Monthly Archives: September 2014

Kind of absurd, but great memories

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Hard to believe that Steve Goodman has been gone 30 years today. Leukemia.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that we met at the merch table after a show in Madison, Wisconsin? When he autographed my record to Joe, and not to Jeff? I still smile at that.

No, it’s been 31 years since he opened for fellow folk singer Leo Kottke at the old Madison Civic Center, a show I remember nothing about.

Kinda wondering what people remember of Steve Goodman today.

Probably most know him for the songs he wrote about his beloved Chicago Cubs. If you’ve visited here during the Christmas season, you know his charming live version of “Winter Wonderland” is one of our seasonal faves.

“It’s kind of absurd/when you don’t know the words/to sing/
walkin’ in a winter wonderland!”

I probably was introduced to Steve Goodman’s music in 1976 or 1977 by my friend Pat Houlihan, a folk singer from central Wisconsin who also introduced me to the music of John Prine, who was Goodman’s friend. I liked Goodman and Prine for the same reason. There’s a lot of humor in real life. They saw that, and wrote songs accordingly.

So let’s listen to some Steve Goodman. He wrote or co-wrote all but one song.

stevegoodman high and outside lp

“Men Who Love Women Who Love Men,” an irreverent but perceptive take on sexual identity.

“The One That Got Away,” a duet with Nicolette Larson on a song wistfully remembering life’s missed opportunities.

Both from “High And Outside,” Steve Goodman, 1979. His second-to-last major-label record, on Asylum. Goodman produced it, but the arrangements are almost too lush, too rich for his sometimes-thin voice.

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“You Never Even Called Me By My Name,” a country music spoof co-written with John Prine, and a hit for David Allan Coe. Goodman improvised the final verse to include references to Mama, trains, trucks, prison and getting drunk, which Coe thought every great country song needs.

“City Of New Orleans,” which really launched Goodman’s career when it became a hit for Arlo Guthrie in 1972.

Both from “Artistic Hair,” Steve Goodman, 1983. A wonderful collection of live performances from over a 10-year period. I’m generally not big on live records, but this is really the only way to get the essence of Steve Goodman.

stevegoodman affordable art lp

“Souvenirs,” a duet with John Prine on the familiar song written by Prine and first heard on Prine’s second LP, “Diamonds In The Rough,” from 1972.

“Talk Backwards,” a goofy take full of double-speak.

Both from “Affordable Art,” Steve Goodman, 1984. This was the last record released before Goodman’s death. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

Thanks to Clay Eals, Goodman’s biographer, for the 30-year reminder.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under September 2014, Sounds

Could we go back to lighters?

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When I went to see Joan Jett and the Blackhearts on Saturday night, I walked down to within about 20 feet of the stage. Close enough for a decent picture, I thought.

When she took the stage, I pulled out my phone and took a crappy picture. Then another crappy picture. I should have known better. The Paul McCartney picture I took last summer turned out somewhat decent only because I shot the giant video board and not Macca himself.

Lots of other people were taking pictures on Saturday night, as you’d expect. One guy provided a vaguely surreal experience. As I watched Joan Jett live, I also saw it on the small screen on the guy’s phone. Both were in my line of sight.

The night before, on Friday night, I was sitting in the left-field corner at Miller Park in Milwaukee, not all that far from where we sat for McCartney. My friend Doug and I got to talking about keeping a scorecard at ballgames. We used to do it all the time. We don’t do it anymore. I’ve gone to dozens of ballgames since the ’70s, but I remember few of the details. Too busy keeping score.

Which is why I deleted all but one of my Joan Jett pictures on Saturday night and put my phone away. I wanted to soak in the show and remember its essence, and to not have a crappy picture as my lingering memory.

Joan Jett sounded great, looked great, had a tight band, and looked like she was having fun, even on a cool Wisconsin night when she wore a lightweight hoodie until she warmed up with the first couple of numbers. Can’t ask for more.

Of course, one of those lingering memories will be all the phones whipped out by the faithful.

As will the lighters whipped out by a couple of old-school folks toward the end of the show. There you go. That’s more like it.

You know all of Joan Jett’s hits — and she played most of them on Saturday night — so here’s one from their most recent record, “Unvarnished,” which came out a year ago. It’s called “Soulmates To Strangers,” and was written with Laura Jane Grace. The band in the video is the one that played here.

joan jett unvarnished 240

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under September 2014, Sounds