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Dad Was a Stones Guy

In 1960s, 1970s, blues, country, Rich's House of Vinyl, rock, rock'n'roll, Rolling Stones on January 20, 2018 at 7:19 am

 

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Beer, Girl Scout cookies and the Rolling Stones. Why am I not doing this every Friday night?

One Sunday afternoon, back in the late 1980s — or maybe the very early 1990s — my dad pulled into the driveway. I heard his car door slam, heard him bound up the steps, burst through the front door, and suddenly he was in my bedroom.

“Quick, turn on ‘MMR,” Dad commanded. “They’re playing some great old Stones song!”

Dad, who was typically a stoic, though hardly humorless guy, was practically beside himself with excitement. Since this hardly ever happened, I hastened to spin my radio’s dial to 93.3, WMMR, which for decades had been Philadelphia’s premiere rock station. As I hit the station, I heard Mick Jagger lasciviously intone, “we all need someone we can lean on…”

Dad was entranced. He was acting as if he was discovering “Let It Bleed” for the first time ever, though this couldn’t possibly be true. Dad was an early adopter of ‘MMR during its early years in the late 1960s, and “Let It Bleed,” the title track of an immensely popular Stones album, had to be in heavy rotation. Whether he’d ever heard it before or not, it was cool to see Dad so immersed in a tune on the radio.

As the slide guitar faded out and ‘MMR moved on to some other classic rock song, Dad went off to do whatever it was he intended to do before the Rolling Stones ecstasy took hold. The moment passed but I never forgot it.

Fast forward a few years. October 17, 1992. Our wedding reception. Dad and Uncle Charles, two guys I never normally thought of when the word “fast dancing” came to mind, hit the dance floor with Mom and Aunt Ruth to dance along to the Stones’ stone cold classic, “Brown Sugar.” With everything else happening on my wedding day, that was one of the moments that stuck with me.

 

These two incidents are all the evidence I need. Dad was a Stones Guy.

Let me explain. While I think it is perfectly possible and reasonable to love both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, nearly all of us can be classifying as either a Beatles person or a Stones person (though I think my friend Ed, a huge fan of both bands, would still self-classify as a Kinks person).

Dad liked the Beatles just fine, I’m sure. But he was a Stones Guy.

I consider myself very lucky: I am married to a Beatles Girl. My brother-in-law Roy is a Stones Guy. My brother-in-law Mike is a Beatles guy. It’s nice to have one of each, though I’m honestly not sure where my brother-in-law Bill would fall.

This is a phenomena that transcends generations. Our son Jimmy is a Stones Guy. Our son Chris is a Beatles Guy. Again, nice to have one of each.

Funny thing about Dad is that, as far as I know, he did not actually own any Rolling Stones records, at least not until I gave him the ’64-’71 compilation, Hot Rocks, for Christmas sometime in the 1990s. I am now the keeper of Mom and Dad’s records and there is not a single Stones album among them.

But, as an avid WMMR listener during the early glory days of that pioneering FM rock station, Dad probably didn’t need to, or even care to, actually own Rolling Stones albums. Clearly the Stones would have been in very heavy rotation.

So, Dad didn’t own the following Rolling Stones albums:

  • Beggar’s Banquet
  • Let It Bleed
  • Sticky Fingers
  • Exile On Main Street

However, it is highly probable that he heard every song from each of these absolutely badass records at least once on WMMR. But who knows? The “Let It Bleed” moment in my bedroom all those years ago certainly seemed like an epiphany for Dad.

I have been listening to these four Stones albums all week, diving deeper than I ever had before. Unlike Dad, I have owned these records for years, but that doesn’t mean I’ve listened to them often. It seems to me that the big hits, as chronicled on Hot Rocks, are so epic, in and of themselves, that it’s easy to take the albums from which those hits emerged, for granted.

But, damn, that’s a huge mistake. Beggar’s Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street are all totally necessary albums. While I know that Stones fans will consider this a “D’oh” conviction, I think that very note on each of these albums should be heard by every rock fan. Absolutely necessary records, for damn sure

Listening intently to this quartet of albums in depth, it is obvious that, with all due respect to the earlier and later work of the Rolling Stones, these records represent the core of everything that made the Stones “the world’s greatest rock’n’roll band.” You’ve got Jagger’s swagger, Richards’ rhythmic cool, the seamless fusion of several musical genres, the paradoxically loose-but-tight musicianship by everyone involved. It’s all there, and it’s all classic.

More important to me, these four records seem to embody practically everything — other than bluegrass — that Dad loved about music. Blues, country, rock, and in a song like “Let It Bleed,” it all just comes together so brilliantly. No wonder Dad was so excited.

I would have loved to have spent this evening hanging out with Dad, listening to these records and knocking back a few beers, and maybe even a shot of Jack Daniel’s. But, even though Dad’s not physically here, that’s exactly what I feel like I did. Because Dad was certainly here in spirit and, as much as I love the Beatles, I realized tonight that I’m a Stones Guy too.

Here’s a playlist/mix CD I made tonight that features four songs from each of these four classic Stones albums:

Dad Was a Stones Guy

  1. Brown Sugar
  2. Let It Bleed
  3. Rocks Off
  4. Sympathy for the Devil
  5. Dead Flowers
  6. Gimme Shelter
  7. I Only Want to See His Face
  8. Street Fighting Man
  9. Bitch
  10. Monkey Man
  11. Happy
  12. Stray Cat Blues
  13. You Gotta Move
  14. You Can’t Always Get What You Want
  15. Shine a Light
  16. No Expectations

 

 

 

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I Enjoyed These Records in 2017

In 2017 best music, 2017, 2017 albums, records, Rich's House of Vinyl on January 1, 2018 at 2:36 am

 

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It’s been awhile, nearly a year, since I’ve posted here at Rich’s House of Vinyl. This is supposed to be my music-related blog, and I’ve certainly listened to music during the past year. Sadly though, the writing hasn’t happened.

The truth is, the writing hasn’t happened this year on my other primary blog, The Dichotomy of the Dog, either. I realized recently why this has happened, but I’m not going to go there right now.

Instead, I’m going to thank my friend Tom. Tom, a fellow Phoenixville resident, is a sculptor. A few weeks ago, he presented me with a piece he made specifically for me: a stand to hold the record that you’re currently playing.

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Tom’s thoughtful gift took me by surprise and also inspired me to revive this blog. I’m not sure exactly where I’ll take this, but I’ll start tonight, New Year’s Eve, with a list of records released in 2017 that I’ve heard.

I did a better job hearing new albums this year than I did back in 2016, when I only heard three ’16 releases by the end of the year. It would appear that I have heard 10 (!) 2017 albums. As someone who has followed pop music closely for nearly all my life, I’d like to say I’ve heard more, but the end of 2017 doesn’t mean the window has closed on discovering great music from that year. In fact, I’d love to hear your suggestions on 2017 albums I should investigate!

For now, here are 10 albums released in 2017 that I have heard and enjoyed. Listed alphabetically by artist:

Southern Blood — Gregg Allman. Yesterday (December 30) would have been my dad’s 76th birthday. As a way to celebrate his birthday, I listened to a bunch of records Dad loved (Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, Ry Cooder’s debut album, the Allman Brothers Band’s Eat a Peach, etc.). I also picked up Southern Blood, Gregg Allman’s last album, and gave it some spins.  Opening with an original, “My Only True Friend,” that ranks among Allman’s finest songs, Southern Blood reveals itself to be a heartfelt goodbye statement from Allman. Dad would have enjoyed it, for sure.

Broken Biscuits — Corin Ashley. I first encountered Corin several years ago when he opened for my friend Cliff Hillis, right here in Phoenixville. I fell hard for Ashley’s previous album, New Lion Terraces. Broken Biscuits is a worthy follow-up. Informed in large part by the stroke that Corin suffered midway through recording, Broken Biscuits, is a pop rock delight that rocks out when necessary, from beginning to end.

Pollinator — Blondie. Speaking of pop rock delights, give a listen to Pollinator, the latest Blondie record is just such a thing. The record opens with a strong Debbie Harry/Chris Stein rocker, “Doom or Destiny,” featuring Joan Jett sharing vocals with Harry. The rest of the album mixes up band-written originals with tunes custom-written by the likes of Sia and Johnny Marr. It’s not all brilliant, but it is fun. It’s Blondie for the 21st Century.

The Nashville Sound — Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. Isbell and I go back to his Drive-By Trucker days, when his early songs held their own alongside the songs of fellow DBTers Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley. When all is said and done, The Nashville Sound might emerge as my favorite from 2017, a great singer/songwriter album that also happens to be a great rock’n’roll record.

Trinity Road — Lilly Hiatt. I just became aware of this album via a Top 10 Americana list on the Pop Matters website. I have not heard her previous albums, but I received this as a Christmas gift and have listened to it several times this week. Each time, I’ve like it more, as the details and emotional depth of songs like “The Night David Bowie Died,” “Imposter” and the title track have revealed themselves.

Many Happy Returns — Cliff Hillis. My friend Cliff is keeping himself busy these days with a wide range of pop music pursuits, but he managed to release a cool six-song EP, Many Happy Returns, that ranges from crunchy pop-rocker “Time An Evangelist” to mellow yacht rock contender “Superfluous.” Cliff Hillis: pure pop for now people.

Damn. — Kendrick Lamar.  Back when Kendrick Lamar released To Pimp A Butterfly, it received unanimous praise from my friend and professional music critic, Ed Masley; Drive-By Truckers’ member Patterson Hood; and my son, Jimmy. That combination of praise doesn’t happen often, so I took it seriously. Damn. has received similar accolades, with good reason. Jimmy and I listened to Damn. the day it was released, as I was driving him home from school. Jim just gave me the CD for Christmas, so I can give it some closer listens now.

Big Bad Luv — John Moreland. My friend Ed Whitelock gave John Moreland’s album, Big Bad Luv, a stellar review on the Pop Matters website. Ed’s review totally sold me on the album, which has a total Springsteen-in-his-prime vibe to it. But then, once I heard Big Bad Luv, it pretty much sold itself.

Way Out West — Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives. Stuart and his Superlatives played a show at the Colonial Theatre, right here in Phoenixville. I missed it, mostly because I had not heard this amazing album, which covers an astonishing range of western music, from surf to country to rock’n’roll. The title track is just one highlight out of many.

A Deeper Understanding — The War on Drugs. Donna gave me this one (on vinyl!) for Christmas so I’m still letting it sink in to my ears and my brain. But I am liking the dreamy melodies, expansive guitar solos and technopop touches very much.

There you have it. Ten records released in 2017 that I actually heard in 2017. Thanks for reading and thanks again to Tom, for the inspiration!

Happy New Year!

 

 

The Daily Record: “Wonderful Crazy Night”–Elton John (2016)

In Rich's House of Vinyl on January 13, 2017 at 4:17 am

 

For the next few weeks, I’m going to post brief “Daily Record” surveys of albums released in 2016. The plan is to post them in chronological order from their 2016 release dates. Last night I wrote about David Bowie’s Blackstar. Tonight, I’ll move on to Elton John’s Wonderful Crazy Night, released in early February 2016.

Right after Christmas, I realized that I’d only heard three albums released in 2016. This is very odd for me, since I’m usually at least a little better at keeping up with pop music. But, while I did hear more Top 40 radio than I would have imagined, I seriously fell down on album-listening.

Wonderful Crazy Night was one of those three albums. Of course, Blackstar was one of the others. The third will turn up in a future entry.

Now, I have been an Elton John fan forever. He was probably my first favorite rock star. I’ll even defend his first “down” period (1977-1982 or so), though I have to admit that I can’t find much EJ music from ’84 all the way through 2000 to recommend. Scattered songs here and there, but the albums suffer from all matter of problems, from questionable production choices to lazy songwriting.

Beginning with 2001’s Songs from the West Coast, Elton began to turn things around, and I’ve been generally pleased with his albums since then. I was looking forward to Wonderful Crazy Night  and I was intrigued with the pre-release buzz that the album was going to be an upbeat album, filled with rockin’ songs reminiscent of his classic ’70s singles. In short, it was going to be a whole lotta “Crocodile Rock,” as opposed to John’s previous album, The Diving Board, which was sort of a whole lotta “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.”

Of course, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” is one of my all-time favorite songs and I actually liked The Diving Board very much. Sure, it didn’t exactly rock, but it had gravitas, which seemed to work well for EJ. Plus, it had a spare, stark production sound and plenty of piano.

So, when Wonderful Crazy Night was released, I dutifully bought it and listened a few times but compared to the stately and grounded The Diving Board, the new album seemed a little bit too lightweight. I’d listen to Wonderful Crazy Night, then it would float away and I’d go listen to Blackstar again.

Elton’s new album was competing with the gravitas of his own last album as well as that of his recently deceased peer–Bowie and John were born mere months from each other in 1947. Wonderful Crazy Night soon got filed away for much of the rest of the year.

A funny thing happened though. In anticipation of this post, I started listening to  Wonderful Crazy Night over the past few weeks and I let it sink in a bit more than I had last February. It’s grown on me, and it clearly fits in nicely with his fine string of 21st century records. I’m still not sold on every song on the album, but the upbeat songs like the title track and “Looking Up” are fun and most of the ballads are pretty OK, even if they don’t have the depth of the songs on The Diving Board.

Tonight, “I’ve Got 2 Wings” is my favorite Wonderful Crazy Night song. It’s a true story, the biography of Utah Smith, a traveling preacher who roamed the United States with an electric guitar and a pair of paper angel wings he wear while playing and singing gospel tunes. I had never heard of Smith before I heard this song, but I’m finding myself touched by his life story tonight, for reasons that I can’t completely explain. Maybe I’ll delve further into the Utah Smith story and report on it sometime soon. For now that, here’s a bonus song from Utah Smith. Just still photos, but check out the wings!