Saturday, December 26, 2020

In Defense Of Urban Flight-Cary Grant and Myra Loy’s “Mr. Blanding Builds His Dream House” (1948)-A Film Review

In Defense Of Urban Flight-Cary Grant and Myra Loy’s “Mr. Blanding Builds His Dream House” (1948)-A Film Review

DVD Review
By Sandy Salmon

Mr. Blanding Builds His Dream House, starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy,  

[As of December 1, 2017 under the new regime of Greg Green, formerly of the on-line American Film Gazette website, brought in to shake things up a bit after a vote of no confidence in the previous site administrator Peter Markin was taken among all the writers at the request of some of the younger writers abetted by one key older writer, Sam Lowell, the habit of assigning writers to specific topics like film, books, political commentary, and culture is over. Also over is the designation of writers in this space, young or old, by job title like senior or associate. After a short-lived experiment designating everybody as “writer” seemingly in emulation of the French Revolution’s “citizen” or the Bolshevik Revolution’s “comrade” all posts will be “signed” with given names only. The Editorial Board]

Nowadays the great flight from the big cities started in the immediate post-World War II period with the construction of Levitttown-type suburbs has run its course and there is a creep back to the cities by the non-auto hungry Generation X. Maybe it is the economics of purchase but I have listened in disbelief as father after father of my acquaintance has told me that their young charges do not own, do not lust after their won automobile. In some cases do not have a driver’s license at twenty-something. Heresy, sheer heresy to our generation hitting the road at sixteen and at least pining for an owned automobile around the same time. That strange sociology phenomenon aside back then every even marginally prosperous family was itching to join the exodus. (And maybe from smaller town too when you remember back to the days when places like downtown Mill Valley outside of Trenton, New Jersey where I grew up in the 1950s used to be thriving places where you would spent plenty of time doing this and that before the big malls sucked the life out of basically Mom and Pop Main Street operations.)  That is the working premise of the film under review, Mr. Blanding Builds His Dream House, as Cary Grant and Myra Loy go through their paces trying to make the damn thing come true without bankrupting them and not without seemingly every pitfall known to house-building man (and woman).

Mad man, you know Madison Avenue, New York City upwardly mobile advertising man fresh for the war, World War II, Mr. Blanding, played by versatile Cary Grant who could play for laughs or suspense at the flip of a coin, is sick and tired of his cramped quarters in an apartment in the city and dreams of getting out in the great fresh suburban, or what will be suburban air of Connecticut. Housewife and good mother Mrs. Blanding, played by equally versatile Myra Loy couldn’t agree more, as long as the operation doesn’t set them “underwater” as the more recent expression post-2008 housing bubble burst would have it. The problem, serious problem is that these city slickers don’t know from nothing about such things as old time Victorian houses and farms, allegedly cheap ones to fix up, which is what they have their ignorant little hearts set on to be able to bring up their two precocious young daughters in a non-city environment.  

Naturally not knowing anything about rural real estate markets they grab a nice old place on the cheap. No, not on the cheap when the hi-jinx are through since this place is a “lemon,” a dead-end which has to be torn down and another mighty dwelling put in its place which really does almost bankrupt the pair especially when Mad man Mr. Balnding can’t come up with some hammy slogan to sell, well, hams in order to keep his job and keep from going under water like a million other people before and after them. Not Cary or Myra’s best work which has to do with the limits of the story-line after all how many pratfalls and exasperating experiences can you work out, or get worked up about, over your so-called dream house before you simply don’t care anymore. Or we in that Saturday movie audience or now DVD home watching crowd either.  


I Hear Mother Africa Calling-With The Late Odetta In Mind

I Hear Mother Africa Calling-With The Late Odetta In Mind

By Ray Carter   

They say that the blues, you know, the quintessential black musical contribution to the American songbook along with first cousin jazz that breaks you out of your depression about whatever ails you or the world, was formed down in the Mississippi muds, down in some sweat-drenched bayou, down in some woody sunken hollow all near Mister’s plantation, mill, or store. Well they might be right in a way about how it all started in America as a coded response to Mister’s, Master’s, Captain’s wicked perverse ways back in slavery times, later back in Mister James Crow times. 

I do believe however they are off by several maybe more generations and off by a few thousand miles from its origins in hell-bent Africa, hell-bent when Mister’s forbears took what he thought was the measure of some poor grimy “natives” and shipped them in death slave boats, those that survived the Middle Passage of seasick death and disease making one think of once owned by William Ruskin W.B.T. Turner’s Slave Ship painterly masterpiece of the sick and dying thrown overboard for bloody insurance wagers which should have made everyone an abolitionist but didn’t and brought them to the Mississippi muds, bayous and hollows. Took peoples, proud Nubians, builders and artifacters, who had created very sharp civilizations when Mister’s forbears were wondering what the hell a spoon was when placed in their dirty clenched fingers, still wondered later how the heck to use the damn thing, and why and uprooted them whole.          

Uprooted you hear but somehow that beat, that tah, tat, tah, tah, tat, tah played on some stretched string tightened against some cabin post by young black boys kept Africa home alive. Kept it alive while women, mothers, grandmothers and once in a while despite the hard conditions some great-grandmother who nursed and taught the little ones the old home beat, made them keep the thing alive. Kept alive too Mister’s forced on them churched religion strange as it was, kept the low branch spirituals that mixed with blues alive in plain wood churches but kept it alive. So a few generations back black men took all that sweat, anger, angst, humiliation, and among themselves “spoke” blues on juke joint no electricity Saturday nights and sang high white collar blues come Sunday morning plain wood church time.  Son House, Charley Patton, Skip James, Sleepy John Estes, Mississippi John Hurt and a lot of other guys who went to their graves undiscovered in the sweat sultry Delta night carried on, and some sisters too, some younger sisters who heard the beat and heard the high collar Sunday spirituals. 

Kept alive by some sisters like Odetta, did she need another name, a Mister slave name to complete his domination, big-voiced, who made lots of odd duck searching for roots white college students mainly marvel that they had heard some ancient Nubian Queen, some deep-voiced Mother Africa calling them back to the cradle of civilization. Our collective birth home.           

The Blues Aint Nothing But Lucille On Your Mind- With B.B. King’s Lucille In Mind

The Blues Aint Nothing But Lucille On Your Mind- With B.B. King’s Lucille In Mind  

Here is the drill. I started out life listening to singer like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby (and his brother Bob), Miss Patti Page, Miss Rosemary Clooney, Miss Peggy Lee, the Andrew, McGuire, Dooley sisters, and all the big swing bands from the 1940s like Harry James, Tommy Dorsey (and his brother Jimmy) as background music on the family radio in the 1950s which my mother had always during the day to get her workaday daytime household world and on Saturday night when my father joined in. Joined in so they could listen to Bill Marlowe on local radio station WJDA and his Memory Lane show from seven to eleven where they could listen to the music that got them (and their generation) through the “from hunger” times of the 1930s Great Depression and then when they slogged through (either in some watery European theater or Pacific one take your pick) or anxiously waited at home for the other shoe to drop during World War II. I am not saying that they should not have had their memory music after all of that but frankly that stuff then (and now although less) made me grind my teeth. But I was a captive audience then and so to this day I can sing off Rum and Coca Cola and Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree from memory. But that was not my music, okay. 

Then of course since we are speaking about the 1950s came the great musical break-out, the age of classic rock and roll which I “dug” seriously dug to the point of dreaming my own jailbreak dreams about rock futures (and girls) but that Elvis-etched time too was just a bit soon for me to be able unlike my older brother, Prescott, to call that the music that I came of age to. Although the echoes of that time still run through my mind and I can quote chapter and verse One Night With You, Sweet Little Sixteen, Let’s Have A Party, Be-Bop-a-Lula, Bo Diddley, Peggy Sue and a whole bunch more.   

The music that I can really call my own is the stuff from the folk minute of the 1960s which dovetailed with my coming of chronological, political and social age (that last in the sense of recognizing, if not always acting on, the fact that there were others, kindred, out there beside myself filled with angst, alienation and good will to seek solidarity with). You know the mountain tunes of the first generation of the Carter Family, Buell Kazell, Jimmy Rodgers, the old country Child ballads (Northwest Europe old country), the blue grass music , and the protest songs by the likes of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Tom Paxton, Dave Von Ronk and Phil Ochs. The latter songs being what drove a lot of my interest once I connected their work with the Harvard Square coffeehouse scene (and the adjacent hanging out at the Hayes-Bickford Cafeteria which I have written plenty about elsewhere on poverty nights, meaning many nights).

A lot of the drive toward folk music was to get out from under the anti-rock and rock musical counter-revolution that I kept hearing on my transistor radio during that early 1960s period with pretty boy singers and vapid young female-driven female singer stuff. Also to seek out roots music that I kept hearing in the coffeehouses and on the radio once I found a station (accidently) which featured such music and got intrigued by the sounds. Part of that search, a big search over the long haul, was to get deeply immersed in the blues, mainly at first country blues and later the city, you know Chicago, blues. Those country guys though intrigued me once they were “discovered” down south in little towns plying away in the fields or some such work and were brought up to Newport to enflame a new generation of aficionados. The likes of Son House, Skip James, Bukka White and of course Mississippi John Hurt. But those guys basically stayed in the South and it took a younger generation like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and the guy whose photograph graces this sketch, B.B. King, to move north, to follow the northern star to the big industrial cities (with a stop at Memphis going up river) to put some electric juice in those old guitars and chase my blues away just by playing like they had made their own pacts with the devil. Praise be.               

When The Blues Was Dues- The Slide Guitar Of Elmore James

When The Blues Was Dues- The Slide Guitar Of Elmore James

By Ray Carter

 [As of December 1, 2017 under the new regime of Greg Green, formerly of the on-line American Film Gazette website, brought in to shake things up a bit after a vote of no confidence in the previous site administrator Peter Markin was taken among all the writers at the request of some of the younger writers abetted by one key older writer, Sam Lowell, the habit of assigning writers solely to specific topics like film, books, political commentary, and culture is over. Also over is the designation of writers in this space, young or old, by job title like senior or associate. After a short-lived experiment by Green designating everybody as “writer” seemingly in emulation of the French Revolution’s “citizen” or the Bolshevik Revolution’s “comrade” all posts will be “signed” with given names only. The Editorial Board]

I, Kenny Evans, will get to a CD review of Elmore James’ work in a second. Now I want to tell, no retell, the tale that had me and a few of my corner boys who hung out in front of, or in if we had dough for food or more likely the jukebox, Jimmy Jack’s Diner in Carver where I came of age in the early 1960s going for a while. On one lonesome Friday night, lonesome meaning, no dough, no wheels, no girls, or any combination of the three, with time of our hands Billy Bradley, Jack Dawson and I went round and round about what song by what artist each of us thought was the decisive song that launched rock and roll. Yeah, I know, I know now, that the world then, like now, was going to hell in a hand-basket, what with the Russkies breathing hard on us in the deep freeze Cold War red scare night, with crazy wars going on for no apparent reason, and the struggle for black civil rights down in the police state Mister James Crow South (that “police state" picked up later after I got wise to what was happening there, that it was not some ill-thought out aberration by a few raggedly rednecks by a deeply conscious social policy formulated at the highest local levels, and carried out from the top down in a crazy quill iron front which almost took a second civil to unravel) but what were three corner boys to do to while away the time.  

Here is the break-down though. We knew, knew without anybody telling us that while Elvis gave rock and roll a big lift in his time before he went on to silly movies (after Jail House Rock where the jail house rock scene was worth the price of admission alone) that debased his talent he was not the “max daddy,” not the guy who rolled the dice. For one thing and this was Billy’s position he only covered Big Joe Turner’s classic R&B classic Shake, Rattle, and Roll and when we heard Joe’s finger-snapping version we flipped out. So Billy had his choice made, no question. Jack had heard on some late Sunday night radio station out in Chicago on his transistor radio a thing called Be-Bop Benny’s Blues Hour where he first heard this guy wailing on the piano a be-bop tune. It turned out to be Ike Turner (without Tina then and using another name like Johnny and the Dee Drops, something like that, due to onerous and one-sided contractual problems) blasting Rocket 88. So Jack had his position firm, and a good choice. Me, well I caught this obscure folk music station (obscure then but not a few years later though) which played not just folk but what would be later called “roots music.” And the blues is nothing but roots music in America. One night I heard Elmore James slide guitar his way through Look On Yonder Wall. That is the song I defended that night. Did any of us change each other’s mind that night. Be serious this was teenage boys turf war and the last I heard it was about 1926 the last time a teenage boy succumbed to reason. I later, several years later well out of teenage boy angst and alienation so easier to un-clutch wrong opinions, saw the wisdom of Jack’s choice and switched but old Elmore still was a close second. Enough said.       


The History of Elmore James: The Sky Is Crying, Elmore James, Rhino Records, 1993

When one thinks of the classic blues tune “Dust My Broom” one tends to think of the legendary Robert Johnson who along with his “Sweet Home, Chicago” created two of the signature blues songs of the pre-World War II period. However, my first hearing of “Dust My Broom” was on a hot LP vinyl record (the old days, right?) version covered and made his own by the artist under review, Elmore James. I have heard many cover versions since then, including from the likes of George Thoroughgood and Chris Smither, and they all reflect on the influence of Elmore’s amazing slide guitar virtuosity to provide the "heat" necessary to do the song justice. Moreover, this is only the tip of the iceberg as such blues masters and aficionados as B.B. King and The Rolling Stones have covered other parts of James’ catalog.
Perhaps because Elmore died relativity young at a time when blues were just being revived in the early 1960’s as part of the general trend toward “discovering” roots music by the likes of this reviewer he has been a less well-known member of the blues pantheon. However, for those who know the value of a good slide guitar to add sexiness and sauciness to a blues number James is a hero. Hell, Thoroughgood built a whole career out of Elmore covers (and also, to be sure, of the late legendary Bo Diddly). I never get tired of hearing these great songs. Moreover, it did not hurt to have the famous Broom-dusters backing him up throughout the years. As one would expect of material done in the pre-digital age the sound quality is very dependent on the quality of the studio. But that, to my mind just makes it more authentic.

Well, what did you NEED to listen to here? Obviously,” Dust My Broom". On this CD though you MUST listen to Elmore on "Standing At The Crossroads". Wow, it jumps right out at you. "Look On Yonder Wall" (a song that I used to believe was a key to early rock 'n' rock before I gravitated to Ike Turner's "Rocket 88" as my candidate for that role), "It Hurts Me Too" and the classic "The Sky is Crying" round out the minimum program here. Listen on.

Lyrics To "Dust My Broom"

I'm gonna get up in the mornin',

I believe I'll dust my broom (2x)

Girlfriend, the black man you been lovin',

girlfriend, can get my room

I'm gon' write a letter,

Telephone every town I know (2x)

If I can't find her in West Helena,

She must be in East Monroe, I know

I don't want no woman,

Wants every downtown man she meet (2x)

She's a no good doney,

They shouldn't 'low her on the street

I believe, I believe I'll go back home (2x)

You can mistreat me here, babe,

But you can't when I go home

And I'm gettin' up in the morning,

I believe I'll dust my broom (2x)

Girlfriend, the black man that you been lovin',

Girlfriend, can get my room

I'm gon' call up Chiney,

She is my good girl over there (2x)

If I can't find her on Philippine's Island,

She must be in Ethiopia somewhere

Robert Johnson

Friday, December 25, 2020

The Hills And Hollas Of Home- In Honor Of The Late Hazel Dickens

The Hills And Hollas Of Home- In Honor Of The Late Hazel Dickens

By Lance Lawrence 

Kenny Jackman heard the late Hazel Dickens (d. 2011) for the very first time on her CD album It’s Hard To Tell The Singer From The Song some years back, maybe 2005, when he was in thrall to mountain music after being hit hard by Reese Witherspoon’s role as June Carter in the film Walk The Line. At that time he got into all things Carter Family unto the nth generation. A friend, a Vermont mountain boy, hipped him to Hazel during his frenzy and he picked up the CD second-hand in Harvard Square. (Really at Sandy’s located between Harvard and Central Squares, a folk institution around town where until recently Sandy had held forth since the early 1960s folk minute when everybody was desperately looking for roots music and that was the place to look first. Hazel’s You’ll Get No More Of Me, A Few Old Memories and the classic Hills of Home knocked him out. The latter, moreover, seemed kind of familiar and later, a couple of months later, he finally figured out why. He had really first heard Hazel back in 1970 when he was down in the those very hills and hollows that are a constant theme in her work, and that of the mountain mist winds music coming down the crevices. What was going on though? Was it 2005 when he first heard Hazel or that 1970 time? Let me go back and tell that 1970 story.

Kenny Jackman like many of his generation of ’68 was feeling foot loose and fancy free, especially after he had been mercifully declared 4-F by his friendly neighbors at the local draft board in old hometown North Adamsville (declared 4-F in those high draft days because he had a seriously abnormal foot problem which precluded walking very far, a skill that the army likes its soldiers to be able to do). So Kenny, every now and again, took to the hitchhike road, not like his mad man friend Peter Paul Markin with some heavy message purpose a la Jack Kerouac and his beat brothers (and a few sisters) but just to see the country while he, and it, were still in one piece no pun intended Kenny told me since the country was in about fifteen pieces then).

On one of these trips he found himself stranded just outside Norfolk, Virginia at a road-side campsite. Feeling kind of hungry one afternoon, and tired, tired unto death of camp-side gruel and stews he stopped at a diner, Billy Bob McGee’s, an old-time truck stop diner a few hundred yards up the road from his camp for some real food, maybe meatloaf or some pot roast like grandma used to make or that was how it was advertised. When he entered the mid-afternoon half-empty diner he sat down at one of the single stool counter seats that always accompany the vinyl-covered side booths in such places. But all of this was so much descriptive noise that could describe a million, maybe more, such eateries. What really caught his attention though was a waitress serving them “off the arm” that he knew immediately he had to “hit” on (although that is not the word used in those days but “hit on” conveys what he was up to in the universal boy meets girl world). As it turned out she, sweetly named Fiona Fay, and, well let’s just call her fetching, Kenny weary-eyed fetching, was young, footloose and fancy free herself and had drawn a bead on him as he entered the place, and, …well this story is about Hazel, so let us just leave it as one thing led to another and let it go at that.

Well, not quite let’s let it go at that because when Kenny left Norfolk a few days later one ex-waitress Fiona Fay was standing by his side on the road south. And the road south was leading nowhere, nowhere at all except to Podunk, really Prestonsburg, Kentucky, and really, really a dink town named Pottsville, just down the road from big town Prestonsburg, down in the hills and hollows of Appalachia, wind-swept green, green, mountain mist, time forgotten . And the reason two footloose and fancy free young people were heading to Podunk is that a close cousin of Fiona’s lived there with her husband and child and wanted Fiona to come visit (visit “for a spell” is how she put it but I will spare the reader the localisms). So they were on that hell-bend road but Kenny, Kenny was dreading this trip and only doing it because, well because Fiona was the kind of young woman, footloose and fancy free or not, that you followed, at least you followed if you were Kenny Jackson and hoped things would work out okay.

What Kenny dreaded that day was that he was afraid to confront his past. And that past just then entailed having to go to his father’s home territory just up the road in Hazard. See Kenny saw himself as strictly a Yankee, a hard “we fought to free the slaves and incidentally save the union” Yankee for one and all to see back in old North Adamsville. And denied, denied to the high heavens, that he had any connection with the south, especially the hillbilly south that everybody was making a fuse about trying to bring into the 20th century around that time. And here he was with a father with Hazard, Kentucky, the poorest of the poor hillbillies, right on his birth certificate although Kenny had never been there before. Yeah, Fiona had better be worth it.

Kenny had to admit, as they picked up one lonely truck driver ride after another (it did not hurt in those days to have a comely lass standing on the road with you in the back road South, or anywhere else, especially if you had longish hair and a wisp of a beard), that the country was beautiful. As they entered coal country though and the shacks got crummier and crummier he got caught up in that 1960s Michael Harrington Other America no running water, outhouse, open door, one window and a million kids and dogs running around half-naked, the kids that is vision. But they got to Pottsville okay and Fiona’s cousin and husband (Laura and Stu) turned out to be good hosts. So good that they made sure that Kenny and Fiona stayed in town long enough to attend the weekly dance at the old town barn (red of course, run down and in need of paint to keep red of course) that had seen such dances going back to the 1920s when the Carter Family had actually come through Pottsville on their way back to Clinch Mountain.

Kenny buckled at the thought, the mere thought, of going to some Podunk Saturday night “hoe-down” and tried to convince Fiona that they should leave before Saturday. Fiona would have none of it and so Kenny was stuck. Actually the dance started out pretty well, helped tremendously by some local “white lightning” that Stu provided and which he failed to mention should be sipped, sipped sparingly. Not only that but the several fiddles, mandolins, guitars, washboards and whatnot made pretty good music. Music like Anchored in Love and Come All You Fair And Tender Ladies, stuff that he had heard in the folk clubs in Harvard Square when he used to hang out there in the early 1960s. And music that even Kenny, old two left-feet, one way out of whack, draft-free out of whack, Kenny, could dance to with Fiona.

So Kenny was sipping, well more than sipping, and dancing and all until maybe about midnight when this woman, this local woman came out of nowhere and began to sing, sing like some quick, rushing wind sound coming down from the hills and hollas (hollows for Yankees, okay, please). Kenny began to toss and turn a little, not from the liquor but from some strange feeling, some strange womb-like feeling that this woman’s voice was a call from up on top of these deep green hills, now mist-filled awaiting day. And then she started into a long, mournful version of Hills of Home, and he sensed, sensed strongly if not anything he could articulate that he was home. Yes, Kenny Jackson, Yankee, city boy, corner boy-bred was “home,” hillbilly home. So Kenny did really hear Hazel Dickens for first time in 1970, see.

[As for Fiona Fay she stayed on the road with Kenny until they headed toward the Midwest where she veered off home to Valparaiso in Indiana, her hometown as Kenny headed west to California, to Big Sur and a different mountain ethos. They were supposed to meet out there a couple of months later after she finished up some family business. They never did, a not unusual occurrence of the time when people met and faded along the way, but Kenny thought about her and that wind-swept mountain dance night for a long time after that.]    


***The Old Man’s Old Sea- In Honor Of Our Homeland, The Ocean-With Phil Phillips’ Sea of Love In Mind

***The Old Man’s Old Sea- In Honor Of Our Homeland, The Ocean-With Phil Phillips’ Sea of Love In Mind 

By Josh Breslin-who lives for the fresh breath of sea air and who as a youth actually grew up in beloved coastal Olde Saco in Maine.   

"Sea Of Love" was written by Philip Baptiste, George Khoury.
Do you remember when we met?
That's the day I knew you were my pet
I wanna tell you how much I love you

Come with me, my love, to the sea
The sea of love
I wanna tell you just how much I love you
Come with me to the sea of love

Do you remember when we met?
Oh, that's the day I knew you were my pet
I wanna tell you, oh, how much I love you

Come with me to the sea of love
Come with me, my love, to the sea
The sea of love
I wanna tell you just how much I love you
I wanna tell you, oh, how much I love you

It is dawn, or maybe just those few minutes before the dawn, those dark light minutes when the sun’s battle for the day is set. The waves splash, today not so innocently, today not so tepidly like the past several days when the she sea sounds did not mercifully drown out traffics, construction hammers, or beach tractor clean-ups but swirling out from some hidden sea swells beyond the horizon against the defenseless waiting sand, sand beaten down since time immemorial. Or as long as anyone has been watching that feat, that seemingly endless feat.

This beach, this northern clime beach, the far end of Olde Saco, Maine beach, is this day filled with empty clam shells from some timeless previous sea swirlings waiting sand-ification (is that right?), abandoned and mislaid lobster traps (and one up in lobster country had better know the difference, know the livelihood difference between the two conditions , just in case some irate craggy boat captain, aged liked the seas, decides to reclaim one over your head), occasional oil slicks spilled from the trawlers (and hopefully only small working  residues and not some monster slick by some tiny horizon tanker heading to oil depot ports further up the coast), working trawlers nearby, the flotsam and jetsam streamed here of a thousand ships, cargoes, careless throwaways and conscious, very conscious dumpings, like the sea was just another land-fill wanting filling.

Today though I, Frank Jackman I, am ready, ready for the hundredth hundredth time to walk the walk, the ocean walk that has defined more parts of me than heaven will ever know. As I button up my yellow slicker against the April winds that come here more often than not, and can come out of the blue against the Bay of Fundy confusions, one minute eighty degrees the next thirty five, I see, see faintly in the distance, a figure, a fellow traveler taking his, her or its (don’t laugh I have seen horses, unridden horses, trotting these beaches, although no sea monsters), maybe also hundredth hundredth walking along the ocean sidewalk, and maybe, just maybe, for the same reason.

Today, hundredth, hundredth walk or not, I am in a remembering mood, a high dudgeon remembering mood that always gets triggered by proximity, far away fifty mile proximity if the truth be known, to the ocean. I have just finished up a piece of work that reminded me of seas, sea-sides, sea walks, sea rocks, ocean-side carnival amusement parks placed as if to mock the intrinsic interest that one would have in the sea, our homeland the sea, and I need to sort this out, also for that now familiar ten-thousandth time. But I best begin at the beginning, or try to, so I will be finished in that hour or so that it will take me to walk this walk, this rambling ocean walk, and I will pass that solitary walker coming the other way and be obliged under some law of the sea to break my train of thought and remark on the nature of the day, the nature of the ocean, and the joys of ocean-ness brought forth by old King Neptune to that passing stranger.

Ah, memory, jesus, just the names, Taffrail Road, Yardarm Lane, Captain's Walk, Quarterdeck Road, Sextant Circle, and the Snug Harbor Elementary School tell a story all on their own. Yes, those names, those seemingly misplaced, misbegotten names and places from the old housing project down in Adamsville, down in my old hometown, and where I came of age, sea-worthy age as well, surely evoke imagines of the sea, of long ago sailing ships, mast-strewn ships, and of desperate, high stakes battles fought off shrouded, mist-covered coasts by those hearty enough to seek fame and fortune. And agile enough to keep it. Almost from my first wobbly, halting baby steps down at “the projects” I have been physically drawn to the sea, a seductive, foam-flecked siren call that has never left me.

Needless to say, ever since I was a toddler my imagination, my sense of imagery, my sense of the nature of the world has been driven by the sea as well. Not so much of pirates and prizes, although those drove my youth a bit but of the power of nature, for good or evil. And on those long ago days, just like now, I dressed against the impending inclement weather with my mustard yellow rain slicker(French’s mustard color not Guiden’s, okay) complete with Gloucester fisherman’s rain floppy rain hat of the same color and rubber boots, black, knee-length boots that go squish, squish and have done so since before time immemorial.

Of course, anybody with any sense knows that anyone who had even a passing attachment to a place like Adamsville, tucked in a bay, an Atlantic bay, had to have an almost instinctual love of the sea; and, a fear of its furies when old Mother Nature turns her back on us. Yes, the endless sea, our homeland the sea, the mother we never knew, the sea... But, enough of those imaginings. If being determines consciousness, and if you love the ocean, then it does not hurt to have been brought up in Adamsiville with its ready access to the bay and water on three sides. That said, the focal point for any experience with the ocean in Adamsville centered, naturally, around its longest stretch of beach, Adamsville Central Beach. Puny by Saco beach far-as-the-eye-can-see standards, and Saco puny by Carlsbad (California Carlsbad) farther-than-the-eye-can-see standards but a place to learn the ropes of how to deal with the sea, with its pitfalls, its mysteries, it lure, and its lore.

For many of us of a certain age brought forth by the sea, including this writer, one cannot discuss Adamsville Central Beach properly without reference to such spots such as Howard Johnson's famous landmark ice cream stand (now a woe-begotten clam shack of no repute). For those who are clueless as to what I speak of, or have only heard about it in mythological terms from older relatives, or worst, have written it off as just another ice cream joint you can only dream of such heavens although someone, not me, not me today as I remembrance with a broad stroke and have no time for pretty descriptions, for literary flourishes, should really do themselves proud and write the history, yah, the child’s view history of that establishment. And make the theme, make the theme if you will, the bond between New England love of ice cream and of the sea (yes, it is true, other parts of the country, other ocean parts of the country as well, are, well, nonplussed by the ice cream idea, and it shows in their product).

Know this for now though: many a hot, muggy, sultry, sweaty summer evening was spent in line impatiently, and perhaps, on occasion, beyond impatience, waiting for one of those 27 (or was it 28?) flavors to cool off with. In those days the prize went to cherry vanilla in a sugar cone (backup: frozen pudding). I will not bore the reader with superlative terms and “they don’t make them like they used to”, especially for those who only know “Ho Jo’s” from the later, pale imitation franchise days out on some forsaken turnpike highway, but at that moment I was in very heaven.

Nor can one forget those stumbling, fumbling, fierce childish efforts, bare-footed against all motherly caution against the dreaded jellyfish (or motherly cautions against everything, everything even the slightest bit harmful in this dangerous old world), pail and shovel in hand, to dig for seemingly non-existent clams down toward the South Adamsville end of the beach at the, in those days, just slightly oil-slicked, sulfuric low tide (the days before dinosaur lament fossils fuels exploded the oceans). Or the smell of charcoal-flavored hot dogs on those occasional family barbecues (when one in a series of old jalopies, Nash Ramblers come to mind and disappear, that my father drove worked well enough to get us there) at the then just recently constructed old Treasure Island (now named after some fallen Marine) that were some of the too few times when my family acted like a family. Or, more vivid, the memory of roasted, really burnt, sticky marshmallows sticking to the roof of my mouth (and maybe still ancient wound stuck there).

But those thoughts and smells are not the only ones that interest me today. No trip down memory lane would be complete without at least a passing reference to high school Adamsville Central Beach. The sea brings out many emotions: humankind's struggle against nature ( a fitful and uneven struggle at best as a few over the top wave crashes have demonstrated to keep us on our toes, and humble), some Zen notions of oneness with the universe (and if not Zen then Kali, Misha or some Zoroastrian flaming fire god mad monk), the calming effect of the thundering waves (rule: speak no louder than the angriest wave in its presence, children under twelve excepted), thoughts of mortality (endless seas bring that notion to the fore and not just ancient wounds and sorrows), and so on. But it also brings out the primordial longings for companionship. And no one longs for companionship more than teenagers. So the draw of the ocean is not just in its cosmic appeal but hormonal, as well. Mind you, however, we, you and I, just in case a stray naive child of about eight is around, are not discussing the nighttime Adamsville Beach, the time of "parking" and the "submarine races.” Our thoughts are now pure as the driven snow. We will confine ourselves to the day time beach.

Virtually from the day we got out of school for the summer vacation I headed for the beach. And not just any section of that beach but the section directly between the John Adams and John Quincy Adams Yacht Clubs (yes, it was that kind of city touting ancient wise men long gone and not missed, not missed after the obligatory sixth grade crypt visit in the Center, not missed, hell, not even on the radar for heady 1960s teenagers. Now, I ask you, was situating myself in that spot done so that I could watch all the fine boats at anchor? Or was this the best swimming location on the beach? Hell no, this is where we heard (and here I include my old running pal and classmate, Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, the king of the North Adamsville corner boy night around Salducci’s Pizza Parlor of blessed memory and nothing but a flame-throwing lady-killer, uh, when his honey, Joanne Doyle was summering elsewhere) all the "babes" were. We were, apparently, under the influence of Beach Blanket Bingo or some such teenage beach film. (For those who are again clueless this was a grade B ‘boy meets girl’ saga the plot behind a thousand Hollywood films, except they exploded into song on the beach as well.)

Well, for those who expected a movie-like happy ending to this section of the remembrance piece, you know, where I meet a youthful "Ms. Right" to the strains of the song Sea of Love, forget it. (That is the original Sea of Love, by the way, not the one used in the movie of the same name sung by Tom Waits at the end, and a cover that you should listen to on YouTube.) I will keep the gory details short, though. As fate would have it there may have been "babes" aplenty down there but not for this lad. I don't know about you but I was just too socially awkward (read, tongue-tied) to get up the nerve to talk to girls (female readers substitute boys here). And on reflection, if the truth were to be known, I would not have known what to do about such a situation in any case. No job, no money and, most importantly, no car for a date to watch one of those legendary "submarine races" that we, you and I, have agreed that we will not discuss here. But we can hardly fault the sea for that, right?

But visions of nearly one-half century ago hardly exhaust the lure of the sea. And, speaking of visions, that fellow sea-seeker I mentioned a while ago, coming from the other end of the beach is starting to take shape, it is a he, I can tell by the walk, by the sea walk that men put on when they are alone with their thoughts, although beyond that he is too far away for me to determine age, class (this is a very democratic beach, in most spots, with few vulgar and almost universally disregarded no-trespassing-private property-keep out-beware-of-dogs-police-take-notice signs on some Mayfair swell properties), or physical description, as the suppressed light from the cloudy morning day gets a little brighter

Funny, some people I have known, including some I grew up with, grew up with breathing ocean air embedded in their inner beings and who started with a love of the sea much as I did, moved to Kansas, Omaha, Peoria, Winnemucca or some such place, some such distinctly non-ocean place and never looked back. Christ, as is well known by one and all who know me I get very nervous even now when, as a city boy, I go to the country and do not have the feel of city lights to comfort me. Not as well- known is the fact, the hard fact that I get nervous, very nervous, when I am not within driving distance of some ocean, say that fifty miles mentioned above. So keep, please keep, your Kansas, your Omaha, your Peoria, and your damned Winnemucca (and that desolate bus station bench I slept on one night after giving up on the hitchhike road for the evening trying to head out of town to no avail, trying to head ocean west, and let me be, be in places like Bar Harbor, Maine, Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia, Sanibel Island, Florida, Carlsbad, California (hell no, not the New Mexico one ), Mendocino, ditto California, Seattle, Washington just to name a few places on this continent, and there are many others, and on other continents, or the edges of other continents, as well. And stories, plenty of stories, which I don’t have time to tell you now except for one that will stand in as an exemplar for what I mean. By the way that form, that mannish form, coming toward me is looking more like a young man by the speed of his walk, and he too seems to have on a the favored sea dog yellow rain jacket.


January 1970 visions of Angelica, Angelica of the homeland sea.

I waved good-bye to Angelica, once again, as she drove off from the ocean front campsite that we had been camping out on, the Leo Carrillo State Park near Point Magoo about fifty miles or so north of Los Angeles. She will now drive the road back in her green Ford Hertz unlimited mileage, mid-size rental (paid for, as she explained one night, by her parents whose golden age of the automobile-frenzied minds counted it as a strike against me, a very big strike, that when I had “kidnapped” their daughter on the 1969 blue-pink summer road west down in Steubenville, Ohio I didn’t even have a car). She planned (on my advice) to drive back mostly on the ocean-abutted, white-capped waves smashing against jagged ancient shore rocks, Pacific Coast Highway down through Malibu and Santa Monica to take one last look at the Pacific Ocean as the final point on her first look ocean trip, on the way to LAX to take a flight back to school days Muncie, Indiana.

She will also be driving back to the airport and getting on that miserable plane east knowing as I do since we talked about it incessantly during her stay, that some right things, or at least some maybe right things, like our being together last summer heading free west and for these two January weeks in front of the sea, our homeland the sea, before her classes started again, got caught up in the curious web of the human drama. For no understandable reason. Hey, you already knew this if you have ever had even that one teeny-weeny, tiny, minuscule love affair that just had no place to go, or no time to take root, or just got caught out there in the blue-pink night. Yah, you know that story. But let me take some minutes to tell you this one. If it seems very familiar and you “know” the plot line well then just move on.

To get you up to speed after Angelica and I had been on the heartland hitchhike road (and places like Moline, Neola, and Omaha are nothing but the heartland, good or bad), she, well, she just got tired of it, tired of the lacks, tired of the uncertainties of the road. Hell hell-on-wheels, I was getting tired of it myself except I was a man on a mission. The nature of that mission is contained in the words “search for the blue-pink great American West night” so the particulars of that mission need not detain us here. So in Neola, Iowa, Neola, Iowa of all places aided by “fairy grandmother” Aunt Betty, who ran the local diner where Angelica worked to help make us some dough to move on, and her own sense of dreams she called it quits back in September. Aunt Betty drove us to Omaha where Angelica took the bus back east, Indiana east from Nebraska, to hometown Muncie and I hit Interstate 80 West headed first to Denver before the snows, or so I hoped.

Honestly, although we exchanged addresses and telephone numbers where messages could be left, or where we could speak to each other (her parents’ house not being one of them), and made big plans to reunite in California in January during her school break, I didn’t really think that once we were off the road together that those plans would pan out.

Now I may not remember all my reasoning at the time this far removed, the now of my telling this story many years later, but I had had enough relationships with women to sense this one was good, very good, while it lasted but it could not survive the parting.

Not one of those overused “absence makes the heart grow fonder” things you hear about. And, truth to tell, because I thought that was the way things would play out, I started getting focused back on Boston Joyel more than a little as I walked a lot, stood at the shoulder of the hitchhike road a lot, and fitfully got my rides on the road west.

But see this is where you think you have something figured out just so and then it goes awry. Angelica called, left messages, sent letters, even a telegram, to Denver (to the commune where, Jack and Mattie, my traveling companions on the final leg west whom I had met earlier in the spring on a different trip down to D.C., were staying). She sent more communications in early December saying that she was still coming to Los Angeles as well where we three stayed with a few artistic friends of Jack and Mattie’s. Cinema-crazed artistic friends, including one budding film director who, moreover, had great dope connections right into the heart of Mexico. This is where they would stay while I planned to push the hitchhike road north heading to San Francisco.

I once, in running through one of the scenes in this hitchhike road show, oh yah, it was the Neola scene, mentioned that in Angelica what you saw was what you got, what she said was what she meant, and both those were good things indeed. And so if I had thought about it a minute of course she was coming to California in January and staying with me for her two week break, and maybe longer. So when January came she contacted me though John and Mattie, who like I said were now staying with this very interesting experimental film-maker, David, in the Hollywood hills and canyons. I started back south to L.A. in order to meet her at the airport. From there I had it planned that we would go to Point Magoo and camp out like in the “old days” at an ocean front state park.

Needless to say when I greeted her at LAX we both were all smiles, I was in more than all smiles mode, because I had been “stag” for a while and she was, well, fetching as always, or almost always. Here though is where I noticed that the road really is not for everyone. In Neola, and later getting on the bus back home in Omaha, poor Angelica looked pretty haggard but at the airport, well like I said, she was fetching.

And, guess what, she brought her sleeping bag that we had gotten for her in a Lexington, Kentucky Army-Navy Store when we first seriously started on the road west. The first thing she said about it was, referring to a little in-joke between us, “it fits two, in a pinch.” Be still my heart. So we gathered up her stuff, did the airport exit stuff (easier in those days) and picked up the outside shuttle to the Hertz car rental terminal. We were jabbering away like crazy, but best of all, we were like, a little, those first days last summer back in that old-time Steubenville truck stop diner and cabin when I first met her.

Of course, part of the trip for her, part of what she went as far as she could with me on the hitchhike road for, was to get to California and see what it was all about, and what the ocean was all about since she was a heartland girl who had never seen the ocean before. When we got to Point Magoo she flipped out, she flipped out mostly at the idea that we would stay, could stay right on the beach in front of the ocean. And just like a kid, just like I did when I was kid and saw the ocean, when she saw the Pacific, she jumped right in. Hell, she was so excited she almost got caught in a small riptide. I had to go drag her out. I won’t say we had fun every minute of those weeks acting out our ocean nomad existence, but most minutes, and I could see that she felt the same way.

Naturally, as time drifted away toward her return flight date we talked more and more about what the future, if any, held in store for us. She was adamant about not going back on the road, she was adamant as well that she wanted to finish school and make something of herself. I had no serious defense against that practical wisdom. And, truthfully, I wasn’t, toward the end of her stay, pushing the issue, partially because even I could see that it made sense but also, we had had a “flare-up” over the Boston Joyel question (I am being polite here).

But it was more than that; the flat out, hungry truth was that I really didn’t know how to deal with a Midwestern what you see is what you get woman like Angelica. I was more used to virtuous Irish Catholic girls who drove me crazy as a kid getting me all twisted up about religion, about nice girls, and about duplicity when I found out what the real score was with this type of young girl/ woman later. I was also, and Joyel was the epitome of this type, totally in sync (well, as much as a man can be) with the Harvard Square folksy, intellectual, abstract idealist, let’s-look-at-everything-from-twenty-two different angles, what is the meaning of human relationships 24/7 kind of woman. And fatally attracted to them (and still am). This Angelica look at things only a couple of ways, let’s work things out easy-like, heavens, let’s not analyze everything to the nth degree flipped me out. Angelica was a breath of fresh air and, maybe, maybe, about ten years later, and two divorces later to boot, I would have had that enough sense god gave geese to hold onto her with both hands, tightly, very tightly. But I was in my blue-pink search phase and not to be detoured.

Of course all this hard work of trying to understand where we stood put a little crack in our reason for being together in the first place. The search for, search for something. Maybe, for her, it was just that life minute at the ocean and then on to regular life minutes out in the thickets of the white picket fences. She never said it then in so many words but that seemed to be the aim. And to be truthful, although I was only just barely thinking about it at the time, as the social turmoil of the times got weird, diffuse, and began to evaporate things started to lose steam. As we were, seemingly, endlessly taking our one-sided beatings as those in charge started a counter-offensive ( a counter-offensive still going on) people, good people, but people made of human clay nevertheless got tired of the this and that existence, even Joyel. Joyel of Harvard Square folksy, intellectual, abstract idealist, let’s-look-at-everything-from-twenty-two different angles, what is the meaning of relationships 24/7 was also weary and wary of what was next and where she fit into “square” society. Christ, enough of that, we know, or knew, that song too well.

A couple of days before Angelica was to leave, and on a day when the sun seemed especially bright, especially bright for then smog-filled Los Angeles January, and warm, not resident warm but Boston and Muncie warm, sat like two seals sunning ourselves in the glow of mother ocean she nudged me and asked me if I had a joint. Now Angelica liked a little vino now and then but I can’t recall her ever doing a joint (grass, marijuana, herb, ganja, whatever you call it in your neck of the woods). So this is new. The problem, although not a big one in ocean-side state park 1970 Southern California, was that I was not “holding.” No problem though, a few spots down the beach was an old well-traveled, kind of beat-up Volkswagen van that I knew, knew just as sure as I was standing on that white sand beach, was “holding.” I went over, asked around, and “bingo” two nice big joints came traveling with me back to our campsite. Oh, daddy, daddy out in the be-bop blue-pink night thank you brother van man. For just a minute, just that 1970 California minute, the righteous did inherit the earth.

Back at our camp site Angelica awaited the outcome of my quest, although she also wanted to wait until later, until the day’s sun started going down a bit more to go into that smoked-filled good night. When that later came Angelica was scared/ thrilled, as she tried to smoke the one I lit up for her and started coughing like crazy, but that was nothing then. Everybody, at least everybody I knew, went through that same baptism. But Jesus, did we get mellow, that stuff, as was most stuff then, was primo, not your ragweed bull stuff that ran the rounds later. And why should it have not been so as we were so close to the then sane Mexican border of those days to get the good stuff.

But all of this build-up over this dope scene is so much filler, filler in those days when if you didn’t at least take a pipe full (inhale or not, like it or not) you were a square “squared.” What the stuff did for Angelica, and through Angelica to me, got her to open up a little. No, not about family, or old boyfriends, or her this and that problems. No, but kind of deep, kind of deep somewhere that she maybe didn’t know existed. Deep as I had ever heard her before. She talked about her fate, the fate of the fates, about what was going on in the world, no, not politics; she was organically incapable of that. Mystics stuff, getting in touch with the sea homeland stuff, earth mother stuff too in a way. Dope-edged stuff sure but when she compared the splashing foam-flecked waves to some cosmic force that I forget how she put it (remember I was dope-addled as well) then for just that moment, just that moment when the old red-balled sun started to dip to the horizon on one of those fairly rare days when it met the ocean I swear that Angelica knew, knew in her heart, knew in her soul even, what the blue-pink American West dream stuff I had bombarded her with was all about. That was our moment, and we both knew it.

So when leaving came a couple of days later and we both knew, I think, as we packed up her things, including that well-used sleeping bag, we had come to a parting of the roads. As I put her stuff in the rental car she sweetly blurted out something I was also thinking, “I’ll always remember that night we made the earth under the cabin in Steubenville shake.” And I thought I bet she will, although she forgot the part about the making the roof of the cabin move too. And so there I was, waving as she drove off to her Angelica dreams. And I never saw her again.


But enough of ancient thoughts, of ancient sea thoughts, and ancient sea loves because just now I see that previously distant figure is none other than a young boy, a young boy of maybe six or seven, not older I am sure. About fifty yards away he stops, as boys and girls will when confronted with the endless treasures of the sea, and is intently looking at some sea object although I cannot make it out from this distance. What I can make out, make out very plainly, is that he is wearing a mustard yellow rain slicker (French’s mustard color not Guiden’s) complete with a Gloucester fisherman’s floppy rain hat of the same color and knee-deep rubber boots, black, of course. As we approach each other I notice that he has that determined sea walk that I have carried with me since childhood. I look at him intensely, he looks at me intensely, and we nod as we pass each other. No words, no remarks on the nature of the day, the nature of the ocean, and the joys of ocean-ness brought forth by old King Neptune need be spoken between us. The nod, the ocean swell, and the ocean sound as the waves crashed almost to the sand beneath our feet, spoke for us. The torch had been passed.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

From The Veterans For Peace- The Twelve Days, Maybe More, Of ......The Struggle Against The Endless American Wars

From The Veterans For Peace- The Twelve Days, Maybe More, Of  ......The Struggle Against The Endless American Wars

Where Have The Girls Gone- When Young Women’s Voices Ruled the Airwaves Before The British Rock Invasion, Circa 1964- With Ruby And The Romantics Our Day Will Come In Mind

Where Have The Girls Gone- When Young Women’s Voices Ruled the Airwaves Before The British Rock Invasion, Circa 1964- With Ruby And The Romantics Our Day Will Come In Mind

YouTube film clip of Ruby & The Romantics performing the classic, Our Day Will Come. 

Our day will come
And we'll have everything.
We'll share the joy
Falling in love can bring.

No one can tell me
That I'm too young to know (young to know)
I love you so (love you so)
And you love me.

Our day will come
If we just wait a while.
No tears for us -
Think love and wear a smile.

Our dreams have magic
Because we'll always stay
In love this way
Our day will come.
(Our day will come; our day will come.)


Our dreams have magic
Because we'll always stay
In love this way.
Our day will come.
Our day will come.

[Several years ago under the old regime headed by the now mercifully departed Allan Jackson, known here under his moniker Peter Paul Markin, there was an atmosphere of a privileged there is no other way to put the matter “good old boys club” that pervaded this space. Almost consciously I believe on Allan’s part in looking over the archives from the past several years to see what happened and to see if there was anything salvageable from those times. My proof-almost every writer was some old time friend of Allan’s or of Allan’s friends. All had come of age during the raucous 1960s and their work hinged, for better or worse, on a working nostalgia for those times. The clincher-these by-line writers were without exception men. The few women writers were stringers, free-lancers who wrote, and wrote many times well certainly better than some of the good old boys especially as the guys hit sixty.

The series that Josh Breslin, from Olde Saco, Maine but a good old boy nevertheless since he had met the real Peter Paul Markin out in California in the Summer of Love, 1967 and thereafter met Allan and the others, did on “girl groups” on be-bop doo-wop girl groups when doo-wop swept through the teenage scene in the late 1950s is a case in point. Josh apparently did about ten pieces, all pretty well done. But that rather begs the question. In reading those reviews where is the female voice heard  by any of the female artists who struggled to make beautiful music for the young or by women writers from the time who could give their perhaps very different take on what doo-wop meant and how young women reacted to this craze.

To make a small historical amends I have asked a stringer from that time, Leslie Dumont, who now has a by-line here to give her take on Josh’s series. She is qualified to do this in two ways. First she in her youth lived for this music and secondly at the time the series was written she was Josh Breslin’s companion. Which makes it even more obvious about the good old boy network since it is apparent that he didn’t even ask her opinion about the music. Ask to give a few experiences like he readily asked his good old boys. Or, and one would hope this were the case, Allan Jackson cut out any such references on the red pencil editing for his own reasons, mostly flimsy. I want to think the latter. Josh, who still works here, can come forward with an explanation if he dares. Greg Green]                      

By Leslie Dumont

When Greg Green handed me this great assignment since I hadn’t listen to most of this music to be reviewed for a while, probably since Josh Breslin who was then my companion did the original series , I searched around the dwindling number of North Beach record stores but couldn’t find the expanded series he worked through. What I did find and have previously done a short piece on was a two volume set found at Diamond Jack’s Record Shop in San Mateo which had some of the classic girl doo-wop on it. Subsequently I went on Amazon and was able to grab the whole six volume set. (Greg remind me to give you the bill for that purchase.)   

As I mentioned in that review of the two-volume set of, for lack of a better term, girl doo wop some of the songs which overlapped in the recently purchased six volume series, I have, of late, been running back over some rock material that formed my coming of age listening music (on that ubiquitous, and very personal, iPod, oops, battery-driven transistor radio that kept those snooping parents out in the dark, clueless, and that was just fine, agreed), and that of my generation, the generation of ’68, a term the departed manager of this site Allan Jackson insisted everybody use when referring to the denizens of the 1960s. Naturally, and here I agree with the sentiments expressed by Josh at the time, one had to pay homage to the blues influences from the likes of Muddy Waters, Big Mama Thornton whose original version of Hound Dog put Elvis in the shade no matter that she never made much dough on her work, and Big Joe Turner whose Shake, Rattle and Roll, puts all the white boy versions from the likes of Bill Haley, Elvis and Jerry Lee to shame. 
And, of course, given the performers their just due the rockabilly influences from Elvis think Good Rockin’ Tonight, Carl Perkins think Blue Suede Shoes although Elvis made the money, Wanda Jackson think Let’s Have A Party, and Jerry Lee Lewis think High School Confidential which still gets my hormones jumping.

Josh had noted in his series that one of the reasons that he was doing it was a kind of evening up of the balance of what had turned him on as a kid. He said that he had spent some time on the male side of the doo wop be-bop Saturday night led by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers on Why Do Fools Fall In Love? (good question, right) but that he had not done much with the female side of the doo wop night, the great ‘girl’ groups that had their heyday in the late 1950s and early 1960s before the British invasion, among other things, changed our tastes in popular music. I will not, don’t need to, expand on his male doo wop efforts but
I would expand his observation here to include girls’ voices generally. I make some amends for his omission here. Or really to give the female slant on female singers.

[Although as I said I will not dwell on the male doo wop stuff the mention of Frankie Lyman first seen on ancient now gone Dick Clark’s American Bandstand a Monday to Friday run home from school afternoon fixture. That was where you not only saw what group’s Mr. Clark thought were hot but to see what the latest dances moves were “in” so you could try them out with your girlfriends to avoid being embarrassed, embarrass yourself, on the dance floor when some dreamy guy came by and picked you out of the crowd (or more than one happily any guy just to avoid that deadly “wallflower” tag that boys and girls alike were furiously trying to avoid).  And of course to see what was the latest in teenage girl fashion to lure the boys in at the times when you had begun to see the male sex as not quite as nasty as a couple of years before and that maybe they had something interesting to say if you could corral them for a few minutes.

Why Do Fools Fall In Love had special meaning as well since that was the first time I either kissed a boy or a boy kissed me I kind of forget which way it was. I had been invited to Kay Kelly’s twelfth birthday party which was held in her family’s family room in the basement of their house on Ridge Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts across the street from where I grew up. This family room basement business was all the rage with kids having parties then because usually the space was darker and being downstairs it was away from snooping parent eyes. Perfect.

Kay had invited a bunch of boys which made me, her, all our girlfriends nervous although not nervous enough not to invite them. When the big day came, big evening if I recall, although early like maybe six or since no tweens in those days would be partying later than say nine except for the over-chaperoned weekly Saint Peter’s dances when parents would pick up their charges at eleven. But like I said that dance was chaperoned so really didn’t count against the exotic basement fling. As usual the boy (and did the girls when invited to a boy’s party) arrived en masse including Kevin Murphy who I talked to in class (and daydreamed about at other times). The boys hugged one couch area, the girls around Kay’s father’s build-in bar where the refreshments including Kay’s mother-made birthday cake sat on the counter (no liquor, no way, present although we could have all probably used a drink to shake the nervousness even at twelve)    
Then Kay put on a 45 on her record player, Elvis’ Jailhouse Rock and as usual a bunch of girls although not I started dancing in pairs together. Nobody solo danced in those days for fear of looking uncool and maybe mentally unstable certainly no guys paired up, not in our crowd, just like nobody went to the senior prom as a single which nowadays is no big deal according to what my granddaughters tell me. Then dreamy Kevin Murphy broke into the crowd of girls and started to dance with Lucy Lavin. Lucy Lavin nothing but a plain jane at best who was also recognized as the smartest girl, maybe smartest person but don’t quote me on that in the whole sixth grade class. I was crushed, crushed enough since if Kevin was dancing with a plain jane like Lucy Lavin then maybe he wasn’t so dreamy after all and so had better begin looking elsewhere. (Dreamy or not later during the 1960s Kevin would be the first young man from our neighborhood to be killed in Vietnam and his name is etched on a memorial stone in front of City Hall with the too many others who laid down their beautiful young heads in that godforsaken  war. Probably etched down in Washington black granite too but I have never been brave enough to go near that memorial as many times as I have in that city since high school.)      

Kevin, embers forgotten in a flash as befits the young and movable, I got up and danced with Brenda Sullivan the next dance which I thing was Bill Haley’s Rock Around The Clock when Larry Kiley cut in and started to dance with me. Goof, holy goof I would have called him later after reading Kerouac like we all did when we were getting antsy in the 1960s, Larry who I could barely stand and who was always saying something silly or pornographic around girls in class or in the lunchroom danced very well. Knew the stroll, the fug, stuff like that. So I let him talk to me for a while in between dances. Still a goof mostly but also mentioned how pretty I looked as against the other “homely” girls hanging out in that basement so maybe he wasn’t as bad as everybody thought.

Then it came slow dance time, time to put on Ruby and the Romantics doing Our Day Will Come. Most of the guys were too bashful to ask a girl to slow dance (as opposed to fast dance where you didn’t have to hold hands and could fake stuff as long as you moved fast enough) so things started slowly with the exception of Larry who asked me to dance right away and while I hesitated he had said I was pretty so that was something in his favor. On these slow dance things, at least in our neighborhood, that would be a very good time to put out the light, and see if anybody wanted to kiss anybody. As it turned out Larry did, or tried to. I was so excited about the prospect of being kissed, kissed even by a goof like Larry since I could chalk it up to experience, that when he tighten his grip around my waist and moved his head forward I moved my face quickly as well and I too this day don’t know if I kissed him first or he kissed me. All I know is that I liked it, liked Larry’s kiss, like it enough that we went “steady” the rest of the school year when we moved to the other side of town. And get this about not succumbing to teen bean peer pressure all my girlfriends still thought he was a goof, and not a holy one either. ]                  

Josh noted in his series and something I spoke to in that earlier review but bears repeating here one problem with the girl groups, and with these broader generic girl vocals for a guy like him, a serious rock guy like him was that the lyrics for many of the girl group songs did not as he said “speak to me.” He explained after all how much empathy could a young ragamuffin of boy brought up on the wrong side of the tracks like him have for a girl who breaks a guy’s heart after leading him on just because her big bruiser of a boyfriend is coming back and she needs some excuse to brush the heartbroken guy off in the Angels' My Boyfriend’s Back. Or, he continued, some lucky guy, some lucky Sunday guy, maybe, who breathlessly catches the eye of the singer in the Shirelles' I Met Him On Sunday from a guy who, dateless Saturday night, was hunched over some misbegotten book, some study book, on Sunday feeling all dejected. And finished up his examples asking about some two, or maybe, three-timing gal who berated her ever-loving boyfriend because she needs a good talking to, or worst, a now socially incorrect, very incorrect and rightly so, "beating" in Joanie Sommers’ Johnny Get Angry.

But see for girls, girls in my rat-pack, girls who endlessly called each other on the phone talking about all manner of things, who endlessly spent lunch time as well and obviously in the girl’s lavatory talking, talk mostly about boys and what to do about them-or not do about them these songs were coded messages of how to deal with guys from girls who we thought had been around, who knew stuff about guys that we were clueless about. So yes we would change boyfriends like changing socks (and made sure nobody in the group latched on to those “damaged” goods after we were done with them). Would meet a guy Monday and throw him over Tuesday for some met Tuesday guy. Would go head over heels for a guy for a while and then sent him packing if he made us wait by the midnight telephone and he didn’t call. Would have temper tantrum by the minute if a guy looked even skyward at another girl. All of this and more we “learned” from the girls whose lyrics told us we were not alone in the turbulent teenage hormonal night.

After reviewing the material in these volumes I got the same flash-back feeling I felt listening to the girl doo wop sounds. I won’t even go into such novelty silly songs as the title self-explanatory My Boy Lollipop by Barbie Gaye; the teen angst hidden behind the lyrics to Bobby's Girl by Marcie Blane; or, the dreamy, wistful blandness of A Thousand Stars by Kathy Young & The Innocents that would have set any self-respecting boy’s, or girl’s, teeth on edge. And prayed, prayed out loud and to heaven that the batteries in that transcendent transistor would burn to hell before having to continue sustained listening to such, well, such… and I will leave it at that. I will rather concentrate on serious stuff like the admittedly great harmonics on Our Day Will Come by Ruby & The Romantics that I actually, secretly, liked but I had no one to relate it to, no our to worry about that day, or any day until Larry came into my screen the night of Kay Kelly’s birthday party  or Tonight You Belong To Me by Patience & Prudence that I didn’t like secretly or openly but gave me that same teen angst feeling of having no one, no boy one, belonging to, me.

And while today it might be regarded as something of a pre-feminist feminist anthem for younger women, You Don't Own Me by Lesley Gore, was meaningful to me when a lot of time in high school I didn’t have a boy to own, or not own, to fret over his independent streak, or not. Moreover, since I was never, at least I never heard otherwise, that I was some damsel in distress’ pining away for the boy next store The Boy Next Door by The Secrets was wrapped with seven seals. And while I had many a silent, lonely, midnight waiting by the phone night when Cry Baby by The Bonnie Sisters, Lonely Blue Nights by Rosie & The Originals, and Lonely Nights by The Hearts gave me comfort when Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry hard-rockin’ the night away could not console me, and take away that blue heart I carried like a badge, a badge of almost monastic honor. Almost.

So you get the idea, this stuff did “speak to me.” Now you understand, right? Except, surprise, surprise foolish, behind the eight- ball, know-nothing youthful girl had it right but should have been listening, and listening like crazy, to these lyrics because, brothers and sisters, they held the key to what was what about what was on girls minds back in the day, and maybe now a little too, and if I could have decoded better this I would have had, well, the beginning of knowledge, girl knowledge. Damn. This, fellow baby-boomers, was our teen angst, teen alienation, teen love youth and now you know this stuff still sounds great.

And from girls even.