Top 10 Kinks Songs 1965

1965 - Kinks, The - Tired Of Waiting - D

It’s been over a year since the first installment of this project, but I’m gonna finish it before the end of the year. I promise! As a refresher: I am listening to the entire Kinks discography year by year to figure out my Top 10 by year, and then hopefully figure out my overall Top 10 and the best year of the Kinks recorded output. Simple (and obsessive), no?

1965 was a more prolific year for the Kinks than 1964 – two albums and two EPs – which made this year a bit more difficult. I listened to Kinda Kinks and The Kinks Kontroversy (and the singles) twice through making notes of songs that stuck out for a re-listen. That list had 29 songs. So I culled it and listened through again marking out the ones that just had to be in the Top 10 somehow, which left 9 standouts and I slid in the one that was on the cusp to round it out. I tried to keep many things in mind when I ranked them: music, lyrics, catchiness, is it iconic, should it be iconic? So here’s my list for 1965:

  1. Tired of Waiting For You
  2. Till The End of The Day
  3. Set Me Free
  4. Come On Now
  5. A Well Respected Man
  6. Something Better Beginning
  7. Where Have All The Good Times Gone
  8. Ring The Bells
  9. World Keeps Going Round
  10. Such A Shame

Unlike 1964, there wasn’t the toss up of hits in 1965. “Tired of Waiting For You” stands out for good reason. It was the hit! The lyrics are classically cynical, but the really hook for me is the rhythm guitar. I just love the tone. It’s hard to ignore.

“Till The End Of The Day” is a stomper, very much like “Your Really Got Me” and the like. It’s in that vein that all my favourite bands tap, but it’s so well recorded and mixed it’s just classic. “Set Me Free” is just behind it with an even crunchier guitar tone, but it’s not as danceable which is why it’s third.

“Come On Now” is Dave Davies first appearance on these lists, and it’s kind of an attempt at a Kinks does Motown (hence the backup singers). The guitar riff and the vocals make this a fun one to dance to and it stands out as a great pop song.

You can’t really dance to “A Well Respected Man”. It foreshadows the future of Ray Davies observational songwriting about English life. (Lots more about that to come in later years.)

“Something Better Beginning” is a great melancholic song, not least because The Honeycombs covered it. I think we’ve all been there in that zone of uncertainty and Ray Davies captures it. It’s just kind of a simple pop song when he’s clearly moving beyond that.

Something about the opening of “Where Have All The Good Times Gone?” reminds me of when Dylan went electric, only the lyrics aren’t quite so pretentious and Dave Davies has a great guitar tone. This is a good song of nostalgia and I have fond memories of my mom singing it to me.

“Ring The Bells” might be one of the lesser known songs on this list, appearing on The Kinks Kontroversy so it’s kind of a deep cut. I think this is another early song of observation and could have easily been on some later albums. The balance of melancholy and wistfulness is beautiful and this song deserves a spin.

“World Keeps Going Round” is very much a mid-sixties song about the pace of progress. I think it has an interesting beat and Ray Davies captures the mix of uncertainty and fatalism quite will with this song.

“Such A Shame” was on the Kwyet Kinks EP that came out in the fall of 1965. It’s a slow, dark pop song that really embodies Ray Davies’ brand of sad. There’s not much too the song, but I think it’s interesting a little lyrically and I love the guitar tone.

I did leave off a lot of my favourite pop songs, like “Ev’rybody’s Gonna Be Happy” and “Who’ll Be Next In Line”, but this is a tight list and I think some of the lesser known songs were better as pop songs go. Same with the dirge “See My Friends”.

Stay tuned for 1966, which was a lot more difficult song for song.

Top 10 Kinks Songs 1964

1964 - Kinks, The - All Day And All Of The Night - D

I said I would blog about listening to every Kinks record to come up with an educated Top 10. I’ve been listening to them all, even UK Jive, but haven’t blogged a jot. Well read this!

One point before we get started, I am only considering songs written by Ray (or Dave) Davies. This excludes my personal favourites like “Cadillac” and  “Bald Headed Woman”.

I figure the easiest way to break this up, especially in the earlier stages of their career, is to do it by year. In 1964, the Kinks release their first four singles and their eponymous debut album. Based on that, here are my rankings for 1964:

  1. All Day And All Of The Night
  2. You Really Got Me
  3. You Still Want Me
  4. I Gotta Move
  5. I Took My Baby Home
  6. Stop Your Sobbing
  7. Revenge
  8. Just Can’t Go To Sleep
  9. It’s All Right

When I was ranking these, there was definitely a tinge of shame and contrarianism about placing “All Day And All Of The Night” ahead of “You Really Got Me”, but after listening to the two back to back several times in a row I am sticking with it. There’s no arguing that “You Really Got Me” is iconic and the guitar riff helped spawn a genre of music I love. There’s just something about “All Day And All Of The Night” that resonates more with me. Maybe it’s the production, as it sounds more like a group just playing in a room, not as produced. Maybe it’s the lack of a piano? I just feel it’s a stronger song.

“You Still Want Me” is a somewhat peculiar song, but I think it’s under appreciated. It sounds like something the Searchers would have done. Regardless, the song construction is well done and the beat is great. “I Gotta Move” is pretty R&B and it works. It also has a good beat you can dance to. I always had the impression my mom thought “I Took My Baby Home” was a throw away pop song, which isn’t exactly wrong. I will give it credit though for being an excellent example of a cheesy pop tune from 1964. It’s very much a Beatles rip off, only much better. “Stop Your Sobbing” is good for a slow song. I know lots of people remember the Pretenders’ cover, but the original is so much better. I think it’s a nice, sweet song with an old school rhythm and blues feel. It’s just a little too mid-tempo. “Revenge” is a frenetic instrumental that is also largely forgotten, don’t make that mistake. The other slow song is “Just Can’t Go To Sleep”, which also sounds like something the Searchers would have done. It’s a fine song, just not as good as others. The same is true for the total R&B pastiche of “It’s Alright”. Fine son, just not a stand out in this crowd.

So that’s 1964. Stay tuned for 1965.

The Kinks Top 10 – a project.

The Kinks by vagabondMusicCo
The Kinks, a photo by vagabondMusicCo on Flickr.

My friend Mary Carmen shared a link to the 10 best Kinks songs on some website. It’s link bait. Very obvious link bait.

Their list:

  1. Waterloo Sunset

  2. You Really Got Me
  3. Lola
  4. ‘Til the End of the Day
  5. Tired of Waiting For You
  6. Victoria
  7. Sunny Afternoon
  8. A Well Respected Man
  9. 20th Century Man

There are some omissions but all the hits are there. All the hits are there.

So I said I would give you my 10 best, but that seems like it’d be foolish without working. So here’s the project. I am going to name 10 best right now, listen to all the records. Yes… all of the albums and singles… and then get back to you with my refreshed list after studying them all.

Preface this: you know my parents reared me on the Kinks to such a degree I thought the Beatles were some obscure footnote of pop history. No doubt this education has made it easier for me to love 60s garage and beat music. I sort of ascribe to the school of thought that it’s not really worth venturing past Arthur. So of course this initial list will be largely from the 60s.

OK – my list!

  1. All Day and All Of The Night
  2. Days
  3. All Gods Children
  4. You Really Got Me
  5. David Watts
  6. Autumn Almanac
  7. Shangri-La
  8. Do You Remember Walter?
  9. I’m Not Like Everybody Else
  10. Sunny Afternoon

Not on the list every will be “Bald Headed Woman”.

10 is a pretty small number. I will report back. Listening to their first album not, it’s so remarkable.

My Top 10 Bond Themes

Today Joe and I met Patrick at the theater and saw Skyfall. In 2011, the three of us watched all 22 Eon Bond Films. It was a project that really bonded us together. We also recently re-watched Dr. No on October 5 to celebrate its 50th anniversary. So we were going into Skyfall well versed with the Bond franchise. The film was pretty great and did the franchise proud. When the theme was released last month, the internet went sort of insane, but then again… right now most of the world is insane for Adele. I’ll admit… I wasn’t really impressed. It was a perfectly fine song, but was it a great Bond theme? Well… today I wondered (as I hobbled back to the car) would it even make my top 10 Bond themes. So I came home and went through them all so that I may run down the top ones.

  1. Goldfinger is probably the theme most people would say is “the best”, and it’s hard to argue with that. It starts with the bombastic brass that you really come to expect with Bond music. Shirley Bassey’s vocals are powerful and really match the drama of the strings and horns. It should be on everybody’s list. It also does a really nice job of incorporating the James Bond theme (first heard in the intro to Dr. No) into the song. I’m a sucker for that.
  2. Thunderball is really similar to “Goldfinger” in that is has the brass and the strings, but it also has Tom Jones. Tom Jones is cheesy, but you know what? It’s perfect in this song. Listen to it, it makes no sense but it just has that swagger that you expect from Bond. Even though this song was rushed in to replace “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (also sung by Shirley Bassey) when the studio changed the name of the film, it’s still one of the best.
  3. The Man With The Golden Gun is sung by another one of my favourites – Lulu. It definitely swings. It has the trademark brass, which also makes it a hit in my opinion. It’s just a fun song and gets stuck in my head a lot.
  4. Diamonds Are Forever is probably the most sampled of the lot, but it’s deserved. Shirley Bassey nails the vocals again. It is more string driven than brassy, which makes it not quite as bombastic as I’d like. The bass line though is very solid and has a groove.
  5. You Only Live Twice is one of the more mellow Bond themes, but it has a haunting quality that makes it very memorable. I think Nancy Sinatra’s vocals balance very nicely with the electric guitar that’s so twangy that it almost sounds like a sitar. I think this is one of most forgotten songs, but it shouldn’t be. Everybody should have it stuck in their head all the time.
  6. Goldeneye was a reboot of the franchise with Pierce Brosnan, but they Tina Turner and The Edge do a pretty decent job of honouring the Bond theme tradition, but also keeping it contemporary. Yeah… it sounds a but dated now, but it definitely feels like a Bond intro, and really… can you mess with Tina? No.
  7. Tomorrow Never Dies was a weird film that was ahead of its time. Its song by Sheryl Crow is weird because it doesn’t really sound like Sheryl Crow song. It captures the moody and dark side of the Bond franchise quite well. It doesn’t really have the brass, but it definitely does have a kick.
  8. Live and Let Die is a great film because it has Yaphet Kotto (and in spite of Roger Moore). If you know me, you know I hate Paul McCartney with more intensity than is healthy, so it sort of pains me to include this song on the list. It was a hit outside the film so it’s sort of easy to forget that it’s Bond theme. For Bond themes though, it hits all the high notes – it has the brass, it has the swagger, and it’s bombastic- even if it’s from one of the most annoying, smarmy mugs in show business.
  9. The Living Daylights is sort of weird, I’ll admit, but I have a soft spot for this song. It’s better than Duran Duran’s A View To A Kill (though that film is better), and it has the novelty of being by a-ha. Part of the problem it suffers (and I think all Bond themes are vulnerable to this point) is that it’s too much a product of its time. It’s very much stuck in a moment.
  10. Skyfall is also very much a product of its time, but it just so happens that the Daniel Craig Bond reboot consciously goes back to the original Bond. This is sort of evident in “You Know My Name” (Casino Royale) and “Another Way To Die” (Quantum of Solace). They have the horns, they have the moodiness, but they also clearly sound like they were made in the 2000s. Maybe if I actually liked Chris Cornell or Jack White then I’d like those songs, but they’re just not very good. I’ll admit, I think Adele is sort of predictable and I’m not really fond of her music, but “Skyfall” does have the same feel of “Diamonds are Forever” and “You Only Live Twice”, so it makes the list.

So there you have it. I’m a little surprised that “Skyfall” made it, but holy shit there are lots of bad Bond themes. I mean, Shirley Bassey nailed “Goldfinger” and “Diamonds are Forever” and then tanks with “Moonraker” (but that movie is just bad). Octopussy’s “All Time High” is just odd and out of place, though Pulp’s cover of it is pretty great. Actually, if Pulp’s “Tomorrow Never Lies” was selected, it might be in the top 5, but alas… they went with Sheryl Crow.

I feel like I have to acknowledge a couple of things though – of course I’m going to like earlier songs better because I just like 60s music (and production) more. I also think those films are stronger. The wilderness years of Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton aren’t really worth remembering, other than the kitsch factor. So… yeah.

I really think the next Bond theme should be by Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley. Throw in Shirley Bassey and it’d be amazing.

The long, slow road to normal.

My buddy., originally uploaded by kendrak.

On Friday June 22, 2012 I subbed for an indoor soccer team. I’d been itching to play since my team was taking the season off. It was a fun game until 10 minutes into the second half when I jumped up for a header. The ball sailed 6″ over my head, I landed on my left leg and it popped. I crumpled to the turf in pain and pretty much everybody knew I did something. I was able to walk off the pitch, so I thought I dodged the ACL bullet… after a month of resting, taking it easy, and still having my knee buckle, I got an MRI which showed I tore my ACL.

As my soccer friends say, I’d finally done my ACL. What did it mean? I could walk around and ride my bike, but I couldn’t really dance or play soccer. So I tried PT for a few months on the outside chance it would work… but I had to get the surgery. That was two weeks ago. Two weeks of my knee in a very large, heavy brace. Hobbling around on crutches. Unable to wear real pants. Trapped in my apartment. It’s not fun.

This is me and my new buddy, the STEN machine – which is basically mild electroshock therapy to stimulate my quads. PT is going to be a long slog, but my therapist has been great before and after the surgery. I’m looking forward to getting back on the pitch, but it’ll be a long while.

Biggest thanks goes to the man who’s kept me clean and fed – RoboJoe. Without him, I’d be laying in my own filth.

God, I can’t wait to get off these crutches. I miss walking, cooking, and playing my records.

Mixtape – Welcome to My Mind

Mixtape, originally uploaded by kendrak.

On the first Saturday of every month, one of my favourite record shops in the world, Phono Select in Sacramento, hosts a mixtape swap. I’ve wanted to go for months, but was usually booked that weekend. Family visits, friend visits, work, band stuff, lots of excuses. I made a vow that I would get my act together and make it up to Sac for the October one. I barely got my stuff done. My mix tape skills were really rusty, so I compensated for the creative and technical gaffes with nice artwork. Here is the mix:

Welcome To My Mind: A Mixtape by Kendra K

Side A.

  1. The Hi-Fives – “Welcome to My Mind” Welcome to My Mind
  2. The Lincolns – “Pop Kat” V/A Riot City
  3. Nickles and Dimes – “Story of Love” Nickles and Dimes
  4. The Alarm Clocks – “No Reasons to Complain” V/A Back From The Grave v. 1
  5. The Discords – “Second to No One’ Second to No One
  6. The Evaporators – “Waaa” I Gotta Rash
  7. Onion Flavored Rings – “Venus De Milo” 7” Split with Bitchin’
  8. New Bad Things – “I’ll Arrest Myself” Nestim 7”
  9. The Smugglers – “BABE” Atlanta Whiskey Flats
  10. Sonny & Cher – “I Got You Babe” Greatest Hits
  11. LuLu – “Boat that I Row” To Sir With Love
  12. Magic Kids – “Hey Boy” Memphis
  13. NOBUNNY – “I am a Girlfriend” Love Visions
  14. Hunx & His Punx – “You Don’t Like Rock and Roll” Gay Singles
  15. Pansy Division – “Femme in a Black Leather Jacket” Undressed
  16. Helen Love – “Punk Boy” We Love You 7”
  17. Mates of State – “Invitation Inn” It’s the Law 7”
  18. Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark: Electricity Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark/li>
  19. Fuzzy Wuz She – “Frick it!”

Side B.

  1. The Ne’er Do Wells – “Where’s Mickey?” Hello It Is I, Thee Intolerable Bastard Child Genius 7”
  2. The Milkshalkes – “You Did Her Wrong” Last Night at the MIC
  3. The Prisoners – “Melanie” The Milkshakes vs. The Prisoners Live
  4. The Monkees – “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” I’m a Believer 7”
  5. The Tikimen – “That’s the Way it Goes” Twelve Dusty Diamonds
  6. The Troublemakers – “You Make A Better Door” The Great Lost Troublemakers Album
  7. The Mummies – “I’m Gonna Kill My Baby Tonight” Runnin’ On Empty v. 2
  8. The Statics – “I Hate Your Guts’ Japan Tour 97 7”
  9. Frankie Ventura and the Crescents – “Pain” V/A Hang it Out to Dry
  10. The Tantrums – “Big Dress” Big Dress 7”
  11. The Budget Girls – “Go Away Geek” Get in Your Ear 7”
  12. Betty and the Werewolves – “Paper Thin” Paper Thin 7”
  13. The Ronettes – “Baby I Love You” Baby I Love You 7”
  14. Millie Small – “Oh Henry” My Boy Lollipop
  15. The Younger Lovers – “The Boy From Leeds” The Boy From Senegal 7”
  16. The Rondelles – “He’s Out Of Sight”
  17. The Greefs – “I’d Be a Good Man To Have Around the House”*
  18. The Primitive Hearts – “Primitive Heart” Self-titled 7”
  19. Midnite Snaxxx – “You Kill Me”
  20. Frick the Cat – “El Gato”

*This is actually Don Grady and the b-side to “The Children of Santa Monica”

Two copies of this tape were made. One for Dal and Nich at the shop, and one to swap. I sort of thought about ripping a copy before I handed them over so that I’d have a digital copy for posterity, but decided against it. There’s something precious and pretentious about these analog mixes from analog media, that will most likely only ever be analog. I’ll admit that’s sort of elitist, but that’s also some of the fun. This mix was from the heart, full of song I love and enjoy. Hopefully somebody will enjoy it. The format is just a layer of the presentation. I grew up collecting records pre-mpfree. I still have some of the first mixes people made for me in junior high and high school. They were transformative for sure. (Francing used to make me the best mixes that introduced me to bands like The Housemartins and the the Style Council. Seriously, how did I not know of those bands before that?)

I’m going to try to work on a mix for this month’s swap. It might have to be a CD since I’m laid up post-knee surgery (a whole other story) and can’t reach the tape deck.

U Didn’t Build That

It’s election season for all its warts. For the past two days, “U Didn’t Build That” by MCBAMA has been a really popular song in our house, getting lots of spins. “The guinea pigs love it.” “Well, the one who’s not afraid of life. She’s a Romney girl.” Thanks to Know Your Meme for the background on this.

Maybe it’s because I’m more liberal than not, or because I like old school Oaktown rap (I had Hammer pants when I was 7, don’t hate), or because I am just sick of politicians lying to the public and find the current state of the GOP especially galling, but I am more worried about Romney winning in November than Bush in 2000 or 2004. Think about that… Bush was pretty incompetent and disgusting, but I could sort of resign myself to his inevitable victory. Now though, it’s so clear how dogmatic the Republicans are in a way that really has nothing to do with small governments and fiscal responsibility. Romney’s 47% gaffe shows this disconnect from Bush’s agenda, and also show the malice they have for the poor. I’m fortunate to have a job with health insurance and be pretty OK, but I still feel we have a social obligation to the most vulnerable in society. I also feel that investing in our nation’s infrastructure is good for all. (Yeah…. that also pays my bills. I get it.) So really, while I don’t like a lot of what Obama has done (or hasn’t), I don’t think he’s going to govern like Montgomery Burns.

Really getting out the vote in a really diverse Alameda County

I Voted, originally uploaded by kendrak.

Alameda County is really big. It’s also really diverse with over 40% of the households speaking a language other than English at home. This makes bilingual election material vital to keep democracy open and fair within the county. In 2010 the Asian Law Caucus observed the election and noted problems throughout the Bay Area, including Alameda County. To their credit, Alameda took these issues seriously and made some big changes for this election – they gave more resources to language assistance and made sure all polling locations had signage, sample ballots, and ballots in the five official languages: English, Spanish, Mandarin, Vietnamese, and Tagalog. All ballots were bilingual with English. The main message of the poll worker classes I attended was to be sure we provided at all precincts, to alternate English/Spanish and English/Chinese ballots, and tried to place bilingual poll workers at locations. It was a little confusing for some, particularly people over 60, but I really liked the inclusive spirit. I thought it was great that they also provided the ‘I Voted” stickers in all the languages – a simple reflection of our multicultural county.

Going into Tuesday morning I was excited about the election. Not because I cared about the races (though I love every opportunity I have to not vote for Feinstein), but because I love this exercise of democracy. I’m not religious, but elections are a type of holy day for me. They are fundamental to living in a democracy. This was also a special election day for me because it was my first as a precinct coordinator. Instead of managing one polling location, I roamed around three making sure things were done correctly, smoothly, and everybody could do their jobs effectively. I was moved from my home precinct in North Berkeley to three on the Berkeley/Oakland border in the toney Hills. Instead of the milieu of students, aged Berkeley Hippies clinging on, and young professional families, I got to see the old and the wealthy. It was a little unnerving in some ways. I’m so used to my Berkeley bubble that I never give the hills much thought, and after yesterday I’ll try to go back to that,

It’s not to say that people who live in the Berkeley and Oakland Hills are bad, but there really is a different mentality. They’re in their own bubble, and listening to some of the comments about the bilingual ballots and the signage made me happy to not be in it.

“Why does it even matter? Nobody here speaks… what’s that language? Tag-a-long? Where is that from?” Yeah… a poll worker said that to me. They had been to the same classes (where the languages were explained), and this person is ostensibly educated and of the world (they talked about a week just spent in New York, and other trips abroad), but they jokingly dismissed Filipinos in our county. This person also assumed Vietnamese people just spoke French. It gave me a headache.
I reminded all the poll workers that regulations required that all signs were posted, and we had the ballots on hand just in case. One one precinct took these changes in stride (we have changes every election), the other two seemed to find these changes to be a burden and it definitely rubbed me the wrong way. The obliviousness that perhaps other parts of the county, like Downtown Oakland, Fruitvale, parts of Fremont and Hayward could really benefit from these changes smacked of entitlement. I’ll admit to joking that I would never move south of Lake Merritt, but I know it exists and that there are lots of people there who have the right to vote. The jokes illustrating ignorance and indifference to the immigrant minority populations in the Bay Area registered a mix of entitlement and classism. When one voter talked about giving the “Tới Đầ Bỏ Phiếu” sticker to their “Vietnamese house girl”. Nice gesture.

I think there is room for refinement with the ballots themselves, but posting signage and sample ballots is a pretty small burden. I hope by November everybody is on board with it, and if they can’t cope with that, perhaps it’s time for a new generation of poll workers? It’s not just a fun day out where we see our neighbors, it’s really a day where we serve our community so they can vote. The whole community, not just those who live in our zipcode or socioeconomic strata.


Owl 143/365, originally uploaded by kendrak.

Tomorrow is May 23rd. This date is significant because it’s Erika’s birthday. Were she alive today, I would wish her a capy birthday. Sadly, she passed away April 2009.

Today is May 22nd – George Best‘s birthday. He was a genius on the pitch. He passed away November 2005.

I’ve always been good with dates and I don’t know why. Sometime’s it really seems like a waste of grey matter – like remembering Will Clark‘s birthday, the end of Napoleon’s reign, Charlamagne’s death, 30 June 1966, the release date of Automatic for the People.

Personal dates make sense – my parents anniversary, an aunt’s birthday – both are within days of my own birthday. The day I first talked to Joe at Gilman. The last Hi-Fives show. The day of the Potatomen at Gilman I walked to from campus and the chilly, long stumble back to my boarding house. OK, that doesn’t make sense.

I wish I was better, like an elephant, but I’m not exact. For some reason though, numbers stick. (Chris Imlay’s birthday is this week, too!) It’s sort of haunting and comforting, but really depends upon the date.

On Coffee – Or why it’s more than just a simple cup.

This weekend I was invited to think back to my high school stint as barista in one of my favorite coffee shops – Boulevard Coffee. My best friend in Kindergarten was Amber, and her parents owned the coffee shop. Cliff roasted the beans, Karen ran the shop. It was always a fun treat to go in there and help my mom pick up beans. The smells, the feel, it all seemed special.

I started drinking coffee pretty young. I remember the joy of cafe au lait, mostly milk, as my first introduction to coffee. When I was an adolescent I was allowed to drink it black, which is how I take it now. This is no doubt in part to the fact that my mom drinks it black. My dad used to use “canned cow”, or evaporated milk. That can would sit in the fridge with a weird skin on the lip. He takes milk and cream now, but that just made me more resolute for black coffee.

When I finally needed to get a job in high school working for Boulevard just made sense. They needed people, I needed a job, and it was bikeable from school and home. Working there made sense. I liked my coworkers and I loved the work. Learning about coffee from people who really cared about the beans, the roasting, the grind, the brewing was trasnformative. All of my obsessions and rituals about coffee were codified then. My parents enjoyed that I came home smelling like beans, but the discount was also good. I loved that I got to try new roasts beyond the French Roast and Seattle Starlight my parents would always buy. Tanzanian Peaberry, Aged Sumatra, Celebes… all good in their own way. Drinking different coffees and really studying them helped me appreciate the variances in roasting, the acidity of the beans. To this day, I still hold Boulevard’s beans up as a standard in good roasting. Not burnt like Peets, not overly light like Blue Bottle. There’s an actual difference between a dark roast and a light roast.

Then there was the world of espresso drinks. I was a pretty good barista and could pull really nice shots with rich crema. I could get microfoam with no trouble. (Man, I wish soy milk was better at foaming…) It was here I learned to appreciate a proper cappuccino or macchiato. People would come in, asking for one of the bastardized espresso drinks from Starbucks and we’d shrug and tell them the fanciest they’d get from us was an iced mocha. There was no blender, no ice cream, no caramel syrup.

I recognize this sounds all very parochial. I admit that I have fairly traditional views about coffee. I don’t drink fancy beer or wine, I drink good coffee. This summer we ditched the Mr. Coffee for a Chemex. Expobar espresso machine. and a Mazzer mini. Life’s too short for bad coffee. (Yes, that is the most bourgeois thing I have ever said.) Though I will do stupid things for free coffee…

So tomorrow morning when when brew up a pot of “So Good” from Philz, it is in some ways a continuation of what I learned at Boulevard, and what I saw my parents do when I was a child. It’s more than caffeine and bitterness. (Hmm… that should be my new motto.) This corner of coffee culture is very similar to collecting vinyl… which probably speaks to another character flaw of mine, but we’ll tackle that later.

Lookout Records may be dead, but I have 11 copies of Lumberjack Days. Thanks for the memories.

Friday started off a little weird. Thursday night after band practice I came home looking for a song my band in high school covered, “Ace King Queen Jack” by Herman’s Hermits. (Listen to it, it’s really good and a bit weird.) Friday morning I listened to it, and then Back From the Grave, and then settled into the complete Hi-Fives discography. I don’t go all out like that very often, but it was a great way to end the week. Just as I was finishing up Get Down!, I saw Ted Leo’s announcement that Lookout is dead popping up all over Facebook. While I had heard they were liquidating stock a few months back, and they have been effectively dead for years, it’s still a bit sad to a label that had such an influence on my upbringing really fold.

There was an interesting mix of memories on Larry’s Facebook wall. Today Grant Lawrence (of my second favourite Lookout band, The Smugglers) blogged his memories of Lookout. One thing that I find sort of remarkable is how so many people my age have similar stories of being affected by Lookout, and now it’s really just a memory. It sort of makes me feel a bit old.

That picture above was taken in 1997 outside of the Great American Music Hall. I hitched a ride down to see The Hi-Fives play with the Mr T Experience. It was my 6th Hi-Fives show, first out of Sacramento. When I saw John Denery walking in I asked for a picture and made up some line about making a website for them. I didn’t even know HTML at the time, but it didn’t stop me. I learned HTML and made the site. Who knew years later I would be making websites for a living? I didn’t, but it’s just one of those things I can credit Lookout for. All these years later I look back on high school with a fondness, mostly for feeling like I was a part of something. Seeing the Hi-Fives, the Smugglers, MTX, the Queers, the Groovie Ghoulies, was a social. I made a lot of friends at those shows, hanging out on the Com Center (remember when it was orange?), and trolling the internet. For the rest of those kids, I will put on More Bounce to the Ounce for you.

And at this moment, sitting on my couch in Berkeley, I think back to what it was like in my parents’ computer room in Carmichael, listening to the Ne’er Do Wells/Judy and the Loadies split on the computer because that was the only CD player we had in the house. At that point Gilman was a mythical place that I always wanted to go to, and this past Friday night I was there hanging out with my husband I met there years later. This is the same man who made an mp3 of the Hi-Fives’ b-side “Baby Let’s Grow Old” for me when I was living in Germany and missing that record. (I’m relatively easy to please.) I was wearing my much loved Little Type t-shirt (that Larry gave me off his own back!), which somebody recognized and we reminisced over Erika and her mail order legacy, and how’s she’s still missed by many.

I also look over to my record shelf and see my Smugglers Dance Contest Trophy, one of my possessions I’m most proud of. I used to practice in my room, waiting for the opportunity to shake it with the Smugglers. It happened in 1999 at Gilman. I don’t remember much other than being insanely giddy, having a great time, and buying all the merch I could. I think I also met one of my oldest friends that night.

And then there’s been that whole surreal thing of being in the Potatomen. Although I have to admit, there’s also something unreal about Larry’s new comp The Think That Ate Larry Livermore, due out on Adeline Records this year. The esteemed Patrick Hynes (artistic genius, guitar guru, and solid holding mid-fielder), was drawing the cover while we were in New York for the Potatomen. He said I was going to be on the cover, and I am. It’s really is some adolescent dream come true. I hate admitting that, but there you go.

So while they haven’t released anything since 2005, and I can’t recall the last release I purchased (maybe Ted Leo?), it is a bit sad Lookout is well and truly dead. I’ll put on Can of Pork and make dinner now.

Larry, thanks for getting things started. It’s weird to admit, but you’ve made my life much richer. Lots of people can probably say the same thing. I would give you a bro-shoulder-punch if I could. Patrick, same goes for you, or maybe just a sage nod. (John, Chris, Grant, you as well.)

Just another girl with a ukulele

Though I’m probably too old to say I’m a girl. Anyhow! Dr J’s brother, IvyMike, gave me this ukulele for Christmas. I never played one before. You know what? They aren’t guitars. They’re smaller and tuned weird. Despite the cognitive disconnect, I sort of wrote a song and made this video for my friend Jambina. THAT IS MY STORY.

Nostalgia, the underground, and rock and roll

The Mighty Ceasars, originally uploaded by EPS_Twain.

Today my dad sent me a link from Little Stevie’s Underground Garage entitled “A Crisis of Craft” from last year. In the post Steven Van Zandt rails against the music industry and the apparent death of DIY. It’s quite long and doesn’t really have a succinct point. Here’s one paragraph:

Well when the major record companies abandon development yes, DIY is born. Do it yourself. And the auteur theory works well with DIY anyway so why not? Ok there’s one reason why not. Everybody isn’t a star. Isn’t a songwriter. Isn’t a singer. Isn’t a performer. Isn’t a record producer. But who’s there to tell them? To help? To suggest a different direction? To teach?

My response to my dad was snarky: “Interesting… I will blog more coherent thoughts but I think he comes off a bit as an old dude romanticizing a noble past, which he sort of opted out of by being part of the Springsteen machine. He has valid points, but it really seems like sour grapes and ignoring the real underground.”

Dad, here’s the more.

First of all, I have a real hard time taking anybody who played with Bruce Springsteen, makes money spinning for Sirius/XM seriously when he talks about DIY. It’s clear his definition of DIY and my own do not match. I don’t know if it’s generational or what. Van Zandt’s assessment of “the industry” and DIY really reminds me of the classic Jim Derogatis interview with Stephan Jenkins, where Jenkins proclaims “[Third Eye Blind] has been , if not the most D.I.Y next to Fugazi, then NO.2 or 3.” (That makes me roll with laughter. Actually the whole interview does.)

DIY happens independent of the major labels. In fact, I would posit that when you hook up with a major label machine you can’t really cal yourself DIY. You’re art is even more of a product than before, and it’s really all about money. Reading Van Zandt’s blog, it’s apparent that he has a very romanticized view the the good old days. You know, when he was young and the music he liked was cool. We all suffer from it. Hell, why do you think I keep talking about the Hi-Fives? You know what though? They were way more DIY than anything he on Little Stevie’s show and probably more garage. Ever since the White Stripes, people think anything simple is garage but totally missing the point, and ignoring the long history, of DIY garage music.

Which brings me to the picture – Thee Mighty Ceasars (see them live!). They are one of the more popular Billy Childish bands, coming after The Milkshakes, but before Thee Headcoats. Right now he’s in The Spartan Dreggs, and I think they’re really good. Basically, he’s prolific and he’s become well known doing his thing without the aid of a major label. He is definitely one of my favourite musicians and if he puts a record out there’s a 90% chance I’ll buy it and an 80% chance I’ll like it.

Recently John, from the Hi-Fives, pointed to this interview Childish did with VICE a few years back when he was in The Buff Medways. It’s 26 minutes long, but definitely worth checking out. Childish covers everything from the Beatles to the Nazis, but talks about DIY and amateurism. Childish says at one point, “Professional footballers ruin football. Professional musicians ruin music.” I sort of agree with him. Looking back, some of my favourite songs come from people just making music because they want to, they like to, and it’s not really about the money. True, we need money to survive and to make more records, but it’s nothing like the fat you see at major labels.

Van Zandt’s post my dad sent sort of touches upon this, about the craft of rock and roll, but he fails because he tries to intellectualize it and ignores on of the cornerstones of rock – does it have a good beat and can you dance to it? His frame of reference is coloured by his past of sleeping with majors and growing up in a time when you busted your ass to get noticed by an A&R man from one of the major labels. I know people still have that mindset, but it’s not the same. I grew up obsessing over small indie labels, really indie labels, like Lookout (RIP), and local bands, that I couldn’t really see making it beyond out small world. That’s fine. The world doesn’t need another Green Day and it sure as hell doesn’t need another 200 bands trying to be the next Green Day. Actually, more fitting with this post, the world doesn’t need another White Stripes, or a bunch of imitators trying to be the next indie darlings and butchering Sonics’ songs.

Today, you bands need to give it a go. Write songs. Perform. Record your demos. Let people download them, and be prepared to self release. That’s DIY and that’s how you get label support. People are doing it all the time.

There are lots of people “dedicated to the craft” right now, they are just off Van Zandt’s radar. He needs to get more underground.

Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, taste is irrelevant.

It’s a well known fact that I own a lot of records, and that when I say records I mean vinyl. Not CDs, not mp3s, but good old records. Some of my records are really good, like Tiger Trap, The Milkshakes, and of course my whole Hi-Fives collection, but I also have some crap. I love the crap, but I don’t expect others to. I’m talking about Heino (who’s birthday is this week!), Heintje, and Heinz.

This week I bought the 7″ of Ohio Express’ “Yummy Yummy Yummy” for a $1. It was a deal (and featured in one of my favourite Monty Python skits, seen above). Listening to it at volumes loud enough to annoy the neighbours is a joy. Well, I was hanging out with some soccer mates after our game on Saturday and one of them was talking about what he was listening to expecting me to scoff at his selection. I’m sorry, but the Pogues are respectable. Ohio Express is only respectable in certain, smaller circles.

Then today some people on the internet were talking about what albums mean Christmas to them. Of course, most of this group had parents that were square and white, so it was a lot of Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby, Burl Ives, and the like. I’ve never really been a fan of Christmas music, so I couldn’t be in the fight. Other than to be a brat and point out how dull it all was. So bland, like the Beach Boys. (For the record, I was raised on The Kinks’ “Father Christmas“, Live Aid, David Bowie and Bing Crosby doing “Drummer Boy“, and Spike Jones’ “Barnyard Christmas“. That probably explains a lot.) (For the record, my new favourite Christmas song is “I Wanna Kiss You This Christmas” by Dave ‘n’ Megan on It’s A Team Mint Xmas vol. 1.)

The only thing that kills me in these conversations is the value judgement. It’s human and we all do it, but some keep it under wraps. Why is it OK to proclaim others’ taste to be crap when we can’t proclaim your taste to me crap? Well, we can but then there’s probably going to be an argument as pointless as a trip to the argument clinic.

I think it boils down to people want validation. It’s another human trait. It’s why we like to be a part of something. You like a record that other people like, that reaffirms that you like something good. Even if it’s just a few people, there’s some validation. Some need this, some don’t. Negotiating that can be tricky. I’ve never really had many people who really liked the same things I did. Nobody else liked David Bowie in Kindergarten. It wasn’t until high school when I found people in the scene (Alex and Fran, I’m looking at you!), that I understood what it was like to have common interests musically.

I don’t expect people to like what I listen to or even want to listen to it. (It makes being a DJ weird.) I do welcome argument and discussion, but most people take it as an attack on their taste. It isn’t but I can see their point. People like what they like. Some people are always hunting for deeper and weirder, and some are just happy. The problem is when the content give vibes that they are more adventurous and then there’s the assumptions and we have a problem.

Also remember, I am a sarcastic ass.