Jeff Lynne

Tidbits II

*Insert Gratuitous Product Placement Here*

While this might look like a small amplifier, it is actually a Vornado mini-heater and what an appliance it is ladies and gentlemen! I don’t know about you, but where I live they are so concerned that I might actually be too warm that the building heat usually doesn’t come on until it’s around 20 degrees outside. I just love how these people look out for me!!!!! After a lot hot summer the last thing anyone wants in 40 degree weather is to be warm. Pfffft! So we invested in this little guy and while it won’t heat your finished basement, a 4-room condo or your house if you stop buying heating oil or whatnot, it will certainly function well as an augmentation device or do the job in a room or studio apartment. They have many different models and I think they are a pretty good company, so I’m going all in on the recommendation! Vornado makes a big deal about the safety issues and I was pretty paranoid about that in the beginning and still don’t run it overnight but, thus far it has worked like a dream. It’s also reasonably priced and comes with a 5 year guarantee. What does this have to do with guitar? Not much. But at least this isn’t another post about Led Zeppelin.

This is the future of music right here! At least until the holograms and machines totally take over. BABYMETAL is metal legend singer Rob Halford‘s new BFF. This is genius marketing because the potential nerd audience from metal + idol is mega-normous. Nobody else is gonna like it because it is completely cheesy even though the band makes all of the right noises. When the chorus above kicks in the song sounds like every other Japanese hard rock song that has ever been on Japanese television. Believe you me, I’ve watched enough to know. I think the girls sing their own vocals, so that’s a plus. Here is a hysterical clip of the band and Halford grinding it to Breaking the Law. I saw Judas Priest in 1984 on the Metal Conqueror tour. It was an extremely LOUD show (we were on the floor and the sound just pummeled you in the chest) and some of their tunes; Electric Eye, Green Manilishi, Hellbent for Leather, Freewheel Burning and Victim of Changes were pretty awesome. Of course they also played You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’, which never sounded like a metal song to me and was the only Priest I ever heard on the radio except for Livin’ After Midnight. Fast forward to 2018 and there is almost daily Priest drama online. Since both of the original illustrious guitarists, Glenn Tipton and KK Downing are no longer in the band and Bob can do the thing here with the up-and-comers, I’m not sure why the Priest continues. Rock is now done by a lot of old people, but loud, hard rock or metal performed by old people looks really, really hard to do. Almost painful. Kiss are all pretty old and they are soon going to embark on a multi-year farewell tour. LOLOLOLOL!!! Wacky!

Likewise, Jeff Lynne’s ELO is going on tour next year because he just did a short tour and it was successful! OMIGOD! I’m not trying to be the old guy but…there is still a market for this guy and his brand of rock? Really? Is he gonna bring the laser show from 1977? That would be cool, I guess. My girlfriend saw that tour at Madison Square Garden on hallucinogens and still remembers it as one of the best concerts she ever saw! ELO was pretty successful in the mid to late 70s and I had the Eldorado, Face the Music and New World Record discs. Out of the Blue, the big double-record extravaganza was where they lost me, however. Too dense, too Genesis-y. I got it through the Columbia Record Club…yes I was a member in good standing! Not just some guy who got the special deal intro and didn’t pay! There were definitely people who would scam, but I fulfilled my deal because I was gonna buy the records anyway. Like Duh! I know I got Frampton Comes Alive and Pink Floyd’s Animals through Columbia too. Totally worth it! Don’t remember the others, but I bought Out of the Blue and then sold it to one of my friends because I didn’t like it. There were a couple of ELO albums after that and one of them contains the song that has “Bruce” or “Douche” in it, depending on how you hear. That song, Don’t Bring me Down, is ELO’s biggest hit in the US and Lynne has said that people hearing Bruce or Douche have got it wrong. He is actually singing a made-up word, “Grooss”. Sure Jeff. Incidentally, when you mishear a lyric like that (as many people do all of the time) it is called a Mondegreen:

…mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning. Mondegreens are most often created by a person listening to a poem or a song; the listener, being unable to clearly hear a lyric, substitutes words that sound similar and make some kind of sense. American writer Sylvia Wright coined the term in 1954…”

After the Bruce controversy Lynne retired to the studio and got into production and worked with the Traveling Wilburys, George Harrison and Tom Petty a lot. I wasn’t completely enamored with his production sensibilities, which were Beatle-esque, but a tad er, overused. The sound always reminded me a little bit of the Boston Sound and maybe Jeff should’ve made his sound into an amp or pedal system too, like the Tom Scholz Rockman amp doo-hickey.

I’m amazed the band still has drawing power and going to the show will certainly cost a lot more to than it did in 1977. I checked out ticket prices and WOW! Am I glad I don’t go to those kind of shows anymore. $80/pop to be in the nosebleed section and a ticket on the floor in front of the stage will run $245. I guess the Trump economy [LOLOLOLOLOL] is in pretty good shape if people have that kind of disposable income. It’s kind of a bummer that concerts like this are staged in places like Prudential Center or Bridgestone Arena, PPG Paints Arena, Wells Fargo Center. Whatever happened to names like The Spectrum? The Forum? Nassau Coliseum? Those were venues with a personality to match their names and images! Of course the sound sucked. The sound still sucks! All of these places are basically hockey arenas with the personality of a bank lobby anyhow.

…Still waiting for that A Life in the Death of Joe Meek movie to be released. Now…they are saying December 2018. I wrote about Joe and his contributions to rock n’ roll last year and am looking forward to checking out the movie with its many awesome guest interviews with their perspectives and retrospectives on Joe, engineering, crazy recording studio stuff and the early 60s. I hope it really does come out soon.

The NY POST has declared that the upcoming Freddie Mercury biopic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is not the Freddie Mercury biopic we deserve.” So I guess you can skip it. I could ask the question why anyone thinks the world deserves a biopic on anyone. I don’t really get the whole concept anyway unless it’s a biopic on someone from a couple hundred years ago. As reviewer Johnny Oleksinski points out, the movie ‘recreates’ half of Queen’s legendary Live Aid performance from 1985, but the “more thrilling, real performance is on YouTube.” Yes! There is oodles of real Freddie footage available for free. So, the point of this movie is? Also:

Malek can’t be blamed, however, for not having Mercury’s extraordinary voice. Some reports have said the songs heard in the movie are a digital blend of Mercury, Malek and a Canadian singer, Mark Martel. To my ears, though, it sounds no different from the band’s album tracks. So, the poor actor must lip sync to music that looks awkward coming out of his mouth.

He’s talking about a movie that has been 8 years in the pipeline! Amazing, isn’t it? The fact is nobody in rock and roll has ever been able to compete with Freddie Mercury as a singer, showman or personality, so the odds that some hipster actor is going embody all of the awesomeness just so it can be repackaged and sold to the wish we were there generation are pretty slim. The previews were seriously painful to watch and I wouldn’t make it through 10 minutes without wanting to stab myself in the face with meat fork.

Finally…this is Bill. He’s a cat. He’s just shy of 20 years old, so he’s an old cat. We inherited him from my mother when she passed away. He helps me write all of this stuff because he has great instincts for what sells on a blog. I don’t know how he came by these instincts, but he sucks at catching mice, so there you go. Prolly he went to college and then dropped out after a few semesters. He also likes pizza. I don’t know why…cats aren’t really supposed to like pizza. Unfortunately, in addition to being old, he is also hyperthyroid, so that makes him act pretty crazy. He likes to carry a rolled up sock in his mouth while howling at the top of his lungs. Like seriously loud. You wouldn’t even think an 8 pound cat could make that kind of noise, but he does. Sometimes an inopportune times, like say 2 in the morning. The hyperthyroidism makes him hungry all of the time…at least he thinks he is. He wants to eat every hour, but we have to nix that stuff. I say, “Dude! I’m totally starting to feel like a waiter here!” Lately he has become super picky about what he wants to eat…like “no I don’t want that can tonight either” level of picky. We made a JOB BLUTH level mistake by introducing him to sushi, boiled fish and boiled chicken. He doesn’t want canned food or even cat food anymore. So I fool him and put Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top of cat food so he thinks it’s pizza. I’m kinda glad my brain is a little bigger than his or it would cost a lot to feed him. We give him daily medication for his disease by rubbing methimazole cream on the inside of his ear. It’s pretty boss! Way easier than trying to give him a pill, plus it doesn’t seem to have any noticeable side effects. Unless howling like a crazy person is a side effect but I haven’t seen that. Sometimes he drinks too much and face plants and we gotta be all like, “DUDE seriously? At your age?” But the doctors say “let him have whatever he wants” and he always sneaks out when I’m not looking. Plus, it’s his money so what can we say, except “you’re gonna start paying for you medicine” but he totally wouldn’t buy or take it! Even though he has to because hyperthyroidism untreated will wear out the heart and kidneys really fast and one day he’ll just drop. I’ve tried to have this conversation with him, but he launches into that “YOU’RE NOT MY REAL OWNER” thing and I go “YEA NOBODY ELSE WANTED YOU!”. After that we both feel bad for a while, but we bond the next day, so what the hell? I let it go. Life’s too short to hold grudges and I know wherever she is, my mother is happy that we’re taking pretty good care of her cat and he’s pretty happy too.

Runnin’ Down a Dream

When Tom Petty and the Hearbreakers first burst on the scene in the mid-70s, I was…ah… suspicious — it seemed to me, inexperienced music fan that I was at the time, there was a possibility the band was aiming for pop stardom or LA pretty boy fame that could be leveraged into… I dunno…a career as game show hosts? Stars of the next Cameron Crowe movie? Well, it quickly became apparent that my radar had been faulty as Damn the Torpedoes, their big breakout album, proved to be a smart, rockin’ affair, chock-full of great tunes and great playing. Even at this point in his career there was an edge to Petty that, although he was laconic and laid back about it, basically announced to the world and any and all potential business associates, that he was always gonna do it his way. Call me crazy, but I can’t help but admire a person with those kinds of instincts and sensibilities. Though he never sounded or acted much like a Southern Rocker, for all intents and purposes Petty was; one just had to peel back the layers a bit to see it. And then, there was The Heartbreakers, his backing band. And what a band! Guitarist Mike Campbell quickly established himself as a “tastemaster”; a well-grounded player versed in all of the essential elements of great rock and roll styles, but disciplined enough to always support the singer and the song. Likewise for the keyboards of Benmont Tench. Neither guy ever overplayed his hand. The great rhythm section of Stan Lynch/Ron Blair gave Petty the ability to write songs as tight as The Beatles/Byrds or as loose and funky as Stax/Booker T and the MGs, which is exactly what he did and they always pulled it off awesomely. As the 70s rolled on into the 80s, Petty’s star kept rising and though some of the albums were not fully realized and some of the critics chided him for being shallow or not fully committed to I don’t know what, there was always that Tom Petty song on the radio that I didn’t change the dial on…and so the moorings of a 40+ year career were established.

By the mid 80s he was headlining a whole new genre — HEARTLAND ROCK; a “movement” that only lasted about 10 minutes in 1985, but is still a thing in programming jargon. How Petty and his band went from LA New Wave to heroes in Iowa in the space of 10 years is still a mystery. Perhaps LIVE AID had something to do with it. Or FARM AID. I dunno…the 80s were a little confusing. I was certainly confused sometimes…Talk about connecting with your (or somebody else’s) roots! U2 was probably more than a little jealous. After all they TRIED to do the same thing with Rattle and Hum and all they got was well-deserved derision. (Maybe it’s just me, but the guy who wears the sock hat constantly never sounded particularly “rootsy”). The truth is TP and the Heartbreakers kept building their nationwide audience by subterfuge; they had played Heartland-sounding music from the beginning, wrote great songs, and avoided all of the bombast and most of the overexposure that plagued other 80s stars (Phil Collins, Sting, Huey Lewis). Sure, Stevie Nicks sang with the band on a big hit song, but not liking Stevie Nicks is downright UnAmerican. The band was able to score hit song after hit song because that is the medium to which Petty excelled as a writer and probably how he related to rock and roll in the first place. So, as a band they were always around, no matter the “era”.

The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades!

Then there was what I like to call the LIKE-ABILITY FACTOR. A lot of rock stars aren’t really very likeable, some are even complete a-holes. Yet, one always got the sense that Tom Petty was a pretty cool, down-to-earth, affable guy, even if he was ornery sometimes. You understood the orneriness and accepted it though because he was in a tough business and no matter who you are, everybody’s had to fight to be free. He didn’t take himself too, too seriously and was always honest about his feelings and intentions and that counted for a lot. You never felt like he was putting you on or telling you stories about people he read about in the newspaper. I hate that crap. With Tom it was always personal, but never overblown. He knew how to write and sing to people so they didn’t feel put upon. Did you know that the song I Won’t Back Down was inspired by an arsonist burning down Tom’s house? While he and his family were in it? Most of the house did burn down and the person was never caught and that’s pretty messed up, yet a very succinct and brilliant song came out of the ordeal. A song you could sing after 9/11 or in the cancer ward…or after someone tries to burn down your beautiful house. There was always that to-the-point authenticity to Petty’s single-based songcraft and the fact that he didn’t give you a 9 minute story like Dylan, turn it into a hopeless dirge like Springsteen or pile 34 different instruments onto the track like Mellencamp made you like him even more. He wasn’t ever gonna be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, but, thousands and thousands of people were capable of singing along because they KNEW his songs. That’s a pretty impressive achievement, especially in today’s 8 second attention span world.

By the end of the 80s Tom completely looked the part of a wizened California mega-stoner with his acoustic guitar, his traveling top hat, and the friends in super high places: Harrison, Dylan, Lynn, Orbison, Garcia and Ringo. (You have to be cool if you have Ringo as a friend). He was in a very successful project with some of these “friends”, recorded a career-defining solo album, Full Moon Fever, and a suddenly a whole new era of Pettiness began. Just in time too because there was a whole new generation of angst-ridden Generation X youths who, in time, would come to appreciate Tom and the Heartbreakers just as the previous generation had…and for the same reasons. Unlike the loudmouth/controversial-type rock stars that prowl the horizon and the pages of tabloids, I don’t think there was an I Hate Tom Petty Fan Club out there in the universe. Even hipsters grudgingly respected him in that ironic kind of way. How could you hate a guy who wrote…

Take Back Joe Piscopo!

…into one of his chart-topping songs? Petty’s inherent goofiness and rock and roll sincerity made everybody sit up and RESPECT because he had that real deal gift for the art of communication. Even the songs that don’t sound like much will fool you. Listen again and you will find they usually contain a line or couplet that just defines life or a person’s place therein, and you’ll realize (after your 50th listen) that maybe it’s this small comment on emotions, the unfair nature of life, or unbridled human determination to go on that was the basis for the whole song in the first place. Tom did that a whole lot because these moments are scattered throughout his catalog. He would continue writing and recording songs for another two decades with the same sense of assurance and modeled on the same sounds and influences that always worked. In time, the band became an institution and I do believe that Tom knew that his time was coming to an end, at least as a rock star, so he loaded up the tour wagon one more time and went out like a boss, doing what he loved, taking it to the people like he and the Heartbreakers had been doing since the 1970s.

And so… I was shopping for Christmas dinner a few months after Tom Petty passed over and his voice suddenly filled the store, singing that silly Christmas song he released back in the early 90s and there I was, staring into a cheese display for three minutes. I saw Tom in many mediums, but going back to when I was still a teen, through all of the jobs I had, including many driving hours, when rock and roll radio was always on, I LOVED to hear his songs on the radio because they fit so perfectly. And now to realize that this voice, this guy, who has been singing and talking through this medium for more than forty years will only exist that way from now on — forty years of radio, concerts, MTV, and playing his music…forty years worth of LIFE blast through my head in the space of a few seconds. While it’s hard not to get sad and emotional, there comes the realization of not only the inevitability of life and death, but also, though I could’ve lived at any time, I lived in this time and heard all of this music and so much more… and my life was made so much richer by it.

Recently I was able to attend the Loser’s Lounge Tribute to Tom Petty and it was pretty fun. This long-running music cabaret has thrilled and chilled audiences for a quarter century at this point. WOW! This is the first time I’ve seen them though and this isn’t something I would normally do, but I’m glad I went. The basic band is HOT! They are led by Joe McGinty and they are seriously crazy good…probably the BEST drummer I’ve seen in a long time only because he was so solid and crushing and you need that if you are going to put on a show like this. But everybody else: bass, guitars, percussion and backup/lead vocals by the core band was just brilliant. They had my attention all night. They had guest singers come up for the long two sets of songs they did and while some of it didn’t work, the stuff that did more than made up. The evening made me realize even more how great Tom Petty and the Hearbreakers were, because even the stupendous versions by these great musicians still came up short and so would anyone’s attempt to try to copy one of rock’s truest originals. Fare thee well Tom…Thank you! May you run down that dream forever!