Whenever I’m in town, I usually hook up with maman on Saturday afternoons for some mother-daughter jamming. We both play flute and piano, trading off so we both get practice on each instrument. We usually work on classical and jazz pieces, and sometimes we enlist my partner Alicia to provide cello support. When we delve into rock or folk music we’ll occasionally let my father join the party to accompany us on acoustic guitar. Over the past few months we’ve been working on piano-flute arrangements for Radiohead songs, as both maman and I find their music fascinating. My old fart father loathes Radiohead, so whenever we go there, he heads for one of the Irish pubs in Nice (yes, we have them) while maman and I get down to business.
A couple of weeks ago, maman and I were trying to work out an arrangement for “Daydreaming” from A Moon Shaped Pool. The piano part is pretty straightforward, so most of the work focused on the flute. Since maman is the more capable flutist, she experimented with various possibilities while I handled the ivories and gave feedback. We decided early on that once the melody was established, she would shift to a combination of double tonguing and whisper tones for her improvisations to reflect the gentle flow of the song and the orchestral feel of the album. While whisper tones are an absolute bitch for me, maman has the discipline and patience to pull them off. After a couple of hours we recorded a credible rendition on Garage Band with some beautifully quirky partials produced by the whisper tones.
Please note that the recording is for personal use only and cannot be distributed because we don’t want Radiohead to sue us.
Maman wanted to hear the original again before we quit for the day, and the album continued to spin while we discussed other possibilities for the piece. About thirty seconds into “Desert Island Disk,” Dad popped in.
“Great guitar—who is that?”
“It’s Radiohead, dude! Gotcha!”
Dad frowned. “I never said they didn’t have talent. I just don’t like the results.” He then paused to listen. “Okay, this song’s pretty good. Nice latin feel. What’s it called?”
“‘Desert Island Disk’.”
“So, what’s on Radiohead’s desert island disk?”
“They don’t say. The song’s about love, loss and change,” I explained, economically.
“Then why the title?”
“I don’t know. There’s a BBC programme where famous people pick eight songs, a book and a luxury they would take with them to a desert island. Maybe that got stuck in Thom Yorke’s head.”
“What does that have to do with love, loss and change?”
“I don’t know, dad—maybe it’s a riff on the getting a new start in life theme.”
“Hey! We ought to do that!”
“What? Get a new life? We just changed continents a few years ago!”
“No—come up with our desert island disks.”
I immediately liked the idea but had to change the rules. “There’s no fucking way I can live on a desert island with only eight songs. I’d go batty the first day and feed myself to the sharks.” It wasn’t difficult to get a family of music lovers to agree to an extended format, so after a lot of back-and-forth we agreed that we’d choose twenty albums. Then I pointed out a problem with the plan.
“There are some songs that are really important to me but I don’t want the whole album.”
“Okay—how many? Eight?”
“No, let’s go with classic British album format—fourteen.”
“No luxuries, no books?” asked maman.
“Okay—one book, one luxury. I’ll go with Ulysses and a vibrator.” As soon as I said that, I realized there was a fundamental flaw in the logic. “We can’t listen to music without electricity, and the batteries in my vibrator won’t last forever. Do we have to go to a desert island?”
Maman pointed out that since this was an exercise in fantasy, we could imagine an island with plenty of solar panels to keep the juice flowing. Sometimes the Spock side of me is really stupid.
Alicia came over later and agreed to participate. Maman put hers together in less than an hour. The rest of us struggled for days; I only finished mine this morning. Even with the expanded format, the process was agonizing. I don’t consider my list a “best of” list, but took into consideration the existential reality of being alone on a desert island, choosing music with long-lasting replay potential. Had I been allowed to bring my partner, the list would have been more fuck-friendly.
So here are my family’s desert island disks, supplemented with explanatory comments.
- London Calling, The Clash
- Monk’s Dream, Thelonious Monk
- Kid A, Radiohead
- In Rainbows, Radiohead
- And Out Come the Wolves, Rancid
- The Complete Recordings, Robert Johnson
- Odessey and Oracle, The Zombies
- The Best of Louis Armstrong: The Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings
- Love Deluxe, Sade
- Ultimate!, The Yardbirds
- A Hard Day’s Night, The Beatles
- Between the Buttons, The Rolling Stones
- Lola vs. The Powerman and the Money-Go-Round, The Kinks
- A Passion Play, Jethro Tull
- Hunky Dory, David Bowie
- The Best of Muddy Waters
- Different Class, Pulp
- Always, June Tabor
- Lady Day: The Best of Billie Holiday
- The Definitive Collection, Patsy Cline
- “Strawberry Fields Forever,” The Beatles
- “Don’t Mess with Me,” Brody Dalle
- “I Can’t Get Next to You,” The Temptations
- “Celluloid Heroes,” The Kinks
- “Only the Lonely,” Roy Orbison
- “Arms Aloft,” Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros
- “Let Down,” Radiohead
- “Codex,” Radiohead
- “Debaser,” Pixies
- “Beeswing,” Richard Thompson
- “The Party,” Phil Ochs
- “Hello, Susie,” The Move
- “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” The Rolling Stones
- “Severed Crossed Fingers,” St. Vincent
Comments: My list shouldn’t be much of a surprise to my readers. I really struggled choosing between Revolver and A Hard Day’s Night, but I thought I’d need upbeat energy without anyone around to fuck. The most difficult decision was leaving off “I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman” by Whistling Jack Smith, but I figured I could whistle all by my lonesome. A year ago the St. Vincent album would have made the list but her latest release, Masseduction, was a crushing disappointment.
- Revolver, The Beatles
- Sgt. Pepper, The Beatles
- Blonde on Blonde, Bob Dylan
- At Fillmore East, The Allman Brothers Band
- For Everyman, Jackson Browne
- Triangle, The Beau Brummels
- In My Life, Judy Collins
- Blue, Joni Mitchell
- Kind of Blue, Miles Davis
- Beggars Banquet, The Rolling Stones
- Muswell Hillbillies, The Kinks
- Trout Mask Replica, Captain Beefheart
- Aqualung, Jethro Tull
- Liege and Lief, Fairport Convention
- After the Gold Rush, Neil Young
- The 12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, Spirit
- Are You Experienced?, Jimi Hendrix
- The Great Twenty-Eight, Chuck Berry
- Pleasures of the Harbor, Phil Ochs
- Surrealistic Pillow, Jefferson Airplane
- “Hey Jude,” The Beatles
- “Ticket to Ride,” The Beatles
- “All Day and All of the Night,” The Kinks
- “Come See About Me,” The Supremes
- “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” The Tokens
- “She’s Not There,” The Zombies
- “Like a Rolling Stone,” Bob Dylan
- “As Tears Go By,” Marianne Faithfull
- “I Still Love You,” The Vejtables
- “19th Nervous Breakdown,” The Rolling Stones
- “Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” The Four Tops
- “End of the Line,” The Traveling Wilburys
- “O My Soul,” Big Star
- “Maybe I’m Amazed,” Paul McCartney
Comments: I could have identified 98% of the entries without breaking a sweat: Dad really doesn’t care all that much for music released after 1975. The only surprise was the lack of a Donovan track or album. “You’ve ruined him for me,” he explained, referring to my not-very-positive reviews. “And that is something for which you should be eternally grateful,” I replied.
Dad’s choice of book was Dostoyevsky’s The Devils, and his luxury a case of 2007 Heitz Cellars’ Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Schubert, Symphony No. 9 (The Great), Wolfgang Sawallisch
- Masterpieces, The Duke Ellington Orchestra
- In the Court of the Crimson King, King Crimson
- Days of Future Passed, The Moody Blues
- Kid A, Radiohead
- A Love Supreme, John Coltrane
- Flute Concertos, Jean-Pierre Rampal
- Hejira, Joni Mitchell
- Rosa Mundi, June Tabor
- La Question, Françoise Hardy
- Dvorak, 8 Slavonic Dances, Rafael Kubelik
- Mahler, Symphony No. 9, Herbert von Karajan
- Boîte à Bonbons, Jacques Brel
- The Indispensable Django Reinhardt
- Platinum Collection, Edith Piaf
- Out to Lunch, Eric Dolphy
- The Golden Flute, Yusef Lateef
- Thick as a Brick, Jethro Tull
- Stand Up!, Jethro Tull
- The Art of Segovia, Andrés Segovia
- “Question,” The Moody Blues
- “Comme un Garçon,” Sylvie Vartan
- “Que C’est Triste Venise,” Charles Azvanour
- “Billie Jean,” Michael Jackson
- “Lucky Man,” Emerson, Lake & Palmer
- “Pigs (Three Different Ones),” Pink Floyd
- “Eleanor Rigby,” The Beatles
- “Never Comes the Day,” The Moody Blues
- “Blue in Green,” Miles Davis
- “Japanese Folk Song,” Thelonious Monk
- “Si C’est Ça,” Françoise Hardy”
- “White Rabbit,” Jefferson Airplane
- “Inner City Blues,” Marvin Gaye
- “Me Ama Mô,” Simone
Comments: Maman’s collection will last the longest, as she included a few box sets. Clever girl! The one that really blew me away was “Billie Jean,” as I had no idea maman took Michael Jackson seriously or even liked him a little. “Thriller has some very inventive arrangements,” she said, trying to bullshit me. “Come on, maman, truth!” She gave me a stern look, then a smile started to crack the mask. “The music seizes my body and forces it to dance!” I promised her a review in the near future.
Her book is a collection of Maupassant short stories and she decided to take her pet Papillon along as her luxury.
- Something Else, The Kinks
- Urban Hymns, The Verve
- To Bring You My Love, PJ Harvey
- Senderos de Traición, Héroes de Silencio
- OK Computer, Radiohead
- Rodrigo, Concierto Como un Divertimento, Julian Lloyd Webber
- Some Girls, The Rolling Stones
- Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, Arctic Monkeys
- A Night at the Opera, Queen
- Sam’s Town, The Killers
- You Could Have Said It So Much Better, Franz Ferdinand
- Love Deluxe, Sade
- Bach, Six Unaccompanied Cello Suites, Yo-Yo Ma
- Sea Change, Beck
- Rage Against the Machine, Rage Against the Machine
- Superunknown, Soundgarden
- The Argument, Fugazi
- And Justice for All, Metallica
- Get Your Wings, Aerosmith
- A Boy Named Goo, Goo Goo Dolls
- “I’ll Never Find Another You,” The Seekers
- “Come As You Are,” Nirvana
- “Everlong,” Foo Fighters
- “Dream On,” Aerosmith
- “Hush,” Deep Purple
- “Angeline,” PJ Harvey
- “You Really Got Me,” The Kinks
- “Brand New Cadillac,” The Clash
- “White Wedding Pt. 1,” Billy Idol
- “Heroes,” David Bowie
- “Girl U Want,” Devo
- “The Best of Jill Hives,” Guided by Voices
- “Hide and Seek,” Imogen Heap
- “Bodysnatchers,” Radiohead
Comments: Although she plays classical cello beautifully and reveals to the world a consistently sunny disposition sweetened even further by excellent manners, her musical tastes triangulate around hard rock, progressive, metal and just fucking angry. I really didn’t take her seriously as a potential partner until she told me she likes her music rough and raucous. Alicia is much more into the early sounds of the 21st century than I am, but she has persuaded me to include a few of her favorite tracks on our fuck playlists. The attachment to early Kinks dates back to childhood; the Seekers’ tune and “Everlong” are “our songs.”
Alicia chose Story of O for her book and her favorite dildo (actually, it’s mine, since I’m the one who straps it on) as her luxury. She’s hoping to figure out a way to attach it to a palm tree and back in for some doggy-style memories.
Join the fun! Let’s hear about your Desert Island Disks!
I haven’t done a Chick Riff in a while, so I thought I’d give those interested an update on what’s been going on in my life and some idea of what I have in store for readers the rest of the year.
Work: After leaving my former employer and essentially fucking around for a year (literally and figuratively), my partner and I came up with the brilliant idea to start our own consulting practice. Our skill sets perfectly complement one another (me: strategy and marketing; she: accounting and finance) and both of us were getting calls from former customers to see if we were available for project work. She had already been working as a consultant, so once my one-year non-compete agreement expired, we decided to make it a joint venture. For the most part, it’s working out great! While we still have a few solo gigs that keep us apart, over half our clients hired us as a team, so we get to travel together and fuck each others’ brains out in hotels all over the world! Better still, we now have a partner with an executive recruiting background who can help when our analysis shows that one of the executives is a hopeless moron dragging down the company. For those of you who read the “The Offer,” the recruiter is the same woman who tried to interest me in a job and wound up becoming a whenever-you’re-in-town fuck buddy!
However, we are professionals and we do not mix business with pleasure and do not offer what would be the time of their lives to any clients.
The downside is the work involves a lot of travel, as we have clients in Europe and the Americas and it’s pretty likely we’ll be traveling to Australia later in the year. We do have limits, though: we refuse to do business with American companies or do any work on U. S. soil as long as America is run by neo-Nazi racists. We really don’t need American money to survive, and because we have a client in Toronto, we’ve even been able to catch a couple of Blue Jay games this year! The goal of this enterprise is to earn enough money to pay off the house and then get jobs in NGO’s (what Americans call nonprofits) and focus our energies on helping this forlorn world instead of facilitating profit margins.
Home: Due to the workload, I haven’t been home most of the summer, which is just fine with me—Nice sucks in the summertime. It gets too warm and humid for leather and the hordes of tourists make going out a drag. I remain delighted that we fought off the LePen neo-Nazi threat and am not at all surprised that Macron’s popularity has plummeted since taking office. The French are a very opinionated people who all think they’re right about everything, deeply skeptical about politicians and prone to get tremendously upset about things large and small. Macron has fucked up a few times—especially with that First Lady bullshit—but eventually I think he’ll grow into the job and do just fine. It also helps when your competition for attention on the larger stage include Donald Trump and Theresa May.
One weird thing happened a couple of months ago—I was recognized! It’s all because I’m a coke addict—a Diet Coke addict (what they call Coca-Cola Light in the EU). Anyway, we were going to see my cousin who lives on the other side of town and decided to walk down the Promenade so I could stop at McDonald’s and get my fix. Anyway, I had just taken my first sip when this guy came up and said, “Excuse me. Aren’t you the altrockchick?” You know that weird thing that happens sometimes when the liquid you’re drinking gets into your nasal passages? Well, that was my response—a sort of gurgling, snorting, coughing fit that lasted about thirty seconds and caused one of the staff to come up and ask if I needed any help. After I wiped my face with the napkin provided by the staff person, I looked at the poor guy—American, mid-30’s, not at all bad-looking—and said, “Yes, I guess I am!” He told me how much he loved what I do and how my jazz posts really turned him onto jazz, and I just stood there smiling, nodding, saying thank you and not really knowing what else to do until my partner read the cues, stepped in and said, “Ari, we have to go if we’re going to be there on time.” We said goodbye, I thanked him again and went on our merry way.
I know that he meant well but I’m very protective of my privacy and so I probably came off as a bit rude. Dude, if you’re reading this, I apologize for my poor manners and thank you again for the validation. But like Garbo, who never said it but should have, “I want to be alone.” I’ve got a set of Groucho glasses with mustache on order.
Baseball: This season sucks! Too many blowouts, too many home runs, horrendous pitching and at least half the division races were decided before the All-Star break! And MLB.TV has been as buggy as fuck, with lots of picture freezes and app crashes. I was hoping to write a piece on baseball this year, but this season isn’t worth the effort.
Music: All my plans were disrupted by the political madness of the first five months of 2017, so I’ve been more of a butterfly lately, going wherever my fancy takes me. I’m still upset that I didn’t get to do my annual blues jag, as I could have used the cleansing ritual after so much political nonsense. I’ve written most of the reviews you’ve seen recently on airplanes, which makes long-distance flights much more tolerable. Still, it would be nice to stay at home for a while with access to my piano so I can duplicate the musical ideas I hear in a given work to further my understanding of what the artist was trying to do.
Here are all the reviews I have in “draft” status, indicating the albums I’m most likely to review, but I’m not guaranteeing anything—my life is too over-the-map right now to predict the future with any reasonable certainty.
- “Heroes” by David Bowie
- Dressy Bessy (album)
- The Best of John Lee Hooker
- Transatlanticism by Death Cab for Cutie
- The Turning Point by John Mayall
- Oremi by Angelique Kidjo
- Amnesiac by Radiohead
- Parallel Lines by Blondie
- Radio City by Big Star
- Bad Company (album)
- Parcel of Rogues by Steeleye Span
- Against the Streams by June Tabor
- Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers
- Not a Pretty Girl by Ani DiFranco
- Complete Greatest Hits by The Cars
- Masterpieces by Ellington
- The Indispensable Django Reinhardt
- The King of Limbs by Radiohead
Cheers! And to my American readers—I hope like hell you get rid of the Neo-Nazi bastards who have stolen your democracy ASAP because they are indeed sufficiently insane to take the rest of us down with them.