Just past is Halloween. Near is Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and most importantly my birthday.
While my birthday hasn’t been around quite as long as those other holidays, I am old. I can remember when a gloomy night of nothing to watch meant continual channel surfing with ye olde TV knob of less then twenty commercial filled channels. I remember vinyl. Now my music collection for favorite artists spans vinyl, audio cassettes, CDs and digital.
I was born on December 5th, a birthdate shared with Walt Disney and Fritz Lang.
I am not much for celebrating birthdays or any holidays. This year on the evening of December 6th from five until seven, I shall be joining in the authors signing at Washington Street Books on 131 N Washington Street in Havre de Grace, Maryland, as part of the small town’s First Friday event. There will be plenty of shops celebrating, music, and a Christmas parade in honor of the upcoming season.
I’ll have four books with me available to sign and sell, including Certain Shadows I Have Known which is the tale of a hit man who takes assignments of a supernatural order. But are they? Eventually odd things begin to happen and he fears for his life. Or at least his sanity. This book is available online via publisher or at Amazon until month’s end.
I am not a tremendous music buff. In fact, most musicians I am a fan of I have come to from interests in other mediums. I became a Beatles fan after being mesmerized by the Malcolm McDowell narrated 1982 bio pic, The Compleat Beatles. My enthusiasm for David Bowie began after hearing several film themes, such as the one for 1982’s horror film Cat People which starred Malcolm McDowell. Notice a reoccurring theme here?
And then there’s The Monkees.
The tale of The Monkess has been told numerous times. A notice was placed to recruit four multi-talented young men to portray band members. The zany exploits of the fictional band were covered in a a TV series that ran from 1966 to 1968. Then with music from the show released as the series ran, the group performed concerts. At first The Monkees’ songs were written by noted songwriters such as Neil Diamond and Carole King while professional musicians were used to craft the music. Eventually seeds of revolution were planted (it was the 60’s) and the four members of the band wanted to fashion their own music.
Each Monkee had a personality style all his own (some say linked to/inspired by the Beatles). Micky Dolenz was the drummer who was a friendly funny fellow. Davy Jones was the charming heartthrob who incidentally was the reason for Bowie abandoning his birth name of David Jones. Peter Tork played the naive one. Michael Nesmith was the intellectual and famous for wearing a wool hat during the series. He was my personal favorite. He would go on to create Elephant Parts in which one could foresee upcoming media trends such as MTV. Nesmith would continue with his music career, notably with The First National Band as well as reuniting with The Monkees. At one point all The Monkees took part in various reunions, including a TV special.
Showing my age, in my music collection only The Monkees and David Bowie span from vinyl to CDs. Recently while attempting to get my things in order (perhaps a hopeless task) I discovered a working audio tape player. Of late, I have been listening to ancient audio tapes. Last night I selected The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees. Released in 1968 I believe, the album boasts few songs known from the TV series (such as Valleri) and a greater experimental nod from the group. One such number is Zor and Zam a simple and direct tale of war called for by the monarchs of a distant land who get no response from its citizens. The song’s anti-war sentiment seems obvious. The song and album is a favorite of mine, even though it found little mainstream success. Headquarters seems one of the group’s major successes with the melancholy Shades of Grey, Zilch (perhaps one of the first rap performances?), Micky Dolenz’s powerfully sung Randy Scouse Git, and Michael Nesmith’s simple yet directly hummable You Told Me. The 1967 album is an impressive accomplishment of the group.
Alas today only half of The Monkees remain, Davy Jones and Peter Tork have died. Luckily I managed to see them both perform. Jones did so at a Pennsylvania convention I was at and seemed very pleased amongst his fans even though there was a dismal turn out. I got to see Peter Tork and Shoe Suede Blues perform at a Maryland club. Considering the band name, it’s no surprise that of the many song styles featured in the set, the blues dominated. Afterwards when I got an album and his autograph, I misspoke the title of a TV series he had guested in. I think I said Queen of Kings instead of the King of Queens. Thus we both had a laugh.
The death of actor Jan Michael Vincent was recently reported. His portrayal of helicopter pilot Stringfellow Hawke in an ’80s adventure TV series called Airwolf is what I best remember him for. He also had memorable TV turns such a free wheeling hippie recruit who found himself under the command of Marine drill instructor Darren McGavin in the film Tribes. Vincent had died in February and a life hard lived had taken its toll on him. He had been in poor shape when I encountered him at Chiller but was friendly and talkative despite moving very slow.
Actors and other types of artists have always been the people I have looked admiringly to. I am particularly fond of those who performed in TV or films in the era of 1960-1990. I guess its the whole youth thing. Alas, I guess I am reaching the autumn age where you see many of your chosen heroes depart this realm.
February was also a tragic month as Peter Tork of the Monkees died too. I also once met him at Chiller, a different year from meeting with Vincent. Tork was friendly when I spoke to him after a Maryland concert he gave. I mistakenly referred to The King of Queens as the Queen and we both had a laugh. It seems he maintained his sense of humor, although I doubt it could be recognized from my misstatement.I found it funny when he said to the crowd, “The one thing sadder then packing all your CDS in your vehicle to sell at the gig, is packing them all back in for the drive home.” Being a writer, I can relate.
He was the designated the ‘friendly if somewhat naive’ Monkee. He was quite kind and friendly when I met him at a couple cons.
I was lucky enough to see him preform a few times. The sets consisted mainly of his classic Monkee tunes as well as his beloved blues. I grew to really enjoy the later offerings. Tork was quite the musician. As well as singing, I saw him play the keyboard
and strum a guitar’s strings. I believe he also energetically played some other string instruments.
Evidently there’s a link regarding great musicians (or at least musicians that I like) that they be born in the winter season and have their death follow their birthday by days via the calendar. In addition to Peter Tork, David Bowie is an example.
In The Monkees movie Head, Tork had what I deemed the film’s best lines as he portrayed the friendly innocent. Now there are but two Monkees left. Both Tork and Michael Nesmith had been musicians before the advent of their group, which was sometimes referred to as the prefab four, and they felt trapped by perceptions as well as a production decree that left them unable to fashion their own music.
In 2009, Tork was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that affected his tongue. Peter Tork died Februart 21 at the age of 77 but will always be best remembered as a young man/Monkee with ‘something to say’.
January is an important month concerning David Bowie.
On January 8th 1947 he was born. On January 10th 2016 he died. In between there was a lot of great art, some stunningly cool acting performances, and quite a few superb albums from the chameleon-like rock star.
I haven’t seen all of his films, but at the top of my list include The Man Who Fell to Earth and The Hunger. The first film was directed by Nicholas Roeg and starred Bowie as the title alien who comes to Earth in search of water. He’s seduced by society’s offerings, such as television, which finds Bowie seated in front of myriad screens and finally shouting aloud, “Get out of my mind.” In The Hunger from director Tony Scott, Bowie plays a vampire type involved with fellow supernatural creature, Catherine Deneuve. Alas, her mates are not necessarily long lived and after Bowie’s demise, she has her eyes on Susan Sarandon.
Of course David Bowie was involved in a number of films for which he was responsible for music and/or title songs. Cool World falls into this category, and I find the song far more memorable and inspired then the film, which stars Gabriel Byrne plus boasts a plethora of animation. Cat People is a blood filled remake of a black and white psychological horror picture. The intense performance by Malcolm McDowell is as memorable as Bowie’s title tune which features favorite phrase of mine ‘putting out fire with gasoline.’
But Bowie is best known for his musical output. He became famous for donning the guise of maverick intergalactic rocker Ziggy Stardust. That famous album was fully titled The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. It was but the first of many characters Bowie would create and portray throughout his long and influential career. It was also but a part of Bowie’s fascination and creation of science fiction tableaus.
Another can be seen with Outside. While it is not one of Bowie’s more famous albums, it is my favorite. Taking place in a mysterious future time when murder can be seen as an artistic expression crime, the songs can be dark and enigmatic. But then so can its creator. Overall, I find the album quite memorable and engaging.
It may be 2019 but lately I took a trip back to when batteries ruled and digital was but a dream.
For me spring house cleaning became winter house cleaning. I’m either really early or late. Of course Galaxy the cat has been a great help – his peeing on my old stuff is a clear indication of what should be disposed of at last once sorted. After my recent bout with health problems and other disruptions I’ve finally been getting old convention memorabilia, books, clothes, etc. seen to. A few old clothes I found surprisingly I’ve no memory of, yet ones which are too small or shabby for me I recall.
Remember an age before the online revolution and the crowning as king of amazon? Remember printed catalogs? I found two old ones – one for an old computers catalog boasting great deals on VHS tapes as well as other prime electronics I suppose to be equally outdated and an old Bas Bleu catalog for fall 2004. I had kept the later as it featured a cool scarecrow cover. I also found an old copy of Writer’s Digest predicting trends for the far off year 2000.
I found a plethora of old audio cassettes and some players which surprisingly still work after last being used a decade or so ago – perhaps in ye last millennium. Of course the batteries in them were deceased, but when replaced the music was heard again. I used in one player batteries which I had for sometime and in the other new batteries bought Saturday with a Dollar General coupon for five free dollars when used with another purchase. Thus at my first solo shopping excursion after my summer hospital stays, I was happy to get new batteries and Galaxy’s preferred cat food.
Michael Nesmith and I at Chiller.
I really missed listening to the music of the ancient audio cassettes which included Warren Zevon, The Monkees, Roxy Music and David Bowie. Bowie is an artist who I’ve long been a fan of. I have his music on vinyl, audio cassettes, CDs, and now digital. It’s been some time since I’ve listened to his classic album, Black Tie White Noise, which I have as a cassette. Maybe its appropriate that I write this on January eighth, the anniversary of Bowie’s birth.
And a result of my recent cleaning aside from order? My picks for favorite monkey song.
The Beatles – Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey
On the first day of Halloween my good ghoul gave to me a black cat in a pumpkin patch.
On the second day of Halloween my good ghoul gave to me two tarantulas and a black cat in a pumpkin patch.
On the third day of Halloween my good ghoul gave to me three hungry zombies, two tarantulas, and a black cat in a pumpkin patch.
On the fourth day of Halloween my good ghoul gave to me four frightening ghosts, three hungry zombies, two tarantulas, and a black cat in a pumpkin patch.
On the fifth day of Halloween my good ghoul gave to me five ferocious fiends, four frightening ghosts, three hungry zombies, two tarantulas, and a black cat in a pumpkin patch.
On the sixth day of Halloween my good ghoul gave to me six slithering serpents, five ferocious fiends, four frightening ghosts, three hungry zombies, two tarantulas, and a black cat in a pumpkin patch.
On the seventh Day of Halloween my good ghoul gave to me seven shocking demons, six slithering serpents, five ferocious fiends, four frightening ghosts, three hungry zombies, two tarantulas, and a black cat in a pumpkin patch.