Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Van Halen – "The Cradle Will Rock" (1980)

And the cradle will rock
Yes, the cradle will rock
And I say, "Rock on!"

In 1978, singer/guitarist Beki Bondage helped found the UK punk band, Vice Squad.  Beki left Vice Squad a few years later, but in 1997 she joined forces with guitarist Paul Rooney to put together a reconstituted version of Vice Squad.  

Beki Bondage
Since then, the band has toured extensively in Europe and the U.S., and has released several studio albums of what they call "old school punk."

Paul Rooney e-mailed me about a 2 or 3 lines post that featured one of Vice Squad's songs, and he's now one of my more interesting Facebook friends.

Paul Rooney
Paul's been a guitarist since he was a teenager, and he's played in a lot of different bands.  He's forgotten more about punk rock, and glam rock, and many other varieties of rock than I've ever knew, and I particularly look forward to his Facebook posts about music.

Van Halen's David Lee Roth
Recently, Paul posted a video of Van Halen performing today's featured song on television in 1980.  Here's what he had to say about that band:

You know what?  I think in many ways showmanship, fun and excitement has been driven out of modern music.  I totally subscribe to the need to make worthwhile, thought-provoking, and meaningful music but the flip side must exist where music helps people forget the daily grind and the hassles and concerns relating to money, work, family and climate change.  Few bands these days can do that.

As Paul points out, Van Halen is one of those few bands.

Songs like "Runnin' With the Devil," "Hot for Teacher," "Panama," and "Everybody Wants Some!" were classic guilty pleasures.  The band members may have all hated each other, but singer David Lee Roth and the rest of Van Halen always sounded like they were having one hell of a good time.

Alex Van Halen
There are two particular things to note in this video of today's featured song.  The first is Alex Van Halen's elaborate drum kit – including four bass drums and some octobans (which are deep, small-diameter tube-shaped took-toms).  The other is David Lee Roth's astonishing outfit (especially the fuzzy boots).

By the way, the opening instrumental riff may sound like it was played on a guitar, but it was actually played on a Wurlitzer electric piano equipped with a phase shifter.

Here's "The Cradle Will Rock."  (Actually, I haven't seen Junior's grades.)

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Luke Bryan – "Rain Is a Good Thing" (2009)

Rain makes corn
Corn makes whiskey
Whiskey makes my baby
Feel a little frisky

Joel Freimark is a self-described "music obsessive" who posts music videos, reviews, and other stuff under the moniker "The Daily Guru."  He's on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Tumblr, and his own website, www.thedailyguru.net.

Joel Freimark
Many of the songs and artists he posts about are familiar to me.  But many of the songs and artists he posts about are completely unfamiliar to me.

Recently, he wrote about a song called "I Break Mirrors With My Face In The United States," by an experimental hip-hop group from Sacramento called the Death Grips.  

The song's title was so intriguing that I decided I would feature it on 2 or 3 lines.  But then I listened to it.

The Death Grips
I was tempted to feature another Death Grips song titled "You Might Think He Loves You For Your Money But I Know What He Really Loves You For It's Your Brand New Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat."  But after listening to it, I decided that my audience probably wouldn't be wild about it.   

That led me to briefly consider writing about "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat," the 1966 Bob Dylan song that obviously inspired the title of that Death Grips song.  But "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" is not one of Dylan's better efforts.

Audrey Hepburn wearing a
leopard-skin pillbox hat
And neither is "If Dogs Run Free," a song that an old friend of mine says she and her college friends used to listen to when they ingested LSD, or psilcybin, or whatever other psychedelic drug they could get their hands on.

Here's the first verse of "If Dogs Runs Free," which the readers of Rolling Stone chose as the sixth-worst Bob Dylan song ever:

If dogs run free, then why not we
Across the swooping plain?
My ears hear a symphony
Of two mules, trains and rain
The best is always yet to come
That's what they explain to me
Just do your thing, you'll be king
If dogs run free  

(Believe me, boys and girls, the other two verses are just as bad.)

By this time, it was getting late and I needed to pick a damn song already.  Then I remembered something that happened on day one of this year's NCAA basketball tournament.

Iowa State mascot
Cy the Cardinal
I've set up a "March Madness" bracket for my family and a friend or two.  When #3-seed Iowa State inexplicably lost to #14-seed UAB in one of the very first games of the first day of the tournament, my son Peter – who writes a wildly popular sports blog, and is also a correspondent for an up-and-coming sports website – sent a message to the group in which he essentially threw in the towel:

Iowa State is out already. They're a final four team for me. This year was fun, can't wait for next year! 

One of Peter's sisters taunted her brother thusly:

I only picked Iowa to win one game which means I know way more about sports than Peter

In response to that e-mail, one of my sons-in-law correctly pointed something out:

Iowa and Iowa State are different schools.

(Iowa also qualified for the tournament this year, as did Northern Iowa.)

University of Iowa mascot
Herky the Hawk
That son-in-law – who is a country music fan – went on to paraphrase today's featured song:

Iowa makes corn
Corn makes whiskey
Whiskey makes my baby
Feel a little frisky

One might question whether it shows good judgment for him to talk about my daughter getting drunk and acting "frisky."  But he since he provided me with a sorely-needed song to feature today, I'm not going to complain.

"Rain Is a Good Thing" was a #1 hit for country singer/songwriter Luke Bryan.  (Bryan is on a major hot streak.  He's released eleven singles since "Rain Is a Good Thing," which have included a #4 hit, a #2 hit, and NINE #1 hits.)

Bryan's father was a Georgia peanut farmer, so he grew up thinking of rain as a good thing.

Here's "Rain Is a Good Thing":

Click below to order the song from Amazon:

Friday, March 27, 2015

Marvin Gaye – "Got To Give It Up" (1977)

This is such a groovy place
All the young ladies are so fine!

"Got to Give It Up" was a #1 hit for the late Marvin Gaye in 1977.  "Blurred Lines" was a #1 hit for Robin Thicke in 2013.

Earlier this month, a Los Angeles jury found that "Blurred Lines" (which was written by Pharrell Williams) infringed Gaye's copyright on "Got to Give It Up," and awarded Gaye's family $7.4 million in damages.  

Marvin Gaye
I don't care how rich you are.  When you got to give it up to the tune of $7.4 million, you feel like you just got it up your you-know-what.

Writing in the New Yorker, Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu opined that not only was the jury's decision a mistake, but that the correct legal outcome was so clear that the judge shouldn't have even let the case go to the jury.  

According to Wu,

There is no question that Pharrell was inspired by Gaye and borrowed from him; he has freely admitted as much.  But, by that standard, every composer would be a lawbreaker.  The question is not whether Pharrell borrowed from Gaye but whether Gaye owned the thing that was borrowed.  And this is where the case falls apart.  For it was not any actual sequence of notes that Pharrell borrowed, but rather the general style of Gaye’s songs.  That is why “Blurred Lines” sounds very much like a Marvin Gaye song.  But to say that something “sounds like” something else does not amount to copyright infringement.

Copyright law is a hot mess.  Every time I've tried to figure out copyright law as it applies to music recordings, I've ended up with a headache.  But maybe I can explain a few things that will help you understand this case.

Robin Thicke
First of all, you should understand that Gaye's copyright extended only to the notes of the song – what you would see on sheet music for "Got to Give It Up" – and not the way those notes were performed on the song recording.

For example, both songs feature a falsetto lead vocal by a male singer, and both songs use a cowbell in a similar fashion.  Williams may have chosen to incorporate those elements in "Blurred Lines" because he was influenced by Marvin Gaye's use of them, but Gaye's copyright does not extend to a falsetto lead vocal and the use of a cowbell.

As a result, the judge ruled that the Gaye family's lawyers would not be able to play the sound recording of “Got To Give It Up” in court because it might influence the jury unfairly.  Instead, the  jurors were instructed to compare “Blurred Lines” and “Got To Give It Up” only on the basis of their melodies, chords, and lyrics.  

The judge did allow the jury to listen to a stripped-down version of Gaye's song.  (Assuming that some of the jurors couldn't read music the judge may have felt that he had to allow that.)  The Gaye family's lawyer also called expert musicologists to testify about the similarities between the two compositions.  

Juries are often influenced by the credibility and likability of the litigants.  Robin Thicke certainly didn't help himself when it came to winning friends and influencing the people on the jury.

Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus
Before the trial, Thicke told the media that "Got to Give It Up" inspired "Blurred Lines."  But in his deposition, the singer said that he was drunk and high on Vicodin during those interviews, and that what he said in those interviews was untrue.  He also admitted that he asked for a co-writer's credit on "Blurred Lines" even though Williams wrote the song almost singlehandedly.

More from Professor Wu:

The Gaye estate’s victory was an accomplished piece of lawyering . . . . The estate’s lawyers, taking advantage of the fact that Gaye is considerably more popular and respected than Thicke, made a dispute between two groups of wealthy people seem like a battle between good and evil.  Rather than focussing on what Gaye’s estate actually owned, the trial became a referendum on Thicke’s character.  As for that, the verdict was already clear.

Personally, I wonder if the jury had a problem with Pharrell's stupid hats:

Some of the biggest names in the songwriting business have been found guilty of infringement, including the legendary Brian Wilson.  

From the Los Angeles Times:

Wilson [told a story about] one of his group's big early hits, "Surfin' U.S.A.," which he built on melodic elements of a song by of one of his rock 'n' roll heroes, Chuck Berry.
"I just took 'Sweet Little Sixteen' and rewrote it into something of our own," Wilson, 72, said during an inyerview.
He was surprised — and not a little hurt, he said — when Berry's publisher later suggested that he'd done more than pay tribute to Berry, charging that "Surfin' U.S.A." plagiarized Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen." Berry prevailed and writing credit and publishing royalties were signed over to him.  
(Note the songwriter credit)
The Beatles had their share of copyright problems, too.  Chuck Berry also argued successfully that the Beatles' 1969 hit "Come Together" infringed Berry's "You Can't Catch Me."  And former Beatle George Harrison lost in court when the publishers of the Chiffons' 1963 hit "He's So Fine" claimed that Harrison's solo hit "My Sweet Lord" had copied the earlier song.
Stevie Wonder was one of the many prominent musicians who questioned the jury's finding that "Blurred Lines" infringed "Got To Give It Up."

I don’t think it’s a steal from Marvin Gaye.  I’ve been through lawsuits for songs and all that.  I think that the groove is very similar but you have to remember [Pharrell] is a big fan of Marvin Gaye’s so that’s okay.  But the song is not like Marvin Gaye’s.  It is not the same.
(You're probably think I quoted Stevie Wonder just so I could say something tasteless like "Even a blind man can see that the jury was wrong."  Sorry to disappoint you, boys and girls.)

Other musicians were gleeful that the jury administered a legal spanking to Robin Thicke – either because they are envious of Robin Thicke's commercial success, or because they are envious that he got a hot naked chick to appear in the "Blurred Lines" video with him:

Here's a mashup of the two songs so you can compare them for yourself:

Here's "Got To Give It Up":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Blood on the Dance Floor – "Revenge Porn" (2012)

Cheated on me and broke my heart
Gonna show the world your private parts

Many years ago, I worked at the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection – we Washington insiders call it "BCP" for short – whose staff attorneys spend most of their time going after marketers who are guilty of deceptive advertising or sales practices.

Apparently someone has introduced LSD into the drinking fountains at FTC headquarters.  That's the only explanation I can think of for the agency's recent decision to go after a "revenge porn" website operator named Craig Brittain. 

In case you lead a sheltered life and are not familiar with revenge porn, it’s a type of online harassment that involves the posting of sexually-explicit photos of people without their consent.  It’s called “revenge porn” because many or most of the people who provide the naked pictures to revenge-porn websites are jilted lovers or have some other kind of personal beef with the people in the pictures.

You would think that something named the "Bureau of Consumer Protection" would focus its efforts on protecting consumers.  But the victims of Brittain's operation were not consumers – at least, they weren't his consumers.  

BCP usually steps in when a marketer exaggerates the benefits of its products, or sells something that is unsafe or unhealthy.  In cases like those, the marketer's victims were consumers of its products.  

But BCP wouldn't get involved if someone sneaks into your house in the middle of the night and steals the family silver, or crashes into your car while driving drunk.  There are other law enforcement agencies who deal with non-consumer problems like those.

Here's something else odd about BCP's action against Brittain: the guy was strictly small potatoes.  His website generated only $12,000 in revenues, which made him a tiny fish in the very large pond of Internet sleaze.  Federal agencies usually reserve their fire for much larger targets, leaving the states and local agencies to clean up smaller fry like Brittain.

(She shouldn't have sent her
boyfriend that naked selfie!)
One other thing: state revenge-porn laws usually provide for tough criminal sanctions.  But the FTC's bark is worse than its a bite when it comes to punishing revenge pornsters.  The FTC's action against Brittain merely enjoins him from posting explicit photos without the subject's consent in the future -- what we legal types call a "go-and-sin-no-more" order.

Brittain was lucky that the FTC came after him instead of a state attorney general.  For example, about the same time the FTC issued its order against Brittain, a California revenge-pornster who operated a website that was very similar to Brittain's was found guilty of committing 27 felonies.  He faces up to 23 years in prison.

And last year, another California man was sentenced to a year in the poke for posting a single topless photo of his ex-girlfriend on Facebook.  

Brittain, who had photos of about 1000 people on his website, won't spend a day behind bars, and doesn't have to pay the government or his victims a penny under the terms of his settlement with the FTC. 

Most people view revenge porn as basically misogynistic, a form of male "cyber-rape" of females.

So it's tempting to explain the FTC's crusade against revenge porn by pointing out that the current FTC is essentially a matriarchy.  Personally, I don't buy that.  I don't believe that the fact that four of the five Commissioners (including the Chairwoman), the director of BCP, and the staff attorney who handled this investigation are all women had anything to do with their decision to pursue Craig Brittain.  No siree!

(It may surprise you to learn that revenge porn may not be predominantly male-on-female crime.  Click here to read a recent article from the Journal of Mass Media Ethics, which suggests that slightly more men than women are the victims of acts of online revenge.)

An FTC staffer wrote this about Brittain's website: "Brittain encouraged people (usually men) to send naked pictures of others (usually women)."  If that statement had been made by an advertiser, the FTC might well have accused it of deceptive advertising.  

The FTC staffer's use of "usually" may be literally true, but it's misleading.  Craig Brittain claimed that 48% of the people whose pictures were posted on his website were men – so it's true that most of the photos on his website were of women . . . but just barely.  (As far as I know, the FTC has not challenged Brittain's numbers, which indicate that he was an equal-opportunity offender.)

By the way, Brittain claims that about 55% of the photos on his website were "selfies" that had been posted on other public sites – Tumblr, Craigslist, etc. – and then reposted to Brittain's site.  (An anti-revenge porn advocacy group has said that 83% of all the photos posted on revenge porn websites were selfies that had been shared with someone.)  

Another 30% were posted by porn-site operators who had model releases from the subjects.  The remaining 10% were posted by the people in the photos, most of whom were hoping to get a modeling contract.

That means only about 5% of the pictures posted to Brittain's website were examples of actual revenge porn.

Ironically, the first person convicted under Virginia's new revenge porn law was a woman who posted a naked picture of her ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend on Facebook.

Click here to check out the "She's A Homewrecker!" website, which invites wives to post pictures of their husbands' mistresses.  It's operated by a suburban housewife.  (So much for sisterhood!)

I'm going to let the FTC know about that website.  I'm sure the folks who took on Craig Brittain will move toot sweet to shut "She's A Homewrecker" down.  (To quote Florence Jean "Flo" Castleberry: "When donkeys fly!")

One final note.  If the FTC was really concerned about the humiliation and shame caused by the posting of photos to revenge-porn websites without the subjects' permission, they should have gone after this website.  

I think it's awesome that there's an actual song about revenge porn that I can feature in this post.

Blood on the Dance Floor is an American electronica duo who released "Revenge Porn" on a 2012 album titled Evolution.  They get revenge porn:  

Revenge is best served cold and sweet
So face the music and accept defeat
Payback when I click submit . . . 
We'll upload your sh*t
And we'll take you down
You always said you would die to be famous
But you never thought it would be because of your an*s!

Here's "Revenge Porn":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

De La Soul -- "Me Myself and I" (1989)

What I do ain't make-believe . . .
It's just me, myself, and I

When you attend law school, you learn a lot about specific legal subject-matter areas – criminal law, contracts, evidence, constitutional law, corporations, taxation, and so on.

But the most important thing you learn in law school is how to think like a lawyer.

Today I'm going to illustrate what it means to think like a lawyer by telling you about a case I read about in the online edition of the American Bar Association's ABA Journal.  (Warning: once you start thinking like a lawyer, you might not be able to go back to thinking like a normal person.)

In 2011, Barbara Bagley of Salt Lake City was driving her Range Rover in the Nevada desert when she hit a big sagebrush, which caused her vehicle to flip.  Her husband, who was a passenger in the SUV, was severely injured in the accident and died ten days later.

Barbara Bagley's wrecked Land Rover
Subsequently, Barbara Bagley and Barbara Bagley sued Barbara Bagley, alleging that Barbara Bagley negligently caused the crash that killed her husband and demanding that Barbara Bagley pay damages to Barbara Bagley.

How can someone sue herself?  That's where thinking like a lawyer comes in.  You see, Barbara Bagley may be just one person, but she plays a number of legal roles.  

First, Barbara Bagley was her husband's sole heir under the terms of his will.  

Let's call that Barbara Bagley "Me."

Barbara Bagley's dogs won't be eating
 store-brand dog food any more!
Second, Barbara Bagley was also the personal representative of her husband's estate, and so responsible for administering that estate – collecting monies owed to the estate, paying bills owed by that estate, and so on.  (Other states use the term "executor.")  

We'll call that Barbara Bagley "Myself."

And third, Barbara Bagley was the defendant as a result of her allegedly negligent driving, which resulted in her husband's death.  

We'll call that Barbara Bagley "I." 

The trial court ruled that the relevant Utah statutes did not allow a "tortfeasor" (a person who commits a tort – here, negligent driving) to sue herself.  

But an appeals court ruled that the trial judge wasn't thinking like a lawyer.  Barbara Bagley and Barbara Bagley weren't really suing the same Barbara Bagley – that's as plain as the nose on your face.  Instead, Me and Myself were suing I.

In reality, of course, Me and Myself weren't really suing I -- they were suing I's insurance company, which would have to foot the bill for any judgment entered against her (up to the amount of the coverage amount of I's policy).   

But the way it works in our legal system is that you don't sue a negligent driver's insurance company directly.  You sue the negligent driver, whose insurance company defends the lawsuit and pays the judgment if there is one.  

The appeals court's opinion is based upon the plain meaning of the language of the relevant Utah statutes, and it's hard to argue with their logic.  Click here if you'd like to read that opinion.

The court's opinion
But Utah law provides that the plain meaning of a statute should be ignored if it leads to an absurd result.  

You may think that allowing someone to sue herself and recover damages for her own negligence is an absurd result.  Or, to put it another way, you may think that allowing a wife to kill her husband and not only inherit his estate but also get a nice fat check from her insurance company is an absurd result.

But that's because you are not thinking like a lawyer!  OR A WIFE!

Bagley and Bagley v. Bagley isn't the only example of what you might call "autolitigation."   From a 2014 story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

St. Paul Parks and Recreation employee Megan Campbell was driving a supply van back from a city storage building . . . when she turned a corner, causing serious front-bumper damage to a parked car.
The damaged 2001 Nissan Pathfinder in question wasn't just anybody's vehicle. It was her own.
Now, Campbell has filed a claim against the city . . . for damage caused to her personal vehicle by a city worker – herself.
"Because I was working for the city and driving the city vehicle, I feel they are responsible for paying for the damage done to my car," Campbell wrote in a "notice of claim" form received this week by the city clerk's office.
Megan Campbell is thinking like a lawyer!

"Me Myself and I" was released in 1989 on De La Soul's debut album, which was titled 3 Feet High and Rising.   

Here's De La Soul's "Me Myself, and I":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, March 20, 2015

blink-182, "All the Small Things" (1999)

Say it ain't so
I will not go

As a member of the American Bar Association, I get weekly e-mails from the ABA Journal.  

I usually just ignore them.  But last week's e-mail had links to a number of intriguing stories.

Here's the headline of one of those stories:

Traffic stop brings 3 enemas, 2 X-rays and 1 colonoscopy in cops' fruitless drug search, suit says

The whole thing started when David Eckert got pulled over by police when he ran a stop sign in the parking lot at a Walmart in Deming, New Mexico.

The police officer who stopped Eckert patted him down and began to question him.  Other officers brought in a drug-sniffing dog to go over Eckert's car, and then seized the vehicle when the dog indicated there were drugs in it.  (Police subsequently found no drugs in the car.)

The police were suspicious because Eckert appeared to be clenching his buttocks tightly after he stepped out of his car.  So one of the officers got a search warrant that authorized an anal cavity search, and took Eckert to the emergency room at the local hospital.

The Eckert search warrant
The ER physician on duty refused to perform the anal cavity search.  But that didn't stop Deming's finest, who transported Eckert to a hospital in Silver City, New Mexico – which is a mere 52 miles away from the Deming hospital.

The medical staff of the Silver City hospital was more cooperative than the doctor at the Deming ER.  They first did an X-ray – which was negative – then performed a digital rectal exam, and felt "something soft."  (Ewwwww!)

The Silver City hospital went on to do a second digital rectal exam (negative), three enemas (searching for narcotics in Eckert's bowel movements each time but finding none), a second X-ray (negative), and a colonoscopy (negative).

To add insult to injury, the hospital billed Eckert for the procedures.

Eckert's lawyer said there was no probable cause for the search warrant, that the search warrant wasn't valid in the county in which the second hospital was located, and that it had expired before the colonoscopy was performed.  

He filed suit against the city, the county, the second hospital, and several individual law-enforcement officers and doctors.  (One of the doctors who was being sued had a very cool name: Okay H. Odocha.)

My favorite line from Eckert's complaint is when it alleged that, after each of the enemas, Eckert was forced to have a "bowl movement" in the presence of both a nurse and one of the policemen.  (Since "bowl movement" appeared three times in the complaint, I don't think we're talking about a typo, boys and girls.)  

Click here if you'd like to read the complaint.  It not only makes entertaining reading, but could come in handy if the police ever have you anally searched, enema'd, and colonoscoped.  (No need to waste money on a lawyer – just change the names and dates and use Eckert's complaint.)

Eckert was awarded $1.6 million.  I'd gladly put up with all the stuff he put up with for $1.6 million – wouldn't you?

"All the Small Things" was the second single from blink-182's 1999 album, Enema of the State.  It was a big hit for the San Diego-area pop punk band, peaking at #2 – that's right, I said #2 – on the UK singles chart.

Here's "All the Small Things":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Orthodox Celts – "The Wearing of the Green" (1997)

Saint Patrick's Day no more we'll keep
His color can't be seen
For they're hanging men and women
For the wearing of the green

St. Patrick, the primary patron saint of Ireland, was born in Roman Britain – perhaps in England, perhaps in Scotland, perhaps in Wales . . . but definitely not in Ireland.  It was only after he converted to Christianity as a young man that he decided to go to Ireland and be a missionary.

St. Patrick died on March 17, and the Irish have observed the date of his death as a religious holiday for hundreds of years.  But St. Patrick's Day wasn't a national holiday in Ireland until 1903.

St. Patrick
You'll never believe this, but the government required Irish pubs to close on St. Patrick's Day until 1970.  I'm serious – can you imagine that?  

Today, of course, most people associate St. Patrick's Day with getting hammered.  The only occasion that rivals St. Patrick's Day when it comes to drunkenness is New Year's Eve.

I once worked with a guy who drank ten times as much as anyone I've ever known.  He was Irish, of course.  But he wouldn't drink on St. Patrick's Day.  "That's when the amateurs go out to drink," he said.

Besides drinking too much, the most widely observed St. Patrick's Day custom is wearing green clothing.  

I myself am careful never to wear green on March 17 lest someone mistakenly assume that I am Irish.  (I don't wear orange either -- it has nothing to do with religion.)

St. Patrick is said to have used three-leaved shamrocks to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity to the Irish – who were apparently a little slow even when they weren't drinking.  (According to historians, that was almost never.)  So the Irish began to wear shamrocks and, eventually, green ribbons or other green items on March 17 in honor of St. Patrick.

St. Patrick's Day falls during Lent, but Irish priests waived the usual Lenten prohibition against the consumption of meat to allow their parishioners to eat corned beef and cabbage on the holiday.  

Actually, the Irish used to eat bacon and cabbage.  But then Irish immigrants who lived on New York City's Lower East Side learned about corned beef -- which was cheaper than bacon -- from their Jewish neighbors.  (Two stereotypes for the price of one today!)

She's definitely Irish
"The Wearing of the Green," a traditional Irish ballad, laments the repression of Irish revolutionaries by British loyalists in the late 18th century.  Wearing green ribbons or cockades to show support for Irish independence was considered seditious behavior by the authorities.  

The song has been recorded by many performers, including famed Irish tenor John McCormack and Judy Garland.  But the version that we are featuring today was recorded by the Orthodox Celts, which is a Serbian band that specializes in Irish folk music.

The Orthodox Celts traditionally play a concert in Belgrade every St. Patrick's Day.  They also are regulars at the Belgrade Beer Fest in August, a four-day or five-day event that attracts hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors annually (including many Irish).

Here's "The Wearing of the Green":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Crystal Waters – "Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless)" (1991)

She's just like you and me
But she's homeless . . . she's homeless

You've heard of the Emmys and the Grammys.  But have you heard of the Wammies?  (Now that I think about it, shouldn't the Wammies be the Wammys?)

The Wammies are awards given each year by the Washington Area Music Association (or "WAMA") to recognize the musical accomplishments of musicians in the DMV – meaning the District of Columbia and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs.

The 29th Wammies gala will be held tonight at 8 PM at the State Theatre in Falls Church, VA.  I understand that good seats are still available.

I wish I could attend the Wammies but ESPN is showing I Hate Christian Laettner tonight – part of its wonderful 30 for 30 film series – and I really want to see it.

Wammies attendees lining
up at the State Theatre
WAMA had to disqualify a number of Wammies ballots this year.  Members are not required to nominate artists in each of the dozens of categories honored at the Wammies, but if you choose to nominate someone in a particular category – say, "Bluegrass Group" or "Classical Chamber Ensemble" or "Roots Rock Instrumentalist" – you must nominate more than just one artist in that category.  

It seems that a number of the voters in this year's Wammies nominated just one artist – themselves.  So WAMA had to take a mulligan and reopen the voting.

The 2011 Wammies
If you're a Washington-area professional musician and you aren't nominated for the Wammies, you probably should find a new career.  If my count is correct, there are a staggering 427 different groups and solo artists on this year's Wammies ballot.  I don't go out to listen to live music by local artists very often, so I've heard of only a handful of the nominated artists. 

The WAMA Hall of Fame was created in 1985 and currently has 70-odd members, the oddest of which is definitely Francis Scott Key.  Key may have written the words for "The Star-Spangled Banner," but I don't think writing the words to just one song makes you a musician – even if that song was a really big hit.

The Starland Vocal Band is in the WAMA Hall of Fame, but Crystal Waters isn't.  (Quelle horreur!)  

Crystal Waters
Waters (whose great-aunt was the legendary singer Ethel Waters) began writing poetry shortly after moving to Washington when she was a child.  When she was only 14, she became the youngest person ever to be inducted into the American Poetry Society.

After graduating from Howard University, Waters worked as a computer technician before trying her hand at writing songs.  "Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless)" was written for an established recording artist, but the production team she worked for was so taken with the demo of the song that Waters cut that they gave her a recording contract.

Here's the song, which made it to #1 on the Billboard "Hot Dance Music" chart, and peaked at #8 on the "Hot 100."

(La da dee, la da da, la da dee, la da da . . .)

"Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless)" was brilliantly parodied by Kim Wayans on In Living Colour:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, March 13, 2015

Moby Grape – "Murder In My Heart For The Judge" (1968)

I've got murder in my heart for the judge
That bad old judge wouldn't budge

I get a weekly e-mail from the American Bar Association Journal, which I usually delete without reading.  But for some reason, I took a look at the most recent one I received.

Virtually every one of the articles that e-mail linked to was interesting.  In the next few 2 or 3 lines posts, I'll summarize the most intriguing of those articles.  (Or maybe not.  I might change my mind.)

Today is Friday the 13th, which is an appropriate day to write about William Ray Phillips of Waco, Texas.  (If Mr. Phillips didn't have bad luck, he wouldn't have no luck at all.)  Here's the headline to the ABA Journal article about Philips, which pretty much says it all:

Angry at 10-year prison term, offender tries to arrange to kill judge and gets another 80 years

According to the article, the 64-year-old Phillips was sentenced to that 10-year prison term for failing to register as a sex offender.

William Ray Phillips
Phillips argued that the registration requirement didn't apply to his 2007 conviction for child abuse, which resulted in a 99-year prison term.  (His daughter had testified that Phillips had abused her from the time she was 18 months old until she was seven years old, and also took many lewd photographs of her.)  But his conviction was overturned by a Texas appeals court, which held that the statute of limitations for the crime had expired.  

However, Texas district judge Matt Johnson ruled that the sex-offender registration requirement still applied because Phillips had also been convicted of breaking a federal child-pornography law.

After he was sentenced, Phillips offered a hit man $30,000 to off Judge Johnson.  The only problem was that the hit man was actually an undercover Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agent.

That was mistake #1.  Mistake #2 came when Phillips decided to go to trial instead of accepting a plea bargain  that called for a 30-year prison term for the solicitation of murder charge.  (He would have been eligible for parole after 15 years.)

Apparently Texas juries are not at all sympathetic to guys who sexually abuse their young daughters and try to arrange for the assassination of judges.  After deliberating less than an hour, the jury found Phillips guilty.  He was subsequently sentenced to 80 years in prison.  (He can seek parole in 30 years – when he'll be 94 years old.)

The Wow album cover
"Murder In My Heart For The Judge," which was written by Moby Grape drummer Don Stevenson, was released in 1968 on the group's Wow album.

Writer Jeff Tamarkin summed up Moby Grape's career in these words:

The Grape's saga is one of squandered potential, absurdly misguided decisions, bad luck, blunders and excruciating heartbreak, all set to the tune of some of the greatest rock and roll ever to emerge from San Francisco.  Moby Grape could have had it all, but they ended up with nothing, and less."

Here's "Murder In My Heart For The Judge":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Jan and Dean – "Sidewalk Surfin'" (1964)

Bust your buns
Bust your buns now!

February may be the shortest month for the rest of you.  But thanks to "29 Songs in 28 Days," February is the longest month for 2 or 3 lines.  

All I feel like doing after posting every single day for a whole month is lying down with a cool washcloth on my forehead.

But lying down with a cool washcloth on one's forehead don't feed the bulldog.  I have to produce three posts a week come rain or come shine.  It's time to get back to work.

Which doesn't mean I can't phone one in every so often, of course.  

When I can't think of a good idea for a post, I fall back on my favorite corner-cutting strategy: I fire up Google and see who was born and who died on today's date.

It turns out that March 10 is the birthday of a number of notable musicians.  

Rick Rubin
For example, a couple of notable record producers were born on March 10.  Most of you are familiar with the legendary producer Rick Rubin, who worked with everyone from the Beastie Boys to the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Johnny Cash to Rage Against the Machine to Lady Gaga, who was born on this date in 1963.

But don't sleep on Huey P. Meaux (a/k/a "The Crazy Cajun"), who was born on March 10, 1929.  Huey produced hits by the Sir Douglas Quintet, Freddy Fender, and others.  Unfortunately, he was caught in possession of thousands of photos and videos of underage girls in sexual situations, and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

As for recording artists with March 10 birthday, there's Tom Scholz (born in 1947), the MIT grad who founded the group.  

And Edie Brickell (1966), whose biggest hit was "What I Am."  (You may not know that Edie has been married to Paul Simon since 1992.)

Edie Brickell and Paul Simon in 2014
Country-and-western songstress superstar Carrie Underwood was born on this day in 1983.

And two artists associated with Miley Cyrus –Canadian pop star Robin Thicke (born in 1977), who was famously tweaked on by young Miss Cyrus, and Emily Osment (born in 1992), who got her start as Miley's Hannah Montana co-star – have March 10 birthdays.

But today's 2 or 3 lines is dedicated to a different March 10 birthday boy: namely, Dean Torrence of Jan and Dean, who is celebrating his 75th birthday today.

Jan and Dean were one of my favorites when I was in junior high school.  "Dead Man's Curve," which was a top-ten hit in 1964, was one of the first singles I ever owned, and Surf City (and Other Swingin' Cities) – which featured "Memphis, Tennessee," "Tallahassee Lassie," "Kansas City," "Honolulu Lulu," "Detroit City," and "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," among others – was one of my first LPs.

"Sidewalk Surfin'," which made it #25 on the Billboard "Hot 100" chart in 1964, is a song about skateboarding.

Dean's partner, Jan Berry, wanted to record a skateboarding song but was having trouble coming up one.  So he went to his good buddy Brian Wilson and asked for permission to borrow the 1963 Beach Boys' song, "Catch a Wave," with different lyrics.

Growing up in Joplin, Missouri, the opportunities for real surfing were few and far between, but I did have a skateboard.  I wasn't a half bad sidewalk surfer, although I did bust my buns a time or two.

Jan and Dean performed "Sidewalk Surfin'" in the T.A.M.I. Show, the fabulous 1964 concert movie that they co-hosted with the late Lesley Gore.  (Other artists who appeared in that movie included James Brown, Chuck Berry, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, the Beach Boys, and the Rolling Stones.)   

Here are Jan and Dean performing "Sidewalk Surfin'" and then demonstrating their skateboarding technique on American Bandstand

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: