Bands of Co-Conspirators

band collage3 (1)

I have been making music for over 40 years and have had the good fortune in that time to have worked with some insanely talented people. In my college dorm, in my wife’s office, even in my parents’ basement, I found musicians, singers, and songwriters who astounded and challenged me. It is impossible to say how much I learned from each of them. I only know that every note I play comes from a foundation we built together.

I was tempted to harangue some, all, or as many as I could persuade, of my previous co-conspirators, to join me for this show, but new phases sometimes require new faces. My instinct this time around was to work only with artists I hadn’t worked with before.

The first one added to the roster for this show is a man, like me, who has played for many years with many bands. His bands include Letters From Home, The Providers, and the Snook Brothers. He is the wonderful guitarist Vinny Armanino. How wonderful? You can pick up a ticket and find out. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Get your tickets here.

Vinny and I – and the rest of the fife and drum corps jug band orchestra and fellow-travelers – will spend the next month preparing a uniquely memorable experience for each member of our audience. We would love to see you there.

Here is a recording by one of the 1990s version of my co-conspirators named Late Model Humans, performing one of the songs that will be featured at the show: You’re The Only One (I Think).

In your chain I’m just a link
A valentine that isn’t pink
Like all the others in a blink
I’m gone like water down your sink
But if you’ll give me one more drink
If you’ll just give me one more drink then I’ll say

You’re the only one, you’re the only one
You’re the only one, I think
You’re the only one, you’re the only one
You’re the only one, I think

Next time we’re down at the bar
And you say this time I’ve gone too far
That I just want to drink and play guitar
Like I’m some kind of fucking star
I’ll pound down another drink
I’ll pound down another drink and I’ll say

You’re the only one, you’re the only one
You’re the only one, I think

What can I do to make you stay
Why do I always have to say
You’re the only one for me, girl
Why do I always have to say
You’re the only one, you’re the only one

This is no ordinary thirst
I’m fighting off the family curse
And still I know it would be worse
If I was alone in this universe
A universe as black as ink
But if you’ll give me one more drink then I’ll say

You’re the only one, you’re the only one
You’re the only one, I think

Coming Full Circle in NYC

band_pics

Thirty five years ago, I moved to New York City, into a friend’s apartment at 4 Saint Mark’s Place. On September 22, I will be performing a show at the Kraine Theater, four blocks away from that first apartment. I’ll be playing songs that I wrote during the years I lived in Greenwich Village, songs I wrote when I lived on the Upper West Side, and ones written in my current home in the Bronx.

Get your tickets here.

The city has changed a lot since my first days here, hanging out in clubs like the Ritz, the Limelight, Danceteria, and CBGBs, finding new experiences that seeped into my songs. In music I found the power of melody and poetry to inspire and soothe and reveal and heal. I would love to share some of these experiences with you in the city that always will be home to me.

Here is a recording from the mid-nineties, by an early incarnation of Late Model Humans, of one of the songs I’ll be performing: New York City.

This is no time for saluting flags…

Happy Independence Day. Please enjoy responsibly, with these timely words and timeless music from Lou Reed.
This is no time for celebration
This is no time for shaking hands
This is no time for backslapping
This is no time for marching bands

This is no time for optimism
This is no time for endless thought
This is no time for my country right or wrong
remember what that brought

There is no time

This is no time for congratulations
This is no time to turn your back
This is no time for circumlocution
This is no time for learned speech

This is no time to count your blessings
This is no time for private gain
This is a time to put up or shut up
It won’t come back this way again

There is no time

This is no time to swallow anger
This is no time to ignore hate
This is no time to be acting frivolous
Because the time is getting late

This is no time for private vendettas
This is no time to not know who you are
Self knowledge is a dangerous thing
The freedom of who you are

This is no time to ignore warnings
This is no time to clear the plate
Let’s not be sorry after the fact
and let the past become our fate

There is no time

This is no time to turn away and drink
or smoke some vials of crack
This is a time to gather force
and take dead aim and attack

This is no time for celebration
This is no time for saluting flags
This is no time for inner searchings
The future is at hand

This is no time for phony rhetoric
This is no time for political speech
This is a time for action
because the future’s within reach

This is the time

Because there is no time

One night only…

Please note that this post will remain at the top of my blog until the show. Scroll down for more recent posts.

For one night only – Sunday, September 22 – you (yes, you) can experience a show that is a little different from other shows you’ve seen. I hope you will come to the Kraine Theater at 85 East 4th Street in Manhattan and witness Mr. Mike’s Mostly Musical Mashup.

Get your tickets here.

I will be performing original songs written from the 1980s to this year, including ones originally recorded with Late Model Humans, and performed at CBGBs, the Bitter End, and Kenny’s Castaways. In addition to the songs there will be instrumental pieces, original poetry, visual art, and a few surprises.

I hope you can join me on September 22, as we find out together just what Mr. Mike’s Mostly Musical Mashup is all about.

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Slit Skirts

townshend

Aging gracefully is one of the great challenges in the life of a rock’n’roller. Many artists have pissed away their maturity chasing the tail of their youth. Just as many have gone to an early grave without having to confront the challenge. Then there are the few who tackle it head-on.

Pete Townshend was a great help to me when I was a teenager. He found words for thoughts I was too inarticulate to express. His band’s Quadrophenia was blaring in the background of my first kiss. And as he got older he found words to express the bittersweet nature of aging.

 Slit Skirts, from Townshend’s 1982 album All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes takes on the subject with his usual musical bravado and some unusually literary lyrics.

Can’t pretend that growing older never hurts…

I was just thirty-four years old and I was still wandering in a haze
I was wondering why everyone I met seemed like they were
Lost in a maze
I don’t know why I thought I should have some kind of
Divine right to the blues
It’s sympathy not tears people need when they’re the
Front page sad news.
.
The incense burned away and the stench began to rise
And lovers now estranged avoided catching each others’ eyes
And girls who lost their children cursed the men who fit the coil
And men not fit for marriage took their refuge in the oil
No one respects the flame quite like the fool who’s badly burned
From all this you’d imagine that there must be something learned
.
Slit skirts, Jeanie never wears those slit skirts
I don’t ever wear no ripped shirts
Can’t pretend that growing older never hurts.
Knee pants, Jeanie never wears no knee pants
Have to be so drunk to try a new dance
So afraid of every new romance
.
Slit skirts, slit skirt
Jeanie isn’t wearing those slit skirts, slit skirt
She wouldn’t dare in those slit skirts, slit skirt
Wouldn’t be seen dead in no slit skirt
.
Slit skirts, slit skirt
Jeanie isn’t wearing those slit skirts, slit skirt
She wouldn’t dare in those slit skirts, slit skirt
Wouldn’t be seen dead in no slit skirt
Romance, romance, why aren’t we thinking up romance?
Why can’t we drink it up true heart romance
Just need a brief new romance
.
Let me tell you some more about myself,
you know I’m sitting at home just now.
The big events of the day are passed
and the late TV shows have come around.
I’m number one in the home team, but I still feel unfulfilled.
A silent voice in her broken heart complaining that I’m unskilled.
And I know that when she thinks of me, she thinks of me as him,
But, unlike me, she don’t work off her frustration in the gym.
Recriminations fester and the past can never change
A woman’s expectations run from both ends of the range
Once she walked with untamed lovers’ face between her legs
Now he’s cooled and stifled and it’s she who has to beg
.
Slit skirts, Jeanie never wears those slit skirts
And I don’t ever wear no ripped shirts
Can’t pretend that growing older never hurts
Knee pants, Jeanie never wears no knee pants
We have to be so drunk to try a new dance
So afraid of every new romance
.
Slit skirts, slit skirt
Jeanie isn’t wearing those slit skirts, slit skirt
She wouldn’t dare in those slit skirts, slit skirt
Wouldn’t be seen dead in no slit skirt
.
Slit skirts, slit skirt
Jeanie isn’t wearing those slit skirts, slit skirt
She wouldn’t dare in those slit skirts, slit skirt
Wouldn’t be seen dead in no slit skirt
Romance, romance, why aren’t we thinking up romance?
Why can’t we drink it up true heart romance
Just need a brief new romance

The Reveries

Contrary to popular opinion, talent is not god-given. Nothing against the supreme being but talent is the result of dedication to craft and the five members of The Reveries have obviously done the hard work it takes to become talented. Last week at Arlene’s Grocery they put those talents to good use.

The last time I was at Arlene’s Grocery I was playing bass, so I might be a little prejudiced, but for me Steve Jackson is the stabilizing force that drives the whole thing forward. The rhythm section of Jackson and drummer Nick Martire kept an impressive level of intensity from bursting into pandemonium as they veered from straightforward rock to jazzier and ska-infected rhythms. The songs were all written by the band except for a distinctive cover of the Velvet Underground tune Rock’n’Roll.

A band would lucky to have either Jack Orlando or Dave Marchant on guitar and The Reveries have both. Each has their own musical voice and the ability to either blaze their own path or to lock into each others notes and double up on a riff the the way Duane and Dicky did.

Bantering is its own talent and it’s something singer Joe Gusmano does well. His sense of excitement is infectious. When I saw only one mic stand set up before the band started I was worried that the vocals might get drowned out by the amps but the singer was up to the task without the help of harmonies. Brass makes a nice addition to any band and Gusmano’s trumpet playing kept the arrangements full when he wasn’t singing.

I got to meet the band members before the show and they were nice, down-to-earth guys. I caught Joe bumming a piece of paper from the bartender so he could write down the set list.

The Reveries released their newest song 335 yesterday. If you like what you hear you can catch them live in a couple of weeks on Sunday July 30 at Pianos in the East Village.

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/track=963221213/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/

I know you want to be my cage tonight
But you won’t let me go
I know myself better than you do
I’ve got to break free before I
I know you found yourself on stage tonight
But you won’t let things go
I’ve been here so long that I can hardly breathe
I’ve got to break free before I re
I’ll break free fine
West Vanity City
That’s where I’ve got to be
I’ll break free fine
West Vanity City
That’s where I’ve got to go
To make ends meet
I like your morning
I like your evening please
You’ve been here so long
I can’t breathe
I want to go but you won’t let me leave
There’s no need to free
The skyline crumbles near

Genius in Our Midst: Jones

With The Clash, photo by Helge Øverås

Mick Jones is one of those songwriters whose musical instincts never fail. There’s something unique in his phrasing and structure that transcends the instruments, the arrangements, and even the band that is playing his song. Whether it’s The Clash, Big Audio Dynamite, BAD II, or Carbon Silicone, it’s Mick Jones and it’s always really fucking good.

 

Photo by Alex Lake

Once you’re a member of a band like The Clash, that is how you are remembered regardless of what you do after. For good reason. After all, The Clash was the only band that mattered. Jones played with General Public, The Gorillaz, and Ian Hunter who he used to follow around in the Mott The Hoople days: 

“I followed Mott the Hoople up and down the country. I’d go to Liverpool or Newcastle or somewhere—sleep on the Town Hall steps, and bunk the fares on the trains, hide in the toilet when the ticket inspector came around. I’d jump off just before the train got to the station and climb over the fence. It was great times, and I always knew I wanted to be in a band and play guitar. That was it for me.”

Here’s Jones with his current band Carbon Silicon – including Tony James, who was his bandmate before The Clash – performing Big Surprise:

Great tomorrows lie in wait
With much to celebrate
And paradise lost will be found
The good times always come around

I’m alive, we’re alive
I survived, we survived
As the sun will always rise
‘Cos along comes another one
And life’s a big surprise

Maybe today is one of those days
To be astounded and amazed
And seeing that laughter in your face
Restores my faith in the human race

I’m alive, we’re alive
I survived, we survived
As the sun will always rise
‘Cos along comes another one
And life’s a big surprise

And the sun will always rise
To blow away the cloudy skies
An eagles soars into the blue
An angel turns and calls, hey you