God bless Record Store Day

Today is Record Store Day.

It’s a marketing gimmick meant to get people to buy music at real stores instead of just downloading it from iTunes — in part by offering special releases on vinyl.

Vinyl is what hipsters call records, and some of them swear that despite the pops and skips and scratches that it sounds a lot better, a lot warmer, than CDs, and don’t get them started on how much better vinyl sounds than MP3s.

Record Store Day, then, isn’t meant for people like me.

I don’t have a record player. My taste in music is all over the board — I like everything from classic country to vintage soul to Sinatra and Thievery Corporation — but I don’t think my tastes are better than yours. I think CDs are better than vinyl, and while I can tell the difference between the sound of a CD and an MP3, I don’t think it matters.

I’m still a sucker for used record stores, but as soon as I get a CD, usually I rip it and treat the CD itself as a backup.

But I still like Record Store Day.

I like the idea of small businesses getting together and doing something to fight back against big chain stores and technology.

Too many people just lap up whatever pap is placed before them, so I like knowing that people still care about something, whether it’s vinyl records or the music that’s embedded on that vinyl.

So, Record Store Day isn’t for people like me. God bless it, anyway.

What the jukebox taught me about writing

Bobby Braddock’s been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. You don’t know the name, but I guarantee you know his songs:

“He Stopped Loving Her Today,” by George Jones. “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” by Tammy Wynette. “People Are Crazy,” by Billy Currington.

Here in Nashville, Bobby Braddock is a songwriting god.

Reading about him, I was reminded of something that’s easy to forget:

Songwriting, like any kind of writing, requires some talent, but mostly it takes a lot of work.

Songwriting is Bobby Braddock’s job. He can’t afford to sit around until something inspires him to write. He just has to write.

Listen to this. It’s from an interview Bobby Braddock did a few years ago with a website called larrywayneclark.com:

“Well, the people that think that lightning’s going to strike and that you can’t discipline yourself to do inspired work, I think that’s not true at all. You can make yourself write stuff, and you keep doing it and keep doing it and eventually the good stuff will come….”

That’s a great attitude when it comes to writing anything.

Here’s another example:

Couple years ago, I went to hear Bob McDill at the Hall of Fame. He’s another Nashville songwriter, one of the best: “Amanda,” by Waylon Jennings. “Good Ol’ Boys Like Me,” by Don Williams. “Gone Country,” by Alan Jackson.

Before he retired, he aimed to write a song a week. He had an office, and he went there, and he worked.

He said the song “Amanda” came in about 30 minutes, but “that’s the last gift I got. Afterward, it was blood, sweat and tears.”

He wrote a song with Dan Seals called “Everything That Glitters.” Here’s how it starts:

Saw your picture on a poster, in a cafe out in Phoenix;
Guess you’re still the sweetheart of the rodeo.
As for me and little Casey,  we still make the circuit
In a one-horse trailer and a mobile home.
And she still asks about you all the time;
And I guess we never even cross your mind.

There’s a lot of story in those six lines. McDill said he and Seals worked on that song for “months and months and months” until they figured it out, got everything just right.

Blood, sweat and tears.

Writing, any kind of writing, is work. It’s great if you’re inspired, but usually you’re not, and the only thing you can do is write through it, and if you’re lucky, the good stuff will come.

Elvis is still everywhere

Originally posted on another blog on Aug. 16, 2010.  Reposting it here on what would have been Elvis’s 76th birthday.

PresleyPromo1954PhotoOnlyToday is the 33rd anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. He was 42 then, so that means he would have been 75 today — the same age as the Dalai Lama and Woody Allen. That’s hard to imagine.

Still, I think it’s fair to say that Elvis changed the world.

Yeah, it’s easy to goof on Fat Elvis, with his sequinned jumpsuits and voracious appetite, but I’m not talking about Fat Elvis.

I’m talking about Skinny Elvis, the good-looking kid from Tupelo who walked into Sun Records in Memphis and basically invented rock’n’roll.

Of course, some people say Elvis didn’t invent anything, that he basically took rhythm and blues and made it safe for White America, but that isn’t quite right.

Somewhere in Peter Guralnick’s 2 volume biography of Elvis (if you haven’t, read it), he points out that Elvis was a sponge when it came to music. Elvis listened to everything — R&B, bluegrass, country, gospel — and processed it, synthesized it. He took all these musical strands and wove them into something else, something new.

Sure, odds are someone else would have done that if Elvis hadn’t, but Elvis did, so let’s give him credit.

He was sexy and dangerous, too, and that’s something teenagers hadn’t really seen before, at least not in one package. Girls wanted him, and boys wanted to be him. You wouldn’t have had The Beatles if you hadn’t have had Elvis.

John Lennon (I think) said Elvis died when he went into the Army, and I agree. Elvis’ music was never as raw as before he was drafted.

In the 1960s, he made a string of dumb movies and went Vegas, and in the ’70s, well, we all know about Elvis in the ’70s, but by then, he’d already changed the world by changing the music.

I think those early records — “That’s All Right,” “Mystery Train,” “Blue Moon of Kentucky” — earned him a lifetime pass and more than made up for later songs like “Rock-a-Hula, Baby” and “The Wonder of You.”

“Blue Moon of Kentucky,” after all, was a bluegrass tune — in waltz time, at that — until Elvis got hold of it and turned into a rocker in 4/4 time.

I’d argue that is something close to genius.