Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “Gallows Pole” — Led Zeppelin (1970)

blggallowsBrother, did you get me some silver?
Did you get a little gold?
What did you bring me, my brother, to keep me from the Gallows Pole?

Led Zeppelin III is easily my favorite Zeppelin album because it showcases the band’s “shadow and light” ethos at its finest. Certainly it brings “teh rawk” in abundance with tracks like “The Immigrant Song”, “Out on the Tiles”, “Celebration Day”, and “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, but it’s the slower, moodier, more introspective acoustic tunes that really stand out. From the exotic strings of “Friends” to the yearning melancholy of “Tangerine” and “That’s The Way” to the rustic folk of “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp”, the album represents the band’s evolution beyond the predominant blues-based hard rock of their first two LPs. They had a deep bench of styles and influences from which they infused much of their music.

Leading off Side 2 of the album was Gallows Pole, one of the album’s few radio tracks. The tune is based off a centuries-old traditional European folk song originally entitled The Maid Freed from the Gallows; most renditions of the song detail a woman about to be executed by an unforgiving, immutable hangman. Other versions feature a doomed male protagonist, but the end result is generally the same. The victim is pleading for their life, often imploring their family to bring gold, silver, or anything of value to save them from execution. It hardly ever ends well.

In Zeppelin’s version, the narrator pleads the hangman to hold off on the execution in a last-ditch effort to sway the would-be Jack Ketch with bribes. First comes a group of his friends, who unfortunately brought no silver or gold, claiming they are too poor to offer up anything of monetary value. The narrator’s brother arrives next, bringing silver, gold, “a little of everything” to save him from a certain death… but to no avail! The hangman remains unmoved.

Finally the narrator’s sister arrives. The narrator begs her to offer up her maidenhood to the hangman, as one final effort to keep him from swinging from the gallows pole. She agrees to do so, and the hangman himself seems very appreciative of the gesture, claiming she “warmed his soul”.

But it’s still not enough…

Oh, yes, you got a fine sister, She warmed my blood from cold,
She brought my blood to boiling hot
To keep you from the Gallows Pole
Your brother brought me silver, Your sister warmed my soul,
But now I laugh and pull so hard and see you swinging on the Gallows Pole
But now I laugh and pull so hard and see you swinging on the Gallows Pole, Pole, Pole…

Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “Somebody Super Like You / Life At Last” — Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

blgphantomparadisecoverLife at last!
Salutations from the other side!
I can see that you’re the devil’s pride..

Brian De Palma’s 1974 film Phantom of the Paradise is one of those “cult classics” that gets bandied around by movie and music nerds as one of THE classic film musicals that just never found an audience, save for a legion of devoted fans that have been celebrating it for the last 40 years. Acclaimed directors like Guillermo Del Toro and Edgar Wright are unabashed mega-fans of the movie (click here to see Wright’s lavish praise of the movie), and why wouldn’t they be? It’s a richly entertaining satire on the dehumanizing corporatization of art, filtered through early 1970s rock sensibilities with echoes of Phantom of the Opera, Faust, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and classic Universal monster movies of the past.

The movie’s plot is simple enough: burgeoning songwriter Winslow Leach is eager to have his cantata — a rock opera version of Faust — produced by legendary rock impresario and producer extraordinaire Swan, and sung by the beautiful ingenue Phoenix. Swan steals Leach’s songs and has him beaten, framed for drug dealing, and sent to prison for life. After six months in prison, Leach (who has had all his teeth extracted and replaced with shiny metal implants) hears his songs on the radio, now butchered beyond recognition by one of Swan’s lame Beach Boy wannabe groups. He breaks out of incarceration to exact his revenge at Swan’s record plant. But in a freak accident, Leach manages to disfigure his face and vocal chords in a record pressing machine, before disappearing into the river after being shot by a security guard.

But Leach survives, and donning a black leather outfit, cape, and bird-like metal mask, he haunts Swan’s rock palace ‘The Paradise’, waiting to enact his revenge and save his beloved Phoenix from Swan’s greedy, self-serving, diabolical clutches!

It all sounds a bit like cheese, and maybe it is, but it’s deeply satisfying and altogether wonderful, both darkly comic and tragically bittersweet all at once. In the three main roles of Leach/The Phantom, Phoenix, and Swan, William Finley, Jessica Harper, and Paul Williams are all just terrific. Williams himself not only acquits himself brilliantly as the evil, charismatic presence of Swan, he also wrote all the songs for the movie. Usually known for his MOR style of music (think The Carpenters, Three Dog Night, heck even “Rainbow Connection” from The Muppet Movie), Williams took on a variety of rock stylings when creating the film’s music, from soulful balladry to glam rock, bouncy pop to a touch of Southern California country rock. It all works.

Today’s selection is from the centerpiece of the film’s middle act, in which The Phantom is about to enact revenge on ‘Beef’, a prima-donna glam rock type who is about to perform Leach’s compositions onstage before a shrieking audience. The Phantom is enraged that Phoenix — the woman he loves — isn’t performing his songs (as previously agreed upon with Swan), and he haunts the rafters preparing to strike. There are two parts to this presentation: Somebody Super Like You, in which the band ‘The Undead’ (previously ‘The Juicy Fruits’, a 50s nostalgia act, and ‘The Beach Bums’, who specialized in the reviled Surf Rock genre) introduce Beef to the crowd by symbolically decapitating and mutilating them, sewing the pieces together in a coffin to create Beef himself. Beef then sings Life At Last, his ode to being reconstructed in life after residing in Hell for who knows how long.

It’s silly and ridiculous, all shock and glam and self-indulgence, and it’s also visually and musically perfect. Check out the video and see how The Phantom reacts to all this nuttiness.

Life at last!
Sit and listen while the fun begins
Hearts are broken and the bad guys win
Sit and listen all the cutting up is easy
And this isn’t for the queasy or the weak of heart
You had better start for home
While there’s still time!

NOTE: Start the video at 3:07 for the music. The scene before is basically just set-up for the music. It’s the only vid I could find with both songs performed in all their glory!

Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “The Prophet’s Song” — Queen (1975)

blgprophet“Oh oh People of the Earth, listen to the warning,”
The Seer, he said.
“Beware the storm that gathers here…”

Trying to locate a really great fantasy/mythology/heroic-based song from Queen is about as difficult as mastering the art of basic gravity. Seriously. You could basically take Side 2 (the “black” side) of Queen II and be done with it entirely. In fact I think I just might listen to that entire album as soon as I’m done typing this post. Seriously. There’s a real reason why Axl Rose and Billy Corgan worship that album.

But never mind all that. Our Buttkickin’ Halloween Song for today is The Prophet’s Song, taken from arguably what is their seminal album, 1975’s A Night At The Opera. Guitarist Brian May wrote the song and based it off a fever dream he had had, with visions of a Great Flood swallowing the Earth. Taking mythic elements from the Biblical account as well as weaving in other Apocalyptic (yet ultimately hopeful) imagery, he based his tale on the classic tropes of a seer whose warnings of impending disaster are mocked and ignored by the doomed populace at large.

It’s a great tune, beautifully sung by Freddie Mercury (whose vocal canon is the centerpiece of the track). It retains all that epic, multi-layered bombastic intensity for which Queen is known and loved by their zillions of fans. Plus on the album it segues seamlessly into Love Of My Life, one of the band’s most beautiful songs. I mean, the whole album rules. Just go listen to it. I might do that after I’m done with Queen II

I dreamed I saw on a moonlit stair
Spreading his hands on the multitude there
A man who cried for a love gone stale
And ice cold hearts of charity bare.
I watched as fear took the old men’s gaze
Hopes of the young in troubled graves
I see no day, I heard him say
So grey is the face of every mortal…

Race Review: 2014 B.A.A. Half Marathon (10/12/2014), or: “Many, many men can’t see the open road…”

blgbaahalflogoHokey smokes…!

OK no not literally, but it’s going to be somewhat improbable of me to talk about the 2014 B.A.A. Half Marathon without interweaving some effusive explosions of joy all throughout my review, so if you want the Elevator Pitch version (or the “Continental” version, for you “Metropolitan” types who like using “quotation marks” around “everything”), it’s basically this: Awesome race. Awesome weather. Awesome run. Can’t wait to do it again. -FIN-

Still with me? Good. I like you, kid. You’ve got Wessonality!

"Preach on, Hokeydude!"

“Preach on, Hokeydude!”

Well anyway…

I’ll never, ever quality for the Boston Marathon on my own. I know, you’re supposed to espouse all those “Never say never!” virtues and blablabla, but let’s get real. I don’t have the time, wherewithal, or inclination to devote the vast majority of my life to fitness and running in order to maybe, MAYBE do a 3-hour marathon. I could get in on a charity bib (and hopefully will, one day), but until then it’s just not in the cards.

But the Boston HALF Marathon? There’s no qualification time. You just need to be skilled enough to submit your registration as quickly as possible and hope to get real lucky.

Which I did, last July. :)

Boston is my favorite city in the USA. I lived there, went to school there, went through my truly transformative years there, and adore it as one of the most beautiful, vibrant, cultured, intelligent, social-minded, historical and FUN places to visit and explore. So running a race there seemed like a no-brainer to me. But running a race in the autumn? Now that sounded like paradise, especially after an entire summer of hot, sweaty, sweltering, nasty, muggy, and vile training in South Florida.

So yeah. There was no question this was a good idea.

We arrived in Boston on Friday night around 9:30 PM. It was already cooler and infinitely less humid than South Florida, which was most refreshing. The next day, however, was cold, rainy, and overcast. It wasn’t the best of tourist-accommodating climates, but I didn’t want to spend too much time on my feet anyhow. We decided to take a quick trip to Faneuil Hall Marketplace — talk about touristy! — to shop, sight-see, and grab some killer grub. And killer grub was grabbed with abundance! Clam chowdah, crab cakes, bacon-wrapped scallops, desserts… listen if you’re gonna carb up, you might as well do it right, right?

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Yeah, methinks the food porn was a bit strong there. Apologies.

We did some shopping (Newbury Comics was fun but nowhere near as cool as it once was) and headed back in the late afternoon for an early dinner. We ended up at the Freeport Tavern near our hotel in Dorchester, and I couldn’t recommend it more. Nice ambiance, awesome service, and great food. The Lobster Mac-n-Cheese was pretty much to die for. Consider this a hearty endorsement, pals.

We crashed early that night. The race was scheduled to begin at 8:30 AM; I planned on getting there around 7:00, which meant a 6:30 AM cab ride. After showering and laying out my clothes, gear, and bib for the next day, I was asleep by 9:15 PM and woke the next morning at 5:40. A quick check outside confirmed what the forecast had assured us: it was freakin’ cold. COLD!! For this Florida kid, anyhow.

To be sure, it was in the low-40s at that time and man was I feeling it. My running gear consisted of pretty much full-body compression attire: CW-X running tights and an Under Armour long-sleeve compression shirt, over which I threw on my Mickey Milers jersey. Man I was a site. The full-body gear was mostly there to keep me from shivering to death before the race. Once I started running, I knew I’d warm up almost instantly.

In binomial nomenclature: "Dorkus Maximus"

In binomial nomenclature: “Dorkus Maximus”

Breakfast consisted of a bagel with cream cheese, banana, and Gatorade. Nothing major, just enough to get me going. I also brought a Honey Stinger cookie for just before the race and two GUs (Root Beer and Caramel Macchiato) for during. By 6:25 our cab had arrived and we were off on our way to Franklin Park. Our hotel was only 3 miles away, and we arrived fairly quickly at the drop-off area on Blue Hill Avenue. From there we had about a 10 minute walk to the Start Area. Thankfully it was quite a pleasantly freezing morning for this lizard, and it was a scenic walk past forested paths, a golf course, and plenty of swell fall foliage.

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The Start Area was located in the park’s athletic field, adjacent to both the Franklin Park Zoo and George White Schoolboy Stadium. We’d be running through both later that morning, but when we arrived there was still plenty of hustle and bustle in the cold early morning. We made our way down to the race shirt pickup area, where I was able to snag my official race tech shirt… which, I might add, was pretty damn sharp. All black, long sleeves, and the BAA logo and stripes in bright yellow.

I noticed there seemed to be a rather sizable crowd standing around a large graphic representation of the Course Map. I thought there might have been something new and fascinating, given the whirlwind of activity around that area, so I wandered up and starting staring as well, like the good sheeple I was pretending to be. How ridiculous! Actually I was reviewing the elevation info for the race. I knew this was going to be a very hilly course, mostly downhill on the way out and mostly uphill on the way back, with plenty of rolling up-and-downs in between. This gave me pause for concern, since (a) South Florida is generally pretty goshdarn flat, and (b) As often as I do bridge repeats (at least once a week) it just isn’t the same as real hills. But I wasn’t too worried. I figured my lack of real hill exposure would be offset by the colder weather. There was *zero* chance of overheating now. I could live with that rather well, thank you.

Posing with the Course Map because why not?

Posing with the Course Map because why not?

Here are some action snapshots of the Start Area:

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By that point my iguana-blooded extremities were near-frozen, so I grabbed me a cup of complimentary hot cinnamon and berry tea (MOST needed and welcome, I must add) and headed over to the sunny portion of the field, where it was thankfully less arctic. After posing for a few pics I managed to bump into fellow Mickey Miler (and Mass. native) Kimberly, where we posed for this awesome action snapshot:

IMG_68459630717840

After bidding adieus, I hit the bag check-in area. Normally I never need to use bag check-in; I carry everything I need, and everything else either goes in the car or Boots holds it for me (usually car keys or my wallet, something small like that). Nothing doing here. I wasn’t running with my prized Hard Rock hoodie, which meant stuffing it in a bag and checking it in. Saying goodbye to my hoodie for a while was pretty sad for me because ZOMG FREEZING! No no, it wasn’t THAT bad, but I was cold. No matter. I’d be running within half an hour now.

After a final ceremonial trip to the Porto-Potties, I kissed Boots goodbye and stood next to the 10:00 min/mile pace sign. While there were no corrals, the Half started in waves, with runners lining up according to how they think they will pace. I like this honor system quite a bit, but I could see how it could get out of hand with the larger races (read: wall-to-wall walkers scurrying to get as far ahead as they can, in order to get a huge head start from the sweeper vans). Maybe corrals are the way to go. Anyway, some technical problems with my Bluetooth headphones caused me to miss the National Anthem — grr! — but once I got that squared away I realized one fascinating observation during the minutes ticking away before the race:

I was shivering. Hands shaking, teeth chattering, the works. What a lightweight!

Some Start Line pics:

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The race began promptly at 8:30 AM. There was no real countdown or ecstatic display of joy. Just an airhorn and lots and lots of cheering. Since I was in the fourth wave, my race began at 8:40. I dialed up my latest Zombies, Run! mission, plugged my earbuds in, and as I crossed the Start Line I began my BAA Half Marathon adventure!

Here’s a look at the course map, courtesy of my Garmin and Google Maps:

… and as an EXTRA added bonus, the course Elevational Profile, courtesy of the BAA website:

Click to embiggen!

Click to embiggen!

This visually stunning, mostly out-and-back course took us through and adjacent to many of Boston’s Emerald Necklace parkways and waterways. We left Franklin park to the southwest, then turning northwest on Arborway past the Arnold Arboretum. Once we reached Jamaica Pond, Pond St./Jamaicaway took us north past Wards, Willow, and Leverett Ponds. The first turnaround was at Riverway (within spitting but not visual distance of Fenway Park, dadgummit!), which brought us to the western shore of the aforementioned ponds as we headed south. The course took us back to Franklin Park by mile 9, where we proceeded behind Lemuel Shattuck Hospital, past Scarboro Pond, and adjacent to the golf course until we reached the second turnaround just past mile 10. From there it was straight back up the hill, past the Start Line and into Franklin Park Zoo itself! A final turnaround occurred at Mile 12 inside the zoo, and from there it was a sprint to the Finish Line on the track at White Stadium.

Whew!

Now that we’ve gotten all that mishegas out-of-the-way, let’s talk the race itself. To say that it was pretty much the most visually stunning race I’ve ever run is putting it mildly, to say the least. Almost every other race in which I’ve participated has mostly involved city streets, residential and industrial areas, adjacent to the beach, or inside (or near) theme parks. I’m used to it. I accept it because it’s familiar.

But this course took us almost entirely through or next to parks and parkland. Every step of the way seemed to be welcomed by trees, shade, winding paths and serenity. There was even some fall color to the leaves, enhancing the visual experience with pinpoints of red, orange, and gold foliage. Almost from the start there was a pervading sense of transcendentalist peace. Emerson and Thoreau would both be proud.

Which reminds me of that ol’ Bon Jovi song: Thoreau is like RALPH EMERSON… RALPH EMERSON is what I read, whoa-oh-ohhh…

Sorry.

Back to the race: OK yes, visually it was to die for. But let’s talk about the big topic of discussion for the day: THE HILLS. Take another gander at that Elevational Profile. Even the race announcer at the Start Line was constantly reminding us to “leave a little gas in the tank” because the course was going to be mostly downhill in the first half and equally uphill during the second. I was constantly preoccupied with my memories of the 2013 Rock N Roll USA half, in which the majority of the second half of the race went uphill in continuous spurts. That race added 16 minutes to my time from my previous race, barely a month before, on completely flat territory.

My strategy was simply this: go at it easy. Take my time. Don’t wear out, don’t get too excited, don’t try to go too fast on the downhill, and keep things steady and consistent. I’ve done PLENTY of bridge repeats throughout my training, so I knew how to handle inclines: keep the stride short, lean into it, don’t over-exert, and go.

So how’d I do on the first mile, which was almost completely downhill? A 9:20 split. NINE-TWENTY. Insanity. I was cursing myself for going out too quickly, but honestly that was all because of the downhill momentum. I really wasn’t trying that hard; you couldn’t anyhow. It was pretty crowded coming out of the chute.

Boots caught me just before Mile 1 with this incredibly buttkickin’ action snapshot:

"I am NOT impressed!" (I was...)

“Well I am NOT impressed!” (I was…)

After the big decline things leveled out, and from that point on it was pretty much rolling hills. You’d go up, you’d go down, but there weren’t any serious upward inclines during the first half. I was running my usual 5:1 intervals, but I was also playing it by ear; if my interval ended and I was on a decline, I’d continue running downward until I reached the bottom and take my walk interval there. I cannot understate how well this strategy worked for me. Seriously. I never felt worn out, tired, or lacking energy. As a matter of fact, even during the long, upward climbs, I never felt winded either.

During the entire race, my energy never seemed to flag. The combination of much-cooler temperatures, scenic views, and good spirits fueled me just as much as my Honey Stingers and GUs. I remained consistent throughout the entire race — never flagging, never slowing down, keeping an even pace throughout. Don’t you just LOVE runs like that?

Here are some more buttkickin action snapshots taken during the race:

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Not to mention this little number right here:

That scowl is very real. So is the shnoz.

That scowl is very real. So is the shnoz.

After the first turnaround I recognized another Mickey Miler named Scott coming the other way (based on our awesomely catchy running jerseys!) and we exchanged happy pleasantries as we passed. From that point on, it was a southbound return to Franklin Park, but this time it was a lot more uphill running. As I mentioned earlier, it never really felt altogether that difficult. More exertion, to be sure, but my energy levels seemed to be up to the task.

By mile 9 we were pretty much back in the beautiful, shaded vistas of Franklin Park, making our way to the final 5K of the race. This portion of the race took us adjacent to the Golf Course and all the way to the second turnaround, just past Mile 10. I saw Kimberly coming the other way and we exchanged a joyful high-five as we passed each other. Yay team! Mile 11 took us to the sharpest upward incline of the race — basically going up the extended downhill that started the race. Again, all that had to be done was put your head down, lean forward, and run.

By the time we reached the top of the hill, we were right near the Start Line with about a mile and a half to go. The course then took us into Franklin Park Zoo. While there wasn’t much in terms of actual animals to view and cheer us on — I think I saw a single bird enclosure — it was a nice change of scenery. Mile 12 took us to the final turnaround of the day, a sharp curve on an unpaved trail which looked a little like this:

fast

My phone is in my hand because I was trying to get my music to work after a technical malfunction. Needless to say, I managed to fix the issue without breaking my stride. I punched up the “William Tell Overture (Finale)” from the Lone Ranger movie soundtrack. And with that triumphant brass fanfare, I was off to the race — The Last Mile.

At that point I was full of excitement. My energy was strong, I felt upbeat, driven, strong, and ready to give the rest of the race my all. Surrounded by cheering spectators from exiting the Zoo to the Finish Line, I really wanted to finish as strong and upright as possible. The course took us up Pier Point Road, between Overlook Ruins and The Steading, on a steady upward path that took us into White Stadium. The stands were filled with cheering crowds and that was all I needed. I pushed it with every ounce of speed I could muster — careful NOT to cut anyone off or act like a Finish Line jerk who’s slamming into people and elbowing others trying to get that last bit of glory at the end — and crossed the Finish Line with my fingers in the air, like the amazingly colossal dork I am!

Yeesh

Yeesh…

My official race time? 2:11:17. For those of you keeping score — meaning me — that is my third best Half performance out of nineteen races.

To say I was pleased would pretty much be understatement of the year. I was over the moon! The sun was shining brightly, I was surrounded by cheering spectators and happy runners, I had run one of the most beautiful races I’ve ever done, in my favorite city, no less… and I did infinitely better than I thought I would have. I was convinced my race time would be around the 2:23 I did in Washington, and I ended up doing my best race time in twenty months.

Check out my splits:

One banana, Two banana, Three banana, Four...

One banana, Two banana, Three banana, Four…

You can see I was pretty even throughout. I had an extra 0.2 miles of side-running, which meant I wasn’t exactly sticking to the tangents, and that’s OK. With an actual average of a 10:00 minute mile throughout, I barely deviated from that pace. I was quite happy, to put it mildly. I mean, check out this awesomely smirking post-race selfie:

20141012_105514

Smirky McSmirkerson

After being knighted with my well-earned BAA medal, I went to stretch over by the side, where I was greeted by the sounds of at least three runners retching and puking their guts out. Good Lord. I guess they went at it too hard or something. I could sympathize, but in my state of mind I could hardly empathize. Not to rub it in too much, but except for maybe following my very first race, I had never felt BETTER after a half. I continued making my way out, grabbing a bagel, banana, Power Bar, water, and Gatorade recovery shake along my way. B.good was also providing hot food in the form of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and veggie burgers (plus fixins!) but that was pretty much the LAST thing I wanted. I’m rarely hungry immediately after running a race, and the thought of a hot greasy cheeseburger going into my digestive tract didn’t sit very well with me. No matter. I was good.

I grabbed my bag from check-in and met Boots at our pre-arranged meet-up area. We sat and relaxed for a bit while I snacked and regaled her with tales from the Most Awesome Race Ever. It was warmer now, but still very cool and stunning out. Check out this view from the field:

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Well that was that, as they say. We returned to the hotel for a shower, change of clothes, and a return to the Freeport Tavern to enjoy brunch and watch the Pats spank the Bills. My ankle was feeling a wee bit sore so it was good to be off of it, and it was even better to be enjoying this pumpkin Shipyard ale with a cinnamon rim for my troubles:

Beyond tasty. This brilliant concoction reached into awesome new dimensions.

Beyond tasty. This brilliant concoction reached into awesome new dimensions.

The 2014 B.A.A. Half Marathon has now, for me, become the race to beat when it comes to Half Marathons. It was everything I wanted in a race. Well staffed, well-organized, a beautiful course, considerate runners, and held during probably the best possible time of the year. Would I do this race again? In a freakin’ heartbeat and THEN some. Thank you Boston. You made this Iguana-Blooded Kid most happy indeed. Here’s the video:

Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “The Ripper” — Judas Priest (1976)

blgripperYou’re in for surprise
You’re in for a shock!

Judas Priest’s second album Sad Wings of Destiny is a Top 20 metal album in my book. Sometimes maybe even Top 10. Who knows, I don’t keep track of these things. Anyway, today’s edition of Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs is taken from said LP, a creepy, rockin’ little tune entitled The Ripper.

It’s a straightforward piece, an ode to the famous slice-n-dicer of 19th-Century Whitechapel, Jack The Ripper himself. Ol’ Saucy Jack became a lore and legend by butchering streetwalkers throughout his East London stalking grounds. Priest’s take on the infamous legend is punctuated by Rob Halford’s epic wails, strong riffage, and driving metal rhythm. It’s not terribly spooky but it’s a hell of a lot of awesome and a great addition to your Halloween playlist.

Any back alley street
Is where we’ll probably meet
Underneath a gas lamp
Where the air’s cold and damp
I’m a nasty surprise
I’m a devil in disguise
I’m a footstep at night
I’m a scream of the fright…

Yet another tedious mid-flight photo op, or: “Climb on the back and we’ll go for a ride in the sky…”

It’s not like I enjoy doing these posts, except for the fact that I do, so I’m a big fat freakin’ fibber.

Anyway, I’m midflight coming back from Boston, so I thought I’d share my usual flight pics because I’m still busy basking in the afterglow of the BAA Half Marathon and coalescing my thoughts and feelings about that wonderful race. Oh crap was that a spoiler? Sorry about that. Don’t worry though, I didn’t PR so I haven’t really spoiled anything… except that I Just did. So again: big fat freakin’ fibber.

I’m stalling. Anyway, here I am on my way TO Boston:

"Hey... I'm OK!"

“Hey… I’m OK!”

… and here I am coming back:

If I don't stop smirking, my chin will fall off... :(

If I don’t stop smirking, my chin will fall off… :(

Well anyway… race review coming real soon. It’s a HAPPY one!! Promise. Here’s the video:

Heading out to Boston tonight, or: “I was born in the sign of water, and it’s there that I feel my best…”

blgbaahalf
We interrupt your Halloween Buttkickingness for a moment, if we may…

And by “we” I mean all the useless monkeys at Omnis Network hosting services, who have been working diligently day and night to provide the kinds of incompetently mediocre and talentless services one has come to expect from the 21st-century industrial American mindset. But that’s neither here nor there.

I’d like you to take a gander at this forecast for Sunday:

<3 <3 <3

That’s a low of 42 and a high of 59, with clear sunny weather all around. Perfect for rocking the BAA Half Marathon, which your humble and intrepid host will be running with aplomb and verve and a certain lack of gauche ennui. Look at that! It’ll be 46 degrees at Race Start, and somewhere around 53 by Finish Time.

All those long months bitching about the South FL heat and humidity and muggy grossness and nasty, steamy, sticky awfulness? For this Sunday’s weather alone, dayenu. Now the hills I’ll be facing, let’s not talk about them. Yet. See you in a few with a full report. Until then, the video:

Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” — The Charlie Daniels Band (1980)

blgfullmoon“Old Lucias Clay was a greedy old man and that’s all there ever was to it…”

Treachery, murder, and revenge, and it’s all served up ghastly and Southern-fried. Yup, good old Lucius Clay is a miserly, bitter old dude who hides his money in jars in the swamp because of course he does. Naturally word gets out about the greedy hermit, and some thieving local white trash folk get the notion of taking Clay’s money for themselves. But the Swamp holds entirely too many mysteries of its own that can’t be rationalized away by foolish mortals. As the song itself proudly repeats, “There’s some things in this world you just can’t explain…”

What happens next you can probably predict on your own, but it makes for one fine Halloween tune. Say whatever you want about Charlie Daniels, but man oh manishevitz is he a great storyteller. The proof of the pudding is not just the raisins but The Legend of Wooley Swamp, a moonlight, misty, spooky tale of greed, murder, and ghostly retribution set in a steamy southern swamp. You can feel the mist rising, the frogs croakin’, and that pervading sense of supernatural interference gradually unspooling throughout the song.

And on certain nights if the moon is right
And you’re down by the dark footpath
You can hear three young men screaming
And you can hear that old man laugh

Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “Red Right Hand” — Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (1994)

blgredrighthandSpooky…

This 1994 single from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is one of those perennial “spooky” tunes. Even if you’ve never heard it before, you’ve definitely heard it before. Either in movies, on television, in trailers or commercials… somewhere, you’ve heard Red Right Hand before. It has seeped into your subconscious mind and settled uncomfortably there, worming its away around your general sense of unease. Any time there’s that foreboding notion of dread plaguing your psyche, this is the soundtrack of your subtle woes.

And why not? It’s a magnificent tune: dark, creepy, unsettling, almost Biblical in its overtones. A mysterious stranger rides into town, promising to fulfill all your hearts desires… and even a fleeting familiarity with tropes, fables, and allegorical psalms and passages tips you off that nothing will end well. The bell chime that accompanies every mention of the titular ‘Red Right Hand’ drives the point home nicely, doesn’t it?

Temptations of the superficial, hedonistic, and empty joyfulness measure are the low-hanging fruit of infernal ensnarement.

He’s a god, he’s a man,
He’s a ghost, he’s a guru
They’re whispering his name
Through this disappearing land

But hidden in his coat is a red right hand…

Album Review: “Ace Frehley” — Ace Frehley (1978)

blgacefrehleysolo78Legendary Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley — the original and ONLY Spaceman, as far as this fan is concerned — had been an integral component of the band’s success since its inception. As Kiss’s lead guitarist, his licks, riffs, and solos gave their music much of its memorable character and tenor. Frehley wasn’t a perfectionist, nor was he a virtuoso; he’d probably be the first to admit his playing can get entirely down-n-dirty sloppy. And God bless him for that. Ace didn’t go for technical precision or musical fluidity. His musical vocabulary was centered around that hard rock sound, period, and his style and swagger influenced entirely too many players that came after him.

So Ace brought the rock, he brought the solos, he even wrote or co-wrote many of the band’s greatest tunes, but he never took his talents to the microphone as a lead vocalist until 1977, on the band’s sixth album Love Gun. The result was the classic Kiss rocker Shock Me, and with that number Ace was off and running. He would continue to bring his singing to bear on subsequent albums like Alive II, Dynasty, Unmasked, Music From The Elder, and the 1998 “reunion” album Psycho Circus. His extensive solo career after leaving Kiss would further showcase his songwriting, vocal, and guitar talent.

But it was the 1978 solo LP Ace Frehley that would perhaps leave the strongest, or even most iconic impression upon Kiss and Ace fans. That year saw all four band members releasing solo LPs (while still being branded as “Kiss” product). Paul Stanley’s album would closely adhere to the Kiss hard rock model, although with lots more of a pop vibe than the band had shown before. Peter’s album was aimed squarely at the adult contemporary/blue-eyed soul market, with entirely sub-mediocre results. And Gene’s album? Just plain weird man, and not entirely in a good way.

Ace Frehley, on the other hand, came out of the gate guns a-blazing with hard rock of the whiskey-soaked, rip-snortin’ variety. He wasn’t trying to do something new, but rather what he knew best: Les Pauls, Marshall amps, crunchy distortion and blistering solos. He sang lead on every track, did all of the guitar work (and most of the bass), and took along pal (and future collaborator) Anton Fig for drums and percussion. The legendary Eddie Kramer, who had produced the Kiss albums Rock and Roll Over and Love Gun, produced this album as well. And somehow in the middle of it all, Ace recorded a pop cover that became a Top-20 single and one of his signature tunes. The resulting album not only sold the best of the four LPs, it is generally accepted to be the best of the four.

I concur with that sentiment, although I think Paul’s is a close second. We’ll leave Gene’s and Peter’s (ecch) for another debate.

You couldn’t ask for a better album opener (or concert opener) than “Rip It Out”, which is full of fury and power chords and uptempo rock crunch. It’s also surprisingly catchy as hell, with a sing-along chorus and a thunderous drum break provided by Mr. Fig. That spirit continues in tracks like “Speedin’ Back To My Baby”, “Snow Blind”, “Ozone” and “I’m In Need Of Love”. These are prototypical late 70s hard rock tunes: loud, hard, crunchy, distorted, lyrically middling but drenched with attitude. “Snowblind” and “Ozone” are overt references to Frehley’s drugs and alcohol abuse (along with “Wiped Out”, one of the album’s stranger but lesser tracks).

Ace most memorably struck pay dirt with his cover of the 1975 British import “New York Groove”. Originally written by Russ Ballard for the band Hello, Ace’s cover burst into the US Top 20 and made it as high as #13. It became the biggest Kiss-related hit since “Beth”, and emerged as a mandatory inclusion in almost every Kiss setlist during Ace’s tenure. It’s a fantastic cover, too. Different from the driving hard rock that populates most of the album, the song is neon, slinky, almost glam-like, eminently danceable, and a fine pop song.

He briefly continued in that lighter vein with the power-pop’ish “What’s On Your Mind”, a tune that wouldn’t have felt all that out of place on Paul Stanley’s 1978 solo album. It’s a good track as well; Ace wasn’t the strongest lyricist, but he knew how to mine for memorable musical turns-of-phrase. Ace never got too into pop either with Kiss or in his solo career, but he definitely knew how to do it well.

The album finishes with the winning instrumental “Fractured Mirror”, featuring layers upon layers of guitars (acoustic, electric, even synth guitars) engaging in an ethereal melody. It’s a fairly engaging piece of work, not entirely musically complex but then again it didn’t need to be. It’s a fine album closer.

I think one of the reasons Ace Frehley stands out among and remains the most memorable of the four 1978 solo albums is because of its sheer lack of pretense or perceived lack of ambition. Ace didn’t want to step out of the box; he wanted to blow the lid off it. While Gene was engaging in every bit of self-indulgence he could muster and Peter was showcasing his love of soul and r&b (badly), Ace was having a blast in his own element, delivering a no-bullshit, straight-from-the-gut hard rock album (with a few forays into the pop-rock world). As far as “Kiss” albums go, this one’s absolutely essential.