Sunday, August 31, 2008

St. Lou, Part Two

Another day in the Gateway to the West, where I caught a livewire college football game last night.

A couple of days ago, while listening to (more on that site in the coming days), I heard an indie band from St. Louis called Jumbling Towers. I haven’t figured out what to make of them yet, but their jittery sound cut through the clutter of the non-stop barrage of music the internet throws at you. Their new six-song EP Classy Entertainment is available as a free download at their website. For the price, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

St. Louie, Louie

Greetings from St. Louis, my home away from home. Drove over last night from Kansas City. During the trip, my wife and I occupied ourselves with a game of “500 Actors Who Are Better Than John Travolta” (really, not all that challenging).

This town goes straight to the Hall of Fame for producing my spouse, but it has also produced some others that you might know better. The east side of the river gave us Miles Davis and the west side gave us Chuck Berry, and if any city can claim two more important 20th Century musicians, I’d like to hear it.

St. Louis is home to Blueberry Hill (stop in, have a burger, feed the jukebox) and Vintage Vinyl (stop in, browse the bins, buy a bootleg). Uncle Tupelo first raised its glorious head here, playing on the banks of the Mississippi, a river with the mystique to match their music. I saw my favorite show ever here, the Replacements at the American Theater. I saw Paul Simon bring his full Graceland review to the fabulous Fox Theater. I saw U2 at the old, decrepit Arena on the night that the Cardinals played the Twins in game seven of the World Series, as Bono came out in the home team’s cap and jacket, and fans pressed radios close to their ears in hopes of catching a score. And I saw Bruce Springsteen play here in a moment that was memorable because his shows always are.

It's a town that loves its local brewery, loved its local radio (KSHE, are you still there?), and for reasons I never quite understood, embraced Sammy Hagar like he was a native son.

So, Hail! Hail! St. Louis. Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Morning After

I spend a lot of time thinking about politics, but little time writing about it. The issues we face are too complex for me to fairly address in the relatively small amount of time I spend doing this, and there are many remarkably bright people who do better than I ever could.

I am not a partisan. I don’t believe that either party has a monopoly on sound policy or good ideas. And though I’m skeptical, I’m not jaded. I assume the good faith of candidates and public servants until shown otherwise. And I like to listen to smart people with whom I disagree, because I never discount the possibility that they might be right and I might be wrong. I am a man open to persuasion, and I believe that the best ideas are forged in the fire of rigorous debate.

That’s a long way of saying that I’m not here to deliver a partisan message. In fact, I don’t view this as a particularly political message at all. I just want to say that I watched Barack Obama speak last night and felt pride, not because of what he said to us, but because of what he said about us.

I am forty years old, a relatively young man, yet old enough to remember when a night like last night seemed impossible. I remember deep and corrosive divisions in this country. I remember slurs tossed off casually, thoughtlessly, almost innocently. I remember when public expressions of bigotry didn’t seem all that shocking.

Two generations later, we know that an African-American man can be elected President of the United States. We don’t know that he will be, but we know that he can be. Two generations may seem like a long time, but history will view it as a heartbeat. America has its critics, and has earned many of its criticisms, especially when it comes to the tangled web of race. Still, we stand one step closer to doing what no other great Western nation has ever done, to elect a person of color to our highest office.

That’s a tribute to the best of American nature, and a reaffirmation that the American dream is no myth. A kid raised by a single mother without the privilege of money or status can, through merit, rise to the very highest level, no matter his background. It makes me feel a swell inside. It makes me think of songs by Curtis Mayfield and Sam Cooke that were designed to give comfort and inspiration, and that now stand as prophecies fulfilled. It is all right. A change has come.

Sam Cooke - A Change is Gonna Come

Thursday, August 28, 2008


To put it mildly, some of our friends don't quite see what Trip and I see in the Felice Brothers. Here's our last best effort. If this slab of Last Waltz-meets-Rolling Thunder doesn't convert you, you're unconvertible.

(hat tip: Heather)

Oh, Give Me a Home Where the Unicorns Roam

I cherish any opportunity to post the Greatest Photograph of All-Time, and this occasion seems apt. Though the marriage didn’t work out so well, it appears that Michael Jackson remains on good terms with David Gest, the former Mr. Minelli. In fact, they’re collaborating on a project that will set the poems of Robert Burns to music, completing the logical progression from “Billie Jean” to “Tam O’Shanter.” As initially conceived, the plan was even more ambitious, but the fickle finger of mortality intervened.

"Michael and I were originally going to do a musical on his [Burns'] life with Gene Kelly directing and Anthony Perkins as executive producer," Gest said, "but they both died."

Damn the luck. That I would like to have seen.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Replacement

Got on the computer this morning, fired up this here page, and learned from Trip’s post that Steve Foley had died (at Teenage Kicks, we break the news; others will have to fix it). I won’t pretend that Foley was an important figure in my life, but he was behind the kit for two of the most memorable shows I’ve seen.

In January 1991, I was a first-year law student, more tightly strung than a tennis racket. My routine was not short on clarity: eat, sleep, study (drink on Friday and Saturday nights). You know the night time (night and day) was the right time (night and day) to be in the library. And while I could be pried away to see a band that stopped in Columbia, the idea of foregoing an evening with my civil procedure casebook to make the four-hour round trip to St. Louis to catch a show on a weeknight was beyond consideration. But my friend Scott worked me over until I relented, his line of reasoning impossible to deny: Dude, it’s the Replacements – what the %$#@ is wrong with you?

The show should have been a disaster. The band was fading to black, supporting its second straight sub-standard (well, at least, below their standard) album. But the worst of it was that they were playing without Chris Mars, their drummer since the band formed more than a decade earlier. Founding guitarist Bob Stinson had been dismissed in 1986 for the basic inability to stand up; Chris left because of the guys’ basic inability to stand each other. That’s when you know it’s over.

When the ‘Mats hit the stage, it was Steve Foley and his black, thick-framed glasses providing the beat. He was in the band, but not really, like the guy I saw on TV the other day standing in for Lou Gramm in the reconfigured Foreigner (sure, dude, it’s urgent). But that night, Foley belonged. Paul Westerberg was in his finest fettle; pissy, belligerent, sober. And he was also the mean-spirited ass-munch that he could always be, reminding Foley that he wasn’t a real Replacement. “Hit that *&^%$#@ thing, Steve!” he snarled derisively at one point, and Steve responded, cracking the head of his snare like lightning all show long. It was the last gasp of a dying band, like a great athlete in twilight – they couldn’t do it every night anymore, but on any given night, they were as good as anyone had ever been. Steve Foley was a footnote in Replacements history, but that night he bathed in their full glory.

A year or so later, I saw Foley in his more natural element, a journeyman just trying to get by. Tommy Stinson brought Bash & Pop, his first post-Mats band to town, and Foley again was on drums. I’ve mentioned this show before. There couldn’t have been many more than twenty people in a place that could have held a thousand, but they played like the joint was full. And that’s really the essence of rock and roll for that vast majority that never makes it big. You play because there’s a stage and an audience and because it’s what you live to do. I was more alive that night than I have ever been inside a stadium with the Rolling Stones.

Godspeed, Steve.

Steve Foley R.I.P.

The Replacements defined the post punk musical landscape better than any other American band. Their records were thrilling, sloppy and primal - combining punk rock, Chuck Berry and bubblegum. Steve Foley never played on any of the Mats studio recordings, but he was their drummer for their final tour to support All Shook Down and was also part of Bash and Pop, whose Friday Night Is Killing Me may be the high water for post-Mats releases. He passed away over the weekend and since I'll make no pretense to knowing the man, I'll relate his words about joining the band (courtesy of Jim Walsh and his Replacements' book, All Over But The Shouting: An Oral History of The Replacements):

"I was playing with Pete Lack and Jimmy Thompson in Wheelo at the time. I was with my brother Kevin and another guy, Paul Miller, on a Saturday morning, and we went to the Uptown [Bar] for brunch like every other swingin' dick in town: you'd go up there for a big old breakfast. But it was too packed, so we went over to the CC Club.

And we're sitting there, it was pretty empty, and Paul and Tommy walked in. They sat in a booth behind us, and my brother Kevin is like, "God, Steven, your ears are burnin'. They're talking about you. They keep looking over here."So I got up and went to the bathroom, and I said, "Hey, guys. Love the new CD." And Paul's like, "Really? Wanna join the band?" I'm like, "What do you mean?" And he's like, "Well, Tommy's got his black book out and he's running back and forth to the phone, trying to find a drummer." I think he was calling Clem Burke and all these other guys. So I was like, "Fuck, yeah. Are you kidding?"Paul said, "No. We've got a CD obviously that's just come out, and we're going on tour. We're gonna have to audition you."

So we finished the meal, got in my car, and I had just bought a copy of All Shook Down, and I just had it cranked before I went into the CC, so when they got into the car and turned on the ignition, I think it was "Bent Right Out Of Shape" just blasted out of the stereo. Perfect. It was pretty good. They both looked at each other and went, "You're already in."

Compared to all these other bands who've made it… I mean, these bands are a joke compared to the Replacements. I'm just glad to have been part of it. Some days I walk down the street and go, "God, I was in that fuckin' band?" Unbelievable. It is. It will always be a treasure in my mind."

Bash and Pop - Never Aim to Please
Bash and Pop - Fast And Hard

Paul Westerberg - Good Day

"A good day doesn't have to be a Friday
Doesn't need to be your birthday
The next one then you won't survive
Sing along, hold my life
A good day is any day that you're alive
Yes a good day is any day that you're alive"

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

He Walks a Thin Line

I’m not going to review the show. Plenty of other people have done that. And anyway, Springsteen is his own measuring stick. By any reasonable standard, all the shows are good shows. There’s probably no one else in rock and roll – and certainly no one else in his generation – who pours it all out night after night, playing at absurd lengths, drawing on a catalog that seems infinite at this point. Not only is he liable to play anything he has ever written (the Kansas City show opened with “Ricky Wants a Man of Her Own,” a non-album obscurity from 1977 that had never been played live), he now seems intent on playing everything anyone has ever written, as evidenced by Sunday night’s seat-of-the-pants covers of songs by Bobby Womack, the Drifters, and John Fogerty.

Some nights are better than others, and it sounds like Saturday in St. Louis was about as good as it gets (I knew I should have gone). And if Kansas City seemed ramshackle and rote by comparison, I must remind myself that we saw an unprecedented lead vocal by drummer Max Weinberg (he took the Ringo role on “Boys,” a Shirelles tune that the Beatles recorded in 1963); a tender, nearly heartbreaking reading of “Sandy” that was dedicated to the memory of Danny Federici; and ferocious romps through chestnuts like “Spirit in the Night” and “Rosalita.” Add in spirited takes on several newer songs that reaffirm Bruce’s relevance as a creative force, and any complaints about the set list, the sound, or Mr. Springsteen’s punctuality (the 7:30 show got underway at 8:51), seem trivial.

What has struck me in the hours since the show is how Springsteen is a singular figure in music, an artist with mass appeal and a cult audience, one who draws both casual fans and fanatics who follow him with a religious fervor. Beforehand, while awaiting the lottery that would determine which 450 people got into the pit in front of the stage, we met folks who had flown in from all over the country. We saw people with posters bearing requests (one boy who couldn’t have been more than fifteen wanted to hear “Prove It All Night” with the 1978 intro; now that’s specific). Afterwards, we talked to a man who has been to sixty-one Springsteen shows. On this tour. (Lifetime total: 332 - let that sink in.) Less than twelve hours after the house lights came up, a thread on the message board discussing the night’s events had reached sixty-two pages.

For these people, nothing could be better than to hear a song’s premiere or to tell friends that they were there the night Max sang (or better yet, that it was their request that made it happen). They’re glad to be woven into the tapestry of Springsteen’s career, to be a footnote in E Street history. And though I find that level of devotion a little disconcerting (I may be obsessive, but you’re crazy), I understand the impulse.

But for everyone like that, there’s someone who just wants to hear “Thunder Road.” By Monday afternoon, I had discovered that four couples from my neighborhood had been at the show. They are mostly casual fans catching their first Springsteen show ever, or the first in twenty years. And they’re as disappointed at hearing “Cynthia” as the die-hards are thrilled. It took up five minutes that could have been devoted to a song they knew and loved. At the school bus stop on Monday morning, a woman who had been there said that she and her husband had to leave before Springsteen played “Born in the U.S.A.” When I told her that he didn’t play it at all, her look was sheer incredulity. How could he not play that?

There are eight million stories in the naked city, and 16,000 sets of expectations at a Bruce Springsteen show. In the comments following the review on the Kansas City Star website, attendees groused about the start time, the song choices, and the sound, while others reflexively jumped to the Boss’s defense, unable to imagine that anyone could have been disappointed.

Attempting to meet everyone’s expectations is a futile exercise, and Springsteen didn’t even try. At the end of a long tour, it’s clear that he’s feeling the freedom to please himself, and experiencing some wide-eyed joy that you wouldn’t expect from someone who has been on the job for nearly four decades. The old songs were played with abandon, the new ones with purpose, and all with an intensity that never lagged through a 190-minute set.

From my perch, the show was wild and wistful, cathartic and melancholy. There were moments of sheer transcendence (“Promised Land” never fails to lift me up), and a suspicion that a chapter is closing. Phantom Dan is already gone, and I wonder whether Clarence Clemons could withstand the rigors of another lengthy tour. He’s sixty-six years old, and clearly is in some physical distress; even walking across the stage was difficult. Could the E Street Band go on without both its senior member and Bruce’s most famous on-stage foil? Can you imagine someone else playing the sax break in “Born to Run”?

If this was it, I’m glad I was there. And if it wasn’t, I’m glad for that, too. No rock and roller has ever meant more to me. I can’t begin to understand how the serious fans feel.

Monday, August 25, 2008

During the Encore, A Woman Came Between Us

Quite literally. She appeared out of the ether and squeezed in. She was drunk. And perhaps meth-addicted. And offering Altoids to everyone in the area (yeah, thanks, but no, I'm good). Also, I'm pretty sure I got groped, though she may have just been trying to keep her balance. She desperately tried to say something to me, but it was in a voice smaller than her pupils, and I couldn't hear. She stared right at me from a distance of ten inches all through "Born to Run." I tried not to notice, but I've got me some stellar peripheral vision. Luckily for her, she can't remember this morning. Sadly for me, I'll never forget.

It's a new kind of tired today, and I have to show Trip around the Paris of the Plains before he heads back, so more details to follow. But a show that started with "Ricky Wants a Man of Her Own" and "Cynthia"? I never would have guessed that.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Kansas City, Here He Comes

When a band stops in Kansas City, it’s generally considered bad form to play the song of the same name – not because the tune isn’t great, but because it has become a cliché, as one act after another plays a tepid, ill-rehearsed version, each thinking that they’ve stumbled upon an original idea.

The last time Bruce Springsteen played here, he played his set and his encore, finishing with “Land of Hope and Dreams,” which had closed every show on the entire tour. As the band took bows, Bruce looked up with a twinkle in his eye and a grin on his face, stepped to the microphone, and said “It has to be done!” First, I cringed, but then he launched into the longest and best version of “Kansas City” I’ve ever heard, complete with an extended solo barrelhouse piano improvisation by Roy Bittan that dissolved into a giant E Street climax.

The Boss is back in town tonight, and Trip is here, too (ask him about the barbecue), and in honor of the event, we go back through the files to bring you Teenage Kicks’ Best of Bruce.

Blindsided by the Flight

The Greatest Ever?

Trading Wings for Wheels

Memorable Springsteen (Part Two)

Memorable Springsteen (Part One)

I Am Not Afraid of You And I Will Beat Your Ass

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Lightning Strikes Out

It’s like thunder, lightning. The way my mind works is frightening. Wicked storms rolled across the plains in this morning’s small hours, and with every flash!-hiss-BOOM!! that made my eyes pop open, with every alarm that made me sit up straight in bed, I’d wonder whether I could get today’s Teenage Kicks post out of it.

I thought about Thunderclap Newman and Lightning Hopkins, and Springsteen’s “Thundercrack.” “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” and “Who’ll Stop the Rain.” I pondered Klaus Nomi’s singular reading of “Lightning Strikes” and Dylan’s “Shelter from the Storm.” I even flashed back to the Saturday mornings of my youth and said Shazam! (though like all young men starting to experience certain awakenings, I really watched the show for Isis).

As the night went on, my bed started filling up with children, frightened by the evening’s festivities. And as they finally fell into the stillness of sleep, their limbs continued to thrash with the energy of youth. Then all I could think of was Dean Martin singing “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.”

A modicum of fitful sleep was interrupted at 6:30, the alarm reminding me of my normal Saturday morning date. So I got in the car and drove through the rain, windshield wipers slapping out a tempo, keeping perfect rhythm with the song on the radio. I was joined at the gym by the other thunderstorm insomniacs, and my mind turned to King Crimson’s “Sleepless.” Still, no inspiration.

So I got on the treadmill, and as miles passed without moving an inch, I pored over U2’s “Running to Stand Still” and Patti Smith’s “Pumping (My Heart),” but to no avail.

I drove home and concluded there would be no post today. Lightning never struck.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Perhaps sensing that I’m running out of steam 2/3 of the way through this endeavor (OK, I said “I’m running out of steam, give me an idea!”), Mary suggests a post on rock and roll types who have undergone some significant transformation. Not a David Bowie/Madonna-style transformation that is part of the show, but a real-live I-used-to-be-that-and-now-I’m-this-style makeover. Here are a few:

Y Kant Tori Read to Tori Amos

Til Tuesday to Aimee Mann

Johnny Cougar to John Mellencamp

Happy Alanis Morissette to Angry Alanis Morissette

Michael Jackson to Skeletor

Ministry to MINISTRY!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Brucing His Age

In golf, an aspiration for long-time players is to shoot their age – that is, to complete 18 holes with a score equal to or less than their number of years on earth. What might the equivalent be for a rock and roll fan? I think it’s to see the same act play more shows than you’ve had birthdays.

As previously mentioned, Trip is coming to Kansas City this weekend to sample some barbecue (I’m planning to take him to Oklahoma Joe’s, but my conscience keeps telling me he should experience the original Arthur Bryant’s) and to catch Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band on the next-to-last date of the current tour. We have a pair of general admission tickets for the floor, and if the lottery is good to us, we’ll be right up front in the pit, requests Sharpied on our foreheads.

Trip turned 51 recently, but he possesses the energy of any two men half his age. By the grace of the notorious spreadsheet and this post, it appears that this will be his 56th Springsteen show. The man has Bruced his age.

Can anyone else out there boast a similar achievement with any band? I can’t, not even close. If you can, leave us a comment, even if it’s the Grateful Dead or Phish.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Range Life

A big, heartfelt shout out to our friend Mary Zajac, who kicks off her new gig as food critic at the Baltimore City Paper with the first installment of Free Range, her new space in print and on the web. Hey Mary, we'd like to offer a toast in your honor. Can you recommend a Champagne?

Pavement - "Range Life"

Around the Horn

I warned that there would be some maintenance blogging, and this post admittedly qualifies, but I still think it will be worth your while as we take a spin around the web. First, we check in with three of my favorite writers (not just bloggers): Joe Posnanski, who is in Beijing covering the Olympics, has himself a Springsteen dilemma; Nick Hornby has a brief but lovely remembrance of Jerry Wexler; and we're having a rock geek hootenanny as we update "Who's on First?" in the comments at Steve Rushin's blog.

Over at I am Fuel, You are Friends, Heather has been on fire lately, sharing tons of new (and sometimes unavailable) music, including new songs from The National and Wilco.

And finally, to my good friends in The Hold Steady and Drive-By Truckers, do I need to buy you a map and show you where Kansas City is? Even Bruce Springsteen can find the place, and he has an AARP card.

Speaking of Springsteen, Trip is making his way out west for the show and the first Teenage Kicks summit in the central time zone. More to follow . . .

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New Broken West, Ezra Furman singles

Last year, two of our favorite new discoveries were The Broken West and Ezra Furman & the Harpoons. Both bands have a new album to be released in the coming weeks, and we have a track from each.

Via Aquarium Drunkard: Broken West, "The Auctioneer"

Via I Am Fuel, You Are Friends: Ezra Furman & The Harpoons, "We Should Fight"

Mixed Up

It’s hard to define your terms anymore. For instance, one of the best, most electrifying albums I’ve heard this year isn’t really an album. It isn’t available for sale. And it’s certainly not in compliance with federal copyright law.

It’s the Santogold vs. Diplo Top Ranking mixtape, on which the artist and producer conspire to mix, remix, remake and re-imagine songs by Aretha Franklin, Three 6 Mafia, Devo, The Clash, and Desmond Dekker, among many others, resulting a free-flowing, logical and altogether mind-blowing stew of hip hop, punk rock, reggae, electronica, funk, new wave and world music.

I’ll hesitate to post such an illicit product here, but if you wanted to do a Google search, perhaps this one, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it for yourself.

Monday, August 18, 2008

It Happens Today

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, the first collaboration between David Byrne and Brian Eno in more than a quarter century. The album is out today in digital form, and you can stream it for free at Byrne's website. You can buy the download for $8.99, or for three more bucks you can get the download with a CD to follow in the mail in a few months.

Next month, Byrne (but not Eno) will hit the road, playing songs from the new album, plus My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and the three Eno-produced Talking Heads records - More Songs About Buildings and Food, Fear of Music, and Remain in Light. If you're looking for me on October 19, you can find me at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City, wearing a big white suit and calling out for "Crosseyed and Painless."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Paul Simon Playlist

Paul Simon has travelled many paths in the last 40 years (not the least of which was marrying both Princess Leia and flower child Edie Brickell) - and taken me from Bookends and Bridge Over Troubled Water blasting from my sisters' room when I was a kid, to my infatuation with his string of early 70's AM hits, to an intimate 1981 concert with 500,000 of my closest friends in Central Park (hello K.C.), through the highly eclectic and wildly succesful Graceland and its subsequent triumphant tour (hello Marie), on through to the stink bomb that was Songs From The Capeman and now to his elevated status as senior statesmen and magi to a new breed of americana savants and sweet soft rockers. Here's a playlist comprising mostly cover versions from the new breed and a couple of orignal tunes by Simon acolytes.

Paul Simon - American Tune
The Delta Spirit - Duncan (from Daytrotter session)
Jesse Malin - Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard

Glen Phillips - American Tune

Peter, Bjorn & John - Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard

Jens Lekman - You Can Call Me Al

Julie Doiron - Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard

The Morning Benders - Mother And Child Reunion

Eva Cassidy - American Tune

Spoon - Peace Like A River

Hot Chip - Graceland

Grizzly Bear - Graceland

Jeremy Fisher - Scars That Never Heal

Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal (live from the Hi-Dive - Denver, CO)

Fill in the Blank

The following comes from a recent featured review in one of the major music mags.

“______’s fantastic third album is steeped in the fuzzed-up guitars, three-part harmonies and cotton-candy choruses of Big Star and Cheap Trick. Power-pop die-hards awaiting the genre’s commercial saviors must reckon with the fact that the messiahs have arrived.”

Can you guess the band that goes in the blank? If so, leave a comment. If no one gets it in the next couple of days, I’ll reveal the answer.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Jackie, O!

A couple of nights ago, T.J. asked “what do you think about Little Jackie’s ‘The Stoop?’” And I thought “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” So I fired up the Google, found the MySpace page, and enjoyed the buzz that comes when a song you didn’t know a minute ago now rules your entire world. The duo spins around the Lauryn Hill/Amy Winehouse axis, tossing off funky pop gems as casually as kicking off flip-flops. Resistance is futile.

Commence dancing now.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Dyslexic Heart

Just got a flyer in the mail from Gymboree, the kids play and clothing people. On one of the coupons, it says "We love to make new friends!" Of course, I initially read it as "We make love to new friends!" Well, that changes things completely.

Songs To Lose Elections To

Recently, John McCain and Barack Obama provided Blender with lists of their ten favorite songs. McCain, it seems, likes his Abba something awful and hasn’t heard a new song since Jimmy Carter held office. Obama is considerably more current, but he picked a Springsteen tune that we doubt The Boss even likes all that much.

To be fair, both candidates’ selections are pretty good, if awfully safe. Where’s the danger? Maybe I’d like to be President some day. Should I omit The Hold Steady’s songs from my picks lest the electorate believe I support the indiscriminate ingestion of pharmaceuticals? And why does this standard only apply to music? I can tell you my favorite movie is The Godfather without implying support for the mafia. I can tell you the last great novel I read is The Road without being wistful for a nuclear apocalypse. But if I say that I dig “Under My Thumb,” I’ll surely find myself under assault from NOW, and also from the other four fingers who feel slighted by the attention heaped upon that titular digit.

So I got to thinking. If you’re running for President, and a magazine asks you for a list of your favorite songs, which ones should you probably not include? For starters, avoid these ten:

1. "Too Drunk to F***" - Dead Kennedys
2. "I Touch Myself" - Divinyls
3. "Heroin" - Velvet Underground
4. "Psycho Killer" – Talking Heads
5. "World Destruction" - Time Zone
6. “Used to Love Her (But I Had to Kill Her)” – Guns N’ Roses
7. “Erotic City” – Prince
8. “Welcome to the Terrordome” – Public Enemy
9. “Smack My B**** Up” – Prodigy
10. “Let’s Go Get Stoned” – Ray Charles

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics

You know us here at Teenage Kicks, and thanks to some free software, we know you. We know how many of you visit us each day, how long you stay, and where you are. You come from cities all over the U.S. and all around the world. In the past couple of days, we’ve had visitors from Italy, the Czech Republic, England, South Africa, Serbia and Montenegro, Costa Rica and Canada (yo, Windsor, Ontario!), among other nations. We thank you all for joining us.

The stat counting program also tells us how you got here. Some have us bookmarked, some come from links sent by e-mail, some from posts linked on message boards (a steady stream came from Paul Westerberg fan sites to read Trip’s interview with Peter Jesperson).

But one of the most interesting features allows us to see the web searches that bring people here. Sometimes, folks make their way to Teenage Kicks to find a specific mp3. Lately, a good number have found us by doing Google and Yahoo searches for Fleet Foxes and the Ting Tings. At least once a week, someone lands here while looking for rock’s iconic images. And we consistently welcome guests who are searching for information on Renee Crist, the tragic subject of the book Love is a Mix Tape.

But for the Googling set, one search consistently brings more visitors than any other:

“Steely Dan gargles my balls.”

Yes, this is the predominant portal for users to randomly find us. Virtually every day, our audience is made up of someone who just wants to know a little more about the ball-gargling habits of the world's foremost purveyors of sardonic jazz-rock.

When you least expect it, humility strikes.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


In 2006, a band (really a duo) called The Format released an album that I really liked and Trip completely looooooved. And then they broke up. Now the half of The Format known as Nate Ruess is back with a new band called fun (note the lower-case “f”). And they sound exactly like The Format. Which is a good thing. An album is due in ’09, but until then, you can enjoy a free download of the song “Benson Hedges.”

[Hat tip: Heather]

Back to School

We put our daughter on the bus to the second grade today, marking the earliest start to school I can recall (August 13? Seriously?). She met her teacher last night, and was immediately stoked to discover that said instructor is young and fashionable, which could not be said for my second grade teacher, who I recall being stern and seventy. The cheetah-print chair sitting in the corner of the new classroom was seen as a good omen, with The Cheetah Girls: One World set to premiere next week. We’re having a watch party at our house with pizza, juice boxes, dancing, and screaming. Lots and lots of screaming. Feel free to stop by.

Enjoy the soundtrack of the day:

Graham Parker and the Rumour – “Back to Schooldays”

The Loud Family – “The Second Grade Applauds”

The Kinks – “Summer’s Gone”

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My Proudest Moment

My four-year-old just asked me if Elvis sang "Stay Positive."

Well, the new Elvis does, son.

You Don't Say?

From an article in the new Rolling Stone on Kid Rock's summer radio smash: " 'All Summer Long' is just instantly familiar," says Justin Chase, a program director in Las Vegas."

Of course, it doesn't hurt that the song merges the riffs from "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Werewolves of London" into a single tune. Just wait till the world gets a load of my new song, "Stairway to Freebird."

[update: I am now informed that "Stairway to Freebird" is a Dash Rip Rock tune that was previously unknown to me. Have all the ideas been used up? Am I doomed to unintentionally recycyle other people's jokes from now on? Read my thoughts on this in tomorrow's post, "The Gettysburg Address"]

He's with the Band

What do you do if you’re fifteen years old and your favorite band asks you to contribute artwork for their new album? If you’re Lee Heinemann, first you suppress the urge to purge.

“I thought I was going to throw up,” Lee says of the moment Tilly and the Wall asked for his help with o, which was released on June 17.

But he quickly beat back nausea. And then he got to work.

* * *

Before we get to now, we have to go back to then, when Lee was an unassuming junior high kid consumed with art and music, the kind who takes a sketch pad everywhere because you never know when the muse might come.

He was just 12 years old when he first heard Tilly and the Wall, the mixed-gender Omaha indie-pop band famous for its buoyant songs and the tap dancing that often stands in place of more conventional percussion. Soon, Lee and his friends in the now-defunct band Taxidermy Recital were hitting the road from their home in Kansas City to see Tilly on Midwestern stops in Omaha and Lawrence, Kansas. He quickly saw the distance between band and fans disappear. “They’re very accessible” Lee says of Tilly, whose members routinely chat with fans lined up to get into shows.

Lee began giving the band his drawings, and Taxidermy Recital gave them a copy of its CD, which featured a cover Lee had created. Soon thereafter, Derek Presnall, Tilly’s guitarist, asked Lee to paint the cover for a seven-inch single by Presnall’s side project, Flowers Forever. At that point, Lee’s transformation into something more than a fan began.

* * *

A few weeks after catching a Tilly show in Omaha in March of this year, Lee received an e-mail from Kianna Alarid, the band’s bassist and singer. She had a proposition.

Since its inception, Tilly and the Wall has possessed a heightened sense of community. Omaha is home to a small and notoriously supportive group of musicians and artists. Tilly can trace its roots back to Park Avenue, a band that also featured Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes and Clark Baechle of The Faint, and now Tilly makes its home on Team Love records, which was established by Oberst and Nate Krenkel in 2003. That sense of community extended to Tilly’s fans, and the band had an idea to increase the level of intimacy between artist and audience even further.

Tilly wanted some artist friends to create individual jewel-case-sized pieces of art to be included in a limited edition of the new album. The idea was not for each artist to create one piece to be reproduced; it was to create individual, unique pieces so that no two copies of the album would be alike. The works would go straight from the artists’ hands to the disc’s cover.

Alarid’s request to Lee was both simple and daunting. Could he create 1,000 inserts for the new album?

Thrilled, flattered and a bit overwhelmed, Lee got to work. Though each piece would be distinctive, the series would be cohesive, as he used silk screens and spray paints to create brightly colored backgrounds overlaid with dark images. After Lee sent an initial batch of 500 to Team Love, they asked him to create as many more as he could as quickly as possible. He worked around the clock to deliver 700 more images to the label.

More than a dozen artists participated, but Lee was one of the stalwarts of the project, and Team Love’s Matt Mangin praises his work. “Lee's [pieces] are some of the very best and so cool,” says Mangin.

For his part, Lee can’t quite get over how wonderful and strange it is to be part of his favorite band’s circle of friends. “The whole thing is so weird,” he says. “Going from being a really big fan to being part of the album they’re putting out is a thrill.”

Monday, August 11, 2008

Riding the Rails

If my four-year-old son had a theme song, it would be a tune he doesn’t even know: Robyn Hitchcock’s “I Often Dream of Trains.” Ever since he could form a syllable, he has been infatuated with the things. When he was a toddler, he’d sit on my lap and we’d scroll through the character gallery on the Thomas the Tank Engine site, and he’d soak up the names and bios of dozens upon dozens of characters. I’m not sure he was even two years old when we met with a teacher from a local pre-pre-school program. As part of her evaluation, she asked if I thought he knew fifty words. “Fifty words?” I replied. “He knows more than fifty trains.”

Yesterday, we took him to a local park with a miniature train that the family has ridden many times. Kids sit comfortably in the tiny cars, while adults tuck their knees neatly beneath their chins. For fifty cents a pop, you get two laps around the Kansas City Northern line, complete with railroad crossings and a dark, dark tunnel that provokes roller-coaster-style screams from the pre-pubescent set. As we went around, the click-clack of wheels on rails reminded me of the rhythms that formed the foundation of Johnny Cash’s career. There are songs about cars and planes and the occasional submarine, but no other form of transportation has inspired as many great songs as the railroad. It’s a wonder that Sirius doesn’t have a channel devoted exclusively to train songs. And on the off-chance that they’re thinking of starting one, let’s help create a playlist. I’ll start, you chime in.

“Folsom Prison Blues” and “Rock Island Line,” Johnny Cash
“Mystery Train,” Elvis Presley
“Train in Vain,” The Clash
“Train from Kansas City,” The Shangri-Las/Superchunk/Neko Case
“The Train Kept A-Rollin’,” Johnny Burnette Trio/Yardbirds
“Draw Your Brakes,” Scotty (from The Harder They Come)
“People Get Ready,” Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions
“Downbound Train,” Bruce Springsteen
“Downtown Train,” Tom Waits
“I Hear the Train,” Ike Reilly Assassination
“Down in the Tube Station at Midnight,” The Jam
“The Metro,” Berlin
“Subway Train,” New York Dolls
“City of New Orleans,” Arlo Guthrie
“It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry,” Bob Dylan

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Isaac Hayes, 1942-2008

Flying High Again

I fell asleep last night to the U.S. Men’s Volleyball Team spiking on Venezuela, and woke up this morning to the hoops squad dunking on China, concluding that these are the most rock and roll of all sports, dynamic and powerful, fluid and angular, rhythmic and propulsive, with a drummer’s snap of the wrist and a guitarist’s sense of the riff. Lebron James, in particular, seemed to have a feel for heavy metal thunder, throwing down a Kobe Bryant alley-oop with such ferocity that I fear he may have harmed the universe.

I kind of dig these precisely-half-a-world-away games, where we watch the morning events at night and the nighttime events in the morning, with the wee-small-hours competitions replayed all day long. Shhh! Don’t tell me what Michael Phelps did overnight, though I don’t think I have to guess. With the PGA, minus Tiger, being played this weekend to complete indifference, there’s a new predator in town. That guy is a Shark.

Dwight Twilley - Shark

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Steroid Sound

In 1996, his ninth big league season, Baltimore Orioles center fielder Brady Anderson hit 50 home runs, more than doubling his total from any other campaign in a fifteen-year career. It was a mid-career spike unlike any other in baseball history, and is widely believed to be attributable to a brief flirtation with performance-enhancing drugs.

While mulling Anderson’s achievement, I began to wonder whether there’s a musical equivalent. Is there an artist who produced a mid-career album far surpassing anything else in his/her/its catalog? Lots of acts have hit their apex with their first album and then flamed out. But how many have come up with a masterpiece out of nowhere?

I have come up with one: Matthew Sweet.

Sweet’s third album, Girlfriend, is a stone-cold classic, a power pop masterwork that followed two records that failed to dent the collective consciousness, and preceded several others of workmanlike competence. Those records have their high points (like “Sick of Myself” from 100% Fun), but none reached the consistently dizzying heights of Girlfriend.

I’ve searched the corners of my mind for other examples, but have come up empty. Who else has recorded a steroid-fueled classic album? I’m taking nominations.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Bonus Olympic Coverage

As you may have heard, the Beijing atmosphere is of roughly the same consistency as mayonnaise. So let's amend the previous list to include two more songs - "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" by the Platters (as recommended by intrepid TK reader T.J.) and "The Air That I Breathe" by The Hollies.

An Olympic-Sized Post

It is upon us, the quadrennial orgy of athletics and human interest that holds the world’s attention for two weeks. While many will complain about the tear-jerking fluff piece on the modern pentathlete from Liberia who overcame bulimia, civil war and bunions to earn a place on the Olympic squad of his adopted homeland of Luxembourg, I’m a sucker for this stuff. Once every four years, I care about who the fastest man in the world is, and whether the 14-year-old girl from Oklahoma can stick the landing, and how Michael Phelps (prepare to hear that name nine million times over the next 15 days) might really win eight gold medals. I care about team handball and women’s quadruple sculls and volleyball and archery (though I really think those last two events should be combined into a single competition). I like to watch people whose entire lives have built up to an event that might last just ten or twenty seconds, wondering if I could keep from cracking under such immense weight, and marveling when the strongest among them deliver their best performances on the biggest stage. I love that someone I’ve never heard of today is going to be a household name before September comes.

And so here are ten songs in honor of the Games of the 29th Olympiad.

1. Red Rockers – China
2. U2 – Silver and Gold
3. Decemberists – The Sporting Life
4. Velvet Underground – Run Run Run
5. Van Halen – Jump
6. Van Morrison – Carrying a Torch
7. The Pixies – Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons
8. R.E.M. – Nightswimming
9. Bob Geldof – This is the World Calling
10. The Heartbreakers – Chinese Rocks

Jason and The Scorchers (Straight From the IPOD)

They swaggered like a backwoods Stones, came on with the punk fury of a hillbilly Clash and anyone who saw Warner Hodges do that guitar round the world thing knew they were in the presence of rock royalty.

Oh yeah... they can also claim the greatest Dylan cover. Ever.

Jason And The Scorchers - Absolutely Sweet Marie

Thursday, August 07, 2008

You’ll Care About It Because I Care About It

Despite being a mutual obsession for Trip and me, we don’t talk sports much here, and certainly not sports (and teams) that hold little interest to most of you. But you’ll have to excuse me, friends, because the Missouri Tigers are on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Well, they are in this part of the country at least. Elsewhere, it’s Georgia, Florida, Ohio State or Southern Cal. But in the heart of America, the Tigers are college football’s poster boys.

It wasn’t always this way. In fact, for most of my twenty-plus year affiliation with Mizzou, it has been just the opposite, periods of mediocrity interrupted by moments of abject futility, with just a sprinkling of coal-black karma (Colorado’s fifth down; Nebraska’s kicked ball) added for gut-wrenching effect.

During my seven years in Columbia, I never saw a winning season. In fact, until recently, the most exciting thing I ever saw on Faurot Field was a 1994 Rolling Stones show. There was a brief renaissance in the late nineties, followed by a free fall. That sort of chronic losing can be punishing for a fan, especially one who lives in a town with a baseball team that hasn’t made the postseason since 1985 and an NFL team that hasn’t won a playoff game since 1994.

The reversal began in 2001 when Gary Pinkel was hired as coach and immediately recruited quarterback Brad Smith, a blinding improvisational talent who built a foundation over four seasons before handing the reins to Chase Daniel, deadly accurate and fearless, the prototype field general for college football’s new wide-open age. The Tigers’ fortunes spiked last season, when they began the year unranked, eventually rose to number one in the polls, and finished the season with the nation’s number four ranking. I witnessed nine of their fourteen games in person, including the neutral-field defeat of then second-ranked Kansas. My friend T.J. (yes, the Springsteen guy) was there, too. As a sportswriter, he has covered the World Series, NBA Finals and Olympics, but he called that night in Kansas City the most electric event he’d ever seen.

A couple of years ago, Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star interviewed me for a story on the Big 12 conference’s tenth anniversary, a span that saw mostly disappointment for the Tigers’ football team, and some ugly incidents and probation for the hoops squad. Blair asked about Missouri’s notoriously resilient fans and why we keep coming back year after year in the face of serial heartbreak. “Because,” I told him, “when things finally turn our way, we want to be there.” That’s exactly how I felt as I sat in the Cotton Bowl on January 1 of this year, watching my guys steamroll Arkansas.

Most of the key pieces are back for this year’s team, including Daniel (a finalist for last year’s Heisman Trophy) and wide receiver/kick returner Jeremy Maclin (who could be a candidate for this year’s version), plus ten starters on defense. I’ll be there again this year, from the first regular season game against Illinois to the last against Kansas, and if all goes well, some very warm location just after New Year’s Day. If you attended a small liberal arts school or an urban college without a football team, feel free to adopt the Tigers. There’s room on the bandwagon.

Are you ready for some football? God knows I am.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Guess Who's on First

I recently learned that there’s an indie singer-songwriter from Philadelphia named Mirah, not to be confused with the ass-kicking rock and roll band from Philadelphia called Marah. Not to be confused? We’re a nation that can’t keep there, their and they’re straight. Of course we’re confused.

When I was a wee tot, I knew that there was one band called The Who and another called The Guess Who, and that one of them had a song that concisely summed up my bewilderment. Tell me, who are you? Likewise, in my adolescent years, I learned that there were not only The Faces, but also The Small Faces, and that they were not the same band, except that they kind of were, and that one had Rod Stewart, and the other had the guy from Humble Pie, which, for reasons I cannot recall, was indistinguishable in my head from Blue Cheer. And Spooky Tooth.

It calls to mind an episode of Eight is Enough, a show remarkable not for eight siblings living together in relative harmony, but for the proposition that Dick Van Patten could get Betty Buckley. The whole show was an exercise in dementia – which one is Joanie? And Susan? And Nancy? – but I remember it most fondly for its 1970s updating of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” routine. The set-up was a big triple bill at the local enormo-dome featuring The Band, The Who and Yes.

“Who is the band?”
“I mean the band.”
“They’re on the bill, too”
“The Band.”
“The band is who?”
“Exactly. And also The Band. And Yes, course.”
“No, Yes.”

You get the picture. I’m also reminded of my third-grade classmate who wondered aloud why an American band would be called Foreigner, not aware that they were a confederation of Brits and Yanks, thus making them foreign wherever they roamed. But mostly I wondered why they seemed indistinguishable from REO Speedwagon. I don’t want to know what love is. I want to which band this is.

With age came savvy, and in the 1990s confusion turned to consternation when I sensed that upstarts called The Refreshments were trying to bathe in the glow of my favorite group of rock and roll miscreants. Some bands can never be replaced.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Thirty Days

Recently, on one of the morning shows, I saw an interview with Doug and Annie Brown, a couple who consummated their love every day for 101 days straight, an endeavor that Doug chronicled for the world to read. First off, I think it’s clear that Annie gets a unanimous, first-ballot induction into the International Wives Hall of Fame both for her physical generosity and for encouraging Doug to write a book about it (as someone who writes a little, I’m not sure which gift is greater). And second, their effort has given me an idea for Teenage Kicks.

If Trip has read this far, he’s understandably concerned, but worry not, partner, this doesn’t involve you. Rather, taking inspiration from the Browns, I pledge to post something here, starting at this moment, every day for the next thirty days (I actually posted yesterday, too; consider it a bonus), which will take us through September 3. Some days, undoubtedly, will consist of maintenance blogging. But I’ll do my best to throw in some sweaty, screaming, swinging from the chandelier blogging, too.

You’ve been warned.

And now, apropos of nothing, enjoy some T. Rex:

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Tees that Bind

The trip wasn't totally in vain. A package unexpectedly arrived at my door today. Inside was the limited edition t-shirt from Bruce's three-night stand at Giants Stadium. Sometimes, a t-shirt is a 50-50 blend with a nifty silk screened design. Other times, it's an act of friendship. Thanks, Teej.

Echoes of Ghosts

One of my favorite albums is My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, the 1981 collaboration between David Byrne and Brian Eno, an experimental patchwork of African music, electronica and funk that served as the logical extension of Talking Heads' Remain in Light, on which the two also collaborated. After a twenty-seven year hiatus, Byrne and Eno are set to release a new album, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, later this month. The first single "Strange Overtones" is bubbling and infectious and is available for free download. Get it. Now.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Joe Strummer on The New York Dolls

I'm currently reading Redemption Song, the excellent Joe Strummer biography by Chris Salewicz, and here's what Joe had to say about The New York Dolls 1974 perfromance on the BBC's The Old Grey Whistle Test:

"I'll never forget watching Johnny Thunders on that program on BBC2, the Whistle Test. Johnny Thunders and his crew - the Dolls - played two numbers. I remember all the musicians in Newport and all the students in the Union bar watching it on the television there, and it just wiped everybody out: the attitude, the clothes, it was different from all this earnest musician-worshipping nonsense that had come in with progressive rock. When the Dolls played that British TV show, that just gave us legs and arms, and the spirit to really get into it".
What Joe said.

Joe Strummer - Trash City

New York Dolls - Trash