So what is How to Play a Blue Guitar anyway

How to Play A Blue GuitarUPDATE: If you were waiting for the hardcover, wait no more. Click this link.

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So far I will not be able to retire on the sales revenues from my newly published book, How to Play a Blue Guitar. I confess that I have not been especially helpful explaining what this book is.

Is it a manifesto about how to live a life of peace in a turbulent world? a cry for sanity in an insane world? a chuckle among friends? an oddball collection of diverse thoughts and fables around more or less a common theme? a serious attempt to step up and say something even if no one cares to listen? a frivolous jumble published on a sudden whim? a ponderous, jubilant shout from a man trapped in a world he never made?

Why, yes. Yes, it is. Continue reading “So what is How to Play a Blue Guitar anyway”

The day I played hooky and heard that song

fire and rain

I was a socially awkward young person, let’s just say. One day one spring – probably 1970, based on the events of this story, which would make me a junior in high school – I walked away in the other direction from the school bus stop. I don’t remember why my emotions were in an uproar, but I didn’t want to face whatever high school life was going to offer that day. I had to be alone.

I know I brought my transistor radio along, and I must have brought my books and writing utensils for the sake of appearances. I didn’t tell anyone I wasn’t going to school, and I’m not sure I ever told anyone about that day until now. Continue reading “The day I played hooky and heard that song”

UW’s Attic: John B. Sebastian

john b sebastian

I recently bought, after all these years, the infamous album John Sebastian Live that MGM Records released 50 years ago during a protracted contract dispute that ended up in court and delayed the release of the John B. Sebastian album for a year and a half.

In a nutshell, MGM believed the Lovin’ Spoonful owed them an album and turned to Sebastian after the Spoonful disbanded, even though he had departed more than a year earlier. The band was on Kama Sutra Records, which had had a bad divorce of its own from MGM, its distributor. Sebastian, meanwhile, had signed with Reprise Records.

That’s how John B. Sebastian was released on both labels in 1970. (Oblivious to all this, I bought the MGM version.) Apparently to hedge its bet that the court would rule against their claim to John B., MGM put out John Sebastian Live, which sounds like an album assembled by a bitter passive-aggressive ex who wants to inflict as much damage as possible. Continue reading “UW’s Attic: John B. Sebastian”

Album review: Heart Food – Judee Sill

heart food

This is an extended version of a review I posted on Amazon for the Intervention Records package of Heart Food by Judee Sill:

My first experience with Judee Sill was in my college radio station production room, listening to her eponymous first album with headphones on and absolutely entranced from the first notes of “Crayon Angels” to the lush final notes of “Abracadabra.” It was years before I even realized she’d recorded a second album. By then CD was the dominant form, and I tracked down Heart Food and enjoyed the disc well enough, but except for “The Donor,” the transcendent finale that may be the single most beautiful recording to come out of the 1970s, I didn’t think it was quite as strong an album as Judee Sill. Until now … Continue reading “Album review: Heart Food – Judee Sill”

My favorite vinyl of 2019

cube and turntable

Rather than toss or sell the LP collection that had been gathering dust in our basement for years, I invested in a top-notch turntable a year ago and now wonder what took me so long. Vinyl outlasted cassettes and CDs and, once people rediscover the advantages of owning a copy of the recordings, I daresay it will outlast digital streaming, too.

In the past I’ve done “my favorite 10 things of the year” in various forms, but this year, having spent a significant amount of my treasure this year on musical recordings preserved in vinyl, I devote my Top Ten of 2019 solely to those records. And so: Continue reading “My favorite vinyl of 2019”

Attic musings: Linda Perhacs rediscovered

Linda Perhacs rediscovered

During college hanging-around-the-student-radio-station days, I would often sit with headphones on and listen to the new album releases, usually from someone I never heard of but they must be good because someone recorded their album, right?

Sometimes an album would blow me so far out of the water that I had to tell everyone I knew, “Holy cow, you gotta hear this album.” If there was a turntable nearby, I would sit them down and make them listen. If you knew me then, you probably remember that about me, and often you would nod patronizingly and say, “Sure, Warren, very nice, thank you.”

But a handful of albums really sank in. One of them was Parallelograms by Linda Perhacs. I think several of my friends actually went out and bought the album after hearing it. Continue reading “Attic musings: Linda Perhacs rediscovered”

To whom you owe your best work, and why it matters anyway

What do you do when your best work is behind you? Is that what stopped Harper Lee after To Kill a Mockingbird and Margaret Mitchell after Gone With the Wind?

When your best work is behind you – but wait, how do you know? All you know is that work was pretty darn good, and maybe in the end it will, indeed, turn out to be your best, but there’s still work to come, and hopefully the next one will be pretty darn good, too – maybe not that good, but who knows it won’t be better? And why bother to compare?

Do you refrain from writing “Happy With You” because you already wrote “Yesterday” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” and, let’s face it, those were better?

What if – what IF – what if you CAN do better than your best previous work? You have to try – you have to go for it – that’s why you do this, after all. That’s (hopefully) why you do anything – because you owe yourself your best effort.

(To hell with “you owe the world your best.” The world doesn’t have to live inside that body with you – it’s your psyche, your soul, your consciousness and your conscience, and only you know how hard you tried and if you could have done more or better, and you know what? Only you care, when you get down to it.)

Sit down and do your best, or get up and do your best, whichever is more appropriate.