I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s already time to pick a cover for volume 11 of the ebook compilations. Please leave your feedback in comments below, or just vote in the poll:
Meanwhile, hello, folks! It’s been a (moon)dog’s age since we had a liner note, so it’s high time we had one! Keep reading for tidbits and cool stuff we’ve accumulated about rock and roll, gay rights and visibility, and other topics that intersect with Daron’s Guitar Chronicles.
Before we get started officially under the cut, I also wanted to point out that you all are on the verge of triggering another Saturday post–two weeks in a row. Here’s how close you are:
ctan: Man, it’s been a very long time since we had an official liner note. My writing schedule has been insanely packed for the past three years.
Daron: So why are we doing one today?
ctan: Because now I’m procrastinating a different deadline.
Daron: Oh. Well, I do have quite a backlog of stuff I wanna share with people.
ctan: Great. You start, then.
Daron: Starting with a recent significant chapter. I wanted to say a little more about the gay bookstore in St. Louis where a scene takes place.
ctan: And how in the days before the Internet, the bookstore was a really important entry point to the community. I was also thinking about how there was that day you and Ziggy were walking around Boston, right before Ziggy went off and signed the development deal without talking to you first, you walked past Glad Day Bookstore but you didn’t go in.
Daron: Yeah. I was a little afraid to. That was during those four days (or however many it was) where we were glued together and I really believed we were going to stick that time.
ctan: I remember having such an anxiety attack before going into that store once. And I wasn’t even in the closet! I was just…unsure what the reception would be like, I guess? It just feels like a big step going from being literally outside the community to inside it by physically entering a space like that. Here I’d already been a campus LGBT activist but this was somehow more in “the real world” than on a college campus.
Daron: Bookstores were important, too, because you didn’t need to be old enough to drink to go in. And then when you did, you were met with a world of ideas and politics and stories relevant to you, as opposed to just drinking and dancing and cruising. A bookstore is about the safest physical space I can think of. And as mentioned at the bottom of the chapter, the St. Louis gay bookstore, Our World Too, was a real place.
ctan: And Bill Cordes the owner was a real pillar of the gay community. The store closed in 1999 and Bill passed away in 2005. You can read about him here: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=11209564. I should also point out that the book Ziggy was looking at, The Joy of Gay Sex, is a real book, too. In a lot of cities the lesbian and gay bookstore was a de facto community center, where meetings were held, speakers were hosted, classes were taught, too.
Daron: Yeah. I want to say though, too, for some of us, a good weird record store was just as much of a refuge, if not even moreso. My discomfort with gay bookstores was actually my discomfort with whether I fit in to the gay community. (Newsflash: I really don’t.) But I didn’t feel discomfort in underground and used record stores. Those were spaces that were specifically welcoming to weirdos and nonconformists, I guess? Because the music itself was challenging to society. Whether it was avant garde modernist classical or punk or industrial noise, it was literally challenging to listen to. It’s not meant to be “nice” music–it’s mean to shake up your sensibilities and make you feel dislocated, transported out of the norm.
ctan: So it’s not a big surprise that you ended up working at Tower Records, which was the indie music shop taken to the national “big box” level.
Daron: Dave Grohl (of Nirvana, Foo Fighters) and I have ended up with a lot of funny parallels in our life stories and one I just learned kinda recently is that he worked at Tower when he was young.
ctan: I had a major major hit of Tower nostalgia when I went to Japan. I went into one of the big 12-story Tower Records stores there, in Shinjuku, expecting to run in and buy one or two things for friends back in the states and we ended up in there for an hour. Maybe two. I’m not sure. It was the classic Tower experience. God, I miss that place. I had watched the documentary about the rise and fall of Tower on the plane on the way over to Tokyo:
Daron: I miss it, too.
ctan: The documentary is called All Things Must Pass and it’s available on streaming services and online rental. As we all know, in the end, they had to liquidate the company, but the Japanese division had been spun off into its own company, and survives to this day.
Daron: I guess this is the thing about a capitalist society, right? We express ourselves and participate in culture through buying and selling things. If somebody’s not making money somehow, a thing doesn’t exist. The Tower motto was “No Music, No Life.” Think about all the ways music is part of life. Even church music doesn’t escape being part of commerce anymore; although it’s interesting to think about how it used to.
ctan: In this interview, the filmmaker, Colin Hanks (incidentally, Tom Hanks’ son), talks about how the thing about Tower was that “it wasn’t just a place that sold you stuff.” It was a place where everyone could let their freak flag fly, whether they were a fan or a professional musician. Elton John and Bruce Springsteen were regular customers and are in the documentary as well.
Daron: Grohl says what I feel when he says, “I still don’t really understand why it’s gone.”
ctan: Here in New England we still have Newbury Comics, which was a close competitor to Tower in so many ways. Not just a place to buy records/CDs and books, but also alternative culture stuff in general. But there’s no national thing like Tower anymore.
Daron: Yeah. I guess the closest you get is… Hot Topic? Which is like all the teen underground culture stuff except WITHOUT the actual music?
ctan: ZOMG I could go on and on about how Hot Topic started out as a clothing store for goth teenagers and has ended up being a nerd subculture hub in a big way. Because what people never realized about goths is how deeply geeky we are. But because that didn’t fit the nerd stereotype, the mainstream could never grok it. Heck, even science fiction fan culture itself didn’t accept the goth strain of the family until recently. They used to try to kick us out of conventions and couldn’t figure out why we were there.
Daron: For being too well-dressed and depressed?
ctan: Basically. In the 90s it was a “you kids get off my lawn” thing, where the old hippie fans who ran the conventions only wanted more people exactly like them to come to the conventions and yet would complain that they couldn’t find enough young people to go. They could never see that the goths WERE the young generation of them. I spoke on a panel at the Arisia SF convention a couple of weeks ago on Goth Turns 40. It was fun. I was the oldest one on the panel.
Daron: I refuse to believe you and I are both approaching fifty.
ctan: Speaking of Ye Olden Tymes, a couple of folks have asked me if 1991 was really as bad as we’ve been making it out to be in the current stretch of DGC.
Daron: I remember the radio being this wasteland of third-rate albums from overtired artists being pushed to pump out crap.
ctan: Turns out we’re not the only ones who thought that. Check out this article from The AV Club in which they discover an old MTV “Year in Rock” documentary: http://www.avclub.com/article/mtvs-year-rock-1991-looks-back-what-it-deemed-pret-236736
Daron: Wow. And I quote: “MTV called it “‘A pretty bad year’ of slumping album sales and half-empty concert tours.” Lollapalooza was the only thing selling really well on the road and yet the industry was trying to crush alternative as hard as possible. Here, thanks to YouTube you can watch the entire documentary:
ctan:Not to mention we were then in our 11th straight year of Republican presidency?
Daron: Speaking of fun things on YouTube, I just stumbled onto this one where Jack White builds a guitar out of junk?? I have no idea what this clip is from but here you go.
ctan: It’s from a documentary called “It Might Get Loud” that you and I have to watch! How did we miss this one? It’s The Edge, Jimmy Page, and Jack White getting together and… hijinks ensue, I guess.
Daron: So I have to share this one video that has gone viral to the point that people are posting extra copies of it on YouTube and trying to grab a share of the views. Here’s the original, posted by a guitar shop in Nashville, Tennessee called British Audio:
Daron: But that led me to this really cool video of the same guy, 81-year-old Bob Wood doing a duet of “Crossroads” with Lindsey Ell. This will give you an idea of why Remo and I can sit down with two guitars and not get up until three hours later:
Daron: Also may I point out how timeless the red flannel shirt is?
ctan: You think you’ll still be wearing yours when you’re 80?
Daron: And hopefully playing guitar that hot, too.
ctan: Speaking of old guys, you follow Brian May of Queen on Twitter. You retweeted a post of his from his blog that led me to discover he’s started doing “seven minute workouts.” Viz: http://www.brianmay.com/brian/brianssb/brianssbjan17a.html#06
Daron: Oh man, I need to do those. On the road and off.
ctan: But he’s changed it slightly since he has bad knees — as do I — so he replaces some of the exercises with other ones. That inspired me to download a workout app. There’s been inflation though. I got one called 8Fit, which I guess is one more than 7.
Daron: Next you’re going to be telling me it goes to 11.
ctan: No, I’m going to tell you that Queen are touring the USA this summer, though. With Adam Lambert as their lead singer.
Daron: Hell, yes. Are you going to go?
ctan: I don’t think anything could be more amazing than seeing them at Budokan in Tokyo, but yeah, I grabbed tickets to the shows at Mohegan Sun and the Boston Garden.
Daron: Well, have fun. Still no one’s told me why an indoor arena is called a “garden.”
ctan: Sigh. Let me Google that for you. Okay, apparently although the root of the word “garden” means “public enclosure” the tradition of calling an indoor sports arena a garden literally comes from Madison Square Garden, which was originally built in 1879 and influenced the building of a lot of other facilities. The Boston Garden was apparently originally called Boston Madison Square Garden but of course Bostonians resented anything that came from New York so it just became the Boston Garden again.
Daron: Huh. That doesn’t explain why Madison Square Garden was called that initially though.
ctan: Presumably that was in the sense of “public enclosure.” And that being the era of the city developing by leaps and bounds, they probably wanted something that sounded nice rather than squalid.
Daron: Yeah. Do you miss living in New York?
ctan: Sometimes? I miss the people. I don’t miss the traffic, the crumbling infrastructure, or the high prices. But I miss the attitude. New York will always be my “home town.” It’s the only place besides the Boston area where I can imagine myself living.
Daron: Not that Boston is much cheaper.
ctan: It is just a little. What I love about living here is being surrounded by smart people who value education.
Daron: Hey, want to know what the latest musical celebrity thing is I’m jazzed about?
ctan: Yes, what?
Daron: Have you seen the “Carpool Karaoke” videos that James Corden does on the Late Late Show? He literally gets people in his car and makes them sing along to the radio–with him–to their own songs and others’.
ctan; I saw the one with Lin-Manuel Miranda! And they pick up some other people on the way!
Daron: The most recent one I watched was this one:
ctan: Lady Gaga, our most recent Superbowl halftime queen. I was kind of stunned to see people after the performance tweeting that they were “glad she wasn’t political.” Whut? Folks, she sang “This Land Is Your Land,” which is the ultimate “this place is for immigrants” song and then proceeded through an uncensored version of “Born This Way,” a song which proclaims it’s okay to be gay, lesbian, trans, or bi, not in coded language, but in those actual words. I tweeted at the time and I stand by my words: if Gaga’s performance wasn’t political to you, it’s because either you didn’t notice the queer politics or because queer politics don’t count to you.
Daron: I certainly never thought I’d hear the words gay, lesbian, or transgender used at the Super Bowl as anything other than slurs. And to do it, basically, in Mike Pence’s face–Pence being the guy who wants to make “conversion therapy” mandatory–I couldn’t take it as anything but political. She didn’t have to wear a rainbow colored pussy hat.
ctan: And the needs of invisible minorities are a little different from those of visible minorities.
Daron: But I never finished what I was saying about Carpool Karaoke. What’s awesome about it is, in this age of autotune, getting to hear real people’s real voices. When you sing in a car, you have to be right on or everyone can hear every little thing wrong. I’ll note he’s also had the Red Hot Chili Peppers and One Direction on. Such variety. I love it. And it shows how important a good song is. And how so many different things make a good song good.
ctan: It’s pure entertainment.
Daron: Yep. Everyone has a good time. It’s my favorite thing on YouTube right now.
ctan: More favorite than Andrew Huang and Boy in a Band?
Daron: Well, okay, those guys are awesome, too. Did we share the 26 Genres in Alphabetical Order song before?
ctan: Even if we did, it’s always fun to watch:
ctan: And then there’s the sequel:
Daron: Dave, aka Boy in a Band, is probably my favorite musical nerd ever, after Bart, anyway. here, nerd out with me:
ctan: That is exactly the kind of thing you’d talk about while tripping.
Daron: Pretty sure I have, anyway. The first thing that really caught my eye about Dave, though, was this song about masculinity. “I’m so sure of myself I’m practically reaching nirvana, you’re the guy who says ‘no homo’ after he eats a banana.” *snerk*
ctan: Speaking of music, queerness, and metaphors, I should tell the folks what I spent my time watching while I had the flu.
ctan: Yuri on Ice. It’s an anime, only 12 episodes long so it won’t eat your entire life, but if you like how Daron’s Guitar Chronicles metaphorizes music, performance, and gay male relationships, well, Yuri on Ice is all that plus figure skating. Folks in the US can watch it legally on Crunchyroll: http://www.crunchyroll.com/yuri-on-ice. The trailer is below, but just go watch the series. It’s better to go into it without knowing too much about it, honestly.
Daron: I confess. I just like watching hot guys flaunt themselves. Didn’t Yuzuru Hanyu, the gold medalist in Sochi, remind you of someone when you watched the 2014 Olympics?
ctan: Who did he remind me of? You mean Johnny Weir?
Daron: I mean Ziggy!
ctan: Oh. Yeah, I suppose. He’s a little more wide-eyed and innocent than Ziggy.
Daron: Says you.
ctan: I’ll see your Yuzuru Hanyu and raise you a Johnny Weir.
Daron: Yeah, okay. Weir smolders so much it’s a wonder the ice doesn’t melt. And here we are back to Lady Gaga again.
ctan: Got any last words for our readers?
Daron: Uh, thanks for being with us and see you real soon?
ctan: You’re supposed to remind people about the Patreon.
Daron: Oh! That. Yeah. If you have been thinking about chipping in to the DGC tip jar, or if you do once in a while, ask yourself if you can spare a dollar a week. If you can, join the Patreon and you’ll get special perks like all bonus scenes, all ebooks and digital products, access to special polls, that sort of thing. Plus you get to suggest new perks, too, if you have an idea. To sign up, visit https://www.patreon.com/ceciliatan.
ctan: Okay and NOW thanks for being with us!
Daron: And see you real soon.
Johnny Weir’s interview from a couple of weeks ago about Yuri On Ice. I love that a whole new generation is meeting Johnny Weir through Yuri!
While we’re talking Johnny Weir and GAGA how about some Bad Romance?
He is the hottest thing on ice. And he knows it. I appreciate that.
I envy you and Daron your experiences with music and the queer world in the 80s and 90s. In the early 70s (ctan & Daron were in elementary school, if that) I lived in Europe, sang some opera, did some session work, toured with one of the Ames Brothers, then music left my life. Got married, two kids in mid-70s, new overwhelming priorities. It was the late 90s before I recognized I was a Kinsey Scale one or two.
Retired from military in 1990, put two kids thru college in the 90s, while 4 jobs disappeared. Ended up running a global sector of a Fortune 500 co; all of that left no time for anything else. Resigned from the exec job when I realized it wasn’t possible to work 130 hr weeks for three yrs and not go crazy. Then youngest daughter became deathly ill, spent $1.5 million saving her life (only started with $1 million; still in debt) and was only able to return to music in 2010. I’ve never done anything with my bi side, although in Dallas I went to a great lesbian bar whenever I was in town.
I live my fantasy youth thru ctan and Daron. And that’s fine. You are a blessing to an old man.