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“Nothing good happens in films about airplanes.”

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If you’re spending the summer in a full-body cast in a faraway state, these are the jams you need.


The (Oh, Lord, can it truly be?) eighth Kurt Blumenau “solo album,” released on Bandcamp precisely four years to the day after the first.

The biggest influences this time around are probably Captain Beefheart and Jandek, if that gives you any sense of what kind of toe-tappin’ good time awaits.

There’s a song called “I Wiped My Hands on a Pigeon” … and an 18-minute guitar solo … and a song that sounds like you’re being dragged underwater in a cold sea behind a slow-moving trawler … and a song that starts with  a weird murky voice-mail I once got that sounds like the people didn’t know they were being recorded.

(I think there is at least one more “conventional” release in my pipeline, but it turned out not to be this one. You won’t want to miss that one either, I’m sure, when it comes along.)

Anyway: Go check it out. You certainly don’t have to buy it. Just by clicking the link and visiting the site, you’ll give me the happy illusion that somebody’s interested.

If you don’t even want to do that, here’s a taste you can enjoy without having to go anywhere at all:

Strumming my pain with his fingers, singing my life with his words.

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“You got real fancy instincts
But your mouth is so large
I think I see a hundred people in it.”

-Jandek, “They Told Me I Was A Fool”

Let us now praise famous men.

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Us pop-music bloggers live on anniversaries, so here’s one that oughta be a national holiday:

This week in 1975 was the 21st and final week in which Grand Funk Railroad had a U.S. Top Ten single.

The anal-retentives in the crowd will remind us that “Grand Funk Railroad” never actually had a Top Ten single. All four of the band’s Top Ten hits (and a couple of its lesser ones) happened after it split with original manager Terry Knight and dropped the “Railroad” from the end of its name.

True enough, this. But the name Grand Funk Railroad is so majestic, so redolent of glory, it begs to be used in full. Like John Maynard Keynes, or Ford Madox Ford, or Drungo LaRue Hazewood.

If I work the Time and Date Calculator correctly, the timespan between GF(R)’s first week in the Top Ten (Sept. 8, 1973) and its last (June 14, 1975) was 92 weeks.

So, during its purple stretch, the band had one of America’s 10 most popular songs almost one out of every four weeks — and there were a couple other weeks when it wasn’t far outside the Top Ten. Not a bad run at all.

The band’s final Top Ten entry, in my opinion, has always been its best.

“Bad Time” is worlds away from GF(R)’s early days as ear-bleeding, knuckle-dragging, festival-entrancing sludge-rockers.

The song doesn’t really sound much like the band’s other hits, either. It’s pure polished pop, a full pack of high-school bubblegum — complete with chiming rhythm guitars; a tight, hummable eight-bar guitar solo; a snare drum that pops like a locker door shutting; at least three expertly layered keyboards (I hear piano, Hammond, and clavinet); and even a string arrangement (a string arrangement!)

“Bad Time” found GF(R) working with super-pop producer Jimmy Ienner (Stamford High ’63) and arranger Tony Camillo (he did “Midnight Train to Georgia”), and it’s possible that, in their esteemed presence, the four sweathogs from Flint, Michigan, just stood in a corner and played what they were told.

No matter. All these years later, it’s what’s on the wax that matters.

And what we have here is a perfect piece of power pop; a timeless evocation of the complications of love; and one of the pound-for-pound finest singles of the Seventies.

The rest of America started getting sick of it this week 42 years ago, but it’s a song that (at least in my house) has never, ever overstayed its welcome.

OK, another Sgt. Pepper’s-related comment.

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I owe this one to Jim Bartlett, having followed a link in a long-ago post of his to Jeff Roteman’s all-encompassing KQV Pittsburgh tribute site.

Apparently, in February 1974, KQV commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival in America by holding an event called “Pepperland ’74.

Through on-air contests, KQV handed out 1,400 masks of the Beatles’ faces as they appeared during the Sgt. Pepper’s era.

The masks functioned as entry tickets to one of the city’s most storied performance venues, the Syria Mosque. Once inside, participants got to hear Beatles music, win Beatles prizes, listen to a live band, and eat fish and chips washed down with — yup — Dr Pepper.

Of course, Sgt. Pepper’s wasn’t a decade old in 1974, so I’m not sure why the masks and the event theme were so strongly linked to it. Maybe “She Loves You ’74” just didn’t have the same ring. I guess the Cult of Sgt. Pepper was already ingrained in ’74, and the album was already accepted as the group’s high-water mark.

(Subsequent edit: I’ve since decided that Sgt. Pepper became the touchstone it did because (a) people liked to think of the Beatles as an integrated unit; and (b) Sgt. Pepper’s was the last time they all dressed up the same. They never established a single unified visual identity after that.)

While the event was probably about as much fun as you can have on a February night in Pittsburgh, the eyeless Beatles masks are distinctly unsettling. If you’ve ever wanted to imagine John Lennon as a pale, druggy zombie come to suck your brains out, you can see the pix here.

My only comment on the matter.

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It was thirty years ago today … that Fabio Salas gave a lecture in Santiago, Chile, on the 20th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s.

No, seriously. Such an event did in fact occur.

Wonder what he said about “Within You Without You”?

If they should bar wars …

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Yes. Yes, as a matter of fact, I did know. I know everything I want to know, and much more than I need to know, about this absurdly prolonged geek fantasia that won’t go away.

(I used to like the “Star Wars” franchise just fine. It was the first half of the Eighties. I was six to 10 years old at the time. The franchise ended just as it was going weak. Then it came back. It may not end again in my lifetime.)

I am reminded of a wisecrack featured long ago: “Little-known facts about Pet Sounds: There are no longer any little-known facts about Pet Sounds.” Along those same lines, there are no available facts about “Star Wars” that fans don’t know, and no facts about it that non-fans want to know.

Somehow, at this precise moment, the notion of a TV station in the Pennsylvania coal country trying to entice me with a list of little-known “Star Wars” trivia seems like the biggest, wrongest dead end in the world.

It could not have been more poorly aimed if an imperial trooper had hit the Post button.

The fourth.

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I do not overmuch care what Chris Robinson thinks about his brother Rich, John Mayer, Jerry Garcia, Hans Christian Andersen or anybody else.

What I do know beyond doubt is that I have now seen his band four times, and on three of those occasions, it’s made me smile contentedly and bob gently from side to side for hours at a stretch.

(They might have done it the fourth time, too, except I was on a hillside full of beer-swilling Donald Trump supporters in Scranton and I wasn’t in a big hurry to step on anybody’s blanket.)


Last night I caught the Chris Robinson Brotherhood (or, as the pre-event emcee called them, “the Chris Robinson Neighborhood”) at the Musikfest Cafe, a small room in Bethlehem that backs up to the old Bethlehem Steel blast furnace.

It’s the same place where Graham Parker and the Rumour floored me four years ago; this show was maybe not quite so life-affirming, but still a pleasure from start to finish.

How so?

-CR and his associates have introduced a new batch of tunes into their set lists in the past few months. I got to hear a bunch of them for the first time and they fit in nicely. (Some of CR’s originals wear Grateful Dead antecedents like “Bird Song” and “Cassidy” on their tie-dyed sleeves, but I’m fine with that.)

-CR was in fine fettle and strong voice.

-Lead guitarist Neal Casal remains one of rock n’ roll’s great left-hand men, and a pleasure to watch. He doesn’t miss a cue on guitar or backing vocals, and his hottest solo breaks almost always end with him pulling a bemused expression that says, “Well, shit, that came out better than I expected.” (He also seems a lot more comfortable using a Parsons-White B-bender than he was last fall.)

-Keyboardist Adam MacDougall spent less time than usual playing with his favorite ’70s ray-gun analog synth, and more time playing electric piano and Hohner Clavinet. Not sure if this is a permanent switch or just deference to the evening’s set list, but I liked it OK.

(I’ve thought more than once that I will someday get tired of that vintage synth sound MacDougall uses a lot, and his playing will one day magically cross the thin line between idiosyncratic and incessant. It hasn’t yet, and last night’s evidence suggests that maybe it won’t.)

-The CRB usually encores with a cover version. The first time I saw them it was a gorgeous version of the Grateful Dead’s “Candyman.” The second time, it was Dylan’s “To Ramona.” (They didn’t do an encore at the Scranton show, as it was a festival.)

Last night they pulled out a song I had no idea they even knew — “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” — and on top of that they played it perfectly, not mid-tempo like Freddy Fender but slow like Doug Sahm. (OK, maybe not quite as slow as Doug Sahm, but definitely on that end of the scale.)


If I have any beef with these guys, it’s maybe that the rhythm section, while perfectly competent, could maybe kick the band along a little harder from time to time. They’re pretty laid-back.

It also doesn’t appear that CR and company plan to offer the show as a download, which kinda disappoints me: Of the four shows I’ve seen, only one has subsequently been available for purchase.

Guess I’ll have to keep going back, then.