Monday, January 30, 2012

Pointless trip to Kansas

The problem is  when I'm having a lucid dream & sort of know it but I'm not yet fully aware it's a dream. Unless you know it's a dream, it's even more difficult to manipulate it. It's hard to get dream beings to pay attention to you,.You know they know you're there, but they ignore you. If you can get them to talk to you, they speak perfectly fine English but what they say often makes  little  sense. They don't like to give you straight answers & explanations; or more likely, they enjoy giving confusing & evasive ones.

Someone was arrested in Kansas using my identity. I'm curious. So I go to Kansas, some small ugly city. I ask where the county jail is. Outside of town. I see a rental car agency across the street. Next thing I'm pulling into the jail parking lot in a rented pickup.

Some jive ass punks get out of a car next to me, joking around. Maybe this a juvie jail.

I  go inside. A large echoey room, two rows of wooden benches down one side, people sitting in them, fidgeting, some children. At the far end is a reception counter of some kind. I walk over. I can't seem to get anyone's attention. Finally, a guy walks over, looking through some papers, looks up at me, "Yeah?"

"You have someone here named Robert Rixon. I want to see him."

"Why do you want to see him? Are you a relative?"

I answer, evasively, "The Elizabeth NJ  police Dept called & said he was here."

That seemed reasonable, so the guy said, "Then give your name."  & he walked away, Give my name to whom? Someone in a uniform  was sitting down tapping away at computer. Two other staffers were behind the counter doing some other work. Clearly, the prisoners were beyond a door on the left. People walking in & out of there. Around this point I'm beginning to understand the game, why I'm there. I want to find out if this person using my name name is me, or not me. If me, at what age. If not me, what my impostor looks like & why this faker  wants to see me, enticing me all the way to dream Kansas, I've been to real Kansas twice & disliked it both times.The first time I got caught in massive swarm of locusts & stayed in a hotel downwind from stockyards. The second time I rode a bus west to east across the entire damned  state.

 At this point the dream ended.  I somehow became aware I was napping, & my interior mental alarm clock had gone off at anout the 30 minute mark, which is the max length I want for naps.

Futile anyway. I wasn't going to see this person using my name. I know these dream characters. Maybe I invent them, maybe they are, as poet Jim Cohn suggested, Bodhisattvas. He said I should try to talk with them.  But either way I give them form, & personality, & they behave with the same, succinctly cryptic talk that I use when I'm avoiding expressing a direct opinion or emotion. They toy with me & mock me,  partly, I think, because I act  in the dream world as if it were the waking world. Oh, these people are in charge here & I need their permission to go in the back room & find person using my name. Once, I ought to try saying, "Look, this is my dream. I came here for a reason, get out my way."
This dream was, I believe, an unclear premonition of the the news I received on Feb. 3.  I went away to a college in Kansas in Sept. '66. I hated the college, the town, & my roommate. I was homesick & I missed my new girlfriend back home. Without the girlfriend -  I was still falling in love, & I'd never felt anything like it before,  I probably wouldn't have had the nerve to bail on the college after two weeks, knowing how pissed off my dad would be, but chosen to stick it out  through one semester.  Trying to make sense of my strong reaction to Karen's death, I had to go back & find the young man from this dream, because now I know he was me at age 17, not an impostor. Where did the dream come from? I don't know.  But the characters in the dream couldn't tell me why I was really there. Maybe they didn't know.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Elizabeth NJ

Downtown Elizabeth about 1970.  Lower left is county courthouse with new jail & parking garage, but not a large annex behind that now has most of county offices. Across street lower left is main library before addition was built. My mom worked on one of the upper floors of the courthouse tower, great south  view, I was up there a few times.  Behind courthouse on other side of railroad is infamous Lord Sterling Motel, since torn down. Moving up diagonal Broad St. in front of Courthouse, old Presbyterian Church & graveyard. Modern building with square cap was Elizabethtown Gas headquarters, now Union College College. Upper right is coolest downtown building, art deco Hersch Tower. Railroad station is across from Hersh.  I reside about inch above the center of card.  My "downtown" is Elmora,  about an inch to left of top of card, same walking distance as  this downtown.  I venture to downtown Broad St.  about once every other month, usually to go to the library.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Tony about Amy

Watching some of the Tony Bennett Duets II special on PBS.  During the fundraising break, Tony, in TV studio, said Amy Winehouse was the best singer of her generation,  comparing her to Billie Holiday  & Ella Fitzgerald. Now think on that, & who said it. Tony's a nice guy, but not so nice he'd lie & say that about Carrie Underwood or Lady Gaga or Beyoncé. Tony fell silent  & the host quickly realized Amy's death troubled him very much & changed the subject. Winehouse wasn't the first tormented great female singer Tony had known, & in getting to know  Amy he likely sensed she wasn't headed toward a good end,  that she  was more Billie than Anita O'Day - who overcame years of addiction with voice largely intact.  Tony is a fundamentally positive person.

& then there's Amy herself, with demons we can't understand. Except that here & there, throughout her brief career, she dropped hints that she believed she couldn't satisfy her father, a frustrated singer. A telling remark by Amy in the duets special, recounted that when she told  her father she was recording "Body & Soul" with Tony Bennett, a dream gig for Amy, her father said  it was his favorite song &  snidely suggested Amy had never heard it, although she had been a natural musical sponge her entire life - soaking up  jazz, American songbook, girl groups, northern soul, & had even taken her father to see Bennett at Royal Albert Hall.

There's no greater authority  than Tony Bennett alive today on the subject of great singers. In a rational world  his endorsement & respect  would have eclipsed in Amy's mind Mitch Winehouse's opinion on anything. Now Daddy Winehouse is preoccupied with protecting his late daughter's "image," even criticizing Jean Paul Gaultier's recent fashion tribute to Amy, as if "fashion" matters one way or another. The art of great singing isn't about fashion.  In fact it never mattered to Amy's real fans if she looked like she had spent the night sleeping under a bridge. & her appearance  wasn't always an indicator of her emotional state. Some nights she may have wanted to look like Ronnie Spector in a rain shower.  What counted what was came out of her when she sang.

Tony Bennett understands what the world lost.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sue Raney - Heart and Soul

From Sue's first album, recorded in 1958 when she was 17 or 18, what could have been better than to be signed to Capitol Records & paired with arranger Nelson Riddle at the peak of his talents?

When Your Lover Has Gone is quite a romantic album  in an innocent (not naive) way, this truly is a teenager singing. But Sue already has the cool Fifties style where less is more,  her trademark glissando of sliding up to a note, & a sense of jazzy swing she's just getting a handle on & brought to wise  maturity over the decades - she's still working, 1958 wasn't a great time to begin this kind of singing career. Rock was taking over the charts, nightclubs were closing, Vegas hadn't exploded, & older, established singers were still performing, My friend Rosemary Conte, a lovely jazzy singer who got in the business around the same time as Sue, gave this one a thumb's  up. That's an endorsement.

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What Matters

For poets, an elaboration on something Picasso said:

It's one thing to discover a colorful tossed salad is actually a tropical bird, quite another to find out it's only iceberg lettuce & hothouse tomato.

It seems like every day I read a poem on Facebook that's "poetic" but it's only  a simple observation that should have stayed a simple observation. Transform or stop. Otherwise it's just fancy bulldoodle.

I recently read a small collection of poems by Adele Kenny, What Matters {pdf file], filled with trans-formative moments.  I've known Adele  for decades, but I kept her at a distance. I think I recognized a darkness in her similar to mine but which we handled in very different ways.    Adele was serious, orderly, responsible, had very cute, well-groomed, well-behaved Yorkshire Terriers, the  distinctive way she handled her environment.  She's also an expert in rare Staffordshire ceramics.  I was flippant, emotionally messy & guarded at the same time, improvisory, distracted, undisciplined, & if an expert in anything, it was rescuing scratchy, abused flea market records that I treated hardly any better than their original owners.  Adele's poem account of her childhood in a white, working class neighborhood of Rahway NJ, literally squeezed between chemical plants,  Route One, a railroad & a polluted river  was probably the most enjoyable poem I read last year, in a book I very much enjoyed reading all the way through.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chris Rock

Chris Rock reminds me of the guys at the train station who  get in close to you  & run off at their mouths about any old shit while you're trying to use the outside platform ticket machine.  The game is to make you screw up   the steps, at which point they try to step in & do it for you so you'll either give them the change the machine drops or hand them something out of your pocket. Since I usually use a debit card & pin number, I turn, face them, & sternly say, "Back off!"  They do, but not as far as I like, grumbling, "O.K.. O.K., man, just trying to help, you know?" These guys really unnerve the Latinos with poor English comprehension, & suburban families on weekends headed into the city to see some Disney on Ice show at  the Garden & attempting to  get the child fare  discount. If the ticket window  in the waiting room  is open, use it.
I think a woman was trying to flirt with me at 7-11 earlier, looked in her '40s, but she was acting a bit peculiar, sort of hyper, & there's lots of people around here on pharmaceuticals, prescribed & not. I am not a flirtable person. I can be schmoozed, that's all.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Fish In A Chicken Suit, Smoking A Cigarette"

For me, it somehow captures the essence of urban fauna, the creepy animals half-glimpsed at night crawling out of garbage cans & fleeing into the weeds by  polluted creeks. WTF was that?

"Anatomy is destiny," comments X Ray Burns, either quoting Freud or referring to a short song by the death metal band Exhumed.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

The Court Tavern

 New Brunswick's Court Tavern closes.

I read poetry at The Court Tavern maybe three times I remember, once upstairs in a conventional reading, & twice in the basement as  part of  lengthy poet & band benefits for literary 'zines. I was only peripherally connected to the poetry scene in New Brunswick. Having resided in & around New Brunswick for a few years, after I moved away  I developed an intense distaste for the city in both its unimproved & improved versions & only ventured down there for the occasional poetry reading or a band I wanted to hear.  I don't feel nostalgia for The Court the way I do for Maxwell's & other bar venues in Hoboken in the '80s.

The stage downstairs at The Court was so cramped & the ceiling so low that even I felt claustrophobic standing on it. But it was fun reading at The Court. The audiences were drunk & smelly, & since I was neither punkified nor especially political, I was a sort of change-of-pace poet - I usually wore a tropical shirt for those events, not the dark faux-working class costume  -  & after reading a couple of flip, flat- voiced poems rather than ranting on about something in the news the crowd was stunned into a  manageable din. To get to the stage from the stairs you usually had to step over a few patrons in drunken comas. But I was always received in New Brunswick with reasonable respect if not enthusiasm.

It's sad how far New Brunswick has a fallen as a music town. For 20 years, New Brunswick had the liveliest, most diverse  live music scene in Jersey. In the  '80s Hoboken was perceived as new wavy, twangy, even twee,  on the way to being smugly hipster (it's since surrendered that rep to various Brooklyn neighborhoods. Now Hoboken is just affluent professionals of no special distinction).  I suppose I was a proto-hipster.  I could be insufferably conceited & there are artsy people who met me in the '80s who still don't like me, although they've long surpassed me in every way creatively.   Asbury Park was a wreck, obsessed with Springsteen & its own decay, pretending to an importance  it didn't have. *  A.P.  didn't even have a reliable small venue for new bands until The Saint opened in the '90s, & the Saint was modeled on the New Brunswick scene but with less puke in the bathrooms, & pretty much ignored the whole Springsteen thing.  But you could do a night hopping clubs in New Brunswick without going completely  broke or feeling under-dressed.

* The Asbury guy I respect is Southside Johnny, who survived his moment as the Next Big Thing from Asbury (it turned out to be Bon Jovi) & is now the model of the working musician.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

& the winner is

South Carolina isn't representative of The United States. It doesn't want to be representative of The United States. That's the  identity of  South Carolina.

29% of the population of South Carolina is black, 99% of Republican primary voters are white. Newt blew the race dogwhistle (actually, it was an air horn), add in Mitt just being Mitt, & Gingrich gets, what? 8 delegates? 80% of the Repugs  voted for not-Mitt, but 55% still voted for not-Newt. So who's the winner? I'd say President Obama, who probably wasn't planning on visiting South Carolina between now & November anyway.

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Newark NJ

Italian Kitchen American Italian Restaurant

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Etta James

If you know Etta James only as "Dance With Me, Henry" & "At Last," you got some listening to do. Los Angeles Times writer Randy Lewis calls Etta "Perhaps the quintessential R&B diva .... equally at home singing unadulterated blues, searing R&B and sophisticated jazz..." Etta died only days after bandleader Johnny Otis,  who "discovered" her when she was a teenager in Los Angeles.

 Etta wasn't a weak-voiced pretender  who needed double-tracked vocals, special software to keep her voice in tune, & the pseudo-soul technique  of singing every note except the one in the melody.

Carrie's Bar & Grill posted a small but choice tribute to Etta. 

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Thursday, January 19, 2012


Went to download an out-of-print LP by jazz singer Sue Raney via a blog I've used many times for that kind of music, & the linked file site would not come up in the browser. I pasted the link in notepad & lo it was for megaupload:

Megaupload, one of the internet's largest file-sharing sites, has been shut down by officials in the US.
The site's founders have been charged with violating piracy laws.
Federal prosecutors have accused it of costing copyright holders more than $500m (£320m) in lost revenue. The firm says it was diligent in responding to complaints about pirated material.
The news came a day after anti-piracy law protests, but investigators said they were ordered two weeks ago.
The US Justice Department said that Megaupload's two co-founders Kim Dotcom, formerly known as Kim Schmitz, and Mathias Ortmann were arrested in Auckland, New Zealand along with two other employees of the business at the request of US officials. It added that three other defendants were still at large.
(The blog immediately went to "by invitation only')

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Looks like all of Jersey's senators & reps but one are  opposing the Stop Online Piracy Act & the Protect Intellectual Property Act, even the ones supporting or co-sponsoring the bill 48 hours ago. Rats leaping off a sinking ship?  These bills were difficult to understand, & only over the past week have some clear explanations of the fine print made it around the intertubes, Those provisions that target you & me while huge foreign file sharing sites thumb their noses.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Voyage of the Darned

WTF? moment, when Capt. Francesco Schettino of the Costa Concordia suggested that the rocks his ship hit weren't on the charts. You mean, I thought, that the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Carthaginians, the Italians,  all, over the past 3,000 years of sailing those waters, failed to notice them? Not that Capt. Schettino was gaining many defenders after it was revealed he abandoned ship ahead of his passengers. 

Contemporary cruise ships are so self-contained, so luxurious, that it must have come as an unbelievable shock to passengers when Costa Concordia suddenly listed to starboard & all the food, drinks, & roulette chips slipped off the tables, & the disco floor became undanceable. Reminded them they were on a ship on an ocean, 90 minutes passed before abandon ship orders were issued, & by then  many of the lifeboats were useless, & the ship crews didn't know how to lower them anyway, 

Monday, January 16, 2012

"I do not pretend to understand the moral universe"

"I do not pretend to understand the moral universe. The arc is a long one. My eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by experience of sight. I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice." Theodore Parker, 1853
I doubt the abolitionist preacher Parker would have cared that Dr. King distilled his unwieldy statement to the succinct "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."  & did so without attribution. *  It's this quote from Dr. King that I most often use to defend him from appropriation by the Christian right. Dr. King moved Parker's idea from the pulpit into action.

Dr, King was only 39 years-old when he was murdered on April 4, 1968. He was only 26 when he was drawn into leading the Montgomery  Bus Boycott, riding the arc of the moral universe that bends toward justice,  Beginning in the Jim Crow, violent American South, he was on way to becoming a world citizen.  Great world citizens are not uncommon,  are a diverse group of individuals: Eleanor Roosevelt, the Dalai Lama, Danny Kaye,  Audrey Hepburn, Stephen Hawking, Bob Marley, Pope John Paul II & names we will never know.

We can't  be certain where Dr. King would have landed on the matter of abortion. If he became against, the issue never would never have been separated, as it is now, from  the well-being  of infants, children, & families.   But I am quite certain he would have continued to follow the arc that bends toward justice, & that it would have eventually brought him to an endorsement of marriage equality.  In 1968 we were still a decade from the suggestion even surfacing in mainstream media (as a novelty)  & another decade away the beginnings of public acceptance. Even now it would not have been Dr. King's paramount concern, within  the broad context of justice & human rights.

*It came out in the 1980s that Dr, King;s doctorate dissertation for Boston College also included unattributed portions, but the reviewing panel concluded acting upon the incidents of plagiarism  would  "serve no purpose." Had those passages been caught at the time, it's likely the dissertations  would not have been rejected outright but returned for correction,  But by then, Dr, King was on to more important matters in Alabama. He was applying his theological ideas to real world situations.

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

I had a girlfriend starting the summer I graduated high school, Karen - she was hot! a dancer, took lessons three, four days each week, mostly classical ballet. She wanted me to get contact lenses & teach me to dance like this, the pop style - I was a thin, lithe musician with a good sense of rhythm & movement. Maybe figured I could help her do lifts & fly like a bird.  I never doubted I could do it. But I wanted to play organ in a rock band & write songs.

 Karen was a possessive Capricorn, so any suggestion that she invite her best friend, also named Karen, the cute daughter of a wealthy undertaker, as my second partner, would have been dismissed immediately.

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North Branch NJ

Tina's Motel

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

"situational awareness"

Carrie at Carrie's Bar & Grill checks her ISP traffic more than I do, & all too often finds various .gov type sites looking in on her. Lest you think she's being overly paranoid:
(Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's command center routinely monitors dozens of popular websites, including Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, WikiLeaks and news and gossip sites including the Huffington Post and Drudge Report, according to a government document.
A "privacy compliance review" issued by DHS last November says that since at least June 2010, its national operations center has been operating a "Social Networking/Media Capability" which involves regular monitoring of "publicly available online forums, blogs, public websites and message boards."

The purpose of the monitoring, says the government document, is to "collect information used in providing situational awareness and establishing a common operating picture."
I'm not enough of a dupe to believe the monitoring is limited to only "dozens" of major, high traffic sites like Huffington, or social networks like Facebook.The Feds have computers searching keywords & word & phrase strings 24/7 across the interwebs. They're collecting  our phone calls & text messages, too. Must have that situational awareness & common operating picture. It's not that difficult. I've  retrieved via Wayback Machine lost writing from  webpages I deleted years ago, floating out there in cyberspace.

2011 album collection part 3

Exotica is a relatively recent interest for me, as formerly rare albums have become so easy to find at music blogs. I rarely played it on my radio shows (I did spin jazzy "cocktail" music). Exotica basically comes in two forms, cinematic & lounge; the former mostly imitating movie soundtrack music; the latter a small group style  associated with Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman, vibes or marimbas, & band members sometimes  adding bird calls, that quickly became self-parodying.  Exotic could mean Hawaii, Tahiti, Bali. Africa, Peru, Cuba, the orient, India, some albums making ridiculous claims about authenticity in an era before there was much access to "world music" recordings. Is, say, a Perez Prado mambo record "exotica"? Depends upon the context.

Pagan Festival - An Exotic Love Ritual for Orchestra (1959), composed & conducted by Dominic Frontiere.  Frontiere is  from the lower rank of screen composers; the ones who never composed for a classic film, a high budget epic, or garnered an Oscar nomination. His only two well-known compositions are the themes from "Hang "em High" & the TV show "Outer Limits." He also spent 9 months in jail  for scalping tickets to the 1980 Super Bowl, which he obtained through his then-wife, Los Angeles Rams owner Georgia Frontiere.  Pagan Festival is supposedly an "interpretation of ancient Inca rituals, superstitions, and the romance and mysteries of their colorful civilizations." Sure. Singer Yma Sumac made approximately the same claims for her records. Nevertheless , it's an excellent example of cinematic exotica,  one of the best, wonderfully arranged for  orchestra, percussion, wordless chorus, & a prominent harp. I really like seven of the selections, discovered someone had uploaded four of the other five to You Tube. "Temple of Suicide," "House of Pleasure," "Jaguar God," "Moon Goddess," you can't go wrong with titles like those.

Augie Colon - Sophisticated Savage (1958). Colon was in tiki exotica master Martin Denny's band (this album produced by Denny), & was a legendary nightclub percussionist in Hawaii. The goofy cover shows the proceedings aren't being taken that seriously. Colon has an ace band, the album a tropical, African, Latin, Caribbean hybrid - that is, truly exotica.  Colon's singing reminds me a bit of Desi Arnaz.

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Monday, January 09, 2012

For all the cabs I've taken in Elizabeth, today was first time I had a senior citizen driver.  Gent in his late Sixties I'd guess, friendly, calm, knew exactly where I was going (a section called Bayway) & best way to go there. Didn't get antsy at the really long light at Route One.  Had the sports radio station on, we chatted a little about Tim Tebow. The journey down that way goes through what used to be heavily  Polish & Irish streets, lots of post WWII "Cape Cods" crammed together, sort of an imitation suburbia, those were solid working class areas through the Seventies,  many refinery employees.  Now the small homes are torn down & replaced with  generic  two families over ground floor garages, some with small balconies, just as crappy as the capes - which started falling apart after 25 years anyway.  My appointment there was done about 20 minutes, I called for taxi & got the same guy coming back.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Paterson NJ

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Saturday, January 07, 2012

2011 album collection part 2

Lola Albright, Dreamsville (1959). The name on the jacket is Lola Albright, but the photo is Edie Hart, P.I. Peter Gunn's regular love interest & singer at Mother's, the intimate waterfront club visited by Gunn in nearly every episode. Over on the right, peering at Edie, is Mother herself, played in the first season by Hope Emerson & the second by Minerva Urecal (they looked remarkably similar). This was one sophisticated TV show. At 30 minutes, the plots weren't much; the show was mainly noir atmosphere & attitude. With a band  directed by Henry Mancini (his touch is all over it), & featuring six numbers adapted from the P.G. score (placed together up front on my playlist), Dreamsville  is as much an Edie Hart album as a Lola Albright album, & is one of the five albums fans of the Peter Gunn music must have.* I hadn't even known it existed. It doesn't show up on Mancini discographies, & never occurred to me to search Lola Albright, who clearly was doing her own singing on the show.

Albright/Hart had a pleasant, relaxed voice & sang in the non-ornamented, cool style favored by fifties hipsters. Most people probably think of Julie London, but Jeri Southern & Chet Baker excelled at it. Albright was very good actress & a modestly talented singer portraying a modestly talented singer, one who never over-reached, respected the music, & had a fine relationship with the house band. She received an Emmy nomination.

Henry Mancini, Summer Love (1958).One of the last scores Mancini did as a staff composer at Universal Studios. There, credited & uncredited, he arranged or composed for big band biopics, monster flicks,  silly precursors to '60s beach party movies, & a classic Orson Welles film.  Unlike many other film composers, Hank didn't feel demeaned when called upon to supply something approximating  rock & roll. He used it as an opportunity to have some fun, brought in a honking sax player (usually Plas Johnson), & recorded some instrumental R&B (Here credited to Jimmy Daley and the Ding-a-lings).  The music is bemused with itself, but it doesn't smirk.    Hank also slipped in a couple of nice band numbers pointing toward the music for Peter Gunn & Mr. Lucky that made him rich & famous.  (The "Peter Gunn Theme" itself is an ingenuous composition somewhere between jazz & rock &  roll that became probably the most well-known rock instrumental after "Rumble.") Mancini never knocked his time  at Universal (he received his first Oscar nomination there), considered it an invaluable apprenticeship, & even retrieved some of the monster movie music later on for concert suites. Get past the harmless title song  & you'll be rewarded with entertaining early Mancini compositions,  with the playful little  twists & tricks that became his signature ways  of juicing up a  12 bar blues. Bonus at the end is an early Rod McKuen song composed for Summer Love,  "Calypso Rock,' in which Rod implies the calypso comes not from Trinidad, but  from Cuba.

* Henry Mancini:  Music from Peter Gunn & More Music from Peter Gunn. Shelly Manne and His Men Play Peter Gunn and Shelly Manne and his Men: Son of Gunn! Lola Albright: Dreamsville.

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Friday, January 06, 2012

Three Kings Day

The meaning of their gifts was
the tenderness with which they gave.
They gave their sadness also,
knowing his short life,
yet they traveled so far.

Their hearts were filled in return
with wonder, astonishment, love!
They were more than satisfied.
So they led their camels over the hills
by another way, back to the stars.

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Thursday, January 05, 2012

2011 album collection part 1

A series of blog posts linking to the albums I uploaded during 2011 in their entirety or near-entirety & why.
Matthew Fisher, Journey's End (1973)
I had this on vinyl. One of the most obscure solo albums by an ex-member of major Brit rock group, whose instrumental & vocal contributions to the band's albums were immediately recognizable. The band was Procol Harum. Fisher could've pulled together some kind of "supergroup," so many notable bands were breaking up or shape-shifting in the early-Seventies. He was better known than Emerson, Lake or Palmer when those guys formed their silly but hugely profitable band.

Instead he opted for a personal project. RCA wasn't Warner/Reprise, it didn't have the same kind of promotional heft, & anyway Fisher for whatever reasons didn't form a band & tour the record. I think he could've built a following in America just following Brit organist Brian Auger's Oblivion Express band around into the same clubs & mid-sized venues. The same Anglophile music fans  would've soaked up Fisher's Leslie speaker driven Hammond organ on both the pop & the more artsy numbers like "Theme from Separation." But they would've demanded "Whiter Shade of Pale" as an encore, & at the time Fisher wasn't even receiving royalties from it, which certainly soured any desire to perform it.

Uploading this attracted the attention of Matthew's Jersey-girl wife. So I'm now 2 degrees of separation from one of my early rock "heroes." It took cojones to quit Procol Harum after producing & co-writing one of the most  critically-acclaimed LPs of the Sixties, A Salty Dog.

Booker T. & the MG's, Universal Language (1977, Asylum). Booker T, Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, Willie Hall replacing the late, great Al Jackson Jr. on drums. Willie had less personality but he knew what he was there to do. I fished this record out of bargain bin a year or two after it was released, featured cuts from it relatively often on my WFMU  radio shows. It was a forgotten record. But Booker T & the MG's weren't an album group; they made  great singles like "Hip Hugger"  & "Time is Tight."  I got three or four of their solid  Stax LPs in the cutout bins, too. Reviewed lukewarm if at all when released, Universal Language has aged very well. Booker T uses synths playfully, there's funk & disco influences, all the songs are originals co-written by band, & all offer up a good lick, hook or twist of rhythm.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

They pledge allegiance

Someone shared this graphic on Facebook with the comment:  "As an American, I'm offended that this isn't done everyday in schools."   I thought, "Whoa, wait a minute, that's not true." I didn't  know other state laws, but I did know there's a law in New Jersey  requiring public schools to set aside time for the Pledge recitation, o.k. with me, & another law still on the books, that I don't like, requiring students to recite it. But I don't think the latter law has  been tested in decades & a teacher would be a fool to make a big deal of a student's refusal. I found a site,, with maps showing all state laws as they apply to schools & students.

Eight  states have no laws requiring schools to do  Pledge time, & five give schools the option, sending the choice to the districts.  Most of these states are in the south & midwest. All the rest, including California, Massachusetts & New York, require it at least once each week. Mississippi requires it only once each month. Most states requiring the Pledge are not  footnoted with special provisions, so I suppose they do daily recitations.

 For student participation, the map loosens up. 17 states have no law requiring student participation, Seven require it , including Texas, Jersey & Massachusetts, & the rest make it optional. The opt out laws vary, some requiring note from parent or  guardian.

I'm certain the Pledge now, as in my day, is recited more earnestly in grammar school than in middle or high schools. How it fares in inner city schools is probably up to the teachers, but don't think  the black & Latino teachers in those schools let it slide. Those teachers can be tough cookies &  it's a useful opportunity at the beginning of the school day  to make the younger kids quiet down, stand up straight & show some respect.

The important thing is that the recitation of the Pledge is very much a state's rights matter &  doesn't divide into left & right, blue state & red state.  It's one of the many non-issues that certain kinds of people assume is a problem in America, the implication  being that it's the fault of liberals that the Pledge isn't recited everywhere everyday.  Was it ever?

Monday, January 02, 2012

A former girlfriend, from 15 years ago, has had a rough Christmas. Of all my former "steadies" she's  my favorite, & I'm still quite fond of her. She was a lot younger than me & she eventually married a good guy her own age & they've been happy together for over ten years. But, wow, it was tough letting  go of her at the time. Her husband had some heart problems around Christmas, caught soon enough not to damage his heart. But he had to have stints & is facing some kind of surgery later this week. Fortunately, he came home in the interim. But I know her, she wears her heart on her sleeve, it's probably been emotionally harder on her than on him. So I'm wishing them both well in the New Year.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Asbury Park NJ

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Happy New Year

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"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

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