Stardate, 01.01.2016

IMG_20150909_065845

So this is what the other half of the decade looks like.

Wishing a very safe and happy New Year to all my new readers. Thank you for sharing your blogs and your thoughts here and for taking the time to read and comment upon my strange little ramblings about life the Universe and Jersey.

I look forward to hearing from you all again soon in this brave new year.

Advertisements

My spine is the Bass line

 

I was thinking about bass players the other day. It seems to me, they don’t get anywhere near the recognition they deserve. It’s not surprising I suppose, they lack the flash of lead guitarists or the charisma of vocalists. Even the drummer is more front and center as a rule. Sure, some bassists also front; Sting, Suzi Quatro, Phil Lynott, but they are celebrated more for their fronting personas than their playing.

No, I’m thinking of a different breed; the ones who stand solidly to the side and just do their damned job; the rhythmic, throbbing engine room of any band. And a thankless job it is too sometimes. I’ve actually known people who can’t distinguish a bass line in the music they’re listening to – just can’t pick it out – and to those people, I generally say You’d certainly notice it if it wasn’t there.

With all this in mind, I thought I’d make this post about my five favourite bass players. Now, this is not open to debate, I’m not claiming these are the five best players of all time; just my personal favourites. Feel free to share yours in the comments.

In no particular order then, here they are:

Carol Kaye

Carol is a living legend. One of the first women to break through into the world of early Rock and Roll, her playing has appeared on a staggering 10,000 recordings. Still active today, her career has lasted over 50 years.

She’s shared studios with so many of the greats, from Frank Sinatra to Frank Zappa. Her bass can be heard on the Beach Boys Pet Sounds and several tracks by Simon and Garfunkel. She devised and played the classic intro to Glen Campbell’s Wichita Lineman. She contributed to the sound of the Righteous Brothers and was part of the famous Phil Spector house band the Wrecking Crew.

You can also add: The Doors, Quincy Jones, The Buckinghams, Ritchie Valens (she played guitar rather than bass on the timeless classic “La Bamba“), Nancy Sinatra, Sonny and Cher, Barbara Streisand, Ike and Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Ray Charles, Herb Alpert, Buffalo Springfield, and the Monkees.

Like I said, she’s a legend.

 

Bruce Foxton

Bruce was, in my opinion, a fairly underrated contributor to the sound of The Jam. His Bass, for me, defined the sound of that punk-mod trio. As a band, they weren’t to everyone’s taste, but their aggressive, rumbling sound, largely attributable to Foxton’s bass playing, was a soundtrack to my laddish years.

Bruce and the boys will always hold a place in this old rocker’s affections.

 

Gail Ann Dorsey

Most famously an essential part of Bowie’s touring band over the past twenty years. Gail Ann Dorsey has also played with the likes of Tears for Fears, Lenny Kravitz, Bryan Ferry, The The, and The Indigo Girls.

I personally had the very real pleasure of meeting Gail (along with Mike Garson) at a side gig she and Bowie’s band played in Melbourne during the Australian leg of the Reality Tour.

The Philly girl (I love that about her) is a consummate player and her voice when she steps up to the mic is phenomenal. Bowie has wisely used her as his foil onstage for years, but no matter how elaborate their theatrical antics, her pumping bass lines never waver.

David Bowie Bassist Gail Ann Dorsey: ‘He Altered the Course of My Life’

 

Peter Hook

What can I say? Joy Division until I die. The sound of this band launched a thousand copycats. Without them, there would have been no Cure for starters. And Hook’s hooks were an essential component of their dark creations. Was he the most technically proficient bass man on the planet? Of course not, the band was famously messy onstage, but that sound…that terrible, portentously wrist slash inducing sound.

He was also part of the pop weirdness that was New Order.

 

Garry Tallent

The E Street band has consistently been hailed as one of the greatest live acts of the past thirty years and this is due partly to the not inconsiderable talents of Mr Tallent. Regarded as the quiet one in this stellar line-up (as is so often the case with wielders of the four stringed thunder stick) Tallent has lent grace and power to many of Springsteen’s greatest compositions.

A master of the fretless and fretted bass, he effortlessly weaves his guiding rhythms through the often complex arrangements of songs like Incident on 57th Street and Rosalita (Come out Tonight) or sparser compositions such as Something in the Night.

Unforgivably, if you type great bass players into Google, Tallent doesn’t even come up. What further proof is needed that there is something deeply twisted and unjust about the state of the culture?

 

So there you have it; my top five. As I said, this is not open for debate. Each of these fine musicians have impacted my life in a positive way and have earned my undying loyalty.

 

Honourable mentions

Mick Karn, John Deacon, Flea, Tina Weymouth, Kim Deal, Dave Allan, John Entwistle, Jack Bruce, Mark King, and… whoever you happen to love most.

 

 

©2016

 

 

 

Strange fascinations 2

 

Once more with feeling.

 

Getting free

I’m a mom from New Jersey

Retired Mental Health Worker

Every cloud has a silver lining

Conversations, chocolate, and anything

Sometimes, not all of the time, but…

 

Don’t look at me

Disillusioned with the Art world

I believe in God first and foremost

I am not young enough to know

Free thinkers and music

Just an awkward girl.

 

Play quiet

A Joy to do nothing

Remember not the sins of my youth

Made in the USA

I love games

For the sake of all children.

 

Simian botany (will not be denied)

I am a motivator

Appreciate this life as I know it

The Secret of Monkey Island

Most of it doesn’t end up here

I know a lot about plants.

 

You promised me a life

Living in Bangalore

People everywhere are wearing

Life should be lived

All kinds of stuff

Planning the big comeback.

 

 

What the heck did I just read?

 

 

13. A thousand miles away

 

Coffee cup’s on the counter, jacket’s on the chair
Paper’s on the doorstep, you’re not there
Everything is everything
Everything is everything
But you’re missing

Springsteen, You’re missing

I came home to an eviction notice, my local supermarket closed down, and an emptiness inside that was more gaping than the silence in my lonely flat. I’d only been gone for just under four weeks.

The eviction notice was no big deal. I’d missed a rent payment due to my unexpected delay in getting home and an automatic eviction letter had been sent (I live under a rather weird tenancy contract). Like I said, it was nothing, I paid up and that was that.

The supermarket was more of a shock. I walked over to pick up some supplies and the entire thing was just a shell, stripped of everything including the shelves. Turned out they were building apartments on top of it, which required it to be closed… for a year. They promised a bigger, better version when they reopened in twelve month’s time, but that really didn’t help me now.

Like a lot of good little urbanites, I don’t own a car and, as the next nearest supermarket is two kilometres away, I realised I was going to be doing a lot of schlepping with heavy shopping for the next year…joy.

All of that paled into insignificance beside the gravity inducing depression I felt the moment I closed my front door behind me. I’d just spent the most incredible month with the love of my life and now we were back to a distance of 16,632 km; crushing.

I’d never felt depression like this. I had trouble getting out of bed some days. There was a worm twisting in my gut and a voice ceaselessly whispering in my head, you’ll never hold her again. I put on a brave face around others, but Inside I just felt desolate.

The one thing that helped was that, now we’d spent time together and both knew beyond doubt that what the other felt was just as real and unwavering, we felt confident in using the video function on Skype.

The first time we saw each other trapped behind screens, however, it was agonizing; almost worse than no contact. All it did was remind us of what we’d lost (at least for the foreseeable future), but slowly we got used to the new paradigm and began to grow more appreciative of what this pretty amazing tech was able to provide.

It was a gift really; it’s not that long ago that such a thing was confined to the realms of science fiction. I can well remember what it used to cost to keep in touch with loved ones overseas. Long distance phone calls were charged by the minute and the lines were terrible, with off-putting delays and annoying echoes. Compared to that, this was like having the other sitting right in front of you; plus it was free (an important factor when your conversations can regularly stretch out to five hours).

We eventually got back into the swing of our precontact life and, though it never goes away completely, the depression began slowly to fade. There were times when it was tougher than at others, but that was to be expected.

It was all made bearable by one simple fact; we both now knew, unequivocally, that this was the one; among all the potential meteors that might impact the outer atmosphere of the heart, this was the one that punched through, this was the one that came to stay.

Note for new readers: The numbered posts on this blog are my love letter to my future wife, Jersey girl  (that’s her real name – honest). Everything else I write about can be read as individual pieces, but the numbered posts are meant to be read in a specific sequence (as the numbers would imply).

©2016

Strange fascinations

 

 

David Bowie and William Burroughs photographed by  Terry O'Neill in 1974 and hand-coloured by Bowie

 

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately; really… a lot. I love to skip from one to another, genuinely fascinated by other people’s thoughts, concerns, and passions.

As a consequence of this blog-hopping, I’ve also seen an awful lot of Gravatar profiles. On a totally unrelated topic, I have always been a big fan of Burroughs’ cut-up technique (thanks, Bowie). I think you can probably see where this is going.

It would have been hard not to notice, in my travels through blog land, that bloggers are always setting themselves challenges, so I’ve decided to set one for myself.

This is my summer poetry project. From now on, any Gravatar profile I visit (providing they have bothered to fill out the bio) I will ‘borrow’ one line. I will select it according to my own internal arbiter and place it in the order in which I find it. When I have collected five lines; they will become my poem.

Here are five I prepared earlier (perhaps you will recognize yourself in one of these).

 

Lost thoughts

Just another middle-aged wanderer

You may know me

What do you want to know about me?

It’s all forms

I’m a woman lost in thought

Find me online.

 

God loves everything you eat

I’ve been called a religious omnivore

Greetings

Writer, friend, foe, sister, lover, confidant

Nothing special… nothing to see here…

Sharing is caring.

 

Lonely in the Middle

Can’t write fast enough to keep up with her thoughts

After a few disastrous engagements

Contemporary phenomenon

Miscellaneous thoughts and opinions

Please drop by.

 

Predestined postcards

I prefer to be outside

Every day is a step into the unknown

I mail inspirational cards to people

In a world of poems

You were led here for a reason.

 

I want to go home

Swimming upstream against the violent currents

This much is enough for you to conclude

Actor and writer

A reluctant writer

I invented time travel.

 

There will be more of this, oh yes…

 

©2016

I woke up in a strange place

 

Looking out the door I see the rain fall upon the funeral mourners
Parading in a wake of sad relations as their shoes fill up with water
And maybe I’m too young to keep good love from going wrong
But tonight you’re on my mind so you never know

Jeff Buckley, Lover, You Should Have Come Over

 

On my flight back to Melbourne, following my second visit to the US, I experienced a strange piece of synchronicity.

Now, I’m not the world’s biggest Jeff Buckley fan, but I’ve always enjoyed his voice and found his songwriting compelling. Like pretty much everyone else I guess, I’ve been guilty on occasion of getting morosely drunk on red wine and singing along to the Grace album. Catharsis is a wonderful thing, man.

As it happens, about two months before flying over to the States, I’d read an article (which I now can’t find, unfortunately) about the death of Buckley whilst swimming in Wolf River. I’d always thought he’d drowned in the Mississippi River, but as the article explained, it was actually in a smallish waterway that ran off the Mighty Mississippi.

It had also, apropos of nothing, added another weird little factoid, stating something along the lines of, Buckley drowned in the shadow of a pyramid. Say whaa?

As it transpired, a basketball stadium in the shape of a pyramid had been built by the Wolf River. I guess it made a kind of sense. Memphis was, after all, named after the ancient Egyptian city. Nonetheless, it was an odd enough tidbit that it stuck in my mind.

Fast forward three months and I’m sitting on a Delta Airlines flight feeling thoroughly depressed about leaving Jersey girl again. The flight has seat-back entertainment, including one of those ETA monitor thingies that let you know where you currently are in the course of the flight.

I’ve just looked out the window and seen that there is a fairly large city we’re about to fly over. Curious and looking for distraction, I check to see what the place is called. It’s Memphis. My interest is piqued. The very name conjures so many images. Elvis slumped on the toilet in a bathroom in Graceland, Martin Luther King on that motel balcony on a bright April morning, and Jeff Buckley backstroking towards oblivion singing Whole Lotta Love…. in the shadow of a pyramid.

Pretty depressing place, now I come to think about it.

I look out of my window again and spy the River below. There’s another river branching off and a series of bridges and a big, shiny….pyramid. That’s it, I realise, that’s the spot where he died.

I pull out my crappy phone, but by the time I’ve got it lined up, a cloud bank has more or less obscured the pyramid that had been gleaming in sunshine just a second or two before. I take the pic anyway.

What are the odds that within three months of reading about this very scene, I should look down from a plane at just the precise moment that allows me to identify it definitively?

Not that my life would have changed in any way had I missed it. Still it was quite an amazing coincidence. Of course, the picture I’d taken on my phone was rather less definitive, but, once home, I was able to use photographs and google maps to confirm that I had indeed been spot on in my identification.

 

wolf river copy
I know, even with my helpful arrows, it’s a little indistinct.
Memphis
Here’s the Google image. The pyramid is now a Bass Pro Shop (top right)

 

pyramidiasni
This is Wolf River and the pyramid seen from ground level and from the opposite direction.

In an odd way, Buckley’s music means more to me, now that I’ve had this strangely intimate glimpse into the landscape of his sad demise. I know that’s just my head making new choices, but the emotions I feel when listening to Lover, You Should Have Come Over or Last Goodbye now seem richer and somehow more significant.

I feel like my life has been full of little synchronicities like this. Perhaps that’s true for all of us. I do think that I will always treasure that brief moment I experienced over Memphis. It was one of those times that remind you there are far more things going on around us – even at 30,000 feet – than we are generally willing to acknowledge.

You’ve got to bleed on me, yeah….

 

 

©2015

 

 

 

Head first into a hurricane

 

I wonder what he was thinking when he hit that storm
or was he just lost in the flood?

Springsteen, Lost in the flood.

A tale of two storms

Strange patterns seem to swirl around Asbury Park. In my post Have you thrown your senses to the war? I discussed the odd manifestations of mob violence that rose up (though, separated by nearly a decade and a half) around two-Fourths of July in Asbury.

Yet another example of such a pattern occurred in the 30’s and then 40’s, one decade apart to the month.

In September 1934, Asbury was treated to a most bizarre and morbid spectacle. The Ocean liner the Morro Castle had been travelling from Havana, Cuba to New York when she was caught in an Atlantic storm. It is unclear how, but a fierce oil fire broke out on board and – as the ship was ill-advisedly pointing prow-first into the 30 mph Nor’easter winds – quickly spread through the length of the ship*.

In flames, the ship proceeded out of control up the coast a few miles off shore. Panic ensued among passengers and crew. Many of the crew looked out for themselves as they dropped lifeboats and filled them. They did not direct terrified passengers who had received no life vest and lifeboat drills at sea. Although the ship had more than enough lifeboats – a rule enacted after the “Titanic” disaster – they were not filled. Some of the lifeboats were literally painted in place and could not be lowered.

~ New Jersey Maritime Museum

As the ill-fated vessel floundered in the fierce wind and waves, several ships** and tugs raced to her aid. Some of the unfortunate passengers and crew were transferred onto some of these other vessels and brought into New York where police cleared the streets along their routes to multiple city hospitals.

Meanwhile, the tugs had managed to get lines onto the Morro Castle and had begun to tow her through the rough seas towards safe harbour at New York. They were under the gun, however, as a hurricane was fast approaching. Unfortunately, due to fear of losing the tow rope, the going was painfully slow. They were therefore still out on the open water when the second storm struck. As feared, the tow line broke under this fresh onslaught.

Now adrift the still smoking hulk of the stricken ship was soon headed straight for the beach at Asbury Park. From the Convention Hall, the local radio station reported on her approach over the airwaves. It looked like the enormous superstructure would collide with the building itself at first, but eventually, she ran aground just a little north of it.

Morro+Castle+1
The still smoking Morro Castle aground just off the Convention Hall.

s-s-morro-castle-disaster-1934

Rescue efforts continued throughout the night, but by dawn, of the following day, 137 of the 558 who had been on board were dead. You’d think that would have been cause for great sadness, but…

The “Morro Castle” became an attraction seen by thousands over the ensuing months – first a smoldering hull, later charred remains. Summer businesses extended their season well into the fall, making for the best season they had in years. Souvenirs were sold; hotels, boarding houses and restaurants did a brisk business.

~ New Jersey Maritime Museum

1423202065453a
Early disaster tourism.

Morro+Castle+Gregorys+Candy

It wasn’t until March of the following year that the blackened hulk was finally towed away to be broken up for scrap. Unfortunately, but perhaps predictably, it sank whilst under tow.

Almost exactly ten years later, in Sept 1944, another storm was to leave its mark upon Asbury Park. Known as the Great Atlantic Hurricane of ’44 this storm would devastate the New Jersey shorefront from Cape May, at the southernmost tip, all the way up to Asbury Park (indeed, it was much more widespread than that, impacting most of the Eastern Seaboard, but I am chiefly concerned with NJ here). The storm surge brought massive 40-foot waves. In Atlantic City, it sent water right into the lobbies of many of the resorts hotels.

Hurricane+1944+3

This same storm was also responsible for the sinking of Navy destroyer USS Warrington approximately 450 miles (720 km) east of Vero Beach, FL, with a loss of 248 sailors.

On land, 9 people lost their lives in New Jersey – a small number when compared to the 43 lost to Superstorm Sandy in 2012 – but a staggering 390 were injured.

The waterfront at Asbury Park was almost completely destroyed and the reconstructions took many months.

Hurricane+1944+1

Hurricane+1944+8

What strange energy traps these echoes in the tidal flows of Asbury? It’s almost as if significant events there have ‘after-shocks’. Is it the geographic location itself, or is it something deeper? Some would no doubt say it is ‘God’s punishment’ for a city that began as a religious community and slid inexorably into decadence and moral decay. Personally, I think it may be something less prosaic and more mysterious.

It has me wondering how, in a few years’ time, Sandy’s echo might manifest.

 

Sandy, the angels have lost their desire for us.
I spoke to ’em just last night and they said they won’t set themselves on fire for us anymore….

* Bizarrely, just hours before the fire, her Captain, Robert Willmott had been found dead in his stateroom of a heart attack, which the ship’s surgeon declared was brought on by acute indigestion.

**The first ship on the scene was S.S. Andrea F. Luckenbach, followed by the S.S. Monarch of Bermuda and the S.S. City of Savannah. Also, responding were the Coast Guard cutters Tampa and Cahoone. People in coastal towns began calling the Coast Guard, police and fire departments to report a fire at sea. Many area residents woke that morning with foreboding to the sounds of blaring whistles and sirens as police, fire, and first-aid squads responded.” ~ Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee.

 

 

Please note: I do not own the images that I have used to illustrate  this post and have no idea who does. If you have information regarding who might hold the copyright, please get in touch so that I can properly credit. Thank you.

©2015