I saw the theme for today, and couldn't get this tune out of my head…. from 1968, Iron Butterfly, the title track from their album In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.
First time I heard this I was 12 and in 6th grade. Everybody loved this song. Most of us who owned the album only played the second side, taken up entirely by this one song. We’d sit there for 17 minutes and 3 seconds and listen to the song, and look at the album cover….
It wassn’t long before we realized that the light show going on behind them was actually a picture of sperm cells attacking an egg.
That was a strange time in my life. My dad had died the year before, and Mom was giving serious thought to packing us up and moving to California. We took a vacation to San Francisco and stayed with friends of hers who were there while the husband was working on his Ph. D. I remember there was a day when Mom and the wife went off for the morning. I think that was the day she had her interview. We stayed in Palo Alto, but drove into San Francisco frequently.
That was the Summer of Love. Hippies all over the place. They were fascinating to me. Mom was like, stay away from them, but I just had to see. I wanted to see Haight-Ashbury, which we had all heard about from Time magazine as being sort of the epicenter of everything that was going on. Naturally, we didn’t get there. Mom was determined to keep us on the straight and narrow. Anytime we went into the city, we were in jackets and ties, and I had my hair cut in a Princeton, a crew cut with the front left long, and you’d use a special kind of wax to hold it up. Butch Wax, that’s what it was. We looked out of place, and we knew it.
It really affected me, seeing San Francisco and hitting puberty all at the same time. I went home different. Well, different enough. Turns out everyone else was changing. We had influences, mostly the hippies walking around Loyola University, and the head shops that were opening. We’d go into those places and just hang out, smelling the sandalwood incense and checking out the chicks as they came in. (Girls in our grade were “girls,” older girls were “chicks.” Sounds sexist now, but that was the way it was.) And there were the underground comix, of course. Dedicated more to the “free love” than the dope side. Absolutely disgusting portrayals of sexual encounters. We loved it. Couldn’t get enough. We’d read them, then stick them into books when we went to school and trade them in the classroom.
We stayed away from drugs. None of us knew where to get any, for one thing, and even if we did, they wouldn’t sell to us. No way. Well, maybe they would, but we were chicken. It’d be another couple of years before any of us would even experiment with them. But we had all the accoutrements, the bell-bottoms, flowered shirts, Apache scarves… man, we thought we looked good. I had a Chianti bottle and bought a candle that had different color wax in it. I put it in the bottle and lit it, and watched as the wax ran down the sides of the bottle and stuck to it. I’d burn incense in my room, even though Mom didn’t like that. Thought I was trying to cover up the fact that I was smoking. Which I was, but I had already solved that issue: open the window and lean out. Hell, she smoked, why not? She didn’t have anything to say about it. I took the bulbs out of the overhead light fixture and replaced them with a blue bulb and a red bulb. I was heavy into the counterculture, man. At least as heavy into it as a short, stocky 12-year-old kid with a crewcut could get.
We laugh about it now, but we were dead serious then. Peace, love, dope! Off the pigs!
Years later, my brother moved to San Francisco, and Mary and I went to visit him. He and his wife were working full-time, so Mary and I would go out in the city during the day. I told Mary I had to go to Haight-Ashbury, because I had never made it there when I was in San Francisco as a kid. So she was patient with me and we rode three or four buses to get there. The corner itself is up on a hill, which we had to climb. When we got to the top, a young couple was having a loud and wildly profane argument under the street signs. We decided against crossing the street to get a picture of the street signs when they started swinging at each other and she spit on him…
Anyway, that’s my entry for this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday, hosted by the amazing Linda G. Hill. If you follow the link or click on the picture below, it’ll take you to her page, where she has all the rules and stuff.
This was a tough battle, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t know how it would break. The three contestants this week were Rosemary Clooney, Ray Charles, and Willie Nelson. I would have included Karen Carpenter’s version as well, but something told me that three versions of the song would be more than enough. In the end, we ended up with a tie:
Rosemary Clooney 2 Ray Charles 4
Willie Nelson 4
If I gave myself a vote (which I don’t), it wouldn’t have made any difference, because I would have voted for Ms. Clooney, as much for Steve Lukather’s guitar solo as for her lovely voice. So, I guess the voters have spoken, and I’m awarding this battle to both Ray Charles and Willie Nelson.
I’m curious about something: If I had limited it to just two, say the two men, would there have been any difference? If I had added Karen Carpenter to the mix, would her presence have changed the voting?
I think I’ll limit myself to two contestants for here on out.
While I try and recover from this cold I seem to have picked up in the last few days, I’m rerunning one of my Thursday Tens from August 2012. Back with new stuff tomorrow. You’ll need to leave any comments on this entry, not the original.
This is post number 100. The square root of 100, as it so happens, is ten. Appropriate, I’d say.
So, the subject of this week’s Thursday Ten is ?, or pi. I had intended on doing this post on ten mathematical constants, but pi turned out to have so much fun stuff about it, I decided to do the whole post on it. You remember the formulae for the area and circumference of a circle, right?
Area = ?r2, where r is the radius;
Circumference = 2?r, or ?d, where d is the diameter.
Ten Interesting Facts About pi:
Pi is also known as Archimedes’ constant. Through the use of polygons that circumscribed and inscribed in a circle, he estimated that the value of pi was…
Oh, Lord, it’s already starting: The Christmas music, the Christmas comercials on TV, everybody talking about Black Friday this and that…
This Christmas season marks the 50th anniversary of the first time Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the Rankin-Bass stop-motion animated special narrated by Burl Ives, was shown on TV. That was the first time I ever heard this song.
I never got tired of hearing the story about Rudolph and Hymie and the Island of Misfit Toys. The last time I saw it, however, they replaced Burl Ives singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” at the end with a stop-action of Destiny’s Child singing it while Snowman Burl leered at them. Talk about a way to ruin a great Christmas special. I mean, Beyonce, Kelly, and Michelle did a fine version of the song, but it just didn’t fit. I guess there were good reasons to do it, but man…
Someone on Facebook found an article the other day that noted the passing of Arthur Rankin, Jr., on January 30 of this year. He and Jules Bass, his business partner, made hundreds of stop-action features like Rudolph, as well as the Peabody Award-winning The Hobbit in 1977. That would have been something that I would have liked to have noted, but this was the first I had heard of it.
I Googled Rankin’s name, and found out that the folk singer-songwriter Kenny Rankin, who used to appear frequently on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in the 1970′s, had also died, over five years ago. He was the author of the song “Peaceful.” It was Helen Reddy’s followup hit to “I Am Woman” in 1973, and Georgie Fame had a hit with it in 1969. Here is Kenny singing the song on his 1972 album Like A Seed.
Kenny wrote his own songs and also interpreted the songs of others. He did a version of The Beatles’ “Blackbird” that was so beautiful Paul McCartney asked him to play it when he and John Lennon werre inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Kenny was good friends with Carson, who wrote the liner notes for his debut album, 1967′s Mind Dusters. He was also good friends with George Carlin, who also recorded on the Little David label. Rankin would open shows for Carlin, and reportedly George got Kenny re-addicted to cocaine.
On Christmas of 1972, I got George Carlin’s Class Clown album, and played it until I wore the grooves out. (Admit it, you were wondering how I was going to get back to Christmas, didn’t you?) 1972 was the year he was arrested in Milwaukee for performing his “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television.” My mother was at that performance, and said he was a “goof.” That was Mom’s favorite put-down. “Oh, for God’s sake, what a goof!” She said that about everyone. We could all do an impression of her saying it.
So, I guess all of the kids’ Christmas shows are getting pulled out of mothballs and being tested to make sure they won’t break, although I’m almost positive they’ve been ripped down and digitized for years. I have no idea when any of them will be played, or for that matter where. The big networks have hundreds of cable stations and will probably farm the shows out to them so they don’t have to pre-empt any of the shows that the 18-49 set is interested in.
In a way, it’s a shame, but times are different. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing, I don’t know.
Herb Ellis was another West Coast guitarist who came to prominence playing with The Oscar Peterson Trio in the 1950′s. It was a controversial setting, because Herb was white and both Peterson and bassist Ray Brown were black at a time when racism was still an issue. The trio were the “house band” for Verve Records, backing Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, and others. With Buddy Rich, they played on the comeback albums of the duet of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Later, along with guitarists Tal Farlow, Barney Kessel, and Charlie Byrd, he formed the “Great Guitars” ensemble. The cover art for his 1988 album Doggin’ Around with bassist Red Mitchell was drawn by none other than Gary Larson, of “The Far Side” fame. Herb paid him in guitar lessons.
Our first song is “It Could Happen To You,” which he recorded with Harry “Sweets” Edison on trumpet, Jimmy Giuffre on saxophone and clarinets, Oscar Peterson on piano, Ray Brown on bass, and Alvin Stoller on drums. It’s from his 1956 album Ellis In Wonderland.
For the second song, Barney Kessel joins him on this live recording of “Lady Be Good.”
Back again next week with another jazz guitar great. That’s your Two for Tuesday, November 18, 2014.
We did Muddy last week, have to do the Wolf today. Chester Arthur Burnett, a/k/a Howlin’ Wolf, was a huge influence on the British bands and musicians that formed the basis for the “British Invasion” in the 1960′s, even more so than Muddy Waters. As you’ll see from the videos, he was a huge guy with a gravelly voice. His music wasn’t as polished as Muddy’s was, but that raw quality and the sheer sight of him onstage connected with audiences like few others, and he was a capable harmonica and guitar player. Hubert Sumlin backed him on guitar on most of his recordings, and he drew heavily from the song catalog of legendary double bass player and songwriter Willie Dixon for much of his material.
I promised myself to keep the number of songs down to four. The question was which four. There’s so much to choose from. I’ll leave it to you to explore YouTube and the various streaming services for more of his music.
Video #1 is one of his more famous songs, “Smokestack Lightnin’.” This was a live performance at the 1964 American Folk Blues Festival in England. Hubert Sumlin’s on guitar, and that looks like Willie Dixon on bass. Next is “How Many More Years” for a British TV show in 1965. The clip starts with the announcer talking to Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones about the influence Wolf had on them, with Jones finally suggesting they shut up and let him play. That’s Billy Preston on piano, James Burton on guitar, Larry Knechtel on bass, and Mickey Conway on drums, according to the comments. Next are two studio recordings, “Killing Floor” and “Little Red Rooster,” the latter having been recorded by the Stones.
Hope you’ve enjoyed it. Back to the South Side next week.
From everyone else’s updates, it sounds like everyone doing NaNo is truckin’ along, and I’m seeing a lot of snow scenes out there. Not snowing here, of course; when it snows in Atlanta we just stay home until it melts. Well, most of us do. We are getting colder-than-normal weather for this time of the year. But no matter.
I’m at Starbucks, where we generally spend our day on Sunday (Mary gets together with some of her knitting buds) and they’re playing Christmas music. I swear, if I hear Lady Gaga doing “O Holy Night,” I’m leaving. I guess that’s the thing now, to start with the Christmas cheer as soon after Hallowe’en as you can stand. The heck with Thanksgiving…
I had a Canadian friend (sadly no longer with us) who used to wonder why those of us south of the border celebrated Thanksgiving so late. They celebrated theirs the middle of October, closer to harvest time, ours is a week from Thursday and is the official beginning of the Christmas shopping season, since stores open at 8 PM on Thanksgiving evening so that the TV stations can get film of people beating the daylights out of each other so they can get one of the 60″ HDTV’s that have been marked down to $99.95 or whatever.
Speaking of ROW80, you’re probably sitting there tapping your foot and wondering if I plan on doing my update anytime this century. I actually heard one of you use Rodney Dangerfield’s line from Caddyshack, “Come on, while we’re young!” Well, the wait is over….
Do my “morning pages” on 750words.com every day: Missed yesterday. Damn.
Read 30 minutes a day: Done. Didn’t make much headway in Cheney’s Writing Creative Nonfiction, but managed to do the full amount anyway. I’m going to eliminate some of the blogs I’ve been reading, some of which post 30-40 times a day.
Practice writing left-handed 15 minutes a day: Done, sort of. It’s coming along.
And that’s the news, so now you know. (A newsreader on WWWE, now WTAM in Cleveland, Ohio used to say that.) Straight ahead.
Don’t forget, if you want to join in on the fun, click the picture above. That will take you to the blog of the lovely and talented Linda G. Hill, who will explain the rules on her site.
Today’s prompt: ELEMENT
Naturally, when you mention the word “element” to a writer, or anyone who’s written a college paper, the first thing they think of is The Elements of Style, by those two wacky dudes, Jud Strunk and Barry White.
No, I’m just kidding. It was originally written by William Strunk, Jr., a professor of English at Cornell University, in 1918, and was enhanced by his student, E. B. White, the author of such children’s classics as Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, starring Michael J. Fox as the voice of Stuart. It has been inflicted upon assigned as required reading to nearly everyone who’s ever taken an English class since 1959. Somehow, I missed having to read it; according to Geoffrey K. Pullam, who wrote the article “50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice” for The Chronicle of Higher Education in 2009, I didn’t miss much. Your mileage may vary.
And speaking of White, brothers Maurice and Verdine White (from Chicago!) formed a band in the early 1970′s with their friend Philip Bailey and several others called Earth, Wind & Fire. The four elements of classical times were earth, air, fire, and water, and that’s where they got the name from. (Strunk and White are now spinning in their graves.) EW&F had a number of hits and are still at it, God bless them. Here’s one of them.
September is, or was, Back To School month. (Here the kids start in August, and get gypped out of a month of summer vacation.) In senior year of high school (40 years ago…), I took Chemistry. Yes, I know, you’re supposed to take Chemistry in junior year and Physics in senior year, but I did it backwards. Sue me. In Chemistry, one of the first things we learned about was the Periodic Table of Elements, most commonly attributed to Dmitri Mendeleev.
I prefer Tom Lehrer’s version of the elements, myself.
Do any of you remember the show that used the phrase, “man against man, man against the elements” in its ads? I cannot rememnber its name. I do remember that my brothers and I used to say “man against man, man against the elephants.” Which, of course, brings me to my favorite joke when I was eight, and quite possibly my favorite fifty years later:
Q. Did you hear about the elephant with diarrhea?
A. It’s all over town!
Still Crazy After All These Years was Paul Simon’s 1975 solo album that featured a number of songs that reached the Top 40, including “My Little Town” (the first time he and Art Garfunkel recorded together since 1970), “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover,” “Gone At Last,” and the title track, the subject of today’s battle.
There have been a number of recordings of the song, and what I’d like to do is feature three of them. One I won’t feature is that of Karen Carpenter. I love Karen’s voice, and it’s well suited to the song, but I didn’t feel to include that version in the battle. I’m asking you to choose between three already, no reason to add a fourth. If you’re interested, you can listen to it here.
CONTESTANT #1 – ROSEMARY CLOONEY
Actress and singer Rosemary Clooney had a string of hits in the 1950′s, including “Hey There,” “Mambo Italiano,” “Come On-a My House,” and “Tenderly.” This is from her 1993 album Still on the Road and features a guitar solo by Steve Lukather.
CONTESTANT #2 – RAY CHARLES “My World” 1993
Given the gospel feeling of the song, if Ray Charles hadn’t done it, the world would have been a much sadder place. This is from his 1993 album My World.
CONTESTANT #3 – WILLIE NELSON
Willie Nelson is best known as a country singer, but that has never limited the songs he chooses to perform, and he puts his own stamp on each song he does. He did the song for the soundtrack of the 2000 movie Space Cowboys, starring Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, and James Garner. Here he does it live on a show that was carried by WNCN, channel 17, Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.
So, we have three versions that are similar, but sung by three talented and different singers. Of the three versions, which do you like better, Rosemary Clooney’s, Ray Charles’, or Willie Nelson’s? Let me know in the comments below. I’ll announce the winner next Friday or Saturday, once everyone’s had a chance to vote.
And, when you finish here, you might want to drop in on the blogs of other participants in the Battle of the Bands: