Saturday, May 29, 2010

Won't You Be My Teddy Boy?

Glass Prism, Poe Through the Glass Prism,  RCA Victor, 1968.  Near Mint $15

Don’t you love it when there’s that bizarre bit of coincidence when you’ve been talking to someone about some obscure subject and within a couple of days the same esoterica comes up again, out of the blue, from another source?  No?  Okay, maybe it’s just me.  I don’t know exactly why, maybe it makes me feel there’s order in the universe, but it gives me a tiny wonder-jolt every time it happens. 

It happened to me this week as I was contemplating posting about the Teddy Boys.  A day later a young friend loaned me a couple of records (thanks, Thurston) and one of them happened to be a perfect illustration of what I’d been thinking about, which is that when a fashion trend starts, there seems to be a constant need to up the ante.

I knew nothing of Teddy Boys (or Teds) until I started to read Jonathan Gould’s Can’t Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America (more on this when I finish the book).  Apparently, John Lennon adopted the teddy boy style during his art-school years.

The Teddy Boys were part of a subculture which grew up in post-WWII London.  The TEDS quickly became associated with the emerging music called rock 'n' roll.  Teddy boys were young, often working class teenagers who wore clothing that evoked the Edwardian period (thus the name, Teddy, for Edward).  Drape jackets with velvet trim, “drainpipe” or “stovepipe” slim pants, chunky brogue shoes with huge crepe soles (known as “brothel creepers") or boots with severe pointed toes call Winklepickers.  Hair was typically worn in what was known in the States as a duck-tail, or in a style called a “Boston” where it was combed straight back and cut blunt at the nape.

But as the 50s came to a close, as with any trend there seemed to be a need to ramp it up and by the time the Beatles became THE Beatles, and forever altered the western cultural landscape, the duck tail had been replaced by the “mop top” and the sedate sartorial style of the Teds gave way to a peacock pseudo-Edwardian motif with colorful brocade jackets, ruffled shirts and ascots–for some bands, on some albums, at least--like the Glass Prism and the above album based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

It’s a given that any style distinctive enough to be cool will someday, in retrospect, look ridiculous.   Still, I’m holding on to my tie-dye, you never know when it might come around again.

Come on, let's all 'fess up, what's the most ridiculous fashion trend you've ever followed?  

I'll start, anyone remember palazzo pants, otherwise known as bell bottoms on steroids?  Let me just say that palazzos, 3-inch cork wedges and a flight of stairs that have to be navigated is a terrible combination when you're running late.  Fortunately, nothing was broken.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rock Garden

The Rose Garden
Atco  1968  Mono in near-mint, $60, Stereo NM, $25
The Rose Garden was a short-lived southern California band in the "sunshine pop" folk rock tradition.  Their lone hit was "Next Plane to London" which reached #17 on the charts.

My oldest son has a phenomenal green thumb and cultivates a truly lavish garden.

Who knew?  I guess this must be one of those things that skips a generation.   My mother could make anything grow by sticking a brown twig of it into the dirt and my Dad was a farmer who always got good crops.  I, on the other hand, seem to kill everything, either by neglect or by trying to overcompensate for the last dead plant by watering the next one until the animals start to gather two-by-two looking for an ark.

But this year I’m trying it again.  I have a pressing need to see things flourish and I’m doing my best not to kill off the flowers and herbs I’m growing on my deck garden. Apparently, rockers get a hankering for a garden now and then, too. I’m on a quest for “garden” songs, lyrics, bands, etc.  Here’s a few from my itunes.  Can you help me add to the list?

“Amity Gardens”  from Utopia Parkway by Fountains of Wayne

“Evie’s Garden” from This Perfect World by Freedy Johnston

“Back to the Garden”  from Ordinary Seasons by Polecat Creek

“Eden was a Garden” from Oh Tall Tree in the Ear  by Roman Candle

“Everything in 2s” from How Does Your Garden Grow by Better Than Ezra

“The Garden”  from This Beautiful Mess by Sixpence None the Richer

“Gardening at Night” from The Attic by R.E.M.

“Gates of the Garden” from No More Shall We Part by Nice Cave & the Bad Seeds

“Grey Gardens” from Poses by Rufus Wainwright

“The Hanging Garden” from Staring at the Sea-The Singles…”  by The Cure

“Octopus’s Garden” from Abbey Road by The Beatles

“Rose Garden” from Street Angle by Stevie Nicks

“Rose in My Garden” from Karla Bonoff by Karla Bonoff

“The Secret Garden (Sweet Seduction Sweet) from Back on the Block by Quincy Jones

“The Garden Party” Ricky Nelson

“Empty Garden” Elton John

Band—Savage Garden

Garden State Soundtrack

 “Garden” by Pearl Jam: “…I will walk with my shadow flag into your garden, garden of stone…

 “The Garden”  by Gun’s ‘n’ Roses  “…Your friends they aren't at home/Everybody's gone to the garden/As you look into the trees/You can look but you don't see…”

 “Wicked Garden” by Stone Temple Pilots  “…I wanna run through your wicked garden/Heard that's the place to find ya…”

 “The Severed Garden” by The Doors  “…I'm sick of dour faces/Staring at me from the tv/Tower, I want roses in/My garden bower; dig?”

Friday, May 7, 2010

The House on Album 1700

Today another guest blog by Matt, a writer from NY.  Thanks, Matt!

Peter Paul and Mary’s “Album 1700” was released in 1967, the same year Warren Beatty produced and starred in “Bonnie and Clyde,” and the album cover was an obvious reference to the film.  At first glance, it might seem odd for folk-poets of the anti-war movement to strike a pose similar to a film that glorifies violence and anti-social behavior. 

But if you examine the photo more closely, the trio is telling a very different story.

The most obvious difference is that Peter Paul and Mary are not holding guns, but instruments.  Their weapons are words, poetry, music, and memorable harmonies, which they use to persuade people to work together to achieve a more just society.  Unlike the itinerant outlaws Bonnie and Clyde, for whom the car is a potent symbol of escape and rootlessness, Peter Paul and Mary have chosen to give a house equal weight in the picture.  And it’s not just any house, it’s 70 Bedford Street in New York City’s Greenwich Village.   The Federal style townhouse was built in 1807.  Notice the bronze plaque to the left of the front door.  It says the house was built by John Roome, a sailmaker and court crier.  So Peter Paul and Mary chose as their backdrop the home of an adventurer and representative of justice, two things to which they aspired. 

What the trio is looking at is also appropriate for their musical and political ambitions.  Across the street is the Isaacs-Hendricks House, the oldest surviving home in Greenwich Village.  While Peter Paul and Mary might not look kindly on its first owner, Harmon Hendricks, who cornered the copper market with Paul Revere, the trio can appreciate that the house is connected to the birth of our nation and its promise of freedom and justice for all.  Also across the street is the house of Edna St. Vincent Millay, the first female to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.  Millay’s home was later owned, at different times, by actors John Barrymore and Cary Grant, which adds a subtle touch and brings us full circle to the Hollywood-inspired cover.

While the album is titled in accord with its Warner Brothers’ catalog number, it may well have been chosen to add a sense of historical depth to the group’s clarion call for social justice.

“Album 1700” marked the initial release of what later became Peter Paul and Mary’s biggest selling single, “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” which was written by the then-unknown Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., who rose to fame in the 1970s as “John Denver.”  Denver was later named Poet Laureate of Colorado, which may not be as prestigious as the Pulitzer Prize, but his poetry earned him a fortune great enough to afford his own jet plane, in which he sadly met his tragic end.

What’s your favorite Peter Paul and Mary song?

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Mover and Shaker

There are four different versions of this King label release from 1966,
 ranging in value from $40 to $150 (in near mint condition)

On this day in 1933 a mover and shaker in the rock world was born.  And I mean that literally.

James Joseph Brown, Jr.  was born May 3, 1933 near Barnwell, South Carolina and grew up in poverty in Augusta, Georgia. He lived a checkered personal life and his professional life was colorful to put it mildly, but he was, indeed, “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business,”  “The Godfather of Soul” and “Soul Brother Number One.”