Blogging About Blogging About My New Record, part 1

As the rain continues to pour on our thirsty California, I’m reflecting on the last year a bit, and considering what to do next. While the debacles of 2016 played out, I spent some time writing and recording new music. I released four new songs as “Peace and Love and Rock and Roll part 1” as the new year arrived. Nearly everything about it is a first for me. I’ve never done a solo record before, I’ve always worked with bands. Never self-released anything before, or self-produced.

I’m glad I did it, and I have decided to do more. I made a new website to host my records, and after thinking very hard about it for almost two seconds, decided to call it You can pick the EP up there instantly in download/digital form, or even order a physical CD if you like, from the very small batch I made.


Wishing you all a good start to this strange new year. I am going to go swim in the rain now.

Peace and Love and Rock and Roll to you and yours,


Laws And Sausage On Crack

The cabinet appointments are funny. They are funny. Tragic, catastrophic, horrible, but utterly hilarious. Treasury Secretary is the best knee-slapper. Just give it to Goldman-Sachs. Say FU to the populist voters with both middle fingers, loud and clear, right away. Outstanding.

We’re doomed. But it’s not as if we haven’t been doomed before. Humanity survives all sorts of things – plague, cold war, Nickleback, maybe even this. But wow. The pendulum swings from reason and science and decency and such things, all the way to retarded bigotry, misogyny, sadism and greed. Did I leave anything out? Yes lots of things. You can’t list all of it in one lifetime. It’s not at all funny at the end, for it likely means immeasurable suffering and loss, destruction, mayhem and death visited upon the land like a biblical shit-tsunami. Oh well.

Years ago I wrote this song, “Laws and Sausage.” It was an overstated spleen-venting about fat cats and pig-dogs, a sort of ska-cartoon Orwellian bad trip that could never resemble actual reality. Or could it? I almost didn’t want to record it, it was so silly, but my band-mates in Stiff Richards dug it and our producer wanted to hit it so we did. Later The Uptones recorded it and Lisa McElroy made this appetizing video.

I don’t think either version ever got released on a CD or anything, due to timing or an attack of common sense. Anyway, it occurred to me as I listened to Democracy Now! this morning that I will miss President Obama very much, and that PT Barnum was right.

Actual photo by Shannon Wheeler
Actual photo by Shannon Wheeler

The Burley And Lucy Show

As this horrible election lurches to a shuddering death I decided it’s time to post some quality content to counter the vast tsunamis of ugliness and bile. Here are the great Lucy and Burley, starring in The Burley and Lucy Show. The episodes don’t happen in any particular order, nor do the stars of the show exist in linear time. They occupy a free-floating space-time warp fueled by catnip and excessive naps. They often exist in several places at once. Scientific studies have proven their spontaneous generation in open guitar cases. Here they are in their natural element, secretly documented by yours truly the monkey.

Please Fellow Bernie Sanders Supporters, Let’s Elect Hillary Clinton and Progressive Democrats Wherever Possible

Bill McKibben calls it a “War On Climate Change” now, in this age of “War On” every little thing. I guess that might get more attention to this single most important subject in the history of everything. From Democracy Now! this morning:

Here’s an excerpt of the part I find most important in RE: how we vote in November:

Bernie refused to concede. He didn’t back down. He didn’t do what everyone told him he should do. He kept in the race through the final meeting about the platform in Orlando two weeks before the convention. And he did that in order to ensure that he’d have leverage in those discussions..

..And as a result, by staring them down, the platform, at the last-minute, turned markedly more progressive. Among other things, there’s a call in there for an emergency climate summit within the first hundred days of a new administration, designed to — and it says this in the platform — mobilize us for something like a World War II approach to climate change. We’ll see if we can hold them to it.

– Bill McKibben

That is one reason I am following through with my support for Bernie Sanders, by voting for the Democratic Party ticket in 2016. And then this year can be over please, thank you.

There is a certain sick entertainment value to having a presidential candidate tweet at 3AM that Miss America is fat. And that many Americans seem determined to elect a boy with no qualifications and every horrible trait a person can have. Charles M. Blow in his NYT column articulates this perfectly. There’s a certain hilarity to the fact that grown persons want to provide a maladjusted toddler with nuclear weapons.

In the race also, are two other candidates. The Libertarian doesn’t know the name of a single foreign leader and he’s a right-wing nut. Yet he’ll pull some votes from right and left, and this too is good for an uneasy chuckle. We also have a Green Party candidate who will pull a significant number of votes away from the sole qualified candidate in the race, Hillary Clinton.

The laughing stops when you realize that most of the unworthy brat’s followers will vote for him, no matter what he says or does. And that many rational people seem to be missing this point, as they prepare to make protest votes for candidates who are not only unqualified, but also have exactly no chance of winning a single state. Thus, the unworthy brat can win. It is not funny.

There was one other qualified candidate in the race, his name is Bernie Sanders. He has endorsed and is campaigning for Hillary Clinton. I agree with him, and I am voting Dem even here in sunny “Blue State” California. Because this election is weird. It’s so weird it makes weird look normal. Anything could happen, and it’s an emergency situation. We must not allow our nation to be led and represented by its most horrible specimen.

To abandon the Democratic Party nominee in the general election would be to render all the efforts we made behind Bernie Sanders a complete waste. Please don’t do that. Please vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton, support her campaign in whatever ways you can, and encourage others to do so. After that business is done, we can address everything else, but first we must put a grown-up in the White House. And hopefully bury the GOP down the entire ticket for ever subjecting us to this shameful display.

The World Moves And It Bounces And Hops

Policies. We all have them. Here are mine, for this bizarre election season: I will not mention the name of, nor discuss the orange ugliness-dispenser. Others do a fine job of discussing that horror. I strongly disagree with my friends at MoveOn who seem to encourage people to go and protest at the Ugliness rallies. Dumb. Plays into the hands of captain Ugly. The child wants attention. Don’t provide it. Instead, focus on the remaining viable political party that has some interest in public service. That would be the Democratic Party. I will speak and write their names gladly. Go Bernie. Yay Elizabeth Warren for speaking up, I hope she’s president in 2020. I’ll support Bernie Sanders through the convention. On the day of the convention, my support will switch to the nominee. If it’s Clinton, so be it. The Dem platform has been moved significantly into less horrible directions by Sanders’ massive influence. That influence is fueled by the millions of us who have made his campaign YUGE! There still remains the possibility that Bernie will get the nomination. It’s the policy of the establishment within the Dem party, and the corporate news media, to declare this over. That is because they want us to stop pushing for Bernie and give up like good little complacent puppies. Well. Bernie supporters don’t seem to adhere to that policy. The coronation of the DNC’s appointee, Clinton, has been made complicated by the presence of an actual life-long progressive opponent. It’s inconvenient for the established powers, all this citizen participation! And that is good. It is my policy not to rethink and edit this down or organize it into neat paragraphs. I am angry that we have closed primaries. I am appalled that New York voters, most of whom who didn’t even know who Bernie was until recent months, had to be registered six months before the primary, in order to vote for him! That is the definition of “rigged.” It means a grassroots upset candidate like Bernie, has little chance against an already well-known and established candidate like Hillary. It’s disgraceful that the Dem party leadership is basically Clinton’s campaign team, rather than an unbiased facilitator of a primary election process. It’s ridiculous that there were not more Dem’s willing to oppose the designated appointee, and contribute to a real policy debate to create a well-informed platform! The list of un-democratic policies in the Democratic Party is endless. It is my policy to stop ranting now and get on about another day on this oh so beautiful and improbable sphere.

Pic by Shannon Wheeler.
Pic by Shannon Wheeler.

Lost It In Lossless

I spent most of last night listening to streaming music on TIDAL, using their “lossless” audio service. Down the rabbit hole voraciously, listening in tangents that arched from Sam Cooke to The Jam, with hours and worlds in between. The overwhelming value of these streaming services (including the lower-res audio ones like Spotify) is astonishing to me. And it boggles my mind, that a kid growing up today, will never know that a single, or an album, which people lovingly worked on and paid to produce, has any monetary worth at all. It’s cheaper than water. You don’t buy it, it just is. You get it. It’s yours.

David Lowery does a better job than I’ll attempt, of explaining the immense downside to this. He champions music copyright owners and recording artists, fighting the good fight to make streaming companies pay the creators of the content that gives them their value.

One reason I’m trying TIDAL Lossless now is BECAUSE it is more expensive. And because they claim to intend to pay music-creators fairly. Here’s hoping they succeed. $19.95 a month. It does sound better than the normal mp3 quality, and on some material that is really noticeable. You need a fast connection though, or it barfs. Details.

Having all this content, all this music, the “whole world at our fingertips” as the cliché goes, has a sad aspect to it. Because it reduces the value of everything. Nothing is special, if everything so easily available. We used to buy records. We’d have to like, walk, or take the bus, to a store! But this can also be heaven to a music lover. Running amok in a giant virtual record collection that takes up no physical space. Paradoxes abound.

A Luddite in me wants to scrap it all. Leave it for books, phonograph records, a dial phone. I seriously miss life before the Internet. Simultaneously, I love this crazy new interconnected world. Can we have both? Can we have it all? Yes. Except for the dial phone.

Here are some kittens.


Holding On and Letting Go

New Matt Jaffe video is just up –

I played guitar on that recording, along with young Matt and his fabulous Distractions. He’s a helluva songwriter and musician, and it’s been a pleasure to work with him and watch him go from open-mic wiz-kid to budding rock star. I’ve been by turns, a session player, coach, and even tour manager for this band, when they supported Blues Traveler on their US tour last fall.

“Holding On” is one of my faves in their live set, and I dig the “rollercoaster” metaphor in the vid. Occurred to me also, that “holding on” is like attachment in the Buddhist sense, the cause of suffering, and that gives the chorus its power. But I think too much. “Holding on, cos I don’t know what’s true.” Amen, brother.

Recently I’ve been making some new recordings of my own, and young Matt actually co-wrote and played guitar on one of them. So the circle is complete! More on that later. Cheers all!

Uptones Music and Interview Podcast with Joel Selvin

uptones-joel-selvin-podcastA while back Paul Jackson and I popped into Joel Selvin’s Basement Record Library to share some stories and play some Uptones records. OpenSourceMusic just published it in their new podcast, and I listened back to it. A blast from the past! Some of this music, I myself haven’t heard in years. Thanks Joel, and thanks everyone who ever came out to our concerts or enjoyed our recorded music. What a long, strange ska trip it’s been.

Coffee, Bernie, Sunshine, New York, California, and Nina Hagen. Yes.

It’s actually a coincidence that I’m drinking coffee from a #FeelTheBern mug, and wearing my Bernie For President T-shirt, as I listen to Democracy Now!’s coverage of Bernie’s big win in the Wisconsin primary.

It’s been great to watch the Bernie Sanders campaign gain momentum, and to see his message get out there, against the wishes of the Democratic Party establishment and corporate media. I’m proud to have supported Bernie’s run from the day he announced.

As we approach the very important New York primary, I’m just going to repeat my main reason for supporting Bernie Sanders: it is simply that I agree with him on almost every issue he has addressed in his long career. I strongly encourage anyone who is undecided, or unclear on Bernie’s policy positions and voting record, to take a look through this site: – Where does Bernie Sanders stand on the issues?

There’s a lot more there than just the main issues he is campaigning on.

As for Clinton, my reasons for opposing her candidacy are these: she changes her positions on major issues for political expediency. Often. Routinely. Except, in the area of foreign policy! Where she is consistently an extreme hawk. How any progressive can support her in the primary, knowing that, is beyond my comprehension. But you know, I’ll vote for her if she gets the nom’, yada yada etc. yawn

On the “other side!” A wingbat crazypants loonyclown show of sadism, that celebrates every foul trait humans are capable of. I wont print the names of their so-called candidates. They are beneath contempt. It’s not a question of conservative politics anymore, it’s a mass public meltdown of bigotry and stupid violence. It’s one big hate-crime, masquerading as a political party. It is the worst things you can say about it, only it’s even worse than that! As Van Jones said on Democracy Now! today:

We are now adapting to absurdity. The idea of complete racial hostility — no dog whistles; megaphones! — has now been normalized. That is dangerous. Now, we cannot rely, as progressives, on stupidity and strife in the Republican Party to stop this. The next guy will be smarter. The next woman will be smarter. And then what are we going to do?

Horrifying stuff.

The conspiracy theory I like best is the one that says this is all just elaborate theater, calculated to make Clinton look good by comparison. It’s nonsense, but it seems to have that effect on some voters nonetheless. I hear the argument often, “I agree with Bernie, but I’m supporting Hillary because the repub’s can’t be allowed to win!” This despite numerous polls which show Sanders winning a general election by a significantly larger margin than Clinton. Logic is out of fashion.

Incredible, though. We have, until January 20th of next year, a truly great president. Following the single worst. I only agree with President Obama on issues about 70% of the time, but I always like and respect him. Because, duh, what the hell are people missing about this guy? He’s a class act in a field rife with brutes. We wont see another like him. I helped elect and re-elect him, and I’d do it again today. Many said he could never win. I always answered the same way: “Do you want him to win? Then let’s make it happen.”

One thing is clear about the 2016 race. No one knows what is going to happen. Predicting and second-guessing is pointless. The thing to do is support the candidate you most agree with. The one who will best serve your interests. For a vast majority of American citizens, the choice is a no-brainer. It’s Bernie Sanders. Let’s make sure he wins New York and California, my coastal friends. It’s going to be up to us. Throw money. Make some calls. Do you want him to win? Then let’s make it happen.


It’s sunny and warm here like summer suddenly. Bye now. Love you. Here’s some Nina Hagen.

Drinking A Case Of Joni Mitchell With Pollyana Bush

As a guitar player, I’ve rarely used anything but standard tuning. I don’t even like capos. So it was a new challenge to learn three custom tunings to accompany the amazing and beautiful Pollyana Bush, on three Joni Mitchell songs. This is part of her concert series, “Full Circle, musings on Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, and Carole King.” We’ve done the gig once in the East Bay, and tomorrow we’re doing it in San Rafael.

One of the songs, “Case Of You” was challenging for another reason – I couldn’t not cry when we were doing it. Ridiculous, no? But seriously, once I got the song down, every time we’d play it and Pollyana started singing, my eyes would be raining. This leveled out after a while and I was composed during the performance. I can’t recall another song/singer ever affecting me in that particular way. Why am I sharing this? Oh, I don’t know, why not.

We’re doing “Case Of You” in an open-G# tuning, and I needed to figure out how to make it sound something like a dulcimer doubling a guitar. Luckily, Pollyana has a Taylor acoustic with a cutaway, which is perfect for this. Another song I’m playing on is “Help Me,” which is open-tuned to C Major 7th. Who does that!? It’s been a great experience learning these songs, and to sort of get a glimpse into Joni Mitchell’s creative process. You couldn’t play these songs in standard tuning, it’s physically impossible. I found myself wondering – does Joni play with the tuning and THEN write a song, or hear a song in her head, and then tune the instrument to fit? Both approaches maybe? She uses so many tunings, and they are wildly different. Now I’m fascinated enough to find some interviews with her, and see if she talks about this. Tackling this was made much easier by the wealth of info provided by Joni Mitchell herself, on her own website.

I’m thrilled to be on this gig, with some amazing cats, including the great Raz Kennedy. Raz called me asking if I knew anyone who could do this kind of guitar playing, a few weeks before the earlier concert. I recommended a few players but none were available, so I started learning the odd tunings to see if I could even get there. It turned out to be a really fun and rewarding guitar lesson, and now, as a consequence of this, I wrote a song in open-G! A good friend told me years ago the day you stop learning is the day you die. I guess I’m still alive.

Here’s the concert info, I think some tickets are still available if you are interested.

Oh, and Pollyana, this happened to your guitar case. But don’t worry, Lucy is very neat and does not have fleas.

Case Of Lucy
Case Of Lucy