Two years ago, when my friend Mark was murdered in a botched robbery, two of the things I promised him at his funeral were that as bad as I felt that day, I'd try to again find joy in my life, and secondly, to listen to more new music; a big part of our lifelong friendship had been a shared love of music, but with kids, and career, I'd fallen behind on music.
I think I've kept both promises.
A couple of years ago, my lovely bride got me Sirius Radio. It's got about a hundred channels, but I usually end up listening to only one channel: Little Steven's Underground Garage.
Little Steven is Steve Van Zandt, longtime guitarist for Bruce Sprinsteen's E Street Band. He's also the social conscience for the band, and perhaps America. Some time ago, he started the Underground Garage, channel 25 on Sirius Satellite Radio. My god, I love it. The basic format is rock and roll, but the format is pretty broad. Frank Sinatra's "Ring-A-Ding-Ding" and Elmore James' "Dust My Broom," for example, make the playlists on a regular basis. The dj's are awesome. They include legendary producers Andrew Loog Oldham and Kim Fowley, Dictators and sometime-MC5 frontman "Handsome" Dick Manitoba, lady rock pioneer Genya Raven and legendary Cleveland dj Kid Leo.
The best thing is that it's gotten me to buy or seek out new music. Well, not all new music... some of it is old, but new to me.
Besides the joy that my kids and my wife have brought me, and how much fun I'm having being in school, this music's brought me joy. I've kept my promises, Mark.
Here are some of the songs I've brought into my life, thanks to Little Steven's Underground Garage.
1. King of the Freaks- The Maggots
I think these guys are Swedish. This was one of the first songs I bought on Itunes. It's got the silliest chorus since Blue Swede's "Ooga-chuga" chorus on their cover of B.J. Thomas' "Hooked On A Feeling," but I like it.
2. Stranger In The House- The Paybacks
I love these guys. Okay-- these guys and a girl. I first heard this song on the Underground Garage on the way to work last year when I was still a teacher. I wrote the name and song down and had to wait for about six months for Itunes to finally have it. Bought it and discovered that the singer was not a guy with a high-pitched voices and a two-pack-a-day habit, but a woman.
3. World of Dreams- The Cake
Heard this one and "Baby That's Me" on the Underground Garage and fell in love with them. The Cake sound like the Crystals and the Shirelles, and I assumed that they were from the same genre. Discovered that they were not African-American and not from the early sixties, but white and from 1967. How cool was that to homage those groups in 1967? Couldn't purchase these songs on Itunes, but Samurai Frog, my favorite music and movie afficianado, had them both and shared them with me.
4. What's Happening?!?!- The Byrds
This song is unusual in that David Crosby sang the lead on it; Roger McGuinn usually sang for the Byrds. This is pretty funny given that Crosby is considered on of the finer vocalists in rock music, particulary with his friends Graham Nash and Stephen Stills.
5. Love Lies Dying- The Del Lords
I saw these guys once, opening for someone. I think it may have been Lou Reed, in 1990-- Mark and I went to that show.
6. I Don't Know- The Rolling Stones
Just when I think I've heard every Rolling Stones song there is, I hear one that I somehow missed. I heard this one while The Evil Dictator and I were driving back from Bubs' party a couple of weekends ago. Downloaded it a day or two later.
7. The Beginning- Bubble Puppy
After buying this song on Itunes, I looked this group up and discovered that they were a mid-sixties Texas psyechedelic group that only released one album. Sometimes you get it right the first-- and only-- time. This song will play in my head for days at a time.
8. Time Will Tell- Holly Golightly
First heard Holly Golightly when I watched Jim Jarmusch's great movie Broken Flowers; "There Is An End," a song she did with the Greenhornes, plays at the beginning and the end of the movie. A couple of weeks ago, I heard "Time Will Tell," loved it the first time I heard it, and bought it on Itunes the next day. I found myself listening to it two and three times back to back. I love her voice and her song-writing.
9. Take It Inside- Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes
Southside Johnny usually gets overshadowed by that other guy who came up in the clubs of Asbury Park, New Jersey, but once in a while he has a little gem, including this one, which is about helplessly watching a lover drown in substance abuse.
10. Hell's Coming Down- Primal Scream
I keep hearing songs that I like by these guys. Looked them up and discovered they were from Scotland, they've been around a while (1982) and the singer used to be Jesus and Mary Chain's drummer. This is from their most recent album, Riot City Blues.
I'm feeling pretty good these days-- joy and music are in abundance. I finished my summer school class today, so I'll have a little time for a couple of weeks. If I get ambitious, I'll post these songs in my Boxnet.