Tuesday, September 28, 2010

to the moon alice

We watched the strangest images on television.  We saw footage of rockets taking off, orbiting and voices crackling from outer-space.  Nations raced to the moon and we found ourselves in a new age - a space age.  I was in elementary school.  I kept up with the Apollo project's progress, set-backs, and triumph in my Weekly Reader.  I kept those little school newspapers for years, until the great news became old news.  What a wondrous time to be a kid.

We looked at surreal images on television news at 6.  We marveled at all the photos in the newspapers and magazines.  We wondered what it was like to actually see and hold a moon rock for ourselves.  Our heroes were astronauts.

I drank  A LOT of  Tang.  I drank it not just because it was what the astronauts drank, but because it came with a little lunar buggy toy.  I drank as much as I could and eventually owned an entire fleet of those little buggies.
I got a G.I. Joe capsule for Christmas one year.
Before the space race, space was science fiction.  Space was elusive and mysterious and yet in our time - obtainable.  Having men strapped to rockets and shot into deep space stirred a boy's imagination.  And there we were, growing up among giants who proved the impossible possible.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

68 Comeback Special

As a kid, I just didn't get the Elvis thing.  I knew he was on the radio a lot.  I knew he was on television a lot.  Elvis seemed to be everywhere, and quite frankly, I didn't understand it.  I thought he was a teen idol.  I guess that was because my older sisters liked him, and anytime a movie came on, they would claim the Zenith.  I didn't like his movies. 

Turns out, Elvis didn't either.  Elvis did want to act, but didn't care for most of the formulaic flicks he starred. Boy meets girl, boy sings to girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy sings to girl, boy gets girl.  Insert a drag race, generic bad guy and a fist fight in there and you've got the not so secret formula for an Elvis movie.

Frankly, I tolerated the guy.  I didn't understand why he was such a big deal.  I never have owned an Elvis record.  Not an LP, not a single 45.  I still don't own one, but my mind was altered one night.

Back in the mid-eighties I was working a night shift at Eckerd Drugs.  Sometimes I would work the register, but I preferred clean-up and restocking.  There was a television overhead in the little electronics department.  MTV was playing Elvis Presley's  '1969 Comeback Special'.  Not being an Elvis fan, I had never experienced it prior to 1985.   That night, I stopped sweeping and was captivated.   I saw and heard Elvis as I had never seen and heard him.  He was good!   He was on that stage belting out his old hits on an acoustic and by damn - ELVIS was KING of ROCK & Roll!

Why did it take me so long?  Elvis went through many transformations.  I didn't really pay any attention to him the years prior to his death.  His collars got bigger and he started dressing more like Liberace...or Liberace started dressing more like Elvis.  I don't know - chicken or the Elvis?  Nevertheless, Elvis had finally revealed his talent to me postmortem.

I liked Elvis on stage in 68, even with his flubs, he was great.  I enjoyed every song that came from his mouth.  I enjoyed the comradery with his pals on stage.  He owned the moment.  Elvis was in control.

I'll tell you something, my favorite artists are those who are good on stage.  I enjoy talent that can pick up a guitar and perform a song without the need of a band-aid, or the gloss of a studio.  Elvis had everything.  I saw that night that the man was having a blast on stage. He gave it all that he had.  He had fun up there and the audience had fun because he was having fun.

I like different artists, and different genres of music.  The common thread throughout my musical likes is that the artist I appreciate loves music, loves playing it, loves performing it.  It shows.  Am I making sense?  I hope so.  I like to watch Eric Clapton perform, because he's not just performing, he loves what he's doing and that's the main reason I enjoy his concerts.  He's fun to watch. Johnny Cash was the same way.  He just loved music, all kinds of music. Just keep an eye out for his old variety show.  He played country music, but his music taste-buds were vast.  Johnny also had a real passion to sing.  It also showed.

No.  I have never owned a recording of Elvis.  He could sing the gamut, from country to inspirational to pop.  He could sing anything and make it a hit.  He was just that hunk-uv-hunk-uv-burning good at it.

So.  I discovered Elvis years after his death.  Heck, I even like his old movies now - cool, blue suede  and shaking - in all it's campy glory.  I dig the cheese now.  Viva Elvis!

I still don't get it with the skydiving Elvis', the Elvis look-a-likes, the people that think they can get up on stage and be the king.  It's kind of creepy and sad.  I think even Elvis himself would be kind of embarrassed by it.  "Hey look Elvis, it's you!"   Elvis, "Awe man, get me outta here."

Nope.  There's just not enough talent to measure up to the man himself.  Even if one did have that big a talent, why try to be Elvis.  With such a big talent, why not be yourself?  The jumpsuit after all doesn't make the man.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thatcher's favorite tune

'Two Little Boys' is a song written by American composer Theodore Morse and lyricist Edward Madden. It was written in 1902 and became a popular music hall song of the time, made popular by Harry Lauder. It describes the story of two boys who grow up to fight in the American Civil War. In 1969 it became a surprise No. 1 top selling single for entertainer Rolf Harris in the United Kingdom."
- Wikipedia

I was surprised this morning to find out that the war referred to in the song was The Civil War, and not some European endeavor. The version you are listening to now was recorded in 2008, in remembrance of the 90th Anniversary of WW1.

This is another song that was heard around the Finlayson household in the early seventies. My sister Jennie was quite good with it and frequently asked to play it. Though Rolf brought the song out of obscurity, this is another song that I think Jennie sang better than the artist that performed it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

melonie's little beetle

My sister Jennie used to sing this song decades ago. I think she actually did a better job than Melanie. Last night I was bathing my youngest daughter and sang the almost forgotten tune. Melanie Safka had other folk hits during the late '60's - early 70's. 'Brand New Key', 'Beautiful People' and 'What Have They Done To My Song Ma'.

Never heard of her? Melanie was the ninth act to perform at Woodstock. The slot she played was originally intended for the Incredible String Band, who refused to play in the rain. Her experience at Woodstock later inspired her to write 'Lay Down' (Candles in the Rain). Melanie is an authentic flower child...er...flower elderly person (now).