Saturday, July 04, 2015

Musical Musings of Monkees Mayhem and More

Rivalry? What rivalry? Michael Nesmith and John Lennon
I truly enjoy a great conversation about music, especially when it's not one of those "Bon Jovi is da greatest American bands evah"-types of debates, where you know you just can't deal with logic.

I'm not one to shy away from an a good music debate (John Cougar Monkfish, anyone?) but I like it when it stays civil and fun.

I especially like a conversation that makes me (or perhaps the person I'm talking to) seek out some of the tunes being discussed. When there's a moment of "Holy moly! I thought I was the only one that liked that song/artist/band/genre."

One of those chats occurred the other day. By the end of it I was seeking out my copy of Billy Joel's Cold Spring Harbor, an album famous for being mistakenly mastered at a higher speed. You realize what a wonderful album it is that sets him up for greater success.

Music can come and go emotionally. The song you detested in 1986 is beloved today. A band like U2 can be genius circa 1982-1985 before The Joshua Tree destroys it. It takes 15 years to come back to them, only to have life sort of ruin it.

A song like "Take On Me" can go from being "meh" to annoying to detested to laughed at (thank you, Family Guy) as you connect with your child over it.

It's all truly personal preference, though one has to try to be fair, like it or not. I get it: Mr. Mellancamp has sold millions. Of the nearly 17,000 songs in the iTunes on the computer I'm typing from, I spy three songs of his that were undoubtedly given to me or part of some collection. He is, no doubt, a talented musician. Again. You have to be fair.

Another recent conversation revealed a fondness for "Let It Grow" by Eric Claption. It creates one of those moments when the conversation hits stunned silence at the discovery of something that you didn't expect. Yes, indeed.



Still another conversation got me thinking about The Monkees. I always love the narrative that gets created (by fans and media, of course) of a rivalry between The Beatles and The Monkees (and of course, between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones).

None existed, folks. Hit the Googler (or look at the top of this post). Discover it for yourself. See how both Nesmith and Dolenz were hanging out at Abbey Road with John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

If anything, "rivalries" occasionally produce music. Without Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys, we might not get Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Liverpool Lads.

I cant tell you that I liked the Pre-Fab Four, and of course loved the show. The music, especially the earlier work had tremendous songwriting behind them (Neil Diamond, Carole King, Harry Nilsson, among others). But wait! There's more!

Now I'm not here to tell you The Monkees are better than The Beatles. You know from hanging around these parts that The Beatles are in my blood, so I will always be a bigger fan of theirs. That's where personal preference comes in (and sometimes, with it, a certain level of "guilt."**) I'm not going to tell you Huey Lewis and the News are America's GREATEST BAND, but I'm sure going to tell you that they don't necessarily get the respect they deserve. They are what they are.

** Bonus reading at the bottom as we hit the Exit 55 WAYBACK MACHINE!

I will say the same about The Monkees. Their hits are monsters, and yes, they didn't play on them...blah blah blah. It's still their voices. Look, let's not go there. This isn't Milli Vanilli we're talking about. Yet we tend to overlook them as being a goofy novelty act without digging deeper. I submit to you a couple of tunes.

"Listen to The Band" Just when you want to say, "Oh this is just some Mike Nesmith country-western twang thang," stop. Immediately(because even if it was, so what?). Listen to the horns kick in. His vocal works perfectly. There's a great bass line in there. I was stunned to rediscover this one.


You can hear why "Papa Nez" has his cult following. Now listen to "Words" in which you get the great vocal of Micky Dolenz, but check out the harmonizing and co-lead vocal of Peter Tork. Often thought of as, arguably, the Monkee with the best instrumental chops, you hear another dimension. Again, there's a great bass line (Nesmith plays that one, with Tork on lead guitar).


Lastly, check out "Randy Scouse Git (Alternate Title)" with its reference to the "Four Kings of EMI." (The Beatles, of course)

I love a song with depth. A tympani drum? The piano interlude in the beginning? Nesmith yawning in the video? OK, that last piece has nothing to do with the song itself, but still. Read Wikipedia for more on it.

Unless you really know their music you're probably not aware of these tunes.

Look, I'm not trying to get them elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but let's be honest, are the Monkees better than, er, Mr. Mellancamp (who is, shamefully, in)? Again, personal preference, but it's a debate worth having.

Anyway, the point of this exercise was to discuss how a great conversation, a moment, a thought, can lead one to discover or rediscover music. There are certain bridges that likely will never be crossed, but there are others that, with an open mind, can lead to a whole new world that the wisdom of time can give.

** I said we'd hit the WAYBACK MACHINE (Sherman and Peabody are nowhere to be found for this). Back to 2009 we go, when I previously wrote about guilty pleasure in music.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Home and Quiet

Is that a monument protruding from your shoulder or are you just happy to see me?
I was going to write tonight. I had a topic.

But...no.

I'll focus instaed on the weekend that has just concluded - an impromptu road trip back to Scranton, PA that turned into (almost) a repeat of the one Sean and I just had in April. There were changes and, at the last-minute, a decision to stay overnight.

Of course, I had thought about packing a bag just in case, but I didn't. So a quick shopping trip was needed to pick up some goodies.

The reason to go was Father's Day, combined with the end of the school year. It was great for both of us, as well as my mom, who came along for the ride.

As was the sprit of the weekend, we stumbled into High Point State Park in New Jersey (no jokes. I'm being polite). My mother's family had frequented the park many times, and there is supposedly a document from my grandfather buried in a time capsule at the war monument, which opened in 1930.
My grandfather Adams, Mom, and Dad. High Point State Park, NJ (circa 1958)
I'd been there a few times myself, including sometime in the late 70s (or maybe 1980), when the monument was closed.
Me with my cousins Alice and Matt
Another visit came in 2005, this time with Sean and mom.

Each trip was made out of season, meaning we didn't pay for park fees, but also meaning the monument was closed. In recent years, the park faced closing and the refurbishing of the monument, among other things.

Today's trip meant paying $20 in park fees because it was the weekend and we are out of state residents. So to do so, I needed to know the monument was open.

It was.

A long climb to the top was made and after over 35 years, I finally visited the top of the High Point monument.

The climb awaits.
 Sean and I made it. The heights didn't bother me, and it was a good workout.
Success!
Back at the bottom, I was exhilarated. Sean was, er, not.

Anyway, that's all I've got. It beats writing about silliness.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

She's Right on Time


Ah the 80s.

A time in which videos were cheesy and how we lived.

When the M stood for MUSIC in MTV.

When Billy Joel was, you know, Billy Joel. Not an overpriced franchise at Madison Square Garden* but a living, breathing, brilliant hit maker.

*I still love you, Billy, but tickets are too expensive. Besides that, I don't have anyone to go see you with, and as much as Paul Silverfarb is a dear friend, he should be seeing you with his wife. That's always been how I've rolled. (P.S., Paul agrees with this sentiment)

Anyway, I've long thought, going back to when The Nylon Curtain came out, that She's Right on Time was among his most underrated tunes. That an Vienna from The Stranger.

I suppose there's a Rule 55 in here somewhere (posting a video when I want to say something else). The truth is this song was in my head before (it takes me to a special place) and I just wanted to post it.


Such a Grand Old Flag


Thank you, nameless person on the interwebs, for inspiring me.

Thank you for posting a picture that, in my mind, disrespected the flag of the United States of America, on Flag Day.

Look, I get some of your anger at our great nation. Indeed we are a fractured fatherland with unresolved racism but also problems with gender inequity reverse racism (racism is racism, after all) and what seems to be an abundance of violent crime.

But.

Is it really as bad as it might seem?

Are we - am I - part of the problem?

Well...yeah.

First, we can blame the media. Not all of us, of course, but yes we can certainly glance at the need for viewers. So yes, we need dirty laundry! CNN, MSNBC, FOX, TMZ, and so on. You get the idea.

We need stories. Don't have one? MAKE ONE UP! Embellish.

Ugh

But there's more. We are all responsible. Do you read Twitter? Facebook? Instsagram? Well that's where some leads come from for stories, as well as demonstrating our instant gratification society.

Let's put if this way: we report nearly everything now. We didn't always.

Also think of how far we've come as a country. Ever hear of that Jackie Robinson guy? The one who broke the modern baseball color barrier? Yeah. That's clearly changed, thankfully. Glance at Washington. Love him. Hate him. Whatever. A black man (please spare me the politics) is President of the United States.

Oh I have lots more, but just go read a history book. Glance at a documentary. Check out the googler on this world-wide-internet-thingy!

No, we're not perfect. Health care is still a mess. The President - the very one I mentioned above - doesn't seem to be a whole better than his predecessor. Chuck Schumer is still talking into microphones. Al Shapton...good lord.

I said I wasn't getting into politics, so I'll stop there.

Ferguson and Baltimore and Eric Garner on Staten Island didn't help things. Certainly it opened wounds.

Yet does anyone know how divisive this country was during the Vietnam War? Do we recall when blacks couldn't eat at the same lunch counters as whites? When they had to go to separate hotels? How about when women couldn't vote? There's also a bad history of religious idiocy.

Then I hear way too much about "the good old days," when we were one big group hug of a country. Eisenhower, baby!

Yet, again. Separate hotels. Lynchings. Come on, people. Just different eras.

I often hear it: what is wrong with this world? In some ways, we ARE worse. Yet, in some ways, just look around. It's better. Much.

Sure, I wish we could have a lot of things back, but we can't. So let's accept what we have now and move on with life. Let's try, just a little, to make it better.

I'm no 'Merica type of guy. I have my form of patriotism that is very much my own style: honest and real. I detest the "September 12" phenomenon, in which we're one big HAPPY country...and within days the same problems creep back up, and those flags that are flying and acting as bumper stickers are tattered and faded.

But I won't see the flag disrespected. Too much blood was spent. Too many battles - on too many fronts - were raged.

It's a symbol of this country. To disrespect it is to dump on my uncles, friends, my nieces husband, and other loved ones who fought for it. It disrespects my own father, who desperately wanted to go to Korea so that he could defend it.

I apologize if this sounds like some form of jingoism. I assure you it's not.

Think before you post, people.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Pathetic


I'm sort of a damaged soul, if you haven't learned by now.

There are reasons various and sundry for that. Some of it is not caring what people think.

Some of it is caring too much.

I'm not to be pitied, nor am I looking for such. There are a lot of stories in the world. This is where I get to tell mine.

I don't write everything of course. Honestly, how can I? For one thing, not every story is for public consumption. For another, stories are open to interpretation because I often don't name names.

Such is the risk.

Among the things that has damaged me was the time that someone I cared greatly for called my pursuit of a broadcasting career "pathetic." I can still hear it. The truth is that it could have been said specifically to hurt me. Eventually, I didn't know what to trust or believe.

Still the words stayed with me.

It was a different world when I started my career, almost 25 years ago. I kept working full-time while going to school part-time and dabbling in radio on the weekend. Eventually I slid over to WREF and WGCH and began an odyssey of so many things.

Life decisions had to play into all of that. I stayed in New York for family and friends. I passed on a chance to go away to college at 23 to finish up my Bachelor's Degree. Eventually Sean came along and I couldn't see the point of relocating. I was 33 by then and it didn't seem likely that a play-by-play job would pay the bills to raise a family.

Generally, despite layoffs, I made some good money in other worlds, which led to a house and a decent life.

Yes I made some attempts to move on, but I never left.

I continued to soothe my broadcasting jones by calling whatever I could. I handled Greenwich football and jumped on Hudson Valley Renegades broadcasts and a lot more.

Of course, that life came crashing down.

Pathetic.

Tomorrow I will handle, arguably, one of the biggest assignment of my career. From the radio calls in Greenwich of multiple sports to the Renegades and Sound Tigers and Bluefish and Mount Saint Mary College and interviews and other amazing experiences, I've done a lot.

Satisfied? Hardly. Would I still love a team of my own or to make the jump to a big league? Of course.

Yet tomorrow I will call all three state lacrosse championships in Connecticut. I will be "the voice" of them. Nobody else is supposed to have that duty and, beyond that, they will run on CPTV (yep, television) next week.

I've never taken a championship assignment lightly. It doesn't matter if it's a league championship, state championship, or youth football league. I care about that call, just as I do about all games.

Somebody cares about it. I've learned that. People tell me - years later - what I said in that moment. They remember. It's shocking.

I often say it's an honor. That's not just a line. I mean it.

I called two lacrosse semifinals on Wednesday night. They didn't run on HAN Radio but we produced them, and the same will go for tomorrow. At first, I was a little off my call because I felt like I was out of my element. Call it putting too much pressure on myself, but I felt like I might hyperventilate in the opening of the first game.

Eventually I pulled it together and it became another broadcast. Yet it wasn't.

The same goes for tomorrow.

Let me be quite clear: I'm fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. I'm fortunate that the powers-that-be elected to have HAN Radio take this lacrosse assignment on. I'm fortunate that my powers-that-be want me to be the lead broadcaster.

Don't think for a second that anyone said they had to have us because of me. Not at all. We're a great team.

Tomorrow I'm the voice - the face (YIKES) - of the 2015 CIAC lacrosse championships on the NFHS Network.

No matter the result, the broadcasts will get the same attention, passion, and energy that I've given the others. If it's awful, it won't be due to lack of trying.

I'm sure I can give you other reasons that I'm pathetic.

My broadcasting isn't one of them.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Lou and The Babe

The saddest day in American sports history: July 4, 1939
Yeah, I know. It's supposed to be The Babe and Lou.

Not here. Look, I revere Ruth, and when the subject of God comes up, I use the Bambino, because he's simply a god. There has never been - and never will be - anyone like him.

The. Best. Ever. No argument.

But Gehrig? Well, Lou is different. Brilliant in his own right, and if not for Babe Ruth, you'd have a hell of a debate on that "best ever" stuff.

Cobb? Sure. Mays? Of course. Musial? Bonds (controversially). Mantle. DiMaggio. So on.

And Henry Louis Gehrig.

He left us far too soon, on this day in 1941, not quite 38 years of age. If - such a brutal word - not for the disease that bears his name? Well, there would have been a lot more than the 493 home runs (second only to that Babe guy).

He was always connected to The Babe. Even today, June 2, many noted the fact that The Babe retired 80 years ago. Yes, he left the Boston Braves on June 2, 1935 after playing briefly in Boston with the hope of managing there.

Yet it was on June 2, 1925 that Wally Pipp had a headache, or so the story goes. Then Lou Gehrig, who had pinch hit for Pee Wee Wanninger the day before, took over at first base for Pipp, and didn't give the position up until May 1, 1939.

I know, Cal Ripken has the record, blah blah blah. Give me The Iron Horse in the days of doubleheaders, primitive (by comparison) medical efforts, wool uniforms, and train travel. Just one man's preference, with all due respect to number eight in Baltimore.

Shockingly, this is a picture I've never seen. Taken sometime in 1935.
They are connected forever, Ruth and Gehrig. Even in death, Ruth is buried in Gate of Heaven cemetery in Valhalla, NY. Gehrig? Next cemetery over - Kensico, also in Valhalla. They're a five-minute drive apart.

In 1927, Ruth hit 60 home runs. Gehrig hit a mere 47. Oh and this was at a time when players could still outhomer entire teams. Indeed both did just that.

Of course, famously, when Ruth hit the "called shot" in the 1932 World Series, guess who was up next? Gehrig. What did Gehrig do? Hit a home run. Just not as famously.

They're intertwined forever. The Babe and Lou. Ruth and Gehrig. The Iron Horse and The Bambino.

They share June 2nd for very different reasons.
Lou Gehrig's locker, Cooperstown, NY.
When I visited Ernest Hemingways house last year in Key West, a friend asked me to text a picture. She told me about how she cried when she saw his writing desk upon her own visit. That went through my mind when I saw Gehrig's locker this past April in Cooperstown. Thus the power.

Connected, even in death (1941)
I beg, plead, implore you to read Jonathan Eig's brilliant Luckiest Man. It is, arguably, the best sports biography I have ever read.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day and Freedom

Old Glory, Cooperstown, NY, April 18, 2015 (Shockingly, I took that picture)
Around our slice of the world, there are parades going on.

Bands are playing. Children are smiling. Later, grills will fire up. Here in the Pac, it's 80 degrees, and I'm planning on reading before taking Sean home. If I can find some energy, I will try to clean around the house.

It's low-key, and we get to do so because of the freedom we have.

Many - on social media (and on a radio/video webstream) - have espoused that we should thank those who have defended our flag, way of life, etc for allowing us to have this freedom.

Of course many do it for show (HEY! LOOK AT ME! I'M A PATRIOT!). Others do it because it's proper. I did it during Friday's game broadcast because I wanted to reinforce it.

Again, like having the right to post on social media about religion or politics (I have very strong thoughts about this, frankly), we have freedom.

But know why we're off today. Do just a little research. Read about Sandra Ennor of Darien (Darien Times, by Aaron Marsh).

Read something to learn.

Take five minutes. Ten, maybe.

Take some time and do it.

Then go play ball or enjoy that burger, or listen to Born to Run (still, to me, the ultimate summer kickoff song).

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Me and My Doppelganger


Sean had a concert tonight at the high school he will attend: John Jay in Hopewell Jct, NY.

His grandmother took a picture of us following the show. Sean plays a mean alto saxophone.

I posted it on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, but this is one that I wanted to also post here, since not everyone is social media savvy.

I'm crazy proud of this kid. You probably know that. I also miss him like crazy when I don't see him. Chances are you know that as well. I hope he feels the same.

I mourn a lot of lost time. Decisions that I'm not a part of. Feeling like I'm just...well...I don't know.

Back to hockey.