Musical Advent Calendar: December 7


I like a whole range of Christmas music and so I was pleased to have found a good collection of Christmas songs from way, way back – like Middle Ages back. The album is “A Feast of Songs – Holiday Music from the Middle Ages” by Barry & Beth Hall. Here’s a track from the album:


Musical Advent Calendar: December 6

I thought about what might follow the solemnity of yesterday’s song, yet move us into a little bit cheerier territory today and I think I may have found the right track to fit the bill. Today’s entry is “Frosty the Snowman” and this version is notable for being one of only a handful of times that you will hear a song with comprehensible lyrics from the Cocteau Twins.

Musical Advent Calendar: December 5

Some years our Christmastimes are wonderful and sometimes they are the worst; in either case, there is just as much to be pensive and thoughtful about as there is to be excited and distracted by during this time of year. When we are young we are rarely burdened by the sense of what we lack in our annual Christmas festivities, but as we collect another holiday season or twenty for our scrapbooks, we see how time changes things. I feel the Ghosts of Christmas Past accumulate, and their presence becomes more felt with each passing year. Today’s song evokes the deeper, more somber feelings of the season for me and it’s a good counterpoint to Sir Paul’s vision of a wonderful Christmas time.

Today’s song is by Sufjan Stevens, “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!” from his 2006 box set, Songs for Christmas.

Musical Advent Calendar: December 4

Yes, still in the 1970s, but don’t worry, I’ll get us into something a little more current in short order. It seems fitting to follow Former Beatle John’s Christmas track with one from Former Beatle Paul, even though that’s dreadfully obvious and only slightly clever. Yet, I’ve done it anyway, because this song is also earnest and heartfelt and twee – if anything, the juxtaposition of these two Christmas songs gives further credence to argument of a Serious Beatle vs a Playful Beatle. Love it or hate it, today’s song is Paul McCartney  – “Wonderful Christmastime,” released in 1979.

Here’s an alternative for those who can no longer stomach the classic version –  I give you this fairly snappy 2012 cover by The Shins:

Musical Advent Calendar: December 3

We’re going to linger in the 1970s for a couple days, since there are more than a couple Christmas classics from that decade. Today’s offering is one that is always in danger of being a bit overplayed, but it’s earnest and heartfelt and a little twee, as befits the season. So, let’s get it out there and hope it’s early enough in the season that you’re not already sick of it.   Today’s track is  “Happy Xmas (War is Over).” I know, I know…

I do acknowledge that there is a decent chance that you might be sick of this song if you’ve started listening to any holiday music, or if you’re still mad at Yoko for some unfathomable reason.

So instead of the original, here’s one of the better covers, a 2012 live performance by Sarah McLachlan and her Music Outreach Children’s Choir and Youth Choir :

Musical Advent Calendar: December 2

Day 2 of our Musical Advent Calendar, and  we are going back into 1970s for today’s track.

If you were a kid with a record player in 1979, chances were pretty good you had (or wanted) a copy of John Denver & The Muppets: A Christmas Together. It was that year’s  must-have Christmas record, and one of my favorite tracks on that album was this calypso-tinged version of the song, “Christmas is Coming.” This one is an all-Muppet track – Miss Piggy, Scooter, Gonzo, & Robin the Frog, Kermit’s nephew.

This  whole album was in regular  rotation in our household for years over the holidays.

Musical Advent Calendar: December 1

I’ve done this once every few years and feel as though I’m well overdue to do some blogging here, so here we go with my Musical Advent Calendar. I’ll post a holiday-themed song once a day through December 25th, and blather on a bit for most of them, I’m sure.

I thought we would kick off with a song that would set the tone for our little musical journey, so today, I give you the incomparable Kate Bush singing “December Will Be Magic Again.”

Kate Bush is, and forever shall be, inexorably linked to my record store days. It was an indie CD store, one owner and one employee, me. I worked there pretty much all day, every day, oftentimes running the store by myself.

Our shop had the finest selection of imports and “rare live” albums in the area, and one could not help but become an expert working there. The store was regularly visited by quirky audiophiles hoping for the latest digitally remastered Sensational Alex Harvey Band CD or a “rare live” recording of a classic Pink Floyd show.   We only sold CDs, no vinyl, and we carried a few fanzines and other imported ephemera, like Melody Maker or NME. I basically had a job where I sat around and listening to music of my choosing, while talking about music all day and helping people find music. Kind of the best job ever, really, at least back in the day. The rise of the Internet pretty effectively crushed that option for everyone, but that’s a different topic. Let’s get back to Kate.

When it came to Kate Bush, our store had the best selection of all things Kate in perhaps not just Northeastern Ohio, but in the whole state. Signed posters on the walls dedicated to the owner, more Kate Bush rare live imports than you knew existed, current and back copies of Homeground, the classic Kate Bush fanzine – you name it, we had it or we could get it for you. If the owner was working, there was an 85% chance of hearing Kate when you walked into the store. I mean, not only was it a lot of Kate to be exposed to, it meant a lot of exposure to other Kateophiles. I had to become fluent in the ways of Kate, and the more time one spends listening to Ms. Bush, the more one can appreciate, and quite possibly become deeply enthusiastic about “our Kate.”

“December Will Be Magic Again” was one of those elusive Kate Bush tracks that was really hard to track down for a long time.  A single released in 1980, this wasn’t available on CD until the 1990 release of the Kate Bush box set, This Woman’s Work (it also included “Under the Ivy,” another rare KB gem). I played this track a lot that year, and we sold a lot of copies of that box set. It’s definitely a good one to start us off.

My Friend Jay Goes to Reading – August 1993

So, back in the day we used to have usenet, which was a social part of the internet before we had a gui interface.

My friend Jay and I met in some subform, bonded over music and shared stories for years, he in the UK, me in the US.

I didn’t keep all our emails, but I kept more than a few. This one includes Jay’s review of  the Reading Festival in 1993.

email, reading review

Summer, 1993  – Jay emails me his Reading Festival review



Well I guess you wanna hear how Reading went !!!

Five of us went down in my car just for the Sunday and it was totally cool. I got some really terrible news when i got to see a program as The Posies and The Lemonheads were billed at the same time on different stages 😦 I was totally depressed by this as they are my two fave bands at the moment 😦 😦 After a lot of discussion myself and Tony decided to watch The Posies and miss out on the Lemonheads 🙂 and 😦  Isn’t that just typical Festival bad luck. Couldn’t miss The Posies first UK gig though 🙂

The Posies were due to be on at 7.00 so there were a lot of good bands to see before then.  In the afternoon, we just sat about and heard Jesus Lizard (Very dull, not my kinda thing really!), Primus (who were totally cool), The Juliana Hatfield 3 (who were good and Juliana was looking rather nice 😉 ) and Fishbone (totally funky and sounded great). During the afternoon we also took ages to put up a couple of tents !!!! What a mess!! hee hee

As soon as the band before The Posies went off (Grant Lee Buffalo) my friend and myself rushed in and got right at the front. It was quite easy to get there as hoards of people were leaving to see The Lemonheads on the main stage. The tent was definitely full though by the time The Posies came on.

Now for the review……… I was totally blown away. I don’t think I have enjoyed seeing a band play that much in a long time. The thing I really liked was how much the band seemed to enjoy playing. Ken Stringfellow was just so cool (as were the rest) and he was smiling for nearly the entire show. I was also surprised at how young Ken looked !!! How old are the band? ? As for the music….it was really flawless. The vocals and harmonies were totally excellent. I was also surprised to see Ken and Jon sharing the vocals as I was sure it was just one of them singing on their albums.

The band came on and started with “Definite Door,” which was excellent. The only old stuff they played was “Golden Blunders” and “Any Other Way” from ‘Dear 23’ and they didn’t do anything from ‘Failure’ at all 😦 I think they played everything from ‘Frosting…’ except for “20 Questions” and “Coming Right Along.” My particular faves were “Flavor of the Month” (where is the “u” in flavour!!) which was great to sing my head off to, “Love Letter Boxes” and “Lights Out” which was totally excellent and very eeries (Indiana?!!!). Another one of my friends jointed us at the front during the set and was a bit “under the influence” hee hee. I got him to shout SURRENDER at the end for a joke and I think one of them laughed…..I also enjoyed all the witty little remarks the band came out with …. very amusing!! One other funny thing that happened was that the band started one of the songs while the bassist was changing basses. They had a bit of a laugh about that and the bass player was really funny!!

Overall I absolutely lovvved the show and was so excited and singing my head off!!!!! I can’t wait to them in London on Thursday. The club they are playing at is billiant and it’s gonna be excellent 🙂 🙂 🙂 can’t wait!!! Oh yeah, if you speak to Ken soon tell him they were great and I loved the show!!!

After The Posies, I went down to the main stage and watched Dinosaur Jr. As usual they were very good and J Mascis actually spoke to the crows “WOW”!!After Dinosaur Jr finished, we all met up and went to watch Big Star in the smaller tent. When I met two of my friend who went and watched the Lemonheads they also told me they had just seen Evan Dando and Juliana Hatfield and got their autographs. I think someone didn’t like me that day! I was down the front for Big Star and they were all excellent as well Ken and Jon were absolutely brilliant as all the songs sounded like it was the original line up. It was really nice that the other two Posies were watching down the side. All the classics were played, like “September Gurls” and I had a great time all around. Alex Chilton didn’t smile much though!! Cor, I got to see the first UK dates for The Posies and Big Star in one day!

After Big Star, it was back to the tent and open a bottle of wine!!

Well, there’s the review … I hope it’s OK.

Gaultier at the de Young

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The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the CatwalkThe Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the CatwalkThe Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the CatwalkThe Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the CatwalkThe Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the CatwalkThe Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk
The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the CatwalkThe Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the CatwalkThe Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the CatwalkThe Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk

Gaultier at the de Young, a set on Flickr.

Yesterday was the last day of the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at San Francisco’s de Young Museum. The price of procrastination was a huge crowd and an inability to see this fantastic show a second time. Non-flash photography was permitted, so here’s some shots I took at the show 🙂

The Fixx, Cleveland, Ohio – 10/4/84

October 4th, 1984. Cleveland, Ohio. The Fixx.

This was my first show. Technically, calling it “my first show” is a bit of a misnomer, as I’m not including the shows my parents took me to (of which I remember seeing Kenny Rogers, and also Lionel Richie w/ Tina Turner opening),  but the first show that I got to go to on “my own” was The Fixx on their 1984 “Phantoms” tour  stop in Cleveland, a distant 45-minute car ride from our Akron suburb. “My own” actually meant that my best friend Melanie and I had conspired to successfully persuade our parents to drive us up to the show – her parents drove us up and mine drove us back, if I remember correctly. I don’t remember if we had to bring him or if he was invited, but Mel’s little brother was also coming with us to the show. But still, we get to go to the show all by ourselves!  We were both fifteen, and this was the coolest thing in the world – we are going to a show!

BY OURSELVES (and little brother, but whatever)!

my ticket stub from the show

My ticket. I still have mine. Ahem.

I remember we got to the show, say goodbye to the parents and the three of us unload ourselves from the minivan and wade cautiously into the throng of people huddling in front of the doors of the grand Music Hall.

I’ve got my ticket in hand, Mel has hers, and her brother..her brother. Wait, where’s your ticket?  

What do you mean, you lost your ticket?

Somewhere from the handing out of tickets in the backseat and walking ten steps into the throng, little brother lost his ticket. Oh crap. Now what? No cell phones in 1984. I can already hear my mom: “I said you aren’t old enough to go” after she hears about this – not sure what his losing his ticket had to do with my age, but still, she’ll say something, I’m sure of it. This is bad. What are we going to do? Mel and I are not happy. Mel is furious, in fact. Still, we can’t leave him out front in the cold and go to the show by ourselves. But if we pool our money, we can buy him another ticket. But if we buy another ticket, he’ll be sitting somewhere totally different than us, which defies the “You three stay together” rule laid down by the parents. Speaking of, what are they going to say when they find out he lost his ticket? We dread facing them. Hi kids, how was the show? You look cold. Were you standing outside long?

What do you mean, you lost your ticket?

 Oh yes, this will end our concert-going days, fer sure, like totally!

I can’t remember if we cooked up this solution ourselves or if some veteran show goer or a worker person helped us out, but  we figured out we could go ahead and buy him another ticket, then he could sit with us in his originally assigned seat and all would be well. We were still totally upset at his uncoolness and the fact that the replacement ticket cost one of us a Fixx t-shirt. But at least we had a plan, and no one needed to freeze outside or miss the show. And thank god, the show wasn’t sold out. We headed over to the ticket window and bought little brother a replacement ticket.

We then make our way to our seats, little brother and his balcony ticket in tow, then settle in and check out the surroundings. Cute guy alert! Two boys – sitting right near us. They are talking to us! We lie and tell them we are 16. I remember they asked us if we liked The Smiths. Of course, yes, we love The Smiths! (And made a mental note to find out about this Smiths band, because these older boys who were talking to us were super cute and cool and were at a Fixx show, and The Smiths were from the UK, so what else did we need to know?) It was all a bit thrilling, this going to a show business, and the show hadn’t even started yet. And then the show started.

I can’t remember who opened for The Fixx that night, but I do remember that I was thoroughly impressed by The Fixx and I loved the show. And I loved the cute boys who flirted with us at the show. And I knew I needed to go to another show.

I don’t remember if we ever told our parents about little brother’s missing ticket.

Here’s a video from a different night on the same 1984 tour.