Posts Tagged ‘Cream’

I’m back and I thank you for your unreasoning faith in my ability to write something worth reading. I hope you’re all having a summer filled with invigorating sunshine and refreshing cold drinks, unless you’re one of my Southern Hemisphere readers, in which case I hope you’re having a winter filled with, well, if it’s winter where you are you’d probably enjoy a hot afternoon and bottles of beer in a tub full of ice.

I have traveled and done and seen much since I took my break at the end of June, including my birthday, a trip to the Old Country (Massachusetts), a road trip into the mysterious green half of Washington state, the annual Clarion West Write-a-thon, a tidal wave of new music, the Prince Project, the  never-ending story that is my novel, and a freelance client who acts rationally and pays promptly (I can’t figure out what con they’re trying to run on me).

I’m going to take the time this week to catch up. To get going, and to stretch my brain with something easy, here are some shout-outs:

The Rue De L’Espoir on Hope Street in the old section of Providence, Rhode Island, is supposedly French but serves a four-star U.S. American breakfast. When you’ve finished eating, you can walk around the beautiful urban campus of Brown University with its many 19th-century buildings and of course Wilson Hall, where I played chess in high school.

There’s not much to recommend in my hometown of Somerset, Mass., except for the ice cream, my favorite English teacher, and my parents:

60 years
And yet I am so young…

When Loyal Reader Gravel Ax was a high school student in Bellingham, Washington, she had a friend who wanted to be a writer. He didn’t want to stay up late trying to write at home, where he had his parents and siblings to contend with, he wanted to go to a café the way Hemingway went to a café in Paris in 1922. But in Bellingham in that medieval era, this poor boy’s only option was the Denny’s by the freeway. At least they gave him free refills on the coffee.

These days in Bellingham you’d have no trouble spilling your tortured soul all over town because Bellingham no longer shuts down so everyone can go home and eat meatloaf for dinner. Special D and I found this out at 9pm on a Monday when we tried to buy ice cream downtown and were confronted with a line of 100 hip Bellinghamsters in front of us.

At least three of my Loyal Readers are more expert in Bellingham culture than I am, including Gravel Ax and Seattleites Accused of Lurking and his no-nonsense sidekick, Katzniss. But here are two places to remember:

At Blue Fin Sushi, the atmo dial is stuck at zero. The place is located in a minimall on a Gasoline Alley sort of thoroughfare (the Denny’s from three paragraphs ago is nearby). This space used to be a nail salon, or a dog wash, or an auto insurance agency, and if Blue Fin does well and moves to swankier accommodations, it will be again. But the sushi is terrific, generous, and cheap!

Bellingham has plenty of great restaurants now, but The Table is still one of my favorites, particularly in the winter. Do you like pasta? If you don’t you’re no good!

Bellingham may change but the Cascades are pretty much the same, not counting the occasional volcanic eruption. If you can’t get to Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker will pinch-hit. As part of our continuing project to revisit hikes we haven’t done in 20 years, this summer we took on Heliotrope Ridge. The view was stunning and the water in the three creeks we crossed stunningly cold. These creeks are fed by glaciers, and as the sun warms the ice the creeks rise and run faster. (The creek you crossed in the morning is not the same body of water when you encounter it again in the afternoon, on your way down.) Naturally, once the sun sets, the creeks drop and run slower. After all these years of hiking, it finally occurred to me that snowmelt has tides.

Other Mt. Baker hikes we can vouch for: Railroad Grade and one we re-hiked last summer, Skyline Divide:

Skyline Divide 18 years later Aug 13
Run-DMSteve conquers the wilderness.

That’s all for today. When I return in a few days…we’re gonna get dirty.

Random Pick of the Day
Cream, Disraeli Gears (1967)
This is a very British album, eccentric and sly, more like The Kinks or Sgt. Pepper’s than Led Zeppelin’s blues-based storm and drain. But when Cream gets heavy, they reinvent gravity. “Sunshine of Your Love” is that rare thing, a love song that would also fit the soundtrack of the apocalypse.

Random Pan of the Day
Ginger Baker, Why? (2014)
Years ago, the first answer in any pop trivia contest was “Ginger Baker.” (Just as the first answer in any baseball trivia contest of that era was “Ron Santo.”*) The years have passed but Baker drums on, mastering any genre that strikes his fancy, this time jazz. He’s assembled a good group of musicians, and his drumming is impeccable, but I wasn’t moved by Why? and the many extended jams. On the album cover, Baker makes Peter O’Toole look like a supermodel.

* Unless it was Sal Bando.

The power trio of guitar, bass, and drums emerged in rock ’n’ roll in the late 1960s. The pioneers were The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, and Grand Funk Railroad. Their guitarists, Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Mark Farner, were like the great New York centerfielders of the 1950s. Hendrix was Willie Mays. Clapton was Mickey Mantle. And Farner was – Duke Snyder?

No, sorry, that’s where the comparison breaks down. The Duke’s talents were pitched below Mantle’s and Mays’, but he was still an exceptional ballplayer for many years. You can compare his best years to his colleagues and his stats suffer only because they were gods and he wasn’t. No way does Mark Farner belong in the same league as Hendrix and Clapton. (To be fair, that’s a league you can fit in one bus.)

But Farner performed a vital function the other two couldn’t. If you formed a band in 1967 or 1971, how could you hope to grow up to be Hendrix or Clapton? But Mark Farner – he made it sound easy, or at least he made it sound as if anyone could do that. (And they did. Bad Company, Mountain, Foghat, AC/DC, Bon Jovi…there’s a long list.)

Grand Funk Railroad (they shortened the name later in the ’70s, then re-enlarged it) started out playing hard, heavy, messy rock with really stupid lyrics. Their first two albums are like ’60s garage rock recorded 100 times louder. Grand Funk never rose to the level of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, or Van Halen, but they filled auditoriums for years – particularly in Omaha, where they met those “four young chiquitas” they poignantly describe in their super explosive smash hit explosion, “We’re An American Band.”

The album I liked was Closer to Home (1970), with their signature song, “I’m Your Captain.” Playing the record this evening after all these decades makes me realize that by 1970 they were losing their way. This is the album where they abandoned their basic formula and brought in keyboards, strings, and ocean noises. Artists should be free to experiment but these boys weren’t artists, they were making party music – sort of a smash-mouth equivalent of K.C. & The Sunshine Band.

Yes, Closer to Home sold a bunch of copies, and We’re An American Band (1973) sold even more. They deserved the money – they were sincere and they toured constantly. But their true selves were back there in the beginning: On Time (1969) and Grand Funk (1970). The songs were mostly crud (“Heartbreaker” is a phenomenal hard-blues workout) and I can barely bring myself to pay attention to the lyrics, but just listen to a track or two. Anybody could do that.

Bonus: I give Grand Funk points for the first known use of “dudes” in a pop song, in “We’re An American Band”:
They said, ‘Come on dudes, let’s get it on!’
And we proceeded to tear that hotel down

Psych! No bonus: I’m deducting those points for recording the lite-rock hit “Some Kind of Wonderful” and for covering Little Eva’s “The Loco-Motion.” Yes, I know that “loco” is train-related but did we really need our heavy-metal forefathers recording songs you could skip rope to?

Thus ends “Sins of the ’70s Week”
I considered putting The Bee-Gees on trial, but I will never apologize for disco.

A railroad runs through it
After all the steam I’ve generated in this blog about my novel, you may be wondering why I haven’t issued any bulletins in awhile. I had some derailments this winter but I believe I’m almost right on the rails. That’s enough transportation metaphors. I’ll report back when I’ve hit my next milestone, and thank you for your patience…or indifference…or maybe you were just enjoying the silence!

Meanwhile: Here’s my latest video. That makes two, and that means I have a channel.