Sunday, February 26, 2017

Rock and Roll Never Forgets

Do you ever get into a reading rut?  That is, you read a lot of books of the same (fancy college word in THREE...TWO...ONE) genre?

Several years back, I got into the rut of reading every book that came out about Abraham Lincoln. One book, Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, makes you seem really smart when you tell people you have read it.  This is because the only time we see Doris Kearns Goodwin is when she's on Meet The Press.  However, in the History Major world, Goodwin is a star because she is a History Major making money in something close to her major. And, to be fair, at one time Doris was a total babe.

Lately, I've gotten into reading the ANCIENT ROCK STAR AUTOBIOGRAPHY.

There was a time in the history of Rock and Roll when the idea of 70-year-old rock stars would have been unthinkable. Rock was Young and it was Youth and it said the things the Young Youths were saying.

Then, a lot of rock stars died of various drug reasons like Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin, all of whom are still making truck loads of money.

But Rock has aged and a lot of the stars from the late 60's and early 70's are in their late sixties and seventies. They have decided to tell their stories if they can remember them.

My first book was Fortunate Son by John Fogerty.  Fogerty was the leader of the band Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR). CCR had about 400 hits in the late 60's-early 70's.  359 of those hits were about 2:50 minutes long and very catchy. The rest was your typical Jam-Band covers that lasted for a couple of days. (CCR's version of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"* lasts a couple of months.)

Fogerty left a good job in the city and wrote "Proud Mary", which keeps on turning and burning.  I'm not sure who or what "Proud Mary" is but it keeps rolling down the river.

Most memoirs are about getting back at your enemies and Fogerty has a couple. One is Saul Zaentz, who ran Fantasy Records that signed CCR and stuck them with this awful publishing contract which meant Saul made a lot of money off of CCR. Which did not make Fogerty happy and he spent a good part of 40 years suing Saul and Fantasy.

Fogerty has a couple of other enemies: the rest of CCR, which included his brother.  None of this is very pleasant. If you ever think there is going to be a CCR reunion, it would be as likely as President Trump giving up Tweeting.  It is not going to happen.

The next book was Testimony by Robbie Robertson.  Robertson was the leader of the band called "The Band".   The Band was Bob Dylan's band when he toured England on his "electric" tour (1966). He had them follow him to Woodstock, New York where they made The Basement Tapes. The Band soon signed to their own record deal.

Robertson wrote the song "The Weight" which was about taking a load off of Fanny or Annie, not sure which. He also wrote, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" about Virgil Cain. But my favorite is "Up On Cripple Creek" which has the great line "Now me and my mate were back at the shack/We had Spike Jones on the box/She said 'I can't take the way he sings but I love to hear him talk'."

They also starred in a movie called "The Last Waltz", which was the last concert they gave as The Band. Sort of. Actually, it was the last concert of The Band with Robbie Robertson.

Robertson had moved out to Malibu by the mid-70's and started hanging around Hollywood. He got tired of the rock life style and decided to lean back and watch his money multiply.

Robertson drops a lot of names in this book. He says they met Sonny Boy Williamson. That may not impress you, but it impressed me. Of course, he talks about Dylan a lot. Robertson's Dylan seems like a regular person, not the Weirdo Bob we are all used to. Carly Simon shows up. So does Dyan Cannon.  Burt Lancaster lived down the street in Malibu.

One name that popped up from time to time was Conway Twitty. Really.

The bad guy in Robertson's book is Levon Helm, who took drugs in what pharmacists call "Keith Richards Amounts".  This really surprised me but I'm not sure if this isn't Robertson's way of getting back at Helm because Robertson was the bad guy in Helm's Ancient Rock Star Autobiography. Rock and Roll never forgets.

The last Ancient Rock Star Autobiography I am reading is Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen.

One thing about this book: it sounds like Bruce Springsteen.  You can hear his voice and almost see the expressions on his face as you read it.

Springsteen is probably the best "performer" of the bunch and he is still out there pounding away doing three hour shows.   The most interesting part of the book is the "before fame" section, which is about how he meets Clarence, Miami Steve, and all the rest.

He's open about his failings. He gets a little preachy and political. Interestingly enough, he didn't take drugs and he didn't get his driver's license until he was in his twenties.

One thing that unites all of the books is that all three men are family men. All three are married and have children. Springsteen's descriptions of his family life make it sound like he is the manager of Springsteen's  Goodyear Tire Store rather than "The Boss".

If you love rock music, the real kind, you should read these books.  Springsteen's is a pretty big book, but it is a quick read. Robertson's ends in 1976 at The Last Waltz and he doesn't think you'd be interested in the past forty years.  Fogerty's is the slightest but in many ways the most honest.

But they all give you pretty good insight into the music that was a part of our lives. At least, for us old folks. Sweet sixteen has turned sixty-one.

* Of course, Fogerty sings " Ah Hurd It Through The Grapevine". Fogerty admits his unique pronunciations on the records is because he was trying to imitate blues singers he likes.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Jerk

Well, gang, we've made it through one month of the Trump Presidency!  Only 47 more to go!

And it could be an additional 48 months after that. By that time, millennials, you should be moved out of your parent's basement by then.

All I can say is buckle up Butter Cup!

I can't remember a more contentious beginning of a Presidency.  Even Kid Bush's first month wasn't this "ugly" as we say down South. His election was particularly nasty, especially at the end when the Democrats of South Florida forgot how to punch holes. However, for that, we give thanks. It saved us from an Al Gore Presidency, which would have been really weird and not in a good or fun way.

Part of the reason for this ugliness is a combination of cynical politics, histrionics, and the typical pouty millennial non-sense.

I can't count how many articles I've read stating President Trump is mentally ill.

The articles usually start, "I have 400 hundred degrees in psychology from all of the Major Big-Deal Universities in this country and although I have never met Donald Trump or conducted a major medical/psychological examination of him, I have drawn the conclusion from my massive gray matter that the man is as crazy as a Betsy bug."

The articles usually mention his lies ("If you like your doctor, you'll be able to keep you doctor.." oops, wrong one) and his narcissism as proof of his mental illness.

The narcissism is one that gets me. There's no denying that our President has a rather large self-regard for himself. However, if narcissism is a mental disorder, then a lot of people should be in the looney bin.

I've worked in the financial part of the health care industry for over 30 years. I've never seen a claim where the patient was being treated for narcissism. How would you treat someone with narcissism anyway?  Open a can of whoop ass?

I've said it once and I'll say again. Being a jerk is not a mental illness.

And our President can be a jerk at times.

Here's my explanation. The President is a 70-year-old billionaire who was the head of his privately owned company.  He has never answered to stockholders or a board. He had the final word.

If a subcontractor didn't perform up to par: don't pay him.  If he sues, we'll see him in court. He didn't perform up to my expectations. When he comes to the office looking for money- you bark back at him and tell him if he doesn't correct the problem he's not going to receive ONE RED CENT!  The sub don't like it? Tough. Good luck finding work after I tell everybody what a crummy job you do.

Repeat that for years. And years. And years. A person begins not caring about your initial response because he only cares about his goal: building the resort.  Everything else is just detail that nobody is going to remember.

Could he be nicer?  Yes.  Could he quit the Tweeting and still get his way?  Yes.  Could he refrain from the <cough> mischaracterizations of fact?  Yes. Will he pivot and "act" Presidential?  I doubt it.

But being Donald Trump is what made him a very rich man and President. Until people understand that and learn to adapt, they are going to wear themselves out.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Oh Atlanta

Not to brag, but I think I was the only one who was not shocked by the Atlanta Falcons blowing a 25 point lead in the third quarter to lose Super LI to the New England Patriots.

After all, I've lived in Atlanta all my life ( okay, Marietta) and I just assume an Atlanta sports team is going to do something goofy to lose an important game.

If it is not being deked out by a second baseman, it is a reliever hanging a slider to a second string catcher. It is having an infield fly rule called on a ball hit to left field.  That's just three things that happened to the Braves.

The Hawks drafted probably the best player of his era, but due to a contract snafu, only plays one game as a Hawk ( Julius Erving).

The Flames brought NHL hockey to Atlanta but they moved to Calgary in 1980. Of course, they won  The Stanley Cup eight years later.

But, the Falcons hold a special place in our hearts, because they have been a "special" franchise since the beginning.

The very first play in Falcon history was a kickoff. The Falcon kicker ran up to kick the ball. He missed it. I am not making this us.

It doesn't get much better.

One year, The Falcons were pretty competitive and they were even on "Monday Night Football", which was a big deal back then. They beat the mighty Minnesota Vikings. Atlanta was all abuzz about The Falcons making the playoffs.

Do I have to tell you their season fell apart after that game? Head Coach Norm Van Brocklin blamed "bartenders and Peachtree Street hookers".  Norm wasn't a player's coach.

How could we forget poor old Dave Hampton?  In the last game of the season, Hampton became the first running back in Falcon history to run for 1,000 yards. The game was stopped and Hampton was awarded the ball he carried for such a milestone. On the next play from scrimmage, he suffered a six-yard loss and finished the season with 994 yards. Again, I am not making this up.

The last time the Falcons went to the Super Bowl, they seemed more concerned with a new end zone dance they created ("The Dirty Bird" think of a new version of "The Funky Chicken") than with actually winning The Super Bowl. One player was arrested for seeking the services of a working girl. The Falcons got killed.

Now matter. The Falcons were on their way. The first game of the next season, their star running back, Jamaal Anderson, blew out his knee.

In this century, we had a truly incredible quarterback who was put in federal prison for dog fighting. A head coach quit before the end of the season to move to Arkansas.

I thought the Falcons had more than a puncher's chance at winning The Super Bowl. Turns out I was right. The Falcons were better than New England for three-quarters. The only problem is there are four quarters in football.

The GOAT of New England (GOAT stands for Greatest Of All Time), Tom Brady, knew what he had to do to win. Atlanta didn't. That's all there is to it.

So now Atlanta has to deal with another funky loss. We were close. But close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
But at least we have pretty women. It will start feeling like spring around here pretty soon.

Which means Braves baseball is just around the corner, waiting to tear out our hearts.