Just for Fun…

Many years ago… before the dark times… before the Special Editions… my lovely lady Anne and I attended an all-night marathon screening of the original Star Wars trilogy. I made it through the first two films without too much difficulty, but I found myself fading by the time Return of the Jedi got under way. Not surprising, as it must’ve been going on 4 AM by that time, and even my awesome levels of nerdish enthusiasm weren’t enough to keep me going around the clock. I very clearly remember seeing the rebel star fleet, led by Lando Calrissian aboard the Millennium Falcon, going to lightspeed… and then opening my eyes again just as the fleet came out of lightspeed. I’d dropped off and missed all of the mucking about with the Ewoks on Endor, probably a half-hour or so of the film. I laughed for a long time about that…

(My affection and/or tolerance for the Ewoks has waxed and waned over the years, and at the time I was in a low point toward them. These days, I’m not quite so down on them as I was then; besides, I’d also missed the speeder bikes during my nap, and that could never be anything but a shame.)

Anyhow, I just ran across a video clip that edits the film’s climatic space battle together pretty much exactly how I remember it from that screening. Enjoy!

 

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“Treat Them Too”

I’ve now lived long enough to see just about everything that ever meant anything to me, pop-culturally speaking, get hollowed out, recycled, subverted, and/or exploited by cynical beings who make their money by feeding off a generation’s nostalgia, like one of those emotional-parasite energy creatures that occasionally turned up on the old Star Trek series. And yes, I am kinda bitter about the whole deal. You may have noticed.

But every once in awhile, one of these exercises in crass commercialism comes along that is so disarmingly silly, and so affectionate toward the material it’s aping, that even I can’t help but smile at it. Case in point: a new advertisement that perfectly recreates the look of a music video circa 1985, from the film-noir-inspired lighting and shadows to the editing montages, garish fashions, and cheapo compositing effects. Everything about this feels authentic, right down to the occasional VCR tracking glitch. But there’s one important difference between this and an actual vintage MTV clip… in this video, the band is composed of cats.

Such an obvious mashup of the two most enormous forces on the Internet — nostalgia and funny cat videos — could easily have come across as being too calculated and crashed under its own weight. Execution is everything, though, and this piece is, in my humble opinion, pure marketing genius. If I must be sold cat treats using a parody of one of my all-time favorite songs, well, this is the way you do it.

I understand there’s also a 30-second broadcast version, so I imagine we’ll be seeing “The Electric Furs” on our TVs very soon…

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A New Book That Is Relevant to My Interests

Confession time: I’ve long had this odd little fascination for… brothels.

Oh, stop! I don’t mean it like that. My interest is purely academic. Well… mostly academic. When you grow up in strait-laced Utah, you can’t help but feel some attraction to the seedier side of things, especially when the notorious flesh-pots of Nevada are only a few hours away. (The Mustang Ranch outside of Reno had a near-legendary quality among my peers when I was in my early twenties; I remember much discussion of taking a little road trip… of course, it never happened, but the idea occupied a large patch of real-estate in our imaginations for a time.)

Seriously, though, youthful rebelliousness and licentiousness aside, I really am interested in the history and sociology of the whole phenomenon, especially in the context of how puritanical American culture tends to be, generally speaking. Basically, there are certain underground economies that flaunt traditional morality and that flourish in spite of — or maybe because of? — the country’s surface-level propriety, and these never really go away despite periodic attempts to stamp them out. I’m intrigued by that dichotomy, and by the hypocrisy of a society that’s unwilling to legitimize these economies even while so many individual Americans privately embrace them. So naturally a new book by Jayme Lynn Blaschke called Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch, which is just out today, has been on my radar for some time.

The Chicken Ranch (I don’t know why these places are always “ranches,” but that’s the way of things) is probably the best-known brothel in America, thanks to its being immortalized in the stage musical and Dolly Parton/Burt Reynolds film The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, as well as that staple of classic-rock radio, ZZ Top’s “La Grange.” Jayme himself is a native of the La Grange area who grew up hearing tales of the infamous “home on the range,” and spent years researching the real story behind the legend, followed by further years trying to find a publisher for his book. I’m really delighted for him that he’s finally succeeded. Here’s the book’s official promo:

As I said, Inside the Chicken Ranch is on the market as of today, available from all the usual outlets, including Amazon and direct from the publisher. Congratulations, Jayme, I can’t wait to read it!

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In Memoriam: Jerry Doyle

Babylon-5_Garibaldi

Back in the mid-90s, just after I finished with college and was still struggling with the question of what I was supposed to do with my life, I spent a lot more time watching syndicated TV than I probably should have. Most of it was disposable junk that’s thankfully faded into the mists of my increasingly fuzzy memories. But there was, amidst all the low-budget, filmed-in-Vancouver cop shows, a couple series that stood out for me. Highlander was one. Another was a science-fiction epic set on a space station, a sort of intergalactic crossroads, a freeport where species of all descriptions could mingle, trade, and intrigue in relative peace, even as ancient cosmic powers manipulated events toward a war that would engulf them all.

No, I’m not talking about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, although you’re forgiven for thinking so, considering the similarities between the two. I refer instead to Babylon 5, a show that always stood in the shadows of its higher-profile rival, much to the frustration of B5’s hardcore fans.

For the record, I wasn’t one of those people. Oh, I liked the show, as I already mentioned, and I remember thinking the parallels with DS9 were mighty fishy. (A full recounting of that is beyond the scope of this post, but briefly, there’s pretty good circumstantial evidence that the suits at Paramount ripped off B5’s creator, J. Michael Straczynski, who was shopping his concept around well before DS9 was ever thought of.) But I was, at best, a casual fan of B5. I didn’t watch faithfully every week. I watched it pretty often, though, often enough that when I recently sat down to view the series’ entire run, I found I remembered the overall story arc a lot better than I thought I would.

And I watched often enough that this morning’s news about the death of one of the show’s stars, Jerry Doyle, has hit me like a punch in the gut.

Doyle played Security Chief Michael Garibaldi, probably my favorite character among the large ensemble cast. Depicted as a blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth kind of guy, Garibaldi loved Daffy Duck cartoons, formed unlikely friendships with alien diplomats, and once rebuilt an antique motorcycle and rode it up and down the corridors of the station (a 23rd century O’Neill cylinder). In a show populated by flawed human beings (and aliens with a lot of human flaws), Garibaldi was perhaps the most flawed of them all; he struggled with a failed marriage, booze, conflicted loyalties, and PTSD. And that was before an evil telepath messed around with his mind. And yet, he was a hero in the same quiet, stolid way that so many ordinary people are heroes: because he just kept getting up and going to work in the morning. A lot of viewers related to that; I know I did, during those aimless years when I was working the wrong jobs and trying to figure out where exactly everything had gone wrong for me.

In the years after Babylon 5, Jerry Doyle became the host of a talk-radio program that bore his name. His politics were… not mine. And yet every account of personal encounters with the man that I’ve seen today suggests it would’ve been a bigger problem for me than for him. On social media, his B5 castmates are expressing shock, grief, and far deeper pain than you might expect someone to feel for a man they briefly worked with 20 years ago. That says a lot, I think. And it suggests that an awful lot of Garibaldi’s character was in fact Doyle’s character too.

I never had the chance to meet Jerry Doyle at a convention, and I regret that. He was only 60 years old.

One final thought: I don’t know what it is about Babylon 5, but the show seems to be suffering from an unusually high rate of attrition. Doyle is the fifth member of the principal cast to pass away in recent years, following Richard Biggs (Dr. Franklin), Andreas Katsulas (G’Kar), Michael O’Hare (Commander Sinclair), and Jeff Conaway (Zack Allan). Granted, the show is 20 years old, but that’s not really all that long…

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Forty-Seven Years Ago Today…

apollo-11_armstrong-on-the-moonSomebody tell me again why this isn’t a national holiday?

Oh yeah, because nobody cares about history, or because it’s too depressing to think about how we haven’t gone back in nearly half a century, or because too many people don’t believe we went at all and think it was all a lie perpetrated by Stanley Kubrick and the CIA. (Bullshit. Anyone who honestly thinks that… well, let’s just say I find your cynicism utterly baffling.)

And so it goes…

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“The Mindless Menace of Violence in America”

On April 5, 1968, the day after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by an assassin’s bullet, Senator Robert Kennedy, the younger brother of the late John F. Kennedy and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in that year’s election, delivered a speech at the City Club of Cleveland. The night before, he’d given a beautiful, heartfelt, improvised statement about Dr. King’s death that is sometimes credited with helping to keep the peace in Indiananopolis, even as some 60 other American cities were wracked by riots. With his Cleveland speech, he expanded on the themes he’d spoken of the night before.

How sad that every single word he said is still perfectly applicable on this day, July 8, 2016… the morning after five police officers were killed by snipers at a peaceful protest against the police killings of two black men earlier this week… only a month after the 48th anniversary of RFK’s own death by an assassin’s bullet.

I remain stubbornly convinced that humanity will evolve — is evolving — beyond our savage nature, just as I learned from all those musty old Star Trek re-runs when I was a kid. But goddamn, the road is long. And it’s so very hard to be patient.

The words of Robert F. Kennedy:

[This is a time of shame] and a time of sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity — my only event of today — to speak briefly to you about the mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.

It’s not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one — no matter where he lives or what he does — can be certain whom next will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours.

Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr’s cause has ever been stilled by an assassin’s bullet. No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled or uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of the people.

Whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily — whether it is done in the name of the law or in defiance of the law, by one man or by a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence — whenever we tear at the fabric of our lives which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children — whenever we do this, then the whole nation is degraded. “Among free men,” said Abraham Lincoln, “there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and those who take such appeal are sure to lose their case and pay the cost.”

Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and we call it entertainment. We make it easier for men of all shades of sanity to acquire weapons and ammunition that they desire.

Too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders of force. Too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of other human beings. Some Americans who preach nonviolence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of rioting, and inciting riots, have by their own conduct invited them. Some look for scapegoats; others look for conspiracies. But this much is clear: violence breeds violence; repression breeds retaliation; and only a cleaning of our whole society can remove this sickness from our souls.

For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions — indifference, inaction, and decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is a slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books, and homes without heat in the winter. This is the breaking of a man’s spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man amongst other men.

And this too afflicts us all. For when you teach a man to hate and to fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies that he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your home or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies — to be met not with cooperation but with conquest, to be subjugated and to be mastered.

We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as alien, alien men with whom we share a city, but not a community, men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in a common effort. We learn to share only a common fear — only a common desire to retreat from each other — only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force.

For all this there are no final answers for those of us who are American citizens. Yet we know what we must do, and that is to achieve true justice among all of our fellow citizens. The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of humane purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.

We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions, the false distinctions among men, and learn to find our own advancement in search for the advancement of all. We must admit to ourselves that our children’s future cannot be built on the misfortune of another’s. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or by revenge.

Our lives on this planet are too short, the work to be done is too great, to let this spirit flourish any longer in this land of ours. Of course we cannot banish it with a program, nor with a resolution.

But we can perhaps remember — if only for a time — that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life, that they seek — as do we — nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment that they can.

Surely this bond of common fate, surely this bond of common goals, can begin to teach us something. Surely we can learn, at the least, to look around at those of us, of our fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our hearts brothers and countrymen once again.

Tennyson wrote in Ulysses:

…that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Thank you, very much.

 

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Friday Evening Videos: “Turning Japanese” (Kisten Dunst edition)

I wasn’t going to post a music video this week because… well, what would be the point, you know? It’s been a hell of a week, with the tragic Pulse nightclub shootings followed by the same damn gun-control debate we have every time there’s a mass shooting — and isn’t that a pathetic horror story in itself, that these things are so bloody commonplace the after-argument has become boring? — and that poor little kid getting hauled off by an alligator, and all the political bullshit and the generally toxic atmosphere that prevails on social media these days. I’ve been struggling lately anyhow with that recurring feeling of ennui I get every so often, like I’m running in place, constantly active but never really getting anywhere. I’m tired, in a way that’s difficult to explain. Not just physical fatigue, but something inside… emotional, spiritual, I don’t know. And then you add in all that other stuff… Under those conditions, why bother with my stupid little music-video thing? It’s not like anyone really cares, right?

But then a friend posted something today on my Facebook wall, and it’s so silly and charming and sexy and dorky and just plain weird that I couldn’t help but smile, in spite of all the gunge I’ve been feeling. And I think I really need to pass it along, because maybe it’ll do the same for someone else out there who also needs a little sexy silly weirdness after this long, long week…

Yes, that is the actress Kirsten Dunst in a blue wig flouncing around Tokyo’s famously nerdy Akihabara district while singing a an old chestnut from the Awesome ’80s. If this clip seems familiar to my three Loyal Readers, it’s likely because I’ve posted it before, about six years ago. Here’s what I wrote about it back then:

I’ve found in my online wanderings that Kirsten is something of a binary proposition: people seem to either really like her or they really do not. Her detractors tend to become especially fixated on her uneven teeth, for some reason. Personally, I think she’s adorable, teeth and all. Not conventionally pretty, perhaps, but she’s got something that works for me. I especially like that sultry eyebrow-lifting thing she does sometimes — you can see it in this video at about the 2:37 mark. Is that TMI? Probably… [The video I posted six years ago — which is now dead — must’ve had slightly different timing, because there is no eyebrow thing at 2:37 in this version. Alas.]

Anyhow, as you saw in the opening title card, this video was directed by McG, the guy responsible for [Terminator: Salvation] as well as those two Charlie’s Angels movies a few years ago; the producer, Takashi Murakami, is a Japanese artist who works in a variety of media. My understanding is that the video was played on an endless loop at the entrance to Murakami’s recent “Pop Life” exhibition at the Tate Modern in London. [My understanding was correct. Details about this project and the art exhibition here.]

Now, you may wonder what the heck a mid-list starlet in a blue wig singing a 30-year-old one-hit-wonder has to do with an art exhibition. I’ve read that it supposedly articulates the cliche’d Japan of Western imagination, i.e., Murakami’s notion of Anglo-American stereotypes about his native country’s pop culture. Or some damn thing. The really important point is that it gives us an excuse to see Kirsten Dunst in a blue wig and a really short skirt singing one of the most terminally catchy tunes of the ’80s, The Vapors’ “Turning Japanese.” Which is really not about masturbation, as the old urban legend we all heard in middle school claimed. At least, The Vapors say it’s not about that, and they oughta know, right?

Damn, she’s got long legs… and there’s that eyebrow thing again…

I still think she’s adorable. And I’d like to go to Japan. For whatever those two factoids are worth…

 

 

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Friday Evening Videos: “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.”

I have a love/hate kind of thing with John Mellencamp.

When he was young, and I was too, he struck me as a cocky punk of the particular sort who could always (and honestly, still can) send me into an irrational fury with nothing but an oily smirk. The kind who love to push people’s buttons just to see what happens, and who always seem to get away with things that other people — people like me — inevitably get busted for. Now, maybe all of that was just part of the manufactured “John Cougar” persona that was forced on him by his early managers, the ones who tried to sell him as a pretty-boy rebel in the James Dean/young Brando “what do you got” mold. But maybe it wasn’t. Either way, the guy bugged me.

Later, when we both grew up, he expunged the “Cougar” part of his identity and rebranded himself as a midwestern Springsteen and defender of the struggling small-farm owner. And I found I still didn’t like him much, because now he came across as a humorless and sanctimonious scold. (See also Henley, Don.) And that’s more or less where my opinion of him has remained for something like 25 years.

Ah, but that’s Mellencamp the person.

Mellencamp’s music, on the other hand… I’ve dearly loved and related to a lot of his music over the years. The four albums that comprised the peak of his popularity in the 1980s — American Fool, Uh-Huh, Scarecrow, and The Lonesome Jubilee — still enjoy frequent play on my iPod, while familiar singles like “Pink Houses,” “Small Town,” and “Cherry Bomb” have only grown more meaningful to me as I’ve gotten older. Even “Jack and Diane,” Mellencamp’s lone number-one hit to date and a song that I got very sick of hearing back in the day, has gained a somewhat unexpected poignancy since I hit middle age. (The line about “hold onto sixteen as long as you can” speaks volumes to me personally, especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed by life and ancient as the proverbial hills; as always, your mileage may vary.)

This week’s video selection isn’t as bittersweet as those other songs, but like much of Mellencamp’s oeuvre, it delineates and celebrates something that’s distinctly American, nothing less than rock and roll itself… specifically the rock and roll of the 1960s, which Mellencamp and I both grew up on, even though our childhoods were separated by a good 20 years. It’s a song that sounds like summer to me, that makes me want to drop the top (and the hammer) on my car and crank the volume on the radio, a song I always sing along with and just makes me feel good. The dramatic urgency of the bridge (“Voices from nowhere, voices from the larger towns…”) fires me up like few other recordings; that is rock and roll in my book:

“R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” was the third single from Mellencamp’s eighth album, Scarecrow, and it almost didn’t make it onto the album because Mellencamp thought it was too upbeat compared to the rest of the tracks on that fairly dour collection. Fortunately, though, John’s manager talked him into including it. It appears as the final track on the original LP — remember, this came out in the ’80s, kids! — and I’ve always viewed it as a sort of necessary palate cleanser in that context. (On the cassette and CD versions, it was followed by another upbeat tune, “The Kind of Fella I Am.”) Released in February 1986, “R.O.C.K.” became one of John Mellencamp’s biggest hits, finally peaking at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, bested by Falco’s “Rock Me, Amadeus” (a song whose popularity I’ve never understood, frankly)

I remember doing a lip synch of this tune in my senior-year drama class and having a lot of fun with it. I’ll bet I was the only one in the room (besides my teacher) who knew who the artists mentioned in the bridge section actually were. If you want to educate yourself on the classics, “R.O.C.K.” provides you with a pretty decent beginning syllabus…

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Quick Take: Sing Street

sing-street_cast-hero-walkI feel like I’m late for the party on Sing Street, as it’s been making its way around the U.S. since April, but if you haven’t heard of it yet, take my word for it: you will. And if you haven’t seen it yet, you should.

An Irish import filmed in Dublin, Sing Street is a rare cinematic treasure: a movie that is both joyous and poignant, fanciful and authentic, with an ending that is exactly what you need it to be without it feeling predictable. In a nutshell, it’s the story of a fourteen-year-old boy who forms a band to impress a girl and escape from the grim realities of his daily existence, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a love letter to the mid 1980s and the synth-pop music videos that dominated MTV at the time. It’s also a slice-of-life picture about a gritty urban school milieu that is no more. It’s a comedy-drama about brothers and brothers in arms, as well as the struggle to find yourself in spite of the petty bullies who want to squash your spirit. And it’s a clear-eyed depiction of young romance. Mostly it’s about that time in everyone’s life when you feel both hope and disappointment more keenly than you ever have before and ever will again.

This is the kind of movie I sometimes see and think “I wish I’d written this,” while secretly fearing that I don’t have enough talent to pull it off, at least not this well. The music is great and the evocation of 1985 is spot-on, as is the casting. It’s refreshing to see a movie about teenagers in which the actors actually look like teenagers. And I’ve got to say that Lucy Boynton, who plays the mysterious older girl who claims to be a model and catalyzes the entire plot, is some kind of amazing. When I was a teenager, I’d have become a musician for her myself.

Sing Street is charming on every level. Don’t miss it.

Oh, one final note: the makers of this movie must’ve cleaned out every vintage clothing store in the UK to find all that acid-wash. Wow…

 

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Friday Evening Videos: “Rockin’ at Midnight”

Last weekend found me and my friend Geoff indulging in an activity I haven’t done for a very long time: browsing the used CD section at FYE. (Yes, I still buy most of my music on physical media. Did you really expect otherwise, given my motto over there in the sidebar?) I managed to find several items from my wishlist, but my real score that night was a copy of an old favorite I had on cassette back in the Awesome ’80s, but haven’t heard in 20 years or more: The Honeydrippers, Volume One.

I’ll forgive you if that name doesn’t ring a bell, although my fellow Gen-Xers will probably at least remember the album’s big single, “Sea of Love.”

The Honeydrippers was a project created by singer Robert Plant in the aftermath of Led Zeppelin’s breakup in 1980. Plant had long been an admirer of early American R&B music, the stuff that hadn’t quite evolved into rock and roll yet, but definitely prefigured the genre, and working with Zeppelin hadn’t given him much opportunity to explore that sound. So in 1981, while the remains of the mighty Zep still smoldered, Plant pulled together his bandmate Jimmy Page, along with Jeff Beck — who was Page’s old bandmate from the Yardbirds, the group that also launched Eric Clapton — and various session musicians to have a little fun. Soon, though, he began working on original material that would lead to his first solo albums in ’82 and ’83, and the Honeydrippers got shelved

Enter Ahmet Ertegun, the legendary co-founder of Atlantic Records who’d signed Led Zeppelin to Atlantic way back in 1968, effectively giving them their big break. Ertegun wanted to record some of his favorite songs from the early rock era, and he remembered what Plant had been doing with The Honeydrippers a couple years before. A few phone calls later, and a reformed Honeydrippers — now including Nile Rodgers of the disco band Chic, and Paul Shaffer, best known as David Letterman’s sidekick but actually an accomplished keyboardist — were in the studio laying down the tracks that became The Honeydrippers, Volume One. Released in 1984, Volume One was a five-song EP that sounded like it had tumbled through a wormhole from three decades earlier. I loved it, myself… but then, I’d  cut my musical teeth listening to my mom’s scratchy old Elvis Presley 45s, so this was like comfort food to me.

“Sea of Love” became the highest-charting cut from the album, reaching number three on the Billboard Hot 100 — one notch higher than Zeppelin’s biggest seller, by the way — but oddly enough, that song hadn’t originally been intended as a single at all. It was the B-side to tonight’s video selection, “Rockin’ at Midnight.” In one of those weird quirks that used to happen when there were real-live DJs spinning actual records on the air, “Sea of Love” started getting more radio play than “Rockin’,” and the single was eventually reissued with the two songs flipped. My understanding is that Robert Plant wasn’t too happy about that; he feared the success of the crooning ballad “Sea” might derail his persona as a rocker, and that evidently was a big part of why there was never a Honeydrippers, Volume Two. A real shame, in my book, as I played the hell out of Volume One when I was a teen, and I certainly have enjoyed revisiting it this week. There’s just something about the roots of rock, an authenticity and a joyful swing that slowly bled out of the genre over time… see if you don’t agree:

The original “Rockin’ at Midnight” was a 1949 “jump blues” tune by a man named Roy Brown. It was a so-called “answer record” — a sequel, to use the more familiar terminology of cinema — to an earlier Brown song called “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” which was later recorded by — guess who? — Elvis Presley during his early days on the Sun label.  And I’m pretty certain that version was among those old 45s of my mother’s that The Honeydrippers always reminded me of. Wheels within wheels, man.

Also, I have to say it’s been a little weird to assemble the chronology of these events in my mind, really for the first time. I started finding my own music (as opposed to whatever Mom was listening to) in 1981, more or less. Led Zeppelin had broken up only one year before, but they’d already taken on the mystique of timeless legend. This was a time when it seemed like you couldn’t go 10 minutes without hearing “Black Dog” or “Rock and Roll” on the radio, and every fifth kid at Oquirrh Hills Middle School was wearing a “Swan Song” t-shirt. And yet the band itself was no more, and in fact its heyday had been a good decade earlier. It was almost as if their music had always existed, simultaneously old and current, while the band itself never had. So looking at the actual dates, figuring out that I barely missed Zeppelin’s period as an active band, and that their breakup and The Honeydrippers, Volume One happened within a scant four years of each other — really, it was only four years — has been kind of surreal for me. The Zeppelin era and Plant’s solo era always seemed geological ages apart to me, but it was merely the span of time I spent in middle school. More or less.

One final thought: At the time he recorded “Rockin’ at Midnight,” Robert Plant seemed very old to me. Not ready-for-a-rest-home-and-walker old, just very… adult. It turns out he was 36 in 1984. Ten years younger than I am now.

Makes you think about what the hell you’ve done with your life, doesn’t it?

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