Monday, December 28, 2015

The Year In Music - 1965

As we come to the end of 2015 we also come to the end of the 50th anniversary of 1965. That was a very important year in my life. I had the first true love of my life, I graduated from high school, started college away from home and had to register for the draft. There was one other important element in 1965 and that is the music from that year. That's what this post is about, not my love life, high school graduation, college initiation or draft status.

It was a very good musical year. Top 40 radio was thriving. It was still AM radio that ruled. FM was really just getting started. There were other music radio stations. The Oldies stations of the day mostly played big band stuff. There were easy listening stations that played pop music by Perry Como, Andy Williams, Dean Martin, Rosemary Clooney, Sinatra, etc. There were also Country-centric radio stations. Even some classical music spots on the radio dial. Those Top 40 stations really did play whatever songs were on the music charts. That meant that there could be a rock song followed by country followed by Sinatra followed by folk followed by Soul. Rinse and repeat. I'll get into some of the specifics of that diversity shortly. Many of the pop stars of the 40's and 50's were still performing live and selling records. Country moved toward pop and rock and had several crossover stars and songs. The British Invasion was firmly entrenched. Motown was spitting out new groups and new hits every week. The Surf/Beach music wave was breaking on the charts. The Folk explosion of the early 60's was still hanging on. I am grateful that I was exposed to many genres of music. Although I primarily listen to the various forms of rock music, I enjoy mixing it with the other genres. My normal way to listen to Pandora is to shuffle several stations together. My music library is made up of numerous types of music. I usually shuffle that too and build diverse playlists.

So on to some specifics. I will be citing Billboard and Tunecaster music charts from 1965. The first #1 song of the year was either I Feel Fine by The Beatles or Come See About Me by The Supremes depending on which chart you look at. The last #1 hit of 1965 was Over and Over by The Dave Clark Five or We Can Work It Out by The Beatles. So the Beatles opened the year and wrapped it up. They had a few other hits in the middle too. There is a dispute about what was the top song of the year. Billboard says it was Wooly Bully by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. Tunecaster picked (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones. Another poll selected I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) by The Four Tops. All good but I think the Stones' song has proved to have much more staying power. There were some surprises to me in the year's top 100. Herman's Hermits has five songs on the year-end chart and The Beatles had four. Gary Lewis and the Playboys had three entries. The Beach Boys and Rolling Stones only two each. In retrospect, I think The Beatles, Stones and Beach Boys contributed way more to our song catalog than Gary and Herman. 

You can peruse the charts yourself. Tunecaster's year-end Pop 100 is here. Billboard's year-end Hot 100 is here. The list of weekly #1s on Tunecaster can be found here. Billboard's list of #1s is here. You will notice that the two weekly charts start on different days of the week. That explains some of the discrepancies. 

There were a few one hit wonders in 1965 too. Boy From New York City by The Ad Libs, Land Of 1000 Dances by Cannibal and the Headhunters reached #2 in May, Liar, Liar by The Castaways, and Keep On Dancing by The Gentrys climbed to #3,

The top-selling album of the year was the soundtrack from Mary Poppins. Looks like moms were buying most of the albums. This is also somewhat misleading since many of the top artists released multiple albums in a year. The Beatles released four. Most teens probably couldn't afford to buy all four. It didn't take long to produce an album back then. Singers or groups went into the studio with all the supporting musicians assembled and sang the songs. The tracks weren't all recorded individually in separate locations and then run through several computer programs, synthesizers, cut, spliced, rearranged, enhanced, etc.

1965 was a very good year for music and not a bad year for me. I still listen to a lot of the songs from that year. For most people, the music of our teens becomes our favorite. I like some of the contemporary music but I always go back to the songs of the 60's. Music brings back memories and 1965 was mostly good times so listening to that music is also mostly memories of good times.

So crank up the volume on the old AM radio, cruise the burger joint and enjoy some very good music from 1965.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

College Football Silly Season 2015-16

Here we go again. The college football bowl season begins on December 19, 2015 and doesn't end until January 11, 2016. During that span there will be 41 bowl games played. Exactly three of them have any real meaning, the two semi-final playoff games and the championship game. The other 38 games are just exhibitions. Sort of like soccer "friendlies". 

I'm not against bowl games but I think 41 is way too many. I remember when there were fewer than 10 bowl games and it was an honor to be invited to one of them. Now 80 teams go to a bowl. I think there are 127 FBS division schools. That means 63% of the teams go to bowls. Quite an elite group. Teams are supposed to have at least six wins a .500 winning percentage to be bowl eligible. With this many games it is usually impossible to find a full compliment of eligible teams. This year there are three bowl teams with losing records. That isn't right. 

ESPN is one of the major reasons there are so many bowls. They have started several bowls just so they have more games to televise. Watch some of the lesser games and check out how few people are in the stands. Almost all the game revenue comes from TV and the title sponsor. The NCAA has said that they are looking into a fix for the current situation. 

I'm certainly not going to go into all the games, but here are a few things I find interesting.
There is the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, is that the bowl color? There is the Cure Bowl in Orlando, no clue what they are trying to cure. Always enjoy the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, I don't think I've ever seen a famous potato. There is the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl, is it named for the animal or the clothing company? Popeyes Bahama Bowl is actually played in football crazy Nassau. I think the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl wins the longest name title. What is the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl? The Gator Bowl, one of the oldest bowl games and one I attended a few times when it was played in the actual Gator Bowl, has completely lost its identity. After a couple of years as the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, it is now just the TaxSlayer Bowl. 

How about this exciting matchup, Middle Tennessee vs Western Michigan in the Bahamas. It is rarely good when two directional schools meet.

I'm sure I'll watch a few of these games, some might even turn out to be good. I'll watch my teams, Florida, South Florida and TCU. 

The two College Playoff semifinal games are on December 31st in Texas and Florida. The winners meet on January 11th in Arizona.

Let's hope with 41 games in the next month we get at least a few good ones. Let's also hope that in the near future they reduce the number of bowls and require a winning record to participate. And let's get the Gator back in Gator Bowl.


Friday, December 11, 2015

My Lebanese & Syrian Friends

Every day we hear about some new atrocities by the middle east terroristsI. The latest one was the shooting in San Bernardino, before that the tragedy in Paris. There was a bombing in Beirut the day before Paris but that barely made the news. That is because terrorists attacks in Lebanon are too common plus "westerners" weren't killed. "Black Lives Matter" is a popular saying and movement here in the United States. I say "Muslim Lives Matter" too or more accurately, "Arab Lives" matter because they are not all Muslims. I realize that all ethnic groups in the middle east are not Arabs, I mean all lives, other than the terrorists, in the middle east matter. I feel for my Lebanese and Syrian friends every day because there are news stories everyday.

I said my Lebanese and Syrian friends. I don't mean that in just an offhand or generic manner. I truly have several Arab friends, some of them for over 60 years. I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. That city had a large established Arab community. Many of them were Christians, Catholics in particular. I went to Catholic school with many of them. Young kids don't know or care that people come from different places or what prejudices are unless they are taught that by adults. I had no idea that these Arab kids were different from me. Sure, their complexions were a little darker than mine but that applied to about 95% of the kids. I was a freckle-faced red haired kid. It took me most of the summer to get a little color and about three hours to lose it. Jacksonville was a very racist and segregated city when I was growing up. I don't know how much prejudice the Arab community endured, I'm sure there was some. The kids I went to school with were all born in the US. It was their grandparents or parents who had immigrated to this country. I'm not sure why so many Lebanese and Syrians settled in Jacksonville other than the fact it is a port city. I'm sure there were those native whites who were not happy with these new residents.

The Arab kids I grew up with were just part of the gang to me. We were classmates, teammates, friends and yes, sometimes enemies. You know how kids are, sometimes your best friend becomes your worst enemy overnight, then back to best friend. None of these decisions were based on ethnicity. We did all the stuff kids growing up together do. We played all the sports, mostly baseball and softball in my case. 

When I was in high school gym class I has a small 1'x1'x2' locker. Just big enough to stash my gym clothes or my school clothes during PE. My buddy who I had gone to grade school with for eight years, had the locker right next to mine. He played football so it was a full size locker. One big enough to hang clothes up in. For two years he shared his locker with me. I had the hook on the left side. I knew his lock combination, he knew mine. Never once did I worry about getting Lebanese cooties on my stuff. I assume he didn't worry about catching any Irish cooties on his. 

I could go on about all the good times, tough scrapes and just day to day activities I shared with these friends.

Let's try to come to grips with the fact that most people are the same at their core. We all want the same things for our families and ourselves. Yes, there are bad guys in every racial, ethnic and religious group. So what.

If the current mood of banning Syrian and Lebanese immigrants and refugees had been prevalent 75 or 100 years ago, I would never have had friends like Greg, Doug, Mitchell, Mike, Paul, Ronnie, Joe, Nelson, Sharon and a few others I'm sure I forgot. That would have been my loss.

Let's try to stop the hatred. For a country that brags about being brave and strong and macho, we certainly seem to be paranoid and afraid of almost everything. That includes children from Syria and Mexico. Man up America, don't cower in the corner.


More Of The Same, The Newest Prejudice

As this first half of December 2015 passes, I find myself sick to my stomach for several reasons. First off, there was the mass shooting in San Bernadino. There are 16 dead as a result, 14 victims and two shooters. Several others were injured. There have been well over 300 mass shootings in the US this year, defined as four or more victims, with the possibility of reaching close to 400 by year end. Yet, nothing has changed. No new laws, no new procedures, not even any good ideas about how to stop the killing. Just empty sorrow for the victims and then back to normal, until the next incident. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Secondly, the prejudice against Muslims and Arabs because some members of those groups are terrorists. The following was posted on Facebook and showed up on my news feed. 

This is racist, bigotted and Islamaphobic. Don't think so, replace "Muslim" in the caption with Black, Hispanic, Asian, Jew, Gay or many other labels and see how it sounds. Racist, bigotted or antisemitic. I can only assume that the person who posted it is either racist, bigotted, Islamaphobic or completely insensitive. Neither is a good choice. To make it worse, a few other people agreed with the post. What does that make them?

It seems we Americans always need some group to oppress, hate and fear. The Blacks handled that role for a couple hundred years. Every other ethnic group took their turn. The Irish, the Polish, the Jews, the Germans, the Italians, the Asians all had their time. Currently it is the Hispanics and the Muslims and of course still the Blacks. Some of these groups eventually get completely accepted and integrated into the American mainstream. Some others don't. It seems to me that those that are easily distinguished physically have a much harder time. It is hard for the white majority to tell the difference between someone of Irish heritage from a Scot or Belgian or Swede or German or Pole or Jew... You get the idea. It is a little easier if the group has black or brown skin or has Asian features or wears ethnic clothing.

I grew up in the still-segregated South. There were separate water fountains and restrooms. Whites only restaurants and hotels. Segregated schools. Separate sections on the buses, the Blacks got the back end. They had to sit in the balcony at movie theaters if they were allowed in at all. I am sure that I grew up feeling that whites, and thereby me, were better than Blacks. Negroes or Colored back then. It wasn't overt in my house but just the day to day circumstances would lead a white kid to think that way. Just as a Colored kid would think the opposite. I guess if I had stayed in that environment I might still feel that way.

I didn't stay in that hometown. I went to college out of town and then went to Atlanta to work. Atlanta had been a very racist city but was actively working to change that. I was thrown in with many Blacks in those early days. I worked with Blacks, rode the bus to work as often the only white person. I got to know those people and got to become friends. I've written about the day MLK was assassinated. I was on a bus with 99% Blacks that night and had to work in downtown Atlanta. It was a life-changing event. It could have been a life-ending event had the African-American community in Atlanta lashed out at the white populace. 

I also went to elementary and high school with many Lebanese and Syrians. They were Christian Arabs but still from the now evil Middle East. I don't remember there being any ethnic tension with them or any clues from our parents that there should be. We were all just kids going to school. Some were my best friends, some were just classmates and some were adversaries. Just like the kids from every other ethnic background. Looking back, I'm pretty sure that those Arab families had to put up with prejudices from the redneck majority. I was just too young and naive to see it. 

I digress only to make the point that I have lived through prejudice and racism. It is never justified to define an entire group based on the actions of a few or even worse the perceived behavior or inferiority. 

It is absolutely true that most Muslims, including those in the US, are peaceful. They are not terrorists. If the majority of US Muslims were bad guys, they could throw the country into panic and turmoil tomorrow. One way to turn them against the US is to treat them as second class citizens or worse. 

The photo and caption above are disgusting. They are racist and those who think it is proper behavior for an American or a Christian have seriously misread what those terms mean. 

The vitriol pouring out of a certain presidential candidate is disgusting and un-American. 

Let's concentrate on the real terrorists, not the law-abiding ethnic family next door.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Sinatra 100

On Sunday night, CBS had a special that celebrated what would have been Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday. It also opened their Grammy coverage. Nominations will be announced on Monday. The Grammys won't be awarded until February 15th. Expect more Grammy related hype on CBS over the next couple of months. 

This show had a cavalcade of stars singing Sinatra hits. As with all these kind of programs, some guests are up to the task, some are fair and a few should have stayed home.

The show opened with several artists performing parts of songs. Seth MacFarlane was introduced as the host and spoke about Frank, his music and life. Although Seth was the alleged host, it seemed to me that LL Cool J actually performed that function.

  • Zac Brown was the first to perform a full song. I thought he was a strange selection and he looked out of place in a tux. Nevertheless, he did an OK job on The Way You Look Tonight.
  • Garth Brooks then did The Lady Is A Tramp in a tux and cowboy hat. He should have stayed home, it was not good.
  • Celine Dion did a fair job on All The Way. She was a little over the top and a little off from her vocal best.
  • Another country star, Carrie Underwood, sang Come Fly With Me a little too loudly. Remember, Frank was a crooner. Decibels were not the most important quality.
  • Host Seth MacFarlane, who is mostly known as a TV and film producer, sang Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. He did a good job.
  • Zac Brown came back, this time in a top hat and with help from Carrie Underwood and Seth on a shortened version of Stars Fell On Alabama
  • One of my favorite contemporary singers, John Legend, did a very good rendition of Young At Heart.
  • Another good performance was turned in by Harry Connick, Jr. on Luck Be A Lady. Harry can sound like Frank although this was not his best performance. 
  • Next up was the highlight of the evening for me. Alicia Keys did a hot, sexy, sultry rendition of I've Got A Crush On You. Full disclosure, Alicia is one of my favorite singers so she could probably sing the phone book, remember those, and I would like it. Still, this was a very good performance.
  • The old guy had to follow that. Tony Bennett sang I've Got The World On A String. It was OK, but Tony's age is showing and he is not the premier singer he once was.
  • The next slot was some U2 BS from London. Bono and Edge did a song they wrote supposedly for &/or about Frank called Two Shots Of Happy, One Shot Of Sad.  Bono was his usual over-important self. I thought this was completely out of character for the show. All the other performances were of songs that Sinatra recorded and mostly used his original arrangements.
  • Carrie Underwood came back to sing another too loud version of Someone To Watch Over You. Besides the volume, I thought she had some off tone parts of the song. Some country nasal came through.  
  • Usher did a very good job on That's Life. Besides sounding good, he had the right stage swagger. He's a talented guy. 
  • After a brief clip of Frank and Antonio Carlos Jobim doing some Bossa Nova, international star Juanes did a tune with the same beat. Nice, but Juanes is no Sinatra. I don't remember ever seeing Frank do Latin music. Of course he was good at it.  Have a look -
  • The Best Is Yet To Come was done by Adam Levine. He did OK but seemed kind of nervous to me.
  • A surprisingly good performance was done by Nick Jonas. I never did catch what the song was. It was much higher than Frank ever sang, parts close to falsetto. Better than I expected.
  • Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brook's better half, did a much better job than hubby. She did a decent version of I'll Be Seeing You.
  • Seth MacFarlane came back to do another good job on One For My Baby. He did it from a bar stool with a drink. He captured the mood of the song although not quite the voice of Sinatra.
  • The finale was Lady Gaga in a tuxedo and fedora. She put in a good performance of New York, New York. This tune had the most elaborate set and production. Not surprising for a Gaga performance.
Overall it was an enjoyable show. Besides the above performances, there were pictures and clips from Sinatra's life. It seemed odd that there were so many country artists. None were outstanding and Garth was bad. There are enough good singers around who do standards and jazz. 

As the credits rolled, there was a video of Frank singing My Way. Perfect.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Very Random Thoughts - November 2015

  • If we get an annoying weekly Emergency Broadcast System test on TV, why do we also need a separate monthly test?
  • Is the HGTV show "Tiny House Hunters" about normal size people looking for tiny houses or tiny people looking for regular size houses?
  • I get a kick out of TV commercials that put up the graphic "real people, not actors". I was under the impression that actors were people.
  • Do you ever open the refrigerator door, stare in only to realize you have no idea what you are looking for? Me too.
  • How can you be a fat ass football, or any, coach at the same time you are demanding peak physical condition from your players?
  • Political "debates" aren't. They are group, Q&A sessions sprinkled with junior high school bickering.
  • We have become a society of hollow symbolism as opposed to real substance.
  • I know there have always been ignorant people but when did we start to celebrate them?
  • Do any of you really think that typing amen or sharing a Facebook post will get gods attention? Kinda like thinking your sports team is somehow blessed.
  • The "Golden Rule" has been severely tarnished by our allegedly Christian politicians.
  • I find it hard to respect your position if you use false statements and fear tactics to justify that position. 
  • Unless you are a Native American, your ancestors were refugees and/or immigrants to this country at some point. They were most likely treated poorly and feared. Seems to have worked out OK. 
  • After watching the national and local newscasts tonight, I finally figured out what their purpose is - Scare the shit out of us.
  • Along the same line, didn't leaders in our country used to try to instill pride and confidence? Not fear and prejudice. 
  • Why do people go out of their way to find insignificant things to get upset about, like Holiday/Christmas coffee cups or the shape of Reese's trees?
  • Paranoia is contagious and many of our politicians are carriers.