Wednesday, September 15, 2004

History Lesson: Don't Do It Without the Fez On

September 15, 1985: Willie Nelson hosts the first Farm Aid concert. Spawned by an offhand remark made by Bob Dylan at Live Aid in July, the concert series continues today, long after the plight of the farmer has dropped off the radar screen. The 2004 edition is set for this coming weekend in Washington state. Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, and Dave Matthews are among the artists who serve on the event's board of directors.

September 15, 1976: Steely Dan's The Royal Scam goes gold, despite spawning only a couple of minor hit singles, "Kid Charlemagne" and "The Fez." The Dan is my favorite band, and this is probably my favorite album, although it's mighty hard for me to pick one. Essential track: "The Royal Scam," which might be the darkest-sounding thing they ever recorded.

September 15, 1970: Spiro Agnew, who was Richard Nixon's designated culture warrior before Nixon's whole party declared the culture war, criticizes rock music, movies, books, and underground newspapers for brainwashing young people into the drug culture. The key soundbite was Agnew reciting "I get by with a little help from my friends/I get high with a little help from my friends," which he managed to do in approximately Ringo's rhythm. So yes, in spite of all the evidence, Spiro Agnew might have had a little bit of Elvis in him.

September 15, 1969: Ed Sullivan had no Elvis in him, although he should have gotten a contact buzz, at least. On this date, the Ed Sullivan Singers and Orchestra release a single called "The Sulli-Gulli," which, because it is 10 years out of date at the moment of its birth, disappears without a trace.

Tulsa Time: I have no list of Number One songs on this date for you this time, because I am in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on business this week, some 900 miles away from my research library. I tried coming up with a list of songs about Tulsa, but I can only think of two: "Tulsa Time," recorded by Eric Clapton and by Don Williams, and "24 Hours From Tulsa" by Gene Pitney. If you can think of others, let me know.


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