David Cross – “An Open Letter to Larry the Cable Guy” (2007)

May 31, 2010 at 1:11 pm (Comedy, Life & Politics, Reviews & Articles)

An open letter that comedian David Cross wrote, Oct. 2, 2007, to redneck comedian Larry the Cable Guy, in response to comments that Larry made about him (which were in fact comments David first made about Larry….got all that?). Anyhow, it’s funny and still relevant…


Hello Larry,

It’s me, David Cross. Recently I was shooting something for my friends at “Wonder Showzen” (the funniest, most subversive comedy on American T.V. at the moment) and when we were taking a break one of the guys on the show asked me if I had seen some article in something somewhere wherein you were interviewed to promote your new book “Please-Git-R-Done” (published by Crown Books $23.95 U.S.) and they asked about your devoting a chapter to slamming me and the “P.C. Left”. Since I stopped following your career shortly after you stopped going on stage wearing a tool belt with cable wrapped around your neck (around your appearance at “Laffs ‘n’ Food” in Enid, Oklahoma Aug 23-26 1999?) I said I wasn’t aware of the article. They went on to tell me that you said basically (and I am not quoting but paraphrasing their recall) that I could kiss your ass, that I’ve never been to one of your shows (true) and that I didn’t know your audience (untrue).

SO, I went and got your book, “Gitting-R-Donned”, and excitedly skimmed past the joke about that one time you farted and something farty happened, on past the thing about the fat girl who farted and finally found it, Chapter 5 – Media Madness. Well, needless to say I farted. I farted up a fartstorm right there in the Flyin’ J Travel Center. I fartingly bought the book and took it home with an excitement I haven’t experienced since I got Bertha Chudfarter’s Grandma drunk and she took her teeth out and blew me as I was finger banging her while wearing a Jesus sock puppet in the back of the boiler room at The Church of the Redeemer off I-20 (I don’t care who you are, that’s funny.)

Anyhoo, I got home and read the good parts. It seems that you were pissed off at Rolling Stone magazine, and I can understand why. You made some good points in your argument as well. I agree that there is an eliteism and bias in the press and too often a writer will include asides to show the readers how smart he or she is and how “above it” they are. But come on! Surely you can’t be surprised, or worse, hurt or offended by this. You even say in the book that you knew what you were getting into (Rolling Stone being all “lefty” and whatnot). Certainly I’m not surprised that they took a ten minute phone conversation with me and chose to print only the most inflammatory paragraph within it. That’s what they do.

But I want to address some of the things you write about me in “Git-to-Gittin’-r-Done”. In response to the Rolling Stone article, but first let me say this; you are very mistaken if you think that I don’t know your audience.

Hell, I could’ve been heckled by the parents of some of the very people that come see you now. I grew up in Roswell, Georgia (near the Funny Bone and not far from The Punch Line). The very first time I went on stage was at The Punch Line in Sandy Springs in 1982 when I was 17. I cut my teeth in the south and my first road gigs ever were in Augusta, Charleston, Baton Rouge, and Louisville. I remember them very well, specifically because of the audience. I remember thinking (occasionally, not all the time) “what a bunch of dumb redneck, easily entertained, ignorant motherfuckers. I can’t believe the stupid shit they think is funny.” So, yes, I do know your audience, and they suck. And they’re simple. And please don’t mistake this as coming from a place of bitterness because I didn’t “make it” there or, I’m not as successful as you because that’s not it at all. Since I was a kid I’ve always been a little over sensitive to the glorification and rewarding of dumb. The “salt of the earth, regular, every day folk” (or lowest common denominator) who see the world, and the people like me in it, as on some sort of secular mission to take away their flag lapels and plaster-of-paris jesus television adornments strike me as childishly paranoid. But perhaps the funniest (oddest) thing in your book is you taking me to task for being P.C. Have you heard my act?! I’ll match your un-P.C.ness any day of the week my friend. I truly believe, and have said onstage amongst other things that, orthodox Jews are bar none, the most annoying people, as a group, that walk this earth. I absolutely refuse to say the term “African-American”. It’s a ridiculous and ill-applied label that was accepted with a thoughtless rush just to make white people feel at ease and slightly noble. I also believe that in the right setting that, as unfortunate as it may be, retarded people can be a near constant source of entertainment (fact!). Larry, whether northern, southern, straight, gay, male, female, liberal, conservative, Christian or Jew, I’ve walked them all. It didn’t matter if it was a room full of “enlightened” hippie lesbian wicans at Catch A Rising Star in Cambridge, MA or literally hundreds of students at the University of St. Louis (a Jesuit school) or a roomful of the cutest, angriest frat boys in Baton Rouge all threatening to beat me up, I un-P.C.’d the shit out of them. That’s another thing that bothers me too. I honestly believe that if we had worked a week together at whatever dumb-ass club in American Strip Mall #298347 in God’s Country U.S.A and hung out that week and got good and drunk after the shows, that you and I would’ve been making each other laugh (I imagine we would have politely disagreed on a few things) but not only would we be laughing but we’d often be laughing at the expense of some of the audience members at that nights show and you know it. I’ll address your easy, bullshit sanctimonious “don’t mess with my audience” crap further on. But for now, let’s “Gittle-R-Ding-Dong-Done!”

Okay, here’s what I said in the RS interview: “He’s good at what he does. It’s a lot of anti-gay, racist humor – – which people like in America – all couched in ‘I’m telling it like it is.’ He’s in the right place at the right time for that gee-shucks, proud-to-be-a-redneck, I’m-just-a-straight-shooter-multimillionaire-in-cutoff-flannel, selling-ring tones-act. That’s where we are as a nation now. We’re in a state of vague American values and anti-intellectual pride.”

You took umbrage at my calling a lot of your act anti-gay and racist and said that “…according to Cross and the politically correct police, any white comedians who mention the word ‘black’ or say something humorous but faintly negative about any race are racists.”

Well, first of all, your act is racist. Maybe not all the time, but it certainly can be. Here, let me quote you back, word for word, some of your “faintly negative” humor and I’ll let people judge for themselves.

Re: Abu Ghraib Torture –

“Let me ask some of these commie rag head carpet flying wicker basket on the head balancing scumbags something!”

Re: Having a Muslim cleric give the opening prayer at the Republican Convention –

“What the hell is this the cartoon network? The Republicans had a muslim give the opening prayer at there (sic) convention! What the hell’s going on around here! Is Muslim now the official religion of the United States!…First these peckerheads ( Ironically, “peckerhead” was a derogatory word slaves and their offspring used to describe white people) fly planes into towers and now theys (sic) prayin’ before conventions! People say not all of em did that and I say who gives a rats fat ass! That’s a fricken slap in the face to New York city by having some muslim sum-bitch give the invocation at the republican convention! This country pretty much bans the Christian religion (the religion of George Washington and John Wayne) virtually from anything public and then they got us watchin’ this muslim BS!! Ya wanna pray to allah then drag yer flea infested ass over to where they pray to allah at!” End Quote. So…yeah. There you go. This quote goes on and on but my favorite part is when you say towards the end, “…now look, I love all people (except terrorist countries that want to kill us)…”

There are numerous examples and I don’t think I need to reprint any more. You get the idea. Oh, what the hell, here’s one more – “They’re dead, get over it! Poor little sandy asses! I’m sure all them dead folks’d they’d killed give 40 shekels or whatever kinda money these inbred sumbitches use, but I’d give 40 of ’em whatever it is to be humiliated instead of dead!”

About being Anti-Gay. I honestly take that back. I do not think that you are anti-gay, I didn’t choose those words wisely. Your stuff isn’t necessarily anti-gay but rather stupid and easy. “Madder than a queer with lock jaw on Valentines Day.” That’s not that funny, I don’t care who you are. It’s just sooo easy. I mean, over half the planet sucks dick so why gays? Why not truck stop whores, or Hollywood Starlets or housewives? Because when you say “queer” you get an easy laugh. End of story.

Okay Larry The Cable Guy, I will ignore the irony of a big ole southern redneck character actually using “inbred” as an insult, as well as the fact that a shekel is currency from Israel, the towel heads sworn enemy. But at least you’re passionate about what you see as inhumane injustice (not on a global level of course, but on a national level) and the simple black and white of what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s kinda like you’re this guy who speaks for all these poor, unfortunate souls out there who wear shirts with blue collars on them, work hard all day to put food on the table for their family (unlike people who wear shirts with white collars or wear scrubs or t-shirts or dresses or costumes that consist of flannel shirts with the sleeves cut-off and old trucker hats) and pray to the American Flag of Jesus to protect them from the evils of muslims, queers, illegal immigrants, and the liberal jews who run Hollywood and the media. I guess one could say that you’re “telling it like it is”. And considering the vast amount of over-simplification you employ to describe with sweeping generalizations, all of America and the World that “don’t make no sense to you”, as well as your lack of sensitivity, and second grade grammar, one might be led to think that you are somewhat proud of not appearing (or being) too intellectual. Combine that with your sucker appeal to the knee-jerk white Christian patriot in us all who would much rather hear 87 fart jokes than hear a joke in which the President (the current one, not the last one) or the Pope, or Born-Again Christians, or Lee Greenwood get called on their shit for being the hypocrites that they are, and I think we’ve got a winner!

As for being a multi-millionaire in disguise, that’s just merely a matter of personal taste for me. I do not begrudge you your money at all, it is sincerely hard earned and you deserve whatever people want to give to you. What sticks in my craw about that stuff is the blatant and (again, personal taste) gross marketing and selling of this bullshit character to your beloved fans. Now look, if someone wants to pay top dollar to come to one of your shows and then drop a couple hundred more on “Git-R-Done” lighters and hats and t-shirts and windshield stickers and trailer hitches and beer koozies and fishing hats and shot glasses etc, then good for you. I just think it’s a little crass and belies the “good ole boy” blue collar thing you represent. But that’s no big deal.

Now, as for the last statement that “We’re in a state of vague American values and anti-intellectual pride.”

Well, I think that’s true. When you can rally the troops (so to speak) with a lazy, “latte drinking, tofu eating” generalization of Liberals and “Back ass rag fags” to describe Arabs, then, yeah, I think that falls in the “ignorant” category. I think that with even the slightest attention to the double standard and hypocrisy of both the Left and the Right in this country (if not all of the Christian Extremists as a whole) coupled with the bullshit they lazily swallow and parrot back while happily ignoring the gross inhumane treatment of those that aren’t them so that we may have cheap sneakers and oil and slightly less taxes (although I’m sure the bracket you’re in now gives you a ton of tax money back), then you could maybe see my point. Now here’s the best part – in your book you preface the above quote by saying, “…but I guess I’m not as intellectual as David Cross. In that Rolling Stone article, he sure showed us what a deep thinker he is by sayin’ “America is in a stage of vague intellectual pride.” Jesus Christ can you even fucking read?! Whoever read that article to you butchered the actual quote. The quote that was right fucking in front of their face! I would fire your official reader and have them replaced with a Hooters Girl who doesn’t fart. That way you have something nice to look at while you are getting your misinformation.

As for “anti-intellectual pride”, that is Larry The Cable Guy in spades. Let me quote you again (from an on-line interview, “I consider my jokes to be very jeuvinille (sic). Stuff a 14 year old would laugh at because that’s the sence (sic) of humor I have.” Hmmm, okay. That was easy.

Well, I suppose I’ve already covered part of that in the above. But you also specifically dumb down your speech while making hundreds of purposefully grammatical errors. How do I know this? It’s on page 17 of your book wherein you describe how you would “Larry” up your commentaries for radio. What does it mean to “Larry” something up? Take a wild guess. The reason you feel the need to “Larry” something up? Because you are not that dumb. I mean you, Dan Whitney, the guy who’s name the bank account is under. You were born and raised in Nebraska (hardly The South), went to private school and moved to Florida when you were 16. This is when you developed your accent?! Not exactly the developmental years are they? At age 16 that’s the kind of thing you have to make a concerted effort to adopt. Did you hire a voice coach? Or were you like one of those people who go to England for a week and come back sounding like an extra from “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”? As you said yourself in an interview once, “I can pop in and out of it pretty much whenever I want”. In your book on page 89 you say in reference to the “gee-shucks” millionaire comment, “…see, to his (David’s) mind, bein’ well paid means I’m no longer real and I can’t be a country boy anymore. It’s just an act.” Hey, it’s always been an act! That’s my fucking point! You admit it yourself so cut the indignation shit. And I am in no way deriding your work ethic. You clearly have more fart jokes than most and for that I applaud you. You go on to talk about how hard you work and life on the road and living on Waffle House and blah, blah, blah. Yeah, I get it, we’ve all been there and played shitty, degrading gigs and sacrificed etc, etc. Then you say, “…this (the personal attack) was different because David basically hammered my fans in that RS article by implying that they were ignorant. He crossed the line when he railed against them, so I had to tell ya what I felt about that. He can hammer me all he wants, but when he screwed with my fans, it was time for me to say something.” Aww, that’s so sweet and egregious. I can’t stand that fan ass kissing bullshit. You and Dane Cook ought to get together and have a “my-fan’s-are- the-greatest-people-on-earth-and-that’s-why-I-do-this” off. You could both sell a shit load of merch too. But having said that, I would truly love to get some of your fans and my fans in a room together to debate some of the finer points on comedy, music, culture, the issues facing our country today and just about anything else we might find worthy of discussion. My fans are pretty smart as well. They are also, I imagine, as “hard-working” as your fans. Not all of them of course, but most. And I’m sure that they may come up with some genuinely interesting, insightful points (and would do so without spouting a bunch of meaningless Christian platitudes). And if you really, truly want to respect your fans, lower your ticket price as well as the price of your ubiquitous merchandise. I’m sure all those hard-working Americans could use the extra money now that the budgets are being cut drastically from Transportation, Education, Health and Human Services, HUD, Dept of the Interior, EPA, Farm Service Agency, FEMA, Agricultural, FDA, VA, FHA, National Center for Environmental Health, and numerous other departments and agencies that they might directly rely on for help. All so that we can pay off this massive tax cut during “war” time that we’re all getting (them not so much though). Oh well, that’s just one of those “political” things that I think about occasionally.

Anyway, I just wanted to address the stuff you wrote about me and clear some things up. Mostly the air around here…I just farted!!!!!


David Cross

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President Obama’s Weekly Address (May 29, 2010)

May 30, 2010 at 6:34 am (Life & Politics)

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Sonic’s Rendezvous Band – “Sonic’s Rendezvous Band” (2006)

May 26, 2010 at 8:50 am (David Fricke, Music, Reviews & Articles)

David Fricke wrote this review for the Nov. 2, 2006 issue of Rolling Stone about this quasi-bootleg 6-CD box set from Detroit’s nearly-forgotten, high-octane rock ‘n’ roll titans, Sonic’s Rendezvous Band… 

MC5 guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith’s holy rank in the Detroit Church of High Energy Rock is sealed forever by the three albums he made with the 5, between 1969 and 1971, and one song, “City Slang,” that appeared in 1978 on both sides of the only single by his Seventies group, Sonic’s Rendezvous Band. SRB have long been a footnote instead of a chapter in the MC5 story. In the Seventies, while the 5 became legend and Bob Seger and Ted Nugent took Michigan rock to arena-ville, SRB – Smith, ex-Rationals singer-guitarist Scott Morgan, former Stooges drummer Scott Asheton and bassist Gary Rasmussen of the Up – played bars and high schools, opening local gigs for the Ramones and Smith’s future wife, Patti Smith. “City Slang” – 5:15 of assault guitars, railroad drumming and Smith’s determined rebel-call – has all you need to know why SRB were masters of their domain. But it was never enough.

The import box Sonic’s Rendezvous Band (Easy Action) corrects that with a vengeance: six CDs of live, demo and rehearsal tapes – most previously unavailable, even as bootlegs – plus the studio versions of “City Slang” and its intended B-side, Morgan’s “Electrophonic Tonic.” Two concert discs from 1975 and ‘76 (the first with original bassist W.R. Cooke) are rough in sound but show off the manic-white-Motown streak that Morgan, in particular, brought to SRB. The live CDs from ’78 – one from that Ramones date, the other a soundboard tape first released a few years ago on the Mack Aborn label – have SRB tearing with fine-tuned tension through songs from the greatest debut album never made: Smith’s “Sweet Nothin’” and “Do It Again,” Morgan’s “Asteroid B-612” and “Dangerous.” Discs Five and Six are of mixed fidelity and origin (the deluxe booklet lacks specific track annotation, although it has a detailed account of SRB’s history and breakup). But a highlight is the sixteen-minute “American Boy,” on which Smith plays a long, heated-raga solo on saxophone, evoking the MC5’s earlier holidays in the music of Sun Ra and Pharoah Sanders.

Sonic’s Rendezvous Bandcomes with its own controversy. On his web site, SRB road manager Freddie Brooks, who runs Mack Aborn, claims the box is a bootleg. Robert Matheu, the set’s executive producer, says in a Web interview that the surviving members were all involved and that he spoke with Smith’s son Jackson. (Fred died in 1994.) A credit line declares, “All tracks licensed exclusively from Sonic’s Rendezvous Band.” I’m not taking sides. I just want as much of the best of this band as I can get, in good faith and quality. Right now, this is what I have. And I am playing it. Loud.

David Fricke

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President Obama’s Weekly Address (May 22, 2010)

May 23, 2010 at 12:25 pm (Life & Politics)

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Big Audio Dynamite – “Tighten Up Vol. 88” (1988)

May 20, 2010 at 4:40 pm (Music, Reviews & Articles)

Listening to this album for the first time in almost twenty years, I am struck by the fact that B.A.D. really seemed to be aiming for the charts on their third go-around. The songs are much shorter and more conventional (musically and lyrically) here than on their first two albums. Another thing I noticed is that the samples and sound effects used so extensively and creatively in the past are nearly absent this time around. They seem to be playing it safe on Tighten Up Vol. 88, and by the fourth number in, you start to think, “what happened to the elements that made them so unique?” It’s like they brought the audio but forgot the dynamite.

The album title itself works, unintentionally I imagine, on two levels. It’s meant as a homage to the late-‘60s-early-‘70s series of rocksteady and reggae albums put out by Trojan Records entitled Tighten Up (after the 1968 Archie Bell & the Drells dance hit). There were many volumes in the popular series (which were big in England) and this is meant as B.A.D.’s tribute (“88” representing 1988 – the year this album appeared). The title worked in another way though – as a comment on the fact that B.A.D. had “tightened up” their sound considerably. These were the types of songs that just about anybody could have written at the time – or, if you’re feeling more generous, the type of songs B.A.D. leader Mick Jones could have come up with years earlier. It’s certainly a dip in quality from its two predecessors.

Having said all that, Tighten Up is still an enjoyable album, and if it had been released under a different band name, or had come out as a Mick Jones solo album (which it actually feels like, being that co-bandmember Don Letts’ samples and voice are only used very sparingly), it might have been accepted better.

The album starts out on a fairly strong note, though, with “Rock Non Stop (All Night Long),” which shows the increasing dance-rock-pop direction the band was heading in. It’s one of the best songs on the album, and is followed by “Other 99,” another decent dance-rock song. Both songs are conventional, compared to the past, but are still memorable. “Funny Names,” a slightly country-sounding number that you could almost picture Ringo Starr singing is the first misstep of their career. It’s not really a bad tune, but certainly nothing more than average, and Jones’ voice is not suited for this type of material (his voice is unsuited for a number of songs on this album). “Applecart” follows and is much more successful, containing a solid pop melody. Still, the B.A.D. of old is largely missing. Where’s the cinematic samples that gave them their edge?

“Esquerita” is a tribute to one of the original piano-pounding wildmen of rock ‘n’ roll, now largely forgotten. The former Eskew Reeder, Jr. basically taught Little Richard everything he knew, and Richard got his style and pompadour from Esquerita, and took his sound all the way to the bank. That’s not to take anything away from the legendary Richard, but anyone who hears Esquerita for the first time will be amazed at the similarities. Being that Esquerita didn’t record until after Little Richard already had started having hits, he was basically seen as an imitator, and his career never took off. The emotionally volatile and flamboyant Reeder died in obscurity, washing car windows and playing in second rate clubs – a sad victim of AIDS. This rockabilly-leaning tribute, complete with imitations of his high-pitched wail might not be a great tune, but it is a nice tribute to this unfairly obscure American original.

This song leads into “Champagne,” one of the best songs on the album. A sing-along-type number about a woman who has a strong preference to the bubbly alcoholic beverage, to the exclusion of all others. I had forgotten how much I liked this song back in the day.

“The Battle of All Saints Road” is another misstep for the band. It’s a stylistically confused number, a strange country-roots rock hybrid, with Jamaican dancehall flourishes. It’s definitely interesting, but ultimately a failure.

“Mr. Walker Said” is on the rocking side, but somewhat generic. The fast dance workout “2000 Shoes” grows on you though. The lyrics deal with Imelda Marcos (wife of corrupt Philippine leader Ferdinand Marcos), and her extravagant shoe fetish (hence the title). The song is cleverly spiked with tapdancing sounds throughout.

They leave the best for last though. “Just Play Music!,” a single from the album, is by far the most memorable song of the lot. It’s a pop-rock number, with dance music elements to it, that takes the basic B.A.D. aesthetic, smoothes it out, and comes up with a simple but effective tune. The lyrics are not very profound but don’t need to be. It’s one of the best songs of their career, and was a reasonable size hit.

Out of the four albums by the original incarnation of Big Audio Dynamite, this is easily the weakest. Even though they seem to be branching out with different styles of music here, it’s all done in a safe and unadventurous manner. It’s as if Jones wasn’t sure where to take the band after the groundbreaking music he came out with on the first two albums. The rest of the band seemed to take a backseat on this album, as well. They would rebound in a big way with their next release, 1989’s Megatop Phoenix, but not before Jones came close to death with a serious bout of pneumonia. 

Even though this album (complete with artwork courtesy of former Clash bassist Paul Simonon) might not be the best thing Jones ever had a hand in, it’s still worth owning for any true B.A.D. fan, and if you can accept it for what it is, rather than condemning it for what it isn’t, Tighten Up Vol. 88 is actually an underrated piece of work. Some bands would kill for an album this good.

Jay Mucci

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Big Audio Dynamite – “No. 10, Upping St.” (1986)

May 19, 2010 at 9:25 pm (Music, Reviews & Articles)

Mick Jones proved with the first Big Audio Dynamite album that he had moved well beyond his Clash days, Not that B.A.D. topped The Clash’s best work, but it staked out its own sound and style to excellent effect nevertheless. By taking The Clash’s early-’80s flirtations with hip hop and funk and adding the Jamaican dub influences of bandmembers Don Letts and Leo “E-Zee Kill” Williams, B.A.D. blazed trails that were well ahead of their time.

Right before the release of the debut, former Clash mate Joe Strummer chased down Jones and begged him for forgiveness. He realized he had been duped by their manager Bernie Rhodes into getting rid of him, and even though Jones was impossible to work with at that point, he still felt like he had betrayed his songwriting partner. Strummer asked Jones to come back to The Clash, which had continued on without him, but Jones was already deep into the B.A.D. project and turned him down. Strummer heard their album and told him it was terrible and not to release it – that it had no “songs” to speak of, and that Jones needed him. Strummer was wrong on both counts though – the album was groundbreaking and Jones didn’t need Strummer anymore, probably the opposite was more true at this point, as The Clash were just a shell of their former self.

Right after the recording sessions for their second album, No. 10, Upping St. began, Strummer, who by then had finally realized The Clash were a spent force, ran into old friend Don Letts and Letts invited him to the sessions. Before long, Strummer and Jones had patched up their differences and Strummer was asked to co-produce and write the album. This amazing turn of events would have been like if John Lennon and Paul McCartney had made up sometime during the ‘70s and Lennon ended up co-writing and producing a Wings album.

Strummer, as he always did, jumped headlong into the proceedings, and made many lyrical contributions to the album. Surprisingly, he thought the album was great, even though it wasn’t that much different than the debut. It still followed the same basic formula, but perhaps the biggest difference was the fact that the songs did have a bit more structure to them, with classic pop melody choruses, and the lyrics had a bit more of a storytelling aspect to them, which was probably due to his influence. Otherwise, the album, for the most part, carried on where the debut left off, except the songs are a bit shorter and more structured, and the samples are not as integral to each song. Jones brings his guitar into the mix more than he had on the debut, as well, showing off his rock ‘n’ roll roots.

“C’mon Every Beatbox” starts the album off with a bang, and shows a bit more of a hip hop influence, though not overtly. It features Jones and Letts trading verses to great effect, and even throws in a musical quote from Jimi Hendrix‘s “Are You Experienced.” “Beyond the Pale” is one of Jones’ more autobiographical songs, dealing with the prejudice his grandparents faced when they came to England from Russia, and how immigration is what made England the nation is. “Limbo the Law,” one of the highlights of the album, shows off some of Strummer’s lyrical influence – you could imagine him singing the words to the chorus. It has one of the more memorable melodies on the album.

“Ticket” features Letts, more or less, rapping (or toasting, as it’s known in Jamaica) the lyrics, showing off his family heritage. The song deals with unemployment and British sports – basically football (soccer) and cricket. “Sightsee MC!” is another highlight (by Strummer & Jones), and is one of the more hip hop-influenced songs on the album, taking listeners on a tour guide through London.

Another highlight on the album, “V. Thirteen,” has a great pop chorus, and despite Jones’ shaky singing, is very memorable. One of the best songs in their entire canon.

This album contains some of the catchiest songs Jones had written since 1982’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” (though not quite on the level of that classic song), and though it’s not quite as consistent as their debut, it’s an excellent album with some of their all-time best songs. This record is in need of a remastered version, like This Is Big Audio Dynamite just received. It’s definitely worth the effort.

Sadly, after No. 10, Upping St., Strummer and Jones never worked in the studio again (as far as I know), and talk of a joint album around this time never panned out. But it was great to see this classic songwriting partnership make up and produce one more slice of greatness before going their separate ways. We are all the richer for it.

Jay Mucci

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“My Life as a Music Fanatic”

May 19, 2010 at 4:02 pm (Music, Reviews & Articles)

Ever since I could remember, music has been a constant in my life. I realize that music is probably a constant in everyone’s life, in one form or another, but for me it’s actually been more than a constant – it’s been a total obsession. Some people become addicted to crack, some to gambling – at an early age I became addicted to music. It has been the one true love of my life, of which nothing else comes close. I have gone through some very painful relationships that didn’t work out, and periods of my life of extreme depression and loneliness, but music has always been there when I needed it most. Sometimes I’ve also, admittedly, used it as a crutch. Through the good times and bad, though, it’s the one thing I’ve always been able to count on to get me through each day.

Over the years, I have purchased about a thousand LPs, a thousand cassettes, and perhaps 7,000 CDs (just a rough estimate) – not to mention hundreds of 45s, thousands of homemade cassettes and CDs, and dozens of thousands of songs downloaded on Napster, iTunes and various other Internet sites. I’ve gotten rid of more albums over the years than entire neighborhoods will ever purchase in a lifetime. Yes, you could call me a music fanatic.

My parents say my love for music began when they would constantly play records at home while my mother was pregnant with me, and who knows, maybe that’s as good of a reason as any. They played many different types of music, as well, so perhaps that accounts for my extremely eclectic tastes. From about the time that I was 4 or 5, playing my Sesame Street album (with Oscar the Grouch singing “I Love Trash”) and a 45 of a song called “Robert the Robot” (that I would torture my parents with, by playing both repeatedly) on my red and white plastic record player, I seemed to be fascinated by music of some kind. Within a couple of years, I progressed to listening to my parents’ copy of Elvis’ Golden Records, that I played on a small turntable in the basement of our home. His voice fascinated me, and I played that album dozens and dozens of times over the next couple of years, sparking a lifelong love of his music. He was definitely my first true musical discovery – twenty years after rest of the world had already discovered him.

At the same time, AM Top 40 radio was a constant in our home and in the car, and I remember hearing many big hits of the 1970s on a daily basis – “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon, “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash, “Love Will Keep Us Together” by Captain & Tenille, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree” by Tony Orlando & Dawn (which reminds me of being over my grandparents’ house as a child), “December 1963 (Oh What a Night)” by The Four Seasons, and many other pop hits of the day – too many to name, in fact. Some I have special memories of, due to them recalling my childhood – people, places, moments – most of them gone, but none forgotten. Rancid swill, such as “You Light Up My Life” by Debbie Boone or “Sometimes When We Touch” by Dan Hill, on the other hand, can still cause me to go into spasmodic fits of revulsion. What a cheesy decade the ‘70s were. Still, I miss those times.

It always amazes me how a song from your childhood can instantly spark certain memories when listening to it decades later. You can almost be transported back to that time and place when you first heard the song; almost remember what the air felt like and smelled like at that very moment in time. Even if the song is not particularly any good, you can still have a love for it, for the emotions it conjures up of your lost youth, of more carefree, innocent times. It also amazes me how you can remember lyrics to songs that you haven’t heard since you were five years old, and yet you can’t remember the lyrics to a song from last week. I guess we just pick up the lyrics to songs as a child without even trying.

Being that I grew up during the 1970s and ‘80s, and listening to AM, and later FM radio stations, I just seemed to absorb all the music genres of the day – rock, disco, pop, new wave, heavy metal, oldies, jazz, etc. Plus, hearing everything from Hank Williams to Frank Sinatra to Jerry Vale to Boz Scaggs in my parents’ and grandparents’ homes, I just absorbed it all without even realizing it. It never really occurred to me what genre anything was – it was simply either “good” or “bad” – and I never thought about whether a song was old or new. The only songs, to me, that become “old” are the bad ones. If it’s good, it’s good forever.

Some of the first (non-children’s music) albums that I remember owning were a greatest hits album by Chic (given to me on my 10th birthday – Dec. 13, 1979 – by an aunt and uncle), The Grand Illusion by Styx, and Glass Houses by Billy Joel. Then soon after that, I got the debut album and Women and Children First by Van Halen (my first favorite group). Over the next several years, I owned everything from Back in Black by AC/DC (which my grandmother bribed me with, if I agreed to go to my little cousin’s dance recital) and Wild Planet by The B-52s, to Led Zeppelin’s first album and Ozzy Osbourne’s first two solo albums, as well as the We Sold Our Soul for Rock ‘n’ Roll compilation by his former group, Black Sabbath.

Around the age of 12 or 13 I had the next big musical discovery of my young life. It was at that time that my father introduced me to the world of Jimi Hendrix. I still recall him handing me his vinyl copies of the Woodstock soundtrack and an album from the Monterey Pop Festival, with Otis Redding’s concert on one side, and Hendrix’s on the other. For some reason, he didn’t tell me anything about Otis or any of the other Woodstock performers – he simply told me to listen to Hendrix’s performances from both albums, informing me that what I heard would blow my mind. Hendrix could play guitar in such a way, he informed me, that you would swear there were 3 or 4 guitarists all playing at once. He handed me those albums like they were sacred texts to be absorbed and deciphered. To my young mind, I was certainly intrigued. Obviously, I couldn’t wait to play each of them. And needless to say Hendrix turned out to be everything my father said he was, and then some. I don’t think I’ve ever quite gotten over that first time I heard him.

I lost count how many times I listened to those two sides of vinyl – from Monterey, his hot-wired rendition of Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” and (“the combined English and American national anthems”) “Wild Thing” (complete with his infamous and star-making pyrotechnical and guitar-smashing display which ended the performance); from Woodstock, his mind-blowing, iconic rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” of which Prince once famously noted that all guitarists should practice, “like learning your scales,” which then segued into his classic tune, “Purple Haze.” To say that Hendrix contained all the rage and fury that signaled the Vietnam era in that one performance of our national anthem is to put it mildly. It may be the single greatest guitar display of all time. It has never lost its power to blow me away, or anyone else who hears it for the first or hundredth time.

I absorbed every song on those two sides of vinyl, including Hendrix’s weird, acid-enhanced between-song patter (something about fat mattresses and golden underwear – and is that Bob Dylan’s grandmother on the drums?). For about a good year, I listened to them continuously. Then I went out and bought everything else I could find on Hendrix – his studio albums being a whole other ball of psychedelic wax – and I have my dad to thank for lending me those two albums. It was one of the best musical educations I ever received. Nothing else would ever blow me away on quite the same magical level.

By this time in my life is when I began to really immerse myself in music in a big way. I began reading, first the heavy metal mags of the time – Circus and Hit Parader – and then a couple of years later, Creem, Rolling Stone, Musician, Guitar Player, Guitar World, Crawdaddy!, and anything else I could get my hands on, including the music section of my local newspaper. Fran Fried, who wrote for the Waterbury Republican, is who I first started following, as far as music critics were concerned, and was turned on to many great obscure bands of the ‘80s because of that column.

Over the next couple of years, I began to follow David Fricke of Rolling Stone, and then later on all the greats – Lester Bangs, Dave Marsh, Paul Williams, Greil Marcus, Robert Christgau, Robert Palmer, Ralph J. Gleason, Jon Landau, Nat Hentoff, and so on. All of them, in their own way, turned me on to every type of music imaginable, and inspired me to write about music myself, even though it took me many years before I finally began to do so.

It was during those teenage years, as well, that I realized that music was something that would never let me down – it was always something I could rely on when I was feeling lonely, depressed and sad, as well as happy. I have always been able to get lost in a music biography or a website devoted to music more than anything else. I have read just about every biography on every major artist or band you could think of – and have always poured over, in great detail, the liner notes of every album I’ve ever purchased. Somehow, I’ve always been able to remember most of what I’ve read as well. It’s the “music geek” in me, I suppose. It’s perhaps sad that I can remember every useless detail and fact about obscure musicians and albums, and yet I have trouble recalling important information that I’ve learned in school or at work. For me, music was my real schooling though.

Once I began reading Rolling Stone and Musician in my late teens, my tastes exploded, and I started buying everything from reggae to jazz fusion to Bob Dylan to old blues records to classical – anything and everything. There was simply nothing that was off-limits, or that didn’t interest me in some small way. I kept tracing music back and forth, finding out who my favorite artists’ influences were, and then buying albums by those artists, and so forth. If I liked an artist enough, I would buy every album they came out with – even the bad ones. I would simply want to experience everything by that particular artist.

I remember going to a local record store, Brass City Records, when I was 16 and I purchased a Jimi Hendrix album and one by hardcore speed merchants D.R.I. The owner, of the store, Walter Quadrato, said, “Wow, your tastes are very eclectic.” In one sentence, he had me summed up forever. I bought hundreds of albums at that store over the years (and spent countless hours simply hanging out there) but his initial assessment has held true.

There are certain artists that have never failed to give me pleasure – U2 (my favorite band of all time), Prince, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles (still the most innovative band that ever existed), Van Halen, The Rolling Stones, R.E.M., The Replacements, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, The Flaming Lips, Jimi Hendrix, and many, many others, right up to modern artists like Amy Winehouse, The Strokes and Vampire Weekend. They have all added a little something to my life, each in their own way, and made life worth living.

Another artist who impacted me greatly when I was a teenager was Brian Wilson. Discovering Pet Sounds when I was 18 years old was another mind-blowing experience. It touched me deeply and profoundly, and, after The Joshua Tree, is my second favorite album of all time.

For many years, not a week would go by that I didn’t purchase at least 3-5 albums. I am afraid to even think of all the money I have spent (some would say wasted) over the past 25 years on music and music-related items (books, magazines, concerts, T-shirts, posters). Between Waterbury’s Brass City Records and Phoenix Records (both of which are still in business) to New Haven’s Cutler’s Records (also still operating after 40+ years), to many chain record stores that are long out of business (Coconuts and Strawberries), to Turn It Up in Northampton, MA, and places like Best Buy and Borders, I can’t even begin to count how many thousands of hours I have spent pouring through racks of LPs, CDs and cassettes, and that’s not to mention the additional thousands of hours spent on music-related websites. It’s a hobby that has brought me immense pleasure and gotten me through many nights of excruciating boredom.

Over the last few years, though, I have bought fewer and fewer albums. First off, because I basically own everything worth owning (or it seems that way anyhow), and secondly, because it’s getting harder to find records that I don’t have. There are basically no more record stores – at least not any chain stores – and places like Borders and Best Buy have a much smaller selection these days, because everyone is just downloading off the Internet, including myself. Then again, most of what I have downloaded is stuff that is either extremely obscure, hasn’t come out on CD (as far as I know), or is something that is out on CD but very hard to find or way too expensive to purchase. Hence the thousands and thousands of songs I have downloaded. I have discovered many rare, previously-unheard groups this way.

Another reason why I buy fewer albums nowadays is due to the fact that most of the newer stuff coming out is simply not that good, and therefore, not worth paying good money on – and due to financial restraints over the past few years, it’s just as well. I can’t afford to buy 4 or 5 albums a week, like I did for so many years. It had certainly become an addiction, of sorts, and I had to ease up on that.

I guess I have also become jaded in my listening tastes. Many newer bands and artists are either not that good or just sound like something that I heard from someone else years ago, and not even done nearly as well. It’s getting harder and harder to find something new that blows me away like The Beatles, Hendrix, Brian Wilson, etc. did all those years ago.

Still, music has just as much of a hold on me as it ever has. Relationships have come and gone, including a marriage, and yet music has continued to fascinate me and be the one thing I can count on in this world. I couldn’t imagine life without it.

So here’s to that beautiful art form we call music, in all its various strains and genres. As R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe once sang, “music is the light you cannot resist,” and that still holds just as true for me today, as it did all those years ago, spinning that Elvis record in my parents’ basement. May it always hold true.

Jay Mucci

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Dio – “Rainbow in the Dark” (1983)

May 16, 2010 at 11:10 pm (Music)

From 1983’s Holy Diver, the first Dio album, I still remember hearing this song for the first time on the radio in 1983, at the age of 13. Dedicated to his memory…

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Ronnie James Dio: Man on the Silver Mountain

May 16, 2010 at 11:06 pm (Black Sabbath, Music, Reviews & Articles)

I just read that Ronnie James Dio passed away today at the age of 67 from stomach cancer. I’m definitly in shock, as I didn’t even realize he was sick.

The former Black Sabbath, Rainbow and Elf heavy metal singer, who was fronting the new version of Sabbath, now known as Heaven & Hell, and who popularized the famous devil horn symbol, was definitely one of the great singers of the genre, with his piercing, high-pitched voice. It still amazes me that he was singing as well in his mid-’60s as he did 30 years ago.

It is also amazing to think that Dio had been singing since the late 1950’s, starting out singing rockabilly, of all things. It wasn’t until the band The Electric Elves, who soon became Elf, in the early 1970s, that he started heading in the musical direction of hard rock and heavy metal. In 1975 he joined Ritchie Blackmore’s band Rainbow, and from there he became the Dio everyone knew, with his first big song, “Man on the Silver Mountain,“ probably the best thing Rainbow ever did.

I remember listening to him a lot back when I was a teenager in the ’80s, and I still listened to him every now and again. I believe Sabbath’s Mob Rules, from 1981, was his best all-around album — every song on it is a classic. But of course, Rainbow’s “Man on the Silver Mountain,” Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell” and his own “Rainbow in the Dark” and “Holy Diver” are also classics of the genre. His most recent album with Heaven & Hell, The Devil You Know, was probably the best thing he had done in many years. Working with Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler again seemed to revitalize him.

His passing is definitely a huge loss to the world of heavy metal, and to Heaven & Hell, who were supposed to go out on tour this summer.

May Ronnie rest in eternal peace. He will certainly never be forgotten. He was a classy guy and one of the great singers of our time.

Jay Mucci

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Jim Morrison – “In This Dim Cave”

May 16, 2010 at 3:46 pm (Jim Morrison, Poetry & Literature)

In this dim cave
we can go no further
Here money is key
to smooth age. Horses,
givers of guilt. Great
bags of gold.

I want obedience!

We examine this ancient
& insane theatre, obscene
like luxuriant churches

I confess
to scarves
cool floors
stroked curtain

The actors are twice-blessed
before us. This is
too serious & severe.

Great mystery!
Timeless passion
patterned in stillness.


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