Thursday, July 31, 2008
So I’ve just been tagged with my first meme, by my friend Kat. Keep two things in mind: 1) I am probably the most computer-challenged person you know, and 2) I could count back in mere weeks to the first time I first ever heard of a “meme” and sort of thought I knew what it was, and now…I’ve been TAGGED! So, have patience, this kind of stuff does not come easily to me. I’m not whining, really I’m not. I just don’t want you to bring too high an expectation to this. Okay, let’s go.
1. Post the link to the person who tagged you and post the
rules on your blog.
2. Share 5 songs you are embarrassed to admit to others that
you like and tell why.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post.
Right off the bat I have to make a kind of disclaimer. I am not truly embarrassed to admit to liking these songs. I’m more what you’d call defiant about them. I don’t think they are bad, but each in their own way has taken some flak over the years., and perhaps not entirely undeserved here and there. Anyway, here they are – from me, head held high, to you:
1) Muskrat Love – The Captain & Tennille. I don’t own this one (or any of their songs). I don’t listen to any radio stations that ever play it. In fact, I had to Google them to see if there was one or two “n’s in Tennille. I would probably be hard pressed to even hum a few bars. But I like this song. I like muskrats. It’s that simple.
2) We Built This City – Starship. Sometimes it seems to me like everybody in the world hates this song but me. Yes, it’s not up to their usual, and yes, the video is completely horrid, but… I still like it.
3) My Sharona – The Knack. There’s no accounting for taste, you say? Well, what’s wrong with this? It’s loud, percussive, a little raunchy. Come on, what’s not to like? Some people are so picky!
4) Anything by Cher. I’m not even going to dignify this one with a defense. It’s Cher. You’ll miss her when she’s not around.
5) MacArthur Park – I went through a phase, I think it was in the 80s, or maybe the 90s, when I didn’t like this song, but then it passed. Now I see it for what it is, a total time capsule of a whole generation. So show some respect. Today’s hot fads fashions are going to look real dumb in 40 years, too.
Well, there you are. Now, I’m supposed to tag 7 people. Hmmm, that may take a while. For now, I’ll tag Christine at Quiet Paths and see if she wants to come out to play. I’ll have to get back to you with the rest.
And if anyone else out there wants to participate, don’t worry if you don’t have your own blog, or haven’t been tagged. Just leave your song/s in a comment. How can you pass up the chance to embarrass yourself in front of friends and strangers alike?
Photo from Shutterstock
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
If you had a 45 of “Mr. Tambourine Man” back in the day, then you probably flipped it over and heard our feature song. Or maybe like me you had the LP. Either way, this has got to be one of the sweetest, not to mention most under-appreciated, love songs of the era, written by Byrds member, Gene Clark. I decided that a song as affectionate as this just had to have been inspired by a real person, and I was going to try and find out who she was. I was sure that there would be scads for info and/or gossip and/or speculation out there on the W³. Imagine my surprise when I didn’t find any! At least not readily. So I decided to ramp it up and take my research to The Next Level (which consisted of making more coffee, relaxing, and then emailing an old friend in Toronto who is my go-to person about The Byrds). Here’s what I learned from his reply.
This song, like so many of the good vintage ones, is backed by the famous session musicians known as “Wrecking Crew, ” in this case Leon Russell on keyboards (see my June 28/08 post) and Hal Blaine on drums (who is also responsible for the percussion on the Beach Boys hit, “Don’t Worry Baby” and is therefore a total Drum God as far as I’m concerned). Well, okay, I’m glad to know that bit of info, but what about the girl? I read on. It turns out that back in the 60s, Gene Clark was a regular songwriting machine. He could turn out a couple dozen songs a week when he was on a roll. Of course, they weren’t all as good as this one or “8 Miles High.” The word among those in the know is that he would write about one good one per girlfriend. That could still be a lot of good ones, given the attraction young ladies have to musicians. Anyway, just as I felt we were getting somewhere, the trail went stone cold. Sorry I wasn’t able to come up with any names for you. Maybe we’ll hear from somebody out there in the Blogiverse who has the answer. Or a good guess. Or a wild guess. I’m up for anything.
Meanwhile, in looking for a YouTube vid for this song, I made the happy discovery of what has to be the YT resident expert on Byrds footage. Be sure to check out the rest of his channel. And now, without further ado, here’s our feature song:
“I Knew I’d Want You” – video, and lyrics
Byrds box set cover from Wikipedia
And special thanks to Doug in Toronto for the info.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Like you, I’ve been seeing the trailers for Mamma Mia all over TV, and I have to admit I quite eager to see it. While the very thought of it might make some people wince, I am a confirmed fan of Meryl Streep, ABBA, and movie musicals as a genre. So I’m expecting to like it. I’ll watch just about anything with Meryl Streep. She’s one the most acclaimed and versatile actors of the day. She’s played just about every kind of role there is, and is known for her meticulous dedication to her performances. I read somewhere that for Sophie’s Choice she not only learned German and Polish, but even her German has the hint of a Polish accent. Now that’s what I call getting into character!
One of my favorite performances of hers is the Carrie Fisher character in Postcards From the Edge. It wasn’t the first time Streep sang in a movie. She previously sang in Ironweed, 1987, but I didn’t see that one, so you can imagine how my jaw dropped when I heard how good she was. I’ll bet there are a lot of singers out there who are glad she didn’t go for a dual career! In Postcards she delivers a touching and irony-tinged version of “You Don’t Know Me” and then gets to belt out a rockin’ country number (backed by Canada’s Blue Rodeo, woo-hoo!) at the end. I’d say she’s more than prepared to take on Mamma Mia.
So here we are, the group that started it all, plus the teaser for Mamma Mia, the movie. Now come on, tell the truth, aren’t you just a little curious to see it? And don’t let me hear disparaging remarks from the guys about chick flicks and musicals – hey if hunky Pierce Brosnan can be in it, you certainly can go watch it!
Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
You already know this (especially if you read my recent, July 11th post), but I have a thing about time. I mean, for something so arbitrary, so totally relative, my every day revolves around it. For one thing, I’m one of those annoying people who are beyond punctual. If I’m merely on time for something, I feel like I’m late. I always bring along a book. Furthermore, I always have a watch either on my arm or in a purse or a pocket when I go out. And there’s a clock (small and unobtrusive) in every room in my house. Every one of them has a slightly different time. It might be three oh-one in the kitchen but only two twenty-nine in the bathroom, and a whopping three-fifteen on the porch. I get a big kick out of that, I really do. It’s my own private little Einsteinian joke. I have friends in various times zones, and I love to say, “…is that “my time’ and “your time?” What a riot! Don’t go feeling superior, it’s not like you don’t have some weird likes and dislikes – but hey, I’m not asking.
When it comes to vintage music, there are a ton of songs about time. That’s because so many songs were about love – getting it in the future, losing it in the present, missing it in the past. Am I not right? But for all the songs that were written about love in one tense or another, there weren’t very many that actually had real clocks or clock-like sounds in them. Those are the really special ones! My earliest introduction to such a song was listening to a very old, brittle 78-rpm recording of “My Grandfather’s Clock” that got handed down from my grandparents. I loved singing along with that old-time song as a kid, especially the “tick, tock” part. The song was written by a fellow named Henry Clay Work back in 1876, as a parlor song I suppose, but it’s been a staple of popular music and country bluegrass ever since. Johnny Cash recorded it, and so did Boyz II Men, in 2004. I was really surprised to learn that, and pleased, too. Guess it’ll be sticking around for a while yet.
I don’t know that anyone has ever made a comprehensive list of tick-tock songs, but here are three favorites of mine from the vintage rock and roll years, plus a neat version of “My Grandfather’s Clock” just for good measure, all in chronological (what else?) order:
“My Grandfather’s Clock” Performers and date unknown. This is likely as close as we can come to the way it was originally intended to be performed when it was new. Kind of an interesting juxtaposition of a song from not long after the Civil War with some modern Flash animation. Plus I noticed they say "tick tick" and "tick tock."
“Image of a Girl” The Safaris 1960. A great oldie about love- induced insomnia.
“Got a Feeling” The Mamas and Papas, 1965. I’m a big fan of the M&Ps. They also did a beautiful one about a broken clock, “Twelve-thirty.”
“Time Has Come Today” The Chambers Brothers, 1968. The length of songs, and the time it took to listen got kind of stretchy in the late 60s. That was because people under the influence of pot could listen to stuff for hours, man. YouTube has both the short and long versions. Choose your pick, all depends on your frame of mind and/or how much, ah, time you have.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
You probably won’t find this holiday printed in any of your store-bought daytimers, but today is International Woodie Wagon Day. There was a time back in the 1960s, when surfing was the rage from coast to coast, when the phrase “woodie wagon” would have been redundant. Every surfer or surfer wannabe who could swing it drove to the beach with their boards and gear in a wood-paneled station wagon known only as a "woodie." But as I pointed out in yesterday’s post, new words are added to the language all the time, and that also includes new meaning for old words. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
When I think about famous vintage songs that mention woodies, I think of The Big Three: The Beach Boys “Surfer Girl” and “Surfin’ Safari,” and one from that other famous blond surfer duo, Jan and Dean – “Surf City.” Then more recently, when I was researching for my Papa Do Run book, I discovered that The Angels also recorded a song that includes mention of that popular vehicle, titled (You Can’t Take) My Boyfriend’s Woody.” I meant what I said; I am not going there!
I’m certain there are other songs from the vintage era that I should be mentioning. More than likely there are some by the Beach Boys, but I confess, even though I have quite a few of their CDs, I don’t know every song on every one of them like I should. So, if there’s anybody out there who is a Beach Boys expert, or can think of any other songs we should include here, by all means, let’s hear from you. Meanwhile, here’s a musical tribute to one of the coolest rides in history.
“Surfer Girl” – A real sweet ballad from the Boys.
“Surf City” – Here’s Jan and Dean doing two things they did best, sing and goof around.
And finally, here’s My Boyfriend’s Woody. No comment.
Woodie photo borrowed from Serious Wheels
Friday, July 18, 2008
I mentioned in a recent post (on my other, newer blog) that I usually upgrade my dictionary about every 10 years. But this morning when I received my Merriman–Webster Word-of-the-Day word in my inbox, it made me consider getting a new one right away. The word in question is “bogart.” Here’s what they had to say:
The legendary film actor Humphrey Bogart was known for playing a range of tough characters in a series of films throughout the 1940s and 1950s, including The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, and The African Queen. The men he portrayed often possessed a cool, hardened exterior that occasionally let forth a suggestion of romantic or idealistic sentimentality. Bogart also had a unique method of smoking cigarettes in these pictures — letting the butt dangle from his mouth without removing it until it was almost entirely consumed. It is believed that this habit inspired the current meaning of "bogart," which was once limited to the phrase "Don’t bogart that joint [marijuana cigarette]," as popularized by a song on the soundtrack to the film Easy Rider, among other things. Today “bogart” can be applied to hogging almost anything.
So, I went to my own Webster’s and found only an entry for Humphrey, and nothing about cigarettes, joints or otherwise. But my dictionary is a 2001 edition, so maybe “bogart, bogarting” etc. has been out there officially for a while and I just don't know it. After all, the Baby Boomers have been old enough to be Presidents, CEOs, Grand Pooh-Bahs in all walks of life for quite some time, so it’s natural to assume that some Boomers found their way onto panels of judges who give thumbs up or down on new words that come before them, hoping, panting, dying to get into the dictionary and make a name for themselves. I can see it now, tryouts in every major city, new words performing, trying their best to impress Simon, flirt with Paula, appeal to the home viewers… Well, however it’s done, “bogart” has made the leap to the big time. And I need to head over to Chapters for a new edition.
Meanwhile, let’s hear from the song that started it all, “Don’t Bogart Me” by the Fraternity of Man.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
The first Midnight Movie I recall seeing was not exactly at a theater. It was 1960, I was 14 years old, and had a fairly lucrative baby-sitting biz going with a family that lived a few doors down and across the street. I say lucrative because in those days, a girl that age didn’t need much money. We didn’t drive, wear makeup or jewelry; there were no designer clothes, no cell phones, Blackberries, iPods. A brand new 45-rpm record would pretty much put me over the top. That New Years Eve I had my first all night sleepover at my clients' house. Anyway, on New Year’s Eve I had my first (and only) babysitting all-nighter. At fifty cents an hour, boy, was I going to rake in the cash! So, what do you do when you have the whole evening in front of you like that, and no parental supervision of your own? You stay up and watch as much TV as you please. And that New Year’s Eve the late night feature was the original (and at that time the only) movie, Invasion of the Body-Snatchers. Even though Kevin McCarthy’s character is one of the good guys, after seeing this movie I always found him seriously spooky.
By the time the 1970s came around, Midnight Movies had became a genre, and an official date night activity for those of us who were now old enough to stay up late on our own recognizance. There’s a terrific doc about the subject called Midnight Movies: From Margin to Mainstream, that looks at the phenomenon, focusing on six main films that started it all: El Topo (1970), Night of the Living Dead (1968), The Harder They Come (1972), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), and Eraserhead (1977). Of course there were many others in the whole cult, creepy, B-movie, exploitation catalogue. One particular favorite among the late might set (and not just the stoner crowd) was Reefer Madness. This 1936 film was originally targeted at parents as a warning about the dangers of marijuana (those would be manslaughter, hit and run, suicide, rape, and wild dancing), but a 1970s re-cut and changing times turned it into a hilarious cult classic.
I don’t know how many of these movies are still in general midnight circulation these days. How shocking is El Topo after Reservoir Dogs anyway? I think the only true survivor is Rocky Horror. Well, they are still part of our collective experience, and you never know when or where they will turn up. Take this YouTube video, for instance.
Buddy Holly “Rave On” - This is one of my favorite songs by Buddy. It’s really an upbeat little love song. I never would have thought of putting it with footage from Reefer Madness. But, ya know, it actually works, in a weird twisted kind of way. Well, that’s the Midnight spirit all right. And I think I used to have a sweater just like that chick dancing.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
My apologies for this not being an actual post. I’m working on a technical problem and need to test a possible solution. For some time now, I’ve been aware that some readers (but not all, mind you) see weird symbols and notation that said, in part “support Empty Paras.” There’s a number of things on my personal social and political agenda that I am happy to support, but Empty Paras – I’m not even sure what an Empty Para is much less know if they deserve my support.
Anyway, for those who see them, they are no doubt distracting. And to me, they are annoying, because I’m sure that what they are saying about me behind my back is: this chick don’t know diddly-squat about computers. Well, ya got me there. But yesterday I had a conversation with a fellow blogger who suggested a possible solution. Hence the test.
Okay I think I have nattered on here enough, and given those pesky notations enough opportunity to show up. So, if you used to see them and now you don’t, it means the possible solution was just the ticket. If they’re still there, then it’s back to square one. Either way, I thank you for your kind patience.
Test pattern from Wikimedia Commons
Monday, July 14, 2008
That’s not really a serious question. But if it were, you might have to think about what constitutes a fake band is in the first place. We know there’s such a thing as air guitar competitions, but could there be showdowns for entire air bands, too? Answer to that one: let’s hope not. Maybe it could refer to ‘musicians’ like the infamous fake lip-synching Milli Vanilli? No, it turns out that fake bands are the fictional bands mentioned on TV and in the movies, that don’t exist out here in the real world. Unlike air guitar players, which do exist in the real world. And let me tell you, however many fake bands you might be able to name, I can pretty safely guarantee you will leave out most of them. Unless you happen to be a fellow named T. Mike Childs, and you’ve written a book called “The Rocklopedia Fakebandica.” I bought a copy of this book; it’s a terrific pop culture reference, and really comprehensive. Anyway, since a great many bands mentioned in movies, TV etc. don’t have actual recordings we can physically listen to, it would be pretty difficult to pick your fave, right? Let’s not be too hasty…
The other day I got in a groove on the WWW, one site leading to another, and I ended up in some pages for the popular TV show LOST. After what I saw online, I’m obviously not the biggest LOST fanatic out there, but I do watch all the new episodes (and let the machine pick-up when they’re on) and catch as many re-runs as possible (if you’re a LOST fan to any degree, you’ll understand the absolute necessity of watching re-runs). Anyway, I went from the Wikipedia page about driveSHAFT (which all LOSTies will immediately recognize as Charlie’s rock band before his unscheduled tropical vacation) to an actual website for the driveSHAFT. I just have to repeat that. There’s an actual website devoted to information on tours, albums etc about a band that doesn’t exist. You know, I have to say I quite like the idea, bending fiction and reality like that. We didn’t really get much of a taste of driveSHAFT’s music on LOST, but I have to admit that the one phrase “you-all everybody” did stick in my head. I may have even hummed it once or twice in the supermarket, and I could even repeat it for you now, if pressed. Does that make them my favorite fake band? Probably as close as it’s going to get.
Here’s a YT video of an air guitar competition. Feel free to sample as much or a little as you fancy. It seems that air guitar is a global thing, but the crème de la crème all go to Oulu, Finland for the annual World Air Guitar Championships, and have been since 1996. I could probably crack wise here about the necessity of any kind of entertainment on those desperately long cold Finnish winters, but I won’t; Finland has never done anything to me. Oh, and BTW, if you go to the driveSHAFT website, you’ll notice it’s called “Second Tour of Finland” (italics mine). Coincidence? Is anything a coincidence?
Well, to end on a non-fake note, here is some classic Woodstock footage that many consider to contain the first public air guitar (and possibly a little air keyboard too?) moment. I’m talkin’ about Joe Cocker. I don’t know about fake bands, but I sure like listening to this real one!
One last quick mention. If you buy a copy of T. Mike’s book, it won’t have an entry for driveSHAFT, because it was released the same year as LOST’s first season (2004). But the website is up to date, with lots of other fictional bands. Maybe we can expect a second volume or an updated version. After all, new fake bands are born every day.
Friday, July 11, 2008
A: Because it’s no good having the inclination if you haven’t got the time. Okay, that was a bad one, but, really, we should never underestimate the importance of time. It’s inspired a lot of creativity, from Proust’s monumental seven-volume Remembrance of Things Past (they should sell that puppy by the pound) to Salvador Dali’s limp watches (official title, “The Persistence of Memory”) to the Back to the Future franchise. Not to be left out, music has given the world a lot of memorable songs about time as well. Some of my faves include “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” (Sandy Denny, Judy Collins) “Time” (Pozo Seco Singers) “Ahead By A Century” Tragically Hip. Time, no matter how you slice it, or make that measure it, has been an important part of vintage oldies, too. I thought we might take time today to listen to some of the famous time songs from “back in the day.”
By the day: “Rock Around the Clock” – Bill Haley and His Comets, 1954-55). This is a terrific vid – footage from American Graffiti. What a great time capsule that show is!
By the week: “I Met Him on a Sunday” – The Shirelles, 1958. A real early hit for the gals from Passaic, and dear to my heart for also being one of the early uses of “papa do run” in the lyrics, and the inspiration for my book title.
By the year: “It Was a Very Good Year” Frank Sinatra, 1961. Okay, this isn’t exactly a rock and roll number, but it is in the vintage years. I have to confess, at the risk of drawing ire from some, that I am not and never have been a Sinatra fan. I know, he’s Sinatra, the Chairman of the Board, one of the very first teen idol scream-inducers, but he’s just never spun my wheels. I don’t’ care for this song all that much, either, but I heroically put my tastes and feelings aside, in the interest of Blogging Art. Please, don’t applaud; I’m just doing my job.
By the really big stuff: “Oh-oh I’m Falling in Love Again” – Jimmie Rodgers, 1958. This one cover it all, with the infectious chorus…
Never in a hundred, never in a thousand,
Never in a million years,
Never in a million years
So there you are. I can’t at the moment think of any rock and roll songs about any geologic eras, or about tiny seconds, for that matter. Maybe you can?
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Did you ever have one of those mornings, you know, the kind where you sleep in after having worked quite late, and when you finally do rise and walk past the spare room (where the cats have their gear), you discover the carpeting is soaked and there’s a big wet patch on the ceiling, so you run to the kitchen to get a pan, meanwhile all four cats start ragging on you because they’re really hungry, but then they don’t want to eat once you do put their food out because the bowls aren’t in the place where they usually are (all cats have OCD, in case you didn’t know…) because you moved them so they wouldn’t float away, and they’re also upset because you’re racing around with towels and that useless little Bissel steamer (this leak needs the industrial strength model), and you're tripping over cats, cats are flying everywhere, and you’re also using a few of those words that you are going to have to but change in the jar for later, and…well, have you ever had one of those?
So now several hours later, the Heating and Cooling guy has been and gone, after fixing the A/C unit (plugged drainage tube, not too expensive). Later, the carpet cleaner guy is coming by to spray anti-mildew stuff on the carpet and suck up more water, in hopes of saving the carpet. Don’t want to have to replace that! And the ceiling will need to be repainted, at the very least. No other damage, thank goodness. Why did the AC leak through the ceiling you ask? Because the furnace is in the attic, silly. Actually, that’s not all that uncommon in these little cottage-y houses along the lakeshore, with no basement. Oh well, when you’ve done all you can do, then you've can only relax, close your eyes – no don’t do that, it’s a really beautiful video! – and listen to the Moody Blues.
This song has just about more title variations than you can shake the proverbial stick at. Part of the Moodies brilliant concept album, Days of Future Passed, it’s been known as “Tuesday Afternoon,” “Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?),” and “Tuesday Afternoon (Forever Afternoon).” I think they are all very nice. “Tuesday Afternoon” was released as a single in 1968, as was the other famous single from the album, “Nights in White Satin.” Composer Justin Hayward said he wrote “Tuesday Afternoon” as he was sitting in a field near his home in England, on a beautiful afternoon. But probably not after running around all morning with wet towels.
Monday, July 7, 2008
I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: one person’s new and startling trivia is another person’s tired old fact. With that in mind, I offer you some of the fascinating info I just found out about the Nina and Frederik, who sang that soft calypso-style song, “Listen to the Ocean.” But first, just a bit of history. Calypso music swept into North America the 1950s in much the same way the British bands did a decade later. One of the early precursors of calypso rhythm in a popular song was the 1944 Andrews Sisters Island-flavored hit, “Rum and Coca-cola,” then in 1956 Harry Belafonte released what would become a million-seller album, and give us the blockbuster hit single, “Banana Boat Song.” Soon everybody was getting into the Island spirit. I particularly remember “Marianne” by Terry Gilkyson and the Easy Riders (1957) and “Jamaica Farewell” by the Kingston Trio.
Back in 1960, I had the 45 of “Listen to the Ocean,” and just about wore it out. But it didn’t come with a picture sleeve to show me what the artists looked like, so, in my extreme youth and inexperience, I assumed the Nina and Frederik were what we would call today Afro-Caribbean. You know, like Harry Belafonte (who was actually born in Harlem, New York...but hey, what did a white suburban 14-year old kid know in 1960?). Anyway, that mode of thinking about Nina and Frederik didn’t get revised until just the other day, when I began to research (Wikipedia) this tribute. First discovery: they’re white! Second discovery: they’re…Danish?? Well, who knew! Anyway, though we may think of Nina and Frederik (or as their close friends called them, Baron and Baroness - really!) as pretty much a One-Hit-Wonder group, they enjoyed quite an international following for a while. Then they divorced in 1975, and each of them went down very different roads. Here is quickie time line of sorts to show you what I mean. And I think you’ll agree that while Baroness Nina did pretty well for herself, the Baron, not so much.
Nina: In 1960, Danish singer and actress Nina Magdelene Moller-Hasselback married Frederik, Baron van Pallandt, formed a singing duo, and released “Listen to the Ocean.” After they divorced, Nina moved to Ibiza (still there) and was romantically linked to resident author Clifford Irving (who wrote a ton of books that could be pretty decent for all I know, but is best known for that fake bio of Howard Hughes). In the Richard Gere film about the bio hoax (“The Hoax”) Nina was played by Julie Delpy. Interestingly, Nina herself had a part in Gere’s “American Gigolo.” She also had parts in several Robert Altman films in the ‘70s, and contributed a song to a James Bond movie, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” There’s also a rumor that Nina might be the model for the enigmatic Marie-Claire in Peter Sarstedt’s “Where Do You Go To My Lovely” (the one about the girl from the streets turned international jet-setter).
Frederik: After the split, Frederik eventually settled in the Philippines, got involved with a major Aussie crime syndicate (there’s got to be a pun in there somewhere if I can just find it!) trafficking in drugs, and was murdered (a hit?) in 1994.
Well, that’s the long and short of it. To my great disappointment, YouTube doesn’t have “Listen to the Ocean” at present. Too bad, it’s a really lovely song. I’ll give you a link for Amazon so you can at least hear a tidbit to whet your ear’s appetite.
Friday, July 4, 2008
It’s human nature I’m sure, but when we Baby Boomers were young, and we’d hear a song that mentioned a person by name, we would wonder if the person was real; if the lyrics were truly autobiographical. You don’t think so? Think about it, what bobby-soxer didn’t wonder if Annette really had a tall boyfriend named Paul, or if poor Elvis really got two-timed by a black-haired chick named Marie? You're right, maybe it was just the gals who wondered about things like that. Whatev'. Our feature song today is one I wanted to pay tribute to simply because it’s a great little song, and I always really liked it. But when I looked it up, I discovered that it, too, is about a real person.
The “Patty” in the song is one of the famous American Bandstand regulars from the early days, Pat Molittieri. I logged a lot of hours watching Bandstand, so all the old names are practically as familiar to me as my own high school classmates. As the years roll on, some of the Bandstand Committee members have begun to “graduate” in a different sense, but I was shocked to learn that Pat passed away at such a young age. Still, she is remembered as part of rock and roll history, the Philly chapter. The Freddy Cannon lyrics goes on to include all the other dancin’ “Pattys” all over the country, so we girls can all say we owned a little piece of this tune, in spirit. So, let’s take a moment to remember a great song, a great Philly dancer, and the days when we were young. Ya baby!
Freddy Cannon – “PATTY BABY” 1963
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
A BRAIN TEASER FOR POP CULTURE ADDICTS: What's the connection between LAURIE ANDERSON, HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW, and a TAILGATE PARTY?
Ya give? Okay, here (in no particular order) is how it goes:
1) Way back in 1855, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote his famous epic poem, Song of Hiawatha, based on some stories from the Ojibway people, as interpreted by his contemporary, the noted ethnographer, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (even back then everybody important had to have three names!) who got the stories from his wife, Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, who was of Ojibway and Irish descent. Still with me? Longfellow’s poem is known for many things, but most kids who had to study and learn to recite it in elementary school remember it for is distinct rhythm. I remember being told by my mother (who was born in 1912) that she had to commit a chunk of Hiawatha to memory as a girl, but hers may have been one of the last generations to do that. I myself recall having to memorize the dagger speech from Hamlet in high school, but we never studied Longfellow. Personally, I doubt there has been much epic poetry memorizing and reciting in schools for quite some time. I wonder if kids in these educationally diminished times ever crack a book on 19th Century poetry. Or Shakespeare for that matter. But I’m wandering away from my topic…
2) In 1989, experimental performance artist Laurie Anderson recorded her fifth album, Strange Angels, which included a track titled “Hiawatha.” This mystical number is a kind of pastiche ( in the non-humorous sense) of well-known musical and cultural references. Here’s a partial list: Elvis, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Captain Midnight, a famous nursery rhyme, Marilyn and JFK, The Star-Spangled Banner, and...Hamm’s Beer.
3) Many Baby Boomers will surely remember this one. Hamm’s Beer has been around for a long time (since 1865), but one if its most beloved and famous ad campaigns came in the late ‘50s. Remember those commercials featuring Sascha, the Hamm’s Beer bear, with the tom-tom jingle, “From the Land of Sky-Blue Waters…”? The lyrics and rhythm were either (depending on your own point of view) an homage to or rip-off of the Longfellow poem. Plus, Hamm’s was founded in Minnesota, which is a Dakota word that translates as “water that reflects the sky.” Not only that, Sascha the bear was created by the famous Ojibway artist, Paul Desjarlait, in 1955. People loved that bear like they loved their Hamm’s. If you liked to party down in the latter 50s into the 60s, there’s a good chance it was with Hamm’s – after all, it had a rep as being one of the cheapest (but still quite palatable) beers on the market. Possibly you still party with Hamm’s today, although distribution these days is pretty spotty. Sadly, however, Sascha the bear was mothballed by the same forces that more recently retired Joe Camel. But Sascha and Hamm’s memorabilia and history are highly collectible in the booming nostalgia market.
I think this video of Laurie Anderson's “Hiawatha” is really beautiful. You’ll recognize many of the images from the Hubble telescope. You’ll also see in the lyrics (“more info”) the reference to “land of sky blue waters.” Although the song is on the album mentioned above (Strange Angels) this particular recording is credited as being from a live concert in New Jersey, which may account for the wonderful ‘echo’ quality it has, not found on Strange Angels. In fact, one of the YouTube commenters called it a bootleg recording. I can’t vouch for that one way or another, but it’s a gorgeous rendition. I think the words and images are meant for each other (and I said so). If I ever do find this version on a CD, I’m buying it!
The famous Hamm’s Beer jingle Today, of course, we recognize the tom-toms as culturally insensitive. And I think the soprano duck is pretty bizarre, too.
So there you have it, three seemingly incongruous things, all neatly linked together in well under the standard six degrees of separation.
Photos of Longfellow and Laurie Anderson from Wikimedia Commons; photo of tailgate party from Creative Commons, by Rob Lee