Saturday, July 23, 2016

Out In The 1960s Jukebox Saturday Night –North Adamsville Corner Boy Version

Out In The 1960s Jukebox Saturday Night –North Adamsville Corner Boy Version

A YouTube clip of Ben E. King performing Spanish Harlem.

By Bartlett Webber

A while back I was on a tear hunting down every oldie but goodie, 1950s and 1960s versions if you please since rock is now over sixty years old and has morphed into a number of classic periods by now, rock and roll compilation, set, 45 RPM record (look that up if you don’t know what it is, what went on back when music did not come out of the ether by via vinyl of various qualities, look it up on Wikipedia if you are in a hurry) that was not nailed down to some musty, dusty attic floor.


The immediate reason had been to search for songs that drove a certain part of our high school existence back then, specifically the Saturday night “search” of songs while watching the “submarine races” down at the far end of the local Adamsville Beach (and songs that before heading down to that spot got the girl, hell, got you “in the mood”). That search for songs had been prompted by my old corner boy Zack James’ and my failure one night while reminiscing at the Dublin Grille after we had spent the better part of that afternoon at that sacred spot sitting on the seawall (a more recently constructed version of that seawall since the one we sat on when on car-less dates was washed out to sea after a tropical storm ripped through the area a number of years ago). Our failure to remember what songs set up the night, usually at some dance held in the dinky school gym or the even dinkier if there is such a word church basement (the Roman Catholic church usually presided over by stern, tight-fisted Father Lally but occasionally we would attend heathen Protestant dances, a couple of the other corner boys were of that persuasion), and what songs “set the mood” down by the shore.     

Who knows the real reason beyond that fight against senior moments that seemed to grab both Zack and me on the subject except this maybe better reason: I, of late, seemingly, have endlessly gone back to my early musical roots. Maybe to the earliest music that I could call my own, be-bop rock and roll (not that Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Kay Starr, Inkspots stuff, Jesus no, that got my parents’ generation through the Great Depression [1930s variety] and World War II although that was endlessly heard wafting through the teenage house). While as I mentioned previously in discussing good times Saturday night at the beach time and ear have eroded the sparkle of some of the lesser tunes (who, for example, really wants to remember Gene Pitney’s Town Without Pity, that I had found myself  playing  endlessly on girl-less Saturday nights) it still seems obvious that those years, say 1955-62, really did form the musical jail break-out for our generation, the generation of ’68, who had just started to tune into music, had found something we could grab onto.

And we had our own little world, or as some hip sociologist trying to explain that Zeitgeist today might say, more approvingly than an early earlier brethren who wrote us off as dead-enders, as marginal types, as wrongly alienated against the coming “golden age of American plenty, as, get this, juvenile delinquents, and a threat to the sanctity of the red scare Cold War American night, our own sub-group cultural expression. Yeah, the cramped crowded cowered world of the corner boy night, the Tonio’s House of Pizza “up the Downs” night. We needed, maybe desperately needed, a way to express that futile alienation from what golden age things were happening all around us but with the exception of Zack and maybe Sam Lowell whose families were a little further up the food chain were not privy to. Tired unto death of not having something coming out of the family radio which spoke to us, spoke to our isolation, spoke to the hope that some of us to could emulate Elvis and break out, spoke to something with could dance to without having to worry about stepping on toes, or worry about whatever wild gyrations we wanted to produce to have our “fifteen minutes” of local fame before heading out into a cruel and dangerous world (cruel because we were assumed like our parents to be down in the heap forever and dangerous because we lived under the very real sigh of the various nuclear weapons systems which blow us to smithereens).   

I have already talked elsewhere about the pre 7/11 mom and pop corner variety store hangout with the tee-shirted, engineered-booted, cigarette (unfiltered, naturally, “coffin nail” ready, usually Luckies but on occasion Camels with matches tucked inside the cellophane wrapper) hanging from the pursed lips, Coke, big-sized green glass Coke bottle at the side, pinball wizard guys thing. These guys (along with their foxy girlfriends in tight-fitting cashmere sweaters and ass tight skirts) were our heroes, the guys we looked up to who set the vague rules of the neighborhood corner boy night, as they had had them set for them in their turn going back to legendary bandit corner boy Red Riley’s time whose exploits animated all corner boy hearts. And about the pizza parlor juke box coin devouring, playing some “hot” song for the nth time that night, usually off of some frill’s quarter when cash was low and we worked Markin’s sensitive guy scam to get to play what we wanted, telling Tonio if successful to hold the onions because someone might get lucky tonight, if that phantom dreamy girl might just come in the door thing and chase the blues away. Hold that alienation at bay for one freaking night. Talked to you unto death of course, of the soda fountain at Doc’s drugstore and that infernal jukebox that kept every corner boy glued to see, well, to see …ditto, a dreamy girl coming through the door thing, merely to share a sundae, please. Finally, the same for the lamo teen dance club, parent imposed once they knew they could not stop the rock and roll revolution sitting right there at their doorsteps to keep the kids off the streets even if they, the parents hated their damn rock music. Even in that lamo place we never give up the now eternal hope of a dreamy girl coming in the door, saying save the last dance for me thing.


That’s maybe enough memory lane stuff for a lifetime, especially for those with weak hearts, weak memories, or weak dispositions to run the rack on the few good times of youth against the day to day Monday to Friday horror of coming of age in the nuclear iced night. But, no, your intrepid messenger feels the need to go back again and take a little different look at that be-bop jukebox Saturday night scene as it unfolded in the early 1960s. Hey, you could have found the old jukebox in lots of places in those days, bowling alleys, drugstores, pizza parlors, drive-in restaurants, and maybe at the snack bar at the daytime beach, if you lived near a beach. I remember one such beach place called, surprise, surprise the Surf Club about twenty miles from North Adamsville that catered to summer vacation teens from places like New York and Connecticut during the day and doubled as a no teens, no goddamn teens allowed, hot spot nightclub for be-bop hipsters (really faux hipster by then), motorcycle daddies with their mamas (or somebody’s mama) on back, and your average just that moment at- large hood. But all this jukebox seeking by pimply teen or chain-wielding biker was done while boy or girl watching as they headed toward the club’s two, that’s right, two jukeboxes which between them contained every be-bop rock daddy or sweet mama song ever produced. Some stuff that predated Elvis and Bill Haley and was strictly for aficionados as I found out years later when we found out that guys like Big Joe Turner, Smiley Jackson and Ike Turner were the real max daddies of rock.

So juke heaven was basically any place where kids (and those oldsters just mentioned as well) were hot for some special song and wanted to play it until the cows came home. And had the coins to satisfy their hunger.

Funny, a  lot of hanging around the jukes was to kill time waiting for this or that, waiting for sunset and the real life, waiting like it was going to help by waiting for some show to drop or something to happen to break the cycle of being stuck in the no-man’s land of wanting habits and low expectations. A lot of that was stuff Markin would put in our heads so we would know the score if the big break-out didn’t happen or got snuffed out by somebody before we got to the “new age” although the basic reason we hung on to the jukebox dream machine was that these were located in all the places where you could show off your stuff, and maybe, strike up a conversation with someone who attracted your attention after you had sized them up as they came in the door.

I remember one time at this place, Jimmy Jack’s Diner, the one on Washington Street near the high school not the one on Jackson Avenue where all the blue-haired ladies had salad lunches, the all the kids in town after school afternoon hang-out diner waiting for Cokes and burgers to wash away the awful school lunch from memory this dreamy girl had been waiting for her platters (records, okay, again check Wikipedia if you are lost) to work their way up the mechanism that took them from the stack and laid them out on the player. And this white tee-shirted sullen guy, me (could have been you if you are a guy though, right?), just hanging around the machine waiting for just such a well-shaped brunette (or blond, but I favored brunettes in those days) to show up, maybe chatting idly for what might be worth at least a date (or, more often, a telephone number to call). Okay, I got the number that time but get this.  Don’t call after nine at night though or before eight because those were times when she was talking to her boyfriend. Scratch that one. Lucky guy he, maybe. 

But here is where the real jukes skill came in, the one Markin clued us in on mentioned above but also one of the few times something he wanted us to do made sense didn’t turn into a horror show because even if Markin had million ideas he couldn’t usually pull them off. This is where that sullen white-tee-shirted guy just mentioned seemed to be in his element, although a million guys have stories about how they worked this one. You started out just hanging casually around the old jukebox, especially on a no, or low, dough day waiting on a twist (slang for girl in our old working- class neighborhood, one of several our leader Frankie Riley coined, or rather “stole” from watching too many 1930s and 1940s gangster and film noir detective movie) to come by and put her quarter in (giving three or five selections depending what kind of place the jukebox was located in, Jimmy Jack’s was three but that was because he wanted to turn over the after school crowd fast in order to serve his evening mainstay, guys who were finishing their first shifts at the local shipyard that provided the big boost to the town’s economy then, now long gone but Tonio’s who liked the corner boy idea as an attraction to bring girls, date girls, or just hanging round girls, gave you five) talking, usually to girlfriends, as she made those selections. Usually the first couple were easy, some old boyfriend memory, or some wistful tryst remembrance, but then she got contemplative, or fidgety, over what to pick next.


Then you made your move-“Have you heard Ben E. King doing Spanish Harlem?” “NO! Well, you just have to hear that thing and it will cheer you right up.” Or some such line. Of course, you wanted to hear the damn thing. But see, a song like that (as opposed, let’s say, to Chuck Berry’s Sweet Little Rock and Roller, let’s say) showed you were a sensitive guy, and maybe worth talking to... for just a minute, I got to get back to my girlfriends, etc., etc. That “sensitive guy” bit was pure Markin, was why guys and gals both told him stuff that they wouldn’t tell to anybody, girlfriends, corner boys whoever. Oh, jukebox you baby. And guess what. Sometimes, more times than you might think, it actually worked. Beautiful.

Now that I am at a great remove from jukes I can give you my basic spiel playlist well worked out during those periods when things were slow and I really was killing time.    Here’s the list and there are some stick outs that might work today and others, well remember the fate of Gene Pitney and his damn “town without pity” because you know it’s tough out there on those mean streets.  I have added a few that worked some of that “magic” just mentioned above on tough nights too just in case you run into a jukebox, run into that dream girl who maybe happens to like the idea of hearing some of the old time music that a sensitive guy like you (gals just flip the roles, okay, other possible combination go to it):          

1) My Boyfriend's Back - The Angels (in honor of the memory of that shapely brunette who broke my heart above, the one with the boyfriend with the telephone ear); 2) Nadine (Is It You?) (please only use if the “target” looks like a little rock and roller and if you have a strong enough heart to stand the rejection when she turns you over in a week or so for the next best thing) - Chuck Berry; 3)Spanish Harlem - Ben E. King (only if you can do the “sensitive” guy thing otherwise save this one for the last chance last dance situation for that girl you have been getting sore eyes over all night) ; 4)Come & Get These Memories (strictly for known Motown heads) - Martha & the Vandellas; 5)Perfidia (for smart girls who might even know what this word means) - The Ventures; 6)Lover's Island (figure this one out yourselves but think beach and starlight nights)- The Blue Jays; 7)Playboy (not for use with the “girl next door” types, please save yourselves the misery of rejection) - The Marvelettes; 8)Little Latin Lupe Lu (strictly for be-bop girls, girls with many quarters) - The Righteous Brothers; 9)It's Gonna Work Out Fine (with thoughts of backseat Saturday night, okay)- Ike & Tina Turner; 10)When We Get Married ( for dreamy kind of need weights in their shoes to keep them earth bound girls-and without boyfriends)- The Dreamlovers; 11)The One Who Really Loves You ( ditto the “sensitive guy” thing)- Mary Wells; 12)Little Diane ( for the “girl next door”) - Dion; 13)Dear Lady Twist ( strictly when you get the feeling you will only be friends, except…maybe these days that “with benefits” I keep hearing about and would have died for along with every corner boy who ever lived you might give it a shot)- Gary "U.S." Bonds; 14); Heartaches (“recovering” from that two-timing bastard  girls) - The Marcels; 15)Feel So Fine (Feel So Good)( back to Mr. Sensitive, you had better learn that approach)- Johnny Preston; 16) If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody  (please, please, James Brown, please is your plea) - James Ray; 17)All in My Mind (for girly girls)- Maxine Brown; 18)Maybe I Know ( strictly for telephone number givers-without boyfriends)- Lesley Gore; 19)Heart & Soul (you have it, Mr. Sensitive, don’t you see a pattern here) - The Cleftones; 20)Peanut Butter (goofy tough night girls met at the bowling allys or some such good places)- The Marathons; 21)I Count the Tears (Mr. Sen…need I say more) - The Drifters; 22)Everybody Loves a Lover (for the girls with telephone boyfriends)- The Shirelles. There it is all laid out for you- Good luck.

*****Victory To The Fast-Food Workers The Vanguard Of The Fight For $15......

*****Victory To The Fast-Food Workers The Vanguard Of The Fight For $15......Fight For $15 Is Just A Beginning-All Labor Must Support Our Sisters And Brothers

From The Pen Of Sam Lowell

Frank Jackman had always ever since he was a kid down in Carver, a working class town formerly a shoe factory mecca about thirty miles south of Boston and later dotted with assorted small shops related to the shipbuilding trade, a very strong supporters of anything involving organized labor and organizing labor, anything that might push working people ahead. While it had taken it a long time, and some serious military service during the Vietnam War, his generation’s war, to get on the right side of the angels on the war issue and even more painfully and slowly on the woman’s liberation and gay rights issues, and he was still having a tough time with the transgender thing although the plight of heroic Wikileaks whistle-blower Army soldier Chelsea Manning had made it easier to express solidarity, he had always been a stand-up guy for unions and for working people. Maybe it was because his late father, Lawrence Jackman, had been born and raised in coal country down in Harlan County, Kentucky where knowing which side you were on, knowing that picket lines mean don’t cross, knowing that every scrap given by the bosses had been paid for in blood and so it was in his blood. Maybe though it was closer to the nub, closer to home, that the closing of the heavily unionized shoe factories which either headed down south or off-shore left slim leaving for those who did not follow them south, slim pickings for an uneducated man like his father trying to raise four daughters and son on hopes and dreams and not much else. Those hopes and dreams leaving his mother to work in the “mother’s don’t work” 1950s at a local donut shop filling donuts for chrissakes to help make ends meet so his was always aware of how close the different between work and no work was, and decent pay for decent work too. How ever he got “religion” on the question as a kid, and he suspected the answer was in the DNA, Frank was always at the ready when the latest labor struggles erupted, the latest recently being the sporadic uprisings amount fast-food workers and lowly-paid Walmart workers to earn a living wage.        

One day in the late summer of 2014 he had picked up a leaflet from a young guy, a young guy who later identified himself as a field organizer for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a union filled to the brim with low-end workers like janitors, nurses assistants, salespeople, and the like, passing them out at an anti-war rally (against the American escalations in Syria and Iraq) in downtown Boston. The leaflet after giving some useful information about how poorly fast-food worker were paid and how paltry the benefits, especially the lack of health insurance announced an upcoming “Fight for $15” action in Downtown Boston on September 4, 2014 at noon as part of a national struggle for economic justice and dignity for the our hard working sisters and brothers. He told the young organizer after expressing solidarity with the upcoming efforts that he would try to bring others to the event although being held during a workday would be hard for some to make the time.

In the event Frank brought about a dozen others with him. They and maybe fifty to one hundred others during the course of the event stood in solidarity for a couple of hours while a cohort of fast-food workers told their stories. And while another cohort of fast-food workers were sitting on the ground in protest prepared to commit civil disobedience by blocking the street to make their point. Several of them would eventually be arrested and taken away by the police later to be fined and released.

Frank, when he reflected on the day’s events later, was pretty elated as he told his old friend Josh Breslin whom he had called up in Maine to tell him what had happened that day. Josh had also grown up in a factory town, a textile town, Olde Saco, and had been to many such support events himself and before he retired had as a free-lance writer written up lots of labor stories. The key ingredient that impressed Josh in Frank’s description had been how many young serious black and Latino workers had participated in the actions. Later than night when Frank reflected further on the situation he broke out in a smile as he was writing up his summary of his take on the events. There would be people pass off the torch to when guys like him and Josh were no longer around. He had been afraid that would not happen after the long drought doldrums in the class struggle of the previous few decades. Here is what else he had to say:            

No question in this wicked old world that those at the bottom are “the forgotten ones,” “los olvidados,” those who a writer who had worked among them had long ago correctly described as the world fellahin, the ones who never get ahead. This day we are talking about working people, people working and working hard for eight, nine, ten dollars an hour. Maybe working two jobs to make ends meet since a lot of times these McJobs, these Wal-Mart jobs do not come with forty hours of work attached but whatever some cost-cutting manager deems right to keep them on a string and keep them from qualifying for certain benefits that do not kick in with “part-time” work. And lately taking advantage of cover from Obamacare keeping the hours below the threshold necessary to kick in health insurance and other benefits. Yes, the forgotten people.

But let’s do the math here figuring on forty hours and figuring on say ten dollars an hour. That‘s four hundred a week times fifty weeks (okay so I am rounding off for estimate purposes here too since most of these jobs do not have vacation time figured in).That’s twenty thousand a year. Okay so just figure any kind of decent apartment in the Boston area where I am writing this-say one thousand a month. That’s twelve thousand a year. So the other eight thousand is for everything else. No way can that be done. And if you had listened to the young and not so young fast-food workers, the working mothers, the working older brothers taking care of younger siblings, workers trying to go to school to get out of the vicious cycle of poverty you would understand the truth of that statement. And the stories went on and on along that line all during the action. 

Confession: it has been a very long time since I have had to scrimp and scrim to make ends meet, to get the rent in, to keep those damn bill-collectors away from my door, to beg the utility companies to not shut off those necessary services. But I have been there, no question. Growing up working class town poor, the only difference on the economic question was that it was all poor whites unlike today’s crowd. Also for many years living from hand to mouth before things got steady. I did not like it then and I do not like the idea of it now.  I am here to say even the “Fight for $15” is not enough, but it is a start. And I whole-heartedly support the struggle of my sisters and brothers for a little economic justice in this wicked old world. And any reader who might read this-would you work for these slave wages? I think not. So show your solidarity and get out and support the fast-food and Wal-Mart workers in their just struggles. 

Organize Wal-Mart! Organize the fast food workers! Union! Union!         

*****John Brown’s Body Lies A Moldering In The Grave-With The Massachusetts 54th Black Volunteer Regiment In Mind.

*****John Brown’s Body Lies A Moldering In The Grave-With The Massachusetts 54th Black Volunteer Regiment In Mind.


Every time I pass the frieze honoring the heroic Massachusetts 54th Black Volunteer Regiment across from the State House on Beacon Street in Boston, a unit that fought in the American Civil War, a war which we have just finished commemorating the 150th anniversary of its formal ending (April 1865) I am struck by one figure who I will discuss in a minute. For those who do not know the 54th Regiment the unit had been recruited and made up of all volunteers, former slaves, freedmen, maybe a current fugitive slave snuck in there, those were such times for such unheralded personal valor, the recruitment a task that the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, himself an ex-slave had been central in promoting (including two of his sons). All knew, or soon became aware that if they did not fight to the finish they would not be treated as prisoners of war but captured chattel subject to re-enslavement or death.  The regiment fought with ferocious valor before Fort Wagner down in South Carolina and other hot spots where an armed black man, in uniform or out, brought red flashes of deep venom, if venom is red, but hellfire hatred in any case to the Southern plantation owners and their hangers-on (that armed black men acting in self-defense of themselves and theirs still bringing hellfire hatred among some whites to this day, no question).

I almost automatically focus in on that old hard-bitten grizzled erect bearded soldier who is just beneath the head of the horse being ridden by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the white commander of the regiment who from a family of ardent abolitionists fell with his men before Fort Wagner and was buried with them, an honor. (See above) I do not know the details of the model Saint-Gauden’s used when he worked that section (I am sure that specific information can be found although it is not necessary to this sketch) but as I grow older I appreciate that old man soldier even more, as old men are supposed to leave the arduous duty of fighting for just causes, arms in hand, to the young.

I like to think that that old grizzled brother who aside from color looks like me when he heard the call from Massachusetts wherever he was, maybe had read about the plea in some abolitionist newspaper, had maybe even gotten the message from Frederick Douglass himself through his newspaper, The North Star, calling Sable Brother to Arms or on out the stump once Lincoln unleashed him to recruit his black brothers for whatever reason although depleting Union ranks reduced by bloody fight after bloody fight as is the nature of civil war when the societal norms are broken  as was at least one cause, he picked up stakes leaving some small farm or trade and family behind and volunteered forthwith. Maybe he had been born, like Douglass, in slavery and somehow, manumission, flight, something, following the Northern Star, got to the North. Maybe learned a skill, a useful skill, got a little education to be able to read and write and advance himself and had in his own way prospered.
But something was gnawing at him, something about the times, something about tow-headed white farm boys, all awkward and ignorant from the heartland of the Midwest, sullen Irish and other ethnic immigrants from the cities where it turned out the streets were not paved with gold and so took the bounty for Army duty, took some draft-dodger’s place for pay, hell, even high-blown Harvard boys were being armed to defend the Union (and the endless names of the fallen and endless battles sites on Memorial Hall at Harvard a graphic testament to that solemn sense of duty then). And more frequently as the days and months passed about the increasing number of white folk who hated, hated with a red-hot passion, slavery and if that passion meant anything what was he a strong black man going to do about it, do about breaking the hundreds of years chains. Maybe he still had kindred under the yolk down South in some sweated plantation, poorly fed, ill-treated, left to fester and die when not productive anymore, the women, young and old subject to Mister’s lustful appetites and he had to do something.
Then the call came, Governor Andrews of Massachusetts was raising a “sable” armed regiment (Douglass’ word) to be headed by a volunteer Harvard boy urged on by his high abolitionist parents, Colonel Shaw, the question of black military leadership of their own to be left to another day, another day long in the future as it turned out but what was he to know of that, and he shut down his small shop or farm, said good-bye to kin and neighbors and went to Boston to join freedom’s fight. I wonder if my old bearded soldier fell before Fort Wagner fight down in heated rebel country, or maybe fell in some other engagement less famous but just as important to the concept of disciplined armed black men fighting freedom’s fight. I like to think though that the grizzled old man used every bit of wit and skill he had and survived to march into Charleston, South Carolina, the fire-breathing heart of the Confederacy, then subdued at the end of war with his fellows in the 54th stepping off to the tune of John Brown’s Body Lies A-Moldering In The Grave. A fitting tribute to Captain Brown and his band of brother, black and white, at Harper’s Ferry fight and to an old grizzled bearded soldier’s honor.             

*Poet's Corner- Some Poems From Spain's Federico Garcia Lorca

Click on title to link a Federico Garcia Lorca site dedicated to the great Spanish poet and playwright (especially the fantastic "Blood Wedding")killed, most probably by the fascists, at the beginning of the Spainish Civil War in 1936. No sense of the cultural possibilities of a workers' revolution victory in Spain in complete without a "tip of the hat" to Gracia Lorca.

Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias

1. Cogida and death

At five in the afternoon.
It was exactly five in the afternoon.
A boy brought the white sheet
at five in the afternoon.
A frail of lime ready prepared
at five in the afternoon.
The rest was death, and death alone.

The wind carried away the cottonwool
at five in the afternoon.
And the oxide scattered crystal and nickel
at five in the afternoon.
Now the dove and the leopard wrestle
at five in the afternoon.
And a thigh with a desolated horn
at five in the afternoon.
The bass-string struck up
at five in the afternoon.
Arsenic bells and smoke
at five in the afternoon.
Groups of silence in the corners
at five in the afternoon.
And the bull alone with a high heart!
At five in the afternoon.
When the sweat of snow was coming
at five in the afternoon,
when the bull ring was covered with iodine
at five in the afternoon.
Death laid eggs in the wound
at five in the afternoon.
At five in the afternoon.
At five o'clock in the afternoon.

A coffin on wheels is his bed
at five in the afternoon.
Bones and flutes resound in his ears
at five in the afternoon.
Now the bull was bellowing through his forehead
at five in the afternoon.
The room was iridiscent with agony
at five in the afternoon.
In the distance the gangrene now comes
at five in the afternoon.
Horn of the lily through green groins
at five in the afternoon.
The wounds were burning like suns
at five in the afternoon.
At five in the afternoon.
Ah, that fatal five in the afternoon!
It was five by all the clocks!
It was five in the shade of the afternoon!

2. The Spilled Blood

I will not see it!

Tell the moon to come,
for I do not want to see the blood
of Ignacio on the sand.

I will not see it!

The moon wide open.
Horse of still clouds,
and the grey bull ring of dreams
with willows in the barreras.

I will not see it!

Let my memory kindle!
Warm the jasmines
of such minute whiteness!

I will not see it!

The cow of the ancient world
passed har sad tongue
over a snout of blood
spilled on the sand,
and the bulls of Guisando,
partly death and partly stone,
bellowed like two centuries
sated with threading the earth.
I will not see it!

Ignacio goes up the tiers
with all his death on his shoulders.
He sought for the dawn
but the dawn was no more.
He seeks for his confident profile
and the dream bewilders him
He sought for his beautiful body
and encountered his opened blood
Do not ask me to see it!
I do not want to hear it spurt
each time with less strength:
that spurt that illuminates
the tiers of seats, and spills
over the cordury and the leather
of a thirsty multiude.
Who shouts that I should come near!
Do not ask me to see it!

His eyes did not close
when he saw the horns near,
but the terrible mothers
lifted their heads.
And across the ranches,
an air of secret voices rose,
shouting to celestial bulls,
herdsmen of pale mist.
There was no prince in Sevilla
who could compare to him,
nor sword like his sword
nor heart so true.
Like a river of lions
was his marvellous strength,
and like a marble toroso
his firm drawn moderation.
The air of Andalusian Rome
gilded his head
where his smile was a spikenard
of wit and intelligence.
What a great torero in the ring!
What a good peasant in the sierra!
How gentle with the sheaves!
How hard with the spurs!
How tender with the dew!
How dazzling the fiesta!
How tremendous with the final
banderillas of darkness!

But now he sleeps without end.
Now the moss and the grass
open with sure fingers
the flower of his skull.
And now his blood comes out singing;
singing along marshes and meadows,
sliden on frozen horns,
faltering soulles in the mist
stoumbling over a thousand hoofs
like a long, dark, sad tongue,
to form a pool of agony
close to the starry Guadalquivir.
Oh, white wall of Spain!
Oh, black bull of sorrow!
Oh, hard blood of Ignacio!
Oh, nightingale of his veins!
I will not see it!
No chalice can contain it,
no swallows can drink it,
no frost of light can cool it,
nor song nor deluge og white lilies,
no glass can cover mit with silver.
I will not see it!

3. The Laid Out Body

Stone is a forehead where dreames grieve
without curving waters and frozen cypresses.
Stone is a shoulder on which to bear Time
with trees formed of tears and ribbons and planets.

I have seen grey showers move towards the waves
raising their tender riddle arms,
to avoid being caught by lying stone
which loosens their limbs without soaking their blood.

For stone gathers seed and clouds,
skeleton larks and wolves of penumbra:
but yields not sounds nor crystals nor fire,
only bull rings and bull rings and more bull rings without walls.

Now, Ignacio the well born lies on the stone.
All is finished. What is happening! Contemplate his face:
death has covered him with pale sulphur
and has place on him the head of dark minotaur.

All is finished. The rain penetrates his mouth.
The air, as if mad, leaves his sunken chest,
and Love, soaked through with tears of snow,
warms itself on the peak of the herd.

What is they saying? A stenching silence settles down.
We are here with a body laid out which fades away,
with a pure shape which had nightingales
and we see it being filled with depthless holes.

Who creases the shroud? What he says is not true!
Nobody sings here, nobody weeps in the corner,
nobody pricks the spurs, nor terrifies the serpent.
Here I want nothing else but the round eyes
to see his body without a chance of rest.

Here I want to see those men of hard voice.
Those that break horses and dominate rivers;
those men of sonorous skeleton who sing
with a mouth full of sun and flint.

Here I want to see them. Before the stone.
Before this body with broken reins.
I want to know from them the way out
for this captain stripped down by death.

I want them to show me a lament like a river
wich will have sweet mists and deep shores,
to take the body of Ignacio where it looses itself
without hearing the double planting of the bulls.

Loses itself in the round bull ring of the moon
which feigns in its youth a sad quiet bull,
loses itself in the night without song of fishes
and in the white thicket of frozen smoke.

I don't want to cover his face with handkerchiefs
that he may get used to the death he carries.
Go, Ignacio, feel not the hot bellowing
Sleep, fly, rest: even the sea dies!

4. Absent Soul

The bull does not know you, nor the fig tree,
nor the horses, nor the ants in your own house.
The child and the afternoon do not know you
because you have dead forever.

The shoulder of the stone does not know you
nor the black silk, where you are shuttered.
Your silent memory does not know you
because you have died forever

The autumn will come with small white snails,
misty grapes and clustered hills,
but no one will look into your eyes
because you have died forever.

Because you have died for ever,
like all the dead of the earth,
like all the dead who are forgotten
in a heap of lifeless dogs.

Nobady knows you. No. But I sing of you.
For posterity I sing of your profile and grace.
Of the signal maturity of your understanding.
Of your appetite for death and the taste of its mouth.
Of the sadness of your once valiant gaiety.

It will be a long time, if ever, before there is born
an Andalusian so true, so rich in adventure.
I sing of his elegance with words that groan,
and I remember a sad breeze through the olive trees.

When Girls Doo-Wopped In The Be-Bop 1960s Night- "The Best Of The Girl Groups- Volume 1”- A CD Review

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of the Shangri-Las performing Leader Of The Pack.

CD Review

The Best Of The Girl Groups, Volume 1, various artists, Rhino Records, 1990

I have, of late, been running back over some rock material that formed my coming of age listening music (on that ubiquitous, and very personal, iPod, oops, battery-driven transistor radio that kept those snooping parents out in the dark, clueless, and just fine, agreed), and that of my generation, the generation of ’68. Naturally one had to pay homage to the blues influences from the likes of Muddy Waters, Big Mama Thornton, and Big Joe Turner. And, of course, the rockabilly influences from Elvis, Carl Perkins, Wanda Jackson, and Jerry Lee Lewis on. Additionally, I have spent some time on the male side of the doo wop be-bop Saturday night led by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers on Why Do Fools Fall In Love? (good question, right). I note that I have not done much with the female side of the doo wop night, the great ‘girl’ groups that had their heyday in the late 1950s and early 1960s before the British invasion, among other things, changed our tastes in popular music. I make some amends for that omission here.

One problem with the girl groups for a guy, me, a serious rock guy, me, is that the lyrics for many of the girl group songs, frankly, did not “speak to me.” After all how much empathy can a young ragamuffin of boy brought up on the wrong side of the tracks like this writer have for a girl who breaks up with her boyfriend, a motorcycle guy, a sensitive motorcycle guy, on her parents’ demand because of his lower class upbringing as the lyrics in the Shangri-Las’ Leader of the Pack attest to. Except that she should have stuck with her guy through thick and thin, and maybe, just maybe, he would not have skidded off that rainy road and gone to Harley heaven so young. And, maybe, just maybe, they could be in that little white house with the picket fence hosting the grandkids today.

Try this, the lyrics about some guy, some sensitive, shy, good-looking guy with the wavy hair who all the girls are going crazy over but who the singer is going make her very own in boy and girl love battle in the Cliftons’ He’s So Fine when this writer was nothing but a girl reject, mainly. Or how about this one, the one where the love bugs are going to be married and really get that white house picket fence thing in the Dixie Cups’ Chapel Of Love for a guy who, again, more often than not didn’t even have steady girlfriend. I, kiss-less youth, won’t even get into the part of the anatomy that Betty Everett harps on in It’s In His Kiss. Or, finally, how could I possibly relate to the teen girl angst problem posed in the Shirelles Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? Ya, how would I know if it was the real thing, or just a moment’s pleasure, and what that dreaded tomorrow they sing about will bring.

So you get the idea, this stuff could not “speak to me.” Now you understand, right? Ya, but also get this you had better get your do-lang, do-lang, your shoop, shoop, and your best be-bop bopped into that good night voice out and listen to, and sing along with, the lyrics here. This, fellow baby-boomers, was about our teen angst, teen alienation, teen love youth traumas and now, a distant now, this stuff sounds great.

Ah, The Sweet Life-Frederico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960)

Ah, The Sweet Life-Frederico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960)  

DVD Review

By Sam Lowell

La Dolce Vita, Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimee, and a cast of unforgettable characters, directed by the legendary film director Frederico Fellini, 1960  

Some of the great classic films like Humphrey Bogart’s The Maltese Falcon and Robert Mitchum’s Out Of The Past are driven by their tough guy plotline and so recent viewings of those films left me with the same or maybe slightly stronger admiration for the nuances of their performances. Left me feeling I had made the right original estimation of their characters, had been right in the noir night about their creators’ choices of persona, and of directors’ choices of actors to fill the roles.  Not so the film under review which on first viewing I kind of dismissed out of hand, Frederico Fellini’s world cinema classic La Dolce Vita also recently re-viewed where the late Marcello Mastroianni played the role of the journalist/publicist/writer/playboy Marcello Rubini in search, well, in search of something (or in his more nihilistic moments in search of nothing but the moment).              

Of course when the film first came out in 1960 I was far too young to go to the movie theater and see the production. Moreover even if I had been old enough to attend I would have been warned off the film by Father Lally, the rector of Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in the town I grew up in, as a prime example of the decadence of certain films, certain foreign films which dealt with s-x, homos-xuality, s-xual allure, s-xual depravity and the general downside of the universal moral code in the post-war world got mad.  And I would good Catholic boy that I was then would have obeyed. Although having friends, good Protestant friends, who were a little older who actually saw the film and who took away from it an overestimation of its sexual scenes I had an intense curiosity about the film. About the sexual cavorting aspects (the scene of Marcello and his lady making love, not seen on screen, in some hooker’s apartment, boffing some artist, the orgy in the last scene with some high society woman doing a “strip-tease,” and so on. Stuff young guys would think about in their more vivid imagination moments and that other guys would make sure they recounted, okay).                 

A few years later when I did see the film for the first time I took away that same estimation about the subject matter at hand, sex, the night time is the right time nightlife, life among the jet set of Italy (or from the look of the planes in the film “the propeller set”) in the post-World War II Italy period. Liked the film for its portrayal of the decadent night life, liked the strange ways that this crowd spent it time and the willingness to “live fast, die young, and make a good death” in the time of the worldwide red scare Cold war night where the vast bulk of humankind was being held hostage to the trigger-happiness of distant ghost-like figures. Liked Marcello as a cool, max daddy role model who hung around with good-looking women who seemed ready, more than ready to indulge his sexual wishes, hung around with an odd assortment of characters who were living for the moment, a sentiment I very much wanted to share. I even took to imitating the “shrug” featured in the film by many characters including Marcello when asked a question about anything not of the moment (or maybe of more than the moment but that was the response in the time of the world-wide shrug).  See, I was at least partially trying to live out that same idea in the free fall 1960s.

So I was then less interested, much less interested, in some of the themes Fellini was trying to get across on the screen, especially in the free form portrayal of the wayward Marcello. Had treated Marcello like Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe as a cool character. So missed or ignored themes like the tension between Marcello’s job as a low threshold scandal sheet reporter and his literary intellectual ambitions, the tension between his desire for some kind of serious monogamous relationship with a woman and his endlessly and constantly “playing the field,” the tension between the seemingly frivolous lifestyle chooses of the glitterati that he hung out with in Italy and his desires for relevance. Maybe that reflects a certain aging/maturation process on my part (although I still though Anita Ekberg’s role as the American actress Sylvia dancing and cavorting was a highlight of the film as “eye candy” entertainment as much as I did as a young man) that saw Marcello as a guy who was between a rock and a hard place in trying to make his way in the world.

Like a lot of guys, guys like me, gals too, Marcello took the wrong road, wrong road for him when late in the film he, older then, was still hanging around with the jet set, with the decadents, and had made his peace with that decision. The ending of the film was a perfect expression of that decision, set that decision in immortal stone, as he and some others who were attending an all-night orgy went down to the seashore to see some dead sea monster dragged out of the ocean from a fisherman’s net. Down the shoreline he saw a young waitress he had met previously, several years before when he had been making a last ditch effort to become a literary light. As they tried to communicate and couldn’t due to the sound of our mother the sea drowning them out he gave her a perfect “shrug-off” as he walked back to join his fellow partyers. Beautiful finish, the essential existential moment. One of my top ten favorite films of all time.          

*****Once Again On The 1960s Folk Minute-The Cambridge Club 47 Scene

*****Once Again On The 1960s Folk Minute-The Cambridge Club 47 Scene


From The Pen Of Zack James

Joshua Breslin, Carver down in the wilds of Southeastern Massachusetts cranberry bog country born, had certainly not been the only one who had recently taken a nose-dive turn back in time to that unique moment beginning in the very late 1950s, say 1958, 1959 when be-bop jazz (you know Dizzy, the late Bird, the mad man Monk the guys who bopped swing-a-ling for “cool” high white note searches on the instruments) “beatnik” complete with beret and bop-a-long banter and everybody from suburb land was clad in black, guys in black chinos and flannel shirts, gals in black dresses, black stockings, black shoes, who knows maybe black underwear which in Victoria's Secret time is not hard to image but then something the corner boys in front of Jimmy Jack’s Diner salaciously contemplated about the female side of that "beat" scene (what King Kerouac termed beatitude, the search for holiness or wholeness), was giving way to earnest “folkie” time. And no alluring black-dressed gals but unisex flannel shirts, or sometimes once somebody had been to Mexico peasant blouses, unisex blue jeans and unisex sandals leaving nothing in particular to the fervent corner boy imagination) in the clubs that mattered around the Village (the Gaslight, Geddes Folk City, half the joints on Bleecker Street), Harvard Square (Club Blue, the place for serious cheap dates since for the price of coffees and pastries for two you could linger on, CafĂ© Blanc, the place for serious dates since they had a five dollar minimum, Club 47, the latter a place where serious folkies and serious folk musicians hung out) and North Beach (Club Ernie’s, The Hungry Eye, all a step behind the folk surge since you would still find a jazz-poetry mix longer than in the Eastern towns). That scene would go on in earnest to the mid-1960s when folk music had its minute as a popular genre and faded a bit. Even guys like Sam Eaton, Sam Lowell, Jack Callahan and Bart Webber, who only abided the music back in the day, now too, because the other guys droned on and on about it under the influence of Pete Markin a guy Josh had met  in the summer of love, 1967 were diving in too. Diving into the music which beside first love rock and roll got them through the teenage night.

The best way to describe that turn from be-bop beat to earnest folkie, is by way of a short comment by the late folk historian Dave Von Ronk which summed up the turn nicely. Earlier in that period, especially the period after Allen Ginsburg’s Howl out in the Frisco poetry slam blew the roof off modernist poetry with his talk of melted modern minds, hipsters, negro streets, the fight against Moloch, the allure of homosexuality, and Jack Kerouac’s On The Road in a fruitless search for the father he and Neal Cassady never knew had the Army-Navy surplus stores cleaning out their rucksack inventories, when “beat poets” held sway and folkies were hired to clear the room between readings Dave would have been thrown in the streets to beg for his supper if his graven voice and quirky folk songs did not empty the place, and he did (any serious look at some of his earliest compositions will tell in a moment why, and why the cross-over from beat to folkie by the former crowd never really happened). But then the sea-change happened, tastes changed and the search for roots was on, and Von Ronk would be doing three full sets a night and checking every folk anthology he could lay his hands on (including naturally Harry Smith’s legendary efforts and the Lomaxes and Seegers too) and misty musty record store recordings to get enough material.

People may dispute the end-point of that folk minute like they do about the question of when the "turn the world upside down" counter-cultural 1960s ended as a “youth nation” phenomenon but clearly with the advent of acid-etched rock (acid as in LSD, blotter, electric kool aid acid test not some battery stuff ) by 1967-68 the searching for and reviving of the folk roots that had driven many aficionados to the obscure archives like Harry Smith’s anthology, the recording of the Lomaxes, Seegers and that crowd had passed.

As an anecdote, one that Josh would use whenever the subject of his own sea-change back to rock and roll came up, in support of that acid-etched dateline that is the period when Josh stopped taking his “dates” to the formerly ubiquitous home away from home coffeehouses which had sustained him through many a dark home life night in high school and later when he escaped home during college, cheap poor boy college student dates to the Harvard Square coffeehouses where for the price of a couple of cups of coffee, expresso then a favorite since you could sip it slowly and make it last for the duration and rather exotic since it was percolated in a strange copper-plated coffee-maker, a shared pastry of unknown quality, and maybe a couple of dollars admission charge or for the “basket” that was the life-support of the performers you could hear up and coming talent working out their kinks, and took those "dates" instead to the open-air fashion statement rock concerts that were abounding around the town.

The shift also entailed a certain change in fashion from those earnest flannel shirts, denims, lacy blouses and sandals to day-glo tie-dye shirts, bell-bottomed denims, granny dresses, and mountain boots or Chuck Taylor sneakers. Oh yeah, and the decibel level of the music got higher, much higher and the lyrics talked not of ancient mountain sorrows, thwarted triangle love, or down-hearted blues over something that was on your mind but to alice-in-wonderland and white rabbit dreams, carnal nightmares, yellow submarines, satanic majesties, and wooden ships on the water.             

Some fifty years out others in Josh-like fits of nostalgia and maybe to sum up a life’s work there have been two recent documentaries concerning the most famous Harvard Square coffeehouse of them all, the Club 47 (which still exists under the name of the non-profit Club Passim which traces its genealogy to that legendary Mount Auburn Street spot in a similar small venue near the Harvard Co-Op Bookstore off of Church Street).

One of the documentaries put out a few years ago (see above) traces the general evolution of that club in its prime when the likes of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Tom Rush, Eric Von Schmidt, the members of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band (the forming of jug bands, a popular musical form including a seemingly infinite number of bands with the name Sheik in them, going back to the early 20th century itself a part of the roots revival guys like Josh were in thrall to), and many others sharpened up their acts there. The other documentary, No Regrets (title taken from one of his most famous songs) which Josh reviewed for one of the blogs, The American Folk Minute, to which he has contributed to over the years is a biopic centered on the fifty plus years in folk music of Tom Rush. Both those visual references got Josh thinking about how that folk scene, or better, the Harvard Square coffeehouse scene kept Josh from going off the rails, although that was a close thing.        

Like about a billion kids before and after Josh in his coming of age in the early 1960s went through the usual bouts of teenage angst and alienation aided and abetted by growing up “from hunger” among the very lowest rung of the working poor with all the pathologies associated with survival down at the base of society where the bonds of human solidarity are often times very attenuated. All of this “wisdom” complete with appropriate “learned” jargon, of course figured out, told about, made many mistakes to gain, came later, much later because at the time Josh was just feeling rotten about his life and how the hell he got placed in a world which he had not created (re-enforced when questioned by one Delores Breslin with Prescott Breslin as a behind-the scenes back-up about his various doings) and no likely possibilities of having a say what with the world stacked against him, his place in the sun (and not that “safe” white collar civil service job that Delores saw as the epitome of upward mobility for her brood), and how he didn’t have a say in what was going on. Then through one source or another mainly by the accident of tuning in his life-saver transistor radio, which for once he successfully badgered to get from Delores and Prescott one Christmas by threatening murder and mayhem if he didn’t when all his corner boys at Jimmy Jack’s Diner had them, on one Sunday night to listen to a favorite rock and roll DJ that he could receive on that night from Chicago he found a folk music program that sounded interesting (it turned out to be the Dick Summer show on WBZ, a DJ who is featured in the Tom Rush documentary) and he was hooked by the different songs played, some mountain music, some jug, some country blues, some protest songs.

Each week Dick Summer would announce who was playing where for the week and he kept mentioning various locations, including the Club 47, in Harvard Square. Josh was intrigued, wanted to go if only he could find a kindred for a date and if he could scratch up some dough. Neither easy tasks for a guy in high teen alienation mode.           

One Saturday afternoon Josh made connections to get to a Red Line subway stop which was the quickest way for him to get to Harvard Square (and was also the last stop on that line then) and walked around the Square looking into the various clubs and coffeehouses that had been mentioned by Summer and a few more as well. You could hardly walk a block without running into one or the other. Of course during the day all people were doing was sitting around drinking coffee and reading, maybe playing chess, or as he found out later huddled in small group corners working on their music (or poetry which also still had some sway as a tail end of the “beat” scene) so he didn’t that day get the full sense of what was going on. A few weeks later, having been “hipped” to the way things worked, meaning that as long as you had coffee or something in front of you in most places you were cool Josh always chronically low on funds took a date, a cheap date naturally, to the Club Blue where you did not pay admission but where Eric Von Schmidt was to play. Josh had heard his Joshua Gone Barbados covered by Tom Rush on Dick Summer’s show and he had flipped out so he was eager to hear him. So for the price of, Josh thought, two coffees each, a stretched-out shared brownie and two subway fares they had a good time, an excellent time (although that particular young woman and Josh would not go on much beyond that first date since she was looking for a guy who had more dough to spend on her, and maybe a “boss” car too).

Josh would go over to Harvard Square many weekend nights in those days, including sneaking out of the house a few time late at night and heading over since in those days the Red Line subway ran all night. That was his home away from home not only for cheap date nights depending on the girl he was interested in but when the storms gathered at the house about his doing, or not doing, this or that, stuff like that when his mother pulled the hammer down. If Josh had a few dollars make by caddying for the Mayfair swells at the Carver Country Club, a private club a few miles from his house he would pony up the admission, or two admissions if he was lucky, to hear Joan Baez or her sister Mimi with her husband Richard Farina, maybe Eric Von Schmidt, Tom Paxton when he was in town at the 47. If he was broke he would do his alternative, take the subway but rather than go to a club he would hang out all night at the famous Harvard Square Hayes-Bickford just up the steps from the subway stop exit. That was a wild scene made up of winos, grifters, con men, guys and gals working off barroom drunks, crazies, and… almost every time out there would be folk-singers or poets, some known to him, others from cheap street who soon faded into the dust, in little clusters, coffee mugs filled, singing or speaking low, keeping the folk tradition alive, keeping the faith that a new wind was coming across the land and they, Josh, wanted to catch it. Wasn’t that a time.          


A View From The Left-Minneapolis City Council: Don't block $15

Minneapolis City Council: Don't block $15

Friend, Yesterday, Minneapolis City Council accepted that 15 Now Minnesota has enough signatures to put $15/hour on the ballot, but facing pressure from big business, some city officials have indicated their intention to block our initiative from getting on the ballot. They could vote as early as August 5th. Now more than ever we need your support if we are going to win $15 in Minneapolis!
We’ve already shown our initiative is legal. But behind the scenes, big business interests are lobbying City hall to illegally block our proposal from appearing on the ballot, and the Chamber of Commerce is threatening legal action in today’s newspaper.
It would be a huge mistake to underestimate the power of corporate lobbyists. We want to print tens of thousands of door-hangers and send out an online petition to every voter, but we need your help. Everything about our campaign is funded by ordinary people, not corporations.
We need to organize now to make sure $15/hour appears on the ballot. Winning $15/hour in Minneapolis opens the door to $15 across the whole Midwest, a region decimated by the “Great Recession.”
We have a historic opportunity to show the power working people have when we pool our resources and organize around our own demands. Over a hundred thousand Minneapolis workers would be directly affected by a $15/hour minimum wage, but we need to reach out to them and make sure their voice is heard.
"It almost brings me to tears. We’ve worked hard as a team for this,” said Steven Suffridge, a McDonald’s employee organizing with CTUL. “Folks are here no matter what the bosses tell them. We’ve already won paid sick leave and we will win $15.”
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