That’s Joe Strummer belting it out in the street because it’s never a bad time for some Joe. Back in 2001, Joe and his band the Mescaleros did an in-store performance at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square where I was working. One of the items requested in the band’s rider was towels, to of course sop up the sweat after the guaranteed to be heated, impassioned, bite-sized performance they were scheduled to give. The towels we bought for them had a giant dollar bill design on them, no cheekiness intended, they were just cool looking.
The band played, sweat was sopped and Joe and crew no longer had need of the towels after the performance…which of course meant I got to keep an actual sweaty towel used by the legendary Joe Strummer ( I only wanted Joe’s not anyone else’s, duh). I took home this treasure which I’d unimaginatively christened my “Joe Strummer Towel” and kept it neatly folded intact for several years…until I didn’t. I cannot remember why but one day I decided to put it into my regular shower-towel rotation where it stayed for at least a decade until it became too threadbare to use. And every time I would use it, I would literally think of Joe Strummer. Not in a salacious way, just in a weird, fan-ish way ( “Joe wiped his face on this towel and so am I”). My Joe Strummer Towel® is now officially retired and living a peaceful life in a dresser drawer but as it is imbued with official Joe-mojo, which is spiritual and doesn’t wash away, it remains a sacred object that I suspect I will have with me until the very end.
The Picking Up Rocks musical blog is a genuine labor of love and as long as I am able, I intend to keep serving up as much self-indulgent pop mayhem here as I possibly can. It ain’t easy, you see how long-winded I am even when writing about a long-forgotten deep cut or household item, but it’s worth it, getting to share and connect with passionate musical nerds like YOU ( hell yes it is). I want to keep hyperbole-ing, hot-taking, and over-indulging about songs and their creators for as long as I can. And so, just wanted to let y’all know that after 4 years I’ve finally set up a Tip Jar where you can leave donations to help support Picking Up Rocks and keep it going. Any coins in the tip jar are appreciated! I am truly grateful to all of you who have come here to read or listen or write me; you all are amazing. I wave my Joe Strummer towel in your honor.
The Tip Jar is located at the top of the home page, on the right-hand side (just under the bird).
And now after that infomercial, I offer you the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST, featuring the finest new songs that have crossed our path over recent days. They are all starlit and wonderful in every way. Listen on Soundcloud or Spotify below.
Cold, snowy blizzard-like conditions and Kate Bush’simmaculate 50 Words For Snow album just go together. It is kooky, tear-jerking, and epic. It is the ideal soundtrack for stomping through the powdered sugar to your destination (and home to the legendary “Misty”, literally the best song ever about a one-night stand with a snowman). Next to the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, there is nothing wintry-better.
Welcome to the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new songs that have crossed our path over recent days. Amongst them, you’ll find gorgeous neon ’80s flavored anthems, a bit of supreme post-punk guitar-ing, and a wintry-magnificent future classic. They are all tied for #1 in our hearts. You can listen below on either Soundcloud or Spotify(for now).
I wouldn’t normally talk about sports here on the blog but I wanted to pay tribute to a particular athlete who died yesterday, Clark Gillies of the NY Islanders ( that’s an NHL hockey team in case you don’t follow this stuff). He was the first professional athlete I ever met as a child. In 1975, he came to our elementary school for a special Q & A. I got my picture taken with him and we had a chat. Well, after that, I thought he was the absolute freakin’ coolest (even in his Quiana shirt and navy blue polyester suit, but hey, it was the ’70s). From that night on my obsessive loyalty was sealed. When my Mom got me my first ever Islander jersey, I specifically requested-demanded that it be emblazoned with Clark’s number (9). Though I’d already been a fan, after meeting him my Islander fandom grew more and more unhinged. I kept fat scrapbooks with every Islander-related article for years. I went to as many personal appearances at whatever mall or car dealership an Islander was doing a signing at as I could (oh my poor Mom aka my grudging but loving chauffeur). I joined a fan club and went to away games by bus with other fanatics ( Boston! Hartford! DC!). I regularly went to watch the team practice at an especially cold and grungy skating rink an hour-long car ride away. And once there, I was hellbent on securing as many souvenirs as possible, specifically, the pucks and broken sticks that came over the glass. The second I saw anything land on “my side”, I would haul ass to grab it (I wasn’t messing around). After practice, I would wait outside to get autographs no matter how many times I’d already gotten a particular player’s signature before ( seriously, my poor, inexplicably patient Mom, jeezus). I watched or listened to every single Islander game for years and got to see them win the second of their 4 Stanley Cups in person. I was this nerdy kid-teen with hardly any friends and apart from music, the Islanders were the only thing in my life back then that brought me a modicum of joy.
I met Clark Gillies a bunch of times after that initial encounter and even gifted him with a tee-shirt with his nickname ”Jethro” on the front when he was doing a personal appearance at, yup, Roosevelt Field Mall on Long Island ( when you are a kid you, gifts you get for other people tend to be things YOU yourself like, recipient be damned), which he seemed to dig. Another time Clark was eating a hot dog at a meet and greet and got mustard all over my Islander yearbook as he was signing it and holy hell, I could not have been more thrilled (I now had a genuine Clark Gillies mustard stain in my possession aka a treasure). Anyway, he was always so cool, gracious, and funny with me, this shy, loser girl and I’ll never forget it. RIP Clark Gillies and just THANK YOU,THANK YOU, you were the best.
Right, music. It is now time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new songs that have crossed our path this week. They are all gorgeous. Listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify.
That is a demented ballpoint self-portrait of me in my toddler days, rocking my bottle in my Mom’s old room. I changed her bed to a dragon guardian angel, like you do. I just figured it’s best to start the year with something uh, “optimistic”. With that in mind, it is time for the first WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST of 2022, starring the finest songs that have crossed our path in recent days! I should note that this list features some gorgeous stragglers from the end of 2021 as well. As such it is Double Stuf™ size! Anyway, the world is still a mess but, hyperbolic sentimentality coming, there is still magnificent music to commiserate with, soundtrack our confusion, and rope us in when things feel nuts (and they do). Listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify. Rock on as best you can.
In November of 1981, my Mom dropped me off at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island so I could see Genesis for the first time. It was a birthday present and apart from actual records was the only thing I wanted that year. My seat was in the second row behind the stage meaning I was close but also had a weird view of the band. That didn’t prevent me from loving every minute, clutching the tour program and tees I bought with my b-day money in my arms as I left and feeling utterly ecstatic that I got to see Genesis play live. Fast forward to this past Sunday, and there I was again, nearly 40 years to the day I’d seen them for the first time, watching Genesis at MSG for likely the last time ( well sort of, I ended up going to the second MSG show too because my heart insisted). The whole experience felt kind of surreal, a lot of memories swirled in my head during the show about the band and how I used to sit for hours drawing in my childhood bedroom while ‘Abacab’, ‘Duke’ or ‘A Trick of The Tail’ blasted in the background. I was overcome with emotion a few times during the shows and some tears were spilled, even during the loudest most upbeat songs. When the band took their final bow and walked off the stage, I just kind of mouthed “thank you”. Genesis meant sooo much to me as a young one and I’m grateful they were able to do one last go-round and that I too, was here to see it. It’s not often you get to bookend your lifelong bond with a band so neatly, in fact, that may have been both the first and last time I’ll experience that symmetry. It was emotional as hell to spend the night with my young teen self who was with me in spirit the entire time the band played…but also, what a gift to be able to meet up with her that way.
And for the record, we both still agree that “Invisible Touch” sucks.
And now it’s time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest songs that have crossed our path over recent days. They are all gorgeous and fine and tied for #1in our hearts.
p.s. Gonna be posting The Best Songs (and stuff) of 2021 list here next week! See you then!
About a month ago I had to bring my laptop ( top and bottom pictured above) to the Apple store to have the battery replaced. The associate looked at it and informed me that as my beloved little machine was now 8 years old, it was considered “vintage”, meaning they didn’t have the battery needed on hand and would have to order it. It took a month but thankfully they did manage to score one. I was disappointed at not only how lost I felt being without my robot sibling for a mere 24 hours ( pathetic) but at how something so young on paper was now considered “vintage”, like a freakin’ card catalog at the library or a tube television (the latter of which my Mom still proudly employs so she can watch her Judge Judy). Mostly though, if my laptop is the age of a third grader and now regarded as an antique that requires research to fix, well then I am literally a renaissance painting. Time for my nap.
And with that, it’s time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new songs that have come our way over the last handful of days. They are all otherworldly lovely and tied for #1 in our cobwebbed, discolored, vintage hearts. Listen to them on Soundcloud or Spotify below.
Right now at the Metrograph theater NYC, you can see a gorgeously restored version of the 1980 cult classic film Out Of The Blue (until 11/28 to be precise). I wouldn’t quite call it a coming-of-age film because that seems like too trivial a characterization. It’s more like a wholly disturbing and freakin’ amazing coming-of-realization movie. Dennis Hopper directed and stars in it, but the lynchpin of the film is Linda Manz ( who passed away in 2020 at age 58). Her magnetic presence, persona, and insane charisma are what make Out Of The Blue so worth seeing. She delivers a straight-up “what the f is happening right now” kind of performance, reminding me of one of those kids who would have absolutely terrorized you in school (or anywhere she saw you) or, if she was feeling benevolent that day, made you her pet. Either way, she was the sun and you were the in deference earth. And that’s kind of how it feels watching her, even as the world spirals down around her, she’s the boss ( with the painfully soft, hidden center). And so yes, please go check out Out Of The Blue and/or add it to your “wanna see” list for when this restored version is officially streamable.
And now it’s time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new songs that have crossed our path over recent days. It was an off-the-wall weird kind of week, meaning this new batch is somewhat sonically diverse…but in the best possible way. You can listen below on Soundcloud or Spotify.
We’re working on some big ‘ol stuff for this here blog right now. Coming soon you will see an immense “Rating the Albums” breakdown on a behemoth, beloved band ! Plus “The Best of 2021″ breakdown ! And hey, there will likely be a new installment of ‘That’s Their Pet Sounds” in there somewhere! It will all be coming your way over the next month (uh oh). As a result I have no lengthy anecdote to offer today (giving you a break, because dammit, you deserve it). Instead I humbly present you with this, your latest dose of the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest songs that have crossed our path over the past seven days. They are all seriously swoon-some and gorgeous, I’m telling you.You can listen on Soundcloud or Spotify below.
Today is Joni Mitchell’s 78th birthday and I’m going to make a pop music true confession: I was only inspired to buy my first Joni album (Court And Spark) because Prince “told” me to. It was the ’80s, and I loved my Prince and I’d seen an interview where he mentioned how awesome she was and called her a genius or something to that effect. On went the bulb. If the person who made my #1 favorite album at the time (Purple Rain) with my # 1 favorite song (“I Would Die 4 U”) loved her, there had to be a reason and I needed to know what that reason wasdammit. I bought the album and by the time I’d finished playing it, like most humans upon exposure to Joni, I’d been transformed into a complete devotee, snarfing up every album in her catalog and playing them endlessly forever to this very day. That Prince, he knew what he was talking about. While every day is the right one to play some Joni, today is a really right day ( I am rocking the “Jericho” hard right now). Happy Birthday to the goddess genius.
And hey, it’s time for the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new music that has crossed our path over recent days. I always say this but I’m telling you there are some spectacularly gorgeous songs in the mix this week, yup. You can hear them all below on Soundcloud or Spotify.
P.S. And hey, if you want a bit of weird and fun Joni-related ephemera to peruse today, I’ve written a couple of features you can check out over at Cover Me sharing some of the coolest covers from Court And Spark (read here) and her underrated ’80s years (read here).
“Nina Simone’s Gum” is a new book by Warren Ellis ( of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Dirty Three). While it is about an actual piece of gum Nina discarded in a towel on her piano before her headlining slot at 1999’s Cave curated Meltdown Festival, it’s also about LOVE.
The story of the gum’s journey, from Nina to the towel to Warren who grabbed it when she’d finished as a souvenir, to its evolution from treasured piece of nerdy fandom to artistic muse to spotlit object in a museum 20 years later is a tearjerker ( or at least a mist-inducer). And the emotion the gum inspired in everyone who came into contact with it, the art that was created in its honor and how protective people became when entrusted with it is incredibly moving (descriptions of that last scenario especially got to me). And so, wanted to recommend the book to you all with a big thumbs up.
I’d like to note that when I went to get the book this Halloween weekend, the woman I spoke to at the information desk was dressed as Liza Minnelli (purple sequined jacket, ink black pixie haircut and serious eyelashes). I wish that was how the earth operated every day.
It is now time for some beauteous music. Welcome to the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring the finest new songs that have crossed our path over recent days.They are all gorgeous and currently tied for number one on our hit parade.You can listen on Soundcloud or Spotify below.