Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mad Magazine

My Grandmother used to buy Mad Magazine for me when I was a little guy. I haven't look at one in years. But I grew up reading satire and appreciating it. I notice that it's gone from 50 cents (cheap!) back when Granny bought it to $4.99 (cheap!) the present.

It has been obviously difficult for the media to make jokes about Obama since they all seem to be in love with the guy. However Mad stays true to it's old caustic self.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Scarborough Fair/Canticle

Get out your 12 string guitars. Girls, heat up the iron, put your long hair on the board and have your best girlfriend iron it so you get that Mary Travers silky straight-hair look.

It’s folk music time and Uncle Marcie is gonna’ learn you all about all about Scarborough Fair.

It’s actually referred to as the Scarborough Fair Canticle on Simon and Garfunkle’s album.

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkle arrived on the scene long after the Folk Music Scare of the early 1960’s. And although they were not a part of the folk music scene, they wre steeped in it. Their minds had already been poisoned under the influence of Gutherie, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Dave Van Ronk and the like.

Their first hit record, "Sounds of Silence" was recorded as a folk song with just their voices and a guitar. They then went off to promote the record. But unbeknownst to them, the records production company added bass, drums and an electric guitar to their simple recording. It changed the song from folk to rock. They became pop/rock artists and didn't even realize it.

While off in the UK to promote Sounds of Silence, Paul Simon learned this British folk song called Scarborough Fair then came home to record it.

There actually was a Scarborough Fair and amazingly enough it was in the village of Scarborough in the eastern sea side of Britain.

The fair was an annual fair for merchants from Britain, Europe and neighboring countries such as Denmark, Norway and the Byzantine Empire nations to show off their wares. The fair started on August 15 an lasted 45 days. In 1253 King Henry III granted a charter to Scarborough to have the yearly fayre. We would now call this a convention or a tradeshow or perhaps ScarboroughCon.

Of course such event had to be celebrated and sung about by minstrels. FYI, Minstrels were the prototype for American Idol and all such shows, however they were less talented and smelled funny.

Our ballad in question tells the story of a bonny young lad and a wee slip of a lassie bickering with each other. And here you thought it was a sweet ballad.

Yep. The laddie is telling the girl to do these impossible tasks, make a cambric shirt without any seams or needle work and then wash it in a dry well. Once she does this he will be her true love.

So what’s a cambric shirt you say? Cambric is an old term for plainly woven cloth.

Anyway getting back to our young couple, the girl ain’t havin’ none of his sass. Talk to the hand she says. And she then sings to him, “Bubba, you go find me and acre of land between the saltwater and the sea strand, plow it with a sheeps horn and sow it with seeds of peppercorn. Then reap it with a sickle of leather. And see how you like that hotshot. Then You can be a true love of mine.” That's how the original reply verse went, which is longer than the Simon/Garfunkle version.

But you can see what I mean about the bickering. As a folk song this is usually sung by a man and a woman taking the respective verses but since Simon and Garfunkle being manly men they changed some of the words that addressed the young man to find the land and plow it up. Bein' city boys they eliminated the planting of the peppercorns and reaping of the harvest. These tasks became the woman's job. It is a small wonder the women libbers didn’t get all uppity about the lyric changes as done by S&G.

Now most folks will tell you the song is about a young man that was jilted by a girl and he is telling her she need to do all these impossible tasks to win him back. Why would she? After all, she dumped him. And I don't blame her. This lad was off to the fair and din't even have the courtesy to invite her or bring her back a funnel cake. S&G sang it from the boys point of view, but the old folkies from the other side of the pond sang it with the boy/girl verses. That version makes more sense to me since there are a lot of folk songs with this pattern.

So what’s the deal about the Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme? Were they corporate attorneys? Is this a song about cookin’? Whatever could this mean?

Simmer down children and let Uncle Marcie do some ‘splainin’.

From the modern herbalist website we learn that;

Thyme: Girls once used thyme sprigs in ceremonies to discover the identity of their true loves. A more upscale lady of Medieval times would embroider a flowering thyme sprig along with a visiting bee as a token to be given to a favored knight. A woman wearing thyme was once held to be irresistable.

Sage: Sage was once used to help childless couples conceive, and is associated with wisdom and longevity in plant lore. It was also used magically to honor weddings and to ensure domestic harmony.

Rosemary: Was once held to represent love and faithfulness. The plant was used in wedding ceremonies in place of rings as a sign of fidelity, and carried by newlyweds and wedding guests as a charm for fertility. But it also has the meaning of remembrance, as Shakespeare noted in Hamlet 'there's rosemary for remembrance.' Often used in love potions, it is also said to attract elves. (Why would you want elves running amok in your home?)

Parsley: It was once believed that only witches and pregnant women could grow this herb--Sow parsley, sow babes, was an old expression. The herb has been associated with witchcraft in England and also with death since ancient times. But more importantly, it is said to provoke lust and love.

So what the singers are saying is:

Thyme: I'm yours.

Sage: I'm dependable.

Rosemary: Remember me.

Parsley: I'm horny, I want to make babies with you.

You see parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme were not ingredients for vegetable soup, these were the secret blend of herbs and spices used to make Love Potion #9.

So what is a Canticle? Well a canticle is a song that is usually based on a Biblical story or a poem.
In this case while Garfunkle, who has such a sweet voice, sang the verse, Simon sang sort of a counter-melody with different lyrics.

Are you going to scarborough fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt
(on the side of a hill in the deep forest green)
Parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme
(tracing a sparrow on snow-crested ground)
Without no seams nor needlework
(blankets and bedclothes a child of the mountains)
Then she'll be a true love of mine
(sleeps unaware of the clarion call)

Tell him to find me an acre of land
(on the side of a hill, a sprinkling of leaves)
Parsely, sage, rosemary, & thyme
(washes the grave with silvery tears)
Between the salt water and the sea strand
(a soldier cleans and polishes a gun)
Then he'll be a true love of mine Tell him to reap it in a sickle of leather
(war bellows, blazing in scarlet battalions)

Parsely, sage, rosemary & thyme
(generals order their soldiers to kill)
And to gather it all in a bunch of heather
(and to fight for a cause they have long ago forgotten)
Then he'll be a true love of mine

Are you going to scarborough fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine.

Ok, let’s set the context of the era that S&G made this song popular. It was 1969 or 1970. We were in the midst of the Viet Nam War.

Now you chillun’ probably do not understand the feeling of the country in those days. Every night on the 6 o’clock news we would see film of the bodies of young soldiers being carried through the jungles of Viet Nam by their buddies. This sent a collective chill down the spines of average Americans and embittered us. It didn't do much for the guys over their doing their patriotic duty either.

Back in those days there was no volunteer army. All 18 year old boys were required to register for the draft which equated to a death sentence. You might wind up being sent home from 'Nam in a box. Many young men left their families and citizenship and moved to Canada or South America to seek refuge from forced enlistment.

Viet Nam was this tiny country in Southern Asia that no one gave a rip about. It was full of tiny people that became proficient at digging tiny tunnels to hide from the US troops. In the daytime, the Vietnamese were cabbies, barkeepers, barbers, farmers and shopkeepers. At night they became Viet Cong and would slit your throat without even blinking. Young Americans blamed the politicians and the large companies the produced munitions for getting us into this debacle. They were very vocal in the protests of the war. It was a sad, sad time in the world, this nation in particular and thus was reflected in our music.

So the Canticle part of the song,
Blankets and bedclothes on the side of a mountain.
Sleeps unaware of the clarion call.
She washes the grave with her silvery tears.
A soldier cleans and polishes his gun.
War bellows, blazing in scarlet battalions.
Generals order their soldiers to kill.
To fight for a cause that they have long ago forgotten,
this part of the song really hit home during that era, especially since it was somewhat hidden. It was seen as a war protest song. During those times protest songs were very, very popular.

We all love to find hidden meanings. I hope you’ve learned a few today.

As I have said actual folk
song is much longer than the verses S&G sing, however AM radio usually only allowed songs to be two and a half minutes long. In order to be a hit, it had to be whittled down. And all most of us had back then was AM radio.

Simon, Garfunkle and Williams

Friday, January 23, 2009

Norma Tanega

I was about 13 years old when a song came on the radio called Walkin
My Cat Named Dog.

It was a fun and catchy tune about a city girl walking her cat around town. This song came out in an era before hippies, metal and the arrival of the drug culture. Austin Powers would have fit right in as British bands, mini skirts, shirts with puffy sleeves and bell-bottom trousers were all the rage. It was a good time to be around.

I never forgot that song and wondered who sang it. In an internet forum that I sometimes check out, someone had found a video of Norma Tanega. It was That Girl.

She sort of looks like she has some American Indian heritage, but she is Fillapino and she was cute. And you have to admire a girl who has the most excellent taste in guitars to play a SG Junior with a P90.

Reality struck me today. Alas I am no longer a youth. I read a bio of Norma and found her birthdate to be 1939. She is 70 and her cat has probably gone off to join the cat choir invisible on the backyard fence of Heaven.

Anyway, let's go back to 1965. Here is Norma

Walkin' My Cat Named Dog

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Flat(us) Tax

I have read last week the Enviromental Protection Agency was considering posting a tax on cattle of $175 a head and a lesser tax for sheep.

I am all for this since it is definitely the cows who are destroying the ozone layer and they certainly should be fiscally punished for all their noxious emissions. But I think the agency needs to take this a step farther. I therefore propose and annual flatuance tax;

Sheep/goats: $125 each
Swine: $150 each
Horses: $175 each
Poultry: $15
Dogs: $75
Cats: $50
Rodents: large: $10 small: $2.50

People: See following categories:

Vegetarians regardless of gender: $450

People from the following cities:

NYC: $500 (Pizza - Hot Dogs)

Chicago: (Pizza - Hot Dogs)

Boston (beans): $500

Cincinnati (chili): $500

Texas - the entire state (chili): $500

All others:

Men: $150
Women: $100
Children: $75

Additionally I would impose a 10 cent per ounce surtax on beer, carbonated beverages, Mexican food, Shredded Wheat and White Castle hamburgers.

Please do your part to support my campaign to initiate this tax to help save our enviroment and restore the Ozone layer.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cheer Up Sleepy Jean

...oh what can it mean?

Daydream Believer is a classic song that will be remembered for a very long time.

I'll admit that as a boy I was fascinated with the Monkees. I actually was more fascinated with the girls that were fascinated with the Monkees. I must have been about 12 or 13 when they appeared on television. At that time I was in a garage band. We qualified as an official garage band since we actually rehearsed in a garage. I figured being in a garage band would be an excellent way to meet girls. Mostly what I met were other guys in garage bands. Oh yeah, I also met lots of beer-breathed jocks that would grab the microphone off the stage and launch into Nah-nah-nah-nah, hey-hey Good-bye.

My old buddy Stew Williams (former radio guy from Charleston SC) insisted we learn some of the Monkee's songs as he thought this would be a great way to impress girls. (See above comments)

The string section and horn arrangement of Daydream Believer was a little over the top for a 4 piece garage band, so I don't think it appeared in our repetoire. None-the-less this song still remains a favorite of mine.

The song was written by John Stewart. Of course this was not John Stewart the TV comedian, but John Stewart the folksinger/songwriter, formerly of the Kingston Trio. He replaced Dave Guard when Dave left the group back in 1961.

Stewart's relationship with the the Kingston Trio lasted until around 1964 when he left. John states that he wrote this song just before leaving the trio. I've searched high and low for hidden meanings in the lyrics, but I can find none. It is just a nice song about being poor and being in love. Which is something most of us can relate to at one time or another.

Daydream Believer was recorded by the Monkees in 1967. It became their last #1 single.

At the time of the recording Davy Jones states that he was feeling somewhat tired.

He is quoted in the biograpy Monkeemania, "We'd done twelve songs and the thirteenth was Daydream Believer. I said,'That's terrible.' I was a baritone and it was in the wrong key for my voice. I'd been in the studio all day, I was tired and I'm singing these same words about twelve times...Hank Cicalo, the engineer, had his own way of numbering takes so he could find them, he'd call them 1A or 2A, like that. Anyway, all of a sudden he says '7A' over the talkback and I wasn't listening so I said 'What number is this?' and they said '7A!' in unison. That kicked me on a bit and I got it down but you can tell from the vocal that I was pissed off."
You can hear the talkback on the LP version of the song.

Davy went on to say in a commentary track on Season 2 of the series that he didn't like the song originally and thought it should be cut from the album. Of course he's now glad that it stayed and that it has since brought him a lot of joy.

The only major lyric change the Monkees made to the song was in the second verse. The original verse as written by Stewart was, "You once thought of me as a white knight on a steed. Now you know how funky I can be." The word funky was changed to happy.

In an interview Stewart explains his lyrics;

"(The boy is) A dreamer in school, he still is. He is a dreamer and thinks about new worlds, change, and other things to do. And (his girl) she was the home-coming queen, she was the beauty of the school before she married him. And now we have an American life. It doesn't matter if you are the home-coming queen, you are now husband and wife. He's got to make the money, and is saying let us just make the best of it, you know. You once thought of me as a white knight on his steed, which obviously was before, but now you know how funky I can be, which was, you know, I'm just a guy who leaves his socks on the TV. But our good times start and end without a dollar one to spend, but how much, baby, do we really need? You know, it's not the money, it's us. Cheer up, sleepy Jean. And to me, it was very clear in my own A.D.D. mind."

I think the elements that make this song so great are not just the lyrics, but the melody and the great orchestral arrangement. The Beatles had come out with Penny Lane that included a picolo trumpet part.

I'm certain the producer, Chip Douglas (not the kid from My Three Sons) and the arranger had this in mind when writing the score and including that wonderful trumpet descant.

The Monkees recorded this song in a period when they decided to take over their own artistic affairs, so all four of them played instruments on this record. Mike Nesmith on guitar, Peter Tork on piano and Mickey Dolenz sang backing vocal with Davy Jones doing the vocal.

(If any of my children read this, ask your Momma about running into Mike Nesmith)

The typical method during this era was to lay down the basic track, guitar, bass, drums, piano, vocals and then send it off to another studio for sweetening (adding string arrangements). From reading commentary about this song, I am guessing that is what took place.

John Stewart went on to write over 600 songs before his death last year. After the trio, he teamed up with John Denver. His only other one that became a #1 hit was a song called Gold that he sang as a duet with Stevie Nicks.

Here is John Stewart singing Daydream Believer that way he wrote it.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Unanswered Questions

Is Janet Reno....

Rob Blagojevich's mother?

What is Jon Stewart going to do...

When George W is gone?

Which is more annoying?



or C:

Would you invest your life savings with someone named "Made-Off?"

Why did this guy go to jail for owing $250,000 in Federal taxes.

Yet this guy is still out of jail after bilking investors out of 50 BILLION DOLLARS?

And he's not even in office yet, so what's the deal with the title?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year

Baby Trevan, his Momma and I wish everyone a Happy 2009