Astral Van

I have been a Van Morrison fan since Moondance. Over the decades I have built a fairly complete collection, so large that I’m splitting it into two posts.  The first song of his I was familiar with was Gloria – though at the time I didn’t connect it with him. It was a cut on The Blues Magoos’ Electric Comic Book. 

His music journey has from from Irish garage-band rock with Them, to his early searching solo years after Astral Weeks, then Moondance, a return to traditional Irish, a transcendental mystic time of great spiritual discovery, to his present sense of looking back – even re-recording some of his early work. Each period has great work by this restless musical spirit.  

There are several books about him. I have read Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968 which is an excellent look at the pop scene of the time & his formative US years. Many of the songs it discusses are found on Bang Masters (67). I picked this up in February 1993. Brown Eyed Girl was his solo break-though. Mostly good solid soulful rock. The Bob Dylan inference shows on some tracks.

I have as mp3: Astral Weeks Expanded Edition 68 – which has extended versions a few tracks. The jazzy/chamber music setting is sweet &, at the time, quite revolutionary so radio stations didn’t know what to do with – musically a clear influence on the chamber rock of groups like Antony & the Johnsons. 

A stand-alones I have Moondance 70, His Band and The Street Choir 70, Tupelo Honey 71, St Dominic’s Preview 72, Hard Nose The Highway 73. At one time I had them as cassettes & upgraded to cd. Moondance remains a classic, timeless album. A more commercial recording than Astra Weeks. The music is celebratory, romantic & fun. The next ones are less hit-song driven, his sound changes from one to the next, choirs on one, more horns on another. I had most of these as cassettes at one time. Also mp3’s of Veedon Fleece 74, A Period of Transition 77.

Listening one can sense how his real life is reflected in his music. The end of his marriage, the wrestle with booze & drugs, his spiritual longings & his search for ways to express though lyrics & music his need to balance his expectations, fame & friends. In some ways a male version of Joni Mitchell but with a more rock sensibility. All of these are great albums but if you are unfamiliar start with Moondance & then Astral Weeks. 

More Van next week.

Anticipation 4

It was as he said ‘I want to know’ that he realized he did, in fact, accept The Book. It didn’t matter what he did, he couldn’t avoid his fate so he might as well start living to enjoy it. It didn’t matter what he did as long as he did something. The idea of making a decision that was not escape frightened him. That was also in The Book – ‘Martin will make the fearful choice after death.’ He regretted that it was someone else’s death.

So, this was the day. Overcast & slushy. No Michelangelo skies. As he dressed he wondered exactly what he would be doing at the moment of impact, the fulcrum of healing? Saving a drowning child? Taking a good shit? ‘What becomes the healing the world the most?’ he inhaled ‘God’, held it; breathed out, ‘Thank you.’ Then reversed the order.

Recently he had been pre-occupied by what would become of him after that moment. The Book ended with ‘On that February 14 Martin will begin the healing of the world.’ Nothing followed. Not that The Book had even been helpful in any important way. He had frequently wished it had said things like ‘Martin will become a doctor, or ‘wear those blue shorts to the beach.’ It only commented ‘… will then no longer feel lost.’ The horoscope in the newspaper was more helpful.

He hoped that once he got the healing started he could begin to live his own life for himself.

A list of To Do Today on the fridge had only one item on it – ‘Replace plug on corner lamp.’ That meant a trip to the hardware store, people, uniformed sales clerks. All the things he’d rather avoid.

The elevator in his building wasn’t working, again. Luckily he only had a six flight walk. In the carpark he discovered his arial had been snapped off, again. At least this time they hadn’t scratched a map of the world on his roof.

He went the hardware store in the mall. Found what he wanted quickly then went over to Finest Burgers in the food court. Ordered one with works & found a quiet spot that faced the dining area.

He looked at the hamburger & the fries. Fries overcooked to just the brownness he liked. The first bite was perfection. He knew it wasn’t the most healthy food but the combination of salt, ketchup & grease exploded in his mouth in the most satisfying way. A way he knew alfalfa sprouts couldn’t come near.

The molecular structure of the grease changed & the cholesterol deposits in Martin’s arteries began to dissolve. 

Brenda’s doctor looked at the test results. “Gone! Completely in remission.”

Charles put the gun down.

Brian decided he could look after the kids without her.

The blood sample on the slide mutated, the helper cells began to win.

Sylvia decided not to have that last donut.

Martin glanced up & saw that it was just after one. The healing had begun! He looked around expecting to see transformation. All he saw was people eating. He bit into his hamburger, Perfection again. And so it should be, after all wasn’t this a perfect day. The first perfect day ever.

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The Kenton Experience

There is a genre of classical music in which pop music is turned into ‘serious’ music. There are lps of the Beatles done as Bach. The Vitamin Quartet has made a career of interpreting the likes of Coldplay, Lady Gaga, even Led Zeppelin as string quartets. All of which I have tucked away in my collection. Of these cross-covers one of my favourites is The Kennedy Experience. 

Led by violin virtuoso Nigel Kennedy this Experience tackles – you guessed it – The Jimi Hendrix Experience. But instead of turning Hendrix into classical music it stretches into an exploration of wider musical horizons. Some meditative, Third Stone From The Sun; some rock out, Fire. All are fantastic & resonant. Music to treasure.

Near by on the shelf is Stan Kenton: 100+ Classic Greats: includes West Side Story. This high quality easy listening jazz. Instrumental music falls into so many categories – some of Kenton’s work falls under exotica, some nightclub, some late night cafe stuff, all good stuff though. This is a jumbled assemblage of a dozen or so lps dumped into a collection. I’ve arranged some of the tracks back into their original release lps, some I left randomized. The Latin tracks were easy to sort, a set of blues, one of show tunes, one of jazz standards.

Kenton is not a challenging band leader but is never boring either. You want challenging try Coltrane 🙂 You want boring try Kenny G. My partner had Kenton’s West Side Story as lp & I enjoyed it enough to replace it with mp3 version & when I checked it out on iTunes up popped this massive collection of 100+ Kenton, for under $10.00. So I bought it. Well worth it.

Another similar massive collection was ‘Songs You Know & Love.’ Songs I knew from movies, some my parents favourites & some from the radio. Performed mostly by original artists. Things like McGuire Sisters: Cuddle Up A Little Closer; Dean Martin: When Your Smiling; Eddie Cantor: Ma, She’s Making Eyes at Me. Another great public-domain jumble from iTunes for under $10.00. 

As I listen to these I wonder how long it’ll be before there are similar mp3 jumbles of today’s stars?

Anticipation 3

Another day Martin would never forget was the day he finally believed the prophecy. As a child he didn’t question the truth of what his parents had told him. At about fourteen he began to doubt, within himself, this weird reality that his parents had forced on him.

The doubt crystallized during a school seminar on ‘The Future.’ Because it had been set out for him ‘to heal the world’ he had never given his future much thought. He had no concept of what he wanted to be when he grew up. The Book made no career references, no hints as to whether he should become a doctor or a garbage man. What profession would suit the healer of the world the most?

His listened to other kids talk about how they had discussed their futures with their parents. Futures that included colleges, marriages; futures that had real plans. All he discussed with his folks was how was school today. He realized how abnormal his parents were. Maybe even a little crazy. The Book, The healing of the world! What a crock! They didn’t even go to church.

He carried those doubts for the next few years. Those years of believing his parents were insane were the worst. He spent days plotting to have them legally committed. He never spoke to his parents about his fears of their sanity. After all, there was food on the table. Rarely any shouting or fighting. A very normal family in all ways but this one little wrinkle – The Book. He pulled away from them & their crazy notions.

His best days were those on which he forgot the prophecy. Sometimes he even had weeks of that blissful forgetting, in which he was just a man plodding through his life as best as anyone else.

The worse days were the ones when he felt painfully trapped by a fate he couldn’t alter. A fate he didn’t particularly care for & which he had tried to escape any way he could.

“What if I die in an accident?” He once asked his mother. “Then what happens to the world? Huh?”

“You won’t Martin. You won’t die.” She admonished him gently.

So he became a daredevil. Drinking hard, playing even harder, fast cars, high mountains. Seeking to escape but always being faced with what couldn’t be changed.

Though his twenties he couldn’t make decisions. He turned his will & his life over to any escape he could find. Alcohol, heroin, women, men. It didn’t matter. His life was charmed & cursed both at the same time.

One fateful night he had a car accident. A little stoned he hit an icy patch, swerved into another car, & rolled his own. He lived. He needed steel pins to put his leg together. Three people died in the other car. He was unconscious for two days.

His mother was there beside his bed. The Book on her lap. As he opened his eyes, she read, with a calm flatness, “Even as a vegetable Martin will fulfill the prophecy. The decision is his.”

“Hell. Hell. Hell.” he muttered painfully. “Why doesn’t it tell me more. I want to know what to do till then.”

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Motherly Love


On the shelf by the Mothers of Invention I have: Freak Out 1966 MOFO Project includes original plus out takes etc; Absolutely Free 1967; Only For The Money 1968; Cruising With Ruben & The Jets 1968; Uncle Meat 1969; Weasels Ripped My Flesh 1970; Live at Fillmore East 1971; The Grand Wazoo 1972 – big band mostly instrumental; Bongo Fury 1975 w Captain Beefheart. We’ll get to Frank Zappa when I get to ‘z’ 🙂

The Mothers expanded my music consciousness with their humour, their sometimes complex engineering, their fearlessness & their musicality. I can still hear ‘Susie … Susie Creamcheese.’ The endless layers on ‘The Money’ is a headphone extravaganza. The lyrics are timeless – who are the brain police – what’s the ugliest part of your body – brown shoes don’t make it.

Musically they veer from doo-wop, to rock, blues, avant-guard, Motown – sometimes all in the same song 🙂  One of few really prog-rock bands that continued to grow & show their listeners radical political & musical theories. I have to admit those first three lps were my favourites & can still be challenging to listen to today. the MOFO reissue of Freak Out is excellent. It includes full tracks of the pieces that were edited down for the lp. 

Absolutely Free defines the anarchic hippy counterculture in a way no other band at the time does. It spared no one, including the hippies themselves. ‘Money’ from its all out cover attack on the Beatles is sonically stunning, lyrically merciless & musically stunning. Plus Eric Clapton on guitar, if you can find him in the mix.

Ruben is a tribute/parody lp of doo-wop & bubblegum pop that verges on being the real thing. I love it. Uncle Meat is a sprawling mixed bag highlighted by the King Kong variations with Jean Luc Ponty. The cover is wild, but not as visceral as the cover for Weasels Ripped My Flesh: mix of live & wild studio work. If you are unfamiliar with the Mothers start with Absolutely Free.

Zappa’s musical influence is reflected in there work of Plastic People Of The Universe Czech rock band from Prague 1968–1989: Apokalyptikej Ptak (Live), Co znamená vésti koně (1981). A video of their’s turned up in my Tumblr feed so I tracked them down. This is an amazing, radical band that I dig. Check them out of YouTube.

Anticipation 2

Even today, just thirty-one years after that first reading of The Book Martin could still taste that vomit. He rinsed his mouth out with hot water & spit it out. ‘Oh God, why me?’ he thought. Inhaling ‘Thank You’ held in, breathed out ‘God.’ After nine breaths reversed the sequence.

Towelling down he recalled that by the day of his tenth birthday he had forgotten all about The Book. He had his first bicycle to look forward to. A fire-engine red two-wheeler. The Martin Flyer he had named it weeks before even asking for it. He ran alway home from school in anticipation of that bike. Sure enough it was there on the front veranda. A big red bow tied to the parcel carrier. In the house there was a cake on the dining-room table.

“Did’ja get ice cream, Ma?” He asked. “Let me go to the store & get some. I’ll ride the Martin Flyer & be back in a jiffy.”

“We have plenty.” She laughed. “But …”

“Yeah, Ma, what?”

“It’s not important.”

“What Ma?”

“Well, I thought maybe you should meet Dad down at the bus stop. He may have something for you to carry home.”

Martin was out of the house by the time she said bus. Much to his disappointment his Dad was at the front gate already.

“I was just coming down to meet you!” Martin exclaimed.

“Well, don’t let me stop you.” His Dad laughed, “I could still be there waiting for you, too.”

“Ah, Dad.” Martin half-laughed.

“You’re home early dear.” His mother came to the door & kissed his father.

“Well, I wanted to be here when …” He stopped & nodded at Martin.

Martin suddenly remember The Book. His stomach began to ache.

“I don’t want to know,” he said louder than he intended. “I need to know what any weird book says about me.”

Now looking at himself in the mirror he still didn’t want to know. Strangely he really didn’t know anymore about it all than he did then. Except that he would finally know today, at 1 p.m. All would be revealed.

It was several days after that birthday he finally rode his Martin Flyer. The ache in his stomach turned out to be his appendix. An ache that was not in The Book. At first his parents thought he was reacting to what had been written for him in The Book.

He, Martin, would heal the world. The phrase ‘heal the world’ made him dizzy for many years. No mention of how. Just the bare fact of when – ‘In his 41st year on February 14, 1 p.m.’ That ‘when’ was finally here. Or would be in a couple of hours.


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Morphine Machine

The Music Machine: Turn On! Yes, let’s turn on to 1966 with this amazing garage band. This was one of the first lps I remember buying. Still in high school & ‘innocent.’ I loved the hair, the black leather gloves they wore on stage, the turtlenecks. The front cover is reminiscent of the Beatles but the music is not, even though they do a cover of Taxman. I dug them 🙂 Listening to it now it is well produced with good studio use of echo, even a touch of flute. Reminiscent of early Steppenwolf or Grassroots. 

The lp was worn grey. The band was lost in the wake of the British Invasion & my interest was washed away by Hendrix, the Stones – you know, music that wasn’t built around Farfisa organ & bass. Definitely teen boy music. I bought the cd in September 1994 when I was deeply involved with Bushwack Theatre. I remember walking from the Lab on Britain St. to Sam’s on Yonge St & looking for this in particular. It was there but as a high-priced import, with no bonus tracks. I think I went back to Sam’s twice before I gave in & bought it. That year I played it over a dozen times for the powerful nostalgia it brought. I do not have any specific memories to go with it though 😦 except of me loving it in 1966.

The first track I heard by Morphine was either Honey White or French Fries With Pepper. I don’t remember where I heard it but I loved the sax driven sound. I was also taken by the lyrics & the voice of their lead singer; he reminded me of Tom Waites in delivery & the jazzy sound was perfect for me. I have Cure for Pain; Yes; Like Swimming; B-Sides & Otherwise. All are my favourites 🙂

Because of its instrumentation Morphine is considered ‘alternative.’ It’s definitely not U2 but the music is not that challenging or abstract. Solid, propulsive, hummable & relatable; adult music not teen-boy pop. They were on the verge of going mainstream when their lead vocalist died of a heart attack onstage in Palestrina, Italy, on July 3, 1999. What a way to go. If you are unfamiliar, start with any of their lps.

This piece goes back to late 80’s.

Anticipation 1

The electronic alarm bubbled. He took several deep breaths. Inhaling he thought “Thank you” held it, breathed out “God.” Then reversed the sequence. He didn’t want to feel he was breathing God out but inhaling the strength that his feeling of God gave him.

The telephone burbled. He thanked God for electronics. No more thought jangling ringing. The telephone continued to burble. Now, was that one burble or two? He wondered, as he picked up the receiver.

“Good morning, Martin.”

“Mother?” What did she want?

“That’s right dear. You remember what day this is?”

Martin glanced as the read-out glowing on his clock. “February 14, 19 …”

“Now Martin don’t tell me that you’ve forgotten …”

“To send you a card? Of course I did but …” Then he remembered. “Not that February 14?” Shit! Shit! Shit! This was not going to be such an ordinary day.

“That’s right Martin dear. The prophesy will be fulfilled today.”

God Thank You God Thank You God, he breathed in & out deeply. “Thank you, Mother.”

“One o’clock.”

“I know! I know! I’ve lived with the damn thing for … ”

“But you forgot.”

“As was foretold. ‘His mother would remind him.’ Isn’ that what it said in The Book. Thank you Mother. Now can I take a shower before …”

“It doesn’t matter what you do, dear. The prophecy will be fulfilled today.”

“Please, mother, give it a rest. Good-bye.”

As he hung up he heard her say, “Christ be with you.” 

Thank God, he breathed in, I’m not, he held his breath, a Christian, he breathed out. He repeated that nine times on his way to the shower. With the water almost too hot to tolerate he remembered the first time he had read The Book. 

It was a week before his tenth birthday. The Book was kept in a chest under his bed since he’d been born. He knew it was in there from having seen his parents look at it late at night when they thought he was asleep.

For the few months before his birthday he’d felt an urge to see it. As soon as he thought they were asleep he pulled the chest out & lifted up The Book. It seemed to resist him the way like poles of a magnet repel each other. It wasn’t very thick but took all his strength to lift it. The cover, as thin as it was, resisted his effort to open it. Once he had it open the heaviness was gone.

In the half-light of the moon he couldn’t make out what was printed on it. The typewritten pages, ragged along the edges, were covered with finger smudges & circle stains where cups had been set on them. As he turned the pages they became clearer & easier to see & to understand.

His heart beat faster & he uttered a little cry when. at the top of one page he saw, in capital letters, MARTIN. His eyes skimmed the page & fell on ‘At ten years of age he shall be told, but he will already know. He will want to escape, but he will never stop knowing.’

Suddenly fearful, he shut The Book & shoved it back inside the chest, pushed the chest back under his bed, ran to the bathroom & vomited.

(what else is in The Book – tune in next week for another trilling episode)

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Scriabin

 By Alexander Scriabin (1871-1915) Russian, I have stand alone double cd sets: Piano Sonatas 1 2, Symphonies 1 2; lp to 4 cds transfers of solo piano music that includes mazurkas, etudes etc. As mp3: symphonic poems: Prométhée, Le Poème du feu; Le Poème de l’extase; Piano Concerto. 

The lp transfer were of a VoxBox 3 lps set. Much of this is influenced by Chopin & delights, if you like Chopin. Romantic, sometimes a bit cloying but never as over-the-top as, say, Liszt. He doesn’t say too far from the various forms & like all Russian composers incorporates fold melodies. They don’t break new ground. The Piano Sonatas – the early ones are traditional but as he ages they become more sonorously challenging when he moves into atonal scales. Dense & brilliant.

Scriabin invented the light show! He was influenced by his synesthesia, and associated colours with various harmonic tones. Some of his orchestral works were meant to be performed with coloured lights proved by a colour organ – which created an effect similar to the aurora borealis. This did give rise to a resurgence of interest in him during the trippy 60’s, 70’s. 

So when I listen to his Symphonies or symphonic poems I try to imagine colours. The liner notes to the cds might have clues but I’d rather let my own slight synesthesia take over. Symphonic tone poems was/is popular form in which the composer creates a mood. Debussy’s La mer is a prime example. They are often impressionist & without really reaching a dramatic climax. Scriabin’s tone poems – Prométhée, Le Poème du feu; Le Poème de l’extase – are more moody than anything else. Relaxing, ethereal & spiritually up lifting. Try them.  

Just a reminder that this story goes back, way back, to the mid-70’s, when I was living in Cape Breton. I have done minimal editing for things like spellings, punctuation & name consistency. As you may gather I was not out at the time but clearly wrestling with the process.

No Fanfare 4

I sat back in the chair & pulled on my other boot. He want angrily back tot he stern & shoved on the record. Soft, blurred guitar hovered in the silence between us.

“I didn’t …” Afraid that I had lost this chance, I wanted to explain what I intended but couldn’t rationalize his feeling of being used inot a scene in which that wasn’t true.

“Oh, shove off. I’m bored with apologies.” He sat at the piano & began playing along with the album.

“Do you want me to leave?” The sting of tears had become an anger; an anger I tried to keep out of my voice. Anger toward myself for not cutting clear enough through my confusions, anger for expecting easy motions, anger with him for turning his back on me. I felt I had to stay; not ‘had to’ but ‘wanted to’. I’d been so involved with my own inner struggles I hadn’t expected to find someone else with them & was willing to open up about them the way I wanted to to be about mine. Jean always claimed to feel she was the closed one but I’m sure she even realized what was troubling me. Perhaps she was more afraid of confronting me with it that I was on telling her.

“Do you want me to leave?” I repeated louder, to make sure he heard me over the music.

The muscle sun his back poised to continue as stopped playing. “Whatdo you think?”

The bitter edge to his voice made me look up as I was unlacing the one boot I had tied. “I think I’d like one more for the road.”

“Why bother?” He bristled, once again picking out the melody of the piece on the stereo.

“Because,” dropping one boot, “I’m” dropping the other “scared. Afraid that if I leave I may no be able to face myself for losing this opportunity. Maybe this is using you. I don’t know. I hope it isn’t.”

Determinedly I went to him, still unsure of how to my words but needing to reach him, unsure of where to put my hands but wanting to touch him. I sat on the bench beside him. Keeping his back to me he straddle dit with the same easy motion of his leg.

I had expected to be coaxed not to coax. Putting my arms around him from behind I pulled him closer, one hand feeling his heartbeat, the other rubbing the tightness of his stomach.

“What am I suppose to say? I’m no rapist, either.”

Steve put his hands on mine, caressing them.

“You seem to be saying more than I thought you could.”

His caress became a squeeze as he pushed my hands down.

“I still think you haven’t realized just way you have to come to grips with.”

There was a light laugh with ‘grips’ as he pushed my hands down to his bulging crotch. 

“I realize I should know better but if this going to be the start of your voyage, you’d better understand that this is the point of no return.”

He pressed my cupped hands onto him. I felt him become as aroused as I had already become. I recalled my easy appraisal of his corduroy stretching equipment when he stood before not so long ago. Minutes that now seemed a long, distant, embarrassing yet fondly recalled memory. The meeting in the park seemed to stretch further into the past.

“So you’ve never touched another man, eh, Dave? How does it feel?”

He released my hands. Savouring this new anticipation my fingers moved gently over this zipper, timidly down the sorrows of the corduroy that separated them from actual contact with his flesh.

I bit his earlobe & whispered. “It feels alright. Super.”

Turning slowly, he stood to face me, pulling me to my feet, his hands touch me as mine were touching him. 

“Does this conflict with your image of yours?” He chuckled huskily.

We were face-to-face. 

“Yes.” I kissed him quickly. “Did you expect it not?”

I kissed him again, slower. Although I didn’t completely fathom this, I knew I wanted him. Not out of loneliness or love but out of lust. Me a man, wanting this man,I wold have to accept & experience this even if I never fully understood. Understanding wasn’t a solution anyway.

He stepped back, unbuttoning my shirt. “See, there’s no fanfare. No thunder. No hell fire.”

Our eyes met as I began unbuttoning his shirt.

“At least the fear has gone for your eyes.” He said.

“It might be,” flesh touched flesh, tongues again, “but not from here,” I Laughed, patting my heart. “Let’s have that drink.”

Steve was right, there was no fanfare, no earth shaking. Even the sense of relief I’d expected had only been enough to make me laugh. It seemed so foolish. Poor Jean, all the confusions & hurt because of a part of me, an awkward mortalness that I’d let hurt because I was afraid it would hurt me more.

Even if acceptance didn’t make anything easier, it would, I hoped, bring some form of ending, a feeling of completeness. Once I learned the scope of lust maybe I could even cope with love. All I see now is a beginning, a start. At least I see that much. 

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Moody Blues Rose

By the Moody Blues I have Days of Future Passed reissue, Days of Future Past (stand alone). As mp3 Magnificent Moodies, In Search for the Lost Chord, On The Threshold of a Dream, To Our Children’s Children’s Children, A Question of Balance, Every Good Boy Deserved Favour; as Seventh Sojourn (stand alone). Plus soloish lps: Justin Hayward & John Lodge: Blue Jays; Ray Thomas: From Mighty Oaks.

Yes I was a fan 🙂 but I sort of outgrew them & lost interest after Seventh Sojourn. I did hear the later output but it sounded tired & forced, also enough is enough. There are moments, tracks on all the Moody lps that I love, that bring back memories of l.s.d trips & lying on the floor of my bed room staring up the the glowing stars on my ceiling. Glowing as they were made of ‘glow globs’ a sort of plasticine the absorbed light then glowed in the dark.

I also have memory of driving with my Dad when ‘Nights in White Satin’ came not he radio & I turned it up & he said it sounded like the howling of wet cats. That lp was a powerful influence on me though. The spoken passages became a poetic ideal. The orchestra swept me away. I later found out that the London Festival Orchestra and the group never performed together in studio on the recording. The vocals were sublime. I have two versions, though I can’t tell them apart mind you – but there is a speed timing difference between the studio recorded version & the one that got put on wax.

I couldn’t wait for each new release & felt they were profound as opposed to pretentious studio drug induced  mumbo jumble. One reviewer called one of them psychobabble bubble gum. I disagreed then but, you know, he was sort or right except it was very tasty bubble gum that never lost it favour.

The covers were as trippy as the contents. I loved the cover for Every Good Boy, today I find the Children’s hilarious. Each lps has tracks I love. For My Lady, My Diary, Solitary Man. The Timothy Leary stuff on the Lost Chord is sweet but inane. Seventh Sojourn is my favourite.

I added Magnificent several years ago along with the side projects by various members. The side projects are fine, great covers but not real departures from the basic Moody mellotron sound.

To round out the mp3 collection I added The Savage Rose – a Danish psychedelic rock group, formed in 1967by the Koppel brothers with Annisette vocalist. I found the lp of In The Plain in a remainder rack at Zellars, a year or so later I found Your Daily Gift there as well. The first is dense & closer to what become Goth with Annisette amazing vocals taking some tracks to a different level. A hint jazz, progrock & gloom. Gift is the opposite – bright, cheerful with the delightful Postcard song. Both have meandering instrumentals – check them out of YouTube before you hunt down lps. Wild Child is later lp & less experimental than their earlier work more bluesy. I downloaded it from iTunes just to have something else by them. Enjoyable & a nice break from the Moody Blues too 🙂

No Fanfare

3

Putting his glass on the floor Steve sat beside me. I admired the shift of his thigh muscles as they swung one leg over the bench, straddling it like a horse. I could feel myself blush, embarrassed by this meeting of eyes, excited by the approach of his mouth, then its touch on mine, tongues testing, then meeting. His eyes closed, his left arm caressed my neck, my arm, his body leaning into mine.

I wanted to respond but wasn’t sure which instinct, which urge to follow. I shuddered, confused, enjoying his kiss. I could actually enjoy being kissed by another man. Enjoy it as I did in my fantasy. I had expected, in reality, to be disappointed, to be repulsed, but I wasn’t. Pushing him away I got up clumsily & went to the window. I could feel myself shaking, my knees unsteady, my balls tingling.

“What is it?” He asked. His tone knowing & nearly sympathetic. “Too much of a shock?” He said sarcastically.

“I can’t say. The conflict of what I imagined, with what I expected, with what I actually felt, with what I …” To avoid his eyes I forced myself to stare at the plants on the dusty window sill. “I’m shaken by how ready I was to respond to you. I expected more of a reluctance, on my part. Shit, it’s more than … Damn.” I banged the top of the piano with my fist to fill the quiet with the shudder of its strings. “Yesterday I was a slightly screwed up but normal guy. I was coping with this things, somehow. Today I’m …”

“A fag?” Steve broke in abruptly. “A fairy?” His voice a mixture of derision & amusement. “A fucking gear box fruit? Or are afraid of which one of us will take it up the ass?”

“Christ, maybe.” I shouted, stung by the unexpected harshness of the confrontation.

“Don’t panic, Dave.” He caught me with his eyes, his voice gentled. “Nothing is easy. Besides how different is what you are now from what you’ve always been? A man by any other name is still human.” Picking up his drink he slid on the piano bench, inviting me to sit beside him again. “What can I say? I’m no rapist.”

“Sorry.” I sat heavily in the armchair by the door & pulled on one of my still wet snow boots. “I think it would be better if I left. It was foolish of me …” I glanced up wondering if leaving would be more foolish than staying. If I left now it would be harder the next time to let my emotions direct me even this far. It would hurt more, in the long run, to keep suppressing myself just because I was afraid I couldn’t cope with it. I wanted him, but admitting it didn’t make it any easier to take him. Even knowing he could be taken, knowing he wanted me, didn’t make it easy.

“How about one for the road?” Steve asked, tiredly rubbing his upper lip. “It could be colder than you expect, out there.”

“Are you just after my ass?”

“Are you just after MY ass?” He snarled back.”What the fuck do you think?” He got up & stood in front of me. “If I’d known you were looking for a couple of hours of therapy I would have thought twice. Sure, I’m after your ass … but …”

“Look,” I interrupted, my glaring eyes confronted by the bulge in his corduroys. “I honestly,” I stood rather than remain at that level. “Don’t mean,” he was closer to me than I’d expected, I could feel his warmth, “to mislead you.” I could smell his cologne, see the moisture from his drink on his lips. “This is unfair,” I put a hand on his shoulder, squeezed, “but as you said ‘Nothing is easy’.” My hand slid down his arm till it touched his. “To me this isn’t nothing, so it isn’t easy.” I felt a sting of tears but blinked them back, hoping he wouldn’t realize how vulnerable I was.

“I’m tired of being used.” He shoved my arm away, went to the shelf of albums under the stereo & pulled one out.

“Used! You invited me up!”

“I keep hoping the next one will be different. Will be easier. When they’re easier there’s nothing left in the morning. When they aren’t easy, there’s my heart to worry about. I know this isn’t easy. I fucking well know. I live with frustrations the way everyone does. Being gay doesn’t make them different, they’re still frustrations. Like, how many chicks do you have to go through before you get fed-up with looking for the right one? How many almost-came-to-care-for’s does it take to really hurt you, to make you feel hopeless & desperate enough to try anything that comes along? I don’t care about your confusions.” He was shouting, gesturing at me with the album cover. “Just leave me the fuck alone for Christ sake. Find some other soft-hearted, cock-hungry gay guy to start your voyage of self-discovery.”

Don’t miss next week’s thrillingly clumsy conclusion of No Fanfare

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Monster Monster

Every couple of years I get an urge for contemporary music in different genres. Sometimes, once I have enough I don’t need more 🙂 Imagine enough can be enough. So this mp3 collection that starts with ‘i monster’ is one of those contemporary forays.

I don’t recall where I heard about i monster (British) but I do have their  Neveroddoreven, A Dense Swarm of Ancient Stars. This is electronica pop – a more dance version of Underworld. Dense, crisp engineering & quite enjoyable. The pretentious titles are a part of the fun & nod to their sense of humour. In this collection are two by MRF: Elevator Music, Mob Music. Mike Flanagan’s sax grounds these lps full of emotionally appealing adult music. He friended me on FB as a result of one my past music posts that tagged #gaymusic. Worth searching out.

Mark Ronson is radio fodder. I have Uptown Special, & Version – fun, perky, appealing sort of a modern Stevie Wonder that could be music by any of the Jonas brothers. Enjoyable all the same. Black Rivers  is an off shoot of Doves one of my favorite bands. This is multilayered adult rock. Emotionally resonant & sonically satisfying & a nice extension of Doves. If you like Dove you’ll love this – if you don’t know Doves – shame on you 🙂

Hands up – who remembers the B52s? Their Kate Pierson released an lp. few years ago: Guitars & Microphones which captures some of that bouncy retro energy. Her voice is still fine & this is a welcome refresher of those fun days.

Flight Facilities is an Australian electronic duo whose 2014 Down To Earth is a pleasant variation on the electrodance pop. 

Finally on this mp3 collection is another retro memory – of the Bronski Beat. Their lead singer Jimmy Somerville, has released several solo lp.  Homage is a fine homage to old school disco. A voice that hasn’t lost its power & songs that delight as you dance.

Now to a pair of stand-alone cds by Monster Magnet: Powertrip, God Says No – from the turn of the century. These are both over 20 years old! The music is metal muscular masculine. Updated Deep Purple. I love the thick sinuous sound with great slick psychedelic guitar & production values. Their look is so defiantly biker masculine it borders on parody. Looking at the art work on these cds now the kitch imagery almost overpowers the music. But the music is worth listening to regardless. 

This story goes back, way back, to the 1970s when I was living in Cape Breton. I have done minimal editing for things like spellings, punctuation & name consistency. As you may gather I was not out at the time but clearly wrestling with the process. Part 1 was last week.

No Fanfare

2

It had been an easy meeting, almost casual, except we both knew & understood from the initial eye-contact just what was intended. I’d been in the park for about twenty minutes, moodily watching the snow, wonder how I’d waste another night when I spotted him, on the other side of the iced-over fountain, watching me. His navy blue overcoat a sudden solid in the falling snow.

I sauntered towards him, frantically searching for that perfect opening line. None of my fantasy meetings had been in the park, none of them out of doors. They were always in dim, close rooms, over a little wine & a subtle offer. This was real, two strangers on a cold day, overcast, a backdrop of grey buildings, a soundtrack of traffic. It all felt so bare, I would have walked past him, but the green of his eyes held mine, daring me to take another step. I stopped awkwardly, watching my breath cloud the air between us.

“Looking a lot like Christmas.” His first words after the eye contact. “You look like an Everest.” He teased, brushing the snow off my left shoulder.

“Hardly. Being motionless for ten minutes usually gives me that effect.” I shook the other shoulder clear, my heart skipping beats, knowing I that I had been hoping he would see me but once seen, I didn’t have any was of following through except to shrug the snow off my shoulders. “I shouldn’t be as difficult to climb.” I teased back, trusting the metaphor to be verbal confirmation enough of the eye-implied intent.

“Care for a drink?” He asked cautiously, pushing a black curl back under his red stocking cap.

“Where?” I blurted, fleetingly seeing a horror of crowded bars & men in drag.

“My place isn’t far from here. How would that be?”

Kicking the side of fountain with the toe of my boot I tried to avoid further eye contact but couldn’t resist responding to the dare in his green eyes.

“Super,” I accepted. “Lead on Hilary.”

My difficulty with words got worse. I didn’t know which was proper or which was asking for trouble. I wasn’t ready, yet, to follow my instincts. Out of the park & into his apartment we managed to get through names, his was Steve; jobs, he taught piano & played, on & off, in a jazz quartet. Being heavily into the Romantics – Chopin & Debussy – my lack of jazz knowledge didn’t help me much & not knowing much more than his immediate clothing & certain tastes, I couldn’t think of anything that didn’t seem musically narrow minded or sound embarrassingly blunt. No common ground except that we both wanted this drink.

“If the bunch at the bank could see me now.” I shook my head, laughing inwardly at the image I projected to them.

“Now?” Steve baited. “You mean they’ve never see you drink?”

“No. Not that. I mean this situation.”

“With me, you mean?”

“Yeah. With another man, & me being so unsure. I’m usually a very self-confident person. I make decisions, pinch bottoms at the right time. Tease. Flirt with those fussy tellers. Some of them probably envied my girlfriend, Jean. I’m a catch. Yet, here I am.”  I quickly finished my drink.

“Defensive as hell & ready for anther drink?”

“Sure. Why not?” Handing him my glass I sat uneasily the bulky armchair beside the piano. “So how do we begin?” I asked as he left the room. “Do we have another drink & then lunge blindly at one another.” I spoke too fast, hoping to hide my doubts by hurrying the situation. I wanted to stumble over a thousand prying questions but needed the trust that I hoped intimacy would bring,

Impulsively I got up & sat at the piano again. I tried the same prelude, slower this time, trying to get my hands to function as a unit rather than as two random obstacles. It was no use. I settled for my memory if the melody line.

“Never taken lessons?” Steve asked, sliding beside me.

“Some as a kid. I learned the basics, forgot most of them. What you hear is all I recall.” I took my Scotch, more as an excuse to stop playing than to drink.

“What was this talk about blindness?”

“Nothing.” I laughed self-consciously. “Something about do we have this drink & lunge blindly at each other.” I shrugged, apologizing for what insensitivity or desperation such a remark might show.

next week part 3 – things get even more awkward 

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Village Stripper

Instrumental music runs from smooth jazz, to movie background, elevator music, exotica lounge jazz & music for shopping. The key to it is that it is unobtrusive. At once time it would surface on the hit parade: i.e. Stranger on the Shore by Aker Bilk or Percy Faith’s Theme from A Summer Place. Think Lawrence Welk smooth, James Last banal, Kenny G inoffensive. 

I came a cross a boxed 3 lp set of Bert Kaempfert – Strangers in the Night. He is neither the best or the worst of this genre. His orchestrions are safe, at times there are various ‘shadings’ with wordless chorus or hammond organ for variety. Originals & covers of popular songs. Good in small doses 🙂 But small doses aren’t for me as I also have an mp3 of 100+ Classic Greats. (clearly public domain)

The lp to cd transfers also include David Rose: The Stripper – known for TV show themes & as orchestra leader on the Red Skeleton Show, he was at one time married to Martha Raye, later to Judy Garland. The Stripper is that classic sleazy sax shimmy & the rest of the lp keeps that brassy mood. Sort of Dixieland with a dash of banjo are The Village Men – I reclaimed this lp on one of my visits to the east coast. It had been a Xmas present from my folks. An odd mix of styles with things like ‘007 Stomp.’ The cover found on line brings back memories. The lp is available via amazon.uk but I don’t think I really need clean copies – the sound of the needle on vinyl is integral to this music now.

Bill Butler at the Pump Room (https://archive.macleans.ca/article/1962/10/20/chronicle-about-a-revue-maigret-burnford-reed-and-a-possible-liberace) – classic cocktail lounge recorded live in a now defunct Toronto club. I picked it up at the long-departed used record/books store that was walking distance from my house. The Kaempfert mp3 includes Songs You Know & Love; plus a bit of Stan Kenton. 

In fact next to this cd is an mp3 collection of Stan Kenton’s 100+ Original Recordings! This is solid, easy jazz. A step above Kaempfert & moving in the Ellington direction. These 100+ collections are randomized song dumps of lps. Which in Kenton’s case meant that themed lps have been broken up. ‘Themed’ is a popular structure – an lp of show tunes, of bossa nova, etc. 

I did reassemble some of Kenton’s as I did have his West Side Story lp at one time. Also I reassembled his lp of songs from Hair. Both are sublime. There are some collected around latino, film music, even TV themes. If you want easy jazz, that is real jazz, Stan Kenton is a great musician to start with.

Finally to round out & break up the mood I added Songs You Know & Love – more public domain original recording of classic instrumentals & songs by the likes of Judy Garland, Eddie Cantor, The McGuire Sisters, The Mills Brothers. Songs that my mother loved & that I recalled from movies, radio shows. I guess this is now deep nostalgia because today golden oldies means songs by Depeche Mode or Ultravox 🙂

This story goes back, way, way back, to when I was living in Cape Breton. I have done minimal editing for things like spelling, punctuation & name consistency. As you may gather I was not out at the time but clearly wrestling with the process. 

No Fanfare

1

The piano was in tune. I was amused. It had been such a long time since I sat down to play that hearing such perfect F# was almost shocking. I’d expected the upright to sound like the room; cluttered, yet nearly ordered, a confusion of opposites. 

In one corner, between the window & the stereo, was an untidy pile of books, all of which dealt with Surrealist painters; armchairs from at least four different decades of Eaton’s, each upholstered in a different floral print but all the prints were in warm blues & orange. All nearly in tune, a minor chord connecting them, a subtle Debussy harmony.

“First time, eh, David?”

I stopped exploring the piano to listen to his question intermingle with the fading F, underscored by the sound of Scotch being poured over ice at a small bar in other corner of the room. 

The question caught me unprepared, not sure whether to answer with bravado or innocence. I played a few random chords, deciding on innocence because I had accepted this invitation to find some way of progressing beyond bravado.

“Yes.” I admitted. “Does it show?” I laughed to cover my nervousness. Carefully closing the piano I turned on the bench to survey the calculated unbalance of the room once more.

In the brief silence between drinks-mixed & drinks-brought I felt a terrifying, dizzying, self-pity, thinking that I must be pretty screwed up to actually let myself go this far. Lonely wasn’t an easy word for me to use about myself, it smacked of self-pity, rather than the self-realization one expected an admission of loneliness to bring. My need to get behind that admission to its cause brought me here to actualize, or at least confront the cause.

“You play well.”

“Not really, but, thanks.” I mumbled taking my drink & sipping it. “I may fumble with some taste, but play? I’ve never had the discipline or the inclination. Like I said before I am a compulsive listener, a professional admirer.”

“Not too stiff?’

“My fingers?”

“No, the Scotch. I’m not good at judging. I pour some add ice then pour a dash more.”

“This is fine.” I sipped again. The drink didn’t blur my vision or attack my liver. I swivelled on the bench & flipped the piano open. “This amazes me.” I played the F# again, blindly running through a Rachmaninoff prelude. 

“Your piano is so in tune.” I explained, apologetically dropping my hands to my knees.

“Don’t be so nervous.” He sat beside me, briefly putting his hand on my leg. “First times don’t have to be worst times.”

“Sorry, Steve.” I looked him in the eyes, greener than I’d expected in the bright light over the upright, then looked away. “Am I making an ass of myself?”

I was playing lame-duck, not sure of what else to do. Physical, sexual contact with another man had been on my mind for some time, elaborate fantasies of the perfect motions & emotions but those fantasies didn’t prepare or equip me for taking this opportunity. All the clever openings seemed trite. I couldn’t treat this as blithely as I’d just treated Rachmaninoff.

“Not at all. But you are right about one thing.” He reached up & flicked off the piano lamp.

“Which is?”

“You do fumble tastefully.” He laughed putting his arm round me.

“You’re being kind.” I got up & walked over to the window. The touch of his arm was unsettling. I knew touching was inevitable but I wasn’t prepared for it.

“I’ve seen you in the park before.” Steve said. “What ever became of the little red-head?”

“Jean?” I knew the name wouldn’t mean anything to him but it felt good to say it to someone. “We drifted apart. She felt something missing from our life together, something I couldn’t seem to understand.” Something I did understand but never accepted it as being enough to keep us apart but at the same time a something I was afraid would tear us even more than it had, if I’d been able to … Hell, blame falls where it wants, it can’t be altered.

“So when she left, you started having doubts about your manliness?” There was a slight mocking tone to his voice that I liked, one that I used sometimes myself & that familiarity made me more trusting. Maybe I was just anxious to trust, because I never fully trusted Jean. How could I trust her when I couldn’t be honest with myself.

“Partially. I noticed you in the park. Sometimes alone, often with other men.” 

When he approached me I knew the life he led. Not that he swished, wore makeup or the like, but he didn’t hide. 

“Though doubts is a bit too negative. Puzzled would be more like it. Puzzled my manliness.” I used the same mocking tone for manliness as he had.

part 2 next week

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Marilyn, Jayne and Other Dolls

I like Marilyn Monroe’s voice. Could she sing? Yes but I doubt if she could have carried a Broadway show. On the mp3 collection I have the Some Like It Hot soundtrack & Very Best of Marilyn. Best includes her sweet River of No Return & her sexy Heat Wave – I’ve always wanted to say ‘Pablo! Chico!’ & have those hot men come to me 🙂 She did her own singing in films – no Marni Nixon for her. She could have had a chanteuse life a la Blossom Dearie but, I suspect, liked confidence in her vocal ability. 

Another blond bomb shell who did her own singing is Jayne Mansfield. Here I have ‘Too HOT to Handle!’ Can she sing? Does say, Katy Perry sound okay without studio production? Jayne recorded a few lps & did sing in some of her films & had the confidence to keep singing. Her songs are sexy, suggestive & fun. She’s more rock-a-billy than rock & good campy fun.

Sticking to the movies I added the soundtrack to Singing’ in the Rain – which has great songs, not all of which were written for the film by the way. Ooh its Gene Kelly splashing in the rain 🙂 His voice is appealing in the same way Marylin’s was. A bonus is the Broadway Melody ballet complete.

Now we go deep into the Valley of the Dolls. I have the soundtrack which was fine though the title song here is sung by Dory Previn. None of the actresses in the movie did their own singing though. But Patty Duke did realize an lp of her own singing  Songs from Valley of the Dolls – it is clear why she was dubbed in the film 🙂 A workable voice & in those days they didn’t have producers who could have autotuned her into Madonna. Finally I do have Dionne Warwick’s lp  Valley of the Dolls which includes the actual version of the title song. It was a huge hit for her & is the stand out track on this lp.

Haven’t seen the film? Watch it asap & then search out Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls for more delicious music & overwrought emotional soap. Both perfect pandemic escapism.

Cooler Part 3

“What the fuck is this?” It was Jack. Just after twelve Jack liked to do a cash pick up. He didn’t think it wise to have too much cash floating around. He was holding Will’s can. “Check your bright ideas out with me first, asshole.”

“You said …”

“Never mind what I said. You knew I was just trying to get rid of that drunk jerk. Jesus!” Jack shoved the can on top of the cooler.

“You on the rag, or what?” Carl said.

“What’s it to you. You … oh shit.” He dropped the bills he was trying to count. He bent down to pick them up.

Carl was handing a customer a beer when Jack stood & knocked the beers with his head. One spilled on him. Carl laughed. Jack was enraged.

“That does it, to dum faggot cocksucker.” He swung his fist fast Carl, the cooler door popped open & Jack’s hand slammed into it, skinning his knuckles. “Oh fuck.”

The door shut on its own. Carl grabbed for some paper towels, but Jack shoved him away.

“Leave me the fuck alone.” He started go. “Keep that hospice shit out of sight. All this talk about AIDS AIDS, fucking AIDS, is making me sick. The guys come here to get away from all that. Jesus, Carl, this a place for escapades, escape, not fucking reality.”

“Hey man, this beer tastes weird.” Frank banged his bottle on the counter. “The first swallow was fine but then …”

Instantly Carl knew. “More piss.”

“You fuckers are up to something.” Jack looked from Carl to Frank.

“Hey!” another guy Carl had just sold a beer to exclaimed. “This bottle is hot!”

Jack grabbed the bottle & dropped it. “Jesus. It burned my hand.”

The cooler began to hum loudly with a high-pitched squeal. Electric sparks flew from the sides into the crowd.

“Christ, my cock ring is freezing my nuts off.” One guy unzipped his pants.

“Oh God!” Another shouted. “Something is pulling my tit clamps off. My …” 

What he was saying was lost in a louder groan from a man whose leather harness was shrinking & biting into his skin.

“Unplug the fucking cooler.” Jack snapped.

Carl was reaching to do so when an electric flash lifted him & sent him flying over the bar. He blacked out.

He came too with Jeff pressing a damp cloth to his head. He glance at his watch: 12:33. He figured he had been out for about five minutes. The music was louder, faster & slightly distorted. He could hear Jack cursing & sputtering on the other side of his station. With Jeff’s help he got up.

“What the fuck is going on?” Carl mumbled, pushing men away to see over the counter of his bar.

Jack was on his back. The cooler door was wide open, with Jack’s feet jammed into the bottles on the bottom shelf.

“Get me up.” Jack thrashed about.

“Weird witch vibes.” Frank crossed himself.

Jack’s button-fly buttons popped off one by one.

“It’s a floor show.” Someone yelled. “Take it off, Jack baby. Let’s see that meat.”

“This is no fucking floor show, you assholes. Get me out of here.”

Carl tired to get under then over the counter but was pushed back.

“Get it up yourself, honey.” Someone called.

Jack’s jeans tore along the inseams & up to the crotch. His shirt was yanked open. His face went white as teeth marks appeared around his nipples. Blood oozed from fresh bites on his chest that were working their way down.

“What the fuck do you want?” Jack screamed, as the bites got closer to his cock.

The cooler vibrated & Will’s can fell, landing on Jack’s chest.

“Is that it?” Jack gasped. “Is that all? We’ll fill the bar with them.” He sobbed. “I’ll do it.”

The cooler shuddered & a deep moan came from it, “Swear!” There was a puff of frosty steam. It repeated. “Swear.”

“I swear. Fuck. I swear. I’ll give condoms with every beer. Anything.” I line of ice raced up each his legs hitting him in the balls.

“Swear.”

Jack writhed.”I swear, as long as I live I won’t forget this.”

His feet dropped out of the cooler. The door shut.

There was a smattering of applause.

“David Copperfield, he ain’t.”

“Interesting, but needs work on the ending.”

Jeff helped Carl pull Jack to his feet. The music got louder as Jack unsteadily crawled out from behind the bar.

A leather guy was banging on the counter. “Who does a guy gotta whip to get a beer around here.”

Carl ducked back under. Opened the cooler door and pulled out an Export. “Here you go Dutch.”

“Have we met?” Dutch asked.

“I don’t think so.” As Carl answered he saw that Will’s can was back in place. The sign on it now read:

Will’s Hospice Fund

As long as there’s a willy

There’ll always be a way

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The Monkees

I have to admit the first time I heard ‘I’m Not Your Stepping Stone’ I wasn’t impressed, main key because I was a snob who felt only the British groups made real music. The Monkees music was dismissed because they didn’t even play the instruments on their lps & some doubted if they even did their own singing. They were a live action version of the cartoon Archies – in fact both groups shared the same musicians & songwriters. The TV show was madcap fun & more anarchic than, say, Bewitched.

Over a couple mp3 cds I have The Monkees 1st; More of The Monkees; Headquarters; Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones; The Birds,  The Bees & The Monkees; Head, 33.3 Revolutions Per Monkee;  Instant Replay; Changes. Over time they wrote & played on more of their songs, toured, worked with Frank Zappa but never lost the taint of being a package product. Finally they became a nostalgia circuit feature.

Today I love those early lps, full of solid innocent songs that are well-crafted & beautifully produced. I know enough of their history to know the actors were musicians but like many musicians they were boxed in by commercial needs of the industry. The songs would be just as solid by any band. The construction of boy/girl bands is an industry manufacturing process that continues today. Listening to them I hear a sexual innocence in the lyrics & performances. I knew girls who loved the guys in the band & who drummed of kissing & hugging them. I doubt if they dreamed of gang bangs in motel rooms.

Rounding out the cds are Tommy James & The Shondells: Cellophane Symphony; Anthology – some of this is prime radio psychedelics. The unneeded version of Crimson & Clover is wild. Symphony is worth seeking out if you don’t have. Three Dog Night: Harmony – more prime radio music that is well-crafted & my favourite of theirs. Finally Paul Revere and The Raiders: 63-67: The Essential Ride – more golden oldie hits that bring back memories of high-school sock-hops. It was perfect doing homework music.

This story goes back to mid 80’s.

Cooler

part 2

A leather number from behind Dan said. “Gimme a Blue, Carl. Looks like a slow night.”

Carl had already gabbed a Blue before the guy had asked for it. “It’s early, Mike.”

“We met before?” Mike asked.

Before Carl could answer there was a ruckus in the front bar. He couldn’t see around his cooler to find out what it was, until a very drunk man fell into the middle of the dance floor.

“You bunch of fuckers. You bunch of dumb fuck fuckers.” The man was weeping. “None of you gives a shit about anyone but yourselves.”

Carl recognized the man as Jim, the doorman who had been let go just before he started. Something to do with missing money.

Jim got up unsteadily, pulled his jacket off & started swinging it around over his head. “He’s dead & all you ass holy queens want to do is drink & fuck. You don’t care. You don’t even care about yourselves.”

The he that was dead was Wilson, the man whose bar station Carl now had. Let Will wet your willy was the sign that used to be where Carl’s Cooler was now. Jim was in front of Carl, glaring at the new sign.

“God, I loved that man.” He was on his knees crying into his hands.

Those men who weren’t stunned, looked away embarrassed by this unexpected display of reality. 

“Interesting floor show.” Carl heard someone snicker as he passed.

“It wasn’t his heart, you fuck heads!” Jim shouted at no one in particular. “This bar killed him. He died right here. You cunts don’t even have the decency to respect his memory.”

“What did you expect us to do?” Jack asked, firmly pulling Jim to his feet. “Have his cooler sign bronzed? We sent flowers. We closed the day of his funeral. We …”

Jim shoved him away. “Big fucking deal. Flowers. We all owe that man something. All of us. You throw away his sign & people’ll forget him. You can’t forget him, ever. Please don’t forget him.” He grabbed Jack & shook him. “He was a good guy. Not like these other assholes. He cared about people.”

“I know. We all know.” Jack sighed. 

Carl shook his head knowing Jack was bullshitting Jim. When he was hired Jack had told him he was glad to be rid of Will. Will was too fond of organizing bar nights for the local AIDS group, fundraisers, that seemed to attract an uptight bunch, who rarely spent enough to cover the cost of lights for the night. To Jack, Will was a community pain in the ass.

“You don’t give a shit & you all don’t give a flying fuck. You bunch of simpering self-centred cunts. Especially you Jack …”

“Calm down Jim. We’re even …” Jack paused to think “ … setting up a fund in Will’s name for the AIDS hospice. Yeah, that’s it. All the boys are going to chip in one night a week’s tips, too, to keep it growing. Right Carl?”

He turned to Carl for help in getting things back to normal.

“Oh, yeah. Sure.”

“How come no one knows about it? I don’t see nothin’ anywhere.”

“We haven’t had time to get signs. Carl, you were going to look after that, weren’t you?”

Not wanting to get drawn deeper into Jack’s deceit, Carl answered, “They’ll be up before the night is over, Boss.”

“Jeez,” Jim became sheepish, almost apologetic. “Sorry.”

“Come on,” Jack guided him firmly to the front bar. “Have a drink on the house & I’ll get you a cab home.”
Carl put up a Back in 5 sign & went to the supply room. It took him almost twice that long to find pieces of cardboard, finally torn from a beer case, to make a couple of signs that said: 

Will’s Hospice Fund

Once there was a Will

Now there is a way

He taped it to a water carafe & propped the carafe at the end of his counter. He hadn’t known Will at all, but could sense how much he regulars missed him. Will had worked there since Matthew’s first opened nine years ago. Some still half-expected him to to be there when they came to the cooler.

The crowd quickly got over Jim’s reality reminder & business picked up sharply. Carl like it best when there wasn’t much time to think. Just bend, grab, open, make change, thanks, next, repeat, jokes, thanks. It gave him no time for anything except what had to be done. No time to dwell on the past, future or Jack. Just smile, say thanks, & drop his tips into Will’s can. He briefly thought about Dan & wondered if he wanted to be bothered with this whole meeting someone routine.

“Miss a turn on the Yellow Brick Road?” a young guy is a black t-shirt asked.

“That’s right. Now don’t get this on your red shoes, Frank.” He passed the guy a beer.

“How did you know my name? Better yet how did you know what I wanted?”

Carl tapped the side of his nose & winked.

“Well, smell her. A real witch. ” Frank smiled to his companion. “No wonder there’s weird vibes back here.” He went on. “Is it colder back here or is it just me?”

Now that it had been mentioned, Carl realized that he had been feeling chilled, but moving in & out of the cooler made it hard for him to judge how warm the space was.

Don’t miss the thrilling finale next week 🙂

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