Friday, February 29, 2008

MIKE SMITH 1944-2008

The lead singer and keyboardist of the Dave Clark has passed. Baby boomers and other oldies fans will remember the DC5 as the only serious competition to the Beatles for Most Popular Brit Invasion Band. So we bid Mike Smith farewell, and say, “Thanks for all the music!”

Because -

(photo from site)


Today is February 29th, or Leap Day, so…Happy Birthday to all those born on this date. You are now officially one year older than you were four years ago, if you go by the Gregorian calendar that is. There are many kinds of calendars currently in use in the world. Most of the world uses the Gregorian as a kind of standard, to keep things from getting really messed up. But apparently the Berbers of North Africa still use the Julian calendar, and they do all right. The rest of the world’s calendars all are pretty much only religious in nature now, as near as I can tell. There’s a Coptic calendar, a Hebrew one, one for the Hindus. And we can’t forget the famous Chinese one (they get a whole Leap Month – woo hoo!). There’s an Islamic calendar too, but anything Leap is forbidden, so their holidays kinda keep drifting around. The Iranians do get to leap, and have what is described as the most accurate calendar of all. I checked it out, but there’s way too much math involved for my liking. However, if you feel like taking a crack at it, here are a few handy facts (taken, with thanks, from good old Wikipedia) to help you get the drift, so to speak.

A leap year (or intercalary year) is a year containing one or more extra days (or, in case of lunisolar calendars, an extra month) in order to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal year. For example, February would have 29 days in a leap year instead of the usual 28. Seasons and astronomical events do not repeat at an exact number of full days, so a calendar which had the same number of days in each year would over time drift with respect to the event it was supposed to track. By occasionally inserting (or intercalating) an additional day or month into the year, the drift can be corrected. A year which is not a leap year is called a common year.

In the Gregorian calendar, the current standard calendar in most of the world, most years that are divisible by 4 are leap years. In a leap year, the month of February has 29 days instead of 28. Adding an extra day to the calendar every four years compensates for the fact that a solar year is almost 6 hours longer than 365 days.

However, some exceptions to this rule are required since the duration of a solar year is slightly less than 365.25 days. Years which are divisible by 100 are not leap years, unless they are also divisible by 400, in which case they are leap years. For example, 1600 and 2000 were leap years, but 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not. Going forward, 2100, 2200, 2300, 2500, 2600, 2700, 2900, and 3000 will not be leap years, but 2400 and 2800 will be.

There! Now you can plan ahead for the rest of the millennium. As for what music goes with the occasion (other than a few rounds of Happy Birthday) I couldn’t think of any vintage rock and roll song that celebrates Leap Year. However, there appears to be at least two contemporary songs mentioning Leap Year on YouTube. I gave them a listen, and while very nice, they just didn’t reach out and grab me. At least not for a post about a day who’s sole duty is to correct the drift of time. So here’s my pick (and I know you see this coming)… The Drifters, featuring one of the truly great voices of all time - by anybody's calendar reckoning – Mr. Ben E. King.

“I have counted every day…”

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Maybe you already know all about this, but I only got a clue recently. That’s because no matter how much music trivia one may have collected, one can never truly know it all, no matter how one may wish. But fortunately, one has friends who fill in the gaps, and a friend of mine emailed me asking if I’d seen the recent show on PBS about John Lennon’s Jukebox (I missed it). Hmm, I wondered, what could be the story behind that? The very phrase “John Lennon’s Jukebox” has kind of a Da-Vinci-Code-meets-Al-Capone’s-Vault ring to it. Did John Lennon really have his own private jukebox? If so, what secret music might he have kept there? And, what insights might that give into the heart and soul of the late music legend? Well, I checked into it, and discovered that John Lennon did indeed have a jukebox. Not only that, it was a portable jukebox. Of course, back in those technologically distant days, a portable jukebox, while much smaller that the large floor models found in 1950s teen hangouts (Chuck Berry: “Right to the juke-joint you go in”) were still about the size of a medium suitcase.

Special note for all the young readers: Before there were MP3s, teens who wanted to take their tunes with them had to hoist over-sized heavy contraptions known as “boom boxes” onto their shoulders, like young musical stevedores. Not only that, but computers used to be the size of school buses. Nobody owned a “personal” one of those either. I kid you not; it was unreal! Anyway, back to our main topic.

According to the Wikipedia article on the subject, John Lennon’s Jukebox emerged from obscurity at an auction in the late 80s, and was purchased by a music promoter. This fellow did some research and restoration, and – voila! – the famous Beatles’ proto-iPod became part of history. Lennon filled his suitcase jukebox with 40 of his favorite early hits by American (mostly) and British artists. There’s Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Gary U.S. Bonds, Paul Revere, The Animals, Donovan… Most of Lennon's private stock can be found on a CD called, as you might expect, “John Lennon’s Jukebox.” There is also a list of singles that the Wikipedia article says were “believed to be” on the jukebox as well. It isn’t clear who believes it, or why, but the very first name on the list is Arthur Alexander, with his single “You Better Move On.” Arthur A. has one of those voices that stick with you long after the record stops spinning. He was a talented writer as well, penning “You Better Move On” and “Soldier of Love,” both covered by the Beatles, ditto his touching break-up song, “Anna (Go to Him).” I like the Beatles’ version a lot, but Arthur, well, he’s the man, IMHO. But hey, you can have a listen and decide for yourself. And you don’t have to pack a suitcase to do it.



I noticed that some of the people who left comments at YouTube are very sharp, and have picked up on the fact that the title is "Anna (Go To Him)" but in the lyrics, it's always "go with him." I don't think there's anything significant we can read into that, just one of those things, but to a trivia buff, it's red meat!

Monday, February 25, 2008

KNOCK KNOCK (who's there?) THE WHO (who?) NO...THE WHO (what?) NEVER MIND (no wait wait, I get it...The Who who!) FORGET IT (aw c'mon, start over)

About two years ago I had this great idea for a new show in the CSI series. I wrote down the description of it, and figured I’d send it to Jerry Bruckheimer. I was sure he’d like it so much he’d decide to do it right on the spot. This isn’t the first time I’ve had an idea along these lines. I also dreamed up (literally) an amazing sequel for Dances With Wolves. But that’s another story. I bet all you clever people out there have ideas for TV show episodes and movies, too. I’m sure you have chicken-scratch notes and synopses written on the backs of bar napkins and wrinkled old envelopes all over the place. But, if you’ve ever tried to actually contact the bigwigs about it, you found that you quickly ran into a big legal firewall. The truth is, no matter how brilliantly terrific your idea is, nobody wants anything to do with it. Why not? Because of the money, honey. You see, if you sent Kev or Jerry or whoever anything unsolicited, from that napkin to a full script, and they read it, but they happen to already be working on something similar, or were about to be thinking about working on something with even the teensiest faintest wildest stretch-of-the-imagination reference to something in your scrap of paper, then you could sue them for stealing your idea. And it’s a safe bet this kind of thing isn’t “hypothetical” either. I’m sure it’s happened enough times before, and some big names got financially burned. Hence the firewall. The fact that you may not be in it for the money; that all you may want is the bragging rights within your small circle of friends won’t be enough to get you an audience. If you don’t believe me, go to Jerry B’s website and read the notice.

Anyway, no one says I can't share my idea with all y'all out there in Cyberland, right? So, I think Detroit/Windsor would make a great CSI franchise. These two are the Twin (international) Cities of the Great Lakes. It could be like Due South, but with grit. Think about it, you’ve got potential for all kinds of episodes: the usual crimes, drugs and intrigue in a city famous for the Purple Gang and the Jimmy Hoffa. On the contemporary end there’s the huge annual auto show (fast cars) big casinos (on both sides of the border), and its own Indy Grand Prix. You could do a lot with cross- border smuggling, homeland security, illegal immigration. There’s lots of interesting ethnic populations from all over the globe, plus a First Nation reserve in the area. What’s not to love? I think the Motor City and the Rose City (Windsor’s nickname) could easily hold their own against the CSI’s in LV, Miami and NY. Can’t you just see someone like Ray Liotta (like he was in Narc) or Michael Madsen (Mr. Blonde in Reservoir Dogs...okay you’re right, that one’s a bit extreme) and maybe Mekhi Phifer (if we can steal him away from ER) as an over-the-edge cop and forensics team? And add to it their Canadian connection, maybe that hunky Chris William Martin from Tom Stone, and Tom Jackson from North of 60. Am I right or am I right?

Well, all we need now is a theme song. That could be a bit troublesome. Of course, tradition dictates that every CSI show has to have a Who song. I like the last 50 or so seconds (2:17 in the video below) of “The Kids Are All Right” – perfect for a troubled burned-out cop who sometimes just has to get away. Or how about that verse about the clenched fist (2:19) in “Behind Blue Eyes.” Yeah, that’d work. But we might prefer to use something more geographically correct. No trouble finding the goods locally, either old school (classic Motown, like Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On”) or new (Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”). Oh, I think this could be really big, people! Ah, but it will never happen; not unless somebody behind the wall is already thinking it up. As for me, I threw that scribbled old phone bill envelope away a long time ago. Anyway, here's the song candidates. You can imagine the plot line.

The Kids Are All Right - The band lip sync-ing, and probably given the telltale lack of electric cords, sync-ing everything.

Behind Blue Eyes -

What's Going On -

Lose Yourself - Generally speaking, I'm not into rap or hip-hop. It's just not my generation, and quite frankly, many of the lyrics make me blush. But I like this one, the main song from Eminem's semi-biopic, 8 Mile. Everybody can relate to the theme, and the language is surprisingly tame...what can I say, I'm a big square. Cool shots of my old home town, BTW.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


There’s a lot of titled royalty in vintage rock/pop songs. We have the King of the Road (Roger Miller), the Duke of Earl (Gene Chandler), a Pineapple Princess (Annette), the Lady Jane (Rolling Stones), and a particular favorite of mine, the Queen of the Hop, by Bobby Darin. Back in 1958, when Bobby was singing about his teen queen, I was just a kid barely into double digits, practicing my dance moves for some as yet unspecified rock and roll future (high school?) when they might come in handy. I listened to all the songs by my musical elders; the same music mentioned in “Queen of the Hop.” Man, that song is a veritable who’s who and what's what of vintage rock and roll. I decided I’d try and match them all up, but when I did, I found something that, like The Who, I can’t explain…Here’s the lyrics, edited for space:

Well, you can talk about your Julie and your Peggy Sue.
You can keep your Miss Molly and your Mary Lou.
But when it comes to the chicken or to doin’ the bop
I got a girl they call the queen of the hop.

(chorus) Oh well I love my queen.
Do you know who I mean?
Sweet little sixteen
Yes, that's my queen.

Well, she wears short shorts and-a rock ‘n’ roll shoes.
You ought to see her dance to the yellow dog blues.
She's my sugar time baby, I'm her lollipop,
And everybody knows I love my queen of the hop

Okey dokey, let’s with the last verse and work our way up. We’ve got “Lollipop” (The Chordettes, ’58) “Sugartime” (The McGuire Sisters, ’57) not to mention “Short Shorts” (The Royal Teens, ’58) and “Yellow Dog Blues.” The “Yellow Dog Blues” is a really old blues number credited to W.C. Handy in the early 1900s, but I did find a reference to a 1952 release by another artist, so I think we’re still in the ballpark.

Chorus: “Sweet Little 16” (Chuck Berry ’58)

First verse; here we’ve got “Oh Julie” (The Crescendos, ’57) “Peggy Sue” (Buddy Holly, ’57) “Good Golly Miss Molly” (Little Richard, ’56) and finally, Mary Lou. Hmmm, Mary Lou …Mary Lou…yes, but…which one? It looks like there’s two Mary Lou’s to consider. The sources I checked say that “Hello Mary Lou” by Rick Nelson was a hit in 1961, and “Mary Lou” (“she took my watch and chain…”) by Ronnie Hawkins dates to 1959. That sounds about right, as best I can recall, but if those dates are accurate, then both of those songs are too late for our Queen who ruled in 1958. So, who, then, is the Mary Lou in the song? My friends, I can't think of a thing. So is my Baby Boomer memory shorting out on me? Like, is there some other famous vintage Mary Lou that I’m forgetting, a song I really should know, and when someone out there reminds me, I'll slap my forehead and go, “Well duh-uh!” Okay, music fans out there; help me out, wouldja.

We've got quite a lot of listening to do here. And may I take this opportunity to say, Thank You to YouTube!

Lollipop - Check out Andy Williams doing the sound effects! And I have a funny feeling that could be the Everlys right at the very end, clapping.

Sugartime -

Short Shorts - I put this in a recent post, but hey, you get to listen to that great sax all over again.

Yellow Dog Blues - I would so dance to this!

Sweet Little 16 -

Oh Julie -

Peggy Sue -

Good Golly Miss Molly -

Queen of the Hop - and of course, the song that started all this -

as for the elusive Mary Lou-

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


What do those two have in common, you may wonder. Well, for that answer, we need to pop over to the website, “Astronomy Picture of the Day.” Today’s feature picture is of the March 3, 2007 lunar eclipse, taken with an open shutter so that the moon leaves a sweeping trail across the sky. It’s a very cool picture, for sure, but the title of the picture also caught my attention. It’s called “Moon Slide Slim.” If you’re an oldies fan, especially a JT fan, you’ll recognize this as a pun on “Mud Slide Slim” - the title of a song on his 1971 album, “Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon.” Perhaps the best-known song from that album is “You’ve Got A Friend.” I don’t think Mud Slide Slim ever got that much air as a single, but it’s a nice little ballad, too. However, my favorite from the album is “You Can Close Your Eyes” so that’s the one I’m going to post for you today. As for the tonight's eclipse, if you live within the viewing area, and the skies are clear, it should be a lovely way to spend some time. Special thanks to fellow blogger and frequent commenter here, Quietpaths, for the photo (by Matthew) of the moon over the beautiful mountains of Montana.

You Can Close Your Eyes
Once you view this video, you can click over to "Mud Slide Slim" too if you like.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Today's eclipse info

Monday, February 18, 2008


It occurred to me that there could be some visitors to this blog who, for a variety of reasons, might not be able to place Timothy Leary. So I thought I’d just do a little quickie list of Leary facts. You know me, I like to be helpful whenever I can.


  • an American psychologist, counterculture hero, pioneer and huge advocate of psychedelic drug use.
  • the creator of the phrase “Turn on, Tune in, Drop out,” which to some kids kinda meant “Do drugs, see weird stuff, quit MacDonald’s.
  • the founder of the Harvard Psilocybin Project. I’ll bet that’s one academic elective you weren’t expecting.
  • kicked out of Harvard for missing too many classes (and he was the prof) and extra curricular sharing of LSD & magic mushrooms with students.
  • buddies with Ken Kesey’s busload of Merry Pranksters, as immortalized by Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. The Grateful Dead were kind of their house band, or maybe bus band is more accurate.
  • regularly raided by the FBI.
  • a candidate for governor of California against Ronald Reagan.
  • in Montreal with John and Yoko at their famous Bed-In for Peace.
  • imprisoned on drug charges. (when admitted, he was given psychological tests that he himself had designed). He later escaped. Long story.
  • called “the most dangerous man in America” by…wait for it…Richard Nixon
  • an inmate at Folsom Prison, in a cell next to Charles Manson.
  • one of the first people to have his remains shot into space. In 1997, some of Leary’s ashes were carried aloft (along with ashes of Gene “Star Trek” Roddenberry and others) where they orbited the earth for six years before re-entering the atmosphere and burning up. Maybe that shooting star you saw….
  • the inspiration for John Lennon’s “Tomorrow Never Knows” on the Revolver album. Lennon also wrote “Come Together” for Leary’s interrupted (by prison) campaign for governor. He’s also in the song “Legend of a Mind” by the Moody Blues, and has been showing up regularly in songs by more recent, alt bands.

Of course, there’s much much more to his life, but this will get you started. You may also be wondering how I feel about Timothy Leary. Well, as I’ve already mentioned (January 17/08 post) I wasn’t much for drugs, so I never did acid or ’shrooms - always felt that if I did, I’d end up like Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys - but still, my basic philosophy is, to each his/her own. And I think Timothy Leary did a lot of good working for peace. I wish he was still in orbit. Okay now, let’s wrap things up with some music. When you open the link, the first thing you’ll see is Dr. Leary himself, in the foreground, facing left, mouth open, singing. Far out.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Okay, if I haven’t quite convinced you yet that I’m all about the trivia, then this post should settle things once and for all. Not long ago (January 23, 2007), I put up a post here about the hippie-era musical, Hair, which included a link to a YouTube video excerpt featuring the song, “The Flesh Failures/Let the Sunshine In.” Now, this song includes a few lines from an earlier song in the program, “Manchester England England,” sung by the character Claude. This in turn led me to discover that the lyrics “embedded” in the Manchester reprise part (still with me?) are some lines from William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” namely Romeo’s death scene. Well that’s cool. But it’s still not quite the end of it. As I’ve said many times before, when you go look up song lyrics online, and start comparing sites, you can find a lot of disagreement. For one thing, words just don’t sound the same to everybody. And so it is with “The Flesh Failures/Let the Sunshine In.” I’m talking about one small and seemingly insignificant little word near the transition from the “Flesh Failures” to the “Sunshine” parts. Here’s the verse in question:

Singing our space-song on a spider web, sitar
Life is around you and in you
Answer for Timothy Leary, dearie
Let the sunshine, etcetc.

After clicking around at a whole bunch of lyrics sites, I can roughly estimate that about half of them list the second-to-last line as “Answer for Timothy Leary, dearie,” as it is in the above example. The other half say the word is “from.” As I considered which one might be correct, there was something about those two choices, especially “for,” that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I thought about it for a while, gave up, and then, as often happens when you move on to something else, has a flash of inpsiration, and remembered an important clue. Earlier in the Hair program, Claude sings the full version of “Manchester England” which contains the following verse:

Now that I've dropped out,
why is life dreary dreary?
Answer my weary query
Timothy Leary dearie

Now, as you check out those 4 lines, recall that Timothy Leary’s most memorable quote of the hippie era was “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” Claude has dropped out, and is finding that it’s not all he thought it would be; in fact, it’s pretty darn dreary. He wants an answer from Dr. Leary, the head hippie guru, the big bwana himself. If you want my opinion, I think this proves that the word in question is “from” not “for.” However, I will say this, listening to it, it does sound more like “for” than “from.” But then again, the lyrics are rushing by pretty fast for totally clear diction. I’ll stand by “from.” Plus, it makes good sense – Claude asks Dr. L. why his life is so dreary, and the answer back from Leary is simple, “Let the sunshine in!” (probably through some windowpane acid…)

Thus, the mystery appears solved, but as is often the case, when one trivia door closes, another opens. Now I want to know if Timothy Leary actually ever said this alleged quote, “Let the sunshine in.” He certainly could have said it; I think we can agree on that. Or are they the words of Rado and Ragni, written in the “spirit of” Leary? It’s one more bit of trivia I’d really like to know. So, if there are any Leary-philes or scholars out there, or any aging hippies with a box full of yellowing Leary books in the attic, then let me hear from you! As for me, I gotta go close the mini-blinds; the afternoon sunshine is just brutal…

Here is the previously posted link to the video of “The Flesh Failures/Let the Sunshine In” in case you want to listen again. I’m currently trying to track down a copy of the complete documentary by creators Pola Rapaport and Wolfgang Held. If I find it, you can be sure I’ll give you a full report!

Friday, February 15, 2008


You may have heard in the last day or so that the once-ubiquitous Polaroid camera is passing out of our lives. Actually, the camera itself went out of production a couple of years ago, but you could still buy the film. Now, Polaroid has announced they will stop making the film, too – in about a year. That means that people who rely on the archaic technology (Polaroid instant cameras have been around since 1948) will have to pony up the cash and scramble around to buy up as much as they possibly can. Who, in the age of photo phones and digital cameras, would rely on a Polaroid? Well, for one, there’s this guy from Connecticut who travels to Peru to photograph mummies deep in the jungle. It no doubt saves him having to lug along a lot of cumbersome equipment; I seriously doubt he’d get many bars on his cell phone. Other than that, most everyone else, from artists (could create interesting and weird effects) to sales people (easy to send pix of merchandise) to amateur home porn stars (instant photographic gratification and no pesky negatives) has moved on to the new. So who cares about the Polaroid?

Well, baby boomers will undoubtedly make note of this passing. Polaroid cameras were part of what made boomer culture so cutting edge back in our day. And that signature sound, that rolling click-and-wheeze…what person over a certain age wouldn’t recognize that in a heartbeat? There’s a huge generation of people today to whom waving a square of damp Polaroid film and arguing with friends about whether or not the waving made it develop faster is something they’ve only heard about from their grandparents. Remember taking a shot at a party, peeling it apart and huddling over it anxiously, as the images slowing,, magically... appeared? Was it going to be a good one? Or was it going to be blurry? Oh, you had your eyes closed, you dope! Never mind (click, wheeze) try again. I haven’t used a Polaroid since the 80s. I worked in an art gallery then, and we’d send instant shots to prospective buyers by snail mail. I’m sure every aspect of that went high-tech a long time ago. In my retirement, I use a digital camera too, and email pictures to friends, so I can’t say a Polaroid something that’s noticeably missing from my day-to-day life (like that anthropologist in Peru) but still…it was nice knowing that they were still around. And now when you get those emails that say…”How Many of these Do You Remember?” we can add Polaroids to the list, along with home delivered milk, transistor radios, and those miniature wax pop bottles.

References to Polaroid cameras do exist in music, some even pretty recent. Here’s what I found: “Polaroid” by Polaroid, “Hey Ya!” by Andre 3000/OutKast ("shake it like a Polaroid picture") and “Living in Polaroid” by Feeder. I can’t tell you anything about any of those, so if the spirit moves you, you can check them out for yourself. For the musical portion of this post, I’ll offer instead this link to a really cute little video on YouTube that, while not exactly about Polaroids, is at least about something that’s still available. But I wouldn’t count on it forever!

Paul Simon, "Kodachrome" BTW, there's some really funny stuff in this video, but ya gotta be quick! I guarantee you'll watch it more than once. Hey, at least you don't have to rewind a reel of film!

Thursday, February 14, 2008


That's a very good question, and who better to formally ask it than Ronnie Hawkins and The Band. Check out this nice vid from the famous concert.

Here we are once again celebrating that special day for lovers young and old. Given that love is the theme, I think it’s a little odd that the day is in honor of some obscure old Roman martyr (possibly more than one; history records several Valentines) that apparently no one, not even the Church itself, really knows much of anything about. My diligent (okay, it was one click) research shows that what we observe today as Valentine’s Day had more to do with later emphasis by Geoffrey Chaucer and Courtly Love (and no, that’s not a misprint, I didn't mean Courtney). The main focus back then, and for centuries afterwards, was the intimate exchange of hand-made heart-shaped love notes, no doubt discreetly delivered by servants, to the object of one’s affection. Nowadays of course it’s a mass marketing bonanza. A lot less intimate, I’m certain, but nevertheless, people, especially men, ignore it at their peril. The checklist has gone from simple cards to flowers, candy, jewelry, cars, real estate...who knows where the top end might be. Our interest here today is the music. One that gets featured (and covered) a lot is the classic oldie, “My Funny Valentine,” but really, any song about undying love will do. Here’s a couple of my particular faves. Both of them express their sentiments in astronomical terms, which is about as long term as it gets.

Everly Brothers – “Devoted To You” – A long-term declaration, all right. He’ll love her ‘til “the sun dries up the sea.” Eventually the sun will become a red giant, swell in size, and everything on all the inner planets, including Earth, will be toast – literally. That’s roughly 4.5 billion more years, according to some estimates, so if that’s the offer you get from your sweetie, I’d relax.

Beach Boys – “God Only Knows” – I’ve read comments about the opening lyrics to this one, saying that “I may not always love you” is a pretty strange way to start a love song. But listen on…it’s kind of like using a double negative. What he’s really saying is – “I’ll love you as love as there are stars in the sky.” As for that timetable, qualified people are still arguing over what will happen eons from now. Check out the Wikipedia article titled "Ultimate fate of the Universe.” No matter what happens to the Universe, love-wise it looks like an even better deal than the Everly’s are offering. Either way, you got nothin’ to worry about.

Of course, not everybody out there will have a model Valentine’s Day. In case that’s you, here’s a little something for you, too. Kind of goes with the cookie picture, now that I think about it. I just added a link to a really neat video montage of Janis Joplin singing "Piece of My Heart" to my January 25/2007 on Fringe Benefits, so I won't post the same one again today. Instead, here's another vid of "Piece of My Heart" which I think is one of the cleverest I've found on YouTube yet. Same song, but juxtaposed with images from the BBC production of Jane Eyre! Ladies, you may wince at the very thought - pairing wild woman Joplin and the frilly ladies (and frilly gentlemen) of the 19th Century (kind of like wearing sneakers with a designer dress) but works! Anyway, I think it's an inspired choice. See what you think.


Monday, February 11, 2008


CAUTION: This blog post contains irony, and possibly even a pinch of satire. Reader (at least those without a functioning sense of humor) discretion is advised.

I didn't catch the Grammy’s this year, but it's hard not to hear about it all anyway, so I know that troubled Brit bad girl Amy Winehouse won a whole swack of ‘em. For those of you who, like me, are stuck (mostly) in the 60s, and don't know who Amy is, let me put it this way: Amy Winehouse is the one in the tabloids who looks kinda like a feral Ronette. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not criticizing her look. I think her mix-it-up outfits and multiple tattoos are probably what Joplin would be wearing if she were doing her gigs in this millennium. I’ll also add that I think Amy’s voice is not without its appeal. But it’s the content of her winning song, “Rehab,” that leaves me knitting my brows. Because the song is all about how she does not want to go there. Well, fine, but still, with all the entertainment headlines she’s been making lately almost out-Britneying Britney, when I hear her sing about not going into “Rehab,” I can’t help but hear Dr. Phil, too, going, “And how’s that workin’ for ya?” (I warned you there’d be irony)

It would seem that things are somewhat different these days (and boy, am I ever going to sound like an old fogy here) from the days of my youth. Sure, we had songs extolling marijuana and bottles of Cracklin' Rose, but we also had Canned Heat's “Amphetamine Annie” (speed kills!) and Steppenwolf's “The Pusher” (tombstones in their eyes!) and Donovan's cover of "Cod'ine"– all decidedly what you’d call anti-substance abuse. Those were rockin' little Public Service Announcements from our peers about avoiding serious bodily or mental harm. I don’t know whether it’s tougher out there today than is was in the 60s, or if it just seems that way. But peer influence sure has done a one-eighty. As for Amy, well, time will tell, but whether in rehab or out, let’s wish her well. Ya gotta support big hair and big eyeliner, it's just the right thing to do!

YouTube came up a bit short this time - no "Amphetamine Annie" and no Donovan cover, but here's a vid of Buffy Sainte-Marie singing "Cod'ine" (she wrote it) back in 1964.



Saturday, February 9, 2008

REMEMBERING WOODSTOCK or...I thought you looked familiar!

We’ve had a real strange winter around these parts. There’s been a revolving door of snow and sleet, flurries and pellets, thunder and lightning, huge winds, and rain. A surprising amount of rain. The other evening while it poured, the power went off. Fortunately we were only without for a short while, but still, it was long enough for me to get out the matches and set up the candles. The next morning I was about to put the candles away when the radio played that gospel-infused oldie by Melanie, “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain).” Some of you will no doubt recall that she wrote that one as the result of performing at Woodstock back in 1969. I wasn’t there, but the story goes that Melanie took the stage at night, after the Big Rain, and as she looked out she saw all the people holding up their candles (and undoubtedly some lighters, too) she was inspired to write this song. And what a great song it is. It’s my favorite song about Woodstock; I like it even better than Joni Mitchell’s eponymous hit, “Woodstock.” And I thought it was kind of a nice little synchronicity that I heard it on the radio right after I had lit my own candles against the rain and the dark just a few hours before. The images in the accompanying video are kind of blurry, but it’s the only one I found with actual footage of Melanie and the choir together - plus the sound is good. And don’t miss the camera shots of the audience during the last two minutes or so of jamming. Not exactly the kind of fans you’d expect to see, but you gotta give ‘em credit for getting down with the sound…

And so, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, please give it up for Melanie and The Edwin Hawkins Singers…

Thursday, February 7, 2008


That probably doesn’t sound too good to western ears – we don’t think too much of rats. But in Chinese astrology, rats are way cool. In fact, Chinese astrology features a number of animals that have different cultural connotations over here. Snakes, pigs (sometimes called boars), and sheep, all have a place of importance in the Chinese wheel of the year. There are 12 animals in all, which means that they repeat every 12 years as a birth year sign. So, any one born this year will be a Rat person, and so will anyone born in preceding years counting back by twelves. Me, I’m a Boar. I somehow like that better than saying “Pig”- although with “boar” I’m still open to a lot of kidding. Anyhoo, people born in the Year of the Rat have, like people in all the signs, some good attributes and some not-so-good attributes. Probably that whole yin/yang thing. Rat people can be practical hardworking charismatic charmers, or obstinate manipulative quick-tempered control freaks. Well, don’t feel bad, Boars can either be honest, patient, reliable types (ahem…anyone you know?) or painfully shy introverts who have absolutely no sense of adventure (heck, even I’ll say it…boar-ring!).

Moving on, here’s a list of music to go with the Rat Year in each decade; a little something rattish for everyone, starting with…

’50 –Those original bad boys, the inimitable The Rat Pack: Frank, Dean, Joey, Peter and Sammy.

‘60s – Hot Rats, Frank Zappa
Hot Rats is actually an album title only; no song by the same name. Zappa is a taste I never quite acquired, but hey, we’re celebrating a Rat year, it’s all good. Since there's no song, here's a PSA from FZ instead.

‘70s – Ben, Michael Jackson
Album and title song about…a pet killer rat. It was one of MJ’s earliest solo recordings, done when he was a mere laddie of 14. Do you ever wonder how things might be today if only someone could time-travel back to that sweet little pubescent kid with the adorable button nose and the baby 'fro, show him a photo of MJ today, and warn him?

‘80s –The Boomtown Rats
An entire Rat group; these guy were the original funky punkers, featuring Bob Geldof (before he toned it down for his KBE award)

‘90s – Rats, Pearl Jam
I have to admit, even though I’m more of a golden oldies than grunge gal, I really like Eddie Vedder’s voice. Maybe not this particular song…but I’m just sayin.’ Check him out solo on the “I Am Sam” soundtrack, covering The Beatles hit, “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away.” You might never go back to the Rats… Rats, and Beatles cover, you decide:

‘00s – I Think I Smell a Rat, The White Stripes
This song isn’t much for riveting lyrics, but then, I grew up singing along with Shirley Shirley bo-Birley Bo-nana Fana Fo Firley, so maybe I’m not in a position to be critical.

Okay, that's our celebration for today, and kind of a bite-sized evolution of the last half-Century of popular music. Happy Chinese New Year to all you Rats out there. Zai jian!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


As a kid, I used to think the term Mardi Gras had such a festive yet mysterious sound to it. Then I found out that in English, it simply means Fat Tuesday. That was kind of a disappointment. But of course, it’s the perfect term for it’s original meaning, which did not center around drinking your face off and flashing strangers for cheap beads, but rather it was a big caloric blowout before the stringencies of Lent. Enter the Paczki. For those of you who, like me, only recently got clued in to them, Paczki is a Polish word, pronounced “poonch-key.” At one point I was calling them “punch-keys” but have since been corrected. So, what is a Paczki? Last year I was determined to find out. Determined, but...I waited too long.

Every year, about a week or so in advance, people begin anticipating Paczkis. Signs go up in the bakery; people salivate and talk about how delicious they are; they groan over how many they will likely eat etc. But after Fat Tuesday there is not a Paczki to be found anywhere. Gone-zo. It’s the Lent thing. So this year I was ready, and when I started to hear the buzz all over town, and on the radio, the TV news, I got there early. I didn't know what to expect. Like I said, until a couple of years ago, when I came to Leamington from out West, I’d never heard of Paczkis. And even though I grew up in Detroit, which has at it’s heart the Polish community of Hamtramck, I don’t recall that there was a citywide Paczki Day back in the 60s. And since my ethnicity tends to be more boringly WASPish, I lived in a world without Paczkis. But no more! And today I can report to you that the mystery behind the exotic Paczki has been revealed. A Paczki, it turns out, is basically…a jelly donut. But a jelly donut on 'roids! Sweet dough (fat), deep (fat) fried, and then pumped full-to-bursting with (fat) jam or custard, and then either frosted, or dusted with powdered sugar (fat fat fat). Now, I confess I don’t really care all that much for donuts, but in the interests of research, yesterday I ate one-and-a-half Paczkis (one with custard, one half of a fruit). I can now see why there are no Paczkis available once the restraints of Lent begins – because today I don’t care if I ever eat another Paczki, or anything else for that matter, ever again. I feel kind of like Roger Miller right at the very end of that “Chug-A-Lug” song… I think I have a “fat hangover” this morning. Just coffee for me, thanks.

Well, that’s it for the culinary part of this post; now for the music. This is terrific vintage footage - and who better to listen to on this Fat Day than Fats Domino. I think walking anywhere right now would be very beneficial.

Let's have a little contemporary Cajun music while we're at it. This is the best of the best: Jo-El Sonnier, Doug Kershaw, and Jimmie C. Newman, and "Jolie Blon." Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Monday, February 4, 2008


Well, here it is, Monday morning after the Big Game. If you’re nursing a brutish hangover and/or are in the doldrums because you’re a Pats fan, here’s a little something that might help lift you up…take your focus away from the petty troubles of life here on our little third rock from the sun, and put it all into a larger, cosmic perspective. You may have heard about this on the news already, but today’s an important day because…

For the first time ever, NASA will beam a song -- The Beatles' "Across the Universe" -- directly into deep space at 7 p.m. EST on Feb. 4.

The transmission over NASA's Deep Space Network will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the day The Beatles recorded the song, as well as the 50th anniversary of NASA's founding and the group's beginnings. Two other anniversaries also are being honored: The launch 50 years ago this week of Explorer 1, the first U.S. satellite, and the founding 45 years ago of the Deep Space Network, an international network of antennas that supports missions to explore the universe.

The transmission is being aimed at the North Star, Polaris, which is located 431 light years away from Earth. The song will travel across the universe at a speed of 186,000 miles per second. Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney expressed excitement that the tune, which was principally written by fellow Beatle John Lennon, was being beamed into the cosmos.

"Amazing! Well done, NASA!" McCartney said in a message to the space agency. "Send my love to the aliens. All the best, Paul."

Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, characterized the song's transmission as a significant event.
"I see that this is the beginning of the new age in which we will communicate with billions of planets across the universe," she said.

It is not the first time Beatles music has been used by NASA; in November 2005, McCartney performed the song "Good Day Sunshine" during a concert that was transmitted to the International Space Station. "Here Comes the Sun," "Ticket to Ride" and "A Hard Day's Night" are among other Beatles' songs that have been played to wake astronaut crews in orbit.

Feb. 4 has been declared "Across The Universe Day" by Beatles fans to commemorate the anniversaries. As part of the celebration, the public around the world has been invited to participate in the event by simultaneously playing the song at the same time it is transmitted by NASA. Many of the senior NASA scientists and engineers involved in the effort are among the group's biggest fans.

"I've been a Beatles fan for 45 years – as long as the Deep Space Network has been around," said Dr. Barry Geldzahler, the network's program executive at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "What a joy, especially considering that 'Across the Universe' is my personal favorite Beatles song."

Source: NASA

The Beatles:

And thanks to Christine for emailing me about this.

Sunday, February 3, 2008


February is a big month. Not really big like the other months, with their 30 and 31 days. No sir, even in a leap year like this one, all February can muster is a measly 29. But February is big because is has so many important holidays and days of special commemoration. Take today. On this day we mark two very notable, if unlikely paired, events: Superbowl XLII in Glendale Arizona, and another anniversary of The Day The Music Died, which of course is the day back in 1959 when we lost Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper. Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the fateful plane trip, and will likely see an expanded memorial around the world, but for today, I'll just post a few links to YouTube so we can all pause and remember why we loved their music.

The photo of Buddy's statue in his hometown, Lubbock, Texas, is used by permission of Ben O'Connor. Here's a link to Ben's website for other interesting musical stuff.

Big Bopper

And, what would the Superbowl be without those great commercials? Just another boring football game. Oh sit down, I'm just kidding!! I love football. But I had ya goin' there for a sec didn't I? Here's one of my fave ads from yesteryear.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


Well, here we are, it's February the Twoth - a special day for various reasons. To the Roman Catholics it's Candlemas, to the Pagans it's Imbolc, and to just about everybody in North America it's Groundhog Day, the day when the chubby, adorably sleepy little creatures are pressed into the service of weather forecasters everywhere, sometimes even in areas where groundhogs aren't native. Obviously it's very important. You already know about the 6 weeks of winter thing, so I won't go into it here. I always found it confusing anyway. The bottom line for northern regions is simple...still cold, folks. In keeping with the spirit of this blog, I wanted to find a cool song to go along with this post, but as I peered into the vintage vault in my memory bank, I couldn't really come up with any rock and roll oldies about groundhogs. There's plenty of songs about other kinds of animals (hound dog, bird dog, yellow bird, ponies etc), but groundhogs...well, if you think of any let me know. The only thing that even comes close is an early folksy number by Buffy Sainte Marie, accompanying herself on the mouthbow. And I also discovered there's a blues number by John Lee Hooker, but that would seem to be it. So, I decided to turn to the soundtrack of the funny movie, "Groundhog Day" (1993) starring Bill Murray. I was sure I'd be able to find a whole selection of oldies to chose from, but unfortunately, the soundtrack for "Groundhog Day" is no "Big Chill." While there are entries from Weird Al and Nat "King" Cole, the only true vintage Oldie But Goodie on the soundtrack was "I Got You Babe" by Sonny and Cher. Well, that'll certainly do for our purposes here. So here they are, everybody's favorite 60s duo, a very young Cher (original nose and teeth) and and an equally young (and cute-as-a-groundhog) Sonny.

Friday, February 1, 2008


Let me begin by saying I am not a musician, nor do I know anything much about music theory except for a few tattered scraps of info left over from the pre-teen years. At fourteen, I may have won the battle with my mom - and was allowed to quit taking piano lessons - but I am the poorer for it today. I truly wish I'd picked another activity to assert by budding independence with. Having said that, I do recall that intervals of harmony were named after the number of "steps" apart they were on the scale. The most frequent and pleasing harmony, to Western ears anyway, is the third. Practically every rock and roll ballad from my teen years utilized them. Some of the prettiest third harmony that comes to mind were by the Everly Brothers. To me, thirds sound kind of sweet and almost comforting, even if the lyrics of the song happen not to be. However, much as I like the sound of thirds, I think if I had to pick my favorite harmony of all it would be the fifth. I'm not sure why, but there's something different about fifths. Maybe it's me, but a fifth sounds exotic, even a little haunting, corny as that sounds. It's like it comes from another time or place. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that fifths were more popular in the Middle Ages, or something like that. Well, I don't know about those oldies, but when it comes to vintage rock and roll, I have a fifth I'd like to share with you (sounds like I'm going to pour your a drink!). Well, sorry, no happy hour - the fifth I'm talking about is in the song "Ginny Come Lately" by Brian Hyland. With thirds and fifths, I think this is one of the prettiest loves songs of any generation. If you're biting your lower lip about now trying to remember why his name sounds familiar, Brian Hyland had two huge hits with "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" and "Sealed With A Kiss." He was one of those 60s teen heartthrobs who had a much better voice than I think he ever got credit for. I saw him on TV a while back, on one of those PBS rock reunion shows, so he's probably still performing and touring around. But you don't have to wait until a show comes to your town. Thanks to YouTube, we can all hear Brian and his fifths right now.

Ginny Come Lately

This is the original AM radio version, but the video may have to be taken down soon. That's too bad, because the fifth harmony is clear as a bell, e.g. in the first line of lyrics when he sings "couple of days ago."

Here's another one of the same song, in case we lose the one above, but it's been re-recorded and changed; the fifths are much harder to pick out.