My Top Ten Records, circa May 1998

The things we find when doing a little housecleaning. I just came across a printout from May of 1998. I won't even get into the "others" section, which consists of about 75 records, but I figured I'd post my Top Ten from that time. Amazingly, not much has changed. These ten records, with the exception of maybe one, could land on a Top Ten list of mine today.

This is how the note reads:

NO ORDER, ONLY ONE RECORD PER ARTIST IN TOP 10 (Yes, I put this all in caps for emphasis):

Uncle Tupelo Still Feel Gone
Wilco Being There
Bob Dylan Blonde on Blonde
Steve Earle Train a Comin'
Son Volt Trace
Big Star #1 Record/Radio City
Richard Buckner Devotion & Doubt
Beatles Beatles For Sale
Neil Young Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Bruce Springsteen Nebraska

A Tip of the Hat

I may have posted this already, but it certainly bears repeating. Wilco covering Buffalo Springfield/Neil's "Broken Arrow."

Artists on Twitter

I don't read Twitter posts. I'm still not sure what it means to RT (re-tweet? as in sharing someone else's tweet?) or the whole @ thing that shows up on people's pages (someone else posting on your page?). I understand the attraction and why people obsess over it. Okay, I don't understand why people obsess over it, but yeah, I get it. I mean, I post Facebook updates so I'm not really that far off. And I have a blog. And I send about 455 texts per day, so by no means am I'm claiming to be "above it." That's actually not what I'm saying at all.

However, when it comes to those I look up to or artist's whose work means the world to me, I beg of them not to go the route of Twitter. I understand Miley Cyrus, McCain's tedious daughter or Paris Hilton Twittering, because, well, these people really don't have much to say whether on Twitter or not. And sure, fans of say Nickelback should probably be able to read posts from those asshats, but when it comes to credible artists, please, oh please, steer clear. I recently found out that Aimee Mann tweets. I put my tail between me buns and went to take a look. I read a few lines and closed the window. Good lord. I don't care that she's having lunch with some writer. (If she was having a parm, then yes, post it.) I don't know if other musicians, actors, writers, etc. that I adore have Twitter pages and I'd like to keep it that way. I mean, the mere thought of Springsteen, Neil Young, Oldham (okay, Oldham's would probably be hilarious) or Cormac McCarthy posting mundane crap on that service makes me want to curl up in a ball and throw in the towel. I like to see these people write, but to write for their craft. If they have something to say, it comes out in the art, and if not there, usually via interviews, and that's more than enough. I'm by no means telling these artists how they should conduct their marketing efforts, but man, this is an area that I think should be off-limits. Fine, if you're posting tour dates, articles, etc., I get it, but the personal stuff? Yikes. Please don't tell me that Sean Penn or Clooney have accounts? Atom Egoyan? Laura Linney? Noooooo....

One of the most unspoken attractions to the artists and creators that we love is the mystery that surrounds them. We now live in a country where most want answers to everything. We don't like gray. Well, I still do, and I think many folks I know do as well. So please, I can only hope that some steer clear. Aimee Mann's The Forgotten Arm is one of my favorite records, but honestly, once I read a few of her posts, something cheapened it all. I want her stories to remain those stories. Having a daily look into her personal life dilutes it all somehow.

And I'm now off to make some tuna salad.

Gillian Welch & David Rawlings

I first saw Welch & Rawlings at Boston's Paradise Rock Club in 1995. They played a beautiful opening set reminiscent of The Carter Family and the greatest of pickers and songwriters. As the night neared to a close, they joined Son Volt for a raucous take on Neil Young's "Come on Baby Let's Go Downtown." Welch, along with Rawlings, have gone on to release four records, all of which are either incredible (1996's Revival, 2001's Time (The Revelator)), pretty incredible (2003's Soul Journey) or very good (1998's Hell Among the Yearlings). As her fans have eagerly awaited a new record for now seven years, many are starting to wonder if perhaps she is done making records. As the wait continued, a glimmer hit us with David Rawlings' first record, last year's A Friend of a Friend. Rawlings' record proved that whether released under Gillian's name or his, they just put out stunning music.

As the wait for a Welch release continues, if you're into folk, country, rock n' roll and tunes that are simply great, I suggest you watch a few of these videos. And then go buy every damn record mentioned above. And if you don't like them, you should probably just go ahead and block yourself from everything.

Wilco & Syd Straw Cover Ernest Tubb's "The TB Is Whipping Me" (1994)

Wilco used to pick the most classic covers.

I Don't Mind Hanging Around

It's been at least two weeks since I've posted anything outside of photos, YouTube links or quick nuggets on here. I used to check the "unique visitors" per day a few times a week; it's been months since I've checked out those nifty graphs. That said, I have no idea if anyone's even stopping by anymore. It's become obvious to me that my time to post on this blog is becoming limited. I do hope that I can pick up the pace in the weeks to come, but at least for the next two weeks or so, posts will likely remain limited.

On a quiet Saturday night, I'll just toss out some updates on stuff:

  • I haven't touched the book in three weeks, but that's usually how "work" on the book goes. I do have a deadline, which I will meet. And it's soon. And that deadline is for me to complete a full edit, then re-read the beast one full time. When I am done with both, I will find an editor and take next steps.
  • The photo book was also to be compiled by the same deadline, but last week my hard drive said goodbye. All of the photos (about 13,000) were/are backed up, but there is no rhyme or reason to them. All iPhoto folders are gone and I have to go through nearly all of them to find the ones that I want for the book. This is going to take time. But not too much time.
  • I do have a dog. It only took me 36 years. He was within 12 hours of being euthanized. He is a wonder: kind, smart, fun, delicate, happy and has added tons of warmth to my life. His name is Bennett.
  • I have made so many unbelievable new friendships in the past six months or so. They've come from countless places and angles, but they just seem to arrive. I am very, very fortunate to have these people in my life.
  • People keep asking, "What are you going to do with your career?" to which I really don't provide much of an answer. Right now things are good. I'm enjoying writing and photography, even though the inspiration can never be counted on. But it does eventually come. And I've taken to artist management again. A trip to LA last week to see the band perform was quite fun and only deepened my belief in their music. I am honing in on other interests, almost all of which circle around non-profit. Does that mean school? Maybe. Would I want to work for Oxfam? Good lord, yes. NPR? Yep. Could I remain in music?
  • This afternoon I re-read Paul Westerberg's Op-Ed on Alex Chilton (it's framed right next to my head). This line hit me: "Those who fail to click with the world and society at large find safe haven in music."
  • I have definitely retreated a bit from politics. Basically, I'm trying to step away from the things that get me riled up. After a lackluster first year, I'm much happier with Obama. All the other distractions (Teabagging, Glen Beck, etc.) are basically foreign to me; I simply pay no mind. I used to fall into it. Those days are over. That said, the state of Arizona should be ashamed of itself. When it comes to politics nowadays, the Son Volt song "Question" pretty much sums up where I'm at: My mind's made up, to pacing across the floor, no point in staying, we're not saying anymore. I don't mind hanging around, whatever now and what else, can I do? It's a question of you. Thoughts careen til I can't stand up. Where's the crime in a streak of bad luck? Words to pick at, retreat from. Words that fester to only get at the truth. It's a question of you. What it all comes down to, is a different set of values.....". Yes. What it all comes down to is a different set of values.
  • It's a beautiful world we live in. I am learning this more and more every day. And many of you have helped me to see this.

This Planet


This Beautiful Park


, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

Damien Jurado / Saint Bartlett


The Male Sarah Palin

How do the republicans find such morons?

Record Store Day with Charlotte


Charlotte G. at Amoeba, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

Amazingly, I kept my purchases under $50. As I was looking through the Magnetic Fields section for the Love Songs box, I look to my left and Charlotte Gainsbourg is flipping through the racks. Kinda like that time at the NYC Record Fair when Thurston Moore was nudging me over to get into my section. Well, not like that at all, but records rule.

Los Angeles


, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

Liz Pappademas & The Level


More to come soon....

In the meantime, have a listen here

, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

If I Was Going to Coachella....


I went last year and that was enough. It was pretty enjoyable, especially given that some good friends had a very comfy house near the event, but it's too much of a scene for me. That said, sets by Brian Jonestown, Leonard Cohen and Okkervil River were fantastic.

Nonetheless, my picks (bold are must sees):

I likely wouldn't arrive until 2pm
210-255: Deer Tick
320-405: Avett Brothers
545-535: She & Him
650-740: Lucero
805-855: Grizzly Bear
905-1000: LCD Soundsystem
1050-end: Jay-Z

1205-1245: Frank Turner
100-150: John Waters
215-300: Portugal the Man
300-350: Old Crow Medicine Show
425-515: Beach House
Get a chicken parm
755-845: Faith No More
Get another chicken parm
1150-1245: Devo

1255-140: Soft Pack
7-8 cotton candies
425-510: Matt & Kim
510-530: Sunny Day Real Estate
535-620: Julian Casablancas
745-855: Pavement
900-end: Thom Yorke

The Life of Alex Chilton

This story in The Times-Picayune is so moving that it bears repeating. Some may find it odd, but this portrait of Alex, to me, is a life lived honestly and a life worthy of admiration. There is so much focus and value placed on monetary success in our society and Alex didn't seem to care for it. He lived how he wanted to live. He lived how he felt he was meant to live. He didn't need the spotlight. He didn't need people fawning over him. He wanted a normal, simple and comfortable life among the people of New Orleans.

Hero is a grossly overused term in our society, but when pressed to name some of mine, I always start with Martin Luther King, Jr. To me, he was the embodiment of good, courage, humility, justice and altruism. I then toss around folks like Bruce Springsteen, Woody Guthrie, my grandfather, my mother, Jeff Tweedy, William Faulkner, Paul Wellstone and a few others. Folks who either inspired me and others or played a direct role in impacting my life. But if pressed to add another, Alex Chilton would make the short list. I loved Big Star the moment I heard them, and that love only grew and grew as the years passed. They only released three records, yet every one, now 30+ years later, sounds not only fresh, but absolutely alive. The music business failed them. And Chilton stepped away for a quiet life. Big Star maybe wouldn't have been as big as The Beatles, but those three records prove that they were almost as good. Many say that they defined and were the forefathers of power pop. To me, they were much more: rock and roll, beautiful songwriting, spirituality. Listen to #1 Record and you'll quickly move from jumping out of your seat on "Feel" or "In the Street" to soaking in the beauty of "The Ballad of El Goodo" and "Thirteen." The quintessential power pop band, some say. The quintessential band, I say.

One of These Things First

As I announced to the world in a post some time back, I no longer have internet access at home. As a result, you've probably noticed that I'm not posting nearly as often to this here blog. But there are other factors, some of which I will outline for you here:
  • Memoir: First version is complete. I am now midway through a first edit. Once this edit is complete, I will re-read the whole damn thing and then I'm done. There is a title. It could change but it probably won't. It will then go off to an editor. Once it returns, I will consider which steps to take next. I may seek out an agent. I may just print up 100 copies and drop them on Market and 4th. I may just upload the whole thing to my Flickr account.
  • Photo Book: This is essentially ready to go. I just have to get over to Berkeley to pick out the paper, binding, layout, etc. and get them printed. This is going to cost me quite a few dollars. Please buy it when it's done. If not, Market and 4th.
  • Artist Mgmt: I am back at this. You will certainly be hearing more from Liz Pappademas & The Level. They are out of LA and their upcoming release Television City is a fantastic artistic achievement.
  • Dog: As I'm sure you're aware, I have adopted a dog. His name used to be Marley. It is out now Bennett. He is awesome. However, he is taking some training and that is taking up a good portion of every day. We also rumble each quite a bit.
  • Job: I have started to look around a bit. There's really only one company out here that I want to work for if I remain in my field. I am talking to this company. I will not be CEO.
  • School: This is always a possibility. I could go back for a Masters in Public Health or something of the sort. I am considering taking the GRE again. I think I scored a four last time.
All of this stuff has been keeping me quite busy, but that's not to say I haven't been inspired by stuff, some of which I will share now:
  • My dog rules.
  • I still think about Alex Chilton daily. His music and the pieces I've read, especially the New Orleans piece, have hit me in ways I could have never expected. I've always loved Big Star. As a matter of fact, I recently came across a top ten record list that I printed out in 1998. #1 Record / Radio City was #2 behind Uncle Tupelo's Still Feel Gone.
  • My reading has really slowed of late. I'm trying to wrap up Dennis Lehane's A Drink Before the War. Following this, I either want to read Joe Klein's Woody Guthrie: A Life or Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian.
  • Playing basketball again makes me very happy.
  • Taking Bennett to Pacifica makes me even happier. Seeing him get totally pumped as he hopped through the tall weeds was so hilarious and touching.
  • My mother and stepfather recently visited. It was a very memorable visit. It took them five years, but it was well worth the wait. I miss them already.
  • Congrats to my pal Bob on the birth of his second child, Katie Jane.
  • I am listening to "You Are My Face" from Wilco in NJ last week right now and I am pumped. This is one of Tweedy's best post-Bennett songs.
  • Pavement!
  • Record Store Day is Saturday. New Josh Ritter! And a bunch of 45s!
  • Yanks in Oakland next week!
  • Things are good. If you've made it this far, well, I hope you're doing well.
I've posted this before, but today it seems fitting.....

Bennett Awaits Coffee


, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

Look Up


, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

Why I Won't Be Seeing LCD Soundsystem at The Fillmore


1. $35 plus service for LCD Soundsystem is too much. A band of this caliber should be charging $25. Yes, they've put out two very solid records (one great), but LCD and Wilco should not be charging the same. (In all honesty, I'm pissed because I got hosed for $700 on my car today.)

2. I imagine the crowd at an LCD show will be more than a man can handle. 1000+ frat boys, rather hipsters, rather dongs, in one room may just drive me mad.

If they are indeed done following this tour, well, I'm seeing Pavement!

June 24, 25, 26: The Test

Can I possibly do three straight? I've done maybe 40 or so over a few days, six times in Austin, but I am older, grayer and shorter. However, I am less of a misanthrope, which I guess makes me an anthrope.

Josh Ritter @ The Fillmore, June 24

Pavement @ Greek Theatre, June 25

Steve Earle @ Great American Music Hall, June 26



, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.

Wilco @ Wellmont Theatre, Montclair, NJ - Last Night

Three hours! Thirty. Seven. Songs. The back-to-back Big Star tribute of "Thank You Friends" and "In the Street" likely would have had me weeping. Alex Chilton's passing has hit me harder than I could have ever imagined. Just something about Big Star. I listened to #1 Record on the drive up 101 last night and it is honestly one of the greatest records ever, ever, ever recorded. The fact that this record was lost in some distribution snafu following release, would be like Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man having been self-published and only made available to a couple folks.

Back to Wilco last night. Look at this set list!

Ashes of American Flags
Wilco (the Song)
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
Bull Black Nova
You Are My Face
One Wing
Shot in the Arm
Muzzle of Bees
Deeper Down
California Stars
Impossible Germany
Poor Places

You & I
Hesitating Beauty
Laminated Cat
When You Wake Up Feeling Old
Dreamer in my Dreams
Outta Mind (Outta Sight)

Airline to Heaven
Always in Love
Candy Floss
Jesus Etc.
Box Full of Letters
Can't Stand It
Hate it Here
You Never Know
I'm the Man Who Loves You
Thank You Friends (Big Star)
In the Street (Big Star)

Casino Queen
Outtasite (Outta Mind)
Hoodoo Voodoo


I was born into a succession of four German Shepherds. As a kid, when I wasn't out playing baseball or basketball or at home watching baseball or basketball, I was often as near to the dogs as possible. German Shepherds, at least the ones we had, are loyal to their owners and everyone else pales. That being the case, all four were basically hooked onto the hip of my stepfather. But sometimes they'd give me some time. I loved those dogs, even Guard, the one who didn't really like me, or anyone for that matter.

I have always wanted a dog of my own. However, given jobs, travel and a desire for long nights out, I never thought it was the "right time." I always came up with an excuse. Maybe I feared the responsibility. To fill the mini void of a life without dogs, I'd spend hours in local dog parks. No, I wasn't trying to pick up women. I just wanted to hang with dogs. When a Shepherd would make its way into the park, my eyes would light up. But just like ours, he or she wanted to stay with the owner, while playing around. Even the other dogs seemed to bore the Shepherd. I'd hang with other dogs. They'd hop on my lap. I'd pet them for long stretches.

About a year ago, I began volunteering at Animal Care & Control. I'd head over 4-5 times a month and take dogs out for walks, or just hang out in the cages. These were some of my best days in San Francisco. Seriously. I loved the staff at ACC over SPCA. There was and is no ostentation at ACC. SPCA gives off a bit of, I dunno, something. But that's only in comparison to ACC. SPCA also does wonderful things, there's no question about it. But ACC is staffed by the grittier folks. The ones who will truly do the dirty work. And unlike SPCA, ACC will take any animal. Any. I'd walk up to the second floor after a few hours with the dogs and see rats and chickens booking around. I mean, they were caged, but they were still pumped. One rabbit almost took my finger off when I went in for a pet.

About two months ago, I started to consider adopting. I really didn't know what I wanted. Someone mid-sized, I guessed. Maybe someone with a story. Who knows. I wasn't even sure I was ready. Right around the time I started looking around, I met a mutt named Marley. They thought he was around nine months old. He had been cared for by a homeless man before the man dropped him off. He was one of a few I was looking at. I grew close to another, but one day I returned and he was gone. Marley remained. And he'd give me that look, but honestly, almost all give you that look. A week or two passed and I hadn't been back to ACC. And when I returned, Marley was gone. It happens. Often. I inquired a bit and let it go. Something about him being with a rescue group.

Last week, or maybe the week before, I asked about Marley again. I don't know why; it just came to me. He was with an organization called Grateful Dogs. They were fostering him. Turns out there was a very minor incident while Marley was playing with a volunteer. Grateful Dogs came to the rescue.

I found Marley on their website and filled out a form. The following day, Michelle from Grateful Dogs called. Over the past week, we've spent a number of days together. I went along with Michelle and about 11 other dogs to Fort Funston. I watched Marley the entire time. Well, until a Shepherd came running up to the group. And then I started playing with them all. But my eyes kept returning to Marley. Maybe I was ready, I thought.

Two days ago, I drove down to South San Francisco, stopped at the pet food store to get the basics, and went to Michelle's house to get Marley. Michelle had tested and grilled me for days and she was comfortable with me. She wanted me to have him. Her eyes welled up as we walked Marley out to my car. Marley was terrified on the ride from South San Francisco back to my apartment. Non-stop drooling. Tail buried between his legs. Trembling. I kept trying to calm him. No luck.

We are now under a two-week trial period of sorts. Unless something dramatic happens, I can't imagine this ending at two weeks. Less than 48 hours in, we're already buddies. He sleeps well. He loves to play. He's into Big Star. Oh, and one of the last things I asked Michelle was if it was okay to change his name. Yes, she said. He'll pick up quick. And he already has. Welcome, Bennett.

Maybe the following song is a bit too human-oriented, but I had to go with it.

Son Volt's "Question"

Jay Farrar has an almost endless list of incredible songs. Some are amazing lyrically, some have an Americana beauty that few current artists can touch and some barrel you over like the best of Crazy Horse. With Uncle Tupelo, he penned some of the best songs of the early 90s with "Chickamauga," "Looking for a Way Out," "Postcard," "Steal the Crumbs," and every other song he wrote alongside Jeff Tweedy.

When considering his post-UT output, most point to Son Volt's 1995 debut Trace. Although I do consider it a masterpiece, I've always been a bit more partial to their last record with the Boquists and Mike Heidorn, 1999's Wide Swing Tremolo. This record, unlike any Farrar record before or after, shows Farrar's aggressive side (Did anyone ever see him doing something like "Straightface" or "Jodel?"), without parting with the balladry that would make Gram Parsons' nudie suit get chills ("Hanging Blue Side").

Musically speaking, some turn to punk rock to get their rush. Some to hip hop or rap. I find it in Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Slobberbone, Arcade Fire, Pavement, The Clash and T. Rex. You know, the songs that have you pounding on the steering wheel as you drive down 280 or 95. The songs that make it impossible not to open the sunroof. The songs that have you dancing in your apartment. The songs that drive life right through you. Of the hundreds of Farrar songs I love, I'm not sure there's one that combines lyrical and musical force like "Question." The sound of the band is heightened by the lyrics and the combination knocks me on my damn ass.

Thoughts careen 'til I can't stand up
Where's the crime in a streak of bad luck
Words to pick at, retreat from
Words that fester if only to get at the truth
It's a question of you
What it all comes down to, is a different set of values
Throw away or mobilize to use.



Bennett, originally uploaded by ccsbandwagon.