Category Archives: Music Nerdery

Riding With The Big Man

When he was still in his early 20’s my father owned a Camaro. In my head I can still see it in front of my grandparents’ house; blue with a white stripe down the hood with an 8-track player and seat belts that were only a suggestion.  I remember how it sounded when it pulled up to the house and I remember what it felt like to sit in the front seat on the rare occasions it was just dad and I going for a ride. Outside of that, the only thing I remember is that one day the car was gone and instead of a Camaro my father was driving an old van, which he later swapped for an old Ford Bronco. My father would never again race someone who pulled up beside him at a light but the Bronco held his tools during the week and his kids on the weekend, which was enough.

The one thing the Camaro and the Bronco had in common was music and by the early 80’s this usually meant Bruce Springsteen. My father played Born to Run like he was preparing my brother, sister and I for a test on it and if there was a test we would have done just fine. We knew it was a town full of losers, we knew about the back streets, we knew most importantly when the change was made uptown and The Big Man joined the band because of all of the songs on that album we liked 10th Avenue Freeze Out best (I never thought about it at the time but I suppose we liked it because it was easy for us to all sing along with.)

In 1986, when Springsteen and the E Street Band released the live set of songs from 1975-1985 my father carefully selected his favorites and copied them onto cassette so we could listen to them in the car. He included a live version of 10th Avenue Freeze Out but our favorite song soon became the live version of Rosalita. By this point in time my father had seen Springsteen live but for the rest of us this 10-minute version of Rosalita was as close as we would get to the live experience. In case you’ve never heard it, that version of Rosalita, recorded at the Roxy Theater in 1978, includes a break to introduce the band which culminates in us learning that Bruce had in his corner, the man he called the king of the world…The Big Man Clarence Clemons. We had seen Clarence in pictures and on TV but it was this song that captured my imagination and set the image in my head of The Big Man as more than just Bruce’s sideman, he was also (as far as I could tell) his protector and confidant which is just what I needed and why in my head, when I recast my family as the E Street Band* I always made my father Clarence Clemons.

*Don’t act like you’ve never cast your family as a famous band. My family has been The E-Street Band, The Wu Tang Clan and many more over the years. Basically any band with more than five members can serve as a stand in for your family. Give it a try.

Here is the Clarence intro from around the same time as that Roxy show.

Yesterday, I was saddened to hear the news that Clarence Clemons had passed away. Today is Father’s Day and as many of you know, my father passed away about a year and a half ago.  Today I’m thinking of both big men and I’m grateful for the times we all spent together, I won’t let the fact that Clarence was never actually driving with us stop me in the least. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.

Happy Father’s Day to the big men in all of our lives, wherever they may be.

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Filed under Betheboy Dad Stories, Family, Music Nerdery

The Reigning Sound on WFMU This Weekend

From WFMU.org:

The Reigning Sound make their triumphant return to the Cherry Blossom Clinic December 19th, Saturday, from 3-6pm! (Eastern Time)

Fresh off the release of their epic new album “Love and Curses,” the Reigning Sound (this time including WFMU’s own Dave Amels in their lineup!) will deliver the rock as only they can, and maybe even a Christmas song or two. Tune in for the Memphis-via-Jersey holiday rockathon with Terre T!

Here at the BeTheBoy household we are  very, very, very excited about this. There are few things that we enjoy more than WFMU and The Reigning Sound so the two of them together is something we won’t be missing. I urge you to check it out on Saturday. Tune in on Saturday at WFMU.org. It’s guaranteed awesome or your money back.

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The Time To Rise

Inspired by Songs That Saved Your Life, here’s another post about music:

By September of 1990 I had been living at my father’s house for nearly a year but I was still forbidden to use his stereo. I was 16 years old by then and already a full blown music nerd (by nerd I mean snob) but I could not blast my favorite songs for all of the neighbors to hear, that was strictly my dad’s job (and if the neighbors didn’t like Bad Company they could go fuck themselves).  When I wanted to hear music I had to playing them on my portable CD player* or the Walkman I took to school with me everyday.

* Please allow me to go off on tangent for a minute:  I had a portable CD player but when I went to school I took my old cassette player. Some of you may be too young to remember this but there was a time when you didn’t just walk around with a CD  because, where I lived, somebody would steal the CD player, or worse someone would think I had money and try take that from you too. The only thing worse than getting beaten up for your money is getting beaten up for money you do not have (or so I hear). One thing a mugger hates is accidentally mugging a poor person because then you have to take SOMETHING for your trouble and you wind up as bad as the victim but I’m getting off topic here.

By the summer of 1990 there were a lot of rules at my dad’s house but not using the stereo was at the top of the list, it was also the only rule not created in response to something stupid I had done. I had no problems ignoring the prohibitions on drinking, smoking and committing petty crimes but I respected the stereo rule until the day I saw my chance to break it and get away with it.

On a beautiful late summer afternoon there was block party on out street. For my dad’s part: kegs were bought, tables and food were moved into the street and the stereo speakers were turned to face the street in order to best rock us like mother fuckin’ hurricanes.  All day long dad gave us a steady stream of burgers’ sausages and his favorite music. I knew that asking if I could play something would only result in him saying no so when I thought enough beer had been consumed I dropped what was my favorite album in the world into the 6 disc CD changer and waited for it to come around. It took about a half hour but when The Best of Bad Company faded out, this song came on:

R.E.M. – Finest Worksong

I guess I thought everyone would like R.E.M. as much as I did when I was 16, but I was wrong. My father came into the house mid song, turned it off and then looked at me and said “You’ll use the stereo over my dead body.** Nobody wants to hear this shit at a party” and walked off with my CD.  Later on that night my dad’s wife called me from where I had been hiding upstairs, handed me my CD and laughed at me for thinking I could get away with that.  A few months later I saved enough money to buy my own stereo, which I could play as loud as I wanted, as long as my father wasn’t home.

**This part turned out to be true.  A few days after my father died, my sister and I used his stereo. It wasn’t the same one as that 1980’s rack system with the collumn speakers but we still felt like we were breaking the rules.

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Some Stuff About Songs

My two favorite things about having a blog are talking endlessly about myself and talking about people I like and the things they do.  Occasionally I, today is one of those days:

Recently I discovered Songs That Saved Your Life where the very funny and always entertaining April Richardson is writing about music and what it means to her. As someone who often writes about music I appreciate it when the music/life narrative is done as well as Songs That Saved Your Life, check it out, you’ll be glad you did. I also recommend following April on Twitter.

For the sake of comparison, here is something I wrote about music and myself for a long defunct blog.

This is The Minneapolis Police – The Party Is Over

When I was 16 I inherited a box of records from my uncle Bob, Mostly 70’s comedy and Dylan records although the inclusion of the nadir of Dylan’s career, the self titled mess of half-finished ideas and Self Portrait outtakes qualified as both. Soon afterwards I started picking up vinyl in used records stores and among the first things I found was The Replacements “Stink”, from the original Twin-Tone pressing, wrapped in plastic and cheap at $5.00. I took it home  along with some other records that have been lost to various moves through the years.

It was 1990 and the Replacements hadn’t broken up yet. Thanks to time spent in a bad girls basements sharing cigarettes and 40’s of malt liquor I was well versed in their stuff, especially Hootenanny, and Let it Be which were my favorites. I wasn’t familiar with this record, with its black and white cover that looked like it was created with a rubber stamp and copy machine but I bought it anyway.

I was a pretty astute music fan for a kid and I knew that there was something more than what was on the radio or on MTV. It just took me a while to find out what it was. If I didn’t believe that my heart and soul was firmly entrenched in raucous rock and roll before I played that record, I believed it afterward. Stink out did the Replacement’s stuff I knew already as well as almost everything I had heard from anyone up till then. Remember, this was a pre Nirvana world we were living in so the garage style, heartfelt, trashy rock was harder to find even if Johnny Thunders was still hanging on by a thread somewhere.

The record started with the sound of the Minneapolis police breaking up a party and 14 minutes and a few seconds later it ended in a fury of noise. Somewhere in between I realized that this was the sound of my heart. Yeah, 8 songs in 14 minutes and change, that’s not even time enough to be famous.

Here’s a live version of “Dope Smoking Moron” as well as the unreleased “Skip It” recorded in 1981 (My god they are impossibly young in this clip):

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Last Thoughts on Last Weekend

Since June I’ve been trying something called Summer Blogging hours, where I try to share something meaningful with you in 100 words or less. I’ve had a great time writing them but since it is September the entry below will be the last Summer Blog Post for 2009.

In the moments before the music started I though of the last time I had been at a Sunday afternoon rock show and every possible reason I should watch from the back.  In a few hours I’ll be in a jacket and tie but for the moment Ted Leo is ready to play four feet from me. When he begins I know I’m in the right place. Every time my feet leave the ground it’s clear I’m not there to be reminded of something I used to be, I’m there because of who I am.

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Gone To Inspiration Point

I’m not sure what the time stamp will say when I finally post this but I’m writing this on Sunday evening after one of the best weekends I have had in a long time. It was a long weekend, I’ve been working very hard lately and I was feeling pretty wrecked so I took Friday off from work.  This means my weekend started on Thursday night and ends with this blog post.  Somewhere in between leaving work Thursday and sitting down to write this I found something important: a new sense of purpose and energy.  I don’t know quite how it happened but I’m not going to argue with it either. I’m going to just going to thank the people who played a part in it and then get to some work I’ve been putting of for too long.

The thank you list is as follows:

The Dirtbombs – On Thursday night my wife and I kicked off our weekend with a trip to The Echo in LA to see the Dirtbombs who rocked our faces off.

James Rocchi – James is a good friend of mine and frequent partner in rock shows, trips to 8oz. Burger Bar and good conversation.  James joined my wife and me in most of these endeavors this weekend.

Shana, Jessica & Friends – While they mistook me for The Man in the Orange Hat when I ran into them this weekend they were very kind to me after they mix up was over.  They are local super geniuses that I hope to see again very soon.

My friend Kerry – Kerry keeps a low profile, hence no link.  He’s a good friend and as good a man as you’ll find in this life or any other.  He joined me for some music on Friday night.

Joel Hugman – Actor, musician and all around good guy who took the time to find me in a crowd on Friday night AND joined my wife and I in the chat room of our weekly show.

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – In less than 48 hours I saw them twice and they were great both times.  I can’t say enough good things about these guys.  The band absolutely killed it, first on Friday night and again at a Sunday afternoon matinee.  In addition, Ted Leo himself was kind enough to stop and say hello to my wife and I before Sunday’s show.  I doubt he will read this but in case he does: Thanks Ted, you and the Rx are incredible.  I can’t wait to see all of you again.  The new stuff sounded amazing, looking forward to the next record.

Tom Scharpling – It’s a well-known fact that I respect and admire the work of writer and Best Show on WFMU host Tom Scharpling. I am a big fan of his work so I was excited to discover that he was also attending the Ted Leo & The Pharmacists shows this weekend and thankful for the chance to meet him.  Mr. Scharpling, you are as kind and generous with your time as you are inspiring.  Thanks for taking the time to speak to my wife and me.

For the record I went on at length about meeting Tom during our live chat show, an archived version of which can be found here.  While I’m at it thanks to everyone who took the time to watch us live and in the archives.

JenHen – While we were waiting for the Sunday matinee, my wife and I met Jen who was an absolute delight.  Thanks for rocking with us today.

My wife Nina – As you may know my wife works very hard but she took time out of our schedule to dance with me, rock with me, dine with me and help me talk to strangers. She is the best thing in my life and the reason for all of the good things in my life. I love her more than I can ever hope to put into words.

I’m sure I’m leaving some people out, I apologize but it’s been a very eventful few days.  Now that the weekend has come to a close I feel recharged and ready to take on some very big challenges that I’ve been unable to tackle to this point.  I’m not sure why, but I feel like I need to turn this positive energy into forward momentum.  I need to get back to writing and to try to get some long in the works projects going.  Now is the time to get things done.  I’m off to work.

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Down At The Rock & Roll Club

When I asked my wife to marry me I didn’t think to ask: “Will you also go to small concert venues with me late at night?  Will you get there early and stay late?  Will you navigate the general admission crowds to find the perfect place and hold my spot when I go to get drinks?”  I didn’t have to ask because I knew the answer was yes.

When I thought about a future with my wife, sharing my enthusiasm rock and roll played in small dark places wasn’t a top priority, but it mattered to me.  I don’t go to nearly as many shows today as I did when I was a younger man with fewer responsibilities but I still like to see my favorite bands play and it’s great to have a wife that is willing to join me.  Recently we saw that Ted Leo & the Pharmacists and The Dirtbombs were both coming to town on consecutive nights.  As I wondered which show I’d go to my wife reminded me that we could find time to rock two nights in a row.  She is right and that’s what we’re doing.

There are few things in my life that compare to seeing a band I love play a great show but one of them is the first few minutes after the show is over: when walk into the cool night air with your ears are still ringing from sound of the music and you feel like your feet aren’t touching the ground as you walk down the street.  The only thing better than that feeling, for me at least, is holding onto this girl as I make my way home.

In you’re in Los Angeles The Dirtbombs are playing on Thursday 8/27 and Ted Leo & the Pharmacists are playing on Friday 8/28.  Both show are at The Echo, info and tickets available here.

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