Greg’s First Live Show With a New Band

From 2015. This was the first song of Are We Them’s debut gig. ‘Are We Them’ was a tribute to REM. I’m was on bass. We’re playing at the Concert Pub North. We played one other gig there, and two at the House of Blues here in Houston before going our separate ways. The other guys were all in other bands. It was a side project for everyone.

I joined them because I wanted to play a little, but not necessarily play out. I didn’t think they would actually book any gigs. I just liked to get out of the house and jam on REM for a couple of hours Sunday afternoons, when they rehearsed.

I underestimated how complicated some of Mike Mills’ bass parts are. I think Mills used a pick. I played everything fingerstyle, except ‘Radio Free Europe,’ and ‘End of the World.’

The audiences were always great. Fun little project … more to come.

Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself …

Greg V performing with Fuzzy Side Up

There are at least two other working bands in the U.S. named “Fuzzy Side Up.” There are two different FSUs with videos on Youtube. One is FSU here in Houston. They’ve been around for more than 15 years. I played with them for 11 years, from 2002 to 2013. The other is in Pennsylvania.

After I left, I produced several videos of FSU Houston with Jeff Ferrier on guitar. So most “Fuzzy Side Up” videos on Youtube aren’t me. I think these are the only ones left — for the moment.

There used to be more videos of us posted. Several really good ones have been removed, for reasons unknown. I have a lot of video unedited. One of my ongoing projects is to get some of those shows edited and posted. By an unexpected turn of events, I’m playing with FSU again, for a little while at least.

Fly Away – Lenny Kravitz cover

I’m A Man – Spencer Davis and Chicago cover

Listen To The Music – Doobie Bros cover

I’m shooting looks at Frank (on drums) because he’s speeding up, but he never looks over at me. This one was taken by the good folks at the Houston Press. The Houston Press is out of print now, but they are still alive and well online. Check them out.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen cover

I like the part I created for “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” The strummng in the first half follows Brian May’s part. From the second verse on, my part is a lot busier than May’s, including the solo and outro. May’s original part is tasteful, but sparse — too sparse for a live arrangement. I think my lead fills add to the energy overall. I don’t think it walks on James.

I’ve Got A Line On You Babe – Spirit cover

Respect Yourself

Groovin – Rascals cover

Listen To the Music – another take

Baby Baby


Below is a fragment from Dan’s birthday party. (A take of ‘Tiny Dancer’ is also floating around out there somewhere.)


Songs About the Music Business

Here are three songs recounting the simple joys of life under contract with a major label. Turns out to be a popular lyric theme during this era. All of these songs feature fantastic guitar work. We’ll dig into a few of those parts later. But for now, enjoy three great songs from the ’70s. All on the ‘KZEW 98 FM’ playlist on Spotify.

Pink Floyd – Have a Cigar

Joni Mitchell – Free Man in Paris

The POV in this lyric hinges around the sixth and seventh words, ‘he said.’ Except for this phrase, the rest of the lyric is in quotation marks.

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Workin’ For MCA

Titles in ‘Quotes’ Instead of Italics

I feel like channeling William Safire for a minute. The other day, I noticed a CNN article where song titles were placed in quotation marks. Traditionally, it’s proper style to write the titles of songs, books or movies in italics. I never liked this convention because it decreases readability. ‘Readability’ isn’t a matter of opinion, it’s scientifically measurable.

Italics look okay on paper, but they’re harder to read on screens, especially phones. Bolding italics is distracting and still less readable. Hats off to CNN for adopting this common sense practice.

I’m going to start putting titles in quotes instead of italics in my blog posts. If it’s good enough for CNN, it’s good enough for me. I write titles all the time here. So I’ll reserve italics for emphasis and, I suppose, bold italics as a sort of ‘nuclear option.

I point this out to people who are scoping my blog because they’re thinking about hiring me to write something.

Manuals of style still tell you to put titles in italics. Better stick with italics if you are writing something for school, or something you’re submitting for publication.



A Great Virtual Station on Spotify – KNUS 98.7 FM Dallas

The first of two new virtual radio stations on Spotify.

The ‘stations’ are recreations of playlists from two Dallas radio stations from the late 1960s through the late ’70s. This is classic rock radio as it really was. These playlists are intended as entertainment, but they’re also historical documents, if based only on my personal recollection.

The Spotify playlist ‘KNUS 98.7 FM DALLAS’ includes music played on the legendary mixed-format station, and spans the years 1968 to 1973. It has more than 380 songs.

KNUS covers the era of the supergroups. The Beatles were the backbone of KNUS’s playlist. They also featured the Doors, Janis Joplin, the Rolling Stones, The Who, Allman Bros, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Badfinger, Free, Cream, Blind Faith, Traffic, Crosby Still Nash & Young, and Jefferson Airplane, to name a few. Probably 80% of KNUS’s airtime was divided between only about 45 bands.

Dallasites from that time remember KNUS as a psychadelic and hard rock station. True enough. But they forget how jazzy it was. Right next to Deep Purple, the James Gang and Mountain, was amazing new music from Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears, and Brian Auger. And new music from old-school jazzers like Miles, Dave Brubeck and Yusef Lateef’s Detriot.

At still other times, the mood is calm, etheral, contemplative. Like Don McLean’s Vincent, Van Morrison’s Into the Mystic, or Alice Coltrane’s (John’s wife) manic harp strums on her Huntington Ashram Monestary album.

KNUS often included entire albums in their playlists. This is a testament to the strength of some of the albums released at the time. This was before the era when record companies instituted ‘one-hit-per-album’ rules.

A lot of this music was not very well recorded. They just didn’t have the techonolgy at the time. There are a few terrible bass guitar tones on these tracks, because it was really hard to find good bass strings back then. Some problems were just due to carelessness. What about the ‘dropout’ in the guitar track in the opening of Smoke On The Water? Or the crummy upright piano they used to record Colour My World, after the great engineering on Chicago Transit Authority? A lot of great music didn’t make the cut in today’s classic rock radio market because of poor engineering. But in recent years, a lot of those old records have been remastered, and many of them sound better as a result.

There are practically no women artists in this list. Fleetwood Mac was still being fronted by Bob Welch. Linda Ronstadt was still learning the ropes as a solo artist, just out of the Stone Ponies. There was the single hit from Smith. Carole King and Carly Simon each had three of four hits, Judy Collins with her one big crossover hit (Someday Soon), and that was just about it.

The real KNUS included AM radio hits from the ’60s, and occasional bubblegum hits, especially weekday mornings. I’ve excluded the AM hits. This playlist gives you the authentic flavor of the late-great KNUS on a typical afternoon or evening.

More later on the story of KNUS, its importance in radio history, and it’s (sorry to keep repeating this word) legendary creator, ‘The Maverick of Radio,’ and a personal hero of mine, Gordon McLendon.

KNUS 98.7 FM DALLAS Playlist on Spotify

This embedded playlist has only 200 songs. There are more than 380 songs in this playlist if you go on Spotify. If you don’t have the app, just check out the 30 second clips. It’s a great way to sample the flavors of this incredible station from the past.

You can also find KNUS playlists at the HoustonGuitar channel on Youtube.

KNUS Playlist – Part 1 (Skip the first video – don’t shuffle – complete albums at the end of the list)

KNUS Playlist – Part 2  (Cool to shuffle)

Another Spotify playlist, ‘KZEW 98 FM DALLAS’ is comprised of music from the legendary successor to KNUS. “The Zoo” playlist covers the years 1973 to 1978. The real KZEW was around in one form or another until 1989. I chose ’78 as a cutoff point because ’78, give or take, is another stylistic turning point in rock. More about the Zoo playlist another time.

The real KZEW included a lot of songs from the KNUS playlist. To preserve the unique character of each playlist, I have excluded KNUS songs from the KZEW playlist.


Yellow Submarine – The Trailer

The trailer for the MCMLXVIII film, Yellow Submarine. A gripping, if not entirely coherent tale of the Yellow forces of Good in their battle to conquer the Blue forces of Evil. For its time, it was original. All these years later, it’s still fun and surprisingly imaginative. The ‘sea of monsters’ is my favorite.

By 1968, the only notable animated films were from Disney. Comparisons with Disney’s  Fantasia were inevitable. Yellow Submarine uses a simpler animation style than Disney’s films, at times minimalist. New, specialized film/animation techniques in Yellow Submarine influenced later animators like Ralph Bakshi in Fritz the Cat, and Wizards. It also influenced Terry Gilliam and Monty Python. (Python’s John Cleese has a hilarious scene with Beatle Ringo Starr and Peter Sellers in The Magic Christian.)

Many people at the time assumed that Peter Max created the artwork for the film, because the artwork is in the style of Peter Max. Many people still believe that today, though Max had nothing to do with the film. Just like the way that people today still think the Beatles recorded all those Badfinger songs. The art director was a German illustrator, Heinz Edelmann.

The Yellow Submarine album is as unusual as the film. First, it’s unusual to release a studio album by a major band as a film soundtrack. It’s unusual that the band plays on only the first side of an album with only four new songs. The second side is George Martin’s orchestral compositions for the film.

The orchestra on Yellow Submarine was recorded in a way that no one had heard before, by isolating and close-micing some instruments. From the opening measures, there is something immediately different about the tone of the orchestra. Right away, it’s different from anything you’ve ever heard on Deutsche Grammophon, or from the film studios. It still sounds unique today.

Pantomiming live-action with music is usually a bad idea. In The Producers (1967) and Mad, Mad World (1963), for example, the music closely follows the action, and it becomes tiring very quickly.

In cartoons, the rules are different. The music almost always follows the action.  Martin’s musical pantomimes always enhance the action and the humor. With Yellow Submarine, Martin joins the ranks of great composers for animation like Carl Stalling for Warner Bros and Scott Bradley for Hanna-Barbera.

About the music itself. Side 2 opens with a musical depiction of Pepperland. It’s quaint, orderly, thoroughly boring, and a little at odds with the visual extravagance onscreen. It seems to set the musical rules, but it’s a sucker-punch.

Tracing the path from order to chaos is a common artistic motif, like the gradual destruction of Col. Ripper’s office in Dr. Strangelove, or the destruction of Pyramid Picture’s offices in Girl’s Night Out (season 2 Made In Canada).

Martin’s score descends into eerie disorder from the first few seconds after  Pepperland. As you progress through the Sea of Time, the Sea of Holes, the Sea of Monsters, the  March of the Meanies, the musical landscapes become steadily more ominous. This sequence culminates in the strangely beautiful Pepperland Laid Waste, before order is restored again in the final track, Yellow Submarine in Pepperland.

If you haven’t heard it before, I hope you’ll check out George Martin’s memorable score on Side 2 of Yellow Submarine.

A lot of Beatles fans deride this album, but in my opinion, those people are simply wrong.