Friday, December 31, 2010

So Fresh, So Clean

Here's a New Year's grooming tip from your friends at Debris Slide: In her autobiography, Foxy: My Life in Three Acts, Pam Grier - star of such cinematic landmarks as Black Mama, White Mama and Scream Blacula Scream - writes about how she used to date Kareem Abdul-Jabbar back in the early Seventies. As a very busy professional athlete, Kareem used to take five showers a day, according to Sheba Baby. Pam says that she loved the fact that Kareem smelled and felt so clean, despite the fact that it was his professional obligation to get sweaty.

You're probably taking one shower a day, maybe two, and you're thinking, "Hey, I'm whisper clean! What good would five showers a day do me?" But then again, you haven't bagged the likes of Pam Grier, have you?

Happy New Year!

This one's for all the Swedes in the extended Debris Slide family. Represent, Goteborg!

I always think they're going to sing: "Happy New Year/Happy New Year/May we all/Have a... beer!" Because that would rhyme, right?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sometimes, the Apple Falls Several Miles From the Tree

Keith Richards' father - the same man whose ashes his son purportedly snorted - was an Eagle Scout.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, Baby

One of the plot points of the horribly contrived and overrated film Love, Actually, which takes place around Christmas, is that British people are pointlessly fascinated by which song is at Number One on the pop charts at Christmas. Here in the United States, no one much cares, because we're not listening to a whole lot of pop music this time of year, and even if we are, it tends to be holiday-themed music anyway. It would make more sense to be concerned about which song was Number One on the Fourth of July, because everyone's listening to Top Forty radio as they drive to the beach.

So the list of songs that took the Number One spots on the American charts is pretty paltry. In the interest of brevity (and because no one really cares about this), I'm going to list only the songs from what Casey Kasem used to call the Rock Era (which for my purposes is 1955-2000) that were at Number One on charts that came out on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, and for the record, the official chart date falls on a Saturday.

1955: "Autumn Leaves," by Roger Williams
1960: "Are You Lonesome To-night?, [sic]" by Elvis Presley
1965: "Over and Over," by the Dave Clark Five
1966: "Good Vibrations," the Beach Boys
1971: "Brand New Key," by Melanie
1976: "Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright)," by Rod Stewart
1977: "How Deep Is Your Love," by the Bee Gees
1988: "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," by Poison
1993: "Hero," by Mariah Carey
1994: "Here Comes the Hotstepper," by Ini Kamoze
1999: "Smooth," by Santana featuring Rob Thomas

Not much of a list, is it? The one good thing about "Here Comes the Hotstepper" is that my son Mark used to sing the line following the title as something about a "leprechaun gangster." It's nice to see the Beach Boys getting some Christmas love, but I prefer to imagine a family driving off to Midnight Mass in 1971, and being infused with the spirit of Melanie, allowing that she'd done all right for a girl.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Merry Christmas, 500 Years From Now

Jack's entry in a contest to show people celebrating Christmas in the future:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Saw a White Ladder All Covered With Water

Presented for no other reason than I was interested in compiling the list, here is the complete rundown (I think) of all the covers of Bob Dylan songs that have made it to the Top Forty:

"Blowin' in the Wind," by Peter Paul and Mary: Entered the chart in July 1963, peaked at Number Two

"Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right," by Peter Paul and Mary: September 1963, Number Nine

"Mr. Tambourine Man," by the Byrds: June 1965, Number One (This would be the only Number One record written by Bob Dylan, although Dylan did sing on the Number One "We Are the World," from 1985.)

"All I Really Want to Do," by Cher: August 1965, Number 15

"It Ain't Me Babe," by the Turtles: August 1965, Number Eight

"All I Really Want to Do," by the Byrds: August 1965, Number 40 (These last two songs entered the Top Forty the same week, giving Dylan a total of three covers on the charts at one time, two of them "All I Really Want to Do." 'Highway 61 Revisited' came out at the end of that month.)

"Blowin' in the Wind," by Stevie Wonder: July 1966, Number Nine (It entered the charts the day after Dylan's motorcycle accident in Woodstock.)

"My Back Pages," by the Byrds: April 1967, Number 30

"Too Much of Nothing," by Peter, Paul and Mary: December 1967, Number 35

"The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo)," by Manfred Mann: March 1968, Number 10

"All Along the Watchtower," by Jimi Hendrix: September 1968, Number 20

"She Belongs to Me," by Rick Nelson: January 1970, Number 33

"If Not for You," by Olivia Newton-John: July 1971, Number 25

Note: Guns n' Roses' cover of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," from 1991, went to Number Two in the U.K., and Number Two on the American Mainstream Rock charts, but didn't even reach the Hot 100.

Monday, December 13, 2010

An the Man

The chorus to Van Morrison's 1972 hit "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)" is actually sung thusly:

I'm in henny one
I'm in helly one
I'm in henny one
When you smile

I don't believe Van pronounces the letter V at any point in this song.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Last Dance

Yesterday, I mentioned that John Lennon's appearance with Elton John in 1974 was his last performance on the concert stage, but it wasn't Lennon's last public performance. That came the following April, when he did a couple of songs for a British TV tribute to Sir Lew Grade. He rips up a version of Little Richard's "Slippin' and Slidin," which had also appeared on Lennon's Rock 'n' Roll album, and sings "Imagine" while playing guitar rather than piano, which I found odd. The lyrics have been updated to: "Imagine no possessions/I wonder if we can," as opposed to the more strident "if you can." Lennon also chews gum throughout.

Here's the first number he did, "Slippin' and Slidin'." "Imagine" has had embedding disabled, but you can see him do it here. Or you can watch the whole performance, uninterrupted, here.

All of this brings up the question: Lew Grade? Lennon parceled out his solo performances pretty carefully, so why would he choose to do this one, in front of a decidedly upper-crusty, "rattle your jewelry" type crowd?

Grade was a TV mogul in Great Britain, the producer of such series as The Saint, The Prisoner and Thunderbirds. His primary relationship with John Lennon seemed to be as a business adversary: Grade bought a huge chunk of Northern Songs, Lennon and McCartney's publishing vehicle, from its owner Dick James in 1969. This gave Grade roughly a third of the company, and the Beatles roughly a third; after a semi-public battle, Grade managed to acquire enough from other shareholders to give him more than half of the company, and control of Northern Songs.

The result was that the Beatles at that point owned 31 percent of their own songs. Knowing they had lost authority over the catalogue, and that they were about to break up anyway, Lennon and McCartney agreed to sell their shares of Northern Songs to Grade's company, ATV. Some sources report that they received a million and a half pounds apiece, although they may have also gotten some shares of ATV as well.

At any case, by 1975, Lennon apparently saw Grade as more of a colleague than a rival - although neither of the songs he did at Grade's tribute was controlled by Northern. I doubt that was coincidental.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

All Those Years Ago

At this time tomorrow, John Lennon will have been dead for thirty years. Howard Cosell famously announced his death on Monday Night Football (not to me, though - I heard about it while listening to WRNO, We're da Rock a New Orleans), but it wasn't Cosell's first bit of business with Lennon. Six years earlier, almost to the day, in Los Angeles, Lennon had stopped by the booth a la Oscar and Felix, and submitted to some surprisingly good questioning from Cosell, although he refers to John's old band as "the original Beatles," as if other bands had begun using that name. For the record, the game was between the Redskins and the Rams. The Redskins won, 23-17.

This would have been at the tail end of Lennon's Lost Weekend. A week and a half earlier, he had appeared onstage with Elton John at Madison Square Garden in New York City, where Lennon had been reunited with Yoko Ono. (That would, of course, be his last-ever concert appearance.) No wonder he was in a good mood; he was even feeling charitable toward the Beatles, and toward "Yesterday" in particular, which didn't happen all that often.

Hard to believe he's been gone all these years, isn't it? For anyone who grew up listening to him, he was a unique and unmistakable voice, equal parts challenging and reassuring. We'll never see his likes again, and we'll never forget him. We'll never forget Lennon, either.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Simple Twist of Fate

What I would like long distance information to give me is the name of the song: According to the Chess box set I have, it's called "Memphis, Tennessee," but some Chuck Berry sets give the title as "Memphis." Johnny Rivers' 1964 version was called "Memphis," although Billboard notes that it was "first recorded by Chuck Berry in 1959 as 'Memphis, Tennessee.'" When Elvis Presley recorded it, he called it "Memphis, Tennessee." I have three different versions of this song on my iTunes, and iTunes styles it differently for each one: Chuck Berry's is given as "Memphis Tennessee [no comma]," Johnny Rivers' as "Memphis," and the Beatles' (from The Beatles at the BBC) as "Memphis, Tennessee."

Of course, no one would care if it weren't such a great song. What really cinches it is the twist ending: The lyrics are strong and detailed all the way through, but the last two lines completely recast their meaning. They make you want to go back and listen to the song over again, and isn't that really the aim of every pop song?

It got me thinking about other songs that have a twist ending, of which there aren't that many. There are plenty of songs where the twist comes in at the chorus, like the Temptations' "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)." But how many drop the hammer at the end? Jim Stafford's "My Girl Bill" does that, as well as, arguably, "We Gotta Got You a Woman" by Todd Rundgren's Runt. More than that I cannot add.

But I'm sure I'm missing some. Any others?