THE ABSENT

THE ABSENT
THE ABSENT - out now!

CRIPPLED HEARTS

CRIPPLED HEARTS
Out Now - For sale on Amazon and other onlne book sellers

SOLIDARITY WITH THE FLESH EATING MOSAIC AND OTHER POEMS by Raj Dronamraju

SOLIDARITY WITH THE FLESH EATING MOSAIC AND OTHER POEMS by Raj Dronamraju
Out Now

THE RETURN OF THE MAGNIFICENT NINNY AND OTHER POEMS by Raj Dronamraju

THE RETURN OF THE MAGNIFICENT NINNY AND OTHER POEMS by Raj Dronamraju
My first book of poetry available through Amazon and other online booksellers www.rajbooks.com

Saturday, May 10, 2014

THE DONATE BUTTON PLUS NEWS ABOUT THIS BLOG


There is now a donate button on all three of my blogs for anyone who wishes to send me a payment through paypal (the button links with my paypal account).

Monies sent will both help me with daily expenses as I am still unemployed (since December) with no prospects on the horizon and also subsidize my poetry and writing.

I also am temporary suspending writing on my two blogspace blogs as I am going to see if I can earn some money through clicks on Hubpages (  http://rajdronamraju.hubpages.com/ ).  If that does not work after a month or two and/or a good number of posts then I will come back to blogspot.  Please follow me on Hubpages.

I will continue with poetry as usual on my wordpress blog.

And thanks to anyone who makes a contribution.


Peace and Regards, Raj


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

THE HOUSE WAS QUIET AND THE WORLD WAS CALM BY HELEN BEVINGTON


Helen Bevington’s third book of memoirs THE HOUSE WAS QUIET AND THE WORLD WAS CALM appears on the surface to be the most inconsequential of the three dealing with her and her husband’s life at a university in North Carolina while Both of their sons are off fighting in World War II but there is a lot of simple wisdom in these pages.

The book can be divided into three parts – )1. The first part describes Bevington’s husband B.’s being hired by the North Carolina Uni.  The business of moving in and finally Bevington herself being hired at the same school to teach English as there is a shortage of manpower due to WWII 2.) The second part of the book is Bevington’s approach to first teaching as she discusses methods and the mind of the student and then poetry itelf as she quotes other famous poets in kind of a general treatise on poetic writing 3.) The third part is about a long English vacation the Bevington’s take after WWII is over interrupted by two emergencies – Bevington has a lump removed from her breast which turns out to be malignant and one of her sons is in a serious car accident which ends the book.

As a teacher and a poet, the most interesting part of this book was the middle section about teaching and writing.  Her class is all girls and she acts as sort of role model to what a woman can achieve in 1940’s America.  Academia being one area a woman could rise in position at that time.  I am not a fan of Bevington’s poetry however (even though I love her work as a memoirist).  To her poetry seems a surface collection of descriptive words ruled by a sort of literary order and I think she discounts meaning too much as well as experimentation.

Still, this is an enjoyable read.  I also liked her ruminating on the development and use of atomic weapons, the moral implications etc....Some surprisingly deep writing there.

My thoughts on Helen Bevington’s first two volumes of memoirs






THE FOLLOWING SEASON TWO FINALE


THE FOLLOWING season two finale put aside the show’s normal routine of ridiculous situations and rollercoaster thrills to achieve perhaps the best episode yet.

Ryan sparing Joe Carroll’s life was inspired as was the strange “intervention” type dinner conversation where the psychotic twins, Joe, and even Claire chimed in offering Ryan advice on how to break the cycle of revenge.

Also great was Luke’s description of Joe Carroll as a failure.  Epic fail indeed.

And for once a main character didn’t die which was okay as far as I am concerned.

Now going forward....

My predictions for next season....

Ryan vs Mark will be the principal battle of the first part of the 3rd  season as his niece killed Mark’s twin Luke and he will be after her.

Joe Carroll will be in prison but will escape either towards the middle of the season or more towards the end of the season.  There will of course be new followers.  His escape might not be so dramatic this time.  He may be needed on a case and then he engineers his escape or a condition of something happening (like a kidnapping) is his release.

The driver of the car that picked up Mark at the end of tonight’s finale will be revealed as someone important – Perhaps Ryan’s sobriety sponsor (played by Keith Carradine) or the Head of the FBI (played by Charles Dutton) or the boys’ father whom we’ve never met.


The question I have is what will Claire’s role be in all of this?  If the actress is returning to the series, how will she be involved? 



Thursday, April 24, 2014

TWO AUTOBIOGRAPHIES AND A BIOGRAPHY - THAT CLOSE, MORRISSEY'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY , A MAN CALLED DESTRUCTION


(Recently came into two music autobiographies and a biography courtesy of a literary CARE package from my father)

Graham “Suggs” McPherson, primarily known as the lead singer of Madness, maintains a cheerful tone throughout his autobiography THAT CLOSE.  He grew up poor in North London, the son of a single mother (he never knew his father a heroin addict) who worked in a pub and sometimes sang, but this is the story of someone who never let life get him down.  Instead, we get a number of often very hilarious stories of Suggs' childhood surrounded by teenage hooligans for whom shoplifting is the way of purchasing goods and school is where you cause trouble.  Example: Suggs and his mates would run their lighters under the doorknob of their classroom so if their teacher was late when he would arrive he would burn his hand when opening the door.  There are also surprisingly humorous stories of football hooliganism as Suggs and friends (Chelsea supporters) clash with fans of rival teams.

Madness doesn’t appear until about halfway into the book and Suggs doesn’t go much into band politics or musical trivia other than the sources for some of his lyrics such as Baggy Trousers and That Close the song that gave the book its title.  This is Suggs story not Madness’s story although Madness’s various reunions and their performances at the Olympics and on the roof of Buckingham Palace during the Queen’s Jubilee are discussed.  Suggs is not the type of guy to dish any dirt.  The most scandalous story here is that a pre-success Elvis Costello took from but never paid a store owner who sold fashionable shoes and clothes on credit.

But that says a lot about Suggs, who enjoys a drink but doesn’t seem to have any substance abuse issues and has been married to the same woman since the early 80’s and is the proud father of two adult daughters.  He is a very stable guy and an amusing raconteur.  Another part of his book I enjoyed was his descriptions of his many trips around Italy (where he and his family own a home).    

I’ve always liked Madness because of their positive, good times music.  It appears Suggs himself is a deeply positive guy and that makes his autobio a rewarding read.

__________

The same perhaps cannot be said about Morrissey.  He is the acknowledged king of misery so much so it’s become self-parody although really his solo work is not as much in that vein .  His AUTOBIOGRAPHY is actually quite a good read and very entertaining despite being wordy as hell and filled with allusions to English trivia that would sail over the head of even the most devoted Anglophile.

Like Suggs, Morrissey spends considerable time discussing his childhood as well as the Manchester neighbourhoods he grew up in.  His descriptions of psychopathic teachers who torture children (there seem to be no good teachers) fits in with his overall description of Manchester as a dull, gray, repressive place full of barely controlled violence that occasionally gets out on a  Friday night.  He discusses the various musical and literary and pop culture influences that got him through adolescence.  In particular, I enjoyed his writing about the New York Dolls debut album which is a favourite record of mine too.

Moz’s meeting Johnny Marr, forming The Smiths with him, and their break-up is a fast paced whirl of dates and places and singles.  Much more time is spent dissecting and criticising the legal judgement against him after he was sued in the 90’s by the drummer Mike Joyce and the bassist Andy Rourke of The Smiths claiming they’d been cheated on back royalties.

Morrissey, in general, has a lot of axes to grind – Not just with Joyce and Rourke but with Marr (despite his praise for Marr’s musical talents), the judge who decided against him, Geoff Travis, head of Rough Trade (who Moz says never did anything to promote The Smiths and was dismissive of their talents, not at all supportive), various music publications especially the NME, various management and record executives, Bryan Ferry (who he disses for liking veal and for writing a song with Marr while he was still a Smith), Siouxse Sioux, David Letterman ( who keeps his studio too cold), American airport security (who he said harassed him), Margaret Thatcher, The list goes on and on.

In addition to the much written about revelations that Moz has had relationships with both men and women, some other interesting autobio tidbits – Moz loved the tv show LOST IN SPACE as a child, Moz was Johnny Marr’s best man at his wedding, Moz and the rest of The Smiths were pretty good friends with A-HA and attended one of their concerts in the 80’s, A teenage Moz visiting an aunt in Denver, Colorado once interviewed for a job at Target, The Smiths’ first manager Joe Moss attempted to oust Moz as lead singer after the release of their debut album but instead he was fired.

Overall, I felt Moz himself was an unreliable narrator slanting everything to make him look somewhat the victim.  I dare say he did get an unfair deal at particular points in his career but a number of his comments about his own financial state contradict themselves and Moz is famous for being a.) frugal b.) a savvy businessman.

However, I did enjoy the way this book was written.  Moz is a great singer and one of my favorite lyricists and judging by AUTOBIOGRAPHY I think if he chose to apply his writing to fiction, he could be a superb novelist too.

__________

Holly George Warren, the author of the Alex Chilton biography A MAN CALLED DESTRUCTION, met Chilton a few times in her life but her detailed knowledge of Chilton’s life filled with exact dates of when things happened as well as the states of mind of those involved is really incredible and makes this a very credible accounting of someone’s life.

Chilton initial success as front man for the Box Tops was part tribute to his natural music talent and natural charisma and part sheer luck of being in the right place at the right time.  That places is/was Memphis and like any good bio or autobio location is part of the story.
The details of the history of Chilton family, his childhood, teenage years, and time with The Box Tops while still a teenager are painstakingly chronicled.

The period that followed when Chilton made the records he is most celebrated for with Big Star expands the boundaries a bit to talk about influences, work habits, the process of recording.  Warren also gives Big Star co-founder Chris Bell, who left after their debut record, his full deserved credit.

The rest of the book shows Chilton as a man who is largely responsible for his own obscurity despite the triumph of Big Star’s music.  His substance abuse and infrequent solo recordings which are atonal, sloppy noise deliberately made to confuse and irritate the audience kept him from following up Big Star with a consistent, successful solo career.

The sense I had was of a man who took it for granted having not had to work too hard for all the girls and drugs that came his way (if not the money, Chilton was cheated financially throughout his life and didn’t see any real cash for his music until the 1990’s).  At one point in the early 80’s having moved to New Orleans, Chilton worked as a dishwasher, a tree trimmer, and a cab driver.

I can appreciate the level of detail in this story.  I was rooting for Chilton to get clean and sober and reach his deserved position in rock history which he finally does.  Also there is a great story about Chilton meeting Charles Manson – No spoilers, you have to read it for yourself.  

         

Saturday, April 19, 2014

SPOTIFY VS GROOVESHARK PLUS DAY AFTER DAY BY BALLROOM AND THE BEST OF THE LEMON PIPERS


By the good graces of Hola, I am now able to get Spotify in Malaysia (as well as Hulu and  other copyright banned sites of music and classic tv/movies).  For the last few years, I have been using Grooveshark to stream music for my listening pleasure while writing or just hanging out.

So which is better – Spotify or Grooveshark?

Hard question to answer.  I find it easier to sort songs into playlists in Grooveshark and also there is no advertising there.  In addition, you don’t need to be logged into Grooveshark to stream music.   The biggest advantage Grooveshark has at this point in time is that it just has more music to stream.  Sptofy might have three albums out of a band’s discography whereas Grooveshark has every one.

On the other hand, Spotify’s display and playing area is easier to navigate and you can put an entire band’s discography up and pick and choose songs.  Also while Grooveshark has more songs on it, I’ve found some real rarities, some old favorites on Spotify such as....

DAY AFTER DAY by Ballroom

I wrote this on a forum I used to belong to  BALLROOM's great 1998 cd DAY AFTER DAY was pushed back when their original record company went of business which was one of many pitfalls they had and caused them to break up after this one release. This is too bad because Ballroom to me was the perfect mix of Oasis Britpop Beatles swagger and The Smiths as filtered through Suede's glam rock revival....In other words, I felt they were the best link musically between the disparate sub genres of Britpop....and the songs speak for themselves (Don't Stop, Heads or Tails, Household Names, Take It, Bionic, Someone like you) Not a bad one here.... 



THE BEST OF THE LEMON PIPERS: GREEN TAMBORINE by The Lemon Pipers

The Lemon Pipers were a 1960’s group from Ohio that played a very enjoyable variation of psychedelic pop.  As a teenager, I owned both their albums, the result of the generous booty of used record shops.  The debut was much more poppier full of songs about green tamborines, orange marmalade, rainbow trees and featuring sitars, backward strings, weird keyboards, the works.  The second record was harder and more of a badder trip with acid tinged guitar but also still had a number of catchy songs.  This greatest hits collection showcases the best songs of both records although I could do without the 11 minute IN A GADDA DA VIDA clone Dead End Street/Half Light. 


Thursday, April 17, 2014

POCO'S DISCOGRAPHY - AN APPRAISAL


The recent announcement that Poco would cease to be as a touring and recording entity after 40 plus years is not a huge surprise to most people who assumed they’d broken up years ago and at this point it was really only Rusty Young (the sole original member). 

This news has put me on a Poco listening binge.  I’ve always liked them (and I’m talking about their period as an actual band late 1960’s up until Timothy B. Schmit left in 1977).  Their brand of country rock was more like country pop and seemed to have less effort involved than other more legendary groups/performers like the whole Gram Parson Flying Burrito Brothers Axis. True, it was simpler and less heavy and had less deeper meaning but they wrote songs in a genre that didn’t really exist fully yet with confidence.  And when I say wrote there were a number of talented singer songwriters in the band, an embarrassment of riches.

Here is my breakdown of their discography by preference (or at least the records I’ve ever heard).  I am very honest so there is some criticism here but at their best they were an excellent band in every way.

PICKIN’ UP THE PIECES
Their debut is still my favorite record by them.  Fresh and catchy, this is just as close to power pop as country with a pedal steel guitar replacing a Rickenbacker.  Richie Furay and Jim Messina were calling the shots as this was what they had envisioned after Buffalo Springfield ended.  Furay in particular is at the top of his game here.  His vocals are beautiful as are all the harmonies.  My favourite tracks – Pickin’ Up The Pieces, Make Me A Smile, Short Changed, Nobody’s Fool, really all of the songs.


HEAD OVER HEELS
2nd’ fave, their 8th studio album, and best of the foursome years – Rusty Young, Paul Cotton, Timothy B Schmit, George Grantham.  I’m not sure they meant this as three out of the four members sing and write here separately but this has always felt like a concept album to me with the subject the beginning, middle period, and end of a relationship.  The order of the songs back this up with their individual meanings and the relationship might also be with a place or a feeling itself not necessarily another person. Every song is sharply delivered and the whole thing melts together seamlessly.  The highlights are all three of Schmit’s songs (although he wrote and sang less than Young or Cotton he was the best songwriter and singer in the band at this point).  Also noteworthy are their spirited cover of Steely Dan’s Dallas (which fits in with the theme) and Young’s Loving Arms.


A GOOD FEELIN’ TO KNOW
All three Furay compositions on this record are excellent (especially the title track which is one of his best tunes – relentlessly catchy) as are both Schmit songs (I Can See Everything would be a competitor for best Poco song of all time) and a slowed down more rocking version of the Stephen Stills Buffalo Springfield number Go and Say Goodbye.  The three Paul Cotton tunes don’t get in the way too much.


CANTAMOS
This is the problem.  Jim Messina left Poco after their second album (see further down) and was replaced by Paul Cotton.  Now Cotton is a versatile guitarist who can really solo. He also had a slightly deeper voice that the other members of the band and worked well in the harmonies besides singing his own songs.  The problem is he is a dull songwriter with really unoriginal lyrics (often about cowboys and the South) which is funny considering he is from Illinois.  With two other songwriters, he is kept to three or four tracks a record which is okay and this record has a couple of his best tunes including Western Waterloo.  It also contains a front runner for my favorite Rusty Young Tune Sagebrush Serenade (amazingly complex and haunting) and another classic Schmit ballad Whatever Happened To Your Smile?      


ROSE OF CIMARRON, INDIAN SUMMER
A bit too much Paul Cotton drags down the proceedings but both these records feature some classic tunes.  THE ROSE OF CIMARRON’s title track (written by Young) and INDIAN SUMMER’s Downfall (also by Young) as well as its title track (by Cotton and featuring some of his best guitar work) plus all the Schmit compositions on both records are classic.  Jury’s still out on the nearly nine minute suite of songs by Young that end INDIAN SUMMER.  Something to do with a dance but with very pretty string arrangements at least.


CRAZY EYES
CRAZY EYES may be Poco’s strangest record.  It’s their fifth studio record and last with Furay who seems obsessed with Gram Parsons here penning a 9 minute + long moody orchestral masterpiece about him (the title track) and also a completely unnecessary cover of Brass Buttons.  There is also a boring equally unnecessary cover of JJ Cale’s Magnolia.  To balance it out, there is an excellent Schmit song and couple good Young tunes.  The two Cotton songs are not bad this time around either.  And just to restate the title track despite its length is excellent.


FROM THE INSIDE
I’m not sure the source of the problem with this record.  Six out of the ten songs are by Furay and are simple catchy pop tunes.  The title track is one of the first solo compositions by Schmit and is excellent and the three Cotton songs are not bad either (especially Bad Weather).  However, what really damages the sound of this record is instead of Poco’s usual semi-electric country rock pop, we get something akin to Crosby, Stills, and Nash, acoustic guitars everywhere and muted percussion downplaying the normally excellent George Grantham’s drumming.  The result is lifeless and forgettable.  Perhaps producer Steve Cropper is the problem(as I’ve read a few times) – I don’t know.  A shame as the songwriting is good here.


SEVEN
The first album Poco made as a foursome after Furay left is also their worst as a foursome.  I can only assume that the commercially successful sound of the dreaded Eagles forced everybody to lose their heads momentarily.  Every song (even the three Schmit songs) is swamped with whiny slide guitar.  It seems like everyone is yelling when they sing too.  I hardly listen to this record.


POCO
Their second album starts off well.  The first six songs are all good.  Furay is looser and more electric than the first record.  There is a nice cover of Dallas Frazier’s country standard Honky Tonk Downstairs.  I’ve never been much of a Jim Messina fan but You’d Better Think Twice is one of his best tunes of all time.  However, all that is forgotten after the 18 minute loose jam that ends the record.  It is pointless, boring, and sounds made up on the spot.  Poco is not exactly prog rock.  I can only assume they rushed into the studio too quickly after their first album and didn’t have enough songs to complete the record.


DELIVERIN’
Not a big fan of live albums of which Poco has made several.  This is the only one I’ve heard.  Nice version of Kind Woman, the Furay Buffalo Springfield song that got the whole Poco country thing rolling.  There are a few songs here not on any studio recording.  Messina has some nice lead guitar work.



A few further Poco works....

THE YOUNG/COTTON YEARS
After Schmit left, Young and Cotton made a number of records as a duo with various other faceless musicians.  Of these, I have only heard LEGEND and UNDER THE GUN.  Both were fairly awful as Poco had now turned into Air Supply.  LEGEND at least has the band’s sole hit Young’s Crazy Love which is instantly memorable but both records are synthetic devoid of inspiration filled with clich├ęd lyrics and mundane arrangements.  I have not heard any other music the duo made but imagine they are the same.

LEGACY
In 1990, the original five members of Poco (Furay, Messina, Young, Grantham, Randy Meisner) reunited or were reunited by the record label for a record.  Don’t be fooled this is product with the Poco name on it not an actual Poco record.  A number of other studio musicians are listed on various instruments and a lot of the songs are collaborations with outside songwriters or completely written by outside songwriters.  The good parts – Both Furay co written and sung songs are good as are the three Young tunes.  The bad parts – Three songs by Messina is three songs too many and Meisner who only played bass on the first album then left the band sings three songs (one by Richard Marx! L  ).  Rather odd that Meisner gets to sing three songs whereas the founder of the band Furay only gets two.  Meisner’s voice has aged well though and has power.


ALL FIRED UP
Last year, Young working with his touring band made what is most certainly the last Poco album and it’s pretty good.  Young as a songwriter has loosened up a bit and become very creative.  He is capable of both a beautiful ballad like Regret and a half-comic rocker like Neil Young.  If in fact this is the end for Poco, it’s not a bad way to go out.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

DAVID LETTERMAN'S RETIREMENT PLUS WHO SHOULD REPLACE HIM?


I have been mulling over what David Letterman has meant to me in the last few days since he announced his upcoming retirement in 2015.  I say “meant to me” because his show (and I am more talking about the first late night programme he had on NBC LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN than the CBS one THE LATE SHOW) deeply influenced the way I thought in terms of finding clever, creative ways to “rebel” against a society I neither liked nor cared for.  This wasn’t the intention of him or the show’s writers but it perfectly pushed the philosophy of Theodore Adorno that entertainment and materialism go hand in hand and distract an anesthetized, overworked populace into not complaining about their government, their leaders.

I also appreciate the ridiculous in humor but only if it's tied to a sense of self-deprecation or some other device that has roots in our world so we can relate to it from our vantage point.  Letterman was the witness poking holes and mocking his own jokes, his own ridiculous set-ups, his cast of bad actors, oddballs, and misfits such as Larry “Bud” Melman (Deliberately reading off cue cards badly) and Chris Elliott (himself a third wall construct of winking “I’m in on it”). 

And the way he talked to his guests as if they were blowhards and self-important and needed to have the air let out of their sails (which they were of course).  So many great other moments –  viewer mail, throwing things off a building, crushing them with a hydraulic press, Dave’s grab bag, supermarket finds, stupid pet tricks, stupid human tricks, Dave working the drive-thru at MacDonald’s and Taco Bell, Dave doing the show in his office, Dave’s Christmas special, Brother Theodore and Harvey Pekar.

And Yes Dave was not as energetic as he got older.  His CBS show was more like a regular talk show.  However, the apolitical Letterman unloading on ignorant bully Bill O’Reilly clearly angry about the evils of Iraq War was a dramatic and jarring moment and showed what a great man of character Letterman is.

And Letterman himself is what it’s all about.  The show at its peak reflected his sensibility and he is one of the most creative, principled, funny people to grace the medium of TV.

In regards to who should replace Letterman, my pick would be outside the box.  I would suggest Norm MacDonald.  He is not only a quick wit and one of the greatest stand-up comics of all time, he has shown on his recent podcast that he can conduct successful in-depth interviews.  Norm MacDonald would be my choice.

Handicapping the names currently out there....

STEPHEN COLBERT – I like Colbert and I like the Colbert Report but he is a comic actor.  He plays a role.  He is not a comedian and as himself he is quite normal and ordinary.  I don’t think he is right for this type of show.

CHELSEA HANDLER – A mean, unfunny bitch who only selectively insults those celebrities not being handled by her PR firm.  Like Joan Rivers without any talent or sense of humor.  A disaster if she’s picked.

JON STEWART, ELLEN DEGENERES – Neither have the edge to host a show like this.  Neither have an interesting enough personality to carry a talk show at this hour of the night but at least Stewart is funny.  DeGeneres is for housewives and senior citizens only.

CRAIG FERGUSON – Of all the discussed possibilities, the one that makes the most sense.  He has a less ironic even more silly take on the Letterman brand of humor and is likeable.  The English/Scottish sometimes forget to root their often ridiculous sense of humor in a  reference point we, the audience, can relate to so hopefully if he gets the gig he will remember to do that.