Wednesday, July 29, 2015
In the photo at left the band are (from bottom to top): John Sebastian, Zal Yanovsky, Joe Butler, and Steve Boone. Yanovsky left the band in 1967 and Sebastian in '68, both to pursue solo careers. Yanovsky died in 2002. The group disbanded in 1969, but in 1991 Boone and Butler, along with Jerry Yester, who had replaced Yanovsky in '67, re-formed the band. The Lovin' Spoonful continue today with Boone, Butler, Yester, Mike Arturi, and Phil Smith.
Note: when I first posted this, I misidentified the order of the band members in the photo, and misspelled "Yanovsky." My friend and rock maven extraordinaire Michael Simmons set me straight, and I've corrected the post accordingly.
Monday, July 27, 2015
The band opened with "Blackleg Miner," a song about a nineteenth century coal miners' strike. A "blackleg" was a strikebreaker, or scab. The clip above, made some years ago, shows an earlier lineup of musicians. Maddy carries the vocal by herself. At the performance last week, the other band members joined in harmony. Maddy, who will celebrate her 68th birthday on August 14, has a voice that is every bit as strong and in command of its full range as when she was younger, but the harmony vocals gave this song more of the "oomph" it needs.
Their next song came from my favorite of their albums, Commoners Crown. "Long Lankin" is a typical old English ballad, telling of betrayal, child murder, hanging, and burning at the stake. Some of Steeleye Span's songs, lovely as they are to hear, have very dark lyrics. This is because Medieval England, from which place and time these songs originated, was, for many, a place and time where life, to borrow the words of the seventeenth century philosopher Thomas Hobbes, could be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." The clip above is audio only; it starts with an image of the album cover, then goes to solid black. Dark indeed.
"King Henry" starts darkly: the King finds himself in a haunted house in the company of a horrific female ghoul who, in the words of Julian Littman, who introduced the song and took the lead vocal, forces him to "kill his household pets," which she devours, then to join her in bed. It ends on a bright note, though; he wakes up the following morning to find next to him the loveliest woman he's ever seen. It's good to be the King.
The band ended the concert (except for a lovely a cappella encore, the title of which I can't remember) with "Thomas the Rhymer." This song has a theme common to many of its vintage: a man, or sometimes a woman, is captured by an elf or fairy queen or king, goes through some sort of ordeal, and returns changed in some way. In the case of Thomas, it was supposed to be having the gift of prophecy. Another song, "Tam Lin", as done by another great English folk rock group, Fairport Convention, tells a tale of a man saved from the ordeal by the intervention of his lady love.
I didn't know what to expect of this concert, and was prepared to be disappointed. I was very pleasantly surprised. Maddy Prior is still in top form, and the new band members performed admirably. Special mention goes to Jessie May Smart, whose fiddle playing was extraordinary, and to Nils JerusalemP, who obviously has learned the band's repertoire quickly and adeptly.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
Perhaps the best remembered of their hits is "What Kind Of Fool Do You Think I Am?" Hear it below:
Monday, July 20, 2015
I was born in Evanston, Illinois on February 17, 1937. My mother, Karla Seifer Grossinger, had, in her seventh month, been hospitalized for observation. The pregnancy, her first, was not going well. My father, Max, had been admitted to a separate wing ten days earlier with a second heart attack. She overheard two nurses speaking outside her door. "Isn't it a shame that Mr. Grossinger is dying." My mother told me this story when I was six years old; it was one of the rare times she ever mentioned my father. She begged the nurses to let her see him but was warned she might lose the baby if she left her bed. Two minutes later they picked her up from the floor. My heartbeat was undetectable, and a caesarean section was performed, ostensibly to bring out a dead fetus.From this inauspicious beginning came a woman who would, over the course of her life, become friends with Jackie Robinson and Betty Friedan, and have meaningful encounters with John F. Kennedy, Hugh Hefner, Ayn Rand (who played a joke on her), and Johnny Carson, among others. Details are in her book; my review is here.
This morning I was greatly saddened to learn of her death on Sunday, July 19, at the age of 78. I wish I had been given more time to spend with her; not just to hear her stories of the good (and not so good) and great she had known, but to appreciate her own magnificence,
Addendum: my fellow Lion's Head alum Maureen O'Brien has these words:
RIP Tania Grossinger. You were amazing. I will always remember your infectious smile, laugh, sensitivity, smarts, and heart. Thank you so much for being my friend, Village neighbor, Lion's Head pal and non-stop cheerleader. You and your wonderful books will never be forgotten. You were one of the greats. xoxomo
Saturday, July 18, 2015
Last month's tour went from Pier 17, adjacent to the South Street Seaport on the Manhattan side of the East River just south of the Brooklyn Bridge, and focused on the Brooklyn waterfront. After leaving the dock we headed north, passing under the Brooklyn Bridge (John Roebling, 1883; photo above).
Manhattan Bridge (Leon Moisseiff, 1912). Behind the bridge is DUMBO ("Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), once an industrial area but now filled with art galleries and studios, high end retail, tech company offices, and mostly very expensive residences.Near the shoreline is part of Brooklyn Bridge Park; at left is an apartment building under construction, revenue from which will help to fund the park's maintenance.
Brooklyn Navy Yard. The Yard opened in 1806, and from then until the mid 1960s built and serviced many U.S. Navy ships, including the battleships Maine, whose sinking in Havana harbor in 1898 helped to lead to the Spanish-American War, and Missouri, on whose deck Japan signed its surrender, bringing World War Two to a close. The Yard is now an industrial park controlled by a Development Corporation. In addition to docks and a ship repair facility, it is home to many industrial operations and to Steiner Studios, one of the largest production studios outside the Los Angeles area.
tidal strait connecting Long Island Sound and Upper New York Bay) we passed under the northernmost of the three bridges connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan: the Williamsburg Bridge (Leffert L. Buck/Henry Hornbostel, 1903). When completed, it was considered by many to be an eyesore; later aesthetic judgments have been kinder. Beyond the bridge in the photo above is the former Domino Sugar Refinery, now, like so many former industrial buildings along the Brooklyn waterfront, being converted for residential use.
Jane's Carousel, in its pavilion designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. The colorful structure in the foreground is Tom Fruin's "Kolonihavehus." These are located in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The tall building in the background is One Main Street, formerly part of a cardboard box manufacturing complex and now residential.
Fulton Ferry Landing, the Brooklyn terminus of Robert Fulton's steam powered ferry from Manhattan. The steam ferry began service in 1814, but oar and sail powered ferries had plied the same route since the mid 1600s. The steam ferry led to the development of Brooklyn Heights as America's first suburb. Although the Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883, ferries continued to operate until 1908. Their death knell was sounded by the subways. Today, ferry service is back and ferries to and from Manhattan, Governors Island, Queens, and other Brooklyn locations dock at nearby Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The white building with the tower is a former fireboat house, now occupied by the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. The red brick building at the right, with fire escapes, has at different times been a railroad headquarters and a toilet bowl factory, and is now apartments. The white vessel with the canopy tied to the pier at right is Bargemusic, a popular venue for chamber music concerts. The taller red building at center is the Eagle Warehouse, completed in 1893 and designed by Frank Freeman, a prominent Brooklyn architect who worked in the Romanesque tradition of Henry Hobson Richardson. The building was named for the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper, edited for a time by Walt Whitman, the headquarters of which had earlier been on the site. Today, like many other commercial and industrial buildings on or near the Brooklyn waterfront, it has been converted to residential use. The tall beige buildings in the background were part of the Squibb pharmaceutical manufacturing complex, are now owned by the Watchtower Tract and Bible Society, better known as Jehovah's Witnesses, and used as part of their administrative and printing operations, As the Witnesses move their operations upstate, they are slated to be sold, no doubt for conversion to residential use.
"Please Touch the Art" exhibition.
Thursday, July 16, 2015
Workingman's Dead is an album I love. All right, I love it mostly because it was the first music I heard after a terrifying ride, helmetless, on the back of a friend's motorcycle along California's coast and cliff hugging Highway One for about twenty miles ("How fast were we going?" "Oh, about eighty on the straights.") in October of 1970. After we re-crossed the Coast Range and headed back into Palo Alto, we stopped at the house of a friend of my friend, who greeted us warmly and invited us in where his wife provided a bottle of liebfraumilch and a pipe filled with Mexico's finest. Our host asked if we'd heard the new Dead album. We shook our heads "no,"and he put it on. Well the first days are the hardest days, don't you worry anymore.... Yeah! I'm alive!
After I got the album and listened to it a few times, I decided that "Cumberland Blues," with its bluegrass accents, was my favorite. Hear it above.
Poster image: Brooklyn Museum; Wes Wilson.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
John J. Harvey saluted Mary as she approached her berth.
Mary A. Whalen, now owned by PortSide NewYork, headed by my friend Carolina Salguero.
Wednesday, July 08, 2015
Last week my TBT was about the Kingston Trio, featuring a song from their early days, when Dave Guard was their lead singer. Some Trio loyalists disdain anything they did after Guard left, but I liked his replacement, John Stewart, as well, and think some of their best albums were made with him. He left the Trio in the late 1960s and made as his debut solo album California Bloodlines, which ranks in my top ten rock/folk albums of all time.
I love all the songs on that album, but "July, You're a Woman" is appropriate to the month.
John Stewart died a little over seven years ago. I remembered him here, and you can hear two more of his songs by following that link.
Saturday, July 04, 2015
I'm not sure of the title of this painting, or where it now resides. It was completed in 1845, no doubt based on accounts of the battle available to Ranney.
Cowpens was an important victory for the Continental Army, as it set back the British attempt to consolidate their earlier successes in the South--they had earlier captured Savannah in Georgia and Charleston and Camden in South Carolina--and helped to clear the way for the victory at Yorktown later that year.
Friday, July 03, 2015
"South Coast" is a song I've long liked, but I wondered if, as the Trio claim in their introduction to it during their performance at San Francisco's "Hungry i" club in 1958, which was recorded for their first live album, that it was "written 150 years ago." It wasn't; the lyrics were written by Lillian Bos Ross (1898-1959), author of The Stranger in Big Sur, with music by Sam Eskin and Rich Dehr. This isn't the only error in the Trio's intro; they also refer to "the Big Sur area of the Monterey Peninsula." The Big Sur is south of the Monterey Peninsula. Enjoy the song anyway.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
"Summertime Blues" has been covered a number of times, including by The Who and Blue Cheer.
Addendum: Paul Scanlon, who's probably forgotten more about rock music than I know, reminds me of Eddie's best song, "Cut Across Shorty," which I'll include as a TBT bonus (it's still Thursday, if only barely):
Saturday, June 20, 2015
The clip above shows the Holmes Brothers performing "Amazing Grace" at the Kitchener Blues Festival in Kitchener, Ontario in 2010. Today I learned the history of this widely beloved hymn. The author of its words, John Newton, was a slave ship captain who saw the error of his ways and became a clergyman and an ardent campaigner for the abolition of slavery.
This clip is of the Holmes Brothers doing "Feed My Soul" with another Dan Lynch regular, Joan Osborne.
Finally, here are the Brothers, with Joan Osborne and other backup singers, doing "Ain't No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down" on Letterman.
Wendell Holmes died yesterday. Goodbye to a favorite musician, and friend.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
In the video above, he plays "Lonely Woman" at Jazz à Vienne, in 2008. He's accompanied by Tony Falanga, bass; Al MacDowell, electric bass; and Denardo Coleman (his son), drums.
Let's see. They storm back from a bad outing by Gee, now designated for assignment, to win the rubber game of a series with the Braves. Syndegaard pitches well, gets little support, but they manage to hang on and beat the Jays in the 11th. Harvey, subject to rumors of problems following his Tommy John surgery, pitches well in a 5-3 victory in the second game against the Jays. The front office projects David Wright back soon after the All-Star Break. And they enjoy a two game lead in the NL East.
It all looks so good. I hope this observation doesn't collapse their Schrödinger wave function.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
"Sidewalk Surfin' " was Messrs Berry and Torrence's attempt to expand the demographic for surf music into more urban territory. As the story goes, Jan Berry tried to write a song about skateboarding, which was just becoming popular at the time, but came up blank. He turned to his friend Brian Wilson who, with his lyricist partner Roger Christian, came up with a song to the tune of the Beach Boys' then recent hit "Catch a Wave".
Bust yer buns!
Sunday, June 07, 2015
The Deity and I, you might say, got off in a bad way. When I was five or six, my mother would read to me from a book, published in the late nineteenth century, Bible Stories for Children: Volume 1, The Old Testament. Judging by its publication date, I can surmise that my great grandmother probably bought this book to read to my grandmother, who had in turn read it to my mother, then passed it on to her for my edification. The New Testament volume probably went to Mom's older sister, my Aunt Dorothy. This had a profound effect on the early development of my attitude concerning religion.
Instead of gentle Jesus, my introduction to Abrahamic faith focused on the stern though frequently providential God of the ancient Hebrews, his relationship with his often rebellious chosen people, and his merciless measures against those who opposed them, or just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The nineteenth century Bible Stories text, though intended for children, did not stint on the harsher aspects of this narrative. One delightful bedtime story was derived from the Second Book of Kings, Chapter Two, verses 23 and 24, rendered in the King James Version as follows:
23 And he [the prophet Elisha] went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.This was rendered in more up-to-date prose ("tare" I think was replaced by "slew"), and accompanied by an illustration quite similar or identical to the one at the head of this post. I know that I reacted to this with horror. I must have said something to my mother, though I can't recall what, nor can I her reply. I'm sure she tried her best to be reassuring, probably saying that God would never do such a thing to a good kid like me. Whatever she said, although I may have faked it, I wasn't consoled. I lay in my bed that night thinking that I hated God, and thinking that, at any moment, God might destroy me for that thought, just as he had the children of Bethel.
24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.
In doing a Google search for pictures related to this story, I found this image of a painting by the seventeenth century French artist Laurent de la Hire, which depicts something not mentioned in, but implied by, the Biblical account, The Children of Bethel Mourned by their Mothers:
In recent years, I've sometimes asked Christian friends if they're familiar with this story; usually, they say "No." Once, I was in an on-line discussion with a conservative Christian* who allowed that the King James rendition of Elisha's tormentors as "little children" might not be accurate; that a better translation might be "young people." Indeed, the New International Version of the Bible says they were "youths" (though the New Revised Standard Version, used by the Episcopal Church, calls them "small boys"). But does it really matter whether the victims were the Rugrats or Beavis and Butthead?
At age five-going-on-six, when I first heard this story, I was soon to be introduced to the kinder, gentler side of Christianity: sweet Jesus, who liked children and lambs, went around telling scary but instructive stories, and died a gruesome death to protect kids like me from the wrath of his father. This seemed satisfying for a while, at least until adolescent rebellion
Several years ago we were guests at a seder given by the mother of one of my daughter's friends. The Passover story is another troubling one for me, involving as it does the slaying of babies and children whose only offense was to be the first-born offspring of parents of the wrong sort. It had been some years since I had last participated in this festive meal, so I had forgotten this portion of the Haggadah:
Midrash teaches that, while watching the Egyptians succumb to the ten plagues [of which the slaying of the firstborn was the tenth], the angels broke into songs of jubilation. G-d rebuked them, saying "My creatures are perishing, and you sing praises?"Then, at the Good Friday service at Grace Church, one of the clergy recited the Solemn Reproaches, a litany which is similar in its call-and-response structure to the Dayenu litany of the Haggadah. The penultimate of the Reproaches was:
As we recite each plague, we will spill a drop of wine--symbol of joy--from our cups. Our joy in our liberation will always be tarnished by the pain visited upon the Egyptians.
I grafted you onto the tree of my chosen Israel, and you turned on them with mass murder, and Holocaust. I made you joint heirs with them of my covenants, but you made them scapegoats for your own guilt.To this, as to all the other Reproaches, the response by the congregation was:
Holy God, holy and mighty,The "Holocaust" element in the Reproaches is obviously a very modern addition, though a welcome one. The reference in the Haggadah to Midrash indicates that the reference to God's mourning the Egyptians may have originated in the second through ninth century C.E.; many years after the Exodus story was committed to writing. Faith traditions evolve. Does God evolve with them? Certainly our understanding of God does.
Holy immortal One, have mercy upon us.
* For Fray alums, the person in question is "Locdog."
Thursday, June 04, 2015
I found his first hit, "Taxi", unsettling. It charted in 1972, as I was near the beginning of my career, and its story of youthful dreams washed away in a cold bath of reality was scary. I did like the song's having a narrative arc. Most of Chapin's songs were like this; he gave his third album for Elektra the title "Short Stories." One of the songs on that album is "W*O*L*D":
I first heard "W*O*L*D" on WNEW-FM, then New York's great album-oriented rock station, sometime in 1974. The DJ (was it Vin Scelsa?) wondered aloud if the title was a play on WNEW. That would seem logical, Harry being a New Yorker, but the song was about being a DJ at a small town top 40 AM station. Like "Taxi" it's about growing older and facing that frigid reality bath, with respect both to career and relationships.
Harry Chapin wrote most of the songs he recorded (although his only number one hit, "Cat's in the Cradle," was written by his wife) and therefore can be considered part of the genre of "singer-songwriters" who became popular in the late 1960s and early '70s; other examples are Joni Mitchell and James Taylor. Rock critics were, as a rule, disdainful of this group. Reviews of their work often included descriptors like "precious" and "self-indulgent." Lester Bangs, in an essay titled "James Taylor Marked for Death," wrote:
DECIDE whether you want to jump and caper with music that's alive or molder in the Dostoyevskian hovels of dead bardic auteur crap picking nits out of its navel and so sickly that to see it shake its ass would be a hilarious horror indeed.As I've recounted in an earlier post, one night at the Bells of Hell I had a "Bless me, Lester, for I have sinned" session in which, among other things, I confessed to liking Gordon Lightfoot. Lester's response was, "Hmph! I know Gord. Do you know what he does when he needs inspiration to write a song? He goes to the hardware store and stares at the labels on cans of paint." He didn't give me a penance; if he had, it would probably have been to listen to something like the album Blank Generation by Richard Hell and the Void-oids five times. I did go through my set of Lightfoot albums looking for song titles incorporating color imagery, but came up blank.
Lester, if you've broken away from frugging on the head of a pin long enough to read over my shoulder, please understand that there are times when I "want to jump and caper," but also times when I want to sojourn in "Dostoyevskian hovels." In other words, I'm not taking "DECIDE" as a command. No disrespect: to be true to what one believes is most admirable. I am made of less adamant stuff. And Harry, if you're having a peek, the only thing I can't forgive is your having unwittingly launched the career of Billy Joel, who tried to channel you in his first hit, "Piano Man".
We had dinner at Longchamps, where I was given a "Manhattan," which was ginger ale with a splash of grenadine and a maraschino cherry, served in a Martini glass. I felt very sophisticated. Longchamps is long gone.
The high point, in two senses of the word, of my first stay in New York was going to the observatory on the Empire State Building. I looked down and saw the R.M.S. Queen Elizabeth, then the world's largest ocean liner, docked at the Cunard pier on the West Side. Looking to the north and east, I saw the Chrysler Building, with its spiked helmet top, almost at eye level and a good deal taller than anything else in that direction, including the (then) RCA Building in Rockefeller Center.
The photo above shows midtown Manhattan, circa a year ago, as I photographed it with a zoom lens from the Brooklyn Bridge. Much has changed since 1951. Of the large buildings visible in Midtown, only the Chrysler Building remains from that time, and it was being overtopped by 432 Park Avenue, ten blocks further uptown. The overtopping is now complete, and I've expressed my dismal opinion of it here.
As I noted in my post about 432 Park, I'm distressed about the displacement of mostly young, creative, artistic people from what had been their traditional haunts, starting with Greenwich Village, where I used to live, and for which I blame myself, having been one of the yuppies who spelled its doom by enabling landlords to charge higher rents. I've reminisced about the Village, or at least about a particular bar, here; my friend Dave Coles and I have have both mourned it here.
I started this post over a year ago, but got distracted by other things, as well as by my inability to see where it might be going. It's still a work in progress; I'm going to let this be a teaser for some later posts in which I'll try to discuss the issues more extensively and, I hope, intelligently. I have been spurred to thinking about these matters by a couple of pieces by people I like and respect: one is Tim Sommer's "New York City and Taylor Swift (or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love Change)"; the other is Francis Morrone's "No, New York City is not Losing its Soul". Both make interesting, provocative points that I will return to in later posts. Morrone, in particualr, points out that I'm giving myself too much credit--or should that be, claiming too much blame?--for the demise of bohemia in the Village. That process, he writes, began long before I arrived.
I've stolen the title for this post from an album by Eric Andersen, a singer whose songs I've long loved.
In the clip above, made in 2011, he sings "Violets of Dawn," probably his best-known (and often covered) song, at a venue called "Music on Main" in Woodbridge, New Jersey, As "Crossbow0106," one of the commenters on the YouTube clip, puts it:
Eric is one of very few artists I've heard that over time has adapted his songs to his voice. His voice now works perfectly with "Violets Of Dawn", a little fragility that resonates with beauty. His "young voice" worked with this song also, but I love that Eric can sing this 50 years on or so and it sounds just amazing. Bravo!Maybe Woodbridge, or some place like it, is where you have to go now to get the music characteristic of a Village venue in the 1960s. Or, as Bob Dylan put it, on "Talkin' New York" back in 1961, "So long, New York; howdy East Orange."
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Back when I was in law school (1967-70) at this time of the year, as final exams were finishing, lots of calls went from my classmates to the two big Boston top 40 AM stations, WMEX and WRKO, requesting this 1966 hit by the Bobby Fuller Four, a group that gave a harder edge to the Buddy Holly West Texas rockabilly sound.
The song was later covered by The Clash, completing a bridge from Buddy Holly to '70s punk.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
I didn't expect the Mets to go into a vertiginous nosedive in which they would lose ten out of fifteen, including losses in all their road games; swept 4-0 by the Cubs and 3-0 by the Pirates. On top of this came the news that Wright had been diagnosed with spinal stenosis. G.M. Sandy Alderson is trying hard to seem optimistic, saying "I'm hopeful that we'll see him back sooner than some are speculating."
The Mets' travails had me in a bit of a funk. I remembered this Crain's editorial, and thought about the long series of players the Mets had acquired as free agents or in trades--Kevin McReynolds, Vince Coleman, Bobby Bonilla, Eddie Murray, Roberto Alomar--to name some (and, yes, I'd include Mike Piazza in the list), in search of quick fixes that didn't happen. I wondered if Granderson and Cuddyer would be added to that list. I also wondered about the decision to go with Wilmer Flores (photo), with his nine errors so far this season, at shortstop. This seemed to be grounded in a privileging of offense over defense, in turn based on the theory that it's home runs, not crisply turned double plays, that draws crowds to the stands.
In any event, the notion that the Mets could simply outscore their opponents despite having sketchy defense clearly wasn't working. In the fourteen games from May 11 through 24 they were outscored 68-42. Part of this is the fault of poor outings by pitchers at the top of the rotation, but problems at the plate were obvious. Some of this could be attributed to Wright's absence, but those who had done much to make up for that earlier in the season--Duda, Flores, and Lagares--were now having trouble reaching base.
It occurred to me that one contributing factor might be the sadistic-seeming string of twenty games without a break, beginning on May 8 and continuing through tomorrow, May 27, But the longest string of losses--five in a row from May 11 through May 15--happened early in the long march. This did make me curious enough to find out if a couple on Staten Island (possible Yankees fans?) were still doing the MLB season schedule. The answer is: no, they're not. In 2004 they were replaced by The Sports Scheduling Group, a company located in Butler, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh.
The Mets' win over the Phils yesterday brightened my spirits a bit. Colon, who got shelled the last time he was on the mound, got his seventh win of the season, and his second hit. Should he return next year, he will be denied any trips to the plate if the NL adopts the designated hitter rule. No, I can't write a baseball post without mentioning my disdain for the DH. Also, Flores' bat proved decisive with a three run dinger, and he made no errors. It's not the end of the world just yet.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Below is a clip of King doing "Sweet Little Angel," one of my favorites of his songs:
Photo: B.B. King following a White House performance; Eric Draper, photographer (Wikimedia Commons).
Thursday, May 14, 2015
The Dollyrots (not to be confused with the Dolly Dots, a Dutch girl group popular in the '80s), have a style that's been described as "bubblegum punk." The group consists of a husband and wife--Luis Cabezas, who plays guitar, sings, and jumps around a lot, and Kelly Ogden, who plays bass and sings--and whatever drummer they happen to be working with. They've had more drummers than Spinal Tap, though I don't think any of them died in a bizarre gardening accident, choked on someone else's vomit, or underwent spontaneous bodily combustion.
Cabezas and Ogden met when they were students at New College in Sarasota, Florida, at the time a branch campus of my alma mater. They now call L.A. home. They have a daughter, River, who was in utero when they made their album Barefoot and Pregnant. They also do a nice cover of Melanie's 1971 hit "Brand New Key," which I'm including as a bonus, since it also counts as a TBT:
Monday, May 11, 2015
"This is the National League. You have to be on your toes."--Mets third string catcher Johnny Monell (photo) quoted in today's New York Times.
Monell was called up last week to back up backup catcher Kevin Plawecki, who became the starter when Travis d'Arnaud went on the DL. In yesterday's game at Philadelphia, the rubber game of a tied series, Terry Collins rested Plawecki--he decided to rest some starters in this third game of a sadistically scheduled twenty straight games without a break--and started Anthony Recker. In the eighth, with the Mets holding a 5-4 lead, Monell was the only lefty batter on the bench, so Collins sent him to the plate and he produced a two run double that gave the Mets their 7-4 margin of victory.
The Mets' record is now 20-11. It's no longer the best in MLB; it's only the third best in the NL. The Cards are 22-9 and the Dodgers 20-10. In the comparison that's most important to me and to most New Yorkers, the Mets are one half game ahead of the 20-12 Yankees. Still, they are below the fold in the Times sports section.
Should the Mets play .500 ball for the rest of the season, they would end with 86 wins, which could give them a shot at the wild card. It could even give them the NL East title, provided the Nats, now 3 1/2 games behind and playing .531 ball, don't do much better than .500 for the rest of the season, and neither the Braves nor the Marlins catch fire. The prospect of the Mets continuing to play at their present sizzling .645 rate, which includes a twelve game winning streak, seems unlikely. The chances of their playing better than .500, though, seem reasonably good, provided that third baseman David Wright and lefty reliever Jerry Blevins come off the DL in good shape and stay that way, starting RHP Noah Syndergaard lives up to the hype, and they're spared a further plethora of injuries (always a chancy assumption with the Mets). Closer Jenrry Mejia is serving an eighty game suspension for failing a banned substance test, but Jeurys Familia, with thirteen saves so far, has proved a most capable replacement.
Monell's quip sums up why I prefer the NL game to the dumbed down version played in That Other League.
Thursday, May 07, 2015
Treadwell did not pay the musicians well; this, along with the draft and personal problems caused many changes in The Drifters' membership between 1954 and '58. Several former members joined in a group they called "The Original Drifters"; a version of this group still exists today. In 1958 Treadwell fired the remaining non-original Drifters, then hired Ben E. King and three other musicians from a group called the Five Crowns and made them The Drifters.
With King as lead vocalist, The Drifters had several hits. This was partly attributable to King's vocal talent and partly to Ertegun's having entrusted the production of their recordings to Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the two men behind, as songwriters and producers, so much of the best R&B of the late fifties and after. The King-led Drifters scored first with "There Goes My Baby," a mournful ballad with string accompaniment that made it to number two on the pop chart and number one on R&B in 1959. They made it to the top of the pop chart in 1960 with what is probably their best remembered song, "Save the Last Dance for Me." My favorite, though, is "This Magic Moment" (video above) released earlier in 1960, which charted at number sixteen. The "woo-woo" strings are cheesy, but the song showcases the dynamics and warmth of King's voice.
Ben E. King portrait by Mira Sasson.
Monday, May 04, 2015
Garner tells us that the original syntax, dating from the fifteenth century, was in the form "Christ College Cambridge graduated John" or, "more commonly," he writes, "John was graduated from Christ College Cambridge." This makes sense; the school graduates the student, not the opposite. In the nineteenth century, though, the "was" began to be dropped from the latter construction, thus going from the passive to the active voice and making "graduate" an ergative verb. (Hey, you learn something every day!) So it became "John graduated from Princeton." It's clear from this construction that John did nothing to Princeton (apart from receiving a diploma from it and, perhaps, leaving).
But then, Garner notes with sorrow, sometime in the mid twentieth century it became common to drop the "from," leaving "Jane graduated Yale," or the like. As he writes: "Although this wording is becoming increasingly common, it is best avoided." He continues:
As the Washington Post copyeditor Bill Walsh puts it, “When I hear ‘I graduated college,’ I want to answer ‘No, you didn’t.’ . . . [Y]ou call your education into question if you omit the from.”
Thursday, April 30, 2015
.The song was "You Can't Sit Down," a '63 hit for the Dovells, a Philadelphia group whose biggest hit was "The Bristol Stomp" and who recorded on Cameo Records, part of the Cameo-Parkway group that was central to the Philly rock and R&B scene in the late 1950s through the '60s.
Monday, April 27, 2015
This past Saturday, April 25, I walked from my home in Brooklyn Heights across the Brooklyn Bridge to attend the official re-opening of the Museum's historic ship collection. Approaching the Museum on Fulton Street, I took the photo above, which could have been a scene from over a century ago. The masts of the barque Peking loom over the rooflines of Schermerhorn Row, a group of commercial buildings dating from the early nineteenth century, which now house the Museum's visitor center and galleries, along with several commercial stores.