Archive for May, 2013

Humility

May 30, 2013

B-W meditationI started this just-past Memorial Day the way I start most Mondays — with my usual week-opening read: Peter King’s newest Monday Morning Quarterback on SI.com. Being a holiday week, and a light news time in football, King went heavy on other things besides the usual news: Memorial Day, a look back at Brian Urlacher’s just-ended career … and snippets of commencement speeches.

And one excerpt struck me.

It was from author John Green’s address to the newly minted grads at Butler University. His words, obviously, were meant for a few thousand college kids entering the work world at an awfully tough time to be entering the work world, not someone going through a whopper of a mid-life crisis after being discarded by the work world. But the passage that King ran with could easily have been written about my life:

” … You are probably going to be a nobody for a while. You are going to make that journey from strength to weakness, and while it won’t be an easy trip, it is a heroic one. For in learning how to be a nobody, you will learn how not to be a jerk. And for the rest of your life, if you are able to remember your hero’s journey from college grad to underling, you will be less of a jerk. You will tip well. You will empathize. You will be a mentor, and a generous one. …”

During my way-too-long struggle to find a full-time job these last four years — one that has brought me quite a few times to the brink of losing my sanity and/or pondering ending my life — I’ve often thought, in my most lucid moments, that maybe this is one of the big lessons I’ve had to learn these past four years: humility.

That’s way too simplistic, though. Or is it? And what constitutes humility and what constitutes ego and conceit, anyway?

The battle rages on.

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Cygnus Radio Playlist 5/24/13: So many directions, so little time

May 28, 2013
The man, the myth, the legend, the Tiur de Force. With Brute Force after his show at Two Boots in Bridgeport, 5/23/13.

The man, the myth, the legend, the Tour de Force. With Brute Force after his show at Two Boots in Bridgeport, 5/23/13. Bethany Appleby photo.

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

I came into this latest episode of Franorama 2.0 with a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of territory to cover in three hours.

I was coming off a show where my audience quadrupled, thanks to a mention on iTunes as a must-listen. I was also coming off a very active week musically:

The death of Ray Manzarek that Monday. It’s one thing to play The Doors everyone does it. (And rightfully so; Ray’s keyboard playing stands up there along with Felix Cavaliere and Al Kooper as the best of the ’60s.) But there was more. In addition to the three obligatory Doors songs (my favorite, “Soul Kitchen”; “Peace Frog,” because you can’t live in or near New Haven without a little blood in the streets in the town of New Haven; and “Light My Fire,” a classic use or organ in a rock song), I played two 1965 songs from his pre-Doors band, Rick & the Ravens, and two songs from X’s first album, Los Angeles, which he produced.

Brute Force the night before in Bridgeport. Back in the late ’80s, an old friend let me borrow his copy of the damndest album in the history of Columbia Records: the 1967 release I, Brute Force: Confections of Love. Well-measured abdurdity of a time and place. Anyway, Mr, Force — who later recorded for Apple, having been championed by George Harrison and John Lennon, no strangers to absurd humor — is still plying his musical trade, and in an I-never-thought-I’d-see-the-day moment, he and his eyebrows and his band (including his daughter, Lilah, on backing vocals) came to Two Boots Pizza in downtown Bridgeport the night before the show. the audience was way too small (about 15) but enthusiastic. And rightfully so.

Bob Dylan’s 72nd birthday. I was kinda Bobbed out, having played three hours of him the previous day as part of a WPKN fundraiser. But since it was his actual birthday, I couldn’t let it slide. So I didn’t. Bob got a set of tunes from you actually could understand what he was singing.

She & Him. The new third album by She & Him, cleverly titled Volume 3, is out, and Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward raised the bar here, a difficult task since Volume Two was such a gem. Played three killer originals, plus a mini-battle of the bands: three songs remade by Zooey and M., alongside the original versions. The real revelation was “Baby,” a rare side of vinyl from 1965 by someone much better known for her songwriting, Ellie Greenwich. She wrote the song with her then-husband/songwriting partner, Jeff Barry, and the recently deceased Shadow Morton, the man who shaped The Shangri-Las’ sound. Both versions here were excellent, but Ellie’s was a revelation.

New sounds: I’ve been soliciting new sounds from musicians all across my Facebook spectrum. And musicians have been responding, and I played two new-to-me performers on the show for the first time last Friday. From Albany, N.Y., came The Mysteios, latter-day garage featuring Johnny Mystery on guitar and his daughter, Tambourine Girl, on vocals. They’ve been getting play on the Underground Garage channel on Sirius XM, and I’m glad to have them aboard this show as well. From Austin, Texas, came the reflective sounds of singer/songwriter Eric Hisaw, who’ll be coming this way for the first time, playing at Cane Nine in New Haven June 5.

Anyway, the only downer was that the audience was back to its original numbers last week; the bounce the week before didn’t hold. Hoping the algorithms line up again at some point and that I end up on iTunes’ radar again and get a huge chunk of new listeners, and that they’ll stick around.

Anyway, if you like what you hear, listen on Fridays or click on the archives and tune in at your leisure. Also, please like my Facebook page and get your friends to do the same. And if you’re a musician who wants to get played on my show, go to my Facebook page and message me, and I’ll send you my snail and email addresses. Anyway, let’s do this again this Friday:

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WPKN playlist 5/23/13: The Bob Fill-in Edition

May 28, 2013
The artist in a more comprehensible time.

The artist in a more comprehensible time.

For the link to the May 23 episode of Franorama 2.0 on WPKN, click here and, for the final hour, here. Franorama 2.0 appears sporadically as a fill-in at PKN until your hostess’ job situation clears up and she can wrangle a regular shift.

Last week was another double-duty week for Franorama 2.0 — the usual 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday shift (May 24) on Cygnus Radio, preceded by a fill-in shift from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday on WPKN, my terrestrial radio home in Bridgeport.

It was my first time back on the air in 2 1/2 months; my last show, part of a day-long Women of WPKN programming block in March, was a midnight-to-2 shift in the midst of the winter’s last big snowstorm. This was no usual show, either. Nor was it a usual fundraiser. It was the second shift into a two-day “Dylan Days” fundraiser, using Bob’s name in vain and exploiting the 40th anniversary of the day he could no longer be trusted (last Friday) in order to generate operating funds for the station.

It was Christmas for me, too. Got to hear (and rip into my laptop) a recent Columbia box set of his first eight albums remastered in mono on CD, plus a couple other albums. Also heard and played selections from a six-CD import box set, A Long Time a Growin’, a collection of live recordings from that pivotal year of 1961, which ended with Bobby Z being signed to Columbia Records. And it pays to read the liner notes: I played three songs (all Woody Guthrie tunes) recorded May 6, 1961 at the Indian Neck Folk Festival, an exclusive, invite-only fest staged by a couple of Yale grads at the old Montowese Hotel, in the Indian Neck section of Branford.

The radio shift was a success, as was the weekend — where, in addition to box sets, we put up, for the pledging, tickets to Dylan’s July 19 show at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport (with Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Ryan Bingham), as well as tickets to the Gathering of the Vibes the last weekend of July at Seaside Park in Bridgeport, and the Green River and Falcon Ridge festivals. The station’s goal for the two days was $10,200; John Corvino’s morning drive shift, preceding mine, brought in over $2K to open the fundraiser, and my shift brought in over a grand. It certainly was productive.

Well, here was my Dylan playlist. Hope I passed the audition, No, wait, that was a Lennon reference …

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My phoner with Ray (Ray Manzarek, 1939-2013)

May 20, 2013
Ray Manzarek, 20th century. Not a fox, but a damn good keyboardist.

Ray Manzarek, mid-20th century. Not a fox, but a damn good keyboardist.

May 20, 2013

Editor’s note: This is the end for Ray Manzarek. The clock said it’s time to close now. News just came in a few minutes ago of the death today of Manzarek — The Doors’ keyboardist/co-founder and producer of X’s first two albums — after a long battle with bile duct cancer. He was 74. (Can’t believe he was only three years younger than my mother …)

I interviewed Ray on the phone one morning in April 2003 for the New Haven Register. It was a preview of The Doors 21st Century — that abomination of a tour with Ian Astbury pretending to be Jim Morrison — coming to the Oakdale Theatre in nearby Wallingford; the story and sidebar ran on the morning of the show, April 28. It was the first time Ray and Robby Krieger (with a hired-gun drummer and bassist) had played that close to New Haven since, well, Dec. 9, 1967, when they did a little show at the old New Haven Arena.

None of my Register stories made the conversion to electronic archives unscathed (every one of my stories I’ve found has had the first sentence, paragraph or page missing), and all my clips are in storage, but thankfully, I’ve been able to find the pieces here and here. Ray seemed very upbeat over the phone from his home in Los Angeles — maybe because he was anticipating a return to New Haven? Who knows? But it went well. And here are the main story and the sidebar in their entirety:

Strange days, indeed

Three decades later, a reincarnation of The Doors

By Fran Fried, Register Entertainment Editor

April 28, 2003

The big question isn’t why Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger have revived The Doors without the band’s focal point. After all, they recorded two albums and carried on for 16 months after the death of singer Jim Morrison in July 1971. As what’s being billed as The Doors 21st Century pulls into Wallingford’s Oakdale Theatre for a show tonight, the big question is: Why now?

There have been other times when it would have made more sense – say, the late ’70s, when Doorsmania inexplicably erupted (hallmarked by the Rolling Stone Morrison cover: “He’s Hot. He’s Sexy. He’s Dead.”); or perhaps in 1991, when Oliver Stone’s film “The Doors” came out, starring Val Kilmer as Morrison.

“Why now? Because it’s the 21st century,” said Manzarek, the band’s keyboardist, from his Los Angeles home two weeks ago. “The Doors were not going to get together in the 20th century. But there’s wars going on and the economy is going down the drain and the environment is being threatened … it’s like the ’60s all over again.” Besides, he added, “In ’91, it would have been clever to capitalize on the movie. But who would we have gotten to sing?” You could hear the sneer. “Vallll – Kilmer?”

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Cygnus Radio and WPKN playlists, 5/17/13: I got (algo)rithm

May 20, 2013
Ernie Banks was right -- it was a wonderful day to play two.

Ernie Banks was right — it was a wonderful day to play two.

For the links to this and all other Franorama 2.0 shows on Cygnus Radio, click here. For the link to this episode of Franorama 2.0 on WPKN, click here. Franorama 2.0 can be heard live on Cygnus Radio from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT (7-10 a.m. PDT) Fridays; WPKN shows are on a fill-in basis for now; keep posted on the station’s Facebook page.

Well, this past Friday, for the first time, I did radio shows on two different stations on the same day — the Franorama 2.0 Double-Duty Day-Night Doubleheader. First, my regular 10 a.m.-1 p.m. shift from the comfort of home on Cygnus Radio, then down to Bridgeport for a 4-7 p.m. fill-in on WPKN. Howard Thompson, the host of the regularly scheduled show, Pure — and a longtime big-label record executive — trusted my musical tastes (thanks for the endorsement), to let me take the reins.

Anyway, it was exhausting but fun. I think I swept both ends of the doubleheader. And the day wasn’t just fun, it left me feeling a little optimistic at a time when I desperately need optimism.

The Cygnus show, now on the air three months, is still a fledging show on an upstart station, and understandably, the audience is small for now. But a funny thing happened just past the first half hour — the number of listeners jumped 2 1/2 times, then it tripled, and withing five minutes, it had quadrupled. (I have the analytics right there on the screen as I play.) And I kept about two-thirds of that audience for the rest of the show.

This had to be a glitch, right? A spam attack or something? An undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese? Well, no. I texted our fearless leader, Gary Gone, to ask about this, and he explained: However the Apple algorithems work — and who knows how these damn things work? — someone at iTunes apparently labeled my show as a must-listen, which prompted huge the jump in listeners all of a sudden.

Coolness! I’m hoping this is the door opening just a crack enough for the flood to start rushing in. I need something to happen! I’m hoping the people who came and stayed will tell their friends, who, in turn, will tell their friends, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera …

Anyway, a couple musical highlights of the day:

The Outta Sites (both shows): Chris “Sugarballs” Sprague, who made a sideways appearance in a blog post here a couple weeks ago, is one of the hardest-working musicians I know: longtime drummer/second guitarist for

Chris Sprague (second from left) fronting The Outta Sites.

Chris Sprague (second from left) fronting The Outta Sites.

Deke Dickerson … has been playing drums for Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys (who came to Cafe Nine in New Haven the previous weekend) … behind the kit for Los Straitjackets (who come to Cafe Nine June 10) … and now, he fronts his own band, The Outta Sites. Their newly released debut album, Up All Night, is a killer. Think one part Dave Clark Five, one part That Thing You Do, one part Nuggets and Pebbles collections, throw in the atmosphere of the mid-’60s L.A. club scene, and you get the picture.

Jonathan Richman and The Velvet Underground (WPKN): An old friend, Lauren, who lives and works around Hartford, messaged me on the Book of Faces the night before to ask if I could play the Velvets. I started, at long last, pulling boxes of CDs from my storage space to rip into this laptop that serves as my radio station and traveling music library. But I haven’t found my Velvets box set yet. Anyway, I did find one VU song, but not until after I steered her to Jonathan Richman, the onetime VU groupie, singing “Velvet Underground” … and one of our mutual faves, “Double Chocolate Malted” (No nuts! No nuts!), and, for good measure, The Groovie Ghoulies playing a Jonathan song.

Well, that’s enough for now. Back to a single Cygnus shift this Friday, leading into the holiday weekend. Please drop in and give a listen. And if you like what you hear, tell your friends, and tell your friends to tell their friends. And “like” my Franorama 2.0/Franorama World Facebook page. And if you’re so inclined to help out financially, there’s a PayPal button at the end of each blog post.  Anyway, catch you this Friday!

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Cygnus Radio playlist 5/10/13: Mr. Jones, smooth sailing and ‘Stormy Weather’

May 11, 2013
Blake Jones was on top of the world this week.

Blake Jones, on top in this photo and on top of the world this week.

For the archive links for this and all my Franorama 2.0 shows on Cygnus Radio, click here. The show airs live from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT (7-10 a.m. PDT, 2-5 p.m. GMT) Fridays.

With each week, I’m more psyched about this online radio thing.

In terms of technical matters, this latest edition of Franorama 2.0 on Cygnus Radio was the best and smoothest yet in my nearly three short months there. No glitches — the software and the mic/headset were both on their best behavior, and the voice levels were perfect. (Laptop radio is, indeed, a different world than terrestrial radio, with its higher-end equipment …)

Musically, it was smooth sailing, too. I finally started, after nine months home, plowing into my storage bin and pulling CDs to rip into this here laptop/station. The little things mean a lot. In this case: getting comfortable with processing the thousands of songs through my computer music files instead of manually rifling through records and CD cases, as in days of old. I think I’m finally there. Like everything, it takes a little time, and the more I do it, and the more I access my files, the more I remember what I have … and the more angles I can bounce into my shows. Garage meets soul meets rockabilly/roots meets country meets punk meets … the Great American Songbook.

To start the final hour, I featured a set to celebrate the 50th birthday of one of my favorite people — and one of the best pop songwriters you might never have heard — the first non-Fresno Bee person I met in Fresno in 2004, Blake Jones. This comes in advance of his new EP, Teasers from the Whispermaphone, which should be out any day now.

The only thing that came close to a glitch, but ended up being a happy accident, came right at the end of the show. Curse that social media …

Still dead, unfortunately.

Still dead, unfortunately.

I usually keep up with things on my Facebook page as I do the show just in case some news breaks (like the death of George Jones two weeks prior). In this case, a few minutes before the end, someone, or someones, posted links to Lena Horne’s obituary. I read it, saw that she had died May 9 — which would have been the day before the show — and quickly shared the post and subbed out my final song, Dave Edmunds’ version of John Fogerty’s “Almost Saturday Night,” for “Stormy Weather.”

Not realizing that she died May 9 three years ago. Something that somehow slipped past me at the time. Since she’s ageless, it wasn’t a bad choice to close the show, but still … Damn that social media!

Anyway, what is encouraging is that musicians are starting to respond to the show and send their latest recordings for airplay — just like old times. This week, Ed Valauskas, onetime New Haven scenester (with The Gravel Pit) and longtime Boston fixture, sent two new offerings from his Q Division studio — The new album by Christian McNeill & Sea Monsters, Everything’s Up for Grabs, and the new country EP by Ed’s wife, Jen D’Angora (of Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents fame), under the name Jenny Dee & Several Men of Mystery.

Anyway, if you’re a musician who wants to get some airplay here — if I like it, I’ll play it. Message me here or on my Facebook page — and I’ll send you my address. And come back and join me next week — there’s always room for you here in the studio!

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Cygnus Radio playlist 5/3/13: I’ll go crazy

May 4, 2013
Just a prisoner of love.

From the heights (the Godfather) …

For the links to this and all other archived Franorama 2.0 shows on Cygnus Radio, click here. The show airs live from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET Fridays (that’s 7-10 a.m. PT, 2-5 p.m. GMT). 

Now this is the type of show I envisioned when I started doing this online radio thang a couple months ago: No technical glitches and pretty freewheeling as it took me — and, hopefully, you — to places I didn’t expect.

This week’s Franorama 2.0 on Cygnus Radio was a kinda nutty show — and not just because James Brown was singing “I’ll Go Crazy,” as I put together an hour of his earlier stuff to commemorate what would’ve been the Godfather’s 80th birthday. (Bit of trivia: James died on Christmas morning 2006 — two days before he was to play a show at Waterbury’s Palace Theatre, about 10 minutes from home. If I remember right, his final interview was with, of all places, my evil and heinous first newspaper, the Republican-American.)

I mean, as I rebuild my music library online, I’ve been finding all the nooks and crannies of my memory banks — and that includes a lot of the scrapings. Crazy tunes. And I kinda went crazy on that front, too. Let’s see …

  • A truckload of ’80s garage tunes, some from the ROIR Garage Sale! cassette …
  • A couple tunes from one of the great garage collections ever — Crypt Records’ Going All the Way With The Squires! from 1986. The Squires (ne The Rogues) were from nearby Bristol, more than a decade before the Worldwide Leader in Sports Television was founded there. One locally produced single under their original name, one under their later name for Atco Records, then college and Vietnam and all the things that broke up garage bands back then. And hordes of collectors in the following years. And a lot of great tunes, many released until this. This album will be a staple in shows to come.
  • A single from my college years featuring an electric mixer … one of the great wakeup records of all time (you’re welcome, West Coast) …
  • The B-side to one of the most controversial hit singles of the ’60s — the song runs in reverse, and the label is even printed in reverse!
  • A single about a primitive robot from my toddlerhood in Brooklyn in the early ’60s, when robots were a big thing …
  • Adam & the Ants’ spoof of “Y.M.C.A.,” released in the early ’80s as a flexidisc for the short-lived English music mag Flexipop
  • And the most timeless group I’ve ever heard, King Uszniewicz and His Uszniwicztones. By timeless, I mean no sense of tempo whatsoever. Imagine four instruments racing to cram themselves down the same funnel hole at the same time, with a voice that sounds like air being slowly let out of a tire forever. So the legend goes, it was a Detroit bowling alley lounge band from the mid-’70s “produced” by the late, great Cub Koda. I always thought it was a goof perpetuated by him and Billy Miller of Norton Records; both strongly denied it to me. Plan B theory: It was Brownsville Station on a bender.

    king u

    to the depths (the King).

  • And, oh yeah, the original version of a song re-“recorded” by King U — “Little Dead Surfer Girl,” an early-’70s surf/doo-wop ditty by another Connecticut group, The Incredible Broadside Brass Bed Band. Recorded at Trod Nossel Studios in nearby Wallingford — whose late owner, Doc Cavalier, was Cub’s producer/manager in his final years. (Coincidence?)

Anyway, you can hear the show in perpetuity online, or check in live next Friday morning. Enjoy the week!

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Musical War Stories: Dance, Franny, Dance, or the only time I’ll ever stump Deke Dickerson

May 2, 2013
Deke can do the work of four men onstage.

Deke can do the work of four men onstage.

(C) 2013, Fran Fried

Deke Dickerson is not only one of the true godlike figures of modern guitar — started in a surf band, graduated to rockabilly and vintage country and just about anything good and decent in between — and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of music. And one of the best senses of memory and recall I’ve ever seen.

I’m talking titanium trap here — not quite as absolute total-recall as Marilu Henner, but pretteee damn close. I mean, I’m blessed/cursed with a stellar memory, but he makes me seem as if I’m senile — which, my friends will tell you, is pretty huge. His talent for recall might be even better than his guitar playing, and that’s world-class.

I’m living proof of that. At some points of my life, he has simply floored me. But there was one night — and there will, indeed, be only one — where I was able to stump him. Just barely.

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