We’ve spent the last week covering the Beatles and talking about their music. So who is the perfect guest to talk with us? Paul McCartney? Ringo Starr? (Ok, that would be great, but no.) How about the Byrds’ Roger McGuinn?  After all, George Harrison inspired him to go with his now signature 12-string Rickenbacker guitar.

So Roger returned to chat with us for a third time.

Students asked him some insightful questions, one of which was about his Folk Den site that encourages free downloads of traditional music. He started that site (at https://www.ibiblio.org/jimmy/folkden-wp/) to keep folk traditions alive for future generations.

Roger then demonstrated on his Rickenbacker how “Mr. Tambourine Man,” the Dylan-penned Byrds hit, and the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” are derived from folk chord progressions. That students were thrilled to hear him play.

McGuinn 2

Roger mentioned how The Wrecking Crew, the famed session musicians who performed on so many songs, took the lead on Tambourine Man, with Roger being the only Byrd actually playing on it. While that upset the other Byrds, apparently that session took three hours, whereas the actual Byrds’ recording of “Turn! Turn! Turn!” took 77 takes.

A student asked about how the loss of David Crosby (who went on to form Crosby, Stills & Nash and occasionally Young) impacted the Byrds. Roger said while he would miss Crosby’s strong harmonic contributions, he felt Gene Clark’s departure even more acutely, as he was the Byrds’ primary songwriter.

One student asked about the passing of musicians close to Roger and how that impacted him…a touchy question that Roger handled with grace. He specifically mentioned Tom Petty, since they were quite close and his death was so unexpected. He also said the loss of George Harrison was a big deal since he was also good friends with the former Beatle.

Another student inquired about Roger’s working with Paul Simon early in his career. Roger proceeded to pull up a Paul Simon video that talked about their early collaboration.

McGuinn 1

In all, Roger was his usual affable self, answering students’ questions thoughtfully. We were super lucky to have him join us and hopefully we can do another Skype session next year.


After picking three albums from the notorious top hat, the students had a week to choose one to write about. They must not only talk about the songs on the record, but also react to the album itself…like how we used to debate which Led Zeppelin album was best back in the day. So without further adieu, here are the students’ selections, with their ultimate choice in bold:


Journey, Escape

Radiohead, OK Computer

Mike Oldfield, Tubular Bells


Rush, Moving Pictures

Rush, Permanent Waves

The Police, Outlandos D’Amour


Tom Petty, Full Moon Fever

Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II

Fairport Convention, Liege & Lief


Pink Floyd, The Dark Side of the Moon

Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True

Alice Cooper, Welcome To My Nightmare


The Beatles, Rubber Soul

Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation

The Ramones, Ramones


Guns ‘N Roses, Appetite For Destruction

The Beatles, Abbey Road

U2, War


The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds

The Ramones, Rocket to Russia

Santana, Abraxas


The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Axis: Bold As Love

Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Creedence Clearwater Revival, Willy and the Poor Boys


Patti Smith Group, Easter

Talking Heads, Talking Heads: 77

The Who, Who’s Next


The Who, Tommy

Patti Smith, Horses

Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville


Queen, A Night At the Opera

The Who, Quadrophenia

Pretenders, s/t


Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here

Deep Purple, Machine Head

Aerosmith, Toys In the Attic


The Shins, Oh Inverted World

Neil Young, After the Gold Rush

Stone Temple Pilots, Purple


The Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers

Van Halen, s/t

The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow


Black Sabbath, Paranoid

The Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed

Neil Young, Harvest


The Stooges, Funhouse

Television, Marquee Moon

The Modern Lovers, s/t

(Update: We had some adds and drops, so the new students’ selections are included below. Also, a few students have picked their albums already and those are bolded.)

So see the hat below? In it are 100 numbered wooden shapes representing albums released from 1965-2008. Each student is going to select three numbers and will have a week to pick an album to write about. The point is to get the students out of the mode of cherry picking songs. I want them to learn to appreciate an album as a whole. So without further adieu, here are the three possible albums each student pulled from the hat (first names only to protect the guilty):

Which will they pick? Which should they pick? I’ll let you know in a week.


Shealee: Radiohead, Ok Computer; Journey, Escape; Mike Oldfield, Tubular Bells

Kerry: The Police, Oulandos D’Amour; Rush, Permanent Waves; Rush, Moving Pictures (yeah, she somehow picked consecutive numbers)

Jalene: Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II; Fairport Convention, Liege & Lief; Tom Petty, Full Moon Fever

Amanda: Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True; Alice Cooper, Welcome to My Nightmare; Pink Floyd, The Dark Side of the Moon

Taylor: The Beatles, Rubber Soul; Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation; The Ramones, Ramones

Brandon: Guns ‘N Roses, Appetite For Destruction; The Beatles, Abbey Road; U2, War

Danielle: Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road; The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Axis: Bold As Love; Creedence Clearwater Revival, Willie and the Poor Boys

Monica: Patti Smith Group, Easter; Talking Heads, Talking Heads: 77; The Who, Who’s Next

Chris: The Ramones, Rocket to Russia; The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds; Santana, Abraxas.

Michael: The Who, Tommy; Patti Smith, Horses; Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville

Timothy: The Who, Quadrophenia; Queen, A Night at the Opera; Pretenders, Pretenders

Chancellor: Deep Purple, Machine Head; Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here; Aerosmith, Toys in the Attic

Jacob: Neil Young, After the Gold Rush; The Shins, Oh Inverted World; Stone Temple Pilots, Purple

Mark: The Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers; Van Halen, Van Halen; The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow

Evan: The Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed; Neil Young, Harvest; Black Sabbath, Paranoid

Spencer: Television, Marquee Moon; The Stooges, Funhouse; The Modern Lovers, The Modern Lovers

Hello all:

Well, we’re doing it again, only this time we’re taking the music up from the 1920s through around 2005. We have some really cool guest speakers this semester who will chat with us via Skype:

Mia Katherine Boyle (MKB Ultra). Mia is the vision behind this psychedelic Seattle band.

Chad Channing (Nirvana). Chad was Nirvana’s first “real” drummer in that he toured and recorded with the band during their Sub Pop days. He also played on Bleach, Nirvana’s first record. Chad is doing his second stint with us.

Judy Dyble (Fairport Convention). Judy was Fairport’s first singer. She also played a giant autoharp while she sang. Fairport has been credited for creating the British version of folk/rock. Judy has shared some great stories hanging out with Richard Thompson and Jimi Hendrix. She’s also coming back for a second time.

Steve Howe (Yes.) So Steve can play guitar a little bit. He’s a prodigy/guitar master who is returning for his second visit with us. Last time, in addition to playing some Yes songs for the students, he dabbled in Wes Montgomery and Vivaldi.

Terry Marshall (Marshall Amplification Company co-founder.) Terry, along with his dad Jim, started the Marshall company out of Jim’s instrument shop in London’s west end. From those humble beginnings in the early 1960s, Marshall quickly grew to become the standard bearer of electric guitar amplification. Terry chatted with us last spring from the Marshall factory, sitting in a black leather chair in front of an intimidating stack of Marshall amps.

Chris Martin (Kinski.) Kinski is my favorite post-grunge Seattle band. If Sonic Youth and Black Sabbath had a baby, it would be Kinski.

Roger McGuinn (Byrds.) Roger will be chatting with us (and possibly playing) for the third time. He’s a great guy and an incredibly talented player. The Byrds are credited with inventing southern California folk/rock as well as country/rock.

Rogers Stevens (Blind Melon.) Rogers, now an attorney in Philadelphia, will be visiting us for a second time. Blind Melon gained fame in the early ’90s on the strength of the classic “No Rain.” After singer Shannon Hoon’s death, Stevens went to college and became a lawyer. Blind Melon still tours and records on occasion with a new singer.

Kathy Valentine (Go-Go’s). Kathy is making her first visit with us and we’re super psyched. The Go-Go’s became popular in the early ’80s with the hits “Our Lips Are Sealed” and “We Got the Beat.”

So we’re excited to get started. I’ll be posting about our first class shortly.




After a jam-packed couple of days, Sunday, August 12 offered a bit of respite. I slept in (till 7…hey, I’m old) and ventured off to get some breakfast. There are a couple of ballfields near where I stayed in Queen Anne, so I went over there to play guitar for a while.

Then I headed down to the waterfront to embark on a seaplane ride! I’d checked a bunch of other stuff off the life list: sea kayaking, white water rafting, bi-plane ride, hot air ballooning, skydiving, so I had to finish it off. As there are a ton of seaplanes coming and going from Lake Union, it made sense to try it here.

I scheduled an 11 o’clock flight with Kenmore Air, a company that also makes commercial flights to the islands and Canada. I headed down a boardwalk toward the plane. As I was first in line, the pilot asked me if I was alone. I said I was. “Ok, you ride up with me then.” My inner 12 year-old bristled with excitement. Riding in the cockpit with the pilot! So cool!


(Our pilot just prior to take off.)

And it only got cooler from there. The pilot told me not to touch the window or the pedals in front of me and we began to taxi on Lake Union. It seems like you have to dodge boats and stuff to take off, but not really. The flight was so smooth, as was the landing. And to see Seattle close from the air! It doesn’t get much better than that. If you haven’t done this, please add it to your own list.




After the plane ride, I decided to walk from the waterfront back to Queen Anne. It’s only about a mile or so, but it’s pretty much straight up hill. That’s ok, workout was good…made me earn my burger and beer at the Paragon on Queen Anne Ave. Excellent.

After playing some more guitar, I Ubered it over to the Conor Byrne Pub in Ballard for my Seattle open mic debut. A couple of friends stopped by which meant I couldn’t chicken out…although I thought about it. This open mic was quite different from ones I’ve experienced back home. I arrived about 6:30, with sign-ups starting at 7:30. A number of players started trickling in as it got closer to sign-up time. I had no idea how it worked so I asked a few folks sitting up front. They were super nice, telling me to talk to the host who would get me on earlier since I was a first-timer. The host, I forgot his name–sorry, was also quite gracious and handed me a small tile with a number on it. They call your number and then you sign up for a two-song slot. I went on at 8:20.

When the time came, I made my way to the stage with my baby Martin, my travel guitar. As I sat down to play, my hands were literally shaking as one of my friends in the audience was Love Battery guitarist Kevin Whitworth.

Played two songs: Led Zeppelin’s Going to California and Mad Season’s River of Deceit. I would say they were average performances but the crowd reaction was positive. I even got a “Yeah!” which is a good thing. (I’ve heard if you receive any combination of 17 “Yeahs!” and “Woos!” you get a Nick Foles bobblehead.)

Afterward, Kevin said he enjoyed my rendition of Going to California quite a bit, even more than Zeppelin’s version and suggested I record it. I was stunned, humbled and a little embarrassed. I don’t take compliments very well (I don’t take criticism very well, either.) I mean Kevin is one of my guitar heroes and for him to think I didn’t suck, well that meant a lot.

I took in several of the other musicians (everyone was very good), enjoyed a beer, and felt an occasional breeze coming in from the propped open door. It was like 60 degrees out. Absolutely delightful.

My flight would leave the next day, but I’d depart Seattle with a big smile on my face. I’d have to say this has been the best trip there ever.

So I woke up in Queen Anne on Saturday, August 11, excited for the day ahead. The owner of the Airbnb unit recommended a nearby bakery for breakfast sandwiches and pastries. So I ventured over there only to find a) they didn’t have any breakfast sandwiches; b) the pastries sucked; c) the coffee sucked; and d) it was ridiculously overpriced. After that I made a mental note to get future breakfasts from Safeway, which was a couple blocks away from the bakery. (Did that on Sunday…got two fantastic donuts, a coffee from the in-store Starbucks…which was also very good…the total was 5 bucks, versus 13 from the rip-off bakery.) But I’m pretty sure you didn’t come here to read about my choice of breakfast places.

Afterward, I Ubered over to Capitol Hill to meet the Thrown Ups’ Leighton Beezer for breakfast (yes, a second breakfast…fuck it, I love breakfast) at the Coastal Kitchen. Leighton, as always, was brilliant and entertaining. I can’t remember exactly what we talked about. Well, music, but I can’t remember specifics. Oh yeah, we disagreed on the gutsiest call Eagles coach Doug Pederson made in the Super Bowl. He went Philly Special…fourth and 1 at the goal line near the end of the first half. I would rank that second. I think the ballsiest call came later when New England briefly took the lead. The Eagles had a fourth and 1 at the Patriot 40. The coach’s manual tells you to punt, force the quarterback to start at his own 10 and let your defense do it’s job. But Pederson had a feel for the game. He knew his defense wasn’t stopping Tom Brady in the second half whether he started from the 10 or the 40. So he went for it with Nick Foles tossing a pass to Zach Ertz to extend the drive. The Eagles ended up scoring a touchdown on that drive, so yeah I’m going with that one.

So far we’ve talked about breakfast and football, so you’re probably wondering, “Isn’t this a music blog?”

Yeah, it is. And Saturday was the biggest day of the Sub Pop 30th Anniversary weekend with a day-long outside party planned in West Seattle featuring a ton of bands. In particular I wanted to see the Fastbacks and Mudhoney (shocking, I know.)

The party would take place along Alki Beach in West Seattle. If you are familiar with the geography of the region, you’d realize you have to cross Puget Sound to get to West Seattle from Seattle. You can drive over a bridge or take a bus, but the issue was the crowds. The streets of West Seattle would be shut down and about 25,000 people would show up. So both Sub Pop and King County suggested taking the Water Taxi over, which I did.


(Folks queuing up for the Water Taxi to West Seattle at Seattle’s Pier 52)

That was pretty cool…about a 15 minute crossing to West Seattle. After we disembarked, there were free shuttles which took you to the festival, which was massive. Four stages: Loser, Harsh Realm, Flippity-Flop, and Punky (kind of disappointed there was no Lamestain stage.) I do have to tip my cap to Sub Pop. They did this thing right. Free admission, plenty of places to grab something to eat. You could get drinks, too–places were of course packed–but drinks were attainable, and there were plenty of porta-potties.


(View of Seattle from the Water Taxi)

I was supposed to meet my writer friend Dave O’Leary at the Cactus, which as it turns out, was at the other end of the festival. It’s just that I kept running into people I knew…James Burdyshaw of Cat Butt, Daniel House of Skin Yard, Chad Channing of Nirvana and his girlfriend Justine Jeanotte, formerly of Before Cars and Paundy. As a result, I was quite late meeting Dave, which prompted this FB message exchange:


Since I’m apparently Mister Popularity in Seattle (not really, but I keep telling myself that), we eventually made our way down to Dave at the Cactus to have a few drinks before the Fastbacks were to take the stage around 5. I’m chatting with Dave, Chad, Justine and some others and we found ourselves making small talk with strangers near the bar…”Where are you from?” kind of thing. One lady, who was from Ohio, turned to Chad and said, “And where are you from?” I wanted to grab her and say, “Where do you think? He’s from here! He was in Nirvana for crying out loud!” But Chad being Chad, he was totally gracious about it.


(Kayaks on West Seattle’s Alki Beach, viewing Seattle’s waterfront)

Here’s the thing, though, that I discovered about the Sub Pop event. It seemed that a lot of people there were casual fans. I saw a lot of folks sporting Pearl Jam t-shirts, since PJ had just played two shows at Safeco Field.  I noticed that when we went over to check out the Fastbacks. There were so many people I felt like I was at a stadium show. I remember seeing them in West Seattle for their reunion gig in 2011 and I think I stood about 20 feet from the band. So that kind of sucked. I mean, it was fun and all, but I got the feeling that many of the fans were there to just take everything in as in, “Hey we came to see Pearl Jam. There’s this music festival over the weekend. Let’s take the kids over and make a day of it.”


(Somewhere back there are the Fastbacks)

Mudhoney was also packed, but I made my way forward to listen to a few songs and get some decent pictures. I expected the crowd to go nuts during “Touch Me I’m Sick,” and some of them did, but a lot were looking at their phones. Seriously, folks? It doesn’t get much better than Mudhoney playing Touch Me I’m Sick live.


(Fucking Mudhoney!)

I did get some compliments on my “Oh Lordy I hope there are tapes” t-shirt…one coming from a Sub Pop employee. So that was a hit.

After that show and some more drinks, we headed over to West Five, a bar where Matt Lukin (ex-Mudhoney) hangs out and Bruce Pavitt (ex-Sub Pop) was supposed to DJ. We decided to walk, which was quite the adventure and significantly longer than we had planned…maybe 2 1/2 miles, most of it uphill.

Had some dinner, said a brief hello to Matt and then headed out before we could chat with Bruce. There were more shows to be had…the un-official after party at the Parliament Tavern, also in West Seattle, featuring Swallow supported by the Derelicts and Blood Circus. This was another two mile trip. The walk itself became amusing. I think sometimes one has to appreciate the journey. See below for what I’m talking about.


When we finally arrived at the Parliament, Blood Circus was just setting up. Ok, most of you know I’m a fan of this kind of music, but I couldn’t take Blood Circus. Perhaps it was the sheer exhaustion setting in. I don’t know. But it seemed like every song wasn’t actually a song, but rather a mediocre riff played at high volume repeated ad infinitum with a solo maybe thrown in for good measure. I couldn’t take much of it and we ended up bailing mid-way through the set. I bumped into Jack Endino on the way out. He said, “You can’t be leaving,” to which I responded, “We have to go.”

Despite some of the travails, the day was a blast overall. Sunday would turn out to be considerably quieter, but just as much fun.



So it was time. I almost didn’t make this trip, but something told me it had to happen. So off I ventured to Seattle for my annual musical pilgrimage. For those so interested, I decided not to rent a car on this trip. By using a combination of the Light Rail, Water Taxi, and Uber, I saved hundreds of dollars as well as the aggravation of finding parking in Seattle. (Note, if you’re considering Seattle Public Transit, invest in an ORCA card. It’s worth it.)

I got in on Friday, August 10, around noon, took the Light Rail/Uber combination to meet up with the one and only Jim Tillman, who has played bass for the legendary U-Men and Love Battery. Coincidentally, Love Battery’s classic line-up reunited for a show several days prior and played their 1992 album Dayglo in its entirety. Sorry I had to miss that one, but I had to attend my father in-law’s 85th…and I’m glad I did.

I met Jim at Uneedaburger in Fremont, a casual place that serves…well, duh. I had a Philly burger, fries, a beer, and a shake. Yeah, that’s a weird combo, but this is my vacation, not yours.


(Love Battery, Slim’s Last Chance, August 4, 2018. From left: guitarist Ron Rudzitis, Jim on bass, drummer Jason Finn, and guitarist Kevin Whitworth. Photo by Anna Mehau Parkhurst.)

(At Uneedaburger with Jim and his friend Marie.)

After saying good-bye to Jim, I headed back to an apartment I rented in Upper Queen Anne through Airbnb. Although it was a little out of the way, I enjoyed staying there. Nice, quiet, but within walking distance to Queen Anne Avenue, which has shops, restaurants, and Safeway (more on that later.)

Next on the agenda was beers with my writer friend Dave O’Leary. And where do we meet up? Well, the George & Dragon Pub in Fremont. Of course. The G&D is a British owned establishment that is Dave’s second home. It’s a casual place to hang, have a few beers, and chat with friends.


It was a beautiful evening, and I hung out with Dave, his wife Allison, and a few friends. I found myself chatting for a long time with Dave’s buddy Bruce about…music. Yeah, surprise, surprise.

I heard Pearl Jam was playing at Safeco field that evening. I didn’t have a ticket, but it’s not my thing, anyway. I like them, but I’ve become spoiled in recent years. I like having a band play right in front of me and not have to deal with enormous stadium crowds.

So I walked about a mile to the Elk’s Lodge where The Tom Price Desert Classic would be headlining, supported by the Young Pioneers and Nunes. I unfortunately missed most of Nunes set, but I did get to say hello to Chris Pugh and Scott Vanderpool of the Young Pioneers. If you don’t know who they are, they came from the Olympia scene of the early to mid-’80s which birthed K Records and Beat Happening. Chris and Scott moved to Seattle after college and formed Swallow (who played Saturday) and Chemistry Set, respectively.

I said hello to Tom Price (also in the U-Men) and Daniel House of Skin Yard. In the back, they were cooking up dogs and burgers and coupled with a beer and good music, what else is there?

I had never experienced the Pioneers before and I enjoyed them thoroughly. They kind of had a punk rock meets British post-punk vibe about them.


(The Young Pioneers. Note the little girl entering on her left holding her ears. They were kinda loud. Don’t parents provide their kids ear plugs anymore?)

Tom’s band went on next, with him announcing: “We’re the Desert Classic.” I’d seen his band a few times before and they never fail to shred.


(Ladies and Gentlemen: The Tom Price Desert Classic. Not pictured, grooving along to the TPDC, is Matt Wright, who was in Gas Huffer with Tom.)

Exhausted after a cross-country flight and long day, I Ubered back to Queen Anne and headed to bed. The next day would be a long one, starting off with breakfast with the incomparable Leighton Beezer of the Thrown Ups and then heading over to West Seattle for the Sub Pop 30 Festival.

So no guest speakers this week, but we covered a lot of territory: specifically the ’80s underground and the ’90s alternative explosion.

For the ’80s, I presented the students with the big cities and medium size cities which had vibrant scenes: Chicago, Boston, Athens, GA, Portland, OR, Olympia, WA, and Seattle among them (for some reason I didn’t list Minneapolis. It’s the end of the semester. That’s my excuse.)

I shouldn’t be surprised, but this week provoked the strongest negative reactions from the students. Turns out they’re not big fans of the Pixies, Sonic Youth, Husker Du, Scratch Acid, or the U-Men. I get it. This stuff is not particularly accessible, except of course for R.E.M., which they had mixed reactions to.

Sonic Youth_86-192-10_300 copy_72

(Sonic Youth, CBGB’s 1986)

We then moved on to the ’90s, and my baby Seattle. I talked about the variety of local music that existed, even during the late ’80s heyday of grunge. We covered the usual suspects: Nirvana, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains (wait, why didn’t you mention Soundgarden, you ask? I have no freaking idea. I did not have them listen to even one Soundgarden song. I’m not sure what happened. Absolute brain fart.) I also gave them a little taste of some of the other Seattle bands of that era, notably Love Battery and the Young Fresh Fellows. They also listened to selections from non-Seattle bands from back then, in particular Stone Temple Pilots and Blind Melon.



The ’90s music seemed to reinvigorate the class (as it reinvigorated me back in the day), which is a big deal since the semester’s coming to a close, the weather is getting nice, and they want to get the hell out of here.

On Wednesday, after talking about the ’90s songs, I asked the students what their most and least favorite selections were. For favorites, a few picked the ’90s, one said the Beatles, another mentioned ’60s San Francisco/Los Angeles. One student said she dug the early blues stuff…which is great. ’80s underground took the near univesral nod for least favorite unit.

I have to say this group was most excellent. They got it. One student mentioned how even though she didn’t like the ’80s indie stuff, she was glad we covered it as it gives her a better understanding of how the music progressed. They really appreciated the guest speakers and the opportunity they had to chat remotely with, and in three cases, meet the musicians in person.

Overall I loved teaching this class. There were no tests, no papers…just weekly song reactions, questions for the guest speakers, and participation in class discussions. I wouldn’t have attempted that evaluation with my intro to US students, but these kids were motivated and excited to learn about the music. I felt testing them on this material would be ridiculous. I wanted them to appreciate the music and it’s context, which would hopefully lead them to a lifetime of musical exploration and enjoyment.

A few students asked if I would do a course covering post-early ’90s music. I thought about it, but I’m not sure I’d be the right guy. I mean, I do have knowledge of the underground music of the ’90s and there was certainly a lot of great music that has happened since Seattle, but I’m not much of an expert on it.

In any event, I hope you enjoyed these blog posts as much as I did writing them.

Blind Melon. I was one of those nerds who wore out their 1992 debut record…digging songs like I Wonder, Paper Scratcher, and Deserted. I of course liked them more than the monster radio hit No Rain, but then again, I’m weird.

Some years later, I searched Youtube, trying to figure out how to play I Wonder and stumbled upon an interview where Blind Melon guitarist Rogers Stevens talked about the late singer, Shannon Hoon. I looked closer and noticed the Philadelphia skyline behind him. “That’s weird,” I thought. “Aren’t these guys from Mississippi?” Turns out Rogers, who grew up near Mississippi State University, is an attorney in Philadelphia. Following Shannon’s 1995 death, Rogers decided to ditch the music industry (not entirely as it turns out) and went to college. He attended Delaware County Community College (aka Delco to us locals), then Temple University (where he graduated summa cum laude), and then on to the University of Pennsylvania law school.

So I emailed him and asked if he would talk to my rock n roll history class and he graciously accepted.

I asked Rogers to give us a bit of his background. In brief, and I won’t be doing this justice, he grew up in a farming community near Mississippi State. After seeing Van Halen in 1984 (my first concert ever was Van Halen in 1980!), he decided to become a musician. So a few of his friends decided to head off to Los Angeles with no plan, not knowing anyone…not even having a place to stay. Initially, no one would rent to them because of their rather unkempt appearance and they spent more than a few nights sleeping in the car.

Eventually, though, Rogers and his crew came across Shannon, who was a good friend of Guns N Roses’ front man Axl Rose. Shannon’s voice and charisma soon became apparent and the band began to form. One student asked Rogers about the where the name Blind Melon came from. Rogers said they pulled it from a Cheech & Chong film. Perfect.

RS 2

Shannon’s connections with Axl helped a great deal, and Blind Melon soon had offers from multiple labels. The band’s eponymous debut album initially didn’t do much…it kind of languished for about a year before the release of No Rain, which turned the small time outfit into major rock stars.

A student asked Rogers what it was like to attain such massive fame so abruptly. He said they weren’t prepared for it. They were playing a series of small clubs when No Rain came out with that video, starring drummer Glen Graham’s sister as the bumblebee. One day, while staying in a hotel across from a venue Blind Melon was playing that night (forget the city), Rogers looked out the window and saw a line the wrapped around the venue several times. “What, is Bill Clinton in town?” he wondered. Turns out they were all there to see his band.

Students began asking Rogers questions and he sprung forth with some great stories, particularly about Shannon. He talked about the singer and Axl regularly getting into fist fights. Shannon was a an athlete and martial artist, so he could kick some major ass.

One time, while the band was in a bar in New Orleans, Shannon, for no particular reason, hurled a beer bottle at a mirror behind the bar. After the mirror shattered, the band wisely decided to exit the establishment in a hurry, with the police hot on their tales. Rogers remembers they were in pretty good shape, basically home free, when Shannon inexplicably stopped and punched a cop. His arrest apparently wasn’t all that unusual.

RS 1

I played Rogers a snippet of a couple Blind Melon tracks…but in particular the closing riffs to I Wonder and Paper Scratcher. Those are the kind of riffs I wait an entire song for. He said he wrote the former song and played the lead on the Scratcher riff.

One student asked Rogers what wisdom he would impart to his younger self. He said he would tell himself to be open to playing in front of anyone. Apparently at one point, Blind Melon was offered a chance to open for Bon Jovi in Australia. They turned it down because they hated Bon Jovi (ok, that instantly makes me like the Melon boys better.) In retrospect, Rogers felt that sort of standing on principle move was short-sighted. He thinks the band should have relished the opportunity to win over any audience, even if they didn’t like the headliner.

I played him a snippet of Soul One, my favorite track off of Blind Melon’s third album, Nico, released after Shannon’s death. Turns out it’s an early demo that Rogers wrote and he doesn’t care for at all. That happens sometimes. Fans like stuff the artists despise and vice-versa. (At least Steve Howe and I both favor Close to the Edge as our favorite Yes record.)

Blind Melon still exists and Rogers is about to embark on an American tour. Someone asked him how he manages to do that while maintaining his career as a law associate. He said it’s not easy, he doesn’t sleep much, but he manages to make it work.

In any event, the students and I were thrilled Rogers took the time to talk with us. I’m looking forward to seeing his band next month in Philly.

Kevin Whitworth Meets the Class

Kevin plays guitar for Love Battery, one of my favorite Seattle bands. LB was another one of those famously incestuous Seattle entities, combining the talents of musicians from Room Nine, Crisis Party, the U-Men, and Skin Yard. Unlike some of their more sludgy Sub Pop brethren, however, Love Battery combined swirling melodic distortion with the “g” word. Kevin has joked that his band has been referred to as “grungedelic.”

So Kevin began to talk with us via Skype from Seattle at 12:20 pm our time. After a rather slow start, the students began peppering him with questions and Kevin happily answered them. First, though, I asked Kevin about his initial move to Seattle from New England. He arrived in the Northwest in 1984, and in Seattle, the initial punk rock scene was petering out and the grunge thing hadn’t really gotten its legs yet. So to the outside world it was pretty dead. But yet it wasn’t.

KW 1

(Kevin answers a question.)

In 1984, Green River and Soundgarden were just getting started, psychedelic Room Nine was rolling, the Young Fresh Fellows were beginning to entertain their audiences with their poppy/punky songs and cleverly subversive lyrics, and the Walkabouts were combining Fairport Convention with the Jam. Oh yeah, there was also this band called the U-Men that I’m quite fond of. The U-Men combined punk rock with jazz with “I’d better get out of here or I’m going to die.”

So Kevin entered into all of that when he first set foot in Seattle. He talked about how open the Seattle music scene was at the time, and how supportive it was. By contrast, in Boston, you had to have a record out to even get a gig, but then it was you and everyone else. And bands were pretty competitive.

One student asked about Crisis Party, a band Kevin was briefly in when he first arrived in town. The question surprised him. He said that band was more Guns N Roses than punk rock, but he was excited to be part of something that could put out a record. Back in 1980s Seattle, just making a record was a big deal.

One student asked Kevin about his favorite gig. He mentioned a show Love Battery did in Madison, Wisconsin in the early ’90s where no one showed up. The band still played its ass off, and after the show, the bartender and other workers at the club came up, shook the LB members’ hands, and asked for autographs. Even though he’s played much bigger gigs, that one really meant a lot to him.

KW 2

I asked him about “old” versus “new” Seattle. The city is, I believe, the third most expensive to live in, after New York and San Francisco. It didn’t used to be that way. Kevin talked about paying rent in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood of about $50 per month, and being able to spend most of his time jamming/writing with his fellow musicians. Now that same rent would be something like $2,500 per month. The result is that it has kind of killed the local organic art community. That being said, Kevin doesn’t bemoan the change in Seattle and cities just evolve over time. Seattle still has a ton of talented local musicians.

One student inquired about his current projects. At this point, Kevin has a career and a family, so he can’t have the same lifestyle he did 30 years ago. He does play guitar from time to time in Sky Cries Mary, a local psychedelic outfit, along with Skin Yard’s Jack Endino. (Note, former SCM singer Jon Davison sang for Yes…saw them a few years ago. Fantastic.) In addition, this August, Love Battery’s classic line-up will reform with Kevin and Ron Rudzitis on guitar, Jim Tillman on bass, and Jason Finn on drums to play the entirely of their 1992 classic album,  Dayglo. https://www.alternativenation.net/legendary-grunge-band-reunite-after-25-years/

Kevin was great as expected and the students enjoyed chatting with him.

Afterward, we talked about the song selections for the week, which comprised hardcore punk, Eighties Mainstream, and the Paisley Underground. As I suspected, most of the class could live without the hypersonic hardcore punk thing, except for Marshall (see some earlier posts) who dug it…of course. I did get some laughs when I played the students an excerpt of the Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.”

The Eighties Mainstream was a tough one for me, because I quite frankly hated it. So I selected artists that were at least sort of rock n roll and brought something to the party…the Police, Dire Straits, U2, and Prince among them. There seemed to be a U2 hate party going on, except for one student who defended them as a great live act. I don’t have a problem with them…at least they were political, which wasn’t the norm in the mainstream back then.

We were just about out of time when we talked about the Paisley Underground. I played them a little Dream Syndicate. One student talked about the Bangles and how he liked them and appreciated how difficult it must have been for a female act to break into a male-dominated industry.

That wrapped things up until Wednesday, when Rogers Stevens of Blind Melon will be stopping by. Until then…