Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Play It Purdy for Atlanta

The most beautifully misunderstood featurette on our website is the “Daily Throwdown,” in which we pull two tenuously related video clips from YouTube, generally featuring guitarists of some merit, and ask readers to duke it out in the comments section to determine which one is “the winner.” Really, though? It’s just an excuse to put some cool old clips on the site and generate traffic. But boy, do people get angry about it. Last week, I put Joe Bonamassa on the same page as Stevie Ray Vaughan and you would have thought I’d burned SRV’s Strat and peed on his grave. How dare I imply that Joe was in the same league as Stevie Ray! I don’t think I did, actually, but who cares? That one Throwdown is at 1625 hits and counting. And we do these things every day.

Anyway, the point is that there is some amazing footage out there on YouTube and it’s legally cool to embed it on your site (at least, for now). Sometimes, though, things you think, for certain, will be all over YouTube and will be easy to find turn into little trips down the old rabbit hole. Today, I made such a Carrollian journey…and for that, I blame the rednecks. Or the redneck archivists, to be exact.

Tomorrow was going to be the king of all Throwdowns: “Free Bird” vs. “Stairway to Heaven.” Yes, I can see you music snobs out there preparing your tut-tuts as you oh-so-smugly listen to your rare Kate Bush imports and discuss the finer points of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, but come on…“Free Bird” and freakin’ “Stairway!” Duking it out on our site! That’s gold on the interwebs, kiddies.

And of course, I was looking for video footage of classic lineups only (no 2007 reunions from either party), and reasonably good audio. But alas, it turns out that there does not exist a single live clip of the Ronnie Van Zant-era Skynyrd playing “Free Bird” from beginning to end. Not a single one. Oh, there are plenty of versions with Gary Rossington’s slide intro removed or with that long, long, long outro clipped. Or with horrible audio, apparently recorded across the street from the venue, possibly from inside a broken hair dryer. And there are plenty of versions that are split into two YouTube clips, one assumes so that listeners can re-live the thrill of hearing One More from the Road on 8-track tape. But damn it, there exists absolutely nothing I can put on the site next to Zep’s beautifully shot and recorded The Song Remains the Same performance of “Stairway.” My duel of the millennium is dead. So I feel compelled to say…

Really, Skynyrd fans? Really?? This is your freakin’ national anthem (what with “Dixie” being a bit out of favor in the Obama Era, a.k.a. Post-1865 America)! How do you not have a definitive live version of “Free Bird” on YouTube, for God’s sake?! What the hell do you watch when you’re waiting for your Roland Martin bass fishing shows to load?

It’s not a complete loss, though, because I learned something today — something I hadn’t foreseen when I embarked on this journey. I learned about the many miraculous, hither-to-unseen powers of “Free Bird.”

For instance, I learned of its transformative powers. Yes, this FM staple can metamorphose mere video game mouth-breathers into godlike rock stars able to do what Skynyrd nation could not, and that is to post a definitive live version of themselves rocking out to that ultra-badass Allen Collins guitar solo…even if they are doing so on wanky pieces of plastic.

The song also has the power to heal the soul, as prescribed by mourners of everyone from Dale Earnhardt to Akira the boxer puppy. Ah, there’s no more meaningful tribute than a photo collage adorned with the lyrics of a guy telling his girlfriend, “Please don’t take it so badly, ’cause the Lord knows I’m to blame.” I guess, technically, Earnhardt made the decision to take that turn a little too fast, but it’s a bit harsh to point that out in your tribute, don’cha think? God knows what poor, little Akira did to warrant his trip to doggy heaven.

The song also empowers bands with names like Stone Heart and Smokey & the Jokers to feel like, for one shining moment, they are playing on better stages to better audiences (using, presumably, better band names). It certainly must have some confidence-boosting power, or else all those tubby, pimply marching band kids (from middle school to college) wouldn’t play it…and have their parents post it.

Exactly what power Tammy van Zant is harnessing in “Freebird Child” (no, seriously), I can’t say. Presumably, the power to cash in on one’s deceased father. Nevertheless, let me just state that I have a newfound appreciation for this Classic Rock chestnut. And for Skynyrd (seriously, that is a badass guitar solo). So yeah, boys, one more time. Play it purdy for Atlanta.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Last Go ’Round

I spent…it makes me physically ill to say how much, let’s just say a lot…on Paul McCartney tickets last week. It’s Macca’s first concert ever in Nashville, though not his first trip to Music City. He wrote and recorded one of my favorite Wings songs, “Junior’s Farm,” during a stay here in 1974 (“Up popped a C line…err, sea lion…ready to go!”). And it’s almost certain to be his last concert here, as well. Even if Sir Paul, who turns 68 this year, keeps going after the oddly-named Up and Coming Tour, I’m guessing we’ll see less and less of him at places that don’t have words like “Wembley” and “Madison Square” in their names.

The prospect of seeing Paul McCartney for the last time is rather bittersweet. I managed to see my favorite Beatle — and thus, favorite musician — on two occasions when I lived in NYC. Sandy and I caught him at the Garden a few years back in what I then thought was not only my last chance to ever see my hero, but also the greatest show I’d ever seen. Lesser-known (well, for The Beatles) gems like “Fixing a Hole” and “I’ve Got a Feeling” probably did an even better job of transporting me back to my childhood bedroom than did the expected arena favorites, though they killed as well. Just an amazing show, only to be outdone last year with the one-two punch of seeing Macca on the Ed Sullivan Theater marquee (from our perfectly perched offices across the street), followed by Paul’s return to Shea, err, Citi Field. “I’m Down,” “Paperback Writer,” “Mrs. Vanderbilt” (!) and even my favorite post-Wings Paul tune, “Only Mama Knows” – the set list was flawless. The performance, spectacular. And even Sir Paul seemed to appreciate the magnitude of the event (check it out on CD/DVD: Good Evening New York City).

Seeing your heroes can be the ultimate musical experience. And it can be a very personal experience. It evokes long lost memories and, in the case of Paul McCartney, supercharges them with a lights-out performance. Ah, but what if the performance doesn’t match the memory…or the legend?

So many of our musical heroes are in their autumn years, with some even putting on an extra sweater for the fast-approaching winter. Is it worth it to see one’s hero as a shadow of his/her former self? It pre-dates my first-hand sports experience by a few years, but you hear stories about an aging Willie Mays falling down in the outfield in the 1973 World Series. The ‘Say Hey’ Kid as an over-the-hill has-been. Unthinkable. And yet, if given the chance, would you have gone to that game anyway, just to catch a glimpse of the man who, in his prime, was quite possibly the greatest baseball player of all time? You bet you would.

I’ve had this happen a few times with music legends. I saw Jimmy Page (who, in subsequent years, absolutely recaptured his rock god form) with The Firm in Dayton, Ohio in 1984. Outside a brief burst of his former blazing self in a blistering cover of Muddy Waters’ “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” he was a shambles. But god, it was worth it for that one moment when Page became Page.

I saw The Who in ’89 on the Tommy tour, playing with an extra guitarist, background singers and even a freakin’ horn section. Definitely not the ’orrible ’oo I’d waited my entire life to see, the Live at Leeds ear-eradicators. But that show had highlights, as well. And when Pete finally set down the acoustic and revved up the electrified power chords, you could see that glimmer. Was it what I wanted? No. But I’d still seen The Who…and mercifully, the band rewarded me years later with an amazing Angry Young Who show at the Garden. Pete was pissed off and, with Zak Starkey proving that he’s the only one who could ever come close to Moonie, they were the jet engine of a band I’d always hoped to see. Now, if based on that Tommy show, I’d decided to stay home all those years later, I would have missed out on one of the great shows of my life. Sometimes, you’ve got to take that chance.

A month or two ago, Sandy and I went with the Vaughans to see Roy Clark at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium. Roy is 77 years old and suffers from arthritis. Think that affected our decision about whether or not to see Roy play the “Orange Blossom Special”? Not on your life.

Monday, June 7, 2010

How To Not NOT Post

I committed the mortal sin of blogging last week by…not blogging. Blog followers (a.k.a. readers, a.k.a. fans…depending on who you are and what your ego allows you to call your peeps. I like “minions”…but then, if I actually use that term, I’ll get 30 or so friends telling me to pull my head out of…err, the clouds) are like any other consumer base. They are creatures of habit. If you promise them that something is coming, then they will be more likely to look for it. If you blog on a regular schedule, folks will check back in with you on a regular basis to see what you’re up to. Conversely, if you blog whenever you feel like it, with little regularity, they will cease to check in after a few weeks.

I try to blog at least once a week, both on this site and on our editorial Blog and Roll page. I don’t really have the time to do more, given the amount of other writing and editing I do. And with Boy 1 pinging around the house like a ball of flubber and Boy 2 still working out the subtleties of Rob Halford’s “Victim of Changes” opening, writing around the house with any regularity is a bit of a challenge — in the same way that the Invasion of Normandy was a bit of a challenge. Beyond that, I like to let the pot boil a while before I put these on the plate, so to speak. But once a week is pretty reasonable.

I encourage any of you, whose blog is of importance to you or your business, to keep up with it. Give your readers a reason to come back on a regular basis, and give new readers a reason to start following.

So mea culpa, folks. New blog to come, asap!