Monday, April 28, 2008


This actually started out to be a post about Protest Songs. As a baby boomer who grew up in the 60s, I’m a certified member of the Viet Nam generation, so I remember all the marches and the newsreels and, most of all, the protest songs. You couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing them. Add to that TV appearances the artists made, and it’s easy to understand that protest songs were a part of the everyday listening experience for most young people. It got me thinking about the Iraq War, and other conflicts around the world today. I was trying to think of some songs that protested current conflicts. To paraphrase the old the Kingston Trio hit - Where have all the protest songs gone? Well, once I started to look into it, I discovered that the protest songs were indeed alive and well (I was sure they were) and being written by a wide variety of artists. And that led me to reshape the topic of this post.

Listening to popular music these days is not what it used to be. I’m sure I’m not the first person to notice this, but it seems to me that what was once a seamless whole back in the AM radio days of the 60s is now broken up into all kinds of little listening venues. That’s why I’m labeling it the “Balkanization.” It’s not just radio; satellite station formats have become more and more specialized. My TV dish service has over 30 different kinds of music channels, and that’s not counting duplications (Country Gold, New Country, Bluegrass Country) or the French stations. Of course, you can hear some of the same artists and the same songs on more than one station, but still, it’s more divided than not. Back in the “good old days” all we kids had were the AM (and eventually FM) stations. Everything to be heard was pretty much heard there. And it was one great big grab bag. No wonder I was pondering where all the protest songs had got to. Who can listen to all those stations, or keep up with everything? Here’s a quickie list of Top Five Billboard hits from 1961 to give you an idea of how eclectic it was:

Week of Feb 13th, 1961
1 – Calcutta, Lawrence Welk
2 – Will You Love Me tomorrow, The Shirelles
3 – Shop Around, The Miracles
4 – Calendar Girl, Neil Sedaka
5 – Theme from Exodus, Ferrante and Teicher

See what I mean? I think you could easily find these hits on 5 different specialty stations today. So, to get back to my original point, today’s protest songs are coming from all kinds of contemporary artists. While they still seem to favor the folk genre – called alt-folk today – you can also find them spread out over a wide spectrum of artists: Sheryl Crow, Michael Franti, Guns ‘N’ Roses, Dixie Chicks, Wyclef Jean, and of course (and arguably the strongest anti-war sentiments of all) Neil Young. I doubt you would ever hear them all on the same station today, at least not a commercial one. Because of this, I kind of lament the way things have gone. It used to be easy to stay on top of all the new hits and hit-makers, the trends and trend-setters in pop music. But no more, there’s just too much to keep track of, and the borders are being redrawn all the time, so to speak. Balkanization is great if you print maps for a living, but it sure is tough on music lovers.

Well, time to wrap things up for today. There are so many protest songs to choose from for the listening portion of our post. I’ll keep it simple and just include one by a particular fave artist of mine, Phil Ochs.

I Ain't Marching Any More
This one gets filed under What If They Gave A War and Nobody Came? along with "Where Have All The Flowers Gone" and "Universal Soldier."

Saturday, April 26, 2008


On the news recently I heard some dismal new statistics about the rising number of kids who drop out of High School and therefore don’t graduate. Maybe they feel they won’t mind being a statistic, maybe not getting too far in life, having the lowest paying jobs, and being the butt of jokes on Leno, but there’s one thing I’m sure they weren’t thinking about as they made their fateful decision…they are never going to have any High School reunions!! How truly sad that is. Now, I can’t continue with this post until I confess that I have haven’t actually been to a reunion of my H.S. class. Oh, it’s not because I didn’t graduate, or because there haven’t been any. I know for a fact that we had at least one; it was our 15th. I graduated in 1965, so that would make it 1980 when everyone reunited. That was well before the days of IMs and blackberries and, and unfortunately, I was out of touch (not to mention out of the country) so I just didn’t hear about it. More recently there was talk about having a 40th in 2005, but that fell through. I fear I may have forever missed that rite of passage, but it’s not too late for younger baby boomers, and others. In aid of that, I am offering some handy advice for all who are planning on attending a High School reunion sometime. Like they say, it’s all about that first impression, so before you walk through the old gymnasium doors one more time…

Guys: In evaluating your style (or lack thereof) you must ask yourself: Does my comb-over really look like I’ve "kept my hair" or more like a daddy longlegs clinging desperately to slippery rock? Go to a really good barber and submit. You’ll be a better (looking) person for it.

And ladies: Does your makeup, hair and wardrobe make you look like a double for Melanie Griffiths and Joan Cusack in "Working Girl” (1988)? Let this be your reunion makeover mantra: BE RUTHLESS! If you have too much ruth, they’ll just be laughing about you in the bathroom all over again.

There! Now you’re looking and feeling good; time to hit the dance floor. Here’s a few reunion-themed oldies I recommend. There's something for every baby boomer decade.

Magic Moments – Perry Como, 1958
Nobody wears a cardigan like Perry...

I Remember You – Frank Ifield, 1962
Hey, I’d know you anywhere, even without your nametag….

Remember Then – The Earls, 1962
Doo-wop Rules!

Still the Same - Bob Seger, 1978
Man, I love this song!! Seger sure can do the vintage nostalgia – this one, and “Night Moves” and “Like A Rock” etc.

Gloria - Laura Branigan, 1982
The late Laura Branigan - from ballads to belt-out numbers like this, there was none better.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Of all the great talent to come from Motown, one of the best loved is The Temptations. They had a hit after hit over the decades, with several terrific lead singers, and gave the world a lesson on how to be cool to the 10th power. I’m talking about a series of moves that became known as the Temptation Walk. And what prime moves they were! I think anyone who looks at the old footage of the Tempts, and then compares it to what passes for cool today, will be won over in a heartbeat. And if you don’t dig what they are putting down, I’m afraid you may be soulfully DOA, my friend. Of course, being from Detroit, I may be just a teensy bit biased, but thanks to the posters at YouTube, you can easily watch and decide for yourself.

Here’s a classic from 1965, with David Ruffin on lead. Oh, baby, what a voice!

My Girl

Their moves got so much attention, there was even made a song and a dance about it!

Temptation Walk

And finally, we can’t leave without this solo from David Ruffin…one of the great “love-pain” songs of all time! My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sunday, April 20, 2008


A couple of posts ago, when we were looking into names for bands – in particular, possible names to do with the wonders of space – I had one of those light bulb moments, remembering a image, a fragment of lyrics, from a song by Grace Slick and Co. that has really stuck with me over the decades since the early 1970s. It goes “…with her head hooked in(to) Andromeda.” Such a vivid space image! I always pictured an elegant Alphonse Mucha-type hippie lady with beautiful flowing hair and robes, only she’s huge, kind of like that giant galactic baby at the end of 2001- A Space Odyssey. And her head is wreathed with stars. Now that we have the Internet, I easily found the song, “Starship,” and tracked it to the album Blows Against The Empire, credited to Paul Kantner and Jefferson Starship. Well, gotta have that! When the new CD arrived and I gave the whole thing a listen, I realized that I used to have that very LP. In fact, I knew it well. Every song from the first note to the last was like an old friend you'd forgotten you used to know and til you bumped into them on the street. How could I have forgotten this terrific album? Well, they say you can’t remember everything. No, wait a minute…they say you can’t have everything. No excuses; I don’t really know why this one had slipped my mind over the years, but I’m very glad to have it back on my shelf.

For the younger readers, I’ll quickly mention that Jefferson Starship is part of a long tradition is rock music. They began the careers as the sub-orbital group Jefferson Airplane, which flew from about 1965 to’73. From 1974 to’84 they were known as Jefferson Starship, then from ’84-90 as just Starship, and finally Jefferson Starship – The Next Generation. You can see the upward and outward trend. With a changing and evolving membership over the years, they have given up some incredible and memorable music. The roster includes such rock luminaries as Marty Balin, Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen, Mickey Thomas…and many others. But sandwiched back in the middle of the Airplane years, Paul Kantner did this little gem of a concept album. Here’s what the liners notes on my CD have to say:

With most of the members of Jefferson Airplane missing in action, Paul Kantner and Grace Slick holed up in a San Francisco studio in 1970 alongside a cast of West Coast rock ‘n’ roll legends like Jerry Garcia and David Crosby to cut what became Kantner’s finest solo work. Fueled by his lifelong obsession with science fiction, Blows Against The Empire is Kantner’s rock space-opera: Young people hijack a starship and establish a brave new world in some distant galaxy, light-years away from the earthbound reality of Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War.

So, if you want to do a little space exploration of your own, I highly recommend this rich, melodic time capsule of the late 60s early 70s. And if anyone has any info on a (possible? alleged?) connection between this album title and the 1980 Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, I’d love to hear about it!


“At first I was iridescent, then I became transparent, finally I was absent.”

Thursday, April 17, 2008


We all know about misheard lyrics - how wrong we can get them, and how embarrassing it can be when we do. Some examples of misheard lyrics are unique to the individual (I devote a whole chapter to revealing some of mine in my book, Papa Do Run) while others, like Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze,” are famous ‘round the world. But what about the songs themselves? Determining the meaning of the entire song is often up to the listener. And people can really go out on some pretty rickety limbs when it comes to explaining the meaning behind popular songs. It has the potential to be as funny/bizarre as misheard lyrics. Here’s a personal example of a misinterpreted song that I discovered just the other day. The song is Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy in New York.”

This pretty song, tinged with melancholy, first hit the airwaves back in 1970, on S&G’s “Bridge Over Trouble Water” album. I liked it a lot right away. Even better, the lyrics were clear as a bell. There were none of those awkward car-karaoke moments, where I had to kind of mumble past something I couldn’t quite understand as I sang along. But still, the meaning of the song was a bit enigmatic. Perhaps at this point I should stick the lyrics here in, so we can all have a look as we go.

Tom, get your plane right on time
I know your part'll go fine
Fly down to Mexico
Doh-n-du-doh etc. and here I am
The only living boy in New York

I get the news I need on the weather report
I can gather all the news I need on the weather report
Hey, I've got nothing to do today but smile
Doh-n-du-doh etc. here I am
The only living boy in New York

Half of the time we're gone but we don't know where
And we don't know where

Tom, get your plane right on time
I know that you've been eager to fly now
Hey let your honesty shine, shine, shine
Doh-n-du-doh etc
Like it shines on me
The only living boy in New York
The only living boy in New York

Okay, we have the unnamed narrator of the song, addressing a guy named Tom, who is nervous about flying to Mexico. He has something to do there; he's part of some kind of venture. Hmmm, whatever could it be? What kind of operation would take someone in a plane (probably a small private unregistered one…) down to Mexico, make them nervous (it’s illegal) and yet excited (make big bucks)? Oh, you’re way ahead of me! Yes, I was sure he was singing about dope. This is a song about a pot smuggling caper! The narrator back in New York is wishing his buddy a good flight. He's happily stoned, not a care in the world (see verse 2). Eventually, he’s going to be down to seeds and stems again (see Apr 8/08 post) and will be knocking on Tom’s door for a refill. Yes, my friends, that interpretation more or less satisfied me for decades. Then a couple of days ago, I heard this song again, and realized that now I could go to one of the “song meanings websites” and see what they had to say. I discovered there are two main schools of thought about the meaning of "The Only Living Boy in New York."

One says that it's a foreshadowing of the coming breakup of Simon and Garfunkel as a duo. That has some merit, but the other interpretation, which seems more solid to me, is that it’s a simple song of friendship from Paul to Art - who at the time was shuttling back and forth between NY and Mexico, filming the 1970-released movie, Catch 22. So it would seem he was worried about his part in the movie, not a pot buy. Further evidence is the fact that the boys recorded their first record under the name Tom and Jerry. So, Paul (who would be “Jerry”) is addressing the song to “Tom” (Art). When I read that, boy did I feel stupid! But I will say in my own defense that back in 1970, when I first formed my pot theory, I didn’t know that Paul and Art had previously recorded as Tom and Jerry, or I might have got a clue a little earlier.

Well, time for a listen to this lovely little song. And let’s just forget I ever mentioned pot.

Photo from

Post title decoded - Yes but what does it all mean?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


As we saw in the previous post, one way to come up with a name for your band is to name it after a handy nearby intersection. I think that’s an admirable way to do it. The Hollywood Argyles might not have been the first to use this method, and there certainly could be others out there since. Maybe you know some. The closest I can come is the E Street Band and Highway 101 (not truly intersections). Then there’s the more contemporary Sleater-Kinney, which is actually more of an off-ramp than an intersection, but hey, why be picky at this point.

If you can’t even come up with a general category of name for your band, you might go to Dave Marsh’s weighty tome, “The Book of Rock Lists.” There you might consider any kind of critter: bird (The Ravens, Counting Crows), four-legged (The Spaniels) creepy-crawly (The Scorpions) or the slimy (The Arrogant Worms)…. Or maybe you could try places in the larger sense. Beyond mere streets and intersections, there are bands named after towns and cities (Boston, Chicago) bodies of water (Little River Band) states (Kansas) provinces (Manitoba) regions (Kamchatka) whole countries (The United States of America) and continents (Asia). I hear there's even a band called Earth. Then there’s deep space; a huge untapped source of band names as far as I can tell. I don’t think Clownface Nebula is taken yet.

Still not finding what you want? Some bands named themselves in tribute to other songs. The Rolling Stones (after a Muddy Waters tune) and The Lovin’ Spoonful (after a Mississippi John Hurt number) are two well-known examples. I found a song by Beck titled “Satan Gave Me a Taco.” Your band could be The Satanic Tacos! See how it works? In the later sixties, band members started coming up with real trippy names, like Strawberry Alarm Clock and Chocolate Watch Band. I call that process the Three Hat Method. Two hats for adjectives, one for nouns. It may take a while to prepare all the little strips of paper and find a wide variety of interesting words, but once you’re done, you can name dozens of bands without taking a break. And then there are the really obscure band names; ones that come from references to pop culture, literature, or one of the best sources ever…out of thin air. Here’s a link to Wikipedia’s article on Band Name Etymologies. I highly recommend it for study before naming your band. Find out what it takes to come up with something truly memorable and endearing like Flaming Lips or Beastie Boys.

Finally, there are groups who take their names from other people. Edison Light House comes to mind, and also a group from the dim days of the 1958, Dickie Doo and the Don’ts. This groups, known for several hits, including “Click Clack” “Tears Will Fall” “Flip Top Box” and my particular fave (and the only one I truly remembered) is “Nee Nee Na Na Na Na Nu Nu.” I know what you’re thinking. Who the dickens is Dickie Doo?? Well, the story goes that the band took their name from the son of the legendary Dick Clark of American Bandstand. Though he was officially Richard Clark Jr., papa Dick’s affectionate nickname for the little fella was Dickie Doo (he was a toddler at the time). It’s not too much of a stretch to come up with the "Don’ts" after that. I think it’s a terrific group name. It’s going to be a tough act to follow, name wise, but I know you’re up to it.

Here's Dickie Doo and The Dont's...get ready to dance!

P.S. - I don’t think Alphagetti On Toast is taken either.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Cavemen and French trapeze artists, you just can’t think of one without thinking of the other. No? Well, me either, truth be told. But they do have something in common. Here’s how this particular daisy chain goes:

Daisy #1 – Let’s begin with our feature song, “Alley Oop” Who from the boomer era doesn’t remember this one? It was definitely a novelty, yet strangely cool, too – c’mon, you can admit to digging it after all these years. According to an unverified Wikipedia article, “Alley Oop” was originally written as a country song by a fellow named Dallas Frazier. According to my notoriously unverified math, this would have to have been in the late ‘50s, if not earlier – “Alley Oop” hit the #1 spot in 1960. And the group was…

Daisy #2 – Nobody. That’s right; there was really no such group as the Hollywood Argyles to begin with. The Wiki article goes on further to quote one Gary S. Paxton, who is famous in part for being half of the 60s duo Skip and Flip - best known for “Cherry Pie” and the oddly-titled but grammatically perfect, “It Was I.” Despite the fact that Paxton makes a big deal publicly out of using his middle initial “S” he was actually Flip, not Skip. Okay, Paxton was roomies (in West L.A.) with music producer Kim Fowley at the time. When they went to record “Alley Oop” Paxton couldn’t use the name Flip for contractual reasons, so they did what any other creative kids would do, they looked out the window and picked something. Their place happened to be located on the corner of…you guessed it…Hollywood Blvd. and Argyle Street. They recorded the song by enlisting some studio musicians on the cheap (Sandy Nelson is the drummer!) and any friends they could snag off the street. And that was it. Before we leave this flower and move on to the next, here’s a couple more trivia gems. Frazier also wrote “Elvira” (hit for the Oak Ridge Boys) and Fowley produced “Popsicles and Icicles” (The Murmaids’ biggie). And, “Alley Oop” was the first song played on WLS-AM in Chicago back in 1960, when they switched over to rock and roll from their previous format …farm programming. I don’t know about you, but I love knowing this kind of stuff! Can’t you just picture some old timer in faded overalls sitting at the kitchen table, picking his ear and tuning in to hear how hog prices are doing, and... getting Alley Oop instead!?

Daisy #3 – Alley Oop, the Man. The song is based on Alley Oop, a long-running syndicated comic strip (since 1932) about a caveman and his fellow cave dwellers, and as such has often been a kind of satire on American life. He’s your stereotypical caveman. It was just as bad for them back in the Stone Age as it is today in the Age of Geico commercials.

Daisy #4 – And here we get down to the real nitty-gritty. The name Alley Oop is derived from “allez hop!” a kind of shoutout used by French gymnasts and trapeze artists when they hoist themselves into the air. In French, allez is pronounced al-LAY. In English, it becomes “alley.” The hop part may actually be of German or German Swiss origin, where hopp means “go!” Or “jump!” So, Alley Oop as a sports term is kind of redundant. But probably the very thing needed to break the bonds of gravity and get your derriere off the floor and grab that bar. It's probably best known today in basketball, to describe when one player passes the ball to a teammate waiting by the hoop who grabs and dunks it.

Ladieeees and Gentlemen....Alley Oop!

One of the great lines of rock and roll: "He's a mean motor-scooter and a bad go-getter"

Poetry in motion

Thursday, April 10, 2008


This is it, folks - the final countdown is underway. Five more days for US citizens to file, and the Canucks, who must file by the 30th, are certainly feeling the pressure, too. Well, don’t feel bad, we’re all a big part of ongoing history. Taxes have been with us for a looong time. Here are some excerpts from


During the various reins (sic) of the Egyptian Pharaohs tax collectors were known as scribes. During one period the scribes imposed a tax on cooking oil. To insure that citizens were not avoiding the cooking oil tax scribes would audit households to insure that appropriate amounts of cooking oil were consumed and that citizens were not using leavings generated by other cooking processes as a substitute for the taxed oil.


In times of war the Athenians imposed a tax referred to as eisphora. No one was exempt from the tax, which was used to pay for special wartime expenditures. The Greeks are one of the few societies that were able to rescind the tax once the emergency was over. When additional resources were gained by the war effort the resources were used to refund the tax.


In 60 A.D. Boadicea, queen of East Anglia led a revolt that can be attributed to corrupt tax collectors in the British Isles. Her revolt allegedly killed all Roman soldiers within 100 miles; seized London; and it is said that over 80,000 people were killed during the revolt. The Queen was able to raise an army of 230,000. The revolt was crushed by Emperor Nero and resulted in the appointment of new administrators for the British Isles.1


Lady Godiva was an Anglo-Saxon woman who lived in England during the 11th century. According to legend, Lady Godiva's husband Leofric, Earl of Mercia, promised to reduce the high taxes he levied on the residents of Coventry when she agreed to ride naked through the streets of the town.


The Tax Act of 1862 was passed and signed by President Lincoln July 1 1862. The rates were 3% on income above $600 and 5% on income above $10,000. The rent or rental value of your home could be deducted from income in determining the tax liability. The Commissioner of Revenue stated "The people of this country have accepted it with cheerfulness, to meet a temporary exigency, and it has excited no serious complaint in its administration." This acceptance was primarily due to the need for revenue to finance the Civil War.

Although the people cheerfully accepted the tax, compliance was not high. Figures released after the Civil War indicated that 276,661 people actually filed tax returns in 1870 (the year of the highest returns filed) when the country's population was approximately 38 million.

Well, after carefully studying all this info, I’m sure you’ll come to the same conclusion I did – you might cheat death, but there’s just no getting away from taxes. Unless maybe you're an ancient Athenian.

Let's give the final word to The Beatles

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Yesterday in the mail I got a CD I’d ordered: Lost in the Ozone by Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen. Recently I’d been having a hankering to hear some of their music once again. You see, I had a CCLPA album ages ago, but like the rest of my old records, it got given away or left behind on one of my many many moves over the years. Once I reached my middle years, and had a bit more discretionary income, I started gradually replacing the music of my youth, but the question remains – what nameless stuff could my younger self possibly have thought was more important than music, no matter what the effort to pack and schlep involved? If memory serves, I had a pretty eclectic (and no doubt now highly collectible) survey of the 60s and 70s. The Beach Boys, Sonny and Cher, Marvin Gaye and all the Motown gang, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, The Who; all those “first edition” British Invasion Beatles and Stones. Then there was The Moody Blues, Buffy Saint-Marie, Dylan, Baez, Peter Paul and Mary. And Delaney and Bonnie, CCR, Jethro Tull – the list goes on and on.

Everything is now being replaced with CDs, and the occasional LP – well, almost everything. I can remember grooving to Alice Cooper and Yes, among others, but I won’t likely replace those now. Not because I don’t think they’re good anymore. If I hear them on the radio, I still listen. But…why is it that some music seems to be more frozen to a specific time and place and the people we were back when, while some music grows old right along with us? I don’t know the answer to that one, but if you do, please, step up to the mic (so to speak).

Here’s a nice little two-fer from Commander Cody and the boys. The band (who hailed from Ann Arbor – and you know what a Michigan booster I am!) gave us a unique mix – a little rockabilly, a little country, a little blues, a little boogie, just about whatever ya got. These two are favorites of mine. Classic “tear in the beer” songs? Maybe (the only thing that didn’t happen was his dog didn’t get run over...but died of natural causes I guess) but I dare you to listen and not be even a little touched. I still occasionally use the eminently descriptive term “seeds and stems” even though my weekend hippie days are long behind me.

A little refresher for those who may need it: The song "What Made Milwaukee Famous" is a reference to an old Schlitz beer commercial, known as "The beer that made Milwaukee famous." And, "seeds and stems" refers to the undesirable dregs of a baggie of marijuana, after the choice leaves have all gone (literally) up in smoke.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Well, as often happens in blogs, one post can springboard into the next. So it is today, after mentioning in the previous post the song “Kids” from the 1960 musical, Bye Bye Birdie (BBB hereafter). The show began life in 1958, as a satire on life in America - especially the blossoming rock and roll frenzy. It was written around the title character, Conrad Birdie, a hip-shaking rocker who drives the young ladies cuckoo, and then gets drafted. He’s kind of an amalgam of real life country crossover Conway Twitty (Conrad Birdie...we get it!) and Elvis. In fact, the musical was written just a few months after Elvis got called up to serve. You may not quite remember the entire show, but a number of BBB songs have endured. Songs like “One Special Girl,” which was recorded as “One Girl” by Bobby Rydell, and then as “One Boy” by Joanie Sommers. Then there’s “Put On A Happy Face” (gray skies are gonna clear up…) and of course “We Love You Conrad” which is probably more famous for its slightly later incarnation as “We Love You Beatles.”

My particular fave from that show is a little number called “One Last Kiss.” I have it on an old LP of the BBB soundtrack sung by Bobby Rydell. And Bobby Vee also gave it a kind of Holly-esque cover, but for my nickel, the best version out there is by the somewhat lesser-known country crossover, Billy “Crash” Craddock. Both the Bobby’s have a charming malt shop quality to their voices that are not without teenage "squeal appeal" - but when “Crash” (as he’s often called) puckers up, it’s definitely more grow'd up.

Billy is another artist who should have been bigger. In my opinion he had the right stuff, but as we know, sometimes that’s not enough. You need good people behind you, good material, and maybe the right timing. Anyway, Billy-Crash (as I like to call him) is on YouTube singing “One Last Kiss.” So is Bobby Vee. I’ll put them both here so you (well, the ladies anyway) can decide for yourselves which one you’d rather lock lips with one last time. You already know who I’m voting for.

Bobby Vee

Billy Crash
I just discovered that Billy was quite popular in Australia. I think that's why we are getting this bizarre combination of the song and footage of Tasmanian devils. Brilliantly bizarre, I should clarify. I love this vid! The contrast is so unexpected it totally works. Tarantino couldn't have done any better! And I'm guessing that at about 1:20 the guy is totally wishing he'd brought more meat!! You'll have to view it at least twice - first time the devils will grab your full attention, then go back for Billy's PG 13 voice.

Thursday, April 3, 2008


The title of this post (borrowed from the musical Bye Bye Birdie) is as relevant today as it was back in 1960. I’m sure by now you’ve all heard the news about that bunch of third graders in Georgia who hatched a plan to attack and/or kill their teacher. They collected all the implements they figured they’d require, and even delegated a post-crime clean up. These kids are obviously watching Grissom and his CSI team when they should be playing regular video games (Grand Theft Auto?) like most kids do before bed. Anyway, it got me thinking about my own grade school days. How simple and safe life was back then! We would never in a million years have thought of assaulting a teach…wait a minute…. My friends, I must confess I recall that when I was in single digits, not very much older than those Georgia students, some kids in my school did have a plot involving "knocking off" a teacher.

In my school we had a weekly class period called “Auditorium” (because that’s where it was held) which was a kind of catchall. We would see black and white “instructional” films, and every December we’d watch Shirley Temple in “Heidi.” We might also have an assembly. And for a short while the teacher taught us Spanish, until for some reason the school made her stop. To this day I still remember chanting “los dias de la semana son…” And I also remember how we plotted against this teacher.

Mrs. M. was a very dignified lady, always impeccably dressed, with bleach-blond hair, which she wore swept severely back in a popular style of the day, called a bun. That term alone was pretty funny to all us kids. But rumor had it that Mrs. M’s bun was fake. To a youngster in the 50s, the only thing funnier than a teacher with a bun was a teacher with a fake bun. A bun hairstyle is basically a ponytail that is not allowed to “sway with a wiggle.” Instead, it’s teased and smoothed into a kind of rounded poofy shape at the back of the head. Then the ends are tucked up under and secured with hairpins. It really can look a lot like a dinner roll. Mrs. M’s bun (even now, I want to giggle) was smoothed and anchored into Tipi Hedren-perfection. But…was it real? There was a lot of speculation about this bun, and there was only one way to find out. Some of the guys (egged on by the girls) came up with a plan, whereby as the rush of students jostled their way into the auditorium, someone would “accidentally” elbow Mrs. M. in the back of the head, the theory being that if her bun was indeed a fake, it would fly off, and thus expose the ruse. Every week for a while we were all on high bun alert. The whole school was electrified, thinking this might be the day! Oh the anticipation, the whispers, the craning necks!

It never happened. The guys always chickened out at the last minute. Even if Mrs. M. had fake hair, she was still a teacher, and a person to treat with some deference. I’m sure our plot just seemed like too “violent” an act. Just as well – none of the boys at that age were tall enough yet to have an elbow in accidental bun range anyway.

Today’s musical feature is an appropriate little number by The Playmates, on the charts in 1959. Let’s dedicate it to Mrs. M.

Photo - this is a later model of the bun (no where near as smooth as teacher's!) It's more of a twist and tuck, similar to Carrie Fisher's double Danish style as Princess Leia in Star Wars.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Silly question; of course you are! Because it’s spring – the sun is shining, the piles of snow are rapidly shrinking, buds are beginning to show on the trees, and the air smells fresh and wond— Well hopefully where you are it smells fresh and wonderful. Around here right now it smells like thawing cat urine. Sorry, it's just that it's been a long winter. But now that I think about it, it wasn’t any better when I lived out in High Country, either. We had a lot of cattle there. This time of year is kind of a transition pretty much wherever you live. Around here we can look ahead to a time when the roads are dry and the air is clear, and we can all get out our bikes and peddle around with the wind in our hair. I didn’t ride my bike much last year. The tire went flat and then it spent the winter as a hose rack. But this year I am definitely going to fix it up, buy a bike bell and get out there.

In the meantime, how about a little bike bell music? As I’ve said many times before, I’m a big Beach Boys fan, and Pet Sounds is one of my fave albums. However, it wasn’t until recently, when I was researching my book (see left margin) that I began reading up on the background of Pet Sounds. And I discovered that one of the sweetest songs from that album - “You Still Believe In Me” - gets part of its charm from the use of various bicycle bells, and a bike horn. Now, I’d heard those particular sounds many many times, but I never gave much thought to the notion that they might exactly be what they sounded like – bike accessories. Or that someone would actually consider using them as instruments. I guess that’s why Brian Wilson is the music genius and I’m not! So, here’s a link to this tender love song with its chingy bike bells and tootie bike horn. It'll put both a tear and a twinkle in your eye.

You Still Believe in Me

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


You don't hear about it much anymore, but putting salt in the sugar bowl used to be one of the prime April Fool's Day pranks. I always wanted to do it myself as a kid, but neither of my parents took sugar in their coffee, or had cereal in the morning, so I was forced to think of other measures to mark the occasion. It was all good training, though. In fact I went on to become a real good practical joker - although I've since reformed. Getting in trouble with the FBI will do that to a person (smiley face). These days, April Fool's tricks are still important, and like many other cultural touchstones, have become more elaborate over time. And more 'institutional" too; well beyond the simple kitchen table switcheroo I imagined as a youngster. If you think I exaggerate, check out these from the Wikipedia site.

Well-known pranks

  • Alabama Changes the Value of Pi: The April 1998 newsletter of New Mexicans for Science and Reason contained an article written by physicist Mark Boslough claiming that the Alabama Legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi to the "Biblical value" of 3.0. This claim originally appeared as a news story in the 1961 science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein.[2]
  • Spaghetti trees: The BBC television programme Panorama ran a famous hoax in 1957, showing the Swiss harvesting spaghetti from trees. They had claimed that the despised pest the spaghetti weevil had been eradicated. A large number of people contacted the BBC wanting to know how to cultivate their own spaghetti trees. It was in fact filmed in St Albans.[3]
  • Left Handed Whoppers: In 1998, Burger King ran an ad in USA Today, saying that people could get a Whopper for left-handed people whose condiments were designed to drip out of the right side.[4] Not only did customers order the new burgers, but some specifically requested the "old", right-handed burger.[5]
  • Taco Liberty Bell: In 1996, Taco Bell took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times announcing that they had purchased the Liberty Bell to "reduce the country's debt" and renamed it the "Taco Liberty Bell." When asked about the sale, White House press secretary Mike McCurry replied tongue-in-cheek that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold and would henceforth be known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.[6]
  • San Serriffe: The Guardian printed a supplement in 1977 praising this fictional resort, its two main islands (Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse), its capital (Bodoni), and its leader (General Pica). Intrigued readers were later disappointed to learn that San Serriffe (sans serif) did not exist except as references to typeface terminology. (This comes from a Jorge Luis Borges story.)[7]
  • Metric time: Repeated several times in various countries, this hoax involves claiming that the time system will be changed to one in which units of time are based on powers of 10.[8]
  • Smell-o-vision: In 1965, the BBC purported to conduct a trial of a new technology allowing the transmission of odor over the airwaves to all viewers. Many viewers reportedly contacted the BBC to report the trial's success. This hoax was also conducted by the Seven Network in Australia in 2005.[9] In 2007, the BBC website repeated an online version of the hoax.[10]
  • Tower of Pisa: The Dutch television news reported once in the 1950s that the Tower of Pisa had fallen over. Many shocked people contacted the station.[11]
  • Write Only Memory: Signetics advertised Write Only Memory IC databooks in 1972 through the late 1970s.[12]
  • The Canadian news site announced in 2002 that Finance Minister Paul Martin had resigned "in order to breed prize Charolais cattle and handsome Fawn Runner ducks."[13]
For more hilarious stories of jokes from radio, television, and newspapers etc, click on the Wikipedia link:

Meanwhile, what music should we have to go with the occasion? How about this pair, both of which I used to have on 78 rpms, BTW.

"April Love" by the man in the white bucks, Pat Boone.

"Poor Little Fool" A terrific photo montage (insert sound of puppy panting here) of Ricky. He's what we used to call "a real doll" back then.