The Legend of Chavo Guerrero

In April, the excellent band the Mountain Goats released a wrestling-themed album called Beat the Champ.

The album is actually a very compelling listening, featuring John Darnielle’s signature storytelling style.  There are several great tracks, but the clear centerpiece of the album is “The Legend of Chavo Guerrero”.  The first time I heard this song, it was instantly the most memorable song on the album, but only after reading a little bit about it did I discover that Chavo Guerrero is a real person.

To selectively quote Chavo Guerrero Sr’s wikipedia article:

In the 1970s, Guerrero moved his family to California so he could compete in Los Angeles’s NWA Hollywood Wrestling.[2] He also feuded with Roddy Piper for the NWA Americas Heavyweight Championship.[2] Guerrero held the title 15 times between 1975 and 1980.

While with World Wrestling Entertainment he competed as Chavo Classic and in 2004, became the oldest WWE Cruiserweight Champion in history.

Are you ready to rumble?

This album is the 3rd in my very short list of albums in competition for my favorite album of the year.


Rain the Color of Blue With a Little Red In It

I’m a little late to this, as it’s the issue of Rolling Stone that is about to go off of news stands, but hey, I just got to reading it this morning.

A director who moved to the Sahara decided to remake Prince’s Purple Rain movie using entirely West African stars and music.  The result isAkounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai, or “Rain the Color of Blue with a Little Red In It”, because, you know, the Tuareg language of Niger doesn’t have a word for Purple.

Here’s the full article:

And here’s the trailer:

How I’m Celebrating Memorial Day

I am honoring the fallen heroes of wars foreign and domestic today by watching the Star Wars Saga.

For those heroes, which died fighting wars long ago in a galaxy far far away, I give you several videos associated with their strife.

May The Force Be With You, Always.

Big Easy Express

I just got done watching Big Easy Express, which was a short (65 minutes) documentary about a tour which featured Mumford and Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, and Old Crow Medicine Show on a train tour of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and ultimately Louisiana.  The movie did a pretty good job highlighting the talents, lifestyles and characters driving each of the three bands.

The highlight of the movie, at least for me, was a stop in Austin, TX where Mumford and Sons visited Austin High School and met with their marching band.  That evening, they invited the band onto the stage to perform their (Mumford and Son’s) hit “The Cave”.

Well worth a watch.

It was 20 years ago today…May 1995

Everclear: Sparkle and Fade

Although I didn’t know it at the time, Sparkle and Fade is the second album by Portland, OR band Everclear. The singles from this album grew on me, “Heroin Girl” the first single was so overplayed on KNDD in early 1995 that you could practically predict it would play in between the commercial breaks. “Santa Monica” chugs along but never really picks up. It wasn’t until the third single “Heartspark Dollarsign” that I perked my ears and took notice. There was a story being told in those lyrics and I wanted to listen.

The album starts off with “Electra Made Me Blind”, a slow build of a song which tells the story of being into drugs and trying to get clean, and all the tribulations that entails. Lead singer Art Alexakis has made no illusion that he has struggled with addiction in the past, losing family members and more to the effects of drugs and alcohol. In fact, track two, “Heroin Girl” is autobiographical in that it recounts when he and a girlfriend were doing heroin together and she died of an overdose. The song unfolds as a story in that it seems the narrator was happy during those times and hearing police who were called in describing the scene as “just another overdose” was a catalyst toward him trying to get clean. “Heroin Girl” is Everclear’s original hit single, at least in the Seattle area of 1995.

Tracks three and four, “You Make Me Feel Like a Whore” and “Santa Monica” have always seemed to fit together to me. The guitar progression in both songs are the same, although track four is played on an acoustic guitar. “Whore” is pretty straight forward in that it seems to be a screed against somebody who only knows how to put somebody down. “Santa Monica” is a wistful tale of imagining escaping the problems of the world by swimming out far enough past the breakers of the Pacific Ocean outside the titular city that they can just “watch the world die” as the song describes.

Track six, “Strawberry”, is the song that has kept this album in my consciousness for the past 20 years. I picked up this album when there were already several singls, but this song, which was never a single, is the one I took to heart. Nominally, this is a song about falling in with a crowd who enjoy doing dangerous things including drugs. That chorus though, “don’t fall down now/you will never get up”, became an anthem and rallying cry for me when I became a young parent and knew I had to get through college in order to provide a better life for the family I had created. Life was hard during those times, but I knew it would be better if I could get a college degree and have a career versus have a job. It worked; less than a year after getting out of college, I was buying my first home.

“Heartspark Dollarsign” ends side one of the album, and it’s a track about Art and a girlfriend from his past who happened to have a different skin tone from him. The track describes the looks he got from his co-workers, the disdain he got from his family, and the feeling of never fitting in he got from the town as a whole. This song always moved me in it’s description of blind racism, but now that I’ve had a girlfriend with significantly different skin tone for several years, it makes me really glad that we haven’t had to deal with this sort of situation. I know as a society, we’re not yet “post-racial”, but in our little bit of the world, the only comments we have ever received on the matter was a security guard telling us that “our kids were going to be beautiful”.

Side two of the album doesn’t feature any radio singles, but still has quite a few decent tracks, the first of which is “Her Brand New Skin”. The track is about feelng stifled in a relationship with somebody going through a twelve step program. She acts like she’s turned over a new leaf and is no longer the same person she once was, but he sees her as a person who has become domineering since she “got clean” and is now pestering him to do the same.

The punk rocker in me loves the sound and feel of track ten, “Nehalem”, a small town in Oregon. The people in the song are coping with the loss of a child, the woman by getting out of the town and ostentaciously being seen with other men, the man having to accept the fact that things can never again be the way they once were. This song chugs a long at a head bobbing pace for less than two minutes and never overstays its welcome.

One quick story about track eleven, “Pale Green Stars”. When I was living in an apparetment during my last days of college and my first few months of working, my son’s room, from day one, had those sticker stars, which had been painted over at some point in the past. However, at the end of the day, when the room became dark enough to be able to see the glow of faint painted over stars, you could still make them out. That memory will forever be tied to this song for me.

The last track on the album, “My Sexual Life”, seems to encapsulate the theme of the entire album. Who knows how many of the tracks are actually autobiographical, but there seem to be tracks about several different women from the singer’s past. Instead of hiding the fact that life has been hard and taken many dark turns, Art Alexakis took those moments and turned it into a gritty album filled with real-world situations to which many people could relate. Life in a small town can be trying when you know that you don’t fit in with the small town lifestyle. In a small town, too many people know who you are, which can make fumbling your way through life difficult, I would imagine especially so if you have a reputation as a junkie with a revolving cast of women involved in your life. Art turned those experiences and anger into 14 easily relatable tracks of gritty reality, and the fact that even 20 years later those tracks continue to have an emotional resonance with my life is clearly cause for celebration.

Tying John Lydon and Cover Songs together

This is footage from the last  Sex Pistols gig of their original incarnation.

Until I looked into it further, I actually thought this was their whole set…a cover of a Stooges song.

One number and one number only….ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated.  It all made sense.

Turns out this was the encore and The Sex Pistols loved what they were doing when they were pissing off the queen, but when it became a career, it was no fun to constantly be expected to show off.

Just finished making an original/cover playlist

It took me quite a long time, but I just finished making a 1400 song playlist that included 700 originals and covers.

Some of it is almost cheating, as when Paul McCartney covers The Beatles in concert or Rivers Cuomo recorded a demo of a Weezer song, but some of it is actually quite good.  Here are a few of the more ear-catching examples of covers in the list.

Yes, these are all cover songs:

Anger is an Energy

I just read a review of John Lydon’s autobiography, titled Anger is an Energy: My Life Uncensored.
Within the blurb, Lydon, the former Johnny Rotton, states that he was born into a poor neighborhood in London and that Mick Jagger gave Sid Vicious a lawyer when he was accuesd of killing Nancy Spungen.

What I found fascinating, though, was how Lydon explained his idea of what is punk. To quote, “All these fucks can run around with their punk agendas, but they don’t understand what humantity is. My idea of punk is humanity.”
I’ve heard of a fascinating idea called Anarchy Day, where the concept is, one day a year, you walk up to a stranger to whom you would not normally speak and proceed to have a conversation with them. The idea behind it is, both of you have a chance of walking away with a broader understanding of each other as a person. Any pre-conceptions would be erased and both of you would understand not just the specific person with whom you’d had a converstaion, but people like them. I think that’s a really great concept, actually.

Anyway, I understand you comment, Mr. Lydon. How can you claim to be punk without trying to figure out the world in which you live?

The title of the book comes from the below song, by the way. Enjoy.

Accordion, FTW

Duff McKaegan just released an autobiography and, during his book tour stop at the Neptune Theater in Seattle, invited Krit Novoselic on stage to perform an accordian and bass cover of the GNR classic “Sweet Child o’ Mine”.
No lyrics, unfortunately, as the accordion takes over those duties, but still good to see how much fun they’re having.

Love the joke at the end, where Krist says “I know how hard it is to play bass”.