Inflation takes its toll

ARHASSLast June, a decades-old artifact from Ryan Adams’ past turned up on eBay: a cassette tape of late-night recordings he made with two of his pre-Whiskeytown bands, American Rock Highway and Ass, with a hand-drawn cover done by Ryan’s roommate/co-conspirator Tom Cushman. While it’s not the new Wu-Tang Clan album or anything, the ARH/Ass tape is a one-of-a-kind item — historically significant for those of us who care, even though Cushman describes the music as “godawful” (and I’d have to say I concur).

The tape didn’t draw any nibbles above the $3,000 starting-bid price while it was listed on eBay last year, but the seller claimed to have sold it. Wherever it wound up, 10 months later it’s back on eBay with a significantly higher asking price of $5,000. One of these days, you figure that Ryan himself might buy this since he can definitely afford it.

Last year’s seller claimed to need the money for medical expenses. This time around, it’s supposedly being sold to fund a house purchase. Below is the seller’s description (with a first paragraph lifted from the blog post I did about last year’s sale). I’d be very curious to see the cartoon strip referenced at the end.

As detailed in Chapter Three of “Losering,” Ryan Adams formed a string of short-lived bands with his roommate Tom Cushman in the early 1990s, before Patty Duke Syndrome and Whiskeytown. Ryan recorded virtually all of his musical endeavors back then (even the ones that didn’t exactly deserve preservation), and some of the recordings survive to the present day — including a Maxell cassette tape featuring two of their Daisy Street bands, Ass and American Rock Highway.

So what is it? The only known recording of ASS, one of Ryan’s earliest Raleigh bands. There are no dubs of it, this is it. Ryan Adams voc/gtr, Tom Cushman bass, John Rea drums. It’s 6 songs, some in a Patty Duke Syndrome mode, others in a wilder improv infused style. Hints of things to come all over the place. The flip side of the tape is AMERICAN ROCK HIGHWAY, highly experimental noise rock with Tom on guitar, Ryan on drums, has 10 songs. A chance to hear some of his pounding drums. I’m only parting with this gem because I am getting married in September and am going to be buying a house. It comes in the original tape case and the insert will be in a separate sleeve. The insert was hand drawn and it has the first reference to Ryan’s current label, Paxam, on the cover. When I got this I was also given a comic strip, not the one from Brian Walsby, featuring Ryan in it and I will also include that as well.

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It’s only words…

MyBrain

So if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you know that I post a lot of song lyrics — I mean, a lot of song lyrics — because it’s kind of my thing. Yes, I expect it comes across as manic to people who don’t know me, but I’d like to think it’s at least a little bit entertaining. Some of what I post is obvious enough, like a quote from Devo’s “Whip It” when Devo guitarist Bob Casale died last week. And my man Ryan Adams has always been a recurrent favorite, especially at times when I’m flogging “Losering.”  But the majority of my lyric posts are admittedly pretty cryptic. Sometimes they’re based on something I heard, sometimes they’re what I’m feeling and sometimes they’re just random flotsam my mental jukebox spews out. Unless we’re related, I probably won’t spill which is which.

Anyway, the meme up there on the right was going around Facebook over the weekend and wound up on a bunch of folks’ walls, including mine. And while the sentiment always applies to yours truly, the timing made it even more perfect than usual. Sunday afternoon brought an informal lyrics-inspired gathering to Deep South the Bar, the downtown Raleigh nightspot where the “Losering” tribute show happened in May 2013. Deep South’s thing is lyrics, too, in that the bar’s decor is mostly song lyrics they’ve had people paint on the walls over the years.

It’s been a while since Deep South added any new song lyrics to the walls, so they invited a bunch of people to come by on Sunday and make contributions — including me. And where did I turn for lyrics? Do you really have to ask? Check it out below; it’s from “Bar Lights,” the final listed track on Whiskeytown’s swan-song album Pneumonia, which seemed appropriate for the barroom setting.

While I was at it, I talked to a few other people who were doing lyrics (including the Mayor of Raleigh) and put together a quick story for the paper. Check that hereFinally, there’s also some talk Deep South hosting another “Losering” tribute show like the very successful one from last year. Stay tuned for details!

DSLyrics

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Another choice old souvenir — a sweet trickle of whiskey

SAWhiskeyBottleA few months back, a discussion about old times cropped up on Facebook, with people comparing notes about Whiskeytown-related tokens they had from back in the day. Whiskeytown’s old manager Jenni Sperandeo mentioned that she still had a stash of customized airplane-service-sized Whiskeytown bottles of whiskey that the band’s record company had made up as promotional items for the 1997 album Strangers Almanac. Naturally, people started putting in requests for Jenni to send them a bottle.

I threw in a “Me too,” of course, even though I didn’t expect to get one, especially when Jenni said that it might take her a while to find the right box in her garage. I had actually forgotten all about it until this week, when what should arrive in the mail but a miniature, still-sealed bottle of Whiskeytown whiskey; Seagram’s, of course, since that was the company that owned Whiskeytown’s label (which would be dissolved two years later in the Universal-PolyGram mega-merger, but that’s another story).

The label on the bottle is emblazoned with the name of the Strangers single “Yesterday’s News” as well as the logos for both Outpost (the major label that released Strangers) and Mood Food Records. If Ryan Adams ever saw one of these, the latter probably rankled him because Whiskeytown and Mood Food did not part on the best of terms — see Chapter six of “Losering” for more details on that — but I bet it wouldn’t have stopped him from cracking one of these bottles open and drinking it down.

Anyway, it’s a nice reminder of those heady days when some of us thought Whiskeytown was headed for the toppermost of the poppermost, and a blast from the past I am happy to have (and no, I have no plans to open it). Thanks, Jenni!

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Ryan Adams wishes you — yes, you — were here

WYWHNow here’s a very cool little fan video starring the music of Ryan Adams. While backpacking through various quadrants of Asia, a photographer named Vipurva Parikh was missing his girlfriend. So he paid tribute to her by making a video of his travels starring people he met and set to the tune and lyrics (as written on a chalkboard) to DRA’s “Wish You Were Here,” track No. 4 from his much-maligned 2003 album Rock n Roll. Check that out here.

(HT to Yahoo)

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Further souvenirs from long ago: The “On Fire” T-shirt

DRAisOnFireSo we’re greeting the new year at my house by cleaning up a bit; you know, throwing some things out, moving other things around, hanging pictures on the walls, tidying up here and there. And while sorting through a long-neglected pile of old T-shirts the other night, I rediscovered one of my favorite Ryan Adams souvenirs.

It’s a shirt dating back to Ryan’s fall 1999 solo tour (recounted in Chapter 11 of “Losering”), a time when his band was in limbo and he was “Working For A Whiskeytown Free World.” It says so right on the back of the shirt, as you can see below. I love the sentiment on the front, too:

RYAN ADAMS IS ON FIRE
SOMEBODY PUT HIS ASS OUT

Van Alston, who served as Ryan’s tour manager back then (and also co-wrote the Heartbreaker tune “Come Pick Me Up”), was the guy responsible for this little piece of DRA sartorial genius. Van made up a limited-edition run of just 48 of these shirts to sell on the road, and they went fast. But he was kind enough to give me one before they left. Not that I’d ever part with it, but I expect this would fetch a pretty penny on eBay.

DRAWFW

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Six String Drag is back and would like to thank all their beautiful friends for all the beautiful vibrations

Of all the lovely and heartfelt Everly Brothers tributes there have been since Phil Everly’s death on Friday, one of the best happened late Saturday night onstage at Raleigh’s Pour House. In the midst of a torrid reunion performance with plenty of old favorites and new songs, Six String Drag broke out the 1957 Everly Brothers classic “Bye Bye Love” — and it was just as beautiful as anyone could have hoped for, Kenny Roby and Rob Keller’s voices blending just like Don and Phil’s used to.

Bye bye happiness
Hello loneliness
I think I’m-a gonna cry-y…

The rest of the show was pretty much start-to-finish awesome, too, especially the cover of Sir Douglas Quintet’s “Mendocino”; below is a partial setlist (incomplete because it was hard to shoot amidst the madness by the stage), and you’ll notice “Bye Bye Love” isn’t on there. They took some liberties with song selection, but not a soul in the sold-out house was complaining. There were lots of guest appearances, too, including multiple members of Whiskeytown. I couldn’t get a decent picture of Caitlin Cary, so I borrowed one from my buddy Caleb P. Rose. And Six String Drag sounded as great as ever. I can’t wait to hear the recordings they’re making in a few weeks.

Anyway…one for the ages, and you shoulda been there. I hope it happens again real, real soon.

6SDsetlist

Six String Drag’s partial setlist — Jan. 4, 2014, at the Pour House.

6SDCaitlin

Caitlin Cary, shot by Caleb P. Rose

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Friends near and far, throwing rocks at the moon

SadlacksRIPFor those of us who were in Raleigh during our town’s glory days as epicenter of mid-’90s alternative-country, this holiday season has been just like the old times of the “Losering” era. It seems like we’ve all been saying hello again, as well as goodbye for good.

December brought the end of the building that housed one of Ryan Adams’ favorite Whiskeytown-era watering holes, the Comet Lounge, which was finally torn down two years after the demolition of the adjacent Brewery nightclub. And New Year’s Eve brought the end of Sadlack’s, the Hillsborough Street sandwich shop/bar where Whiskeytown formed two decades ago, which is closing to make way for a hotel. I went to Kenny Roby’s show there last Saturday night to report this story about the end; and while I was there, a Sadlack’s regular who may or may not have been drunk got in my face to rant, because I apparently chose the wrong person to interview. On the whole, I’d say it was a very Sadlack’s interaction, along with the following response from an angry reader (reproduced here in all its sub-literate glory):

Sadlack’s not well written at all, lame and denigrating you so called journalistic hack, you must be a smart ass never traveled punk yankee go home…news and disturber another rag with paid articles written to favor their advertisers

Golly, guess he told me.

Come New Year’s Eve, the Backsliders presided over the end out on the back patio with a last-rites set that included a couple of new songs good enough to qualify as encouraging. But just like always, it was “Throwing Rocks at the Moon” that put a lump in my throat. Title track of a 1997 album that really should have launched the Backsliders to stardom (or at least beyond dayjobs), “Moon” is a pretty-much-perfect evocation of bittersweet goodbyes. I found myself thinking about Ryan, of course, who left Sadlack’s and Raleigh behind long ago; and also my old friend Peter Blackstock, for whom I wrote that first No Depression Whiskeytown story all those years ago — and who just left the Triangle to move back to Austin and take the rock-writer job at the American-Statesman. I really wish he could’ve been there, so I sent a silent toast in his direction

6SDI’m also wishing Peter was gonna be here this weekend for Saturday’s reunion show by the third band from Raleigh’s alt-country kingpin troika, Kenny Roby’s Six String Drag. Of course, the principles get a little twitchy about calling this a “reunion,” a word that carries the baggage of expectations. But no matter what they’re calling it, Six String Drag’s four members have reconvened to record new music, which they’ll do later this month at Mitch Easter’s splendid Fidelitorium recording emporium over in Kernersville. I can’t wait to hear it. Meantime, here’s a preview of Saturday night’s show. Yes, of course, I’ll be there.

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“Losering” is big in Japan

Maybe it’s just taken this long to work its way across the planet, but “Losering” is making some modest commercial headway in the Land of the Rising Sun more than a year into its release. Below is where it ranks today on  “country books” for Amazon Japan; and while the book has yet to climb as high there as it did in Canada earlier this year, it’s cool to be a couple of notches ahead of the Carter Family (with Chet Atkins, John Hartford and Alan Jackson right below them), and not far behind Taylor Swift — who somehow occupies five of Amazon’s top 13 country-book slots in Japan, including No. 1.

So anyway, it’s good to know there are Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown fans in Japan. Maybe I can hook up with Spinal Tap for a quick tour!

AmazonJapan15

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Counting down: Sadlack’s

PosterGoneThe days grow ever shorter at Sadlack’s, the working-class Raleigh watering hole where Whiskeytown first formed in the fall of 1994 (see Chapter 4 of “Losering” for particulars). It’s scheduled to close by the new year to make way for a hotel/retail project on the Bell Tower block of the Hillsborough Street strip, but demolition of a sort is already in progress. At right is the space on the interior west wall that once held a framed 1994-vintage Whiskeytown flyer, which I hoped would find its way onto the wall somewhere at the new Berkeley Cafe that Sadlack’s owner Rose Schwetz will reopen in 2014. But it’s already disappeared and I’ve heard varying reports as to whether it was stolen or salvaged. For now, at least, the graffiti here on the right is the only trace of it left. Also gone is the autographed Ryan Adams photo that had been on the same wall. Maybe they’ll both turn up at the Berkeley eventually.

(ADDENDUM: In a major piece of good news, Rose reports that she has saved and stashed the Ryan artifacts for safekeeping and they’ll be on the wall when the Berkeley reopens — yay! Also, here is a preview of the last night.)

Nevertheless, the ghost of Ryan Adams is still very much present. Below is some graffiti on Sadlack’s south-facing wall, a worst-bartender list that some regulars put together. And look who comes in at an emphatic, exclamation-point-marked No. 2 (with his Whiskeytown bandmate Phil Wandscher rating an off-to-the-side honorable mention); I’m only surprised our man DRA didn’t rate the top spot.

If you live in the greater Raleigh vicinity, there’s still time to drop in on Sadlack’s a time or two before the end, especially during the closing run of shows. The final stretch looks like this:

Debonzo Brothers (Dec. 26) — One of the many very fine acts who played our Ryan Adams tribute show back in May.

Terry Anderson’s Olympic Ass-Kicking Team (Dec. 27) — The iconic Woods/Fabulous Knobs/Yayhoos member usually plays a Christmas-night show somewhere in Raleigh to mark his birthday. But this year, Anderson passed on that to play Sadlack’s one last time.

Kenny Roby and Friends (Dec. 28) — with a Six String Drag reunion in the works for next month, this one has ample potential to be a really, really cool night.

Cousins (Dec. 29) — Local supergroup’s lineup includes Greg Rice, current keyboardist in the Backsliders (and just an aside, the 29th is my birthday).

Backsliders (Dec. 31) — And speaking of those Backsliders, they get the closing “Last Waltz” slot on New Year’s Eve, a show that should be positively epic. I fully expect the place to be in smoking ruins by the end.

SadsBottom10

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Talking about this and that

RiffRaffTwo new interviews turned up on the interwebs this week, one a Q&A on the music blog RiffRaff and the other a conversational podcast for Eastern North Carolina’s Kinston Free Press newspaper (my part starts just over 41 minutes in and lasts about 10 minutes). Check ‘em out to see and/or hear yours truly gab about Ryan Adams and “Losering” as well as a host of other subjects — musical gifts to buy for friends and loved ones, Link Wray being unjustly shut out of  the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (again!) and even the most beautiful 23 seconds in all of popular music.

While I’m at it, I’d like to point out another nice “Losering” review that was published a few weeks ago on a blog called “The Unofficial Scorer,” as a dual review covering my book plus the exhaustive new Mark Lewisohn-penned Beatles book. Not to get above my raising or anything, but I must say that I like the company!

Finally, with Christmas fast approaching, please don’t forget that “Losering” would still make a great holiday gift. Just sayin’.

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