I am a history professor who grew up in Western New York, but now find myself teaching in Western Montana. My primary areas of interest and research are in American cultural history, especially in relation to the intersection of popular culture and politics. This blog is primarily to help me keep in touch with my far-flung family and friends, and give me the chance to spout off a bit on whatever happens to be on my mind.
Dr. John's Record Shelf is my weekly radio program on KDWG, 90.9 FM broadcast from the University of Montana Western. My goal is to offer an eclectic mix of various styles, genres and eras, focusing primarily (but not exclusively) on music that you won't hear anywhere else on the dial (at least not in SW Montana). My co-host, Art Vandelay and I (with the assistance of station flunky Rico Muckman) also provide some additional bits to liven up the show, including Three People I Know (where I mention three people I know), The Cultural Corner (where we engage in lively banter on art, literature and poetry), Dr. John's Top Five (where we take a shot at ranking almost anything), and Record Shelf Theater (where we re-create a scene from some famous movie, play or TV show). If you find yourself in Dillon, tune us in; otherwise, below are some lists of songs that have been aired on recent shows:
Dr. John's Record Shelf 121104
Bill Fay, "This World"
Steve Goodman, "Turnpike Tom"
Ani DiFranco, "Which Side Are You On?"
Bruce Springsteen, "We Are Alive"
Decemberists, "Don't Carry It All"
Carole King, "Pleasant Valley Sunday"
Bruce Cockburn, "Wondering Where the Lions Are"
Neil Young & Crazy Horse, "Oh Susannah"
Bob Dylan, "Soon After Midnight"
Charms, "American Way"
Belle & Sebastian, "I Want the World to Stop"
Krayolas, "Find a Girl"
Beatles, "Tomorrow Never Knows"
Neko Case, "Things That Scare Me"
Avett Brothers, "Will You Return"
Craig Finn, "New Friend Jesus"
Dr. John's Record Shelf 121028
Fleet Foxes, "Helplessness Blues"
Golden Shoulders, "I Will Light You on Fire"
Spoon, "Finer Feelings"
Girls, "Just a Song"
Devandra Banhart, "Shabop Shalom"
Gaslight Anthem, "The '59 Sound"
Those Darlins, "Mystic Mind"
Son Seals, "I Can't Hold Out"
Johnny Ace, "Pledging My Love"
Charlotte Gainsbourg, "Dandelion"
Aimee Mann, "Borrowing Time"
Elliott Smith, "Between the Bars"
Carpenters, "It's Going to Take Some Time"
Hayes Carll, "Girl Downtown"
Fiery Furnaces, "Even in the Rain"
Billy Ward & the Dominoes, "Chicken Blues"
Anna Kramer & the Lost Cause, "You Think You Know Me"
Sophie Zelmani, "Most of the Time"
Dr. John's Record Shelf 121021
Cabaret Voltaire, "No Escape"
Us3, "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)"
Hank Mobley, "The Break Through"
Rodriguez, "Sugar Man"
Mary Weiss, "My Heart is Beating"
Pete Shelley, "Think For Yourself"
Buddy Holly, "Take Your Time"
Raincoats, "No One's Little Girl"
Detroit Cobras, "Ya Ya Ya"
Public Image, LTD, "Public Image"
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, "Bad Reputation"
Love Is All, "Wishing Well"
Louie & the Lovers, "I KNow You Know"
Forty-Fives, "The Devil Beats His Wife"
John P. Strohm, "Better Than Nothing"
The Naysayer, "Currency"
Sir Douglas Quintet, "Who'll Be Next in Line"
The Seeds, "Mr. Farmer"
Dr. John's Record Shelf 121014
TV on the Radio, "Second Song"
Can, "Oh Yeah"
White Stripes, "300 MPH Torrential Downpour Blues"
Mary Lou Lord, "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go"
T-Bone Burnett, "The Murder Weapon"
New Bomb Turks, "Statue of Liberty"
Ramones, "Surfin' Bird"
Paris Sisters, "Dream Lover"
Lee Dorsey, "Ride Your Pony"
Michael Hurley, "Sweet Lucy"
Gary Numan, "Cars"
Neil Diamond, "Delirious Love"
Undertones, "We All Talked About You"
Shadows of Knight, "Shake"
Cub, "Magic 8 Ball"
Rilo Kiley, "The Frug"
Terry Allen, "Lubbock Woman"
Kinks, "Lincoln County"
Dr. John's Record Shelf 121007
Corin Tucker Band, "Summer Jams"
Go-Betweens, "Too Much of One Thing"
Feelies, "Change Your Mind"
Billy Bragg & the Blokes, "Baby Faroukh"
Marcia Griffiths, "Don't Let Me Down"
Velvet Crush, "Hold Me Up"
Chris Mills, "Calling All Comrades"
Insect Trust, "Hoboken Saturday Night"
Broken West, "So It Goes"
REM, "Exhuming McCarthy"
Dire Straits, "Twisting By the Pool"
Tom Rush, "Urge for Going"
Paul Westerberg & Joan Jett, "Let's Do It"
Fred Astaire, "Cheek to Cheek"
The Who, "I Can See For Miles"
Liz Phair, "Uncle Alvarez"
Steve martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers, "King Tut"
Nowadays kids don't have the patience for black and white (heck even my college students complain when I show something that isn't in color). But I remember getting a kick out of "old" Popeye cartoons-- because they weren't in color, they seemed more exotic. Though, now that I think of it, I probably first saw these on a b&w TV, so I wouldn't have known the difference anyway. Oh well...
Solomon Burke, one of the giants of soul music starting back in the 1960s, passed away recently. Here's one of his best known songs, in a somewhat latter-day performance. This guy could really belt them out:
Okay, here's something a little different, and might require a little bit of imagination to solve. What is Nik poking at with his right index finger (neatly cropped out to eliminate any hints)? Put your guesses in the comments section.
Last week, I asked who Richard was high-fiving, and I only got one, incorrect guess. So I'll leave that open for another week too. C'mon folks, let's put on our thinking caps!
I initially started this blog for the purpose of sharing photos from a trip to Italy back in the fall of 2008. Of course it eventually morphed into something more, but I like to occasionally revisit those roots. Here are three pictures I took on that trip from in and around the Colosseum in Rome.
The Arch of Constantine is just outside the Colosseum, both of which are adjacent to the old Roman Forum.
Here's a shot of the outer corridor surrounding the seating area. Doesn't look all that different from contemporary sports arenas, does it?
I'm not going to argue that this song is a classic, but it certainly does evoke that mid-eighties period. Feargal Sharkey was much more compelling (to me) as the lead voice in the Undertones, while his solo stuff represented a pretty clear pop move. Still, his voice is kind of distinctive, and this tune would certainly fit nicely on any John Hughes movie soundtrack:
I always like when the kids are featured in Toonerville Folks. Fontaine Fox really captures the imagination and animation of children at play. In fact, I think that Fox's young'uns are the model for Calvin in Bill Watterson's classic Calvin and Hobbes.
I think this is great advice from the American playwright Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953):
"A man's work is in danger of deteriorating when he thinks he has found the one best formula for doing it. If he thinks that, he is likely to feel that all he needs is merely to go on repeating himself... so long as a person is searching for better ways of doing his work, he is fairly safe."
I started seeing ads for The Conspirator, Robert Redford's new movie, just a couple of days before I had an opportunity to see it. I also managed to see a couple of reviews (though non from mainstream sources), and between the advertising and those few critical comments I wonder if anyone really got what this movie is about. The reviews I read seemed overly concerned with trying to figure out if Redford's story was more sympathetic to the North or the South, and the ads made it appear to be some kind of mystery-thriller. After watching it though, it seems like none of that is the least bit relevant to the filmmakers intentions (though superficially they are suggested by elements of the plot). This is pretty clearly intended as an allegorical critique of the use of military tribunals, as in the case of those incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay, and the obvious threat posed by stripping individuals of their rights when accused of criminal behavior. The film falls well short of making the case one way or the other about the guilt of purported subject Mary Surratt, and it's fair to say that virtually all the characters, regardless of their wartime sympathies, come across as either deluded fanatics or ruthless opportunists. In fact, it's almost essential to Redford's thesis that Surratt come across as compromised as everyone else, the better to throw the principle of systemic virtue into stark relief against the lesser concept of individual virtue. It's a compelling idea, and I wish that the movie was up to the challenge it sets for itself. Unfortunately, it comes across as overly melodramatic, and never really captures the gut the same way that it does the brain. I know that Redford can pull that kind of combination off-- he did exactly that in his film Quiz Show, which similarly dealt with moral conflicts and institutional corruption. There are several strong performances in The Conspirator that make it worth seeing, but it would appear that, given the responses noted above (including it's own marketing campaign-- check out the poster above), it is not likely to prompt the kind of debate over current affairs it seems to want to spark.
This is one of those songs that makes me think of summer, as it seemed to be coming out of every radio in the neighborhood back in 1971. This was the last big hit by Paul Revere & the Raiders, and they had a whole bunch of them. Check it out:
I really should know better. I learned long ago that as famous as Buffalo Style Wings have become over the years, the farther away one gets from Buffalo itself, the less likely you are to find an even reasonable facsimile of the real thing. I don't know why that is-- presumably if you mix the ingredients properly, you ought to be able to replicate the flavor, texture, etc. of a well-done chicken wing. But it doesn't seem to work that way. So it's no surprise to discover that the same principle applies in relation to Buffalo Chicken Style Soup. There are a couple of places in Western New York that specialize in this concoction, and have even won awards at the Taste of Buffalo festival. That soup is really good-- hot and tangy and calling to mind a plate full of wings. But the cup I tried in an Idaho Falls eatery a couple days ago was a pale imitation. It was orange, and it did have chicken in it, but potatoes? I guess that was supposed to be the Idaho twist, but it really undercut the flavor, creating more of a chicken stew with a hint of garlic Tabasco added. It's sad that folks out west don't know the real thing, and it makes me wonder if they think that those of us who have are crazy to think it's so great (that goes for the soup as well as the wings). Here's hoping that someone, someday figures out how to export or create something as good as what Buffalonians can get at the Anchor Bar or Duff's.
Ansel Adams (1902-1984) was one of the most accomplished and famous of American photographers, known especially for his stunning landscapes. Here's a statement he made that I agree with:
"Millions of men have lived to fight, build palaces and boundaries, shape destinies and societies; but the compelling force of all times has been the force of originality and creation profoundly affecting the roots of human spirit."
They were also-rans in the Battle of the Bands on Dr. John's Record Shelf, but the Who lasted into the semi-finals (tying the Kinks for third spot overall). Here's one of my favorite performances by them, from the Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus circa 1969. This is often credited as the first rock opera:
I'm sure that it will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that the Battle of the Bands on Dr. John's Record Shelf has determined that the Beatles were the greatest British rock and roll group of the era 1960 to 1974. After a grueling competition that began with 64 groups eight months ago, the Beatles rather convincingly defeated the Rolling Stones in the final round, by an 8-3 vote by listeners. I think that next season we'll try something else on the program, as this year's Battle produced few upsets and became something of a foregone conclusion as it played out. It gave us the opportunity to play a lot of great music, but we do that anyway. So, thanks to all who voted or offered comments on the contest, and I'll keep you posted on what we do next.
Charles Mingus really knew how to rock-- his "Hora Decubitus" is ample evidence of the fact. Here, that tune provides a soundtrack for scenes from Martin Scorsese's classic New York City fable, After Hours. The two go really well together:
I always liked Otto Soglow's Little King strip, but I never knew about The Ambassador until I discovered some examples at the I Love Comix Archive. Here's a sampling, and you can find more at the link for the Archive.
Apparently, The Ambassador was created as a kind of knock-off of the Little King, albeit by the latter's creator. There was some kind of issue about bringing the King from the New Yorker (where it originated) to the funnie pages, and this was Soglow's solution. Once the copyright issue was resolved, the Ambassador disappeared, and the King became a Sunday mainstay. I can't imagine any strip today sparking those kind of controversies.
The Dream Syndicate was one of the great bands of the eighties. I remember seeing them open for REM at the Beacon Theater in New York back in 1984-- an all around memorable show, and I'm pretty sure DS played this song:
Just as The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show included additional segments like "Dudley Do-Right" and "Fractured Fairy Tales," so too was George of the Jungle augmented by supporting features like "Tom Slick." All were marked by the signature wit of the Jay Ward production team. Here's an example of "Tom Slick:"
I really like this comment from the American author Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888):
"Conceit spoils the finest genius. There is not much danger that real talent or goodness will be overlooked long; even if it is, the consciousness of possessing and using it well should satisfy one, and the great charm of all power is modesty."
Alright, this week I have a new kind of question (at least I don't recall one like this before): who is Richard high-fiving in this shot? It's a cropped photo, so I can provide photographic evidence of the correct answer next week. If you think you know (or even if you don't), you can put your guesses in the comments section.
Last week, I asked you to identify the owner of a very large tongue. The correct answer was birthday girl Raechelle, which was what everyone guessed. But Lil Sis was first, so she gets credit for the "win." Best of luck to everyone this week!
Winter just doesn't seem to want to end here in SW Montana. Every day is cold, gray and usually wet. wet or snowy. So, naturally I'm thinking of warmer places, especially southern California where I was lucky enough to get away to last about six weeks ago. How I long to see some greenery, like the palm trees in Santa Monica seen above.
I can't imagine when I might see some flowers blooming around here, but the gardens were very colorful at the Huntington Library complex.
The last shot is also from the grounds at the Huntington center. I can easily imagine whiling away an afternoon with a good book, sitting under the trees. Unfortunately, at the moment I can only imagine it.
Anybody who saw the absolute gem of a movie Beautiful Girls, directed by Ted Demme back in 1996, had to know Natalie Portman was destined for great things. I frankly am surprised it took her fifteen years to win an Oscar. The rest of the cast in that film is just as good, and it's one of those movies that rewards repeat viewing. Anyway, here's my favorite (well, one of my favorite) scenes...
Last Friday, the radio station for which I broadcast, KDWG in Dillon, celebrated its tenth anniversary with what we hope will become an annual event called West-Fest. It was supposed to be a big outdoor party, but inclement weather forced us indoors. Even so, it was a great time, with live music from 3 to 10, along with a barbecue, beer garden, and assorted art demonstrations and booths. Here are a few pictures I took at the festivities, starting with the Black Rose Band above.
Kayli Smith performed a nice acoustic set.
Landlocked got the crowd moving with their patented Polynesian reggae mix.
Unfortunately, the light was such that I couldn't get a sharp image of the crowd, but I think this conveys a bit of the action on the dance floor.
Headlining was The Dirty Shame, and they put a nice country cap to the evening. Great show overall-- and I can't wait for next year!
Well, I don't know if anyone could have possibly predicted this (sarcasm intended), but in the Battle of the Bands to determine the greatest British rock and roll band of the era 1960 to 1974 unfolding on Dr. John's Record Shelf over the past few months, the two finalists ended up being the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. The former edged the Who for their berth in the final, while the latter knocked off the Kinks.
Songs in competition were "Sympathy for the Devil" by the Stones, "Won't Get Fooled Again" by the Who, "Hard Day's Night" by the Beatles, and "Tired of Waiting For You" by the Kinks. Next week, for the final, I'll play three songs by each group, early enough in the program that we can take phone call votes. But if anyone wants to post a preference in comments here, I'll add that to the tally.
I find this line from the founder of the American Red Cross, Clara Barton (1821-1912), rather inspiring:
"I have an almost complete disregard of precedent, and a faith in the possibility of something better. It irritates me to be told how things have always been done. I defy the tyranny of precedent. I go for anything new that might improve the past."
This was actually something of a novelty hit about twenty-five years ago-- and I remember that we had boxes and boxes of the 12" version on consignment cluttering up the back room of the record store where I worked. Like a lot of novelties, after its initial burst of popularity, you couldn't give the thing away. But now that it's been awhile, it was kind of nice to hear again...
Our Battle of the Bands is winding down on Dr. John's Record Shelf. Tonight, we have the final four semi-finals, with the finals to occur next week between this evening's winners. Here's the lineup if you want to try and get in a vote:
Mod vs. Teddy Boy Bracket: "Sympathy for the Devil," Rolling Stones v. "Won't Get Fooled Again," the Who Empire vs. Pop Bracket: "Tired of Waiting For You," the Kinks v. "Hard Day's Night," the Beatles
Last week I posted some examples of Gasoline Alley from 1937. A couple of those included a bonus Frank King strip focusing on Corky, the little brother of Skeezix (the main character of G.A.). There was a time when just about every Sunday funny page had a main strip and another to fill out the page ('cause they actually were full pages). So here are a few more examples of the Corky strip, and if they whet your appetite, there are a whole bunch more at the I Love Comix Archive.