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The Van Morrison MasterClass: Week 8

Posted by on Feb 8, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 1 comment

 

 

“I write songs.  Then, I record them.  And, later, maybe I perform them on stage.  That’s what I do.  That’s my job.  Simple.”

 

THE VAN MORRISON MASTERCLASS:  WEEK 8

DAY 50:  Van Morrison at Montreux

“Smoke on the Water” (Deep Purple — 1971)

“Smoke on the Water” begins with one of the greatest guitar riffs in rock history.

“Dun, dun, dun
dun-dun, dun-dun
dun, dun, dun, dun-dun….”

Then the rat-tat-tat of drum cymbals come in, accompanied by a thundering bassline, which then launches into vocals that, until this writing project, I’d never really contemplated before.

I doubt many rock fans reading this who likely know every note of the song are quite as familiar with the backstory which led to the unusual lyrical narrative. Word-for-word, the true story is told of what happened during a deadly fire that broke out during a rock concert inside the casino ballroom at Montreux, Switzerland.

In December 1971 British rockers Deep Purple arrived on the shores of Lake Geneva to record a new album. The entertainment complex was part of the Montreux Casino…..

“We all came out to Montreux
On the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile
We didn’t have much time.”

The night before recording was set to begin, Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention were playing at the casino. The scene got really wild. Someone in the crowd fired a flare gun into the stage cover, which suddenly burst into flames. The scene turned into chaos.

“Frank Zappa and the Mothers
Were at the best place around
But some stupid with a flare gun
Burned the place to the ground.”

Deep Purple watched the bizarre scene from their hotel room. The entire casino complex and entertainment venue burned to the ground. Frank Zappa’s band also lost all their equipment in the fire. Witnessing the surreal experience, “Smoke on the Water” somehow materialized out of the ashes and the rest, as they say, is history.

“Smoke on the water,
a fire in the sky.”

The entire casino and entertainment complex was gutted by fire. Deep Purple’s recording plans were ruined. With no other option, they set up a makeshift recording studio in the hotel and laid down most of the tracks for what would become their most successful album, titled Machine Head.

The impromptu song wasn’t expected to do much and was a reluctant addition to the album. It became Deep Purple’s biggest hit. Today, “Smoke on the Water” is honored by a sculpture along the shores of Lake Geneva.

Which now brings us to….Van Morrison.

Van made his first of 18 appearances (so far) at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1974. He’s performed at Montreux more times than anyone, other than anyone other than B.B. King and Herbie Hancock. Van’s first of two live shows the first year ignited a bit of controversy when he screamed to someone in the audience to “fuck off.” Often cantankerous while onstage and obtuse to the extremes of disbelief, the debut performance is nonetheless, widely regarded as one of the best of his career.

During this week’s installments, I’ll be writing more about Van’s live concerts at Montreux, because there have been so many and such great music came from that stage. But first, it’s fun to know the real backstory of the special venue where all this takes place and its indelible impact on our rock n’ roll memories.

This song and soundtrack (posted here) have a great video collage of the 1971 fire.

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DAY 51:  “Street Choir” (1974 — Live Performance at Montreux)

After the Montreux Casino on Lake Geneva in Switzerland burned to the ground in 1971, the famed international jazz festival was in limbo. There were questions about where to hold the performances. There were also fears that unruly crowds might recreate the incident that inspired “Smoke on the Water.” But the real crux was rapidly changing musical tastes at the time, and a debate as to whether rock n’ roll, R&B, and other non-jazz acts belonged on the festival bill.

The Montreux Jazz Festival would quickly grow into the second largest of its kind in the world, thanks to the pragmatic decision made by organizers to broaden the invitee list to big names, some not commonly associated with jazz.

Fortunately for Van Morrison, his jazz credentials were solidly in the bag by 1974. He’d recorded numerous jazz-infused tracks, had an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz standards, released a transcendent smash hit album, Moondance that enjoyed rare crossover appeal with both rock and jazz audiences. And — Van played the saxophone!

Van and his hastily assembled band played two shows at Montreux in their first year. It’s inconceivable as to why these live shows turned out so well. The best explanation is superior musicianship, led by drummer Dallas Taylor, sitting in with Van for the first time. Taylor was the drummer for Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

Van’s debut at Montreux is a juxtaposition of awkwardness and near-total withdrawal from rock superstardom which oddly metastasizes into par excellence. The four musicians onstage had barely even rehearsed together, yet they cover an entire set of Van’s original recordings, with no notes nor sheet music. It’s astounding to watch. Van is clearly in a period of transition here as a live performer. He’s abandoned all pretense of rock expectation, showing up on stage looking like a math tutor. There’s even a false start at the beginning of the track.

“Street Choir” was the only song played that night known to the audience. Fans expecting to hear “the hits” were upset, leading to an infamous incident that shall be discussed later. “Street Choir” was originally written as an acapella song, intended as the title track on an entirely non-instrumental collection. In fact, the entire album was to be acapella, which would have been quite a stretch to pull off. But Van abandoned the concept after a few sessions.

“Street Choir” ended up as the title track for the album His Band and the Street Choir, released in 1970 as a rapid follow-up to the success of Moondance. Van, already bitter towards the music industry, was infuriated when Warner Bros, the record company decided to rename his album without his consent. It was originally titled “Virgo’s Fool.”

Van’s gradual slide into loathsome anger at the music industry, which he often took out on his audiences, was well underway. Nonetheless, as the Montreux shows from the 1970s reveal, it’s all about the music.

Put on the headphones, crank up the volume, and watch brilliance on display.

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DAY 52:  “Moondance” (1970)

“It’s a fantabulous night for a romance…”

So writes and sings Van Morrison in “Moondance,” one of the most successful songs of his storied career, which was released 50 years ago this week.

Since then, “Moondance” has been covered by hundreds of different artists, of all genres — from harpists to sax players, from jazz and blues bands to the winner of last year’s Mongolia’s Got Talent. Really. They’re covering Van in Ulaanbaatar.

The title track on Van’s widely-acclaimed 1970 album, this song was considered an oddity that didn’t fit the norms of the day. The style of music certainly didn’t comply with conventional rock playlists. Indeed, rock-oriented radio stations were reluctant to play the track because it didn’t sound like a hit song with the usual instrumentation common to the most popular artists of the era.

Instead, “Moondance” was entirely jazz-infused, with its idiosyncratic timing, a standup bass, and Van’s offbeat vocals, punctuated with a swinging piano laced with brass. Fortunately, album-oriented radio was coming into its own as a force, and the staggering quality of content spread throughout both sides of the Moondance album became immensely popular, thus becoming Van’s first bona fide collection of solo hit recordings. “Crazy Love” covered by Ray Charles became a hit. “Into the Mystic” is also off the Moondance album.  It is certainly among the most whole of “album rock” collections ever made, the sprawling sum of its parts greater than any single.

Indifferent to commercial tastes and appeal, Moondance did enjoy tremendous critical and popular success as an album but the actual track wasn’t released as a single until seven years later. It charted in 1977, making it one of the most unusual recordings in pop music history both for its duel release dates and staying power as an enduring record now five decades later. “Moondance” is the song Van has played live more times than any other original recording.

The song’s origins go back to a jam session in 1967 when Van was rehearsing in Boston. His pick-up band was covering an old show tune called “Lazy Afternoon.” Van began to improvise from that standard and quickly came up with the melody that would later become “Moondance.” He had no idea at the time it would reignite his career and establish him as one of pop music’s most creative yet unpredictable artists.

Here’s the original recording from the 1970 album.

As Van would say, it’s “Fantabulous.”

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DAY 53:  “Troubadours” (1979)

“Troubadours” is a gorgeous track off of Van Morrison’s 11th studio album, Into the Music. It’s a celebration of life and love laden with neo-classic instrumentation. This song and most of the album’s collection foretells the looming horizon of Van’s songwriting and music, which increasingly will become more introspective and spiritual into the 1980s.

When Van took the stage at the 1980 Monteux Jazz Festival in Switzerland just months after the album’s release, most in the audience were hearing “Troubadours” for the first time. Indeed, most of his band, which includes the great Pee Wee Ellis on sax, is performing live with Van in a spontaneous, unrehearsed setting. Throughout this stage performance, Van can be seen displaying uncertainty as to entry points and occasionally barks out chord progressions to his fellow bandmates.  A few of his sidemen had been part of the Caledonia Soul Orchestra, which backed Van’s albums and live shows in the early 70s (they disbanded in 1973).  So, they were somewhat familiar with Van’s free-flowing format.

Also, note Van smoking a cigarette during the song.

We’re covering the “Montreux” period because it merits a closer and more thorough retrospective. His 1974 and 1980 performances were among the best of his career, though he’s far more subtle, even distant, from the typical rock routine. This too foretells Van’s evolution into a deeper more withdrawn state, which certainly alienated some audiences far more accustomed to flashy rock acts and the pizzaz of the disco period. Van is about as un-cool as he can be in this show, which (I believe) allows us to focus on the marvelous song structure and vocalization. One can almost see the patriarch of David Byrne (Stop Making Sense) in this clip. Byrne later noted Van’s influence on his own (anti-) style and faux act.

Van has played Montreux on 18 different occasions during the course of his storied career, mostly concentrating on jazz compositions, which is third in line to a huge list of greats which includes Herbie Hancock (27 times) and B.B. King (21 times). After the Montreux Casino burned down in 1971, the venue shifted around. However, this stage hosted many of the greatest performers and show in jazz history.

Rarely is Van ever upstaged, but “Troubadours” allows his band to flourish. Especially the piccolo trumpet. The song really takes off at about the 2:00 mark.

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DAY 54:  “Twilight Zone” (1974)

Van Morrison’s first live appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival was by all accounts a disaster.

Fresh off the stunning It’s Too Late To Stop Now USA-UK tour (which resulted in an ambitious three-disc collection many critics label as one of the greatest live albums on rock history), Van arrived at Lake Geneva in the Summer of ’74 with a scaled-back band and much more mellow sound. The Caledonia Soul Orchestra’s lush brass and string section were replaced with a simple keyboardist and bassist. Even Dallas Taylor, from Crosby, Stills, and Nash on drums couldn’t keep up with the crowd’s restless expectations.

Making the sour mood even more acrimonious, Van opted to perform unfamiliar material almost exclusively from the Veedon Fleece sessions, along with tracks which were supposed to be on the (later shelved) follow-up album. He skipped all his well-known hits, an omission that didn’t go over well with the audience. Moreover, Van didn’t seem to put in the same vibrant energy his fans were used to seeing. In Van’s defense, he presumed the more laid back “jazz festival” setting would be far more open to new music and sounds, but then quickly discovered he couldn’t escape the shadow of his own towering reputation as a dynamic live performer.

At Montreux, on a makeshift stage, Van played an esoteric setlist, which also included his sax solo and a harmonica solo. Then, for reasons unknown, Van took longer than expected to return for an encore, up to 10 minutes by one witness account. In the awkward void, an intoxicated fan jumped up on the stage and began yelling into the microphone, commanding Van to play his “hits.” Finally, Van arrived from backstage to do a rare encore. As the fan was escorted out of the venue, Van — in characteristic disdain of criticism that would mark his career as a live performer — barked out, “Hey, I’m going to play what I like, and if you don’t like it — go fuck yourself!” Almost as though to rub it in, Van and his three bandmates then closed with the instrumental “Harmonica Boogie,” and with that, the concert was over.

Sometimes referred to as the Go Fuck Yourself show (which became the title of the bootleg album before the actual live concert was released years later), the show opens with “Twilight Zone.” Note the awkwardness and lack of production in the clip. This is actually the first time (and song) Van had played with this band, which appears in other segments of the series because they are quite good. “Twilight Zone” is highly unusual as Van, typically a bass-baritone vocal sings in falsetto during most of the song. Van’s intentionally-mistuned guitar also adds a raw folksy feel to the sound.

“Twilight Zone” was an outtake from the Veedon Fleece album, which bombed both commercially and critically. This disappointment led to a three-year hiatus from touring. The song was later included as a bonus track on the re-issue 30 years later, which is now acclaimed as a collection ahead of its time, much in the vein of Astral Weeks. The studio outtake also made its way onto The Philosopher’s Stone, a 1998 compilation album.

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DAY 55:  “I Will Be There” (1972)

Van Morrison was heavily influenced by the classics, especially by what’s been called the “great American songbook of standards.” Musical icons included the Isley Brothers, Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, and many others. Morrison even cited country acts, including Hank Williams and the Carter Family as part of the foundation for his vast musical canopy.

Long before doing retro-recordings became chic, Van wrote a new song that was clearly inspired by Duke Ellington’s jazz standard from the year 1940, “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” I haven’t seen anyone make the direct comparison; but to me, this original composition credited to Van is nearly identical in rhythm, melody, and timing. Van’s songwriting repertoire was overflowing with material by the time the Saint Dominic’s Preview album was released. He didn’t need to copy other artists. However, this track has the trademark Ellington sound. It’s unmistakable. Perhaps even something from the subconscious.

During the early 70s, Van was in the midst of his flirtation with many different styles of music. But he always seemed most comfortable within the R&B groove. This outlier of a recording, mostly forgotten now, fits in nicely with the other material on the album.

Saint Dominic’s Preview became Van’s most successful US-album all the way up until 2008’s Keep It Simple. Remarkably, it contains only 7 songs, but each has resonated with critics and fans alike long after the release date.

“I Will Be There” deserves more love and attention, and we’re delivering that today.

 .

DAY 56:  “Wild Honey” (1980)

Van Morrison was once asked to name his favorite album. He gave a surprising answer. From his vast pantheon of dozens of studio albums and live recordings, he chose the somewhat obscure and esoteric 1980 release Common One.

Indeed, Common One is one of those magical brews that takes time to process and savor. This is not a party album. It’s the disc you play loud while driving a long trip, or sipping a goblet of Port alone, reflecting. Its five disjoined tracks do not make for a concept album. There’s no prevailing theme throughout. Two of the songs are more than 10 minutes long.

“Wild Honey” doesn’t fit either, as a song or track on the album. It seems oddly misnamed. There’s nothing wild about it. It’s the slow dance song that comes on 15 minutes before closing time.

Two things stand out from this long-forgotten track — Van’s phrasing and the unique sense of timing, which seems slightly off, but fits perfectly, infused with the STAX-like horns.

Van closed out the 1970s with yet another album that was eviscerated by critics, but which today is looked upon with far more curiosity and appreciation.

Usually indifferent to criticism and openly hostile to commercial metrics, Van was greatly disappointed with the response to this album. Common One marks a demarcation in time, a transition from one era and sound to the next. This album buried Van as one of the decade’s greatest R&B soul singers and most gifted songwriters, but it stands today as a glorious tombstone and a proud exclamation point on a definitive chapter of the VM canon.

“Can’t you feel my heart beating, just for you….”

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The Madness of King Donald

Posted by on Feb 6, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 0 comments

 

Jim Jones

 

THE MADNESS OF KING DONALD

Sitting here on Thursday afternoon in disbelief watching a live “speech” from the White House — a ranting, rambling, wrecking ball from a madman surrounded by ass-kissing sycophants, with more *I*s and *ME*s than an alphabet soup factory.

It’s stunning to witness the manifestation of a political cult in America.

Years ago, in his contrition speech, Bill Clinton apologized to the American people for putting them through the ordeal of impeachment.

Today, in his boast reminiscent of what we see in third-world dictatorships, Trump attacked…..

∙ Democrats
∙ Barack Obama
∙ Hillary Clinton
∙ Joe Biden
∙ James Comey
∙ Bob Mueller
∙ Mitt Romney
∙ Claire McCaskill
∙ Jerry Nadler
∙ Adam Schiff
∙ Nancy Pelosi
∙ Chuck Schumer
∙ “the top scum” of the FBI

….and compared himself to George Washington.

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So, You’re Upset with Nancy? Well, Fuck You, Snowflakes!

Posted by on Feb 5, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 1 comment

 

Nancy Pelosi Rips Speech

 

Here’s a message to the snowflakes upset that Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped up a copy of Trunt’s garbage State of the Union campaign rally speech overflowing with lies.

My message is as follows:

WE DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS.

Got it?

YOU set this ugly tone. YOU created these rules. YOU enabled this monstrosity. YOU welcomed hostility. YOU elected him.  YOU defended him.  YOU acquited him.

So, live with it.

YOU broke the system. So, YOU bought it.

YOU support a petty little narcissist who bitterly attacks a free press, threatens adversaries, ceaselessly name calls, trashes his former associates, openly denigrates women, makes fun of the handicapped, ridicules gold star families, calls immigrants criminals, pays off porn stars, denies science, tropes in racism, and lies 16,000 times (and counting).

YOU apparently have no problem with *any* of this.

So, please. Fucking spare me your faux outrage with a lady standing upon a stage tearing up a few scraps of paper.

The tone was set long ago. It’s all on YOU.

 

Note:  Lest anyone think Trunt’s cult hasn’t set the ugly tone, here’s a current t-shirt logo and poster that’s now circulating:

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State of the Disunion 2020

Posted by on Feb 4, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 1 comment

 

state of the union

 

STATE OF THE DISUNION 2020

What, if anything, should Democrats do tonight during the State of the Union address given by a disgraced, impeached, pathologically-lying, treasonous, hopelessly corrupt president?

A few options include:

— not showing up
— refusing to stand when the grifter enters the House chamber
— sitting on hands (not clapping other than during the obligatory window dressing with vets and kids being introduced)
— turn backs on the president during the speech
— wear something showing unity (similar to last year’s female delegation dressed in white)
— wear black armbands symbolizing the death of the three-party system in America
— shout out “liar” each time Trump makes a preposterous remark (using the tactic of the Republican congressman who shouted “you lie!” at President Obama years earlier and then was rewarded with a bombardment of campaign contributions)
— march out in the middle of the speech
— talk amongst themselves/chant
— do nothing but be polite; respect the office even if the occupant of the title doesn’t warrant respect
— other

Ideas? Also, do you expect to see any manifestation of protest?

Admittedly, I’m torn on this but would like to read ideas and thoughts from others.

Join the discussion on Facebook by licking HERE.

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My Super Bowl Picks

Posted by on Feb 1, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 4 comments

 

Read my articles on various Super Bowl props and related topics at onlinegambling.com.

Here are the links:

SUPER BOWL PROPS:  DON’T FALL FOR THESE SUCKER BETS

SUPER BOWL BETTING:  DON’T BE SWAYED BY LOTS OF ZEROS

CAN PATRICK MAHOMES WIN MVP EVEN IF THE CHIEFS LOSE?

 

**************************************************************

2019 NFL WAGERING RECORD

80 Wins — 69 Losses — 3 Pushes

Starting Bankroll:   $ 8,398.

Current Bankroll:   $9,111.  (+ $713.)

Last Week’s Results (Week #21):   1 — 2 — 0  (- $355.)

**************************************************************

SUPER BOWL BETS 

 

I was wrong about the Super Bowl opening line.  Badly wrong.

Historically, my track record on this thing is pretty solid.  Ups and downs will happen in sports gambling, but a solid handicapper absolutely must be able to correctly forecast point spreads and totals.  If a capper lacks those basic skills, the rest is folly.

My opening line on Super Bowl LIV was San Francisco -2.5 with a betting total of 51.5.

My prediction on the total was within range, opening offshore at 52.  The total has now been bet up as high as 55 — but has since settled at 54.

However, my opening line was terrible — off by a whopping 4 points (although the zero gets crossed).  A few offshore sites had the opening line at PICK ‘EM, and others reacted and installed the Chiefs as -1 to -1.5 points favorites.  I had the wrong team favored.

One can have outlier opinions to some degree, which is sometimes a good thing, but my number was way, way off.  I didn’t predicate my point spread on a game prediction.  Rather, I really thought the market would reflect my perspective and mirror the way I saw both teams.  I was especially mindful of how (I thought) smart money tends to look at these matchups, anticipating there would be a clear divide on “sharps” (betting the 49ers) and “squares” (betting the Chiefs).

Well, I got all this wrong.  So, my analysis begins at ground zero.

I have two options here:

  1.  Admit my early forecast was wrong, and completely re-evaluate the matchup.
  2.  Stick with my minority opinion and fade what I believe to be a gross public misperception about these two teams.

I decided to do both, 1 and 2.  Re-evaluate, and then — if warranted — stick with my opinion the odds are wrong.  Yes, indeed.  I believe the wrong team is favored in this Super Bowl game.

Okay, here are my reasons why.

— I won’t spend much time overstating the obvious:  QB Mahomes is an astounding once-in-a-generation player.  A game-changer.  We could make a long list of the reasons why Mahomes and this Chiefs offense is special.  I’ll save the time and space and simply acknowledge that we are witnessing magic.

— Let’s also remember the Chiefs, at home, fell behind in both playoff games.  Badly so.  Kansas City trailed Houston 24-0 and Tennessee 10-0.  While props go to the Chiefs for the explosive comebacks in both games, that does portend some problem with team preparation.  Kansas City was clearly the better team in both of those matchups.  However, something went very wrong in the first quarter.  I’m counting on this quagmire with early game performance to be a factor once again, particularly against a superior team with a much better defense than the previous two opponents.

— I don’t get sentimental about teams, players, cities, or games (except for the Saints), but the football fan in me is rooting for the Kansas City Chiefs.  I love the fan loyalty.  Clearly, Andy Reid deserves a championship having paid his dues and suffered so many years of disappointment.  The Chiefs play real AFL-style football on natural grass.  There’s a proud tradition in Kansas City despite the 50-year Super Bowl drought.  The anniversary of the 1970 victory would be even more special.  And, the Chiefs are a fun and exciting team to watch.  I mention this because the 49ers in no way appeal to me from a fan perspective.  I believe this same sentiment is driving many of the wagers that came in on the Chiefs.  My heart is with Kansas City.  But my money is on San Francisco.

— The single biggest factor of this matchup is the San Francisco’s speed on defense.  Rarely do we see a team cover the field as well laterally (sideline to sideline) as 49ers do.  Not only is this an outstanding tackling defense (a stat that doesn’t get nearly enough attention), more often than not, ball carriers are swarmed with multiple defenders.  I’m counting on the 49ers defensive dominance to continue for one more week and play at the same level we’ve seen in other big games this season when this unit completely shut down Minnesota and Green Bay in the playoffs.  The Chiefs offense won’t be humiliated like the 49ers’ previous two playoff opponents, but I do foresee this unit being well suited to not let Kansas City light up the scoreboard, as they are so capable of doing.

— The second biggest factor in a 49er’s “upset” win would likely be a solid running game that grinds yardage and the game clock.  If San Francisco averages 6.0 yards-per-carry as they’ve done the first two playoff games, that’s going to be almost insurmountable to overcome.  Running the ball effectively ensures long 49ers drives and keeping Mahomes and Co. on the sidelines.  I like San Francisco’s chances here, especially with three viable backs capable of carrying the load.  A big stat:  Kansas City ranked 26th in the NFL against the run, averaging 4.9 yards-per-carry.  Credit KC for shutting down the Titans’ potent running attack a few weeks ago, which is the NFL’s best, but that also gives SFO coach Shanahan some game film to study and devise a counterstrategy.  I like the odds of the 49ers being successful running the ball.  If that happens, this likely results in a 49ers win/cover.

I have two wagers on the game:

San Francisco +1 — Risking $550 to win $500

San Francisco Moneyline +105 — Risking $150 to win $157.50

 

Note:  Check back later for my thoughts and bets on props

 

INVESTMENT GROUP [37 persons Active]

Investor  —- Amount —- Pct. of Total Fund
Heldar $ 211 2.51%
Watanabe $ 100 1.19%
Peter Lucier $ 1,000 11.91%
Kramer $ 302 3.60%
Finbar O’Mahoney $ 200 2.38%
Howler $ 100 1.19%
Linda Keenan $ 500 5.95%
John Pickels $ 100 1.19%
Patrick Kirwan $ 100 1.19%
Sean McGinnis $ 300 3.57%
Jim Anderson $ 252 3.00%
Chad Holloway $ 200 2.38%
Eric Schneller $ 500 5.95%
Randy Collack $ 351 4.18%
Dave Lawful $ 100 1.19%
Paul Harris $ 1,000 11.91%
Dan Goldman $ 51 0.61%
Sharon Goldman $ 51 0.61%
Ken QB $ 102 1.21%
Chuck Weinstock $ 102 1.21%
Peter Taki Caldes $ 102 1.21%
Kenny Shei $ 51 0.61%
Jeff Deitch $ 51 0.61%
Kevin Un $ 128 1.52%
Becca Kerl $ 22 0.26%
Corey Imsdahl $ 102 1.21%
Don Bingo Rieck $ 102 1.21%
Jeff Siegel $ 1,000 11.91%
Stephen Cohen (payment pending) $ 100 1.19%
John Reed $ 114 1.36%
George Wattman $ 51 0.61%
Mickdog Patterson $ 51 0.61%
Larry Lubliner $ 100 1.19%
Grizz Berentsen $ 100 1.19%
Edmund Hack $ 100 1.19%
Bob Feduniak $ 500 5.95%
David “Quick” Horowitz $ 102 1.21%
TOTAL $ 8,398 100.00%

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The Constitutional Bonfire

Posted by on Jan 31, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 2 comments

 

 

History is written in the blood of people who at one time thought it doesn’t affect their daily lives, until finally — it does. And then, it’s too late.

I’ve watched most of this week’s “impeachment trial” in the United States Senate. The likely outcome will be as follows:

Trump:

(1) ….gets away with obstruction of justice by blocking all attempts to produce documents and witnesses, and
(2) ….gets acquited.

An unprecedented abdication of responsibility will have occurred for the first time in the 200-plus year history of the United States. The legislative branch might as well CEASE TO EXIST. Since executive power now goes unchecked, and since the very last firewall of congressional and senate oversight has been trampled to death, de facto, our federal government will be transformed into an authoritarian regime guided exclusively by the wants and whims and witticisms of the premier figure atop a capricious cult of personality.

Hereafter, we will see the federal government operating almost entirely by executive order. One man’s executive order(s) will be the law of the land. Trumpian political sycophants at every federal agency will dictate policy — from cutting Medicaid and Social Security (now underway) to slashing regulations that protect clean air and water (which happened last week). Far right-wing judicial appointments will eagerly rubber-stamp any disputes in the president’s favor.

Check and balances will be GONE. OVER. FINISHED. Parts of the Constitution might as well be trimmed away with a switchblade.

Want to subpoena a witness to testify in front of Congress? Go ahead. Try that. The executive branch will simply ignore it. They just did that and got away with it. Want to obtain documents and official records to check on a government program or investigate wrongdoing? Go ahead and make the request. Ditto. The executive branch will ignore it, just as they have done by not turning over a single document, blocking witnesses from testifying, and even threatening and intimidating subordinates. It’s government by the decree of organized crime.

Since Trump will have gotten away with IGNORING all legitimate and legal requests made by law, the law no longer matters. The law is toothless. He can now cheat in elections, solicit foreign interference, and commit ANY impeachable offense in the future because it won’t matter. Congress will have played its hand, lost, and no amount of hearings or subpenas is going to put a check on executive power. We had our chance. And we blew it.

I used to believe that even with the horrors of Trump, the scare tactics and comparisons between the current regime and its players with authoritarianism-sliding-towards-fascism was a bit hyperbolic. Now, I’m not so sure.

Think about this while you try to stomach a “verdict” that was never in doubt, an “acquittal” with about as much credibility as a jury rigged by John Gotti.

Trump’s not on trial here. America is on trial. Representative democracy is on trial. The truth is on trial. All three LOST.

I never expected it to see my own country, with all its flaws, teetering on the brink of governing as a banana republic, succumbing to public division and indifference. These kinds of things happened in faraway places with names we couldn’t pronounce strongarmed by evil men in funny looking military uniforms.

The warning signs of history are abundant, should we care to heed them. History has become the present.

 

Footnote: I’m also attaching a clip from Bill Maher’s monologue last week. For those of you thinking the Nov. election is another firewall, don’t be so certain. Watch.

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How Socialism Made the NFL America’s National Pastime

Posted by on Jan 29, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 2 comments

 

History calls those men the greatest who have ennobled themselves by working for the common good; experience acclaims as happiest the man who has made the greatest number of people happy.

— Karl Marx, Reflections of a Young Man (1835)

 

karl marx

 

Who is most responsible for making the National Football League into the world’s richest and most successful sporting league?

George Halas, the NFL’s founder?  Vince Lombardi, the great coach?  Pete Rozelle, the pioneer commissioner?  Joe Namath?  Joe Montana?  Tom Brady?

Try again.

The correct answer is Karl Marx.

That’s right, Karl Marx — otherwise known as the patriarch of the global and contemporary movement known as “socialism.” [*see footnote below]

Next Sunday, more than 100 million viewers will tune in to the Super Bowl.  Many of those watching will be red-meat ravishing red-staters and stalwart conservatives, their minds chained to some Dystopian philosophical mantle falsely asserting that fierce competition between businesses and among individuals combined with the prioritization of profits breeds two certain outcomes:  (1) strength and (2) prosperity.

But this isn’t true.  It’s certainly not true in professional sports.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.

Fact:  The NFL has enjoyed unparalleled national success over more than a half-century because it adopted virtually all of the principles of SOCIALISM.

Indeed, the NFL is a socialist enterprise.  Socialism works.  And the best example of this is American professional football.

Gather your jaws off the floor, and open your minds, my fellow football fanatics.

Read on.

*****

The NFL is a monster.

It’s the richest and most successful sporting institution in the history of the world.  It’s America’s true national pastime.  Forget Major League Baseball — which slipped off the pedestal as the nation’s premier spectator sport 60 years ago because of its rejection of socialism and embrace of me-first/fuck-everybody-else capitalism.

Football initially surpassed and eventually supplanted baseball as the national pastime in the early 1960s, when television became the new barometer of popularity.  Now, both college and professional football demolishes baseball in ratings to the point where Major League Baseball avoids scheduling post-season games against the NFL regular season.  Want proof?  Consider that nine of the top ten most-watched television programs of all time are Super Bowls.  Not baseball.  Football.  By contrast, the World Series of Baseball’s highest-rated game ever in history (played in 1986) drew about a third of what an average Super Bowl attracts.

How did this remarkable transformation come about?  Two words — revenue sharing.  In other words, the governing body redistributing wealth.

Earlier, I alluded to Pete Rozelle, who really is the most important figure in the history of professional football.  If the game has a Karl Marx figure, it’s most certainly Rozelle, who ran the NFL for nearly 30 years and was the architect of the NFL-AFL- merger in 1970.  I suppose it’s Friederik Engels would then be Dallas’ Lamar Hunt, who held the same power over in the American Football League (AFL).  When the two pro football leagues signed huge national television contracts, Rozelle and Hunt had the tremendous foresight to divide profits and share the millions in revenue equally between all teams.  That meant money from CBS, ABC, NBC (and later FOX and ESPN) would be divided into equal shares between New York, Chicago, Los Angeles — and much smaller cities like Green Bay.  Despite the big market teams enjoying significantly greater numbers of fans and viewers, Rozelle and Hunt (along with team owners) understood that the overall game — the COLLECTIVE (remember our Marxism, classmates) — would be much better off if all teams were given an equal chance to compete, win, and prosper.  In 1970, the two leagues merged and adopted this same policy for all teams.

Wow, talk about a chapter straight out of Das Capital.

Today, all NFL teams receive an equal share of the profits generated from the league’s coffers.  For this reason, Green Bay (population 70,000) can compete with New York (population 8,000,000).  Both teams can also be just as profitable.

By contrast, baseball maintains an economic system reminiscent of the robber baron days, an area of “haves” and “have nots.”  In baseball, big market teams reap and keep the lion’s share of their television money and horde their profits from merchandising.  Accordingly, big and powerful teams like the Yankees, Mets, Cubs, Angels, and Dodgers can buy up all the talent every year when players around the league become free agents.  Smaller cities like Kansas City and Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay — with far less money to spend on good players — can not compete.  The competitive imbalance causes fans in some cities to lose interest.  The entire league suffers.  That’s one reason why baseball’s TV ratings are in the shitter.

Indeed, while professional football is based on the principles of socialism, baseball remains very much wielded to the principles of capitalism.  And based on any tangible metric, the evidence is abundantly clear as to which system is more successful.

*****

Socialism’s intent is sharing resources and encouraging cooperation.

Let’s examine how the NFL operates as a business model.  Consider the following:

REVENUE SHARING — All 32 NFL teams share television money in equal shares.  “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need.”  Sound familiar?

MERCHANDISING PROFIT — Until 2010, NFL teams shared most of the royalties earned from merchandise sales.  However, courts ruled that this policy violated anti-trust laws.  Now, the 32 teams will be able to make their own deals, which ruins a system that has worked well for the past fifty years.  So, Jerry Jones becomes the owner of the NFL’s most valuable franchise, despite not winning a championship in a quarter-century (admit it — you knew the attack on Jones was coming).

THE NFL DRAFT — Every year, the weakest teams are given an advantage.  Sorta’ like the poor.  Losing teams are given the opportunity to make the first picks when drafting new players.  This gives bad teams a greater opportunity to improve and perhaps become better.  By contrast, the best teams must pick last in the draft.  This is the way taxation should work, according to the principles of socialism.  Tax the wealthy — they’ll still do fine.  At least the poor teams have the chance to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

SCHEDULING — The teams at the top get penalized.  They are required to play tougher schedules the following year.  The worst teams play a weaker schedule.  Whatever you think about this system, it works.  Chalk up another win for NFL socialism.

GAME DAY — All NFL teams play games on the same day at the same time (in rotation).  They are equals.  No team gets special treatment.  It’s not like baseball in which teams can play pretty much whenever they want.  No NFL team is permitted to schedule its games apart from the rest of the league.  The league strictly dictates pro football’s regular-season schedule and game times are known and expected by fans.  No outlier competition.  Total cooperation.  More socialism.

And so, virtually everything the NFL does is patterned on the principles of sharing and cooperation.  Profits are divided equally.  Teams needing help are given competitive advantages.  And teams that consistently perform well are asked to sacrifice more.

Conclusion:  The NFL is the best illustration of the success of socialism.

Footnote:  Okay, so this isn’t totally true.  But “Karl Marx” rolls off the tongue easier than Auguste Comte or Saul Alinsky.

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Busting the Myth of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Posted by on Jan 28, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 1 comment

 

 

Let’s destroy a myth right here and now.

“They’ve been fighting over there for centuries.”

We read and hear this canard all the time. Today, I’ve seen versions of the falsehood splattered all over social media. The saying goes — the Israelis and Palestinians have been fighting ever since biblical times.

Fact: No they haven’t.

The region was relatively peaceful until the creation of Israel in 1948 (actually the British mandate period after WW1 would be more technically accurate). Whatever one’s opinion of Israel and its “right to exist,” the territory today commonly known as Israel/Palestine was devoid of conflict from circa 1500 when the Ottomans ruled the land and peoples over four centuries until the 20th Century. While most of the world was engulfed in various land invasions and massacres, Palestinian and Jews lived and worked together side by side.

Pan-nationalist movements and religious extremism began to boil in the late 19th Century, coming to a neo-colonial “solution” with the Isreali state’s creation following WW2.

Sadly, the region has been a powder keg for nearly 70 years. I think most people, regardless of religion or politics or nationality would like to see peace. But let’s start the discussion with some facts and an understanding of actual history.

Next time you read some idiotic comment that goes: “They’ve been fighting over there for centuries” ……

…..perhaps you should mention they must be referring to EUROPE, which has been fighting for centuries, resulting in the deaths of tens of millions ever since the Crusades.

Yeah, I’m getting a little sick here of morally-superior acting Americans with absolutely zero knowledge of world history playing the “fighting for centuries” card when: (1) that is factually incorrect, and (2) most of our own origins have wallowed in bloodshed since the days of the Romans.

“They’ve been fighting over there for centuries” = bullshit.

One Final Thought:  I’m not a cartoonist, but I have a great idea for a cartoon that brings home this point. Have a Jew talking to a Palestinian in 1945 at the end of World War 2 and pointing at a map of the world and seeing Europe and much of Asian in ruins, and then one says to the other: “There’s no chance for peace. They’ve been fighting over there for centuries.”

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Starrfucker

Posted by on Jan 27, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 0 comments

 

 

Who was that hookworm who wiggled himself into the mighty chamber of United States Senate today, arguing in defense of the dark, venal, and incurable metastasis that is the Trump criminal presidency?

Who was that anti-constitutional parasite who once spent three years and blew $70 million in tax dollars investigating a shady old Arkansas real estate deal from more than a decade earlier — and then thousands of witnesses, truckloads of documents, and tens of thousands of billable legal hours later — ended up with the high crime and misdemeanor of ONE blow job?

Who was that scandal-plagued ex-college prez who resigned in disgrace only a few years earlier who now has the audacity to claim:

“The Senate is being called to sit as the high court of impeachment all too frequently…Indeed, we are living in what I think can aptly be described as the age of impeachment.”

It’s Ken Starr!

Wow.  What a past from the blast.

Twenty years ago, Ken Starr tried to argue an inappropriate sexual affair was grounds of impeachment and a guilty verdict in the U.S. Senate.

Today, the same Ken Starr slinked his way to the defense table, telling America with a straight face there’s been too much impeachment lately. Yes, the very same Ken Starr intent to bury Bill Clinton is now utterly dismissive of dirty deeds by THIS criminal president.

If Whitewater + Blowjob = Impeachment in Ken Starr’s legal universe…..can someone please compute his similar math calculation as to how: Abuse of Power + Obstruction of Congress = No Impeachment?

Hey, Kenny — I got another equation for ‘ya:

John Bolton = Monica Lewinsky.

Now, let me enjoy watching you try to unroll enough legal duct tape to keep Bolton’s mouth shut.

 

Note 1:  I was in agreement then and still agree now that Clinton should have been impeached for committing perjury.

Note 2:  “Starfucker” is the title of a Rolling Stones song from the 1970s.

Photo Credit:  Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune-Herald, via AP, File

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The 20 Most Baffling Grammy Award Winners of All Time

Posted by on Jan 26, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

 

 

Since the awards were first doled out in 1959, the Grammys have translated into little more than a rubbernecking exercise for millions of watchers baffled by what’s happened to popular music.

Now in its 62nd year, the annual presentation is a proverbial dumpster fire of clashing musical genres and a twisted assemblage of conflicting generational tastes.

The latest chapter of chaos combined with curiosity will be written on Sunday night, at 7 pm CST with the CBS live telecast of the Grammy Awards.

The mish-mash of generational rivalries, wandering attention spans, and awkwardly pigeon-holed acts crammed into misnamed categories have produced many inexplicable (and undeserving) winners.

What follows are my picks for the most outrageous Grammy Award winners of all time, along with my correct choice as to who should have won the award instead for that year.

Dishonorable Mention (11-20):

 

(20) “Moon River,” by Henry Mancini winning “Record of the Year” in 1962, instead of The Dave Brubeck Group for “Take Five.” Mancini was a wonderful composer and “Moon River” became a huge hit as the accompanying soundtrack to the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. But “Take Five” stood the test of time far better and it remains one of the best jazz recordings ever.

(19) “Use Somebody,” by Kings of Leon winning “Record of the Year” in 2010, instead of Lady Gaga for “Poker Face.” It’s not that “Use Somebody” isn’t a well-executed and deserving song. It’s just that Lady Gaga’s exemplary effort was far more innovative and globally infectious — both then and now.

(18) “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” by Bobby McFerrin winning “Record of the Year in 1989, instead of Michael Jackson for “Man in the Mirror.” Somehow, an annoying bubble-gum song with a terrible message (don’t worry, be happy? really? seriously?) topped the far more serious and deserving monster hit by one of the greatest artists in pop history (before his personal scandals). The only explanation for this egregious mistake was that voters must have been suffering from Michael Jackson fatigue, as he pretty much dominated the 1980s music scene and by then some rivals were bitterly tired of him.

(17) River: The Joni Letters, by Herbie Hancock winning “Album of the Year” in 2008, instead of Amy Winehouse for Back to Black. For more than three decades, Hancock has given the world a lot of great music. But this was far from is best career effort. Winehouse was the edgier, far more interesting, crossover-pick for her throwback R&B style and extraordinary vocal interpretations on what remains a flawless album (one of my favorite compositions of the last ten years).

(16) “You Light Up My Life,” by Debby Boone winning “Song of the Year” in 1978, instead of “Evergreen” performed by Barbra Streisand and composed by Paul Williams, which was the only tie in Grammy history. Boone’s embarrassingly cheesy ballad now comes across little more than a wide-lapelled polka-dotted fashion statement and a throwback to a gutless period in popular music dominated by coked-up disco queens and the vanilla saccharine of Barry Manilow. It’s hard to believe nominees the Eagles, Carly Simon, and Glen Campbell all lost to this sappy feather-haired nobody. My two choices would have been either Stevie Wonder (“Sir Duke“) or the brilliantly-composed “Star Wars Theme,” by the great composer John Williams.

(15) “Games People Play” by Joe South winning “Song of the Year” in 1970, instead of anything else from the rich catalog of popular music recorded and released not just within the rock genre, but the golden era of Motown, as well. Even prolific composer Burt Bachrach, who had two nominations in this category (canceling each other out, most likely) was a far more deserving choice. Has anyone ever heard of Joe South since he walked on stage that night, beating out Diana Ross, the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Jackson 5, Neil Diamond, and B.B. King (“The Thrill is Gone” was eligible that year — how did that not win?).

(14) “Roseanna,” by Toto winning “Record of the Year” in 1983, instead of Willie Nelson for “Always on My Mind.” What an awful song and a regrettable pick. A disgrace. An embarrassment. Disreputable. Utterly baffling. Insane. Voters much have been smoking some of Willie Nelson’s weed. “Every Breath You Take” by the Police, “Sweet Dreams” by The Eurythmics, and “Beat It” by Michael Jackson all came out that year. “Roseanna” won over those songs? How?

(13) Two Against Nature by Steely Dan winning “Album of the Year” in 2000, instead of anything else released that year. Give it to Radiohead, Eminem, Paul Simon, or Beck — all who were nominated and then bypassed for the best album that year. Not Steely Dan. My picks would have been Garth Brooks’ live double album or Christina Aguilera’s self-titled debut best-seller.

(12) Hootie and the Blowfish winning “Best New Artist” in 1996, instead of either Alanis Morrissette or Shania Twain. No brainer. Enough said. No excuse for this oversight. Even at the time, anyone could see Morrissette and Twain’s natural talent and staying power as potentially volcanic forces in popular music. Not Hootie. Not the Blowfish.

(11) “Kiss from a Rose,” by Seal winning “Record of the Year” in 1996 instead of TLC’s “Waterfalls.” TLC was a wonderfully gifted R&B girl group, and this was their biggest crossover hit. But that didn’t matter. Seal’s overwrought and melodramatic torture of a song “Kiss from a Rose” won, mostly because the flop from two years earlier got remixed into the Batman movie soundtrack, and then quickly shot up the charts. That wasn’t even Seal’s best song released from that epic album. “Prayer for the Dying” was. Listen to the two songs. It’s no contest.

And now, the worst, least-deserving, most outrageous ten winners of all time:

The Top/Bottom Ten

.

(10) Milli Vanilli — “Best New Artist,” 1990

It’s easy to see a much clearer picture now, rather than back then, when these two pop music Grammy winners from Germany faked and lip-synched their way to a scandalous victory. Fortunately, their careers ended up on the ash heap of music history, which gives us all hope that the same fate could ultimately befall all the Autotune frauds and phonies. Milli Vanilli was exposed and discredited, their Grammy award was stripped away, and their careers mercifully ended, delighting those of us whose ears still painfully echo with the horrors of stolen music.  Using session musicians (and taking the credit) is problematic for any Grammy winner.  But committing fraud is another.  Good riddance.

Who Should Have Won — Indigo Girls

(9) “Winchester Cathedral” (The New Vaudeville Band) — Best Contemporary Song, 1966

In an astonishing year in music that produced timeless classics including — Born Free, California Dreamin’, Summer in the City, Strangers in the Night, Wild Thing, Good Vibrations, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, The Sound of Silence, Homeward Bound, Wipeout, Land of 1,000 Dances, If I Were a Carpenter, Zorba the Greek, and Yesterday (this is only a partial list!) — guess what song ended up winning the “Best Contemporary Song” Grammy that year? Answer — “Winchester Cathedral” by those rock legends, The New Vaudeville Band. Urgh!

Who Should Have Won — The Beach Boys (“Good Vibrations”)….or maybe not, since all the Beach Boys recordings were really done by The Wrecking Crew.

(8) Burl Ives (“Funny Way of Laughin”) — Best Country and Western Song, 1963

Burl Ives doesn’t get his historical due.  He was a multi-talented songwriter, musician, and actor — one of the few to be nominated for both an Oscar and Grammy. He performed folk songs, played villains in movies, did voiceovers, and was even blacklisted during the McCarthy era. Yet, he is perhaps best known today for his iconic song and self-portrayal in the annual “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” television program shown every Christmas season. Ives won a Grammy in 1963 for a song that’s since been forgotten, which wasn’t even a country song, edging out the iconic voice and life of George Jones, someone who would prove to be a giant influence in country music for the next five decades. Jones, then a breakout artist with one of his very first hit recordings, deserved the Grammy.

Who Should Have Won — “She Still Thinks I Can,” By George Jones

(7) Starland Vocal Band — Best New Artist, 1977

Look up the Starland Vocal Band sometime, if you want a good laugh. The group recorded had one lame hit, the wickedly torturous “Afternoon Delight,” the epitome of a musical bologna sandwich and a fitting soundtrack for the decline of Western civilization. Even the rock group Boston, which was nominated in this category, lost to the trifling trio. This was a very bad year for popular music, arguably the worst ever as rock was phasing into disco and (later) new wave. And punk was still considered an oddity, if not outright musical anarchy.  Note:  This very well could be ranked #1 as the worst, most undeserved Grammy Award ever given, and if you doubt this, check out THIS VIDEO.

Who Should Have Won — The Clash

(6) “Most High” (Jimmy Page and Robert Plant) — Best Hard Rock Performance, 1999

Every rock n’ roll and blues fan reveres the music of Led Zeppelin. That said, this was one of the two frontmen’s weakest efforts, no doubt brought about by the opportunity of a potentially lucrative reunion album and tour, however brief that lasted. Meanwhile, Marilyn Manson, Metallica, Pearl Jam, and Kiss were each overlooked by voters in this category. The Grammy voters got it wrong in Led Zeppelin’s heyday from 1968-1978 by not giving them any awards, and then committed and even more atrocious act by bestowing upon them what amounts to an apology award more than two decades later, long after their musical and cultural relevance was over.

Who Should Have Won — “The Dope Show,” by Marilyn Manson

(5) Eric Clapton (“Layla”) — Song of the Year, 1992

It’s painful to include master songwriter and performer Eric Clapton on any “undeserving list.” He’s one of the greatest guitarists in popular music in history and probably deserves far more official accolades. But his 1992 Grammy win for a re-worked acoustical version of a song initially recorded in 1970 made no sense whatsoever, especially given the force the musical force that Nirvana was at the time. The song that should have won instead defined a new sound and an entire generation and continues to receive praise as one of the most innovative rock songs ever recorded. It’s on virtually every “greatest” list of songs.

Who Should Have Won — “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (Nirvana)

(4) A Taste of Honey — Best New Artist, 1978

Disco was certainly king during the late 70s, and this honor was a mirrored ball tossed to a manufactured cookie-cutter musical group that ultimately became a one-hit-wonder, with that timeless classic “Boogie Oogie Oogie.” Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I don’t know it either. A Taste of Honey disbanded soon thereafter and would be a historical footnote were it not for their mystifying victory as the music industry’s “Best New Artist” in a year with far better nominees.

Who Should Have Won — Elvis Costello

(3) Bobby Russell (“Little Green Apples”) — Song of the Year, 1969

How could voters ignore the Beatles masterpiece “Hey Jude,” which was easily the most deserving song of the year? A landmark achievement, the self-composed track was the first single ever released on Apple Records and was recorded in the summer of ’68 following the group’s return from three-months in India. That turned out to be a gargantuan year for the Fab Four, with several hits coming off the Magical Mystery Tour sessions, followed by the stellar double-disc release only months later, known as The White Album. Oh, and then there were two other popular hit singles, “Revolution” and “Lady Madonna.” Breaking with tradition, “Hey Jude” wasn’t even included on any album collection (until after the group’s final breakup in 1970). The song spent a staggering nine weeks at number one, then a record — this in the midst of an explosive era when society was rapidly changing, racial and cultural barriers were coming down, and so much extraordinary music was being recorded — from rock n’ roll to Motown. “Hey Jude” shattered conventional formulaic radio-friendly thinking at the time, clocking in at more than 7 minutes. What begins as a slow piano-laden ballad with a single voice becomes an orchestral tour-d-force, finishing off with the memorable sing-a-long, “na, na, na — na, na, na, na.” Never has anything so simple sounded so amazing, as this live appearance in the U.K. on The David Frost Show reveals:


So, what won that year, instead? Chew on this. Bobby Russell’s mostly forgettable sleepy lullaby “Little Green Apples,” performed by O.C. Smith. Remember that one? I didn’t either. So, I had to look it up. Here’s the “Song of the Year” winner for what was arguably the greatest year of popular music in history.  And besides, the song was recorded by not less than three singers, also released as a single by Patti Page and O. C. Smith on separate occasions that same year.  What makes the Bobby Russell version special?  Answer — nothing.  Russell didn’t even write the song!  Outrageous.

 What Should Have Won — “Hey Jude” (The Beatles)

(2) Jethro Tull — Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance, 1988

Jethro Tull….heavy metal?  Indeed.  British rock group Jethro Tull floored the audience and shocked the music world in 1988, winning a Grammy in a category they had no business even being nominated in. The flute-infused rock act dusted off cobwebs from the early 1970s by winning the “Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance” honor, kicking far more deserving Metallica off to the curb. This incomprehensible oversight caused a major shakeup in the way musical genres were classified from that point forward. Two years later, Metallica, which was at the height of their creative peak, did indeed win a Grammy. The metal group took to the stage and famously quipped, “First thing we’re going to do is tank Jethro Tull for not putting out an album this year!”

 Who Should Have Won — Metallica

(1) Vaughn Meader (The First Family) — Album of the Year, 1963

Chances are, you’ve never heard of this artist or this mostly-forgotten album, which inexplicably won “Album of the Year” in 1963. In fact, this became one of the fastest-selling albums of all time and racked up with more than 7 million total records sold. Vaughn Meader’s entire act consisted of doing his impression of President John F. Kennedy, lampooning the famous Kennedy mystique, and mocking political events of the day. The first family reportedly hated it, which probably drove up sales even higher due mostly to curiosity. Strangely, way back then “Album of the Year” wasn’t just reserved for music. Comedy was also eligible for consideration (recall Bob Newhart’s landmark win in this category in 1961, which was probably well deserved). However, Vaughn’s off-the-wall album wasn’t even the best comedy performance of the year. That title most certainly should have gone to Lenny Bruce, then at the height of his popularity and in the news constantly at the subject of major controversy. Meanwhile, Vaughn Meader’s one-trick-pony career went into the tank after the terrible events of November 1963, since no one wanted to laugh anymore about dead President. All that’s remembered now is that this album should go down as the worst Grammy Award winner of all time.  Here’s the far better choice (here’s what a real singer sounds like without Autotune):

Who Should Have Won — I Left My Heart in San Francisco by Tony Bennett

 

Most Bizzare Five-Time Grammy Winner of All Time — Christopher Cross

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Guess who has more Grammy Awards than the Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Bob Marley, Diana Ross, Led Zeppelin, Queen, The Who, or Tupac Shakur — combined?

Answer — Christopher Cross.

This milquetoast music maven won a whopping five Grammys in the year 1980 for his breakthrough debut album, which produced a quick flurry of hit singles. But his syrupy one-dimensional ballads ended up as pop music’s equivalent of pet rocks and beanie babies. In fairness to Cross, he didn’t fit the ideal profile of an MTV-friendly artist, an 80s-era detour, which was entirely based on appearances and superficiality. Within a few years of a smashing debut and five fuddled acceptance speeches at that year’s Grammys, Cross had all but disappeared from the charts. His last Billboard appearance was way back in 1985.

Meanwhile, the Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Bob Marley, Diana Ross, Led Zeppelin, Queen, The Who, and Tupac Shakur have never won a Grammy Award.

 

NOTE:  READ MY COLUMN ON THE 2020 GRAMMY AWARDS HERE.

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