Thursday, November 29, 2007

Romney Leads All Candidates in Surprising New Poll

It's really hard to keep track of all the policy positions of the various Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, or to remember who's leading who in whichever up-to-the-minute and totally inconsequential poll. I hope this report helps clarify your choice for the next Godfather President of our country.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mr. Hendrix

He would've been 65 today.

"Machine Gun"
January 1, 1970 at the Fillmore East

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Greatest American Rock and Roll Albums

When I record an album,
I'm trying to get as close as possible
to that perfect moment.

Lou Reed

After tackling the Greatest American Roll and Roll Musicians, it's time now to explore the Greatest American Rock and Roll Albums. What are the major artistic works of this music in our culture?

The concept of an "album" really belongs to the rock and roll era. Before the mid-1950s, you could only put a few short songs on one phonograph record. Then the LP (Long-Playing record) appeared, and musicians could suddenly expand the length of their compositions. The oeuvre of an early blues or jazz giant like Robert Johnson or Bix Beiderbecke, for example, consists entirely of two-to-three minute songs. Compare that with the works of a later jazz figure like John Coltrane, who recorded a 57-minute version of "My Favorite Things." LPs also allowed for the creation of the "rock opera" and the "concept album," unique and longer-format artistic efforts. I'm not sure compact discs, despite being a major technological change from analog to digital, affected the structure of creative works like LPs did. Now, however, with the rise of mp3s, iPods, etc., the "album" as a discrete unit of artistic production may be coming to an end. So it seems like a good time to look back and see what masterpieces of rock and roll we as a culture created.

In my previous post, I said the musicians had to be primarily rock and rollers. Mainly to keep the discussion focused. But that's not the case for Greatest Albums. I'm open to works by people who were better known for other genres. Thus, to continue with my examples from the other post, Marvin Gaye's What's Going On? has to be considered, as do some of Johnny Cash's recordings for Rick Rubin, not to mention At Folsom Prison.

So, on with the show . . .

The 20 Greatest American Rock and Roll Albums

1) The Eagles: Their Greatest Hits (Asylum 1976) - Hey, don't blame me for this one. YOU chose it. WE ALL chose it. America is the greatest country in the world because: a) The invisible hand of God the market dictates everything, and b) We are a free market democracy. So, can there be a more American way of choosing the greatest rock and roll albums than by selecting the ones that sold the most right here in the good ol' USA? Of course not! And this collection of rock anthems is the biggest-selling album of all time in the world. I know some of you pooh-pooh The Eagles, but if someone (probably another American) put a gun to your head and made you choose between listening to "Hotel California" for the millionth time or something un-American and un-rock-and-roll like Celine Dion, you know you'd pick Don Henley & Co. every time. So, eat your broccoli; it's good for you.

2) Michael Jackson: Thriller (Epic 1982) - First you complain about my selection method, and now you complain that the King of Pop isn't even rock and roll. Well, you're wrong. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences gave Mr. Neverland an award for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male for "Beat It." In addition, this album single-handedly made MTV the rock and roll success story it is today. Without him, we'd have been left with five maladjusted college kids watching Skinny Puppy videos all day. Not to mention the fact that Michael recorded with one of the Beatles, and, like Bob Dylan, was nominated for a Nobel Prize. And Jackson's was even for Peace, which is much more rock and roll than Dylan's nomination for "Literature." Finally, the guy owned elephants. Outside of a circus, only rock and rollers own elephants.

3) Billy Joel: Greatest Hits Volume I & II (Columbia 1985) - Hey, it's still rock and roll to me.

4) Boston: Boston (Epic 1976) - You can't get more rock and roll than Boston. I mean, "More than a Feeling" is being used for TV commercials and everything.

5) Hootie & the Blowfish: Cracked Rear View (Atlantic 1995) - "Hootie," get it? Heh, heh, heh. And the Blowfish. We all know what that means! See, like I said, real rock and roll.

So, there you go - The United States of America's legendary contribution to the universe of rock and roll, which, with the exception of one or two British bands, IS American anyway. We started all the noise, and these five albums prove that America is still THE KING OF ROCK AND ROLL!

Okay, maybe not. Perhaps, just perhaps, the market isn't always the best indication of artistic accomplishment.

[UPDATE: PLEASE READ THIS. Just to make it perfectly clear, the five albums listed above are the biggest-selling American "rock" albums, according to Billboard. My including them as the "Greatest" American rock albums was meant as A JOKE. Humor. Satire. A failed attempt, evidently. Sigh.]

The album that single-handedly killed American rock and roll.

I have to say, it was much more difficult to come up with 20 Great Albums than it was for 20 Great Musicians. There are so many more possibilities. And my lack of knowledge became even more apparent. I've read a lot about MC5's Kick Out the Jams, for example, but I've only listened to it a couple of times - and that was many years ago. I felt comfortable excluding the group from the list of 20 Great Musicians, because they didn't really do much else, but I can't say the same about their album. So, it's a list based on limited knowledge and my being something of a numbskull at times. Take it for what it's worth.

The first five albums are listed in order. After that, it's any body's guess. I wrote about four more albums for reasons mysterious even to myself. Just felt like I wanted to say something about them. They're in chronological order, as are the eleven titles that follow them. The four I wrote about are not meant to be "better" than the eleven I simply gave titles for.

There are many great albums I couldn't include. (I'm still wrestling over ZZ Top's Tres Hombres. Whatever my feelings about their later incarnation, that's a classic rock and roll album.) Tell me what I stupidly missed.

The Greatest American Rock and Roll Albums (take 2)

Five for the Ages

Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited (Columbia 1965) - You could flip a coin between this and Blonde on Blonde. Actually, I did. The gods of rock and roll were probably right. The drum blast that opens the album, in "Like a Rolling Stone," feels like a cannon shot to announce the beginning of a revolution. Several forces of musical history came together in a perfect storm. This is what it had all been leading to. Robert Johnson, Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, Dylan's folk period - they all collided in "Like a Rolling Stone." Not only did the sound and the lyrics blow everything out of the water, but a six-minute radio single had never been attempted before. Everything up to then was basically 2:59. The Revolution had won. The King was dead and the peasants had taken over.

Though Dylan had already gone electric at Newport and on the first side of Bringing It All Back Home, this marks the starting point of modern rock and roll. "Like a Rolling Stone" was chosen as the best rock and roll song ever by Unnamed Corporate Music Magazine, which said of it: "No other pop song has so thoroughly challenged and transformed the commercial laws and artistic conventions of its time." And when Bruce Springsteen was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he said, "The first time I heard Bob Dylan, I was in the car with my mother listening to WMCA, and on came that snare shot that sounded like somebody had kicked open the door to your mind." To be honest, I’ve always been more partial to “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.” (“When you’re lost in the rain, in Juarez, and it’s Easter time, too.” What kind of a journey are we on? Crossing the border, getting lost, finding our way again.) Or "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," one of the best song titles ever. And the operatic “Desolation Row” can’t be dismissed either. One of the greatest memories of my life thus far is of Liam and I performing"Desolation Row" together in front of a giant bonfire in a bullring near a small village out in the middle of nowhere Castilla. What better setting for this poetic masterpiece? And, yeah, the other songs are pretty good, too.

Bob Dylan: Blonde on Blonde (Columbia 1966) - How do you follow up the Greatest American Rock and Roll Album of all time? Well, you crank out the second greatest one. Highway 61 feels more historic, and it was certainly a tighter, more controlled album. But Dylan was bursting at the seems with creativity and needed to spread out, so he came up with another innovation: the first studio double-album.

I would argue that there have been few if any periods of creative expression among American artists as feverish and fertile as Dylan's hell-bent-for-leather epoch that started in Greece in the summer of 1964, as he finished writing the songs for Another Side of Bob Dylan, his last folk album, and the summer of 1966, when he cracked up on his motorcycle in the rain and came within an inch of losing his life with a broken neck. He produced five LPs (Another Side, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and the 2-album Blonde on Blonde), all of which were much longer than normal LPs of the time. [The first two Beatles albums clocked in at 26 and 22 minutes respectively; Highway 61 is over 51 minutes, Another Side is 50 minutes.] Even more amazing is the amount of high-quality material that went unreleased at the time, only surfacing decades later on Biograph and other collections. Add in his tour of Europe tour of 1965 and the famous one with The Band in 1966, the controversial Newport Folk Festival performance, and a film (D.A. Pennebaker’s Don’t Look Back, still probably the best rock and roll movie ever made). It’s a truly astounding artistic achievement. And Blonde on Blonde marks the end of the whirlwind. It’s all over the place in terms of mood and tone – that “thin, wild mercury sound,” as Dylan described what he was after – from the rambunctious, drunken Salvation Army Band feel that opens the album in “Rainy Day Women (#12 & 35),” to the snarling rock-blues of “Pledging My Time,” the pop stylings of “I Want You,” the classic rock of “Stuck Inside of Mobile (With the Memphis Blues Again),” and the epic surrealist ballad, “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” which takes up all of Side 4.

Oh, yeah, and then there's the greatest work of rock artistry ever recorded. The song that Dylan fans perennially vote as his best (which it is) : “Visions of Johanna.” I don’t care what anyone else says, “A ghost of ‘lectricty howls in the bones of her face” is still the most amazing line in rock and roll.

May you never hear surf music again.

Jimi Hendrix: Are You Experienced? (MCA 1967) - Almost another coin toss between this and Electric Ladyland, and for similar reasons. Are You Experienced? is another revolutionary proclamation, whereas Electric Ladyland is a sprawling, too-loose-at-times double album that shows the full breadth of Hendrix's creative vision. Both are essential. But Jimi's first album has a special sense of urgency and surprise. He keeps you off-kilter, like all great rock and roll should. After ripping up the place on "Purple Haze" and "Manic Depression," Jimi offers up a slow, dangerous folk-blues tale about killing your woman and running from the law. Later on, there's a beautiful ballad, "The Wind Cries Mary," a straight-ahead rocker, "Fire," and then - woah . . . what in the hell is this? . . . science-fiction? . . . avant-garde experimentation? . . . What kind of a trip are we on here? Impossible to tell, but it takes place on "The Third Stone from the Sun." Jimi heads into outer/inner-space on a voyage that he explores more fully and beautifully in "1983," on Electric Ladyland. This is more freaky and fun, however. Then it's back to all-out sex-driven rock and roll, with "Foxey Lady," before capping off the adventures with the awesome backwards guitar / tape-loop manifesto, "Are You Experienced?" The album came out 40 years ago, but I'm still asking myself that question. It's a lifelong journey. ("Not necessarily stoned . . . but beautiful.")

The Velvet Underground: The Velvet Underground and Nico (Verve 1967) - Okay, I have to admit, I’ve never been a big Nico fan. I understand the concept, but she never really moved me. (I do dig the neo-Nico sounds of Stereolab, however.) But if her songs remind me too much of Yoko Ono on some of those Lennon albums (the whole bloody side 2 of Live Peace in Toronto, which, otherwise, would be one of the best live albums ever made), there’s just no escaping Lou Reed’s masterpieces. “I’m Waiting for the Man,” “Venus in Furs,” and, most of all, “Heroin.” Plus, with CDs, I can skip the Nico songs when I feel like it. This was, though, definitely one of the most revolutionary albums ever. And it’s one of the mythic examples of artistic influence despite capitalist failure. As the saying goes, only 1,000 people bought this album - But every single one of them started a band. And it only grows in stature as the years go by.

Jimi Hendrix: Electric Ladyland (MCA 1968) - Like Dylan's Blonde on Blonde, this album reveals an artist bursting at the seams with creativity. Opening up with some aural experimentation, the almost opera-like overture of "...And the Gods Made Love" / "Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)," Jimi then bursts out with a straight-ahead rock and roll AM radio single, "Crosstown Traffic," which sounds like it could've been on his first album. But that frenetic trip through traffic comes to an abrupt halt at the edge of a wide, deep lake, as he takes us on an epic blues pilgrimage with his 15-minute wonder, "Voodoo Chile." Side 2 of this double-LP is more rock and roll, highlighted by the beautiful and haunting, "Burning of the Midnight Lamp." Side 3 is something else altogether, an 18-minute journey into Hendrix's own mythological space-sea world. We sometimes forget how much science-fiction imagery and aesthetic played in Hendrix's work, and it reaches its fullest expression in "1983 . . . (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)." Side 4 takes us back to his rhythm & blues roots with "House Burning Down," and the album closes with what I believe are his two greatest songs, "All Along the Watchtower" and "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)." Hendrix takes Dylan's simple but majestic country-folk song from John Wesley Harding and remakes it into something completely his own, more, perhaps, than any other cover song has ever done. He stays true to Dylan's vision in the original but heightens the myth-making effect through his mastery of rock instrumentation. And he continues his almost alchemical transformation process with "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)," turning his own blues epic on Side 1 into one of the best rock and roll songs of all time. So country, folk, and blues have all been turned into gold by Hendrix on these last two tunes, which would be the last songs released while he was still alive.

Four I Felt Like Writing About

James Gang: Rides Again (ABC 1970) - If you love classic, early 1970s rock and roll, I don’t know if there’s a better overall example than Rides Again. The group started out with a funk-influenced "heavy" sound similar to Grand Funk Railroad or The Jeff Beck Group, but added in acoustic rock elements that gave them a broader, more interesting palette. Their first three albums, with Joe Walsh as principal singer-songwriter and axeman, are somewhat forgotten rock gems these days, and this one, their second effort, shows the group in peak form. The album kicks off in high gear with “Funk #49,” which features one of the best opening licks of any rock song ever, and stays in high gear throughout Side 1 with "Woman" and “The Bomber.” Side 2 shows the other face of the group, with a series of slow and mid-tempo numbers that work together almost like a rock-chamber concerto. (Basically, Side 2 is the stoner side.) Taken together, both sides add up to a true rock and roll classic.

Steely Dan: Countdown to Ecstasy (MCA 1973) - A lot of people might pick Aja as the strongest Dan album, and it definitely took rock and roll to a new level of sophistication, but I think Countdown best represents all of the aspects of the group. Who else but Steely Dan could turn Buddhism into a great rock song like "Bodhisattva," which opens up the album with a bang? Tunes like "Show Biz Kids" and "My Old School" continue the pure rock assault, along with some of their best New York wit. "Razor Boy" and "Your Gold Teeth" mark some of their first jazz-influenced pieces, and both hold up well over time. Country-rock elements come out in "Pearl of the Quarter,"and the album closes with "King of the World," which seems to pull all of the elements together. The songwriting on the album is first-rate throughout. Katy Lied would be another possible great album, and the aforementioned Aja. But I like them rocking out on Countdown to Ecstasy.

Tom Waits: Rain Dogs (Island 1985) - You could argue that Swordfishtrombone belongs here instead, because it established Tom Waits as a truly groundbreaking rock and roll artist, but I think his follow-up album was even better. If nothing else, it wins on the strength of “Jockey Full of Burbon.” I still remember hearing the song for the first time during the opening sequence of Jim Jarmusch’s Down By Law. I think I went out the next day and bought the album. And then there’s, “9th and Hennepin ,” which contains one of the other most poetic lines in rock and roll: “And all the rooms, they smell like diesel / And you take on the dreams of the ones who've slept there.” Plus, hey, Keith Richards shows up on “Big Black Mariah.”

Pavement: Slanted and Enchanted (Matador 1992) - This is where the Velvet Underground wound up. 25 years later, and it almost feels as revolutionary. Except that it references rock and roll rather than creating it anew. The form had been cannibalizing itself ever since the punk revolution, but it really reached a peak in the 1990s. One last gasp before all the meat was picked off the bones. Though Pavement started out producing some serious noise songs, they had a knack for coming up with amazing pop hooks, and they scatter them throughout Slanted, always perfectly timed and placed. Songs like "Summer Babe" and "Zurich Stained" are so perfect that they feel like they've always existed. Lyrically, you're never really sure where you're at, as the words sound so great together, but it's hard to figure out what's happening. That is, you're on a poetic journey. Stephen Malkmus puts on his best world-weary Lou Reed voice and attitude, and takes us on a ride through a strange, glorious early 1990s landscape. This is where America wound up.

Some Other Greats

Hey, where's that other guy? After Mr. Mojo Risin' couldn't rise out of the bathtub anymore, The Doors kept recording. This 1971 effort did not make my list of Greatest American Rock and Roll Albums. And just for the record, I have listened to it.

The Doors:
The Doors (Elektra 1967)
The Byrds: Younger Than Yesterday (Columbia 1967)
Creedence Clearwater Revival: Bayou Country (Fantasy 1969)
Grateful Dead: American Beauty (Warner Brothers 1970)
Allman Brothers Band: At Fillmore East (Capricorn 1971)
Bob Dylan:
Blood on the Tracks (Columbia 1975)
Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run (Columbia 1975)
Ramones: Ramones (Sire 1976)
Talking Heads: Remain in Light (Sire 1980)
Sonic Youth: Daydream Nation (Enigma 1988)
Nirvana: Nevermind (DGC 1991)

For those of you who need to: Substitute The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds for one of these last 15.

See the third part of my trilogy on American rock and roll: The Greatest American Rock and Roll Songs.

UPDATE: I woke up this morning and realized I had forgotten Talking Heads' Remain in Light. So I've added that to the list and withdrawn Yo La Tengo: Electr-O-Pura (Matador 1995), which was a more obviously personal choice to begin with.

The back cover of James Gang Rides Again. A great album, and one of my favorite rock and roll photos. It captures everything about the music: a top hat (showmanship, the song and dance man), snowy woods (rural/nature), the muddy road (the endless American road), choppers (speed, the highway, Don't Tread On Us), hippies (hippies), laughter (joy - or at least being stoned), solemnity (damn it, this is serious business), and a guitar hero [Joe Walsh] in black leather jacket and aviator glasses (cool).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Don't eat too much. Eat a lot! Give thanks. Enjoy time together with your families. (Or without them, if that works better.) If you're traveling, safe journey.

A list of things I'm thankful for this year:

1. Being alive in this incredible world.
2. I have a beautiful, loving, funny, intelligent, sexy and wonderfully creative wife.
3. I have a great family, even if we are a little scattered and dysfunctional at times.
4. My aunt continues to recover from cancer.
5. My friend Peg continues to recover from cancer.
6. My jobs - even if I have to have two of them.
7. Seeing my youngest brother Juan doing so well in his new job and being able to buy a new house.
8. I have a magnificent and, in the Glenn tradition, thoroughly handsome nephew, Isaiah Jose Daniel Glenn.
9. Seeing Liam and Romell get married and for them and Lukas to be so good together.
10. I have some great friends who are very supportive, interesting, caring, and cool.
BONUS. Getting to know you guys better over a year of blogging.

And here's some classic Peanuts Thanksgiving for you:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

News You Can Use

Good news for New Jersey squirrel eaters

NEW YORK (AFP) - Squirrel eaters in the US state of New Jersey have been told that the bushy-tailed rodents are likely safe to eat, after earlier being advised the unlikely delicacies could contain toxic metals.

The Environmental Protection Agency said earlier this year it had discovered high levels of lead in a squirrel taken from near a waste dump in the Ringwood area and advised people to eat the rodents no more than twice a week.

Officials have now said the test results were an error.

"A blender that was used to process the tissues into usable samples was defective and was identified as the source of the lead contamination," the Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement dated Monday.

The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife describes squirrel as "good table fare," offering recipes for squirrel chowder, stew and barbecue.
Good table fare . . . Well, hell, I could've told you that. Any self-respecting Texan has eaten squirrel at least once in his or her life. My great aunt Era cooked up a pretty good squirrel. (Though nothing beat her homemade chicken and dumplings, the likes of which I'll never encounter again.)

Unfortunately, the article DID NOT GIVE A LINK to the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife Squirrel recipes. (See, I've done the work for you.) That will take you to "Late Season Squirrel Hunting in New Jersey," By Jon Kline, Natural Resource Interpretation Technician for the NJDF&W. Before giving recipes, Jon offers this advice:
Hunters who ignore late-season squirrels are missing a great hunting opportunity. Squirrel populations are thriving and abundant in the Garden State. . . .

Shotgun season for squirrels in New Jersey runs to February 17, 2003.
Okay, two things here. First, The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife must be facing some real budget problems, because they haven't updated their squirrel recipes in about five years. So that craving you have for wasabi-encrusted squirrel - you're on your own.

Secondly, come on . . . a shotgun for squirrel? Yeah, I know some people do it, but real squirrel hunters use a .22. The Connecticut Outdoorsman website backs me up on this in their section on Connecticut Squirrel Hunting:
For starters, have you ever eaten a shotgun-killed squirrel? Pellets can be a pain to keep removing and there is no need to damage more meat than need be.
Amen, brother. Same goes for rabbit and quail. You start with a limited supply of meat to begin with - why mess it up with pellet? I remember one restaurant in Spain that didn't even bother taking the pellets out. I almost broke my teeth trying to get through a fried . . . well, some small dead thing.
Second, a shotgun blast will alert the whole woods to your presence. Though a .22 can sound loud in the quiet woods, the effects will not be nearly as serious. I've shot many consecutive squirrels with a .22, but getting more than one at a time with a shotgun is rare.

Third, a long shot with a shotgun can cripple better than kill. A well placed .22 bullet will rarely fail in its mission.
There's nothing more traumatizing to a young sportsman than crippling a small, innocent animal instead of landing a good, clean head-shot. Believe me, I know. My career as a hunter pretty much ended on a rare hunting trip with my father out in West Texas. I shot a rabbit but only managed to wound him (or, probably her - a mother, no doubt). All we discovered was a bloody trail disappearing into the tumbleweeds. I was so upset, I haven't shot at an animal since.

But I'm getting off track. The New Jersey squirrel recipes weren't bad, especially the one for squirrel chowder - we don't do much squirrel chowder in Texas - but I offer some alternative recipes from Texas A&M University.

Now, many people from Austin who are alums of the University of Texas (Hook 'em Horns!) might make fun of A&M, but I've never had anything but the utmost respect and admiration for the Aggies. (By the way, did you hear the one about the Aggie who locked his keys in the car? He called up the locksmith in a panic and said, "You've gotta help me! I've locked my keys in the car, and my family's trapped inside and can't get out!") It's true that their football team plays like girls and their overall level of intelligence can be counted on one finger, but if you want real Texas squirrel recipes from a scholarly (cough) institution, I can't think of a better source:


Squirrel is one of the most tender of all wild game meats. The rosy pink to red flesh of young squirrel is tender and has a pleasing flavor. The flesh of older animals is darker red in color and may require marinating or long cooking for tenderness.


After cleaning, cut up for frying, soak overnight in salt water. Before frying (like chicken exactly) put squirrel in cooker oven with water and "par boil" until meat is tender when stuck with fork. Don't cook until meat falls off bones - as you want to batter it with flour to fry (not too fast) like chicken. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Rinse skinned squirrel in cold water and pat dry, dip in buttermilk and then in seasoned flour and fry in hot fat just as you would a chicken.

If the squirrel is young, you probably will not need to steam the meat. If there is any doubt, drain off excess fat in the skillet, add about a cup of water or wine if you prefer, and steam covered for about 15 minutes. Or you may wish to pressure cook the meat for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.

Make gravy in the frying fat by adding the leftover seasoned flour and milk or water. Serve over rice or with hot biscuits.


1 young squirrel, cut in pieces
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Mix salt and pepper with flour. Shake pieces of squirrel in flour mixture and brown in melted shortening in a heavy skillet. Lower the heat after browning and cover the skillet tightly. Cook over low heat for 1/2 to 1 hour or until well done. Remove cover during the last 10 minutes to crisp outer surfaces.


1 young squirrel, cut in pieces
3 slices bacon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sliced onion
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup beef or chicken broth

Rub pieces of squirrel with salt and pepper and roll in flour. Pan fry with chopped bacon for 30 minutes. Add onion, lemon juice and broth and cover tightly. Cook slowly for 2 hours. Just before serving, remove squirrel and make gravy by adding water or milk and flour to the pan drippings.

Variations: Add l tablespoon paprika, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, l sliced tart apple and 2 cups broth instead of bacon and lemon juice called for in this recipe.


Use a cleaned and skinned squirrel cut in serving size pieces.

4 ribs of celery, cut diagonally
1 small bay leaf
Small whole onions
Small whole potatoes
Salt, pepper and Worcestershire to taste

Place squirrel pieces in Dutch oven or heavy skillet with a lid. Cover with water and steam until the meat is nearly tender. Add the vegetables and seasoning and cook until just tender.

If a thickened gravy is desired, add l tablespoon of corn starch dissolved in one-half cup of water just before serving.

This is good served with corn bread [Editor's note: Damn straight!]. One squirrel will serve two or three people.


3 squirrels, cut in serving
1 cup chopped onion pieces
4 cups or 2 No. 303 cans tomatoes
3 quarts water
1/4 cups diced bacon
2 cups diced potatoes
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 cups lima beans
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups corn
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Place squirrel pieces in a large kettle. Add water. Bring slowly to boil; reduce heat and simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until meat is tender, skimming surface occasionally. Remove meat from bones and return to liquid. Add bacon, cayenne, salt, pepper, onion, tomatoes, potatoes and lima beans. Cook l hour. Add corn and continue to cook 10 minutes. Serves six to eight.

Note: This recipe is particularly suitable for older, less tender animals.


1 squirrel
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fat
Lemon wedges

Clean squirrel. Rub with slat and pepper. Brush with fat and place on a broiling rack. Broil 40 minutes, basting every 10 minutes with drippings. Squeeze lemon on squirrel before serving. Serves two to three.

[Editor's note: You'll find the section "PREPARATION AND COOKING OPOSSUM" just below this on the same page. And no, I didn't title that section. They really did leave out the preposition.]

If you're in New York City or Long Island, Squirrel Hunting Season (for black, gray and fox squirrels) begins November 1 and runs through February 29, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. For upstate New York, the season opens earlier, on September 1. The daily bag limit is six squirrels.

An important note, though: "Red Squirrels are unprotected, and may be hunted at any time without limit."

Red Squirrel. [Editor's note: "Dude, you are so screwed."]

From my own experience with squirrels in the city, I'd stay away from the ones in Brooklyn. They're scrawny, kind of sickly looking, and they've got attitude. If you're gonna hunt squirrels in the City, I'd stick with Queens or Staten Island.

For readers in the Boston area, The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife says:

"Gray squirrels may be hunted in Wildlife Management Zones 01 through 09 from the second Monday in September to the following January 2.

Hunting hours for gray squirrel begin at ½ hour before sunrise and end at ½ hour after sunset, except on wildlife management areas stocked with pheasant or quail where the hunting hours are from sunrise to sunset.

The bag limit for gray squirrels is
5 daily and the possession limit is 10.

For whatever reason, the bag limit in Massachusetts is less than that of New York. So you folks up in Beantown take it easy on the trigger, eh? You don't wanna kill more than you can eat at one time.

All joking aside, I've never felt as close to the Northeast as I do at this moment.


Tex Fritter
ZONE's Natural Resource Interpretation Technician

UPDATE: Crystal brings up an important point - Squirrel burgoo, which is made from squirrel brains and is mainly eaten in Kentucky, may be linked to mad-cow disease. (Shouldn't that be mad-squirrel disease?) Even though I didn't post any recipes for squirrel burgoo and, in fact, had never even heard of it before now, I want to state unequivocally that ZONE DOES NOT RECOMMEND EATING SQUIRREL BURGOO, OR SQUIRREL BRAINS IN ANY FORM. Thanks, Crystal, for your broad knowledge of squirrel cuisine and your obvious concern for those who enjoy eating squirrel.

Which brings up a point I forgot to mention earlier - What, exactly, is the nutritional value of squirrel?

Squirrel is lower in fat and calories than beef, lamb, or pork. It's also lower in cholesterol than other wild game such as deer or duck. According to, which has a very nice chart of the nutritional value of wild game, "the combination of more lean body tissue, less saturated fat and significantly higher % of cholesterol-reducing polyunsaturated fatty acids makes wild game a heart-healthy choice."

Squirrel has half or even a third less saturated fat (the bad kind) and a much higher level of polyunsaturated fate (the good kind) than many other animals. Wild boar is the one you want to avoid - it has a seriously high saturated fat level. And beef isn't much better. So the next time you're at Burger King, you might want to stop and think: a squirrel burger is much better for you than a Whopper!!

Don't give in to mass media manipulation. Do you know how much money Unnamed Golden Arches Hamburger Corporation and the other planet-killing hamburger corporations spend on advertising? Every time you eat a hamburger, you've basically wiped out a virgin Amazon rainforest the size of Brazil. You're killing the planet. By yourself. Put . . . the . . . burger . . . down.

Go natural and go American: Eat Squirrel!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Recent Screenings

Michael Clayton (2007) - Written and directed by Tony Gilroy. Starring George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton and Sydney Pollack.

George Clooney's new film has received a lot of positive reviews, and I have to say, it lives up to the hype. I'm a sucker for intelligent political-legal thrillers, and Michael Clayton is one of the best I've seen in a while. Mostly because of a fine script and some excellent work by its main actors.

George Clooney plays Michael Clayton, a lawyer at a big New York law firm whose job it is to go into bad situations and fix them. The work is thankless, and it's starting to get to him. In one of the best lines of the movie, Clayton is trying to help an arrogant executive who has just hit a pedestrian with his fancy car and driven away. He's furious that Clayton's advice, for which he's paying the firm a huge amount of money, is simply to call the police and report the accident. The client was led to believe that Clayton would perform wonders. "I'm not a miracle worker," Clooney says. "I'm a janitor." The client finally realizes just how far up the creek he really is, while the audience realizes how bad Clayton feels about his job right now. In addition to his professional work, which constantly keeps him in the murkier areas of morality and ethics, Clayton has tried to start a bar with his irresponsible brother, but it failed, and now he owes some tough people a lot of money that he doesn't have. There's also been a gambling problem. And he's divorced. In the midst of this mid-life crisis, the firm's biggest crisis ever suddenly unfolds. It's premier litigator, a legend in legal circles named Arthur Edens, has stopped taking his meds and strips down naked during an inquest, proclaiming his love to a young farm girl involved in the case he's working on who he sees as being pure and innocent. Clayton is sent off to fix the situation, because the firm is trying to merge with a giant English entity.

Clayton and Edens, played by Tom Wilkinson in a terrific performance, know each other pretty well, and after a while, Clayton starts to believe that his friend's proclamations about an ugly conspiracy on the part of a giant agri-chemical corporation involved in the case may not just be the fantasies of an unmedicated bipolar mind. Strange things start to happen, people die mysteriously, and Clayton gets wrapped up in the case.

Clooney does well in a great role, one that gives him the ability to stretch out and show his various strengths as an actor and star - toughness, shrewdness, emotion, elegance. I'm not sure there's another actor right now who reminds me so much of the stars of classic Hollywood, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him nominated for Best Actor when Oscar time rolls around. At one point in the story, after a particularly rough night, Clayton shows up at the office and Sydney Pollock, playing his boss, says, "You look like shit." Yeah, right. George Clooney looking like shit in the morning, which means he's slightly rumpled and looks even sexier. Sydney's obviously never seen someone like me in the morning.

Tilda Swinton also gives a strong performance, capturing the progressive slide into becoming an unethical person, with all of its tortured emotion, and in her case, sweaty arm pits in a company bathroom freak-out. Even Pollock delivers what may be his best performance ever.

The writing holds everything together. I wasn't expecting much, knowing that director-screenwriter Tony Gilroy was responsible for . . . writing, is that really the correct word? . . . the Bourne trilogy. But I was pleasantly surprised by the high level of his screenplay, as well as by Gilroy's direction. The ending may be a little too easy, but I went with it, bacuase it stayed true to the rest of the film in a certain way. If his debut is any indication, I look forward to seeing more work from Tony Gilroy in the futrure. This is a very good film. RECOMMENDED.

Control (2007) - Directed by Anton Corbijn. Starring Sam Riley, Samantha Morton and Alexandra Maria Lara.

The first half of Anton Corbijn's debut film, Control, may belong with the best movies ever made about rock and roll. He does such a wonderful job of capturing what it's like to be an ordinary teenager in love with rock music, so much so that you want to start a band. In the beginning of the movie, Ian Curtis, a working-class kid from a dreary town outside of Manchester, walks home from school clutching some treasure wrapped in plain brown paper. It turns out to be the new David Bowie album, which at the time was Aladdin Sane. Who doesn't remember the excitement of bringing home a new LP by your favorite musician? Curtis lays in bed, smoking a cigarette and just listening. But eventually he rises from his lazy reverie and starts posturing in front of the mirror while his hero rocks out. On Curtis' desk, you see notebooks labeled Poetry and Novels, and we watch him scribbling his songs as well. Ah man, it just brought back so much of my youth.

I have to admit, I was afraid to see Control. The film is based on the true-life story of Curtis, who wound up being the singer and songwriter of the influential post-punk band Joy Division. After struggling with epilepsy, and torn up over events in his personal life, Curtis hung himself on the eve of the band's first tour of the United States, just as they were making it big. This tragic backstory, and the band's dark, emotionally powerful music made Curtis a cult hero - my generation's version of Jim Morrison - and proved an early inspiration for the Goth movement. (Sadly, and unfairly, as the band was always better than that.) But the myth surrounding Curtis is pretty powerful. Lord knows, I thought, what a movie about him will be like.

It didn't help that Corbijn was directing. Better known as one of rock's premier photographers (you've seen a lot of his photos, including U2's Joshua Tree cover), he had directed a posthumous music video of Joy Division's "Atmoshpere," which I found silly and pretentious. But positive reviews of Control by Anthony Lane in the New Yorker, A.O. Scott in The New York Times, and Roger Ebert gave me enough courage to seek it out one Friday afternoon while I was in New York. And to my very, very pleasant surprise, Corbijn has crafted a wonderfully simple and straightforward film that blows all the superfluous Joy Division myth right on its ass.

What's completely missing from the Goth aesthetic is what made Joy Division such a great band - the muscular, working-class punk background that gave them their start. And that's mostly what the movie is about. Curtis and a few mates from a gritty little town, starting up a band after seeing the Sex Pistols in concert. Meanwhile, Ian, who's just a teenager, marries his girlfriend Deborah. She's a normal girl who likes living in her little British town and wants to raise a family. The film is actually based on her autobiography, Touching from a Distance. Cobrijn shows what's it's like for young kids in this situation, practicing their music, going off to work at their jobs, and being married young. There's no glorification of the process. And, in fact, you don't need to know anything about Curtis or the band to appreciate this movie. It's much more universal than that.

Unlike most star biopics that strut their Hollywood big-budget glamour across the screen, Corbijn has gone after something completely different. Shooting on black and white film, Control feels at times like a small nouvelle vague film from the 1960s. And it works very well. Also, Corbijn infuses the film with a lot of sly humor. Mopey Joy Division fans hoping for some dark, depressing film, are not going to be happy with the results (if they can ever be happy). Actually, I've read some comments by fans who don't think the film captures the band or Curits very well. But that's not true. Corbijn knew the band. He actually left his home in Holland and moved to England because he loved their music so much - that's how he got his start, by photographing them just before Curits died. What these fans are upset about is that Corbijn has shattered a lot of the myth surrounding the band. In one of the best lines of the movie, Ian and Deborah are at a small party at the home of some neighbors, and one of the women says to Deb, "Wow, Ian's kind of famous now, isn't he?" "Not to me," Deb says, looking at him across the room. "I still have to wash his underwear."

The film also features some great scenes of the band playing their music. Curtis had an unusual, jerky dancing motion when performing live, which some say may have been related to his epilepsy, and he was a very powerful presence on stage. Sam Riley, who plays Curtis, not only looks a lot like the singer, but he does an amazing job of conveying Curtis' intensity while performing. The rest of the actors also do a fine job playing the music.

One interesting note, the film never makes mention of the fact that the three remaining members of Joy Division changed their name to New Order after Ian died and went on to tremendous success of their own. That's always amazed me, for he was such a powerful songwriter and performer. How many bands survive the loss of such a pivotal front-man? Look at those albums by The Doors after Morrison died. Not exactly the stuff of rock legend. (What, you didn't know The Doors made two albums post-Morrison? Well, there you go.) The surviving band members were involved in the production of the film, however.

Alas, the second half of the film starts to drag, as Curtis encounters the second love of his life, a woman journalist from Belgium. He's genuinely torn between Deborah and his new love. He knows that Deborah has been a good wife and loves him, but he feels restrained with her. He desperately wants out of the environment he grew up in, whereas she's content with it. Meeting an intelligent and sensitive women from the Continent only heightens his confusion. The triangle is handled well, thanks in part to the great job Samantha Morton does as Deborah. But the second half, trying to build up to the inevitable sad ending, seems to lose its energy as it turns away from the music. All in all, however, it's an impressive film, even for those who know nothing about the band. If you like rock and roll, this is definitely one to watch. RECOMMENDED.


La Belle et la bête [Beauty and the Beast] (1946) - This magnificent film deserves an entire post, but I'm running out of energy. La Reina and I turned on Turner Movie Classics one night just as this started. We'd both seen it multiple times, so we said, "Well, let's just watch a few minutes while we eat dinner." An hour and a half later, we floated away from the TV, having been caught up once again in this most fantastic of films. There is simply nothing in cinema like the works of Jean Cocteau. He created a delirious, beautiful and poetic world that has never been equaled on film. And what was interesting this time, was to see how simply it all was constructed. The surreal images are very transparently produced - those are obviously actors behind the curtain holding candelabras - but that doesn't lessen their incredible impact. In fact, it's fascinating to try and figure out how Cocteau achieved his magic. And it is magic. Just goes to show that you don't need CGI to create a highly imaginative universe. If you've never seen this, watch it. If you haven't seen it in a while, watch it again. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Shooter (2007) - What a Rambo movie would like if directed by a liberal. A Special Forces sniper, played by Mark Wahlberg, is betrayed by his government, then set-up to take the fall for an assassination attempt on the president. (Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.) What saves the movie is some decent writing, and some pretty angry but accurate political analysis. A lot of people get shot in the head by sniper fire. (No, I mean, a lot.) Michael Peña does well in a supporting role. Not bad for a video night. You'll enjoy the Bronson-like vigilantism, then spend the next day concerned that you enjoyed it so much.

The Lady Vanishes (1938) - The first of two Hitchcock films I watched recently that I had never seen before. (Well, evidently I had seen this one, because I remembered some of the scenes.) This won't go down as one of my favorite Hitchcock films, but it's very good. It seems somewhat predictable now, but that's because Hitchcock was developing so much of the vocabulary of cinema during this time. All of the plot devices he uses here you've seen dozens of times. Just keep reminding yourself that films like this one were the beginning of it all. It helps to have Michael Redgrave (yes, the father of Lynne and Vanessa) in it, as well as Dame May Whitty who plays Miss Froy, the old lady who disappears on the train.

Frenzy (1972) - After a series of commercial and critical duds in the last part of the 1960s, Alfred Hitchcock returned to England to make Frenzy, which was hailed at the time as a return to form. I don't know about that. What I see is a great filmmaker sadly trying to keep up with the times, and not really succeeding. The only R-rated effort of his career, and the only one to feature nudity (a very disturbing scene, be forewarned), Frenzy made me realize how important subtlety was when Hitchcock was slyly dealing with sexual tension/perversion, which was most of the time. There are some great moments - the man was a master of cinema - but my friends and I figured out the storyline about five minutes into the film, and, worst of all, there's just no suspense. There are some dark comic moments, including a police investigator forced to eat his wife's experimental cooking, and one brilliant cinematographic piece, a long, silent shot coming out of the apartment building where a murder is taking place. Other than that, it's a pretty sad and dreary affair.

Deja Vu (2006) -
I was skeptical about this one after reading the back of the DVD - I mean, time-travel, terrorists, police investigation, romance - it sounded like a recipe for a pretty bad flick. But after considering the DVD several times and always putting it back on the shelf, my respect for Denzel Washington won out, and so I gave it a chance. Actually, I enjoyed the first 4/5 of the film. Is it just me, or is there an epidemic of bad endings going on right now? This one wasn't as bad as some others, but it went from relatively reasonable (I mean, as reasonable as time travel and terrorists can get - it made sense in its own world) to dropping the ball at the end. If you don't expect much and can deal with Tony Scott (Crystal, take note), it's not totally bad. Hey, it's got Denzel Washington.

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead (2003) - I love the title, although it had to be changed from its original: I'll Sleep When I'm Watching This Film. Director Mike Hodges and actor Clive Owen team up again after their wonderful Croupier to bring us this dark, lifeless effort. Some interesting parts here and there, but even Clive can't save this from being pretty damn dull.

Premonition (2007) - This is what happens when you're married and have to give in sometimes to your partner's wishes. If only La Reina had had a premonition about how boring this film was going to be. (Or just listened to me.) I mean, come on, has Sandra Bullock made a good film in the last ten years? It's like watching a girl you're infatuated with go out with one jerk after another. "Why's she going out with him?" "Why's she making that film?" Okay, maybe it wasn't that bad, but it's just not that good either.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Song Stuck in My Head When I Woke Up This Morning

Yeah, I've been thinking about rock and roll, and listening to it a lot lately, but I've also been grooving on a collection of chansons douces by Henri Salvador, so it's no surprise that I woke up this morning with his magnificent "Syracuse" stuck in my head. To be honest, this dreamy travelogue has been stuck in my head from the moment I first heard it, several years ago.

Salvador is an international artist who's sadly unknown in the U.S. (Surprise!) He started performing in the 1930s and just released his new album, Révérence, a few months ago, which was given 4 stars in The Guardian, and includes performances with Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil.

The man is 90 years old. And his voice is still incredible!

His version of the French chanson style has included elements of jazz and Brazilian music, and his own career has been long, varied, and fascinating. He played with Django Reinhardt back in the 1930s; won the prestigious Grand Prix du Disque de l'Académie Charles Cros in 1949; wrote over 400 songs with Boris Vian in the 1950s, the two of them basically introducing the French to rock and roll; had several "novelty song" hits; performed on the Ed Sullivan show here and had his own popular television show in France; did a series of children's albums in in the 1970s; and recorded with Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, and most recently, with Rosa Passos, on her highly regarded - and sexy (lovers, take note) - album, Amorosa.

So how do such impressive people like this vanish on the radar in the U.S.?

Unfortunately, the sound quality of this YouTube version of "Syracuse" doesn't convey the amazing production values on the original recording. The sound on my CD is so lush and open that you feel like you could just let go and fall back into it, be carried away on a cloud-pillow to the Gardens of Babylon.

Here's my quick translation of the lyrics - take them with a grain of salt; my French is nominal.


Words: Bernard Dimey. Musique: Henri Salvador. 1962

I would love so much to see Syracuse,
Easter Island and Kairouan,
And the large birds which amuse themselves
gliding on their wings on the wind.

See the gardens of Babylon
And the palace of the grand Lama,
To dream of the lovers of Verona
At the summit of Fuji-Yama.

See the country on a calm morning
Go fishing with the cormorant
And drinking palm wine
While listening to the wind sing.

Before my youth is worn out
And my springtimes have departed
I would love to see Syracuse
So I could remember it in Paris.


J'aimerais tant voir Syracuse
L'île de Pâques et Kairouan
Et les grands oiseaux qui s'amusent
A glisser l'aile sous le vent.

Voir les jardins de Babylone
Et le palais du grand Lama
Rêver des amants de Vérone
Au sommet du Fuji-Yama.

Voir le pays du matin calme
Aller pêcher au cormoran
Et m'enivrer de vin de palme
En écoutant chanter le vent.

Avant que ma jeunesse s'use
Et que mes printemps soient partis
J'aimerais tant voir Syracuse
Pour m'en souvenir à Paris.

UPDATE: Just found a recent live version of "Syracuse." The arrangment is a little schmaltzy (it's some big telelvision special), but Salvador's voice is still great, and the sound quality is much better. Miss the awesome finger snapping in the original, though.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Greatest American Rock and Roll Musicians

"You know, my temperature's risin'
And the jukebox blows a fuse.
My heart's beatin' rhythm
And my soul keeps on singin' the blues.
Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news."
Chuck Berry

I've been thinking about rock and roll this week. Specifically, I've been thinking about American rock and roll. Rock was one of the major musical forms of the 20th century, developed primarily in this country. So, looking back now, who were the great American artists that produced this music?

This is really a late-night barroom discussion over pitchers of beer, although I've been contemplating the subject during the bright light of day while perfectly sober. But pull up your bar stool and your Brooklyn Lager, or for the teetotalers, your vanilla soy frappe with blueberry and banana, and let's get this straightened out. It's important. This is one of the most vital and influential art forms of our lifetime. No pussyfooting (oops, sorry, Fripp and Eno were British) around. Now, pour me some more of that beer . . .

First off, I'm interested in American rock and rollers. To be honest, I think the British have outdone us at our own art-form, but that's a later discussion. I wanna talk about the artists from my own culture for a moment. Which means no Canadians either, even if it is a suburb of the U.S. [Canadian friends, the internet makes it hard to recognize a satirical voice sometimes, but that really was meant as a joke. At least for the most part.] Neil Young, though he has lived most of his life now in the U.S., is still, in 2007, a proud Canadian citizen. So he's out. So are Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Buffalo Springfield, and The Band, to name a few others.

Beyond issues of geography, there is the genre problem. Was Marvin Gaye a rock and roller? I love Marvin and think he was ultimately a greater artist than many of the people on my list, but have I ever played air-guitar to a Marvin Gaye song? Creedence Clearwater Revival's epic 12-minute version of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" is rock and roll (and an underrated rock classic). I'm not sure about Marvin's version. Wasn't he ultimately soul? Or rhythm and blues?

And what about Johnny Cash? He did some rockabilly in his early days and ended his career covering Danzig. Rock and rollers revere him. But wasn't he, at heart, a country musician? I hate categorizing art like this. But damn it, you've got to draw some boundaries in this discussion. Otherwise, you'll wind up with a bizarre mishmash of a list like Unnamed Corporate Music Magazine's 100 Immortals, which, in the end, is neither a list of Great Rock and Rollers, nor a list of 100 Great Musical Artists. Especially when Miles Davis winds up at #88, 13 slots below The Eagles and six below Eminem.

If we include Marvin and Johnny, then what about Slim Gaillard, who happened to be Marvin's father-in-law and was knocking out some pretty hallucinogenic, proto-rock tunes on the guitar with his jazz group Slim and Slam back in the 1930s? I would argue that he may have been one of the true pioneers of the rock and roll sound, even though he never gets any credit for it. No, I'm going to be a purist. The artists have to be primarily rock and rollers. I don't care if Miles Davis did incorporate rock music into his jazz - Miles is a jazz demigod, not a rock and roll one. Call them Honorable Mentions, Fellow Travelers, or Friends of Rock and Roll, but they're not on this particular list.

Though I will listen to arguments for some of them to be included.

Finally, there's the whole conundrum of what constitutes a "great" artist. Innovation, originality, influence on others, craftsmanship, performance, individual voice, longevity, overall impact on the art form, overall impact on society . . . there are many qualities to consider. And, since I'm interested in exploring the idea of American artists, how much of the soil and spirit of the country do they convey? There's no easy answer. I've probably leaned more towards people who had an impact on the art form or overall cultural landscape. Someone else making a similar list might lean in another direction.

So, now that I've rambled on (oops, sorry, Led Zeppelin is British), let's get on with the list. After a few days of mulling things over, making lists and re-making them, here's my Top 20 Greatest American Rock and Roll Musicians.

The Holy Trinity

The first thing I realized when working on various versions of this list, was that there are three artists who belong in a realm of their own - the Holy Trinity of Rock and Roll, if you will. Everyone else on the list basically comes out of these three artists. They're the faces that belong on Mount Rock-n-Roll-More.

1. Bob Dylan - Without Dylan, there is no modern rock and roll. It's that simple. Chuck Berry did all the early heavy lifting, and white-boy Elvis got all the early glory, but as great as those two were, by the early 1960s, their rock and roll revolution had led to . . . Pat Boone. Dylan landed on the scene like an atomic bomb, exploding the form and re-creating it into something almost entirely new. Suddenly, rock and roll could be about anything. The skinny Jewish kid from Hibbing, Minnesota, rolled in on a dusty road, carrying the ghosts of Woody Guthrie (folk), Hank Williams (country), Big Bill Broonzy (blues) and Arthur Rimbaud (French poetry). In the end, it was the Rimbaud element, the poetic sensibility, that changed rock and roll, and changed popular music in general. The world was now wide open. We were no longer held captive by banal and endless variations on frustrated love. Now, we could sing "Masters of War" in the shower if we wanted. If Bob doesn't hook up with the Beatles at Hotel Delmonico in New York City in August 1964 to smoke a little weed, and Lennon doesn't try to start writing some Dylan-ish tunes, the Fab four's entire oeuvre might consist of endless versions of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." Dylan also may have captured the deeper mystical or mythological aspect of America more than any other rock musician. "All Along the Watchtower" takes the American west and places into an historical context, transforming it into a Biblical or eternal landscape. We, as a people, are now a part of the long tragi-comic story of humanity. Bob belongs in the same league as George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and other giants of American music in the 20th century. He's our Beethoven, our Picasso, our Tolstoy.

2. Jimi Hendrix - The amazing thing is . . . Jimi Hendrix only made three LPs during his lifetime. If he had lived, what might he have accomplished? Think of all that bad music he would've made in the 1980s, with cheesy synthesizers and electronic drums! Think of the late night chats with Jay Leno! The Budweiser commercials! The duet with Whitney Houston at the Super Bowl Halftime show! It's enough to make your head spin. Ah, Jimi . . . He was our shooting star. A marvel among marvels. We all play air-guitar wanting to be like him. (Except for the choking on his own vomit part.) As Dylan revolutionized the lyrical content and overall mind's eye of rock and roll, Hendrix revolutionized the musical landscape.

3. Elvis Presley - I'm only a moderate fan, but the truth is, there's no escape from Elvis Presley. Hell, even Dylan said he wanted to be Elvis. Yeah, he took music from the blacks and made it easier for the whites to listen to, but so did George Gershwin and Benny Goodman. That's what we do in this country, right or wrong. And, he's ultimately the biggest STAR of American rock and roll. In fact, Elvis probably did more than any other person to put this new music on the map. He was the public face of rock and roll. All those bloody movies. The television specials. The tabloids. He's the Great (White) American Godhead to Marilyn Monroe's Great (White) American Goddess. Not my types, to be sure, but that's the way it is. It's Elvis' country - the rest of us are just illegal immigrants.

Two Too Hard to Place

4. Velvet Underground - The Velvets. What can I say? If Dylan opened the flood gates for serious rock lyrics, and Jimi did the same for the musical aspect, The Velvets sort of changed the course of the whole river. They gave rock and roll a cool, intellectual edge that balanced with the primordial earthiness of Dylan and Hendrix. An urban sidewalk, New York, art-scene sensibility. Do Talking Heads evolve without the Velvets? I don't know. Was I wrong in saying that everyone else springs from the first three titans? If so, then the Velvets are the other procreators of rock music. And while it's not really fair, considering his own solo career, I lump Lou Reed in here.

5. Chuck Berry - Maybe Chuck really belongs in the Holy Trinity instead of Elvis. I mean, really, isn't he the granddaddy of it all? As the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame says: "While no individual can be said to have invented rock and roll, Chuck Berry comes the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together." And then there was his influence. When groups like the Beatles and Rolling Stones started out, they weren't recording Elvis Presley hits, they were recording Chuck Berry songs. The Stones included four on their first three albums: "Carol," "You Can't Catch Me," "Around and Around," and "Talkin' 'Bout You." The Beatles recorded "Rock and Roll Music" and "Roll Over Beethoven." When all is said and done, and people 100 years from now look back at the rock and roll era, maybe Chuck will be recognized more. Because he's never gotten enough credit in his own lifetime.

Rounding Out the Top 11

To be honest, placing people on the list from this point forward was kind of a joke. I moved names up and down several times, depending on my mood. One of you could say that #17 should be #7 and you'd probably be right. Here's the version I had when I got tired of the process. It's a reflection of personal preference, in the end, more than a considered analysis.

6. Creedence Clearwater Revival - Say what you will, but when I'm driving down the highway on a hot summer day, amid all the vital sexual greenery and brown rugged dirt of our country, with the railroad tracks gleaming in the sun, I'm not sure another band sounds as deeply American or as perfectly rock and roll as Creedence Clearwater Revival. That chooglin' groove. That delirious, dirty, fuzzy guitar work. Fogerty's backwoods howl. "I can remember the Fourth of July, running through the backwoods bare." Yeah, CCR doesn't strike me the same way walking down the streets of Manhattan as they did driving through the American West, but I love that sound. I still remember listening to "Green River" while driving through Green River, Utah. I have been to "Lodi," though, thank God, I never got stuck there. And then there's "Fortunate Son," an epic American novel in two minutes and 21 seconds.

7. Tom Waits - If Dylan is the Tolstoy of America, then Tom Waits is our Dostoevsky. Our Chekhov. Our slightly scary uncle who might have been in the Navy, probably in the Special Forces, stationed for a while in Shanghai, who now lives alone in a bus in the woods, you think, you're not really sure, but he always smells like tobacco and just a hint of rubbing alcohol. He scares the children. But once he leaves, you realize he's always been your favorite uncle. Deeply, deeply American. I mean, America underneath all that rusty junk out in the tall grass behind the abandoned Fina station. With the earthworms and the June bugs. And, if I may say so, the second or third greatest rock poet after Dylan himself.

8. The Byrds - I mulled over my choice of the Byrds for a long time. I mean, what a weird group, with so many lineup changes over the years that they could fill up Madison Square Garden - just with members of the band. But, really, they were just so important in the incubation period of rock music. 1965. They made Dylan go electric before he himself had plugged in, recording "Mr. Tambourine Man" as a rock song, which knocked Dylan out so much that he quickly followed suit in his own work. They introduced George Harrison to the sitar, which ultimately transformed the Beatles' aural landscape. The Byrds were, in fact, supposed to be our Beatles at one point, and for a brief shining moment - "Eight Miles High" - they seemed like they might be. I mean, they made a kick-ass rock song based on John Coltrane's great jazz piece "India." For a year or two, they acted as a bridge between Dylan and the Beatles. Alas, all those competing egos shattered the original group apart. Still, McGuinn, David Crosby, Gram Parsons, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, some great names passed through this unit and left behind a lasting imprint.

9. The Grateful Dead - However good any of the other musicians on this list are, none of them actually engendered a new religion. The Dead are like the Mormons of Rock and Roll. Yeah, the whole thing might be a little nutty, but it's truly an American religion. And they brought in so many different elements to the mix - acid rock, country, folk, bluegrass, jazz improvisation, and spacious, rocked out solos. A rustic spirituality. The endless road. The West Coast. A psychedelic circus. A rock and roll corporation. Garcia & Co. encompassed much that is America.

10. Steely Dan - Steely Dan?!?! Yeah. Because they proved that rock and roll could be wide enough to embrace Bard College poets, William Burroughs, and Thelonious Monk. And their wicked New York wit and smart sarcasm (before they left for the easy life of LA) showed up later in the form of punk. (Go back and listen to "Show Biz Kids.") They could rock when they needed. And they could roll. (And a lot of rolling they did.) A few years ago, I started listening again to their 1970s work and was impressed by how well it held up over time. Mainly, I think, because it was so intelligent. I won't vouch for anything post-Aja.

11. Bruce Springsteen - Yeah, some people would place him higher on the list. It's funny - I have a lot of respect for Springsteen, but I've just never really connected. A couple of years ago, I borrowed several of his albums and set out to burn some CDs. "I'm finally going to get into this guy," I said to myself. But after a couple of weeks, I was basically down to a Greatest Hits compilation. Then, I had to return the discs and nothing got recorded. It's probably a personal character flaw (I have many), but I think Springsteen's music, apart from some of his big hits, is . . . well . . . kind of bland. It's fine rock and roll. I always enjoy hearing his songs when they come on the radio. But I just don't find him that interesting. He's been called a powerful mix of Elvis and Dylan, but I'm not sure how much he evolved beyond either of them. (Actually, he never even reached the level of Dylan.) He's certainly very "American." And he's probably one of the greatest live performers of the last few decades. But how has he changed or added to the art form? I can't answer that. And it's a big question. Maybe someone else can explain it to me.

The Best of the Rest

12. The Ramones
13. The Doors
14. Nirvana
15. The Allman Brothers
16. Talking Heads
17. Janis Joplin
18. Buddy Holly
19. Sonic Youth

20. There is no #20. I could put a dozen names in this slot. What about Jerry Lee Lewis? Little Richard? Roy Orbison? Roy's pretty great. Maybe he's #18 and Buddy Holly belongs in this paragraph. What about REM, Iggy & the Stooges, Prince, Frank Zappa (is he rock and roll?), or Lynyrd Skynyrd? Yo La Tengo (a personal favorite)? Or Black Sabbath? Metallica? Shouldn't there be some heavy metal here? Or what about Aerosmith? Or Fugazi, a band that never gets any attention?

Or the Beach Boys. Most people would include them on a list like this, and they would probably be #4 or #5 or something. But to rock and roll, you have to rock at some point. I don't know if they ever did. Influential? Yes, beyond a doubt. I'm just being stubborn, I know. But it's America. If you think the Beach Boys are one of our greatest rock and roll groups, then make your own damn list!

What's interesting to me, after working on this, is to see how thin the list looks in comparison to the overall universe of rock and roll. A list missing The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell just doesn't feel right. How many of the Americans I listed would actually belong in the Top 10 Greatest Rock and Roll Musicians of All Time? Three? If you made a list of The Greatest Jazz Musicians of All Time, the first 10 or 20 would all be American. So how did the Brits wind up out-rocking us? La Reina, who lived for a year in London, suggested that it might have something to do with British cynicism, or their sense of irony. Maybe. Perhaps a combination of English music hall and their long folk tradition prepared them for rock and roll. I don't know. It's a bit of a mystery to me.

[See Parts 2 and 3 of my trilogy on American rock and roll: The Greatest American Rock and Roll Albums and The Greatest American Rock and Roll Songs.

Finally, I can't go away without referencing my favorite barroom list of great rock and rollers, delivered by Martin Donovan in Hal Hartley's movie, Simple Men. Enjoy.

In the meantime, I'm gonna put on Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde and rock out. Start working on my list of Greatest American Rock and Roll Albums.

Texas girl rocks out . . .