Friday, January 26, 2007

Movin' Out

This is a milestone day in the history of this blog, which began on July 11, 2004, with a post titled "What's Going On." Effective today, this blog is moving to a new site. Please update your bookmarks to It'll still be The Hits Just Keep On Comin', but it will live at a different address. (If you get this blog via an RSS reader, such as My Yahoo, the new feed link is

Why move? The tool I use to create this blog, Blogger, is often cantankerous, and Blogger's user help is nearly nonexistent. Neither has caused serious problems until recently. Also, I've been sick of my Blogger template for a long time, but the number of changes I can make to it is limited. There are a few things we can do differently and better over at WordPress. So, a few weeks late for the new year, I'm making a new start--and the move provides a lovely theme for today's Top 5, which is over at the new site right now.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ain't Nothin' Like the Real Thing

There's a remarkable number of notable birthdays today. There's no cake and no gift, however.

John Belushi would be 58 today, had he not died in 1982. Apart from the hits under the Blues Brothers name, his version of "Louie Louie" from the Animal House soundtrack was also released as a single late in 1978, but failed to chart. The version used in the movie contained the oft-rumored and famously obscene lyrics; for the soundtrack album, Belushi sang the actual, non-obscene lyrics.

Warren Zevon would be 60, had he not died in 2003. I'm not as well acquainted with Zevon as I probably should be. Like most casual listeners, I've got Excitable Boy somewhere--and it's one of the most consistenly enjoyable albums on my shelf. Key track: "Nighttime in the Switching Yard."

Tammi Terrell would be 62, had she not died in 1970. One of the great what-ifs in pop music regards what Terrell might have become at Motown had she not been felled by a brain tumor in her early 20s. Her duets with Marvin Gaye are glorious, especially "If I Could Build My Whole World Around You" and "Ain't Nothin' Like the Real Thing."

Aaron Neville and Neil Diamond, both happily not dead, are both 66. (There's a duet for ya.) Neville's probably the most famous note-bender in the biz; Diamond, meanwhile, probably belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, at least as a songwriter. Key Neville track: "Everybody Plays the Fool" (but get the single version, a remix that vastly improves on the soporific album version). Key Diamond tracks: "Sweet Caroline," "Shilo."

Ray Stevens is 68--or also 66, according to some sources. He's best remembered for novelty songs such as "The Streak," which went to Number One in 1974, but he's also a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Key track: one he didn't write--a straight, countrified version of the jazz standard "Misty," which made the Top 20 in the summer of 1975.

Recommended Listening:
For several years, I've maintained a series of Desert Island tapes. They're made up of songs that I consider essentials for various reasons--because of what they represent, who they represent, and so on. The tapes became CDs a couple of years ago, and now, a selection of the songs from the list is online for you to listen to. Our pal Dave P. turned me on to, a website that lets you build custom playlists from its library and then put 'em up for everyone to listen to. I could probably imagine an entirely different but still island-worthy list, but "The Desert Island" represents my only actual attempt to make one. It's mostly old-school Top 40, featuring a touch of bubblegum, a few one-hit wonders, plenty of Philly soul, and "Jimmy Loves Mary Anne."

Be sure to check out Dave's tasty Poolside Jazz playlist, also. Then make your own list at Finetune, and send me the link.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Top 5: Takin' Us up to News Time

(The last couple of Fridays I've missed our usual Top 5 feature--so here's one on a Sunday in hopes of making up for it. No tracks to post with this one--I hope to make that up to you eventually, too.)

If you browse the Airheads Radio Survey Archive, you'll notice that most of the surveys preserved are from Top 40 stations. The take-home survey was largely a Top 40 phenomenon, of course, and most of the people collecting them are Top 40 fans. Click on two lists from the same date and, allowing for the kind of regional variation that doesn't exist anymore, you'll find most of the same records on each one. Which is one of the things that makes the chart dated January 19, 1969, from CKSW in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, interesting. It's sort of a Top 40 station, but of a very unusual--possibly unique--sort.

Exactly when CKSW was playing the 60 songs on its survey is hard to figure. The back of the survey invites listeners to "hear all your top hit tunes daily" from 5 to 5:30pm and again from 10:45 to 11pm, as well as Friday nights from 8 to 9pm. Even in an era when records were still fairly short, that's not much time. It programmed a country show, which would probably have included some of the country tunes on the survey, from 3 to 5pm every day. What they were doing the rest of the time isn't clear. But given their conservative music mix, and that their service area was all of southwest Saskatchewan, it's likely that CKSW featured plenty of news, talk, farm, and public service programming during its non-music hours.

CKSW's music is a mixture of light pop, country, and Canadiana that's missing most of the Top 40 hits that were hot everywhere else in January 1969, most notably Marvin Gaye's epic "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" and the Doors' "Touch Me." Clearly, this was because CKSW, like many small-market stations back in the day, was trying to be many things to many people--and as a result, it was very careful about the music it played. The Number-One song on the survey was "Scarborough Fair"--not the Simon and Garfunkel original, but the one by Sergio Mendes, which went Top 20 in the States. Number Two is "She Wears My Ring," an enormous country hit by Ray Price that didn't cross to pop at all. Some of the entries farther down are a bit more familiar--the Ohio Express ("Chewy Chewy") and Classics IV ("Stormy") are also in the Top 10. But there is weirdness still farther below. Here are five of the oddities:

9. "Folsom Prison Blues"/Lenny Dee. Let's get weird right away. Lenny Dee released several albums covering pop hits on the organ between the mid 50s and the 1970s--and by 1969, was actually at a bit of a career peak, after a couple of modestly successful albums, including Turn Around Look at Me, from which this is presumably taken. Dee's only Top 40 hit was "Plantation Boogie" in 1955, but I'll always remember him for a different reason. In radio days of yore, when stations carried network newscasts on the hour, DJs often played an instrumental to fill the last minute or two before the news began. On my hometown station, I often heard, "Takin' us up to news time, here's Lenny Dee."

18. "Kentucky Woman"/Deep Purple. One might ask what the hell this song is doing on CKSW, although it does have a certain boogie feel that makes it plausibly fit with the rest of the survey songs. Then again, one might also ask, since "boogie" is not a term one normally associates with Deep Purple, what the hell they were doing when they recorded it.

33. "Edge of Reality"/Elvis Presley.
This is the flipside of "If I Can Dream," which, despite being a big hit in most places, isn't listed on the CKSW survey. Maybe the station's music director liked "Edge of Reality" better. (I worked briefly with a guy who was like that. If the whole world was playing the A side, he didn't care--we'd play the B if he thought it was better. Trouble is, he usually thought it was better.)

34. "House of the Rising Sun"/Animals. I'm not sure what this record is doing here, given that the Animals' legendary recording of this was a hit everywhere else in the world in 1964. Some things endure, I guess.

40. "Kum By Yah"/Tommy Leonetti.
As near as I can tell, this is the only hit version of this campfire classic. Leonetti appeared on the 50s TV version of Your Hit Parade and did some TV acting. He also scored some TV shows and was apparently big in Australia. And, briefly, in southwestern Saskatchewan.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


WFMU's Beware of the Blog has done it again, dredging up another nearly forgotten record that deserves a wider audience for its weirdness alone. "Once You Understand" by Think actually made it into the Top 40, peaking during this week in 1972. In the jaded new millennium, we listen to this sort of cheese and wait for a punchline that makes the whole thing funny. But there's no punchline, unless you count the manipulative gut-punch at the end, and it ain't funny. Thirty-five years ago, "Once You Understand" seemed oh-so-relevant. Today, it's just passive-aggressive. The message of "Once You Understand" is that if you parents are too hard on your kids, if you don't respect their lifestyle choices, if you don't let them be who they are, then they'll turn to dope and kill themselves and it'll be all your fault.

Beware of the Blog also notes that the suburban Detroit home of ?, lead singer of the fabled ? and the Mysterians, burned down recently. Click for more here.

Elsewhere around the blogs, we're adding Art Decade, "specializing in music of the 'long seventies' (1966-1984)," to the blogroll on the right. You'll like it. The latest post features one of Rod Stewart's earliest singles, and a fine one: "Handbags and Gladrags." Whenever I hear it, I imagine Rod asking his producer if they could use a full orchestra, only to be told it's too expensive. So Rod keeps asking for smaller combinations of instruments, but is repeatedly told it's still too expensive. So he finally asks, "How much for just the oboe?"

I've also been enjoying Throwback Thursdays at Instrumental Analysis. Today's features the Police.

Since I got into music blogs, Jefitoblog has always been a favorite, and it's been insanely great lately. Go there to read and listen for yourself. One post I particularly want to mention: Around the first of the year, I made passing mention of my dislike for smooth jazz, and I'm pleased to know that Jefito plans to make fun of it regularly. However, today he took a whack at Bob James. My general dislike for smooth jazz has heretofore contained an exemption for Bob James--although it'll be harder for me to maintain it after today.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Twist of Fate

(Second of two parts. Part 1 is here.)

My little radio station in Macomb, Illinois, which I will call WXXX because that wasn't its real name, was run like a medieval kingdom--the out-of-town owner made his own rules and governed by whim. He was due back in town in December 1983. In advance of his visit, we were told not to back-announce Culture Club or Kool and the Gang while he was in town because of his feelings toward gays and black people. When he finally arrived from his Louisiana home base just before Christmas, his initial decree, upon learning that he hadn't run the other station in town off the air and out of business yet, was that he would fire the entire airstaff and try again. The general manager talked him out of it, at least in part by saying that he'd just hired a bright young guy from Iowa who'd uprooted his wife to move and had only been there two months, and it wouldn't be fair. But the owner insisted on firing somebody--and so the program director who had hired me was turfed shortly after the first of the year.

An odd coincidence occurred about the same time. The general manager of KDTH, the Dubuque station that had fired me less than three months before, had come to town in his capacity as head of acquisitions for KDTH's parent company. He was scouting WKAI, the other station in Macomb. As it turned out, the parent company wasn't interested in buying WKAI. However, the GM, whom we will call George because that is his real name, decided to buy it himself. On his next visit to town, and knowing The Mrs. and I were in Macomb, George kindly invited us to dinner. I didn't hide it from XXX. In fact, when they asked me directly if I had any intention of jumping ship, I said I didn't--which was true. I felt that George hadn't done enough to stop my unjust firing from KDTH. I couldn't see going to work for him, and I told them so.

Meanwhile, I was getting a new boss. The new PD (we'll call him Frank, because that is not his real name), was an old friend of the owner. And it became pretty clear pretty quickly that Frank was neither especially talented nor particularly bright. He had worked in Denver, however, and his first meeting with the airstaff, where he told us that he'd worked in Denver, was all about the things we were doing wrong, and how all that shit was going to stop now, because he'd worked in Denver, see, and we were going to start doing things the way they did them in Denver, where he had worked. We all sucked it up and vowed to try--until a day or two later when he did his first airshift, and broke every rule he'd harped on us to follow. (Thus I formulated for the first time another of Bartlett's Laws of Radio: Never work for anyone dumber than you are. You won't learn anything, and you'll have a hard time maintaining any respect for them.)

Soon it was March. I hadn't earned any vacation yet, but I asked if I could have a Friday off to go back to Dubuque for an event KDTH was sponsoring, so we could see some friends. Frank grudgingly let me--and then fired me on Monday morning. "It's not working out," he said. Which was true, although I'd rather have left on my terms instead of theirs.

(Permit me to digress for a moment, because this next is typical. After sacking me, XXX replaced me with nobody. The night guy went to afternoons, the overnight guy went to nights, and Frank hired a Nigerian student from the university to push buttons on some kind of satellite-delivered overnight show. One night a few months later, the satellite fell into the sea or something, and the program dropped off the air. So the kid Frank hired did the only thing Frank had taught him how to do--he played public-service announcements. The same three public service announcements. For 45 minutes straight. Until a client finally got Frank on the phone and told him, "I think there's something wrong with your radio station.")

I wasn't out of work long--although it was long enough for The Mrs. and I to collect some of the free government cheese that was being handed out around the country back then. (We still have the box it came in.) As it turned out, WKAI had a part-time opening, which I took even before George's purchase of the station became final. But as soon as it was, George took me on full-time, and I would stay for 2 1/2 years.

Later in 1984, well after I'd gone full-time at WKAI, I learned that XXX was putting it around town that I was an industrial spy. George had hired me to steal all of their secrets, see, but they'd figured it out and fired me, cleverly thwarting the Devious Plan. There was no plan, of course--as I told them in response to their direct questions, I had no intention of going to work for George again. And they didn't have any secrets worth stealing, anyhow. So in the end, the people at WXXX outsmarted themselves--which was easy, because they weren't all that bright to begin with.

Postscript: George didn't own WKAI for very long. He sold it after about 18 months, and I was concerned about the future direction of the place under the new owner, Don. So you can perhaps imagine how I felt the day I looked through Don's office window and saw Frank in there. Later that day, I ran into Don in the hallway. I said to him, "I notice you were talking to Frank today." "Yeah," said Don. "He got fired at XXX and dropped in for a visit. I decided to pick his brain a little . . . but there wasn't much there."

Very well put.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues

As you know, I'm a big fan of his latest Chart Attack, featuring January 1984. Those songs reminded me of the sort of gig every radio person has along the way--one that was fairly miserable at the time, but has made for some good stories ever since. I've told some of them before, I think, but here goes anyhow.

The Mrs. and I had moved to Macomb, Illinois, in November 1983. I needed a job and a little station down there had one. The PD and the general manager impressed me when I met them, I'd passed through that town on vacation once when I was a kid, and that was enough. In those days when I was still just starting out in radio, I knew I'd probably have to work in places like that. So I was OK with it. And it wasn't a bad little town, really, thanks to the presence of Western Illinois University, which brought in a little culture, at least.

After working at the station for a couple of months, it was clear that the place had some serious problems. For example: One of the sales people came to me that first week and asked how I was adjusting to "the heavy production load" of commercials. At my previous gig in Dubuque, I'd gotten used to doing as many as 30 spots, dubs, and tags every day, but I think in that first week in Macomb I'd done seven or eight altogether. (I was spending most of my time sitting on my ass waiting to go on the air.) Another sales rep found herself caught between a feuding husband and wife who owned a clothing store. The husband wanted the store to project a western image; the wife wanted a more hip and contemporary image. The sales rep's compromise was to ask me to produce a spot in a John Wayne voice over Michael Jackson music. Due to an obscure Illinois law regarding hourly employees (which I think the station misunderstood), I was required to leave the building for at least 30 minutes on my lunch break--having a sandwich at my desk while I was writing a spot or prepping my show was not allowed.

I remember coming home to our one-bedroom basement apartment on what might have been the fourth day and telling The Mrs. that I'd made a horrible mistake. However, the worst problem didn't manifest itself until year's end. While the station was running a $1000 cash-call contest ("answer your phone with the phrase that pays, and we'll give you $1000"), it was issuing partial paychecks to salaried employees because it didn't have enough operating cash on hand. During the holiday season. This was partly due to the owner's excessive "trading out"--exchanging advertising time for goods and services. Everything from a luxury car for himself to office supplies for us--we joked that he'd trade the light bill if he could, and I don't doubt that he tried.

However: Despite all the weirdness going on behind the scenes, the station sounded reasonably good. As I've said, the general manager impressed me--he'd been a major-market sales manager and had apparently been promised a piece of the company if he'd move to the middle of nowhere and make a success of the little station there. (If the owner had just left him the hell alone, he might have done it.) The news director and sports director were solid pros. The morning guy had a natural gift of gab. The midday guy later ended up in Orlando, I think. The PD, who did afternoons, was the classic radio drifter--pleasant personality, decent voice, and good enough on details to make a competent manager--but not exceptional enough at anything to ensure that he'd last a long time anywhere, as we shall see. The night guy was too talented for nights, but he seemed content with where he was--and he was the guy who knew where the bodies were buried. That seems to be a night-guy tendency, in my experience. They'd answer the questions you didn't want to ask the boss, and this guy did so with an almost-reckless honesty.

I did an oddball 5-8pm shift for awhile before moving up to 2-6pm. (I have a tape of what I think was my second day on the air. I won't post it here because it sounds just hideous to me now--my voice is high and nasal, and although I clearly had some skills, I wasn't nearly as good as I thought I was at the time.) The music mix was bizarre--pop/country during the day to capture the adult audience, but moving in a top 40/album rock direction at night in hopes of snagging the kids--an all-things-to-all-people format that many small-market stations used to try back in the day. We were playing, at various times of the day, all of the songs Jason mentions except for Numbers 2, 5, and 6, but we were also playing country hits by the likes of Merle Haggard, Crystal Gayle, and the Judds.

So: January 1984. The Mrs. is watching General Hospital professionally, as she put it--still unemployed after three months. I am already beginning to surreptitiously look for another job, somewhere, for reasons that will soon become clear. Neither of us is particularly happy. Fortunately for us, things were about to change.

Coming tomorrow: It's easy to outsmart yourself when you're not too bright to begin with.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Here and There and More Than Once

I blogged here a couple of years ago about worthwhile concert recordings. For me to listen more than once, a live recording has to provide A) significant amounts of new music, such as Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen or Jackson Browne's Running on Empty; B) significant reinterpretations of familiar music, such as the Allman Brothers' At Fillmore East; and/or C) spectacle on a scale so grand that it comes through in the grooves alone, such as Springsteen's Live 1975-1985. A live album in which an artist simply reprises the hits is, in my experience, rarely essential.

When Elton John released Here and There in 1976, it was considered a contractual-obligation quickie--five tracks each from 1974 shows in London and New York, all familiar Elton tunes. Nevertheless, it made the Top 10, because a recording of Elton reading from the phone book would have been a hit at that moment of his career. However, it would be nearly 20 years before it became more than just another live cash-in. And it's worth hearing today not merely because it's Elton, as was the case in 1976, but because in retrospect, it's really, really good Elton.

When Here and There was rereleased in 1995, producer Gus Dudgeon took advantage of the CD format to include additional tracks from both of the original shows, nearly doubling the album's length. Most important, Dudgeon corrected a baffling omission from the original. The New York show is the one at which John Lennon famously appeared with Elton, but the tracks chosen for the original vinyl release didn't include any of those Lennon performed on. (Oddly, there's no mention of Lennon on the original Here and There liner notes, although his appearance was arguably the most important thing about the New York show.) At the very least, it would have made sense to include the incendiary version of "I Saw Her Standing There" that had appeared on the flip-side of the "Philadelphia Freedom" 45 a year earlier. Fortunately, the expanded Here and There includes that track, and the others Lennon performed during what turned out to be his last-ever live appearance--"Whatever Gets You Through the Night" and "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds."

The revised Here and There provides, among other things, one rare song ("Bad Side of the Moon"), a version of an obscure album cut ("You're So Static," featuring the Muscle Shoals Horns), and two versions each of "Take Me to the Pilot" and "Your Song." One of the best tracks is "Love Song," which originally appeared on Tumbleweed Connection. For the live version, Elton invites Lesley Duncan, who wrote the song, to duet with him, and Davey Johnstone adds an understated guitar line not present on the Tumbleweed version. The result is a haunting performance that betters the original by a mile. (It wasn't officially released as a single, although MCA pressed it for radio-station use, and it got some limited airplay in the summer of 1976.) And of course, the album includes "I Saw Her Standing There," on which Lennon, Elton, and the band kick ass until their toes fall off, until their version actually stomps the Beatles' original.

What strikes me about Elton's albums from Honky Chateau through Here and There (1972-76) is the absolute--and audible--self-assurance of them. Elton sings like he knows he's got great material and that he sounds great doing it. This is especially true on the London disc of Here and There, where Elton and his band sound as good as they ever did in the studio (although Dudgeon admitted to cleaning up certain mistakes in the original with technology that didn't exist in 1976). The London disc's sense of focus, as well as its lack of on-stage banter and the relatively restrained performance, likely has a lot to do with the more intimate setting of the Royal Albert Hall and the presence of Britain's Princess Margaret at what was a royal benefit show. The New York show is more traditionally raucous. On both discs, however, Here and There captures Elton at his creative and commercial peak. It's a live album worth hearing more than once.

(Buy the expanded version of Here and There here. Or there.)

Recommended Reading: The latest installment of Adventures Through the Mines of Mellow Gold features two grade-A 70s hits that prove that Mellow Gold isn't always lame, and in the case of the second of the two featured records, not even especially mellow.

Monday, January 08, 2007

In My Head Until I Die

Quick links to music blog goodness:

Ickmusic is not just your headquarters for all things Springsteen, but also for all things Prince. Pete has posted an after-hours club show from 1988 that features, among other things, a lengthy version of the Temptations' "Just My Imagination." The Temps' record is an all-time favorite of mine, a performance filled with longing for an unattainable woman. In Prince's version, he's not only attained the woman, he's slow-dancing with her in the living room on the way to the sack.

I Am Fuel, You Are Friends sings the praises of Lucinda Williams' Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, newly released in a double-CD version I wish Santa Claus had brought for me. If you're only going to own one album by Williams, Car Wheels is the one to have--but once you have it, you'll probably want some more.

Hurry over to JB's Warehouse Music Annex for some vintage Bob Seger, featuring 1966-67 singles with the Last Heard (which struck me as kind of interesting to hear, but not essential) and 1969 tracks from the Bob Seger System, including "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," which you know, "2 + 2 = ?," which you may not, and "Noah," which you should.

And finally, over at WFMU's Beware of the Blog: the Chicken Fat Record. Although the mp3 posted at that link is of a 1980s remake, the 1960s original, recorded by Robert Preston at the behest of John F. Kennedy for his physical fitness initiative, has been playing in my head for almost 40 years. In elementary school, I had a gym teacher who made us work out to it--and maybe you did, too. I'd long since given up hope of ever hearing the original again--except when fragments of it popped into my head unbidden--but Beware of the Blog kindly provides a link to Preston's original. After hearing it one more time today, it's a safe bet now that it will continue to live in my head until I die.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Top 5: Teaching the World to Sing

We're keeping it simple today, because I really should be doing work I get paid for instead of blogging for nothin'--here are five notable tunes on WAPE in Jacksonville, Florida, from the survey dated January 5, 1972. And yes, I know I just did a podcast with tunes from December 1971. (You don't like it? Get your own blog.) But it's semi-topical for us to talk about late '71/early '72 again, sort of, given that we discussed CKLW here last week. One of the jocks pictured on the WAPE survey, Teddy "Bear" Richards, was at CKLW when The Mrs. and I were listening to it in the early 80s. As for the Jay Thomas pictured on the survey, I can't tell from the picture if he's the same Jay Thomas who later jumped from radio into an acting career. Probably is. The actor Jay Thomas is probably best known for playing Eddie LeBec, Carla's hockey-goalie husband on Cheers and talk-show host Jerry Gold on Murphy Brown.

So anyway:

1. "Respect Yourself"/Staple Singers. I featured this on that podcast--one of the Staples' most pointed self-improvement messages made even more deadly serious by their funkiest backing track ever.

4. "Drowning in the Sea of Love"/Joe Simon.
This old-school soul record is actually an early Gamble-and-Huff production, but not nearly as slick as the productions that would make them legends at their Philadelphia International label later in the 1970s.

7. "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing"/New Seekers.
Getting right to the point, WAPE lists this on the survey as "Coke Song." Although the song was famously featured in a Coca-Cola commercial, the New Seekers' version of it wasn't. The version from the commercial was credited to the Hillside Singers. Both ran the charts at the same time, however, and both peaked on the Hot 100 during the week of January 15, 1972--the Seekers at Number 7 and the Hillside Singers at Number 13.

17. "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show"/Honey Cone.
WAPE played lots of R&B records that ended up bigger in Jacksonville than across the country, although "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show" wasn't really one of 'em. Unlike Honey Cone's two earlier hits in 1971, "Want Ads" and "Stick Up," "One Monkey" missed the national Top 10, however it does feature another of the killer hooks for which Honey Cone was justifiably famous.

21. "Black Dog"/Led Zeppelin.
The WAPE survey shows this as an LP cut, although it was out as a single by this time, from Zeppelin's famous untitled fourth album, which had been released the previous November. Radio stations were clamoring for a single release of "Stairway to Heaven," which Zeppelin was resisting, likely because they would have been expected to edit it down from nearly eight minutes. "Rock and Roll" would come out on 45 also, but there would never be an official single release of "Stairway." The full-length version was pressed on 45s for radio-station use, though.

("One Monkey" is a WMA file. Buy it, and all the Honey Cone you'll ever need, here.)

Recommended Listening: As part of its 365 Days Project featuring one audio oddity every day, WFMU's Beware of the Blog has posted a set of fan-club welcome records from David Cassidy, the Partridge Family, and Leif Garrett, featuring all the crappy fidelity you'd expect from records pressed on cardboard and sent through the mail. The Partridges record is especially precious. Listen as David Cassidy chokes down the bile while performing yet another loathsome fan-club duty! Dig Shirley Jones teasing possible plot developments for the new season! Contemplate how Danny Bonaduce could never have imagined what his life would become!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Some Half-Baked Thoughts About Jazz

A story appeared over the weekend about the closing of the Jazz Showcase in Chicago, the second-oldest jazz venue in the country behind the Village Vanguard in New York, and a place where everybody who was anybody in jazz over the last 59 years took the stage. While there's reason to lament the demise of such a place, it occurs to me that the club's demise isn't due so much to the death of jazz as it is to the way the scene has changed.

Jazz hasn't been America's most popular musical form since before the Jazz Showcase opened, so pining for the return of those days is futile. Yes, there are lots of jazz fans who wish mainstream jazz was bigger than it is, that it wasn't as marginalized as it is. I'm one of 'em. But I'm also somebody who understands the world we live in. And it occurs to me that in an artistic marketplace as fragmented as the music world is, everything's marginalized. I wrote last week how difficult it is to keep abreast of everything worth hearing--you can't, fewer people are even trying, and so what's the point? There's a lot more payback in immersing yourself fully in something you love than there is in worrying about why more people aren't immersing themselves in the same thing.

I'm fortunate to live in a town with what passes for a thriving jazz scene in 2007--fan interest enough to support a decent summer jazz series and separate local jazz festival every summer, a couple of full-time jazz clubs (albeit attached to swanky hotels) and other places that schedule a healthy number of jazz dates each year. Of course, the majority of the most popular jazz musicians locally aren't making a living at it on a full-time basis. Nevertheless, the fact that we have enough of them to call what we have here a "jazz scene" makes us a lot better off than other towns around the country. Chicago still has a scene too, despite the demise of the Jazz Showcase. Does it have fewer venues? Yes. Is it less vibrant than it used to be? That depends what you're comparing it to. You may not be able to go to the Jazz Showcase anymore, but the next time you're in Chicago, you'll be able to find jazz if you want to.

(If you want to get righteously upset about something in jazz, get upset about the way muzak-y "smooth jazz" is taking up the oxygen previously reserved for mainstream jazz. But that's another post entirely.)

One More Thing:
2006 was the year we started podcasting at this blog. In case you missed any of the podcasts (or if you'd like to hear them again, and thanks a heap if that's true), here are the links:

Forgotten 45s (just music, no talk, February)
The Drive at Five (highway tunes, April)
73 and 77 (hits from the month of May)
October 1975
December 1971
Christmas 2006