Thursday, November 19, 2015
The tall ship Peking will be leaving South Street Seaport to return to Hamburg, Germany. This is good.
In 1933 Peking was taken out of service and sold to an English charity for use as a school for boys. She was renamed Arethusa, and anchored in the River Medway, where she remained until 1975. That year she was purchased by the South Street Seaport Museum, brought to New York, and put on display at Pier 16 on the east side of lower Manhattan.
The museum also owns another tall ship, Wavertree, whose white masts and bowsprit can be seen in the photo in front of Peking. Over the years, the cost of keeping two tall ships in good condition has proved a drain on the Museum's finances. Wavertree is now in drydock undergoing extensive maintenance and renovation, which I hope will include installation of her topmasts and spars.
News has now come that, thanks to funding by the German government, Peking will return to her first home, Hamburg, to serve as a floating museum there. This seems most appropriate to me, as Peking had no historical connection to New York, her trade routes having been mostly between Australia or South America and Germany. Wavertree, by contrast, was in tramp service, and likely visited New York a number of times.
I'll miss those tall buff masts and that sleek hull, but I'm glad that Peking is going home, and that the Museum will be spared the cost of maintaining her and can concentrate on Wavertree and the other vessels in their collection.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Allen Toussaint, who died this past Monday at 77, was a commanding, if nevertheless somewhat self-effacing, figure in New Orleans R&B from the 1960s until now. He was better known as a songwriter than as a performer, although he was a first rate musician who got his break into the business subbing for Huey "Piano" Smith at a gig in Alabama. Some of his earlier compositions, such as "Lipstick Traces" and "Fortune Teller", both recorded by Benny Spellman, were published pseudonymously under the name of his mother, Naomi Neville. "Fortune Teller" was later covered by the Rolling Stones.
A favorite of mine from his early works is Chris Kenner's 1961 hit "I Like It Like That". It has the springy rhythm and slightly understated quality of much of the best New Orleans R&B. I also like it for the line,"Let me show you where it's at", which brings to my mind the New Orleans greeting, "Where y'at?" That's the reason speakers of New Orleans dialect are called "Yats."
After Katrina did her worst to the Crescent City, Toussaint went to New York, and collaborated with Elvis Costello on a CD called "The River in Reverse". The clip above, "Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further?", is from that album.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
One of those present was a singer and songwriter I've admired since the 1960s, Eric Andersen, and whom I was able to meet and talk with after the lecture. During the part of his lecture covering folk music of the civil rights movement, Stephen mentioned Eric's song "Thirsty Boots":
Thursday, November 05, 2015
Spring finally came, and with it my discovery of WBCN, Boston's first underground rock FM station. Perhaps this song touched me because it reminded me of what I'd just endured. It made me a fan of Tom Rush, who opened his concert in my neighborhood a year ago with it.
Monday, November 02, 2015
Yes, I can console myself with the knowledge that they did better than I had thought they would do at the outset and even at the middle of the season. They won the National League championship, where I had once thought their best hope was to be a strong second in the NL East to the Nationals and maybe have a shot at the wild card. At season's end, thanks to a monumental collapse by the Nats that was reminiscent of the Mets in some earlier years, they won the East.
I was nervous about their divisional series against the Dodgers, my first love in baseball until they moved to L.A., haunted by the memory of 1988, when the Dodgers had beaten the Mets in the playoffs. This year's series was full of drama, but the Mets managed to get by. The NL championship series seemed formidable, as the Cubs had soundly beaten the Cardinals, who had the best regular season record in the League. For the Mets to beat the Cubs in four straight seemed unthinkable, but they did.
Then there were the Royals. They had lost last year's Series to the Giants, and were hungry. Perhaps not as hungry as the Mets, who hadn't won one since 1986--the Royals won their only Series in 1995--but still very motivated.
As it was, the Royals outplayed the Mets in every facet of the game: batting, fielding, and pitching. My congratulations to them.
Will the Mets be back in as good form, or better, next year? I'll go out on a limb and say, "Yes!"
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Update: the tonic worked tonight! Mets 9, Royals 3. Let's keep it up!
summarized here. I was impressed by her statement that nearly half of the present first year class did not come to the Law School directly from college, but spent a few years working, either in business, the military, or some volunteer service like Teach for America. In retrospect, I wish I had done that. Dean Minow also stressed the changes in the curriculum since we were students, with more emphasis on practical training and a requirement that students perform pro bono service for indigent clients or public service organizations. Dean Minow is a daughter of Newton Minow, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission under President Kennedy and famous for having characterized television as it was in the early 1960s as a "vast wasteland."
this Crimson story .
Thursday, October 22, 2015
This is one song from that magical time that never failed to rouse me out of bed promptly.
Saturday, October 17, 2015
Yes, I hope it's 1969 again. I wondered what the number one song was for that year. It was a great time for pop music; Beatles and Stones, Sly and the Family Stone, Aretha Franklin, the Byrds, all the San Francisco psychedelia, and so on. So what was the number one song for the year? (Drumroll):
Well, it was a sweet year for the Mets. I hope 2015 is, too.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
.The clip above, from the NRRArchives, shows him on the Dick Clark show American Bandstand lip-synching his hit. I can remember around that time saving Beech-Nut gum wrappers which I mailed to get a 45 RPM EP that included, if my memory serves me well, "Little Star" by the Elegants, "You Cheated" by the Shields, "Rebel Rouser" by Duane Eddy, and "To Know Him is to Love Him" by the Teddy Bears (featuring Phil Spector), along with a couple of others that I can't recall.
Wednesday, October 07, 2015
Here's a splendid rendition by two of the greatest jazz artists of the past century, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.
I can't resist also including a link to a guitar instrumental by Tal Farlow that has an almost baroque quality.
Sunday, October 04, 2015
Although the Derry Down closed many years ago, somehow the rather unprepossessing building survived. It was recently donated by the real estate company that owned it, 6/10 Corp., to the civic group Main Street Winter Haven, which began the Derry Down Project to restore it as a venue for music. To raise funds for the project, Main Street promoted a Cosmic American Music Festival, which I attended. "Cosmic American" was the term Gram used for his music, a syncretic style that melded influences from country, rock, folk, and blues. Today it's called "Americana" or "roots" or "alt/country."
Toni Brown Band (photo above). Ms. Brown has a musical history that includes performances with a "Who's Who" of rock and country acts. She is also a former editor and publisher of Relix magazine.
One of the songs she and her band did that evening was "Rabbit Hole Soul" (clip above). Others included the Grateful Dead's "Friend of the Devil" and Gram's "Sin City," which first was released on the Flying Burrito Brothers' premiere album, The Gilded Palace of Sin
Walter Parks. I noticed he was wearing a Brooklyn Lutherie t-shirt. Later, when I met him and commented about it, he showed me a guitar that had belonged to Richie Havens, for whom Parks had been lead guitarist. It had an abraded surface and other signs of wear, and he said he'd be taking it to Brooklyn Lutherie for repair soon. Also in the photo is sax wizard David Prince.
Jay Farrar, formerly of Uncle Tupelo, a band that drew on many influences, from punk to Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, and, yes, Gram Parsons. After the band broke up because of tensions between Farrar and Jeff Tweedy, who went on to found Wilco, Farrar put together Son Volt, which continued in a style similar to that of Uncle Tupelo. Recently, he's been touring accompanied by another Son Volt member, Gary Hunt, whom Farrar described as "a talented multi-instrumentalist."
One of the songs Jay and Gary performed was a favorite of mine from Son Volt's album Wide Swing Tremolo, "Driving the View." The clip above has audio from the album, accompanied by a montage of photos of Son Volt in various configurations. Other songs they did included Farrar's "May the Wind Take Your Troubles Away" and a song about Highway 61 that wasn't Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited." Called back for an encore, they did Dylan's "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35."
They did a splendid set that included the title track from their album 13 Days. Other songs they sang included "Leave This Town" and "Horses and Rattlesnakes".
Walter Parks (more of him later) did a solo set that afternoon, during which he charmed a toddler fan by coming down from the stage with his guitar. Other groups that appeared were: Have Gun Will Travel" from Bradenton, Florida (check out their "Dream No More"); I Want Whisky from Atlanta (listen to "Poor Man's Dollar"); and the Adam Hood Band (spend some time on "Grandpa's Farm").
Later we went to The Fire Restaurant, where I'd had dinner (oysters and sirloin, both excellent, and at a price that, as a New Yorker, very pleasantly surprised me) the evening before. This time, having had a hefty grouper sandwich from one of the food trucks serving the afternoon outdoor concert, I chose lighter fare: their "Old Skool" burger, It was very good, too.
Catch them live in the clip above, doing the Tallahassee Theme to "American Guns." Despite his Southern roots, Walter and the band are based in the New York City area, and gig at local venues. I'll keep my eye out for them.
Returning to the Derry Down Saturday evening for the Festival's final event (well, not quite final; I had an early afternoon flight on Sunday and couldn't make the farewell brunch at Tanner's Lakeside, again featuring I Want Whisky) I was treated to a second performance by The Hummingbirds, this time accompanied by a bass and drums.
The last group on the bill was the Hickory Wind Band, sometimes called the Hickory Wind Bluegrass Band. They took their name from what most consider Gram's signature song. Also, they're from Waycross, Georgia, a town in which Gram spent his childhood, and which is the locale for the Bobby Bare song "Miller's Cave," which ISB covered on Safe at Home. In the clip above, they're shown from an unusual angle and heard doing the classic fiddle tune "Orange Blossom Special."
Thanks to all who put this festival weekend together, including Gene Owen and Anita Strang.
Thursday, October 01, 2015
I saw the Killer live once. It was in the fall of 1979, and I heard that he was playing at a place on East 86th Street called the Lorelei that evening. I hurried there, thinking it was already sold out, but was able to get in. The Lorelei was a German beer and dance hall (East 86th was once the heart of a thriving German-American community) that had been bought by someone who tried to make it into a country music venue (the "urban cowboy" thing was big in '79). The place still had its original decor. Seeing and hearing Jerry Lee singing and pumping his piano under pictures of Mad King Ludwig's castles was close to a psychedelic experience.
Monday, September 28, 2015
The Mets have a winning record (2-1) against the Dodgers in Dodger Stadium this season, but only an even record (2-2) against them in Citi Field. Looking at history, though, their lifetime record at L.A. is .408; at Citi it is .496 (yes, the years since the move from Shea have been less than rewarding until now). What does this tell us? Not much, other than a home field advantage is, as they say, a home field advantage. You do get that last half inning if you need it.
So, home field advantage may be worth something. Still, there is this recent New York Times piece that argues, with historical support, that being hot going into the post-season may actually be an omen of trouble in the playoffs, and vice versa.
What to conclude? I just want them to win. Now, and then.
Sunday, September 27, 2015
When I was a student at the University of South Florida I became friends with several fellow students who were from Winter Haven. I visited there on several occasions, and got to like the place very much. I even wrote a paper for one of my political science classes about its city government. (Don't ask me what my conclusions were; I've forgotten.)
From my Winter Haven friends, as I've noted before, I learned about Gram Parsons before he became famous. About two years ago, through social media, I reconnected with one of those friends, Steve Griffith. He told me that there was an effort to restore the Derry Down, the former "teen age night club" established by Gram's stepfather, initially to give Gram and his high school folk group a place to play. I then learned that the group restoring the Derry Down was presenting a "Cosmic American Music [Gram's term for his style, now called "Americana" or "Roots" or "Alt Country"] Festival," and I decided to attend.
I hadn't been to Winter Haven since 1967--48 years. In this post, I'll show some photos of scenes around town, all my photos except where otherwise noted.
Another solitary egret perched by the lake shore.
I'll be doing another post soon about the Cosmic American Music Festival and some of the groups and musicians I saw, heard, and met there.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
The clip above shows him doing one of his most popular songs, "Bird on a Wire," and a favorite of mine, live in concert in 1979.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Gram dropped out of Harvard to form the International Submarine Band, a group that blended country, blues, and rock influences, a style he called "Cosmic American Music," that can be heard today as "Americana" or "alt/country." After one album, Safe At Home, he left to join the Byrds, one of the best American groups of the mid to late Sixties. He was with them for one great album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, but left after he and Roger McGuinn disagreed about the band's direction. Chris Hillman, one of the original Byrds, left with him to form the Flying Burrito Brothers. After two critically praised albums, he was asked to leave that group because of his increasing alcoholism and drug use.
GP, recorded in 1972, when Gram had developed a close friendship with Keith Richards, was his first solo album. In it, he introduced the voice of a previously little known singer, Emmylou Harris. In the clip above, from that album, he and Emmylou do the country classic of the "cheatin' song" genre, written by Joyce Allsup, "We'll Sweep Out the Ashes in the Morning."
There's more about Gram and Emmylou here.
Wednesday, September 09, 2015
"September Song" was written by Kurt Weill, with lyrics by Maxwell Anderson, for an unsuccessful 1938 Broadway show, Knickerbocker Holiday. It was first recorded by the show's star, Walter Huston. Despite the show's failure, the song went on to become a standard. Bing Crosby recorded it twice, and Frank Sinatra three times. The third was the lucky one; it was on his 1965 album September of My Years, recorded when he was fifty. The album went to number five on the Billboard pop album chart. The song was later covered by, among others, James Brown, Lou Reed, and Willie Nelson.
Monday, September 07, 2015
In 1964 Frankie Valli and the other Jersey Boys had a number one hit on the Billboard pop chart with "Rag Doll." According to the song's Wiki it was written by group member Bob Gaudio, who "was inspired by a dirty-faced girl who cleaned the windshield of his automobile for change." When Gaudio reached into his wallet for a dollar (a very generous tip in those days), he found he had nothing but twenties (evidently the singer-songwriter thing was working out well), and gave her one, to her amazement. "I'd change her sad rags into glad rags if I could" is for me one of the more memorable lines from the early, pre-British Invasion Sixties.
Also in 1964, bluesman Tommy Tucker released "Hi-Heel Sneakers," which he wrote under his birth name Robert Higginbotham, misspelled "Higgenbotham" on the record label. The song would be covered many times, including by the Beatles and the Stones. Yes, footwear counts.
"Baby's in Black" was recorded in 1964, but released in 1965 as part of the album Beatles for Sale, which was released in the U.S. as Beatles 65. I've long been unsure if the song was about a woman mourning a deceased lover, or dressing in black to signal to an ex that she's available again. It's the former.
As I recall, Jackie Kennedy popularized the pillbox hat. Bob Dylan had some fun with it in 1966, on this track from his album Blonde on Blonde.
1966 was a fertile year for songs about millinery and clothes. Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels had a major hit with the pedal-to-the-metal rocker "Devil with a Blue Dress On."
Footwear joins the fray in '66 with Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walking." It was also a good year for tough woman songs (this and the one before).
Tough guy songs, too. According to the song's Wiki the Kinks' "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" was written by Ray Davies after he had gotten into a "terrible brawl" with a fashion designer (and his girlfriend!) following a discussion in which Davies derided the designer's obsession with style and in which
I was just saying you don't have to be anything; you decide what you want to be and you just walk down the street and if you're good the world will change as you walk past. I just wanted it to be the individual who created his own fashion.A very, I would say, Sixties sort of statement.
Does eyewear count? I say, "Yes!" When I first heard "Judy in Disguise (with Glasses)" on Boston's WRKO in 1968, the DJ called the group "John Fred and his Louisiana Playboys." Jello Biafra covers the song on his recently released album of New Orleans R&B, Walk on Jindal's Splinters.
This achingly sweet, autobiographical song topped the country chart in 1971. According to the song's Wiki, Parton wrote it in 1969 while on tour, riding in Porter Wagoner's bus. Wagoner was host of a weekly TV country music show that was the launching pad for Parton's career. A college roommate told me he had gone to a Grand Old Opry road show in Orlando and heard the following during Bobby Bare's set:
BARE: Y'all watch Porter Wagoner?
AUDIENCE: [Lots of cheering, clapping and whistling.]
BARE: Yeah, I like him, too. But you know who his sponsor is?
AUDIENCE: [Lots of chuckling. Wagoner's sponsor was a patent laxative called Black Draught.]
BARE: Yeah, well, I think I could do something like that. It'd go like this: Folks, this is the Bobby Bare Show, brought to you by Ex-Lax. Now we're gonna have some good old country pickin' and singin' and some old-time fiddlin', but first a word from our sponsor. Folks, you ever have one of those nasty old coughs, the kind that just hangs on and hangs on? Next time you get one of those coughs, take Ex-Lax. It won't cure your cough, but it'll make you too SCARED to cough.
AUDIENCE: [Laughter and groans.]
I'll close with a song by the Hollies, made long after Graham Nash left the group to join CSN&Y. The singer is Allan Clarke; unlike other Hollies songs there are no backing vocals because Clarke intended it for a solo album. It charted at number two in the U.S. in September of 1972, shortly before Richard Nixon was elected to his second term. This was followed by the revelation of the Watergate break-in and by the ensuing efforts to cover it up that would lead to Nixon's resignation two years later.
In my previous post I promised that my next one would cover the time from 1963 to the present. I'll confess to having been unable to think of any pop songs after 1972 that are about or refer strongly to clothes. I suspect that this is because I haven't followed "pop" as much as I used to, and "pop" has fissioned into so many branches--disco, metal, punk, rap, reggae, indie, etc.--all of which I've followed to some extent, but none as thoroughly as the pre-seventies "top forty." If anyone can think of any songs from after 1972, or any from the period (1964-1972) covered in this post, that should be noted, please let me know.
Sunday, September 06, 2015
osprey nest platform, and an osprey has nested on it.
Provincetown Public Library.
Truro Vineyards; a photo of their vineyard is above (compare to photos taken in early June of 2013 in the post linked above). I bought a bottle of their estate grown cabernet franc and one of their estate grown chardonnay. I'll be tasting both and reporting about them here; stay tuned.