Saturday, June 30, 2007

Spacemen and Song Poems

After browsing through the incredible, ofttimes oddball, Waxidermy site, I found myself wandering aimlessly all over the internet. Good luck following the long-winded tangents that follow. (It starts with a nutty song, passes through alien abducted artist, past a pot smoking ball-player and back to vintage rock n' roll roots.) If you want to skip to the MP3 links, they're at the bottom of the post.

It started at Waxidermy, where I found a few song-poems. For the uninitiated, song-poems are songs created around poems or lyrics that people would send in with a fee and in return receive a recording of their work made into a song by complete strangers, usually musicians trying to eek out a living making music by whatever means necessary.

The particular song-poem that wound me up was "Space Scene," a song so brilliantly naive that it might as well be performed verbatim on Saturday Night Live. Sample lyric: "I'm a spaceman, zippin' and-a zappin, here and there, dancin' my life away." (Even if you're not into oddball stuff, consider throwing your friend into a pool of confusion by sticking it in the middle of a mix CD.) This is where I should have stopped, but I didn't.

Next stop: The Spaceman of Ocean Beach. In searching for a generic spaceman picture to accompany the Space Scene link, I ran into a whole YouTube page dedicated to Clint Cary, better known as the Spaceman of Ocean Beach, and his friend Bob Oaks. Spaceman, a painter, came to Ocean Beach (in San Diego) in the early sixties. He claimed to have met aliens from a planet called Rillispore, and that they essentially gave him the responsibility of assigning seats for a mankind-saving journey back to their planet.

If you ever met Spaceman, you were likely to be assigned a mysterious number, given to ensure passage on the flight to Rillispore. XIB/2 was Spaceman's number, and others were doled out in numerical order. (XIB/1, in case you're wondering, was some higher power's number. Why a higher power would require a ride on a spaceship is anyone's guess.)

Bob Oaks, also in the clips, was one of his best friends, a jazz musician who lived his last 30-odd years in the big cottage on the north side of the OB pier. Oaks met Spaceman when, as a favor for a friend, he picked him up from the airport upon his first arrival. They remained close friends until Spaceman's death in 1993.

Oaks is credited with tempering the community's view of Spaceman, preventing him from being seen as a total crackpot. While Spaceman's life was at times disfunctional, and his stories literally unbelievable, he was smart, well spoken and harmless (at least in his later years).

If you've spent much time in O.B.,
the Spaceman/Oaks footage on YouTube should be considered required viewing as it provides some insight into the orgins of Ocean Beach's "anything goes" reputation. And taken as a whole, the clips paint a wonderful picture of friendship between two aging artistic eccentrics. (Here's another little blurb, from Citybeat's site.)

Next stop: Bill "Spaceman" Lee. Still needing an image of a spaceman, any spaceman, I happened upon a site for a documentary about Bill "Spaceman" Lee, a former Red Sox pitcher who was, in his day, the best known pothead in baseball. He's always been one of my favorite ball players. (I have a penchant for the oddballs, especially in baseball.) His observations about baseball, and life in general, went way beyond those of a normal ball player. At times insightful, often out there and almost always hilarious. The guy had brainy swagger.

"I think about the cosmic snowball theory. A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won't matter if I get this guy out." - Bill Lee

As it turns out, after being pretty much blackballed from the major leagues, Lee became a baseball mercenary, playing anywhere in any league that would hire him, including Russia and Cuba. You can view the trailer of the documentary here, read an interview here, and read more about him here. And don't miss the excellent quotes at Baseball Almanac.

SNAP! Shit, now I have one weird spaceman song, two unrelated spaceman sites and zero images. Again I search, this time for song poems...anything but spaceman. Now I end up on the American Song-Poem Music Archives, an exhaustivelly annotated overview of the genre.

Here comes the crafty seque back to MP3 blogs: The American Song-Poem Music Archives site is run by Phil Milstein, the same guy that does the highly recommended Probe is Turning-On the People. His latest post there (Session 157) is great, ten-plus downloads of songs that inspired early rock n' roll artists. Plus, there's keepers all over the site.

If you actually read all of that, my hat's off to you. Thanks for indulging me. I was just too stoked to find sites about two of my favorite square pegs to not go off.

Ralph Lowe's "Space Scene" at Waxidermy
(Photo above is the Ocean Beach version of Spaceman in the mid-sixties. I gave up on the generic image)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Barstool Mountain's first post from the Top 100 Drinking Songs is "A Six Pack to Go" by Hank Thompson. I think he posted it early as a result of my last post, where I all but begged for it. Someone in Chicago buy the man a beer and send me the bill.

"A Six Pack to Go" is a near perfect drinking song. It has the requisite twang, pedal steel, easy-to-remember lyrics and just a dash of remorse.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Charges of Voter Fraud Not Yet Filed

I used to drink a lot. A lot. I drank nightly for roughly 10-15 years. And it wasn't really what you'd call casual drinking. A twelve pack a night was not unusual, it was the norm. At my worst, I closed my favorite watering hole every night for two weeks straight, unintentionably. (I mean, really, if a streak was intended, I'd still be there at last call tonight.) It is with an abundance of drinking experiences, combined with a lifelong obsession with music, that I feel qualified to critique a list of "Top 100 Drinking Songs" posted on the blog Barstool Mountain.

Let me start by saying that I don't mean to look a gift horse in the face. Overall, the list is excellent. If you like drinking songs (and you know you do), then you really should check it out. He's going to be posting mp3s of the songs periodically, and there's some real gems in there. (Digitized "Six Pack to Go"!?! I've got my finger on the "Save as" button now!), But there is one thing...

Wait, before I go further I should add that I can't really fault the host. The list, originally posted on his other blog, Big Rock Candy Mountain, was culled from a vote, by whom I'm not sure (and don't really care). Apparently even some of the his favorites missed the cut. So, he's not to blame for the travesty of which I'm about to inform you. Please, steady yourself. I really don't want to be the one telling you this. But, fraught with worried caution, I must.

Jimmy Buffet is on the list.

Worse, Gang Green is not.

Contrast and compare:
Buffet's "Margaritaville": "Blew out my flip flop, stepped on a pop top"
Gang Green's "Alcohol": "I'd rather drink than fuck!"

Okay, you claim, I'm citing unrepresenative lyrics, selected to support my argument. Alright then, let's use the harshest lyrics from Margaritaville: "Wasted away again in Margaritaville"?!? That's it? That's all you've got? No goddamn self-respecting (or self-loathing for that matter) drunk is going to sing about some fantasy place called "Margaritaville."

"Free Beer City" maybe, but "Margaritaville"?!? I don't think so. Poseur.

Gang Green, on the other hand, seem focused. They've dedicated practically their whole existence to drinking. From the omni-present Budweiser logos, to their succinct nü-Foster Brooks lyrics, just about every thing they've touched has drink stink on it. And, their lyric, "I'd rather drink than fuck!"? Hard to find a more declarative drinking statement.

Gang Green's MySpace page with four downloads:

Friday, June 8, 2007

Stop. I'm just finding this out.

On September 19, Moby played with Flipper. Yet the earth continues to rotate.
Check your disaster kits now.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

"Look, I'm John Denny!"

Visit punk oriented mp3 blogs enough and you'll eventually run across Black Randy downloads. They'll come and go, and it's often the same songs. I've always put off posting the links, until now. I thought I lost "Give It Up or Turn It Loose" for good, and I panicked. Eventually I found my way back to the site that I originally downloaded it from a year ago, and ran across one of my comments on the page with the post. It was about a night in a hotel room with Middle Class, Alice Bag and Black Randy (after a San Diego show).
Middle Class had stored their equipment that night in my Mom's garage, and I went with them, Black Randy and Alice Bag to a hotel on Rosecrans to whoop it up. I've always had a few vivid mental snapshots of that night. Alice Bag playing the Bay City Rollers on a portable cassette, Middle Class sitting on the edge of the bed, and the most memorable, of Black Randy with a lampshade on his head saying "Look, I'm John Denny!" [John Denny, as in the singer for the Weirdos.]
After re-reading my comment from a year ago, I wondered how accurately I remembered the incident. I thought I remembered it clearly, but it was about 1978 or '79. Regardless, I proceeded to download "Give It Up..." and was preparing to post a link when I decided to search for an image of Black Randy that wasn't already all over the web.
On the second page of the search results, I hit paydirt. This wasn't just an uncommon Black Randy photo. This was one of him replete with a lampshade on his head. In a case of mega-deja-fookin'-vu, the pose was exactly as the one in my mental snapshot, with one hand holding up the edge of the lampshade. Too weird.
I'm thinking this must be a gag that he did all the time back then. So, I click on the photo. It takes me to Alice Bag's online photo album at Flickr. The photo was from San Diego, on a trip with Middle Class. (I'm in utter amazement at what can be found online.) Upon closer inspection he's holding the San Diego phone book. That night he had called for cab for me (and gave me cab fare) to get back to my Mom's. Even weirder. What are the chances? (Note: Besides the lampshade, the John Denny "wardrobe" included the clear plastic cover of the lampshade as a tube top. I had forgotten that part.)
This is not to illustrate that I was in some sort of hip inner circle. I barely knew Middle Class and had never met Alice Bag or Black Randy before that night. No, this is to illustrate that I can actually remember something.
And I've written this embarrassingly long thing just to tell you this: download "Give It Up and Turn It Loose" before it's gone for good. Random, yes, and technically it's not a Black Randy song. It's an instrumental by the Metrosquad, his ragtag band of ersatz J.B.'s. Think about that: a ragtag version of James Brown's J.B.'s. Playing trashy punk funk. What are you waiting for?

Last Days of Man on Earth has all 13 cuts, including Give It Up or Turn It Loose, from Black Randy's Past the Dust, I Think I'm Bowie, each posted individually. Give It Up.

Monday, June 4, 2007

I Don't Want to Know Anything About Al Garcia & the Rhythm Kings

Spread the Good Word usually has some good stuff, so when they take requests for reposts of old mp3s, it's pretty certain that there will be some keepers. I haven't listened to all twelve reposts yet, but I snagged a few before they were even halfway through playing.

I am quite certain Al Garcia and the Rhythm Kings were hitting it before they recorded Exotic. I don't know anything about them, and I don't want to know anything about them. All I know is that they they make music sound drunk. At least on this song. And that's all I need to know. It is a spectacular acheivement.