Thursday, May 31, 2007

Straight Outta Splitsville

After two months of the 2007 season, the Oakland Athletics are the epitome of a .500 team. Their overall record is 26-26, which breaks down to 13-13 in April and 13-13 in May. And they're also 13-13 at home and 13-13 on the road. It seems like they've been oscillating at or near .500 for this entire season, and haven't won or lost more than two in a row all year.

From a fan's perspective, this year's A's team has been both fascinating and frustrating. They've had lots of come from behind victories (good) and come from ahead losses (bad). There have been a bunch of injuries (bad) but bench players and minor league call-ups have picked up the slack (good). In keeping with that 50/50 spirit, here are four good things and four bad things about the 2007 Oakland Athletics.

Four Good Things:
Travis Buck - T. Buck should be a candidate for AL Rookie of the Year, Dice-K nonwithstanding. He made the jump from AA to the majors this year, and stepped straight into the starting lineup when Milton Bradley got injured. He beat the Yankees with a triple and Red Sox with a HR in the same week. His playing time will probably scale back now that Milton is back, but Travis is the real deal.
Jack Cust - Picking up Custy was the steal of the year for the A's. They got him from the Padres for next to nothing, and he's hit 8 home runs in May. His 3-run walk-off against the Indians a few weeks ago inspired this bit of bad poetry. Custy's probably going to cool down over the rest of the year and won't reach the 48HR he's projected to hit, but he gets on base and hits
for power (both Moneyball upsides), so he'll be in the lineup for awhile. (I don't think "Custy" is Jack's real nickname - it's just one I made up for him after that Cleveland game!)
Dan Haren - Haren has been the best pitcher in baseball this year (6-2 with an eye-popping 1.64 ERA). He deserves to be the AL starter in the All-Star Game. As an A's fan, I've learned not to grow too attached to favorite players (Tejada, Zito) because all the good ones end up on other teams when they become free agents, but I've become a big fan of Danny Haren over the past few years, and will be sad when he takes his big free agent contract on another team.
Dan Johnson - aka "the other Dan". One of my biggest regrets about posting that "Custy at the Bat" poem (other than, you know, writing it) was that the rhyme scheme mandating labelling DJ as "cake". He's been anything but cake this year. He's hitting over .300 with power and playing great defense at first base. The poem would've worked better if Jason Kendall (who is a cake) had been on base before Custy hit that HR.

Four Bad Things:
Eric Chavez - Chavvy has has suffered from triceps tendinitis over the past two years, which has really hurt his productivity at the plate. He's currently hitting .228, and has been the A's least valuable player by WPA. At least he's been able to stay in the lineup, and is still the best defensive third basemen in the game. Hopefully he'll pick things up soon.
Jason Kendall - Kendall has never been a world-beater at the plate, but this year he's become pathetic, hitting under .200 with only three more extra base hits than me. He was a career .300 hitter before this year, so there's hope that he'll start picking it up like Chavvy, but I'm starting to worry that he's losing it.
Mike Piazza - In an ideal lineup, Piazza would be able to pull his catching gear out of storage and send Kendall to the bench, but he sprained his shoulder in early May, and a 38-year old catcher with a bum shoulder is probably going to be platooning DH with Jack Cust after he gets healthy. The A's acquired Piazza to replace Frank Thomas as their "veteran leader", which he wasn't very good at even before he got hurt. Picking up old players from other teams should be left to Brian Sabean and the Giants do. At they didn't overpay for him.
Those Damn Injuries - The A's could field a pretty decent team made up entirely of players who have spent time on the DL this year: two of their best starting pitchers (Rich Harden and Esteban Loaiza), their closer (Huston Street) and setup man(Justin Duscherer), many outfielders (Milton Bradley, Mark Kotsay, Bobby Kielty) and their DH (Mike Piazza) have been on the shelf for most of the season. This has let Buck and Cust and others show what they're made of, and it's a wonder they're doing as good as they are, but it's been tough, especially on their pitching.

And now it's time for the Summer surge! The A's have always been slow starters during the Billy Beane era, but usually pick it up after Memorial Day. It's like they treat the first two months of the regular season like an extended Spring training. They're currently 5.5 games behind the Angels, but I'm expecting the AL West race to tighten up over the summer and be a dogfight to the finish. Things will probably go more or less how Melissa Lockard predicted they would back in March in this pre-season preview at
The team will stink at the start of the season, and by mid-May, everyone (including myself, probably, as I never learn) will declare the team dead. Then the A's will rattle off 30 wins in a 40-game period and suddenly by the All-Star Break, they will have the division lead in their sights. After the break, the A's will either make a trade no one was expecting or they will welcome back one of their injured players. Said roster change will be the catalyst for a torrid August, during which time, they will take control of the division.
I'm pretty confident this is the way things will go down, but what happens after August is still unknown. The A's will either keep it together in September and win the division (as they did in 2000-2003 and last year) or fold at the end like they did in 2004-2005. But in either case, it should be an exciting summer for baseball in Oaktown.

On the other side of the bay, the SF Giants are also hovering around .500. They're a .500 team that should stay at that level throughout the season, but they're in a weak division so who knows? Barry Bonds will break Aaron's record in early July, probably against the Cardinals, hitting one over the McGwire monument in center field after LaRussa decides not to walk him with first base open.

And on the other side of the country, as I suspected, the NY Yankees are not very good. The NY Mets are pretty good though, and so are the Red Sox, so there could be (heaven help us!) a rematch of the 1986 World Series. And if there is, don't forget where you heard it first!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

new pornography

Matador has one song from the new New Pornographers album Challengers ("My Rights Versus Yours") available for download. The album doesn't "drop" (as the kids say) until August 21st (an important day), but you can get an early copy if you order it directly from the label.

After the release, they're going to be touring the USA in the Fall, with Neko Case but without Dan Bejar (who doesn't usually play with the NPs). Neko also designed the cover image above. I'm not sure what I think of that cover, but I do like the maple leaf inset. Maybe it's for Cancon purposes? The new mp3 is kind of mid-tempo, and I'm not sure what to make of it either, but it will probably become my favorite song sooner or later.

The New Pornographers - My Rights Versus Yours
(mp3 from Matador Records)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Once in every lifetime

One of our local PBS affiliates has started showing "The Young Ones" on Sunday nights at 11pm (same time-slot they used to have on MTV back in the mid-1980s). The show seemed daring and different back then, and hasn't lost it's edge over the last 25 years. It's still completely unlike anything else that's ever been on television!

They only made 12 episodes (the same number as "Fawlty Towers"), and the two seasons were two years apart, so they're almost like two different shows. The 1984 season had a bigger budget, but I think the 1982 season is a lot weirder. Each episode is like a 35-minute odyssey!

The Young Ones episodes were highlighted by a series of unrelated scenes that expanded on the so-called "plot" and a musical interlude (so the show would be classified as "light entertainment" and have a larger budget than a standard sitcom) where bands of the day like Madness or Dexy's Midnight Runners would play their latest hits. This dates the show in places (the cast didn't succumb to 1980s fashion, but those musical guests sure did) , but the songs were always my favorite part of the show: seeing a teenage Neneh Cherry singing with Rip, Rig & Panic or middle-aged (even back then!) Lemmy playing "Ace of Spades" with Motorhead. BBC America always cuts the songs out when they play the episodes (either for length or licensing), which I find kind of annoying.

Another favorite part of watching the show now is spotting all the "before they were famous" guest actors: Chris Barrie, Robbie Coltrane, Lenny Henry, French & Saunders, Fry & Laurie. Without "The Young Ones", there probably wouldn't have been "Blackadder" or "Absolutely Fabulous" or "Red Dwarf" or many others. It was probably one of the most influential comedy series ever (British or otherwise).

Rick(to Madness)
: Do any of you lot know "Summer Holiday" by Cliff Richard?
Suggsy (lead singer): You hum it, and I'll smash your face in!

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Benicia Whalers

Oh you trawlermen, come on
Forget your snapper and your prawn
For it's out of Benicia we'll sail
Searching for the humpback whale

I don't know why those two wayward whales, Delta and Dawn, had to choose Memorial Day to linger by the Benicia Bridge. They really messed up the holiday traffic for those of us who were just trying to get across the bridge and go home! I didn't get to see the whales, but I saw lots of whale watchers who were watching them. Just sitting in traffic watching the whale watchers watch the whales.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Route 66 continued

Bob Dylan and the Hawks performing "Like a Rolling Stone"
in 1966, from the PBS movie No Direction Home.


Friday, May 25, 2007

FOMM: Route 66 Revisited

Wednesday was Bob Dylan's 66th birthday, so I'm going back into my archives for the final four songs he performed with the Hawks (l.k.a. The Band) at London's Royal Albert Hall on May 26th, 1966.

As most Dylanologists know, the heavily bootlegged "Royal Albert Hall" Concert released as the Live 1966 album was actually the Manchester show on May 17th. These tracks are from the actual Royal Albert Hall show on May 26th, from the "Genuine Royal Albert Hall Concert" bootleg, part of the 8-CD Genuine Live '66 box set that I have on a single mp3 CD. And if you can't trust a bootleg, who can you trust?

The major difference between the real Royal Albert Hall show and the Manchester "Royal Albert Hall" show is that nobody yells "Judas" after "Ballad of a Thin Man". Eight hours of live Bob Dylan is a lot to plow through, especially since they didn't change the setlists during the tour, so you get multiple versions of the same 8-10 songs . Even listening to this on shuffle play gets to be a chore after listening to "4th Time Around" for the fourth time around. But I could hear Bob play these four songs with the Hawks four hundred times without getting tired of them!

Bob Dylan & the Hawks
(from The Royal Albert Hall, London, 05/26/66)
Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat
One Too Many Mornings
Ballad of a Thin Man
Like a Rolling Stone

Note about the songs: Since some people expressed concerns about eSnips (the clunky interface, inability to play or download on a Mac, etc.), I'm going to follow Jeff's lead and start sharing songs via divshare. This has a similar interface to eSnips (you can to play songs online before downloading, but can't link directly to mp3s), but not so much of the downsides. You don't need to register to upload files, but anonymous uploads are only available for one week before they're deleted. Which is ideal for me. Let me know, via comments or email, how the service works for you, and don't forget to download files promptly before they disappear.

This concert was 41 years ago, and I'm 41 years old, so I was less than one year old when it happened. And Bob Dylan was born in 1941, so he was 25 when he played this show. 25 is also the sum of the digits in the date of the concert (05/26/66) . There's probably something happening here but I don't know what it is, so I'll take my milk and go home.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Unwritten rules

Apparently there's an unwritten rule that says that former U.S. presidents aren't allowed to criticize the current president.

It must be like that "unwritten rule" in baseball against bunting for a hit to break up a no-hitter.

So when President Carter said this weekend:
I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history.
He was like Corey Hart, laying one down to break up Cole Hamels' perfect game last week.

Except it was more like breaking the "unwritten rule" about not bunting or stealing bases when you're up by too many runs. This administration is losing big in the late innings of their term and doesn't like an ex-President from the other major party bunting for a base hit.

Unwritten rules are made to be broken. Let the president know if he's not doing a good job. Try to get on base by any means possible. And don't be afraid to wear sunglasses at night.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Lookyloos over Locksley Hall

Spring is in the air, when common lore (or at least common Lord Alfred Tennyson) says that a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love. And I'm a little longer in the teeth than I used to be, but this Spring's fancy for me is the latest Lookyloos' album, You're Looking Very Beautiful Man, that was recently added to emusic.

The Lookyloos are a three piece band from Davis, who may be familiar to some readers because they played with the Loud Family and Anton Barbeau at the What If It Works? release party last July at the Fox & Goose in Sacramento. This is only their second album, but they've been around since the early 90s.

Their sound is indie pop that falls somewhere between New Jersey (Luna, Yo La Tengo) and New Zealand (the Chills,the Clean, the Bats). Their myspace bio also lists Pavement and Belle & Sebastian as influences. Eric Janssen sings in a Stephen Malkmussy, Ira Kaplany, Dean Warehamy timbre that's something of an acquired taste, but fits his songs really well.

And the songs themselves are all fabulous, like mini short stories.. or maybe short films. One song on You're Looking Beautiful ("Nobody Sends Black Flowers") comes from a line in Harold & Maude and another ("Double Feature") namechecks Jim Jarmusch and Harvey Keitel. If this album were a movie, it would be something that IFC might play in the middle of the day on a weekday rather than a midsummer box office blockbuster.

The Lookyloos have one earlier album, 2002's Perhaps the Most Satisfying Joy Left to Us in an Age So Limited and Vulgar as Our Own (the long album title comes from a line in Oscar Wilde's "Picture of Dorian Gray") that has a cover of the Chills' song "Doledrums". At last summer's Fox & Goose show they covered "Doledrums" and "A Picture of Dorian Gray" by the Television Personalities. Both of their albums are great Springtime listens, and may be at least one of the most satisfying joys left to us in this limited and vulgar age.

Monday, May 21, 2007

M.A.M.I. in the U.S.A

John Sebastian and Friends, from a 1986 TV show called "Deja View".

The lineup:
Guitar, harmonica, vocals: John Sebastian (of the Lovin' Spoonful)
12-string guitar, vocals: Roger McGuinn (of the Byrds)
Keybords, vocals: Felix Cavaliere (of the Young Rascals)
Vocals: Ronnie Spector (of the Ronettes)
Drums: Richard Manuel (of the Band)
Bass: Al Anderson (of NRBQ)

Five future rock & roll hall of famers on the same stage. With all that talent, this song is wrong on so many different levels! Firstly, the title is grammatically incorrect (it should be "You and I Go Way Back"). Also, it has one guitarist (Al Anderson) playing bass and another one (Roger McGuinn) dancing like Mr. Bojangles. And finally, this was probably the last performance footage of Richard Manuel. One of the all-time greats reduced to being a hired hand (he isn't even featured in the archive footage). RIP Richard. I only hope he was compensated well!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

By a network of my peers

Most of the Premier League and FA Cup matches have been carried, but today's FA Cup final between Chelsea and Manchester United was only available live (in the USA) on pay-per-view. This left me with three options to watch the final.

1) Pay $25 for the PPV broadcast.
2) Go to a pub (like the Englander) and pay a $20 cover to watch the broadcast with obnoxious ManU supporters.
3) Wait until Tuesday and watch it recorded on FSC.

Fortunately I found an option (4). Download TVUPlayer, and watch the FA Cup Final for free on my computer from the comfort of my home. TVU is an embedded player that lets you watch television broadcasts on the internet. They offer around 100 channels, but since they're based in Shanghai, 90% of the channels are in Chinese. One of the English language channels on TVU is Star Sports out of Hong Kong, who were broadcasting the FA Cup Final live.

After downloading the player and selecting Star Sports, I started seeing a bunch of blue and red guys moving back and forth on my laptop screen. TVU is peer-to-peer television where the quality of the signal is based on the number of people watching, and since a lot of folks around the world were watching the Cup Final, the stream was near broadcast quality.

And it was kind of empowering to be able to watch something for freethat the cable company and local British pub were charging $20-plus to watch. The match itself was kind of dull though. The red guys and blue guys moved back and forth on my computer screen for the whole 90 minutes of regulation without putting the ball in the net. One reason that a lot of people don't like soccer is because many high-profile World Cup and FA Cup Finals seem to end in scoreless 0-0 draws that go to penalty kicks. Which is as anticlimactic as determining the World Series champ via a home run hitting contest. Luckily, this FA Cup Final didn't go to penalties. Didier Drogba scored in the 116th minute (26 minutes into the 30 minute OT) to give Chelsea a 1-0 lead, which they maintained til the end. It's nice that it was settled in open pay too, because no one wants to see a goal-kicking contest!

Manchester United clinched the Premier League title a couple of weeks ago (the same day the Yankees signed Clemens -- good day for the forces of evil) so they were going for the "double" (Premiership and FA cup titles in the same year) . The forces of good were working against them today, so they were held back. And TVU won my battle against the evil forces that make you pay twenty bucks to watch English soccer in the USA. It was a win all around!

Friday, May 18, 2007

FOMM: Canadian Content

I saluted the U.S.'s neighbor to the South a couple of Fridays ago for Cinco de Mayo, and now it's time for the neighbor to the North.

This weekend is Victoria Day (aka "May long weekend" or "May 2-4") in Canada, so they get a one week headstart on Summer over the USA. They celebrate by having barbecues (elk or caribou or whatever the heck people eat up there!) , and drinking lots of beer. The nickname "May 2-4" comes from Canadian slang for a case of brewski.

A few years back, someone me a mix CD of Canadian Content all the standard stuff: Bob & Doug McKenzie's "Take Off", Stompin' Tom's "Hockey Song", "Blame Canada" from the South Park movie, etc., etc.. I was going to include a bunch of stuff from that, but I'll be jiggered if I can find it now. I'll need to dig through the internets to find my own Canadian content mix.

The patron saints of Canadian content are the pair pictured above: brothers Bob and Doug McKenzie. They were introduced to SCTV when the CBC network asked for a few minutes of “Canadian content”, which inspired Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas to invent Bob and Doug, a pair of toque-wearing, beer-swilling, Canadian brothers straight out of the Canuck jokebook. This became one of the most popular parts of the show, and spawned a hit album (The Great White North) and feature film (Strange Brew) for Bob and Doug, and a bunch of cool slang ("take off hoser" was Canada's answer to "G'day mate").

The two most famous bits on the Great White North album are "12 Days of Christmas" ("three pounds of back-bacon, two turtlenecks, and a beer.. in a tree" -- still gets lots of airplay during the holidays) and "Take Off", the hit single featuring Geddy Lee of Rush singing in-between Bob & Doug. This should be exhibit A in the "Geddy Lee does so have a sense of humour" (Canadian spelling intentional). My favourite part (ibid) is when Doug (or is it Bob?) says "that's me on the drums, eh." during the Peartbot 82 drum machine solo.

Bob & Doug McKenzie (with Geddy Lee) - Take Off
(from The Great White North, 1982)

While Bob and Doug were making it cool to be Canadian in the early 80s, lots of bands crossed the border to international arena fame (Rush, April Wine, Loverboy), but one band that didn't was the band Toronto. They were sold as Canada's answer to Heart, and that combined with being named after a city conspired to keep their fame solely in Canada. In a strange twist, Heart turned Toronto's "What About Love" into a worldwide hit a few years later, and they gained fame twenty years later when the New Pornographers covered their best-known song "Your Daddy Don't Know" on the soundtrack to the movie FUBAR.

I downloaded NPs cover from their site when it was available, and it sounds almost like an original. In fact it sounds like the best Rick Springfield song that Rick never wrote. Even borrows its riff from Rick's best known song (you know the one!). A well-known Canadian superband covering a song by a lesser-known Canadian non-super band. Here is the cover and original.

Toronto - Your Daddy Don't Know
(1982, from Get It On Credit)
The New Pornographers - Your Daddy Don't Know
(2002, from FUBAR: The Movie)

The New Pornographers don't have the mp3 on their site anymore, but there is a Quicktime video of the song with Neko and Carl putting on all their arena-rock moves. The video is also on youtube. As well as the Pornographers covering Toronto, the FUBAR:The Movie soundtrack has other Canadian indie bands covering rock classics, like Chixdiggit covering Loverboy's "The Kid is Hot Tonight" and Sloan covering Rush's "In The Mood" (from their first album). I've wanted to get my hands on this album for awhile, but it's only available on import, and isn't on iTunes or any of those by-the-song places.

Is there anything more Canadian than Sloan covering Rush? Maybe Sloan covering April Wine.. Here's the last song on Recorded Live at a Sloan Party (the US bonus disc on One Chord to Another), a cover of April Wine's "I Wouldn't Want to Lose Your Love". There's about a minute and a half of party sounds after the song is done, but I left it on because I'm too lazy to clip it off. It's like those audience bootlegs where the bootlegger forgets to switch off their recorder after the show, so you get a couple of minutes of extra crowd noise!

Sloan - I Wouldn't Want to Lose Your Love (April Wine cover)

And to wrap things up, here's a video of Stompin' Tom Connors performing "The Hockey Song". This song is hockey's version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame", and even gets played at hockey games south of the 49th parallel.

That refrain: "the good old hockey game is the best game you can name, and the best game you can name is the good old hockey game" should be called "the Stompin' Tom Connors Rule of good old hockey game commutativity"

The Ottawa Senators are Canada's hope for the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs, and since my one of my two least favourite hockey clubs (Detroit and Anaheim) will face off a-gainst Ottawa in the finals, they're my hope too. It's been 14 years since the Stanley Cup has been filled with Molson or Labatt's Blue (or whatever the heck kind of beer folks drink up in Canada), so the cup has been overrun with weak American beer for too long!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Have a heart Jerry

I was surprised to find out that Jerry Falwell had "heart issues".
I didn't even know he had a heart.

In honor of the late Rev. Falwell, here's a sign for newly agnostic Golden State Warrior fans.

I've probably watched more NBA basketball in the last three weeks than I had in the 15 years before, but it's been a blast watching the Warriors during their playoff run. I'm curious what my interest level will be when the regular season starts up again in a few months.

Now that the Warriors are done and the Sharks are done, I can keep focused on summer sports. Another walk-off victory for the Oakland nine that they didn't deserve after blowing a three run lead in the ninth inning. And this Saturday is the FA Cup final. Go Chelsea!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Custy at the Bat

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Oakland nine that day,
The score stood seven to five, with just one inning more to play.

And when Shannon Stewart died at first, and Swisher did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

But then with Chavvy safe at first and Bradley at the bat
A whack,a crack, and out through the space the leather pellet spat
A blot against the distant sky, a speck against the blue.
Looks like we're tied at seven, but the outs still number two

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair.
The rest clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human air.
They thought, "if only Custy could but get a whack at that.
We'd put up even money now, with Custy at the bat."

But DJ preceded Custy, as did also Bobby C.
and the former was a lulu, while the latter was a cake.

So upon that stricken multitude, grim melancholy sat;
for there seemed but little chance of Custy getting to the bat.

But Johnson let drive a single, to the wonderment of all.
And Crosby, much despised, tore the cover off the ball.

And when the dust had lifted,
and men saw that in a burst
there was Danny safe at second and Bobby hugging first.

From thirty thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
it rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;

It pounded through on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat;
for Custy, mighty Custy, was advancing to the bat.
There was ease in Custy's manner as he stepped into his place,
there was pride in Custy's bearing and a smile lit Custy's face.

And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
no stranger in the crowd could doubt t'was Custy at the bat.
Sixty thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt.
Thirty thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.

Then, while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
defiance flashed in Custy's eye, a sneer curled Custy's lip.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
and then the ball is shattered by the force of Custy's blow.

Above the left center field fence in rapid whirling flight
The sphere sailed on - the blot grew dim and then was lost to sight.
Thirty thousand hats thrown in air, thirty thousand threw a fit,
But no one ever found the ball that mighty Custy hit.

O, somewhere in this favored land dark clouds may hide the sun,
And somewhere bands no longer play and children have no fun!
And somewhere over blighted lives there hangs a heavy pall,
But Oakland hearts are happy now, for Custy hit the ball!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Turkeys on the Wing

The famous "Pink Floyd" scene from the WKRP "Turkeys Away" episode. One of many scenes deleted from the season one DVD.

My favorite exchange:
Mr. Carlson: Do I hear dogs barking on that thing?
Johnny: I do

Friday, May 11, 2007

Free games for May

Wrapping up dead songwriters week with another great one who passed on last year, Roger Keith "Syd" Barrett. Syd was the original lead singer of Pink Floyd, and even though he was only in the band at the beginning, their debut album and first few singles with Syd ended up influencing popular music at least as much as their multiplatinum releases that followed.

Tomorrow marks 40 years since Pink Floyd's legendary "Games For May" concert, which was described as "space age relaxation for the climax of spring - electronic composition, colour and image projection, girls and the Pink Floyd". It was the live debut of many songs from their debut album Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, released in the fall of 1967.

To mark the anniversary, the "Games For May" concert is being recreated at the same venue over two nights later this month (May 26th and 27th -- maybe they couldn't book the original dates) by a selection of special guest artists including Robyn Hitchcock and Graham Coxon (ex-Blur). Robyn played this week at another Barrett tribute show called "Madcap's Last Laugh" which included Roger Waters and Pink Floyd also played (albeit separately).

Here are some recent Barrett/Floyd covers by Robyn. Last December he played the whole Piper album at the 3 Kings Pub in West London. That performance is downloadable in lossless FLAC format from, probably preferable to these lossy mp3s. "Chapter 24" is from a show at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall in March 2005 (my personal stash).

Robyn Hitchcock covers Pink Floyd
(#1-3 from 3 Kings Pub, London 12/17/2006)
("Chaper 24" from Great American, SF 03/03/2005)
  1. See Emily Play
  2. Flaming
  3. Scarecrow
  4. Chapter 24
And here are a couple of Piper covers from other artists.

Bike - The Sippy Cups
The Sippy Cups are a kid friendly band from San Francisco fronted by Mark Verlander and a revolving cast of characters including two former members of the Loud Family (Alison Faith Levy and Joe Becker). Gil Ray (another former LF member) describes the Sippy Cups as "Flaming Lips for kids", and on this live album Kids Rock For Peas, they also cover the Velvets Underground ("Who Loves The Sun") and the Ramones ("I Wanna Be Elated") as well as the Floyd. A few years ago, Alison told me that "Bike " was her son's favorite song, and he liked to drum along to it. Her son was probably three or four at the time. Here's a video of the Cups jamming on "Bike" earlier this year at SXSW. They really are the Flaming Lips for kids!

Lucifer Sam - True West
True West was an early 80s Paisley Underground band from California's central valley (Sacramento/Davis). They covered "Lucifer Sam" on their 1983 debut single, with the same song backwards ("Mas Reficul") as the flipside. I'm not sure of the exact personnel who played on this single, but I think both this and the Sippy Cups track feature the drumming talents of Jozef Becker. True West reformed last year for a few shows, and youtube has videos of them playing "Lucifer Sam" both then and now.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Play that dead man's songs

More posthumousness.

New West records has just released a 2CD set of rare and unreleased songs by Warren Zevon called Preludes. It's taken from many hours of demos and home recordings that he made before his 1976 debut, compiled by his son Jordan. The sound quality is a little dodgy, but Zevon's genius was in full bloom way before he had a record contract.

Warren's ex-wife (and Jordan's mom) Crystal Zevon has also put out an authorized biography of Warren called I'll Sleep When I'm Dead. I haven't seen it yet, but despite the subtitle of "the dirty life and times of Warren Zevon" it sounds more like heartfelt profile than a tawdry tell-all. Looking forward to checking it out. I've been rediscovering Warren since Rhino's reissue of two of his albums that hadn't been on CD before: his 1981 live album Stand in the Fire and 1982 studio album The Envoy. It's hard to believe that these albums (especially Fire) didn't make it to compact disc until 2007.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

dead songwriter week continues

In the comments to my last post, someone just mentioned Elliott Smith and Kurt Cobain. Both of these deaths were sad, in that there wouldn't be any more songs by these guys, but they were both "at-risk", so their deaths didn't affect me as personally as the accidental ones like Kirsty MacColl and Grant McLennan.

And there are some new Elliott Smith songs! Added to emusic today: a double-disc compilation of Elliott's early songs that didn't make either of his first two solo albums. These songs were written during an extremely creative and prolific time for him (1994-1997) , many of the songs are top drawer, and most of them are previously unreleased. It has solo versions of Heatmiser songs, an early demo of the Oscar-nominated "Miss Misery" from Good Will Hunting, and a cover of Big Star's "Thirteen". The release was supervised and approved by his estate, and there are apparently a lot more outtakes in the vaults, so hopefully there will be more volumes.

Monday, May 7, 2007

the waste, memory-wastes

It was one year ago yesterday (May 6, 2006) that Grant McLennan of the Go-Betweens died at his home in Brisbane, Australia. McLennan's passing hit me harder than any musical death since Kirsty MacColl, or maybe even John Lennon.

It seemed like Grant and the Go-Betweens were at a musical high point, since they'd reunited for three successful albums in the 2000s and putting out a live CD/DVD (The Striped Sunlight Sound) just a few months before he died. In the bonus interview segment on the DVD, Grant talks about the future of the Go-Betweens, concluding that they had "at least nine or ten" more great albums in them. And they probably did. Even at 48, Grant McLennan still had a bunch of great songs left in him, but we won't get to hear any of them.

For some reason, the iTunes players on my computer and my iPod seem to really favor the Go-Betweens, and like McLennan's songs even more than Forster's. It seems like "Cattle and Cane" or "Bye Bye Pride" or "Streets of Your Town" or "Finding You" turns up at least once an hour in shuffle play. Songs by the Go-Betweens stand out even more in between other artists. Even in my iTunes library, there isn't another band that sounds like them, or another singer that sounds like Grant McLennan. And there won't ever be another band like them.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Let the human pyramid begin

On the left: Roger Clemens when he pitched for Boston in the80s
On the right: Clemens, last year, pitching for Houston.

Clemens announced today (on the owner's box PA between innings) that he'd signed a minor league contract with the Yankees, and could be starting his first game as soon as early June. Roger Clemens is exactly the sort of straight-laced model citizen that baseball needs to compensate for bad people like Barry Bonds who are trying to break records through (unsubstantiated) use of performance-enhancing drugs.

The Giants are playing a three game weekend series against the Yankees in late June (22nd-24th), and I think it would be poetic justice if Bonds ends up hitting number 756 against Clemens. Barry's only 11 homers away, so it's right on his timeline!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Viernes: Cinco por el Cinco de Mayo

Hola amigos, mañana es el Cinco de Mayo, y aqui està cinco canciones en español de cinco decadas. Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo, so here are five songs in Spanish across five different decades.

De los 1960s:
Before he went country, Baldemar Huerta (aka Freddy Fender) was a Tejano rock and roller. "Acapulco Rock" is from an album he cut in the early 60s as "Eddie Con Los Shades". It sounds like a song that Elvis would've sung in Fun in Acapulco, and maybe he did?
I thought Perez Prado was Cuban, but according to wikipedia he was "Cuban/Mexican". His version of "Guantanamera" is quicker and more uptempo than the Sandpipers hit version, and doesn't have any of the drippy lyrics. This was probably recorded long before the 70s but that's when I first heard it.

De los 1980s:
Los Lobos' version of "La Bamba" came out 20 years ago this month on the soundtrack to the hit movie of the same name, and gave them the only chart hit of their career. It was a huge hit, that kind of cursed the band in the mainstream where most folks knew them as the "La Bamba" guys. Lots of P2P sites also credited them unfairly as the band behind that "Macarena" song
(that was Los Del Rio).

De los 1990s:
Selena - Fotos y Recuerdos
The movie La Bamba starred Lou Diamond Phillips as Richie Valens, and Phillips was in Stand and Deliver with Edward James Olmos, who also played Selena's dad in the 1997 Selena biopic. Which brings us to the 90s entry, Selena's "Fotos y Recuerdos", a cover of a famous classic rock song (listen to discover which song) with slightly altered lyrics. Selena was really talented, died way too young, and sounded almost nothing like J-Lo, who played her in the movie.

De los 2000s:
Volovan - Flor Primaveral
From this decade is Volovan's "Flor Primaveral" (Spring Flower). Volovan was one of my favorite discoveries from the early days of emusic. They're from Monterrey Mexico, but their debut album Suave sounds more like the Beach Boys crossed with the Pixies (who have at least one song in Spanish). They have a new album called Monitor, but it's on a major label, so it isn't on emusic. Volovan's power pop mixed with indie rock sounds great in any language!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Wrapping it up like a burrito

or maybe like a Cuban.
Warriors 111, Mavs 86
GS wins the series 4-2.
Sorry Charlie!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

And it feels like 1994

The last year that the Golden State Warriors and San Jose Sharks were both in the playoffs was 1994. This was the last time the Warriors made the playoffs before this year, and the first time the Sharks ever made the playoffs. And Kurt Cobain was alive, O.J. Simpson was known only as a retired football player, and George W. Bush was just the principal owner of an unsuccessful baseball team.

In the 1994 NHL playoffs, the Sharks went into the first series against the Red Wings as a prohibitive underdog, a number 8 seed against a number 1 seed. They ended up beating the Red Wings in 7 games before losing to Toronto in 7 games in the second round. This year, they're also playing the Red Wings, this time in the second round, and also an underdog, but not as much. Detroit is the top seed thanks to playing in a weak division, and the Sharks are a number 5 seed, but the teams are fairly evenly matched. With a victory tonight, San Jose has the opportunity to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.

In the 1994 NBA Series, the Warriors were swept by Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns in the first round. This year, they're playing the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks as an even bigger underdog than the Sharks were 13 years ago against the Red Wings. Last night they had the opportunity to put the Mavericks away, and were leading by 9 points with just over three minutes to go before Dallas scored 15 straight points to win the game by six. They have another opportunity tomorrow night to wrap up this incredible opening-round upset. And their 1994 foe Charles Barkley, is now an analyst on TNT who's been bad-mouthing the Warriors as a team and "Golden State as a city" (which it isn't) and saying they don't have a chance against the mighty Mavs. Taking anything Barkley says seriously is folly, but it would be great if the Warriors could take care of business tomorrow and shut him up for awhile.

The Sharks were new to the Stanley Cup playoffs back in 1994, and the Bay Area was swept up in Sharksmania. This year, they're pretty much expected to win, and have been playing second fiddle to the Warriors throughout their playoff run. My first toe-tipping into the internet was reading the Usenet group. That group was pretty hopping and active with the team being based in Silicon Valley and everything, and the sharing common experiences with people you don't know in real-time was like a thrilling new discovery.

The internet was a different place back in 1994. Almost no one was on-line, even in the Bay Area, so it was like a secret club. I also read the sf-49er newgroup during the 1994 football season (the last year they won the Super Bowl), and between the end of hockey (April) and the start of football, (September) the whole internet exploded, and there were ten times as many people posting. Which made for a noisier Usenet, so I stopped reading after Super Bowl XXIX.

Now, with the advent of what they call Web 2.0 (the collaborative internet, blogs and stuff), a good part of my online experience involves reading various sports sites, and sharing common experiences with people I don't know. The Warriors collapse against the Mavs, the A's comeback against the Red Sox, the Sharks win over the Red Wings, Liverpool's victory over Chelsea in the Champions League semis (there goes the quadruple). Instant reports from fans on both sides of these competitions is just a few clicks away. It's like the early days of Usenet all over again.