Saturday, December 31, 2011

Auld Lang Syne

Photo by Weegee
Happy New Year! from Gemini Spacecraft. May your '12 play the Dozens not too harshly with you. And steer clear of this guy (below) tonight...


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas in Jail


The Youngsters -- Christmas in Jail

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy Birthday Keef

"Televisions are boring anyway..." Note the camera crew visible in some of these shots. Of "Cocksucker Blues," the documentary of the Stones 1972 tour of the U.S., filmmaker Robert Frank has said that most of the stunts were staged, largely because if he'd simply filmed what was really going on no one would have believed it. Keith Richards, sixty-eight years old today. Believe that.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkey Neck Stretch


Turkey Neck Stretch - Gradie O'Neal and the Bella Tones, 1958.

Lee Harvey Oswald: "They Say He Shot the President"


Lee Harvey Oswald, October 18, 1939 – November 24, 1963. 
"Lee Harvey was a Friend of Mine" - Homer Henderson, released 198?.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hillbilly Hayride #5: Caffeine & Nicotine


Curtis Gordon - Caffeine & Nicotine, released June, 1954. 


Photo of C.G. courtesy Rockin' Country Style


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Vernon Green & The Medallions: Of Puppettutes and Pizmotalities


Vernon Green at 6 o'clock.


Much has already been said regarding the true meaning of “sweet pizmotality” and “the puppettutes of love” as these phrases were uttered by the Medallions on their 1954 single “The Letter.” Many have speculated on their etymology--or should we say "etyzmotality"? Some trace that jive back to the ancients, still others to the label on cans of Royal Crown Hair Dressing.

Of his own enigmatic lyric, Medallions lead man Vernon Green once said, “You have to remember, I was a very lonely guy at the time. I was only fourteen years old, I had just run away from home, and I walked on crutches.” Teener love eluded young Green, whose body had been wracked by polio at an early age. And so, between joyrides and acne creams, he dreamed of other-wordly things. From these dreams he wrought doo-wop gold.
   
As a single, "Buick 59" b/w "The Letter," on the DooTone label, might perfectly illustrate that old schizoid doo-wop formula, where a revved-up rocker on the A-side was almost always coupled with a ballad, often a sappy one at that, on the B-side.

For more on that let us refer to the September 1954 installment of “Notes from the R&B Beat” (does anyone know the original source for this column?) as compiled in Galen Gart’s incredible serial First Pressings: The History of Rhythm & Blues:
 
“After seven years of trying to break into the record market with a big hit, Dootsie Williams, prexy of DooTone Records has at long last come up with a big one. His latest waxing of ‘Buick 59’ b/w ‘The Letter’ by the Medallions has cracked wide open here in L.A. and it’s still a toss-up as to which side is the biggest. Spinner Hunter Hancock picked both sides of the disk as his ‘Record of the Week’.”

All of this happened when the imaginative balladeer was just a kid, and that kid knew that nothin’ could shake the heartbreak of frustrated pizmotalities better than a fine set of wheels. The most Cruise-O-Matic of Medallions sides, “Buick 59” and “Speedin,” (there were others: "' 59 Volvo" "Push Button Automobile" etc., etc.,) don’t merely describe so much as they sonically re-enact in full doo-wop glory the thrill of burning a “tankful of ethyl gas.” For these exploits, Green, ever the dreamer, even invented a car that didn’t yet exist. In fact, it would never exist. No Buick 59 ever rolled off the line in Detroit, or anywhere else. But if it had, then you know that bucket would have burned only high-grade pizmotane. Nothing but the best when your puppettutes is ridin’ by your side.

In “Speedin’,” released after “Buick 59,” also on the DooTone label, the premise is simple enough: the singer’s gotta meet that girl, so he’s “Speedin’! Doo-do-do-do-doo.” However, without gas, even a Buick 59 becomes just another hoopdie. Green’s bucket always either runs out of gas, blows a tire, or the cops catch up to it just before it carries him to that dreamed-of Shangri-La.



It’s the classic American bummer: fulfillment of desire remains always just beyond reach. Behind the dream lies emptiness, a lonely crockashit. 

After the early singles, as Green’s performances matured, we begin to hear real desolation, as in the ghostly “Sweet Breeze,” from 1956 on the Specialty label, credited not to the Medallions, but to Vernon Green and the Phantoms. Here, Green didn’t have to invent goofy words to say it:

The wind has a feeling and a soul.
 I trust in thee, but please don’t be cold.
The sweet, sweet breeze
blows softly through her golden hair.
Tell me, does she really, really care?
It just isn't fair.

Gone is the Clearasil, gone the greasy kid stuff, and the remedial math of matrimony. In the end there’s only the wind, that, and maybe a can of Royal Crown Hair Dressing.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Goin' Instro-Mental #6: Cottonpickin'


"Cottonpickin'" by The Night Raiders, as in Mickey Hawks & The Night Raiders, originally released on the Profile label in 1959. This is a 60's repro on the HUNCH label, which operated outta Pittsboig, I think.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Carl Gardner of The Coasters: May They Bury Him In Pure, Pure Herringbone

Classic Coasters line-up, left to right: Billy Guy, Will Jones, Carl Gardner, Cornell Gunter,
and Adolph Jacobs




Carl Gardner, the last surviving member of the original line-up of The Coasters, died Sunday. His NY Times obit can be found here. "May they," as T Tex Edwards said, "Bury him in pure, pure herringbone."
 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Wanda Jackson on the TeeVee!



Backed by the early 70s line-up of the Buckaroos on Hee-Haw, performing "Big Iron Skillet."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sid King & The Five Strings


Sid King & The Five Strings -- Let 'Er Roll

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rose Maddox on Milk Cows & Matrimony

Rose Maddox in a detail from Joe Coleman painting "A Doorway to Joe".




On some old hillbilly records, use of the word matrimony underscores the sexual dimension in that “union of man and woman in marriage.” Wayne Raney’s 1949 hit “Haul Off & Love Me,” which went to #1 on the Country charts before crossing over to the Top 40, suggests with a leer that that union is sealed by love, law, and genitals. The singer, lookin’ to score in the only way that good Christian values allow, pursues his object of desire through a proper courtship—about two verses in duration—before reaching that promised land at the altar, and in between her thighs. At that point he proclaims Now I can feel your warm lips on me, hear you breathin’ soft & fine/ I can feel the matrimony crawlin’ up & down my spine!  
And this from the same guy who’d later record “We Need a Whole Lot More of Jesus (And a Lot Less Rock and Roll)”!
           But, in “Haul Off & Love Me,” Raney still tows the Christian line, and towing the line never generated much good material for Country & Western songs. For that you need sin, or at least a more hard-bitten realism. Maybe the two go hand in hand.
           Enter “America’s Most Colorful Hillbilly Band,” aka The Maddox Brothers and Rose. Who better to bite hard on reality than a band of Dustbowl Okies? From the late 40s through the mid-50s, brothers Fred, Cal, Henry, Don and sister Rose Maddox cut a slew of sides for the 4-Star and Columbia labels, several of which treat the subject at hand with swing, humor, and occasionally, a big helping of milk & butter. 


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cramped



What’s this? A random, non-topical post on The Cramps? That’s right. Maintaining non-topical irrelevance is the very raison d’etre of Gemini Spacecraft. Besides, some pretty ace footage has recently surfaced catching Lux & Ivy and their various cohorts in their prime, back before they trafficked in sorta hokey self-parody, that stuff of middle-aged rock 'n' roll. 




 

The first clip originally ran as a wrap-up story for a local Memphis news show, circa 1977, when the band was there in Bluff City cutting those first sessions at Phillips Recording with Alex Chilton. I first saw it sometime in the mid-90s, when author/documentarian Robert Gordon included it in his collection of Memphis music shorts he called “Banned, Burned, & Forgotten” (or something like that), which he showed during his book tour for It Came From Memphis. Yes, I know the footage is kinda rough. But the band rocks! And check out Bryan Gregory! Dig Axl Chitlin’s effete, southern stoner accent. Then of course, there’s the story's end, when you get to hear the Memphis tv journalist announce The Cramps' show at the Orpheum, all those year ago.  Of particular interest is that moment when the news guy mentions the other bands on the bill that night. How often to ya get to here a “The Clits” on TeeVee?  Is it just me, or did journalism have more integrity back then?

The second clip catches the band in ’81, with Kid Congo Powers in tow, playing a smokin’ version of their “hit” version of the Ronnie Cook & the Gaylads tune “Goo Goo Muck.”



Saturday, February 5, 2011

"C'mon, Who Are You?" - Tura Satana in The Astro Zombies



R.I.P. Tura Satana

Blues Hangover - Hangover Blues

Label scan nicked from TheHoundBlog


Now lay aside all worries about chickens and eggs. What we wanna know today is which one do you have, a Blues Hangover or the Hangover Blues? Strung together like so, the titles nearly form a palindrome, or do a figure 8, or make two railroad tracks, one of ‘em goin’ away, the other one comin’ back.

Slim Harpo

“I am the Alpo and the omego,” sez the Alpha Dog. He chases his own tail, but ends up sniffing his own anus. He reads a portent there: Blues was here in the Beginning, Blues will be here in The End. Like most Blues, these two had their antecedents. The Texas Boogie-man Lloyd Glenn, who played piano for T-Bone Walker, among others, woke up with our first hangover, an instrumental version of Blues Hangover released in 1950 on the Swingtime label. Although a fairly low-down number, Glenn still drank pretty smooth hooch. His hangover is a product of an earlier era of big band R&B. Ten years later, Slim Harpo swilled from a much raunchier batch of bathtub gugalug, and he added this lament: I done gave my baby $20 for Christmas, and all I got was a slice of jelly cake. Drink up, Slim, because nowadays, $20 is a pretty fair price for a slice. 

Maddox Brothers and Rose

The hayseed hears the cottonpicker’s same three chords, repeated 100,000 times, all the way from Baton Rouge to Bakersfield. Love and theft, that’s the story of American music, at least during the 20th Century, anyway. Blues in the beginning, blues in the end. Hangover Blues by the Maddox Brothers and Rose borrowed its title from a 1951 b-side by the Johnny Otis Orchestra, a West Coast, Central Ave R&B stalwart. Decca released the Maddox Bros and Rose's newer version in early 1953 amid the vacuum left by a recently deceased Hank Williams. Hank knew about hangovers. While walking in the shadow of death he tipped a few bottles of Wine Headed Baby. Did he ever see his own skull floating near the bottom? While he was busy dyin’, the Maddox Brothers and Rose gave the hangover a few new lines, just like Slim Harpo would later. Walkin’ down the street with my head hangin’ low, my bottle is empty I ain’t got no dough. I gotta go… I gotta go… I gotta go and lose these mean hangover blues.
  

Blues Hangover - Slim Harpo

Hangover Blues - Maddox Brothers and Rose

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lip-Sync Freakout #1: P.J. Proby




German television, 196?

Friday, January 28, 2011

On the GS Bookshelf: Alphaville



Just try talking about the Lower East Side now without using the phrase “back in the day.” Betcha can’t do it. The particular “back in the day” of interest in Alphaville, 1988, Crime, Punishment, and the Battle for New York City’s Lower East Side (St. Martins, 2010) is the 1980s. At that time, the storied neighborhood, already prey to encroaching gentrification, still housed lots of working class immigrants and low-rent bohemians, while certain of its streets functioned as open-air drug bazaars. And while the crack epidemic was in full swing, the “D” in Avenue D stood for Dope. Heroin flooded through the Ave D projects, spreading through the Alphabet, and outward from there to the rest of New York City, and the entire country.  

Retired New York City cop Michael Codella worked the Lower East Side narcotics beat during this infamous period, first as a housing cop patrolling the massive Riis and Wald Houses on Avenue D, and then as a DEA deputy investigating one of the D’s heaviest street dealing crews. Alphaville tells his story.

Few people are prepared from day one for their chosen vocation. Codella, to hear him tell it, was such an apprentice. He came of age in the 1970s out at the end of the LL line in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, a neighborhood populated, at that time, largely by wise-guys and cops. Codella’s own family tree also reflected this demographic slant. His dad was a housing cop before him. His grandfather, originally from Sicily, had once been on the payroll of  Lucky Luciano. These early influences, Codella argues, sharpened him up for duty on the D, where harsh reality often called for a fast-and-loose interpretation of the NYPD Patrol Guide, and conscience demanded some fundamental guiding code. Gramps, it turned out, provided the latter, in the form of an old world ethos, transplanted to Canarsie, of “Behave-a yourself,” meaning roughly a combination of “don’t get caught” and "always have fun."


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Crusher on the TeeVee!



"You Remember the Crusher claw-hold. I'm gonna stick it in his stomach, move a few spaghettis on the side, and meatballs!"

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