Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pick Up Your Guitar

REO Speedwagon -- Flying Turkey Trot

I’m going to talk about a guy you’ve probably never heard of, but who I think in the music world has always been underappreciated. I am a fan of 70s era REO Speedwagon. Gary Richrath was one of the primary songwriters and lead guitar player. When discussions of rock’s greatest guitar players come up Gary’s name is never mentioned. He’s basically been forgotten. His band is treated as a joke which they really don’t deserve. In the 70s they had hits with Ridin’ the Storm Out, Roll with the Changes, Back on the Road Again, Time for Me to Fly, and 157 Riverside Avenue. These were great examples of the hard rock era.

I have no problem considering the 80s version of Speedwagon a joke because that’s when douche bag lead singer Kevin Cronin turned the band into a Peter Cetera-esque treacle producing crap factory. They deserve the non-success they’ve had since Cronin took control of the band. It was Cronin who, for all intents and purposes, forced Richrath to quit the band in 1989 because Gary wanted to return Speedwagon to being a ROCK band and Cronin wanted to write and sing more brain melting ballads.

REO Speedwagon’s 1979 album Nine Lives remains one of my favorites. Back then local rock radio station FM 104 would play a new release in its entirety every Friday at midnight. I remember lying on my bed and listening to Nine Lives and loving it immediately. The album was filled beginning to end with Richrath’s attitude and great guitar playing. I went out the next day to the Music Merchant and bought my copy which I still have.

REO Speedwagon started changing to a more pop oriented sound as the decade rolled over into the 80s and had their biggest selling release with Hi Infidelity. I like the album to a certain extent but this was the first record where Richrath’s rock n’ roll soul was being subdued. Each subsequent release over the years moved farther and farther into what Bart Simpson calls “wuss rock”. Suddenly the band that Gary Richrath had put on the map with his hard edged political protest song Golden Country had turned into Bread.

After leaving REO Speedwagon, Richrath put an eponymous band together which released one CD in 1992 and toured extensively. Another CD was started in 1998 but never finished. Since then he’s disappeared from music. Apparently drugs and alcohol have played a large part in his becoming a ghost and while this is all too common in the music industry, it’s still sad. I have to admit that I paid money to see the current touring version of REO Speedwagon a few years ago and now I’m kind of sorry I did. I helped perpetuate the fraud that Kevin Cronin is passing off. I believe it was just him and Bruce Hall as original members with a bunch of 20-something hired hand musicians surrounding them.

Without Gary Richrath there is no REO Speedwagon. Pick up your guitar again Gary. Rock n’ roll needs people like you.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Day Hell Tried to Deny Me a Tuna Salad Sandwich

I still remember the day, an innocuous Tuesday. An azure sky spread over the world like a protective cloak. Wisps of cumulous clouds hung above us like ornaments on a charm bracelet. Squirrels and rabbits played in my yard, dancing to whatever music is running through the head of a squirrel or rabbit if indeed any music is running through their heads, which would be pretty cool. I wonder if scientists have ever studied that, whether squirrels and rabbits hear music when they play.

Anyway, my point is it was a nice day. I was going to work and decided to stop at the grocery store on the way to get lunch. I knew exactly what I wanted so I would only need an extra 5 minutes. When I walked to my car if I had only noticed the burning, sulfurous magma of the underworld bubbling up through the earth, I would have known how wrong I was.

The drive up to the store was idyllic. Traffic was light and a good song on the radio pied-pipered me to my destination. I pulled into the strip mall parking lot and that was where the Devil’s minions began to pick at me like gnats. I started to make a right hand turn to drive past the pet store. There was a gentleman crossing the road in front of me. To say he was taking his time would be to say Michelle Bachmann is just a little eccentric. I don’t know the man’s name but I was calling him a bad word so for editorial purposes let’s just refer to him as Expletive. Expletive was taking steps equal to the length of a paramecium. In the time it took him to cross, 3 species of animals became extinct. When I was finally able to finish my right hand turn the Sun had completed burning all its hydrogen and was now burning helium for fuel. The dude was walking really slowly.

Although most of my extra five minutes had been used up I decided to press on. I drove down to the supermarket parking lot and made a right hand turn to look for a parking space. I should have been more observant. I should have looked to see if there was a sign at the front of the aisle that read “this aisle only for people who are willing to wait as long as it takes for the first available parking space rather than moving on”.

Sitting in the middle of the aisle in front of me was a car that was waiting to pull into the closest space. They were hindered in doing this because the car aside of the space had their doors open while they loaded groceries and pre-teen children. These two characters in my little playlet shall be now known as Nasty Swear Word and Word My Mother Wouldn’t Want Me to Say.

I couldn’t get around Nasty Swear Word and they were apparently willing to wait until the end of time to get that space. Word My Mother Wouldn’t Want Me to Say was moving at the same pace as Expletive had been moving. I knew now that no matter how quickly I purchased my tuna salad sandwich I was going to be late for work so I stayed where I was and waited impatiently for Word My Mother Wouldn’t Want Me To Say to close their doors and Nasty Swear Word to sssllloooooowwwwwlllyyyyy pull into the available space. I parked my own car and walked in to buy my lunch with several of the Devil’s sidekicks nipping at my heels. As I later pulled out of the parking lot they were still hanging onto the hood of my car chattering and making faces at me. I managed to shake them off about a mile down the road and was minion-free the rest of the evening.

You may be inclined to say I have exaggerated this story, but I want you to know it is 100% true. It happened just the way I have told it here and you’d have to be a communist or a libertarian to think otherwise.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Lady Gaga, Will You Please Gogo Away?

Who is this person, this Lady Gaga who has invaded our innocent planet with a Biblical plague of cheap tranny makeup, derivative music, and the costumes from a New York City Halloween parade? What thigh of what mythical creature was she torn from? Who said we needed another Elton John? I thought we were doing fine with the one we already have. Is our Elton in the shop? Is Gaga a loaner Elton?

While I think Gaga’s costumes are less about being flamboyant and more about covering up limited musical ability, I wouldn’t mind so much if she weren’t so ubiquitous. I realize publicity is necessary but does it have to be every single magazine cover I see? Does she have to be on every news and entertainment website I log on to? Last week I saw her on the cover of Bass Fisherman Quarterly dressed as a smallmouth with sunglasses in the shape of an Evenrude motor.

I understand People and US Weekly posting endless interviews and articles, because they’re bland, treacle producers and Gaga is the newest mindless, look-at-me pop princess. But why is “This Week in the Koran” doing an interview? Did The Zucchini Farmers and Gourd Consortium of America really have to do a style piece in their newsletter comparing her meteoric rise to the increased popularity of cucumbers among married couples ages 25-35?

Enough already! I would like a few of the precious days I have left on this earth to be Gaga free. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d type.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

ESPN: The French Whores of the Sports World

When basketball star LeBron James was ready to announce where he was going to play basketball next year, he suggested to ESPN that he do it in an hour long special they could air called “The Decision”. I wonder what other profound names they fed to the pigs to see what got shit back out: “A Complete Waste of 60 Minutes”, “Insult to Our Intelligence”, “The LeBron James Dancing Bear Variety Hour”, “Can You Believe The Shit They Put on TV” or “’What Else is on Theater’ Starring The Who Gives a Rat’s Ass Players”.

Since it took LeBron 3 seconds to say he was going to Miami, they only had 59 minutes and 57 seconds of air time to fill with sneaker commercials and prattle from the network’s legion of talking bobbleheads.

This fiasco was LeBron’s idea and I understand why ESPN said yes. James is a singular talent and the organization he chose to play for instantly became the favorite to win the NBA championship next year. They knew basketball fans all over the world would watch. That means high ratings, which translates into money which sets the suits in their ivory towers all aquiver and leaves them sweating bourbon back into their glass of ice. In the end “The Decision” was nothing more than an ode to narcissism and it left a bad taste in every sports fan’s mouth.

I’m surprised that no one at ESPN has suggested making The Decision a weekly show. For example: This week on The Decision Shaquille O’Neal decides which team to beg for a contract allowing him one more year of non-production for which he will get paid more money than some small countries have in reserve. Don’t miss next week when the Cincinnati Bengals decide to thumb their nose at the wrath of God and sign Terrell Owens for a year.

ESPN has recently compounded their affront to journalism by spending an entire day reporting AS A FACT that Brett Favre had told the Minnesota Vikings that he was retiring from the NFL. The next day we find out it was nothing more than a rumor which Brett eventually denied by saying “I have not made a final decision because I’m a prima donna drama queen who milks TV time like a farmer’s cool, morning hand on a cow’s teats.” I’m paraphrasing but that’s what I heard.

I watched and listened to some of the coverage because it was inescapable if you’re a sports fan. ESPN tied our hands and feet to an uncomfortable vinyl-covered kitchen chair using coarse horse-hair rope and held us hostage. ESPN was definitely not reporting it as a rumor. They were acting as if it were a foregone conclusion. The only reason to report it this way is the same reason they aired “The Decision”: ratings.

So while ESPN has always been about making money like any network is, lately they have become the French whores of the sports world, selling themselves for little more than a baguette and a verse of the Marseillaise.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Come On Nevada, You Can Do Better Than Sharron Angle

Sharron Angle is a senate candidate from Nevada. She’s a tea bagger so she’s loaded with crazy like when she refuses to take questions at a news conference because she thinks reporters should report only the news she wants them to. Yeah, that doesn’t violate our right to free speech or a free press, you know, those pesky things we’ve been fighting for 230 years to have.

Angle is a Christian and mixes her faith with her politics. She recently said the Obama administration’s agenda goes against the first commandment: thou shalt have no other gods before me. She apparently believes that the government helping people with health care, unemployment compensation, social security and Medicare is turning the government into an idol that people are worshipping.

1st way this is ignorant: If companies sold health insurance that was affordable to the masses, the government wouldn’t need to participate in the process so the real demons here are the pharmaceutical and insurance industries who have colluded to keep prices out of reach of regular citizens while posting billion dollar earnings. Nero fiddles while Rome burns. Also, people would rather be working than be on the dole. Maybe Sharron you should spend less time complaining about the democrats and tell us your amazing ideas on how to create jobs. Typical tea bagger: all hot air and no balloon.

2nd way this is ignorant: Proverbs 19: 17 If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord and he will repay you.
Matthew 7: 12 Do unto others as you would have them do to you
Matthew 25:40 And the King will say “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these, my brother and sisters, you were doing it to me!”
Matthew 5:42 Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you

You need to read more than the commandments Sharron. You have to read the whole book

3rd way this is ignorant: Say hello to Bob. Bob is a Christian who lost his job and his health insurance. He exists on unemployment compensation and can’t afford to go to the doctor when he’s sick. Bob prays for a good job but he has some flaws in his character that he has to fix before God will reward him with the job he desires. So for the time being God is using the unemployment money to help Bob until he makes himself right. My guess is, Sharron, that you never thought of things this way, that God might be using our government to help his children on their way to a better life.

I need to break something else to your holier-than-thou self. You don’t sit at the right hand of God, nor the left, not at his feet or even in the first row of the auditorium. You’re still out in the hallway trying to convince St. Peter that the ticket you printed off of the internet isn’t a fake.

Sharron Angle, you believe that God told you to run for the Nevada senate seat and that may be true. However, God told me that you’re an idiot so one of us is getting our messages wrong. I don’t think it’s me because God also told me I’d never win the lottery and he’s been spot on with that one so far.