As Sure As Eggs is Eggs

1. John Crowley’s Engine Summer is among my all-time favorite books. It has such an unexpected, poignant and profound ending that I immediately re-read the whole book after finishing it the first time, just to experience the text while knowing what was coming at the end. Superb!!! Marcia read it soon after I did, and also counts it as a favorite. Katelin just finished reading it for the first time yesterday. I am glad to (finally) have someone new to discuss it with!

2. To the best of my knowledge, Jim Hodder sang lead vocals on only two commercially released songs: “Dallas” and “Midnight Cruiser” by Steely Dan. “Dallas” was intended to be the group’s debut single, but it was recalled at the last minute and, along with its b-side, “Sail the Waterways,” has pretty much been completely expunged from the Steely Dan catalog by mainstays Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. (Poco did release a cover version of the song years later, though). “Midnight Cruiser” appears on the Dan’s 1972 debut album, Can’t Buy a Thrill, when the group were¬† more democratically apportioning lead vocal tracks, Hodder taking his turn alongside David Palmer (who left the band soon afterward), Fagen and Becker. Once the Fagen-sung “Do It Again” and “Reelin’ in the Years” became hits, though, he became the full-time voice of Steely Dan, and Jim Hodder (who was also the group’s drummer) became the second original member of the band to depart after 1973’s Countdown to Ecstasy. (Hodder’s photo appears on the back of Steely Dan’s breakthrough album, Pretzel Logic, though the drum tracks on the album were played by Jim Gordon, with Hodder appearing only as a backing vocalist on “Parker’s Band”). After some spotty session and studio work in his post-Steely Dan years, Jim Hodder drowned in his own swimming pool in 1990, at the age of 42. So does it seem weird for me to claim him as one of my all-time favorite singers based on just two (amazing) songs? Click those links above to hear them yourself, before calling me crazy . . .

Keep It Dark

1. I often like things that conventional wisdom says I should not, especially when it comes to my musical tastes. Case in point: everybody knows that Donald Fagen is the voice of Steely Dan, as all of their best-known and most-popular songs have featured his nasal, sardonic vocal stylings. But . . . back when Steely Dan first got started, they actually had another vocalist, named David Palmer, who took leads on a couple of songs from their 1972 debut album, Can’t Buy A Thrill, including deep cut radio favorite “Dirty Work.” Some people are aware of that fact, but not many. Even more obscurely, though, Steely Dan’s original drummer, a fellow named Jim Hodder, sang lead vocals on one song on Can’t Buy a Thrill called “Midnight Cruiser,” and also took the lead on the Dan’s long lost (or suppressed) debut single, “Dallas.” Few people have ever heard either of these songs . . . but I love them both, dearly. (“Dallas” was actually covered by Poco some years later, but nobody heard that version, either). Jim Hodder was the first of the original members of Steely Dan to get the boot from the band, and was also the first to die: he drowned in his swimming pool in 1990. Here are his two vocal spotlights, just because they deserve to be heard and remembered as important parts of the Steely Dan canon, even if you’re not supposed to think that:

Midnight Cruiser

Dallas

2. I just learned last week that intense singer-guitarist-songwriter Zoogz Rift passed away in March 2011. I guess he was so obscure that he didn’t make the obituary pages of any of the newspapers, magazines or websites that I was actively reading at that point. When I discovered that he’d flown away from this mortal coil, I went online to see what his long-time collaborator Richie Hass (an amazing percussionist) was up to. Last I’d heard, Richie was playing with the amazing Saccharine Trust, one of the few early SST Records bands still functioning deep into the 21st Century. Sadly, I then learned that Richie Hass had died of cancer in 2008, even more obscure (apparently) than Zoogz Rift was, since it took me even longer to learn of his passing. Sigh. Rift and Hass were great players, though, and they created a very impressive body of work together, cut from a Frank Zappa/Captain Beefheart sort of mold, only much more offensive, much of the time. If you haven’t heard Zoogz Rift and Richie Hass (and I’m thinking that includes 99.44% of those of you who are reading this post), here are three of my favorite songs from them, with fair warning given right up front that they contain very strong language and are not recommended for the faint of heart or weak of constitution. The first song is from the album Water (1987), while the other two are from Island of Living Puke (1986). See? I told you so . . .

I’ll Rip Your Brains Out

The Mo-Fo’s Are After Me

Shiver Me Timbers