Pushing Against the Boundaries

Outsider Art Fair 2014, NYC

Art brut, Naïve art, Outsider art -- the times have changed. Artists no longer have to study and refine their craft in schools of higher learning. They can trust their own instincts, use their own mediums, often mixed and often any found canvas -- street buildings, pieces of wood, any type of paper or board -- to share their muse. 

It Was 50 Years Ago Today...

...and I was in first grade. Ed Sullivan was presenting "these youngsters from Liverpool who call themselves The Beatles" on his American variety television program. My mother, father, younger brother David, and I were huddled around our RCA black and white TV set, just as 73 million other Americans were around theirs! My dad was annoyed that this much attention and hype was being flung at "a bunch kids that needed haircuts!" I didn't care, it was The Beatles! They'd taken the radio by storm with "She Loves You" and now it was time to see them live on TV. And it was electrifying! The audience was going crazy -- girls and boys screaming. They played "All My Loving" and "Till There Was You" and "She Loves You" and "I Saw Her Standing There" and it would usher in a change in the pop music landscape that still reverberates today. 

All Mod Cons!

Many of us of a certain age were informed by rock music. It permeated and dominated our free time; time away from school studies, our parents, our siblings, the man! And we were heavily rewarded. From the utopian music of the late '60s/early '70s to punk and new wave in the late '70s/early '80s, we were privileged to ingest some of finest music ever created in the vortex known as rock 'n' roll. Author Tony Fletcher's excellent new memoir draws from that well in this charming page-turner about his experience in London from 1972 through 1980. So charming is his narrative that I forgot I was reading about his life during his most formative teenage years. It reads like a work of fiction by Nick Hornby. And Mr. Fletcher's matter-of-fact style draws you in and never lets up until you reach the final chapter -- No. 1. (His chapter headings are actual song titles from the era and count backwards from 50 like a record chart!) Unbelievably Fletcher not only sees The Who in concert as a pre-pubescent teenager, he chats up Keith Moon at a Who retrospective while pitching him his gloriously intentioned fanzine Jamming and then, after Keith invites him to interview him, shows up at his flat in Mayfair where he is stood up by one of his earliest rock heroes.

When I Paint My Masterpiece...

I don't know what the hell happened...I've been moaning about quality albums, you know, with great songs top to bottom, and then bam! I get 28-year old singer/songwriter Willy Mason's excellent new release Carry On, Bob Dylan's Another Self Portrait - The Bootleg Series Vol. 10, and newcomer pop-rock crooner Jay Stolar's More Than We Think (image above). Maybe it's my state of mind, maybe it's the state of the world, maybe it's the state of universe. Regardless, this simple, evocative music cuts through all the bullshit that seems destined to drag us down into the abyss of life's giant cesspool.

Rise Up

911[This article, and its accompanying comments by Culture Catch writers and staff of the time, was originally published on 9/11/06.] One of my out-of-town friends recently asked me if I remember what I did five years ago to soothe my anxiety/disbelief/horror on that fateful morning. In the past, when faced with some sort of seemingly difficult emotional situation I would reach for a favorite piece of music or go see a silly movie to lift my spirits. I might have reached for John Hiatt's Bring the Family and let his cathartic roots-rock ruminations about life and family lift my spirit. Or slip on The Monkees' Greatest Hits and let the infectious sugar-coated pop-rock transport me to my childhood and right back to the knowing comfort of my mother's arms.