Whatever’s On My Mind
A Eulogy, a Rant and an Appreciation

I grew up with Star Trek.

I know this isn’t an original observation. There are certainly fewer people in the world who didn’t grow up with Star Trek than there are who did. Nevertheless, I grew up with Star Trek. My father was a fan, and I would watch episodes of the original series with him. I remember this fondly because my father and I don’t agree on much, when it comes to television or music or movies. But he loved Star Trek, and I did too.

I can’t tell you what appealed to younger me about the show. I can guess, though. I’ve always had an affinity for the fantastic, for stories that took me beyond the confines of my own life. (My parents always said my biggest problem was re-entry.) I loved Buck Rogers, and Battlestar Galactica, and of course Doctor Who. And I loved Star Trek. There were spaceships, there were aliens, there were gun battles, there were colorful uniforms. As a sci-fi-loving kid, I was definitely in.

As I recently completed a full re-watch of the original series (and the first six movies), I can definitely tell you what appeals to me about it now. It’s not so much Gene Roddenberry’s post-racial, pro-humanity vision, though I find some of that interesting, and it’s not so much the aliens and space battles, since those look pretty creaky nearly 50 years on. For me, the original series lives and dies with its characters, and with the actors who played them. And at the heart of the show is Kirk, McCoy, and of course, Spock.

I hadn’t seen the show in a long time, so I was surprised anew at the depth of Leonard Nimoy’s portrayal of Spock, the most human of Vulcans. He was not emotionless, regardless of what he would try to tell you. Spock was a finely coiled spring, working to keep those emotions in check, and Nimoy gave us all of that with a bare minimum of expressions and vocal inflections. His brief may have been to embody a soulless individual, but Nimoy played that part with soul. There was truly no other character on television like Spock, and try as they might, future incarnations of Trek were unable to duplicate him. They didn’t have Leonard Nimoy.

Nimoy certainly went on to do other things, including hosting In Search Of, acting on the stage, directing, lending his voice to documentaries and video games, writing books, releasing pop singles and taking some extraordinary photographs. By all accounts he was a hell of a man, gifted in many areas and a pleasure to know. But of all the paths he’s walked, he’ll be most remembered for giving life to a pointy-eared alien with a fixation on logic, and for inspiring generations of kids to open their imaginations and go where no one has gone before.

Leonard Nimoy died last Friday, at age 83, after a long illness. He lived long, and he did prosper. May he rest in peace.

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So I’ve had more than a few people ask me if I’m going to change the name of this column when summer rolls around.

The reason is this. Apparently the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (there’s a mouthful) has decided that come this summer, Friday is the new global release date for records and CDs. The reason seems not only silly, but out of touch to me: the IFPI would like to standardize the release date worldwide to stem the tide of piracy. As if closing that one-day gap between the U.K. and U.S. release dates will keep the new Taylor Swift album off the torrent services.

Of course, the industry is only really concerned about artists of Swift’s stature and popularity, so this decision will only really benefit them. For me, the day of the week has never been the issue, it’s the sometimes months-long gap between an album appearing in the U.K. or other territories and appearing here. (Aqualung’s new one, 10 Futures, has been out across the pond since mid-January, for instance. If I enjoyed context-free digital music and had no scruples, I’d own it already.) And in an age when just about every album is leaked online, either legally or illegally, weeks before the release date, does it really matter?

Well, it does to some people, but since those people are independent record store owners and labels, they don’t matter. Michael Kurtz, head of the trade group Department of Record Stores, says a global release date isn’t a bad idea, but Friday is the worst possible choice, since stores would not be able to restock until Mondays (and on holiday weekends, Tuesdays). This would be a problem for smaller releases, ones a store owner would probably only order a couple copies of.

And of course, it would only truly impact brick-and-mortar stores who sell physical product. With most of the marketing now focused on digital distribution, the independent record store is once again left out to dry. As a lifelong fan of record stores, this makes me sad, but I’ve been watching the slow death of physical product for longer than I can remember, and this is just another step down that path.

Anyway, for those who don’t know, this column’s name is a reference to the Tuesday U.S. release date (and to Simon and Garfunkel’s Wednesday Morning 3 A.M.). And no, I don’t think I will change it. I like the way it sounds, and now I like the fact that it points back to the era of record stores and midnight sales, an era I already miss very much.

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Wow, this has been a sad one so far. Let’s liven it up with a story about my terrible junior high school band.

I can’t remember when I first met Chris Callaway. We grew up in the same church together, and I saw him at Sunday school and youth group meetings and all those things Christian kids do. Chris was a funny, boisterous guy with boundless reserves of energy. He would make me laugh at all of those church-y activities, and I would get blamed for causing a disturbance. It was a good arrangement, if you were Chris.

At the cornerstone of our friendship was music. I didn’t know much when I was 12, and I absorbed everything. I credit Chris with getting me into The Alarm and King’s X, among many others. Chris was there for my second-ever concert – we went to see Stryper in 1988, and I accidentally spilled my enormous beverage all over the girl in front of us. Yes, I found a way to make “seeing Stryper live” the least embarrassing part of that night. Chris had an affinity for Christian metal, and gave me my first exposure to bands like Jerusalem and Barren Cross, which frankly I probably could have gone my whole life without hearing and been OK.

And around that time, Chris and I started a band called M.D. Well, it wasn’t much of a band. It was me on terrible keyboards and drum machines, Chris singing and our mutual friend Brian Miller playing guitar. We never rehearsed, but man, did we record – I have hours of us banging our way through rudimentary ideas with nakedly Jesus-flavored lyrics. Pretty awful stuff. Our teenage musical ambitions were so vast that Chris and I started a more keyboard-driven side project called Obliterator, which was even worse. And yes, I have hours of that stuff too.

Somewhere along the line, Chris started playing bass. And it turns out, he’s very good at it. The last band I heard him play in was called Able Archer, and I enjoyed their work a great deal. Chris lives in Denver now, and we rarely talk, so I was surprised when he messaged me and told me he’d written a book. It’s a compilation of interviews he’s conducted with musicians he loves, from Mike Peters of the Alarm to Bruce Cockburn to Tim Finn and beyond. He sent me a copy, not just because he knew I would enjoy it, but because the book doubles as a memoir, and I make several appearances. Seriously, he was so kind to me, it’s almost ridiculous, crediting me with far more than I actually did to turn him on to good music.

So this is me returning the favor. I heard so many artists through Chris Callaway first, so many that have stuck with me for a lifetime. (Steve Taylor, for example. Chris let me borrow his cassettes of Taylor’s first three albums.) I live for good friends with good taste, and Chris is both. His book is a lot of fun, even beyond the bits with my name in them. It’s called Reel to Real by Reel, and you can pick it up from Amazon here. Thanks, Chris.

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Just enough time left to mention a couple things I’m looking forward to.

As I mentioned above, Aqualung has a new album. I heard nothing about it on this side of the Atlantic, and I’ve had to import a copy. It’s called 10 Futures, and if the singles are any indication, it’s going to be a weird one that barely sounds like the Matt Hales we know and love. Listen to “Eggshells” here and let me know what you think. I’m cautiously optimistic.

Everything I’ve heard from that new Modest Mouse album, Strangers to Ourselves, has been pretty good. That’s next week. The rest of March is pretty amazing, with new things from Bjork, Sufjan Stevens, Death Cab for Cutie, Ron Sexsmith and Godspeed You Black Emperor, to name a few. April has new records from Brian Wilson (featuring a host of guest performers, in a gambit that could either be fantastic or farcical), Todd Rundgren, Lord Huron, They Might Be Giants, Alabama Shakes, Passion Pit, Built to Spill, Mew and the long-awaited returns of both the Weepies and Blur. I guess I’m looking forward to that Blur album, called The Magic Whip, but that first song is pretty lame.

Somewhere in there we’re going to get Timbre’s Sun and Moon, a crowd-funded double album from the harp-playing prodigy. I ordered Sun and Moon more than two years ago, and I am beyond excited to hear it. We’re also going to get a screaming left turn from Mumford and Sons, an album called Wilder Mind that has no acoustic instruments on it at all. Oh, and on May 19 we’ll get to hear Sol Invictus, the first Faith No More album in 18 years. I hope it’s good, but even if it isn’t, life is. Just look at this list if you need a reminder.

Next week, well, I’m not sure yet. But you’ll find out when I do. Follow Tuesday Morning 3 A.M. on Facebook here.

See you in line Tuesday morning.