My Musical Journey (final of 4)

“I saw my rock and roll past flash before my eyes. I saw something else: I saw rock and roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” – Jon Landau in 1974 after seeing Bruce at the (now defunct) Harvard Square Theater

Well, clearly Bruce is one of the greatest rockers ever, certainly its finest live showman. But as much as I love his stuff. it’s not clear to me that he turned out to be “rock and roll’s future.”

Nevertheless, with Bruce, I was again at the right place at the right time. I had moved back to Philly to live with my friend Steve and another guy. I like to call it The Year of Living Dangerously and I even wrote a novel about it that almost no one has read.

But since Bruce was a Jersey guy and we were Philly guys who frequently made trips to the Jersey shore to get drunk and hopefully score with women who liked drunk guys (none, as it turned out), it was inevitable that we would hear The Boss.

Until now you haven’t heard me mention much about jazz. That’s because I really wasn’t exposed to it. I mentioned my NYC jazzer friend in the previous post and that he helped get us into some of the prog-rock stuff. Recognizing, I think, that I was a kindred soul open to new sounds, one day he said, Here, listen to this.

This was “My Favorite Things” by John Coltrane. Now, I would love to say that the heavens opened up and my life somehow changed dramatically. It did not. I knew there was something there but it wasn’t quite yet love at first sight. But now there was a new taste, a new color in my paint kit if you will. As my wife said to me one day years later, “Jazz music is so rich.”

Now I won’t add “My Favorite Things” to the list as it goes on for like, an hour and a half. But I will say that along with Coltrane, it has been Miles Davis who captured my musical imagination over and over. (Saxes and trumpets are to jazz what guitar is to rock.) And why can’t we have both? Here are Miles and Coltrane together doing “So What” from Kind of Blue from some long-ago hipster jazz show in New York.

Another friend – my buddy Steve in Philly – introduced me to fusion with Weather Report who we wound up seeing a number of times, once in a college auditorium (For the record, Miles, as much as anybody, “invented” fusion with albums like In a Silent Way.) Then we got into Chick Corea, Larry Coryell, Zappa, Al DiMeola – all the fusion guys. Talk about virtuosity.

But the surprise of all of our lives was when guitar maestro Jeff Beck suddenly went fusion. This sets him apart from Clapton, Richards, Page, and all the other blues rockers out of England. They are all great but literally, none of them were playing this stuff.

From Blow by Blow, “Freeway Jam.”

Now if only there was a band that knew how to rock but also utilized jazz harmonies. Well, not that we were really looking for that but, well, maybe we were. I don’t know that we could even have articulated that Steely Dan were jazzers in rock suits but their string of albums in the 70s is a testament to that.

Your chances of hearing songs like “Aja” on anything but satellite radio or classic rock stations are pretty much null and void. Pity. Listen to the sax work of Wayne Shorter (Weather Report, Miles Davis) and Steve Gadd on drums. Phenomenal.

Blissfully happy in our ignorance, we figured that the music we liked would just continue to get more and more complex, maybe joining classical, jazz, rock, and blues in some mega-endless concoction involving black lights and lasers.

Alas, the world spins on its axis, we get older and the pop world changes. Rock music started out very simply and got increasingly complex. And a lot of (mostly) guys said, “Fuck this. We are not virtuosos but we want to play too.”

Hence, punk. Which frankly I had no time for. It was really hard to get on that train when the stuff I loved was not only great but played so well. And I know a lot of my peers got off the train around that time.

As to punk and its more sophisticated brother New Wave, I think my friend Bill is typical in that the only songs from that era he knows are “Alison” and “Roxanne.” I ran this list by him the other day and started to lose him as we got to the 80s.

Punk didn’t grab me (not until London Calling anyway, a great album.) But New Wave? Fuck me. The Police? Elvis Costello? Talking Heads? Blondie? I mean this was great stuff. And these guys were part of that era but they could play and had great songs.

Somebody once told me there was something called disco around this time but I don’t remember it at all so we’ll jump right over that and move to the Eighties. Which was …

… a whole different beast. MTV came along and changed everything. All of a sudden everybody had to have a video. And while at first, I was kinda resistant, the first couple of years of that channel were kinda fun.

Plus at that time I had started playing guitar in bands, mostly blues, R&B, J. Geils, Stray Cats, and stuff like that. It was all cover stuff and we eventually developed a minor following even though we were clearly hopelessly out of touch with the zeitgeist.

I even considered going into music as a profession. But I was getting older, took inventory of myself and realized I could just as easily wind up being one of those guys who plays in restaurants to nobody as anything else. I just didn’t want it badly enough. So now it’s just a hobby and I try not to embarrass myself too much.

As to the music of that era. sometimes I was about ready to pack it in, figuring, well, I like what I like and I probably won’t get into anything new. But …

.. I’m happy to report that U2, REM, and Tears for Fears – among others – changed my mind. If there’s any inflection point here it’s perhaps that The Edge opened my eyes up to a different kind of guitar playing, that it didn’t have to be based on jazz or a bunch of blues scales. It is not what I would choose to play but I can appreciate it. And U2 are a great band. (Apologies to REM who will be on the Special Deluxe Edition Director’s Cut Spotify list.)

I should here acknowledge that I was listening to (and going to see) Stevie Ray Vaughan pretty religiously back then. But since my blues tastes were already established by then, I’ll roll into the Nineties which I call the Last Great Era of Mainstream Rock.

My guess is that readers of this blog came of age musically somewhat later than me and know this era better than I do. But there was a fair amount of excellent stuff and I tried to stay with it.

Nirvana, for me, is just a given. What I like about all these bands is they sounded fresh and new if admittedly geared towards a younger generation. They were keeping the rock flame alive. (Cobain was a big Beatles fan).

But while I liked these bands, I increasingly found myself nostalgic for groups that were either blues-based or who could add a little jazz or sophisticated harmonies into their music. Or just do outrageously great instrumentals. I wasn’t really finding that as much as I used to. (Nod here to jam bands like Dave Matthews and Phish who I would likely have followed around in my younger days.)

But who, if anyone, was carrying that oddball, somewhat Floydian strain? Hello? Anybody?

And so, by the early 2000s, while I would not say my musical journey had ended, increasingly I started losing interest in a lot of the stuff like indie rock (these guys sing with no soul at all) and I certainly wasn’t into rap. (Though I did try).

Most of the FM radio stations I had listened to were either gone or on their way out. The great band scene that once existed in Boston was no longer. Many of the clubs I once frequented or even played in were gone or were playing to a much younger crowd. Now there are three or four clubs where I can hear jazz and blues but I have to drive for an hour or so to get to them. But my son’s bands play out pretty frequently and so, the torch passes to that crowd.

This is not to say it’s all bad as I hear some good stuff from fellow bloggers as well as on satellite. And with Gary Clark Jr., Joe Bonamassa, Kingfish, and Eric Gales, the blues has nothing to worry about.

So, here we are. It’s 2022 as I write this. I still go to live shows but fewer of them and increasingly they are nostalgic boomer acts (McCartney, Dylan, Springsteen) or older jazz (Ron Carter) or blues (Fabulous Thunderbirds) acts.

As to buying music, for the most part, not happening. Times have changed. I pretty much stream everything now and if I’m honest, I spend more time looking back than forward. Am I open to new stuff? Sure. But if I seem less than excited about Taylor Swift, rap and the crop of autotuned stuff you hear on the radio, well, now maybe you understand why.

Maybe I’ll spend more time listening to classical. Or chamber music. Or minuets. Or world music. I remain, as always, open to the experience.

Or maybe I’ll listen to stuff like this. Because, you know, it’s only rock and roll.

Below is what I’ve jokingly been referring to as the Deluxe Edition Spotify list. Sixty-five songs and it does a better job of filling in the gaps and lessening the jumps from one genre to another. I really thought about it and each song here had either some impact or my music listening, playing, or both. For the true fanatic. Below is the 35-song version that I’ve listed in the posts.

Fellow bloggers, feel free to take this idea and run with it. Note – it will ruin your life for at least a week. Proceed with caution.

14 thoughts on “My Musical Journey (final of 4)

  1. Big chunk Doc. Good job. That was what CB was all about for his album takes. His chronological journey. We hit on a lot of the same notes. I covered a lot of the albums you pulled cuts from and gave a few singles their own takes (Sunny Afternoon for one). My older sibs were a big portal for me, actually my brother more than my sis. Like I said, looking at your takes we have a lot of common ground, hence all the conversation we’ve had over the last couple years. Enjoyed every minute. Later fella.

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    1. That’s right. You were going chronologically. I just shoved it all into four posts. It was really, really tough to do. I must have added and dropped songs a thousand times. CB ought to take a look at the 60-song list. A more comprehensive list, fewer gaps, some more stuff we have in common that didn’t make the first list. Oh, and all hail Jerry Lee, the Killer.

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    2. If I do say so myself, CB ought to take the 65-song version out for a spin. Maybe two or three as it’s over four hours long. He may not like everything but overall much to love.

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      1. More than a few that I love. A lot of those songs are on a pretty regular rotation around here. Majority of the bands, artists are some of my go to folks. I havent listened to the radio in years but if Doc was a station I’d be tuned in.
        Im finding so much music I have never heard because of that new fangled listening device. I’m like a pig at he music trough. Your influence is being felt everyday.

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        1. If I can bring a smile to some young child’s face, perhaps bring a tear to CB’s eye or help an old lady feel less alone, why, my work is done.

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        2. PS Folks missed a big chunk of good music by not hearing Geils, Hicks to name a couple. There would be a big hole in my music box if they werent there. Plus mark yourself fortunate to be in pretty good locations to cash in on some great shows.

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        3. Yeah, NYC is the ultra but Boston ain’t too shabby. BTW, Danny Klein, the bassist from Geils has a band called Full House that does their stuff. They’re playing around here soon. I was thinking of going but I dunno. This guy ain’t Peter Wolf.

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        4. Just listened to the opening cut. Funny, I just listened to the original version of ‘Purse’. Love that cut. Lots of this tribute stuff going around. The band looks lime they’re having fun.
          I’d go see Wolf and whatever he’s doing in a heartbeat.

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  2. Good stuff, Jim, and once again I knew most of your picks.

    Perhaps the biggest difference between your music journey and mine is that for some reason my nostalgic, largely backward looking phase began way earlier than yours, in the early ’90s and pretty much lasted until I started writing my blog in 2016.

    As a result, the ’90s and ’00s were largely black holes in terms of what was then-contemporary music. I guess you could call them the lost decades. Instead, I was perfectly happy to listen to ’60s and ’70s music and new music by artists who first became popular during these decades, as well as the ’80s.

    I’m glad that getting into music blogging and reading posts from fellow bloggers helped me to broaden my horizon. I’ve started exploring genres I previously had largely ignored, such as jazz, jazz fusion and country. As you know, about three years ago or so, I even started paying attention again to contemporary artists.

    I can’t deny my strong preference for the ’60s and ’70s (I’m a bit more lukewarm about the ’80s than I used to be), so I’m looking at new music through that lens. That still excludes a lot of new music.

    In any case, it’s kind of interesting how music tastes can evolve over time. One day, I might write down my own journey and illustrate it with my own playlist. It definitely looks like a big undertaking, so we’ll see!

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    1. “Black hole.” That’s funny. Even though I grew up with ’60s and ’70s music, I rolled pretty comfortably into the ’80s. Recall that in many ways, rock was still king. ‘The Wall’ was the number one album. Bands like ZZTop and SRV were on MTV. And as mentioned, while perhaps not my favorite musical decade, I can still find a lot to like. Don’t forget that both U2 and REM came out of the ’80s

      By the ’90s, the torch was definitely being passed. But there were a lot of fierce rockers and I was into them, if not necessarily buying their albums or going to see them.

      And as to music now, well, we both find new music, you more avidly. But I’m hard-pressed to think about the last new band I got excited about.

      As to your journey, yeah, go for it. It’s a big undertaking but it was fun and revelatory to go down memory lane.

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  3. Great final instalment and final selection – some shared artists here and Paranoid Android was definitely one of those songs for me. I think I’ve written before about the first time I heard that – at the height of feeling sick to death of Britpop and the tosh on the radio – being like a revelation.

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    1. Radiohead were certainly a game changer. I figured White Stripes would be a nice place to finish up. I liked that whole “passing the torch” thing Rolling Stone did. It’s not to say I haven’t heard any good music sine then. But as mentioned, the inflection points are fewer and farther between. And it’s probably fair to say my tastes are pretty well set.

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