Here’s to good friends

I remember it was the summer of 1979. I was living in an apartment on the south side of Houston, somewhere near Howard Drive and Highway 3. As I was on my way to or from somewhere or another, I encountered two guys walking down the sidewalk. As fate would have it, I needed to know the time, but did not have a watch. I noticed one of the guys had a watch and inquired as to the time.

In thickest of Irish accents, he responded that it was tree turty.

That was when I met Kieran Egan and Kieran Murphy. Two Irish blokes living on the U.S. on expired visas and working construction in Pasadena.

We struck up a friendship and it wasn’t long before they were sharing an apartment with me and my brother and a few others. I can’t really recall the entire roommate lineup at that time.

Kieran and Kieran were two of the most ridiculously funny people I had ever met. I was all of 17 years old and had not met many, if any, true foreigners…save for the Iranian guy who ran the local convenience store.

My fondest memory of these two was their never ending quest to find Guinness on tap. Back in those days, there was no Guinness on tap. At least not in Texas.
We would go out to various bars and each time Kieran and Kieran would inquire as to the availability of the elusive elixir from their homeland. And each time they would be told that there was none.

This didn’t deter them, much. They and my brother would have a drink or two and move on.

One night, after a rather prolonged quest to find Guinness on tap, we found ourselves walking home. Kieran Murphy, along with my younger brother Gene and a few other friends were quite drunk. Kieran Egan had opted to stay home.

As we walked past one of those do-it-yourself car washes my brother Gene asked Murphy if he had 50 cents. Murphy spoke up and said “aye” and gave Gene two quarters.

Gene then proceeded to walk over to one of the car wash stalls and deposited the two quarters.

Murphy, curious, walked over to see what Gene was doing. That is when Gene proceeded to turn the hose on Murphy and began to spray him down, quite vigorously.
Murphy fell to the ground in a pile of soaking wet, uncontrollable laughter. Gene kept spraying for a good long while with Murphy laughing and rolling around on the ground the whole time.

We were all laughing quite hard.

Eventually, we made it back to the apartment and made our way to bed.

The next morning (or possibly afternoon) when we had woken up, Kieran Egan asked about our adventures and Kieran Murphy, in all earnestness and sincerity, related the events of the evening to his friend as follows. (to be read with the thickest of Irish accents)

“Kieran, you’ll not believe it! Gene is such a good friend! He took us to his favorite pub! And guess what? They had Guinness on tap! All you could drink for 50 cents!”

There are other stories regarding the antics of these guys. But this one stands out in my mind.

I don’t know what ever happened to the Kierans. Perhaps I will find them or stories of their antics when I visit Ireland later this year. That would be some reunion.

Mik Miano – R.I.P.

I have just learned that Houston artist and good friend Mik Miano passed away.

A prolific artist, his metal sculptures are major part of the interior architecture or Rudyard’s British Pub and he’s the designer of the Houston Press Music Awards trophies in 2008 and 2009.

There’s a Facebook group called I can now post pictures of Mik for posting pics and memories of Mik for those so inclined.

Zappa – Them Or Us Tour 1984

Frank Zappa 1984
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Frank Zappa 1984

Back in the 80’s, my brother John gave me a Yashica camera which was the first 35mm camera I ever used. I don’t remember the model or the specs, but it was pretty basic as I recall.

Zappa was coming through Houston in 1984 on his Them Or Us Tour and I wanted to get some pics. I knew I would have to smuggle the camera in and that meant flash photography was not an option. John told me about a technique called Push & Pull Processing where you increase the ISO setting on the camera to underexpose the film and then compensated for this in the darkroom. This would allow me to shoot without a flash and hopefully get something usable from the experience.

I had 7th row tickets to this show so a flash might have been helpful, but would certainly draw attention to what I was doing so I decided to shoot using this method.

Now back in the day security at concerts wasn’t all that secure. Still, if you had a camera bag you could get turned away at the door. And even if you did get the camera in the door, if security caught you shooting pics at a major show they wouldn’t take your camera, they would just take your film, usually pulling it from the camera or canister. I’d seen photographers lose a night’s work this way on several occasions.

With this in mind I felt confident my camera was not at risk, but I wanted to make sure I could pull off my plan and walk away at the end of the show with some photos.

I’d seen Zappa before. It was 1981 at The Fox Theater in San Diego. I noted that many of the fans came to the show dressed up in various costumes. I decided I would attend this concert dressed as a Sheik (a la Sheik Yerbouti). I could hide the camera gear in the folds of my robes and hopefully skirt security.

The plan worked better than I could have hoped. Concert security stood practically next to me during most of the show. They either thought I was supposed to be there, or decided that a guy who was dressed in such an attention grabbing manner could be ignored while they scanned the audience for real trouble. I was able to pull out the camera and shoot uninterrupted for the duration of the show.

The results were “so so” but I was happy enough with the results considering this was my first effort.

Frank Zappa 1984
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Frank Zappa 1984

1984 Them Or Us Tour
Sam Houston Coliseum

Frank Zappa: guitar, vocals
Ray White: guitar, vocals
Ike Willis: guitar, vocals
Robert Martin: keyboards, tenor saxophone, French horn, vocals
Scott Thunes: bass
Alan Zavod: keyboards
Chad Wackerman: drums

Musical Memories

Uncle Charlie was having a showing of his poster art at Sig’s Lagoon on Saturday so I stopped in on my way to check out The Light Rock Express at The Big Top.

The evening was a trip down musical memory lane as I found myself in an interesting conversation about the early Houston alternative music scene with Alian Hernandez (The Suspects), Jeff Walton (The Judy’s) and of course Mr. Lagoon himself, Tomas Escalante (The Suspects, Clouseaux).

Alian Hernandez, Jeff Walton and Tomas Escalante

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Alian Hernandez, Jeff Walton and Tomas Escalante

I got to relate to Jeff the story of the time I was living on W. Pierce in the Montrose when I found myself being awakened by knock on the door of my duplex. I opened the door to find David Bean on my porch. Apparently he wanted to know if I owned the two doberman pincers he’d seen at my place. He was looking for dogs to use in his music video called “Dogs.” I explained that the dogs belonged to my neighbor.

In my conversation with Jeff Walton he did confide that there’s been an ongoing discussion with LiveNation about putting together a show at Warehouse Live or The Meridian so there’s hope we’ll all have the chance to see The Judy’s on stage one more time.

Prom Night

The second annual Disco Expressions Prom Night at the Continenal Club was a huge success.

Sam and crew from Wear It Again Sam had setup shop in front of the club so that patrons could purchase vinatage 70’s style clothing since the show was billed as “Prom Attire Required.”

A lot of people showed up in costume and many more availed themselves of the makeshift clothing store out front. Everybody (with the exception of a handful of obnoxious party-goers hogging the front of the stage and being generally unpleasant) seemed to be in the spirit of things and were genuinly friendly and festive and had no problem getting into the spirit of things.

Trisha

The rest of the photos from the event are here.

Existentialism and the Art Of Lawn Maintenance

Back in the early 90’s I was living with my good friends John Williams and Jay Fleming in what we affectionately called The Triple “J” Ranch, a house in the Heights on Arlington Street.

Right before the 1992 Republican National Convention John and Jay concocted this idea of going to a warehouse/coffee shop known as Downtown Grounds for poetry night and presenting Jay Fleming as Jay Fontaine – Industrial Poet with John paying the part of his manager from New York.

What ensued was pure performance art genius. The regulars for poetry night ate Jay’s performance up with a spoon, not realizing they were being “had” and believing they were witnessing some kind of outsider poetry/art.

Now, years later, I find the performance on Youtube and people are comparing Jay to a cross between Slingblade and John Candy. That just about sums it up. See for yourself.


Jay Fontaine – Industrial Poet from baldheretic on Vimeo.

Justice

Evil Dwight took time from his busy schedule to send me a link to a local Houston blogger who apparently works for Half Price Books saying “This should bring back memories” to which I responded “Yea, memories of being held up at gunpoint!

Back in the 80’s I worked for Half Price Books when it was located in the converted church building on Waugh Drive.

One night as I was working the late shift I recall being in the process of chasing off the habitual and perpetual browsers so we could close up for the night.

As I was doing this I remember asking one particular customer if he wanted to go ahead and make his purchase. He said he needed to find his wife and went into the back shelf area. I headed back to the checkout and then felt a tug at my sleeve.

When I turned around there was that guy. In his hand was a .38 caliber revolver. He walked me the rest of the way to the register and demanded the money. I pulled about $300 out of the till and handed it to him.

At this point he asked me to come outside and around the back of the building. I knew why. I knew he was going to kill me. I looked at him, I looked at the gun and I thought…”I’m going to die”

Somehow I managed to speak. I said “Look, just leave. You have the money. I’ll lay down behind the counter. I won’t see which way you went and I won’t call the cops.” He looked at me, he looked at the door and he looked at me again. He told me to lie down. I did. He left.

I stayed in the floor until a co-worker came up out of the back sorting area a few minutes later and asked why I was on the floor. He had missed the whole thing. I could barely speak. I told him (as best I could) to call 911 and that we had been robbed.

The cops came and I gave my report.

One might think that would have been that. Chalk up another personal experience and let’s move on. But no, there’s more to this story…

Continue reading “Justice”

Do You Feel Like I Do (old)

For some reason the song “There’s Only One Way To Rock” by Sammy Hagar has setup shot in my forebrain (prosencephalon) and keeps repeating “Crank up the drums, crank out the bass, crank up my Les Paul in your face” …

I don’t even LIKE this song! And I am certainly not a Sammy Hagar fan.

There may very well be only one way to rock, and I am sure that I’ve long ago forgotten what it was. I do know this, though…it wasn’t Sammy who let me in on the secret.

HIE THEE HENCE, METAL POSEUR AND LEAVE MY BRAIN BE!!!!

This got me thinking about Van Halen. When David Lee Roth left and Sammy stepped in, Van Halen officially died for me.

I remember the first time I heard Van Halen. It was in my friend’s 1974 Dodge Challenger. The year was 1978 and he had just bought the 8-Track and we were cruising around town listening to it. At the time I was just weaning myself off of Kiss and moving into my art rock phase. I remember looking at the production credits and seeing that the album was produced by Gene Simmons. It was an impressive tape, I must say. The only Van Halen I ever owned or liked.

I even remember the urban legend that Kiss and Van Halen were actually the same band…there was some deep controversy surrounding that rumor until it was finally dispelled satisfactorily. This was in the pre-Internet days. You kids today have it EASY. Back then you didn’t get a humility inducing e-mail directing you to a link at Snopes. We relied on sources like Rolling Stone Magazine and such for our facts. And that was only if you could afford to pick up a copy or browse the latest issue at the drug store quick enough not to get the bum’s-rush from the shop-keep.

Once my brain got to thinking about 8-Tracks I regressed to the time I was at my neighbor’s house in 1976. Peter Frampton Comes Alive had just been released and it was playing in the back room on his 8-Track player.

We must have let it play through 5 or 6 times (for reasons any child of the 70’s can relate to) so it became somewhat ingrained into my adolescent brain.

To this day, whenever I hear the song “Do You Feel Like We Do”, my mind puts in the audible click where the 8-Track manufacturer had to fade the song down, change tracks and fade back up on the next seeing as how there was not enough space to contain the whole song in a single track.

Speaking of Frampton, I just heard “Do You Feel Like We Do” on a XM Radio rebroadcast of American Top 40. I’d forgotten that pop radio often created short 3-4 minute remixes of the longer songs for airplay. Seems they didn’t want to play the full 14+ minute version. For the record, the short version sucks mightily.

I leave you with this recent Geico commercial which clearly shows that there’s more than one way to rock….

Blarney Fest

Back in 1995 and 1996 I organized two Celtic music events at the now defunct Rockefeller’s Nightclub.

The first event was called “Blarney Fest” and featured my band, the The Flying Fish Sailors, along with Ceili’s Muse and the first major public performance by the legendary band, Clandestine. The master of ceremonies was Jim McKenzie. The concert was completely sold out and by any measure, a huge success for all parties involved.

The second event was called “Son of Blarney Fest” and featured the same bands and also included Gordian Knot and a solo performance by Mary Maddux. This event also sold out and was again, a huge success.

Both concerts were recorded and a limited run of CD’s and cassettes were sold and they were never reprinted. But now, thanks to the digital age, these recordings are available once more via web download for ABSOLUTELY FREE!

Click on the following links to get your copy today!

BlarneyFest 95
Son of BlarneyFest

The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo

Long, LONG before there was American Idol there was a nationally syndicated program called The Gong Show.

Contestants would perform their variety act in front of a panel of celebrity judges and if they were not “gonged” in the first 20 seconds the judges would rate the performance on a scale of 1-10 and the winning act would receive a cash prize.

I vividly remember my my friends in Three Day Stubble getting “gonged” off the show almost immediately.

I watched the program pretty regularly “back in the day” but I don’t recall seeing this.

Watching this video it’s hard to imagine that the guy wearing the rocket would one day go on to score the music for movies like Batman The Motion Picture and the theme from the Simpsons.

I wonder what ever happened to the acts who’s only claim to fame may be that they lost to the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo on The Gong Show?

That makes two Gong Show conrestants I have met in person

And one time getting “gonged” myself from a recreation of the Gong Show.

There’s a hidden message here somewhere.

Gull pics from Bolivar

I have a fond memory of reading the book “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach during the early 70’s. It was a very popular and inspirational story in my youth and it came highly recommended to me by many of my friends.

It’s one of those memories that looses detail over the years but gains in mental and emotional significance because it marks a change in mental state. I have not read it again since that first and only time, and I am rather certain it would not have anything close to the same effect on me today as it did back then so I choose not to re-read it.

Rather, I choose to let my flawed and scattered recollection tickle my consciousness each and every time I find myself near the beach with an opportunity to feed the seagulls.

In doing that, I reach back and make a connection with a distant but pleasant memory. And maybe, just maybe the serenity and joy I experience in that moment is the true benefit of having nurtured this fond memory for over 30 years.

At least I hope so, because otherwise I am just giving free bread to a bunch of filthy sea pigeons.

Is that a real poncho or a Sears poncho?

It was 26 degrees when we go up this morning!

Brrr!

We were getting ready to leave the house this morning and Cynthia came out of the bedroom wearing her wool poncho. Man, I love this thing. It’s over 35 years old and she’s the original owner.

There’s also a great story that goes with it. When Cynthia was in high school she was given some money by her grandparents for her birthday. Her parents told her that the money should be spent on a new winter coat as she had outgrown her old one.

Cynthia figured that there was no way her parents would let her go through an East Lansing, Michigan winter without a new coat to wear so she opted to use the birthday money to purchase herself a new guitar.

When her mother asked her where she got the money for the new guitar she told them she used the birthday money from her grandparents. Her mother then asked her how she intended to buy a new coat for the winter and Cynthia replied “I guess you’ll have to buy me one!”

Her mother responded “Oh no I won’t. You’ll just have to make due this winter” and left it at that.

Cynthia protested that she would need a new coat to make it through the winter and her mother let her know that she should have thought of that BEFORE she spent the money on a new guitar.

She was not about to return the guitar and with no new coat and the harsh Michigan winter at hand Cynthia was forced to improvise.

She had this poncho, and while it was made completely of wool, it was certainly not intended for the kind of cold that she would have to endure that winter.

Cynthia spent that winter bundled up in as many layers of clothing as she could muster and topped it off with that poncho and made her way to the bus stop and back each day. She describes it as pretty miserable and I can only imagine just how bad it was.

All that trudging in the snow and day to day use of that poncho did not seem to be a problem, though.
35 years later and it still looks like new!