My good friend David Monterey, a singer, songwriter and musician who leads the band, the String Rays, writes the Song Dog Music blog. Recently, the two of us had a long discussion about the Sixties West Coast Music Scene, particularly what we experienced as kids in the Bay Area.
Last night (May 7, 2016) myself and the amazing experimental guitarist Henry Kaiser gave a reading to a standing-room-only audience at The Octopus Literary Salon in Oakland, CA.
Henry opened with a 20 minute solo electric guitar set of improvisations utilizing several guitars and a bank of effects pedals as well as a strange box that produced drum and bass based on what Henry played.
Then I joined Henry on the stage to read ten excerpts from my new rock ‘n’ roll coming-of-age novel, The Flowers Lied.
This reading was very special because Henry was accompanying me on guitar and machines. We had done this only once before, back in 2014, at Down Home Music. That was a great show, but it was totally different. Completely different vibe.
I read five longer excerpts with an “interlude” devoted to a musician or song between each. The first was about Skippy James and “I’m So Glad,” then Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” and Neil Young. Below you can hear “Interlude #4: Neil Young.”
For me, it was so very intense to stand there before the audience, all eyes on the two of us, and read words I’d spent more than six years perfecting. I had been reading my novel aloud as I wrote it. Every day for six years I read some of it aloud. Every page was read aloud and every revised page. I knew the sound of my words, my sentences, my paragraphs. I knew the rhythms of those sentences, and the music they make.
I had read in the privacy of my office. I had read before the members of three writers groups I was in: The Dangerous Writers group in Portland in 2008 and some of 2009 where all the early work got done, another group in Inverness, CA in late 2009 and 2010, and the group I led in Oakland and El Cerrito from late 2010 to late 2013.
And yet this was totally different. There really is nothing like reading before an audience in a public space, an audience silent because they want to hear the words and the music, the music of the words and the music of the music.
Here’s a taste of what went down. This is a brief excerpt from a chapter in which the narrator and his friend go to a Neil Young concert in late 1972. The first line is cut off. So I’ll tell you what it is:
“I dig Neil the most, beginning in his Buffalo Springfield days…”
Bruce Springsteen has always written about the past, and as I’ve spent time with The Ties That Bind: The River Sessions, a multi-CD/multi-DVD set that focuses on music Springsteen made during sessions for The River (and includes a fantastic live show from November 1980, three weeks after The River was released), I’ve been reminded of how a yearning for the past (the high drama of youth) was so much a part of Springsteen’s Seventies recordings.
At age 23, on his first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, Springsteen was already looking back on songs such as “Growing Up’ and “It’s Hard To Be a Saint in the City.” Even on their release, Born to Run, Darkness at the Edge of Town and The River came across as romantic exaggerations of a time long gone. This wasn’t just due to the lyrics, which sometimes referred to events in the past tense.
Watch Springsteen and band do “Out In The Street” in Tempe, Arizona, 1980:
The sound of Springsteen’s music leaped back past the innovations of mid-to-late ’60s rock, a period that prominently included long-haired psychedelia complete with feedback, distortion and wah-wah pedal effects, to draw on Phil Spector’s Wall-of-Sound, the rhythm and blues of The Coasters, Sam & Dave and others, and party-rock hit-makers like Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and Gary U.S. Bonds.
Watch Springsteen and band do “The River” in Tempe, Arizona, 1980:
Consider that in 1975, when Born to Run was released, including a saxophone in the lineup was akin to using a horse and buggy for transportation. Springsteen’s E Street Band, of course, proudly featured the great Clarence “Big Man” Clemons on sax, and the Big Man took a solo in practically every song.
Even when Springsteen wrote in the present, as he did for “Thunder Road,” his line about “Roy Orbison singing to the lonely” placed the time period of the action in the early/mid-‘60s …
Read the rest of this column at Addicted To Noise.
Watch Springsteen and band do “Thunder Road” in 1975:
An investigation by Direct Action Everywhere finds “horrific conditions” at a Whole Foods top-rated “humane” meat supplier
By Michael Goldberg
The Diestel Turkey Ranch in Sonora, CA is a beautiful place where turkeys are free to roam on tree-shaded green pastures. “HAPPY TURKEYS AHEAD” reads a sign outside the Whole Foods meat supplier’s farm in the foothills of the Sierra.
And that’s what consumers see in promotional brochures and Whole Foods video of Diestel’s Sonora ranch, one of just three suppliers (out of 2100) to earn Whole Foods’ 5+ humane meat rating, the upscale retailer’s coveted top honor.
“There’s not a lot of secrets here,” says Timothy J. Diestel, who along with his wife Joan C. Diestel has been running the ranch since 1980.
But an investigation and report by the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) shows otherwise. A 2013 California Regional Water Quality Control Board report states no commercial turkeys have been raised at the Sonora facility since 2011. According to the report, Diestel’s turkeys come from other facilities. One of those is in nearby Jamestown, whose premises are nothing like what Whole Foods depicts in its “humane turkey” videos.
More from the upcoming Bob Dylan set, The Cutting Edge 1965–1966: The BootlegSeries Vol. 12. I’ve been listening to an advance and although I haven’t yet gotten through all the music, what I have heard is amazing.
Here is a version of “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” The footage is fascinating; this version of the song is excellent.
Here’s the same video on YouTube incase the previous from Vevo doesn’t play:
And here’s the version released on “Bringing It All Back Home.”
With Perdue’s purchase of Niman Ranch, and McDonald’s move to “cage-free,” it’s time for us to ask: what does “humane” actually mean?
By Michael Goldberg
With his thinning white hair and black Polo-style short-sleeved shirt with a Niman Ranch “Raised With Care” logo over his heart, Paul Willis looks like a kindly grandfather. This soft-spoken man certainly isn’t my idea of a pig killer.
But that’s exactly what he is.
Willis, a high-profile spokesman for the “humane meat” movement, co-founded and manages the Niman Ranch Pork Company, a division of Niman Ranch.
This week it was announced that Perdue Farms, the third biggest U.S. factory farm company raising chickens, has purchased Niman Ranch.
In addition to running the Niman Ranch Pork Company, in years past Willis has also raised between 2500-to-3000 pigs a year on his Willis Free Range Pig Farm in Thornton, Iowa, two hours north of Des Moines. He still raises 100s of pigs each year on his farm.
At about six months of age, Willis’s pigs are driven to the Sioux-Preme Packing Company, a slaughterhouse in Sioux Center, Iowa, where they are gassed and their throats slit.
Willis is responsible for the deaths of far more pigs than the ones he raises on his own farm.The Niman Ranch Pork Company is a network of over 500 farms that provide a total of over 150,000 pigs each year, who are slaughtered and sold under the Niman Ranch brand. The company’s reputation is based on raising pigs in what is alleged to be a humane way, and its operation is considered the gold standard for compassionate animal agriculture. Companies whose success is based on their “compassion” and “values,” including Chipotle Mexican Grill and Whole Foods, are supplied by Niman Ranch.
Willis, who refers to the dead body parts of pigs that Niman sells as “product,” told the New York Times in early 2014 that Niman oversees the raising and killing of about half of the pigs in America that are considered pasture-raised, or “humanely” raised, though most of those pigs are actually raised indoors.
Though in his early seventies, Willis has become the poster boy for Niman Ranch, the human face of a system that doesn’t value the lives of nonhuman animals. He’s the subject of an eight-minute video, “Paul Willis Story,” created and funded by Chipotle, one of Niman’s biggest customers.
The video tells a folksy story about Willis growing up on the farm in Thornton, and shows him wearing denim overalls, petting pigs who are hanging out in a large pasture, and letting his granddaughter’s chickens out of a barn. Willis has been favorably written up in numerous publications, including Fast Company, and has been quoted in both the New York Times and the New Yorker.
In the video, Willis speaks of himself as an “activist” fighting the good fight against factory farming. It’s a good story, and it’s helped assuage the guilt of upscale meat eaters who think they have a humane alternative to the violence that goes on at factory farms.
“We do the best we can with raising the animals as humanely as we can,” Willis said while hanging out at a Berkeley, CA butcher shop, Magnani’s Poultry, one afternoon in early June. Willis was there to promote Niman Ranch “product,” and the event was billed as “Demo and Q&A.”
I was there with Direct Action Everywhere (DxE). We wanted to question Willis about Niman farming protocol, which is, in fact, anything but humane. But even if they did raise the pigs with care, there is nothing humane about killing an animal that wants to live. There were about 30 of us, and at least a half-dozen DxE members fired off questions at Willis for about 15 minutes before he abruptly ended the conversation.
DxE fights for animal liberation and against speciesism, which is similar to racism and sexism. Only where racism and sexism describe privileged humans discrimination against humans of color or the female sex, speciesism describes humans discriminating against other species.
Just as there is no moral justification for racism or sexism, there is no moral justification for speciesism. There is no moral justification for humans to exploit and torture and kill animals because they “like the taste of meat,” as more than one carnist has said. Yet that’s what humans do. More than nine billion land animals are killed each year in the U.S. alone for food. It’s mass murder on an unimaginable scale.
“I’ve always raised outdoor pigs, pasture pigs. Ok?” Willis continued. “Factory farming started coming in on us big time [in the early ’90s]. I wanted no part of that.”
Willis’s words are misleading. While he may actually raise his own pigs outdoors when the weather allows, most Niman pigs live their entire short six-month lives inside warehouse-style buildings with as little as 14 square feet allotted per pig – equivalent to the footprint of a small desk and approximately the size of a gestation crate, which are now illegal in California.
David Marin of Tendergrass Farms wrote in a June 11, 2013 post on the “Mark’s Daily Apple” blog that he considered raising pigs for Niman before founding Tendergrass. He changed his mind when he learned from a Niman “field representative” that “only a small percentage of Niman Ranch pigs are actually raised on pasture. In the whole east coast region he [the Niman rep] said that there are virtually no pasture-based Niman producers.
This past weekend the Grateful Dead with Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio filling if for the late Jerry Garcia on lead guitar, played two two-set shows at the Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, CA.
Below are videos of most of the June 27 show, and the second set of the June 28 show.
June 27, 2015 – first set:
June 27, 2015 – second set (most of the set but not all):
June 27, 2015 – second set, second to the last song – “Morning Dew”:
June 27, 2015 – set closer – “Casey Jones”:
June 28, 2015 – second set:
June 28, 2015 – most of sets 1 & 2:
June 27 set list:
Uncle John’s Band
(Phil Lesh lead vocals)
Cream Puff War
(Trey Anastasio lead vocals)
Viola Lee Blues
(Cannon’s Jug Stompers cover)
(Phil Lesh lead vocals)
(with William Tell bridge)
Turn On Your Love Light
(Bobby “Blue” Bland cover)
(with Mickey Hart on mbira)
What’s Become of the Baby?
(Phil Lesh lead vocals)
The Other One
(Bonnie Dobson cover)
(Bruce Hornsby lead vocals)
June 28 set list:
Set 1 (I don’t have video for this set)
Feel Like a Stranger
(Cannon’s Jug Stompers cover)
(Bruce Hornsby on lead vocals)
(Jerry Garcia song) (Bruce Hornsby on lead vocals)
(lead vocal: Trey Anastasio)
Hell in a Bucket
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
Eyes of the World
(with Sikiru Adepoju on talking drum)
I Need a Miracle
Death Don’t Have No Mercy
(Reverend Gary Davis cover)
This past Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I was one of over 100 activists from around the world who were in the Bay Area for an animal rights conference held by Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) and to protest against the abuse and killing of animals for food and clothing.
On Saturday May 23 we held three protests, the last of which was on Geary Street outside Macy’s.
Check out this excellent news coverage by Indymedia:
It was Mother’s Day, a day when the animal rights groups Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy (BOAA) and Direct Action Everywhere (DXE) try to remind the public of the millions and millions of forgotten mothers – the dairy cows who are forced to stand in one spot indoors and be milked and milked and milked for fucking months on end until their udders are bleeding, swollen to the point of dragging on the floor and infected with mastitis. Mothers who frantically search in vain for their newborns who are stolen by humans shortly after birth. Mothers who cry and moan for days and days for their lost babies….