If social media are any indication, all the cool kids — including my friends Norb and Brian — are in Madison this weekend.
The Wizard World Comic Con Madison is going on next door to what we used to call the Dane County Coliseum, an aging hockey barn that has also has seen some fairly remarkable rock shows.
Brian rode with William Shatner in a hotel shuttle last night and saw Edward James Olmos and Lou Ferrigno at breakfast this morning. Name dropper.
But Norb saw the Batmobile today. “I think it’s just a replica,” he said.
This is as close as I’m going to get to the Batmobile this weekend.
This Batmobile sits on my desk, just behind my Mac. It is, of course, one of the coolest cars from a childhood filled with cool cars.
Adam West, the guy who sat behind the wheel of the real Batmobile, was to have been at Comic Con Madison this weekend, but he canceled because of what was said to be a scheduling conflict.
I have long wanted to meet Adam West. But I’m not into autographs or selfies — I don’t need proof of such a meeting — so paying upwards of $50 extra just to shake his hand and say thanks seems pointless. It might have been enough just to see him from a distance.
There’s always hope for a random meeting. We once rode in an elevator with Sam Kinison, so anything’s possible.
But I suspect my chances of meeting Adam West are about as slim as another entry on my bucket list.
I would love to have lunch with Paul McCartney. Vegan, of course. No pictures, no autographs, just a couple of guys shooting the breeze.
Here’s another mashup of ’60s icons, one of whom had another cool car, the Monkeemobile.
As Dolenz tells it, John Lennon invited him to listen to his song — “Hey Monkee Man. Want to hear what we’re working on?” — as it was being recorded at EMI Studios in London in February 1967. A year later, a bit of this Beatles song was heard at the beginning of the final episode of “The Monkees,” one co-written and directed by Dolenz.
“I don’t remember how it happened, but I somehow managed to get the rights to play this song,” Dolenz says in the “Remember” liner notes. “To my knowledge, it is the first time that The Beatles let one of their songs be used in such a manner.”
Here’s that episode: “The Frodis Caper,” or “Mijacogeo,” from March 25, 1968. That’s an unknown Tim Buckley at the end, doing an acoustic version of “Song To The Siren,” which hadn’t been released at the time.
It was late 1969, when I was 12, that I really started listening to music. That year, I got a Panasonic AM-FM radio for Christmas. This model, though this is not my radio. I still have mine. It still works, even though the antenna long ago was bent, then broken off.
I put it atop the filing cabinet where I kept my baseball, football and basketball cards and tuned it to 920 AM — WOKY, the Mighty 92 out of Milwaukee. WOKY was one of the big Top 40 stations of the day.
When it came to this time of year in 1970, I heard a song that blew me away. This song.
I had no idea there was that kind of Christmas music — pop, rock, R&B and soul versions of Christmas songs, all played only at a certain time of year. I once was passionate about that kind of Christmas music. Now, not so much.
Today’s tunes are the ones I dug first. I still dig them. It wouldn’t be Christmas without them.
Let’s say a new record came out today. All four Beatles are on that record. That would be a big deal, wouldn’t it?
Let’s say some of their pals are on that new record. You might have heard of them. Klaus Voormann and Billy Preston and Harry Nilsson and Marc Bolin and Nicky Hopkins. The Band, too. That would be quite a big deal, wouldn’t it?
But when that new record came out 40 years ago this month, some lamented it for what it was not, rather than celebrating for what it was.
What it was not, was a new Beatles record. As 1973 came to a close, fans clung to the hope that such a thing might still be possible.
What it was, was this.
“Ringo,” the third solo LP by Beatles drummer Ringo Starr with a little help from his friends, holds up quite nicely all these years later.
It rose to No. 2 on the Billboard album chart, driven by three hit singles: “Photograph,” which Ringo wrote with George Harrison; “Oh My My,” a Ringo original; and “You’re Sixteen,” Ringo’s cover of the old Johnny Burnette song.
Yet the deep cuts had something for everyone seeking that next Beatles record.
“I’m The Greatest,” a whimsical look at fame written by John Lennon. It’s basically a Beatles track with all parties except Paul McCartney.
“Six O’Clock.” There’s Paul (and Linda), with a regret-filled love song written by them. It channels the Beatles and points the way toward Wings.
“Sunshine Life For Me (Sail Away Raymond),” written by George. It’s basically Ringo and George fronting The Band with David Bromberg. It sounds like an Irish folk song. Listen closer, consider The Band’s involvement, and you hear another nod to a Beatle’s American influences.
Back then, I had “You’re Sixteen” on a 45. I loved it. I was 16. Some symmetry there. When you flipped it over, you heard this on the B side.
On which Ringo, working without the rest of the Beatles, rocks out on a song he wrote with Vini Poncia. Which, as 1973 turned into 1974, was not necessarily what everyone wanted to hear. But I dug it then, and I dig it now.
“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?“
When we heard the news 32 years ago, there was darkness. It was a Monday night.
John and Yoko would want us to walk in the light, like that of our gorgeously sunny Saturday morning in our corner of Wisconsin. Good morning, John.
It isn’t Christmas without this one.
“Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971. A remastered version is available on “Gimme Some Truth,” a 4-CD compilation released in 2010. (This version is from the out-of-print “Lennon Legend” CD found at the library.)
The version I have, from the 1975 “Shaved Fish” compilation, has a live reprise of “Give Peace A Chance” tacked onto the end. Though well-intentioned, it sounds cluttered. So we stick with the original.
Your Christmas music requests in the comments, please.
I wonder whether time would have mellowed his opinion of this song, which he did in the studio with Paul McCartney in September 1968.
“Birthday,” Underground Sunshine, Intrepid 75002 7-inch, 1969. It’s out of print. (Please forgive the fuzz and the noise on the vinyl rip.)
Lennon thought the song, as done by the Beatles on “The Beatles” — the white album — “was a piece of garbage.”
Lennon and McCartney share the writing credits. Paul insists “‘Birthday’ was 50-50 me and John.” But given that McCartney came up with the music, and given Lennon’s disdain for it, you have to wonder whether it wasn’t more Paul’s than John’s.
Underground Sunshine was a group from Montello, Wisconsin, a small town in the south-central part of the state.
Their cover of “Birthday” was a big hit in the late summer of 1969. It reached No. 2 on the Hit Parade at WLS in Chicago in mid-August, but couldn’t displace the Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman.”
It was the only hit for Underground Sunshine, which also cut an LP and released three other singles but got nowhere in the charts and broke up in 1970. That year, they covered “Jesus Is Just Alright,” which charted for the Doobie Brothers just two years later.
Here, for the curious, is the flip side to “Birthday.”
“All I Want Is You,” Underground Sunshine, Intrepid 75002 7-inch, 1969. It’s out of print. (Please forgive the fuzz and the noise here, too.)
It’s an original by band members Bert Koelbl and Frank Koelbl, along with high school classmate Rex Rhode, who wasn’t in the band. It seems clearly influenced by “Time Won’t Let Me” by the Outsiders. There’s also a pleasant enough pop-psych jam in the middle.
Underground Sunshine was a four-piece group. The Koelbl brothers went as Bert and Frank Kohl, playing bass and drums, respectively. Chris Connors, whose real name was John Dahlberg, played lead guitar. Jane Little, whose real name was Jane Whirry, played keyboards.