On Fire – Van Halen

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 22

Seems to me, I have a backlog of music-related posts to make. The recent passing of Eddie Van Halen moves the band that takes his name to the top of that list of posts.

I’m not going to wax poetic about how brilliant a guitarist Eddie Van Halen was. Everyone knows he was a virtuoso that reinvented the instrument in ways unlike anyone else before or since. All rock fans have anecdotal moments centered around the virtuosity of Eddie Van Halen. My personal favorite is how the song “Eruption” instantly became the ultimate test for any aspiring guitarist. If you could play that you weren’t just good you were awesome. My mind goes back to that college dorm room with that guitar guy playing his attempt at that solo for the other dudes in the hall. It happened a lot. Usually followed by “Wish You Were Here” on acoustic, you know, to chill things out after the heat coming from that semi-blistering version of “Eruption.”

Instead, I want to reflect on my life at the time Eddie Van Halen came into my world. It was 1978 and I was nine years old. I was already starting to get into music. I had a record player of my own. I owned a few full-length albums. Bought them when going to neighborhood garage sales with my Mom. I had a few singles of my own too. Ultimately, Van Halen’s first releases were some of my very first albums on cassette tape.

When Van Halen’s debut came out, I heard it everywhere and like everyone else, it caught my ear. Never before had I heard any guitar like that. It was crunchy and fast but strangely smooth and slippery too. I have vivid memories of hearing that band in those days. Didn’t matter where I was, Van Halen was there too; the local recreation center, the swimming pool, the playground, the backseat of my Mom’s car, even coming from someone else’s car at a red light. Eventually, from my Walkman.

The gestalt present in their sound is unique. It’s simultaneously a cohesive unit and a single dominant force (Eddie Van Halen). Van Halen, Van Halen II and Fair Warning are my favorites. I could have chosen any song from the debut album. The album is that good. I decided to feature the song “On Fire” in my post for a few reasons. “On Fire” is the closing track and it’s a barnburner. It comes as advertised, three minutes of fire. It has remained one of my absolute favorite Van Halen tracks over all these years. Unlike many Van Halen songs, this song means business. It has a speed metal intensity and its purpose is to kick your ass. It’s not messing around. (“Mean Street” on Fair Warning is my all-time favorite Van Halen song for a similar reason). “On Fire” is good enough to close out their debut AND be an opening track in concert (see attached video).

To be fair, I started to lose interest in their music a couple of years into the Sammy Hagar era. That said, I can still listen to all the David Lee Roth albums with a smile on my face. That’s the secret ingredient and the true magic of Eddie Van Halen and the band Van Halen. They just wanted to put a smile on your face and that’s what they did best. Eddie Van Halen’s smile while playing guitar is my indelible, unforgettable memory of him.

Ain’t Got Nothing (To Go Wrong) – Dead Meadow

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 21

Today is my birthday. I’m 51. It’s the first day of my sixth decade. My day, year, and decade started with something that most would say is a minor serendipitous moment. However, I know otherwise. My higher power speaks through music. This was no accident.

I often wind down the day by listening to music in a lowly lit room. Last night was no exception. When I’m not in the mood for a specific artist or album, or a deep listening of something new to me, I’ll often hit shuffle on a vast playlist filled with hundreds of songs I know. That’s what I did last night.

At 11:59 (I looked at the clock) one of my absolute favorite songs came on. Ain’t Got Nothing (To Go Wrong) by Dead Meadow. Not only is this a favorite song, I consider it one of my theme songs. Only a handful of songs become theme songs to me. I’ve written about them before and will surely feature them again in my Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast posts. Typically for me, the music carries me through the song. That’s the case here as well. The guitar solo in this song is incredible. However, my personal relationship to the lyrics and their overall feel with the music, are for me, the elements that elevate a song to the highest level.

The moment midnight came and the calendar turned to the eleventh of September, my birthday, shuffle gave me this song. A piece of music with great personal importance to me. It wasn’t serendipity. It was meant to be. I wouldn’t have had my new sixth decade start any other way.

 

Lemon yellow sun up overhead today
What more is there that I could say then Lord, let it stay
I ain’t got nothing to go wrong today
No, not today

I’ve been up and down this street for quite some time
The gutters get filled, it takes all kind like fish on a line
The way that things go these days, I’m fine
Yeah, I’m doing fine

Good times come, they sure come slow
Why that may be I don’t know, just let it flow
All things in this world they come, they go
Yes, this much I know

If silence is golden then your words they’re lead
I can’t believe how that shit sticks in my head
The sun shines away, there’s nothing to say
People they talk anyway, they’re talking away

 

 

Idiots Rule

In a softball interview with Laura Ingraham, Trump claimed people came out of the dark shadows (racist trope) to Washington to disrupt his convention last Friday. He said people wearing black came on planes to Washington (more bigotry). Dark forces were at play.

Trump made the decision to move his speech to the White House a few weeks ago. Even though this is the same day many thousands of people were arriving for the 57th ANNUAL March on Washington.

Unless you’re a racist idiot like the president, you’ve already put two and two together. Their plans were on the calendar long before his.

Do you think he was told this might be a problem and ignored the advice? I’m wondering if anyone bothers to tell him things like this anymore. Then again, I also wonder if the dumbest of dumb shit happens because the most idiotic of loyalists are the only ones remaining in his inner circle.

No matter how you slice it, idiots rule.

Zig Zag Wanderer – Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 19

For various reasons, I have decided that this is one of my theme songs. I have a few of them, not too many. Zig Zag Wanderer, it rings true for me on many levels. This decision comes after many years of living life and many hours of listening to music. This is a decision made through experience.

I am not even a huge fan of Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band even though I respect Don Van Vleet and his important contributions to music as an alternative rock pioneer and beyond. In fact, I had not even heard this song until I was around 35-40 years old, when I took a deep dive into early psychedelic rock.

You can jump you can holler
Never lose what I have found
Heaven’s free ‘cept for a dollar
You can zig you can zag
Whoa I’m gonna stay around gonna stay around

 

Numb Rage

How many of you are vacillating between feeling numb and full of rage with little to no buffer between the extremes??? My anxiety makes me revolve pretty damn fast on a normal day. These days it feels like mental whiplash.

The George W. Bush presidency made me upset enough to generate creative energy and be very productive. Trump, that asshole, is jamming me!!! That said, I keep fighting, kicking my own ass toward creative progress. The things I’m interested in most and have been making work about for years are still very real and present (cultural hypocrisy etc.). Unfortunately for me, Trump sucks all the air out of the room and my non-Trump ideas get buried. Therefore, I’m running with that at the moment. The numb rage of living through these days makes me make art specifically about this time.

Numb Rage – I’ll have to use that for a title of a new piece of art. Alright, here we go. Let it flow.

 

W.M.A. – Pearl Jam

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 16

White. Male. American.

This song about police racism was released in 1993. It was inspired by an incident in which Eddie Vedder got into an altercation with a group of police officers who hassled his black friend but ignored him.

“He won the lottery by being born
Big hand slapped a white male American
Do no wrong so clean cut
Dirty his hands, it comes right off
Police man, police man, police man
Police stopped my brother again”

This song is now 27 years old. I’ve listened to it often over the years. Objectively it’s a pretty great song too. The tribal backbeat is hypnotic and it’s message is as vital as ever. Let’s listen to it like it’s brand new because the subject certainly isn’t old. #blacklivesmatter

Never An Easy Way – Morcheeba

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 14

Heard this one shuffle this morning. It had been a while since I heard it. This song sounds best after midnight but today it was a morning song and once again I heard the right song at the right time.

The sound is bold and strong yet spacious and sparse. The lyrics are moody yet motivational.

It’s one of my personal anthems. Nothing else to say.

My Neighborhood Made National News

My neighborhood made national news.

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/y3my55/these-racist-wuhan-plague-plaques-are-popping-up-around-atlanta?utm_source=vicenewsfacebook&fbclid=IwAR1_3eI5ARBYz1xF7pyyEr5BETybJwp0ys-EFApVluMBMMEJvcROCF6Q8-s

Probably because I’m an artist, but my first instinct here is to think that the person behind it is not a racist at all. Instead, they’re making a subversive statement about racism itself and our visceral responses to it.

It made you look, it made you think. That my friends…is why art kicks ass, regardless of what your emotional reaction may be.

Anyone Else Would Do Better

If you know me, you might know that I suffer from a level of anxiety that can be somewhat debilitating. I mask it well in public and within the company of friends. If you ever wondered why I do this or don’t do that, anxiety is your answer. It’s something that’s just in the mix as part of everyday life for me. My employment situation (and all that comes with it) has already generated plenty of high anxiety. Add in this pandemic and it’s limitless repercussions has me thinking until my head hurts.

Anyways, now that we’re in the midst of this pandemic, who’d you rather have in charge? The answer is basically anyone but Donald Trump. Anyone would do a better job than this guy. Trump is the worst kind of person to have in charge of your well being.

Look man, I’ve been saying this con man was the biggest asshole in the country for a long time. Since the 1980’s. I’m old enough to remember the USFL. He ruined that like everything else he touches. I’m old enough to have elders mention Trump as an example of how not to act because it was not the way a dignified man behaves. Many of those elders have become full time apologists with some brand of cognitive dissonance that is foreign to me. Now more than ever before, it seems like a twisted moral and ethical code is alright as long as you go to church on Sunday.

Now Trump says some states are lying about the amount of ventilators needed. He’s also insinuated that a ventilator may not be needed if you’re already so close to death. He commits impeachable offenses almost every day. The bar is set so low with this guy. The Fuckface in the White House is a man that chooses to be evil. He has so little value for human life. His essence is shit. He lacks integrity in every way. He doesn’t have an ounce of empathy for anyone but himself which makes him a subhuman sociopath.

We’re living through hell, the worst of it to me is knowing that so many people are supporters of and therefore apologists for this unbelievable bullshit.

Stay safe and stay sane.

The Dignity Of Work

So tired of the “people don’t want to work” narrative. I’ve been hearing it my whole life from the mouths of people that are themselves overly entitled, small minded or simply unaware. It’s inaccurate when we’re in a time of prosperity and it’s irresponsibly ignorant in a time of crisis.

Listening to politicians and my fellow citizens say that “too much relief” may discourage people from working is fundamentally outrageous. The dignity of work is something of value to us all.

Besides, look around you. When have we ever lived in a world where a persons pay was equaled to the amount of work actually done to earn it or the true societal importance of their work?

Resurrection Joe – The Cult

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 8

I’ve always liked the Cult. A chameleon of a band. However, this post isn’t about them. Maybe another day.

This post is about current events. I was simply reminded of this song of theirs today when watching the news of the election results last night. You can draw your own conclusion. Just remember, there’s a song for everything.

Observations, Predictions & Questions

I have a few observations and predictions for the upcoming months.

Like many, I’d rather have Bernie Sanders over Joe Biden. However, I’d rather have Elizabeth Warren over everyone else. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. A Bernie Sanders nomination isn’t likely to happen now either. I’m still voting for Warren in the Georgia primary (unless she exits this week as well). That said, I’ll be voting for whomever gets the nomination and I hope everyone else does too.

I don’t need to remind you that the current “occupant” of the Oval Office is an imbecile. He reminds us of this himself, every single day. Every voter needs to wake up and realize that the issues of our time they so deeply care about may become non-issues, forever, if Trump wins re-election.

Observations:

  • Joe Biden did so well on Super Tuesday because Buttigieg and Klobuchar dropped out of the race. Almost all of their votes went to him. Sorry conspiracy theorists, this is not like 2016 when the DNC tipped the scales in Hillary’s favor. Make no mistake, in this election cycle Bernie Sanders has had a far greater political machine than Joe Biden. Biden was out of money. He won in states in which he didn’t even have a campaign office. He won in states he had not even visited. Biden won without receiving an endorsement from Obama (it’s on the way now I’m sure). This is not the establishment forcing its will. This is a case of the establishment sitting back watching the scenario they hoped for fall into place. I’m not exactly pleased about it but I’m not placing blame. No one cleared the way for Biden. This is not a coronation, like in 2016 when the DNC would’ve been perfectly happy to let Hillary win the nomination unopposed.
  • Joe Biden did so well BECAUSE people want to defeat Trump. More of the actual voters think he has a better opportunity to beat Trump than Sanders does. I don’t disagree. I’m on board with most of the Democratic Socialist programs that he proposes but many more are not.
  • Mike Bloomberg entered the race for two reasons: to expose Donald Trump as a fraud (in a way no one else can) and to derail the progressive campaigns of Warren and Sanders. Even though they’re still in the race and he is not, Bloomberg has not failed at his mission.

Predictions:

  • One prediction already came true. That Mike Bloomberg would drop out of the race after Super Tuesday. Alas, he beat me to the punch.
  • Even though he’s no longer in the race, Bloomberg will continue to pummel Trump with his unlimited resources. Let the oligarch help us remove the malignant tumor of a president we have now.
  • Joe Biden wins the nomination and selects Stacey Abrams as his running mate.
  • Donald Trump replaces Mike Pence with Nikki Haley (probably in July). Trump will cite his disappointment  in Pence’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak as his reason for making the change.

Questions:

  • Do the Democratic oligarchs want more of Trump over Sanders? Unfortunately the answer is yes. Which is why many are happy about Resurrection Joe.
  • Will the left put on its big boy pants and vote for whomever is the nominee? Heaven help us if the answer to that question is not also yes.

 

 

Missouri – Howlin’ Rain

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 7

Part three of my concert trifecta is tonight. The band is Howlin’ Rain, a band I’ve wanted to see for 10 years. The venue is the Earl. My favorite little venue in Atlanta. It’s gonna be great.

Howlin’ Rain was formed by Ethan Miller to pursue a more melodic sound in his music and express the influence of growing up in Northern California’s Lost Coast. Previously Miller fronted Comets On Fire, a heavy noise rock band. Howlin’ Rain have been described as a combination of psychedelia, blues, funk and classic 1970s arena rock. All of those are great in themselves. Howlin’ Rain combine it all in a sound that fills a space with soulful authenticity.

Howlin’ Rain’s new album The Alligator Bride is a return to form and their best since the aptly titled Magnificent Fiend from a decade ago. My favorite song on their latest album happens to be one they made a video for. Check out this thunderous track called “Missouri.”

Mind Control – Truckfighters

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 6

Once again, it’s time to fight trucks!!!

Concert night is here. This time it’s the band Truckfighters, from Örebro, Sweden. One of my favorite bands. They lay down one of the thickest fuzziest grooves you’ve ever heard. Here’s the video for “Mind Control,” one of their very best songs.

One Slight Wrong Move – Archers Of Loaf

Artist as Rock & Roll Enthusiast (aka ARE) Post: 5

Concert night is here. Concert week is here. Four of them in the next 8 days.

Tonight is Archers of Loaf at Terminal West. Looking forward to it. I’ve never seen them before. I like this band but I love one of their albums, White Trash Heroes, their fourth and final full length album. If you’ve not heard it, check it out. It’s super solid from start to finish. My favorite song form that album is a noisy groove called “One Slight Wrong Move.”

This song kicks so much ass in just a few short minutes.

“A hundred million people could be wrong,
A hundred million people have been wrong before,
A hundred million people could be wrong”