Island Album

Writing about U2, writers from Kill Your Idols noted that “…those tuning in to the globally broadcast Live Aid concert on July 13, 1985, could be forgiven for thinking Christ had suddenly return in the form of a po’-faced Irish rocker.”

The fact that it’s Bono’s 50th birthday today reminded me of a conversation I had in 1988 with a friend of mine, who, as it turns out, I saw last month for the first time in months. I was making my list of maybe 20 island albums, and I placed on the roster on the list Joshua Tree by U2. My friend was practically incensed. “You can’t put that album on! It’s only a year old!”

OK, fair enough. It’s 2010. It’s still on the list.

In the past week or so, I’ve listened to all the U2 CDs I have on CD, only about nine of them, and it continues to be the one that is solid throughout.

As the Wikipedia article notes, this is both one of the best-selling and best-reviewed albums in recorded music history. Released on March 9, 1987, it was also “the first new release to be made immediately available on the compact disc, vinyl record, and cassette tape formats on the same date.”

Opposing view

So naturally, I pulled out Kill Your Idols this weekend. It’s a book, edited by Jim DeRogatis and Carmel Carrillo that trashes albums generally considered to be classics. from the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds to Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks to Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run AND Born in the U.S.A. Naturally, Joshua Tree is here too, In the essay by Eric Waggoner and Bob Mehr, the writers complain as much about the band, and especially its lead singer, as about the album itself:

“…those tuning in to the globally broadcast Live Aid concert on July 13, 1985, could be forgiven for thinking Christ had suddenly return in the form of a po’-faced Irish rocker.” Noting the way he worked the crowd, they accuse him of “acting out what appeared to be a twisted messianic fantasy…”

As for the album itself: “a wonky, ill-fitting marriage of high-minded piety and humorless determination…[it] takes no risks, rolls no dice and couches every one of its supposedly deep insights in the broadest, most hackneyed terms possible.”

All of that notwithstanding, the album immediately spoke to me on a visceral level. I didn’t dissect it, as I did with Beatles albums 20 years earlier. I just let myself feel the experience. Prone as I am to overthinking, that is not the level at which I enjoyed this particular album.

LINKS to each song:
Where the Streets Have No Name
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
With or Without You
Bullet the Blue Sky
Running to Stand Still
Red Hill Mining Town
In God’s Country
Trip Through Your Wires
One Tree Hill
Mothers of the Disappeared

Though I suppose the Two Americas theme resonated at some level, the country it is and the one it strives to be.
Whatever the reason, Joshua Tree is one of my 25 island records. Which is appropriate since it appears on Island Records.


Roger Answers Your Questions, Jaquandor and Rebecca

Jaquandor of Byzantium Shores, the finest blogger in western New York AND a fashionista ahead of the curve, asks these questions:

Does David Paterson know what he’s doing?

More often than he’s given credit for, I think. On his Day 1, he’s all funny and charming. On Day 2, he admits that both he and his wife were unfaithful, a brilliant move designed to make sure the state was not suddenly surprised by another sex scandal after Eliot Spitzer’s downfall. It was a calculated risk that worked.

He was right to note the fiscal disaster the state was going to be suffering after the Wall Street collapse, as it affected our state disproportionally; not only was the state heavily invested, but a lot of New Yorkers lost their jobs on Wall Street in the market meltdown. Of course, the state, unlike the federal government, cannot operate in a deficit, so cutbacks and layoffs were inevitable. Part of Paterson’s problem is that he was bearer of bad news.

He was also stifled by the second most dysfunctional state legislature in the country – I’m convinced California’s is worse – and threw a Hail Mary by picking his own lieutenant governor in order to break the state Senate deadlock. I found and read the state constitution and decided that the lower court was right; that picking his own replacement, essentially, was beyond the scope of the emergency powers he was citing. I thought they would be used in cases where the legislature was wiped out by war or disaster that the state couldn’t be allowed to flounder. Apparently, the Court of Appeals (which, for you non-New Yorkers, is the state’s highest court) decided that the gridlock that took place for a month beginning June 8 WAS enough of an emergency that picking his own lt gov WAS kosher. So kudos to him.

Now, he royally messed up the appointment of Hillary Clinton’s replacement for the US Senate. Don’t know what that whole Caroline Kennedy dance was. But while Kirsten Gillibrand was not a popular choice downstate at the time, notice how her primary opposition has melted away.

This is not to say that I’ve agreed with all of his decisions. His unilateral decision NOT to tax the rich more, lest they leave the state, seemed tone deaf to me.

So his abysmally low poll numbers surprise me a bit. There is a local public radio force named Alan Chartock of WAMC who believes part of his problem is him being characterized as a bumbler on Saturday Night Live a few times, much the same way that Chevy Chase’s portrayal of Gerald Ford established the President as clumsy. There was a poll a while back (Siena or Marist College ran it) that said that 7% of the population felt negative towards Paterson because of how SNL portrayed him. Wow, didn’t think that SNL still had that much pull, outside of Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin last year.

I’ll be curious how he does on Meet the Press today, rerun on other NBC networks during the week. You KNOW that David Gregory has to ask him about the report that the Obama people didn’t want him running for governor in 2010, which would not come from legitimate channels right before the President visited the Capital District on Monday.

Photo by John Hebert

To what degree is the eBook the way of the future? (I assume we all grant that there will be eBooks, but how much will they take over?)

Actually, I’ll ask you this, since you read and watch science fiction: do you EVER see people reading books or newspapers in the futuristic portrayals? I don’t recall any.

I think more the question is how much will paper products stick around? There were a couple pieces in Entertainment Weekly recently – pretty sure Stephen King was one of them – that discussed the visceral pleasure of the book – how it feels in the hand, how it smells, how it is laid out, how you can fan the pages to create a breeze (I’m doing this from memory and may have made up that last one) – that the electronic equivalent can NEVER replicate.

There’s a private high school in New England that in 2009 got rid of all of its books, replaced by eBooks. The headmistress said that the students were thriving. If experiences like that “take”, then the books will become like vinyl records; they’ll still be around, but marginalized. Conversely, if there is a pushback from educators who say our kids NEED the actual manipulation of pages – and, IMO, they do – then the flow will be stemmed, though not stopped.

Of course, eBooks might be replaced by something else – remember how ubiquitous the VCR used to be? – are replaced by some sort of computer chip that goes directly into our brains.

There are, by my rough estimation, about fifty thousand books about the Beatles. Can you recommend a couple, to help narrow it all down?

You are a relative newbie to the Fabs, so I’d start with The Beatles by Hunter Davies, one of the first. It’s pretty thorough without overwhelming (e.g., the Beatles Anthology), though ends before the end of the group, if I remember correctly. Beyond that, it would depend on what you’re really interested in: their songwriting, the recording techniques, their lives, Beatlemania. Many dismiss Philip Norman book Shout! as anti-Paul, but few doubt his thoroughness and it’s a good read; he has a newer book I haven’t read that seems to be better received. Peter Brown’s The Love You Make is “an insider’s story”, and is interesting at that level. There’s a relatively recent book Can’t Buy Me Love that has reviewed really well, but I haven’t actually read.

My personal favorite, actually, is The Beatles: An Illustrated Record by Roy Carr & Tony Tyler. It was about the recordings, and it was at the point where I (thought I ) knew everything about them, but I was basing my knowledge on the US LPs I bought; this book totally upended my understanding. But now the CDs are out in the “British” order, so it wouldn’t have the same effect, I imagine.

I’d love to hear the opinions of sages such as Fred Hembeck and Johnny Bacardi on this topic.

Rebecca from 40 Forever, who is intelligent, attractive and personable – naturally she’s a librarian – asks:

How many guitars are in Rochester’s famous House of Guitars?


Actually, the website says “it’s home to an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 guitars and 4 million albums, CDs and tapes.”

Meant to get to Scott’s questions, but I still feel not great and I may be the healthiest of the three of us. Certainly feeling better than the wife, who took a three-hour nap yesterday. Anyway, Scott, before the end of the month. as the J5 title goes, “Maybe tomorrow.”

Unabashed Plug: Conversations with ADD

Alan David Doane (pictured at left) is a mensch. Now, for those of you not down with your Yiddish, mensch means a person having admirable characteristics, such as fortitude and firmness of purpose.

Or you could say, ADD is a PITA, which means pain in the tookus. I mean that in a good way. As Christopher Allen describes him, Alan is an agent provocateur.

ADD was one of those young people who were customers of FantaCo, the comic book store/publishing empire where I used to work in the 1980s. Subsequently, ADD became a noted blogger in the comic book realm. This week – September 1st, 2009 – marks the ninth anniversary of his Comic Book Galaxy’s original launch, and “approximately the tenth anniversary of my beginning to write about comics online,” he noted.

To mark the occasion, he has released his third eBook, Conversations with ADD. It is nearly 300 pages long, and “contains nearly four dozen interviews, including cartoonists, writers, artists, publishers, editors, comics retailers and bloggers.”

I had the chance to look at a preview copy, and I got to read interviews with some of my favorite creative people, including Peter Bagge, Howard Chaykin, Tony Isabella, Denny O’Neil, Harvey Pekar, and Walt Simonson, along with the ever-enigmatic Dave Sim. There’s a piece on Earthworld Comics owner J.C. Glindmeyer, who really DOES do Free Comic Book Day right, as I can attest from personal experience.

There is even a brief interview in there with a historic relic, yours truly. I should note that it’s largely ADD’s persistence that got me to blog about old FantaCo stuff such as the counterfeit Cerebus or the Fantastic Four Chronicles, so you can partially credit (or blame) him.

ADD’s POV comes through in his questions without overwhelming the interviewee, a delicate balancing act. Of course, many of the subjects have their own strong personalities, so the resulting interaction can make for a lively piece.

These interviews span the entire last decade, which in part gives a snapshot into the comic book market over the period.

As Mark Evanier likes to say, Go See It!
Since I’m plugging things:
The Vermont Monster Guide by Joseph A. Citro, illustrated by Stephen R. Bissette
Harvey Pekar: Conversations, edited by Michael G. Rhode
From the Wall Street Journal: Spider Mouse? Marvel/Disney Mash-Ups for True Believers. Analysts applauded Disney’s offer to buy Marvel, announced Monday, saying that the move would help the company make inroads with boys.
But were they expecting Gooflactus?
We do know that Hitler is ticked. And the fandamentalist internerds are all whiny.

Photo stolen from Fred Hembeck. Probably taken by Lynn Moss.


World Book and Copyright Day

From the news release:
On 23 April 2009, we will celebrate the 14th World Book and Copyright Day, proclaimed by the UNESCO General Conference in 1995 to promote greater awareness of the importance of books in the world.

In order to support the Organization in today’s society, this year international professional associations are once again kindly invited to play an essential role in informing and mobilizing both their members and their external networks of experts and stakeholders.

For this edition of the Day, UNESCO suggests to explore the topic of the paramount function of books for the development of quality education, as well as the link between publishing and fundamental rights.

One of the cool things my wife did this past year was to apply for and receive a $600 minigrant to buy books for her English as a Second Language unit that had been limited by ancient, archaic texts. Even more impressive, she got a publisher to donate – that is, give for free – an almost equal number of books.

Something I know from personal experience is that teachers often spend money out of pocket for books and supplies that they bring to the classroom. In honor of today, perhaps you might contract your local school or PTA to see what books they might need. Or contact your local library; ironically, in a period of increased demand for library services, library budgets are being slashed.

So buy a book, for yourself and/or for someone else.
An action film, Salt, starring Angelina Jolie, will be filmed in part on the streets of Albany. Some folks are up in arms, even though the schedule suggests that it won’t disrupt the morning or evening commutes. I think the real issue is that there was NO information at all going out to the general public until a couple days ago about something that begins today, and there is a lot of misinformation floating out there.


Easter Sunday

At some level, it’s easier to be a Lenten person than an Easter person. But I’m (still) working at it.

But even if you’re not a Christian, I have some wisdom for you. Specifically, it’s from a very small (4″ X 3.25″) book I got for my last birthday called “Wisdom from It’s Not Easy Being Green and Other Things to Consider” by Jim Henson, the Muppets and Friends.

“I think there are lots of ways of leading very good lives and growing spiritually. This process of growth goes on whether we believe in it or not.”

Now please rise.


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