Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Springsteen’

This week’s “Letter of the Week” award goes to Loyal Reader Accused of Lurking, commenting on last week’s very exciting post, “The roads less traveled.”

(You did know there’s a “Letter of the Week” competition, didn’t you? It’s a fierce ideological food fight featuring plenty of that groupie-on-groupie violence you readers love. Past winners thought they were going to receive college scholarships, Ducati touring bikes, a fistful of dollars and a handful of God particles, but come on, it’s the thought that counts.)

Accused of Lurking writes:

Had I known that you can’t help but listen to CDs that enter your home, I would have sent you dozens of oddities over the years: one-hit wonders that peaked no higher than 35 in the Top 40, mournful ballads by heavy metal bands, Earth Wind & Fire plays Pachelbel’s Canon, the Deliverance soundtrack, the Grease soundtrack, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings Fiddler on the Roof, etc.

It will come as no great shock that I disagree with your assessment of Tunnel of Love. I return to that album on a regular basis. It’s dark. Relationships fail much more often than they succeed. There is plenty of infidelity, mourning, doubt, and just plain agony. But the music and the lyrics carry an incredible power. My favorite songs are “Tougher Than The Rest,” “Two Faces,” “Brilliant Disguise,” and “One Step Up.”

Out of curiosity, I googled “Bruce Springsteen’s best albums.” Tunnel of Love’s ranking within the Springsteen oeuvre is mostly in the #7 to #9 range with a couple of #5s and a #1. Based on my own listening patterns, I put it at #6.

I do, however, agree that The Joshua Tree is a better album than Tunnel of Love.

Thank you as always, Lurk, for jump-starting my brain and making me reexamine my assumptions. So first, here’s a handy flow chart explaining what happens to CDs after they enter my home:

CDs that enter my home always get a listen: True.
All CDs enter my home: False.

Second, here’s what I think of you trying to scare me with all the crud you mentioned: documentation from an estate sale I went to last July.

Arthur Ferrante and Louis Teicher, The Twin Piano Magic of Ferrante & Teicher (1964); Dominic Caruso, World’s Greatest Accordion Hits (1968); 101 Strings, Million Seller Hit Songs of the 50’s (1964). Not shown: Various artists, Percussion for Playboys (1959) and Ann Corio, Sonny Lester & His Orchestra, How to Strip for Your Husband (1963). This was the worst record collection in the Western Hemisphere. (NONE OF IT came home with me.)

Sending me the Grease soundtrack or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing Fiddler on the Roof would not make me feel all sunny and wild inside, but at least I know it’s not the worst musical thing that could happen to me.

I would like to hear Earth Wind & Fire play Pachelbel’s Canon.

Bruce Springsteen revisited

I’m not just a simple backwoods music critic, you know. Some people say I’m a handsome Dan; others, a good-lookin’ Joe. Well, it ain’t no secret. I’ve been around a time or two. I admit I walk funny – one step up and two steps back – but that’s because I left my wallet back home in my workin’ pants. I don’t know what I’m wearing now. Jeggings, I guess. Anyway, I went to a gypsy and she swore that a) my future was right, and b) I’m tougher than the rest.

(I actually am tougher than the rest. I survived concerts by The Melvins, The Roches, the undiscovered Nirvana, the underdone David Cassidy, The Rolling Stones being four hours late to a concert in Boston when I was in high school, too many New Year’s Eve bands that forgot the lyrics to “Auld Lang Syne,” and Cher.)

Why do I discount Tunnel of Love? Until Tunnel of Love, Springsteen was writing fiction and occasionally journalism. On this album he dives into memoir. He wrote “Brilliant Disguise” when he was 37. It’s the most painful, personal song he’d written until that time. When I look in your eyes, he asks his wife, who do I see? Who do you see in mine? The words are devastating. Mick Jagger or Keith Richards hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time would never have produced “Brilliant Disguise.”

But to my ears, the music doesn’t fit. It’s not devastating; it’s exuberant. It reminds me of Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life.” The lyrics on this disc stick (they’re all over this post), but for me, for intangible reasons, most of the music doesn’t.

Look at this new thing I’ve found

When I read what you’d discovered about fans ranking the Springsteen oeuvre, I immediately made my own list. I figured Tunnel of Love would be way down there. Wrong!

  1. Born to Run
  2. Darkness on the Edge of Town
  3. Nebraska
  4. Born in the USA
  5. The River
  6. TUNNEL OF LOVE

I can’t rank Springsteen’s first two albums ahead of Tunnel of Love because they were, at best, promising. I can’t rank anything from the ’90s ahead of Tunnel of Love because that’s his lost decade. I can’t rank any of his work here in the 21st century, even The Rising, ahead of Tunnel of Love because it’s been years since Springsteen sounded like Springsteen. Despite my best efforts to stop it, Tunnel of Love almost cracks my personal Top 5.

Could it be, Lurk, that you are one face and I am the other, and neither of us can ever make that other man go away? We’re the same sad story, and that’s a fact.

About that pound of caviar you got sitting home on ice: Let’s spread it on some bagels.

John Updike once wrote an essay about unread books and their migration route inside his house. They began with great expectations on the table by the front door, levitated to the top of the television, summited a bookcase, fluttered into the kitchen, made a break up the stairs, loitered on a bedside table, avalanched onto the floor, and ended up compressed like a seam of coal in an unused back room, “the Afterworld of unread books.”

You might assume that books go unread but music is always listened to, but I’ve met record collectors who hated music. And then there’s that Shins album you downloaded in 2007 and forgot about. You’re part of the problem. Why are you being so mean?

In our house, a book might wait 20 years for me to read it, but music always gets a listen. Some CDs, however, spend the bulk of their time in the bullpen (a drawer beneath our TV), chewing sunflower seeds, tapping their gloves, and waiting for a call from the manager. I’m not sure how they got there. Here are three examples.

Bruce Springsteen, Tunnel of Love
1987

I was married in 1987, so everything about that year sort of glows, even the Twins winning the World Series and The Cult’s Electric.

But not this record.

Springsteen followed the breakthroughs of Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town with Nebraska, an album about people on the wrong side of the law. He followed the breakthrough of Born in the USA with Tunnel of Love, an album about people on the wrong side of love. Nebraska didn’t sell. Tunnel of Love did. As Danny Glover’s character reminded the audience repeatedly in Silverado, “That ain’t right.”

Tunnel of Love might’ve been Bruce’s audition for the Woody Guthrie tribute album, Folkways. Maybe he was thinking ahead to The Ghost of Tom Joad. Maybe he was thinking back to that time he crossed the Cumberland Gap with Daniel Boone. Whatever he was this thinking, this album is too rooted to rock.

Chief among the transgressions, for me, is the ballad of Bill Horton, a cautious man of the road, who for the right woman throws caution to the winds and finds happiness. It’s the one song on this platter where everything turns out well, but from the music and the vocal delivery I’d guess Springsteen was trying to transform himself into Gordon Lightfoot and not succeeding. Too bad – the writing is superb. Springsteen knocks out entire short stories in a couple dozen words:

On his right hand Billy tattooed the word ‘love’ and on his left hand was the word ‘fear’/and in which hand he held his fate was never clear.

Tunnel of Love is not redeemed but it is interesting for two songs, which don’t fit on this or any other Springsteen record.

The title track has the excessive use of prepositions (“…if you want to ride on down in through this tunnel of love”) and the video with the sword-swallower, the snake-seducer, and the self-conscious Springsteen. It’s also the one song in Springsteen’s catalog where he goes head-to-head with the New Wave of the ’80s – and wins. He unleashes the synthesizers and an emo sad-face guitar solo and even curbs his use of “yer” for “you” and “sir” for “bro.” It’s better than “Tunnel of Love” by Dire Straits or “Tunnel of Love” by Doris Day, plus it features the wordless wailing of the woman who became his second wife.

On “Valentine’s Day,” the narrator is driving a big lazy car, which is fun, but he has one hand on the wheel and the other over his heart, which is unsafe, and he’s dreaming of the timberwolves in the pine forests, which hasn’t happened since Daniel Boone crossed the Cumberland Gap. The song ends with a dream that’s so scary, the narrator’s eyes roll back in his head, just like me whenever I have to work through lunch.

The words don’t speak to me, but the music is beautiful. The synthesizers are back, and they carry us safely down Springsteen’s cold river bottom. The song practically shimmers. And Bruce Springsteen is not a shimmery guy.

Rolling Stone’s critics picked Tunnel of Love as their top record of 1987. Of fucking course. The readers voted for U2’s The Joshua Tree.

Annie Lennox, Medusa
1995

In 1995, I was one of the huddled masses yearning to breathe free and make more money than we were making in journalism. I ended up on the teeming shore of software, where I had a boss who liked to say that his first million disappeared up his nose.

He said this fondly, chuckling over his Boofin’ Brett Kavanaugh younger self, although the period he was referring to had only ended a couple of years before. His recreational-drug workouts might have caused his verbal dyslexia. One example was the line he deployed to rally the troops when we faced an impossible deadline: “We’re going to turn chicken salad into chicken shit!”

However, it’s because of this gentleman that I discovered Medusa. It was in heavy rotation on the office sound system (“office” being the supply closet we were vacuum-packed into).

Medusa is easy to write about, because there’s no there there. It exists solely to be admired. Annie Lennox and her team (17 musicians and programmers, whom she probably did not confine to a closet) covered 10 of her favorite songs, creating the musical equivalent of the Star Trek creature who was so beautiful that to look at it would drive you mad or maybe the ethereal Star Trek weirdos who lived in the sky city and wore natural cotton bed sheets.

While listening to Medusa, you’ll observe that your pulse never changes, not even when she’s covering Talking Heads’ “Take Me to the River” or The Clash’s “Train in Vain,” but it’s all so gorgeous that you won’t care. Medusa is the triumph of form over content. It shimmers. Mike, Rik, Vyvyan, and Neil would throw a petrol bomb at it.

I don’t play this album often, but when I hear Annie Lennox’s voice I always know it’s a wonderful world.

Various artists, Whip It
2009

Nothing happened to me in 2009. I was working in insurance. That’s the whole point of insurance – to say that nothing happened.

Whip It is a film about teenagers and very young adults who learn about life and love by fighting on roller skates. Director Drew Barrymore’s soundtrack has more female voices than anything short of a Supremes biopic, and although nothing on Whip It will punch you in the head or chase your dog up a tree, it’s an eclectic lineup for sure. My favorites are “Dead Sound” by boy-girl Danish duo The Raveonettes, the instrumental “Black Gloves” by Belgian boy band Goose, and “Crown of Age” by girl-girl-boy New York-to-Los Angeles trio The Ettes.

“Never My Love” was a hit for The Association in 1967. Where did they dig up that old fossil? It’s covered by Har Mar Superstar. The cover is restrained, even though Har Mar (real name Sean Tillman) is an unrestrained chubby white guy with a Michael Jackson soul inside a relaxed-fit body. He doesn’t do much with “Never My Love.” If only Drew had made him record it while roller-skating.

Charlie Brown said that a hot dog never tastes the same without a ballgame in front of it; most of these songs only work if you’re watching the movie. That’s why Whip It spends most of the year chilling with Tunnel of Love, Medusa, and their friends, packed tightly and trying not to decompose into coal. At least they go for the occasional spin.

Last month’s delivery of the junk my Dad brought home from his voyages with Columbus made me think about flashlights. I have never lacked for flashlights in my adult life because my father was a faithful subscriber to the Flashlight of the Month Club.

Dad’s all-purpose emergency plan was to equip every room in his house with a flashlight. This is a plan that could only have been cooked up by the Flashlight of the Month Club. As soon as I owned a house, Dad had a place to send his surplus. Of course you have to ask how equipping every room in your house with a flashlight will help you in an emergency. For example, if you’re in a room that lacks flashability and the power goes out, you could always fumble your way to a more helpful room. This process is even easier if the power goes out during the daytime.

If Donald Trump becomes president, flashlights won’t help.

A day or so after unpacking the latest round of flashlights, I spotted this display from the 1960s at a local antiques shop:

Flashlights

This made me consider the evolution of this handy tool. (The British invented it, so I should call it a “torch,” but it says “flashlight” on the Flashlight of the Month Club tote bag so I won’t.)

Today, most flashlights are made from plastic, not metal. The barrels are no longer ribbed for your pleasure (they’re knurled). LEDs are replacing incandescent bulbs. The push-button on-and-off switch has replaced the slide switch. One thing remains the same: A flashlight powered by batteries can’t operate when the batteries are dead.

Years ago, while hiking, Special D and I stayed too long on a ridge and had to hike down in the dark. I fished the flashlight out of my pack and switched it on. It stayed off. I tried the flashlight in Special D’s pack. Nothing. Fortunately, we had with us our first and most resourceful corgi, Emma. She understood immediately that Run-DMIrving’s son had brought disgrace on the family name. She expertly led us down the mountain. All we had to do was follow her fluffy white stern.

(There was a bright moon, the trail was well-blazed, and we were in little danger of going astray. Emma still deserved all the acclaim she received.)

Emma on TV

Dad was also a faithful subscriber to the Pocketknife of the Month Club. I could tell you this all-purpose emergency plan, but you can probably guess.

Random Pick of the Day
Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run (1975)
After two inconsistent records, Springsteen takes command of this disc and our lives from the first note. There are few opening tracks in rock like “Born to Run.” It’s the musical equivalent of “Call me Ishmael” or “In a hole in a ground there lived a hobbit” or “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” This record rips the bones off your back. You don’t own it? Why are you being so mean?

Random Pan of the Day
The Grateful Dead, Anthem of the Sun (1968)
There’s plenty of disorganization to go around on this disc. You either revel in it or you end up hating hippies. As I listened to Anthem of the Sun this evening, I decided that Greg and Duane Allman must’ve loved this record. You don’t get “Whipping Post” without “New Potato Caboose” as a model. And I have to admit, “New Potato Caboose” is a groovy name for a song.

 

In June I set out to review every album Prince ever made. I embarked on this project because I realized that, for me, Prince was embalmed in the ’80s – the guy I heard at clubs and parties. He was that sexy M.F. who could rock, croon, talk to God, talk for God, write weird erotic scenarios, and take goofy chances. I wanted a better idea of who he really was. There had to be more to the man than “Purple Rain” playing to a gang of us nerds in a hotel ballroom at a science fiction convention.

It’s easy to follow, album by album, a band that existed for fewer than 20 years – I’ve done that with The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Pixies, The Clash, Creedence, and several others. It’s much harder to do with an artist who’s been playing and recording for 30 years or more. They change too much. They travel down side roads while you stick to the interstate. Or you change too much. It’s been a long time since I was punchin’ a clock and listening wide-eyed to Born to Run.

It’s also hard to follow an artist with a lengthy career because every artist, no matter how talented, eventually skids into the Bad Spot. That’s the rough patch where your Muse runs off with someone younger and prettier and you’re left to grit it out on craftsmanship alone.

In the 1970s, Neil Young dissected his soul on several awe-inspiring albums. Two that’ll slay you: On the Beach (1974) and Tonight’s the Night (1975). When the ’80s dawned, Neil took a long time getting out of bed. For example, Trans (1982), which might as well have been called Tron, and Everybody’s Rockin’ (1983), his fake Fabulous Fifties record. Neil didn’t make a good record until Freedom (1989), which you’ll recall for the stunning “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

Bruce Springsteen did pretty well in the 1980s, at least until Tunnel of Love (1987). Then things went downhill. Or, in Springsteen terms, the mill closed, the state cops shut down all that street racing, and the D.A. couldn’t get no relief. After two subpar efforts, Human Touch and Lucky Town (both 1992), he recorded nothing of consequence until his reaction to 9/11, The Rising (2002), after which he reinvented himself as the Dark Knight of the 21st century.

I need a weatherman to explain to me what Bob Dylan was trying to do on Self Portrait (1970) and Dylan (1973).

David Bowie’s career after Scary Monsters (1980) is not the least bit scary.

Sadly, Michael Jackson’s career after Bad (1987) is not worth talking about.

Back to Prince. I made it through the first 14 albums. I rediscovered his ’70s disco discs. I relived my youth with Dirty Mind, 1999, and Purple Rain. I was struck as if by lightning by Sign O’ the Times.

By the time we got to the 1990s, the road Prince and I were driving developed some serious twists, the safety rails disappeared, and the paving got thinner. Loyal Reader Slave to the Garden warned me that in the ’90s, Prince, in his apocalyptic struggle with Warner Bros., dumped albums on the market that should’ve been dumped in the dump. We were approaching the Bad Spot.

The next one on my list, Come (1994), is what we critics like to call awful. I’d rather listen to a flock of trumpeter swans barking like dogs as they circle for a landing.

Prince’s 1987 bootleg, The Black Album, officially appeared in 1994. It’s not as good as black albums by Spinal Tap (1984), Metallica (1991), and Jay-Z (2003), though it’s probably better than the Marilyn Manson Black Album bootleg, if I could bring myself to listen to that one.

Looking at the rest of the ’90s, I see that Prince was either attacking the Warner Bros. Death Star or playing stuff that belongs in a galaxy far, far away. Well, what did I expect? How long can Prince go on being that sexy M.F.? (I can still pull it off, but only from a distance.) Artists have to change or they might as well be locked in a trophy cabinet. I’m convinced that Prince will emerge from this depressing era into some new and wonderful form, but I’m not going to follow every bread crumb until I catch up with him.

(There are two albums I definitely want to hear: The Girl 6 soundtrack, which is supposed to be a throwback to the ’80s, and the three-record Emancipation, both from 1996.)

What I’ve learned
Here’s what I can tell you about me: It’s hard to grow past the music that filled me with joy when I was young. Some of those artists are still recording, but they no longer speak to me. Or perhaps I can no longer hear them.

Here’s what I can tell you about Prince: Overall, no performer in the history of popular music is as talented as Prince. Some people sing better or write better or dance better, some people see deeper into the human or the national psyche. Some people are more economical (Prince does not know when to end a song).

But no one can do everything that this gentleman does at such a consistently high level. No male performer is as insistently sexy without also being sickeningly misogynistic. Carlos Santana, Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Bowie, Young, and Dylan are as prolific, but even those guys never released three discs of original material on the same day.

There’s much more to Prince than “Purple Rain.” I just don’t need it.

[Editor’s note: It’s at least twice as difficult for a female singer/songwriter to survive in a decades-long career as it is for a male. It’s much easier to find male counterparts to Prince, so I stuck with the men.]

I started out liking Prince, but after listening to the first 14 albums I really like Prince. I want to keep liking Prince. So I’ll stop here. Thanks as always for reading along.

A couple of days ago I spent an afternoon listening to Pink Floyd and Justin Timberlake. I got nothing out of that. This afternoon I’m listening to Chuck Berry. Until next time, enjoy this insane video from the Neil Young of the Everybody’s Rockin’ era.

 

Prince
Prince
1979

I believe I missed Prince’s second album when it was released, as I was occupied with punk and the theory that it would be easier to initiate sexual relations with punk girls compared with disco girls. (No.) Too bad, because this is a fine disco disc. The one lasting number on it is “Sexy Dancer,” but it should last awhile, and the other songs would be popular if played as a unit at a party…if you could go back and host that party in 1979.

The album’s closer, “It’s Gonna Be Lonely,” shows some emotional depth in its story of a break-up. One verse hints at something much deeper:

I betcha thatcha never knew
That in my dreams you are the star
The only bummer is that you always want to leave
Who do you think you are?

Prince was 21 when he released this record, his second, and you can hear him struggling with the disco/smooth-R&B straitjacket – just as you can hear the 24-year-old Bruce Springsteen struggling to break out of folk-music prison on his second album, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle (1974).

On Prince, you can’t tell if Prince wants to be Lionel Ritchie, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, or some kind of disco conglomeration. They’ve even photographed him on the album cover to look like Ritchie. But on his third album all hell will break loose, just as it did with Springsteen.

What I was doing at 21: Living in Boston, writing bad science fiction. This is already getting old.

Rolling Stones’ best albums of 1979: The Rolling Stone critics got lazy that year. They gave Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps album-of-the-year honors and cited no runners-up.

It’s not as if they had a small pool of candidates: How about Pink Floyd’s The Wall, The B-52s’ The B-52s, The Clash’s The Clash, Graham Parker’s Squeezing Out Sparks, Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall, The Police’s Reggatta de Blanc (the Coldplay of their day), Donna Summer’s Bad Girls, The Buzzcocks’ Singles Going Steady, or even Sister Sledge’s We Are Family? And look at all the crap, led by Foghat, Foreigner, and The Captain & Tenille?

They called Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” the single of the year. What where they smoking, and can I have some?

Those critics better shape up for 1980.

Random Pick of the Day (but it was close)
Various artists, Day Tripper: Jazz Greats Meet The Beatles Volume 1 (2009)
Two standouts, both on piano: Ramsey Lewis’ “Day Tripper” and McCoy Tyner’s “She’s Leaving Home.” Guitarist Wes Montgomery gives “A Day in the Life” the atmosphere of listening to records at midnight with the lights off. Unfortunately, at the 4-minute mark of this 6-minute song he gets up to get a drink and trips over The Moody Blues.

The rest of this disk explains why there was no Volume 2.

Random Pan of the Day
Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1962)
Recorded in 1959 for the French film, but not released in the USA until 1962. “No Problem” is a terrific tune. Unfortunately, you get four versions of it on this disc, as well as two versions each of two lesser songs, “Prelude in Blue” and “Valmontana.” There are only 10 tracks on Les Liaisons Dangereuses and eight of them are variations of each other. The repetition wore me down.

 

Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it. (Colette)

When I was a pre-bar mitzvah sprout in Hebrew school, I was at the mercy of a teacher who came from the Old World with some old skool Old World characteristics, including teeth and fingernails yellow from chain-smoking and a tendency in any academic situation to fall back on his main teaching tool: violence.

I’m not going to tell you this man’s name, or the nickname we children gave him, or the songs we sang about him, because I don’t want his descendants to track me down and torture me the way he did. And anyway, maybe he behaved so badly because he had survived the Holocaust and journeyed to America and in his declining years ended up marooned in our declining, uninteresting city, teaching Hebrew to a bunch of youthful dumbshits. Whatever his motivations, when he called one of us up to the front of the class to recite and we couldn’t deliver, he always screamed, “Go back to your seat and study!!!”

This evening at the end of my Write-a-thon hour I wanted to send myself back to my seat to study. What I wrote was definitely not worth reciting at the front of a classroom or anywhere else. There’s a character I have yet to understand, and my subconscious writer brain refuses to let him walk through these pages as valiant, virtuous, and virtually flawless. Unlike my former Hebrew school teacher, who is long gone, I can figure out what makes this guy tick and why anyone should care.

Maybe that was my old teacher’s real problem. He cared too much.

The 10-year-old inside me just ducked and covered.

Random Pick of the Day
Three Dog Night, Cyan (1973)
Loyal Reader Accused of Lurking has pointed out my math error. Before I so blithely skipped to the Dave Clark Five, I should’ve stopped at Three Dog Night! I also skipped 4 Non Blondes. I’m rectifying the first error tonight.

I find Three Dog Night interesting because almost everything they sang was written by someone else. The original was practically unrecognizable after 3DN finished rearranging it. Look at their first record, Three Dog Night (1969). The composers on this disc include Tim Hardin, Stevie Winwood, Harry Nilsson, Lennon & McCartney, Randy Newman, Neil Young, and Johnnie “Guitar” Watson. Their second album, Suitable for Framing (also 1969), adds Laura Nyro, Dave Mason, Sam Cooke, and Elton John. I wish 3DN had lasted as far as 1980 because I would’ve loved to have heard what they did with songs by, for example, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Joan Armatrading, and Michael Jackson.

Other than the fact that I flee from any room where “Black & White” or “Joy to the World” is playing (the latter being the “Jeremiah was a bullfrog” song, which Hoyt Axton wrote to showcase the melody – the lyrics were a nonsensical placeholder), I’m OK with this band. They fit well on a road trip in-between the harder stuff. My favorite 3DN songs are “One” (Nilsson), “Eli’s Coming” (Nyro), “Easy to Be Hard” (the team that wrote Hair), and “Liar” (Russ Ballard). Except for “Easy to Be Hard,” these treatments are tougher than usual for them. They’re all from the first two albums.

Cyan (which includes the hit “Shambala”) is not 3DN’s best album (that would be their debut), but it’s their closest to the blue-eyed soul of Rare Earth. There’s also a gospel flavor to some of these tracks. (“Celebrate,” from Suitable for Framing, could easily have appeared on a Rare Earth album exactly as it is.)

For a few years back there in our rearview mirror, Three Dog Night was more powerful than the Van Allen radiation belt. According to Google, they ran up a string of 21 hit singles from 1969 through 1975. I’d rather revisit their music than that of their contemporaries Grand Funk Railroad, a band that rocks very hard for very little reason.

Snoopy 2 rejections at once

There are 11 days left to go in the Write-a-thon and though I wrote again today I have to admit that my original goal of hitting 50,000 words by August 2 was just a wee bit optimistic. I’ll be lucky if I get to 30,000. I do wish I wrote fiction faster, but I don’t. Marketing writing – that I can do fast. Advertising, editorials, web copy – I’m a speed merchant. These blog posts? Warp factor 6! But when I have to invent characters and situations and see how they play out, I move one. step. at. a. time. Sort of like the way the first primitive Mariners played baseball.

My hero, John Updike, wrote that “There’s a kind of tautness that you should feel within yourself no matter how slow or fast you’re spinning out the reel,” and though I gave up fishing in 1967 when my brother took three bass and all I hooked was a lousy starfish, I take heart from these words.

Right now there’s a kind of tautness in the back of my brain, or a bubbling. All day long, and often just before I wake, something back there is working on this book. Objects and actions bubble to the surface, things I can use on a page I’ve already written or one I have yet to write, like a bird finding the right-shaped stick for its nest. (We saw an osprey nest on Cape Cod that looked as if the occupants had built it out of firewood.) I’m mixing my metaphors here but I’ll trust that you get what I’m driving at. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Esteban esta caliente, but I do feel kinda warm.

Random Pick of the Day
Paul Van Dyk, In Between (2007)
In my house we have this divide over anything that isn’t rock ’n’ roll. Trance (or techno), for example, is not only not Special D’s thing, she classes it with The Thing, The Thing From Another World, The Thing with Two Heads, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Thing. Despite the constant scorn I live with, I like this stuff. The dance-floor anthem on this disc is “Far Away.”

Random Pan of the Day
One Direction, Up All Night (2011)
Boy bands sure have deteriorated since The Beatles. Today they’re all strip-mined from the same barren earth. Bruce Springsteen could use One Direction for dental floss.

I’m going to start Randoming bands with numbers in their names. We’ll see which one becomes the first to move from Pan to Pick.