Saturday, December 28, 2013


             I have a cold.  There are more important things happening in the world, but here the headlines have been about the war going on in my sinuses.  But the worst is past.  I cannot talk today – I squeak like a kid whose voice is changing and really cannot talk.  Couldn’t yesterday either.  But then my head was stuffier, and now my voice is squeakier.  I’m staying home so I don’t make other people sick.  And I’m exhausted.  I drank two strong cups of coffee this morning, then I just sat there.  Hmmm. When I have no energy, it means I’m ill.  I am glad this is Saturday, and New Year’s Eve is Tuesday!  So much can happen to a non-serious illness in four days (like it can Die).  I look forward to the return to ground level.
Projects planned: new band, friendships, hangouts, new radio show, new TV show, new schedule.  The old things?  Still all over the place!  Anything that is not determinedly and consciously New remains (out of habit) Old.  When you’ve done something a thousand times, it becomes a habit.  I’m set in my ways, my days resemble each other, my problems rarely get worse or better.  (Okay, let me qualify that: arthritis gets worse, colds get better.)  I keep learning as my body keeps wearing out.  Now for a girlfriend, and possibly a  new job!  I’ll tell you about those when they happen.  
[I would like to be young again.  “Waiter! Waiter!”  Aw, he can’t hear me.]  
I am comforted by the thought of how baffled and scared most teenagers are inside.  When I meet teenagers I want to tell them: “The things you worry most about every day are going to turn out to be absolutely nothing.  You will be amazed.  What you should worry about has nothing to do with any of those things.  And brush your teeth - you’ll be glad you did.”
I did not take good care of my teeth.  I don’t seem to have taken care of my hearing, either…I have two modern hearing aids which enable me to sing better than I have for decades.  I just hadn’t known what everyone else was hearing.  I now know that my guitar was strident, and my voice harsh, because I was adjusting it all for my bad ears.  I didn’t find this out for a long time.  Now I can distinguish between a careless note and a sweet note.  I can play with them, work with them; my voice has become an actual instrument.  I took a half dozen voice lessons, but they were hard to absorb and actualize until I could truly hear myself.   ($1300 in each ear, and if I had not become poor enough to qualify for full medical coverage, and if my hearing had not been so bad that I qualified for hearing aids, I could never have afforded these.  What a world.)
I had what I call a “singer-songwriter” voice.  It can have a lot of character, is often a wonderful instrument for heartfelt sentiment, and serves to put the song over, but it clearly sounds different than the voice of someone who would win that job if auditions had been held. 
When a group has a singer who is as good as the guitar player or the drummer, it’s great – often these are people who called, auditioned, showed up and turned out to be the best.  That’s a Singer.  I can tell when a singer wrote his song, because no one would hire a singer with such an idiosyncratic voice.  There are many bands with singer-songwriter voices.
Exceptions: The Doors, U2, Pearl Jam, Queen, The Beatles – there certainly are great singers in bands singing their own songs.  But most bands have the writer as the singer, and it shows.  Why not?  Extreme example – Dylan. 
Looking forward to starting the new TV program, but I need to get someone else involved.  Interviews, even just conceptual art will help (someone walking back and forth behind me as I talk?)  and it’s going to be great.  Not just me in a studio this time.  Guests are coming.

Also looking forward to my new radio show on The Radiator, transmitting from a studio only three blocks from here.  I'll play songs most people have never heard: songs that influenced the music they have heard.  Roots.  Importantly, I want to play what they might never hear elsewhere.  Name of show…”Before That”, “Long Ago” “Outsider Pop”, “Rock History, Early”, “It's All Good”?  Must think.
Soon come. 
Ready for New Year’s Eve!  It’s predicted to be about zero degrees, so I may have quite a bunch of people up here huddling from the cold and watching the fireworks out my window with coffee, tea, cocoa, or whatever drinks they are bringing.  Can’t afford a bar this year – my apologies. 
I hope you all had a great holiday, and have a happy new year too!  If you’re nearby, I look forward to seeing you.  There is music in town before and after (3:00 PM at Red Square - Steph Pappas will be there weaving her spell, and at 9:00 PM I believe Brett Hughes will preside over honky-tonk at Radio Bean.)  The whole night is a gigantic sandwich.  Also an epic arctic expedition…be well!  Stay warm! 
I have been re-reading a William Kotzwinkle book I loved when I read it decades ago – a dreamlike detective novel entitled “Fata Morgana”.  I have a book about Jewish Resistance in WWII, a history of Chess Records, and a history of the Procul Harum, one of my favorite bands ever.
Happy year’s end.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


I would never set off Fireworks.  My best friend in high school had scars on his hand from a firecracker, that stuff is dangerous, and people likely to be playing with fireworks late at night after drinking are not all that careful.  I wouldn’t do it, though I don’t drink. 

The party is to see the Fireworks, which occur as early as 7:00 PM, and then again at midnight. The early one is good for all those parents with little kids, marching around all day and night.  But some older people want to be watching a movie or doing something even better at midnight.  They need not stand in the cold.  I’m an early fireworks guy.  (It is due to a job which involved working on New Year’s Eves, which I had long ago.)  It’s nice to hear them in the distance at midnight.  But I’ll tell you – the view here is so great I’ll be watching the midnight one also, whether anyone’s left at the party or not.  Wow. 
It’s interesting to see it for the first time – it’ll happen twice a year from now on.  Crowds, and I mean thousands, of people coming down my street, right past the building, voices floating and jabbering and occasionally shooting up like an arrow, signifying that someone feels that they’re in a big city, alienated, just passing through – as if he or she has no idea if anyone lives here, or whether their voices are loud or soft.  Perhaps a few will peel out of the crowd and come up to see out the window with us. They have been invited, plus friends.  That has been accomplished. 
The tricky thing is to buy the right amount of food and drink.  Worst case scenarios one and two: lots of drinks left which you would never drink, along with bread and cheese and vegetable dip you must eat for a week.  Two: enough folks show up that you run out of things immediately. Followed by mad scramble to nearby store, thank god there is one.  But look like clown, some party ha ha.  There they are, my two scenarios: king of leftovers, na├»ve socialite does faceplant. I could use a nice revelation, or epiphany.  Keep yer eye upon the weather and yer hand upon the wheel.  Meanwhile, we’re expecting a big snowstorm to commence tonight.  Good night and good luck.

So I’m having a Fireworks Party on New Year’s Eve, which is to say I have a view that will allow a lucky gracious, spacious few (or dense intimate larger crowd of many) to gaze out the window on what could be an outstandingly cold and/or windy night, and see the fireworks while sipping hot cocoa or whatever.  I used to do that when I had another apartment in Burlington, long ago.  From that one you could see about 2 to 5 degrees of lake on the horizon, and basically see the fireworks.  Now I have about 100 degrees of lake.  Yah. I will See them.

I have an event page for this party on FaceBook.  The page has a mind of its own.
Facebook makes it like a contest.  "Who's going?  Who's maybe?  Who else is invited?A gossip magazine.  What do I need this for?  They offer gimmicks - sending reminders to everyone I've already invited, to "promote the event".  Fugedaboudit.  Some people might show up even if it's nice out, but  basically it's a question of the weather, and how closely people are negotiating a frantic First Night schedule.  I've many times attended First Night, and I have seen much happen - often choosing from ten ensembles playing simultaneously in ten venues.  One misses most of it, no matter what.  I enjoy the celebration more when the weather isn't miserable.  I have about ten buttons. Several times I helped out as a volunteer. 

It's a big deal - especially on a truly cold, inhospitable night.  Ah yes - six years ago, I spent New Year's Eve being a job coach, retrieving shopping carts from a Shaw's parking lot on a busy evening.  Moving clusters of six or eight is usual.  Eight gets to be too many, as you're getting tired.  That New Year's Eve, it was hailing, sleeting, snowing and raining.  We pushed those carts through six inches of slush.  We might as well have been pushing them on the beach.  Memories...

But most New Year's Eves, when you go out to do something, are great, and some are truly outstanding.

May your New Year's Eve be truly outstanding, and the entire year to follow.  I'll throw that in as a bonus.

Friday, December 13, 2013


So much has happened (mentally) in the last few weeks, that some of it I won’t be able to tell you.  I mean when you’re dealing with big companies that screw you it’s better not to name names, cause it gets legal – or illegal - call it either.  No names.  It will be interesting to see  if I can tell this story so abstractly that you really won’t know who I’m talking about.  Oops, a company is not a who, it’s a what.  But right now it’s really late cause I attended two parties tonight, both of which were really nice, and did other things today as well, and it’s just too late to tell you today.  So much to do, so little time.  I see you tomorrow.  This post will be scrolled below the one telling the story, and will seem so pointless.  And on that note, good night.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


             It is so cold out that my hands are cracking up.  I’m using this liquid they call liquid skin.  I guess it’s some kind of glue.  I usually use superglue for splits like this, but I haven’t seen it since the move, over two months ago.  I spoke to my pal Binky in NYC and he said he hasn’t been out in 36 hours, which I guess means it’s cold down there too.  Yep, just checked – it’s pretty cold.  Up here it gets down past zero in the winters – it feels really cold in NYC cause of the sea or something, but it’s actually colder here.  So there.  But it’s all relative.  We even have college kids up here who wear shorts all winter!  How!  Do!  They!  Do!  It?  What’s up?
          My therapist urges me to note other people’s reactions and attitudes, to compare with them and see how needlessly extreme mine are.  That includes my perception of cold, and how I dress.  And of course, can we get to the Bottom of it, because that’s what will help me know what the fuck I’m doing, for real.  The inner child…that phrase does have a reality.  Our thinking comes from our grown up identity, but our emotions are deeply rooted in (or consumed by) what we went through emotionally as little kids.  Damn.  And the guy’s right a lot of the time, but I can’t help rationalizing sometimes that he doesn’t really know what a healthy me looks like compared to a healthy “anyone”.  Funny idea.  Do your quirks consist of flaws?  And if you were more Present and less flawed, would You be you?  Would you have other things to say?  Things that the actual me would not say?  I’m boggling behind this.
          Basically, therapy is something I need, and he’s been very helpful.  Sometimes I think he secretly thinks that if I get better I’ll be more like him.  Is that all in my imagination?  I don’t think so – but of course that’s just part of my imagination too.

          It is definitely winter, I’ll tell you!  I’m very happy to be living in town, able to walk to most events I’d like to attend, and easy to drive to those which are a bit farther away.  Guess I might get some ice-grippers for my shoes, though – I’ll tell you, last night the ground was warm when it started snowing really hard, and then the snow stopped and the temperature plunged and all the roads became shiny ice.  Cars were in trouble on several major roads nearby.  But, I was lucky and didn’t go far – hadn’t gone far.  Mostly a mile or two down Pine Street, at my lovely
not-girlfriend’s house.  We were to go downtown to hear music.  But, we didn’t.
I said I was going to tell you about all that, but really, should I?  It’s…gossip.
          I hope you are all warm.  I must go write something else!  Right now!

If you’d like to hear an excellent story from my favorite conspiracy theorist, read this here:

Hi Ho Silver and away,

Saturday, November 23, 2013

It May Snow Today/Tonight! Saturday night snow...could be nice

Once again I return to you, readers of my blarg.  Thanks for coming.  The show I was talking about last post happened, went fine, and all was well!  I like Phil Yates, he has a good band, and I enjoyed them.  Oddly, I liked his band (opening spot) best, the second band not bad ( just a duo - sort of a handicap), and the third band I could not stand/understand.  I'm an arranger, and have seen a lot of great bands, and this one - well, I wished I could change a lot of things.  I learned way back at CBs that sheer volume won't save you.  At any rate, I left midway, and home to dinner went I.  Ah, clubland.  Tonight is once again Saturday night, and I'd like to try and find a good new band, but the woman who has offered to accompany me doesn't trust me much...she won't go see anyone whose music she doesn't already like?  And I have no idea what she likes.  She has never asked about my music!  She came over once, and I was holding my guitar, and she just kept talking till I put it away.  Ummm...that was telling. We'll see about tonight.  She's shy about bars.  I don't drink either, but if that's where the music is, that is where I  go.  What will tonight bring?  Besides maybe snow?

Friday, November 15, 2013

OKAY! It's now up to 1528!

Yes, over the top we went. Thank you! Only 99,998,872 until I'm in Lady Gaga land...

Hope you have all been well, things are good, tonight I'm playing a few tunes at The Monkey House in Winooski, before the bands start.  It's fun - did it at the Lou Reed tribute they had last weekend.  Funny to see all those young people puzzling over rock and roll coming out of an acoustic guitar, while their pints are still pretty full, and they're still arriving.  They know the place isn't packed, so they figure not much is happening, and then they hear it...and all of a sudden they're not so sure...and then they're mesmerized...then I'm gone.  Who was that sprightly old man?  He seems to have left a silver bullet...
I'll be there around 9:00 - we'll see.  Thank you Phil Yates!  And Patrick and all at the MH.  Peace.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

If one more person looks at my blog, it will make 1500

1500 views!  How many were mistakes?  How many were for one second only?  How many were detailed perusal of contents?  How many were from people genuinely curious?  Etc.  Thank you one and all - the one is the one who makes it 1500.  I shall try to post extremely often - and say something worth reading.  This is my promise to you, my people/customers/strangers/the NSA, whoever.  Bye!

Saturday, November 9, 2013


My fond hope is that no one minds my using their names.  If they do I will expunge immediately!  Now read.
Fran Bernfeld
I've never been a user, but apparently the appropriate attitude is "Fuck Spotify". Now, can someone tell me what Spotify actually is?
  • Charlie Messing wiki: 20 million users. Streaming service, free trial period, 20 million songs on it. Yike. I've never been there.

    Shelli Milks They do, but not very much. None of the current services ( including iTunes & Pandora) pay musicians fairly. It's the worst time in human history to be a young musician.

  • Mary Peterson Do musicians get more money from CDs than iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, etc.? I'm genuinely interested.

    Also, I remember reading y-e-a-r-s ago that the people who design the record sleeves/CD inlays get paid more than the people who write the songs that t
    he records/CDs are in, which has always seemed insane to me. Although it does, at least, explain why anyone with a remotely artistic vein designs their own record sleeves (Michael Stipe of R.E.M.; Nick Seymour of Crowded House, etc.)

  • Charlie Messing Well, the folks who design the thing get paid right away. It's piecework. Same with the manufacturers. Those who write the songs make more than the folks who play the songs - that is why you have not seen any albums with COVER TUNES for 30 years now. The "record company" makes far more off their percentage of the writer's rights who they just signed (who is in the band) - and they don't have to pay any other publishing company for rights. When is the last time you saw an album with cover tunes??? Think about it. Now - if the artist has clout, and has renegotiated a better deal, he may get paid well. But it's all in the fine print. Who makes the money for the copies that sell overseas? The promotional copies? Little things like that. And if it's used in a movie? Etc. Sure, you get some money for designing your package, and you get paid Now. The band, if they ever recoup the expenses in recording, manufacturing and promoting the album (and touring), will Then start to see money. See? That's why very few object to "giving away" songs on large distribution networks (Itunes, Spotify, etc.), because it will draw people to their shows, and assist in sales of their album. I have a friend who did a download album, made a few inquiries after, and found that only 60 copies had sold, but thousands of kids had listened to the tunes! Doesn't seem fair, does it? The people who have "made their mark" and can put out their own albums make the money. Roger McGuinn of the Byrds sells CDs from his website, and has said that it's the first time he's made any money from any of his albums! Yep. When you see a band and they are selling their CDs - buy them then. They paid the wholesale price, you'll pay a retail price, and they'll keep the profit. And get a t-shirt while you're at it. Things were bad in the Old days too - Little Richard got paid 1/2 cent for each single sold, but when he toured, money poured in and he got to KEEP that. To get into it, read Donald Passman. Pardon me for going on and on.

Friday, November 1, 2013

I have hit the Huffington Post! Many thanks to Binky Philips, the most articulate, knowledegeable, observant, obsessive Rock and Roll fan I know! One of the proud, and the brave.

...and we have a special handshake, too.  Yeah, right.

Wow.  So read our Huff version, forget the previous one here.  More zazz, more pow, more zing!  Here's to collaboration!  And if I ever get this friggin comments thing to work, you can tell me what you think on this friggin blog! 
Meanwhile, just tell me on facebook or wherever - or use

Happy November to you all.  Up here, leaves are blowing sideways and it's cooling off.  A lot.

Lou, RIP.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

"WHY I HAVE LOU REED’S OLD SUNGLASSES" - a story - I no longer have them. RIP

   (this was an Ebay description ten years ago!)

            One evening late in 1975, Peter Stampfel and I went to a poetry reading down on Reade Street to see Camille O’Grady.  I wanted to see her because Camille had been in our band, the Unholy Modal Rounders, before my time.  I had seen her photo.  She was tall and statuesque, with long black hair and strong shoulders.  I had heard stories from my bandmembers Paul and Kirby: about her singing off key, about her carousing with Peter offstage to the detriment of the performances, and about Paul telling Peter they’d be better off with another guitar player.  The best story was about the night Paul left the stage in the middle of a song because Camille had taken off her shoe and was holding it over Peter’s head, or maybe Peter was holding his shoe over her head?  I imagine you had to be there.  Anyway, for some reason a shoe was taken off and held over someone’s head, and that was it for Paul.  
            So here we were at Camille’s show.  Her paintings lined the walls of a big loft.  They resembled huge tarot cards, and she definitely had a warped talent.  They were all pictures of bare chested guys with beautiful skinny bodies, in torment, run through with swords.  Very Catholic.  Many in the audience wore black leather, and so did Camille. 
            The reading was great.  She had a S & M following, was a cult hero of sorts, and I could see why.  And I could almost picture her in the Rounders - she must have given them a wild Catholic edge.  Her poetry was really good, and she had great stage presence.
            Lou Reed showed up for the reading.  I was impressed.  He dug her work, and a year or two later I saw her open for him at the Bottom Line.  I think that was around the time of “Rock and Roll Heart”, when Michael Fonfara and Don Cherry were in his band.

            After the reading, Lou was hanging around, sitting on the floor with a group of ten people.  Peter said he knew Lou from a long time ago in the Village, so we went over to say hello.  Lou was an idol of mine, big time.
            A chubby black guy in black leather was offering his ass to Lou, saying how great it was.  Lou wasn’t taking him seriously.  Peter managed to butt in, so to speak, I got introduced, and after a little small talk, Lou said that he was interested in Peter’s views on the long range effects of speed.  Lou was doing a study on this subject.  So they made a date to get together at Lou’s house a few weeks later and, just because I was there, I got included in the invitation.  Golly.
            That’s how we got invited to Lou Reed’s house.

            It was just before Christmas.  Lou lived on East 52nd Street, in the block that dead-ended at FDR Drive, overlooking the river.  We walked up the lonely block of giant luxury apartment buildings and found the address.  When we got there, Lou was out, but we were let in by his roommate Rachel, who said we could wait, that he was expected shortly.
            I couldn’t tell if Rachel was a man or a woman.  Low voice, long hair, long fingernails, certain way of walking and sitting...Rachel was a lot like a woman.  Anyway, he or she was both gracious and noncommittal, and so we sat and waited together. 
         The apartment was oddly and sparsely furnished.  They had a tiny dog and a Christmas tree.  The living room in which we sat had a big futon on a low platform, and a table and chairs next to a bookcase full of papers.  We sat on those chairs.  On a tripod by the tree was a new RCA video camera.  By the RCA tv was an RCA vcr and an RCA stereo.  (He’d recently renegotiated his contract with RCA.)  Every room had a digital clock with numbers an inch tall.  The front record in his cluster of albums was Aerosmith’s “Toys in the Attic”, which had come out that year.

            Finally, Lou knocked, Rachel let him in, and he walked through the foyer into the room, wearing aviator sunglasses and carrying shopping bags.  He nodded to Peter, then to me, and told Peter he should have called to confirm the appointment.  Lou had a little time, but not enough to get into the real talk he wanted to have with Peter.  The dog welcomed him home, and he baby talked to it.  He reached into one of the bags and pulled out a plastic package.  He ripped it open and took out a little rawhide bow, a present for the cute little dog, and we watched the dog run around with his new toy. 
         Then he reached in the bag and took out another purchase - a brand new pair of aviator sunglasses.  He grinned, took the ones off his face and tossed them in the wastebasket by the door, and put on the new ones.  He liked them a lot better. 
            He figured we were interested in him, and basically he just talked about himself the whole time.  It turned out the bookcase by the desk was filled with clippings and professional career stuff, and he showed us some.  Peter and I were well behaved, listening attentively and seeing what we were shown.  Peter sat between Lou and I. 
            Lou cackled in glee at the way “Metal Machine Music” was already a collector’s item only a few years after its release.  He was real happy with his new contract.  Then he said he wanted to play us something, and walked over to the record player.  He had two test pressings of “Coney Island Baby”, his album which was about to be released.  On the song “Charlie’s Girl”, he showed us how one of the pressing plants had put the vocals out of phase at one point.  He’d had to call his guy at RCA and get them to stop that plant’s production till they fixed the problem.  He said it was a lucky he had good ears, because if he hadn’t noticed the mistake, nobody else would have, and it would have sounded like that in the final copies.  We listened to it a few times.  I did hear what he pointed out, and we nodded in agreement.
            Very soon after that, Peter said he had to leave to meet someone, and I think I got to stay a little longer - there was a transitional scene as other people showed up and Peter left.  I don’t remember much about the people who came in, but it was a couple, and the woman wore a short fur coat.  Everyone was neat and hip. 
            The only conversation between Lou and me was:    
            Lou said, “What do YOU do?”
            I said, “Play guitar.”
            “So does everybody,” he said.
             I was awestruck and shy.  I sure didn’t tell him I was great.  I didn’t even tell him he was great.  I didn’t say any of the things I wish I had said.
            Then they all decided it was time to go out and get something to eat.  It had gotten dark out.  They were off to the Carnegie Deli.  I had about two dollars in my pocket, so I said I couldn’t go.  We all got our coats, and walked out single-file.  I was at the end of the line.  I looked down as I passed the wastebasket, and there were Lou Reed’s sunglasses.  I thought, “This isn’t garbage, it’s an artifact.”  My arm swooped down, and I dropped them in my pocket.  Nobody saw.
            We walked up the street to First Avenue, and I bid them farewell.  They went off to find a taxi, and I walked for miles, all the way home to Renwick Street, down by the Holland Tunnel.
            I still have the sunglasses.

            [Following is a solicited statement from my friend and former bandmate Peter.]

               Charlie Messing and I visited Lou Reed in 1976. Lou had tossed a
pair of shades into the trash, and Charlie asked if he could have them. Lou smiled and said sure, or go ahead, or some similar affirmation. True story, swear to god, I was there.   
 - Peter Stampfel, Dec. 8, 2005

            This serves to illustrate how two memories of the same evening can differ.  I don’t know if my bragging about the glasses made Peter imagine he’d heard me ask Lou for them, or if for some reason I’ve forgotten that I spoke to Lou about them, and didn’t actually snatch them in secret after Peter left.  There’s no telling now, but these are definitely Lou Reed’s sunglasses from thirty years ago.  I’ve had them in a box all this time, and I’m sure.  I’ve looked at them every year or so to see if they were still there.  These are them.

            PS – This entire story is what I posted on Ebay, with photos of the glasses, and a photo of Lou Reed at the time, wearing them.  Up to the line “I still have the sunglasses”, it was a short story of mine I’d written years before. 
This, as the “description of item”, was my certificate of authenticity – after all, who would make up such a story? 
After a fierce bidding war between two fans, they went off to a guy in Toronto for $250.