Happy Black Friday, a time when thoughts unavoidably turn to the dread of holiday shopping — which is more compressed than usual this year due to Thanksgiving falling so late in November (and I hope everyone had a very merry Thanksgivukkah — GobbleTov to you and yours!). Trust me, you do not want to go anywhere near a retail store today; but you’ve still got gifts to procure, and not much time.
Well, friends, I’m here to help. I humbly submit that “Losering” would make a dynamite stocking stuffer for the Ryan Adams fan in your life, providing many hours of enjoyment at a low, low price. There’s always amazon, but let’s go grassroots: Through the month of December, I can hook you up with a copy for the holiday-season special price of $15 U.S. — which includes shipping (within the U.S.), and I’ll throw in a signature for free.
So let’s do this. Hit me at email@example.com. And however you happen to celebrate this time of year, may blessings be upon you.
We give thanks that “Losering” continues to turn up in odd, interesting places and unusual situations. Consider this picture on the right, which is the aftermath of a rather sizable nosebleed that one reader suffered while perusing the book during a bus ride (sans tissue products — drag). I hope this didn’t happen because the book launched an attack, but nothing would surprise me at this point. And given the subject matter, I’d say that covered in blood seems like an appropriate fate for “Losering.”
Still, the good news is that this particular reader did not hold a grudge and included a nice little bit about “Losering” in today’s Quip-n-Ripp column for the lifestyle and clothing company HydbyH. I’ve screen-grabbed a section of the part about the book below, and you can see the whole thinghere.
A middle-age rite of passage is to ponder your life’s Roads Not Taken. One of mine involves the University of Missouri. Thirty years ago, I was bumbling my way through college and pondering what to do, because pretty much everything about my life was a hopeless mess at that point. Two wretched years of trying to hack it as a pre-med major had left my grades in smoking ruins; but after I finally figured out I should be an English major, I pulled up my grade-point average just enough to make graduate school a possibility. Having no clear idea what to do next, I opted for the “gradual school” route and set my sights on the journalism schools at Texas and Missouri — at that time, both well-regarded top-10 programs.
Texas won out, mostly because I just felt more comfortable in Austin. I got a Masters in journalism, which has not been the most useful degree. Still, those grad-school years in mid-’80s Austin were when I finally figured out the career path I’m still on to this day. And while I’ve never regretted going to UT, over the years I’ve wondered where I’d be now if I’d gone to the University of Missouri instead.
One thing I can tell you is I probably would not be in the Daily Tribune today, ironically enough. It’s the daily paper in the University of Missouri’s hometown of Columbia, and staffer Aarik Danielsen was kind enough to interview me (and ask really good, thoughtful questions) about “Losering” and Ryan Adams as well as music, writing and criticism. Check that out here.
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.
Lo and behold, that very tape is for sale on eBay, albeit at a steep price: bids starting at $3,000 with a buy-it-now price of $4,000. Cushman made the tape (which wound up in the hands of a friend in Raleigh), and he confirms that it’s authentic and being sold with his blessing. Bidding closes next Saturday, June 22. For particulars, below is how the listing reads:
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. As a bonus, the flip side of the tape is AMERICAN ROCK HIGHWAY, highly experimental noise rock with Tom on guitar, Ryan on drums. A chance to hear some of his pounding drums. I’m only parting with this gem because I’ve had a health crisis and need the money. A rare find, the only one in existence, written about in the Menconi book Losering.
I’m in the midst of a hectic stretch right now, but I wanted to share a couple of quick Ryan Adams/Whiskeytown-related tidbits that turned up this week. First up is a poetry blog called Tweetspeak, which publishes a monthly musical playlist as a thematic poetry-writing prompt. June’s theme is “Mirror, Mirror” — and the song of the same name from Whiskeytown’s 2001 Pneumona album is the first of eight tracks listed alongside mirror-titled songs by Death Cab For Cutie, Bright Eyes, RJD2 and others. Some of the poetry this prompted is truly beautiful and inspired, too, well worth checking out.
One thing about taking on Ryan Adams as a biography subject, you don’t want to blow it because he’s published a couple of books himself — “Hello Sunshine” and “Infinity Blues,” both of which came out in 2009 (not quite as robust a display of productivity as his musical 2005, but pretty impressive nevertheless). And while neither book was unanimously acclaimed, they still established enough of a literary reputation for Ryan to land on a recent listicle about “10 Rockers With Serious Literary Cred.” Ryan comes in at No. 8, just behind Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo and ahead of Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz. Patti Smith, Tom Waits and Nick Cave are all further on up the list, too. And fittingly, the top dog is Leonard Cohen.
Unless you’ve done time in the military or driven to the beach from the Raleigh vicinity, chances are good you’ve never been anywhere near Ryan Adams’ birthplace of Jacksonville, North Carolina. And while Greater Jacksonville is not without its charms, it still seems like the sort of town most people want to flee at the earliest opportunity. That was certainly the case for Ryan, who (as recounted in the “Before” segment of “Losering”) ran away to Raleigh the first chance he got.
So if you’re wondering what Jacksonville looks like, Bob Fenster and friends at the Facebook group Theme Music have put together a nice little video tour. They’ve covered “Inn Town,” kickoff track to the signpost Whiskeytown album Strangers Almanac, accompanied by visuals taken from some YouTube videos shot in Jacksonville. Check it out here.
The combination of the landscape shots of scenery (and lack thereof) with “Inn Town”‘s forlorn vibe nails Jacksonville’s transitory facelessness perfectly; it’s a place nobody goes to, just passes through. And the final minute, shot from a car traversing the Highway 24 main drag, evokes pretty much exactly what it feels like to drive through there and wonder about the individual stories behind the desolate storefronts.
Back before I crossed paths with Ryan, I remember passing through Jacksonville and asking myself: Who lives here?…
There’s still no word on when Ryan Adams’ 2000 Heartbreaker album (which has been out of print and officially unavailable since March 1) might be re-released in some fashion. But a promising totem of that era is going around the web today, a photo of Ryan with the Guild guitar he played on Heartbreaker — and looking very much like he might be in the midst of recording…something. Maybe that new record that’s been discussed, which may or may not be coming in October. Here’s hoping!
The motto for A.M. Saddler Photography is “Capturing The Passion Of Performance.” Passionate or not, its “Concert Photo Of The Day” for today is a picture that shows Ryan Adams in…well, a strange light. Since this was taken by a professional photographer, I shouldn’t just slap the entire picture here. But on the right is a little snippet I cropped out, which I hope will intrigue you enough to want to see the rest of it. To see the complete picture in all its peculiar glory (plus a rather involved and surreal backstory on how this photo from a 2005 show at new York City’s Town Hall came to be posted today), go here.
Personally, I think DRA is rather fetching in pigtails…