Saturday Odds & Sods: Volunteers

Two Flags by Jasper Johns

It’s still stupidly hot in New Orleans; summer hot. And we had the third warmest September in recorded history. There are rumors of a cool front next weekend but the relentless heat is putting a damp damper on the local festival season. It typically starts the first weekend of October because that’s when it cools off. Not this year, apparently. Climate change? What climate change? End of weather related rant.

The Kavanaugh Mess ate my week, so let’s move on to this week’s theme song. Volunteers was written by Marty Balin and Paul Kantner. It was the title track of Jefferson Airplane’s classic 1969 album; you know, the one with the pb&j sammich gatefold. Volunteers has an interesting origin story: Marty was awakened by a truck one morning with Volunteers of America painted on the side. A protest song was born. Marty Balin died last Saturday at the age of 76. There’s an extended tribute to Marty at the end of the post.

We have two versions of Volunteers for your listening pleasure. The original studio track and a live version from Woodstock.

“Look what’s happening out in the streets. Got a revolution.”

Now that we’ve revolted in a revolting way, let’s jump to the break.

Along with his fellow Airplane founders, Paul Kantner and Jack Casady, Marty formed the KBC Band in 1986. Holy acronym, Batman. They only recorded one album but it featured another Kantner-Balin protest song; this time aimed at the Reagan administration.

I’m not sure what the opposite of long-winded is but that’s how I’m feeling as I write this post. I’m rarely taciturn but I’m going to keep this post snappy. Jeez, that was long-winded.

Our first segment features a piece by one of the best non-fiction writers around.

The Shambolic Trump Transition: Michael Lewis isn’t exactly my homey, but he was born and raised in New Orleans. If he wore a white suit, I might even call him the second coming of Tom Wolfe but he doesn’t so I won’t.

Lewis has written some fabulous books and magazine pieces: my favorite is Moneyball. He’s turned his attention to the clusterfuck that was the Trump Transition in his latest book, The Fifth Risk. There’s an excerpt online: who among us doesn’t like excerpts? They’re free. Get thee to the Guardian to luxuriate in some fine writing and clear thinking.

Speaking of great non-fiction writers, all this talk about Yale has put a classic Esquire Magazine piece on my radar screen. Let’s set the dial on the Wayback Machine to 1977.

The Last Secrets of Skull and Bones is the great Ron Rosenbaum’s take on a Yale secret society whose all-male membership includes some of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the country. Their rituals are arcane and weird but the power they wield is real.

Rosenbaum granted Longform.org permission to post his piece and we’re riding in their wake. I’m not sure if I should say cowabunga or boola boola at this point.

It’s time to test my theory that there’s a Kinks song for every occasion:

We’ll skip the skull songs and transition from great writers to mistress memoirs.

Mistress Minstrelsy: Politico Magazine’s Bill Scher read all the presidential mistress memoirs so we don’t have to. He thinks the Stormy Daniels book is one of the best of this offbeat genre. Me, I prefer stories about Nan Britton’s closet copulations with Gamaliel. That Harding was a caution.

Scher is not the only mistress memoir reader, my publisher Lamar White Jr. has reviewed Full Disclosure at the Bayou Brief. Stormy Daniels is from the Gret Stet of Louisiana and her book gives a whole new meaning to the term Red Stick.

Let’s put our Red Stick in a White House closet and move on to some regular features.

The Weekly GV: This segment could be called Ernestine meets the Master.  Lily Tomlin’s character’s mispronunciation of GV’s last name was a running joke on Laugh-In.

Gorey? She seems to have confused GV with the great illustrator Edward Gorey who is best known for this:

It’s a pity that they omitted Diana Rigg from the Gorey details of that clip…

Saturday GIF Horse: I mentioned Jim Jarmusch’s Down By Law the other day. Here are Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni dancing in their cell at Orleans Parish Prison.

FYI: a highlight of my twitter existence was when John Lurie followed me. It made me feel all advant garde and shit.

Marty Balin, R.I.P.

I grew up listening to Marty Balin’s music. Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship were among my home town heroes. Marty was the band’s leader and lead vocalist in the early days. His star was eventually dimmed by the powerhouse Kantner/Slick combination. One reason is that Marty was not as prolific a songwriter as either Paul or Grace. Shit happens.

Hardcore fans referred to Miracles as “Marty’s revenge.” It was the biggest hit in Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship history. The rivalry between Slick and Balin is one reason Marty left the band in 1978. In the 1990’s, Marty rejoined Jefferson Starship after Paul Kantner assumed ownership of the name and forced the We Built This City band to de-Jeffersonize itself.

One of my high school friend’s father was an account executive for Bank of America. He was Jefferson Starship/Hot Tuna’s personal banker. He got free tickets to most shows and backstage passes several times. Marty was one of the friendlier members of the band. Slick and Kantner were aloof but Marty was the one who warned us not to drink anything backstage. They were known to spike drinks with various mind-altering substances. That led one of our number to go for it. He was disappointed with the results. So it goes.

Saturday Classic: We’re doing something different with this feature. I assembled a 16 song playlist featuring the best of Marty Balin. Enjoy.

I lost track of Marty Balin’s music in the 1980’s but it meant a lot to me before then. It still does.

That’s it for this week, The last word goes to the Red Octopus era Jefferson Starship. Marty is the dapper chap in the blue jacket on the left side of the picture.

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