Thursday, June 24, 2010

                                        Noise Annoys
     Parents, as a rule, don’t like the music their kids listen to. They often refer to it as “noise.”

     Kids may or may not call their parents’ music boring. If they’re hearing their elders refer to their music as noise, this is a natural reaction, i.e., “Oh yeah, well yours is boring.” And there’s the generational identity thing of the “new” music, as in the Who’s “My Generation.”

     But what I want to talk about is the parents calling the new music noise. At first blush this just sounds like an insult, but I’d like to take their side here in a backhanded sort of way, because I think what they hear is in fact, to them, merely noise.

     I realized when I reached middle age and started seeing my contemporaries dissing new music (they didn’t get grunge and they really don’t get hip-hop) while I welcomed the changes, that most people can only “hear” music during a small window of their lives, puberty to early twenties. It’s the only time of their lives they’re open to possibility. Any music which comes after that which is not the songs they heard during their window, or songs of the same style, they simply can’t hear as music. It’s just noise. Note 1.

     This window phenomenon figures particularly in popular country music. For the past thirty years at least, the popular country music of the day has been the mainstream rock and roll of fifteen years before, in style at least and sometimes actually the same songs, e.g. Dolly Parton in the nineties covering Fleetwood Mac’s mid-seventies “Landslide.” Thirty-something country musicians play songs such as they heard on commercial rock radio at fifteen.

     This also explains why people who would never have listened to country music in their youth become converts as adults. It’s the only place they can hear “new” music which is a kind they can hear. It also explains serious rock musicians converting to country in their later years, most notably the King himself.

     Some rock musicians can only ever play the music they played when they were young and just keep making that same music. In some cases it gets tiresome, (Jackson Browne, Chuck Berry) but in rare cases a group (Led Zeppelin?) keeps exploring the same genre to good effect.

     Others (Dylan, John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, David Bowie) have that rare ability to continue to hear new sounds and make them themselves. It’s those people who keep rock music evolving for new generations.

     Sometimes a musician will release a song about how music ain’t what it used to be, and these are generally awful. Case in point, Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll.” (To give Bob his due, his best songs are reflections on his teenage years (”I started humming a song from 1962…” “It was long ago/But it seems like yesterday”)

     The rare exception is “American Pie,” where I agree with almost nothing the singer is saying but am immediately hooked by the pure genius of the whole.

     Finally I want to talk about “An Old Fashioned Love Song,” partly because it sort of fits my topic but more so because it’s one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard. It was a radio hit for Three Dog Night, one of the last popular rock bands to write none of their hits. You’d think that they would’ve had really good material since they weren’t constrained by having to write songs. Apparently they just had really bad taste and saw that much of the radio public did as well. Also see, “Joy to the World” (Jeremiah was a Bullfrog)

     Anyway the song was written by Paul Williams and contains the lines

Just an old fashioned love song

Comin down in three part harmony

Just an old fashioned love song

One I’m sure they wrote for you and me

    Mr. Williams actually wrote that down on a piece of paper. He probably had more than one draft. Note 2.

     1. I was gratified to hear on NPR a few years back a scientist who had done a study which supported my window theory. This guy had a graduate assistant helping him do research. His assistant played music all the time, which was like all the other assistants he’d had before, but the new guy’s music was driving him crazy.

     He realized after a while that what bothered him so was that the young man wouldn’t stick to one kind of music. Counting Crows would be followed by Mozart, then Elvis then Wu Tang Clan, then Barbara Streisand. The scientist realized that when he himself played music it was the same Pink Floyd albums he’d been listening to for twenty five years. He then observed that most people were like him rather than his assistant.

     After doing some study, he realized that this phenomenon wasn’t just about music but about new possibility generally. Among his observations: if you’re fifty years old and you’ve never tried sushi, you probably never will. Also, the rare person who keeps following new music throughout his life is likely to change professions and interests throughout life.

     2. This last paragraph is stolen from a Paula Poundstone routine about a Snickers commercial.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

                              Niggas in the Point Bring Change

     I spent last week at a death penalty seminar on Lake Blackshear near Cordele, GA, which was more fun than it sounds, but then it would almost have to be wouldn’t it?

     One of the things we talked about there was race--how it affects our relations with clients, the jury, our co-workers. We Southerners love to talk about race--it’s so much a part of our culture and history, unlike say, Idaho, where there seem to be more whites who think they hate blacks then there are blacks to hate--and our discussion had much more active participation (we were black, white, and Latino) than previous subjects, which pale in comparison. (I can’t recall any of them at the moment. They had to do with mental health mostly).

     Which started me to thinking about a subject I’ve been toying with writing about: niggas. Not the word with the “er” on the end and its hate connotations, but niggas (or niggahs), what Big Boi, or an anonymous black person on the street, is to Andre. (If you don’t know who Big Boi and Andre are, you’re probably not ready to read this piece).

     In my discussion group at the seminar I related the following anecdote.

     Some of my white acquaintances sometimes refer to me as a redneck and I take no offense. I sometimes refer to myself as a redneck. After all, a redneck lady raised me.

     The only time I’ve ever been called a redneck by a black person was in the early seventies in a parking lot just outside the entrance to Underground Atlanta. It was about 2:00 a.m. and my friend and I were leaving our shift at Dante’s Down the Hatch. My pockets were full of money, but for reasons I don’t recall work had left me in a disgruntled, don’t-give-a-shit state.

     A black teenager fell in beside us and inquired, “You redneck?”

      I have trouble making chit-chat—I was worse at 22—and greetings like “What’s up?” cause me to stop and consider “What is up?” (Although if you ask me “Wassup?” I know the correct response to be, “Wassup?”) And so I pondered this question and replied, “Well, I don’t know, what is a redneck?” My friend—we’ll call him Terry Kennedy—who was later to inform me that our inquisitive friend was fingering a large knife in his pocket as he spoke, quickly assured him that I was not a redneck, I was just stupid.

     Fortunately for me and my unborn children, an Atlanta City cop walked up at just this instant (“What’s the trouble here?”) and the discussion broke up.

     Now if a black person of my acquaintance should tell me, “You’re just a redneck, Millsaps,” I wouldn’t take offence, but this young man in the parking lot intended it as hate speech. He assumed, with considerable historic evidence on his side, that redneck hated him and if I were one I was about to become filleted redneck.

     OK, I see he didn’t actually call me a redneck but my point is the same.

     I can’t remember exactly what prompted me to tell the above story—in an abbreviated form and without the oh-I’m-so- clever asides—to my discussion group, but I told it to show a mirror image of the “n-word” problem, which seemed pertinent to the discussion at the time.

     And I know it’s not the same. “Redneck,” is not a term applied indiscriminately to all social classes of white people, and more importantly there’s not the history of slavery and social oppression, but it’s as close as whites can come, I think, to appreciating black experience of the n-word.

     Black people, I don’t know exactly when, stated calling each other “niggas,” for much the same reason, it appears, that American Revolutionaries adopted the Brit’s derisive “Yankee Doodle Dandy” as their theme song. It’s a term of comradery, solidarity.

     (Bill Clinton, “the first black president,” is, according to my lights, a redneck. If Bill and I hung around together, I imagine we’d call each other rednecks. And if Bill were my buddy, I’d probably smoke a lot better cigars and get a lot more—well, you know).

     White culture—youth culture anyway—became aware that black people call each other niggas when hip hop became mainstream. It’s now not only mainstream, it’s the predominate musical culture of young people worldwide.

     And “nigga” is probably the most prolific non-article or linking verb word in that music. Sorry ho, that’s just the way it is.*

     Young white males in the American South now refer to each other in informal situations as niggas. It’s a term connoting solidarity and comradery. It means, roughly, “dude” but with more affection. Will this phenomenon cross over to white-black intercourse?

     I’m of the opinion that it will, and soon, and I think that’s a good thing, a milestone of sorts. Because nigga, you can’t have it both ways. If you bandy the term about as a substitute for “my good fellow,” and you’re the dominant culture, it’s natural that your admiring listeners will adopt the term. You can’t teach somebody to dance and then fault them for getting down. They mean no harm; they mean “my good fellow.”

     And I think sensible young African Americans get this. There was an outcry among some of their knee-jerk elders when Outkast entitled a song about moving “on back to the back of the bus” as a joyous excursion, “Rosa Parks.” The lawsuit went away and the faux uproar subsided.

     Which reminds me that I save up lines in my head, waiting, sometimes years, for the opportune moment to say them. For example, there was a radio hit in the pre-Beatles sixties by Walter Brennan--yes, that’s Grandpa Amos McCoy-- entitled “Old Rivers” which he talks his way though and it begins “Yeah, I remember Old Rivers.” I memorized this song and developed a dead-on Walter Brennan imitation.

     Fifteen years later in the cafeteria at Georgia State University, a friend, we’ll call him Terry Kennedy, introduced me to an acquaintance of his who after a few minutes of lunch table conversation asked—I don’t remember what could have prompted it—“Do you remember a song called Old Rivers?” I, having waited so long for this question, said, “Yeah…”

     I sincerely hope that someday somebody is going to become put out with me and my ragged company and ask, “Just what kind of people are you?” To which I will reply, “We the type of people make the club get crunk.”

     *I had intended to use the plural of “ho,” but there’s no consensus as to what that is.

Monday, June 7, 2010

                              This I Believe, Shadydale

      You know you don't have to be a high-brow N.P.R. listener to believe something. You don't have to be a college student in Vermont, a movie star or Edward R. Murrow to believe. People right here in Shadydale believe lots of stuff, and to show you that's true we're presenting for your radio enjoyment, “This I Believe, Shadydale.” For tonight's segment we'll be hearing from Mr. Marvin Hinson who's in the aluminum recycling and lost bungee-cord recovery business right here in Shadydale. You've probably seen Marvin out on 142 with his tow sack and reflective orange vest. Marvin tell us what you believe.

     My name is Marvin Hinson and This I Believe.

I believe that if you don't keep that brat youngun of yourn from making fun of my little Charlene, me and you are gonna have us a tussle.

I believe that the Neil Armstrong moonwalk was staged and filmed in Hollywood, California.

I believe that wraslin is real.

I believe that John Kennedy's brain is being kept alive in a jar in Dallas, TX.

I believe that Saddam Hussein was a member of Al Quida. Him and Osama Bin Ladin was golfin' buddies. I seen it on the internet.

I believe for every drop of rain that falls a flower grows.

I believe that Cindy McCain would make an excellent first lady and a fine spokeswoman for the American people.

I believe that if you pass gas and sneeze at the same time you will die.

I believe that Elvis is alive.

I believe that Faith Hill could kick Madonna's butt mud wraslin.

I believe that handlin toads will give you warts.

I believe that Fidel Castro is responsible for armadillers heading north.

I believe that Britney Spears needs her redneck fanny whooped.

I believe I'm just the man to handle that job.

I believe that Tony La Russa and Harvey Keitel are the same person. Think about it. Have you ever seen 'em together?

I believe that William Shakespeare wrote all that stuff hisself. I don't know why, I just believe that. I mean he was William Shakespeare.

I believe that Barry Bonds shoulda taken some drugs to make his voice not sound so much like Michael Jackson.

I believe there's no such thing as a “gratuitous lesbian sex scene.”

I believe that people with little phones attached to their ears are too dumb to know how dumb they look.

I believe that the expression “rap music” is an oxymoron.

I believe oxymoron should be pronounced oxzimoran so it wouldn't sound so

well, moronic.

     My name is Marvin Hinson and This I Believe.

                              Shady and Dale's Mail Bag

     Shady: Hello all you folks out there in radio-land. Can you not afford You Tube or what?

     Dale: C'mon Shady be nice to folks.

     Shady: Oh' I was just messin with ye. Seriously now, I'm Shady

     Dale: And I'm Dale

     Shady: And this is the portion of the show we call “Shady and Dale's Mail Bag” where we dig into the many letters we receive to see what our listeners are thinking and try to answer some of your questions.

     Dale: Our first letter tonight is from Taiwan O'neal in Uptown, GA. He writes, “This question is for Shady. Why they call you 'Shady,' man? I mean, wassup widdat?”

     Shady: That's an excellent question Taiwan, and an easy one to answer. “I'm called Shady because I got first pick of the names. I mean, it was a no-brainer. Who wants to be named Dale? It's like Roy Rogers' wife or a Walt Disney chipmunk. Now “Shady” that's got some romance and intrigue.

     Dale: Wait a minute Shady. You told me “Dale” was the best name and you was gonna let me have it and now I find out... Why that's so lowdown, it's so...

     Shady: Shady?

     Dale: Oh... Now I get it. You really are Shady.

     Shady: That's right Dale. Open us another letter.

     Dale: O.K. This one's from Melinda Moss of Wayward Falls, AL. It says, “What are you guys' day jobs? Surely you can't make a living off this radio gig?”

     I think Melinda must be an aspiring musician, Shady.

     Shady: You mean cause she says “day job” and “gig”?

     Dale: Yeah Shady, you picked up on that too? Well Melinda, why don't you come play on this show. You don't have to worry about embarrassing yourself. I mean we got real low standards here. I remember when they let me play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on my kazoo. I was so nervous but--

     Shady: Are you gonna answer the lady's question or just go on babbling the way you do when your mama ask you why you ain't got no men friends.

     Dale: Why Shady, I got you.

     Shady: You do? Well, I guess.

     Dale: You guess? Oh Shady-. (she sobs)

     Shady: Now don't get all mopey on us Dale, just answer the woman's question.

     Dale: (she sniffs) Well Melissa, I gotta be honest with you, this is the only job I ever had but...but...

(she brightens) Shady's had lotsa jobs. Ain't you Shady?

     Shady: Why sure. There was telephone solicitatin, landscapin, pizza delivery--.

     Dale: I still believe you woulda ' done good with that if you'd had a car.

     Shady: Yeah. Newspaper delivery.

     Dale: Again, that no car thing holdin you back.

     Shady: Metal recycling, of course. But them's just sorta starter jobs. I got lots of irons in the fire. And if you folks wanna get in on the ground floor, just visit my web site at

     Dale: That's a real nice website Shady, but I've always wondered about something. Why does it play “Walk Don't Run” the whole time you're visitin' the site?

     Shady: Because it's “Shady Ventures.”

     Dale: I don't get it.

     Shady: Why am I not surprised? We got time for one more.

     Dale: Walk don't run, huh? This last one's from...well actually it don't say who it's from. It says “Dear Shady and Dale, What the...” Oh lord!

     Shady: It says “What the O lord?”

     Dale: No it says “what the” and a word we can't say on the radio.

     Shady: Lemme see that “what the.” Well danged if it don't. Throw that away. That's the reason we don't read e- mail. You got to be willing to sign it.

     Dale: That and the no computer situation.

     Shady: Oh well, yeah. That's all the time we got today for “Shady and Dale's Mailbag” but keep those cards and letters comin in. And remember: if we don't know the answer.

     Dale: We'll make somethin up! (aside) Oh, I get it now, “Walk Don't Run” is by the Ventures. Thats real clever, Shady.

                               Clarence the Cross-eared Angel

      Coming April 1-3, for 3 nights only, the Shadydale Playhouse production of Clarence the Cross-eared Angel. George Bailey as you've never seen him before.

     George: “Maybe it'd be better for everybody if I'd never been born.”

     Clarence: “No, don't say that. Wait a minute. Yeah, that just might work. Alright George, you've got your wish. You've never seen porn.”

(Wind blows)

     George: “Wh. What? Never seen porn? You're crazy little fella' I'm going home to see my wife.”

(Door closes)

     “Mary, Mary, I'm so glad to see you. I've lost $20,000...Mary? Why are you wearing those fishnet stockings and stilettos? You better put something on; you'll catch cold. No? You look like you want me to do something. What is it you want me to do?”

     Clarence: “You don't know what to do because you've never seen porn.”

     George: “Jamie, Johnny, Susie? Get down here. There's something wrong with your mother.”

     Clarence: “You don't have any children, George. You've never seen porn. You didn't know how to make them.”

     George: “Well, of course I have kids. Here I'll show you.”

     Clarence: “Suzu's petals? There not there, George.”


     George: “Maybe it'd be better for everybody if I'd never been born.”

     Clarence: “Alright George, you've got your wish. You've never been warm.”

(Wind blows)

     George: “Wait? What is this? This is not Bedford Falls? Where am I?”

     Clarence: “Fargo, N.D., George. You see you've got your wish. You've never been warm.”

     George: (His teeth chattering) “Well I'm pretty sure I said I wished I'd never been born, but who are you little fella? How can you do stuff like this? Are you a hypnotist?”

     Clarence: “No. I told you George. I'm you're guardian angel.”

     George: “Guardian angel, huh. I must be off my nut here – or you are.

(Police siren)

     George: “Bert! Ernie! You gotta get me outta here. I'm freezing my tail off. Wait a minute, you’re not..”

     Frances McDormand: “Oh sure. It's you George. Talking to the muppets again are you? Mary called and said you'd spent all day at Martini's and left without yer parka again.”


     George: “Maybe it'd be better for everybody if I'd never been born.”

     Clarence: “Alright George, you've got your wish. You've never been bored.”

(Wind blows)

     George: “Whoa! Wait! What is this? It's too much stimuli. What is it? What are you trying to do to me little fella?”

     Clarence: “You've never been bored, George. Your brain never gets to rest.”

     George: “Well that's just crazy.”

     Clarence: “It wasn't my wish.”

     George: “Well it sure wasn't mine. How did you die anyway angel? A lobotomy operation gone wrong?”

     Clarence: “No George. I was run over by a train.”

     George: “Bet you never heard it coming. You know I got one good ear and I hear better'n you.

     Clarence: “Well; I don't know George.”

(Door closes)

     George: “Uncle Billy! Am I glad to see you. I'm bombarded by stimuli. I need to be bored.”

     Uncle Billy: “Try going to church, George. That's always worked for me.

                                     Marvin Hinson at Career Day

      “Today class, we are pleased to have for our Career Day program, Charlene’s dad, Mr. Marvin Hinson. Mr. Hinson is going to tell us about his job, and then he’ll answer questions. Mr. Hinson has his own business. He’s in the “aluminum recycling and bungee cord recovery business.” I’m not really sure myself what that it is, but it sounds real exciting and I’m sure we’ll learn a lot from Mr. Hinson. Mr. Hinson, the sixth grade social studies class is all ears.”

     “Thank ye, Ms. Anderson.

     “Well to put er in a nutshell, my bidness is whur you pick up stuff that other people have thoed away and ye sell it to people who’ll pay ye fer it. Aluminum cans mostly.

     “Now one of the beauties of the aluminum recyclin and bungee cord recovery bidness (I call it arbacker for short) is ye low startup costs. All ye really need to get started is some plastic garbage bags and a public road, the busier the better, and you in bidness.

     “O course if ye aint already got ye some, as soon as ye can sell ye some stuff, ye need to invest in some aint spray, cause the arbacker bidness aint without it’s hazards and one of them hazards is far aints.

     “Now I aint gonna lie to you kids. Aint spray aint gonna stop em far aints frum bitin ye lessin you see them first, but many a far aint attack has been assuaged by the knowledge that ye took out several hunnerd of thur best men in re-venge.

     “Then a course ye need to gitche in some sunscreen and a big straw hat, a Panymaw Joe, cause it gets hot as the bejesus out air beside at asphalt.

     “Then when ye gitche a successful operation like my arbacker has e-volved into, ye need to invest in a smasher and a taser.

     “Ye need a smasher ta make the cans littler cause stompin em widje foot will just about cripple a feller adder a while, and ye need a taser for the dawgs.

      “Now some dawgs is awright a course, but most ofum in my experience have a purticular aversion ta those of us in the arbacker bidness.

     “Ye ever taser ye a dawg kids? Talk about havin ye some fun. Ain’t nothin better’n shootin a dawg wid a taser. They come chargin atche and ye zapem. Then they just lay there quiverin and whining. ‘Ain’t so feisty now are ye big feller?’ I like ta kick dirt in thur face like I’m Billy Martin wid an umpire. ‘What’s that? Ye layin on a far aint pile? You must be one unhappy pooch.’

     “Now a course before I got me my taser I used ta talk real sweet ta dawgs, ‘Hey big boy. Oh you’re such a good dawg.’

     “Now I yell adem frum across the road, ‘Hey ye mangy mongrel! You know whachur mama is?’

     “At always gits em, cause they do. Then they come chargin fer me, and if they don’t git hit crossin the road, I tase em. I like to wait til they leave the ground goin for my throat and then I tase em in mid-air.

     “They just go limp right air in mid-air. And then I like ta hold my arms out like I’m gonna ketchem, and they lookin at me wid sumpin like gratitude in they taser stunned eyes, but then I move out a the way right at the last second and they hit the ground like a tow sack fulla watermelon.

     “But I tell ye whache got to watch out fer is little dawgs. They the meanest and the hardest to hit. You know, them wiener dawgs and chichiwahwahs.

     “I use to date this gal who had one nem real little chichiwahwahs, justa yappin and yappin and yappin all the time. I said to her one time ‘Ernestine, ye know what I like about real little dawgs like thissun.’ She said, ‘What sweetheart?’ I said ‘Ye can throe em so fer it takes em a long time to get back.’

     “I hate em little dawgs but they tase up good. What’s real fun is ta tase ye one, burry it up to it’s neck, put ye a piece of Juicy Fruit on it’s head and wait fer the far aints.

      “Love my taser. It’s gotta world a practical applications too. When you get hungry out there pickin up cans, just tase ye a coupla squirrels, build ye a far, and clean em while they still kickin. Then ye git ye some a them packets a ketchup and hot sauce ye find out on the side a the road. That’s some fine eatin.

      “Yeah, life on the road. They’s some good times out there fer a man with some ambition.

      “You back air widda red har. Ye look like ye got a question little feller.”

      “It’s not a question, Mr. Hinson, I just wanna say arbacker is the funnest sounding career day I ever heard.”

      “Now, hold on thar son. The job aint all glamour, tasing dawgs and makin speeches atchur instetators a hiar larnin. They’s snakes and armadillers.”

     “Can you tase the snakes, Mr. Hinson.”

      “No son, hit just makes em mad. No wid snakes ye just gotta watch whur ye step—ye lookin at the ground mosta the time anyway—an if ye do git close to one ye gotta be real still till hit decides ta leave.

     “I remember one time there was this little wiener dawg comin at me bout fiddy yards away and I’m actin like I don’t see eem, just a sauntnerin along fingerin my taser, when I hear this loud noise and I look down and I’m about a yard’n half frum a coiled up rattler.

     “So then I has ta freeze with wiener dawg closin in…I gotta tell ye, an airborne wiener dawg wid a rattlesnake clamped on it’s neck is a sight to see. Hit made my day.”

     “What about the armadillos, Mr. Hinson, you get attacked by them too?”

     “No young feller. Wid armadillers hits the smell a thur rottin carcusses that gits to ye. Armadillers have worser pedestrian skills than squirrels and ats sayin sumpum.

      “A squirrel ul git a foot frum the other side a the road, see a car comin and decide e caint make it and turn back, but an armadiller ul see that same car comin and say ‘I aint worried, I got body armor.’

     “Little girl widje hand up thar. Ye gotta question?”

     “Yes sir. What do you do with the bungee cords?”

      “Good question. The resale value a lawst bungee cords aint whut ye might think. Mostly ye just end up wid a lotta bungee cords, but lately I’ve taken up bungee jumpin. Startin out small, jumpin off the double-wide mostly, but I’m learnin.

      “One a the first things ye learn is ye gotta have some real good way a securin the other end. I’m here ta tell ye, just havin one a yer younguns holt onto it don’t work atall. Shot my boy Dilbert cross the yard like a spit wad it did.”

     “Mr. Hinson. Surely you must find some interesting and maybe valuable things in your work?”

     “Well Ms. Anderson , lemme think. Found a fiddy dollar bill oncet. Found a nineteen hunerd and thirty-two Cocola bottle. Find a lotta hand tools people was workin on thur car with afore they drove off. Found a bag a marywannie one time. But most of the stuff ye find is used trash wid no resale value, lottery tickets, condoms…”

     “Well class we’re cutting into Justin’s dad time. Let’s everybody give a big hand for Mr. Hinson.”

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Here Comes The Sun, And Why The Beatles Were Something New Under It.

     Like the Kennedy assassination two months before, I clearly remember where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard the Beatles. I had just turned 13 in January, 1964. I was playing basketball behind a house on Iron Belt Road in Cartersville, GA., when “I Want to Hold Your Hand” came on the radio. I stopped dribbling and listened, stunned. Something totally new and different from anything I’d ever heard had entered my young consciousness and I felt happy, (clap, clap) inside.

     I couldn’t have said what made them so different other than the happy inside part. They were British, but not in their singing voices. Two guitars, a bass, and drums; nothing new. Buddy Holly and the Crickets, who along with every other major figure in the 50’s rock era, the Beatles covered. They also covered country, “Honey Don’t,” and popular standards, “A Taste of Honey.”

     They’d take a stab at anything, but only recently have I realized what I think made them so radically different. They covered songs by African-American female groups: “Boys” and “Baby it’s You," by The Shirelles, “Chains,” by The Cookies, and “Please, Mr. Postman,” by The Marvelettes. No American male group--unless possibly transvestite performers--of the time, would have considered doing that.

     Of course we had male groups singing ethereal harmonies, most notably the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean, but they sang about macho things: cars, surfing, and girls. And although the Four Seasons and The Everly Brothers sang about love, it was from a definitely masculine point of view.

     Of course I didn’t think of any of that when I heard “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” What I heard was that Lennon/McCartney harmony, and a song that made me feel happy (clap, clap) inside.

     Now try this. Listen to “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” No, I don’t mean go play it, I mean listen to it in your head. If you’ve ever heard it, it’s there and you haven’t forgotten it.

     Now substitute The Shirelles or The Marvettes for Lennon/McCarthy. You don’t miss a beat do you? It’s exactly the same sort of song they’d have sung, right down to the clap-clap. Same with “Love Me Do,”” Please, Please Me,” and much other early Beatles.

     (George Harrison famously settled a lawsuit filed by the owner of the Chiffon’s “He’s So Fine” alleging Harrison had borrowed the melody for his “My Sweet Lord.”)

     By the time we get to “We Can Work It Out,” and “Two of Us,” one can’t imagine The Shirelles singing those songs; mainly because the songs are so much better, but the black female sound is incorporated into this more sophisticated sound. Those songs wouldn’t exist without “I Want to Hold Your Hand” preceding them.

The Day Skip Carey Died

                                        The Braves
     I’ve been an Atlanta Braves fan since they’ve existed. I believe I was a kid present at the first game played at Atlanta Stadium, and I was certainly present the day the Rose wilted, when Gene Garber ended his hitting streak at fourty-four and no more.

    Anyway, the Braves recent success caused me to recall song lyrics I wrote the day Chip Carey died. Sorry, but you really need to know a lot of Braves lore to fully appreciate the references.

The Day Skip Carey Died

(sung to the tune of “American Pie”)

A long, long time ago

Before Ted bought the station

And shot the Braves across the nation,

Pete 'n Ernie met the funny guy.

And they made a great tag team

On radio wave and T.V. beam

Just yesterday, today it seems,

The day Skip Carey died.

Has a baseball team ever been this bad?

Skip would call and ask his dad.

They make the Cubs look like the Yanks.

Roland Office was no Willie Mays.

We'd lose three games in two days.

I still remember how those players stank.

Way back before we had McCann

It was Knucksie and three days of rain.

Riding on the Bravos' train

Was an exercise in pain.

Next-to- last was a real good year.

We'd leave when they stopped selling beer.

They were happier in Mudville than we were here

The day Skip Carey died.

They were singing

Slide, slide,

Sid Bream slide.

Otis Nixon couldn't fly

But you know that he tried.

On a hot August night

It was raining inside

The day Skip Carey died.

Jerry Royster ruled on Disco Day.

Charlie Hustle held at bay,

Forty-four but Garber slammed the door.

In the wee morning hour Rick Camp goes deep;

Fireworks wake folks from their sleep.

Ted lets Bouton pitch ball four.

The Mad Hungarian had his day.

Ah shucks Murph, you're gone away.

Esasky came to play

But all we did was pay.

And every year when we took the field,

The hated Bums refused to yield,

Made Braves fans feel the way you feel

The day skip Carey died.

They were singing

Slide, slide,

Sid Bream slide.

Otis Nixon couldn't fly

But you know that he tried.

On a hot August night

It was raining inside

The day Skip Carey died.

Then for fourteen years we owned the game,

Personel changed, results the same.

Ho hum. Braves win every day.

Glavine and Mad Dog mystified.

We should'a kept Justice on our side,

Might'a won more Series rings that way.

From the old round house to the fancy Ted

The players played while Bobby led.

When they messed up, they never got blamed.

“Come on, Kid” was everybody's name.

While opponents praised and writers raved,

Would Smoltz win or would Smoltz save?

Chop if you must but please don't wave

The day Skip Carey died.

They were singing

Slide, slide,

Sid Bream slide.

Otis Nixon couldn't fly

But you know that he tried.

On a hot August night

It was raining inside

The day Skip Carey died.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

                                        Ask Miss Advice
                                        By Addie Advice

Dear Ms. Advice,

     Three years ago I contracted an incurable disease. It’s not life threatening, it’s not even painful in a physical sense, but every inch of my body is covered in oozing sores.

     I’m 23 years old and I used to be considered an attractive young woman, but now I never go outside if I don’t have to. People can’t stand to look at me. I make a very good living selling phone sex, but I have no friends, and not even my family will visit me. Jehovah’s Witnesses just tell me that they got the wrong house and leave without giving me a pamphlet. What can I do?

Please help, Miserable in Milwaukee.

Dear Miserable in Milwaukee,

     Your letter depresses me. Have you considered recreational drugs? Cocaine produces euphoria, or so I’ve heard. And what about suicide? Maybe combine the two. Inject a mother lode into your temple. I’d like to say I’ll write back if I have any better ideas, but your situation depresses me just to think about it.

Dear Ms. Advice,

     I’m a 79 year old retired lady. I don’t get around well, and pee on myself a lot, but I’m blessed to live in my own home with my darling only child Arnold who has a good job and takes wonderful care of me.

     So what’s the problem? The problem is Arnold is a serial killer. I can’t make any new friends because when I do, he kills them. Our back yard is one big mass grave.

     I don’t know what to do. Turning him into the police is not an option because he’s my baby and if he were gone they’d put me in a home. Every time he kills another one I feel more and more guilty. What do I do?

Wit’s End in Wisconsin

Dear Wit’s End in Wisconsin,

     I hate to sound like a one-note Addie, but have you considered suicide? If you’re not up to that, I know a phone sex operator in Milwaukee who’d love for you to move in with her.

Dear Addie,

     I’m an attractive 35 year old bookkeeper for a small Midwestern farm implement company. The pay is lousy but I manage to embezzle enough every month to live well beyond my means. My boss, we’ll call him Darrell, is so stupid he’ll never catch me as long as I’m the bookkeeper.

     So what’s not to like you ask? Well, my problem is that every time Darrell comes in my office he grabs my crotch and won’t let go until I recite all of Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees,” and yeah, that’s a small price to pay for regular Caribbean Cruises. But Addie, the man’s breath smells like a sewer. I’m always gagging before I get to the “only God can make a tree” part. Obviously I can’t quit or file a law suit. I can’t even tell anyone, I’d go to prison. Please help,

Desperate in the Heartland

Dear Desperate in the Heartland,

     Have we met? Where do you get off calling me by my first name, bitch?

     And, you don’t even tell me your name. No, wait. You put a return address on the envelope, Ms. Courtney McClellan of 124 Pine Street, Fairfax, Minnesota.