A Progressive Thanksgiving Dinner

I won’t be home for Thanksgiving this year.  It’s happened before, missing the big family gathering along with all those special foods prepared for the occasion.

Instead, I’ll be hosting a Thanksgiving Day edition of Closer to the Edge, an outstanding Progressive music radio show on Asheville FM (WSFM-LP, 103.3).  I feel honored to have been asked to substitute for host JD, the “Professor of Prog” while he takes a well-earned holiday break.

For three hours, from 2:00 to 5:00 pm (Eastern) on Thanksgiving Day I’ll be serving up some of the best in classic Prog music for the main course, garnished with a healthful helping of contemporary selections.  We’ll begin with an Hors D’oeuvre (served with mathematical precision) and progress through each subsequent course until Supper’s Ready.

I’ll be spinning some delicious classic dishes from the likes of Touch, Wishbone Ash and the Moody Blues, followed by fresh desserts from Anathema and others.  There may even be something special from Wisconsin for all you cheeseheads.

So tune in Thanksgiving Day, November 23, at 2:00 pm EST to hear me, Joey Books, take over as head chef on Closer to the Edge. You can stream it live on AshevilleFM.org by clicking on the “Listen Live” button.  Join me for a truly Progressive Thanksgiving dinner!

“Smug hippie anthems” (Pièces de résistance, partie deux)

Until recently, I was receiving weekly emails from a fellow blogger who also writes about music. He’s more prolific than I, writing weekly posts, waxing nostalgic or offering insight into music from his past, not unlike other writers I follow.  And like the others, I know how to access his blog so I didn’t need weekly reminders.  Determined to cut back on the number of emails infiltrating my inbox, I requested my name be removed from his list. I kept the message brief, figuring a long explanation wasn’t necessary.

Judging from his reply, he was deeply offended by my innocent appeal and wasted no time informing me, stating “(I’ll) Spare you the trouble of having to not read something.”  At first I thought he was joking, but he continued with a rather harsh criticism of my blog.  He wrote, “I haven’t read your blog since that head-up-the-butt ‘Songs of the Resistance’ post back in January. That would have been hard to top — or slide under the lowered bar, as it were — but I wasn’t interested in finding out whether you could, or did.”

I realize it’s not great literature, but “head-up-the-butt?”  Ouch!  Guess I touched a nerve.  Or struck a chord, so to speak.  His reply also included three unattributed quotations, all sharing the same general theme about “savage mobs” and “reverence for the law.”  At the end he finally alluded to the source of his quotations by posing a question, “How could Abe Lincoln have foreseen the #Resistance, Antifa, Black Lives Matters (sic), the anti-free speech mobs on campus, etc.”

Clearly, he appreciates neither the resistance nor my song list.  It brought to mind one of his previous blog entries in which he described a classic Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album as containing “smug hippie anthems.”

Rather than take umbrage at them, his remarks piqued my interest.  The words of respected historical figures are posted ad nauseam among social media groups and become rallying cries for various causes.  Some research revealed those three quotations my fellow blogger shared with me were excerpted from one speech Abraham Lincoln delivered on January 27, 1838 entitled The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions: Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois.  It’s been studied and debated by Lincoln scholars for years.  So was it an indictment of future Resistance, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, or anti-free speech movements on campus?  I don’t believe it was, and here’s why.

William Herndon, who became Lincoln’s law partner in 1844, had this to say about the Lyceum speech:  “The speech was brought out by the burning in St. Louis a few weeks before, by a mob, of a negro. Lincoln took this incident as a sort of text for his remarks…”

Reading the entire speech, it becomes apparent that Lincoln, upset by the lynching of a black man in St. Louis and similar lynchings of black men and their white sympathizers in other states, was condemning those mob actions specifically.  If I were to respond to my detractor, I’d point out that black lives seem to have most certainly mattered to Abe.  I’d also reframe his question and pose it back to him:  How could Abe Lincoln have foreseen the Ku Klux Klan, Nazism, the white supremacy movement, a president who is complicit, etc.?

Instead, I’ll resist the temptation to respond directly and simply dedicate the rest of this post, entitled “Smug hippie anthems” (Pièces de résistance, partie deux), to my fellow blogger and critic.  Having already written too many words, I’ll keep it brief.

Some time back, I was handed a page torn from an issue of Vanity Fair magazine.  It was a list of “favorite protest songs” by celebrities Lin-Manuel Miranda, Q-Tip, Mavis Staples, Tegan & Sara, John Mellencamp and Brittany Howard.  Even if you aren’t familiar with some of these artists, you might appreciate the song titles they shared.  I invite you to enjoy the following link to a list of their selections on the Vanity Fair website, each of which you can find on YouTube, Spotify, iTunes or other purveyor of “smug hippie anthems.”  To see the list, click on this title: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s favorite protest songs.

Asheville FM

I’ve hooked up as a volunteer with a local, listener-supported community radio station, Asheville FM (WSFM-LP 103). Their Fall Fund Drive has been underway for the past week. Yesterday (Thursday, November 2, 2017), I was honored to be a “pitch partner” for the first hour of a great Progressive Rock program, Closer to the Edge, hosted by Professor JD. I brought with me some classic Prog rock tracks by Touch, Yes, the Moody Blues, Renaissance, Uriah Heep, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, and Jethro Tull. We played the music, shared a story or two, and talked about the value of community radio while pitching for donations.

I stuck around for second hour of the show during which JD had invited Andre Cholmondeley, Asheville guitar legend and guitar technician for Steve Howe of Yes, Adrian Belew, and Derek Trucks among others, to share the mic.  Andre was also the guitar tech for Greg Lake when Sylvia and I saw Lake perform at the Woodstock Opera House in 2012.  I met and spoke with Andre.  I showed him some photos I’d snapped from that Woodstock, Illinois show.  Andre immediately recognized the Opera House and the city of Woodstock, mentioning the movie Groundhog Day being filmed there, of course, and also sharing some stories about the gig itself.

Volunteer extraordinaire Dr. Cat Ashe, host of Calling All Species, a call-in veterinary advice and discussion show for you and your pet, shared the third hour of the Closer to the Edge as a “pitch partner” with JD, presenting music of women-fronted and all-women Prog bands.  Some awesome selections!

We all had a great time and I invite you to have a listen to the archive of that show at: MixCloud (https://www.mixcloud.com/closertotheedge/).  If you enjoy the best in  contemporary and classic Progressive Rock, I also urge you to become a regular listener to Closer to the Edge on Thursday afternoons, 2:00 – 5:00 pm. Eastern time.

And while I’m at it, I urge you to take a look at the Asheville FM On-Air Schedule to check out other programs in which you might be interested.  Click on the name of the show to get a detailed description and playlists.  And while you’re on any Asheville FM page, please notice the DONATE link.  Community radio needs your financial support, in Asheville and beyond.

You can Listen Live on your computer at: http://www.ashevillefm.org/player/.  You can also stream it through an app like TuneIn Radio.

Happy listening!

Chasing a DJ Diploma

I have a BA.  I also have an MA.  Now, I’m working on a DJ.

Let me explain.

I’m fortunate to live near a listener-supported, community radio station known as Asheville FM.  I didn’t know much about them until one day while walking by there I noticed a canopy over a table set up in front of the small, nondescript corner building where some friendly folks invited me over to chat.  They told me about the organization, an entirely volunteer driven Friends of Community Radio station, save for one paid manager position.  They showed me a program schedule and pointed out the eclectic shows that are hosted entirely by volunteers.  Of course, it was also their spring fund drive and they asked if I might be interested in contributing, either fiscally or physically, to their efforts.

Anxious to jump on board, I walked home to get my checkbook and then, after donating enough money to snag a snazzy Asheville FM t-shirt, stood behind the table, meeting more of the volunteers, learning more about the station and its programs, and urging other passers-by to stop, listen and learn about this community-powered radio station located in their backyard.

Days later I found myself standing under the canopy, behind the Asheville FM table at another community event, talking with  folks about the station, its programs and its opportunities to serve the Asheville listening audience.  I listened to the programs broadcast on-air and streamed over the Internet.  Upon attending a DJ orientation session, I began the path toward earning a chance to host my own radio program, “shadowing” other program hosts and even appearing as a guest on a couple of shows, bringing music from my own collection to play and discuss on the air.

Twice as a guest (and “shadow”) on the Thursday morning show, Riffin’, hosted by Vance and assisted by Rick, both with their vast record collections of 60s and 70s music, I shared some similar music from the Midwest, discussing the bands and songs we heard growing up.  We played music by the Robbs, the Cryan Shames, the Buckinghams, the New Colony Six, the Mob, the Flock, the Ides of March and other Midwest groups.  What a gas!

One Monday evening found me shadowing on a program aptly named Uncorrected Personality Traits with hosts Jaybird and Juliet.  It was a deliciously juicy treat, playing what can only be described as a truly eclectic cacophony of ear candy, some sweet, some sour, but all highly digestible with little or no antacid required.  Two other program hosts, Sarah and Erik, graciously opened their programs to me for shadowing, and I was able to watch, learn and earn more air time with them.

The week of October 28 – November 3 is the Asheville FM “Fall Fund Drive.”  You’ll find me volunteering again at that table under a canopy set up in front of the station.  I was also invited to be a “pitch partner” for an hour with Professor JD during his prog rock show, Closer to the Edge, on Thursday afternoon of the fund drive.  I’m bringing some classic prog music from the late 60s to mid 70s, including King Crimson, Moody Blues, Touch, Renaissance and Pink Floyd among others.  Perhaps we’ll even share some stories along the way as we try to raise money for the station.

So when you get a chance, turn on, tune in and turn up your radio to Asheville FM (WSFM-LP 103.3) or click on AshevilleFM.org and give some real community-powered radio a listen.  Check out the schedule.  There’s sure to be something to tickle your eardrums.  And one of these days, I hope to be doing the tickling.

Violets of Dawn

Around the time it was released in 1967, I brought home an album by The Robbs, a regionally popular band from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.  At least two songs from that record were being played on top forty radio often enough to make me fork over some cash for the LP.  My band even learned to play one of the tunes.

The Robbs (1967) liner notes

The Robbs had a regional hit single that year, Race with the Wind.  It’s a great song, but it wasn’t my favorite.  The album’s opening track, Violets of Dawn, turned out to be the one that grabbed my attention.  Scanning the liner notes, I discovered Eric Andersen was the songwriter.  The name meant nothing to me.  I’d never heard him on the radio, but I sure liked his song. The tune was catchy and the lyrics painted images in my head.  One phrase in particular, …petal sprays of violets of dawn, stuck with me like fireworks illuminating an early morning sky.

A year passed.  I’d wasted an evening pretending to study in my dorm room when a student from down the hall stopped by with a record album. It was an Eric Andersen recording.  He placed the LP on my phonograph and I heard the original Violets of Dawn for the first time.  It moved me.  Just Andersen singing with his guitar, accompanied by some light percussion from a snare drum and a piano.  There were three more verses than what the Robbs had recorded.  It was like hearing Bob Dylan sing Mr. Tambourine Man for the first time, after having known only the Byrds’ abbreviated cover.  I’d kept up with Dylan’s music over the years while at the same time losing track of Andersen’s, much to my regret.  On a recent fall evening, that oversight was rectified.

Eric Andersen performed in concert at a small music hall, accompanied by a violinist who doubled on mandolin, and a percussionist whose bare hands provided a subtle rhythm.  While time may have stolen the youthful innocence of his voice, along with my stamina for drinking more than one beer, his performance was a sonic fireworks display of poetry, at times dark and sparse, but consistent in its imagery.  The fourth song into his set was Violets of Dawn.  Again I was moved, transported back in time, a wave of chills rushing down my spine.

Eric Andersen (center) in concert – Isis Music Hall

Andersen performed two sets, each a wonderful blend of old and new material.  He delivered songs from his past catalog, of course, and debuted a select set of newer material.  He unveiled three new songs invoking the spirit of German writer and Nobel laureate Heinrich Böll, works commissioned by Böll’s descendants and shrouded in sharp satire of the nationalism he despised, especially in a song titled, “Thank You, Dearest Leader.”  “The Rebel (Song of Revolt),” inspired by French philosopher Albert Camus, was a call to resist even in the face of hopelessness.  Before finishing the evening with his classic “Thirsty Boots,” Andersen turned to the romanticism of Lord Byron, taking Byron’s poem, “To a Lady,” and setting it to music.

It was at once an entertaining and intellectually stimulating evening, one which might have happened fifty years ago in a dingy coffeehouse, illuminated only by …petal sprays of violets of dawn.

Broadside #59 The national topical song magazine

That playlist in my head or, ten songs at the speed of thought

It’s been awhile since I’ve written something.  Anything.  Anything other than a simple Facebook post.  “What does it take,” I ask myself, “to see the light?”  Silence. Crickets, as a cynic might remark.  Even from these lead sentences I’m reminded of a few song titles and the name of a 50s rock ‘n’ roll band.  That’s my brain at work.  A few words overheard in conversation, not necessarily even involving me, are enough to cause a song thought.  A tune bubble.  Perhaps not always, but more often than not.

So, how do I respond to this musical word association game habitually playing out in my head?  I try to write about it. There’s one problem, though. (Only one?)  The song thoughts swirling around inside my skull are fleeting. The speed with which they stream through my consciousness make it nearly impossible to capture them on a page, stiffened fingers tapping on a keyboard, hesitating as auto-correct either fulfills creation of an anticipated word, or makes mincemeat of a particular thought attempting to be conveyed.  It’s happening now.  Welcome to my nightmare.

I’ve tried voice recorders.  But then I’m forced to listen to myself ramble on about whatever nonsense I’m talking about.  Then comes the inevitable pause.  A long pause.  An eighteen-minute gap of a pause.  I’ve lost my train of thought.  It’s almost laughable.  As Dylan said, “It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry.”  See?   There, I’ve said it again.  Help!  Stop the world and let me off.

On second thought, don’t ever let it stop.

That playlist in my head:

  1. It’s been awhile
    Staind, from Break the Cycle (Elektra) 2001
  2. I saw the light
    Todd Rundgren, from Something/Anything? (Bearsville) 1972
  3. What does it take (to win your love)?
    Junior Walker and the All-Stars, single (Tamla Motown) 1969
  4. Silence is golden
    The Tremoloes, single (Epic) 1967
  5. Welcome to my nightmare
    Alice Cooper, from Welcome To My Nightmare (Atlantic) 1975
  6. Ramble on
    Led Zeppelin, from Led Zeppelin II (Atlantic) 1969
  7. It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry
    Bob Dylan, from Highway 61 Revisited (Columbia) 1965
  8. There I’ve said it again
    Bobby Vinton, single (Epic) 1963
  9. Help!
    The Beatles, live, 1965
  10. Stop the world and let me off
    Patsy Cline, from Patsy Cline’s Golden Hits (Everest) 1962

What’s that jangling in my head?

Keys that jingle in your pocket, words that jangle in your head.
— The Windmills of Your Mind

When Caryl, my friend and fellow blogger (Home Sweet Abbey), asked if I’d be interested in collaborating on something, I jumped at the opportunity.  I’d disabled any notification about the WordPress “Daily Prompt” a while back, mainly because it made me feel anxious about not churning out a daily masterpiece.  So when Caryl mentioned a recent prompt featured the word “jangle,” my rock and roll brain began singing to itself, “In that jingle jangle morning I’ll come following you.”  But before my mouth could even form the words, Caryl continued with “Keys that jingle in your pocket, words that jangle in your head,” a line she explained was from a Michel Legrand song, The Windmills of Your Mind.  I tried to suppress any facial expression that would have revealed while I recognized the song title and the composer’s name (Legrand wrote the score for Summer of ’42), I couldn’t recall any more lyrics from it.  Okay, I thought.  I’ll stall for a while and eventually Caryl will mention something that’ll jangle loud enough for those sleeping brain cells in my head to awaken.   She said the song was from a late 1960s film, The Thomas Crown Affair.  Okay, I know that film.  Couldn’t tell you a thing about it, but I recognize the title.  That’s a start.  When she said Sting performed The Windmills of Your Mind for a later remake of the film, a couple of those brain cells yawned and opened their bleary eyes.  I kinda remembered hearing him sing it.  Or perhaps it was just my imagination, as I know I’d never seen the remake either.  But I know this song.  We agreed to pursue the proposal and Caryl said she would email me some notes about the song and the film.

Upon returning home, I checked my email and saw Caryl’s message with the notes she promised.  It was still bugging me that I couldn’t remember The Windmills of Your Mind.  In the old days I would have had to flip through dozens of record albums, scanning track listings on each one to pursue a hunch that maybe, just maybe, I have someone singing that song on an album in my collection.  It’s much simpler now with a computer.  I typed in the first few characters of “windmills” and with the speed of electrons, a complete title and artist displayed on my screen.  I love technology.

I’ve had Dusty Springfield’s Dusty in Memphis CD in my collection for some time now.  It, along with virtually all my other CDs and LPs have been transferred to a digital format and stored on my computer.  They’re intermingled with more recent purchases, digitally downloaded from online music stores.  So I listened to the sultry voice of Dusty Springfield singing The Windmills of Your Mind through earbuds.

Thanks to YouTube, I listened to a dozen other renditions including the original soundtrack version by Noel Harrison, the remade soundtrack mix by Sting and the haunting 1969 Academy Awards performance by Jose Feliciano.  I couldn’t stop myself.  The jangling was getting louder.  I listened to covers by Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, and Johnny Mathis.  Not content with only the English versions, I sought out the original French recording, Les Moulins de mon Coeur (The Windmills of my Heart) performed by Marcel Amont.  Jangling out of control, I digressed for a moment and listened to Legrand’s beautiful score for Summer of ’42.  And though completely unrelated, I listened to Paul Mauriat and His Orchestra perform the theme from A Man and a Woman (Un Homme Et Une Femme) before getting back to business.  Lastly, I heard the psychedelic, yet soulful rendering of The Windmills of Your Mind by Vanilla Fudge from their 1969 album, Rock & Roll.  I highly recommend it.  It will jangle in your head for quite some time.  For eight minutes and fifty-five seconds, to be exact.

Click to listen:  Vanilla Fudge – The Windmills of Your Mind