Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Show #123 August 30, 2014

Tonight we rock for fair Desiree...

Desiree- Hoodoo Gurus Kinky
I Never Came Down- The Golden Horde The Golden Horde
Born With a Sound- The New Pornographers Brill Bruisers
Setting Sun- Throwback Suburbia Shot Glass Souvenir
Lonely Nights- Hawks Hawks 
Put It Around- The Nerves Notre Demo 
Lucky Day- The Trend Lucky Day 
Somehow- The Vapors Anthology 
^Too Much Passion- The Smithereens Blow Up 
Alright- Travoltas Teenbeat 
Nowhere Left to Turn- The Tearaways Ground's the Limit 
*Can't Get You On My Mind- Adam Schmitt World So Bright 
*Holy War- Matthew Sweet Girlfriend 
*Something Came Over Me- Chris Stamey Fireworks 
*Tin Whistle And A Wooden Drum- Jimmy Silva and The Goats Heidi 
*Window To The World- Velvet Crush In The Presence Of Greatness 
*Valerie Loves Me- Material Issue International Pop Overthrow 
*Brighter Than the Sun- Summer Suns Calpurnia 
*The Concept- Teenage Fanclub Bandwagonesque 
*Falling Away- Richard X. Heyman Hey Man! 
*Long Haired Guys From England- Too Much Joy Cereal Killers 
*Fame Is- Crowded House Woodface
*Backlash- Joan Jett and The Blackhearts Notorious 
*Shoot You Down- Birdland Birdland 
*American Music- Violent Femmes Why Do Birds Sing? 
Forever- The Muffs Whoop Dee Doo 
>I Can't Control Myself- The Troggs Hit Single Anthology 
Goodnight- The Zeros 4-3-2-1-The Zeros

^Power Pop Peak:  

*SacroSet:  1991

>Power Pop Prototype:  1968 (album released 1991)

If you and I have ever spent any time talking about rock and
Kids In Satanic Service
roll, you've probably heard this rant but I still think it's worth putting down here.  Like any self-respecting punk rocker in the 80's, I truly despised the body of music we have come to call "hair metal" created by "hair bands."  Thinking back on it now, I'm not sure why I hated these groups so hard.  Kiss was my favorite band growing up and by the early 80's I had discovered and fallen in love with the New York Dolls (pictured at the top of this post in all their masculine

Hanoi Rocks (Razzle second from right)
glory) for their music, style and attitude.  In college I interviewed UK Subs lead singer Charlie Harper and when I asked what he was listening to he raved about the "gay heavy metal band" from Finland called Hanoi Rocks.  Following in the Dolls' tradition, I immediately saw what Charlie was talking about- Hanoi Rocks did just that.  What an amazing live band!  As I've mentioned before, one of my favorite rock and roll memories from the mid-80's is seeing the look of horror/disgust on my girlfriend Sue's face as lead singer Michael Monroe and guitarist Andy McCoy's sharing of a microphone dissolved into a big fat french kiss.  (Neither guy is gay- that's how committed they were to the band's glam rock swagger).  I got to see Hanoi Rocks twice before Motley Crue dickhead/lead singer murdered their drummer Razzle in a drunk driving wreck (for which Neil served 15 whole days in jail).  

Anyway, Hanoi Rocks' lasting impact on "hair bands"
Quiet Riot
wouldn't be felt until Guns N' Roses broke out in 1987.  Most critics consider Quiet Riot's 1983 album Metal Health to be the first "hair metal" record.  It may be a subtle difference to you, but I think these guys are ass clowns compared to Hanoi Rocks, The Dolls or even GN'R.  The fact that Quiet Riot's biggest song is a cover (an inferior version of Slade's 1973 UK hit "Cum On Feel The Noize) is straight up lame.  And if that isn't bad enough, Quiet Riot covered ANOTHER Slade song ("Mama
David (urp!) Coverdale
We're All Crazee Now") on their next record.  Seriously- it's like they're a third rate Slade cover band!  From Quiet Riot it's only a short hop to REALLY gross groups like Whitesnake.  I had a primal aversion to Whitesnake lead singer David Coverdale- seeing him on MTV would actually make me throw up in my mouth a little bit.  And don't get me started on Christian hair metal band Stryper and their signature "bumblebee" look.

Stryper? I hardly even know her!

I was not completely immune to the charms of several hair metal singles, including Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It," Ratt's "Round And Round," Y and T's "Summertime Girls" or "Panama" by Van Halen.  Yet, the bull**it hedonism of the most of the genre's "women are whores" uptempo party
Husker Du (fashion don't!)
tracks and alternating bull**it sensitivity of their "women are angels" power ballads was too much to take.  You have to remember I was listening and going to see punk bands like Husker Du and The Replacements at the time so the whole hair band thing seemed completely artificial.

Looking back now, it's easy to see how Grunge drove a stake through hair metal's bedazzled heart. It comes down to simple physics- the universe can't abide rock stardom for guys who look like this: 
Brett Michaels, lead singer of Poison
while it simultaneously grants rock stardom to guys who look like this:

Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam

Grunge called bullsh**t on hair metal and showed us what we really already knew- the long haired emperor has no clothes.  At the time I was happy about it.  I bought Seattle band Mudhoney's debut single "Touch Me I'm Sick" when it came out in 1988 and the following summer I went to tiny club Green Street

Station to catch Nirvana's Boston debut.  (I thought Mudhoney was the better group by far- shows what I know).  Two years later I was as blown away as everyone else when I heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit"and after that everything changed.  They even made a movie about it called 1991:  The Year Punk Broke. (As tonight's SacroSet shows, 1991 was also a good year for Power Pop.)

When Grunge came along, it wasn't cool to be a rock star anymore.  The clothes, the girls, the drugs, the swagger- all the excess that made bored white kids from the suburbs like me want to be Steven Tyler had fallen out of fashion.  Eddie Vedder's signature "loser" t-shirt was a sign of the new paradigm.  Kurt Cobain's dread fear of being perceived as a "sell out" (apparently the worst thing ever) helped him into an early grave.  What I've come to realize now is that Grunge not only killed hair metal, it also killed mass-appeal mainstream rock and roll.  Sad to say but by the start of the new millennium, hip hop had largely replaced rock and roll as the rebellious "piss off your parents" music choice of
Apparently it was all done for "the nookie"
suburban youth.  The record industry's disastrous attempt to retake this mantle from hip hop in the late 1990's gave us rap rock, which in retrospect looks like rock and roll's death rattle and produced some of the most godawful music ever.

Quick- name a legitimate superstar rock band of the 2000's.  None you mention, Kings of Leon, The Black Keys, even The White Stripes, come anywhere close to the impact of a Van Halen or Guns N' Roses.  In fact Guns N' Roses "Sweet Child O' Mine" may be the last across the board Super Bowl half time show worthy rock and roll smash hit of our lifetime- and it came out in 1987.  The complete refusal of today's leading rock musician's to act like rock star divas doesn't help.  C'mon Billie Joe Armstrong, Dave Grohl and Anthony Kiedis- would it kill you to date/publicly break up with a supermodel, crash a Ferrari or trash a hotel suite!  No you have to "spend time with your family."  (The fact that many of you readers might not know the three men I just mentioned only proves my point.)

So I've come full circle on hair metal.  I love the scene in
The Wrestler, 2008
Darren Aronofsky's  The Wrestler where Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) puts "Round And Round" by Ratt on a bar jukebox has this conversation with his stripper friend Cassidy (Marissa Tomei): 

Randy: Godda**n they don't make em' like they used to. 
Cassidy: F***in' 80's man, best shit ever ! 
Randy: Bet'chr ass man, Guns N' Roses! Rules. 
Cassidy: Crue! 
Randy: Yeah! 
Cassidy: Def Lep! 
Randy: Then that Cobain pussy had to come around and ruin it all. 
Cassidy: Like there's something wrong with just wanting to have a good time? 
Randy: I'll tell you somethin', I hate the f***in' 90's. 
Cassidy: F***in' 90's sucked. 
Randy: F***in' 90's sucked.

She's right:  what is so bad about just wanting to have a good time?  Furthermore, would I love to hear kids singing along to songs like "Unskinny Bop," "You Give Love A Bad Name" and "Rock of Ages" on pop radio again?  Would I like to hear teenage garage bands slaughtering "You Shook Me All Night Long," "Rock You Like A Hurricane," and "Paradise City" again?  You're damn right I would!

Here are the links to this week's show, click to stream or right click and "Save Link As" to download:
Hour 1
Hour 2

Monday, September 22, 2014

Show #122 August 16, 2014

Dedicated to Jennette and the great Tommy Ramone!

Jennette- Darlington Classics 2
She Was The Girl- The Wellingtons Keeping Up With The Wellingtons
Talkin' 'Bout Summer- The Britannicas High Tea
(I Feel Like A) Dictionary- The Trend Yellow Pills Prefill
No Excuse- Bracket Hold Your Applause
Going In Circles- Warm Soda Young Reckless Hearts
Vengeance- The Nips Gabrielle 7"
I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You- The Hold Steady Teeth Dreams
^I Don't Like Mondays- The Boomtown Rats The Fine Art Of Surfacing
Shook Down Softly- The Bye Bye Blackbirds We Need The Rain
Nobody Loves Me- The Letters Nobody Loves Me 7"
Where There's A Will There's A Way- The Jeremy Band All Over The World
My Street Stinks- 999 999
Come Down and Rock- Librarians The Pathetic Aesthetic
*Sunday Gurl- Silver Sun Dad's Weird Dream
*Monday Morning- The Rooks Encore Echoes
*Groovy Tuesday- The Smithereens Especially For You
*Every Wednesday Night At Eight- The Innocents One Way Love 7"
*Thursday Night- Chixdiggit! Double Diggits!
*Friday Night- The Click Five Greetings From Imrie House
*Saturday Every Day- The Soda Pop Kids Teen Bop Dream
Take a Take a Me- The Muffs Whoop Dee Doo
Still Smiling Today- The Mod Frames Hit Records Single
Dream City- Free Energy Stuck On Nothing
>Pleasant Valley Sunday- The Monkees Listen To The Band
Lonely Boys Brigade- The Dahlmanns All Dahled Up
I Can Be- The Misstakes National Pastime
In the Back- Buzzcocks The Way
Take My Chances- The Laughing Dogs Meet Their Makers
Every Day's A Holiday, Every Day's A Party- The Saints Prehistoric Sounds

^Power Pop Peak: #73 Billboard Hot 100 2/2/80

*SacroSet:  Days of the Week

>Power Pop Prototype: 1967

With my Michigan trip in July and all the earthquake hoopla
Tommy in (rare) color
in August I haven't had a chance to pay tribute to a great man we lost recently.  Tommy Ramone died of bile duct cancer on July 11, 2014.  He outlived band mates Joey (d. 4/15/01 lymphoma), Dee Dee (d. 6/5/02 heroin overdose) and Johnny (d. 9/15/04 prostrate cancer). Less than 40 years after they first got together in 1974, all four of the original Ramones are gone, three of them losing a battle with cancer.  None of them lived longer than 65 years and three didn't see 55.  This REALLY sucks!

In the early days of The Ramones Tommy was the glue that held the band together (the metaphorical glue rather than the "Now I Wanna Sniff Some..." kind).  Born Erdelyi Tamas in Budapest, Hungary, his family emigrated to the U.S. when Tommy was four.  During his high school years in Forest Hills, Queens Tommy was in a band called Tangerine Puppets with bass player John Cummings, the future Johnny Ramone.  Picking up live sound and studio work wherever he could, at the age of 21 Tommy worked as an assistant engineer on the Jimi Hendrix
Tangerine Puppets (Tommy far left, Johnny far right)
live album Band of Gypsys.  (Shaving three years off his age while in The Ramones- listing a birth year of 1952 rather than 1949- caused more than a few rock critics to wonder if Tommy really could've had the Gypsys job at 18.) 
Inspired by a New York Dolls show in the city, Tommy went back to Forest Hills to share his vision with Johnny as well as the newly recruited Jeffrey Hyman (Joey) and Douglas Colvin (Dee Dee).

As band manager, Tommy completely restructured the
Tommy's early 70's Marc Bolan phase
group because in his words singer Dee Dee was "hoarse after about three songs" and Joey "wasn't that good a drummer."  Joey took over lead vocals and though limited to bass duties, Dee Dee still got to start each song with his iconic "1-2-3-4!"  That left the drum stool open and Tommy had a very clear vision of the type of drumming The Ramones needed:

"eight-notes across, with the 'one' on the bass and the 'two' on the snare, fast and consistent."  

As is often the case with genius, this style of drumming is very simple.  Yet, after auditioning a ton of drummers who were either unwilling or unable to lay off the rolls and fills, Tommy himself ended up behind the drum kit.  He had never played drums in a band but like all his decisions regarding The Ramones, Tommy once again made the right call.

On debut album The Ramones Tommy wrote "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" and the anthem "Blitzkreig Bop," originally titled "Animal Hop" until Dee Dee got his hands on the song and, like he so often did, gave it a German spin (Dee Dee grew up in Berlin).  Here's what Craig Leon who produced that first album, had to say about Tommy in a recent interview in LA Record:

Dee Dee, Joey, Tommy, Johnny
"Tom Erdelyi
[aka Tommy Ramone] was the manager of the band and had the concept of the band which to me was very, very important, which is why I credited him as associate producer on the album because he actually came up with the concept for the band."

Rock critic Robert Christgau agrees: 

"Although Tommy may have faded from view, becoming the least vivid of the four Queens weirdos who invented punk rock, it was he who conceptualized them most clearly."

Tommy himself has said pretty much the same thing:

"It wasn't just music in The Ramones: it was an idea. It was bringing back a whole feel that was missing in rock music -- it was a whole push outwards to say something new and different." 

Tommy also won every belly-showing contest

After four years and three brilliant albums, all of which he co-produced, Tommy quit The
Johnny and Tommy
Ramones- life on the road with the domineering Johnny, OCD Joey and bi-polar Dee Dee was no longer tenable.  Far from abandoning the band, however, he trained replacement Marc Bell (soon to be Marky Ramone) and co-produced their next album, Road To Ruin, which includes the band's "hit" single "I Wanna Be Sedated."  Tommy returned in 1984, producing The Ramones' best post-70's album Too Tough To Die, and went on to produce major records for The Replacements (Tim) and Redd Kross (Neurotica).

The Ramones had an enormous impact on budding musicians all over the world.  I loved Kiss, Rush and AC/DC but in a million years I could never hope to play guitar that well. Listening to The Ramones, on the other hand, was a huge inspiration. As I've mentioned in this blog before, the first Ramones album separated Dee Dee's bass on the left and Johnny's guitar on the right (I like to think this was Tommy's idea).  When I learned to play fifths (the precursor to bar chords) I would turn down the right channel and figure out how to play the song.  Within about fifteen minutes I was playing along with Tommy, Dee Dee and Joey.  Talk about empowering- it was AWESOME!

Tommy back in the day and earlier this year
I'd argue that more than the name, the look and even the songs- the "back to basics" concept was the key in the early days of The Ramones, one of the greatest and most influential bands in rock and roll history.  We all, those of us who love punk rock and its antecedents, owe Tommy Ramone a HUGE debt of gratitude. 

Stream/download this week's show here (Right click and "Save Link As:")
Hour 1
Hour 2

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Show #121 July 19, 2014

For Judy and the people of Napa, CA

Judy- The Late Show Portable Pop 
Get To You- Sugar Stems Can't Wait 
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow- The Ramones Rocket To Russia 
I Could Tell- Fools Face Bubble Records Single 
They Don't Care- Fastbacks Zucker 
Lydia, The Ink Will Never Dry- Max├»mo Park Too Much Information 
(He's) Burnin the Dynamite At Both Ends- Breakup Society James At 35 
Gay Mad Whirl- Senator Flux Spectacles, Testicles, Wallet and Watch
^Downtown Train- Tom Waits Rain Dogs
Hearts Beat In Stereo- Lisa Mychols Above, Beyond and In Between
Possession- Public Enemy Possession 
*Subway Train- New York Dolls Rock 'N Roll 
*Subway- Steve Blimkie and The Reason Steve Blimkie and The Reason
*Subway Song- The Last Fade To Black 
*Subway Terror- Starz Violation
*Subway Song- The Cure Boys Don't Cry
*Down In The Tube Station At Midnight- The Jam Direction, Reaction, Creation
*My My Metrocard- Le Tigre Le Tigre
*Boston Subway- The Pubcrawlers Another Night On The Floor 
*Metro C'est Trop- Telephone Metro C'est Trop 
All I Wanna Do- The Yum Yums ...Play Good Music 
Neon Heart- The Boomtown Rats The Boomtown Rats 
Take You Home- The Richmond Sluts The Richmond Sluts 
Will to Go On- Richard X. Heyman
Starry Nights- The Brat Attitudes EP 
>M.T.A.- Kingston Trio M.T.A. 
Written On The Subway Wall/Little Star- Dion Yo Frankie 
Subway- Yeah Yeah Yeahs Mosquito 

^Power Pop Peak:  #3 Billboard Hot 100 11/25/89 (Rod Stewart Version)

*SacroSet:  Subway Songs

>Power Pop Prototype:  1959

I've had trouble choosing a subject for this blog post for Show #121 from mid-July.  I'd decided since the show features Subway Songs that I'd talk about all the cool subways I've ridden in cities like Boston, New York, Chicago, Washington, London, Paris, etc.  But then at 3:20AM on Saturday night the freaking earth shook and scared the crap out of me so I think I'll go with that instead.  I've lived in California for 22 years so I've felt a few earthquakes but nothing like what happened Saturday.  Let me see if I can describe it for you....  Start by picturing a huge version of one of these roller board thingies (say forty feet long with the roller the size of a school bus) and align it north-south.  Next, put your house on it.  Then, roll it back and forth for about thirty of the longest seconds of your life.  I'm talking last class/last day of school before summer vacation long.... waiting in line at the DMV long.... rectal exam long.  

I had time to wake up, make sure Jaime was okay, get out of bed, walk to the bottom of the stairs, call the kids to come
down and stop the light mounted over the dining room table
from smashing to bits.  The image of that demented pendulum light swinging back and forth will be with me the rest of my life (it's also how I know the rolling was north-south).  A freaked out Nica was first down the stairs followed by Jack a few seconds later.  Seeing that the house wasn't breaking into pieces, I took the kids to Jaime in our bedroom which has a high ceiling and no room over it.  I don't know if it was during or afterward but at some point I envisioned a checklist:  family safe (check), house standing (check), pets okay (check- dog freaked out, cat nonplussed), flat screen okay (check- and I want credit for putting the pets before the TV) and so on.  

Downstairs plenty of things were knocked over but the only
thing broken was a picture frame in the front hallway.  Upstairs was a different story.  The kids rooms were a disaster- but that's always the case so we can't blame the earthquake for that.  The first thing I noticed in the Rock Room, where I keep my records, was Hugo splayed out on the floor, seemingly in distress yet his expression as inscrutable as ever.  I was afraid to look at my record cases but quickly saw that everything 12" and 7" was where it should be.  I then saw my
glass display case had been knocked over, its contents strewn across the floor.  I noticed the next morning that while his Kiss band mates were laid out flat, Ace Frehley managed to keep his feet- way to go Spaceman! 

It looks like Paul is reaching to Ace for help...

Victim is a white male, 18 inches tall...
On the other side of the room, a tall thin CD case (that I always meant to anchor) had toppled over spilling CD's everywhere (it is now anchored).  On the plus side, the glass case was intact and none of the CD's were damaged.  Interestingly, my childhood friend the Cat In The Hat maintained his perch but my pal (don't call him a dummy!) Willie Talk looked as if he was part of a crime scene.  

I'm happy to report the two friends are now reunited.

(I fully realize this makes me look like a grown man who has WAY too many dolls and I guess I just have to own that...)

With the power out, our street was quiet but I was able to check in with all my neighbors and insure everyone was fine.  I don't know why but I was comforted by the fact that Tim and Deana across the street said this quake was much worse than Loma Prieta in 1989.  Perhaps I needed confirmation that the sucky experience we had just shared also sucked from a historical perspective.  In any case, back in the house, my 18 year old son Jack had already fallen asleep in my bed so Nica and I slept on couches in the living room (I wasn't ready to go back upstairs yet).

Text messages from back east woke me up around 8:30 the next morning by which time the power had already been restored.  I made another circuit of the house in daylight and thankfully there is no major damage.  Our house was built in 1999 and as the pictures from Napa show, earthquakes take the oldest buildings first.  Thank God no one was killed. I know earthquakes have been a part of nature since the world began but in all my years I have never felt anything so unnatural.  

Download this week's show below (click to stream or right click and "Save Link As" to download):
Hour 1
Hour 2

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Show #120 July 5, 2014

This one's for Melinda... and the cast of The Full Monty!

Melinda- The Connection Let It Rock 
I Want You Back- The Plimsouls The Plimsouls... Plus 
Out of the Blue- Buzzcocks The Way 
Little Runaway- Radio City Class of '77 
Motel Girl- The Greatest Liar The Girl With The Chestnut Eyes 
I Don't Know You Anymore- Bob Mould Beauty and Ruin 
Hold On To The Night- Starz Attention Shoppers! 
Make It Happen- The Chevelles Girl God 
^I Want You Back- Hoodoo Gurus Stoneage Romeos 
The Joke's On You- Shoes Ignition 
Wait A While- The Hold Steady Teeth Dreams 
When Your Eyes Meet Mine- Warm Soda Young Reckless Hearts 
We Vibrate- The Vibrators Pure Mania 
Don't You Want It- The Quick Mondo Deco 
*I Want You Back- The Leftovers Eager to Please 
*I Want You Back- The School Let It Slip EP 
*I Want You Back- The Shivers More 
*I Want You Back- The Hot Rocks The Hot Rocks 
*I Want You Back- City Thrills City Thrills EP 
*I Want You Back- Chad VanGaalen and Xiu Xiu The Green Corridor II 
Smirk- The CRY! Dangerous Game 
Animal Instinct- The Twisteroos Twisted! 
If Only Alan Won The Pools/Seven Years In These Boots- Denzil Pub 
>I Want You Back- Graham Parker Local Girls 45 
Take a Chance- The Late Show Portable Pop 
Crime Scene- Kevin K Band Rule The Heart 
Get It Moving- Raspberries Raspberries 
Open Wide- Chris Von Sneidern Sight and Sound 
Ain't That Beat- The Nice Boys The Nice Boys 
I Want You Back- The Kooks Inside In Inside Out

^Power Pop Peak:  #3 College Radio Charts 7/15/84

*SacroSet:  Songs Called "I Want You Back"

>Power Pop Prototype:  1979

If you've been following along on facebook, you know that the main reason for the dearth of new ALL KINDSA GIRLS episodes in the last month or so is that I was cast as Harold Nichols in eTc!'s production of The Full Monty in this year's Sonoma Theatre Alliance Festival.  One of the things that made this show different is that Cat the director and James the producer decided to cast a wide net for actors, hiring several professionals.  I got to work with people from across the country (New York, Connecticut, Virginia) and the Bay Area (Sacramento, Oakland, Santa Rosa, Napa) along with some local Sonoma actors and crew I've known for years.   

The cast also included a young woman named Brooke who appeared on Broadway in both Hairspray and Beauty and The Beast.  My daughter Nica is a huge Hairspray fan and was quite impressed when I told her I was in a show with the girl who played Penny, as in "Penny Pingleton is positively, permanently, punished!"  Even more impressive Brooke played the lead role Belle in Beauty and The Beast.  Not only talented, she is a genuinely nice person- during a six hour rehearsal one night she bought pizza for the cast and crew.  And I'll never forget the cast party at our house a few weeks later watching Nica and her friends beam with joy as Brooke and Jim (who was Ethan in Monty and had auditioned for the Hairspray touring company) performed the dance from "The Nicest Kids In Town" in our living room.

eTc!'s Rocky Horror Show 2011
I'm used to a pretty grueling eight week rehearsal schedule for musicals and during tech week (the last week before opening night) you pretty much put the rest of your life on hold.  Before Rocky Horror Show went up, we had rehearsed twenty days straight, with one mammoth twelve hour rehearsal the Sunday before we opened!   

etc!'s The Full Monty 2014 song "Scrap"
The Full Monty was a completely different experience.  Needless to say, assembling such a geographically diverse group of actors made for a very chaotic rehearsal schedule. The locals started work in mid-April but the full cast wasn't assembled until May 18th, less than two weeks before our May 31st opening!  Moira the stage manager's calendar must have looked like a quantum physicist's blackboard trying to schedule those rehearsals.   
For more than a month we had stand-ins for the out of town
actors but as each of them arrived, within a day or so they had seam- lessly melded into the production.  (Four of the six Monty men had played their roles before, so that certainly helped.) Even after three times as many rehearsals, I was struggling to keep up with them- the way they were able to instantly memorize difficult vocal harmonies and complex choreography was awesome to behold.  Myself, I'm in more of the "grind it out" school.  Kevin the music director had me record all my vocal parts on my iPhone and I went over them about a thousand times before getting them down.  

"Michael Jordan's Ball"
The dancing is even tougher for me.  Again I used my iPhone, this time to make videos of Amy the Choreographer, Jim the Dance Captain and James, another pro who had done the show before, recording them from behind so I could break down all the steps.  Unfortunately, the videos take up so much space on the phone I can only record about a minute at a time.  Between the songs "Michael Jordan's Ball" and "Let It Go" I must have ten choreo videos on the phone (Jaime made fun of me every time I used the abbreviation "choreo" but that's what
"You Rule My World"
everyone else called it).  The good news is that my big Act One number- "You Rule My World," Harold's duet with Dave- is a ballad so I didn't have any steps to learn.  One of the things I love about this song is that Harold is singing to his wife and Dave is singing to.... his stomach!

While The Full Monty is a musical comedy, Cat the Director had us play the dramatic scenes straight.  Initially this felt like a bizarre mash-up of Chekhov and Sondheim but she was absolutely right.  The drama helped keep the show anchored and relatable, making the lighter moments that much more fun.  Of course the only question folks in town had when I told them I was in show was "well, are you going to go the Full Monty?"  People know the movie much more than the musical so at the outset their questions are all about the wangs.  The standard answer was "buy a ticket and find out" but inside the production I don't think it was clear until tech week.

Vicki and Harold in his Funeral Suit
I couldn't even think about the naked stuff until I'd figured out how to do my quick costume change before the final number.  Playwright Terrence McNally really shafted me on that one- giving me a page and a half of dialog and one verse of the "You Rule My World" Reprise to change from my funeral suit into my security guard uniform for "Let It Go."  That's taking off shoes, pants, plaid boxers, shirt, tie, jacket and a microphone that is taped to my face/body in four places (since you're stripping, someone backstage has to re-set the microphone in your hat for the final number).  I had to put on shoes, belt, white boxers, tearaway pants/shirt/tie and blue windbreaker. 
"You Rule My World" Reprise and Wardrobe Malfunction(s)
I love this photo from our final dress rehearsal:  my glasses are crooked, my tearaway tie is in my pocket, my shirt and jacket collar are a mess, my belt is undone, my pants are unsnapping and though you can't see it, I only have on one shoe.  On top of that I almost made Susan miss her first line in the song.  Nonetheless, this was an improvement over the previous rehearsal where I never made it on stage at all and she had to sing to a mythical Harold.  What a nightmare!  Thank God Kerry, Amber and Connor came to my rescue after that night- they were an amazing team.  Picture me in a NASCAR pit, not as the driver but as the car, and you'll get an idea of what it was like.  By the end of the run Susan and I were getting back on stage before the song even started.

The Costumers Amanda and Deb gave us our red g-strings a few days
Imagine this with LESS fabric!
before opening night.  I tried not to get to upset when they gave me a "small."  When I asked about it Amanda said the size was based on the waist measurement... sure it is (sigh).  Anyway, there was nothing to these g-strings.  It took me ten minutes to get mine on the first time and even when I could get it to stay in place, as soon as I moved- boing! genital slingshot.  Amanda ended up having to add about 100% more red fabric to each g-string which made us all feel much better.  (I still don't know why anyone would wear such a thing.  Several years ago Vice magazine forever ruined g-strings/thongs for me when they pointed out: "men who love girls in thongs think women don't poop."  Nasty but true.)

"Let It Go"
Now that we had our man parts covered, the last thing to figure out was how to get naked without everyone seeing said parts.  On youtube you'll find Full Monty videos where they strip down to black lit thongs or flashlights covering their junk but to the best of my knowledge in our production there was never a conversation about whether we would get naked. Just like our characters in the show, we were fully committed and for me anything less would have been a lame cop out.  That said, outside of drunken 23 year old bachelorette parties and gay nude beaches, most people don't want to see the penis.  Jaime told me a few people said to her "I want to see Full Monty, but I really DON'T want to see Rick's... (uncomfortable pause)."  Understandable- I take no offense.  

So, the question is how do you honor the production without searing the image of six wieners onto your audience's retinas?  The answer, as it so often is in theater, is lighting.  It comes down to brightness and timing.  Like most productions, we had a lit Full Monty sign behind us for the finale but it wasn't going to throw the kind of blinding brightness we needed for proper coverage.  So, the experimentation began.  The final week we probably spent five hours on the half-second light cue that closes the show.  Connor the lighting designer eventually decided to go with less rather than more light and we locked the cue in with our choreography.  

I'd like to say it was smooth sailing from there but at the opening night gala benefit at the 323 seat Sebastiani Theatre... well let's say if people are looking at me funny at the bank or Sonoma Market these days at least I know why.  I'll never forget hearing RJ, who played Dave, yell "NO!" when we turned for the final reveal.  Yet like good soldiers we went for it anyway, despite what was clearly the wrong light cue.  That's live theater for you.  On the plus side, everyone LOVED the show and a lot of people said they didn't see anything.  I figure that if only half the sell-out crowd was close enough to see, that's 161 people and dividing their attention between the six Monty Men means only about 27 people potentially saw my naughty bits that night.  I like those odds!

I'm happy to say the light cue was perfect the remainder of the run at Andrews Hall.  Even the women in the cast, who are right up at the front of the stage, said they couldn't see anything but silhouettes.  Perhaps they're just being polite- but after all we've been through together I believe them.
I'm last guy on the left.
Jaime and the kids came to the third performance and they loved it.  Nica ended up seeing the show a total of five times and has been listening to the cast album ever since. Scott, who played Jerry, had a line in the script he would change every night.  The third or fourth time Nica came to show he went with "Holy Mary Mother of  Nica Love" and she just about died.  The lead actor called her name out on stage!

I am so thankful to have worked with such an amazing cast and crew.  The Full Monty is an experience I will never forget.

(BIG thanks to Peter for taking the pictures for this post and to Susan for burning them all on a disc for the cast and crew-you guys rock!) 

Streaming/download links for this week's All Kindsa Girls are below (to download right click and "Save Link As")
Hour 1
Hour 2