Phish &: Aces Full of Kings

Phish isn’t exactly a sizzling topic on GloNo. I just ran a search and discovered that there are 20 pieces that mention the band, and in some instances a mention is pretty much just that. And while I am indifferent to the band and, overall, its genre, it probably deserves a bit more mention.

(After all, Thin Lizzy has 10 mentions, and while I know that Phish still exists—with essentially two member changes, addition of keyboardist Page McConnell in 1985 and the departure of guitarist Jeff Holdsworth in 1986—despite plenty of time searching (including on what claims to be “The Official Thin Lizzy” website, which has on offer a live album that is the band “at the absolute height of their powers”—recorded in 1977), I can’t figure out whether Thin Lizzy exists in any form, and even when it did, members changed as frequently as Cher did dresses on “The Sonny and Cher Show,” which also appeared in 1977.)

A couple years ago, when John Hodgman was still answering the questions in The New York Times “The Ethicist” column, he was presented with:

My fiancé, Steve, wants me to go to a Phish show—he has been to more than 60—but every time he turns on Phish, it puts me to sleep. I don’t want to pay for an expensive nap. Please order that he stops asking me to go to his hippie festivals.

To which “Judge” Hodgman replied, in part: “before you get married, you should know the law: in heterosexual marriages, every wife owes her husband one Phish show.”

It is not later revealed whether Rachel and Steve were wed or if she became well rested during a lengthy performance.

Continue reading Phish &: Aces Full of Kings

New Orville Peck: Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other (ft. Willie Nelson)

Video: Orville Peck & Willie Nelson – “Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other”

Directed by Ben Prince. From Stampede, coming soon on Warner Bros.

Orville Peck is a phony. He’s about as “country” as Elon Musk…although Peck looks way better in a cowboy hat. He’s a phony, but he’s a real phony. You can tell he believes his own bullshit. But he still needs to recruit Willie Nelson to boost his credibility. And I guess it works. This is a good song. It was originally written and recorded by Ned Sublette in 1981 and released on an arty compilation that also featured William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin and Jim Carroll. Willie covered it in 2006 after Brokeback Mountain came out and redefined manliness.

And, really, Willie’s version is all you need.

Peck would probably agree. He told Out, “Being around Willie Nelson, it’s like when you’re a kid and you meet Santa at the mall. It’s the most unabashed, raw, unfiltered joy that emanates from that man. And he’s just such a legend. He’s 91 and he’s still just so cool and tours all the time, you know, still playing Trigger, his guitar that he’s had for… I think that guitar is almost as old as he is. He’s great.”

Almost twenty year’s after his original recording, Willie’s voice might be shot but his spirits are high and he’s still got a twinkle in his eye. You can tell he’s getting a kick out of shooting this video with this young South African whippersnapper. And if nothing else it’s nice that Peck is introducing a new generation to this song…and to Willie Nelson, too, although I bet Peck is getting introduced to a lot more Willie fans than vice versa.

Orville Peck: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Orville Peck: Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other (ft. Willie Nelson)

Marx, Monks & Music

“Morris believed passionately in the importance of creating beautiful, well-made objects that could be used in everyday life, and that were produced in a way that allowed their makers to remain connected both with their product and with other people. Looking to the past, particularly the medieval period, for simpler and better models for both living and production, Morris argued for the return to a system of manufacture based on small-scale workshops.”

That is from a essay by the Victoria & Albert Museum describing Willam Morris and his contribution to the Arts & Crafts movement, which grew in the U.K. in the mid- to late 19th century. It was in large part a reaction to the industrialization of production of goods of all type. There was a belief among many that the manufactories that were becoming part of the landscape of commerce—which certainly provided a benefit for regular people in that objects being made in mass quantities were less expensive than those that were produced for the rich—were stifling the artistic aspects of people, replacing it with undifferentiated commodification. This was not a total reaction against making things such that they would be accessible. As John Ruskin, who was an important commentator on what was going on in his time, wrote: “Life without industry is guilt, and industry without art is brutality.”

While it is somewhat inconceivable for us to imagine what things were like in the 19th century, when Blake’s “dark Satanic Mills” rose up and those who had been working in crafts jobs became cogs in the machinery.

As Marx wrote in 1848 in The Communist Manifesto:

“Owing to the extensive use of machinery, and to the division of labour, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and, consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him.”

The issue that Marx identified was the estrangement of the worker from the work (although let’s face it: there were and are plenty of jobs that lack any “charm”); the thing that Morris and his colleagues were trying to do was to reestablish, at least in the realm of artistic endeavors that would be a part of everyday experience, some semblance of that charm.

Throughout history—before the 19th century and to this day—the development of applied technologies have caused there to be a leveraging of human capabilities such that the machine can do the job more efficiently than a human. If you’ve ever seen an illuminated manuscript that was carefully created by monks back in the Middle Ages there is a wondrousness visible that is entirely lacking from the printed pages that Gutenberg started cranking out in 1454. Those artisans were displaced and went on to other activities that were probably less engaging, like mucking out the stables.

Continue reading Marx, Monks & Music

What Stories Will the Superfans Have?

A friend and former colleague is someone I consider to be a Deadhead*. The number of shows he’s seen of the Dead and its subsequent variants is in the double figures. Which strikes me as more than passing interest.

He would regale me with adventures—not mere stories—of his attendance at various venues, with everything from blotter acid to grilled cheese sandwiches to hitchhiking to a show to looking for water.

It always seemed somewhat ironic to me that he, the type of guy who is essentially a Chamber of Commerce Republication when such things existed, is such a fan of the band, something that’s completely analogous to the Harley riders who show up each year in Sturges and then go back to their lives as doctors, accountants, and school board superintendents.

Last week I was in a conversation with a group of what I describe, for lack of a better term, “business people.” Or perhaps “professionals.” People who work more with their minds than their hands, have a mortgage and (probably) a two-car garage. One of them mentioned that he is going this week to Riviera Maya, Mexico, with his wife to attend My Morning Jacket’s “One Big Holiday” event. That will put the number of times he’s seen the band into the high 40s.

Before COVID, the notion of working from home was not something a whole lot of people, outside of, say, day traders, had. Which explains, in part, why I heard so many stories of Dead shows.

Continue reading What Stories Will the Superfans Have?

House of Wax

When I was younger than I can imagine ever being, my parents took my brother and me to Niagara Falls for vacation. I remember that my dad and my brother were able to take the trip on the “Maid of the Mist” boat that allows you to “Hear the roar of 600,000 gallons of water crashing down around you every second!” I suspect that they went because he was older than me and had disaster struck, at least my mom would be left with someone. Not exactly a bonus, I think in retrospect.

Another place I remember going to was the Tussaud’s wax museum. Instead of being interested in seeing the celebrities that didn’t seem more life-like than the mannequins in the flagship J.L. Hudson’s department store in downtown Detroit (once the tallest department store in the country, at 440 feet; closed in 1986, imploded in 1998, and being turned into a mixed-use building that is to open this year), my brother and I spent our time wide-eyed at the scary exhibits (e.g., the guillotine and related headless individual).

Until I started writing this I had always thought that we were at the Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. But my memory was dashed as though 600,000 gallons of water came tumbling down.

Turns out that it was the Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks. Louis was a great-grandson of Marie Tussaud (a.k.a., “Madame”). Apparently he saw that great-grandma was doing well, so he opened his own shop in London in 1890. Unfortunately it burned down six months later. But he preserved (obviously) and now there are outlets not only in Canada, but in India, Thailand and elsewhere.

Evidently a global interest in faux people.

Continue reading House of Wax

New Kid Congo: Wicked World

Video: Kid Congo & the Pink Monkey Birds (ft. Alice Bag) – “Wicked World”

Directed by Christopher Carlone. From That Delicious Vice, out April 19 on In the Red.

You know the saying: “Old punks never die, they just stand in the back.” But sometimes they’re right up front. Kid Congo who made his name with the Cramps and the Bad Seeds has teamed up with Alice Bag of the Bags for a new song. If there’s such a thing as L.A. punk royalty these two could be its king and queen.

“It’s really great to be playing with someone who I’ve known for over 40 years,” Kid says. “I respect her as an artist. I respect her stance as a feminist. I respect that she’s such a great role model for a lot of young Chicano kids. We have a lot of parallels that make it joyful.”

Warning: This fuzzed out bass-six riff is guaranteed to get stuck in your head!

Kid Congo: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Phosphorescent: Impossible House

Video: Phosphorescent – “Impossible House”

Directed by Curtis Wayne Millard. From Revelator, out April 5 on Verve.

I love Phosphorescent. Matthew Houck is one of my favorite songwriters and his voice never fails to break my heart. But there’s something decidedly weird about hearing him reference a dopey Macaulay Culkin movie as a metaphor for the sense of dread and abandonment looming over a relationship.

Went to your palace and hid
As the thieves approached the throne
Like that McCallister kid
You have been left at home alone.

Does that work, or is it just goofy? It still might be too early to tell. We’ll have to give it some time and see how it sits in the context of the album. You never know. Maybe it will eventually hit me in the face like a bucket of paint.

Phosphorescent: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.


It would seem as though writing about someone who just (March 17) turned 80 would be somewhat uncharacteristic in this space. But given that so many of those who are certainly distinctive and formative creators of the entire rock and roll sphere (Dylan. . .Jagger. . .Ono. . . Page. . .), it is, well, not out of the ordinary, but is becoming something that is rather regular. We should all hope we have similarly long runs.

In this case the person of interest is Pattie Boyd, one of the quintessential figures of the Swinging ‘60s in the U.K., a model first (she was on the cover of Vogue four times) and foremost (then) who made her way into photography (later).

What makes Boyd more famous than, say, Cynthia Powell, John Lennon’s first wife, is that she was married to George Harrison from 1966 to 1977 and then, two years later, married Eric Clapton. Their marriage lasted until 1989. (Looking at those dates it seems as though at about the 10-year mark things become unraveled.)

Harrison wrote “If I Needed Someone” (1965), presumably to woo Boyd. And he also wrote “Something” (1969), presumably with Boyd being the object of the pronoun.

And while those two Harrison compositions are considered to be his best, Boyd also was the object of what is arguably Clapton’s most famous, “Layla,” which was released (1970) while Boyd was still wed to his pal. (“I tried to give you consolation/When your old man had let you down/Like a fool, I fell in love with you/You turned my whole world upside down”) The two musicians co-wrote and performed on “Badge,” which appears on Cream’s Goodbye album (1969), with L’Angelo Misterioso being used in place of Harrison’s name, given that the Beatles and Cream were on different labels. If nothing else, given the two songs appearing within about a year of one another and the tripartite dynamics of the people involved, there is certainly something to be said for the emotional spur to creativity. (And when Clapton sings, “And I’m thinkin’ ‘bout the love that you laid on my table,” who might the person be?)

Continue reading “Something”

Steely Dan Meets Shawn Fain

Although Donald Fagen evidently thinks otherwise, since the demise of Walter Becker who died of esophageal cancer in 2017, Steely Dan has ceased to exist. On the Steely Dan official website (which is remarkably hacky for a vaunted band) on the home page, two of the four images are large photos of Fagen and Becker.* There is no red X through Becker’s visage.

And it goes on to detail how the two started out as session musicians, including being members of the backup band for Jay and the Americans.

Then in 1972 Steely Dan was formed with Fagen and Becker joined by Denny Dias and Jeff Baxter on guitars and Jim Hodder on drums. On the Can’t Buy A Thrill album, the group’s first, the lead guitar on “Reelin’ in the Years” was played by Elliot Randall. The vocal on “Dirty Work” was by David Palmer.

And that was just the start. A quintessential characteristic of the band has been its amorphousness as regards membership. There has been a vast array of session and independent musicians as part of the crew over the years, including, but not limited to, Jeff Porcaro, Michael McDonald, Royce Jones, Peter Erskine, Tom Barney, Drew Zingg, Warren Bernhart, Bill Ware. . . .

The thing that stayed consistent was the duo.

And for some seven years the duo has been done but somehow it still presented, perhaps because of the IP associated with the brand, as “Steely Dan.”

But this isn’t one in series of my existential/economic screeds on bands that seem to exist only to continue to rake in the take. Rather, it was caused by two events from last week, which got me to consider session musicians. Without question Steely Dan is one of the preeminent employers of those players.

Continue reading Steely Dan Meets Shawn Fain

New St. Vincent: Broken Man

Video: St. Vincent – “Broken Man”

Directed by Alex Da Corte. From All Born Screaming, out April 26 on Total Pleasure/Virgin/Fiction.

Sounds like Annie Clark is getting back into guitars. That’s probably unfair, but Daddy’s Home seemed to focus more on Wurlitzer sounds and seventies creepout vibes. She’s also ditched Jack Antonoff and has self-produced the new album. So that’s promising.

She told MOJO, “This record is darker and harder and more close to the bone. I’d say it’s my least funny record yet! There’s nothing cute about it.”

Clark explained the decision to produce it herself: “I needed to go deeper in finding my own sonic vocabulary. I like to think of [the record] as post-plague pop, it’s a lot about heaven and hell – the metaphorical kinds. Which is appropriate, because sitting alone in a studio for that many hours I would say is a version of hell.”

“Broken Man” feels claustrophobic and unsettled. And aggressive.

On the street I’m a kingsize killer
I can make your kingdom come.

What a way to open a scene!

Lover nail yourself right to me
If you go I won’t be well.
I can hold my arms right open
But I need you to drive the nail.

She’s so cool. And scary.

St. Vincent: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Rock and roll can change your life.