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Between the covers.

I find myself musing again on the world of spin-offs and cash-ins. And this time, unlike the Sgt. Pepper’s trading cards, I’m thinking about things I’ve actually held in my hand.

In my last post, while mentioning the range of merchandise that accompanied the Sgt. Pepper’s movie, I mentioned the novelization of the movie.

I don’t own it, but I know it exists, because I remember it being mentioned in a Rolling Stone rock n’ roll history book that I once owned and read until it split apart at the seams.

(The Rolling Stone book included a wonderful anecdote. Apparently the book version of the Sgt. Pepper’s movie was written by a veteran journalist who, at unpredictable intervals, would get a royalty check from this tossed-off piece of hackwork. At those times, he would become reflective and think: “Now, who in the hell could possibly have wanted to buy a copy of that book?”)

I know that it was once common practice to turn hit movies — or expected hit movies — into easily digestible paperbacks, because I own two of them.

I picked up the Grease “novel” maybe 10 or 15 years ago, almost certainly from the dead-end two-for-a-quarter bin at some used booksale. I’ve only skimmed it, because I only get so many breaths on this earth, and I’m not using any of ’em to close-read a hastily speed-typed adaptation of Grease.

The only memorable thing about the Grease novel is that, near the end, it mentions cars pulling out onto Passyunk Avenue — which would set events pretty firmly in South Philadelphia. I believe both the stage show and the movie are shorn of any geographic identifiers.

Jim Jacobs, who wrote the stage show, attended Taft High School in north Chicago — a few years ahead of Terry Kath — and is said to have based the show in part on his experiences there. I don’t remember anything Chicago-specific in the stage show, though it’s been a long time since it and I were in the same auditorium.

I’ve also for many years owned a copy of the paperback “novelization” of Can’t Stop the Music, the Village People movie. It’s not really a “novelization” so much as a photobook with captions.

(Can you imagine actually trying to turn the events of that movie into lucid prose? “The Leatherman draped himself gently atop the piano and began to sing ‘Danny Boy.’  The room fell silent.”)

I’m sure there’s a Grease 2 novelization somewhere, and a Xanadu paperback. Basically, wherever there was a big-budget movie with blockbuster hopes, there was somebody under contract to create a print equivalent easily comprehended by sixth-graders.

These were maybe not quite so bad as I make them sound. You could argue that anything that convinced a kid to stick his or her nose in a book was a net positive. And, c’mon, young readers might as well start with topics that interest them; they aren’t gonna go straight to Proust.

In the days before VHS, when you couldn’t take a movie home with you, a novelization might have been one of the best ways to cling to the magic of your favorite film. Reading about Sandy tottering out on her unfamiliar spike heels and clumsily throwing away her smoke would have been about the only way to relive it at your convenience.

I wonder if the movie studios still bother putting out these books in the age of DVDs and YouTube.

Unfortunately, my kids are past the age of Scholastic book fairs, so I don’t know for sure. I would imagine no potential cash-in avenue goes unexploited, as Hollywood is no less interested in making money than it was in 1980.

I think some further Googling is called for. There are probably gems to be found lurking online — someone’s probably lovingly scanned in the novelization of Car Wash, page by page. Or the book version of KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park.

(There’s gotta be a book equivalent of that one. There’s just gotta be. As my previous writings indicate, I have boundless faith in America’s bad taste. It’s never let me down yet.)


A splendid time.

You can keep your ’52 Mickey Mantle. I’m on the hunt for a ’78 Brad Whitford.


If you read this blog at all regularly, you know I maintain a passing interest in baseball cards. I still have my childhood collection in a couple of three-ring binders, and I usually add a pack or two a year, just to see what this year’s models look like.

Through the years, I’ve given short shrift to non-sports cards. I’ve just never thought of ’em on the same level as sports cards, and I’ve never pursued them. I think I have three or four Star Wars cards that came on the same tray as long-ago fast-food burgers, but that may be about it.

This, though, might just change my entire mindset. It’s a set of 66 cards issued in 1978 by cardmaker Donruss to commemorate the would-be feel-good movie of the summer, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

(I have Jeff Katz, a.k.a. @SplitSeason1981 on Twitter, to thank for calling my attention to these. If you’re on Twitter, Mr. Katz is a worthy and interesting follow: Not only has he written a book about the strike-divided 1981 baseball season, he was until recently the mayor of Cooperstown, New York.)


Sgt. Pepper’s is a dismal plastic abomination of a movie. It’s vulgar and nonsensical and misbegotten, capturing none of whatever elusive magic was generated by its (somewhat overrated) namesake album.

As one of the friends I first saw it with said: “I wondered: How can you take a bunch of Beatles songs and build ’em into a plot? And I found out the answer: You can’t!”

That’s why I enjoy it, though. I’d like to think I’m above schadenfreude, but I’m not, really. And I savor every frame of the movie while thinking, “Somebody — a whole bunch of somebodies — honestly thought this mess was going to be a blockbuster.”

Sure, there are a few memorable musical performances. Earth, Wind & Fire is sweet, and Alice Cooper is so far off the wall he carries it off. But every second of the rest is a wet kipper-smack in the face of highly paid professionals who should have known better — performers, screenwriters, directors … hell, even gaffers and best boys.

These cards take the sweet taste of schadenfreude up another notch.

Because, not only was there a movie, there was merch to go with it. A novelization. A double-album soundtrack (of course it was a double album.) Belt buckles. Posters. And, yes, trading cards. Because the Beatles were magic; the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton seemed magic; and Hollywood was gonna cash in on that magic every which way it could.

(I pause for a moment to consider whether anyone in America actually did think it was magic. Was there some kid in Omaha who sat there breathless when — SPOILER WARNING — the weathervane turned into Billy Preston? Somebody who ran out the next day and used all his lawn-mowing money to buy four packs of Sgt. Pepper’s cards from the otherwise untouched box at the corner drugstore? If there was, God bless him. The light shines on us all, unexpectedly, from time to time.)

Katz found his complete set of Sgt. Pepper’s cards for $5, which is no great expenditure. I’m trying to decide whether I actually want to own a set, or whether this website — which has photos of every card — tells me all I need to know.

There’s a lot of overlap in the set. I count at least three cards of Maurice Gibb playing drums, plus another three related to the hot-air balloon that occupies, like, 10 minutes of the movie. I don’t need to physically possess any of that.

On the other hand, card 44, “Father Sun’s Temple of Electronic Cosmology,” is quite possibly the maddest, most illogical thing ever committed to cardboard.

If you’d never seen the movie — like, if you bought a box of cards at a flea market and this was in it — what in the hell would you think was going on? (I mean, it doesn’t make a lot of sense even if you have seen the movie, but imagine coming to it with no context whatsoever.)

And No. 52 — “Sgt. Pepper dies at ceremonies in his honor” — is bizarre and perverse. Of all the moments in the movie to put on a card … why the old dude stroking out onstage, horn in hand? Just off the top of my head, I can name at least one card-worthy moment in the movie that isn’t in the set that could have gone in instead.

(Imagine a kid buying a pack of Sgt. Pepper’s cards at random — he hasn’t seen the movie, but he’s just getting into rock music, and he knows the Beatles are supposed to be magic, so he takes a flyer on a pack of cards — and this is the first one he pulls. Turn me on, dead man.)

I have enough upcoming expenditures, and enough possessions, that I don’t seriously see myself pursuing a set of Sgt. Pepper’s trading cards. To paraphrase EW&F, I don’t got to get them into my life.

Just knowing that the cards exist, though, makes me want to strut and high-step like a weathervane come to life. Their existence simultaneously represents the victory of Seventies American trash culture and bad taste, and the maximum failure of Seventies American trash culture and bad taste.

That’s a big burden for sixty-six slabs of cardboard to carry … but you know me; I wouldn’t exaggerate.

You’ll take away the biggest part of me.

I had a yen on Presidents’ Day to get out and do something, despite several inches of snowfall in my neck of the woods.

I ended up packing Chicago X in the car and taking a spin through northern Rhode Island for an hour or two.

The roads were clear, the views were lovely, the lingering snowfall was light, the general mood was pleasant, and a blog post was hatched: I decided I would rank the album’s 11 songs when I got home. (With apologies to Jim Bartlett, who has been ranking albums song-by-song well before I have, and does a better job too.)

For those desiring context: Chicago X is the “chocolate bar” album, released in June 1976, and the album that gave the world “If You Leave Me Now.” Also, it was Chicago’s second-to-last album featuring gravel-voiced singer and guitarist Terry Kath. (No prizes for guessing that Chicago XI was the last.)

And here’s how the songs shake out:

11. “You Get It Up.” Unless you’re War or the Ohio Players or somebody like that, a group vocal is almost always a bad sign. And a group vocal on a song about tumescence is always a bad sign, no matter who’s gathered around the mic.

This has a little bit of funk perkiness about it, and it sounds like they probably enjoyed cutting the rhythm track, but … no. Just no.

10. “Skin Tight.” In which a successful rock star meditates on his lady and thinks, “We’re really good at sexing. I should write a song about that.”

I guess there is more puritan in me than I usually admit … but I can’t put this one in any other category than No either. (The music treads the thin line between mildly funky and monotonous again, which doesn’t help.)

9. “Scrapbook.” In my Night in the Ruts ranking, I busted on Steven Tyler for writing about the history of his band. I esteem Robert Lamm more than I do Tyler, but his venture into band history doesn’t take wing either.

(His summary of the Chicago/Beach Boys tour of ’75 is pretty classic: “Made some special music / Everybody sang the blues.” Yup, I’m sure when you get Mike Love, Al Jardine, Carl Wilson, Peter Cetera and Bobby Lamm in the same room, what comes out is some deep, deep blues. Shame Bukka White couldn’t be there.)

Lamm’s vocal is strained and (to my ears) somewhat undermixed, and the hooks just ain’t happening — there’s not much of this song I’d be able to hum to you an hour after hearing it.

8. “Gently I’ll Wake You.” Chicago X is rich in songs about rock stars missing their ladies, including this Lamm ballad whose narrator lays out his plan to awake his dame for some early-morning delight. “Wake you,” inevitably, rhymes with “shake you.”

(It pains me to report that three of Lamm’s four contributions to the record aren’t that great; he wrote “You Get It Up” too.)

While listening to this, I can only imagine a rock star’s wife, left back at home to raise the kids and do the laundry and run the day-to-day family business while her husband quaffs Heineken and plays to packed hockey rinks and consorts with God-knows-who … and when he finally returns, he brings home all these big ideas about poking her awake first thing in the morning.

And she thinks: “FFS. Could I be allowed to sleep, maybe?”

7. “Hope For Love.” The album’s closer, written and sung by Kath (with producer James William Guercio playing guitar — what’s the story on that? Kath couldn’t hack his own tune? I doubt that.)

Compared to the duds listed so far in this post, this song is a significant step up. Kath sings winningly, and I could see this one ranking several spots higher on somebody else’s ranking of the album. (Upon further review, I should move it up at least one spot, but I’ve already put all the videos in place, so I’ll leave it where it is.)

My beef with it, such as it is, is that it’s a capable song but not an epic. It’s not really an album closer to send you away thinking, “Man, I just heard the kind of LP that’s gonna shape my life.”

But — given that “Hope for Love” shares Side 2 with songs like “Scrapbook,” “Gently I’ll Wake You” and “You Get It Up” — it’s probably the best album closer the band had to offer at the time.

6. “Mama Mama.” Somebody else on the Internet, I think Becky Banfield, observed long ago that Peter Cetera had the curious habit of addressing his ladylove as “mama” in every song with an opportunity to do so. Here, he leads with it.

That opening hi-hat groove (pure mellow easy-ridin’ Seventies) could be dynamite in the hands of a good hip-hop producer, and the verse features some nice moody chord changes reminiscent of “Jackie Blue.”

The chorus is kind of nowhere, though, and the song sorta fades out before it’s really established itself as much of anything. (I guess that’s a lesser evil than hanging around too long.)

A credible album track, in sum.

5. “If You Leave Me Now.” What does one say about the Big Single? I’m OK with it, reasonably partial to it, wouldn’t turn away from it if it came on the radio, and like that. It’s not among the truly finest rock ballads, IMHO — it’s not “Something” (though that simple acoustic guitar solo sounds like something George Harrison might have played) — but it’s solidly built and well-arranged.

On a purely objective ranking of the songs of Chicago X, this would have to be Number One, as the most successful, best-known and most lasting of the bunch. But this all goes through my warped filter on the way to the world, and I’m not the world’s biggest appreciator of ballads, I guess.

I used to grumble about Cetera taking over the band, and the shift to ballads, and all that … but, y’know, if the dude’s gonna come to the session with songs like this in his pocket, he kinda deserves it.

(And hey, there’s another “mama,” right there near the end, for those of you playing Peter Cetera Bingo.)

4. “You Are On My Mind.” Written and sung by trombonist James Pankow, who apparently also played the piano part after Lamm couldn’t quite get the light Latin groove under his fingers.

I’ll just spit it out: I love the rhythmic pocket. I don’t care if it’s loungey. I love it. Drummer Danny Seraphine and percussionist Laudir de Oliveira get a rare chance to shine here, and they grab it. (Is that a cuica buried in the instrumental bridge, whooping away? I think it is.)

For that matter, the horn parts and the backing vocals really kick things forward too. The only weak parts of this are Pankow’s voice, which is acceptable but not the equal of his bandmates’, and the somewhat debatable decision to put a trombone solo at the song’s peak — for me it’s always pushed the song into lounge territory to hear Pankow’s trombone come leaping in at the big solo spot.

3. “Together Again.” Pankow’s horn section-mate, trumpeter Lee Loughnane, steps forward to sing one of his own songs. Loughnane wasn’t a bad singer — he sounded like a less gravelly Kath — and he delivers this one effectively. (Name me another band, besides the Beach Boys, whose fourth- and fifth-best singers could carry a song like Loughnane and Pankow.)

The song moves back and forth between an upbeat, almost-hard-rock verse and a quiet, spacey bridge with weird synth swizzles that add to the atmosphere. It fades out on the bridge, which is a nice reassuring way to go; you imagine the hard-travelin’ rock star has finally been reunited with his chick.

(Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention: The lyric is another traveling-rock-star-yearns-to-be-with-his-lady trip. Chicago was good at that. You’d think these guys toured twice as hard as B.B. King.)

2. “Another Rainy Day in New York City.” I had this one on repeat for a while in the car; musta listened to it seven straight times. There’s something about another rainy day in New York City that finds common ground in another snowy day in Woonsocket, I guess. And, like “You Are On My Mind,” I could take a long bath in the groove.

Lamm’s one songwriting success on the album, this one is sung for no apparent reason by Cetera. Was it out of Lamm’s range? Did he think it had a better chance of hitting the charts with Cetera on vocals? Could Lamm not fake the Caribbean accent? Who knows.

This is a hilarious example of matching upbeat music (a sort of cheerful Trinidadian fandango) to a sour lyric.

Our narrator doesn’t want to be in NYC to begin with — there’s no one there he wants to see, and bad memories won’t leave him alone. (The use of the word “another” suggests he’s taken this trip before.)

Traffic’s tied up. He can’t get a cab, ’cause they’ve all disappeared. The weather is windy and gray. And to top things off, his hotel costs too damn much. One expects him to start ranting about the room-service scrambled eggs.

But our narrator finds his Zen at the end — the air is clean, the moment is serene — and Cetera leads the steel drummers in a merry bounce through the fade-out.

1. “Once Or Twice.” Yes, big ballads and bigger synths and outside song doctors were all in the future for Chicago.

But for a couple of minutes, Terry Kath was having none of it, and the result was probably the best pure high-energy rock the band ever produced. Kath turns in an unrestrained, full-throated lead vocal and plays barking rhythm guitar, while Seraphine’s drums and Lamm’s piano jump in and get sweaty too.

(Shame about the sax solo: The song demands a honking Bobby Keys-style step-out, and Walt Parazaider, for all his talent, is not Bobby Keys. No matter. The solo passes quickly enough, and we move back into Kath’s bear hug.)

If you need proof that Terry Kath mattered, or you wonder what exactly got torn out of his band when he died, put this on.

Or, just put it on anyway.

December 18, 1982: You’re old enough, some people say, to read the signs and walk away.

For some reason, AT40 recaps are some of the most popular things I’ve ever written. So, given a long weekend, I’m gonna take on another one from the early ’80s. (As with last time, there is no special significance to the chosen week, and I didn’t know what would be played until I listened.)

Favorites in bold, as always.

No. 40, debut: Bob Seger, “Shame on the Moon.” As solid and dependable as a cinderblock, but easier to swallow. The sort of country song that even li’l old countryphobe me could sit down and kinda get into. A Rodney Crowell cover and, according to Wiki, Seger’s only Top 40 country hit.

No. 39, debut: Billy Joel, “Allentown.” Much ink has been spilled on this song here and in other places.

So I’ll content myself with imagining what it was like among my former neighbors in the Lehigh Valley in the early summer of ’82, just before the release of BJ’s The Nylon Curtain, as the word started spreading: “Billy Joel wrote a song about us! Really. It’s called ‘Allentown.’ I wonder what it sounds like.”

I wonder how they felt as they sat down for the first few spins, and heard Beej nail their suffering to vinyl so trenchantly. And, I wonder if they realized that this 45 was going to come to define their otherwise unremarkable burg to the rest of the world for at least three decades.

No. 38, debut: Juice Newton, “Heart of the Night.” I vaguely remember that period of time when “Queen of Hearts” was inescapable on the radio. It was, to coin a phrase, the sort of country song that a lot of countryphobes could sit down and kinda get into (or get up and dance to). This ode to “two hungry hearts under the gun” is a serviceable piece of work — that ending is kinda cool, especially — but it just doesn’t have the same mojo.

Casey talks about how David Geffen made $23 million while retired from the record business.

No. 37, up two notches: Peter Gabriel, “Shock the Monkey.” I should probably bold this just in deference to Gabriel’s early-’80s rep: He was sort of pop music’s favorite weirdo, a guy who could maintain his outsider-alternative cred while also selling large quantities of records. All well and good but I don’t overmuch like this song; it repeats itself and kinda plods forward in its one electro-bag for three-plus minutes.

No. 36: After a shoutout to KCPX Salt Lake City, we get Kool & the Gang with “Let’s Go Dancin’.” A limp, rote invitation to go dancin’, reggae dancin’. Disco was a four-letter word in December ’82, but at least when disco was king, dance songs actually swung, pumped, moved and/or grooved.

Casey teases the upcoming Top 100 of 1982 countdown, and mentions all the chart buffs who send in their guesses on each year’s list. AT40 geeks? Who dey?

No. 35: “Three bands from Australia in the countdown this week,” Casey announces, and here’s the first: Moving Pictures with “What About Me.” I’ve always found this one overblown and maudlin and I didn’t give it much of a chance to change my mind this time around. What’s next?

No. 34: “A Penny For Your Thoughts,” Tavares. No memory of this at all so I’ll give it a minute. I don’t hate the chorus, and this won’t be the worst song on this week’s countdown, but as with Kool and the Gang, I can’t help comparing this to the best from the past — in this case, “It Only Takes a Minute.”

Casey mentions that a lot of long-distance dedications involve civilians and people in the military. This one involves a Marine sent to Okinawa after getting married. His wife asks Casey to play Firefall’s “Just Remember I Love You.” Like the old blues song says: Uncle Sam ain’t no woman, but he sure can steal your man.

No. 33, up seven spots: Fleetwood Mac, “Love In Store.” Another of those unflappable, straight-ahead, not-hugely-surprising, mid-tempo Christine McVie songs about matters of the heart. She turned them out with a distinctly British resolve — the same spirit, perhaps, that drove Agatha Christie to keep writing mysteries. As works of art go, this song ranks somewhere between Dead Man at the Vicarage and A Scream on the 4:22 to Skegness.

No. 32: Thirteen male solo artists on the countdown this week, and here’s one from Boston: Billy Squier, “Everybody Wants You.” (Actually, Case, he’s from Wellesley, but what’s a few miles between friends?) Shiny arena-rock with a big stoopid riff. Remember when people went for that?

No. 31, up six notches: Another high-quality contribution from the Hub of the Universe: J. Geils, “I Do.” I’ve heard this song for years and honestly never knew what it was called — maybe because the sense of warmed-over ’50s I got from it never inspired me to look deeper and learn more. This is the live version from the Showtime! album — the Obligatory Live Single, kinda like Geils’ equivalent of “Going to a Go-Go” — no doubt shined up in the studio, but at least Magic Dick gets a couple bars to play. Sure, what the hell.

No. 30: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, up two with “You Got Lucky.” From time to time I remember a weird experience I had in seventh grade. A girl I had a small crush on was walking over to talk to me, and I heard the intro to this song in my head as clearly as if Benmont Tench were seated between my ears. (Things might have gone better if he had been; I think what I said when she arrived was something along the lines of, “Hi, I’m a dork with a bowl cut and bad breath.”) Great tune, anyway.

A listener from Norwich, Connecticut — what’s with all the New England all of a sudden? — asks about Number One hits whose titles are not mentioned in the lyrics. Casey says there are five: “Three Bells” in 1959, “Sukiyaki” and “Fingertips Part 2” in 1963, and “T.S.O.P.” and “Annie’s Song” from 1975.

No. 29: Jeffrey Osborne, “On The Wings of Love.” I was getting ready for another smoove ballad, and then — that crash of big L.A. guitar! What? I don’t really like the song but I almost wanna keep listening just to see how many more times that intrusive guitar shows up. I can only assume there’s probably an emotional, well-crafted, studio-cat solo someplace … but my patience has run out.

No. 28: Casey mentions that San Francisco’s little cable cars used to climb halfway to the stars … and they will again, once the city and the National Parks Service complete an overhaul of the system.

Having provided this random moment in time, Case then throws us over to the laser-gun guitar of Jefferson Starship’s “Be My Lady.” If I can make it through entire Hot Tuna albums I can make it through three-and-a-half minutes of this.


OK, I did.

No. 27, up eight: Casey mentions that the next tune takes its title from a children’s rhyme written in 1765 by Oliver Goldsmith — who presumably did not receive any royalties from Adam Ant’s “Goody Two Shoes.” Good bouncy nonstop British silliness with an unexpected but welcome Al Green name-drop.

No. 26, up five: Kenny Loggins, “Heart to Heart.” A solidly produced Kenny Loggins product, guaranteed to deliver your required daily intake of Kenny Loggins.

An AT40 extra by the only American group ever to have five straight Number One hits — in this case, between August of 1964 and June of ’65. I would have guessed the Beach Boys, but nope, the Supremes. Case plays “Come See About Me.”

No. 25, up four: John Cougar, “Hand to Hold On To.” The last of the singles from American Fool, the LP that made the once and future Mr. Mellencamp a star. This tune — like that Fleetwood Mac song eight or 10 spots ago — has that third-single-from-the-album feel. It’s OK but not much more.

No. 24, down eight: Olivia Newton-John, “Heart Attack.” Sort of spikey and new-wavey and actually mildly unpleasant.

No. 23: After a shout-out to WQMU in Indiana, Pennsylvania, it’s Dan Fogelberg with “Missing You.” This is the second straight countdown in which I’ll say something positive about Dan Fogelberg. This one ditches the starry-eyed balladry for an acceptable Kenny Loggins-ish not-really-funk strut. I’m getting closer but I don’t know what to.

No. 22: Phil Collins, “You Can’t Hurry Love.” In which Collins refuses to let his progressive-rock god status prevent him from dusting off a classic bit of teenage cotton-candy. This is not actually a bad record, and easier on the ears than some of the stuff that came later, like all the “Miami Vice” posturing he was into for a year or two there.

No. 21: The Little River Band, “The Other Guy.” Damn … if Moving Pictures and Olivia Newton-John are the other two Aussie bands this week, that must mean we won’t be hearing Men at Work. Double damn.

No. 20: Patti Austin and James Ingram up five, “Baby Come To Me.” Good smooth soul, or what was passing for soul in 1982, with a fine chorus. Not quite gonna bold it but nothing really wrong with it.

No. 19: Casey tells the story of how the guitarist and keyboardist of British band ABC chucked in a executive job with the local natural-gas company to play music. Their first American hit is “The Look of Love,” and whaddya know, here it is. We haven’t had all that much British synth tootling in this countdown; I guess we were due for some. Still another OK-but-not-wonderful tune.

No. 18: Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle, “You and I.” Recently a Number One country hit. No thanks.

No. 17, up two: The Clash, “Rock the Casbah.” Their second U.S. Top 40 hit, in all its weird, piano-spiked, armadillo-toting glory. There’s gotta be one weird/unusual voice on every countdown, and I guess Joe Strummer fills that role this week. The Combat Rock album had a cult following on the Penfield High cross-country team of my youth so I remember this one extra-fondly.

(Does anyone else remember the Dr. Demento parody, “Lock the Snack Bar”? “‘Cause there’s ants between the Raisinets / Down the snack bar way.” Good times.)

No. 16: Toto up two notches with “Africa.” We’ll just forget the existence of the Internet cult surrounding this song and enjoy it the way people did in 1982. Toto’s drummer, the late Jeff Porcaro, once said he liked the groove of this song so much that he made himself an hour-long tape of it. As a top-call session drummer, Porcaro knew from grooves, so this must indeed be an excellent one.

No. 15: “Up Where We Belong,” Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, a former Number One. You know the song.

No. 14: After a shout-out to WQEN in Gadsden, Alabama, here’s Dionne Warwick with “Heartbreaker.” Forgot all about this song until it got to the chorus — and, oh, yeah, there’s that Gibb falsetto. Always welcome. (The song sorta sprawls out structurally like those Bee Gees hits of the Seventies, too.)

You know what? I’m glad to find a song that remembers what was well-done from the Seventies and doesn’t turn away from it. So I’m gonna bold this, just for the Gibbs. Dionne Warwick, “Heartbreaker.” There ya go.

No. 13: Pat Benatar, “Shadows of the Night.” More Big Hard-Rock Overwroughtness. I’m sure it spoke to lots of people, but not to fortysomething me.

No. 12 in only its fourth week, from the Number One LP Business As Usual: “And now we’re up to a hit song about Australia,” Casey says — oh boy! I guess we’re gonna get Men At Work after all. After an explanation of Vegemite (“we understand you have to acquire a taste for it”), we get “Down Under.” I could listen to these guys all day, and maybe should have today.

No. 11: Supertramp, “It’s Raining Again.” Why do I like this? Maybe because it goes naturally with baseball rain delays. I’m a little embarrassed to have confessed a fondness for Supertramp. Let’s keep going, shall we? The Top 10 is waiting.

No. 10: Diana Ross holds the No. 10 position for six weeks in a row — how? what? how is that possible? — with “Muscles.” So we’ve heard the Supremes; we’ve heard Phil Collins cover the Supremes; and now we get Miss Ross her ownself, with an assist from Michael Jackson. In a weird way I kinda like this one too, as a creative production and arranging job (even if they cribbed the fade-away-and-radiate ending from “Grease.”)

No. 9: The Stray Cats, “Rock This Town.” How did a rockabilly band get so popular? I mean, the British eat up the Fifties and always have, but Americans aren’t quite so eternally devoted to hair-grease and upright basses. Today, of course, we have the context to see the Cats in their true light — as the predecessor band to Phantom, Rocker & Slick.

No. 8: The Number One soul song this week: Marvin Gaye, “Sexual Healing.” I’ve never been a huge Marvin Gaye fan, and I’ve never found this song as anthemic as some people seem to, so I’m sorta bolding this out of some perception that I’m supposed to.

Long-distance dedication from a 19-year-old woman in Charlotte, N.C., to her mom in Texas: “Out Here On My Own” by Irene Cara.

No. 7: Don Henley, “Dirty Laundry.” Piss off, Don, you supercilious asshole. Just … piss right off.

No. 6, fifth week in the Top 10: After a shout-out to Armed Forces Radio, it’s Joe Jackson with “Steppin’ Out.” Hey, Marvin Gaye, this is how you use a drum machine. The Cole Porter-loving Englishman checks in with a mesmeric, urbane ode to having a very large, very shiny city spread out at one’s feet. Can you taste the champagne?

No. 5: Lionel Richie with a former Number One, “Truly.” On the counter near the computer as I type this is nine-tenths of a pound of chorizo sausage from New Bedford, defrosting. Tomorrow night I will mix it with diced sweet potatoes, maybe some onion, and serve it in soft tortillas. It’s gonna smoke.

No. 4: Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, “The Girl is Mine.” Haven’t heard this in years and years. Not sure who put the deadweight “doggone” in the lyric but I’m betting it wasn’t Michael. The back-and-forth between the two at the end would be Macca’s most embarrassing Top 40 moment ever, if he hadn’t gone and played the kazoo solo on that one Ringo Starr record.

No. 3: Laura Branigan, “Gloria.” Casey explains that this is a remake of a huge European hit that was never released in English. He then plays the first half of the Italian original before segueing over to Branigan’s cover. I love when he does stuff like that. The Italian version seems more buttoned-down; Branigan’s is louder, more flamboyant, the kind of thing ice skaters do free routines to.

Number One on the country chart: “Somewhere Between Right and Wrong,” Earl Thomas Conley.

No. 2: Toni Basil, “Mickey,” down from its sole week at Number One. Another song that brings its Dr. Demento parody to mind (Weird Al Yankovic’s “Ricky.”) I guess we were overdue for some cheesy Farfisa organ, so here we are. An OK pop song but I only really need to hear it maybe once every two years.

No. 1: Casey talks about duo acts with the most Number Ones. Ahead of the Everlys, the Carpenters and Simon & Garfunkel, Hall and Oates claims its fifth Number One with “Maneater.” A decent repurposing of the same bump-bump-bump Motown rhythm that props up “You Can’t Hurry Love,” but not my favorite of their songs. (“Private Eyes” for the win, followed by “You Make My Dreams,” followed by “Rich Girl,” followed by “She’s Gone,” followed by “Sara Smile” … yeah, this one isn’t really all that close to the top. It beats out “It’s a Laugh,” anyway.)

March 15, 1980: Bring me Southern kisses from your room.

Found a stash of old AT40s from the ’80s online and am listening to the week ending March 15, 1980. No great historical significance to my choice of date, except maybe that it’s close enough to the Seventies that Big Early-Eighties Synth-Rot hadn’t infested all the songs yet.

(Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead spent the day becoming the first member of that band to turn 40. But he almost certainly didn’t spend his big day listening to Casey Kasem.)

The full rundown with favourites in bold:

No. 40: Heart, “Even It Up.” This sounds like a cross-breed between the late-’70s Stones and the Cars — ragged boogie at its heart but with weird touches lurking around the edges. I’m not a fan.

No. 39: The Whispers, “And The Beat Goes On.” This, meanwhile, sounds to me like it’s perched halfway between disco and Prince-styled Eighties funk. It’s closer to disco — these guys weren’t visionaries — but maybe not quite so rote. Not an all-time great but I wouldn’t have turned the dial. (At the end of the countdown, Casey mentions that this is Number One on the soul charts.)

Casey tells a story about producer Mike Chapman having his ears insured for $10 million. Oh, God, is this leading into…

No. 38: The Knack, “Baby Talks Dirty.” … yes, it is. This is “My Sharona” with the catchiness drained out and twice as much skeeviness poured in to replace it. To paraphrase Doug Fieger: Ugh, ugh, ugh.

No. 37: Peaches and Herb, “I Pledge My Love.” Casey begins with the story of two songwriters who sat down to write “the wedding song of the ’80s.” They didn’t make it, I don’t think. Listening to this is like sitting down to eat three or four big slabs of wedding cake at one go.

No. 36: J. Geils Band, “Come Back.” Geils in their sort of new-wavey ’80s hit-radio guise. I never complain about these dudes clocking a good payday … but really, they did much better than this. Did Magic Dick even come to the session?

No. 35: Casey precedes with an anecdote about the three actors-singers who were nominated for Oscars while they had a song in the Forty. They were Sinatra, Streisand and … Bette Midler with “When A Man Loves A Woman,” from The Rose. I couldn’t listen to more than about eight bars.

No. 34: ZZ Top, “I Thank You,” preceded by Casey’s explanation of the meaning of the word “deguello.” This is all kinds of lowdown and smoky and it blows away everything else preceding it. Billy, Dusty and Frank, I thank you.

No. 33: The Babys, “Back On My Feet Again.” What’s that line about “the way that you came every night” supposed to mean? You guys trying out for the Knack or something? So be it; they could be singing the menu from a seafood restaurant in Shreveport during the verses and it wouldn’t matter, because everything else vanishes when the big-big-big chorus kicks in. Yay big-big-big choruses! (No bold, though.)

No. 32: After a shout-out to KQEO in Albuquerque, it’s Air Supply with “Lost In Love.” I give these guys a couple points for being pop craftsmen but it doesn’t really move me in the end.

From the AT40 archives: Another of the #1 songs of the Seventies. It’s “How Deep Is Your Love,” from December 1977. Now here’s how you write a ballad, guys.

No. 31: Dr. Hook, debut, “Sexy Eyes.” Acceptable slinky 1980 white bedroom funk. (As in bedroom funk by Caucasians, not funk for white bedrooms.) This is probably just about where their ride finally ended, no?

No. 30: Barry Manilow, “When I Wanted You.” It’s Barry Manilow; he’s a genre to himself, or at least a niche. (Very few people can bring quite as much schmaltz to a key modulation.) He gets the same grudging respect-points as the guys in Air Supply but it ain’t my bowl of tomato soup.

No. 29: Casey tells the story — I’ve heard it before – about how Steve Forbert intentionally fed interviewers a bunch of false origin stories. Casey doesn’t seem to like that very much, which is not too surprising, given how much he relied on printed interviews for anecdotal material for AT40. Of course the song is “Romeo’s Tune,” all loopy and likeable. Somewhere I have a full concert of Forbert, recorded around this time; every time I remember it I mean to listen to it, but I haven’t done so yet.

No. 28: A shoutout to someplace called “Morningdale, Massachusetts.” Gonna have to look that up, as I’ve never heard of it. (It’s apparently in the town of Boylston, near Worcester.) Meanwhile, Neil Diamond does his Neil Diamond thang on “September Morn.” I dunno — I might have listened to this if it caught me in a certain mood. Oh, wait, the lines “Look at what you’ve done / You’ve become a grown-up girl” would probably have triggered me to change stations in 1980, just as they trigger me to skip ahead on the Internet in 2019.

No. 27: Michael Jackson, “Rock With You.” Are this and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” really Michael’s finest solo singles? The argument could be made, anyway. (I don’t always get into the sound of Michael singing — lots of hiccups and tics, sometimes — but listening to this, I’m digging the sound of his voice, and his phrasing, and all that singerly stuff. I’d like to hear an isolated recording of just him, if it exists.)

No. 26: Toto, “99.” People whose taste I trust like this song, and I think it’s pretty good — better than a lot of other stuff on the countdown. I’m unlikely to find myself humming it at random intervals, though.

No. 25: Billy Preston and Syreeta, “With You I’m Born Again.” Capably done, and pretty enough, but I’d really have to be in a specific mood to get all the way through. Not quite in that mood tonight.

Long-distance dedication from a kid whose dad works for the U.S. Embassy in Korea. There’s a guy and a girl, of course. The guy has a broken heart (“we were both like eagles, flying in the sky, on a natural high”) but he has great taste: He asks Casey to play “Just You ‘n’ Me” by Chicago. Peter Cetera sings the music of your life, Chap. XXXVII.

No. 24: Bob Seger, “Fire Lake.” Not my favorite Seger song, alas.

No. 23: Pat Benatar, “Heartbreaker.” Gets points for hacking and swaggering its way through the ballads and soft funk. Maybe I should even bold it. Nah, not quite. But a relative highlight, anyway.

Dude wants to know the all-time record for the most consecutive weeks spent at No. 1. At the time the answer was “Goodnight, Irene” in 1950, with 13 weeks in a row. Nowadays it probably belongs to some hip-hop tune that got downloaded 12 million times and stayed at Number One for 37 straight weeks.

No. 22: Tommy James up eight with “Three Times In Love.” Crisp, yet soggy. Good on the ol’ trooper for cracking the 40 again but it’s unremarkable.

Another of the Number Ones of the Seventies. January 1978: “Baby Come Back,” Player.

No. 21: The Dirt Band, “An American Dream.” Hey, there’s that harmonica Magic Dick should have been playing, like, 15 hits ago. Those parts of this I feel like listening to sound like rehashed Jimmy Buffett, which is not something the world greatly needs.

No. 20: Michael Jackson up nine, “Off The Wall.” Was becoming an International Pop Phenomenon the worst thing that ever happened to MJ? If Thriller hadn’t exploded on him, might he have put out a string of albums as good as Off The Wall? If only, if only.

No. 19: Chuck Mangione, “Give It All You Got.” Preceded by a story about Chuck playing a supper club in Rochester, where two of his fans gave him his trademark hat. Chuck always gets bolded in this precinct, and the tune’s association with the now misty-with-time 1980 Lake Placid Olympics only makes it better. A few spins through this and I’m ready to go conquer the luge.

No. 18: Eagles, “I Can’t Tell You Why.” In which the ex-desperadoes and sometime rockers try walking on eggshells — and pull it off. Maybe they shoulda been more sensitive more often. This tune is the pure distillation of that mild 1980 sound … this, and maybe Randy Van Warmer.

No. 17: After a shout-out to WSCZ, Greenwood, S.C., we get Christopher Cross up six with “Ride Like The Wind.” Not-half-bad tune that touches all the mellow buttons (Michael McDonald, take a bow) but still rocks/moves just a tiny bit.

No. 16: Anne Murray down four with “Daydream Believer.” Wonder what Peter Tork was doing this week? Community theater in Spokane, maybe? Anyway, this cover is unnecessary, except to the extent that it reminds people of the superior original.

No. 15: Tom Petty, “Refugee.” Preceded by an anecdote in which Casey explains that Petty’s latest songs are inspired by his lawsuits with his record company, not by broken love affairs. Great first line that comes tumbling out all over itself: “We got somethin’ we both know it we don’t talk too much about it.” Plus those all-American guitars, as always. Quality stuff.

No. 14: Ray, Goodman and Brown, “Special Lady.” Grabby, chatty a cappella opening. OK enough chune, reminiscent maybe of some of the early Philly-soul productions. That should be enough to earn a bold. Oh, OK. I’ll go up and bold it now.

Another long-distance dedication, from a girl named Kelly in Washington state who had an interracial Anglo-Mexican relationship, split with the guy, got herself clean — but he didn’t. The tune: Stonebolt’s “I Will Still Love You.” Skip.

No. 13: The Captain (RIP) and Tennille, “Do That To Me One More Time.” Former Number One that’s been on the countdown longer than any other (though Casey doesn’t specify how many weeks that is). Not for me, thanks.

No. 12: “Call Me,” Blondie. Up 16 spots; only its second week on the chart. I think this went on to become the biggest-selling single of the year. Moves like a bullet train. None of the whimsy or goofiness of some of Blondie’s other tunes; this one’s here for a reason and it wastes no time doing anything else.

Last of the week’s three Number Ones of the Seventies. From January 1978, “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees. Tall-walking, distinctive, funky and glorious.

No. 11: Casey welcomes three new stations – one in the Philippines, two in Alaska – and then spins Linda Ronstadt up five notches with “How Do I Make You.” High energy, a little messy, with guitars champing at the bit. Grabbier than a lot of those covers that were such huge hits for her in the Seventies. When she yells “dream about me!” it sounds like a command, not an aspiration.

No. 10: Kool and the Gang, “Too Hot.” Too slick. (By half.)

No. 9: After a shout-out to KSEM in Moses Lake, Washington, here’s Shalamar with “The Second Time Around.” I had forgotten this even existed. Usually it’s a neat feeling to encounter a forgotten or unfamiliar song on a Forty. It’s a better feeling when it’s a better song, though. This one sounds almost cynically custom-made for all those high school couples who argue a lot but still end up couples-skating together on Saturday night.

Casey answers two listeners with the same question: the shortest record to hit Number One in the rock era. The winner, running just 1:38: “Stay” by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs. Casey doesn’t mention Jackson Browne.

No. 8: Rupert Holmes, “Him.” Casey says AT40 plays the top hits “from Rupert, Vermont, to Holmes, Ohio.” Clever man. A taut, moody melodrama; I say it works fine (except possibly for the wordless vocal scree-ing that seems to cover a hole in the song where they couldn’t come up with anything else).

No. 7: Teri DeSario and KC, “Yes I’m Ready.” Where did all of KC’s google-eyed funk go? My heavens, so much smoove.

AT40 extra: The biggest hit ABBA has ever had — “Dancing Queen.” I’m not sure why they picked this to fill a couple minutes with, but it’s *the* legendary super-definitive ABBA tune for a reason. (I still like “Knowing Me Knowing You” just a bit better, but I’m a crank and a freak.)

No. 6: The Spinners, “Working My Way Back To You.” Another of those tunes I seem to remember hearing on the family car radio while we were chewing up the miles between western New York and western Connecticut. Big groove, big chorus, and my grandparents’ house at the end; what’s not to love?

No. 5: Casey tells a story about Donna Summer being born again, then plays “On The Radio.” I like the shift from ballad to uptempo disco, but overall, there’s some quality in Donna’s voice that rubs me wrong.

No. 4: Casey rattles off the seven deadly sins. I’m waiting for him to end with “lust,” but instead he says, “and the one Andy Gibb sings about here, ‘Desire.'” That ain’t the way I learned it, Case.

Anyway, I don’t remember the last time I heard this song either. It’s actually pretty good, but I’ve never liked Andy’s solo stuff as much as I like his brothers, even though his solo stuff sounds like his brothers’ and was written (I think) by his brothers. An OK dose of that famous falsetto but not essential.

No. 3: Casey tells the story of Pink Floyd killing all the fish in the pool outside London’s Crystal Palace. (“They’d gone off to sing with the choir eternal,” Casey says, in a Pythonesque touch.) “If you have a fish tank, move it to the other room, because here’s Pink Floyd at No. 3 with ‘Another Brick in the Wall’!

I’ve never gotten into the monomaniacal saga of The Wall, but I like the idea of these itinerant ex-hippies scoring a disco-flavored Number One — and with a song that gives the finger to jerky teachers, to boot. (We’ve all known a couple.) Some nice liquid Dave Gilmour guitar to close things out, too. Casey cuts things off before we get to the part about the pudding and the meat.

No. 2: Dan Fogelberg, “Longer.” There is only so much earnestness I can take at one sitting and this exceeds it. If not for that I would bold this (yeah, I said that) because it’s catchy and sweet as hell. The core sentiment (my love exceeds the forces of nature) is not a million miles away from that expressed in “God Only Knows,” for instance, but Brian Wilson is acclaimed as a genius while Dan Fogelberg is dismissed as a dweeb. Critics are tough.

Number One on the country chart: “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys,” Willie Nelson. Number One on the album charts for nine weeks now is The Wall. And in its fourth week at Number One on the singles charts …

No. 1: “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” Queen. Catchy, but given the rest of their output, I wonder whether greasy Fifties stuff was really close to their heart, or whether they were just kinda jerking around to do something different. (This is the band whose lead singer could channel English vaudeville while the guitar player was shooting laser beams out of his fingers, after all. Why did they want to play at being Gene Vincent?)

Sour Mash’s big day.

If I had a billion dollars and the time that comes with it, I’d probably pitch a tent in the Boston Public Library’s microfilm room and spend my time wallowing in the countless stories of the past.

One project I’d do would be to recap the Braves’ last season in Boston (1952), day by day and game by game, looking at the city’s six daily newspapers to review each day’s events and how they were covered. Maybe after that I’d do other seasons, too.

(The Braves are interesting to me because the days of two MLB teams in Boston seem so distant, and because I’m familiar with what remains of their old ballpark, which is in the part of the city I know best.)

You won’t get that project today, or anytime soon. But you will get the story, from multiple angles, of one of the ’52 Braves’ less celebrated players and the best day he ever spent in the big leagues.

Is it baseball season yet?

# # # # #

Perhaps inevitably, Harold Jack Daniels went by his middle name. Equally inevitably, the native of Chester, Pa., sometimes answered to the nickname “Sour Mash.”

At the start of the 1952 season, Daniels was only 24 but had already spent six years knocking around minor-league towns like Hartford, Raleigh and Eau Claire. Born a hair too late to serve in World War II — he turned 18 a few days before Christmas, 1945 — he hadn’t been forced to sideline his career for military service, like ballplayers a few years older had done.

His numbers alone — .256 in Class A Hartford in ’51, .246 across two levels the year before — don’t really explain how he landed a job in the major leagues in 1952.

But a story by the Boston American’s Larry Claflin during the ’52 season provided the background. Claflin wrote that Tommy Holmes, who began the ’52 season as Boston’s manager, took a liking to Daniels in Hartford in ’51 and gave him a job out of spring training the next year.

Charlie Grimm, who replaced the fired Holmes at the start of June, was similarly impressed by Daniels’ speed and defense. Grimm kept him around, and when starting right fielder Bob Thorpe hurt his ankle, Grimm decided to give the rookie some playing time to see if he’d learn to hit.


He never did. Daniels finished the season hitting .187; his day-by-day stats show he spent most of the year under .200, and even dipped under .100 for a few days in June. And his ratio of 219 at-bats to 106 games played suggests he got a fair amount of his action as a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement, rather than a starter.

He did manage a couple of highlights at the major league level, though … none greater than the second game of a doubleheader on Sunday, July 13, 1952, at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.

Fewer than 12,500 people turned out on a steamy 90-degree day for a pair of games that matched the two worst teams in the National League — teams that combined for a 1952 record of 106 wins and 201 losses. Daniels started both games in right field and hit eighth, just ahead of the pitcher.

Because there is no cause too obscure or lost for us to champion, and no ray of light too brief to revel in, let us look back at Sour Mash Daniels’s big day in Game Two. (Descriptions are a combination of Retrosheet’s play-by-play and game reports from Boston newspapers.)

# # # # #

Bottom of the first: With Pittsburgh’s Dick Groat on first, George Metkovich singles to right. Daniels starts one of those improbable Rube Goldberg plays — right field to shortstop to first base to shortstop to catcher to third (“just like they practiced it,” the announcers always say) — that ends with Groat hung up and tagged out between third and home. This adventure, and the Pirates’ failure to score, will turn out to be important.

Top of the third: Daniels lays down a perfect drag bunt for a single … and is picked off first by Pirates catcher Clyde McCullough. Whoops. It would get better, anyway.

Top of the sixth: With the game locked at 0-0, Daniels leads off with a triple off Pittsburgh starter Woody Main. One out later, center fielder Sam Jethroe flares a single over a drawn-in infield, Daniels scores, and the Braves lead 1-0.

Bottom of the sixth: With two out, the Pirates’ George Strickland hits a shot down the right-field line that seems ticketed for extra bases (a triple in Claflin’s telling, a double in other game reports). Daniels sprints over and makes a diving, skidding belly-flop catch just inches off the ground — described by both manager Grimm and starting pitcher Virgil Jester as one of the best they’ve ever seen.

“He skidded a good 10 feet on his bread-basket and still held the ball,” Tom Monahan of the Boston Traveler writes a day later.

“The right field pavilion crowd gave Daniels quite a ‘going-over’ after the Tribal outfielder was caught off first base in the third inning of the nightcap,” the Boston Globe’s Jack Barry writes in his postgame roundup, “but remained to cheer him for his stellar defensive play.”

Top of the eighth: With the game tied 1-1, Braves second baseman Jack Dittmer triples to right. Daniels, next at the plate, drives him in with a sacrifice fly to center field to give Boston a 2-1 lead.

The game ends that way. Daniels (Boston’s “standout sticker,” in the words of the Boston Post’s Howell Stevens) has logged two hits, driven in or scored both of Boston’s runs, and made a spectacular catch.

His two RBIs represent one-seventh of his career total. They also help out his fellow rookie, Jester, who is making his first career start and earns the first of only three career wins.

A standout day by any measure.

# # # # #

I’d love to tell you what Jack Daniels had to say about his moment of glory. Unfortunately, none of the Boston papers saw fit to quote him directly about it.

While each of the papers ran a house-written game story or some day-later analysis, it seemed evident from my review that the Red Sox were the big show in town, and the Braves’ meanderings didn’t get the same interest.

Consider the Post, which assigned cartoonist Bob Coyle to sum up the goings-on at Fenway Park (the Sox swept a doubleheader the same day, putting them five-and-a-half games out of first), but didn’t give the same attention to Boston’s National League team.


The Red Sox also had a bit of clubhouse drama making the news. Star shortstop Vern Stephens injured his knee that weekend, and fans were questioning whether the Sox would bring back outfielder Jimmy Piersall, who had left the team with personal problems a few weeks before.

In the event, Piersall didn’t return to the Sox until the following season, but Stephens’ injury and the Piersall question were big enough to claim front-page newspaper coverage — and relegate the other team in town to the back pages.


The Globe, with Stephens story and photo at top left.


The American raises the question with characteristic subtlety. I miss that big black round headline typeface.


The Post. Flying saucer seen at Winthrop!

And in the Traveler, the game roundup said nice things about Daniels – but framed them in the context of Piersall.


The photo isn’t Daniels; it’s journeyman pitcher Duane Pillette. The one well-known pic of Daniels appears on his 1953 Bowman baseball card, which at least for the time being can be seen here.

# # # # #

Jack Daniels has one other minor footnote in Boston baseball history: He was the starting right fielder (going 1-for-3 with two walks and two strikeouts) in the very last game in Boston Braves history, played Sept. 28, 1952, at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field.

This game is perhaps best remembered for its desultory ending.

Home-plate umpire Al Barlick left the game in the 10th inning to catch a train home to Illinois. (Imagine an umpire leaving a game in progress for that reason today.)

And after the 12th inning, with the game tied 5-5, both sides stopped playing — not because of rain, but for lack of interest. Only 9,453 fans had turned out to begin with, and some portion of those had joined Barlick on the road. Apparently neither team felt like riding the game out to a conclusion, and the Dodgers and Braves simply folded the tents and went home.

It was a sad ending to a game, a year — and, as it turned out, to the Boston Braves franchise. (I don’t think it was a publicly known certainty at the time that the Braves were moving to Milwaukee for ’53. I wonder if the teams would have acted any differently if they’d known. Maybe, maybe not.)

Daniels was slated to be the first Braves batter in the top of the 13th, had the game continued (and assuming no pinch-hitter). Instead, he never appeared in another big-league game.

Daniels died in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 2013, after living in Evansville, Indiana, and working for a family business. He was more than 60 years removed from the day he carried the offense and defense for a major-league baseball team.

He may not be celebrated, but he is not forgotten.

Is it baseball season yet?

Help each other, honey, if you can.

Last time I sat down here, I wrote a little bit about how Early-Teenage Me expanded his consciousness beyond the studio perfection of Sgt. Pepper’s and Abbey Road and began to embrace the loud ‘n’ sloppy side of rock ‘n’ roll.

This line of thinking made me remember another song that helped bust that gate open. I captured the song on tape off the radio as a kid and listened to it again and again. But it receded from my awareness as I lost interest in the rest of the music on the tape. I hadn’t heard it in years until it crossed my mind the other day.

The digital version is a tiny bit disappointing. The version I remember, sourced from vinyl (via FM) and played and replayed into mush on cassette, was much less crisp and balanced, which suited it perfectly.

The pure rush of it still comes through, though, even on YouTube:

Big Brother and the Holding Company cut a sedate version of “Down On Me” for their first studio album. It runs two minutes and eight seconds and won’t keep your aunt up at night.

Onstage, Big Brother was a whole different cup of gravel — as shown by the live version of “Down On Me” I snagged off the radio in the mid-’80s. (This version was recorded in March 1968 at Detroit’s super-freaky Grande Ballroom and posthumously released on Janis Joplin’s 1972 In Concert and 1973 Greatest Hits albums.)

Joplin bays, screams, sneers, laughs, mutters and soars; her phrasing and personality make her an effective lead instrument even when her exact words are indecipherable. The title phrase comes across at times as “Don’t own me / They don’t own me,” which works just as well as a sort of defiant variation.

The band, meanwhile, provides an onrush of sweaty four-chord energy that sweeps Janis up and carries her.

(Wayne Kramer has said that “kick out the jams” originated as a battle cry that the members of the MC5 used to yell at out-of-town bands when they played Detroit, to encourage them to loosen up and throw down. It seems unlikely that they ever had to yell at Big Brother.)

And the guitar solo, probably by Big Brother lead guitarist James Gurley, is a crowning wonder — a pure smear of Chuck Berry-derived idiot lightning.

As I listen to it now, older and more cynical, I wonder whether it was overdubbed. It’s just too damn perfect, and the more I listen to it, the less it sounds to me like it was played live on the same stage as all the other instruments.

To hell with cynicism. Everybody else in the whole wide world was down on Janis & Co. so I’m not going to pile on.

And anyway, this solo was a joy to me at a formative age, and joys like that deserve to be preserved so long as they’re harmless. The guy who said “A thing of beauty is a joy forever” didn’t insist on authenticity.

Looking back, I’m surprised I managed to hear and tape this, as it’s not (AFAIK) a tune that’s gotten a lot of airplay over time. My local classic rock station was willing to spin the occasional deep cut back then; I guess I was lucky to catch the DJ on a day when he decided to reach further into the library than usual.

The song turns out to be not as obscure as I thought: It was released as a single in 1972 to accompany In Concert. (The album topped out at No. 4 on the national charts, according to Billboard.)

Even in the benighted days of ’72 — my pick for the strongest hit-radio year of the ’70s — this most wondrous of performances couldn’t crack the Top 40.

But it got a few spins here and there, turning up on six local airplay charts in the ARSA database of same. Two are from WEEX in Pennsylvania’s beautiful Lehigh Valley, where the song reached No. 35 locally, while a third comes from WORC in Massachusetts’ rather less beautiful Worcester.

I wonder what 13-year-olds listen to nowadays that turns their heads around? Probably not this. Probably not bands with guitars. Probably not terrestrial radio, either.

Well, if they choose to miss out, so be it.