Thursday, March 05, 2015

TBT: Procol Harum, "Repent Walpurgis."

We're staying in the magic year 1967 this Thursday. Procol Harum, a band named for a cat, had a huge hit that summer with "A Whiter Shade of Pale", with a J.S. Bach inspired melody by Gary Brooker, played on Hammond organ by Matthew Fisher (Fisher would later successfully sue Brooker for partial credit for the music), and surrealistic lyrics by Keith Reid, listed on their album jackets as a band member with the designation "poet."

Procol Harum's follow-up to "Whiter" was a song called "Homburg", but for a while WRKO, the Boston AM top forty station I had on my clock radio (yes, sometimes that fall I was awakened by the Strawberry Alarm Clock) was playing an instrumental with the title "Repent Walpurgis." When I first heard a DJ announce it, I thought he said, "Repent While Purchase," which made no sense, even in Procol Harum's psychedelic terms. I learned the true title when I bought the group's eponymous first album, on which it's the final cut. I knew that the eve of May Day is sometimes called "Walpurgis Night," but I wasn't sure who Walpurgis was. It turns out that the event is named for Saint Walpurga, an English born nun who became an abbess in Germany and was later canonized.

Like the melody for "A Whiter Shade of Pale," that of "Repent Walpurgis," composed by Matthew Fisher, is influenced by J.S. Bach (as is Garth Hudson's organ intro to The Band's "Chest Fever"), and also by the French organist and composer Charles-Marie Widor.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Why I'm worrying about the Mets already.

The Mets are in camp; they've yet to play a spring training game. That comes Friday Thursday, against the Tigers Braves (Update: the Mets won, 8-2). Signs are good: Matt Harvey can throw well following Tommy John surgery; David Wright is healthy (at least for now); everything else seems to be in good order. So, first, why do I have a photo of Babe Ruth, a Yankees hero, although I managed to find a 1916 shot of him in a Red Sox uniform? More about that below.

Truth is, I got nervous when I read this New York Times story. Anything that indicates the Mets are doing something other than concentrating on playing baseball, especially if it smacks of premature triumphalism, puts me on edge. Sort of like Darryl Strawberry's rap "Chocolate Strawberry." recorded and released in 1987, just as the Mets were beginning their as yet interminable decline from their 1986 championship.

And the Babe? Thinking about players' publicity appearances brought to mind a story I read some years ago. It was 1942, and everything had to be about the War Effort. The Babe was to be interviewed on Grantland Rice's radio show, so one of the questions was how sports could contribute to that effort. Rice had scripted an answer; "Well, Granny, as the Duke of Wellington said, the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton." This was rehearsed several times until it seemed Ruth had it down pat, but when the show went live, he said, "Well, Granny, as Duke Ellington said, the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Elkton." Asked afterward why the deviation from script, Ruth said he didn't know Wellington but did know Ellington, and while he'd never been to Eton, he married his first wife in Elkton, and would never forget that place.

Update: already the intra-squad sniping has begun.

Babe Ruth photo: Culver Images via Wikimedia Commons (public domain)