Monthly Archives: May 2015

Words From The Midwest XXXI

Good evening, all startled dreamers; all finded foes; all questions lit. Welcome. This is Words From The Midwest.

What to say about the person about whom I’m choosing to write this particular entry? What to convey that – like my previous post about The Beatles – hasn’t been said over and over and over again? I almost just want to write a long poem – like He did about Woody Guthrie – setting time and place aside and casting the meaning of this artist about like a fishing line: in and out of the water; dunked and redunked until the wet sets claim to a palisade, seperating Him from the rest. But I’m not sure the man, the myth, would even enjoy anyone doing so, you know? Like, I’m pretty sure He would think me trite for even attempting it. And goddamnit, he would be right. I shouldn’t be writing this.

But…alright…here it is…this entry is all about Bob Dylan.

As you might have guessed.

Bob Dylan’s music was always around when I was growing up: my Mom had his Greatest Hits and all that and I was exposed to his music from the time I remember music being on. But Dylan didn’t really hit me on a guttural level until I was 11, maybe 12.

The albums I recall getting from the library around this time were Blood On The Tracks and Blonde on Blonde. These two records, along with Bringing It All Back Home, are my favorite Dylan, all three completely and utterly exclusive from the other. I mean, you could argue – and some have – that Dylan never got better, more direct, more moving, than Freewheelin, but that record never hit me in the way, say, Blonde on Blonde did. Don’t get me wrong, every song on Freewheelin is a small miracle. But I prefered and continue to prefer Electric Dylan: Bringing It All Back Home, Blonde on Blonde, Highway 61 Revisited, etc.

Although, even as I write this I’m remembering how much I love Nashville Skyline, which is a straight-up country record, complete with Johnny Cash duet.

But, whatever. Dylan has so many good albums, it’s ridiculous. I mean, there’s a very good reason why people say he’s the greatest songwriter of the modern age: his lyrics are alternatively profound, silly, and harmonious and his Pop sensibility is outragious. His melodies are so goddamn simple that it kills me when I listen to a song like “It Ain’t Me, Babe” and just marvel at it. It was a downright Standard from the moment his voice was set to tape, and has been mentioned and alluded to in song after song (Laura Marling comes to mind) and for good reason. No, No, No. It Ain’t Me Babe. It isn’t. It’s Dylan.

And maybe that’s the song I should be focusing on. It’s the final track on Another Side, which, oddly enough, is one of my least favorite of his albums, including all his late-70s, early-80s, Born-Again nonsense (although some of those songs are downright classic as well. I’m thinking “Gotta Serve Somebody”). But the very fact that it pointed to his change in approach to writing songs (surrealism, Blues, etc) is kinda why I want to talk about it and it specifically.

But, wait. Maybe “Desolation Row” would be more apt: an 11-minute, comnpletely acoustic, tour de force at the end of a downright Rock and Roll record…

Jesus, I’m all over the place. Forgive me. I’ve been drinking.

Bob Dylan is. And that’s enough for me. It was enough for him. But if you haven’t seen his ranting word-play involving a sign above a newsprint shop, and if you haven’t heard Last Words about Woody Guthrie and if you haven’t been completely heartbroken, listening to Blood On The Tracks, weeping, perhaps, but so moved back to emotional health…all I can say is you’re missing out.

But I’ll bet you don’t need to be told this.

And that…that’s probably the best way I can put it: If you’ve heard it, you know.

Just Listen.

And be changed.

Until next time,



Words From The Midwest XXX

Good evening, all gangly and wide-eyed; all passionate freaks; all hummed and delivered. Welcome to the 30th edition of Words From The Midwest.

I want to continue in the vein of my previous entry and talk strictly about an artist who I am truly in love with: their music; their attitudes; their reach and their influence on me as both an artist, a musician, and a person in a phase of growth and development. This time around, I want to delve back into my history and present to you a candide account of my childhood and the rearing I got from listening to none other than The Beatles.

Now, let me be clear: I was obsessed with The Beatles. Not in a “yeah I listen to ‘em, yeah, they’re the best” sort of way. No, with a yearning; an intrigue; a hands-down, didn’t listen to anything but The Beatles for years and years. Although, of course I heard other music from my Mom and my Sisters and either liked it or not, always… in my time alone listening, it was The Beatles.

At full volume.

Their history has been well documented, so much so that even their history has documented how well their history has been documented. And so on. So I won’t go into the hows and the whats and the Hamburg and the Speed and the drinking and the sex and the complete makeover into Teen Pop Idols, onto Folk Rock and Psychedelia…the whatever. It’s all there for you. Seek it out. At least – and I’m soapboxing to an even greater length now – if you are interested, read The Beatles: A Biography and, holy shit, definitely read The Beatles With Lacan. That shit is fantastic as it psychoanalyzes both John Lennon and Paul McCartney, compares their respective childhoods and their physiological attractiveness to one aother, while simultaneously declaring their partnership as the dawn of the Post Modern age…It’s a hell of an insight. At the very least watch The Beatles Anthology. That’s where it all started for me, watching it when it originally aired on television circa 1994.

I digress.

Because, although it’s well worth it to study The Beatles, it’s so much more accessible to just, simply, listen to their music. Because woah almighty, their music – as, again, has been written about, and christ, they’ve sold over a billion records – is as timeless as humanly possible. Even the songs which date them are generally B-Sides or BBC Sessions and even those songs are pieces of history. I mean, to digress further, that’s why they exist. The Beatles not only created Power Pop Music (although, it could be argued that Buddy Holly was the true inventor of Guitar Pop) but their journey through their time as a band is so photographed, filmed and recorded, that it’s easy to get lost in just how much they accomplished and just how much they influenced – no, downright informed – Pop Culture at the time. Trends changed with The Beatles. Their music had weird chord changes and a double lead vocal, essentially singing a constant harmony…Although, it’s even more interesting to think about the way their looks changed with their music: it’s staggering when you realize they were only in the public eye as a Unit for six years. Thirteen albums. 20 #1 Singles. Very few forgettable songs.

And, goddamnit, that’s what I should be writing about: The Songs. From the count in of “I Saw Her Standing There” to the final fragment of a song, “Her Majesty,” which was tacked onto the end of their actual last recorded album, Abbey Road, as they thought they were being too dramatic for their own good by naming the last song on their last record “The End” which is true, in a sense, but, again, I digress. Each song has its place in the legend of the 60s, amidst the Mop Top Impersonators, onto Dylan and the time Bob himself gave them Pot for the first time, and how Paul had an epiphany that night: that “there are 7 levels.” And Rubber Soul and Revolver and Sgt Fucking Pepper and, jesus, should I even go on? It’s All Too Much.

Enough already…

When I try and think of my favorite Beatles album, I get kind of lost in my reasons for why I like each of them differently and exclusively from one another, but also how I kinda think about their output as one long Work Of Art which it is, though that’s something I shouldn’t even get into. There’s just too many ins and outs of that conversation. The fact that the album I turn to is Revolver shouldn’t come as a surprise. However, when I really think about my favorite LP (and that’s the UK releases, because fuck the US versions), I seem to always land on With The Beatles, which was their second.

There’s probably a really clear reason for this, and it’s that it was the first CD I ever remember buying; seaking out in Borders with a fresh gift card in my wallet; falling for the cover: Black and White with a stark contrast – which, not ironically, is my favorite style of photography – and those so-German haircuts, each of them arranged and accounted for, with The Beatles as a Unit, even with John and Paul the consumate Leaders…they were, of course, the principal songwriters. With The Beatles, though, had George’s first song on a Beatles record, “Don’t Bother Me” which is a really good sort of mid-tempo shuffle in a minor key. Brilliant really. And one of my favorite songs on the album. It would be cruel not to cite the fact that it in no way points to what was to come from him.

And, really, With The Beatles doesn’t point to what they would do with the Studio and all the instruments and the impeccable arrangements – George Martin, the real Fifth Beatle, was the interpreter of all their manic intellect and musical vision, doing things on Sgt Pepper that were so wildly new and exciting, that the album got some very damning press at the time, with certain publications labeling the album as synthetic. It’s odd that they had a point. But it still changed everything.

And everything.


But, hell, they had already changed everything a couple different times. That they wrote their own music in 1963 was revolutionary enough (although, again: Buddy Holly).

So, okay. I’ve gone on long enough. I love The Beatles. And in short, The Beatles are why I play music. They’re why I play the music I play. They perpetually influence everything I produce, whether I’m conscious of it all of the time or not. I dissected everything they ever did. And I came away knowing full well what I want Music to be like, across all genres.

And with that, I end this, the 30th edition of Whatever This Is. For a while, I’m going to wander around my mind and think of what to write next.

Because, the news of the day is that I finished my first novel this morning. Wrote the addendum and designed the cover this afternoon. It needs a couple people to read it before it goes to Press.

And, as I read and edit this post post, I wonder just how The Beatles have affected my writing. And I land on the mere fact that I wouldn’t be doing it if it weren’t for them.

Or, maybe.

Until next time.



Words From The Midwest XXIX

Good afternoon, all tremendous; all humbling adjectives; all live and let live. Welcome to another edition of Words From The Midwest.

I’m not sure how to start this particular entry. I want to talk about nothing but music and yet I don’t want to be flip about what follows. This is a serious essay on what it means to be a true artist in the days of bubblegum garbage, Popular deceit and, otherwise, of a saturated scene of derivative, trite, and altogether forgettable music with a lower case m. I want to talk about one artist in particular whose moment in the sun is coming on quick, some eight years after his first release, which is spinning as I write this.

I want to talk about Ezra Furman.

I’ll keep it as brief as is possible.

Ezra is a man who is somewhat of an anomaly in this world of Pop Culture, which generally begets secular deceit: whatever that means is whatever, but Ezra wears his religion as a badge of honor, as he reportedly seeks out Temples in whatever city he finds himself in; sings about being Jewish in equal parts as proclaiming his love for his $5 dress which he wears onstage without any trace of irony, which, in and of itself is both hilarious and empowering. And though he isn’t the first to wear such clothes, and though he isn’t the first to paint on makeup, he, again, does so without pretense, underscoring his general air of manic energy with a breeze of strangeness which is positively refreshing. He is a 21st Century man of the utmost appeal.

It helps that his music is fucking incredible.

And that’s really what I should be talking about. Hell, I’ve been a fanatic since I first heard Inside The Human Body some six years ago, falling quickly for “The Worm In The Apple” while soon acquiring his previous album, Banging Down The Doors, which, again, is currently playing at top volume. I’m not worried about bothering my neighbors. Because if they don’t like this music, then fuck them. They’re idiots. Or, at least, seriously missing out on the zeitgeist.

I digress.

Or, perhaps not. Perhaps that’s really my point. Not many people have heard Ezra’s music. But that’s about to change. Because since he disbanded the Harpoons, putting out a couple solo albums and, now with the Boyfriends, he has only become more of who he is, completely setting aside popular opinion on what music Should be and, instead, making music that he wants to make, simultaneously creating music that Music Should Be. He plays Rock and Roll, people. He plays it with a vengeance. And, goddamnit, he writes such brilliant Lyrics, it almost wouldn’t matter if he just sat and played his songs. He doesn’t do that. He plays Rock and Roll. And he embodies everything that’s true about that music which changed the world some 60 years ago and which continues to make, in the words of Joan Jett, I believe, though I’m paraphrasing, perpetual teenagers of us all. Equal parts Fun and cerebral. That’s Music.

With a capital M.

So I want to say thank you, Ezra. Keep it up. Your day is near.

Be ready to join the ranks of the greatest artists of our time.

You deserve it.

Hell, you’re already there. The world needs to catch up, perhaps. But you’re already there.

Until next time.



Words From The Midwest XXVIII

Good afternoon, all platonic; all trifle of sin; all forgotten playthings. Welcome to Words From The Midwest.

It is my hope, in writing so close to the previous account of my thoughts in mind, that I should will upon you the most hidden, albeit somewhat open, reel of my very true and, therefore, gladly unsurreptitious view of peace and violence in our time.

Perhaps that isn’t much of an introduction, but I’ve been reading Salinger, and, therefore, have so much to say in prose brought forth that I simply must – read: Must – write and write and be damned with the reader.

I have said and will continue to say that violence for violence’s sake is simply asinine; violence for the sake of peace, counter-productive; peace for the sake of an end to violence, a plain and unguarded prayer unanswered. But after watching The Nightly Show’s piece involving members of both the Bloods and the Crips eating together, talking together, joking together, and completely and utterly declaring peace between them – at least in Baltimore – I must take a moment (a moment, just) to speak of the outcome – both literal and, fuck, literal again – of another black man being killed at the hands of a fucked up police force.

The charge is murder, as it is. And this cannot be simply entitled Good, because that would trivialize the subject, the Man deceased, and the unrest in Baltimore and across our country. But it is true, it is Justice, perhaps; it is Something if not very little – if nothing at all – in the eyes of the general public looking on.

I digress into pedantic whim, perhaps, but I simply must express my very indifference to the charge of Murder – involuntary or otherwise.

It is good; it is Justice, absolutely, for the family and the community at large, certainly, for the members of the Baltimore police force to be charged with crimes in this plain and unadulterated bullshit of a case. But in simply charging – and, God willing, convicting – a number of officers with the death of an unarmed Man, Black, white, Red, Green or torquoise, I think, to a certain extent, we lose sight of what is really on our hands: and that is that a gun in the hand of one may lead to death of another. Period. White supremacy aside…and, perhaps I shouldn’t; perhaps this is the very thing we are faced with…no, I cannot believe it. Because people die every day because of the wish of a few, or the conviction of some, or the insanity of one…etcetera, I suppose.

Etcetera is all I have.

But: Weapons For All Occasions, Goddamnit! Weapons across the board. White men in uniform kill Black men with or without; Men…Women. We shoot to kill…

Ah, but we also hit; we strangle…

We sever spinal cords…

What belief in human life can we as People will upon each other? What can our religions teach us but to Love or to hold or to…NOT KILL EACH OTHER?

At this moment, I’m simply not sure. And as long as we continue as a human race to seek death in some sort of Ratings bloodlust or ideolistic formality, I will not and cannot be comfortable in this Reality. And if someone today or tomorrow or next week kills another unarmed Black Man without cause and is charged with murder and convicted, I think that I will still believe in a larger Truth: That with color of skin aside, the Human Race is fucking doomed, in a sense. And, in a sense, We have been doomed for centuries: Doomed in life and after-life, I suppose, to live another life unhinged; another reality where we drop bombs on nations thousands of miles away; another plane where unarmed ANYONE is brought to their knees by the hands of ANYONE. Another dimension of coldness and hypocrisy, rationalizing our fears and prejudice with fists of fury…guns, bombs, knives.

A man not so long ago preached that we Love our enemies.

Can we?

I’m not sure.

But I’m not alone in thinking about it.

And if these officers are convicted (and they will be) will we not seek some arbitrary penalty of death upon them?

Let us not.


If Bloods and Crips can be alright with each other…

Ah, but perhaps that is too easy a finale in this disaster of a writing. Perhaps it is too easy to say that if enemies can be friends…I dunno. I’m out of words on the subject. I could go on but I would in circles around you. But at least I’m fucking talking.

And not holding a pistol to your fucking temple.