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Entry date: 1-20-2024 – Happy Birthday Elise – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

Thirty years old seemed like such a milestone back in 1999. Now, it seems like a different milestone as I prepare to help Elise celebrate this big day. Your 20s are over, kid. Good riddance, if you ask me. The 30s were better for me than my 20s. In fact, while I was in my 30s, I got to meet Elise.

 

When Rhondi and I met back in 2005 and it came time for me to meet her (now “our”) children, I felt an immediate bond start to grow with Elise. Maybe it was because my other three stepchildren had a dad who was in the picture, who knows, but we started to spend a little time together and I knew I wanted her to feel like she was my daughter someday. I started doing little things to try and make her feel like she had someone in her life, other than her mom and grandpa, that was not going to run away.

 

I fondly recall that my dad, Grampa Tom to Elise, gave me some Suns tickets in early 2006 and she and I got to see a Suns win and a great game by Lebron James. This was around the time we were about to all move in together at the first house we shared on Bethany Home and 10th Street. Just before, I think, and the idea of having four daughters (as Teresa was just four months or so away from being born) was getting very real to me.

 

It has been a privilege to watch Elise grow and, though it hasn’t always been easy because of different choices we have all made, I’m happy to be where we are now and continuing to grow the bond of father and daughter. She has brought a lot of joy to my life, and I am very, very thankful for her.

 

*****

 

I’ll be spinning some of the following record at Elise’s party later tonight.

 

*****

 

My memory is a bit hazy as to exactly when I became aware of Happy Mondays. I know it wasn’t long afterwards, that I picked up Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches on CD. It must’ve been 1990 because that was when the record came out and it was also when I saw the band live in Hollywood with Black Dot and Zack when they opened for the Pixies at the Palladium.

 

Zack and I flew out and met Dot in LA. She was housesitting for the parents of a friend, so we hung out for a few days, went to the show, and also hit Magic Mountain. It was a lot of fun. It was also the last time I ever did cocaine, but that is another story all together.

 

I have a soft spot for music with total groove and that’s exactly what you will find if you drop the needle on Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches. I’ve picked up the vinyl because spinning Happy Mondays while DJing is a sure way to get people grooving. I feel like Robyn Hitchcock at the moment as I’ve used the words groove and grooving in this paragraph.

 

“Step On” was probably the first song I heard by Happy Mondays, but I totally love “Kinky Afro,” which kicks off the record. “Yippie, Yippie, Yai, Yai, Yay/I had to crucify some brother today,” is such a great line. The whole song just sets the tone for Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches. It is clear these guys liked their substances and it’s a great record to get high to and dance.

 

When I saw them live, I was initially confused by Bez, their hype man/dancing fool. It didn’t take long, though, to give in to my inhibitions and just start dancing right along with him. They were just so hip and laid back and cool. It bummed me out they way they were depicted in 24 Hour Party People (the film about Factory Records and the Manchester scene), but apparently, they weren’t the most together people off stage.

 

That matters not, though. The second song, “God’s Cop” has a little bit of swanky rock guitar over a hypnotic bass line and slinky beat. Shaun Ryder, the irascible vocalist, just writes killer lyrics, and “God’s Cop” is a great example. I love how the bridge of the song is reminiscent of early 80s British new wave and then we get right back to, you guessed it, the groove.

 

Over the years I’ve grown so familiar with Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches. There was a time when I wanted to turn everyone onto it in the early 90s. If given the chance, I’m sure I played it for just about anyone who would listen. I listened to it a lot and it’s still a go to record for me when I need to relax. It’s kind of like taking a puff of some really mellow sativa and hopping on an innertube on a river of mellow gold.

 

There isn’t one bad song on the record. Even “Grandbag’s Funeral” is super cool even though it is kind of a mess. It’s probably one of the cooler guitar riffs on Pills ‘n’ Thrills. I am reminded, too, as I think about it, that I went about 25 or so years calling this record by the wrong name. I always referred to it as “Pills, Thrills, and Bellyaches.” Close, I suppose.

 

The laid back, rock steady beat of “Loose Fit” is a perfect lead in to the sublime “Dennis And Lois.” I think I will always love “Step On” the most, but this sneaky one is awesome. It’s probably the interplay of the bass and keyboard. I can’t imagine ever getting to the point where I don’t want to hear it.

 

“Bob’s Yer Uncle” is another fantastic song. Whoever determined the song order really hit it out of the park for the middle of the record. This is supposed to be a sexy romp, but it is just a full-on groove (again, sheesh) where Shaun Ryder’s vocals are oozing a little sleaziness and Paul Ryder’s bass stands out again.

 

Recently I learned that “Step On” is a song by John Kongos. You might recognize the name as his sons have had some success as the band, Kongos. I didn’t know that back in the day, but I’ve always loved the line, “You’re twisting my mellon man, you know talk so good, you’re twisting my mellon, man.” I have to believe that was something Shaun Ryder added…and after looking it up, I don’t see those lines from John Kongos original lyrics.

 

The last two songs, “Holiday” and “Harmony” are the type of songs that make me want to learn a bunch of Paul Ryder’s bass lines. Sadly, Paul Ryder is not with us anymore. He died summer before last in 2022. I can’t imagine Happy Mondays going on without him, but I did read that they played a gig after he died. I feel for whoever played the bass for that one. Paul Ryder was very, very good.

 

In the end, though, the record just stops cold. All of the sudden, silence. I love that.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



Many moons ago.

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