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The Senator does not poop.

I’ve had this image on my desktop for weeks now and have meant to write about it, so I think now is the time.

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In the fall of 1960, the Boston Globe ran an article and a series of pictures, giving readers what it claimed was the first public look into U.S. Senator and Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy’s “home” on Beacon Hill.

At the start of his political career, JFK rented a one-bedroom second-floor apartment on Boston’s Bowdoin Street, roughly across from the Massachusetts State House, to serve as his official residence.

Over the years, he kept the apartment for use as an office when he was in Boston. He also continued to use it as his address of record — even after he got married, had kids, and clearly outgrew a one-bedroom rental.

(How’d he get away with that? My guess is that JFK was so firmly tied to Bahston and Massachusetts that no one felt it worthwhile to challenge him on the specifics of his residency. I do remember seeing a newspaper item claiming that a piece of mail sent to JFK at Bowdoin Street had been returned “addressee unknown,” although that may have been a partisan rumor.)

When he voted in the 1960 Presidential election, it was as a resident of Bowdoin Street, and I think (but cannot firmly remember) that he was still formally resident there at the time of his assassination. The Kennedy family reportedly kept the lease for many years after JFK’s death, and may still hold it for all I know.

Anyhow, the Globe ran a couple of pictures of what I remember as pleasant but overstuffed rooms — lots of stuff on the walls, lots of books, heavy furniture. Not my taste, though it probably impressed any politicos or constituents who might have had occasion to greet him there.

It also ran this classic illustration of the apartment, broken down by room:


And this is what fascinates me so — the fact that in Boston in 1960, you couldn’t include a bathroom in a newspaper illustration of an apartment.

Of course it’s gotta be that unlabeled room off the kitchen. (One assumes that a person of JFK’s wealth, stature, and desire for privacy would not have chosen an apartment with a shared WC.)

They could have labeled it “bath;” that seems genteel enough … but no, in 1960 Boston, they could label the courtyard and the alleyway but not the toilet. Ixnay on the athroombay. The Senator does not poop! (Or shower, or brush his teeth. Perhaps he washes up in the kitchen sink.)

Standards of propriety had to be upheld. Public decency had to be protected. And a room that everybody who read the paper visited multiple times a day could not be mentioned. (A line from Elvis Costello springs to mind: “Worrying about the common decency / When it’s only a question of frequency.”)

In fairness to the Globe, I haven’t done any kind of research to find out whether this was a Boston thing, or whether it was universal. Maybe the New York Times wouldn’t have labeled it either.

Still, it seems in line with Boston’s blue-nosed reputation.

It seems so … quaint. So gloriously quaint. And provincial. And as distant as Camelot.

Surely you’re not happy, you no longer play the game.

Two or three times now, I’ve been out night-walking with my revived iPod (ancient history, those) and have been stopped short by a song that sometimes makes me hit Repeat until I get home and have to take it off.

It’s a live recording of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, in glorious soundboard quality, which most likely means it came from one of the three- or four-song lagniappe downloads the Brotherhood would periodically make available to fans at the end of a tour.

When they had the bill to themselves they always used to encore with a cover — “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue,” “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,” or the Grateful Dead’s “Candyman,” just to name examples I saw in person.

On this particular night they wrapped up with John Lennon’s “Watching the Wheels,” and it’s beautiful to hear.

Robinson doesn’t pose, preach, declaim, grunt, strut, holler, or otherwise carry on. He just sings the song straight, while the band lays down a gentle, glowing, and not 100 percent exactly perfect bed of music behind him. Being an encore, it ends with a swell of applause and a reassuring, “See you next time.”

It made me think of the departed Neal Casal, whom we will not see a next time, and of the time when the CRB meant something to me. It also made me wonder how the surviving ex-band members are whiling away their 2020, and what it’s going to be like when touring musicians can finally escape their exiles and try to mount a comeback.

Right now I suspect my arse is so firmly planted inside my house that I may never again have the same pleasant feeling I used to have, standing in the first few rows, watching the CRB work.

It feels like the absence of live music has coincided with my reaching A Certain Age where people don’t really go out to hear live music. Bars, clubs and halls will reopen. Other people will probably go. Me? I might be pretty much done.

Maybe that’s why a clear-eyed song about retreating contentedly to the sidelines sounds so good right now.

The version below is not the one on my iPod, and it’s not as luminescent — Robinson’s vocal is not quite as strong, and there’s this weird random moment where Casal steps on his fuzz pedal. But it’s acceptably similar, if anyone wants to get an idea for themselves:

(You know what? This fan-shot video is stuck on one perspective, but the performance — especially Robinson’s — is yards better. Watch this one instead, at least while it’s available. You know all those times I scoffed at people shooting concerts with their phones? I take it back. At least some of it.)

Soup weather.

The rules of engagement demand that something get written here, and so it shall.

My current external hard drive continues to fill up. Right now I am giving a first listen to a show by “psychedelic rock supergroup” Heron Oblivion. It hasn’t turned me upside down yet but it ain’t bad. Perhaps with time. (I bet they can shake a room, if they ever get the chance.)

The Internet Archive’s Unlocked Recordings series has come up with some crazy interesting stuff lately, including some more Glenn Gould and Charles Ives, as well as a Steve Reich record. Not gonna bother linking to it ’cause nobody ever goes theyah from heayah.

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Four more of my SABR Games Project jawns are posted:

May 5, 1974: Two minor-league teams play a freezing doubleheader to a neutral-site crowd of 69 people in Quebec City.

Sept. 4, 1976: The Williamsport (Pa.) Tomahawks, a one-year-only minor-league team, end their miserable existence on a high note.

July 25, 1983: Pitchers in the New York-Penn League carry a double no-hitter into the ninth inning. What happens next will amaze you! (No, not really.)

Sept. 10, 1983: The final minor-league team to represent Lynn, Massachusetts, goes bye-bye, and a young pitcher named Roger Clemens introduces himself.

As always, there are more in the hopper — the next installment will be submitted tomorrow unless something explodes. I also have to fact-check another writer’s piece, which I am called on to do from time to time. Might not be a bad way to spend this evening.

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Yesterday was unseasonably warm but today returned to late November with a vengeance. I went out walking in the woods both days.

Also checked my gutters for the last time, cleaned up the last wash of leaves from the yard, and winterized the lawnmower. Winter can start any time now.

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I’ve decided, not for the first time, that Twitter and Instagram (especially the former) are crap and I need to spend a lot less time on them. I’ve done decently at that today. Will I keep it up?

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I continue to work my way through my second box of junk wax — 1988 Donruss this time. I haven’t had as much to say about these, because, to be honest, I don’t like ’em as much. The photography isn’t as good and neither is the design.

This does not make me regret their purchase; it just doesn’t fire me with wonderful things to write.


In related news, a contact on Twitter (there’s that name again) mentioned a site that sells cards for a dime each. They’re all relatively recent, and they’re all commons, so they’re all worth ten cents tops (or less).

It is no great difficulty to go on a huge bender on a site like that. I haven’t gone totally nuts, but I did place an order yesterday, and if they don’t screw it up I’m sure I’ll be back with more dimes.

November 15, 1980: I’m the bleedin’ volcano!

I thought I had blogged this AT40 already, but a search through the archives does not turn it up. It’s just sitting there burning a hole in my hard drive, so I guess I’ll put it on and see what I think. I’m not doing much else on a dark and clammy Friday night.

Edit: Where was I in or around November 15, 1980? I was in this picture. Good luck finding me:


Here goes. Favorites in bold, as always, if there are any:

Casey recaps the previous week’s top three: “He’s So Shy” by the Pointer Sisters, “Lady” by Kenny Rogers, and “Woman In Love” by Barbra Streisand — which I totally failed to recognize at first play. Haven’t heard it in a long, long time. What is this November 1980 place I’m stepping into?

Anyway: There are six new songs this week, and here’s the first.

No. 40: Don Williams with his first country-pop crossover, “I Believe In You.” Not quite gonna bold it, but by the end of the first verse and chorus, I am once again doffing my cap to the uniquely sly Nashville art of songwriting. Something tells me things are gonna get much, much worse than this before we get to Number One.

No. 39, also debuting: Nielsen Pearson, “If You Should Sail.” Yes, I had to go to Wiki to verify how to spell Nielsen Pearson. No memory of this song either, but boy, it goes down smoothly, like Kahlua and cream. So much so that I almost want to bold it.

String synth! Flugelhorn (I think)! Man, this jawn is … inoffensive. I’m enjoying this way too much. Now I’m imagining Neilsen Pearson and the Sanford-Townsend Band tearing it up together. I think it’s high time we moved on to …

No. 38: Casey shouts out the good listeners of 5KA, Adelaide, South Australia. Debuting this week, a four-man British band called the Vapors with “Turning Japanese.”

Pushing aside the cult reputation of the song (is it really about wanking?), I almost bolded this one, on the grounds that it has just a tiny bit of rock n’ roll drive, and the 37 songs to come probably won’t have any of that. But then I heard the Oriental Riff and said, “Naw, dude. Not bolding that business.”

No. 37: The newest hit from a superstar who becomes the second woman of the rock era to have three hits on the Forty at the same time.

(Apparently Gale Storm was the first; I woulda guessed Melanie did it at some point, but I must be misremembering. Casey mentions that Gale Storm is now doing TV testimonials for a hospital for alcoholics. 1980 was hard on a lot of people.)

Anyway, it’s Diana Ross. Debuting this week is “It’s My Turn.” The best thing I can say about this tune, and the lead-up to it, is that it makes me know that two big-time jams are coming in the next 36 toons.

No. 36: Billy Joel with the fourth hit off Glass Houses, “Sometimes A Fantasy.” Beej goes all new wave, with choked guitars and choked vocals, and like most of his pastiches, it’s quite pleasurable. This one loses points mainly because it’s not his Elvis Costello pastiche, “Sleeping With the Television On.” Oh, yeah, the implications of long-distance wanking don’t score high with the East German judge either.

Hey, y’know, was 1980 Billy Joel the best Billy Joel? Quite possibly. But on we sweep to …

No. 35, debut: There’s a cut in my copy of the show, as Casey says, “The Australian act Air Supply–” and then we’re into the lyrics of a song that turns out to be “Every Woman in the World.” It’s big and foursquare and obvious and heartfelt and I don’t need to hear it again.

(Oddly, the cut portion of Casey’s introduction shows up once the song is over. What?)

No. 34, up five: Casey tells a story about how John Cougar was blackmailed into using his stage name. Unfortunately, what we’re hearing is not the storming “I Need a Lover,” but the inferior “This Time.”

I dunno — I give Mr. Mellencamp a couple points for cred and sheer stubbornness, but in this case, it doesn’t make up for the uninspiring contents of the vinyl.

No. 33: 35-year-old Carly Simon (Casey’s mention, not mine) down 22 spots with “Jesse.” I would be lying if I said I didn’t kinda enjoy the buildup that leads to the guitar solo. I would also be lying if I said I enjoyed much of the rest of it. I dunno — once Carly consorted with James Bond, all her other lovers became just side streets in a slow stretch.

From the AT40 Archives: Another of the Number One songs of the Sixties. Oh, great, we’re up to October 1962, and we get “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett. Nuh-uh.

No. 32, up six: A Top Five hit in England over the summer: The Korgis, “Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime.” Boy, there’s a lot of music from this window of time that I’ve blanked out. Other than the hottest guzheng playing of this or any other year, there’s not a lot to stick in the mind about this one. Man, could that wall of stringy synth in the background be any more overpowering?

No. 31, up six: Casey plays a bit of the Eagles’ “Take It to the Limit” to show the audience what Randy Meisner sounded like then — as if he sounded that much different four years later as a solo artist on “Deep Inside My Heart.” Something about the chorus — the skipping beat, the particular lay of the chords — reminds me of “Running On Empty,” which is a positive connotation. But still, no bold.

No. 30, up four: Waylon Jennings, “Theme from ‘The Dukes of Hazzard.'” As I think I’ve mentioned, the Dukes were a formative part of my childhood; I watched them every week, and so did all my friends. (See? You can blame Fred Silverman and his compadres for my essential vapidity. Perhaps if all we’d had to watch was Upstairs, Downstairs, I’d be a much more worthwhile person.)

Anyway, adult me says the Dukes were shallow shite, and so is their song. Cut-off jean-shorts, anybody? On to:

A reader asks about artists born in Asia who have hit the Top 40. Yup, Casey checks the atlas and the files and comes up with 10 people: Kyu Sakamoto and Pink Lady; Cliff Richard and Engelbert Humperdinck, born in India; and the Rocky Fellers, who hit with “Killer Joe” in 1963, from the Philippines and China.

No. 29: Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb with the highest-debuting song in the countdown, “Guilty.” Hell, yes, this languid bit of super-smoothness gets boldface. This song pats Nielsen Pearson on the head and says, “Learn from us, and maybe in 10 years you’ll be truly worthy.” Can I get 28 more highways to the sky?

No. 28: Jimmy Hall, up three notches, “I’m Happy that Love Has Found You.” This is not the Jimmie Hall who played outfield for the Minnesota Twins, but rather the Jimmy Hall who used to sing for Wet Willie, pulling enough Michael McDonald mojo on his falsetto to make it into the Forty. This is another member of the 1980 White Russian fraternity — so smooth, so creamy, so easily met, but not good enough to make you forget that bourbon and rye exist.

No. 27: Casey tells a story about Michael McDonald involving aluminum crutches, a puddle of beer, a fraternity party, and a nonsense song called “Hot Pastrami.” This anecdote is chiefly notable as one of the rare occasions I can remember of Casey outright breaking into laughter, even if he’s faking.

This leads into the Doobie Brothers’ “Real Love,” and my God, is it plastic and packaged and 10,000 miles away from fraternity parties and puddles of beer. All of a sudden, that pleasant 1980 sense of being encased in a benign solid material a la Han Solo begins to seem distinctly oppressive. There is nothing real about this love.

No. 26, second week: Rolling Stones, “She’s So Cold.” One of my least fave Stones toons, ever, anywhere. Repetitive and paint-by-numbers and annoying. It doesn’t even modulate up.

No. 25, dropping from No. 10: “Upside Down” by Diana Ross. This is fire and I will brook no argument. My only beef here is that Casey talks over the chicka-chicka instrumental opening that’s pure Nile Rodgers. (Hey, between Barry Gibb and Rodgers-Edwards, the heroes of the late ’70s are really delivering the goods this week.)

Coming up: A long-distance dedication. Aw, hell.

No. 24: Roger Daltrey, star of the upcoming movie “McVicar,” has his first AT40 solo hit, “Without Your Love.” Daltrey’s got the mandolin market cornered, anyway. Up three. I paused this and went upstairs and made myself something resembling a White Russian. I’ll regret it tomorrow. It’s not tomorrow yet.

Long-Distance Dedication from a kid named Steve in somewhere in Indiana to a girl named Pam whose smile makes his stomach drop through the floor, but can’t tell her. (The lad seems to think Pam can’t tell how crazy in love with her he is, which suggests a certain teenage lack of basic intelligence.)

Anyway, he asks for Barry Manilow’s drama-soaked “Could It Be Magic,” which is actually not wholly bad, and is the second Manilow tune I would pick if I had to pick any one — the first, natch, being “Weekend in New England,” because goddamned New England. Good luck anyway, lad.

No. 23: Casey calls out WGH, Hampton-Norfolk-Newport News, Virginia (Hampton comes alive!), then plays Stacy Lattisaw’s “Let Me Be Your Angel.” It’s not horribly gross, and it’s got that narcotizing 1980 string-synth going, but it doesn’t move me.

From the archives, another Number One song from the Sixties. From November 1962, “He’s a Rebel,” the Crystals. No thanks.

No. 22: 32-year-old Jackson Browne holds steady for the second week in a row with “That Girl Could Sing.” I would be challenged to explain why I love this; but, I do. The stop-start riff seems to hover on the edge of great chasms. And then there’s the longing, the timeless longing, like Steve in Indiana probably feels for Pam with the breathtaking smile to this very day.

(In an ur-Late Seventies album credit that would make Becker and Fagen proud, Russ Kunkel is credited with drums on this song, while Rick Marotta is credited with high-hat and tom-toms. I have no idea who did what, or why it took two first-call session pros to produce a percussion track that either one of them could have generated on his own. There was record-company money involved, and Porsches, and probably White Russians. All the poets studied rules of verse. Those were different times.)

No. 21, up nine spots, second week on: Bruce Springsteen, “Hungry Heart.” Bruce’s first Top Ten single, featuring a luminescent Hammond organ solo by the late great Danny “The Phantom” Federici. Everybody, including Jackson Browne, has a hu-uh-hungry heart.

No. 20, a former Number One country song: The latest pop hit by a country superstar, blah, blah, blah. It’s Willie Nelson with “On The Road Again.” I can’t hate an American original getting paid — just like I used to respect the game when I heard B.B. King in the lower reaches of AT40 countdowns from 1972-73 — but I can live without the song itself.

On a related note: My parents were devoted Plymouth buyers for a while, and I remember our family once receiving some sort of Chrysler promo magazine in the mail that had an article about Willie Nelson and his Texas “family.” What the hell it had to do with minivans in 1984 I had no idea, but I still remember it, so it must have pushed a button.

Up two to No. 19: Irene Escalera, a.k.a. Irene Cara, with “Out Here On My Own.” Her second Top Forty hit. More and bigger would come. This is not actually horrible, and Ms. Cara airs out her lungs in classic drama-club fashion, but no bold.

No. 18: Christopher Cross, up six with his “third giant hit in a row,” “Never Be The Same.” Someone has probably written a really good case study of Christopher Cross — how he went from inescapable to despised in about a year-and-a-half — and I’ll read it if I ever find it. As for the evidence on hand, Mr. Cross was much more memorable and catchy and irresistible in other settings.

(You know what might help? Imagine in your mind that Christopher Cross was actually Carl Wilson enjoying richly deserved solo success, and substitute Wilson’s more pleasant and flexible butter-rich upper register for Cross’s. Suddenly it makes a lot more sense. Another White Russian, s’il vous plait.)

No. 17: From the upcoming movie The Jazz Singer, here’s Neil Diamond with “Love on the Rocks.” After a couple of stiff ones, the line “Pour me a drink / And I’ll tell ya some lies” certainly resonates.

And, y’know what? I can’t totally hate Neil Diamond. He did his thing, and it might have been schlocky. But he was true to his own popcraft, and that furious, soaring, ragged-around-the-edges baritone wipes a lot of stupidity off the slate.

Not gonna go so far as to bold him … but bless yer, Neil Diamond. You do your thing. Sing it like it hurts you.

(One of seven songs from movie soundtracks on this week’s countdown, the Caser says.)

No. 16: Pat Benatar with her third Top 40 hit, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” Never been a huge fan, even though I can’t deny the huge hooks. I vaguely remember some sort of parody from back in the day (even though I can’t remember the payoff line), and this seems like one of these records that someone like Weird Al was just born to tee off on.

No. 15, second week in that spot: A song that first appeared on Supertramp’s 1974 Crime of the Century album, but didn’t become a hit until the band released a live version. Supertramp holding at No. 15 with a live version of “Dreamer.”

Confession time: While I profess to loathe Supertramp, “Dreamer” is not at all a bad song. And the cover art of Crime of the Century — a forsaken pair of hands gripping a set of cell bars at the end of the universe — has always captivated my imagination in a way I suspect the actual contents of the record would not, if I ever gave it the courtesy of listening.

Anyway: Great song; I don’t need a live version; but if it took a live version to bring it to the attention of Main Street America, then sure, why not.

No. 14: Casey calls out WHLN, Harlan, Kentucky. Up three this week, Devo, “Whip It.” I dislike this song, and I intensely dislike Devo, whom I consider to be 99.9 percent high-flown self-important concept and 0.1 percent actual music.

One side of me says that I should be pleased to see such a non-commercial enterprise as Devo landing in Caseyland. But I can’t get over my general revulsion to the whole de-evolution trip.

No. 13, up five: Daryl Hall and John Oates, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.” Hard to totally oppose … but once you’ve heard Telly Savalas intone, “Baby! Somethin’ beautiful’s dyin’!” all other versions are superfluous.

No. 12: The Jacksons, “Lovely One.” Anything Michael touched in this time period is worth hearing, even relatively minor work such as this. Ah, for the days when he was socially acceptable, and funky as hell.

No. 11: Casey tells the story of how Cliff Richard negotiated a compromise between his music and his God. Casey repeats the advice Billy Graham gave Cliff with a believer’s fervor: “Rock isn’t bad — it’s only what people do with the music that’s evil.”

I was totes hoping for “We Don’t Talk Anymore” but instead we get “Dreaming,” which is not nearly as good or memorable. (If you need a New Wavey song called “Dreaming,” check out Blondie’s instead.)

From the AT40 Archives: the 60th Number One single of the 1960s, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by the Four Seasons. If I had enough booze to tell you what this song really makes me think of, I wouldn’t be able to type. Let’s just leave it there.

No. 10: The song climbing 22 notches in just three weeks — the biggest jump in the countdown — John Lennon with “Starting Over.” I didn’t realize the head Beatle was so popular before his untimely passing; I guess America must have been hungry for anything with Lennon’s name on it after his five-year absence from the pop scene.

It is hugely dispiriting to imagine Casey’s listeners on November 15, 1980, tuned in cozily to the latest hits from coast to coast, bopping up and down to the hits, not realizing that the familiar figure at Number 10 has three more weeks to live. I’ll try not to think about it.

As for the tune itself, it’s OK, but my late-life Lennon of choice is either “Nobody Told Me” or “Woman.” (Any remaining Yoko Ono haters should be reminded that she inspired that glorious song, and told to shut up and sit down.)

No. 9, up five: Casey name-drops WHWB in Rutland, Vermont, where the kid I roomed with in summer nerd camp circa 1985 grew up. As for the chart, it’s Leo Sayer with “More Than I Can Say.” Bland and anodyne and perfect for November 1980. Yawn.

A listener — Mike French of Liverpool, New York, in the Syracuse area — asks whether any first-time hitmakers have ever had the top hit of the year. Turns out it’s happened 10 times in the past 25 years, the Caser reports. Those who have managed it: Prez Prado, Domenico Modugno, Bobby Lewis, Acker Bilk, Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, The Beatles, Sam the Sham etc., Staff Sgt Barry Sadler, the Captain and Tennille, and the Knack.

No. 8, down 5 after three weeks at No. 3: The Pointer Sisters, “He’s So Shy.” The synth-first production reminds me of the Doobie Brothers, which was probably all 1980 America needed to win it over.

No. 7: Stevie Wonder, “Master Blaster.” Casey talks all over the funky percussive intro. OK, this is not in the top rank of Stevie hits, but I abide by the unwritten rule that anything Stevie must be granted the highest honor.

Another long-distance dedication, in which Casey burns a bunch of time and hits on All The Feelings. This is from an American serviceman in Germany whose wife is in Arizona. He asks for “Love Will Keep Us Together.”

I am torn between the cynical answer — of course she’s already shagging someone else — and the hopeful answer — of course the bright shining intangible thread we call Love will work its incomprehensible miracles for we mortals. I cannot help but wish a happy ending against the real-world odds for the gob and his squab, as Cole Porter put it. Young and beautiful, someday your looks will be gone

No. 6: Stephanie Mills, up one with “Never Knew Love Like This Before.” The proverbial little girl with the big voice, and sure, why not.

Hey, how do you suppose John Anderson spent the week of November 15, 1980 — the week after he learned his off-kilter knuckleballed hope to become POTUS would indeed have not a chance in hell? I mean, the weeping was over at that point. Dude probably spent the week reviewing his cash statements and deciding which debtors were gonna get paid off first.

None of which as the damnedest thing to do with Stephanie Mills, I suppose.

No. 5: That third hit from Diana Ross, “I’m Coming Out.” I dunno as I really like this enough to bold it, but it sure has been a while since I bolded anything. How many Top Ten hits’ Wiki entries have separate sections for “LGBT significance” and “Trombone solo“?

No. 4: A former Number One, Queen with “Another One Bites The Dust.” I should probably bold this. The fact that I’ve heard it a million times shouldn’t dull its impact as edgy, spacey, earwormy funk from a talented band reinventing itself.

(Are these really the same guys who did “Killer Queen”? It’s like James Bond parachuting into a new adventure. Speaking of which, how come no one ever nominated Queen to do a Bond theme?)

No. 3: Donna Summer, “The Wanderer.” Another song I had no memory of. What even is this? Who bought it? Who said, “This is really fantastic and I need to hear it three times an hour”? Is this even really a song or just some kind of joke on the part of some 21st-century prankster?

No. 2: Casey tells the story of Barry Gibb and brothers suing former manager Robert Stigwood for $200 million. (Stigwood countersued for $300 million.) “The biggest pair of lawsuits in rock history,” Casey says.

Anyway, “Woman in Love” by Barbra Streisand — produced by Barry Gibb — is Number 2, down from Number One. A grand sweeping ballad and, truly, I cannot hate it; the diva-ism is strong. It sweeps away all before it.

Tops of the other Billboard charts: Soul chart, “Master Blaster.” Country chart, “Could I Have This Dance” by Anne Murray. Album chart, The River by Bruce Springsteen.

No. 1: A man who started cutting records 24 years ago but has never been at the top until now: Kenny Rogers, “Lady.” Rogers’ phlegmy delivery is all too familiar from my youth overhearing the radio, but I do not need to revisit it. Ah, well.

You win some, you lose some.

So what’s new since I last posted?

Well, my favorite minor baseball league seems to have officially bitten the dust.

I haven’t seen any formal announcement about the New York-Penn League’s future from either Major League Baseball or Minor League Baseball. Both of them have previously discussed the impending death of the short-season league as MLB seeks to cut costs and tighten minor-league operations.

But two days ago, the Yankees — of all the teams to get the news from, like finding out from the class bully that your girlfriend dumped you — issued a statement on social media about their minor-league alignment for the 2021 season. The statement mentioned “the elimination of the short season New York-Penn League.”

I guess that’s it, then.

I have always felt that Major League Baseball has a stronger connection with America, and a better claim to its allegiance, when affiliated minor league teams are liberally seeded throughout the country. Add to that a residual fondness for western and central New York, plus the intimacy of small-town ballparks, and you have my affair with the New York-Penn League in a nutshell.

(Of course, this residual fondness for WNY and CNY is not so strong that I’ve chosen to live or do business there. And I didn’t actually go to very many New York-Penn League games. So, no, on the most basic level, I didn’t really walk the talk; I went a few times and sort of relied on history to carry things along. What do they say about hope not being a strategy?)


(Above: NYPL photo from author’s collection to break up text. These are members of the Tri-City Valley Cats, a Houston Astros farm club. It’s August 2014 and they are in Dutchess County, N.Y., to play the Hudson Valley Renegades, who I think were a Tampa Bay Rays farm team. I am there on a family vacation.)

I claimed at one point that if MLB croaked the New York-Penn League, I would no longer follow or support MLB.

I will have to rethink that a little bit. I’m not sure the New York-Penn was that profitable of a business proposition, and I’m sure COVID took a big bite out of it. COVID has stove in any number of enterprises and I don’t feel like I have any right to blame their owners.

My threat is also somewhat hollow in that I don’t spend a lot of money to support MLB anyway. I may be within striking distance of Fenway Park, but it’s expensive, and I might go once a year or every other. The biggest impact of my promise would basically be that I don’t buy my older son any Red Sox gear for Christmas.

(And I can still listen to Sox games on the radio, ’cause no one’s making any money off my jones for the sounds of the ballpark. Or so I explain it to myself, anyway.)

Non-affiliated ball, like summer leagues for college kids, is fun to watch too. It’s already being played in a number of towns the New York-Penn League outgrew, and it will probably spread to the ones being cast off now. I’ll go to watch that.

But I still perceive a lost connection, and some lost economic opportunity as well, as another round of small cities is cut off from direct MLB contact.

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While I’m flogging baseball, a couple more of my SABR Games Project jawns have been posted. I’ll list the new ones as best I remember them; if I duplicate one from a prior post, my apologies.

  • Only six people have ever managed a single big-league game and won it. Here’s the story of one of them.
  • In his 23-year Hall of Fame career, Carl Yastrzemski hit exactly one pinch-hit home run. Here’s the story of that game.
  • For many years, the champions of the Class AAA International League and American Association used to meet in a playoff called the Junior World Series. The last one was in 1975. Here’s the story of the championship game, won by Evansville.

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I bought a couple of guitar pickups and output jacks on the cheap with the intention of getting back into the diddley bow business. They should be here any day. Cover your ears.

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Taking three days off this week and much looking forward. Perhaps I will get out on a day hike somewhere.

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Oh, yeah, also: Although way too many people in America voted for a fascist liar, he lost, and his attempts to reverse the result in court seem headed nowhere. And, early news today reports promising results from a COVID-19 vaccine (which the U.S. government had no part in funding, the developer has hastened to explain).

Those are wins.

Looking for gold in the stars gets kinda rough.

News item: Ken Hensley, keyboardist, guitarist, and principal songwriter of Uriah Heep throughout the 1970s, is dead at age 75.

As part of my life’s quest as a teenager to escape the late 1980s, I got into Uriah Heep for a while around age 15 or so. Owned four or five of their albums at various times, including the big gatefold double-live album with the stapled-in booklet in the middle.

It is entirely possible that I later traded in that album without ever having listened to it all the way through, as I have no memory tracks of it at all. Maybe I got through it once, even the eight-minute-plus Fifties medley at the end of side four.

(Uriah Heep doing “At the Hop” sounds like it would have been dismal enough to chase me right back into 1988. Dismal enough to chase me into the metaphorical arms of Debbie Gibson, even.)

I suspect in retrospect that I picked up those four or five Heep records because I sorta enjoyed their sound — like a downmarket Deep Purple — and thought maybe if they were lucky they would figure out something to say to go with it. They never did.

It’s telling that six years ago — as I was confronting a case of writer’s block and general frustration — Uriah Heep’s Wonderworld album inspired me to hold forth at some length. It seemed appropriate to the subject.

Ken Hensley was the driving artistic force behind all my old Uriah Heep records, which seems in retrospect like the artistic equivalent of managing a last-place baseball team. You take it so seriously and put in so much work … you pick up some nice paydays for a while … but from the long-term historical viewpoint you’ve spent your time sailing to nowhere.

(Of course, you could describe my blogging in much the same way, only without the paydays.)

Anyway, here’s one of the few Uriah Heep songs I can still stand — and not because it’s all that good, but because it represents a stomping arena-rock raunch that I still find entertaining in between listening to weightier or more interesting stuff.

With the passings of Hensley (November 2020), drummer Lee Kerslake (September 2020), singer David Byron (February 1985) and bassist Gary Thain (December 1975), lead guitarist Mick Box — he of the strong autopilot-licks-and-head-waggle game — is the only surviving member of the band shown in this clip.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

I have no idea where the hell America will be a week from today. Full-on chaos, for the first time in my life, seems a possibility.

On the professional front, I worked a storm on Friday, and I may end up working another one tomorrow and Tuesday. (If I am exempted from the coming storm, it is because I have a bunch of stuff to work on on other fronts.)

I will have an extra ration of rum tonight, as it seems just about as effective a step as any other … and in any event, I’m out of bourbon.

What to tell the Five Readers?

Well, the SABR Games Project posted a whole slew of my pieces this past week. (Another slew remains in the pipeline.)

For those who like baseball history, I offer:

-The golden moment, in August 1971, of Padres flash-in-the-pan prospect Jay Franklin.

-The story of a baseball lifer who got one chance to manage in the big leagues, and lost.

-A story involving the Pawtucket Red Sox that is probably most interesting for the Bruce Springsteen name-drop. (One of the casualties of 2020, incidentally, was the Pawtucket Red Sox. Slated to play one final season in Rhode Island before moving to Worcester, they didn’t even get that. Unfortunate.)

-The story of a protested game that took 53 days to resolve — and one of the principal actors didn’t live to see its resolution.

-The story of the game that followed the death of the principal actor mentioned above.

-The story of a future big-league star whose name you know having a really bad day in the field in Sioux Falls.

-One of the saddest stories in Rochester, New York, baseball history, involving an ill-fated visitor from Tonawanda and his athletically gifted son.

-A story from Houston that, I dunno, might be entertaining.

-A story about Class A low minor-leaguers playing in major-league parks during the 1981 players’ strike.

Perhaps I should just steer those interested toward my author page, which has all the crap I write linked in one place. (Be aware that it continues on another page.)

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Listening to a fair quantity of classical via the Internet Archive’s Unlocked Recordings series.

Beatles obsessives might enjoy this recording of Benjamin Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, which features horn player Alan Civil, best known for his contribution to Paul McCartney’s “For No One.”

There’s a Te Deum that just oozes dissonant late-’60s earnestness, plus it’s Canadian too, and I sorta like it and will work my way back to it.

There’s also Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death and Schubert’s “Tragic” Symphony No. 4 in C minor, both of which are probably interesting, but neither of which feel like places I feel like going right now.

(For a day or two, the Archive mysteriously posted a full version of McCartney’s Ram album with all the songs sped up maybe 25 percent or so. It made for good goofy listening. Now they’ve trimmed the songs down to 30 seconds, as they do for recordings that are still under copyright … but I downloaded it all first, and at some point when I need a laugh I will revisit it. Tuesday, maybe?)

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I have absolutely no inspiration to make my own original music, still … although I have some stuff I worked on months ago that’s been sitting in the back pocket and might show up on Bandcamp one of these weeks.

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I’ve been coming back to this, lately, from an album that happened to be popular around this time of year in 1974, though I don’t think that has anything to do with it.


The Great Pumpkin schmaltz.

My older son did a Halloween-themed radio show on his college station yesterday, and one of the tunes he picked out was “The Great Pumpkin Waltz” by the Vince Guaraldi Trio.

This sent me to the ARSA database of local radio airplay charts to confirm that none of Guaraldi’s Peanuts compositions ever got any kind of radio play, or at least not enough to register on any of the charts in that database. Wonder why?

Since A Charlie Brown Christmas was rather experimental and mold-breaking in 1965, and no one knew in advance whether it would be popular or successful, I’m guessing there was no great push to promote the music along with the show … and after the first year, the powers that be figured they had missed their chance, because why hang your hat on a rerun?

Or, maybe Guaraldi’s label viewed his Peanuts work as “kid music” instead of serious jazz and thereby missed a chance to get this hummable, easily digestible music in front of large numbers of listeners.

I dunno. Someone’s done the research on why this music wasn’t on the radio in the 1960s, but I don’t feel like looking it up. All I know is that if stations could play that cheesy “Snoopy and the Red Baron” song, they could have made time for Vince Guaraldi.

Anyway, I am always surprised when I hear the original take on “The Great Pumpkin Waltz,” even though I’ve heard the original as part of the TV show many, many times.

This is because, 20 years ago, I took a CD of New Age pianist George Winston playing the music of Vince Guaraldi out of the Framingham, Massachusetts, public library. I listened to it enough that, in one or two cases, I came to know Winston’s takes on this music better than Guaraldi’s. (The music ranges from the obvious warhorses, like “Linus and Lucy,” to some background music and cues that might not have been available in their original versions at the time.)

Winston slows down “The Great Pumpkin Waltz” by about half, loses the rhythm section and the flute, and goes all dramatic and gossamer and ripples-in-still-water on it.

And even though I do believe it to be overdramatic schlock, and even though the closing vamp goes on rather longer than it should, I kind of enjoy it that way.

If you want to compare, here they both are, at least for as long as YouTube supports them.

A rhetorical question to ask yourself as you listen: If you were to imagine a couple actually waltzing to each version, what would they look like? There’s an evening dress involved in Winston’s version, and maybe some tears, if you ask me.

Kent Tekulve’s mission of mercy.

The days are few when I can claim to have made small children happy, but there’s a chance that this might be one of them.

Cruising the ‘Net last night, bourbon at hand, I read a story from California about some generous-minded firefighters in the Fresno area. They’re collecting baseball cards to replace the collections of local kids who lost theirs in the recent wildfires.

This, of course, aligns with my interests. So this morning I dragged together:

-A couple of packs’ worth of 2018 Topps, which I think were the most recent cards in the house, and thus the most likely to be familiar to the kids.

Nestled in with those cards was a ringer — a single common card from the 1969 Topps set that a now-deceased former co-worker gave me 20 years ago. It is old, but not rare or particularly valuable. I hesitated a moment, then included it.

-A selection, more or less at random, from the big pile of 1988 Fleer cards I recently acquired.

(I say “more or less at random” because Fleer had the annoying habit of grouping players from the same team together on the checklist. If I’d just grabbed a run of 25 cards, some kid in California might have ended up with the complete 1988 Philadelphia Phillies, and who wants that? So I tried to take cards at random intervals, for a broader selection.)

-That initial post about my Fleer purchase led an online friend to mail me a box of unwanted cards of around the same vintage, a gift previously mentioned here. A stack of those cards went into the pile for California.

-I had just yesterday opened the first pack of cards from my second purchase of ’80s junk wax, mentioned in passing here the other day. The contents of that pack went in as well.

-I felt the desire to throw in some cards I’d actually collected in my youth, not just things that had come into the house recently. It seemed like good mojo. So I opened one of my binders of kid-cards and threw in some of those as well. (The Kent Tekulve shown below is among them.)

As of a couple minutes ago, this short stack of 100 cards or so is winging its way to Shaver Creek, California, and hopefully eventually into the hands of some kids who might enjoy it. It should arrive Wednesday.


Since the past is another country, it’s possible that these cards will mean nothing to the young kids. This is the main reason I didn’t send more — if these don’t hold the kids’ interest, the last thing anybody needs is twice as many of them.

The cards are not shiny; they are not chromed; there are few, if any, Diamondbacks and Rays among them; they show uniforms and stadia that are long gone. (I made sure to include a couple of Montreal Expos, just to school the youngsters right.)

But, you never know. Maybe the novelty will appeal. Maybe the kids like baseball history and will enjoy seeing some. And anyway, if the cards end up getting used as bookmarks, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world either.

OK, off to the day’s chores.

Careful what you wish for, Chap. 342.

Tonight I made Tex-Mex shepherd’s pie, a fact I felt necessary to announce on Twitter. (It made a nice change from the usual scroll of doom, I supposed.)

One of my contacts there responded with the fateful words: “Recipe plz.”

Fair enough. But rather than put it into nine tweets, I’ll put it into one blog post, then provide him with the URL.

(It is one of a thousand simmering annoyances with Twitter when people break lengthy screed into threads of 20 tweets. Just get a blog, folks. The Twitter platform wasn’t designed for extended thought or messaging. There are other tools for that. They might not be as cool, but they work better.)

Anyhow: Tex-Mex shepherd’s pie for the masses.


2 to 3 chicken breasts, cooked
2 cans beans (pinto or black), drained
1 jar salsa
4 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tbsp butter
1 can chicken broth (you won’t need it all)
Sprinkling Mexican cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Fill a soup pot maybe half full of water and bring to a boil. When it’s boiling, toss in your potatoes and cook until soft (15-20 mins?)

Cut chicken into small chunks. Mix chicken, drained beans, and salsa in a big-arse ceramic pie dish (none of those li’l bitty clear jobbies.)

When potatoes are soft, drain and dump into a bowl. Add butter and just enough chix broth, and mash together ’til you’ve got mashed potatoes.

Top chicken-bean-salsa mix with mashed potatoes; top potato layer with sprinkling of cheese. Bake 15 minutes. Serve piping hot. (This isn’t revenge.)

– I use low-sodium beans and chicken broth in a faint attempt to make this healthier. If you wanted to take it still further in that direction, you could cook your own beans from dry and putz around with making your own salsa.
– Don’t like beans? Swap out one or both cans with corn.
– Could you make this with ground beef, or meat substitute, or tofu? Doubtless you could.

Late edit, to give credit where due: This is “adapted” (read: I changed some tiny detail) from an old Bon Appetit magazine, probably from the late 1990s sometime.