Program Notes

My wife is a genius, but I never mention her because she likes anonymity. (You would too if you were married to me.) She does all kinds of things, including she reads like 30 or 40 hardcovers a day, occasionally turning me on to -- well, for example, how this novelist Mark Richards wrote something about "chimney red and pumpkin orange." That's important. In his classic tale of a blind, skin-diseased Chihuahua, "Frank's Wild Years," Tom Waits had long ago described a burning house as "all Halloween orange and chimney red." Okay, so it's not so important maybe, but it is to me. My wife says writers are walking egos with word processors. Actually, that's my line. However, I must admit most of the good lines in this column (if there ever are any) are hers, uncredited. I might as well write novels. $

One of my wife's good lines this week: "I think the irony isn't that Dylan sold the rights to one of his songs to some big accounting firm. The ironic thing's that the song he sold was 'The Times They Are A-Changin'.'"

The ASCAP showcase orchestrated by powerbrokers John Tovar and Michael Eiseman provided an amazing night of music and a sort of Washington Square reunion. The event took place at the Dark Room, which I haven't really been to since it was Washington Square. (The pizza is actually damn good, New Yawk style, not that goat cheese and avocado crap you'd expect on Poseur Row.) After enduring Aerosmith, Kevin Cornish showed up, mentioning something to Jeff about setting us up with some tequila shots, and suddenly all those sodden nights at the Square flashed back. At one point I saw this shave-head Latin-looking guy smash into ASCAP's Jonathan Love. I grabbed my beer bottle by the top and stood up, but by then the guy had turned around and was shaking hands with Love. Meester Lara. "I've known Jonathan for years," Lara explained. Nil says he's getting lots of exposure on Latin MTV and that he'll play Stephen Talkhouse tomorrow (Friday).

The night started ugly when John Camacho tried to pick a fight with me over my disinterest in the new Bruce song, "Streets of Philadelphia." The Goods took the stage, and John announced that they were dedicating their first song to "Mr. Greg Baker, the non-Springsteen believer." The Goods (who crossed out the word "showcase" on their flyer and inserted "audition") performed a mix of new tunes and 5 Steps to Getting Signed nuggets. Being a professional music critic and all, I should review the show here, but I don't want to. Suffice to say at least two of the newer songs are radio-ready monster hits, if radio was ready to play any good music. And that the Goods, though different now, remain one of the best live bands to ever walk the Earth.

The Valerie Archon band also impressed, though the set took a while to take off. I'm not familiar with Val's current work (Tovar keeps promising me a tape), which probably explains why the first few songs didn't hit me at all. The playing was great, the jams surpassed the verse-chorus parts, and the last three songs in the set totally kicked ass.

I Don't Know played third. I don't have much else to say about these guys -- you either know or don't. Ferny called a couple of days later to say that the band did not perform at Stephen Talkhouse after the Taj Mahal concert as scheduled. "Taj ran real late," Ferny says. "The club told us it was too late for us to play, so we couldn't play. We want to extend our apologies to anyone who went over to check us out." I Don't Know plays Reunion Room tomorrow (Friday).

Also showcasing for ASCAP was Broken Spectacles, who are now a four-piece (plus a sax guest on the first song of the set). No video or big stage presentation this time, just that all-powerful three-frontmen-and-drummer lineup laying out Aftermath tunes as if the lives of everyone in the room depended on it. I drove home after the Specs's set, and I got that same tripped-out feeling I got when I first heard the advance cassette (the Aftermath CD is still in the works; the band wants high-quality packaging). The Specs songs I heard that night are still ringing.

None of those four bands is signed to a major label yet, but guess who is? Easy, right? It's official, Mary Karlzen will be signing with Atlantic Records. The deal is done, she and manager Rich Ulloa need only to jet up to New Yawk and ink the papers. My hope -- beyond that her first Atlantic album sells 20 million copies out of the box -- is that other bands will greet this news not with envy but with pride. In case you still haven't realized this, it's all about faith. Stick with it and the world will come around.

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Greg Baker