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A song in the cards.

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My sense of musical creativity continues to be submerged by the pandemic.

My drummer buddy Mark has sent me new mixes of the stuff we were working on a month ago, and through a combination of overwork and lassitude, I haven’t even listened to half of ’em yet.

(Mark is one of my Four Readers sometimes, so a note to him: Dude, I promise, I’ll get back into it. It’s not you, it’s me. The fact that I am writing here suggests that my interest in creating stuff has not totally gone. It will happen. Art is messy, and we are not ashamed.)

I did read something a little while ago, on the subject of musical creativity, that brought together several of my interests — sports cards, hockey, and a certain band I’ve gotten into in the past few years. So I’ll write about that.

(If you’ve ever heard me sing, you might be grateful that I’m spending the evening typing instead.)

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There’s an excellent site I’ve referred to before, called A Museum After Dark, that explains (or attempts to) the many cultural, geographical, and personal references in the songs of ur-Canadian rock band the Tragically Hip.

A little while ago I was reading the entry for “Fifty Mission Cap,” a particularly popular song in Canada, which tells the story of former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Bill Barilko.

Barilko, not usually known for his scoring, netted the goal that earned the Leafs the 1951 Stanley Cup. That offseason, he disappeared while flying to a fishing vacation in remote northern Ontario.

In his absence, the Leafs failed to win another Stanley Cup, giving rise to the suggestion that they would not win again until Barilko was found. In the end, it happened the other way around: The team won its first title in 11 years in April 1962, and about eight weeks later, Barilko’s body was discovered.

A Museum After Dark says that Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie was inspired to learn more about Barilko, and eventually to write about him, by reading about him on a hockey card.

The card — a recent issue recounting a historic event — looked familiar. And my “home office” is in the basement, near my sports stuff. So I went back into my binders to look.

And sure enough, when I bought two or three packs of NHL Pro Set ’91 — nearly 30 years ago, probably in some drugstore on or around the Boston University campus — I’d pulled the very same card that inspired Gord Downie to write a song loved by millions of his countrymen.

Still have it, too:

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The moral of the story, then, is that creative inspiration can come from everywhere — even from a bulk-printed, six-for-a-dollar piece of colored cardboard.

And now I’m rifling through my binders of cards, wondering what songs and stories are hidden in there that could bestir the imaginations of listeners.

Look at these examples from the binders. They’re singing something. But what? Minor key? Major? Waltzes? Country? Reggae? Funk?

It’s gotta be in there somewhere…

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Only for one night and no repeat.

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The finest evening of my concert-going life is being reissued later this week and I don’t imagine I’ll do anything about it.

On his website, Neil Young has announced some upcoming presentation — not sure if it’s a stream or a download — of the Crazy Horse show at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium on Feb. 16, 1991.

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My brother and I were relative newcomers to Youngland at that point. He was in college in Buffalo and willing to truck me around town so we scraped up $20 each for tickets and went to the show together. The openers were Social Distortion (nah) and Sonic Youth (I kinda liked ’em, my brother didn’t.)

Neil and the Horse, while not particularly functional offstage, were blowing off roofs on that tour. They were big and loud and ragged and vigorous and unsubtle and smoking. To put it another way, they’d run out of bubblegum. It made quite an impression on my young mind, and it remains the fondest of memories.

I should probably be looking forward to a chance to hear this again, fresh from Neil’s archives. But, nah.

Part of the problem might be my general disinterest in music of any kind at this point, which isn’t helping. But even when that passes, I don’t think I’ll be interested.

This is part of a longer-term pattern. Over the years, I have amassed numerous recordings (licit or otherwise) of shows I have attended, going back to my very first rock concert, the Grateful Dead in the summer of 1988.

There was the Steve Miller Band concert that drew half of Western New York’s teenage population, all yelling for “Jet Airliner” … Keith Richards and the X-Pensive Winos at Boston’s Orpheum Theater in ’93 … the Phish show the following summer that got me off that bandwagon for good and forever … Bob Dylan at Lehigh University’s Stabler Arena  … several Chris Robinson Brotherhood shows, all of them documented in this space … Robert Hunter at a tiny hall in downtown Allentown … and others.

(In fact, I suspect I might already have a rough audience tape of that Crazy Horse gig in Buffalo. I’ve either got that one or a show on either side of it.)

I saw ’em. I hit “download,” figuring I’d get to ’em someday. And I’ve never listened to them. Not a single one, except for one or two of the CRB songs, and those only on the day after the show. I liked most of the shows perfectly fine when I was in the room, but the tapes just don’t interest me in retrospect.

They all sit on a shelf (or on a hard drive, more accurately) and wait for … something. Not sure what.

What I should do is use ’em to generate blog content. Go back through various hard drives, listen, and write. Now might be a good time. It wouldn’t really tell anybody else anything they want to hear, but I’ve never let that stop me before.

On the other hand, it’s probably a good, healthy thing that I haven’t gone back and listened to those tapes. The world is teeming with music I haven’t heard yet. Why double back, even to the high points?

“Woonsocket stood undefended against its enemies.”

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While I wait for the yogurt to set up I will check in here with the latest.

(Yes, I make my own yogurt. A big batch every weekend, which then provides for my breakfast all week. This week’s pot of dairy’n’bacteria is setting up in the oven as I type this.)

What’s new?

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Boss gave me the weekend off in exchange for having busted my arse all week. I am deeply and unironically appreciative.

Of course, I am also appreciative just to have ongoing employment, so I would work 16-hour days all week if asked. Still, it is nice to get a little time to breathe.

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I used my morning off today to go to Rhode Island and give blood.

I usually give at a Red Cross blood center in Dedham, Mass. But they weren’t taking weekend appointments online, I couldn’t reach ’em by phone, and I wasn’t sure how welcoming they were to walk-ins.

It was important to me that I give this weekend. Who knows whether work will dominate my time next weekend, or whether donation centers will still be open, or whether I or someone in my family will be sick?

Anyway, the Rhode Island Blood Center in Woonsocket had an open appointment this morning. It turns out they’re only two miles farther from my house than the Red Cross center in Dedham. So south I went instead of east.

I was wondering if I was going to find a roadblock on Route 126, given that Rhode Island National Guardsmen are reportedly going door-to-door elsewhere in the state to find New York emigrants and order them to shelter in place.

But no, Woonsocket stood undefended against its enemies, from New York or elsewhere; there was no more hassle on the road than on any other day.

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Everything went fine, the people were friendly, and I ate a little packet of Fig Newtons afterward. Hopefully my stuff of life is useful to somebody in the Ocean State.

(It had better be, as I have no more to give until May 29.)

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“Welcome to Massachusetts. Now stay the f*&k home.”

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It looks like the Internet Archive’s Unlocked Recordings archive of vinyl rips has clomped to a halt, doubtless a victim of the universal ban on non-essential work. I hope it comes back someday.

Highlights of its last batch of posts include several spoken-word recordings of Milton’s Paradise Lost, and also something with the curious title of Viking!

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For 29 years now, March 28 has stuck in my memory as the day my maternal grandfather died.

He was the first of my grandparents to go, and the youngest, and his passing came somewhat more suddenly and shockingly than the others (as recounted in a long-ago Hope Street post). I don’t remember the specific dates of my other grandparents’ deaths, but March 28 never passes without thoughts of my grandfather.

I am pleased to report that March 28 now has another, more positive resonance in the Book of Days. After an extended labor, my sister-in-law gave birth yesterday afternoon to a daughter named Natalia. My first niece and her parents are all reportedly healthy and resting comfortably.

Now that I’ve got a nephew and a niece, I’m really going to have to do some research into this business of uncling.

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Babby.

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Music still sneaks into my life only occasionally. The music for the rainy drive to and from Rhode Island was Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters, which worked fabulously for the purpose.

I have also enjoyed diving into an airplay chart from Boston’s WMEX 1510 from this week in 1973.

There’s a whole lot of good stuff there that plays instantly in my mind as I read the song titles (“Love Train,” “The Cisco Kid,” “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life,” “Neither One of Us,” “Sail On Sailor”), plus some tunes that I don’t think of very often but that make me happy when I do (“Woman From Tokyo,” “Cindy Incidentally,” “Give It To Me,” and “Gudbuy t’Jane.”)

It had also been way too long since I’d heard Deodato’s version of “Also Sprach Zarathusra.” I think the combination of swaggering funk, classical pomp, and straight-faced absurdity is what America needs right now.

So, enjoy. It takes nine minutes to listen … but I’m guessing you’ve got the time:

Nonstop climate.

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I didn’t feel much like writing anything.

And then I went outside — where it snowed most of the afternoon and the snow is now turning into a raw sloppy twilit slush — to get the mail and bring in the trash barrel and now I really don’t feel much like writing anything.

What’s good? Well, I downloaded a free app that simulates a Moog Model D synthesizer. I don’t play keyboards on a phone any better than I play them in real life. But, swizzly noises! So you can probably look forward to a bunch of amateurish retro-twaddle on some future Bandcamp release. Patrick Moraz sleeps soundly.

(Maybe I will make my own Electronic Sound — the album noted keyboardist George Harrison made after buying a new Moog. One side of it allegedly consists not of Harrison’s playing, but of a demo given to Harrison by early synthesizer expert Bernie Krause. Perhaps the weakest Beatle-affiliated album ever … but Wiki informs us that Oregano Rathbone liked it.)

Speaking of which, my jams with my drummer friend are at a temporary end, simply because he lives in Boston and my office is closed so I’m not going there right now. And in the meantime, I have felt too work-squeezed to do much with the music we had recorded before the virus took over. I have a goal to get there, and I am sure the muse will flower again (do muses flower?), but I’m not there now.

I did just briefly review the past six or eight months of a Twitter account that takes screen shots of Wheel of Fortune clues and fills them in with rude or absurdist phrases and it made me laugh like a schoolboy so hooray for that much.

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… and, wow:

My completely random and unplanned name-drop of Patrick Moraz above made me look up the former Yes and Moody Blues synth-man on Wiki.  Which led me in turn to YouTube (this is a well-worn path, and littered with empty beer cans) to look up some example of his output.

And I am absolutely goddamned if the title track to Moraz’s 1977 album Out In The Sun isn’t purely delightful.

It’s equal parts progressive rock and yacht rock, with the mildest touch of South America. Imagine Nektar and Eric Carmen sharing a joint while listening to Antonio Carlos Jobim. This is pure Seventies summer, like having a warm vinyl seat stick to the backs of your thighs.

New-to-me sunshine music! Yeah, it’s been a pretty good day.

A joint and a prayer.

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As a follow-up to my mention last night of Duke Ellington’s famous 1956 gig at Newport, I present the firsthand reminiscences of my dad, as sent to me by email. I didn’t ask him for permission to reprint them, but I don’t think he’ll mind. He says:

I saw (and played the intermission for) the Duke Ellington band playing a formal dance at RPI in February 1962. Duke took all sorts of gigs to keep the band busy and the money coming in, including dances.

At one point in the program, though, they went into concert mode and played “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue,” almost 6 years after the epic Newport concert.

I knew the significance of the piece, and watched intently as the tune started and saw Paul Gonsalves light and puff frantically on a joint (on the stand at RPI!) as his solo approached. He got up and dutifully honked for whatever the requisite amount was (26 choruses???) and sat down. It was not really inventive, although it was somewhat rhythmic and swinging. But he satisfied the crowd – and the Man!

And I have often thought of that – and similarly Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” – as an example of the huge downside of doing something great once. You then have to do it every night for the rest of your career!

(My own personal response to this important paternal lesson has been to never do anything great, even once. It’s a trap.)

I let a song go out of my heart.

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I should probably be listening to lots and lots of music, given how much people on social media revere music as the cure for all ills.

I’ve barely heard a note the past couple of days, though. See, most of my listening takes place either while I’m messing around on my computer at night, or while driving to the train station.

I haven’t been driving much of anywhere lately. And since work from home demands longer hours, I’ve been so tired of looking at screens when I put my work laptop away that I don’t turn my own computer on.

I’m also trying to be a good doobie and not eat too much of the company’s bandwidth, given that many times the usual number of users are squeezing onto it at once. So, no streaming music while I work, either.

The thought occurred to me I should put on some Grateful Dead, to celebrate the whole idea of 18,000 people gathering in a hockey rink to watch magic happen. For whatever reason, I just … haven’t.

Since the pandemic descended, former Dead rhythm guitarist Bob Weir has postponed a tour, and former Dead bassist Phil Lesh has turned 80. The good old days of the Dead are a ways behind us now.

(A Dead-related note on Twitter did lead me back to the epic story of how a bunch of determined researchers tracked down the real-life location of the cover shoot for the band’s Workingman’s Dead album, which was photographed 50 years ago this spring. Go read that story. It’s a great example of how sometimes, when you let an errand dangle in the back of your mind like a loose string, you eventually get to tie it up.)

Even my new go-to, the Internet Archive’s Unlocked Recordings collection, has been hit or miss. There’s been a whole stack of Ray Conniff uploads there lately. Great.

I did find something with which to break my streak of several essentially music-free days, though.

I have no idea how Duke Ellington’s classic 1956 performance at Newport qualifies as “commercially unavailable.” But the Archive has posted it, and I’ve just listened to it.

(It turns out that the original 1956 LP release was significantly re-recorded in the studio. Maybe now that the full actual gig has been released, the cobbled-together 1956 LP is no longer in print. That’s the only guess I can make.)

Anyway, it’s not Duke’s most imaginative work. There’s a lot of blues, which anybody can play. And some essence of the magic of Paul Gonsalves’ celebrated long solo doesn’t quite make it onto tape.

But these are nitpicks. It’s the world’s suavest man and his road-sharpened band reminding the world that they’re wonderful. Duke can usually be counted on to remind you of the worthiness of mankind and the impending return of sunshine. This record was a good choice, I think.

Now that’s over, and I’ve switched to Tudor church music by Thomas Tallis. And y’know, this is pretty tight too. Big resonant soaring voices.

Since I don’t have to set the alarm for 5:30 a.m. tomorrow, maybe I’ll just camp out here for a few, enjoy the virtual church hall my basement has just turned into …

… and, y’know, just listen to some music.

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Checked out.

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I feel obliged to report back on Tomorrow’s Errand today, and let my Four Readers know that life is not so bad.

Short summary: My older son’s college announced Saturday afternoon that all students would have to be off campus by 5 p.m. Tuesday. Some exceptions would be made for special circumstances, but most students would have to leave on relatively short notice.

I made plans to retrieve my son today as soon as I could clear myself of some work obligations, which turned out to be about 2 p.m.

I imagined a lot of parents would be hastily descending on the college from all points north, south and west. I had strong forebodings that I’d get caught in a 45-minute standstill just to get into the parking garage. Then I’d stand in line for another hour waiting for one of those rolling hamper-carts, all while the Entitled College Mother in front of me torched the thoroughly blameless student staff in fluent Long Island-ese.

(Having grown up in the Northeast, my image of the Entitled College Mother speaks in a harsh, aggravated Long Island accent. I am curious to know how readers who grew up in other regions hear her — or indeed, whether they hear her at all. Perhaps she does not exist in the Midwest.)

Honesty compels me to report that exactly the opposite thing happened. I was waved right into the nearest parking garage to my son’s dorm, and found a good spot just around the first corner.

The school made plenty of hamper-carts available, and my son, having taken my pending arrival seriously, had already begun filling his. He had to wait a couple of minutes for an elevator, but once that passed, everything went smoothly.

A fair number of other people were coming and going with carts and boxes. But there were no hassles to be seen. (And no Long Island to be heard.)

To top it off, it was a perfectly nice day. Not warm warm, but clear, sunny, and warm enough to hint at nicer days coming. A promising almost-spring day.

There are still a lot of kids on that campus, and I’m not sure Monday and Tuesday won’t be busy.

But I lucked into a smooth load-out at a point in time when not a whole hell of a lot in America is going according to plan. My family is home, we appear to be healthy, and I still have a job that allows me to provide for us. Things will get worse and more complicated before they get better — for America as a whole, and probably under my little roof as well — but I will stay in the moment and be thankful they are not worse already.

I shot pictures the entire time I was walking around, and so you get “treated” to a batch of them:

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While prepping dinner, the positive resolution of today’s mission and the realization of my general good fortune inspired me to pour a few impromptu fingers of the calvados I keep around for celebratory measures.