Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thank You, Jokesters! Great Job! Now, How About An Encore?

 [Jesus Knock-Knocking from HERE.]

You folks are the best. I asked you to participate in making someone feel better, and you did a wonderful job. Here is some of what the person for whom this effort was made said to me, this morning, via e-mail...

"Jim, I am beyond touched. I read [your e-mail to me] and then your post and then I sobbed...because of your thoughtfulness and because laughter is so important to me...and then I felt the weight of the world lifted off of my shoulders....then I came back and read it again along with the comments...and I laughed and I laughed...yes, laughter is the best medicine...Thank you from the bottom of my heart...please know that you and everyone that made me laugh tonight gave me what I needed to keep on going. Blessings to each one."

So, what do you say, folks? Ready for an encore?

This time, our weapon will be the tried-and-true "Knock-Knock" joke! Obviously, if we go about this in the same fashion as yesterday - one person posts a straight line, next person provides the punch line and another straight line, and so on - this will become a complete mess very quickly. Therefore, instead, just give us some of your favorite Knock-Knocks, in their entirety, in the comments section.

For starters, I'll throw out a dozen of my favorites...


Who's There?


Boo Who?

Aw, don't cry. It's not as bad as you think.


Who's There?


Woo Who?

See? You're feeling better already!


Who's There?


Arch Who?



Who's There?


Chooch Who?

OK, we can play trains, but I get to be the engineer.


Who's There?

The Interrupting Cow.

The Interrup



Who's There?


Jesus Who?

OK, you go to hell. Next!


Who's There?


Owlgo Who?

Yes, and dog go "Woof".


Who's There?

The Jehovah's Witnesses.



Who's There?

Pee Cup.

Pee Cup Who?

I see you!


Who's There?


Panther Who?

Panther no panth, I'm goin' thwimmin'..


Who's There?

Harold Pinter.

Eugene Ionesco Who?

Wash 'n Wear Giraffe Radios.


Who's There?


Suldog Who?

Suldog who will see you on Monday with more better stuff. Now let's have your best knock-knocks!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Is Laughter The Best Medicine?

Is laughter the best medicine? We'll see. I hope it's at least good medicine.

This is a repeat, but it's NOT a repeat. Well, actually, keeping it from being a total repeat is up to YOU. There is audience participation involved. You, of course, are the audience.

What's going to happen is...

Well, let me give you some small background information, first, and that might make you more willing to become involved. I have a friend who is in pain. She truly is, from a medical condition. I wish I could snap my fingers and stop her from being in pain, but I can't. I've said prayers, but I want to do more.

I thought about what makes me feel better when I'm sick or hurting or otherwise less than optimistic about the world and my place in it. What helps me most are two things: engaging my mind and laughing. So, that brought to mind this past post which attempted to do both (and will do so now, with your help.)

Here it is, with only some slight edits to reflect that it's happening now and not then.

(In the comments, just do what's instructed, please. No fluff about how I'm a nice person or how much you want my friend to feel better. If you do what's requested, I'll know you care on both accounts.)


OK, class, today we're going to try something new.

Here's the deal: I'm going to give you the straight line to a joke. The first person to comment will supply the punchline to said joke. Then, that same person will supply a new straight line (or set-up to an entire joke, if you're feeling really ambitious) for the next commenter to supply the punch line, and so on.

For example:

If I were to say...

Why is cream so much more expensive than milk?

The first commenter would probably reply...

Because it's so damned hard to get the cows to squat over those little cartons.

And then he or she would add something like...

What is the gross national product of Albania?

To which the next person might reply...


That's not the best joke, but you get the idea.

Now, don't feel that you have to be bound by tradition. If someone asks...

Why did the chicken cross the road?

You don't necessarily have to answer...

To get to the other side.

You could go with any of the following...

Because he was stapled to a punk rocker.

Because he saw Colonel Sanders coming down the sidewalk holding a bucket.

Because he saw an ostrich on the other side, and he had always been a leg man.

Or you could make up your own highly original retort.

I suppose that's enough explanation. Let's begin, shall we?

So, I went to the psychiatrist the other day. He told me I was crazy. I said I wanted a second opinion. He said...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Totally Random Rerun

I have nothing new for today (and possibly the next week or so, as I find my work to have piled up during the three days I was out sick last week, which I could tell you about but how much do you really want to hear about phlegm? All things considered a rerun is probably preferable.) So, in order to fill this space and amuse myself, I'm going to choose a past post, at random, and put it out here again today.

Since I truly will be grabbing one at random, it may make little or no sense in the current day. Or it may prove my abilities as a seer. Or it may just suck, at random, for no particular reason.

Anyway, I shall go into my archives and take post #229 (since 2/29 is our wedding anniversary.)

And the winner is...

(originally published 12/12/2006)

I have exactly eleven minutes to type up something while my macaroni is cooking and the sauce is re-heating. So, random thoughts!


I hate it when the term "B.C.E." is used when referring to the modern age. I’m a "B.C." guy - "Before Christ". It was good enough for how many hundreds of years? Now the politically correct types are using "B.C.E." - "Before Common Era".

I understand your use of that term if you’re not a Christian, OK? If you’re Jewish or a Hindu or otherwise have no belief system that includes Jesus Christ, no problem. It's most certainly not my call to tell you how to refer to the passing of years. What really boils my onions, however, is when Christian clergy use "B.C.E" instead of "B.C." What is it, exactly, that you believe in?

I was a lector at St. Bernard’s catholic church in Newton, MA, for about four years. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a lector is a person who does Bible readings during mass. Now, during the time when I was a lector, each year I’d receive a new book detailing the readings for the coming church year. The book would have some background information concerning the readings - in case you never actually read the Bible, I guess – and one year the notes made reference to a time in the past and the author of the notes used the date "400 B.C.E."

I wrote to the Archbishop of Chicago, whose imprimatur was on the inside frontispiece, explaining to him my position as a participant in the celebration of mass at my church and asking him if he might explain to me why a church-published document would include a term specifically made up to placate people who don’t believe that Jesus Christ existed, let alone was a relative of God.

I never got an answer. That was the beginning of the end for me, insofar as the Catholic Church was concerned. Not enough to get me to indignantly quit right then and there, but it was the first of many straws that finally added up to a broken back for this camel.

What brought this to mind for me again, enough to make me want to write about it, is that I was listening to a religious discussion show on the radio this past Sunday morning. The participants were a Protestant Minister, a Jewish Rabbi, and a Catholic Priest. The Minister gave an ancient date and used "B.C.E." when saying it. I felt like reaching into the radio and... well, saying what I felt like doing wouldn’t be very Christian of me, so I’ll just swallow it.

(Later on, after she and the priest had had a discussion concerning Mary, Jesus’s mother, she apparently felt bad about monopolizing the time with a strictly Christian topic and so she tried to include the Rabbi in the discussion by asking him what Jews thought about The Virgin Mary. Well, now at least I knew why a Protestant Minister was using a term such as "B.C.E." It was because she was a dolt.

The Rabbi, bless him, was extremely diplomatic, but I could tell by the initial silence that he was as dumbfounded by this question as I was. He haltingly explained, as nicely as possible, that Mary really doesn’t enter into the minds of most Jews, generally speaking. The Priest tried to help by saying something to the effect of such a thing not being on the radar of most Jewish people and the Rabbi gratefully grabbed onto this lifeline being offered. The Minister said something profound. I think it was, "Oh, I see."

What in the Hell could she possibly have expected this poor fellow to answer? It boggles the mind. She may as well have asked him if he wanted a bite of her ham sandwich and would he like to wash it down with a big glass of clam juice.)


My macaroni is done, so I’m going to eat. There’s more than one thing bothering me, though, so I’ll be back.


OK, I’m back.

Allen Iverson has demanded to be traded. There is talk of the Celtics acquiring him.

No. Please, No.

First off, I don’t ever want anyone on my team who has demanded to be traded from his current team. Who knows how long it will be before he becomes as disgruntled in your town and demands to be traded again?

Second, there is no way Iverson can work effectively on a team that includes both Paul Pierce and Wally Szczerbiak. There just are not enough basketballs to go around for a team like that. Iverson will take at least 20 shots and given the chance, he’ll take 45 or 50.

(I’m not saying that Iverson is a totally selfish player. Despite the number of shots he puts up, I truly believe he isn’t just looking for his own numbers. He’s a warrior and I appreciate his hustle and willingness to bust his chops. However, you can’t have three guys like that on a team and expect anything but chaos.)

(You could offer Szczerbiak or Pierce in the trade, of course, but the Sixers have shown no interest in Szczerbiak and you’d be an absolute moron to offer Pierce.)

Third, the Celtics do not need a guard, even one of Iverson’s experience and talent. They have two potentially fine guards now and maybe a third.

Rajon Rondo is something special. He’ll prove that soon to the basketball world at large, once he starts getting more playing time. He is a superb passer and well above average defensively. Delonte West is perhaps the best defensive player on the team and all he needs is a continuing defined role instead of being shuffled from point to shooting guard and back to the point again. He is tremendous under pressure, the best foul shooter on the team and a three-point threat.

Sebastian Telfair may or may not be as good a player as he’s been touted. For whatever reason, he’s been ordained permanent starting point guard. I’d much rather see Rondo there, but Telfair definitely has skills; he’s not a bum. And Tony Allen is a good defensive player, one I’m willing to look at further to see if he can play up to the potential he’s shown over the 3+ seasons he’s been here.

In any case, we don’t need a guard.

Fourth, I don’t want to give up the players we’d need to give up to get Iverson. Al Jefferson? He’s finally having the type of games that I’ve been predicting for the past two years. There isn’t anybody in the league I’d trade Jefferson for at this point. Gerald Green? Rondo? West? Kendrick Perkins? Ryan Gomes? Pierce??? I don’t want to lose any of those guys. I still believe the Celtics have as much talent – albeit much of it raw – as any team in the NBA.

Getting Iverson would be a short-term fix, probably guaranteeing a playoff spot for a few years, but also fairly much guaranteeing no championships during that same time span.

We don’t need Iverson. What we need is patience.


Now, what else is currently making me angry?

I guess there’s that Iraq thing, what with people being maimed, mutilated, blown to bits and dying. World Hunger is a shame. All the talk about global warming comes to mind. AIDS is pretty bad, huh?

No. Petulant point guards and petty linguistics. That’s what really steams me.

Oy. Tomorrow, with what would have to be - by default - more better stuff.


Nope, not tomorrow. Maybe later this week, maybe not. Anyway, that was a pretty good one, albeit dated (and I don't mean BCE, unless it means Boston Celtics Era.)

Soon, With God Only Knows What

Thursday, March 24, 2011

15 Recordings (Suldog)

If you were here yesterday, you got more than enough explanation. Let's get to the stuff!

Here are my 15 recordings.

Unlike my swell pal, Cricket - whose 15 Recordings were published in this space yesterday - I have little formal musical training. Everything I know about the instruments I play, I pretty much taught myself. I learned from watching others, by picking up an occasional book - that's how I learned to read music, haltingly, like a first-grader trying to read Middle English - and by listening to, and trying to imitate, records.

I mention the self-serving crap above as explanation for some of the choices I've made here. I find that many of the records I've chosen to include in my 15 are those that I had on the stereo while I was learning to play. They are the records I tried to copy. Being self-taught, and wanting to sound as slick as possible immediately, some of the songs I practiced weren't what you'd call complicated. As a matter of fact, many are examples of pure bonehead rock, which Cricket gave a marvelous definition of in some correspondence we shared, to wit:

"The themes of bonehead rock are simple: sex, drugs and rock and roll. Bonehead rock artists are, in general, in favor of these things. Occasional sub-themes:

a) too many drugs can interfere with your ability to enjoy sex and rock and roll.

b) it can also be fun to go out and break shit.

Couldn't possibly have said it better myself.

Cricket hit on something else yesterday that resonated with me when he said that listening to music is similar to the sense of smell, in that it is a strong memory enhancer. True. I can listen to any of the following albums and immediately tell you where I bought the album (or who gave it to me), where I was when I first heard it, who I was with, what drugs I was taking, and all sorts of other ridiculous associated ephemera. So, these all have good memories attached and some can make me feel 30 - 35 years younger when I listen to them. Generally, when you put that up against a record that has a main attribute of masterful playing, mastery ain't gonna win. So, if you wrinkle your nose and say, "Man, Sully, you sure do have some hideous tastes in music!", I'll offer this paragraph as an apologetic. Anyway, bad musicians can sometimes be more fun to listen to than good ones. Watching a bunch of really good pilots flying in gracefully rigid formation is swell enough, but some pinhead flying too close to the sun with wings made of wax is often way more entertaining.

I found this to be a much tougher task than the 15 books. With those, I knew I wouldn't terribly regret leaving the borderline choices off. Even my favorite book of all-time (which would be Tom Sawyer, by the way) I've only read about 30 times. There are records in my collection that didn't make the top 200 here that I've listened to at least twice as many times.

These are, for lack of a better qualifier, the 15 albums I would most want to have with me if I could have access to no other albums ever again; the desert island choices, as Cricket put it. However, I'll give one more explanation concerning why I chose these 15 and not some of those given at the end as "honorable mentions". When it came time to winnow the field, I found the easiest way to do it was to ask myself if the album in question was one that I could listen to straight through and never consider skipping any cuts. I figure if I'm going to be stranded on a desert island, I don't want any vinyl wasted on cuts I'd just as soon not listen to. So, most of these - not all, but most - are records that contain no dead spots for me. That's about as good a criterion for inclusion as any.

I could go on giving more rationales for having chosen these, but I'm pretty sure I'll give more than enough within each choice, so let's get to it.


In Rock and Made In Japan, Deep Purple

Exhibit A when trying to prove to someone that there are actually good musicians plying their trade in the realm of heavy metal, these guys are easily my favorite group. I wouldn't cry if I was stranded on a desert island with 15 albums only from them. Well, okay, maybe after 20 years I'd cry a little. However, I'll get to choose some diversity after this, so I narrowed my Purple collection down to these two. They contain the best of the group: Two superb soloists (Ritchie Blackmore on guitar, Jon Lord on Keyboards); the best all-around drummer in rock (Ian Paice); a solid bass player who is willing to hold everything together on the ground while the other guys go flying off to explore the sky (Roger Glover); and a vocalist (Ian Gillan) who was able to hit brilliant high screams, ON KEY, and also play a passable mouth organ when called upon.

(Purple has had other incarnations, but I feel this is the best overall congregation. More recently, Steve Morse has handled the guitar chores. I once said, in another forum - and was skragged unmercifully for it, but it's true - that if Morse and Blackmore were gunfighters, Morse would leave Blackmore lying in the street dead 9 times out of 10. However, Gillan's voice has been so shot, since the time Morse joined the group, that the Blackmore era band comes out overall winner.)

I thought long and hard about including Machinehead as one of the two, rather than In Rock, but finally chose the latter because most of the former's material can be had on Made In Japan (although I lose the absolutely stunning Blackmore studio solo from Highway Star.) The problem, such as it is, is that Purple did not replicate studio albums in concert. They were as close to a jazz band as heavy metal got, which is one of the reasons why I love them. There are no two live recordings alike. In their early days, they'd sometimes stretch numbers out to 25 or 30 minutes with improvisations and solo spots. An example of that sort of experimentation comes during Space Truckin' on Made In Japan, where Glover rocks steady while the others take turns seeing how far they can travel without a map and still find their way home.

And, with these two albums, I get two versions of Child In Time, so I get to hear THE most stunning vocal gymnastics ever, by any metal singer, both in the studio and live. Those performances, by themselves, are reason enough to take these albums to the island.

Desolation Boulevard, Sweet

If you listen to classic rock on the radio, you probably know one cut from the album - Ballroom Blitz - and maybe also the less-worthy hit, Fox On The Run, but the rest of the album is amazingly solid. It is actually a compilation of sorts, culled from a few of their British albums, but released in the U.S. as though it were just the latest from them at the time. The U.K. release is vastly different, so be sure of which one you're buying.

Side One contains Blitz and other tunes penned by Chinn & Chapman, who were their managers/songwriters during their pre-teen-aimed bubblegum phase. Some great riff rockers on this side. Side Two contains their own original compositions from after their break with C & C, and is filled with molten slabs of white hot grind (excluding the bubblegummish Fox.)

This is my favorite drumming album. Other drummers rank higher in my overall estimation as well-rounded musicians - Ian Paice, as mentioned above, for instance - but Mick Tucker, on this album, is just about as perfect as a rock drummer gets. I would unhesitatingly hand this album to anyone aspiring to be a rock/metal drummer and tell him "This is what you should be aiming for."

As well, guitarist Andy Scott sounds as though he swallowed the 1972 version of Ritchie Blackmore whole, spit out the subtlety, and then ate a side order of crystal meth before hitting the studio. It doesn't get any crunchier and out-of-control (but actually fully in-control) than his stuff on Side Two's Sweet F.A.

If you like this album, get the follow-up, Give Us A Wink. They decided to make a true studio masterpiece. By that, I mean it is layered, dubbed, textured, scrubbed and polished unlike few metal albums of the day. Truly astounding production for the 1970's.

LIVE ALBUM, Grand Funk

Every time I mention this as being my favorite bass guitar album of all-time, I know I'm not doing my reputation as a connoisseur of fine music any favors. But, it is. And it's coming to the desert island with me.

Mel Schacher's bass is just an all-encompassing, smothering, dark brown slab of vibrating goodness. There's nothing complicated here (and if you can't take a whole lot of repetition, nothing much at all) but this is the sound that made me want to become a bass player. He just crushes the audience here; annihilates them with a wall of bass. Being in the audience, at this concert, must have been a cathartic experience. This bass would have rattled your chest bones and probably loosened the plaque in your arteries.

Lots of battle-of-the-bands style tunes, designed to get a stoner audience out of their chairs and pumping their fists, and there are some high points (and low points) for Mark Farner on guitar and vocals, and Don Brewer on drums, but that bass... no other record like it exists.

The Hits, Tommy Dorsey

I tried to stay away from "greatest hits" or compilation albums, but there's little choice when you're talking about late 30's - early 40's big band stuff. They just plain didn't make long-playing albums. They released singles. The only way to get this stuff, today, is via compilations of one sort or another. And, since I wanted one big band album, that's the route I had to take.

I considered a collection of Charlie Barnet. His band was hotter overall, Redskin Rhumba is about as close to heavy metal as swing ever got, and Barnet himself, on sax, is probably my favorite soloist within the genre. Dorsey won out, however, for a few very good reasons.

1) The arrangements are better. Dorsey was a perfectionist, while Barnet didn't seem to give a damn about how songs ended just as long as they jumped and had room for a good solo.

2) Dorsey is the best trombone player ever. Okay, that's something you might want to debate, what with fellas like J. J. Johnson, Jack Teagarden, and Jimmy Cheatham having roamed the earth at one time or another, but I'll stand behind that statement. I'll pit I'm Getting Sentimental Over You, Trombonology and Song Of India against any other sackbut practitioner. Dorsey wasn't the best improv guy - he himself felt he wasn't better than mediocre at improvising a solo - but working from a chart, there was nobody to top him.

3) With Dorsey, you get Frank Sinatra on vocals for a handful of songs. That obviates the need for choosing a solo Frank Sinatra recording. You also get Buddy Rich on drums, although he's mighty subdued compared to some of his other stuff.

4) Opus One. Maybe the most perfect big band recording ever, if I'm Getting Sentimental... isn't.

Anyway, I had to have one big band recording and this one is about as good as it gets.

(It's one of four CDs included in the pictured set, by the way, but I only took the one to be fair. My apologies to Jimmy Dorsey fans.)

Prokofiev's Second Symphony, Berliner Philharmoniker - Seiji Ozawa conducting.

I decided I wanted one classical recording, and Prokofiev (or, Procoffeecup, as MY WIFE likes to call him) is my favorite classical composer. I could live with the much lighter Lieutenant Kije Suite (which, by the way, was one of the first things other than rock I tried to teach myself on bass, and I still amuse myself by throwing bits of the Troika movement into solos) or perhaps the Fifth Symphony, which is quite bright, but my absolute fave is the Second. I've never seen it performed anywhere, so I assume it's not the favorite of anyone with verifiable taste. I love it, though, and that's all that matters here.

The Second is strident, somewhat harsh, a bit dissonant, has parts that evoke - for me, at least - 1950's horror flicks, and is, as Prokofiev himself put it, a symphony of "iron and steel." I like the first movement more than the second movement (the "variations") but they both work.

As a bonus, the CD that contains the Second, from the collection above, also has his Seventh, which is quite enjoyable if more mellow.

2 - Bloodrock

OK, back to the tripe that it seems only I like.

Bloodrock were a band from Fort Worth, Texas, and they had a very short shelf life. Their first album had some wonderful moments, and their third album had some, too, but their second (a very good reason for it's being called "2") is the only time they ever got it completely right for an entire album. And they got it magnificently right.

Between the first record and this one, they picked up a new drummer.

(Aside: I find that I have much more of an obsession with drummers than I would have previously thought. I think I've mentioned them in every review here except for the Prokofiev.)

Anyway, they had previously had Jim Rutledge both singing and playing drums. Since a singing drummer is not the most accessible of frontmen - and because Rutledge was just passable as a drummer - producer Terry Knight decided to relegate Rutledge to vocals alone and hired Rick Cobb to be the drummer. This was a great move, giving both spots a boost. Cobb's drums on this album are solid and inventive, while Rutledge's vocals are much superior to those on the debut.

The song that you may know from this, D.O.A., was probably the weirdest and most morbid charting single in the history of music. It reached #36 on the Billboard charts despite the subject matter being a plane crash and subsequent dead on arrival status of the guy singing the song. Hell of a well-constructed tune, though. And the whole album is tight, tight, tight. I love it, may the group as a whole rest in peace.

Raw Power, The Stooges

I wrote a huge overblown appreciation for this album already, and you can find it HERE if you want to have an hour's worth of reading material. Here's the synopsis:

Best rock album ever.

I'll just add one caveat for anyone who might end up being emptor: the original mix, by David Bowie, is far superior to the re-mix, by Iggy Pop, even though the original mix has a horribly weak bottom. Trust me on this. I'm a bass player, and if I'm telling you the mix with weaker bass is better, that should tell you something concerning the relative quality of both.

It's Alive, The Ramones

Sort of cheating. I couldn't decide between their first album and Leave Home, so I'm opting for the live album that contains most of both plus a serious helping of Rocket To Russia. 28 songs in less than 54 minutes, and that includes Dee Dee's "1-2-3-4" between each.

These guys were great. I saw them four or five times, back in their heyday, and left every show sweaty, grinning, and satisfied like I just had great sex.

Best Ramones tidbit: They got it completely backwards. Whereas most bands with a dead member are missing a drummer, the only original Ramone still living is the drummer. Yup. That was them all the way.

Moving Waves, Focus

The best Dutch band ever. And it's got yodeling, too.

[*blank stare from everybody*]

Huh. I would have thought that was enough. Okay, then, this is one of the great mostly-forgotten bands. Jan Akkerman is a seriously fine guitarist, and Thisj Van Leer was a good enough flute player to have ended up as a sideman for a few hardcore jazz guys after Focus folded (he also plays some tasty keyboards and has a vocal range that's astounding.) Pierre Van Der Linden and Cyril Havermans are a sweet rhythm section, playing nothing but tasteful accompaniment. The songs range from metal-tinged rockers to Rockford Files Theme Song-like instrumentals to 20-minute prog-rock blowouts to solo piano mood pieces. And yodeling. It's got yodeling. GOOD yodeling.

Geez, just buy it, will you? I guarantee you won't be sorry. I'll buy it back from you if you truly don't like it.

Paranoid, Black Sabbath
When you’re a guitarist and you chop off the tips of your fingers in an industrial accident, you have to adapt if you want to keep playing. That’s what Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath did. In the process, he pretty much invented a new musical genre.

There isn’t another musician in the world that I admire more than Tony Iommi. I mean that. If persistence alone were what counted, he’d be unanimously acclaimed as the greatest guitar player in the world. It ISN’T the only thing counted, of course, so he isn’t, but he’ll always have a spot in MY hall of fame.

Iommi was working in a factory – his last day on the job, as a matter of fact, as he was quitting to go on a tour of Germany with his current band – when he had the ends of two fingers on his chording hand sliced off by a machine. He was, as you might imagine, despondent. He thought his musical career was finished. He sank into a deep depression.

A friend of his from the factory visited him, bringing along a Django Reinhardt record. He explained to Tony that this guitarist had been in a fire and came out of it with two of his fingers fused together. Rather than forget about a musical career, however, he figured out a way around his injury, using the fused fingers to make barre chords and otherwise adapting what he had rather than bemoaning what he didn’t. Reinhardt became a world-famous guitarist. The story made a tremendous impression on Iommi and he decided to somehow figure out how to play with his truncated fingers.

At first, he just tried using his shortened fingers as they were, but it proved too painful. Then he got an idea: What if he fashioned prosthetic fingertips for himself? So, Tony melted down a dishwashing detergent bottle and molded the melted plastic onto his fingers in the approximate shape of his missing tips. It worked fairly well; better when he cut up some small pieces of leather, glued them onto the ends in an imitation of skin, and used some oil to soften the leather and make it more like human skin.

Now he could play a bit, but in order to make it easier on his fingers, which still hurt like hell, he de-tuned his guitar to C#, loosening the tension of the strings. This was much better, and an added result was that the sound from the de-tuned guitar was darker and more menacing. He added a few toys - most notably, fuzz tone - made more extensive use of flatted fifths than anyone before him, and heavy metal had been born.

(Well, it’s probably overstating things to say that heavy metal was born then. It became more well-defined then, but there had certainly been much of the same music being played before, by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, even The Kinks, who might truly have recorded the first heavy metal song when they blew out a speaker and decided they liked the sound and recorded You Really Got Me with that blown speaker. But the Iommi story is more heroic, so let’s buy into it completely, whatta ya say?)

Be that as it may – and why wouldn’t it be? – Black Sabbath had a unique sound. Nobody was as heavy – or as moronic, for that matter, which was a plus because they became the go-to band for downer freaks the world over. And Paranoid is just chock full of sublimely dumb moments of glory, from the rhyming of the word "masses" with the word "masses", in War Pigs, to the wonderfully dopey bridge of Electric Funeral ("'lectric funeral! 'lectric funeral! 'lectric funeral!") and that’s just Ozzy Osbourne’s singing. Throw in the other three refugees from a tar pit and you’re wallowing in something so thick and gritty you feel like checking your underwear for brontosauruses.

Anyway, they’re unique and I’m hoping my desert island has an ample supply of pot, in which case I’ll be glad to have this along.

Killer, The Alice Cooper Group

I specify the Alice Cooper GROUP since Michael Bruce, Glen Buxton, Dennis Dunaway, and Neal Smith had as much to do with the oeuvre of this congregation as Alice himself did. One listen to any of his solo efforts will tell you that. Not that he hasn’t made some decent records on his own, but he’s never come close to what he accomplished with the other four guys along for the ride.

If I were forced to take the preceding album, Love It To Death, or the follow-up, School’s Out, I’d be all right with that. Any of the three is worthwhile. This is the hardest rocking of the trio, though, so it wins. School’s Out had more intricate arrangements and Love It To Death had more endearing quirkiness, but Killer is just that - a killer. From the opening guitar salvo of Under My Wheels to the spookhouse by way of Catholic Church organ at the end of the title song, it is just bursting with rock-n-roll yumminess. Snarling vocals, ripsaw guitars, jackboot drums, throbbing bass, extremely clever lyrics (Dylan once expressed his admiration for Cooper as a lyricist), and some deceptively progressive weirdness (Halo Of Flies) – this has it all.

For a short time, nobody said it better than these guys. Nobody.

Christmas Eve And Other Stories, The Trans-Siberian Orchestra

I figure I won’t be giving up Christmas on my island, so I want a Christmas album along. This will do. Nicely coherent theme album, with fine musicianship. The power of the instrumental medley of O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night is, by itself, reason enough for me to pack this for the trip.

Duty Now For The Future, DEVO

Tough call here. I knew I had to have something by DEVO, but the choice between this and their first album (Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO!) was not easy. The first album is darker and...

Yes, that’s what I said. Those of you who know only Whip It from when these guys started wearing flowerpots on their heads are thinking, "Darker? Those goofballs?" Well, yeah. There was an undercurrent of perversion and general unseemliness to that first album - which is what made it great, of course.

The album I chose, their second, is not quite so bizarre, but it is bizarre enough and has better songs besides. The jagged and jarring guitar solo on Blockhead; their catchy Secret Agent Man cover (with some changes in the lyric from the Johnny Rivers version); the hellish Swelling Itching Brain (which no doubt would give you one if you listened to it too many times in a row); and the funny, and driving, Smart Patrol/Mr. D.N.A., with it’s, well, goofy lyrics...

I’ll be honest with you (but aren’t I always?) and tell you that I enjoyed this album the first time while I was on an acid trip. That may have colored my perception of it. However, it’s MY desert island and I’m taking this one with me, no matter what YOU think of it.

Raunch N Roll Live – Black Oak Arkansas

Sometimes, you just love something even when most other folks think it’s ugly. There’s little you can do to explain love to someone who doesn’t feel it. Maybe you love this album the same as I do. If not, I’ll try to explain why I do love it. I doubt I’ll be successful, but I’ll try.

First off, Jim Dandy Mangrum has a voice like no other in rock; maybe like no other in the world. The sole exception might be some of the practitioners of Tuvan throat singing. If you’ve heard that, imagine that voice coming out of a sort-of hick prototype of David Lee Roth. That’s Jim Dandy Mangrum, the sexiest man ever to strut a stage.

Sexy? Did I just say that? Yeah, I guess I did. Mangrum’s stage presence was beyond anything previously seen in 1970. He strutted and pranced and danced and twirled and thrusted across the stage in sprayed-on white spandex pants, shirtless, with his long blond hair falling down to his extremely good-looking ass in back.

Yes, I’m straight. But I’d have to have been blind to not notice this guy and the effect he had on the women in the audience. See, here’s the thing: When I started out in bands, as a singer, I wanted to be Jim Dandy Mangrum. I wasn’t near as good looking; I had red hair, not blond; and I was heavier in places where he was lighter and lighter in places where he was heavier; but I wanted to be him. From his stage mannerisms to his unique voice to his rapport with the audience – which was substantial, both male and female – I wanted to be that guy.

Well, I wasn’t him and my attempts to be him were probably ill advised. But, damn, was that man a fantastic performer with absolutely no fright in him. And the voice? Unlike any other, as I said. That was both good and bad, of course. You either love Jim Dandy’s voice or you hate it. I love it. I think it’s about as perfect a voice for rock as has ever been. Your mileage – and the mileage of many others – may vary.

The rest of the group was interesting in their own way. There were three guitars, bass, and drums, playing southern rock of a not overly complicated or ambitious a nature, but endearing in a clumsy sort of way. And – one more drummer for me to tout – Tommy Aldrich was one of the earliest to use a double bass kit and he was really, really good. His solo on this album, which you wouldn’t know unless you saw the group live like I did, three times, was played with only his hands – no sticks – for the last two minutes or so, and the cymbal crash at the end comes when he PUNCHES it. Two of the guitarists would often swing their instruments like baseball bats, smashing them against each other, during the final number. Combine that with Mangrum’s theatrics and it was one fun show.

I miss these guys, a lot. I truly do. There was no other group like them then and there still isn’t today. They were clowns, in many ways, but they also had a great deal of heart and they weren’t afraid to wear that heart on their sleeves.

Here’s how much I like this album: If I had to limit myself to ONE recording to take to the desert island, it would be... Made In Japan. Or Raw Power. I almost said this one, though. Almost.

(There’s a version of this called The Complete Raunch N Roll Live which is a double CD with the full two shows from which the original single record was culled. You don’t need anything more than the single record, if you’ve never heard it before, but if you already own the original, it might be worth your time to find it.)


And that’s that – finally. I know I went on and on, but this was great fun for me to do, if heartbreaking when having to leave off some of those that didn’t make the cut. As Cricket did, I’ll take the liberty of naming some honorable mentions here (15, as a matter of fact) that I didn’t mention during any of the above.

Trilogy – Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Aqualung – Jethro Tull
Alive! – KISS
Impeckable – Budgie
II – Chicago
The Magician’s Birthday – Uriah Heep
Ted Nugent – Ted Nugent
Tuff Darts – Tuff Darts
Trooper - Trooper
Purpendicular – Deep Purple
Come Blow Your Horn – Maynard Ferguson
Greatest Hits – Sly & The Family Stone
Cosmo’s Factory – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Jesus Christ Superstar (original recording, Ian Gillan as Jesus)
Vincebus Eruptum – Blue Cheer

Please, please, please do this list yourself. I would absolutely love to read your picks and what you have to say about them. Even more, I would love to be directed toward a lost treasure or two that you might turn me on to.

Thanks for taking the time to slog through it all.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

15 Recordings

Since I'm a lazy sot with no new thoughts, here's a re-run. The reason you might be interested in reading it again are two-fold.

1 - Since it was last published, many of you have come to know the author on a more intimate basis. This installment was written by Cricket. When it was first here, he didn't have his own blog and he was allowing me to occasionally publish his writings under a different pseudonym - Donatello. If you've now been reading his stuff on a regular basis, you might enjoy hearing his thoughts on music.

2 - Having collaborated with Cricket and others on HOWL, you might be interested in knowing what sorts of musical background made that song come about (either because you consider it a work of stunning genius or you consider it a perfect reason to put me in a rubber room, but either way our backgrounds might prove instructive.)

3 - Hah! There's a third reason! Bet you didn't expect that when I said "two-fold". Anyway, some of you did posts on the same subject matter, following the original publication of our posts concerning it, and this will give you a reason to be lazy (like me) and do a re-run of your own. Or, if this is entirely new to you, I'm giving you an idea for a post and you're welcome.

4 - And I promise there won't be a 5. It gives me the opportunity to re-publish my own piece about 15 recordings, for all of the same reasons given above, and I'll do so tomorrow.

So, without further ado (since the above should be enough ado to last you until the Pittsburgh Pirates win the World Series), here you go.


OK. Last week, I promised you a different take on the "15 Books" postings that Donatello and I did. Here it is.

15 Recordings.

Now, I suppose if you're of a bizarre twist of mind, it could be 15 recordings of wild birds, washing machines, and dogs barking. Or, if you're with the FBI, maybe your 15 favorite wire-tapped telephone conversations. What Donatello has in mind, however (and it is his brainchild) are 15 recordings that... well, I'll just shut up now and let his own words give you the gist of it.

I'll be back tomorrow with my 15 recordings, but right now... Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Donatello!


Don't neglect your musical roots. - Mick Goodrick

Hey Jim -

Along the lines of 15 Books, I present you with these 15 albums. Your mission, should you choose to accept it: complete your own list.

When I started making my list of 15 books, I found it surprisingly difficult. It's hard to get down to 15. Even so, I had to add a bunch of honorable mentions. It was a worthwhile exercise, though. I'm pretty sure I learned something, though I'm not entirely sure what the lesson is yet. Coming up with 15 albums was similarly revealing. I guess the lesson might have something to do with clarifying what is really important to me, but that's the best I can do right now.

Now these albums are emphatically not the 15 greatest albums of all time. While that's also an interesting question, that's not what I had in mind. These are more like the 15 albums I'd have to take to a desert island with me... the ones I don't think I could go without. Maybe, my 15 favorites of all my favorites.

Some things I learned compiling this list: 1978 seems to be a very important year in my musical development. Lots of my favorite albums were released right around then. Also, I think music is like smell, just hearing a certain song can conjure all sorts of unexpected memories: who I was with, what I was doing, how I felt about my life at a given time. You don't even realize the things you remember 'til something brings them back.

I guess I also learned that the sound of a distorted guitar is very close to the core of my being. It resonates in my soul. I like all kinds of music and my life would be diminished if I could never again hear John Coltrane, or Sonny Rollins, or Earl Scruggs, or Bach, or any number of musicians I love. Still, in getting down to 15... well, I don't know. Something's got to give.

The albums I chose are the ones that still make me smile as much today as when I first heard them. Ones that make me want to turn up the stereo to full volume and run around the house playing air guitar, despite all my years at NEC. I guess I still love the anti-intellectual experience of music. I just like how it makes me feel when I hear that noise. I'm sure you can relate. Well, anyway, THE LIST:

Abbey Road, The Beatles

Probably my favorite band. Also, not only is this my favorite Beatle album, I think it's arguably both their best and the greatest rock recording ever. It's like a diamond that still reveals new aspects of itself from different angles and under different conditions. While a lot can be said for Sgt. Pepper, or Revolver, I think this one album distills the essence of the Beatles into a thirty-five minute package. They have lots of great recordings, but I would say this is the only one you need.

KISS Alive! and KISS Alive II, KISS

These shouldn't surprise you. Again, I think these are the only KISS albums anyone needs. Everything you need to know about KISS is right here. While I think Alive! is the better album, Alive II will always have a special place in my heart. Some critics complain that these albums were heavily overdubbed in the studio, to which I reply: so what? Whoever said a live album must be a faithful record of a given concert? The idea is often to create the experience of a perfect concert. I've seen these guys several times and it was always a great show.

Ace Frehley

The first solo album from 1978. One of the first CDs I bought when I finally made the switch from vinyl. I still remember shoplifting my original copy, on 8-track for Lord's sake, when it came out. I still have it. Ace would be proud, I'm sure. Rip It Out is one of the hardest rocking songs ever.

Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols, The Sex Pistols

I can still remember the look on my parents' and grandparents' faces when the local news did a spot on these guys, again, in 1978. As their jaws hit the floor I thought: Yep, this sounds like something for me. Where can I get this? The album didn't disappoint. Critics say they were produced like The Monkees and that punk started before them. This may be somewhat true, but again: so? Punk started for me with The Sex Pistols. I love The Ramones, but there's something about the angry snarl of Johnny Rotten. Was it all a put-on? Who cares. It wasn't a put-on for us. The Pistols gave a generation of city punks music to go out and vandalize by, for which I'm grateful.

George Harrison

His self-titled release from 1979. In a way, the polar opposite of Bollocks, music to be happy and relax to, for when you want to feel that all's right with the world. Although, with a nod to punk, I stole my first copy of this as well. Hey, money was tight, you know? Of course, I later paid $40 for a CD copy when it was out of print. I like it that much.

We Want Miles, Miles Davis

There's no way I could live without the sound of Miles' horn. Nope. This is my personal favorite album. Not his best, mind, but my favorite. I remember riding my bike across town, with money this time, to buy a copy of this. Amazing ensemble work with a loose, funky, stripped-down sound. For me, this one is indispensable.

Joe's Garage, Frank Zappa

A classic. If you think it's cheating to pick a triple-record set, Act 1 would do. This one's got everything you expect from Frank: humor, satire, and amazing musicianship. I can't describe it. It has to be heard. Apostrophe is my runner-up.

Infidels, Bob Dylan

Again, not his best, but my favorite. Mark Knopfler on guitar, Sly and Robbie on drums and bass. Classic Bob with a great backing band. Sweetheart Like You alone is worth the price of admission. Runner-up, the much-maligned Slow Train Coming. Disagree? Too bad, this is my list.

Wired, Jeff Beck

OK, Blow By Blow is arguably the better album, but this one has, for me, the air-guitar-in-your-underwear factor going for it. My Jr. High music director used to keep hundreds of albums in his office and would let me come down and listen during study halls. I saw this one, and I asked him if it was good. His response: Take that one home. Keep it. You need that album. He was right.

Elegant Gypsy, Al DiMeola

I got this for Christmas, maybe around 1980. I had asked for, I think, George Benson's Take Five. Apparently someone had placed a copy of this in the George Benson bin, which my sweet, well-intentioned mother purchased, oblivious to the photo of the obviously white guy on the cover. I think she was distracted by a big sticker that said: Guitar Player Magazine Album Of The Year Award, 1977! She figured, he likes guitar, this must be it. So anyway, I was, um, surprised to open it Christmas morning. After my initial "what the hell?", I was distracted by the sticker too. She offered to exchange it but there was no way I could let this out of the house without a listen. 35 minutes later I was sitting with my mouth wide open and the realization that I needed to go practice immediately.

Van Halen

The first release. Still holds up after all these years. Eddie gets a lot of notice for the tapping-thing, but he's really an amazing player all around. Runner-up: Fair Warning. Still love that one too. This is home, this is Mean Street.

Get Yer Ya-Yas Out, The Rolling Stones

No better introduction to the Stones. Loud, crunchy, mistakes-and-all performance. No more of the imitation Sgt. Pepper psychedelia, just flat out rock. Forget that We Love You crap, here's a punch in the nose. Ahhh, that's better.

Three Of A Perfect Pair, King Crimson

My favorite inversion of the band: Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Tony Levin, and Bill Bruford. An 80s release that doesn't sound it, which says a lot. Discipline gets the better reviews, but I like this one best. The three releases by this group, Discipline, Beat, and Perfect Pair, make a nice trilogy.

Back In Black, AC/DC

Though I wish Bon Scott had lived to make this album, I still think it's their best. Not only that, it's really pretty amazing that they managed to both replace their front-man and come out kicking ass on this. Runners-up: Let There Be Rock and Highway To Hell.

20 Honorable Mentions:

A Night At The Opera, Queen
Moving Pictures, Rush
Suzanne Vega
Lawn Boy, Phish
Toys In The Attic, Aerosmith
Dark Side Of The Moon, Pink Floyd
Agharta, Miles Davis
On The Corner, Miles Davis
The Bridge, Sonny Rollins
Deliverance, Eric Weissberg
Bach: Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin, Itzhak Perlman
Dire Straits
A Love Supreme, John Coltrane
Birds Of Fire, Mahavishnu Orchestra
Cats Under The Stars, Jerry Garcia
Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, Joni Mitchell
Live Rust, Neil Young
Layla, Derek And The Dominoes
Axis: Bold As Love, Jimi Hendrix

I could go on forever, so I'll just stop there. Obviously, I'm leaving out so much, but there it is. All right, gotta go. More later.

Your swell pal,

Donatello (that is, Cricket)


He is, indeed, my swell pal, and this idea is quite swell in and of itself. I'll give you my version tomorrow. See you then.

Monday, March 14, 2011


15 minutes and 54 seconds of genius or insanity, your choice. Either way, the cover art for our upcoming CD rocks.

Produced by James Shawn Sullivan

Words by Allen Ginsberg

Music by The Garden Weasels Of Malice

Cricket - Vocals, Guitar
Knucklehead - Horns
James Winningham - Guitar
Vincent Wunderkind - Guitar
Stu Mark - Technical Enchantment
A. MacHine - Drums
Jimi LaRue - Bass

Cover Art by Lime

Here's the goods. Be the first person on your block to inhale us.


Soon, with more better stuff.

(If you don't understand, go back in time.)

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Thank You

I have had great fun and I have you to thank for it.

Me, not quite 54 yet

Me, very 54

A week ago, it was my 54th birthday. At that time, I asked a favor of you. I requested that you listen to something I recorded on the bass guitar, then send me your own original playing that it suggested to you. I would then mix the parts, making a song out of the music I received. It was my virtual birthday jam session.

I'm happy to report that four of you gave me enough material to compose three complete songs. You'll get to hear two of them today. The third, which will be something of a magnum opus, will be available Monday.

(You'll find that third one either a work of genius or complete and utter insanity. Since I'll be producing it, I vote for genius.)

The two tunes you'll hear today were relatively easy to put together. That's because the people who sent me the stuff I had to work with are well-trained musicians with good ears. I didn't have to do too much guessing concerning what pieces should go where. I had choices, but they were relatively simple ones.

I suppose, before giving you the ear candy, I should introduce the members of the band. They are, in order of appearance...

Song: 54

Trumpet - Knucklehead
Bass Guitar - Jimi LaRue
Drums - A. MacHine
Rhythm and Lead Guitar - James Winningham
Lead Guitar ("Chorus" sections) - Vincent Wunderkind
Ambient Guitar - Cricket

(James Winningham appears here via kind permission of TechnoBabe. Vincent Wunderkind appeared via A Broad With A View, with or without permission.)

(I hope none of the guys has a problem with those listings. Come Monday, and the genius/insanity, there will be more or differing credits for some.)

Song: Dog Eat Dog

Bass Guitar and Percussion Technician - Stu Mark
Rhythm and Lead Guitar - James Winningham

(I still play the bass in this one, but Stu made it sound the way it does. Thanks, Stu!)

I think the first cut, 54, captures much of what it feels like to me to have reached that age. There are places in the song where the pieces seem to be at war, sometimes the loudest thoughts win, and sometimes there are themes that might not seem to mesh initially but do after the initial jarring, then things tend to settle to some semblance of normalcy, albeit still with some tension. That's how my brain is functioning right now, so it's nice that the song came out that way.

The second tune, Dog Eat Dog, came more-or-less whole from James Winningham. He recorded using a more subdued bass line, but I've substituted Stu's amped-up version of my playing, giving the backing more bite. I hope you (and James) like that treatment.

So, once again, I am eternally grateful for the fun birthday gifts you've given me. I truly think the Monday production will blow you away. It will be epic, one way or another. In the meantime, enjoy!


Dog Eat Dog

By the way, on Monday you find out the name of the group and you get to see the album cover art. Even if you hate the music, you'll enjoy that, believe me.

Soon, with... ???

Wednesday, March 02, 2011




I want you to play a song with me.

For my BIRTHDAY, people. I'm asking you to play a song with me for my BIRTHDAY. Come on! Can you really find it in your heart to deny a simple birthday wish? You don't really want to crush my spirit, do you? Are you willing to shred the pansies of my soul with your garden weasel of malice?

I suppose, if you hadn't figured it out already, I should tell you that today is my birthday. I've been on this planet, in one form or another, for 54 years. I don't quite know how I've lasted as long as I have. I've done almost everything wrong and probably should have been dead ages ago. However, given the general longevity on one side of my family, I might only be halfway done, and since the way I lived the first 54 years got me to this point, I don't think it would be wise for me to radically change my approach. As they say, wherever you go, there you are, and I certainly am.

The first way you could choose to react to this post would be to wish me a Happy Birthday. That's always nice, and I'd certainly be hard pressed to be mad at you if you only did that. What I would prefer, however, in the way of reactions, is for you to allow yourself to become amenable to my blandishments. If I could inveigle you...

(Way to go, Jim. Instead of making it easy on people, you send them scurrying for dictionaries and thesauruses. You like to think you're a farceur, but you're just an addlepate.)

All seriousness aside, what I would prefer for my birthday is for you to grab your axe and finger it, strum it, stroke it, blow it, or whatever else sounds filthy but isn't because we're talking about things like trombones and organs, and not those sorts of organs.

In other words, if you play an instrument, you're invited to the my virtual birthday jam session.

Here's how it will work. I have recorded a bass line, with some backing mechanical drums - a "click" track, basically - and your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take that bass line, listen to it, then add your own instrumentation.

Simple as pie (or even birthday cake!)

It's not an extremely complicated bass line, if that's worrying you. I came up with it about three or four weeks ago, and it's been stuck in my head ever since. I think it's catchy, funky, fun, and we should be able to build it into something truly interesting. I'll even give you a head start: It's mostly in B minor, then chord change up to D, back to B, up to D, back to B, then G, then F#, G again, then A, G, F#, D, and repeat until weary.

(I promise, it sounds more complicated than it actually is.)

Of course, for this to work, you have to be able to record yourself playing your instrument and then send the result to me. Once I get submissions from all of you who are willing to play along, I'll mix down all of the various parts and create the finished song.

You can play a lead, a solo, or just give us all some solid rhythm. Heck, if you want to try and play the exact line I've laid down, you can. It's entirely up to you. Give me as much of anything as you want. I'll decide which parts I like and how much of your playing gets included in the final product. I guarantee that everybody who plays along with this will have at least some part of their playing show up in whatever gets posted here later. If the ideas are disparate enough, maybe I'll even put together two or three different songs.

So, first things first. Here's the bass line...

Experiment In B

You should be able to listen to it there, and also download it as an MP3.

(Some notes on the production values, such as they are. I recorded it yesterday morning, one take, fiddled with it a bit for volume levels, did some equalizing and hard limiting, put a fadeout on the end, and that's about it. Those of you with perfect pitch - bastards! - may find it slightly sharp or flat. Close enough for government work, as they say. So, if you don't get a perfectly clean recording of your own instrument, I won't be over to shoot you or anything. This is music we're making, and it does not have to be perfect. It only has to be lovable. It runs a bit under six minutes, and you can play with as much or as little of it as you desire. As for the fade, don't worry about fading your own stuff. I only put it there so you'd know when it was ending. The breakdown of the segments, which you'll understand more fully when you listen to it, is as follows:

4 repetitions in B - the other part - 4 reps - other part - 12 reps [a longer soloing opportunity] - other part - 8 reps - other part - 5 reps fading out.)

If you find that you can't download it, but you still want to do this with me, then drop me a line, at , and ask me to send you the mp3. I'll gladly do so.

Once you have the mp3, figure out what you'd like to play. Just noodle around, if you want. Or get all serious and write yourself a chart. It's entirely your choice. And take it in whatever direction you desire: funk, metal, jazz, or anything else that provides buoyancy to your watercraft.

I would prefer it if you could record your instrumentation alone, without the backing track showing up within it, but I realize that may not be entirely possible for some of you to do. Some of you will have to have the bass/drum track playing in such a way that it will bleed into the recording of your instrument. If so, that's fine. I'll probably make it work. I'd rather you did that than not play at all.

Once you're happy with your recording, send me an mp3 of it. I'll do the rest. You have until 5pm eastern, Tuesday the 8th, at which time I'll begin mixing whatever I've received.

(If you play drums or percussion, PLEASE don't be put off by the mechanical drums that are already included. It would be tres cool if you gave me your beats. I don't want sampling, though. This is an experiment in "live" playing, not studio engineering technique. However, if you play the bass... well, it's my birthday. I get to be the only bass player. Sorry!)

If you think you might like to do this, but you're not sure about something, ASK. I'll be happy to answer any questions sent before 5pm today, March 2nd. I'll be off-line following that, until Tuesday the 8th. Questions I encounter on the 8th will be answered, too, but probably not in any way that will prove useful.

So, there you go. Those are the two ways you could react to this being my birthday. I hope some of you will choose option two and play with me.

(I guess there's one more way for you to react, and that would be for you to tell me to go and f... No, I'm willing to bet you're not the type of person who tells someone that on their birthday, so forget I mentioned it.)

Soon, with your better stuff.