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Author Archives: kblumenau

Killer Queen.

For all those people yearning to hear me sing again … all those people who think there just aren’t enough albums on Bandcamp … and all those people longing to hear John “T-Bone” Shelby immortalized in song:

Your moment has come.


Today marks the release of Ontario Queen of the Lakes, the latest Kurt Blumenau Bandcamp album.

It’s a collection of 14 songs, some songier than others, more or less inspired by the Rochester, N.Y., I grew up in. (Some of it may leave you wondering if, indeed, I grew up at all.)

Mark Knapp, the drummer from my high school garage band Fried Pig (you’ve read about him at least once here), lends his presence to a bunch of the songs. It’s not quite Planet Waves, as reunions go, but I’m happy it happened anyway, and I hope to do more with him.

For now we’ll content ourselves with this: Ontario Queen of the Lakes, featuring pick hits such as “In Canada They Do Remark’ble Things,” “Winter Track,” and “I Found Love (at the McQuaid Invitational),” this last being surely the finest song ever written about growing up in western New York.

It’s a free download, which means you don’t have to pay anything to possess your very own copy, or even five of your very own copies.

And, as always, I will extend great personal goodwill and bonhomie to anyone who sends me a photo or screenshot of a Queen of the Lakes song being played on their iTunes, phone, or other media device. (I keep making this offer and no one ever sends me any; I guess I’m gonna have to put up cash, one of these years.)

Go. Listen. Enjoy. Walk in peace.


Hidin’ from the wind and the rain.

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Len O’Kelly at 45 Ruminations per Megabyte reminded me that Jan. 5 marked the 45th anniversary of Bruce Springsteen’s first album release.

Which reminded me that the first Aerosmith album, according to most sources, came out the same day and has also recently hit the big four-five.

There was a time when I would have told you with a straight face that the first Aerosmith album was their best. That was before I became acquainted with the flamethrowing genius that is Rocks.

If you’re of the right mindset, though, there’s still a lot to like about Aerosmith:

– It’s bare-bones. Like, band-playing-its-live-set-in-the-studio bare-bones. And that’s always good, because even if you don’t like the material (or even the band), you know you’re getting the core of what they have to give.

There’s no producer putting the music in a dress, nor outside song-doctors shining up the tunes. What you hear is what these five guys (and one unobtrusive guest) have to offer.

– It sounds all trebly and crappy like good garage-rock should.

Everybody always said Aero was trying to copy the Stones, and no doubt that’s correct. But when I listen to their first two albums, the suburban trashiness of Nuggets is more what I hear — it sounds like they’re ripping off that Troggsian basementy goodness that Lester Bangs waxed so eloquent about.

I find that positive because it bespeaks humility (would you rather be in a room with a band that wants to be jaded limo-riding royal fops like the Stones, or with a band that has Count Five in its heart?) and perhaps even that rarest of rock n’ roll qualities, a sense of humor.

(The truth is nowhere near so positive, I have to admit. Joe Perry has written that the band knew they sounded flat and crappy on their first album, but they lacked the cojones and experience to say anything about it. I’m sure they would have sounded all Zep II steamroller if they’d had a choice. I know what I hear on the finished vinyl, though, and it’s something closer to the Chocolate Watch Band.)

– It’s an authentic slice of rock history. My perception is that every good-sized U.S. city had, in the early ’70s, at least one hard-rock/boogie band (and probably a couple) grinding it out at bars, high schools, colleges, and wherever else they could gather a crowd. They stole riffs to churn out their own “originals,” augmented them with a ragbag of familiar covers like “Walkin’ The Dog,” and spent as much free time as possible getting lit up on pot and cheap beer.

I further suspect that Aerosmith, at this stage, was really no better than most of their American peer bands. They later lucked into a good producer, and had the eternal good fortune to cough out a few really good riffs just when they were needed. But in 1973, you could probably find a band like Aerosmith – give or take some charisma – in hundreds of venues across America on any given Friday night.

So what we have here ain’t just an album. It’s documentary evidence of an American cultural movement. How ’bout that?

– It was big in Boston. The ARSA database shows only two stations outside of Boston picking up on the album before 1976, when Aero’s rise to fame drew renewed attention to their debut record. (Since you asked, those stations were WYSL in Buffalo and WDRQ in Detroit.)

But in Boston, the first Aero album was in the Top Ten on WRKO and WMEX from mid-July 1973 all the way through early December. (It also shows up a few times on the old WBZ in Boston, as well.)

That’s kinda a remarkable run. Brings to mind the days when Bob Seger owned Detroit but couldn’t get arrested anywhere else. He did OK for himself in the end too.

Anyway, enough yacking. Here’s one of the rhinestones that makes Aerosmith a pleasure to listen to. It’s a simple, totally unsurprising boogie number, originally drafted under the working title “Bite Me,” and featuring a primitive-to-the-point-of-moronic Steven Tyler harmonica solo.

What’s not to love?

This cold world would burn as well.

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As I wait for a #BombCyclone and a polar vortex to finish with their frigid duties, I’m staying warm with a glorious, off-balance, new-to-me bit of British pop.

Following up on this post, I bought myself a pair of XTC albums. One of them, 1984’s The Big Express, got its first spin today.

And this got its first five plays — of many, I expect:

I am coming to love the way Andy Partridge’s weird, herky-jerky pop twitches give way to huge sunny choruses, as they do so nicely here.

As far as I can tell, this got no measurable airplay anywhere at the time. XTC were not exactly chartbusters at the best of times, but The Big Express was an especially slow seller Stateside (No. 181!)

Wiki indicates the song was never chosen as a single, and of course it never shows up in the ARSA database. The Big Express shows up on only one chart, from an alternative station in Calgary.

A shame — this would have sounded golden on college radio stations everywhere, shaking the basement of the student union on Saturday afternoons.

And while it’s probably just a little too flaky for mainstream pop, that chorus would have sounded pretty great in Casey Kasemland too, maybe sneaking in at Number 34 for a week or two as a wild-card made good.

(“I thought I was writing a real sweet pop song,” Partridge said later. He was.)

One foot, etc.

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In 2017 I ran approximately 633 miles — the last three point five of them at about nine this morning, wearing two hats a facemask and multiple layers, in a gentle chill down along the Lehigh River and back up Main Street through the middle of Northampton borough, past the Roxy Theatre where KISS and Billy Joel once played.

(Not on the same bill.)

That distance equals an out-and-back to Montpelier, Vermont; Lynchburg, Virginia; or Mississauga, Ontario, all with mileage to spare.

Or I could have gone one way straight out all the way to Louisville, Kentucky, or Saint John, New Brunswick, again with mileage to spare. (Alas, I finished six miles short of  achieving a one-way trip to Chicago.)

Somehow, it never occurs to me each year to push off and just keep going. Oughta make all that distance add up to something, you know.

National and international chaos aside, 2017 was actually a pretty great year for me in a whole bunch of significant ways. But based on my current disinterest in shoveling out the I-me-mine, I don’t feel like sharing most of it. Maybe it will winkle out over time; no great loss if it doesn’t.

I don’t see myself writing here all that often in 2018. I have also learned to never say never.

Who knows? New things are bound to turn my head, and that urge to write never totally goes away. In fact, I am looking at something in another browser tab right now that has at least three short blog posts in it — things no one but me will care about, certainly, but the words will come out anyway, and maybe they will find some other set of eyes to entertain.

Now I have shut the other browser tab and broken off the Grateful Dead shows I was downloading so I can shut down this machine and go sleep my way into the new year.

We will see what mileage is behind us a year from now.

People here like to shake your hand.

Ray Charles is Utica. And, for a golden minute or so from 1985, so are you:

It was pure coincidence that this clip came topped and tailed with stylish Tonight Show “More To Come” bumpers; I figured that was an added bonus.

All the crap you can handle.

As has so often been the case in the past, you can blame my man Jim Bartlett for this one.

I learned from JB’s Twitter feed that a YouTube user called RwDt09 (you can call him R, or you can call him w, but ya doesn’t has to call him 09) has compiled a series of videos that assemble all the opening credits for each year’s new network TV series. The compilations start in the early ’60s and continue at least through the mid-’80s.

Of course these videos have that classic Internet stickiness: Like peanuts (or beers) at a bar, you can’t stop at one.

It’s a trip to see the intros to all these shows you forgot existed, or never even knew about in the first place — interspersed, from time to time, with shows you know as well as the roads you drive home. (One fine example can be found early in the 1972 video, where the pineapple-flavored nonsense of The Brian Keith Show gives way to the mournful strains of “Suicide Is Painless.”)

If your IQ is getting bloated and you want to take it down a few notches (be honest — you wouldn’t be reading this blog if that weren’t so), you simply must check out the collection of the shows that debuted in mid-season 1979.

The writeup on Rw’s YouTube page sets the scene: TV wunderkind Fred Silverman, newly in charge at NBC, chose to roll out a bunch of debut shows in mid-season. ABC and CBS, unwilling to let Silverman steal a march on them, counterprogrammed with their own aggressive slates of new shows.

And everything sucked.

Well, maybe not quite everything. There are three dozen shows in the batch, and one or two of them look like they might have been charming.

(I was surprised at how well I remembered the opening credits to Angie; while it was nobody’s I Love Lucy, it looks like it might have been winsome enough. Or maybe the dungheap surrounding it made it look better than it was.)

But for the most part, the lack of intelligence, quality, creativity and class in this video will leave you dumbstruck.

Norman Fell as Stan Roper, prancing around with a toilet plunger? Check.

The warmed-over Saturday Night Fever “influence” (and I could have used rougher words than “influence”) of Flatbush and Makin’ It? Check.

All three of the Animal House ripoffs the networks programmed and quickly abandoned? Check, check, check.

The — I dunno, glamour or something, I guess — of four-episode variety-show wonder Presenting Susan Anton? Check.

Oh, and those are all just from the first half of the video. It doesn’t get any better in the second half.

The power to get into people’s homes all over the country is no small thing, when you think about it, and the programmers who had that power might never have used it so poorly and unimaginatively as they did that year.

I can’t imagine being an American working stiff in early ’79 and stomaching a diet of this day after day. Like, say you’re the manager of a rustproofing shop or something, and you get home from a day of work, and you cook yourself a pork chop and some Rice-a-Roni, and you watch this for three hours until it’s time to turn in.

Vast wasteland, indeed.


“That was my assumption.”

Looking for Christmas music you haven’t heard?

You could do worse than to look in the direction of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, where folk-rock singer-songwriter Sam Boer (using the nom de plume Samson Wrote) has produced a charming 21st-century-by-way-of-Tom-Lehrer take on the conception of Jesus:

“He says, ‘It’ll be immaculate’
She says, ‘You’re flattering yourself a bit.’ “


I found this, by the way, on Canadian music blog Grayowl Point’s annual roundup of holiday music. That merits a visit too.

In case you don’t feel like going, here’s another pick hit from Grayowl Point: British Columbians jonathan inc.‘s drifty, unhurried take on “The Little Drummer Boy.”