My musical year was pockmarked more by what I didn’t go to than what I did. Elvis Presley, despite being dead, played Radio City Music Hall in February. I really wanted to see that big band and those back-up singers playing behind Elvis himself on the big screen complete with in-between song patter but, as usual, I stayed home…yet again. Hey, I’m getting old. And my patience with assholes has worn thin. Even at Paul Simon at NJPAC, there were assholes to the right of me and assholes directly behind me acting as if they were at a ball game instead of seeing a genius-at-work.
I did go see The Fab Faux at The State Theatre in Easton, PA, and was thrilled once again to see this Beatle music that’s in my DNA played to perfection like an orchestra would play Mozart. And when I went to see local band Redz Vision, Red called me up to the stage to sing “Roadhouse Blues” by The Doors. It was a fine moment, although, without my glasses, I had a hard time reading the lyrics on the music stand. Still, I got to shake my ass like back when I fronted The Rock Garden at all those Rutgers frat parties in the ‘70s.
Trombone Shorty at the MusicFest Café in Bethlehem, PA, didn’t ask me to sing but had me dancing for two hours straight. Didn’t sit down once. And Taj Mahal in the same room made me literally swoon at his real deeeeeeeep blues, but was mean to me outside the venue. As old age and infirmity sets in, I’d rather lie down and hear a CD anyway. To that end, these were my favorites: Gregg Allman (Low Country Blues), Ambrose Akinmusire (When The Heart Emerges Glistening), kd lang (Sing It Loud), Tara Nevins (Wood And Stone), The Cars (Move Like This), Tom Waits (Bad As Me), Shelby Lynne (Revelation Road), Paul Simon (So Beautiful Or So What), Jeff Bridges (Jeff Bridges), Terri Lyne Carrington (The Mosaic Project) and Oz Noy (Twisted Blues).
Reading-wise, I cancelled my Esquire and USA Today subscriptions but kept reading Rolling Stone despite them not even including Steve Howe (Yes) and Martin Barre (Jethro Tull) in their “100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time” (at least they included Paul Simon). Books I loved in 2011 included Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (2010), The Ragman’s Son by Kirk Douglas (1988), Townie by Andre Dubus III (2011), The Hilliker Curse: My Pursuit of Women by James Ellroy (2010), Dream Boogie: The Triumph Of Sam Cooke by Peter Guralnick (2005), Up In The Old Hotel And Other Stories (1993) and My Ears Are Bent (2008) by Joseph Mitchell, Rape: A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates (2004), Just Kids by Patti Smith (2010), Life by Keith Richards (2010), Men At Work: The Craft Of Baseball by George Will (1990), October Men: Reggie Jackson, George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin, And The Yankees’ Miraculous Finish In 1978 by Roger Kahn (2003), The Confessions Of Henry Lee Lucas by Mike Cox (1991), Hell’s Angels: A Strange And Terrible Saga by Hunter S. Thompson (1966) and The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (2004).
Movies were mostly digested at home at The Greenblatt Cinema where there’s no assholes with the shining lights of their ever-present cell phones. I’m hardly the critic when comes to movies as I tend to love everything but certain films did, indeed, stand out in 2011: George Nolfi’s The Adjustment Bureau, Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood, Neil Burger’s Limitless, Duncan Jones’ Source Code (David Bowie’s son!) and Kenneth Branagh’s Thor.
Cable television series were a huge part of my entertainment year also what with Hung, Dexter, Big Love, Breaking Bad, Treme, Californication, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Eastbound & Down, Elvis Costello’s Spectacle and True Blood. I don’t have HBO or Showtime so I depend upon Netflix for these shows. This means I have yet to thrill to Boardwalk Empire or The Walking Dead. And no, I don’t like Mad Men.
The highlight of the year, though, hands down, had to be the entrance of a new human being into the world named Jack, and, thus, me becoming a grandpa.