The January 8 Birthdays

A number of performers were born on this date, such as Jose Vincente Ferrer (1912-1992), Larry Storch from F Troop (b. 1923), CBS Sunday Morning’s Charles Osgood (b. 1933), singer Shirley Bassey (b. 1937), singer R. Kelly (b. 1969) and actress Sarah Polley (b. 1979), not to mention scientist Stephen Hawking (b. 1942).

But there’s a “Big Three”. And two of them have an odd link.

Elvis Presley, 1956

Elvis Aaron Presley (1935-1977) would have been 75 today. Maybe IS 75, if you believe the sightings.

I found this question somewhere:

Which mega-popular rock band of the ’70s not only met Elvis but got along with him so well that its members were guests at his concerts and received gifts from the King?
a) The Who
b) Led Zeppelin
c) Eagles
d) Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Answer below.

As I was quoted in the local paper back in 1997: My father hated Elvis. He resented this white artist stealing/exploiting/ profiting from performing black music. (But then half of the musicians in the ’50s and ’60s from Pat Boone to Led Zeppelin “borrowed” from black music). So I never owned any Elvis music as a child or teenager.

Still, I did like some of his songs (“Jailhouse Rock,” “Little Sister”). So I watched the ’68 “comeback special” and became grudgingly, a mild fan. [My father must not have been home, it occurs to me.]

When Elvis died, I thought, “Oh that’s too bad.” The Elvis cult that’s developed since 1977 I view with fascination and utter bemusement.

But I’ve discovered that I have more of an interest in The Pelvis than I thought. He shows up in this blog from time to time, whether it’s dissecting one of his tunes or noting his posthumous wealth, talking about his link with Joe Stalin, or reviewing a DVD of his performances on Ed Sullivan.

Bob Hope (L) with Soupy Sales (2nd R) and Shirley MacLaine (2nd L), their faces covered with remnants of cream pies, 1962

Then there’s Milton Supman Heinz (b. 1926). You might know him better as the comic actor Soupy Sales. I must admit that I didn’t watch his shows, but I always enjoyed watching him on several game shows such as Match Game, What’s My Line and the various permutation of Pyramid; go to YouTube and you’ll find dozens of examples.

Unfortunately he died last year. I happened to be listening to his Motown album A Bag of Soup this week. Among the jokey songs, there was a rather touching song called Though I’m A Clown (I Need Love Too). I couldn’t find it, alas, on the Internet, but I found it rather poignant.

David Bowie, 1983

The living member of this trio is David Jones. Since the musician did not want to be confused with Davy Jones of the Monkees, he changed his name to David Bowie. I won his Honky Dory album during my freshman year of college and I’ve been a fan ever since. He shows up in my musings quite a bit. This what I wrote two years ago when Bowie turned 60.

The local newspaper had a tournament of carols. It came down to Bing Crosby’s White Christmas and the Crosby/Bowie Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth. Crosby/Bowie won!

Oh, the linkage: Bassist Tony Sales and drummer Hunt Sales are sons of Soupy Sales. Along with Bowie and Reeves Gabrels, the Sales brothers were in rock band Tin Machine.

And the answer to the Elvis question is Led Zeppelin. BTW, LZ guitarist Jimmy Page has HIS birthday on January 9 (1944).

ROG

Meme of Solace

I’m sure the title refers to a James Bond film; I’m swiping this from SamauraiFrog.

List 10 musical artists (or bands) you like, in no specific order (do this before reading the questions below). Really, don’t read the questions below until you pick your ten artists!!!

There is something to be said for following the instructions in this case.

1. The Beatles
2. The Beach Boys
3. David Bowie
4. The Rascals
5. The Rolling Stones
6. Linda Ronstadt
7. The Supremes
8. The Temptations
9. Talking Heads
10. The Police

What was the first song you ever heard by 6?

Something early, probably “Different Drum”.

What is your favorite song of 8?

“I Can’t Get Next To You”. From the rowdy opening to the Sly Stone-inspired shared vocals.

What kind of impact has 1 left on your life?

Massive. I have a ton of their albums, both as a group and as solo artists. I know arcane things about their album releases. People say to me, “What album is X song on?” and far more often than not, I’ll say “American or British album?” And then peg both of them. There’s a picture of Lennon in my office and a photo of the Imagine imagine from NYC in my house.

What is your favorite lyric of 5?

Probably the chorus of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. “But if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need.” From Let It Bleed, probably my favorite Stones album. The organ noodling of this song during the early funeral sequence of The Big Chill cracked me up, while others in the audience wondered why.

How many times have you seen 4 live?

Never, though I’ve seen them live on TV once or twice.

What is your favorite song by 7?

“Love Is Like An Itchin’ In My Heart”. What an insistent bass line. there’s a version that’s about 30 seconds longer than the single I particularly enjoy.

Is there any song by 3 that makes you sad?

Ashes to Ashes
Time and again I tell myself
I’ll stay clean tonight
But the little green wheels are following me
Oh no, not again

What is your favorite song by 9?

“Making Flippy Floppy”, probably because I saw the Talking Heads during the Speaking in Tongues tour in 1983 or 1984 at SPAC in Saratoga.

When did you first get into 2?

It’s really odd, actually. I had a compilation album with I Get Around and Don’t Worry Baby in 1965, and the Pet Sounds album in 1966, both of which I liked. But I never considered myself a real Beach Boys fan until I got Surf’s Up, which was a mainstay of my freshman year in college, 1971-72. THEN I went back and got into the earlier music, and bought the retrospective albums that came out in the mid-1970s.

How did you get into 3?

I was in my dorm room in my freshman year and somehow won Hunky Dory from my college radio station, WNPC on a radio call-in contest. I liked almost all of it; my roommate Ron only liked Changes.

What is your favorite song by 4?

“It’s Love”, the last song on the Groovin’ album, featuring flute by Hubert Laws, plus a great bass line. When I got a new turntable in 1987, the track ran so close to the label that the album would reject before the song would end; drove me nuts. Actually bought the CD five years ago largely for this one song.

How many times have you seen 9 live?

Once, but it was one of the two greatest shows of my life, along with the Temptations in 1980 or 1981.

What is a good memory concerning 2?

A mixed memory actually. I had this friend named Donna George, and I bought her the Beach Boys box set. Before she died of brain cancer a few years ago, she assigned another friend of hers and me to divvy up her music. I took the Beach Boys box, and I always remember her when I play it.

Is there a song by 8 that makes you sad?

The Temptations with a Lot o’ Soul is full of melancholy songs, but I’ll pick No More Water in the Well.

What is your favorite song of 1?

A truly impossible question. Seriously. It’s dependent on mood, what I’ve listened to recently. I’ll say Got to Get You Into My Life, but reserve the right to change that.

How did you become a fan of 10?

Almost certainly listening to WQBK-FM, Q-104 in Albany, NY, a truly great station that also turned me onto the Talking Heads, the Clash and a lot of other music of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
ROG

It Ain’t Easy

Very few phrases fill me with dread and/or irritation as the response, “Oh, it’s EASY!” And it bugs me on two separate but related levels.

I had this colleague who was very smart but I don’t think she recognized her own intellectual gifts. When I would ask her for help, she’d say, “Oh, that’s EASY.” It was as though, if SHE could could do it, it must not be all that special. But, in fact, it was, and in her profession, she is now quite accomplished. It seems that she has recognized the value of her talent.

The other version is when a techie or someone doing something technical or mechanical says, “Oh, that’s EASY.” Implicit in this one is that “anyone” can do it it. Well, obviously, they don’t know ME. While I have mastered which end of the hammer is the one you generally hold, there is nothing in this arena that comes easily to me. If there are four ways to put something together, but only one correct way, you can be sure I will have tried at least two of the other three first. I have absolutely no innate spatial reference capacity.

And it also extends to my absolutely DREADFUL capacity for remembering names. I’ve tried all the tricks. Someone named Mr. Dole is wearing a pineapple shirt; I’ll remember him as Mr. Pineapple.

Now there ARE some things that I do do easily, but I don’t assume that others can, or should be able to do the same. I specifically remember 9th grade algebra, which I was rather good at (97 on the final – I’m also pretty good at remembering numbers generally). There was a particular problem that this kid Sid was trying to do on the board. The teacher was trying to explain it to him, but he just wasn’t getting it. Then she let me try, and the light bulb went on in Sid’s head.

What got me thinking about this was the daughter in kindergarten. She’s fairly smart. Her teacher is having the students spell out the words phonetically, and she knows most of her letter sounds. What happened last month was that she spelled the words incorrectly, of course, and burst into tears. Her mother and I had to emphasize the fact that English isn’t easy.

I mean I am a pretty good speller. A lousy typist but good speller – 100 on my 5th grade final (really) – but I don’t know if I ever knew WHY most words were spelled as they are. Why do “giant” and “jelly” have the same starting sound? Or “cat” and “kitten”? Or “school” and “skill”? The silent e has some rationale – long vowel sound – but what about the silent b in climb or silent g in gnu, the latter of which appears in one of her picture books?

She HAS mellowed since then, but does have a perfectionist streak that doesn’t seem to come from either her mother or me.

“Well all the people have got their problems
That ain’t nothing new” – It Ain’t Easy

It Ain’t Easy by David Bowie video. “Dedicated to The Big Easy with much love.” ROG

Songs That Move Me, 80-71

80. The Ostrich – Steppenwolf.
I discussed this song here.
Feeling: ticked off.
It’s HERE.

79. (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone – Aretha Franklin.
One of the things I hated about AM radio when I was growing up is the fact that disc jockeys would talk over the instrumental opening. I swear that this intro was designed specifically to avoid that. Highlight musically is the sweet crescendo of the horns.
Feeling: joyful.

78. 21st Century Schizoid Man – King Crimson.
An intriguing song. Starts of like a loud dirge, then breaks into an almost jazzy center. Quite odd.
Feeling: a little schizo.
OR HERE.

77. Face the Face – Pete Townsend.
Those big drums almost always surprise me, not in this live version, but in the video below.
Feeling: like dancing.

Miami Vice!

76. I’m So Glad – Cream.
It has to be the live version from the Goodbye Cream album; no other version excites me like that one. It’s the Jack Bruce vocals and especially the instrumental breaks.
Feeling: well, glad.

75. Fame – David Bowie.
Besides the hook, I most appreciate the descending line of the vocal near the end.
Feeling: like dancing.

74. King Harvest – The Band.
From “the brown album”, the second album, it’s the last song on the LP. It’s the vocals and the lyrics: “My horse Jethro, well he went mad.” A song of my high school days.
Feeling: like having a piece of grass between my teeth.

73. I’m Free – the Who.
The beginning of this song is out of sync with the rest. There’s a drum fill before the first time you hear “And freedom tastes of reality.” The live versions never compare to this because they’re usually played correctly. I like the descending line vocal at the end and the instrumentation in the middle. BTW, I have no idea what this video is.
Feeling: Tension until it gets back on track musically.

72. Celtic Rock – Donovan.
The druids are coming. Last song, first side of the Open Road LP.
Feeling: spooky.

71. Twist and Shout – the Beatles

It’s John shredding his voice and those ascending thirds.
Feeling: Joyous.

ROG

FAME Question

Since David Bowie’s birthday is coming up Tuesday, I had fame or Fame on my mind.

Someone’s Twitter page recently read that he could not believe that someone didn’t know Vincent Price. I do. There’s a real generational chasm about fame.

A recent cover of Us Weekly indicated that Heidi Montag called off her wedding to Spencer because of behavior MTV failed to show. Trouble is, I had no idea who Heidi Montag was, or whether she looks better after undergoing “a lip enhancement procedure.” Or who Spencer was.

I understand that Fergie, who was/is in the group Black Eyed Peas 1) is engaged to some hunky TV star and 2) peed in her pants this year, but I don’t know the details of either.

When I heard that Britney Spears’ sister got pregnant, I didn’t appreciate why a big deal was being made until I discovered that Jamie Lynn Spears is the star of a Nickelodeon show Zoey 101 where she plays a role model for young girls.

And who the heck is Tila Tequila that Tom the Dog hates so much?

Conversely, people who used to be generally famous aren’t anymore. The average 13-year-old doesn’t know who Walter Cronkite, once “the most trusted man on television” is.

I remember that about 30 years ago, Andy Rooney had a series of specials. On one of them, or maybe on his regular 60 Minutes gig, he posited who he thought was famous, his definition being that people in a wide range of ages would know. Paul McCartney, yes. Michael Jackson, pre-Thriller, pre-nose job, pre-sex trials, was not. So, Johnny Knoxville of Jackass doesn’t quite make it now.

1) Who used to be famous but isn’t anymore because a new generation has come up that doesn’t remember him/her?

2) What are the criteria for what makes someone famous? I think it’s a long career that transcends their initial niche: Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods in sports, e.g. or Oprah Winfrey in talk. Showing up in a lot of popular TV shows and/or blockbuster movies: Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Will Smith.

3) Who might become famous? One can never tell, of course, but Miley Cyrus a/k/a Hannah Montana, seems to have the possibility. Heck, even I know her.

ROG