Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

Archive for the category “Biff on Music”

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Still Tuesday, Rambling Man, Lanz and Speer



Tonight’s Background Music is provided by David Lanz
Album: Cristofori’s Dream
Best Song: “Spiral Dance

For those of you keeping track, today is Tuesday.  More importantly, it is Tuesday evening, which means that, for all intents and purposes, Tuesday is over.  Tuesday gave us its all.  It fought the good fight.  It left everything out there on the field.   But at the end of the day . . . well . . . it was the end of the day.

You may be wondering among yourselves just what the heck was up with that first paragraph.  “Where was he going with that?” you may be asking yourselves.  And who can blame you?  Heck, I am asking myself the same thing.

By now you are realizing (too late to help you, of course) that you are in the middle of some stream-of-consciousness rambling while I fumble around in the dark looking for something to write about.  Anything to write about.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.  I must leave no cliche unturned in my quest for something to write about.

I can hear the rumbling and murmuring as my readers get restless (and restive), wondering if I’m every going to get to something worth reading.  I fear you may be disappointed.

Did I ever mention that I got to see David Lanz in concert one time?  It was in 1988 when he played at McFarland Auditorium on the SMU campus.  I was a big fan of his from his partnership with Paul Speer and their albums “Natural States” and “Desert Vision”.  Lanz came to town flogging his newest solo album at the time, “Cristofori’s Dream” (sans Speer).  I loved the concert, particularly the song “Cristofori’s Dream” and the way he set up the song with a story of sorts about how Bartolomeo Cristofori invented the piano.  But missing from the concert was Paul Speer’s gritty guitar underlayment.  It was like listening to an a capella version of a Van Halen song.  Still, Lanz is a phenomenal piano player and can really write a good song.

Okay, I’m going to wrap this thing up before it goes off the rails even more than it already is.


Poor Biff’s Almanac — Friday Recap, Rain Threats, B&N, Half-Priced Books


Tonight’s Background Music is provided by Paul Hardcastle.
Album:  Hardcastle 1
Best Song:   Forever Dreamin’ is tied with Feel the Breeze

Yes, it is Friday evening.  I am finally home … finally in my pajamas … finally drinking a cup of coffee … finally writing in this blog … finally listening to some soothing music.

Outside it is mostly dark, but every few seconds the whole world lights up as if lit by a giant Klieg light with a wonky power switch.  A few seconds after each flash I hear a distant booming, like a Civil War cannonade.

They are predicting rain, but I’ve learned not to get my hopes up.  I love rain more than any of Mother Nature’s other gifts.  For Her part, she withholds it as a matter of course.  Apparently, she doesn’t like me very much.  Much of the sparkle has gone out of our relationship.

Earlier this evening, Lady Luck smiled on me and I  got to enjoy a visit to both Barnes & Noble and Half-Priced Books … all in one evening!   It was like winning the lottery ……  except without all the money, of course.  I love walking around Barnes & Noble.  It is like a miniature sabbatical to me.  It soothes my soul.  However, I can’t bring myself to pay fifty dollars for a soft-bound book.  So, much like going to Tiffany’s or to a Rolex store, I just look but don’t buy.

So I went to HPB and browsed around.  I found the book I had almost bought at B&N for $30, but it was only $7.99 at HPB.  It was about two years older so not as up-to-date, but good enough for my needs.  What book, you ask?  I am extremely embarrassed to admit that I bought “WordPress: The Missing Manual” by Matthew MacDonald.

Wordpress book

After 4 months of diddling around with WP, I still feel like a novice.  I feel I need to jazz things up a bit.  In other words, it’s time to figure out what I’m doing.

I also bought a DVD of “The Outlaw Josey Wales“, which is one of the greatest western / post Civil War movies ever made.  I paid a whopping $2 for it.

I found a fascinating book.  It is a coffee table book about Alexander Girard’s works.


I had never heard of him before and the book looked fascinating, so I hefted it down off of the upper shelf where it was displayed prominently.  And when I say “hefted”, I mean hefted.  According to, it weighs 15 pounds!  It was chock full of pictures and reproductions of his textiles and furniture and interior designs and architecture.  It was fascinating, but I couldn’t bring myself to pay the $50 price for it (though that is only $3.33 per pound).  Also, my arms were getting tired, so I had to set it down.

Also, as part of my continuing “What Year is This?” series, I overheard yet another conversation at HPB that made me want to go home and check the calendar to see what year this is.  As I’ve mentioned in another blog post (as well as this one and this one), vinyl albums are all the rage, so it wasn’t surprising to me that tonight a fairly large section of the music department was devoted to vinyl albums.  I was also not surprised that there were quite a few “young folk” (i.e. people in their 20s) flipping excitedly through all of the albums.  But I heard a snippet of conversation that nearly made me drop my teeth.  A young-ish woman exclaimed excitedly, “Oh look!  I found a Slim Whitman album!”

It was all I could do not to chuckle out loud.  When I was a young man way back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, every 3rd commercial on television was by Suffolk Marketing flogging a Slim Whitman album or by Heartland Music hawking a Boxcar Willie album.  We all collectively rolled our eyes when any of these commercials came on.  They were viewed as poorly made albums by artists that were, shall we say, not at the peak of their careers.  So, it was quite amusing to hear people in their 20s fawning over these albums nearly 40 years after the point where the artists were 20 years past their prime.

I really don’t know what is going on nowadays.  Vinyl albums.  Polaroid cameras.  Slim Whitman albums.  Lava lamps.

If 8-track tapes come back, I’m moving out into the wilderness somewhere.

Biff on Music — Night and Day

I swear this is a post about music, but bear with me a minute while I talk about television.

We in the Biff household are semi-avid fans of the television show “America’s Got Talent” (aka AGT).  I like the show better than your typical “we’re looking for the next big singer” shows because AGT is a variety show and you never know just what you’re going to be watching next.   It might be a comedian, a magician, an opera singer, a lady on a tall unicycle spinning plates, a man being shot out of a canon, trained dogs …. you just never, never know.

My favorite acts are those that come out of nowhere and go far in the show.  I love underdog stories.  I love people that one week are working 3 menial jobs to support an ailing mother and the next week are singing in front of millions of people.  What can be more satisfying than that?

That being said, my all time favorite moment from AGT is this one featuring Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.


What can be more satisfying than that?  Is that not what that show is about?  Is that not the American Dream writ large?  I love his voice.  I love his delivery.  I love his personality.  I love his look.  And I love his attitude on life.

So yes, I was very happy when he won Season Six of AGT.

And I bought his CD as soon as it was out.

My favorite song of his is this beautiful rendition of Night and Day.   I actually like his version better than Sinatra’s.  Yes, I know that as blaspheme.   So sue me.  🙂

Anyway, give it a listen.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.


Fun With Music: Crowded House


Tonight’s Background Music is provided by Crowded House.
Album:  After Glow
Best Song:  Private Universe

I’m adding a new feature to my blog entries.  I’m going to indicate what background music I’m listening to at the moment when I’m writing a journal-type blog post.  Why am I doing this, you ask?   No good reason.  It fills up space.  It adds a bit of color to an otherwise uninteresting blog post.  It’s like when the teacher would ask you to write a 500 word essay on something, you very quickly became adept at padding the essay with a lot of unnecessary words.  This is no different.  Padding R Us.

By the way, when I pick out what music I’m going to listen to when I write, it is largely random.  My iPod has over 6000 songs on it and choosing a song can be a little overwhelming sometimes.  So I just sort of “spin the wheel” and see what comes up.  However, I veto a lot of things that pop up.  For instance, I don’t like to listen to anything too abrasive  or “heavy”  when I’m writing.  This would include artists such as Nazareth, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer (or any ELP spin-offs or derivatives), Def Leppard, GooGoo Dolls, etc.

Also, I generally don’t like to listen to songs with lyrics to them if I’m going to be writing, though there are exceptions.  Crowded House is one of those exceptions.  Their music is just so evocative of a certain mood that I really like.  Their songs are very literate and cerebral, as well as very complex musically.  Pink Floyd is that way, too.

When i write, I usually like to listen to jazz (e.g. Kirk Whalum,  Chuck Mangione, Dave Koz, Larry Carlton, Eric Darken, the Rippingtons, etc.) or “new age” (e.g. David Lanz & Paul Speer, Andreas Vollenweider, Acoustic Alchemy, Jim Brickman, Secret Garden, etc.) or “international” (e.g. Loreena McKinnet, Enya, Basia, etc.).  Those types of music help block out ambient noise without intruding into my thoughts too much.  They shape my thoughts in subtle ways, but they don’t derail my thoughts.  I feel they enhance, rather than distract.

What about you?  What kind of music do you like to listen to while you write?


Terry Kath — One of the Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time

Terry Kath

I’m not going to pretend to know much about guitars, guitar playing, or guitar players, but this must certainly be one of the top ten guitar solos of all time.  Be patient … he begins to absolutely tear up his guitar at 2:58 into the video.  At around 4:30 the guitar is begging for mercy.

This is one of those occasions when you look at someone doing something and you realize that they were destined to do that thing.  If it hadn’t been around, they would have invented it.  I don’t know for sure, but I believe he is improvising a good deal of this solo.  It says a lot that Jimi Hendrix (reportedly) said that Kath was his favorite guitarist.

It is a damn shame that he died tragically at the early age of 31.

Guitarist:  Terry Kath

Band:  Chicago

Song:  25 or 6 to 4

Date:  7/21/1970 (Tanglewood)

Dante’s Prayer

One of the most beautiful and haunting songs ever created.

Loreena McKennitt – Dante’s Prayer





Ripping Good Time


It is a great day today.

While browsing the clearance CDs at Half-Price Books tonight I found a CD by the Rippingtons (with Russ Freeman) that I don’t have.  It is called “Let It Ripp” (2003).

Man!  I love The Rippingtons!  When I invent my musical time machine that allows me to go back in time to see great bands in concert, the Rippingtons in 1989 and 2003 will be my first and second stops.

I’m listening to “Avalon” at the moment.  Simply awesome!  What sax!  I am a big fan of Jeff Kashiwa when he was with the Rippingtons.  I thought he tore it up on the title song of the CD “Tourist in Paradise” (1989).  He left in 1999 and I didn’t think he could be replaced, but Eric Marienthal is awesome on sax on this CD.

This CD is now in my top ten favorites.  I can’t believe I’ve lived this long and have never heard this CD before.


P.S.   Here is a link to my favorite Rippingtons song, “Tourist in Paradise“.  And here is a live version that is pretty cool, too.



Monkee Business: Auntie Grizelda (A Review)


I have a confession to make.  I like the Monkees.  I have never admitted this to anyone before.  You can understand my shame.  When I was a wee lad my older brother had several of their albums and that was my introduction to them.  I was quite surprised a few years later to find out that not only did they make music, but they had their own TV show!  They were aired as re-runs on Saturday morning when I was a kid.  Of course, they weren’t reruns to me.  They were fresh and new and exciting  and unlike anything I’d ever seen or heard before.  Later on in my life I saw “A Hard Days Night” by the Beatles and I was incensed (incensed!) that they were so blatantly ripping off the Monkees trademark zany antics.  Just goes to show you how subjective history is.

At any rate, because it is the 50th anniversary almost to the day that this song debuted on the Monkee’s TV show (and in order to shamelessly pump up my blog hits), I’m going to review one of my favorite songs from the Monkees, “Auntie Grizelda.”  You can find the song here, and the lyrics here.

“Auntie Grizelda” features the forgotten Monkee, Peter Tork, which is why I was probably initially drawn to it.  I identified with Peter in some way I can’t explain.  He always seemed to be the odd man out, even in a group as strange as the Monkees.  He didn’t say much.  He seemed to be in a perpetual state of bewilderment, which, in my youthful innocence, I attributed to his pure heart and his innate naivety.  As an adult, however, I was made to understand that he was supposed to be the “high” one.  I like my interpretation better.  Peter  was also (usually) the last one to get the girl.  And on top of all that, he played the bass guitar, which is arguably the least chick-magnet-y instrument you can play in a band.

The gist of the song is Peter talking to some unnamed girl about her aunt and how she (the aunt) hates Peter and disapproves of their being together.  On it’s surface, the song is just sort of a funny series of insults about Auntie Grizelda.  Lines such as

No bird of grace ever lit on Auntie Grizelda

This is one of my favorite lines from the song and one of the best insults I have ever heard.  It is a subtle wind-up … and then the pitch … and boom!  You just got insulted.  Then there is:

She couldn’t budge a smile and do it for free

But the song isn’t just a collection of insults towards Auntie Grizelda, it is Peter begging the girl to please don’t be like her Aunt.  He is trying to tell the girl that, though it’s harder to be your own person while being raised under an oppressive thumb, she must make the effort or else she will end up bitter and judgmental like her Aunt and, ultimately, alone.

I’ve never quite understood Peter going off in the middle of the song into a series of gutteral noises and gibberish.  It certainly makes the song unique and memorable!  My only interpretation is that his frustration at not being able to get through to the girl he is talking to finally gets the best of him and he just snaps.  He is doing the equivalent of burying his face into a pillow and screaming to give vent to his frustration.  Or, another explanation is that they were the Monkees and he was just trying to live up to the band’s shtick and to stop being in the shadow of the other three Monkees.  But whatever the reason, he made for a memorable moment in Monkee history and one of the more stand-out songs that the Monkees ever recorded.

Additional Links

Here is an alternate video which apparently is a clip from the show.  However, the video has nothing to do with the lyrics.  It is pretty random.

Here is another clip from the show which just has the Monkees running around and imitating the Beatles from “A Hard Day’s Night”.  The sound quality isn’t that good, though.

And here is a bizarre clip of an elderly Peter Tork singing “Auntie Grizelda” live on stage.  He sort of sleepwalks through it and actually seems to forget the lyrics at one point.  Oh well … I can’t say anything about memory lapses!

And here is some random information about the song.

Recording Date:  October 23, 1966

Lyrics by Diane Hildebrand

Music by Jack Keller

Song appeared on the 1967 album “More of The Monkees”

Recorded at:  American Studios, Studio City

The song appeared in Season 1, Episode 18 of the Monkee’s TV show on January 16, 1967. The show was entitled “I Was A Teenage Monster”





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