Thursday, December 27, 2007


If you've spent time with any amount of regularity in a local bar (preferably one in your neighborhood that you don't have to drive to), and are fortunate enough to know the staff, you know that they can be like a second family. This is especially true if it's been your haunt for a long while. Bartenders can be surrogate parents, brothers, sisters, drill sergeants or shrinks. Sometimes they can be all in one night. And Ruthie, my favorite bartender of all time, often was.
Ruthie wasn't the owner of Pacific Shores, but she might as well have been. She was a rarity among bartenders, one that was equally comfortable with the career barflies that held down stools during the day and "those damn kids" that came in at night. I kind of straddled the chronological line. I was lucky enough to have started drinking there before the deluge of hipsters. I still count as one of my happiest moments the time the surley day bartender Dave bought me a beer. (It meant nothing to him, but to me, I had fucking arrived.) I owe that to Ruthie. As long as I was okay with Ruthie, I was okay with Dave.
Ruthie died earlier this year and there was a wake at the local Masonic Temple. There was no real eulogy. Instead the mic was passed as regulars related their favorite Ruthie stories. Most of them centered around her wit, her huge shrouded heart and her keenest of bullshit detectors.
A couple visitor entries at an online guide to San Diego are indicative of the way she was seen by younger patrons:
"The old lady bartender here is like Cruella DeVille minus the bank account. I swear she wakes up in the morning and has a bowl of cigerettes [sic] for breakfast. If she's working you better know what the fuck you want and you're best to not even smile at her. She will fuck your ass up! Seriously.. she can spot a smartass from 20 feet away. No shaninigans or you won't get a drink hipster!"
"Ruthie, the bartender who bears a resemblance to Carla Tortelli, takes umbrage with every stranger that walks in, frequently describing them in her raspy voice as "this cocksucker over here" or "fuckin' assholes," and regularly refuses to serve people who she doesn't like the look of."
Heart be still! She really was my type of people. Anti-fufu in all regards. I loved Ruthie and was smitten when, late one afternoon, I walked into the bar and she asked "Waddya want Tom, besides me?!" She was a good twenty years older than me, and, make no mistake, she was joking. But I still got the same feeling that I had the first time I experienced a reciprocated crush (and every time since). Even so, she really was too independent for male suitors even her own age, and probably thought of them as unneeded baggage. Besides, anyone her age would had a hard time keeping up with her. It was telling that she liked to go camping by herself.
I loved everything about that tough-skinned, raspy-voiced, frizzy haired beauty.
Everytime I hear "Here Comes a Regular" by the Replacements, I think of Pacific Shores. And everytime I think of the Shores, I think of Ruthie. I miss her. The world needs more people like Ruthie.
Now get the hell out.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


When fucking around online (which, as you probably know, I do a lot of), I have a hard time deciding whether to hunt for music or read blogs. "Ah," you say, "you should just go to music blogs." Yeah, thanks, I'm on to them. The one thing about music blogs is that most of them write about musical facts, which is great if you want facts. I'd rather read descriptions of how the music felt, and maybe the writers' personal history with the music in question, especially with odd tangents thrown in there.
"I pulled up to a traffic light and there was a cop giving a guy a ticket in the parking lane. I was blasting "Ace of Spades" really loud and the cop, with his back toward me, started nodding his head. He slowly turned towards me and, with the pulled over driver's vision blocked by his body, the cop flashed the devil horns, with this weird 'you should have seen me back in the day' grin. (Devil horns, or metal horns, or whatever you call it. You know, the non-Hang Loose horns. I swear, metal heads invented the first-finger-instead-of-the-thumb version of the horns just to prove that they were capable of doing the version that was the biggest pain in the ass.)"
When a music blog writes bullshit like that, that I can read. Meandering. And if the blog in question is written by a musician (as opposed to an MP3 blog) that's okay too. It's like getting to know the musician rather than someone who listens to the musician. Not better necessarily, just a different person writing.
In the case of Khaela Maricich (aka The Blow), I had already heard her music, and had recently added The Blow to my "further listening" list. Tonight I happened by her blog, That Touch Me Feeling, and it had me listening to her music in a whole different light. Her last post (a few months old) has a video of one of her songs, "Hey Boy", being interviewed. The song is portrayed by a hand with a party hat on...well, you just have to see it. I found it really funny. She writes about her mom too. I love that shit.
Her second latest post is a letter to her own blog. Like the other post, it was imaginative.
And the post before that starts with, "Today was the day to seriously get down to business, and that meant standing in my underwear next to the front door, making a nest out of the twigs from my dead ficus tree." She goes on to write about the ficus dying "with only the attention of the large appliances," and her fear of moving into a new apartment.
It was good stuff. Too bad though, that these are old posts and it appears the blog is now dormant. But it did send me in search of "further listening."
Khaela Maricich's blog That Touch Me Feeling
Khaela Maricich entry at Wikipedia
BONUS! Kurtis Blow: When I was looking for The Blow mp3s, I ran across an mp3 of The Breaks by Kurtis Blow. The bass and the overall groove of it have always floored me. I could do with an instrumental version.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Ike Turner died today, at age 76. Say what you will. Yeah, he fucked up; we all fuck up. But he made some kick-ass music. This one is sufficiently tweaked.
Details about his death at
Added 12/13/07: Six more MP3s from 1952-2006, an interview MP3 and lengthy write-up at Moistworks.

Friday, December 7, 2007


Back when I was about 20, I used to hang out at a small record store called Monty Rockers. When I say hang out, I mean all damn day. In the morning I would ride my entry level Honda 90 about ten miles east, park my ass on the floor by the magazine rack, and read fanzines, listen to music, and shoot the bull with the owner, Dan McLain, until the early evening. Every once in a while, in mid-afternoon, the cooler next to the bar-like counter would be be put to use, dispensing cheap beer (still another reason to hang out).

It was easy to eat up a whole day. McLain knew music and loved to talk about music. He wasn't some dorky orator of trivia, he was at his best when he was turning you on to a particular record. He would describe music in less than academic terms, and always reacted to music physically. Let him loose on a personal favorite and he'd really go nuts. He would sing along, holler, raise his fists in the air, and slam the counter like an evangelist (and you walked out a believer). This is how I was turned onto Gene Vincent and his Blue Caps.

Behind the counter in his store, up on a shelf, was a record that wasn't for sale. It was McLain's prized beat-to-shit copy of Gene Vincent and his Blue Caps' (self-titled) second album. It was long out of print, and reissues were rare back then. The first rockabilly revival hadn't even hit yet. The only Gene Vincent cut readily available was "Be-Bop-A-Lula" on a 45 (most likely backed with "Woman Love"). So, with a lack of any real context, my first exposure to Gene Vincent and his Blue Caps second album, arguably one of the best rockabilly LP's ever recorded, was something I wasn't prepared for. Augmented by McLain's animated proselytizing, I was blind-sided.
McLain knew every nook and cranny of that album. Once the needle dropped, he was almost conductor-like, pointing out the screams, yelps, catch-your-breath panting, and the short rapid fire guitar solos. Not only was this my introduction to Gene Vincent and real rockabilly abandonment, but also to the genius guitar playing of Cliff Gallup.

My guitar idol worship years had already passed a couple years earlier, when I got into punk rock (for obvious reasons). Thanks to the guitar idols of the 70s, solos were thought, rightfully so, to be self-indulgent and unneeded. Short, economic solos were nonexistent in mainstream rock; every guitarist seemed to be a prima donna or a "guitar slinger" (rock n' roll's version of a monster truck driver).

The Blue Caps' record from two decades earlier, though, was different. Between the yelping, screaming, panting, and a rhythm section-gone-wild, were compact, perfectly paced solos. Every note in place, fast and frantic, and exceptionally clean. Archetypal rock and roll licks in their purest form, before they were fucked with. Stonehenge, man.

I would soon learn that Gallup wasn't alone. There were a lot of excellent rockabilly guitarists in the early days; Scotty Moore, Paul Burlison, Eddie Cochran, Billy Lee Riley and James Burton, just to name a few. But none as revered over the years as Gallup. The respect for his playing amongst other guitarists is such that for years technical guitar freaks have studied his tablatures and his playing style. In 1993 guitar virtuoso Jeff Beck recorded a whole album of Gene Vincent covers, playing Gallup's solos note-for-note. (Not surprisingly, the album was meant not as a tribute to Vincent, but to Gallup.) Though, despite the adulation of other guitarists, Gallup's name is known little out of the circles of other players and rockabilly fanatics.

A few nights ago, while making the rounds of MP3 blogs, I ran across a posting an MP3 of Gene Vincent and his Blue Caps' "Who Slapped John?", from their first album, Blue Jean Bop. It's an excellent introduction to Gallup's playing. Though the song is short, clocking in at under two minutes, Gallup manages two solos before the one minute mark, and a third before all is said and done. (I lost count of the screams and yelps of the other band members).

The amazing thing is that "Who Slapped John?" is not unique. The bulk of Gene Vincent and his Blue Caps's first two albums rocks as hard and as efficiently. I don't usually recommend that anyone buy anything, but these albums represent rockabilly, and rock n' roll, at its very best (with sweat you can hear).

Shortly after my introduction to Gene Vincent, his first five albums began to be imported as French reissues. When they got to Monty Rockers, I worked for a day in McLain's shop in exchange for the first three. A whole day for a couple hours of recorded music. But it was, and remains, the highest reward for a day of work I've ever received. And today you can get the first two Vincent albums online, on the same CD, for under twenty dollars. (What the hell are you waiting for?)

Monday, December 3, 2007


I like Bob Dylan's music as much as the next guy, but in terms of my record collection, there is a gaping hole when it comes to his catalog. I have a few of his, all relatively early (Blonde on Blonde being the latest) and of course I know there's lots more out there considered "essential" listening. I'll get to it when I get too it (so just back off). I've given up buying shit just because it appears on lists. Devouring all of the "essential" albums of Dylan (or any artist) has never been a top priority for me, especially one with a shitload of stuff that's constantly referenced and tirelessly revered. The guy already has about five or six in my not-the-vastest collection, I gotta leave some room for the young guns. Which brings us to Karen O (Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs) and Cat Power's Dylan covers on the recently released I'm Not There soundtrack. Give me a Dylan cover in the hands of an younger artist that I already have a favorable opinion of and I'm a fly on stink.
These and three more Dylan covers at The Runout Groove
12/27: If those links go dead, try the ones at Twelve Major Chords
Added 12/4: Ran across a long blurb about the movie and three more non-soundtrack covers (13th Floor Elevators and Marrianne Faithful) at This Recording