Saturday, January 11, 2014

Saturday morning videos 2

Radio turned to NPR. I listened to a 1986 Fresh Air interview Teri Gross did with Amiri Baraka, the richly talented and controversial writer who died last week. With infectious rapid vocal delivery, he talked about how he wished he was a musician, might have been one, had he not preferred writing. He liked the trumpet lessons he took from a man who wanted him to play Verdi. His heroes were trumpet players. Dizzy Gillespie. Miles Davis.

Music is omnipresent in my life as it was this man's. Part of the fabric. The seamless, unending culture. Up there with oxygen, food, sex, spiritual matters, driving a car, going to work, cleaning the bathtub. It's fitting that I'm writing this early on a Saturday afternoon. When I was a kid, American Bandstand came on at 11:30 a.m., signaling the end of the cartoons. (It would be followed by ABC Wide World of Sports.) I watched "Banstand" a lot at my Grandma Mac's house where I spent a lot of halcyon days in my hometown of Jett, Kan. (pop. 4,000) Around 1980, Grandma got cable TV and I saw Soul Train on WGN.

Funny, Dick Clark and Don Cornelius died in the same year. But music, like the other things of life, goes on. Here are some videos for your Saturday.

I was in a sad mood this morning, thinking about some stuff. This song by this band put me in a happy mood. Only Gram Parsons did decadence melded with poignancy better than the Stones.

I've totally been on a kick for this album, which Jed Beaudoin has been putting in regular rotation on local college radio's "Strange Currency." Wichita State's 89.1 KMUW. The album is a remake of an Everly Brothers album, Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, recorded in the '50s. The songs were traditional country, hillbilly and folk classics then. They go back. I'm glad Phil got to see this before he passed on.

You can never have enough Leonard Nimoy and you can never have enough cheese. Some can never have enough Star Trek or '60s. For Nancy.

"Well, the talkin' leads to touchin' and the touchin' leads to sex and then there is no mystery left." So true. Great lyrics. Great hooks. Never saw any TV show this song was featured on, but I've heard stuff.

My friend Crowson raved about the Big Star documentary, Nothing Can Hurt Me. They came from his hometown of Memphis. Crowson was once Elvis's paperboy.

Here's his band, The Crowsons performing at Watermark Books, doing a song from the classic Rubber Soul album. I love the Beatles. Love the Crowsons.

I picked this video by a local band because there's a trombone player and my son plays trombone.

Jim Nabors recently "made it legal," marrying his long-time partner Stan. Good for them. The other gentlemen in this video, the late Andy Griffith and Don Knotts, weren't gay. This is just what entertainment was then. And it was great entertainment. We won't see it again.

Still sad about the loss of Phil. This song is from the brothers' 1968 album, Roots, one of the first roots and country-rock albums, a classic. A Little Less of Me was originally a hit for Glen Campbell, but the Everlys' version is my favorite. I love the steel guitar. And notice how they sound a lot like the Byrds. When my son heard me listening to this song, he asked me if it was the Beatles. I took advantage of a great teaching moment.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Beers in heaven

It's 5:23 a.m. and I've been sitting here with my coffee, contemplating life and where we all are in the universe. We're pretty small, and yet a single life can cast such vast a shadow. The book of Proverbs says "the memory of the just is blessed: but the memory of the wicked shall rot."

I know this lady, Jimna. She volunteered at the non-profit agency my wife used to run. She's the mother of my friend Adam. "Go to funerals," she's told him since youth. I think I know why she dispensed this advice. She wanted her kids to grow up with respect, but I think she also wanted them to think about life and death. We're all mortal. One day our entire lives will be summed up in one hour. What will they say?

I went to one funeral last week. My friend John's father died. I didn't really know the man, but I'd seen him around for years. John is good people, one of the few guys I know from high school who's worth a shit. As a gesture of respect, I attended his old man's memorial service.

"He wouldn't want everyone to be crying," John said. "He's probably up there, drinking a beer right now, laughing at us."

I think I'm going to remember that guy.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Coffee heresy

It ain't my daddy's church.

My dad grew up on a farm, just outside Lathrap, Kan., (pop. 150) There were three churches in town, the Baptist, Methodist & Disciples of Christ. Each had a membership of approximately 50 people so essentially the whole town was represented in the little congregations.

(There were two beer joints in town.)

Dad was baptized in Old Man  Halbert's pond during a church revival when he was about 8-years-old. Some country preacher, his frock coat wet, dunked Dad in the water and he came up from it, changed.

I would say Dad's definite notions of what church ought to be were formed a long time ago, well before I was ever thought of, when he was of such tender years.

"They put a coffee machine in the front foyer," he said, adding derisively, "They take their coffee into the sanctuary."

For Dad, carrying coffee into church is nothing short of heresy.

"When I was a kid, Dad and Mother wouldn't even let us chew gum in church," he said.

It was a couple of days after Christmas and we sat in the den by the Christmas tree where my kids had just opened their presents. The light was drawing dim outside the window, the clean, sweet view of Country Club Lane descending for the evening.

Dad and my step-mom, Marcie, always in the loop, filled us in on all the intrigue, the backroom machinations that accompany church politics, how a faction who thought they owned the place wanted the preacher gone and got what they wanted. He resigned. It's not as if he slept with a woman who isn't his wife or something. Just a nice group of people showing the fruits of their spirits.

"When I was a kid, it was an honor to have the preacher over for dinner," Dad said, adding that people just don't do that anymore.


Not that the preacher has escaped Dad's critiques. Why did he have to put that center row of chairs in the sanctuary? Why even have chairs at all.

"It was a lot more comfortable with pews," Dad said.

"Especially if they're pure wood and no cushions, huh Dad?" I asked.

Then there's that modern church music. A worship and praise leader wearing flannel and skinny jeans, tattoos, thin-cut beard, looking like a mix of Rob Bell and early Elvis Costello as he strums his acoustic guitar. The rock band kicks in from behind as he sings, "And heaven meets earth when an unforeseen kiss..."

Not Dad's thing.

Dad spent his high school years with rockabilly. Elvis Presley and the Blue Moon Boys. Carl Perkins. Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two. That hillbilly blues music that sprang  in large part from gospel. But you didn't find songs about a whole lotta shakin' going on in church. For Dad and my grandparents, now departed, it was "Abide With Me," "It is Well With My Soul," "The Uncloudy Day." Stuff like that.

"Oh G.G., what do you care?" Marcie said. "You don't even sing."

"That doesn't matter," he said. And at that moment, I found some commonality with the old man. It was a matter of principle for him. It's like I'm always telling my wife, Maria. Something may not affect me personally, but I weigh in because it's the "principle of the thing."

"Can you tell he doesn't like change?" Marcie asked us, then addressed Dad again. "G.G., you're showing your age."

I was sprawled over the beige carpet with my daughter Gabby as she perused Pinterest on her Android tablet, my son, Max, on the couch beside Maria playing his DS.

"Kids, Grandpa is describing the 1940's," I told Max and Gabby. "Kind of like how Dad goes on about the '70s. We had vinyl records and eight-tracks, watched 'Underdog' and 'The Grape Ape' on Saturday mornings, danced disco in PE class, drank Tang like the astronauts."

My hometown had 4,000 people and I could ride my bike all over town. Ten-thousand people now, traffic lights, the ever present possibility of child abductors.

I don't know what to think. Maybe Dad was right. Perhaps those cup holders where we stick our lattes at church are an abomination.  But I'll be damned if they don't help somebody get saved.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Lovin, touchin, squeezin

I was driving ol' Bessie down the highway over the damn river and my friend McGill says people down there are happy to give.

Weekday mornings with the Breakfast Club. Jen Hansen & Rod Eric Tyler, resident Beatles fan, with the morning Wichita commute over KNZT-Classic Rock. You know, that station where they play the Eagles every 30 minutes every day, which seems to get so longer?

But not so much during the morning drive with the Breakfast Club and their discussion topics? "What slang terms do you hate?" "Was my boyfriend right in mooning my obnoxious uncle at the dinner table?" (Christ, you can't even moon someone anymore.) "Have you ever had a paranormal experience? " As I drove to work that day, I listened to callers weigh in on -

What is the best song to make love to?

People called in with suggestions. Many good, some bad. A fellow said he and his wife have a special song, "Just Between You & Me" by April Wine. I gotta' say, not a bad choice for an '80s song. If someone picked "Open Arms" by Journey and I'd have to drive over and kill them.

People came up with some fine and interesting choices. Miles Davis's Kind of Blue album. Smart. Mystical and abstract. "Maybe I'm Amazed" by Paul McCartney &Wings. Passionate number, I can see it. One smart aleck fellow called in. "My wife and I used to have fun with a little 'Afternoon Delight.'"

A-a-a-a-af-afternoon delight. One of those train collisions of polite rock with pop. Camp and so bad it's good, but I could no more make love to that song than Louie CK could have sex without his shirt on. I love spinning the 45 on my turntable and having a laugh with the family, but sex? Sure it's about a daylight quickie, but I associate the song more with what I thought it was about when I was a child back in the '70s. Fireworks. "Afternoon Delight." Sounds like something Ron Burgandy would make love to.

"Linger" by the Cranberries. Is that song really 20 years old? Bullshit. Was I not put here to live and love like I'm perpetually twentysomething? I was in Dr. Williamson and Dr. Iorio's HISTORICAL and THEORETICAL ISSUES in COMMUNICATION(Sorry to shout, but it's the only way to say that class's name) at Wichita State University's Elliott School of Communication. A few youngsters in the second row - a mixed chorus of males and females - broke extemporaneously into song. "Do you have to, do you have to let it linger?"

Sweet as that little Irish lass. Her vocals, all I remember. And the cut-off jeans shorts. Skin so long and brown. She wanted to be on the nightly news and I could've watched the detectives with her 'cuz I had such heart. Oh, oh, long and brown. Oh to hit it like Jesse James.

Paper companies and sex

I shared the Breakfast Club topic of the day with my co-workers as I was apt to do at the coffee maker and water cooler, both stationed awkwardly by the one-holed male and female toilets. There was my friend, Braxton, a 45-year-old divorced single dad and ladies man. (I was 35 at the time and sort of looked up to Braxton.) One of Braxton's lady friends was a 60-year-old woman.

"Best song to make love to?" he said, repeating my question. "How 'bout 'After the Lovin' by Engelbert Humperdinck" I think I'm starting to understand that 60-year-old woman thing, I thought to myself.

I just had to hear Dwight's choice.

"Goddammit Halpert! You will rue the day!"

"Guess he found that KY jelly smeared over the handle and receiver of his phone," Jim said and retreated to his cubicle, whistling some tune. Or maybe he just went to talk to Pam at reception.

"Girl U Want. Devo," Dwight responded adamantly when Braxton asked him what the perfect lovemaking song was.

I was reluctant to ask Margie. She was a woman, she was my boss, I was new at the company and I'd had the life scared out of me watching that sexual harassment video during orientation with human resources. A woman about the size of Camryn Manheim from the ABC '90s legal drama, "The Practice" kept saying (in an un-Oscar-worthy monotone voice) things like, "Oh I wanna rub you in baby oil" to the scrawny man at the breakroom table.

Braxton, at 6-foot-two and 230 pounds, has a lot more derring-do than me and he simply asked Margie what she thought the best song to make love to was.

"Hmmmm, how 'bout that old country song. (She started singing.) 'He stopped loving her today.'"

Having sex to a song about a man who died. I love George Jones and Margie is a  nice gal, but damn, she's weird.

My courage awakened like a morning tent, I suggested what I thought might be theee song - "Chevy Van," a 1975 hit for Sammy Johns. A guy is driving along, gives a girl a ride in his wagon. They made love in his Chevy van and he'll never saw her again.

and that's all right with me

"Come on," I said. "That song encapsulates everything the '70s were about."

By the time I got home that evening I'd changed my mind for about the third or fourth time. "I've got it," I told my wife, Maria. "The ultimate song - 'Whole Lotta Love' by Led Zeppelin."

"That's not a lovemaking song. That's a fucking song," she said.


She was brown and I was pretty green. The first time I heard songs like "I'm a King Bee" by groups like the Rolling Stones and Animals on the King Biscuit Flower Hour via classic rock radio KNZT, I had no idea what such songs were about. Didn't know the bee buzzin' round your hive might be what my English teacher Mrs. H called a metaphor.

well we can make honey baby, let me come inside

If there was ever a style of music made for lovemaking, it's the blues. For a people relegated to the back of the societal bus, here lies freedom - of body and mind. Black sexuality. Everything the plantation owners, Jim Crow dixiecrats and their modern heirs like Newt Gingrich are afraid of.

I'm young and able to buzz all night long
I'm young and able to buzz all night long
When you hear me buzzin' baby, 
some stingin's goin' on

Let the good times roll. It's been the title of several blues and rock songs. I'm thinking of Shirley and Lee's song. The lyrics straddled the opaque line between rock n' roll as a slang for mattress spring knockin' and a beat you danced to on Bandstand. Listen to the lyrics.

Come on baby, just close the door
Come on baby, let's rock some more
Come on baby, let the good times roll,
roll all night long...

Feels so good
when you're home
come on baby, rock me all night long

Thirty years before Slim Harpo sang about buzzin' round your hive for Chicago's Chess Records, thirty-some years before Shirley and Lee sang about rock'n all night long, beautiful black independent women sang about what they wanted and how they wanted it. In her 1922 recording of  "My Man Rocks Me (with One Steady Roll)," Trixie Smith's wasn't singing about getting rocked to sleep.

A big brawny black woman out of Chatanooga, Tenn., a confident and two-fisted daughter of a Baptist minister of the gospel sang about being wild about that thing and getting some sugar in her bowl."Empty Bed Blues" by Bessie Smith is a bona fide classic, not only of blues, but of music - a song you and your lover can get down low to.

Bought me a coffee grinder that's the best one I could find 
Oh he can grind my coffee 'cause he had a brand new grind

And when she sings, He's a deep sea diver with a stroke that can't go wrong, you know where she's going.

The ultimate lovemaking song? It's too elusive. Is there one song or is it all just music? Is it not appropriate that we would meld music - the food of life- with the very act that perpetuates life. Music is about life and life is about being born, eating, shitting, screwing and dying.

However, I think I've found out. The ultimate song to knock your boots off to. I have found it. Here.

The American Way of Dying

                                              "Vehicle" -- The Ides of March My Nissan sitting in the parking lot of Fairview...