Monday, March 5, 2018

Ben Gets Stu'ed

The first Sunday in March, so runners, especially those in training for April's Boston Marathon, know what that means - Stu's 30K, or 18.6 miles through one of the hilliest courses around, through Clinton, West Boylston and the environs around the Wachusett Reservoir
This year, Ben Nicholson is representing E Street Nation in the Boston Marathon so it was his turn to take center stage at Stu's - with a little help from some of his fellow E Streeters
Barry was there to start things off with Ben, and was sorely tempted to log the entire 18.6 - the only thing stopping him was the back 12
Reservoir Dogs
Even Spider-Man was impressed with Ben's web-slinging, thwipping skills
Heading into mile 9, slogging up one of the course's longest hills, we had our support team in place for us waiting at the bakery named after this blog
Not really, but damned if it isn't a Wicked Good name
Three Wicked Good Cookies in their own right
After the hairpin turn at mile 10, Ben starts the long back road trek getting him into the back half of the course. Not to mention the pace car handoff from the Old Man to the Young Stud
And there at the halfway mark, once again, are Ben's two biggest cheerleaders, his mom and dad
Getting to the 15 mile mark, these two jungle cats are honored to represent Wakanda Forever
Ready to take on the steepest downhill on the course, one more high five from mom as the reservoir fades into the rear view mirror
Andrew looks a tad surprised to see Obi-Wan waiting for them again after the course's steepest uphill
I think they're both getting ready to slug the unofficial race photographer
It's either another Wakanda Forever moment, or it's getting damn cold out there in Clinton
Across the finish line, nothing but bear hugs from Ben's biggest supporters
Wear that hardware proudly Ben!
43 days to go (as of this writing, probably 42 or less as you're reading it) to the starting line in Hopkinton. Based on his performance at Stu's, Ben's ready for the final stretch.  If you can handle the hills of Stu's, you're ready to take on the fabled hills of Newton, Ben.
Keep on training, keep on forging ahead, and keep on drinking plenty of water.  And as long as Scott's not watching, have another bowl of clam chowder!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Rain Reigns

Been a while since we blogged a bit, so got a lot of catching up to do.  Let's start it off with a bit of a Magical Mystery Tour, shall we?

Me lovely bride Jackie surprised me with a delightful Christmas gift, that being a pair of tickets to see Rain, the Beatles tribute band performing at the Wang Theatre in Boston.  My wife knows I'm a bit of a Beatles enthusiast, though I pale in comparison to the like of my brother, Jimmy, or our late friend, Martin Brewer.  But I'm not too shabby when it comes to the Fab Four.  They are literally the first band I remember listening to as a young lad.  Partly because it was the only music that my brother played at all hours of the day, but also because the music resonated with a young Lad from Lowell.  My respect and admiration for the entire catalogue of their music over such a short span of years has only grown exponentially over the ensuing decades.

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more
Sadly, I've only seen Sir Paul live, and wasn't able to catch the others during their heydey.  But somewhere in the early 1980s, my brother took me to see Beatlemania, one of the early national touring Beatles cover band, and it was certainly the next best thing available at the time.  (Rain predates Beatlemania, by the way.)
Flash forward nearly 30 years, and there I was sitting with thousands of other Beatles enthusiasts at the Wang, eagerly waiting to see this incarnation of tribute bands.  Rain has previously played on Broadway, and features a somewhat chronological history of the band, playing nearly three dozen of their songs during the 2 1/2 hour performance.

The foursome were joined on stage by Mark Lewis, the band's manager, founding member and keyboardist.  Opening the night was Chachi Loprete, whose local Breakfast with the Beatles I've been listening to on Sunday mornings before our group runs for years.  He gave away an LP version - they still make those?!? - of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the album released more than 50 YEARS AGO (June 1, 1967), to a trivia question answer winner in the audience.  So for those Beatles fans among us, here you go:  On the album cover, Paul McCartney wears a powder-blue military style uniform, sporting an OPP badge on his left arm.  What's the OPP stand for? (See below)
Answer?  O.P.P. stands for the Ontario Provincial Police.  The patch was apparently given to John Lennon the day after their August 17, 1966 concert in Toronto, Canada by a summer student working in the garage of the Police Headquarters as the group was being transferred to a police van for the trip to the airport.  So there you go, your Beatles news nugget this fine winter morning!

And with that, we were off to the Ed Sullivan show, February 9, 1964 (four months before I made my own debut), and the British Invasion had begin, with more than 70 million viewers tuning in to watch the Lads from Liverpool in their Chesterfield suits.  Truly, Beatlemania had begun in earnest.

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

From there, Rain moved on to the raucous sounds from August 15, 1965, when the Beatles took the stage in their nehru jackets at Shea Stadium in front of 55,000 screaming fans, most of whom probably couldn't hear a single note from the Fab Four over the ear-shattering screams of the throngs of hysterical fans.  Ron Howard's recent documentary Eight Days a Week captured the manic insanity of this event quite nicely, and at the same time, sadly.
From there, it was on to one of the greatest concept albums of all time, played in its entirety, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 

I read the news today, oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well, I just had to laugh
I saw the photograph
This next pic goes out to my brother, the encyclopedia of all things Beatles.

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?

Newspaper taxis appear on the shore
Waiting to take you away
Climb in the back with your head in the clouds
And you're gone

You say you'll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it's the institution
Well, you know
You'd better free your mind instead

The group veered away from the full Beatles setlist only once, and perhaps fittingly given the nation's current unrest, with Lennon's  Give Peace a Chance.

All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance 

The long and winding road, that leads, to your door
Will never disappear, I've seen that road before
It always leads me here, lead me to your door

Take a bow boys, you done the Beatles quite honorably. 

I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition.

For more info about Rain, visit the band's website here:

And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love
You make

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Living Life to the Max

Regular readers of this blog have heard me write on several occasions about our dear friend Martin Brewer, who we lost at way too early an age.  In the wake of this passing, his family was kind enough to share his voluminous CD collection with us, and it was dream catalog of most of the music we E Streeters have grown up with.
And among each of his deluxe boxed sets of music, each CD would contain a bonus CD, featuring another smaller, indie band that Martin enjoyed and felt a link to the cover artist, along, in most cases with a ticket stub from one of the hundreds of concerts when he had seen the featured performer, from throughout his decades-long rock and roll pilgrimages to venues around the globe.  Barry, Andrew, John and I were fortunate to log quite a few of those concerts with said Martin stateside, and on the other side of the pond, folks like Paul, Andy, Frank and Gillian were fortunate enough to have experienced the shows in London and its surrounding environs.
Where's this post going, you may be wondering?  Wonder no more.
Since Barry, Andrew and I attended Martin's services outside Littlehampton, England, we've had many a conversation about Martin's zest for life, and his willingness to always say yes to an event or an experience, because as life would come to show us, our time here doesn't always last as long as we'd like it to.  So go for the gusto when you have the opportunity.
Which brings me to a recent windswept night at Laugh nightclub in Boston, attending an unforgettable concert experience - Max Weinberg's Jukebox -along with my brother Jimmy and fellow Bruce Springsteen veteran Ken Gordon and his wife Breena.
And with that, the long-winded story behind this photo and the others to follow: (and despite what many already think - these are NOT photoshopped, as rock and roll photographer to the stars Ken Gordon can attest to - there's also video)
If you ever have a chance to check out the E Street Band's drummer solo tour - GO.  He and his back-up band, the Weeklings, a Beatles homage band out of Jersey, scroll about 200 songs on video screens around the venue, and he encourages the audience to shout out which of those songs they want to see the band play.  As a result, you NEVER get the same setlist for the band's performances.
Our setlist in Boston opened with Glad All Over from the Dave Clark Five, into Fortunate Son from Creedence Clearwater Revival, and then peppered through a litany of some of my favorite songs of all time, including I Wanna Be Sedated by the Ramones, and American Girl from Tom Petty, part of which can be viewed here:

If you haven't seen the Weeklings, they're quite an entertaining group in their own right, and it shouldn't come as a surprise that the songs to choose from included dozens of Beatles hits.  Surprisingly, though, there weren't a TON featured this night in Boston
We did, however, get to see Max channel some Keith Moon on the drum frenzy of I Can See for Miles, clips of which can be seen in these two links:

With the smaller venue, akin to the Garry Tallent show I blogged about earlier in the summer, Max had no problem getting up close and personal with his fans, as he related tales of his youth, his rock and roll upbringing, and of course, his time touring with the the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, booty-shaking, love-making, earth-quaking, Viagra-taking, justifying, death-defying, legendary E Street Band! 
At one point, he brought a 13-year-old up to give it a go on the drums 
And then came the final song of the night, and the full circle of events I started talking about up top.
Max asked if anyone in the crowd knew all the words to Springsteen's Glory Days.
Without hesitation, and with a tip of my Thunder Road cap to Martin, my hand shot right up, no hesitation.  My brother looked at me incredulously.  Partly because he was surprised at my zeal, but maybe also because he fancied himself the singer in the family.  He's just more along the unrecognizable pitch and decibels of Bob Dylan.
Max beckoned me up onto the stage, and I found myself standing at one mic, along with a bearded stranger who was also clearly both a Springsteen fan, and a music aficionado.  We swapped cell phones to capture the moment for social media posterity.
Here's his pic of me 
And here's further proof, of him taking said pic
Come to find out the next morning, via the miracles of the interwebs and Twitter that my fellow stage performer was none other than Lowell's Chuck Kuenzler, who happens to be a nephew of my good friend, Mike Kuenzler.
Happy to share the stage with such a music buff as you, Chuck!
Here's me returning the stage pic favor
At song's end, with Max's big drum solo finale, it was time to bow down and pay homage to the Mighty One himself
And naturally, get a high five for my singing debut.  Not really, but I couldn't pass up the chance to thank my favorite rock drummer for the decades of enjoyment he's helped provide through his touring with Bruce and the rest of the band.
So there you have it. Probably my first and last time ever sharing stage with a rock and roll legend - Max, not Chuck, mind you.
Thank you Martin, for instilling in me the confidence to carpe diem, and in this case, to carpe microphone and write my own little chapter in rock and roll history.
So to quote the singers in other band I blogged about this week, the Who,
Meet the New Boss.
DEFINITELY not the same as the Old Boss.

Now I think I'm going down to the well tonight 
and I'm going to drink till I get my fill 
And I hope when I get old I don't sit around thinking about it 
but I probably will 
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture 
a little of the glory of, well time slips away 
and leaves you with nothing mister but 
boring stories of glory days 

Friday, November 10, 2017

It's Who, You Know!

Lots of pipe-cleaning to do on the blogging front, so let's toss it back to a special evening at Mohegan Sun, as the E Streeters took their rock-and-roll 2017 tour to see one of Britain's greatest exports, The Who, still rocking it out half a century later, albeit with a different band composition than when they first burst on the scene.
(A little behind the scenes of blogging?  Currently streaming Tommy, one of my desert island albums in the background even as we type.  It's a little tale you may have heard about a deaf, dumb, and blind boy.)
This outing would mark the first time seeing the epic band for at three of the road travelers, and the band would not disappoint this evening.
Before we got to the rocking and rolling, though, we needed to make a couple of pitstops to stimulate the local economy.  Speaking of stimulation, luckily Tommy - the E Streeter, not the Who operatic messiah - wasn't with us to pay "homage" to his one-gloved wonder idol, MJ himself. 
From there, we were off to be Pinball Wizards in our own right.  Or at least Game of Thrones slot wizards.
In a scene straight out of Tommy's Holiday Camp, we put in our earplugs, put on our eyeshades, we knew where to put the cork, and started winning big bucks 
Andrew, however, was slightly skeptical of John's slot skills
Me - I was looking for a little face hugger action.  Watch out for them Alien eggs!
Finally, it was showtime, and our seats were primo, about eight rows from the stage.  We were getting a tad over-excited with anticipation, but luckily, the signs were there to help us.
Stepping into the WayBack machine with Mr. Peabody and Sherman, a little bit of E Streeter Who history for you eager readers.
Back in 1979, my brother Jimmy took me to one my earliest live concert experiences, seeing the Who at the Boston Garden on December 16.
Unfortunately, this was one of the first shows the band did after a tragedy in Cincinnati, Ohio, when 11 fans were killed and 26 others injured during a crowd rush for general seating at the Riverfront Coliseum.  And yes, with heightened security in place, this was the legendary carving knife event - the likes of which I Can't Explain within the confines of this blog.
Also at the Boston show, some inane fan threw a cherry bomb firework onto the stage during the first few songs, prompting Who frontman Pete Townshend to stop the show dead and wait until security dragged the idiot out (after challenging him to come up on stage so Townshend could first kick his ass.)
Jimmy, famously, had also been at the March 9, 1976 Who show at the Garden when drummer extraordinaire Keith Moon famously stood up at his drum kit and proceeded to pass out, forcing the band to outright cancel the show, sending the 15,000 fans in attendance into a frenzy as they scrambled around the Garden floor to find the ticket stubs they had already discarded.
The band wrote Moon's collapse off as "the flu."  History would later peel back the curtain a bit more on the sordid backstage antics of the demented drummer.  Let's just  say  rumors of elephant tranquilizers abounded in the years to follow.
At the Mohegan show, Andrew was singing right along with Roger Daltrey and Townshend for most of the show.  He Drowned in euphoria right along with the rest of the arena, especially for the Quadrophenia cuts
Back to some Who History 101: It was September, 1978, and I had just started my freshman year at St. Joseph's Regional High School.  In that first month, I would meet a series of friends that, incredibly, I remain friends with today, nearly 40 years later.
But it was also in that first week of high school that Keith Moon passed away, his surreal and self-destructive  personal life finally catching up with him.
 The death, however, would become a talking point between myself and one of the new faces I encountered that September, another fan of British Rock (although admittedly, he tipped a bit more to the Kinks music coming from the other side of the Pond), Tom Beaupre.
The Who would become the band that first unified Tom and I on common ground and laid the seeds for a friendship that still reverberates 39 years later, even though separated by a couple of states here and there.  We can still see for Miles and Miles and Miles and Miles.
The 1979 rockumentary The Kids are Alright, still to this day, holds the distinction of being the movie I saw repeatedly in the theater than any other flick in history, climbing into double digit viewings.  Tom and I, along with others, would, on little more than a case of boredom, trek in to Boston to watch it on the big screen on a weekend just to bask in the Who's backstory and of course, their music.  And yes, we had all of the lines of that flick memorized as well.  My favorite takeaway from that movie was the greatness that was the mini opera A Quick One While He's Away from the Rolling Stones rock and roll circus show.
So yes, Tom and I were indeed, card-carrying members of this here club, in the video within this link:

In the ensuing decades, I saw the Who a few more times, but was especially eager to experience them again in 2017 with Andrew in tow.  Now it wasn't just people talking about MY Generation, but the next generation of music aficionados as well.
The Who was a band that also provided common ground for Martin Brewer and I in the 1990s and 2000s as well, as our favourite Brit was also a huge fan and had seen them quite a few times more than I.  The Who proved to be one of dozens of music groups that Martin and the rest of us E Streeters could Join Together over.
And what kind of a Who concert would it be if we didn't get Daltrey's microphone flailing and of course, Townshend's trademark windmill strum?   The Sparks still fly on stage when these two bring their A Games.
Along with Pink Floyd's the Wall, the Who's Tommy was one of those albums that literally shaped my interest in music throughout my oh-so formative teenage years.
I listened to it ad nauseum, memorizing every one of the songs, front to back.
The 1975 squirmingly uncomfortable Ken Russell flick of Tommy was literally the first movie I ever saw more than one time in the theaters, catching it on the small screen up at Hampton Beach with Eddie Jakutis, who lived across the street from our beach house on N Street.
The story of the messianic savior whose coming of age via pinball and his internal rebirth was the source of a term paper I wrote in Mr. Waugh's religion class in 1979, earning me an A+, and a glowing review from said teacher.

See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me
Decades later, the music, along with the Quadrophenia cuts, bring the memories of that impressionable teen exploring his music tastes rushing back.

For your enjoyment, courtesy of my Vimeo account, here's a couple of other quick clips from the Mohegan show:

So there you go.  Forty-plus years down the road for this particular Who fan, and I'm happy to report that despite all the twists and turns that life has thrown in everybody's way on the meandering paths of this Amazing Journey that we've all followed, yeah, in 2017, the Kids are STILL Alright.