He was sitting right behind me on our short flight to Minneapolis. RIGHT BEHIND ME.
My hero Malcolm Young was answering the clueless business man’s questions.
“So y’all play in a band or something?”
The businessman asked.
Ask him why he loves Gretsch Firebirds so much, dummy! I was dying.
Malcolm was probably glad he wasn’t sitting next to someone like me.
The flight would have seemed interminable as I peppered him with questions.
When we landed I turned around and told him how much I loved his music and how I briefly played in an AC/DC cover band.
He was nice, he’d heard it all before, it was no big deal to him but it was a big deal to me.
AC/DC changed my life.
I was twelve years old when I first heard them, blasting out of the radio at the Whataburger in Laredo TX,
I was (pardon the pun) Thunderstruck.
AC/DC sounded like trouble.
To my twelve-year-old brain, they sounded terrifying, libidinous and irresistible.
They were the perfect soundtrack to my teenage frustration.
As I got older and became a musician, I came to appreciate how phenomenal Malcolm Young was.
His younger brother Angus got all the attention but Malcolm’s right hand was like half the band.
The riffs he wrote were one hundred proof white lightning.
Most bands would kill to have a song as dynamite as Back in Black but there was also Highway to Hell, High Voltage, Whole Lotta Rosie, Riff Raff, Dirty Deeds and my personal guitar fave Can I Sit Next To You Girl.
The songs are all about discipline.
The rhythm guitar never ever strums.
There’s no fat in AC/DC songs, just the essentials.
There are no ballads, no breakup songs, no real love songs.
Just balls to the wall, take no prisoners rock and roll.
Quite an achievement.
R.I.P. Malcolm Young
He was sitting right behind me on our short flight to Minneapolis. RIGHT BEHIND ME.
When I was a kid we used to cruise around my little border town. Up and down two streets. Malinche ran South, Bartlett ran North.
We'd go round and round and round searching for Carrie Fisher or at least some girl that might wanna fool around.
The soundtrack was Van Halen, AC/DC, The Scorpions, Def Leppard.
Deep down I knew we wouldn't find anything.
I should've been doing something productive, but that's what adults say, not a 16 year old dork with a fake ID.
Do people in Laredo TX still do this sort of thing?
I doubt it.
Now you have Tinder, OK Cupid, Facebook etc.
Why cruise around when you can just make tentative plans and then cancel them as the mood dictates?
Speaking of Facebook....
Scrolling down a Facebook feed reminds me of cruising down that street.
Looking for something interesting.
On Facebook you can usually find it but to me they're both a colossal waste of time.
Yet here I am.
Just one more time around.
I’m in Los Angeles mixing songs for my next project “The Help Machine” with Bob Clearmountain.
Bob mixed “Let’s Dance”, "Born In The USA", "Avalon"....the list goes on and on.
You can find his insanely impressive resume here.
Besides being an ace behind the mixing desk, he’s also one of the nicest people working in the snake pit known as the music industry.
My pals, The Dandy Warhols have a new record coming out April 8th.
I co-wrote two of the tunes, “Pope Reverend Jim” and “Give”.
Yesterday I went on a macabre tour of LA.
My friend Michael picked me up in his Cadillac and took me to Westwood Memorial Park where Marilyn Monroe is buried.
Farrah Fawcett is buried there too, as well as Mel Torme and Don Knotts.
He took me to the condo on Bundy Drive where Nicole Brown Simpson was murdered.
A strange way to spend the afternoon for sure.
Here's the deal: Aunt Julia never wrote "Life on Mars."Read More
I'll be playing the 30A Songwriter's Festival down in South Walton this year. Lots of my friends will be there- Will Kimbrough, Bobby Bare Jr, Bob Schneider, Steve Poltz and Will Sexton to name a few. There's also Cracker, Shovels and Rope, Ani Di Franco, Grace Potter and Jackson Browne. Sounds like a great time, here's where you can find me.
In other news, Fastball has a record in the can, it will be out this year sometime. I also co-produced and co-wrote several songs for Jeff Plankenhorn's upcoming release entitled, Soulside. That should be out in March.
I'm going on another hike with Love Hope Strength. This time it's Africa.
Tanzania, to be exact.
I've never been there and I'm looking forward to it.
Brett Dennen, Robin Wilson (from the Gin Blossoms) and Cy Curnin will be joining me along with many other folks that I've met through Love Hope Strength.
In preparation for the hike, I've been running and walking a lot.
The other day I walked eight miles. It took me almost two hours.
I'm thinking maybe I should learn another language while I"m walking, just to be more productive with my time.
Love Hope Strength does great work.
They are a charity organization that raises money to fight cancer in places like Africa and Nepal.
if you want to learn more about them you can go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpgeOp0sJ_0
If you want to donate on my behalf to Love Hope Strength, you can do so here:
Your donations are tax deductible and you will be helping to save someone's life.
Except it wasn’t a record, it was a bunch of files that landed on my cloud.
Sadly, I was disappointed.
Like I said, it was a bunch of files, not an album.
NOT the same thing.
My Mother also gave me a free album, back in 1979.
It was an actual album, something you could hold in your hand.
It was “Let It Be” by the Beatles.
I was on a steady diet of Kiss and didn’t really want the record.
The four guys on the cover looked like smelly hippies to me.
Still it was a free record, why pass up a free record?
I dropped the needle on the album and by the time they got to the "You and I have memories" part, I had forgotten all about Kiss.
I was there.
I was there when U2 became U2.
You were probably there too.
I remember the mullet.
The white flag.
I was the proper age, an impressionable 17 year old.
I had mixed feelings about them before, but seeing the video of them performing at Red Rocks in the mist and the rain and hearing Sunday Bloody Sunday on the radio next to big 80's hair metal and Phil Collins made quite an impression on me.
That martial drumbeat....that guitar... and Bono wasn’t singing about girls.
Nobody else sounded like them.
I was sold.
It was music for the heart and the head.
As a friend of mine used to say, “context is everything” and in that context U2 really mattered.
I believed in them.
They got bigger and bigger. They started wearing hats,
started dressing like they were gambling on a riverboat.
I stuck with them all the way up until they made that awful movie.
U2 discovered the Blues.
I lived in Austin, I had already discovered the Blues.
I was going to Antone’s all the time and seeing people like Albert Collins and Buddy Guy and James Cotton.
Now they were gonna show me the Blues?
I stayed with them as long as I could.
At some point I stopped caring.
Was it them or was it me?
Hard to say.
Sometimes, they’d release something brilliant like “Beautiful Day” and I would try to fall in love with them again.
The Beatles just reissued most the Mono versions of their studio albums.
I already own all this stuff in various formats and it costs a fortune -$375 on Amazon.
I keep thinking about it.
I can’t download it, I can't stream it.
If I want it, I have to go to a record store and buy it.
And I do want it.
I want it. I want it. I waaaant it.
I already own it all their music.
Ah, but not this version of it.
It’s a fetish thing.
That big beautiful white box.
The book that goes with it.
All the album artwork of the Fabs.
Isn’t that why we buy stuff?
The best kind of shopping is tension/release.
Desire and then fulfillment of said desire.
With an mp3 there is no tension/release.
You just download it.
It’s there in a second.
Like a bad lover.
Where’s the fun in that?
I don't wait for new U2 records anymore, not like I did when I was younger.
I gave up on them for good after “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb”.
Nevertheless they had put the record on my I-tunes whether I wanted it or not.
I've never been there.
At least, I think I've never been there.
I've done so many gigs, I can't remember.
Anyways, it felt new to me.
We had some time during the day, so the people organizing the event asked us if we wanted to see Mount Rushmore.
Although I was more inclined to see the Devil's Tower (because of the name, and because it was the centerpiece of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind), I agreed.
Mount Rushmore was closer and it was more.....well.....American.
On the way out there we stopped by this insanely beautiful lake.
Pactola Dam and Reservoir.
It was instructive, in the kind of inarguable way that nature can be.
It was just a lake, but it was so beautiful.
No gift shop hawking t-shirts and postcards and coffee mugs.
No admission fee.
It just was there and it was perfect.
After that, Mount Rushmore was a let down.
A week later I'm still dreaming about this lake.
I shove any last minute thoughts of chickening out to the back of my brain and hop in a cab,
my duffel bag and backpack on my shoulder.
Did I bring everything I'll need?
Did I forget anything?
Too late now.
My flights go smoothly. No delays.
Austin to Dallas.
Dallas to Dubai.
Dubai to Dehli, India.
Now the fun starts.
The lady at American Airlines in Austin only checked my bag through to Dehli.
I have a 14 hour layover here.
The only problem is I don't have an Indian Visa.
I can't enter the country.
Apparently baggage claim is considered IN the country.
Welcome to India.
I've been flying for 24 hours and I'm fried.
What to do?
Luckily this guy that works for Emirates Airlines (the plane I just got off of)
gets on his radio and figures out that HE can get my bag and check it into my next flight.
He just needs my passport.
The last bit of security i have.
I offer him a photocopy but he says he needs the actual passport.
As he disappears down the hall, I contemplate spending the night here in this weird section of the Dehli
Unable to go on to Kathmandu because I don't have my passport.
Not in India but in purgatory.
I got the e-mail last week, asking if anyone wanted to join the Love Hope Strength gang on their
5 year anniversary trek to base camp at Mt. Everest.
Strangely enough my calendar was open.
I had wanted to go on this trip but it was beyond my reach, financially speaking.
Someone dropped out and now I could go for a third of the price.
It would mean lots and lots of scrambling to get together all the gear,
plane flights etc.
I thought about how I would feel if I didn't go.
Once I did that, the expense (still considerable) and the effort paled in comparison to the feeling of missing out on such an Odyssey.
Some of my partners in crime would include Brett Dennen, Cy Curnin, G Love and Robin from the Gin Blossoms.
We will play a big concert in Kathmandu at the end of the trip.
One of my best friends from college was going as well.
How could I say no?
Let the games begin.
The list of stuff I needed was three pages long.
What the hell are pile pants?
The first order of business was to get a good pair of hiking boots.
My old pair had literally come apart on a hike in Marfa Texas.
There's a metaphor in there somewhere.
I went to one of my many visits to REI.
I was told if I got a boot that fit too snug my toenails would turn black and fall off as I descended the mountain.
After trying on many different pairs, I settled on a pair that set me back a mere $100.
The irony is a friggin pair of good hiking socks at REI costs $20 so I almost spent more on the socks than the shoes.
I went on a 4 mile hike.
Then a 5 mile one.
Then a 6 mile one.
Each time, it was easily the best part of my day.
Why didn't I do this more often?
Walking slows down your brain, makes you relax and you can appreciate all the interesting things that are all around us.
The last walk I took, I walked down the street and heard some band rehearsing in a garage.
It was an instrumental but the music was tight as a drum and full of tension.
These guys were good.
Some guy rode by on his ten speed.
"Austin Texas, where there's a shitty band on every block".
Everyone's entitled to their opinion, I suppose.
I liked to end my walks at the Draught House and reward myself with a pint of Ale.
I'm going to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow and then on Friday I'm off.
I will update this blog as much as I can while hiking several miles a day on the other side of the world.
Love Hope Strength does good work.
You can check them out here: http://lovehopestrength.org/
This is for a worthy cause so if you want to help defray my expense you can paypal me at: firstname.lastname@example.org