Saturday, March 28, 2009


Being a big fan of this song (and of bilateral symmetry) I have loved this dance ever since I first learned it (which took about 10 seconds). The hand jive is one of those dances that it's really pretty close to impossible to mess up. And you can add onto it just about anything you can think of. I've seen more complicated versions of it, particularly one rather raunchy version that made the rounds of the frat parties when I was in university, which may have been a lot closer to the original rhythm and blues original than we realized at the time. If memory serves, it was called the "Dirty Thirty from Chi-town." That's really all I can tell you today. Maybe it had 30 hand jive gestures, I never counted. Maybe it originated in Chicago, I never thought to ask.

Whatever it was in the early days, for me, the hand jive was always the classic version seen here in the first video embed which I found on YouTube. As you can see from the apparent age of the girls in this vid, the hand jive that I did in the late 50s through the 60s is still being done by contemporary youth. Like they say, rock and roll is here to stay! Warning, the video is four minutes long, but after the first 10 seconds, you've seen all of the moves; the girls don't go on to free-style it, so if you're pressed for time...

In looking for a vid of the acutal song, I found this terrific vintage footage of Johnny Otis performing his huge hit, complete with some very hip dancers (reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn in "Funny Face"). As you can see, their hand jive really isn't all that much about the hands. But I like it! Good old Wikipedia has more to say on the subject:

The Hand jive is a dance particularly associated with rock and roll and rhythm and blues music of the 1950s. It involves a complicated pattern of hand moves and claps at various parts of the body, following and/or imitating the percussion instruments. It resembles a highly elaborate version of Pat-a-cake. Hand moves include thigh slapping, cross-wrist slapping, fist pounding, chest slapping and pounding, hand clapping, elbow touching and hitch hike moves.The hand jive was particularly popularized by Johnny Otis's 1958 hit "Willie and the Hand Jive". Eric Clapton did a version of the song in 1974 that reached the Top 40.[1] It is also featured prominently in the Broadway musical Grease through the song "Born to Hand Jive"; in the movie adaptation of the musical, the song is performed by Sha Na Na.

Finally, I saw this on the news lately, and thought it was the perfect way to wrap up our hand jive coverage. This one is worth watching all the way through (3 mins exactly!) because there are virtually no repeats. It's about the best hand jive you could find that's done sitting down and not to music! And after you see this, I promise you you're going to look at Wolf Blitzer in a whole new light.

Videos top to bottom by YT members icecreamlover531, twobarbreak, wgn

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A POP CULTURE MOMENT - The “Sandwich Ordering Scene “

No, I’m talking about Jack Nicholson in “Five Easy Pieces” but that was a very good guess. Actually, I’m referring to my local Subway shop. I like to drop in there once or twice a year, when I feel like having a half-decent lunch or dinner to go, or when I feel like messing with some heads. And I always order the same thing – a BLT on brown. Now, if you haven’t ordered from a Subway shop in a while and need a refresher, the drill goes like this:

· They ask you what you want, and you tell them the basic order.
· They slice the bread make it up as you watch. So far so good.
· They ask what else you want on it. “What else” could be anything from the tubs of add-ons they have behind the glass. Olives, onions, pickles, chilies, several kinds of cheese…I’m sure I’m leaving some out; I never really look at them because I never add-on any of them.
· You tell them what kinds of “what else” you want, and then they wrap the whole thing up for you.
· You pay, leave, eat. What could be simpler, right? Well, maybe it’s simple for everyone else, with any other kind of sandwich, but not for me. Here are two versions of a slightly different “sandwich ordering scene” starring me, and a supporting cast of various Subway “Sandwich Artists” –

SA: What can I get you?
Me: I’ll have a small BLT on brown.
SA: What else would you like on it?
Me: Nothing, just a plain BLT thanks.
SA: (starts to wrap up the bacon on the bare bread)
Me: Wait, you forgot the lettuce and tomato!
SA: You said you didn’t want anything else.
Me: Well, yes, I do want the Lettuce and Tomato.
SA: (exasperated look, muttering) That’s what I asked…

Variation on the above:

SA: Would you like anything else on it?
Me: No, just a plain BLT thanks.
SA: (sweetly) Nothing, not even lettuce and tomato?
Me: Well, yes, I want the L and the T…
SA: ?

I’m telling you, I can barely pay at the till with a straight face. Then, in the parking lot, I want to stand and shout to the sky, “Doesn’t any body know what a B(acon) L(ettuce) and T(omato) sandwich is anymore!!??” But I’m afraid there would be only an existential silence. Or maybe the clouds would part and a big booming voice would deliver another classic movie line – “What we got here is failure to communicate!” (see tags)

Here, for a refresher of another kind, is the original “sandwich ordering scene” from Nicholson’s 1970 counter-culture anti-hero classic, “Five Easy Pieces.”

Video from YT member weezyrokk
Photo from

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I was visiting a fellow blogger's blog the other day, and she had posted a cover of this song by Billy Idol. Being stuck in the 60s as I am, I didn't know Billy Idol had recorded this one. Mony Mony is such a classic vintage pop song, I believe it's hard to do it completely badly, but I still think Tommy James' original is the one. Some may dismiss it as bubblegum pop, and to those who do, all I can say is, "May a big stringy wad of Double Bubble dog your heels for the rest your days." Really. I mean, check out this time capsule video of Tommy and the boys. That's what we used to call a "nehru jacket" - a durable fashion statement of the late 60s and beyond, and one which they can bring back any time they want, as far as I'm concerned. So many famous people have worn them: the Beatles, Johnny Carson, the Monkees, Dr. No (they were a wardrobe staple with several Bond villains), Steven Segal, Weird Al, televangelist Benny Hinn, Sammy Davis Jr. See what I mean? And, getting back to Tommy James, don't miss the love beads, and what I'd call a kind of post-Beatle hairstyles, and of course, the psychedelic "acid-trip"'s all there. And I think Tommy James sings this with way more of the proper 'tude than Billy. But why take my word for it...

Video by YT member myrainbow2
Photo at

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


When I saw this video, it really struck me how many people are in it! I must have seen the NCM perform on TV when I was a kid; maybe I even saw this very show, but I certainly didn't remember what a big group they had. Anyway, they have a great sound, and were part of the wave of folk that hit the commercial airwaves in the early 60s. As with so many groups, this one was no stranger to personnel changes. Over the years, the NCM have included the following well-known performers: Kenny Rogers, Gene Clark (The Byrds) Kim Carnes (Bette DAvis Eyes) Larry Ramos (The Association) Barry Mcguire (Eve of'll pick him out right away!) not to mention it's talented founder, Randy Sparks. So, here we go, and Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Video by YT member cskwan
T-shirt photo at Cafe Press

Friday, March 13, 2009


This album was released last fall, but has taken all this time to glide into my orbit. But it was worth the wait. Of course, I'm speaking as a long time fan when I say that. The J. Airplane/J. Starship crew can do no serious wrong in my books, and yes, that includes the just plain Starship era, which saw some fans bail on them. I am proud to say I stuck with them, and now they are back full force, a little older, some new faces and voices, but still rockin'the house while getting back to their folks roots. Here's what has to say:

The legendary Jefferson Starship is at it again. Moving forward by reaching back, and in doing so, daringly casting a light for a new generation of change-makers riveted by the group's first new studio album in a decade, Jeffersons' Tree Of Liberty. The 18 song CD finds the group harnessing rare gems from the great folk tradition that inspired the rock n' roll hall of fame band more than 4 decades ago. The brainchild of singer/songwriter/band co-founder Paul Kantner (and co-produced by band manager Michael Gaiman, recurring Jefferson Airplane/ Jefferson Starship fixture and Quicksilver Messenger Service founder David Freiberg and Paul Kantner), the album mixes it up with Jefferson's trademark knack for defying fans' expectations as well as their own, introducing a soaring new female voice on many of the songs, Cathy Richardson, and tapping rock icon and original Jefferson treasure Grace Slick to appear on the album's mesmerizing `Easter Egg' bonus track.

And here's the track list, just to whet your appetite.
1. Wasn't That a Time
2. Follow the Drinking Gourd
3. Santy Anno
4. Cowboy on the Run
5. I Ain't Marchin' Anymore
6. Chimes of Freedom
7. Genesis Hall
8. Kisses Sweeter Than Wine
9. Royal Canal (The Auld Triangle)
10. Rising of the Moon
11. Frenario
12. In a Crisis
13. Maybe for You
14. Comandante Carlos Fonseca
15. Pastures of Plenty
16. Imagine Redemption
17. On the Threshold of Fire
18. Quiet Joys of Brotherhood
19. Surprise Surprise (bonus track)

If this sounds like it might be up your musical alley, I don't think you'll be disappointed. There's hints and flavors from the good old days, and a brand new political saavy for right here, right now.

Photo from

Monday, March 9, 2009

IS YOU IS OR IS YOU AIN’T DOO WOP? (with apologies to Louis Jordan)

Experts and amateurs in the field will debate long into the night on whether or not the version of the version of "Tell Me Why" by Dion and The Belmonts is a doo wop song. The date is wrong; doo wop was over by 1961. The date is okay because doo wop got revived. It doesn’t sound like doo wop. It sounds like doo wop.

Well, I’m here to go on record (pun intended) that this one is doo woppy enough for me, in spirit anyway. I have always been a big Dion fan, both with and after The Belmonts. I love his voice, his style, his rhythm, his finger poppin’, his hats…I could go on but I’ll spare you… This one is very high on my list of eminently listenable Dion songs. But there’s also that really terrific recording of "Tell Me Why" by Norman Fox & The Rob-Roys that pre-dates Dion, in 1957. That one is so inarguably doo wop, maybe that’s why people give the Dion version a hard time. Personally, I have room for both, but you can decide for yourself, because, happily, they are both on YouTube. So let’s get down to it, shall we?

Videos by chargertom and meekfreak51 respectively
Dion photo at

Update March 10th, from a blog reader: I received an email from John in the Bronx: "Here is a little info on the song Tell Me Why. The Rob Roys song came out in 57 and the Bellmonts song in 61 is without Dion, The lead I believe Angelo D' Aleo, Dion left in 1960." So maybe I've been wrong (now how did a thing like that happen!) in thinking it was Dion all these years. Well, nothing can change my enjoyment of this song, that's for sure, but I thought in the interest of full disclosure, I'd post it for you, too. Happy listening!

Thursday, March 5, 2009


It's not that I don't appreciate Tony Orlando's later musical hook-up with the Dawn girls. Those are all good songs, and the girls are terrific singers (hey, they backed up Bob Seger on "Still the Same") but I'm still partial to Tony's early hits, like "Bless You" and this one, both from 1961. Now, back in '61, I was only 14 years old, and in those days, teens were a whole lot less, um, precocious than they are today. Plus, none of us were old enough to drive (at least that's one thing kids today still do have to wait to do...) So, my point is, I'm not sure that in 1961, the whole concept behind steamy windows would have meant much to us. Kids didn't really get to spend "quality" one-on-one alone time back then. The most we could hope for was a "mixed party" in someone's basement, and when the parents went upstairs to refill the chip dip bowl, someone would quickly kill the lights for a short "makeout dance." I mean, it doesn't take much time to toss a bag of potato chips in a bowl. That was pretty much as wild as it got; Meatloaf's "Paradise By The Dashboard Light" was an incredible 16 years into the future!

So, let's take a trip back to our youthful days, no matter what the decade, and remember dancing in that darkened basement. Or maybe you were old enough to be parked watching the submarine races. Good for you.

Video by YT member bluejeans1944