Saturday, August 28, 2010

Top Ten Names Bestowed Upon Twins by Classic Rock Fans

10. Jack and Diane
9. Desmond and Molly
8. Frankie Lee and Judas Priest
7. Crazy Janie and Her Mission Man
6. Weird and Gilly
5. Lotte Lenya and Lucy Brown
4. Venus and Mars
3. Number Forty-Seven and Number Three
2. Frankie and Johnny
1. Candy and Ronnie

Friday, August 27, 2010


I've been on Twitter for a while now, and have not found a whole lot of use for it, either as a Twitterer or as a receiver of Tweets, except for the freshet of work that comes from the inestimable Roger Ebert. But recently someone I follow retweeted a line from Conan O'Brien, and it occurred to me exactly what this technology was invented for: comedians. Steven Wright could do his entire act in 140-character bursts.

So I went around and dug up a bunch of comics to add to my Twitter feed. Here's some of the stuff I've found:

Conan O'Brien I found a huge design flaw in my new iPhone. People get angry when I talk on it during a funeral.

Sarah Silverman I will be polite and respectful to the homeless & mentally insane until the day I am murdered.

Craig Ferguson Fell off slide at amusement park in VT. Minor injuries. This must be how Fabio felt after being hit by a goose. Current mood- neosprorriny

Andy Richter Getting divorced sounds awful. Except for that part where you get your own apartment.

Andy Borowitz Trapped Miners Speak: 'At Least We're Not Stuck in a Jennifer Aniston Movie'

I'd love to add more to my feed, but some of the other people I looked for just didn't work out. For instance:

Steve Martin: On Twitter since last August. Six total tweets.
Chris Rock: On Twitter since March 2007. Two total tweets.
Steven Wright: On Twitter since June 2007. Five total tweets.
Bill Maher: On Twitter; only tweets about his upcoming schedule or self-righteous platitudes like Mosque near Ground Zero?Sure, but don't kid yourself that any religion is ever about diversity or tolerance. "Interfaith weddings"also dumb. Never tweets funny.
Emo Phillips: Not on Twitter.
David Cross: Not on Twitter.
Zack Galifianakis: Not on Twitter.

Come on, guys! You're missing out on a chance to amuse me!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Banjo Hitter

Everybody knows how Woody Guthrie had "This Machine Kills Fascists" inscribed on his guitar, right? Well, Pete Seeger had something similar written on his banjo. Pete - who's still with us, by the way, at the age of 91 - wrote: "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

'Hanky Panky' Pt. 2: Married to the Mob

By the time "Hanky Panky" unexpectedly became a huge hit in Pittsburgh in the summer of 1965, a year after it had been recorded, the original Shondells had gone their separate ways. On his own, Tommy James decided to go to New York City with his manager and try to land a major-label deal on the basis of that regional hit, which they felt could go national. So they delivered copies to all the major labels and made appointments to drop by their offices. Roulette Records was unable to see them on the day they made their rounds, but when Tommy got back to his hotel room at the end of the day, there was a message: He was signing with Roulette.

As Tommy later learned, Roulette head Morris Levy liked "Hanky Panky," and his label hadn't had a hit in a while, so he called the heads of the other label and told them to lay off, that he wanted this kid. Now, "Hanky Panky" is a lot of fun, but it hardly signals the arrival of a transformative talent, so I don't get the sense that the other labels were too put off by Levy's request. But they also knew that it wasn't a good idea to get in Morris Levy's way when he wanted something.

You have to understand: Morris Levy wasn't connected to the Mob. Morris Levy was the Mob. In his book Me, the Mob and the Music, Tommy James tells of going to Levy's office the day after he had dropped off his record, and being escorted into a meeting with Levy and his team. Halfway through, a couple of Levy's burly associates showed up and asked if they could brief the boss in private. They stepped into the hallway, but not so far away that Tommy couldn't hear what they were discussing: how the two large dudes had administered a physical admonishment to some schnook out in New Jersey who had been bootlegging Roulette records.

Then Levy returned to the office with the two men and introduced them to his new signing, Tommy James. As Tommy says in his book: "Wonderful, I thought while we all shook hands. What am I supposed to say now? How did your beating go?"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

'Hanky Panky' Pt. 1: Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head

Even though "Hanky Panky" came with the shiny provenance of having been written by certified legendary hitmakers Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, Tommy James had no idea of the song's lineage when he picked it up for his Shondells. He had heard another band, the Spinners, do the song at a club in Tommy's hometown of Niles, Michigan, and had seen it get a huge crowd response, so he decided his own band should play the song as well. He asked one of the Spinners if they had written it, but the Spinner said he didn't know who wrote it; they too had picked it up from another band.

Eventually, with some help from his pals at a local record store, Tommy was able to look up the single in the huge bound volumes that were the of their day. He traced the song back to the B-side of a single called "That Boy John" by the Raindrops. (One reason it was so obscure was that the promotional push for the record ended after That President John was assassinated late in 1963.) The Raindrops were Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich.

But when the Shondells went to record the song, Tommy realized that the only words he knew were "My baby does the hanky panky." He had to make up the rest. At this point, probably the only person who knows the real lyrics to "Hanky Panky" is Ellie Greenwich, and she's dead.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Streetlights, People, Joysticks

I found the following tidbit in the February 1983 issue of Games magazine:

Rock 'n' roll meets video software, and the result is Journey's Escape, an Atari VCS-compatible cartridge featuring the band Journey. Players lead five computer-animated rockers from concert stage to escape [sic] vehicle, dodging groupies, photographers, promoters and police barricades to the accompaniment of Journey hits like "Escape" [ed. note.: "Escape" was never a single, much less a hit] and "Don't Stop Believing." ... Says Robert Rice, Data Age vice president of marketing, "The youth of America know exactly what they want. Today it's video games and rock 'n' roll."

The tenor of the article suggests that Journey is the first-ever band to be accorded its own video game, making them the true progenitors of Beatles Rock Band. One can only imagine the fights that ensued in America's living rooms over who got to be Jonathan Cain.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rhyme Doesn't Pay

In "Born in the U.S.A.," Bruce Springsteen manages in the space of a single verse to cram together four lines that almost but don't quite rhyme:

Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hands
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill the yellow man

Come on, Bruce. Couldn't they have put a rifle in your hand? Or sent you off to foreign lands? Try a little harder next time.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Taking From 'The Taking of Pelham One Two Three'

As part of my devotion to seeing every movie set in early-1970s scuzzy New York, I recently caught up with 1974's The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, which features four bandits hijacking a subway train just south of the 28th St. station on the 4-5-6 line. It's the rare film in which New York City's now-defunct Transit Police (including Jerry Stiller as a transit detective!) get to be the heroes. For all I know, it's the only film with the transit cops as the heroes.

One of those bandits is Hector Elizondo, who was only 37 at the time, so I figured this might be a rare chance to see him with hair. Hector wears a hat for nearly the entire running time of the movie, but when he finally takes it off near the end, you can see that he went to his barber and asked for the Gavin MacLeod.

Elizondo plays a character referred to only as Mr. Grey; his fellow hijackers are Mr. Brown, Mr. Blue and Mr. Green. Hey, just like Reservoir Dogs! I swear, if I watch enough scuzzy movies from the 1970s, eventually I'm going to come across someone having a conversation about a Royale With Cheese.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tom's Latest Post

I've been trying to collect songs in which the singer refers to himself (or his group) (or herself, or her group) in the third person. This seemed a bit more common in the Sixties, when vocalists were allowed to cut loose in the studio a bit more than in, say, the overproduced Eighties. And there have always been idiosyncratic artists like Jonathan Richman who do this kind of thing all the time.

But I have three solid examples of well-known songs in mind:

* "Matchbox," by the Beatles: "If you don't want Ringo's peaches, honey, don't mess around my tree."

* "I Was Made to Love Her," by Stevie Wonder: "I was made to please her, you know Stevie ain't gonna leave her."

* "Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In," by the Fifth Dimension: In the long outro, Billy Davis Jr. (I presume) ad libs, "You've got to sing along with the Fifth Dimension."

I assume I'm missing a bunch of these. Any other ideas?