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July 2008

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Hello, Cleveland!  As luck would have it, I had a free evening in Cleveland on a recent business trip and was able to meet up with my old buddy Bruce and his nephew and tour the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, or as it's known locally: Rock Hall

The museum is open late on wednesday evenings during the summer when they invite local bands to perform.  And even though the bands were impressive (and certainly loud) we moved through quickly in order to visit the exhibits and memorabilia that make the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame so much fun.  They've got everything from Elvis' old tax returns to David Bowie's capes and spandex suits as well as hundreds of famous guitars.  The current exhibits include a 2008 inductee area, a feature on The Doors, and Behind the Scenes of the Beatle's HELP! There's also some short films on Hall of Fame winners through the years and somewhat uninspired gift shop.  Oddly enough, I didn't notice the excellent Museum Guide Book until I was in their much smaller shop at Cleveland Airport.    

Even though you're not allowed to, I snapped a couple dozen photos through out the place. I felt like a bit of a spy pulling out my compact Canon G9 camera from under my shirt to and dodging the museum's blackshirted staff.  But what the heck.  Rock & Roll is about breaking the rules, right?  And besides, at $22 a ticket, I figure I paid plenty for the privilege. 

Some of the highlights for me were seeing Paul Simonon's smashed bass from the cover photo of the Clash's London Calling album, Joe Strummer's stickered and beat up Telecaster, a couple of Bo Diddley's guitars, the Ramones gear, some early Les Paul electrics and Jimmy Hendrix's double-necked electric.  It was also very cool to see the huge Pink Floyd memorabilia from The Wall and The Division Bell.  And even more guitars from The Ventures, the Yardbirds, Elvis, Eric Clapton and The Beatles. 

If you're in the midwest, you gotta visit Rock Hall.  And remember to break some rules.  'Coz Cleveland Rocks!


A Backlog of Reviews

Gas

Ok, I'm behind.  I've had a lot of travel recently and more coming up, so bear with me.   I've got half a dozen stories in the queue which I'll try to complete in the next few weeks.  You can expect some reviews of recent music by The Hellacopters and Vampire Weekend, a review of the very funny book "Rock On" by Dan Kennedy, as well as Don Felder's "Heaven & Hell" memoir of his time in The Eagles.  I'll also take a look at the guitar instruction site Infinite Guitar, a report on my visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.  Oh yeah, and I've been banging on an awesome Washburn custom HM 526 guitar and a very affordable Randall KH15 Kirk Hammett practice amp.   So expect a write up on those also.  Any day now.  No, I'm not selling them on ebay.  I swear. 

And if we're lucky, I'll also get a guest posting on Soul Detective, a great site for out-of-print R&B music and maybe something to deal with dreaded Guitar Acquisition Syndrome.


New Elvis Costello on Vinyl

Elvis Costello has released his new album Momofuku (named after a trio of New York restaurants) on vinyl.  I'm not sure I get it.  But who am I to question the bespectacled genius of 80's angry-young-man new wave?  Only, it's 2008 and Elvis isn't young anymore and frankly, I don't know why he's so angry.  Apparently he's mad that people are pirating music.  But good news: you can buy it as a digital download.  Check out the samples above on Amazon.

I'm a die-hard Costello fan and unfortunately Momofuku is a bit of a mixed bag.  There are some great vintage style tracks like "Turpentine," "Stella Hurts," "Drum & Bone" and the snarly "Go Away."  It's nice to hear Costello rock out in the old style.  And Steve Naive's playing on "American Gangster" wouldn't be at all out of place on "This Year's Model," an album recorded 30 years ago.  But other songs, like "My Three Sons" and "Life with Rose" seem distinctly middle-of-the-road to me.  It's great that Costello has a happy family life, but it doesn't make for very interesting music.  I guess we need a bit of the old Elvis angst after all. 

Costello is also touring with the Imposters and opening for The Police this summer.  I've bought tickets to see them both at Shoreline in the San Francisco bay area.  Frankly, I was disappointed seeing The Police last year, but I always enjoy seeing Costello live.

Update: Momofuku is now available on CD.


Steve Nardella, George Bedard, Mr. B Reunion Gig

Ann Arbor roots rocker Steve Nardella joined his band mates George Bedard and Mr B for a rare reunion last week at the Firefly Club.   My wife was a long time fan of Steve Nardella and company back in her U of M days and so we went early and managed to get seats at a front table. 

The band played a broad range of blues, rock and rockabilly songs including originals from the 70's and 80's as well as classic covers like "Kansas City," "Maybeline," "Folsom Prison Blues," "Flip, Flop & Fly" among others.  It was quite a workout, going through three sets and nearly 4 hours of playing.  And then we hit the Fleetwood Diner around 1am.  What a night!  No wonder the Firefly Club is one of Downbeat's 100 best clubs in the US!  If you're in the Detroit area, you gotta go. 

I managed to capture quite a few photos and videos which I've posted on PicasaWeb and YouTube.  For long time fans of Steve, George and Mr B, this should be a treat.  Especially seeing George Bedard's frenetic guitar solos.   


House of Floyd Live at the Little Fox Theater

House of Floyd , the Pink Floyd tribute band from California, did a live gig at the Little Fox Theater in Redwood City last week.  This was a smaller venue than their show at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz, so they left some of the lazers --and the inflatable pig --behind.  But the smaller venue means you can get up close and the audience was really into it.  When Mark Showalter started tossing out t-shirts before the big finale, the audience went nuts.

The set list, which is always a closely guarded secret, included many of Pink Floyd's most popular songs as well as older cuts from the Syd Barrett era and more recent songs after Roger Waters' departure. 

  • Welcome to the Machine
  • Another Brick in the Wall #2
  • Empty Spaces
  • Young Lust
  • Have a Cigar
  • Hey You
  • Set the Controls on Stun
  • Keep Talking
  • Learning to Fly
  • One Slip
  • Fearless
  • Wish You Were Here
  • Sheep
  • (Break)
  • Astronomy Domine
  • Arnold Layne
  • Breathe / On the Run
  • Time
  • Great Gig in the Sky
  • Money
  • Us and Them
  • Any Color You Like
  • Brain Damage /  Eclipse
  • Echoes
  • Run Like Hell
  • Comfortably Numb (Encore)

Not only is the music note perfect, but the video montage is amazing and the whole effect is psychadelic, man.  The set list changes every night, so it's definitely a band worth seeing more than once.  I've posted ten videos and a couple dozen photos on YouTube and PicasaWeb though the lighting was a bit dark making the photos grainy.  Standout videos include "Another Brick in the Wall #2," "Brain Damage," "Great Gig in the Sky," "Breathe," and "Hey You."  There are some additional videos and photos from their their previous gig in Santa Cruz.

House of Floyd has upcoming shows in Alameda (June 13), Fairfield (June 14), Sausalito (June 22) and Point Arena (June 28) as well as gigs later on throughout Northern California.  The Sausalito gig is a yacht-board event with limited space.   


Hey, Bo Diddley, RIP

Bo_diddley

Bo Diddley, the only guitar player to have have a beat named after him, passed away at the ripe old age of 79.  Bo Diddley pionneered the driving hambone rhythm that defined classic rock and roll in songs such as "Mona," "Hey Bo Diddley" and "Who Do You Love?"   The Bo Diddley beat, as it became known, was an influence on rock artists as diverse as Buddy Holly, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Grateful Dead, U2, Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, and The Clash, with whom Diddley toured in 1979.  And lets face it, even if you can't play 3 chords, you can play the Bo Diddley beat and still sound good.

Diddley was famous for his self-referential songs, humorous lyrics and his trademark Gretsch box-shaped guitars.  He recorded more than 30 albums of material from 1958 to 2002 and continued touring through May of 2007 when he suffered a stroke.  He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and later into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame.  Diddley was recognized by Rolling Stone magazine as #20 in the list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. 

Diddley was recognized along with Chuck Berry and Little Richard as a key innovator in developing early rock and roll, though he was sometimes embittered by his lack of financial success.  He won a lawsuit against his manager in 1994 for $400,000 in back payments and later sued Nike for unauthorized use of his likeness in a their "You Don't Know Diddley" campaign that ran from 1989-1991.  I don't know whether Diddley made any money from Nike, but he deserved better than he got.

So tell me, who do you love?  Bo Diddley.