Lindsey Buckingham

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Lindsey Buckingham has a brand new solo album available today. It’s called Lindsey Buckingham. By the time you read this I might have heard it four or five times – but as I’m writing this, I’m hearing it for the first time. I’m so excited about this. I have been for months. Lindsey Buckingham is one of my all-time favourite musicians. One of the people I’ve listened to the most in this world. I love his solo albums. And he is the reason I keep returning to Fleetwood Mac. I discover new depths to Tusk every single time I listen to it (and that’s most weeks at the moment). I really do believe that’s one of the all-time pop-music masterpieces.

What a hot run Lindsey was on across the very late 1970s and into the early 1980s. That’s my favourite period. He was guesting up a storm (Warren Zevon, Leo Sayer, Bob Welch, Walter Egan) and he was contributing to solo albums by his bandmates (Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood and Stevie Nicks). He was pumping out material as a solo artist – including the infectious theme tune for the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation and he was the producer, song-shaper and moody main man for the Fleetwood Mac brand. His magic touch makes the song Gypsy one of the group’s very best. (I’ve often said that’s Lindsey’s best guitar solo married to Stevie’s finest lyric). Go back and listen to that album (Mirage). It gets forgotten but it’s one of the band’s strongest statements in pop.

Lindsey is a genius.

I’m convinced of that.

And it’s one of my great thrills in life to know that this piece right here– a piece I wrote for a series of my favourite guitarists – is one of the most-read pieces of writing from my Off The Tracks website. Every month it ranks in the Top 10. How cool to know that people are reading that; perhaps incredulous, maybe doubting my sincerity. But they’re still reading it. (Or clicking on it at least).

I’ll never get sick of listening to Fleetwood Mac, reading about them – or writing about them. And Lindsey is one of the big drawcards for me. His wizardry is astounding. He finds melodies in places where others wouldn’t even know to look, or how to get started. His harmonic touch is deft and surprising. He can really shred too. I still reckon he’s one of the most underrated guitar players, which might seem silly – because those that know know – but, boy can he wail! That’s why I wrote the piece about him being the best guitarist in the world.

And if there’s not enough evidence on the Fleetwood Mac albums he helped to generate and on the solo albums that he’s pumped out across the 80s and then again particularly in the 00s and 2010s, well you can hear it in some of his surprising guest turns. He’s there on the brand-new album by Halsey. He was on a recent Nine Inch Nails record. He even turns up on the two Fleetwood Mac albums released when he wasn’t a member of the group. And his guitar is such a tonic. So crucial.

But so what, eh? These are the ravings of a fan! A lunatic up late at night just so he can greet the brand new, self-titled album with open arms and open ears and a huge grin on his face. Up far too late and typing away, almost hysterical. A killer guitar solo here. A tasteful bit of playing right there. What good is this if I’ve already decided he can do no wrong?

Well of course there are Lindsey Buckingham albums I like more than others. There are songs that are brilliant and others that are just okay. Not everything is a slam-dunk. But the new album instantly sounds like some of his finest work. Which is just as well, since it is being ushered into the world with the backstory that this is the album that got him fired from Fleetwood Mac the second or third time around.

Story goes, he had the album all lined up and wanted to tour. But it was the Mac’s 50th birthday. There are all sorts of layers – because it’s the world’s greatest and longest-running musical soap-opera. But Stevie got the shits with Lindsey. And Mick backed the racetrack runner that would always bring in the bucks. Next thing you know Neil Finn and Mike Campbell are scrambling to cover for Lindsey. They did a fine-enough job in the end. (I was at one of the NZ showstwo years ago almost to the day).

It’s not nothing that the two times Lindsey has left/been fired Fleetwood Mac has chosen two guitarists to try to cover/replace him.

Anyway, look. There are some gems to be found in the back-catalogue. There are deep cuts on Fleetwood Mac records. There is a solo anthology of Lindsey’s best bits. And there are songs galore that feature his unique touch. More than once, he has basically put his solo album plans on hold and handed the songs in to be shaped into the bulk of a new band record.

This time he didn’t. He wanted to put this album out. And tour it. Then go on the road again with the main job. But it didn’t happen. He was booted. Then he got sick. Recovered. Got divorced. Banked a few more crazy stories – and kept up the arrested-development bitching about Stevie (and she about him). And now he might well end up in the band again. For his chance at a victory lap blowing minds with his guitar.

It’s all just another weird chapter or two in the incredible Fleetwood Mac saga.

But regardless, this new album might be his best solo album – and its certainly his best since those brilliant early 80s gems that he just happened to plop out while still making some of the best Fleetwood Mac music of that era. Not only that, he often fixed and fussed over the songs that Christine and Stevie brought in half-finished, or lacking a certain dynamic, a particular sheen.

What a phenomenon.

So check out Lindsey Buckingham by Lindsey Buckingham today. And marvel at his brilliance. And I’ve made you a wee playlist of some of his cameo spots from across the years. Which further shows the range, and highlights his magic-touch.


And because it’s Friday, I’ve also made you the 30th edition of the weekly Something For The Weekend playlist.

Giddy-up!

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Rewriting School Field Trips

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It was about 30 years ago. School field trip. We were on a bus. The way school field trips usually started. Well, they started with a sense of relief that it wasn’t a regular day of school. You walked in a little lighter that day.

The bus would take you to a farm – the closest you got to the ‘field’ in field trip. Or the bus would take you to a shopping mall. Or to something that was very nearly a museum where volunteers tinkered with old engines and bits and pieces they’d restored. And you had a sheet of questions and maybe your name was attached to one of them – there’d be a worksheet component. You’d ask out the questions. A few of you selected to deliver the wooden prose, like the world’s laziest, worst organised press conference. And a reluctant interviewee would build a flimsy answer out of mumble, and everyone would scratch it down onto the paper, holding it against their hand and writing very badly as a result.

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That’s the generic school field trip. As I remember it.

But there’s one I’ll always remember – above and beyond. It was different to all of the others. I doubt they’d even allow such a thing now. There would be letters of complaint. There would be protests. There would be, erm, blood…

And it was never made clear what we were supposed to be doing – or learning – on this school trip. But I still maintain this had the most profound effect. I learned more on this day then I perhaps ever did at school (and I kinda liked school, by the way). I have thought about this often. This trip to the meat works. This bus ride to see how death works.

Earlier this week – I finally articulated some of the memory of this experience.

(Play AFFCO by Skeptics, optional)

The Most Learning I Ever Did At School Was In One Day On A Field Trip To The Abattoir

We watched the cows get loaded up
the ramp where they walked to their
death, a fear in their eyes. They put
their heads down low as the bolt went
through their ear. And then a big dull
sound as they hit the floor. A chain
dragging them, one-by-one, by the ankle
and lifting them up to hang in stench.

And then a guy would walk forward and
put a huge blade to the stomach, a gush of
blood hit his boots and the concrete floor,
as he pulled guts and bits – that already
looked like so many sausages. These were
flung to the side without regard and the
chain would swing the body to the side,
and it would begin again. And again.

We stood frozen for a bit. Then we were
herded along to the next stop. No bolt in
our ear – but as we made it to the end of
the line we were gifted a cow’s eye in a bag.
These were thrown about on the bus, slipped
down the back of girls’ uniforms; remaining
ones poured, like pet goldfish from a bag,
to hide at the bottom of drinking fountains.

*


What’s your strongest – most haunting – memory of a school field trip?


For a happier experience reading about Cows, may I suggest The Cows by Lydia Davis. A single story of perfectly controlled observation.


If you’re after a great book recommendation (not about cows), this week I’m suggesting Puff Piece by John Safran. I’ve just finished it. Loved it. It helps that I’m a fan of the Australian journalist and filmmaker’s work. But what a brilliant examination of the sheer soullessness of marketing and PR spin. It brings to mind this legendary Bill Hicks clip.

Oh, and back to the cows. Weird but true, that same year of the school field trip I discovered Faith No More’s Angel Dust album. One of the best records I know. One of the albums of my life. Its back cover forever linked in my mind to the events I described. Its sound and feel and anger and flow a perfect score.


It was also the same year I discovered Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother. Also linked – given its cover artwork – and a much gentler but fitting musical mood and soundscape too. Well, my mind has forever linked these things.

Happy hump day.

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Top 10 Tarantino – Worst to Best

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Over the weekend I wrote out a memory of watching Pulp Fiction six times at the movies.

There’s a line in there about how it’s not even my favourite of Quentin Tarantino’s movies. But of course, it was at the time. Easy enough, it was only his second feature. And I was on board right away, watching Reservoir Dogs when it was released to video – I think my brother had seen it at a film festival and came back from the big smoke with news of it. We gathered around as a family to learn from him.

Funnily enough, one of my favourite QT movies didn’t grab me immediately. When I first saw Jackie Brown – in a sneak preview – I was a tiny bit disappointed. I guess that can happen when you’ve seen the movie made ahead of it six times on the big screen, right?

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Anyway, I posted this wee memory of Pulp and was promptly messaged a bunch of times asking me what my actual favourite Tarantino film is. And, yeah, I’ve seen them all and I like at least something about all of them. But I’m not sure my list is like your list. Or the lists you read from time to time (ie: ahead of the release of any new movie from Q). So I thought I’d have a go at ranking them worst to best. Reminder, I don’t flat out hate any of them. They all have something to recommend about them. But here goes.

10. Inglourious Basterdsfrom the stupid spelling to the crawling length of it, this film lost me on impact. A shame, because the first 25 minutes is about the best thing Tarantino has ever shot. The angles, the tension, the set-up – all, erm, ‘glourious’. After that, nah. I just got so bored. Great soundtrack, but. Then again, that’s – always – a given.

9. Django Unchained– also too long. Way, way too long. And too silly. But again, it has some amazing set-pieces, some terrific music and it carries, or is carried by, some superb performances. It just lost me in the same way that Basterds did. Too self-consciously cartoonish and pleased with itself.

8. Death Proof – this is QT showing us his workbook. This is a journal entry of a movie. All his films are love-letters to the cinema that has inspired him. (That might be true of many filmmakers but it’s so overt with Quentin). So I loved the grime-feel and look and flow of this movie, inconsequential though it is. It’s lesser Quentin. Sure. Obviously. And still a little too long given it’s essentially one half of a double-feature. Trimmed to Reservoir-length you’d have a winner

7. Kill Bill: Volume 1 – like a sharper, better Death Proof – this is also a big scrapbook-showcase. And it felt excellent watching it for the first time. And okay rewatching it. But as you might already be guessing, and as you’ll see with the second half of the list, I prefer the Tarantino films where some actual heart is on display.

6. The Hateful Eight– I don’t know anyone that even likes this film. And plenty of people talked proudly of skipping it. And I’ll look like a hypocrite here – since I bemoaned the length of some of his other films, and yet this one is not only the longest but also the slowest. However, I just loved the big, slow-crawl feel of this. A big screen experience for sure. I went alone and lapped this up. It felt the most like a stage play of any of his films. And that suited me just fine at the time. Also: Morricone soundtrack. (Actual score). Ding!

5.  Pulp Fiction – told you it wasn’t even my favourite. Loved it at the time. Loved it a little too much possibly. And so, it feels the most dated, the most self-conscious, the most pleased with itself, and it’s also the most imitated (structure, narrative flow, multiple points of view/stories). I still loved it very much and it had such impact. But of all his films it’s the time/place one for me. I can never get back the feeling of watching this in the mid-90s. In a cinema. In a group.

4. Reservoir Dogsfor a Billy Joel amount (The Longest Time!) this was my number one, or second on the list. Since it started everything. And since I saw it before any of the others, didn’t have to search back for it after Pulp. It’s taut and low-budget charming and it has humour and tension, and its soundtrack is still influencing movie soundtracks. But I’m also too sick of it now to list it at one or two.

3. Kill Bill: Volume 2not often a sequel beats the original. But this is a special kind of sequel, in that it’s part two, a continuation, a second half. And it’s where the heart of the film lies. It’s long, complicated and it’s not always the Tarantino film to watch – for flow and vibe and feelgood escapism. But it is one of the best examples of ‘heart’ in his filmmaking. This movie has a lot in it and a lot to it. And shows that only Tarantino really knew how to get the goods from Michael Madsen.

2. Jackie Brown– I like it when a second screening of something really introduces you to the magic. This is a classic example. First watch I was upset that it wasn’t Pulp Fiction Two. Subsequent viewings remind me that’s the very best thing about this film. It’s also the very best example of Tarantino channelling all that he loved about 70s cinema into something of his own. Huge heart in this film. Charismatic performances from two leads that were basically forgotten – and forged decent comebacks from this – and one of the all-time greatest compilation soundtracks (no real score as such, just soul bangers).

1. Once Upon A Time In HollywoodI don’t understand why anyone didn’t like this. This to me is perfection. It is everything that QT has always been aiming for – his own truth, utter absurdity, and lashings of both. He is the kid in class that wants to spray-paint his tag across the face of the Mona Lisa. But only after doing all of his homework. Maybe not the homework the teacher prescribed. But certainly, the homework he deemed important.


So that’s my list. The films Tarantino directed. For the record I love True Romance and feel like it could be my favourite – and wonder how Tarantino would have directed that (nothing wrong with the way it was made, just curious). And though both he and Oliver Stone have had goes at disowning the final product, I was also a huge fan of Natural Born Killers. But they’re both in that 90s space (with Pulp and Reservoir). I wonder how I’d feel about them now. (To the rewatch list!)

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What would your Quentin Tarantino list of favourites be? How would you rank them worst to best?

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Warren Storm Was a Legend, The King of Swamp-Pop

Sad news this week, Warren Storm died. The drummer and singer was a legend. In the business for over 60 years, Storm had several careers within music. He was a session drummer for blues and R’n’B stalwarts including Slim Harpo, Lazy Lester, Lightnin’ Slim and Charles Sheffield. He was a jukebox singer making weepies for cheap and quick release – and then through his Cajun upbringing and his deep love of Creole music he combined aspects of country, western swing and rhythm and blues to pioneer a genre of music that is known as swamp-pop.


Storm recorded hundreds of sessions as a back-up singer or pick-up drummer and hundreds more as the lead attraction. Sometimes singing and drumming. Sometimes he was just doing one of those skills. Always to his version of perfection – understated, simple.

In the 1980s he was a house musician for various juke-joints and dance-clubs, playing anything and everything that was popular. Stepping up to moonlight at the mic, sitting in behind the kit to drive home all manner of country, pop and rock’n’roll classics.

There’s also the fact that he amassed fans that didn’t even know he played the drums. There were people that just bought the singles where he was the singer. An amazing career really.

Or series of careers.

His recording career dates back to 1956. And he recorded right up to 2019.

And though his passing will not net the same interest as the recent swell of tributes for Charlie Watts (and R.I.PI wrote this for RNZ’s site about Charlie and spoke on air too) there have been a few pieces about Warren. He might not have achieved the same level of household-name recognition, but his playing was important. He was there near the birth of rock’n’roll and his uncomplicated playing style is a huge influence on many drummers.

About 20 years ago, he joined the Lil’ Band o’ Gold. A Louisiana swamp-pop supergroup. They became the custodians for his legacy; just one of the very special things about this band.

A documentary is out there – it’s well worth checking – The Promised Land: A Swamp Pop Journey. And the band toured New Zealand a couple of times in the early 2010s. They were memorable shows. I saw them twice. The 2012 show in support of an album of Fats Domino covers was brilliant but the one that had my jaw on the floor was the September 2010 gig. I remember it so vividly. It was the weekend we moved into our house. I was exhausted and elated. And then I strolled down the road, my new location very handy suddenly for walking on into town to see gigs. I knew what I was getting, in the sense that I’d seen the film, I’d loved the album, I’d even interviewed the band’s “Leader” C.C. Adcock.But I didn’t know that I’d be getting nearly three hours of music. So many hits from so many eras and so much beautiful energy and musicianship all on the one stage. It was easily one of the greatest gigs I’ve ever experienced.

And I did that fanboy-thing and reached for the setlist. Because I had to hold onto something from that show. I had to have something. I’ve still got that setlist. It is right above my desk. I look at it every day and most nights. I think about the energy that band of ego-less heroes offered. And how Warren Storm was one of the stars of the night. But he was just there in service to the songs.

That was nearly 11 years ago.

When Warren sang I Don’t Wanna Know that night I was almost in tears. It was such a beautiful performance. Like a reluctant victory lap.

And when the band played Lazy Lester’s Sugar Coated Love I couldn’t believe my luck! Here was a song I’d adored for years and never expected to hear covered at a gig. But wait, there’s more. Straight after playing it, C.C. Adcock announces that Warren was the drummer on the original session! That set me off. I started trying to find some of the many things he’d played on. Realising of course that I already had some of them – without even knowing it. It’ll be the same for you. You’ll have records in your collection that feature Warren Storm. (I’m still finding some).

You’ll certainly have recordings of songs that feature drummers that took some influence from Warren.

What a legacy that is. In many ways that is the ultimate.

When I interviewed C.C. Adcock – and I included the link up above because there’s a lot of good stories in it – he told me that he was pleased there was a documentary (and the albums and tours) simply for capturing some of Warren’s stories. And having him celebrated. Adcock talked lovingly of many of the members in the band – but Warren was the one he spoke about the most.

"I just thought that now was the time," [Adcock says of the film], "to get this down - to get it on film, it's the story of a bunch of people, of an era, of a style of music and I just thought it had to be caught while these guys are knocking around. You got Warren Storm, the guy is, he's, well, he's a legend to me – and it's just nice to think that people are going to get to see that. I mean he's one of the last few from that time – that's stayed dedicated to the music. With Warren you've got a direct link back to the heart of rock'n'roll."

Warren fell ill last month and was hospitalised. So, the news of his passing was not a shock – in that sense. He was 84. He was unwell. He had been off the road and away for the studio for a time; for the longest time in his long, low-key but brilliant career.

I wanted to not only mark his passing and mention his legacy – and how lucky I feel to have seen him play live not once but twice – I wanted, also, to unpack some of that music to you. So I’ve made a little Warren Storm starter kit playlist. It’s just a few sessions he played on and then a few of the songs he sang – as well as some Lil’ Band recordings. There’s a lot more out there of course.


And if you want something other than Warren Storm today – and over the weekend – I have the 29th iteration of the Something For The Weekend playlist.

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Lockdown Poetry

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I thought I’d share some poems I’ve written in lockdown. I’m not sure they signify a state of mind – then again that’s exactly what poetry does. And all the time. Anyway, here are some of the newest poems I’ve written – across the last couple of weeks:

Two Fires

The first dream was simple, we were getting a tattoo, we both
agreed it would be a slight twist on the Margaret Atwood quote.

On our wrists it would read “Two fires informed us…”
The second dream was split neither part at all pleasing.

First I discovered our letterbox filled with vermin. Tails matted
to form the ratking – they were writhing and screeching –

I woke to pee. Returned to sleep and hours later the dream returned,
I crept to the mailbox to see if they were alive, or were they even there?

My brother was grabbing them out, in handfuls – dropping them
into a sack. He was laughing as he clubbed them with a bat –

each efficient scoop completed with a baseball thwack. ‘They won’t
be back’ he called as he left. Swinging the sack over his shoulder and
leaving like a Cut Price Santa. He threw a match to torch the
letterbox. ‘You can’t let them nest. Burn the rats or they’ll burn you’.  

*


Bill Conti Scores The Great American Novel

People talk about The Great American Novel
like it’s a thing. It is a thing – but it’s not a book,
and it’s never going to be. Bruce Springsteen

probably thinks he’s written The Great
American Novel. But he just dragged
John Steinbeck down into rock’n’roll.

There are many photographers that have
taken The Great American Novel and made it
the mythos that informs their work. These days

TV is The Great American Novel. Which means
you can name The Sopranos or Breaking Bad or
basically pick your poison. But the Great

American Novel cannot exist – because it could never
be truly and always great. That’s why the
Rocky franchise of films is the closest to that truth.

*

On The Dreams We Had As Children

I just wanted to play drums and write
and I’ve done both, and though not
to the level I had probably hoped,

it’s possibly been close. (One or twice
anyway). And I’ve even been paid for
both – and if not all the time, more often

than I might have once guessed. Some
people never get that far. Or live that
long. So, this isn’t bad at all.

*

So Proud. So Very Proud.

We watched that West of Memphis
documentary recently; the one that
Peter Jackson financed. Eddie Vedder’s

in there, the Bono of grunge. And he’s
all this and that about atrocities and
injustices and then up with an acoustic guitar

to offer his own injustice and atrocity, barely
covering Bob Dylan and doing to the song
what should only put you in jail. And given

the film’s subject matter, about the unfair
jailing of three young men accused of
crime they likely did not commit, it was

my wife who was out with the line quick-smart,
as soon as Vedder strangled a lyric and
mutilated a line. “They should fuckin’ lock

him up instead”, she said. You know I’ve never
been so proud in all my married life. I wiped
away a tear. So proud. So very proud.

*

Gig / Economy

I saw so many shows, more than most, more
than just about anyone I know. And if I stop

to think I can name dozens that meant the world –
but it’s also easy to think of hundreds that were

not up to much. This isn’t the wiring of my brain.
This is the curse of such privilege. It was an honour

to see so many shows – back when we had shows and it
still shows that I think of them. But we won’t ever

have shows like those again. They’re gone. All that’s
left is memories. Preserve them now – they’ll be all

that’s left. You’ll see.

*

Localised Distribution of Feelings

You may now click and collect
your feelings, gather yourself

and go find that thing you never
needed – but couldn’t be without

for the last interminable fortnight.
Once you’ve clicked, you’ll feel

a hit, after you collect you’ll return
to neglecting it – or at least within

a day. But hey, your feelings
just want a tickle, they just want

a wee scratch. Hiding there down
under the keys. Sprinkling themselves

across many browsers. Support
localised distribution of feelings.

*

Average Perceptions of Time

it’s never too late –
until it is.

*

soon, she said –
but really meant now

*

back in my day –
was how it started

*

tomorrow is a new day –
though not always

*

see you later –
terrible last words

*

Recipe

There’s a lemon essence to our existence
on the days when everything is crisp.

Slow days come with the trudge of bewilderment
and they hurt like a slap in the cold.

But when we walk together, when we work
together, it’s a heart-rush of satisfaction.


*

Cuppa

You can microwave your coffee, but you cannot
re-heat tea. This has always bugged me, so much
so that I believe it’s why I moved to coffee almost
exclusively.  I’m trying to steady myself back
into tea – because I like a good  strong cup, dash
of milk. And also I quite like the herbals (most of ‘em).
Though never sure I get my money’s worth.

So many cups of tea down the drain, like dreams, like
job interviews, like failed paths – ones I never walked.
Whereas coffee sits in that cup knowing I don’t have to
work hard, will always return to heat it up. Coffee rewards
my laziness. Tea wants me to be more on time. I should trust
tea. But it’s never trusted me. Coffee knows I’m good for it.
And so, has me believing it’s good for me.



Okay, it’s pretty clear to see there are some lockdown themes and references there.

National Poetry Day was postponed because of lockdown so I made an e-book of poems which you can still get by clicking on that link there. Just $0.99 US. It’s got poems from 2020/2021.

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