Cold Is the Night [poetry]

Cold is the night
Lonely silence until she hums music
Sweet songs in her head
Humming hymns and strumming chords of her favorite songs
Fingers playing music
Pressing hot reflections of a time gone by

A door slams somewhere far away
Footsteps fade away
No sound but her humming
Alone again
Shivers in the cold behind closed doors

Someone enters and lights a fire
A lover spreading warmth
Blankets of heat make life cozy
Love makes all music more attractive

All the same
Cold is the night
For musicians playing alone

Penned July 22, 2007

Waxing Nostalgic, Rush [music]

If we could go back in time and if I could invite you into my home in 1974, I’d want you to listen to my brother Russ’s favorite music for a moment. It was heavy, hard, crashing, wild, and untamed at times. Raw. Energetic. Heavy metal. Thundering.

Outside, it was summer. I had just graduated 11th grade. Playing sandlot baseball was all I had on my mind. My friends and I sometimes played all day at the high school ball field . All we needed was a pitcher, a first baseman, someone at shortstop and second base, and two outfielders. Right field was forever out to right-handed hitters, and left field was forever out to left-handed hitters. And any foul ball hit after two strikes was an out and sometimes resulted in a search for the ball in the woods behind home plate and along right field.

Some days we had to head to the Western Auto store to buy a new baseball, which sometimes led us to the Ben Franklin five-and-dime store to see what new music came in.

That’s how it happened one day, late in the summer, when Russ and I perused the rows of factory sealed records. A friend told us about a Canadian group called Rush. “Heard them on a Cleveland radio station when my folks took us to an Indians ballgame.” The song was Working Man. He talked to the store manager about ordering the record.

I thought nothing more about it. School started and one day (yes, we listened to the radio during study halls) we heard it. My friends and I flipped. We had to have it. But the Ben Franklin store still didn’t have it in because of a label change within the band’s management, or something like that, which held up the order at the distributor in Canada.

Meanwhile, back home, my brother and I immersed ourselves in music. To our delight, a local FM station (WMDI, McKean PA) played LPs at night. Whole records. It’s from that tiny station that we were able to hear Yes, Cream, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin—the list is huge. There was and still is no better way to appreciate an album than hearing it first before plunking down some hard-earned cash for the LP.

One winter night, the station played Rush’s album. It moved us, reached into our hearts and souls and connected. When it was over, we knew we had to own it, to have it in our music collections. I didn’t hear the album again until three months later, on my 18th birthday when Russ handed me the LP and said, “Play it.”

I did. I still do.

Rush, released in 1974 by Moon Records in Canada and by Mercury Records in the United States and internationally

Side 1
Finding My Way
Need Some Love
Take A Friend
Here Again

Side 2
What You’re Doing
In The Mood
Before And After
Working Man

Waxing Nostalgic, Paul McCartney [music]

My last post was about music I grew up listening to. I featured 10 albums that I call “The soundtrack of my life.” Actually, those albums are mostly the soundtrack of my early teen life. Each one has a reason for being on the list that I kept at 10 albums due to time restraints, which omitted many other important ones.

The first album on that list, Revolver by The Beatles (1966), led me to seek out more songs by the group. I ended up with a hefty collection of 45-rpm singles. By the time I could afford long-playing albums, The Beatles were disbanding. My next Beatles album was Let It Be, the US record version released by Apple Records (red label) in 1970.

As quoted at Wikipedia, “Original American copies of Let It Be bore the Apple Records label, but because United Artists distributed the film, United Artists Records held the rights to distribute LP copies of the album in America. (EMI subsidiary Capitol, which held the Beatles’ US contract, had simultaneous rights to the music on the album, allowing them to distribute pre-recorded tape versions of the album, as well as to release its songs on singles and compilation albums. Capitol, however, did not have the rights to release or distribute the album in LP format.) To indicate that Let It Be was not distributed by Capitol, the Apple logo and record label in America sported a red apple, rather than the Beatles’ usual green Granny Smith apple.”

In the wake of The Beatles’ legal hassles, the outcry of the band’s breakup, and the debate of whether Phil Spector did them favor dubbing in orchestral and choral accompaniment of some of the songs on the Let It Be album, I wanted to like the record as well as I did Revolver. I gave the album away a year later in exchange for Paul McCartney’s Ram.

Paul McCartney – Ram, released in 1971

I owned and liked very much the 45-single “Maybe I’m Amazed” by McCartney from his first album, but missed out buying the album. So, when the song “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” hit the radio airwaves, I hurried to the local record store and bought the single, hoping to buy the LP too. Unfortunately, the album never made it to our small town 5 and 10 cent store, so I ended up trading to a friend who lived in a bigger town for his copy of Ram.

Ram is a collection of quirky songs, similar the quirkiness of the songs on Let It Be, but, IMHO, much more fun to listen to. I recall it getting unfavorable reviews by Rolling Stone magazine. Actually, I recall the magazine giving many of my favorite recording artists and bands unfavorable reviews. Looking back, Rolling Stone had a pretentious air to it, which was a deciding factor to cancel my subscription to it in 1977. Years later, I still laugh and thumb my nose at critics who think they have their fingers on the universal pulse of things, but are really out of touch with the other side. Because that’s what life is: Two sides. Take it or leave it.

Anyway, Ram was important because it was fun to hear. And its critics were important because it made me aware of human pretentiousness. That’s when I quit making fun of my younger brothers liking The Osmonds.

Ram was high on my favorite albums list and it sat next to Revolver. It was the only McCartney LP I owned until Band On The Run came along two years later.

Side 1
Too Many People
3 Legs
Ram On
Dear Boy
Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
Smile Away

Side 2
Heart Of The Country
Monkberry Moon Delight
Eat At Home
Long Haired Lady
Ram On (Reprise)
The Back Seat Of My Car

Paul McCartney and Wings – Band On The Run, released in 1973

Without argument, this is McCartney’s most successful and celebrated album. It joined Ram as a top favorite record and got me closer to my brother Russ. His music preferences were much harder and louder than mine were. I recall some nasty hard-edged rock coming from his bedroom at the time, especially from Aerosmith’s debut album and Black Sabbath’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. But he took a liking to Band On The Run and borrowed it often. In turn, I borrowed Aerosmith’s album until I bought my own copy later on when I was in the Navy. I’ve always liked their version of the Rufus Thomas hit Walking The Dog.

Side 1
Band On The Run
Mrs. Vandebilt
Let Me Roll It

Side 2
No Words
Helen Wheels
Picasso’s Last Words (Drink To Me)
Nineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five

What’s important about these albums and the ones featured in my earlier post, is that they played in the background while I wrote my Ridgewood stories from 1970 to 1974. I believe the songs helped me create the characters and their scenes and stories. Today, when I listen to these LPs, I can still see in my mind the people and stories that came about. This, I think, is why the characters still live in me.

Next time, some nasty hard-edged rock that brought Russ and me closer than ever.

Waxing Nostalgic [music]

Music is a big deal where I work at and I hear a lot of it on their radio that I don’t like. No matter how well I try to appreciate music after the 1980s, “I like that old-time rock ‘n’ roll” best. Of course, my definition of old-time rock ‘n’ roll differs from some of my older friends who grew up listening to singers like Elvis, Pat Boone, and Little Richard.

The music I grew up listening to is the background soundtrack of my life right now. It’s what I play when I’m writing, making art, driving, or just kicking back and being cool, daddio. (Sorry. I’m too young to have been a beatnik, but I couldn’t resist throwing daddio out there. My generation would have said “man,” which lacks poetic finesse.)

My life’s soundtrack takes me back to the 1960s and 70s. The albums listed below are off the top of my head and ones I still listen to. (I kept the list at 10, which omitted many other albums that are part of my background soundtrack.) They all packed a punch to my heart and soul when I put needle to their black and shiny vinyl those many years ago.

Here they are, chronologically.

The Beatles – Revolver, Capital Records version, released in 1966

Revolver was the first Beatles album I owned because my Beatle Fan cousin didn’t like it. What? How is that possible? Anyway, my dad was not a fan of the band, so I had to keep it under lock and key and listen to it with headphones on. The music blew me away. Got To Get You Into My Life was my theme song for many years.

Side 1
Eleanor Rigby
Love You To
Here, There And Everywhere
Yellow Submarine
She Said She Said

Side 2
Good Day Sunshine
For No One
I Want To Tell You
Got To Get You Into My Life
Tomorrow Never Knows

Steppenwolf – Steppenwolf 7, released in 1970

In 1969, I became a paperboy in my little hometown and delivered the “big city” newspaper trucked in from the shores of Lake Erie, so I could suddenly afford $5 albums instead of the usual 25-cent 45s. My first Steppenwolf album was the band’s fifth studio album for Dunhill Records. None of the songs made the top 40. But all were instant hits to me. They still are.

Side 1
Ball Crusher
Forty Days And Forty Nights
Fat Jack

Side 2
Foggy Mental Breakdown
Snowblind Friend
Who Needs Ya’
Hippo Stomp

Sugarloaf – Sugarloaf, released in 1970

Yes, I played Green-Eyed Lady to death when it became my favorite go-to song when I was feeling down. I was 13; nuff said. The rest of the album has great rock rhythms and riffs to perk up your day.

Side 1
Green-Eyed Lady
The Train Kept A-Rollin’ (Stroll On)
Medley: Bach Doors Man / Chest Fever

Side 2
West Of Tomorrow
Gold And The Blues
Things Are Gonna Change Some

Yes – Fragile, Released in 1971

Although I thought The Yes Album, which came before this one, was the greatest progressive rock album ever, Fragile blew me away. So did the following album, Close To The Edge, which gets an honorable mention. In fact, I can go weeks just listening to these three albums and nothing else.

Side 1
Cans And Brahms
We Have Heaven
South Side Of The Sky

Side 2
Five Per Cent For Nothing
Long Distance Runaround
The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)
Mood For A Day
Heart Of The Sunrise

The Who – Who’s Next, Released in 1971

I had the 45-rpm I Can See For Miles by The Who that I played to death, and I had heard their Tommy album a few times at school in my English and creative studies classes before I bought the Who’s Next album in 1971. A few months later, I bought their compilation album Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy and wore out several needles playing the two albums. But Who’s Next is my favorite—a classic!

Side 1
Baba O’Riley
Love Ain’t For Keeping
My Wife
The Song Is Over

Side 2
Getting In Tune
Going Mobile
Behind Blue Eyes
Won’t Get Fooled Again

Deep Purple – Machine Head, Released in 1972

Deep Purple’s most successful album. I never tire of Space Truckin’, Highway Star, and, of course, Smoke On The Water.

Side 1
Highway Star
Maybe I’m A Leo
Pictures Of Home
Never Before

Side 2
Smoke On the Water
Space Truckin’

Uriah Heep – The Magician’s Birthday, Released in 1972

I had a “hard rock, acid rock” friend who was a fan of Ken Hensley from a band called The Gods. When he found out that Hensley was with a new group called Uriah Heep, he bought their albums. One of our favorite albums was Salisbury, and we played Side 1 until we wore it out. I still love those songs: High Priestess, The Park, Time To Live, and Lady In Black. When Mercury Records released The Magician’s Birthday by Uriah Heep, I bought it immediately and never regretted it. This is probably Heep’s greatest album—great stuff for heavy rock fans, though Hensley pens some nice gentle songs too.

Side 1
Spider Woman
Blind Eye
Echoes In The Dark

Side 2
Sweet Lorraine
The Magician’s Birthday

Moody Blues – This Is The Moody Blues, Released in 1974

I had many 45s by the Moody Blues that I liked before I bought this compilation album and wore it out. It has been my go-to album for many years.

Side 1
The Actor
The Word
Eyes Of A Child
Dear Diary
Legend Of A Mind

Side 2
In The Beginning
Lovely To See You
Never Comes the Day
Isn’t Life Strange
The Dream
Have You Heard (Part 1)
The Voyage
Have You Heard (Part 2)

Side 3
Ride My See-Saw
Tuesday Afternoon
And The Tide Rushes In
New Horizons
A Simple Game
Watching And Waiting

Side 4
I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)
For My Lady
The Story In Your Eyes
Melancholy Man
Nights In White Satin
Late Lament

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here, Released in 1975

Everyone loved Dark Side Of The Moon, including me. But Wish You Were Here was my go-to album for many years.

Side 1
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I–V)
Welcome To The Machine

Side 2
Have A Cigar
Wish You Were Here
Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI–IX)

Queen – A Night At The Opera, released 1975

I had graduated high school in May before this album came out in November. This is Queen’s first album and IMHO, their best.

Side 1
Death On Two Legs (Dedicated to…)
Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon
I’m In Love With My Car
You’re My Best Friend
Sweet Lady
Seaside Rendezvous

Side 2
The Prophet’s Song
Love Of My Life
Good Company
Bohemian Rhapsody
God Save The Queen

Poet [poetry]

The boy who lost his mother gnarled like a bear—
tough bear he.

But away from the bestial,
he had softness in his eyes—
they laughed even when he and his words were sharp
and sometimes ambiguous.

He showed the plumpness of his belly to his closest friends
and grunted like a pig and poet,
laughing behind his scars
with eagerness to taste color from afar.

He took from the sunglow like an artist hunched at his easel
and painted everyone—
even the ones who had no power to imagine.

He painted deaf-mutes with love that ran down his breast,
ripping chords from the constellations
and opening creation’s ingenious blindness
to music that volleyed beyond his art that transcended ages
and volleys still
in us all.

Devil Music [fiction]

Author’s Note

I started this story in 1987, got halfway through it, then shelved it and moved on to other projects. I found it earlier this year and decided to breathe new life into it. It is not a style of story I usually write.

Although the original story held a lot of autobiographical material, I threw it out and made it as close to 99.99% fiction as I could. However, I based many of the events that happened in the 1960s and 70s on news reports, as well as material I collected from researching books, magazines, and documentary film.

Dana did not go to the heavy-metal rock concert with her friends. Her church believed the concert would exhort the crowd to rape and murder. Rock and roll music had always been the catalyst of evil; her mother and grandmother had told her this repeatedly over the years.

Even the innocent-looking Beatles of the early 1960s were spawned from satanic cults entwined in international drug trade. They—those dapper lads from Liverpool—were the beginning of a larger scheme, immersed in drugs and controlled by mob-connected promoters to eliminate Judeo-Christian civilization.

Dana’s grandmother Evelyn, or Eve to her friends, had worked in jazz clubs in England and West Germany during the 1950s and 60s, in the seediest part of the cities, among prostitution and drug use. Eve—barely a teenager when she ran away from home—worked as a stripper behind red-lit windows where sex was plentiful … and easy to purchase. She knew The Beatles in Hamburg, knew their music, took their pills and drank their best alcohol. She followed them to London where prostitution was not as easy. She dated a musician, Axel Ziegler—a Teddy Boy and ex-Nazi Party member who gave her drugs and the clap and introduced her to witchcraft and Satanism.

Axel was not rich but he managed several dance clubs and had money. He knew The Rolling Stones and liked their brash appearance. The Stones were “disgraceful, long-haired lummoxes” as opposed in comparison to the well-groomed Beatles. But both groups were part of a Satanic movement set to destroy the very fabric of a stable society and its divine institutions.

By 1966, John Lennon had claimed The Beatles “more popular than Jesus now.” He said, “Christianity will go, it will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that. I’m right and will be proved right.” By December 1967, Eve wondered in her diary if it was true. The following Sunday, she took her seven-year-old daughter Rebekka to the neighborhood Catholic Church for Christmas mass. Her friends and Axel attended the Process Church, a satanic cult that Axel called “Acid In The Grass.” The name came from Stones member Bill Wyman’s song, “In Another Land” from the recently released album, Their Satanic Majesties Request. That night, Axel had a pipped-out drug trip. It began with whiskey at the local pub before he turned to LSD with some friends. He went home high and injected his body with heroin. He died around 4 a.m.

During the following year, Eve and Rebekka lived with a dee-jay/musician named Aldrid Little. Aldrid had befriended Axel in Hamburg and became a partner member of dance clubs in Hamburg and London. When Aldrid was at Hamburg and Eve was not stoned on pot, the calling of Christ weighed heavily on her mind. In her diary, she wondered why Jesus would want an English whore—one who practiced witchcraft—to be in his flock.

She wrote on her birthday that she was ashamed of her naked appearance in an issue of The Process Magazine for the church against God, having orgies with devoted disciple, Kenneth Anger, and participating in a Black Mass. She also wrote that she’d had a disagreement with Anger about Aleister Crowley: the proclaimed founding father of modern Satanism.

“I hate myself,” she wrote later that year. She never revealed why. But getting high and having sex, it seems, buried her self-hatred. For a while.

By the early 1970s, the world outside of Eve’s flat was still a mess. The Beatles had disbanded, “Kenny” as she called Anger, was filming shorts about satanic rituals, and one of his actors and homosexual lover, Bobby Beausoleil, was serving a life sentence in prison along with Charles Manson for a series of murders that included model/actress Sharon Tate. The police were cracking down on drug users and had arrested Aldrid twice in 1973 for possession of marijuana.

In 1974, fifteen-year-old Rebekka ran away from home. Eve frantically searched for her only child for five months. During that time, she vowed to become a devout Chritian if Rebekka was found alive. She was, though pregnant. She would lose the baby in a miscarriage. Eve kept her promise to God. She left Aldrid and England and moved Rebekka to Chicago. The following year, Rebekka also found salvation.

Years later, Rebekka married a minister and had a daughter of her own.

“I don’t want you going to that rock concert,” Rebekka told Dana. “If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you follow them?”

Dana did not argue. She went to her bedroom and listened to music on her iPod. The music was Christian Rock. The praises were to God. But as Grandma Eve insisted, the music came from Satan. All rock music did.

She took some ecstasy tablets kept hidden with the bundle of others behind her bed’s headboard, and washed them down with a Red Bull. Then she called her boyfriend Kevin. His parents had ordered him too to stay away from the concert.

“Come over. I need you to be here when I crash. Sneak in through my window. It’s unlocked. Then meet me in the attic. You know where.”

Kevin hurried to be with Dana during her time of need. She really wanted to quit her drug habit. But what good was life if it meant being depressed and irritable most of the time. Besides, if he timed it right and “rode the wave” with her during her heightened sexual arousal, having sex with her would make his night one to remember.