Monday, November 16, 2009

Beck & Wilco Are Oarsmen

Every now and then you hear about a great rock & roll casualty; someone who was just too brilliant and perhaps naive to keep it together amid all the insanity of the record business. Syd Barrett was the most famous case. Daniel Johnston gets his due on a fairly regular basis. Less known is Skip Spence, one of the founding members of Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape; the latter's music might have gone entirely unnoticed by anyone outside the West Coast under the age of 50, if Michael Stipe hadn't been in the Golden Palominos' 1985 crew to cover "Omaha."

Jim Ridley wrote a great article explaining the genesis of Skip's only solo album (that was recorded during his lifetime - 1968), Oar. It was recorded in Nashville, by the way, and it's one of those works music critics talk about as legendary, for good reason. You don't have to know a thing about Skip Spence or his difficulties to be startled by the fragile hope in the records first song, "Little Hands." I first came across Oar in the late 1980s when it had one of it's many reissues. With each reissue, Oar gains a little more well-deserved popularity. There was a tribute album a few years ago, even.

Beck, meanwhile, started a project called "Record Club" where he pulls his friends and acquaintances into the studio to interpret great records of the era, and now he's taking on Oar. Listen to this very faithful version he did with Wilco..

Record Club: Skip Spence "Little Hands" from Beck Hansen on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wish I Could Tell You What I Thought of V Last Night ...

... but I'm afraid it's not possible. Nashville's ABC affiliate, WKRN, elected to air Titans on 2 with Jeff Fisher, a weekly, locally-produced series promoting the local 0-6 pro-football team. It wasn't the first time I turned to channel 2 looking for one prime-time network program and getting football-talk instead, but it was the first time it almost kinda sorta mattered to me and definitely matters to others, as evidenced by the station's website feedback and Twitter backlash.

I have no small amount of sympathy for my peers who work at the channel, on the staff end. I've been stuck playing plenty of songs, over my career, that were mediocre at best and with no say in the matter. This was simply a horrendous call - the kind that drives people away from the corps traditional broadcast media and to the internet, where there's almost always someone who will satisfy a genuine jones.

Just ask Uncle Ray: