A small crew of the Rogers family are going to invade Mark Wheeler's neighborhood this weekend. We are flying up to Portland to spend the weekend bombing a really good hill, so we figured we would stop in to see Mark for a quick visit. I'm pretty sure the last time John and I saw Mark was around 1980. All these years later and skateboarding is still helping to bring us together!
Here's the second installment from my 1981 yearbook. I doubt this version will elicit a response from Clem like the last one did, but we'll see.
First up, Jackson. At some point, Gorko grabbed my yearbook for a couple hours and returned it after writing all over it. Jackson complained last time that someone had written "Idiot" under his picture in a yearbook that he was looking through. It was mine. Mystery solved. That's not my handwriting, dude. Next up, Tom - he signed my yearbook this way. Hilarious!
Next! Uh, "What is an early 80s poser metal guitarist, Alex?"
OK, how about some non-skateboarders now? First up the All-American Girl, a cheerleader no less, a third place finisher in the Miss NY competition, dhc. She's so happy and sweet! You still have the cheerleader outfit, right? My brother wanted me to ask you that. And last, but not least, Nancy2. Hey, Nancy2, late-70s Brooke Shields called. She wants her eyebrows back. My brother told me to say that one, too.
(Cross post from Intravenus De Milo. Other than the joy that the above album has brought to my ears through the years, the first thought that comes to my mind when I drop the needle on this record are the Rogers brothers and skating WP in the summer of 1977. They were HUGE fans of this great record.)
My wife called me at work last Thursday with the news that the radio station she was listening to were leaking the summer line up for Atlanta’s Chastain Park Amphitheater summer concert series. Chastain is what I refer to as our fare city’s cool little ‘sit down’ concert venue. For some shows, they even set up tables down front and allow all ticket holders to bring wine & cheese type goodies into the show. The music’s volume is usually cranked a little low due to the neighborhood setting the venue sits in, which can be a bit annoying since the uppercrusters buy tickets for the whole series, attend the concerts they care little about for the social aspect, and fucking blather on endlessly all the way through a show you’ve been counting down days to see. Despite this, the wife and I REALLY look forward to taking in a few concerts each year with our more musically inclined friends Bob and Betty the Builder. We’ve seen quite a few great shows at Chastain over the years, Elvis Costello, James Gang, Mark Knopfler, Allison Krauss with Union Station and Robert Plant respectively, to recall a few.
But Mrs. Alva seemed to have a bit of excitement in her voice as she exclaimed, “I think they said Bad Company will be playing this year, honey”. She got me attention with that for certain. We were primed and ready on Sunday morning when tickets went on sale and jumped on’em at 10:00 AM sharp as Live Nation’s internet ordering site lit up. We had to do some digging, but we’re 99.99% confident that the line up will be Mick Ralphs, Simon Kirke, and Paul Rodgers with the American Bass player who tours with Paul’s solo act (whose name escapes me at the moment) filling in for the deceased Boz Burell.
The critical path item here being Paul Rodgers of course. I have never quite figured out why many of my past and current music friends slag Bad Company so much. I vividly remember their epic and flawless self titled debut album flooding out over the airwaves on early FM radio stations in the mid 70’s and being floored by the cool sounds emanated from the little transistor radio speaker. Killer hooks, perfect soulful vocals, gorgeous, choruses, and that can be said for EVERY SONG ON THAT RECORD! Oddly enough, Bad Company was one of those LP’s that all my friends had, so I never actually owned a copy of my own until much later in life. During my crazy metal years, I didn’t listen to it much at all, but 10 years later I picked up a CD copy and listened to it again. It was like discovering the Holy Grail or something. I could now appreciate the phenomenal drumming of Simon Kirke, and McRalph’s tone rich and tasteful guitar playing, but what stands out even more is Paul’s singing. He is simply the Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhodes, etc of singers. Can’t buy into that? Tell me this then: Name one 60 year old singer or older who can sing pitch perfect, heartfelt, note for note, IN THE SAME KEY IT WAS ORIGINALLY RECORDED IN, every song from his/her first recording? As cliché as it sounds, the guy has actually improved with age. Speaking of age, it would appear that Paul Rodgers seems to be immune to the ravages of the inevitable. He doesn’t look a day over forty.
It’s hard to believe that there are deep cuts on the debut record since most of the tracks are FM radio heavy rotation staples: Can’t Get Enough, Movin’ On, Ready For Love, Rock Steady (one of the best vocal recording EVER), and the title track, but the gold is in the two ‘deep cuts’, ‘The Way That I Choose’, and the slow blues number ‘Don’t Let Me Down’. You can practically hear Simon Kirke coming off of his drum stool as he crashes around his kit in Don’t Let Me Down’s finale. Amazingly enough, the debut Bad Co record was recorded in 10 days using some spare downtime Zeppelin’s mobile recording unit found. Ten days to create a masterpiece. Isn’t it funny how things work out that way? Sure, The Firm may not pass muster to some, but denying greatness to Bad Company’s first album, Straight Shooter, and Runnin’ with the Pack borders on criminal behavior.
The liner notes read like a warning on a pack of cigarettes: “This material was recorded on analog equipment, ignoring modern noise reduction techniques. We pay our humble respects to the mighty gods of analog tape who have shown us both their destructive power and their compassionate mercy”
In the space usually dedicated to gear endorsements by the band members this caution, “Reverb and tremolo are welcome; all other effects are strictly forbidden”. This is followed by similar accolades to nebulous ‘old strings and old guitars’. The section ends with, “Norm eats Maruchan Ramen Noodles exclusively”, no doubt offering first person testament to the fact that life as a working musician is fraught with poverty, hardship, and lots of hard work. If you stop and think about it, it’s a wonder that anybody in their right mind would even consider playing music as a career at all. I have many musician friends and included in that list are a few who have passionately chosen it as their life long profession. The word ‘sacrifice’ could surely be inserted in that previous sentence without risk of hyperbole or apology.
So it was on a rainy Friday night last week that my brother Mathdude and I set out in search of a long lost friend and a little salvation in the form of one Lonesome Jim Ransone and his band The Breeze Kings. My faded memories of Jim are of a brilliant, if not painfully quiet, young guy who balanced his time back in high school between his academics, playing music, and being dragged by my brother into many ill-fated capers and misadventures. From what Jim told us, he begrudgingly attended Georgia Tech and earned an engineering degree at his father’s insistence and once he wrapped that up, he turned to his dad and said, “Okay, can I go play music now?” Of course I’m fictionalizing a bit here, but you get the gist. Amazingly, it turns out that Jim was the founder of a smoking hot band called the Urban Shakedancers whose music I was baptized in upon arrival to Atlanta in 1991 by my ragtag gang of music friends who had graciously welcomed me into their circle. My new friends had gone to high school with the other members of the Shakedancers and I’m certain that Jim and I were in the same room on a couple of occasions unbeknownst to either one of us.
Oh yeah, music, sacrifice, passion… The Breeze Kings. I’m pretty certain Jim had to seek out his ‘other’ education some place other than on the campus of the MIT of the South, but judging from the performance my brother and I witnessed, and after giving The Breeze Kings two brilliant CD’s multiple spins, it would seem that Jim has been doing post doc work on the life and times of Willie Dixon, Bobby Blue Bland, and Albert Collins. Mathdude and I were treated to three of the most scorching sets of traditional Chicago blues I’d heard since seeing Mr. Collins himself perform “Too Many Dirty Dishes” at ‘The Chance’ in Poughkeepsie NY back in the late 80’s.
The Breeze Kings have all the bases covered and it always starts with a swinging drummer especially when it comes to their style of music. And that’s what Mark Yarbrough is: One swingin’ son of bitch. Coupled with Dave Roth’s masterful bass rumbling and Bill Wyman-esk demeanor, Jim was free to channel with reckless abandon the ghosts of Chess Studios through his Gibson ES 135 and tweed covered tube amp. There are many great trad blues bands out there, but for me what makes one rise up out of the fog over another is how well the singer can keep up. Authenticity is made or broken in this key role. Carlos Capote’s melodic voice and mastery of the harmonica certainly didn’t disappoint me, Mathdude, or the other hundred or so in the room. I think the only critical comment I could make about the evening (other than the pouring rain) was that while the Fern Bank Martini Night drew an enthusiastic and generous sized crowd, there are places in Atlanta I’d rather see my friend and his band throw down at ( Blind Willie’s off the top of my head). The 60ft ceilings, marble floors, T-Rex and Aptosaurus skeleton backdrop were a little distracting. It would be even more amazing if at some point I could catch them accompanied by 'The Gimme Dolla Orchestra' who graces the band’s “You Got to Bring Some …To Get Some” album.
We’ve since heard back from Jim and you can bet I’ll be dragging my wife and friends out to see The Breeze Kings again very soon. If you like this kind of music, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of either of their records available at Amazon.com. ‘Sorry That You Put Me Down’ is worth the price alone. You will NOT be disappointed.
Like a gigantic hand scraping its fingernails across the chalkboard of West Point’s concrete, the sound of the dodgers in transit was a fluid social stain designed to disrupt with impunity the otherwise perfect and repressed order of the Academy.