Super productive evening as we turned a chord noodle from the notebook into a choice new number.

There were also some actual tears of laughter over counting misfires:
“One… One… One… SAKE.”


“So, that’s six, two, four, two, three?”
“No, the second two is part of the three. The two is just the first bit of the three, twice.”

Combining O, for the A to Z Challenge, with my normal Monday music-related ‘Rock Notes’, we are drawn ineluctably to the simple yet potent phrase ‘One, Two, Three, Four’.

The count-off – “Fellas, can I count it off?” – has on occasion been elevated to a special place of importance within records (James Brown’s Sex Machine, as quoted above). Many variants have occurred down the years. ‘Five, six seven, eight’. Mixing it up linguistically, with ‘Uno, dos, tres, cuatro,’ as used by the divine S’Express, for s’example. ‘Uno, dos, tres, catorce,’ U2 not only mixing it up linguistically but numerically, with the ’14’ signifying the precise number of people who heard that song’s count-off and didn’t hate it.

However, none of these start with O, and so today that means that we have to turn, of course, to the undisputed President of Count-Offs; Count Offula: the Boss, Bruce Springsteen.

Not just one but TWO count-offs. OK, the ‘four’ seems a little lost in the flood, but, y’know, you have to be able to really count to take such liberties. The count-off before the final verse (“The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive…”), every single time I hear this song in any context, causes me extensive goosebumps. Hey ho, rock n roll, deliver me from nowhere.

You too can learn the way of the count-off. Here’s a Springsteen tutorial.

‘Hut! Hoo! Hee! Hoa!’

Rock ACTION was held up by traffic issues this evening, with everyone in the band except me falling prey to various impediments, including the feared Double Train Crossing Barrier Delay (where one train is delayed by 10 minutes and the signal box operator has to leave the barrier down). At first I thought I might have missed a meeting, but then I figured I’d enjoy having the space to myself. For the first half hour or so I was set up and experimenting with different distorto-squeal pedal settings and throwing shapes like Ann Wilson.

This messing brought about three different chord sequences I hadn’t expected, and also revealed that the channel I thought was totally stuck on treble boost had somehow managed to return to clean again… only to now have developed a random fade-out. When Jason the bassist got there I said ‘Hey, I’ll play you what I was just doing then, check this out!’ and the guitar went kerrronk. “Yeah, it probably needs a trip to the repair shop,” he said.

Gah! Luckily it mostly stayed on after that, but the uncertainty seemed of a piece with the freeform punctuality and a general air of kit exploration. Gordon was taking issue with a China Splash cymbal (‘It’s on its last chance, the wee bastard,’) and Linz was experimenting with notebook, pen and lots of wordless melodies. Jason had fixed the mild feedback issues from the previous week, and everything just locked in really quickly.

Somehow, even given the short time we had left by the time we’d got everything set up, we managed to plough successfully into the two songs we’ve been working on, and cranked out a rough sketch for another one. The chords have been floating round for some time, but it’s always lacked a section, so perhaps my favourite moment of the evening came when guitar and bass locked into the very notes required, as if by mind sync.

Song of the (start of the) evening:

[Voiceover] The China Splash did enough to earn a reprieve.

I wasn’t kidding when I suggested that Civilization II was a menace to one’s productivity (which is down, so I suggest building a Factory). It has now been uninstalled, and normal life can resume. Let us never speak of it again.

Friday last, 22nd June 2012, to the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, UK, to watch Bruce Spingsteen and the E Street Band.

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of the high esteem in which I hold The Boss. You might wish to cast an eye over this post, part of the interminable “25 albums that changed my life” series, on Born in the USA or the one about The Big Man, the late Clarence Clemons. If you’re on the Mortal Bath homepage, you could also click on the ‘hey ho rock n roll deliver me from nowhere’ tag, a Bruce quote that serves as one of my enduring prayers.

We arrived in a moderate fluster about five minutes after he was supposed to start, realised he hadn’t, sauntered in, grabbed a beer, made our way down to the pitch, looked around a bit and then he came on pretty much immediately. Timing’s everything. Venuewise, the stadium is a big prefab-looking number, everything one might expect from a building sponsored by an airline, with all the warm permanence of a concession stand in a Departure Lounge. Nice lines, just a bit plastic-looking.

Bruce, and the E Street Band, are more durable. With a combined age of about 10,500, they still played for pretty much three and a half hours. This is standard – they managed four and a half at a gig in Madrid. Watching the BBC’s Hackney Weekend festival footage over the weekend after, I was hard pushed to name more than about three artists that might be capable of or inclined to doing the same thing. Different ball parks, perhaps different leagues, perhaps not even the same sports.

Ah, look, anyway, Bruce was great. Sincerely uplifting, as a collective experience and as a personal experience. I couldn’t believe no one else around me was as excited that they played The E Street Shuffle!

Maybe they were, they just didn’t shriek with joy and do the Snoopy dance for 10 minutes.

The only thing I can add to any of this is a couple of clips, 20 minutes of performance, filmed by YouTube users LucyMearns and Outrightunlawful – thanks to whom for their sterling work. It’s all here: crowd dancing, James Brown-esque faux-fatigue, panto cameo by Miami Steve and his Magic Sponge, triumphant shirt removal, beautifully judged tribute to Clarence… oh, and two pretty amazing songs.

“Bootleggers! Roll your tapes!”

…and Hey ho, rock n roll! Delivering us from nowhere.