Saturday, June 30, 2007

Everybody MUST get Stoned!

I'm about halfway through the Rolling Stones during my inexorable trek through my CD collection.  I'll spare the documentary stuff on these guys—y'all know their story by now—and just share a few thoughts on the band.  "Satisfaction" is probably the first song I ever recall hearing on AM radio when I was little, along with Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody To Love", and every time I hear "Brown Sugar", I think of that magical summer of '71 when I was seven and TOTALLY grooving on Top 40 radio in WHB ("World's Happiest Broadcasters") in Kansas City.  Of course, it went right over my 2nd-grade head that Mick Jagger was singing about black prostitutes and such on that song, but it didn't matter.

I have to admit I got rather burned-out on the Stones when I first started listening to Album Rock in the late '70s/early '80s ("Emotional Rescue" didn't exactly help, either), but one night in the Winter of '80-'81, someone on KY-102 played 1965's "The Last Time", which oddly enough, I was hearing for the first time, and I was absolutely floored by that ringing guitar riff, which led me to "re-discover" the band.  This was also about the time Tattoo You came out, which featured "Start Me Up" and "Waiting On A Friend" (great sax solo from Bobby Keys, btw), and I've been a fan ever since.

My first and only Rolling Stones concert was in 1994 at Faurot Field in Columbia, MO on the Voodoo Lounge tour, and it was a damn good one.  Certainly one of the best light shows I've ever seen at any concert, and Mick and the boys were in top form.  Shockingly enough, they can still bring it today, even at their advanced ages.  I'm still mystified why Keith Richards continues to wear that fishing tackle in his hair, but I swear, ol' Keef's gonna outlive us all!

My all-time Rolling Stones Top 15 (10 ain't enough):
15) "Fortune Teller" (1964)  Early classic that sounds rather primitive at times, but you gotta love the punchline, "Now I get my fortune told for free!"
14) "Monkey Man" (1969)  Rather underrated guitar work from Keef on this one.
13) "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (1965)  Apart from Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water", is there not a more recognizable guitar riff in Rock history?
12) "Gimme Shelter" (1969)  Very appropriate song to close out such a tumultuous decade.
11) "One Hit (To The Body)" (1986)  I was rather partial to the Dirty Work album, even though most fans and critics weren't.
10) "The Under-Assistant West Coast Promotion Man" (1965)  The flip-side of "Satisfaction", and yes, the title's a mouthful, but it's a damn funny song with a great riff.
9) "Had It With You" (1986)  Love the attitude on this one.  Snappy little riff from Richards too.  The title track from that album, "Dirty Work", was pretty good too.
8) "Rock And A Hard Place" (1989)  Very underrated song from the very underrated Steel Wheels album.
7) "Brown Sugar" (1971)  True, this one's been played to death on the radio, but I still love it to death...
6) "Bitch" (1971)  Fucking nasty riff on this one.
5) "19th Nervous Breakdown" (1966)  A veritable classic.  Could've been written about Maris on "Frasier"...
4) "Far Away Eyes" (1978)  The Rolling Stones meet "Hee-Haw" and live to sing about it!  One of the funniest damn songs you'll ever hear, and a great sing-along during the choruses.
3) "Mean Disposition" (1994)  If you didn't know any better, you'd swear this was a Chuck Berry song.  Keith sure sounds like him soloing toward the end of the song.
2) "The Last Time" (1965)  See above.  I've always wondered how Journey got away with stealing the line "I told you once and I told you twice/But you never listen to my advice" on "Walks Like A Lady".
1) "Hold On To Your Hat" (1989)  Totally hidden gem on the Steel Wheels album that just cooks!  Jagger even plays guitar on it.

Friday, June 29, 2007

New Blog City

Haven't done a misc. items entry for a while, so let's get caught up on a few things...

I snapped this photo at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul back in March. Is this guy a dead ringer for Kelsey Grammer with his head shaved, or what?

Was more than a little disgusted the other day to hear Motorhead's classic "Ace Of Spades" on a 2K Sports TV commercial for their latest baseball video game featuring St. Louis Cardinals star Albert Pujols.  Never thought I'd see the day when my man Lemmy would knuckle under to capitalism...

Was rather bemused to stumble across Bill O'Reilly interviewing Ann Coulter last night on Faux News Channel.  Rather fascinating to watch two turds engaged in conversation...

A letter writer in the paper the other day posed the following:  Why was Jack Kevorkian imprisoned for helping people to die who were suffering, yet it's perfectly okay for veterinarians to euthanize dogs and cats for the same reason?

For NFL Europa, the NFL's developmental league that used to be called the World League of American Football (WLAF), or as David Letterman and I peferred to call it, the "Waffle League".  The league was losing $30 million a year, and five out of the six remaining teams were in Germany anyway ("NFL Deutschland", anybody?), so the mothership decided to give up the ship after 15 years.  I always liked those Frankfurt Galaxy helmets too...

"Soul Man"--SAM & DAVE (1968)/BLUES BROTHERS (1979) "I was educated from good stock"  I always thought it was "I was educated at Woodstock.Well, some of those tree-hugging hippies were educated there, I guess.  A little trivia for you, while I'm at it—guitarist "Play It" Steve Cropper didn't have a proper slide when they recorded the Sam & Dave version at Stax Records, so he used a cigarette lighter to play slide gee-tar.  Seems that Mr. Cropper and the rest of Booker T. & The MG's are far more important figures in music history than I ever knew, as I am currently reading Rob Bowman's excellent book, Soulsville, U.S.A.The Story of Stax Records. These guys—Cropper, bassist Duck Dunn, drummer Al Jackson and Booker T. Jones on the keys—played on more hit records than most people realize.

I am quite impressed with the Hockey Hall of Fame's induction class for 2007:
Mark Messier:  A no-brainer here.  Classy player, although I would've preferred he stay in Edmonton instead of finishing his career with the New York Strangers.
Ron Francis:  Finally, a TRUE Hartford Whaler in the Hall!
Al MacInnis:  Another classy guy, and it's great to see another St. Louis Blue in the Hall.
Scott Stevens:  My man from the Devils' Stanley Cup teams.  It's strangely ironic that his career was ended prematurely by a concussion, since he was so proficient at dishing them out during his career...

Rumors are flying like errant pucks into the stands about the Nashville Predators possibly relocating to Kansas City and the Sprint Center thereof.  Trying not to get my hopes up too much here, but unlike with K.C.'s previous foray trying to lure the Pittsburgh Penguins here, this is a team I won't feel guilty about "stealing" because Nashville has all the hockey tradition of La Paz, Bolivia anyway.  I don't even mind if they retain the name Predators if they move here, but I hope they lose those hideous uniforms and colors.  In fact, it wouldn't break my heart to see those beautiful (and highly underrated) K.C. Scouts uniforms hitting the ice again...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Thinking of others...

I'm feeling a little like Casey Kasem today, so I want to send out a few long-distance dedications to those who deserve them:

To Dubya and Cheney: "How Do You Sleep?"—JOHN LENNON
To Rosie O'Donnell: "You Talk Too Much"—GEORGE THOROGOOD
To Pacman Jones: "Folsom Prison Blues"—JOHNNY CASH
To Don Imus: "The Sounds of Silence"—SIMON & GARFUNKEL
To Ken Griffey, Jr.: "Back In The Saddle"—AEROSMITH

To Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson: "Your Cheatin' Heart"—HANK WILLIAMS
To Oregon State Baseball: "Every 1's A Winner"—HOT CHOCOLATE
To Nancy Grace: "Bitch"—ROLLING STONES
To Michael Vick: "I’ll Be Doggone"—MARVIN GAYE
To Barry Bonds: "Try A Little Tenderness"—OTIS REDDING

To The WWE: "The Needle And The Damage Done"—NEIL YOUNG
To Kobe Bryant: "You Can’t Always Get What You Want"—ROLLING STONES

To Paris Hilton: "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)"—MOTLEY CRUE
To Michelle Wie: "Come Back When You Grow Up"—BOBBY VEE

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"They Died Old"--Volume I

As a counterpart to my "They Died Young" series, it's time to salute those sports venues who made it to old age, and in some cases, out-and-out senility!

It was old, it was smelly in places, it had dark and narrow hallways and a few bad sightlines, it was rather decrepit—it even had cats living in its basement—but the mighty St. Louis Arena had soul and it had atmosphere, and it was one of my favorite sports venues of all-time.  While not quite as well-renowned as its Depression Era brethren Chicago Stadium, Boston Garden, Detroit’s Olympia Stadium or the old Madison Square Garden, "The Old Barn" withstood the test of time (as well as a tornado), and it was home to a big chunk of entertainment and indoor sports history in St. Louis.  It’s true The Arena had a rather checkered history (like when it was called "The Checkerdome" during the ‘80s), but hell, any sports arena with a bowling alley attached to it can’t be all bad!

Located at 5700 Oakland Avenue, just a stone’s throw from the city’s world famous Forest Park Zoo, St. Louis Arena was built in 1929 as a showcase for various farm and dairy shows that were popular at the time, as well as conventions, circuses, religious gatherings, concerts and sporting events.  Unfortunately, almost as soon as the place opened, the stock market crashed, and The Arena nearly closed permanently.  It bounced from owner to owner throughout its history, and went through numerous renovations and improvements over the years.  The Arena held about 15,000 people when it first opened, and more than 19,000 by the time it closed.  The building was also flanked by matching structures, one to the east called "Arena Annex" that was used for various exhibitions and storage, and one to the west, the "Arena Bowl", which for a time was one of the largest bowling alleys in St. Louis.  AB closed sometime in the ‘60s, but the building survived until the mid-‘80s.  Perhaps The Arena’s most distinctive feature was its huge wooden Lamella roof, which was one of the largest of its kind in the world at the time, and gave the building its trademark barn-like appearance.  It was a pretty sturdy roof too, despite having a big hole blown out of it by a freak February, 1959 tornado that also heavily damaged much of the Arena Annex and parts of the city as well.

St. Louis Arena was home to numerous sports teams throughout its 70 years, but it is most identified as the home of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, beginning in 1967.  Prior to their arrival, several minor league and college hockey teams played at The Arena, most notably the St. Louis Braves (the farm team of the Chicago Blackhawks for many years) and the St. Louis University Billikens hockey team.  The Blues were an immediate hit as an expansion franchise in the NHL, and The Arena was home to fan favorites over the years like Garry Unger, Bernie Federko, the Plager brothers (Bob and Barclay), the Cavallini brothers (Paul and Gino), Brett Hull early in his career and legendary play-by-play announcer Dan "He Shoots, He Scores!" Kelly.  The team had its ups and downs over time, and nearly left town a couple times because of ownership changes and financial woes, but the Blues always fielded a consistent product on the ice, and made the playoffs in nearly every season they played at the Old Barn.  The high point was probably the 1986 playoff series vs. the Calgary Flames that featured the "Monday Night Miracle" on May 12th when the Blues fell behind 5-2 in Game 6 and roared back to win 6-5 in OT on a goal by another fan favorite, the late Doug Wickenheiser.  The Blues lost in Game 7, but that game was such a thriller that people still talk about it in the Gateway City to this day.

Oddly enough, basketball didn’t become a regular staple on Oakland Avenue until the ‘70s, primarily because the NBA’s St. Louis Hawks played their home games at old Kiel Auditorium until they bolted for Atlanta in 1968.  St. Louis U. played mostly at Kiel as well, but college basketball hit its stride in St. Louis in 1973 and 1978 when The Arena hosted the NCAA Final Four.  The annual "Border War" game between Missouri and Illinois became a Christmas-time tradition, with the final one at the Old Barn being the best of all in 1993 as MU beat the Illini in a triple-OT thriller that nearly brought the house down.  The Arena did get a brief sniff of pro basketball (although most of it didn’t smell too good), as the semi-legendary Spirits of St. Louis of the old American Basketball Association played there for two eventful, if not well-executed, seasons in the mid-70s.  They were perhaps the wildest collection of misfits ever assembled on one team in any sport, and their story is chronicled in the hilarious ABA documentary book Loose Balls by Terry Pluto.  You can also read about them and the rest of the league at a wonderful site called  Incidentally, the Spirits were also the launching point in the sportscasting career of one young Bob Costas.  Sadly, they folded when the ABA merged with the NBA, and St. Louis has been without pro basketball ever since, apart from the three or four "home" games the Kansas City Kings would stage each season at The Arena during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

One sport that truly rocked the house on Oakland Avenue was indoor soccer.  The St. Louis Steamers of the original Major Indoor Soccer League arrived in 1979 and featured many local players on its squad who became fan favorites right away as they took on big-name European and South American players on other teams.  The Steamers quickly became the hottest ticket in St. Louie, routinely outdrawing the Blues (just as my boys the Kansas City Comets concurrently outdrew the Kings here), and The Arena was packed to the rafters throughout the early ‘80s until the indoor soccer novelty wore off.  The Steamers eventually folded in 1988 and were replaced by the Storm a year later.  The Storm turned into a drizzle and ceased to be when the MISL folded in 1992, and were replaced by the St. Louis Ambush in the National Professional Soccer League who played one season at The Arena before moving with the Blues to the new venue next to Union Station.

My first visit to St. Louis Arena was during the middle of the great heat wave in July, 1983 to see The Police in concert with my friend Tom.  Great show, and I seem to remember the building felt like a sauna, even though it did have air conditioning.  I returned three years later on my first official solo road trip and pretty much spent pretty much the entire weekend at the Old Barn in March, 1986, watching my beloved Comets beat the Steamers on Friday night, then taking in my first NHL regular season game outside of K.C. as the Blues beat the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.  I had such a great time both nights that I decided to attend the matinee on Sunday between the Steamers and Wichita Wings, which gave me a chance to really roam the place and check out all the nooks and crannies, since the crowd wasn’t as large as the previous two nights.

I was particularly taken by the balcony sections on the ends of the arena that I’m sure gave some folks vertigo because the pitch was so steep that each seating row had a railing in front of it to keep folks from taking a tumble.  It was worth the climb, though, because the views were awesome and you felt like you were hovering over the action.  Another cool feature that I loved was the out-of-town hockey scoreboards on the facing of the balconies. Instead of the traditional abbreviations for the teams like "CHI", "DET", "MIN", et al., the Blues were creative enough to employ these colorful backlit signs of the individual team logos inserted next to the game scores, thus you had to really know your team insignias to know who was winning.  Now with all the fancy state-of-art scoreboard technology, they can do all that stuff electronically, but back then it was a much cooler homemade touch.  Another oddity that intrigued me were the claustrophobic narrow passageways underneath the dark lower level seats on the sides in the above photo that were barely even wide enough for a wheelchair to fit through.  Good thing this place never caught fire during a game, or there would have been major carnage down there...

My friends and I made several pilgrimages to The Arena for Blues games and soccer games involving the Comets and the Steamers and Storm between 1986 and 1992.  My final visit was in March, '92 for a game between the Tacoma Stars and St. Louis Storm (the Comets folded the year before), and even at its advanced age, The Arena’s old magic was still there, and the atmosphere was still electric.  As cavernous as the building was, it still got plenty loud when the crowds got raucous, and the joint really got to jumpin' during hockey fights.

Probably my favorite Arena memory of all was "Kazoo Night" at a Blues game on March 3, 1990.  Classic Rock station K-SHE 95 sponsored the giveaway of plastic kazoos to everyone who entered the building, and they were put to use almost immediately when one of the K-SHE jocks led the assembled multitude in the greatest rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" you'll ever hear.  Screw Whitney Houston—this was the damndest thing I’ve ever seen and heard!  The DJ got it going, and it started off rather tentatively, as most people (including me) thought it was a joke at first, but everyone gradually joined in, and by the "rockets red glare" part, it sounded great!  I wish someone had recorded this, because you’d be surprised how good 18,000 people playing the National Anthem in unison on kazoo actually sound—certainly as good, if not better, than any singer or musical soloist could’ve done, and a damn sight better than wimps like Kenny G...

Sadly, St. Louis Arena was never given a proper send-off, nor did it have any kind of Grand Finale.  The Blues were scheduled to begin the 1994-95 season at the Old Barn until their new arena, built on the site of old Kiel Auditorium and originally known as Kiel Center, was completed in December.  However, the new joint was finished way ahead of schedule and was indeed ready for Opening Night in October after all, if there had actually been one in October.  Turned out it didn’t matter anyway, as the NHL labor dispute delayed the start of that season to January, ’95, thus no one realized at the time when the Blues bowed out in the 1993-94 playoffs, that they had played their final game at The Arena, period, thus no fanfare, no closing ceremony, no nothing.  Given the building’s star-crossed history, I guess that seems fitting in some bizarre way.  Ironically, The Arena’s final event for a paid audience actually was a hockey game—a roller hockey game, that is, featuring those dreaded hometown St. Louis Vipers in August, 1994.  St. Louis Arena was shuttered not long after that and left to rot for 4.5 years until they gutted the place, auctioned off its valuables and imploded it on February 27, 1999.  A mixed-use complex comprised of retail shops, office space, loft apartments and a Hampton Inn hotel now occupies the site, but in a nice touch, the footprint of The Arena itself was left open for a green common ground/courtyard area.

There is a wonderful book that I believe is still in print called The St. Louis Arena Memories written by Patti Smith Jackson, and it features a treasure trove of photos from throughout the building’s entire history from construction to implosion.  It was one of the nicest Christmas gifts I ever received from anyone (thank you again, Stacy!).  I also read a few years back that the old main scoreboard was purchased by a bar near Kiel Center (or whatever it’s called this week) to use as its centerpiece, but the bar was subsequently torn down, so I don’t know what happened to it after that.  Anyone out there know of the old scoreboard’s current whereabouts?  I'd love to see it again.  In lieu of that, if ol' Doc Emmett Brown ever does perfect that flux capacitor to enable time travel, I definitely plan to drop by The Old Barn on Oakland Avenue again.  To paraphrase a line from Elton John's "Bennie & The Jets", it was "weird and it was wonderful..."

The Bane of My Existence

Time for another rant that I simply must get off my chest, and it’s aimed at today’s cell phone generation people.  Yes, these modern technological marvels do serve a purpose in the world, and are very important to certain folks who need to be reached urgently when they are otherwise unreachable, and of course, cell phones are quite handy in emergencies.  BUUUUTTT—they are also becoming a Major League public nuisance because all too often, they’ve fallen into the hands of inconsiderate people who abuse them.  As George Carlin once said about people with car phones back in the ‘80s:  "Technology has brought us these self-important twits…"

Okay, I’ll admit that I’m a tad biased because I’m rather resistant to change, thus I don’t own a cell phone, nor do I care to.  As my friend Phil once said, cell phones are like "the modern-day cowbell," and at the risk of seeming anti-social, I like being relatively inaccessible.  I really don’t like talking on the phone that much anyway—I’d much rather talk in person or in writing, so let's get together and talk or e-mail me if you wanna get a hold of me.  That being said, I find the majority of cell phone users to be a very annoying lot for numerous reasons.  My biggest question is what is so bloody important that can’t wait until you get home (or at least back to your car) to talk about when you’re in public places like the grocery store?  I’m growing really weary of this "dig me, I’m important—I have friends" dynamic that these yahoos exhibit constantly.  Allow me to cite a few examples:
  • Just last night I was behind this jagoff in the checkout line at the store, and he was just jabbering away and not even giving the cashier the time of day the entire time—until he decided he needed a pack of cigarettes at the last second, thus making us all wait even longer.  By the time I got out to my car, the fucker was still yapping away while he loaded his truck!
  • I work at a CT/MR imaging facility, and on more than one occasion we’ve had patients who are so absorbed with themselves that they step outside to take/make calls while waiting for their scheduled appointments.  Some of them actually expect us to wait for them to finish their call before doing their scan!  You wanna talk about chutzpah…
  • During my recent trip to Nashville, as I was walking back to the garage where I was parked, I encountered this palooka at a bus stop stomping around in a circle just cussing up a storm into his cell phone at someone, all the while waving his free arm around like a rap singer—he looked almost like one of the Beastie Boys.  After retrieving my car, I drove past him again about ten minutes later, and he was still stomping around and yelling and waving while the other bus stop people looked on! I’d bet my next paycheck there was no one on the other end of the line, and this joker was just trying to draw attention to himself and show everyone what a bad-ass he was.
  • New technology has brought us all those cute little ring tones, thus converting cell phones into portable jukeboxes.  All day long at work, I get to hear these contraptions going off, as many of my co-workers are addicted to these damn things, and I swear I feel like I'm inside a damn pinball machine...
  • One co-worker is particularly obsessed with her cell phone, constantly jabbering away all day long on it—right in front of patients who are waiting, or while in the bathroom, or at the lunch table while the rest of us are trying to eat—and it’s downright rude!  Unlike her, all my friends have jobs during the day and don’t have time to talk.
  • [RANT WITHIN A RANT:] The above person actually had her cell phone cut off at one point because she was behind on her monthly bill—this is the same person who recently applied for Section 8 government housing because she recently broke up with her live-in boyfriend and had no place to stay.  She’s 30 years old, has three kids with three different fathers (none of whom she ever married), her oldest kid is 14 (do the math) and now she wants to mooch off the government, yet she somehow can still afford to drive a Mitsubishi and maintain her funky fingernails and her funky shellacked Turtle Wax/Simoniz hairdo and the grill in her mouth, get a new tattoo every other month, and run up a $500 a month cell phone bill!  Can you say "poffeycock!"? [This is where the conservative in me rears his ugly little head, but that’s another rant for another time, so I digress…]
  • You can’t even get through an entire ballgame on TV anymore without having to watch some bozo on a cell phone in the stands directly behind home plate waving frantically to alert his friend(s) on the other end that he’s on TV.  It would totally make my day if that protective backstop would suddenly disappear just long enough for these mongoloids to get clocked right between the eyes by a line drive foul ball or an errant fastball from Johan Santana or Big Unit.
  • As I’ve previously blogged, these people with the fancy new earpiece things (or electronic Q-Tips, as I like to call them) who look like they’re talking to themselves are also quite irritating to me.  And don’t even get me started on how many car wrecks I’ve nearly been involved in because of some yutz yapping on their cell phone.  Hang up and drive, people!
There—I feel much better now!

Monday, June 25, 2007

A face even a mother couldn't love!

Joan Rivers and her ugly-ass daughter finished at #2 and #2A. Rev. Fred Phelps' sister finished 3rd...