Sunday, August 29, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 141: Memories Can't Wait

I'm flying solo on the podcast this week as I discuss the lasting power of the mix tape. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

Topics:

- Music takes you back to specific time or place

- Couldn't listen to "Wild Horses" for a few years

- Joe Jackson's "I'm the Man" brings back good memories

- Made mix tapes on clock radio with tape deck

- Mix tapes have made a comeback

- Started writing series called Mixology to look back at old mix tapes

- Oldest mix tape I have was recorded in 1981

- Lots of hard rock and prog rock featured

- Was surprised to hear that I recorded little bits on some of the tapes

- 1981 started out great

- Eighth grade was a lot of fun

- But we knew were moving to Washington state soon

- Moved in November

- Radio stations there sucked, so mix tapes kept me going

- Didn't make another mix tape until I got to college

- Made a few tapes in college, but really started making a lot after I graduated

- Listening to those old tapes really reminds of me of good and bad times

- Last mix tape was made in 1999 until my tape deck died

- Still make CD and iTunes playlist mixes

- Bonehead of the Week

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The show is sponsored by Eastbay/Footlocker.com, a leading supplier of athletic footwear, apparel and sports equipment. Use the promo code AFCOMP15 to get 10% off any order of $50 or more at Eastbay, AFCOM20 will get you 15% off any order of $75 or more at Eastbay, and AFCOMPFL will get you 10% off any order of $50 or more at Footlocker.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of the mighty Mark Campbell. Thanks to Bob Durling for the album art; find out more about his photography at his blog.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Halfway Home

Time for a marathon training report: I just completed week 9 of my 16-week training program for the Baystate Marathon (Oct. 17).

Instead of doing the Furman FIRST 3-day a week program this time, I tried to shake things up with a Runners World program that advocated a more gradual buildup of long runs, but more running during the week. I liked the fact that I wouldn't be doing 20-milers in the dead heat of summer, and I still like that. But the extra mileage eventually got to me and I started noticing some shin and knee pain in recent weeks. As a result, I've dialed back to three days a week and my legs are feeling a little better.

Part of the problem also stemmed from the fact that my shoes were getting worn and my orthotics were totally shot, so the impact was really getting to me. I just got new orthotics on Tuesday; I'll start running with them this coming week. I plan to get new shoes soon as well.

I started doing speedwork a few weeks back and plan to keep working on that at the Beverly HS track near my house. I switched gyms in Marblehead this summer and that has hampered my running a bit because I didn't know any routes from the new location, and because it takes longer to get there so that cuts into workout time. But the office is moving to Danvers in a few months and the building has a gym with showers, so that problem will be resolved.

We've had cooler weather the last few weekends, which helped with long runs. I did an 18-miler yesterday and although it warmed up by the last hour, my time was still basically the same as the 17-miler I did a few weeks ago. I've got a couple of 20-milers coming up the next two weekends, so hopefully I'll luck out again. We've got a bit of a hot stretch coming up. It's 90 outside right now. I feel like my fitness level is pretty good, but it definitely can get better.

Also on the horizon is Reach the Beach, which should be a lot of fun, and then the Wicked Half Marathon. Then I've got one last big run before tapering down before the marathon.

Looking ahead to the spring, I've pretty much decided I don't want to do a marathon. I think I'll take a break and just run shorter races and maybe a half or two. Then perhaps I'll do another marathon next fall. Perhaps.

Run Runaway:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mixology: High-Decibel Mixology

Mixology is a recurring feature in which I take a look at one of the many mix tapes I made over the years. Some are better than others, but all of them are fun to revisit.

High-Decibel Mixology (9/15/90)

Here's another mix from 20 freakin' years ago, and indeed, the one that gave this feature its name. I was firmly entrenched at the Peabody Times as the schools reporter, which meant I covered a lot of School Committee meetings and whenever there was some wacky assembly activity like the Traveling Tidepool. Not exactly Woodward and Bernstein, but it was a job. I was still thinking I would move on to a bigger paper in a year, but that never happened.

I started going to a lot of concerts: Smithereens, Aerosmith/Black Crowes, Jerry Seinfeld, Robert Plant, and even James Taylor (wasn't my idea). I drove up to Toronto in August with my brother again, this time for a week. We saw three games at the then-brand new Skydome, two against the Red Sox and one against the Brewers; the place sold out all 50,000 seats every night, but my aunt hooked us up.

At the time, I was a regular customer of Rockit Records in Saugus, which was a great store on Route 1 North. In the '80s, I used to frequent the Rockit store in Nashua with my buddy Tat to find the latest metal releases and issues of Kerrang! magazine. I used to comb through the used CD offerings to get good deals; that's where I bought the Black Crowes' debut Shake Your Money Maker, the Kings of the Sun album (had to look that one up; traded it in long ago) and the Dread Zeppelin disc, both of which are featured on this tape. The store closed in the mid-to-late '90s, unfortunately. Rockit was one of the last of the great indie record stores in the 'burbs. Thankfully, Newbury Comics (which is a chain with an indie mentality) and the Record Exchange in Salem are still around.

Musically, I still dug the heavy rock, as is evidenced by the presence of Living Colour and Tesla (!) here, and the guitar heroes (Vai, Belew, Johnson, Hendrix, Moore), but I was also broadening my listening habits and getting into acts like Public Enemy. I picked up the cassette of Fear of a Black Planet earlier in '90 and was into it. I liked the Flavor Flav stuff, but was more into Chuck D's booming raps. That dude was SERIOUS. There's also a song off the soundtrack to Mo' Better Blues, featuring none other than Denzel Washington on vocals, kinda jazz-rappin', I guess. He played a trumpet player in the Spike Lee movie, which I quite enjoyed. Listening to it now, it definitely sticks out, but what the hey. They can't all be gems.

Side A
Elvis is Dead - Living Colour
Heartbreaker - Dread Zeppelin
I am a Wild Party - Kim Mitchell
Fuckin' Up - Neil Young
The One Thing - The Pursuit of Happiness
Pop Top 40 - Branford Marsalis Quintet and Terence Blanchard (with Denzel Washington)
Don't Break My Heart! - 24/7 Spyz
911 is a Joke - Public Enemy
Drop the Gun - Kings of the Sun
Pretty Pink Rose - Adrian Belew (with David Bowie)
Cliffs of Dover - Eric Johnson

Side B
That's the Hold (live) - Kim Mitchell
Type - Living Colour
Heaven's Trail (No Way Out) - Tesla
Erotic Nightmares - Steve Vai
Trouble with the Sweet Stuff - Billy Idol
Liberty Lies - David Baerwald
While My Guitar Gently Weeps - Jeff Healey Band
Oh Pretty Woman - Gary Moore
Sister Luck - Black Crowes
Radio One Theme - Jimi Hendrix Experience





Drop the Gun:


911 is a Joke:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 140: OK Computer

I'm joined on the podcast by special guests Dave Brigham and Jay Breitling as I continue my look back at the rise and fall of the dotcom era. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

Topics:

- Brigham joined Webnoize full time in May 1997

- He quit a paying gig as a proofreader

- Eventually, Webnoize started paying him

- We were given stock options

- At the time, seemed like a good opportunity

- Kumar was hired in October 1999, but had done work for site for a few years

- Dave bought guitar with first check

- First office was in Stoneham, Mass., home of Nancy Kerrigan; later moved to Cambridge

- At first, only four people in office

- Webnoize received funding from "angel investors"

- Meanwhile, other dotcoms pulled in huge sums for barely an idea

- It was all about buzzwords

- Saw pattern of companies with no entertainment or tech background getting into online entertainment space

- These included an oil and gas exploration company, Arthur Treacher's fish and chip restaurant

- Webnoize had good ideas but no business savvy

- MusicPhone.com offered voicemails from celebs like Whoopi Goldberg; t-shirt lasted longer than the company

- The big entertainment companies were just as clueless about the Web

- We got early versions of MP3 players: Diamond Rio, Nomad Jukebox

- Lessons learned: Need to know your limitations

- We went from Macs to a Sun Solaris computer system

- Breitling joined Webnoize after getting master's degree in journalism

- Started as intern in December 1999

- Eventually, he went back to his old job as paralegal

- Post-Webnoize, he worked for Listen.com and AOL Digital Cities

- AOL's now pumping money into local journalism sites called Patch

- The futility of journalism school

- Breitling: Dotcom era ended with many losers, few winners

- The "celestial jukebox" idea still hasn't happened

- Licensing is still a major obstacle

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:

Jesse Malin and the St. Marks Social - Burning the Bowery (live)

No Age - Glitter

The Delta Spirit - White Table

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The show is sponsored by Budget, the country's premier car rental service with 900 locations. Go to Budget.com/CompCon and save 10% off any reservation or $30 off a weekly rental.

The Jesse Malin and the St. Marks Social song is on the band's Daytrotter session recorded in May. Download the session for free at Daytrotter.

The No Age song is on the album Everything In Between on Sub Pop Records, where you can download the song for free.

The Delta Spirit song is on the album History From Below on Rounder Records. Download the song for free at Music Induced Euphoria.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of the mighty Mark Campbell. Thanks to Bob Durling for the album art; find out more about his photography at his blog.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

This is My House, This is My Home

Seems like every time I turn around these days, there's a milestone happening. Part of getting older, I guess. This milestone isn't too shocking: We're coming up on the 10-year anniversary of buying this house. We actually officially moved into the house in late September 2000, but we spent much of the previous month finalizing the sale and signing reams of paperwork and moving boxes and boxes of stuff in. Funny thing is, before moving in here, I was practically a vagabond.

I've moved around a lot my whole life. As a small child in Toronto, I lived in three different high-rise apartment buildings before I turned 7. In January 1975, we bought a house in the 'burbs, where we lived for nearly seven years before we followed my dad to Washington state. We lived in three more homes there in the 19 months we were in Richland, and then it was off to Kingston, NH in June 1983. We were in that house until the summer of 1989, when my parents sold it and moved to Brentwood. I had already moved down to Massachusetts to start my career, but I still had to spend many hours helping pack up all the crap that had accumulated in the Kingston house.

The subsequent decade was a whirlwind of schlepping around the North Shore of Boston:

  • Magnolia, June-September 1989: As I documented in the most recent installment of Mixology, I rented a room in a boarding house in Magnolia. It was a great spot located near the beach and a nice way to spend the summer. The Cher movie Mermaids was filmed not far from where I lived.
  • Wenham, September 1989-July 1990: One of the editors at the paper took his family on a mission trip to China for a year and entrusted his Wenham home to my fellow reporter and buddy Eric. One of the guys who was living there moved out after a few months, so Eric offered me the room. It was a lot closer to the office and a pretty sweet house, although we had to deal with the wacky lady who was renting the basement apartment. We threw some absolute kickass parties in that place. Another friend and fellow reporter moved in a few months after I did. The family returned and we had to find another place to live.
  • Beverly, July 1990-July 1991: My buddy Bryan and I found an apartment on Butman Street in Beverly, right across from a cemetery. It was a converted attic and pretty tiny, but for two single guys in their early 20s, it was good enough.
  • Beverly, July 1991-April 1992: My girlfriend Kelley and I decided to move in together. She had been renting a nice studio apartment in Hamilton above the garage of an MIT professor, but it wasn't really big enough for two people. We found an apartment in an old Victorian on Essex Street in Beverly. It was pretty roomy, but not very well insulated. A lot of little things started getting on our nerves, so we started looking for another place.
  • Beverly, April 1992-June 1993: After checking out a few places, we found a nice apartment on Roosevelt Avenue in Beverly. And if you know me at all, you already know that it's the downstairs apartment in the very house I own now. Everything was hunky dory at first, but by March 1993, things between Kelly and me weren't going so well. We were working completely opposite shifts at the paper and just sort of drifting apart. We agreed to split up, but she let me stay here until I could find a new place. It was a struggle, especially considering I didn't have ton of dough to pony up for a nice place. Eventually, I found one. Not that nice, but it was an apartment.
  • Middleton, June 1993-February 1994: I rented a room in a house in Middleton, which meant my commute would be a little longer (25 minutes). This also coincided with my taking a design editor position at the paper that required me to be at the office at 5 a.m. It was a lonely time out there. The house was owed by a guy in his late 20s who also lived there, but he wasn't around much. The house was in the middle of a big field, fairly isolated. There was another house near the road, but we were essentially on our own. Our house had two floors and four bedrooms; we shared a kitchen and bathroom. Another young guy, Chris, lived above me. He was pretty cool. We hung out a bit. After a few months, a divorced guy in his 60s moved in. Nice enough, but I didn't need to see him walking around in his boxers all damn day. I spent a lot of time in my room; it was like being in high school again in some respects. Plus I was in the mopey stages of being out of a relationship after four years. Not a lot of fun to be around.
  • Beverly, March 1994-March 1996: I was pretty depressed while I was in Middleton and I think my early morning gig was giving me an ulcer. I was swilling antacid like was going out of style. But things turned around when I ended up renting a room in the apartment shared by my co-workers Sue and Gail and Sue's friend Deb. I'd known all of them for years, especially Sue, with whom I went to high school and college. The place was on Essex Street in Beverly, but the other end from where I'd lived before, near the downtown. The joke behind the whole thing was I was moving with three cute girls, but there were all engaged or about to be. But they were all really cool and I had a blast living in that apartment, even though we would freeze in the winters and bake in the summers. Man, I really had some crappy landlords. Anyway, we actually had two more roommates that first summer when Deb's sister and friend moved in for a few months; the rent was super-cheap ($165 a month). By the spring of '95, however, the girls had all gotten married and moved out. My buddy Eric moved in and later my co-worker John joined us. He was a neat freak in the office, not so much at home. But it was all good.
  • Salem, April 1996-April 1997: I really liked living in that Beverly apartment, but by the spring of '97, I was getting annoyed by my roomies and was plotting to get my own place. A friend of mine told me there was a open apartment in the Salem house where she was renting; it was a basement apartment, but it was 10 minutes from my new gig in Marblehead. Plus, early '96 was a tough time. I had gotten dumped by my girlfriend and then my dad died, literally on the day I was moving out of the Beverly place. I was ready for some alone time. The Salem place was kinda cave-like, with only a few tiny windows. Ultimately, I had a lot of fun that summer, but by the following spring, it was getting a little expensive having to foot all the bills on my own.
  • Beverly, May 1997-October 1999: I had been hanging out with my buddy Mike a lot over the past few years, playing softball, golf and just going out drinking. I had been bitching about my apartment when he mentioned that one of his roommates was about to move out. He and his brother had been renting half a house on Sturtevant Street in Beverly in a pretty nice neighborhood. It was cheaper than the Salem place, a lot nicer and back in Beverly, where I preferred living. We had a lot of fun in that house, including some major blowout parties like the one for my 30th birthday. Not long after moving in, I started dating Deb.
  • Beverly, October 1999-September 2000: Things were growing progressively more serious between Deb and I and in July 1999, I finally proposed. We agreed to get married the following summer and decided to get an apartment together. We found a nice place on Lovett Street in Beverly, right upstairs from the place my friends Eric and Bryan lived for a while earlier in the decade. It was near the ocean and an easy walk to the train, which was good because I had started working at Webnoize that same month. The company moved from Stoneham to Cambridge in early 2000, so I began taking the commuter rail into the city. This also worked out well because my car was totaled by a giant tree branch during a storm in June 2000. We had planned to stay in that apartment for a while and save some money to get a house eventually, but things changed when Deb's mom was looking for a place and proposed getting a two-family house together. So Deb and her mom started looking at houses and one day Deb called me to say that the house I lived in on Roosevelt Avenue was on the market. It was a little weird at first, especially when we first took a tour of the house, but that was fleeting. We got it for a good price and Deb and I took the upstairs apartment, which I'd never been in before.
We don't have any plans on moving any time soon. Both Deb and I moved around a fair amount as kids and we don't want to do that to the girls. Besides, all that moving is enough to take the wanderlust out of your system.

House a Home:


Moving in Stereo:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mixology: All Mixed Up

Mixology is a recurring feature in which I take a look at one of the many mix tapes I made over the years. Some are better than others, but all of them are fun to revisit.

All Mixed Up (8/19 and 9/3/89)

Sometimes you look back at a point in your life and you wonder how things were ever that simple. And I don't mean when you were a little kid and had no responsibilities or cares other than which game you were going to play next. In 1989, I was moving into a new phase of my life, which I'm sure seemed really stressful and game-changing at the time. But really, it was new and exciting but not very complicated.

This tape was made during the summer after I graduated from UNH, a few months after the mix I made before I started working. I had begun working full-time as a reporter at the Peabody Times and in June had begun renting an apartment in a house in Magnolia, which is a nice section of Gloucester. I had quickly grown sick of the commute from Kingston, NH, to Peabody and also wanted to get out of my parents' house. I was driving a 1988 Hyundai Excel hatchback, which had not much in the way of giddyup, but it was MINE, dammit.

The Magnolia place was pretty sweet, right next to the beach. I actually went for some runs on the beach in an effort to reduce my beer-enabled paunch (but I didn't really get serious about exercise until a few months later when I joined a gym). The house on Hesperus Avenue was essentially a boarding house that many of the paper's interns had used over the years. I didn't as an intern because I was only earning $57 a week after taxes, but now that I was making a living wage ($20,000, but with minimal debt and no dependents), I could afford to rent a room. It was a mostly young group of people living there, including a couple of super-hot women, but I was pretty busy at the paper most of the time. I do recall going to a club in Revere with some of them, but mainly I kept to myself. We shared the kitchen; I was up on the third floor. At first, I went home on the weekends to work night crews at Market Basket and bring in some extra cash, but that was too much of a drain on my energy level and my social life, so I stopped after a month or so.

My brother and I flew up to Toronto for a few days in August to stay with my uncle. We caught a Jays game, saw the first Tim Burton Batman movie (which had just come out) and had a good time in general. As the fall approached, I definitely found myself wishing I was going back to school instead of working in the real world, but I got over it. I had started as a general assignment reporter in June, but by the end of the summer, our senior reporter left for another job and the workload got busier. Which was a good thing. Of course, that didn't stop me from going up to UNH several times during the school year to party with friends who were still there.

It was a strange summer because I didn't have many friends in the area, but that changed as the months wore on. I began dating one of the reporters at the paper. We saw R.E.M. at Great Woods (now the Comcast Center) that summer. It rained pretty much the whole time, but we had seats under the roof. I could have seen the Rolling Stones in Foxboro, but I refused to pay $70 (nowadays, that would probably be a $200 ticket) to sit a mile away from the stage.

At this point, I was still buying albums on vinyl, although I was also buying new releases on CD. On this mix, it's probably 50-50 songs from both formats. By 1990, however, I bought everything on CD. Now I only buy the occasional CD and download the majority of my music.

One great thing about the summer of '89 was I had no idea what the future held. That can be scary, but when you're 21, it just means you've got a big blank canvas on which to paint.

Side A
The Crossroads - Kim Mitchell
Girlfriend is Better (live) - Talking Heads
Partyman - Prince
Dancing Days - Led Zeppelin
Under the God - Tin Machine
Wishing Well - Bob Mould
(Wearing Down) Like a Wheel - Elliot Easton
Even the Losers - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Wall of Denial - Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
Big Time - The Kinsey Report
Medicine Train - The Cult
White Tornado - R.E.M.

Side B
Continental Drift - Rolling Stones
You Want Her Too - Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello
Ain't So Easy - David & David
Slave to Love - Bryan Ferry
Soul Crying Out - Simple Minds
Inca Queen - Neil Young and Crazy Horse
Patience - Guns 'N Roses
Coming Up Close - Til Tuesday
Never Let Me Down - David Bowie
O Mercy Louise - Kim Mitchell





Under the God:


Patience:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 139: Through the Past Darkly

Special guest Ric Dube joins me on the podcast as we take a look back at the rise and fall of the dotcom era. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

Topics:

- Webnoize looked at how entertainment and the Web converged

- We covered the start of the MP3 revolution

- Napster let people a world apart share music

- Before Napster, the only choice you had if you liked a song was to buy the CD

- Dube: Napster was a collective act of civil disobedience

- Recording industry said online sharing would hurt, but nobody listened

- Most companies' Internet strategy represented an agenda, but no idea

- The dotcoms with good ideas often got bought out

- Napster's technology was art, not a viable business

- Millions of people used Napster

- We started noticing companies had no idea behind the money

- Apple capitalized on digital music with iPod and iTunes store

- Dube had one of the first iPods in America

- We rode around Boston with XM Satellite Radio listening to service before it launched

- Amazon has thrived with MP3 store

- Music industry sales are hurting

- Ten years ago, CD duplication wasn't as easy and cheap as it is now

- Dube predicted the phone was the future of music industry

- Dube: Didn't see Apple becoming a big player in consumer electronics and media

- Lee was right about business convergence

- WiFi networks must improve

- Stitcher is an impressive app--turns iPhone into a TiVo

- Music will become more like a service than a product

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:

The Posies - Licenses to Hide

The Vaselines - Sex with an X

Boston Spaceships - Come on Baby Grace

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The show is sponsored by Eastbay/Footlocker.com, a leading supplier of athletic footwear, apparel and sports equipment. Use promo code AFCOMP15 to get 15% off any order at Eastbay.com, AFCOMP20 to get 20% off any order of $75 or more at Eastbay.com and AFCOMPFL to get 15% off any order at Footlocker.com.

The Posies song is on the forthcoming album Blood/Candy on Rykodisc. Download the song for free at Amp Magazine.

The Vaselines song is on the album Sex with an X on Sub Pop Records, where you can download the song for free.

The Boston Spaceships song is on the forthcoming self-released album Our Cubehouse Still Rocks. Download the song for free at Pitchfork.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. and . Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of the mighty Mark Campbell. Thanks to Bob Durling for the album art; find out more about his photography at his blog.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Last Night on Earth

There are plenty of bands who have made the transition from raw punk or indie act to mainstream arena act, but few who have embraced it so wholeheartedly as Green Day has over the last 20 years or so. The Bay area group burst on the scene in the early '90s as a power trio blasting out catchy punk pop ditties, but about six years ago reinvented itself as an ambitious purveyor of rock operas/concept albums/Broadway shows.

Last night at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, Mass., the band displayed both ends of that evolutionary chain in a nearly three-hour show to a packed amphitheater of teens, pre-teens, families with small children as young as 5, and even the occasional geezer such as myself. I first got into the band in my mid-20s with the release of 1994's Dookie, a classic collection of snotty punk. The following albums were less compelling until the band was pretty much reduced to just playing those old mid-90s tunes at smaller venues. Then came 2004's American Idiot, a sprawling concept album that struck a chord with disaffected youth who were pissed off at the Bush administration and suddenly made the band relevant again. American Idiot was a huge success and last year, Green Day returned with 21st Century Breakdown, another concept album that was good but not great, IMHO. They also rolled out a Broadway musical based on American Idiot. In all that time, I had never seen Green Day live. I almost went to the band's free show at the Hatch Shell in '94 but didn't for some reason; just as well because the thing turned into a small riot after 20 minutes.

The band played the area right after the release of the latest album but I didn't really have any desire to go. When my buddy Gary said he had an extra fairly cheap ticket for last night's show, I figured it'd be fun to finally see them. Unlike the other Mansfield concerts we've seen in the last few years, this time we brought along his 16-year-old daughter and her friend, who sat a section over from us. We walked in just as Green Day took the stage and right from the start, you could tell that frontman Billie Joe Armstrong knew how to work the crowd. He constantly shouted out "New England!" or "Boston!" whenever he could work it in, pulled out a few anti-New York references and generally pandered to the crowd at every turn. It was sorta-family friendly rebellion, with plenty of f-bombs for everyone. He pulled out every rock cliche in the book: Bring up a young fan on stage to sing a few verses; encouraging crowd singalong sections during nearly every song; getting the crowd to do the swaying arm thing during every slower song; and generally just bringing the cheese. And the crowd loved every second of it.

There was plenty of actual rocking going on. Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool are an excellent rhythm section and Armstrong still kicks ass on guitar when he wants to. Still, I wish I'd caught them back in the early days just to see them as a trio. They played a few tunes from Kerplunk, their first album, including "2000 Miles from Home" and "One for the Razorbacks," as well as a healthy dose of their '90s output, which received the biggest cheers. The band has tons of energy and Armstrong and Dirnt were all over the place on stage. Pretty impressive, really.

Green Day is basically the rock equivalent of a Vegas lounge act, and I mean that in the best way possible. They know how to put on a show. There was tons of 'splosions, big lights and video. The trio was augmented with three extra musicians, including a keyboard/sax player, which allowed Billie Joe to ham it up even more. At one point, the band played snippets of "Iron Man," "Sweet Child o' Mine" and "Highway to Hell" before launching into the old GD staple "Brain Stew," which kind of ripped off all of those songs. A guy wearing a "green man" costume was brought up on stage to sing "Longview"; he did a half-decent job and then was given Armstrong's guitar (which I guess the band does at every show). At one point, about 50 people were brought onstage to jump around while the band played a song. There was a 15-minute section near the end of the show in which the band dressed up in wacky costumes, played a little bit of Benny Hill's "Yakety Sax" theme, played the Animal House anthem "Shout" with each member of the band singing while Billie Joe played their instrument and then wrapping up with Armstrong singing parts of "Satisfaction" and "Light My Fire" while lying on top of a speaker. The show ended with Armstrong on acoustic guitar playing "Good Riddance," arguably the band's biggest hit. I was hoping for a rocker to end the night, but it was still a great show.

Yeah, Green Day's playing for a wider audience now. They're kind of like a punk-by-numbers kit for mall teens. But if you're okay downing a little cheese with your rock, you'll like 'em just fine.

Then:


Now:

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mixology: 1993--The Year That Sucked (But Still Managed to Rock)

Mixology is a recurring feature in which I take a look at one of the many mix tapes I made over the years. Some are better than others, but all of them are fun to revisit.

1993: The Year That Sucked (But Still Managed to Rock)

The name of this mix pretty much sums it up. No need to delve into the reasons why '93 blew; that's been covered in detail in past Mixology installments. I can safely say one of the things that got me through was music. It was a good year for the brand of music I was digging, which was primarily alt-rock.

Yeah, there was a lot of the Nirvana/Pearl Jam axis, but I also listened the hell out of the following:

  • Matthew Sweet's Altered Beast album, which was his dark and depressing follow-up to the 1991 power pop masterpiece Girlfriend. The album was written off by folks who primarily based their knowledge of Sweet on the great title track of the previous record, but there was some mopey stuff on that one, too. On Altered Beast, Sweet once again had sick guitarists like Robert Quine soloing all over the place, but the mood was way more bummed out. Songs like "Superdeformed," (a B-side that ended up the No Alternative comp), "Time Capsule" and "Ugly Truth Rock" pretty much captured my seemingly miserable existence perfectly.
  • Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream was a revelation for me, a majestic rock opus that sounded like early Queen combined with Sonic Youth. That album led me to discover the previous one, Gish, which rocked even harder.
  • I discovered Buffalo Tom in '93, first picking up the terrific Let Me Come Over and later in the year getting the latest release Big Red Letter Day, which further refined the pop sensibilities of an already hard rocking act. Another Boston-area band I got into was Dinosaur Jr., whose Where You Been was a killer blend of Neil Young-ish vocals and absolutely sick guitar soloing.
  • There were some good compilation albums released in '93: No Alternative, which featured a ton of the leading alt-rockers of the day (Nirvana, Pavement, Bob Mould) contributing previously unreleased songs to benefit AIDS charities; the Judgment Night soundtrack, which saw alt-rock and hip-hop acts joining forces and unfortunately led to the rap rock trend that emerged later in the decade; and Stone Free, a Hendrix tribute album that had some good covers, some not-so-good.
I took heart in the fact that there was never a lack of something good to listen to in '93. It would be a few more months before things turned around in my life, but this tape kept me rocking in spite of it all.

Side A
Go - Pearl Jam
Serve the Servants - Nirvana
Cannonball - The Breeders
Today - Smashing Pumpkins
Sodajerk - Buffalo Tom
Superdeformed - Matthew Sweet
Between Me and You, Kid - Mudhoney
Crosstown Traffic - Living Colour
Just Another Victim - Helmet and House of Pain
Thunder Kiss '65 - White Zombie
My Name is Mud - Primus
The Stalker - Urge Overkill
Missing Link - Dinosaur Jr. and Del the Funkee Homosapien

Side B
Couldn't Know - Paw
Jimmy's Fantasy - Redd Kross
Never Said - Liz Phair
Hey Baby (Land of the Rising Sun) - M.A.C.C.
Silver Naked Ladies - Paul Westerberg
Where Did You Sleep Last Night - Mark Lanegan
Bitch - Goo Goo Dolls
Don't Know How to Party - Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Divine Hammer - The Breeders
Leash - Pearl Jam
Pennyroyal Tea - Nirvana
I'm Allowed - Buffalo Tom
Another Body Murdered - Faith No More and Booyah Tribe




Superdeformed:


I'm Allowed:

Monday, August 09, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 138: Let's Play Two

Special guest Brian Salvatore joins me for part 2 of our discussion about baseball. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

Topics:

- Brian and a buddy pick an AL team to root for every year

- Jay doesn't have a favorite NL team

- The '04 and '07 Red Sox World Series wins were huge, but anti-climactic

- Red Sox fans have nothing to complain about anymore

- Making sense of the Plaxico Burress nightclub incident

- Baseball has the most unathletic athletes

- The '93 Jays were an offensive powerhouse

- Nobody remembers that Mitch Williams and Bill Buckner had good careers

- Jay's hazy bachelor party memories of Clemens beaning Piazza

- Steroids: Was Fred McGriff the last honest slugger?

- Ken Griffey Jr.'s accomplishments overshadowed by alleged roid users

- We should've known better during McGwire-Sosa HR race in '98

- Jose Canseco was right about everything

- Will Roger Clemens get in Hall of Fame?

- Misconception that steroids turn you into a monster HR hitter

- Catchers never used to wear pads

- The wager: Mets vs. Jays for best record

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:

The Corin Tucker Band - Doubt

The Hush Now - Vietnam Giraffe

Frightened Rabbit - Son C

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The show is sponsored by Budget, the company's premier car rental service with 900 locations. Go to Budget.com/CompCon and save 10% off any reservation or $30 off a weekly rental.

The Corin Tucker Band song is on the album 1,000 Years on Kill Rock Stars Records, where you can download the song for free.

The Hush Now song is on the self-released EP Shiver Me Starships. Find out more at . You can download the song for free at Largehearted Boy.

The Frightened Rabbit song was sent out recently to the band's mailing list. Download the song for free at I am Fuel, You are Friends.

The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of the mighty Mark Campbell. Thanks to Bob Durling for the album art; find out more about his photography at his blog.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Lonely is the Night

The music industry is littered with the corpses of careers that at one time seemed destined for greatness and then either just fizzled out or crashed and burned in spectacular fashion. An artist who saw his career go down the tubes almost instantly is Billy Squier, who for a few years in the early '80s was kicking ass and taking names, so to speak.

Squier was a Wellesley, Mass., native who bounced around the music scene throughout the '70s until his band Piper debuted and made some noise by opening for KISS (the bands shared the same manager). I'm unfamiliar with his Piper albums, but they're considered to be fairly good. Squier went solo in 1980, but it was his second album, 1981's Don't Say No, that propelled him into stardom with the monster hit "The Stroke." I was a 13 at the time and can testify that song was absolutely HUGE on rock radio that year. We all thought it was about masturbation, but supposedly it was a critical shot at the music industry's insatiable desire for hits. Whatever the case, the song was terrific.

Unfortunately, the video is unavailable for embed on the YouTubes, but here's the song:



Don't Say No had several radio hits on it, including the Zeppelin-esque "Lonely is the Night," "My Kinda Lover" and "In the Dark" and the album made a splash on the brand-new MTV channel that all the kids were watching (except me, because we didn't have it in Canada; but in the Toronto area, we did see the videos on CityTV's "The New Music" show, which was around way before MTV debuted). Squier was able to deliver the hard rock the boys liked while also providing the catchy hooks and good looks that the girls dug. It was a winning combination.

His next album, 1982's Emotions in Motion, did nearly as well. He had big hits with "Everybody Wants You" and the title track and was opening for Queen before headlining his own shows. Up-and-coming act Def Leppard opened for Squier in the Boston area in early '83. He was a definite heavy hitter.

So it was with great anticipation that his fourth album, Signs of Life, was released in the summer of 1984. The first single, "Rock Me Tonite," was a synth-laden song that hit #15 on the charts, not quite at the level of some of his previous hits but still fairly solid. But it was the video that forever changed Billy Squier's life. Choreographed by Kenny Ortega of "Dirty Dancing" (and later "High School Musical") fame, the vid has Squier prancing around his bedroom in a pink tank top and looking a tad too wussy for some of his hard rock-lovin' fans. The video definitely was trying to appeal to the ladies, but I know for me, it totally just seemed like he was going for a wider mainstream audience (aka pop fans) that I didn't care about. And frankly, the whole thing was pretty ridiculous. See for yourself:



Squier suddenly lost all the momentum he had been building for close to a decade. Radio stopped playing his new material. MTV stopped playing his videos. And just like that, one of the rock powerhouses of the early '80s was gone. Squier himself has pointed to that video as leading to the demise of his career, and there have been several video roundup shows that have poked fun at it as one of the worst videos ever.

Sad thing is, if he had gone with a live treatment of the song, he would have had little to no problems. Like this performance on SNL, which only had a small amount of prancing:



Squier released a couple more albums in the '80s, but the only splash he really made was in 1989 with "Don't Say You Love Me" (featuring the uber-stupid rejoinder "...just say UHHHHH!"), which was on the MTV and got a lot of rock radio play around here. It sounded like classic Squier and the video was full of hot chicks and Squier trying to look tough, but it was only a minor reprieve:



He never really did anything of note again and eventually started releasing blues albums on indie labels. Squier has had a bit of a renaissance in recent years after rap artists like Run DMC, Jay-Z, Dizzee Rascal and Kanye West all sampled Squier's 1980 song "The Big Beat." Squier resurfaced in the news a few years ago when he and his neighbor Bono got into a dispute over fireplace smoke getting into Bono's apartment in Central Park West; ah, the problems of the rich. In addition, he joined Ringo Starr and His All-Star Band for a few tours and this summer, the 30th anniversary reissue of Don't Say No was released. So at the very least, Squier should be living comfortably thanks to royalties. But I'm sure a day doesn't go by that he doesn't think about what might have been...if he hadn't released that damn video.

Fix Up, Look Sharp:

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Mixology: Summer of Loud

Mixology is a recurring feature in which I take a look at one of the many mix tapes I made over the years. Some are better than others, but all of them are fun to revisit.

Summer of Loud (7/17/94)

It's been nearly a month since the last installment of Mixology, but never fear, I've got plenty more tapes to write about. I've just been busy with traveling and work and such.

This is one of my favorite mixes EVAH. Partly because the songs on it kick so much ass, but also because it takes me back to a great, and yes, loud, summer. As shitty as the previous summer was, this summer was terrific. I was having a blast, playing softball, roller hockey and tennis, hanging out with my roommates, and just enjoying life. I didn't have a girlfriend, but it didn't matter. By the end of the summer, things were happening. They didn't pan out to anything meaningful, but they were fun nonetheless.

Work was good. I was still at the newspaper, covering the courts and the upcoming congressional race in this district, which was fun and kind of nuts. As it turned out, my old buddy Eric was the spokesman for the incumbent, which made for an interesting dynamic. I had worked with him side by side in the old Peabody Times office, so having to deal with him in a reporter-press flack relationship was weird, to say the least. On one occasion, he gave me a flippant quote and called me back 10 minutes later to try to get me not to print it. I told him, in no uncertain terms, that it was tough luck on his part and he got so pissed he told me to fvck off and hung up on me. I was stunned by that, but also found it hilarious because we were playing tennis two or three times a week at the same time. In the end, his boss ended up winning the election, in no small part due to Eric's savvy spin doctoring. But even though he was really good at this job, his heart wasn't in it; he wanted to get back to reporting and eventually he did.

That August, I flew down to Austin for a week to stay with my brother and his girlfriend. I had never been to Texas before and picked a hell of a time to go; it was brain-meltingly hot. You couldn't go outside between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Plus they were both working during the day, so I was pretty much on my own. But the nights were fun, checking out the rock clubs and great restaurants. It was a nice introduction to the city; I went back again for his graduation from law school and later in 2000 for South by Southwest.

Like I said, the music on this mix was top notch and included some of my favorite artists of that year, including Green Day, Helmet, Frank Black, Soundgarden, Pavement, Drive Like Jehu, Superchunk, the Rollins Band, Morphine. The Spinanes were a revelation; just listened to that album, Manos, the other day. Alt-rock was at its peak, before all the crappy ripoffs of Pearl Jam and Nirvana started dominating the scene. I still like to pop this tape in from time to time. It holds up.

Side A
Deuce - Lenny Kravitz
Sabotage - Beastie Boys
Wrong Man - Rollins Band
Wilma's Rainbow - Helmet
Here Come the Rome Plows - Drive Like Jehu
Basket Case - Green Day
The First Part - Superchunk
Mailman - Soundgarden
Screaming Skull - Sonic Youth
Unfair - Pavement
Headache - Frank Black
Buena - Morphine

Side B
Geek USA - Smashing Pumpkins
Ultrasuede - Matthew Sweet
Shit Towne - Live
Noel, Jonah and Me - Spinanes
A Head with Wings - Morphine
Superabound - Frank Black
Saving My Ticket - Superchunk
Golden Brown - Drive Like Jehu
Biscuits for Smut - Helmet
Disconnect - Rollins Band
Welcome to Paradise - Green Day
Spank Thru - Nirvana




Headache:


Spinanes:

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Completely Conspicuous 137: The Boys of Summer

Special guest Brian Salvatore joins me on the fourth anniversary of the podcast to discuss baseball. Listen to the show in streaming audio or download it directly (right click and "save as").

The show notes...

Topics:

- Check out Brian's podcasts (The FrankBlack.net Podcast, The Enthusiasts' Radio Hour)

- Brian's a diehard Mets fan

- Game 6 of the 1986 World Series was huge

- Jay sticks by his loser Toronto teams

- The Blue Jays are a small market team in a large market

- Brian: Every pitch means something

- Brian wants a longer baseball season

- It's rare that best team doesn't make it to World Series

- Marlins won Series twice then dismantled team

- Baseball needs a salary cap

- Roy Halladay had to learn how to pitch again

- Steinbrenner made his mark by overspending

- Brian lived in Pittsburgh; nobody cared about Pirates

- Brian: Pittsburgh's PNC Park is best stadium in baseball

- Wrigley Field, Fenway Park have their old-school charms

- Sox-Yankees playoff series in 2004 was amazing

- Jay used to go to Blue Jays games every summer in early '90s

- Brian saw last Expos game

- The Nationals are a sad, sad franchise

- Bonehead of the Week

Music:

Black Mountain - The Hair Song

Les Savy Fav - Let's Get Out of Here

Mondo Generator - Dog Food

Completely Conspicuous is available through the iTunes podcast directory. Subscribe and write a review!

The show is sponsored by Eastbay/Footlocker.com, a leading supplier of athletic gear. Use promo code AFCOMP15 to get 15% off any order at Eastbay.com, AFCOMP20 to get 20% off any order of $75 or more at Eastbay.com, and AFCOMPFL to get 15% off any order at Footlocker.com.

The Black Mountain song is on the forthcoming album Wilderness Heart on Jagjaguwar Records. Download the song for free at Spinner.co.uk.

The Les Savy Fav song is on the forthcoming album Root for Ruin on Frenchkiss Records. Download the song for free at Pitchfork.

The Mondo Generator song is on the EP Dog Food on Impedance Music. Find out more at . The song is courtesy of IODA Promonet:



Dog Food EPMondo Generator
"Dog Food" (mp3)
from "Dog Food EP"
(IMPEDANCE MUSIC)
Buy at Amazon MP3
More On This Album



The opening and closing theme of Completely Conspicuous is "Theme to Big F'in Pants" by Jay Breitling. Find out more about Senor Breitling at his fine music blogs Clicky Clicky and Keeping Some Dark Secrets. Additional music used in the show is by Me and Boris the Bull, which is the brainchild of the mighty Mark Campbell. Thanks to Bob Durling for the album art; find out more about his photography at his blog.

Completely Conspicuous is a Tan God Production. Word.