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friday random ten, 1962 edition

1. Booker T. and the MGs, "Green Onions."

2. Ray Charles, "I Can't Stop Loving You." What was left for Charles to conquer, in 1962? Among the albums he'd made at that point in his career were such titles as Soul Brothers, Genius + Soul = Jazz, The Genius Sings the Blues, and Do the Twist with Ray Charles. Next? Two volumes of Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, the first volume of which hit #1 on the pop charts. This song made it to #1 on the Adult Contemporary, Black, and Pop Singles charts. By the end of the year, he had three #1 singles and a #1 album.

3. Billy Vaughn, "A Swingin' Safari." This instrumental, in a version by composer Bert Kaempfert, was the theme song for the original version of The Match Game. Aging baby boomers who want to reminisce about a time when that game show hadn't yet discovered sex are directed to the video link for this one. Fans of Mariska Hargitay's mom might want to check it out as well.

4. Jimmy Reed, "Oh John." Just Jimmy Reed was an interesting album because it featured "live in the studio" ambience. Reed was a delightfully popular bluesman who, it must be said, was also among the simplest bluesmen from a musical standpoint ... the Ramones of the blues. "Oh John" is one of Reed's finest recordings, because, as the in-studio conversation demonstrates, Reed could write a song on the spot ... and it sounded exactly like a Jimmy Reed song. Someone, presumably the producer, asks Jimmy what song he wants to do next. The immortal reply from Reed? "You name 'em, I play 'em." The producer continues, asking Jimmy to play anything that's on his mind. Reed sees "John" in the studio, and starts improvising. "Oh John, look at you sitting in that corner... Oh John, I know they call ya Big Bad John."

5. Patsy Cline, "She's Got You."

6. Arthur Alexander, "Anna." People know about Ray Charles and country music ... Alexander was an unsung pioneer at blending country and soul. His songs were covered by the Stones and, in this case, by the Beatles.

7. Odetta, "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."

8. Frank Ifield, "I Remember You." I really loved this record when I was a kid, for no clear reason I can think of.

9. The Crystals, "He's a Rebel." Gene Pitney wrote a song and Phil Spector got his hands on it. He thought it would make a good record for the Crystals, but that group was on the road, and Spector was in a hurry. So he got the Blossoms, who usually worked as backup singers, to cut the track, with the group's Darlene Love on lead vocals. Spector then put the record out under the name of the Crystals. Confused yet? You wouldn't be far off if you just put the names of Darlene and the Blossoms on most everything Spector did in those days.

10. Bob Dylan, "Freight Train Blues." Perhaps because it only features two original songs, Dylan's debut is underrated. I think it's more listenable than any of his other first four albums. He's having a blast with this track. The video is from a Bob Dylan Imitators contest:


Neal and I had lunch at Juan's today, and El Jefe was there, up from Mexico. He usually seems to come around every year or two for a month or so, but this time, they told us he'd been mugged and had some health problems and he might stick around a bit ... well, he's also 84 years old. We went over and paid our respects after eating ... I told him we'd been coming pretty much as long as he'd been open back in the 70s, and pointed to Neal, saying we used to bring him when he was a baby in a stroller.

I act like I'm a hermit who doesn't care about his neighborhood, but there's a reason we've been going to Juan's for more than 30 years. Sure, the food is solid, but it's also the place we go where, to coin a phrase, everybody knows your name. As rarely as we actually cook at our house, Juan's is probably the closest we come to home cookin', pretty funny considering Robin's a Midwest gal and I'm half-suburban Cali, half-Spanish. Linguica's still #1 for comfort food, but chowing down at Juan's is a close second, and it's amazing and a little scary to realize I'm older now than Juan was when he opened his Place.


Inspired by Tomás, I thought I'd offer up a remembrance of a night at the Oakland Coliseum ... I can't believe I've never written of it here, but a quick search says no, so I'll go for it.

Back in 1991, Ric Flair moved to what was then still called the WWF. Flair, probably the greatest pro rassler of all time (despite the fact that he only had about four moves), was the top choice of the wrestling cult fans, while Hulk Hogan, the WWF champ at the time, was the #1 guy with the more casual fans ... in those days, as is still true, most people knew who Hulk Hogan was, he was a national pop culture hero. Flair, who like most rasslers switched back and forth during his career between good guy and bad guy, was always better as a heel, and he didn't really need good-guy ("face") status, because his fans rooted for him whether or not he was "good." His coming to the WWF was a very big deal in the wrestling world, even though Flair was already in his 40s.

Obviously, Flair vs. Hogan was going to get a big marketing push, and their first-ever match came in Oakland at a "house show" (i.e. one that wasn't televised). Flair had been the champ in his previous federation, WCW, when he came to the WWF, and there was a dispute over the championship belt, which Flair kept even after he left WCW. Meanwhile, Hogan was the WWF champ at the time and the Oakland match (as, I'm sure, all of their matches during that tour) was billed as a battle of champions, as well as an actual WWF championship matchup. The match's plot was simple: after some extended brawling that had both men in front, Flair cheated his way to a victory, in the process winning the WWF championship. Since wrestling championships very rarely change hands in a non-TV bout, you expected something would happen, and indeed it did, as a WWF official came out, explained to the ref that Flair had cheated, and declared Hogan the winner. If you feel like watching 15 minutes or so of early-90s WWF action, here's a match from later in 1991, after Hogan had lost his title to the Undertaker, which follows the same basic plot:

What made this all worthy of a blog post was the crowd. I have no idea what it was like in other parts of the country, although I suspect that Flair played well in the South where he'd been centered for so long, while Hogan was the man everywhere else. But in the Bay Area, Ric Flair and WCW had a hardcore fan base, and so the crowd at the Coliseum that night was split pretty much 50/50 between families with little Hulkamaniacs in tow, and Ric Flair fans ready to root on their favorite. It's worth noting that, at least to my eye, there was a fairly substantial racial breakdown to this split, with Flair having most of the African-American fans on his side. They all had their old Ric Flair posters and stuff, and they kept waving four fingers in the air (Flair being part of the Four Horsemen in his WCW days). Oh, and they all went "WOOOOOO!" on a regular basis, that being the Nature Boy's most popular catchphrase.

The result, in our section if nowhere else, was funny and ugly at the same time. You had these kids shouting WOOOOOO and waving the fingers and getting in people's faces ... in a fun sort of way, it must be added, that's what you do at rassling shows ... and then you had these Hulkamaniac tykes and their parents, none of whom seemed to know who Ric Flair was. The best/worst was this guy, I don't know, he was in his 40s I guess, who loved Hogan, hated Flair, and hated Flair's followers as well. He was a truly vile man ... he'd shout out "FUCK RIC FLAIR!" and "RIC FLAIR'S A FAGGOT!", and at one point I said hey man, there's kids here, which isn't something I'd usually worry about, but this guy was too much even for me. He made this terrible face and gave me another "FUCK RIC FLAIR!" Meanwhile, the Flair fans were laughing at him and holding up four fingers in his face.

Ah, the memories. You can imagine how bat-shit crazy the Flair supporters went when he "won" the title (yes, that includes me). Then we had to put up with the payback from the Hulkster's crowd once the decision was overturned. Didn't matter ... like cult fans in every endeavor, we knew our guy was the best, no matter who was more popular or owned the title.

Years later, after Flair had returned to WCW, Vince McMahon bought the company, leading to this, Flair's final promo for WCW:

the proverbial shot of adrenaline

Except it wasn't proverbial, it was real. I was filled out a meme over on Facebook, listing random stuff about myself, and one of the things I mentioned was that once, when I was a kid, I was given a shot of adrenaline by the doctor.

I got allergy shots when I was a kid, three times a week. I'd go in and get the shot, and then I'd have to wait around a few minutes to make sure I didn't have "a reaction" to the stuff. I was never told what constituted "a reaction," and I went years without a hitch, so the sticking around part was always boring. I don't know if my memory is correct, but I feel like I was told they would gradually increase the dose in the allergy shot, doing so slowly to help my body adapt to the increasing levels. One day, the increase broke the camel's back.

Soon after my shot, I was sitting in the waiting room (or waiting in the sitting room ... what's all this brouhaha?) and I started sneezing. I mean like every three or four seconds. I went up to the front desk and asked for some kleenex ... the receptionist supplied me with plenty, I went back to sneezing like crazy, and after ten or so minutes, I left the doctor's office, still sneezing but blissfully unaware of what was happening ... as was the receptionist, apparently. Looking back, I wonder why I had to stick around after each shot, if when I finally got "a reaction," they didn't recognize it. As I walked home, I stopped at Foster's Freeze and got a frosty cone, sneezing all the while. I ate the cone as I finished my walk, and when I got home, my mom wondered why I was sneezing so much. Something got her attention, she had me remove my shirt, and my body was covered with hives ... it didn't look like I had a thousand hives, it looked like I had one big hive, because my chest was a solid color, the color of the hives. I didn't know the phrase for it ... I called it "a reaction" like I'd heard so many times at the doctor's ... but the phrase was "anaphylactic shock," and that's where I was.

My mom called my dad at work, he came home and got me and took me back to the doctor's, and they kinda freaked out, but they got right to work. I was pretty scared, but for the wrong reason ... I thought they would take an x-ray and somehow figure out I'd eaten a cone at Foster's and I'd get in trouble from my mom for that. They took me and my dad into a room and prepared to give me another shot. I remember my dad asking if it was another allergy shot, and the doctor replying no, another one of those would kill me. He was, in fact, preparing a shot of adrenaline. He told me I might get a headache, and he advised that I lay down. I didn't understand the need to lay down ... I got shots all the time ... so I just sat there, and he injected me.


Suffice to say, I lay down. Immediately. And yes, I got a headache ... a king-hell of a headache. Immediately. I felt like barfing, although I don't recall that I actually hurled. The hives went away, my life was saved.

So nowadays, when I'm watching something like 24, and they revive someone via a shot of adrenaline, I know how that person feels. There are plenty of drugs where, once you're no longer sick, the drugs are fun to take for recreational purposes ... opiates come to mind. I'm here to say that I don't feel the need to re-experience the rush of adrenaline.

what i watched last week

Milk (Gus Van Sant, 2008). More traditional, in a biopic kind of way, than I was expecting. Still, it was a good biopic, and Sean Penn really is amazing. As I mentioned elsewhere, one thing that surprised me was the absence of Jonestown ... you could argue that such an inclusion would have strayed off topic, but for myself and, I suspect, for many others, Jonestown and the Milk/Moscone/White tragedies are connected forever. 8 Oscar nominations, #153 on the TSPDT 21st Century's Most Acclaimed list.

Jimi Hendrix: Live at Woodstock (Chris HegedusErez Laufer). Not really a movie, this is just all of the stuff from which the makers of Woodstock chose a few tracks. The visuals are nothing to write home about, even in Blu-ray, so you're left with a good concert album. But I already have the CD.

Man on Wire (James Marsh, 2008). For all of the audacity offered up by wire-walking Philippe Petit, I wasn't truly drawn in to his remarkable work during most of this movie. His feat was amazing, his story interesting, the presentation (a documentary done like a heist film) intriguing, but I was ready to say "good movie" and move on. Perhaps it's because I couldn't connect entirely with Petit, who accomplishes something on a level most of us can only dream about. No, what finally sucked me in was near the end, as Petit is performing his walk between the towers, and two of his friends, reminiscing about watching him seeming to float in the air, break into tears. Even thirty years later, their memory of Petit's walk overwhelms them. That's when I connected at last, because I'll never be Philippe Petit, but I'm a very good audience. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Feature Documentary, #196 on the TSPDT 21st Century Most Acclaimed list.

friday random ten, 1961 edition

1. Lee Dorsey, "Ya Ya." I'm not sure this is even double entendre. Single, or maybe triple.

2. Bobby Lewis, "Tossin' and Turnin'." Memory is a tricky thing ... you'll think about some old baseball player, remember that he played for your favorite team forever when you were a kid, then you look it up and he was only with them for a year and a half. I feel like I heard "I couldn't sleep at ALLLLL last night" a thousand times a day in the summer of 1961, when I was 8 years old. This time, I may be remembering correctly ... it was #1 for seven weeks, and was the #1 song of the entire year.

3. Ricky Nelson, "Travelin' Man." You should probably click on the video link, since some have argued it is the first music video.

4. Ben E. King, "Spanish Harlem." This lovely song, King's first solo hit, was written by Jerry Leiber and ... Phil Spector.

5. Patsy Cline, "Crazy." Written by Willie Nelson, recorded soon after Cline was in a serious auto accident, so serious it was hard for her to hit the high notes in the song because it hurt her ribs.

6. Ray Charles, "Hit the Road, Jack." Wikipedia claims this song was a tribute to On the Road. Never heard that one before.

7. Elvis Presley, "Little Sister." The video has the King doing a "Little Sister/Get Back" medley, and how often do you get to hear Elvis singing the Beatles?

8. Dion, "Runaround Sue." Getting back to memory playing tricks, I can remember reading something long ago ... can't remember who wrote this ... the idea was that this song represents Dion giving himself over to his female audience, because while in "The Wanderer" he bragged about being the guy who got around, in "Runaround Sue" it was the girl making him the loser. Made a certain amount of sense, but maybe I remember it wrong, because "Runaround Sue" was released before "The Wanderer."

9. The Tokens, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." There are enough fascinating stories to be told about this song that you could fill a book (Rian Malan wrote a longish essay, "In the Jungle") ... or at least a feature-length movie, which is what François Verster did. Wikipedia gets most of the facts, but I've always been partial to Dave Marsh's version, from The Heart of Rock and Soul, placing the Tokens' record within the context of the Folk Revival movement: "It's fitting, therefore, that the folk revival's best hit was "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," the most musically exciting record of the genre for reasons that have everything to do with its inauthenticity and vulgarity" (218).

10. Roy Orbison, "Running Scared." This isn't really a very hard trivia question, but there is a person who appears in three of the ten video links in this week's edition of the Random Ten.

[edited to add Spotify playlist]

lost season premiere

As with Big Love and The L Word, so with Lost: "It looks like more of the same, which is good news if you like the show, and if you don't like it, you aren't watching it anyway." It's not exactly more of the same ... the time-travel stuff is kinda new ... but the basic notion, that you confuse viewers until they're rabid with desire to be confused some more, is as it always was. It looks like this will be a good season, and the only reason I personally don't put Lost at the top of my list is that I think it's mostly insubstantial. When an episode is over, viewers spend the week rewatching, looking for clues, trying to figure it out, and that's a lot of fun, as is the show itself. But that's all there is ... Lost has nothing to do with anything but Lost. Something like Battlestar Galactica has puzzles to be considered and narrative to advance, but if you try to decide what it is about, well, it's about religion and politics and personal honor and the meaning of being human and all sorts of other stuff. Lost is about Lost. Pretty good show, though.

out of c-o-n control

Twenty-five years ago today, I saw The Clash for the last time. This was the "faux" Clash, after they'd fired Mick Jones and replaced him with two young lads who together didn't equal one Mick.

Los Lobos opened the show. This was before La Bamba, before their first full-length major-label album. The amazing Internet tells me they opened with "I Got to Let You Know" and closed with "Why Do You Do?" Malcolm McLaren, of all people, then took the stage, offering up "Buffalo Gals" and others. Finally, on came Joe and Paul and the other guys they'd brought with them. Joel Selvin was there:

With the rest of the band dressed in black, Strummer looked especially resplendent in his bright red sport coat and white trousers. He certainly did his part, rolling around on the stage, thrashing upside down on his back, his kicking legs the only part of his body visible above the surging mass in front of the stage....

In introducing ["Police and Thieves"], Strummer delivered one of his trademark tirades on culture and the folk process in popular music. "This is punk meets reggae," he explained, "not white reggae. We add some of our own culture to it, so this is no ripoff. I'm talking to you Sting," he shouted, referring to the vocalist-songwriter for the Police, whose work has sometimes been accused of misappropriating Jamaican rhythmic ideas.

What's a Clash Concert without a few polemics? It helps lend a little of the delicious flavor of an anti-war rally to the proceedings and underlines the band's commitment to political struggle and rock-scene infighting. "We do have a culture," Strummer informed the crowd, "and I'm quite sure it's not Van Halen."

Strummer was one of the greatest of live performers, and I saw The Clash several times. As a concert, this was the worst of the lot ... I doubt I would have attended if I hadn't been asked to by a friend of a friend. But Strummer was at the peak of his powers. He knew this wasn't the "real" Clash, that the new guys weren't quite up to the job, that he had to win the crowd over in ways that weren't necessary in previous times. So he busted his ass, trying to will the show into being worthy of The Clash. Honestly, I think he succeeded.

this concludes our broadcast day

When I was a kid, television stations went off the air during the middle of the night, and many of them closed off the evening by playing a video of the Star Spangled Banner. Seems like an appropriate thing to do on this momentous day. Marvin Gaye's great version seems to have taken hold for many people as the greatest of them all, and it's terrific, to be sure. But Marvin could be singing anything ... well, he was Marvin Gaye, he pretty much COULD sing anything ... the beauty comes from his performance, not so much from his interpretation of the song, at least to my ears. This remains the favorite of the old hippie inside of me, because it isn't just a performance, but also an interpretation.