The Drunkard by Marc Chagall.
It’s run-off election day here in the Gret Stet of Louisiana. I’ll be voting later today in the Colonel Corpone vs. Foghorn Leghorn Senate race. Cornpone has it sown up and I don’t like Foghorn but I said I’d vote for him, so I’ll have to select an appropriate clothespin. I would say I was voting for the lesser of two hicks but Foghorn sounds like he’s been studying the oeuvre of Jeff Foxworthy. My friend Charlotte says he reminds her of Boss Hogg. Hard to argue that point, y’all.
The local news has been dominated by road rage and the law. The one many of you have heard about is the trial of Cardell Hayes for killing former Saints defensive captain Will Smith. I wrote about it in this space not long ago. It’s a very close case with the defense arguing self-defense. The local media have been all over it like turkey buzzards on roadkill. In this Saints obsessed town that was predictable and why the Judge sequestered the jury. The case *may* go to the jury later this evening.
The other road rage incident involved former high school football sensation and NFL player Joe McKnight. He got into it with some creep named Ronald Gasser and McKnight was shot to death. There was a huge stink when Gasser wasn’t charged immediately: he’s white and McKnight was black. Gasser was charged with manslaughter earlier this week. Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand held a ranty press conference, spending more time attacking Facebook trolls than discussing the crime. Normand hasn’t gone off like that in quite some time. It might have been calculated anger (more on that later) or he simply lost his shit.
This week’s theme song fits my somber mood. Dead Flowers was written when the Stones were hanging out with country-rock godfather Gram Parsons. It’s one of the best lyrics the Glimmer Twins have ever written. It’s limey country rock at its finest.
We begin with the original version from Sticky Fingers, followed by a live non-Stones version featuring Keith, Willie Nelson, and Ryan Adams to name a few luminaries.
I’m feeling relatively terse this week so I’m skipping the break and diving right in. I mentioned intentional ranting earlier. The master of tactical screaming was the late great rock impresario Bill Graham.
Bill Graham & The Art Of Tactical Screaming: I grew up attending Bill Graham’s shows in the Bay Area. They remain the best organized and operated rock concerts I’ve ever been to. One reason was the hands on nature of the producer. He was always visible both onstage and in the front of the house. You knew who was in charge. There was one time at a Dead show at Winterland that there was a flood in the men’s room. I ran into Bill in the hallway and informed him. He thanked me and went over there personally. I followed out of curiosity and watched him grab a plunger. Now that’s attention to detail.
My old friend Gus Mozart shared a link to an interview filmed in 1977. It’s called The Mechanics of a Show. It’s well worth watching if you’re a rock and roll history buff. It’s also available on the YouTube. Here’s the segment about yelling:
I saw Bill scream at people many times. He was almost always in the right. An aggressive New Yorker like Bill Graham scared the shit out of California hippies, so they tended to comply with his orders. Besides, it was Bill’s world and we were there as paying customers. He was the boss and the best.
The centerpiece of this week’s post are tributes to two men whose deaths were announced on Thursday. Other than fame they had nothing in common. One of them was 95 years old and lived a long and eventful life. The other died at 69 after a lengthy private battle with cancer.
John Glenn R.I.P. Hero is the most overused word in the English language. Very few acts are heroic and there are even fewer heroes. John Glenn was a genuine hero. It was a label that he modestly rejected but one that he earned over-and-over again. Despite his advanced years, I was still deeply saddened to hear that he’d died at the age of 95.
All of the Mercury astronauts were brave men. They risked death every time they stepped into those tiny capsules. John Glenn made it look easy, but orbiting the earth was fraught with peril. People knew that and it was one reason they went nuts (in a good way) over Glenn.
Here’s what I posted on my Facebook feed:
John Glenn went on to a distinguished career as a four-term Democratic Senator from Ohio. The punditry briefly went nuts over his 1984 Presidential bid because it coincided with the release of Philip Kaufman’s brilliant film adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff. Glenn was played by Ed Harris. It was the role that put Harris on the map. Glenn’s campaign went nowhere. Charlie Pierce pointed out why at his joint:
…when John Glenn was preparing to run for president, I sat down in a bar on Beacon Hill in Boston for a chat with one of his chief strategists. This fellow smacked my gob across the room when he said that the campaign was planning to “downplay the hero stuff.” My god, I thought. Without The Hero Stuff, Glenn was just a kind of boring old sod from Ohio. Without The Hero Stuff, he wasn’t the first American to orbit the Earth. He wasn’t the guy who spent the last of those orbits in a tiny spacecraft with a problem the gravity of which the folks on the ground could only guess. Without The Hero Stuff, he wasn’t…an astronaut.
John Glenn was a modest man. It was how the best men of his generation comported themselves. As a Senator, he was a workhorse, not a showhorse, which is the highest praise I can bestow on a politician. He was also the antitheses of the braggart who won the electoral college and is claiming a landslide. They don’t make them like Senator Glenn any more.
He had a good life and a good death surrounded by his family. Godspeed, John Glenn.
Here’s a piece by Charlie Osgood broadcast on the 49th anniversary of Glenn’s historic Friendship 7 mission:
Let’s move on from the loss of an American icon to the passing of one of the pioneers of British prog-rock.
Greg Lake R.I.P. He was the original lead singer/bassist of King Crimson as well as the L in ELP. Greg Lake died at the age of 69 after a long battle with cancer.
I saw ELP several times at their peak. They were loud, bombastic, and pretentious. I loved every second of it. Lake was the steady, solid one while flamboyant keyboard player Keith Emerson and flashy drummer Carl Palmer whipped the crowd into a frenzy.
Emerson preceded Lake in death earlier this year. E and L are gone but P rocks on as the drummer with Asia. Here’s what Carl had to said about Greg’s passing:
The best way to pay tribute to Greg Lake is, of course, to post some of his music. I have used the opening lyrics for Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Part 2 more than once in lieu of an Odds & Sods summary: “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.” Greg Lake’s show has ended but the music never stops, corny but true.
Along with lyricist Pete Sinfield, Lake wrote one of the best rock Christmas songs, I Believe In Father Christmas. Here’s a live version from St. Bride’s Church in London with Ian Anderson and members of his band backing Lake up:
Ready for some live ELP? You have no choice:
I had hoped to post the original studio version of King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man but it eluded me. Another Lake-era King Crimson song will have to do.
“Confusion will be my epitaph.” Greg Lake will be missed.
That’s it for this week. May the Schwartz be with you: