Friday, August 26, 2016

Beau Brummels – "Laugh, Laugh" (1964)


Laugh, laugh, I thought I'd die
It seemed so funny to me

Sometimes you say something that seems so funny to you, but that doesn’t seem at all funny to others.

In 1794, George Bryan “Beau” Brummell joined the Tenth Royal Hussars cavalry regiment – which was known as “The Prince of Wales’s Own” – and quickly became a close friend of the then-Prince of Wales (who later was crowned King George IV).

After leaving the regiment to return to civilian life, Brummell quickly established a reputation as the best-dressed and best-groomed man in England.  Every day, a group of prominent men – the group often included the Prince of Wales, plus assorted dukes, earls, and other aristocrats – would come to Brummell’s house to watch him bathe and dress.

Beau Brummell
Brummell took a bath every day, which made him exceptional in Regency-era London.  He spent hours getting dressed, and often donned different  outfits several times a day.

Brummell’s wardrobe was much simpler and more modern than that of the effeminate London fops who were known as “macaronis” because they had travelled to Italy as part of the “Grand Tour” of European countries that wealthy young English gentlemen traditionally took after completing their educations.  

Brummell eschewed the beribboned wigs, spike-heeled shoes, and heavy applications of perfume that the macaronis favored.  He rarely wore an article of clothing that wasn’t either white, black, or buff-colored, but the cut and fit of his garments had to be perfect.  

The "Prince of Whales"
Brummell and the Prince of Wales – who had put on so much weight that he was called the “Prince of Whales” behind his back – eventually had a falling out.  The story goes that when Brummell and his friend Lord Alvanley encountered the Prince at a masquerade ball one evening, the Prince spoke warmly to Lord Alvanley but made a point of ignoring – “cutting” – Brummell.

Brummell responded by putting an ill-advised question to his companion: “Alvanley, who’s your fat friend?”

The Prince was not amused by the bon mot, which seems to be somewhat typical of Brummell’s sense of humor, as these excerpts from the Regency History website demonstrate:

The Duke of Bedford asked Brummell for an opinion on his new coat.  Brummell examined him meticulously from head to toe and then said, in a most earnest and amusing manner, “Bedford, do you call this thing a coat?”

Once when Brummell was dining at a gentleman’s house in Hampshire, the champagne was far from good.  Brummell waited for a pause in the conversation and then raised his glass and said, in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, “John, give me some more of that cider.”

Brummell lived at 4 Chesterfield
Street in London
Brummell eventually had to beat it to France to avoid going to debtor’s prison for his unpaid gambling debts.  His friends eventually managed to get him appointed as the British consul for Caen, a city in Normandy.  The consulate’s job didn’t pay much, and Brummell recommended to the British Foreign Office that the position in Caen be abolished.

Brummell did so hoping that he would be appointed to a more lucrative position, but that’s not how things turned out.  The Foreign Office took his recommendation, but didn’t appoint him to a better job.    He ended up in a French debtor’s prison.

Brummell’s friends obtained his release from the debtor’s prison, but they couldn’t help him when he came down with syphilis.  He was 61 and insane and very badly dressed when he died in a Caen asylum in 1840. 

* * * * *

The Beau Brummels – somehow the second “L” got dropped – sounded like a British band, but they were from San Francisco.


The story goes that the band chose their name in hopes that their records would end up just behind those of the Beatles in record stores that organized their stock alphabetically.  According to the band’s lead singer Sal Valentino (who was born Salvatore Willard Spampinato in San Francisco in 1942), that story wasn’t true.

“That’s a total myth,” he told an interviewer a few years ago.  “We just needed a name and [the Beau Brummels] sounded good.  We didn’t even know how to spell it.”

Here’s “Laugh, Laugh,” which was produced by Sylvester Stewart – who is better known as Sly Stone:



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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tossers – "Nantucket Girl's Song" (2003)


But when he says “Goodbye my love, 
I'm off across the sea”
First I cry for his departure
Then laugh because I'm free

One of the stops on my recent bike tour of Nantucket was the Old North Cemetery, which contains 584 markers.

The oldest tombstone standing in the cemetery is dated 1746, although it is believed that the first burial in Old North took place in 1709.

Old North was originally the Gardner family’s cemetery.  There are tombstones for 26 Gardners at Old North.  Other families who are well represented there include the Coffins (42 tombstones), the Folgers (18), and the Bunkers (12), 

Robert Ratliff's tombstone
The most recent and perhaps most interesting tombstone in Old North Cemetery marks the final resting place of Robert Ratliff.  Here’s what it says:

Robert Ratliff
Born at
New Castle upon Tyne England
Feb. 25, 1794
Died at Nantucket
Feb. 20, 1882
Aged 88

He was a seaman on board the
ship Northumberland 84 guns under
command of Sir Geo. Cockburn that
conveyed Napoleon Buonoparte to
St. Helena in 1815, and received marked
notice from the Great Emperor.

He was also a seaman in the
Albion 74 [guns] in the attack on the city of
Washington 1814.

In 1820 he was shipwrecked on the
island of Nantucket where he resided
the remainder of his life.  He was
well known as a successful master
rigger for 50 years.  Honored for his 
integrity.  Respected for his uniform
courtesy and beloved for his kindness 
and generosity.

You can click here for a detailed account of the 67-day voyage that delivered Napoleon to St. Helena, a small and isolated island in the South Atlantic, after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.  Napoleon's exile on St. Helena ended with his death in 1821.

Napoleon on the voyage to St. Helena
The Albion was one of the 19 British ships under Admiral Cockburn’s command that unsuccessfully bombarded Fort McHenry a couple of weeks after British troops had burned Washington, DC.  Click here to learn more about the burning of Washington and the War of 1812 in general.

HMS Albion

* *      * * *

The Tossers are a Celtic punk band from Chicago who sound a little bit like the Dropkick Murphys – or vice versa, given that the Tossers were formed first.


The lyrics of “Nantucket Girl’s Song” (which was released on the Tossers' 2003 album, Purgatory) are based on the words of a poem that was written in 1855, perhaps by the wife of a doctor who resided on a New Zealand island that was visited that year by a Nantucket whaling ship.  The poem was brought back to Nantucket by the master of the ship’s wife, who had accompanied her husband on the voyage.

Here are the opening lines of that poem:

I have made up my mind now 
To be a Sailor's wife,
To have a purse full of money
And a very easy life,
For a clever sailor husband
Is so seldom at his home,
That his wife can spend the dollars
With a will that's all her own,
Then I'll haste to wed a sailor 
And send him off to sea,
For a life of independence
Is the pleasant life for me

Here’s “Nantucket Girl’s Song”:









Sunday, August 21, 2016

Mountain – "Nantucket Sleighride" (1971)


My ship’s leaving on a three-year tour . . .
On a search for the mighty sperm whale

I recently took a ferry to visit the small island of Nantucket, which sits about 30 miles south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Today Nantucket is a posh summer resort with some of the highest real estate prices in the United States.

Nantucket beach houses
But two hundred years ago, Nantucket was the center of the American whaling industry, home to dozens of whaling ships that sailed on two- or three-year voyages to the South Pacific in search of sperm whales.   

The most famous – or infamous – of the Nantucket whaleships was the Essex, which was rammed and sunk in the South Pacific in 1820 by an unusually large sperm whale.

A whale attacks the Essex
The ship’s 20 crew members set off in three small whaleboats, hoping to cross thousands of miles of open ocean and reach South America.  The eight sailors who were eventually rescued some three months later had survived by cannibalizing the bodies of seven of their shipmates. 

The voyage of the Essex, which inspired Herman Melville to write Moby-Dick, is the subject of Nathaniel Philbrick’s 2000 book, In the Heart of the Sea.


In a 2015 Smithsonian magazine article, Philbrick described how Nantucket whalers captured whales:

In the early 19th century a typical whaleship had a crew of 21 men, 18 of whom were divided into three whaleboat crews of six men each.  The 25-foot whaleboat was lightly built of cedar planks and powered by five long oars, with an officer standing at the steering oar on the stern.  The trick was to row as close as possible to their prey so that the man at the bow could hurl his harpoon into the whale’s glistening black flank.  More often than not the panicked creature hurtled off in a desperate rush, and the men found themselves in the midst of a “Nantucket sleigh ride.”  For the uninitiated, it was both exhilarating and terrifying to be pulled along at a speed that approached as much as 20 miles an hour, the small open boat slapping against the waves with such force that the nails sometimes started from the planks at the bow and stern.

As Philbrick explained, a harpoon did not kill the whale – it served the function of a fishhook.  It enabled the whalers to hold on to the whale until it exhausted itself.  When the whale weakened and slowed down, the sailors would pull on the rope attached to the harpoon – in essence, they were reeling the whale in.  Once they were close to the whale, it was time for the wet work.

A whaler prepares to
deliver the coup de grĂ¢ce
Taking up the 12-foot-long killing lance, the man at the bow probed for a group of coiled arteries near the whale’s lungs with a violent churning motion.  When the lance finally plunged into its target, the whale would begin to choke on its own blood, its spout transformed into a 15-foot geyser of gore that prompted the men to shout, “Chimney’s afire!”   As the blood rained down on them, they took up the oars and backed furiously away, then paused to observe as the whale went into what was known as its “flurry.”  Pounding the water with its tail, snapping at the air with its jaws, the creature began to swim in an ever-tightening circle.  Then, just as abruptly as the attack had begun with the initial harpoon thrust, the hunt ended.  The whale fell motionless and silent, a giant black corpse floating fin up in a slick of its own blood and vomit.

* * * * *

“Nantucket Sleighride” is the title track of Mountain’s second album, which was released in 1971.  The song is dedicated to Owen Coffin, an 18-year-old Essex crew member.

After running out of food, the four men on Coffin’s whaleboat agreed to draw straws to decide which one of them should be killed and eaten.  When Coffin drew the short straw, his cousin (who commanded the Essex) offered to take his place, but Coffin demurred.  Coffin was then shot and consumed by the other three sailors.


“Nantucket Sleighride” was co-authored by Mountain’s bassist, Felix Pappalardi, who produced three Cream albums and co-wrote “Strange Brew” with his wife, Gail Collins, and Eric Clapton.

In 1983, Collins shot and killed Pappalardi in their New York City apartment.  She was charged with second-degree murder but claimed the shooting was an accident, and so was convicted only of criminally negligent homicide.  Collins was paroled less than two years after her conviction.

Here’s “Nantucket Sleighride”:



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Friday, August 19, 2016

Gene Krupa and his Orchestra (feat. Anita O'Day) – "Massachusetts" (1942)


How my heart will knock, Massachusetts
To see Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts
Want to roam around, Massachusetts
In Nantucket town, Massachusetts

I’ve been vacationing on Cape Cod for close to 40 years, but have never visited the island of Nantucket, which is about 30 miles south of the Cape.  

Since I’m at the age where I need to start doing things now rather than putting them off and assuming that I’ll be able to do them sometime in the indefinite future, I decided to visit Nantucket when I was on the Cape last month.


It was a spur-of-the-moment decision that was made late one evening.  There’s a high-speed ferry that transports passengers from Hyannis to Nantucket in only an hour, which made it reasonable to go over and back the same day.

So I crawled out of bed the next morning in time to get myself and my bicycle on the 8:15 am ferry.

After the ferry docked, I stopped at a local bike store for a map of Nantucket’s network of hiker-biker trails.  I decided to head west to Madaket Beach, which was about a seven-mile ride from the town of Nantucket.

Madaket was a nice beach if you’re into that sort of thing, but there wasn’t a lot to see on the ride there.

Madaket Beach
After a brief stop at Old North Cemetery (which I’ll have more to say about in a future 2 or 3 lines), I visited the Jethro Coffin House, the oldest house on Nantucket.  

It was built in 1686, a few years before Nantucket islanders began to hunt whales.

Jethro Coffin House (1686)
I saw this dead chicken on the Coffin House grounds:


That chicken wasn’t just dead – someone or something had f*cked it up.

Exactly what happened to the chicken is a mystery.  I’m guessing that a hawk snatched the chicken but then had to drop it because it had been too heavy for the hawk to carry very far.  

Of course, there’s an even bigger mystery here.  Who the hell is raising chickens on Nantucket, where the real estate is extremely pricey?

I next rode to Brant Point, which is home to a Coast Guard station and a lighthouse that guides ships safely into Nantucket’s harbor.     

The Brant Point lighthouse
Nantucket was the whaling capital of the world in the early 1800’s, and there’s a whaling museum in the town.  I ate a sandwich on a bench across the street from that museum, then headed east to ‘Sconset on the bike trail that parallels Milestone Road.

‘Sconset (which is short for Siasconset) is a small village on the eastern end of Nantucket.  (Putting an apostrophe in front of the abbreviated version of the village’s name is a big affectation, but I’m all about affectations.)

‘Sconset had quite a few precious little rose-covered cottages:


One ‘Sconset house featured a vertical sundial, which worked perfectly:


I stopped for a Cisco “Whale’s Tale” pale ale – which is brewed on Nantucket -- at an outdoor bar and restaurant, then hit the bike trail for the eight-mile return trip to the town.

My next stop was the Cisco microbrewery, which was a short ride south of the town.

A few of Cisco's beers
Cisco – which has a winery and a distillery as well as a brewery – was mobbed.  There were three or four food trucks on the premises, a band playing, and a guy making balloon animals for kids.

I had a Scotch ale and a “Grey Lady,” which is an unfiltered Belgian-style wheat beer made with herbs (including coriander and chamomile) that give it a somewhat floral character.

Then it was time to ride back to the Nantucket ferry dock, where I grabbed a slice of pizza and got in line for the 6:15 pm trip back to Hyannis.

My ferry departing from Nantucket
After disembarking in Hyannis, I headed for Spanky’s, a clam shack overlooking the harbor.  I grabbed a seat at the bar, devoured a huge order of fried clams and a Cape Cod Red amber ale, and struck up a conversation with four ladies from Minneapolis, who had spent the day sightseeing on Martha’s Vineyard.

It was obvious from the women’s accents that they were Minnesotans.  I told them that they sounded exactly like Marge Gunderson in Fargo, which seemed to rub them the wrong way.  (So much for my chances for a five some!)



Am I glad I went to Nantucket?  Yes.  Will I ever go back?  Probably not.  It was nice, but it didn’t really have anything that isn’t available on Cape Cod (except $3.57-per-gallon gasoline).

* *      * * *

Drummer Gene Krupa left Benny Goodman’s band in 1938 to form his own group.  He hired Anita O’Day to be his vocalist in 1941, and she recorded 34 sides with Krupa before his orchestra broke up in 1943.  (Krupa had been arrested for possession of two marijuana cigarettes and sentenced to 90 days in jail.)

A Krupa-O'Day compilation album
In addition to “Massachusetts,” O’Day also recorded “Georgia on My Mind” and “Just a Little Bit South of North Carolina.”  (As far as I know, she did not record “California, Here I Come,” “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” or “Tennessee Waltz.”)

Here’s “Massachusetts”:



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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ramones – "Learn to Listen" (1989)


You gotta learn to listen
Listen to learn

I recently heard a nationally-syndicated radio talk show host say that when he was on the air, either he was talking . . . or he was waiting to talk.

Uma Thurman in "Pulp Fiction"
Which reminds me of an exchange between the Uma Thurman character (Mia Wallace) and the John Travolta character (Vincent Vega) in the movie Pulp Fiction:

Wallace/Thurman: “When in conversation, do you listen, or do you just wait to talk?”

Travolta/Vega: “I wait to talk . . . but I’m trying to listen.”

Good answer!  If Vega’s answer had been that he listened, she would have known he was lying.  

John Travolta as Vincent Vega
By admitting that he waited to talk, but going on to say that he was trying to learn how to listen, he struck the perfect balance between telling the truth and telling her what she wanted to hear.  

Another blogger has written that when he is talking to a person who disagrees with him on a certain issue, he’s not really listening either, but just waiting to talk:

[W]hile she’s making her arguments, I have an inner monologue going on inside my mind:

“Wow, that’s a lot of arguments she’s making.  Which one should I choose to respond to when she’s done?  Should I ask another question or make an argument?  When can I make MY argument?  What did my wife ask me to get on the way home?”

That’s not listening. That’s waiting to talk.


He now tries to silence that “inner monologue” while discussing the issue:

When the [other] person is talking, I’m trying to just be present in the moment with her.  I’m trying not to think about what I’m going to say next.  I’m doing my best to think about what she’s saying, and track with her ideas as well as I can.

When she’s done, I will need to take a few beats, and just . . . process.

Some people feel awkward taking eight seconds to process what the other person just said, but I think it’s great!  It shows this person that I’m taking her seriously.  It shows that I’m taking her arguments seriously. . . .


Disciplining myself to listen to people is helping me to not interrupt them.  That’s another bad habit I have.  I have all these thoughts about the issue, and it doesn’t take long for someone to talk about [that issue] before I’m ready to jump in with my go-to talking points.  Silencing my inner monologue and trying to love the person in front of me is helping me to interrupt less often.  I need to care about hearing and understanding what she has to say more than I care about her hearing me.

That last sentence is where this writer loses me.  I can’t honestly say that I ever care more about hearing what she has to say than I care about her hearing what I have to say. 

But I’m going to take a page from Vincent Vega’s book and say that while I care more about her hearing what I have to say, I’m trying to care more about hearing what she has to say.  That should work.

* * * * *

“Learn to Listen” was released in 1989 on Brain Drain, which was the Ramones’ eleventh studio album.  


Brain Drain featured vocalist Joey Ramone, guitarist Johnny Ramone, bassist Dee Dee Ramone – all of whom were original members of the Ramones – plus drummer Marky Ramone, who had replaced the group’s original drummer, Tommy Ramone, in 1978.

Tommy Ramone (who was born Tamas Erdelyi in Budapest in 1949) appeared on the band’s first four albums, which are generally regarded as their four best albums.  But I think of Marky Ramone (who was born Marc Steven Bell in 1956) as the Ramones’ drummer because he appeared with Joey, Johnny, and Dee Dee in the classic 1979 movie, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.

Here’s “Learn to Listen”:



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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Ella Fitzgerald – "Love for Sale" (1956)


Love for sale
Who will buy?
Who would like to sample my supply?

During my most recent Cape Cod vacation, this Cape Cod Times story caught my eye:
90-YEAR-OLD CHARGED WITH SOLICITING PROSTITUTE

A 90-year-old Dennis Port man was arrested for soliciting a prostitute after reporting that she stole from him.

(Not the real Nicholas Salerno)
Nicholas Salerno paid Karen Proia, 48, of Route 28 in West Dennis, $100 on June 22 to perform a sex act, according to Orleans District Court documents.

He told police she used the bathroom in his house and he later noticed his necklace was missing.  He reported the alleged theft to police June 30, records show.

Police recovered the necklace at Bass River Coin, records state.

A police officer told Salerno he also would be charged with a crime, for soliciting a prostitute, to which Salerno responded, “I don’t give a (expletive). I’m 90 years old,” according to court documents.

Proia is charged with larceny and prostitution.  She and Salerno pleaded not guilty at their arraignments Tuesday.

If you're like me, you want to know exactly what sex act Mr. Salerno paid $100 for.  You also want to know exactly what expletive he used.


The answer to those questions can be found in a Dennis Police Department report that I located online.  Click here to read the report.

It's not clear from the police report whether Ms. Proia gave Mr. Salerno an AARP discount, or whether $100 is her regular fee for the specified service.

The comments on the Cape Cod Times article that were posted on the newspaper's website were pretty good.  

Here’s the comment that Phill B posted:

The American is 90 years old, and a female prostitue [sic] took advantage of this guy. The prostitue [sic] should be fined, forced community service, maybe thrown in jail.  Maybe.  Tired of the tax dollars wasted.  But No Refund for Services Rendered, or not Supplied!

(There’s a lot of food for thought in that comment, isn’t there?)

A reader named Alan Janssens had this to say:

Here is an example of when a law should be changed . . . Look at the rape and other sexual assault statistics in the U.S (I wouldn't send a daughter to most universities) . . . look a[t] the arrests for simple nudity at beaches.  U.S. culture breeds sex crimes online . . . prostitution . . . it's not illegal everywhere in the U.S. . . . and should be regulated like home nursing aides . . .  oooooops there I go again. 90 years old . . . you go boy !!!!!!

(I couldn’t have said it better myself.)

Finally, here’s a pithy comment from Jacob Aubel:

I love everything about this article.

As do I, Mr. Aubel . . . as do I.

* * * * *

Cole Porter wrote “Love for Sale” for the musical The New Yorkers, which opened on Broadway in 1930.

Not surprisingly, many people were scandalized by the song, which is sung by a prostitute offering “appetizing young love for sale” to any man who is “prepared to pay the price for a trip to paradise.”  


In response to the criticism, the show’s producers took the song away from the white singer who originally portrayed May the streetwalker and gave it to an African-American singer.  Problem solved!

The New Yorkers was based on a story by Ray Goetz and Peter Arno (a legendary cartoonist who created 99 New Yorker covers and contributed countless cartoons to the magazine).  It starred Jimmy Durante, who wrote all five of the numbers that he sang, and featured Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians.  

Here’s Ella Fitzgerald's 1956 recording of “Love for Sale”:



Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, August 12, 2016

Amboy Dukes – "You Talk Sunshine, I Breathe Fire" (1968)


What you gonna do 
When the bubble bursts?

On July 22 at 6:00 am, my very pregnant daughter Sarah woke up and immediately knew it was time to eight, skate, and donate to the hospital before her bubble burst and my first grandson fell out.

So she and husband drove to the hospital (which is twenty minutes away if all goes well), dealt with the usual I-need-to-see-your-insurance-card hospital bureaucrats, and still got to a labor and delivery suite in time – and I mean just in time – for Sarah to deliver her son Jack at 7:10 am.

My grandson Jack on the day he was born
There was no time for an epidural anesthetic to be administered to Sarah, so she had to tough it out au naturel.

But she handled the whole thing – as she had handled her entire pregnancy – with total aplomb.  In fact, I think it’s fair to say that Sarah is about the aplombest new mother you ever did see.

I for one was very happy at Sarah and Jack’s timing because I was about to leave town and drive to Cape Cod for my annual summer vacation.  My grandson’s birth delayed my departure by a few hours, but I didn’t complain a bit.  (My mother’s comment on my decision to hit the road: “How could you leave that pretty little boy?”)

The three-week-old Jack
I thought long and hard about what song to feature in this very important 2 or 3 lines.

I could have featured one of the 89 songs I found with “Jack” in the title: e.g., Billy Joel’s “Captain Jack,” The Who’s “Happy Jack,” Ray Charles’s “Hit the Road, Jack,” John Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane,” or the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” to name just a few.

Another option would have been to feature a song by a musician who shared Jack’s July 22 birthday: e.g., George Clinton, Bobby Sherman, or Don Henley.

The lyrics of “You Talk Sunshine, I Breathe Fire” are very marginally related to the content of today’s 2 or 3 lines, but that’s enough given what a killer song it is.

* * * * *

The Amboy Dukes are best-known for their 1968 hit, “Journey to the Center of the Mind.”  It was what I like to call a stick of dynamite.

The band’s follow-up single, “You Talk Sunshine, I Breathe Fire,” which failed to crack the top 100 in the U.S., is almost as good.  But it had totally escaped my notice until a couple of weeks ago.


“You Talk Sunshine, I Breathe Fire” was never released on an Amboy Dukes LP, but was included as a bonus track when the group’s second album was released on CD.  (Saints be praised!)

Here’s “You Talk Sunshine, I Breathe Fire”:


Click below to buy the song from Amazon: