Tuesday, November 13, 2018

I FINALLY Get One of My Holy Grails: The Beatles White Album Esher Demos from May 1968

If you've read this blog long enough (or if you know me personally), you'll know that I'm a lifelong obsessive Beatles fan. Their self-titled album from November 1968, more commonly called the White Album, is not only my favorite album of theirs but my favorite album of all time. I have both the stereo and mono mixes of the album and have never been able to get enough of it. Besides the two mixes of the album, there are two essential bootleg CDs I've had that contain additional material from these sessions. One is the Peter Sellers Tape (a tape of early/different mixes Ringo made as a gift for his friend Peter Sellers) and the other is the Esher Demos. In February 1968 the Beatles went to Rishikesh in India to study transcendental meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Ringo Starr and his wife were the first to return to England in late February, followed a couple of weeks later by Paul McCartney and Jane Asher. John Lennon, George Harrison, and their wives stayed until early April when they left after alleging the Maharishi of improper behavior toward one of the female attendees. 

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During the time they were India the band had acoustic guitars and wrote a large number of songs. Once they all were back in London, they regrouped at George Harrison's house Kinfauns in Esher to record demos of the twenty-seven new songs they'd written between Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison. Using nothing but acoustic guitars, bongos, rudimentary percussion, and their voices they put these songs down on tape and used them as a starting point for their next album which became the White Album. 

For years I've had a bootleg CD that contained twenty-four of the twenty-seven demos in so-so sound quality. Then in 1996 the Beatles released seven of the demos on Anthology 3 with pristine sound. That was a revelation as it told Beatles fans that the band had the master tape and that the complete demos existed in great sound quality. However, for years I and every other Beatles fan pined to hear all twenty-seven demos with that great sound, but as the years wore on it seemed we were waiting for something we'd never get. I'm happy to say that the long wait was finally rewarded because the Beatles have just released the complete Esher Demos as part of the 50th anniversary release of the White Album. Now we have all twenty-seven demos in flawless sound quality. Every White Album song that was written in India was demoed along with some that didn't make the cut. Of the songs demoed that didn't make the album, some were recorded during the White Album sessions but left off of the album ("Not Guilty," "What's the New Mary Jane?"), some weren't released until their Abbey Road album in 1969 ("Mean Mr. Mustard," "Polythene Pam"), some didn't see release until they showed up on solo albums after the Beatles split in 1970 (McCartney's "Junk," Lennon's "Child of Nature" which he rewrote the lyrics to and released as "Jealous Guy," and Harrison's "Circles"), and one was given away to Jackie Lomax ("Sour Milk Sea," which is the greatest lost Beatles track ever...Lomax' version featured a backing band of Harrison, McCartney, Starr, Eric Clapton, and Nicky Hopkins!). In addition, the White Album tracks we all know and love sound great in an acoustic setting. Some like "Blackbird" are very similar to the finished acoustic versions (although still beautiful) while the tracks that eventually became heavier and electric on the finished album have a completely different (though no less intense or emotional) feeling. What the entire disc shows beyond a doubt is the pure magic and genius of the Beatles. Stripped of any studio enhancements and amplification, this was just four guys sitting around a couple of microphones strumming acoustic guitars and singing and yet they still sounded fantastic. Truly gifted musicians sound great whether they're turned up to eleven or they're playing quietly in their living room and as the Esher Demos show, the Beatles were amongst the most gifted musicians and songwriters of all time. And of course any musician is only as good as the songs they write and the Beatles didn't just write great songs, they wrote timeless classics.

I can't remember being as thrilled and satisfied with a release as much as I am with this one. In essence this is a completely different version of the White Album and any world where there's more than one White Album is a world I'm happy to live in.

Friday, November 9, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Runnin' With the Devil (Van Halen)

From 1978 to 1985, Van Halen was probably the biggest and most popular rock band in America. Fronted by incomparable front man/showman David Lee Roth and guitar wizard Eddie Van Halen, their brand of hard rock coupled with catchy hooks and strong melodies sold millions of records while the high-energy party atmosphere of their live shows won them legions of devoted fans all around the world. Their story is a tale as old as time, one of high school buddies slogging over years until they made it big, enjoying huge successes, and then blowing completely apart. If you look up "sex, drugs, and rock and roll" in the dictionary there very well could be a photo of Van Halen next to it. For many (if not most) fans of the band, the original iteration of brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen, Michael Anthony, and David Lee Roth was the best version of Van Halen, maybe even the only real version of Van Halen. (I subscribe to the latter). During the years when this band was at its peak, Noel Monk was their road manager-turned-band-manager and his book Runnin' With the Devil is the story of his time guiding the band during this defining and legendary period of their career.

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Having recently read and review Greg Renoff's excellent pre-history of the band, Van Halen Rising, Runnin' With the Devil made a fitting segue picking up just about where Rennof's book left off. Noel Monk was a rock industry veteran, having stage managed Woodstock, worked for Bill Graham at the Fillmore East, and was the road manager for the Sex Pistols on their one and only tour. In early 1978 he got the opportunity to road manage a hot up and coming band called Van Halen on their first national tour as a support act for Montrose and Journey. Immediately taken with their personality and live shows, he developed a close relationship with them and gradually became their de facto manager in the absence of their nominal manager Marshall Berle. By the end of his first year with the band, they fired Berle and hired Monk as their full-fledged manager, but with a catch: he operated on a perpetually renewing thirty-day contract. Monk takes the reader through the entirety of Van Halen's early career, through all of the albums and tours, and gives us the story of what really went on behind the scenes.

The most striking thing about this book is that through it all, Monk doesn't seem like he was particularly a fan of Van Halen as people or musicians. While he does mention enjoying some of their songs, for the most part he's somewhat dismissive of most of their music although he does heap deserved praise on the final album of that run, the massively successful 1984. As far as the band members go, he has nothing but good things to say about Michael Anthony as a person (as most Van Halen fans do) and while he spares no chance to mock Eddie Van Halen's naivety and cluelessness about the world around him, he states multiple times that he had great affection for him and nothing but the utmost respect for his genius musicianship. He saves his ire for the other two members of the band: Alex Van Halen for his alcoholism and backstabbing, and David Lee Roth for his arrogance, sociopathic personality, and mood swings. Monk also didn't have a lot to say about the music other than the few songs he mentioned that he liked ("Jump," "Runnin' With the Devil"). He surprisingly said that Fair Warning, which most Van Halen fans consider to be their best album, was poor and while most fans would agree that Diver Down was their weakest release, he pulled no punches in savaging it. It was a strange thing to read about a manager who was so focused on the business side of the band and had little to no interest in them as people or musicians. Most famous managers didn't meddle with the music but at least were fans of it (think Brian Epstein or Peter Grant to name but two). The thing to keep in mind, though, is that most managers were with their bands from the beginning and endured the struggle to the top alongside them; in many cases they became friends. In the case of Monk and Van Halen, they were basically shoehorned together out of necessity, so it would follow that it wasn't really a match made out of a shared vision or affection.

Runnin' With the Devil was a fun read but it was definitely a tell-all and settled more than a few scores. It was also a chance for Monk to toot his own horn and while it's clear he worked hard and accomplished a lot in the service of Van Halen, there was a bit of a Walter Mitty-like feel to it. There didn't seem to be a single problem he didn't solve or a single innovation he wasn't 100% responsible for (as an example. the band's merchandising). He always seemed to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time doing exactly the right thing; after a while it seemed more than just a little unbelievable. I'm not saying he wasn't telling the truth as I wasn't there, but if everything he claimed happened the way he said it did then he lived a charmed life indeed. There were also a couple of instances where it seemed like he was mixing up events that either happened before his tenure (such as Kiss manager Bill Aucoin turning the band down, which was chronicled in Van Halen Rising) or Michael Anthony signing away all of his rights to the band's publishing (which happened in the early 2000s as far as I know). Still, overall Runnin' With the Devil was an enjoyable and eye-opening look at the machinations of the classic Van Halen lineup behind the scenes. One thing I will warn potential readers is to make sure you're able to separate the artist from the art. Most of what is known about the guys in the band is not flattering regardless of the source; it's all pretty much true and this book only adds to that. As long as one is able to keep that separate from the enjoyment of their music, Van Halen fans should enjoy this book.


Saturday, November 3, 2018

Baseball and Softball Gear Reviews: The Skilz Reaction Ball

Whether you play baseball or softball, have kids that do, or coach a team one of the most basic and primary skills in the sport is fielding ground balls. It's one of the first things kids are taught when they put a glove on and while it's seemingly the simplest of skills, it can take a lifetime to master. Even at the highest levels of play, fielding grounders is a challenge not least of which because the ball can often take wild and unpredictable bounces. Because of this, grounders are something that everyone playing baseball or softball needs to practice fielding throughout their playing careers. The challenge, especially with younger players, is making that practice fun so that proper skills are learned through repetition.

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For the majority of my own baseball career I was a catcher so spent most of my time honing skills such as blocking balls in the dirt, catching pop ups, and calling (and catching) different pitches. When I played in college, I moved to right or left field and was more focused on tracking and catching long fly balls while trying to avoid crashing into the fence. Now as a parent I coach my four kids who play baseball/softball (including two who play year round travel ball). I spend a lot of my free time working with my kids both individually in our free time and also with their teams since I help coach  them. Somehow a catcher like me fathered two players (my oldest daughter and my son) both of whose best position is shortstop...we're not sure what my youngest daughter will gravitate toward and my other daughter was a catcher when she played. I spend a lot of time with all of them working on hitting, fly balls, throwing, and of course fielding grounders. I've always been a firm believer in teaching a solid foundation of fundamental skills and making sure they've mastered those before building any advanced techniques upon that base. With that said, for a long time I had been struggling on how to help my kids field bad hops. As part of our routine, I would purposely hit them choppers or short hop grounders, but it became predicable and I couldn't find a good way to introduce more randomness to better simulate actual game situations.

The solution came when I was attending a baseball camp with my son this past January. At one of the infield drill stations they had buckets of these lumpy yellow balls I'd never seen before. The drill was for the boys to field the balls as they took random bounces and hops and then throw them back to the coaches. I thought these balls were cool so after the camp I asked about them and they directed me to Amazon. They kept calling them "Jeter balls" because I guess Derek Jeter had endorsed them or used them a few years ago, but I found them under the name of "reaction balls." I bought a couple of them and took them to the indoor facility where I work with my kids to use when we did infielding drills. My kids took to them right away and found them fun to use. All I do is have them get in their ready positions for fielding and roll the reaction ball to them. They then have to track it with their eyes while using proper foot- and handwork to field it cleanly as it takes it's random bounces. Sometimes this means they'll have to reach to forehand or backhand it, and sometimes this means it will take a strange hop in front of them that they'll need to block with their bodies. They both had a lot of fun working with it and still do; we've made drills with the reactions balls a regular part of our practice routine. It's definitely helped my two shortstops track and react to strange hops and that's led to fewer errors and excellent hand/eye coordination in practices and games. For $10 it's a really simple and fun way to improve fielding and the nice thing is you can even use it inside the house and practice barehanded during the winter. I always keep a couple stashed in my bag for practices and if you're a coach or have kids that play I'd definitely recommend getting one of these.

Monday, October 29, 2018

World Series Game 5: Red Sox at Los Angeles Dodgers (October 28, 2018)

Photo: www.twitter.com/redsox

THE BOSTON RED SOX ARE WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS! Damn, it feels great to write that. I spent the first twenty-four years of my life convinced that the Red Sox would never win a World Series and now here we are in 2018 and I've seen them win four of them. It's been an incredible run and this season may have been the most fun of all. Nothing can ever top the catharsis of 2004, the brilliance of 2007, or the healing power of 2013, but this 2018 team may have been the most thoroughly fun team of them all. Watching this team from spring training right through to the end of the World Series has been one of the most joyous and rewarding experiences I've ever had. Even better has been what this season has given me beyond the enjoyment of watching great baseball night in and night out. It's given me the opportunity to bond even more with my wife and children, an opportunity to take risks and hone my sports writing skills, the opportunity to write for Guy Boston Sports, and the opportunity to meet new fellow Red Sox fans and writers. This certainly won't be the last Red Sox related thing you'll read from me, but this will be the final recap of the 2018 season so let's get down to it.

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With a commanding three games to one lead in the series, the Red Sox were completely in control while the Dodgers were hanging on for dear life. Game five pitted two starting pitchers with checkered postseason histories against each other in David Price and Clayton Kershaw. While Kershaw had been roughed up in his game one start, Price was masterful in game two. From the beginning, the Red Sox were on a mission in this game and they got things started early in the first inning. Andrew Benintendi singled with one out and was followed by Steve Pearce who blasted a home run to make it 2-0 Boston after only six pitches from Kershaw. Los Angeles answered in the bottom of the inning when David Freese deposited Price's very first pitch in the right field stands to cut the lead in half. That would be all the Dodgers would do, though, as Price proceeded to mow them down over the next 7+ innings. The only spot of trouble he was in occurred in the third inning with one out when what looked to be a routine fly ball to right field from Freese was lost by JD Martinez in the twilit sky and sailed over his head for a triple. Price was able to get out of the jam unscathed with a ground out and a strikeout to end the inning. From there he cruised, going 7+ while only allowing three hits and the single run. He struck out five, walked two, and was in complete control before being lifted in the eighth. Joe Kelly and Chris Sale pitched the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, and both struck out all three of the batters they faced to end the game. In between, the Sox got insurance runs from a Mookie Betts solo homer (the first of his postseason career) in the sixth, an absolute moonshot to dead center field by JD in the seventh, and another home run from Pearce in the eighth. That was more than enough for a 5-1 series clinching win and there was no more fitting ending than to see Sale strike out that bum Manny Machado swinging down on one knee before Christian Vazquez leaped into his arms to begin the celebration. Boston outhit the Dodgers 8-3 and were ruthless and relentless in this final win. Everyone had at least one hit except for Brock Holt and Vazquez, but everyone contributed in this game, this series, and this season and for the third straight series, the Red Sox celebrated on their opponent's field.

Boston Red Sox 2018 World Series Champs

The 2018 Red Sox finished the season going 11-3 in October (4-2 at home, 7-1 on the road) with a total of 119 wins. While 2004 was the most important Red Sox team of all time, I'll declare with no hesitation that the 2018 was the best Red Sox team of all time. The sheer dominance of this team from beginning to end and the vast number of ways in which they could beat you made them a juggernaut. They were deep, talented, and resilient and it all started with Alex Cora. Aside from signing JD in the offseason, hiring Cora was the single greatest move that ownership and the front office made. Except for JD this was basically the same team they've had the last two years, but the maturation of the players under Cora's leadership and the virtuosic way in which he managed the entire season cement him as one of the greatest managers this team has ever had...and after only his first season! Everyone performed great in October, from the much maligned bullpen that seemed to completely flip the regular season script to the bench guys, one of whom became World Series MVP (looking at you, Steve Pearce). Then there's perhaps the biggest redemption story of all: David Price. Price's foibles and failures in Boston and and postseason are well known, but he's all but erased them with his pitching in the ALCS and World Series. This team was carried at times by not only its superstars, but often the supporting players. For much of this World Series while Mookie, JD, and Xander Bogaerts slumped the offensive load was borne by Pearce, Mitch Moreland, Rafael Devers, Jackie Bradley, Brock Holt, and Eduardo Nunez. They got phenomenal starting pitching from Price, Rick Porcello, and Nathan Eovaldi and spent the entirety of the postseason without Chris Sale at his best. The bullpen, so inconsistent and downright bad at times during the regular season was damn near unhittable in October. Joe Kelly, Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes, and Craig Kimbrel (after the ALCS) were automatic and contributed hugely to the team's success. From Mookie down to the 25th guy on the roster, this was truly a team accomplishment. All season when some guys were down, others guys picked them up. On and on it went, all the way to a World Series victory and after dispatching the Yankees (100 wins), Astros (103 wins), and Dodgers (92 wins), those criticisms we heard all year about how "the Red Sox only beat the bad teams" now seem pretty silly, don't they? Let's enjoy this title, Red Sox Nation; the first flushes of celebration will fade over the coming weeks, but the memories will live forever.

(Also, this isn't the last you'll hear from me when it comes to the 2018 Red Sox. I've got something else coming down the pipeline which I'll be updating you all on soon, so stay tuned!)

Sunday, October 28, 2018

World Series Game 4: Red Sox at Los Angeles Dodgers (October 27, 2018)

I don't know about anyone else, but I was an absolute wreck after the marathon game three. Between going to bed after 3:00am and needing to be up at 7:00am to get my oldest daughter ready for her softball tournament, I was exhausted on Saturday, enough so that I took a nap (and anyone who knows me knows that I hate napping). Still bleary-eyed and groggy, I settled down to watch game four hoping the Red Sox would get some measure of vengeance after giving the previous game away. With every pitcher in the postseason starting rotation unavailable due to game three, Eduardo Rodriguez got the spot start for Boston while the Dodgers countered with former Red Sox (and Massachusetts native) Rich Hill.

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Shop Boston Red Sox Postseason Gear at MLBshop.com

I really had no idea what to expect going into this game, but for the first six innings it was a classic pitcher's duel. Rodriguez was giving the Sox exactly what they needed while Hill stymied Boston's bats and held them to a single hit. For the second frustrating game in a row the top of Boston's order went hitless. I don't know what's happened but Mookie Betts (who, on the whole, has had a miserable postseason), Andrew Benintendi, Xander Bogaerts, and JD Martinez flailed away and couldn't get a hit to save their lives. The Dodgers finally broke through in the sixth and got on the scoreboard. Cody Bellinger hit a dribbler to Steve Pearce at first who threw to Christian Vazquez to get the out at home. Vazquez then tried to throw back to first to get the out but Bellinger was in the way and the throw got past Pearce allowing Justin Turner to score. That extended the inning for Yasiel Puig to crush a three run homer and put the Dodgers up 4-0. With the way Hill had been pitching and the Red Sox had (not) been hitting, that looked like it would be the game. With as tired as I was and another early softball wake up call looming (5:00am this time), I decided to go to bed. However, as I was getting ready to hit the sack, the Sox started coming back. The catalyst was Chris Sale screaming at his teammates in the dugout to fire them up, shouting out "this is embarrassing! Let's pick it up!" For some reason, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pulled Hill after he surrendered a walk and brought Ryan Madson in. Madson has been awful in the World Series, allowing every inherited runner to score. That didn't change in game four; with two on and one out, he grooved a pitch to Mitch Moreland that was absolutely obliterated and missed going out of Dodger Stadium by a few rows. That cut the lead to 4-3 and made me decide to stay up and watch the rest. In the eighth, Pearce lofted a ball to left field that sailed over the fence to knot the score at four. Then in the ninth the Red Sox offense finally exploded. Brock Holt hit a double and was driven in by Rafael Devers' single. After loading the bases, Pearce came up again and ripped a double to the gap in right center field to clear the bases and blow the game wide open. The raucous Los Angeles crowd went silent and you could hear the air sucked right out of the place. Xander finished off the scoring with an RBI single to drive Pearce in and make it 9-4. LA got two in the bottom of the ninth when Kike Hernandez hit a two-run homer off of Craig Kimbrel, but it was too little to late and Red Sox stunned the Dodgers with the 9-6 win. That gave them a stranglehold on the series with a three games to one lead.

Boston Red Sox 2018 ALCS Champs

The Red Sox were outhit in this game 9-8, but they made every single one of theirs count, especially the seven they got after Hill exited the game. As has been the case for the last few games of this series, they've been carried by the bottom of the order. Holt and Vazquez each went 1-2, Devers and Moreland were both 1-1, and Pearce went 2-4 with four RBI and two runs scored. The top of the order, apart from Xander (1-4, an RBI and a run scored) was atrocious again, with Mookie going 0-4, Benintendi going 1-5, and JD going 0-4. It's mystifying what's happened to the top of the lineup in this series and the struggles of Mookie throughout the entire postseason continue to baffle me. The fact that this team is one win away from a World Series title and has dominated the entire series with their best hitters struggling is a testament to their depth and talent. They'll try to close it out tonight when David Price gets the start. He'll be going against Clayton Kershaw who did not pitch well in game one. Even if this series heads back to Boston, history and statistics are on the Red Sox side. While it would be nice to see them clinch a second World Series at home (as they did in 2013 versus clinching on the road in 2004 and 2007), I'd have no problem if they ended it in game five. This is for two reasons: so they'd win, of course, but also so that I can start getting some sleep again!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

World Series Game 3: Red Sox at Los Angeles Dodgers (October 26, 2018)

With a 2-0 lead in the World Series heading to Los Angeles, the Red Sox had a chance to take a real stranglehold on the series by winning one of the first two games on the road. They had Rick Porcello on the mound going against Dodgers rookie Walker Buehler and even though the young Dodger had pitched well in the NLCS, to me it seemed like a mismatch: the relentless Red Sox lineup against the inexperienced rookie. We had friends of ours and their kids over for dinner and then we settled onto the couch to watch the game. However, instead of the offensive onslaught I expected from the Red Sox, we ended up with a game-long pitcher's duel and an epic battle of attrition.

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Porcello looked much sharper in this game than he did in his previous start in the ALCS, but the one mistake he made was in the third inning when he hung a ball over the plate that Joc Pederson hit over the right field fence for a 1-0 lead. Buehler allowed two hits to the Sox, one of which was a single to Jackie Bradley that was erased when he was caught in a run down and tagged out. That hurt since Christian Vazquez followed it up by hitting a single of his own. After that, Buehler mowed down the Sox batters and it was surprising to me because he mainly threw fastballs in the zone. His pitches had good movement and he was throwing hard and the Sox usually feast on those pitches; for some reason, they were either swinging and missing (to the tune of seven strikeouts) or hitting the ball hard right at Dodger fielders. The game was tied in the eighth inning when Bradley crushed a ball to right field for yet another postseason home run. That sent the game to extra innings and the Red Sox had a golden opportunity in the tenth inning to take the lead started by JD Martinez' walk. Ian Kinsler came in to pinch run and was nearly picked off of first base. Brock Holt singled to center field and advanced Kinsler to third, although he slid over the base and barely made it back before the tag. Then, Eduardo Nunez lofted a fly ball to center field that was deep enough to score Kinsler. Cody Bellinger made a pretty bad throw home that was very high, but Kinsler didn't slide and stayed upright which allowed Austin Barnes to easily tag him out. It was an atrocious sequence on the bases for Kinsler and a real missed opportunity for the team to end the game. The game remained knotted at a run apiece until the thirteenth inning when Brock Holt led off with a walk. He advanced to second base on a wild pitch. Eduardro Nunez the hit a chopper to the mound that allowed Holt to reach third, but there was no one covering first and Scott Alexander threw the ball away allowing Brock to score the go-ahead run. It looked like they'd close it out in the bottom of the inning when Nathan Eovaldi got two outs. He walked Max Muncy on a blown check swing call that should have been strike three but got two outs including the second one on Nunez catching a foul ball and falling into the stands. That allowed Muncy to advance to second which was costly when Yasiel Puig hit a grounder up the middle fielded by Kinsler. For whatever reason, Kinsler rushed an off balance throw to first even though Puig was loafing it down the line. The ball sailed and allowed Muncy to score and tie the game. Had Kinsler just eaten that ball, the runners would have been on first and third for when the next batter, Austin Barnes, popped up to end the inning and the game. The game slogged along to the eighteenth inning and crossed 3:00am on the East Coast until Muncy hit a solo homer in the bottom of the inning to help the Dodgers escape with a 3-2 win. It was the longest game both in terms of time and innings in World Series history and my wife and I stayed up until the bitter end.

Boston Red Sox 2018 ALCS Champs

This was an incredibly frustrating loss for the Red Sox for a variety of reasons. Mookie Betts, JD, and Xander Bogaerts all combined to go 0-18 and as a team, Boston looked like they forgot how to hit fastballs. I thought Alex Cora pulled Porcello a bit too soon after he only went 4.2 innings. He'd only walked one while striking out five and only gave up one run (the Pederson homer) on three hits. I felt like Cora was a bit too quick with the hook there. Kinsler absolutely cost the team this game, first in the tenth inning with his horrendous baserunning (which they were able to overcome) and again in the thirteenth with his boneheaded fielding error. Had he held on to the ball, Muncy (who shouldn't have been on base anyway...more on that in a minute) would have stayed at third and the following batter (Barnes) would have popped up to end the game. Speaking of Muncy, the home plate umpiring was again atrocious. Home plate umpire Ted Barrett's strike zone kept getting wider and wider and wider as the game went on but he was maddeningly inconsistent. Just like what we saw in the first two games of this series, pitches in the exact same locations were being called balls sometimes and strikes others. There were some pitches over the middle of the plate that were called balls and others six inches too low or off the side that were called strikes. He was doing it to both teams and it made for an annoying night. Also, the umpires absolutely blew the call on Muncy's check swing in the thirteenth. The replay clearly showed the head of his bat went more than halfway, but I think they were fooled by the angle since his hands were so far out in front. That's not why the Sox lost the game, though; their sudden and baffling power outage and Kinsler's gaffe are the reasons why. The National League game is also annoying with the constant substitutions and pitching changes due to have to account for the gaping hole in each lineup (i.e. the pitchers hitting). Both teams had emptied the benches and bullpens by the twelfth or thirteenth inning and from there it was a battle of attrition. One guy who left it all out there was Nathan Eovaldi who pitched six incredible innings of relief and whose only blemish was the final homer to Muncy which, again, should never have even happened. You win some and you lose some and the Sox are still in great shape. It took a rookie pitching the game of his life, the entire Red Sox team forgetting how to hit fastballs, and a terrible fielding error for the Dodgers to win. We'll see how both teams come out for game four on Saturday night. Both squads will be exhausted and depleted and the Red Sox should be doubly angry for knowing they gave this game away. I know I am.

Friday, October 26, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Thanks a Lot Mr. Kibblewhite - My Story (Roger Daltrey of the Who)

The Who are just a hair behind the Beatles as my all time favorite band. Their music and lyrics have meant more to me in my life than just about anyone else and their Quadrophenia album literally saved my life when I was a teenager. When I was learning to play the guitar and write songs, I wanted to be in the Who and listening to and watching footage of them live in their prime still gives me chills. They're one of the few bands I've read about and studied almost as much as the Beatles and for long time readers of this site, you'll remember all of the many different Who related books I've reviewed over the years. Two of my favorites were Pete Townshend's autobiography and Tony Fletcher's excellent Keith Moon biography. With the knowledge that John Entwistle never wrote a book and that no one has bothered to write a detailed biography of him (which is a shame), the only other book I ever wanted was a good one about Roger. A few years back I reviewed the only available biography on the Who's legendary frontman and singer and while it was serviceable, it wasn't terribly insightful or definitive. When I first heard more than a year ago that Roger was finally writing his memoir and that it would be released in autumn 2018 I couldn't wait. After a year of waiting and expectation, his book entitled Thanks a Lot Mr. Kibblewhite - My Story was released. While I found the title strange (until I learned within the book what it meant) I eagerly dove into the book to see if it would measure up to my expectations and how it would compare to Pete's book.

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We all know that Pete and Roger are two very different personalities; that tension and dichotomy was part of what made the Who so great and that's borne out in their respective books even down to the writing style. While Pete is still very much the tortured genius who wrote in a florid, literary style, Roger is just the opposite. He's very secure in where and who he is and very straightforward. There's also a warmth and humor to his writing style that was evident from the first pages. The press release for the book stated that Roger sat down for interviews about his life and wrote the book himself based on that material. His life is presented chronologically starting with his birth in March 1944 during the final phase of the German Blitz of London in World War II.  From here he goes into some detail about his childhood in the waning years of the war, meeting his father for the first time once he was back from the fighting in Europe, and his relatively simple and happy childhood. Roger takes us through his miserable teenage years at school and it is here where we finally learn what the strange title to his book means. Mr. Kibblewhite was the headmaster who expelled Roger from school after telling him he'd "never make anything of your life." From here, Roger takes the reader through an abridged and breezy tour of his life, hitting on several highlights and lowlights but never going into too much depth. The bulk of the story is, of course, made up of the Who's career (and predominantly their "real" career of 1964-1978, but there's also a fair amount dedicated to their resurgent touring career of 1996 to the present). The other major thread running throughout the book is his marriage to Heather, his companion since 1968 and his wife since 1971.

Those looking for new information or a deep-dive look at Roger's life won't find it in this book. As opposed to a soul-baring memoir (see: Pete's book), Roger's feels more like an affectionate look back at all of the things he's accomplished in life. That's not to say that it's bad, it's just different from what I was expecting. Before I continue, I apologize for the repeated comparisons to Pete and his book, but as the two most high profile (and surviving) members of the Who, they're inevitable. Whereas Pete's book is like listening in to him laying on a psychiatrist's couch, Roger's is more like sitting in a pub having a beer while he tells stories from his past. This is helped by the warm tone and dry humor peppering the prose. It was a relatively quick read and at just over 240 pages not a particularly deep one. This isn't meant as a knock, though. Unlike Pete, Roger is a simple man and I am by no means implying that as a slight on his intelligence; while Pete was the musical genius behind the Who, Roger was a genius as well in his ability to get inside of the characters and emotions Pete wrong about to give them a life and a voice. Rather, I mean that Roger is an uncomplicated guy; he handles his problems, moves on from them, and doesn't hold too much resentment or regret over the majority of them (again, contrast this with Townshend). It would only stand to figure that his book would reflect this the way Pete's reflected all of his (Townshend's) neuroses. While it doesn't offer anything too deep beyond what most dedicated Who fans already know about the man, Daltrey's book is an enjoyable read and the portrait of a man who seems to be utterly at peace with his life, what he's accomplished, and where he is now. In a lot of ways, that's more interesting (and unusual) in rock and roll than the opposite. There were no great revelations in Roger's book, but I enjoyed learning about his perspective on his life and career and I'm glad those words straight from the man himself. If you're a Who fan I suspect you will, too.