Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. Turned inside out. It’s all the love you want to give but there is no receiver. Sorrow is a battle flag. You can wave to say that you paid it all. You were in the trenches. You risked. Proudly holding high the tattered piece of your pride. You loved.
We all ache. Losing love is like a window to the soul. And my sweet, you have every right to live deep in this hurt for a time. And then, come out. This was a lesson. And so if you must, crawl through the lesson and then into the light. To find love without the grief. Without the bite. To leave it turned right side out. Wait and then find the one that will gather you up in their arms and give you your last first kiss. And wave a new flag. Hope.
As we ended 2017 with a look at music from 1967, I thought it appropriate to kick off the new year with another look back - this time to 1968. For some, just interesting trivia, but for others, perhaps, inspiration.
A cursory glance at the events of the year see Johnny Cash performing his iconic show (and later released as an album) at Folsom Prison in January. This followed by a string of amazing happenings: David Gilmour joins Pink Floyd, promoter Bill Graham opens the Filmore East in NY, the wedding of Johnny and June, "Hair" opens on Broadway, Aretha Franklin records her live album in Paris, Lennon & McCartney launch Apple, then begin recording "the White Album" (which is released later the same year), Jeff Beck releases "Truth" (which launches the careers of Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood), The Who begin recording "Tommy", Janis Joplin breaks from Big Brother and goes solo, Elvis becomes the highest rated TV special of the entire year, and more.
The year sees the forming of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, CS&N, Yes, RushN Free, King Crimson, Deep Purple....and the demise of Buffulo Springfield, the Yardbirds, Cream, the Righteous Brothers....
January alone sees albums by Merle Haggard, Elvis Presley, John Coltrane, Johnny Cash, Richie Havens, Steppenwolf, Nancy Sinatra, Velvet Underground, Aretha Franklin, Gordon Lightfoot, Iron Butterfly, the Byrds, Dr. John, Simon & Garfunkel, and more...while the remainder of the year is equally explosive, with albums released by Otis Redding, Fleetwood Mac, the Bee Gees, James Brown, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, Ray Charles, Sly & the Family Stone, Herb Alpert, Tom Jones, Beach Boys, Joan Baez. Jose Feliciano, the Band, the Doors, CCR, Etta James, Marvin Gaye, , Jefferson Airplane, Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix, solo albums by Beatles' George Harrison and John Lennon, Dean Martin, Curtis Mayfield, Rolling Stones, Temptations...
The year also sees the biggest selling songs in "Hey Jude", "What a Wonderful World", "Dock of the Bay", and "Jumpin' Jack Flash"....as well as songs like Jimi's version of the Dylan classic "All Along the Watchtower", Steppenwolf's "Born the Be Wild", Aretha's "Chain of Fools", "Mighty Quinn", "Piece of My Heart" & "Summertime", the novelty hit "Tiptoe Through the Tulips", "White Room", "Mony Mony"....
1968 also saw musical films from "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" to "Yellow Submarine".
Sadly, it brought the deaths of blues harp master Little Walter, jazz guitar legend Wes Montgomery, and many more....but it also saw the births of Sarah McLaughlin, guitarist Charlie Sexton, Thom Yorke of Radiohead, rapper LL Cool J, Celine Dion, Dawn Robertson of En Vogue....
So now you're ready for trivial pursuit...or you have some fuel for your creative fires.
WHAT WILL THE FUTURE, 50 years hence, think of us (in music and art) today?
I don't know, but 50 years ago saw HUGE songs like "Whiter Shade of Pale" and "All You Need is Love", and "I'm a Believer", and "Strawberry Fields Forever", and "Light My Fire". It saw music from Phillip Glass and from Steve Reich. Album releases like The Doors and Between the Button and Sorcerer and Are You Experienced and Surrealistic Pillow and Patsy Cline's Greatest Hits and Magical Mystery Tour and Waylon Sings Harlan and Sgt Peppers and many, many more...from Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard and Miles Davis and the Rolling Stones and the Beatles and the Beach Boys and Dione Warwick and James Brown and the Monkees and Willie Nelson and Elvis and Bowie and Jimi Hendrix, and Otis Redding and Johnny Cash and the Yardbirds and the Temptations, and Dean Martin and Aretha Franklin and Zappa and Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson and Pink Floyd. And so many more besides.
Albert King's Born Under a Bad Sign and Merle Haggard's Branded Man and Frank Sinatra's The World We Knew and of course Big Brother and the Holding Company's debut (that introduced Janis Joplin to the World) and Cold Sweat by James Brown and Frank Zappa's Lumpy Gravy all came out in August of '67.
The final 2 months saw Disreali Gears and Amboy Dukes and Axis: Bold as Love and the Who Sell Out and Dusty Springfield's The Look of Love.
1967 saw the Summer of Love and BB King and Burt's Bond epic Casino Royale and George Benson and Julie London to Ritchie Havens.
I don't know what we'll look like in 50 years, but I know 50 years ago has set a very high bar.
The poem could end here, Love. It could. We could tell all our clawed up heartaches to bugger off and never talk to them again. But there is a problem. They are all right there in your hands. So I suggest something different. Here is how we mend and learn and open our clenched fists for the first time since clenching them and hiding away the little demons. Take a deep breath. Unclench for me. Just a bit. You have got this. We are going to let out some things from that fist.
Heartache from love unrequited. Heartbreak from a mother’s loss. Heartdeath from “you are wonderful, just not what I want”. Heartdrowning from finding the last talk was the last and they are gone. Heartwrenching from all that you want is just at your fingertips and then the rug is ripped out. Heartsmodering from unforgiveness. Heartsmashing from hearing “I hate you, dad.” through a slammed door. Heartbleeding from trying. God, trying so hard and yet it’s always one more thing. Hearthardening from love placed in the wrong hands. Again. Heartmurder from self sabotage. Heartinceneration from who you never ever ever thought would ever betray you.
All accounted for. Can you feel them all wriggling in your fist? Angry. Biting. Sulking. Wailing at the wind. They are pissed and you have kept them in your sweaty palm for 365 suns. Now, open up and look at them and thank them. Yes. I said thank them. Thank them for lessons learned, life lived, promises kept, tears that reminded you why we are alive, new chapters, and for sweet baby Jesus’ sake...for the very fact you were here on this earth to have them. Look at them and say thank you as they each fly off like small sparks from a campfire in the cold black night. They will fly. They don’t want to be in your fist anymore.
Maybe you whisper, screw you to one or two as they take wing. But, my sweet and beautiful dirty human, you have lived this year. You have seen the best of others and the ugliest. You have breathed in and out and moved forward and that is commendable. So, as you close your eyes for the last time in this year and open again in the new...unclench your fists. Be gratitude and light. And say thank you. The little shits sure did make this year interesting.
Now fly away. We have a new year of love to put in these now freed hands.
Twenty years ago, my favorite singer/songwriter and one of my biggest inspirations left this Earth. INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence died at age thirty-seven. Suicide.
I remember vividly the phone call, my high school/college best friend letting me know that the news had just given that Michael had killed himself. It was a Saturday night. I was finishing up my second full semester of college, preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday, and spending time with my Mom and Granny. I was stunned. At that time, I did not have internet access at home, so I went to the college library early that following Monday and printed off every article I could find, sick inside as if I were reading about a family member’s passing.
Rumors swirled - was it suicide? If so, why? Was it because of his fiancee? Was it a sex act gone wrong? What about his child?
I'm sure anyone who decided to take the time to click the link to Skinny Devil Magazine already knows about the joy of playing music. After all, this IS a guitar publication. That being said, as someone who continues to be surprised as to the pleasantries of being a musician, I wanted to write an article for any non-musicians who may be scouring the internet late at night wondering how in the world we do what we do; or more importantly, WHY?
They say that "music speaks to the soul." I remember being a child and feeling my way through the world, and music has always been a static yet ever changing force in my life. If I want to step back in time, I can just put on an old album or playlist and remember times of the past. Just as well, I have found many new bands that I know in five years will define my memory of this time. When you go through a rough break up and you hear a love song and revel in the sadness it makes you feel; or when you are having a fantastic time and you put on some good jam music, it is a clear illustration of the power that these simple chords and musical phrases have over the human psyche. The drive to learn this craft, personally, comes from the desire to emulate and understand why I feel the way I do about music and life.
(ed note: this article was originally written 9/11/16)
I said Friday that I was going to elaborate on partly why I had dubbed it “Simply Red Day” for me. It was not at all because I had become a redhead on that day two years earlier, but it was fun to find that out courtesy of Timehop. Of course it’s late but here goes.
--Bear in mind this is not really related to Simply Red, per se, although the bulk of it will use Mick Hucknall as a reference point. It’s more of what discussion(s) his music has prompted over the years but in the last few days in particular.--
If you know me or even if you just see my timeline you know that I breathe music and, as a result, have a handful of singers that I love above all others. Mick Hucknall is one of them (also something you learn quickly if you interact with me). I have been openly gushing about his voice, his lyrics, and his performances for many years. But I’ve also been equally open about how attractive I think he is. I save the borderline (and completely) inappropriate stuff for conversations not happening on my timeline but, without fitting some stereotypical “guy” manner of speaking, I think that he is absolutely delicious. Sexy, handsome, gorgeous, beautiful, nearly perfect. And I know that that makes many of you likely want to know what the hell is wrong with me.
This discussion has been had many times in my life since my Simply Red “fandom” dates back to when I was about seven years old. No one ever questions my fawning over Michael Hutchence, Prince, Don Johnson, Lenny Kravitz. With Mick, the eyebrows go up.
This poem is going to hurt. It's going to feel like you just had it happen. Like...just now. Not days ago, weeks, yellowed years. Dusty decades. Not under quilts of lies you tell yourself. And others. Under secrets and in the shed. Burrowed into layers of dark earth. Sleeping. But it just. Happened.
So brace yourself. Grip the counter. Hold tight to the floor with your toes. Clench your teeth. It's going to hit hard like the back of a hand.
“I just kinda died for you, you just kinda stared at me.”
We discussed that line - my favorite line from the Foo Fighters’ “Aurora"- as well as the interpretation of lyrics in general and a thousand other topics over our first dinner. We’d met at a Foo Fighters show in April 2000 when they opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
He was handsome, with brown hair, thin glasses, and a beautiful smile. He had, as it turned out, grown up mere minutes from me in our small hometown where he still resided and we knew many of the same people, yet somehow we’d never managed to meet. He loved Queen and could talk about most music for hours on end without missing a beat. Obviously I could do the same, so instantly we connected.
For nearly a decade to follow, we shared our worlds.