Mother’s Day, CMW and This is America


mum with r and j 1960.jpg 001My mother has been gone since April of 1992 … 26 years now. There are days when it feels like we were playing a spirited game of Rummoli only yesterday, and other days when I can’t remember what it was like to have my own little family. After my mum and grandmother died just days apart in that horrible year, the tenuous link we had with Montreal was broken. While I’ve been ‘home’ a few times since then, Quebec hasn’t really drawn me back for decades.

I thought of my mum on Thursday, when I spoke with a small boy who was waiting for the bus, holding a plant pot with one pansy growing in it. He told me, with great joy, that he also had a poem written in French for her, and that he’d drawn her a card. His face lit up as he told me “she’s gonna have so many presents!

mum with r and j 1964 001There was such a lot of delight in his expression as he counted up the riches he’d prepared for his precious mother. We forget, over the years, how good it used to feel to be able to gift our loved ones with something that we’d made specially for them. It might have been a paper plate with some glittered macaroni pasted to it, or a wobbly cut out paper heart, with our shaky handwriting telling them, “I LOVE YOU,” but it was what we had to give, and we gave it from our hearts.

Mums never ask for all that much, when you’re growing up. Maybe they ask you to help with the chores, or keep your room clean, but most mums know that you’re growing and learning, and that all they can try to do is to get you from the day you are born until the day you two say goodbye, with as little heart ache and heart break as possible.

Missing my mother, and wishing my two beautiful daughters a very happy Mother’s Day.

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My butt is dragging today, even after collapsing into a solid ten hours of sleep last night. I spent the last several days doing all things Canadian Music Week, including working as a ‘day host,’ expediting the conference panelists, and getting out to a few of the events under the CMW banner. I straggled home last night from a long day at the show, followed by a scrumptious buffet at the Rivoli, where Music Nova Scotia and the Dreaming Out Loud groups were presenting the annual TIKI LOUNGE extravaganza.

CMW Greg Lefsetz et all May 2018

During the conference I spent most of my time onsite in the Speaker’s Green Room. In this pic, our long time associate Greg Simpson confers with his speaker registration aides, Sue Mills and Cassandra Tari. Behind them, propping up the wall, is Steve Lillywhite, uber producer and musician whisperer of U2, the Rolling Stones, XTC, Dave Matthews Band, Peter Gabriel, the Talking Heads and a host of other worthies, as he chats with Ralph Simon, who is is acknowledged as one of the founders of the modern mobile entertainment & content industry, and Bob Lefsetz, music industry analyst and critic, and author of the Lefsetz Letter.

In May of 2015, the last time that Bob Lefsetz had spoken at CMW, I had asked him if we could meet, so that I might interview him for this column. Although he agreed at the time, circumstances conspired, and I missed my window of opportunity.

So when I saw him seated towards the back of the Green Room on Saturday morning, I seized the day, introduced myself, and reminded him of the last time we’d almost connected. He immediately said that he’d be happy to talk with me ‘later’ – but he’d be leaving the Conference around four p.m.

So I waited patiently, hoping for a time when he might have a minute free. But shortly after Steve Lillywhite left the room, Eric Alper flew in the door and plonked himself down for a chat. Meanwhile, my duties as Day Host kept me rather busy, and I spent a lot of time getting speakers organized and then off to their panels in a timely manner. By the time I realized I’d once again missed my interview, it was about 3:10 p.m. I’d just finished introducing legendary music journalist Larry Leblanc, who was about to begin an interview with Marcie Allen, a trailblazing entrepreneur who is known as the Queen of Brands and Bands. My duty done, I set off to try and find the elusive Mr Lefsetz.

About an hour later, I conceded defeat. Apparently, this interview was not to be.

PostScript: If you are one of the many who receive the Lefsetz Letter, then you will have received his CMW wrap-up when it arrived last night. In his p.s., he mentions that he’d spend his last half-hour on the site at …. the Larry LeBlanc/Marcie Allen seminar I’d introduced.

Wrong Way Roxanne strikes again.

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We have to talk about Donald Glover/Childish Gambino‘s new video – This is America. Firmly in the tradition of protest songs such as GrandMaster Flash‘s White Lines, the song/video demands multiple, critical, and admiring viewings.

This video is almost enough to make music videos relevant again, rife with symbolism and casual observations that nail the truth of the racist gun culture that America, as distracted as a kitten by shiny strings and dance fads, chooses to ignore.

jim crow character this is americaThe main character, stripped to the waist, pulls facial expressions and uses bodily movements that seem to be modeled on Jim Crow, a minstrel show caricature, which white actors would perform in blackface, acting out black stereotypes. His movements distract from the chaos that plays out in the background, as behind him, people on cellphones film the action while ignoring the violence and rioting going on all around.

(The Jim Crow Laws were put into place after the Civil War, and were a system of racist local and state laws to keep the ex-slaves in their place, and designed to enforce segregation and oppression in the Southern American states.) this is america imageAfter both of the shootings, the guns are treated with care and respect, and gently wrapped with red cloth. The guns are valued over human lives, as the victims are either dragged away or left lying in their own blood.

Between shootings, the exaggerated dancing seems to be a commentary on how America prefers to focus on entertainment and distraction rather than to have a discussion on gun control, while dismissing the dead with an airy assurance that they are sending “thoughts and prayers.”

this is america commentIn the background of one scene, Death, riding a pale horse, and a biblical symbol for the apocalypse, gallops by, pursued by a police car. Everyone is too caught up in dancing or in their own anarchy to focus on the bigger picture of the violence going on.

In the last scene, Gambino, surrounded by vintage cars representing America’s economic stagnation, lights up a joint, and it is then – rather than during his gun rampage  – that the police begin to chase him. In the tradition of black American history, he has to run to save his life.

This Is America is a strong, artistic statement that will stand as valid commentary on today’s Divided States of America.

 

CMW, the Professionally Offended, and a PSA


In just a few days, the pilgrimage begins. Musicians, writers, broadcasters, exhibitors and salespeople will head for the Sheraton Hotel, where the 37th annual presentation of Canadian Music Week will be held from May 7th to May 13.

Between the conferences, award shows, and the hundreds of acts playing live around the city, there’s something for everyone.

Paul Anka will be awarded the 2018 Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award, while Maureen Holloway of CHFI will be the recipient of the Rosalie Award. Arcade Fire is the recipient of the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award.

maureen holloway

There’s the first ever Canadian Music Hackathon, on Tuesday May 8th through to Wednesday May 9th, where coders, developers, hackers, designers and tech specialists will gather for 24 hours of intense work, debates, brainstorming, camaraderie and fun.

There’s a ton of interesting conferences including The Future Is Female: Leading Women Tackle #MeToo, #TimesUp, and Equality in the Workplace.Radio Trailblazers and other Powerful Women in Broadcasting, Music and Interactive industries will reflect on their careers and share ideas on how to move from a hashtag to action. Women and men, whether they are in a management position or just starting out in their careers, will come away from this session with at least 3 ideas on what they can do right now in their organizations to build a better, stronger, more inclusive workspace.”

The Moderator is Maureen Holloway, while panelists include Denise Donlan, Barbara Williams (Corus Entertainment), Christa Dickenson (Interactive Ontario), Jackie Dean (CARAS), Julie Adam (Rogers Broadcasting), Susan Marjetti (CBC), and Tiffany Ferguson (Women in Music Canada).

And there’s so much more going on … it’s going to be a busy week. It’s a great chance to see old friends, and to make new friends. And of course… time to break out the top hat, white tie and tails. Or at least find a clean t-shirt.

Wasn’t last week a doozy? Some days I wonder how much longer we can continue to dance thru the pre-apocalyptic, post-truth wasteland of lies and corruption …

Can it really only be a week since everyone from MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman (and every politically correct ass kisser in between) rushed to condemn comedian Michelle Wolf’s speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner for what they believed to be personal attacks upon Sarah Huckabee Sanders? Only to discover that they’d misheard the word ‘facts’ as fat, but worse still, couldn’t bring themselves to actually explain why ‘fat’ was such a desperately vile pejorative that they couldn’t even say the word themselves?

Confused dogEven funnier in a BizarroWorld way was conservative pundit Liz Mair, saying ” It’s extremely hypocritical that we’re hearing from somebody of the left, sort of lesbian, fat lesbian jokes when supposedly we’re not even supposed to be making those.”

Pardon me? Oh, Liz Mair assured the waiting world, that’s the Aunt Lydia from The Handmaid’s Tale reference.

Except it’s not. In fact, the Aunt Lydia in the novel is one of a specific segment of women enabling the authoritarian society to dominate and subjugate women with a cozy, folksy warmth. Which is actually a pretty accurate dig at Sanders. However, you have to know how to read (or how to watch the television series) to understand what a brilliant and insightful insult it actually is.

And maybe Ms Mair would like to explain why she thinks that calling someone a lesbian is an insult.

Anyway…. within a few days, the tide had turned, and Sanders was being heckled in the press scrum. After ripping Michelle Wolf a new one for daring to call Sanders a liar, the press finally realized that Wolf was right.

“Circle May 3rd on your calendar, because this is the day that we will look back on, in this briefing, where Sarah Sanders made it so painfully clear that she has lost credibility with the American people,” said CNN political director David Chalian.

being offended so hot. jpgAll of this knee jerky craziness stems from an outrage culture, which fixates on this second or this minute’s outrage, rather than focusing on the deeply offensive things that are happening everywhere we turn, at the local and national level. We can’t talk about the really shocking, shameful, destructive things that are happening to our people and our planet, but we sure can get out our frustrations by bitching at some poor schlub who has put a foot wrong in public or on social media.

In America, the three richest men hold more wealth than the entire bottom 50 percent of the population. Now THAT is offensive. What are you gonna do about it?

When the professionally offended decide that they don’t like what you’re saying, they’ll send in their troops in an attempt to ensure that you daren’t speak your mind in public again. But those three rich men remain untouched and untouchable.

trump it's all about mePolitical correctness is a term used for an attempt to give everyone a seat at the proverbial table. It’s used to describe language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offence or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society. For some, this kind of thinking seems childish, some kind of impossible dream.

But note that those who play the best game of being politically correct have ascended to the realm of the professionally offended. These proficient martyrs by proxy point the finger of shame at anything the least bit suspect coming from the unwary. They clutch their pearls, mutter, “but what about the children!” and seethe with rage at any offence, real or imagined. And strangely, as efficient as they are at noting and critiquing other people’s deference to a semblance of justice for all, they exhibit a remarkable tolerance for such sins in those they call their own.

Leading to exchanges like this, under a Stormy Daniels/anti-Trump meme on Facebook:

“The left lifting up a porn star as a means of taking the moral high ground. Really let that sink in…”
….
“The right supporting a guy who bragged about molesting women, made fun of a disabled man and was convicted of being a common thief. Let that sink in.”

sjw handbook

Oh, yes, the professionally offended are very quick to point out other people’s wrongdoings. They’ll spend days and weeks in spiteful glee at having found a chink in the armour of what they call ‘social justice workers’.

And then they’ll joyfully enact laws that actually DO harm to women, children, pets and the planet. Without the slightest sense that they have just created the most egregious offences of all.

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mark ripp benefit May 2018

A quick public service announcement: Nashville Bound is hosting a benefit tonight at the Free Times, for the Wychwood Open Door. The first set starts at 8:00pm, and acts include Glen Hornblast, Brynn Leger, Michael Laderoute, Lynn Harrison, Meg Tennant, Mark Ripp, Sam Sundar-Singh, Jennifer Dash, Tony Hanik and Veronica Hanik. Special guest is Bob Cohen.
Admission is just $10 or pwyc

 

 

You Will Be Remembered, Frank Gutch Jr


gutch thru the yearsYesterday I went through all of the private messages I’d shared with Frank Gutch Jr, since I’d first encountered him. It was in 2013, just after I’d begun writing a weekly column for Don’t Believe A Word I Say, and right from that first message, it was as though we were separated at birth.

Cheri Hill: “This is such sad news. My heart is hurting so much to hear that our dear Frank has passed. We were in Junior High and high school together. We were one of the band geeks and I had such a crush on him. Please someone, let me know what happened and when and where are the services. Thank you.”

Suzi Stark Brubaker:OMG … I can’t believe this is true … I am hoping it is a cruel joke, Frank and I went to school together and have remained friends over the years, coffee buddies and someone to reminisce with about our early days in good old Sweet Home, Oregon. He will be missed! My heart is heavy.”

There was no tentative, pussy footing around in our chats; it was always right to the good stuff, the things you joyously share when you find a like mind and spirit. We spoke about music, of course, but also of our love of reading, and our shared childhood experiences of hiding under the blankets with a flashlight and a new book. We’d speak about the roads not traveled. “What if, ” he once said, “your grandma had not taken that wagon train all the way to Alberta? What if she’d stopped in Oregon instead? Who do you think you’d have been, what sort of life might you have lead?

friends of the heartFrank didn’t waste any time, when it came to his friendships. He walked right into my life, parked himself on the cosy chair beside mine, and poured himself a drink. You need to be comfy when you’re busy taking apart the world, and figuring out how best to put it back together.

For all of us at Don’t Believe A Word I Say, he was a part of what we did, even though we had never met him. We all spoke fluent ‘Gootch.” He was there with us at the Bobcast, beside us at every birthday, every get together, every gig, and we’d so often reference him at our gatherings that it felt like we could see him sitting there beside us .. and yet we’d never physically met the man.

The Green Pyjamas, Seattle WA: “When I heard of Frank’s recent passing, I was startled by the realization that I had never actually met him. The thoughtful yet easy way he expressed himself in his writing, and how he was so very passionate about music -especially that of the underdog – bonded me to him, and I considered Frank a friend and comrade.”

Thane Tierney: “Just gobsmacked. We never met, but we conversed and exchanged music geekery and ideas and suchlike, and both of us were 100% positive sure that we’d be thunderbuddies for life if we had just crossed paths earlier. Gonna miss him.”

He could reference the boys in XPrime and their abilities as easily as any band he’d seen in person. He loved to hear about the bands we’d showcase on the Bobcast, and he made a point of getting to see Mad Anthony and their leader Ringo Jones, and to introduce himself to the lads, when their circuit ran close enough for him to catch their show.

When I sent him the early recordings of the songs that would be on my CD, he was enthusiastic and nurturing, warmly congratulating me on how well my vocals worked within the music. He was a hugely supportive listener, as so many musicians, all around the world, would attest. His critiques always found the best in the artist, and always left those being reviewed with pride in their creation, and a warm spot in their heart for this man who could really ‘hear’ what they were trying to say.

Jeff LeGore:He gave us a great review on Chris Laterzo’s “West Coast Sound” record I produced with Chris and engineered. He REALLY LISTENED. Sad to lose such a true music lover.”

Maxine Dunn: “I was very sad to hear that Frank Jr. Gutch has passed away. He was one of those rare people who truly believed in my music and wrote amazing reviews. The music community are really going to miss him. My thoughts go out to his family at this sad time.”

(On why he wrote about indie music) “It is not just an album or a song, but the journey it took, and how it changed them. And I love the fact that, no matter how similar musicians can be, when you dig deep enough, they become so unique. ”  Frank Gutch Jr., August 23, 2016

Frank didn’t often write about politics, per se, but oh! how we discussed them in chat! He had very strong opinions, but kept his political views to himself, as a rule, so as not to allow the perceptions or perspectives of others to colour his musical views. It was always about the music, first, last and always.

Some dark and wintry nights, when maybe we’d had a few drinks and were feeling philosophical, we’d talk about the span of our lives, what we’d felt we’d done right or wrong, and where we saw ourselves in the future. I remember a night in 2016 when he wrote, “Time was never a factor in my youth. It is now looming over me like a dark cloud.”

But he wasn’t a guy to worry about what was to come. No, he had far too much to do, far too many books he wanted to read (he was a huge fan of Canadiana, especially the works of W.P. Kinsella,) far too many CDs on the table that he had to listen to, with that critical but supportive ear that made so many ask for his attention.

And yet he must have sensed that his time was coming to an end, because last October, he wrote, “It would be wonderful to have done something for which one could be remembered.”

I think you did that, Frank. I really think you did. I think you’ll be remembered for a very long time, just for being who you were, and what you gave to the musicians lucky enough to have known you, in person or online.

I’m gonna miss you, Frank. And I’ll never forget how much you loved all of us in the DBAWIS family, and how much you always cared about the peaks and valleys of our lives. And I’ll remember one of the last things you wrote to me …

“Knock ’em dead, Roxanne. And if you can, keep Bob honest.”

Sweet Home, Oregon 1964                       Members: Frank Gutch, Jr. ~ Drums; Dave Horner ~ Guitar, Vocals; Bill Johnson ~ Guitar, Vocals; Terry Rice ~ Piano; Dayton Turner ~ Guitar

“In the little writeup about A Six Pack, I mentioned an earlier band called The Survivors. Frank Gutch, Jr. has located a snapshot of that band.
The photo shows one of the few performances of that band, probably a post football game dance in the fall of 1964. This band, formed in Sweet Home, Oregon, in the fall of 1964 never, got out of town and may not have even survived football season!”

gutch band The Survivors

Pictured are, Terry Rice on piano, (from left) Dayton Turner, Bill Johnson and David Horner on guitars and Frank Gutch, Jr., on drums. The photo, we think, was taken by a Sweet Home High School student, Ernie Dunigan.

Dayton Turner, February 2006         http://www.pnwbands.com/survivors.html

Jaimie Vernon:My soul continues to get hammered from all sides. The loss of Jon Long on the weekend, Toronto’s tragic mass murder yesterday, and now I find out that a fellow blogger – someone who I shared the same pages with for nearly four years and was a constant, unwavering cheerleader for everything I did – Frank Gutch Jr has passed away. We were two penpals (though we did talk on the phone several times) living 3000 miles apart, but we were like old friends. We “got” each other. I don’t know the circumstances as yet. Knowing won’t make it hurt any less. “

Darrell Vickers:A few weeks before Frank passed away, he was generous enough to send me three boxes of Lp’s from his collection. I thought I’d spend the day digitizing some of those records and being grateful that I was among the lucky people that knew him. Sleep well Frank.”

Bobby Gottesman: “Deeply saddened by the loss of a man who was a mentor, a fellow lover of indie music, a kind and generous soul. A man I considered my friend. Pretty sure he’ll still be listening and writing. You will be missed Frank…..”

No Small Children: “We are so sad to hear this news. We would love to be involved in any tribute for Frank. He was a champion for all music. We are so grateful to have known him. 

gutch in san diegoHowie Wahlen:I’m going to try to hammer this out while it’s still raw.

Here’s one of those columns you wanted me to write, Frank.. You always find a way.

Frank Gutch Jr tripped off this mortal coil yesterday (April 23rd as far as I know). I had been in contact with him as recently as Friday last week. It comes as a bit of a shock. I know that the clock is always ticking and we all have a limited amount of time. This is another reminder.

I first met Frank as a new hire at Peaches Music and Video in Seattle WA about spring 1983. I was hired as a buyer and worked side by side with him for 6 1/2 years. It was a fucking great job. I finally couldn’t take it anymore and by December, 1989 I’d had enough. I needed to get away from his looming presence. I can’t remember how we reconnected, but we did by 2005 or maybe before then. I’m not sure. Love of music was always the common denominator.

That’s the short version.

From the get go at Peaches, Frank was supportive and my first duty was to go through the racks at Peaches to learn what the store carried and where things were and pay no attention to what went on before (as far as buying went). It was the biggest record store I have ever worked in and, at first, it was a little intimidating. Actually, it was very intimidating. In my search of the racks, I must have found more than a dozen records that either I didn’t know were available still or even existed. I later found out this was mostly due to Frank and the “bag system.”

Through this rack education, we developed our rapport. He saw what I liked and I learned what he liked. The conversation began for that intense 6 1/2 years of a working relationship trading favorite record stories. We turned each other on to our favorite unknowns or should of been huge artists or bands.

We had similar interests, but complimented each other well. He was the “indie” buyer and I was the “majors” and hits buyer. He said he didn’t want to have anything to do with that mainstream crap that the gullible public seemed to so easily drop their money on. He knew it was the bread and butter for the store and that he needed those sales to stock the racks with the really good stuff. We had return margins (it’s a record industry thing) that were so phenomenal that we could feature (and sell!!) some of our favorite unknowns without worrying about a few that didn’t. It surprised me what we could actually move at that store.

We were a good team, but we did have our off days. My biggest pet peeve was his damn moodiness. His pet peeve was that I had to play my flavor of the month to death. I’d go to work each day wondering what the mood for the day was going to be. Grumpy silence or enthusiastic music rap. It made it tough at times. Those who were there will remember this. I don’t write this to be mean. Shit, I had to endure, “John Lennon’s still dead,” almost weekly for 6 1/2 years! He later apologized for that long after I’d almost forgotten about it. What a guy. I never apologized for playing Let’s Active so much that he swore they were huge in the 80s (my kids thought so too).

Years passed and somehow we got in touch again around 2005. It could have been the phone, but it might have been the interwebs. About 2009, after much resistance, Frank Gutch and Tom Dyer convinced me to open a Facebook account. I did it because I was getting involved with the re-activation of Green Monkey Records, but it quickly turned more personal. So it began again in the naughties. We began trading the inevitable “have you heards.” Both of us still as enthusiastic as ever, but he was more willing to share this with his writing and on FB.

Frank was very interested and supportive of what Tom and I were doing with GMR and wrote about it a lot. Go back and look at Frank’s columns on Robert Segarini’s “Don’t Believe a Word I Say” blog. If you want to really know Frank, just read those columns and other reviews he’s done. I learned most of what I do know about Frank through those columns. He gets very personal at times. If you can find his very first review check it out. It seemed to me to be his music manifesto. (If I ever find it again, I’ll post a link.) It had more him in it than the album he was reviewing. Here’s a link to his own website…

http://www.rockandreprise.net/index.html

Read the Cargo and the Space Opera overviews. They were a couple of his favs. His strong suit was asking the right questions and letting the responders go with it.

Anyway, I was fortunate enough to have, not one, but 2 jobs that I really loved with people that I really loved. The first was Everybody’s Record Company store #5 in the 70s. What a crew! I never thought it would happen again but, the second was at Peaches in Seattle in the 80s thanks to Frank. What a crew!

I’m pulling a Rainier Beer outta the fridge now. Hoisting one for Frank. Thanks my friend. You had a heart of gold. I’m gonna miss ya.

Oh yeah, I’ll give SF Sorrow by The Pretty Things a spin in your honor. Love you.

Tom Dyer:Wow. I’ve been in sessions or meetings all day and just saw this.
Frank. I never met Frank. We never sat in the same room. We never even spoke on the phone. We just typed at each other. Nonetheless, I consider Frank my excellent friend. Howie intro-ed us when I first re-fired up the Green Monkey motor. He said you need to know Frank. And Frank was a person that got it. He understood what we were doing. He gave me a lot of crap (very wise) but he got it. And not just championing the Green Pajamas, where it is relatively easy to grasp and love their brilliance, but the more obscure. He did a retroactive review of Jim of Seattle, just because Jim is so fucking great. Who does that? He even gave my own personal (and at least sometimes annoying) music efforts a gratifying amount of attention.

I suppose I could just say good on ya – thanks for the reviews – and we’d be all set. But there’s something more going on here. Frank was simply a good human and our typing connected us well. I think there was a link of mutual respect and really, just the simple enjoyment of interfacing as humans.

So am I going to miss Frank? Yes I am. Do I feel sad? Not too much, I think Frank had a pretty good life and used his time on planet earth pretty well. Nothing to complain about. I consign you to the cosmos Mr. Gutch and I thank you for the time you have given us. Fair thee well. I will join Howie on the Rainier this weekend.”

Jim Gratton: “Howie, Thanks for posting this. I met Frank because of a mutual love for the band Notary Sojac. He had a shaky web page dedicated to the long-gone band (1969-1974). I wrote him about an encounter I had had with two of them a few years after they broke up which he posted on the site. We exchanged numerous emails, and when my job took me to Eugene, I looked him up. I loved the irony of a writer who lived in a town named Tangent. We got together several times for beer, and last time for dinner at a Eugene restaurant. My Facebook friendship with him reconnected him with another Facebook friend of mine, Mary E. Kohl, who worked with Frank back in the day, too.”

Debbie Dodd:Unlike Howie, I had to wait a bit for this to sink in. Like many of you, Frank has had a huge impact on me. I started working at Peaches in 1983. I wanted to work there because they had a really neat greeting card section. Didn’t think I really had any business working there with my pitiful music knowledge, but I got in the door nonetheless. Frank and Howie were those cooler than cool buyers who intimidated the heck out of me, a lowly sales clerk. As Howie said, Frank could be a real curmudgeon and cranky cranky cranky. You always knew who had control of the store turntable–seems like Frank always played way more Steve Goodman than anyone else wanted to hear.

But Frank was sort of our guru, and the Peaches-related folks I have had the privilege of knowing, well, as Frank has said, “mean more to me than you will know.” It was a very special time and my real coming of age. And although Frank was the anti-schmoozer, we had some good times at Breakers/Thunderbirds games and minor league baseball games. Outside of work was where I learned what kind of man Frank really was–generous, sensitive, thoughtful, and a true supporter of the underdog, especially in music.

When I left Seattle, Frank wrote, “Remember me as 20 pounds lighter and 20 years younger.” I don’t know if I ever cut those 20’s off of my memories of Frank, but Facebook reunited us and for the past 8 years we have been in touch one way or another. Frank has said some of the kindest words to me I have ever heard. Frank and my husband Sam had become somewhat pen pals, both passionate about discovering new music and poo pooing the idea that there is no good music being made anymore. I can only hope that many of you, Frank Gutch Jr fans will continue his legacy and keep exploring new music and getting the word out. Because yes, you can teach an old guy new tunes. Bye Frank.

gutch in 1983Gary Heffern: “here is a photo of frank at his apartment in san diego, the night before he left to seattle. i will miss him so much. thank you for your beautiful post. i posted a bunch of his messages to me about music and art on my wall… just gobsmacked. love to you all. life is short.” 

The Minnows:It is with very heavy hearts that we write this post, having only just heard of the sudden passing of our good friend Frank Gutch Jnr.

We always joked that Frank, from Oregon, USA, was one of the best music journalists on the planet… on the basis that he really liked our music! But his knowledge and support of indie music was indeed vast.

As a musician or band, writing, recording and releasing your own music, you always want someone to hear your music as you do.

Frank Gutch Jnr was that man and reading his review of our Leonard Cohen’s Happy Compared To Me album was an amazing thing… that someone we’d never met could appreciate and articulate everything we were trying to do on that album – better than we could ourselves.

He’s been a supporter ever since and a great friend on social media.

He gave us some stick (and rightly so) about the length of time it was taking to release our new album – but we are very happy that he, along with our dear friend Bobby Gottesman, was one of just two people outside of the band to have heard the completed album from start to finish. And he loved it.

It’s a very strange feeling to lose a friend that you’ve never actually met but that’s what Frank was to us.

We’ll sign off now with a video from the new album that Frank loved and always said it made him cry. It’ll bring a tear to our own eyes tonight.

The one’s for you Frank. RIP. 🎸 😢

Jim Parrett: “Just learned that Frank passed away. A great guy and frequent contributor to this page, Frank gave us first-hand accounts of rock and roll in Oregon during the 60’s with inside info on some of the magic of that wonderful time in a wonderful place. He always took the time to provide background on the 60’s Oregon bands I would post. A fountain of knowledge with a real love for rock and roll, Frank’s input was educational but more than that, fun. “

The Posies – Ken Stringfellow:I just got word that Frank Gutch Jr passed away this week. Frank was an avid music supporter, going back to the earliest days of the Posies, and continuing to the present with his enthusiastic reviews not only for my own work but for several albums I produced — albums with a very small base audience that needed a champion – he was there. Music has a lost a great listener, right when we needed it most. Rest in peace.”

Bobby Gottesman:Deeply saddened by the loss of a man who was a mentor, a fellow lover of indie music, a kind and generous soul. A man I considered my friend. Pretty sure he’ll still be listening and writing. You will be missed Frank…..”

Julian Taylor: I’m trying to find words to express how I’m feeling right now. I’m trying but not too hard because that could be the breaking point. Life is tough. I’m tired of losing people that I care about. It can be a tad bit crippling. It hurts and it’s a hurt that’s never gone away since the beginning of losing. Even if you’re expecting it it is unexpected. It subsides a bit sometimes over time but it never really ever goes away.

The world lost another good one today in Frank Gutch Jr. He was my friend. A beautiful writer and supporter of original art.

I don’t think that journalists get the credit they deserve these days but where would we be without them. Frank was a purveyor of good taste and authenticity. He was a pure human and a soulful American. One of the good ones, and good ones go each and everyday. It’s been a difficult realization to come too for me but no matter how hard it is to lose people it’s never ever truly permanent. We ALL come back again. I suppose that’s the lesson that I’ve come to learn over the past three decades. I struggle. I do. I struggle almost every second of the day. I know we all do. I’m trying to just breath. It’s a rough road sometimes but the beauty in it far exceeds any of the tough parts that life throws at us. Over the past four months I and so many people that I love and adore have had to say goodbye to people we love. At this moment in time my mind refuses to let go because I only want to remember the kindness, love and support people have shown me and cultivate that.

Rest In Peace Frank, Jon, Maggie, Colin, Doreen and Wingrove. It’s been a whacky four months.

To all those who’ve lost someone recently. I feel you. I’ve always felt you and to Frank I hope you keep writing. There’s a great big party in the sky with a few good musicians that might appreciate your insightful reviews. #giver”

Sam Taylor:I was just notified that an incredible, monumental lover of original music and an integral supporter of my work,Frank Gutch Jr, has passed away suddenly. This breaks my heart. Frank lived in the US and gave so much support and assistance to musicians from all over the world. I remember fondly a Skype session that Julian Taylor and I had with Frank last year that was a bit of a career State of the Union so to speak. An intelligent and generous soul that I wish I could have gotten to know better. Cheers, Frank. The world needs more of you.”

Adam Dawson:The world lost a good one this week. R. I. P. Frank Gutch Jr”

Terry Varner:Sad to hear that Frank Gutch, Jr. will no longer be promoting obscure and purely honest music – not on this earth anyway. A man I never met, but what a difference he made in the lives of so many – many of whom also never met him. Go to his FB page and read the comments. This guy spread a lot of joy, simply by being honestly appreciative and expressing it. RIP and light perpetual shine upon you Frank.”

Suzi Stark Brubaker: “Those of us who knew Frank were extremely lucky … he was a very talented individual who only gave his true self to a very few. He loved his music and his musicians without having to put himself out there too far. I will miss this wonderful, loving, entertaining, sweet man for all the things others never got to experience!~ RIP my sweet friend Frank!”

Cindy Lee Berryhill:Things can change in a heartbeat. Last summer Frank wrote one of my favorite reviews of The Adventurist. Frank passed away in the past day, I’m sad to say. He’d been, many years back, fellow brethren of the southern Calif-music-cult of San Diego from which many of us labored and arose and some of us extricated ourselves from. Frank was one of those. I didn’t know him then, but my dear friend Gary Heffern, introduced us via electronic gadgetry. And prompted by his review of the album we embarked on several enjoyable electronic conversations. The last thing he wrote to me was this: “One thing that always connected Heffern and I was the truth in music. Whenever I hear it, I have to write about it. There is a lot of truth in The Adventurist whether you choose to see it or not. And it means a lot to me that you appreciate my appreciation.”
Sail on dear Frank, free spirit of words..”

Bill Jackson:Just heard in Australia regarding the passing of Frank Gutch Jr. and we are absolutely devastated. Frank and I had just video chatted a few weeks ago to set up time for an long retrospective interview in May. The best friend and supporter of my music I never met, even though Rue Hazel (Ruthy) and I had long phone conversations with him. Ten years we have been corresponding. His knowledge of and hunger for independent music was second to none, insatiable and inspiring – I trusted him implicitly to always be encouraging as well as direct. I always thought we would meet someday and this doesn’t seem real – more later. Rest In Peace Frank – you made the world and making music a better place for so many people x — with Hannah Gillespie.

Thane Tierney:One of the wondrous aspects of this set of tubes we know as the Internets is that it can collide you with people who should have –and would have — been friends, had you ever met them. Frank Gutch Jr was one of those guys. We geeked out over artists from McKendree Spring to Old Californio (he was chuffed when I told him I’d jumped in on one of their Kickstarter campaigns years ago) to Daisy House, about whom he writes in the attached.

Those same miraculous tubes that brought us together delivered the news that he’s gone crate-digging in the Great Beyond. As the Pogues say In “Sally Maclennane,” “some people left for Heaven without warning.” Shoot.

It’s not everyone who can bring a casual Richard Rodgers or Modest Mussorgsky reference into a column on roots music, and I totally dug that about him. This place is poorer for his exit. To borrow (and modify for gender) a couple of lines from the late sportswriter Jim Murray, “We cry for ourselves. Wherever he is today, they can’t believe their good luck.”

Mark Strong:I just heard the sad news that a man by the name of Frank Gutch Jr had passed away. Frank was a musician, a writer/journalist and a major music lover. I had never met Frank but I felt like he was a long-time friend. Frank was such a big supporter of my music over the years, he’d always share ANY post I made that contained a song, demo or video from any of my bands. Even as recent as about two or three weeks ago, he shared my acoustic demo video of “Fine On My Own” on his Facebook page. He’s written a few flattering blurbs about my bands, Salton Sea and Witherwolf in his online music blog (which I will link to in the comments). He was such a supporter of my music, even if no one else took much notice or had much interest in a new demo or song I posted, Frank did!

Now I know I’m probably nothing special or different, as he seemed to support many artists just as he had me. However, regardless of how many artists/musicians Frank supported, it seems he made each of us feel as if we were one of his favorites. Just look at his Facebook page and you will hear similar words echoed by many. He had such a vast knowledge of music from the very beginnings of rock & roll all the way through to the modern indie sounds. Just recently I recall we were both really enjoying the Phoebe Bridgers album. Anyway, I just wanted to share what a special person Frank was and while I had never met him I’m going to miss him horribly. I’m sad that he won’t get to hear the Salton Sea album and single I’m working on. I know he would’ve loved it all. My condolences to his family and friends. RIP Frank Gutch Jr.”

Eric Rife:I feel terrible. We were supposed to hook up at some point for an interview. We never met in person but he was always very kind to me here on FB. I am so sorry Gary, James, and everyone else who had the pleasure of knowing him. Another piece of San Diego music history gone too soon.”

Ray Brandes:RIP Frank Gutch Jr, writer and all around great human being. I met Frank when he stumbled upon an old recording of mine on YouTube, and became my biggest champion. Frank owned a very influential independent record store in Mission Hills in the 1970s called Scratching the Surface, and was a great source of information for my book. You’ll be missed, Frank!”

Tom Smith: “The Frank Gutch mixed tape!! Legendary. But these were too deep, and impossibly obscure, for me at age 20. But I kept listening. …For years and years!! My interest in so many great records and bands started with these tapes. THANK YOU FRANK!!”

Ryan Collins:Raising a porter as a toast and farewell to my ex-boss, Frank at Peaches Records. One of the best straight jobs I ever had working in a basement warehouse stocking three Puget Sound record stores.

Once one got past the grumpy bluster one found a really good friend – from the gruff quiet moodiness to the loud room filling belly laugh. Such a generous guy – from pizza and beer in summer to a bottle of spirits at Christmas. Always the first to share an opinion and critique – and mebbe an insult.

He loved his crew and I loved working for him. A good good man. Rest easy, my friend – job well done”

Toby Schwartz Demain:Dang I am shocked to hear this news. I loved working for/with/alongside Frank. I will always remember his love of music, gnar work ethic and strong opinions on everything under the sun. ❤️”

Maurizio Michelino: “During the life of each one alternates events full of joy, serene and sunny days to other times and periods more complicated and less pleasant. We know that life does not always reserve some nice surprises and often has not prepared to face these events, I met Frank in 1978 … a lot of music, a lot of generosity, an immense person, you will miss a lot, So Long!”

Dave Coker: “Just heard My Friend, Frank Gutch Jr, stepped on a rainbow. We would converse on FB about obscure, little known west coast bands. This Hendrix song popped into my head, while thinking about you…

Michael Fennelly:sad to learn of the sudden passing of Frank Gutch Jr. Frank’s knowledge of and enthusiasm for music was always a delight, even when we disagreed about an artist or record. he was always kind in his support of my music and wrote some pieces about my more recent record releases that I shared here with pleasure. we met up a few times at Music Millennium for events there – and we shared a devotion to Portland’s great record store that felt like brotherhood. I’m reading other Facebook friends’ tributes to Frank, and we all seem to have the same sense of loss and the same gratitude in having known him..”

Julie Cain (Little Lonely): “RIP Frank Gutch Jr. So saddened to hear the news of his passing. I went through some old correspondence of ours and hung out there for a few minutes in that conversation. It was one that started back when he reviewed my record and continued now and then when he was reminded of me, one of my songs or a video and would mention it in his blog, or he’d drop me a note to see what was new. He lived for music, just soaked in it from morning to night, and was so generous with his support and loyalty.

I wish I could play you the new stuff, Frank. Wherever you are now, I know you’re listening. Little Lonely

Johnny Hicks:RIP Frank Gutch Jr … one of the coolest,.. most knowledgeable music heads I’ve ever known. Taught me a lot,.. always hilariously sharp. Really really sad.. damn.”

mike marino and frankMichael Marino – Frank Gutch Jr Army Nuggets
(Photos: Frank and I at his home in Oregon enjoying beer and wrestling ha)
One guy that clearly stands out is a plaid shirt wearing Oregon logger type who was a writer. I write too.

Must have been the chemicals we both fortified ourselves with. Frank Gutch Jr. you may have heard of him as he has not been mentioned all year in a sexual assault case in Hollywood by Reese Witherspoon, although she has a restraining order on him. He was and is Numero Uno buddy and quite “Frankly” got me through those days by covering my ass from the brass.

Frank and I met while stationed in 1970 at Ft. Lewis, Washington and were both Company Clerks at the Headquarters Company. Think, Radar O’Riley on M.A.S.H. One day a young GI had done a tour in Vietnam, re-enlisted and came to us to fill out paperwork to go back for another tour to as he said, “To Kill me some more gooks” Frank and I working for the military underground he as an organizer and me as a writer for the Ally underground newspaper decided we would fill out the paperwork for him except instead of Saigon, we were going to send him to Germany where he couldn’t get his wish.

He signed the papers, not reading them (we were counting on that) and they were approved. Frank and I made sure we were scarce that day as we didn’t want to get napalmed by this redneck. (He was pissed and looked for us all day until he was ordered to report to his shipping out station. We figured we saved a few lives that day from the Ugliest of Americans!)

Frank and I were shall we say heavily into LSD and marijuana. Me more so and the day we were to have our barracks inspected by the General I was already on a boat on a river finding looking glass ties. Sure enough, stockade time for me if caught. I passed out and Frank, McCarthy and Will picked me up and locked me passed out in a basement closet. I missed the inspection and the stockade. They eventually called in a medic friend of ours who said by rights I should be dead..but lived to bang a gong anyway…Thanks Frank. He’s written about this as well….

On another time, Frank, me and three other guys went camping and doping on Puget Sound. We were quite loaded on Orange Wedge acid and when we finally crashed listening to the waves and the campfire still crackling I was awakened by screams. Seems in my drugged sleep had rolled into the campfire and my sleeping bag was a blaze. Frank awakened and grabbed the bag with the others and dumped me ablaze into Puget Sound. A hell of a way to wake up I mean to tell ya…again..Thanks Frank….

One Friday night Frank and me and others went to Seattle for two and half drug saturated days in the U District. Along for the ride, were Red, Morgan, Ed, Kelly, McCarthy (the crazy one) and myself. We each had a hit of Sandoz red at noon when we arrived (that evening around sunset we had another hit of Sandoz red, one cap of mescaline and throughout the evening with the ladies we met at the crash pad we all enjoyed smoking 2 dime bags.

The next day, we all had more acid and went to see the premier of “Woodstock” first going to the Ave to score more acid. Six hits of purple double domes at $3 bucks each. McCarthy was so stoned he stood on his seat doing the Joe Cocker song singing along. Frank and I got him to sit down and shut up but I wanted to do the Who impersonation! Afterwards we we smoked more dope and scored more acid in the morning on the Ave. Blue flats for $2.50 each for band of outlaws. We went to the Spacearium and Planetarium spacing out on space then to the Space Needle. I was rushing fast on the elevator and when we got to the top I thought we were in a flying saucer. I told Frank that and he believed me. We had to head back to Ft. Lewis so scored some green flats $3.00 a hit smoked a joint and took the bus back.
frank from mike marino

We shared a lot of drugs and politics in those days including the attack on Ft.Lewis with Jane Fonda… also have reams of stories we wrote together,,,he has my half of them and I have his..I’d start the story about the army (parody) send it to him and he’d follow up and send his portion to me…we talked a few months back about putting them together and cleaning them up for a comedy short book of insanity…ha…a few years back I picked him up in Oregon and we headed for two weeks in Northern California for campfires, beer and good times amongst the Redwoods…took the coast road all the way…camping and enjoying life…

Yep…Frank was a friend…a brother I never had and a guardian angel ..lets face it…Frank was the man!! 

Christian Anger: Just learned about the passing of my friend Frank Gutch Jr 😦 Frank wrote for No Depression magazine. I was able to discover a lot of great music through him. Thanks to him I got to know about the great music of Thomas Shelton House, Drew Gibson and Tom Braam . Together we found out about Daisy House and I even was honored to be mentioned in one of Frank’s articles. He was one of a kind, a great person and music lover, always open for new stuff. Although we never met in person I’m thankful to have known him. Rest in peace, my friend. I will always remember you. “

Davina Jackson: “Sad to hear about the passing of Frank Gutch Jr. He was such an awesome, music loving individual that will be greatly missed. I will always take to heart our conversations we had about music and my vocals. Glad to have known him, and to have known that he said every time he heard my singing it would make him happy. Rest well dear friend!!!”

Jen Morris:RIP Frank Gutch Jr, a fierce advocate of indie music, and always a strong supporter of Keith’s music. So sad.”

Devon Sproule:Damn. Outta nowhere and so sad. Wish I could tell him how much I have appreciated his communication over the years. His thinking C’ville (Charlottesville, VA) music was cool always reminded me that C’ville music is so cool. And just music in general, of course. Goodbye & thank you, Frank!

The Real Shade: ” I’m very sad to learn of the passing of one of indie music’s great champions, Frank Gutch Jr.  Frank had been endlessly supportive of our music, and of that of so many bands who may otherwise have passed under the radar. He wrote in thoughtful detail about lyrical significance, melodic nuance; about everything that the music made him think and feel, and that which he hoped others would also think and feel.

I never had the chance to meet Frank in person, but was looking forward to giving him a big hug one day if we ever played a gig in Oregon. He was a good-hearted person, with a cheeky sense of humour which I appreciated. He and I had great exchanges via fb and email, and spoke just days ago.

The band and I send deepest condolences to Frank’s family and friends. If there anything we can do to help through this difficult time, we are here.
love,
Jane (Gowan)

Tom Kell:Rest in peace Frank!! Such a wonderful guy! You will be missed. A Skyboys fan for the ages…”

Kim Grant:Shocked to hear about the passing of Frank Gutch Jr. he was a real likeable person and a great supporter of independent music. He will be sorely missed. Rest easy, friend. xo”

Rich McCulley:Oh no! Fuck! He came to a gig of mine in Oregon 4-5 years ago and we hung out and he was such a cool guy. We kept in communication often. He lived for music and such a supporter of it. RIP my friend.”

David Graves:Many of us lost a very good friend with the passing of Frank Gutch, Jr. I’ve lost a kindred spirit, as well. Frank and I came of age at the same time…an age of activism. Frank remained the activist. Fighting for independence artists striving to present their art…railing against corporate greed cheating those artists. I will miss his presence in my life. He was always a breath of fresh air. Rest well Frank.”

Stephen Marcus: ” So sorry to hear of Frank’s passing. He was truly one of a kind and, even though he was a bit o a crank, a mani of my own heart in many ways. Sorry for your loss, Debbie. May Frank Rest In Peace.
“Who Knows Where the Time Goes” . . .”

Astrid Guldenmann:My first go round w/Frank was around 1979 when I worked as a cashier at Peaches. Those were the early days, and Frank was much less grumpy then. Fast forward to 1985 and I was back as a label rep. Enter grumpy Frank. And honestly, I didn’t like him much. Then time rolled on and FB happened, and somewhere along the way we became “friends”. And now I’m a little sad. RIP, Mr Gutch. You made your mark. And you were loved, whether you like it or not.”

Justin Smith: ” This is such sad news, Frank was such a cool and amazingly supportive person. He just loved music more than anything and he was such a kind human being. This is a huge loss.”

Kevin Casey: I read, liked, listened and enjoyed the posts, and the exposure to acts I wouldn’t have heard otherwise. My condolences to Mr Gutch’s family and friends.”

Laurie Biagini: “Frank Gutch Jr was a great supporter of Independent Music. He always had nice things to say about my music in his columns. It was a shock to hear of his passing today. RIP Frank.”

Rich Krueger:Frank Gutch Jr, who was a wonderful guy and an enormous supporter of my music, has died all of a sudden. This is just awful. My deepest condolences to the close family and friends.”

Elliott Randall:RIP dear friend.”

patricia davis imagePatricia Davis 

Keith Morris:It’s been sad around here. Frank was practically extended family for my wife Jen and me. We’d known him since 2007, when he reviewed my first album, and had an ongoing correspondence after that, talking about everything from life to songwriting to Charlottesville’s music scene (he was a huge fan of what he’d heard from Charlottesville and asked me to point out my favorite local artists) to baseball to the ongoing dumbing-down of America. He was always interesting, highly intelligent–and funny. And he loved to laugh, so we kept each other entertained.

It’s bittersweet reading these wonderful posts about Frank. He blessed so many of us with his attention to our music. If he liked what you were doing creatively, he was a constant supporter. And if he didn’t like something you were doing, he’d tell you about that too. Typically, this meant encouragement to maintain your focus and keep producing records he liked. This kind of feedback is of course hugely important to a young artist, as there aren’t too many people otherwise who’ll give you the time or attention. Frank’s feedback was always helpful. You could trust what he was telling you.

Frank was endlessly kind, devilishly funny, and always on-point. The best interview I ever had was the first one I did with Frank. I was a bit nervous, as I hadn’t done a lot of interviews at that point, but as soon as we started talking, things just took off. We spent a lot of that hour on the phone laughing at each other’s quips, and that openness allowed me to speak truthfully without holding a lot back. We covered significant & difficult territory–particularly race in america–and Frank liked what I said enough to turn that one interview into several pieces. This was a decade ago, and America was still touting a “post-racial America.” What a laugh to think of that today.

Frank was under no such delusion–he knew the significance of the issue, and edited none of what I said…and what I said was harsh indeed. Frank never blinked. As a matter of fact, what he did was take one of the articles and re-print it every spring. He did this as a favor to some degree, but mostly my sense was that he wanted that interview about race to remain out there. Because he gave a damn. That’s the type of character he had.
Indeed, as wonderful a man as he was, he was also a staggeringly productive & insightful critic. Years ago, I held a job as a music reviewer, and it can be a difficult & time-consuming task if you approach it with integrity. Also, it can be a thoroughly thankless job. You don’t get paid huge sums of money for yr work, so most reviewers sorta phone it in–give a record a quick listen and write a short review full of glib nothing. Not Frank. His work ethic was dazzling when you understand how long it takes to properly review an album. And Frank took no shortcuts.

Just look at all the columns he’s put out and how many bands are reviewed in each column. It’s astounding to me. Reviews like Frank wrote require at the very minimum five hours per album. Much of that time is spent listening. Anyone who writes a review before having listened to an album several times is writing a poor review. It would take me about 8 to 10 hours to listen & then write a review I felt did justice to the artist.

Given the amount of insight he provided in a review, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Frank spent at least 10 hours — probably many more– writing some of these reviews. He knew my albums–and those of my friends–inside/out. These weren’t short and poorly-written reviews like you see these days. Frank was interested in the songs, what they meant, how they came about, how they were sequenced, produced, their imagery, meaning, and who the songwriter is and what makes her tick. Frank had a unique ability to see right through to the heart of an album, and bring it to life for the reader.

And there would be several of these in-depth reviews in every column. Often with an interview–which he had to transcribe. This is a stunning sense of dedication. And he worked at this level of productivity for many years. I have great respect for his work ethic & dedication–all should.

Frank loved indie artists. He admired our courage to pursue our art, our purpose. He saw life as far bigger than most. He understood the value of doing what you love. He related to that directly, of course, as he practiced what he preached. Frank got it. As a writer, he redeemed yr commitment by listening closely, and then conveying your vision to others.
It’s important work, and few do it with the insight, grace & understanding that Frank did. I’ll miss his friendship greatly, and I’ll miss his writing. We lost a great man. Thanks for everything, Frank.

yr (“crime-fighting son of a bitch”) friend, keith morris

Sheila Ellis – Annabel (lee) : “Frank Gutch Jr was a true champion of the Unsung, the artists yet to be discovered, the hungry ones. He introduced their works to a larger public, as if revealing a secret that only he knew of. He was proud; I was flattered. He stepped into the dreams of our project, Annabel (lee), took my hand, and said, ‘you can trust me, I’ll share your story’. I am stunned, saddened, but ultimately thankful for his walking into my life. I send all the warm embraces of comfort to his loved ones, be they family or friends. Rest easy, Frank. May you discover more unsung treasures on the other side. May our Requiem play in your ears. (with Richard E Further Out)

Thomas Shelton House:Frank exploded into my world about 5 years ago. Keith Morris hooked us up and what a fun ride it was. You hear people say there’s no great music anymore. Frank was on a mission to find it everywhere, and he did. Fun to read through his old columns and the testimonials the many liives he touched online and the daily comings and goings his life in Oregon. He will be missed by many”

Mimi Schell:I’ve never been able to meet Frank Gutch Jr personally, and yet it is my heart to know that he has passed away. This good spirit of music reviewer wrote to me recently, and I was happy as audit about his interest and that he wanted to discuss my album. It occurred to me that this was a special gift, not from this time, but from a place where love to music is the only criterion, an independent, independent selection. I would have liked to stay in touch with someone like him. My thoughts go to his family and to all those who sorely miss him. All the best on your way to infinity, Frank Gutch Jr.”

You Get What You Give


neanderthalReally drastic times always have both positive and negative aspects. History is filled with major events that altered the path humans were on, and brought about new developments. The Black Plague. The Renaissance. Evolution itself, for that matter. We’re all happy homo sapiens now, but I’ll bet the Neanderthals weren’t too joyful when that branch of the family tree was sawed off.

We often bring on the catastrophes all by ourselves. I believe we’re bringing on some pretty serious alterations to our planet through climate change, and knowing that we did all of that environmental damage just by refusing to clean up after ourselves doesn’t make it any easier.

Sometimes the big bang that changes things illuminates how emotionally fragile humans really are, and how little they enjoy change of any kind. Oh, they say they want change, but actually dealing with alterations to the status quo gives them the heebie jeebies. They’ll second guess themselves into oblivion.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick to death of hearing about how scared and confused American voters were, when they chose to elect a known – nay .. renowned! TV certified! … con man to run their country. How freakin’ delicate do you have to be to believe that someone, who has spent his entire life gleefully and repeatedly fleecing the rubes, really does have the answer to America’s problems? How emotionally unstable do you have to be to believe that a guy, who has nothing in the way of ideas or a proper platform, or experience in any form of politics, who has nothing but disdain for previous administration, will know how to deal with complex diplomacy? How incredibly naive are you to take the word of someone who promises to ‘repeal and replace’ the only health care insurance some have ever known, who claims that he, and he alone can ‘fix’ a broken America with a wave of his magic wand …. You wanted to be fooled, and you were.

What happened to that vaunted American Exceptionalism? When did it become more fashionable to play the victim than the victor?

Gimme that ol’ time religion ….

 

doug ford pussyDon’t get me wrong, I am well aware that it’s not just Americans who are that naive. There’s more than a few of these strongmen and wannabe or actual dictators scattered around the planet. Ontario may well be the next launching pad for another contemptible bozo who wears his racism, sexism and xenophobia proudly on his sleeve. Listen – I get it. You’re angry at Wynne, whom you feel has screwed up her time at the helm. So angry that you’ll throw away any progressive growth in the province in favour of a man who is the walking, talking embodiment of NIMBY?

You’ll get what you deserve, as the people always do. It’s not about electing the least offensive option, it’s about caring enough about your city, or province, or country to nurture safe, sane growth, while keeping those in charge accountable. You can’t wake up forty years down the road to ruin and ask, “wha’ happened?” We built this city and this country by turning a blind eye to suspect deals, cronyism and corruption, with each successive governance going further down the wrong path, and piling on more debt for our kids and grandkids. How many shady politicians have walked away from positions of power with full pockets and zero accountability for screwing over the electorate?

bullies on campusWhat you get instead of good candidates are guys like Trump and Ford, who are basically those asshat Big Men On Campus that you had to endure in senior high school or college. The big bullies who swagger down the corridors with their buddies, all of whom are both a little afraid and a little in awe of Biff’s cruelty, but who are far more afraid of getting on his bad side and having him lash out at them.

So they laugh when he shoves that kids with the glasses into a locker, or trips that nerd with a full tray in the cafeteria. They’ll guffaw when he spikes the punch, and talks smack about the cheerleaders, and leaves one or two of the girls pregnant. Because he’s got the power, they’ll go along for the ride, and reap what benefits they may from the scraps he leaves behind.

Of course, this kind of governance leaves behind damage far beyond Biff’s years on the football team, or Trump’s time in office. We’re still trying to get the science teacher’s Volkswagen down from the roof of the gym, and we may never get all that coal detritus out of America’s rivers.

new yorker quote Trump end daysAnd that’s assuming Biff leaves the building willingly …

We all must take responsibility for allowing the Biffs of the world to come to political power. We have to root out and trash the idea that the bullying, entitled, ‘big swinging dicks’ of the world have anything to offer the rest of us. They sneer at us, and view us with contempt. We are just the sheep they seek to fleece and lead to slaughter. They are the spoiled, the entitled, the corrupt, and they seek to profit from our naiveté. The tools that elect fools and criminals to office are our insecurities, fears, and prejudices, along with our willingness to let anyone else who’ll volunteer, to do the heavy lifting of keeping an eye on those who are supposedly running countries for the good of the people, and to make sure that they are not simply working for their own gain. These faults are what elect terrible people to the White House, or Parliament. Bad politicians are the reflections of our worst flaws.

bad choice worse choice. jpgIf we want better, we need to deserve better. And deserving better means actually caring about who is running your government. It means doing the research, understanding basic civics, having an opinion, and demanding that our elected officials listen to all of the electorate, not just the part that greases their palms. Elected officials need to be scrutinized as severely as any other public servant, because they ARE your servants, and they are well paid to do the will of the people. If we, as citizens, can’t be bothered to learn what it takes to run our cities or country, if we find it all too boring, and unimportant … then we’ll continue to be asked to choose between two or more terrible choices to lead.

Social media teems with trolls, rants, memes, and the lashing out of frustrated, angry people. It feeds the divisiveness and lack of empathy that will tear our worlds apart. Everyone has an opinion, but opinions are not facts. We now have solid proof that neither your drunk uncle nor your favourite armchair politician are actually the smartest, or the best qualified, to make the intellectual, diplomatic, decisions that enable countries to run smoothly.

We are not enabling our ‘better angels’ when we choose those who will control our governments by Facebook polls. If citizens truly want to have a say in how they are governed, they have to put in the work to be better citizens.

i love the poorly educatedAs George Carlin told us so very long ago, ” If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits ain’t going to do any good; you’re just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant leaders. So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it’s not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here… like, the public. “

t

You Are Here


When I was growing up, in the late 1950s and early sixties, it was very important to me that I know exactly where I was living, to know what was my place in the world. I would inscribe not only my name on my school books, but my ‘full’ address. as 10904-98th Street, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, North America. Earth, the Milky Way…

My world was the length of the streets that I could walk. If I walked several blocks, I would be at my school. If I walked several more blocks, I would be on Edmonton’s main drag, where The Roxy Theatre (why are all little cinemas with big dreams called The Roxy?) had Saturday afternoon matinees. For $0.25 my sister and I could spend several hours watching cartoons, episodic westerns, and a main sci fi feature that inevitably featured some mutation of Godzilla, followed by an hour of competitive games – with prizes!

rox and jodi edmonton 1963 001My grandparents lived several blocks to the west of us, and if my mum, sister and I took a bus for about a half an hour, we would be at an outdoor public swimming pool, where we could take swimming lessons, and watch each other’s lips turn blue.

These were the parameters of my world. My sense of self was very much tied to where I lived, and to where I could walk or be driven to. Nothing else had much relevance. Nothing else felt like it really mattered, or made much difference to my world. I was here. Here I was.

My sense of geography was so skewed that I once naively believed that a soppy Irish song’s lyrics were, “If you ever go across the street to Ireland. ” I literally had no sense of how big my own province was, let alone a concept of the expanse of Canadian lands. And I most certainly could not conceive of going across a sea.

city-of-edmonton-signs3We had a globe in the house, but I had little use for the countries on the lower half – I had no emotional investment in what went on below the equator, even if the nuns at school did collect our pennies for the orphan babies of China. The 185 miles between Calgary and Edmonton spooked me, because those two cities looked so close together on the map, but I had heard they did things very differently there.

When my grandmother came to Canada from Great Britain in 1900, she came by boat, as did most of the early settlers to our country. My paternal grandmother walked from South Dakota to St Albert, Alberta, as part of a covered wagon convoy. Travel might have been necessary, but it was rarely convenient.

WagonTrainIt’s probably hard to imagine how incomprehensible long distance travel was for many people, in those days. Our access to the world has changed significantly in the last several decades, through improvements to the methods of travel, and through the technology by which we come to know other countries.  Now we can see the attractions of ‘faraway places with strange sounding names,’ in living colour, and visit nearly anywhere in the world on a whim.

living in bubblesBack in the day, the average person was physically and emotionally isolated, based on where they lived. There were clear differences in attitude and behaviour between rural and urban groups. And yet, no matter where a child was, they believed that they were at the centre of the universe, and that the beliefs with which they were surrounded, were the only true beliefs.  Even today, there are many people who never veer from that belief. This is who I am, because this is where I live.

By the time I was ten years old, I had taken the four day train trip back and forth to the very much more cosmopolitan Montreal several times, but I had never met anyone who had been on a commercial airplane.

It would be another several years before I myself would finally set foot on a plane, travelled abroad, and crossed a sea. Air travel was considered something that only the wealthy could enjoy, a major financial indulgence that also required a special travelling wardrobe.

I was lucky enough to tag along with my grandmother on one of her trips ‘over ‘ome’ to England, when I was just 19 years old.

boac stew 1970Perhaps there are people who feel relaxed and at ease on a plane. I am not one of them. The idea of floating above the clouds, no matter how comfortable the ride, puts me in a dead panic. We flew British Airways, of course, and the stewardesses were wonderful to my gram, treating her like a queen. I was in awe of their cool uniforms, and their Beatle-ish accents.

Arriving at Heathrow, I entered another world, that couldn’t have been more different than the Montreal we’d left behind, only eight hours before. For the first time in my life, I was rootless. I was no longer bound to the earth on which I’d been born or raised. It was an epiphany.

Better writers than I have spoken of the merits of travel, and of how important it is to experience people and worlds that differ from what we have always known. I have always believed the same. No matter how much one travels within one’s own country or continent, there is something magical about walking the streets of other countries, far from our own, populated by people who are like us, but not like us at all.

Did you know that you have an accent? Probably not. But people in England think that Canadians and Americans have very pronounced accents. It’s all about perspective.

If a traveler is open to the experience, something magical snips the mental umbilical cord that tethers us to a local groupthink or speak. And you are never the same again.

I felt a sense of wonder, while walking the streets of London, or pacing the wilds of Epping Forest. For the first time in my life, I was completely outside of the physical parameters I believed defined my life and my thoughts.  Leaving the corporeal confines of my reality allowed my mind to look outside of the restrictions that had been imposed upon my thinking.

Today, travel is rather taken for granted. My kids and grandkids think nothing of jetting away on vacations. The only thing that stops them from roving globally is financial shortfalls.

overhead compartmentBut ironically, this new freedom to travel as we will is not necessarily accompanied by a concurrent openness of mind. It is possible to take one’s prejudices and beliefs to anywhere in the globe, packed in the overhead compartment, to be pulled out at inopportune moments.

Perhaps this relative ease of travel makes it harder to step outside of ourselves, and to feel that sense of wonder. That would be a pity, for it is in those magical moments, when we are truly off balance, and our minds adrift with what might be, that we realize both how alike and how different we are from one another, no matter where we find ourselves.

 

Tilting the Mirror


There’s a conspiracy theory that’s been around for a few years now, in which people believe that CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) experiments have caused the world to shift into an alternate reality, a parallel universe. They claim that the organization was warned of the possibility by physicist Stephen Hawking, but that the alarm was ignored .. and now, here we are, somewhere other than where we should be..

bizarroworldSome days … most days! … it really does feel like our reality has been tilted just a little sideways. There is an enormous difference in the way I thought and wrote in 2016, as opposed to the way I do now, in 2018. We are living in interesting times that often do resemble a universe like our own, but upside down and backwards. It leaves me  feeling a little like Superman’s friend from the fifth dimension, Mr Mxyzptlk, or like I am living in BizarroWorld.

 

 

How else can you explain the Chicago Cubs winning their first World Series since 1908, and Donald Trump‘s election to the presidency? Nothing has made sense for years – up is down, black is white, and Dollarama delisted not one but two of my favourite deodorants. There is no justice.

Mitch Alborn memePerhaps you are feeling ‘the Mandela effect,’ something which you might have come across on line, or in a group of friends, when you encounter people who believe and will bet their last dollar on their insistence that something happened – although all evidence shows that it never did.

Examples of the “Mandela effect” include believing that Nelson Mandela died in prison in the 1980s, and swearing that the comedian Sinbad played a genie in a 1990’s movie. Oh, and that the “Berenstein Bears” were really named the “Berenstain Bears.”

If you believe this theory, then Trump’s assertions of Muslims cheering in the streets after 9/11, or of terrorist attacks on Sweden, or any of the six plus lies he spews a day, are all true .. in his own universe. Just not in ours.

Of course, this is just a wild theory, meant to protect our fragile minds from cracking under the strain of living through the disaster of the Trump administration and the end days of capitalism. According to both French economist Thomas Piketty and German economist Wolfgang Streeck, society is on the verge of collapse due to the worst form of socioeconomic inequality in capitalism’s history. Which sort of trumps Trump, if you will.

With just eight multi-billionaires owning the equivalent amount of capital of half of the global population, we could be in for a world of pain, If and when the next major global financial crisis strikes, perhaps as a consequence of trade wars and excessive national debt.

hobbes nasty brutish short quoteBig capital, government and the military would ascend to full control. That would work out well for the privileged, who could afford to hole up in comfort, but life for the masses would be miserable in a polluted, brutish world.

On some level, we are all aware of this inequity, this imbalance of the playing field, this looming Armageddon that we are unable to prevent, and that unease we feel translates to how we interpret current events. If it is in our nature to double down on our core beliefs, we may have to deal with a shocking amount of  cognitive dissonance.

cognitive dissonanceFear of losing what we have always perceived to be true can be incredibly painful. When our truths are challenged, we will push back, unable to hold two truths in our minds simultaneously. That’s when you hear the screams of ‘fake news!’ and see the undermining of science, actual corroborated truths and facts, and respected journalism. It is easier to shoot the messenger than to absorb new information that contradicts our long held viewpoints.

But yelling ‘fake news!’ every time you hear something you don’t like, doesn’t make it fake. It just makes it contrary to what you want to believe.

Some of our most deeply held values may stem from our upbringing, and the unconscious ethics we’ve absorbed from our families and our peers. Much is drummed into us by our choice of media, especially as it has evolved in the last two decades.

We are the product of our environment, of what we are born into, and of what we choose to surround ourselves with when the choice becomes our own. It’s fascinating to unravel the gymnastic moves that minds can make when they are asked to confront how they came to a point of view or decision. Kind of like the new math meets the Kama Sutra – fun to watch until someone loses an eye.

How we name and sort concepts may depend less on reality, and more on innate prejudices. What we believe about others and their behaviors may have more to do ourselves and with what we have been lead to believe, than what those other people are actually likely to be thinking or doing.

In these days of divisiveness and bitter words, of anger and a sense of disconnect that threatens to bring countries to an emotional or physical civil war, it’s important to remember that it is only by coming together that societies flourish.

great society lbj. jpg‘A rising tide lifts all boats.’ In 1933, Roosevelt’s “New Deal” brought America back to prosperity by utilizing the federal government’s power to help the weakest amongst them. In 1964, Lyndon B Johnson tried to do something similar, with his vision of a Great Society, the main goal of which was the elimination of poverty and racial injustice.

He applauded the nation’s wealth and abundance but admonished the audience that “the challenge of the next half century is whether we have the wisdom to use that wealth to enrich and elevate our national life, and to advance the quality of American civilization.”

It has always and ever been the coming together of a people that enriches and ennobles them, not outbursts, divisions, anger and threats. A true leader does not divide to conquer, but rather, brings all together to prosper.

This time we are living in will pass. History will record what happened in these days of discord, and pass judgement on all of us, for what we did or what we failed to do. Some will continue to rail against what they do not want to hear or believe, while others will sadly put their ideals in the bottom drawer and carry on, diminished.

broken mirrorBut thee and me, and all of us, we will still be here, and all of the harsh words and deeds we aimed at each other will lie around us, like the husks of dinosaurs, or the steam that rises off a dumpster fire, fetid and festering.

The mirror tilted once – it can tilt again. But what will it reflect? A brave new world, or a desolate landscape of broken dreams?

Hold Your Loved Ones Close


Easter was magic when I was a little girl. My mum was a writer, so we would wake to a trail of poetic clues that would lead us to where the Bunny had hidden his goodies. As kids, any creature that left goodies, be it Santa, the Easter Bunny, or a Leprechaun, was all good in our books.

I will never forget the year that my godmother sent me a chocolate bunny that was as tall as I was! We ate chocolate until we were bursting, and then my mother had me take the leftover candy to share with my friends.

Trump as Easter BunnyIt was a simpler time. But I guess everyone likes free stuff, even if you know in your heart that you’re gonna have to pay for it in the long run.

I paid my Catholic dues as a child and teen, singing in the choir. “He is risen!” we chorused, as the dark days of Lent and deprivation came to an end, and the little snowdrops popped their heads up thru the last of the winter’s snow.

It’s been years since I’ve thought much about Easter. The kids grew up and moved away, and took the grandkids with them. Neither Shawn nor I are religious, and I got out of the habit of making big, fancy Sunday dinners decades ago. Not much point, with the family scattered to the four winds.

This year, however, we have had to acknowledge Easter. Shawn will be spending Easter with our daughter, son-in-law and seven year old granddaughter, along with his many siblings and relatives, all of whom do indeed celebrate the holiday, whether with chocolate or prayer, or a little or a lot of both.

Shawn’s youngest sister died suddenly on Tuesday, and he has traveled to Windsor to be a pall bearer at her funeral, while I am home, holding the fort, and herding the cats. She was just 46 years old.

Both of Shawn’s parents married several times, so he actually has a total of eleven brothers and sisters, though not all of them are related by birth. We don’t see them as often as we’d like, but we try to keep in touch via social media.

Alison Counihan LeeAlison was a lovely girl. Twenty years younger than Shawn, she had a positive, happy spirit that endeared her to all whom she met. When I think of her, I always picture her in the middle of a hearty laugh. Physically, she reminded me of the country artist Wynona, as she had a similar look and charm.

For the last decade, she’d worked with Value Village, managing the teams that open new stores in other countries, and was well loved by the employees she directed.  She was engaged, and was to have been married in a few months.

Twenty plus years ago, Alison and I spent a lot of time together. I’d often travel to Windsor to visit with Shawn’s dad, Asa, and the family, and spend some quality time with ‘the girls,’ all of whom were blessed with quick wits, good humour, a love of a good time, and mad dance skills. It was worth the long bus ride just to hang with Alison, Jackie, Mary, and Debbie. They were Shawn’s sisters, but they became my family and friends.

Asa died, and his frequent requests that I visit ended. In time, we just drifted apart. Everyone got busy, and had complicated personal and business lives, and after a few years, our interaction waned, finally tapering off to the occasional comment on social media. And I’m not very proud that I allowed those relationships to slip away through inattention.

love the peopleLife can get away from us. We’re always so busy, and then one day, there’s a phone call, or a knock on the door, and our opportunity to spend time with a loved one is gone forever.

Easter is as good a time as any to remember to hold our loved ones a little tighter, while we still can.

Alison taught me – or at least tried to teach me – how to dance to Janet and Michael Jackson‘s big dance hits in the nineties. I was hopelessly two left footed, but I would give it my best shot, and she’d try not to fall over laughing at my efforts.

She had such a big happy laugh.

Whenever I hear this song, I’m always reminded me of her.

Rest in peace, Alison. You are loved.