Saturday, January 25, 2020

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-Out In The Jukebox Saturday Night –Sweet Little Rock and Roller

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-Out In The Jukebox Saturday Night –Sweet Little Rock and Roller

Sketches From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

Out In The Jukebox Saturday Night –Sweet Little Rock and Roller

Chuck Berry – Sweet Little Rock 'n Roller Lyrics

Yeah, nine years old and sweet as she can be
All dressed up like a downtown Christmas tree
Dancin? And hummin? A rock
抧抮oll melody
 the daughter of a well-respected man
Who taught her to judge and understand
Since she became a rock
抧抮oll music fan

Sweet little rock'n'roller
Sweet little rock'n'roller
Her daddy don
 have to scold her
Her partner can
 hardly hold her
Her partner can
 hardly hold her
She never gets any older
Sweet little rock

Should have seen her eyes when the band began to play
And the famous singer sang and bowed away
When the star performed she screamed and yelled "Hooray!"

Ten thousand eyes were watchin? Him leave the floor
Five thousand tongues were screamin? 
ore and More!? Br> And about fifteen hundred people waitin? Outside the door

Sweet little rock'n'roller
Sweet little rock'n'roller
Sweet little rock'n'roller
Sweet little rock'n'roller
Sweet little rock'n'roller
Sweet little rock'n'roller
Sweet little rock'n'roller

Recently Josh Breslin,  my old travelling companion from the great yellow bus down the nirvana highways days out West in the late 1960s (the West is the best, get here and we will do the rest was the Jim Morrison-etched mantra driving us out there) told me, that he had, seemingly endlessly, gone back to his early musical roots, his coming of age in the 1950s golden age of rock (and mine too), now conceded even by him (me, I am agnostic on the question) to correctly carry the designation classic rock. Although Josh had his huff and puff sneaking out of the house at midnight heading via subway to Harvard Square to see if could be washed by the new breeze coming through the land folk music minute in the early 1960s that I can attest to when he later tried to foist the records off on me (you know the Village/Old Town/North Beach faded minute when all those guys and gals like Dylan/Baez/Collins/Odetta/Rush/Clancy Brothers/Van Ronk/Ochs/Paxton, Christ even old guard Pete Seeger and so on who had previously sung their hearts out for the basket in the up and coming coffeehouses and to move, or better if you believe the stories  Dave Van Ronk tells, clear the beat poetry crowds to bring in a new crowd got their chance to front). Had his blues phase, you pick ‘em country or electric, after he saw Howlin’ Wolf practically eating his harmonica on How Many More Years. Had as well an outlaw country cowboy second with Waylon and Willie. And still later did a retro Duke/Count/Charlie/Dizzy retro jazz thing although he has always claimed that he was always a child of his times, a “child of rock ‘n’ roll.” I believe him if that helps.

To show his adherence to that truth Josh had spent some time reviewing various compilations of a commercially produced classic rock series that went under the general title Rock ‘n’ Roll Will Never Die. That task was not as easy as it would seem since those commercial interests have tapped into their demographic pool and have caught our generation, the generation of ’68 in a nostalgic mood, or in a retro- buying mood. Ready to buy fifteen volume sets just to get maybe thirty gems (if they have not caught onto iTunes or YouTube, an iffy proposition for our generation just on the edge of needing to be computer literate). So there are many (although with a fair amount of overlap) compilations out there honing in on the “oldies but goodies” bug that has infiltrated the AARP-worthy set. He has noted that while time and ear have eroded the sparkle of some of the lesser tunes, you know novelty stuff like Purple People-Eaters or goof things like Who Wears Short Shorts, it still seems obvious that those years, say 1955-58, really did form the musical jail break-out for our generation who had just started to tune into music. (We have talked a great deal about the various failures, one hit johnnies and janies, and the “never should haves,” although I hope not endlessly.) 

I had to laugh when Josh explained his take on the scene back then.  We had our own little world, or as some hip sociologist trying to explain that Zeitgeist today might say, our own “sub-group cultural expression.” I, Josh too maybe since we are working to mine the same memoires lately, have already talked about the pre 7/11 mom and pop corner variety store hangout with the tee-shirted, engineered-booted, cigarette (unfiltered, of course Luckies preferred) hanging from the lips, Coke, big- sized glass Coke bottle at the side, pinball wizard guys thing. And about the pizza parlor jukebox coin devouring, playing some “hot” song for the nth time that night, “hold the onions I might get lucky tonight,” dreamy girl might come in the door thing. Of course, the soda fountain, and…ditto, dreamy girl coming through the door thing, merely to share a sundae, natch. And the same for the teen dance club, keep the kids off the streets even if we parents hate their damn rock music, the now eternal hope dreamy girl coming in the door, save the last dance for me thing.

Needless to say you know more about middle school and high school dance stuff, including hot tip “inside” stuff about manly preparations for those civil wars out in the working- class neighborhood night, than you could ever possibly want to know, and, hell, you were there anyway (or at ones like them). Moreover, I clued you in, and keep this quiet, about sex, or rather I should say “doin’ the do” in case the kids are around, and about the local “custom” (for any anthropologists present) of ocean-waved Atlantic “watching the submarine races.”

That is maybe enough memory lane stuff for a lifetime, especially for those with weak hearts. But, no, your intrepid messenger Josh felt the need to go back indoors again and take a little different look at that be-bop jukebox Saturday night scene as it unfolded in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The jukebox scene where we usually heard some sounds for the first time and we either worked out some deal to buy the record at Smitty’s Record Shop up in Adamsville Square or cadged nickels and dimes to endlessly play the tune until it got worn out (or we got worn out hearing it and therefore moved on). Hey, you could have found the old jukebox in lots of places in those days. Bowling alleys, drugstores (drugstores with soda fountains- why else would healthy, young, sex-charged high school students go to such an old-timer-got-to-get medicine-for-the-arthritis place. Why indeed, although there are secrets in such places that I will tell you about some other time when I’m not jazzed up to talk about Josh  be-bop juke-boxing around the town), pizza parlors, drive-in restaurants, and so on. Basically any place where kids were hot for some special song and wanted to play it until the cows came home. And had the coins to satisfy their hunger.

Josh said a lot of it was to kill time waiting for this or that, although the basic reason was these were all places where you could show off your stuff, and maybe, strike up a conversation with someone who attracted your attention as they came in the door. I agree with the latter point although the real killing time didn’t come until we hit the Army, and later. Here is where Josh showed me he was not kidding about his devotion to classic rock when one night at a local bar in Cambridge he showed me the cover artwork on one compilation showed dreamy girls waiting around the jukebox for their platters (records, okay) to work their way up the mechanism that took them from the stack and laid them out on the player. That said to me “There is your chance, boys, grab it,” like in the old days. See these were girls just hanging around the machine. Some cashmere-sweatered, beehive-haired (or bobbed, kind of), well-shaped brunette (or blond, but I favored brunettes in those days) chatting idly was worth at least a date if you moved fast or, more often, a telephone number to call. Not after nine at night though or before eight because that was when she was talking to her boyfriend. Lucky guy, maybe.

But after looking at that artwork (worthy of Edward Hooper, for the clear visual message it sent, believe me) I reminded Josh where the real skill came in. That was when you were just hanging casually around the old box, especially on a no, or low, dough day waiting on a twist (slang for girl in our old working- class neighborhood) to come by and put her quarter in (giving three or five selections depending what kind of place the jukebox was located in) talking to her friends as she made those selections. Usually the first couple were easy, some now faded 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 Only You?” 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 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, before the “I got to get back to my girlfriends, etc., etc.” line came at you. Oh, jukebox you baby. And guess what. On that self-same jukebox you were very, very likely to hear some of the songs on the compilation Josh showed me. Let me mention the stick outs (and a few that worked some of that “magic” mentioned above on tough nights). The other “has beens” you don’t have to waste your time on:

Oh Julie, The Crescendos (a great one if you knew, or thought you knew, or wanted to believe that girl at the jukebox’s name was Julie); Lavender Blue, Sammy Turner (good talk song especially on the word silly dilly billy word play); Sweet Little Rock and Roller, Chuck Berry (discussed above, and worthy of consideration if your tastes ran to those heart-breaking little rock and rollers. I will tell you about the ONE time it came in handy for me sometime); You Were Mine, The Fireflies; Susie Darlin’, Robin Luke (ditto the Julie thing above); Only You, The Platters (keep this one a secret, okay, unless you really are a sensitive guy). So, yeah, Josh is a “child of rock ‘n’ roll” in good standing. How about you? 

[You should know one thing about Josh, and it is as true of him today as it was in Big Sur or down in La Jolla when we were running the yellow brick road out West. Once he gets onto something he will see it through until the end. That is the case with his recent passion to remember his “child of rock ‘n’ roll” youth. I mentioned, I think, that he had just completed a review of the multi-volume Rock ‘n’ Roll Will Never Die series that he had shown me one compilation from, the one with the girls hanging around the jukebox waiting, waiting for something.

Well there are many compilations out there (and as Frank will gladly tell you there is a fair amount of overlap between competing sets) but what Frank is looking at now is the series titled The Golden Age of Rock. When he mentioned that one night when we were sitting on a couple of barstools at Rich’s, the “oldies but goodies” place in downtown Boston, having a drink he also added that he thought that I should assist him in future efforts since I was a member in good standing of that generation as well. It took all my persuasive powers to disabuse him of the notion that I needed to hear about two hundred, maybe three hundred songs, many which I did not like, in order to get that maybe thirty gems that I, we, died for back then. So I turned him down but when I got home I thought if the artwork was as good at jogging the memory as that jukebox scene, well, maybe…]          

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night- When The Sea Changed -With Elmore James’ Look On Yonder Wall In Mind

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night- When The Sea Changed -With Elmore James’ Look On Yonder Wall In Mind  

Sketches From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

When The Sea Changed -With Elmore James’ Look On Yonder Wall In Mind  

Elmore James – Look On Yonder Wall Lyrics

Look on yonder wall and hand me down my walkin' cane
Look on yonder wall and hand me down my walkin' cane
I got me another woman, baby, yon' come your man

Look on yonder wall and hand me down my walkin' cane
Look on yonder wall and hand me down my walkin' cane
I got me another woman and, uhh, baby, yon' come your man

Your husband went to the war,
And you know it was tough, uhh
I don't know how many men he done killed,
But, I know he done killed enough.
Look on yonder wall and hand me down my walkin' cane
Look on yonder wall and hand me down my walkin' cane
I got me another woman, now baby, yon' come your man

Oh yeah
I love you baby, but you just can't treat me right,
Spend all my money and walk the streets all night
But, look on yonder wall and hand me down my walkin' cane
I got me another woman, and baby, yon' come your man
Look On Yonder Wall lyrics © GULF COAST MUSIC LLC
…who knows when he first began to notice the difference, notice that the music, his parents’ music, the stuff, as they constantly told him, that got them through the “Depression and the war,” (that Depression being the Great Depression of the 1930s when all hell broke loose and guys and gals were on the ropes, on the road, onto sometime they could never figure out and the war, World War II in which they slogged through or waited anxiously at home) on his ears. Of course they, his parents specifically, no question, and their kindred later designated the “greatest generation” by younger fawning pundits and now considered accepted wisdom as they have begun to die off and no longer play on center stage although this sketch is about his generation, the self-designated generation of ’68, so we will let that issue pass. The parents having gained that distinction for having suffered the pangs of hunger, displacement, the struggle for survival, the train smoke and broken dreams heading west (hell maybe in any direction that was not where they lonesome, separate, at luck’s end were) looking for work, looking for a new start in the 1930s. Then gathering themselves up when the war clouds turned into live ammunition lined up to fight whatever evil had reared its head in this wicked old world in the 1940s, or waited at home fretfully reading the casualty lists as they were posted in home towns across America.

Of course like every generation since they invented that term “generation” and put some special onus on each one going back to Adam and Eve, maybe before, they had their own tribal music to get them through the tough spots, to dance to or just to find some secluded spot and listen to. And that would have been fine with him that secluded spot idea (although at the first grating on the ears time he was too young to be aware of what that secluded spot stuff portended but he picked the idea up easily later when he came of age, girl noticing came of age) except he had to face that big old family RCA console radio plucked right down in the living room every day blaring away while his mother did her housework, his father listened after work, and  they both got all dreamy together over WJDA every Saturday night when for five hours, five hours count them, the station endlessly played “the songs that got them through the Depression and the war.”  Jesus.             

Still although it was a daily plague on his ears he was not sure when he noticed that he had had enough of silky-voiced Nat King Cole all smooth and mellow and ready to put him to sleep (or worse), the Inkpots spouting off  and gumming things up by talking the lyrics for half the song on If I Didn’t Care or his mother’s favorite I’ll Get By (the song she said that got her through the war what with her working as a clerk down at the Naval Depot in Hullsville at the time his father was Marine island-hopping in the Pacific and while she fretted over those casualty list postings in front of the Daily Gazette office), Bing Crosby (not the 1930s Bing of Yip Harburg’s Brother, Can You Spare A Dime but the later pretty-boy mellow White Christmas stuff) and the like. He had moreover become tired unto death of the cutesy Andrews Sisters and their antic bugle boy, rum and Coca-Cola, under the apple tree music, tired of Frank (later called the “chairman of the boards” but still way too placid for him although he remembered his mother showing him a photograph of perfectly sane looking girls in bobby-sox swooning all over the place to get next to him at some theater in New York City ), Frankie (Lane okay) and Dean (before Jerry), tired of Tony fly me to the moon, Benny and his very tired clarinet Buddha swing, the whole Harry James/Jimmy Dorsey/Tommy Dorsey/Duke/Count/Earl/King and whatever other royalty they could latch onto big band sound and even blessed Charley/Dizzy/Miles be-bop, be-bop jazz (stuff that he would later, way later, crave when he went “beat” joined, joined late that big beat fellahin world Jack Kerouac was always going on and on about). Yes, yeah, tired unto death craving some sound that moved him, some sound that he could sway his rigid locked-up boyish man hips to. A break-out for sure.

Maybe it had been because he was showing serious signs of growing pains, of just being a pain like his parents had taken to calling him more and more often lately, and just wanted to be by himself up in his room (as the oldest boy he got the single room once the family moved to the new three bedroom house from that cramped apartment over on Elmer Street where all three boys had to sleep in one room and there were more fights over that fact mercifully done now) and let the world pass by until his growing pains passed by. It started one day in 1956 as far as he could remember the first time that he asked his parents to turn off the radio, or turn off WJDA, or turn on this new station that one of the kids at school was talking about coming out of Boston, WMEX the call letters he thought. This kid, Richie, a good kid who knew a lot about music swore that one of the commercials on the show was about Max’s Drive-In over on the other side of North Adamsville and a place where his parents had taken him and his brothers for burgers and fries which if you could believe this was the new “hot” spot because Max had installed speakers in each stall so that every hip guy and swaying gal could listen to WMEX while munching on a burger or swallowing a French fry. Listen to stuff that was Frank-Benny-Duke-Bing-less. Something was in the wind.    

Something may have been in the wind but he was still filled with all kinds of teen angst and alienation (no, he did not use those terms to describe his condition and only learned the terms much later after much turmoil, a few beefs with the parents, and after reading a Time magazine article about kids today going to hell in hand basket what with hanging around corners in white tee-shirts and snarls, doing crazy stuff to pass the time of day and listening although he was foggy on the music they described but it sounded interesting which is why he picked up the article from his father’s chair in the first place). Mainly though what was on his mind had been about his growing so fast, fast and awkward, too fast and awkward to figure out what this new found interest in girls was all about. Last year, last year before his parents’ music grated on his ears, they were nothing but giggly girls and a bother but now he could see, well, he could see that they might be interesting to talk to if he could find something to say. Could maybe ease his way in with some music talk like that good guy Richie did. All he knew was that life was tough and made tougher by his parents always saying no, no in principle like there was no other possible answer.    

But here is the funny part his parents, like he found out later when he figured out how parents worked, parents always do and had worked it out as a science, switched up on kids. See one day to placate him (or, heaven forbid, to keep him out of sight and therefore out of mind) they, his usually clueless parents, had gone to the local Radio Shack store and bought him a transistor radio so that he would be able listen to music up in his room rather than lie around the living room all night after his parents had gone to bed changing the dials, their dial settings, looking for some other stations, looking for WMEX to see if Richie was right about Max’s Drive-In, on that damn old family RCA radio which had formed the center piece of the room before the television had displaced it. This transistor radio was a new gizmo, small and battery-powered, which allowed the average teenager to put the thing up to his or her ear and listen to whatever he or she wanted to listen to away from prying eyes. Hail, hail.

And that little technological feat saved his life, or at least help save it. The saving part was his finding out of the blue on one late Saturday night Buster Brim’s Blues Bonanza out of WRKO in Chicago. Apparently, although he was ignorant of the scientific aspects of the procedure, the late night air combined with the closing down of certain dawn to dusk radio stations left the airwaves clear at times to let him receive that long distance infusion. Buster was a mad man monk talking in a drawl like maybe he was from down south, talking jive, talking a line of patter with sing-song words, words that he would later recognize as from the be-bop vocabulary pushed into the orbit of this rock and roll thing some DJ invented (DJs the guys who spun the platters-played the records for the squares who don’t know) for the new sound that was putting a big crimp in vanilla popular music. He immediately sensed that the music emanating from that show had a totally different beat from his parents’ music, a beat he would later find came out of some old-time primordial place when we all were born, out of some Africa cradle of civilization. Then though all he knew was that the beat spoke to his angst, spoke to his alienation from about twelve different things, spoke to that growing pains thing. Made him, well, happy, when he snapped his fingers to some such beat. What he was unsure of, and what he also did not found out about until later, was whether this would last or was just a passing fancy like those Andrews Sisters his parents were always yakking about.

What he didn’t know really was that though that little gizmo he had been present at the birth of rock and roll. Was right at the place where that be-bopping sound was turning into a sway by white guys from the farms down in Tennessee, getting refined by some black guys from the Delta, being turned out by some urban hep-cats from New Jack City and anybody else who could get his hips moving to the new time beat. Geez, and all he thought he was doing was snapping his fingers until they were sore to Elmore James’ Look On Yonder Wall…                

[Sam Lowell, the “he” of the sketch to give him a name, although after looking the story over it really could have been an almost universal teen story in the 1950s from all accounts including that quota of angst and alienation and the vast number of transistor radios sold to clueless parents to placate their unruly tribe, later in life, the way I heard the story, actually became enthralled with the music of his parents’ generation for a while. Kind of saw that they needed that “no ripples” “sentimental journey” waiting by the mailbox, I’ll get by, if I didn’t care” music to get through their tough spots. Of course he also had had his early 1960s folk minute affair, his later 1970s outlaw country cowboy minute and his 1990s be-bop jazz revival so it is hard to tell how deep or how sincerely he imbibed that parents’ music moment. He told a friend of mine, a friend who told me the original story, that whatever else he was still a “child of rock and roll” when the deal went down. Oh, except now via iPods rather than transistor radios.]   

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-They Shoot CD Players (Or iPODs) Don’t They- With Elvis’ Version Of Harbor Lights In Mind

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-They Shoot CD Players (Or iPODs) Don’t They- With Elvis’ Version Of Harbor Lights In Mind

Sketches From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

Harbor Lights Lyrics
(words & music by H. Williams - J. Kennedy)
I saw the harbor lights
They only told me we were parting
Those same old harbor lights
That once brought you to me.
I watched the harbor lights
How could I help it?
Tears were starting.
Good-bye to golden nights
Beside the silvery seas.
I long to hold you dear,
And kiss you just once more.
But you were on the ship,
And I was on the shore.
Now I know lonely nights
For all the while my heart keeps praying
That someday harbor lights
Will bring you back to me.

Some people have asked, although I am not one of them, if there was music before 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, before what is now called the classic age of the genre. Usually such people are young, or were born well after what is now called the classic age of rock and roll became the classic age. So they ask was there music before hip-hop nation beat down the doors, or if any other genre that has struck their interest like techno-rock that might have formed the basis for their question. In fact having thought about the question for a while I got jolted one day when I listened on the radio to an interview with a famous classic rock star who put the question a different manner-will rock and roll ever die? His answer, and this is the part that shocked me for a moment, was there would always be a niche, a niche for Chrissakes, for rock even as now it has moved from the center of the music universe. The shock coming from my own impression that rock and roll as an old time song had it would never die. So rock will fade to the sidelines and be just another piece of entertainment like our pre-rock parents and their swing and jitter-buggery.    

But rock, rock as I knew it, I, Frank Jackman, who lived for the latest 45 RPM records (those were single song two- sided pieces of vinyl which you can find examples of on YouTube when somebody puts a classic rock song up) to hit the stores along with my corner boys was the basis for the question back then. Back in the 1950s when the world was young and America, young America, still had that capacity to wonder before the lamp went out in the next decade. Wonder just like Scott Fitzgerald pointed out about those who founded places like New York City, the Mecca for a lot of things, including the production of those 45 RPM records that I mentioned. People like those Dutch sailors with the Van names must have felt when they saw that “fresh green breast of the new world” coming up the Long Island Sound. And wondering rightly so since what we heard before, heard to perdition was some vanilla stuff that our parents liked but I will get to that later.

In other words time, new millennium time, has left classic rock for the aficionados or for, well, old fogies, you know the AARP-worthy denizens whose demographics form the basis for rock musical compilations and “oldies but goodies” revivals with now ancient heartthrobs from back in the day who have lost a step or three coming out on some massive dwarfing stage bright lights lit and lip-synch, yes, lip-synch their greatest hits (or hit in the case of those important musical one-hit johnnie and janies who formed more of the industry than usually is acknowledged). But there, believe it or not, but “take my word from me” like old Rabbit Brown used to say his song James Alley Blues, were other types of music, music that helped formed rock and roll that I found out about later after I had had my fill of 45 RPM records and corner boys and wanted to dig into the history of the American songbook, see what drove earlier generations of the young to seek their own jailbreak out from their parents music.     

So of course there was music before rock, I had better say classic rock so nobody gets confused, and I have taken some pains to establish the roots of rock back to Mississippi country blues around the turn of the century, the 20th century, when all those freed slaves who thought they were economically free and not just manacle-free wound up working for Mister in his twenty-eight thousand acres of the best bottomland in Mississippi for a pittance. Kept in line, and here is where the bitch of the thing is by a guy, well, not really a guy but a way of life, a legal, political, economic and social way of life, named after a guy maybe, one Mister James Crow, and so those freed blacks who slaved on Mister’s land had to blow off steam and that was the basic of the blues, and I don’t mean blues like when a guy has a good girl who done him wrong on his mind. Hell that problem was easy to solve. What I mean is when Mister, or his Captain, pushed the pace all week (half a day Saturday included) and every worthy buck and every good-looking gal, big thighed or not, hit Jimmie Jack’s juke joint to listen to some itinerant brother with a broken down guitar (hell maybe just a board and string if times were tough) wail away about that damn Captain, his, the singer’s, unfaithful women and about how “the devil’s gonna get him” if he didn’t stop chasing those very women, drinking that applejack, and gambling his wages away in some back alley crap shoot, for nickels and dimes in the pot (and some of Jimmie Jack’s homemade brew) and got the crowd swaying and clapping their hands to the beat on See See Rider or Mississippi Highwater Rising. Yeah, that’s the start. Okay.

Too far back for you, too much root? Okay let’s travel up the river, the Big Muddy, maybe stop off at Memphis for a drink, and to nurse the act, before hitting the bitch city, Chicago, hog butcher, steel-maker and every other kind of tool and appliance-maker to the new industrial world just ask Carl Sandburg. But also maker by proxy of the urban blues, those old hokey plantation Son House/Charley Patton/ Blind Blake (and a million other guys with Blind in front of their names) juke joint Saturday night full of homemade blues turned electric with the city and turned guys like plain boy Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf (you would laugh at their real names although you would not do that in their presence, especially the Wolf because he would cut you bad, real bad) into the kings of  Maxwell Street and all the streets around with back-up and all putting just the right twist on Look Yonder Wall, Rocket 88, Hoochie Goochie Man and Little Red Rooster (with kudos to Willie Dixon on that one too but first heard not by Wolf but by the “classic” rock the Stones, so how is that for cache). So, yeah, electric blues as they traveled north to the heartland industrial cities

Jazz too maybe a little Duke and Benny swing as it got be-bopped and hurried up the beat, for the drum action, for the “it don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that swing” that took over after a while once the old tine Scott Fitzgerald Jazz Age got waylaid by the Great Depression and World War II. But Dizzy, Charlie, Thelonius too with that cool, detachment mood that spoke to the beat down, the beaten down, the big blast beaten fellahin world. Certainly throw in rhythm and blues, north and south, throw in big time one Mister Big Joe Turner toot-tooting his sweet mama to Shake, Rattle and Roll that had all those alienated, angst-ridden white guys (whether they knew they were alienated or not like some model James Dean) lined up to cover the damn thing. Yeah guys like Elvis (when he was young and hunger working the hayride circuit for nickels and dimes, and an off-hand willing woman), Bill Haley when he needed to kick his act up a notch, and Jerry Lee when he needed to put fire into that piano.

Then came alone a strange mix and match, rockabilly as it came out of the white small town South, Tupelo, Biloxi, Lake Charles, Lafayette, a little Cajun thrown in. Jesus, the smaller the town it seemed the more the guys wanted to breakout, wanted to push the envelope of the music, wanted to get away from that “from hunger” look, wanted that big bad Caddy they saw in the golden age of the automobile magazines. Came out with those same boys lining up to sing Joe Turner, hungry Elvis, Carl, Johnny, Jerry Lee, to sing black along with that good old boy Saturday night moonshine tucked in the back seat of that bad ass Chevy looking, looking for danger, and looking for women to sing to who were looking for danger. Country boys, yeah, but not hokey George Jones country boys these guys wanted to breakout of  Smiley’s Tavern over on Highway One, wanted girls to dance on the tables, wanted guys to get up and dance with those Rubys and red-headed girls. Yeah, they mixed it and matched like big time walking daddies (and I hear had fun doing it, hell, it beat eking out a living clerking at Mister Smith’s feed store.  

What rock and roll owed little to, or at least I hope that it owes little to, is that Tin Pan Alley/ Broadway show tune axis part of the American songbook. You know Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Oklahoma, Singing in the Rain, Over The Rainbow stuff. That part of the songbook seems to me to be a different trend away from that jailbreak song that drove us wild and one that was reflected in a CD compilation review I did one time (for the young, maybe the very young, CDs were discs loaded with a bunch of songs, some you liked, maybe three, and the  rest you had to buy as well because you desperately wanted those three not like today when you just hopped on some site to grab something you liked one at a time and download it, presto), The 1950s: 16 Most Requested Songs, which really was about the 16 most requested song before the rock jailbreak of the mid-1950s. Yeah, not exactly stuff your parents liked but stuff that maybe was good if you a “hot” date that did not turn out well and you listened to it endlessly on your defeated way home. Yeah, let’s be clear about that, that stuff your older brothers and sisters already halfway to that place where your parents lived swooned over, not you.

I have along the way, in championing classic rock as the key musical form that drove the tastes of my generation, the generation of ’68, contrasted that guitar-driven, drum/bass line driven sound to that of my parents’ generation, the ones who survived the Great Depression of the 1930s and fought or waited impatiently at home World War II, and listened to swing, jitter-buggery things and swooned (they really did check YouTube if you don’t want to take my word from me) over big bands, brass and wind swings bands, Frank Sinatra, the Andrews Sisters and The Mills Brothers, among others. In other words the music that, we of the generation of ’68, heard as background music around the house as we were growing up. Buddha SwingsDon’t Sit Under The Apple Tree, Rum and Coca-Cola, Paper Dolls, Tangerine, and the like. Stuff that today sounds pretty good, if still not quite something that “speaks” to me. That is not the music that got us moving to break out and seek a newer world, to try to scratch out an existence in a world that we had not say in creating and dream, dream do you hear me, about turning the world upside down and keeping it that way for once. I remember writing in that review that the music in that compilation drove me up a wall and I was ready to shoot my CD player, the instrument that I heard it on, once I heard it (younger reader just put “shoot your iPod” and we will be on the same page.

No, this was the music that reflected, okay, let’s join the cultural critics’ chorus here, the attempted vanilla-zation (if such a word exists) of the Cold War Eisenhower (“I Like Ike”) period when people were just trying to figure out whether the Earth would survive from one day to the next. Not a time to be rocking the boat, for sure. Once things stabilized a bit though then the mad geniuses of rock could hold sway, and while parents and authorities crabbed to high heaven about it, they found out that you could let that rock breakout occur and not have everything wind up going to hell in a hand basket. Mostly. But this music, these 16 most requested songs were what we were stuck with before then. Sure, I listened to them then like everyone else, everyone connected to a radio, but this stuff, little as I knew then, did not “speak” to me. And unlike some of that 1940s stuff still does not “speak” to me.

Oh, you want proof. Here is one example. On that compilation Harbor Lights was done by Sammy Kaye and his Orchestra. This was cause number one for wanting to get a pistol out and start aiming. Not for the song but for the presentation. Why? Well, early in his career Elvis, when he was young and hungry while he was doing his thing for Sam Phillips’ Memphis Sun Records operation, covered this song. There are a myriad Elvis recordings during the Sun period, including compilations with outtakes and alternative recordings of this song. The worst, the absolute worst of these covers by Elvis has more life, more jump, dare I say it, more sex than the Kaye recording could ever have. No young women would get all wet, would get all sweaty and ready to throw their underwear at the drop of a hat for Sammy’s version. Elvis you know or heard about what women were ready to do. Case closed. And the compilation only got worse from there with incipient things like Frankie Lane’s I Believe, Johnny Mathis’ It’s Not For Me To Say, and Marty Robbins’ (who did some better stuff later) on A White Sports Coat (And A Pink Carnation). And you wonder why I ask whether they shoot CD players. Enough said. 

When The World Lived For Film Noir Heaven-With The Film Adaptation Of Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon” In Mind

When The World Lived For Film Noir Heaven-With The Film Adaptation Of Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon” In Mind

By Phil Larkin and Kenny Jacobs

[Ever since I came on board on this site as site manager first taking over the day to day operations, handing out assignments, editing, researching that sort of thing and then when Allan Jackson retired the whole operation I have tried to do some innovations both in the way the work was assigned and how it was presented.*There was a rough period of some serious internal struggle between the old guard who had hung on Jackson’s every word and received whatever assignments they liked many times taking whatever struck their collective fancies and submitting to be automatically rubber-stamped by Jackson and the guys who have come to be known in urban legend around the office water cooler as the “Young Turks” who had to take the old guard’s leavings-or else.

Frankly as a result of what I would call nepotism, there is no other word for it although Allan claimed it was impossible since that term only dealt with feathering family nests, all the plum assignments were reserved for those whom he had grown up with him in the old working-class of North Adamsville or had met on the highways during the turbulent 1960s beginning with the well-known Summer of Love, 1967 centered in San Francisco. That hard fact true even when of necessity due to retirements and tiredness he had to bring in a cohort of younger writers who wound up mostly doing rehash jobs on what the old guard left behind. Not a good situation which in the end was the undoing of Jackson since the self-styled “Young Turks” rose up to smite the dragon and he left packing his bags for parts unknown vowing revenge unto to the seventh generation. More importantly, leaving me to try to pick up some pieces.

The first of which was to cut way down, cut down to nothing in the end on the proliferation of titles hanging on each and every writer. After an unsuccessful trial run as describing everybody as self-evident “writer” we have gone to simple given and surnames in the by-line line. The second, to be kind to myself, we are still trying to work out, by having both young and older writers write out of their comfort zones. If you wrote about old time films, which was fine by me coming over from the American Film Gazette where we did a million of those, then try your hand at more modern stuff. That is where as they say “the rubber hit the road.” Where there was almost another civil war here headed on their respective sides by the two writers who will do the review below.

In order to placate both parties who wanted to do this fantastic review of one the super-classic all-time great movies I decided to have both give their takes on the film and together glean the high points through mutual rebuttals. Kenny, having done that kind of thing at his last job agreed without a fight. Phil reared up on his high horse and bucked me every minute until I threatened to put him back on probation which would have meant “doing penance” writing about some zombie film, or worse having to do some television series reviews. Needless to say he saw the light of reason after that. So below is the experiment in its first glow with each take first and then some play by play. Greg Green     

*There has been a persistent undercurrent around the shop about what actually happened to Allan Jackson in the internal dispute. That situation got a big push by both sides when Allan wound up in Utah doing stringer work for some Mormon publications. The old guard called it a purge, an exile, thinking that this little hiccup was on the order of the Stalin-Trotsky fight during the Russian Revolution period since most of them, along with Allan, had been at least around the fringes of serious leftist groups in their youth after they shed their Summer of Love dope-addled goggles. The “Young Turks” a little more vicious having had to hold fire under the Jackson regime or they would have been in Utah or North Dakota themselves also called it openly a purge. Were glad once the old goat was gone to revel in their victory.

The truth? Remember I was the distinct beneficiary of his demise. Allan would not have retired, no way, and I had many talks with him about it before the hammer came down on his poor misunderstanding head, unless he had been voted out by the coterie of writers, including the vote, the decisive one, of his oldest friend Sam Lowell who said it was time to “pass the torch.” In Sam’s words “nobody under about sixty gave a fuck about all the bright shining stuff that the 1960s was supposed to represent before it all turned to dross.” So maybe it was a purge but a soft-core one if you think about the matter. ]           

Phil Larkin’s The Maltese Falcon take:

Forget all the bullshit about crime doesn’t pay that always comes with the package in these kinds of films whether it is the 1940s or now (hell the “crime doesn’t pay” gag goes all the way back to the Garden, back to Adam forcing Eve to grab the brass ring, a no-no, and maybe even before that). Forget too all the nonsense about a guy, a guy in the low-life key-hole peeper private detective racket upholding the honor of the profession, Jesus, profession he called it, and having to move heaven and earth to find the nasty killer of his partner. That is strictly for the sob sisters and terminal flick junkies like the so-called protagonist Sam Spade could have given a fuck about old Miles when he was playing footsie with Miles’ wife and had his name stricken from the world about two seconds after he dropped by the office and had his Girl Friday do the deed after Miles has taken a couple of well-earned slugs for being skirt-crazy. Forget too writing off Brigid or whatever her name really was and once you get into the high-end alias racket to cover your tracks as long as you have enough well-doctored passports names don’t matter as some gun-simple dame. That won’t wash either. 

This one is strictly about a girl (a woman nowadays okay) having to do what a girl had to do in a time when women had many fewer options, for good or evil. See I know the back story, I know what the post-Code Hollywood censors would not let the 1940s world know about and even Dashiell Hammett, no prude, fudged on it too. This Brigid, let’s go with that name since that is the name that she went to the big-step off under, and maybe under the seven veils that was her real name, had been in Hong Kong a high priced whore, call girl they call them now, maybe then too, at Madame Chiang’s bordello which serviced frisky British senior civil servants and wired Chinese mandarins tired of their wives with every kind of pleasure they desired. (This Madame Chiang if you know your history was the older sister of the infamous Madame Chiang kai-shek, wife of the powerful Nationalist Chinese leader of the time how else do you thing she was able to get the dough to go to Wellesley College.) The problem, always a problem with fickle men was that the good old boys either got tired of her, she faded like all things do, or both. When the Fat Man and crew came storming into Hong Kong on a lead about the fabulous jeweled bird they were seeking out of Istanbul she joined up with his crowd once she showed him and his gunsel then, Thursby, around the world. (It must have been tough going even for a seasoned pro like Brigid to deal with that Fat Man’s girth.)         

Now you can see things fall into place. Using her still powerful feminine wiles on that Fat Man crew (except Joel Cairo who being what they would have called then if they dared on screen “light on his feet,” a sissy, would be impervious to her charms) and half the guys in port like sucker bait Captain Jacoby who actually wound up getting the bird out even if he paid for it with a few slugs in the mix. (Not from her although at trial the less than chivalrous Sam Spade trying to suck up to the D.A. and get out of his own legal troubles by trying to tie her into every unsolved murder from Hong Kong to Frisco Bay.)

Brigid’s winding up at the good offices of Miles Archer and Sam Spade made perfect sense. Just some more man bait. By the way, here’s another back story tidbit, Brigid never was referred to the pair at her hotel but once she figured out her plan, as far as she could figure such things in advance, she had picked the name out of a telephone directory. Archer came up first. If somebody named Abbott say had been the first name he would have been sitting six feet under now instead of jerkwater Miles.  
She played the sullen, slightly soiled (quaint term for a fallen woman, yes) damsel in distress to Sam perfectly. Played him like a yo-yo once she got him in heat. Made him buy the Archer story, the Thursby story, and best of all until she saw he had his limits of use to her the Fat Man story. Would have seduced the impervious Joel Cairo someway if it had suited her purposes, lavender boy and all. A smart private detective, if there is such an animal whose main joy in life is peeping through keyholes and drinking shoddy whiskey from the bottle at the bottom of their desk drawers, would have walked away once they knew about this Thursby character, about his putting newspaper around his bed so nobody could sneak up on him. Jesus, no amount of trips around the world with the experienced Brigid working her skills was worth tangling up with these bad characters.     

The rest of the play was a piece of cake. Play him off and on against the Fat Man and if things got dicey let the Fat Man’s gunsel put a few slugs in Sam’s ear. Hell if he got rough then she might have to do the rooty-toot-toot herself. Here’s where the play fouled up and it wasn’t really her fault in the end although she would step off for the whole thing anyway. That fucking hyped-up bird, that Maltese Falcon, was a fake, the dingus was nothing, not real nothing but blacken enamel. Seeing that there was no dough from any source Sam cut bait, cut up his honey and seeing he was built to be the fall guy if he didn’t pass the blame off sent her over. This is where the faded beauty Brigid part comes in. Maybe if she had been about ten years younger, and about fifty years less of a whore she could have coaxed him into running away with her. No dice. Here’s another little back story tidbit they didn’t tell you in the movie tough guy hard-boiled detective Sam Spade after she was gone spent many a cold winter night wishing he had run away with her. Yeah, the stuff of dreams works in funny ways. Still a girl has got to do what a girl has got to do.       

Kenny Jacobs’ take:

I had better admit that I know already through conversations with Phil Larkin and what I could figure would be his take on this film given his inclinations that he would hone in on the relatively minor figure of Brigid. I agree with everybody who has reviewed this movie over the past seventy-five years that there are serious questions about whether her real name was Brigid O’Shaughnessy  but we will go with that name as good as any others and as a few commentators have noted when the Frisco coppers finally put the 
cuffs on her after Sam Spade was forced to send her over to save his own neck that was the name she gave on the police blotter. And the name she took the big step-off under. So much for what dreams are made of which had the coppers scratching their heads in bewilderment when Sam said that remark going down that long elevator run. They were always behind the curve on the case anyway, had already deposited Miles Archer’s, Thursby’ and Captain Jacobi’s deaths in the cold files and would only resurrect them when they decided to clean the slate of half a dozen cases and lay them at Brigid’s doorstep since she was already going to take the big step-off for Archer’s murder anyway. But enough of that little dimwitted gun simple mantrap because when the deal went down the one really pulling the strings was Caspar Gutman, the “Fat Man.”

Figure it out for yourself. Brigid-down for the count. The cheapjack gunsel, Wilmar, Gutman hired down in a shootout with the coppers as he was trying to take the Oakland ferry. Joel Cairo face down in Frisco bay after a night with some rough trade Jean Genet types down along the waterfront. Hell they even tried to take Sam’s ticket but his quick-witted lawyer made short work of that attempt and although it cost him a few bucks they both had a good laugh this second time the tried to pull that license crap. They never caught up to the Fat Man and who knows he might have grabbed the goddam bird after all. But mainly he got away and that says a lot about the whole caper.  

Look at it this way who else could have masterminded the whole operation. Yeah so you see it had to be the Fat Man. Here’s the back story which will surprise everybody who thought Brigid just stumbled into the low rent back alley building the Archer& Spade operation ran out of along with repo men, con artists, disbarred lawyers, unlicensed dentists and swift insurance jobbers. And don’t believe that bullshit about Brigid picking the name out of some vagrant telephone book. She, whatever her sexual charms and skills,   wasn’t bright enough for that heavy a task. Gutman had checked around with local guys he knew from the international cartel he was fronting for and Archer & Spade came out number one on the “from hunger” list. Once the Fat Man dangled Brigid in front of either man, once they got a whiff of that gardenia fragrance and dreams of silky sheets the game was on. Sending “light on his feet” Joel Cairo to back Brigid up, to make the whole thing look like a tong war, make it look like it was everybody against everybody else in the scramble for the fucking black falcon. Brilliant.           

But that was not the end of the Fat Man’s magic once it turned out Sam Spade was the one left standing once Brigid blew Archer’s brains out so the gunsel could take down Thursby when it looked like he was trying to front Brigid to cut his own deal. He has Brigid lure Sam into his spider-web, they meet and the Fat Man promises Sam the world. Sam bites, bites big time figuring with his share that he would be able to keep Brigid for himself, keep her off the street corner tricks which is where she was heading. That of course before he found out that Brigid after about fifty “heartfelt” denials had lied to him about killing Miles. And before the freaking dingus turned out to be as fake as Gutman’s idea of cutting Sam in for some serious change and he needed someone to take the fall. Hell, the Fat Man might have been carrying too many extra pounds for his own good but he moved swiftly enough when danger lurked. Not a scratch or a breeze on him. Nice work Caspar.        

Phil Larkin’s rebuttal:

As Greg Green, our esteemed site manager and social media guru, mentioned above in his introduction I went kicking and screaming into this so-called dual review with the young kid Kenny Jacobs. I have never shared a review in my life, the damn idea seems like an oxymoron or something. Some silly idea like this was to be some Siskel and Ebert gab fest in cyberspace. WTF. I hope this little so-called experiment will be the last one I have to wade through. Now Kenny as I have found out in not a bad guy, writes some pretty good stuff about zombies and super-hero comic book kiddie stuff that nobody under the age of thirty will read but he is totally out of his depth in struggling to figure out what the hell is going on in a simple private detective greed and glory flic like The Maltese Falcon. I won’t belabor the point but his so-called credentials for this review, which Greg Green must have been drunk to let go by, was that he had film noir in his DNA because his parents had taken him to a million film festival retrospectives when he was a kid of about eight. As against my well-known connoisseurship of this beloved genre since my own lonesome travel youth cadging many a Saturday afternoon matinee double-feature at the old now long gone Strand Theater in the town I grew up in.               

If you have read this far then you know that Mr. Jacobs and I have very different “takes” as Greg Green is fond of calling them. What I question is whether he actually saw this movie or had, like a lot of the other younger writers here, just cribbed from a summary on Wikipedia. Or maybe he is remembering back to when his parents took him to see this film when he was eight and he got scared by the big fat guy who was giving Sam Spade a hard time because no way in God’s good green earth is Caspar Gutman, the Fat Man the person pulling the strings on this one. Hell he had trouble enough just walking across the room never mind trying to get his greedy big hand on a precious stone bird.          

The only thing I believe we agree on is that Sam Spade is just a foil, some jabbering for the real action and that somebody else was pulling the strings. Hell Brigid, dear sweet Brigid, bless her little whorish heart had this one down from scene one. Kenny claims, erroneously, probably based on information from Wikipedia that the Fat Man through his international cartel connections, mainly a bunch of guys working for an Armenian rug merchant who desperately wanted that black bird for his mistress once she had read the story in some historical novel by Sir Walter Scott about what had happened to the dingus before it ever got to Spain, had gathered the information for Brigid to run over the back alley office of Archer &Spade for some local manpower. Yes, the Fat Man fronted the dough and all for the operation I will not deny that but the real record shows, what Brigid herself told the coppers when she was trying to get out from under taking the big step-off for the murder of Miles Archer, was that she had picked their names out of the telephone book. You hardly need to pull in half the criminal world to do that soft task.        

What Kenny missed, consciously missed as far as I can see, is that Brigid’s connections with the Fat Man were tangential, she was running her own operation from the time she met the Fat Man in Madame Chiang’s brothel in Hong King and he confided his tall tale story to her. Once she saw his entourage she saw easy pickings, some flaming sissy, Cairo, as we called gay guys in the old neighborhood when we didn’t call them fags, a bent gunsel Thursby who thought so much of the Fat Man that after about two minutes in Hong Kong he sided with Brigid and another hired gun, Willmar who some crippled newspaper boy had been able to steal his guns without batting an eyelash. The gang that couldn’t shoot straight as the late New York City columnist Jimmy Breslin used to say. So all she needed to do was grab some local Frisco muscle, it didn’t matter if it was Archer or Spade or if the first name in the directory was Abbott whom she took around the world since once she got her claws in either would be putty in her hands although she claimed she would have personally favored the more handsome Archer to the “runt” Spade but the coppers dismissed that as so much bad blood once Sam stopped doing her bidding. Once he sent her over to save his own gutless neck after the bird proved to be a fake which some Greek merchant in Istanbul had fobbed off on some other guy before the Fat Man and then Brigid got their hands on it. Her big mistake and an easy one to commit once you believed the reason for covering the bird in black paint was not having it evaluated in Hong Kong before she left. (Little did she know that the “fake” had been a set-up by that Greek merchant who would eventually sell the real one to that Armenian rug merchant which did the trick to get that mistress to start doing tricks out of the Kama Sutra he kept begging her to do.)            

(As if to put paid to Kenny’s bogus take the Fat Man did not fade into the woodwork although he did get away from San Francisco easily enough once he shed Willmar to the sharks. He wound up in Amsterdam where the old Interpol grabbed him on an international warrant but would eventually let him go once San Francisco decided to clean up its cold case load and pin everything Brigid. It turned out he was related to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and so wound up back in England living on Baker Street somewhere.)

Kenny Jacob’s rebuttal:

I agree with my esteemed if edging toward senility fellow writer Phil Larkin that Sam Spade, hell even Miles Archer if things had turned out that way, was nothing but trimming, a fall guy, extra baggage on the real action that was happening that he was clueless about until the end. Or almost the end when he found out the dingus was a fake and that it was either he or Brigid who was going to take the fall and he, having lost in the “stuff of dreams” derby sent her over to his buddies the coppers who really wanted his hide. But Phil must have been smoking that wacky weed, that dope you can on some days smell around the office when some of the older guys having a flashback to that Summer of Love, 1967 they have been going on and on about ever since I arrived here in early 2017 decide to go to nostalgia land. (Greg is not happy about the dope during working hours but is unsure what to do about it since “precedent” from Allan Jackson’s time was the place was some opium den or something.)     

Yeah Phil most definitely is on something if he thinks that the little what does he call the women, oh yeah, the frill Brigid was running the operation to grab the black falcon. Christ I don’t even think she would know what a telephone directory was if pressed never mind actually picking some name starting with the letter “A.” And if Phil wasn’t high as a kite when he came up with the “idea” that Brigid was running the show then the only other reason she came into his head was that Phil is a notorious skirt-chaser. Has regaled me with stories from his youth thinking that I was one of his good old boys.  I have seen him in action when Josh Breslin’s old flame, Leslie Dumont, who now courtesy of Greg has a by-line something she never had with Allan as long as he had known her, is around and you can see that the stars and moon single-handedly revolve around women.       

Yeah, no way is some little whore like Brigid, even if she was once a high-priced call girl, a treat in white women-starved Hong Kong, had the dough to run such an enterprise. She was strictly bait for either Archer or Spade, whoever grabbed her first for the Fat Man      
who knew exactly who he was latching her onto from his local sources. Two, take your pick, guys from hunger, working out of some back alley building with repo men and failed dentists, as skirt crazy as Phil. (Archer licked his chops when he first saw her even though he was married and Sam was having a torrid affair with his wife right under his nose so let’s not dismiss that skirt-crazy idea out of hand Phil.

Look at the play though. Brigid down to her last few hundred, having to hock her furs when Sam needed dough, led Sam by the nose not to some operation of her own but to the Fat Man once she knew he was in town. Every action she took from leading Sam to the Fat Man to begging Sam to let her get away with Archer’s murder once the caper was heading in the wrong direction  let’s anybody, let’s everybody, private detective or not, know that she was just a cog in the wheel, a mantrap and nothing else. The final proof although Phil will probably deny it is nobody did a damn thing to spring her once Sam sent her over. Yeah, she took the big step-off alone. And like Phil said the Fat Man eventually walked. As Sam Spade had nothing to do with it-“case closed.”            

Yeah, The Dark Night Alright When The World Needed Super-heroes And Psychos To Bring Us Down In The Mud –“The Dark Knight” aka Batman (2008)-An Anti-Film Review

Yeah, The Dark Night Alright When The World Needed Super-heroes And Psychos To Bring Us Down In The Mud –“The Dark Knight” aka Batman (2008)-An Anti-Film Review  

DVD Review

By Greg Green

Batman: The Dark Knight, Christian Bale, Heath Leger, 2008

As a rule I don’t review or in this case anti-review, films although I am the one who does the assignments sometimes based on suggestions from the writers and sometimes from something I see as pressing to review. In any case I always review the films personally to see whether they have enough going at some level to be reviewed in this space. This is the first time however in the short time I have been here and in my many years at the American Film Gazette that I have refused to assign one of my writers to write a review of something I have seen and have decided it was beneath anyone’s dignity to write about, even the woe begotten stringers and “on specs.”  

I have been kidded, sometimes mercifully by young and older writers alike, about my attempts to get to a younger audience in this space (and the past few years at the Gazette for some of the same reasons) by reviewing various youth-oriented films like ones about cinematic versions of comic books like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. They chided me that I was pandering to the butter drenched popcorn and refillable soda pop cup young people who could care less about film reviews and only cared about sitting through a couple of hours of bam-bam action whatever the quality, or lack of quality. Could care less what the paid film critics thought was being produced. What symbolism the film was trying to get at.

Despite my own growing misgivings about continuing to dwell on these type films since it was beginning to dawn on me that they all were the same bam-bam action which left some writers who had to review the films numb I kept going forward. Keep up my own pre-viewing including the film The Dark Knight which is why I have declared this an anti-review. This despite the fact that the film grossed a zillion dollars, the kids went cuckoo to see it and the critics, the paid-up Hollywood critics, gave it positive reviews. The high-brow ones from some of the reviews I read trying to see how the struggle that unfolds between vigilante Batman, in this rendition played by Christian Bale, and the psychopathic Joker, played by the late Heath Leger who actually won a posthumous Oscar for his supporting actor role replicated the post-9/11 struggles of various world leaders against whatever brand of Islamic fundamentalism was on top at any given moment.

WTF. Like any kid (remember butter-drenched popcorn and soda sugar-high) gave a damn about that symbolic eternal war business. Or any adult either who would watch the thing. Or, and this goes to the real problem here, would sent their kids with a twenty, maybe a twenty and a ten to see the thing. I have already outlined in about one sentence the inevitable struggle between good and evil (or better marginally civilized society versus the utter dregs). Whatever the virtue of that notion as a plot-driver the real deal is that this Joker psycho from hell was nothing but an excuse for some of the most gratuitous violence ever put on film in almost every scene in the film. With some acts so gruesome that they make me think that this was all very calculated to benumb everybody in the audience to accept this level of violent behavior as “cool.”  I have seldom felt the need to purge myself after viewing a film but then again previously I have never felt the need to “protect” my civilized writing staff from having to write about this pathological craziness. Enough said.           


The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-A Misstep- With Elvis’s That’s When Your Heartache Begins In Mind

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-A Misstep- With Elvis’s That’s When Your Heartache Begins In Mind

That's When Your Heartaches Begin" was written by Fisher, Fred / Raskin, William / Hill, William.

If you find your sweetheart in the arms of a friend
That's when your heartaches begin
When dreams of a lifetime must come to an end
That's when your heartaches begin
Love is a thing you'd never can share
When you bring a friend into your love affair
That's the end of your sweetheart
That's the end of your friend
That's when your heartaches begin
If you find your sweetheart
In the arms of your best friend, your brother
That's, that's when your heartaches begin
And you know, when all your dreams
When all your dreams of a lifetime
Must, must all come to an end
Yeah that's, that's when your heartaches begin
Oh, you see love is a thing that
That you never can share
And you know, when you bring a friend
Into your love affair
That's the end of your sweetheart
That's the end of your friend
Well, that's when your heartaches begin

…Laura Simpson and Fiona Sims were inseparable friends from that first day in ninth grade at North Adamsville High School in 1960 when due to the vagaries of the alphabet and homeroom class row seating rules they sat one in front of the other in Miss Williams’ home room class. Maybe it meant nothing in the great mandela of things but neither Laura , named after the title of the 1940s film noir thriller Laura starring Gene Tierney which her mother had seen three times  nor Fiona, named after great stonewall cottage Irish Fionas going back a few generations, liked their first names and that had been their first substantial conversation once they left Miss Williams’ convent-like homeroom and got a chance to talk in the second-floor girls’  “lav” that had been beyond memory set aside as the freshmen girls’ lav (others might enter as needed depending on urgency and no one would have crabbed if they had used other lavatories in the building but that was acknowledged freshman girls’ headquarters. Oh, wait a minute, they and sophomore girls as well, were not permitted under penalty of death in the fourth floor junior and senior girls’ lounge, not if they wanted to live to tell the tale since those girls guarded their prerogative as fiercely as anyone).       

[This Miss Williams as both Laura and Fiona would be the first to tell you once they had completed four years of her home room craziness had been a Miss for a reason, not so much because she was one of the plainest women in America and wore no make-up to wash away some of that plainness but because she demanded, demanded do you hear, that everybody be absolutely quiet in homeroom, homeroom for chrissake. It was not until years later when the winds changed in a more confessional age that these young women found out that as a result of her own youthful indiscretion Miss Williams had secretly befriended many girls, some known to them, who had gotten in “trouble,” gotten “in the family way” and she had helped them out. Sometime somebody from North Adamsville should write that story, write it in big letters too.] 

So Laura and Fiona sat next to each other and sensed in each other that subtle fear of the unknown that every, or almost every, freshman has felt since, well, since Socrates’ time, maybe before. So they sought shelter from the storms together, and later with a small coterie of other adrift teen girls who gathered round them when those other girls sensed that they were not alone in their angst and ignorance and that Laura and Fiona seemed to have a better grip on what ailed them collectively. Why they also had that subtle fear but this story is about Fiona and Laura so we will let that latter settle in the background. And of course since they were teenage girls they all were bothered by the same set of anxiety associations that have bothered teenage girls since about sixteen hundred or whenever teen-age hood was developed. You know about boys, about their fearsome sexual appetites and cunning ways to get nice girls in compromising situations, about expectations in being girls getting ready to be wives, mothers, helpmates and every other menial task that his lordship “delegated” to them, about getting recognized for serious achievement in a male-dominated world, especially the professional world where there were few role models but where they wanted to head, about sex, not the boy part, that they had down as well as could be expected, but what to do about those raging hormones that were causing them sleepless nights without “getting in the family way,” having to go to Aunt Ella’s for the duration.

We moreover are concerned not so much with Laura and Fiona’s high school days except to note that is where their huddled friendship started and to note some of the highlights that strengthened their friendship, not always in good ways but who knows maybe in not so bad ways. You know getting through that first few months of freshman year in one piece in an anonymous big high school environment after the incubator closeness of junior high school, preparing for that first school dance, that first high school dance where they got all dressed up, bought new shoes and all, and doubled-dated two older guys from the school, two seniors who were known around school as nothing but skirt-chasers but who had a car and both girls decided to fling caution to the wind if it came to that (it did and they did although keep that to yourself since they both had reputations in freshman year of being “unapproachable,” meaning in the language of the times virginal), latter getting caught up with each other’s single date sexual escapades what with little trysts down at the secluded end of old Adamsville Beach (the Squaw Rock end where only teenagers trended, no nosey cops, no ill-disposed families with children to spoil the mood), then senior year after both got accepted to the state university the few wild parties they attended before graduation where when drunk they got carried away with some unusual behavior, for them, which maybe foretold what might happen in the future. That last set of escapades included an exchange of boyfriends, not those long gone seniors from freshman year but fellow seniors, for the night on a lark (those boyfriend who were more than willing to go along, did not have to be coaxed into doing that task).

Both later said nothing had happened with the other’s boyfriend, noting sexual anyway, and maybe nothing did, but a very slight wariness set in between them after that night, especially on Laura’s part who was somewhat possessive of her men. (Later Ben one of the boyfriends, Laura’s, bragged about how he could hardly keep up with Fiona’s urges  once he got her into bed but that was in the Monday morning jock locker room talkfest and could be discounted as so much bravado, and has been since Socrates’ time, maybe before.) But that was a mere bump in the road for both were excited about finally graduating and heading away from home and on their own (this getting away from home was epidemic among the early 1960s young including the writer so he knows how important learning to fly on their own was to Fiona and Laura). Moreover having both grown up on the “wrong side of the tracks” (although in different sections of that wrong side) with tough family lives including drunken fathers they were more than ready to move on.      

Duly noting those high school experiences, for good or evil, we are rather more concerned with their young adulthood, the time when in 1964 and later they came of age, came to able to carry on their own affairs after leaving home for college, the state university at Amherst with all its possibilities and with all its anonymousness. One thing that both Fiona and Laura had agreed on after graduation from high school was that they would start college unattached. And they did so shedding their boyfriends, their lukewarm boyfriends by August when they went up to freshman orientation and dorm selection (they had already signed up as roommates). (Those boyfriends, Ben and Alex,  by the way who maybe were or maybe were not sorry for the break-ups but one wonders whether they were left unhappy about that future of no prospects of being exchanged on a lark. We will never know since we are following Laura and Fiona and the boys’ whereabouts were unknown when this story unfolded.) When the big day came they were both excited, excited to be on their own, excited that that subtle fear that both felt, felt as every, well almost every, freshman, has felt since, well, since about Socrates’ time, if not before would find them with a known kindred spirit when the hugeness and anonymousness of the place got to them.
This tale however is not about surviving in an alien environment with a cluster of friends or some sociological study about the mores of 1960s youth and their reactions to the jailbreak wave that was cresting over them with newfound liberties and freedoms (for a while anyway) that earlier generations could not dream of but rather about how a firm female friendship got blown to the four winds when one of the friends got her wanting habits on. As one might figure with young women away from home (or men, for that matter), consciously unattached, and with broods of males everywhere one looked that two good-looking, smart, adventuresome young women would have no trouble finding male company. They didn’t lack for company or invitations to frat parties and other bashes. Didn’t suffer that lack from that first Freshman Mixer when they again like some high school deja vu double-dated two fellow freshman from one of their classes (College Math) whom they met after class in the dorm cafeteria where the guys worked behind the counter and they “hit” on the two most beautiful girls in any of their classes they said through to a couple of serious affairs, one by Fiona with a married man, until the time of this part of the story junior year.

Fiona tended to be flirty and, well, not monogamous. Laura somewhat the opposite, although that usually depended on whether she had a steady boyfriend or not. At the time we are talking about, junior year, Laura did have a steady boyfriend, Lance Taylor, a senior at Williams, located some miles up the road, who planned to go to graduate school, and who had plans, sketchy plans, that involved marriage to Laura at some future point. Laura having met Lance at the Art Museum out in Williamstown while doing a project for her graphic arts design class, assumed that same thing, except hungrier for security, her plans were far from sketchy as she practically had them in that proverbial white house with picket fence, three kids, and two dogs. And so she dreamed. Now this Lance, naturally, as with all guys named Lance or so it seemed was good-looking, smart, came from some money (important to working-class town Laura) and was a go-getter. Just the things that Fiona found appealing as well. So anytime Lance showed up at their dorm room and she was around she would get very flirty with old Lance. Laura had to warn her off a couple of times but Fiona dismissed her concerns as nonsense that she was just having fun with her new “brother-in-law.”

Things settled down for a while until toward the end of junior year Laura took a trip to Boston in order to interview for a senior year internship with an advertising company to spice up her graphic arts resume. She had expected (and Fiona had too) to take three days for the trip but the firm after the first interview decided to take her on as an intern and she headed back early. (People who know knew she was an exceptional up-and-coming graphic artist and that proved true later before she gave it up for marriage and kids.)

Well, you already know the rest, and if you don’t you really haven’t been paying attention, Laura caught Lance and Fiona in flagrante in their dorm room. You also know that was the end of the long friendship between Fiona Sims and Laura Simpson. What you don’t know is this-ten years, ten long years later at their high school class reunion, Laura Taylor, Lance in tow (the details of their after dorm reconciliation need not concern us here except that somehow Lance convinced Laura that Fiona had “made” him do it which for her own white picket fence reasons Laura was willing to accept)not even drunk but cold stone sober, tossed a drink, a whiskey sour, down the length of Fiona Sims shiny shimmy dress and then walked out of the hall. Jesus.