Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 1-15-22

Commemorating the January 15 birthdays of Captain Beefheart, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Ronnie Van Zant, Slick Rick, The Dixie Cups’ Joan Marie Johnson, Lisa Lisa, The Motels’ Martha Davis, Jack Ü’s Skrillex, Bobby Bloom, and Pitbull, and the January 16 birthdays of Aaliyah, Sade’s Sade Adu, En Vogue’s Maxine Jones, Ethel Merman, Barbara Lynn, Nashville Teens’ Ray Phillips, Kiesza, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jill Sobule, Jim Stafford, and Yebba.

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 1-13-22

In today’s playlist we remember The Ronettes’ Ronnie Spector and celebrate the January 13 birthdays of Question Mark, The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne, Yes’s Trevor Rabin, Madness’s Suggs, Paul Kelly, The Moonglows’ Bobby Lester, Gwen Verdon and The Originals’ C.P. Spencer, and the January 14 birthdays of Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, LL Cool J, Kings of Leon’s Caleb Followill, Queensryche’s Geoffrey Tate, Clarence Carter, Jack Jones, Hello’s Bob Bradbury, and Grady Tate.

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 1-12-22

Inspired by the January 11 birthdays of The Chemical Brothers’ Tom Rowlands, Mary J. Blige, Bangles’ Vicki Peterson, The Sugarhill Gang’s Big Bank Hank, Slim Harpo, Kasabian’s Tom Meighan, Clarence Clemons, and Kelly Hogan, and the January 12 birthdays of Chris Bell, Rage Against The Machine’s Zack de la Rocha, Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon, Spice Girls’ Melanie C, Amerie, Village People’s Felipe Rose, Ruth Brown, The Skatalites’ Roland Alphonso, White Zombie’s Rob Zombie, Roxette’s Per Gessle, Johnny Clarke, The Detroit Emeralds’ Abe Tilmon, Long John Baldry, The Oak Ridge Boys’ William Lee Golden, Gallery’s Jim Gold, and Sharam.

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#98: Rufus Wainwright – Rufus Wainwright (1998)

Throughout 2022 I’ll be counting down my 100 favorite albums, because why not. We’re up to number ninety-eight.

The first time I saw Rufus Wainwright in concert was at NYC’s The Knitting Factory in August of 1999. The songs were great, his voice in fine form, and the long rambling stories between songs, along with the banter between him and his special guest, singer-songwriter Kate McGarrigle (Rufus’ mother), were hilarious. A couple of days later I bumped into him on the corner of 18th Street and Eighth Avenue, catty corner from the restaurant where I once had a blind date who got hit by a car while crossing the street to meet me. That’s a funny story. So I’d recognize my date, he told me he’d be wearing a scarlet “A.” From across the street he saw me waiting outside the restaurant and figured I was his date. As he crossed Eighth Avenue he reached into his pocket to retrieve the scarlet “A” and pin it to his coat. In the midst of doing that, he hadn’t noticed that the light changed and a car went through the green light and hit him. This story’s not funny like ha ha funny, but funny like does this potato salad smell funny to you? And the impact wasn’t THWACK! CRUNCH! WAAH!, but tap oops ouchie. He was fine.

I’m not sure I could say the same about Rufus, who on the afternoon I bumped into him by the scene of the crime was wearing long sleeves and long pants despite 100% humidity and a temperature of 312 degrees Kelvin. It was probably because at that time in his life he was putting into his body substances which, for several reasons, we won’t mention. I told him I loved the show, but didn’t talk long, as I was sober and sweaty despite my weather-appropriate ensemble.

I saw Rufus again by the Barnes & Noble on 21st and Sixth, whose closure a few years later would force me to walk all the way to the Barnes & Noble on 18th and Fifth, whose closure shortly thereafter forced me to walk to the Barnes & Noble on 17th a block east of Fifth. What can I say? I’m a schnook for a book, a jerk for a work, a nerd for the word, a dopus for an opus, a shlublication for a publication, a twit who should quit this bit. At first I saw his pants. Fine, it was cooler that evening than that of our first encounter (probably around 291 degrees Kelvin), but those pants! They were a crazy patchwork design that looked like dozens of discarded potholders stitched together by Mr. Magoo with one hand in his pocket and the other hailin’ a taxi cab. (My friend Chris pointed out that a Rufus Wainwright lyric would make for a better joke here, but I couldn’t think of any that fit, so I went with this reference to a song from Alanis Morissette, who, like Rufus, hails from Canada.) I couldn’t help but stare. I looked up to see the face of who would wear such a monstrosity. “Hey Rufus!,” I said, and then rambled a bit, digging myself a deeper hole with each word. “I noticed your pants – who could miss them? – and was wondering who would wear pants like that like who would be willing to wear pants like that out and was curious as to what kind of person and seeing it’s you makes sense because you DIG DIG DIG, GLENN and I’m going to cross the street now.” He looked bemused by my barmy banter and let out his Woody Woodpecker laugh as I crossed Sixth Avenue.

In all fairness, I’m not the late Mr. Blackwell, the arbiter of fashion. I have a stylist friend who helps me pick out my clothes. If Rufus liked/likes those pants and has no reservations about wearing them where others can see them, that’s all that matters, While I’m concerned with how others will judge me based on my appearance, Rufus isn’t – clearly! That’s something I should strive to emulate. Rufus inspires me to be more comfortable in my own shoes, which, suffice to say, are more fashionable than the shoes he was wearing that day.

Rufus’s music is as distinctive as his habiliments. I’ve heard that genre called “baroque pop,” to which I say, if this is baroque, then don’t fix it. The songs are smart, melodic, lush, and singular. His catalogue continues in the vein of his self-titled album, which was his debut, introducing me to the man who has since become one of my all-time favorite recording artists, which I’ll tell him the next time I bump into him on the street.

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 1-10-22

Inspired by the January 10 birthdays of Rod Stewart, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, Chic’s Luci Martin, Meat Puppets’ Curt Kirkwood, Johnnie Ray, Pat Benatar, Jim Croce, Kris Kross’s Chris Smith, Scott McKenzie, Bob & Earl’s Bobby Relf, Ronnie Hawkins, Crash Test Dummies’ Brad Roberts, Shawn Colvin, Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement, and Ray Bolger.

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 1-9-22

Today’s playlist is inspired by the January 9 birthdays of Sean Paul, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, New York Dolls’ David Johansen, Orbital’s Phil Hartnoll, The Walker Brothers’ Scott Walker, Joan Baez, Backstreet Boys’ AJ McLean, Dave Matthews, Smash Mouth’s Steve Harwell, Haddaway, The Cowsills’ Bill Cowsill, Crystal Gayle, The System’s Mic Murphy, Slim Gaillard and Paolo Nutini.

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist (1-8-22)

A playlist inspired by the January 8 birthdays of Elvis Presley, David Bowie, Little Anthony, Shirley Bassey, Jamie T, Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis, Mother Love Bone’s Andrew Wood, Monty Python’s Graham Chapman, The Nice’s Lee Jackson, and The Bear Quartet’s Mattias Alkberg.

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 1-6-22

Today’s playlist is inspired by the January 6 birthdays of Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett, Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, Fairport Convention’s Sandy Denny, Sister Sledge’s Kathy Sledge, Earl Scruggs, Van McCoy, Doris Troy, Polo G, Fabulous Thunderbirds’ Kim Wilson, and Nino Tempo.

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#99: R.E.M. – Green (1988)

Throughout 2022 I’ll be counting down my 100 favorite albums, because why not.

I accidentally hired a hooker once. Has that ever happened to you?

It was in 2001, before I became a stay at home dad to my two beautiful doggies. I enjoyed traveling and decided to visit the Czech Republic. On the web-site DestinationPrague.com, I found an amazing package deal.  For $1099 (plus fees), one gets an eight night hotel stay, a couple of meals, tickets to the theater, passage aboard a three-hour jazz cruise through the heart of the city, multiple spa treatments, and four hours with one’s own private tour guide. I’ll take a personal Czech!  This is an amazing deal! I filled out the form with my credit card info and faxed it over. They confirmed receipt via email. I was stoked!

Hold on for a second. That confirmation email? I noted it didn’t come from DestinationPrague.com; rather, it was sent from CzechBoys.com. I typed the URL in my browser. “You must be over 18 to enter this site. If you are over 18, click here.” I clicked there. On my screen there appeared several rows of headshots of young men. One Pavel after another. Talk about a Czech register!

I was confused. What exactly did I pay for? I went back to the Destination Prague website to see if perhaps I missed any clues. Nope. Hotel stay, meals, tickets, spa treatments, personal tour guide. Well, they didn’t call him a “tour guide.” They used a word that means tour guide. Escort. You know, one who accompanies another. They’re called an escort. I booked an escort.

Before I go any further, let me just say that I know what escort means in America. I’m not completely green. But this was Prague.  English isn’t their first language, so why would I think they knew our slang?

I already paid, plus I didn’t know if I actually booked an escort one who accompanies another or an escort Czechoslovakia boom-sha-boom. The email from CzechBoys.com had me pretty sure it was the boom-sha-boom. I had to think about this. For $1099 (plus fees) I’m getting eight nights in a hotel in a beautiful city, meals, shows, spa treatments, and somebody with whom to bake a potato? This deal was more amazing than I initially thought. Beyond stoked for this trip!

Two weeks after I purchased the hotel/spa/hooker package I got another e-mail from the travel agency that began “I’m sorry to have to bring some very disappointing and disturbing news.” It went on to tell me that the Czech police are cracking down on underage prostitutes. Wait, what? “If your plans to come here were partly based on meeting some young men….” No! Old churches! Art! Architecture! I travel to Europe to see that and to overtip waiters. And while it’s true that once I realized what I had done my anticipation grew, that was not why I booked the trip. The email also said that due to a police raid I could no longer stay in the hotel where they booked me. Wait, What – Part II Electric Boogaloo?  “If you would like us to try to put you at another hotel, please let us know and we will tell you the additional cost.”

Additional cost? Grrr. “Yes, please book me into another hotel,” I responded, adding “though I’m very disappointed I’m not getting what I contracted for.” I probably should have been clearer that I was referring to the less expensive hotel, though seeing that it was shut down by the police, there’s a better than average chance it wasn’t a Michelin 4-star property.

I didn’t get a reply. I wrote them again. Nothing. Days passed. It’s almost time for my trip, and I don’t know where I am staying, if someone is going to pick me up from the airport, etc.

I imagined the police shut down the “travel agency,” arrested everyone who worked there (poor Pavels) and confiscated their computers.  Guess whose name is in those computers!  Mine – Greeny McClueless! The Czech police will be waiting for me at the airport. Before I even get off the plane I’ll get arrested and will be thrown in an Eastern European prison cell, which, ironically, I will share with my escort. 

I had no intention of starring in the sequel to Midnight Express. Friends said they’d serve as character witnesses at my trial. “Yes, your honor, Glenn really is that naïve.”

First things first, though.  My credit card was billed $1338 (damn those extra fees!), and it looked like I was not going to get what I paid for. I wanted that money returned to me, should I need it for bail. I called my bank. “Customer Service? I need a credit for the $1338 charge on my statement.”

“Why? What happened?” 

“Ummmmmmm…services cannot be rendered.” 

“We’ll issue a temporary credit, and mail you a form to fill out.”

“Great! Thank you!” Glad that got resolved with my dignity intact.

I received the form a few days later. I filled in the transaction date, the amount, and wrote that my recent attempts to reach the merchant were unsuccessful. As part of the bank’s investigation, I was instructed to return the form with all supporting documents. All supporting documents, huh? “The police are cracking down on underage prostitutes.” “I’m disappointed I’m not getting what I contracted for.” Here you go, Chase Banker. I learned something about myself that day. The value of my pride is $1099. Plus fees.

Ultimately, I got my credit. I went to Prague. I didn’t get arrested. I found my way around on my own, and I had a great time. I ended up in a nice hotel, saw great art and beautiful architecture, luxuriated in the most relaxing spa treatments, had many delicious meals, and didn’t have to endure a jazz cruise and pretend I was enjoying it. So to you I say, should you wish to book a travel, go up to Czech without a Pavel.

My naiveté has gotten me into other precarious situations. I’ll save those stories for another time. Right now I should say something about my number 99 album. I don’t love R.E.M.’s Green solely because its title describes me. It was the first R.E.M. album I bought upon its release, and their then new label, Warner Records, put a lot of promotion behind it, so I got to soak it in for a good long while. It holds a special place for me as it was the big stepping stone to my becoming a huge fan of the band. And because I eventually got a job in the catalogue division of Warner Music, I now have five copies of Green. I added the group’s entire back catalogue to my collection and every subsequent album I got on release date.

There’s more R.E.M. to come on this list.

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