Last.fm I put on a record when I know what I want to listen to. If I want to discover something new but still fancy control over the range of that “new,” I turn on the radio. As anyone who’s traveled Europe knows, radio here sucks. If you’re looking to find anything alternative or even simply tolerably mainstream, you’re lost. My buddy Steve, also a Berlin resident, was spot-on when he said, “Last.fm saved my ass in many ways.”
Fred Anderson The very first time I visited Chicago, Fred Anderson invited me to “come down to the Lounge.” We sat at the bar, drank Coke, and chatted. Thrilled that such a sax giant would hang out with little me, I asked something about “free vs. nonfree” in music. He seemed annoyed and changed the subject. Many hours later, while I was bidding my farewell, Fred mused, “You know . . . that question you asked earlier . . . I think I want to answer that one now.” He took out his tenor and started blowing like only Fred Anderson could. I’ll never forget that man.
Levon Helm Recently I was invited to contribute to the “interactive library” of a performance festival. It was guaranteed that “no book would ever be allowed to leave the space of the library and that they’d be stored and locked every night.” I chose to loan my copy of This Wheel’s on Fire, Levon Helm’s retelling of the story of the Band. After the festival was over, all books were returned but mine. It was the only book that was stolen. Good for Levon. And the thief.