The Academy of Rock, David H. Hickman High School, Columbia, MO, February 4, 2004 – present (in case the Wikipedia page ever goes bye-bye…)

One day, I hope to produce an oral history of this after-school venture that ended up being, if not the accomplishment I’m most proud of in my public school career, the most fun I’ve ever had as a club sponsor (and I sponsored several). The first five years of the club’s existence seemed to produce something new and exciting each season–and not due to anything special I did other than seldom saying “No.”

A thumbnail history of the club, in need of some updating, currently appears on Hickman High School’s Wikipedia page. I am not confident it will last forever, so I am going to back it up right here.

Hickman High School boasts one of the most innovative music appreciation societies in United States public education. The Academy of Rock was founded in late January 2004 by students David Kemper, Dylan Raithel, James Saracini and teacher Phil Overeem. The general purpose of the club was initially to plan and execute a “Battle of the Bands” between Hickman and its Columbia rival, Rock Bridge, but soon grew to encompass several other enterprises.[citation needed]

Since its inception, the Academy of Rock has hosted nine Battles of the Bands, three at Hickman High School and two at a local rock-and-roll venue, The Blue Note.[20] These four events raised a total of nearly $7,000 to support what sponsor Overeem calls “demotic music” (in other words, music created by and for the masses). Each Battle has pitted four Hickman bands against four Rock Bridge bands, the winners being as follows: J Murda and the Musicians (Hickman, 2004), The Tipper Gores (Hickman, 2005), Wayfare (Rock Bridge, 2006), Graffiti Out Loud (Hickman, 2007), and Molly Trull and Anodyne (Hickman, 2008),[21] the Dorians (Hickman, 2010), the RPs[22] (Hickman, 2011),[23] Table for Five (Hickman/Rock Bridge, 2012), and The IRA (Hickman, 2013). The winning band not only has the privilege of hosting a summer benefit concert at the Blue Note but being staked to recording time in a local studio owned and operated by local Columbia musician Barry Hibdon, Red Boots. The four summer benefits have raised a total of over $3,000 for VH1‘s Save the Music Foundation,[24] Columbia’s community radio station KOPN,[25] the Muscular Dystrophy Association,[26] the Voluntary Action Center of Columbia,[27] the University of Missouri’s Thompson Center for Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders [1], and the effort to rebuild Joplin, Missouri, after the 2011 tornado. In addition, Academy of Rock-sponsored bands have also raised over $2,000 to assist in rebuilding after both the Sri Lanka and New Orleans disasters, and the group co-sponsored a fund-raiser for Hurricane Katrina survivors that netted nearly $27,000.[28] In 2013, The IRA, the winning band in that year’s Battle, opted to donate its recording proceeds to the Central Missouri Humane Society.

Besides the Battle of the Bands, the Academy of Rock also sponsors, mans, and programs KWPE 98.3 FM,[29] the school radio station (home to Rock Therapy[30]); curates the American Roots Music Listening Library in the school media center,[31] which has been funded largely by the Assistance League of Mid-Missouri;[32] partners with Columbia art theater Ragtag Cinemacafe[33] for “The Academy of Rock Showcase,” which gives high school bands the opportunity to hone their chops in front of audiences and make money; partners with University of Missouri radio station KCOU in a “Take-over Program”, during which eight pairs of Hickman DJs operate the college station for 12 to 16 hours in one- to two-hour shifts; sponsors a monthly music documentary series in the school’s Little Theatre; and coordinates a live performance series that has featured free unplugged concerts by artists ranging from nationally known acts like The Drive-By Truckers[34] (March 2005) and The Hold Steady (December 2006) to cult artists like former X co-lead singer-songwriter Exene Cervenka[35] (see video),[36] and Baby Gramps[37] to local Missouri musicians like Witch’s Hat, The F-Bombs, Bockman, and Cary Hudson.[38]

On February 19, 2009, the Academy staged an electrifying free performance by a contemporary of Muddy Waters and the inventor of folk-funk, Bobby Rush. The Academy of Rock has even made headlines in the national music press, thanks to a feature article by Lisa Groshong in the July/August 2005 issue (#68) of Punk Planet, and received a $500 “Music is Revolution” Foundation grant from Michael and Angela Davis, the former the original bass player for Detroit punk rock legends the MC5. Other recent developments in the club’s activities are to arrange performances for budding Hickman musicians at lunch on Fridays and coordinate after-school jam sessions, at which student musicians arrive, write their names on slips of paper, and drop them into buckets labeled according to their instruments. A supervisor then randomly draws a slip a piece from each bucket, and the four to five musicians whose names are on the slips must come to the stage and improvise a performance. In September 2007, in conjunction with Hickman’s student government, the Academy provided over 100 volunteers for the city’s first annual Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival.[39] and in October 2008, served as an artist-relations crew for one of the three featured stages at the second festival.

In 2008, University of Missouri student Chad LaRoche shot a brief documentary about the club to help those who are interested understand the club more clearly: Part 1[40] and Part 2[41] of the documentary are available on YouTube. A further technological aspect of the club spawned during that year was the “Rock Therapy” podcast [2], which featured Battle of the Band recordings, raw tracks from the concert series showcases, and the sponsor’s eccentric, lo-fi forays into the world of pop music.[citation needed]

April 2009 brought further recognition for the club: the national-award-winning regional magazine Missouri Life [3] featured the club in an article by John Hendel [4]. As soon as the 2009–2010 school year was under way, the Academy of Rock brought Pacific Northwestern punk-garage legends The Pierced Arrows (formerly Dead Moon) to the Little Theater stage for an October 13 concert-and-Q&A. In the spring of the same school year, in collaboration with the Missouri Arts Council, Theater NXS, and MO Blues Society, the club presented northern Mississippi bluesman and Fat Possum recording artist Robert Belfour in two workshops involving over 100 students. Also, again aided by a grant from the Assistance League of Mid-America, the club augmented its existing media center CD collection with a selection of American classical music.

The Academy of Rock initiated a new program during the 2011-2012 school year: the “Local Music Showcase”. This program was designed to expose Hickman students to musicians in their own community and facilitate conversations through performances and question-and-answer sessions that could serve to inspire students to pursue their own futures in music. The opening performance in the series, on November 10, 2011, featured Moonrunner [5]; on February 9, 2012, Columbia “indyground” rapper Dallas held court [6]. 2012-2013 was a very quiet year for the Academy of Rock, though, true to its mission, it initiated some new programs: a Sunday Night Showcase series at Columbia’s The Bridge [7], which featured concerts by Volatile, Space, Time, and Beauty, Ross Menefee, and The Pound Game, and a music-lesson scholarship [8], in partnership with The Columbia Academy of Music [9]. The scholarship offers $250 worth of lessons to one underclassman boy and one underclassman girl per year. The club also procured two grants, one each from the Assistance League of Mid-Missouri and the Hickman PTSA, to expand the school’s CD library [10]. Co-founder Phil Overeem retired from teaching at the end of the school year, turning the club reins over to Mr. Brock Boland.

Currently, Mr. Boland and his fellow English teacher Mr. Jonathan McFarland sponsor the Academy at Hickman; another English teacher, Mr. Jordan Smith (a former Academy of Rock member beginning in his ninth grade year) has overseen the establishing a branch at Columbia’s Battle High School. Yay, English teachers!

Diggin’ In The Crates, Spousal Style! (April 29th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

Sometimes, pictures really are worth 1,000 words (more like 500, in my case). I’ve posted four times in the last two days, so I am going to let this snap of Nicole’s work as weekend selecter carry the weight. As is frequently true with her when she takes control, she left honky-tonk, south Louisiana, and Fat Possum footprints behind.

(Oops: those are my Marc Ribot and Psychedelic Furs choices in there!)

Jumper on the Line: Diary Playlist 3 (April 22-28)

This playlist is an accurate record of a typical musical week in the Overeem residence and vehicles!

Plucked from History’s Dustbin (best recent purchase of an old record): No purchases of hoary artifacts this week–wah!

Grower, Not a Shower (old record I already owned that’s risen significantly in my esteem): Actually, a shrinker: I still like Joe Cocker! but no longer are the band and arrangements enough to balance the mannerisms and the somewhat whimsical interpretative choices.

Encore, Encore! (album I played at least twice this week): Roky Erickson’s You’re Gonna Miss Me–The Best of Roky Erickson. Undiluted, maniacal rock and roll. Also, the only R. L. Burnside record one truly needs: Burnside on Burnside.

Through the Cracks (sweet record I forgot to write about): Laurie Anderson and The Kronos Quartet–Landfall.

Coming Attractions (Sunday’s Children): Neil Young live, Zydeco Shootout at El Sid-O’s, The Fall, Etoile de Dakar.

Through The Ceiling (April 28th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

A busy day: grocery shopping, a six-mile walk, and late lunch/early dinner at Murry’s, then some well-earned lazing about with some drinks. I needed to knock out my update of best albums of 2018, which required a trip to the basement desktop and some iTunes and YouTube clicking around to test my musical judgement. However, while I was down in the inner sanctum, Nicole took over the house stereo, and her selections, bleeding down through the ceiling, gave me more pleasure than anything I was examining. (She has a knack for this; not many spouses in the world will crank up a Lee Dorsey jam in the bathroom while in deep pedicure mode!)

DJ Nicole’s Platters That Mattered:

Few things are more insane and addictive and wonderful in American music than Fred and Rose Maddox whoopin’ and hollerin’ through a country and western tune! And the band (often with future Stranger Roy Nichols on guitar) flat moves! Both Arhoolie volumes of “America’s Most Colorful Hillbilly Band” are the cat’s ass and will break up any excessive solemnity in your abode.

This isn’t the actual slab she spun (that was the first volume of Rhino’s stingy two [separate] disk Owens comp), but it contains most of its great tracks. Sharp band (guitar and drummer leaning toward rock), instantly recognizable singer and writer (“Under Your Spell Again” a great example: spare, focused, catchy, soulful), lean sound.

The McCoury fam’s waxed many great songs but few undeniable albums. This one’s close. Usually it’s about the tunes, and here they range from Frank Sinatra to Richard Thompson, whose greatest composition they outright take from him (the way Aretha did Otis with “Respect”). The playing and singing are always on point with this bunch.

A man and his idol. George bawled like a baby on his military bunk when he heard Hank had died–through a New Year’s Eve hangover, surely–so you can rest assured he handles these Hillbilly Shakespeare classics with TLC. I wish I had a full album link, but both of the Possum’s Hank discs are stellar.

OH YEAH! She also played R. L. Burnside all morning in the jalopy!

Short-shrift Division:

Neil Young: Roxy–Tonight’s the Night Live. Yes, you do too need it.

FLASHBACK: Boring Stories, Indeed–Springsteen and E-Street Bland, Live at Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis, 1999

Bruce & E Street

I used to commandeer a website called The First Church of Rock and Roll (b. 1999ish, d. 2005ish). While doing so, I assumed the persona of The Reverend Wayne Coomers, a Pentecostally influenced rock and roll ranter who held all music he encountered up to a single important question: did this move me? As I do on this blog, I seldom wrote about things that didn’t move me, but, on this occasion, I couldn’t stop myself. Nicole and I, for less than a ten-spot, had watched the much-missed Illinois band Local H just blow the doors off The Blue Note in Columbia, Missouri–two folks in the band, multiple chips on those four shoulders, and ENERGY! Plus: 45 minutes, and they were out. The next night–and we were most excited–we went to see Springsteen live for the first time. He’d hung the moon for me from ’75-’88…then I read some things…then he stumbled a bit…then he kind of rounded into a staid institution…but we had no reason he wouldn’t raise the short hairs on our necks live, especially reunited with his musical family. Here’s the story, without adjustments; I’d send you to the original site, but even The Wayback Machine can’t help there. I thought nothing dies here (that’s a fact)–that everything that dies will always come back. Guess I was wrong.

Sitting at a booth in a Bob Evans, the tension was ping-ponging between the four of us. Morning-after concert discussion–somebody finally asked the question I was fearing: “So what did you think of the show?” One might well wonder why it had taken nearly twelve post-show hours for someone to bring it up.

It had all started when, during a drunken evening, one of us had suggested a road trip to St. Lou to take in a Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band extravaganza. Nicole and I, long-time fans (perhaps an understatement in my case: Bruce was one of the reasons this music is my life), had never witnessed one of the great Rawk spectacles, and our two friends were among the benighted, but ready to dive in, in part as a birthday present for one of ’em.

I labored hours over a 3-cassette comp to prepare them, and, in the making, I found myself pretty damn re-amazed at the Mighty Greaser’s hard-fought hacking through lots of dark forests to keep his audience honest and his own bad self lean, mean and relevant. Not for him the fate of the protagonist of “Glory Days”; he’s long displayed a gift for getting inside beautiful losers to show us how to keep winning, or at least hold life to a draw. So I was primed to finally be there, and had every reason, given what his work had to say, to expect, well, more progress. Progress: a tangly concept any serious Rawk-lifer has to grapple with daily. Either it’s the end-all be-all in the face of rot, anathema to the Rawk ethic, or it’s the fucking hemlock that kills the basic feels-so-right urges that legions of garage rockers and die-hard rockabillies strive to strangle out of their axes. Where was Springsteen?

Motorheads don’t generally have ten guitars waiting in the wings, each on labelled stands with different tunings for different songs. On the other hand, Springsteen’s musical set-up–“big” horn, a willingness to use synthesizers and Spector-operatic piano, an odd aversion to expressing himself consistently, particularly through riffs, on guitar–doesn’t exactly lend itself to primitive noise (Wouldn’t it be fascinating, though, to hear him really strip his shit down, not like a Nebraska or The Ghost of Tom Joad, which were “folk” albums, but like, say, Pink Flag, or Ramones, or even New York? It’d certainly cut down on the pomp ‘n’ corn–if he’s reflective enough to notice, it’s, uh, shtick). That leaves writing. Surely he’d been writing. And there’s been no shortage of raw material for a working class hero to mold into an epater le bourgeousie for his increasingly comfortable, always snow-white audience, not in these here times.

So what’d we get? Sitting in the mezzanine, lined up straight-away center stage (a $45 ticket that would have been more than a third of his typical protagonist’s weekly salary–a very optimistic estimate, at that), we got:

1) Muddy sound: 4 guitars (it’s nice to get the gang together, but come on: platoon some o’ the bastards!) doing nothing much but strumming and grinding those plodding, unfunky-white-guy rhythms. Even Bruce’s and Miami Steve’s occasional solos were either arena-rocky or out-of-tune.

2) Umpteen VERY marginally-differentiated “Big Man” solos–the show/tour may be about loyalty and friendship, but my god, hasn’t the motherfucker grown a few chops? Maybe jazz and ’50s r&b has spoiled me (not to mention Randy Newman’s devastating parody on Trouble In Paradise’s “Life is Good”), maybe they are a bar band, but millionaires get paid to make some hard decisions.

3) 90% 1985-and-earlier catalog, arranged exactly the way they were played 1985-and-earlier. Even a bottlenecked “Born in the USA” was a by-the-numbers recreation of the demo version on Tracks. The only faintly new song was a Weavers-esque Guthrie-rewrite called “This Train,” which might be described as Springsteen’s “Forever Young,” one of the worst things in Dylan’s ouevre. And since I’ve mentioned the grouchy old fart, who spent years in limbo squeezing dollars from his back catalogue only to come roaring back again–heard “Things Have Changed,” from the Wonder Boys soundtrack yet, or Time Out of Mind? Nicole and I took a smoke break with a suspiciously large segment of the upstairs concertgoers and came to a mutual appeciation of Uncle Bawb, who, with the previously mentioned exception, hasn’t really ever given a shit about giving the public what it wants. OK, he’s disgusted, but, hey, who isn’t? And with about 10 years on Bruce, he sure isn’t showing signs of taking a fall-back position.

4) A dearth of spontanaeity. The only two moments that raised my short hairs to half-mast were the only radical rearrangement, of Tunnel of Love’s “If I Should Fall Behind,” where 3 E-Streeters got a verse, including Mrs. Bruce, who sounded a lot like Ronnie Spector–the chick should definitely sing more–and a weird Springsteen somersault in the middle of the third encore, as if to say, “OK, can I go now?” Actually, the old man didn’t really move too much throughout the 3-hour show–yep, he still does ’em, and he did sing pretty well, I admit. But a rock and roll show must be alive. Working hard ain’t enough. I’m sure Phil Collins sweats.

So, to crystallize it, he had nothing to say, other than, “These are my boys” (and they definitely got more props than the woman) and “I’m still here, but the Muse is all gone.” Where can he go from here? Hell, lots of places. How about a four-piece, or even a trio? How about taking on the WTO? How about collaborating with Patti, his wife (ala Double Fantasy)? Can his kids play yet (remember Old Skull)? He could get back to his roots–amazingly, he’s never done that before (perhaps to his credit, but it sure worked for McCartney). Or duet with Ed Hamell. The possibilities are much more open than he may think.

Back to Bob Evans. I said my piece (see above). One of our guests turned to the other and said, “I don’t feel like sharing right now…we’ll talk when we get home.” Pissed my ass off–nobody can disagree anymore, and they don’t know what they’re missing. True argument is the road to enlightenment. Perhaps Bruce won a new fan–albiet a 25-year-old that wasn’t familiar with him in 2000. Where’s she been? Is it unfair to expect the former “future of rock and roll” to at least function in the present, even if he is still donating major proceeds to our country’s food banks? Doesn’t he look in the mirror and sometimes realize that he’s fallen victim to Blue Oyster Cult Syndrome–becoming what he used to shake by the lapels? He used to hope he wouldn’t sit around thinking about ’em, but all he seemed to be beseiging his audience with at this show was boring stories from his glory days.

Many Things, Uncompromised–My Favorite Records of 2018, A Third the Way Out (April 28th, 2018)

Damn–50 solid records already and we ain’t half finished? I’d say that’s a solid rebuke to the sourpusses who are ever pronouncing our music a corpse. And I’d go a mite further and say the list also incorporates a rebuke to those knicker-twisted souls who are wondering when our music is gonna take on, you know, the thing–several of the slabs listed below do so and how, without spoiling their sounds (politics can do that, you know). Take a dive into something below that’s mysterious, I invite you.

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  1. Tracy Thorn: Record
  2. Nona Hendryx and Gary Lucas: The World of Captain Beefheart
  3. Jinx Lennon: Grow a Pair
  4. Joe McPhee: Imaginary Numbers
  5. Chloe x Halle: The Kids are Alright
  6. Quelle Chris & Jean Grae: Everything’s Fine
  7. Berry: Everything, Compromised
  8. CupcaKe: Ephorize
  9. Mary Gauthier and Songwriting with Soldier: Rifles and Rosary Beads
  10. Sons of Kemet: Your Queen is a Reptile
  11. John Prine: The Tree of Forgiveness
  12. JPEGMAFIA: Veteran
  13. Superchunk: What A Time to Be Alive
  14. Evan Parker, Barry Guy, and Paul Lytton: Music for David Mossman
  15. Rapsody: Laila’s Wisdom
  16. Young Fathers: Cocoa Sugar
  17. Sly & Robbie and Nils Petter Molvaer: Nordub
  18. Orquesta Akokan: Orquesta Akokan
  19. Jonghyun: Poet / Artist
  20. Halu Mergia: Lalu Balu
  21. Jeffrey Lewis: Works by Tuli Kupferberg
  22. Various Artists/Sahel Sounds: Field Recordings
  23. Toni Braxton: Sex & Cigarettes
  24. Car Seat Headrest: Twin Fantasy
  25. Various Artists: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun…and Rights!!!
  26. No Age: Snares Like a Haircut
  27. Meshell Ndegeocello: Ventriloquism
  28. Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy
  29. Dana Murray: Negro Manifesto
  30. Shopping: The Official Body
  31. Ebo Taylor: Yen Ara
  32. Kris Davis and Craig Taborn: Octopus
  33. Tal National: Tantabara
  34. Shame: Songs of Praise
  35. Hot Snakes: Jericho Sirens
  36. David Murray (featuring Saul Williams): Blues for Memo
  37. Rich Krueger: Life Ain’t That Long
  38. Alice Bag: Blue Print
  39. Bettye LaVette: Things Have Changed
  40. MAST: Thelonious Sphere Monk
  41. Tallawit Timbouctou: Takamba WhatsApp 2018
  42. Amy Rigby: The Old Guys
  43. Kendrick Lamar, et al: Black Panther—Music from and Inspired by the Film
  44. Apolo: Live in Stockholm
  45. Princess Nokia: A Girl Cried Red
  46. Superorganism: Superorganism
  47. Yo La Tengo: There’s a Riot Goin’ On
  48. Laurie Anderson and Kronos Quartet: Landfall
  49. Ceramic Dog: YRU Still Here?
  50. Ibibio Sound Machine: Eyio


  1. Sonny Rollins: Way Out West (Deluxe Reissue)
  2. Neil Young: Roxy—Tonight’s the Night
  3. Gary Stewart: “Baby I Need Your Loving” / “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yester-Day”
  4. The Revelators: In which the Revelators perform live renditions of selections from the Billy Childish songbook
  5. Against All Logic: 2012-2017
  6. Entourage: Ceremony of Dreams—Studio Sessions & Outtakes 1972-1977
  7. Camarao: The Imaginary Soundtrack to a Brazilian Western Movie

A Playlist of the Top 30 or So

Oh…and fuck Kanye West.

Square and Straight (April 26th, 2018, Columbia, MO)p

I believe today was the third time I’ve listened to to this record in 2018. I’ve worn it out over the years, and 36 years since I first was able to lay my hands on it–it was out of print during my formative years–my enthusiasm for it is undimmed. For a time, it was my least favorite of the four regular-issue “true Velvets” studio albums (plus the deep, deep desert-island-pick 1969 Velvet Underground Live): I used to feel Nico’s presence and the last two tracks really marred it, as well as that Lou’s writing was far improved by The Velvet Underground and Loaded. In fact, I wondered why it seemed to be the most famous VU album of them all–they clearly got better, right?

My love for The Velvet Underground and Nico has evolved. Though my musical tastes are very wide-ranging, and though I have a hunger for any work of art about unexplored and taboo territory– epater la bourgeoisie, bring it on!–I am honestly one of the squarest, straightest dudes on the planet. The mere existence of BDSM culture makes me giggle; I’d never shoot anything into my arm (gimme a beer!); I’ve never encountered a dealer except for a few brief seconds up the street from Poe’s old walk-up in Baltimore (I giggled and waved him away); my gender and sexual identities might as well be birthmarks (for the record, sometimes I think they actually are for us, but sometimes most definitely not). I guess what I’m saying is, though I love Lou’s writing in general, and on this album appreciate its expressions of remorse, compassion, insecurity, desperation, catharsis, and epiphany, I’m definitely not as stimulated by the subject matter he presents on this album as I used to be. I also used to think his artistic persona was the pinnacle of cool, and that the personae he created for his songs were pure genius; just engaging with those inventive illusions was extremely exciting, since I had a slim chance of meeting such folks in reality. I am not demeaning these past enthusiasms–they are the output of genius, a genius I still think had more amazing creations ahead.

What I go to The Velvet Underground and Nico for these days is the noise, from Cale’s celeste on “Sunday Morning” to Nico’s three drones (I don’t hear them as singing, I hear them as pure sound) to my favorite rhythm guitars in music history (true for me throughout this group’s recordings) to the breaking glass and vacuum cleaner-like sounds in “The Black Angel’s Death Song.” Threaded throughout: that ominous Cale viola–on “Venus in Furs,” it sounds as if it’s advance fanfare for Yeats “rough beast” slouching toward Bethlehem. It’s the sound that’s most exciting, and most original, especially since its abrasions, distortions, and explosions are integrated into palatable pop structures (for the most part), including a Motown rip. I usually get up to turn up the stereo when “Death Song” and “European Son” approach; I admit I used to skip that pair fairly frequently, and now they’re fave raves.

More than anything else on this immortal record, the noises are what meaningfully jolt me out of myself these days. Pure pleasure might be counterrevolutionary; does that mean impure pleasure is revolutionary? In this case, the impurities are those committed against euphony, an artistic crime I’ve come to treasure that reminds me of the limits of a square and straight ear.


I also spent some time with Restless Records’ You’re Gonna Miss Me: The Best of Roky Erickson. Though it does not include Roky’s groundbreaking work with The 13th Floor Elevators, it’s a neat, well-selected single-disc tour of the man’s demented but often moving solo work. I’ve said it before, and I know I’ll say it again: Erickson is in the top strata of history’s white rock and roll singers–yep, he belongs with Jerry Lee, Elvis…name your own top four and just add this Austinian. His range extended from blood-curdling screams to sweet, lullabye-like Hollyisms; in the spaces between, he could drive an uptempo number to a Little Richard-level intensity, and always present was a hint of his Texas drawl–don’t you like to hear place in a singer’s attack? None of those qualities would have mattered much if he didn’t also write indelible, dream-invading songs that would have occurred to no one else. I imagine most folks would chalk up their unique strangeness to mental illness; I have no research to support this, but I’d like to believe that, at least on some level, Erickson was engaged in a conscious, intentional creative process that had nothing to do with his psychological state or the drugs that might have been in his system (at the time of creation, or prior). I might have actually reached for this compilation because its contents tend to make better sense in Trump’s America:

Hmmm…maybe not so loony after all, eh?

Short-shrift Division:

Called upon on my Facebook wall to “explain” Wayne Cochran, I got caught up in some clips of the mightily-coiffed Sixties stage-shaker, who mos def was James Brown-influenced (to say the least, perhaps) but definitely had his own kind of thing. Enjoy this quick Cochran playlist, and pass the hairspray:

I’ve Got Just About Everything (April 26th, 2018, Columbia, MO)

Bob Dorough, Arkansas native, agile pianist, crafty songwriter, wry and affecting singer, passed away at 94.

It’s weird. I’d just been thinking recently about him, wondering how he was doing. The world loves him mostly as the mastermind behind Schoolhouse Rock; legions of teachers, I assure you, envy the economical yet specific effectiveness with which he educated a generation about grammar, math, civics, and more. Some know he teamed, rather unaccountably but very successfully, with Miles Davis, particularly on a timeless Christmas original. Jazz buffs know him as, among other things, a bit of a Hoagy Carmichael 2.0, for “Baltimore Oriole,” “Johnny One-Note,” and “Devil May Care.” He’s famous with me personally for his witty and true “Love (Webster’s Dictionary Definition)” and his torch-carrying for the regular white guy vocal tradition begun by such humble and soulful folks as Tommy Duncan, Jack Teagarden, and Carmichael, and extended radically forward by Peter Stampfel and other eccentrics.

YouTube does not have Dorough well-covered, nor does Spotify. Do me and yourself and Bob’s memory a kindness and seek out the zingy, delightful Too Much Coffee Man, the rare and revelatory This is a Collection of Pop Art Songs (with the definitive “Love”), and the surprising early ’70s 45rpm EP Rainy Day Garden, under the 44th Portable Flower Factory moniker, featuring Dylan, Tempts, and Youngbloods covers.

Please honor his life and career by sampling this playlist. That is all.

Heavy Makes Me Happy (April 24th, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

Have you heard of the Mexican psych-metal band Apolo? Well, neither had I, until I received my most recent installment in Joyful Noise Recordings‘ so far very fruitful White Label Series. Each month, a different established artist, in April’s case Teri Gender Bender, of Le Butcherettes and Bosnian Rainbows fame, selects a recording they personally endorse. I am someone who’s very selective about where I send my music money–even though it may seem like I must go broke–but I felt this series was a great gamble. In a fantasy sense, I almost feel like an A&R rep is reporting to me with a fabulous find about which I know absolutely nothing, and that the rep’s expertise guarantees that at least I’m going to be interested. I’ve enjoyed the first three entries in the series–February’s release, Berry’s Everything, Compromised is even in my top 10 for the year–and Apolo’s Live in Stockholm is no exception. If you’re in the mood for some heavy but movin’-movin’-movin’ music, I’d give this album I try. What little psych-metal / -rock / -punk I’ve heard has tended to get mired in rather dated trippy-dippiness, bald-faced derivitiveness, and corny posing; if you consider the original inspirations for such bands, they themselves were the cream skimmed off the top of a mostly sour batch. Apolo plays with a difference. With a bite and intensity. Perhaps I should let Teri’s liner notes refine my own commentary (especially since the singing’s en Español, and she’s fluent and I’m not):

“Their music and lyricism is a representation of Mexico’s fiery youth, of an unsettled fight against corruption imposed by the brutal government that forever tries to attenuate hopelessness as a normality. The eerie, indigenous, mythical storytelling captured in the native tongue of our historically rich country expresses the various forms that light and love can morph into. Their growth has become undeniable because they persisted and turned their surroundings into metaphorical bullets loaded within their music”

Here’s a track from 2011 that might hammer the argument all the way home (note: they’ve gotten tougher in seven years):

The Joyful Noise Series is supposed to be subscription-only, but looks like you can buy it here. If you need some heaviness to make you happy, I’d prescribe it, because it worked for me.

In more heavy developments, Apolo’s assault led me to crave more riffage and fury, so I reached back into my past. There’s nothing like teaching middle school and discovering you have a musical jones in common with your kids, and in those days, the jones was Local H. “Bound for the Floor” and “Copacetic” had lit our fuses, but unlike me, they didn’t seem to obsessively follow folks’ careers–singles kids, pretty strictly. When Here Comes the Zoo came out in ’02, they were none the wiser, so I brought it with me one morning, and before long, we were all chanting, “We’re all defanged and declawed! / Creature-comforted!” We even had a running joke about Chinese pugs, and were a whisker away from being official arms of the band’s street team (Midwest rock and roller unity) before policy interfered. Anyway…those were the days, and I always thought this record was underrated:

At my age, I can only handle so much heavy, so after those two burners, I turned to another new recording I was tipped to by the mercurial jazz and metal scribe Phil Freemah of Burning Ambulance. After an hour of listening trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer improvising impressionistically over the grooves of none other than Sly & Robbie, I was not only in a perfect contemplative state for reading, but also I’d moved a new slab into my pantheon for this trip around the sun. Dig:

On the Fly, Again (April 23rd, 2018, Columbia, Missouri)

Just a day of mostly disparate listening.

I like racket, especially black racket, right now, when (as is unfortunately usual) it’s needed:

Because I am curious on principle, I am frequently taken by surprise:

Sometimes, I stick with things, perhaps, beyond their shelf-life (fuck, man, the band and arrangements are sharp):

Though I don’t like to report it, I have high hopes that are occasionally disappointed:

That is all. Apologies.