Friday, April 19, 2013

Popdose Rewind: The Gaslight Anthem, "The '59 Sound"

This weekend I'm driving up to Ventura to see the Gaslight Anthem perform live at the Ventura Theater. The Gaslight Anthem are a Jersey band whose influences range from Stax soul to the Clash, as well as a guy named Bruce Springsteen. It was because of Springsteen that I was initially interested in their music, but I soon became a huge fan of their work. The '59 Sound was the album that put them on the map in 2008, and they've release two others, American Slang in 2010 and Handwritten which came out last year. The latter is particularly strong.

In honor or seeing the band this weekend, here is the Basement Songs column I wrote about "The '59 Sound" back in November of 2008.

Back in January, I wrote a special Basement Song column dedicated to my daughter, Sophie, on her
birthday.  Tomorrow, November 14, is my son Jacob's birthday, and I now I want to dedicate something to him.

When it came time to choose a song to focus on, I couldn't help but return to a number that he and I bonded over recently.  Some of you loyal readers to Popdose may cry foul over using this Gaslight Anthem song twice in less than a month.  See, I reviewed their album in October and actually featured today's song. However, it was through my repeated listens to The '59 Sound, and the title track of the album, that Jacob became familiar with the song.  When I was contemplating what to say to Jacob for his birthday, this song's melody kept coming back to me.  I took that as a sign to forgo the tearjerker I was going to write about and keep this post in the rocking spirit of my son.  Thanks for reading.


When thinking of what to write today I contemplated reflecting on your rugged journey into this world. The days you spent in the neonatal intensive care unit, the concern that you needed surgery, the sudden helicopter ride that flew you from peaceful Burbank to the noisy and crowded UCLA hospital,, and finally bringing you home with us just in time for Thanksgiving, yes, a lot happened during the week you were born, so much that much of it is a blur to your father. I spent so much time driving in my car going to and from home to the hospital to your aunt and uncle's that you'd think I could recall some melody from that period in late 2001. But I can't.

The more I think about it, though, the more I think this is a good thing. I don't want to dwell on the heartache or the pain; I don't want to dwell on cystic fibrosis, or breathing treatments or the number of pills you have to take each day. No, today I just want to say how blessed I am that you're my son. 

In the past year or so, the two of us have begun to develop our own special relationship, one different from the one your sister and I share. From trips to the comic store to watching cartoons, from Star Wars to Spider-man, I've witnessed a kindred spirit come to life inside you. Knowing that you appreciate and love the same cultural things I have treasured my entire life is thrilling. And of course, there is the music. The two of us have a shared affinity for the same type of driving rock and roll that gets your feet pounding and your head bobbing up and down.

It began with the Boss.Who knows how many hours you spent watching the E Street Band Live in Barcelona concert prancing around the living room strumming your ukulele and singing the lyrics to The Rising. It was so many that it influenced the way you hold the guitar.Because you were mirroring Springsteen's image on the television, you now only feel comfortable carrying an axe in the lefty mode. You quickly connected with the Ramones, too, which is a funny group for a little boy to latch on to. It began with "Now I Wanna Be a Good Boy" featured on What's New Scooby Doo, then "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)" in School of Rock, and finally "Rockaway Beach" showing up in Rock Band

It shouldn't come as a surprise that you would take a liking to the one-two punch of the Ramones. Punk isn't necessarily a music form as much as it's an attitude. Punk is independence. Punk is standing up to the system ("sticking it to the man" as Jack Black would say). Punk is finding beauty in the crap the world throws at you. It shouldn't surprise me that you enjoy punk stylings because you, my son, are punk.Y ou're strong, independent, fierce, empathetic and forgiving despite everything you go through. Most important, you are a true individual.

I could have easily chosen a Ramones song or one of Springsteen's masterpieces to dedicate to you on your 7th birthday had it not been for what happened last Saturday night. The two of us were on our way to McDonald's and I dialed my iPod to the title track from the Gaslight Anthem's album, The '59 Sound. As the band ripped into this raucous rocker, I looked into the rearview mirror and caught you staring out the window, nodding your head to the rhythm and the beat of this great song. I had played "The '59 Sound" for you a couple of times and you had smiled. However, it's sometimes hard to tell if your child actually likes the songs you're playing for them or if they're just trying to make dad happy. When I stole that glance driving down the street, you were in your own world, rocking out. The moment was pure. My influence wasn't present, just you in sync with the music.

Later that night, while washing dishes, I played "The '59 Sound" once again, thinking I was alone. You strolled into the kitchen, dressed in your pajamas, ready for bed.

"Hey, daddy," you called out.

I turned around and you went into the little dance you do, you know, the one that's a cross between the funky chicken, the moonwalk and Axl Rose's shuffle? Man, I just wanted to scoop you up and hug you so hard except that I was laughing so hard. After your display of agility, you started down the hall toward your bedroom, but not before looking back with the biggest smirk on your face, proud that you'd made your dad laugh.

You know, Jake, in the years to come you may never recall this fleeting moment in your long life to live, but I will treasure it always. I hope you'll always keep "The '59 Sound" close by to lift your spirits in the low times and to raise the mood when your ready to rock the house (just don't do too much damage). Finally, I hope that whenever you hear the opening chords of the song that you'll think about your dad and how much he loves you.

Happy Birthday.

originally published November 13, 2008 on POPDOSE

Monday, April 15, 2013


I have run two marathons and many half marathons. Each race ended with a feeling of triumph and accomplishment. Here in Santa Clarita, the people of our community come together to volunteer and cheer on runners of all ages and skill. One of my proudest moments was crossing the finish line with Jacob when we ran the SC 5K two years ago in a freezing rain. Race days are a time of celebration, a time to embrace our differences and root for your fellow man.

I have seen the carnage from the bombings today and I want to cry. I have read about the dead (including a child) and I want to cry. I think about the fear that has been gripped so many tonight and I want to cry. I think about the families whose lives are shattered thanks to some asshole(s) and I want to cry.

But I see how the volunteers and the people of Boston came together as a community to help one another and, well, I want to cry.

Dear Monster who decided to detonate a bomb in a crowded area in the middle of the day, this afternoon you may have had a small victory, but tomorrow we will rise up, find strength in one another and carry on. We shall persevere.

God Bless the people of Boston and the victims of the bombing today.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The squeaky cough

Jacob has been sick all week fighting a nasty cold. He missed several days of school, but went on Friday when he seemed to turn a corner. Waiting around that corner seems to have been a wall. Yesterday and today he has had a squeaky cough that keeps him hacking all day long and into the night. Not sure how he's getting any sleep. Right now I can hear him coughing away. He complains that his chest hurts and I can only imagine how it must feel. When I get sick with a cold I actually get nauseous from the pain in my chest when there's nothing left to spit up, yet my body keeps fighting and making me cough.

"Everybody gets a cold," Julie reminded me the other day, but I still worry. Hearing him like this makes me feel useless, the worst feeling any parent can have.  I just want to wrap him up and squeeze the germs out of him. I wish I had super powers to do that. Jake would really get a kick out of that.

Last year Jacob seemed to be fighting the same damn cold for half the year, He never could shake some virus he got in the summer.  Around Christmas, after a heavy dose of antibiotics, he finally seemed to kick that SOB. I pray that this isn't the start of another long battle. Of course his body has been battling since the day his way born. He has been strong and his lungs have remained healthy. Damn it, if I could just... do something other than watch Justice League Unlimited with him to make him feel better.

I'll use my frustration to seque into my ple for donations. GREAT STRIDES is two weeks away. If any of you reading this can make a donation to the CF Foundation we would greatly appreciate it. As I say all of the time, there is no right amount. Every little bit helps!

We are about halfway to our goal. Please click on this link and consider helping.

If you are stopping here for the first time, you may be wondering why I'm writing about Cystic Fibrosis when this is a website dedicated to my Basement Songs book. If you read the book, you will discover that CF plays an important part in the story I tell. Thank you for coming to the website.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

And... I'm back!

One of the downfalls of my writing nature is that the moment I get caught up in a project something else gets neglected. I began writing two new scripts in the past month and the blog took the hit. Sorry! However, I left with a strong post for people to mull over. Great Strides is less than a months away and I hope those of you reading this book blog will take the time to consider donating.

Exactly what have I been up to? Glad you asked.

First of all, on the book front, I've entered Basement Songs into a couple of indie book contests. Not sure how it will do, but I hope that those who read it might pass it along to a friend. I also continue to query about reviews for music magazines and blogs.

Elsewhere, I've started the work on a new series for Popdose. It doesn't have anything to do with basements, but there is music involved. When it gets closer to the premiere I'll let everyone know.

The scripts I'm working on have nothing to do with each other. One is a teen driven sports drama, the other is a horror noir pilot based on a comic book I co-wrote three years ago.

Oh, and I just came up with my next book idea!

We were visiting my parents this weekend and my dad pulled out a box of old family photos that date back to the early 1900s. Hearing Dad talk about the family history and his own youth in the 40s and 50s conjured up a whole bunch of ideas and themes that I've been dying to write about. For now I have to do a lot of research, but I'm excited to write something that draws on the Malchus family past.

As I said, we visited my folks in Tucson over the holiday and I heard the new Patty Griffin song from her upcoming album. It's pretty special.

Follow the link to hear it:

That's all for today. Happy April! Go Indians (who won their season opener today) and please give to CF!