Friday, April 30, 2010

Ringo Starr “Liverpool 8”

My daughter was squirming at the dinner table. Not unusual for a two-year old, but my wife recognized the body language.

“Honey, do you have to go in your cage?”

I don’t know where my daughter got this phrase, but she started saying it very early on. When she had to poop, she’d say, “I’m going in my cage,” and she’d get behind a chair, or cram into a corner, and grunt.

So my wife let her down, and she toddled off to her bedroom.

A minute or two later, there was shrieking from that end of the hall.

“A BUG A BUG!!!” She was standing on her bed, pointing down at the space where “her cage” is.

I honestly didn’t see anything, but my wife got down on her hands and knees, and said “Awww . . . “

She stood back up and with her gentlest voice, said to my daughter, “Look. It’s a little beetle.”

This was certainly the tiniest beetle I’d ever seen. Smaller than the tip of a ballpoint pen, and just as black.

The girls spent the next few minutes examining the beetle, my wife working her magic to make the tiny creature a thing of wonder, not of worry.

“Isn’t he cute? We’ll name him Beetle Paul. The Cute Beetle.”

We’ve played Beatles songs for my daughter, from Day One. They’re a big part of our lives. We even have a fish named “Mr. Kite.” So she got the Beetle Paul reference.

The smell in my daughter’s pull-ups was getting ripe, so my wife said, “Okay, I’m going to put Beetle Paul outside, because that’s where he should live. You and Daddy should go to the bathroom and dump your dirty britches.”

As an early stage of potty training, when she goes poop we make a bit of a spectacle of it, showing her how poop goes in the big potty, and you get to flush---this as an incentive to one day not just “go in her cage.”

So she and I are in the bathroom and I’ve pulled off her Pull-ups, to reveal a fairly small effort on her part.

“Okay, let’s dump this cute little poop in the potty!”

And before she does, she looks at it and said, “We’ll name him Ringo.”


For a better appreciation of Ringo, check out Ray Whitaker's Just Four Guys show on the Starr drummer.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Eric Clapton “Tears In Heaven”

I’ve had two things at the top of mind this week, the mvyradio Eric Clapton promotion, and a week’s worth of blog posts about my kids.

As part of the Clapton promotion, I was looking for a Clapton lyric to put at the top of the mvyradio webpage, and I came across “Tears In Heaven.”

And I started to think about the unthinkable: losing your child.

Terror gripped me and I realized that I had just been staring at the computer screen, for several minutes, imagining what it must be like for Clapton, who lost a young son in a most terrible, terrible accident.

Last week, an old friend of mine revealed that he and his wife are expecting. She’s actually a few months along, but they had refrained from telling anyone about the pregnancy, because they had already gone through a couple of miscarriage scares in recent weeks.

He talked about how he was going to be on edge for the rest of the pregnancy.

I’m getting ready to write him back to say: It doesn’t end when the pregnancy is over.

Becoming a parent has changed my relationship with fear and death. I am faaaaaaar more afraid of tragedy that I ever was, pre-parenthood. I am regularly gripped by the terror that held me for a moment while contemplating Clapton’s loss.

How would I possibly go on? A song is a beautiful gesture . . . but how could you go on. I hope I don’t ever have to find out.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Queen "My Best Friend"

Don't you hate it, when life kinda ruins a song you loved?

Long before we sorted through hundreds of names for our gestating children, my wife and I sorted through hundreds of titles of songs, songs to be played at our wedding.

Because we had so many favorites, we picked a number of songs to be played at key times: First dance, her dance with her Dad, my dance with my Mom, a cutting the cake song, etc, etc.

And for the first song after our first dance, the song that was to invite all our friends to the dance floor, we played Queen's "Your My Best Friend." It said a lot about how my wife and I feel about each other, and the deep friendship that resides at the core of our relationship. And it exemplifies the warmth we feel for the people around us.

But life has a way of sucking the romance out of life. And marketing has a way of sucking the life out of romance.

Among the generous hand-me-downs we've recently been given, was this very ingenious pillow. It has a wrap-around strap, so it sits on my wife's waist, as a kind of shelf. My Mom pointed out that it's not unlike an old fashioned cigarette-girl box. But it's made for breast feeding. The baby lies on the shelf, positioned just below the breast. No awkward juggling of the baby, or cramping hands necessary. It's really been great, and a much appreciated passed-on-to-us gift.

The bad news is that it's called "My Brest Friend."

And yes, every time my wife or I pick the thing up, or say "Where is the . . ." then one of us inevitably sings Queen's "Your My Brest Friend."

Sadly, it's changed my relationship with the song, for the worse.

My Brest Friend

My Best Friend

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rufus Wainwright "Zebulon"

Just by coincidence, I read a book called "Slam" last fall---the coincidence being that it's written from the perspective of a guy who's girlfriend is pregnant, just as my wife was. But fortunately, we're not teenagers, and the pregnancy wasn't a surprise, like it was for the characters in the book.

The author, Nick Hornby, is a major music fan. You may have read, or seen the movie version, of his "High Fidelity." And all his books have sly and/or cool music references.

In "Slam," the music the young Dad-to-be/skate punk has picked for the delivery room, turns out to be non-conducive to a peaceful labor, so his mother-in-law pops her iPod in. Everyone likes the gorgeous piece of music that is playing at the moment the baby arrives, and so they decided that the baby's name will be "Rufus."

I fussed over a playlist for our recent trip to the maternity ward, searching for the perfect pitch of songs---not too loud, not too sad, focusing on peaceful and warm tones. And yeah, I couldn't help notice that there was a lot of Rufus Wainwright on our list. And I worried:

I was not ready to name my kid, Rufus.

Over the course of the evening, as contractions came more quickly, I kept an eye on the list, trying to guess where things would land---Elton, Elvis, Marvin, Otis---I suddenly realized that I hadn't much considered "Slam" while trying to please my pregnant partner's musical preferences.

Then something else that I hadn't considered, happened:

She needed an emergency C-Section.

The iPod became a long gone afterthought, as she was whisked away with a surgical team, and little Noah was born into a room where music was not cranked, or fussed over, or even considered.

And I suppose, on a "Slam" level, I can say we're lucky that coincidence didn't stick us with a strange name. Though the woman with the scar on her abdomen would probably argue with my choice of the "L" word.

Rufus Wainwright's new album is out this week, and it closes with another name I was happy to not give to my kid. Zebulon.


Rufus talks about the record

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sting "Rock Steady"

So we named our son Noah Ames Finn, and I have to tell you, in the many months leading up to his birth it seemed like we'd never agree on what to call this small thing.

We floated hundreds of ideas between the two of us, my wife and I, and many of them were musical. We tried our favorite musicians and our favorite songs, but nothing seemed quite right.

So many of our musical heroes had names that are too plain (Paul, Bob, Johnny) or too weird (Rufus).

I couldn't sell Levon. My wife wanted (Jeff) Buckley, but I couldn't have a son named Buck Finn.

When she and I each wrote down our top 10 names, there was only one name in common: Noah. And honestly, it was neither of our first choices.

But we lived with it for a while, trying to see if it would grow on us.

Leaving work on my last day before taking time off for the birth of this baby, as I was pulling into the driveway, and Alison played "Rock Steady." I listened to the lyrics.

I won't say that Sting chose my child's name, but I did take the song as a sign that we were going in the right direction.

So he's Noah.

Which is great, because when he's older he can say "Noah Finn way!" which sounds like "No F-ing Way!" That's fun.

And Ames, that's for my sister.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bruce Springsteen "Living Proof"

PJ is taking some time off for the birth of his second child. Friend of mvyradio Susan McDonald and singer-songwriter and former Fresh Produce Artist, Phil Ayoub, both major Springsteen Fans, fill in.

Five Great Bruce Springsteen Songs About Fathers And Sons.

“Living Proof,” from the Lucky Town album is the final song in our series of “5 great Springsteen songs about fathers and sons”.

The beauty of these lines opens the song, and sets it apart as an emotional, almost heart-wrenching parent/child portrait:

Well now on a summer night in a dusky room
Come a little piece of the Lord’s undying light
Crying like he swallowed the fiery moon
In his mother’s arms was all the beauty I could take…

The Madonna and child image is touching, and he continues, giving religion a significant role:

Like the missing words to some prayer that I could never make
In a world so hard and dirty so fouled and confused
Searching for a little bit of God's mercy
I found living proof

They say one common characteristic of musicians and rock stars is that many of them had issues and problems with one or both of their parents when they were growing up. If you were to do a psychological study, you might learn than many of them also turned to rock ‘n roll in their search for a purpose or a place in life, or to change themselves or find out who they themselves are. If taken as somewhat autobiographical, “Living Proof” appears to touch on this notion, as these lines from the second verse show:

I put my heart and soul I put 'em high upon a shelf
Right next to the faith the faith that I'd lost in myself
I went down into the desert city
Just tryin' so hard to shed my skin
I crawled deep into some kind of darkness
Lookin' to burn out every trace of who I'd been

Bruce goes on in the song to talk about the boy’s mother, and how she rescued him from himself (“to show me that my prison was just an open cage”), but he returns to the beautiful intimate image of the family:

Tonight let’s lie beneath the eves,
Just a close band of happy thieves

He captures perfectly the feeling of being a new family: the wonder, the safety, security and timelessness…”looking for a little bit of God’s mercy, I found living proof”

“Living Proof “ as performed in Milwaukee on November 15, 2009. It was a “sign request”, and you can see Bruce cueing the E Street Band with hand signals:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bruce Springsteen “Long Time Comin’”

PJ is taking some time off for the birth of his second child. Friend of mvyradio Susan McDonald and singer-songwriter and former Fresh Produce Artist, Phil Ayoub, both major Springsteen Fans, fill in.

Five Great Bruce Springsteen Songs About Fathers And Sons.

In Long Time Comin’, from the Devils and Dust album, Bruce’s writing shifts from the perspective of the child to that of the father. “Long Time Comin’” is a great song about trying, messing up and trying some more. As he says in the performance linked below: “This is for the mothers and fathers out there, struggling to do the right thing.”

Set outdoors in an evening by a campfire, in a time that could be present day or 150 years ago (who makes their own map nowadays?), “Long Time Comin’” paints a picture of a father who has been deserted by his own dad and is determined not to repeat the scenario. As he so eloquently states “I ain’t gonna fuck it up this time.” He offers this hope for his children: “If I had one wish in this god-forsaken world, kids, it’s that your mistakes would be your own. Yeah, your sins would be your own.” His enthusiastic pledge and promise is to be a better father.

Any parent who has gone through rough times, and has seen their kids go through rough times as a result, can relate to this dad’s hope. As much as it’s hard to go through hardship yourself, it’s worse to think you’re putting your kids through it. Parents make mistakes, but no parent wants their child to suffer as a result. There’s a good bit of parenting wisdom in those lines.

The nature imagery in this song is great-—“beneath the arms of Cassiopeia, where the sword of Orion sweeps” is a pretty masterful description of a big, clear night sky. His symbolic goodbye to his old self is memorable, as well: “Tonight I'm gonna get birth naked and bury my old soul, and dance on its grave”.

A favorite part of the song, though, is the Neil Diamond nod: “it’s me and you, Rosie, cracklin’ like crossed wires”. After all, how can “cracklin’” and “Rosie” used together not be a Neil Diamond reference?

“Long Time Comin’” performed as part of the Devils and Dust tour, in Dusseldorf on June 16, 2005:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bruce Springsteen "The Wish"

PJ is taking some time off for the birth of his second child. Friend of mvyradio Susan McDonald and singer-songwriter and former Fresh Produce Artist, Phil Ayoub, both major Springsteen Fans, fill in.

Five Great Bruce Springsteen Songs About Fathers And Sons.

In a very broad interpretation of “great Springsteen songs about fathers and sons,” today’s entry focuses on “The Wish,” a pure, irresistibly cute love song to his mom, from the Tracks box set.

In “The Wish”, Bruce pays tribute to the sacrifices his mother made for him while he was growing up, but especially the one that fulfilled a little boy’s wish: “a brand new Japanese guitar” for Christmas. The details in the song create poignant little vignettes (scroll down to the first youtube link and have a listen…): little Bruce and his mom in the cold, looking in the music store window at the guitar; and a family scene in the living room: “Well, it was me in my Beatles boots, you in pink curlers and matador pants, pullin’ me up on the couch to do the twist for my uncles and aunts.” You get the feeling that she not only bought him his first guitar, but nurtured his creativity and confidence by encouraging him to perform for his uncles and aunts as a child.

This comes as a clear and sharp contrast to the feelings of his father, who Bruce has painted in a much less supportive role. Although it’s a light song, it gets a bit haunting when he talks about his dad: “If Pa’s eyes were windows into a world so deadly and true, you couldn’t stop me from looking, but you kept me from crawling through.” It hints at his mother, the proud provider and protector; his father, a darker presence in the house. She was perhaps an example to him of how the world didn’t have to be the dark, scary, hurtful place he saw his father live in.

Consciously or not, she protected his idealism and encouraged and maybe even enabled him to chase his dream. These lines are a brushstroke that brings the whole family dynamic into sharper relief.

And, as they “all sat around laughing at the things that guitar brought us”, they count the blessings that came from that guitar; that wish and that sacrifice.

Punctuated by the twangy sound of his telecaster, Bruce offers his mother his best gift in return—-a song.

On the rare occasions he performs this song live, Springsteen dedicates it to his mom (of course!) and also sometimes mentions how dangerous it is to a rock star’s public image to write and sing songs about their mother (unless you’re a rapper, as Bruce uses 2Pac as an example!)

Here’s a cool performance of “The Wish” from the Christic Benefit show, November 17, 1990:

and here’s a sweet and awesome video of Bruce dancing with his mom, October 20, 2009 in Philadelphia…the things that guitar brought us, indeed:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bruce Springsteen “Walk Like A Man”

PJ is taking some time off for the birth of his second child. Friend of mvyradio Susan McDonald and singer-songwriter and former Fresh Produce Artist, Phil Ayoub, both major Springsteen Fans, fill in.

Five Great Bruce Springsteen Songs About Fathers And Sons.

Much has been made of Bruce Springsteen’s stormy relationship with his dad in the early years, and he has perpetuated the image in his storytelling in live performances. It’s never been quite clear how much of that was for art’s sake, and how much of it was real. But Bruce was 37 when he wrote “Walk Like A Man”, and although he claims the songs on Tunnel of Love are not autobiographical, it’s almost reassuring to find a sweet and loving tribute to a dad. There’s a hint of admiration for his dad and maybe some understanding of what he went through as a father, as Bruce seemingly began to shift his focus from looking back to looking ahead to his own house and family.

There are many types of relationships on display at a wedding. But in “Walk Like A Man” Springsteen explores a relationship that is often overlooked on a wedding day…that of a father and son. “I remember how rough your hand felt on mine, on my wedding day.” Bruce begins with those small details that convey so much—the emotion between father and son, the comfort of the physical touch, and the feeling of a hand toughened from a life filled with hard work and pain. And, as he moves through the bigger story of the love-as-a-dark-ride theme of much of Tunnel of Love, he frames it with that father/son bond.

All I can think of is being five years old
Following behind you at the beach
Tracing your footprints in the sand
Trying to walk like a man

These are wonderful lines that perfectly portray the beginnings of that bond—-the beach, the little boy and his father, and the wordplay of “walk like a man”. And as he traces this relationship through both their lives, there’s a tender acknowledgment that maybe his father didn’t live the life that he had intended to when he sings “I saw your best steps stolen away from you” near the end of the song, and “I’ll do what I can, I’ll walk like a man.” One can’t help but think that his father might have often told him to walk or act like a man at different times in his life.

“And I’ll keep on walkin’.”

“Walk Like A Man” has only been performed twice since the Tunnel of Love tour. This is from the Devils and Dust tour, August 1, 2005 in Cleveland, Ohio

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bruce Springsteen “Independence Day”

PJ is taking some time off for the birth of his second child. Friend of mvyradio Susan McDonald and singer-songwriter and former Fresh Produce Artist, Phil Ayoub, both major Springsteen Fans, fill in.

Five Great Bruce Springsteen Songs About Fathers And Sons.

Early in his career, Bruce Springsteen wrote about “growin’ up,” often with words and music filled with anger and bravado. In “Independence Day,” it all seems to mellow to a quiet, resigned declaration of independence. It is a poignant narrative of a son breaking free from his father and most likely draws on a lot of real life experience from Springsteen.

The opening organ strains and the lyrics hint at the bittersweet nature of this independence. There doesn’t seem to be any joy in it; this is no “pulling out of here to win,” but rather a story of leaving because your old man is driving you crazy, the town you live in has left him beaten down and defeated, and that’s not going to happen to you. At the heart of the song is the sad realization that his own happiness can only be found by leaving his father behind.

Still, there’s an acceptance of some of the blame (“we were just too much of the same kind”), and a tender tone created by the role-reversal of lines like “Papa go to bed now, it’s getting late” and “so say goodbye, it’s Independence Day.” (Springsteen walks dangerously close to the line of obvious cliché with the “Independence Day” double meaning, but he is skilled enough not to cross that line.)

The song ends with the lines “Papa now I know the things you wanted that you could not say…I swear I never meant to take those things away.” And yet, he’s “leaving in the morning from Saint Mary’s Gate,” most likely taking many of those things with him (and, yes, Bruce does manage to work “Mary” into yet another song!).

All that being said, this is a song whose impact is not just lyrical. The organ, the sax solo, the tempo, and the lyrics, combine to create a whole that is more than the sum of its parts—stirring, emotional, tender, painful and sad, but very real.

“Independence Day”, November 8, 2009 at Madison Square Garden. It was played as part of a performance of the entire album of "The River":

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Band "I Shall Be Released"

PJ is taking some time off for the birth of his second child. Guest Blogger (and Dad) Bill Eville, former mvyradio employee, freelancer writer and Vineyard resident fills in.

It was the last night of the guest d.j. blog. Hardy and I didn’t have a project to work on tonight. We didn’t have ice cream or the ladies joining us, either. We were too busy looking for a song.

Earlier that day, while picking Hardy up at Kindergarten, his music teacher had stopped me in the hallway. She seemed eager to see me, grinning big and walking fast. “Hey Bill,” she said. “Thanks so much for agreeing to be in the talent show?”

“There’s a talent show?” I asked.

“Sure, next month. At the agricultural hall. The whole island turns out for it.”

“You don’t say.”

“Yup. Hardy said the two of you would be doing it together.”

“Did he say what we would be doing?”

The music teacher laughed. “Oh, I’ll let him tell you about it.”

I found Hardy in his classroom wrestling with his backpack. I helped him adjust the straps, then we collected his lunchbox and walked outside, his hand in mine. Halfway to the car, I turned to him. “So, I hear we’re going to perform in the talent show.”

“Yeah. I thought we’d play music,” Hardy said. “Like the guys in the video’s we’ve been watching.”

I felt a surge of admiration for my son. At five and a half he was game to go public, on stage and in front of everyone. He was my hero. But I was also scared to death. Why me, I thought. His mother is the musician. She could whip out a Bach violin concerto easy as passing the peas. Me? I’m a music appreciator. I hide in the basement singing only when no one, save my son, is watching. But I held my tongue. After all, I had invited this influence into our lives.

“Have you picked out a song?” I asked. “Something we heard this week?”

“No. Not yet. What are we watching tonight?”

I thought for a minute. Perhaps we needed variety, a concert video that incorporated a whole bunch of musicians. “I have just the thing,” I said.

That night, as we settled into the basement, Hardy quizzed me about tonight’s choice. “What’s the name of the band?” he asked. I showed him a copy of The Last Waltz, Martin Scorcese’s documentary of The Band’s farewell concert.

“The name of the band is The Band.” I said.

“Oh, come on, Dad.” Recently, Hardy and I had watched some Abbot and Costello bits on youtube. I had to admit, it did sound like a, whose on first, what’s on second, routine.

“Really, it’s true. The band is called The Band. And in this concert a lot of their friends are performing too. You’ll recognize a few.”

We watched a lot of the show in silence. I had forgotten how magical it was. How tight Van Morrison’s pants were, how even Neil Diamond impressed, and how hard The Band rocked. I also watched with apprehension. What if Hardy decided we should do a Joni Mitchell tune. Or wanted to me sound like Pops Staples helping out on The Weight?

In the end, Hardy didn’t choose any of the songs from the concert. In fact, we are still looking. In the meantime I have been undergoing a regimen of vocal exercises while Hardy strums away on his ukelele. My panic seems to be lessing a bit, slowly nibbled away by the pride I feel for my son’s blase approach to his moment in the public eye. Just another type of play, it seems, like blocks or coloring. Oh, to be so free again. When fear was fed mostly by those imaginary creatures that go bump in the night but real life wasn’t scary at all.

As we walked upstairs, the week of concert videos now at an end, Hardy turned to me. “You know what I liked about all the videos, together,” he said.

“What?” I asked, leaning forward to hear what I was sure would be an insightful nugget from the mouth of babes. Hardy thought for awhile. “I don’t know,” he finally said. “I don’t know.”

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bob Dylan "Don't Look Back"

PJ is taking some time off for the birth of his second child. Guest Blogger (and Dad) Bill Eville, former mvyradio employee, freelancer writer and Vineyard resident fills in.

Hardy and I traveled to the library to pick out our next concert video. I showed him a few selections. "The Song Remains The Same," "The Monterey Pop Festival." He chose, "Don’t Look Back," D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary of Bob Dylan’s 1965 London concert tour. I have no idea why he chose this video. Perhaps it was the cover shot. A young, clean-shaven Dylan looking both pensive and aggressive.

I was pleased. It had been a long time since I had seen this film. But I wondered how my five and half year old would take to it. There was so much footage of life on the road - hotel rooms and hanging out.

We brought a large box of Lego’s down into the man, man-cub, cave to work on while we watched and listened. But the Lego’s remained untouched, scattered about the rug. Hardy couldn’t take his eyes off Dylan and his friends. Joan Baez was on the tour as was Albert Grossman, Dylan’s manager. After Grossman threatened to punch a hotel concierge in the nose, Hardy repeatedly referred to him as the mean old guy.

When interviewing Dylan, the English reporters seemed mostly concerned with the British kids listening to Bob’s music not hearing the words, really hearing them, and understanding what Bob was preaching. Bob didn’t seem to care, though. “Hey man, I just go out and play,” he said.

Hardy didn’t seem to care about the words, either. He was worried about the groupies. A young girl jumped onto the back of the tour car as it was leaving a hotel. She refused to get off, even as the car sped up and weaved through the London traffic.

“Why is that girl on the car and not in the car?” Hardy asked.

I tried to explain how Dylan’s music meant so much to people that some would get carried away by the emotions they felt. And that this was okay, getting carried away, as long as you didn’t hurt yourself.

After awhile Cathlin and Pickle joined us in the basement. The whole family underground together. Cathlin and I had first watched this movie together many years ago in New York City at the Film Forum. We had just begun dating. For a moment I left the basement and was back with Cathlin in New York at a time when we were so poor we couldn’t even scratch up some rent money. We moved around a lot, housesitting our way through the city, taking care of pets and plants in exchange for free places to stay. Those days seem so remote now it is as if they were lived by someone else.

I marveled at the ability of music, perhaps more than any other medium, to hold one suspended in two worlds at the same moment; the past and the present. But then, there in the basement listening to Dylan with my children, I discovered a new note being added to this narrative. The future.

In the span of one song, I was my younger self falling in love with my future wife, I was my present self sharing this music with my children, and I was also the self I hope to become as I stumble half blind and half awake, half amused and half enraged, half confused and half amazed, through the foggy splendor of parenthood.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bob Marley "No Woman No Cry"

PJ is taking some time off for the birth of his second child. Guest Blogger (and Dad) Bill Eville, former mvyradio employee, freelancer writer and Vineyard resident fills in.

It had been a beautiful spring day on the island, one of our first of the season. All day we played outside. The sun and the warm wind had felt wonderful. And now that evening was upon us and dinner finished Hardy and I felt pleasantly tired. At a play-date that afternoon a mom friend had lent me a Bob Marley VHS tape. This was the 1978 One Love Peace concert held in Jamaica where Bob brought together the two feuding political party leaders, Prime Minister Michael Manley and Edward Seaga, in an effort to bring about peace. Bob Marley’s music and his message felt perfect for this evening’s mellow vibe.

We didn’t have much work to do tonight, either. Just a small reinforcement to yesterday’s spear. A bit more cardboard about midway up the lance where earlier that day, during a crucial moment while playing pirates, it had failed me, folding in on itself and forming a deep crease where none should of been. As a result, Hardy had escaped walking the plank.

We brought ice cream down into the man cave, mint chocolate chip, Hardy’s new favorite. When I set it down in front of him he asked if I had remembered a spoon. “Of course,” I said, handing it to him.

“Good,” he said. “Because this is serious. The man cave is serious. We are serious about the man cave.”

I had no idea why bringing a spoon to eat ice cream made something more serious, but I liked that my boy was developing a respect for life in the man cave. We turned on the concert.

There were many performers,; Toots and the Maytals, Jimmy Cliff, Joe Higgs singing a beautiful rendition of There’s A Reward in front of his old Trenchtown home. But, of course, the highlight belonged to Bob. Hardy was mesmerized and he peppered me with questions and insightful nuggets.

“Hey dad, why’s he sweating so much?”

“Hey dad, I know what he means by, hit me with music. That’s when someone shouts in your ear.”

We continued to groove on the music, just a couple of guys bobbing their heads and smiling. But then the baby monitor squawked loudly. Cathlin was away at a meeting. Hardy looked at me worriedly. “It’s Pickle,” he said. “What do we do?”

“Well,” I said. “I think we’ll have to introduce Pickle to the man cave.” To my surprise Hardy smiled.

Pickle is almost two, a small, curly headed girl with a second child’s personality. By this I mean she’s mellow and tough. She hardly ever cries but if you cross her, try to suggest she stop eating all the fishy crackers say, she will turn snapping turtle and bite your finger off.

I explained to Pickle that Hardy and I were watching Bob Marley. She seemed to take delight in his name as much as his music.

“Bob Marley, Bob Marley, Bob Marley,” she chanted. It felt good, having both of my children in the basement with me watching this great man. The concert was nearing its end now and just before Bob was to bring out Michael Manley and Edward Seaga, he sang War. “War in the east. War in the west. War up north. War down south.”

“He sing about war,” Pickle said. She was smiling and laughing, not having a clue what this meant. Hardy was not smiling, though. He loves to play war, there is no stopping this it seems when it comes to a five year old boy. But it appeared he could tell that the war Bob was singing about was no plaything.

After this last song, Bob brought out the two leaders to shook hands. This image was overlaid with images of Jamaican poverty - Trenchtown and other shanty towns, the houses made of scrap metal on dusty back lots, people picking through massive mountains of garbage for food.

“Why are they doing that?” Hardy asked.

“Well, they are hungry and looking for food,” I said.

Pickle smiled. “Fishy cracker snack,” she said.

I nodded and brought my children upstairs for a bedtime snack. I opened the cabinets, noticing anew how full they were with food. The refrigerator too. I thought about the words to "No Woman No Cry." “And then Georgie would make a firelight. Log wood burnin’ through the night. Then we would cook cornmeal porridge. Of which I’ll share with you.”

After snack I escorted Hardy and Pickle upstairs to bed. I kissed them both good night, patted their backs, and brushed their heads with my fingers for a very long time. “No war,” I whispered while standing above them. “No war.”

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bruce Springsteen "Thunder Road"

PJ is taking some time off for the birth of his second child. Guest Blogger (and Dad) Bill Eville, former mvyradio employee, freelancer writer and Vineyard resident fills in.

I had been off-island for a few days and reunion was in the air when Hardy and I prepared ourselves for our next evening in the man, man-cub cave. Cathlin was at work, my two year old daughter, Pickle, asleep in her crib, and the guys ready for a night of Springsteen and spear building.

Concert video - check. Cardboard - check. Glue and construction paper - check. Blue duct tape. Blue duct tape? “Hardy, do we really need duct tape?”


Okay, blue duct tape - check.

I had selected the DVD that came with the re-issue of Bruce’s "Born to Run" CD. The box set came with a concert video which took place in 1975 at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. I had bought this box set in 2005, but hadn’t had time to watch it yet. Such is the life of a parent.

“Okay, this is a very important singer,” I said to Hardy as I fumbled with the remotes. “He’s from New Jersey, not far from where your parents grew up.”

“He’s important because he lives in New Jersey?” Hardy asked.

“Well, there’s more to it than that. But let’s just watch for now.”

I turned off the lights and lay down on the floor, my arms encircling an inflated IKEA hedgehog. Hardy rode on my back his breath soft on my ears. Bruce came on stage, his face illuminated by an eerie blue light, and opened quietly with "Thunder Road." All was well for awhile. I was in the basement with my boy watching one of my heroes. I felt a lump in my throat, a feeling I have grown comfortable with, mostly because of its ubiquitousness, as I travel the road of parenting. Then Hardy began to squirm.

“Hey dad, Bruce said something about a killer in the sun.”

“Hey dad, Bruce said something about ghosts in the eyes.”

“Hey dad, Bruce said something about people screaming your name in the street. Why are they screaming his name in the street? Hey dad, I’m scared.”

I stood up and turned on the light. Bruce and the band seemed smaller now, more remote. “Is that better?” I asked. Hardy smiled. For awhile we listened to Bruce while building a spear. During "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" we cut the shape out of cardboard. During "Spirit In The Night" we glued on red and black construction paper. And during "Lost In The Flood" we wrapped the handle in blue duct tape, making it stronger and giving it a better grip. After we finished with the spear and Hardy brandished it menacingly at the E-street band for awhile, he turned and picked up his toy bow and arrow. He started twanging the string of the bow loudly.

“It’s like an instrument,” he said.

I felt an impulse to tell Hardy to be quiet. I had turned the lights on, lessening, I felt, the impact of Bruce’s performance. I had helped build a spear too. Now I wanted to listen to Bruce again, give him our full attention, and for Hardy to do the same. That is what we came down into the man cave to do. But then I remembered some advice I frequently turn to for parenting. It is something I learned in Improv class. In Improv there is one major rule. Say yes to everything. It is harder than you think.

I apologized to Bruce and grabbed the first thing I could reach - two large wooden chickens, a mama and a baby - and began knocking them together. Suddenly, Hardy and I were part of the band, as essential as the Big Man. Thonka, thonka. Twang, twang. Thonka, thonka. Twang, twang.

“Hey dad,” Hardy said. “Obi Wan Kenobi just walked on stage.” It was the bass player, Garry Tallent, looking extra shaggy and wearing what did look like a billowy cloak.

“You’re damn right he did,” I yelled. Hardy and I were running around the basement now, as frantic as Bruce himself, kicking bookshelves, upending stools, and not even worrying when the easel fell to the floor with a crash, markers and paintbrushes, a cup of water too, splattering everywhere. Darth Vader, Sponge Bob, Dora, Phoney Bone, the Lord of the Locusts, heck I was ready for anything. I was with my boy, saying yes, and making chaos. Jersey style.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Neil Young "The Needle And The Damage Done"

PJ is taking some time off for the birth of his second child. Guest Blogger (and Dad) Bill Eville, former mvyradio employee, freelancer writer and Vineyard resident fills in.

PJ asked me to be his guest blogger this week as he becomes a father twice-over. Years ago, PJ and I worked together at the station. At the time we were both leading a carefree, childless existence. We could talk all day about music and go see a show on a moment’s notice. PJ still gets to see live acts. It is his job, after all. I must make do with a different kind of interaction with the musicians I enjoy. I rent concert videos and watch them with my five-year old son, Hardy.

Those long ago shows of old, The Kinks at Madison Square Garden when I was just thirteen and much too full of Jack Daniels to remember much, following the Dead up and down the east coast, and catching Springsteen all over New Jersey, even at the Stone Pony, when he surprised us all by jumping onstage, out of nowhere, to sit in with Warren Zevon, were filled with beautiful moments. I must admit, though, to feeling an even deeper connection to the music and it’s relevance while tucked away with my boy in our basement; our own man and man-cub’s cave.

Last night Hardy and I rented "Heart Of Gold," the 2005 Neil Young concert video directed by Jonathan Demme. We were playing Lego’s at the time and at first I wasn’t sure how Hardy felt about Neil. But he was very quiet, not going on about how The Battle of Endor space station was way cooler than the Death Star. I took this as a good sign.

At the end of the concert, there is a clip from Neil’s younger days, when he appeared on the Johnny Cash show. Neil is much thinner and shaggier. While singing "The Needle and the Damage Done" he gazes intensely into the camera. After the song finished, Hardy looked down and studied his toy Chewbacca for a long time. “That was cool,” he finally said. “That song. But what was he talking about? That needle thing?”

I paused before answering. Difficult subjects with my son are new terrain for me. I realize these will only get more complex as he grows older so I try to set the right tone now.

“Well,” I began. “You know how Daddy enjoys a glass of beer or wine at dinner. Well, sometimes people can’t just stop at one. They keep drinking and it gets bad for them. The needle thing Neil is singing about is like that, only worse.”

Hardy nodded and went back to playing, apparently satisfied with my answer. As I looked on, though, I understood that in the future I would need to revisit this conversation and tell him about the days when Daddy couldn’t stop at just one. Hopefully, this conversation is still many years away.

The Live At Masssey Hall version:

Friday, April 9, 2010

David Bowie “Ashes To Ashes”

Hitting Random on the iTunes playlist . . .

MTV came into my life at a pretty impressionable time.

For most people I know, from birth to your pre-teen years, your music tastes were formed by your parents’ music tastes. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I grew up listening to The Beatles and The Beach Boys and to Broadway Soundtracks like “The Music Man” and “Fiddler On The Roof.”

It’s when kids hit their pre-teens, or early teenage years, that they discover the world of music outside the cocoon of home.

When I hit those years, MTV hit the small screen. I was about 11 when the cable guys came and hooked us up. And it opened up this bizarre world beyond “Fun Fun Fun” and “76 Trombones.”

And sometimes, that world creeped me the fuck out.

It’s hard now to go back to such a blank slate mindset, after all the years of viewed videos, rock shows attended, and general loss of innocence toward (mainstream) weirdness. But I can still look at this David Bowie video, and feel a teenage sense of dread.

Not that I could take my eyes off this video, mind you. But I’d watch it in the darkness of our basement TV room, looking at this man in makeup and some kind of bizarre clown suit, and feel very ill at ease, not understanding why something that should be so enjoyable, seemed a little like a nightmare.

Clips of the artists mentioned in this post:

Thursday, April 8, 2010

John Mayer “Say”

Hitting Random on the iTunes playlist . . .

One of the bizarre things about being an artist, or a politician, or a figurehead of most any kind, is that inevitably, actions ascribed to you may have nothing to do with you at all.

The Under-Secretary of the Interior makes an inappropriate comment, and your Governorship gets blasted by the press. A teacher conducts themselves inappropriately, and the Superintendent finds him/herself on the hot seat.

A record label makes a weird, lousy or greedy decision, and the artist gets the blame.

Every time I hear “Say” I blame John Mayer.

Mayer put out the album “Continuum” in fall of 2006, and had much success with it.

In 2007, he was invited to contribute a song to the movie “The Bucket List,” and he offered the very enjoyable track “Say.”

There was to be no commercial soundtrack to “The Bucket List” (though it did put out a Movie Score CD). And Mayer was a long way off from readying his next studio effort. So what to do with this single?

How about re-issue “Continuum,” now with “Say” tacked on the end?

So if you were a Mayer fan, even if you already bought “Continuum,” to get a CD version of “Say” you had to buy “Continuum” again.

It’s not the first time this sort of thing has ever been done by an artist or a label. But this instance stands out to me because it seemed to unnecessary in an age where it’s pretty easy to sell singles online.

I’m sure that decision was made by someone at Sony Records. And there might even be a good, thoughtful reason behind the choice.

But because that person is faceless, and the decision made out of the sight of the consumer, I end up putting the blame on Superintendent John Mayer.

Buy it as an MP3 single!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Van Morrison “Real Real Gone”

Hitting Random on the iTunes playlist . . .

“When you’re tired of what you got, try me.”

Much respect to the artists who acknowledge their influences, and sing about them, to insure that the audience goes hunting for the source.

I know plenty of music from the 60s and before, but only in the context of Oldies radio. So Carl Perkins and Elvis and The Beatles and The Stones and The Doors all entered my listening life at the same time. They were integrated into my consciousness on a level playing field, not as a progression of music styles through the years.

That makes context harder to ascribe to some classic artists. But that’s why I love Van Morrison’s “Real Real Gone.” Though originally recorded in 1980, it wasn’t officially release (or absorbed by me) until 1990. And at the time, I didn’t really know any of the artists Van gives a shout out to.

But it opened the door to those artists. So when I heard “In The Midnight Hour” by Wilson Pickett, I could see the connection “Real Real Gone” was drawing back to the 60s. When I heard Sam Cooke, I understood better the soul Van was trying to inject into his music.

When Solomon Burke came to town, I had to go see him.

And in a way probably more direct than Van intended, when I hear “Real Real Gone,” the artists whom he was invoking come alive to me in a way they would never have, just flipping past the Oldies station on the FM dial.

Clips of the artists mentioned in this post:

Hear the Solomon Burke concert I went to, in the mvyradio archives

Van is notoriously non-friendly to YouTube, so the only version of “Real Real Gone” I could find this the pictorial tribute to Colin Firth. Enjoy!

Sam Cooke

James Brown

Wilson Pickett

Solomon Burke

Gene Chandler

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Weird Al Yankovic “Dare To Be Stupid”

Hitting Random on the iTunes playlist . . .

Well, it might be decidedly uncool to say so, but Weird Al Yankovic is really pretty awesome sometimes.

I know why people don’t like him. If you only know the songs that make it to MTV, then Weird Al is like that guy that you work with who tells the same 3 jokes over and over and over again. “Eat It” was a pretty funny revision of Michael Jackson’s song, but like any joke, it only is enjoyable for so many repeated listens.

Thing about Weird Al, is that rewriting lyrics only accounts for about 50 percent of his music. “Like A Surgeon” and “Another One Rides The Bus” and “Fat” account for nearly 100 percent of his radio/video hits, because they're the songs that sell.

But Weird Al writes some pretty funny original material, too. He’s a gifted parody-ist, adept at recreating styles, like the Doors- Devo-, and Talking Heads-style parodies in the music clips below.

And he’s always embraced the video genre, parodying visual styles as well as he does musical styles.

So perhaps it was inevitable that he bring those 2 worlds together, and be part of a parody of music biopics, and all their tropes.

Please enjoy, The Weird Al Story, featuring cameos from Gary Cole, Mary Steenburgen and comedian Patton Oswalt as Dr. Demento!

Indiana Jones parody

Clips from songs mentioned in this post:

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Diane Birch “Valentino”

Sometimes it’s hard not to repeat yourself on the air.

You develop a certain feeling about a song, and that description just pops out every time you hear it.

And every time I backsell “Valentino” I seem to say “Cute.” It’s just a cute song. Bright and playful and fun and charming. Cute.

But it’s also deceptively complex. Like all great pop music, the strongest hooks appear simple but have a deep brilliance to them.

The video for the song continues that theme. It seems like a simple low budget clip. One shot, one location, no professional actors. But it’s deceptively complex.

You can enjoy the videos simple charms, or you can think about how many takes it took them to get the action to all match up. Sometimes, NOT using special effects is the higher tech process.

It seems simple, but in the song and the video, there’s a lot going on behind the screen.

The original video

The behind the screen version

Friday, April 2, 2010

Frank Zappa "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow"

Perhaps one of the greatest, most profound lines ever spouted in a movie is from Spinal Tap:

"It's such a fine line between stupid and clever."

Sure, stupid and clever seem like they should be on a continuum, starting with stupid on one end, followed by less stupid, not so stupid, intellectually average, smart, smarter, whip smart, and wickedly clever at the far other end.

But the continuum isn't a line, it's a circle. Or maybe a shower curtain ring. And one end (stupid) practically touches the other (clever).

In that tiny space between the ends of the shower curtain ring, is where Frank Zappa lives.

Zappa made this incredibly complex, intricate, challenging, reputedly hard-to-play music. And among his fans were the people who appreciated the virtuosity required to create and play this music.

On the other hand, he sure did make a lot of pee-pee jokes, thus insuring the Dr. Demento audience of novelty seeking silliness.

Clever, and stupid, at the same time.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Hold Steady "Hurricane J"

I wasn't crazy about my name, "PJ," when I was a kid.

For one thing, people would always get it wrong. BJ, AJ, etc.

They'd always try to guess what it stood for. "Picklebarrel Juicebar?" No.

And if I went to Disneyworld, there was never a bike license plate with "PJ" on it. Sure, my sisters Julie and Amy could easily find personalized Mickey Mouse ears or a pencil set bearing there name. But no such luck for PJ.

The Romper Room lady would always call out to my friends like Brian and Elizabeth and David and Christine, and every day I'd watch her look through that magic mirror and wait in vain for her to call my name.

And never, ever, in my forty-plus years, have I heard a song about PJ.

There are songs for Alison and Barbara and George and Jane, but never for PJ.

At least, as a DJ, I can pass on the love, when a song comes around with your name in it.

So to the several Jessie's I know (and I'll count you, Jess Phaneuf), here's a song with your name in it from The Hold Steady. Enjoy!

Buy the album, here

Songs featuring the names of people mentioned in this post:

And no, she still hasn't said my name