Here's my top 10 for 2010:
1. Keith Richards, Life: Look, this ain't "Chronicles", you know. But Keith's a lot funnier than I ever imagined. I know that "tiny todger" talk is low-class. But, still, it made me laugh as did so much of this book. The book also sent me back to Keith's solo recordings ("Talk is Cheap" and "Main Offender") which hold up surprisingly well.
2. Greil Marcus: Sure, Professor Marcus can be super-pretentious and an annoying read. But I'll take Greil over everyone else contributing to the Bob bookshelf. I read 'em all (I consider it a professional obligation (and hazard)). Most of 'em are straight bio (Sid Griffin), academic discourse (Sean Wilentz), or gossip aiming for something loftier (Michael Gray). Only Greil is EVOCATIVE. He can open something for you that may have eluded previous consideration. In the same way that Lester Bangs did (of course, without half of Lester's bravura and panache). I remember Greil saying -- in a review of "King of America" -- that Costello had no "belle canto gifts" and that his voice was, instead, "moral" in tone. I've been puzzling over that remark for 25 years. There's stuff in Greil's new Bob book that resonates on this level.
3. No Two More Alike: Yep, Butch did it again. Just like in 1990. He played 5 straight nights at the legendary Cactus Cafe in Austin without repeating a single song. In fact, he barely repeated any of the songs from 1990! My pal Andrew and I made it down to Austin for this. When I lived down there in the early 90s, I could never get a gig at the Cactus (tho, I played my share of open mics over there). So it was a "career" highlight when Butch plucked me out of the audience this time 'round and had me sing "Already Gone" with him. Jeez. He capped off the final night of this his final Cactus stand with Townes' "To Live is to Fly." (Editor's note: There used to be a video on You Tube of this performance but it's already gone.)
There's a 1995 field recording of Slo-Mo and I performing "To Live is to Fly" on John Train's new cd, "All of Your Stories" available at gigs, CD Baby, and i-tunes. Check it out if you can and "think of all the poetry and pickin' down the line." Thanks, Townes. Thanks, Butch.
4. Peter Case and Mark Schreiber at WCL: PC called me up and asked me to find a drummer to play with him at the World Cafe. There's only one dude I could even imagine: the ever soulful and grooving Mark Schreiber of John Train and Slo-Mo. Two heroes on stage at once is hard to beat. Here they are performing "Banks of the River" from PC's stunning new record "Wig":
5. Jodi's Buns: Sticky buns, that is to say. If you're up on Wayne Avenue come by for a taste. We're the third house on the left, yo.
6. Jean-Michel Basquiat, Radiant Child: Just saw this documentary. I remember reading about JMB in the Voice when I lived in NYC in the 80s. But I never made the effort to check him out. My loss. 1000 paintings and 1000 drawings in about 8 years. This guy burned real bright. Radiant Child, indeed.
7. Something in the Night
: Like all Bruce fiends, I've been poring over the Promise 6 disc box. There are songwriting secrets contained in Bruce's notebook that I'm determined to decipher. The re-master of Darkness is a revelation. My fave of the moment is "Something in the Night." The wordless moan building into the first verse: they don't call him the Boss for nothing! And the words themselves: "You can ride the road 'til dawn without another human being in sight // Just kids wasted on Something in the Night." I love the nod to the Who's Baba O'Riley in the second half of the verse. But the song has nothing to do with Teenage Wasteland: like the rest of the album, it's about isolation and adulthood (synonymous?). If you ever had any questions about the Mighty Max, they are answered in this track.
8. RLJ at the Birchmere: Rickie Lee seems to make my Top Ten every year. This time it was for her performance of her first two records. She treated 'em like a classical score. Note for Note. This is very odd for an artist who thrives on re-invention. But with Gary Mallabar on drums (have you noticed my newfound appreciation for drummers?) and a host of other great LA session guys, RLJ had enough foundation to do her thing and avoid karoake pitfalls. I go to a lot of shows. The audience usually looks like me: middle aged white guys with beards (some gals with beards too). RLJ, on the other hand, pulls some sorta rainbow crowd. There's something to be said for that.
(Editor's note: This video is from the same tour but in Westbury, NY.)
9. Douchebag: My friend Andrew Dickler wrote, edited and starred in this flick. It got him into Newsweek Magazine, the New York Times, the LA Times, and, perhaps most exciting for me, the Inky in a rave review by Steven Rea. Rick, Lisa, Tucker, Suzanne, Jodi, and I caught Douche at the Ritz. I'm proud of you, amigo!
10. John Updike Society: Yes, I admit it. In October, I attended the first annual John Updike Society gathering at Alvernia University in Reading, Pa. The conference included academic lectures, talks from JU's high school classmates, a bus tour that took us to the Pagoda described in Rabbit, Run as well as JU's boyhood home, etc etc. A geek fest, to be sure (Slo-Mo recently rightfully ridiculed the tote-bag I procured at the conference). But, dammit, I love Updike and he's influenced my writing just about as much as anyone. I couldn't have written "Lord Baltimore" (which will feature on John Train's forthcoming release "No More/Flared out in Philly") without the strong dose of Updike I took following the great man's death (esp. "Couples" from 1968). This one's for you, JU: