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365 Days of Mike Patton: “Underwater Love,” Faith No More (1989)

Without a doubt, this is my favorite all-time song about drowning your lover. From the opening keyboard zinger to Mike Patton’s nasally voice and Billy Gould’s funkadelically obtrusive bass, this song sounds like it was recorded in 1989 for The Real Thing album and then stayed locked in a time capsule for good.

The lyrics, though, are forever.

“Looking down into the water/It’s hard to make out your face/If our love is drowning, then why/Do I feel so out of place?”

And …

“Liquid seeps into your lungs/But your eyes look so serene/It’s wonderful how the surface ripples/But you’re perfect, and I cannot breathe.”

It’s not exactly subtle, is it?

Even if you think the lyrics are TOO obvious and that the song must be really about something else—a man’s obsession with fishing, for example— Patton says you’re wrong. He told Kerrang in 1990, via FNM 2.0, “Underwater Love was basically about murdering someone you love.”

Interestingly, a demo version of the song exists—according to the YouTube channel, it was “recorded on [a] 4-Track in Bill Gould’s attic as a demonstration of Mike Patton for Faith No More’s management and their record company (Slash)” before Patton was officially in the band—and the lyrics are a little bit different (though it still sounds like it’s about drowning somebody you love).

Previously from The Real Thing:

To follow along on the 365 days of Patton, click here for a list of each day’s post.

A longing for the past

I wrote this about a year ago. Just now catching up to post it.

A few days ago, we were in New York, and while meeting up with some co-workers at a bar in Brooklyn, I ran across a flagpole in front of the Barclays Center at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Ave.

 

The plaque on the flagpole reads as follows: “This flagpole stood in Ebbets Field until Brooklyn’s famed ballpark was torn down in 1960.” Ebbets Field was where the Brooklyn Dodgers played their Major League Baseball games before they moved to Los Angeles and became the Los Angeles Dodgers. They were also my Grandpa Dave’s favorite team.

I read the sign, and I suddenly felt a very real connection to my grandfather who’s been gone for nearly 20 years. He often wore a gray Brooklyn Dodgers T-shirt when my family visited him and Grandma Essie in Fort Lauderdale when I was growing up, and my mom told me that she had looked for that piece of clothing after he died. She never found it.

As I looked at the flagpole on that cold day, I was about two miles northwest of the actual site of the stadium where I’m sure my grandfather used to cheer for the Dodgers on warm summer afternoons as a young man.

In the past few days, I’ve been thinking about the past more than normal. I’ve always thought that if I had a time machine, I’d immediately go to New York City in the 1940s to see the men in their baggy suits and their wool hats, to ride the subway amid all the cigarette smoke, to catch an afternoon ballgame at Ebbets Field or the Polo Grounds, and to spend a day without worrying about what’s on the internet. Maybe, I’d even run into my grandparents in Brooklyn—to see what they were like before they had kids of their own (they apparently loved going out on the town—even after their children were born).

But my longing for a past I’ll never experience isn’t unique. Just now, I stopped a DVR recording of my favorite Twilight Zone episode. It’s called “A Stop at Willoughby,” and it’s about an ad executive from the late 1950s who is stressed by his job and his unsympathetic wife. One day, he falls asleep and dreams that the commuter train he’s riding has suddenly stopped in a town called Willoughby. He looks out the window and gazes at a scene where a mustached man is riding a penny-farthing and two barefoot boys are on their way to a fishing hole. A man sits waiting on a horse carriage, and musicians run through a parlor song on a bandstand in the middle of the town square. The conductor of the train tells him it’s 1888.

The episode continues with the ad exec daydreaming about Willoughby and trying to make his way back there. The episode ends in tragedy, but I’ve always appreciated that appreciation of history, and hopefully, my kids will one day share that same sense of wonder of what it must have been like in the days gone by. That’s why I’ve interviewed my parents about our family history. That’s why I’ll do the same for my in-laws. That’s why I interview the kids the night before the first day of school every year.

Maybe someday, the kids of my kids will stand at the former site of Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta and wonder what it must have been like when their grandfather cheered on the Braves in the 1980s, where the men wore mesh trucker hats, short jean shorts, and long, striped socks, where the place smelled like stale beer and cheap cigarette smoke. And for them, I have one clear answer:

It sucked. The Braves back then were fucking terrible.

 

Will Carroll/@injuryexpert, sports medicine writer

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The only time I’ve talked to Will Carroll was during a rainy night in Louisville when we were trying to watch a Cuban phenom pitch in the minor leagues. That was three years ago, and since then, Carroll has become this country’s most renowned sports medicine writer. In our chat, we discuss how he found his online niche, why he thinks the HGH soap opera of the last five years is the most overblown sports storyline perhaps ever, and how a reporter who deals in injuries builds up his source list.

Plus, we lament our disappointment in how a baseball Hall of Fame voter could actually sell his or her ballot to Deadspin. “It sickened me,” Carroll said.

And on a lighter note, we talked about how his high school car was a Pontiac Fiero (and how badass I thought that was when I was a 10-year-old kid).

(Interviewed 12-1-13)

Chris Kluwe: Book author/NFL punter

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It’s a big week for the Mightier Than the Sword podcast and Chris Kluwe. We booked our first professional athlete for MTTS to talk with us about his writing skills, and for Kluwe, he made history as the first person ever to speak on this podcast after appearing on Conan AND the Ellen how. Really, it’s a big week for everybody involved.

This week, Kluwe and I talked about how he’s adjusting to life as an in-season NFL free agent, how his profanity is so beautifully written, and why he uses that graphic approach to draw attention to his underlying point. Plus, Kluwe theorizes on the idea of “truth,” why he bothers dealing with Internet hate and how he would change the Pro Football Hall of Fame voting process.

Warning: the language in this podcast is more explicit than normal.

Since we talk about this piece quite a bit in the podcast, here was Kluwe’s letter to Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns.

Also, here’s his piece for themmqb.com on his punting battle with Marquette King.

Here was some of what we talked about (and some of what we didn’t).

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The art of asking questions, part II

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This week marks the second of two episodes in which five writers and I discuss the art of asking questions. Today, we’ll entertain NY Times best-selling author Jeff Pearlman, Cincinnati Enquirer beat writer Bill Koch and Columbus Dispatch beat writer Bill Rabinowitz (last week, in case you missed it, we spoke with Tampa Bay Times enterprise writer Ben Montgomery and CBSSports.com national columnist Gregg Doyel).

With Pearlman, we talk about the John Rocker story, whether Pearlman thinks now he should have given Rocker the chance to take back his controversial comments before he published them in Sports Illustrated, and about his approach to asking the tough questions. Koch, meanwhile, talks about how a daily beat writer approaches the question-asking when he sees the same coach a few times per week and why humor is one way to build a rapport with those he covers (he also tells some fantastic stories about Tennessee coach Butch Jones). Finally, Rabinowitz talks about why sometimes the best question to ask is, well, silence.

And because I replayed Montgomery’s story on Dan Barry and his 2005 NY Times piece about a man saving another person from drowning, here’s the link to that wonderful Barry feature.

Rediscovering my love affair with Led Zeppelin

I was a Led Zeppelin fan in middle school all the way through high school. That was probably my dad’s influence. He didn’t have any of Zep’s vinyl LPs in his collection, which I loved thumbing through on occasion (mostly, probably, to see a certain Blind Faith album cover) but he introduced me to Zeppelin through the magic of compact discs.

The first real rock concert I ever attended was Aerosmith at Lakewood Amphitheater in 1994, but the first concert I was supposed to attend was an ill-fated Coverdale-Page show that was cancelled, apparently because of slow ticket sales. I remember exactly where I was when I heard the announcement on 96 Rock that the show would not go on, that I would not see Jimmy Page play with David Coverdale, and I’m sure my wailing that echoed through the two rooms of my parent’s basement could have competed with any of Robert Plant’s bluesy screaming on Led Zeppelin I.

I loved Led Zeppelin in my teenage year, more than I loved Pink Floyd, more than I loved Def Leppard, more than I loved most any other band that had ever existed.

But as many romances do, that infatuation faded after high school. In college, I listened to other genres – harder and faster music. Mike Patton and Ben Harper and the Pietasters and System of a Down and Sevendust. I owned all the Zeppelin albums, but they received less and less play as I got older. In fact, I only recently added the entire Zeppelin catalog to my iPod, and those songs only pop up randomly now and again when I’m on shuffle (curiously, I seem to get more songs from Coda than any other Zeppelin album).

I seem to recall the three surviving members of Zeppelin reuniting for one last show in London in 2007, but I barely put in the effort to find clips from the show on YouTube. I had moved on.

Recently, though, I found myself watching a Zeppelin press conference online to drum up publicity for the band releasing that live performance from ’07 on a DVD/CD called “Celebration Day.”

I sat transfixed for 45 minutes watching Robert Plant and Jimmy Page ignore questions about why they won’t reunite for a proper tour, and after Zeppelin was honored at the Kennedy Center Awards in December, I DVR’d the band’s appearance on the Letterman show.

Then, I was tooling around on YouTube a couple weeks ago, and I found this – probably the best version of Stairway to Heaven I’ve ever heard. Heart’s Ann Wilson wails on that song the way Plant used to sing it (but can’t anymore), Jason Bonham plays with the power and intensity of his late father, and the choir … my god, that choir. It’s brought a tear to my eye every time I watch it (not unlike Plant in the audience that night).

Since then, I’ve been on a Zeppelin kick. I downloaded “Celebration Day,” and I discovered it rocks hard enough to knock me back to high school. I’ve watched the Heart version of Stairway probably 10 times. And I thought back to Feb. 28, 1995, when some buddies and I saw Page and Plant play at the Omni in Atlanta when they toured to support their first faux Zeppelin album (John Paul Jones wasn’t involved in this project, leading him to joke later that Page and Plant must have misplaced his phone number).

That concert experience isn’t on my top-10 best list, but there’s one moment at that show that I’ll never forget. In fact, it might be the best song I’ve ever heard performed live.

Page/Plant were 10 songs through their 21-song set list, and up until that point, they sounded like so many of the Zeppelin bootlegs I had heard. Solid, but gritty. Decent, but rough. Powerful, but a little bit fuzzy. If you’ve ever heard the soundtrack to The Song Remains the Same, you’ll know what I mean. Zeppelin sounds kick-ass, but the band doesn’t sound great either. If that makes sense.

On that winter night in 1995, though, the band kicked into “Achilles Last Stand,” and everything changed. The night, which had been mediocre so far, was saved by this 10 minute-piece of music. We were in this 15,000-seat arena, and until that point, it hadn’t felt intimate. But Page started on that slow, meandering guitar lick and Plant started on those vocals, and suddenly, a rock concert morphed into magic. I’d experienced that at a show once before (during “One of These Days” at a 1994 Pink Floyd concert when that bass line and my pounding heart melded into one), and since then, it’s happened maybe one other time (Faith No More playing “Caffeine” at the Masquerade in Atlanta in 1998).

An experience that can never be recreated, but one that never leaves your system. An experience that’s transcendental and ephemeral and utterly unforgettable.

A couple nights ago, I found that moment on YouTube.

You, of course, won’t feel what I experienced that night in Atlanta 17 years ago (if I had to pick the exact second that everything changed, it’s at the 1:57 mark). When I watched the video, I didn’t feel it either*. But I could see the moment was there. I couldn’t feel it the same way I did when I was 16, but I knew it existed in a past life. That has to be good enough for the present.

*Though I’d never seen any video from this show, I did have a bootleg recording of Page-Plant’s performance that night, so I’ve heard this version of the song, maybe, two dozen times. I’ve never had the same reaction that I had that night, though watching the video for the first time was pretty freakin’ awesome.

Now, the question Zeppelin receives in every media session in which they participate is why they won’t get back together and do one last tour. Sometimes, Jimmy Page is elusive and mystical. Sometimes, Robert Plant looks pissed that he’s even being asked the question. Sometimes, it seems like John Paul Jones can’t answer because he’s day-dreaming.

Apparently, it’s Plant that doesn’t want the reunion, and the rest of the band is at his mercy.

You know what? It’s kind of perfect that they’re probably done as Led Zeppelin. It preserves that night in 2007 when Zeppelin, 27 years after it had broken up following the death of John Bonham, returned for two hours of triumph to be rock gods one last time. It preserves that 10 minutes of “Achilles Last Stand” on Feb. 28, 1995. Zeppelin doesn’t need to be The Rolling Stones or The Who and tour on old songs and faded memories into their AARP years.

One perfect YouTube video will have to be good enough for me; it will have to be good enough for all of us.

And it’s comforting to know that I can see that moment whenever I want. When I can think about my dad and I listening to Zeppelin in his Mazda RX7, when Zeppelin was the best band in the world, when I screamed about a cancelled concert, when Plant’s voice sent chills up my back.

Rock gods don’t ever die. But sometimes, they realize that their time together is gone, that there are other aspects of life to explore. Sometimes, rock gods just want to move on while the love and everything you ever felt about them remains forever the same. But only in the past.

The reviews are in (not really)

Bob Hunter of the Columbus Dispatch, wrote a column about the Sid Gillman book the other day where Hunter explores the news I uncovered in that Sid Gillman was offered (and accepted) the Ohio State football job* before it was rescinded in favor of Woody Hayes because Gillman was Jewish.

Despite that positive column by my buddy, I’ve had some nasty reviews so far for the book (note: these photos were sent to me by friends).

Witness:

And:

The correct response here: Sigh.

*I have received a couple emails today that tell me the story about Sid Gillman and the Ohio State coaching job is absolutely true. People hearing it from people who heard about it from Sid himself.

Like I wrote in the book, even though it wasn’t covered in the press at the time or since, the story, in my opinion, probably is true.