Holiday traditions vary greatly around the world. One Christmas tradition among Italian-Americans is the feast of 7 fishes. I don't really know anything about it except that you make a big meal that features 7 different fish dishes. Now, I'm not of Italian descent, and simply consider myself an American. Regardless, I decided to try and come up with the rock version of 7 fishes in honor of the Christmas season. Let's get eating.
I'm going to start with bands that have seafood in their names. Most obvious of these is the jam band Phish. Sure, they can't spell very well, but what do you expect from a bunch of stoners? Haha, right, Trey Anastasio was a rich prep school kid and found a way to make a living without having to get a real job. Pretty smart, huh? I saw Phish a few years back in Miami - they play there occasionally around the New Year - and they played about 4 songs in 3 hours. I think I've already commented on the Phish fan base, aka, those desperately seeking acceptance, but I like Phish's studio work, and this one is my favorite. Ever heard of cluster flies? Me, either.
If you knock off the cobwebs of your brain, you might remember a band that played Woodstock called Country Joe and the Fish. I'm not sure that their music made them famous, but the Fish Cheer was famously famous in my house. It was a less crude time for the popular culture in the late 60s, and having 500,000 people chant the Fish Cheer was funny to us kids. Here it is along with the accompanying Vietnam protest song. I don't think it's held up very well.
Enough of that hippie crap. Here's a band that I've seen a couple of times and they are always fun: Reel Big Fish and their great ska track simply called Beer. Back when I was a drinker, I was a HUGE beer drinker. How big? If you're reading this and you're not 80 or older, you're still behind me in the number of beers you've had, and I quit over 6 years ago. I still love this song and love dancing to it like a man possessed.
Any other bands out there with "fish" in the name? Not that I can think of off the top of my head, but since I'm only 3 songs into the 7, let's move on to songs about fish. Here's a great oldie by the Marvelettes: Too Many Fish in the Sea. Motown, baby! You've all heard it, but have you seen it? Maybe not. Problem solved.
If you love New Orleans, you have to love Dr. John. His music is the epitome of that city - a gumbo of influences and styles that keeps your feet tappin'. I've never seen him live. I had tickets a few years back for a show at the Queen in Wilmington but it snowed about a foot and I didn't make it. Nonetheless, this dude is still making great music. Here's a badass song called I'm Gonna Go Fishin' and it's terrific. Enjoy.
I know a lot of people who say that George Harrison was their favorite Beatle. Not me; I'm a Ringo fan myself. Ringo? Sure - fantastic musician, enjoyed the entire ride, multi-millionaire, married a Bond girl, and didn't die too early or stop having fun. My Ringo fish song is next. But I do have one for the Georgie fans. Pisces Fish. After listening to this song a few times, I'm still certain that my choice of favorite Beatle is justified.
And just to put the emphasis on my favorite Beatle, this track made the Abbey Road album. It's actually a terrible song, but it got a lot of airplay. And, well, it's a Ringo song. Hahaha, that's funny, right? Anyway, this song proved that the Beatles were human: be thankful that this wasn't their original demo or we may never have heard of some band out of Liverpool that changed the world. If you have any idea what this song is about, let me know.
Seven songs, seven fishes! I'll bet you didn't think I could do it, but rock is rich with all kinds of junk, and this post proved my point. It also proved that its Christmastime, and it's my last post before that wonderful holiday. I'll have more before New Year's and you would be a fool to skip out and not come back before the end of the year. Enjoy!
Ho ho ho, rockers! It's that time of year again - today is the winter solstice and that means the Man With the Bag is getting ready to see if you've been naughty or nice.
How does Brian Setzer make any money with the size of that band? People love Christmas music, but that's ridiculous. It's also cool as can be. I'm going with NICE on this one.
But I didn't come here today just to talk about Christmas music. No, not at all. I wanted to know if you BELIEVE. If you've read The Polar Express, you know what I'm talking about.
What do you believe in? How about a thing called love? I'm there - a big believer! And I'm a believer in space age music videos that are strange, but then again, appealing. I also believe in songs with big guitars, driving beats and songs that withstand the test of time.
I also Believe in Magic, especially in a young girl's heart. Ha, I don't even quite know what that means, but I really like this catchy song about believing and about music. I miss bands like the Lovin' Spoonful, too!
Do I miss made-for-TV claptrap shows about "rock bands," like The Partridge Family or The Monkees? Nope. But when they use the Wrecking Crew to play the songs, well, I'm a Believer. Heck, I'm a Daydream Believer, too!
Time for one more? Of course there is - you're at work reading this, right? There's always time for another song when you are "working." And there's always time to stick it to the Man! But remember that today is just a place in time and that things move on. I miss early REM a lot - they had a great jangly sound and fast songs that resonated with me. I Believe they were a great band! But the key word in that last sentence was "were."
You have to believe in something, right? How about these:
How great is that? Now I believe that I better split. But don't you worry yourselves, sweet ones, because I'll be back soon. You can believe that.
Hey team BRP, what's happening? I've been messing around, doing the normal. Hope you are well and ready for some end of the year R 'n R. I'm SO ready!
One thing that I was doing was thinking about alt-country songs from years past. Yeah, I know, what the heck, right? But it's true, and I ended up listening to three tracks that I love but hadn't heard in a long while. Want to know what they are? Of course you do! Here goes.
First up, it's Pure Prairie League's Two Lane Highway. PPL is most famous for the song Amie, which as anyone named Amy (or Amie) will attest, was a huge hit many moons ago. It's a really good song the first 300,000 times you hear it, but gets cloying after that. Anyway, PPL wasn't a one-hit wonder (that's a lie, but go with me), and they had another great song that didn't get nearly as much airplay. It's got a great country-rock sound that will have you grooving. It also is a good substitute for I'll Be Home For Christmas. And my first gift to you is that song:
Next up is the Flying Burrito Brothers song called Christine's Song. It's also called A Devil in Disguise. I don't know who Christine is, but she must have been a bad, bad girl. This song is vicious. But it's also catchy, alt-country before that term was coined, and a great example of Gram Parsons immense talent. Listen to it and you'll know why I included it here:
Now, here's another great track from a country-rock band that was part of my youth: the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. I love that band's name, and this song, recorded on a farm in Missouri, is one of my favorites by them. It's called Jackie Blue, and is hummable, poppy, and heartfelt. Love it! I hope you do, too:
Is that enough for one post? Hell, no! I have a Christmas contest for you. Ready? Too bad, here it comes anyway.
Keeping with the "songs of my youth" theme, I want you to tell me which of these two songs is weirder: Timothy (the absolute best song about cannibalism EVER) or In The Year 2525. Of course, given the horrors of global warming, none of us will be here in 2525 (or maybe given that it's 2018 and its over 500 years until 2525, that might be the true reason for our demise). Regardless of the reason, let's have a crack at these two, well, classics, and then you let me know which is the stranger of the two. I'll be the judge as to which explanation is the best. The prize? I'll get your boss to give you next Tuesday off - WITH PAY! Oh, and you get a BRP t-shirt to boot.
Without further ado, welcome to the land of the weird:
So what it will it be? The Buoys singing a cannibal song written by Rupert Holmes or Zager and Evans bizarre futuristic trippy song with Man of La Mancha guitar overtones? Give me your reason for either and you could win that elusive day off - you know, in the year 2018, you got a day off with pay.
Here's something to take away from this post: never, ever question how depraved your humble blogger is. It's a deep dark cavern here, my friends. Sort of like a mine shaft, if you will. Hahaha - and with that BAD joke, I'm off to listen to American Pie and The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
I've been teasing you over the last few posts that I was going to a BIG show with a BIG star. I did my part. I climbed on a plane, flew to Tampa, and was ready to go. But the star, Elton John, got sick and postponed the show.
Now, I understand that people get sick. And old people get hammered by bacteria and viruses. Nonetheless, it was a disappointment to freaking fly to Florida to see Elton and then get DENIED. He's supposed to reschedule the show, but having the stars realign so that I can attend is unlikely. The Man usually finds something else to do with my time.
I'm not a huge Elton John fan. In fact, I wouldn't have gone but for the fact that tickets fell into my lap and I had to be in Florida for something else anyway. I can't say that I dig Goodbye Yellow Brick Road or Honky Cat or whatnot, but I always liked Bennie and the Jets and Saturday Night's Alright For Fightin'.
And I became a Tiny Dancer fan because of this scene from one of my favorite rock movies, Almost Famous:
While I hoped to give you more on the show, the spectacle, and the music of Elton John, that's all I have.
But wait, don't go away yet! I have a couple more things to say.
Since I am now on the topic of movies, I saw two music-related films recently, and I recommend them both. The first was the 15th remake of A Star Is Born. This one features Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in the lead roles. I like both of these stars, and I thought they both did a great job. Gaga is just immensely talented, and to see her carry over to the big screen and kick butt, well, it cemented my belief that she is remarkable. And Cooper plays the role of the fading music star well, and certainly did not glamorize the use of alcohol and drugs like many Hollywood films do. And there were parts of the movie that were touching, like when Gaga is walking away from Cooper's car and he calls to her. She turns around and says "what?" and he replies "I just wanted to see you again." It was cool and made you believe that there really was a love interest between the two. The music itself was good, and if you saw it in a theater with a good sound system, you were happy.
Then there is Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddie Mercury bio-pic. Disclaimer: I am not a huge Queen fan. Sure, I like some of their songs, but there are plenty that leave me cold. Nonetheless, I like enough and I admire Mercury's stage presence and his sense of the theatrical - he wasn't just a musical artist, but a PERFORMER. In some ways, the film was an extended and better conceived Behind The Music. You know, the rise and fall of a prodigy, largely due to total and complete debauchery. Mercury had an insatiable appetite for sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, and it cost him everything. Still, the film is generally believable, has some great performance scenes, and provides an insight into Mercury's life that I wasn't aware of before.
A few more recommendations for you: the film The Green Book is really good - go see it. If you have Netflix and like violent action-adventure, check out Fauda (about an Israeli agent who comes out of retirement to hunt for a Palestinian fighter), The Last Kingdom (8th Century England struggle between Danes and Saxons), and the latest in the Narcos series, this time focusing on the rise of the Mexican drug cartels.
Isn't that cheery holiday stuff?
I'll be back shortly. I just bought tickets to see another show before year's end, and will write that up following the event. But I have more, much more, to keep you entertained. Mosey on over when you get bored - I'll be right here. See you soon.
Oh my, Santa brought us an early present - the Marah Christmas show at Underground Arts! I've attended a few of these annual bacchanalias and they are always fantastic. Friday night added to the holiday legend of Marah.
I hate the description of a band as simply "rock 'n' roll," but I hope you'll forgive me this time. Marah is a rock band, plain and simple. What makes them different is great songs, passion, stage presence, and a live show that always has surprises. I've seen a bag-piper open their shows, female backups, and crazy Christmas props and spectacles (more on that below). But if you care about rock, and hope that a band still goes on stage to play soulful and raucous rock, you have to sleep better knowing that Marah is in the world.
Marah has been around a long time, but they did break up for a while. The two brothers who are the heart, soul and leaders of the band, Dave and Serge Bielanko, had some ego issues a while ago, but you would never know it from their live show. Dave is very emotional, moving about stage, kicking his leg in the air, and sweating profusely as he gives it his all. Serge is somewhat less animated, but also a huge presence, coming down off of the stage to wander the crowd and play the harmonica. They exchange guitars, sing at the same mic, switch off as lead singer, and otherwise appear to be completely on the same wavelength.
The brothers originally hail from Conshohocken, and are as local as they can be. Many of their songs reference Philly and its environs, and the band seems to really give its all when playing in front of the hometown crowd. The band's live performances are loose and sprawling, with the band playing rollicking, ramshackle rock. No band can be this loose and not actually be well-rehearsed and tight. And no band looks like they are enjoying themselves more than Marah. That attitude is infectious. I'm not sure I would call the fans rabid, but loyal and loving? Hell, yeah. This audience cares about the band in a way that is unusual. When Serge came out into the crowd, one of the women standing next to me started massaging his shoulders as he sang. He even stopped for a second, said "that feels really good," and then started back in while she continued to work the muscles.
And of course, the band had surprises. A dancing Santa with sunglasses. Fake snow. Holiday decorations throughout the club. And Serge putting on a Santa costume on-stage, while the band played a song and he sang, and then Serge throwing out candy canes to the laughing audience.
But the band also came ready to roll. Besides the brothers Bielanko, the band also features Dave Peterson pounding on the drums, Adam Garbinski on guitar/bass, and Mark Sosnoski on guitar/bass. The Matt Cappy horns were also there, and then some other dude pounding on a percussion drum. Lots of guitars, lots of percussion, lots of horns - yum! And Dave plays electric and acoustic guitars as well as an electric banjo. I counted 8 musicians on stage, and the sound was BIG. I'm glad I had the plugs in, but I'm also glad that they played LOUD. Rock should be played LOUD. It's better that way.
You probably already have concluded that I loved this show. You are right. It's become my very own holiday tradition, and I'm super glad that I got to attend yet again this year. It makes me thankful to live in Philly and be surrounded by magnificent musical talent. Not only Marah, but Low Cut Connie, the War on Drugs, Kurt Vile, Sheer Mag, etc, etc. It's a damn embarrassment of riches here, people. And Marah is right at the top of the heap. I love 'em and their great rock shows.
I took lots of photos. Brian and I were right up front, and the sight lines were excellent. I hope you like them. Oh, and if this isn't the best bang for your entertainment dollar, I don't know what is. Marah came and poured their passionate rock 'n' roll hearts out for 3 hours and they charged $20. Twenty bucks! I don't know how they make a living doing this, but I'm glad they are doing it. They are nice, not naughty, for doing this. Hopefully, Santa rewards them enormously.
I don't know if that's my last show for the year or not. I hope not, but Christmas time is busy, and there are lots of other commitments. I'll be sure to let you know if another show pops up. Oh, and I still have to tell you about my adventures with the really big star who I was supposed to see. That's a post of its own, and I'm working on it.
In the meantime, I'll keep posting if you keep reading. I've always got lots of things to say, and find that I just keep saying them. Thanks for humoring me by checking it out and laughing only behind my back. You guys are the best. See you soon, rockers.
Damn. Another one bites the dust. Yesterday, Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks died from a heart attack. He was 63 years old.
For those that don't regularly read BRP, I am a huge Buzzcocks fan. I've seen them live a number of times, own a bunch of their music, and have talked them up to friends and family on many occasions. Pete Shelley (along with bandmate Steve Diggle) wrote most of their songs. He was the king of the 3 minute pop-punk masterpiece. Don't believe me? Put on Singles Going Steady. It's a damn hit parade with one great song after another. Check these out and tell me I'm wrong:
Pete Shelley also had a pretty good solo career - I've previously linked to Homosapien which was a staple back in my early years. I'll miss him and his music.
Occasionally, someone will ask me the question of "what's the best live show you've ever seen?" That's an impossible question to answer. But one of the most memorable was in the late 80s at the original 9:30 Club in DC. For those who saw a show at that space, they will remember how small it was and how close the fans got to the stage. Anyway, the Buzzcocks came to town, and I got a big group to go. We got right up front and waited for the band to take the stage.
It was one of the best shows ever. They played non-stop punk-pop staples that had the place going nuts. And they played it at VOLUME. That was before I started wearing earplugs to shows, and my ears rang for three days after the show. I seriously thought that I would never get my normal hearing back. But it did come back, and about two years later, I went to see them again at the 9:30 Club. That show wasn't as good (hard to top), but it was still great and it still made my ears ring for 3 days.
To this day, I can't hear I Believe without picturing the entire club chanting "There is no love in this world anymore!" over and over.
I did see that the Buzzcocks played Coachella or one of those big festivals a few years back, and blew the crowd away. It didn't surprise me. The later shows I saw, where Pete had aged a lot and was carrying around a few too many extra pounds, still had tremendous energy and, of course, those great songs. And the Buzzcocks influenced a ton of bands - let's hope that trend continues.
I'll miss Pete Shelley. A lot. Along with Joe Strummer of the Clash, this loss is huge to me in a very personal way. The songs by the Buzzcocks and the Clash are the music of my life. I'll keep playing them, but it will be with a sense of loss going forward. Rest in peace, my man.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.