Archive for April, 2013

Jason Collins: The bold first step to “Meh”

April 29, 2013
The first of (hopefully) many.

The first of (hopefully) many.

Thank God for something substantial to keep Tim Tebow’s being cut by the Jets from taking up all the sports talk today.

The big news today — one of the year’s biggest sports stories in America — is that, for the first time ever, a male athlete in one of the country’s four major sports leagues has come out as gay while still playing.

With all the talk about the possibilities of a football star coming out — recently released Baltimore Ravens linebacker and longtime gay-rights advocate Brendon Ayanbadejo said that as many as four current NFL players could come out simultaneously soon, and the LGBT-friendly Deadspin has been getting mileage out of the possibility that Arizona’s Kerry Rhodes, one of the league’s top shutdown corners, is gay — no one saw it coming from a journeyman pro, and certainly not from the NBA.

But here it is: Jason Collins, a 12-year free-agent center out of Stanford who played for his fifth and six pro teams (Celtics and Wizards) this past season, sat down with Sports Illustrated’s Franz Lidz and told his story. (The print version comes out Thursday.)

Collins is a big man — an even 7 feet — but no bigger than he is today. He took it upon himself, and in the month of Jackie Robinson, no less, to be the one to open the floodgates to acceptance and ending the titillation about sexual identity and taking the huge step toward ending public prejudice once and for all.

As someone who faced all the fears of coming out in recent years (sure, transgender isn’t gay, but we, as groups, have historically shared the same set of abuses) — and who has been rewarded with more love, acceptance and respect than I ever imagined were possible — I couldn’t be happier for him. He will receive a lot more of that love and support and respect than he could have ever thought, and while athletes are traditionally prone to wacko hate mail and terrible tweets without coming out, the percentage of haters will be small. The world is his.

Congratulations, Jason — you’ve taken the first big step to “Meh.” And I mean that in the best way possible. As in, a couple years from now, being an out gay pro athlete will be no big thing, just as it’s no big thing to be a black quarterback anymore.


Cygnus Radio playlist 4/26/13: Tributes to life and death

April 29, 2013
George Jones: One of the greatest voices -- and, in his younger days, the greatest flattop -- in American music.

George Jones: One of the greatest voices — and, in his younger days, the greatest flattop — in American music.

For the link to this and all other Franorama 2.0 shows on Cygnus Radio, click here.

Well, after being rudely technically interrupted for a week — software nightmares caused me to shut down the planned April 19 show — Franorama 2.0 returned to Cygnus Radio this past Friday and picked up where I was left off.

I started the show with the opening set I planned for the week before, when it was more topical — save for the first four songs, an overstuffed set of Boston tunes. (And by that, I don’t mean the band Boston — I mean the land of my esteemed enemies, the Sawx. I mean Boston area-based musicians, with the glaring exception being the most famous song about Boston ever recorded by a band from L.A.)

And in the midst of the first set, the news feed on the Book of Faces was suddenly ablaze with the news of death earlier in the morning of George Jones. What I couldn’t get was all the sadness going around. I mean, the guy was 81, and let’s face it — this man, whose every obituary included a more-than-passing reference hi his legendary drinking, should have been dead 30, 40 years ago. Hell, his longevity was even more incredible than his career!

What is, indeed, sad is that one of the truly great and no-bullshit voices in American music — not to mention, in his younger days, the greatest flattop — is gone. Leaving “country” more and more in the hands of prepackaged blonde tarts, and twerps who play bad “classic” “rawk” and pass it off as “country” by wearing a cowboy hat or a Larry the Cable Guy-style baseball hat.

Anyway, these are the moments when you realize that your backup hard drive didn’t quite capture every song from your old laptop. And that included almost everything of George’s. So I played the only two songs I had: “Rock It,” his 1956 rockabilly single for Starday Records under the alias Thumper Jones; and his 1981 duet with Elvis Costello on “Stranger in the House” that pretty much redefined Elvis’ career in the public eye.

Scott Miller in his Game Theory days.

Scott Miller in his Game Theory days.

And I had a couple of tributes in store. One, left over from the previous week, was to Scott Miller, the former frontman for ’80s Bay Area alt-pop group Game Theory, who died at 53. “Here It Is Tomorrow,” from his 1986 album The Big Game Chronicles, was one of the best songs of the whole ’80s. And the group, which broke up in ’89, was set to reunite and record a new album later this year. Another was a soul cover you probably never heard by Ella Fitzgerald, the day after what would have been her 96th birthday. And two more passings in the final set: the sultry and tough Divinyls singer Chrissy Amphlett, who finally lost her twin battles with breast cancer and MS last week at 53; and one I found out about from March: Buddy McRae, the last surviving member of The Chords, of “Sh-Boom” fame.

Other tidbits from the show:

  • Songs for the living. Three acts who performed at Cafe Nine. Quintron, from New Orleans, played in the middle of the week before, and was a revelation. A wacky mix of a puppet show, a DJ and a young man, Quintron, who cranks out a Hammond B-3 sound way beyond his years and in ways that weren’t conceivable back in the day. And joined by a lovely blonde singer named Miss Pussycat. A night and a half before my show, The Woggles (from Atlanta, except, these days. for singer Manfred Jones, who lives in L.A. and hosts a show on Little Steven’s Underground Garage channel on Sirius XM) returned for their second show since I’ve been home. How Manfred stays that limber and manic (he has to be my age) is beyond me. I played something from their latest album, The Big Beat. And the night after my radio show, one of my favorite music people, the lovely fiddler/pop singer/songwriter Deni Bonet played, so I played four tunes from her new album, It’s All Good.
  • The name remains the same. Two instances where I played songs back to back with the same title but which were totally different. First, The Rascals (who not only have buried their hatchets after all these years, but are currently on Broadway, to boot), with one of my favorite songs of the many songs of theirs I like, “A Girl Like You,” followed by Edwyn Collins’ tune, the best song of the ’90s, far as I’m concerned. Then I segued out of Deni’s “Cynical Girl” into Marshall Crenshaw’s song of the fame name from his classic debut disc.

Anyway, that’s all. Catch you this Friday. I hope.


Love Those Fortune Cookies, Part 25

April 19, 2013

fortune20cookieI hate false hope. Despise it. But, if you’ve been reading this blog — all six of you — you know that I often get fortune cookies that somehow pertain to my current situation.

This particular day has been nothing but dark clouds. (And now it’s just plain dark, regardless of cloud cover.) My Cygnus Radio show didn’t happen this morning (for the second time in the two months since I started it) because of another damned software/headphone/mic problem. In the scheme of things, it was small, but it was a trigger event — one more frustration atop every other frustration I’ve encountered over the last four years. Frustration after frustration after frustration after … Okay, I know — you get it.

And this afternoon, I got a rejection — for a copywriter job at an ad agency in Brooklyn. Only one day after I sent in the application. That’s some sort of personal record. Not sure, after 450 or so vain attempts to land a job these last four years, whether to accept the fact that I’m truly a deplorably shitty writer and worthless human being or be grateful that, unlike 99.9 percent of the work world, this company at least had the decency to send me a discard note.


Cygnus Radio playlist 4/12/13: We’ll never see this again

April 13, 2013
It's a wild hockey weekend in Connecticut -- Yale and Quinnipiac playing for the NCAA championship.

It’s a wild (and unprecedented) hockey weekend in Connecticut — Yale and Quinnipiac playing for the NCAA men’s hockey championship.

Franorama 2.0 airs live from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT Fridays (7-10 a.m. PDT, 2-5 p.m. GMT) on Cygnus Radio. For the link to this and all other archived shows, click here.

I’m finding, oddly enough, that the creative process of putting together my weekly Franorama 2.0 show on Cygnus Radio is somewhat different than all those years doing terrestrial radio at WPKN in Bridgeport. It’s a lot more social media-reliant in the way I draw inspiration for what is, by nature, a freewheeling show.

This week’s show is no exception.

Well, I knew one small direction in which the show was going in the opening set: In commemoration of the unprecedented feat of two Connecticut schools (Yale of New Haven and Quinnipiac of Hamden, seven miles apart) playing for the NCAA men’s hockey championship, I played two tunes from Connecticut’s other major current contribution to hockey, The Zambonis.

(And free-associated from that into “Wild Hockey Weekend,” from their 2012 album Five Minute Major (in D Minor), into the song they semi-covered, NRBQ’s “It’s a Wild Weekend,” and from that 1989 chestnut into Rebels’ original 1962 instrumental, “Wild Weekend.” Maybe the first time all three songs were ever played consecutively …)

A chart whose likes we'll never see again -- the week of April 12, 1964.

A chart whose likes we’ll never see again — the week of April 4, 1964.

But the night before (which happens to be the title of a Beatles song, I know) this April 12th show, someone posted a neat little photo and item on Facebook. It was 49 years ago this week — the week of April 11, 1964 — that The Fab Four had 14 songs in the Billboard Hot 100. Five of them were in the top 10 — and not only that, the week before, all five of those songs were at Nos. 1-5 on the chart. File that little bit of fun trivia under Cool Things We’ll Never See Again.

So I had the inspiration for two more sets: in ascending order, the bottom seven Beatle songs from that week (Nos. 81, 78, 74, 61, 52, 50 and 48), then the top seven (Nos. 38, 14, 9, 7, 4, 2 and 1). And it was also a sideways tribute to my musical friends in Fresno, The Beetles, playing their 20th-anniversary show this weekend at the Starline. I’m allergic to “tribute” bands as a rule, but this fabulous four (Nate Butler, Blake Jones, Tom Magill and Stan Schaffer) are fantastic musicians who do this as an infrequent sideline, a hobby as opposed to a career move. (Blake’s group, The Trike Shop, and Tom and Stan’s trio, Poplord, have gotten airplay on this show.)

Other inspirations this week:

  • The rainy weather.
  • An obscure blues song (“You Don’t Love Me,” a 1961 side by Mississippi musician Willie Cobbs), and how it influenced some of white teen garage bands five years later (Kim & Grim’s version, a staple of Pebbles compilations; and New Haven’s own Bram Rigg Set).
  • Arguably sonically the first punk band, The Sonics, who are playing a sold-out date at The Bell House in Brooklyn in another of the heartfelt worldwide benefit shows for my pals Billy Miller and Miriam Linna at Norton Records, also in Brooklyn. Their warehouse space in Red Hook, with almost all their inventory, was flooded out and wiped out by Sandy. Norton has been reissuing The Sonics’ catalog since 1998, as well as releasing the early demos on the album The Savage Young Sonics. Karma has been coming around in spades for Billy and Miriam, two characters as beloved as anyone can be in the music world.

And finally — a show with no technical glitches. No software freezing up, no voice-level problems. Smooth sailing, the mic levels were fine for a change, and, well, let’s not jinx it, eh? See you next Friday — same Bat-time, same Bat-channel …


Cygnus Radio playlist 4/5/13: Tributes because I can

April 8, 2013
Marvin Gaye: Cause for joy and sorrow.

Marvin Gaye: Cause for joy and sorrow.

For the link to the archives to this and all my Franorama 2.0 shows on Cygnus Radio, click here.

The first Franorama 2.0 of April on Cygnus Radio was one of tributes — because I can. And both the living and dead were honored — no waiting ’til the person is stuck in the ground here.

That includes three sets of Marvin Gaye, for whom there was a twin milestone: what would have been his 74th birthday last Tuesday (April 2), preceded by the 29th anniversary of his death (April 1). And not one note of “Heard It Through the Grapevine.” Rather, I mixed in some rarely heard solo songs (including one of my favorites of his, a 1965 B-side called “When I Had Your Love”), as well as someĀ  rarely heard Tammi Terrell duets: the Sinatras’ “Somethin’ Stupid” and “California Soul,” which was written by Ashford & Simpson for The 5th Dimension.

And on to the living. I think it came out of my occasional recent Facebook messaging with one Rick Stone of El Paso. Rick was the road manager for The Bobby Fuller Four, was a friend of Bobby and is

Sonny Curtis: Who says you have to die to get a tribute?

Sonny Curtis: Who says you have to die to get a tribute?

a longtime flamekeeper. He friended me after I posted a photo of Bobby on my page a year or so ago.

Anyway, I got to thinking about the man who wrote “I Fought the Law,” Sonny Curtis. He’s still alive, and his birthday (76) isn’t until May 9, but I decided to honor him — well, because I can. It’s my show, and why wait ’til someone’s dead, especially when he’s only a year younger than my mother?

He was a guitarist in Buddy Holly‘s Crickets, went off to play with other musicians, then returned when Holly died, and wrote his greatest anthem (and sang lead) for the first Crickets album after Holly’s death. I’ve always believed that it doesn’t matter if you’ve only written one or two songs, as long as they’re the right two songs. In this case, it was the above song and his major contribution to television: “Love Is All Around,” the Mary Tyler Moore theme.

Naturally, “I Fought the Law” took up a chunk of the tribute, with six versions, three by Bobby Fuller: the Four’s classic 1966 version on Del-Fi; Bobby’s original 1964 single version on Exeter Records; and an alternate take of the Exeter single. (Useless bit of fun trivia: Each of the Fuller versions contains a different robbin’-people weapon — a zipgun in the original, a shotgun in the alternate take, and the well-known six-gun of the hit version.)

There was also a song Curtis wrote for The Crickets that was revived 20 years later in an easy-listening hit by Leo Sayer, a tune Glen Campbell recorded on the Wichita Lineman album; the 1987 country song of the year by the departed-too-soon Keith Whitley; and a heartfelt version of “Love Is All Around” by one of Minneapolis’ most famous musical products, Husker Du. (And I can kick myself for forgetting to include the third-most famous song Sonny wrote — The Everlys’ “Walk Right Back” — but I can make amends the next show.)

And there was one tiny mini-tribute in the final set: a couple of movie-related songs and a tune about eternity in memory of Roger Ebert, who died the day before.

And, as a tribute to music, and how it makes us feel, I’ll do the same thing this Friday and hopefully many more Fridays to come — same Bat-time, (10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT), same Bat-channel. Ciao …