They’re invisible. The person you never see onstage. The essential unseen force that even hardcore music fans have never heard of. In all music, arrangers are the secret weapon who never get the credit they deserve
Rumor is that the suits at MTV are beginning to kvetch about the expense of having bottled water delivered to the NYC offices of the network. Man, when the bottled water bill gets up on the bean counter radar nothing good can come of it.
It was one of those New York days when all you want in the world is for something, anything to come down fromBetwitched or Zeus' cloud or the time space portal to Northern New Mexico and transport you like smoke to somewhere far, far away. It was also one of those days when John Atkinson and I were torturing each other with visions of our old home in Santa Fe and the steaming bowls of green chile stew we each now crave like dogs. "Hurry up, Tie off the vein, get the sopapillas ready for after…"
There it was again. Goosebumps. Even a grainy old out–of–synch YouTube video of a 1986 sound check at Maxwell's in Hoboken still evoked a shiver. At the risk of living in the rock 'n' roll past, The Replacements were one of the best bands, bar or otherwise, that I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing. Over the years I saw Westerberg, Mars and the Stinson Bros many, many times. I saw them when they were riotously drunk, careening from one tune to the next, never finishing any of them. I saw them once at an unbilled gig do not a note of their own music, preferring instead to rip through TV themes: Batman followed by Bewitched followed by The Flintstones... I saw them jacked up on God knows what, painting their shoes and whipping bologna from a deli tray all over their dressing room. Through it all, with the possible exception of when Bob Stinson was kicked out for getting a little too addictive, they had a ball. When it got serious near the end, around the time of Don’t Tell a Soul, it was for all intensive purposes, over. They were the best thing to come out of the once vaunted Minnesota scene—okay, after Prince—and whether they liked it or not, one of the originators of the whole "alt" rock thang.
John Hammond has always been a strange case. Son of the legendary record producer and scout John Hammond Sr. who worked with Billie Holiday, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, young John who sang and played guitar staked out a difficult piece of musical turf when he decided to make playing acoustic Deltastyled blues on the National Steel guitar his signature move.
What a weirdassed juxtaposition it was. Freezing as hell outside, like 20 degrees with a stiff breeze, and a Zydeco band inside generating a sweaty mess. On top of that, a mysterious fever swept the place. The kind of fever, brought on by alcohol, that you have to sort of call Jazzfest fever. Anyone who’s ever been to the Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans and gotten into the spirit of the thing can instantly reconnect with those feelings, once they have a few beers and hear some NOLA music, be it Cajun, Zydeco, funk or whatever. Hey, you have to hand it to Jazzfest, they’ve created a mojo that goes way beyond the music and creates wildly loyal fans, every festival should be so lucky.
These days I often have to stop myself and remember again that I need to write about music and not just the incredibly weird situation in which today's music business is both dying and rising from the ashes simultaneously.
As soon as we pulled up, I knew that this was gonna be the highlight of my trip to New Orleans. When the door to Snake and Jakes Christmas Club Lounge swung open, I got tears in my eyes as I beheld the kind of unclean, unsafe booze shack that I've wasted many an hour in.