Sunday, January 23, 2011

3 Degrees of 007

The mid 1960's had five very cool things going for it in the eyes and ears of this teenager.

Four guys from Liverpool with a ticket to ride.

One guy from London with a license to kill.

And while I wrote and played music, garage band style, with the best of them in hopes that someday I would find something even remotely resembling the Fabs level of success, I, like a plethora of my peers, secretly harbored a dream about saving the world from evil, resplendent in my tailored tux, packing serious, but uber-cool heat in the form of the Walther PPK.

My monthly BMI statement will attest to the fact that I have yet to accomplish anything remotely resembling the Fab level.

And it's been years since I had to rent a tux, let alone own one.

I did, however, stumble into my own little event that empirically connected the two for all future historians and civilians to see/hear.

My three degrees of double oh seven.

1. 1967...the fifth in a very successful series of films starring Sean Connery as Ian Fleming's dapper double oh, James Bond is released. The film is "You Only Live Twice." The theme song, in keeping with the tradition of celebrity performance, is sung by a young pop star responsible for a monster number one hit the previous year, "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'"... Nancy Sinatra.

2. Two versions of "You Only Live Twice" are recorded, one for the movie soundtrack, another of radio single release. The latter of the two is arranged by an iconic musician/producer/writer and dear friend of Nancy's who will, fifteen or so years later, become a dear friend of mine... Billy Strange.

3. 1995...Billy Strange, assisting in production and arrangement of "One More Time", an album Nancy is recording, pitches her a song from his own publishing company, a song Nancy likes and decides to record. The song is "Crocodile Tears". The song is co-written by one of Billy's staff writers and dear friends...Scott Edward Phelps.

Crocodile Tears 

Sinatra to Strange to SEP.

Ian Fleming's clever way with words notwithstanding, we all know we only live once.

If you're lucky, though, once is enough.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

"...It's Fifteen Minutes Past Five O'Clock Somewhere...."

Nashville writer/author Holly Gleason wrote a very insightful and articulate piece at No yesterday.

Somewhere around graph six, I began to get the sense that Holly was already on a solid track to, herself, answering the very question(s) that she was rhetorically posing.

Her reminiscence of the once upon a time "departure" of Johnny Cash from Columbia Records , however unintentionally, provided an unbeatable solution to any mystery that might be involved in the recent departure of Alan Jackson from Arista.

Andy Warhol defined it years ago with his observation about the "fifteen minutes".

In some cases, fifteen minutes simply lasts longer than in others.

All due respect to the singing/songwriting skills Alan possesses, the obvious available for clear grasping has always been, and will always be, that to everything there is a season.

And a shelf life.

Stars shine brightly. And then they dim.

And the brightest of those stars seem to dim the most, if only because of the extra contrast involved.

Ironically, I think, it was Johnny Cash, himself, who most exquisitely articulated it with what essentially became his last, and best, hurrah, the staggeringly brilliant recording/video of the Trent Reznor song "Hurt".

Dollars to donuts that no one appreciated Johnny's point of view more that the blond, lanky guy capable of creating "Where Were You", "Remember When", et al.

Even if he had to get to his point in his own career before that appreciation reached its zenith.

And while speculating on the why makes for good blogging material and/or a fun way to kill some time, it's ultimately an exercise in futility because, in the end, no one really knows, or will know, the reason why save those who were directly involved in the decision making.

More dollars to more donuts they won't be talking anytime soon.

As far as Holly's observations re' the "sanitized for your protection, Ken'N'Barbie proposition down on Music Row", I can't help but be tempted to offer to buy Holly a beer, give her a big wink and say "uh, where you been, sister girlfriend?"

Nashville has always been a factory town. A factory that manufactures product, product for sale. Really no different, at its center, than Detroit or Battle Creek.

The difference, of course, being that in Music City, the product isn't motor vehicles or corn flakes.

It's recordings.

And just as Hollywood is run, not by the creative types who weave the dreams, but the bean counters who fund the weaving and look for a nice ROI on the dreams, so, too, is Nashville run by those whose primary purpose is maintaining the profit margin.

Gary Overton, for example, has been one of those margin maestros in Nashville for over twenty-five years now. He and I worked together a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, he as a song plugger, I a staff songwriter for Chelsea Music Group. I don't think he would have the lawyers track me down if he read this and found me suggesting that he would likely admit his passion was for marketing and sales of the product, not creative research and development of the product itself.

And while it's no small irony that today he's not only the head of Sony Nashville now, the mother ship of Arista Records, but also was Alan's personal manager for a few years back in the day, the real end of the story is the inevitable end of the story.

It's nothing personal, as the Corleone family made fashionable to suggest, it's just business.

And, despite the wishful thinking we indulgently allow ourselves, it's always been business.

Traditional country music, as a genre, is, in the clear light of profit and loss, a myth.

It is merely a deservedly respected yin to the yang of "contemporary" country music, both of which politely, albeit often begrudgingly, wait their respective turns in the wheel house.

In the 1980's, the new traditionalism of Randy Travis came into fashion as the fades were playing out on the 1970's "country-politanism" of Kenny Rogers, Lee Greenwood, et al.

Alan Jackson's brand of "traditional country music", beginning in 1989 has most certainly faded in the growing new millennium rush of Sugarland, Lady Antebellum, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, traceable, I would offer you, back to its own beginnings, the Mutt Lange pop coated, new and improved version of the singer Harold Shedd couldn't get arrested, Shania Twain.

And, personally, I wouldn't have any problem risking a c note or two that, sooner or later, just like sands through the hourglass, the "pop" sounds will give way to the next wave of more "traditional" sounds. (Although a good case could be made for the theory that with each cycle, both genre's find their "purity" a little less so. At some point, it becomes difficult to taste either the peanut butter or the chocolate as separate flavors)

All of this, though, is determined less by the direction of the prevailing winds of artistry than it is the bullet points in the business plan designed to achieve projected revenues.

Has been for a long time.

Will be for a long time.

Unasked, my own, for the fun of it, guess is that Alan, obviously financially free to do, or not do, as he pleases, will implement a "Mattea"...he'll make the kind of music he wants, when he wants, with whom he wants and release it on his own or an eager to have him indy label.

As for his place in country music history, that's already an obvious done deal.
New to the plot, though, is the connecting of the dots that only getting to this point in the story could provide.

For those of us who have labored in the factory at one time or another, the dream has always been that art would find a way to earn the legitimate, not just lip service, respect of the CFO's.

That same those of us learn, sooner or later, that that ain't never gonna happen.

Alas, in a perfect world...

Turns out, Alan has as much in common with Nostradamus as he does his country music peers.

Cranked out the perfect theme song.

Over twenty years ago.

"Here In The Real World".

"Monty Python Fans Rejoice!...Eventually Even Michael Palin Will Have More Support.."

As of just a few moments ago at

Who would you be more likely to support for the Republican presidential nomination?

Rudy Giuliani      84%     30958
Sarah Palin         16%        5699

Total votes: 36657

Apparently, Joe the Plumber has moved the home office from Alaska to New York.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

..."You Say Tomato And I Say Tohmahto......."

Old joke.

A conservative is a liberal who gets mugged.

Thank you, I'll be here all week.

For some reason I can't discern, I've been watching a lot of "conservative" talk TV this past week. Obviously, the horrific event in Arizona has brought news back to the top of my chart, knocking back to number two and/or three endless repeats of "Law and Order, ETC" and/or back to back to back episodes of "N.C.I.S.".

And I suppose that if you asked ten people who know me and/or read my work to "label" me, the consensus would be "liberal" as opposed to "conservative".

So, it might be assumed that my take on the aforementioned conservative talk TV would be a foregone conclusion.

That's the problem with "labels".

They only account for the "letter" of a law, ruling out any sense of its "spirit".

Here's my honest "take".

I like, enjoy and respect Bill O'Reilly.

I enjoy and respect Sean Hannity.

And I am pretty much okay with a variety of other Fox News-ites including, but not limited to, Bernie Goldberg, Juan Williams and Laura Ingraham.

That said...

I honestly believe that Rush Limbaugh would say "black" if "it" were white if only because any one remotely resembling a "left winger" called "it" white.

Case in point...the Barack Obama speech in Tuscon last night.

Praise and appreciation have been, arguably, universal from both sides of the political divide.

Limbaugh, meanwhile, found a variety of ways to take cheap shots, primarily with a technique we Tennesseans affectionately refer to as "picking fly shit out of pepper".

Regardless of our respective political or ideological positions, I think two facts are irrefutable:

Barack Obama is doing, right or wrong, well or badly, what he perceives to be his best effort at the job he was elected to do.

Rush Limbaugh, meanwhile, is getting rich mouthing off about that effort.

I resist the liberal label, but if wear it I must, please allow me to offer this commiseration to any "conservative" reading this piece:

There is a fair and legitimate case to be made for the "conservative" viewpoint of any and all issues.

You deserve a better advocate for your position than offered by the clearly bloated bias of Rush Limbaugh.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"In Any Courtoom, The Doubt Would Be More Than Reasonable..."

Sarah Palin likes to portray herself as a being very much in touch with "the average American".

And it seems only reasonable that would include "the average parent".

Continuing along that path of logic, surely, at some point in her life, either as a child of parents or a parent of children, she has heard, or spoken, this oft quoted life advice.

"When in doubt, don't".

Taking every other consideration or interpretation off the table, endorsing the publication of a map of the United States using symbols that could, under any circumstances, be construed as "targets" by anyone at any time, surely had to give any reasonable person at least a moment's doubt.

If she didn't have that doubt, then she most certainly can't be in touch with "the average American" because the average American is essentially an intelligent and reasonable person who, most obviously, would have had that doubt.

And if she did have that doubt but let her ambition overwhelm her common sense, then she, very simply, doesn't deserve our respect, let alone our consideration as a serious candidate for high office.

Sarah Palin had nothing to do with the tragedy in Tuscon.

But even if that tragedy had never occurred, her use of symbols that could be interpreted by disturbed minds as an endorsement of violence was a horrific lapse of good judgment.

No doubt about it.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

"...O Beautiful, For......"

Ricky Fitts came to mind today.

The young character in the movie "American Beauty" who was clearly a very old soul and who spoke one of the more iconic lines of dialogue in the film.

"Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in."


A very curious thing.

A life mosaic tile that simply will not be denied, even when its appearance seems inappropriate, even obscene.

As the terrible, acrid smoke of Glock gunfire finally vanishes from an Arizona supermarket parking lot, details about those wounded and killed begin to emerge and, in those details, the beauty that finds its way out of bedlam.

The beauty of sacrifice...76 year old Dory Stoddard, a retired construction worker who, after being shot in the head, fell toward his wife to shield her from madness, most likely saving her life while losing his own.

The beauty of selflessness...Daniel Hernandez, a trained nurse, interning for the Congresswoman who, while inside the store, heard gunfire and rushed toward, not away from. the madness, reaching her side quickly, applying pressure to the wound, keeping her alert, assisting in getting her out of there and, most likely, saving her life.

The beauty of courage...several bystanders who tackled the madman and brought him down, even as he calmly attempted to go about the business of reloading the Glock and emptying another 30 bullet magazine, risking their own lives and, most likely, saving the lives of countless others.

The beauty of poignancy...Christina Taylor Greene...9 years old...newly elected to her school's student council, excited about learning the political process..only to die young and unexpectedly on a day that American history will record as an assault on all of us...having been born on a day that American history records as an assault on all of us...

September 11, 2001.

"Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in."

The movie doesn't say anything about Ricky Fitts being from Arizona.

Doesn't matter.

He is.

And so are we.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

"...The Problem With Freedom..."

At this writing, six people, including a nine year old girl and a Federal judge are dead.
Eleven others are wounded, four critically.
And a respected and popular Congresswoman is in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head.
Over the next few days/weeks, billions of words will fly back and forth on matters directly, even tenuously, related to this shooting.
I'll keep mine to a minimum.
The kid in custody is 22 years old and the weapon used was a Glock 9mm with a 30 bullet clip.
Let's run that last sentence again.
The kid in custody is 22 years old and the weapon used was a Glock 9mm with a 30 bullet clip.
While forensics and other physical evidence may provide the necessary tools to convict this kid, there is no way of proving two other, more abstract, assertions:

That vitriolic venom disguised as conscientious conservatism helped push an already disturbed mind over the line of self control and created a rush of blood away from the brain down to the trigger finger.

That an ideology that clings hysterically to some moronic belief that owning a gun in this country is a "right" on a par with personal liberty or voting the candidate of your choice may not have caused, but certainly contributed to, the carnage today.

Those in this country who subscribe to, let alone boast about, extreme right wing values, without taking into account the very real danger extremism poses when absorbed by delusional or deranged minds are guilty of fanning flames that burst into gunfire in a shopping center parking lot in Arizona this morning.

And those who cry "freedom!" as if mindlessly waving Bics at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert are unworthy of enjoying the very liberties they so self righteously defend and demand.

Because they lack two critical social skills.

The ability to think past the moment.

The ability to, at least, consider an opposing point of view.

Intelligent, reasonable people understand a very simple concept.

Freedom is an extremely dangerous thing.

Because of the problem with it.

You have to give it to everybody.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

"I Do Solemnly Swear...Just This Once....":

Are you one of those who chafes at the idea of starting the Christmas holidays in October?

Then you must really be chapped about the fact that Presidents only "govern", such as it is, for two years max.

We elect them, they are sworn in and then shortly after Christmas of the second year of the term, the re-election machinery goes into motion.

I've now lived long enough to have been around for twelve presidents. And somewhere around five, or so, I came to a conclusion that rings as true for me now as it did in the way back.

We need to amend the Constitution to limit the presidency to one term, six years max.

With no re-election to be concerned about, the office holder need not worry about having to become the office seeker in order to remain the office holder.

And if they can't get the job done then year six it's see ya, see ya, wouldn't wanna be ya.

If they do a spectacular job, they can run again.

In six years.

There is no logical, practical or reasonable case to be made for continuing the tradition of two terms.

In fact, the only "reason" it continues is....tradition.

Loath as I am to quote him, there's no denying the appropriateness of a Dr. Phil-ism

"How's that workin' for ya?"

Put another way.

Changing the way it is would completely alter the way its done.

And you don't need to be Dr. Phil to ask this question.

What's your point?