Thursday, March 31, 2016

March 31 - Afterimage

On my birthday, I heard the news of the passing of Karl Inge Refseth, a man who had quite the impact on me in my teens. When I was around 12 years old, I had my first encounter with role playing games, playing my very first game of Dungeons and Dragons with my good friend Jan Are at another friend's house. Jan Are and I had been exploring Fighting Fantasy books, which were like solo role-playing adventures where the books typically had 400 entries, and you read only the ones that you were steered to by your choices. For example, you could walk along a path and see a pouch laying on the ground. If you pick it up, you go to one numbered entry - and if you don't pick it up, you go to another one. Sometimes you ended up not making it through the adventure, and you started all over again. We were hooked on this, and we were really excited to try D&D. The first attempt didn't quite do it.

But not long after this, Trondheim's first gaming store opened up. It was called Spillspesialisten and it was housed right above one of my favorite record stores, Utopia. Talk about killing two birds with one stone. Anyway, the owner of Spillspesialisten was Karl Inge. I remember looking at all the games they had, including Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (ADD), which I had started playing - and I had started liking it. I think my favorite memory was when 2nd edition ADD was released and Karl Inge and his assistant Ronny seem to have had to hold people at arms length as the boxes were opened. This was in 1989, way before any internet marketing campaigns would tell us what the differences would be - so we were all very excited about getting this new edition with updated and hopefully more streamlined rules.

Karl Inge was also very instrumental when it came to me feeling at home in Hexagon, Trondheim's gaming club. I don't remember when I first went, but I remember going with Jan Are and feeling completely lost walking in the door. However, thanks to Karl Inge's generosity - as well as the generally open and accepting atmosphere in a club where I think Jan Are and I at that point were among the youngest, as most were college students, at least it seemed that way, and we still were in middle school - we felt quite at home and continued going for a long, long time.

My last memory of Karl Inge was one of the last times I was in Trondheim. I am thinking it was when I was there for Elin's wedding, which was in 2006. I saw a new gaming store I hadn't seen before - I think it was called Outland. I popped in and there he was again. Karl Inge. Just like he had been when I first started gaming. We chatted for a while - and as usual we touched on one of our shared favorite bands: Rush. So today's song is in memory of a very warm and generous man. It is also the one song that stands out to me when it comes to loss that has been written and recorded by Rush. From one of my personal favorite Rush albums, 1983's Grace Under Pressure, here is Afterimage.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

March 30 - With A Little Help From My Friends

First of all, I want to thank everybody who read the piece from yesterday. It was a difficult decision to publish it - but I really felt like it was the right thing to do. I was very happy to see that it wasn't read as a sympathy piece, because it wasn't meant that way. But the one part that was left out yesterday was the one that explained even more how I have been able to fight depression for as long as I have. Yes, I have had great therapists along the way (and shitty ones, as I alluded to yesterday), but what I have had that has been even better is friends and family. I had friends who didn't run away when I told them about my struggles back in '94, and I have been blessed with a fantastic family who all have been very supportive throughout.

I am not going to pretend that we don't know where I would have been today if it hadn't been for family and friends - so I just want to make sure I take the time to thank you. I am not going to make the award-speech mistake of naming people, because I would without a doubt leave someone out, and that sin of omission is one I don't want to commit at this point. But the one thing I do want to say is that there are a good number of you who might not realize how important you have been in keeping me going. You would be the ones who didn't know, but who spent time with me, be it in shorter or longer increments.

And those of you who knew and stood by me: Thank you. I am certain I at times sounded self-indulgent, and I am certain some of you would have wanted nothing more than for me to shut up already. But I still feel the love from those moments. The care. The unconditionality of your love and friendships. If I didn't seem grateful, I am sorry, because I truly was - and I still am.

Hillary Clinton is often credited with the phrase "It takes a village" - but in looking it up, it appears to be from a proverb from the Igbo and Yoruba peoples: "It takes a whole village to raise a child." While I wasn't a child when most of my struggles occurred, I am very happy that I have been blessed with the kind of village I have had. So I thank you all with the song of the day. This is one of those very rare occasion where I actually like a cover version of a Beatles song better than the original. In 1969, at Woodstock, unsuspecting Americans were exposed to the spastic talents of Joe Cocker, and this clip from the movie showcases the powerhouse he was on Ringo Starr's showcase With A Little Help From My Friends.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

March 29 - Alive

So I apparently reached 44. I wasn't always certain that I would, so the song of the day is very appropriate - even though the lyrics don't describe my life, they do describe how I feel, especially the chorus.

I have a choice on how open and honest I should be in this post, and I think I am landing on very. The truth is that there have been several stopping off places in my life where I thought it was time to exit it all. So, with that, let me take you back in time.

I don’t really remember the first time. It is coming to me in bits and pieces. I was 10, maybe 11. I only know this, because I remember what friend I talked to about it. He was a great guy – probably still is, but I haven’t seen him in 25 years or so. Back then, my bed was wooden, dark brown, and decorated with home-made Kiss stickers. Trading cards and double-sided tape. Kiss was all I was listening to. I had a red and black plaid wool scarf, and above my bed I had a reading light that was drilled securely into the wall. It was a darker orange lamp, almost red. I would practice tying the scarf to the lamp and tightening it around my neck. Not enough to leave any marks or passing out – but I was practicing. I didn’t think that I should be around anymore. But... It passed.
The second time was different. I remember the moment with vivid clarity. I was driving home after spending the evening with my girlfriend, the relationship was going well, the night was clear, and the moon bathed the snow covered landscape with the electric blue light only crisp winter nights can have. The music on my stereo was upbeat, and my life seemed better than ever. It was at that exact moment I realized that I wanted to die. I was 21, almost 22 then. It's been half a lifetime.

This time the feeling had a name: Depression. My depression snuck in with gentle reminders that I wasn’t as good as I should be. Actually, the word ‘should’ was the core element of my whole experience with depression. I find it interesting how one word like that can take over and control your whole life. For me, the word ‘should’ stole ten years of my life. Ten years where all my energy gradually was poured into hating myself for not living up to my own standards – I wasn’t who I ‘should’ be. 

The thing about depression is that it turns into one of those acquaintances who see you as a really close friend. The kind that knows you better than you want it to. The kind that doesn't really knock on the door but just comes in and starts making itself at home. The kind that always overstays its welcome. And the kind that insists on coming back even after you kick it out.

So it's been half a lifetime since I discovered depression and was able to put a name to it. But I really met depression way before then. I could trace that episode back to my junior year in high school - but I think I really met depression even younger than that. Like around 10 or 11. Maybe I knew this without realizing it when I in middle school decided I wanted to study psychology.

But I was 22 when I first tried to kick it out. It took all I had to tell my parents and a few select friends. My earlier mentioned relationship had ended, and I am positive some thought I was just heartbroken. However, I was convinced by my parents that I needed to see someone, so I went to a psychiatric nurse, who must have had some diploma mill degree, because all he said after I logically and analytically had explained what was going on was that I was resourceful enough to figure it out. I eventually found another therapist, one that worked - and then I had to find yet another one, and by the time I reached 27, almost a decade after what I could trace as a starting point to this episode, I did kick depression out.

So where am I today? Well... It still visits. It comes sitting at my bed from time to time. I am usually good at getting rid of it, but sometimes it takes a long time. A very long time. I think knowing it makes me a better counselor. Empathy comes easy for me - and it is very genuine. I work really hard to be less of who I 'should' be and more of who I genuinely am. I also pour some energy into working for suicide prevention. But most of all I try not to get too friendly with it when it visits. I have lived half my life knowing it - and I am not quite done yet. So for that reason alone, Pearl Jam's Alive is a triumphant shout out today, as I celebrate yet another year.

Monday, March 28, 2016

March 28 - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

I don't know when it happened, but at one point I realized that there was so much more to Elton John than Candle In The Wind, which is a great but overplayed song, and that incredibly horrible drivel called Nikita (if I hadn't discovered his 70s output, I would never have forgiven him for that). I know my parents had Blue Moves on vinyl, but that's not his finest 70s work. Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word is a great song, but that's about it.

But at one point I discovered what I consider his masterpiece: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. I still love that album - and today I will be playing the fantastic title track!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

March 27 - Batman

As I write this, I am sitting in the movie theater waiting for the lights to dim and Batman vs. Superman to start. On my way in, I realized that I have the perfect song to show my allegiance to Batman - and I am actually excited about Ben Affleck taking on the role.

The version I have of Batman is by avant garde saxophonist, composer and bandleader John Zorn from his Naked City project - a great project in its own right. I will get back with John Zorn later as well - and I might update this after the movie... But for now, here is Batman

Saturday, March 26, 2016

March 26 - Mountain

Like I said yesterday, Easter in Norway means you go to a cabin in the mountains. I know that's not what Motorpsycho's song is about, but I can't resist... "Someone turn the wheel before I drown..."

Friday, March 25, 2016

March 25 - Watching, Waiting

Easter is once again upon us, and while I am not a Christian, I have been a part of a more cultural tradition to celebrate Easter every year. I know that may seem strange - and to some even insensitive, but the fact remains that I grew up in a country that shuts down from Maundy Thursday through The Monday after Easter (with the exception of a few hours on Saturday, which is called Easter Eve - Monday after Easter is known as the second day of Easter). On these five days, it appears to be mandated that Norwegians pack their skiing gear, chocolate, and mystery novels and have their annual pilgrimage to the mountains, preferably a cabin about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the nearest place to park. And yes, we get our Easter eggs, which are the size of ostrich eggs and filled to the brim with all sorts of good candy. Then I moved to the US, where the Easter egg hunt is a necessity. Still far more cultural than religious in nature - but here there is more focus on the message of Easter than back in Norway.

And all of that brings us to today, which is Good Friday - a Friday that really is anything but good. Just think about it: Crucifixion was a torturous way of killing the most heinous and vile offenders - and to dissuade rebellion, which is why 6,000 followers of Spartacus' rebellion were crucified on the road between Rome and Capua. In Norway, we refer to it as Long Friday, which is a lot more appropriate, in my humble opinion (I am trying to avoid too many acronyms here - writing in long hand is still my style). I can see that the message about resurrection is good, but I cannot in good conscience call the long, slow, torturous execution good. Of course, I could start going on a rant here (as if I haven't started) about using an instrument of torture and execution as the symbol of a religion, but others have done that before me - and probably better than I'd ever do it as well - so I will let it be.

Now, before you stop reading completely (yeah, I know, it might be too late for that), I will say that I actually respect Easter - and I respect religion and religious people. I didn't always use to - I remember pulling out Christian records from a collection of a friend at a party and laughing at the titles when I was a teenager. That's over and done with now. I cannot go back and change that - and to be honest, while I wish I hadn't done it, knowing that I did and realizing what impact that might have had on others, has made me a better person now - at least I think it has.

So, in picking a song for today, I thought about Long Friday, and I started wondering if I have any music that matches it. Then I remembered that I just had realized that a song that has more the feel of a romantic power ballad actually is about Long Friday. The band Extreme is most known for More Than Words from their second album, Pornografitti, but working at the rock show at Radio Ung in the late 80s, I remember picking up their debut album from Rockin' (Trondheim's best rock and metal record store which let us borrow one new record a week to play). While my favorite song was Mutha (Don't Wanna Go To School Today), a fun romp about wanting to have fun rather than learning, another song that really stuck with me was today's song of the day: Watching, Waiting.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

March 24 - Karen Revisited

My first meeting with Sonic Youth was the Murray Street album, which was released in 2002. While some hailed it as a return to form, others thought it was too boring. For me, it was a realization of the main contrast I seek in music: dissonance and harmony.

I remember being asked by friends if I had listened to Sonic Youth around the time Motorpsycho was experimenting heavily with noise, as Sonic Youth was one of their early influences, but I hadn't really listened to them. I remember Vegard having the collection Screaming Fields of Sonic Love, but I never got it. But then, thanks to online sources, I listened to Murray Street. And from there I found Daydream Nation and Dirty, and all of a sudden I was a convert.

Now, being a convert did not mean an indiscriminate acceptance of everything they have done. I am still having a hard time listening to the releases prior to Evol and Sister, which is when they really found their form. However, I still seek out some earlier tracks from time to time - maybe none as much as Death Valley '69 from Bad Moon Rising.

Karen entered Lee Ranaldo's songs with Karen Koltrane from A Thousand Leaves (1998), and on Murray Street she is back on Karen Revisited. I really like Ranaldo's approach to songwriting - and he is the one Sonic Youth member that I really am enjoying in his post-SY work. Here is Karen Revisited with the perfect tension between dissonance and harmony.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

March 23 - Suds & Soda

There are some connections you really don't want to make. For instance, hearing about a terrorist attack in Europe is bad enough to begin with, but when you start narrowing it down further to a small country like Belgium, then the Brussels area, until you finally hear that Zaventem airport was one of the targets and you realize that this is exactly the place where someone who is so good a friend that you count him as family lives, and you start getting really worried, especially with a rising death toll.

This is also where the power of Facebook really shows. Arve and Kateleijn and all three boys were checked in as safe and I could breathe easier. I tend to be pretty reserved when it comes to terrorist attacks, but this one hit me pretty close to the heart. I just want to say for the record that I am glad you all are safe - and let me add that although this attack was made by Muslim extremists (ISIS has at least claimed responsibility for it), this is no time to panic and blame all Muslims or immigrants for this deed. Of course, this is easy for me to say from where I am sitting - but with Donald Trump making this one of the cornerstones of his presidential campaign, it applies here as well.

Now I am not one to post pictures with the Belgian colors or proudly proclaim that we are all Belgians today. However, I think it is important to recognize Belgium, and what better way than to dig out one of my favorite alternative bands of the 90s, dEUS, who just so happen to come from Belgium. I first heard of them in Studentradioen, and then a few years later, Arve bought The Ideal Crash for me for my birthday. Today's song is a great example of how I like songs with dissonance and resolution. The violin that keeps playing the same thing over and over again creates tension and dissonance that gets released in the chorus, elevating this song way higher than it would be with just the basic melody. R.E.M. Would later use a very similar trick in the song Leave, but today's song is the opening song of dEUS' Worst Case Scenario album from 1994, Suds and Soda.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Match 22 - John Coltrane Stereo Blues

It's hard to decide on a song for today. After yesterday's roller coaster with surgery and hospitals and doctors' visits, I don't quite know what to play. Or what I want to hear. Yesterday's song was more appropriate than I wanted to be given the days' chaotic nature, so today I need something equally appropriate - but I am stuck.

Or rather I was stuck. Once again, a song starter materializing. Mirroring the monotony of a hospital with its single chord as well as the chaos going on in a day with appointments and surgeries, The Dream Syndicate's John Coltrane Stereo Blues is the perfect companion to a night at the hospital. This song is from the fantastic The Medicine Show from 1984, and it's a song that bandleader and songwriter Steve Wynn keeps taking out on long and meandering excursions when he plays it live. To me it's a masterpiece - but to others it's an acquired taste...

Monday, March 21, 2016

March 21 - Fugazi

It's Monday again, and the wold isn't looking any better than it did last week. Trump is gathering his red caps, taking his flirt with fascism closer and closer to the 1930s Germany every day (not that anyone who supports him will agree with me there, but that's what I get for living in a country that looks down on education). Over and over again I hear the phrase "the world is totally Fugazi" in my mind, and I realize it is the song that is bursting out, trying to break free, so I will set it free. The word Fugazi is reportedly an acronym - but I'll let you look it up. Suffice it to say that it really means that things are going to hell in a handbasket (apparently they don't have metal detectors at the entrance to hell).

This song is from the 80s, from the first Marillion - although there isn't really a first and a second Marillion officially - but the line was drawn when extremely tall and larger than life Scottish singer Fish (Derek Dick - I think I'd choose Fish as a name as well) was ousted and replaced with far more mild mannered h. (Steve Hogarth). There are four studio albums in the canon of the first Marillion, and the title track from the second album is as appropriate today as it was in Reagan and Thatcher's world of 1984. Do you realize the world is totally Fugazi?

Sunday, March 20, 2016

March 20 - Heartattack and Vine

Tom Waits came into my life very gradually. I read about him before I heard him, and I tried liking him before I liked him. My first real encounter was when Frode Lauareid mad a mixtape for me. Frode was a very good guy that I encountered in my work for DNTU, which I have talked about before. His musical taste was very eclectic as well, and the tape had a lot of very interesting music on it, including the song 16 Shells From A Thirty Ought Six by Tom Waits, which was the first song I heard and really liked of his. I had seen his albums Rain Dogs and Swordfishtrombones (which is where the song was from) figuring highly on music critics' lists of best albums of the 80s, but I didn't quite get him. That is until I listened to the mixtape and things started to make sense to me.

Following his career is very interesting as well. He started out in a jazzy piano sense, with a gravelly voice that still had a lot of good and round tone to it and wrote great songs, like Old 55, The Heart of Saturday Night, and I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You, but a dramatic change started with the album Heartattack and Vine from 1980. The gravel in his voice was cultivated into little rocks, and he sounded more and more like a town crier. This in turn was augmented by a change in instrumentation from a very heavy reliance on piano to harder percussive instruments, such as marimbas - and with more of a percussive use of the piano as well. His band in the 80s also included Marc Ribot, who has a guitar tone that fit his music perfectly.

The thing with Tom Waits is that even when his voice sounds like a barking sea lion, it really fits the overall musical picture he is painting. He is a true artist with a very clear vision, and that vision started crystallizing with Heartattack and Vine, a song that was covered by Screaming Jay Hawkins and used in a Levi's commercial - yet nothing surpasses the original.

One of the clever lines in the lyrics of Heartattack and Vine is "Don't you know there ain't no devil, there's just God when He's drunk." In my late teens and early twenties, I was a lot more militant about my lack of religious belief, and liking this quote, I decided that it would make a nice signature line for my email. That was all fine and dandy, but I also was trying to do some fundraising for the teetotaler children's organization at that point - and I made the mistake of using my personal email. Needless to say, my signature line backfired. I got a response from someone who first politely informed me that they didn't have any funds available - then made an equally polite note of my signature line and informing me that even if they had money available, the quote was so offensive that they wouldn't have let us have any grant money regardless. To me, that was a very humbling moment - and it has become one that I do use to stress the importance of professionalism.

But enough talk (although I had to make up for yesterday) - here is Heartattack and Vine.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

March 19 - Yesterday Is Here

Sometimes I really can't wait for yesterday to get here.

Friday, March 18, 2016

March 18 - All Things Must Pass

How does it feel to be a great guitar player, a great song writer, and a great singer and know that regardless of what you do - and how well you do it - it will always be compared to arguably the greatest songwriter duos of all time because you spent 12 years in a band with them? Of course, the alternative way of looking at it is how incredibly lucky he was to be able to grow up and into music along with the same two men - but regardless of how you view it, Paul McCartney and John Lennon cast mighty big shadows, and it would have been hard for anyone to get out into the sun with those two always looming closely.

The man I am talking about is, of course, George Harrison. The quiet Beatle. The one who lost his first wife to his best friend, Eric Clapton - yet remained friends with him. I'll choose to stop there - knowing there were other sides of him as well. But the George Harrison I choose to remember was quiet, stoic, and an immense talent that always was overshadowed by Lennon/McCartney. He was the youngest Beatle, but he was also the Beatle that led the other three spiritually towards Hinduism - and while it didn't stick with the others, he remained a Hindu for the rest of his life.

When George Harrison died in 2001, I found out at a hotel room in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I was there because of a new job I had started - I was a Student Services Assistant at Montcalm Community College, and their student management system (SMS) was Jenzabar, who had their headquarters in Harrisonburg. I was excited to go on this trip - the first real business trip ever, and I had arranged to stay a little longer than the training - it would keep airfare down, which more than paid for the very modest accommodations I required. I did not have a rental car there, and that was a mistake. While there actually was public transportation that also came very close to my hotel, it did not run often and it had longer distances to walk. But - I still prevailed. Staying the extra two days without money to get a rental for myself became an exercise in futility. I remember stumbling over a movie theater that showed From Hell, the Johnny Depp movie about Jack the Ripper based on Alan Moore's seminal graphic novel, but aside from that, I was cooped up in my hotel room for a couple of damp and rainy days with next to no money (we didn't have much extra at all).

And then, to top it off, the news came that George Harrison had died. I was sitting in my hotel room, thinking about conversations I had overheard at a local Italian restaurant about what a good kid so an so was. Of course, I didn't know the people talking - or who they were talking about - but it gave me a lot of good ideas; ideas that still need to be put into action (read: converted to a book). But I do remember that the news hit me with the proverbial ton of bricks. I don't know what made him my favorite Beatle, but I think it was his very unassuming nature. I greatly appreciate his deep religious devotion - even though I am not religious in the least myself. I respect his desire to share his religion - but I never felt he was pushy about it (not even on My Sweet Lord). He wrote a few of my favorite Beatles songs: While My Guitar Gently Weeps, I Me Mine, and If I Needed Someone are high on my list in addition to the more commonly referred to Taxman, Something, and Here Comes the Sun. I have since come to appreciate a little more of his solo work as well - especially the title track to his first proper solo album (the first one that wasn't all instrumental), All Things Must Pass

Thursday, March 17, 2016

March 17 - The End

I can't tell you what year it was, but I can tell you what impact it had on me. I was a member of Trondheim Filmklubb (TFK) for a good number of years. I believe I started in high school, as I had two good friends, Vegard Nørstebø and Rune Sandnes, who both were members of TFK, and I was curious enough to join as well. Vegard and Rune didn't know one another, but both of them had a huge influence on my taste in movies because they inspired me to join - and I did.

A film club, at least the way they operate in Norway, is a club that books a wide range of movies for screenings - in Norway they are also part of a network, so the import and screening costs are kept down a little - and they tend to specialize in what in the US is considered Arthouse films; movies that fall outside of the mainstream. When I first joined TFK, they had matinees at 1 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, and a 11 pm screening Wednesday night - and I tried to go to all of them. Membership was inexpensive, and so were the tickets for the individual screenings.

Anyway, I really remember sinking into the chair in the movie theater to watch Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now! This was before the resurgence of the movie through Apocalypse Now! Redux and Heart of Darkness - and I really didn't quite know what to expect. However, from the first few seconds I was sucked into an experience that not only was visually spectacular, but that blended music and picture in a way that completely changed the way I looked at music in movies.

While the very first image of palm trees that suddenly catch fire is powerful enough, the part that really sticks with me is the transition from helicopter blades to a ceiling fan - and Martin Sheen's tormented Captain Willard in a hot and sticky room. And while all this is going on, The Doors are gradually building the music behind Jim Morrison's very disturbing words... "This is the end, my only friend, the end..." If I hadn't been turned on to The Doors before watching Apocalypse Now!, I certainly was after that opening scene... And all this came back to me on Tuesday, as I was sitting waiting for my breaks to get fixed and The Doors came over the sound system at the shop. The End still does it for me!

The opening scene doesn't have the same impact when it's not on the big screen, but I have included it here to show you what I am talking about.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

March 16 - Weight

In the days before the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Isis could be one of three things. Most people had heard of the Egyptian god, quite a few had heard the spectacular Bob Dylan song of the same name, and then there was the band Isis. Led by Aaron Turner on guitar and vocals, a hugely talented musician and visual artist with a strong artistic vision, co-founders Jeff Caxide on bass and Aaron Harris on drums were also with the band until the end. The line-up that was active for just about their entire career (all regular releases) was rounded out by Bryant Clifford Meyer on guitar, keyboards, and electronics, and Michael Gallagher on guitar.

I was introduced to Isis at Vertigo Music. In 2009, they had just released their final album, Wavering Radiant, and it was playing as I entered the store. I loved their aesthetics, both visually and sonically, so I did what I always do: I went back and completed their discography for my collection. Isis was formed in 1997, and they released a couple of EPs in the 90s with earlier members, but by 2000 they had found the lineup that lasted until they broke up in 2010. I greatly respect their decision to break up the band, because their statement was very clear and simple: "This end isn't something that occurred over night and it hasn't been brought about by a single cataclysmic fracture in the band. Simply put, ISIS has done everything we wanted to do, said everything we wanted to say. In the interest of preserving the love we have of this band, for each other, for the music made and for all the people who have continually supported us, it is time to bring it to a close." I only could wish that other bands did the same.

By the time of their second album, Oceanic, from 2002, they had really gone from having a very abrasive sound to building things slowly. The abrasive elements would be there throughout their career, but their songs were all about building and layering, and Weight from Oceanic is a great example of this - although it doesn't have the abrasive elements - at least not to my ears or the same extent as some of the other songs.

Isis isn't for everyone. Some days they aren't even for me. That goes with a lot of the music I listen to. Some of the music I listen to has elements I can't stand unless I am in the right frame of mind for it. I can't listen to the most aggressive metal I like unless I am ok with a wall of sound punctuated by someone imitating cookie monster while belting out obscenities and perversions. But there are days when I am not just ok with it, I need it - or at least crave it. I can't listen to jazz or the more complex music I listen to unless my mind is ready to fully engage with the music either. I don't expect that part is very different from a lot of people, but I do find it interesting that there are days when I can't stand some of my favorite music. Today, though, it is all about the water. All about Weight.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

March 15 - Space Truckin'

  Some days, traveling to Albuquerque is just not taking you too far enough away. On days like that, it's really nice to have Deep Purple take you all the way out into outer space.  In the early 70s, there was just not any other band quite like Deep Purple. Their Mark II line up was as talented group of musicians as you could find. The rhythm section, with left-handed drummer Ian Paice and bassist and producer Roger Glover laid down a great groove that the rest could play with. Classically trained Jon Lord distorted the living daylight out of his Hammond B-3 organ, playing heavy chords as proficiently as the classically inspired runs, and his style allowed guitarist extraordinaire Ritchie Blackmore to play all over and all around the rest of the band while Ian Gillan stretched his vocal chords higher than any man should.

In August, 1972, touring behind the great album Machine Head, they found themselves in Japan. Hiring in Martin Birch as an engineer, they brought recording equipment to their shows, and the shows were recorded and this helps make it a a stellar live document. According to Jon Lord, there are very few, if any, overdubs on this spectacular live performance of this extremely powerful band. Here is Space Truckin'.

Monday, March 14, 2016

March 14 - Albuquerque

 In 1975, Neil Young released Tonight's the Night, which has become my favorite album of his. It's part of what is known as the "ditch trilogy." It's very dark in that ditch.  The title track is a very dark song about the dangers of the drug abuse, but today's song is about escaping everything. At least that's how I choose to hear it.  I think it's time to book a ticket to the hometown of Breaking Bad, the city with my favorite name ever: Albuquerque.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

March 13 - Stone Cold Crazy

When Metallica released their self-titled album also known as the black album in 1991, they became what undoubtedly is the most commercially successful metal band ever - at least through today, in 2016. The lead single off the album was Enter Sandman, which was a monster of a song and, honestly, shows just how damned good Metallica can be. Looking back at the album as a whole, it hasn't stood the test of time, at least not with me. I always go five years back to find their masterpiece: Master of Puppets. That doesn't mean that Metallica wasn't a good album, but it was the single Enter Sandman that still resonates with me the most. It didn't hurt that they took a great Queen song and made a cover of it to put as the b-side. I bought it when it was released, and I still love Metallica's version. Today's song is dedicated to Donald Trump and all his supporters: Stone Cold Crazy.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

March 12 - Civil War

So far I have avoided the two bands who moved what in most of my teenage years had been fringe music into the mainstream in 1991. Metallica, who only 5 years earlier drew next to violent reactions removing them from the tape deck when I tried playing Master Of Puppets at parties, and Guns'n'Roses, who continued their mainstream success, both released albums in the fall. Metallica delivered a single, concentrated dose of their signature riffs, but with a more melodic approach than before, whereas Guns'n'Roses indulged Axl Rose in a sprawling double double album release (Use Your Illusion I & II were both double albums and released on the same day).

I was lucky enough to discover GnR when they were on their way up. My friend Geir had bought Appetite for Destruction, and I taped that along with David Lee Roth's Skyscraper on a 90 minute tape that I pretty much wore out. I also watched an early live concert that was broadcast on Sky Channel that further cemented my admiration for the band, and I was eagerly awaiting GnR's new albums in the fall of 1991.

I have said it before that if Guns'n'Roses had employed a producer that helped them narrow their songs down from two double albums to one single album, they could have made one of the best, if not the best, rock album ever. Instead they did too much, and the majority of songs were not really all that good at all. However, since the republicans currently are trying to get us back into a civil war, Captain America is also taking us there in the movies, and Guns'n'Roses are bringing the lineup that offered some of the best sleazy rock'n'roll of the 80s, I thought that the song Civil War could be a good song for today. From what I understand and have heard on various bootleg recordings, GnR was one of the best live acts of the late 80s and early 90s until they finally imploded over a period of three years, from 1994-1997 (although they really were over following their recording of Sympathy for the Devil in 1994).

I spent the summer of 2012 peering over three books that chronicled Guns'n'Roses from three different perspectives. Slash, Duff McKagan, and Steven Adler had all written their own accounts of what had happened. Adler got himself ousted from GnR for drug abuse. How messed up is that? Slash and McKagan were in it for the music, got caught up in the drugs, but came out on the other side (supposedly - although I actually believe it is the case for both of them). The books are interesting, and they all have in common that they talk about Axl Rose's incredible ego. I am not a fan of Mr. Rose, but I think the band he had behind him was top notch, and it's a shame it ended the way it did, with him continuing to use the band name. How good the band was can be heard in Velvet Revolver, where most of GnR teamed up with another junkie as a singer, Scott Weiland, although his voice and charisma completely outshone Mr. Rose. Unfortunately we did lose Scott Weiland last year.

Anyway, today's song is the last song to feature Steven Adler, who was replaced by Matt Sorum for all other songs on both Use Your Illusion albums, and it is an epic song that is well worth a listen still today. Here is Civil War.

Friday, March 11, 2016

March 11 - Blood Sugar Sex Magik

Today is Arve's birthday, and I think that I need to pick a song for him. While I really should find some ZZ Top, I decided to stay in 1991 and found Red Hot Chili Peppers, whose Rick Rubin produced masterpiece Blood Sugar Sex Magik also was released that year. It was their mainstream breakthrough as well, with songs like Give It Away and Under The Bridge becoming megahits, but for me, the title track is by far my favorite song off the album.

Some friends you just know will be with you for a lifetime, and for me, Arve is one of those friends. We have seen a lot together, and although we've barely lived in the same city since we graduated high school in 1991, we keep staying in touch. I studied for Examen Philosophicum with him in the fall of 1991 - the all-nighter we pulled has become a great teachable moment I continue to use when I talk about study skills in the classes I teach - and he was one of the reason I decided to try to study anthropology - although he stuck with it and I didn't. He was my first bandmate and the first person I ever wrote music with. And I think I still can claim that I taught him how to play the guitar - although he took it places I'd never go.

And then there is the shared love for horror and role playing games in the realms of H.P. Lovecraft. And that is really why today's song was chosen on his birthday. Call of Cthulhu is a roleplaying game set in the 1920s - or in the 1990s with the Cthulhu Now expansion - and we played that like there was no tomorrow. Both our minds are warped, so there was definitely blood and magic in the scenarios we played through. So Arve, this one's for you!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

March 10 - Rain

Yesterday's news are still reverberating. I was hoping that the string of deaths of great musicians would have ended, but yesterday, the news that George Martin had died surfaced. As someone with an above average interest in The Beatles even in my childhood, I believe I know how instrumental he was in their success and their growth as musicians and composers.

I remember reading about him in the book Historien om The Beatles (The Story of The Beatles), a biography written for young adults (maybe even children - I don't think I was very old when I read it - I had a phase in elementary school when I was completely hooked on biographies). I think he was the very first record producer I knew about - and as such, he helped spur an unhealthy obsession with reading record covers, and eventually following producers as much as artists in some cases (such as Daniel Lanois, whom you might remember from a track I shared earlier this year).

George Martin was a musical genius, and his experience working with classical music clearly helped The Beatles as they started using string quartets (Yesterday) and orchestras (A Day In The Life). He also knew how to push them - and he came from a place of love for the four musicians that grew into a love for their music as well. His role can never be overstated - including his role in experimenting with studio equipment, which is clearly present in the song Rain, where he took it upon himself to play John Lennon's vocal backwards towards the end, creating an eerie effect that was new to rock music.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

March 9 - Chocolate Cake

Today's song is in celebration of Sammy, who so happens to turn 22 today. She came into my life when I started dating her mother, Christine, in the summer of 2013. I always have a hard time finding the right word for our relationship, but I am considering her my daughter and love her like she was my own flesh and blood. Anyway, I do believe that birthdays should be celebrated with cake, and I am particularly fond of chocolate cake.

"Not everyone in New York would pay to see Andrew Lloyd Webber
May his trousers fall down as he bows to the queen and the crown"

A more irreverent way to open an album - and a song - is difficult to find. Andrew Lloyd Webber is as far as I have been able to see the richest musician in the world, outworthing (I like that word... I think it's new) greats like Elton John and Paul McCartney. The band was Crowded House, the album was Woodface, which ranks really high on my list of great pop albums, and the song was Chocolate Cake. They have a nice acoustic sound to them on this album, with great vocal harmonies by brothers Neil and Tim Finn. I think my friend Are was the one who really turned me on to Crowded House and let me borrow (and tape) Woodface. I had heard and greatly enjoyed their first hit single, Don't Dream It's Over from 1986, but I had not heard a full album until I listened to Woodface, which is packed with great songs: It's Only Natural, Four Seasons In A Day, Fall At Your Feet, and Weather With You, to name 4 out of the first 7 songs on the album (5 if you include the song of the day, Chocolate Cake). It is produced by Mitchell Froom, who also produced Elvis Costello's Mighty Like a Rose (from March 5) and Richard Thompson's Rumour and Sigh (yesterday).

The thing about Woodface is that I don't necessarily have any specific memories attached to it, aside from playing it over and over again at Helmen Kurssenter, which was a place that held several conferences and seminars I attended throughout the 90s. The one specific time I am thinking about, Woodface was played side by side with Lou Reed's Magic and Loss, which is a great contemplative album, so it must have been 1992 by the time this happened. However, when I think about Woodface, I always get in a good mood. It's like just remembering the music from the album lifts my mood. It's been a while since I listened to it, but looking at a list of albums from 1991, I saw it again and promptly purchased the digital version at, which happens to be my main dealer - maybe even pusher - of music, which remains my drug of choice. Next to chocolate cake, of course...

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

March 8 - Read About Love

Today's song is a real gem in terms of funny lyrics. Richard Thompson has been a favorite of mine since Thomas Ekrene introduced me to him, and in 1991 he released the album Rumor and Sigh, produced by Mitchell Froom, who really was busy that year helping create several very good albums. Richard Thompson is a great guitar player, and while 1952 Vincent Black Lightning is the best known song on Rumor and Sigh - and possibly the best song as well, I have chosen Read About Love as the song of the day. I really like the humor in the frustrated boy/man trying to read his way to the secret of women's sexuality. What better way to recognize the international women's day? I will leave this without any further comment - just make sure you listen to the lyrics.

Monday, March 07, 2016

March 7 - Carousel

I am sticking with 1991, probably through this entire week as well - although that is not quite determined yet. But it was a really good year for music, and one of my favorite albums released that year didn't really click with me until a few years later. Mr. Bungle was by many seen as Mike Patton side project to the vastly more successful Faith No More; however, in looking at everything he has said, it is clear that he rather considered Faith No More his side project - he had been heavily invested in Mr. Bungle from his high school days.

Mr. Bungle is not easy music to listen to. I know that I, in my younger years, pretended to like and understand the music more than I did. As a matter of fact, when I purchased this album after listening to parts of it in the record store, I was convinced I was buying a shelf stuffer that would just be collecting dust. However, I took it out from time to time, and when I started working in Studentradioen i Bergen, people started playing the song Carousel often enough that it finally clicked. I found their second album, Disco Volante, in 1995, when I was back home in Trondheim, I think for Christmas break. I didn't know they had released a second album, so I still remember the excitement I had for the album - and how that was really difficult to listen to (even more so than the first). February 23, 1996, I went to see them in Oslo at Rockefeller Music Hall, and they barely played anything from the first album, which I knew well, and focused on Disco Volante and experimental interludes. Needless to say, I had a very different experience than I was hoping for - it would have been quite different today, 20 years later.

However, Mr. Bungle is well worth the time to listen to, so here is today's track: Carousel from their self-titled debut album released in 1991. Call it circus metal - call it what you will - I just call it good music.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

March 6 - Smells Like Teen Spirit

Can't avoid Nirvana when talking about 1991. And for the record: While Nevermind is a good record, Kurt Cobain is extremely overrated. Maybe he would have proven himself to be as consistently great as his legend, but it one great and two good studio albums isn't enough for me. Oh well. Whatever. Nevermind.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

March 5 - After The Fall

I don't think I ever want to let 1991 go. After I started looking back at it, there was so much good music released that year, music that I almost started forgetting about. One album that I didn't discover in 1991, was Elvis Costello's Mighty Like A Rose. I think my interest in Elvis Costello started in 1994, when I picked up a copy of The Very Best Of Elvis Costello & The Attractions. Of course, my good friend and fellow immigrant Svein Ola had been listening to him for a long time by then, and he had tried convincing me of Costello's greatness years before (in particular I remember him pointing out King of America and Imperial Ballroom as great albums), but it wasn't until I was at a book- and record store in Molde while I was at Hustad Leir as part of the community service I did as a conscientious objector to military service.

After picking up the compilation album, I started doing what I so often do, which is to dive deeper into the artist's discography, and I eventually got to the solo albums, Spike and Mighty Like A Rose, released in 1989 and 1991, and the adventurous music they contained. Today's song is a fairly lamenting song that lifts the minor to the major in the chorus. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Friday, March 04, 2016

March 4 - Black

While many people found religion in Nirvana in 1991, I was not a convert. I have already covered my love for Soundgarden, but there was another band out of Seattle that was almost as important and powerful for me, and that was Pearl Jam. I remember driving in my dad's car, listening to Ungdommens Radioavis, the main radio program for youth in Norway at that time, and they presented this new album by a new band. The album was Ten, and the band was Pearl Jam. I don't remember if they did a feature presenting the album, interviewed them, or reviewed the album, but I remember being blown away by what I heard, and I promptly purchased the CD and taped it so I could listen to it in the car.

Pearl Jam was different than both Soundgarden and Nirvana. Their music was intensely emotional, yet powerful, and while I didn't pick up on it then, their love for The Who and their approach to music is evident even on Ten. However, rock journalists were trying to put a name to all the music that came out of Seattle, and labeled it grunge, which I believe has to have been one of the worst descriptors of a so-called music scene in the history of rock journalism. In my eyes, what appeared to have happened was that there was a very active music scene in Seattle, and Sub Pop records (regarded as the "grunge" label) was the main label that was willing to back the different bands that were emerging - and rather than having a unified sound, they had a unified passion for what they were doing (if you ever want to get an idea of the diversity of the Seattle music scene in the early 90s, listen to the soundtrack to Cameron Crowe's movie Singles - there is a huge difference between Soundgarden's Birth Ritual, Pearl Jam's Breathe, and Screaming Trees' I Nearly Lost You). But regardless of what I might think about the music scene or the grunge label, I really connected with Pearl Jam.

Beyond my personal connection with Pearl Jam, I believe that Ten simply is one of the all-time best debut albums of any band. I know I am not alone in believing this - a Rolling Stone Magazine readers' poll ranked it at #1 along with Appetite for Destruction by Guns'n'Roses. I am hard pressed to find fillers on the album, as the low points still are high - and the peaks... Just wow.

At any rate, Ten was a huge part of my soundtrack of 1991 and 1992. I think I wore out the tape I made of it, and the CD is well worn to the point that when it was rereleased a couple of years back, I picked up a new copy. One of my favorite tracks on the album is Black, which I decided to share today.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

March 3 - Like A Hurricane

So it was 1991, and one of the releases that year was from a veteran rocker named Neil Young. He had taken his backing band Crazy Horse on tour, supported by Sonic Youth, and a live document from that tour was released in the form of Weld, a double live album. When it was first released, it also featured the album Arc, which was a mix of feedback and distortion (read: noise) that was mixed together greatly inspired by (and suggested by) Sonic Youth. I purchased the double cassette and listened to it very heavily on my Walkman. It may seem strange now to hear that I purchased a lot of my music on cassette, but it really was a cost-saving measure. I preferred CDs, as I had just purchased my first CD player in January 1991, and I still loved vinyl, but I didn't have a portable player for either of those media (and, come to think of it, an LP Walkman would have been quite unpractical), so I would have to tape the albums to listen to them on the go, and blank tapes was an added expense I couldn't afford. So some of my favorite albums I did purchase on the inferior cassette medium.

However, 1991 was a very transitional year for me. It was the year I graduated high school and started the first of my attempts at getting a university education. It was also the year I really started being very active on the national level in DNTU (Norwegian Teetotaling Youth Organization), accepting the elected position of rusgiftpolitisk leder, which meant that I was responsible for looking at drug and alcohol policy as a part of the elected board. This was a 2-year position, but the other big thing that happened at this year's national convention was that DNTU voted to start the merger process with NGU, another teetotaling youth organization, a merger that was scheduled to be finalized (or turned down) at a joint national convention in 1992.

As a member of the national board, I was invited to a ball at a Swedish castle, celebrating our Swedish sister organization UNF's anniversary - at least I think it was an anniversary, my memory is a little fuzzy, and internet was not yet prevalent (and I haven't found any records indicating what really was going on - I think I might have more information buried in my parents' basement, but it might also have been pitched). We stayed downtown Stockholm at a small hotel, and I remember playing Weld on my Walkman, for the first time really starting to see the magic of Neil Young, who really balances the "pretty" and the "ugly" in his music really well. A great example of that is Like A Hurricane, a beautiful song wrapped in very noisy guitars. Crazy Horse always play on the edge, sounding like they can fall apart any minute, which really adds to the frailty of Like A Hurricane, and Neil Young's voice has the high and shaky pitch that really moves me almost to tears every time I hear it. I hope you like it too.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

March 2 - Sister Morphine

I had planned on staying in 1991 for a while, and I am sure I will be back in 1991 again sooner rather than later, but after spending yet another day in the hospital, I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate my favorite opiate, morphine, as I am hoping it will help Christine sleep through the night. Now I am only advocating the medical use of morphine as prescribed and monitored by a physician, but Mick Jagged and Keith Richards were looking at completely different uses when they wrote Sister Morphine back in 1968. It was originally released by Marianne Faithful in 1968, but a version found its way to my favorite Stones album, Sticky Fingers, back in 1971.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

March 1 - American Life

1991 was quite the year for music - and for me, the new influences Sissel brought with her from her stay in the US really helped broaden my horizons. Primus was the second band that I really started clicking with, although the date for the release of Sailing the Seas of Cheese really is challenging my memory that she brought it with her from the US. Since she also brought a boyfriend with her, it might have come with him a little later, but I am still 100% positive that I was introduced to Primus through Sissel.

Primus had a lot of the qualities I sought in music. They were quirky, they were spectacular instrumentalists, and the rhythm section took care of both the rhythm and the chords used, which freed up the guitar to experiment with sound and structure in its own time and space. It's not a coincidence that the other band that I know that can pull this off also is a trio - albeit a Canadian one: Rush. Primus's connection with Rush is clear on their first album, where the intro to YYZ is used as the intro to the fantastic John the Fisherman.

However, I did not come easy to Primus. There were aspects I liked, but Les Claypool's voice is an acquired taste. I liked that they used Tom Waits on one of their songs, but then there were weird songs as well, such as Eleven. In the end, three songs really won me over: Tommy the Cat, featuring Tom Waits, Fish On, and American Life, and today it's time to listen to American Life!