Friday, June 29, 2012

Crow -- "Evil Woman (Don't Play Your Games With Me)" (1969)

Tomorrow will not change your shameful deed
You will bear someone else's fertile seed
They don't write songs like "Evil Woman" any more, do they? 
"Evil Woman" dates from 1969, when any young woman who got pregnant out of wedlock was branded (figuratively speaking) with a big scarlet "A."  

Today, women do that all the time, without any particular embarrassment, and a lot of them do it intentionally -- which would NEVER have happened when I was in high school.  

The "evil woman" in this song wants the singer to claim her child even though the singer knows that "it was he, not me" who fathered her child.  

There's only one way he can really be sure of that -- right?  If he never had sex with the woman, he can't  be the father.  If he did, how can he be 100% certain the baby isn't his?  (The plot thickens . . .)

A couple of guys with lust in their hearts --
and who can blame them?
The third verse implies that the singer may have known the woman (in the Biblical sense).  If he didn't know her, it certainly sounds like he lusted after her in his heart (to borrow a line from Jimmy Carter, who was brilliantly described by P. J. O'Rourke as "that most ex of America's ex-presidents"):

Wickedness lies in your moistened lips
Your body moves just like the crack of a whip
Black cats lay atop your satin bed
(That is soooooo hot -- especially the black cats on the satin bed.)
1969 was a great year for "one-hit wonders" -- including "Baby It's You" (Smith), "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" (Steam), "Polk Salad Annie" (Tony Joe White), "Hot Smoke and Sassafras" (Bubble Puppy), "In the Year 2525" (Zager & Evans), "Venus" (Shocking Blue), and "Vehicle" (Ides of March).

Crow's "Evil Woman (Don't Play Your Games With Me)" was not only one of the best of 1969's one-hit wonders, but one of the best songs of that year.  Crow was a Minneapolis group that released three albums between 1969 and 1971, but "Evil Woman" was Crow's only single to crack the top 40.  

I recently spoke to Larry Wiegand, Crow's original bass player, about the band's history:

2 or 3 lines:  You and your brother Dick were two of the founding members of Crow.  What kind of music did you like when you were growing up?  

Larry Wiegand:  Dick and I were really into instrumental music -- groups like the Ventures, Chet Atkins, Duane Eddy, Lonnie Mack, and Booker T & the MG's.  But we liked just about anything rockin' or soulful.  Doo wop, Chuck Berry, Elvis, early Motown, among others. 

2 or 3 lines:  When you started your band in 1967, you called it South 40.  What kind of music did South 40 perform?

Larry Wiegand:  We covered a lot of the soul and blue-eyed soul songs of the mid-sixties -- Wilson Pickett, the Rascals, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Otis Redding, and so on.  In 1968, we recorded a live album called "Live at Someplace Else," which was the name of a club where we used to play.  That LP sounds really cheesy to me now, but we had some regional success and we started working on taking it to the next level.  After we got a record producer interested, we decided to change the name to Crow because we thought South 40 sounded like the name of a country band.  The new name seemed to fit our music somehow.

2 or 3 lines:  Crow won a "battle of the bands" in Des Moines in 1968, which entitled you to a recording session at the Columbia Records studio in Chicago.  What didn't Columbia like about your demos?

Larry Wiegand: It's my belief that they were looking for another Gary Puckett, who was big for them at that time. We were a little funky for them -- we sounded more like Steppenwolf than Gary Puckett, and I think that's why they passed on us.

2 or 3 lines:  An A&R guy from Dunwich Productions was present at your recording session and liked what he heard.  

Larry Wiegand:  Dunwich had many successful artists at the time. The Shadows of Knight, Buckinghams, Coven, Styx, American Breed, Cryin' Shames, Minnie Ripperton, Mason Profit, H.P Lovecraft, Illinois Speed Press, etc.

Larry Wiegand (back row center) and Crow
2 or 3 lines:  Dunwich produced your first LP and shopped it to a number of record companies.  How did you end up signing with Amaret, which was a very small label?

Larry Wiegand:  The band wanted to sign with Atlantic, which had made us an offer, but Dunwich thought we'd get more attention as a big fish in a small pond.  So we ended up with Amaret.

2 or 3 lines: I can't imagine "Evil Woman" without the horns, but I've read that you guys weren't happy about horns being added to that song.

Larry Wiegand:  We didn't know they were going to add the horns.  Dunwich did what they thought was right about getting a successful record out.  I find it funny about what's been said on the internet about us not liking the horns. Those guys did a great job of playing the charts. Our only problem was that we didn't have a horn section when we toured, so we couldn't reproduce the sound when we performed live.

2 or 3 lines:  Tell me how the lyrics to "Evil Woman" came to be written.  

Larry Wiegand:  My brother Dick and I were working on that song's chord progression, and Dave Wagner, our lead singer, was in the next room listening. He started writing down lyrics and we put them together.  

2 or 3 lines:  The song's lyrics are very frank: "The morrow will not change your shameful deed/You will bear someone else's fertile seed" in the first verse, and "You want me to claim this child you bore/But I know that it was he, not me" in the second verse.  Not much doubt what is going on in this song.  What inspired the lyrics?  Was it totally fictional, or based on a true situation?

Larry Wiegand:  It was not a fictional story but had the same inspiration as Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean."  Both tell the story of a guy who was accused of being the father of a gal's baby.  He claims he isn't the father.  "Evil woman, don't play those games with me" is his response to her accusations.  Not an uncommon story for young folks -- then or now. All the Crow songs were about what young folks had to deal with at one time or another.  I like to think each song is a snapshot of what was happening to us at the time.

2 or 3 lines:  "Evil Woman" was released as a single late in 1969.  Was it the first single off your album?  

Larry Wiegand:  "Evil Woman" was actually our second single.  The first was "Time To Make A Turn," which was also on our first album, Crow Music.  We didn't think "Time To Make A Turn" would be a hit and it wasn't.  "Evil Woman" was a different story.  Radio stations all over the country started to play it after a station in Seattle broke it out first.  For some reason, it wasn't especially popular in Minnesota.  We did get airplay there but not as much as in other cities. 

"Evil Woman" made it to #19 on the Billboard pop charts, but Cashbox ranked it at #7.  Over 600,000 copies of the single were sold.  

It's easy to see why it was such a success.  The lyrics certainly create some dramatic interest.  Larry Wiegand's bass part is quite distinctive.  And the horn part is very interesting -- especially the long instrumental break before the third verse.

The next 2 or 3 lines will feature the rest of the Larry Wiegand interview and another Crow song.

Here's "Evil Woman":

Click here to order the song from Amazon:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ronnie & the Daytonas -- "G.T.O." (1964)

Little GTO, you're really lookin' fine
Three deuces and a four-speed and a 389
Listen to her tachin' up now
Listen to her whine
C'mon and turn it on, wind it up, blow it out -- GTO!
Ronny and the Daytonas were all about surfing, hot rods, and babes in bitchin' bikinis.

If you looked at the titles of the songs on their first album -- which included not only "G.T.O," but also "Hot Rod Baby," "The Little Sting Ray That Could," and  "Surfin' in the Summertime" -- you'd probably think you were looking at a Jan and Dean album or an early Beach Boys LP.

But Ronny and the Daytonas didn't hail from Southern California.  They were from . . . Nashville?  

John "Bucky" Wilkin wrote "G.T.O." in physics class when he was a senior at a Nashville high school.   As far as I can tell, he had never been to Santa Monica, or Pasadena, or Venice Beach, or Newport Beach, or Malibu, or any other place in Southern California.  But I guess he had listened to enough AM radio to figure out how to write SoCal-style surf music.

Give Wilkin credit for knowing a little more about cars than most pop songwriters.  The original Pontiac G.T.O. was introduced in 1964, and came equipped with a 389-cubic inch V8 engine.  Options included "Tri-Power" carburetion (three two-barrel carburetors, or "three deuces"), a four-speed manual transmission with Hurst shifter, and a tachometer.

1964 Pontiac G.T.O.
A lot of teenage boys lusted after the G.T.O., was the brainchild of Pontiac's chief engineer, John DeLorean.  The initials stood for "Gran Turismo Omologato," an Italian phrase that signified a car eligible to be raced in the Grand Tourer class, and were inspired by the famous Ferrari 250 G.T.O.  (One of the surviving Ferrari 250's recently sold for $35 million.)

I personally lusted after its GM cousin, the Oldsmobile 4-4-2, which was also introduced in 1964.  (The "4-4-2" indicated that the car came equipped with a four-barrel carburetor, a four-speed manual transmission, and dual exhausts.)

1970 Oldsmobile 4-4-2
The 1970 Olds 4-4-2 was a beast.  It came equipped with an enormous 455-cubic inch V8 and a four-speed Hurst shifter.  My first car was a 1970 Olds Cutlass with a 350-cubic inch V8 -- it was far from being a 4-4-2, but it still had much more horsepower than any normal car really needed.  (Most current full-size sedans come equipped with at most a 200-cubic inch V6.  My Honda Accord has a four-cylinder engine that displaces only about 150 cubic inches.  It goes plenty fast.)

I sound like I actually know something about cars, don't I?  I've never even changed the oil on a car, although I have replaced a few air filters.  (Not that hard to do, unless you are one of my children, none of whom have any idea how to open the hood.)

I heard "G.T.O." on the satellite radio in my rental car on a recent family trip to Cape Cod.

Did I mention that my rental car only cost $9.75 a day?  Of course, that doesn't include the consolidated facility charge ("CFC") of $5.50 a day, an energy recovery fee ("ERF") of $0.45 a day, a frequent-flier miles tax of $1.50 a day, something called "APCONRGFEE" ($4.68 total), something called "RI RNTLSRG" (Rhode Island rental surcharge?), state tax, and so on.

$9.75 a day times 4 days = $83.34
My third (and final) bike ride of that all-too-brief vacation began at the Cape Cod National Seashore's Salt Pond Visitor Center in Eastham, Massachusetts.

I rode from there to the end of the Cape Cod Rail Trail in Wellfleet:

The twisty, roller-coaster-like trail is always a challenge, even for an experienced biker like me:

When I returned, I hopped on the short trail that goes from the visitor center to Coast Guard Beach.  

Henry David Thoreau walked most of the length Cape Cod -- he went there four different times -- and wrote a book about it.  

Thoreau said this about the outer beaches that now make up the national seashore:  "A man may stand there and put all America behind him."  If you look out over the Atlantic from Coast Guard Beach, all of America is behind you -- because you're facing east, and the rest of the country is to the west.  I think Thoreau was making another point when he said those words.

Coast Guard Beach doesn't attract as many surfers as the famous Southern California beaches, but it does have a few.

It also has rip currents.  

(Since I cut off some of the text on this sign, hers a summary of what it says: "If you get caught in a rip current, say your prayers and then KISS YOUR ASS GOOD-BYE!")

The pointy-headed bureaucrats at the National Seashore insist that bikers stay on the paved trails.  As you can see from the picture below, these namby-pamby naysayers have banned mountain bikes from any number of attractive off-road trails:

No bikes?  The hell you say!
We had a nice sunset that evening.  The boat you see in the following picture is a 58-footer named the "Lobster Roll," which offers dinner cruises every evening from Sesuit Harbor in East Dennis.  

That's it from Cape Cod until August, when 2 or 3 lines will be taking a long and very well-deserved vacation there.

Here's "G.T.O.":

Here's a link you can use to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Original Broadway Cast of "Hair" -- "The Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine In)" (1968)

Let the sunshine,
Let the sunshine in,
The sunshine in!

Some of you came here today expecting to find the third in my series of posts about my recent Cape Cod bike rides, all of which featured songs that I had heard on the satellite radio in the $9.75-a-day rental car I drove during that little vacation.  

You'll get the Cape Cod post in a couple of days.  Today, 2 or 3 lines is featuring the final song from the Broadway musical Hair.

This last-minute change in plans has produced an inordinate amount of bitching and moaning among the members of my production staff, marketing staff, traffic department, accountants, lawyers, etc. . . . everyone's all bent out of shape.

Thank you, Robert Burns
All I have to say to them is the best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley, boys and girls.  If that's not clear enough for you, how about this: you'll suck on it and you'll like it!  And if you are still uncertain, how about this: eff you and the horses you rode in on!!!  ("Get the picture?  Yes, we see.")

I had a dream the other night.  (By the way, I hate books where the main character has a dream that is described at great length.  Either the dream is impossibly surreal and befuddling, or it's symbolic in a painfully obvious way.  In any event, using a dream as a fictional device is a truly lame way for an author to reveal what's going on in his character's head.  But as my late grandmother used to say, "Do as I say, not as I do.")  

In this dream, I was skiing down a huge mountain at an amazing rate of speed.  Suddenly I realized I was actually going down a giant ski jump ramp, and a moment later I had been launched upwards and was soaring through the crisp Alpine air.  It was exhilarating, albeit a bit scary -- I've never skied in my life.  But soon my upward trajectory began to flatten, and it struck me that any second I would start to plummet downward towards the earth.  Just before that happened, I woke up.

Obviously, I never had such a dream.  The dream is simply a somewhat clumsy metaphor.  (I'm not sure that it really is a metaphor, but I know it's not a simile and I'm equally sure it's not anthropomorphism or hyperbole or an oxymoron.)  My soaring flight off the ski jump ramp stands in for the upward trajectory of success that my wildly popular blog is enjoying, and the realization that my ascent is about to turn into a catastrophic descent is symbolic of my fears and anxieties about what the future may bring for 2 or 3 lines

What the future has brung . . . that is to say, what the future has brought . . . are posting schedules that are planned weeks in advance, and demographic analyses, and quarterly revenue projections, and carefully coordinated marketing campaigns.  Not to mention a lot of people in suits with three-button jackets and plain-front pants, all wearing tasseled loafers and Vineyard Vines ties.

Vineyard Vines ties
Enough!  I've had it up to here with all that crap.  (Pardon my French, but I had to deal with a credit card company's customer-"service" representative today about some late fees and interest charges that I had been told would be taken off before this month's bill was mailed out, and you know how that usually goes.)  

I'll be frank.  This is my blog and I will run it as I please.  If I decide to feature "Mairzy Doats (and Dozy Doats and Liddle Lamzy Divey)" tomorrow -- which is not the worst idea I've ever had -- I expect my employees to give me a snappy salute, ask me whether I would like to be kissed on the left cheek or the right cheek, and then carry out my wishes as fast as they can.  And I expect them to do that whether they are real or imaginary.  Comprende?

On to our song, which brings Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical (to use its full title) to an ecstatic close.

Most of you will probably associate the "Let the Sunshine In" portion of this song with "Aquarius," the opening song of Hair.  That's because The 5th Dimension recorded a medley of the two songs that was a #1 hit for six weeks in the spring of 1969.  But never did those twain meet in the musical.

I like "The Flesh Failures" part of the song a lot, but I can't say that I have any frigging clue what the lyrics mean, and none of them seemed particularly quotable to me.  (If you can explain the lyrics to me, please do.)

Here's the original Broadway cast recording of "The Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine In)":

Here's a clip from the 1979 movie adaptation of Hair:

Here's a link you can use to order the original Broadway cast version of the song from Amazon:

Friday, June 22, 2012

Avett Brothers -- "I and Love and You" (2009)

Three words that became hard to say
"I" . . . and "love" . . . and "you"

Brothers Scott and Seth Avett (who hail from Concord, NC) used to play in different bands, but eventually got together and released an EP as the Avett Brothers in 2000.  I had never heard of them until my friend Linda -- whose wonderful guest posts are familiar to regular readers of 2 or 3 lines -- recently brought the group to my attention.  

The Avetts have been described by one reviewer as sounding like a combination of Townes Van Zandt, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, and the Ramones.  I don't really know enough about their music to express an opinion on that judgment.  But based on this song, I think I would compare them to The Band.

I do know one thing: if the lines quoted above are typical of their lyrics, the Avett boys do know how to write songs.

It's been too long since Linda's last guest post.  I knew she was a big R.E.M. fan, so I asked her if she'd like to write about an R.E.M. song.  I like a number of R.E.M. songs a lot, but I can't say that I'm a fan of the band -- its frontman, Michael Stipe, is way too annoying.  I have a similar reaction to U2 and Pearl Jam -- both bands have released some great songs, but Bono and Eddie Vetter rub me the wrong way. 

I was surprised when Linda passed up the chance to do an R.E.M. post in favor of writing about the Avett Brothers instead.  I'll let her explain why she chose to do that:

When Gary dangled a carrot in front of me in the form of an offer to write another R.E.M. post, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.  I figured he must be in dire need of free content to put another R.E.M. song in his blog and being the loyal (if grossly underpaid) employee that I am, I agreed to write the post.
[I admit that I get hot and bothered when I hear the words "free content," but I do have my standards.  Linda's guest posts always exceed those standards by a wide margin.]
After giving my post more thought and considering and then rejecting various ideas for an R.E.M. song choice, I thought that maybe I should write about a relatively new band instead.  After all, one of the missions of this blog is to introduce music to the readers that they may not have heard of, but should. (2 or 3 lines can be at bit bossy like that sometimes.)
["Bossy"?  I have a feeling that Linda is talking about my "Hiphop 101" posts, which I continue to force down the throats of my readers despite being told repeatedly by those readers that they really can't stand rap music.  As for the "missions" of this blog, its primary mission is to impress hot chicks.  (How'm I doin'?)]
As you can see, I picked the Avett Brothers.  Every heard of them?  Probably not.  I’ve never heard one of their songs on the radio.  They don’t fit comfortably into any one particular music genre.

The Avett Brothers
Their music sounds nothing like R.E.M. (please tell me I didn’t just hear loud sighs of relief), although both bands use banjo, cello and piano.  The Avett Brothers actually have a cellist as a permanent band member.  I described their music to Gary as an amalgam of roots, folk and pop with heartfelt, affecting lyrics.  Gary’s pithy reply was “sounds like the musical equivalent of a chick flick.”
[I'm reminded of the joke about three baseball umpires who were asked about calling balls and strikes.  "I calls 'em as I sees 'em," said the first umpire.  "I calls 'em as they is," said the second.  "They ain't nothin' until I calls 'em," said the third.  Linda's description of the Avett Brothers' music made them sound like something that Thelma and Louise stars Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon would have been listening to as they were riding around in their 1966 Thunderbird, shooting pretty much every male they came across.  (One can only imagine the gigantic hissy fit that feminists would have thrown if the movie had been titled Elmo and Lewis and featured two male characters who used a Colt .38 Detective Special on every woman who looked at them cross-eyed.]

Thelma takes aim
The Avett Brothers’ songs probably do appeal more to females, but in videos of the bands’ live shows, there were an awful of  very enthusiastic male fans who seemed to know every word of every song. I won’t argue the point as to whether they were genuinely into the music or just humoring their female significant others.

[Linda's suspicion about why those male fans were acting so enthusiastic is quite accurate and consistent with my suspicion that most women have figured us males out.  Much of what we do is the human equivalent of the courtship display rituals engaged in by male birds in order to persuade females to mate with them instead of their rivals.  A male bird's courtship display is intended to persuade the target female of the male's physical vigor and biological fitness to father her children.  Most of the male fans at the Avett Brothers concerts are just attempting to impress the female fans with their sensitivity and simpatico -- not in the hope of actually fathering children in most cases, but coming as close as they can.]

Is that Scott Avett or Ashton Kutcher?
I found several parallels between the career trajectories of R.E.M. and the Avett Brothers. Both bands originated in the South – Georgia and North Carolina, respectively.  Both started out playing music that sounded very different from anything on traditional pop/rock radio.  They both quickly developed a fiercely loyal fan base while touring, first in the South, then up and down the East Coast and beyond.  And both have a singer with absolutely beautiful and mesmerizing blue eyes. (I know, that has nothing to do with the music, but then neither does Kim Kardashian.)
Michael Stipe
[Michael Stipe has mesmerizing blue eyes?  Really?  Maybe that's true, but have you checked out the rest of him?  The guy looks like he needs to get to a hospice toot sweet.  He makes most homeless guys look well-nourished.  By contrast, Kim Kardashian looks extremely well-nourished.]

When I was reading background information on the Avett Brothers, I was extremely surprised to find out that Rick Rubin produced their last album and is also producing their new album.  Rubin is a legendary producer who has worked with 2 or 3 lines favorites Black Sabbath, Beastie Boys, Metallica, Johnny Cash, and System of a Down as well as many other big-name groups, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, AC/DC and Aerosmith.  I would never have imagined him as a likely choice to produce the type of music the Avetts play, but his pared-down production style must have appealed to them.

I really don’t expect a great many of you to be immediately drawn to this music.  I know I wasn’t. There are few catchy sing-along hooks or big, attention-grabbing choruses.  When I went through their older videos, they looked like they would have been right at home on the set of Deliverance.

 [Linda, I could have done without the reference to Deliverance.]

They have since cleaned up their look a bit, no doubt at the urging of their record label, but the music is what kept pulling me in and bringing me back for another listen.  “Musical equivalent of a chick flick” it may be, but the sincerity and passion in their music resonates throughout their entire catalog. 

I doubt I’ll ever feel the same connection to them that I’ve felt for R.E.M., but from the rapt looks on the faces of their fans when the band is playing, there must be a fair number of people who already have that connection with the Avett Brothers.

To be serious for a moment -- and I am capable of brief periods of seriousness from time to time -- I'm glad that Linda did decide to write about the Avett Brothers rather than R.E.M.

She is correct when she says that one of the goals of 2 or 3 lines is to uncover unfamiliar but noteworthy music -- not only for my readers, but for my own personal enlightenment and enjoyment.  I care a lot about old and new popular music of all kinds, but I know that I've only scratched the surface of what is available out there.  A number of my guest writers have written about songs that I knew nothing about, and as far as I'm concerned, that's the best kind of guest post.

Here's "I and Love and You":

Here's a link you can use to buy "I and Love and You" from Amazon:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rip Chords -- "Hey Little Cobra" (1964)

Hey, little Cobra
Don't you know
You're gonna shut 'em down!

Check out the labels on this post -- Doris Day, Charles Manson, Cape Cod, the Rogues . . . is it possible for one post to do justice to all those topics?

You don't really doubt 2 or 3 lines -- do you?

Let's start with Doris Day -- who was born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff.  She married jazz trombonist Al Jorden in 1941, when she was not quite 17, and gave birth to her only child -- a son named Terry -- in 1942, when she was not quite 18.  The marriage lasted only two years.  (Jorden, who was allegedly physically abusive to Day during their marriage, wanted her to have an abortion.  He committed suicide in 1967.)  She married another jazz musician in 1946, and that marriage lasted only about three years.

Young Doris was a hottie
Day married a third time in 1951.  Husband #3 was film producer Martin Melcher, who adopted her son.  Virtually all of the movies he produced -- which included Pillow Talk, Please Don't Eat the Daisies, and With Six You Get Eggroll -- his wife.  (Did you know that Day was offered the role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, but turned it down?)

When Melcher died in 1968, Day discovered that he and his business partner (attorney Jerome Rosenthal) had squandered all her money.  She sued Rosenthal, and five years later -- after a 99-day trial (67 witnesses testified) -- she was awarded a $23 million judgment, which at the time was the largest civil judgment ever awarded by a California court.  Between 1969 and 1979, Rosenthal filed over two dozen lawsuits against Day and others who were involved in the case, all of which he eventually lost.  He was disbarred in 1988.  

Day tried matrimony one more time.  From 1976 until 1981, she was married to Barry Comden, a maitre d' at one of her favorite restaurants.  Day was a well-known lover of dogs, and Comden -- who was about a decade younger -- wooed her by giving her a bag of meat scraps and bones to take home to her pets each time she dined at his restaurant.

Doris Day is 88 years old.  In 2011, she released her first album of all-new material in over 40 years, which made it to #9 on the UK album charts.  She is the oldest woman ever to have a top ten album in the UK.

That's all very interesting, but her life was no more dramatic than the life of her son, the late Terry Melcher.

Doris Day with her son Terry
Melcher was 21 when he partnered with Bruce Johnston and formed a surf-rock duo called Bruce & Terry.   Melcher and Johnston became producers with Columbia Records shortly thereafter, and in 1964 joined forces with the Rip Chords -- Phil Stewart and Ernie Bringas.  

The Rip Chords needed help because Bringas, who was studying to become a minister, was told by his church that he had to choose between the ministry and rock 'n' roll.   A few months later, the church hierarchy changed its mind, and Bringas rejoined the Rip Chords.  During his absence, the group recorded its biggest hit, "Hey Little Cobra."

1964 was a big year for car songs -- "Dead Man's Curve" by Jan and Dean, "Fun, Fun, Fun" by the Beach Boys, "G.T.O" by Ronnie and the Daytonas, and "Hey Little Cobra" by the Rip Chords -- which I recently heard on the satellite radio of a $9.75-a-day rental car -- were all released that year.

I was 12 years old that summer, and one of my favorite things to do was go to the grocery store with my mother, where I would make a beeline to the magazine rack and browse through all the hot rod magazines without spending any money.  (A few years later I would be browsing through a very different kind of magazine.)

The Cobra was a car that car nuts drooled over.  Former racing driver and car designer Carroll Shelby made a deal to import a small British two-seat sports car and then dropped a 289-cubic inch Ford V8 into it.  By today's standards, that would be a very large engine for a four-door sedan, much less a two-seater.

A couple of years later, Shelby stuffed a 427-cubic inch V8 into the Cobra.  (That's an engine displacement of 7.0 liters using metric measurements.  By contrast, the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry -- both of which weigh quite a bit more than the Cobra did -- come with either a 2.4-liter four or a 3.5-liter V6.)

The Shelby Cobra
Shelby designed the Cobra to beat Corvettes, and it did just that when it won a famous road race in early 1963 at Riverside (California) International Raceway, besting not only Corvettes but also Jaguars, Porsches, and Maseratis.  

The last verse of "Hey Little Cobra" closes with these lyrics: "Stingrays and Jags were left so far behind/I took my Cobra out of gear and let it coast to the line."  I seriously doubt that the Cobra driver had such a big lead that he shifted into neutral and coasted to the finish line, but it makes for a good song ending.

After "Hey Little Cobra," Bruce Johnston joined the Beach Boys in 1965, replacing Glen Campbell.  The first song the group recorded with Johnston was "California Girls" -- not a bad first effort.  Johnston wrote a number of songs for the Beach Boys and others.  His biggest success was the Barry Manilow #1 hit, "I Write the Songs," which won Johnston a Grammy.

Melcher continued to work for Columbia Records -- he produced albums by the Byrds, Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Mamas and the Papas, Wayne Newton, and many others.

Chuck Manson
In 1968, Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys introduced his buddy, aspiring singer/songwriter Charles Manson, to Melcher.  Melcher met Manson at his Los Angeles home -- previous residents of the house included Cary Grant and Henry Fonda -- and later gave Manson an audition, but decided not to sign him to a record deal.  Not long after that, Melcher and his girlfriend, actress Candice Bergen, subleased their house to Rosemary's Baby director Roman Polanski and his girlfriend, actress Sharon Tate.

Bergen and Melcher
Not long after that, Manson and his merry band of psychopaths returned to Melcher's former home and butchered the pregnant Sharon Tate and four others.  Some believe that Manson showed up at the house intending to kill Melcher in revenge for the record producer's rejection of his music, but it turns out that Manson knew that Melcher had moved out.  However, one Manson family member said that the point of the attack was to send a message to Melcher.

Melcher was seriously freaked out by this -- who wouldn't be? -- and spent quite a bit of money on bodyguards and shrinks over the next few years.  He continued to produce records and recorded a couple of solo albums.  He also co-wrote the Beach Boys hit single, "Kokomo."  Melcher died of melanoma in 2004.

Melcher's eponymous solo album
I don't know about you, but after reading about Doris Day and Terry Melcher's lives, I'm frankly just as happy not to be a world-famous movie star or pop musician.  Thanks, but no thanks.

Now we've come to the really important part of this post.

Terry Melcher and Bruce Johnston recorded not only as Bruce & Terry, but also as . . . (drum roll, please) . . . the Rogues!  One of the singles they recorded under the Rogues name was a cover of Buddy Holly's "Everyday":

And Johnston and Melcher weren't the only group that called themselves the Rogues back in the day.  One random comment I found on the internet claims that there were 13 different bands who recorded under that name in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s.  Another guy says there were a hundred.

I found evidence of at least one other group called the Rogues.  Here's their 1965 recording of a song called "Wanted: Dead or Alive":

By the way, that song is a dead ringer for the Leaves' contemporaneous recording of "Hey Joe" (which was later covered by the Byrds, Jimi Hendrix, Arthur Lee and Love, Deep Purple, and many others):

This superfluity of bands called the Rogues creates a bit of a dilemma for me and my old friends, who called our 8th-grade band the Rogues as well.  We are working out the details of our reunion tour, and what I've learned about all the johnny-come-latelies who also called themselves the Rogues is very disturbing.  You can bet that the members of one or more of those bands will find some shyster lawyer to bring a lawsuit alleging that we stole their name in hopes of getting their hands on all the Benjamins we're going to be raking in.

The only prudent course of action is to change our name.  We need something that is distinctive enough to avoid being confused with the other groups, but isn't so different that our old fans won't know who we are.

I suggest "Gary and the Rogues."  (Do I hear a motion?  A second?  Any objections?  Hearing none, the motion carries -- it's unanimous!)

Here's a final note.  I may have figured out how we came up with the name for our band.  There was a television show called "The Rogues" that aired on NBC in 1964-65.  It starred David Niven, Charles Boyer, and Gig Young as three Robin Hood-ish con men (think Cary Grant in It Takes a Thief) who would trick wealthy ne'er-do-wells out of their ill-gotten gains and return them to their rightful owners.  (The villains they bilked included Walter Matthau and Telly Savalas.)  I have a feeling that one of more of us was a big fan of the show and aspired to the level of sophistication and savor faire that Niven, Boyer, and Young brought to that show.

Note the car phone Gig Young is using in the show's opening credit sequence:

Aieeee!  I just remembered that this post was supposed to feature the third of my recent Cape Cod bike rides.  I guess that stuff will have to wait for another day.

Here's "Hey Little Cobra":

Here's a link you can use to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Led Zeppelin -- "How Many More Times" (1969)

Now I've got ten children of my own
I got another child on the way
That makes eleven

Today is Father's Day, so 2 or 3 lines is saluting of one the most prolific fathers in history: Antonio Cromartie.

Cromartie is a defensive back for the New York Jets.  More importantly for our purposes, he is the father of ten children by eight different women who live in a total of six different states (California, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Texas).

Here are Antonio's baby mamas and their offspring:

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What explains this kind of behavior?  To answer such questions, I like to turn to the experts – namely, the scientists on the staff of Men's Health magazine, who had this to say on the topic of male monogamy (or the lack thereof):

Why is monogamy so tough for men? . . .

Blame it on biology.  According to Darwin, life is just DNA working like mad to reproduce itself.  Our sex drive is the vehicle for spreading our genes.  We're in thrall to a biological imperative, hard-wired to want anybody who might carry our double helix down the line.

Aha, cry the women.  We have DNA, too.  How come we don't mount anything with a blood pressure?

Darwin has an answer women hate: Women are more finicky because they've only got a few hundred eggs in a lifetime.  Can't afford to waste one on a loser.  Since we have a billion sperm in a nanosecond and remain fertile till we die, there's no need to hold our fire.  We've got tons of ammo.

When someone who really knows his stuff takes the time to explain things in plain English, a science lesson can be almost fun.

I appreciate the way Men's Health doesn't do a lot of preaching – they realize that a leopard can't change his spots, and refuse to play the blame game.

All men wrestle with the call of the wild.  Some will argue this proves all men are pigs.  Wrong.  It proves all men are brothers.  Those thoughts about Myrna at the FedEx place don't make you a bad guy.  They just make you a guy.  Are we clear on that?  Lust is not a virtue.  Lust is not a vice.  It's just a fact.

How can you argue with science?  Tell it like it is, Men's Health!

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I hope you understand now that Antonio Cromartie isn't a bad man – he's just a normal guy trying to live up to the Darwinian imperative.  Of course, he is an NFL star, which may partly explain why he was able to spread his seed over a broader geographical region than Johnny Appleseed. 

(John Chapman – better known as "Johnny Appleseed" -- planted apple seeds in only four states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.  For religious reasons, Chapman objected to grafting apple trees.  Apple trees grown from seeds usually produce sour apples, but since many early settlers grew apples in order to make hard apple cider and applejack, they didn't really care.)

Like the singer of today's featured song, Cromartie can say "I've got ten children of my own."  He can also say "I got another child on the way – that makes eleven" because his wife is pregnant.

In fact, Cromartie's wife, Terricka Cason, is pregnant with twins – so that makes eleven and twelve, doesn't it?

As this photo demonstrates, when you are pregnant with twins, you are PREGNANT:

Mr. and Mrs. Cromartie
"Identical twins run in my family," Cason tweeted recently.  Terricka apparently knows as much about biology as she knows about keeping her legs crossed – fraternal twins may run in families (sort of), but identical twins do not.  Identical twins are a completely random event, so the fact that a mother has identical twins doesn't mean that any of her offspring are more likely to have identical twins than you or me.  (Well, more likely than me, because I'm a male.)

Once the twins are born, Terricka will have borne four of Cromartie's children, making her the leader in the clubhouse.  (None of the other mothers have more than two children by the redoubtable Mr. Cromartie.)

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Cromartie's seven baby mamas have become friends.  A TV production company recently came up with the brilliant idea of doing a reality show about Cromartie, his wife and baby mamas, and the ten children.  The baby mamas were all for it, but the fertile footballer wants no part of it.  I can't imagine why.

One of the baby mamas is Rhonda Patterson, a corporate attorney and former Miss Black North Carolina who says that Cromartie cancelled their wedding a week before the ceremony -- when she was six months pregnant.  I can only imagine what the young lady's parents had to say to her.

Baby mama Patterson wrote a book about the whole thing.  (You know what they say about a baby mama scorned.)

Did I mention that Cromartie is only 28?  By my calculations, he'll end up with a couple of thousand kids if he keeps going at this rate.

Thanks to my friend Kerri Griffin, the creator of the "Naptime Huddle" blog, who first brought Mr. Cromartie's off-field exploits to my attention.  Click here if you'd like to read what Kerri has to say about the legal problems of professional athletes who father children out of wedlock.

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"How Many More Times" is the final track on Led Zeppelin's eponymous debut album, which may be the G.O.A.T. when it comes to rock albums.  

The song runs about eight and a half minutes, but the album jacket says it is 3:30 -- apparently Jimmy Page thought radio stations might play it if they didn't know how long it really was.

Click here to listen to "How Many More Times?"

And click on the link below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, June 15, 2012

Tool -- "Sober" (1993)

I am just a worthless liar
I am just an imbecile
I will only complicate you
Trust in me and fall as well

I heard Tool's "Sober" on the second day of my recent trip to Cape Cod, thanks to the satellite radio on my rental Ford Escape.  (Have I mentioned that this rental only cost me $9.75 a day?)

SiriusXM's channel 34 is called "Lithium," in honor of the Nirvana song.  It features nineties grunge, alternative rock, and alternative metal music.

I started my second bike ride of the weekend at the same bike rental store when I started my first day's ride, but this time I rode the other direction -- to the west -- and continued until I reached the start of the Cape Cod Rail Trail in Dennis:

The Cape Cod Inflatable Park is just a hop, skip, and a jump from mile 0.0.  I'm so happy it wasn't around when my kids were young.  I have a feeling I would have had to spend many hours there.

Don't get me wrong.  The park is full of captivating inflatables, including this one depicting the legendary battle between King Kong and Godzilla:

(My money's on Godzilla.)

My route took me past a number of lovely Cape Cod ponds.  Here's Long Pond, the largest pond on Cape Cod:

Long Pond is on the Harwich-Brewster border.  Here's what you see when you are riding east to west and you cross that boundary:

Here's the view when you're riding west to east:

The trail also takes you past the Pleasant Lake General Store, whose owners have thoughtfully provided two benches so weary travelers can sit a spell.

One of benches (which is on the left side of the store's front door) is reserved for Democrats:

(Did you notice the Red Bull advertising sign in the window behind the Democrats' bench?)

The other bench (to the right of the door as you approach the store) is for Republicans:

Speaking of Democrats and Republicans, I am reminded of the first line from Tool's "Sober" -- "I am just a worthless liar."  For many years, I thought the line was "I am just a worthless lawyer."  I'm a lawyer myself, but I got a big kick out of the verse as I understood it.

One day I did a search for the lyrics to "Sober" and found out how wrong I had been.  It sort of spoiled the whole song for me.  C'est comme ├ža.
Have you seen the website about misheard pop-music lyrics?  For example, there was a guy who thought "Excuse me while I kiss the sky" (from "Purple Haze," by Jimi Hendrix) was really "Excuse me while I kiss this guy"?

I have a feeling that some of the examples on that website aren't genuine.  For example, did someone really think that Johnny Rivers was singing "Seasick Asian man" instead of "Secret agent man"?  And did someone really mistake Robert Palmer's "You might as well face it, you're addicted to love" for "You might as well fact it, you're a d*ckhead in love"?  Frankly, I doubt it.

"Sober" was written by Tool's frontman, Maynard James Keenan (born James Herbert Keenan), who was supposedly inspired by Bill Murray's performance in the movie Stripes to join the Army.

He later attended the U.S. Military Academy's prep school, and was eventually offered an appointment to West Point.  But he turned it down.  (Tool is known for its elaborate April Fools' Day pranks, so I'm a bit leery of some of the things that have been published about Keenan and the band.)  

One member of Tool told an interviewer that the song is about a friend of the band "who is at his artistic best when he is loaded."  This verse sure sounds like it was written by someone who was loaded:
Why can't we not be sober?
I just want to start this over
Why can't we drink forever
I just want to start things over 

"Sober" appears on Tool's 1993 debut album, Undertow.  I bought the CD used when I was working in Philadelphia, spending four nights a week in an apartment there and coming home for weekends with my family in our home in a Washington, DC, suburb.  It was a ridiculous way to live, and I didn't do it for long.

BTW, Keenan is a winemaker as well as a rock singer.  He owns Merkin Vineyards and Caduceus Cellars' located near Sedona, Arizona.  FYI, a "merkin" is a pubic wig, which was once commonly worn by prostitutes in an attempt to cover up signs of disease.  (TMI?)  Today, merkins are worn by actresses who are doing nude scenes to avoid inadvertent exposure of the genitalia and keep the film from being slapped with an X rating.  (OMG!)

Keenan bottling wine
Keenan's first wine made entirely from grapes he grew himself was named after his late mother, whose cremains he scattered over one of his vineyards after her death in 2003.  Click here to learn more about this wine.  Keenan's previous wines had been named after relatives of the famous Apache chief, Cochise.

Tool is an extremely talented but extremely weird group, so Keenan fits right in.  I could write a lot about how weird they are, but I just can't get cised to do so.  (Just read the Wikipedia entries on Tool, its various albums, and Keenan -- you'll find molto weirdness without really trying.)

Here's "Sober":

For some reason, you can't buy "Sober" from Amazon.  Here's a link to the Undertow album (which includes "Sober"):