Keep Reaching For The Stars

There were only two (2) radio shows that I considered to be so vital that I would regularly record them to listen to later.

The other one was The Howard Stern Show.

However, way before I was a rabid fan of the KOAM, I was listening to American Top 40. The show, which began airing when I was two years old, was certainly required listening for me by the time I was, oh, what, eight?

I can specifically remember acts and songs Casey introduced me to. “Ring My Bell” by Anita Ward. “Life’s Been Good” by Joe Walsh. “Emotion” by Samantha Sang (and the Bee Gees). “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran. And on and on and on and on.

Kasey Casem long passed on his mantle to Ryan Seacrest, and I have long stopped listening, except occassionally when I think to catch the rebroadcast on satellite radio. (And rebroadcasting the Casem-era countdowns is such a stroke of genius that I’m certain Sirius will end the practice soon if it has not already.) Because there’s only one fella as far as I’m concerned who was up to this task. (And also, admittedly, because I am an old man who is no longer interested in most of the product touted by the good ol’ Top 40.

Anyway, so long to the steadiest voice ever to air, and thanks for feeding me music for many, many years.

Radio Legend Casey Kasem Dead at 82

Not to mention: “A political liberal, he narrated a campaign ad for George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign,[16] hosted fundraisers for Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988,[17] supported Ralph Nader for U.S. President in 2000, and supported progressive Democrat Dennis Kucinich in his 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns.[18]”

And now for something glib and probably inappropriate, but utterly unavoidable:

Or this

Also of interest

Dad got one of these for Fadah’s Day.

Clear eyes. Full hearts. Hope it fits.

(He confirms that it does fit. Can’t lose!)

“But [O.J. Simpson’s manager Norman] Pardo also says [O.J.] Simpson asked that race not be the focal point of his Nevada defense because Illinois senator Barack Obama was running in the presidential election that November and Simpson didn’t want to hurt his chances.”

Maybe the man is redeemable after all.

(C’mon. JOKING.)

Twenty years after infamous Bronco chase, O.J. Simpson still a mystery

“A sewer worker is like a brain surgeon. We’re both specialists.” (Edward Lillywhite Norton)

Beth Scalet

I was 11 years old, I think, and I was staying with the family in southeast Kansas, and my Dad was to join us on Christmas morning. I remember waiting for him, and I remember him walking in the door and handing me a record album in Christmas wrapping. I unwrapped it.

The album was called “It’s a Living…” by Beth Scalet, with the artist’s plucky, smiling face ostensibly cruising down the road in a convertible. I think I thanked my Dad for the gift at the time, surely I must have; but I don’t remember at the time being much impressed.

As I grew older, I would, from time to time, put this collection on my turntable. Dad shared at some point this was a friend of his, which must have impressed me at some point to listen. The album grew with me, or I with it, through the years and was and is now one of my favorites ever of all time. It is a masterful, authentic, and lovely set of songs of which I have often been downright evangelistic about.

Beth was an independent artist based in the Kansas City area. Think Melissa Etheridge but without “I’m The Only One.” You know. Kinda. Among Beth’s last recording efforts was a mash note to Bob Dylan, “Beth Loves Bob.”

I am glad to have had an e-mail exchange with her a few years ago telling her this. I am glad she knew she counted me as a fan.

Sadly, this week, Beth Scalet stopped refusing to die.

Her music is on Amazon and CDBaby.

She was really something.

Through Being Cool

Noting the passing of Devo founder and fellow Rough Rider Bob Casale.

If you’d like to stand in regard of Casale’s musicianship, I’d pick this out as a good example. The original “Girl U Want” holds at a spastic tempo, but they slowed it for this application, to a tempo I think would take a great discipline for a rhythm guitarist to maintain.

From my friend Alan Canfora: “On May 4, 1970, Bob Casale was a 16-year old high school kid at Kent Roosevelt High School while his older brother Jerry was an anti-war protester at the nearby Kent State University campus. During the Kent massacre, Jerry Casale dodged bullets and survived but his friends Jeff Miller and Allison Krause were killed. On that day, Jerry stopped being a hippie and the concept of de-evolution was born, Jerry Casale says. The lives of Gerald Casale, Bob Casale and so many others changed on that day.”

Jerry Casale spoke at length as to how the shootings at Kent State was a catalyst for Devo.

My Dad and I haz a stupid joke. One of us says “Are we not men?” And the other of course replies, “We are Devo.” Probably we were in Tower Records once and saw the album cover.

I didn’t actually consider the album until years later, but man, it is fantastic, as is just about anything Devo you can get your hands on. I lurve this band, and it’s a shame Bob2 went now because they were just gearing up to be Devo again.

In Other News: Timing is Everything

Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz

As you may well know, the world lost Marian McPartland in 2013.

McPartland, jazz pianist, composer, writer, and host of course of Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz on National Public Radio, and, not to mention, Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Sadly, Frank Zappa’s appearance on her radio show in 1988 is lost to the ages. It is, however, documented by All About Jazz dot com.

For her solo feature, McPartland again shows off a bit with an impressionistic take of Zappa’s “Twenty Small Cigars,” causing its composer to ask, “Do you wanna go on the road with us?” Finally, all ends well with a rousing finale of “King Kong,” prompting McPartland to say, “I’ve never had so much fun playing rock!”

Such a shame it can’t be heard.

It Was 20 Years Ago Today

I want to start my Zappadan blogging by remembering Bill Tchakirides.

Bill was a regular Zappadan blogger at Under The Lobsterscope. The last entries indicate that Bill died on April 27, 2013 after a cancer diagnosis.

So, sadly, we’ll be one voice short this year. Cheers, Bill.

As Frank weakened, Gail tried to cheer him up by organizing regular Friday night soirées in which people from the band, other musicians, plus a few people from the arts and film worlds would come over to talk, drink margaritas and play music. ‘We would have these wonderful eclecitc conglomerations of people,’ recalled Phil Abrams, the Amazing Bubble man, who entertained by blowing bubbles; documentary film-maker Chris Sykes; and a trio of Tuvan throat singers from South Siberia (Kaigal-ool Khovalyg, Anatoly Kuular and Kongar-ool ondar, members of Huun-Huur-Tu), complete with translators, who were touring the United States for the first time. (Barry Miles, “Zappa: A Biography,” page 376.)

You may, if you are so inclined, watch a great deal of these sessions on YouTube:

These unedited moments are chaotic and often nothing’s really going on, but this is the farthest inside the UMRK you’re ever going to get, and it may be the only glance we have of the last time Frank Zappa wielded any kind of creative powers. And, they’re downright sweet to watch; there is a grand sense in these films of profound warmth and generosity. Zappa in his final year or so I think got more of what he wanted than he’d ever had: Music. Pure music. The best.

The salad party footage is some darned nice film for your typical Zappa mouth-foamy fanatic and a great way to kick off Zappadan. Come on, let’s play the Feud.

Name an event that is not Frank Zappa’s death that also has an anniversary on this date.

Um…uh…Montreaux Casino Fire!

good answer good answer

Montreaux Casino Fire! Survey says!


Ladies and gentlemen, here is actual audio from the Montreaux Casino Fire of December 1971, which prevented Don Preston from carrying out his excellent synth solo during “King Kong…” and ultimately led to one of the most memorable guitar riffs in rock music.

Audio is apparently availble on Beat The Boots II: Swiss Cheese / Fire! The link gives you the playlist, which is of course interesting to peruse.

Hey, Aaron. Don’t you usually pick a theme and write about the theme during Zappadan?

Yes, imaginary questioner, yes I do.

And this year’s theme is AAAFNRAA.


We end today’s Bummernacht proceedings with footage found on the YouTube of Zappa’s sister Patrice and friend Shirley remembering Frank Zappa on his birthday 2011 at his gravesite at the Pierce Bros. Westwood Memorial Park. I like these gals. They’re funny.

Merry Zappadan to you and yours and may you encounter many giraffes horking whipped cream. And miracles. Many many Zappadan miracles to you!

P.S. Come back tomorrow. We have something special planned.

You’ll Never Find…

  • Served in the 82nd Airborne.
  • Pronounced dead in 1958. (Actually died in 2006.)
  • Performed at the Hollywood Bowl in 1959.
  • Sang background vocals for Sam Cooke.
  • Opened for the Beatles in 1966.
  • Won his first Grammy in 1967.
  • Stood in for Dean Martin in 1969.
  • Sang the National Anthem at Shavers-Ali in 1977 (and subsequently many many times after)
  • Sang the alphabet on Sesame Street in its first season.
  • Appeared in an episode of Baywatch.
  • One of Frank Sinatra’s favorite voices.
  • Reported to be played by Isaiah Washington in an upcoming biopic.
  • Remembering him today, on what would have been his 80th birthday.

Lou Rawls

Happy Birthday, Elis Regina

Elis Regina

While many other people will be pretending that they’re Irish today for some reason that’s never been clear to me and chugging green beer, a phenomena that also eludes my comprehension, I will be working and then scurrying home hoping to avoid the puking amateurs and hoping that the parade from yesterday will have acted as enough of a pressure valve for said amateurs.

But I will also be thinking of Elis.

Elis Regina, born March 17, 1945, died January 19, 1982 at the age of 36 of the cursed curse of many too-young popular musical artists: The drug overdose. You may not know Elis Regina. But you probably know Elvis and of how adored he was in the United States. Well. It was estimated that 80,000 came to see Elvis upon his death.

Similarly, it was estimated that 100,000 came to see Elis.

I discovered her while researching a song I love, “Waters of March,” as sung by Jane Monheit. I found this.

Yes. This corny lip-sync performance during which a cigarette magically appears in the woman’s right hand, with those awful-looking headphones and which can’t help but remind me of an Electric Company sketch—wait, maybe that’s why it appealed to me—this is what introduced me to Elis Regina. I had to know who that woman was.

Which led me to the Música Popular Brasileira special of 1973.

You want to experience a bit of effortless perfection today? Here.

Ladeira da Preguiça

Upa Neguinho

Vou Deitar e Rolar (Qua Qua Ra Qua Qua)

Or, if you’d like to see the completo programa (1:34):

I purchased her “Come e Porque” for download on eMusic. I like to place it with one of those soaring recording collections that stays put, like Stevie Wonder’s “Innervisions” or Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” It’s that good.

Canto De Ossanha

(a song for which I’ve found an interesting translation and story…here…)

Anyway. So. Today marks the St. Patty’s day. Have a beer. But have one for Elis, too. K?

Hello, It’s Johnny Cash’s Birthday

Many a fan steals a favorite image of him for blog-posty uses, Johnny Cash flipping the bird with a twisted up face. Like a lot of his fans, I adore that image. Defiant. Outlaw. Pissed off.

There’s a heck of a story about that image, and it’s told well here. You should go read it and come back.

I thought I’d steal a different image of him though today. Here’s Johnny holding a kitteh.

Johnny Cash holding a kitteh.

Had J.R. Cash lived to today, he’d have been 81.

A friend who could play just about any Cash song you could name (on the guitar, not the radio) made me appreciate the music. Before that, I was rather close-minded about it. I’m so glad for that. Because friend, if you’ve never sat down and listened to the entire Folsom album, you’re denying yourself one of life’s better pleasures.

If you haven’t, well, here it is.

Added bonus: Johnny and June lighting up a stage.

In related news, related in that Shel Silverstein also penned a little ditty called “A Boy Named Sue:”

Fred Thomas

By the time I ended up in Kent, Ohio, life had taken a couple of turns. My folks had divorced, and I had moved from the town of my birth and where I considered to have been my home town of Lawrence, Kansas, to Topeka, Kansas, for fourth grade and to the suburbs of Pittsburgh for the first half of fifth grade.

I think a kid like that misses out on some socialization. He’s constantly introduced to new already established social constructs and has to do a lot more clawing and put up with the hazing.

A kid like that is the odd kid out, and he knows it.

In fifth grade, I found another kid who was in the same boat. Fred Thomas. For much of the rest of our careers at Holden Elementary, we were best buddies, I think in large extent to that we both felt like the odd guys out. He, too, was new in the school having transferred I believe from the local parochial school. He was also biracial, something I’m sure he had to find his way through at the time. And, he was, like me, somewhat of an odd guy who I think felt a lack of foundation.

Fred could flip. I will never forget the day he demonstrated this in the playground. He jumped up in the air, flipped, and landed on his feet. Quite the athlete. But I never knew anyone more earnest than Fred. He was a nice guy. A genuine guy. I liked Fred. You had to.

He and I went to different social circles when we went to junior high as does happen. But I am full of gratitude for Fred for agreeing to be friends with the other odd man out, because I’ll tell you, at the time, I didn’t have much else.

I found out today that Fred has died of cancer. A good friend, a good man, and, once upon a time, my best friend.

Peter Schoettler, 44; Musician and Scholar

Pay attention. You never know when you might be witnessing the end of something grand.

That was how it was, in the eighth grade, when you’re in that hot stinky band room, seated in that metal folding chair, trying to master some crappy musical composition written for eighth grade band called “Sirocco,” or “Windstar,” and
your band director—in the middle of YELLING AT YOU to play quietly—your band director awkwardly announces that the director of the band at the high school collapsed with an aneurysm and died.

And you have no idea at the time, but the world just tilted.

Because the next year in high school marching band you’re in the first class to have four years with the new guy. So your first year is the last year with the full compliment of traditional pomp before the new guy starts whipping your band into shape to compete. Before you start going “corps.” And your immediate mentors are the last ones to know first-hand why to hate that.

The changes soon to come will have you, an adolescent in 1984, feeling wistful over John Phillip Sousa. Eventually, you will no longer do run-on, which is one of the most exciting performance devices you’ve ever been a part of, the driving
cadence, the double-time march, the grrrrrr, such a hormone rush that you’d end each show with more zits than when you started. The first time I did run-on, my squad leader fell down. Instinctively, I tried to help her up. She looked at me fiercely and yelled KEEP GOING! And she was right. Tell me you don’t learn things in marching band.

Anyway. There will be shows that blow minds—six drum sets on the field for “Sing, Sing, Sing” comes to mind (not written by Benny Goodman actually, but by Louis Prima? Really?)—but there will be lots of geometrical shapes in your future as well. Sigh.

For definition’s sake: In a marching band, there is a position known as “drum major,” or “field director.” This is a position of student leadership, usually filled by a senior or seniors who have conducted themselves admirably in a strong marching band career and who pass a vigorous audition. It is the drum major or the field directors who actually direct the marching band during a show while the band director actually sits up in the press box and video tapes the whole thing so he can watch it later and tell you all what you did wrong.

The person or people who fill this position always start out as the most awesome people you know, and the experience makes them even better people. At least I think that’s how it works. These people seem to preternaturally exude leadership, charisma, showmanship, and generally good nature. This was true of every person who played this role every year I was at high school.

But every one of them was trying to be Pete Schoettler.

Pete was the last of the Kent Roosevelt marching band old guard, the last drum major, the last to wear the Q-Tip hat, the last to wield a baton. The following year, we went to field directors, and I do not want to belittle the considerable talents of those student leaders. But if you asked any of them through the years what one person inspired them, what one person served as their model, there’s not a one of them who’d not come back to Mr. Schoettler.

Pete was iconic in this role. If Elvis, if Einstein, if Tiger Woods had instead aspired to lead a high school marching band, they would have been Pete Schoettler. He was the role; he defined the role; he created and mastered the balance among
showman, mentor, and commanding officer that is needed for the job. I am convinced that the four years of excellence our marching band was able to achieve would not have been possible without the leadership of Pete Schoettler. By example, he inspired at least four years of young performers who were so privelged as to have marched and played under his mentoring.

Schoettler’s obituary says he died in August, but I have just today learned of it. He’d gone to Juliard and had a Ph.D. from NYU; and I quote: “…he also transcribed the Renaissance madrigals of Carlo Gesualdo for brass quintet (for his doctoral dissertation).” Always impressive, he died a law student.

But in Kent Roosevelt High School marching band, Pete Schoettler held an important historical role, and he executed it brilliantly. He was the last drum major. I like to think that after Pete, they needed two people to do a job he did alone. Pete was the end of an era. And his brilliance and his integrity were rare but were so powerfully staying that they became a part of the atmosphere at my high school.

I just thought I might mention it.