Monday, November 10, 2014

Monkey Man

“Tweeter was a boy scout before she went to Vietnam
And found out the hard way nobody gives a damn
. . . .
Jan said to the Monkey man, ‘I’m not fooled by Tweeter’s curl
I knew him long before he ever became a Jersey girl.”
            “Tweeter and the Monkey Man,” Traveling Wilburys

Bob Dylan sings “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” on the first Traveling Wilburys CD with help from Tom Petty, George Harrison, and Jeff Lynne.  The New Jersey tale contains references to Brice Springsteen songs, including “Stolen Car,” “State Trooper,” and “Mansion on the Hill.”  It’s a playful tribute to the “Boss,” dubbed “the next Dylan” when he first started out.

“Monkey Man” by the Rolling Stones has silly lyrics (“I’m a cold Italian pizza, I could use a lemon squeezer”), but, appearing on the seminal 1969 album “Let It Bleed,” was very popular and one of my favorites.  It’s on the soundtrack for the 1990 Martin Scorsese film “Goodfellas.”

 “Monkey Man” is also a 1969 Toots and the Maytals song recorded by the Specials that starts out, “This one’s for the bouncers.  Big, big . . . Monkey Man!”  Back in 1979 I almost wore out the self-titled Specials album, and all of us loved to dance to their ska music.  The Specials last big hit was “Ghost Town,” where they lament the demise of ska clubs where they had once played. 
Alissa loves the Grand Rapids ska band Mustard Plug.  Describing their latest album, “Can’t Contain It,” released in January on No Idea Records, Dave Kirchgessner said that it demonstrates the “strong evolution in our sound and our art while still staying true to the goal of playing party music for punk rockers.”  I found several Mustard Plug videos on YouTube, including “Hit Me!  Hit Me!” and, my favorite, “Beer Song.”

For the fourth episode of “Sonic Highway” the Foo Fighters visited the original set of “Austin City Limits,” the PBS show that introduced me to cutting edge country rockers, not to mention groups that I already loved, such as the Pixies and Sonic Youth.  Longtime producer Terry Lickona showed off a piano that Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, and Tom Waits played on.  It should be in the Smithsonian, David Grohl declared. 

Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top pointed out that psychedelic rock started in Austin with Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators and that his first band, Moving Sidewalks, emulated the on their hit single “99th Floor.”   As at previous stops, Grohl talked about local punk bands, such as the Big Boys, skateboarders who played funk punk, and Butthole Surfers, whose member Gibby Haynes laments (with a straight face) that the band never got booked on “Austin City Limits.”  There are clips of Willie Nelson July Fourth parties and Jimmy Vaughan of the fabulous Thunderbirds describing brother Stevie Ray at age 17 jamming with Albert King at the blues club Antone’s.  When he and teen prodigy Gary Clark, Jr., played Antone’s, a bouncer would mark their hands with an “X” to denote that they were underage.

My favorite bouncer was a long-haired biker at Leroy’s Hot Stuff in Porter who loved Dave’s band Voovdoo Chili, always wore one of the band’s t-shirts when they played, and let the entire Voodoo Chili entourage in without paying the cover charge.  Papy and harriet’s in Pioneertown, CA., also employ a couple huge biker types who are good-natured unless you cross them.

It’s official!  They’ll be an Upper Dublin Class of 1960 reunion next October.  Connie Heard and Larry Bothe sent out an announcement.  I called old friend John Jacobson, who asked me about Penny Roberts (a good friend but very competitive, who moved away after seventh grade), Vince Curll (my mentor concerning the facts of life who eschews reunions), Pam Tucker (my first real girlfriend who reconnected with me ten years ago and was disappointed I was happily married), and Ray Bates (whose father taught us Spin the Bottle at a seventh grade party – can’t recall if he stayed around to watch).

Fred and Diane Chary invited me to be on their Trivia Night team at Temple Israel.  I wasn’t much help to them last time but am flattered to do it and enjoy being with my old colleague whenever I can.  Anne Balay was on our team last time but probably will be on the road during the January date.

Jeopardy is back on at 3:30, a year after moving to 2:30.  A contestant identified the Kingston Trio hit as “John Dooley” and then tried just saying “Dooley” but Alex Trebek wouldn’t allow it.  I’m definitely slower than at my prime.  In the “Ages and Eras” category I knew Progressive Era and Jazz Age but wouldn’t have buzzed in time.  For city nicknames Gary (Steel City”) was one of the answers.  The final question was a work by a nineteenth century British children’s book illustrator.  All three contestants knew it was by artist Randolph Caldecott, someone I’d never heard of until Toni told me there’s an award named for him.
In “The Invisible Bridge” Rick Perlstein concludes that Americans seemed especially fascinated with sex in the mid-70s, as indicated by tell-all books about JFK’s affairs and the peccadillos of Congressmen Wayne Hays (whose secretary admitted she couldn’t type) and Wilbur Mills (caught cavorting with a stripper known as the “Argentine Firecracker”).  Best sellers included Marabel Morgan’s “The Total Woman” (suggesting that women greet their husbands at the front door dressed only in transparent saran wrap) and Alex Comfort’s “More Joy: A Lovemaking Companion to the Joy of Sex.”  Perlstein wrote: “Christian couples devoured Beverly and Tim LaHaye’s ‘The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love,’ which explained of the clitoris that God ‘placed it there for your enjoyment,’ and excoriated the husband who told his frustrated wife, ‘Nice girls aren’t supposed to climax.’”

In New York Review of Books Robert G. Kaiser asserted that Perlstein exaggerated the degree to which the country was falling apart in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate, traumatic as those events were.  Concerning Perlstein’s “apocalyptic portrait of the late Sixties and early Seventies,” Kaiser wrote:

  “Everything he mentions really happened: there were urban riots, bombs planted by anarchists and nihilists, two attempts to assassinate Gerald Ford, meat shortages and long lines at gas stations, and much more.   But . . . most citizens, as always, paid scant attention to politics.  There were pennant races to enjoy every summer and football every autumn weekend, new Motown songs on the radio, and an emotional celebration of the Bicentennial in July 1976.”

Kaiser concludes: “Like all polemicists, Perlstein simplifies to make his case; but it is a case that is too simple to be historically accurate.”
Perlstein mentions an incident that occurred on April 25, 1976, at Dodger Stadium.  Two spectators ran onto the field, doused an American flag with lighter fluid, and attempted to set it on fire.  Cubs centerfielder Rick Monday ran over to them, grabbed the flag, and carried it to the Dodger dugout.  As the two guys were led off the field, Monday recalled that people in the stands sang, “God Bless America.”  I was watching the game but don’t remember fans singing.  Monday did get a standing ovation, however, and, traded during the off season for Bill Buckner, played in Dodgers Stadium for six years.
Jeff Manes’ Sunday SALT column was on Archives volunteer David Mergl, a photographs at Bethlehem Steel for 20 years; then, as an independent contractor, he worked in several other area mills as well.  Mainly he photographed accidents and employed skills as a graphic artist to design safety cartoons.  His trademark was to always put wisecracking rats in them.  Mergl helped out at the Hobart Gazette in return for having use of its dark room.   Mergl showed Manes a book containing 5,000 of his prints, jpegs of which he has put on CDs.
Coach Carson Cunningham made a triumphant return to Northwest Indiana over the weekend.  His Carroll College basketball team scrimmaged Purdue in West Lafayette and then defeated Purdue North Central and IUN on successive days.  Ron Cohen, at the latter game Sunday, reported that Carson asked about me.  Purdue coach Matt Painter said of Cunningham: “He’s a guy who can wear a lot of hats and be good at it.”  Wonder if he is teaching a sports history course.
We were at Memorial Opera House with the Hagelbergs for “The Mysterious Death of Edward Drood.”  The musical farce was based on a nineteenth century theatrical company (the Music Hall Royale) staging a whodunit based on an unfinished Charles Dickens novel.  At the end the audience voted on who was the murderer.  Cast members dressed in Victorian outfits and hammed it up.  The narrator asked us to boo every time the villain appeared on stage.  A cross-dressing women, introduced as the famous male impersonator Miss Alice Nutting, played Drood.
Jerry Davich asked me to point out locations for his upcoming book “Lost Gary.”  Recently Davich posted a photo of Dunes Bowling Alley, also known as 12/20 Lanes, a place where he claimed often visited while playing hooky from school.  I suggested childhood residences of famous celebrities, such as IU football great George Taliaferro (2676 Madison), combat photographer Johnny Bushemi (3500 Connecticut), Coach Hank Stram (4316 Madison), and Congressman Pete Visclosky (3877 Madison).  He replied, “That’s a great idea.  I’ll do it for sure.”  On the way to bowl a couple practice games (to try out a new glove) I drove by the sites.  The Taliaferro and Visclosky bungalows were boarded up, but the other two looked decent and occupied.  If Davich could get people still alive to revisit their old homes, that would really be neat.

Still slightly weak from a cold, I skipped the book club discussion about the Vikings.  Earlier I had asked Dave Parnell why most Viking conquerors converted to Christianity.  I speculated it had to do with social control and social acceptance.  Indicating I was on the right track, David reminded me that one needed to look at each case as unique, as it may, for example, have been the result of missionary activity or a leader’s desire to form a diplomatic alliance, but that just because a group paid lip service to the new religion didn’t necessarily mean that old beliefs suddenly died out.

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