Music In My Life — Cleaning Out the Car

It’s leap year — I should have at least one post on February 29….

We finally traded in our 19-year-old Honda for a new vehicle — it only had 221,000 km (nearly 140,000 miles) on it.  It’s surprising how attached one can become to an old vehicle.  It served faithfully for many years.  Some of the people we carted around in it, showing off the sights of Vancouver, are no longer with us.  On the last day, I took photos of my wife standing beside it, for remembrance.

We never named it, though, like my mother did with her cars.  Old Betsy this, Old Shirley that.

I had to clean out the car, of course.  I extracted my current collection of CDs from the storage space between the front seats.  It struck me that they are a good representation of what I listen to now, approaching 61, as someone who grew up in the 1960s and graduated from highschool in 1969.  As just one person of my generation.  There’s no Mantovani in there, or Sinatra, or Perry Como, or Megadeth, or Cradle of Filth.  Not that there’s anything wrong with them, of course.

The CD itself is apparently on the way out, according to what I’ve read recently.  The digital age may see the end of all such physical reproductions.  It would be a shame to lose any semblance of an album format, but that’s what seems to be happening.

The major music stores around here have gone bust. Virgin first, then HMV.  If I want CDs now, I might find something I want in Walmart (often not), but otherwise I have to order from Amazon.  There’s still some smaller independent music stores in Vancouver, but they’re not convenient for me.

So this is what I’ve been listening to now, just as a snapshot.  It’s not intended as an exercise in representation of my image — I haven’t added or taken away.  There’s some memories there, in the older stuff at least, and I still try to find new bands or performers I might like.  Let me take them in roughly chronological order….

The Moody Blues

In my junior high days, I might walk several miles or, more usually, be driven to the nearby tiny hamlet of Quick in north central British Columbia, then catch a bus to the slightly larger village of Telkwa, and then finally into the small town of Smithers for high school.  One of my companions for that trip was a fellow with a Cockney accent whose family had emigrated from England.  Robin was a big, bluff, friendly guy, a bloke mad for the Beatles and all the rest of the music of the British Invasion.  He especially loved the Moody Blues.

He and his family lived not far away from our cabin.  We’d hang out together, and he always wanted me to come visit and listen to the Moodies. We’d sit around in his room while In Search of the Lost Chord played and talk about what it might be like to smoke pot.  We tried to decipher the lyrics.

Listening now to a 2-CD compilation of the best of their songs, I realize they had some pretty mediocre ballads and love songs… but I still love the uptempo numbers like Ride My See-Saw, The Story in Your Eyes, The Voice and I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock ‘N’ Roll Band), as well as many of the more thoughtful, yes cosmic, songs like Question and Legend of a Mind (“Timothy Leary’s dead/  No no-no-no no/ He’s outside, looking in”). And I always wonder where Robin ended up….

Sly & the Family Stone

Although back in the day I probably would never have bought a Sly & the Family Stone album, listening today to a compilation of  the soul, funk and unabashedly positive vibes of that conglomeration of musicians is tremendously evocative of another time.  Take a listen to Everyday People (“…different strokes for different folks”) and of course Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).  Come on, tell me you’re not ready to get up and move around….

’60s Pop Rock ReUnion Live!

This is one of those CDs that PBS produces from time to time, where they bring back the old acts for one last (or almost last) hurrah on public television.  This one is from 2004, although they’ve done others before and since.  This one’s got Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits, Tommy James and The Shondells, Chad and Jeremy, and The Grass Roots.  Those Herman’s Hermits songs are insanely catchy, like I’m Into Something Good and the crowd-pleasing I’m Henry VIII, I Am.

And I realized as I listened to Crystal Blue Persuasion by Tommy James and the Shondells — ubiquitous and even tiresome on the radio in its day — that it is actually a heartfelt statement of the rising feeling of those times.

Mountain Meadows by Elliot Brood

Now we jump several decades in style to this 2008 CD by the country-rock group Elliot Brood, which consists of three guys from Toronto, Canada.  To me it’s much more rock than country, and the style has been referred to as “frontier rock” or “death country” (as opposed to “death metal”, I suppose).  Apparently this album revolves around the 1857 Mountain Meadows massacre of families in a wagon train from Arkansas by Utah militia aided by local Indians.  Historians attribute the killings to war hysteria back then (something called the Utah War, or Mormon Rebellion) and “strident Mormon teachings.”  The music is rather upbeat for such a gloomy subject, and makes it quite listenable.

Goodbye, Killer by the Pernice Brothers

The Pernice Brothers are one of my favorite obscure bands.  They definitely haven’t received the attention they deserved.  Their album from 2003, Yours, Mine and Ours, and 2005’s Discover a Lovelier You are quite wonderful examples of indie rock goodness.  Intelligent, evocative, catchy music.  In 2007, their song Chicken Wire from 1998, was named the #1 Most Exquisitely Sad Song in the Whole World by AOL Music.

Unfortunately, this album from 2010 is not quite as good, but still well written and sung.

Imaginary Television by Graham Parker

Graham Parker is a favorite rocker, as I’ve written before.  This album from 2010 is a kind of sequel to Don’t Tell Columbus, one of my most-listened albums from the last five years, and one of his best in the latter days of a career that has stretched from the early 1970s.  For this one, he says, “I went off to write treatments to my own imaginary TV shows which I would grace with the correct theme tunes, not ones chosen by idiots.”

Some of the songs, like television shows, seemed to me too formulaic after the brilliance of the previous album.  But it still bears listening to: “Heyyy, can you tell me, what everyone plans to do. Heyyy, can you tell me where everyone is going to….” Or, “I don’t feel comfortable inside my own skin, it doesn’t keep things in….”  Well, maybe you have to listen to it to appreciate his angry, pensive splendor at 61.

Relations by San Sebastian

This is a really good young rock band, and yes, from Canada again.  This is their debut CD released in 2011.  Have to wait and see if they’re successful enough to stick around for awhile.  For a sample, try out Wake UP….

2120 South Michigan Ave. by George Thorogood and the Destroyers

Since I’m busy learning to play guitar, I’ve developed a new appreciation for blues and blues rock.  Thorogood has made a long career out of them. In his new album from 2011, he pays tribute to his influences, especially the performers like Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters who played for Chicago’s Chess Records, working out of the CD’s titled address.

Thorogood’s got Buddy Guy contributing and Charlie Musselwhite, the great harmonica player.  My favorite track is Willie Dixon’s Seventh Son. I’m playing it now and bopping around — in between my occasional yells of “Yeah!”   Listen to it and know rock music.

Sky Full of Holes by Fountains of Wayne

This is another one of my favorite, relatively obscure bands.  They’ve been making these wonderful pop-rock albums for years full of quirky tales of the young lost and wandering in Middle America.  If you ever get a chance to pick up the great Welcome Interstate Managers from 2003, be sure and do it.

They’ve got some great quirky lyrics again here: “She’s been afraid of the Cuisinart / Since 1977 / Now when she opens up the house / She won’t set foot in the kitchen” — about The Summer Place.

Or the song about the two gay guys, Richie and RubenThey opened up a bar called Living Hell/ Right from the start it didn’t go well/ They didn’t have the vibe or quite the right clientele…. They’re both a little out of their minds /

I know those guys….

Mockingbird Time by The Jayhawks

With the Jayhawks, we’re in the presence of greatness.  Sounding sometimes like the Byrds, sometimes like Neil Young, sometimes, some say, like the Flying Burrito Brothers, or even The Band, one can be pardoned for not getting them or this album the first time you hear it.  But like the early Neil Young albums, the more you listen to it, the more there is to hear.

This is a version of the band, in 2011, similar to that of Tomorrow the Green Grass from 1995 which deserved to be a greater hit than it turned out to be.

From Tiny Arrows:

Sit and watch the river flow
Try and touch the sky
And I don’t mind
Sound of the songbirds shrine
Follow what you can find

Childhood washed away
Where did it go
Where, where did it go

And from Stand Out In The Rain:

What are you going to do when your time has come and gone

Take me down to the river tonight
And let me stand out in the rain

There’s a streak of melancholia here that informs even some of their more sprightly tunes.

Another standout from the album is She Walks in So Many Ways.

Bingo! by The Steve Miller Band

The Space Cowboy returns in this 2010 CD with a blues based album that shows off his virtuoso guitar skills.  He grew up in a household frequented by master guitarist Les Paul, and it shows.  Joe Satriani makes a guest appearance on a couple of tracks, too.

And apparently Miller owns something like 450 guitars.

Mylo Xyloto by Coldplay

This is the state of rock music today, at least the kind that can still fill stadiums, and I kind of like it. It’s bombastic and smart at the same time, and on this most recent Coldplay album it seems like the musicians aren’t afraid to experiment with many kinds of instrumental sounds.

Unfortunately, the title is a little unfriendly, shall we say. Lead singer Chris Martin told one interviewer the title had something to do with toes and xylophones.  It’s on a par with the indecipherable name of that Grateful Dead album, Aoxomoxoa….

El Camino by The Black Keys

This is my new favorite album for now.  I just discovered The Black Keys, a two man group who produce amazing sounding rock.  I know, I’m late to the party.  You can hear all kinds of influences in what they play, from grunge rock to maybe Cheap Trick, definitely Led Zep, and they’ve claimed Devo, but there’s that early blues-rock flavor too like Hounddog Taylor.

This new CD is justifiably drawing rave reviews.  It’s the one with the mini-van on the cover (and variations inside), which is definitely not a Chevrolet El Camino, those strip-downed sleek looking pickup styled vehicles of another era.  (El Caminos should have an album cover, dammit….).  The title apparently refers to the title’s Spanish meaning — the road.

Take a listen to a track like Lonely Boy and know that rock ‘n’ roll is here to stay.



Links to image sources, from top down:

Moody Blues

Sly and the Family Stone

Tommy James and the Shondells – with an interview

Graham Parker — with review

Fountains of Wayne — with review


Black Keys

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Explore posts in the same categories: Awareness, Culture, Music, Remembering

2 Comments on “Music In My Life — Cleaning Out the Car”

  1. Rick Matz Says:

    Great post! Thanks.

  2. fencer Says:

    Hi Rick,

    Thanks a lot for stopping by (and letting me know…)


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