Sunday, December 16, 2007


Just saw in the news where Dan Fogelberg died this morning. If you're my age, you probably remember a time when you couldn't get away from this guy on the radio; which was okay, because he was a fairly decent songwriter. In fact, when I was in high school, one of my favorite albums was Fogelberg's "Souvenirs," which didn't have any hit singles, really, but 'Part of the Plan," "Morning Sky," "As the Raven Flies" and others got all kinds of airplay on progressive-minded album rock stations.

The more successful he got, the less I liked him. His biggest hits were, sadly, kinda schmaltzy. "Leader of the Band" and "Same Old Lang Syne" always hit me as being rather overdone.

By the mid-80s, Fogelberg had kinda lost it. He made a bluegrass album that was just okay and then I stopped paying attention.
In fact, until I heard about him passing this morning, I had pretty much forgotten about Dan Fogelberg.

That got me thinking about a lot of the music I listened to -- and enjoyed immensely -- in my youth, that I've sort of forgotten about --or, even worse, realized that if sort of falls into the 'not very important' category after all this time.

For example: I'm a big fan of the blues. I REALLY like the old recordings of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. When I was a teenager, I bought a lot of their old Folkways albums (still priceless and wonderful) as well as some of their later stuff, recorded after they'd been together a while and after they'd sort of outlived their usefulness to each other. While I liked those albums too when I bought them, I have made no attempt to download mp3s of them because I realize now that they're not really very good.

Same too, I recently bought a downloadable version of one of the last albums Doc Watson recorded with his son Merle before Merle suddenly died. It was an album I really liked when I bought it in the late 70s. But listening to it now, they sound disinterested and stuck playing middle-of-the-road covers of Waylon Jennings songs and the like because that's what the record company wanted.

I guess changing your mind about things you like is a matter of moving on in life. And if you still like the stuff you liked as a kid, then it's gonna be with you for life. So the Beatles, Frank Zappa, Leon Russell, Randy Newman, etc. have nothing to worry about, I guess. I do wish something would come along nowadays that I'd like as much as those people but I doubt that will ever happen.


Baseball will overcome the steroid scandal. I'm not going to be any less interested, I'll tell you that.


Why do I have to get a cold right before Office Christmas Lunch Week? Great new product: Puffs tissues infused with Vick's Vapo-Rub. Niiiiiice.


My favorite Indian Restaurant, India Delhi Palace, which used to be at 7th St. and Bell, then moved to 32nd Street and Greenway, has moved back to my side of town at 27th Avenue and Bell! Hooray! We ate there the other night and it was great!



Tuesday, December 11, 2007


As you probably heard, Led Zeppelin reunited last night for their first full concert in nearly 19 years. They've reunited for several causes and played a song or two in the interim, but last night in London was their first big show, played in tribute to Ahmet Ertegun (founder of Atlantic Records, who died a year ago; he was responsible for signing Led Zep to their first record contract. (Oh, and he also discovered Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and countless others -- Frank Zappa respected Ertegun so much he named his second SON after him.)

Anyway, there were like 18,000 seats available for this one-off concert last night in London, and more than (I'm told) FIVE MILLION PEOPLE put their name on the waiting list for those 18.000 tickets.

Now, I grew up in the 70s, and you can call me a heretic or whatever, but: I'VE NEVER THOUGHT LED ZEPPELIN WAS THAT GOOD.

I grew up in the Chicago area as a kid. You couldn't NOT hear blues music on the radio if you were curious about those odd "FM" stations back then. I knew who Willie Dixon was. I knew who Muddy Waters was. I didn't listen to the blues station all that much, but I knew it was there. I had friends and cousins with blues records.

So the first time I heard Led Zeppelin was "Whole Lotta Love." Something told me I'd heard it before. Sure 'nuff: I found out later that Led Zep had pretty much purloined Dixon's "You Need Love," which Muddy recorded, changed the tune and gave themselves writing credits.

Mr. Dixon was not amused. The band had to give him a lot of money.

Anyway, as I got older, I didn't really buy any of the bands you all were buying when we were teenagers. As rock and roll went, my interests were pretty much limited to the Beatles, Stones, Leon Russell (BIG TIME Leon fan here) and Frank Zappa.

(Come to think of it, that's still pretty much all the rock and roll I listen to. )

I never thought about buying a Led Zeppelin album as a kid 'cause EVERYBODY ELSE had them.

Oh, and I HATE Led Zeppelin 4, the so-called "ZOSO" album with Black Dog and Rock and Roll and Stairway to Heaven, etc.
Talk about a one-sided album. The whole thing has been played into the ground to the point that I can't imagine there's a person on earth, in the darkest depths of some as-yet-undiscovered island, where the entire population can't hum "Stairway to Heaven." And side 2 of that album REALLY, REALLY SUCKS.

Finally, around 1975 or so, Led Zep finally put out an album with two song that I like: Physical Graffiti. This album has Kashmir and Trampled Under Foot on it. That's all I know. And I didn't buy that because it was a double album and I didn't want three sides that I probably wouldn't like.

My point is, I'm glad the guys (the three of them still standing, that is) still have it. I'm glad they can still get on stage and rock the house. I'm glad they got over the fact that deep down they hate each other's guts.

But if this one-off becomes a tour, I ain't goin'.

Oh -- and speaking of bands that I absolutely CAN'T STAND except for one or two songs: Pink Floyd. If THEY were able to put their differences behind them and tour once more, experts say that could easily ask $300 a ticket and sell out stadiums. But I wouldn't be there. The only two songs by them I really like at "Us and Them" (which gets played too much) and "Free Four" which never gets played anymore because it's not the 70s, and the DJs on KDKB aren't stoned all the time.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Ever be standing in an elevator, and somebody says something that makes you bite your lip until you get off the elevator so you don't laugh hysterically?

This just happened to me. I got on the elevator at work and held the door open for two ladies who were each holding Starbucks coffee cups. One of them says to the other (in reference to their coffee): "How's yours?"

And she answers: "A little too sweet. I may have to put some coffee in this."

WHAT???? You have to put coffee in your coffee? And on top of that, you're going to use whatever the office machine is belching out to thin out the sweetness of a so-called "Tall" (read: small) cup of coffee that shouldn't have all that caramel/peppermint/mocha/whiskey/egg nog/pineapple/pork dumpling shit in it anyway? A $1 drink that you just paid $27 for?

Yeah, you go put more coffee in it. Then maybe this afternoon, when you order pre-sweetened tea with your lunch, you can take the edge off with a little Splenda.


Everyone has movies that, for whatever reason, make them stop and watch whenever they see them on TV. No matter where in the story you pick it up, no matter what you were planning to do or watch before you discovered it was on, all that takes a back seat to the movie.

For me, that movie is "Young Frankenstein." I can't explain it, but it's just, for me, the perfect comedy. Laughs in every scene.

But, if I may paraphrase Arlo Guthrie, that's not what I'm here to tell you about.

I'm here to tell you about movies that fall right underneath that level. Movies that you'll watch, gladly, if you really have nothing better to do. Movies that fascinate you for one reason or another.

For me, one of those movies is "Singin' in the Rain." It was on TCM the other night and I hadn't seen it in ages, so I watched it again.

I'm not a big fan of Hollywood/Broadway musicals. I've been IN quite a few of them, back in my high school and college days, but there's a big difference between being in them and watching them.

I think the reason I like "Singin' in the Rain" is because the subject matter of the plot pokes fun at Hollywood -- specifically the transition from silent movies to sound. It's obvious that most of the guys who worked on the movie (it came out in 1953) clearly remembered, and probably worked in, silent movies. So the gags were easy to come up with. Consequently, the movie works. It's called a five-star movie on a five-star scale. (Personally, I dock it a star because the whole "Broadway Melody" thing is clearly in there to pad the movie.)

But the title song sequence, which when you think about it must have amounted to so much water torture for Gene Kelly, is simply one of the best sequences ever filmed. And Donald O'Connor's "Make 'em Laugh" steals the freakin' movie.

You could make an argument that "Singin' in the Rain" is the best musical hollywood ever produced, and I wouldn't be able to argue, because like I said, I don't like musicals much.

It's definitely better than "South Pacific," a play I have had the privilege of performing in twice. I've always felt that "South Pacific" lacks a discernable plot. It plays more like a "MASH" episode, which is odd because the play was nearly 30 years old when MASH came on to TV (itself being based on a book and a movie).

But you sit there watching all these sailors and nurses and wacky guys, and hear all those songs, just to get to the major plot point that white trash Nellie Forbush from Arkansas can't bring herself to marry the man she loves because he has interracial children with a long-dead Polynesian woman? We waited three hours for that?

In both productions that I've been in, neither actress playing Nellie was able to convey that they were even slightly ANNOYED by such a situation. Why should they? People had come a long way since the 1940s by the time we were hoofing it in the 1970s. And it also appears that Rogers and Hammerstein were not exactly comfortable with portraying the star of their show as a bigot. This particular plot point isn't even addressed until about 15 minutes before the final curtain and the scenes are amazingly awkward.

So scratch that one off your "best musical" list. (Especially the movie, where Mitzi Gaynor, who was getting a bit long in the tooth, plays naive young Nellie, and Methuselah -- Er, Rossano Brazzi -- plays Emile. They go together like peanut butter and sardines. Plus, the movie seems to last almost as long as the war itself.)

But "Singin' in the Rain?" That's some cool, funny stuff...


This Friday is the first Friday of the month, so I will be playing at not one but TWO events downtown for the First Friday festivities: at 7 p.m. I'll be doing half an hour in front of the YMCA on Fillmore. Then, at 8:30, I'm due to play at the BRAND, SPANKING NEW location of the Willow House on West Van Buren. Get the addresses for both at www.myspace.com/tomtuerffmusic

Hopefully I'll see you there!


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