Friday, January 18, 2008

I wasn't always this jaded thing you see before you. There was a time, so long ago, when I could be charmed by razzmatazz. I was young once, and doo-wacka-doo hadn't done a doggone thing to me. Before I even had a ukulele, I would get down a tennis racket and pretend to strum along with a record I got out of the library, an Lp by hometown gents The Goodtime Washboard Three. I noticed it was on Berkeley's Fantasy Records label, known home to cultural icons Lenny Bruce, Vince Guaraldi, and Korla Pandit. When finally I got my hands on a ukulele I couldn't wait to learn the chords to play their erstwhile local radio sensation, "Oakland."

"Where did all those people go
When Frisco burned?
They all went to Oakland
And never returned..."

Oakland magazine has a nice little write up about the song, and the Three, and how it all came to be. The writer points out that appropriately enough it is no solemn civic anthem, but something along the lines of "fight - fight - fight!" There's even a link to an mp3 of the song (not the original recording).

If you learn it, too, we can sing it at Berkeley Ukulele Club!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

My high school avatar of cool
R. S. Eisenberg at his latter day workbench

Friday, January 11, 2008

I checked in with one of my favorite music blogs today. "Music You (Possibly) Won't Hear Anyplace Else" has been a reliable source of lost and forgotten music, recovered and restored by hand, and presented with an earnest appreciation for the music itself. Lee Hartsfeld of Ohio is the man who does all the work, and in appreciation for that work I do now salute him, as I have done before in these pages.

Numerous other sites on the 'net have processed and posted their audio finds. WFMU's Beware Of The Blog holds days on end of listenable artifacts of our culture, but the hipper-than-thou commentary that goes with it makes me queasy. I've been depressed by the general lack of appreciation there for anything that does not rock. To me it evinces a naive terror of becoming a square, of risking one's reputation as a hip person, a fate awaiting anyone who fails to die young. An hour clicking links at BOTB is like hanging out with a clever, talkative guy who's been collecting rock records and wearing the same leather jacket since his twenties. (Here I really ought to explain that three of my favorite people meet that description head on. I love them.)

Pulling up examples of what can be thought of as other people's mistakes may be entertaining for a few minutes of distraction, when you're stealing 'net time from the boss; that specific demographic can only have contributed to the success of WFMU's blog. Having taken the time to look over a hundred plus entries, I'm struck by how often the entry seems motivated by irresistible urge to stick it to anything resembling the man. (Steve Allen's late eighties touring contract, including fresh fruit requirements and instructions on caring for his hairpiece? Irresistible, perhaps; admirable, perhaps not.)

Don't get me wrong. I understand entirely the urge to disempower the oppressive forces of one's own mind. If the Brady Bunch theme has an evil hold on your consciousness, by all means, cast it out, with extreme prejudice. These people bust their hump to prepare and present stuff they think is dumb. "Can we agree this is not cool?" It gets my goat, because a whole lot of stuff they post just to piss on there, I hold close to my heart.

Lee Hartsfeld shares my beef with the spirit of BOTB, and unlike me (known the world over to run from any fight), has had the stones to write to them about it, earning only their scorn, prompting the administrators there to block some of his comments. I think he's been most offended by the editorial assumption that all those visiting the blog would agree that any religious expression is misguided at best. The things they've said about Little Marcy!

Lee recently posted a batch of sides including a cover of John Lennon's "Imagine," sung by Andy Williams. He shared a couple of sincere and contentious opinions about the recording: that the lyric was not as deep as its fans have held, and that Williams' voice was "better" than that of the songwriter.

One visitor, commenting on his entry, must have presumed Lee's motive was to hold Williams, a hopeless square, up to ridicule (as would happen routinely at BOTB); subsequently he seemed blindsided by Lee's spirited defense of and genuine appreciation for the singing of Andy Williams. His rejoinder was a sputtering paraphrase of "how am I going to get laid if anyone sees me hanging out with you, Uncle Elmer?"

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

John Turturro wrote and directed a big crude singalong musical of blue collar New Jersey and somehow I missed it. I saw a couple of other clips a few weeks back on youtube, a funny song and dance with Kate Winslet, but when I saw this one today I put "Romance And Cigarettes" at the front of the Netflix queue. I can't wait to see the rest of this movie. Dreamgirls it obviously ain't.

I have had the chance to hang with some old world blue collar cats, bruisers and freight men, and their capacity to fall apart in the arms of song has made an indelible impression on me. The assumption that these guys are too tough to be soft hearted does them no service. In this clip, I wait for the shot of the welder pushing his visor up and extending his blowtorch as he sings.

Turturro's master stroke at the end of this clip is what to do after a big heartache song and dance. The shirt pocket pat.