Sunday, November 11, 2012

Beatles -- "You Never Give Me Your Money" (1969)

One sweet dream
Pick up the bags and get in the limousine
Soon we'll be away from here

The 16-minute, 14-second medley that takes up most of the second side of Abbey Road is a pop music tour de force.  It dazzled me the first time I ever listened to it, and it still does today.  (Actually, I could do without "Sun King," but the other 14 minutes make up for that.)

I don't remember the exact date I purchased Abbey Road -- which was the last album the Beatles ever recorded -- but it had to be sometime between October 1 (when the record was released in the United States) and November 7 (the day that I and several of my friends left Joplin for a visit to the University of Missouri at Columbia).

I had recorded Abbey Road on to a cassette tape simply by playing the album on the phonograph in my parents' Magnavox console stereo, positioning a portable, battery-operated monaural cassette recorder between the console's speakers, pushing the "record" button, and hoping that no one rang the doorbell or called on the telephone before the record ended.  I don't suggest this techniques for serious audiophiles, but it was the only option I had.

My parents forbade me to take the cassette recorder with me on the trip to Mizzou, but I ignored them.  I don't know why they forbade me, but I'm guessing it was a combination of two things.  

First, while a battery-operated cassette tape recorder wasn't exactly a major appliance, my parents had a very modest income and were very careful with their possessions -- they knew there was a good chance I would lose the recorder or drop it, or at least wear out the batteries.

Second, I think my parents thought it was a good idea to say "no" to my requests at least half the time as a matter of principle.  Better for me in the long run to have too little fun rather than too much.  (I used to find myself hesitating before saying "yes" when my kids asked me if they could spend the night with a friend when they were young.  I had absolutely no good reason to deny their request, but the example set by my parents made me think twice before giving in -- maybe fun is something that should be given to kids in small doses.)

The weekend that my friends and I spent at the University of Missouri was one of the great experiences of my high-school years.

Mizzou coeds in 1969
We were hosted by a professor and his family, who owned a big old two-story house with a porch and an attic -- where we listened to his son's band practice Saturday night after going to see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  (More about that in a future 2 or 3 lines.)

Earlier that day, we had attended the Missouri-Oklahoma football game.  (More about that to come as well.)  

Before that, I had time to hang out at the University of Missouri bookstore – which was almost as exciting for me as the football game or the movie.  I had never seen a real bookstore, and I was almost overwhelmed by the selection there.

For a 17-year-old pseudo-intellectual, a university bookstore circa 1969 was tall clover indeed.  I fancied myself a devotee of the Beats, and bought a poster of Allen Ginsberg (my parents never let me tape it to the wall of my room -- might damage the paint, you know) at the University bookstore.

I also bought the City Lights "Pocket Poets Series" paperback edition of Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems.  The City Lights Bookstore, a cultural lodestone which was located in San Francisco's North Beach, was co-founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who started publishing books as well as selling them soon after City Lights opened in 1953.  The ACLU defended Ferlinghetti when he was arrested and tried on obscenity charges when he published Howl in 1956.  (He was eventually acquitted.)

The first book in the “Pocket Poets Series” – all of which were small enough to fit easily into a pocket – was a collection of Ferlinghetti’s own poetry.  He also published poetry by Denise Levertov, William Carlos Williams, Gregory Corso, Malcolm Lowry, and Jack Kerouac.

I also bought Ferlinghetti’s 1961 collection of poems, Starting from San Francisco – which had a picture of Machu Picchu on the cover for some reason.

I still have my copy of that book:

Later that year, our English teacher asked us to assemble a notebook of our favorite poems.  I don’t recall many of my choices – I think we were supposed to pick 20 or 25 poems.  

I’m pretty sure I included Randall Jarrell’s “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner.”  Here it is in its very brief entirety:

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

A B-17 ball turret gunner
I think I also included some lines from Howl, which was probably not a great idea – remember, the government considered Howl to be obscene, largely because of its explicit references to homosexual acts.  (To say Ginsberg was out of the closet is an understatement.  He held nothing back in Howl.)

I remember the title of a Ferlinghetti poem I put in my notebook as well: “Tentative Description of a Dinner to Promote the Impeachment of President Eisenhower.”

My teacher was not impressed with my selections.  (I should have known better, but I obviously didn’t.)

I also left the university bookstore with a couple of 6" x 9 1/2" spiral-bound notebooks with a drawing of "The Columns" on their covers.  ("The Columns" are six limestone Ionic columns that once supported the portico of the first academic building on the Mizzou campus.  That building was completed in 1843, but burned down in 1892.  "The Columns" survived the blaze and are now an iconic campus landmark.)

I still have those notebooks, which I used as journals, or to write some very forgettable poetry in, or for various lists.  

I’m a big fan of lists.  For example, when I lived in San Francisco in 1981, I used to watch reruns of The Rockford Files and Kojak and note the name of each episode and the guest stars in this notebook for some reason.

Kojak seemed to have the better male guest stars -- including such notables as Richard Gere, Harvey Keitel, Christopher Walken, William Hurt, Leslie Nielsen, Eli Wallach, and Bernie Kopell (the ship's doctor on The Love Boat).

One of my U. of Missouri notebooks
The Rockford Files attracted a better class of female guest stars -- Rita Moreno, Linda Evans, Lindsay Wagner,  Stephanie Powers (a/k/a "The Girl from U.N.C.L.E."), and Leslie Charleson (the star of my favorite soap opera, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing).

Here's an interesting coincidence.  Daniel J. Travanti guested on Kojak.  Veronica Hamel guested on Rockford.  Several years, they starred together as police captain Frank Furillo and his love interest, public defender Joyce Davenport, on Hill Street Blues.

Here's "You Never Give Me Your Money":

Here's a link you can use to buy the Abbey Road CD from Amazon:

1 comment:

  1. Bob Davis/Bobby BoyNovember 15, 2012 at 1:15 AM

    Your mention of keeping a log of Rockford Files reminded me of my dad keeping track of Star Trek reruns on our local TV channels in the Los Angeles area during the 1970s. For a while, the reruns came on at 5pm, and I'd visit the "old homestead" in time for the opening scene, which came on before the opening credits. We'd see who was the first to guess which episode it was--"Amok Time!" "The Conscience of the King!" He was probably one of the oldest "Trekkers" when he finally "beamed up" in 1980. On the night that we received word of his passing, we had clear skies and a full moon, as if the cosmos was welcoming home. Live long and prosper.