Friday, August 31, 2007

From Here to Paternity

Speaking of performers who had accomplished a lot at a very young age, Denver Broncos running back Travis Henry has fathered nine children by nine different women, and he's only 28. You'd think just by accident he'd have knocked up one of them twice by now.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Best Album Titles of All Time

These aren't in any particular order; this will engender enough controversy among the notoriously argumentative OPC readership without adding rankings on top of it. They're also presented irrespective of the quality of the record itself, although it seems that an act with the wherewithal to come up with a great title is also generally capable of making a pretty good record. Please add your favorites in comments.

The Quality of Mercy Is Not Strnen by the Mekons: Funniest title and cover photo ever.
Nevermind by Nirvana: It's great when a band can encapsulate its ethos with a single word, even if that word is made up.
Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan: This is the only great Dylan album with a great title; most of his great albums have so-so titles, like Blonde on Blonde or Time Out of Mind, while his great titles are largely wasted on things like Slow Train Coming or Empire Burlesque or...
Street Legal by Bob Dylan
Bee Thousand by Guided by Voices
Butt Rockin' by the Fabulous Thunderbirds
Let It Bleed by the Rolling Stones
Let It Be by the Replacements: A much better title, oddly enough, than Let It Be by the Beatles.
Here Come the Warm Jets by Brian Eno
Hot Fuss by the Killers
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John: It's overfamiliar now, but just imagine you're coming to it fresh, and appreciate how it looks and sounds. It's pretty great.
Pacific Trim (EP) by Pavement: This just cracks me up.
Vampire Can Mating Oven (EP) by Camper van Beethoven: Is there a word for something that's like an anagram except it scrambles syllables rather than letters?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Short Life of Little Willie John

One of the primary themes that has emerged here on "One Poor Correspondent" is how young so many of the rock & roll stars we respect and admire were during the vital points of their careers. Such is the case with the R&B singer Little Willie John.

Little Willie John really was little -- five foot four -- and unlike Elton John or Robert "Sad Eyes" John -- John was his real last name. He is probably best known for making the original "Fever," which was covered note-for-note to great effect by Miss Peggy Lee. (Miss Peggy Lee's other signature song, "Is That All There Is," was written by the famed rock & roll pioneers Leiber and Stoller, and arranged and conducted by none other than Randy Newman.) But Little Willie did it first himself, in the summer of 1956, when he took it to Number One on the R&B charts, and Number 24 on the pop charts. Despite the fact that "Fever" seems the height of sophistication in the hands of Miss Peggy Lee, Little Willie was all of 18 when he made a hit out of it.

Little Willie's last hit came in 1960, with "Sleep": he turned 23 around the time it was sneaking into the Top 20. His music career scuffling, Little Willie decided to go in a new direction in 1966 and knifed a guy after a show in Seattle -- Willie was known to have a few drinks. Convicted of manslaughter, he went to prison in Walla Walla, Washington, where he died of a heart attack in Washington State Prison in 1968. Little Willie John was 30.

My Second Post Gleaned From a Close Reading of the Liner Notes for "Sticky Fingers"

The liner notes on many albums go to great lengths to tell you who played what instrument on which song. The notes to the Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers would seem to be one of these; they make clear, for example, that Ry Cooder played guitar on "Sister Morphine" and Nicky Hopkins played piano on "Sway" and Bill Wyman played electric piano on "You Gotta Move" (which has no bass part).

But in the cases of "Sway" and "Moonlight Mile," you don't get to find out everyone who played on those tracks. Both of those credits read "Paul Buckmaster: Strings," and while I suppose it's possible that Buckmaster played every string part on those songs, that wouldn't be a very efficient use of studio time, would it? No, I think anonymous violinists played the strings on those songs, and Buckmaster arranged the charts for them.

The only times you see a string player credited on a rock & roll record is when they're playing solo, like Scarlet Rivera or the ubiquitous cellist Jane Scarpantoni. If they're playing as part of a team, they're out of luck.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Alberto Gonzales is the first Attorney General who thought the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth were three different things." -- Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Illinois

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Kid, Gracious Kid

As I'm sure you know, back in the 1980s Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders had a baby with Ray Davies of the Kinks. This was shortly after the Pretenders had covered the Kinks' "Stop Your Sobbing"; I think there was a deal in place whereby if the band covered one of your songs, you then got to impregnate Chrissie.

That little girl, Natalie Rae Hynde, is now 24, and I have seen Internet reports of her studying English literature in London (which sounds plausible) and working as a model (which doesn't). I have not heard, though, about her making any music, which seems a little odd since both her parents are Rock & Roll Hall of Famers, and real ones, not like Lloyd Price or the drummer for the Rascals or anything. The bloodlines don't get much better than that.

How many other kids can say they are the child of two members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? I found four others:

Ronnie Turner
(son of Ike and Tina)
China Kantner (daughter of Paul Kantner and Grace Slick)
Chynna Phillips (daughter of Michelle and John Phillips)
Rhonda Ross Kendrick (daughter of Diana Ross and Berry Gordy, who is inducted as a nonperformer)

So if you want to get yourself into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, you might want to name that kid China, or some variation thereof. It's interesting to note that Chynna Phillips, who sang the soporific, ironically titled "Reckless" with Wilson Phillips, is the only one who's made music her career.

But really, I thought there would have been more. Some possible future additions to the list:

Chastity Bono (if Sonny and Cher get inducted)
Elijah Blue Allman (if Cher gets inducted)
Sally and Ben Taylor (if Carly Simon gets inducted, which she would be if I had anything to say about it, and, you know, I really ought to)
Jackson Smith (and at least one other whose name I couldn't find, but they'll count if the MC5 get inducted)

The Costanza Stratagem

The other day when I was getting a haircut, I saw a man out at the barbershop wearing a dark green L.L. Bean sweat suit, with a matching sweatshirt and sweat pants. Now, I'm the last person who should be criticizing other people's fashion choices, but this is a strategy I just can't fathom: "I'm willing to make an effort and spend some money to dress nice when I go out, but not at the cost of sacrificing my sweat pants."

Friday, August 24, 2007

When We Was Fab

A commenter on my Archies item drew an implicit comparison between that group and Milli Vanilli, the German studio group of the late 1980s that hired two dreadlocked pretty boys to be its stand-in. The whole Milli Vanilli phenomenon is fascinating to me, not least of which is that people forget just how popular that group was. They had three Number One singles and two other Top Five hits, in addition to their much-ballyhooed Grammy win as Best New Artist in 1990.

But as soon as Rob and Fab were revealed as put-on artists, the public turned on them as if they had signed with the Yankees. Part of this was their incredible obnoxiousness: Before their unmasking, one of those dudes told Time magazine "We make better music than Paul McCartney. We make better music than Bob Dylan." And I don't think the producer ever came out and sheepishly admitted, "Yeah, we shouldn't have lied, but we had found these great grooves and figured they wouldn't get a hearing if people thought they had come form a bunch of old guys in Germany." That would have gone a long way toward rehabilitating the whole project, but for better or worse, Rob and Fab remained the faces of Milli Vanilli.

And then there was their Achilles' heel: Their music was terrible. Just unconscionably bad, three Number One hits or no three Number One hits. Weak rhythms, almost no melody, English-as-a-second-language lyrics. Because of that, no one ever stepped forward and said, "They were a fraud, but I still enjoy listening to their music." As soon as people had an excuse to forget them, they did.

I can recall hearing "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You" on my car radio and leaving it on all the way through, just because I was always convinced that it couldn't possibly be as mindbendingly awful as I remembered it, but it always was:

It's a tragedy for me to see the dream is over
And I never will forget the day we met
Girl I'm gonna miss you

There's a Milli Vanilli movie in the works now. I think I speak for legions of music fans when I say: I don't care.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pour Some Sugar on Me

I hate to break it to you, kids, but the Archies weren't a real band. Jughead, for one, could barely play the drums at all. Their records were played and sung by outside people, most notably a singer named Ron Dante, which would later also provide the singing voices for the Chan Clan, progeny of the Amazing Chan.

I have no idea of the provenance of this clip, but apparently at some point Ron Dante stepped out from behind the animation to perform some of his Archies hits. Here he is doing "Sugar, Sugar" (which was co-written by Andy Kim of "Rock Me Gently" fame), accompanied by Ron Dante on drums, Ron Dante on guitar, and Ron Dante on tambourine. The set looks a little like it might be "The Merv Griffin Show," but I really have no idea.

Next week: The Banana Splits were just a bunch of guys in costumes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My Odd Couple Mea Culpa

I have tremendous respect for Jack Klugman, but I'm afraid the man has done me and you, my readers, a disservice. I mentioned that in his memoir Klugman described how "The Odd Couple" switched from being shot on film to being shot in front of an audience on videotape during the first sesason. I just got a copy of the first season DVD of The Odd Couple" (smartly packaged with a whopping five discs in a normal-sized DVD sleeve, rather than a bulky book of them) and I can tell you: He's wrong. The entire first season was shot on film, with no studio audience. The enormous changeover in the show happened over the summer between the first and second seasons.

I apologize. I will see if Garry Marshall has any explanation for this.

Mother Nature on the Run

You probably know that Neil Young has had only one Top Thirty hit in his long career, and that it -- "Heart of Gold" -- went all the way to Number One in 1972. You may even know that Neil does have another Top Ten record to his credit, since he wrote Nicolette Larson's wan "Lotta Love," from 1978.

What I didn't know until this morning was that Neil wrote at least one more Top Thirty hit, since a British group called Prelude took its cover of "After the Goldrush" to Number 22 in the fall of 1974. I'm sure I've never heard it.

Throw My Ticket in the Wind

At the very outset of Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Revue, Bob charges into a driving version of "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You," with the lyrics slightly modified for the occasion. Whereas the song used to go:

Is it really any wonder
The love that a stranger might receive
You cast your spell and I went under
I find it so difficult to leave

Dylan now sings

Is it really any wonder
The changes that we put on each other's heads
You came down on me like ROLLING THUNDER
I left my dreams on the river bed

You gotta push the product! And of course, the crowd loves it.

That's not even the best part of the record; the version of "Hurricane" is simply blazing, with Scarlet Rivera's fiddle weaving through it like a lit fuse and the drummer sounding like he too is on the run from the law. They manage to shave significant running time off the Desire version, despite the fact that Bob adds a little spoken intro to the song.

That whole Rolling Thunder Revue must have been something to see, drifting into town, staying for a couple of shows, picking up and dropping musicians here and there (Joni Mitchell showed up one night and ended up hanging around for three shows). At the end of the Rolling Thunder album, Bob says, "We'll be in the area for a few days, maybe we'll see you tomorrow night," and who wouldn't go back? I've heard it was a financial disaster, which I can't really understand. I bet Bill Graham figured out a way to turn a buck on it.

Here's Bob from a Rolling Thunder show in Fort Collins, Colorado, home of Colorado State University, the next-to-last show from the spring of 1976. This is apparently at the height of Yasir Arafat chic, plus you get to see Dylan play some slide guitar; his technique consists of acting like the fretboard is too hot to touch. I don't think he plays much slide any more. This is the version of "Shelter From the Storm" that would eventually show up on Hard Rain, I believe, although my vinyl copy of Hard Rain is too tossed-off for such niceties as liner notes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

He's Scared and He's Thinkin' That Maybe He Ain't That Young Anymore

If you are a man, and you get older, one of two things can happen to your hair: It can turn gray, and it can fall out. Or both, but at least one of them will happen. To quote Cuba Gooding Sr., there's no exceptions to the rule.

So when you see someone like Bruce Springsteen, who turns fifty-eight years old next month, with a full head of dark hair, you can be sure something artifical is going on. In Springsteen's case, it's obvious that what happened is that he asked Patti to spray his head with a can of Rust-Oleum.

Monday, August 20, 2007


One day I was in the car, bored with all of the normal radio stations, so much so that I flipped it over to AM and set the scanner looking for -- I don't remember what I was looking for, since I never have much patience for sports talk, but what I found was an unaccompanied violin, wheezing out a lonesome riff. After a long interval of this, about the length of a Ramones song, a forlorn male voice came in, declaiming a bizarre story about a man escaping from the clutches of his nurse clad only in his pajamas. Men's pajamas are awfully rare in rock & roll songs, aren't they?

As the song rambled on, past five minutes (miraculously, I had tuned into it right at the very beginning of the track), I jotted down a line hoping I'd be able to search for it on the Internet: "Something my nurse would now have allowed." When I got home, I found the song and the artist: "Hallelujah" by Nick Cave, which is now the second best song I know called "Hallelujah."

I can't remember the last time I discovered a song on the AM radio. It must have been something like "Hot Child in the City."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

That's Gin

There's a radio station here in Denver -- I assume it's widespread around the nation as well, although there wasn't an analogue when I lived in New York (where even the American standards station had gone out of business, making way for Radio Disney) -- calling itself Martini on the Rockies (get it?). The format encompasses everything that the station deems "cosmopolitan" (get it?), which can range from Nat King Cole to modern hits like Gomez' delightful "See the World." Basically, any song where the drummer uses brushes passes muster.

Any radio station that plays Frank Sinatra is aces in my book, but there's one thing very, very wrong with Martini on the Rockies, aside from the fact that they think that John Mayer's "Daughters" is actually a decent song: The DJs refer to the songs they play as martinis, as in "We have a nice martini from Bonnie Raitt coming up next."

They're not martinis, guys. They're just good old-fashioned songs, most of which are better than martinis.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

My Last Visit to McDonald's

Me: I'd like a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a small vanilla shake.
She: Do you want the meal?
Me: I'd like a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a small vanilla shake.
She [incredulously]: You don't want the fries and the drink?
Me: I'd like a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a small vanilla shake.

Now, this isn't the first time I've had to repeat my order two or three times to get out from under the jackboot of the "meal combo," but this one had the funniest denouement: She eventually handed me a tray with a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a small vanilla shake - and an order of fries. At that point, further complaint would have been counterproductive and futile, so I took the tray without a word. I even ate a few of the fries.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


When I first heard "Trouble," a minor hit from Ray LaMontagne that came out in 2004, the voice was reminiscent of no one so much as Mavis Staples, and I envisioned the singer as a 68-year-old black woman. I wouldn't have been at all surprised to be dealing with a woman named Ray, since I have previously come across females named Michael and James and Curtis.

LaMontagne's current single, "Three More Days," sounds a little different, enough so that I went looking for a picture of the singer. It turns out that he's not 68 years old, and he's not black. He's not even a woman. (His real first name, fascinatingly enough, is "Raycharles.") He is painfully shy, however: His own Web site, near as I could tell, contains nary a picture of the man.

However, I was able to track down a photo of the man. Whenever I see a guy with a beard like that, I think he must be one of three things: Grizzy Adams, very lazy, or psychologically trying to hide himself from the world. I don't know LaMontagne well enough to know which is which.

Photo by Steven Hopson,

Dinner and Dancing With Karl Rove

It has not escaped my notice that Karl Rove announced his departure from the Bush White House while I was on my blogging hiatus, obviously hoping to somehow elude that scathing OPC takedown he so clearly deserves. Among the many notable aspects of his career, one thing I wanted to point out that has gone relatively unnoticed was how brilliant Rove was at playing the press like a blond-wood Fender Stratocaster, so skillfully that most of them probably don't even realize to this day that they've been played.

Rove was always a reporter's bestest buddy. Maybe the most striking thing to me about L'Affaire Plame was that Karl Rove took time out from his busy schedule running the country to counsel a reporter from Time magazine on a story that Karl felt had the possibility to fall apart on the poor fella. It wasn't spinning, it was just that, gosh darnit, Rove wanted Matt Cooper to get the best story he could.

Now, I think even the most ardent Bush supporter would have to admit that Rove (no, I'm not going to post a photo of him, as I am sick and tired of his fat jowls and burn-victim hair) is a ruthless thug, perfectly capable of lying and bullying and smearing in order to achieve the greater good, i.e., electoral victories for Republicans. There are stories going back to his earliest days of starting whisper campaigns accusing opponents of being pedophiles and drug abusers and lesbians. But do any of the "Farewell, Karl" stories describe his legacy as the greatest dirty trickster of all time? Of course not, because he's the reporter's pal. He's their buddy. How could a good guy, one who's always willing to help us get the story right, be a thoroughly dishonest goon?

Listen to esteemed Washington Post columnist David Broder:

Let me disclose my own bias in this matter. I like Karl Rove. In the days when he was operating from Austin, we had many long and rewarding conversations. I have eaten quail at his table and admired the splendid Hill Country landscape from the porch of the historic cabin Karl and his wife Darby found miles away and had carted to its present site on their land.

I wonder if Karl got around to discussing his plans for using federal prosecutors around the country to bring trumped-up phony-baloney election-fraud charges against Democrats shortly before Election Day, and fire any U.S. attorneys who wouldn't play ball. Probably not.

That's something, isn't it? Can you imagine a journalist writing that he admired John Edwards after spending evenings on his back patio enjoying succulent North Carolina barbecue? But somehow Rove got away with it. One of the people most responsible for degrading our political culture and turning national elections into knife fights is celebrated as a gentleman and a gracious host. Reporters sure are cheap dates.

Destroying My Notion of Circular Time

Keith Richards doesn't play any guitar at all on "Sway," despite it being one of the Rolling Stones' very best - and most guitar-tastic - songs. I don't quite know what to make of that.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A Break in the Action

"One Poor Correspondent" will be on hiatus for roughly the next week, extending from August 9 to August 16, disappointing this blog's legion of fans, who currently number in the high single digits. OK, middle single digits.

In the meantime, go read a book or something. I have to say, the tidbit I posted the other day on "The Odd Couple" switching formats in mid-season was more or less the last interesting thing in Jack Klugman's memoir, unless you want to know more about the National Actors Theatre or Klugman's throat cancer. (The word "Quincy" was never mentioned.)

I have also been reading Cait Murphy's Crazy '08, which is mostly about the much-discussed Merkle-infused 1908 pennant race between the Giants and Cubs (and Pirates, a little bit). It's pretty good for what it is, which is a detailed retelling of the events of that season based on what appears to be a reading of every possible relevant newspper (and there were a lot of newspapers back then), but she doesn't do a very good job of conveying the outsized characters who populated that baseball season: John McGraw, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, Johnny Evers.

Maybe the book I have anjoyed most recently is Mr. Show: What Happened? by Naomi Odenkirk, who I assume is related to Bob. It's amazing how hard people were willing to work on a little late-night HBO show that wasn't seen by that many more people than read this blog. Bob and David both talk quite a bit about the creative process that went into developing that increibly funny program, and I am reminded yet again how odd it is that people who have been working for 15 hours straight can still find the strength and creativity to make up some funny stuff at 3:45 in the morning. Well done, boys.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Recommended Reading

There was an exceptionally gasbaggy essay in the New York Times Magazine on Sunday by academic/pundit/politician Michael Ignatieff, purportedly on why and how he got the Iraq War wrong (turns out it was a bad idea -- who could have guessed!), but mostly it turned out to be just about how intellectuals and politicians have to get things wrong because they live on a different plane, and, oh, a bunch of junk like that. What it didn't say was that Bush and Co. pretty transparently lied about the connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda and 9/11 from the get-go, which is why I and many of my friends were skeptical of the whole misadventure from the start.

Anyway, that's neither here nor there. Well, maybe it's there. The reason I bring this up is because the ever-dependable David Rees, who is usually found on the letters page over at Rolling Stone writing his comic strip "Get Your War On," has a devastatingly hilarious takedown of Ignatieff over at the Huffington Post, which is kind of a sister blog to OPC:

Ignatieff's latest essay is what Latin people call a "mea culpa," which is Greek for "Attention publishers: I am ready to write a book about the huge colossal mistake I made." I imagine the book will be about a man struggling to do the right thing-- a man who thinks with his heart and dares, with a dream in each fist, to reach for the stars. It's about a journey: a journey from idealistic, starry-eyed academic to wizened, war-weary politician. (Ignatieff used to work at Harvard's Kennedy School; now he's Prime Chancellor of Canada's Liberal Delegate or whatever kind of wack-ass, kumbaya government they've got up there.)

I encourage you to read the whole thing. It's all that good.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Confessions of Oscar Madisoy

Not to get all Larry King on you, but I'm greatly enjoying Tony and Me, Jack Klugman's memoir covering his longtime friendship with former Blue Jays shortstop Tony Fernandez.

Ha! Ha! Just a little joke there. I did learn something about "The Odd Couple" that I never realized before: I had always thought that the first season, the one that wasn't very funny, was shot entirely on film, then they switched to the three-camera format for the second season, when the show became the legend it is today. But according to Klugman, he and Tony Randall began agitating to videotape the show live midway through the first season, since as two seasoned theater actors they'd have much more success plying their trade in front of a live audience. And Klugman says the changeover came not between seasons but actually in time for the last nine shows of the first season.

I had never bothered getting the DVD of the first season of "The Odd Couple," since as I say it's not that good; I've been waiting for Season Two, which is to be released on August 28. But now I feel like I ought to check it out. And is "The Odd Couple" the only show in history that switched from one camera to three in the middle of a season? It's gotta be, I think.

Oh, one more thing about "The Odd Couple": In the movie, and I assume in the play, Felix's last name is spelled "Ungar" in the credits. On the TV series, it is clearly "Unger," as seen in the pre-credit sequence on the name plate of the apartment that Felix's wife threw him out of, requesting that he never return. Can any of the OPC faithful explain that one?

Friday, August 3, 2007

Bed, Bath and Beyond the Horizon

While in Bed, Bath & Beyond this evening, I heard Bob Dylan's "Someday Baby" playing over the store's PA system. I suppose I should be horrified that the Bard of Hibbing is being used as background music for shoppers like he was Stephen Bishop or something, but it sure made being there more pleasant.

More Hits and Errors: The Annals of Substance Abuse in Baseball, cont'd

* Two-time American league batting champ (1951 and 1952) Ferris Fain retired to his farm in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, where he became a two-time loser (1985 and 1988) busted for growing hundreds of pot plants.

* In 1962, Red Sox pitcher Gene Conley climbed off the team bus in the midst of a New York City traffic jam and disappeared. Three days later, he was discovered at Idlewild Airport, trying to board a plane for Israel without a ticket or passport but with plenty of liquor in his system. Conley later explained, "I don't know why I did it."

* Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter on LSD in 1970. "The ball was small sometimes, the ball was large sometimes, sometimes I saw the catcher, sometimes I didn't," Ellis later said.

* Basestealing champ and Rookie of the Year Tim Raines developed his own distinctive head-first sliding style early in his career. The purpose was not so much to get him to the base quicker as to protect the vials of cocaine he frequently kept in his back pockets.

* The 1983 Cy Young winner, LaMarr Hoyt, exhibited the control that made him such an effective pitcher when he stuffed 1000 valiums into his underwear in Mexico and tried to drive across the border with them in 1986. Unfortunately, customs officials had timed his delivery, and Hoyt ended up spending 45 days in jail.

* The Phillies of the early 1980s, a team known as the Wheeze Kids because of the advanced age of such former superstars as Pete Rose and Joe Morgan, eventually revealed the secret of their perpeutal youth: Greenies, or little green amphetamine pills, which the team swallowed by the handful. "Pete Rose was having trouble with his weight," the Phillies' Dr. Feelgood later testified, "and he needed some help with his thirty-eight year old body."

But there's always hope for redemption: Billy Sunday of Ames, Iowa, was a speedy rookie outfielder -- sort of the Coco Crisp of his day -- playing for Cap Anson in Chicago in the 1883, enjoying the temptations of big-city life, when he came wandering out of a saloon one night and heard his mother's favorite hymn, "Where Is My Wandering Boy Tonight?" He stumbled over to the mission where it was playing and suddenly got religion. He stopped drinking and devoted his life to the Lord. Sunday's career as an evangelist lasted three times as long as his baseball career.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Part One and Part Two, part one

One thing I have never really understood is the two-part single, which had the first half of a song on side A of a 45 and the second half of the song on side B. Was anybody really expected to play both sides consecutively? If you've ever worked with a 45 turntable, you know there's at least a ten-second delay or so between when the part one of the Isley Brothers' "Shout" ends and when you can get the second half playing.

As you can probably tell, I'm fascinated by genres of pop music that have fallen by the wayside, and these two-part singles are one of them. You have to explain to the kids these days what a vinyl record is, much less a 45, which must seem like one of Edison's wax cylinders to the Plain White T's generation.

At any rate, the decision to split a song into two sides of a 45 seems to be more esthetic than practical; all six minutes and nine seconds of "Like a Rolling Stone" fit on one side of a 45 ("Gates of Eden" was on the flip), at least after Dylan demanded that it be put on one side of a 45. "Hey Jude" topped seven minutes and still went to Number One.

So apparently, if a song sounded better at 3:20 than the full seven-minute version the producer lay down for the album, they'd divide the thing into two parts for the single. The full version of "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone," for example, rambled on for 12 minutes, which is probably more than even Berry Gordy needed to hear more than once or twice. The single version, then, was "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone (pt. 1)."

Those kinds of singles were, at one time, not uncommon. The following divided singles went all the way to Number One:

"Peppermint Twist (part 1)" by Joey Dee and the Starliters, January 1962
"Fingertips (part 2)" by Stevie Wonder, August 1963
"Keep On Truckin' (part 1)" by Eddie Kendricks, November 1973
"Love Machine (part 1)" by the Miracles, March 1976
"Disco Duck (part 1)" by Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots, October 1976
"Got to Give It Up (part 1)" by Marvin Gaye, July 1977

And that's it. I'm sure there will never be another one of these types of Number One singles again. There was "Another Brick in the Wall (part II)," but that's another category altogether.

I also see here that parts I and II of "American Pie" went to Number One. Did DJs play the album version? Flip over the single really fast? Have two copies of the single cued up? "American Pie" is literally the first pop song I remember hearing on the radio, but I am ashamed to admit I have no knowledge of its logistics.

"And Don't Get Me Started on Gary Nolan, That Rat-Fink Son of a ..."

Always and forever the embodiment of class, Pete Rose (seen at right discussing strategy with future Mets manager Bud Harrelson) appeared at a recent baseball camp for young players aged 7 to 14 and proceeded to:

* Cuss up a storm
* Whine that Marge Schott didn't leave him anything in her will
* Brag about seeing Joe DiMaggio naked.

Way to go, Pete. I'm sure Cooperstown will be calling any day now.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Strange and Twisted Legacy of Martha Quinn

Today is the 26th anniversary of the launch of MTV, and while it's fashionable to deride the station today and say it was a lot better when it used to play videos (I wouldn't know; it has literally been years since I have watched MTV for more than a few seconds), it was pretty cruddy in a lot of ways back then. It was wall-to-wall videos from the outset, or at least as much of the outset as I saw from when we got cable at the end of 1981, except for a Saturday night concert (which seemed to be Rush most of the time) and a Sunday night movie (which was pretty much always Having a Wild Weekend with the Dave Clark Five).

But there weren't that many videos to choose from, since acts were not yet in the habit of making a video for every single they released, so you'd get some godawful bands. Vandenberg, Aldo Nova, Triumph. They'd play "Stone Cold" by Rainbow at least once an hour. It got so that you'd welcome a little Flock of Seagulls. And thank God for Split Enz.

One video in particular that I remember (I can't find it on YouTube) was from a band called the Goods, which consisted of three guys in oversized cardigan sweaters playing a dreary little pop tune called "Heart of Hearts," literally in somebody's basement. I think it was one camera, one take, no cuts. I'm sure when those guys tell their grandkids that they were once on MTV, no one believes them.

In retrospect, there were a lot more videos that MTV never really took advantage of. I recently saw a clip for the Stones' "Far Away Eyes" that would have been the best thing on MTV in 1982, but it never aired when I was watching. I don't know why that is.

Anyway, we didn't know any better. It was music, at least as good as what was on the radio in semirural Louisiana, and it was cool. Not even endless airings of Steve Perry's "Oh Sherrie" could dim that. Salut, Martha!