Yeah, you heard me. Boz Scaggs. And I’m damn proud of it too. I’d never heard of him before this album, and didn’t run out and buy it, but I think I did purchase the cassette on purpose. I wasn’t a major Steve Miller fan, except for “Living in the USA,” which now makes me want a cheeseburger, and I just learned that’s where Scaggs has his roots.
Another entry for my most beautiful songs list is Scaggs’ “We’re All Alone,” but not so much Boz’s version but Rita Coolidge’s, as Coolidge has a purer voice and can easily hit the notes Scaggs strains for. Apparently the song was covered by Frankie Valli of Four Seasons fame (Jersey Boys for you young’uns) as well. I’ve never heard that version, nor do I think I want to. Silk Degrees was far from Boz’s debut album in 1976, but it was the one that we all heard of. In addition to “We’re All Alone,” which ends with a strangely disconnected piano piece that is like skipping through a garden, and “What Can I Say,” in which Boz actually sings the words “sock it to me,” (I guess that’s what he can say), is “Lowdown,” one of the coolest songs ever, along with every song on Rickie Lee Jones’ first album. If this were one of my old record albums, it would have made the workout list. Boz Scaggs is also still out there performing and just celebrated his 70th birthday.
I’d just like to say hello to Brazil.
As mentioned in my last post, I joined the WNEW-FM Fan Club. Members ask do you remember this or that. Right up my alley. Aside from my personal “Jenny said” moment (a la Lou Reed), discovering Lee Michaels and just the sound of Alison Steele’s voice, one of my favorite memories of WNEW was listening to Vin Scelsa on Sunday mornings. But am I memory melding here? Because I can find no reference to Vin, or Bayonne Butch as he referred to himself as having been on in the mornings. I have a distinct recollection of laying on the floor Sunday mornings, could be early afternoons, with the New York Times spread out around me, a cup of coffee, or perhaps tea, by my side and maybe an everything bagel with cream cheese and a slice of tomato. Yes, I bought and read the Sunday Times back then. Oh not all of it. Not even most of it. But more than the magazine section and the two crossword puzzles it offered. And I listened to Vin Scelsa on WNEW-FM. I swear I did. I know I’ve listened to him at night, and on another station, but if there wasn’t a Yankee game on, I was listening to Vin, his music, his views and the rather enjoyable Bayonne Butch Book Report. I still have the kazoo I won, well that everyone who entered the contest Vin held promoting an amusing, tuxedo-clad kazoo band won. First prize was tickets to see them and/or their album, plus a tuxedo and a kazoo. Second prize was the tuxedo and kazoo (you know I really wanted the tux), and third was the kazoo and an awfully swell note from Vin, which I’m sure is still around somewhere.
But mostly, I remember Me and Razoo Kelly, a couple of guys who’d write in weekly and tell Vin of their exploits, the letter always starting with the words “Me and Razoo Kelly.” I remember one time the writer referring to going to Shea Stadium (sorry but I will call it Mets Stadium before I call it Citifield or whatever it is these days), and it taking a fan an hour and a half to reach the foul ball that was hit into the stands. The Mets attendance was so poor then the empty seats became empty sections. The letters were funny, often thought-provoking and just a great way to spend a Sunday morning. But then my research on Vin led me to former WNEW DJ Richard Neer’s book FM: The Rise and Fall of Rock Radio, in which Neer implies that the Me and Razoo Kelly letters were not sent to Vin mysteriously by a couple of anonymous fans, but were an invention of Scelsa’s. “They were also a clever way for the always rebellious Scelsa to cast his cynical eye on the rock scene and say things he couldn’t in his role as disc jockey,” Near writes in his book. While it certainly bursts my bubble now, as I do wonder now and then whatever happened to Me and Razoo Kelly, he fooled me then and I can only thank him for the entertainment, and for the kazoo.
When I started the more in depth research for the recent Mrs. Slick article, beyond what I had looked into for the posts on the two Jefferson Airplane albums in the A to Z exercise to album project, I was surprised to learn that Marty Balin was not just a founding member of the group, he was the founder. Paul Kantner always seemed to be the stronger personality, but it wasn’t him. It was particularly confusing to me as I have this distinct memory from the 1970 movie Gimme Shelter about the Altamont free concert, which was probably better known for the violent atmosphere than for the line-up that included The Jefferson Airplane and of course the Rolling Stones. Someone had the brilliant idea to hire the Hell’s Angels as security. That did not work out well. While the Airplane were playing, fans were getting beaten up and Marty Balin jumped off the stage into the crowd and was slugged by one of the security guards. This is the part that adds to my confusion of who the band’s founder was. Slick, on stage and pissed and/or shaken, says into the mike that they just beat up “my singer.” I’ll say no more, mostly because I don’t wish to discuss that fiasco that caused the death of a fan, any further.
In any case, Balin had the idea, from what I have read, to form a six piece band, five guys, one “girl,” that plays folk music with electric instruments. Looking for band members, Balin first approached Kantner, who came on board, then the rest was assembled. Grace Slick was their second “girl” singer, replacing the original who left the group to start a family. Slick stole the spotlight, but Balin was the leader and wrote most of the songs. I had read that Balin actually didn’t like Slick’s stage antics, nor her voice, and that Jorma Kaukonen didn’t like something or other that Balin was doing. Yes there was tension in the group, yet their voices and styles complemented each other. They were a bunch of wonderful musicians who made some great music there for a while. They started breaking up and Balin left the band and cut an album called Bodacious DF (who remembers the Snuffy Smiff theme song? I’ll start. Ar, ar, ar…) with another group, rejoined Kantner in the Jefferson Starship for a bit, as did Slick, had some hits and left again. Unlike Slick, Balin continues to perform, and Kantner is still with a revamped Airplane.
I recently joined the Facebook group WNEW-FM Fan Club, which is pretty enjoyable. Someone shared a Gibson Guitar article on the Top 50 Guitar Solos of All Time. Missing from it was Jorma’s “Embryonic Journey.” Also missing was Alvin Lee’s “Going Home” solo that was a highlight of the Woodstock movie. And now that I hear it again, Jorma on “We Should Be Together” from Surrealistic Pillow is really swell. But these kind of lists are just annoying. Who says, anyway?
That said, thinking back to all the albums and songs, how many times have I written that a particular song was the most beautiful song I had ever heard? Here is the list as I remember: Roxy Music’s “More Than This,” The Association’s “Cherish,” The Dave Clark Five’s “Because,” the Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin,” and Marty Balin’s “Today” from Surrealistic Pillow. “Comin’ Back to Me” is nothing to sneeze at either, whatever that means. (I don’t have any Chicago albums, but honorable mention goes to “Color My World.”)
Remember my first dilemma when I found that the next album on deck to exercise to was George Carlin’s comedy album AM/FM? I’m reminded of that today as I try to express thanks to Dick Cavett for all he’s done for rock ‘n roll, and what he’s done for me as a rock fan. One of Carlin’s skits is an homage to Ed Sullivan, whom I have mentioned a number of times before for those of you who are too young to rememberT. Sullivan was important to rock ‘n roll, and while he looked like the proverbial stuffed shirt, he knew about the vast world of entertainment. He brought us Elvis and the Beatles and the Stones, and so many other groups that performed on his stage (now the stage on which David Letterman performs, at least until sometime next year) throughout the years he was on. And let’s not forget his role, his acting role in Bye Bye Birdie, in which the song “Hymn for a Sunday Evening” is an ode to him.
In Carlin’s bit called “Ed Sullivan Self Taught,” he talks about the fact that after 23 years on the air, The Ed Sullivan Show was canceled during summer reruns so nobody knew that the last show of that season was the last show ever. Carlin said: “I would’ve liked to have been there just to say ‘Thanks Ed.’ Thanks for all the crazy acts. Thanks for the Beatles…” Ed Sullivan allowed us to see our rock ‘n roll icons perform, as did the late Dick Clark and Johnny Carson, but Dick Cavett allowed us to talk to them, and have them talk to us using Cavett as a conduit. He brought us some of the biggest names in rock ‘n roll at the time, and while he didn’t look like a rocker himself, far from it, he came across as someone genuinely interested in the stories they had to tell. He didn’t just have them on once, have them perform their latest hits and leave, he had conversations many times with the likes of Grace Slick, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and John and Yoko. He listened and so did we. We got into their heads and they were happy to share. And the respect seemed mutual.
I have three specific Dick Cavett Show memories. First, there was the Woodstock show that featured guests The Jefferson Airplane, Joni Mitchell, Stephen Stills and David Crosby (where Graham Nash was, I don’t know), during which Crosby said his astrological sign was Leo and Joni Mitchell remarked that he looked like a lion. Not a monumental memory, but it stuck in my head. There was another time when Jimi Hendrix couldn’t converse because he said he was tired and left. I thought he was just rude, but it turned out he was just very high, and Cavett had him back again for a more lively chat. This is not rock related, but Louise Lasser (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman), who had once been married to Woody Allen, was the guest and brought up that while married to Allen, Cavett would be a frequent dinner guest and he ate so slow that both Lasser and Allen would leave Cavett at the table still eating, and go watch television. I could relate. I too was once an excruciatingly slow eater, and would often find myself out for dinner with friends who would have moved on to dessert while I was still eating my main course. One of my friends had said that I was so thin because by the time I was done eating I was probably already fully digested. Also, going without dessert in favor of finishing my meal didn’t hurt.
Anyway, on behalf of rock ‘n roll fans everywhere, particularly we younger baby boomers, I’d like to say Thank You Dick Cavett. Thanks for the many wonderful conversations, and I loved you in Beetlejuice.
If you remember back in the G’s when I had to exercise to the cast album of the movie version of Gigi, I bemoaned the fact that while I had several albums leftover from the family, I no longer had Bye Bye Birdie. When I was a little girl, my friend Claudia and I had our mothers take us to see the movie many times. We were seven, so many could have been anything more than once. We had such a crush on Bobby Rydell, who played Hugo Peabody, the lusty young Ann-Margaret’s Kim MacAfee’s boyfriend. We looked up Rydell in the Nassau County phonebook and don’t think we found any. Maybe they were all in Suffolk, the next county over. Rydell was a singer, whose skills as a drummer were highlighted in the movie’s best musical number “Got A Lot of Livin To Do,” when he had the chance to bang on a table and sing about being a “ring-a-ding drummer.”
At 72, he still gets out there now and then to perform, and let’s not forget that the famed Rydell High from Grease was named in his honor. This CD contains his hits like “Volare,” the fabulous “Swingin’ School,” and my personal favorite “Wild One.” Oh, and there’s “Sway” (squealing again), and the last number is a duet with Chubby Checker on “Jingle Bell Rock.” As they’re both short CDs, I topped Bobby Rydell off with The Association, and, in keeping with the situation, added Lou Christie’s classic masterpiece “Lightning Strikes” in between, which I think we’ll all know as Lightning is Striking Again (and again and again). And yes, I ponied around the place like I was seven years old again, cha-cha’d too, at least in my mind until my body reminded it that we were decades, generations, half a century even away from that. Darn good sweaty workout tonight though. Oh, and I saw parts of the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks display to the east Friday night, and New Jersey’s counter attack to the west right on the Hudson, and could catch glimpses in the distant background of displays throughout other Jersey towns. It was intense.
Tomorrow would have been my mother’s birthday, and is the birthday of her favorite Beatle. Happy birthday to Ringo Starr.
That’s why this blogging thing is good for me, and I for it, I think. I can take these random thoughts that I start writing stories about, of which I have notebook after notebook, and put them into a series of incredibly short stories, all revolving around a theme. It keeps me focused, it keeps me writing, it keeps me moving, and it makes me feel good. But it’s not enough.
It’s been hot and muggy lately, but I am still exercising through it. And tonight, I may or may not be able to catch a glimpse of the Macy’s fireworks display. I’ve been privileged to have seen some very nice displays where I live (re: the Super Bowl fireworks spectacular that I wrote about in… whenever the Super Bowl was), but the Macy’s display, even though on the Hudson, has been too far north for me to see other than on television. This year however, the display returns to the East River over the Brooklyn Bridge, which I have a sliver of a view from my east-facing window. And Arthur looks like he’s going to behave. I keep my fingers crossed, but am in no way deprived. I do envy those of you having barbecues and family gatherings, but we all can’t have everything, and I am finding myself more and more thankful for what I do have.
Enjoy this very important holiday.