Thursday, July 30, 2009

GMVW # 82: "Respite from the Merry Go Round"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 82:  Respite from the Merry Go Round
Song:  The Way by Fastball
(Songwriter: Tony Scalzo)
July 30, 2009

For the past 3 weeks, the family and I have been living the nomadic life style, traveling across and around the USA.  Most of our destinations included one-night stays at campgrounds and the occasional motel. We found our way through 30 States, 10 National Parks, 8 mountain ranges, and 7 capitals.  We’ve stood in 4 States at one time and crossed borders demarcating historic boundaries such as the Louisiana and Oregon Territories. Along the way we’ve seen bison and bears, canyons and mesas, caves and arches, rivers and waterfalls, prairies and mountain peaks, hot and cold springs, sand dunes and bottomless pits, cactus and blue grass, cowboys and Indians, cities and ranches, bridges and tunnels, cattle and corn, elk, antelope, lizards, and dinosaur fossils. 

We’ve driven over the continental divide.  On the Atlantic side of the divide, we crossed the mighty Mississippi River and many of its major tributaries, including the Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee.  On the Pacific side of the divide we crossed over the Snake and Colorado Rivers.  We also crossed over the Connecticut, Hudson, Allegheny, Susquehanna, Potomac, White, and Red Rivers and driven along the shores of 3 Great Lakes.

I found myself reflecting often on other cross-country travelers: The Gilligan’s, Smith’s (Jim & Ellen’s family) Johnson’s (Phil), and John Roche (post-college with his friend, Roger).

We’ve eaten at cafes, diners, picnic areas, campgrounds, rest stops, and out of our back packs. We’ve learned more about characters like Buffalo Bill, Lewis and Clark, Elvis Presley, Teddy Roosevelt, Stonewall Jackson, Crazy Horse, Sacagawea, Daniel Boone, Laura Ingles, Geronimo, and Jesse James.  We’ve investigated historic events, including Custer’s Last Stand, Pickett’s Charge, The Chicago Fire, and the War of 1812.  We’ve met Nez Perce, Mormons, Navajos, Bible Belters, latter-day hippies, truckers, bikers, Shoshone, rednecks, rangers, hikers, fishermen, Lakota, dreamers, schemers, and, of course, fellow travelers.  We’ve seen every license plate but Hawaii and Delaware (go figure).  We have heard many an accent; several that would have benefited from an interpreter.

We drove 5103 miles.

We’ve seen the effects of ancient calderas (super volcanoes), ice ages, earthquakes and inland seas, along with more recent natural and unnatural events such as forest fire, invasive infestations, drought, urban sprawl and climate change.  We’ve driven through industrial wastelands founded on fossil fuel extraction from the earth, along with the promise of the future in large expanses of modern wind farms and solar panels.

We followed for stretches along the Mason-Dixon Line, the Oregon Trail, Route 66, the Appalachian Trail, Sleepy Hollow, and the Trail of Tears.  Traveling folk like Jack Kerouac, Woody Guthrie, the Traveling Wilburys and Easy Riders were a source of inspiration at times.  Music was a constant companion in the car.  We lost track of the daily news.

We tried to grasp the meaning of State mottos such as ‘Show Me’, “Hawkeye’, ‘Hoosier’, ‘Lone Star’, ‘Bee Hive’, ‘Volunteer’, ‘Blue Grass’, ‘Equality’, ‘Gem’, ‘Natural’, ‘Badger’, ‘Lincoln’, and ‘The Land of Enchantment’ (actually, that one was easy). 

We visited such diverse and grand places as Cody WY, Durango CO, Luverne MN, Madison WI, Chicago IL, Santa Fe NM, Hill City SD, Thermopolis WY, Moab UT, Lexington KY, and Gettysburg PA.  We also stopped at the well advertised Wall Drug.

With all the setting and breaking down of camp, along with the enhanced fatherly duties that come with a life on the road, it was hard to find solitude and inspirational moments to write the themes to these gem videos over the past 3 weeks.  I probably should have taken a break.  The consolation, however, was seeing and hearing all that Charlotte and Peter were taking in.  Their scrap books are truly amazing to read through.  I will have little to add if I ever get around to documenting the trip myself.

As mentioned at the beginning of this email, Nancy, Charlotte, Peter, and I indeed lived a gypsy-like existence these past 3 weeks.  This brought me back to the state-of-mind I was in for several other ventures over my lifetime: The state-of-mind of leaving it all behind, even if for just a short time. Gem Video of the Week ‘The Way’ by Fastball is a fictional story of a couple that took this abandonment to the extreme. 

Removing oneself from the day-to-day grind can be eye-opening.  I’m not sure it will pan out this time around.  I need some time to rest first. 

It’s still a helluva country out there. In some places, majestic would be the appropriate term (particularly Yellowstone). It's good to be home, though.

- Pete

Gem Video of the Week, ‘The Way’

About the Video: Made for MTV-type video

Video Rating: 1

Best Feedback: John

Sounds like an AWESOME trip!

When I drove across the USA for 4 weeks, we only had one tape casette, and it was broken, so we could only listen to one song, and we listened to it the whole way.  I can't seem to remember the name of that song.....

And Tom:

Hi Pete

All I can say is Wow - what an awesome, most memorable trip you guys did!  We were down on the Chesapeake this weekend, and wouldn't you know that I brought along the latest National Geographic - about the Yellowstone supervolcano no less ... going back into the fascinating history of its discovery (and really, realization) and of how it's very much still active, with the lakes bed even tilting more and more toward the southwest every year.  There's also a write-up in there about the ever-sinking Venice, due to the rising tides (and coincidentally did the Wash Post have an article showing much of southern Manhattan under water in a hundred years ... leaving me to ask why bother rebuilding ground zero).  So glad you guys came back safely and full of great stories to tell - and those are thrills irreplaceable for Charlotte and Pete, that they'll get to now tell their grandkids about some day too.

Cuz Tom  

And Jeff:

Hi Pete, thanks for the nice recap of your trip.  Sounds lke the kids heads could be so dilled up they are ready to burst, but I guess kids heads are made to handle that.

And Jen:

Hi Pete,
Your nice message gave me yet another reason to write you. Thanks for your sentiments. Phil (Henault) was a great guy, and has a great famiy. He sure will be missed.
About your last gems....I really enjoyed them, and how they worked into your trip. The trip sounds fabulous.
About Charlotte's notes, postcards....they were excellent. I could read enthusiasm and joy, in them. And I love her goofy comments to Joe and Grace.
About your monkey postcard to me - it was fantastic.
We're heading to Falmouth tomorrow, to hang with mum and dad for a few days. Looking forward to the break.
xo Jen

Thursday, July 23, 2009

GMVW # 81: "Stetson Hats and Leather Boots"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 81:  Stetson Hats and Leather Boots
Song:  1,000 Miles by Dwight Yoakam
(Songwriter: Dwight Yoakam)
July 23, 2009

“Go West Young Man”: So declared Horace Greeley in 1865 in reference to taking the wagon trail westward to “grow up with the country”.  With that wagon trail in mind, along with many-a plane, train and automobile since, the family and I scorched our own trail westward along Rte 90 to the heart of Wyoming, cowboy country, and beyond.  While I plan on documenting the entire trip for next week’s Gem, this week focuses primarily on the dominant music of that mid-western region of the USA: Country. 

To include a Country Gem, I needed help, which brings me to another album recommendation in response to my Gem # 58 request to expand my music listening horizons.  Longtime friend, John Roche suggested a country album, “Hillbilly Deluxe” by Dwight Yoakam. I was not all that confident I would find a Gem on it:  Country is something I rarely dip my feet into.  Music that straddles Country and Rock is one thing (see Gem # 66), but full blown country is another (Johnny Cash being a noted exception).  A tough sell indeed, but John was convincing, and I am much more open to good music in other genres than I once was.  I could do no better to make the case than John did in his recommendation email, so hear is his reply to my request:
“I don't know if you like country music, but I respectfully suggest "Hillbilly Deluxe" by Dwight Yoakam.  It's almost 20 years old by now, but every song on the album is a good one, he is backed by a talented band of guitarists and percussionists, and he sings with a relaxed, even lazy measure, but still very tight and precise, with that distinctive Nashville sound (although the album was recorded in Los Angeles) long after the Nashville sound had been abandoned by most country artists.  Every song is about a part of America that is gone, probably forever, and you'll no doubt wax nostalgic. 

Its good driving music on long rides, and you will find yourself singing along. 

If you have seen the movie "Wedding Crashers", he plays the husband in the hilarious opening scene, where he is trying to mediate a divorce settlement with his wife, played by the looking better than ever Rebecca De Mornay.  In a fit of rage, she calls him a "hillbilly", an irony not lost on this old timer. "


John was bitten by the “Go West” bug long ago.  He frequently travels this way (Montana, South Dakota, etc.).  Somewhere along the lines it appears he’s gained a keen ear for good Country music:  “Hillbilly Deluxe” is solid through and through, and one particular song on it, “1,000 Miles” was addicting.  One day coming home from work, I played it over and over for my entire 40 minute commute.  This alone qualifies it as a Gem of the Week. 

John and I go way back to the sandbox days (John, when was that, 4, maybe 5 years ago?).  A recommendation from a friend for that time span is a valuable one. Thanks John… much appreciated!

Signing off from Moab, Utah
- Pete

Gem Video: “1,000 Miles”

About the Video: Appears to be Austin City Limits.  Full band.  Yoakam is wearing a Stetson hat and white sequenced outfit.

Video Rating: 1

Best Feedback: John

Wow.  I'm flattered.  After reading your email, I dug out my old Dwight Yoakam cassette and listened to it on my way to Providence.  I had forgot about some of the songs that were on that album, but the lyrics came right back!

Heading to Missoula on Saturday, sounds like you had a kick ass trip!


Friday, July 17, 2009

GMVW # 80: "Another Type of Family Tree"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 80:  Another Type of Family Tree
Song:  End of the Line by The Travelling Wilburys
(Songwriters: The Travelling Wilurys)
July 17, 2009

For many years now, Nancy and I have enjoyed watching the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on TV.  My interest actually goes back to 1986, when the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame was first concocted. Then, as now, musicians need to have made their first recording at least 25 years prior.  The first batch of 10 inductees included: Elvis Presley, James Brown, Sam Cooke, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly and Little Richard.  Over the next 3 years, the Hall would welcome in a number of other classic acts, including Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Dion, Roy Orbison, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bo Diddley, Marvin Gaye, Simon & Garfunkel, The Supremes, the Kinks and the Who. The flood gaits have opened up since, and each year there are at least one or two inductees that keep my interest alive.

Preparing the write-up for this week’s Gem, I thought long and hard about what it is that I find so interesting about these induction ceremonies.  After all, the performances are often unrehearsed and the songs can deteriorate into something unrecognizable, particularly the end-of-festivities jams.  The acceptance speeches can be colorful, but they are rarely exceptional.  The historical footage is on again/off again.

I guess it comes down to a ‘connecting-the-dots’ of sorts, something I picked up on in those first few years.  I found it fascinating to see who it was that was doing the presenting of a particular musician, as most often that person was a passing-of-the-torch protégé of the musician/bands they were honoring.  The Hall does this right: They usually find the perfect presenter, who more often than not gives an insightful and heartfelt speech, revealing just how much of an influence the musician had on them.  A few memorable ones include: Lou Reed presenting Dion; Pete Townshend presenting The Rolling Stones; Billy Joel presenting Ray Charles; Bono presenting The Who; Springsteen presenting Dylan; and Tom Petty presenting George Harrison. 

With the spirit of those presentations in mind, I hauled my family along to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio on the first full day of our 3-week cross-country road trip.  I was not expecting to be blown away, though. Hall of Fames in general can be anti-climatic for me:  Outfits and artifacts can only go so far in making a connection with my memories and emotions. 

However, there were aspects to the Hall that made this side-trek worth it. There was a short film which made a convincing correlation between the advent of Rock music and the freeing of the heart, mind and soul.  There were numerous letters Pete Townshend had written to Rolling Stone Magazine in the 70’s and 80’s.  There were film clips of hi-lite moments at the induction ceremonies over the years.  There was the ability to select and listen to music on head phones, including virtually any song from any inductee.  The building it-self was spectacular: a seven-floor modern glass structure on the shores of Lake Erie.

I asked a few employees if there were anything written about the dot-connecting that the induction ceremonies unveils.  Nothing doing as far as they knew, but one suggested I may have the idea for a book…..hmmmm. 

As for this weeks Gem, I don’t know of any band that showcased influences and generational dot-connecting any better than The Travelling Wilburys. Four generations were represented in this band (Roy Orbison the 50’s; Bob Dylan and George Harrison the 60’s; Jeff Lynne the 70’s and Tom Petty the 80’s).  The video for the Gem ‘End of the Line’ was put together after Roy Orbison passed away.  The section of the song where he did vocals is represented in the video by an empty rocking chair….classily done. 

Apologies for being a day late with this week’s Gem: My lap-top power chord burned out, and I was unable to type for a few days.  I’m wrapping this up on Friday, July 17, while sitting on a log-cabin deck in the South Dakota Black Hills. Gotta go though….Peter is demanding I do a cannon ball in the pool.

- Pete

Gem Music Video ‘End of the Line’

About the Video: Made for MTV-type video

Video Rating: 1 (although, I may have chosen another Wilburys tune if given more research time)

Best Feedback: Fred

Way to keep the train rollin'....even on vacation

Love the Wilbury's....

and: Madeline

Thanks Pete! Hugs to you, Nancy and the kids.  I'm so glad you are having a great time!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

GMVW # 79: "Of One's Own Volition"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 79:  Of One’s Own Volition
Song:  No One to Run With by the Allman Brothers
(Songwriter: Dickey Betts)
July 9, 2009

To those who ended up with their high-school sweethearts, I say all the power to you.  Same goes for those on the other end of the spectrum who have kept their independent bachelordom intact all these years.  Most of us, however, fall somewhere in-between, finding ourselves back on the chain gang for a spell before connecting with a soul mate and settling down.  And although I would not trade my lot-in-life for anything (if there is anything I was meant to be, it’s a Dad), there are times, I must confess, when those years of independence tug at the heart strings.  Hard to believe, when factoring in the loneliness and boredom, but there were also moments that were truly transcendent, and these tend to cancel those others ones out, occasionally trumping them when the memories kick into high gear:  Nostalgia can be powerful at times.

It’s difficult to explain to the folks who got it right the first time and hitched up early, but long stretches of independence can be addictive: Perhaps not a consistently healthy addiction, but an addiction nonetheless.  Three-day music festival….where is my ticket?  Ski Trip...where are my long johns?  Multi-night wilderness hike...where are my binoculars?  Road trip..... where are my maps?  Europe….where’s my backpack? Overnight bachelor party.... where is my bottle opener?  After doing this for years, with great friends, how could all that not be addictive? 

Many musicians have written songs about their free-wheeling days.  In fact, it seems to be a right-of-passage topic for country musicians.  One rock song, in particular, stands out for me as getting the mood right: This week’s Gem, ‘No One to Run With’ by the Allman Brothers.  The Allman Brothers are one of the greatest of jamming bands, and this song fits right into their repertoire.  Since their early days, this band has been labeled a ‘Southern Rock’ band, but the adjective has never been needed as far as I’m concerned.  Many ‘Southern Rock’ band’s strut that Dixie Confederate thing: They seem to want to make it a point that they are Southerners first, Rockers second. The Allman Brothers should never be labeled in that way.  They rank among the best Rock bands, period.

When I got married, I recall telling a few friends, “This won’t change anything; we will still hook up frequently”.  And, for the most part I believe I was telling the truth as both Nancy and I frequently got out both together and separately with our friends and families back in the Lake Street days.  However, I never promised a thing when children entered the picture.  The future was a bit more clouded.  It was harder to look into that crystal ball.  Lucky for me, I didn’t say anything reassuring to those same friends: I would have ultimately found I was lying (although I do better than most Dads!).  As stated in the song though, I did leave some friends with “nobody to run with” (or at least one less option), and yet you could say I put myself in the same boat, a bit more voluntarily, however. 

So, hears to the die-hard, rock-till-you drop days of going it solo, when the world’s problems were being solved over a few beers in the wee-hours at the edge of a river, campfire, or kitchen table. Visions are dancing in my head of Ottawa, Brussels, Allagash Maine, The Canadian Rockies, The Big Apple, Quebec, North Adams, Burlington Vermont, Boston, Portland, Jay Peak, Craftsbury, Montreal, Bancroft, Thousand Islands, The Adirondacks, Cape Cod, Nantucket, Chicago, New Orleans, and Franklin. 

It’s all coming back.  I gotta go before I do something crazy like drive across the country.

…. too late!  Nancy and the kids are on board. 

Nobody left to run with any more?  Maybe not….. maybe not.

See you in August.

- Pete

Below the Gem are the lyrics to ‘Nobody to Run With’.  Crank it up!

“No One to Run With” > Allman Brothers

Lyrics to ‘Nobody to Run With’

Everybody wants to know where Jimmy has gone
He left town, I doubt if he’s coming back home

Well Tony got a job, three kids and a lovely wife
Working at the commerce bank for the rest of his life

Nobody left to run with anymore
Nobody left to do the crazy things we used to do before
Nobody left to run with anymore

I’m gonna hit the road, adios my friend
Go someplace and start all over again

Don’t know where I’m going, like a gypsy out on the road
Ill go someplace and join a traveling show

Nobody left to run with anymore
Nobody wants to do the crazy things we used to do before
Nobody left to run with anymore

Nobody left to run with anymore
Nobody left to run with anymore

I think jimmy must have had the right idea
Packed his stuff and he got right out of here

I don’t know where he’s at but I’m sure that he’s ok
Now I realize what jimmy was trying to say

Nobody left to run with anymore
Nobody wants to do the crazy things we used to do before
Nobody left to run with anymore

Nobody left to run with anymore
Nobody left to run with anymore

About the Video: Live on the Tonight Show, 1994

Video Rating: 1

Best Feedback: Fred

Great write up.  I feel like I am on the other side of this mountain...with very mixed feelings

Have a great trip.  Here's for you:

And John:

Hey, Man.  Nice work, yet again.

Country music is best known for them drinking and cheating songs, but you are dead on about the connection between country music and wild times.  Check out "All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down" by Hank Williams, Jr.