Saturday, November 24, 2007

Mike Leach, James Luther Dickinson and the Ham Factor

A few weeks ago, Mike Leach, my favorite college football coach because he went to law school and holds up pirates as role models, went on a tirade after Tech lost to the University of Texas in Austin. He got so pissed during the postgame press conference that he singled out the officials, invoking the chicken-egg metaphor,

It’s a little like breakfast - you eat ham and eggs. As coaches and players, we’re like the ham. You see - the chicken’s involved but the pig’s committed. We’re like the pig, they’re like the chicken. They’re involved, but everything we have rides on this.

New York Times

Jim Dickinson writes that in studio circles in Memphis, this is referred to as the Ham Factor:
"This breakfast analogy is referred to in audio engineering as the Ham Factor. It refers to such practices as recording echo or committing processed or effected sound to tape in the tracking or overdub process rather than waiting 'til the mix. So- and -so has a high Ham
Factor- one would say. I have always said the chicken makes a "contribution," but "involved" in truly better!"

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Boyd Elder, Artist of the Eagles

Historian Lonn Taylor told me that art critic Dave Hickey said the only living artist in Texas worth a shit is in Valentine. Hickey was referring to Boyd Elder. Boyd's a great visual artist but is best known for doing the album covers for the band the Eagles back in the day.

I was out at Boyd's and he showed me his designs for biker wear bearing his artwork.
For your edification, here's a few samples. Note: that's Boyd in the last two shots.

Roky Erickson, Billy Gibbons rock

I wasn't there, but my friendly spy attended last night's Austin City Limits taping of Roky Erickson backed by an all-star band including Billy F. Gibbons on ZZ Top. The pairing marked the reunification of the Houston psychedelic scene of the mid-Sixties, which predated the Summer of Love in San Francisco by two years. At that time, Billy F. led the Moving Sidewalks who opened shows for Jimi Hendrix' first major tour of the United States and Roky was lead yowler of the 13th Floor Elevators who recorded for Houston's International Artists label.

Since then, Roky's been through hell and back via electric shock therapy, time in the Rusk nuthouse, bouts with drugs, and serial episodes of people trying to "save" him. He's better now. Billy F. went through shit too. He formed ZZ Top which became the Biggest Rock Band ever from Texas at the price of being "guided" by Bill Ham who in the interest of burnishing mystique, prevented Billy (and Frank and Dusty) from sitting in with other musicians or being in public in any form or fashion other than That Lil' Ole Band from Texas. That clampdown eventually turned Billy F. into this era's Howard Hughes.

Now that Roky's better and Billy and Bill Ham have parted ways, we have a moment like this. Unfortunately, Billy was given few opportunities to solo behind Roky due to Cam King's guitar-hogging (hey, I'm repeating what I heard) but when he did, the ol ACL studio 5A shook.

Texas psychedelic music is back (it really never went away) , and pretty soon, you'll be able to see and hear proof of that on TV.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

where the pavement ends in Texas

The fun begins where the pavement ends on Pinto Canyon Road, Farm-to-Market Road 2810, my favorite road in Texas as I wrote in Texas Monthly magazine, October, 1997. Ten years later to the month, I got off the dirt road that drop drops below the Candelaria Rim where the deer and the antelope really do play among the lush grasses of the Marfa highlands, and got up close and personal with the rugged low desert of creosote, prickly pear, ocotillo, catsclaw, lechugilla and sotol that hugs the rocky soil all the way to the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo. Some consider this harsh, hard country but I prefer the way Billy Pat McKinney puts it - pure raw.

We rounded up three Polaris Ranger All-Terrain Vehicles, fortified golf cart-sized vehicles with powerful engines, roll bars, and four-wheel drive made to carry five people (two standing in back) to places conventional backcountry vehicles cannot.

The names of the places were magic, but so were the places. Cosmic Cave, Cerro Chino, Cleveland Peak, Arroyo Tinaja Blanco, Cerro Prado, Meteor Crater, the UFO landing site,

Rancho Nuevo the name given the complex of abandoned adobe buildings one mile from the Candelaria garrison with high heels scattered throughout the nearby the junk heap, the Dancing Rocks Petroglyphs, Desperation Mesa, Arroyo Penales, Flavin’s Lookout, Arroyo Chupadero, the Valley of the Kings, whose spires and towers resembled apartment complexes or something manmade from a distance and up close inspired flashbacks of the strange statuary above the entrance of the Notre Dame in Paris.

Cerro Chino

After staring at it for a few days, I think I figured out why Cerro Chino is called Cerro Chino. Viewed from the northwest, at its narrowest, the mountain appears almost triangular, like a coolie's hat, thus, the Chinese appellation.

Sightings in the wild: wild burro, red fox, badger, rabbits, Jackrabbits, red wasps,

Chinati Hot Springs


peyote cactus, abandoned silver mine, migrating monarch butterflies, mockingbirds, titmice, javelina skull, skittish Mule deer doe and her two fawns, B-1 bomber skimming the rimrock,

cave pictographs and

rock petroglyphs,

grinding holes, and 2,500 year old arrow points found at sites occupied by humans as far as 6,500 years ago, fig tree groves, red cap rocks, vanilla swirls of volcanic tuff, red streaks of iron deposits, melting ridging and other weird geological formations,

Donald Judd’s grave and last stand

a cowboy’s grave and a miner’s grave, and most of all,

giant vistas.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Cool Austin Memories

Clex sent me an email about his/her website dedicated to the cool Austin of yesteryear, covering such icons as Sir Doug and Ray Hennig, the Cosmic Cowboy phenom, places like the Dry Creek Inn, Soap Creek Saloon and the Alamo Hotel, and events like Aqua Fest and the North Austin vs South Austin Tug-O-War. Visitors are urged to weigh in with their own memories by contributing to Austin's collective memory bank.

Joe Nick says, Check it out: