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Under The Radar And Speeding – Jonny Polonsky’s Unreleashed

There are many good and bad things about about the internet. One one hand, it has completely changed the world… On the other hand… it has completely changed the world. Many worlds… It has changed the way we communicate… or don’t. It has changed the way we talk to each other… or don’t. And it has changed the way we get and listen to music. And we do.

The internet is an embarrassment of riches, though those riches do not always make it to the artists who deserve them. The fact that I can listen to anything I want, whenever I want is an amazing thing. But the fact that there is so much music out there, can also make it hard to find things. Not that I was ever a musician… well, okay, I play a pretty mean harmonica, actually… but I have not made a record of me solo doing that…

But I do miss the days of the mix tape… the days when artists pounded the pavement and handed their tapes to anyone who would listen. This is how Jonny Polonsky made his way through the Chicago music scene. And like his guitar playing, he went balls to the wall. If you have never seen him live, do it. He plays with a passion and fury that is filled with joy. He is just one of of those guys who truly leaves a pint of blood… and sweat on the stage. Amazing! I had the pleasure of seeing him at the Hotel Cafe last year and the show kicked ass. He is also one of those bastards that plays a gazillion instruments! And plays them all well… Jerk! ūüėČ

In January of 2018 he released a new record,¬†Fresh Flesh, which was reviewed here. This eighth solo release is great and I highly recommend seeking it out. Actually, you should seek out all his stuff . And the fact that he can now publish a 21-track demos and rarities album is remarkable… remarkable because¬†Unreleashed: Demos And Rarities¬†has songs that other artists would love to have as their main tracks.

I love Jonny’s quote on the impetus for doing this record:
“About six months ago, the thought occurred to me that I should release a greatest hits record.
Which is, of course, ridiculous because I don’t have any hits. But the idea quickly morphed into
a compilation record of all the best songs from the last 20 years that I never put on a record.
That idea sounded exciting to me.‚ÄĚ

The opening track, “Everywhere All The Time”¬†sets the tone and has become one of my favorite songs of his. It is so listenable on its own, but then there is also a whole other deeper element

‚ÄúThat song was actually written and recorded around 2007, but I feel like it really describes the chaotic, divisive, mean spiritedness that permeates so much of our daily lives right now. ‚ÄėYou‚Äôre everywhere all the time, but nobody sees you there.‚Äô People talk a lot about being one human family and loving and accepting one another, despite our superficial differences in beliefs or appearances. But we still have a long way to go. I personally feel hopeful and optimistic about humanity, but I had to vent my frustration and pain about this all-too-frequently cruel and insane world.‚ÄĚ

Many of the tracks are Power Pop at its best, and if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know the special place Power Pop holds in my musical heart. Jonny is often compared to, or at least placed in the same esteemed group as,¬†Pete Yorn, Ryan Adams and Frank Black. Clearly Frank has had a major influence, as he was not only Jonny’s idol, but also wound up becoming a fan, helping to set him up with a record deal AND producing that amazing debut album, Hi My Name Is Jonny! According to AllMusic, Black (the lead singer of the Alt Rock band the Pixies) has “produced prolific¬†amounts of quirky, intelligent rock music.” That is a good description of Jonny’s music… a mix of Power Pop, Post Punk and Alternative Rock. Or for me… wheelhouse, wheelhouse, wheelhouse.

Enjoy a little ’90s flashback here.

Some of my favorite tracks are the aforementioned opener, and the killer “The Same Song,” which I need to write a movie for! According to Jonny,¬†‚ÄėThe Same Song‚Äô is something I had kicking around for years, but only ended up finishing¬†when I first moved to LA. I had met Lyle Workman when he was playing in Frank Black‚Äôs band,
and Lyle co-produced the track.”

On a side note, Lyle seems to be on fire these days, composing music for film and TV, including a lot of work for Judd Apatow’s shows and projects like HBO’s “Crashing.” He has also played on some of my favorite records like¬†Jellyfish’s¬†Spilt Milk,¬†Todd Rundgren’s Nearly Human and 2nd Wind and Beck’s Midnight Vultures.

I also dig “Amazed” and “See Your Around,” and¬†I especially love the lyric “After the fight comes new beginnings.” And that’s the thing about Jonny… you can listen to the music and enjoy it as is, and this album is a true joy from start to finish… or you can delve deeper and get into the lyrics which range from fun and quirky to deeply moving and insightful.

Jonny Polonsky may be flying under the radar for some of you, but the music is speeding at the sound of rock. Give it a listen. Get to a show. And with all the music that is out there, make sure great artists like Jonny don’t pass you by.



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Tom Petty… A Heart And A Heartbreaker Has Broken Mine

Monday, October 2nd was a shitty day. No, it was a horrible, dark and bleak day. In the midst of trying to write and apply for jobs, I could not turn the news off. The death toll and numbers of those injured was climbing. Las Vegas had become a war zone… yet another example of the world gone mad… another example of why the greatest country on the globe, arguably, and not so clear-cut these days, needs to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of health insurance and logical gun laws and gun control.

Yes, we need to understand why someone would do this. This is vital as well… To see what signs were missed… or whether or not someone knew something and said nothing. We may not really know why it happened… but we know how… and we clearly know how easy it is to get a gun that no one actually needs… or 42 of them. Enough is enough is enough.

I have been to the Mandalay Bay many times… stayed there many times. I have friends who did an annual charity event there that I volunteered for on several occasions. Ironically, they also did a country music festival… Not this one, but still… “There but for the grace of G-d go I…”

And then… and then… and then…

In the midst of all this, my college buddy and oft concert partner Russ calls about Tom Petty… He was clearly shaken… It was before most news stories were out, so I immediately jumped online. No… Not today… Not now. People mock TMZ, but sadly they are usually right… and they were, once again, the first ones to report what was going on.

Just last week, Tom Petty was in town, playing three nights at the Hollywood Bowl. I was pissed at first when the first show announced was on Rosh Hashanah, I skipped Bruce’s book signing a year ago for the same reason. But then they added two more dates and all seemed right with the world. Well… no concert budget forced me to hope I would win tickets through a local station… and I checked in with my usual contacts at another station, hoping maybe an extra pair would pop up.

Russ and I had a conversation before last Monday’s show about possibly going, but he and I had seen Petty on June 11, 2013 when he did his amazing residency at the Fonda Theatre. You can read my post on that show here. That was a 1200 person venue! ¬†I mean we were right there! We had seen him in the old Forum… when Bob¬†Dylan came out… and in Chicago. Plus… the Bowl can be a pain in the ass… and while it is historic and amazing, it can also be a clusterfuck of 18,000 people, and a curfew that cuts set lists short.

I will regret that decision for a long time to come. ¬†Yes, who knew. Who knew the last Eagles tour would be the last with Glenn Frey? All of my regrets and missed opportunities start to play in my head… David Bowie, Prince, Roy Orbison, Gregg Allman… shows I could have gone to…

I had met Petty, along with Howie Epstein¬†in 1993, at The Troubadours Of Folk Festival on the campus of UCLA.¬†¬†Thanks to David Wild for that amazing opportunity. I¬†have a signed ticket stub from that show… Tom Petty, along with Roger McGuinn and Arlo Guthrie, and though they all signed over each other, Petty is pretty clear, in the black Sharpie.

Just so you know… I have stopped typing. Tears come too easily today. It is overwhelming. There is so much going on in my brain right now. So much…

Damn The Torpedoes was my first Petty record… and to this day, it is one of the few albums I would call perfection, song to song. It reminds me of a specific time and place… Glen Rock, New Jersey… 1979… But it is also timeless… It moves with me… grows with me…

That’s why music is so essential. It is why artists become such a vital part of our lives. It is why we cry when they pass. Why we feel so lost. It is why we feel at all, and feel so deeply. I know some people don’t understand the pain… the sorrow we feel, as if we lost a friend or member of out family.

I’ll never forget yelping in pain and anguish when my brother called to tell me Clarence Clemons¬†passed away. I was out to dinner with my parents and had to literally walk away from the table and out onto the street. At first they were horrified, thinking it was a real family member… then they were a bit surprised and dismayed that I would react so strongly to someone I had never met and really did not know. But I did know Clarence… just as I knew Bowie and Frey and Prince… and Petty. The only one of these I actually met was Petty… but that is NOT how I knew him.

I knew him for the music. I knew him from the common humanity and understanding we seemed to share… from the poetry, the lyrics and the notes. The chords and the chorus… the bridge and the riff. I knew him because he sung things I thought, and answered questions I wrestled with. That is art… that is music.

Petty’s music has been with me for almost 40 years. ¬†He has been an almost constant companion since I was a teen… In high school, in college, in the car, on road trips… blasting from the house… bringing me up when I needed to learn, or relearn to fly… reminding me to listen to my heart… be patient because the waiting was the hardest part… and wondering how I was going to run down a dream.

And yet today, I could barely listen to the radio. Knowing why Petty was being played was too much to bare. ¬†A sigh… a deep breath… none of it was enough to make it stop… to halt the revealing reality. In my brain I thought maybe I could wish it away… If I stop listening and watch the news it won’t be real.

I mean the news was all over the place… He was… he wasn’t… he will be. But as naive as we would like be as adults, we cannot stop it… Time, music, the show… it all goes on.

There is that moment when you hear a chunk of songs by an artist and feel a sense of dread. It’s not Two For Tuesday… It’s not Triple Play Thursday… It’s not Roll The Dice… Oh no… What happened??? Why are they playing so many of his/her/their songs???

The idea of being found unconscious means you were alone… means no one had a chance to save you.¬†That haunts me a bit… haunts me a lot. For his last minutes, and for any of ours.


As I was driving my daughter home, and tears started once again, I told her that I felt bad for her, because as good as some of the artists of her generation may be, the odds of them still being here and vital 40 years from now was a long shot. I told her how much Tom’s music meant to me… How much it got me through. How he was a part of me. And my daughter is a music person. I know she gets it.

But now, as so often happens, music that gave me nothing but joy will be tinged with sadness, heartbreak and loss. Maybe for a few moments I’ll be lost… back in that innocence… purity… peace and calm… but then I’ll want to go back in time, like I do now. Go to more shows… go to the Bowl… stop time to get him help… to make it not happen… because right now all I can think is Nooooooooo! This cannot be.

We all have soundtracks… we all have songs that accompanied a first kiss… a first love… a first heartbreak… a first dance… a birth… a wedding… a death.¬†Music has that power… and those who make the music, seemingly make it just for us. At least that is how we feel about the great ones.

I should have gone to the show at the Bowl… obviously now… but for me the bottom line was a need to conserve funds. I was being responsible… and luckily, I had seen TP & The Heartbreakers several times. It doesn’t take away the immediate sting and pain and loss, but… we cannot dwell and live with regret… Life is too short, too unpredictable… Clearly.

But I realized when you don’t have a lot of money and you’re young, you want things. When you don’t have a lot of money and you’re a bit older, you want¬†experiences… those shared moments in time… those special events that will stay with you for a lifetime. And you miss them deeply when they pass you by. Concerts are a big one, and it hurts when I have to miss a show. Obviously I assumed he’d be back… that this was not the end of the tour… the road… the album…

At the time, as much as I wanted to be there, I was okay with missing it. There’d be others…

In this world… in these days… in any days… that is not a sure thing. Nothing is.

So let us sit with the pain… sit with the loss… sit with the music…
In the dark… headsets on… taking the whole library and output in. It’s astounding… the solo stuff… the duets… The Heartbreakers… The Traveling Wilburys… So much. So much amazing and incredible music.

And then… slowly, let us stand… and sway… and dance… and sing… and celebrate once again. Let us be thankful for what we DID HAVE… what we DO HAVE…

But yes, let us fully realize that it will never again be “just the normal noises in here”…



Filed under Life... Plain and Not So Simple, Live Music Reviews, Marc's Mixed Bag - A Little Of Everything, Marc's Playlist - Music That Moves Me, The News Blues

Metal Monday – General Thoughts And Rockin’ Ramblings (Part One)

So a couple of general thoughts hit me as I was writing my Iron Maiden posts. I knew I wanted to do something about Metal in general…the history, the different styles, etc.

Then my buddy Jason posted something that I thought was worth exploring, specifically about Maiden. And then my friend, fraternity brother and other Metal Mentor, Barry gave some awesome insight into his love of the genre… and Boom!

Since neither are guest blogging, you’re stuck with me. But these are the two who Metaled me up… And hey, look, Boys! Thirty some odd years later it worked! I’m hooked!

So where does one start when looking for info. on any given subject? Wikipedia, of course.

“Heavy metal…¬†developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the¬†United Kingdom¬†and the¬†United States.¬†With roots in¬†blues rock¬†and¬†psychedelic/acid rock,¬†the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified¬†distortion, extended¬†guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness. Heavy metal lyrics and performance styles are sometimes associated with¬†aggression¬†and¬†machismo.”

“In 1968, the first heavy metal bands such as¬†Led Zeppelin,¬†Black Sabbath¬†and¬†Deep Purple¬†attracted large audiences, though they were often derided by critics. During the mid-1970s,¬†Judas Priest¬†helped spur the genre’s evolution by discarding much of its¬†blues¬†influence;¬†Mot√∂rhead¬†introduced a¬†punk rock¬†sensibility and an increasing emphasis on speed. Beginning in the late 1970s, bands in the¬†new wave of British heavy metal¬†such as¬†Iron Maiden¬†and¬†Saxon¬†followed in a similar vein. Before the end of the decade, heavy metal fans became known as “metalheads” or “headbangers”.

A couple of things stand out for me. First, it amazes me how things that are on the fringe become so mainstream at a certain point in time. Zeppelin and Deep Purple are Classic Rock bands to me! Granted I came to them later in their careers, but that was normal FM Radio/East Coast listening. And let us not forget that The Beatles started off as the enemy to many a parent. Then the Stones came out as the even more evil rockers! And of course, speaking of Metal, Iron Maiden was cast as devil worshippers.

Some folks consider AC/DC a Metal band, but to me they are just hard rock and one of the highlights to come out of Jason’s Boom Box. Same with KISS. And while Judas Priest was always blasting that summer, I never really listened to Metal on a regular basis. In fact, when people asked me what musical genres were the ones I knew the least about, I would always say Rap, New Country and Metal.

Now Rap and Hip Hop come pouring out from behind my daughter’s closed bedroom door (No, that is not really it!!!), along with a fair amount of Show Tunes!¬†Though I am also happy to say that her playlist has a heck of a lot of Classic Rock on it!

I will admit that I got into NWA, Dr. Dre, Tupac and others all “after the fact.” Way before my daughter, but after the fact…and I will also admit that I do get “parental” from time to time, as I hear certain lyrics being sung by my kid. Ugh.

And I always had a soft side… and I guess I still do… as my favorites of the time were Steve Miller Band and The Eagles. My first concerts were more Classic Rock than anything else, too. Chicago and Orleans was my first. Then The Eagles, Heart and the Little River Band

Usually as people get older their musical tastes get smaller and more “refined”. ¬†Not me! My tastes have been growing and expanding for a long time now. And as I said, I seem to come to certain things late… like Metal! Which also has friends accusing me of doing to try to stay young. That’s not the way I work. I listen to what moves me, what grabs me and I do not care where and who it comes from. More politicians need to do this with good ideas! It should not matter what side of the aisle it comes from! A good idea is a good idea, and the goal must be to problem solve, help and create joy.

But this post is about MUSICAL JOY! So what is it about Metal that has taken such a hold on me? Iron Maiden is in regular rotation. I love the new Metallica album, and the Judas Priest 30th Anniversary CDs are kicking me into gear. I wrote about how studies have shown that this music can actually relax people. I can actually see that, but for me, it just makes me happy and energized, and I love to CRANK IT! To 11!!!

Barry wrote:
“It’s all about the energy.¬†Metal still motivates me and gets me pumped like no other genre. And the metal bands that I like best ‚Äď the ones that exhibit extreme technical precision like Dream Theater, Iron Maiden, Queensryche, etc. ‚Äď appeal to me from my early years as a classically trained pianist. (Which is probably why I enjoyed grunge, but never got into it as much as I did metal ‚Äď the precision was always a little lacking for me.) I am also a huge fan of guitar virtuosos like Reb Beach, Paul Gilbert, Nuno Bettencourt, John Petrucci, George Lynch, et. al. ‚Äď their craftsmanship and precision continue to astound and inspire me.

Right on, Barry!!!

Robert Walser¬†(author of Running With the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music)¬†said that Metal’s “most influential musicians have been guitar players who have also studied classical music. Their appropriation and adaptation of classical models sparked the development of a new kind of guitar virtuosity [and] changes in the harmonic and melodic language of heavy metal.”


And specifically on Maiden, Jason wrote:
“I think another thing that is important to mention — for the uninitiated — is to not pre-judge Iron Maiden because of Eddie (their mascot, who is on all their graphics). Maiden is not what you might hate about metal — in fact it’s quite the contrary. Musically, their material is high-energy and rocks hard (and they are great players), it’s mostly very melodic and their lyrics are unobjectionable (no cursing, no objectifying of women, and many have historical context, e.g., “The Trooper,” about the Crimean War, “Aces High,” about the WWII air wars and Battle of Britain, “Where Eagles Dare,” based on the great WWII film, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” based on the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem, etc). They are all smart individuals, family men, and their lead singer actually flies the band plane (a fully loaded 747 with the band gear, not a little prop plane.). With streaming services, it’s easy to sample their music or their bio-pic, “Flight 666.” Enjoy the journey and Up the Irons!”

So you can see how and why these two are my Metal Mentors… Jason on a Teen Tour, and Barry as my Frat House roommate in College! We listened to a hell of a lot of great stuff back then, Boys! And this does not even include all that Al Jarreau and Spyro Gyra, Barry! What? We needed to charm the ladies!

Come back next Monday for¬†Metal Monday – General Thoughts And Rockin’ Ramblings (Part Two) when we talk about all the different sub-genres of Metal and more!


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The Blues Have The Blues – Goodnight And G-d Bless, B.B. King

Just so you know… in the background is B.B. playing the Newport Folk Festival on July 27,1968. The blues have a way of just piercing the soul. Mmm… I wish you could hear what I am hearing… Well, I guess you can… Go to Wolfgang’s Vault or just Google it… Even though I am downhearted… there is joy in the Blues!

Unknown 1968_newport_folk 2

From the field hollers to the work songs, the Blues were quite literally born out of a harsh, frustrating and difficult life. They took that tragedy and made it into something artistic… made it into music..

Riley B. King was born on a cotton plantation on¬†September 16, 1925. He¬†was inducted into the¬†Rock and Roll Hall of Fame¬†in 1987, received the¬†National Medal of Arts¬†in 1990 and the¬†Presidential Medal of Freedom¬†in 2006… and in between, he played a hell of a lot of music… a hell of a lot of shows… and made a hell of a lot of us happy. He became a legend, an icon, a true ambassador of the Blues… and he will be missed… a lot.

I had the good fortune of going to school just outside of Chicago… and while I am not pleased with my university at the moment (something political that won’t be discussed here), I was exposed to some of the best Jazz and¬†Blues you will ever hear… and I got to see some of the best names in music. I learned how to blow Blues harmonica in Chicago.

I will never forget Kingston Mines, Biddy Mulligans, Blues, etc., Mama Rosa’s… and I will never forget the greats I got to see… Albert King, Willie Dixon, Koko Taylor, James Cotton, Fenton Robinson, Lonnie Mack, Albert Collins, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, and of course B.B. King!

I saw him many times… I saw him standing… I saw him sitting, which sadly he had to do a lot at the end… and I saw him last year at The Greek, where he spoke for almost the entire time, with barely a guitar lick here or there… Many people were pissed… and I was a bit disappointed myself… He spent so much time talking about someone’s popcorn in the front row… but is what it was… and he was 88 years old at the time… 88!!! I likened it to holding court with royalty… with the King… We were literally having an audience with the King. When Peter Frampton came out to play with him, that was the highlight… and it really seemed to rejuvenate him. There was so much mutual love and respect… and I will keep that image in my mind for a long time.

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The fact remains, that this man was a true legend… and one of the last of his kind. Who is left? What Bluesman can take this mantle? Buddy Guy perhaps? Perhaps a woman will lead the way… Are you ready Bonnie Raitt?


And so Lucille is put away in her plush case… The man who made her cry and sing is no more… But we are here… singing… and now crying… Because that is the Blues. Goodnight and G-d bless, B.B. King. You get to rest now… until your next concert upstairs!

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