Some 50 years ago, late at night, I’d listen to radio station WWVA out of Wheeling, West Virginia. They were a powerhouse, 50,000 Watts (the legal maximum in the US) “Clear Channel,” (meaning that no other domestic station had that frequency). AM stations bounce their signals off the ionosphere, and when that layer gains altitude at night, a clear channel station can be heard many hundreds of miles from the transmitter. (Dick Summer on Boston’s WBZ, another 50K CC station, got fan mail from Guam on one occasion.)
WWVA played, of course, country music, which I loved, but I was equally intrigued by the ads. By way of example, they were at one point selling a, “Handy, Dandy Bug Killer, absolutely guaranteed, folks, to kill any bug that creeps, crawls or flies! So simple a child can operate it, following the simple instructions on the package!” What you got for $4.99 (plus $3 in postage) was two small blocks of wood. One of the blocks had an X painted on it, and the simple instructions were, “Place bug on the X and slap.” They sold a ton of them. (Mine worked real good!)
Now, I’m not for one minute drawing parallels between this and the recent election (the Handy Dandy was not, for example, made in Russia, and Trump’s campaign did not overtly say, “Place disadvantaged people and the environment on the X and slap”), but the point is that sometimes you don’t get what you thought you bought. Or you do, but it doesn’t work the way you’d expected. Or at all.
Happy New Year to one and all! I hope that 2017 is treating you appropriately so far. As for me, the news of late has been so alarming and depressing that I’ve taking to finding refuge in flights of fantasy. (Call me Tutankhamun, I’m da king of denial!)
For example, it was brought to my attention that an application was filed for a license to use Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” in a commercial for hemorrhoid cream. The application was denied, but it got me thinking. How about “Urge for Going” for adult diapers? “Someday My Prints Will Come” for CVS film processing? Carly’s “Anticipation” re-written as “Constipa-a-ation (Is Making Me Wait)? The possibilities are endless! Feel free to go to my Facebook page and post further suggestions.
A network massage: I’m looking for a writing space in the western ‘burbs of Boston, hoping to be able to finish up work on songs for recording sessions in the spring. (I almost have enough to record an entirely self-penned album, which would be a first.) A vacant guest house? In-law apartment? A home that’s empty while the owners tour the world while there’s still time, and a world to tour? Suggestions welcome, percs available. (Album credit? A home concert? The possibilities, again, are endless.)
And a treat for you! I’ve had the honor of working with two ultra-talented youngsters over the past year or so. Matt Nakoa has been my musical compadre for most of the shows I’ve been doing lately. He’s also got his own thing going on and is attracting a lot of attention. Seth Glier and his buddy, saxophonist extraordinaire Joe Nearny, have also joined me on stage on several occasions and just blown the audience away. (I must have a masochistic streak to be working with such show-stealers as Matt, Seth and Joe.)
Seth Glier and Matt Nakoa
They’re all doing a show together at The Center for the Arts, Natick (TCAN) this Friday the 13th in Natick (of course), Mass. They’ll each do their own sets, but I’m pushing them to collaborate on some songs—I think this could be a 1+1=11 situation. I plan to be there, hoping that the kids might let the geezer on stage for a tune or two—hoping we might get to do “Kids These Days,” a song I haven’t done in forever, but kind of fits the situation. These guys are going to be big deals someday soon, and you can say you saw them back when. (Did I lie to you about Joni? Jackson? James?) Come on by—I guarantee a night to remember!
Hang in there. Remember, it’s always better to fight for something than against something.
Stay warm, stay sane!
Quote of the month: “Democracy is a device that insures that we shall be governed no better than we deserve.”
–– George Bernard Shaw
Right off the bat, I’m going to massage the network a bit: we’re going through the college frenzy with our 17 year-old daughter. She’s developed a keen interest in journalism (inspired by Arron Sorkin’s “Newsroom” series, and intensified by two summers of internships at WGBH in Boston). Northwestern U in Evanston, IL, is high on her list, along with Barnard, Columbia, perhaps Georgetown and Duke. Anyone out there have a kid at one of these schools? Faculty? We’d like to get the backstage tour if at all possible. Let me know!
It’s been busy lately, on the verge of too busy. Just got back from 6 days out West, from Portland down to San Diego, then out to Phoenix. Music business savant and blogger Bob Lefsetz came to both the early and late shows at McCabe’s in Santa Monica and wrote a very, very nice review. Bob is passionate about music, has high standards and is an extremely busy guy, so I’m flattered that he took time to come to the shows and that he enjoyed them so much!
In other news, I just did a concert for the Circle of Friends in Franklin, MA, and was surprised and delighted that two guys had travelled a very long way, from opposite directions, just to see the show; one came from Australia, the other from Switzerland (see picture).
I suggested that, going forward, they should bring me to Australia and Switzerland, respectively, and save themselves the trip. That’s just the kind of guy I am. Coming up, it’s just as busy!
Enjoy the Fall,
Quote of the month: “Growing old is no more than a bad habit which a busy person has no time to form.”
–– Andre Maurois
All right, children, gather ‘round and settle down. You’re old enough now, and I think it’s time I told you where concerts come from. You see, when a musician and a concert hall love each other very much …
Actually, it’s even more complicated than that.
One of the questions I get asked a lot is: “Why don’t you ever play in Mytown?” I think folks envision musicians as sort of range-riders, roaming the countryside in search of places to perform. “OK, Stinky, this looks like a good place to camp. You circle the groupies and set up the tent. I got a hankerin’ to be moseyin’ on over to yonder Performing Arts Center and do a show.”
It’s not like that.
The way it works is that the person in charge of such things at the Performing Arts Center (or club, or theater) calls up Andrea Sabata, my agent at Skyline Music, and says they want to hire me. Or sometimes she calls them. They talk over the broad outline of things and then, if it looks promising, she asks me if I’m interested. I usually am because I love doing shows. Andrea then gets back to the buyer and they thrash out the details. This is usually done, by the way, somewhere between six and eighteen months before the show date.
(Andrea spends her working hours getting the ducks in a row, but this is harder than one would think, and when they refuse to line up she ends up juggling ducks. Now, juggling ducks seems to come naturally to her and she’s very good at it, but at the end of the day it wastes her time and, as one would expect, annoys the ducks. )
So … if you would like me to come and play in Yourtown here’s what you do: call the PAC, or club, or theater and ask for whoever schedules the shows; tell them you want them to book Tom Rush and they should call Andrea at Skyline Music If you have to explain what a Tom Rush is that is not a good sign, but don’t despair. Hang up and call back in a few hours using a different voice and modified script. Repeat this process as needed – enlist your friends to do the same – until they finally cave in. It’s like a medieval siege, really, without the battering rams and ladders. Mind you, if you and your three co-conspirators are the only ones who turn up for the show I probably won’t be invited back.
I have to admit I’m feeling guilty about enjoying the weirdly warm weather we’ve been having in New England. I know climactically it’s all wrong, but it sure beats shoveling! We just have to hope it’s not 30 degrees warmer than usual in August.
Grim news: on Monday I’ll be 75 years old. This is of concern because, according to my calculator, that’s the same as 99 Canadian. On the upside, however, it’s just 24 Celsius, so I’ll focus on that.
So I’m sitting here thinking, “Oh, my God — half my life is over! It’s time to take stock of things.” After a few minutes of reflection, I came to the realization that the sum total of my accomplishments could be written with a crayon on a bottle cap, with room to spare. So I’d best get to work finishing up all the half-done projects that are littering the filing cabinets. (In that regard, does anyone know Richard Branson? I’m serious. I have an idea for a very odd project I think he might enjoy.)
If any of you would like to know all about my brief life so far, by the way, you might find the video documentary “No Regrets” both fun and informative. Check it out!
One of the birthday presents I’m giving myself is a quick trip to Florida and Georgia for some shows with Matt Nakoa on board. I don’t think I’ve told you about Matt, but he’s been playing keyboards with me for most of my shows over the past year. He’s a monster, and I mean that in the nicest way. I ask him to do a couple of songs on his own during the course of the evening, and the crowd LOVES him. Maybe a little too much. I might be smart to discontinue that practice. (And, yes, ladies, he’s very cute, or so I’m told.)
Here are a couple of pictures of us on stage. In the second one, Matt is obviously thinking, “OMG and WTF, how can Tom possibly have so much talent and genius!!!” Alternatively, he may be thinking, “Where’s Jack Kevorkian when you really need him?”
Scattered thoughts seem to be the norm for me these days. A random sampling:
If I’d been commissioner of the NFL, I’d have sentenced Tom Brady & Co. to play one game with a fully deflated, one might say flaccid, football.
I have it on good authority that both Canada and Mexico are working up plans to build border fences to keep out fleeing American liberals in case Trump wins the presidency.
I don’t want to sound anti-immigration or anything, and I don’t even know where Kardashia is, but I wish they’d go back where they came from.
Scientists say that the behavior of subatomic particles changes if you even think about them, causing them to flit in and out of existence. So, what if somebody thought about all of them at once? Wait! Don’t do it! Damn, that was close.
The most fun thing for a puppy is an old guy trying to put on his socks.
In an odd development, I’m selling my own bootleg. Actually, no, this is from the UK and is legal since anything on the radio in the ’70s or ’80s is now in the Public Domain there. This is a show I did at the Wollman Rink in Central Park on August 12, 1972, as part of the Schaefer Music Festival. I’m fronting a kickass band featuring Trevor Veitch, banners snapping in the wind, on lead electric guitar. WARNING: the audio here is pretty rough. Feedback, occasional random bits of conversation from stage-side, a somewhat chaotic mix—this will not be up for any engineering awards. But it has a compelling energy and takes me back to the moment, and to the era. (This is one of the things music does so well.) I scored a few copies, but there’s no way of knowing how long this is going to be in print. If you’re interested, don’t dawdle! Available only in our online store.
Two notes about upcoming shows: I won’t be doing a Symphony Hall show between Christmas and New Year’s this winter–we couldn’t get a date that worked–so these shows listed below are the only area appearances I’ll be doing.
And, to make these shows even more special, I’ll have a young whippersnapper named Matt Nakoa accompanying me on keyboards and harmonies. He’s a monster (and I mean that in the nicest way), an artist on his way up; I’ll likely ask him to do a song or two on his own during the course of the concerts. You will love him, guaranteed.
Friday, 11/6, the Cabot Performing Arts Center in Beverly, MA. The Cabot has just invested a bajillion dollars on a magnificent makeover and is truly, I’m told, a wonder to behold. I can’t wait to behold it!
Saturday, 11/7, the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, MA, a hallowed old industrial space that I’ve come to love. (I always open the show there with “It’s Going To Get Hot Tonight” so I can include the line, “I left my liver in old Fall River.”
Sunday, 11/8, the River Club Music Hall in Scituate, MA, one of my favorite South Shore stops. This and the Narrows tend to sell out, so, again, don’t dawdle!
If you can’t attend, send a friend.
Enjoy what’s left of the Fall—some nice warm weather coming up in New England and the foliage is still glorious!
All the best,
Quote of the month:
“I am really cautious about what I say and do.” “I always put clothes and family photos under the mattress, in case the house burns down.” “I hate to talk about myself.”
Stunning news: Google has gone into the doctor business! They’ve put up this very folksy page where a woman who works at Google explains that when her son fell off the bed in — wouldn’t you know it — Vermont, she had trouble finding information on line that would tell her whether or not he had a concussion. (“… and I work at Google!” she sputters.) Just as an aside, beds are a fairly new thing in Vermont, just beginning to catch on, and it may have been a matter of faulty design. If he’d just slept on the floor like normal people … but that’s neither here nor there.
The point is that very soon whenever you look up whatever ails you – aching hair, perhaps, or, in the case of some of my contemporaries, phantom hair pain – you will be presented with the Knowledge Graph, an instant compendium of knowledge about your condition that will allow you to quickly misdiagnose yourself without the bother of plowing through all those confusing, unreliable websites from fly-by-night outfits like Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic, and will certainly save you the time, expense and embarrassment of going to an actual doctor, if you could even get in to see one of them these days.
I’m going to contact them and see if, for a fee of course, they could see their way to recommending Tom Rush CDs and DVDs as a remedy for pretty much anything. I’m told, for instance, that the new video documentary ‘Tom Rush – No Regrets’ can make just about anybody feel good. And then there are all those gluten-free, high-fiber heart-healthy CDs to keep you in shape, in our store.
I know full well, meanwhile, what ails me: aching muscles induced by shoveling all the snow that’s been arriving every weekend like clockwork. And I already know the remedy: I’m heading south!
I want to wish you all very happy holidays and a marvelous New Year. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your sticking with me over the years, coming to the shows, listening to the recordings, reading the newsletters. Someone asked me recently when I planned to retire – I don’t think they were hinting or anything. The answer is, as long as I can have fun doing it and you keep showing up, I’ll keep on keeping on.
On a helpful note, if you’re just stuck for that last minute Christmas gift — DON’T buy the Chia Pet!! Just say NO!! I can sincerely say that the upcoming Symphony Hall show on Sunday, the 28th, will be a musical night to remember — some of the best young talent in the world, Red Molly, Grace Kelly, Monica Rizzio — soaring harmonies, hot instrumentals, old and new songs, all in one of the world’s premiere concert halls set up cabaret-style — and tickets are just a mouse-click away. Also, the brand new video documentary on yours truly, “Tom Rush – No Regrets,” is available at the web store AND at the Symphony Box Office. These are so much classier than that Chia pet, and you don’t have to water them!!
And here’s a present for YOU, a secret link to a secret page on YouTube. I premiered this song at last year’s SH show and have been tweaking it since. Hope you enjoy it!
Stay warm, Gang, and thank you, too!It’s that time of year when I thank all the good folks who keep me up and running. Dan Beach keeps the website humming and gets the newsletters out, but also gives me good advice which I actually take most of the time. (When I don’t I usually regret it.) Rob Stegman and Todd Kwait have labored long, hard and to good effect putting together the video documentaryAND producing this Symphony Hall show. Thank you, gentlemen, for all you do. Mr. Tim Burke has kept the vending operation running smoothly for lo, these many years and I greatly appreciate the time and effort he’s put in. Andrea Sabata, Katy Cates, Crandall Rogers and all the jolly crew at Skyline Music, my booking agency, keep me gainfully employed, for which I am eternally grateful.
All the best,
Quote of the month:
“No one ever pretended that shopping for anything is a rational experience. If it were, would there be Fluffernutter? Laceless sneakers? Porkpie hats? Would the Chia Pet even exist?”
I hope the New Englanders among you have survived the nor’easter in style and comfort. Aside from a few leaks in the house we are warm and dry.
But right now there is a red squirrel sitting outside the kitchen window yelling at me. I spend my mornings sitting at the kitchen table, trying to write songs, taking care of this and that, because my office is too piled with stacks of very important documents to be a good work environment.
So I’m sitting here, lost in thought, trying to figure out what the Muse is trying to tell me, or whether I’m even talking to my Muse. Maybe it’s somebody else’s Muse, whispering to me through the ether. Maybe it’s a wrong number and she’s just trying to order a pizza or something — it’s always so hard to tell. Anyway, this squirrel rouses me from my reverie. He’s sitting on the window ledge, staring at me, looking annoyed and chattering away in a very imperious tone. Seeing that he’s got my attention, he stops his scolding and gives a rather pointed glance toward the birdfeeder. It’s empty. He’s ticked off because the birdfeeder’s empty. He’s accustomed to a better level of service.
I roar at him, giving him my very best “I’m a big hairy monster and I’m going to come out there and gobble you up,” kind of roar. He doesn’t even flinch. I try again, this time actually articulating, “I’m a big hairy monster,” and so forth. He looks at me with this “Give me a break,” kind of look and starts chattering again. “Get lost,” I explained. “You’re a Republican, aren’t you?” he demanded. It sounded like an accusation. Now he was making me mad. “Politics have nothing to do with it,” I said firmly, “this is a bird feeder, not a squirrel feeder. You are a squirrel, not a bird. Case closed.” “I am an American squirrel,” he said haughtily, “900th generation. These birdy friends of yours are mostly aliens. Canadians, for Pete’s sake. Migrants. They’re not even going to stay in the country.”
I was, I admit, somewhat taken aback. “But,” I protested, “they have a long journey. They need my help.” “Ha!” he retorted, “They’re richer than you are. They’re headed for their winter homes in the Caribbean. Do you have a winter home in the Caribbean?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “I didn’t think so. So you’re willing to give handouts to these millionaires who are moving their assets overseas, but not to a hard-working American squirrel who’s down on his luck. Republican!”
“Now you’re making me mad, Red,” I said evenly. “If you don’t back off I’m going to go get the 12 gauge. “Ooooh, the 12 gauge,” he taunted. “A Republican for sure. Arms spending way out of line with your actual needs. A .22 single-shot would be plenty to bully around a poor little innocent squirrel like me, but no, you think you have to impress me with the mighty 12 gauge. Overkill, if you’ll pardon the expression. Deep-seated worries about inadequacy, I’d say.” “Now hold on just a darned minute,” I sputtered, “this is ridiculous. You’re a squirrel. Go get a job – do whatever it is that squirrels do to make a living. You don’t need handouts from me.”
He shook his head sadly. “Listen, Tom,” he said, “may I call you Tom? Listen, it was a bad year for pinecones, and the acorns … well, you could call it crop failure. The ecology’s the worst it’s been in generations. I’m not asking for a handout, but I think we should be thinking in terms of a safety net here. Think of it as the rich pitching in to support squirrels, American squirrels, who are less fortunate.”
I asked the Muse if I could get back to her in a few minutes. She said no, she had a bunch of really good ideas but if I was too busy she’d just go give them to Arlo. I shuffled off to get the sunflower seed, thinking that self-loathing in some circumstances is entirely warranted.
I’ve put up another new song on YouTube, just for you, entitled — appropriately enough in this context — “Voices.” I’m very much looking forward to doing this one at Symphony Hall on the 28th with some other voices. This is a secret page – just for folks on the email list.
This will, I hope, be a very romantic evening — candles on the tables, lots of love songs and good company. Bring your honey, bring your buddy. What better holiday gift could there be than an evening of music in one of the world’s premier concert halls? (And don’t forget the newvideo documentary – a perfect companion gift!) Am I being too subtle, I wonder?
Some upcoming radio appearances are listed below. Stay warm, stay dry, and thanks for reading!
All the best,
Quote of the month: “You can’t be friends with a squirrel! A squirrel is just a rat with a cuter outfit.” – Sarah Jessica Parker
At a big box store recently I saw that, along with the usual birdfeeders on display, they had a deer-feeder for sale. It was a large contraption that dispensed kernels of dried corn. “Well, isn’t that sweet?” I thought, skipping over the question of whether we maybe have enough deer already, perhaps even a surfeit by some reckonings. Then, upon closer inspection, I saw that this warm and cuddly contraption was made by the Remington Company, and that the feed bags were from a brand named “Record Rack.” I can tell you – I was disillusioned. Next they’re going to be telling me there is no Santa Claus and trying to sell me reindeer venison!
The Symphony Hall show is moving along well – I’m working with the other artists on possible collaborations. I’ve got some new songs to play for you and, in order to share them with my guests (Red Molly, Grace Kelly and Monica Rizzio) and the house band I went into a studio yesterday and did simple recordings – just me and a young keyboardist named Matt Nakoa, who happened to be in the building and volunteered his services. I’m putting up one of the songs on a secret YouTube page, for your listening pleasure. You can ONLY get there with this link: http://youtu.be/lVDkGd41Oc0. This is a song called “Life Is Fine,” and I can’t wait to hear it with Red Molly’s harmonies and Monica Rizzio’s fiddle!
In other news, the video documentary is flying off the shelves at TomRush.com – Christmas is just around the corner, after all! We’ve now set up a deal at the Symphony Hall box office so you can buy the DVD there along with tickets to the show.This may, by the way, be the last of these Symphony Hall shows for a while. For reasons having to do with the Hall’s logistics, the 28th is the only date that works. This year it’s a Sunday, but next year it’s a Monday, then a Tuesday, and so forth – so we may be on hiatus for a few years.
And I’m going to be on the radio a bunch in the coming weeks, fanning the flames, beating the drum, sometimes both at once. A list of those appearances is below. A lot of these stations also stream live, so you may well be able to listen in from Topeka, or Barcelona, San Quentin – or wherever you happen to be.
Upcoming shows this weekend:
Friday, 12/5, One Longfellow Square, Portland, ME (guitar wizard Eric Lilljequist will be backing me up, and I’m told a certain Jonathan Edwards might be stopping by).
Saturday, 12/6, The Bull Run in Shirley, MA, my annual get-together with Dean Adrien and the aforementioned Eric Lilljequist.
Sunday, 12/7, The Flying Goose in New London, NH, 2 shows, 3 and 8PM, both sold out, but it might be worth a call. In my experience “Sold Out” is a bit of a squishy concept.
Gotta get back to filling the birdfeeders. Thanks for reading!
All the best,
Quote of the month:
“I ask people why they have deer heads on their walls. They always say because it’s such a beautiful animal. There you go. I think my mother is attractive, but I have photographs of her.”