Category Archives: Music

Spirits In The Night




GORDONVILLE – The dogs on Main Street are howling. Hungry hearts are starving. It’s getting harder to be saint in the city. Glory days are getting a little gory these days.

Bruce Springsteen is under attack for his alleged offensive song choices during the Veterans Day “Concert For Valor” in Washington, D.C. Tuesday.

But don’t go hiding on the backstreets just yet. No need to feel like rider on a downbound train. There is a lot of light on this right now, but no need to be blinded by it.

It is not something new for Springsteen, as a proud disciple of the Woody Guthrie lineage of singer-songwriters speaking for the people not the ones who take their voices away, to be under fire.

If you are a power lifter when it comes to having strength in your convictions, you can weather these storms on your own.

Springsteen did this years back when his song “American Skin (41 Shots)” was first performed in concert in 2000 – later to appear on a 2001 live album (“Live In New York City”) and eventually a studio release – and the subject matter, the 1999 shooting of an unarmed African immigrant under unclear circumstances, irked the law enforcement community to the point that a boycott of concerts was urged.

His first dalliance with national controversy was in 1984, when the song “Born in the U.S.A.” – from the album of the same name – was taking the country by storm. Misunderstood – or misinformed by his advisers – Ronald Reagan heralded the song that is more of a rant than an anthem.

Inspired by his friendship with Ron Kovic (the real-life character of the 1989 “Born on the Fourth of July” film starring Tom Cruise, Springsteen wrote “Born in the U.S.A.” about how a large number of veterans of the Vietnam War were scattered to the wind and forgotten.

He hadn’t forgotten them, though. Another song that didn’t make that album, “Shut Out The Light,” further illuminated Springsteen’s empathy – and some modicum of guilt for being from that generation but having not served (he failed his draft physical because a recently broken leg from a motorcycle accident had yet to heal) – on the topic that had been swept under the rug in terms of national dialogue.

He not only called attention an issue no longer chic for the anti-war protestors who had gone on to cut their hair and become cocaine-snorting yuppies. He put his money where his mouth was by donating time and money to the cause without fanfare and photo opportunities.

When he hit the stage Tuesday, I kind of cringed to see him come out alone with just an acoustic guitar and a neck harmonica holder. After Metallica had just rocked the house down, an acoustic Springsteen set was not going to bode well.

I admit, even as a devotee who rarely criticizes the only person I called Boss (aside from the wife), what followed was not a career highlight.

I don’t say this because of the three songs he did – “The Promised Land” and then “Born in the U.S.A.” and “Dancing in the Dark” – but the way he played them. If he was going to go it alone, without the E Street Band in tow, at least have another picker or two – Nils Lofgren, Steven Van Zandt, Tom Morello or just someone from a band already there – and play the acoustic versions a little more straightforward and hard-driving to engage a crowd that was too large for a coffee house approach.

And that was it, in terms of criticism.

The song selections, in and of themselves, were fine.

“The Promised Land” is more of a social statement than it is overtly political, while “Dancing in the Dark” was a just pure pop song.

As for “Born in the U.S.A.,” causing conservatives to go apoplectic, it was more of the aforementioned style in which it was played to a crowd looking more to cut loose and pump fists that was a cause for pause.

As Springsteen said when he introduced it, “Born in the U.S.A. remains as relevant today (after the Vietnam-like quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan, followed by inconsistent treatment of returning veterans) as it was when it first came onto the landscape and confused Ronald Reagan.

That is the real shame, and not addressed that self-evident truth is nothing more than a diversionary tactic by the right.

The sobering statistics on suicide for veterans — estimated at more than 20 per day — solemnly speak for themselves.

Having seen enough, I turned off the television after the three songs. My wife was at a late meeting and Sofia hadn’t started her homework. It dawned on me that Springsteen might come back out and join in some jam session later in the show but, honestly, I didn’t really care that much.

With the invention of DVR, and On Demand, I knew I could dial it up again.

Turns out, what I missed was Springsteen and Dave Grohl joining the Zac Brown Band for a rendition of the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic “Fortunate Son,” which stood out from a litany of anti-war songs from the Vietnam era in that it came from the perspective of the pool of largely poor kids being sent to fight in a rich man’s war of folly.

Apparently — with those in the crowd, the ones for whom the concert was taking place — it struck a chord and went over well.

With the naysayers on the right, who probably think anything less than “God Bless America” in a post-9/11 world is strategically deemed an act of treason and the performer labeled a heretic to be blacklisted like in the McCarthy era.

I was hit with the news on social media the next day, and disgusted by the right-wing’s righteous indignation.

The good news amid the bad was that most of the venom was directed Springsteen, the biggest name, not Brown or Grohl.

The other guys may react with less tact, and make a bad situation worse.

But this is par for Bruce’s course since getting in touch with his inner Bob Dylan after more of a John Steinbeck approach in his coming-of-age run from 1975-1980.

He’s been there, done that.

It’s not that he is looking for trouble – if he were, there were other songs from his catalogue that could have really made the heavens heavy in Brill Cream – but he isn’t running from it, either.

Just since 9/11, the date where those who decry political correctness set strict boundaries when comes to wartime etiquette – we must thank soldiers for their service to our country but repeatedly support policies that do them and their families a disservice – Springsteen has, and will continue to, write songs to expose those bitter ironies.

He started on his first release since 9/11, 2002’s “The Rising,” with the first song, “Lonesome Day,” that included lyrics such as “better ask questions before you shoot.”

Not a popular sentiment back then, but he was seeing through the smoke and mirrors. He was a step ahead of the curve about what he termed the “seeds of betrayal” about the selling of the Iraqi War were self-evident.

He went on the stump for John Kerry in 2004 and for Barack Obama in 2008.

The title track of his “Devils & Dust” release in 2005 was written from the perspective of a front-line soldier in Iraq. He continued decrying the injustice of war with no draft – making it a silent class war (the point of the song “Fortunate Son”) by definition – on “Magic” in 2007.

The title track spoke directly to the deception involved in putting the country into war and included war-related songs such as “Last To Die” (featured the refrain “who’ll be the last to die for a mistake”), “Gypsy Biker” and “Devil’s Arcade.”

The economy ravaged by George W. Bush going to war but no raising taxes, something unheard of in modern history, was illuminated in the song “Long Walk Home” and remained a theme up through current releases.

If Springsteen really want to be controversial, he could have played any of these songs instead.

If the wrong-wing pundits knew this – which would mean they knew what they were talking about before letting actual words fall from their tongues – they wouldn’t look quite as idiotic as they did Wednesday morning.

But we have the option to rise above.

We were born in the U.S.A., making us fortunate sons.

A musical journey from Springsteen to ‘Springhouse Revival’

Bruce and Van Zandt


The debut album from Springhouse Revival is called "Return to Nothing." (Photo by Mike Morsch)

One of the first guys I met when I started college in the fall of 1977 at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, was an upperclassman by the name of Duane Morrison. A bespectacled  Iowa farm boy, he was at an agriculture school to study . . . agriculture. Go figure.

Duane and his roommate, another upperclassman named Al Steinbach, lived right next door to me and my roommate Billy, in the dorms. A native New Yorker, Al apparently had decided to go to college in the heartland to study – best I could tell as a young, impressionable freshman – hillbillies. Since I lived right next door and appeared early on to be one of the new subjects of his study, he was in the right place.

The thing about Duane was that he had an advanced appreciation of music in 1977, especially vinyl. Duane and Al had the best record collection on our dorm floor, and whenever I happened by their room and the door was open, they’d invite me in to listen to records.

And nearly every time I went in there, Duane had a particular  artist on the turntable that he was absolutely enamored with. I had never heard of the guy, some dude from the East Coast. I’d listen to the record, but it really didn’t do much for me. I’d shrug my shoulders and politely shuffle my hick behind toward the door as Duane would encourage me to listen more closely and appreciate the music.

“You wait, this guy is going to be a big deal,” Duane would say.

The artist was Bruce Springsteen. The album was “Born to Run” from 1975.

I didn’t pay any attention then to Duane, and for many years after, on the topic of Bruce Springsteen.

Moving east in 2000 and a renewed interest in music over the past 15 years brought me to the Springsteen party quite late. And with the encouragement of a few close friends who happen to be Springsteen diehards, I’m now all in for The Boss. In fact, Steven Van Zandt of Springsteen’s E Street Band was interviewed for The Vinyl Dialogues.

One of those Springsteen devotees is my friend Gordon Glantz. He and I have been colleagues in the media business for years. Gordon is a brilliant writer so I am not unbiased when it comes to his work.

And now Gordon is in the music business himself. He and his song-writing partner, Terri Camilari, call themselves SpringHouse Revival and have just released their first album “Return to Nothing.” Gordon penned the lyrics, as well as arranged and co-produced with Glenn Barratt of Morningstar Studios in East Norriton, PA. Meanwhile, Terri composed the music and handled the vocals on this record.

If you’re in the suburban Philadelphia area, there is a “listening party” to debut the album on Sunday, Nov. 9, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Greco Roman Restaurant on West Main Street in West Norriton, PA. The public is invited.

I’ve come to appreciate the Philadelphia music scene over the years. There are a lot of great local artists putting out some pretty good stuff. They don’t get the recognition of the big-name artists, but they’re inspired people who are working hard, living their dreams and putting their creative efforts out there for people to see and hear. And I try to support their efforts by buying their CDs and attending their concerts.

I’m not a record reviewer, but I know what I like. And I like “Return to Nothing.” The release, which is available on iTunes and numerous other sites (CD Baby, Google Play, Spotify, etc.), features 14 original songs. Gordon’s lyrics are mature and sophisticated and Terri’s compositions and vocals perfectly complement the material. And they’ve hired some ridiculously talented musicians – such as guitarist Tom Hampton (another friend of mine), drummer Grant MacAvoy, cellist Michael G. Ronstadt, viola player Larry Zelson and Barratt on keyboards and bass – to help them make their dream come alive.

Gordon helped me see the light when it came to Springsteen, and that gives him musical credibility with me. So I’m happy to be in on the ground floor of support for his project.

Check it out when you get a chance. The SpringHouse Revival  website is There is a Facebook page was well that you can “like” for updates.

Striking Gold




GORDONVILLE – With a little help from a lot of friends, old and new, I’ve made a gold record.

No, the debut CD by SpringHouse Revival (songwriting partner/vocalist Terri Camilari and myself, accompanied by the best studio musicians we could find), has not met the industry standard of selling 500,000 units.

At present, we’re about 490,00 — give or take — shy of that mark.

And that’s cool.

Totally cool.

All through the process, before the songs were ever mixed and mastered, the music – four years since the stork delivered UPS boxes weighing about 100 pounds each  to my front door this past Monday –this music has been Sofia’s choice.

Her favorite song on the CD – “Prayin’ Kind” – even bumped both versions of “Let It Go” from the “Frozen” Soundtrack from the top of her hit parade.

But she’s not just in love with one song.

When she says “put your music on, daddy” – sometimes when even a self-indulgent narcissist such as I aches for a break for some Springsteen or U2 or sports talk – it’s all 14 tracks she wants to hear.

She sits in the back, in her little booster seat, and sings the songs with all heart.

That heart is my own flesh and blood.

And that’s cool.

Totally cool.

Along the way, when a new song was written and its scratch demo (that’s music talk) was recorded, I’d ask Sofia’s opinion while on the way to school.

I do this because I know that she, like most second-graders, is a straight-shooter.

More often than not, she’ll say, emphatically, “I like it.”

There are critiques, like the voice isn’t loud enough in the early mix – hindering her ability to sing along – but I’ll explain the process and that it will be taken care of once mixed.

Or she’ll say she likes song X, but not as much as song Y.

Sometimes, as the primary producer/arranger, I will take these suggestions to heart.

It’s not that we’re trying to appeal to the grade-school crowd. Some of the topics of the songs – drug abuse, the Holocaust, lost souls slipping through the unforgiving cracks of our society – are more geared to college-aged ears and beyond.

But a hook is a hook – and Terri has a knack for taking my words and giving them musicality – and Sofia is, well, hooked.

Sofia has been involved in music programs since she could barely walk. She dances three days a week and plays piano.

My wife, Laurie, insists she stick with piano – even on the many weeks when there is a better shot of FOX News saying something positive about the president than there is of getting her to practice – because it develops a part of her brain.

More practically, I feel it is early training for the singer-songwriter I sense is burgeoning within her (she has already made up songs).

Sharing this amazing ride with her.

I did it as much for her as it was to scratch my itch and eliminate an item from the bucket list – more music is coming, as we are a few songs into the next project already and some of the new songs are scary-good.

Gold can mean a lot of things to a lot of people.

It can mean bling adorning your body.

It can mean fat paychecks.

It can mean a record in a frame on the wall.

For me, it is something wholly different.

It is when my 79-year old mother rides shot gun playing air guitar while Sofia belts out the words. It is when Laurie believes in it enough to not pressure me too much into getting a real job, while also looking into educating her attorney self on the dark side of the music business so that Terri and I get what we have coming to us.

On the assumption, of course, that anything comes at all.

If it does – in the form of a song being placed in a TV show or movie, or another artist with a bigger name wanting to record a song – it will be the kind of high you can find without the legalization of marijuana.

If not, I can listen to my daughter sing my words – some of which were written 20-25 years before she was a glint in my eye – and now that it’s all good.

And gold.

No Gray Area: Life Is Sweet




GORDONVILLE – When Natalie Merchant took the stage at the American Music Theatre in Lancaster on July 9, my excitement of seeing one of the more provocative singer-songwriter voices of my formative years briefly turned to more to melancholy from my close-up view (third row, center).

When I had seen Merchant in concert – back when she fronted the 10,000 Maniacs in the 1980s and once shortly after she launched her solo career in 1993 – she was a restrained whirling dervish in patented schoolgirl attire.

About a year and a half older than myself, there was a combination of youthful exuberance within both of us, I suppose.

But on July 9 – 2014 – time had passed.

My initial shock of seeing her hair, now less than shoulder length and turned almost all gray was a not-so-subtle reminder of the evaporated decades.

Still dressed the same, but slightly more full-figured, and one would without prior knowledge might be tempted to quip that Merchant looked somewhat silly.

She barely began the first song – “Lulu,” from her new CD – when I reflected on myself.

If Natalie could see a picture of the “much fuller” G2 that used to see her in concert and the one now, she may have had some initial shock as well.

I also rock some gray, particularly in my goatee, and far less hair on top of a dome that once housed curls to spare.

And like Natalie, I’m not vain enough to do anything about the gray. And I’ll do a Kojak before the monstrosity of a weave or wig to combat the baldness.

I am also a married man now — one who spent most of the concert with my daughter, 7, on my lap because the seating Gods predictably placed “that guy” in front of her (and chose my lap over switching seats).

As Merchant sang “Lulu” – a carefully crafted song about Louise Brooks, a silent film star whose mind of her own led to with a quick fall from grace – it quickly became all about the music.

The verses of the opening song ended with the lines “everybody knew your name” before changing to “everybody cursed your name” before concluding with “nobody knew your name.”

And at some level, one has to wonder if Merchant saw herself in the subject of the song, causing her to pen it.

Any of us who have experienced a rise and fall can certainly relate to the story of Brooks.

And to that of Merchant.

Like me, Natalie became a parent later in life. I’m sure it created a seismic shift in priorities. Your career, whether as an acclaimed singer-songwriter or a big-fish-in-a-small-pond journalist, takes a back seat to the most important job you will have.

Backed by a multi-piece band that included strings, Merchant continued with a set list of mostly slower introspective songs – like “River” (about River Phoenix), “Seven Years” and “Beloved Wife” — that may not immediately register with the casual fan expecting a greatest hits package.

Merchant may or may not have been completely “into it” at the start. Just another gig in just another town, far from the big cities and larger venues she used to play, but this audience was loaded with diehards.

“We still love you, Natalie,” was a common refrain from the audience between songs.

While the music was well-rehearsed and beautiful from the jump, the vibe began to build like a life force.

You wish you could bottle it up, but that would make it less special when it does reveal itself.

You just have to let it happen, and absorb it when it does.

Merchant began moving to the music with less inhibition, and interacting — and being playful — with the audience.

(Note: This was confirmed by “that guy” after the show. He was in front of me in line in the bathroom and holding a set list he copped from one of the performers. He said he had seen her four times on the tour, and this was the most “free” she seemed.)

Whenever Merchant performed a song from the new release, her first of original material in 13 years, she jokingly held up the CD case and gently reminded the crowd that it was for sale in the lobby.

She also added that there were no T-shirts because “she doesn’t like seeing her face” on them.

I vividly remember having a 10,000 Maniacs shirt back in the day, and it was of an album cover with no faces, so the logic is debatable.

But I’ll manage to survive.

This is just Natalie being Natalie.

If she were like everyone else – basking in the limelight with the likes of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Beyonce, etc. – she wouldn’t be her.

And I wouldn’t be there in the third row, with my daughter on my lap, soaking up the moment and using the opportunity to replay my own trials and tribulations while relating – as I always have – to her insightful and unique lyrics.

And on July 9, there was no better place on the planet to be.

It all got the best of me during “Life Is Sweet” when she sang out: “But I tell you, life is short/Be thankful because before you know/It will be over … Cause life is sweet/And life is also very short/Your life is sweet.”

My wife instinctively knew that this song – with Sofia being held tight on my lap – was going to make me lose it, and reached across Sofia’s unused seat and rubbed my shoulder.

To my left, my mother glanced over – probably wondering what the big deal was – but some people just don’t get it (case in point, her only take-away after the show was that Merchant had a good voice but should buy a wig or “do something” about the premature gray).

But I do.

I always got it.

And Merchant was clearly getting it that her voice – and her songs – still had a place in this crazy, mixed-up world.

Merchant followed “Life Is Sweet” with “Ladybird,” my favorite track from the new CD, and ended the set with “Break Your Heart” before a rousing ovation brought her back to the stage.

While people starting shouting out requests, I felt a bit annoyed because I wanted to see what she had up her own sleeve without urging.

She heeded the plea of some joker who wanted to hear “Bleezer’s Ice Cream,” and she fortunately stopped after only eight bars and launched into “Wonder,” sparking more energy in the room that was growing more intimate by the song.

A woman approached the stage and gave her some flowers, then another came up and whispered something.

Merchant came back to the mic and said – in a playfully hushed tone – that the woman requested “something by 10,000 Maniacs.”

The audience responded as expected.

Merchant, who is often reluctant to fall back on songs from her old band, then added: “And I said … yes.”

“These Are Days” followed, and the audience that had spent much of the show sitting and intently absorbing the music was up on its feet clapping along (Sofia, too).

And something amazing happened. Maybe it was just the lighting, but her hair didn’t seem as gray.

And she smiled wide as she danced around with the old verve.

It was a transformation.

Natalie Merchant became the Natalie Merchant of a bygone era.

And I went there, too.

Welcome to the power of music.

I barely got to whisper to Sofia that “These Are Days” was the “summary” song at the end of Mommy and Daddy’s wedding video when more requests reigned down.

I cringed when I heard more mellow requests, and was pleasantly surprised when a call for “Hey Jack Kerouac” – one of my all-time favorite 10,000 Maniacs songs — was accepted, on the contingency that the guitar player knew it.

He did, and Merchant sang along while the drummer found a beat.

She continued with “Carnival” and urged the crowd to its feet with “Kind and Generous.”

When the song ended, she left us wanting more.

And everybody knew her name.







You Say You Want A Resolution? Try A Cease Fire




GORDONVILLE – We all live with regret, and sometimes it’s the little moments – the seemingly innocuous choices to put the left foot in front of the right – that rise to the top of the list as the calendar unmercifully flips from year to year.

Let us board a time machine and travel back to the summer of 1986. My father had rented a house in the mountainous woods of Vermont for the summer.

After taking advantage of the freedom of no parental supervision for weeks on end, my sister and I went there for a week in late August.

It was a pretty cool place, with the feel of an old-fashioned log cabin but modern amenities that included a Jacuzzi the size of a small swimming pool.

I remember being at a creative peak as a songwriter – and guitar player (something I have since given up) – and using the long car rides to plays at places like the campus of Williams College and shopping outlets as fodder for whatever deep thinking a 21-year can have (brains don’t fully develop until the ages of 24 and 30).

And now, for that moment of regret.

It should have been when I lost my temper when everyone in the car – father, step-mother and sister – mocked Suzanne Vega’s first “tape” after 10 seconds into the first song, but I’m still proud that I defended Suzanne’s honor (even though she rightfully looked at me like a stalker when I was first in line and babbling like an idiot when we saw her at the Sellersville Theater a few years back).

Plus, the joke was on them when Vega had a big hit a year later with “Luka.”

No, it came when my sister and I went to a concert in whatever nearby sign of civilization that served as the pseudo-downtown area.

The featured act was Woodstock hero Richie Havens. We walked into what was basically a glorified barn with a bunch of benches laid out in front of a stage.

While the latent hippie types malingered, we went straight to the front row.

I briefly noticed a few homemade cassette tapes that had the name “Rod MacDonald” written on them in magic marker, but gave it no real thought — other than my own musical endeavor, The Last Wave, was not much different (except we weren’t warming up for Richie Havens and never made it out of my basement, except to record some songs in my guitar teacher’s basement).

MacDonald took the stage with an acoustic guitar and rolled through a set of well-written songs that he set up with poignant and witty stories.

I had him pegged as either a 1960s has-been or wannabe who, through bad luck, had been nothing more than a regional New England act.

Then he finished his set with what he jokingly said was his “hit song.”

Actually, as benches began to slow fill with earth-shoe-wearing refugees from New York City and Boston, there seemed to be some measure of familiarity with the song – “Stop The War” – in the audience of less than 200.

As a songwriter type myself, I listened intently and was spellbound by the lyrics.

I was expecting a leftover Vietnam-era song, but it was one of those songs that can fit like a hand in a glove at any place in time.

Through the years, the words of the chorus managed to stick:

“Stop the war, Stop War

Stop the War within yourself

And you won’t have to fight with anyone else.”

After MacDonald was done playing, I ventured to the back of the “theater” to locate a bathroom and maybe grab a snack.

I noticed the tapes still there, and figured that I would wait until after the Richie Havens performance and pick one up.

Havens then played, and I was enthralled at his unique guitar style that I have later learned was due to him being self-taught.

He ran through a bunch of songs – including plenty written by Bob Dylan, who I was all about that summer (even more than Bruce Springsteen) – and brought the crowd into a bit of a frenzy with “Freedom,” the song he rocked a much larger throng with at Woodstock.

The show had ended and we exited into my father’s waiting car out front.

It didn’t hit me until halfway home that I never picked up MacDonald’s tape.

Maybe it was because I was riding a buzz that both Havens and his backup guitar player acknowledged me with winks and nods for appreciating the performance with such intensity. Maybe it was because my sister wasn’t feeling well (or at least that it what she said).

Or maybe it was that underdeveloped brain of mine.

The following morning, back in town, MacDonald was in the same diner eating breakfast with his manager. The G2 of today would have approached, heaped platitudes upon him, told him I was an aspiring songwriter myself and asked about buying a tape.

But I was more timid back then.

It left me with regret.

I thought I had read somewhere that MacDonald had died, but I must’ve Googled the wrong dude.

He is not only alive, but his career has gone well from those days of selling homemade tapes. He was not really the 1960s leftover I imagined, as he was just building his reputation in the 1980s as key cog in the folk revival in Greenwich Village.

And his under-the-radar music has come a long way, in terms of availability.

Just about all of his songs – many of which have been covered by a plethora of quality acts – are available on iTunes.

Including not one, but two versions of “Stop The War.”

First verse about a general. Second verse about a stock brocker.

You get the picture.

A lot of people are busy making New Year’s resolutions, and I usually do the same.

A few years back, I decided to make them more inward than outward (losing weight, exercise, etc.).

In 20I1, I tried letting things slide.


Come 2012, I tried not caring what other people think about me.

More LOL.

In 2013, there was the old attempt at not worrying about what is out of my control.


Well, in 2014, I’m going to raise the bar.

And really, when I look in the mirror at the well-meaning but flawed being glaring back, it’s not a laughing matter.

I’m going to stop the war.

The war within myself.

So that I don’t have to fight with anyone else.

To Rod MacDonald, thanks.

I may have forgotten to buy your tape back when my brain was not fully developed, but I never forgot your words.

A Real Bad Trip, Man




GORDONVILLE — What do we all have in common?

Aside from being mere mortals, we all like pizza and we bleed when we are cut by sharp objects.

And if we are normal – or at least semi-normal – and are able to hear, we at least appreciate the music of The Beatles.

And we all have our favorite songs and albums. My Fab Four favorites – despite 50 percent hearing in my left ear – tend to come from the Rubber Soul, Revolver and Magical Mystery Tour albums.

But, top to bottom, I consider their best album to be what is known as The White Album (actual title is The Beatles). A double-album, it includes the likes of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Revolution 1” and “Dear Prudence.”

There are so many others – “Blackbird” and “Mother Nature’s Sun” and “Sexy Sadie” – that I don’t know where to stop myself.

But you can’t argue this point: The White Album is without a dud.

Well, almost.

There is this pesky “song” – lasts 8 minutes and 22 seconds – that comes second to last amid the long and winding sequence of classics. It is called “Revolution 9.”

Not only is “Revolution 9” my least favorite song on my favorite Beatles album, but it is my least favorite Beatles song.

Heck, it might be my least favorite song, period.

Basically, it is a bunch of noise – with the line “number nine, number nine, number nine …” repeated endlessly – that is passed off as an “experimental sound collage” that reveals the influence that Yoko Ono was unfortunately having on John Lennon (even though George Harrison, who penned some of the albums best tunes, was reportedly roped into helping create it).

As forgettable as it may be, “Revolution 9” was kind of stuck in my head at, of all places, a football game last Sunday – about 45 years after it was released.

While the Philadelphia Eagles played as if the turf at Lincoln Financial Field were quicksand and the end zone they were pursuing was protected by a mystical force field, preventing one of the league’s top rated offenses from threatening to score against one of its worst defenses, that irksome phrase began ringing in my ears.

Number Nine.

Number Nine.

Number Nine.

It was like a bad trip, man.

Paul wasn’t dead.

Forget about 6-6-6.

Turn it upside for the real pre-Halloween fright.

The Eagles were, for the ninth straight home game, coming out on the losing end, this time against the rival Dallas Cowboys, 17-3.

And the quarterback, with a chance to be anointed the successor to the throne, was performing like the song “Helter Skelter” was blaring in his helmet instead of the plays from the sideline.

That quarterback, second-year man Nick Foles, happens to wear what number uniform?

You got it.

Number nine.

Number nine.

Number nine.

While it was not fair to deem Foles the face of the franchise based on winning one game in relief and another as a starter against two teams with one win between them, it is not fair to send him packing to the Arena Football League after last Sunday.

Nonetheless, when asked if the Eagles had a worse quarterback performance in a single game, I could only think of one: Pat Ryan.

What was his jersey number during that ill-fated stint of four games, netting a QB rating of 10.3 (for real)?

Not No. 9, but No. 10.

Whether or not you believe in numerology, it is a reminder that it can only get more dismal.

If the Eagles lose again this week, the well-worn “Rocky” movie clips on the big screen might have to give way to the movie “10.”

Instead of piping in all the AC/DC and Rocky soundtrack songs into the Linc, they ought to use “Revolution 9”until further notice.

It would be odd, but you reap what you sow.

The repeated “number nine” would be reminder of the torture the Eagles are putting their fans through with this ongoing home-field disadvantage, and also encouragement that a “Revolution” ought to be in order.

I am a season-ticket holder. I am not a big fan of a lot of the fans, to be brutally honest. Too many seem more interested in drinking in the parking lot than thinking about the game on the field, but I almost can condone cheers drowned by beers.

It has been more than a calendar year since the Eagles prevailed at home. It is the worst example of at-home futility in professional sports, and the worst in the team’s rather sordid history since the 1930s.

Even the Temple football team, which also calls the Linc home, has won a few times there during this span. And the Owls are not exactly the Crimson Tide of Alabama.

How and why is this happening?

A fluke? A byproduct of a team that was terrible last year and has only played three games at home this season, one which hangs perilously in the balance between contending and pretending with nine – yes, there is that number again – games left of a 16-outing slate?

We could get into the Xs and Os, but it is about a suddenly lost culture where coming into town to play a Philadelphia team – particularly the Eagles – once carried some level of mystique.

The feeling is gone and we just can’t seem to get it back.

It might be time to look for rational reasons, beyond the paranormal.

Philadelphia is a sports town, for all its teams. The Phillies are beloved, the Flyers have a cult following and the Sixers get what they give whenever they decide to be good. Even the Union, the soccer team, is developing a loyal base.

But it’s all about the Eagles, first and foremost.

This is a football town.

Sociologists can research the reasons, pointing to Philly’s blue-collar proletariat work ethic, but it can’t be that complicated.

It goes back to 1960 – the year The Beatles started making their mark in Hamburg, Germany.

That is when the Eagles last won the NFL title.

To put it in perspective, that’s more than half a decade before the league champion was crowned after the Super Bowl. It was just called “the championship game” and the players wore crew cuts.

It has been 53 years, and one look around The Linc on game day reveals beer-guzzlers who were not even born in 1960 and might have a hard time naming five Beatles songs, let alone five stars from the last team to put a meaningful banner up in the rafters.

The Phillies are professional franchise with the most losses in the history of American sport, but this is a “what have you done for me lately?” society. They won the World Series in 2008 and also 1980. The Sixers won in recent memory, going all the way in 1983. The Flyers captured the Stanley Cup twice, in 1974 and 1975 and have been in the finals six times since.

The Eagles? Two Super Bowl losses, and a whole lot of ups and downs, since 1960.

That puts them under the microscope; in a fish bowl.

In other cities, where the desperation does not run as deep, a team can play loose in front of a crowd that is not clapping and cheering with clenched fists and teeth.

And during this nine-game swoon at home, the common denominator is a roster with a talent level that needs that added pressure like former coach Andy Reid – whose current 7-0 record in Kansas City includes a win here –  needs another doughnut.

It could be said that the Linc lacks something that Veterans Stadium had, in terms of intimidation, and that might be true. But the saccharine environment can turn sweet in a hurry with a win against another rival, the one-win New York Giants, this Sunday.

Or even more bitter with another loss.

What song will come to mind?

“Ten” by Jewel?

“Ten Little Indians,” the nursery rhyme, or the versions by the Yardbirds or Nilsson?

“Ten Thousand Fists,” by the Disturbed? Probably a little too disturbing.

“Ten With A Two,” by Kenny Chesney? Uh, no. Sore subject in that stadium.

“Ten Times Crazier,” by Blake Shelton, keeping it country, without touching a nerve?

Sounds like we got a winner, assuming we get another loser.

This column originally appeared at

The Revolution Starts Now





GORDONVILLE — So I was rapping to this guy the other day, and I was describing some ordinary situation in my day. I added that it annoyed the heck out of me.

His response: “Everything annoys you.”

Well, not everything.

But enough “things” that the point is well-taken and met with little resistance.

Near the top of the AL – Annoyance List, not American League – standings is the propensity on the nightly news, usually on a Sunday, to list the top movies of the week.

The criteria? The box office sales are it, which is really a sad commentary on culture, given the subject matter of the majority of the movies.

Want to raise the bar on Hollywood, challenging it to do better than it does with lame scripts and gratuitous violence? Change the approach. Why not list the “best” movies, according to critics, that week?


Not so, dumb-dumb.

Not an alien concept, really. AP and USA Today release Top 25 rankings for college football and basketball – among other sports – on a weekly basis. Those votes are also based on media observations from those with trained eyes.

Why doesn’t this happen in the movie universe? Well, if you subscribe to the theory that everything is a conspiracy until proven otherwise, Hollywood is in cahoots with the networks that broadcast these lists of high-budget B movies.

It’s not that, say, science fiction cannot have a role in storytelling. At its best, the genre uses an alternate setting to send a strong message. But how often, realistically, does that happen anymore?

I have an idea for the perfect sci-fi thriller, as it eerily hits close to home. It need not be set too far into the future, either. Maybe 50-75 years, tops.

And it is rooted in today’s headlines.

Seems that a day doesn’t go by without hearing of bears infringing upon man’s arrogant eminent domain and attacking and mauling, right? Ditto for coyotes. And we all know about deer daring to get in our way on the roads to the extent that hunting season is cast in a way that is supposed to be for our best interest – and that of the hunted (LOL!). And we are also getting more reports of shark attacks than ever.

Some of it is the 24-hour news cycle and Internet bringing this stuff to light more readily, but it’s hard to buy as the only reason.

Where there is smoke, there is fire.

So here is the plot. The bucks, with their mighty antlers, decide to get angry about the violence perpetrated against their women and children and begin turning aggressive toward human women and children. The bears, the sharks and coyotes – and maybe alligators and snakes — follow suit.

The only way to stem the tide is for the adult male of the future where just about all (49 of 50) are stricken with autism (1 in 50 boys now, in 2013, and the epidemic is getting worse, so it’s not outlandish) to find a way to communicate and work together, to create an environment where we can co-exist with these animals again and reverse the risk factors for Austism Spectrum Disorder – clearly in the polluted air, the food loaded with additives and medication we take in the U.S. at a rate well beyond that of the rest of the planet – to have that Hollywood ending.

We can call the movie “The Revolution Starts Now” after the Steve Earle song (I have Steve Earle on the brain after he rocked my world at the Sellersville Theater Thursday night).

How’s that?

Nah, too close for comfort.

Bring on the vampires and zombies and keep on annoying me.

I’ll be OK. It’s just another example of … drum roll … What Is And What Should Never Be.

Ready for more?

What Is: A study conducted by the University of Michigan – my favorite college football team once each year, when Penn State is the opponent – reveals that making connections, via Facebook, might have us singing the blues.

And What Should Never Be: Letting a positive turn into a negative.

The point of the study was a good one. Facebook time can cause us to compare our lives to that of others and leaving us coming away feeling like we have bought one-way tickets to Loserville.

I have been there, done that. Not gonna lie.

For myself, being home a lot this summer with Sofia has led to time interacting on Facebook, often engaging in political debates and just touching base with people I am better for knowing.

It’s just a phase, though. I have gone – and will go – through others where it’s a secondary activity and not my immediate connection to the outside world.

We just have to take it for it is, and stare the truth in the eye.

Certain people, for whatever reason – who and what they represent in relation to our own life and times, and ensuing trials and tribulations – can put us in a funk by paging through their pictures or status posts about how they are in this place or that enjoying wine and cheese with friends.

But this is an onion that needs peeling, the study cautions. In actuality, it is the people who “socialize the most in real life” that are most prone to these oft-unhealthy comparisons.

According to John Jonides, the research co-author and a University of Michigan cognitive neuroscientist: “It suggests that when you are engaging in social interactions a lot, you’re more aware of what others are doing and, consequently, you might be more sensitized about what’s happening on Facebook and comparing that to your own life.”

I would have to say that more good than bad has come of entering the Facebook universe that allows room to breathe, despite 1.1 billion co-inhabitants.

What Is: Just to prove that man does not live by Facebook alone, a more recent discovery – Netflix – has opened up new horizons.

And What Should Never Be: Having a closed mind.

I had heard how Netflix reinvented itself for years, but figured the likes of HBO had me covered in the quest for inspiring and intriguing entertainment.

Even knowing that Netflix had an original series starring Steven Van Zandt wasn’t enough.

But then I got an iPad for my birthday in March and I took the plunge, figuring seeing the likes of “The Wonder Years” and “Star Trek” – while playing catch-up on “Mad Men” — was worth the price of admission.

Turns out, I went off in a completely different direction. First it was “Sons Of Anarchy.” Then, a friend told me about a show called “Freaks and Geeks” about high school in the early 1980s, which is when we were in high school. The only bad part of the show was that it only lasted one season and left me lamenting what could and should have been.

Next, I turned to the Van Zandt vehicle, “Lillyhammer,” and got a kick out of him pretty much reprising the role of Silvio Dante (“The Sopranos”) in a bizarre setting (a New York mob guy in witness protection in Norway).

The cool thing about Netflix is that, like Facebook, it takes a snapshot of what you like and suggests more ideas.

That led me to another original Netflix series, “Orange Is The New Black,” and I roared through the first season in about two weeks. Ditto for the award-winning “House of Cards.”

HBO cornered the market with the catch-phrase of “it’s not TV, it’s HBO.” Now, one has to consider saying, “it’s not HBO, it’s Netflix.”

Then again, “Boardwalk Empire” returns Sept. 8 on HBO.

How do I know?


What Is: The aforementioned Steve Earle – even though his show ended too late to stay in line for an autograph, which I may live to regret – got me thinking about our place and time in history (including the story line for the movie, as he spoke of his toddler son with autism).

And Should Never Be: Not turning the deep thinking to action.

Earle explained that all songwriters of his generation follow in Bob Dylan’s footsteps, whether they want to admit it or not (don’t the ones who refuse to submit just annoy you?). He continued to explain that Dylan modeled himself after Woody Guthrie, whose legacy was pretty much creating the realistic soundtrack of The Great Depression era. Earle added that Dylan would be the first to admit that he never experienced America going through the hard times as seen through the eyes of his hero, Guthrie.

Earle, who has been touring by bus for a while, said that it has struck him that the America he is now seeing is as horrific as that of Guthrie’s time.

And he’s spot-on accurate.

I blame Bush, you blame Obama.

Others point to Wall Street.

And maybe we should just look in the mirror, blame ourselves and start doing something about it.

After Earle and his band – The Dukes – aptly ended their show with “The Revolution Starts Now,” the lights went up and a recording of Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” (should be the national anthem, but don’t get me started on that) began to play.

It sounded new again.

It sounded great.

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