Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November 30 - The Golden Core

The final song of November is also the final song featuring Anneli Drecker - at least for now. In 1994, Motorpsycho released Timothy's Monster, an album I have written about several times this year already. It is quite remarkable to me that I have spent so much time on an album that I really only have a casual relationship with - not because the songs are weak, but because I don't care for the production of it - the lo-fi sound simply isn't for me on all songs. However, when the songs work, they work beautifully, and that is the case with The Golden Core, which appears on top of lists of favorite songs for many psychonauts (Motorpsycho fans). I'm not a psychonaut in the traditional sense, as I haven't been travelling around Europe with them - but I am still considering myself a pretty solid fan - and most people taking a look at my record collection would probably agree with me. The Golden Core is the final track on Timothy's Monster, and it features Anneli Drecker once again. It is a long song, but it is well worth listening to in its entirety.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

November 29 - Becoming More Like God

After drawing some serious attention to herself as the voice of Bel Canto, Anneli Drecker got some very interesting offers to join forces with other musicians, and luckily she took advantage of some of them. The first of the two collaborations she did that I will play for you to round out November was with Jah Wobble's Invaders Of The Heart. John Wardle was one of the four Johns in Johnny Rotten's circle of friends - he writes a lot about the other three in his autobiographic books (that are well worth reading). The other three Johns were John Lydon - or Johnny Rotten, John Ritchie - better known as Sid Vicious, and John Grey, Legend has it that Sid Vicious was the one who in a pretty drunken stupor pronounced Wardle's name wrong, and thus Jah Wobble was born.

Wobble was one of the original members or John Lydon's post Sex Pistols band Public Image Limited, a band that almost deliberately set out to be as abrasive as possible. He didn't stay in the band very long, and Lydon has some choice words to say about how it all ended, but they appear to have mended fences since then. In the late 80s, he formed Jah Wobble's Invaders Of The Heart, and in 1994 they released the song Take Me To God, an eclectic collection of songs that features today's song, Becoming More Like God - and the dreamlike voice of Anneli Drecker. I remember hearing this for the first time a little later, after I started working at Studentradioen i Bergen, but this song may even have hit me harder than Shimmering, Warm, and Bright had a couple of years earlier. Wobble's bass lines drives this song forward, and while the lead vocals on the verses might not be much to write home about, Drecker's vocals on the chorus certainly are.

Monday, November 28, 2016

November 28 - Shimmering, Warm, and Bright

In the mid 1990s, you couldn't go anywhere without hearing the voice of Anneli Drecker, who was the female voice in the Norwegian duo Bel Canto. The other half was Nils Johansen, who was responsible for the programming - and while they did have a couple of other musicians helping them out, they were predominantly the two people heard on today's song. They came from Tromsø, way up north, past the arctic circle, which clearly influenced their music. It has an icy and cold quality to it, but they were not afraid to bring in other influences, like the clear eastern scales on the song selected for today, and the result was magic, even for a grumpy antipop person like me. The song is incredibly danceable, yet it has a tonal and melodic quality that really draws me in and intrigues me. Shimmering, Warm, and Bright brought Bel Canto to the top of the Norwegian charts in 1992, and it is not without reason...

Sunday, November 27, 2016

November 27 - Become Ocean

Today's music is an orchestral work by composer John Luther Adams. I will gladly admit that this might not be for everyone - and it is a long piece. However, it is a piece I frequently sink into, just letting myself drift away really following the instruction from the title: Become Ocean. It is a droning piece, which means that there isn't much in terms of very obvious melodic structure, but it is heavy on dynamics and changing timbre, and there is really a lot going on under the surface - and as I wrote that, I realized how apt that really is for this piece of music. There is so much more than initially meets the ear, and if you are patient, you may indeed be rewarded, provided you keep an open mind.

Become Ocean earned John Luther Adams a Pulitzer Prize in music, which I didn't know existed before hearing about it on NPR a year ago, maybe two - and that's really how I came in touch with it. I am so completely fascinated with everything going on here - and I keep discovering new things in the very dense composition.

I encourage you to take about 42 minutes out of your otherwise busy day and try to follow this orchestral work all around. All the way from the swell in the beginning to the quieter moments interspersed throughout, until the swell finally subsides in the end. Take the time to truly Become Ocean.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

November 26 - The Day Before You Came

Sometimes you need a new take on a song to fully realize it's genius, and today's song is an example of that for me. I was familiar with Abba's original, but I didn't fully realize how brilliant this song was before I heard Steven Wilson's version. What really stands out to me is the lyrics. I think this is the perfect way to describe an earth shattering meeting - without talking about the meeting at all. Instead, the song describes a series of assumptions based on the fact that life before this meeting was simply dull routine all along. "It's funny, but I had no sense of living without aim the day before you came." It is brilliant. Simply brilliant.

I went back to listen to the original as well, and I must say that to me, this is the highlight of Abba's career when it comes to songwriting. I can even deal with a very dated production. But there is a purity to the vocals, and there is a certain soreness there as well. However, I think Steven Wilson's take on it lifts it even further. He released it on his album Cover Version in 2014 - and that is an album that is well worth exploring. But to me, the highlight, the song that stops me dead in the tracks and simply makes me listen, is The Day Before You Came. I included the lyrics below the video. Please read them. It is so extremely beautiful, haunting, and mundane, all at the same time. Genius.

I must have left my house at eight, because I always do
My train, I'm certain, left the station just when it was due
I must have read the morning paper going into town
And having gotten through the editorial, no doubt I must have frowned
I must have made my desk around a quarter after nine
With letters to be read, and heaps of papers waiting to be signed
I must have gone to lunch at half past twelve or so
The usual place, the usual bunch
And still on top of this I'm pretty sure it must have rained
The day before you came

I must have lit my seventh cigarette at half past two
And at the time I never even noticed I was blue
I must have kept on dragging through the business of the day
Without really knowing anything, I hid a part of me away
At five I must have left, there's no exception to the rule
A matter of routine, I've done it ever since I finished school
The train back home again
Undoubtedly I must have read the evening paper then
Oh yes, I'm sure my life was well within its usual frame
The day before you came

I must have opened my front door at eight o'clock or so
And stopped along the way to buy some Chinese food to go
I'm sure I had my dinner watching something on TV
There's not, I think, a single episode of Dallas that I didn't see
I must have gone to bed around a quarter after ten
I need a lot of sleep, and so I like to be in bed by then
I must have read a while
The latest one by Marilyn French or something in that style
It's funny, but I had no sense of living without aim
The day before you came

And turning out the light
I must have yawned and cuddled up for yet another night
And rattling on the roof I must have heard the sound of rain
The day before you came

Friday, November 25, 2016

November 25 - Paperback Writer

I am very excited today. I decided to forego the Thanksgiving Day shopping last night and instead focused on writing some more. And I am proud to say that I, in my pursuit of writing a novel, actually reached 50,000 words. The total word count is in the right hand margin. Reaching 50,000 words by the end of November seemed like a very lofty goal on November 1, but looking back at it, it is really all about sticking to it. Now, my novel isn't done yet, but I still thought I'd celebrate the milestone of actually winning National Novel Writing Month (everybody who reaches 50,000 words by November 30 is a winner) by playing an old Beatles song. However, I could not find the original version on YouTube, so I have to do two songs from Paul McCartney's 2009 tour, with the same stellar touring band he still has backing him. They start with I've Got A Feeling and then the final song is Paperback Writer. Although I have to say that I'd like mine in hardcover...

Thursday, November 24, 2016

November 24 - Now Be Thankful

So today is Thanksgiving. I think I planned on writing something new, but I am thinking that I like this recycling business. I may have talked a little bit about this earlier this year as well, but I think I covered this really well back in 2008, so I am going to use it once again.

My road to Fairport Convention goes through Richard Thompson, and I can guarantee you that both will be revisited in this blog, as I have gained an enourmous respect for both. However, in order to get there, I have to go back to the band that started my Thanksgiving series of songs - ZZ Top. I have already talked a little bit about the start of my civil service in Norway. What I didn't say was that I didn't last 16 months at Hustad Leir. As soon as 1995 rolled around - I had been at Hustad Leir for six months - I was able to leave for Bergen and an assignment at Centre for International Health (CIH), a research institute under the University of Bergen. I moved into a room at Fantoft Studentby, which essentially was an apartment style dorm room way outside the university campus and Haukeland Hospital, which was where CIH was located. I was nervous - I was on my own for the very first time, and although I had very good friends in Bergen, I was far away from home. Some of those nerves were mitigated when I heard familiar music through the wall - it was La Grange from ZZ Top's spectacular Tres Hombres album.

I had been living in Bergen for a very short time when my friend Vegard Nørstebø told me that the local student radio station, Studentradioen i Bergen, were interviewing - and that they were looking for engineers. Studentradioen was an all volunteer radio station - the only paid members were the editors - and I had background from Radio Ung in Trondheim, both as an engineer and a DJ, so I thought it sounded like a good idea. Vegard had already been working there for some time (we had both background from Radio Ung) and was enjoying it, so I saw it as a great way for me to get to meet people as well. I was able to join them, and among the shows I was the engineer for was Plog (the norwegian word for Plow - the noun, not the verb). Plog was an eclectic music program, drawing heavily from traditional music from all over the world - I envision the name as an indication that the music was whatever turned up after one had plowed all corners of the earth. It was hosted by cantankerous Thomas Ekrene - at least he appeared cantankerous to me initially - and I have to admit that I was a little afraid of him. After the show was over, both of us would walk separately down to the bus terminal, get on the same bus (still separately), and take it to Fantoft Studentby, where we both would walk separately to our rooms. Except his room turned out to be right next to me - and he was the guy who had been playing ZZ Top when I first moved in.

After a few weeks of walking separately to the same bus and then the neighboring dorm rooms, we finally started talking to one another. How it happened I don't remember, but the endresult was that we became fast friends - we played together in ad hoc bands assembled for Christmas parties and we eventually became roommates. And in the midst of all this, Thomas introduced me to Richard Thompson, the spectacular British guitarplayer who is a "musician's musician," one who rarely gets the acknowledgment he deserves by the general public, but who is revered by musicians in a variety of genres. The first song I heard was Shoot Out The Lights, and the first album I heard was You? Me? Us?, an ambitious double album produced by Mitchell Froom featuring an electric disk (voltage enhanced) and one acoustic disk (nude). The first Richard Thompson album I bought was Watching The Dark, a 3-cd set stretching from 1988 back to his beginning in a British folk-rock band called Fairport Convention. Among the songs from that time was a song written by Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick, Now Be Thankful, a beautiful ballad that seems to be a fitting song for Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

November 23 - Thank You For Hearing Me

I think I did pretty good with this one too in 2008, so here is yet another recycled entry...

I remember watching Sinead O'Connor's video for Nothing Compares 2 U, the Prince-penned love song, in my grandparents' living room. They were the only ones in my family who had cable TV, and it included MTV, which I always found curious, being that the cable deal was negotiated with the association where they lived - and they lived in a retirement community at the time where there was no interest for MTV (I should note that cable TV in Norway was about picking channels you wanted at that time - there was no basic distinction between 'basic' and 'expanded' as main package deals. 

While I did like Nothing Compares 2 U and her entire 'I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got' album, I was not prepared to hear 'The Lion and the Cobra', which was her debut album. My very good friend Nina Skaaden (now Schefte) had the album and taped it for me (along with Let Love Rule by Lenny Kravitz, another stunning album). When I popped it in the tape deck and heard Troy for the first time, I was so completely blown away - in fact, I was so enamored by this cute Irish chick with her shaved head that I kept checking out her music even after releasing 'Am I Not Your Girl', an album of standards that was lackluster, to say the least.

Fast forward a few years to 1994. The Norwegian military is based on conscription, which means that all males must serve their country through military service. However, they do allow for conscientious objectors, and as I was (and still am) a pacifist, I was doing my civil service in place of military service. In order to get this approved, I had to be interviewed by the police (I remember a pretty arrogant police officer who certainly didn't appreciate a giant long-haired peace loving guy's perspectives) - and when it was approved, I had to do 16 months of civil service in place of the by then 9 months of military service that was required. 

I showed up at Hustad Leir, a camp that originally had been used for the internment of traitors after World War II (and that now has been turned back into a prison - it wouldn't be a major adjustment), in the summer of 1994, thinking that I was going to the civil service 'boot camp' that lasted six weeks and then find placement for the rest of the time. When I got there, I was in for a surprise. First it was the geography. When you look through the gates of the camp, you see a vertical mountainside. No vegetation, just rock. On the other side was the ocean. There was maybe a mile or so between the camp and the coastline, but you could still almost smell the saltyness of the water. And, to make things even worse, the mist often came rolling in from the sea - or the clouds were trapped by the mountain side and pressed downward, creating an eerie light reflected by the vegetation around the camp (I seem to remember mossy rock, but that may not be true) and sucked up by the dark mountain side. The other part of the surprise was that I was there to be part of their staff. That's right, sixteen months at this desolate place instead of the six weeks. 

My initial assignment was working in the kitchen. While I liked it, I did have another job in mind, and I soon got the opportunity to work in the library there. It was the perfect job for me, surrounded by books and music, with a snooker table and cable tv at my fingertips. The snooker table was heavily used, and it was while playing snooker late at night that Sinead O'Connor's next album was played over and over again. It was called 'Universal Mother', and it is a fairly unknown masterpiece. It spans spoken word set to music (Famine), an excellent cover version of All Apologies (although not as sore as Nirvana's Unplugged version, which was released around the same time), political lyrics (they are all over), and the closing track is this excellent little song called Thank You For Hearing Me. It is built around a programmed drum loop, then instruments are added (mainly programmed on a synthesizer), and the lyrics are sung like a chant with each of the following lines repeated four times:

Thank you for hearing me
Thank you for loving me
Thank you for seeing me
And not for leaving me
Thank you for staying with me
Thanks for not hurting me
You are gentle with me
Thanks for silence with me

The next verse has four different lines

Thank you for holding me
And saying "I could be"
Thank you for saying "baby"
Thank you for holding me

Then she sings the next line four times before finishing a verse that turns the meaning of the song upside down:

Thank you for helping me

Thank you for breaking my heart
Thank you for tearing me apart
Now I've a strong, strong heart
Thank you for breaking my heart

While it can be argued whether this song truly captures the spirit of Thanksgiving, it is nonetheless a spectacular song. She plays around with dynamics and instrumentation, but it is the same melody that is repeated over and over again. So simple, yet so complex - and it adds emphasis to the lyrics.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

November 22 - Thank You

I am repeating what I did yesterday and digging out a post from November 2008. I might continue this at least tomorrow as well, and then we'll see when we get to Thanksgiving. Anyway, here goes:

There are so many love songs out there that it is sometimes hard to find the right one. However, this little song by Led Zeppelin, found on their momentous second album, Led Zeppelin II, has just about everything I could ask for in its lyrics. Yes, it is sappy, but it is sappy in such a good way - just listen to those words:

If the sun refused to shine
I would still be loving you
When mountains crumble to the sea
There will still be you and me

I have to confess that I don't remember the rest of the words, but after looking them up, I decided against citing them here. It did turn a little sappier than I expected - but the four lines above have always moved me deeply. Add to it a cute melody and a spine-chilling guitar workout by master Page, and you have a true masterful love song. And Plant's vocals are outstanding - I have always liked the Unledded version where he goes "bam ba-bam ba-bam ba-bam - I wanna thank you" over the organ punctuated by the guitar/rest of the band. 

However, the Unledded version does lack the rhythm section that really made Led Zeppelin great. John Bonham is unfortunately no longer with us, but John Paul Jones, to me the true unsung hero of Led Zeppelin is still around - and the footage from London's O2 Stadium in 2007 with Jason Bonham on drums was spectacular.

The last time I published this, I used the version from Unledded, but today I am going for the original from Led Zeppelin II. Please enjoy Thank You!

Monday, November 21, 2016

November 21 - I Thank You

I originally wrote and posted this Thanksgiving week 2008, but I am thinking it still holds up today... And reposting it is in the spirit of ZZ Top - after all they did release an album called Recycler...

It's Thanksgiving week here in the United States, and with that in mind, I start a series of songs about thankfulness - or sort of thankfulness. The first band out is that lil' ol' band from Texas -
 ZZ Top. It really is a shame that most people I grew up with only knew about them from flashy MTV videos with a spiffy car and scantily clad models. At that point they had almost abandoned their trademark blues/boogie rock and were all about click tracks, heavily treated guitars, and synthesizers. Now, there's nothing wrong with that, but when you contrast songs like Gimme All Your Loving', Sharp Dressed Man, and Velcro Fly to classics like La Grange, Tush, and I Thank You (and the list goes on...), there's just no comparison if you ask me. 

Anyway - I would in all likelihood have been completely oblivious to the splendor of ZZ Top if it wasn't for Arve Hjalmar Holmen, who has been among my closest (if not the closest) friends ever since he decided that he wanted to take on the biggest kid in class upon returning to our school in sixth grade after a three year absence (that's what living on the wrong side of town for a few years can do to you). A teacher broke us up, which probably was for the better, as I was getting my rear whooped. We were taken inside and told to make nice, and the conversation that started that day has really not stopped - the pauses only get longer, as neither one of us lives in Norway anymore. 

I don't know where Arve got his interest in ZZ Top from or where he had heard them, but the result was that for every birthday and Christmas through middle school I bought him a tape of an old ZZ Top record. ZZ Top's First Album, Rio Grande Mud, Tres Hombres, Fandango, Tejas, Degüello, and El Loco all found their way into his collection of tapes - and I copied them to tapes of my own. Years later, after buying a CD player, the ZZ Top Sixpack was purchased as soon as I could afford it - but Degüello had to be purchased separately, and purchase it I did. It is packed with spectacular songs. I Thank You opens the album, and it hardly ever slows down. Yes, there are a few fillers in there, but most of the songs are so good that Degüello has to be ranked among the best ZZ Top albums. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

November 20 - Hey Jupiter

It's been twenty years since Tori Amos released Boys for Pele, and it sounds just as good today as it did then. There is a new release with lots of bonus materials out, but I think I will stick with my original copy, which has been quite worn out over the years. I played this album left and right, up and down, when it was released, and digging out again now, I think my standout track and personal favorite is different than it was 20 years ago. Back then I would probably have gone for In The Springtime Of His Voodoo, which is another fantastic track, but today I feel the raw emotion in Hey Jupiter really hits the spot.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

November 19 - Where Is My Mind

 I keep hearing the Pixies on commercials on TV, and every time I hear it, I am reminded that it's feeling like I'm losing my mind following the election. I don't think I'll see much more. The Pixies was a band  that released for very strong albums, and the song Where Is My Mind? Is from one of their very best.  The album Surfer Rosa came out in 1988 and is still one of my two favorite Pixies albums, along with Doolittle. Here are Black Francis, Kim Deal, David Lovering, and Joey Santiago with Where Is My Mind?

Friday, November 18, 2016

November 18 - This Is Not America

"I can't believe the news today,
I can't close my eyes and make them go away"

U2's opening lines from Sunday Bloody Sunday describes how I have been feeling since a minority of voters elevated a racist, sexist, xenophobic bigot to the highest office in the land. Knowing that there were more people voting for his opponents than him, and knowing that there was one candidate who received a significantly larger number of votes, I have to concur with David Bowie for a second day in a row, as this really is not the America I thought it was. He says it more succinctly on the soundtrack from The Falcon and the Snowman from 1985. He has the full backing of the Pat Metheny Group when he sings This Is Not America.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

November 17 - I'm Afraid Of Americans

Lately, I have seen several people on Facebook asking how people can be afraid of a Trump presidency, when we already are seeing all the horrors we currently are. I will try to answer that a little bit today.

My greatest fear is not for myself. After all, I am a white male, and I enjoy a lot of privileges. I don't need to be taught in school how to respond in a traffic stop, because the color of my skin does gives me the benefit of the doubt. And while my name is weird, it certainly doesn't sound black, so I am still looked at positively for job applications. Granted, there is a significant number of Americans claiming that these lived realities of the African American communities are at best fiction or at worst isolated incidents, and if it hadn't been for the volume of stories coming out, I may have agreed with that. And being male, I haven't had many experiences with unwanted groping and aggressive sexual behavior. I had one, when I decided to give a stranger a ride. He turned out to want to touch significantly private parts. I dropped him off way out in the boonies. This was in the time before cell phones - and it was in Norway. But I don't have the experiences the people talk about in the #notokay tweets. I remember a friend of mine telling me about going to a Prince concert and suddenly feeling wet and sticky on her rear from a guy standing behind her. I haven't had to worry about that.

The problem is that other people have to worry. And that is what really concerns me. Under the current presidency, we have had a president with a response to police officers shooting unarmed men, predominantly black men, that has been nuanced, with an appreciation for both what the African American community has to deal with and what the police have to weigh in the high stress moments. However, the president-elect along with a rather big part of the nation has taken the view that any discussion that tries to see both sides is simply anti-police. Are there anti-police forces out there? Sure there are. Just like there are very racist cops. But the law and order approach of the president-elect will simply increase the fear in the groups that already fear police. And what we just saw in this election is simply that fear brewing and stewing in a pot will reach a boiling point. When people live in constant fear, they also end up feeling like they have nothing to lose, and that makes a situation truly volatile.

What I truly fear is that the presidency no longer is an office that seeks to alleviate fear, but rather stoke the flames of fear so that people are emboldened to showcase their most primal instincts. Reports are already coming in, just over a week after the country showed it's true colors - although I do find solace in knowing that he didn't get the majority of people's votes. Hate crimes are on the rise, and Trump's name is frequently mentioned along with racist and bigoted comments. I am afraid that people who have long mistaken political correctness for censorship rather than a means for a respectful discussion are emboldened to not just have their opinions, but to force them on others, like middle school students chanting "build that wall" directed at Latino students or telling muslim women that they will hang them from their hijabs if they stop wearing them. I am afraid that this is no longer going to be isolated incidents, but an acceptable form of behavior.

A president can't stop people from doing what they are doing. A president will not stop school shootings, the killing of police, discrimination, or even terrorism. If you think that is the case you are seriously delusional. But a president can set a standard saying that it's not ok. I am certain Trump won't have any issues saying that school shooting, the killing of police, or terrorism is not ok. But I don't see any part of him saying that discrimination is not ok. As a matter of fact, his main tool towards terrorism and shootings seems to be discrimination. He built his brand around saying that Mexicans coming to the US are rapists and violent criminals, and that muslims should not be admitted to the republic. His vice president clearly has an issue with people with a different sexual orientation that our normative heterosexuality, so I have a hard time seeing discrimination based on sexual orientation being addressed in any constructive manner - unless you think that this discrimination is ok. That's what I am afraid of. I am afraid that the xenophobic misogyny and bigotry will continue to be elevated the way it has been since he started his campaign. I haven't had to worry about that before. Not under Clinton, which is when I moved here, not under W, who I vehemently disliked and opposed, but didn't fear, and certainly not under Obama, whom I think has carried the presidency with an amazing grace and dignity.

And that brings me to the final point for today. I keep seeing people telling me and others that so clearly despise our current president-elect that we just need to get over it and respect the president-elect and his office. That's a bit rich for me. If that indeed was the case, where the hell were all of you during the last 8+ years while the now president-elect kept claiming that our current president was not a legitimate president? That's right, hiding, secretly cheering him on. For those of you standing up to that, good for you. Both of you. But for the rest of you, don't tell me how I should feel or react towards this coming president. He does not represent an iota of what I stand for. However, if he should start making moves that I accept or even like, I will try to see past my intense antipathy towards him and give him credit where credit's due. I can't guarantee that I will be able to - but I will do my best. That being said, I am not holding my breath. I see no signs right now pointing in that direction.

There is only one song fitting my mood right now. From the fantastic Earthling album from 1997, here is David Bowie (with a cameo from Trent Reznor) with I'm Afraid Of Americans.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

November 16 - Immigrant Song

Today marks my fifth anniversary as a naturalized American citizen. That means I had spent twelve years here before I decided that it was time to recognize the fact that this is my new home - even though I still talk about Norway whenever I talk about home. I am thinking that today is a good day as ever to try to write down my memories about the immigration process I had to go through - the process so many Americans seem to think is way too easy.

When I initially decided to get married to an American citizen and move here, I had to apply for a K1 visa, also known as a fiancée visa. We started the process when I was over here visiting my now ex-wife, so it started in February 1999. The paperwork was extensive - my ex-wife had to guarantee that she would sponsor my stay and assume financial responsibility for me for a five-year period, and there were triplicate copies of the application form that had to be filled out by both of us. I think we had requested the form before I left, but we ended up having to mail them back and forth between Norway and the US. I had to have a chest x-ray, blood work, and a physical by one of very few approved doctors in Norway. That meant that I had to travel to Oslo. To save on travel expenses, I tried to do that on the same trip as I would get the visa itself. Luckily I had relatives in the area and my dad's car, as he was working in Australia that summer. I greatly enjoyed my stay with my aunt Anicken and uncle Arne - I could talk about them for a long time, they are such great people and I am happy to be a part of their family - they provided a quiet and low-stress environment for me at a very stressful time. I was under the gun - this was late July, and I was supposed to fly out August 5. I did get the visa and was good to go.

When you arrive in the US under the K1 visa, you have to get married within a certain period of time - I think it was three months, but we had it scheduled for one week later. Then the immigration process is such that when you first come over and get a work permit, you get a temporary one. All of that happened in 1999 for me. It is a cumbersome process, and since it regionalized based on where you live, you may have to travel great distances to get to the right office. In 1999, I had to get fingerprinted in St. Louis and then I was processed through the Chicago INS office. While it was cumbersome, it did go smoothly, and I was soon the proud owner of a temporary residency card and a work permit.

In 2001, my temporary residency card was converted to a permanent residency card. In order to get through this process, I had to get my tuberculosis check and a physical with a civil surgeon. I had just moved to Greenille, Michigan from Robinson Illinois at this time, and finding a civil surgeon took a little bit of time - and I am not just talking about finding one to schedule an appointment with, but also actually finding the office since I was that new to the area. To complicate matters further, the TB shot I had received as a child in Norway made me test positive on the pirquet test, so I needed a chest x-ray. It all went well, and I got my appointment for the interview to become a Legal Permanent Resident. It was scheduled for September 20, 2001. Yeah. There was a lot of nervousness in the air when we went to the INS office in Chicago for the interview, but once we were in there, things were a lot calmer.

It is really interesting seeing immigration lawyers calling their clients names. They clearly don't know each other most of the time - it seemed like they met for the first time right then and there. We had done this on our own, so we were nervous, but we had thorough documentation (thanks to my very meticulous ex-wife) - and we had the ace up our sleeve: Not only did we have a joint bank account, but we also had our first child. Everything we had read and heard about the process was wrong for us. It was a breeze. Of course, having her be a college instructor and me employed by the same college helped - the only thing they balked at was that we had come to the Chicago office since we had moved to Michigan and now belonged to the Detroit office, but even that was forgiven and I got my permanent residency. I know it didn't go as smoothly for everyone there, though. I remember people coming up to the immigration officer I interviewed with, asking for her to reconsider.

Almost ten years later, it was time to renew the permanent residency, and INS had become USCIS. At this point, with two daughters and a solid career here, it was clear that I wouldn't be moving back to Norway. The only reason to hold on to my citizenship there was an emotional one. And since my emotions are tied more strongly to civic engagement and participation than to any sense of nationalism, I decided it was time to apply for citizenship instead. Once again there was a little bit of a process - and a lot bit of cost, as every single form has a fee attached to it. The paperwork was filled out in May or June, I believe, and I had my interview in Detroit in September, the morning after a massive rainstorm had left part of Detroit and its roadways flooded. The citizenship test I took was not very extensive - I just had to answer some basic questions about who Michigan's senators were, who the president was, and a few more about the political process. Being a political junkie, it was really easy for me - and I think the ease with which I did answer the questions helped in my determination. I then had to sit and wait before I was called back and told that I was approved and that the citizenship oath could be taken at the Gerald Ford museum in Grand Rapids on November 16.

On the day, my family was there with me - my wife and two kids, and my mother-in-law. We were also joined by my very good friend Kathleen Owens, who just left GR to live closer to her kids in North Carolina. The ceremony is something I would encourage every American to attend. The unbridled joy on display for people who have waited and dreamed of this citizenship should be a very different patriotic jolt for jaded American citizens whose idea of patriotism is an uncritical chanting of U-S-A, U-S-A... I am not saying all American citizens are jaded - but for those who are, this is a great thing to watch. Also, for those dismayed over the direction the USA is heading, seeing this will remind you of the ideals this country truly is trying to uphold.

Some people have asked if I regret giving up my Norwegian citizenship in lieu of the latest election results. And I don't. When things don't go your way, giving up and leaving may be the comfortable thing to do, but I am here to stay. Not even Donald Trump as president will change that.

The song for the day is very appropriate. Led Zeppelin from their third album. I do come from the land of the ice and snow. Enjoy this Immigrant Song!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

November 15 - Blood Shot Adult Commitment

Since I mentioned Madrugada yesterday, I decided I needed to play them again today - I haven't played them since July 25. Today's song is a live version that is found on the album Live At Tralfamadore, which some of you might recognize as the planet referred to in Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse 5. They brought Kid Congo Powers on stage for this performance - known from alternative rock bands The Gun Club and The Cramps - or, in my case, known as having been a member of The Bad Seeds, Nick Cave's band. I love this version of this song - the roaring guitars truly make it into something to behold. Here is Madrugada with Blood Shot Adult Commitment.

Monday, November 14, 2016

November 14 - Amsterdam Stranded

Midnight Choir was a band I kept on listening to at the end of the 90s. Led by Al DeLoner (Atle Bystrøm), a multi-instrumentalist and lead songwriter, he brought along his brother, who went by the name Ron Olsen, on bass, and Paul Flaata on vocals. The album Amsterdam Stranded was produced by Chris Eckmann from the Seattle band The Walkabouts, and their drummer, Terri Moeller also played drums on the album. It is a masterpiece in Norwegian alternative rock - and Midnight Choir in many ways helped set the stage for the even bigger Norwegian band Madrugada with their emphasis on very melodic Americana, rock music with clearly traditional American roots.

Today's song is heartbreakingly beautiful. I had the great fortune of seeing them live before I moved to the states (they disbanded in 2004, although they have been back together touring this year), and it was fabulous. Here is the title track from Amsterdam Stranded.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

November 13 - The Machine On The Hill

If you look to the right on my blog, you will see there is a light blue picture stating that I am a NaNoWriMo participant - and with a number of words listed. This year, inspired by the fact that I have been able to maintain my goal of having at least one blog post about a song or about music every single day of the year in 2016, and feeling more confident about a committing to writing, I decided to sign up for National Novel Writing Month with the goal of completing 50000 words in November writing a novel. For those of you who have known me for a long time, you will know that I have been wanting to at least have written a novel for a long time - and now I am at least in the process of doing it. So far I am tracking ok, but I still have a long way to go. By the end of Tuesday, I should reach the half way point and be at 25,000 words - and I am optimistic about getting there. If I should start trailing, I have a few days off from work around Thanksgiving, so I can catch up then. And then there is always the possibility that I need more than 50,000 words for the novel. We'll wait and see. I might want volunteers to read what I have come up with so far, so if you are interested, please drop me a line - my email address is listed in my profile. The working title is Memory Games, and it is all about whether or not we can trust our memories.

I always listen to music when I drive, and one of the genres that seem to work really well for me is space rock, where the band locks into a groove and just floats away. Trondheim should always be a great place for music like that, and Black Moon Circle is a band that doesn't dissappoint. I think I discovered them because they are on Crispin Glover Records, which also houses some bands that have had members of Motorpsycho float in and out. Their 2014 album Andromeda is fantastic - just listen to the opening track, The Machine On The Hill, which is great music to write to!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

November 12 - Interstellar Overdrive

Last weekend I went to the movies. Doctor Strange is the newest Marvel superhero to take the silver screen, and I was blown away by it. It was a movie like Ant Man, Guardians of the Galaxy or Deadpool in that it took a smaller character (no pun intended with respect to Ant Man here) that not too many outside of diehard Marvel fans are aware of and created a movie that simply blew me away. Of course, the secret to be blown away is often low expectations (which absolutely was the case for Ant Man and Guardians of the Galaxy), but my expectations to Doctor Strange were quite high - yet they were still exceeded so much that I caught it not once, but twice last weekend (the second time I saw it in IMAX 3D... Awesome). Benedict Cumberbatch is one of two actors I could imagine in the lead for the movie - the other one being Hugh Laurie...

Anyway, there is a car scene early in the movie that is accompanied by a crushing guitar riff that I knew I knew, I just couldn't place it. Not all that different from yesterday's song - movies and tv are great places to pick up new songs - or see old songs in a new light. After some help by Google, I realized it was the opening riff to Interstellar Overdrive by Pink Floyd from their Piper At The Gates Of Dawn album, released in 1967. And while this might get too meandering for some of you, I am still thinking it is worth listening to.

Friday, November 11, 2016

November 11 - My Body Is A Cage

Some days I just want to play music that captures my mood. And today is one of them. Arcade Fire is one of the most interesting new bands to emerge this past decade. I discovered them because I heard about David Bowie playing with them after he had concluded what would be his final tour - so I checked them out for myself, and I liked what I heard. I purchased their first two albums, enjoyed them, and put them back on the shelf.

Then, in February 2011, I was watching House MD, one of my favorite TV shows ever, featuring one of my favorite British actors, Hugh Laurie. I had been a fan of his work since the comedy show A Bit Of Fry & Laurie, which he did with another British great, Stephen Fry. The two of them also starred in Kenneth Brannagh's (another incredibly talented british actor) Peter's Friends, which really can be described as the British version of The Big Chill. I have to say that I much prefer the British version, but then again when it comes to movies and comedy, I am a bit of an Anglophile.

Anyway, I was watching a very emotional scene in House MD when I heard a song that clearly was sung by Peter Gabriel, but I didn't recognize it. It turns out it was the Arcade Fire song My Body Is A Cage from their 2007 album Neon Bible. Peter Gabriel released it on his album Scratch My Back in 2010, where he did a series of cover versions, including David Bowie's Heroes (see - it's all coming full circle). His version of My Body Is A Cage start with minimal orchestral accompaniment, but grows in intensity to an even greater extent than Arcade Fire's version. I find Peter Gabriel's version monumental - so much so that I prefer it to Arcade Fire's original, although that's not a bad version either.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

November 10 (Farewell, LC) - Tower Of Song

Just when I thought this year couldn't get any worse.. 82 year old Leonard Cohen died today. But his music lives on. I am going to 1988s I'm Your Man to find this beauty. May you find peace, LC. I am sure they moved you closer to Hank Williams now in the Tower Of Song.

November 10 - Battle Hymn

Death to false metal! That was the creed for Manowar, one of the most over the top cliché metal bands ever. Their debut album Battle Hymns from 1982 is a great example of this - just listen to the lyrics for today's song. It is all about blood and glory, something they would take further with clear viking influences at first, then more German Wagnerian megalomania. All this while trying to keep a straight face chanting death to false metal. But I love their first four albums (Battle Hymns, Into Glory Ride, Hail To England, and Sign Of The Hammer) regardless of how childish I now find them.

Once, when I was doing my radio show, I thought I'd be clever and get a phone interview, so I called directory assistance to get the phone number of their bass player, Joey DeMaio, in New Jersey (I knew the city then, I don't remember it anymore). I was a young teenager, probably 13 or 14, when I made the phone call, and I talked to someone who sounded like an elderly woman. Joey DeMaio sounded to me like quite the exotic name, so the idea that someone else could have the same name in the same city was completely foreign to me. When I asked to talk to him, she politely informed me that he was at work and wondered what I wanted to talk to him about. When I told her I wanted to interview him, she sounded like a question mark. I eventually told her that I was interested in his music, and she, once again very politely, informed me that I had the wrong Joey DeMaio. Dejected and deflated, I hung up, knowing that I just spent a small fortune on an international call that went nowhere.

So today, as I listen to Battle Hymn again, I revert back to myself about 30 years ago. But today I smile - those were indeed the days.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

November 8 - Elected

Today's the day. If you are an American citizen registered to vote, you have to get your behind off that cushy chair, couch, or bed and get out and vote. To me, voting is the most basic right - and it was one of the most important reason for me to decide to become a US citizen. Today, another US citizen will make the case for himself to be elected. Don't let the name fool you, because Alice is indeed a man. From 1973 and the album Billion Dollar Babies, here is Alice Cooper (really the band Alice Cooper) with Elected.

Monday, November 07, 2016

November 7 - Blue Monday

New Order and synthpop was not by thing in the 80s. Yeah, I listened to some of it, but I was really in the camp that was the 80s equivalent of the 70s "disco sucks" movement. However, I have come to see the error of my ways, and I have found myself getting some of the music I made it a point to disown in the 80s. Some of these songs are so unbelievably catchy, and New Order's drum machine extravaganza Blue Monday is absolutely one of them.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

November 6 - Metropolis

Since I have been exploring musical kinship a little bit this week, I thought I'd bring back Norwegian band Seigmen, a band that undoubtedly has listened to the atmospherics of Tool, as well as using Sylvia Massey as their producer - she had also worked with Tool prior to this, which was one of the great bragging rights before they released their 1995 album Metropolis. While it isn't as good an album as 1994's Total was, the title track lived up to the hype and then some. I think it is as good today as I thought it was then...

Saturday, November 05, 2016

November 5 - Schism

Today's song is by a band I have massive respect for. The most artistically complete band in anything that approaches the metal genre is undoubtedly Tool. While some might argue that they aren't metal enough, typically that would be people who thinks the only metal is done with cookie monster vocals (growls), they would have to take that argument up with Manowar, whose creed always was "death to false metal" (I know, it is laughable), and whose singer, Eric Adams, can belt and scream like an airraid siren while still maintaining melody. And that is what Maynard James Keenan in Tool can do as well. However, the true hero of Schism to me is bassist Justin Chancellor. I love the bass riff that lays the foundation to this song so much that it sends shivers down my spine every time I listen to it. I hope you feel the same way. He is helped by towering drummer Danny Carey, who delivers the polyrhythms that create the complex rhythmic foundations of Tool. The video is created by guitarist Adam Jones (as usual with Tool videos), and his guitar playing is often done in ways somewhat similar to Alex Lifeson of Rush and Larry LaLonde of Primus in that he often plays whatever he wants over the chordal and rhythmic structures laid down by the rhythm section. There is lots of air here, clearly emphasizing the sense of a true Schism.

Friday, November 04, 2016

November 4 - Little Wing

Unfortunately, YouTube doesn't have any official versions of Little Wing, but I did find an early live version of this Jimi Hendrix classic. It is also absolutely the mother of yesterday's Yellow Ledbetter - although it's easier to understand what Hendrix is singing. The link between the Seattle scene of the early 90s and Jimi Hendrix crystallized for me when watching the movie Singles, which still is one of my favorite romantic movies of all time. Yeah, the fact that it has a lot of great music in it by most of the "grunge" bands at the time did help my interest in the movie, which was one of Cameron Crowe's early movies (he went on to direct Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous amongst others), helped a lot - but I also enjoy the scene where Campbell Scott's character Steve Dunne is heartbroken and pulls out Blue Train by John Coltrane and plays it. The scene hit very close to home and spurred me to explore Coltrane some more. But there is one scene in the movie, where the lead singer of the fictitious band Citizen Dick (played by Matt Dillon) lays down on Jimi Hendrix's gravesite. Listening to both Hendrix' music and at least Pearl Jam and Soundgarden (especially from Superunknown and out), it is very easy to detect a kinship that goes beyond the fact that they all use distorted guitars. There is no doubt that Hendrix had a direct influence on the later Seattle bands - just listen to Little Wing...

Thursday, November 03, 2016

November 3 - Yellow Ledbetter

The other half of Temple of the Dog - or the majority of it - was, of course, Pearl Jam, and I have been a fan since I first heard them on Norwegian Radio in 1991, when their debut album, Ten, was released. I think I almost wore Ten out as well (although I still have the original copy I purchased back then).Today's song is not on any of their regular albums - but it did appear on the single for Jeremy from Ten. This is Pearl Jam channeling their inner Jimi Hendrix, as I hear echoes of Little Wing very clearly in the guitar playing. However, I have no clue what Eddie Vedder sings in Yellow Ledbetter without following along to these lyrics...

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

November 2 - Hands All Over

I think we'll stay in Seattle today. Soundgarden's first album on a major label was 1989's Louder Than Love, released on A&M Records. Their sound is still raw on this album, but not quite as raw as on their debut, Ultramega OK. For many bands this would have been a very transitional album, but Soundgarden hasn't really stuck to much of a formula, so just about all of their album shows a band in constant growth (although I know a lot will claim they peaked with Superunknown from 1994. However, it is a transitional album as far as lineup goes. Chris Cornell sings and plays the occasional guitar, Matt Cameron is rock steady behind the drum kit, and Kim Thayil lays down guitar tracks like no other. However, this was the last album to feature Hiro Yamamoto on bass - Ben Shepard joined in time for their next album, and that has been the line-up ever since.

While Superunknown ironically is their best known album, my personal favorite album of theirs is 1991's Badmotorfinger, which gets a deluxe edition release later this month, but I still have a very sweet spot reserved for Louder Than Love, and especially the song that was selected as a single from the album: Hands All Over. I love the rolling groove that seems to be able to go on forever - and Chris Cornell sings otherworldly here again...

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

November 1 - Reach Down

March 19, 1990. Soundgarden was touring behind 1989's Louder Than Love, Nirvana had yet to find and team up with Dave Grohl as their ultimate drummer, and Mother Love Bone singer Andy Wood dies of a heroin overdose. Andy Wood's roommate, Chris Cornell, the singer in Soundgarden, was home just long enough to process the loss through writing two songs, dropped them off for the remaining members of Mother Love Bone, then went back to tour.

November and December of 1990. Cornell hits the studio with Mother Love Bone's Jeff Ament (bass)  and Stone Gossard (guitar). He brings Matt Cameron, Soundgarden's drummer, and Ament and Gossard had been playing with guitarist Mike McCready, who rounded out the lineup. On one track, the iconic Hunger Strike, a young singer named Eddie Vedder helped out on vocals. They called themselves Temple of the Dog, and their one and only album was released 25 years ago, in 1991.

I was a huge fan of both Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, which at that time made up 40 and 60 percent of the band respectively (today it is 40 and 80 percent respectively, as Matt Cameron plays the drums in both bands - it is Pearl Jam with Chris Cornell), so as soon as I heard about it, I bought it. I literally wore out my first copy of the album, that's how good I found it, and today I picked one of Cornell's initially penned songs, Reach Down.