Tag Archives: Mixtape

Ten million pounds of sludge: Top 10 Eco-Flicks

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on April 27, 2024)

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Look at the powerful people
Stealing the sun from the day
Wish I could do something about it
When all I can do is pray

– from “Powerful People” by Gino Vannelli

If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster.

Near the Day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky.

A container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky, which could burn the land and boil the oceans

– Hopi Prophecies sung in the soundtrack of the film Koyannasqatsi

In case you missed it, Earth Day (this past Monday) and Arbor Day (this past Friday) came and went with nary a whimper, Also, we’re at the tail end of National Park Week. I suppose the media had other shiny things to chase after; important and impactful stories to be sure, but from a planetary perspective…will all of this fussing and fighting  really matter in 50 years? As Grace Slick once sang, doesn’t mean shit to a tree. Believe me, over the millenniums Mother Nature has seen worse; and from her perspective, Earth is only mostly dead.

So there is still hope.

The photo above was taken December 24, 1968 by Apollo 8 crew member Major William A. Anders. The story behind that now iconic photo is on NASA’s website:

Anders said their job was not to look at the Earth, but to simulate a lunar mission. It was not until things had calmed down and they were on their way to the moon that they actually got to look back and take a picture of the Earth as they had left it.

“That’s when I was thinking ‘that’s a pretty place down there,’” Anders said. “It hadn’t quite sunk in like the Earthrise picture did, because the Earthrise had the Earth contrasted with this ugly lunar surface.”

Anders described the view of Earth before Earthrise “kind of like the classroom globe sitting on a teacher’s desk, but no country divisions. It was about 25,000 miles away where you could still recognize continents.”

Yes, that is a “pretty place down there.” Be a shame if anything happened to it:

An international group of scientists who work with satellite data say the acceleration in the melting of Earth’s ice sheets is now unmistakable.

They calculate the planet’s frozen poles lost 7,560 billion tonnes in mass between 1992 and 2022.

Seven of the worst melting years have occurred in the past decade.

Mass loss from Greenland and Antarctica is now responsible for a quarter of all sea-level rise.

This contribution is five times what it was 30 years ago.

The latest assessment comes from the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Intercomparison Exercise, or Imbie. […]

The 7,560 billion tonnes of ice lost from Greenland and Antarctica during the study period pushed up sea-levels by 21mm.

Almost two-thirds (13.5mm) of this was due to melting in Greenland; one-third (7.4mm) was the result of melting in Antarctica.

“All this has profound implications for coastal communities around the world and their risk of being exposed to flooding and erosion,” said Dr Inès Otosaka from the UK’s Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM), who led the latest assessment.

“It’s really important that we have robust estimates for the future contribution to sea-level rise from the ice sheets so that we can go to these communities and say, ‘Yes, we understand what is happening and we can now start to plan mitigations’,” she told BBC News.

So hope does remain…provided that proactive steps are taken. Meanwhile:

We just lived through the hottest year since record-keeping began more than a century ago, but before too long, 2023 might not stand out as the pinnacle of extreme heat.

That’s because it’s unlikely to be the only hottest year that we experience. Our climate is changing, growing warmer due to the emissions from burning fossil fuels, and our weather is changing with it. It’s possible that this year may turn out to be hotter still.

In March, scientists from the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service said February 2024 was the hottest February according to records that stretch back to 1940. The news came on the heels of their report in early January that, as expected, 2023 was indeed the hottest year on record. Temperatures closed in on the critical 1.5-degree Celsius rise above pre-industrial levels, after which we will see irreversible damage to the planet. These aren’t freak outliers: The extreme heat we’re experiencing is something we’ll need to be prepared to deal with on a much more regular basis, along with storms, floods and drought. […]

A key trend highlighted by the US government’s Fifth National Climate Assessment, published in November, was that climate change is provoking extreme weather events across the country that are both more frequent and more severe. It pointed to an increase in heatwaves and wildfires in the West over the past few decades, the increased drought risk in the Southwest over the past century and more extreme rainfall east of the Rockies. Hurricanes have also been intensifying, as those who have found themselves in the path of a storm know all too well. […]

Even if you live in a region that hasn’t yet directly been impacted by a climate-linked weather event, you’re not off the hook.

“As the climate continues to warm, most areas will be at an increased risk of some types of climate-linked extreme weather,” says Russell Vose, chief of the Monitoring and Assessment Branch at NOAA’ National Centers for Environmental Information and one of the NCA’s authors. “Perhaps the best example is extreme heat – it can occur anywhere.”

He points to the scorching heat dome that descended on the Pacific Northwest in June and July 2021, which was unprecedented in the historical record. The unpredictable nature of such extreme heat means no regions are marked as safe.

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At first glance, the image above may appear to be a still from a post-apocalyptic film-but it’s a photo I snapped outside my Seattle office in September of 2020. You’re looking due East across Lake Washington at around 10am…directly into the sun and toward the Bellevue skyline. I was not using any filters, nor was there any retouching of the photo. Normally, the view across the lake appears as it does in this photo I took:

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We not only had a freakish late summer “heat dome” in the Pacific Northwest, but much of the West Coast was aflame. For over a month, resulting smoke made air quality so dangerous that local health officials recommended staying indoors and sealing up windows (good times for those of us with no A/C). It was also recommended to wear masks outdoors…which we were already doing for COVID indoors. Oy.

Was this a sneak preview ? How’s the air today? The American Lung Association’s “State of the Air” report for 2024  is out, and…let’s just say, I wouldn’t toss those N95s away yet:

The “State of the Air” 2024 report finds that despite decades of progress cleaning up air pollution, 39% of people living in America—131.2 million people—still live in places with failing grades for unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution. This is 11.7 million more people breathing unhealthy air compared to last year’s report.

The significant rise in the number of individuals whose health is at risk is the result of a combination of factors. Extreme heat, drought and wildfires are contributing to a steady increase in deadly particle pollution, especially in the western U.S. Also, this year’s “State of the Air” report is using EPA’s new, more protective national air quality standard for year-round levels of fine particle pollution, which allows for the recognition that many more people are breathing unhealthy air than was acknowledged under the previous weak standard. […]

“State of the Air” 2024 is the 25th edition of this annual report, which was first published in 2000. From the beginning, the findings in “State of the Air” have reflected the successes of the Clean Air Act, as emissions from transportation, power plants and manufacturing have been reduced. In recent years, however, the findings of the report continue adding to the evidence that a changing climate is making it harder to protect human health. High ozone days and spikes in particle pollution related to extreme heat, drought and wildfires are putting millions of people at risk and adding challenges to the work that states and cities are doing across the nation to clean up air pollution.

I’m  just here to bring you good cheer.

Anyway, here are my picks for the Top 10 eco-flicks. Erm…enjoy!

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Chasing Ice– Jeff Orlowski’s film is glacially paced. That is, “glacial pacing” ain’t what it used to be. Glaciers are moving along (“retreating”, technically) at a pretty good clip. This does not portend well. To be less flowery: we’re fucked. According to nature photographer (and subject of Orlowski’s film) James Balog, “The story…is in the ice.”

Balog’s journey began in 2005, while on assignment in the Arctic for National Geographic to document the effect of climate change. Up until that trip, he candidly admits he “…didn’t think humans were capable” of influencing weather patterns so profoundly. His epiphany gave birth to a multi-year project utilizing modified time-lapse cameras to capture alarming empirical evidence of the effects of global warming.,

The images are beautiful, yet troubling. Orlowski’s film mirrors the dichotomy, equal parts cautionary eco-doc and art installation. The images trump the montage of inane squawking by climate deniers in the opening, proving that a picture is worth 1,000 words.

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The Emerald Forest– Although it may initially seem a heavy-handed (if well-meaning) “save the rain forest” polemic, John Boorman’s underrated 1985 adventure (a cross between The Searchers and Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan) goes much deeper.

Powers Boothe plays an American construction engineer working on a dam project in Brazil. One day, while his wife and young son are visiting the job site on the edge of the rain forest, the boy is abducted and adopted by an indigenous tribe who call themselves “The Invisible People”, touching off an obsessive decade-long search by the father. By the time he is finally reunited with his now-teenage son (Charley Boorman), the challenge becomes a matter of how he and his wife (Meg Foster) are going to coax the young man back into “civilization”.

Tautly directed, lushly photographed (by Philippe Rousselot) and well-acted. Rosco Pallenberg scripted (he also adapted the screenplay for Boorman’s 1981 film Excalibur).

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Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster– I know what you’re thinking: there’s no accounting for some people’s tastes. But who ever said an environmental “message” movie couldn’t also provide mindless, guilty fun? Let’s have a little action. Knock over a few buildings. Wreak havoc. Crash a wild party on the rim of a volcano with some Japanese flower children. Besides, Godzilla is on our side for a change. Watch him valiantly battle Hedora, a sludge-oozing toxic avenger out to make mankind collectively suck on his grody tailpipe. And you haven’t lived until you’ve heard “Save the Earth”-my vote for “best worst” song ever from a film (much less a monster movie).

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An Inconvenient Truth– I re-watched this recently; I hadn’t seen it since it opened in 2006, and it struck me how it now plays less like a warning bell and more like the nightly news.  It’s the end of the world as we know it. Apocalyptic sci-fi is now scientific fact. Former VP/Nobel winner Al Gore is a Power Point-packing Rod Serling, submitting a gallery of nightmare nature scenarios for our disapproval. I’m tempted to say that Gore and director Davis Guggenheim’s chilling look at the results of unchecked global warming only reveals the tip of the iceberg…but it’s melting too fast.

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Koyannisqatsi– In 1982 this genre-defying film quietly made its way around the art houses; it’s now a cult favorite. Directed by activist/ex-Christian monk Godfrey Reggio, with beautiful cinematography by Ron Fricke (who later directed Chronos, Baraka, and Samsara) and music by Philip Glass (who also scored Reggio’s sequels), it was considered a transcendent experience by some; New Age hokum by others (count me as a fan).

The title (from ancient Hopi) translates as “life out of balance” The narrative-free imagery, running the gamut from natural vistas to scenes of First World urban decay, is open for interpretation. Reggio followed up in 1988 with Powaqqatsi (“parasitic way of life”), focusing on the First World’s drain on Third World resources, then book-ended his trilogy with Naqoyqatsi (“life as war”).

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Manufactured Landscapes– A unique eco-documentary from Jennifer Baichwal about photographer Edward Burtynsky, who is an “earth diarist” of sorts. While his photographs are striking, they don’t paint a pretty picture of our fragile planet. Burtynsky’s eye discerns a terrible beauty in the wake of the profound and irreversible human imprint incurred by accelerated modernization. As captured by Burtynsky’s camera, strip-mined vistas recall the stark desolation of NASA photos sent from the Martian surface; mountains of “e-waste” dumped in a vast Chinese landfill take on an almost gothic, cyber-punk dreamscape. The photographs play like a scroll through Google Earth images, as reinterpreted by Jackson Pollock. An eye-opener.

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Princess Mononoke– Anime master Hayao Miyazaki and his cohorts at Studio Ghibli have raised the bar on the art form over the past several decades. This 1997 Ghibli production is one of their most visually resplendent. Perhaps not as “kid-friendly” as per usual, but many of the usual Miyazaki themes are present: humanism, white magic, beneficent forest gods, female empowerment, and pacifist angst in a violent world. The lovely score is by frequent Miyazaki collaborator Joe Hisaishi. For another great Miyazaki film with an environmental message, check out Nausicaa Valley of the Wind.

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Queen of the Sun- I never thought that a documentary about honeybees would make me laugh and cry-but Taggart Siegel’s 2010 film did just that. Appearing at first to be a distressing examination of Colony Collapse Syndrome, a phenomenon that has puzzled and dismayed beekeepers and scientists alike with its increasing frequency over the past few decades, the film becomes a sometimes joyous, sometimes humbling meditation on how essential these tiny yet complex social creatures are to the planet’s life cycle. Humans may harbor a pretty high opinion of our own place on the evolutionary ladder, but Siegel lays out a convincing case which proves that these busy little creatures are, in fact, the boss of us.

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Silent Running– In space, no one can hear you trimming the verge! Bruce Dern is an agrarian antihero in this 1972 sci-fi adventure, directed by legendary special effects wizard Douglas Trumbull. Produced around the time “ecology” was a buzzword, its message may seem a little heavy-handed today, but the film remains a cult favorite.

Dern plays the gardener on a commercial space freighter that houses several bio-domes, each dedicated to preserving a species of vegetation (in this bleak future, the Earth is barren of organic growth).

While it’s a 9 to 5 drudge gig to his blue-collar shipmates, Dern sees his cultivating duties as a sacred mission. When the interests of commerce demand the crew jettison the domes to make room for more lucrative cargo, Dern goes off his nut, eventually ending up alone with two salvaged bio-domes and a trio of droids (Huey, Dewey and Louie) who play Man Friday to his Robinson Crusoe. Joan Baez contributes two songs on the soundtrack.

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Soylent Green– Based on a Harry Harrison novel, Richard Fleischer’s 1973 film is set in 2022, when traditional culinary fare is but a dim memory, due to overpopulation and environmental depletion. Only the wealthy can afford the odd tomato or stalk of celery; most of the U.S. population lives on processed “Soylent Corporation” product. The government encourages the sick and the elderly to politely move out of the way by providing handy suicide assistance centers (considering ongoing threats to our Social Security system, that doesn’t seem much of a stretch anymore).

Oh-there is some ham served up onscreen, courtesy of Charlton Heston’s scenery-chewing turn as a NYC cop who is investigating the murder of a Soylent Corporation executive. Edward G. Robinson’s moving death scene has added poignancy; as it preceded his passing by less than two weeks after the production wrapped.

# # #

Bonus Tracks!

Here’s an environmentally-sound mixtape for Earth Day:

 

Praise the Law and Pass the Kutchie

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on April 20, 2024)

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Dreadlocks can’t smoke him pipe in peace Too much informers and too much beast Too much watchie watchie watchie, too much su-su su-su su Too much watchie watchie watchie, too much su-su su-su su

-from “Tenement Yard”, by Jacob Miller

Happy Holiday! How about some good news? Via the AP:

Saturday marks marijuana culture’s high holiday, 4/20, when college students gather — at 4:20 p.m. — in clouds of smoke on campus quads and pot shops in legal-weed states thank their customers with discounts.

This year’s edition provides an occasion for activists to reflect on how far their movement has come, with recreational pot now allowed in nearly half the states and the nation’s capital. Many states have instituted “social equity” measures to help communities of color, harmed the most by the drug war, reap financial benefits from legalization. And the White House has shown an openness to marijuana reform.

The origins of the date, and the term “420” generally, were long murky. Some claimed it referred to a police code for marijuana possession or that it derived from Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35,” with its refrain of “Everybody must get stoned” — 420 being the product of 12 times 35.

But the prevailing explanation is that it started in the 1970s with a group of bell-bottomed buddies from San Rafael High School, in California’s Marin County north of San Francisco, who called themselves “the Waldos.” A friend’s brother was afraid of getting busted for a patch of cannabis he was growing in the woods at nearby Point Reyes, so he drew a map and gave the teens permission to harvest the crop, the story goes.

During fall 1971, at 4:20 p.m., just after classes and football practice, the group would meet up at the school’s statue of chemist Louis Pasteur, smoke a joint and head out to search for the weed patch. They never did find it, but their private lexicon — “420 Louie” and later just “420” — would take on a life of its own. […]

Some celebrations are bigger than others: The Mile High 420 Festival in Denver, for example, typically draws thousands and describes itself as the largest free 4/20 event in the world. Hippie Hill in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park has also attracted massive crowds, but the gathering was canceled this year, with organizers citing a lack of financial sponsorship and city budget cuts. […]

The number of states allowing recreational marijuana has grown to 24 after recent legalization campaigns succeeded in Ohio, Minnesota and Delaware. Fourteen more states allow it for medical purposes, including Kentucky, where medical marijuana legislation that passed last year will take effect in 2025. Additional states permit only products with low THC, marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient, for certain medical conditions.

But marijuana is still illegal under federal law. It is listed with drugs such as heroin under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it has no federally accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

The Biden administration, however, has taken some steps toward marijuana reform. The president has pardoned thousands of people who were convicted of “simple possession” on federal land and in the District of Columbia.

The Department of Health and Human Services last year recommended to the Drug Enforcement Administration that marijuana be reclassified as Schedule III, which would affirm its medical use under federal law.

According to a Gallup poll last fall, 70% of adults support legalization, the highest level yet recorded by the polling firm and more than double the roughly 30% who backed it in 2000.

Nice to see more and more forward-thinking states joining the “over-the-counter”-culture, with a new shopping list: Milk, bread, eggs, and ganja. In Washington state, we’ve been smoking our pipes in peace since 2014. So I thought I would welcome the newbies to our cannabis club by sharing my picks for the top five Rasta movies, in alphabetical order…seen?

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Countryman Writer-director Dickie Jobson’s 1982 low-budget wonder has it all. Adventure. Mysticism. Political intrigue. Martial Arts. And weed. Lots of weed. A pot-smuggling American couple crash land their small plane near a beach and are rescued by our eponymous hero (Edwin Lothan, billed in the credits as “himself”), a fisherman/medicine man/Rasta mystic/philosopher/martial arts expert who lives off the land (Lothan, who passed away in 2016, was a fascinating figure in real life).

Unfortunately, the incident has not gone unnoticed by a corrupt, politically ambitious military colonel, who wants to frame the couple as “CIA operatives” who are trying to disrupt the upcoming elections. But first he has to outwit Countryman, which is no easy task (“No one will find you,” Countryman assures the couple, “You are protected here.” “Protected by who?” the pilot asks warily. “Elements brother, elements,” says Countryman, with an enigmatic chuckle). I love this movie. It’s wholly unique, with a fabulous reggae soundtrack.

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The Harder They Come– While the Jamaican film industry didn’t experience an identifiable “new wave” until the early 80s, Perry Henzel’s 1973 rebel cinema classic laid the foundation. From its opening scene, when wide-eyed country boy Ivan (reggae’s original superstar, Jimmy Cliff) hops off a Jolly Bus in the heart of Kingston to the strains of Cliff’s “You Can Get It If You Really Want”, to a blaze of glory finale, it maintains an ever-forward momentum, pulsating all the while to the heartbeat riddim of an iconic soundtrack. Required viewing!

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Rockers– Admittedly, this island-flavored take on the Robin Hood legend is short on plot, but what it may lack in complexity is more than compensated for by its sheer exuberance (and I have to watch it at least once a year). Grecian writer-director Theodoros Bafaloukos appears to have cast every reggae luminary who was alive at the time in his 1978 film. It’s the tale of a Rasta drummer (Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace) who has had his beloved motorcycle stolen (customized Lion of Judah emblem and all!) by a crime ring run by a local fat cat.

Needless to say, the mon is vexed. So he rounds up a posse of fellow musicians (Richard “Dirty Harry” Hall, Jacob Miller, Gregory Isaacs, Robbie Shakespeare, Big Youth, Winston Rodney, et. al.) and they set off to relieve this uptown robber baron of his ill-gotten gains and re-appropriate them accordingly. Musical highlights include Miller performing “Tenement Yard”, and Rodney warbling his haunting and hypnotic  Rasta spiritual “Jah No Dead” a cappella.

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Stepping Razor: Red X– Legalize it! Nicholas Campbell’s unflinching portrait of musician Peter Tosh (who co-founded the Wailers with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer) is not your typical rockumentary. While there is plenty of music, the  focus is on Tosh’s political and spiritual worldview, rendered via archival footage, dramatic reenactments, and excerpts from a personal audio diary in which Tosh expounds on his philosophies and rages against the “Shitstem. “

One interesting avenue Campbell pursues suggests that Tosh was the guiding force behind the  Wailers, and that Marley looked up to Tosh as a mentor in early days (I suspect that it was more of a Lennon/McCartney dynamic). A definite ‘must-see’ for reggae fans.

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Word, Sound, and Power – Jeremiah Stein’s 1980 documentary clocks in at just over an hour but is the best film I’ve seen about roots reggae music and Rastafarian culture. Barely screened upon its original theatrical run and long coveted by music geeks as a Holy Grail until its belated DVD release in 2008 (when I was finally able to loosen my death grip on the sacred, fuzzy VHS copy that I had taped off of USA’s Night Flight back in the early 80s), it’s a wonderful time capsule of a particularly fertile period for the Kingston music scene.

Stein interviews key members of The Soul Syndicate Band, a group of studio players who were the Jamaican version of The Wrecking Crew; they backed Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley, Burning Spear, and Toots Hibbert (to name but a few). Beautifully photographed and edited, with outstanding live performances by the Syndicate. Musical highlights include “Mariwana”, “None Shall Escape the Judgment”, and a spirited acoustic version of “Harvest Uptown”.

Bonus tracks!

OK …if you’d rather chill, here’s a mixtape. Headphones and munchies on standby:      

Celestial seasonings: A total eclipse mixtape

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on April 6, 2024)

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Depending on your worldview, this coming Monday’s super-hyped solar eclipse may be interpreted as: a). A sign of the impending apocalypse, b). A sign that once in a blue moon, the moon blows in and obscures the sun, giving humanity the impression (for a few heart stopping moments) that the apocalypse has, in fact, arrived, or c). A dollar sign for event promoters, hoteliers, tow truck drivers, and people who sell cheap cardboard sunglasses.

I know. I’m a cynical bastard.

If the “Great North American Eclipse” forces people to tear themselves away from their 5 inch iPhone screen to gaze up at The Big Sky, and ponder the awesomeness and vastness of the cosmos (and most importantly, humankind’s relative insignificance in the grand scheme of things)…then I’m for it (I Googled “can you view the eclipse with a…” and right after “mirror”, “sunglasses” and “welding mask”, there it was- friggin’ “iPhone”).

Do me a favor. If you’re lucky enough to make it through the horrendous traffic and wriggle through the madding crowd to snag a perfect observation point in one of the areas that will experience totality…don’t view it through a 5-inch screen…LOOK at it! Utilize some form of eye protection, of course, but experience the ACTUAL PHENOMENON! Thanks.

After all, as Carl Sagan observed:

“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”

BTW, here’s evolutionary perspective on why we sophisticated, technically-advanced humanoids still get the tiniest little lizard brain-fueled twitch when Big Light Go Away:

With that in mind, please enjoy this special mixtape that I have assembled to accompany the solar system’s ultimate laserium show (don’t worry-I didn’t forget the Floyd, man!).

The Rolling Stones- “2000 Light Years from Home”

Paul Weller- “Andromeda”

Tommy Keene- “Astronomy”

The Orb- “Backside of the Moon”

Kate Bush- “The Big Sky”

Soundgarden- “Black Hole Sun”

Pink Floyd- “Brain Damage/Eclipse”

Crosby, Stills, & Nash- “Dark Star”

The Ian Gillian Band- “Five Moons”

Moxy- “Moon Rider”

King Crimson- “Moonchild”

Nick Drake- “Pink Moon”

Elton John- “Rocket Man”

David Bowie- “Space Oddity”

Liz Phair- “Stars and Planets”

Yes- “Starship Trooper”

Bonnie Hayes- “Total Eclipse of the Heart”

The Church- “Under the Milky Way”

Paul McCartney & Wings- “Venus + Mars”

Gamma- “Voyager”

Fab Faux: The 25 Best Songs the Beatles Never Wrote

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on March 23, 2024)

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Warning: This post is fake news. But it’s got a back beat, you can’t lose it. [Ed Sullivan voice] “Ladies and gentlemen, NOT The Beatles…”

THE ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA: “10538 Overture” – ELO’s eponymous 1971 debut album is my favorite in the band’s catalog, due to the presence of Roy Wood. I suspect that Wood (who split during the early sessions for the band’s sophomore effort) tempered his fellow Move alum Jeff Lynne’s tendency to overproduce everything he touches. At any rate, this cut (which sounds like a mashup of “Dear Prudence” and “I Am the Walrus”) is the album’s highlight-setting the mold for ELO’s signature Baroque rock vibe.

BADFINGER: “Baby Blue” – Considering the band’s history, it’s a no-brainer to include a Badfinger song. Originally calling themselves the Iveys, they were “discovered” by Beatles inner circle stalwart Mal Evans, who persuaded the Fabs to sign the band to their then-fledgling Apple Records label in 1968 (Paul McCartney penned their first Top 10 hit “Come and Get It”). This Top 20 hit (very much in the vein of of “And Your Bird Can Sing”)  is  on the 1971 album Straight Up (it was co-produced by George Harrison and Todd Rundgren).

KLAATU:  “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” – We’ve been observing your Earth! I’m old enough to remember the breathless speculation that surrounded this moderately successful Canadian pop-prog outfit back in the mid-70s…were they really The Beatles, recording under a pseudonym? Of course they weren’t; but they undeniably wore The Beatles’ influence on their sleeves, particularly on their biggest  hit (later covered by The Carpenters).

20/20: “Cheri” – Straight outta Tulsa. Band founders Steve Allen and Ron Flynt relocated from Oklahoma to Hollywood in the late 70s and became key movers in the burgeoning L.A. power-pop scene (I had the pleasure of seeing them perform twice in the early 80s; once  at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach and when they opened for The Vapors at The Warfield in San Francisco). Beatlesque harmonies abound in this memorable cut from their debut album.

NICK HEYWARD: “Closer” – In the early 80s, Nick Heyward was best-known as chief songwriter and lead vocalist for the poppy UK band Haircut 100 (he left shortly after their debut album was released to pursue a solo career).  Throughout the 90s, he came to embrace the Britpop sound; infusing a heavier guitar tone into the mix while retaining his McCartney-like gift for melody. This cut is one of the highlights from his excellent 1998 album The Apple Bed.

XTC: “Earn Enough For Us” – Tough choice here, as there are any number of tunes by this prolific UK New Wave/Power Pop band that reflect a heavy Beatles influence. If hard-pressed, this cut from their 1986 album Skylarking (produced by Todd Rundgren) would be my fave faux-Fab XTC song-which has strong Revolver-era vibes. In fact, the entire album has a 60s psychedelia/Revolver vibe…which was allegedly a major point of contention between band and producer. Whatever went on behind the scenes, the end product is top-shelf.

CAPTAIN SENSIBLE: “Exploding Heads and Teapots (Past Their Prime)” – Prolific singer-songwriter-guitarist Raymond Ian Burns (aka Captain Sensible) has taken the odd time out from his longtime tenure as  a premiere member of The Damned to build a pretty decent catalogue of his own. This catchy, psychedelia-tinged selection is from his third solo effort,  Revolution Now (1989).

KEN SHARP: “Floating on a Corn Flake” – Ken Sharp is a sort of power pop Renaissance man; in addition to releasing a number of singles and albums, he has authored/co-authored 18 music books-including tomes on Cheap Trick, The Raspberries, The Small Faces, and Rick Springfield. No mistaking the Lennon influence on this cut!

NICK NICELY: “Hilly Fields” – I was hooked on this haunting, enigmatic song from the first time I heard it on a Bay area alt-rock station in 1982. It sounded like the Beatles’ Revolver album, compressed into three and a half minutes. The artist was Nick Nicely, an English singer-songwriter who released this and one other song, then vanished in the mists of time until reemerging with a full album in 2004 (which was basically a compilation of material he had accumulated over the previous 25 years). He’s since put out several albums of new material, which I have been happily snapping up.

CHRIS BELL: “I Am the Cosmos” – Founded in 1971 by singer-guitarist Chris Bell and ex-Box Tops lead singer/guitarist Alex Chilton, the Beatlesque Big Star was a seminal power pop band. Released as a single, this beautiful, wistful song (recalling “Across the Universe”)  is featured on Bell’s solo album, which was issued posthumously in 1992 (tragically, he died at age 27 in a 1978 automobile accident).

THE TIMES: “I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape” – UK power pop genius Ed Ball was the man behind several bands: Television Personalities, ‘O’ Level, Teenage Filmstars, and The Times (settling on the latter from 1981 through the late 90s, vacillating with a number of self-billed albums along the way). This song is a sly pastiche of 1960s pop culture references, including musical quotes from The Spencer Davis Group’s “Keep on Running”,  The Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, references in the lyrics to “The Prisoner” TV series and something about “…plans to kidnap Paul McCartney”.

THE RAIN PARADE: “I Look Around” – The Rain Parade was part of L.A.’s  “Paisley Underground” scene in the early 80s. This hypnotic, psychedelia-drenched song (in the vein of the Beatles’ “She Said She Said”) is from their 1983 debut, Emergency Third Rail Power Trip.

AIRWAVES: “Keep Away the Blues” – I discovered this UK band when I espied their album New Day in a cut-out bin circa 1978. I knew nothing about them, but in those days it was worth the 99-cent gamble (old-school vinyl junkies know what I’m talking about). Truth be told, I still don’t know much about the band (a Google search reveals little) but the album was full of melodic pop rock numbers, including this cut with its George Harrison-worthy riff.

EMITT RHODES: “Fresh as a Daisy” – Emitt Rhodes sounds like both Lennon and McCartney rolled into one on this piano-driven number from his self-titled 1970 debut album. In addition to vocals, Rhodes plays all instruments (he recorded it on a 4-track in his home studio). The multi-talented artist passed away in 2020, after a spotty career.

THE DIVINE COMEDY: “Perfect Love Song” – The Divine Comedy is essentially a pseudonym for Irish singer-songwriter Neil Hannon. Blessed with a rich baritone voice, Hannon is a gifted musical composer with a penchant for penning wry, tongue-in-cheek lyrics:

Give me your love
And I’ll give you the perfect lovesong
With a divine Beatles bassline
And a big old Beach Boys sound
I’ll match you pound for pound
Like heavy-weights in the final round
We’ll hold on to each other
So we don’t fall down

THE SPONGETONES: “She Goes Out With Everybody” – From their formation in 1979 until they stopped recording in 2009, North Carolina-based power poppers The Spongetones made no secret as to who inspired them: Beatles, Kinks, Hollies, Gerry & the Pacemakers, et. al. Essentially, they really dug that fab and gear British Invasion sound, apparent on this obvious nod to the Beatles’ “Please Please Me”. Still, they manage to put their own stamp on it.

THE KORGIS: “Something About the Beatles” – This selection pretty much speaks for itself. It’s quite a lovely tribute, actually.

Why did the apple fall to the ground…

THE THREE O’CLOCK: “Stupid Einstein” – The Three O’Clock is one of my favorite bands from the L.A. Paisley Underground scene (see The Rain Parade above). They actually lean more toward power pop than psychedelia, but I won’t split hairs. This breezy song (taken from their 1983 album Sixteen Tambourines) is chockablock with the band’s signature Beatlesque guitar riffs and gorgeous harmonies.

THE KNACK: “Sweet Dreams” – Love ’em or hate ’em, this was the band that brought power pop into the mainstream (well, for a minute…until the unfortunate “Nuke the Knack” backlash). Taken from Round Trip, this cut is an unabashed nod to “I’m Only Sleeping”.

CHEAP TRICK: “Taxman, Mr. Thief” – Another track that requires minimal explanation for its inclusion. It’s right there in the lyrics!

He hates you, he loves money
And he’ll steal your shit and think that it’s funny
Like the Beatles he ain’t human
Now the taxman is out to get you

THE BROTHERHOOD OF LIZARDS: “The World Strikes One” – Despite the fact that he writes hook-laden, Beatlesque pop gems in his sleep, and has been doing so for five decades, endearingly eccentric singer-musician-songwriter-poet Martin Newell (who has also recorded and performed as The Cleaners From Venus and The Brotherhood of Lizards) remains a selfishly-guarded secret by cultish admirers (guilty!). This selection (reminiscent of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”) is taken from the 1989 album, Lizardland.

THE JAM: “Tonight at Noon” – I never gleaned Beatles influence in the Jam’s music (The Who and The Kinks, maybe), but they are definitely in full Fabs mode here (from 1977’s This is the Modern World).

THE RECORDS: “Up All Night” – One of of the finest power pop bands to emerge from the UK in the late 70s. Chiming guitars, catchy melodies and harmonies to die for. This is from their self-titled 1979 debut album (issued as Shades in Bed in the UK).

THE JETSET: “You Should Know By Now” – Led by vocalist/songwriter Paul Bevoir, this UK band put out 5 great power pop albums in the 1980s. This selection is taken from their 1986 album Go Bananas!.

THE FLAMIN’ GROOVIES: “You Tore Me Down” – While they started out as a proto-punk garage band, this San Francisco outfit made a profound transformation after they traveled across the pond to Wales in 1976 to work with producer Dave Edmunds. The result was an album power pop aficionados consider the gold standard: Shake Some Action. Nary a weak cut on there; but this one is a standout.

Bonus track!

Longtime Seattle radio personality Bob Rivers and his “Twisted Tunes” cohorts produced this short but hilarious spoof of Tears for Fears’ early 90s hit “Sowing the Seeds of Love” (a song that was so self-consciously derivative I didn’t bother to include it in my list).

Getting better all the time (can’t get no worse): A New Year’s Eve mix tape

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on December 30, 2023)

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All is quiet, on New Year’s Day. Except for this mixtape (you may adjust your volume per hangover conditions Monday morning). Cheers!

“This Will Be Our Year” – The Zombies – Starting on a positive note. Lovely Beatle-esque number from the Odyssey and Oracle album.

You don’t have to worry
All your worried days are gone
This will be our year
Took a long time to come

At least…we can always hope, right?

“Time”David Bowie – A song as timeless as Bowie himself. Time, he’s waiting in the wings/He speaks of senseless things

1999″ – Prince – Sadly, it’s a perennial question: “Mommy…why does everybody have a bomb?”

“1921” – The WhoGot a feeling ’21 is gonna be a good year. OK, back to the drawing board …let’s make ’24 a better one.

“Time” – Oscar Brown, Jr. – A wise and soulful gem…tick, tock.

“New Year’s Day” – U2 – I know… “Edgy pick, Captain Obvious!” But it’s still a great song.

 “Year of the Cat” – Al StewartOld Grey Whistle Test clip. Strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre, contemplating a crime

“Reeling in the Years” – Steely Dan – A pop-rock classic with a killer solo by Elliot Randall.

“New Year’s Resolution” – Otis Redding & Carla Thomas – Ace Stax B-side from 1968, with that unmistakable “Memphis sound”. Speaking of which… check out my review of the Stax music doc, Take Me to the River.

Same Old Lang Syne” – Dan Fogelberg – OK, a nod to those who insist on waxing sentimental. A beautiful tune from the late singer-songwriter.

Bonus track!

Not a “New Year’s song” per se, but an evergreen new year’s wish.

Such a clatter: A holiday mixtape

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on December 9, 2023)

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I’m guessing you’ve already had it up to “here” with holly jolly Burl Ives and Rudolph with his frigging red nose so bright wafting out of every elevator in sight. Christmas comes but once a year; this too shall soon pass. I promise I won’t torture you with the obvious and overplayed. Rather, I have curated 15 selections that aren’t flogged to death every year; some deeper cuts (and a few novelty items) for your Xmas creel.

Happy Crimble, and a Very New Year!

All I Want For Christmas – The Bobs

The Bobs have been stalking me. They formed in the early 80s, in San Francisco. I was living in San Francisco in the early 80s; I recall catching them as an opening act for The Plimsouls (I think…or maybe Greg Kihn) at The Keystone in Berkeley. I remember having my mind blown by a cappella renditions of “Psycho Killer” and “Helter Skelter”. Later, I resettled in Seattle. Later, they resettled in Seattle. I wish they’d quit following me! This is a lovely number from their 1996 album Too Many Santas.

Ave Maria – Stevie Wonder

There are songs that you do not tackle if you don’t have the pipes (unless you want to be jeered offstage, or out of the ball park). “The Star Spangled Banner” comes to mind; as does “Nessun dorma”. “Ave Maria” is right up there too. Not only does Stevie nail the vocal, but he whips out the most sublime harmonica solo this side of Toots Thielemans.

Blue Xmas – Bob Dorough w/ the Miles Davis Sextet

The hippest “Bah, humbug!” of all time. “Gimme gimme gimme…”

Christmas at the Airport – Nick Lowe

Wry and tuneful as ever at 74, veteran pub-rocker/power-popper/balladeer Nick Lowe continues to compose, produce, record and tour. This is from his 2013 Christmas album, Quality Street. I think a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination is overdue.

Christmas in Suburbia – The Cleaners From Venus

Despite the fact that he writes hook-laden, Beatlesque pop gems in his sleep, and has been doing so for five decades, endearingly eccentric singer-musician-songwriter-poet Martin Newell (Cleaners From Venus, Brotherhood of Lizards) remains a selfishly-guarded secret by cultish admirers (of which I am one). But since it is the holidays, I’m feeling magnanimous-so I will share him with you now (you’re welcome).

Christmas Wish – NRBQ

NRBQ has been toiling in relative obscurity since 1966, despite nearly 50 albums and a rep for crowd-pleasing live shows. I think they’ve fallen through the cracks because they are tough to pigeonhole; they’re equally at home with power-pop, blues, rock, jazz, R&B, country or goofy covers. This is from their eponymous 2007 album.

I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas – Yogi Yorgesson

I first heard this tune about the “joys” of holiday gatherings on “The Dr. Demento Show” . It always puts me in hysterics, especially: “My mouth tastes like a pickle.”

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – Leo Kottke

In 1969, an LP entitled 6- and 12-String Guitar quietly slid into record stores. The cover had a painting of an armadillo, with “Leo Kottke” emblazoned above. In the 50+ years since, “the armadillo album” has become a touchstone for aspiring guitarists, introducing the world to a gifted player with a unique and expressive finger picking technique. Kottke’s lovely take on a Bach classic is a highlight.

River – Joni Mitchell

Not a jolly “laughing all the way” singalong; but this is my list, and I’m sticking to it. Besides, Joni opens with a “Jingle Bells” piano quote, and the lyrics are stuffed with Christmas references. Oft-covered, but it doesn’t make a lot of holiday playlists.

Santa – Lightnin’ Hopkins

Best Christmas blues ever, by the poet laureate of the Delta.

Now, I happened to see these old people learning the young ones,
Yeah just learning them exactly what to do.
So sweet, it’s so sweet to see these old people,
Learning they old children just what to do.
Mother said a million-year-ago Santa Claus come to me,
Now this year he gone come to you.

My little sister said take your stocking now,
Hang it up on the head of the bed.
Talkin’ to her friend she said take your stocking,
And please hang it up on head of the bed.
And she said know we all God’s saint children,
In the morning Ol’ Santa Claus gone see that we all is fed.

Sleigh Ride– The Ventures

I’ve never personally seen anyone “hang ten” in Puget Sound; nonetheless, one of the greatest surf bands ever hails from Tacoma. This jaunty mashup of a Christmas classic with “Walk, Don’t Run” sports tasty fretwork by Nokie Edwards and Don Wilson (sadly, co-founder and rhythm guitarist Wilson passed away last year at the age of 88).

Sometimes You Have to Work on Christmas – Harvey Danger

Ho-ho-ho, here’s your %&#!@ change. We’ve all been there at one time or another. I have a soft spot for this music video (It’s a Wonderful Life meets Clerks) because it features one of my favorite neighborhood theaters here in Seattle-The Grand Illusion.

Stoned Soul Christmas – Binky Griptite

“Man, what’s the matter with you…don’t you know it’s Christmas?!” A funky sleigh ride down to the stoned soul Christmas with guitarist/DJ Binky Griptite (formerly of The Dap Kings). A clever reworking of Laura Nyro’s  “Stoned Soul Picnic.” Nice.

A Winter’s Tale – Jade Warrior

Not a Christmas song per se, but it certainly evokes a cozy holiday scenario:

Ivy tapping on my window, wine and candle glow,
Skies that promise snow have gathered overhead.
Buttered toast and creamy coffee, table laid for two,
Lovely having you to share a smile with me.

A beautiful track from an underappreciated UK prog-rock band.

‘Zat You, Santa Claus? – Louis Armstrong

The great jazz growler queries a night prowler who may or may not be the jolly old elf.

Bonus track!

What begins as a performance of “Everlong” turns into a rousing Christmas medley in this 2017 performance by the Foo Fighters on Saturday Night Live. Good grief!

13 songs the lord never taught us: A mixtape

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on October 14, 2023)

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I know what you’re thinking. Halloween is 2 weeks off, and Friday the 13th was yesterday…but ’tis the season. Besides, “Halloween” is practically a 4th-quarter long celebration, counting all associated holidays…All Saints Day, All Souls Day, All Hallows’ Eve, El Dia de los Muertos, Ghost Festival, Guy Fawkes Night, Mischief/Devil’s/Hell’s Night and Samhain. In that spirit, I offer a few frightening picks for your party playlist.

ALICE COOPER: The Ballad of Dwight Frye – “I’ve gotta get OUTTA here!” A theatrical paean to the screen actor who played a bevy of loony tune characters, most notably  “Renfield” in Tod Browning’s 1931 version of Dracula. Just remember…”sleepin’ don’t come very easy, in a straight white vest.”

BAUHAUS: Bela Lugosi’s Dead – The Goth anthem. “Undead, undead, undead …” We get it.

BLACK SABBATH: Black Sabbath– Album 1, side 1, cut 1: Howling wind, driving rain, the mournful peal of a bell, and the heaviest, scariest tri-tone power chord riff you’ve ever heard. “Please God help meee!!“Talk about a mission statement.

PINK FLOYD: Careful With That Axe, Eugene – The Floyd’s most ominous dirge is basically an instrumental mood piece, but Roger Waters’ eerie shrieking  is the stuff of nightmares.

ATOMIC ROOSTER: Death Walks Behind You– “Lock the door, switch the light…you’ll be so afraid tonight.” A truly unnerving track from one of my favorite 70s British prog-rock bands.  Keyboardist Vincent Crane pulls double duty on this list; he had previously played with The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (below).

THE DAMNED: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde– You know what they say: You’re never alone with a schizophrenic! Choice cut from the U.K. pop-punk band’s finest LP, The Black Album.

THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN: Fire- Yes, that Arthur Brown…heir to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, the forefather of Alice Cooper, and most importantly, the god of hell fire!

THE CRAMPS: Goo Goo Muck–It would be sacrilege not to include the kings of Psychobilly.

I Put a Spell on You– This cat must have scared the living shit out of middle America, smack dab in the middle of the drab Eisenhower era. “Moohoohaha!

THE DOORS: Riders on the Storm – The first time I heard this song was in 1971. I was 14. It haunted me then and haunts me now. It was my introduction to aural film noir. Distant thunder, the cascading shimmer of a Fender Rhodes, a desolate tremolo guitar and dangerous rhythms.“There’s a killer on the road. His brain is squirming like a toad.” Fuck oh dear, this definitely wasn’t the Archies.

Jim Morrison’s vocals got under my skin. Years later, a friend explained why. If you listen carefully, there are three vocal tracks. Morrison is singing, chanting and whispering the lyrics. We smoked a bowl, cranked it up and concluded that it was a pretty neat trick.

VANILLA FUDGE: Season of the Witch– Donovan’s original version doesn’t hold a candle to this marvelously histrionic psychedelic train wreck.  Eat your heart out, Bill Shatner!

THE ROLLING STONES: Sympathy for the Devil- “Something always happens when we play this song.” Famous last words there from Mick Jagger in the 1970 rock doc Gimme Shelter, moments before the cameras (unknowingly, at time of filming) capture the fatal stabbing of an audience member.  Now that’s scary.

KING CRIMSON: 21st Century Schizoid Man– “Cat’s foot, iron claw, neurosurgeons scream for more…at paranoia’s poison door...”  And that’s  the most optimistic part of this song!

Bonus track!

LED ZEPPELIN: (backwards) Stairway to Heaven– Rumor has it there is a painting of Jimmy Page  going all to hell. If you believe in that sort of thing (there are two paths you can go by).

Pleasant dreams!

Wet boots and rain: An autumn mixtape

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on September 24, 2022)

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I raked the leaves on our front lawn
It took all afternoon.
I started at ‘round half-past one
and said, “I’ll be done soon.”

But once I saw how more leaves fell
Each time I made a pile,
I quickly saw this outdoor chore
Was going to take a while.

And so I did what my dad said
A winner does to win:
I studied that great pile of leaves,
And then I jumped right in.

– “Raking Leaves”, children’s poem by Shel Silverstein

*sigh* Is nothing sacred anymore in our increasingly myopic universe?

On Cloudland Road in Pomfret, it’s quiet most of the year.

But in the last few autumns, the small road has been inundated with out-of-state tourists, all of which are trying to get a photo in front of an iconic farm. When people scroll through social media to look for a popular place in Vermont to visit in the fall, one Pomfret address pops up more than most actual tourist destinations — Sleepy Hollow Farm.

“The last several years, there has been a significant increase in tourism interest in a particular private property on Cloudland Road,” said Benjamin Brickner, a Pomfret select board member.

The farm has a gate and security cameras to try and deter people from trespassing. But the owners have found that even this doesn’t help.

The property is notoriously one of the most photographed places in Vermont during the peak of autumn. It’s created tension between residents and the photo-snapping public.

“It’s just become such a mad house,” said Michael Doten, who lives across the road. “Especially around the Indigenous People’s Day holiday weekend. It just gets crazy. We’ve counted over 100 cars at any given time parked alongside the road. It just creates a major traffic jam.”

The pile-up of cars created a public safety concern. Emergency service vehicles cannot pass the narrow roads with cars parked and two lanes of traffic.

So, Pomfret, in conjunction with Woodstock, passed a measure to close Cloudland and Barber Hill roads Saturday, Sept. 23 through Sunday, Oct. 15 to non-residents.

“These are unpaved narrow rural roads that are not built to accommodate the traffic that they are seeing during the foliage season,” Brickner said. “There’s damage to the roadway that needs to be repaired by the town. There’s damage to properties that are adjacent to the road that need to be addressed.”

The Windsor County Sheriff’s Department and a contracted traffic specialist will enforce the road closures.

“We’ve been asking people to respect property owner’s rights,” said Windsor County Sheriff Ryan Palmer. “We’ve had a lot of stories of folks just being very disrespectful. Walking on property that wasn’t theirs. Sitting on porches, swimming in their ponds, those types of things.”

Neighbors have started a campaign to raise funds to help pay for signage and law enforcement. It’s something that Doten and his family say should make a difference to get back to what they are used to.

“Probably what I used to consider a normal foliage season,” he said. “We’ll have traffic. We’ll have some people coming through and looking and slowing down. But we won’t have hordes or people hanging on the gate of my neighbor’s property.”

Neighbors tried making the road one-way last year and it didn’t help. So, they’re hopeful, with this action, they’ll be able to enjoy the fall season peacefully.

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Very bucolic, but I’m happy to simply enjoy the photo; I don’t feel an urge to drive several thousand miles just to snap a selfie. As Roy Neary says in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, “You think I investigate every Walter Cronkite story there is?!”

As another character in Close Encounters observes, “Einstein was right”. Each year passes faster than the previous. Per Pink Floyd, You can run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking; racing around to come up behind you again. To wit…The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older; shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

Don’t you hate that?

Since the Fall Equinox has raced around and come up behind us again, I thought I’d rake through my music collection and curate a pile of suitably autumnal tunes.

To follow Shel Silverstein’s lead…Let’s jump right in!

“Autumn Almanac” – The Kinks

Released as a single in the UK in 1967, Ray Davies’ fond sense memory of the Muswell Hill neighborhood of North London where he grew up recalls The Beatles’ “Penny Lane”.

From the dew-soaked hedge creeps a crawly caterpillar
When the dawn begins to crack
It’s all part of my autumn almanac

Breeze blows leaves of a musty-coloured yellow
So I sweep them in my sack
Yes, yes, yes, it’s my autumn almanac

“Autumn Leaves” -Jim Hall & Ron Carter

Lovely instrumental cover of Joeseph Kosma & Jacques Prevert’s classic (originally popularized by Yves Montand in Marcel Carné’s 1946 film noir Les Portes de la Nuit) performed live by two jazz greats-Jim Hall (guitar) and Ron Carter (stand-up bass).

“The Boys of Summer” – Don Henley

I suppose one could make a case either way as to whether Don Henley’s 1984 hit qualifies as a “summer song” or an “autumn song”. Here’s my gauge: generally speaking, upbeat and celebratory is a summer mood; wistful and introspective is autumnal.

Nobody on the road
Nobody on the beach
I feel it in the air
The summer’s out of reach
Empty lake, empty streets
The sun goes down alone
I’m driving by your house
Though I know you’re not home

“Falling” – Joe Vitale

Joe Vitale was a key member of Joe Walsh’s first post-James Gang band Barnstorm. In addition to contributing drums, flute, keyboards and vocals, Vitale also co-wrote some of the songs. This cut is from his outstanding debut solo album, Roller Coaster Weekend (1974).

“Forever Autumn” – Justin Hayward

This lovely tune, featuring a lead vocal by Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues was a highlight of Jeff Wayne’s 1978 double LP rock musical adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.

“Harvest Moon” – Neil Young

This is the title track from Young’s eponymous 1992 LP (a sort of sequel to 1972’s Harvest), which won a Juno award (Canada’s equivalent to a Grammy) for Album of the Year.

“Indian Summer” -Dream Academy

The Dream Academy’s most wistful and transporting song is best appreciated with a good set of headphones. Drift away…

It was the time of year just after the summer’s gone
When August and September just become memories of songs
To be put away with the summer clothes
And packed up in the attic for another year
We had decided to stay on for a few weeks more
Although the season was over now the days were still warm
And seemed reluctant to five up and hand over to winter for another year

“Inner Garden I” – King Crimson

Contrary to what you may assume, not every track by this venerable prog-rock outfit takes up half an album side; some of their best compositions say all they need to say with surprising brevity.

Autumn has come to rest in her garden
Come to paint the trees with emptiness
And no pardon
So many things have come undone
Like the leaves on the ground
And suddenly she begins to cry
But she doesn’t know why…

“The Last Day of Summer” – The Cure

Technically, yesterday was the last day of summer-but close enough for rock ‘n’ roll:

But the last day of summer
Never felt so cold
The last day of summer
Never felt so old

“Leaf and Stream” – Wishbone Ash

This compelling, melancholic track is sandwiched between a couple of epic rockers on the Ash’s best album, 1972’s Argus (which I wrote about here).

Find myself beside a stream of empty thought,
Like a leaf that’s fallen to the ground,
And carried by the flow of water to my dreams
Woken only by your sound.

“Leaves in the Wind” -Back Street Crawler

Back Street Crawler was a short-lived group formed in 1975 by guitarist Paul Kossoff after he left Free. Sadly, by the time 2nd Street was released in 1976, Kossoff was dead at 25 (lending additional poignancy to his mournful guitar fills on this track).

“Moondance”– Van Morrison

The evocative title track from Morrison’s 1970 album is one of his signature tunes.

Well, it’s a marvelous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
‘Neath the cover of October skies

“November” -Tom Waits

This song is a tad unsettling, yet oddly beautiful. Not unlike Waits’ voice. Dig the theremin.

No shadow
No stars
No moon
No care
November
It only believes
In a pile of dead leaves
And a moon
That’s the color of bone

“October”-U2

Sporting naught but two short verses, this was an uncharacteristically minimalist arrangement for U2 at this stage of their career (from the band’s eponymous 1981 album).

October
And the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
What do I care?

October
And kingdoms rise
And kingdoms fall
But you go on
And on

“Ramble On”-Led Zeppelin

Arguably the One Autumnal Song to Rule Them All, with all its wistfulness and stirrings of wanderlust. Only don’t try to make any sense of the Gollum reference-it’ll make you crazy.

Leaves are falling all around
It’s time I was on my way
Thanks to you I’m much obliged
For such a pleasant stay
But now it’s time for me to go
The autumn moon lights my way
For now I smell the rain
And with it pain
And it’s headed my way…

“September” – Earth, Wind, & Fire

Well of course I remember “the 21st of September”…it was last Thursday, fergawdsake! Sheesh. One of EWF’s biggest hits, it reached #1 on the Billboard charts in 1978. Ba-dee-yah.

“September Gurls” – Big Star

Founded in 1971 by singer-guitarist Chris Bell and ex-Box Tops singer/guitarist Alex Chilton, Big Star is one of the seminal power pop bands, and this is one of their most defining songs.

“Summer’s Almost Gone” – The Doors

From the Doors’ 1968 album Waiting For the Sun. Haunting, with Jim Morrison in fine form.

Morning found us calmly unaware
Noon burn gold into our hair
At night, we swim the laughin’ sea
When summer’s gone
Where will we be?

“Time of No Reply” – Nick Drake

Gone much too soon, his sad short life was as enigmatic as the amazing catalog he left behind.

Summer was gone and the heat died down
And Autumn reached for her golden crown
I looked behind as I heard a sigh
But this was the time of no reply

The sun went down and the crowd went home
I was left by the roadside all alone
I turned to speak as they went by
But this was the time of no reply

“Urge for Going”– Joni Mitchell

You thought I forgot this one, didn’t you? Luck of the alphabet. It feels redundant to label any Joni Mitchell song as “genius”, but it’s hard to believe this came from the pen of a 22 year-old.

I awoke today and found the frost perched on the town
It hovered in a frozen sky, then it gobbled summer down
When the sun turns traitor cold
And all trees are shivering in a naked row
I get the urge for going but I never seem to go
I get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown

An Elpee’s Worth of Covers: A mixtape

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on September 2, 2023)

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Since it’s Labor Day weekend, I thought I would give the original artists a day off and share 20 of my favorite cover songs. Kick back and enjoy!

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – “All Along the Watchtower”

Original artist: Bob Dylan

And the wind began to HOWL!” Jimi’s soaring, immaculately produced rendition (from Electric Ladyland) came out 6 months after the original appeared on Dylan’s 1967 John Wesley Harding LP.

Patti Smith – “Because the Night”

Original artist: Bruce Springsteen

OK, Springsteen gave Smith first crack at it, so it could be argued that his version (recorded later) is technically the “cover”. I do feel Smith’s version is definitive (the Boss wins either way…as long as those royalty checks keep rolling in).

Issac Hayes – “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”

Original artist: Glen Campbell (written by Jimmy Webb)

Hayes deconstructs Glen Campbell’s Jimmy Webb-penned hit and adds a backstory to build it into an impeccably arranged, epic suite that eats up side 2 of Hot Buttered Soul. This is his magnum opus…symphonic, heartbreaking, beautiful.

Savoy Brown – “Can’t Get Next To You”

Original artist: The Temptations (written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong)

A bluesy take on the Temptations hit, from Savoy Brown’s Street Corner Talking album. The song features fine work from Dave Walker (vocals), Paul Raymond (piano) and founding member Kim Simmonds (guitar).

Judas Priest – “Diamonds and Rust”

Original Artist: Joan Baez

It sounds like a comedy bit: “Here’s my impression of Judas Priest covering a Joan Baez song.” But it happened, and it’s become one of Priest’s signature tunes. This is a stripped-down version (from a VH-1 broadcast) featuring a sonic vocal performance by Rob Halford.

Julian Cope – “5 o’clock World”

Original artist: The Vogues (written by Allen Reynolds)

The endearingly loopy Teardrop Explodes founder reworks a 1966 pop hit by The Vogues (appending a few new lyrics about nuclear war…I think). I love how Cope cleverly incorporates quotes from Petula Clark’s “I Know a Place” for good measure!

Ken Sharp – “Girl Don’t Tell Me”

Original artist: The Beach Boys (written by Brian Wilson)

Ken Sharp is a modern power pop renaissance man; he has authored or co-authored 18 music books, is a regular contributor to a number of music mags, has worked on music documentaries, and (in his spare time?) releases an occasional album (8 of them to date). This chiming cover of an underappreciated Beach Boys B-side sounds very Beatlesque…which makes sense when you factor in that Brian Wilson has said it was inspired by “Ticket to Ride”.

Fanny – “Hey Bulldog”

Original artist: The Beatles (written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney)

Before The Runaways, this Filipina-American rock band kicked ass and took names. They may have been too early for the party, as they never caught fire. This Beatles cover is from their 1972 LP Fanny Hill. Earlier this year, PBS premiered a great documentary portrait called The Right to Rock. It’s criminal they’re not in the R&R Hall of Fame.

Clive Gregson & Christine Collister- “How Men Are”

Original artist: Aztec Camera (written by Roddy Frame)

Clive Gregson (founder/lead singer of 80s power-pop band Any Trouble) teamed up with singer-songwriter Christine Collister to cut 5 superb albums in the 80s and 90s. This beautifully performed cover appeared on their 1989 album Love is a Strange Hotel.

Yvonne Elliman – “I Can’t Explain”

Original Artist: The Who (written by Pete Townshend)

Yvonne Elliman first gained fame in the early 70s playing Mary Magdalene in the original stage production, soundtrack album and film version of Jesus Christ Superstar. While her biggest hit was from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack (“If I Can’t Have You”, which reached #1 on the Billboard chart in 1977), she could rock out-as evidenced by this nifty 1973 cover of a classic Who number. Pete Townshend plays guitar on the track.

Continental Drifters – “I Can’t Let Go”

Original artist: The Hollies (written by Al Gorgoni and Chip Taylor)

This L.A.-based band formed in the early 90s, and at one time or another over its 10-year lifespan featured members of The Bangles, The dBs, The Dream Syndicate, and The Cowsills. This cut (also covered by Linda Ronstadt, who had a minor hit with it in 1980) is taken from a 1995 tribute album called Sing Hollies in Reverse, which featured indie rock artists covering their favorite Hollies songs (Evie Sands released the original in 1965, but the song was popularized by The Hollies, who covered it in 1966). Fantastic harmonies.

Chris Spedding – “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”

Original artist: The Kinks (written by Ray Davies)

Spedding is the Zelig of the U.K. music scene; an official member of 11 bands over the years, and a session guitarist who’s played with everybody since the 70s. This Kinks cover is from his eponymous 1980 album.

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes – “Leaving on a Jet Plane”

Original artist: John Denver

Definitely not as originally envisioned by John Denver…but you can mosh to it! This outfit (specializing in covers) is a side project for members of various pop-punk bands.

Paul Jones “Pretty Vacant”

Original artist: The Sex Pistols

The gimmick of doing ironic lounge covers of punk songs may be hackneyed now, but in 1978, this take on a Sex Pistols anthem was a novel idea…and it works quite well.

David Bowie – “See Emily Play”

Original artist: Pink Floyd (written by Syd Barrett)

Bowie was always ahead of the curve; even when he went retro. All-cover albums weren’t the rage yet when Bowie issued Pin Ups in 1973 as a nod to the 60s artists who influenced him.

Gary Moore – “Shapes of Things”

Original artist: The Yardbirds (written by Paul Samwell-Smith/Jim McCarty/Keith Relf)

This Yardbirds classic has been covered by a number of artists (including The Jeff Beck Group and David Bowie), but for my money, this dynamic arrangement by the late great Irish guitarist/vocalist rules them all.

The Isley Brothers – “Summer Breeze”

Original artist: Seals & Crofts

You could always count on the Isleys to put as much heart and soul into covers as they did for their original material. This take on a Seals & Crofts classic is no exception. Ernie Isley’s guitar solo is amazing.

Julee Cruise “Summer Kisses, Winter Tears”

Original artist: Elvis Presley (written by Fred Wise and Ben Weisman)

David Lynch’s favorite chanteuse (who passed away in 2022) recorded this haunting Elvis cover for the soundtrack of Wim Wender’s 1991 film Until the End of the World.

Nazareth – “This Flight Tonight”

Original artist: Joni Mitchell

Reportedly, Joni Mitchell loved Nazareth’s 1973 cover of a song featured on her 1971 album Blue. Lead singer Dan McCafferty gives his pipes a real workout . Nancy Wilson once confessed in an interview that Heart copped that galloping intro riff for “Barracuda”.

Ronnie Montrose – “Town Without Pity” (instrumental)

Original artist: Gene Pitney (written by Dmitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington)

I had the privilege of seeing this extraordinary guitarist perform in San Francisco in 1980, and in Seattle in 2011 (sadly, he took his own life in 2012). He was one of the best. This cover of Gene Pitney’s 1962 hit was featured on his 1978 all-instrumental album Open Fire.

Bonus Track…

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Headin’ out to San Francisco
For the Labor Day weekend show
I got my Hush Puppies on
I guess I never was meant for glitter rock ‘n’ roll
And honey, I didn’t know that I’d be missin’ you so

I was sad to learn that singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett has passed away. On Labor Day weekend, no less. I’m not a Parrothead, yet I inevitably find myself merrily singing along whenever “Come Monday”, “Margaritaville”, or “Son of a Son of a Sailor” pops up on the oldies station (cat could write a chorus). Raise your margaritas for a toast. In memoriam, here’s his laid-back (natch) cover of C,S,N, & Y’s “Southern Cross”. RIP.

Book of Saturday, Chapter II: A Chillaxing Mixtape

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on August 12, 2023)

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You’ve heard the one about cockroaches and Cher surviving the Apocalypse? You can add this item to that list: Maxell UD XL-II 90 cassettes. I was going through some musty boxes the other day and found a stash of mix tapes that I’ve had since the 70s and 80s. I’ll be damned if they didn’t sound just as good as the day I recorded them (My theory is that they are manufactured from the same material they use for “black boxes”).

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I was into putting together “theme sets” long before I got into the radio biz. My mix tapes were popular with friends; I’d make copies on demand, and name them (of course). One of my faves was “The Oh My God I am So Stoned Tape”. I don’t think that requires explanation; I mean, it was the 70s and I was a long-haired stoner music geek.

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Nearly 50 years later, I’m still putting together theme sets. It is my métier. Kind of sad, really (grown man and all). Anyway …turn off the news (it’s depressing!), turn down the lights, do some deep breathing, and let “The Oh My God I am So Stoned Tape 2023” wash anxiety away. I’ve sequenced the songs in a manner designed to sustain a certain mood-so for maximum effect, I suggest that you listen to it in order. Enjoy!*

*Herbal enhancement optional

Van Morrison – “Coney Island”

Peter Frampton – “Fig Tree Bay”

The Jam – “English Rose”

The Dream Academy – “Indian Summer”

Kevin Ayers – “Puis Je?”

Mark-Almond Band – “Girl on Table 4”

John Martyn – “Solid Air”

Carole King – “Only Love is Real”

Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express – “All the Time There Is”

Matt Deighton – “5 Years in Pieces”

Nick Drake – “From the Morning”

The Monkees – “As We Go Along”

Big Star – “Watch the Sunrise”

Led Zeppelin – “That’s the Way”

Montrose – “One and a Half”

Batdorf and Rodney – “Oh Can You Tell Me”

Lyle Lovett – “If I Had a Boat”

Hotlegs – “Fly Away”

Nick Heyward – “Whistle Down the Wind”

Peter Sinfield – “Under the Sky”

Julee Cruise – “Summer Kisses, Winter Tears”

The Doors – “End of the Night”

Graham Nash & David Crosby – “Whole Cloth”

Jeff Beck Group – “Max’s Tune”

The Who – “The Song is Over”