Wednesday, June 14, 2017

King Crimson: Seattle 6/13/17

I saw King Crimson at the Paramount Theater in June 1995, and I’ve always regarded it as the best live performance I’ve ever seen. Now, I think it’s been superseded by their show at the Moore Theater, which I saw last night.

This would be the first time they went out as the “8-Headed Beast” with three drummers, and though I’d heard a couple of previous live releases with the 7-piece band, it would be no comparison to what they actually sounded like live.

They came on at 7:45, preceded by Robert Fripp’s announcement that everyone should put away their cellphone/cameras and just take it all in and enjoy the moment. Then the band came out to thunderous applause. Just as they were settling down to play, one guy off to left asked out loudly, “Can we take pictures now?”, which got a laugh.

Well! They went straight into “Neurotica”, followed by “Pictures Of A City”, and wended their way through things I never thought I would hear live, such as “Cirkus”, “Fracture”, “Dawn Song > Battle Of Glass Tears > Prince Rupert’s Lament”, and even “Islands”.

I was very impressed with everyone up there. I couldn’t see Fripp very well, due to being way up in the balcony (and thanks to a hanging PA-speaker stack), but I could see that he was playing a lot of keyboard when he wasn’t playing his guitar. Mel Collins was their secret weapon, and he shone just as well as his gold-colored saxophone. I was very impressed with new drummer Jeremy Stacey, who also doubled on keyboards when not playing drums, but when he was, he was definitely a powerhouse on them. Jakko Jakszyk was in fine voice throughout the whole show.

After a twenty-minute intermission, the three drummers did an instrumental piece on their own, and--launching into “Level Five”--preceded to tear the place up. I’ve never heard them play so loud and so hard, even surpassing the Double Trio lineup. After a while, it was pretty much a John Wetton tribute, playing “Easy Money”, “Exiles:”, “Red”, “Fallen Angels” and “Starless”. The latter was crowned at the end by bathing the band in deep, dark red light. What a nice touch!

After a short break, they came back on and did “Larks’ Two”, “In The Court Of The Crimson King”, David Bowie’s “Heroes”, and closed it with “Schizoid Man”. Wow! There was no light show, no dry-ice fog, no lasers, no props, no boring stories/announcements, and no rear-screen video images...just eight sharply-dressed gentlemen up there kicking ass for nearly three hours. That, to me, is how you get up there and do it.

Set One 1. Walk On: Islands coda pre-recording 2. Neurotica 3. Pictures of a City 4. Radical Action III (new) 5. Cirkus 6. The Battle of Glass Tears (full, from Dawn Song to Prince Rupert's Lament) 7. The Letters 8. Fracture 9. Islands

Set Two 1. Hell Hounds of Krim 2. Meltdown/Radical Action 2/Level Five 3. Easy Money 4. Exiles 5. Red 6. Fallen Angel 7. Starless

Set Three (encores) 1. Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two 2. In the Court of the Crimson King 3. Heroes 4. 21st Century Schizoid Man/Gavin Solo/Drum Trio/Schizoid Man (Coda)

Friday, June 2, 2017

"The Fun Factory"

Down in the basement, there is an old cardboard box down in one section that has always been somewhat of a mystery ever since I found it down there. It's of an old GE stereo cassette deck that seems to be from the '70s, which included two microphones, but it does not look familiar to me at all, as I never saw a tape deck in the house in my very early years. Dad didn't even get a cassette deck until 1980 or so.

But it reminds me of an evening sometime in my kindergarten year when grandma came to the house with yet another item she'd found down in the basement, and handed over to Dad. It was a battery-operated tape recorder, with a cassette in it. One of those older-looking tapes with a white shell, and labels attached to either side.

After she was gone, Dad loaded the cassette into the tape deck on his stereo, and hit the "play" button. What was on this tape seemed to be some kind of collage of things that he had put together from various things in his album collection, strung together rather roughly, and perhaps after he'd had a few beers (and--perhaps!--a few bong hits), but it was obvious that he was definitely having fun making it.

I remember hearing the classic David Frye comedy routine about Nixon smoking grass in the Oval Office, which I had heard before and thought was funny, even though I didn't know who Nixon was then, but I at least appreciated the humor in it. Sometime after that was a few cuts from The Mothers' Fillmore East, June 1971 album, which I had never heard before. As soon as "Bwana Dik" ended, the voice of Dad came on, sort of like a deejay, saying something like "Hey! This is Fun Factory, ever wonder what it would sound like if a midget fell through the floor of an outhouse?".

Then the recording cut to a sound effect from Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House, where a guy is crossing a bridge, which collapses, and you hear him yelling Yarrrggghhhh! as he falls down into water, far down below. Then, the tape switched to yet another sound effect from the same album; this time, it was of a dripping-water noise, but Dad had gotten onto the microphone and had added some grunting and groaning noises of his own, as if he were sitting on the toilet. Pure insanity. Also, somewhere on the same side of the tape, I remember hearing "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?" from the Beatles' White Album, with Dad singing along to it. Oh, boy...again, pure insanity, but whenever he had recorded this tape, he definitely had that crazy sense of humor even before I came along!

The next day, after school, I had the tape-recorder up in the bedroom, and I was listening back to the cassette again, but about a third of the way through it, the tape snarled in between the capstan and pinch-roller, ruining the tape, and rendering it unplayable. The tape was, sadly, tossed in the trash. If only I'd had the knowledge to have repaired and saved the tape then, I would have done that, but...I didn't, and I can only wonder what the rest of the tape had on it. Dad would occasionally make weird tape collages such as that, but nowhere near as weird and wacky as "The Fun Factory".

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Led Zeppelin

This is another one that I'd heard at the Blue House for the first time. Angie and I were running around and climbing underneath the pool table while the grown-ups played, drank beer, and were listening to the stereo playing. There was an album cover that was mostly brown, with some people standing around while a large, white thing was pointing up in the sky, emerging from colorful clouds of smoke. I liked the big, golden blimp that was on the inside, although I had no idea what the object really was supposed to be. One thing that struck me as odd was one song where the singer sang something that (to me) sounded like "You need Kool-Aid!".

Next thing I know, it's bedtime, and we were sent off to bed...and the music played on. It was dark in the room, and I could still hear through the wall what was being played. Dad had put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV, but I had no idea what it was, what the cover looked like, and wasn't even sure if it was the same band. When "Black Dog" was playing, I remember being a little weirded out when the music would stop and the singer was going "Ah-ah, Ah-ah, Ah-ah, Ahhhhhhh.....!".

Sometime after that was one that was starting out kind of quietly, and I was hearing what sounded like was about someone "borrowing" a stairway to heaven...whatever that was. The song went on, getting a little louder, more electric, and then rocking out really hard, coming to a sudden stop, with the final line about borrowing that stairway again, and then...silence. I lay there in the dark, completely blown away at what I'd just heard.

It wasn't until we'd moved into the Green House that we really started playing them a little more, and more often. They were one of Red Fred's favorite bands, and you could count on Zeppelin being played whenever he was around.

Not long after we'd moved into the house, Grandma had come to the house, and brought over some stuff that was down in the basement, and needed a new home. Most of what she'd brought over was a small cache of ultra-cool blacklight posters that Dad had put up on the walls of the basement...the way he would talk about it, he made it sound as if it were quite the Party Central spot! Among these posters were ones of Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, a massive coiled-up cobra...and Led Zeppelin!

This one was really cool, all done in blue, yellow and green, against a black background, with a peace-sign, and even a little blimp flying overhead in the back. The old black-light was dutifully attached to the wall, and this one was placed right underneath it. Somewhere, in one of the photo albums, is a picture of the family in the living room, and this poster is fully visible on the wall behind us.

They were one of Dad's favorite bands throughout the '70s, and he even got to see them in Seattle in late 1972 or so. He said it was a great show, almost four hours long. He would always tell me about making his way down to the front of the stage, looking right up at Jimmy Page in front of him. Joints were being passed around all over, and he suddenly found himself with one in each hand. Decisions, decisions!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Emerson, Lake & Palmer

This is another one that stems way back from hearing it for the first time at the Blue House. This time, however, was different. I was lying in bed, supposed to be asleep while Dad and Mom had some company over, and Angie and I had been sent off to our room for the night. I remember hearing a song about a "lucky man" of some sort, and then the song dissolved to a siren-wailing Moog synthesizer, with the drums carrying it along, until they both collapsed in a heap at the end. I liked what I was hearing...the only bad thing was, I had no idea who it was!

Sometime later, at the Red House, Dad pulled this one out, with three guys on the front cover, who seemed to be Siamese triplets, gazing into a setting sun on the back cover. He played "From The Beginning", which was very impressive, with awesome acoustic-guitar figures, wonderful vocals, and--again--with fizzy, gurgling Moog sounds bringing it to a close.

This was another one that intrigued me, but had never heard. On the outer front cover was a gallery of gold picture frames with nothing in them, but on the inside, they now contained some pretty lurid images of strange landscapes and structures. What could this sound like? Now that I knew how to use the turntable, I put it on one afternoon, and had to hear what it sounded like. From the start, it was a live album, recorded in front of a loud, cheering crowd who definitely loved their heroes.

I had never heard anything from Mussorgsky's Pictures At An Exhibition, and this was my first introduction to a major piece of classical music. Although the music was written by a Russian composer, it was like a little trip to Europe, as listening to the music filled my head with images of castles and cathedrals. The sounds coming from the synthesizers and Hammond C-3 organ hooked me in, and I couldn't believe that it was just three guys making all of that sound. I loved the entire album, and it was soon one of my most-played and well-loved albums.

Brain Salad Surgery had not only the strangest title, but also a suitably strange album cover that opened up down the center in the front. The first thing that Dad had played for me from it was something called "Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression", a 9-minute epic that almost sounded like the soundtrack from a Superman movie, with frantic tempo changes, churning organ solos, and a bizarre synthesizer loop at the end that spewed from speaker to speaker. This became another favorite as well. The keyboards sure sounded like a fun and interesting instrument to play someday, with limitless capabilities to them.

As the years went on, I still played them regularly, but eventually wondered what the bands that the three members had once been in sounded like. That led me to seek out some albums by The Nice, King Crimson and Atomic Rooster; it was all great stuff, and the latter two would have immeasurable influence on me as both a player and a writer.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Guess Who

It was sometime in the start of my kindergarten year when Dad pulled this one out, and asked me if I'd ever heard "Bus Rider". I honestly had never heard this album before, though I had seen it in the collection, but it had never been played around me. It sounded like something we could identify with, since we didn't have a car, and pretty much traveled everywhere by bus, courtesy of Pierce Transit.

He put the album on the turntable. The first thing I noticed was that the album had a piece missing out of it on the outer part, as if it had been dropped, or something hard fell on it, and so the opening song on either side was permanently (and literally) cut out. "Bus Rider" played, a two-and-a-half-minute perfect explosion of Rock & Roll, great hooks, great chorus, and fun lyrics. A hit single, if there ever was one.

That did it, and I was hooked.

Dad also had the 8-Track tape of this album, and I began to play it on the stereo on days that I was at home from school, and he was at work. I could not get enough of it. Awesome songs all the way through it, and I loved Burton Cummings' bluesy rasp. When Angie saw the cover, she thought the guys were standing around in a sewer. The songs played through my head as Mitchell, Angie and myself played at Wright Park throughout that school year, and well into that summer.

When we got into the cassette format, I put this album onto cassette, and played it all the time. One interesting way to fill in the gap with the two missing songs was that Dad also had another "greatest hits" album that featured "These Eyes" and "Hand Me Down World", and I was able to record them onto tape in their original running order, and not miss a thing. Plus, it also had songs like "Star Baby" and "Clap For The Wolfman", which I also liked.

Dad also told me that he saw them in concert at the UPS Fieldhouse in 1971 or so, around the same time that The Best Of had come out, so it was the same lineup on the album cover. A great show, but the one thing that he always remembered was that Burton Cummings skulked around the stage all night, smoking a lot of cigarettes (one after the other), and made it seem like he didn't even want to be there. Later on, I felt that maybe it was around the time that he found out Jim Morrison had died, and maybe that's what put him in such a mood.

As I grew up, I still played it often, knowing all the words, and also teaching myself how to sing by singing along to them. And as time went on, I began to find their albums and picked them up as I found them. There were lots more great songs on albums like Canned Wheat, So Long, Bannatyne and Rockin'. I also began picking up some of their albums on 8-Tracks, which I would find at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store. If I liked what I heard, then I would go and pick up the album on my next vinyl safari. One that I loved and played all the time was of their 1974 album Road Food, which I found at House Of Records on my fourteenth birthday.

A year after that, I found a vinyl copy of The Best Of The Guess Who that had a black-light poster included in it. I wasn't aware that the first pressings of the album had a poster included in it, but there it was; a similar shot of the guys underneath the pier, standing in shallow water. I bought it for that, and also to replace the copy at home that was pretty much worn out, and the poster went on my wall. It's still up there.

Flash forward many years, and one of Geoffrey's favorites is "Bus Rider", followed by "Rain Dance" and "Sour Suite". Why he likes the latter song is kind of a mystery, as it's a bit melancholy, but it's one of his favorites.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Harry Chapin

This is another one that actually harkens back to the Blue House, where I heard this for the first time. Dad went out with a friend for a beer-run one evening, and came back with not only that, but also a couple of big containers of popcorn. The next thing I know, side three of this album was playing. It started off with "Cat's In The Cradle", then "Taxi", and finally "Circle", which almost sounded like something from Sesame Street. I liked what I was hearing, never having heard it before, and this album got a few more spins while we were living in the next few residences.

Sometime toward the end of the summer of 1981, Dad came home with a page from The Seattle Times, with the headline that told about Harry Chapin's death in a car accident over in New York. I couldn't believe it. He just seemed like such a great and funny guy, as well as a wonderful songwriter.

One of my other favorite songs by him on that live album was "30,000 Pounds Of Bananas". I didn't quite catch onto the rather tragic story of a guy who jack-knifed while hauling all that fruit...I just enjoyed the chorus, the way the song sped up, and John Wallace's ultra-low voice when he was called on to sing. After reading the news, I went out for a spin on the sidewalk on my Bigwheel. I had the song going through my head, pedaling along, but as the song played faster, I began pedaling faster along with it. I was racing up and down the sidewalk like a lunatic before a neighbor lady stopped me, maybe out of genuine concern I wouldn't harm myself, but maybe she'd had enough of the noise as well. That was my tribute to Harry that day!

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Moody Blues

It was at the Red House, when I got stung by a bee outside. I'd seen a bumblebee sitting on a leaf on the rose-bush next door. I wondered, Is it dead? Is it sleeping? I reached out and poked it with my finger to see if it would do anything. It woke up, got onto my finger, and stung me. Damn, that hurt!

Dad was in the living room, playing this album that showed a sheaf of album covers stretching out into the night sky. The Threshold labels were almost matching: dark blue, with some sort of swirly fireball-looking logo. The song that was playing was some sort of ghostly, haunting song about a guy named Timothy Leary who was not only dead, but was "outside...looking in". I was drawn in by the bending Mellotron notes, and the different instrumental sections. My hurt finger was completely forgotten about as I heard some more cuts from this album: "Ride My See-Saw", "Tuesday Afternoon", "I'm Just A Singer In A Rock & Roll Band" and "Nights In White Satin".

This was the only thing that Dad seemed to have by them, though I would see pictures of their other album covers on those London/Deram innersleeves that were inside of albums by the Rolling Stones and Ten Years After. I was intrigued by the cover for In Search Of The Lost Chord, although I wouldn't hear that until some time later.

In that summer, just before entering school, there was a new album by those guys that just came out. A little more poppy than the material I'd fallen in love with, but there were some good cuts on it, such as "The Voice" and "Gemini Dream".

As I was in my final year of high school, I was teaching myself how to play the keyboards, and one of the first things I showed myself how to play was the Mellotron lines from "Nights In White Satin", whilst playing along with the album. My Casio PT-100 was no Mellotron, but it was something to play along with.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

If only for a moment...

There is one moment that is permanently etched onto my memory, and though it was just a short-lived realization, it will always live on whenever I am in the area, and particularly that time of year.

It was October of 1983, sometime in the mid-afternoon. Dad had taken me to a dentist appointment down at Bates Technical College, and after it was over with, Dad decided we would walk downtown and go to Woolworth's, just to take a look around. We made our way down 13th for a few blocks, walking by the old Samson Apartments, making a left onto Fawcett Avenue, and then down a few more blocks down 11th Street.

As we walked down this street, with the afternoon sunlight turning gold as it was just beginning its descent, everything just felt right at that moment. We had just been through some rough seas within the last number of months; after he and mom had divorced, the family had been ripped in half as a result, and you can't forge ahead as if nothing had happened, even though we had both been doing that for a while. There would be some more rough seas ahead of us as we forged ahead in the new household situation, but for a moment, where we had been bonding together pretty good, everything just felt right at the moment, with no worries to be had.

We had just seen the Beach Boys at the Puyallup Fair the month before, and had a great time. We were having fun watching a plethora of new movies on TV, and were soon going to appear on The Rock Show. Plus, Halloween was on the way, and that (along with the subsequent holidays) was always a great time to look forward to. Down at Woolworth's, we looked through the albums section, and one of us found a copy of Richard Pryor's album That Nigger's Crazy, which went home with us.

Flash forward 27 years later to October of 2010. I found myself walking down 11th Street one golden afternoon, the sun beginning to set as I was heading to the bus transit-center, and the long-ago memory of that afternoon came to me. I was now a dad myself, and I was wondering if I was going to be walking down this hill with Geoffrey one day, with him taking it all in and enjoying the moment. As the sun was setting that afternoon, I later reflected on this moment that the sun was now setting on the final days of having Dad around, which wasn't going to be that much longer before he was taken from us. He really loved Geoffrey, perhaps thinking of the days when I was that young, and maybe it was like having me from that time back home again.

Funny how a fleeting and seemingly insignificant moment from so many years ago seems to last forever.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Paul Revere & The Raiders

This was one of Dad's favorite bands, while in his teens, not unlike the Rascals. I often wondered what it must have been like to have grown up with all of these great bands out there. It must have been hard to choose what the hell to go out and buy, what with so many picks out there!

He played this one for me, and I found that there were some great garage-rock cuts on it. Kind of a shame you don't hear them much anymore, not even on the "oldies" stations, apart from "Kicks", the only song they seem to be remembered for these days. They rocked a little harder than they got credit for, but always got stuck in the "teen band" penalty-box.

Another album he had was called Something Happening, which had almost a completely different band lineup, but a few very strong cuts on it, kicking off with "Too Much Talk", with gnarly fuzz guitar and some very cool basslines. "Don't Take It So Hard" was also another favorite of mine from it. I remember seeing this one back at the Blue House, where I'd heard it for the first time. Angie's school friends were there when Dad played it, and I was more impressed with it than they were.
A few years onward, in the second grade, we were visited in our class during the course of a week by a guy named Jim Valley, who sang, played the acoustic guitar, and wrote songs like "Rainbow Planet" and "The Computer Song", also singing songs for us like Bobby Darin's "Splish Splash". What I didn't know right away was that he had once been the lead guitarist for the Raiders for a few albums, and he was one of the guys on the cover, wearing the red slip-on shoes. Wow, how cool was that? Stupidly, I never brought it in to have him sign it!

EDIT I was shocked to hear of Paul Revere's passing not long after I originally posted this. There were loads of tributes to him by many musicians and friends of his on Facebook, which was touching. I had to go and score vinyl copies of the two original Greatest Hits collections. Geoffrey absolutely loves "Don't Take It So Hard"; I'll hear him singing it around the house, sometimes even just the middle section of it, word for word.

Johnny Rivers

This was one that Dad plonked onto the turntable, and it drew me right in. The cover, not so much. It looked like one of those sort of generic labels one would see on a bootleg 8-Track cartridge. The back cover was not much better, having the song titles listed again, flanked by a few hand-drawn trees, which reminded me of Wright Park. The run of songs on there inlcuded a handful of Chuck Berry tunes, "Secret Agent Man", "Mountain Of Love" (still a longtime favorite), and "Rockin' Pneumonia / Boogie-Woogie Flu". Great stuff. Mom also played this album, but seemed to favor the ballads on it, such as "Poor Side Of Town" and "The Tracks Of My Tears".
The album art was so generic that there wasn't even a picture of the artist himself anywhere on it. Dad had only one other album by him called Realization, kind of a psychedelic/introspective album, with the excellent "Summer Rain". On the photo-collage on the back cover was a guy with dark hair and thick glasses; for a second, I thought it was Doug from The New Zoo Revue!
Much later on, reminiscing about some of the classic stuff with Winter while we were in The Pace, he half-jokingly suggested that we should over-dub a gang of girls to shout, hoot and whistle while the songs were going on, sort of like the cover versions of "Maybelline" and "Memphis". Too bad we never did that!