Friday, December 29, 2006

The other California Stars

I'm not much of a radio listener. Not because I don't appreciate music, but because I don't appreciate DJs. You could say I dislike them, even. You could say they inspire murderous rage in me, but that might be taking it a bit far.

But when I lived in Calgary, there was one station I not only listened to, I volunteered with. It was a public radio station, CKUA (which I can still listen to online), with a small but devoted listenership. So small that my chances of getting free tickets to various events they sponsored were pretty high.

Once, I got tickets to a Billy Bragg concert. It was around the release of Mermaid Avenue, the album he collaborated on with Wilco. They took lyrics by Woody Guthrie and put them to music, with Jeff Tweedy and Bragg sharing vocals. At the time of the concert, I hadn't yet heard the album, just a song or two played on the station.

I hadn't heard California Stars yet, so Bragg's performance there was my first taste of it, and the one that lingered long after the concert. I was disappointed when I got the album and it was the perfectly fine downtempo Tweedy version instead of the funkier Bragg version. That loss festered for years, until ... well, OK, I suddenly thought of it again after several years, and checked the Internet to see if it might be somewhere out there.

Now, I've finally got that live Billy Bragg version - free and legal, even - thanks to the Internet archive. It's perhaps not the holy grail of music, but it's almost as fun as I remembered.

This Internet thing is pretty cool.