell me about the previous owner?”

Considered making you wait to the end to see the whole thing, but why leave you hanging?

Zack told me that the previous owner was an older lady who gigged regularly.  She was the ORIGINAL owner, having and maintaining the guitar for all 43 years of its life.  (That’s good news.  Like if the Enterprise lot said that your 73 Camaro had a clean title and all of the service records in the glove box.)  At that point I said, “And she only drove it to church on Sunday, right?”  He laughed and said, “No, you can see it was used a lot, but if it’d been me, I’d have kept this instead of getting the Taylor.”  Out of curiosity, I asked if he remembered her name and he didn’t off the top of his head…  At that point, I played a little more, realized it plays as well if not better than any other acoustic I own, and said, “Well…let me walk around the store a little and think about it…” and put it back on the wall.

So I walked, and I texted my brother about it a little.  (I often consult Dave on guitar purchases…or sometimes he consults me into one I wasn’t even looking at…whatever…)  I did a few laps and knew it was a “once in a lifetime” price I’d have kicked myself over.  It’s a MARTIN D18.  It’s a classic, it’s around my price-range, and it sounds great.  I found Zack again and said, “Let me plug it in…”  So we plugged it in.  And Zack got paged over the intercom, so he left to deal with whatever was going on and I was alone with the guitar a while.  And I played and played, and knew what I was going to do.

Zack came back in and I asked if he could throw in a guitar strap and some new strings.  He said yes, and that it came with a case.  We talked about financing and all that…  (I’ve got 0% interest for long enough that I’ll have it paid off before I pay even a dime extra…and if that sentence read as anything other than fart noises to you, then you’re probably still too invested in the Camaro metaphor from earlier…)  Then he went to get the case.  And LOOK at this bad-ass, ugly-ass vintage, blue case!

If I hadn’t already been sold, this would’ve done it.

It took a while to get the sale completed.  I hadn’t used my Guitar Center card in so long I forgot that I hadn’t activated the new card, so we had to work around that, and the place was under-staffed so Zack was also still answering phones while working with me.  (I was actually pretty impressed with his multi-tasking.)  We made some small talk in the interim and my brother texted me again saying he’d put the kids to bed so, “Where are we on this thing?” At which point I texted him the very first picture I ever took of her…


I like how the warm lights in Guitar Center bring out the gold in the tuners.

As I was closing up the case, I said, “Hey, if you happen to remember the name of the lady that sold this to you, please shoot me an e-mail.  I’m just looking for her first name.  Don’t want to track her down or anything–I was just thinking I’d name the guitar after her…”  I think Zack could tell that was a big deal to me and he said he could look it up real quick.  He tapped a few keys, did a little reading, and told me…

“Her name is Helen.”


“Just like my dad used to say, ‘Sooner or later, everybody gets shot.'” – Moe Sizlak

Haven’t written anything in a couple weeks, so thought I should.  Random post…Simpsons quote in the title…you know the drill…

  1. Medically, I’m feeling a lot better physically.  I need to make an appointment with an actual primary care person.  I wanted to wait until the new pay-period at work, and we’re in it now.  So I should schedule something soon.  Although, I do still have some pills I’m taking from the Urgent Care and I think they’re helping, so maybe I’ll wait those out.  I dunno…I’m sure whatever I do, I’ll write about it.
  2. So the SuperbOwl happened.  When it became obvious that the Patriots were scripted to win it (I’m convinced it’s scripted every time they prosper) people at our particular party started looking pretty pissed off and bummed out.  To which I pointed out, “Whatever, I watched Florida turn red–this is nothing!”  Either way…  All told, I believe it was six plates of shrimp and like 8 brownies.  So I won.
  3. Since we last talked, I saw the Drive-By Truckers play in St. Louis.  It was a good show.  It was rewarding to be (more or less) in the city where Michael Brown got shot and where Black Lives Matter took off and hear them play “What it Means” which is all about those events.  Plus…y’know…big dumb rock show.  Always a good time. They played really well and put on a great show.  Might be the best I’ve seen them as a group since Jason Isbell was in the band.
  4. Looking for a church to play guitar at on Sunday mornings.  As I’ve noted, my church moved to Sunday night services and I can’t do that…so I’m looking to play where I can.  Posted about it on Facebook and I’m chatting with an old friend about it.  We’ll see what happens…  Loyalty is important to me, so if Pursuit ever went back to a morning service, I’d probably go back to that…but they took a road I couldn’t follow on Sundays, so we are where we are.  (And most of the time, I can’t make Wednesday nights either. 6:00 and “bring something to contribute to dinner!” don’t really go with having a 9:30 to 6:00 shift and eating for one 99% of your week.)  Anyhoo…I’m sure I’ll say more about that at some point too.  I just realized I’ve got a couple dozen guitars I’m not really playing in a band, I’m getting older, and it’d be nice to have somewhere to play as I get less marketable.  May as well be in a place that’s doing something I believe in, y’know?
  5. Went to Vintage Vinyl while on my lunch break and picked up a FIRST RELEASE copy of Lou Reed’s “Berlin.”  Very happy with that.  They also had a first-release of his first solo album, which is a great record, but today it was “Berlin” for me.  It felt weird not having it on vinyl to begin with, and when I found out it was an original, that sold me.  Very lucky to live in a city with so many cool record stores…  Only question is, does it go on my shelf, or in a frame on my wall?
  6. I have a gig with the Michael Feldman Group on Saturday.  Playing at a place called the Boschertown Bar & Grill.  I’ve played there before.  It’s about the size of my living-room, I think…but if memory serves, it draws a pretty good crowd.
  7. We’re experiencing something of a heat wave in St. Louis.  Been in the 60s today and should be tomorrow as well.  Climate change is very real and we’re definitely experiencing it.  I’ve worn a light jacket more times since Thanksgiving than I have in the previous three years combined.  This is ridiculous–and not just because I like Winter…it’s a serious, scary concern that we don’t get a real Winter in FEBRUARY IN THE FUCKING MIDWEST anymore.
  8. I’ve stayed up too late doing things at the last minute.  I’ve been making an effort to be in bed by midnight at the latest recently.  I’m not sure why…it started as a reaction to my health issues, but they’ve continued, so what’s the difference?  But tonight, I got motivated to fix a loose shower-knob, work a couple bugs out of an old amp I recently bought, and arrange some of my music downloads into proper folders.  (And then, of course, I wrote this…)  I get weird bursts of momentum like that and then suddenly it’s 1 or 2 and I’ve got work in the morning.
  9. Work’s been heavy lately.  I’ve got a good team working with me, which allows me to handle some of the more problematic stuff with more attention…but that means that the vast MAJORITY of what I do is the problematic stuff now.  It’s my own doing–I kind of set it up that way…but sometimes I wonder if I need to rethink it when I find myself getting tired and making mistakes.  Or walking face-first right into the door like I did on my way out on Friday!  (Someone had opened it behind me and I didn’t know. I’m not a complete idiot. Just like 85%.)  One of my team-members will be out of the office on Thursday and Friday, too…so I’m thinking it’s going to be a particularly long week this week!  Fortunately, it’s a supportive environment.  It’s just also a busy one at times.  (This might be the most I’ve written in one stretch about my job in the almost 8 years I’ve been there!)
  10. I made a playlist on my phone of “That Song Songs.”  A list of just the songs that stir something up in me–a specific memory or a deep emotion, etc…  There are 325 songs on the list.  I put it on shuffle earlier and it went from a Stone Sour song (the lead singer from Slipknot’s other band) directly to a Rich Mullins song.  It’s complicated living in my head.  Or MP3 player, I guess…

It feels like I’m missing something important that I meant to write about…but I think I’m too tired to remember it.  Well, maybe it’ll be a different post, later.  Until then!


Current Listening:

The last five songs on my “That Song Songs” list were (in this order) – “Skin Deep” by ALL, “Lazarus” by David Bowie, “Skyway” by the Replacements, “Love Boat Captain” by Pearl Jam, and “God Give Me Strength” by Elvis Costello.