“America’s Gone 7-Up” can collection from 1979

March 17th, 2014


I collected these cans in the summer of ‘79 and was able to make the stacked up panorama shown in this picture. My decision to toss them out at the end of that summer was perhaps a formative anti-hoarding lesson for someone with an unmistakeable collector’s impulse. Each can offers up a single image suggesting a quintessential recreational activity for each state (photos - except for Minnesota - courtesy of usasoda.com):

Alabama (biking in historic Mobile)
Alaska (scaling the Alaska range)
Arizona (backpacking in the Grand Canyon)
Arkansas (picknicking in Hot Springs)
California (surfing the California coast)
Colorado (skiing in the Rockies)
Connecticut (hiking the Appalachian Trail)
Delaware (touring)
Florida (boating in the Everglades)
Georgia (fishing Lake Lanier)
Hawaii (snorkeling)
Idaho (rafting the Salmon River)
Illinois (cycling in New Salem State Park)
Indiana (playing basketball)
Iowa (ballooning)
Kansas (camping along the Santa Fe Trail)
Kentucky (horse racing)
Louisiana (boating in Lake Pontchartrain)
Maine (canoeing in the Allagash River)
Maryland (sailing in Chesapeake Bay)
Massachusetts (running the Boston Marathon)
Michigan (fishing in Lake Michigan)
Minnesota (dogsledding in the Superior National Forest)
Mississippi (sailing along the Gulf Coast)
Missouri (canoeing in the Ozark streams)
Montana (backbacking in Glacier National Park)
Nebraska (saddlebronc riding)
Nevada (wind sailing in Death Valley)
New Hampshire (climbing White Mountain)
New Jersey (canoeing in the Pine Barrens)
New Mexico (rounding up cattle)
New York (sight-seeing in Central Park)
North Carolina (golfing the Tar Heel Fairways)
North Dakota (cross country skiing)
Ohio (backpacking along the Buckeye Trail)
Oklahoma (horse riding near the Glass Mountains)
Oregon (climbing Mount Hood)
Pennsylvania (touring Independence Square)
Rhode Island (sailing in Newport)
South Carolina (playing tennis at Hilton Head)
South Dakota (hiking Mount Rushmore)
Tennessee (hiking the Great Smokies)
Texas (fishing the Toledo Bend Reservoir)
Utah (camping in national parks)
Vermont (iceboating in Lake Champlain)
Virginia (camping in the Shenandoah Valley)
Washington (kayaking in the Skagit River)
West Virginia (climbing the Seneca Rocks)
Wisconsin (fishing in Lake Winnebago)
Wyoming (hiking the Grand Tetons)

Anyone interested in constructing an alternate list?

Trouser Press pans Horses

March 14th, 2014


An entry in Nicholas Rombes’ A Cultural Dictionary of Punk (2009), p. 289, in which the phrase “There is nothing inherently wonderful about starkness” serves as a stand-alone entry in the T section:

“There is nothing inherently wonderful about starkness”: A sentence from a scathing 1976 article about Patti Smith by Ira Robbins, the editor of Trouser Press. Describing Horses - which had been released in December 1975 - as a “fairly good album, capturing a small part of the feeling one got seeing her at Max’s a year ago,” Robbins wonders why she has become a darling of the “straight press.” His critique rests on two objections. First, her music has been transformed from a sort of self-deprecating “imitation” of rock and roll into an actual, serious effort to be rock and roll… Second, her newfound success with Horses is a betrayal of her roots and of the New York underground scene…

In some ways, Robbins’s article predicts the countless attacks on punk and indie bands that would, in the coming decades, be accused of selling out, either because they signed to major labels or because they began adjusting their sound to accommodate the broader tastes of wider audiences.

But more than this, Robbins’s assault has the tone of a spurned lover or, worse yet, a forgotten one. Patti, why have you forgotten me? I love you. Please come back. It’s a feeling we’ve all had at one point or another about a favorite band, and about the betrayal we feel when that private experience goes public and everybody gets a chance to listen. In this respect, Robbins’s essay is not a hatchet job but a confession of love.

This blog post can be understood as a confession of love for this entry.

Words from Joe Jackson that I think about

March 8th, 2014


Years ago I read Joe Jackson’s Cure for Gravity and blogged about it. Certain words of his that I didn’t write about in that post seem to have stuck in my head over the years, though. Here they are for your consideration:

…It still amazes me how much scorn some people can muster for musicians - or the wrong kind of musicians. The biggest fights are not necessarily between, say, jazzers and folkies, or rockers and baroquers. The greater the distance between two genres or subcultures, the more likely they are to be irrelevant, even invisible, to each other. It’s ironic, but this is the way that grudges and rivalries seem to work. Poor people don’t envy the rich nearly as much as they envy the poor person who gets a break… The history of rock ‘n’ roll teems with such wars of attrition…

Of course music per se is not always the issue, and it’s impossible to completely separate any kind of art - or any kind of product - from the preoccupations of its time. I like to say that I have no agenda. I say it because I don’t run with any particular gang, and because agendas are often no more than defensive postures we take up against other people’s agendas. But I do have an agenda of sorts, or a guiding conviction, and I may as well be honest about it. Music is either an art form or it isn’t, and I say that it is: the greatest of the arts, and one of the closest approaches we mortals have to the divine. And try as I might, I can’t seem to reduce it to the level of the matching handbag that goes with this year’s jacket. Nor can I inflate it to the level of tribal warfare.

The pronunciation of “Rio Grande”

March 5th, 2014

mitch-miller-and-his-orchestra-and-chorus-the-yellow-rose-of-texas-columbia r-3596854-1345557412-3952

I played Texocentric songs on last Sunday’s edition of Folkways for Texas Independence Day and I noticed that on the Cartwright Brothers’ 1929 “Texas Ranger” they pronounce “Rio Grande” as “RYE-oh Grand.”  I’d first noticed the Texas river pronounced that way on Stan Freberg’s 1955 “Yellow Rose of Texas,” which parodies Mitch Miller’s singalong hit version of the song and which also uses that pronunciation. (So does a version by Johnny Desmond released hot on Miller’s heels in the summer of ‘55 - another big hit.) I figured Freberg’s usage was an oversight that was especially regrettable since he mimics a Texan and I’ve only ever heard it as “REE-oh Grand” here in the Lone Star State.

The Cartwright Brothers threw me, though, because they were from the town of Munday in the Texas panhandle and their record came out so much earlier than the other ones.  Additional poking around has informed me that the town of Rio Grande in Ohio happens to be pronounced “RYE-oh” and that the majority of the employees of the Denver Rio Grande Western Railroad, which ran in Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, also pronounced it that way. Maybe the railroad connection is the most relevant one here, with Munday close enough to the Intermountain area to adopt that quirk.  (Gene Autry’s 1933 version of “The Yellow Rose of Texas” has him singing “REE-oh Grand.” He’s originally from Tioga, pronounced “Tie-OH-ga” in Northeast Texas.) Keeping my ears open…

Mitch Miller - “Yellow Rose of Texas” (1955) (”Rio Grande” at 1:12)

Cartwright Brothers - “Texas Ranger” (1929) (”Rio Grande” at :43)

James MacArthur, adopted son of Helen Hayes

February 26th, 2014

jamesmacarthur helen_hayes

I was watching the 1970 Airport movie a few nights ago and it struck me again during the scenes featuring Helen Hayes: she reminds me so much of James “Danno” MacArthur. The official biographies all assert that Hayes is his adopted mother. Some suggest that her husband Charles MacArthur was the real father while some speculate on James actually being the son of MacArthur family friend Lillian Gish. I’m not agitated enough about this to conduct any serious snooping, and I understand that family secrets are family secrets. But I have to admit to being puzzled that none of the theories about his birth origins I’ve come across acknowledge James’s uncanny resemblance to his adopted mother nor any willingness to consider the possibility of her being his real mother. Does no one else see the resemblance?

Two “Ooh Ooh” songs

February 18th, 2014

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“Ooh Ooh” and “Do you mind?” were catchphrases for Joe E. Ross on Car 54, Where Are You? (1961-1963). I’ve had a thing for this sitcom since I first saw it on Nick at Nite during the mid-80s. Not only is it a real hoot, but it’s also like “character actors on parade,” with each player specializing in the kind of facial distinctions that make it hard for viewers to turn away. Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis of The Munsters are here, for example, each of whom, I’d argue, are more interesting looking without their makeup. Joe E. Ross, who played the dimwitted but loveable officer Gunther Toody, might also have transitioned nicely to The Munsters, but he was apparently a severe headache to work with. (A recent WFMU writeup deals the man’s loveability a body blow.)

A 1963 single featuring Joe E. Ross’s catchphrases is notable in that it’s so annoying it could have been used for a riotous episode in which Toody launches an ill-advised recording career.  An album track by the suave jazz vibraphonist Milt Jackson, on the other hand (written by Manny Albam), is notable for its mysterious inclusion on Jackson’s 1964 Jazz ‘N’ Samba album a year after the show had run its course. There’s gotta be a story there…

Joe E. Ross - “Ooh Ooh” (1963) (YouTube)

Milt Jackson - “The Oo-Oo Bossa Nova” (1964)

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Borrowed Tunes: Bali Ha’i edition, pt. 2

January 10th, 2014

A while back I posted some observations on what my ears heard as the influence of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Bali Ha’i” (from South Pacific, the Broadway soundtrack of which came out in 1949) on pop songs like Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.”  After having watched a deleted scene from The Wizard of Oz (1942), though, I’m realizing that Rodgers and Hammerstein may have actually borrowed from Harold Arlen. The most expensive, elaborate deleted scene included an Arlen song (lyrics by E.Y. Harburg) called “The Jitterbug,” in which Dorothy and friends dance frenetically under the influence of the song title’s creatures (only the grainy version above, shot by Arlen himself, exists). Although “The Jitterbug” never made it to the final cut of the film, it did appear in a 1942 stage musical version, which is one way it might have seeped into Rodgers and Hammerstein’s consciousness.

Borrowed Tunes: Pete Townshend’s words about the Everlys

January 4th, 2014


Pete Townshend says some memorable things about the Everlys in his Who I Am:

“Best of all, I found two great albums by the Everly Brothers, one was called Rock and Soul, the other Rhythm and Blues… The Everly Brothers played a number of R&B classics, but it was their original material–or the very obscure material they introduced as covers–that I thought exceptional.  ‘Love Is Strange’ is an eerie bluegrass song that the Everlys transformed into a driving showcase for jangling electric guitars and nasal vocals…There were few artists that all four of us respected and enjoyed, and the Everly Brothers were among them.”

I assume Pete’s talking about the Rock’n Soul and Beat & Soul albums. Beat & Soul is easily my favorite Everly album. As for the “bluegrass” origins of Mickey and Sylvia’s “Love Is Strange” (written by Bo Diddley), I’m all ears. Anyone?

Phil Everly, RIP

The Everly Brothers - “Love Is Strange” (1965)

Bruce Haack on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood

December 17th, 2013


I remember feeling frustration when I saw the 2005 documentary Haack: The King of Techno (about synth pioneer Bruce Haack) because only the briefest glimpse of the legendary synth pioneer’s 1968 appearance on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood made the final cut. The entire segment has since turned up on YouTube, and you might as well take it in via Dangerous Minds where you can also read more about the man.

Ray Price’s early ’70s pop chart streak

December 16th, 2013

Ray Price, who we lost today at age 87, was one of early ’70s country radio’s crossover kings. As the Billboard ads above illustrate, a country artist’s ability to chart in multiple genres was something to brag about in an industry eager to bust out of an insular phase. Although there’s much more to Price’s extraordinary legacy than this, his streak of six pop chart appearances between 1970 and 1973 bear special notice here. The orchestrated countrypolitan sounds that led Price to the pop and easy listening charts during this era may still offend the ears of some hardcore country fans, but there’s no denying the interpretive authority of a true master, whatever the genre, when you listen to these:

8/29/70 - “For the Good Times” (Billboard pop #11, country #1)
Written by Kris Kristofferson, produced by Don Law. (These records also stand as memorials to Don Law’s final years of prominence.)

3/20/71 - “I Won’t Mention It Again” (pop #42, country #3)
Written by Cam Mullins, produced by Don Law. Cam Mullins is the arranger/conductor for all six of these.

8/14/71 - “I’d Rather Be Sorry” (pop #70, country #2)
Written by Kris Kristofferson, produced by Don Law

4/29/72 - “The Lonesomest Lonesome” (pop #109, country #2)
Written by Mac Davis, produced by Don Law

1/6/73 - “She’s Got to Be a Saint” (pop #93, counry #1)
Written by Joe Paulini and Mike DiNapoli, produced by Don Law

8/25/73 - “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” (pop #82, country #1)
Written by Jim Weatherly, produced by Don Law. More crossing over: Gladys Knight and the Pips took their version of this song to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1974 and #1 on the soul chart.

(No more Price singles reached the Hot 100 after this, although his country chart success continued until 1982.)

(Cross posted at Early ’70s Radio)