It turns out one of you did a have a few questions to ask me after all and I’m thrill to answer them. They are great questions too- thanks to Joe F.!
1) What are a few of your all-time favorite bands that have meant the most to you, even if not as much today.
Nicely worded- favorite, but also meaningful to me? That narrows it down nicely for me. The first one is The Alarm. I won’t bore you with details about the band- that’s what Wikipedia is for- but rather say that I “crossed paths” with them at an important time in my life. The summer before my junior year of high school was a bleak one (normal teenage angst and emerging issues with depression) and I found them to a band that was unfailingly positive and hopeful, and I really needed that. They were also important because they were the doorway through which I discovered punk and hardcore. Finally, to this day they are the best live band I have ever seen by a wide margin. You can get a little taste of their live prowess on “Electric Folklore Live,” and as a bonus you can listen to it knowing that I was in the audience for every track on it, either at the Wang Center or the Orpheum (both in Boston)!
The other band that fits that criteria is Minor Threat. A hardcore band from my high school- the 5 Balls of Power- was “big” on the New England hardcore scene in the mid-80s and they used to cover a few Minor Threat songs (as well as Clash and CCR songs!) and that pointed me in the direction of Ian Mackaye & Co. Not only did their music reach me on a visceral level- and what are teenagers if not viscerally focused?- but the “straight edge” ethos really spoke to me. Straight edge would later be bastardized into some sort of Stalinist, dogmatic, preachy vegan nonsense by other bands, but what it said to me was basically- “If something doesn’t work for you, you don’t have to do it” and “stay away from anything, “whether it’s fucking or golf” as the lyric went,” that messes with your mind or makes you beholden to somebody else.” As with the Alarm’s “message,” this was something I really needed to hear.
In an interesting- to me anyway!- side note to this: I once had a girlfriend who wrote to Ian to tell him how much his music had helped me and he sent me back a show flyer with a beautiful handwritten note on it (he still answers every note or email sent to him)- I still have it.
2) Any currently active and relevant bands you like/listen to, whether all-time fave or not?
A lot of bands I like are still active, but I think what you’re asking is if I like anything that those crazy young kids today like? I think the best fit there is the Black Keyes. I love there music and I love not only their reverence for the blues (one of my favorite genres), but also their “take” on it. For example, if you don’t like this version of an R.L. Burnside song, you’re dead to me and you’re probably dead inside too.
A few more off the top of my head would be Scottish-Caribbean rapper Akala, the mostly instrumental Portuguese duo Dead Combo, Irish rockabilly singer Imelda May, I’m waiting with bated breath for the new Donnas album, Lanie Lane if her second album is as good as her first, I’m going to see Paul Weller in July, I’ve seen the Proclaimers and the Reverend Horton Heat in the last few months, and as one or two of you already know, I have a bit of a soft spot for Kelly Clarkson- didn’t see that one coming, did you?
3) Big fan of any of the other major US sports? Or any of the more “European” ones? Any guilty pleasures in there -maybe not a huge fan of, but like more than you’d care to admit?
As I’ve said here before, I’m a HUGE Red Sox fan and a baseball history buff, but not really a “baseball fan.” By that I mean that you won’t catch me watching an A’s – Mariners game on a Saturday afternoon.
I’m a hockey fan so I’m really enjoying the Stanley Cup Finals (Go Bruins!).
I love the World Rally Championship, but finding it on television these days…yeah, I wouldn’t even know where to start.
I like Formula 1.
I don’t like NASCAR, but I find it fascinating on a cultural level.
When I’m in Scotland in March I’m going to try to get to a shinty match.
I think the biggest surprise (unless you follow me on Twitter!) is that I DETEST big time college sports, particularly football and basketball. Part of it is not being able to reconcile my background in and respect for higher education with the farce that is Division One football and basketball. I whole-heartedly believe in the concept of intercollegiate sports, but at the end of the day, they are ancillary. I’m ready to go off on a rant here, but I’ll spare you…
No real guilty pleasures. I’ll watch almost any sport a few times just to learn about it.
4) Philosophically for or against (or, perhaps more accurately, believe can be successful) the attempts to “quantify”/analyze what happens on the pitch (ie, “moneyball”-ization of football)? Believe it can/will ultimately be successful?
I’m not sure where I stand on this. On the one hand, I think one of the beautiful things about the beautiful game is that there is so much about it that cannot be quantified, but I think there are some things (passing accuracy) that can tell you a lot about a player’s worth/effectiveness. That being said, I’m not sure you can build a whole team around it. After all, I think one of the lessons of Billy Beane’s time with the A’s is that while the moneyball approach can be more economical, can get more out of lesser players (sum of the whole is greater than its parts), and can improve a team, it alone does not create winners or champions. That being said, I think that teams like the Red Sox have applied parts of it to great effect because they were starting at a better baseline of player to begin with. But back to soccer.
If there’s going to be an impact I think it will be on the financial and tactical fronts. I think Ross County are a good example of this. since they bounced back from a season in the Second Division in 2007-2008 I think they have shown that a club of modest means (like the A’s?) can have success by spending money wisely, developing talent in house, and by bringing in a) young players looking to make a name for themselves before moving on to bigger and better things, b) players whose careers have stalled and need a chance to restart them (Ivan Sproule comes to mind), or c) players who may not have the full package of skills, but who, when combined with other complimentary players, make the whole team better. I think, however, that County may now be reaching a point of diminishing returns, that is, while I think they can stay in the SPL with this approach, I don’t know that they can flourish. This season will go a long way towards answering that question as a lot of talent won’t be returning.
5) Any odd/small/unlikely clubs (other than Ross County) you have a soft spot for around the world?
No. I think if anything, I have a soft spot for clubs that go about their business (on and off the field) in the “right” way, as I believe County do. I also love to see the mighty fall, especially if pride has gone before the fall. Not enough bad stuff can happen to the Rangers Newco. I know that they probably will win consecutive promotions right back into the SPL, but I’d love to see a few bumps in their road- maybe not being able to get out of the Second Division this year? (Actually, I think they’ll win it, but I think they might struggle to get out of the First Division in 2014-2015) I wouldn’t mind the same fate befalling Celtic as well. Chelsea and Manchester City also can’t fail hard enough for me.
6) Combat Rock – criminally underrated, or an album too far. Discuss.
This is a juicy one! First off, it is not a masterpiece, especially by the Clash’s standards, but it is a very, very good album. The first “problem” is that somehow people have gotten the idea that the Clash “sold out”- they didn’t. They were signed to a major label from day one, and with the exception of the two songs that became hits, there is nothing else on the album that- at the time– would have been commercially/radio viable. For whatever reason, “Rock the Casbah” and “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” blew up, but that doesn’t diminish them as good songs- which both are. But let’s set those aside for the moment. Is there a Clash record on which either “Straight to Hell” or “Know Your Rights” would not have fit, and more than that, would not been one of the best songs on said album? I say “no.” Yes, there’s some dead weight on the album (“Car Jamming” comes to mind), but for every song like that there’s a “Ghetto Defendant” or “Sean Flynn” which would have been right at home on Sandinista!– and I mean that as a compliment.
The other important thing to remember is that Combat Rock (or whatever it might have been called) was supposed to be another double album, but after being duped into releasing London Calling (two records) and Sandinista! (three records!) for single record prices, CBS wasn’t having it. If you want to see what it was supposed to be, search “Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg” on Wikipedia. I’m not saying this would have been a “better” album, but it would have made much more sense in the Clash “canon.”
Oh, and for the record, the worst Clash album was Give ’em Enough Rope. Cut the Crap? Not a Clash album.
7) Where’s the link to the background story re: Ross County. Love the whole story.
I think I’ve done this in “stand alone” form at some point, but the basics can be found here.
If any of Joe’s questions or my answers have inspired you to ask a few of your own questions, send them along!
Also, Joe, please do give me your answers to these questions in the comments!