Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Outlaws – "Green Grass and High Tides" (1975)

Will you let me past your face
To see what's really you?

The previous 2 or 3 lines covered the outbound leg of my recent drive to Joplin, Missouri – including my stops at microbreweries in Columbus, Indianapolis, and Springfield, Missouri.   

Today I’ll tell you about the return trip, which was highlighted by stops at four breweries in Kentucky and Virginia.  

But first, let’s review the bidding . . .

Loading up
The first two days of my five-day odyssey were spent driving from my home in Rockville, Maryland to Joplin.  On the morning of the third day, I went to a title company to sign all the documents necessary to close on the sale of my mother’s Joplin house, then packed up what was left in that house after the estate sale agent had done his thing . . . dozens of framed family photographs, old 8mm home movies, my bronzed baby shoes, and a bunch of other flotsam and jetsam that I probably should have thrown away but couldn’t.  I spent that night in St. Louis with a high-school friend.

My 2250-mile route
On day four, I headed east on I-64, a more southerly alternative to I-70 (which is the highway I had taken west).  By the time the sun was over the yardarm, I was in Louisville, Kentucky, the home of Against the Grain Brewing.

Against the Grain is situated in the downtown baseball stadium that is home to the Louisville Bats, the AAA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.  

Here’s the statue of Louisville native Pee Wee Reese – the famed former Dodger shortstop who is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame – that stands outside the stadium’s main entrance:

Pee Wee Reese
Against the Grain was spacious and well-appointed, with some interesting offerings on its menu:

Against the Grain's offerings
I especially appreciated their coasters, which took care of the age-old problem of how to prevent your half-finished beer from being poured down the drain by a too-eager bartender when you left it at the bar in order to visit the gents’ (or the ladies’, as the case may be).  Simply put the coaster on top of your glass and pee to your heart's content:

I had planned my drive so that I would be within reach of a Skyline Chili location when it was time for dinner.  As always, I ordered a plate of four-way chili and spaghetti and a Dr. Pepper:

Beans sí, onions no
My destination was Lexington, Kentucky – home to the University of Kentucky and smack dab in the middle of that state’s Bluegrass region, which is famous for producing bourbon and racehorses.

My Against the Grain bartender had recommended Country Boy Brewing, so that’s where I stopped.

At Country Boy Brewing
After quaffing an Amos Moses brown ale – named for the character in the Jerry Reed song, of course – I hit I-64 for another hour or so, overnighting in Morehead, Kentucky, a college town that’s just a hop, skip, and a jump west of the Kentucky-West Virginia border.  

The next morning, I took a quick hike on the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail, a 290-mile long hiking trail that traverses the Daniel Boone National Forest.  (“Sheltowee” was the name given to Daniel Boone by a Shawnee chief.)

The symbol on the Sheltowee Trace trail markers is a turtle:

On the Sheltowee Trace trail
I had run clean out of Skyline Chili locations, but there were plenty of Arby’s restaurants along the interstate.  I stopped at the one in Beckley, WV, which had this monstrosity on its menu:

Roast beef, bacon, ham, turkey, chicken,
brisket, corned beef, a fish filet,
and a couple of different cheeses
$11.59 is a bit more than I'm used to spending on a fast-food sandwich . . . plusI wasn’t sure I was packing enough Lipitor to handle that bad boy.  So I opted for a boring ol' roast beef sandwich instead.

By 500p, I was in Lexington, Virginia, home to Washington and Lee University (the alma mater of my elder grandson’s father) and Devils Backbone Brewing, a large and very popular craft brewery that was recently purchased by Anheuser-Busch.

Devils Backbone
I sampled four very interesting brews at Devils Backbone:  Kilt Flasher (a Scottish “wee heavy” ale), Beyond All Raisin/Cocoa (a raisin barleywine that was aged on cocoa nibs), Neapolitan Stout (a dark ale brewed with chocolate, vanilla, and raspberry flavors, with added lactose), and Cocoa Bear (an 11% ABV imperial stout blended with raw coca nibs).  

My Devils Backbone tasting flight
An hour later, I exited I-81 for a quick visit to Redbeard Brewing, a homey little operation in Staunton, Virginia (which is the birthplace of our 28th President, Woodrow Wilson): 

Redbeard Brewing
I enjoyed a friendly chat with the Stauntonians at the bar as I downed a pint of 221B Baker, a brown ale obviously inspired by Sherlock Holmes.

221B Baker brown ale 
On the way to my car, I passed this sign in the window of a neighboring computer-repair shop, which reminded me of the pistol-packing drinker I had seen exercising his Second Amendment rights at Black Acre Brewing In Indianapolis, which I had visited on the first night of my odyssey:  

I didn’t want to push my luck, so I bypassed a few other breweries en route to my home, arriving safe and sound around 1000p.

I’m not sure I ever want to drive 2250 miles in five days again – at least not all by myself.  But the breweries I visited along the way gave me something to look forward to each evening.

Speaking of craft breweries, you can expect some y-u-g-e beer-related news from 2 or 3 lines very, very soon!

*     *     *     *     *

“Green Grass and High Tides” – which was released in 1975 on the Outlaws’ eponymous debut album – popped up on the Sirius/XM “Deep Tracks” channel after I left Country Boy Brewing.  

The song’s title was inspired by the first Rolling Stones greatest hits LP, High Tides and Green Grass.  (I bought that album when I was 14, and purt near played it to death.)

“Green Grass and High Tides” is one of my favorite guilty-pleasure songs of all times.  It’s almost ten minutes long, which isn’t nearly long enough.  (When the Outlaws closed their concerts with it, they often stretched it out to twice that length.)

The first five-plus minutes of “Green Grass and High Tides” is an up-tempo southern-rock tour de force.  It would have been a damn good song if the Outlaws had stopped there.

But they didn’t.  (Praise the Lord!)

The final four and a half minutes of the record consists of a single four-bar guitar riff that is repeated approximately sixty times.  I say “approximately” because I tried to count how many times that four-bar mother of all guitar riffs was repeated – not once, not twice, not three times . . . but four times.  

Each time, I eventually lost track of the count as a result of the aural bludgeoning the Outlaws’ three lead guitarists were delivering and had to start over again.  So I finally gave up.  (It was either that or say arrivederci to my sanity forever.)

The next time I’m at a bar on karaoke night, you can best believe I’ll be performing “Green Grass and High Tides.”

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Human League – "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" (1983)

The truth may need some rearranging
Stories to be told
And, plain to see, the facts are changing

(It goes without saying that every word in every 2 or 3 lines post is the truth.  But as today’s featured song notes, the truth sometimes needs rearranging . . . and sometimes the facts do change.)

I recently drove from my home in the Washington, DC suburbs to Joplin, Missouri and back, covering some 2250 miles in five days.  (My mother’s house in Joplin was sold recently, and I needed to empty it and sign a bunch of sale-related documents.)

A map of my 2250-mile odyssey
On the way to Joplin and back, I wet my whistle at seven different craft breweries (sometimes called “microbreweries”) located in five states.

On the first day of my trip, I stopped at Barley’s Brewing in Columbus, Ohio, and Black Acre Brewing in Indianapolis.  Both had some excellent beers on tap.  

A shared-bike station in Columbus
I stopped at Barley’s after riding one of the CoGo Bike Share bicycles around Columbus, and the “Blood Thirst Wheat” – a blood-orange flavored wheat beer – was as refreshing as all get-out.

After stopping for a plate of four-way chili (beans , onions no) at a Skyline Chili outpost in Indianapolis, I preceded on to Black Acre, which had a very interesting assortment of house-brewed and guest beers available.

Eating Cincinnati-style chili in Indianapolis
I opted for a flight of four beers: a chocolate-peanut butter porter, two versions of Black Acre’s fifth-anniversary Scotch ale (one aged in whiskey barrels, the other aged in wine barrels), and a very high-alcohol (13%) raspberry trippelbock from Mikkelson, a Danish company that markets a dizzying array of eccentric beers that are brewed at microbreweries around the world.  

A tasting flight at Black Acre Brewing
But the hit of the evening was the Boulevard “Rye on Rye on Rye,” a 14.6% ABV rye ale that was aged in not one, but two rye whiskey barrels.  Boulevard (which is located in Kansas City) is one of my personal favorites, and this beer was delicious!

I was walking back to the bar after draining the lizard when I noticed that the guy sitting a few seats down from me was wearing a gun:

Open carry at Black Acre Brewing
I’m pro-Second Amendment, although I’ve never owned a gun and probably never will.  But I do admit that I was a bit taken aback to see a pistol-packing microbrewery patron.  I’m not sure that guns and alcohol are a good combination.

I asked the bartender and the guy sitting next to me at the bar if it was common for someone wearing a gun to walk into Black Acre, and they assured me that it certainly was not.  Both of them were appalled to see a guy wearing a 9mm automatic there.

I pushed on the Terre Haute – which is about an hour west of Indy – before turning in.  

The second day of the trip, I stopped at only one microbrewery – the modest but charming White River microbrewery in Springfield, Missouri.

At White River Brewing (Springfield, MO)
There was only a small crowd at White River when I stopped there at 500p on a Sunday and ordered a tasting flight of five different beers, only one of which – a smoked pepper porter – was at all exotic.  

I'll tell you about the breweries I hit on my return trip in the next 2 or 3 lines.

*     *     *     *     *

Today’s featured song popped up on the “First Wave” channel on my Sirius/XM satellite radio about half an hour after I left White River Brewing.

The only thing between me
and hours of sports-talk radio
“(Keep Feeling) Fascination” was a top-ten hit in 1983 for the Human League, the British synth pop group best known for “Don’t You Want Me.”

Here’s the very striking music video for “(Keep Feeling) Fascination:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, April 21, 2017

ZZ Top – "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide" (1979)

I’m bad, bad, bad, bad, bad
I’m nationwide

A few weeks ago, I noticed that my mother’s car – which is my car now, although I still think of it as her car – had a small oil leak.

I took it to a local Chevrolet dealership, where it was determined that whoever had last changed the oil had failed to tighten the oil filter properly.  Hence the slight leak.

At a Skyline Chili in Indianapolis, IN
I didn’t have to wait very long at the Chevrolet dealership, and they didn’t charge me a cent.

Best of all, I got an e-mail from the SiriusXM radio folks a few days after that:

Dear Gary, 

Thank you for having your Chevrolet serviced recently.  To show our gratitude, SiriusXM and your dealer are giving you a free 2-Month SiriusXM Select trial that includes over 140 channels of world-class entertainment.

No credit card needed.  No strings attached.  Really.

You’d best believe I jumped on that free trial like a big dog.

At a Dairy Queen in Sullivan, MO
So when I hit the road to drive from my home in Maryland to the house in Missouri where my parents lived until my father died last year, I was neck-deep in satellite radio channels – including the two Howard Stern channels, which usually are premium channels that cost SiriusXM subscribers extra.

At a gas station in Rolla, MO
Here’s a day-by-day summary of the trip:

Day 1: Rockville, Maryland, to Terre Haute, Indiana, via I-270, I-68, I-79, and I-70 – about 630 miles.

At an Arby's in Beckley, WV
Day 2: Terre Haute to Joplin, Missouri, via I-70 and I-44 — 450 miles.

Day 3: After cleaning out what remained in my parents’ house and attending the closing on the sale of that house, I drove from Joplin to St. Louis via I-44 – 285 miles.

At a computer repair store in Staunton, VA
Day 4: St. Louis to Morehead, Kentucky via I-64 – 400 miles.

Day 5: Morehead to Rockville via I-64, I-81, I-66, and I-495 – 490 miles.

Total distance: a bit over 2250 miles.

My route
As the photos that accompany this post show, it was an interesting trip . . . although I never want to drive 2250 miles in five days again.

I’ll be writing more about my odyssey in the next two or three 2 or 3 lines posts.

*     *     *     *     *

ZZ Top was always so full of sh*t that their eyes were brown, but I enjoyed some of their songs – especially “La Grange,” which was their first hit single.

Our featured song
I heard “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” on XM’s “Classic Rewind” channel while driving on I-64 between Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky.  

Here’s that song, which was released on ZZ Top’s 1979 album, Degüello.  

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Arvo Pärt – "Fratres" (1977/1992)

The critics loved Rectify, a four-season television series that aired on the Sundance TV channel between 2013 and 2016.  (You can click here to read the New Yorker’s review of the show.)

In Rectify’s first episode, a thirty-something man from a small Georgia town is released from prison after spending years on death row for the rape and murder of his high-school girlfriend when newly-discovered DNA evidence calls his guilt into question.  

But that DNA evidence doesn’t prove the freed man didn’t commit the murder.  Even he isn’t sure what happened the night the girl was raped and killed.

Here's the trailer for the first season of Rectify:

I’ve watched the first three seasons of the show and I’ll watch season four as soon as my local public library gets it on DVD.  

I don’t love the show, although there are things about it that I like and admire.  On the whole, I recommend it – but it moves very slowly, and I sometimes find it puzzling.  YMMV.

*     *     *     *     *

I had never heard of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt until I watched the season two finale of Rectify, which features his quietly compelling 1977 composition, “Fratres.”

“Fratres” is a purely instrumental composition.  It’s rare that 2 or 3 lines features music without words, but I’m making an exception for “Fratres,” which has been aptly described as “a mesmerising set of variations on a six-bar theme combining frantic activity and sublime stillness that encapsulates Pärt’s observation that ‘the instant and eternity are struggling within us’.”

Pärt calls his approach to composing music “tintinnabulation.”  (A tintinnabulum was a Roman wind chime, and Pärt's music is built around the tones and overtones produced by ringing bells.)  He developed this compositional technique after suffering from writer’s block for several years.   

Estonian composer Arvo Pärt
According to conductor and music writer Paul Hillier, Pärt's tintinnabular music has two types of voice, “the first of which (dubbed the ‘tintinnabular voice’) arpeggiates the tonic triad, and the second of which moves diatonically in stepwise motion.”

It turns out that his music has been used frequently on movie and television soundtracks.  For example, you can hear “Fratres” in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood and Terence Malick’s To the Wonder.

I have to think that whoever chose “Fratres” for Rectify is a Malick fan.  There are many sequences in Malick’s movies (including To the Wonder) that can be described as “dreamlike,” and the same is true of Rectify – including the scene that is accompanied by “Fratres.”  

There are some 17 authorized versions of “Fratres,” each of which features different instrumentation.  For example, there’s the original violin and piano version; a cello and piano version; versions for four, eight or twelve cellos; a version for trombone, strings, and percussion; and a version for saxophone quartet.

The There Will Be Blood soundtrack features the cello and piano version of “Fratres”:

The soundtrack of the last episode of season two of Rectify features the version for solo violin, string orchestra, and percussion:

Click below to buy that version of “Fratres” from Amazon:

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Drones – "Shark Fin Blues" (2005)

You are all my brothers
And you have been kind
But what were you expecting to find?

The plot of the first season of The Affair – a Showtime series that premiered in 2014 – is pretty straightforward.  

While spending the summer on Long Island with his wife and four kids, a forty-something teacher and wannabe novelist (Noah) encounters a thirty-something waitress (Alison), who is also married.  One thing leads to another . . . hence, the title of the series.

But the plot of season two – which I just finished watching – is a hot mess.  

Noah (Dominic West) and Helen (Maura Tierney)
In season two, Noah leaves his wife (Helen), writes a best-selling book, and marries Alison, who promptly gets pregnant.  

A few episodes later, Alison goes into labor while Noah is living la vida loca at a spectacular party at the Long Island home of a Hollywood producer who wants to turn Noah’s book into a movie.  

While Noah is at the party, he climbs into a hot tub to join two naked young women who are making out.  But one of them turns out to be his crazy daughter (Whitney) – who had gotten pregnant by Alison’s ne’er-do-well ex-brother-in-law (Scotty) the previous season, then had an abortion.  

Alison (Ruth Wilson) and Noah
Noah is horrified, and tries to get the hell out of Dodge.  But Hurricane Sandy has hit the Hamptons while he was busy snorting cocaine and cavorting with supermodels, and the roads back to New York City are impassable.  Alison delivers her baby solo.

Alison then admits that she slept with her ex-husband (Cole) once after she and Noah were married, and that Cole could be the father of their daughter.  

In the last episode of season two, Alison is confronted by her shady ex-brother-in-law, Scotty.  They argue, he grabs her, and as she’s struggling to break free, she accidentally shoves him right into the path of Noah’s car . . . which Helen is driving.  That’s the end of good ol’ Scotty.  

The detective looking into Scotty's death knows that Noah had beaten the crap out of Scotty and threatened to kill him when he found out that Scotty had knocked up his daughter Whitney, so Noah is a prime suspect from the very beginning of the investigation. 

Noah's arrest
And when a witness tells the detective that he saw Noah washing off his car the night of Scotty’s death, Noah is arrested.

Season two comes to an end as Noah suddenly leaps up during his trial for vehicular homicide and shouts “I DID IT!” in order to shield both his new wife (the mother of his – or perhaps Cole’s – young daughter) and his old one (the mother of his four other children) from prosecution.

(Oops . . . did I forget to say SPOILER ALERT?  Sorry about that!)

As season-ending cliffhangers go, it’s not “Who shot J.R.?” but it’s not bad.  I'm counting the days until the DVDs of season three make it to my local public library.

Here's a trailer for the The Affair that includes scenes from all three seasons that have aired to date:

*     *     *     *     *

The best song on The Affair’s soundtrack is Lucinda Williams’s “Changed the Locks,” but that song was featured in the previous 2 or 3 lines.  

So today we’re featuring “Shark Fin Blues,” which is the best song on the soundtrack of the Sundance TV series, Rectify.

“Shark Fin Blues” was released on Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By, a 2005 album by the Drones, who hail from Australia.

Rectify is about a guy in his thirties who is released from prison after spending half his life on death row thanks to the delivery of some misplaced DNA evidence.  The show set in a small town in Georgia – not on Long Island – and is about as different from The Affair as it can be.

Here’s “Shark Fin Blues,” a hot mess of a song that tells a Moby Dick-like tale, except that the role of the great white whale is played by a shark “that's bigger than a submarine”:

Friday, April 14, 2017

Lucinda Williams – "Changed the Locks" (1988)

I changed the number on my phone
So you can't call me up at home
And you can't say those things to me
That make me fall down on my knees

Lucinda Williams follows the "Keep it simple, stupid" principle.

“Changed the Locks” – which was released in 1988 on her eponymous third album – is about as simple a song as was ever written, consisting of a single musical concept and a single lyrical concept.  (If you’re a mediocre musician and you need to learn a song in ten minutes, I’d recommend “Changed My Locks.”)

The song consists of six verses, each of which is metrically identical – each has an AABB rhyme pattern, and the first line of each verse is repeated after the fourth line of that verse is sung.  

The verses are musically indistinguishable from one another as well.  In fact, the lines of each verse are musically indistinguishable – each line is sung over the same simple chord pattern.

When it comes to the song’s lyrical content, each verse is a variation on a single theme.  Each begins with the singer declaring that she has changed something in her life – she’s changed the lock on her front door, changed the number on her phone, changed the kind of car she drives, changed the kind of clothes she wears, and so on – ostensibly to keep her ex-boyfriend or ex-husband at a distance.  “I am sooooo over you!” seems to be the message she is trying to communicate.

There’s not even a chorus to complicate things.  

Just because a song is simple doesn’t mean it’s not good.  “Changed My Locks” wouldn’t be nearly as effective as it is if it wasn’t simple.

Let’s take a closer look at the lyrics to “Changed My Locks.”

Here’s the second verse, which is quoted at the beginning of this post:

I changed the number on my phone
So you can't call me up at home
And you can't say those things to me
That make me fall down on my knees

Why is the singer so afraid of getting a phone call from her ex?  Because he’s going to say something nasty or threatening?  

Hardly.  She hears that he’ll call her and go right into the kind of irresistible love talk that leaves her weak in the knees. 

Here’s the third verse:

I changed the kind of car I drive
So you can't see me when I go by
And you can't chase me up the street
And you can't knock me off of my feet

She’s not afraid that the dude is going to literally knock her down.  No, no, no – her concern is that an encounter with him will knock her off of her feet emotionally.

The final verse hammers this point home:

I changed the name of this town
So you can't follow me down
And you can't touch me like before
And you can't make me want you more

The first rhyming couplet is a little confusing if you take it literally.  What the singer means when she says that she “changed the name of this town” is that she packed up and moved to a different city because she realizes that if she runs into the guy and he touches her once more, it will make her want him even more than she already does.

Get the picture?  The singer’s not trying to avoid the guy because she’s sooooo over him, but because she’s not sooooo over him.  She knows that if they cross paths that she won’t be able to resist him – she’ll fall down on her knees to him.

Might as well face it, lady, you’re addicted to the dude.  Just like an alcoholic trying to avoid temptation doesn’t hang out where other people are drinking, the singer needs to avoid proximity to her ex if she has any hope of freeing herself from the emotional hold he has on her.

*     *     *     *     *

Lucinda Williams never graduated from high school, but managed to get admitted to the University of Arkansas.  She dropped out after one semester.

Her father, Miller Williams, was an English professor at Arkansas for decades.  Williams was a prolific poet who got a lot of attention when he was asked to read one of his poems at Bill Clinton’s second inauguration, but perhaps the most remarkable thing about his career was that he started out as a biology professor before switching to English.

Lucinda released a couple of albums when she was in her twenties, but they sank without a trace.  Her third album – which includes “Changed the Locks” – was released in 1988, when she was 35.  Neither it nor her next album (both of which were produced by someone named – I kid you not – Gurf Morlix) did much better.

Lucinda Williams and Gurf Morlix
She began to focus on songwriting and won the 1994 Grammy for best country song for “Passionate Kisses,” which had been a big hit for Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Williams finally hit it big as a recording artist with Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, which was released in 1998.  She was an overnight success at age 45.  

If you’re good at math, you’ve probably already figured out that Lucinda Williams is now 64 years old – emphasis on the “old.”  (She’s barely six months younger than me, which means she is very old indeed.)

You can click here to read Bill Buford’s 2000 New Yorker profile of Lucinda Williams.  (Buford is a very good writer, but that piece is a little overheated.)

*     *     *     *     *

I discovered “Changed the Locks” while watching the second season of the Showtime series, The Affair.  Here's a clip of one of the characters singing along with the song as it plays on the radio as she drinks a glass of wine (not her first of the day, I might add) and gets dressed to go out on a hot date:

I’ll have more to say about The Affair (which is a wonderful guilty-pleasure TV show) in the next 2 or 3 lines.

Here’s “Changed the Locks”:

And here's a video of Lucinda performing the song live in 1990.  (Her guitar player is the aforementioned Gurf Morlix.)

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Pitbull – "Hotel Room Service" (2009)

Forget about your boyfriend
And meet me at the hotel room
You can bring your girlfriends
And meet me at the hotel room

When you think about how tiring a road trip is for pro basketball players, it’s not surprising that home teams win more games than visiting teams.  

After all, the members of the home team get to sleep in their own beds, and their body clocks don’t have to adjust to a new time zone.  And the home team doesn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn after a night game to catch a flight to the next city on the schedule.   

Home teams were victorious in 67.9% of all NBA games in the 1987-88 season.  But in the current season, home teams are winning only 57.5% of NBA games.

NBA players hitting the
hotel breakfast buffet
What is responsible for this dramatic decrease in the advantage enjoyed by home teams?

A couple of years ago, the Economist printed a long and tedious exegesis of the various factors that might contribute to the home-court advantage.  (You can click here to read it if you must, but take my word for it – life's too short to spend it reading articles like that one.)

ESPN The Magazine did the Economist one better when it came to figuring out this phenomenon.  An article in a recent issue of that magazine suggests that what's leveled the playing field for visiting players is Tinder and other dating apps, which enable NBA players to hook up with the local lovelies quickly and easily.  

"It's a match!"
There’s no longer any need to order a limo to take you and your posse to the local nightspots after the game, where you stay up until all hours drinking Cristal and hitting on women.  Instead, you go back to your hotel room, open up Tinder, swipe right a few times, and wait for a starstruck babe to show up.  When you’ve taken care of business, she leaves and you go right to sleep – no fuss, no muss.

“It’s absolutely true that you get at least two hours more sleep getting **** on the road today versus 15 years ago,” one former NBA All-Star told the ESPN The Magazine reporter.

NBA star Draymond Green
celebrating after a big win
Some players got no sleep at all after a road game in the old days.  Back then, teams used to fly commercial – usually travelling on the first flight of the morning after a game, which might leave at 600a or 700a.  Instead of heading back to the team hotel after a road game to catch a few unsatisfying hours of shut-eye, some players just stayed at the clubs all night, drinking and getting busy with the ladies.

The bottom line is that NBA players drink less and sleep more when they are traveling these days than they did 20 years ago . . . without sacrificing female companionship . . . thanks to apps like Tinder.

Technology is making the world a better place, boys and girls.  If you don’t believe me, just ask your friends who play in the NBA.  

Here’s Pitbull’s “Hotel Room Service,” which references songs by T.I., Jay-Z, the Notorious B.I.G., and the Sugarhill Gang:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Shelley Fabares – "Johnny Angel" (1962)

Other fellas call me up for a date 
But I'll just sit and wait 
I'd rather concentrate
On Johnny Angel

Today, 2 or 3 lines is asking for your help.

Over fifty years ago, a terrible injustice was committed in this country.  That injustice was so obvious that it’s hard to believe that it could have happened.  But it did.   

As far as I’m concerned, it’s better late than never when it comes to correcting injustice.  But I can’t do it alone . . . which is why I’m asking all loyal 2 or 3 lines readers for help.

*     *     *     *     *

Even casual fans of professional basketball are well aware that Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder is having an amazing season.

Currently, Westbrook is leading the lead in scoring with a 31.8 points per game average.  

Russell Westbrook
But Westbrook is no one-trick pony.  He is averaging 10.4 assists per game, the 3rd-best number in the NBA.  And he is pulling down 10.6 rebounds a game, putting him in the NBA’s top ten rebounders – a remarkable feat for a point guard who is only 6 feet, 3 inches tall.  

In other words, Westbrook is averaging a “triple double” per game.  A “triple double” is when a basketball player player reaches double digits in three of the five statistical categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots.  It’s very difficult to achieve double digits in steals or blocks, so most triple doubles involve points, rebounds, and assists.

Many people expect Westbrook to win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award even though his team is not a serious contender for the NBA title.  That’s because averaging a triple double for an entire season is an almost unprecedented achievement.

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The only NBA player who previously averaged a triple double over an entire season was Oscar Robertson, who accomplished that feat in the 1961-62 season.  

If you told me that Oscar Robertson was the greatest basketball player of all time, I wouldn’t argue with you.

Robertson – who was known as “The Big O” – scored 24 points a game as a senior to lead his high school team to an undefeated season and an Indiana state championship.

At the University of Cincinnati, he averaged an incredible 33.8 points per game – only Pete Maravich exceeded his career college scoring average.

After college, Robertson co-captained the U.S. basketball team at the 1960 Summer Olympics.  The gold medal-winning American team won its games by an average of over 42 points, and Robertson tied for the team lead in scoring.

Oscar Robertson
“The Big O” came close to averaging a triple double in his rookie NBA season, when he averaged 30.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 9.7 assists per game – astonishing numbers for a 22-year-old rookie.

Robertson did average a triple double in his very next season, which was 1961-62.  He led the league in assists and finished fifth in scoring.  (If he had scored only a point more per game, he would have been the second-leading scorer in the league.)  And he was a real iron man – he was second in the league in total minutes played.

Not surprisingly, Robertson was named to the all-NBA team, along with fellow Hall of Famers Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Bob Pettit, and Wilt Chamberlain . . . ALL OF WHOM AVERAGED OVER 30 POINTS PER GAME THAT SEASON.  In fact, those five players averaged over 30 points a game for a season a total of 23 times – which is over one-third of the 30 points per game seasons in NBA history.  

(You’d be hard pressed to find a better all-NBA team.  I’ll take those five guys – who all played in the 1961-62 season – and I’ll give you all the other players who ever played professional basketball to choose from.  I think my team beats your team.)

Was Robertson the 1961-62 Most Valuable Player?  You’d think so, wouldn’t you?

But he finished not first . . . not second . . . but third in the MVP balloting.  

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You’re no doubt thinking that the terrible injustice I talked about at the beginning of this post is Robertson’s failure to win the MVP in 1961-62.

But believe it or not, Robertson clearly didn’t deserve to win the MVP that season.

The player who should have been the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 1961-62 was Wilt Chamberlain, who averaged a mind-boggling 50.4 points per game!  (Not only was Wilt a prolific scorer, he was an efficient one: Wilt was second in the league in shooting percentage.)  

(By the way, Chamberlain had the second-best season scoring average ever in the following season, when he tallied 44.8 points per game.  No one other than Chamberlain has ever averaged more than 37.6 points per game over the course of an entire NBA season, and he did it twice – and not by just a few tenths of a point, nosiree bob!)

Wilt Chamberlain
It’s inconceivable that Chamberlain’s 50.4 points per game record will ever be broken, even with the three-point basket becoming more and more common.  (Keep in mind that the three-point basket hadn’t been invented when Chamberlain played.)

But Chamberlain wasn’t just a scorer.  He also averaged 25.6 rebounds per game, which was the third best mark in league history.  (Chamberlain had even more rebounds per game in his two previous seasons.)

And Chamberlain simply never, ever came out of the game.  No one played more minutes that season than Wilt.    

By all advanced metrics, Chamberlain was the best offensive player in the NBA by far.  So who won the MVP?  

The best defensive player in the league, Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics.  

Russell wasn’t a bad offensive player.  He averaged a respectable 18.9 points per game in 1961-62, which ranked #16 in the league.  (Keep in mind that there were only nine NBA teams in 1961-62.  If you assume that the five starters and maybe one bench player per team got significant playing time, that means Russell wasn’t even in the top quartile when it came to scoring.)

Russell was a great rebounder.  In fact, he was the second-best rebounder in the NBA that year . . . but he was second to Wilt Chamberlain!

Scoring is much sexier than playing defense.  But you could certainly argue that the best defensive player is as worthy a MVP candidate as the best offensive player.

Bill Russell
There’s only one problem with making that argument with regard to Russell and Chamberlain in 1961-62.  Wilt was not only by far the best offensive player in the league.  He also ranked as the second-best defensive player in the league if you use defensive win shares as the measurement, while defensive maven Russell ranked only #18 in offensive win shares.

If you combine offensive and defensive win shares, Chamberlain finishes first in overall win shares by a large margin.  Russell ranks only fourth – which is very good, but which pales in comparison to Wilt.

Yet Russell was ranked first on 51 of the 85 MVP ballots that year.  (In 1961-62, the NBA players selected the league’s most valuable player.)  Chamberlain was ranked #1 on only nine ballots.  

You’ve got to think that Wilt was not as well-liked as Russell – you simply can’t explain the one-sided voting results any other way.  

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There was one other terrible injustice in the 1961-62 NBA MVP voting.   

Rookie center Walt Bellamy of the Chicago Packers (who had the worst record in the NBA that year) also had a phenomenal season.  

He was second in the league in scoring (31.6 points per game) and had the best shooting percentage of any NBA player.  And he was third in rebounding, behind only Russell and Chamberlain.  

If you combined offensive and defensive win shares, Bellamy ranked as the second-best player in the league – well behind Wilt, but slightly ahead of Russell and Oscar Robertson.  And he did that for the worst team in the league, meaning that his opponents could concentrate on shutting him down because his teammates weren’t very good.

Bellamy was named the league’s rookie of the year.  But not a single one of the 85 NBA players who voted for MVP that year put him anywhere on his ballot – much less in the top spot.

That may be due to the fact that the MVP ballot back then allowed you to rank only your top three choices.  Given the dominance of Chamberlain and Russell, the players may have been hesitant to name three centers on their ballots, ignoring all the great guards and forwards in the league.

Bellamy arguably had a better season than Bill Russell.  But he was a rookie who played on the worst team in the league, while Russell would lead the Celtics to their fifth NBA championship in the six seasons he had been a pro in 1961-62.

Walt Bellamy
Bellamy is a Hall of Famer, and one of only seven players to score over 20,000 points and grab more than 14,000 rebounds in his NBA career.  But his impressive individual achievements were overshadowed by the great centers (Russell, Chamberlain, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) whose careers overlapped his.  He received only a single third-place MVP vote over the course of his 14 NBA seasons.

It didn’t help that Bellamy was a bit of a nomad, playing for six different teams in his 14 years in the league – none of whom ever won a championship.  (His teams missed the playoffs as often as they made them, and he played in only one NBA finals series.)

Walt Bellamy, who died in 2013, was a great player, especially in 1961-62.  Perhaps he wasn’t as good that year as Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, or Oscar Robertson, but very few NBA players can hold a candle to those three guys.

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The 1962 NBA championship went to the Boston Celtics, who beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals that year, four games to three.

The seventh and deciding game was an overtime thriller.  Bill Russell had 30 points and a record 40 rebounds in that game.  Maybe he did deserve that MVP after all.

“Johnny Angel” occupied the top spot on the Billboard “Hot 100” while the Celtics and Lakers were squaring off that year.  

Donna Reed and Shelley Fabares
The song debuted during an episode of The Donna Reed Show.  Shelley Fabares, who sang “Johnny Angel,” had a long and successful acting career but never cracked the top twenty again.

There were a lot of lame #1 songs in 1962 – “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” “Duke of Earl,” “Peppermint Twist,” “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” and “Monster Mash” among them.  

Here’s “Johnny Angel”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: