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Houston Nightspots 1980-1986

On this website over the years, I’ve had a lot of traffic coming to read “A Look Back at Gilley’s 1980.”  However, by and large, this is primarily my writer’s website with book reports, photos, and self-serving promo’s for indy paperbacks I’ve published.  I find it ironic (or is it just typical of the times?) that more people are landing here to read about a saloon than an opinion on the artistry of Goldfinch, or what it’s like trying to read Proust.

Here are some of the other places I remember from the early 80s in Houston. Those were great days. If you were there, you’ll recall some of them.  I’ll add to the list as they come to mind. (though some I cant remember their names).

Any places you recall and want to share?    -> wpmfla at gmail.

Todd’s – Had the feel of a neighborhood bar, usually a good crowd, polite, well-to-do, and above all looking for love. Todds was one of the best meet markets on the Southwest Side. The dancing was full throttle by 5 pm. For the less energetic, there was backgammon.

Shanghai Red’s – Red-hot happy hour with dancing and a free buffet, all with a great view right on the Ship Channel. Disadvantaged locals ate for free and left, like a community service.

San Antone Rose – Cold longnecks, mixed dancing with C/W and Top 40, a little for everyone. On San Felipe, West Side. The Rose had a free happy hour buffet too. Their tamales were delicious, but smelly. You were aware of them for 24 hours after ingestion.

Cowboys – A crowded sort of upscale C/W bar. I think it was on Westheimer or Richmond, out west. I was there when a fight broke out. A friend of mine got clobbered.

Spats – A high-end bar and dance place in a strip office center near the Galleria. You had to know where it was. Beautiful people, heavy druggy amorous glamorous and booze-soaked. A paragon of disco’s.

Munchies – an artsy ice-house on Bissonett near Rice with string quartet music and mimes. There was another great ice-house closer to Bellaire but I can’t recall its name.

Chaucer’s – an Arts Museum area bar on Bissonett and Montrose in the basement of the old Plaza Hotel. My favorite after-work hangout. I had a crush on Vivienne, the bartender. One night I had too many and slept in the hotel’s “crash room.”.

Marfreless – in River Oaks, an unmarked somewhat snooty bar for lovers with sofas and curtained nooks. I went there with dates several times as one more masher in the crowd.

Sillouhette Lounge – on the unfashionable side of Bellaire Blvd, a cozy neighborhood nudie club.  Friendly, non-threatening. They don’t make em like that anymore.

Rockefellers – in the Heights, an old bank turned into a mini concert hall with big name shows and retro nightclub tables. I went on invitation from friends who were gay.  Those guys were always tuned in to the trendiest places in town.

Cooters – I think that was the name, anyway. A large dance club and saloon on the opposite end of the shopping plaza from Todd’s, on Richmond Avenue.  Had the reputation of a pick-up joint. Some of the baseball Astros drank there. Some of the visiting Mets were arrested there.

Shamrock Hilton – The hottest place in town on March 17th. Great ballroom drunken mix. Lots of random kissing. One eventually learned to book a room far in advance.

 

 

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I (still) Like Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams

2/25/17:  Saw her last night in concert at the Parker Playhouse in Ft. Lauderdale, where she and her band Buick 6 rocked the joint with 21 songs. Her lyrics are memorable and vivid. She brings a dash of politics along and is no fan of “liars and fear-mongers,” directed currently to you-know-who. Standing ovations by a largely sixty-ish crowd of 1200, a great show.

She has her own label now and can be more like Dylan, producing records without limitations, like making long double albums in the spirit of Blonde on Blonde.

below from post on 11/16/2012

Folks in my immediate circle thought it odd that I liked Lucinda Williams so much.

She’s so…country, they said.

This was in 1998 when the “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” album caught my attention.

She is country, I’d answer, but much more.

The “Car Wheels “album is a poetry chapbook. Each piece tries to outdo the other, though they all are cut from the same thematic cloth and connect in the end. Behind excellent guitar work, she lays the Southern Delta twang on thick.  The songs are about the chaos of love but they are tidily produced. Some, as it turns out, sound even better in future performances, especially with a minimalized band.

Her songs have pieces that can be transformed and unleashed anew.

Her “Essence” album is raw and sensual. The rock elements of blues and hard surf guitar heavy with reverb foreshadow her later days to come with Buick 6.

I like her albums “Blessed” and “West.” They have their own milieu and style, and she explores worlds beyond her Delta roots. She pushes the envelope stylistically without spinning out of character.

She’s a Dylan figure in the sense that she’s an original, the real deal, ragged edges be damned. Her twang is similar to Bob singing though his nose, and similarly her voice was sweeter and less torn up when she was younger. Both are poets (Lucinda’s father, Miller Williams, is a noted national poet and teacher who read at Clinton’s inauguration). They are individualists who eschew the usual media PR mill. Lucinda’s been down the road and has wisdom to add to all that born talent for writing. Just as you can’t lock Dylan into the folk category, you can’t label her either. They never sing the same song the same way twice. They’re artists and rebels.

In the French Quarter  one morning I had breakfast at a beer and eggs dive. Someone put Lucinda on the jukebox, and the universe felt complete.

A younger Lucinda performance from 1989.

No one I’ve heard can do a sad songs about love and loss like Lucinda can.

 “Copenhagen,” (audio on YouTube)

I’d recommend anyone trying out Lucinda to try the Fillmore concert double album.  It has a good cross-sampling of her work, and the band that is with her that night is both sublime and red hot, perfectly in sync with her. She sings the best ever, her twang toned down, and the guitars complement her. Some fans (and she has her own cult) prefer watching her DVD performances. Lucinda on video is okay by me too, but I find it distracting whenever she refers to a three-ring binder for lyrics. Yet who can expect a poet to remember the volume of their work, word for word?

Better yet, follow her tour and get a ticket to see her live.

Looking Back at La Valse

Some Background Stuff paraphrased from Wiki:

Ravel originally wrote La Valse as a ballet piece that celebrates Johann Strauss and the waltz form. Unsure what to say of its new and radical form, critics described the piece as a metaphor, one that made socio-political statements about deconstruction and decline. Ravel said otherwise, that “one should only see in it what the music expresses: an ascending progression of sonority, to which the stage comes along to add light and movement.”

The composer’s preface notes say: “Through swirling clouds, waltzing couples may be faintly distinguished. The clouds gradually scatter…one sees an immense hall peopled with a whirling crowd. The scene is gradually illuminated. The light of the chandeliers bursts forth at the fortissimo…”

Some Stuff from Me:

I imagine to hear it played live by a symphony in New York or Paris or Vienna must be an out of body experience. I can only speak to the one time I saw it live, which was on a summer evening in Houston. I was still a young man then, and an even younger woman was in my company. We were one of the couples, for a brief time existing more in the swirling clouds than grounded.

The music at first had a traditional aesthetic and was beautiful and idyllic. Then rebellion seized the melody. The rhythm halted and skipped, and an unexpected dissonance took hold. The sections of order and beauty volleyed with sections of discord.

During the concert, an explosive electrical storm took place over downtown Houston. Lightning flashed through the concert hall windows. If the chandeliers inside amped up, I doubt anyone noticed. When all the high musical tension was over, I felt a sense of relief. Through the doors the air smelled of fresh rain.

A version by the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France:

On the Road (the movie)

otrExpecting some other mood to the presentation, I was distracted during the first half.  The screenplay emphasis is on free beatnik love, I suppose. Anyone with everyone, we get it. After repeated scenes like “Dean does Denver” the movie was beginning to seem like the Kristen Stewart SkinFlick Hour. It sells tickets, they say. And there’s no doubt she is nice looking.

I wondered why the opening half didn’t have more emphasis on Sal (Kerouac) the writer and his paradoxical visions of beauty and anguish, of life and the American culture, the countryside and its soul.  Instead we get endless cigarettes and a repetitious display of Dean’s (Neal Cassady’s) fancy for nose inhalers. They gave us bebop music scenes but that was only one facet of Beat. Beat was about absorbing everything, living in the moment, not just Dean’s capacity for getting laid.

I’ve read the book more than twice, and never saw in it things the director included.  I barely remember reading parts about Jack’s mom, and the movie showed her several times. The movie says Sal met Dean “after his father died” which is conveniently inconsistent with the book, in which Sal meets Dean right after Sal and his wife have split up.

OTR has no real compelling storyline.  It must have driven the screenwriters crazy. Other parts are great: the visuals, the editing, the building interest in the guys as they journeyed through their passages. Good actors appear in bit parts.  When Jack K’s writing was quoted, those narrations raised the hair on the back of my neck. The Ginsberg quotes did the same.

Once Dean’s unhappy wives leave the script, the movie improves.  The road scenes are good, the William Burroughs scenes are vivid, and the Mexico sequence artfully depicts a drunken nightmare of a trip.  From that point, the novel (slash movie) hits its stride and pushes to a conclusion.  At the end I felt like I had watched a movie of some merit, and one Francis Ford Coppola’s name is rightfully attached to.

Note on casting….the actor who played Sal didn’t look like Kerouac, but more like Rory McElroy.