Category Archives: Music

Another Birthday

Alas, another birthday has come and gone. Gone are the days when I felt smart and confident. I no longer have all the answers—I have teenagers, instead, and no one is better at reminding me how little I know than my kids. Apparently I have more in common with Forrest Gump than Albert Einstein.

The worst part, though, is rewriting the songs I like to play on the guitar:

The Beatles: “Now that I’m old and losing my hair, standing here and now.”(When I’m 64)

The Who: “They say cool is awful cold. I refused to die, so now I’m old.” (My Generation)

Queen: “She keeps all her medications, in a pretty cabinet. ‘I can’t eat cake,” she says, my doctor will get so upset.” (Killer Queen)

Of course, Phil Collins, “Land of Confusion” says it all.

Now hand me my inhaler so I can blow out the candles on my cake.

The Taylor Swift Effect and Democracy

It’s over twelve months until the next presidential election, and we’re already growing weary of the process—and we can’t blame all of it on Donald Trump, no matter how much we may wish to. I’m tired of reruns, and don’t see the need for another Adams, Roosevelt, Clinton, or Bush in the White House.

However, does it really matter?

Taylor-Swift-Performing-in-Toronto--05 Courtesy


The president has the bully pulpit, from which to claim accomplishments not due solely to the president and make promises, which the president lacks authority to keep.

Congress—even with all its gridlock—passes far more laws than anyone needs or can follow. These laws are generally written by lobbyists, who pass them to carious politicians’ staffs. Staff members then brief their bosses; this is actually what the staffer believes the bill means, occasionally based on actually reading the bill, but often just a rehash of the lobbyists’ explanation. This saves our elected officials from actually having to read the bill.

The election arrives, and in America, only about 61 percent of those eligible vote exercise the right. The parties’ hardline supporters are about equal; the conservatives almost always vote Republican and the liberals almost always vote Democrat. There are also who vote for the most attractive looking candidate, a name they recognize, or some other silly reason.

So who determines the outcome of an election?*

Let’s ask it another way; who determines that Taylor Swift should be popular? Who determines that NCIS should stay on the air for at least another season? Who determines it’s time to open a convenience store and hire a handful of people? Who determines that we need a new gadget, gizmo, smartphone app?

These key decision makers are the ones who are open to ideas, evaluate their merits, and then act. Proponents provide them with data—everything from National Public Radio to Wired magazine to negative campaign ads. Some data these people reject, some they accept as valid, but it does not impact their decision, while some makes its way into their decision-making process. Taylor Swift and Barack Obama owe their position to this group of people.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

*Check out “Who Votes, Who Doesn’t, and Why: Regular Voters, Intermittent Voters, and Those Who Don’t”

Excused Absence

Please excuse Steve from his recent failure to regularly write blogs as he has been suffering from TCD (time and creativity deficiency). This is not a well-known condition because no celebrity has taken ownership, even though it is obvious from today’s movies, television, and music that the entire entertainment industry suffers severely from the same malady.

Some physicians and the CDC claim this condition does not exist, along with chronic Lyme disease, Gulf War Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and health problems due to Agent Orange, but I assure you that it does.

As a lifelong voracious reader, I promise that I will work with Steve to help him start writing more regularly.


Steve’s Mom

P.S. I apologize for the fact that I couldn’t physically sign this myself due to the fact that I’m currently deceased.

Thanks, Bob, for Everything

When I was in high school, Robert Alan Gable, our assistant band director was fresh out of college and ready to rock and roll. After he finished teaching during the day, he played jazz at a night club until the wee hours. He taught saxophone, bassoon, oboe, flute, and percussion, but at the club it was sax and flute. The year I graduated, he joined Wayne Cochran and the CC Riders and we lost touch.

High school was not a particularly happy time for me, which is probably true for more teenagers than not. How did Alice Cooper put it in the song I’m Eighteen?

Don’t always know what I’m talkin’ about.
Feels like I’m livin’ in the middle of doubt.”

Bob taught me how to play tenor saxophone and bassoon, but more importantly, how to truly love music. He was a teacher and a mentor who provided encouragement that eventually grew into confidence.

Last year he was inducted into my high school’s Music Hall of Fame, and I had a chance to see him for the first time since high school; we picked up as though the hiatus had been days instead of decades. Bob’s health had failed him, which tied him to an oxygen tank and a wheelchair, and he had retired. Tom Batiuk the cartoonist graciously did a drawing of Harry Dinkle (the World’s Greatest Band Director) for the occasion. (If you don’t follow his comic strip “Funky Winkerbean,” you should.) After that Bob and I chatted on the phone every so often. We never had anything significant to talk about, but it was time shared.

The last time I called I got a recording that his number was no longer accepting calls. I expected the worst. Today I received an email with his obituary.

The journey through life is short, but we all leave footprints that mark our journey. Many of us who walked with him for part of his journey are better for it. Thanks, Bob.


lightBummers—I hate them.

Flat tires, dead batteries, diarrhea, incompetent bosses, and getting struck by lightning. I’ve managed to avoid one of these in my lifetime. Unfortunately, there’s no medal for doing so.


On the other hand, like mosquitoes or paper cuts, such things are irritating but really do no substantial damage. However, sometimes we lose sight of that fact, and give such issues far too much importance.


But some people, like Bruce Springsteen can use the word bummer to write, “Madman drummers, bummers, and Indians in the summers with a teenage diplomat.”

I Blame Ringo

Harmony guitar after a little TLC

Harmony guitar after a little TLC

This past weekend we had dinner one night at Abbey Road, in Virginia Beach (Great restaurant!). The next night we ate at the Rock Fish (Another Great restaurant!), which boasts a collection of guitars once used by the Beatles. Mind you, most are “rehearsal” guitars, but as every musician knows, there are more hours spent practicing and rehearsing than performing.

As I may have mentioned, the hermit crab I got at the beach (and a playmate added later) ended up with a much better home that I found at the local Goodwill. I believe that Goodwill and other such stores are an important part of the re-use, re-purpose, recycle movement, and there are always treasures to be found. The crab terrarium was one, but I also stumbled across a $25.00 guitar.

I have steel stringed acoustic and electric guitars, but this one was designed for nylon strings—something I’ve wanted for a while. In its day it was probably a good starter guitar, and in its day, they made them to last. Naturally, I bought it, brought it home, cleaned it up and restrung it. It will take several days, if not weeks, for the strings to stabilize (which is normal for such guitars) but I can’t wait to see how it plays.

Therefore, I blame Ringo. Why? Two reasons: 1) Of all the instruments on display, none were Ringo’s. 2) In my humble opinion, of the four of them he has always had the best sense of humor, pointing out that the Beatles were a band in which he played for a small portion of his career. Besides, I think he would probably enjoy the fact that I blame him for me buying a $25 guitar at Goodwill.

So there, Ringo, and if you’re so inclined, pass the blame along to your brother-in-law, Joe Walsh (although since he’s a fellow ham, if I get to “work” him on the air, I’ll forgive you both.)

Band Geeks

And if you've never seen it before

And if you’ve never seen it before

I marched in the band in high school and college, and enjoyed every second of it. (Well, there probably was a second here and there when I didn’t, but I don’t remember them.)

I can understand the old joke that football stadiums’ primary purpose is for the marching band. (For a great perspective listen to Jack Stamp

I won’t belabor you with my opinionated comments. I’ll let these statements speak for themselves.

  • The morning news said that the national college championship game yesterday was attended by eighty thousand with the average ticket price being nine hundred dollars.
  • Members of the marching bands had transportation and lodging provided. They had great seats and paid nothing.
  • Marching band counts as a class with credit toward graduation.
  • Marching band members do not have to deal with 250 pound guys from the other school repeatedly grabbing and tackling them!

Zippy Tunes that Say You’re Worthless

I love music but when it comes to singing, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, so I’ve always focused on the instruments—at times to the exclusion of the lyrics. I’d tell whoever was listening with me (usually in the car) to pay attention to a bass line, or to the drums; to how the lead guitar was only playing 3 notes every other measure; to key changes or tempo shifts.

I didn’t realize what I was missing.

When Weird Al Yankovic parodied “Blurred Lines” as “Word Crimes,” he explained that he liked the idea of taking a misogynistic song and making it into one that could be use constructively in elementary school.

Enlightened by Weird Al, and that’s not meant as sarcasm, I began to listen a bit more to the words.

What a load of rubbish:

Robin Thicke — “Blurred Lines” – “You’re a good girl; I know you want it, I know you want it.”

John Mellenkamp — “I Need a Lover” Great riff, but the words? – “I need a lover who won’t drive me crazy; Some girl who knows the meaning of, ‘Hey, hit the highway.'”

Queen – “Fat Bottomed Girls” I love Queen, but really, Freddie, was that necessary?

In the movie That Thing You Do, Tom Hanks tells the lead and songwriter of “The Wonders” to write “Something zippy; not some lover’s lament.”

I think that a lament is in order. However, I’d recommend bemoaning the demise of self-absorbed twits who think everyone else, particularly women, exist merely for their amusement.

Time, Time, Time

See what’s become of me.

Another masterpiece from Simon and Garfunkel. Great cover by the Bangles. Totally awesome guitar riff.

In the real world – time means that, just like everything else I possess, I am passing my time to others. My daughter’s soccer tournament; my son’s college preparation meeting.

This is how it’s supposed to be.

However, unlike so many challenges in life, it’s got a great guitar riff. (Simon and Garfunkel 1966) (Bangles 2008)

Life and music; music and life. They go together so well – almost as if there were some Supreme Being helping us through all these challenges.

But, if you read scripture, you know that God loves music, so there’s no surprise here.

And a one, and a two….


Teenagers – the Unendangered Species

flapperThe first and foremost duty of teenagers is to drive their parents crazy.

For my grandparents it was Swing Music and flappers.

My parents, although busy with World War 2 still made time for Big Band Music and Zoot Suits.

My generation – Rock and Roll, long hair, and wasn’t there some weird cigarette or something? Ummm, I like forget, man.

Where was I? Oh yeah.

While today’s music does make me twitch, for the most part, youth today is into passivity.

“Where are you?”

“In my room.”

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing!” and it’s the absolute truth!

Video games. Ubiquitous tablets. Smart phones. I’ve had an entire conversation with my daughter, in which her participation was limited to, “Are you talking to me?” and she doesn’t even know who Robert De Niro is!

As near as I can tell, teenagers don’t date – they text; if your thumbs get permanently attached to the phone, it means you’re going steady or something. I guess I should be grateful since this should lower the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.

I guess we can safely say that today’s teenagers are on track. Why don’t I fell like celebrating?

The Changing Meaning of Music

THE Grateful Dead

THE Grateful Dead

As a young man, I sang along with Alice Cooper’s, “I’m Eighteen (and I Like it!)” – back when I was only seventeen! Can you believe it?

My how things change. Now, when I sing “When I’m Sixty-four” the phrase “many years from now” is figurative, not literal.

I don’t want to admit that I’ve changed; I want the music to change.

Here (of course) are a few suggestions:

Huey Lewis and the News –”I want a new drug, like I saw on TV.

They said to ask my doctor if, it was right for me.”

The Doors- “Hello, I love you, can you tell me my name?”

Roy Orbison- “There she was, with her walker on my street.”

Gerry and the Pacemakers – enough said.

The Who – “Hope I die before I get old,


Maybe You Can Never Go Back – But You Can Visit

Harry Dinkle  The World's Greatest Band Director Tom Batiuk

Harry Dinkle
The World’s Greatest Band Director
Tom Batiuk



I recently returned from a trip to Toledo, OH, which is where I grew up. Last Saturday night there was a ceremony to induct people into my high school’s Music Hall of Fame. Yes, we have a Music Hall of Fame.

Back in the day, we had an absolutely awesome marching band and the glee club did top notch musicals along with the orchestra. Being a Catholic school, the uniforms, the instruments and all the accoutrement were supplied through fund raisers managed by the band parents. At least once a year we put on our uniforms without picking up instruments and sold band candy outside local stores, factories, or whatever. The uniforms had an overlay for marching, but could also be worn with white shirt and necktie as a concert band uniform. Large instruments, such as bassoons and sousaphones, were courtesy of the band parents’ efforts.

The music department was so good that when the school got a new principal, he decided that he was going to “put the music department in its place.”

If that place was oblivion, he succeeded 45 years ago.

The banquet hall was packed; I’m guessing there were 500 or so from all over the US. The current school president told the assembled multitude that he was committed to “getting our music department back.”

I hope so. Music is not only an art, but also a powerful tool for brain development.

I’m going to check back and see if it really happens.

Independence Day

Jefferson Obelisk Courtesy

Jefferson Obelisk

He wrote his own epitaph.


Jefferson and John Adams are as essential to America as was George Washington. Of the three, Jefferson was the most complicated – a wealth of intellectual virtue but pragmatically able to ignore his own beliefs in the name of commerce. Author of the Declaration of Independence, yet an owner of slaves.

There is a fascinating radio program in which historian Clay Jenkinson portrays Thomas Jefferson but such that Jefferson is able to converse with us in our time. If you haven’t heard it, give it a try. Click here for more.


Oh, Yeah?!

THE Smothers Brothers

THE Smothers Brothers

That was Tommy Smothers “snappy comeback.”

As I get older and wiser, things that used to drive me nuts now are able to be dealt with by an “Oh, yeah?!”

Things at work. Politicians. My kids.

I never knew that the Smothers Brothers were wise.

How scary is that?

P.S. Falla la lallah lallah lallah la lallah chirp! Chirp!

The End of the School Year

21st Century Odd Couple

21st Century Odd Couple

I was 20 years old and had just dropped out of college when Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out for Summer” was a hit. You have to love a song whose lyrics include “We can’t even think of a word that rhymes.” I could definitely identify.

Now, as school winds down for this year, I identify in a different way.

It’s time for my kids to perform the musical numbers their bands have been working on. There are parties and it’s time to catch up on the various odds and ends. It elevates a hectic schedule of driving and attending by a magnitude (which is why I haven’t written anything in the past few days.)

But good old Vincent Fournier – the man who created and portrays Alice Cooper and (with the help of the Amazing James Randi transformed stage illusions into rock and roll mayhem) – still represented a link to my own youth.

But wait!

Now Ke$ha and Alice have a common theme song in “School”?

(If you don’t know who Ke$ha is, ask you children, grandchildren, or a neighborhood teenager.)

Does this mean that my kids and I share a common musical anthem?

Heh heh heh.

As Alice sang, “Welcome to My Nightmare.”

Enjoy, kids. Before you know it, you’ll be hearing YOUR kids’ version of “School!”

Heh heh heh.

Jesus’ Timing


If you have followed my blog for a while, you may remember that during Lent I listen to “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Although it’s an artistic musing, it does cause me to think of my scripture reading from a different perspective. In the recording, Judas asks why Jesus came, “in such a backward time in such a strange land.” He goes on to say, “If you’d come today, you’d have reached a whole nation. Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.”

It’s a fair question, and I pondered it for a while and arrived at an answer that at least makes sense to me.

I think that Jesus’ aim was to inspire, teach, challenge, and demand that we take things into our own hands and do God’s work. It is up to us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and perform such works in His name and to give glory to the Father.

But what if He had chosen today? I suspect for a while He would be the top story on the news and a meme on the internet. But would we take Him any more seriously? Personally I doubt it. Besides, in a few days some other story would have pushed him out of the limelight.

It was within His power to solve all our problems – disease; poverty; everything. Instead, He solved the biggest problem – our separation from God.

The rest is up to us, but don’t worry. He taught us how.

Be a Musical Sensation!

The Byrds Cancelled Flytes

The Byrds
Cancelled Flytes

In the late 1960’s, The Byrds told us;

“So you want to be a rock and roll star,
Then listen now to what I say.
Just get an electric guitar,
And take some time and learn how to play.”

Those were kinder, gentler times. If today you want to be a musical hit, you need a plan.

  1. Start doing commercials as a cute toddler
  2. Get hired for a cable television show aimed at tweens.
  3. Lip-synch vocals on the television show.
  4. Make an album. Don’t worry about talent – with autotune, overdub, and digital enhancement, talent is not required.
  5. Do some incredibly stupid things, preferably involving drugs and nudity (If you can do them on a “reality” show, even better.)
  6. Go into rehab
  7. Hit the talk show and fashion magazine circuit to apologize.
  8. Moan about how misunderstood you are.
  9. Repeat as necessary

Don’t be tacky and copy hackneyed old routines like owning a poodle, Chihuahua, or monkey. Same goes for wardrobe malfunctions or drinking your own bodily fluids.

Maybe You Can’t Go Back, But…

alice 1There are things that I enjoyed in my youth that have a totally different look and feel in my, shall we say, more mature years.

My last days of high school and early days of college were during the anti-military time of Viet Nam. There were many songs protesting the war, including more than a few funny ones. Although I enjoyed the “Draft Dodger Rag” by Phil Ochs, my all-time favorite was “Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie.

Around here one radio station has a tradition to play “Alice’s Restaurant” on alice 2Thanksgiving at noon, and I caught most of it this year. It bounced around in my brain for a while, and the other day I downloaded the MP3. I admit, after 30+ years involved with the military in one way or another, I still find it hilarious. My son was in the car with me when I played it for the first time in frzxy-sydrt (yes, that’s intentional) years, and he was totally unimpressed.

Maybe you can’t go back, but you can still remember the laughs, and that’s enough to laugh again. This time, with feeling.

Breaking News – We’re Irrelevant!


In the 1970’s, Fleetwood Mac, on their “Rumors” album had a song in which Lindsey Buckingham sang, “I’m just second hand news.” Little did he know that he was predicting the future.

I subscribe to the Virginian-Pilot, my local newspaper. Yes I get weekdays and Sundays, and yes, I actually read it.

I really don’t read the newspaper for the national stories. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, runs the same news service stories. My understanding is that the once fierce rivalry among AP, UPI, Reuters, etc. has been reduced by the consolidation of companies and customer lists.

The end result? I see the same story in almost exactly the same words on CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, ETC, etc. When I see it once again in my morning newspaper, I pass over it and read the stories generated by the local reporters and editors. These local stories tell me what is happening and how it might affect me. The local articles are also well researched, well written and enjoyable.

In the meantime, the on-line internet and on-cable providers continue to run the same material over and over. In some cases, they’ll change its location or even its title, but the same stories can continue to re-appear like zombies in a cheap movie. They try to jazz it up, but even the jazzy statements are regurgitated.

[Starlet’s name] rocks [article of clothing]!

[Starlet’s name] sizzles [article of clothing]!

[Celebrity’s name] did WHAT?

You won’t believe what [insert totally believable item here]!

Bottom line is that online I often encounter the same story in various forms on and off over a month.

So, Lindsey Buckingham – thanks for the prediction.


Everybody sing!!

I’m just second hand news!     I’m just second hand news!

A Bm/A A Bm/A A D E



Just Sayin’

Miley Cyrus

Bill the Cat Berkeley Breathed Bloom County

Bill the Cat
Berkeley Breathed
Bloom County