Monday, December 9, 2013

My Shag Skateboard Deck || The Hunt

  The relationship between me and Josh Agle (aka Shag) began somewhere around the turn of the last century.  I had always be an avid appreciator of the arts and had always loved Tiki Bars.  So when his artwork stared at me one day from a glossy art magazine, I was hooked.  I immediately sent off what little money I had to a gent hanging out and promoting Shag's wares in Australia.  A few weeks later by tube, I received Three Musicians and the "creme dela creme" (of the times) Departure Idlewild, Stopover Borneo, Arrival Ape City.  Still, I was hungry for more.  I devoured any sort of publication I could with an inkling of Shag.  Early on, I realized that his original artwork was way beyond my meager budget.  However I thought I should look for odd & unusual work from this artist I so much admired.

Upon reading those publications there was some mention by one of the interviews that he used to do some contract work for Foundation Skateboards when the company was first starting out.  I thought to myself, more research is needed.  Back then art wasn't done as "art" but more of as a graphic for the skater.  Artist making skate decks for the only intense purpose of Art was not really heard of in the mid-nineties like it is today.  These decks were ridden (with no protection) and completely destroyed.  I thought how great it would be to find a deck that Shag had done the graphics on.

I quickly found the website, Art of Skateboarding and started to review all the hundreds of decks made by the Foundation Company.  Then I stumbled upon some Josh Beagle and Brad Staba boards.  Bingo!  All reminiscent of Shag's early work.  They were marked as "artist unknown"  I thought to myself, "this is a good thing".  Then began the hunt....A hunt that last for more than 4 years.  Then one day there it appeared on eBay.  It simply was entitled "Vintage Foundation Skate Deck" that was still in the shrinkwrap.  I bought it and enjoyed it for many years displayed on my wall.

But with every beginning there is an end.  With a marriage and several children now ruling the roost, the board came off the wall about 6 months ago.  I figured that I would hang it down the road, but then I started to really think about giving it a new beginning to someone else and passing along the board to a new home of a Shag fan.  And now it lays in the hands of eBay waiting for a new home.  To be continued....

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Smith Strat || 1982 Stratocaster || Guitar Series


This is the one that started it all for me.  My first true love of an electrical instrument.  It began one day about 14 years ago when I walked into The Starving Musician in Santa Clara.  I saw wall after wall of these Fender guitars.  Besides the paint job they all looked the same to me.  The only difference that my novice eye could see in them was the price tag.  They seemed to range from $200 to $2000.  Why?  I gauged that it was probably something to do with quality but I really wanted to find out what goes into making a good guitar.  Especially a classic.

DSC_6742 Some easy definitions were where they were manufactured.  Overseas seemed to be cheaper.  Vintage american instruments got to an outrageous amount of money for an instrument.  More importantly as I searched deeper and deeper into peoples passion for stratocasters, I realized that there was this romantic love for this instrument.  Be it maybe the musical life cut short of Buddy Holly or seeing Clapton gravitate to them in mid-career, people loved them.  Then I started picking them up and understanding why they loved them.  They are like a fine wine or a fine woman.  They just feel right.  Leo Fender hit it out of the park when he designed his second solid body guitar in 1954.  The stratocaster has become as American as Baseball and Apple Pie.  And I wanted one.

Many trips to Starving Musican came that year back in 2001.  Their inventory always kept changing and they keep the shelves stocked with a good cross-section of instruments.  Then it happened.  The '82 stratocaster caught my eye.  The first thing I noticed about it as I grabbed to take it off the rack was how heavy it was.  It was a solid piece of machinery.  It appeared aged, but not worn.  I placed it on my knee and strummed a chord.  Everything just felt right.  It was the most solid piece of musical equipment I had ever felt.  Still being a novice I knew little about this guitar besides that it just felt right.  So after giving it an initial test run through an amp, I finished up my lunch break and went back to work.  Not before noting the first couple of digits in the serial number on the headstock.  E207....
Back at the desk I searched the internet for how to read Fender Serial Numbers.  The first two digits were the decade and the specific year it was made.  That would translate this one to 1982.  But what caught my eye beyond the serial dating was an article.  Somewhere out there on the internets, a fellow lover of the "smith strat" (as it became to be known) wrote about guitars made during the time that Dan Smith was hired as marketing manager for Fender.  The Fender Musical Company wanted to attract players back to their instruments.  They wanted the draw and allure that they had before Leo sold the Company to CBS in early 1965.  Dan Smith had the idea to not cut corners and to use the same materials and quality control that had gotten away from Fender by the big corporate purchase.  CBS was all about mass production and cutting costs.  They started building quality instruments again in this magical year of 1982.  They also had a revolutionary idea that year and a great marketing ploy to actually be able to charge more...they started the Vintage Series.  They built reissue '57 Strats and reissue '62 Strats.  Two key years in Stratocaster design.  They were able to phase out the high cost of the typical american series strat and get more money for it by saying it was a vintage reissue.  Brilliant.  But for one key year they built all instruments of quality.  Then the divisions began.  They shipped off product to japan for the low-end entry level guitars, continued making the mid-level "american series" along with the new high end "Vintage Reissue" series.
So out of sheer luck and the lack of lore that now bestows the '82 Smith Strats, I was able to pick up my baby for the cost (at the time) of a brand new American Series.  I thought it was quite a bargain back then.  She taught me how to play the electric guitar.  She taught me how to explores tones.  She was my Number 1 for a good 10 years.  I had many a good guitar.  And utilized many a different guitar onstage as well as record.  However, no guitar has been on more recordings or been played live more than my '82 Strat.  Her frets are wearing a little thin and her paint job is a little more chipped than when I got her, but she is still a beauty in my eyes.

They are still out there.  If you can find an '82 Strat in good condition for the price of a new Strat, my recommendation is at least plug her in and see how she sounds.  My bets are that you wont be disappointed.
DSC_6741 DSC_6750
And this is how it sounds....

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Trip to Austin || Shenanigans || August 2013

It had always been on the list. Through the years I had heard many a good thing about the city of Austin.  Texas has never attracted me.  But their capital city has.  Solely due to the fact that so many friends who love music have told me about their adventures to Austin.  Mine was about to happen.

IMG_1762A good friend (who happens to be a die hard music fan) is getting married.  When asked where he would want to have his bachelor party there were only two choices; Nashville & Austin.  He chose Austin.  Fifteen middle-aged men piled into a flop house right on 6th and Brushy for a long weekend of booze, music and good times.  I felt like I had shed twenty years of life.

Rolling into town on a Thursday afternoon we got situated and staked out a game plan for the night.  One crew went boozing.  I was really torn, not because I wanted to go boozing, I was already boozed up enough.  A " new favorite" band was playing at the Parish on 6th.  I had seen Diarrhea Planet earlier this year back home in San Jose when the opened for Jeff the Brotherhood.  Both great bands.  But something drew me closer to DP.  Maybe it was the way they crammed so many goddamn guitars on the stage with out it sounding lame. Either way, I attempted to talk some guys into going to the Parish with me.  The another contingent, led by Adam spoke up about having a friend playing over at the Broken Spoke.  Some old Honky Tonk on the edge of town.  I knew DP would be back and I was up for something new.  I decided to head with those guys for some country music, Texas style.
I was not disappointed one bit.  The bar was an outstanding piece of history where good times are still flowing readily.  A true place for couples to intermingle and dance the night away to a real live band.  Maybe it is me, but that shit just isn't happening like it used to.  It was a thing of true beauty to see.  Not mention the band, Jesse Dayton.  This guy has a regular standing Thursday night gig at the Broken Spoke.  Seeing them perform I knew why.  They were a tight band that I would've of loved to have seen more of.  The next morning in the local ad-rag I read an article about the development surrounding the place and its life is being threatened for stucco-bomb condos and strip mall shit.  Let's hope it never happens because it is really damn hard to replicate 50 years of history. Enjoy it while you still can.

Friday night bOoze fest on dirty 6th.  Lots of bull riding and dj's.  Let's move on to Saturday.

Saturday morning started out at the Hula Hut, but quickly made its way to a South Congress joint called Guero's.  Outside in the 100 degree heat we sat under misters, drinking many 'o Tecate listening to some sizzling blue by seasoned pros.  These guys did not miss a beat.  The old adage rings true, to play anywhere in Austin on a weekend, you've gotta be good.  Paul Orta and The Kingpins ripped through some blues standards as well as some unfamiliar tunes.
A portion of the crew peeled off to participate in some true bachelor party activities, while three of us meandered under the hot sun until we found another bar. The Continental Club is an old supper club with a wonderful history.  They don't serve supper anymore, just booze and live music practically every day of the week.  Cornell Hurd was up on stage with his big band doing his thing that he has done for 40 plus years.  We sat in the back and dranks some beers soaking up the atmosphere.  With a mid-day buzz rolling we curbed our hunger and headed back to the crash pad for some rest.

That night a crew wanted to go back down to 6th street for some hard partying.  I had different plans.  I saw that this band, The Hex Dispensers, were playing that night less than a half a block from where I was staying.  Checking them out online I realized that it was my calling to go see this band perform.  How well I know myself.
When I showed up, the second band was setting up.  Crooked Bangs set their minimal gear up and then set the stage on fire.  Watch out for this band.  Damn, I would see them again in a heartbeat.  Snappy drummer, heavy bass and noisy guitar...what more could I ask for?  They sounded like a cross between early Kings of Leon and the Melvins. All but better.  A young band.  Once the bass player gets an Ampex SVT with an 8x10 cab and the guitarist get a vintage Marshall or fender and keeps rocking that jazzmaster the tones will only sweeten up!

I was satisfied.  Then the Hex Dispenser came out.  Hotter than hot.  They sounded awesome with no bass and intertwining vocals.  I didn't realize it with my preview but they were very reminiscent of my own band with two guitars, no bass and a woman drummer with screaming backing vocals.  See for yourself.

What a way to end a trip to Austin.  I hope that any and all bands come to the West Coast.  I will be there!

 Videos of The Hex Dispensers, Crooked Bangs and the ever gracious Jesse Dayton:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Jump on in that ol' Band Wagon || Record Store Day || April 20, 2013

A few years back I had heard the tales of Record Store Day.  I have always been behind Record Stores.  It started for me in High School.  I can pinpoint it even further to Mr. Cauter's Music Appreciation Class, deep in the cement bowels of California High School.  As a teen, I had heard rumors that this was the coolest class in town, especially for music lovers.  James Cauter would take young minds through the History of Music with a large dose of Beatles due to his "Beatle Friday" segment.  The highpoint would be the field trip into Berkeley to go record shopping.  Cauter's objective was to expose the valley kids in suburban San Ramon to something a little deeper within the confines of the musical acquisition library, mom & pop record stores, specializing in obscure albums and cheap used records.  A used record?  I had never heard of this concept.  At Wherehouse Records or the two mall mainstays, Rainbow Records and Musicland, you could get anything beyond the Eagles and Rick Springfield.  A brand spanking new dimension for a young impressionable mind.

That trip introduced me to record stores like Rasputins, Tower Records & Leopolds along with Blondie's Pizza and Aardvarks Odd Ark.  We started taking monthly trips out to Berkeley and Walnut Creek.  Trying to find obsure, new wave and metal albums with all our buddies.  I didn't own a car so it came down to bumming a ride with any friend who was willing to take an adventure or taking the Bus to Walnut Creek and hopping on BART and out to Berkeley.  What wonderful adventures exploring new cities and new music all at the same time.  I remember when we had heard about this record store called "Asta's Records" over on the other side of town off college avenue in Oakland.  There we discovered their pile of weekly brought in imports from Europe.  We were stoked!

The twelve inch album has always held a place close to my heart.  Ever since my parents upgraded their stereo system and gave me the old 60s stereo console I was hooked (besides the radio it only played records).  My brother was a new adapter, heavy into tapes and when CDs came along, he was the first one I knew of with a CD player.  He toted the quality of sound and the infinite life of a CD.  I poo poo'd the price and the minimal detail of information only found on an object of 12 inches.  I kept buying records.  I had a nice collection.  That collection was halted in the 90s when corporations were not pressing LPs and the necessity of being in college, poor, and light in my travels drove me into the CD market.  There I got lost.

As time went on and technology grew more powerful I found myself like many americans of today, downloading MP3s and listening, discovering and gobbling up music all digitally.  The waves of sound kept coming faster and faster in my soul.  Last year I realized that I may be still listening to a lot of music, but I wasn't really "listening".  It was all just background noise in my life.  I needed to slow down my own process and really listen and enjoy music.  I dusted off my old record collection and started listening again.  I started buying records.  I would go out to my record player in the studio and just listen to a side of an album.  Really listen.  It has helped me slow down in this fast pace world and focus on just a few thoughts.  Music.  And what attracted me to it in the first place.  I don't ever want to lose that.  I want to hold onto that concept and more importantly pass it along to my children.  Which brings us to current day.

A few weeks ago my sister passed along all our old childhood disney story book records.  My daughter and I have been listening to them quite a bit.  She loves the concept of the record and the needle and the stories that are told.  I love passing along heritage.  So when Record Store Day popped into my consciousness again yesterday I decided to make a date out of it with her.  We sourjourned to a packed Streetlight Records on Bascom in San Jose, where she picked up her own first long playing record; Chip & Dale sing and tell stories with Donal Duck.  Afterwards we went to 7Eleven and got some Slurpees.  She was stoked and I was reminiscent of my own childhood trips to record stores with my own father.  A tradition has begun.  We will faithfully follow the tradition of supporting small, independent record stores on this one day of the year.  And maybe take a trip or two back during other days too.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Top Ten Videos I watched on Youtube in 2012

I wanted to compile a list of my favorite videos from 2012.  In these times we and utterly and completely overloaded with data and information.  That is why, for my own memories sake, I wanted to compile a list of watching history of Youtube for 2012.  Here it is:

St. Vincent- I dig a pony
Eric from The Pinks introduced me to St. Vincent through this video.  Oh boy, he hit it out of the park with this selection. I have searched and searched other videos online of St. Vincent, but in my opinion nothing compares to this gripping rendition of a Beatles classic.  The tones generated from her Harmony Bobcat guitar along with the watery effects processor on her other mic during the chorus makes this tune her own.  Then there is her guitar playing....shit, I wish I had the touch she has.   A simple and amazing cover tune.

Nilsson with Keith moon
Nilsson schmillson was a staple in the record rotation growing up as a kid.  I knew I always liked the guy but it wasn't until I became a musician that I really appreciated the talent behind this guy. Like many tortured souls, he was his own worst enemy.  He sure did give the world something to remember him by.  This tune is one of my favorite rhythmic tribal chants.  Then I came across this rare footage of him jamming with Keith Moon.  Boy, I wonder what was in their system while making this video.  Probably a lot illegal contraband and I will place money on it that it was probably shot somewhere between the hours of 3 and 5 am.

Pujol - Reverse Vampire
So, Pujol...yes, he is one of my favorite finds of the year. Such a talented young musician.  I wrote about his new album earlier this year.  It is a really great piece of work. However, in this acoustic version of the song on the record, Reverse Vasmpire, really highlights this singer songwriters talent. All in a sterile office environment.  The young Bob Dylan really comes through in this video.  The question I have to ask myself is, "who is Ben Todd?"

Bo Diddley - Live 1973
When I watch this video, it inspires me.  Bo is in the top of his show man game, just working the crowd like a man on a mission.  When he goes up for the pants splitting leg apart jump it also informs me of who inspired David Lee Roth. We all can benefit from the joy of live music.  Especially Bo's audience, just lapping up what the man is giving.  A thing of beauty.


The Shock of the New (series) - Robert Hughes
I found out about this series through a Time obituary.  The author of the book and the series, , passed away in 2012.  The piece in Time intrigued me.  It spoke of a compre.hensive history of modern art in the 20th century so compelling that the BBC wanted to turn it into an educational series.  Class starts now....

Bill Withers - Use Me 1972
This song is a mastery of live production.  It truly demonstrates the genius of a Bill Withers song.  The instrument inteplay is amazing and sounds like nothing before it and nothing after it.  It is just a wonderful live performance.  I also might plug watching his documentary "Still Bill" here.  I caught it this winter and it's a very uplifting story.

36 seconds of my past
This is a video I took last year on a walk i did with my buddy, Joe Izzo and my daughter.  Joe passed away in January of this year.  We new he was dying but it always sucks when you lose somebody who has been such an inspiration in your life among many others.  He was dying in this video, still check out the positivity in his voice.  A funny lovable character Joe was...and one person who actually got me writing.  I love watching this video.  I am sure half the view count is mine.

Nirvana - Practicing and the Novoselic house circa '88
Just watch this video. Pure genius at such a young age.  This video puts your there.


The Gories "There by the Grace of God" Homemade Music Video
This is soul.  I don't know what else to say besides thanking the person who captured this video.  Plus it is a Kid Creole and the Coconuts song.  How cool is that?

Geraldine Fibbers - Dragon Lady
I sought out this band after seeing Nels Cline earlier in the year.  He put me on a major movational surge toward good sounding guitar.  He was in this band, but not at the time of this video.  I believe that this is an earlier video.  Carla's voice is so beautifully haunting...then guitar.  Huge hook at the chorus.  How can a sucker for a huge hook not love this video?