dance like no one’s watching, my ass!

now playing: joseph parsons, “another way around”
i know what the cute little saying is tryin’ to get across – but the fact is, if someones’ watching, you really should at least make some effort to dance like someone’s watching…otherwise, it may come back to haunt you.

why do i bring this up, you may ask?
three words….

company. christmas. party.
yes, i was there…and yes, i danced.
and yes, i kinda suck at it.
the funny thing is, i used to dance all the time – in my late teens, early twenties…i was never self conscious about it at the time. hell, i’m not really so much self conscious about it now. it’s just that i have no idea what to do with myself. i didn’t realize this until i had gotten up and went out onto the dance floor, and it hit me – what the hell do i do now?

i guess the natural response to that question would be, “whatever you feel like doing” – but i literally had no idea what it was that i was supposed to do…so i just kinda started rocking from one side to the other and trying to get my body to respond to my mental commands – you know, very specific things…like “don’t act like a dork” or “maybe it’s been long enough since hitch was out that you won’t draw too many comparisons” or even “watch the guy who knows what he’s doing” – which would’ve been great if there was anyone who fell into that category. that, in and of itself, was my saving grace, because had there been anyone there who had some skills, i’d have looked even more like a doofus. as it was, i just looked like a rhythmically stunted preppy caucasian version of rerun from what’s happening after taking a little too much ecstasy.

i did, however, have a good time.
this year, HR approached me about playing at the christmas party, so i set up the whole production and played a 60 minute set before dinner – i got a lot of compliments, with the only complaint that’s made it back to me thus far being that it was hard to hear in the back of the hall. if this happens again, i’ll make sure that this isn’t an issue.

there were several people taking pictures, but none have made it back to me yet. wendy got one, in particular, of me at the piano that looks pretty good on the camera LCD, but i haven’t seen any of those yet, either.

i felt pretty good about the show, all in all – i recorded it to my laptop, from the headphone jack of the console, just to be able to go back and listen to it after the fact to see how i did…if i’d paid a little more attention to how the acoustic guitars sounded through the console, i’d have had a really good show recording. as it was, the guitars didn’t carry to the recording well at all…so i’ll probably end up getting rid of most of it…at least that’s my first impression.

i did go all out, though, in terms of presentation – i brought a pair of regular acoustics, a twelve string, a resonator guitar (and a mandolin that didn’t get used at all) and the piano. it was the complete jackson browne setup – i was determined to do the most professional show i was capable of doing, and i did. it didn’t mean, however, that i was ignored any less than i am when i play any other gig – because that was certainly not the case. i think that, had i been playing during dinner, that circumstance might have been different…and i may suggest just that for next year. i really don’t care if that means that i won’t get to eat, to be honest. if the food is along the lines of what they had this year, that’ll be ok.
anyway – i played well. i danced with wendy and angela and patty, who showed up determined to have a good time, and i’m glad she did. chris and jamie, the perennial goofballs of the party, were largely themselves…that is, until an unnamed employee began gettin’ just a little close to ol’ chris, much to the dismay of his wife….so they retreated to their table until things cooled down.
yesterday, there was a plan, of course – but i woke up with a splitting headache…apparently, even a single corona counts as a bender when you get to be my age…and all i really managed to do for the day was to go visit my adopted daughter – well, depending on who you ask. angela and kevin’s daughter alicia reminds me a great deal of jayda when she was her age…precocious, adorable, curious and energetic. i had told angela earlier in the week that i might stop over this weekend to take a look at their computer, and she told me that when she told alicia, she immediately informed her mom that “tom will play dora with me!” (“dora” being a flash animation/game on the nick jr. website that she fancies).

and then when we left, alicia stood in the doorway with her hands up against the glass and watched us drive away….
…just like jayda used to.


this just in: politics and favoritism revealed in the music biz!

now playing: sportscenter on espn



revealed in this groundbreaking article – why your favorite band isn’t in the rock and roll hall of fame!

— by Jem Aswad

Every year since 1986, a handful of artists have been inducted with great fanfare into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, on the basis of the influence and significance of their music.

And every year, another list grows: The artists you’d think would be members, but aren’t. The artists on that list — many of whom have been nominated but not voted in — include Black Sabbath, the Sex Pistols, Kiss, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Grandmaster Flash, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Patti Smith, the New York Dolls, the MC5 and many others.

Is that because the bar of influence and significance is set so high that even those legendary artists don’t qualify? Well, take a look at who is in: James Taylor, the Dells, the Flamingos, Jackson Browne, Billy Joel, the Young Rascals, the Ink Spots, the Lovin’ Spoonful, the Four Seasons, the Orioles and — just inducted this year — soul singer Percy Sledge, whose one major hit occurred in 1966.

Without demeaning any of these artists, what the f—?

There’s been no shortage of bellyaching on this subject, but there hasn’t really been an examination of why it’s happened.

We tried to find out what’s up — and although we didn’t get a definitive answer, we dug up a lot more dirt than we expected.

Let’s start by taking a look at the rules.

Candidates for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are nominated by a committee of “music historians” — currently numbering 75 people, mostly executives and journalists — and are then voted upon by approximately 750 people (formerly around 1,000) from “across the spectrum of the music industry, including artists, broadcasters, writers, historians, producers and industry executives who are involved with making music,” according to the hall’s executive director, Suzan Evans.

Artists become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record and are judged on the basis of “the influence and significance of the artist’s contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll,” according to the hall’s Web site. (Categories include Performers, Non-Performers, Early Influences and Sidemen; we’ll just examine Performers.) The performers who receive the highest number of votes, and more than 50 percent of the vote, are inducted.

So how have the Sex Pistols and Black Sabbath, whose “influence and significance” are beyond question, been denied induction several times?

After speaking with hall of fame executives and several members of the nominating committee, two theories emerge.

One generally blames it on the baffling results that democracy, combined with a lack of education, can produce. Dave Marsh, a pioneering music journalist and nominating committee member, subscribes to this notion. “There are 25, maybe 50 people in the world who have paid attention to all of this music from the beginning, and I would say the majority of those people are represented on the nominating committee. We come up with a pretty good list every year, and that list is then [voted upon] by an electorate that is not very knowledgeable.

“I don’t think there’s anything inherently bad about democracy,” he continues, “but I do think there’s something bad about asking a broad group of people to make judgments on something when they’re not very well informed. The hall of fame is failing in not educating them.”

Although the hall sends out a CD every year containing two songs by each of the nominees, you do wonder why these 750-odd people are voting members if they need to be educated.

The hall’s flaws are readily admitted by President Seymour Stein, who co-founded the hall and was inducted in the Non-Performer category this year.

“We’re not perfect. We try to be so fair by having such a big nominating committee,” explains Stein, who co-founded Sire Records in 1966. “It infuriates me sometimes. I wonder why [some of the artists named above] aren’t in. I get frustrated too.”

Indeed, judging from the heated conversations one can get into with members of the nominating committee, the debates are refreshingly geeky. Lines like “So you’re saying that the Sex Pistols were a better band than the Dells?” are stated with all the fury of a divorce hearing.

That passion can play as much of a role in keeping artists out as it can in getting them in.

“Kiss is not a great band, Kiss was never a great band, Kiss never will be a great band, and I have done my share to keep them off the ballot,” Marsh says. “And there’s your problem: There’s a wide discrepancy in points of view about who should be in, and there’s an enormous field of candidates. There’s nothing you can do to change the fact that other people’s taste is different.”

However, there’s a second theory. According to two members of the nominating committee who prefer to remain anonymous, there’s more at work here than fanboyism.

The main players in the hall are its primary officers — Stein, hall Chairman/Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun, Vice Chairman/Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner, and Senior Vice President Jon Landau, who also manages Bruce Springsteen — and the list of inductees includes a strikingly large number of people they’ve worked with, people they’ve championed, and their personal friends. To a degree, this is inevitable — the world of multi-decade rock and roll veterans is pretty small — but one anonymous member says a line is being crossed.

“These people really do love rock and roll, and they want to push the things they like,” nom-anon #1 says. “But there are also personal and financial agendas as well — and even personal vendettas.

“Let me give you an example,” he continues. “[A major hall of fame officer] wanted me to get a favor from an artist, and it was above and beyond what this artist was willing to do, and rightfully so. I went back to this guy and said, ‘Look, he doesn’t wanna do it.’ And he said, ‘Well, you tell him he’s never gonna get into the hall of fame.’ To me, that’s an example of how these guys run the hall.”

He also feels that the befuddling exclusion of the Sex Pistols may be due to a personal slight. “Whenever the Sex Pistols come up, the attitude is, ‘No, we’re not putting them in!’ ” he says. “Somewhere along the line, did John Lydon tell [one of the officers] that he’s a big fat pig? I don’t know if that happened, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did, because when the Sex Pistols are brought up, he goes ballistic.”

“Why do you think Patti Smith isn’t in?” nom-anon #2 says, alluding to an alleged beef between the legendary punk singer and one of the hall of fame’s officers. “Don’t you think that’s odd?”

By the same token, he says the personal interests that have kept certain artists out have gotten others in.

“There are forces at work there which I hesitate to call political, but I will say are political or personal, that put voters on [the nominating committee],” says nom-anon #2. “When the Talking Heads and Ramones were inducted at the same time [in 2002] — my, my, there couldn’t be any coincidence about Seymour Stein [who signed both artists] being the head of the hall of fame?”

“I did not nominate the Talking Heads, the Ramones or [Sire artists] the Pretenders,” Stein says. “I voted for all of them. However, I have one vote in the nominating committee and one vote in the [voting committee].”

Hall Executive Director Evans also denies the role of personal favoritism in the process. “The board of the museum is made up of the heads of the record companies, top managers, artists. I think everyone necessarily has relationships with people who want to be inducted, [but] I really don’t think that relationships with members of the board have ever gotten anyone into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Obviously we’re going to know people, but the nominating committee is a pretty purist group of writers and critics — the majority of them are journalists — and I really doubt that they are swayed by anybody coming in and saying, ‘I want you to induct so-and-so.’ ”

Evans attributes the glaring exclusions to the vagaries of the voting committee. “I know sometimes the voting results seem to be more purist than populist,” she says. “But I can’t pretend to know why people vote the way they do, at all. Everyone has different tastes in music, and I think every genre in rock and roll is well represented in both our nominating committee as well as the larger voting group. And if you listen to any of our historians’ discussions in the nominating procedure, you would hear a wide variety of tastes and judgments as to who is influential and who should go in before whom, depending on that person’s personal preferences of the rock and roll genre — one person might put a name into a nomination and another might say, ‘That’s not rock and roll!’ I get that all the time.”

So we’re to believe that more than half of the hall’s voters, and its nominating committee, feel that Kiss and Sabbath aren’t significant or influential enough to be in the hall of fame?

Indeed, nom-anon #1 says, “With Kiss and Black Sabbath, I don’t believe those are conspiratorial cases. I think [the nominating committee members are] very split and very acrimonious about them. Kiss is brought up every year, and some people feel very passionately that they should be in, and some people feel very passionately that they shouldn’t, based on the fact that they hate Kiss, and it’s a similar thing with Sabbath. Some people think the hall of fame is invalidated by not having them in there, and other people just think they stink.”

Lydon and members of Black Sabbath have spoken bitterly about the hall of fame. Neither group responded to requests for comment — Sabbath’s publicist even said “the band as a whole is no longer interested in commenting on the hall of fame” — but they don’t really need to. Lydon has called the hall “the place where old rockers go to die,” and both Ozzy Osbourne and guitarist Tony Iommi have been outspoken in their displeasure at Sabbath being passed over.

After the group — which has been nominated and not inducted three times — was passed over in 1999, Osbourne issued a press release asking that the band be removed from consideration. “Just take our name off the list,” he said. “Save the ink. Forget about us. The nomination is meaningless, because it’s not voted on by the fans. It’s voted on by the supposed elite of the industry and the media, who’ve never bought an album or concert ticket in their lives, so their vote is totally irrelevant to me. Let’s face it, Black Sabbath have never been media darlings. We’re a people’s band, and that suits us just fine.”

Interestingly, none of the people interviewed for this article said they felt those comments had played a role in keeping Sabbath or the Pistols out of the hall.

While the members of the nominating committee are often lobbied extensively by managers, executives and artists themselves (the list of people on the nominating committee is made public; the voting committee is not), all agree that it doesn’t make much difference. “I think Chicago sends a lot of things, and the Moody Blues and the Doobie Brothers, but no one has bought me lunch or sent me a case of champagne,” says nom-anon #2. “I get a lot of letters, but I’m not influenced by them.”

However, the lobbying within the committee — where one person’s influence can get an artist nominated — is another matter. “In the meeting itself, there is some heated debate,” says nom-anon #1. “And there’ll be someone who’s really an advocate for somebody — year after year after year, they’ll hone their arguments and make their case. Every year [one nominating committee member] was bringing up ZZ Top. I honestly believed that they would never get in or get past the nominating committee, but he was indefatigable and he got it through. There was a lot of resistance, but he overcame it. It happened just because of him.”

Some members may defer to other members’ greater knowledge of a genre, which goes a long way toward explaining the presence of ’50s acts like the Flamingos and the Ink Spots in the hall. “My hunch,” says veteran journalist Bud Scoppa, a member of the nominating committee since 1998, “is that some of the more vintage acts that have gotten in, particularly in doo-wop, have been little heard by the majority of voters, but tastemakers don’t want to think of themselves as ignorant or — more crucially — biased. Seymour, who does know this stuff, has been a big supporter of the doo-wop groups, and I suppose it’s possible that some voters defer to his greater knowledge of the dim past.

“But as for the [absence of certain] punk bands,” he continues, “I don’t get it either.”

Although both anonymous members say the nominating committee’s nominations are “pretty true to what we’ve voted on,” there have been a couple that don’t add up.

“Sometimes, in one or two cases, [the results] don’t necessarily feel right to me,” says nom-anon #1. “There’s usually a moment at the very end of the meetings [where it’s like] ‘This doesn’t quite make sense, maybe one person out of the ones we nominated didn’t really have that many votes,’ but I have no proof of that.”

So what you’ve got is a hall of fame that no one seems to be happy with, yet no one seems to be working to fix, either. After aging prog-rockers Jethro Tull won the Grammy for Best Heavy Metal band — over Metallica — in 1989, the RIAA underwent at least an outward revision of its procedures and established some new categories. Nom-anon #2 feels the hall of fame is beyond saving.

“It’s already a total joke,” he says. “The more the ‘institution’ disgraces itself with Percy Sledges [and other marginal inductees], the less interesting it will be, and in two or three years, nobody will care anymore.”

But for nom-anon #1, there’s a simple solution.

“I walk into this room and it’s full of old men,” he says. “There’s no young people, there’s like two women, there’s no people of color — well, I shouldn’t say none, but there’s a preponderance of old men. I look across the table and I see people sleeping — I’m just waiting for someone to die at the table — and they’re making the decisions! They have their point of view, and it’s a legitimate point of view that should be represented, but it’s the whole thing.”

Stein, however, attributes the hall’s flaws to the impossibility of quantifying art. “Rock and roll is a hybrid,” he says. “You ask 50 experts what it is and you’ll get 50 different definitions. It’s not baseball or basketball, where there are stat sheets. There are no scorecards, it keeps changing all the time.

“From his deathbed, Johnny Ramone sent me a letter advocating that Cat Stevens get in, and he got John Frusciante from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Eddie Vedder to send letters saying the same thing,” he continues. “From his deathbed, he said that — and there couldn’t be anything more opposite the Ramones than Cat Stevens. It just goes to show the kind of music people do is not always indicative of our taste. I think the age of the voters has a lot to do with it — obviously we’re influenced by the things we loved when we were 13.”

Yet despite Stein’s touching words, what all of this seems to indicate is that, with the exception of a strikingly large number of comparatively young Rolling Stone staffers, the majority of the hall’s nominating committee — the members of which are overwhelmingly over 50 — has no idea what it felt like to be 13 and hear the Sex Pistols or see Kiss on TV for the first time, or at least they’re failing to translate their own experiences to it. It’s very different to experience music as a pure fan, especially a young one, than it is as a seasoned, if not jaded, music executive or journalist; this, despite the obviously juvenile arguments that go on during the meetings.

“Are you a voting member?” Stein asks. “Let me send you the materials. We can use a few more voters. Maybe you can help!”


opie revisited

now playing: jimmie spheeris, “moon on the water”

so last night i got to talk to someone i haven’t spoken with in ages.


jerry opdycke, the lead guitar player from the band i was in during my teenage years back in savannah, tennessee – we’ve touched base a few times via email over the years, and he sent me a very thoughtful email when my mother passed away last spring, but we hadn’t really had any kind of dialogue until i put up a page on myspace, and he found me over there. last night, i actually picked up the phone and gave him a call after he sent me his number, and we got to reminisce about the old days for a while…he had seen the basement blog and mentioned that he actually remembered the time i spoke of when our keyboard player showed me a trick for cutting out the ring on my snare head for recording. apparently, reggie died a few years ago of lung cancer…i meant to ask about the rest of the folks from the band, but it didn’t occur to me while we were talking – we jumped around quite a bit.

i was the drummer in this particular band – and was perfectly content to be so…i was in the early stages of learning guitar at the time, and being able to watch opie when we were in the band together was invaluable to me. i learned a lot from him, in terms of how he got his tone, his phrasing, and the like – in fact, when i was amp shopping early in my stone road tenure, wendy and i walked into a pawn shop in reading and lo and behold – there sat a lab series L-7 amp (jerry used to use an L-5 back in the day). i had no choice but to buy it…and i still have it. i don’t get to use it as much as i’d like, but it’s right there, waitin’ for me.

this was a great band – i mean, i’m sure that there are plenty of people who insist that the band they were in when they were a teenager was the best thing since sliced bread, but this really was a good band. and when you’re sixteen, seventeen years old and you’re out in the clubs, playing with guys who’ve got ten years on you in experience…guys who are really pretty much the best that your town has to offer – well, it was a good couple of years. let’s put it that way.

i often wish i could go back to that point in time knowing what i know now…i mean, at the time, i was as guilty as every other seventeen year old musician is of overplaying…i was waaaay too heavy on the fills and we could’ve been that much better if i was as interested in playing for the song then as i am now. but – i wanted to be neil peart. at that point in my life, anyway. and this band was so not about that kind of music. but also, if i had the ability to do the whole “turn back time” thing, i think i would’ve liked to have gotten involved with the band before i did – but hey…everything happens for a reason, i’m sure.

jerry was the first guy to turn me on to little feat – there were a few times when i’d ride back from gigs with him and he’d have them on in the car, and they didn’t sound like anything else i’d ever heard. i also remember hearing karla bonoff‘s “restless nights” album for the first time at jerry’s house after a gig.

man…if our penchant for nostalgia increases with age, i imagine i’ll be insufferable if i add a couple more decades onto the time i’ve been here – my kids won’t be able to stand me.

speaking of the kids….

dylan, if i haven’t mentioned it already, nailed down the drumkit chair for the jazz ensemble a while back…he was so excited to tell me when he came home with his music and the CD of the songs he had to learn = “night train”, “you made me love you”, and the piece de resistance – “st. thomas” by sonny rollins. if you’ve ever heard the piece, you already know what he’s up against…it starts off with something of a samba beat, run through the bo diddley filter. it’s not, by any definition, an easy piece.

so the drumkit is set up in the basement, complete with baffles, and i ran a copy of the disc for him to practice with and set him on a pretty rigid practice schedule. tuesday night, he came over a little late and i set him up in the basement while i went to do something else…and i heard him start with the saint thomas beat a couple of times and muff it pretty hopelessly. i went downstairs and took a couple of minutes to show him the easiest way to go about it, and had him hang up the headphones for a bit and just practice the intro beat – dylan has a tendency towards frustration when he doesn’t learn everything in one pass, and i’m going to have to stay on him to keep him from beating himself up, but after i showed him an easier way to play it and had him work strictly on that, he caught on pretty quickly. he’s still not where he needs to be with it, but man – he progresses quickly when he gets a little guidance.

then there’s jayda.

jayda has a friend at school who introduced her to a kid named byron, whos’ an acid whiz and has a small production company called 2Much, and he’s put together a couple of tracks that he had her come over and sing on on tuesday night. they had a data mishap the first night she was there, and she was afraid that they lost all the work they did that night – but he managed to salvage the tracks and only had to resync everything. they were at his house in his upstairs studio from the time school let out until a little after 11 o’clock working on the song, and she’s stoked about it. in fact, i haven’t seen her this excited about anything musical for a number of years.

i’ve accepted some time ago that she’s not cut from the same cloth as i am, from a musical standpoint – she’s not seven years old anymore, and she doesn’t listen to patty griffin anymore, and that’s just the way it is. i’ve made peace with it. but i had also begun to think that with her change in taste, that whatever musical aspirations she may have had must’ve fallen by the wayside as well. and i still don’t see her as having any grand plan for Rich And Famous By Seventeen Or Bust, or anything like that – but she’s really enjoying what she’s doing, and that makes me feel good.

she’s also learning, though – as i did when faced with the same scenario – that her mother is probably not the first place to look to for support or encouragement. last night in the car, byron called her on her cellphone to play the finished track for her over the phone so she could hear it. after it had come and gone, jayda asked him to play it again so her mom could hear it, and she handed her mom the phone to listen. apparently, a few seconds went by and, according to jayda, her face kinda fell into a dismayed expression and she made a comment about the song being in spanish.

she didn’t tell me as much when she told me about this, but i know her feelings were hurt. i think she was expecting some kind of a positive reaction from her mother with regard to something she did that she was proud of…and justifiably so. this was her first (as far as she was concerned) recording session, and it was a song that she’d helped write and sing, and i’m sure that somewhere in her mind, she’d thought that perhaps her mom would have at least had some kind words about it.

as sad as it is to say, that’s a lesson i learned a long time ago. jill is a dry well where that sort of thing is concerned.

reggaeton isn’t my thing – that’s something of an understatement. but if that’s what jayda wants to do, then i’m all for it. tastes change over time, and it may or may not be a phase she’s going through – or it may not, and that’s fine, too. i want her to make whatever kind of music she wants to make, and i’m not here to pass judgement on that. we’ve already had the “agree to disagree” conversation about music, and frankly – as much as i fantasize about the prospect, i don’t think it’s terribly likely that both of my kids will ever really fully appreciate my taste in music. nor are they supposed to.

my buddy jon has passed a great deal of his musical appreciations on to his daughter, and she has a healthy respect for the music he listens to – she goes to poco shows, helps sell merchandise, the whole nine yards – but i’m pretty sure she has a healthy appetite for the music that her friends listen to at school, as well. i’d like for my own relationship with my kids’ musical taste to be a lot more like jons’, but the fact is, it sure as hell could be worse than it is now.

i think that, all in all, we’re ok.

jayda is actually accompanying byron to a local radio station for her first on-air appearance tomorrow night, between 8 and 10pm on 91.3 FM – if you’re in the reading area and can withstand two hours of reggaeton, feel free to tune in.



say it ain’t so, keith…

now playing: dar williams, “spring street”

i realized something last night.

in the dead of night, as i labored up to my elbows in the cavernous rack case that is my studio computer, cursing the day i decided to buy one of those damned boutique CPU fans just to try to quiet the room a bit, i came to a surprising conclusion.

that keith urban guy ain’t so bad.

i know that all the renegade country crowd probably thinks otherwise, but ya know what? he’s actually pretty talented.

yeah, yeah – go ahead and hate him because he’s beautiful. i do too. but he plays and sings his ass off, and i gotta give him his props for that.

now – just tell me this, man.

why nicole kidman? why? why? WHY?

dude, she’s been AROUND. and YOU, man – you can have literally any woman you want. ANY woman. why her, dude?

seriously – if lenny kravitz can’t be bothered, she’s not good enough for you.

go steal sara evans from that uptight congressman husband of hers and unseat mr. and mrs. faith hill as the new ultimate country music supercouple.

just do it.