Duran Duran Perform In London

National 82-Year Old Kool Aid Month

As with July so goes August: another sizzling month chock full of special days to make you aware of special causes and make you buy special things.

Though August is Get Ready for Kindergarten Month (for which I’m about 40 years late), it’s those special individual ‘Days’ that are most exciting. Here’s a list of the most important of August’s daily celebrations and some songs to sing while serving cake and ice cream.

August 1
National Girlfriend Day
Check with your wife before you decide to get one.
Five For FightingAngels and Girlfriends

August 4
National Chocolate Chip Day
Serving Suggestion: A handful straight out of the bag
Isaac HayesChocolate Chip

August 5
National Night Out
A.K.A: National Breaking And Entering Night
Judas PriestBreakin’ The Law
(August 5 is also Physic Sunday. But, if you’re interested, then you already knew that.)

August 6
My Mom’s 82nd Birthday
Mom still digs ice cream, listens to Bob Marley and flies all over the country. Props to Mom
The BeatlesWhen I’m 64 + Moby18

August 8
Kool Aid Day
Just beware of who offers it.
Big Audio DynamiteKool-Aid

August 10
National Duran Duran Appreciation Day
It had to happen, didn’t it? We’re guessing it was Simon LeBon’s suggestion.
Duran Duran – Rio

August 12
Sewing Machine Day and Vinyl Record Day
Together, racing for ubiquity.
Nurse With WoundChance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella and AerosmithBig Ten Inch Record

August 13
National Underwear Day
Reduce, recycle, reuse

August 15
National Men’s Grooming Day
Repeat after me: nose hair is not sexy, nose hair is not sexy.
Ray StevensHarry The Hairy Ape

August 28
Race Your Mouse Around The Icons Day
For those who truly have too much free time
Mouse On MarsYippie

Memories Of Watkins Glen

I was born in a small town called Elmira, NY. At the time I was growing up, it had about 30,000 inhabitants, generally happy people who built fire trucks at the American LaFrance factory, took tours of the Corning Glass Works and spent summers at Seneca Lake.

A number of notable people have been associated with Elmira, NY. If you asked the average Elmiran of today to name them in order of importance, he’d likely start with Geoff Bodine and end with Mark Twain. (For your reference, Bodine is a NASCAR driver; Twain had a minor impact on the course of literary history. Gives you an idea of the current cultural life of my hometown.)

At any rate, Elmira is somewhat notable as a music town, as well. For one, all you have to do is introduce yourself as being from Elmira to illicit a generally off-key rendering of “El-miiii-ra, oom-boppa-mow-mow” (sung, of course, to the tune of Elvira).

By dint of geography, Elmira is also associated with the largest music festival in the history of rock and roll. Just 14 miles to the north was the famed Summer Jam at Watkins Glen, which kicked off on this day in 1973.

I was 10 years old when Watkins Glen happened. I don’t need to search the web to remember that 600,000 people came from all over the world to ‘experience the love’. I remember seeing them: parking their cars 20 miles away on Route 17; hitch-hiking their way up the gorge to the racetrack where the show was happening; hanging out of VW microbuses like hippies in a clown car; borrowing beer money at the neighborhood convenience stores; flashing peace signs at passersby.

I don’t need to Google images to remember the pictures from the local paper: Janis Joplin look-a-likes hanging on the side of the road; young cats, laying in the grass smoking joints; fly-over shots of the crowd stretching for miles and miles.

And I don’t even have to look for a list of performers: my best friend’s sister worked at the shop that made the ‘official’ t-shirts for the show listing the Band (last.fm), the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers (last.fm). Mom and Dad wouldn’t let me go to the show but, with 600,000 people laid over our little town of 30,000, the show came to me.

If only I still had one of those t-shirts.

Original Post: WNEW, July 28, 2008

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young: Not Young, Still Strong

It’s an oft-told and thoroughly-analyzed story: Crosby came from the Byrds, Stills from Buffalo Springfield, Nash from the Hollies. They were a super group before they sang a note; David Geffen made sure of that. Songs were written, drugs were consumed, groupies were acquired and a smash debut record, Crosby, Stills & Nash (last.fm), was released in May 1969. The sun was shining, the ladies of the canyon were dancing and all was well in Southern California.

The only drawback to the story is that, with the exception of Dallas Taylor playing drums, most of the instruments on CSN studio recordings were played by Stills. Talented though he may be, that posed a problem translating the record for the masses of people waiting to hear them live.

Enter, on this very day in 1969, Neil Young. Though not entirely embraced by Stills because of his experience with Young in Buffalo Springfield, the band agreed to bring him on as a full partner at the urging of Ahmet Ertegun and manager Elliott Roberts.

The rest, as they say, is history. Their first gig: the famed Fillmore East. Their second: a little gathering called Woodstock.

Young comes and goes, as we all know, playing with the boys when it strikes his fancy. But, the original three, the ones who shifted rock and roll several degrees in a different direction in ’69, are still out on the stage. My friend Sandy, the Hippie Chick School Teacher, says she saw them recently (albeit sans Young) and they’re still just as politically charged as ever.

Go get tickets at their site (where you can vote on what they will sing) and don’t forget your peasant dress and your tie-dye shirt.

Originally posted: WNEW, July 25, 2008

Rock On, Blue Jean Baby

If you grew up in America in the 1970′s, listening to Top 40 radio, then your childhood can be frozen in time with the quotation of a single sentence: “still looking for that blue jean, baby queen, prettiest girl I ever seen”.

With a touch of Harry Potter wizardry, these words fly you back the days when summertime lasted almost forever. Days started and ended in the sandlot; pools and ice cream cones and night time “hide-and-seek” games ruled the hours. And, maybe, depending on your age at the time these immortal words were first spoken, there might have been girls in their summer clothes creeping into your thoughts.

Even if girls were still “yucky,” hearing a line so blatantly sexy as “blue jean, baby queen” seemed to open the door to an as-yet-unknown world. And, who exactly is Jimmy Dean and what does he have to do with the beauty queen?

The song with these lyrics, of course, was Rock On. And if the words weren’t enough to send you on a hunt for a girl in the right pair of (yes) Jordache jeans, then the music would push you there: The stalking tempo, the heartbeat in the background, the slinky string solo. Teen eroticism that smelled a little like sex and a lot like bubblegum.

The writer of the song never had another hit in America; he disappeared from our consciousness like childhood disappeared into adulthood. He’s still a star in the UK, though, and we can still fly back to the summer of ’74 and feel the baseball bat in our hands, taste the ice cream as it dripped down our sleeve and catch a glimpse of the teenage beauty queen as she and her friends ride by on their bikes…”ignoring” us all the way.

David Essex, writer of  Rock On (last.fm), turns 61 years old today.

Original post: WNEW, July 23, 2008

The Tale Of Three Willies

It’s not the kind of record you’d hear on WNEW nor is it a monumental genre-spanning musical accomplishment. But, there are some fun things on it, like a groovy cover of Gotta Serve Somebody and, if you like his sort of music, it’s well worth taking a listen (despite some reviews I’ve read to the contrary).

Willie’s not exactly an artist you’d associate with WNEW either but, as we all know, he’s so cool he can hang in just about any company he wants.  In the alphabetical world of my iPod artist list, he’s hanging right between Willie Mabon and Willie Nix.

I know Willie Mabon because of John Belushi. If you’ve given a listen the Blues Brothers album, then you’ve heard of Willie Mabon, too. He’s the one who wrote and recorded the original version of I Don’t Know (last.fm), which was a huge R&B hit in 1952. It made a lot of money for Chess Records before they started scoring with Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, was played on Alan Freed‘s early rock and roll radio shows and was made a hit for country audiences by none other than Tenessee Ernie Ford.

Best of all, it includes the immortal line that Jake Blues utters so astutely: “If it’s women that kill me, I don’t mind dyin’.” On the Blues Brothers record, Belushi gives props to Mabon but, what with all the cocaine and hamburgers in his system, it’s a little hard to understand what he’s saying.

When the ’60s rolled in Mabon’s career started to dim so he split for Paris and made a living playing the blues at clubs and festivals until he died in the 1980′s. It’s not known if there was a woman involved.

Willie Nix is lesser known, even, than Mabon. He started out as a tap dancer in the 1930′s, became a drummer connected with Sonny Boy Williamson in the 1940′s and eventually played drums with B.B. King, Elmore James and Memphis Slim in the 1950′s.

He made some records for various labels (including Sun and Chess) but his history as an itinerant vaudeville man didn’t keep him in one place for too long. His most famous tune, Truckin’ Little Woman (last.fm) was later covered by Big Bill Broonzy and is said to have been a major influence on Led Zeppelin. His rough life on the road took it’s toll; he died in Mississippi at the age of 69.

You can find both Mabon and Nix (and a host of other tremendous blues records) on the must-have collection, The Chess Story available at Amazon.

Original post: WNEW, July 22, 2008