Slip Slidin' Away: My Life as a Rock Journalist With the Houston Press

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Photo by Marc Brubaker
The author watching Free Energy at Fitz in 2011.
I had a hernia operation in the early summer of 2006, and had nothing to do all day but hobble around with cool cane a borrowed from Grandpa Hlavaty and play on the Internets for two months or so.

I had developed the injury while working at Domino's, but it was cool because their insurance helped pay for it, and the cool pills that came with the painful surgery.

That summer while trolling around on Craigslist for stray local writing gigs, I saw that then Houston Press music editor John Nova Lomax had put out a call for freelance music writers.

A-ha.


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Craig Hlavaty's 10 Best Houston Albums of 2012

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It's that time of year -- or at least it has been since, like, November -- for rock writers to show everyone else how cool they think they are with their year-end best-of lists. How obscure can you get? How controversial can you be with your choices?

"If only Honey Boo Boo released album that I could put next to Frank Ocean!" says one blogger to himself as he makes his Top 50 that no one will ever read. Who the fuck is Grimes anyway?

This best-of list is geared towards my favorite local albums of the year, the ones that grabbed me and shook me for weeks and months on end. No beers. shots, or free merch were involved.

I swear.


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Who Should Play RodeoHouston In 2013?

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Settle down, Me, he's already playing.
On October 30, just a few days from now, RodeoHouston will announce its first round of performers for the 2013 edition of the star-studded, yeehawin', nearly three-week event at Reliant Park.

The booking the last few years has been getting more adventurous, with the likes of Kid Rock, KISS, Mary J. Blige, and Janet Jackson making the cut. Our friends over there are getting the hang of booking non-country acts, which is cool, since a lot of (most of) the pop-country that is coming around is pretty vanilla. Save for some of the bigger nostalgia acts like Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw, and Reba, Keith, Brad, and a few others, the acts are kind of interchangeable.

Obviously Taylor Swift has moved on from the rodeo, though there could always be a surprise.


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The Erratic Flight Pattern of the Byrds' Gene Clark

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Mr. Tambourine Man: The Life and Legacy of the Byrds' Gene Clark
By John Einarson
Backbeat Books, 339 pp., $19.99, www.backbeatbooks.com

The pun has been too good for most music writers (including, sadly, this one) to not use in describing Gene Clark as "The Byrd Who Wouldn't Fly." But the reason that the singer/songwriter/guitarist/tambourine man left the nest in 1966 -- at the height of the band's success -- goes a little bit deeper than just his abject and career-crippling fear of air travel.

No, his own insecurities, difficulties grappling with intense fame, diminishing role in the group, and somewhat bullying by band mates David Crosby and Roger McGuinn were also reasons that the man who penned and sang "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better," "She Don't Care About Time," "Set You Free This Time" and the epochal "Eight Miles High" (though he'd have to perhaps unfairly share writing credit on that one) departed.

The ensuing 25 years would bring career highs and lows, sporadic reunions, personal issues, missed and/or blown opportunities, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and more substance abuse problems.


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The Best LP Side Ones Ever

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Spurred on by the realization that both David Bowie's commercial breakthrough Let's Dance and Queen's News of the World had solid, sturdy side ones on their vinyl releases, I then began the hunt for other great vinyl slabs with amazing side ones.

Of course, the idea is that this could only include albums from the (first) great rock vinyl heyday. I am sure that Wilco and others have turned in great side ones in the past decade, but only a select few of you have heard them on vinyl.

The secret to great albums, of course, has everything to do with genius and gripping songs, plus proper sequencing and editing. And you may remember a few years back, when I attempted to cut some of most popular double slabs down to one lean collection.


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20 Albums To Leave Your Children Plus Five To Grow On...

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It started as a simple question: What albums would you leave your unborn children, if you knew you were on borrowed time and may not be around to show them the way. At first I asked for albums for sons, but then it grew broader, not out of needing to pacify the PC-thug in me, but to make sure everyone, regardless of gender, had a sort of Rosetta Stone of musical history in their hands.

You could leave them pristine vinyl versions of these, a collection of cassettes, or maybe just a diamond-covered flash drive, if are so inclined. As for me, I will also leave my unborn child my Rdio account. That's not a paid endorsement, that's just me being expedient.

To get some obvious picks out of the way, the entire Beatles catalog will come standard with being my child, like seat-belts in cars. As will George Strait's Strait Out Of The Box, and ZZ Top's catalog.

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Fly To The Angels: A Hair Metal Tribute To Kim Jong-il

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Metal Bad Boy Kim Jong-il
Kim Jong-il and '80s hair metal were almost synonymous, and last night when the world found out that the North Korean leader passed on to the big rock show in the sky, all I could listen to was hair ballads, driving through the city in tears. Looking at things he would never get to look at through my tear-stricken eyes.

The swagger, the passion, the cult of personality, the virile way he lead his people, his fans, just like Axl Rose on the Use Your Illusion tour, or at the very least, the late Jani Lane at a record signing after "Cherry Pie" came out. The Dear Leader had charisma for days, the wardrobe, the mythology - he invented the hamburger after all - and the adoration of millions and millions in his home country.


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Paul Simon Turns 70: Our Favorite Cuts By Rhymin' Simon

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Paul Simon dressed as a turkey on Saturday Night Live in 1976. Duh.
Today Paul Simon, acclaimed solo artist and the much shorter half of Simon & Garfunkel, turns 70 years old. The singer, who just released So Beautiful or So What back in April, has been a key link in bringing African and island sounds to American pop ears with his solo work. With S&G he helped craft some of most timeless folk-pop that still manages to influence to this day. Just take a listen to "The Boxer" or "America".

Any Paul Simon education must begin with his first three solo albums after S&G, Paul Simon, There Goes Rhymin' Simon, and Still Crazy After All These Years all hold treasures beyond singles like "Kodachrome," "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," and "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard." Check out that hipster mugshot on the cover of his 1972 self-titled slab.

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Grosse Pointe ?: An Incomplete High School Reunion Playlist

Categories: Craig's Hlist

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This weekend, I am heading back to Pearland for my 10-year high school reunion. It's funny, I say "going back" like I wasn't there on Sunday sitting on my parents' couch watching cable and letting them feed me mashed potatoes and slip me gas money. This trip is different, though, because I will be participating in one of the strangest and endearing rituals in modern history, the class reunion.

It's to be a weekend-long affair out in the suburbs. Friday night we are all going to the high school football game, my first in a decade, and then convene back at a classmate's bar for a mixer, which means heavy drinking and hard posing. The next day is the family picnic, and since I have no children or pets - save my girlfriend's scruffy Maltese - it looks like I can sit that one out and sleep until one in the afternoon.


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Say My Name: Bands Named After Actual, Real People

Categories: Craig's Hlist

Punk Rock Elite
This Friday would have been Z.Z. Hill's 76th birthday, but the popular Texas bluesman passed away in 1984 from a heart attack. Most people only know who the late soul crooner is through his connection to ZZ Top. The moniker of that little ol' band from where we are sitting right now is a reference to Hill, and the "Top" is a nod to B.B. King being on "top."

So of course this week for Craig's Hlist - which was on a vacation while we dealt with ACL and BestFest - digs into other bands named after real people. Repeat: Real people, outside the band itself. No fictional characters, though thinking about Mr. T as a "real" person hurts our head.

For instance, the name Fleetwood Mac comes from band members Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, so they don't work. Fun fact: Danzig is named after Glenn Danzig.


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