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Monthly Archives: November 2014

Going into the lodges for exotic massages.

Sunday night finds me on YouTube, listening once again to Billy Joel’s snotty “Los Angelenos.

It’s one of the few BJ tunes I didn’t hear growing up, since my parents’ near-complete Joel collection did not include either of the albums on which it appears (1974’s Streetlife Serenade and 1981’s live Songs From The Attic.)

If I had to listen to any one of BJ’s musical takedowns, I’d probably choose this one. It’s wicked catchy, especially the bridge (“Hiding up in the mountains / Laying low in the canyons / Going nowhere on the streets with the Spanish names.”) And who doesn’t enjoy a shot at shallow, narcissistic southern Californians?

I went into the ARSA database of local radio-play charts to see if the song — not released as a single — had hooked any programming directors the way it hooked me.

And sure enough, there’s one chart from 40 years ago this month, listing “Los Angelenos” as an up-and-coming airplay hit …

in San Francisco.

Apparently, no one enjoys a shot at shallow, narcissistic southern Californians more than their northern neighbors.

I knew I liked San Francisco.

Top of the pops.

Another day has passed, and Hope’s Treat has further cemented its place in the hearts of the American people.

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on this subject:

– The experimental EP I cooked up by manipulating 70-year-old home recordings of my grandpa’s piano playing is currently the sixth-most-popular Bandcamp recording with the tag “Allentown.”

no6inallentown

Hope’s Treat is presently the third-most-popular Bandcamp recording tagged “Stamford.”

Almost 30 years after he moved out of town, Bill Blumenau is an overnight sensation.

no3instamford

– And finally, Hope’s Treat leapt a rousing 200 spots, currently ranking No. 174 among the most popular recordings tagged “Connecticut.” Instead of page 10, it’s now on page 5.

(The folks in Walnut Shitstorm, for what it’s worth, are still mired on page 9.)

no174inConn

Now, lest this post be misconstrued, let me address some questions my Four Readers are probably asking:

– I’m not gonna keep posting these updates every day. I think they’re getting old too.

– I’m not really that interested in the “chart performance” of my noisy little EP as compared to everyone else’s noisy little EPs. These popularity rankings could be generated at random by goats, for all I know, and I don’t put as much stock in them as I’m probably making it sound.

(Even if I did clearly understand how the charts were generated, they’re still only measuring one tiny slice of one music site. Having the third-most-popular Bandcamp recording tagged Stamford is sort of akin to having the third-most sacrifice flies in Stamford Little League.)

Still, I have a bit of chart geek in me. And it’s kinda fun to play at the chart-geek thing when it’s your own name on the chart — no matter how obscure the ranking might be, or how small a pool you’re swimming in.

Plus, with the burst of initial interest in Hope’s Treat wearing off, today’s placements are probably about as high as the EP is going to get. I think those who are going to find it have found it.

So I’ll enjoy the high-water mark, however dubious and paltry it might be.

Once a week, and you know where all your favorite songs are.

I’m number 374! (In Connecticut, that is.)

I managed to convince one or two people to download Hope’s Treat, the experimental EP I wrote about yesterday.

The workings of Bandcamp’s most-popular ratings are unknown to me. A quick Google search suggests others don’t know exactly how they work either, except that they seem to be based on sales, not plays.

Still, I thought my brief burst of success might translate into an appearance on one of the most-popular pages.

And sure enough, Hope’s Treat currently ranks as the 374th-most-popular Bandcamp recording with the tag “Connecticut.”

(It’s tagged Connecticut because that’s where my grandpa made the 1940s-vintage piano recordings that I molested for the purposes of my experimental EP.)

How did I calculate the number? Did I rely on one of the fancy tube-glowin’ “computers” Casey Kasem’s team used to use to calculate 1970s American Top 40 countdowns?

Naw, it was simple. Each page displays 40 individual recordings (be they full-length albums, EPs, or whatever.)

Hope’s Treat, as of this moment, is on page 10 … so there are 360 recordings ahead of it. And it’s the 14th recording displayed on page 10. Hence, No. 374.

Sadly, I am a few places behind Walnut Shitstorm’s A 3D Map of Poland. I know now what it was like to be John Fogerty and have “Green River” stuck behind “In The Year 2525” for all those weeks.

Art is cruel.

ctranking

Edit: But wait, it gets better! Hope’s Treat is currently the 13th-most-popular Bandcamp title with the tag “Allentown.” It’s on Page One of the listings and everything.

Dude! I’ve got a record in the Top 20.

Where’s the champagne?

 

allentown

 

Shameless self-promotion.

Dunno if the three people who read me here also read my other blog, so I’ll put in a quick plug for the exciting action goin’ on over there.

Today I posted the results of a project that I think is hot shit, even if no one else seems to agree:

Given a batch of 70-year-old home recordings of my grandfather playing piano, I digitally edited, treated and reassembled them into a series of nine short ambient/experimental/avant-garde song-things.

These have been posted to Bandcamp as a choose-your-own-price download called Hope’s Treat.

If you wanna read the long but reasonably entertaining story behind Hope’s Treat, click here.

If you’d like to skip the long story and give a cursory six-second listen to two or three of the songs, you can click here instead.

If you’d rather not be bothered, and would prefer to go out for fried chicken instead, that’s a third option.

Choose wisely.

(I suggest spicy fries on the side. You gotta sin to get saved.)

I don’t think I’ll survive the night.

If you fall in love with someone or something based on misconceptions, assumptions or false narratives, it generally doesn’t end well. (For example: “This coat will look great on me after I lose some weight.”)

But when you fall in love with a song for inherently false reasons, it makes not a bit of harm or difference.

The text for tonight’s sermon is Cheap Trick’s “Dream Police,” which was starting to fall from the national charts around this time of year in 1979 after peaking in the mid-20s.

(In dear old Allentown, ever slightly behind the times, it was listed as hitbound for the week of Nov. 19, 1979, when the record was fading on the national stage.)

“Dream Police,” like Cheap Trick’s other best records, is a subversive piece of work — a tuneful but paranoid song about being haunted by inescapable demons. It’s one of those songs you can easily let slide by, but that takes on a different dimension if you stop to think about it.

It’s catchy, like songs about girl problems and car problems and high-school problems … except it’s about brain problems.

In the historical mythology I have created, 1979 was an unsettled time — a year of nuclear near-meltdowns, long gas lines, a presidentially declared malaise and the start of the Iranian hostage crisis, not to mention the usual Cold War saber-rattling.

Unsettled times make for unsettled art … and so, what better time for a song about paranoia and fear to hit it big?

(It’s true that disco, one of the least jarring genres ever to gain mass popularity, was still big in ’79. Escapism, I say. Music for people trying to forget about being threatened or unsettled. You can only shake your groove thang against the darkness for so long, though.)

I also note that the Dream Police album was released Sept. 21, 1979, and its title track rode the charts in October and November — months when the weather starts to turn cold, the leaves start to die and the night starts to creep up earlier and earlier. Dark times call for dark music.

So, “Dream Police” fits perfectly into this image of teenage Halloween 1979 I’ve created in my head.

I see kids out not-really-joyriding in the cold night, not bound anywhere in particular, listening to Rockford’s finest on the radio, and feeling uneasy for reasons they can’t quite explain.

Of course, this is complete horseshit.

I realized long ago that, while the woes of the republic register with its occupants, they don’t color everything people do.

People — especially teenagers — don’t let the events of the day affect their perceptions of the world around them. In fact, they can be pretty oblivious when they want to be. So, jangled times do not necessarily promote or support jangled art, no matter how neat that narrative might appear.

I’ve also learned that the time of year has almost no effect on when a record is released — except perhaps for live albums and best-of compilations, which are sometimes timed to appear around the December holidays.

The Dream Police LP is a dramatic example of this. The Interwebs say the songs were recorded in mid-1978, for release late that year or early the next. (“Dream Police” could well have been a Valentine’s Day single, not a Halloween single.)

But late ’78 and early ’79 found Cheap Trick’s At Budokan live album selling briskly as an import from Japan. And when the live album became a Stateside smash, Epic Records pushed back the release of Dream Police to the fall, so as not to cannibalize the sales of At Budokan.

So the association of “Dream Police” with autumn in America has nothing to do with the soul, spirit or content of the song. It’s entirely the product of a big record company trying to nudge its newest golden goose onto a coordinated laying schedule.

So, my hazy historical narrative is Swiss-cheesy and totally at odds with the song’s backstory.

But it doesn’t really matter in the end, because the record delivers the goods. “Dream Police” is still a great, catchy, imaginatively arranged, bitter-edged pop song, and one I can still enjoy without surrounding with self-created nonsense.

At any time of year.

Holes in the mosaic.

In some regards, expansion is the smartest thing Major League Baseball’s ever done, because each round of new teams only adds to the fan’s sense that every night is a tapestry of action.

On any given day in the regular season, a bunch of games get played. Most every game has something cool or interesting or distinctive about it, either when viewed by itself (the Cubs made four errors in the sixth inning!) or as part of a larger picture (Pitcher X, who pitched a shutout tonight, will end up leading the league this year.)

Whether you’re getting your updates over AM radio or over Twitter, it’s fun to immerse yourself in any given night — ’cause they’re all a little different — and follow each of the twists and turns to their conclusion at the night’s final pitch.

There’s a crafty veteran pitcher trying to keep his job in Houston, and a 32-year-old rookie playing his first big-league game in New York, and three ejections following a disputed balk call in San Francisco, and a 54-minute rain delay in Washington, and … pull up a chair, friends.

The tapestry of action (maybe “mosaic” is a better word, since lots of little snapshots make up the big picture) gets even more interesting when you zoom out and add the off-the-field perspective.

Players get signed, traded and released. Former players pass away, and future players are born. There’s a whirl of action every day.

Well, almost every day.

Inspired by something I noticed on Retrosheet, I set out to answer this question:

How many times has Major League Baseball been totally radio-silent — no games, no transactions, no births, no deaths — during the regular season?

Here’s an example of what I mean: Go to Retrosheet’s summary for 1977 and scroll down to the day-by-day calendar. You’ll see every day has a clickable link — which means something happened that day — between April and October. The one exception is July 20, which was the annual day off after the All-Star Game.

My question: Has there ever been a day, other than the All-Star break, where the MLB mosaic was totally blank, and nothing of consequence or significance happened?

Has there ever been a day during the course of the regular season that gave fans absolutely nothing to talk about, marvel at or chew on?

The answer is yes. And here’s how many times it’s happened since 1961, the first expansion season:

May 14, 1962. Presumably this was a travel day for everyone, as the sports page of a newspaper from that day indicates no games were scheduled.

May 2, 1966. Again, contemporary records indicate no games were scheduled.

April 30, 1973. Yet another day with no scheduled games. I figured we’d get at least one empty day due to rain — a day where only one game was scheduled, and it got rained out. Those days might have happened, but it looks like something else (a transaction, a birth or a death) came up every time to fill in the blank.

Summer 1981: Numerous days lost on account of the players’ strike. (These blank days might or might not count as being “during the regular season,” as the season had been stopped. I’m excluding the 1994 strike from this post for that reason.)

August 6, 1985. Major-league players start another strike. (A sports page for Aug. 6 lists a full schedule of games that would otherwise have been played.) Teams did not play Aug. 7, either, but the death of former New York Giants outfielder Johnny Rucker put at least one MLB-related event on the day’s calendar. Games resumed on Aug. 8.

Sept. 14-16, 2001. All MLB on-the-field action stopped for nearly a week following the Sept. 11 attacks. A player transaction on Sept. 12 and retired players’ deaths on Sept. 11 and 13 means events of some consequence happened on those days. But Sept. 14-16 were completely silent.

Barring strike or catastrophe, it seems questionable that we will ever see another totally empty day on MLB’s docket, now that there are 30 teams to play games and make transactions.

(More teams also means a larger pool of up-and-coming players whose birthdays will join the MLB calendar, and a larger pool of retired players who will someday pass away.)

Stop! Hammer time.

While others dissect the big winners, disappointed losers and future policy implications of yesterday’s elections, I will simply offer the following analysis:

The Hammer endures.

# # # # #

It was 1992, in Boston, and I was sharing a dorm room with a guy named Matt — a scion of the quiet farm country of central New York.

1992 was an election year, too. And one day a letter arrived for Matt, from a guy he’d never heard of.

The guy’s name was Mike Nozzolio. He was running for state Senate in the 54th District back home in New York. He’d mailed a form letter and flyer, hoping to attract Matt’s vote from afar.

We greeted the campaign missive — the flyer, particularly — with the irreverence we thought it deserved.

Nozzolio’s portrait was promptly decorated with warts, handlebar mustachios and worse. We gave him a new nickname that made us laugh: “The Hammer.”

And his campaign slogan — something innocuous about leadership or new vision or something — was slightly altered to become, “GUESS WHAT? MY BUTT!”

Matt and I posted the defaced flyer on our door, and the buzz from it continued to make us chortle every time we came back from class.

But Matt was a more thoughtful sort than his shaggy appearance suggested; and two or three days later, he began to have other ideas.

You know what?” he said (and of course I’m paraphrasing here, as the hidden tape machines that record my every interaction with others were not installed until three years later). “I’m kinda honored that Mike Nozzolio went out of his way to write me and ask me personally for my vote. Dammit, I’m voting for Mike Nozzolio!”

Matt voted for Mike Nozzolio via absentee ballot. And Mike Nozzolio won — buoyed to victory, no doubt, by his unexpectedly strong performance in Suffolk County, Massachusetts.

It was a veritable feel-good story, a young man’s first participation in the political process, and I’m sure we toasted the news with one of the Domino’s pizzas we ate incessantly that year.

# # # # #

Time’s path led me away from Matt (and central New York), and I didn’t think much about the Hammer for almost 15 years.

Then, in the summer of 2006, I went to a summer-league ballgame for college-age players in a funky old stadium in Geneva, N.Y. (I wrote about the place a year or two ago.)

And what should greet me like a long-lost friend, out in right-center field, but a billboard for State Senator Mike Nozzolio?

nozzolio

I was back at McDonough Park in Geneva in the summer of 2012. And so was The Hammer.

nozz2

And only a month ago, I was in Seneca Falls, N.Y., to run a 5K road race, as briefly referenced in this recent post.

The course ended in a public park with several Little League fields. And there, on the outfield fence of one of the Little League fields, was a State Senator Mike Nozzolio sign. I didn’t get a pic, ’cause my phone was back in the car and I didn’t want to go get it, but I promise you it was there.

I’m a big baseball fan — as was Matt, who’d played first base for his high school team back in Phelps, N.Y. Nozzolio’s apparent fondness for baseball diamonds makes me more convinced than ever that Matt chose the right horse to back.

# # # # #

Anyway, Mike Nozzolio ran for re-election this year in the 54th District. No longer the eager up-and-comer of 1992, he’s now so entrenched that he didn’t even have an opponent. Of course, he won handily.

Although an unopposed candidate doesn’t need to strain himself, Nozzolio is apparently still savvy enough to court distant voters. He logged 230 absentee ballot votes in Monroe County alone.

(I can’t tell you what those 230 people did with, or to, their Mike Nozzolio campaign flyers … only that they put his name on their ballots, which is what counts.)

I know nothing about the senator’s political stances, or about his performance in office. He could be taking envelopes with one hand and picking his nose with the other, for all I know.

It doesn’t matter. I think fondly of him anyway — both as a connection to my college years (and those connections are dwindling), and as a person who has dedicated a whole lot of years to public service.

There’s not a lot of glamour in the 54th District, which makes me imagine that Mike Nozzolio is most likely one of those career politicians who’s still in it for the right reasons.

A post-election toast, then, to the Hammer.

Long may he legislate.