Friday, February 29, 2008


Do you love baseball? Who doesn't! Do you love Barack Obama? Who doesn't! While OPC is not normally in the busines of promoting commercial products, this melding of two of America's favorites was too good to pass up: Obama of Dreams, a site offering T-shirts with major league team logos rewritten to support everyone's most beloved presidential candidate. There'a also a nifty photo of Obama in a White Sox uniform throwing out the first pitch at a Sox game - lefty, naturally.

I Know You All Sympathize

If you were at my bachelor party, you heard this song played on the jukebox about twenty times in a row, but I didn't realize until I saw it on VH1 Classics last year that there was actually a video for "Far Away Eyes." (Some Girls predates MTV by about five years.) It's a real good one, too, with the boys performing the song in a studio, live, much like that fantastic clip for "Romeo's Tune" I posted here a while back.

One nice thing about it is that you see the Stones in a little different light than you're used to; I don't remember ever seeing Mick sitting at a piano and singing like he does here (he really does play piano on the original track, too). And Ronnie Wood demonstrates that he did at one time have some sort of musical contribution to the band with his pedal steel work here. Charlie, of course, looks like he hates being in a video, as he always did.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Rolling Stones:

Thursday, February 28, 2008

All Night Long We Would Sing That Stupid Song

The reason to pick up the CD reissues of the classic Steely Dan albums is not so much for the improved sound quality - I'm sure Fagen and Becker still find the fidelity distressingly poor - as for the liner notes. In Katy Lied, for instance, F&B pretend to traduce the group's transmogrification from real-live touring band to studio product, although they never really provide any sort of factual background for such a move, except that they didn't like touring. (OPC has known for a long time that liner notes are an excellent way to mine nuggets for this blog.) The most pertinent bit of info I could divine from the Katy liner is that new drummer Jeff Porcaro (now the late Jeff Porcaro) missed the first night of recording because he was at a party at Cher's house.

But the writing itself is deliciously Dan-ish. They describe ideal gigs as "crisp and stirring recitals of the latest cutting-edge jazz-pop ditties for appreciative audiences in near-ideal acoustical environments," but unfortunately, they later describe "our final '70s touring band, which on one or two magical evenings may have sounded almost good." How exactly this turn of events came about is left up to the reader, as is most of the actual constuction of Katy Lied. This may be because, F&B ultimately allow, "A replaying of the Katy Lied album proper, for the purposes of refreshing our failing memories, is out of the question."

I know what they mean. I wasn't really thrilled about revisiting "Bad Sneakers," either.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Buddy Miles, 1947-2008

Buddy Miles, onetime drummer for Jimi Hendrix, dead at the age of 60. Miles traipsed through several Sixties psychedelic bands, most notably the Electric Flag, before hooking up with Hendrix; although never officially part of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Miles played on part of Electric Ladyland (which almost got released, due to a studio error, under the title Electric Landlady), and later formed Band of Gypsys with Hendrix.

After Hendrix's death in 1970, Miles knocked around the music biz without much notoriety until 1986, when he sang a version of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" as performed by the animated California Raisins in a commercial for the California Raisin Advisory Board. Inexplicably, the song and the raisins became hugely popular, spawning four full-length albums, two TV cartoon specials, and a Saturday-morning series. The mind reels.

I'm sure Miles would prefer to be known as a rock drummer and vocalist, but I bet it's the Raisins gig that will be paying for his funeral.

Next Christmas

One completely unseasonal DVD that crossed my desk recently was a package called "Christmas With SCTV," compiling that series' Christmas specials from 1981 and 1982. The first, originally aired on December 18, 1981, has two primary pieces folded around the network's staff Christmas party: Neil Simon's Nutcracker Suite, starring Judd Hirsch, Marsha Mason (natch), Richard Dreyfuss, James Coco, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith and Alan Alda (there's also a bit of a Sammy Maudlin show with Neil Simon himself), and Dusty Towne's Sexy Holiday Special, with special guest star Divine (!), singing "Santa Bring my Baby Back to Me" on ice skates.

These are both incredibly funny. Maggie Smith is one of those impressions that, going in, you're not even sure if you'll recognize someone doing Maggie Smith, but as soon as you see Catherine O'Hara, you think, "Oh, right, Maggie Smith." But the real keeper is Joe Flaherty's supremely unctuous Alan Alda: Margarine oozes from his pores.

By the time of the next year's special, everything has changed: Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas are gone, and Catherine O'Hara is officially gone but has returned for a special Christmas guest shot. And although there are several very funny bits, much of the magic is gone too. Martin Short tries, as always, very, very hard as Ed Grimley, who can't wait for Christmas to arrive, but what you notice most is how alone he is in the sketch, in a way that Johnny LaRue didn't seem alone on the frozen streets of Melonville doing a one-man "Street Beef" the previous year.

Let that be a lesson to you: No matter how good things are, they can disappear faster than you can say "Earl Camembert."

Monday, February 25, 2008

Oscar Roundup

Since I had seen so few of the Oscar nominees, I was pleased that Marion Cotillard took home a statuette for her portrayal of Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, one of the few of the nominated pictures that I actually had a chance to watch. Cotillard, who is only 32, played Piaf - in many ways, the French Judy Garland - from her hardscrabble teenage days on the streets of Paris to when she was a wizened, morphine-addicted old lady who looked to be in her sixties. Of course, Piaf died at the age of 47, which makes Cotillard's performance either dishonest or gut-wrenching, and I'm betting on the latter. Piaf had an even harder life than Garland, but Cotillard never got mawkish or asked for our pity.

It was also nice to see Daniel Day-Lewis take home one of the top awards for the second time in his distinguished career. For my money, his work this time was more solid, less showy, yet every bit as hard-won and realistic as when he won his first Best Mustache Oscar, for Gangs of New York.

Day-Lewis could really retire this category, if he wants to. He is the most versatile and resourceful mustache-grower in the business today. Previous winners of the Best Mustache Oscar include:

Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat (2006)
George Clooney, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)
Aaron Eckhart, Erin Brockovich (2000)
Bill Murray, Rushmore (1998)
Sam Elliott, Tombstone (1993)

Bruce Willis, Mortal Thoughts (1991)
James Cagney, Ragtime (1981)

Jack Nicholson, The Last Detail (1973)
Tony Randall, Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)

William Powell, The Thin Man (1934)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Money, Money, Money

The latest artist to resist John McCain's entreaties to join his campaign is Abba, which asked him to refrain from using "Take a Chance to Me" at his rallies. The melodic Nordic quartet didn't object to his decidedly un-Swedish social policies, though; they just wanted an enormous rights fee.

Sooner or later, McCain is going to come around to Bruce Willis' "Respect Yourself."

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Eric Clapton of Cheesy Pop Songs

One of the most fascinating but little-known figures of Seventies pop was a British singer by the name of Tony Burrows. Burrows sang lead on five different Top Twenty hits between 1970 and 1974, which is remarkable enough for a guy nobody knows. But even more impressive was the fact that Burrows' five hits came with five different groups.

Burrows started out as the lead singer of an early-Sixties English harmony group called the Kestrels, then moved onto a group called the Ivy League, which then became the Flower Pot Men. Some of these acts made a slight impact on the British charts, but none of them reached the Top Forty here in the good old U.S. of A.

Eventually, Burrows became a session singer. The writer-producer team of Tony Macaulay (who also co-wrote "Build Me Up Buttercup" and "Baby, Now That I've Found You") and Barry Mason (who also wrote Tom Jones' "Delilah") enlisted Burrows to sing for their studio creation Edison Lighthouse. Their single "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)" went to Number One in England and Number Five here, entering the charts at the end of February 1970.

Burrows was just gettin' warm. He lent his pipes to another studio band called White Plains, an outfit run by the writer-producer team of Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook (who had been in the Kestrels with Burrows, and who also wrote "You've Got Your Troubles" and "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress"); they popped out a single called "My Baby Loves Lovin'," which is justly forgotten today but entered the charts in May 1970 and went to Number Thirteen. Around this same time, Burrows also formed a vocal duo with Greenaway; they called themselves the Pipkins, and cut a song called "Gimme Dat Ding," which was used in a British TV show called "Oliver and the Overlord." It was annoying even for a novelty song, but still, it entered the U.S. charts in June 1970 and rose to Number Nine.

At some point along the way, another British writer-producer named Tony Hiller put together a studio concoction called Brotherhood of Man, and got, you guessed it, Tony Burrows to sing for him. Their first single was called "United We Stand," and it entered the charts the same week that "My Baby Loves Lovin'" did, in May of 1970. "United We Stand" was actually not that bad; it was one of those uplifting, quasi-utopian hits that was in vogue for a while in the early 1970s, like "Put Your Hand in the Hand" or "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing." It's the kind of song that makes you want to go watch some "Room 222." "United We Stand" climbed as high as Number 13, giving Tony Burrows four Top Fifteen hits in 1970 alone, as part of four different groups.

The American charts were Burrows-free for a couple of years after that, but he returned in 1974, singing "Beach Baby" for the First Class, yet another studio group, this one put together by producer John Carter, who had written "Little Bit o' Soul" for the Music Explosion. "Beach Baby" proved to be Burrows' biggest hit yet, going to Number Four in the late summer of 1974.

One thing that struck me about all these hits was that, with the exception of the obnoxious "Gimme Dat Ding," something about them seemed strongly American. Edison, of course, was American, as is the city of White Plains. Beach babies are much more common in America than they are in England. And although he didn't invent the phrase, American revolutionary Patrick Henry immortalized "United we stand, divided we fall" in a 1799 speech.

For that reason, I never pegged any of these songs as being particularly English. Then again, I never pegged them all as having the same singer, either.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bitch, Bitch, Bitch

Anatomy of a Murder, the Otto Preminger movie I mentioned the other day, was, you may know, quite the cause celebre in its time, which was the summer of 1959. According to James Stewart, who starred as the film's small-town defense attorney, his own father warned his friends not to go see Anatomy because it was too smutty.

The story concerned a young Army lieutenant who killed a man after his wife claimed the man raped her. Since there is some controversy as to whether the rape actually happened, the courtroom scenes include quite a bit of clinical discussion of what technically constitutes rape and whether those technical machinations occurred here. If you ever wanted to hear Jimmy Stewart use the phrase "sexual climax," this is the film for you. Howard McNear - Floyd the Barber himself - shows up to discourse lengthily on sperm. The panties of the young woman in question are much discussed, and the use of the word panties itself was apparently much tut-tutted over in that clarion summer of 1959.

What was more alarming to me is that the young wife, played by Lee Remick, admits at one point on the stand that she sometimes went out without wearing panties at all. I didn't know women did that back in 1959. But the most alarming part for me, someone who has always been finely attuned to the use of the language, was when one roughneck testifies that the defendant had confided his plans to "kick the bitch from here to kingdom come." I was not surprised that the abstract medical discussion passed the censorship board, but before I'd seen this film, I would have thought the word "bitch" hadn't been uttered onscreen until the MPAA's ratings came along in 1968 (on my birthday, as it happens).

Naturally, all of this reminded me of my pal Rob Sheffield's overview of the career of Hall and Oates in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, from 2004. Rob writes: "Hall & Oates became stars in 1977 with the excellent 'Rich Girl,' which set a new standard for AM radio profanity by (1) hitting #1 and (2) repeating the word bitch three times." Rob takes a backseat to no one as an interpreter of the cultural moment, but I belive he has overlooked here the fact that pop music in the early 1970s was a veritable bitchfest.

Miles Davis released Bitches Brew in 1969, and the Rolling Stones just went ahead and called a song "Bitch" in 1971, beating Meredith Brooks to the punch by 26 years. Those didn't dent the pop charts, though; it was up to Elton John to do the real damage. His "The Bitch Is Back" (with Dusty Springfield on backing vocals) went to Number Four in 1974, then he teamed up with his idol Neil Sedaka for "Bad Blood," which matched "Rich Girl" by going to Number One for three weeks in October 1975 (where it was followed by another Elton fave, "Island Girl," which ascended to the top spot, again, on my birthday).

The chorus of "Bad Blood," you'll remember, goes "Bad [Elton: ba-a-ad] blood [Elton: blo-o-od]/The bitch is in her smile/The lie is on her lips/Such an evil child." I can remember being home sick from school and hearing that song on my transistor radio; I thought they were saying "the bitch is in the sky."


This is the 500th post on "One Poor Correspondent." You'd think such a milestone would deserve an entry of more significance than this, but no.

Cut Off

A while back I posted on a new radio station out here calling itself Martini on the Rockies and playing what it described as cosmopolitan music, ranging from Nat King Cole to John Mayer. I may be the only one around who cares about such things, but that format has apparently proved untenable: This morning on that same station I heard a Foo Fighters song, followed by some ghastly thing that had Chad Kroeger of Nickelback teaming up with Carlos Santana. The station now calls its profferings Martini Music.

I can't say that I'm all that surprised. Denver may be a lot of things, but musically sophisticated surely isn't one of them. This is the city that unleashed the Fray on an unsuspecting world, remember. I used to listen to an AM station in New York City that focused on American standards, but it too eventually shut down and relaunched as Radio Disney, which certainly must be a metaphor for something. If that kind of thing doesn't go over in NYC, it's not going to work here either, no matter how much people like Norah Jones.

So if you're in Colorado and you're jonesing for some Cole Porter, looks like you'll have to come over to my house.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Get Up, Stand Up

Speaking of The Man With the Golden Arm, while there is plenty to like about the movie, beginning with Frank Sinatra's portrayal of a heroin addict with the Soft Cell-like name of Frankie Machine, my prior experiences ruined what may have been one of the most dramatic developments in the film. Frankie has returned from a stint in prison, to his hideously needy wife Zosh (and isn't Zosh Machine the name of a Flaming Lips album?), who is stuck in a wheelchair. But when Frankie leaves their squalid Chicago apartment, Zosh gets up out of her wheelchair and displays herself as perfectly ambulatory.

For the audience of 1955, this was probably a gasp-inducing moment. But for me, I could think of only one thing. That's right: Guy Caballero.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Colors of the Dust

For no real reason at all, I've been watching Otto Preminger movies lately. First there was Bunny Lake Is Missing, the DVD box of which features a full-color photo of Laurence Olivier in his role as the police detective investigating Bunny's disappearance. The movie is in black and white. Then I watched Anatomy of a Murder, the DVD box of which features a full-color photo of Jimmy Stewart in his role as the defense attorney. The movie is in black and white. (Neither of them used the legendary original poster art based on Saul Bass' groundbreaking title designs.)

The latest Preminger I got was The Man With the Golden Arm. The DVD box features a big black and white picture of Frank Sinatra as the title character. I was sure this one was gonna be in color.

Don't Stop Believin'

Blogger Matthew Duss of The American Prospect has also been following this critical story on the Tom Scholz/Barry Goudreau/Mike Huckabee dustup. Duss delivers the following analysis of how this might ultimately influence the delegate count:

Barry Goudreau? You got Barry Goudreau's endorsement? How silly. Everyone knows that when it comes to political endorsements from former members of Boston, Sib Hashian is the real prize. No one delivers the splendidly afro'd Armenian-American drummer-percussionist-vocalist vote like Sib.

In other developments:

* Kerry Livgren of Kansas has pledged to deliver the people of the southwind for Huckabee.

* Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon has promised to keep ridin' the storm out with fellow Illinoisan Barack Obama.

* Steve Perry of Journey will be lovin', touchin', squeezin' Hillary Clinton.

* Steve Lukather of Toto will hold the line with Mitt Romney.

* Dennis DeYoung of Styx has decided to come sail away with Ron Paul.

* Geddy Lee of Rush is Canadian, and can't vote.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Wanted: More Supply-Side Rock

You probably heard that a few weeks back John Cougar Mellencamp asked John McCain to stop using his Chevy ad slogan "Our Country" at his political rallies. McCain, I believe, has since ceased and desisted, but the Republicans still want to rock: Mike Huckabee recently played "More Than a Feeling" at one of his rallies with Boston second banana Barry Goudreau.

Tom Scholz, Boston's first banana, had a connip, asking Huckabee to never do that agin. But what are these Republicans to do? They can't all take the stage to the strains of "Cat Scratch Fever."

Happy Day

I'm not sure what holiday we're celebrating today. According to my Welch Bros. wall calendar ("The Flyin' W Delivers"), it's "Presidents' Day." According to my Commerce Trust Company date book, it's "Presidents Day." According to, "President's Day" is also used interchangeably with the other two, which means that either Washington or Lincoln is getting the big dis.

Then again, maybe Lincoln is getting the big dis. Snopes further reports that President Nixon signed an order on February 11, 1971, "defining the third Monday in February as a holiday, and the announcement of that Executive Order identified the day as 'Washington's Birthday.'" And Nixon certainly wouldn't have lied to us, would he?

As with MLK Day, my preference would be celebrate the presidential holiday on Thomas Jefferson's birthday (April 13) or on the day Lincoln was shot (April 14). We don't have much use for a holiday in February, but one in springtime would be sweet.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Further Factual Errors in David Michaelis' "Schulz and Peanuts"

Michaelis has Schulz and a date drinking Diet Coke in 1970, when it wasn't introduced until 1982. They were probably drinking Tab.

He also notes that the Schulz family baseball diamond got lights in the late Fifties, at a time when they were supposedly new even in the major leagues, but most major league teams had had them for 15 years or so by then.

In addition, at one point Michaelis misspells "elicit," putting in an extra L.

Other than that, though, the book is well worth reading. The decision to punctuate episodes of Schulz' life with relevant Peanuts strips was brilliant, and the portrait of his first marriage is chillingly three-dimensional.

Baby, Think of Me Once in a While

In the March issue of Harper's magazine, there's a letter - a full-throated defense of J.R.R. Tolkien's work as highly nuanced "modern epics with a deep, abiding love of nature" - from one Gary Sandy of Woodland, California.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Start to Make It Better

Here you go, folks, brazenly stolen from Andrew Sullivan's blog The Daily Dish, it's exactly what you were expecting to find: A baby singing "Hey Jude."

David Groh, 1939-2008

David Groh, the Chico Marx-looking actor best known as Rhoda's boyfriend/fiance/husband/ex on her eponymous sitcom, dead at the age of 68. Groh graduated from Brown Phi Beta Kappa, then studied in England on a Fulbright. (IMDB, by the way, has him born in 1941, which would have him entering Brown at 16. The New York Times obit birthdate of 1939 is much more plausible.)

Groh's Joe Gerard married Rhoda in the series' eighth episode, a ratings bonanza that featured much of the old Mary Tyler Moore Show cast as well as Rhoda taking the subway to her wedding in her wedding dress. Much was made of the fact that Joe Gerard was not Jewish, although Valerie Harper herself was not Jewish, so what's the big deal?

Rhoda and Joe separated in the first episode of Season Three, and divorced shortly thereafter, a result of - depending on whom you read - either slipping ratings or the desire on the part of the writers to construct more single-gal plots. If it was really the latter, it was a stupid idea, because Rhoda's ratings continued to slide, although the show limped on for two more years, Groh-less. David Groh went on to a career of guest shots on mediocre dramas and straight-to-cable movies.

His dying words were, "Lawrence Pressman lives on."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

L'il Folks

Charles Schulz' only formal lessons in art came via a mail-order company called Art Instruction, Inc. Schulz' family paid the princely sum of $170 for Charles to get a full course, lasting something like 18 months, and Schulz evidently felt like he got his money's worth. After he returned from fighting in World War II, Schulz got a job at Art Instruction, which was based in Minneapolis, grading the work of budding artists who had successfully drawn the fairy on the back of the matchbook.

It was while he was working at Art Instruction that Schulz met a young woman named Frieda Rich. Frieda was what less-enlightened people would call a midget; I'm not sure what more-enlightened people would call her. Frieda's elbows were roughly desk-high, and she'd often stand with them propped up on someone's desk as she talked to them. With her oversized head and stubby legs, she was roughly the same proportions as, say, Frieda from Peanuts.

And she had naturally curly hair.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Forgotten but Not Gone

Two stories that caught my eye recently:

* Loathsome bassist Gene Simmons of Kiss says the band won't be making any more albums, because the music industry as we knew it is dead. "It'd be nice to have new Kiss songs," says Simmons, "but what's the business model?" So anyone hoping to get Kiss Alive V: Live from Shooter's Lodge at the Travelodge in Muskegon, Michigan is going to be sorely disappointed.

* It was revealed that Kid From Left Field star Gary Coleman secretly married his girlfriend, Shannon Price, who is of normal height, last August in Nevada. Who exactly this was being kept secret from has not been released. To quote Jon Langford by way of the Old 97s, the devil doesn't care if you're a fish or you're a stick.

In a related development, I have decided not to accept big, lucrative banner ads for this blog. They would look trashy.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Watch Me Unravel

Rivers Cuomo of Weezer told Rolling Stone a while back that he had cracked the pop code. He dissected and analyzed every song ever done by Nirvana, Green Day and Oasis and kept the results in a three-ring binder he called "The Encyclopedia of Pop." When exactly Rivers did this is not clear, but Cuomo's pop-song gifts were fully formed from the band's first single, 1994's "Undone - The Sweater Song," which was about as well-crafted as these things get. I'm not sure what Rivers could have possibly learned from Oasis, whose debut album also came out in 1994, other than a sense of how to pronounce "Champagne supernova."

You gotta love Rivers: He's a mess, but he's a mess like us, a low-class beat-down fool, not a mess like Marvin Gaye, where he's fascinating to read about but you wouldn't want to go anywhere near him. Plus he used to sing barbershop quartet in high school.

When the band went to make a video for "Undone," their one insistence was that it have nothing to do with sweaters. The then-unheralded Spike Jonze came along and suggested they shoot it on a blue stage with a pack of wild dogs passing through, and of course, who could resist that? The boys filmed it by playing along with a sped-up version of the song, so that they'd look like they were in slo-mo; the end video was a single take, which they shot over twenty times, for reasons unclear to me. Although this take allegedly comes from the late teens, the guys are clearly still having a good time, especially the drummer. I wonder what he's listening to on those headphones.

[Steve Martin later appeared on Late Night With David Letterman, displaying his supposed collection of priceless antique Chinese vases, when a pack of dogs ran through the pedestals. Perhaps this is where he got the idea.]

Here's where I'd post the video for "Undone," except that someone from Universal Music Group has requested that it not be embedded. No matter: This isn't the first time that "One Poor Correspondent" has been disrespected, and it surely won't be the last. In the meantime, you can go see "Undone" here. But as long as we're here and talking about Weezer, here's their wonderful video for "Beverly Hills," filmed, coincidentally, at my house. (That's me in the black bikini briefs visible behind Rivers at one point.) I love the part where Rivers starts talking; it reminds me of "Moulty."

Monday, February 11, 2008

Dash Riprock

When I was compiling the list of Number One hits that didn't contain the title phrase in the lyrics, the one that struck my copy editor's eye as the most unusual was George Harrison's "Give Me Love - (Give Me Peace on Earth)," which hit Number One in May of 1973. That's how it's listed on the Billboard charts, which means that if you drop the parenthetical, you're left with "Give Me Love -." Nobody would name a single like that, would they?

Well, sort of. I found that copy of the single sleeve, and as you can see, there's no hyphen in sight. But that's not the end of the story. I also found another copy of the single showing the inner label. It's awfully tiny, but as best as I can make it out, the label reads "Give Me Love - " on the top line, with "(Give Me Peace on Earth)" underneath. That would certainly give Billboard leeway in printing the title so awkwardly, but someone should have known better. You can't end a song title with a dash.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Roy Scheider, 1932-2008

Roy Scheider, busted-nosed leading man of the American cinematic renaissance of the 1970s, dead at the age of 75. Scheider was nearly 40 before he made any sort of impact on acting, but he became an archetype in the 1970s, appearing alongside other homely male stars like Gene Hackman, Richard Dreyfuss and Dustin Hoffman in what was surely Hollywood's golden era of the ugly dude.

Scheider is probably best remembered as Chief Brody in Jaws, the man who pointed out the need for a bigger boat, but I was always partial to his performance in Marathon Man as Hoffman's secret-agent brother. They called each other Doc and Babe, for reasons I could never figure out. He was also great as Hackman's sidekick in The French Connection, the two of them looking as much like a pair of outer-borough detectives as was possible in 1971.

I guess Scheider was also pretty spectacular in All That Jazz - that earned him his only Best Actor Oscar nomination - but I didn't see it.

Keeping an Eye on the World Going by My Window

Is Bowie's "John, I'm Only Dancing" supposed to be an answer record to the Beatles' "I'm Only Sleeping"?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Title Tracks

Near as I can tell, these are the Number One pop hits in America, beginning with the advent of the British Invasion and its first Number One hit, the Tornados' "Telstar," at the tail end of 1962, that did not include the title phrase in the song's lyrics (instrumentals not included) (I have also omitted songs where the title phrase is an abridgment of the song's lyrics, such as the Righteous Brothers' "[You're My] Soul and Inspiration," wherein they do actually sing "You're my soul and... inspiration") :

"Sukiyaki" by Kyu Sakamoto (went to Number One in June 1963): It's in Japanese, but I'm reasonably certain that Kyu never says "Sukiyaki," since that title was appended to the song by a Capitol label exec

"Fingertips (Part 2)" by Little Stevie Wonder (August 1963)

"The Ballad of the Green Berets"
by SSgt. Barry Sadler (March 1966)

"Sunshine Superman" by Donovan (September 1966): Yes, he says "sunshine" and "superman" in the lyrics, but they're nowhere near each other in the song

"Ode to Billie Joe"
by Bobbie Gentry (August 1967): Remind me to write sometime about what a great song this is

"The Letter"
by the Box Tops (September 1967): A judgment call, since Chilton clearly sings "a letter" several times in the song, but I decided to include it since the title seems to refer to the overall theme rather than to serve as a quote from the lyric

"Indian Reservation" by the Raiders (July 1971)

"Theme From Shaft"
by Isaac Hayes (November 1971)

"Brother Louie"
by Stories (August 1973)

"The Joker"
by the Steve Miller Band (January 1974): See "The Letter"

"TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)" by MFSB featuring the Three Degrees (April 1974)

"Annie's Song"
by John Denver (July 1974)

"Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)"
by Diana Ross (January 1976): Obviously, another judgment call. Do you know who directed Mahogany?

"Love Theme From A Star is Born (Evergreen)"
by Barbra Streisand" (March 1977): See above

"Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)"
by Christopher Cross (October 1981): I'm glad "Nobody Does It Better" didn't stoop to this cheap trick

That brings us up to the Nineties, when I become unfamiliar with some of the Number One hits. I honestly don't know if Boyz II Men's "4 Seasons of Loneliness," from October 1997, included that phrase in the song's lyrics. I do know, however, that Berry Gordy directed Mahogany.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Second Mrs. Klugman

Now that Brett Somers has passed on, her widower, Jack Klugman, finally has license to remarry. Klugman and Somers separated in 1974, but never officially divorced, even though Jack has spent the past 20 years with the new Mrs. Klguman, Peggy Crosby, the former daughter-in-law of Bing Crosby. Jack and Peggy were married last Saturday in Studio City, California, and OPC wishes those two kids all the best.

I certainly write about Jack Klugman too much, but at least I'm not as bad as the Church of Klugman. They actually haven't been filling that blog up too much lately, but I guess once you've deified the man, what else is there to say?

Birthday Boys

Vince Neil, the lead singer of Motley Crue, and Sammy Llanas, the (co-) lead singer of the BoDeans, were both born on this very day 47 years ago.

I went to high school with a boy who was born on the exact same day as I was. He didn't find that very interesting.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Climate Change

In David Michaelis' brick-sized biography of Charles Schulz, Schulz and Peanuts, Michaelis notes dramatically that young Sparky Schulz, growing up in Saint Paul, Minnesota, would frequently have to venture out on his own in arctic weather: "For Sparky on the way to school, thirty degrees below zero, with a whip-like wind making it feel another twenty degrees colder, was an 'ordinary' temperature."

Thirty below! I grew up in Chicagoland, which gets plenty cold in the winter but never once, as I recall, hit thirty below, much less on an "ordinary" basis. Not Saint Paul either, apparently: According to this site, the record low in Saint Paul is only 32 below zero, and that was set in 1996. The average low temperature in January is a tolerable six degrees above zero. (As I type this, it's a balmy 18 degrees in Saint Paul.)

Schulz and Peanuts
is just jam-packed with facts, most of which I can't check on the Internet. (The absolutely perfect jacket design, by the way, is by Chip Kidd.) I'm just afraid that Michaelis will soon tell me that Charlie Brown was named after a wide receiver for the Redskins.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sexy Sadie, 1917-2008

The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, dead at the age of 91. Admit it, you thought he was already dead, didn't you? Well, now you're right.

When the Beatles went to visit the Maharishi in India in early 1968, it was the first vacation they had taken since they became stars - which means it was probably the first real vacation any of them had ever taken. It was also probably the beginning of the end for them as a band. John Lennon left London still married to Cynthia, but by the time all the Beatles got back, he and Yoko were inseparable. But the Fabs no longer were.

That was hardly the end of the Maharishi's notoriety. Transcendental meditation, Mahesh's main bag, really took off in the 1970s, and the Maharishi established Maharishi International University in 1974 in, of all places, Fairfield, Iowa. The late Canadian Doug Henning, a TM and yoga freak, actually got married at MIU in 1981.

The Maharishi's dying words were: "The Maharishi Mahesh Boo Boo lives on."

Civic Duty

This being Super Tuesday, I did my part by participating in my first-ever caucus, held a five-minute drive from my house at Isaac Newton Middle School (motto: "When Gravity Fails and Negativity Don't Pull You Through"). But the street that heads from my house over there began to be clogged about a mile from the school; fortunately, I knew how to approach it from the back. I also knew to duck into a neighborhood just before I reached the school so I could park on the street, but even there, I had to drive three blocks before I could find a space. From there I jogged through a snow-covered field with some guy who apparently thought they were going to start the caucus without him, but I was at the school building by 6:50.

A chilly, helpful soul had a laptop set up in the parking lot with which he could give us our precinct numbers. A young South Asian woman with an Obama sticker on her jacket then helpfully directed us to the school's east entrance, the only door that was open - but when we got to the east entrance, the line snaked all the way around to the building's west side. To quote Weird Al Yankovic, I hadn't seen a crowd like this since I went to see the Who.

Inside the school building, it was just as jammed; I quickly found out there were pockets of people along some of the corridor walls finding people's precinct numbers for them ,and slowing up traffic. Finally, I made it to the school cafeteria, which was also so full I could hardly move. It took me another five minutes to fight my way over to precinct 233. There, seated around one of those cafeteria tables with the attached disc-like seats, was a neighbor lady from across the street, who showed me how to sign in.

Precinct 233 was made up of significantly more women than men, by about a three-to-one margin. There were about three people under the age of 35, which makes sense if you know my neighborhood. I asked the guy holding the 233 card, stuck on the end of one of those wire poles like they have at Fatburger, if he needed some relief. He did, so I did my part and showed my pride in Precinct 233 by holding aloft our number for the next ten or fifteen minutes.

Given the crowds outside, it was a bit miraculous that we were able to get started around 7:15. About twenty feet from me, a woman began speaking instructions into a microphone, but I could literally hear one of every three words she said. I could have understood more if she had just turned and spoke at me in a normal voice. The speakers for the microphone must have been in Boulder or something.

Somehow, word made its way over to us that we were to begin with a straw poll, in which someone was to poll our members, and write down who voted for whom. The woman in charge of our precinct did this, sensibly enough, by asking all the Clinton supporters to sit at one table, and the Obama supporters to sit at another. The Clinton people didn't fill their table, but many of the Obamans had to stand. She quickly counted heads: 25 for Obama, nine for Clinton.

Then came what should have been, had there been more candidates in the race, the horse-trading part of the evening. Anyone receiving less than 15 percent of the vote was supposed to be disqualified at this point, and their voters wooed by the supporters of the remaining candidates. I initially hoped to be backing John Edwards at this point, which was a disappointment, not just because I thought Edwards the best candidate but because it would have been nice to get plied with liquor or sexual favors or whatever it is that causes a caucusgoer to swing his or her support.

There would be no such shenanigans this evening. We simply had our final vote - it has a name, but I couldn't hear the woman with the microphone - which was Obama 25, Clinton 9.

The next step was the assignation of the delegates. Precinct 233 was entitled to send four delegates to the Democratic county convention, and while I would have been happy to go, half the people raised their hands when our leader asked who wanted to be a delegate - one young woman of about 20, who was there with her father, was really excited about the possibility of being a delegate - so I decided I wouldn't take that thrill away from anyone.

Although we had been instructed to elect delegates, someone suggested we should just use the all-American format of holding a raffle, so someone produced a Kansas City Royals cap, anyone who wanted to wrote their name down and tossed it in, and a neutral person drew out three. (I don't know how the Clinton delegates chose their lone representative.) The first person picked was that 20-something's father, who showed no inclination to give up his seat for his daughter. She was eventually picked as an alternate.

And then that was it. At 7:45 pm, we were done. I walked out the side door of the school into the frosty February night.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Pink Floyd Is the Only Band That Matters

Here in our sleepy subdivision in a sleepy suburb of Denver, someone has spray-painted on a public fence in big red letters: "MOTHER SHOULD I TRUST THE GOVERNMENT."

The Means of Production

Summer before last, Danger Mouse, the producer behind Gnarls Barkley and thus behind the inescapable hit "Crazy," was profiled by Chuck Klosterman in the New York Times Magazine and talked about how a music producer was analogous to a film director. Mouse mentioned how impressed he was with Woody Allen, and how he wanted to be like him. "Woody Allen was an auteur: He did his Thing, and that particular Thing was completely his own," Mouse said, with capitalization courtesy of Klosterman. "That's what I decided to do with music. I want to create a director's role within music, which is what I tried to do on this album."

"Musically, there is no one who has the career I want," Mouse said. "That's why I have to use film directors as a model." But there was someone who had that career, and Klosterman even mentioned him in the piece (although he just as quickly discarded the comparison): Phil Spector.

I was reminded of that Gnarls Barkley story when I read Tearing Down the Wall of Sound, Mick Brown's recent biography of Phil Spector. (You may have noticed notions from that book popping up in OPC recently.) People don't think of Crystals records or Darlene Love records or Ronettes records as much as they think of Phil Spector Wall of Sound records. Indeed, Spector is the only producer I know of who has gotten his own box set, although that may be because Spector was the only producer who owned his own label.

I also think Spector was unique in that he didn't really write songs all that much (although he would often appropriate writing credits), unlike Leiber & Stoller, or Holland-Dozier-Holland, or even Jim Steinman, all of whom were writer-producers. (So is Danger Mouse, for that matter.) He was just a producer (although he was also an accomplished guitarist). The other true producers, like Scott Litt and Kim Fowley and Bill Szymczyk, never got all that famous, much less their own box sets.

One cool thing about the Wall of Sound is that it was produced live in the studio, without overdubs, except maybe on the vocals. Spector had his army of six or seven guitars, his four bassists, strings and horns and what have you, all playing live, straight through. I bet that was something to see.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Our Sacred Honor

In a tremendously entertaining Super Bowl, maybe my favorite part was this short film that Fox showed right at the end of the pregame show. (This was the only part of the pregame show I saw; I was watching Rear Window on DVD, and I pity anyone who sat through four hours of Fox instead.) The opening is unfortunately cheesy, but stick with it: The NFL players and coaches reciting the Declaration of Independence is quite moving. Plus it gave me a chance to explain to my seven-year-old son what the Declaration of Independence was.

The best part is a fired-up Michael Strahan with a bunch of New York City firefighters. It's great to see Alan Page, too. Lovie Smith doesn't seem too into his bit, but then again, Lovie Smith never seems too into anything.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Medieval Barber

One more note on Steve Martin: He's very closely identified with Saturday Night Live, an institution he helped fuel and which fed off of Martn's own rising star in the late 1970s. Their comedic styles were obviously greatly sympathetic, and Martin did some of his best work on SNL - yet, on a personal level, the two meshed far less than you might think.

Part of it was just a simple age thing. When Martin hosted SNL for the first time on October 23, 1976, he was already 31, the same age as Lorne Michaels; John Belushi was 27, Dan Aykroyd 24, Bill Murray 26, Laraine Newman 25. Gilda had just turned 30.

But a bigger part, probably, was drugs. Drugs fueled the early SNL as surely as ignorance fuels the Rush Limbaugh radio show. Steve Martin wanted no part of that: In the late 1960s, he notes in Born Standing Up, one night after he had smoked some pot, he had a severe anxiety attack that lasted the remainder of the night and into the next day (Martin would continue to have anxiety attacks for some time). The incident made him swear off marijana and any other drugs for the rest of his life.

For a variety of reasons, then, Martin kept his distance, no matter how well he clicked with the cast onstage. Aykroyd and Belushi had bought a crummy downtown bar, the Blues Bar, for aftershow parties, where the cast (except Jane Curtin) would spend the remainder of Saturday night. "I ran into Dan early one afternoon, and he was sort of black and blue, and I said, 'What happened?' and he said, 'Oh, I got pushed out of a moving taxi,'" Martin says in Live From New York. "They were wild, Dan and John. I never went to their bar, the Blues Bar; I wasn't that kind of guy."

It's Raining in My Heart

The music has been dead for 49 years now: It was on this very night, back in 1959 (the flight took off at 1:00 a.m. on February 3rd), that the plane bearing Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper - plus pilot Roger Peterson - went down in Clear Lake, Iowa, shortly after taking off in a snowstorm. (Bob Dylan had been at the tour's show in Duluth three nights earlier, on January 31.) Waylon Jennings had gotten off the plane just before takeoff, giving his seat to Valens; Dion was also on the tour, but decided not to fly that night.

Everyone would agree that John Lennon died far too young, right? If you add together the ages of Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, the two Rock & Roll Hall of Famers on that ill-fated flight (although Valens got in on sort of the Ross Youngs plan), they still don't add up to John Lennon's lifetime.

Buddy Holly, coming from Nowhere, Texas, sure accomplished a lot in his short life, didn't he? When he was only 18, he opened a show for Elvis in his hometown of Lubbock, then played on a bill with Bill Haley and His Comets, whereupon he was discovered by Marty Robbins' manager, who arranged for Holly to sign a recording contract at the age of 19. "That'll Be the Day" went to Number One on Billboard's Best Sellers chart two weeks after he turned 21. He toured England at the age of 21, then came back home to marry his soon-to-be-widowed bride. When he was 22, he split up with the Crickets and went solo.

Then, at 22 years, four months and 28 days of age, he was dead.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Celebrity Sweepstakes

I was watching SportsCenter this morning without the sound as I went running, so correct me if I'm wrong on this: Tom Brady is dating Britney Spears? And Britney has had to be hospitalized with a high ankle sprain? It's all so confusing.

Blows Against the Empire

David Lynch, you may know, eschews chapter breaks in the DVD releases of his movies, preferring that people watch them straight through from beginning to end. This comes as a real problem with something like Inland Empire, which is three hours long and doesn't have any sort of traditional narrative, to boot; I haven't had three uninterrupted hours to watch a movie since 1996.

There's plenty that's compelling about Inland Empire, especially Laura Dern's performance in the film-within-the-film as an abused housewife telling stories of her drunken marriage to a complete loser, conversing with some sort of psychiatrist or parole officer - it's really hard to tell, which should be no surprise to anyone who's seen a David Lynch movie. Fortunately, there's a way to cheat Lynch on this and watch the movie in several sittings, even though the main menu doesn't offer chapter stops. There are, though, 39 unmentioned chapters on the DVD, which you can skip through each time you sit down to watch it - you just have to remember the number you left off on.