Archive for June, 2012

Five Songs, Part 86

June 29, 2012

Well, this week’s Five Songs marks the day before the midway point of 2012 already. Not quite sure now that happened, except that this year of great change hasn’t happened yet, and I need it to happen soon. Enjoy your pre-holiday weekend:

Change — Killing Joke

Absolute Beginners — The Jam

The Story in Your Eyes — The Moody Blues

Keep on Looking — Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings

Going Nowhere — Los Bravos

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Five Songs, Part 85

June 22, 2012

Well, it’s nice, after a month of birthdays and death, to get back to a Five Songs that has nothing to do with anything except being random — and only Five Songs. Here you go — enjoy your first weekend of summer:

Sound and Vision — David Bowie

Keeping Time — Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents

I Got the Power — The Masqueraders

A Someday Fool — M.G. & the Escorts

442 Glenwood Avenue — The Pixies Three

Someone please explain this ‘love’ and ‘romance’ thing to me at some point …

June 19, 2012

(The original version of “What’s This Shit Called Love?” by The Pagans. Cleveland punk, 1978. Later redone by The Meatmen.)

My gender transition — which started nearly 4 1/2 years ago with a simple question to myself while sitting on the bed one evening — is, for most intents, over at this point.

Wardrobe? Check. Shoe closet? Checkcheckcheckcheckcheck and then some! (Actually, it’s more like a couple of huge piles on the bedroom floor at this point, with little room in the

No, this was not from a casting call for The Bachelorette.

closet …) Out to friends and family? Check. Hormones? Check. License changed over? Check. Living full time? Check. Job interviews as Frannie 2.0? Check. (No job yet, unless you count going back to my former place of employment as a part-timer, which I guess does count for something …)

But there are some things that still need checking off; they’ll have to wait until I can get myself a real job and get situated again financially.

Electrolysis, so I don’t have to shave my face and neck and chest every day and risk ripping up my skin … hair restoration (because, even though my usual blonde bob from Kim’s Wigs in Fresno rules, I really need to know what it’s like to rock my own hair, which is now a mix of silver and gold) … liposuction (lots of it) and a tummy tuck, and maybe some off the thighs, so I can rock a little dress …

And love …

Wait. What the hell is that?

Yes — even more than getting a full-time job in the work world, even more than the minor-yet-expensive cosmetic mop-ups, the one thing that will truly make me feel like the woman that’s been brewing in me since childhood: Love. A lover, a companion, a partner in spiritual and even physical intimacy, whatever form that may take nowadays in this changed Franscape.

At this point, I’m afraid I don’t understand the concept. And last I knew, a date was a dried fruit.

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Five Songs, Part 84 (The Reducers/Steve Kaika memorial edition)

June 12, 2012

The Reducers, eternally. From the 2010 Sailfest in New London. From left: Hugh Birdsall, Peter Detmold and Steve Kaika; Tom Trombley on drums. Photo from Wailingcity.com.

I started putting together this greatly extended Five Songs on Sunday (June 10), knowing what was coming.

I got a Facebook message that morning from my friend Jes Farnsworth, aka Jes Reckless, out here in Fresno. Jes is the frontman for an excellent trio called The Backstabbers, heavily influenced by early punk. Interspersed among their originals (they released their first CD in May) are a bunch of great covers: The Stooges’ “Search and Destroy,” 999’s “Homicide,” The Flamin’ Groovies’ “Shake Some Action,” Roky Erickson’s “Two-Headed Dog” …

and any of a number of songs by one of my favorite bands ever — one of the most underrated and overlooked bands America has had to offer, The Reducers. From back home, in Connecticut, in New London. Same four guys since 1978: Peter Detmold and Hugh Birdsall, the co-lead singers/co-lead guitarists/songwriters, Steve Kaika on bass, Tom Trombley on drums. Influenced equally by the ’70s English pub rock and the early punk Peter and Hughie love so much, they released three tremendous introductory albums in successive years (The Reducers, 1983; Let’s Go, 1984, Cruise to Nowhere, 1985), were labeled “America’s Best Unsigned Band” by CMJ in ’86 and included on an Epic Records Unsigned compilation LP. But they never signed with anyone and decided to just keep doing what they were doing, and to a man, they’ll tell you it’s why they stayed together all these years. (They explained it in Bill Dumas’ 2006 documentary, The Reducers: America’s Best Unsigned Band, in which I was happy to be one of the many talking heads.) And despite the imminent mortality we all face, there was something eternal about them, something that spoiled me — many of us — into thinking this would go on forever.

The Reducers canceled a show last December at New London’s Bank Street Cafe — their first cancellation in ages — owing to “a bug” Steve contracted. Then, in January, another cancellation. And the word slowly got out that Steve wasn’t doing well. In late winter, word got out that it was lung cancer.

Jes happens to be Steve’s nephew. I found that out by happy accident in 2005, a year after I moved to Fresno. I wore a Reducers Shinola T-shirt to a show at the Starline one night, and the kid at the ticket booth asked, “Are those The Reducers from Connecticut?” “Yessss,” I said with arched eyebrow. “My buddy’s uncle plays in The Reducers.” “Holy shit! Who?” A connection to home! A year later, I finally met Jes, who grew up in Waterford, Steve’s hometown, before moving west, and was heavily influenced by his uncle.and his band. And Jes (and his father, Robin) and I all happened to be back in Connecticut near summer’s end of 2008; the last time I saw The Reducers, that Labor Day Saturday at Ocean Beach Park in New London, Jes actually took Hugh’s place on guitar for one song. (It was kinda weird to be standing next to Hughie in the crowd while The Reducers played.)

With The Backstabbers, I’ve seen Jes play “Let’s Go,” “No Ambition,” “Bums I Used to Know” and, last Friday at Audie’s Olympic, on a bill with Peter Case, “Life in the Neighborhood.” It’s a song that they’ll be recording for a Reducers tribute album Jes is putting together to benefit Steve — who, as a self-employed contractor, had no health insurance. (As of now, there are at least 25 acts who have recorded, or are recording, songs for the disc. I’m supposed to be singing “Out of Step” with them.)

Anyway, he messaged me that he was flying back to Connecticut on Thursday because Steve might not make it through the week, and that he might even be too late by that point.

He got the call around 1 this morning Pacific Time.

Dammit. I was hoping, between Jes flying home and the benefit show that Steve’s friends are throwing Friday night at New London’s Hygienic Art Park, that he would’ve lasted the week.

*****

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Love those fortune cookies, Part 20

June 10, 2012

I haven’t sworn off Chinese food; hardly. But as 2011 ground its way down in to 2012 and the frustration about my life and job and financial situations began to escalate and batter down some of my last lines of defense, I started to glance at my fortunes, then toss them in my purse, where they magically disappear forever. I had started to believe that, despite my best hopes, these fortunes, however salient they seemed, were just full of crap and that I was deluding myself. Hence, this quasi-regular feature of my blog ground to a halt as well.

Well, after a rough couple weeks near the edge of the figurative cliff leading into my birthday, things seem to be on a positive upswing again. And this past week, I had two fortunes that resonated.

Last Monday, my birthday, I worked. And I stopped at my usual Chinese takeout place on the way in. And this is what I received:

“Luck is coming your way.”

Of course, I realize that could be taken more than one way. But since it was my birthday, and I spent much of the day fielding well-wishes and talking with loved ones, I took it the best way possible.

And tonight, I stopped in there again. And here’s what I got for my troubles and my seven bucks:

“You will conquer obstacles to achieve success.”

Honey, my whole last 4 1/2 years have been a series of obstacles!. Don’t tell me there are more!Actually, I’ll just chalk it up to bad grammar and mentally change the tense:

“You will have conquered obstacles to achieve success.”

Yeah — that’s more like it!

But this Year of the Water Dragon is nearly half over; I’m getting a little antsy here … I will be a success I will be a success I will be a success I will be a success I will be a success …

Five Songs, Part 83 (Bob Welch edition)

June 8, 2012

Thought I was getting away from the thematic Five Songs and getting back to something “normal” this week. But this post comes on the heels of yesterday’s suicide death of Bob Welch.

Welch, a Los Angeles native, was the first American in Fleetwood Mac — the bridge between their beginnings as a John Mayall-weaned British blues band and their for-better-and-worse next chapter as a California hitmaking machine. He stayed around for four years (1971-75) and three albums, and convinced the band to move to California before he left in favor of Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. His main musical contributions were “Sentimental Lady” and “Hypnotized.”

His first solo album, French Kiss, came out in 1977, with studio help from Buckingham and other Mac members, in the midst of the disco era, and it was a solid pop album. It was a rarity — he managed to both hold onto his rock and pop roots and create songs polished enough to hold up well on a dance floor. He redid “Sentimental Lady” and turned it into a top-40 hit the second time around, hammered out a hard guitar on “Hot Love, Cold World,” and delivered three tunes with enough synth-string slickness for any dance club: the hit “Ebony Eyes,” “Carolene” and my favorite, “Easy to Fall.” And this continued into his next album. Three Hearts, just before I graduated from high school in the spring of 1979, with “Precious Love.”

Then came the end of disco, a heroin addiction and other factors that wrapped up his heyday. And for all his troubles, and for being such a pivotal member of the band, he was omitted when Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. Old animosities die hard, I guess.

Anyway, Welch was an underrated talent, one who left a lot of what-ifs even in his prime.

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My Pride parade

June 2, 2012

Just another of the thousands of Beach Boys fanatics at the Greek Theatre at UC-Berkeley last night. My own little unintentional Pride parade.

The spirit was willing but the flesh was very weak. And maybe I’m just not as young as I used to be.

Last night, I went to see one of my all-time concerts — probably the final time I’ll see my beloved Beach Boys, on their 50th-anniversary tour, from the third row center at the University of California’s Hearst Greek Theatre in Berkeley.(They played 46 songs in about 2 1/2 hours — no way are they gonna “Do It Again” after this tour, all of them nearing 70.)

With a couple-hour stop for a nap on the way back to Fresno, I got back to the house-that-I-refuse-to-call-a-home at 5 a.m. The adrenaline was flowing, so I posted the playlist on Facebook and answered a couple of responses. Finally was ready to sleep at 6:30 this morning. I set the alarm for 8:30, fully expecting to jump up and hit the shower and head to the Tower District for the Pride parade at 10, as usual on the first Saturday of June.

“Uh-UHHHHH,” my body said, wagging its finger at me. “Girlfriend, you get your ass back to bed!” So since my body has been fighting me of late, with problems with allergies and breathing and a lot of restless sleep — and because I have to work tonight — I gave in and settled in for some more unsettled sleep. (more…)

Five Songs, Part 82 (Beach Boys edition)

June 1, 2012

Bruce Johnston, Al Jardine, Brian Wilson, Mike Love and David Marks — together again for the first time for the last time.

Five Songs this week comes out the day I head to Berkeley to see The Beach Boys at the Greek Theatre, a gift from a friend (thanks again, kid!).

The Beach Boys were my first big concert, at the New Haven Coliseum as a teen in the summer of ’78; they were then touring then to support The M.I.U. Album, and I don’t believe Brian was with them at that point, or even Dennis; I was sitting in the nosebleeds and couldn’t tell, anyway. The next June, they returned to New Haven the Saturday after I graduated from high school to headline a huge concert at the Yale Bowl. (Also on the bill: The Cars, Eddie Money and The Henry Paul Band, with Flo & Eddie as the emcees.)

Now, I’m seeing The Beach Boys on what will probably be their final tour.

I mean, there were millions of reasons for the group to put aside all their bygones and get together again and tour to celebrate their 50th anniversary. But I can’t imagine this lasting forever. I can’t imagine Brian will want to do this much longer, nor will he have to.

Look — I was spoiled when he took to the road again in 1999. And did so again with a Pet Sounds tour the next year. (I saw him and his band do the album in full twice — with a 54-piece orchestra at one of the shows of my life, at Mohegan Sun in July 2000, and his last American performance of the album, at the Oakland Paramount in February 2007, with Al Jardine and Rikki Fataar among the backing singers.)

I was spoiled further when Brian decided to complete a version of SMiLE with his band in 2004 — and then fully spoiled when he and The Beach Boys pieced together the shards of the original SMiLE and released it as a box set last fall.

Neither he nor the band owe me anything. They’ve given me joy and pain and everything in between since I was a teenager. They’ve given me some of the soundtrack of my life.

So anyway, I’m spoiled one more time — getting to see them one final time. And here’s an extended Five Songs to commemorate. Few of these songs will be played tonight, but that’s fine. I really don’t know what to expect from a bunch of guys at or near 70 except maybe the equivalent of a valedictory lap or a lifetime achievement award. I don’t know if we’ll be applauding talent or the ghostly memories of it. I just don’t know. I just know that there will be some finality about things.

(And in the spirit of last-minute additions to Five Songs: I’ve included the nostalgia-trippin’ title tune of the new Beach Boys album, which comes out Tuesday …)

Let’s Go Away for Awhile

You Still Believe in Me

That’s Not Me

God Only Knows

I Know There’s an Answer

I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times

Wonderful

Surf’s Up

This Whole World

‘Til I Die

That’s Why God Made the Radio