THE NEWSLETTER THAT NEVER WAS—UNTIL IT WAS
LATE BREAKING NEWS: There's gonna be a Strings in the Temple New Year's Day Watch-A-Long on Gimme TV. Darrell Flowers directed this beautiful film at the Great American Music Hall. And it looks like Darrell along with Brad Jones, who co-produced the album and served as conductor, will be in the chat, too. This was back in 2012 when we thought we'd re-imagine Temple Beautiful with a string section and... people would be able to hear the songs in a different way. Download the Gimme Country App to access Gimme TV. New users select "Gimme TV" from the channel selector. Listening to one of their radio stations? Click the square in the upper left-hand corner to change the channel from radio, to TV. "See" you there.
Strings in the Temple will be shown on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day: 6pm PT / 9pm ET / 2am GMT on Dec. 31st and 12pm PT / 3pm ET / 8pm GMT on Jan. 1st. Go to www.gimmecountry.com. Jump on the message board during the screenings to chat live with Chuck, Stephanie, Brad and Darrell and maybe even some of the Mission Express about the film.
What a year! Am I right? I know a lot of people are wasted. Flattened out. And sucked dry. And I've been one of them. When it came time for an end-of-2020 newsletter, I started trying to make notes. But it turned out I was simply reenacting that typewriter scene of Jack Nicholson's in The Shining, with a few little changes of my own.
Then I bucked up and changed my pajamas to the ones with clocks on them. That usually cheers me up. And it worked like a charm.
So here I am. And here we are. I hope you're one of the people who are thriving, somehow. (I'm talking to you, Jeff Bezos and James DePrato!) Me, with my clock pattern and after six cups of coffee, I'm looking forward to the other end of this deal. Looking forward to turning the page. To January 20. To the magic shot in the arm. To getting out there and sweating on you if you happen to be up front near the stage. Looking forward to the chance to re-enchant the world one gig at a time.
Meanwhile, I'm staying put. Chilling with this warm laptop on my lap. And if I was to make a list? I don't have to look far to see some of my favorite things of the last year.
Disclaimer #1: I know there's enough lists out there already! That's what the Internet is for. But I can't help myself, so here I go anyway...
I see a Trader Joe's candle that definitely deserves to be on my list.
And my risotto game, which has really picked up.
And I've indulged plenty in my lifelong hobby of choice: staring out the window.
Disclaimer #2: Lists? Who needs 'em? Besides, I already know I'm in your top 10 list. Even if it's only in your heart. Validation is nice. But how many times does one need to be Time Magazine's Person of The Year before they pass the torch? I mean, it's like... here, man. Take it.
And I've got this great book by Jim Goldberg here. A gift from my pal Jay. It's called Rich and Poor. Jim Goldberg of course took the photo that ended up on the cover of The Land That Time Forgot, a Long Player that perhaps you've heard? Rich and Poor is a collection of photos from San Francisco, taken in the late 70s/early 80s. It's a study of the very wealthy and the very poor from back when the income divide was just getting into high gear. The homeless epidemic and the McMansions were still coming in to view. There's an upbeat quote from Jim on the inside: "I can't let go of the desire to believe in a society where things really will get better."
And then there's listening material. I've been doing a lot of listening. A. Lot. With my weekly Trip In the Country radio show on GimmeCountry.com and stuff. I've been doing a lot of soaking in "From Elvis in Nashville," tracks he cut in 1970 with stellar sidemen. It's been expertly surgically stripped of the horns and the strings and the background singers. Listening to it is like being in the control room as the King tears through a stack of songs. The band is jamming and vamping away. Intro and endings on the fly. Elvis is cussing, producing... laughing, flying and never less than totally committed. I put in one of the CDs, put it on random and it's like he's here in the room with me.
And what else? Rough and Rowdy Ways, the new(ish) Bob Dylan LP.
(If you want more of my musical fixation, you can always tune in to my radio show where I chin wag about music for two hours every Friday.)
And then there's TV! The Good Lord Bird on Showtime did it for me. But man oh man, Scandinavian Noir! Whoa. First off, I was raised on Noir. Mother's milk and all that. Stephie and I are regulars at the awesome San Francisco Film Noir Festival every year right here in our hood at the Castro Theatre. Raymond Chandler's LA Streets are the streets of my childhood. And Jim Thompson and beyond. James McCain... Patricia Highsmith. Green on Red didn't agree on much, but we tore through those Jim Thompson novels. Every time we'd take a sharp turn in the van another one would slide out from under a bench and show up at your feet.
But nothing prepared me for this current batch of TV darkness out of Scandinavia. Scandinavia, where it gets really dark in the winter. They know dark! They know bleak. Subtitles, sure. But there's no wasted words. It's slow and deliberate and the stories are layered and it's fresh AF. And it makes standard issue episodic TV feel like kid stuff. Start with "The Twelve" and maybe branch out to "Borderland."
And what about the poor beleaguered printed word. Well, me and my friend Kevin have our own little book club. The one that sticks out is "The Last Taxi Driver." It was a doozy. Might be up your address. If you like hanging out with the one sane dude in Mississippi who might be going crazy, too. And he's full of regrets and hanging on and trying to make do. Is there anything more American than that right now? Who doesn't feel that way? Like Kevin says, "You can hear that south Mississippi syrupy sweet accent jump off the page."
And then there's the song on The Land That Time Forgot that features both my van and the digestive tract, the one about the Sore Loser in Chief, with the title that feels timelier every day. Sadly, a song that is half novelty (and half over-the-top dramedy) doesn't seem to have a sell-by date attached to it. Some guys just won't go away; we just have to learn to ignore them.
Well, there's a lot more to list out there. Some things I'll never understand. Like ironic Yacht Rock fans and people who go nuts for oat milk. I've been loving my radio show every week. And it gives me a chance to hang out with the in crowd. Yeah, that's you.
Speaking of you guys? All you guys are on my top ten list.
As for the Pandemic? The big pause button. Stephie and I have definitely gone into hibernation mode of sorts. Masking up and hitting the supermarket can be an experience. Otherwise, we have been staying put. Other than seeing our mothers who are getting up there. It's hard for me to bring anything original to the party on that front. The future is unknowable. Someday things will resume. But will clubs re-open? What about those institutes of higher learning? Will they survive? And will people still go to Disneyland on business trips? I hope there's still some movie theaters left when this is all over. I hope people can still go watch baseball.
But, making those gigs happen? Uh, it's not magic. It takes a team. Starting with you. Otherwise we'd be playing empty rooms. And I love it all. I must. The loading in. Dragging the gear into some club. Looking for that deli tray. And then the show. And on a good night, maybe even a little quality merch table time with each and every one of you.
To make those gigs possible, it takes a village, as they say. True believers. First and foremost, The Mission Express. Kevin and James and Stephanie and of course the ladies' choice, Vicente. Dropping whatever they're doing, getting in the van and taking it to the people. We love getting out there and playing. And no matter what is going on in our lives or whatever hell we went through that day to get there. Seems like when we get on stage everything just kind of melts away... I've been told we make it look easy. But there's a whole team of people to make that make it look easy. From Chris and Peter and Daniel at management to Mongrel the booking folks. And Yep Roc the record label. And Lellie and the publicity team. And lots of folks in between. It's a long list, trust me. And if I get a little cranky with the sound man from time to time, I apologize in advance. Thanks for giving me a break.
Speaking of a break, klip and I live about a mile away from each other and haven't seen each other since March. But we're still cooking up schemes, including a 2021 Zoom table read of the latest draft of Temple Beautiful: The Musical. In case it slipped between the cracks, let me give a shout out to klip's latest collection, Premeditations. Read about it, pick up a copy.
Well, I can see by the clock on the wall – yes, clocks still exist – that it's time for the Roy Rogers "till we meet again" sign-off, I guess. And things could definitely be worse for me and Steph. Hey, we haven't gotten evicted! And we still have our health. And like I said, my risotto game is sick(!) I have been able to visit my mother. And walk the hidden staircases of San Francisco with my sister. And I'm not saddled with a stupid college loan. (They still haven't found a way to saddle first semester dropouts with loans, but I'm sure they're working on it).
Looking forward to a new presidential twitter account, one with a lot less activity in 2021.
A new review of klip's book, and an interview.
If you like this newsletter, forward it to a pal. If you want to buy something in my store like the new record? Better yet. It helps. We've got a lot of great stuff in our online store if you haven't checked it out lately.