Saturday, September 29, 2007

Peace and Good, Brotherhood

I know, you're sitting there watching college football, wondering where in the world Tommy James ever came up with a name like Mony for hs song "Mony, Mony." He'd written and recorded the music for the song before he could come up with any lyrics for it, and there he sat, looking out the window, when he saw an ad for MONY -- Mutual of New York. "If I'd been looking in the other direction," Tommy later said, it would have been called 'Hotel Taft.'"

Tommy James was a pretty fascinating guy. He cut his first hit, "Hanky Panky," in 1962 with a bunch of fellow high schoolers, all recorded on one mike in a radio studio, a lot like the Kingsmen's infamous "Louie Louie" session. It became a regional hit around James' hometown of Niles, Michigan, and somehow found its way to Pittsburgh by 1965, where it became enough of a hit that a local bootlegger printed up 80,000 copies on his own. By the summer of 1966, four years after it was first cut, "Hanky Panky," by then on its third label, became a bona fide Number One hit. Tommy James had to recruit an entirely new group of Shondells at that point. (He ended up hiring an existing band called -- say it isn't so! -- the Raconteurs.) Tommy was all of nineteen years old.

And for a while after that, he could do no wrong: "I Think We're Alone Now," "Crimson and Clover," "Crystal Blue Persuasion." After their 1970 album Travelin', the Shondells broke up, and Tommy James retired briefly to a farm in upstate New York -- at the age of 23! He came back for the solo hit "Draggin' the Line" in 1971, and that was pretty much it. In 1987, Tiffany's cover of "I Think We're Alone Now" went to Number One, where it was followed immediately by Billy Idol's cover of "Mony, Mony."

Tommy James and/or the Shondells are not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, proving once again that that insitution would be better off it would give me more of a voice in the induction process.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Partners in Rhyme

David Bowie:

I'll stick with you, baby, for a thousand years
Nothing's gonna touch you in these golden years

What'sa matter, Ziggy, couldn't you come up with a rhyme for "years"? Try one of these: fears, tears, arrears (the Gratfeul Dead made good use of that one), Britney Spears (I guess that's not really eligible), three musketeers...

I'll stick with you, baby, after watching "Cheers"
Nothing's gonna touch you in these golden years

That's better, isn't it?

Bowie's still not as bad as Madonna and her inane rap for "Vogue" (which I still maintain originated as a poem she wrote on the back of her ninth-grade Social Studies folder), in which she rhymes two words with each other:

Don't just stand there, let's get to it
Strike a pose, there's nothing to it

That's almost as brilliant as thinking Joe DiMaggio would have been on the cover of Vogue magazine.

The all-time champ of lazy rhyming, though, has to be Gewn Stefani and Moby in their song "South Side," wherein Gwen -- who is only singing the choruses, remember, not the verses -- uses the word "ride" nine times. It's still a pretty good song, though.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


I see where Dale Peck, the enfant terrible of literary criticism, has shown that he can be unfair and mean to even the writers he ostensibly likes. Writing this week in the New York Times Book Review about S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, Peck presents a laundry list of writers Hinton was "influenced" by (wink, wink), going so far as to quote a passage from the book alongside a passage from a story by Shirley Jackson, who is one of Hinton's acknowledged influences, to make his case. Peck quotes from both authors:

First Jackson: “I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had.”

And now Hinton: “I have light-brown, almost-red hair and greenish-gray eyes. I wish they were more gray, because I hate most guys that have green eyes, but I have to be content with what I have.”

Peck's quick to back away from any sort of accusation, though: "Although such a strong resemblance between two works would probably be viewed with suspicion in this time of heightened alertness to plagiarism, this and other echoes strike me as crucial to the success of Hinton’s novel." This is wise, because what Hinton has done here is obviously not plagiarism; although Peck quotes entire paragraphs, the last half-sentence of each is the only place we can find an echo. Can you plagiarize half a sentence?

And that, other than Ponyboy mentioning a quick lyric from The Sound of Music, is the only real piece of borrowing that Peck is able to quote. But he's oh-so-impressed with himself for being able to play "spot the reference": "Ponyboy and Johnny curl up together for warmth like Ishmael and Queequeg in Moby-Dick. Pony’s admonition to himself —'Don’t think' — is as Hemingway 'code hero' as it comes... And of course Pony, witness to and chronicler of his friends’ demise, could be the Midwestern cousin Nick Carraway left behind." Of course.

Why is Peck writing this, other than to show off all the literary references he knows? He can demur all he wants about how 17-year-old Susie Hinton didn't really do anything wrong, but he finishes up with this thought: "If some high-minded, plagiarism-wary reader had persuaded S. E. Hinton to remove all references to the books and movies that inspired her, The Outsiders probably wouldn’t have slipped past the internal (let alone official) censors that governed ’60s adolescence." Emphasis mine: Apparently the plagiarism is there if you're looking for it, although Peck himself hasn't been able to find it. If I ever write a book in which two people huddle together to keep warm, please remind me to keep it out of the hands of Dale Peck.

Maybe the Beach Boys Have Got You Now, With Those Waves Singing "Caroline, No"

Keith Moon loved the Beach Boys, but hated Pet Sounds.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Rocket From the Scrip

I don't know if you guys read the comments on here or not, but I felt this one was good enough to deserve its own post. Someone calling himself Rocket of Oz -- probably an alias -- had this to say about the Yankees all deciding to become friends of Dorothy:

Oh, I'd be tough and I'd be trouble
With an arm like ol' Carl Hubbell
And a brain like Oil Can Boyd's.
I'd be sly, I'd be sporty,
Winning Cy Youngs after 40
If I only had the 'roids!

I might pitch forever like Satchel,
No need to do it natch'l -
A fate that I'd avoid.
I could outlast Sabes and Gooden,
hit Piazza with something wooden,
If I only had the 'roids!

A Human to Sample and Hold

On his Theme Time Radio Hour this morning, one of the first shows of the program's second season (and doesn't that send a warm feeling throughout this great nation of ours), Bob Dylan played Neil Young's "Old Man," noting that it was from Harvest, which was Neil's best-selling album. He added, with a bit of puzzlement in his voice, "You mean it's not Trans?"

You gotta love that Bob.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I Wonder Where That Came From

So I've got another list of album titles, and the rule is this: The title of the album is the same as the title of a song on that album, but that song does not contain the title phrase. Got it? And the song has to have words to it, so don't go laying any Miles Ahead on me.

This is what I have so far:

Let It Bleed, the Rolling Stones (which I believe has been on every single one of these lists)

Highway 61 Revisited, Bob Dylan

After the Gold Rush, Neil Young

Paranoid, Black Sabbath

Deja Vu
, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

, the Cure

Pretzel Logic
, Steely Dan

Here Come the Warm Jets, Brian Eno

My Pretties

The New York Yankees commemorated their loss to the Blue Jays on Monday by forcing the team's rookies to dress up like characters from The Wizard of Oz for their trip down to Tampa. A lot of teams do this on a lesser scale, forcing rookies to make a road trip in dresses or, as was the case with the Rockies, diapers, but for the Yanks, of course, money is no object, so you're looking at Joba Chamberlain in a pricey Cowardly Lion suit, followed by Phil Hughes as the Tin Man.

A poster named Guapo over at Baseball Primer got off the best line about this whole scenario: "I got really baked before today's game and watched it with the sound turned down and Dark Side of the Moon on. It synced up perfectly."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Marcel Marceau, 1923-2007

Marcel Marceau, mime, dead at the age of 84. According to his AP obituary: "Marceau was born Marcel Mangel on March 22, 1923, in Strasbourg, France. His father, Charles, a butcher who sang baritone, introduced his son to the world of music and theatre at an early age. The boy adored the silent film stars of the era: Chaplin, Buster Keaton and the Marx brothers."

Um, what? The Marx Brothers' first full-length film was The Cocoanuts, in 1929, a talkie, although they did make a silent two-reeler back in 1921 called Humor Risk, which was apparently screened once, in the Bronx, then never opened in wider release; it was so bad that Groucho allegedly destroyed the negative after that first screening. At any rate, Humor Risk is lost now, and it certainly never made its way to Strasbourg.

Marceau's dying words were: "..."

It's Easy for Two People to Lose Each Other

In his sterling memoir, Love Is a Mix Tape, my friend Rob Sheffield writes that he found Nirvana's album MTV Unplugged in New York, which dropped shortly after his own wedding, to be all about marriage. This is certainly a novel way of looking at this record, which for me seemed to be mostly about despair, although that doesn't preclude it from also being about marriage. After noting that the set opens with Kurt singing "I do," on "About a Girl," Rob continues: "The Unplugged music bothered me a lot. Contrary to what people said at the time, he didn't sound dead, or about to die, or anything like that. As far as I could tell, his voice was not just alive but raging to stay that way. And he sounded married. Married and buried, just like he says.... I would have been glad to push this music to the back of my brain, put some furniture in front of it so I couldn't see it, and wait thirty or forty years for it to rot so it wouldn't be there to scare me anymore. The married guy was a lot more disturbing to me than the dead junkie."

At the same time, I'm not sure what kind of lessons the rest of us are supposed to take away from the man who married Courtney Love, other than For God's sake, don't marry Courtney Love!

I was reminded of this while listening to Bruce Springsteen's Tunnel of Love, which is pretty straightforwardly about marriage. What I love about Tunnel is not just that Bruce refuses to romanticize romance, but that he recognizes that if love is to exist and endure, it needs to negotiate its way around all the other problems of the day:

Woke up this morning my house was cold
Checked out the furnace she wasn't burnin'
Went out and hopped in my old Ford
Hit the engine but she ain't turnin'

When he comes around, in "Brilliant Disguise," to asking, "So when you look at me, you better look hard and look twice/Is that me, baby, or just a brilliant disguise?," you wonder if he's asking the question to his wife or to himself.

This album also reminds me of Elvis Presley's That's the Way It Is, which takes a similarly grownup view of marriage, seeing it as conducted around "Six o'clock, the baby will be crying" from "I've Lost You" and the "unpaid bills" in "Twenty Days and Twenty Nights." Noticing all the nagging details that add up to a lifetime, many of which eat away at the Valentine's Day romanticism of so many pop songs, adds tremendous depth to this kind of song. And no one's done that better than Bruce.

Springsteen had married Julianne Phillips on May 13, 1985, two years before he released Tunnel of Love. In the liner notes to that record, there is a brief mention of his bride, reading "Thanks, Juli." On that same record, Patti Scialfa sang backup on "Tunnel of Love," "One Step Up" and "When You're Alone."

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Back in the glory days of The Ben Stiller Show, there was a recurring piece called "Legends of Springsteen," on the best of which Janeane Garofalo played a waitress in a redneck bar, nine and a half months pregnant and at the end of an 18-hour shift when her water breaks. Enter Ben Stiller as Springsteen, asking gently, "Hey, little girl, is your daddy home, did he go and leave you all alone?," as he straps on a pair of rubber gloves and a surgical mask. Long story short, at the end of the bit, Janeane is showing off little Springsteena.

Unfortunately, that is not available on YouTube, and I can't get the clip from Google Video to work. This one isn't quite as good, but it's still worth seeing:

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Totally Boss

When I was a copy editor at a rock & roll magazine called Rolling Stone, way back in the early Nineties, my favorite line in our style guide read thusly:

Boss, the (Bruce Springsteen): avoid, per his request

How cool is it that Bruce Springsteen was weighing in on matters grammatical? Hey, Bruce, how do you think we should hyphenate "Beatlesque"?

More Springsteeniana to come on this, his 58th birthday.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Congress Shall Make No Law... Abridging the Freedom... of the Press

I am rather surprised that there hasn't been more outcry over the Senate's decision, earlier this week, to condemn a political organization for an advertisement it ran in a newspaper. And the Senate voted to condemn this ad not because it was libelous or posed a threat to the republic, but because it was disrespectful.

This is appalling, outrageous, inexcusable, inexplicable and profoundly un-American. Not to mention unconstitutional. What right does the United States Senate have to tell us, the American people, what we should be allowed to write? I have written disrespectful things about Tom Petty on this blog -- should I be living in fear that the Senate is going to publicly condemn me?

In a few years, this is going to look like Plessy v. Ferguson, an absolutely unjustifiable move on the part of our government. What am I saying -- it looks like Plessy v. Ferguson right now. Does the United States Senate not realize that public figures, even governmental figures, even military figures, are mocked in the press all the time? And that much of this mockery, horror of horrors, emanates from the right? Rush Limbaugh literally slanders honored veterans every single day of his life, and still gets invited to the White House, but let a left-wing organization make a childish insult, and our nation's highest legislative body feels fit to condemn it. What a world we live in.

But this has nothing to do with the content of the ad, or the views of the organization that ran it. The Senate would be wrong to condemn Limbaugh, or any other conservative yakker. We can all agree on that, can't we? So it stands to reason that this recent condemnation should itself be condemned by all right-thinking Americans. Not a single senator who voted for this ridiculous motion is worthy of a seat on the Itta Bena, Mississippi, city council, much less making important decisions on behalf of this great nation of ours.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, Eh

For those of you who would have been writing in and asking me about it if this blog had the sizable readership it deserves: Yes, that's OPC nemesis Feist doing "1 2 3 4" in those new iPod Nano commercials.

Here's America's favorite indie-pop Canadienne, with a little help from what appears to be a defrocked Polyphonic Spree:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Run to Daylight

For no reason in particular, I've been reading Bill Nack's book Secretariat, about the most famous animal of the 20th century (he's gotta be, right? I think his only competition is Seabiscuit, and a huge chunk of his popularity didn't come until this century. The only non-horse contenders would be maybe Lassie, who wasn't one single dog, or the monkey who went into space, and if I can't remember his name, he can't be all that famous). Nack does a good job of making Secretariat a fascinating creature without stooping to anthropomorphization, although in a sense he would have been entitled to; at one point, the horse reached out and snatched Nack's notebook away in his teeth, and refused to give it back. I bet Barry Bonds wishes he had thought of that.

Secretariat's greatest victory came in the 1973 Belmont Stakes, when he ran away from the field by 31 lengths and set a track record by two full seconds. In the book, jockey Ron Turcotte talks about how he didn't whip Secretariat down the stretch or drive him with any kind of urgency, but Big Red ran this baby on his own. Looking at this clip, you can see him rocking down the stretch like a puppy chasing after a ball, with pure joy in his stride; I suspect if you were closer to him, you'd see his tongue lolling out of the side of his mouth.

Oh, Andy, Can This Really Be the End?

With all the wheezing and out-of-breath pauses, don't you think Dylan circa Blonde on Blonde sounds a lot like Floyd the Barber?

You see, you're just like me....
I hope you're... satis... fied.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Are You Crazy? Are You High?

In the comments following my discussion of album titles derived from non-titular phrases in songs, someone posting, probably pseudonymously, as Steely Dan Patrick pointed out that in Steely Dan's "Doctor Wu," Donald Fagen never sings "Katy lied," although he does sing "Katy lies," and they went ahead and called the album Katy Lied anyway. (I wrote a response to that comment that got lost and never showed up anywhere I could see it, which I apologize for.)

So why the change to past tense? Perhaps it's just that the song had already been cut and the subject was now in the past; there was a real Doctor Wu, you know, an acupuncturist who had helped some untold members of the Dan deal with some untold addictions, at least according to the Steely Dan Dictionary. Perhaps we are dealing with a rare happy ending to a Steely Dan song, moving Katy's lies to far behind us. Also, the insect depicted on the album cover is a katydid, not a katydoes, so perhaps the desired synchronicity with the photo was enough to incur the switch.

I also note that Roger Clemens is from Katy, Texas, so maybe we can infer some kind of backhanded slap at the then-prepubescent pitching prodigy. Someone on a Steely Dan site I was perusing further suggested that a lied is a German art song, although they failed to explain what Katy means in German. While that Roger Clemens supposition was not to be taken seriously, this one appears to be serious. People will say anything on the Internet: You have been warned.

Brett Somers, 1924-2007

Brett Somers, the First Lady of the American Game Show, passed away over the weekend. She was 83. The AP obituary that I read in the New York Times this morning offered up two and only two credits for Ms. Somers: Match Game and her guest appearances on The Odd Couple as Oscar's ex-wife, Blanche. Kind of sad, isn't it? No mention of her two Love Boats or her Love, American Style.

More stuff I didn't know about Brett Somers: She was Canadian (they're everywhere, I tell ya), and she and Jack Klugman separated in 1974 but never divorced. Maybe, given the paucity of her credits, she needed to stay on his insurance.

Her dying words were: "Patti Deutsch lives on."

Like a Rock

I found myself on a three-plus-hour flight on Sunday afternoon/evening, and to keep the passengers sated, the airline was showing Tim Story's 2007 film The Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer. At least that's what I was able to glean from looking at the small screen, overhead and a good 15 feet in front of me. I never bothered with actually putting the headphones on.

I was also able to see that one of the characters possessed the ability to make his arms really long (and, coincidentally enough, possessed a suit with similar stretching capabilities), a capacity he used to place a suitcase in an overhead bin on an airplane. Another character seemed to be made of cooled lava; he walked around calmly on the streets, without ever inspiring any children to shriek and point at him.

Do they really expect grownups to watch this stuff? It's the kind of movie that I always think I'd someday watch if it were on TV and I had absolutely nothing else to do, but here I was with three hours to kill, and I would divert myself with my iPod, three pieces of the Sunday New York Times, a nap that needed to be taken, and God help me, if need be I would have spoken to the person sitting next to me before I would have watched any more of The Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sacre Bleu!

Why do people insist on calling it "bleu cheese"? We don't eat "rojo peppers," do we?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Wreck Your Life

I should have noted in my last post that one of my favorite bands, the Old 97's, has done that album-naming trick three times, with Too Far to Care (from "Streets of Where I'm From"), Hitchhike to Rhome ("Stoned"), and Drag It Up ("Smokers"). Sorry, guys.

Also, on one of that album's songs, the Clash says, "Sandinista," but I can't remember which one.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Phrase That Pays

I'm going to wrap up (for now) my lists of album titles with one of my favorite categories: titles that derive from the lyrics of a song on the record, but aren't the title of that song, leapfrogging in status to become the title of the entire work. You get it. Here we go:

My Aim Is True, Elvis Costello (from "Alison")

Stop Making Sense, Talking Heads (from "Girlfriend Is Better")

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, Simon and Garfunkel (from "Scarborough Fair/Canticle")

Under Rug Swept, Alanis Morissette (from "Hands Clean")

Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart, Camper Van Beethoven (from "Tania")

Pocket Full of Kryptonite, the Spin Doctors (from "Jimmy Olsen's Blues")

Willy and the Poor Boys, Creedence Clearwater Revival (from "Down on the Corner")

Katy Lied, Steely Dan (from "Doctor Wu")

Nevermind, Nirvana (from "Smells Like Teen Spirit")

Kissing to Be Clever, Culture Club (from "Miss Me Blind")

Welcome Home, Til Tuesday (from "Coming Up Close")

All That You Can't Leave Behind, U2 (from "Walk On")

Another Day's Useless Energy Spent

After the Moody Blues released their magnum opus Days of Future Passed in 1967, the big hit single from the album was, of course, "Tuesday Afternoon," which reached the Top 25 the following summer. They also released "Night in White Satin" as a single, but it failed to crack the Hot 100 in the U.S.

Then, in 1972, the Moodies put out "Nights" again as a single, and this time it went all the way to Number Two. I was unaware of all of this when I wrote that post on songs that waited forever to chart. Also, Justin Hayward supposedly wrote it when he was 19, which would have placed its origin sometime around 1965. And it's never really gone away, has it?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Good Seats Still Available

Take a look at this picture of Dolphin Stadium in Miami yesterday afternoon: There's an actual Major League Baseball game going on down there, between the National and the Marlins, and there are pretty much as many people on the field as there are in the stands. The attendance figure that's been bandied around is 400, but there can't be 400 fans in that photo -- more like 150.

It's enough to make you almost feel sorry for the players. On the other hand, I play softball before many fewer people than that several dozen times a year, and we still have a good time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

You Make Me Feel Like Lip-Syncing

Courtesy of OPC reader GAK comes the following video of Leo Sayer, who could have only happened in the 1970s, performing his hit "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing." The director, in a very canny move, keeps the camera a fair distance from Sayer, saving us not only from the erratic lip-syncing but trying to spare us from the fact that while Leo promised that his inamorata made him feel like dancing, he made no assurances about dancing well.

Tony! Toni! Tone! Tennille acquits herself quite nicely, working that Southern accent for all it's worth (she's actually from Montgomery, Alabama). Surely it was this appearance that landed her the gig doing backing vocals on Pink Floyd's The Wall (no, I'm not making that up). Plus, she is rocking the same haircut that my mom had throughout the bulk of the Seventies. The Captain, on the other hand, looks like he's going to a prom where a bunch of the kids decided to come as their favorite character from Gilligan's Island.

I think, although I don't know for sure, that this comes from the Captain and Tennille's own variety show, which was in its heyday when "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing" went to Number One in the fall of 1976. Ladies and gentlemen, Leo Sayer:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Holy Molé!

When I was putting together my list of answer album titles, I knew I should have checked Chicago's hatemongering wiseacres Ministry. Their album titles include Dark Side of the Spoon and Houses of the Molé.

St. Louis Blues

It was my fate to be traveling by air on September 11th this year, and so I found myself spending a fair chunk of time today in the airport in St. Louis. This at least meant I got to mostly avoid the televised ceremonies commemorating the events of six years ago. I'm sure such things are comforting or noble for some people, but telling me I should never forget 9/11 is like reminding me I have feet.

And I sure had plenty of time to contemplate 9/11 as I was standing in a non-moving security line, de-shoeing myself, unpacking my saline solution for proper inspection, tossing my blue blazer into a filthy little tray. Or when I made my way down to gate D4 to await my flight, then walked the length of the D concourse looking for something to eat. Lambert's D wing is a ghost town, a row of shuttered bars, restaurants and newsstands followed by endless unused gates. It is thoroughly depressing to be in an empty airport on a Tuesday afternoon. There must have been some point in the not-too-recent past where this concourse was in use -- I could spot bottles on the shelves in Pastabilities, between the metal shutters -- but it's totally dead now.

I hear it said sometimes that despite the war in Iraq, the American people have not been asked to make any sacrifices to aid the effort, but this seems wrong to me. We're all making sacrifices, every time we have to take our shoes off or throw out bottles of hand lotion for no good reason at all. It's merely an inconvenience, but it adds up: on my way to St. Louis this past Sunday, the two-hour flight was less than half of my total travel time. The number of man-hours being wasted on this stuff is astronomical, and that's before you ask the airline industry about any sacrifices it's had to make.

I think of these hings as wartime sacrifices because instead of developing a coherent, efficient, intelligent anti-terrorism campaign, our government decided to invade Iraq instead. And rather than devote any planning to stopping another 9/11, they just decided to wait for lunatics to develop unworkable crackpot schemes, then stop every air traveler from ever having the chance to confirm that it wouldn't succeed. (On my way to St. Louis, I had a can of Edge, a gel that turns into a foam, confiscated because of the threat it posed to my fellow passengers. I doubt there's a single person in the entire TSA who could explain that one.)

I have no idea what the scanners are looking for when they examine my shoes, but whatever it is, I bet you could take 1 percent of the budget for the Iraq War and develop something that could detect that substance without me having to run around an airport in my socks (and, later, in untied shoes while I look for a place to sit down). Oh, well, I guess I'm just doing my patriotic duty. Semper Fi.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

And Then There's ELO's "No Answer"

While we're listing album titles, at the suggestion of OPC reader JL, let's take a look at some answer titles, where one album title is in direct response to another. We already mentioned, in our list of the greatest album titles ever, the chain from the Beatles' Let It Be to the Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed to the Replacements' Let It Be. I once read that Paul Westerberg wanted to call the Mats' next record Let It Bleed, but for some reason they didn't. More's the pity.

Some other entries:

Norah Jones' Come Away With Me was answered by Nellie McKay's Get Away From Me

The Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat was answered by Social Distortion's White Light, White Heat, White Trash

Herb Alpert's Whipped Cream and Other Delights was answered by Soul Asylum's Clam Dip and Other Delights

Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti was answered by the Dead Milkmen's Metaphysical Graffiti

Guns n' Roses Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II were answered by the Leaving Trains' Loser Illusion Pt. 0

David Bowie's Low was answered by Nick Lowe's EP Bowi

Similarly, R.E.M.'s Green was answered by my friend Ken Kurson and his band Green, who put out an EP called R.E.M.

I'm sure I'm missing a few. Additions graciously welcomed.

Friday, September 7, 2007

All the Sweet Green Icing

One song that didn't quite make the cut on that last entry was "MacArthur Park," which went to Number Two for Richard Harris in 1968, then to Number One in Donna Summer's disco version in 1978. "MacArthur Park" is, of course, great.

Harris hadn't even cut a record before "Mac Park," but he met Jimmy Webb in L.A. at a fundraiser for something or other one night and ended up singing tunes with him late into the drunken evening. (I guess with Harris, the "drunken" is redundant.) Once Harris had decamped to England, he sent Webb, still just 21 at the time, a telegram reading "Jimmy Webb, come to London and make a record. Love, Richard." So off he went, with a bag of songs, all of which he played for Harris, who rejected them all, until Webb was left with only one more: "MacArthur Park," which he had originally written for the Association. He was sure Harris would hate it, but he played it for him anyway, and the rest is history.

A lot of people think this song is hilariously bad, because they don't think a song can be both hilarious and good. Jimmy, however, took it pretty seriously: "In mid-1965, I was absolutely besotted with my girlfriend at the time. MacArthur Park was where we met for lunch and paddleboat rides and feeding the ducks. She worked across the street at a life insurance company.... Those lyrics were all very real to me; there was nothing psychedelic about it to me. The cake, it was an available object. It was what I saw in the park at the birthday parties. But people have very strong reactions to the song. There's been a lot of intellectual venom."

Maybe the best version of "MacArthur Park" was done by Dave Thomas, imitating Richard Harris on an episode of "Mel's Rock Pile" on SCTV. Thomas danced very demonstratively throughout the long instrumental passages, sweating through his tie-dye T-shirt before screaming, "Someone get me a bloody towel!" Sadly, it's not on YouTube.

The ex-girlfriend who inspired the song, by the way, was Linda Ronstadt's cousin. I wouldn't make this stuff up.

Double Trouble

In case you were wondering, these are the songs that have become Number One hits in the hands of two different artists:

"Go Away, Little Girl": Steve Lawrence, 1963, and Donny Osmond, 1971
"I'll Be There": Jackson 5, 1970, and Mariah Carey, 1992
"Lean on Me": Bill Withers, 1972, and Club Nouveau, 1987
"The Loco-Motion": Little Eva, 1962, and Grand Funk, 1974
"Venus": Shocking Blue, 1970, and Bananarama, 1986
"When a Man Loves a Woman": Percy Sledge, 1966, and Michael Bolton, 1991
"You Keep Me Hangin' On": the Supremes, 1966, and Kim Wilde, 1987

("Rockin' Robin," incidentally, went to Number Two for Bobby Day in 1958 and for Michael Jackson in 1972, but never went to Number One.)

Kind of a desultory list, isn't it? I mean, why in the world would "Go Away, Little Girl" make it to Number One even once, much less twice? A few of the originals are pretty good, but none of the remakes have been worth listening to since the day they dropped off the charts. I guess Bananarama's "Venus" is sort of fun.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Comic Opera

A writer for the alternative weekly out here, Westword, recently began reading the funnies in the daily paper and came to an unsurprising conclusion: They stink. I have been in a similar position, having lived in the New York City area for 14 years and reading the comics-less New York Times, then switching to the Denver Post three years ago, and I heartily concur. Newspaper comics aren't funny.

There are a couple of exceptions: Dilbert remains worth reading, after all this time, and let me add as an aside that Scott Adams is one fascinating dude. He caught some brain disorder a couple years ago that left him unable to speak, although all his other faculties were intact, and somehow managed, after years of effort, to regain the power of speech, even though doctors said that basically never happens to people with this particular disease. I was privileged enough to interview Adams for a magazine about a decade ago, and I wanted to talk to him about how Dilbert is one of the few outlets in our popular culture where people can actually see what they do all day every day, i.e., go to work, which as I've written before is largely ignored by the artists in America, but we ended up talking a lot about the notion, as he had expressed in an afterword to his recent paperback Dilbert collection, that he expected at some time over the next century for people to come to a radical rethinking over the nature and structure of time. It was pretty cool.

I also like Brewster Rockit, Space Guy, a deadpan satire of a Buck Rogers-type strip, which you think would get old quick, but it hasn't for me yet. On the other hand, most of the comics in the Post are so soul-killingly dull that I usually don't even bother to turn to that section of the paper unless I'm really bored.

A lot of this is probably the wisdom that comes with age: When I was eight, I used to read and enjoy Lolly, which probably wasn't all that much better than the current Adam @ Home, but then again, it could hardly be worse. And nothing could be worse that Sally Forth, a dreadfully unfunny strip whose artist knows how to draw only two kinds of facial expressions: smirking and expressionless. ou would think that before someone got into the comic strip business, one of the first questions they'd ask themselves is: Can I draw?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Worst Album Titles of All Time

You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can't Tuna Fish, REO Speedwagon: I wonder if this joke is actually older than Kevin Cronin himself.

You're Getting' Even While I'm Getting Odd, J. Geils Band: Has there ever been one of these long jokey titles that worked?

You Bought It, You Name It, Joe Walsh: OK, Joe, we get it -- you're lazy, and not nearly as funny as you think you are.

Tim, the Replacements: Who?

You Could Have Been With Me, Sheena Easton: I have no problem with naming an album after a song title, as long as the album could have plausibly had that name anyway, like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band or London Calling. I came up with this rule when I first heard the title of this record, which I'm sure Sheena Easton's mother doesn't even remember at this point, way back in 1981.

Cut the Crap, the Clash: Good advice.

Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water, Limp Bizkit: It's hard to believe there was a time when Fred Durst was a big star.

One Dozen Berries
, Chuck Berry: Songs are not berries any more than they are martinis.

Let Me Up (I've Had Enough): Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: I can't think of any reason why you would need to use parentheses on an album title, although I give a pass to Oasis' (What's the Story) Morning Glory, because using parentheses at the beginning of an album title is so perverse I gotta think there's something more to it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

My iPod Is Full

My iPod is full. I cannot tell you how distressing an occurrence this is. I had just got done ripping and burning the Style Council's My Ever-Changing Moods, moving it from vinyl to a WAV file, thence into my iTunes and finally into my iPod, and was just getting started on Freewheelin' when the notice popped up on my computer: iPod is full.

When I was given this device as a birthday present, about four years ago, I was told that it could contain 4,000 songs (I was told this by the person who purchased it for me, and truth be told she may not have been paying all that much attention to the ultimate figure, which at that point felt dizzyingly out of reach). It in fact topped out for me at 2,191, and at exactly five hours of music, which may or may not be significant.

I suppose I will need to buy a new one, as I understand there are iPods available that can hold up to 10,000 songs these days. I also understand they play videos now as well, which to my mind is like buying a car that can also make mashed potatoes.

As loyal readers of this blog know, I had recently embarked on a project to transfer all my old wax albums to electronic files and ultimately to my iPod, so I really have no choice but to invest in an upgrade. I don't even have Stop Making Sense on there yet, for pity's sake. At the moment, I have had to resort to triage: I already cut a bunch of Camper van Beethoven songs, and most of Sleater-Kinney's All Hands on the Bad One (except for "You're No Rock 'n' Roll Fun," since I now feel like I am no rock 'n' roll fun). This feels wrong. Music wants to be free, and it wants to be on my iPod.

Monday, September 3, 2007