Driving home from the hospital, where my dad is spending Christmas weekend, I watched the city start to shut down for Christmas Eve.
As 5 p.m. arrived, last-minute shoppers lingered at Shopko, their cars clustered near the entrance. Last-minute diners lingered at McDonald’s, but its sign was off. Taco Bell had gone dark. The “Open” sign was still on at Subway, but it looked like they, too, were just about out the door.
So it is on Christmas Eve, the one night of the year when, well, all is calm.
Then you hear Irma Thomas’ voice piercing the quiet in the best possible way.
Nine years ago, my friend Rob in Pennsylvania called this “goosebump-inducing stuff.”
It’s out of print, but you can find the original 7-inch single (Continental CR 1001) on eBay for $10 or less. I found my copy three years ago, when my friend Jim threw open his garage door and sold some of his records.
(This is the sleeve for that 45. You could have bought it for 25 cents if you also bought a carton of Kent, True, Newport or Old Gold cigarettes.)
There’s no music. Just “Little Satchmo Armstrong talkin’ to all the kids,” reading Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem in a warm, gravelly voice.
“But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, ‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night. A very good night.’
“And that goes for Satchmo, too. (Laughs softly.) Thank you.”
It was the last thing he ever recorded. Satchmo died the following July.
Taelor, the daughter of a musician and a drummer herself, loved the Beatles.
Todd played a cut from “Magical Mystery Tour” for Taelor at last night’s Record Night. That takes place at a local establishment that Taelor would not have been old enough to have been in. Well done, sir.
Never imagined yesterday morning that when I tweeted my two cents’ worth about the J. Geils Band’s prospects for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that I would wind up discussing it with a gent who knows a bit about rock and roll and fame.
I would like to go to Cleveland and visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame someday. My friend Larry was there this summer. Judging from Larry’s pictures, it looked like the Hall of Fame had a bunch of fun stuff.
I’ve never been particularly interested in who’s in …
That said, of the 19 nominees for the Class of 2017, I’d vote for the Electric Light Orchestra, Chic, Janet Jackson, Joe Tex and the MC5 before I’d vote for the J. Geils Band.
… nor outraged at who’s not …
That said, Harry Nilsson, Pat Benatar, Peter Frampton and Warren Zevon are not in. Def Leppard, Yes, the Guess Who and the Moody Blues are not in. Just the tip of the iceberg. So many more are worthy as well.
Now for that brief discussion with Mr. Des Barres, who has been rocking and rolling since the earliest ’70s and whom I listen to weekday mornings on Little Steven’s Underground Garage on Sirius XM.
I’m still not sure the J. Geils Band merits enshrinement, even though I once wrote a fan’s guide to all 14 of their studio and live albums, which I have.
The J. Geils Band was a tremendous live band. They fortified their act by rescuing vintage soul, R&B and blues singles from obscurity and introducing them to new, younger audiences over the first half of a 15-year recording career that started in 1970. Those energetic covers have seemingly better stood the test of time than the original songs by Peter Wolf and Seth Justman that dominated the second half of that run.
In other words … “First I Look At The Purse,” “Lookin’ For A Love” and “(Ain’t Nothin’ But A) House Party” > “Love Stinks,” “Centerfold” and “Freeze-Frame.”
That said, I do wish them well and certainly would applaud their election.
Our son’s news arrived via Facebook earlier this week, among some items billed as “exciting things to announce …”
“I auditioned for and was invited to take the next step in joining the fine folks at ComedyCity.”
That was pretty exciting, especially for his old Pops, the comedy nerd.
I’ve been a student of comedy ever since staying up late and watching Johnny Carson’s monologues with my dad in the late ’60s and early ’70s. My irreverent yet dry sense of humor was shaped by Carson, Carlin, Pryor and Python, with generous servings of Mad and National Lampoon. Long ago, my friend Hose once wondered whether I’d ever considered doing standup. Ah, no.
The only problem for me, the comedy nerd, was that I’d already read much of it in Kliph’s wonderful interviews with old-time comedians on his blog, Classic Television Showbiz.
Anyhow, now there is another student of comedy in the family.
Evan, now 21, is working with our local improv comedy troupe. Several of his friends are already among its performers. Not sure when Evan will take the stage with them, but when he does, we’ll be there.
However, his old Pops, the comedy nerd, will have to keep his head full of comedy knowledge to himself. Evan will learn improv comedy the way ComedyCity wants him to learn it, which is the way it must be.
But should he ask, his old Pops will dive deep, past Carson and Carlin, past Pryor and Python.
You’ve never heard of Victor Buono, his old Pops will say, but you should hear him. He used to wedge himself into the chair next to Carson, wield an elegant cadence and slay him with comic poetry like this …
That really isn’t advice for you, though feel free to take it if so inclined.
It’s a reminder for me to do a better job of thinking through which shows to pop for, and why.
As this summer began, I had tickets for a Joan Jett/Lynyrd Skynyrd double bill at a big outdoor festival in July and a KISS show at the arena across town in August. Sounded great at first. Turned out differently.
I’d seen Joan Jett twice before. Each time, she was the headliner in a small venue. This time, she was the opening act at that outdoor festival. Different vibe. That’s her, somewhere on that tiny stage just to the left of center in the photo above. Those were my sight lines. You get the idea.
Given that, and the realization that this Skynyrd show would not be better than two I’d already seen — Leon Wilkeson and Billy Powell were still alive and performing then — I left after Jett’s show and before Skynyrd took the stage.
A month later, when it turned out that we were leaving for a trip at 4 a.m. on the morning after the KISS show, I started rethinking that one, too.
As with Skynyrd, I came to the realization that this KISS show would not be better than the one I saw 16 years ago, when all four original members were part of the, ahem, KISS Farewell Tour.
So I sold my ticket to a friend, who gave it to another friend, which is the best part of this story. The guy who wound up with the ticket is a huge KISS fan who had never seen KISS. By all accounts, he had a great time at the show. Which is cool. Which makes me feel better about it all.
Maybe it’s just karma. After all, this vaguely lost summer followed a tremendous spring in which we saw Bruce Springsteen, the Smithereens, Martha Davis and the Motels, Pat Benatar, David Lindley, the Alan Parsons Live Project and the James Hunter Six. Save for Benatar and Lindley, we’d never seen any of them.
When I did see Lindley for that second time, he played the one song I wanted to hear. A song he didn’t play the first time we saw him.
After seeing Lindley in 2013, we eagerly got tickets to see him when he came around again last year. But we wound up moving my dad into assisted living that weekend, and we wound up eating those tickets. Perhaps getting to hear “Mercury Blues” this time was karma, too? Who knows?
The first major overstep apparently was Ronald Reagan’s use of “Born in the U.S.A.” in 1984, to which Bruce Springsteen objected.
Donald Trump has offended the Rolling Stones and Queen and Neil Young and R.E.M. and Paul Rodgers and Earth, Wind & Fire.
Other repeat offenders: John McCain offended Van Halen, John Cougar Mellencamp, Heart, Jackson Browne, Bon Jovi, Foo Fighters, Tom Petty and ABBA. George W. Bush offended Mellencamp, Petty and the band Orleans.
The members of Survivor pounce when someone uses “Eye of the Tiger” without permission. They’ve sued, or threatened to sue, Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich and Kim Davis and Mitt Romney, among others, for doing so.
Special mention to two Wisconsin politicians. Paul Ryan offended Rage Against the Machine, saying he was a fan. Now that is quite an odd couple. Scott Walker offended the Dropkick Murphys. Join the club, fellas.
Man, seeing this, I still can’t believe Alice Cooper wasn’t elected in 1972.
Which reminds me. My friend Timebomb Tom said “this Warren Zevon album cover makes me want to re-visit the Zevon-faked-his-own-death-and-really-is-Bernie-Sanders theory.”
Wish Zevon was still here to help us sort through the lawyers, guns and money.
Finally, our strongest endorsement …
My friend Larry Grogan dropped “Testify,” a powerful take on the issues of the day, over at his mighty Funky 16 Corners blog last week. Read his post. Listen to the mix. Register to vote. Larry says:
Brothers and Sisters … the time has come …
There’s a little more than three months until Americans head to the polls and make the decision that will determine how (or whether) this country moves forward.
This mix gathers together black artists from the worlds of soul, funk, gospel and rock, with songs that were created in response to oppression and racism (here in the U.S., Jamaica, the UK and Apartheid-era South Africa), crying out for an end to both and many of them asking not for separation, but for recognition, unity and progress.
RT @yokoono: Have the courage and strength to be yourself.
Because there is no other choice.
Do you have a choice of being somebody else? 1 day ago
Saw Demme's "Stop Making Sense" at @MajesticMadison theater. Sign in ticket window said "This film is played at concert volume." It was. 1 day ago
RIP, Jonathan Demme. My fave 3 Demme films: "Stop Making Sense," "Melvin and Howard," "Married to the Mob" ... 1 day ago
About the music
These are mp3s from my collection, taken from vinyl whenever possible. Enjoy. They are intended to encourage you to get out to the music stores, real or virtual, or out to support live music.
If you hold the copyright to something posted here, and you don't want it posted, please e-mail me at jeffash at new dot rr dot com and I'll remove it. Then again, who else is exposing your music to a new audience today?
About the words
The text is copyright 2007-2017, Jeff Ash. Text from other sources, when excerpted, is credited.