I did not choose to make this Alfa Romeo GTV 2000 my first Capstone project easily. I studied many marquis and cars: Porsche 356 and 911, Mercedes W108-109 and W116, BMW 3 Series and 2000, Ford Mustangs and VW Squareback and Karmann Ghia. All had qualities interesting to me, all were eliminated for one reason or another. My criteria was pretty specific: a strong unibody, engine and drivetrain intact, all glass in place, suspension mounting points in original locations, a project car under $15,000, parts and technical materials available. I gave credit for a 1966 model (year I was born) but it had to be 1974 or older.
The more I studied both the Alfa and the market for GTV 2000’s, the more my interest piqued. Four Wheel disc brakes, limited slip differential, five speed manual transmission, around 2,400 lbs, 130 HP, lots of glass and great sight lines.
The car wasn’t on my radar for many reasons, mostly because I thought a project car would be out of my desired price range. As I became more comfortable with the idea of a lot of rust repair, both cosmetic and structural, the more I saw the merits. The fact that it is Italian, the country of my grandparents and my lineage, only added to the intrinsic value.
I ‘ve spoke in previous posts about Satori and Capstone. Satori was the realization that I only had so many years left. My father died at 83 but the reality was his body began seriously failing him in his mid 70’s. I’ll be 55 this year. I’ve dedicated my life to service to others: the military, my wife, child raising, my job and the company that has given me so much. I have a bit of time now that my son is older, and that time I’m pouring into this endeavor. Capstone are the projects of finality, the pinnacle of my skills, my abilities, and the things I want to accomplish before I age gracefully and live out the golden years. My biggest fear in life is I will have lived since age 17 in the service of others only to become infirmed before I can realize these capstone projects.
Capstone 001, the Alfa, will be the vehicle, my platform, that I campaign in rally events in North America, Europe and Asia. It will be a continually evolving and improving companion to the adventures I still have left in me: Key West to Deadhorse Alaska, London to Sicily and the grand daddy of them all and my stretch goal, Peking to Paris. These long and arduous drives are the test of both myself and machine, or better yet, my body and my skill. Validation of a lifetime of preparation. No one will remember these feats, few will understand them, and no pot of gold awaits me at the end. This car will never be sold. Hopefully one of my grandchildren or nieces and nephews children take up a love of vintage steel. I haven’t given up on my son developing a love for mechanics either. Satori! It’s the capstone of the best life I can lead for myself, the ying to the yang that is being the best father, husband, uncle, brother and grandfather.
Project Management is a skill I’ve honed for many years. At the heart of project management is understanding the triple constraint: Money, Time and Scope of Work. I’m focused on Scope of Work now. The car will be in my shop in about two weeks after being shipped across country from Los Angeles. A complete inventory of what I have and what it needs will come first, followed by planning. My Dad use to laugh at me because I learned from books instead of his approach to learn by trying. Perhaps its the Us Navy Nuclear Power Program in me, but I’ll think and analyze before one bolt is turned. Where I think I have evolved is I am able now to change on the fly, not be married to my planning, and I no longer have a paralyzing fear of failure mechanically. Dad would be proud and I wished he was alive to sit in my shop, drink coffee and bust my chops, but I know he hovers close by. I asked that the car arrive on April 8th. One year ago, at 3:35 PM on April 8th I watched him take his last breath and say goodbye to this world. I like symmetry in life and starting Capstone 01 on that date to me is perfect symmetry.
Until then, Satori! Find your purpose before a sudden awakening finds you.
Satori! was a feeling that led me to take action. A sudden bolt of lightning that reminded me that my life clock is ticking. Satori! is an emotion, esoteric and translucent. Maybe it was the fact I’m approaching 55. Maybe the death of my father, father in law, the pandemic and realizing how quickly this construct of life can be altered or ended. Whatever the reason, I became engaged in my Satori moment and determined to make the next 20+ years (God willing) count.
Capstone is concrete. Capstone is things I’m doing, thing’s I’m building. They are the things I wish to be remembered for, along with father, husband and veteran.
I rented a workshop and since September I have been making progress to prepare it for my first project. The bathroom has been freshened and made presentable. I am in the process of adding more lights, more 120v power and I’m installing 240V for my air compressor and welding machine. Work benches have been built. Bookshelves installed.
The workshop sign is up, although a replacement has been ordered because it was made up on the incorrect sized stock. No matter, the shop has been christened. Mementos are inside: pictures of my Dad, my son, my father in law, flags that flew over my submarine. Cigars and bourbon are there.
When not physically preparing the facility for my first Capstone project, I’ve been studying, considering multiple projects before me. I don’t want to be coy so I will just spell out my Capstone objectives:
Build (not buy a ready made car) a classic car. Pre-1974, points for a 1966 (my birth year).
2026. Test the Car in North America: Key West to Deadhorse, Alaska. 5,500 Miles.
2028 (or 2031- you have to be selected) Peking to Paris Historic Car Rally. 9,300 Miles and a lot of money.
Three objectives. The car. A platform that can handle off road, overland, dust, mud, stream crossings, speed, endurance, durability and safety. Its a lot to ask for. Skills, developed over a lifetime, beginning with lessons from my father, the Navy, my career. The application of skills and smarts, expressed in steel.
The drives. Why? Life is about adventures. Being able to combine my love of mechanical machines, travel, adventure and accomplishment without fanfare is a lure that no drug compares to.
36 years ago today I left the safety of my home and joined the US Navy. Immature and too young for what faced me, I survived and pressed on. By the time I left the submarine in February 1991 I was mature, hardened, focused. My uncle gave me my first opportunity and I made the rest of my opportunities happen. I willingly made sacrifices to move my career to where it traveled. Then, Satori! 2020 came, 2020 forced introspection and an examination of what is and was important. I’m looking at my career in shorter horizons now, thinking about 60 as the time to step away, perhaps 62. I love what I do and I’m dedicated to the people I work for. Satori. The Capstone Projects. I couldn’t wait to 62 to gear up for these things, so I will use these 6 years or so preparing for the day my work career ends and I spend every moment preparing for those objectives.
I’m not trying to impress anyone nor am I trying to be some social media influencer type. This is a time capsule I’m burying for my grandkids. I’ll teach you about me, our family and history, and hopefully when this is being read in February 2021 by a great grandchild they will be able to relate a bit to their distant relative in a way I can’t just looking at the old black and white photos from 1921 of my ancestors.
Music has always been a place of refuge for me. A passion of mine when I was younger was to make “mix tapes”, cassette tapes filled with songs that I would give to my friends. I always considered them windows into my world and nothing excited me more than years later learning that some band on one of those mix tapes became a favorite of that recipient.
I started numbering them in June 1985, when I lived at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station just north of Chicago. I had graduated high school in January 1985 and joined the US Navy. With money and time, the mix tapes started to flow. That first mix tape contained an odd combination of Rush, Duran Duran, The Fixx and Wham!
Over 150 mix tapes were made by me between 1985 and 1995. For a brief time, mix CDs took over from 1996 through 2004. After that, silence for nearly 16 years. I had a child to raise, a job to work, there wasn’t time or a very good medium for sharing these mixes anymore, and quite frankly, my small collection of friends had other things in their lives beside 1980’s new wave mix collections.
I make these Youtube mixes for me. I play them in my shop when I’m working, I play them on long car rides, I play them before bed. I share them via social media and occasionally a friend tells me a certain song reminded them of the old days, a compliment worth more than any money.
I’ve been preparing my creative space for the work ahead of me, what I refer to my Capstone projects. These mixes are the soundtrack.
Merry Christmas. My father sat in my house for the last time one Christmas ago. So much has happened in the past year, but his loss, and the loss of my father in law, looms over everything.
My latest Satori Blog mix tape (and they will always be mix tapes and not playlists to me!) is released and can be found here. Music inspires and brings joy to me. I show my age but the music I gravitate to is the music and the bands of my youth. They were the ones who spoke to me when life was still unfolding, and they continue to whisper into my ear today. So you don’t have to guess, my music is mostly from the middle 1980’s, mostly what would have been called New Wave, and mostly was written and recorded by real musicians without autotune or protools. Organic. Authentic.
The Church lead things off with the haunting Numbers from their revival album, After Everything
I’m not a huge Bowie fan but Modern Love gets turned up when it comes on my radio
The Jam and Clash give us a taste of the end of 70’s London Punk Scene
New Order and the Pet Shop Boys give us shimmering synth sounds
Peter Murphy’s haunting Marlene Dietrich’s Favorite Poem is a reminder of how talented the former members of Bauhaus are/were
Stand or Fall and Bye Bye Love reminds us that not every song needs to have the depths of the ocean, some are just slabs of pop, and that’s not a bad thing
Dead Can Dance’s Brendan Perry can rip your heart from its chest with the depth of the emotion in his baritone. A nice compliment to slabs of pop.
The Beach Boy’s Til I Die is an example of Brian Wilson’s evolution over time, an evolution that cost him mental health along the way
The Waterboy’s title song to June 1984’s A Pagan Place LP gives a glimpse into the big music sound, music that inspired U2 who had the fame but admired Mike Scott nonetheless.
Echo and the Bunnymen with a deep cut, Clay, REM with the rockabilly sing along Don’t Go Back to Rockville, Depeche Mode industrial synth, U2, The Lightning Seeds, The Wild Swans, and Marty Willson-Piper round out the affair.
The concept of my Satori! is simple: I sat in bed the days following the death of my dog Kay and I wondered about my own mortality.
My dog was just a puppy in 2005 when I accepted a position that became a life-altering job. The job gave me a chance to achieve my career goal of being the top operations manager of an electric power generation company, but it came with non stop travel, heavy stresses and the need for wide shoulders because ultimately every issue seemed to find its way to my desk.
Fourteen years later, and that dog had became my best friend and night time companion, as unresolved discomfort in a bed, and my broken nose style of snoring found me sleeping on the floor with her to find rest. She was a flawed animal, once biting my sister in law, and we couldn’t let any strangers near her, but she was loving and kind with my family. Her death shook me. It dawned on me that I only had so much time. None of us know the hour, and worrying about it won’t add a second, but I was gripped with this thought that all the hard work in my life would go for naught and that I’d never have healthy retirement years to pursue my personal goals and objectives.
That was my Satori, my sudden awakening, that I was mortal, that time wasn’t infinite and I could not afford to waste any. I took a Konmari approach to organizing my life. It was simple really; what is important and gives me both utility and happiness was kept, and what did not was not.
The Capstone Project is a direct result of my Satori, an application of a lifetime of skills and knowledge and applying it, like a focused beam of light. But I needed the right incubator, fertile space to flesh out my ideas into reality. I needed creative space.
There are different schools of thought on the ways we as humans learn. The benefit of being in my mid 50’s is that I have enough perspective regarding my own experiences and I’ve realized that the ways I learn at 53 are the same way I learned at 18: I like quiet, uncluttered space, with my thoughts organized in a manner that I can easily access them.
I can’t work with the radio or TV on, absolutely no headphones unless noise cancelling, and I need my work and creative environment to be clean. I can’t work or think cluttered and “…you don’t need a degree in organizational psychology to know that a cluttered work area does not make for clear thinking” (Pernnell 2019). A different form of psychology, the relatively new science of environmental psychology, “…explores the influence of our physical surroundings on how we think, feel and act ” and again, I know I need well lit, clean, organized and quiet (Rattner 2017).
As a result of Satori, I have started this Capstone Project, a series of projects really, all interlinked and chronicled here. I don’t want to get ahead of myself on the projects, but if I’m going to be creative I needed creative space and I have secured space to work within. Located mere minutes from my house, 1,000 square feet with a loft for storage and bathroom that allows me to drink unlimited coffee at night and on weekends.
It needs work, but that’s OK, its all part of the journey. I don’t like to rush through my personal projects, quality over quantity. “Give your space a metaphor or theme. This will shape how people use and think about the space” (DeGraff 2014). Creative space is the metaphor.
My goal is to have the creative space cleaned, organized and built out to my personal taste and specifications by the end of the coming winter. I’d like to begin my actual first project in the spring of 2021. Video companions to the posts begin around January 2021 if I stay on schedule.
I’ll post progress pictures and write updates along the path.
Blogs come and go. Those of us old enough to remember a time before Twitter and Facebook know that blogs were a place where thoughts, ideas and information was exchanged. The comments section became a time line of sorts and the discussion went on long past the blog posting.
In September 2008, I started The Turk and the Little Turk blog, a Horse Racing and Handicapping blog with a featured race within each post. Almost 700 posts later the blog is still alive and well. Twitter and other social media platforms have taken the traffic and the comments, but that’s OK, I was never there for the collection of a large audience or ad revenues, I simply like to share my thoughts and observations about horse racing.
It’s a very different blog, intended for a very different audience. If you are interested you can find the link here, The Turk and the Little Turk.
Today’s blog post featured Saturday’s Fourstardave, a Grade 1 event from Saratoga Springs run over the grass. I made the offer in today’s post, if you ever read this, and would like to know how to learn the basics of horse racing so you can explore the sport, just reach out.
An essential part of my youth was music. It set my mood, gave me affiliation, opened my mind to the world and possibilities.
The mix tape was an expression of my love of music that I shared with friends and acquaintances. Like an apostle traveling the Mediterranean in the time of Paul or a Mormon teen knocking on my door in the summer, I sought to spread the word.
90 Minutes. A blank canvas. Simple rules: I had to believe in it, it had to have passion, no one hit wonders, or gimmicks. I made and gave away over 150 of these in a 15 year period before I became a father and my time consumed by another passion, my son.
The digital age came while I rested. A friend gave me “Zip drive” mix tapes. Only playable on a device that few computers had, and not in cars, it was about as popular as a Betamax machine.
I own a huge collection of digital music now and I have yet to really find a good way to make a mix tape using that music and sharing it freely and easily. YouTube is a window for me into a world of the music I love and the selection I find there is just as good, undoubtedly better, than what I could buy. Demos, Live Clips, different versions, it’s all there.
2020 has become the year of the Mix Tape again for me. While I have fewer people to share it with, and nothing on these mixes is new, the apostle continues to spread the message.
This is my 35th year making mix tapes. It never gets old to me. Enjoy.
Work for Love- Ministry***Welcome to the Occupation-REM***Angels and Devils-Echo and the Bunnymen***Somebody Might Wave Back-Waterboys***Can’t Hardly Wait (Tim Version)-The Replacements***Secret Journey-The Police***Moving in Stereo-The Cars***Digital-Joy Division***Premonition-Simple Minds***Rollercoaster-The Mighty Lemon Drops***The Murder of Love-Propaganda***How Men Are-Aztec Camera***Get the Balance Right-Depeche Mode***The Rhythm-Spoons***If there is a Heaven Above-Love and Rockets***This Time of Night-New Order***Like the Weather-10,000 Maniacs***Goodnight Song-Tears for Fears
Should I Stay or Should I Go-The Clash***Thursday-Morphine***The Azalea Festival-John and Mary***Mandinka-Snead O’Connor***Explode and Make Up-Sugar***11 O’Clock Tick Tock-U2***Secrets-The Cure***Head over Heels-Tears for Fears***Hounds of Love-Kate Bush***The First Notebook-Railway Children***Raspberry Beret-Prince***Save It For Later-English Beat***Seeing out the Angel-Simple Minds***Cherry Came Too-Jesus and the Marychain***Here’s Where the Story Ends-The Sundays***Caroline, No-Beach Boys***Don’t Fade Away-Dead Can Dance
Someone Up There Likes You-Simple Minds***Such a Shame-Talk Talk***There is no love between us Anymore-Pop Will Eat Itself***Heaven-Eurogliders***Dreams-Cranberries***The Pan Within-Waterboys***Don’t Change-INXS***Maybe I’m Amazed-Paul McCartney***Hollow Man-The Cult***Clare’s Scarf-John and Mary***Procession-New Order***What’s the Matter Here-10,000 Maniacs***Orange Crush-REM***Out of Control-U2***New Dawn Fades-Joy Division***About You-Jesus and the MaryChain***Darlin’One-The Replacements
Opium-Dead Can Dance***Streets of your Town-Go Betweens***A New Season-The Church***The Only One I Know-The Charlatans UK***Between Something and Nothing-Ocean Blue***Planet Earth-Duran Duran***Strength-The Alarm***All in My Mind-Love and Rockets***Suddenly Last Summer-The Motels***Believe What you are Saying-Sugar***Stories for Boys-U2***Theme for Great Cities-Simple Minds***Heaven or Las Vegas-Cocteau Twins***Achin’ to Be-The Replacements***When Loves Breaks Down-Prefab Sprout***You Are the Everything-REM***What About Love-‘Til Tuesday***All Night Long-Peter Murphy
Harborcoat-REM***Linger-Cranberries***Your Mind is a Box-Poltergeist***Like a Song-U2***Trouble Me-10,000 Maniacs***When You come back to Me-World Party***To Wish Impossible Things-The Cure***Give it Up-Talk Talk***Stars are Stars-Echo and the Bunnymen***This Time of Night-New Order***This is the Sea-The Waterboys***The Last-The Replacements***This Night Has Opened My Eyes-The Smiths***The Dog End of a Day Gone By-Love and Rockets***Hyacinth House-The Doors***Since You’re Gone-The Cars***Sensation-Bryan Ferry***Sweetest Chill-Siouxsie and the Banshees***Severance-Dead Can Dance***Atmosphere-Joy DIvision
The Working Hour-Tears for Fears***What are you going to do with your Life-Echo and the Bunnymen***I Fall Down-U2***Song of the Stars-Dead Can Dance***Dome-The Church***Spirits in the Material World-The Police***Same Old Scene-Roxy Music***Confusion-New Order***Only The Lonely-The Motels***Working in a Goldmine-Aztec Camera***Help Me Lift You Up-Mary Margaret O’Hara***Valerie Loves Me-Material Issue***Freelove (Live)-Depeche Mode***Is the Something I Should Know-Duran Duran***Don’t You Want Me Baby-The Human League***1979-Smashing Pumpkins***Fake Plastic Trees-Radiohead***Sweet Thing-Waterboys***She’s The One-World Party
The Albums that Shaped Me Microblog continues with the debut album by Tears for Fears, The Hurting, released in March 1983. While Songs for the Big Chair, released two days before I joined the Navy, on 25 February 1985, may be the more commercially accessible album, The Hurting was the one that mattered the most to me.
Sometime in mid 1984 the song ‘Way You Are’ was getting play on 102.1, Toronto’s CFNY, my station of choice at the time after graduating from the classic sounds of Buffalo’s 97 Rock. The Way You Are was recorded while on tour in support of The Hurting and was a precursor to their pop sound to come. It wasn’t until just before leaving for boot camp in February 1985 did Tears for Fears explode with the release of Shout. Right after boot camp, I was living in the Chicago area and two of the first albums I bought were The Hurting and Songs of the Big Chair. The first concert I was able to attend after boot camp was Tears for Fears at the Aragon Ballroom on Lawrence Ave. It’s a beautiful old theater, similar in appearance and age to Buffalo’s Shea’s Theater. The band played every song off of both albums except one (The Prisoner). While not overpowering as a live act, the live versions of The Hurting gave the music more pace, stripped back some of the production, and revealed excellent song structures, with themes that resonated with the 18 year old me living in the big city.
I did a girl wrong (not felony wrong, poor gentleman behavior wrong) around this time. She sent me the lyrics to Change, and I felt shame. I never did a girl wrong again, so thank you to that girl, you know who you and gratefully you forgave me.
The band’s combination of Curt Smith’s soulful tenor and Roland Orzabal’s masculine baritone, complimented each other. The music, again not complicated or virtuoso, is well produced for the period, and they grew as musicians through their catalog. Their clear Beatles influences are mostly observed in 1989’s Sowing the Seeds of Love and 2004’s Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, and The Hurting is more about emotions played across the full spectrum.
The album took me to a place of introspection. Songs dealt with alienation, childhood trauma, isolation, failure, the loss of friends, death. The subjects were weighty, they were handled with intelligence, and they further expanded my mind to the power of music as a window into emotion and passion. It was dark but danceable, moody but not pretentious. Passion comes in many styles, but it can’t be faked.
Memories Fade, Start of the Breakdown and Watch Me Bleed were the tracks that stood out to me while Pale Shelter, Mad World and Change were the ones most gravitated too.
I was lucky enough to see them perform in Buffalo in 2004, an acoustic show, in support of their last studio album. Quality was always valued more than quantity by Orzabal and Smith, and as long as their long but perpetually fragile relationship holds up I’m sure they are capable of a late career gem. Will we get it? Who knows, but what we do have are these time capsules from a different time and a different place.
The Cult: Love- Purchased 1985
The Albums that Shaped Me Microblog, 1985’s Love by The Cult.
This was The Cult’s second studio album after a bit of a rebrand from their gothic punk roots.
I had never heard of The Cult before the girls at the club on Bennett Road in Orlando started dancing to She Sells Sanctuary around Christmas 1985. Not every album in my series touched me on an intellectual or emotional level, some just rocked. A band could not be more masculine than the sound of The Cult. Loud and in your face. While not the new wave Motörhead they became with 1987’s Electric, this album is a sonic assault lead by Billy Duffy’s Gretch White Falcon and Jamie Stewart’s pulsating bass. Singer Ian Asbury has been compared to Jim Morrison most of his career. The Wolf Child has a lot of similarities with the Lizard King, including filling his shoes when Robbie Krieger and Keyboardist Ray Manzarek brought The Doors Of the 21st Century on the road. By the that was a hell of a reimagined Doors, with the 2002 lineup including Stewart Copeland of The Police on Drums along with Asbury and the boys. Something else. I digress.
This was my Cult, not the one that came before or even the one that came after. I loved the sound, the production, and I didn’t mind the trippy lyrics because of the passion that Asbury brought to it.
When they started to write Electric they recorded 12 new sounds at Manor Studios in England. They did not like the sound. They wanted to go in a harder direction, and hired Rick Rubin to produce what many consider their masterpiece. Those 12 discarded songs were reworked by Rubin, but the originals have leaked out over the years, many issued by the band themselves. The songs were an extension of Love. While I dug it, the band didn’t and that’s all that mattered.
Not deep, not introspective. I danced my ass off to Rain and She Sells Sanctuary in 1986. Sweaty and alcohol fueled, those nights on the floor at St. Catherine’s Gords Place or Welland’s Aquaduck seemed like they would never end, but alas, nothing lasts forever and that moment in a young person’s life is fleeting. I wish I would have realized how fleeting, but then again, that’s part of the maturation process. The people, the music, it’s all ingrained in memory now.
John and Mary: Victory Gardens 1991
The Albums that Shaped Me Microblog continues with John and Mary’s Victory Gardens.
This 1991 release was high on my radar for many reasons, primarily my enjoyment of folk rock, Buffalo acoustic bars, and the 10,000 Maniacs, where John Lombardo, John, was Natalie Merchant’s writing partner and band mate before leaving just as commercial success came with 1986’s In My Tribe. After meeting classicly trained violist Mary Ramsey just six months previously, the duo recorded the album with most of the Maniac’s and a who’s who of American underground college rock alumni at Mitch Easter’s studio in North Carolina.
I wrestled with if a 10,000 Maniacs album belonged in this spot, but quite frankly I lump them all together anyway, as John and Mary are member’s of both and the music is really no different. Two different lead singers, but both brimming with talent. In late 1991, the Maniacs were still recording what would become their last album with Merchant, Our Time in Eden, and they played a few nights at the Tralf in Buffalo and played many new songs, most of them with extended instrumentals. It was an incredible live experience. Who knew except the band themselves that Merchant declared her plans to leave at the end of that albums tour. A few days later I saw John and Mary play a small bar in Buffalo. Again, mentally no difference.
I loved the Maniacs. Merchant went on to have a forgettable debut solo effort, and her big homecoming to Buffalo’s Art Deco masterpiece, Shea’s Theater was a study in tedium, as her band was boring, with a heavy dose of militant feminism surrounding the affair. Not the boat ride I signed up for. The death of Rob Buck in 2000 silenced one of the best and distinctive guitarists of his era. I’ve never considered Natalie Merchant again relevant, which is sad because I find her a compelling artist, but John and Mary, and some version of the Maniac’s live on.
It’s said that Mary Ramsey has perfect pitch. That may be true, but what I do know she is my favorite female American musician and vocalist, the highest praise available to this reviewer.
Highlights are The Azalea Festival, Red Wooden Beads and Rag of Flowers. A selection from the album and two John Lombardo era Maniac’s songs in the comments.
The Stone Roses: The Stone Roses-Purchased 1989
The Albums that Shaped me Microblog’s latest installment is perhaps the greatest British New Wave Album ever recorded, 1989’s eponymous The Stone Roses. This is a blog about the albums that shaped me. It is not about bands with longevity, or hardest working. If that was the case, The Stone Roses, slackers in every sense of the word, would not be on this list.
It’s easy to be captivated by the Roses mix of danceable rhythms and atmospheric, yet powerful guitar leads. The band’s rhythm section of bass player Mani and drummer Reni anchor this sound, but the riffing of Guitarist John Squire and the opaque nature of singer Ian Brown’s lyrics seal it.
With the epic ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ sounding all of an updated ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, to the danceable ‘Elephant Stone’, the first side of record gets your attention. Side 2 is a masterstroke, a suite of seperate songs but connected in spirit and vibe, similar to side two of Abbey Road. Powerful, in your face, but never obnoxious. Another Manchester Band, and along with the Happy Monday’s, maybe one of the last great bands of the 1980’s before Oasis arrives. A long inactive period followed, with a fight over their music label, and a lot of weed later, the band delivered “The Second Coming” (with the strongest track in the comments) in late 1994. Too late, and the moment had come and gone for them.
This album owned by cassette deck on the summer 1989 mid Pacific operations that were getting pretty tedious to me with less than 9 months until getting out. Music was my escape during the long, hot and tiring hours in an engine room of a submarine, and this album passed a lot of time. Thirty years later, it’s one of the few albums I will put on a listen to in its entirety, a testament to the writing and this snapshot in time in my 23rd year.
Love and Rockets: Express- 1986
The Albums that Shaped Me Microblog continues with 1986’s Express by Love and Rockets.
Love and Rockets are a classic, flawed band, that produced flawed records punctuated by moments of greatness. The band, and even this album, acts more as a gateway drug to a greater world of the musicians involved, and the creative output of them not only in Love and Rockets, but in their previous band, Bauhaus.
Love and Rockets first broke into my musical archive in late 1985, when their cover of Ball of Confusion owned the dance floor of Club Exit in Niagara Falls. It was the dawn of the dancing era for me, uninhibited and unconstrained by the social construct and rules that governed conduct in high school, free to wear a cardigan sweater, a jean jacket, and some old broach and not give a f**k what anyone thought. Ball of Confusion went on seemingly forever and it laid the groove down.
Driven by a highly compressed and processed guitar played by the immaculately coifed/immaculately cheek-boned Daniel Ash, and a rhythm section of two brothers, David J on the bass guitar and Kevin Haskins on the drums. Express comes at you like a psychedelic sledgehammer, driving and pushing the sound that was dark and gothic with Bauhaus to the edge of pop sensibility with lyrics deeper than first impressions. The groups debut album in 1985, Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven, hinted at this direction, but Express delivered.
In one magical six day period in December 1986 I saw Love and Rockets on the Express tour, New Order on the Brotherhood tour, I turned 20 years old and I reported onboard the submarine Louisville. Lots of activity, all good memories of an era that I miss, surrounded by people that I miss.
The band produced four excellent albums in a five year period, as well as non stop toured. This was on the heels of Bauhaus’s four albums in a three year period. Bands worked hard back before the instant gratification world.
Again, a gateway drug. Bauhaus wasn’t my scene really, as I wasn’t a goth. That said, I liked the music and this led me to Peter Murphy, lead singer of Bauhaus, and his solo career.
I always found it amusing when the Bills, for many years, would play the opening bars of Kundalini Express before kickoffs. I wondered how many in the crowd were there in that small, sweaty bar in December 1986 when Love and Rockets gave a masterclass in psychedelic rock. I wonder how many even knew the name of the song or its history. No matter, folks don’t care much for these sort of things anymore, but luckily some of us still do.
Dead Can Dance: Towards the Within- Purchased 1994
The 27th and final Album in the Albums that Shaped Me Microblog, 1994’s Toward the Within, a live album by Dead Can Dance
This is not an easily accessible band, and like many of their 4AD label mates, I tried them in the ‘80s but it didn’t resonate. In my late 20’s, married but well before adopting Jae, I was still experimenting with new artists, and I heard a cut from Dead Can Dance’s new album on CFNY and I was captivated by singer Brenden Perry’s rich baritone. After doing a bit of reading, the Live Album was as unique as the band, as only 3 of the 15 tracks ever appeared on a studio album.
Dead Can Dance followed this album up with Spirtchaser in 1996 and with that I was locked in for good.
Co-vocalist Lisa Gerrard has an other worldly operatic range and she compliments Perry’s songs and deep emotive singing. World music is one way to describe the sound, composed with samples of unusual folk wind, string and percussion instruments tuned to organic brilliance.
While many have never heard of Dead Can Dance, singer Gerrard has lent her voice to some of the best movie soundtracks of the 90’s, Michael Mann’s brilliant, The Insider and another Russel Crowe movie, Gladiator.
After a long hiatus, they returned with 2012 Anastatis, and 2018’s Dionysus. Brilliant music, made my master craftsmen. Not for everyone, but not intended to be.
I set out at the start of the quarantine to share the albums that shaped my life, and along the way that became the “30”albums blah blah blah. Arbitrary.
I made it to 27, and I started to question the concept of good versus great versus epic. Our culture tosses around adjectives loosely, in particular the assignment of superlatives. Halls of Fame are businesses, and businesses need products to sell. To that end, they assign arbitrary and completely subjective judgement on who or what was great, and by inference, all others. They assign status, the status applies cache, and suddenly we have named something great and all are expected to accept their greatness because they are in a museum that sells tickets and makes you exit out of a gift shop. What happens in reality is the great are mixed with the semi great, very good and the questionably good. This is a very long way of explaining my disdain for the business of Halls of Fame, but also to explain why I shouldn’t, and will not, water down my list of albums that shaped me simply to get to an arbitrary number. If it’s 27 it’s 27.
I’m going to wrap this microblog up however on a final note, a droning open chord from the past. I had a collection of albums that came close but just didn’t make the cut. I’m not going to denigrate them by explaining why they weren’t good enough to make my subjective listing, my hall of fame (oh the ironies) but instead just point out their moments of brilliance and what the album meant to me.
In case you are interested, the 27 albums that shaped my life are: U2 -Unforgettable Fire
Joy Division -Still
Chicago – Chicago Transit Authority
Waterboys- Fisherman Blues
Duran Duran – Rio
Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
New Order- Low Life
The Smiths – Hatful of Hollow
Talk Talk – Colour of Spring
REM -Fables of the Reconstruction
The Replacements -Tim
Simple Minds -New Gold Dream
The Beatles- Past Masters
Depeche Mode- Black Celebration
Siouxsie and the Banshees- Tinderbox
Prefab Sprout- Steve McQueen
Echo and the Bunnymen- Songs to Learn & Sing
The Psychedelic Furs-Mirror Moves
The Cure- Standing on the Beach
The Cars-The Cars
Tears for Fears-The Hurting
John and Mary-Victory Gardens
The Stone Roses-The Stone Roses
Love and Rockets- Express
Dead Can Dance- Toward the Within
I have no specific number, arbitrary is dull, and I’m also sure I may miss something so I’m not constrained by the editorial standards of say the NYT (oh the irony as well) and I can edit later.
The Jesus and Marychain- Darklands While Psychocandy could have also made the cut, the cleaner guitar and completeness of Darklands makes this an album I revisit every so often. As a band, you may have considered their thin musical chops and figured them to be no better than a momentary blip, but the Reid Brothers had a good ear, weren’t bashful about ripping off melodies, and made the brew of distortion their own.
Kate Bush-Hounds of Love I can’t say I’m a huge Kate Bush Fan. The idea of watching the Babooshka video or hearing it again is not something I’m interested in. That said, I sat in a laundry mat in Orlando in 1985 and read about Hounds of Love and I gave it a chance. I loved the first side, Cloudbusting, Hounds of Love and Running up that Hill in particular. Timeless. A real artist I have very deep respect for, she’s just not my touchstone like she is for others.
10,000 Maniacs – In My Tribe I loved the band. I loved they were from Western New York and I believe they were one of the most talented bands to emerge from the 1980’s. Guitarist Rob Buck, Rest In Peace, drove the band, and young Natalie Merchant gave the band passion and energy. Natalie has other plans and the band broke up when they should have been in their creative peak.
The Police- Album? I wanted several times to add a Police Album to this list, but I couldn’t put my finger on one that actually shaped me. If forced to I’d say Regatta De Blanc, their second album. I don’t think the band aged well, the song production, the musical themes, I find dated. Virtuoso players also often focus on their personal virtuoso playing and less on the passion, emotion and intensity that to me defines and underscores as a common theme my 27 album suite. Ghosts In the Machine came close as well. Synchronicity, while a masterstoke of song construction and hit making, to me falls short. It lacks empathy.
Roddy Frame/Aztec Camera- Surf Technically a Roddy Frame solo record, but the reality is most of Aztec Camera was a Roddy Frame solo effort anyways. Late career, deeply moving, powerful without overpowering. Roddy would be top five on any list of best guitar players or singer/songwriters.
The Railway Children- Reunion Wilderness A Manchester band on the same music label as New Order, intelligent pop music. WellConstructed, fantastic vocals, popping bass, but also failing to make their audience believe them with the same fever as others could.
Propaganda- A Secret Wish Cool, lush German. Mechanical, metallic. An incredibly produced and assembled collection of songs on the ZZT label and from the same team that made Frankie Goes to Hollywood a worldwide phenomenon. With ex Simple Mind, the greatest bass player of the era Derek Forbes, the music came to life. Timeless.
The Clash/Big Audio Dynamite- Album? A similar problem as I had with The Police, The Clash and BAD, In particular the music of Mick Jones, was a soundtrack of my young life, yet none of their albums spoke to me as a complete work.
Bryan Ferry- Boys and Girls Roxy Music was before me and didn’t resonate to me but Bryan Ferry did. His singing touches a nerve deep inside, and the session players he assembled created complex and soulful compositions that set a mood more than anything. This, and the follow up Bete Noir, were a high water mark of his music. Putting the album on in 1985 on the dark streets of Orlando’s seedier side and just driving is a memory of my youth and the shaping into adulthood, the very concept of this blog.
Was it sudden or did I finally listen to the voice in my head? Life crystallized for me over the past few months with the death of my father and father in law.
My son turned 20 on Valentine’s Day. The following day my father in law was brought to the hospital, aged 89, unable to swallow. When I say he couldn’t swallow, I mean nothing, not even his own saliva. Dysphagia is the medical term, something I had never heard of.
The Doctor’s and Nurses tried but nothing worked. After three weeks in the hospital his choice was simple? A feeding tube, inserted into his stomach, and constant suction with a wand to prevent choking. Quality of life not too good, and most likely death from pneumonia -OR- no feeding tube and go home to starve to death under hospice care. My father in law, Joe, made the decision, he had enough of hospitals, he had a good life, he wanted to die at home.
We brought him home on a Friday. That entire weekend the house was packed with family and friends. My father in law was still healthy enough to talk to everyone, enjoy a beer (although he couldn’t swallow), and he was so happy. The non stop house party continued until the following Wednesday night. He started to really lose weight fast and his sleep was growing longer. He had a very lucid evening after waking up and the family all laughed with him. He fell asleep Wednesday night, March 11. COVID-19 was starting to really hit the County, with overseas travel suspended and businesses starting to consider closing. He didn’t wake up Thursday morning, just a period or two of restlessness. He passed away at 3:05 PM, March 12. The funeral was the following Monday and by the time the funeral was over Churches were closed and we were full blown into quarantine.
My father, Carmen, had congestive heart failure. He received a pacemaker in November 2008. In October 2019 his doctors declared him healthy enough to have pacemaker replacement. After what looked like successful surgery he developed a massive chest infection and the pacemaker removed from his chest, an operation in which he almost died after an overdose of pain medication in recovery caused him to crash and be intubated. The recovery from this second surgery was hard on him as he was immobile and his weakening heart weakening further. The Doctor’s put the new pacemaker back into him in February, his third operation. He was in the same hospital at the same time as my Father in Law. The week after my Father in Law’s funeral my Dad had his fourth operation since October, this time because the pacemaker they just put in wasn’t communicating. He was never same after that last operation. By the time we brought him back to the hospital two weeks later he was starting to hallucinate and he was slurring words and shuffling around slowly. They turned him away in his moment of need. The discharged him at midnight the night we brought him to the ER because they needed to keep beds open in case of the COVID wave that never came. The next morning, Friday April 3 we called his Doctor, sent a strip of data, and the Doctor told us to rush him to a different hospital. He was admitted but we couldn’t see him because, you know, COVID. I called his room on Saturday morning and we spoke, but he was confused and it wasn’t really a conversation. We spoke on Sunday morning and he seemed a bit better actually. Things turned bad by Monday. The hospital seemed resigned to him dying, saying his heart was only pumping at 15%, the same 15% it had been pumping at for years. His kidneys started to fail. I never spoke to him again. They finally let me and my family in at 12:30, Wednesday April 8th. He was dead at 3:30 PM, 3 hours later.
I’m 53, going to be 54 in December. I’m healthy. No one knows how much time they have or how many healthy years they have. I’ve worked hard in my life, since leaving high school early to join the US Navy Submarine Service, I’ve clawed my way to being the top Operations Manager and Senior Vice President of the company I work for, a green energy and renewable gas business. I see the end, around 60. What am I going to do with my healthy retirement years? I assume I’ll have 20 years, but there are no promises and nothing is taken for granted. I want to die like my Father and Father in Law, accomplished and nothing left on the table.
I have goals, short term and my Capstone, the name of the blog. The Capstone is the last great adventure. I know what I want it to be, but I’ll talk about it more fully in a future posting.
Satori. The Japanese word for sudden awakening, an a-ha moment, a light bulb turning on feeling. I’ve had a sudden awakening in 2020. It’s time to continue with the rest of my life.
In this latest installment of the Albums that Shaped Me Microblog, the debut album by The Cars, released in 1978.
The band began playing in Boston nightclubs in 1976 and was an iteration of bands started by principal song writer Ric Ocasek that included bassist and co-lead vocalist Benjamin Orr. The addition of Greg Hawkes on keyboards, Elliot Easton on lead guitar and David Robinson, late of Modern Lovers, sealed the classic lineup.
The album was a greatest hits package disguised as a debut. Songs that were crafted and shaped over hundreds of live shows came together under the skillful production of Roy Thomas Baker, who at the time of recording this album was most notable for the production of several Queen records.
What was The Cars style? Influenced by the times, The Cars were a straight ahead rock band that began to veer in an art house direction by Ocasek, who was already 34 years old at the time of the debut. It was an interesting time in music: Disco was popular, the titans of the sixties were losing sway, and the burgeoning punk rock scene wasn’t yet popular in the US, with NY Dolls and The Ramones the only real entrants. The Cars were precursors of New Wave/Art House with the use of Hawkes modern keyboard sound and the band’s avoidance of cliche, at least until 1987’s album finale with the classic lineup, Door to Door.
Dance swingin’ and rockin’, these songs were classic teenage anthems. I fell in love with The Cars driving around in my parents 1978 Ford Thunderbird, a land yacht, and singing away to these as they came on the radio. It was a cross over band, a rare one, played on the classic rock station in Buffalo as well as the alternative station in Toronto.
The star of the band is Ben Orr. Ben was a celebrity in the Cleveland area long before The Cars was released as he appeared as “Benny 11 Letters”(owing to his full last name, Orzechowski) while performing in the house band, The Grasshoppers, on local television. Orr met Ocasek in the late 60’s in the Columbus Ohio area before the two went off to Boston together.
What can I say about Orr? Handsome, masculine voice, a gifted musician and performer. While not a writer, he brought many of Ocasek’s songs to life and while best known for his vocals on the mega smash hit, Drive, to me it was his work in the early Cars that is an absolute treasure as well as his back up vocals when Ocasek took the mic.
Orr is a tragic figure. After reaching dizzying heights with the sucess of 1984’s Heartbreak City, his star turn on Drive and finding himself on stage at Live Aid in Philadelphia, the band fractured internally. He had a falling out with his long time buddy, Ocasek. Perhaps it was women, perhaps it was ego, perhaps it was alcohol, or maybe all the above. The final album was recorded, and while a return to a more organic sound than the computer driven and overproduced 1984 Heartbreak City, it was dead inside. The magic was gone, and the band ceased to exist by 1988.
I believe they would have reunited, perhaps the 1999 release of remastered albums might have done it, but Orr, the rock and roll soldier he was, playing hundreds of shows per year in malls, small bars and anywhere else, got the bad break of his life, pancreatic cancer. The last time The Cars appeared together was for a promotional video for the release of their remastered works. Orr was near death, and the rest of the band, especially Ocasek, who had yet to make things right with his best friend, were all shell shocked at the prospects of his demise. Reunited, old feelings and grudges settled, but death awaited. Ocasek joined Orr in heaven in September 2019. It would have been pretty cool to see these old friends embrace again.
As good as this album was, watch the live videos. The expressions on the bands face as they tightly tear through these songs is pure, raw and unadulterated passion. This is what infected me at 17 and still gets my foot tapping at at 53.