The concept behind Fine Tuning is to engage with new music that is true to the classic rock tradition and to share that music with like-eared individuals — individuals who sometimes feel stuck (albeit blissfully) in the deep ruts of the 1970s and are craving great new music, but are overwhelmed by the streaming-enabled availability of nearly every song in the world and have limited time and energy to troll the vast ocean of on-line music. One goal is to find and share “Fine Tunes” — whether a track, album or live performance — for those folks who want help separating the wheat from the chaff.
Now you might reasonably ask, “but aren’t there already blogs by the thousand doing the same thing? Why not save yourself the headache and find musical fulfillment in somebody else’s navel-gazing project?” I have thought about that. A lot. And I have tried. But I still find myself adrift in terms of finding great new music. What I need is a trusted go-to source, a human being who shares my love of classic rock and has excellent musical taste. While such people undoubtedly exist, it is hard to make them out amidst the din. So I have decided to try to become that person myself and embark on a journey of curatorial exploration.
So exactly what kind of music are we talking about here? The root of my musical taste is familiar — it begins with the blues. One of my earliest musical memories was seeing Buddy Guy perform at the old Lone Star Cafe in New York City when I was in 10th grade. He left the stage, still plugged in, and walked out the door to jam outside on Fifth Avenue. The music was raw and emotional. The joy on his face was inspiring. Junior Wells was playing with Buddy that night and I managed to get backstage after the show and have them both sign the back of the Lone Star promo flyer!
A year later, I saw Stevie Ray Vaughn at the Pier in New York City. He opened the show with “Couldn’t Stand the Weather”, and I looked around the stage in search of the second guitar player, incredulous that Stevie Ray was making those sounds with just one guitar. As an aspiring guitar player myself, these blues acts mesmerized me and were my entry into the world of music.
My passion for the blues led eventually to classic rock. I went to as many concerts as my parents would allow. I remember in the pre-internet world having to camp out with friends for Springsteen tickets; calling TicketMaster on speed dial for hours on end to score Rolling Stones tickets (the euphoria of hearing a dial tone instead of a busy signal!); navigating the mail order gauntlet for Dead tickets; cutting class my senior year in high school to line up to see the Jerry Garcia Band play the Lunt Fontaine theater on Broadway; seeing Michael Stipe wipe (what looked like) coke off his nose during a R.E.M. concert; the Replacements so drunk they could hardly play their instruments at Toad’s Place in New Haven; Little Steven sitting in front of me at a U2 concert; somehow getting past the ID check to see the Ramones at a bar in Philadelphia; getting Dickey Betts’ autograph backstage at the Beacon Theater during one of the Allman Brothers’ ritual month-long stands; and trying to find somebody – anybody — to go with me to see Lou Reed my junior year in high school.
Which is all to say that blues-inspired classic rock is my musical bedrock. Music in dialogue with that rich lineage is the music this blog will explore. The concept is to share my discoveries—new and old—with like-eared individuals. Some of it will be by new bands, but some of it may be by older, more obscure bands, or tunes that have escaped general notice. Some of my favorite musical discoveries are of songs and artists that have existed for years under my radar.
In addition to identifying “Fine Tunes,” this blog will also contain what I am calling “Liner Notes” — essays about songs, albums or artists that have special significance in my life. My hope is that some of these reflective pieces will resonate with others and give context to the Fine Tunes themselves. I will also occasionally post playlists, some of which may relate to the Liner Notes.
So that’s the plan. I welcome your feedback on this project as well as contributions in terms of Fine Tunes you have recently come across. Let every classic rock fan know what they are missing!