Matthew T Grant


Tall Guy. Glasses.

Fishing for Jim

I never call into On Point, but when I heard Greil Marcus on there talking about The Doors, I did.

Unfortunately, no matter how many times I dialed, I always got a busy signal.

Fortunately, there’s this thing called the Internet where I can tell my story to the whole wide world. Who knows? Maybe Greil Marcus and Tom Ashbrook will read this along with everybody else! <crosses fingers and closes eyes to make that “I’m wishing really hard” face>

Why was I moved to call in? Because I had a story I wanted to tell and a question I wanted to ask.

My story goes like this:

In the early 80’s I used to go to a club called the Cathay de Grande which was behind the Hollywood Palladium. I went with my girlfriend, Flannery.

Basically a basement with a bar—I don’t think there was even a band riser—at the Cathay de Grande you were just standing there with the bands. I saw some amazing and some frightening music there and one night I even saw Ray Manzarek sit in with Top Jimmy and the Rhythm PigsJohn Doe was on bass.

They played “Backdoor Man” and “Roadhouse Blues.” In between, Manzarek teased with the opening run to “Light My Fire.” Top Jimmy was in his prime then and the band—which included blues guitar’s unsung hero, Carlos Guitarlos—rocked these tunes hard.

It was as close as I ever got to seeing The Doors (and it might have even been better!).

My question is this:

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In Praise of Waylon Jennings

Back in ’88 I really dug the Cowboy Junkies’ The Trinity Session. Their spacey take on country (had “alt country” been invented yet? I mean aside from Rank and File?) was deep and cool. From the spare lonesome of “Mining for Gold” to the bleak landscape of “200 More Miles” and the druggy swing of “Working on a Building,” I was hooked.

My favorite song on the album, however, was “Dreaming My Dreams With You,” a dark waltz drifting up from the void with a hopefully hopeless refrain: “Someday, I’ll get over you.”

I think I knew that the song was a cover, as was about the half the album, but I didn’t actually hear the original until, some 17 years later, I bought Waylon Jennings’ Dreaming My Dreams at a cd shoppe in Santa Monica. More than a novelty or a hip re-working of hip and semi-hip tunes, I recognized this album immediately as a classic, a keeper.

Seriously, this album is rock solid, perfect. It’s focused and restrained, under-produced, but at the same time muscular, virile, intense. “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” chugs out of the gate, relentlessly working it’s two chords, maintaining a tone that’s both confessional and confrontational, daring you to get in its way.  The next tune, “Waymore Blues” is surprisingly and crassly vulgar (see video below). “I Recall a Gypsy Woman” is sentimental kitsch, saved by a sincerely expressed sense of loss. And so on.

The band is road-hardened, world-weary, tough as nails. Waylon’s voice, drifting as it does from a lascivious drawl to a sturdy, honky tonk baritone, is wise, human, hungry. And the songs are a perfect mix of backwards-looking nostalgia, invoking the ghosts of Hank Williams and Jimmy Rogers, and gritty, contemporary (mid-70s), cowboy urbanity.

Every time I listen to this record (I still call them that), I’m astonished.

Here’s the man himself invoking his poetic license:

FM Radio: Gateway to the Unknown!

When I was in 7th grade, my brother started having trouble falling asleep. Turned out that the local easy listening station, KJOY, could help him settle into slumber, so that’s what we, who shared a room, listened to at bedtime.

In addition to cultivating in me an enduring fondness for low-key and lushly arranged instrumental pop, this meant we in fact had a radio in our room.

I had been listening to the radio for a while at that point, of course, but had always listened to AM. In fact, the first time I consciously became a fan of any radio station, it was an AM station:  KHJ. I remember listening to KHJ and, for some reason, distinctly remember hearing Coven’s “One Tin Soldier” on it.

So, I’m in 7th grade and nodding off every night to KJOY and my friend, Scott, asks me if I’ve ever listened to FM radio. I tell him I have not. He says that’s what he’s been doing and he likes this band called KISS. (As a direct result of this conversation, KISS Destroyer later became the first record I ever purchased.)

I was curious and thus, one morning, whilst lying in bed, I decided to check it out. I took the radio off the night table, flicked the switch from AM to FM, dialed around for a station, and heard this:

Having only listened to AM, having fairly square parents, and having no older siblings, I had never knowingly heard anything like the introduction to Zeppelin’s “Nobody’s Fault but Mine.” The phased guitar and futuristic chanting sounded so alien, so weird, I could only think to myself, “Man. FM really is different.”

This experience had at least two long-lasting effects.

First, my undying belief that Zeppelin rules and that Presence is an under-appreciated masterpiece. (A friend once told me, “I think you have to be from California to like that album.”)

Secondly, and more significantly, when I first heard FM radio, it dawned on me that there was a world out there of which I was entirely unaware. I had to wonder, “What else was I missing?” For good or ill, I have never stopped wondering that.

In Praise of Generic Music

Back in the old days, if someone asked me what kind of music I liked, I would generally answer, “Jazz, rock, and classical.”