Humans are incredibly narcissistic. At least one of the many writers of the Bible understood this when they wrote,
“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
That is some kinda entitled privilege, your basic eminent domain mandate, right there. And since Genesis was telling us how much we have in common with the Supreme Being, and that we have ‘dominion’ over all of those other creatures, it was probably only natural that we would assume our own sort of godliness by conferring human traits to these creatures, and then assigning those traits that we perceive and like or dislike in them, to other humans.
It’s called anthropomorphising. We gaze into the faces of our pets, our cats and dogs, and believe that they reflect back our same emotions. But when animals behave in ways we dislike, we can find their actions ‘catty,’ and then apply that characteristic to someone who is devious or spiteful, or view the simple but steadfast hound as “dogged,” which we then use as a compliment for someone who is stubbornly single minded.
We call a fool “asinine” because we believe that donkeys are stubborn and stupid. A hawk, with it’s razor talons and sharp beak doesn’t wait around for prey, and so the bird’s tendency gave the epithet “hawkish” to warmongers, with their aggressive, attack-prone natures.
Sluggish, slothful, fishy, chicken, sheepish, squirrelly …. we see parts of ourselves in each of these creatures.
I’m not the only gardener that talks to her plants – it’s been a ‘thing’ for as long as we’ve been hunters and gatherers.
Proving we crazy plant-talkers right, in 2019 the Royal Horticultural Society researchers discovered that talking to your plants really does help them grow. And they also found that plants prefer a female voice over a male’s, growing faster when spoken to in dulcet tones.
Even the most humble amongst us just can’t help thinking that inanimate objects have human characteristics. Remember Tom Hanks and his volley ball buddy in Castaway? That was a great deal more than just an interesting plot device – it capitalized on a desperate human need for company and some sense of feeling known and understood.
Or perhaps you recall this commercial from 2002?
Of course, the commercial mocked our need to anthropomorphize things. (It was also a paean to gross capitalistic commercialism and a throwaway society, but that’s a tale for another day.)
And – 16 years later – that lamp did indeed find a home.
Because .. again … anthropomorphization. We just love to think that every thing, living or inanimate, shares the same emotions that we do. We are wrong. But that need for connection is the way that we try to sate our craving for social connection.
Since the caveman days, we’ve had the option to either work with or against other humans. We weigh up the pluses and minuses of creating tribes, and usually decide that avoiding loneliness, and of course, enjoying the strength of numbers, is worth putting up with the foibles of other people.
We feel ‘lonely’ when our actual social relations fall short of how much social connection we want. The whole sensation of ‘feeling lonely in a crowd’ has to do with a lack of social bonds within that crowd of people.
We perceive human qualities in non-human beings or objects when we believe we can intuit a human quality that might apply, like when our cell phone suddenly goes on the fritz, right when we’re supposed to make a call we don’t feel like making. Or maybe our car starts making a weird noise and we want to understand what has ‘upset’ the car, and provoked the object’s behaviour.
But mostly it’s when we crave social contact. Lonely people, people with a high empathy level, or people who need a lot of stimuli in their personal space, are more likely to perceive human qualities in inanimate objects.
In psychological studies, they have found that less lonely people were less prone to anthropomorphizing.
So – does a cure for anthropomorphization lie in the flitting of a ‘social butterfly’ ? If we can assuage that social connection craving by other means, will we stop seeing humanity in inanimate objects?
In one psychological study, participants were shown descriptions of four gadgets, inventions that purported to make their lives easier. One was an alarm clock that rolled around, so that the waker would have to chase and capture the clock to turn off the alarm. Another was a “Pillow Mate” – a pillow that could be programmed to give you a hug. Another was an air purifier for people with allergies or respiratory problems.
About half of those participating in the study were told to think about an important and meaningful relationship that they have with another person, and about how they could count on that person not abandoning them. The other half were told to think about a casual acquaintance.
They were then asked how they’d rate the items based on human-like traits, for example, if they thought the item had a ‘mind of it’s own.’
It turned out that those people who had been thinking about an important and close relationship prior to being asked about the gadgets just didn’t see as many human qualities in the inventions. Their need for social connection having been met, they didn’t feel a need to have a gadget that replaced human contact.
Which means that Tom Hanks’ soccer ball would never have become his best buddy, if there’d been another human on that island. Poor old Wilson.
A lamp cannot be sad, but people can be lonely. Loneliness is when we deny our human need for companionship, and if we can’t find another human to bond with, to care about, and to share our lives with, we’re far more likely to see a reflection of humanity in the chromed smoothness of a toaster or the sly sideways glance of a fox.
My family has a tiny burial plot on Mount Royal, in the Cotes de Neiges cemetery, and that’s where the bones and ashes of my ancestors have been interred for over a hundred years.
It’s been two months since my aunt’s passing. The clan will gather this week to bring her ashes home.
“Patricia Donovan, daughter of Freda (James) Donovan and Denis Patrick Donovan, the last of her generation, died March 29, 2019 in Ottawa. Born in Montreal, Patricia lived most of her life there. She enjoyed travel, and worked for a time in Washington, D.C. She moved to Toronto and cared for her mother until her mother’s passing.
Patricia was a writer, painter, and sculptor who pondered life’s big questions. Auntie Pat had fifteen nieces and nephews and enjoyed a unique relationship with each of them. She is survived by the clan, and will be missed by them.”
My family has always had an easy relationship with death; when I was young, my mother would often take my sister and I to the mountain for a picnic in the graveyard. We’d loll on the well tended grass while we ate lunch, and then wander around the tombstones and mausoleums, looking for famous names.
I believe that my cousin Michael Leo Donovan, a man who loves the city of Montreal with a fervour I’ve never seen excelled, wrote a book about one of the cemetery’s denizens, the statesman Thomas D’Arcy McGee, after repeatedly seeing his tomb on family visits.
“In 1867 he became a Father of Confederation. It was said that if Sir John A. MacDonald of Ontario and Sir George Etienne Cartier of Quebec were the architects of Canada. D’Arcy McGee was its prophet. He was murdered on April 6, 1868, in Ottawa, while returning home after a session of the House.” (A Shamrock in the Snow, 1996)
Other well known Canadians resting in peace at this, and the neighbouring cemetery, include the Reverend William Squire, the first person buried in Mount Royal Cemetery, who died of cholera in 1852, after performing a religious sick visit to a local merchant; Thomas Lee Hackett, a young Irishman shot during a fight between the Catholic and Protestant Irish on July 12, 1877, the day that the Orangeman had chosen to parade on the streets of Montreal; and Sir Arthur William Currie, Commander of Canadian Troops during World War I, and Principal of McGill University from 1920-1933, whose death in 1933 drew a funeral procession with a crowd estimated at 20,000 people, consisting of politicians, diplomats, military bands and hundreds of veterans. The Cross of Sacrifice, a military monument, marks his grave.
Here you will also find David Thompson, surveyor and explorer, who died very poor with no grave marker. The grave languished for seventy years, until, in 1926, the Canadian Historical Association erected a monument to him with the epitaph, “To the memory of the greatest of geographers who for 34 years explored and mapped the main travel routes between the St Lawrence and the Pacific.”
Montreal’s revered Joe Beef has a place of honour. “His real Irish name was Charles McKieman. He owned the famous “Joe Beef’s Canteen,” located near the port. His 3-storey building held a tavern, a restaurant with free food for the homeless, a dorm of 100 beds and a basement full of strange menagerie. He died in 1889 aged 54. His six sons and his wife organized a very impressive funeral for him. Every office in the business district closed for the afternoon, and there were representatives of workers from all classes in the procession.”
Several more souls were added to the site in 1912, when six victims of the Titanic‘s sinking were buried there, including Charles Melville Hays, once the president of the Grand Trunk Railway. (A further five lie in the Notre Dame de Neiges Cemetery, and one in the Baron de Hirsch Cemetery. Montreal was, sadly, well represented in the tragedy.)
There is also a section dedicated to some of the 76 small children who died in the Laurier Palace Theatre fire in 1927, an event so horrific to Montrealers that a law was summarily passed forbidding the entry of children under 16 to any theatre or cinema screenings. That law remained in effect until 1961
Calixa Lavallée, the man who, in 1880 wrote our national anthem, “Oh Canada,” was born in Verchères, Quebec in 1842, but enlisted as a musician with the 4th Rhode Island Infantry at the outbreak of the American Civil War. He died a respected composer and conductor in 1891, from tubercular laryngitis, in Boston, Massachusetts, where he was buried until 1933, when his body was brought to Montreal for reburial.
More recent interments include Celine Dion‘s husband, René Angélil; journalist and politician, Nick Auf der Maur; Gratien Gelinas, actor; hockey players Doug Harvey and Maurice ‘The Rocket’ Richard;Pierre Laporte, politician, who was murdered by the FLQ in 1970; Robert Bourassa, 22nd premier of Quebec; and Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau, who truly made the city world class, by organizing Expo 67, along with playing host to the 1976 Olympic Games, and giving it an amazing Metro service.
Small wonder the place is considered one of the most haunted spots in Montreal. Often described as a “City of the Dead overlooking a City of the Living“, ghostly spirits are believed to roam the grounds after sundown.
‘Not to be forgotten, other mortal remains lie outside the cemetery boundaries. Most famously, the tomb of Simon McTavish is located in the dark forest above Peel Street. The angry Scottish fur baron died unexpectedly in 1804 while overseeing the construction of a magnificent castle on the slopes. Stories of his ghost tobogganing down Mount Royal in his own coffin terrified Montrealers during the 1800s. To make people forget, city officials demolished his abandoned castle and used the rubble to literally bury his mausoleum. Archaeological work a few years ago disturbed his tomb and now rumour has it he is haunting Mount Royal again.”
But the most common ghost spotted on the mountain where First Nation peoples were also known to bury their dead is that of an Algonquin warrior.
I’ll keep an eye open for that lonely fellow when I’m there.
I always look forward to visiting Montreal, the city of my youth. These are the grounds I stomped, my neighbourhoods, my restaurants, my mountain, my Canada Life Weather Beacon, first lit up in 1956, that let the city know what weather was on the way. It is and ever will be the city of my heart, no matter where I roam.
I miss my city, but it is inevitably, my family ties that pull me back when I have been too long gone. You can’t stay away from Donovans for very long.
“Oh, ‘céad mile fáilte’ they’ll greet you down at Donovan’s As cheery as the springtime, as Irish as the conovan The wish of my heart is if ever I had anyone That ev’ry luck that lightens life …. may light upon the Donovans”
Growing up, I think I always took my family a little for granted. Maybe I just assumed that all families were graced with so much talent, in so many fields. We grew up with my uncle Dennis , co-creator and writer of The Beachcombers; my uncle Leo, whose majestic land and seascapes graced our homes; my uncle John, who was possessed not only of great writing skill, but also of a deep, radio friendly baritone speaking and singing voice; my aunt Pat, a writer, painter, and woman of enormous intelligence; and my own mother, who was a superb dancer, writer, and editor.
With that sort of heritage, it is almost a forgone conclusion that the 15 children they brought into the world also possessed many talents, not only in the arts, but in social and computing skills. We just never thought that we wouldn’t be able to do whatever we wanted to do with our lives.
Many of us write. I mentioned Michael, above, but there’s also Kieran, the poet and singer-songwriter; and Rita, who has won multiple awards for her nine books, short stories and essays.
Michael also wrote and produced a fine video series on the origin of Montreal street names, now available on youtube. (And yes, those are his kids getting in on the act as Ms Kayleigh and Complete Stranger. )
We all sing. Dianne toured with a Harry James tribute for years before settling down in Austin, Texas with her husband, where she also hosts Classical Austin on KMFA radio, produces a weekly vocal jazz show, “Voices in Jazz” for CKUA Radio in Edmonton, and has a new CD release, “A Musing,” featuring mostly original compositions. She also teaches a cooking class with her jazz trio, The Beat Divas. (dianne donovan beat divas.jpg)
Some of us draw, sculpt and paint. My cousin Aileen took her dad’s painting skill and crafted it into a long career as a well known animal portraitist during her years living in the North West Territories with the Inuit peoples. She now focuses mainly on past life regressions for both pets and people.
I could literally go on and on, listing the accomplishments of this talented group. I’m extremely proud of my family, with good reason.
And I’ll get to see some, though not all of them, this week. While the occasion is solemn, visits to my city and my family are never terribly formal for more than a few minutes. We are a group that cannot be repressed for long – laughter, good humour, and our love for each other guarantees a boisterous reunion.
The passing of the last of our parent’s generation seems so final, and yet there’s a part of me that can’t believe that my cousins and I – even as we develop deeper ‘laugh lines’ and grey hair – will ever really age enough to become the ‘grumps’ of the family.
I’ll bring that up with the clan at the wake next week, and see if anyone’s pencilled in a date for when we can get to the ‘growing up‘ part of life. With any luck, we can keep putting it off forever.
I originally wrote this column in April 2015. Woke up today unable to write about the things I find so depressing in 2019, so … this retread will have to substitute for new thoughts on ‘interesting times.’
“If music be the food of love, play on!” Like food, music can be comforting. It can also be stimulating, annoying, or cloying. Music releases dopamine, the ‘feel good’ hormone, just like sex and actual food. Music can arouse feelings of euphoria and craving. Dopamine release is at “peak emotional arousal” during music listening, so you really ARE getting a bang for your musical buck.
Although there are exceptions – whether you consider them cursed or blessed, 5% of the population is indifferent to music, and feels nothing when they hear it.
But for the rest of us, music is much like a drug. When you’re listening to music that ‘speaks’ to you, you are completely dialled in to your brain, and that changes your brain chemistry. Music will change or augment your good or bad mood, and can cause you to slow down and relax, or jump up and dance.
Complex changes occur in our brains when we hear our favourite songs. We can be unconsciously manipulated through sound; studies show that listening to sad music can lead to a wide range of complex and partially positive emotions, like nostalgia. Listening to particularly sad or happy music can change the way we perceive the world.
When you’re watching a film, you’re unconsciously processing the background/soundtrack tones and tempos which signal to our brains that what we are seeing should be experienced in the way the writer intended.
The sort of music we want to hear at a given moment has much to do with what we’ve heard before, the sounds that we’ve absorbed through our lives, the sounds that feel familiar, that work within the tonal range that defines what is ‘popular’ in our culture. Which is why Britney Spears’ music has been used by the British Royal Navy to scare off Somali pirates.
Merchant naval officer Rachel Owens explained the tactics: “Her songs were chosen by the security team because they thought the pirates would hate them most. These guys can’t stand western culture or music, making Britney’s hits perfect. As soon as the pirates get a blast of Britney, they move on as quickly as they can.“ (metro.co.uk)
The inherent nature and power of music affects the animal kingdom as well. Cows produce more milk when listening to relaxing music, and 3% more milk listening to slow music over fast. Birds and whales compose musical creations very like man’s, combining rhythm, length, patterns and pitches we can recognize, and both will sing complex songs to communicate with each other, and during courtship.
If your pet has a tendency to overeat in stressful situations, or suffers from separation anxiety, quiet music playing on the radio may calm their anxieties, relax muscles, improve digestion and increase restful sleep. Dogs are particularly sensitive to music, with classical music having been shown to actually calm pups prone to epileptic seizures, and stimulate and release endorphins in the brain that aid in pain reduction.
Our brains love repetition. The first time we hear a song, our brains are processing the input, constantly predicting what will happen next, based on a pattern. And brains are a little lazy … we love repetitive choruses. In fact, for each repetition of a chorus, the chances of a song reaching the top of the charts rise by 14.5%
But there’s a limit to how much repetition we can take. Although hearing a song again and again makes your brain happy, because it’s already done the work to figure out what comes next, after a while, overexposure to songs causes an actual irritation. Like when you can’t bear another chorus of “Jingle Bells,” or break into hives at the ten millionth rendition of “Stairway to Heaven.”
One thing that I always find hilarious is how easily we mishear lyrics. As we listen, we’re actually Interpreting and anticipating what will come next, a combination of hearing and hope. And once you’ve misheard a lyric, it becomes more difficult to process the actual lyrics, especially if a part of you is tickled by how witty you find the misheard version.
There’s an actual term for misheard lyrics – mondegreen. It was coined by writer Sylvia Wring, in a Harper’s piece in 1954. She admitted to mishearing a piece of ancient English poetry her mother had read to her in her youth. Instead of hearing, “They hae slain the Earl Amurray, / And laid him on the green,” she heard, “They hae slain the Earl Amurray, / And Lady Mondegreen.”
Makes sense, right? Even though it’s incorrect, it fulfills the two-step process of hearing – the physics of sound entering your ear, and the part where your brain takes the sound and interprets what you’ve heard. When communication breaks down between sound and meaning – you’ve got a mondegreen.
We take what we’ve heard and shape it to what works for us. Bohemian Rhapsody becomes Bohemian Rap City. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “bad moon on the rise,” becomes a ‘bathroom on the right.” It makes more sense to imagine Jimi Hendrix kissing a guy than the sky.
Mondegreens work so well, in poetry, music and everyday life, that the misheard can become a new reality. “Spitting image” was originally “spit and image.” (Spit meaning likeness.) It drives me batty when I see a writer refer to an all-intensive purpose, but they’ve come there from ‘for all intents and purposes. “.It’s not ‘tow the line, ‘ it’s ‘toe the line,’ from the early days of the British Royal Navy,(those guys again!) at a time when seamen fell in for inspection barefoot.
It’s a ‘dog eat dog world,’ not ‘a doggy dog world.’ We ‘champ,’ not ‘chomp’ at the bit, and we ‘nip it in the bud,’ not the ‘butt.’ Perhaps these misinterpretations are ‘blessings in the skies.’ No, wait, that would be a ‘blessing in disguise.’ You’ve got another ‘think’ (not ‘thing’) coming if you believe these expressions are really “one in the same,” (one and the same.)
For some reason, Cat Steven’s classic, ” First Cut Is The Deepest” seems to be a mondegreen buffet, no matter who has recorded the tune.
People hear the lyrics, “First cut is the deepest.” and mishear it as ….
First time as a DJ.
The First God is a DJ
First cousin of Jesus
The first God was a teapot.
The first god is a demon.
The first guy is the deepest
The thirst god is the deepest
The first dive in the deepend.
And, ” And I’m sure going to give you a try.” as “And I’m sure going to give you a child.”
And, ” But if you want, I’ll try to love again ” as “But if you want, I’ll try another man.”
And, ” When it comes to loving me, he’s first.” as ” When it comes to love in need he’s the worst.”
People …. enunciate!
But even the grumpiest and most contrary Grammar Nazi can get a chuckle out of misheard lyrics. This video, apparently made as a birthday gift to a friend, captures every nuance and mondegreen that listeners heard in Joe Cocker’s classic rendition.
And the folks at pleated-jeans.com have a ton of terrific videos you can enjoy on Youtube, starting with this one:
and then there’s this :
As a prize for getting through all of that science, here’s my gift to you. SketchShe, the models-turned-comedy act from Australia, released a new video this week. Shae-Lee Shackleford, Lana Kington, and Madison Lloyd debuted their latest ‘Mime Through Time’ sketch – but this time they decided to go topless. Now that I’ve got your attention … here’s a lip sync medley that romps through seven decades of music. Enjoy!
“Fame … makes a man take things over …. puts you there where things are hollow”
If you were a baby boomer in the sixties, you most likely never knew anyone who was ‘really really’ rich. There was a kid in my school whose dad was a famous football player, but I didn’t know her well. And there was another friend who came from Texas; they had a big house, and even had a maid, who let us make chili and mess up the kitchen.
I had relatives who had oil patch money – they didn’t come around to many family parties, though. They likely got tired of being hit up for loans that would never get repaid.
When you think about it, one of the most famous, and presumably wealthiest, person with a high profile, back in those days, was Elvis. And by today’s standards, Graceland isn’t exactly the Taj Mahal. Not with all that shag carpeting. But for the time, it was high glam.
As a child, I knew, through reading, that there had been times in history when some people had attained obscene wealth, usually by conquering another country, and by subjecting those natives to their will. Those people were called kings, and whatever they wanted was granted to them, for their skill in warfare.
England had a royalty, but they wore sensible shoes.
I didn’t look up to those people; I never wanted to be ‘royal’ It seemed a pretty high price to pay for a life lived entirely in the public eye. And back then, there were a lot of people who wondered if the trade off of privacy for public adulation was a good one.
Now, of course, people will do anything to be seen, hopefully to be admired, for whatever it is they can do to be different. Tattoo a snake on your face? We’ll only be impressed if you’re the first to think to do so.
“Could it be the best, could it be? Really be, really, babe?”
I don’t know if it is a Canadian way of thinking, but I remember how most people I knew, growing up, adhered to the ‘tall poppy syndrome‘ … that meant that you didn’t want to stick your head up too high, or blow your own horn a little too loud, because you’d be sure to get cut down to size if you did. The syndrome is basically a way of sneering at those who revel in having a ton of money – which we assume is ill-gotten gains – or of seeking fame in public life.
In the seventies, you’d have been more likely to hear someone snigger, “geez, who does he/she think he/she is!” when a Canadian even got a mention in American media.
We did not put many Canadians on pedestals for their achievements, though we’d often get a little warm feeling when we felt like we’d snuck a Canadian through, behind America’s back. Like that William Shatner guy, with the weird way of talking. His mum had an acting school on Girouard in Montreal, so he was one of the good one’s.
We had our own awards, our Junos instead of Grammys, our Genie awards instead of Oscars, and by geez, that should be good enough for any Canadian! Just look at that Walter Ostanek fella, and all his polka Grammy wins! Does HE look happy? Now, you just go practice your accordion, and try not to get all stuck up and big headed!
“Fame …. what you like is in the limo”
And then came …. rock and roll hedonism.
“In the seventies … There was more excess, more hedonism, more drugs, more attitude, more sex, more style, more enthusiasm. Just?… more.” (The Telegraph, UK)
I’m not saying that the days of mud sharks, Whovian displays of hotel trashing, and the deaths by overdose of nearly every icon of the day opened the door to the pedestaling of the rich and famous….
but it helped.
The austerity of the post war years, and the drive and eventual success of the lower class kids, who knew the only way to get out of soul crushing poverty was to get into sports or rock n roll, became the envy of those who wondered what it would be like to literally have the world and all of it’s glories at their feet … drugs, drink, the most beautiful women in the world … it could all be yours, if you just cracked the Top Ten Charts.
Mo’ money, mo’ problems. Some of the luckier and richer rockers listened to their dear old dads, or to the managers and accountants who flocked to help funnel some of this largesse into safer investments, like property. And sadly, some of those ‘helpful’ advisors turned out to be there with the intention of taking advantage of the silly geese now laying multiple golden eggs.
Fame and wealth are on a sliding scale, as the wiser of the nouveau riche artistes soon learned. And if those musos wanted to keep at least some of the moolah that was coming in, in order to pay for their growing entourages, they’d have to learn to manage, manipulate, and increase their funds, just like the robber barons of the last century had done.
And off they went, to the tax havens…. and began to grow their own little dynasties …
“Fame, “Nein! It’s mine! is just his line … to bind your time, it drives you to, crime .”
We aging hippies, especially those of us who chose careers in the arts, might not have prioritized the acquisition of wealth, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t drool a little when these new ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous’ were dangled before us, in the mid eighties.
MTV glommed onto that envy, and promoted the lifestyles of celebrities in shows like “The Fabulous Life Of … “ and “Cribs.” These quasi reality features pretended to give the plebes a glimpse into the opulent homes, glamorous lifestyles, and vacation playgrounds of those musicians who had ‘made it.’
FAME … and wealth, were now what everyone wanted to achieve, by any means possible. Oh yeah, it was all about the Benjamins …
“Fame … what you get is no tomorrow … “
And we bought it .. oh yes, those of us who looked on and envied the lifestyles of those who had cracked the money and power code, wanted in on the fun.
“Americans are accustomed to talking about fame using the heady language of the cosmos: the celebrity as a celestial truth, situated above us; the superstar as a force in the firmament, all heat and light and gravitational demands. Michael Jackson’s environmental form of fame—music that permeated people’s lives, iconography that saturated American culture—anticipated the intimate version of celebrity that is the default today. It is fitting, in that regard, that celebrity itself functions as a spectral character in Leaving Neverland. Jackson was acutely aware of the affordances of fame; he leveraged them, the documentary suggests—and, ultimately, he weaponized them. Joy Robson, Wade’s mother, recalls Jackson making a request of her; she recalls, as well, that when she refused it, he coolly informed her: “I always get what I want.”” (The Atlantic, March 2019)
This year has seen the release of several documentaries that question what the pedestaling of fame has done to our vulnerable young women and men. With the allegations in Leaving Neverland and Surviving R. Kelly, we also need to be aware of what fame does to the psyches of those who wield that much power.
There have always been camp followers, disciples, those who believe that proximity to what they covet, for even a few moments, raises their own profile and value amongst those who have not had the same access to the royalty of their time.
When those who possess power of any potency use manipulation, a righteous fear, and their fame/perceived authority to get what they want, they are abusing that power in order to exploit vulnerable people for their own advantage or gain. And even if those people go willingly to the abuse, it’s still abuse.
Now, the funny thing is that, somewhere along the line, we all started to think that those who achieve fame and financial reward for being good at one thing, like music, or business, could translate that magic to other careers.
And strangely enough, in a culture that appears to embrace a meritocracy, those who seek fame and power somehow manage to drape the mantle of unique talents upon those whose rise to fame may well have simply come from a well placed endorsement, a reality television episode, or a sex tape featuring some very, very large buttocks.
We would never expect our dentist to take out our appendix or fix our plumbing, but for some reason, we think that someone who has managed to acquire – by hook, and likely crook – a large amount of money, should be given free reign to guide a country, or should be allowed to tell us who and how to worship. The mind boggles.
The political ‘base’ of a country is as subservient to a populist politician, as a congregation is to a hyperbolic preacher, or a groupie or ‘musical prodigy’ is to a music mogul. There’s a parallel in the abuses.
Dangling the promises of future prosperity, they will assure their acolytes that there is a brilliant future awaiting them, if they’ll just listen to their master’s advice. The prey might wonder at what is asked of them, if they follow this path, and they may be reluctant to give their all, without the assurances, as false as they may be, that their faith will bring them enormous rewards in the end.
The followers will put that preacher, or politician, or musical ‘genius’ on a pedestal, and make that person their whole world, believing that their devotion and loyalty is as strongly returned.
But eventually, and inevitably, that faith is abused.
Our adoration of those with fame and wealth blinds us, and when those whom we’ve put on a pedestal are toppled, our beliefs in our selves is fractured.
What goes up .. must come down. At some point, the blinders fall off, and we see that those we call gods and kings are just selfish, spoiled, narcissists, and that we are the toys and pawns they use to satisfy their own whims and urges.
2011 … “A new study co-funded by the Gates Foundation, however, portrays the ultrarich as lost souls burdened by the fears, worries and family distortions of too much money.”
Speaking from experience, I can tell you that it’s not necessarily true that you’ll get a whole lot wiser as you age. I’m just grateful to have had the chance to have a good number of years to get experience in dealing with the range of circumstances and individuals that have crossed my path.
If you are very lucky, you might live long enough to begin to get a sense of how others see the world. Having empathy for the different types of people you’ll encounter thru the years will smooth the jagged edges of most circumstances.
You will experience times in your life that will be confusing. Some moments might even be terrifying. Still others will be so delightful that you won’t want to ever move on from that pleasure .. and that, ironically, can impede our ebb and flow through the years we get to experience. A life is the sum total of a kaleidoscope of emotions, both good and bad.
Nobody gets a smooth ride from start to finish – well, nobody that you’ll ever know. Some begin their lives from behind the starting line, while other’s get a huge head start, and a leg up over the first obstacles.
Some even get carried to within mere feet of the finish line. But one thing I’ve learned the hard way is that there’s nothing to be gained from pointing out how badly or how well others are running this race. The only contestant that matters is YOU.
I’ve also had to take my lumps learning to enjoy where I am ‘right now,’ as opposed to where I’ll be at another time. As a young girl, I’d often pin my hopes on a day when I’d be old enough to make my own decisions. Of course, it never occurred to me that being a kid without responsibilities also had it’s up side.
It was probably right around that time that I also began to understand that responsibility works both ways, and that to blame others for my happiness or unhappiness was a mug’s game. I’m the only one who governs my beliefs and behaviours, as much as I’d like to point a finger at someone – anyone! – else.
Now, blaming drink or drugs for behaving badly… that I’ve done. But, no matter how much I’d like to slough off that truth, the plain fact is that I’m the one who decided to indulge in the drinks or drugs, so .. yep, still my fault.
In the same context, my better angels know that I should rise above judging others for what they do, since I not only have no idea what drove their decisions, I have no idea when I might need to beg their understanding for some shortcoming of my own!
There’s an old saying in show biz, that goes, “be nice to those you meet on the way up, because those are the same people you’ll meet on the way down.” And though most of us would prefer to believe we’ll never be on the way down – life has a way of opening our eyes to reality.
It’s probably best to just be nice to everybody. After all, being easy to get along with never hurt anyone in the long run.
Though, I’ll admit .. I can’t swear that I am advising that way of life from any real or personal knowledge; I’ve had my share of diva moments.
Sometimes I speak from experience, other times, from a sad point of observation.
Time is a tricky thing, and refuses to do what you think it should; when we’re young, we want to be old, and when we’re old, we wish we could be young again, but with the knowledge we developed through all of those long years.
Human nature makes us want what we do not have. Sometimes it drives us to personal betterment; sometimes it just drives us crazy.
When we’re working at a crummy day job, we can make the mistake of asking only to be able to hang in until it’s time to clock out, or until it’s the weekend, or our next holiday. Dreams are great .. but never dream your life away.
I have known people that kept on deferring any enjoyment of their life, always believing that better days were coming. Sadly .. they were wrong. And even if they HAD won that lottery, or married that model, what they’d have found was that anticipation and hope are always much more fun than getting everything we thought we always wanted. Those millions often come with strings attached, and supermodels aren’t necessarily all they appear to be. You just never know.
We live our lives day by day, not in giant gulps. It’s best to be like the Buddhists, and ‘be here now,‘ letting each moment have it’s due and it’s time … tomorrow comes much sooner than we expected.
Which reminds me – gravity sucks. I know this because it has effectively made some bits of me larger that I preferred smaller, while other bits are now much closer to the ground than previously. I’m even shorter than I was when I wasn’t all that tall to begin with. But things could be worse; none of my career aspirations, then or now, have ever had height requirements.
While there’s not a lot I can do about the sagging and bagging, I know that a big, warm, and heartfelt smile makes anyone more pleasing to the eye. I’m not gonna make any magazine covers, but I’m happy with who I am these days. And you’re not so bad yourself!
This aging stuff has responsibilities. There are many that will look to their elders, and assume that they are the keepers of wisdom. That’s not always true, of course – aging doesn’t guarantee wisdom. But if our years of experience have given us some knowledge and experience, it is incumbent that we share our best strategies, if we are asked.
I like to go a step further and share my ‘wisdom’ whether you like it or not. You’re welcome.
All I can say is, I’ve been a ‘senior citizen’ now for nearly a week, and it’s not anything as scary as I thought it was going to be. If that helps anyone who’s nearing the big day and feels a little nervous .. consider the alternative, and remember that there are many who never get the chance to grow older.
We ain’t done yet …. and with any luck, we never will be …
I didn’t have the best week, to be honest. On Tuesday, I learned that a very dear friend had passed away after a series of health setbacks. Scott Shelson was a good man; look up ‘mensch’ in the dictionary – his photo should be there.
Scott was not only a fabulous musician, he was movie star handsome, smart, funny, athletic, a great husband, and an amazing dad. He ran a courier company for years, and many a musician found a temporary or long term job there when they needed it.
At the family’s ‘Celebration of Life,” the scores of those who had come to honour Scott praised his commitment to his family and friends, saying that he was a man who had never been heard to raise his voice in anger, or have a bad word to say about anyone – even those who might have sinned against him in the past.
A good man – a big loss for those of us who loved and respected him.
Two days later, the world mourned the loss of another irreplaceable human being, when Aretha Franklin succumbed to pancreatic cancer. I can’t remember a world in which she was not a force to be reckoned with, not only in music, but in civil rights, and in her position as senior female spokesperson. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. baby…
Every musical entity on the planet .. and many non-musical entities … have written glowing tributes to the Queen of Soul. So, of course, the Orange Mango waved away the importance of her life and works when he dismissively referred to her as someone who once worked for him. Sigh. Money can’t buy class.
I do know that she was asked to perform at Dead Clown Walking’s inauguration, and vehemently refused to do so. Maybe in the fantasy carnival ride of his mind, he thinks she accepted. Who knows? Or cares?
“Though she largely refrained from publicly criticizing Trump during or after the 2016 campaign, two individuals with direct knowledge of her political opinions said she was repelled by the Republican standard-bearer, his policy prescriptions, and his rhetoric. One source close to Franklin told The Daily Beast that after the election, she confided to associates that “no amount of money” could convince her to perform at the inauguration.”
Orange Condom represents the worst America has to offer, but Miss Franklin showed the world the heights an American could achieve with a real love of her art and her country.
Rest in well deserved peace, Queen … we are richer for having had you in our lives.
While I’m not all that into astrology, August 16 is a very interesting and auspicious day for comings and goings. We lost Elvis Presley, the King of Rock n Roll, on that day, as well as Aretha, seminal blues guitarist, Robert Johnson, and baseball giant, Babe Ruth, while Madonna, Steve Carell, James Cameron, Angela Bassett and Kathie Lee Gifford were born on that day. And … August 16 is also National Bratwurst Day, National Roller Coaster Day, National Rum Day, and National Tell A Joke Day.
Things that make you go .. hmmm … and then pour a large rum and coke to go with your bratwurst, while you tell a joke about roller coasters.
In other news – the world just keeps getting more chaotic, and honest to pete, guys … can we just stop with the getting all up in our own selves, cherry picking facts, and doing a lemming-like march to every available cliff?
Being ‘woke’ is great when we’re in progressive mode. But when a huge slice of the electorate is obsessed with real and made up reasons to be frightened and angry, it’s time to get back to the middle-right, not the Middle Ages. People care a great deal about jobs, the economy, health care, education … and why their kids can’t make enough money to move the hell out of their basement.
Trying to get them to be more interested in deep states, conspiracy theories, and fiery deaths from either an apocalypse or a nuclear war is just asking too much from us on an every day basis. Especially in the summer. Especially this summer.
In a time when populist leaders like Trump and Ford are being voted in with self-proclaimed mandates to do whatever evil their warped little cerebral cortices coax them to do, we’ve got to pull way back from the sinking side of the Titanic.
There are days when I wonder if the ascent of these fools was engineered to wipe out the last of the intelligent baby boomers by having them stroke out, thus diminishing the costs of elder health care costs. But then I remember .. thee and me are still here.
There are other days when I look at America’s underbelly supporting the 72 Year Old Toddler, with their cries of “lock her up!” replacing, “She’s a witch!” and wonder just how very different things are today from how they were in the Dark Ages.
After all – it was the time between the fall of one Empire and the beginning of a renaissance. It was also another time of rejecting science and truth, and of painting bothersome women as witches or animals, with no rights.
Fake News? Oh.. the medieval scribes had an excuse for that!
“Titivillus the Error Demon: Some in the Dark Ages believed that the blame for any scribe’s error—big or small—fell squarely on the shoulders of this Muppet-lookin’ monster. The Titivillus ran with a bad crowd (aka Satan), so it made sense he’d do such devilish work.”
And how very different are the most rabid anti-abortionists beliefs from preformationism; the belief that “sperm carried homunculi, tiny versions of a fully-grown human. It had organs, eyes, a brain—everything a baby had when it was born. In the womb, this little thing just grew from microscopic to baby-sized.” (boredomtherapy.com)
You wanna know what brought about the end of the Dark Ages? It was the black plague, the development of the printing press and the decline of the Catholic church.
So … I guess we’re just waiting on that plague now?
History doesn’t repeat itself .. but sometimes it rhymes … or ..
My 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!”
There 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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.) After 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.”
In 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.
Yesterday 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?”
Frank 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!”
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.
Howie 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…
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.
Gary 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.”
Michael 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. Imissed 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.
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.”
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 minimumfive 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.”
We can thank the railroad companies of the world for the entire idea of time zones, which were basically established in the late 19th century in order to get the trains to run on some sort of consistent time. Prior to that, people just looked up at the sun to know what time it was. And at night, it was dark, so they didn’t need much more than a vague idea of the time.
First time zones, and then along came the concept of standard time, and suddenly we needed alarm clocks in order to get to school or work Oh yeah, the Industrial Age was a slave driver.
And here’s the thing – the railroads were such an enormous economic engine, all around the planet, that the replacement of sun time with standard time was enacted with no legislative backing, and very little public resistance.
When it came time to mess around with the time zones we’d landed up with, proponents of a ‘daylight saving’ bank pushed those who believed moving our clocks ahead by an hour during the months with the most sunshine, would reduce energy consumption and encourage people to get out and do things outdoors.
Well, they were partly right.
Moving the clocks ahead DID influence our behaviour. When the days are longer, later sunsets dramatically increase participation in after school sports programs, and increase paid attendance at pro sports events. Golf ball sales in 1918 increased by 20 percent. In fact, the entire golf industry was well served by daylight saving, with each DST month worth mega millions in additional sales and greens fees.
But energy savings? Not so much. In fact, studies have proven that North Americans use more domestic electricity when they are in daylight saving mode than when they are out. And, yes, they’re going to the park at night, but they’re driving there, so there’s no decrease in gasoline consumption.
We also didn’t have a lot of info, back then, on what messing around with our brain’s sense of time could do, and how changes impacting our sleep could do real harm to our society. We certainly know a lot more about that now.
It was on March 18, 1918 that American President Woodrow Wilson signed the Calder Act, requiring Americans to set their clocks to standard time. And less than two weeks later, on March 31, 1918, the nation’s first experiment with daylight saving began.
And was repealed within a year.
However, many of the larger American cities, including New York City, were setting their own daylight saving policies, apparently without requiring or asking permission of their government to do so. In 1920, it appears that it was the Chamber of Commerce that decided these matters.
How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm, after they’ve seen an increase in sales of everything from golf balls to summer fashion? By 1965, pretty much all of the states had a daylight saving program in effect. And have continued to practice that ‘savings’ ever since.
” There was a time US municipalities could choose whether or not to observe daylight saving. Then, as technology integrated different local economies, differing time changes and zones caused chaos and confusion. In 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which required whole states to fully commit to daylight saving.
States have the option of opting out, so long as the whole state stays on the same time. Arizona and Hawaii, for instance, don’t observe daylight saving. Florida is doing something different, in wishing to be on DST permanently, which requires congressional approval.”
Florida lawmakers are considering a “Sunshine Protection Act,” which would make daylight saving a year round reality.
By contrast, consider an experiment done in Queensland, Australia. After a three year trial of pushing their clocks ahead one hour during the summer months, the people had a referendum on the question, “Are you in favour of daylight savings?”
While there were many who argued that later daylight hours in the summer would be beneficial for both economic and public health, in the end the voters narrowly chose to abandon the practice, 54.5% to 45.5%.
The plain truth about daylight saving is that it was never about energy savings, health, or giving farmers an extra hour of light to work the farm.
It was always about corporations lobbying to sell more stuff. There are no energy savings. But we spend more money in those long summer evenings. The big winners during daylight saving are the candy lobby, the barbecue lobby, and the golf ball lobby.
Meanwhile, sleep deprivation experiments run on healthy people prove that less sleep leads to slower reaction times and an inability to handle tasks that require concentration.
“There’s some literature showing that there are increases in accidents, workplace, motor-vehicle accidents, and the severity of them is greater following the time change. And there research showing that even a small amount of sleep restriction, an hour or two, can have an impact on your ability to drive, and things like that. “
There’s a movement going on that wants to end the daylight saving programs all over the U.S. Lives are a lot more flexible now, and we tend to set our own schedules, morphing the hours we spend at work and play to fit what works for ourselves and our particular group of friends. We don’t do ‘event TV,’ anymore, we watch it when we feel like it. Our world is 24/7.
So, if we are no longer slaves to ‘official time,’ why change it twice a year? The Monday after the clock springs forward is notorious for having more car accidents, heart attacks, and the general grumpiness of sleepy people. Time to stop that artificial construct, and maybe save a few pedestrians lives …
Being apolitical, not having the need to follow the politics of your own country and others, is a privilege. It may not seem so, but the very fact that your life and identity does not hinge on the whims and laws of those in power, is a very big privilege denied to many.
Ai WeiWei, a Chinese artist and political activist, has lead an interesting life, most often at odds with authorities. His latest project is the documentary, Human Flow.
“Human Flow, an epic film journey led by the internationally renowned artist Ai Weiwei, gives a powerful visual expression to this massive human migration. The documentary elucidates both the staggering scale of the refugee crisis and its profoundly personal human impact.”
The trailer images made me weep. Even as countries harden their borders and hearts, the stream of refugees continues. This film should upset you, and make you think. It is only by the grace of your current place and status that you are not one of those fleeing,
And now, a delightful palate cleanser! I just discovered this wildly entertaining family, lead by John Wilhelm, an IT Director at a Swiss University.
The family – mother, father, three daughters and a son – are the subjects of Wilhelm’s surreal and imaginative photo manipulations.
It is a world of fantasy and imagination …
“Due to the fact that it’s more an obsession than plain passion I call myself a photoholic.” John Wilhelm.
Discover more of his wonderful art on Facebook at tuasmalou.ch, or visit his website for even more amazing images! http://www.johnwilhelm.ch/
Money and power have one very similar trait – neither are destructive at face value, but both become toxic when an obsessive love of either or both overrules a person’s basic humanity.
Both can be hoarded, without much censure. Many look at the very wealthy or very powerful, and envy their hoards. Even if the hoards consist of ill-gotten, or at the very least, suspicious, gains, morality ceases to matter in the face of a society that has elevated the acquisition of wealth over all other talents or abilities.
The ability to acquire wealth, by shrewdness or stealth, does not automatically confer godliness or any other talents upon the wealthy. To believe that someone who is rich is thus inevitably able to excel in other fields is misguided at best, and heinous when peddled as truth to those who have neither wealth nor common sense, and consequently, will literally “buy anything.”
I actually remember a time when it was considered ill-mannered and rude to brag about your wealth, your possessions, or yourself. Now, it’s not only allowed, it seems to be required of anyone who wishes to appear as a valuable commodity, ripe for exposure. Today, everyone has to have and hone a ‘brand.’
Music’s been tainted with this obsession. I can’t listen to most of the songs that extol mindless consumerism and waste of resources. And I can’t watch videos that equate the humiliation of others, professionally or sexually, with an enviable use of power. It is abuse, condoned and even applauded, by the easily entertained.
While it might not be politically correct, I also abhor the conceit that the portrayal of overly sexualized femininity makes the female artist more powerful. To the contrary, the music business is one of the most sexualized industries, and women artists have been routinely harassed and abused since they first entered the scene. You’re not ‘getting out front’ of being defined by your sexuality because you disrobed first – you’ve just made the task of undressing you easier for others to do. A woman is more than her sexual parts. In truth, we give away our power every time we need to look outside of ourselves to find acceptance, or a sense of our own worth.
An awful lot of what passes for popular music strikes me as the rantings of the terminally under-educated. There’s fourteen writers for some of the songs, and still they can’t avoid plagiarism and triteness. It’s not that the music of my era, or any other era, was that much ‘better,’ it’s that there seemed to have been more of an attempt to learn and grow, be it musically or spiritually, than there is now. Once, we built an art form from the bottom up. Now it’s deconstructed from the top down.
We are a confused society. First frightened by high tech, we’ve now embraced it with all the fervour of the newly converted. The very thought of being without the constant information available terrifies many; they challenge each other to undergo the horror of 24 hours offline. Or to eat a Tide pod. And the very idea of not having access to anything consumable we might fancy, at any time, seems something only the most disenfranchised would have to contend with.
Yes, we are a confused society. And thus – ripe for those who would take advantage of this seesawing state of mind by using the disorder to mould and shape the thoughts and opinions of those who gag at the glut.
Historians will look back at these times and wonder at our lack of sophistication, our inability to tell reality from fiction, our willingness to be led by social media trolls that rely upon our innate prejudices and biases to warp how we assess and treat each other. And they will marvel at how easily we would shed the rules of law to rush to the court of public opinion.
Too much of anything is as bad as too little. Both extremes warp our personalities.
We are soaking in media. We like to think that we’re capable of floating through the cacophony of noise, dissent, fear, and paranoia, interspersed with the odd moment of joy, and carry on multitasking our busy lives with ease. The truth is that we cannot. If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we have to acknowledge that doing several things concurrently means that not one of the tasks is actually getting all of our focus and care. Instead, all of our responsibilities are getting only as much of our distracted attention as we can spare, meaning none of them receive our very best efforts.
A few years back I realized how easily we fob off our inattention. When we stub our toes, or fail at a task, it’s human nature to seek a culprit to blame our error upon. Damn! we say, it’s not my fault! It was the stair’s fault for not being perfectly even, the bartender over served me, and that noise I heard made me lose focus! Once I had decided to take a mental step back whenever my knee-jerk excuses came into play, I realized that, almost inevitably, the misstep or blunder had to do with my own lack of attention and/or mental laziness.
If we’re honest with ourselves, there is really only one person to blame, and that is ourselves. But honesty, especially of and to ourselves, is something we learn to avoid at an early age, even before we become skilled at swearing that the dog ate our homework.
Some days, our lives feel too short, while on other days, it feels like an endless slog. The reality is somewhere in the middle. But we do ourselves no favours when we try to game the system, excuse our own foibles while pillorying other people’s errors, and live a life of self-deception and lies.
Sometimes an embarrassment of riches is just a pretty billboard concealing a reeking garbage heap. Knowing which is which is the hard part.