Mark Curdo

Mark Curdo

The Music Lives On With Me: Honoring a friend’s parents and their record collection

Hard times fell on one of my oldest friends in New Hampshire last year. In seven months he lost both his mother and father. His father died unexpectedly in May, then on Christmas Eve his mother passed after a quick returning illness. 

I can’t imagine what he’s going through and I don’t know how he’s holding it together. No brother, no sister. Any other relatives turned out to be estranged jerks over the years. Oh and his girlfriend, who wasn’t the best to him, left him a few days after his mother died. What a sweetheart!

He essentially has no one now. He’s not married. No kids. The friends he does have moved away and/or have families now. I’ve stayed close over the years because we go way back and I know he needs some good people in his life. People who’ll keep an eye out for him. After all the lousy relationships and buddies who just liked to party with him; he needs some real friends.

Last week he started to clean his parent’s house because he plans to sell it by summer. It's a house I used to hang out at a lot as a kid. We’d watch Celtics games, talk about the girls at the all-girls catholic high school a block away and we’d listen to tons of records as it was hip hop’s glory years; the late 80s (De La Soul, Run DMC, Beastie Boys, Ultramagnetic MCs, Eric B & Rakim, Special Ed, Public Enemy, Kool G Rap & Polo, NWA, Big Daddy Kane, Stetsasonic, etc.). His parents were also big into music so they loved our passion for music. The door was always open there.

So last week, he asked if I could help him out. He needed to move some things, figure out what to sell, what to trash and what to hold on to. Not a fun time for him, so I said, "of course I’ll be there."

Walking up that creaking, faded green staircase, memories were hitting me left and right. I had flashbacks of make out sessions in his room with old girlfriends listening to Janet Jackson and U2 records. I remembered when he bought a tape by MC 900 Foot Jesus and we listened to it there confused as all hell as to what it was. It was a bummer knowing his mom wasn’t around the corner cooking something Polish and enjoying her white wine.

We looked at things and sorted out the good, the meaningful and the worthless. Once we hit the parlor room area there were books and a stash of records down below. I thought, "OK I can help figure out what’s of value here."

My friend is a record guy too, only of sorts. He’s been close to the hip hop world since 1987. He still promotes music in New England. So his record collection (possibly 25,000+) is mostly rap records and singles. Promos from years of radio and working in the industry. He doesn’t know that Get The Knack by The Knack is not a valuable record. It’s a mega awesome record, but it’s not valuable or sought after. It’s common. So very common. He has records but he’s not a “record person."

So I said, "I’ll go through these and tell you what’s good, what’s just ok and what’s garbage." I was cut and dry. I brought them all out and as usual, after I flipped through a few the dust punched me in the face like a son of a bitch. Sneezy, runny nose in two minutes flat? I must be fingers deep into some records.

His parents loved disco, folk, and easy listening. I skimmed through countless Donna Summer records, Joan Baez, Carly Simon, Donovan and Love Unlimited Orchestra. All kinds of common stuff. It’s always fun to flip though them. Every now and then I’d come across a worthless novelty nugget like, “The Soothing Sounds of Spain” or various belly dancing records with amazing album covers. (His parents had a friend who would come to the house to dance at their parties in the 70’s, which I heard were kick-ass parties.)

I found the soundtrack to Doctor Zhivago, Herb Albert & the Tijuana Brass, Lou Rawls and John Denver. I really wasn’t compiling any great news for him on the value front... then I hit a few. Neil Young, Bowie, The Zombies, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. Ok, we have some treats now. Something that might fetch a dollar or two. Nothing major, but something to help him out.

He needs some financial relief. His parents left him with credit card debt to deal with and an unpaid mortgage. He hoped for some ringers, but no go. He was psyched because his mom had Meet The Beatles, but it looked like it had been run over by an 18-wheeler. I felt bad, but I had to tell him that particular lottery ticket was a couple numbers off.

As the “kind of ok” pile grew, I felt a little better for him. In the end, I told him 70% was garbage value wise, but I made a stack he should sell as a bundle. I told him the stack would fetch maybe $50-60. It was a stack of about 75-80 records. Unfortunately selling to record shops who are just looking to flip records to customers; you’re not going to get much for them. If you single out some real gems, then you can work out better things.

Although, he needs money and these records don’t mean anything to him. They meant something to his folks though and records mean something to me. I don’t see them as an investment. In this case, they were history owned by folks I knew well. This is music that should be enjoyed, not just bid upon.

So I set aside about eight records. I told him I’d give him $40 for the small stack. His eyes lit up. He said, “Sure, thanks!” None of the records were “lost ark” type of finds. Just some decent records I’d enjoy. This was a way to help him and keep that music spinning. I scored some Neil Young I didn’t have, Sergio Mendes & Brazil ’66, Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Bowie’s Space Oddity album. I already have the Bowie, but this was in better shape and hey, it’s going to help a friend. I bought them for him, for them.

I sometimes look at my collection and I think of the people it came from and realize they’re always going to be with me, listening to this stuff with me. I explained that to my friend and recommended he keep some of the records so he’ll never be alone.

  • Published in Music

Kim Warnick's Backstage Encounter

It’s satisfying to reflect on how Portland has been home to some great musicians over the years. Some that we know of; Ben Deily of the Lemonheads, Adam Gardner of Guster, Hutch and Kathy from The Thermals and the legendary BeBe Buell (rock n’ roll mother/sister/friend/singer/muse). This city has been a choice spot for many to hang their hats for some years now. Music, food, art, beer, the coast, good people, we pretty much have it all. I mean, you know, we could use some more parking spots, but that’s a rant for another time.

 

There’s more rock royalty living here in Portland than one might think. Kim Warnick of the Fastbacks (and eventually Visqueen) loves living in Portland.

 

“I’m grateful to live in such a stunning city”, Warnick told me before the stunning city was blasted by Snowplooza this past week. According to Kim, her former home and music launch pad of Seattle has gotten too big and she's not sure she belongs there anymore. She moved to Portland in 2012 and has found a new home here. You can see her almost postcard love for the city through some of the pictures she posts on social media from time to time.

  

If you go to the Fastbacks starting days of the late 70s, Kim built something special (along with Lulu Gargiulo and Kurt Bloch) that would certainly sound familiar in future bands. Like one of their biggest influences The Ramones, the ‘Backs were fueled by pop music and rock n roll. Yet with Kim and Lulu, the dual female vocals would add a signature touch to the band’s pop punk sound. Their sound has influenced many other bands. Take Veruca Salt, Shonen Knife, and Sleater-Kinney, for example.  

 

Through a handful of records, live records, many singles, EPs and compilation appearances, the Fastback’s helped pioneer a sound as well as a movement of new music from the Pacific Northwest that would gain some serious traction a decade later as we all know. Warnick was there and doing it prior to grunge, prior to Sub Pop Records, prior to the movie Singles, prior to the Riot grrrl scene. She and The Fastbacks were trailblazers for sure.

 

Warnick claims that Patti Smith, Dee Dee Ramone and Joan Jett are her holy trilogy of rock gods. Great three pack if you ask me and I can totally feel all three in her music. It was Joan Jett who provided one of Warnick’s greatest music memories though. In my ongoing series still stuck between the titles of, “I Once Caught a Fish This Big..” or “Oh My, Have I Got a Story for You..”; Seattle’s loss/Portland Maine’s gain explains that time she got to open live for Joan Jett and the revealing meeting that was held after the show backstage.  

Kim Warnick:

Throughout the decades my band was fortunate to be able to open for a lot of my heroes and idols. We were lucky. Just a few of them; Ramones, Buzzcocks, Cheap Trick, GnR (before they really broke), and Joan Jett, not once, but twice. That was the biggest one for me as she is one of the main reasons I even tried to play rock n roll in the first place. The Runaways were doing what I wanted to do, but I was still stuck in high school while they were touring Japan. Sadly, they never made it to Seattle but Joan did finally in 1981 when her first record Bad Reputation was released.

I remember hearing about this show and begging the promoter to "please, please, please let us open." He knew he couldn't say no because I would just keep bugging him. It happened! This was before "I Love Rock N Roll" was everywhere on the radio, which is probably why there were only about 100 people there, but that didn't matter to me. I finally got to see her in person in a tiny club in Seattle and finally got to actually meet her (she's short!). They say don't meet your idols and I say, "bullshit."

We were both pretty wasted that night, but she sat me down next to her and instantly ripped open her jeans. Um, it was surreal, but she wanted to show me her tattoo of a jet. That jet is on the back of the import version of that first record. I think I might've blushed, but I was just so excited to ask her some Runaways questions. She passed out on my shoulder before that happened. Oh well.

The point of this story is that I was one of those record collectors that had to make sure all my LP's were in those plastic slip covers to keep 'em all MINT. On the back of that first record there is a pic of that same jet tattoo. I would always try and brush off this stray tiny hair that I just assumed was on the outside of the plastic cover. Once I saw where her tattoo was when I finally realized it was the same one on the back cover of the record… and it was a pubic hair! Like they say, "the more you know."

Really it just shows you that I was and am still a giant nerd when it comes to fandom and I love her to this day. Hero. We got to open for her again in 2002 which was amazing. So killer to know your idol. She is a gem. The real deal. I love rock n roll!

  • Published in Music

The Same Old Song and Dance Out of Boston

Like many of you, I was watching that remarkable football game last Sunday. I’m not a big fan of the pre-hype and hoopla myself. I understand this particular game is on a bigger worldwide stage and that there’s more to it, but I just want to watch the game itself. No eight-hour pregame shows. No celebrity picks or foolish videos. Just the game please and damn, what a game it was!
I timed my Sunday poorly though. As it would turn out, I sunk into the couch a bit too early. After watching the Celtics’ game, I recognized I had enough time for an early dinner with my folks just before things got going in Houston. Perfect timing, I thought.  


I forgot that even after that eight-hour pre-game lead in, there’s still the “we’re now officially underway with this final preview show, show” for another hour or so. I couldn’t move though. My backside was committed to my seat and really, where was I going? What other chore or errand could I sneak in with that short amount of time left? I was locked at that point, cringing at the non-stop loudmouth commentators trying to sound intelligent re-explaining the same prediction crap they’ve been saying for the previous two weeks!   


As I was knuckles deep in a bowl of pretzels and popcorn, I gave in and sat back for the ride. In and out of commercials and during special reports, these TV stations try to get cute with the music. Since you’re featuring two teams from major American cities, most likely with well-known music acts that come from them, they always blend in some “popular” jams to accompany the localized piece. Like after the video of some small diner in Peabody, Mass., filled with New England fans, here comes music from Beantown. What you have in the end is classic rock radio on repeat. Game after game after game …
I say this with all the respect for the band and their first three records, but for the love of all we hold dearly if I hear “Rock n’ Roll Band” or “More Than a Feeling” by Boston during another Pats game, I’m going to fall apart! Add “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith in there too. Oh, and The Standells “Dirty Water!" It’s 2017, we know Boston is your home by now, damn.  


I get it. There's a big audience, huge viewership; they’re going to play the most popular and recognizable regional tunes possible. It’s just … it’s. I mean, come on! Get a bit creative folks. The predictability of these songs being played every game is sickening and a bit embarrassing now. There are more than two bands who’ve come from the Commonwealth. We might be in need of a new musical advisor to keep it fresh.
I’m not trying to be a music nut here. I don’t expect them to play something awesome from Morphine, Mission Of Burma, Stompbox, Letters to Cleo, the Del Fuegos, The Fools or Lyres. That just ain’t gonna happen and I know it. I’m sure even the Pixies are a stretch. (They’re heavily responsible for the past 30 years of alternative music, but whatever).


How about something deeper from J. Geils Band though? The ultimate house rockin’ party band! They’re pretty much Boston, defined. The Cars? The Cars, for crying out loud, barely get played. Play something like “Moving in Stereo!" Although, wait… that brings up thoughts of Pheobe Cates getting out of the pool and I’m not sure we want to mess around with that. Especially if you have family over. That would make bathroom breaks a bit awkward.    


There’s plenty others to dabble in though to help people realize Joe Perry and Tom Scholz aren’t the only musicians who made it from the Boston area. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones? Lemonheads? How about “Voices Carry” by Til’ Tuesday? Maybe sweeten it up with some “Cool It Now” by New Edition! Or show people you know something about bands today with some Guster perhaps? What about musicians people forget have Boston area backgrounds like Billy Squier?  


And don’t get me started on the Sox! Have you watched a Red Sox game on national TV in the last ten years? Heard that Dropkick Murphys tune once or twice? The Murphys are ace dudes and I’m sure the licensing money has been great to them, but even they have to be like, “enough is enough already."


I know 99% of people could care less, but when you love music like me and you hear those Boston songs or Aerosmith songs AGAIN coming out of every break on Fox or CBS, my music soul weeps a little. Again, I like Boston and Aerosmith. I think being a New England native you’re legally obligated to like them. I own most of their records (although I stopped mid 80’s with both bands), but I think of all the other great artists from Boston that people could hear for musical geographic identification. Yet, “people only want the hits” is what I know someone in their TV production truck is saying. While that might be the lazy and easy approach, there’s no way to create new hits and more classics if you don’t give them a chance. We can’t live out this life with just the “Same Old Song and Dance” can we? 

  • Published in Music

Swapping devil horns for waffle cones with Salli Wason


Our person in spotlight this week brings up the topic of true callings. Or better yet, true callings that lead way to other true callings.

For close to twenty-five years, Salli Wason has been rocking out with her heart (and many times her person) cloaked in denim and leather. Wason has shredded the most recent years with hard rock and metal bands Sinferno, Man-Witch and Hatchetface & the Vipers. All along the way during the day, she’s been working with food at restaurants, catering companies and bakeries.  

 

In 2009, she joined the vintage heavy metal outfit, Hessian. Not content with playing just at Geno’s, the band would go on to tour around the U.S. and overseas. Wason had a good run with Hessian. Then in 2016, she swapped the devil horns for waffle cones. She stepped aside from the band and launched a quickly well loved local business, Rosanna’s Ice Cream. Wason will meet you all the way; her business delivers! Ice cream delivery? Life is good! 

 

How did Rosanna’s come together?

 

I fell into ice cream more or less by accident. Courtney MacIsaac, my boss at The Maine Lobster Bake Company got a case of heavy cream in an order by accident. She couldn't use it, so she offered it to me to see if I could do anything with it. I did some reading and some experimenting (I absolutely LOVE the scientific part of this job!). 

Within a couple of weeks, I had ironed out a lot of issues and began producing some interesting and highly edible semifreddo (an Italian dessert that most closely resembles a frozen mousse). Then, someone was kind enough to lend me a Cuisinart ice cream maker and I reformulated my ideas to work with that. I was able to make about three pints a day. After a month or two, I outgrew that machine and upgraded to a sweet little Italian number that turns out about ten pints an hour. 

 

You’re a TOTO fan as much as a metal fan. Otherwise it might have been called Melissa’s? (Sorry non-metal fans. Mercyful Fate reference there). Nice to see you keep the music touch.   

 

Just before I decided to go legit, my boyfriend Tim and I who are both massive TOTO fans saw them play at Town Hall in Manhattan and got to meet them. They were so sweet and cool. It was such an overwhelmingly positive experience. The nebulous idea I had about naming my little company Rosanna's after the TOTO song was cemented.

 

But what would Lemmy think? 

 

Lemmy surely had a bit of a sweet tooth with all those Jack & Cokes! I should totally make a Lemmy ice cream. 

 

Love it! I’d suggest coffee (looking) with a dash of cola flavor and just two raisinettes on top close together! Maybe add a coupon for a free pack of smokes. 

Did the boom in the local food/restaurant scene inspire or encourage you at all?

 

I can't say that it had any effect on my decision to start making ice cream, although it has raised public interest in such things I'm sure, and increased the resources for people like me to get off the ground. I make ice cream because people love ice cream, and bringing amazing ice cream right to peoples' doors is fun! Nobody comes to the door with a scowl. 

 

How do you operate the business right now?  

It’s just me down at Fork Food Lab in Bayside. I post what I've made on the Rosanna's Ice Cream Facebook page. Then, at night I switch gears and start answering texts and phone call orders. At 7:00 pm, I start delivering and stay open to orders until 11pm. Summer, my oldest daughter is helping me with my social media marketing and presence. Sasha, my youngest, is starting this week as a production assistant and second delivery driver. Thank goodness for my girls! The plan, after all, was to build this into a family business. 

Are you more of a sweet tooth or a full on foodie?

 

I would consider myself mainly a sweet tooth or perhaps a SugarWitch, as Tim calls me. 

 

What flavors do you offer?

 

I have about thirty (not all available regularly). Top sellers lately: Chocolate-dipped Strawberry (strawberry ice cream with a fudge ripple), Crunchy Frog, for Monty Python fans! (peanut butter ice cream with house made peanut butter cups and chocolate covered pretzels), Thai Iced Tea and Grape Nut. I try to keep at least one vegan option on hand each week. 

 

What’s the most heavy metal ice cream flavor overall?

 

Holy cow, I'd have to say the most metal of ice cream flavors would have to be the black licorice ice creams I encountered in Scandinavia when I was touring over there.

 

What’s been the biggest challenge for you so far Salli?

 

Time and money. I'm bootstrapping the entire affair. I’ve sold a bunch of guitars and gear to help get Rosanna's off the ground. I have a GoFundMe campaign going to try to raise enough capital to keep me rolling until it starts sustaining itself. We can't make enough to appease the customers in the time we have allotted, and we keep selling out!  

 

Is your vision to eventually go as big as possible or stay regionally strong?  

 

I would love to stay regionally strong, have an ice cream truck and maybe a storefront at some point. I want to build this into something with real staying power, like Garside's in Saco who've been there for 50 years! I want my great grandkids to keep making Rosanna's Ice Cream and enjoy the legacy. 

 

And of course we gotta know, what’s your all-time favorite flavor? 

Since I was a little kid, Cookies n Cream! 

 

Visit and order from Rosanna’s on Facebook  /rosannasicecream

 

  • Published in Music

The Truth About The Spider On My Button

If you bump into me out in the real world, chances are you’ve seen a button I wear on a couple of my jackets. After some recent misunderstandings and quick assumptions, the clarification of this button might turn out to be a bit of public service announcement that will help me from receiving any more stink faces. I mean lately people are a bit...fiery at everyone, about everything. Quick and snappy. If that’s to continue for the foreseeable future, I certainly don’t want people hating me for lack of understanding of such a simple thing. So, I’m going to try to set the record straight (oh man, that was a real good one).

 

I actually can’t believe I’m sharing this lesson. It’s weird to be the first one ever to explain something that was a major part of the music world. The subject item is not as useful anymore as much as it is a symbol: an emblem to represent those who deeply love music, everything connected to it, and all that’s to be preserved in its world. This thing is basically our version of the "Bat Sign."

 

The thing in the picture next to this article; what's on my button is not an evil logo. It’s not “that Nazi thing” as I’ve been asked repeatedly (millennials, there must be fifty documentaries about Hitler on Netflix. Stop streaming Portlandia and Sons of Anarchy for five minutes and stream some history lessons. Netflix and educate!).

 

That roundish yellow thing for those unaware, is called a “Spider” aka “45 Adaptor” aka “Recoton Adapter” aka “Hutchinson Adaptor." Originally it was called “The Webster," but that version didn’t last long. I’m sure they’ve also been called, “where’s the damn thing” once or twice. Let’s stick with “spider” for brevity's sake.

 

What is the "Spider?" What does the “Spider” do? Well without it, you weren’t able to hear 7” 45 rpm records properly if you didn’t have the right record player. Prior to the arrival of the 45, when the 12” 33 rpm record was the most popular basic form, there was no need for a “Spider." The 33 always fit properly on all turntables.  

 

So, what was wrong with all records having the same inner circle? Why not leave well enough alone? What was the reason for the “Spider” and the creation of the 45 rpm records it tended to? According to most historians I’ve read over the years, it was all about business.

 

Back in your great grandparents time (maybe add an extra great for some of you), Columbia was the heavy hitter in the record market. They made the 33 rpm record a major success. Other companies followed quickly. RCA was jealous and frustrated trying to win at the record manufacturing game. So, in brilliant business spirit (and lousy customer concern) RCA invented a new record player and a new type of record that could only be played on that record player. Nice right? Can’t win the game, create a new game and the products needed to play that game. 

 

The new RCA record player would play its records on a new speed, 45 rpm, and it would allow you to stack these small 45 records so that one record would drop and play after another for a longer period of listening time. It allowed you to hear more than one artist in one siting. This, rather than one Columbia record playing for maybe 20 minutes tops. In a way, RCA invented the jukebox when you think about it! I probably should have said playlist rather than jukebox for the freshmen out there.  

 

So, RCA has people only using their turntables to play 45’s. That was the only way to play them. Unless something was invented by a crafty company that allowed them to be played on all turntables. Business strikes again! The “Spider” is born! You put the “Spider” in the middle of the 45 allowing it to be slipped onto all turntables that played 33‘s. The “Spider” kept the record in place so it wouldn’t go all wobbly. 

 

Playing field is leveled again and the music industry’s nasty ways are cemented for future generations to follow and mirror. 

 

As time went on and rock n‘ roll became the thing, the world got introduced song by song to new stars heavily by the 45. Radio loved the 45 for its smallness and easy stackability!  

 

When I was real young, I had a bunch of 45‘s. They were still being made into the early 80’s only to give way to cassingles! That’s another story though for perhaps... never. I still have a pretty solid collection of them and I still buy them at certain times. (I almost bought a jukebox last year so I was on a rampage).

 

So, that’s the story about what’s on the button I wear. When I talk to interested younger people who ask me what it is, they usually start to drift after a line or two of explanation. So, I started cutting it down to assist the future generations mostly all living with A.D.D. to, “it’s a thing that helped you play records many years ago." Sometimes that still came off as wordy to some of them. Nowadays I usually just say, “It means I love music.” Luckily that lands most times.  

  • Published in Music

I’ll Decide How Long My Top 10 List Will Be, Thank You

Last week, as your finger scrolled down your phone, you saw the posts. You dodged the urge at first, but then many of you gave your contribution. You chimed in with your two cents and fell right in line. Is it an internet test by some college kids working on a major project or just a question to a friend that got loose online and strangled Facebook for a while. 

“What were the top 10 albums that had the most impact on you as a teenager...” 

A lot of you did it, and that’s okay. I’m not here to go after people for having some fun. It was interesting seeing some of the lists though, and wow, the sophisticated/early developed tastes of thirteen-year-olds just aren’t the same these days! So many people knew so many cool bands when their voices were barely cracking. Yaz, Dr. Know, Warren Zevon, Venom, Ultravox and Baron von Tollbooth & the Chrome Nun?! Amazing! (insert tiny sarcastic smirk)

 

Each time I jumped onto Facebook the past two weeks, this thing shouted back at me to take part. The comment from just about every other person before they laid out their list, “Ok, I guess I’ll take a shot since everyone else is...” got tired fast, but I wondered if I should heed the call this time. It is a music-related list and I’m into music just a bit. I had a bunch of people ask me to do it. These lists are kinda fun and I always love the memories that come with compiling them. They always open up great dialogue with other music fans as well. So, why not take part?

 

Well friends, it’s a bit of a problem I’ve found in life. I’ve dealt with this concern for more years than my head will allow me to remember. You say, “Mark, give me your top 5 ...” whatever bands. I end up giving you 10. “Mark, “what’s your top 10 favorite ...” whatevers. I give 15 or 20. Bottom line, I can not meet the numerical specifications that these friggin’ lists demand. I’m sorry.

Not really though.

To the average folk, it’s an elevator topic. Lobby to the fifth floor and can they fire off their top 10 albums ever and still have time to talk about the meeting they’re headed into. Me? I’d have a hard time riding a slow lift at one of those the skyrocketing hotels in Dubai to come up with my first four. This is serious stuff.

To ask people who live a life of music to just quickly whip up something that essentially defines them ... well, it's a harsh request. We cringe at being held to our picks. When we do these lists we instantly retract when we hit the post button or when we riffle them off verbally to friends; “Oh crap, I forgot this one”, or that one. That misplayed forgotten component could totally mess up a music lover’s mind for like a whole 10-to-15 minutes, people! That’s a brutal mental burden. Trust me, it’s not fun to deal with that mishap on your mind when you take lists seriously. You say to yourself, “How the hell could I forget Bobby Keys is one of my favorite sax players of all time! I need to add him in there!” Unfortunately, that conversation is done and everyone has gone home. You’re then in your car listening to Bobby blow on the Stones’ Sticky Fingers album and you hate yourself just a little bit. You try to live with that forgetfulness and hope people don’t judge you by the absence in the picks you made, but all you can do is hope.   

 

It’s odd because I can pick some top single picks. I know my all time favorite band, my favorite album, my favorite song, my favorite album cover ... but after that, it's a neverending story. Ask me for my top 10 favorite songs of all time and after I rapid fire spit out the top one — “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty — chances are I’ll name 20 songs. Then add three or four more. How’s that for your top 10 list!?

Do I feel bad? Am I sorry I couldn’t fit my choice count into the foolish structure laid upon me? Not one bit! Who came up with “top 10” anyways? The bastards! Who thought asking for a “top 5” would be enough? We’re talking about music here! I can’t be limited!

And in the long run, don’t you want to see someone’s choices? Whether it’s 10 or 12 picks? Those picks explain something. They give you a bonus peek at a person. Those extra picks are as much of that person as their 10. Editing down for the sake of someone’s evil limitations is not something I subscribe to folks. You wanna hang with me, you get the entire best list! The Top 10 and then some.   

In the end, we extend our numbers because we care! We don’t want to leave out someone or something we believe in or enjoy. Check out the top 10 list of a person who isn’t really, really that into music. The part-time fans. You’re getting a solid 10 there, and that’s all folks. For people who are truly passionate about music, we’re the ones to break the boundaries because we love our favorite bands and songs so much. We add those others on top of the 10 because we care! Showing some extra love and support for the things we care about isn’t such a bad thing is it? In this life on planet Earth in 2017, showing passion for the things we love isn’t really a major concern, is it? 

So do what I do. Never acknowledge a number restriction with these lists. When someone says to choose your top 10 favorite albums, you just give them your favorite albums, however many that is! If it’s 11, so be it. If it’s 15, well alright then! If it’s 114 ... well, I mean, there should be some limits right?       

  • Published in Music

After The Tonight Show with Kurt Baker

When you meet local musician Kurt Baker or see him perform live, you don’t forget it.

If his ’50s, ’60s, ’70s pop/rock-influenced music doesn’t somehow stick in your mind, certainly the man himself will. I guarantee you have never heard anyone use the word, “party” more in your life. (Yes, he might even give Andrew WK a run for his money). He is one of the more upbeat, positive dudes you’ll ever meet on the music scene. Powered by pizza, beer, gummy bears, and high fives, Baker is built on good things. He ain’t trying to mess with nobody. He just wants to play music, have fun and … you guessed it. Think David Lee Roth meets Jeff Spicoli (from Fast Times at Ridgemont High) meets American Graffiti with a smile as big as Back Bay.

From 2002-2010, Baker fronted the Portland pop-punk band the Leftovers. Like a true punk band, they were always in the van, always touring. They toured overseas and all around America many times. This not only built up Baker’s credit limit at In-and-Out Burger and Sonic locations around the country, but the touring sharpened his chops and thickened his skin to take on just about anything.

Unfortunately, after many tours and a bunch of releases with various independent record labels; the Leftovers decided to call it a day and drift into other projects. Bummer too, that band was outstanding. Baker’s “Hey everyone, let’s party” frontman style, paired with the band’s super-tight playing made for one kick-ass offering from Portland. (Check out On The Move, one of my favorite local records of all time).

Post-Leftovers, Baker kept the beat and instantly put out material. Over the past six years he’s released a slew of singles, EPs and albums. Think less Ramones fueled and more Dave Edmunds and The Knack. The biggest shift though came when he moved to Madrid in 2013. Spain was an area Baker knew well thanks to some Leftovers tours and a few solo tours. It’s an area that embraces the fun rock Baker holds close to his heart. With his latest band, The Kurt Baker Combo and their full-length debut, they’re doing big things overseas. Back here in the US, the album got its official release last fall. 

In my on-going series that I’m still kind of calling, “I Once Caught a Fish Thissss Big!” or “You’re Not Going to Believe This One…” Baker didn’t have to dig too deep into the memory bank for this story about a special audience at a recent New York show.     

Kurt Baker:

"Heading out on the road and playing music with your band, your friends, there’s always fun to be had and lots of funny stories. I wouldn't trade this life for the world. I'm so thankful to be able to do what I do.

I was recently visiting back home here in Portland. (I currently live and operate my current band, The Kurt Baker Combo out of Spain) and had scheduled a quick 24-hour trip down to New York City. I made it down in the morning for a meeting with the staff of my new record label, Wicked Cool Records. The label is owned by musician/actor Little Steven Van Zandt (Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band/ The Sopranos) We discussed plans for the release of my latest album, In Orbit.

Van Zandt's office is a full floor filled with rock n' roll and vintage film memorabilia. The whole place is painted purple! I also stopped by the office of Wicked Cool's distribution partner — The Orchard founded by Richard Gottehrer — who produced albums for The Go-Go's, Blondie, Dr. Feelgood, Richard Hell, and more. I even did a little in-office acoustic show for all the folks that work there and to my surprise my power pop pal, the legendary Paul Collins stopped by to say hello!

Now to make the most out of this trip, I had arranged to play an evening show at a little bar in the Lower East Side. It was a Monday night, so I wasn't expecting much, but it would be one of the most memorable shows of my life!

The gig turned out to be great. Lots of Maine transplants to the big apple showed up. Even folks from where I now live in Spain! I even think I became an honorary member of a street gang! However, the real surprise was yet to come.

After the gig was over, we hung out at the club. After a few hours, I stepped outside to say goodbye to a few friends. When I returned to the bar to order a beer, the bartender said "Hey Kurt, I'd like to introduce you to my friend, Jimmy". Jimmy, who was standing right beside me turned around and shook my hand very kindly. Holy crap, I thought, that's Jimmy Fallon!.

He began to tell me all about this band that was on the show that day. It was a good group who reminded us both of 60' and 70's pop/rock. The bartender then said, "Hey Jimmy, Kurt played a show here tonight". He then turned to me and said "Kurt, play some songs!". At first I was kinda skeptical, but how could I pass up this offer to play a second gig? Now, there were only about 7-8 people in that bar at that point, but we went into a full on sing a long jam session that lasted about an hour. Lots of old ’60s classics like the Turtles, The Beach Boys, and the Beatles. Jimmy said he would tell his friend and author of some of those songs by the name Paul, all about the little impromptu session we just had. (I'm sure he forgot). It was a total good time party, with everybody singing and laughing.

At that point it was about 3 am and a few people that had come into the bar had started to realize we were in the midst of a celebrity and in an instant, he was out of there and into his limo. "Did that really just happen?". When Little Steven called me on the phone the next morning to ask how the show went, I had quite the story to tell him!

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That's the ticket: We can't swipe and scroll through our music experiences

I was home at my folks over the holidays. I always seem to retreat there the end of the year. I find peace and comfort around my parents and my old home. My short term memory gets to check out for a bit and I can relax my mind from what’s going on or all the things we’re clicking on these days. When at home, I always seem to roam around parts not visited in recent times; the attic, sections of the basement, back corners of closets that have been filled with my folks’ stuff since after I occupied my room.

In those journeys, I always find something that makes me quickly say, “Oh, cool!” I’ve found old cassettes, posters, hats, keychains, notebooks, books, Celtics game programs, break up letters from old girlfriends, pictures, and music magazines. This time, I came across something that's very much missing for most people’s lives today. Something very small, very memorable. Something you stuck in your wallet. No, not those. I’m talking about concert tickets!

Being a music nut, I’ve done a pretty good job of securing a lot of the ripped tickets from the shows I’ve been to over the years, but apparently a few never made if out of my bedroom and attic. Shuffling through last week, I found old stubs from seeing acts like Faith No More, Fishbone, 38 Special, Boston, Huey Lewis and the News, Motorhead, Van Halen, Dio and Run DMC to name a few.

As I scan over each ticket, I notice old venue names like Great Woods, EM Lowes, Worcester Centrum, Axis, Bill’s, and Avalon. I’m immediately transported to those places back in those days. Back when the Avalon, in Boston, was where House of Blues is now. (Add Axis next door and two upper levels and you have the current HOB). The prices weren’t too bad back then. $40 to sit in the orchestra pit to see Al Green or Beck and the Flaming Lips at the Orpheum or Parliament/Funkadelic at, what is now, the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion in Boston?! Sometimes the ticket price would be $0 because I had received a comp ticket. From the late '80s to late '90s, between working for a record label, music retail management, college radio and writing reviews, I was lucky enough to see quite a few shows at the compliments of whoever.

As I was flipping through this deck of music cards, a smile crossed my face. The memories and the pride of being such a fan of all this stuff erupted quite a bit of happiness in me. I know, it’s a bit geeky to save concert ticket stubs, but the same could be said about Christmas and birthday cards or baseball cards or business cards or shoes or any Patriots Super Bowl stuff. We hold onto things because they bring us these brief moments of joy. A quick return to glory and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Those moments should be welcomed anytime.

In fact, as I glared at the tickets I thought of the world today. The swipe and click, “give it to me now” generation. People living so fast they don’t take the seconds to enjoy or hold something sacred. The precious anticipation time to break the shrink wrap on a new CD or album. The time to wait for the record store to open so they can buy that brand new release from their favorite artist. Those moments allow us to savor, appreciate and fully enjoy the gifts about to be granted to us!

What’s the concert ticket thing like today? I have to think a majority of folks order online, right?. Ok, understood. Look at what you get back though; a full 8.5" x 11" page print out of your receipt/ticket on grotesque white copier paper with a bar code on it as long as your arm. That’s certainly not what I want to crawl into the attic at my folks house to find underneath a Monopoly game.

I want those small, perforated tickets that look unique and each tell a story of their own. All of them about the same size so they’re easy to flip through and organize like a 1988 Topps complete set. (Baseball card reference there, sorry). If we have nice things like this, things that make us value each show even before we go (or long after) it might make the overall experience and memories stronger. When you’re given something easy to ignore and take for granted, that’s most likely what you’ll do and that’s a shame. Although the music industry and most things connected to it are in an absolute mess, we need to hold onto the good things. We need to preserve the things that make it special and life-changing. We can’t swipe and scroll through all of our music experiences. End result, “Okay, what’s next?”

It shouldn’t be, “What’s next?” It should be, “That was amazing and I hope to never forget it”. Well, with a pile of those ticket stubs stacked in your old sock drawer just waiting for you, you never will forget.

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Local music heads pick their top albums of 2016

This week, we wrap things up and put a bow on this funky year. I know many that are more than happy to kick 2016 square in the ass and right out the door. Things were a bit nutty this year in every direction. The Cubs won the World Series. Good people are fighting to keep water safe and hold other people to their word. Portland now has a total of 14 parking spots in the entire city, and a football lacking air pressure dominated the news for months. And months. Oh, and what about that political race over the last year plus? What the heck did we do there?

I’m not sure about you all, but I know a lot of folks who lost people close to them. Husbands, wives, children, brothers, sisters. One of my long time friends lost both of his parents in seven months. I felt like each day I swiped my phone, I saw tragic news. I suppose since we swipe more and more each day, we are exposed to more news like that. So, although it felt like it came on strong this year, maybe it was ... a normal year?

We all shared grief in the entertainment and music losses, and boy did those come steadily in 2016. Music wise, we were devastated every few weeks it seemed. David Bowie; Prince; Glenn Frey of the Eagles; Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire; Sharon Jones; Merle Haggard; George Michael; Phife of A Tribe Called Quest; Bernie Worrell; Greg Lake and Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer (Lake also of King Crimson); Leonard Cohen; Leon Russell; ska/rocksteady legend Prince Buster, and the most important music producer of all time, the great Sir George Martin. Those are just a few, unfortunately.

So many think with the turn of the calendar page onto a new year that we’re going to be excused from future losses or maybe they’ll at least ease up a bit. Friends, I am a positive person and I love to see people filled with hope and promise for better things. However, next year probably won’t be “better” in terms of losses. We will lose more wonderful people from the music world and that’s just the way it is. Please, don’t shoot the messenger. I just don’t want us to think we’re jinxed or that 2017 totally sucks already when we lose our first artist. It is life! What we must take from this isn’t the sorrow of no longer having, but the savoring of what we had and how much joy it brought to us. Those memories can still bring us joy. Those albums can still bring us joy. We’re lucky we have them. Surely there will be more albums on the way to bring us more joy too. I hope. (insert confused, nervous Emoji face)

Until then, I asked a few local music-ish friends to share with us a few of their favorite albums from 2016. I said to give me three album picks. Some gave me one, some gave me five. That’s all good, though. I’m gonna start by bending the rule myself and give you 20 from me.

Because I’m close to the local scene and I host a radio show that features local music, I always tend to stay away from local on my year end lists. Can of worms. Ok, that’s all. Enjoy! Best of in the New Year to all!

Mark’s Top 20 (in no particular order)

Kristin Kontrol - X-Communicate
Big Jesus - Oneiric
A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here...

Cheap Trick - Bang, Zoom, Crazy... Hello

The Growlers - City Club

Run The Jewels - 3

Plague Vendor - Bloodsweat
Basement - Promise Everything
David Bowie - Blackstar
Beware of Darkness - Are You Real
The Monkees - Good Times
The Lemon Twigs - Do Hollywood
Bat For Lashes - The Bride
Violent Soho - Waco
Bob Mould - Patch The Sky
Whores - Gold
Against Me! - Shape Shift With Me
K.Flay - Crush Me
The Dillinger Escape Plan - Dissociation
The Lees of Memory - Unnecessary Evil

Jesse Gertz (Leveret)

Radiohead- Moon Shaped Pool

Frank Ocean - Blonde

Cornelius - Fantasma

Matt Cosby (Jeremiah Freed, photographer)

Kings of Leon - Walls

Drive By Truckers - American Band

Tegan and Sara - Love You To Death

Bon Iver - 22, A Million

 

Devin Temple (WCYY)

Bear Hands - You'll Pay For This

Kings of Leon - Walls

Band of Horses - Why Are You Ok

Rihanna - Anti

 

Chris Brown (Bull Moose)

Le Planete Sauvage (Fantastic Planet) Soundtrack

Aksak Maboul - Onze Danses pour Combattre Le Migrane

Fabio Fabor - Aquarium
*All were reissued on vinyl. Only one was ever available on CD.

 

Kim Warnick (The Fastbacks)

Full Toilet - I Disagree

 

Sasha Alcott (When Particles Collide)

Esperanza Spaulding - Emily's D-Evolution

 

Sam Ellis (The Restless Atlantic)

Saosin - Along the Shadow

PUP - The Dream Is Over

Lady Lamb - Tender Warriors Club

 

Kris Hype (Burning Time)

Thrice - The Be Everywhere, Is to Be Nowhere

Aaron Lewis - Sinner

Sick Puppies - Fury

 

McCrae Hathaway (State Theatre, Midwestern Medicine)

Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here...

Beyoncé - Lemonade

Marco Benevento - The Story of Fred Short

Margo Price - Midwest Farmer's Daughter

Dean Ween - The Deaner Album

 

Spose

Chance the Rapper - Coloring Book

Weezer - Weezer (The White Album)

Beyonce - Lemonade

 

Darrell Foster (Five of The Eyes)

Moon Tooth - Chromaparagon

Esperanza Spalding - Emily's D-Evolution

Vulfpeck - The Beautiful Game

 

Adam Ayan (Gateway Mastering)

Tegan and Sara - Love You To Death

A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here

David Bowie - Blackstar

 

Sonia Sturino (Weakened Friends)

Slingshot Dakota - Break

Dollys - Low Year

Sleeping Patterns - Toy Cars

 

Darren Elder (The Halo)

James Blake - The Color In Anything

Thrice - To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere

Chance The Rapper - Coloring Book

 

Peter McLaughlin (SPACE Gallery)

Big Thief - Masterpiece

Health&Beauty - No Scare

Wei Zhongle - Nice Mask Over an Ugly Face

 

Shawn Jeffrey “Facemelter” (Rock Rage Radio)

Revocation - Great Is Our Sin

Fates Warning - Theories of Flight

Killswitch Engage - Incarnate 

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WBLM’s Tommy C - He’s Got What It Takes

I think about what my life would have been like without radio growing up. Kids today! Sure they have their cool shit going on. They can blink and make songs appear in their palm. That's too easy though. And no damn fun!


Kids are missing important things in life, like patience leading to the payoff. Special moments with music. I think way back, sitting in my room, not doing homework, thinking about the girl I was too nervous to talk to at school, trying to make that “VH” logo on my math book cover look better. I waited, knowing in my heart it was coming. I had waited all day for those few minutes.


My parents were shouting from downstairs asking me to do some type of chore. “Yeah, alright! Wait a minute! I’m trying to record this song on the radio.” They would wait for me as I waited for this music. Then, this scruffy voice DJ making no dollars an hour introduced the new Van Halen song and at that moment... nothing else in the world mattered. Not that girl at school, not my homework or what my parents wanted. Hearing that song meant everything. It was that simple. Those moments were that impactful. That person on the air brought that to me. He gifted me this song that made me feel like I could do anything. Until that moment, I had zero access to that song. No way to stream it. You waited and kids, the waiting... was the best part. Trust me.


Those moments are mostly gone now as music is made instantly available. In a way, that's unfortunate. You can hold out your hand and catch any song you want. Those DJ’s are mostly gone too, but miraculously there is still one here and there for us living the right way on the the dial.


We’re lucky to have one around us on the biggest rock station in northern New England. He’s been called, “The Last DJ” by some and I’ve been lucky enough to work 12 feet from him for the past 12 years. When I listen to him do his thing, I love radio.


“Tommy C” Carbone from 102.9 WBLM (Portland) is what we love about radio. He’s not selling you anything. He’s not there to pull your chain or talk down to you. He loves those musty stacks of records behind him and actually plays them a lot. He knows music. He knows the best music. He makes real radio every weekday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.


During my times at WCYY, whenever I needed a break from whatever the Chilli Peppers just put out, I’d slide into BLM and watch Tommy do his thing. Usually barefoot when he’s on air; he shuffles around like he’s catching waves or he’s doing the cha-cha. No headphones. One hand cupped over his ear neglecting any technology to let him hear better. Holding the mic in his hand like he’s about to croon. “Let’s see what’s ccccccooking, in the kitchen for today’s classic lunch hour.”


Normally you leave him alone when he’s on, cause, you just do. It’s Tommy C! You don’t bring any drama or hang ups to him while he’s on. When he’s on, those hours are his. Ours. We need nothing else getting in the way.


Born in Haverhill, Mass., this former saxophonist cut his radio teeth in Massachusetts and New Hampshire in the mid ‘70’s. I used to hear him on WGIR in Manchester, N.H. when I was a kid. He made his way to Maine by way of Sanford to WCDQ in the 80’s. Then in November 1986, Tommy was hired at WBLM. Yes folks, last month was Tommy’s 30th anniversary on the “rock ‘n‘ roll blimp.” Every single day Tommy’s show pumps out of some busted old radio in a garage in Oxford or in a truck hauling something heavy from Bath to Oxford. He’s there day after day on the station that's been there for Mainers day after day. That's comforting. He loves the old TV show WKRP in Cincinnati and you can feel the “Fever” from Tommy sometimes if you pay close attention.


Hey, I understand the times. I worked full time in radio for just 11 years, but I know what's been happening. You can lose faith in radio at times, but you shouldn’t lose faith in everyone in radio. Certainly not in Tommy C. Which means, rock radio still has a good shot. Which means there’s also a good shot more kids will be ignoring their parents and waiting to hear that 30-year-old Van Halen song do the same to them. Of course, they’ll be streaming movies on their iPad and texting while they wait, but they’ll wait, and it will be so good when it happens.

Do you remember the first time you listened to the radio when something completely knocked you over? A voice, a song, a moment, a report?
Knocked over by the first time I ever heard "Honky Tonk Women." I was in the back seat of our neighbor's car. We were on our way to Carter's Ice Cream Stand and they had 68/WRKO-AM on.
This song came on I'd never heard before. Hypnotized from the cowbell-get-go. It was like I was on another planet. Nothing else mattered, no one else knew. When it was over, I returned to Earth, looked around and thought, "Did anybody else just hear THAT? Did anyone else just FEEL THAT?!?!" This is likely what some people experience when they say they were born again.
Can you give me two of your favorite radio interviews over the years?
No. 1: Yoko Ono. Completely charming. She talked to me like we were old friends. I just about fell in love.
No. 2: Dan Castelleneta, the voice of Homer Simpson. Goosebumps, every once in a while during our talk he would simply become Homer. Very surreal and unforgettable.
Who are some of the radio hosts you admire or have looked up to you over your years?
Two of the original WBCN jocks, Maxanne Sartori (afternoon drive) and late nights with Zircon John Brody. They turned me on to Sparks and Bruce Springsteen, way, way, way before the rest of the world knew who they were. They also made an art-form out of segues; a great radio tradition that is sadly missed. The old, "What's next? How did we get here?" way of putting together fully-thought-out-sets of music. They were fantastic, those two. People listening to the radio today have no idea what they're missing.
You're a serious music fan and to me, that's what makes a true DJ. Aside from the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame acts you play daily, what other bands outside of the BLM catalog rock your world?
Beyond BLM, I've always admired old-schoolers like The Andrews Sisters who were probably the best vocal group of all-time in any known universe. Spine-tingling talent. As a former saxophonist, I'm always turned-on by like Phil Woods and Paul Desmond. They played like the instrument was invisible. Just as if they were painting or sculpting sounds out of thin air. Really supremely gifted players.
Ok, the next five songs on BLM are of your choosing. What do you play?
"Don't Look Back In Anger" by Oasis. "Can't You See That She's Mine" by The Dave Clark Five. "Dead End Street" by The Kinks. "Hot House Of Omagarashid" by The Yardbirds and "Stuck On You" by Elvis.

  • Published in Music
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