It’s been a crazy news week: the Woodward book, Hurricane Florence, exploding houses in Massachusetts, the Kavanaugh letter, and the Manafort flip. How far Paulie flips remains to be seen but, given his connection to the Former Soviet Union, his plea deal is *potentially* the Kremlingate kill shot. I’ve long thought Manafort was either placed on Team Trump by Russian intelligence or encouraged to sign up by them. Stay tuned.
This week’s theme song, Play It All Night Long was written by Warren Zevon for his 1980 album, Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School. It has one of the greatest opening verses in rock history:
Grandpa pissed his pants again
He don’t give a damn
Brother Billy has both guns drawn
He ain’t been right since Vietnam
As well as a killer chorus:
“Sweet home Alabama”
Play that dead band’s song
Turn those speakers up full blast
Play it all night long
We have two versions for your listening pleasure. The original studio recording and a live solo version from Learning to Flinch with WZ on piano.
Now that we’ve played “that dead band’s song,” let’s jump to the break in lieu of turning the speakers up full blast.
We’re not quite through with Play It All Night Long. Here’s WZ’s old buddy Jackson Browne along with Jonathan Wilson and Dawes performing a medley of the Brucellosis song and Lawyers, Guns, and Money:
We begin our second act with this week’s mandatory political story.
John Dean On Tricky & Trumpy: The Watergate star witness is back in the news. He testified against Brett Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearings. Dean warned the country that Kavanaugh had extreme views on executive power and should not be confirmed to serve on the nation’s highest court. I hope Murkowski and Collins listened. They’re the ballgame.
The month before his testimony, Dean sat for several phone interviews with Claudia Dreifus for the New York Review of Books. Dean may be 79-years-old but he’s sharper than a bed of nails and he hates Donald Trump nearly as much as I do.
Here’s one of many money quotes from the interview:
Trump has lately been tweeting about you. On August 19, he called you a “rat.”
Listen, he takes cheap shots at everybody. I’m just the cheap shot at the moment. I feel honored to be in his pejorative invective club.
Who knows what he’s really talking about? I suspect he has minimal, if any, knowledge of Watergate. This is a man who knows virtually no history. I don’t think he’s aware that before going to the prosecutors, I had informed Nixon, through John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman exactly what I would be doing there. And there’s a tape where Ehrlichman, the assistant to the president for domestic affairs, reports to Nixon on my session. Haldeman, Nixon’s chief of staff, called me from Air Force One the night before my meeting with prosecutors to remind me, “Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it’s very difficult to get it back in.”
Haldeman’s toothpaste line was always one of my favorite Watergate bon mots. Once an ad man, always an ad man.
Our next segment features a swell piece by Herriman biographer and parade route book signer Michael Tisserand.
The Odd Couple: Michael’s piece has nothing to do with Oscar and Felix of Neil Simon fame. I have no idea if one was a neatnik and the other a slob. Tisserand’s historical odd couple are heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson and cartoonist Tad Dorgan. Dorgan was one of the few white media people of his era who not only supported Johnson but befriended him. Michael has the details at the Daily Beast.
There’s occasionally method to my theme song madness. This is one of those weeks. Before discussing Steven Hyden’s brilliant piece about Warren Zevon at the Ringer, here’s the song we both think is WZ’s best record:
Zevonmania: Hyden’s piece has a memorable title, drawn from a late period Zevon classic, His Shit’s Fucked Up: The Complicated Legacy of Warren Zevon. Hyden shares my admiration for the late singer-songwriter but finds him to be a somewhat problematical figure in today’s world:
Many of the things that made Zevon seem like an iconoclastic outlaw in the ’70s make him disreputable in the “virtuous music listening” era. As a songwriter, he was attracted to ironic humor and lowlife characters; as he sings in 1991’s “Mr. Bad Example,” many of the people who populate the Zevon-iverse “like to have a good time” and “don’t care who gets hurt.” Music critics now tend to prefer earnestness and unambiguous virtue, as well as a straightforward progressive political agenda. Zevon, at best, was apolitical, though his estranged wife, Crystal, recalls that he once declared himself “to the right of your father and Ronald Reagan.”
Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. I’m not a fan of earnestness, and while virtue has its place, art need not necessarily be virtuous to be good. Smart assery, snark, and sarcasm still have a place in the 21st Century. In fact, we need humor now more than ever to navigate the vicissitudes of the Trump era. Shorter Adrastos: Fuck that shit.
Warren Zevon may have been an asshole but he was our asshole. And what a songwriter.
Here’s my Warren Zevon story. Dr. A and I went to see WZ several times in the 1990’s with two of her colleagues. It was me and the science chicks. One night at Tipitina’s we chatted with Zevon after the show, and I convinced him to give me that evening’s set list. I think he did it to get rid of us: he was cranky even for WZ that night on Napoleon Avenue. Many years later, I placed the set list, complete with a duct tape fragment, in my fellow Zevonmaniac Ashley Morris’ casket. RIP, dear friend.
I obviously no longer have the set list but I do have this picture of Ashley and Warren Zevon:
One of Zevon’s least likely songwriting partners was the great comedic crime fiction writer and newspaperman, Carl Hiaasen. They collaborated on two songs for WZ’s Mutineer album and one for My Ride’s Here. That song, Basket Case, was also the title of a 2002 Hiaasen novel.
Let’s play the Hiaasen-Zevon song Seminole Bingo before our next segment:
Carl Hiaasen’s Tribute To His Brother Rob: Carl’s brother Rob Hiaasen was also a newspaperman. He was one of the editors of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland. Rob Hiaasen was one of the journalists murdered by a deranged gunman last June.
Carl wrote a moving tribute to his younger, taller brother for the Miami Herald. Here’s a sample:
My brother wasn’t shot because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was shot because he was exactly where he was supposed to be, where he wanted to be, editing a newspaper on deadline for the readers in a town he loved.
He was shot because he was a journalist, and for no other reason. You can go online and find more than a few yammering fascists who think that’s perfectly OK here in the United States of America, in the year 2018.
We’re living through interesting and difficult times. We need people who can make us both think and laugh. Carl Hiaasen is one of them. Condolences for the loss of your brother Rob, sir. He sounded like a great guy.
Here’s one more Hiaasen-Zevon song for the road, the aforementioned Basket Case:
There are a lot ghosts haunting this week’s Saturday post. Let’s lighten things up with some puerile adolescent humor.
Saturday GIF Horse: Beavis and Butt-Head were one of my guilty pleasures when they aired on MTV. Dr. A was not a fan. She was surprised that a snooty highbrow motherfucker like me enjoyed their lowbrow antics. Here’s why: they were the Three Stooges of their era, only there were two of them. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.
In the first GIF, Beavis meets Tricky Dick. I wonder if Bob Woodward has ever seen this? Bernstein would get it; as to Woodward, it beats the hell outta me.
In the second GIF, the
cretins boys rock out:
Beavis was always my favorite, particularly when he ate too much sugar and became the Great Cornholio. Butt-Head was such a butthead…
It’s time to segue to our favorite stolen feature.
Separated At Birth: This week, a rare human-feline duo: Cincinnati Bengals QB, Andy Dalton, and Kacy Sager’s cat, Brad:
Watching the NBA isn’t quite the same without Craig and his crazy clothes.
Weekly Benign Earworm: The YouTube algorithm is convinced I love Baby Blue by Badfinger. It pops up every time I run a music video search, which, as you may have noticed, is frequently. Since I *do* love the song, I almost invariably play it. Ain’t technology grand?
Like this week’s theme song, Baby Blue has a great opening line: “Guess I got what I deserved.”
I was pleased that it was used in the Breaking Bad series finale. Warren Zevon would have approved.
Saturday Classic: Zevon week concludes with an excellent audio only solo concert in Boulder, Colorado. The opening number Splendid Isolation is not only a past Saturday Odds & Sods theme song, it’s both Steven Hyden’s and my favorite Zevon tune. Great minds and all that jazz.
That’s it for this week. WZ and his teevee patron, David Letterman, get the last word.
Enjoy every sandwich.