Saturday, January 31, 2009

Jim Ellison, come back, I miss you!

I was testing some high-end stereo components as a favor for an acquaintance; they had belonged to his son, who was killed in an auto racing accident. I tried a few different artists and, liking the sound of the system, remembered one of my favorite sequences of songs to enjoy through a good stereo rig: the last four tracks of Material Issue's Freak City Soundtrack. Halfway through I saw the irony; an artist that died too young playing through the sound system of another who died too young.

Grab some Material Issue and play it loud, anything they did is pretty frickin' great. Be like me if you want and hit track 8 on FCS. Ordinary Girl... seductive bass, searing guitar and solid drumming, and of course hooky as hell, And a great solo. Long sustain into a crashing chord and Echo Beach kicks in, manic tempo, the whammy guitar flirting with feedback, coolness practically dripping from the speakers, multiple guitar solos, is he doing that Townshend thing with the pickup switch? Whammy totally detunes the strings and it's over... studio chatter, "That's a good tempo" and She's Goin' Thru My Head launches, another fast one, lyrics are Jim's daydream about a perfect life, 1970s power-pop style. Fade out into a cold start, Jim yelping "Have you ever gotten...", the band kicks in and he finishes "high? So high you couldn't come down?" This is Help Me Land, maybe I read too much into it but it seems a fitting end to the last completed MI studio album. Lyrics like "Did you ever feel left out - so out you could'nt come back in?" and the chorus "I'm trying hard to understand, you gotta help me land..."

No one helped Jim land. This album sold poorly, the label dropped him. People wanted grunge in the mid-90s, not power pop. A longtime love came to an end on his 32nd birthday. A couple of months later Jim was found dead in his garage of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Play their stuff if you've got it. If you don't, check it out.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Please stay tuned...

I really wanna do this blog right. It involves more time investment than my other blog where I just get on and rant about somebody tailgating me or runny applesauce or whatever... so the posts will be more random. But hopefully better ;)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Concert flashbacks #1 - Billy Joel October 21 1978

This was pretty much my first concert. And I remember very little about it. It was at Kansas State University's Ahearn Fieldhouse. The half a ticket stub that is my sole souvenir reads Saturday 8:00 PM (ticket price: eight bucks!). According to the one website I found listing BJ tour dates - this one wasn't listed but he was in St. Louis 10/20, Omaha 10/22 so apparently he was talked into stopping in our fairly small town for a Saturday night gig in between. I'd been hearing his songs (mostly new songs from 52nd Street) on the radio and seeing them performed live was pretty cool. A couple months later my older cousin bought me the LP for Christmas... I don't think he even knew I'd seen the show. I remember: the familiar songs; no doubt he played a lot of unfamiliar ones too; he had a dark blue jacket but the K-State crew played a red light on him to make it look KSU purple; four of us went, me, Brad, Kerry and a girl I don't remember the name of. It almost seems like he played solo but I suppose I was too enthralled by the new experience to pay attention to the band.