Saturday, July 11, 2020

An Encore Presentation-In The Time Of The 1960s Folk Minute- With Tom Rush’s No Regrets In Mind

An Encore Presentation-In The Time Of The 1960s Folk Minute- With Tom Rush’s No Regrets In Mind 

I know your leavin's too long over due
For far too long I've had nothing new to show to you
Goodbye dry eyes I watched your plane fade off west of the moon
It felt so strange to walk away alone

No regrets
No tears goodbye
Don't want you back
We'd only cry again
Say goodbye again

The hours that were yours echo like empty rooms
Thoughts we used to share I now keep alone
I woke last night and spoke to you
Not thinkin' you were gone
It felt so strange to lie awake alone

No regrets
No tears goodbye
Don't want you back
We'd only cry again
Say goodbye again

Our friends have tried to turn my nights to day
Strange faces in your place can't keep the ghosts away
Just beyond the darkest hour, just behind the dawn
It feels so strange to lead my life alone

No regrets
No tears goodbye
Don't want you back
We'd only cry again
Say goodbye again

From The Pen Of Zack James 

A few years ago, maybe more like a decade or so, in an earlier 1960s folk minute nostalgia incantation fit Sam Eaton, who will be described further below, had thought he had finally worked out in his head what that folk moment had meant in the great musical arc of his life. Had counted up, had taken up and put value on its graces, did the great subtractions on its disappointments, that lack of beat that he had been spoon fed on in his head having heard maybe in the womb the sweats of some backbeat that sounded an awful lot like a band of the devil’s bad ass angels giving battle to the heavens, and got his head around, his expression, its clasps with certain young women, some absolute folkie women met in the Harvard Squares of the heated horny sex night and loves too not always with folkie women but just the muck of growing up and taking what came his way. So he had taken a back-flip, his expression, when he was required not out of his own volition like that great prairie fire burning before in his youth about why he felt after all these years that he needed to go back to what after all was a very small part of his life now that he was reaching four score and seven, going back over the terrain of a small part of the musics that he had cultivated since early childhood.

Some of those musics from his parents’ slogging through the Great Depression and World War II be-bop swing big band Saturday night get your dancing slippers on imposed on his tender back of brain not to be revived and revisited until many years later when he had heard some ancient Benny Goodman be-bop clarinet backing up a sultry-voiced Peggy Lee getting all in a silky sweat rage because her man like a million others was not a "do right" man but had been chasing her best friend the next best thing when he got his wanting habit on and Peggy turned ice queen when he ran out of dough after shooting craps against the dealer and decided he had been wrong to dismiss such music out of hand. Some of the music along the edges of his coming of  age from that edgy feeling he got when he heard the classic rock that just creeped into his pre-teen brain and lingered there unrequited until he found out what in that beat spoke to his primordial instincts, what caused his feverish nights of wonder, of what made him tick, of what he had missed.

Folk, the folk minute he deeply imbibed for that minute, at least the exciting part of the minute when he heard, finally heard, something that did not make him want to puke every time he turned on the radio, put his ill-gotten coins, grabbed from mother’s pocketbook laying there in wait for his greedy hands or through some con, some cheapjack con he pulled on some younger kids in Jimmy Jakes’ Diner jukebox to impress a few of the girls in town who were not hung up on Fabian or Bobby, heard something very new in his life and so different from the other musics that he had grown up with that he grabbed the sound with both hands. He thought that sweating a decade ago where he done a few small pieces to satisfy his literary sense of things and put them in a desk drawer yellow, frayed and gather dust until he passed on and somebody put the paper in a wastebasket for the rubbish men, thought he had ended those thoughts, closed out the chapter.

Recently though he did another series of short citizen-journalist sketches of scenes from that period for various folk music related blogs and social media outlets. Sam had done that series at the request of his old time friend, Bart Webber, who will also be described in more detail below, from Carver, an old working-class town about thirty miles south of Boston which at the time was the cranberry capital of the world or close to it, and close enough to Boston to have been washed by the folk minute that sprouted forth in Harvard Square and Beacon Hill in Boston.

Sam and Bart, who in their respective youths had been very close, had been corner boys together when that social category meant something, meant something about extreme teen alienation and angst combined with serious poverty, dirt poor poverty as in hand-me-down older brother clothes, as in no family car for long periods between old wreak of cars, of many surly peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, many Spam suppers, all fashioned to make these young men forever talking about big break-outs, about getting something for them and theirs but also for big candy-assed dreams too all put paid to, as one would expect of sons of “boggers,” those who cared for and harvested those world famous  cranberries, but also close because that was the way that corner boys were then, “having each other’s backs” was the term they used which confused even the best of the social scientists who investigated the phenomenon when that corner boy life meant juvenile delinquency, meant some unfathomed anger, some lack of socialization, some throwback to primeval muds, to some rising of the unkempt heathens they were payed to watch out for. Meant as well worry to those in power who were trying to weld society as one piece of steel to fight the internal and external red scare Cold War fight against the faithless, fang-toothed Ruskkie reds wielding nuclear weapons from the hip.

Like a lot of high school friends the cement that bound them in high school, that alienation, that comradery, those best left unsaid larcenous moments, the “midnight creeps” in Bart’s words when somebody asked him later what had made him and the corner boys put their reputations at risk for such small gain, a fact which also played a part in that “having each other’s back” broke apart once they graduated, or rather in their case once they had sowed their wild oats in the 1960s, those wild oats at the time meaning “drugs, sex, and rock and roll” combined with drifting the hitchhike road west in what one of their number, the late Pete Markin, called the search for the great blue-pink American West night.

Sam had stayed out in the West longer than the others except Markin and Josh Breslin whom he and Markin had met on a yellow brick road merry prankster bus before he drifted back East to go to law school and pursue a professional career. Bart had returned earlier, had gotten married to his high school sweetheart and had started up and run a small successful specialty print shop in hometown Carver based on the silk-screening tee-shirt and poster craze. They would run into each other occasionally when Sam came to town but for about twenty years they had not seen each other as both were busy raising families, working and travelling in different circles. One night though when Sam had been sitting in Jimmy Jakes’ Diner over on Spring Street in Carver having a late dinner by himself after having come to town to attend the funeral of a family member Bart had walked in and they then renewed their old relationship, decided that some spark from high school still held them together if nothing else that they both had been deeply formed, still held to those old corner boy habits toward life whatever successes they had subsequently enjoyed.

Along the way to solidifying there new relationship they would alternate meetings, some in Carver, some in Boston or Cambridge where Sam lived. On a recent trip to Boston to meet Sam at the Red Hat at the bottom of Beacon Hill Bart had walked pass Joy Street which triggered memories of the time in high school when he and his date who name he could not remember but she was a cousin of Sam’s “hot” date, Melinda Loring, who they went to school with and whom Sam was crazy to impress even though Melinda was not the daughter of a “bogger” but of school teachers and so from among the town’s better element and he was constantly on eggshells that she would toss him aside once she had figured out he was just another Fast Eddie corner boy trying to get into her pants, had taken them on a cheap date to the Oar and Anchor coffeehouse which stood at the corner of Joy and Cambridge Street to hear Lenny Lane. Lenny was an up and coming folk singer whom Sam had met on one of his clandestine midnight trips to Harvard Square on the Redline subway to hang out at the Hayes-Bickford.

That "cheap" part of the cheap date thing was important since Bart and Sam were as usual from hunger on money in the days when around Carver, probably around the world, guys paid expenses on dates, girls just looked beautiful or if not beautiful glad to not be forever hanging around the midnight telephone waiting for some two-timing guy to call them up for a date, and so short of just hanging at the Hayes for free watching weirdoes, con men, whores plying their trade, drunks, winos and occasional put upon artists, poets, writes and folk-singers perfecting their acts on the cheap, for the price of a couple of cups of coffee, a shared pastry and a couple of bucks in the “basket” for the performer you could get away with a lot especially when Bart was doing Sam a favor with that cousin (and worse could have gotten in trouble if Besty Binstock, his high school sweetheart. found out he was two-timing her although the two-timing involved the possibility of some off-hand sex with that cousin who was supposed to be “easy” but that in another story although come to think of it the situation could serve as another  prime example of “having each other’s back” when one of them was up against it).

Bart remembered that he had been very uncomfortable that night since he had had some feelings of guilt about two-timing (and lying to) Betsy starting out, had had trouble talking about anything in common, school, sports, the weather, with that cousin since she said she was doing Melinda a favor in order that she could go to Boston with Sam which Melinda’s mother would have balked at if she had told her they were going into Boston alone, going into Boston with a “bogger” alone. Moreover she knew nothing, cared nothing for folk music, didn’t even know what it was, said she had never heard of the thing, was fixated on Bobby Vee, dreamy guys, or something like that. What made that date worse was that Bart too then could hardly bear the sound of folk music, said repeatedly that the stuff was all dreary and involved weird stuff like murder and mayhem done on the banks of rivers, in back alleys, on darkened highways just because some woman would not come across, Jesus, strangely thwarted love reminding him of Sam’s forlorn quest for Melinda which seemed like some princess and pauper never the twain shall meet outcome, or hick stuff about home sweet home down in some shanty town in some desolate cabin without lights or water which sounded worse than Boggertown, singing high holy Jehovah stuff that made him wince, and of the hills and hollows in some misbegotten mountains made his teeth grind. So not a good mix, although it did turn out that the cousin was “easy,” did think he was dreamy enough to have sex with (with their clothes mostly on which was how more than one quicky one night stand wound up down by the boathouse near the Charles River after they had split from Sam and Melinda after the coffeehouse closed and that helped but had been the result of no help from the folk music they half-listened to but more some dope that she had in her pocketbook after she had passed a joint around to get things going.            

After telling Sam about his recollections of Joy Street and that cousin, whose name was Judy Dennison Sam told him and who Sam had gone out with and agreed was a little sex kitten once she was stoned, Bart started asking some questions about folk music. Sam said he was not finished with that Judy story, told Bart that fling was after the thing with Melinda had passed due not to class distinctions but to that hard fact that she was saving “it” for marriage, and had been very glad that he had that run around with Judy and was not sorry he did. Bart started in again and asked Sam a million questions about various folk-singers and what had happened to them, were they still playing, still alive since Sam although he did not have the same keen interest of his youthful folk minute still kept small tabs on the scene, the now small scene through his long-time companion, Laura Perkins whom he met one night at the Café Nana several years before when Tom Tremble was playing there after Sam had not heard him in about forty years.

The reason for Bart’s interest given that above he had said that the genre made his teeth grind was that after that night with Judy Bart did go on other double dates with Sam and Melinda, and later Suzanne when she was Sam’s next flame and a real folkie, to folk places and while he still would grind his teeth at some of the stuff he did develop more tolerance for the genre, especially if the date Sam set up was a real foxy folkie girl (thinking on it now he couldn’t believe how unfaithful he had been to Betsy in those days but she too was saving “it” for marriage and some of those young women were very willing and had apartment or dorm rooms too).

The upshot of all of Bart’s questions was that Sam found that he was not really except for Tom Tremble who had lost his sweet baby James voice, forgot lyrics and had “mailed it in” that night he had met Laura and was cold “stonewalled” by the audience but possibly motivated by that old folkie feeling, or maybe just feeling sorry for a guy who had a big local following back in the day when the “basket” went around everybody put some dough in, Sam and Laura included, and a couple of other guys up on what had happened to the old-time folkies since for years he had merely listened on radio station WCAS and when that station went under WUMB out of U/Mass-Boston or listened to records, tapes or CDs. (Sam got big points from Laura that first night when he panned Tom, who Laura had never heard before being enough younger not to have been bitten by the folk minute craze and she agreed that Tom had “mailed it in”.) Since Sam was not all that familiar with what had happened to most of them he thereafter did some research, asked Laura some questions to lead the way and wound up writings that series of sketches. One series entitled Not Bob Dylan about the fate of prominent male folk-singers was a direct result of the Sam and Bart conversation. Here’s what he had to say about Tom Rush who back in the day he knew best from hanging around the old Club 47 on Mount Auburn Street:     

“…Other than enigmatic Bob Dylan who is the iconic never-ending tour male performer most people would still associate with that folk minute period they would draw a blank on a list of others who also were aspiring to make names for themselves in the folk milieu. I am not talking about guys like Lenny Lane who had one hit and then went back to graduate school in biology when he couldn’t get another contract, when his well ran dry, or like Tom Tremble who had a big local following around the old Club Nana when it was on Mount Auburn Street in Cambridge not where it is now on Brattle Street but who did mainly covers and just never broke out or Mike Weddle who had good looks, a good stage presence, had the young women going crazy but who just walked away one day when some good looking woman from Radcliffe came hither and he “sold out” to her father’s stockbroking business.

I’m talking about people like Tom Rush from New Hampshire who lit up the firmament around Cambridge via the Harvard campus folk music station, Dave Von Ronk the cantankerous folk historian and musician who knew more about what happened in the early, early days in the Village at the point where “beat” poetry was becoming passe and folk was moving in to fill in the gap, Phil Ochs who had probably the deepest political sensibilities of the lot and wrote some of the stronger narrative folk protest songs, Richard Farina who represented that “live fast” edge that we were bequeathed by the “beats” and who tumbled down the hill on a motorcycle, and Jesse Collin Young who probably wrote along with Eric Andersen and Jesse Winchester the most pre-flower child lyrics mid-1960s hippie explosion before folk got amplified of the bunch.

My friend Bart had just seen a fragile seeming, froggy-voiced Bob Dylan in one of stages of his apparently never-ending concerts tours up in Maine and had been shaken by the sight and had wondered about the fate of other such folk performers. That request turned into a series of reviews of male folk-singers entitled Not Bob Dylan (and after that, also at Bart’s request, a series entitled Not Joan Baez based on some of the same premises except on the distaff side (nice word, right, you know golden-voiced Judy Collins and her sweet songs of lost, Carolyn Hester and her elegant rendition of Walt Whitman’s Oh Captain, My Captain, Joan’s sister Mimi Farina forever linked with Richard and sorrows, and Malvina Reynolds who could write a song on the wing, fast okay, and based as well on the mass media having back then declared that pair the “king and queen” of the burgeoning folk music minute scene).

That first series (as had the second) had asked two central questions-why did those male folk singers not challenge Dylan who as I noted the media of the day had crowned king of the folk minute for supremacy in the smoky coffeehouse night (then, now the few remaining are mercifully smoke-free although then I smoked as heavily as any guy who though such behavior was, ah, manly and a way to seen “cool” to the young women, why else would we have done such a crazy to the health thing if not to impress some certain she)  and, if they had not passed on and unfortunately a number have a few more since that series as well most notably Phil Ochs of suicide early, Dave Von Ronk of hubris and Jesse Winchester of his battle lost over time had come, were they still working the smoke-free church basement, homemade cookies and coffee circuit that constitutes the remnant of that folk minute even in the old hotbeds like Cambridge and Boston. (What I call the U/U circuit since while other church venues are part of the mix you can usually bet safely that if an event is scheduled it will be at a U/U church which is worthy of a little sketch of its own sometime in order to trace the folk minute after the fanfare had died down and as a tribute to those big-hearted souls at radio stations like WCAS and WUMB and in places like Club Passim whose efforts have kept the thing going in order to try to pass it on to the younger generations now that demographics are catching up with the folkies from the 1960s heyday). Moreover, were they still singing and song-writing, that pairing of singer and writer having been becoming more prevalent, especially in the folk milieu in the wake of Bob Dylan’s word explosions back then. The days when the ground was shifting under the Tin Pan Alley Cole Porter/Irving Berlin/ Jerome Kern kingdom.   

Here is the general format I used in that series for asking and answering those two questions which still apply today if one is hell-bent on figuring out the characters who rose and fell during that time: 

“If I were to ask someone, in the year 2005 as I have done periodically both before and after, to name a male folk singer from the 1960s I would assume that if I were to get any answer to that question that the name would be Bob Dylan. That “getting any answer” prompted by the increasing non-recognition of the folk genre by anybody under say forty, except those few kids who somehow “found” their parents’ stash of Vanguard records (for example, there were other folk labels including, importantly, Columbia Records which pushed the likes of Dylan and John Hammond forward) just as some in an earlier Pete Seeger/Weavers/Leadbelly/ Josh White/Woody Guthrie records in our parents’ stashes. Today’s kids mainly influenced by hip-hop, techno-music and just straight popular music.

And that Dylan pick would be a good and appropriate choice. One can endlessly dispute whether or not Dylan was (or wanted to be since he clearly had tired of the role, or seemed to by about 1966 when he for all intents and purposes “retired” for a while prompted by a serious motorcycle accident and other incidents) the voice of the Generation of ’68 (so named for the fateful events of that watershed year, especially the Democratic Convention in America in the summer of that year when the old-guard pulled the hammer down and in Paris where the smell of revolution was palpably in the air for the first time since about World War II, when those, including me, who tried to “turn the world upside down” to make it more livable began to feel that the movement was reaching some ebb tide) but in terms of longevity and productivity, the never-ending touring until this day and releasing of X amount of bootleg recordings, the copyrighting of every variation of every song, including traditional songs, he ever covered and the squelching of the part of the work that he has control over on YouTube he fits the bill as a known quality. However, there were a slew of other male folk singers who tried to find their niche in the folk milieu and who, like Dylan, today continue to produce work and to perform. The artist under review, Tom Rush, is one such singer/songwriter.”

“The following is a question that I have been posing in reviewing the work of a number of male folk singers from the 1960s and it is certainly an appropriate question to ask of Tom Rush as well. Did they aspire to be the “king” of the genre? I do not know if Tom Rush, like his contemporary Bob Dylan, started out wanting to be the king of the hill among male folk singers but he certainly had some things going for him. A decent acoustic guitar but a very interesting (and strong baritone) voice to fit the lyrics of love, hope, and longing that he was singing about at the time, particularly the No Regrets/Rockport Sunday combination which along with Wasn’t That A Mighty Storm and Joshua Gone Barbados were staples early on. During much of this period along with his own songs he was covering other artists, particularly Joni Mitchell and her Urge For Going and The Circle Game, so it is not clear to me that he had that same Dylan drive by let’s say 1968.

I just mentioned that he covered Joni Mitchell in this period. A very nice version of Urge For Going that captures the wintry, got to get out of here, imaginary that Joni was trying to evoke about things back in her Canadian homeland. And the timelessness and great lyrical sense of his No Regrets, as the Generation of ’68 sees another generational cycle starting, as is apparent now if it was not then. The covers of fellow Cambridge folk scene fixture Eric Von Schmidt on Joshua Gone Barbados and Galveston Flood are well done. As is the cover of Bukka White’s Panama Limited (although you really have to see or hear old Bukka flailing away on his old beat up National guitar to get the real thing on YouTube).”

Whether Tom Rush had the fire back then is a mute question now although in watching the documentary, No Regrets, in which he tells us about his life from childhood to the very recent past (2014) at some point he did lose the flaming “burn down the building fire,” just got tired of the road like many, many other performers and became a top-notch record producer, a “gentleman farmer,” and returned to the stage occasionally, most dramatically with his annual show Tom Rush-The Club 47 Tradition Continues held at Symphony Hall in Boston each winter. And in this documentary appropriately done under the sign of “no regrets” which tells Tom’s take on much that happened then he takes a turn, an important oral tradition turn, as folk historian. 

He takes us, even those of us who were in the whirl of some of it back then to those key moments when we were looking for something rooted, something that would make us pop in the red scare Cold War night of the early 1960s. Needless to say the legendary Club 47 in Cambridge gets plenty of attention as does his own fitful start in getting his material recorded, or rather fitful starts, mainly walking around to every possible venue in town to get backing for record production the key to getting heard by a wider audience via the radio and to become part of the increasing number of folk music-oriented programs, the continuing struggle to this day from what he had to say once you are not a gold-studded fixture.

“Other coffeehouses and other performers of the time, especially Eric Von Schmidt, another performer with a ton of talent and song-writing ability who had been on the scene very, very early on who eventually decided that his artistic career took first place, get a nod of recognition.  As does the role of key radio folk DJ Dick Summer in show-casing new work (and the folk show, picked up accidently one Sunday night when I was frustrated with the so-called rock and roll on the local AM rock station and flipped the dial of my transistor radio and heard a different sound, the sound of Dave Von Ronk, where I started to pick up my life-long folk “habit”).

So if you want to remember those days when you sought refuse in the coffeehouses and church basements, sought a “cheap” date night (for the price of a couple of cups of coffee sipped slowly in front of you and your date, a shared pastry and maybe a few bucks admission or tossed into the passed-around “basket” you got away easy and if she liked the sound too, who knows what else) or, ouch, want to know why your parents are still playing Joshua’s Gone Barbados on the record player as you go out the door Saturday night to your own adventures watch this documentary and find out what happened to one Not Bob Dylan when the folk world went under.   


*****This Land IS Your Land- With Folk Troubadour Woody Guthrie In Mind -Join The Resistance

*****This Land IS Your Land- With Folk Troubadour Woody Guthrie In Mind -Join The Resistance         


By Bradley Fox

Back in 2014, the summer of 2014 to hone in on the time frame of the story to be told, Josh Breslin the then recently retired old-time alternative newspaper and small journal writer for publications like Arise Folk and Mountain Music Gazette who hailed from Olde Saco, Maine was sitting with his friend Sam Lowell from Carver down in cranberry bog country out in Concord in the field behind the Old Manse where the Greater Boston Folk Society was holding its annual tribute to folksinger Woody Guthrie he had thought about all the connections that he, they had to Woody Guthrie from back in the 1960s folk minute revival and before. He mentioned that orphan thought to Sam whom he queried on the subject, wanted to know his personal take on when he first heard Woody. And as well to Laura Perkins, Sam’s long-time companion who had been sitting between them and whom Josh had an on-going half flame going back who knows how far but who had made it clear to Josh on more than one occasion that she was true blue to Sam although she had thanked him for the attention compliment. Sam was aware of Josh’s interest but also of Laura’s position and so he and Josh got along, had in any case been back and forth with some many collective wives and girlfriends that attracted both of them since they had similar tastes going back to ex-surfer girl Butterfly Swirl that they just took it in stride.  Here is what Sam had to say:   

Some songs, no, let’s go a little wider, some music sticks with you from an early age which even fifty years later you can sing the words out to chapter and verse. Like those church hymns like Mary, Queen of the May, Oh, Jehovah On High, and Amazing Grace that you were forced to sit through with your little Sunday best Robert Hall white suit first bought by poor but proud parents for first communion when that time came  complete with white matching tie on or if you were a girl your best frilly dress on, also so white and first communion bought, when you would have rather been outside playing, or maybe doing anything else but sitting in that forlorn pew, before you got that good dose of religion drilled into by Sunday schoolteachers, parents, hell and brimstone reverends which had made the hymns make sense.

Like as well the bits of music you picked up in school from silly children’s songs in elementary school (Farmer In The Dell, Old MacDonald, Ring Around Something) to that latter time in junior high school when you got your first dose of the survey of the American and world songbook once a week for the school year when you learned about Mozart, Brahms, Beethoven, classic guys, Stephen Foster and a lot on stuff by guys named Traditional and Anonymous. Or more pleasantly your coming of age music, maybe like me that 1950s classic age of rock and roll when a certain musician named Berry, first name Chuck, black as night out of Saint Lou with a golden guitar in hand and some kind of backbeat that made you, two left feet you, want to get up and dance, told Mr. Beethoven, you know the classical music guy, and his ilk, Mozart, Brahms, Liszt, to move on over there was a new sheriff in town, was certain songs were associated with certain rites of passage, mainly about boy-girl things.

One such song from my youth, and maybe yours too, was Woody Guthrie surrogate “national anthem,” This Land is Your Land. (Surrogate in response to Irving Berlin’s God Bless America in the throes of the Great Depression that came through America, came through his Oklahoma like a blazing dust ball wind causing westward treks to do re mi California in search of the Promise Land). Although I had immersed myself in the folk minute scene of the early 1960s as it passed through the coffeehouses and clubs of Harvard Square that is not where I first heard or learned the song (and where the song had gotten full program play complete with folk DJs on the radio telling you the genesis of a lot of the music if you had the luck to find them when you flipped the dial on your transistor radio or the air was just right some vagabond Sunday night and for a time on television, after the scene had been established in the underground and some producer learned about it from his grandkids, via the Hootenanny show, which indicated by that time like with the just previous “beat” scene which scared the wits of square Ike American that you were close to the death-knell of the folk moment).

No, for that one song the time and place was in seventh grade in junior high school, down at Myles Standish in Carver where I grew up, when Mr. Dasher would each week in Music Appreciation class teach us a song and then the next week expect us to be able to sing it without looking at a paper. He was kind of a nut for this kind of thing, for making us learn songs from difference genres (except the loathed, his loathed, our to die for, rock and roll which he thought, erroneously and wastefully he could wean us from with this wholesome twaddle) like Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific, Stephen Foster’s My Old Kentucky Home, or Irving Berlin’s Easter Parade and stuff like that. So that is where I learned it.

Mr. Dasher might have mentioned some information about the songwriter or other details on these things but I did not really pick up on Woody Guthrie’s importance to the American songbook until I got to that folk minute I mentioned where everybody revered him (including most prominently Bob Dylan who sat at his knee, literally as he lay wasting away from genetic diseases in Brooklyn Hospital, Pete Seeger, the transmission belt from the old interest in roots music to the then new interest centered on making current event political protest songs from ban the bomb to killing the Mister James Crow South, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott who as an acolyte made a nice career out of continued worshipping at that shrine) not so much for that song but for the million other songs that he produced seemingly at the drop of a hat before that dreaded Huntington’s disease got the better of him.

He spoke in simple language and simpler melody of dust bowl refugees of course, being one himself, talked of outlaws and legends of outlaws being a man of the West growing up on such tales right around the time Oklahoma was heading toward tranquil statehood and oil gushers, talked of the sorrow-filled deportees and refugees working under the hot sun for some gringo Mister, spoke of the whole fellahin world if it came right down to it. Spoke, for pay, of the great man-made marvels like dams and bridge spans of the West and how those marvels tamed the wilds. Spoke too of peace and war (that tempered by his support for the American communists, and their line which came to depend more and more on the machinations of Uncle Joe Stalin and his Commissariat of Foreign Affairs), and great battles in the Jarama Valley fought to the bitter end by heroic fellow American Abraham Lincoln Battalion International Brigaders in civil war Spain during the time when it counted. Hell, wrote kids’ stuff too just like that Old MacDonald stuff we learned in school.     

The important thing though is that almost everybody covered Woody then, wrote poems and songs about him (Dylan a classic Song to Woody well worth reading and hearing on one of his earliest records), affected his easy ah shucks mannerisms, sat at his feet in order to learn the simple way, three chords mostly, recycled the same melody on many songs so it was not that aspect of the song that grabbed you but the sentiment, that he gave to entertain the people, that vast fellahin world mentioned previously (although in the 1960s folk minute Second Coming it was not the downtrodden and afflicted who found solace but the young, mainly college students in big tent cities and sheltered college campuses who were looking for authenticity, for roots).                 

It was not until sometime later that I began to understand the drift of his early life, the life of a nomadic troubadour singing and writing his way across the land for nickels and dimes and for the pure hell of it (although not all of the iterant hobo legend holds up since he had a brother who ran a radio station in California and that platform gave him a very helpful leg up which singing in the Okie/Arkie “from hunger” migrant stoop labor camps never could have done). That laconic style is what the serious folk singers were trying to emulate, that “keep on moving” rolling stone gathers no moss thing that Woody perfected as he headed out of the played-out dustbowl Oklahoma night, wrote plenty of good dustbowl ballads about that too, evoking the ghost of Tom Joad in John Steinbeck’s’ The Grapes Of Wrath as he went along. Yeah, you could almost see old Tom, beaten down in the dustbowl looking for a new start out in the frontier’s end Pacific, mixing it up with braceros-drivers, straw bosses, railroad “bulls,” in Woody and making quick work of it too.      

Yeah, Woody wrote of the hard life of the generations drifting West to scratch out some kind of existence on the land, tame that West a bit. Wrote too of political things going on, the need for working people to unionize, the need to take care of the desperate Mexico braceros brought in to bring in the harvest and then abused and left hanging, spoke too of truth to power about some men robbing you with a gun others with a fountain pen, about the beauty of America if only the robber barons, the greedy, the spirit-destroyers, the forever night-takers would let it be. Wrote too about the wide continent from New York Harbor to the painted deserts, to the fruitful orchards, all the way to the California line, no further if you did not have the do-re-mi called America and how this land was ours, the whole fellahin bunch of us, if we knew how to keep it. No wonder I remembered that song chapter and verse.             

Scene Three: A First Misstep In The Search For The Blue-Pink Great American West Night, Early Spring 1969

Scene Three: A First Misstep In The Search For The Blue-Pink Great American West Night, Early Spring 1969

Let me tell this story, okay, this story about a couple of guys that I picked up hitch-hiking out on the 1960s highway. I’ll get to what highway it was later because it could have been any highway, any American or European, or maybe even African or Asian highway, if those locales had such highways, at least highways for cars back in those days. Anyway it’s their story, these two guys, really, and maybe around the edges my story, and if you are of a certain age, your story, just a little anyway.

Some of it though just doesn’t sound right now, or read right, at least the way they told it to me but we will let that pass because it has been a while and memories, mine in this case, sometimes seize up even among the best of us. Ya, but this part I do remember so let’s just subtitle this one a segment on that search for the blue-pink great American West night and that makes this thing a lot of people’s story. Let’s get to it right now by picking up where they and I intersect on the great American 1960s road:

Two young men were standing pretty close together, talking, up ahead at the side of a brisk, chilly, early spring morning 1969 road, a highway really, a white-lined, four-laned, high-speed highway if you want to know, thumbs out, as I came driving down the line alone in my Volkswagen Beetle (or bug, hey, that’s what they were called in those days, you still see some old restored or well-preserved ones around, especially out on the left coast, California), see them, and begin to slow down to pick them up. I would no more think not to pick them up than not to breathe. A few years earlier and I would have perhaps been afraid to pick up such an unlikely pair, a few years later and they would not have been on that road. But the thumbs out linked them, and not them alone on this day or in this time, with the old time hitchhike road, the vagabond road that your mother, if she was wise or nervous, told you never ever, ever to take (and it was always Ma who told you this, your father was either held in reserve for the big want-to-do battles, or else was bemused by sonny boy wanting to spread his wings, or better yet, was secretly passing along his own long ago laid aside blue-pink highway dreams).

This pair in any case, as you shall see, were clearly brothers, no, not brothers in the biological sense, although that sometimes was the case on the old hitchhike road, but brothers on that restless, tireless, endless, road. My hitchhike road yesterday, and maybe tomorrow, but today I have wheels and they don’t and that was that. No further explanation needed. I stopped. From the first close-up look at them these guys were young, although not too young, not high school or college young but more mid-twenties maybe graduate student young. I’ll describe in more detail how they looked in a minute but for those who desperately need to know where I picked them up, the exact locale that is, let me put your anxieties to rest and tell you that it was heading south on the Connecticut side of the Massachusetts-Connecticut border of U.S. Interstate 84 (near Union Ct. and Holland Ma.), one of the main roads to New York City from Boston. Are you happy now? Not as sexy as some of those old-time Kerouac-Cassady late 1940s “beat” roads, but I believe their ghosts were nevertheless hovering in the environs. Hell, now that I think about it, would it have mattered if I said it was Route 6, or Route 66, or Route 666 where I picked them up. I picked them up, that was the way it was done in those halcyon days, and that’s the facts, man, nothing but the facts.

Hey, by the way, while we are talking about facts, just the hard-headed fact of this pair standing on the side of a highway road should have been enough to alert the reader that this is no current episode but rather a tale out of the mist of another American time. Who in their right mind today would be standing on such a road, thumb out, or not, expecting some faded Dennis Hopper-like flower child, or Ken Kesey-like Merry Prankster hold-out to stop. No this was the time of their time, the 1960s (or at the latest, the very latest, about 1973). You have all seen the bell-bottomed jeans, the fringed-deerskin jackets, the long hair and beards and all other manner of baubles in those exotic pre-digital photos so that one really need not bother to describe their appearances. But I will, if only to tempt the fates, or the imaginations of the young.

One, the slightly older one, wispy-bearded, like this was maybe his first attempt at growing the then< em>de rigueur</em> youth nation-demanded male beard to set one apart from the them (and from the eternal Gillette, Bic, Shick razor cuts, rubbing alcohol at the ready, splash of English Leather, spanking clean date night routine, ah, ah, farewell to all that). Attired: <em>Levi</em> blue-jean’d with flared-out bottoms, not exactly bell-bottoms but denims that not self-respecting cowboy, or cowboy wanna-be would, or could, wear out in the grey-black , star-studded great plains night; plaid flannel shirt that one would find out there in that bronco-busting night (or in backwoodsman-heavy Maine and Oregon in the time of the old Wobblies or Ken Kesey’s <em>Sometimes a Great Notion</em>); skimpily-sneakered, Chuck Taylor blacks, from the look of them, hardly the wear for tackling the great American foot-sore hitchhike road which makes me think that these are guys have started on something like their maiden voyage on that old road; and over one shoulder the ubiquitous string-tied bedroll that speaks already of ravine sleep, apartment floor pick your space sleep, and other such vagabond sleep certainly not of Holiday Inn or even flea-bag motel sleeps; and over the other shoulder the also ubiquitous life’s gatherings in a knapsack (socks, a few utensils, maybe underwear, and the again maybe not, change of shirt, a few toilet articles, not much more but more than the kings (and queens) of the roads, 1930s ancestor forbears carried, for sure , ask any old Wobblie, or bum-hobo-tramp hierarch- take your pick-who took that hard-scrabble, living out of your emptied pocket road).

And the other young man, a vision of heaven’s own high 1960s counter-cultural style: long-haired, not quite a pony tail if tied back and maybe not <em>Easy Rider</em> long but surely no advertisement for <em>Gentleman’s Quarterly</em> even in their earnest days of keeping up with the new tastes to corner the more couth segments of the hippie market; cowboy-hatted, no, not a Stetson, howdy, Tex, kind of thing but some Army-Navy store-bought broad brimmed, sun-bashing, working cowboy hat that spoke of hard-riding, branding, cattle night lowing, whiskey and women Saturday town bust-ups, just right for a soft-handed, soft-skinned city boy fearful of unlit places, or places that are not lit up like a Christmas tree; caped, long swirling cape, like someone’s idea of old-time film Zorro stepping out with the senoritas; guitar, an old Martin from the look of it, slung over one shoulder, not protective cased against the winds, rains, snows, or just the bang-ups of living, but protective in other ways when night falls and down in the hills and hollows, or maybe by a creek, heaven’s own strum comes forth. Woody Guthrie’s own child, or stepchild, or some damn relative. I swear.

Welcome brothers, as I open up the passenger side door. “Where are you guys heading?” This line is more meaningful than you might think for those who know, as I know, and as these lads will know, as well, if they spent any time on the hitchhike road. Sometimes it was better, even on a high-speed highway, to not take any old ride that came along if, say, some kind–hearted local spirit was only going a few miles, or the place where a driver would let you out on the highway was a tough stop. Not to worry though these guys, Jack and Mattie, were hitchhiking to California. California really, I swear, although they are stopping off at a crisscross of places on their way. A pretty familiar routine by then, playing hopscotch, thumbs out, across the continent.

These guys were, moreover, indeed brothers, because you see once we started comparing biographical notes, although they never put it that way, or really never could just because of the way they thought about things as I got to know them better on the ride, were out there searching, and searching hard, for my blue-pink night. Christ, there were heaven’s own blessed armies, brigades anyway, of us doing it, although like I said about Jack and Mattie most of the brothers and sisters did not get caught up in the colors of that night, like I did, and just “dug” the search. Jack and Mattie are in luck, in any case, because on this day I’m heading to Washington, D.C. and they have friends near there in Silver Springs, Maryland. The tides of the times are riding with us.

And why, by the way, although it is not germane to the story or at least this part of it, am I heading to D.C.? Well, the cover story is to do some anti-war organizing but, for your eyes only, I had just broken up, for the umpteenth time, with a women who drove me to distraction, sometimes pleasantly but on that occasion fitfully, who I could not, and did not, so I thought, want to get out of my system, but had to put a little distance away from. You know that story, boys and girls, in your own lives so I do not have to spend much time on the details here, although that theme might turn up again. Besides, if you really want to read that kind of story the romance novels section of any library or the DVD film section, for that matter, can tell the story with more heart-throbbing panache that you will find here.

I’ve got a kind of weird story to tell you about why Jack and Mattie were on this desolate border stretch of the highway in a minute but let me tell a little about what they were trying to do out on that road, that west road. First, I was right, mostly, about their ages, but Jack and Mattie were no graduate students on a spring lark before grinding away at some master’s thesis on the meaning of meaning deconstuct’d (although this reference is really an anachronism since such literary theories were not then fashionably on display on the world’s campuses, but you get the drift) or some such worthy subject in desperate need of research in a time when this old world was falling apart and the bombs were (are) raining (literally) on many parts of the world.

In one sense they were graduates though, graduates of the university of hard knocks, hard life, and hard war. They had just a few months before been discharged, a little early as the war, or the American ground troops part of it, was winding down, from the U.S. Army after a couple of tours of duty in ‘Nam (their usage, another of their privileged usages was “in-country”). I swear I didn’t believe them at first, no way, they looked like the poster boys for the San Francisco Summer of Love in 1967. Something, something big was going on here and my mind was trying to digest the sight of these two guys, “good, solid citizens” before the “man” turned them around in that overseas Vietnam quagmire who looked in attire, demeanor, and style just like the guy (me) who picked them up.

Ya, but that is only part of it and not even the most important part, really, because this California thing was also no lark. This is their break-out, bust-out moment and they are going for it. As we rode along that old super highway they related stories about how they came back from “in-county”, were going to settle down, maybe get married (or move in with a girlfriend or seven), and look forward to social security when that distant time came. But something snapped inside of them, and this is where every old Jack London hobo, every old Wobblie, every old bummer on the 1930s rail highway, hell even every old beat denizen of some Greenwich Village walk-up was a kindred spirit. Like I said, and I am sitting right in the car listening to them with a little smirk on my face, the boys are searching that same search that I am searching for and that probably old Walt Whitman really should take the blame for, okay. I’ll tell you more, or rather; I’ll let them tell you more some other time but let me finish up here with that weird little story about why they were at that god forsaken point on the highway.

Look, everybody knows, or should know, or at least knew back then that hitchhiking, especially hitchhiking on the big roads was illegal, and probably always was even when every tramp and tramp-ette in America had his or her thumb out in the 1930s. But usually the cops or upstanding citizenry either ignored it or, especially in small towns, got you on some vagrancy rap. Hey, if you had spent any time on the hitchhike road you had to have been stopped at least once if for no other reason than to harass you. Still some places were more notorious than others in hitchhike grapevine lore in those days, particularly noteworthy were Connecticut and Arizona (both places where I had more than my own fair share of “vagrancy” problems).

So I was not too far off when I figured out that Jack and Mattie were on their maiden voyage. Thumbs out and talking, the pair missed the then ever-present Connecticut state police cruiser coming from nowhere, or it seemed like nowhere, as it came to a stop sharply about five feet away from them. The pair gulped and prepared for the worst; being taken to some state police barracks and harassed and then let go at some backwater locale as the road lore had it. Or getting “vagged”. Or worst, a nice little nasty trick in those days, have “illegal” drugs conveniently, very conveniently, found on their person.

But get this, after a superficial search and the usual questions about destination, resources, and the law the pair instead were directed to walk the few hundred yards back across the border line to Massachusetts. Oh, I forgot this part; the state cop who stopped them was a Vietnam veteran himself. He had been an MP in ‘Nam. Go figure, right. So starts, the inauspicious start if you think about it, in one of the searches for the blue-pink great American West night. Nobody said it was going to be easy and, you know, they were right. Still every time I drive pass that spot (now close to an official Connecticut Welcomes You rest stop, whee!), especially on any moonless, starless, restless, hitchhiker-less road night I smile and give a little tip of the hat to those youthful, sanctified blue-pink dreams that almost got wrecked before they got started.

When The Blues Was Dues-With The Film “Cadillac Records” In Mind

When The Blues Was Dues-With The Film “Cadillac Records” In Mind

By Si Landon

[The film Cadillac Records chronicles the rise and fall of the blues label the Chicago-bound House of Chess, a guy from the villages in Poland, so a white guy, who nailed the whole trajectory of the switch from the old timey country blues sung in the acoustic “juke joints” that could be found out in the rural un-electrified South, the South of share-croppers, plantation workers just like in the ante bellum times, and the benighted land of one Mister James Crow to the electrified urban sounds of those who jumped bail on Mister and headed north up the Mississippi and faced some of the same stuff-segregation(with some stopping along the  This is the background about how a wise Polish boy, a Polish Jewish boy, who took a bunch of young black men, and later a black woman and created a sound that lasted-a sound that sounds good today just like when they sweated those blues in some Chicago tavern practically eating the microphone.(I am not kidding on that score. Check out Howlin’ Wolf playing the harmonica down at the Newport Folk Festival in the early sixties on YouTube if you need visual proof).

Sam Phillips down river in Memphis with his white-bread boys (who were very aware of black-etched rhythm and blues from gospel to the juke joints and the street corner singers) and Brother Chess with his stable of black and night blues men-and a woman pretty well wrap up in a bow the genesis of rock and roll. Rock and roll the music that shaped Jack Reardon and Bart Webber, working class guys who hailed from Riverdale about forty miles west of Boston and who lived and died for the music-and the girls that the music snagged. S.L.]             

“Wasn’t that a time,” Jack Reardon mentioned to Bart Webber his old high school friend who was a late-comer to the study of the roots of rock and roll or really the same thing-came to the blues late one night a few nights after he had seen the film Cadillac Blues on his television via the beauties of NetFlix (he had seen the film when it had first come out but was in what he would call a “when blues is dues.” Bart had not seen the film so he asked Jack to give him a short run-down on the film to see if Lana, his lovely wife of many years, mighty grab that selection from NetFlix and they would watch it as well. So as they settled into their chairs in the den of Bart’s house with a drink in hand Jack was happy to chat away about his growing up music-the music that he had “hipped” all his guys around the corner of Benny’s Drug Store over on Ripon Road in downtown Riverdale to before that genre caught on with rock and roll devotees.

[Funny Jack had come to the blues quite by accident-the accident of modern technology-in this case the invention, the savior invention, as any generation of ‘68er, anybody who came of musical age in the 1950s, would be glad to tell you of the transistor radio which was basically a small portable radio run by batteries that you could put to your ear and listen to stations like WMEX where the latest rock songs were being played without having to be hassled by irate parents telling you that you were going to hell in a hand-basket and more importantly not to have to listen to their tinny music. One errant Sunday when the winds were up, say 1957, 58 he could not get the signal for the local rock station, WJDA, for Bill Mathers’ Rock Hour but instead picked up in the late night WABC out of Chicago where he heard this bad-ass beat that seemed kind of familiar, not a rock beat but kind of like it, a little more sweaty if he had been pressed to tell what his ear picked up on Little Milton’s Blues Blast. The song, Big Ike Turner’s Rocket 88. He was hooked.]                     

“It’s funny how some great movements in music history started out “from hunger.” That really is the start of Chess Records (the real name of the label-the Cadillac of the film is just an acknowledgement that one had arrived in the great golden age of the “boss” car of the 1950s.That was the pay-off for success for both Chess and the bluesmen). Chess was hustling a junkyard job but with a hunger to get out, to become an impresario. The first big star of his label Muddy Waters was down in some forlorn cotton field dreaming about heading north, north to the bright lights of the city, dreaming “from hunger” dreams too. That first combination that hit was when Muddy worked the streets and tossing that old acoustic guitar to the garbage can (not literally such instruments were life-blood remember-and remember too you might be back on cheap street soon and in need of that old thing for your new daily bread) and threw some electric cord and amped up. (Maxwell Street the most famous street for bluesmen to bring their acts along, maybe get noticed too, maybe nurse a few drinks to keep the devil away too.)

The movie threads it way up and down through Muddy always in the background, always the guy who made the whole thing work-until rock and roll swamped the canoe. Along the way they pick up the greatest harmonica player who ever played that key blues instruments, Little Walter.           

But all musics have their ups and downs and so the big moment falls back with the onslaught of rock and roll brought to the Chess label via Chuck Berry and his vaunted duck walk (to lose his fame and freedom  via some bullshit crackerjack stuff with Mister’s women). And they all ride on his back as they attempt to figure out how they are going to fit into the new wave. Then Etta James comes along and does a female version of the guys who brought the music north. Of course there are the romances (Muddy with his stable, Chess with Etta), the drugs (and alcohol, stuff that would help do Little Walter in), the tensions between the various blues persona-Muddy versus the Wolf. With that lead-in Bart knew that even if he was a late-comer to the blues he was going to see the movie come hell or high water-or Lana.        

Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-Malvina Reynolds' "The Little Generals"

Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-Malvina Reynolds' "The Little Generals"

In this series, presented under the headline “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here. Markin.


The Little Generals

Notes: words and music by Malvina Reynolds; copyright 1962 by author. a.k.a. "It's Hard to Get a War These Days."

All the little generals are running out of war,
Oh, my, It's enough to make you cry;
They've all these little khaki colored guns and tanks,
And all the money waiting in the U.S. banks,
But when they start an action, people say "No thanks",
And it's hard to get a war these days.

All the little generals are running out of war,
Oh, my, It's enough to make you cry;
They're sitting on their build-up till they get a pain,
They march the soldiers up the hill and down the hill again,
But logistics they get rusty when they're standing in the rain,
And it's hard to get a war these days.

All the little generals are running out of war,
Oh, my, It's enough to make you cry;
They paddle out to Cuba and get drowned in the bay,1
They start a thing in Laos, but the folks don't want to play,
And even up in Holy Loch, the kids cry, "Go away!"
And it's hard to get a war these days.

All the little generals are running out of war,
Oh, my, It's enough to make you cry;
They take the mighty atom bombs and tie them up with bows,
And Teller puts on perfume so they smell just like a rose,
But they smell like Hiroshima when the fall-out blows,
And it's hard to get a war these days.

Thank Heaven--It's hard to get a war these days.

Malvina Reynolds songbook(s) in which the music to this song appears:
---- [none]

Other place(s) where the music to this song appears:
---- Broadside No. 13 (September 1962)

Malvina Reynolds recording(s) on which this song is performed:
---- [none]

Additional Note:
1. On the lead sheet, this line is "It looked like fun in Cuba but the missiles went away,".

* * * * *
This page copyright 2006 by Charles H. Smith and Nancy Schimmel. All rights reserved.

Dearest Mommy Can’t Dance-Or Sing-Joan Crawford And Clark Gable’s “Dancing Girl” (1933)-A Film Review

Dearest Mommy Can’t Dance-Or Sing-Joan Crawford And Clark Gable’s “Dancing Girl” (1933)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Sarah Lemoyne

Dancing Girl, starring Francot Tone, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, 1933

[New Introduction-Sometimes things happen for a reason, for the fates, maybe a portent, at least that is what Seth Garth, my grandfatherly mentor here of late has told me (that “grandfatherly” put in to cut off what is becoming an ugly insinuation that there is some kind of undercurrent romance going on between us which is far from the truth as I have mentioned before but which bears repeating since this workplace has a history of older writers taking their stringers under their wings, despite age, marital status, religion or race for nefarious purposes again according to Seth). This review was supposed to appear several months ago when I first viewed it and turned in my draft review.

Somehow, between Greg Green’s undivided attention on doing the encore edition of a rock and roll series entitled The Roots Is The Toots which the previous site manager (or administrator, I think he was called but don’t quote me on that since that was before I started here), Allan Jackson put together over several years and trying to get a handle of a couple of new series this one fell through the cracks. That is important because now that the dust has settled on that rock and roll series Greg asked me to get it in shape for publication. The happens to have dove-tailed with a “dispute” I am entwined in with occasional reviewer Sam Lowell who old, senile and wizened as he is still thinks he can write reviews, if he ever did in the past which is open to question, serious question.

I have been informed, and I did the research to prove it, that Sam after he got his precious by-line had stringers, mostly Leslie Dumont before she moved on to bigger and better things and Minnie Moore who I don’t know what happened to her and Seth didn’t know either, write his reviews and pass them in and/or he used studio publicity department press releases and just chopped off the top and sent them in from whatever watering hole or backdoor hotel he was hanging out in.

In a recent review of Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba’s Molly’s Game, a good film by the way which Sam essentially panned for no other reason than hubris on this fast-paced and intricate film (and probably had his longtime companion Laura Perkins who watched it with him and liked it write the review and sent it in), he challenged my research. Not the truth of it but a couple of lame excuses about how every stringer here had in those days, all female according to Seth who admitted that his stringers were usually female as well, the hots for him and/or everybody was doing the studio press release stuff on dog day films, his expression but actually about right. I have not had time to get back to Leslie, or to check the stringer employee records or see how many times Sam “mailed it in” with studio press releases (he says a couple but who knows until we get the stats). What is interesting is that the introduction I wrote below several months ago when Sam was beginning his sabotage campaign to get the coveted Hammer Productions series from the 1950s and 1960 reads like it was written by me this week. That says it all and so I will keep it- More later I am sure-Sarah Lemoyne]          

[In my very first film review after being hired here by site manager Greg Green I mentioned that this was my first real job in journalism and that I was going to use the introductory space to talk about myself and not go off on some tangent like some of the older writers do rather than deal with the subject at hand. Which I did. I also noted that not being wise to the various “traditions” in the profession like starting out as a stringer I had a lot to learn. Well I am here to bitch just like the older writers this time and to let one and all know that I am a quick learner once the rug has been pulled out from under me by one nasty old has-been Sam Lowell.   

The source of my wrath is centered on Sam, who is supposed to be retired and write an occasional review to let younger and fresher voices come to the fore, who let it be known to Greg Green that he was interested in doing the Hammer Production series originally assigned to me. The series that had six psychological thriller in it from the early 1960s mainly of which I had already done two which have been published here Cash On Demand and The Snorkel. It seems that as a remnant of the “good old boys” network that existed here under previous site manager Allan Jackson that older writers meaning mainly those good old boys got “first dibs” at any decent material. Sam, Judas-goat Sam by the way according to what I heard about the faction fight that led to Jackson’s demise (although he is here still puffing away at some nostalgia rock and roll thing that nobody under about sixty cares one whit about) invoked that privilege and now not only will he complete the series but will give an alternate review to the two that I did have published. That sucks.

Worse if what Leslie Dumont said is true about her time here when she was a stringer before she got that big push of a by-line at Women Today many years ago I will probably be writing the damn reviews while Sam gets on his bong pipe or whatever dope keeps him from toppling over in his dotage or runs away on some tryst with his flame Laura Perkins leaving me here to save his sorry ass. In that first introduction I was, admittedly, naïve enough to take Sam as a kindly old sot but like I said I am a fast learner, very fast. In the meantime I have this dog of a film to review about creeps I never heard of except maybe Clark Gable who my grandmother swooned over whenever his name was mentioned about a million years ago. Sarah Lemoyne]  

My good friend Seth Garth, who has given me some good advice, told me that the 1930s and 1940s, my grandmother’s time, was the golden age of musicals, musicals based on Broadway shows or done with the music of well-known Broadway lyric and melody writers like Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, the Gershwin Brothers and Barton Lane. Those names provided by Seth since I only knew George Gershwin’s name from Porgy and Bess. He had me watch Babes On Broadway with him which he was reviewing at the time and which has since been published as an example of real talent lighting up the Great White Way with Mickey Rooney and especially Judy Garland in the top roles. I could take my cue from that film and the two others which made up the trilogy and throw in a couple of other Rooney-Garland collaborations and would have the gold standard for the genre. (Bart Webber said throw in the motherlode of Fred-Astaire and Ginger Rogers song and dance flicks and you would not be steered wrong.)

Then there is this dog of film Dancing Lady which must have been produced by lead actress Joan Crawford’s lover or she had something on him that his wife should not know about because however earnest Joan might have been she could neither sing nor dance. Especially not dance with all her flailing arms and out of synch motions which left me wondering what the heck was going on. Of course the plotline (and star power Clark) would have indicated that maybe this would be a better film than it turned out to be.  
I have already moaned and groaned about the poor song and dance (hell even Fred Astaire brought in probably from desperation couldn’t make dear Mommy pop) so all we have left is the story behind the story. Joan, from nowhere, meaning probably Hoboken, dreamed the big dream of being a dancing fool on the Great White Way, on Broadway but like a million other well-intentioned young women didn’t make a dent although that did not stop her, or them, from needing food and shelter. Hence, she started out down in the dumps, down in dime a dance, roller rink, burlesque where she was “discovered by a young, wealthy Mayfair swell, played by Francot Tone who didn’t want her to perform but to marry him.

They go on and on about the matter but to his frustration and her sometimes annoyance she is committed to her art. One way or another she used him to make a few contacts on the street, on the Great White Way, and thus enter Patch, played by Clark Gable, who is the primo musical director on Broadway. Needless to say they don’t get along for a while until he sees her as his savior with her dancing and singing skills. Let me tell you though old Patch is no judge of either such skills and the real deal is that at the end after finally dumping Mayfair swell boyfriend and making a smash hit on Broadway they become lovers-fade out.           

I wish I could swear in a review like Seth Garth or even Sam Lowell do when they have a stinker or something that they cannot understand or make heads nor tails out of but I am a lowly stringer working my way up the food chain as Bart Webber said he used to say when he was moving up. But probably the only way I can swear is when Sam Lowell, pretty please, asks me to do one of his Hammer Production film reviews for him. You know I will then.