Tuesday, January 20, 2015

If you were a baseball fan in the 1960s you might remember two characters, Dick Stuart and Marv Throneberry. Both were the subject of endless arguments about who was the worst first baseman in the major leagues. Stuart, who played for the Mets and Pirates was called "Old Stonefingers." During one game, a piece of paper blew onto Forbes Field. He bent down and picked it up and received a standing ovation from the crowd. He didn't understand until a teammate said to him, "It was the first thing you picked up all day."

As for Throneberry, I was once at a game where Roger Craig was on the mound, and he had two guys picked off first by a mile, and both times Throneberry dropped the ball. The story goes after one game, there was a birthday party in the clubhouse and Marv (known ironically as "Marvelous Marv") complained that he didn't get any cake. Casey Stengel said to him, "We were going to give you a piece, Marv, but we was afraid you'd drop it."

This afternoon, I was just reading an interview with Brandon Bostick, the backup tight end who helped blow the game for Green Bay yesterday when he dropped an onside kick that my mother could have caught with her eyes closed. Fact is, Stuart, Throneberry and Bostick were/are all talented athletes, capable of being awful. Isn't it the same for music? Writers, musicians who are a hundred times more talented than I could ever hope to be, still put out stuff like "Seasons in the Sun" or "Catfish" (an abomination for which Dylan actually had a co-writer, Jacques Levy).

Why do bad songs happen to good people? I was thinking about that recently after watching a few snippets of "City Slickers" and thinking that it was a pretty funny movie, but Billy Crystals's career in terms of quality went into the dumper pretty quickly after that. Why? I'm thinking that after the success of "City Slickers" Billy Crystal started producing his own films and was such a big star, there wasn't anyone who could say, "No, Billy, a comedy with Gheorge Muresan doesn't work." Everybody, including the Bard, needs an editor. I listened to a couple of cuts of Dylan's upcoming Sinatra album, and it made me wonder whether there's anyone who can say no to him. My guess is there isn't. (Bob, if you need someone I'm available, drop me a line here).

It's not just a problem with music or movies. I mean John McCain picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate. FDR sent thousands of decent Americans to concentration camps, and hell, Richard Nixon's entire political career was predicated on the fact that one ever said no to anything he ever did or said. Just today, I saw that Jane Fonda finally acknowledged that posing for a photo in which she is pretending to shoot down an American plane, might not have been the wisest thing to do. If only, she had someone next to her, saying, "No, Jane, how about just a picture of you eating noodles?" On the other hand, I had a friend who was a Vietnam Vet who was active in the antiwar movement during the early 1970s. One night Fonda spent the night at their protest site and went to bed wearing a shorty, completely see-through nightgown. You can bet he was glad no one was there to say no to her that night!

What does all of this have with today's post? Nothing, whatsoever. Why? Because there's no one to say no to me. If there is a perfect illustration of what happens when some desperately needs an editor but doesn't have one, this post is it.

I just wanted to get a few things off my chest before I got to the real business of the day: it's Tuesday, a traditional day for noting some new music floating around that might be worth listening to. Below, however, is not a lot of "new" music — since I don't have an editor, I don't have to stick to the topic at hand, but the songs below represent some of my great tunes and albums that I have found while poking around the web the last few months. Nearly all of them are from albums that are excellent, and while they might not be the most challenging of music, what they do have in common, at least to my ears, is that they are all the kinds of songs that drill into your head. Feel free to disagree but if at all possible, let's keep it above the belt.

So without further ado, in no particular order are a few of this year's finds:

"Salvation Town" by Jonny Two Bags (normally of Social Distortion) was probably my favorite album of the year. I wouldn't know the one song to play from this fantastic record, so here are two: "One Foot in the Gutter" and "Wayward Cain".

First time subway announcements have ever been sampled on a song, at least that I can remember. This is a bit of NYC funk by a band called Mad Manoush from their album, "Train to New Orleans". The song is appropriately entitled "NYC."

Paul Heaton was the lead singer and songwriter in one of my favorite bands, "The Beautiful South." I also loved his songs when he was in "The Housemartins." Here he is now as a duet with Jacqui Abbott, getting on Sting's ass with this haunting tune, "Advice to Daughters." The first time I heard this I had to listen to it twice more:

I challenge you to sit still through this romp by Jethro Burns and Don Stiernberg:

An oldie but goodie from a very underrated soul singer, Shirley Ellis who was a lot more than "The Name Game."

Reigning Sound is a terrific band from Memphis. They backup Mary Weiss on her solo record a few years ago, but their own albums are terrific. Their latest, "Shattered," is no exception. My favorite song on the album is this one, "Once More":

I'm sorry, but this is now my state, and this song, Oregon, by Oh Susanna captures Portland wonderfully:

While we wait for the next Fountains of Wayne album, we can pretend with "The Sun Never Sets Around Here" by The Electric Soft Parade's from their album, "Idiots."

He's not the world's greatest vocalist, but I don't think Benmont Tench embarrassed himself with his solo record "You Should Be So Lucky." Here's "Blonde Girl Blue Dress."

The Claudettes are two musicians who make a big sound with just a piano and drum kit. This a live recording but typical, from their album "Infernal Piano Plot...Hatched."

The first time my wife heard this song by Bart Davenport, she asked me, "Is he really singing "Fuck Fame"? Yup. It's true too. I love the little people but sometimes they can be trying:

I'll finish with this. I've been seriously ill for much of the past year, and this song when I heard it the first time nearly finished me. This is from Jesse Winchester's posthumous album. Much of the music on it is a lot of fun. This one got to me, much as he did to everyone in the audience on the Elvis Costello program a few years ago. If you've never seen it pull out a handkerchief and watch. Keep it in your lap for this song, "Just So Much."


buzzbabyjesus said...

I'm busy listening to the new King Crimson big band album. It's a lot of fun. It took 3 drummers to replace Bill Bruford and the ghost of Jamie Muir.

Elroy said...

I think another Dick Stuart nickname was "Dr. Strangelove"!

Thanks for the post.

Ken D said...

Having a lot of work today, I'm going to have to put off checking out the tunes until later. Some unfamiliar stuff in there that look very interesting. Meanwhile, a couple of things re your posted thoughts:
Those of us in Red Sox Nation also endured a couple of years of Dick Stuart at first. He was known popularly as "Dr. Strangeglove." But he sure could hit...
And correct me if I'm wrong but I was under the impression that Sarah Palin was forced on John McCain, or at the very least he had to be convinced picking her was a good strategic move. Throughout their campaign, he regarded her, quite rightly as it turned out, as a total lightweight.

Still, very good post for someone working without an editor!

jeff said...

Yes, dr. Strangeglove was another, certainly one of baseball's greatest nicknames. As for McCain, I think he liked to think she was forced on him but ultimately it was his choice.

rick said...

You faked left then went right: I thought you were about to give us a list of bad songs by good artists. I'd like to see your take on that, too. Good post, thanks. . .

A walk in the woods said...

I haven't had a chance to check out the links to the songs yet, but I will. Other than the Jesse Winchester tune, which is... wow. Great call poining that one out.

But regarding the concept of "everyone needs an editor," I think that is a fantastic comment. It came up once when a friend and I were musing, why does Hall suck without Oates, and vice versa? Why were Lennon & McCartney usually better together? And so on. Well... we all need that editor, who will help guide the ship back to shore if it's off track. Someone who will occasionally say "No" or "Stop!" can be good.

Elroy said...

Sorry, I meant "Dr. Strangeglove"!


Well done Jeff -- a pretty cool collection of songs.


cmealha said...

Are you sure that The Electric Soft Parade are not Fountains of Wayne ?

Maria said...

Attacks on Palin are irrational, usually by people that don't know a thing about politics.
She's what we all SAY we want in a politician: bipartisan (she took on her own party), results-oriented (she balanced the budget, took on big oil), and completely clean of scandal (THOUSANDS of emails hacked and not one thing close to a scandal).

There were over 12 lawsuits piling up against her - and not one of them stuck. That's why she quit. She could have stayed on and beat them, but the fake lawsuits were bleeding the state of money and keeping her from her job.

And, to say she's "stupid" is against all true evidence. It only proves you listen to fake mantras by her frightened opponents.

Get a grip.

William Repsher said...

Re: Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott. I just picked up that CD via Amazon. Always on import these days with anything Beautiful South related. It's like they no longer exist in America. I also got Paul Heaton Presents the 8th, since getting both was like ordering any $13.00 or so CD ... used to be you'd go over $20.00 for any type of import found in stores over here.

I recall seeing The BS, early 2000's, at Roseland, supporting the Painting It Red album, I think their only other American tour dates were Boston and DC. I felt like the only American there. Overwhelmingly British ex-pat crowd, most drunk beyond belief, baying out the lyrics to each song. I never quite got that, used to have the same experience at Kinks concerts in the 80's. Some artists ... it makes no sense to boorishly shout their lyrics like they were f'n Slade or something. Baying out lyrics to "Shangri La" or "Bell Bottom Tear"? I didn't get it!

jeff said...

Thanks for the kind words, folks. William, I hope you like the Paul Heaton CD. I've been listening to the Housemartins lately and really enjoying them. Cmealha, I checked the ESP web site, I think they're different people but who know?

And Maria, one suggestion: before you put the word "stupid" in quotes when citing someone, check first to make sure they used the word "stupid." Know what I mean? Otherwise, people start questioning your accuracy, and your comments are so right on that that would be a shame. But no more talking politics for me! I'm way over my head. Thanks for straightening me out.