Sunday, January 29, 2017

Dave Mason – "Shouldn't Have Took More than You Gave" (1970)

Shouldn't have took more than you gave
Then we wouldn't be in this mess today
I know we've all gone different ways
But the dues we’ve got to pay are still the same

A few weeks ago, 2 or 3 lines received the following e-mail from a young writer who had decided to follow Ralph Waldo Emerson's advice and “hitch his wagon to a star”:

Hi there,

As I'm sure you're busy, I'll try to be as brief as possible.  My name is Jason Gordon and I'm a young writer looking to make a name for myself.  I recently started a sports blog called USS Sports Machine with a group of like-minded (young aspiring writer) friends from college and am actively looking to grow my audience.

I think I can provide you with some great work at 2 or 3 lines and hope there is an opportunity for me to create some original work for you in a non-paid role.  I am always eager to expand my topical range and write about new things . . . .

I can write about absolutely anything and everything and would greatly appreciate the chance to work with you.

Jason Gordon

I am an extremely busy man, but I am never too busy to respond to someone who offers to provide free content for 2 or 3 lines.  (“Non-paid role” – how sweet the sound!)

Jason and I are obviously kindred spirits.  (I, too, believe that I can write about “absolutely anything and everything.”)  So I replied to his e-mail and invited him to pick a song, any song, and write something about it.

Click here to read Jason Gordon's blog
A few days later, Jason sent me his thoughts on my favorite Dave Mason song, “Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave.”

Which was an odd coincidence . . . because I had spent the hour before I checked my e-mail and found Jason’s missive working on a post about a different Dave Mason song.

I was a little surprised that a young whippersnapper like Jason had picked such an old song to write about.

Jason Gordon
2 or 3 lines: “Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave" was released in 1970 -- long before you were born in 1992.  How do you even know about that song?

Jason:  My father was a huge Traffic fan, so I heard the song from him first.  I think Dave Mason is an incredible lyricist, and pay extra attention to songs he writes.

Dave Mason (wearing the hat) and Traffic
2 or 3 lines:  When my kids were younger, it never entered my mind that the music I listened to would have any influence on them.  But when my older son got married a few years ago, the song he chose for his first dance with his bride was “God Only Knows,” by the Beach Boys.  I listened to Pet Sounds a lot when he was growing up, and the songs from that album stuck with him.

Jason:  My earliest musical memory as a child was listening to the Grateful Dead and Phish while I was riding around in the back of my dad’s Saab convertible.  Both of my parents were musical, and had an extensive CD and record collection.  Maybe that’s why the music I listened to in high school – Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Pink Floyd, the Eagles – was definitely a little older than what my peers liked.  

2 or 3 lines: Do you play any instruments yourself?  

Jason:  I play drums, guitar, trumpet, and piano, and I like to think I have a knack for songwriting.  I never sang with any kind of organization because unfortunately I have a terrible voice.

*     *     *     *     *

Dave Mason sacrificed grammar for meter when he wrote “Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave,” which was released on Alone Together, his first solo album after leaving Traffic:

The "Alone Together" album cover
Here’s Jason Gordon’s take on that song: 

“Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave,” a song by Dave Mason – who is best known as one of the founders of the Hall of Fame sixties band, Traffic – is like an Aesop’s fable fed through a psychedelic filter.  

The composition is hazy, with progressive guitar licks dominating much of the track.  The drums are full-bodied and counterbalance the experimental sound of the guitar nicely.  Mason's singing possesses a hazy wonderment and tranquil aura that always puts me in a happy place.     

The song as a whole feels like an exercise in balancing long-standing morals about fairness while acknowledging the surreal nature of life.  Mason isn't delivering a diatribe to the listener; if it feels like he is, that impression is offset by the nimble guitar solos and groovy aesthetic that dominates the composition. 

It's a song that feels bound to Earth in terms of lyrical content, while simultaneously out-of-this-world in terms of instrumentation and musical arrangement.  However, it never feels like a tug-of-war, because Mason is able to pull off both elements.  

Listening, you feel bound to reality and understand the plight that he is talking about, but also are able to escape into the dreamy atmosphere he conjures up.  On repeated listens, the anticipation of the instrumental breakdowns makes for an even more satisfying experience; you really appreciate how much control Mason has over the whole affair.

Dave Mason then and now
Mason allots his words nicely, allowing for the impact of his lyricism to be felt rather than overstuffing the track with too many words and not enough meaning.  The opening lines [which are quoted at the beginning of this post] are the most powerful and set the tone of the song very well.

From the start, Mason is casting blame onto another person.  However, it's not entirely clear what the offense was.  This allows for different listeners to affix the meaning to different scenarios they themselves have gone through.  Mason also acknowledges how people take different routes in life, but ultimately, everyone has to follow the same general guidelines in life if we want to live together in harmony.

Many real-life lessons can be drawn from Mason's lyrics here.  If you stray off the beaten path, that is your absolute right.  However, too many people believe that the freedom to be unorthodox excuses you from responsibility.  You might think it's not cool to stay in school and choose to drop out.  However, by doing so, you may initiate a domino effect that will be detrimental to you and those around you.  Life is all about taking chances, but that comes with the understanding that if you take chances on certain things, it will likely come back to haunt you.

My favorite thing about “Shouldn't Have Took More Than You Gave” is that it imparts lessons without feeling like it is doing so.  It's like a wise friend who always has good advice, but who never delivers that advice in an overbearing manner.

Here’s “Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, January 27, 2017

Margaret Whiting and Jimmy Wakely – "Slippin' Around" (1949)

Though you're tied up with someone else
And I'm all tied up, too

As you regular readers of 2 or 3 lines already know, last spring I moved my recently widowed 91-year-old mother from her home in Joplin, Missouri to an assisted living facility near my home in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC.

The good thing about this arrangement is that I live only a few miles away from her apartment, so I can easily visit her every day.

The entrance to my mother's
 assisted living facility
The bad thing about this arrangement is that I live only a few miles away from her apartment, so I have no excuse for not visiting her every day.

Let’s call a spade a spade, boys and girls.  My mother fell off a cliff psychologically when my father died just over a year ago.  She is not the same person she was before that happened, and she never will be – she’s lonely and querulous and pathologically anxious about even trivial things.    

My sense of duty is strong enough that I go visit her every day.  But I get no pleasure from those visits.  She’s miserable, which is making me miserable.

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 11:00 am, her assisted living facility offers a 30-minute group exercise class that’s led by one of the resident physical therapists.  My mother is in reasonably good physical condition given that she’s 91, has had three joint replacements, and fell eight months ago and broke her C2 vertebra.  So I encourage her to go to those exercise sessions – in part because it’s good for her body and in part to get her to do something other than sit in her room and stare at the wall (or the Weather Channel, which quickly becomes less interesting to watch than that wall).

In fact, I do more than encourage her – I walk with her to the exercise classes and then exercise with her and the other residents who attend.  (Sometimes, I do leave before the class is over.  But most of the time I stick it out for the entire class.)

The dining room
There are about a dozen residents – almost all are women – who regularly attend.  One or two of them are quite a bit younger than my mother, and seem pretty capable physically.  (It’s not clear why they are in assisted living.)  

A few are closer to my mother’s age and somewhat limited physically, but can do most of the exercises.  

The remainder of the class members are people who are confined to wheelchairs, and who may or may not have cognitive issues – some of those women attempt to follow along, while others mostly just sit and stare.

The Monday and Wednesday sessions are led by a middle-aged African-American women who in very good shape.  She always wears serious exercise tops – colorful spandex tops and pants and shiny new Nike shoes – and plays seventies and eighties pop and R&B.  If you listened to her with your eyes closed, you would think she was a personal trainer leading twenty-somethings in an exercise class at a gym.   

Her workouts – which emphasize core strength – are done while seated in a chair, and the movements are appropriate for physically limited seniors.  (I like this instructor a lot, and I’ve arranged for her to do an individual exercise session with my mother one day a week so we have someone who is regularly monitoring her strength and flexibility.)

The Friday workouts – also done while seated – are led a young male who’s more of a rehab type than a personal-trainer type.  He wears khakis and a polo shirt with an embroidered logo, and the movements he usually does seem aimed more at maintaining joint flexibility and function.

The Friday guy is very cheery – a little too cheery for my taste.  Of course, I’m not exactly in a good mood when I’m attending his class with my mother – I would rather be just about anywhere else than there.  

The physical therapy room
One of motions he regularly has the class do involves rotating the upper body and moving the arms in a circular fashion like you are stirring a big pot of something.  As we do that movement, he says things like “Stir a pot of chili!” or “Stir some butternut squash soup!” 

He also incorporates a seated rowing motion into his routine, singing “Row, row, row your boat” as he does so.

I don’t really enjoy a minute of the time I spend at my mother’s assisted living place, but the minutes I enjoy the very least are the minutes when I am doing the seated rowing and listening to a dozen or so women – all of whom are elderly, and most of whom are mentally and physically infirm – singing “Row, row, row your boat.”  

The one small blessing is that everyone sings the song in unison – thankfully no one attempts to sing it as a round.

The Friday exercise leader used to play fairly contemporary pop at his classes – songs that were popular on the radio when he was in high school or college, I’m guessing.  

But recently, he’s been playing a CD consisting of hits from the mid-forties – “Swinging on a Star” by Bing Crosby, “On the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe” by Judy Garland, “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)” by Tex Williams, and “Mañana (Is Soon Enough for Me)” by Peggy Lee, to name just a few.  

None of my mother's fellow
 residents look like this
My mother was about 20 when those songs were popular, so the CD is probably a good choice for her.  Or it would be if her hearing was good enough for her to enjoy music . . . or if her state of mind was such that she enjoyed anything.

Actually, she does enjoy spending time with her six-month-old great-grandson Jack.  But even his visits have become a source of anxiety for her.  If I bring him to her apartment, she’s afraid that we’re breaking the rules.  And when I bring her to my house for some family time, she is convinced that they will kick her out of her apartment while she’s gone.

(Note: I had originally planned to discreetly take a few photos of the exercise class, but that wouldn't have been right.  So you're going to have to use your imagination.)

*     *     *     *     *

I don’t remember hearing “Slippin’ Around” before this morning’s exercise class.  

The song was written and recorded by Floyd Tillman in 1949.  But the version on the CD that the class leader played today was the cover released later that year by Margaret Whiting and Jimmy Wakely.  (Ernest Tubb, Ray Price, Dave Dudley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and several other recording artists covered  “Slippin’ Around” as well.)  

On paper, it makes a lot of sense to perform the song as a female-male duet  than as a solo because that brings home the fact that each of the two lovers is cheating on his or her spouse.  But the Whiting-Wakely duet we're featuring today sounds a bit more happy-go-lucky that it should.  (The singers frankly don't sound all that guilty about what they are doing.)  

Here’s “Slippin’ Around”:

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

Monday, January 23, 2017

Electric Prunes – "Sold to the Highest Bidder" (1967)

Sold, sold, sold
To the highest bidder

Invaluable is the world’s leading online marketplace for fine art, antiques, and collectible.   In 2015, Invaluable partnered with auction houses in 52 countries to provide online bidding in over 17,000 auctions.

You can click here to browse Invaluable's auctions.

The folks at Invaluable keep me informed about auctions that they think might be of interest to 2 or 3 lines.  Last week, they tipped me off to a University Archives auction of letters, books, and photographs autographed by American Presidents, gangsters, artists, astronauts, and other notable folks, as well as a few non-autographed items.

Here are a few of the more interesting items in that auction – all of which are likely to be available for a very reasonable price.

Lot 7 in the auction is a signed photo of Apollo 11 astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin wearing his NASA spacesuit:

Buzz Aldrin
Lot 9 is a similar autographed photo of Neil Armstrong, who was the mission commander of Apollo 11:

Neil Armstrong
The estimate for the Aldrin photo is $300 to $400, while Armstrong’s picture is expected to go for $900 to $1000.  Both men walked on the moon, but Armstrong walked on it first – I assume that’s why his photo is likely to attract a higher winning bid.

Lot 10 is a very different Armstrong item – a 2007 letter to his classmate, Doris “Punky” Weber, accepting an invitation to attend the upcoming 60th reunion of the class of 1947 of Blume High School, which was located in Wapakoneta, Ohio.

Invaluable thinks lot 10 will go for $600 to $800:

"Dear Punky"
Moe Berg was a major-league catcher in the 1920s and 1930s who joined the U. S. Office of Strategic Services (which later became the CIA) in 1943 and parachuted into Yugoslavia to gather intelligence about the various groups who were fighting the Nazis.  Thanks to his successful completion of that and several other missions, Berg was offered the Medal of Freedom – an award established by President Truman to honor civilians whose efforts helped the U.S. and its allies win the war.  (Berg was one of only 33 people to be offered the medal.)  

Lot 14 in the auction is a handwritten draft letter (estimated sale price: $1200 to $1500) from Berg rejecting the medal:

(Thanks, but no thanks)
No one is sure why Berg turned down the award.  He was a very smart guy – he graduated from Princeton and Columbia Law School, spoke several languages, and read 10 newspapers a day – but was described as “the strangest man ever to play baseball” by Casey Stengel, who was quite possibly the second strangest man ever to play baseball.  

(By the way, a movie based on The Catcher Was a Spy, Nicholas Dawidoff’s biography of Berg, is expected to be released later this year.  Paul Rudd will play Berg.)

Lot 23 consists of two posh robes – one for a man, one for a woman – given to President George H. W. Bush by the Emir of Kuwait in gratitude for American support of Kuwait in the first Gulf War:

Invaluable thinks the two robes will sell for $1000 to $1200, which sounds like a bargain to me – I bet you’d have to spend that much or more to get equally fancy robes at Neiman-Marcus, and those robes wouldn’t have the impressive historical pedigree that the Lot 23 robes have.  Put one of these bad boys on over your pajamas before you go outside to retrieve your morning newspaper and you can best believe your neighbors will be impressed.

Lot 50 is a wanted poster for John Dillinger issued by the U. S. Department of Justice in 1934.    You should be able to snag this poster or a similar one for Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow (Lot 45) for a mere $400 to $500:

Wanted: John Dillinger
The big bargain of the auction may be Lot 194, which is a check in the amount of $25 made out by sex symbol Mae West to her longtime assistant, Larry Lee.  Invaluable believes that the winning bid for this item will be between $100 and $150:

"I only like two kinds of men:
domestic and imported"
If you’d like to check out any of the 200-odd lots being offered, click here to go to the website for the auction, which begins at 10:30 am tomorrow – Tuesday, January 24.

*     *     *     *     *

The Electric Prunes’ biggest hit was “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night),” which was released on their eponymous debut album in 1967.  It and today’s featured song, “Sold to the Highest Bidder,” were both penned by a female songwriting duo, Annette Tucker and Nancie Martz.  

Here’s “Sold to the Highest Bidder”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Mormon Tabernacle Choir – "Onward, Christian Soldiers" (2015)

We are not divided
All one body we

(Not exactly.)

Yesterday, Donald John Trump became the 45th President of the United States.

The television networks provided saturation coverage of almost every detail of the day – from the swearing-in ceremony, to Trump’s inaugural remarks, to the inaugural parade, to the inaugural balls.

The Trumps entering St. John's
But television cameras were not allowed inside historic St. John’s Episcopal Church today for the 8:30 Inauguration Day prayer service, which was attended by the President-elect and Vice President-elect (and their families), the new Cabinet’s members, other special guests, and a few St. John’s parishioners (including several members of my family).  

The Vice President-elect tweeted from St. John's
St. John’s – which is located directly across Lafayette Square from the White House – open for business in 1816.

Here's a drawing of St. John's as it looked when it was new.  In the background is the White House, which had been torched by the British in 1814:

St. John's in 1816
Every American President since James Madison has worshipped there, and every President since Ronald Reagan has attended a special Inauguration Day service there.

Pew 54 at St. John's is reserved for
the President and his family
The St. John’s service had no particular political significance, but it was part of a historic day, and I believe the details of the service should be made part of the historical record of our country’s 58th Inauguration Day.  So here’s a summary of what took place at St. John’s yesterday morning.

The Reagans at St. John's in 1981
The service opened with an organ performance of Aaron Copland’s well-known “Fanfare for the Common Man.”

Next was a choral prelude that consisted of three pieces from Jake Heggie’s “Sing Out, Mr. President” – the entire work consists of choral settings of quotes from 16 Presidents – and Stephen Paulus’s “Hymn for America.”

The processional hymn was the familiar “God Of Our Fathers.”

St. John's as it looks today
Next was an Old Testament reading – Isaiah 26:1-8 – read by Pastor Jentezen Franklin of the Free Chapel Worship Center, a multi-site church based in Gainesville, GA:

On that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; he sets up victory like walls and bulwarks.  Open the gates, so that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace – in peace because they trust in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock.  For he has brought low the inhabitants of the height; the lofty city he lays low.  He lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust.  The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.  The way of the righteous is level; O Just one, you make smooth the path of the righteous.  In the path of thy judgments, O Lord, we wait for you; your name and your renown are the soul’s desire.

Pastor Mark Burns with former
President Carter at St. John's 
Next, Pastor Mark Burns of the Harvest Praise & Worship Center of Easley, SC, led the congregation in a reading of Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd; 
I shall not be in want.  
He makes me lie down in green pastures 
and leads me beside still waters.  
He revives my soul 
and guides me along right pathways 
for his Name's sake.  
Though I walk through the valley 
of the shadow of death, 
I shall fear no evil; 
for you are with me; 
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  
You spread a table before me 
in the presence of those 
who trouble me;  
you have anointed my head with oil, 
and my cup is running over.  
Surely your goodness and mercy 
shall follow me all the days of my life, 
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

During the service
After St. John’s Choir sang “Zion’s Walls” (an old revival song that was arranged by Aaron Copland), Jerry L. Falwell, Jr., the President of Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA, read Matthew 6:5-13:

And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.  But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  Pray then in this way: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come.  Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.”

The great altar window at St. John's
depicts the Last Supper
Next, Dr. Jay Strack, the President of there Student Leadership University in Orlando, read Philippians 4:4-9:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.  Let your gentleness be known to everyone.  The Lord is near.  Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

The congregation then sang “Be Thou My Vision.”

Two St. John's kneelers
Dr. Robert Jeffress, Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, delivered a homily titled “When God Chooses a Leader,” which was followed by the singing of the hymn, “Here I Am, Lord.”

After prayers by St. John’s rector, The Rev. Dr. Luis León, the congregation said “The Lord’s Prayer.”

My daughter took this picture of the
Trumps and their family inside St. John's
The Vice-President-elect was blessed by Dr. James Dobson, an evangelical author and the President of Family Talk.  the President-elect was then blessed by the Rev. James Robison, a televangelist who is also President of Life Outreach International, an international relief organization.

Finally, the congregation sang “Onward, Christian Soldiers.”

The Trumps departing St. John's
*     *     *     *     *

The words to “Onward, Christian Soldiers” were written in 1865 by Sabine Baring-Gould, an Anglican priest who was also a prolific author.  But the hymn did not become popular until composer Arthur Sullivan – best-known for his operatic collaborations with W. S. Gilbert – wrote a new tune for it in 1871.  

Arthur Sullivan
There’s no hymn that’s more familiar to me.  It was a staple in my church when I was a child, and I learned to play a showy, over-the-top arrangement of the hymn for solo piano when I was a teenager – much to the delight of my mother, my grandmother, and my Arkansas aunts.

“Onward, Christian Soldiers” is viewed as too militaristic by politically correct types, and there have been efforts to remove it from the hymnals of several mainstream Protestant denominations – including the Episcopal Church.  But rank and file Episcopal churchgoers spoke out – just as American voters spoke out last November 8 – and “Onward, Christian Soldiers” was restored to the Episcopal hymnal.  (FYI, it’s hymn 562.)

Here’s the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing “Onward, Christian Soldiers”:

Friday, January 20, 2017

Yorktown Fifes and Drums – "The World Turned Upside Down" (2013)

If ponies rode men and if grass ate the cows
And cats should be chased into holes by the mouse
If summer were spring and the other way round
Then all the world would be upside down

Those lyrics are très à propos for today . . . n’est-ce pas?

Tradition has it that when Lord Cornwallis, the commander of the British forces at Yorktown, Virginia, surrendered to George Washington in October 1781, the British band played an old ballad titled “The World Turned Upside Down” as the British troops marched out of their fortifications and laid down their muskets.

Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown
There’s a good chance that tradition is a bunch of hokum.  For one thing, there are no contemporary accounts of the surrender that mention “The World Turned Upside Down.”  Click here to read an article that examines whether “The World Turned Upside Down” was actually played at Yorktown.

*     *     *     *     *

Historians may question whether British musicians performed “The World Turned Upside Down” as Lord Cornwallis’s army surrendered.  But no one questions that the song would have been a most appropriate choice, given that Washington’s victory at Yorktown was a killing blow to British efforts to hold on to their American colonies.  

Donald Trump’s victory last November was almost as unthinkable as the victory of the colonists over the most powerful empire in the world.

Lord North, the British prime minister, reportedly said “Oh God, it’s all over!” when he was informed of Cornwallis’s capitulation at Yorktown.  Hillary Clinton must have said something very similar when the networks called Pennsylvania for Trump, giving him an unsurmountable lead in electoral votes.

Almost 91% of the voters living in Your Nation’s Capital – a/k/a Washington, DC – cast their ballots for Clinton.  Trump received barely 4% of the votes.  (The remaining 5% went to third-party and write-in candidates.)

The results were almost as one-sided in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs of Washington.  That means a lot of my friends, neighbors, and co-workers woke up this morning singing along with the Walker Brothers:

The sun ain’t gonna shine any more
The moon ain’t gonna rise in the sky

Just take a deep breath, boys and girls . . . you’ll be fine.  If I survived the Red Sox coming back from a three-games-to-none deficit to beat the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, you’ll survive four years of President Donald John Trump.  (Eight years may be a different story, of course.)

Here’s “The World Turned Upside Down” as performed by the Yorktown Fifes and Drums, a group of some 85 boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 18 who perform regularly at the Yorktown battlefield:

Click below to buy "The World Turned Upside Down" from Amazon:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ashton, Gardner and Dyke – "Resurrection Shuffle" (1971)

Think about nothing
Now you're nice and high

I spent every night of the summer of 1971 at Nina’s Green Parrot in Galena, Kansas, drinking 3.2% beer and listening to the jukebox.

That’s an exaggeration, of course.  Nina’s was closed on Sundays, so I couldn’t spend every night there.

The building that housed Nina's was torn
down in 2007 after a mine cave-in
But I could spend every Monday through Saturday night in Galena . . . and I did.

I was 19 years old that summer.  I had just completed my freshman year at Rice University in Houston.

I worked that summer at a large grocery warehouse in Joplin, Missouri — where I was born and reared.  (As one of my English teachers taught us, you raise animals but you don’t raise children – you rear them.)

My shift started at 7:00 in the morning and ended at 3:30.  Most days, I unloaded rail cars for $3.25 an hour.  (That was good money for 1971.  The minimum wage back then was $1.60.)

Most of the products the warehouse stocked came in on trucks.  But the warehouse usually received three or four rail cars each day.  

One guy was assigned to unload each car, which was filled with items from a single company.  You might have a car from General Mills (Cheerios and Wheaties cereals, Bisquick, Betty Crocker baking mixes), Scott Paper (toilet paper and paper towels), Clorox (bleach and cleaning products), or Ralston-Purina (dog and cat food, Chex cereals, Chicken of the Sea tuna).

When I got off work, I would go home, take a bath (never a shower – taking showers made too much of a mess in our one bathroom to suit my mother), and eat an early dinner. 

After I ate, I’d grab my car keys and head for the front door, usually engaging in the following brief conversation with my mother:

My mother: “Where are you going tonight?”

Me: “Out.”

My mother: “When will you be home?”

Me: “Not late.”

Fifteen minutes later, I would be sitting in a booth at Nina’s with a couple of friends and a quart of Falstaff or Hamm’s or Pabst Blue Ribbon or Stag.  (Those brands were a dime a quart cheaper than Budweiser, Schlitz, or Coors.)

I was too cheap to spend much money on the jukebox, but I didn’t really need to – others fed it dimes continuously from about 8:00 pm until Nina’s closed at midnight.

There are a few songs that I vividly remember being played on Nina’s jukebox over and over that summer: “Sweet Hitch-Hiker” (by Creedence Clearwater Revival) and “Draggin’ the Line” (Tommy James) and “Liar” (Three Dog Night) and “Treat Her Like a Lady” (Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose) and especially “Signs” (Five Man Electrical Band):

Hey you, mister, can't you read?
You've got to have a shirt and tie to get a seat
You can't even watch, no you can't eat
You ain't supposed to be here!

You didn’t need to have a shirt and tie to get a seat at Nina’s.  All you needed was a valid driver’s license proving that you were at least 18 years old – or a fake license that convinced the beady-eyed proprietress.

At the end of the evening, you did need a little luck to get home in one piece.  Legally, 3.2% beer is classified as a non-intoxicating beverage.  But if you drink two or three quarts of it – plus buy a 16-ounce “tall boy” can to go for the ride back – you’ll find out it ain’t necessarily so.

Miraculously, none of my friends or I ever had a serious accident driving back from Galena.  Given that we spent sixty or seventy nights at Nina’s that summer, we must have been the luckiest little fools in the Four-State Area.

*     *     *     *     *

“Resurrection Shuffle” is another of the songs I remember from the Nina’s jukebox.

It was Ashton, Gardner and Dyke’s one hit, peaking at #40 on the Billboard “Hot 100” in August 1971.  

Tony Ashton – who was the Ashton of Ashton, Gardner and Dyke joined Family just before they recorded their final studio album, It’s Only a Movie, in 1973.  I became acquainted with that album (which is really good) only recently, and I suggest you head to your public library’s website and use Freegal to download it toot sweet.

Here’s “Resurrection Shuffle”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Meryl Streep – "The Winner Takes It All" (2008)

Somewhere deep inside
You must know I miss you
But what can I say?
Rules must be obeyed

In 1998, journalist Jim Lehrer interviewed President Bill Clinton about Monica Lewinsky.

“You had no sexual relationship with this young woman?” Lehrer asked.

“There is not a sexual relationship – that is accurate,” Clinton answered.

Clinton’s response to Lehrer was recently cited in an article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology as an example of “paltering” – which is defined by the authors of that article as “the active use of truthful statements to create a false impression.”  

Clinton’s answer was literally truthful – as of the date of the interview, he was not involved with Lewinsky.  But Lehrer hadn’t asked him if he was currently in a sexual relationship with intern.  

Lehrer wanted to know if Clinton had ever been in a sexual relationship with Lewinsky.  Clinton’s answer was an attempt to mislead Lehrer and his audience without telling an outright falsehood.  

*     *     *     *     *

Now that I know what paltering is, I'm seeing it all over the place.

For example, Meryl Streep was guilty of a little paltering in her remarks at the recent Golden Globe awards.

(The following discussion has nothing to do with the Streep-Trump contretemps, by the way – I'm not touching that one with a ten-foot pole.)

Meryl Streep speaking at the Golden Globes 
“I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey,” Ms. Streep told the audience.  Sounds like good ol’ Meryl is just a regular person, doesn’t it?  After all, she went to plain old public school.  And as we know from all those Bruce Springsteen songs, New Jersey is a blue-collar kind of place – right?

Not exactly.  New Jersey is actually the second wealthiest state in the United States, and has the highest percentage of millionaires of any state.    

And Meryl Streep was born in Summit, one of the wealthiest towns in New Jersey.  

A home in Summit, New Jersey
Here’s what the New York Times had to say about Summit in a 2008 article:

Summit, an affluent suburb of about 20,000, has long been popular with [Wall Street] traders, investment bankers, and money managers.  Gov. Jon S. Corzine lived on its moneyed north side when he was chairman of Goldman Sachs, and Jim Cramer, the former hedge fund manager who is host of the CNBC program “Mad Money,” is a current resident. . . . In 2005, the median household income was $168,045.

At some point, Streep’s parents – her mother was an artist, her father an executive at a pharmaceutical company – moved to neighboring Somerset County, which had the 4th-highest median income of all 3113 counties in the United States as of 2000. 

Meryl Streep, high-school cheerleader
Meryl did attend a public high school – Bernards High School in Bernardsville, NJ, whose student body was and is very affluent and very white.  (As of the 2014-15 school year, only 19 of its 843 students were black.  I’m guessing that the school was even whiter when Streep graduated fifty years ago.) 

After that, Streep attended fancy-schmancy Vassar College (where tuition and room and board currently runs about $65,000 per year) and the Yale School of Drama.  

Streep as a Vassar student
“I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey” seems calculated to leave the impression that Meryl Streep had a working-class or a middle-class upbringing.  It would have been more honest for Streep to say “I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth.”

That silver spoon is now 24-karat gold, of course.  These days, Streep makes roughly $5 million per movie.  (She’s going to bank $825,000 per episode for her new TV series, The Nix.)  She lives on a 90-acre, multi-residence compound in Connecticut and owns a $9 million penthouse in New York City.

Meryl Streep: a great actress . . . and no slouch when it comes to paltering.

*     *     *     *     *

Ms. Streep’s remarks at the Golden Globes also included a dig at popular entertainments like football and mixed martial arts, which she dismissed as “not the arts.”

You want to know something that’s “not the arts”?  The 2008 movie, Mamma Mia! The Movie, is “not the arts.”

And Meryl Streep’s performance in that movie is “not the arts.”

Streep and Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia!
From the New York Times review of Mamma Mia! The Movie:

It is safe to say that Ms. Streep gives the worst performance of her career . . . . There is a degree of fascination in watching an Oscar-winning Yale School of Drama graduate mug and squirm, shimmy and shriek and generally fill every moment with antic, purposeless energy, as if she were hogging the spotlight in an eighth-grade musical.

I’m not sure that Streep’s performance in Mamma Mia! is still the worst of her career.  Her utterly lame portrayal of an wannabe rock star in Ricki and the Flash could be her worst performance ever.  (Even Justine Bateman’s performance as a female rock star in Satisfaction, a 1988 movie about an all-chick rock band – Julia Roberts was the bass player – is far superior to Streep’s Ricki.)

Here's the trailer for Ricki and the Flash:

Other movies that have been nominated as Streep’s worst include The House of the Spirits, Before and After, Dancing at Lughnasa, Heartburn, Into the Woods, Music of the Heart . . . but you get the point.

A lot of the songs in Mamma Mia! feature Streep, and it was hard to pick just one.  I was somewhat surprised by the fact that her singing isn’t at all bad – it’s the acting that is appallingly over the top.  

And nowhere more so than in the scene that features “The Winner Takes It All,” which was a top ten hit for ABBA in 1980.

Pierce Brosnan is in that scene, but doesn’t sing.  Click here to listen to the Brosnan-Streep duet on "S.O.S.” if you dare.  (Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

Here’s Meryl Streep singing “The Winner Takes It All,” which was the first single from ABBA’s 1980 album, Super Trouper:

(Talk about bad lyrics . . . wow.)

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: