I post a weekly diary of historical notes, arts & science items, foreign news (often receiving little notice in the US) and whimsical pieces from the outside world that I often feature in "Cheers & Jeers". For example .....
OK, you've been warned - here is this week's
tomfoolery material that I posted.
ART NOTES - an array of paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures in an exhibition entitled From Picasso to Magritte is at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Virginia through August 23rd.
HAIL and FAREWELL to former Florida governor Reubin Askew - one of the first of the "New South" Democratic governors when others were preaching "massive resistance" and promising to preserve segregation - who has died at the age of 85 ....... the widow of jazz great Dave Brubeck (and his lyricist) Iola Brubeck - also the matriarch of a musical family - who has died at the age of 90 .... and Anthony Wedgewood "Tony" Benn - a stalwart Labour Party leader in Britain, and who renounced a hereditary lifetime peerage at the age of 25 to remain in the House of Commons] - who has died at the age of 88.
BRAIN TEASER - try this Quiz of the Week's News from the BBC.
THURSDAY's CHILD is one of five cats living in a hoarder's apartment - namely, a Manhattan man (who is the son of two famous radio and television personalities) facing eviction this week.
POLITICAL NOTES - a snap provincial election has been called for next month by Pauline Marois - the leader of the Québec separatist party - in hopes of gaining a majority ... and once more seeking to hold a referendum on secession from Canada.
THE GLOVES COME OFF via this Josh Marshall's TPM story about a former South Carolina police officer (among the GOP primary challengers for the US Senate seat) ... who references an old Saturday Night Live skit by calling incumbent Sen. Lindsey Graham ... "Ambiguously gay".
FRIDAY's CHILD is a wet kitteh who struggled in Massachusetts waters before being rescued by firefighters - and who otherwise appears to be well.
A PARTING SHOT (that was not complimentary) was given by the government of China to the outgoing US Ambassador Gary Locke - the Chinese-American former governor of the state of Washington - which is odd, since most Chinese citizens reacted with awe when he arrived to take office and was seen .... buying his own coffee and carrying his own luggage (unlike most Chinese officials, who are waited-on devotedly by staff).
THE OTHER NIGHT yours truly hosted the Top Comments diary with a look at the life and times of musician, arranger and producer Felix Pappalardi - for which the aftermath of his killing (in 1983) was part of one of rock & roll's great mysteries ... until last month.
SEPARATED at BIRTH - TV stars Josh Holloway (James "Sawyer" Ford on "Lost") and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister in the HBO series "Game of Thrones").
......and finally, for a song of the week ................... in the history of rock bands whose ability was not recognized until years after they had split-up: the British Invasion band The Zombies would be in the first tier. Ahead of their time in many ways (including the use of minor keys) they were more popular away from Britain than within it. They are known primarily for a few hit singles (and only one of its members achieved success after the break-up). But a re-formed band (with two original members) have helped focus attention years later on their entire body of work, a revelation to more than a few.
They formed in suburban London in 1959 (when they ranged in age from 13-16) and yet did not consider music a career until a London Evening News talent contest five years later. The line-up consisted of: Colin Blunstone (lead vocals), Paul Atkinson (guitar), Hugh Grundy (drums) and the band's main songwriters: Chris White (bass) and Rod Argent (keyboards and its most accomplished instrumentalist). The Zombies won that talent show and thus given a chance to record a demo for Decca Records. Rod Argent's She's Not There reached #12 in the UK charts and - after WINS jockey Stan Burns featured it - amazingly reached #2 in both the US and Canada, featuring an early use of an electric piano.
They were promptly shipped over to do the Murray-the-K revue shows in New York - with drummer Grundy asked to assist the Shangri-Las by revving the motorcycle when they sang "Leader of the Pack" - and appeared on a Hullabaloo show complete with screaming girls.
Returning home, they were rushed into the studio to record more single tunes, so that their first album Begin Here had little thought behind it as a statement.
They had another hit single with Tell Her No which once again reflected a dichotomy: reaching only #42 in the UK but #6 in both the US and Canada. It that proved to be the last hit during the band's (initial) lifetime.
Yet while not selling well: the quality of many of the band's other releases ("I Want You Back Again", "Indication" and "She's Coming Home" for example) are highly regarded by today's critics. The All-Music Guide's Richie Unterberger considered them "too adventurous for radio: songs with wind-swept organ solos, downbeat lyrics, jazz waltz-like sounds".
In addition, he felt they were saddled with an un-hip reputation (their schoolboy image in the 1st photo, without the racy R&B lyrics of their peers). Rushed into stardom, their finances were stretched tight (the three non-songwriters were still living at home) and having no manager: when their Decca contract was not renewed, they signed to Columbia for one album, hoping to make enough money to enable them to split with a modest nest egg (in Atkinson's case, to afford a wedding). The budget they were given to work with precluded the use of session musicians, forcing the use of the (then-new) Mellotron to emulate strings and horns.
The 1968 album that resulted was entitled Odessey and Oracle - its mis-spelled title and album cover designed by artist Terry Quirk - and sold poorly at first (having tough competition from releases by the Beatles, Stones and the Kinks just in the UK). It was only released in the US due to the efforts of musician/producer Al Kooper who recognized its potential.
Today (apart from its one hit single to be mentioned later) it is considered both a masterpiece by music critics (#80 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time) as well as inspirational to many younger musicians (such as Paul Weller of The Jam, Robert Plant and Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters). Rod Argent says that while it's not a huge-seller, "it gives us a continuing source of income" to this day.
Sadly, its success a year later came too late for the band - even offers by record companies to re-form were rejected as everyone had moved on (Blunstone even having become an insurance agent). In particular, the band Argent was headed by Rod Argent (with Chris White as a non-performing songwriter) for a few years in the 1970's. The band Argent is best known for the 1972 single Hold Your Head Up that reached #5 on both the US and UK charts.
Fast forward to 1991, twenty-three years after the band's demise. Singer Colin Blunstone, bassist White and drummer Grundy came together for a studio album New World - though it was primarily aimed at preventing bogus Zombie bands from using the name. It wasn't until 1997 that all of the original five came together for a British reunion concert. It was their only such reunion, as Grundy and guitarist Paul Atkinson had retired from music (Atkinson becoming an A&R man in Los Angeles).
Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent have toured off-and-on since 2001 as The Zombies. They've been joined by other veteran UK performers off-and-on: currently, with the Kinks' former bassist Jim Rodford (who happens to be Rod Argent's cousin) and his son Steve on drums. They released a 2004 album As Far as I Can See but were dismayed when former guitarist Paul Atkinson died that year at the age of 58.
The Zombies' most recent recording was released in 2011, and the current lineup will be performing on this year's Moody Blues Cruise in the Bahamas in early April, followed by several shows throughout the South this spring.
The four survivors commemorated the 40th anniversary of the release of Odessey and Oracle with an entire album performance in London in March, 2008. This has been released on CD as well as DVD. Add to that a plethora of compilation albums available: well, it's good to see a band receiving its due, however many years later.
The best-known tune from Odessey and Oracle is Time of the Season - which Rod Argent modeled after a song the Zombies played live in their early days, George Gershwin's Summertime - showing up in the breathy vocals asking "What's your name - who's your daddy? It helped the song reach #3 in the US and #1 in Canada (although amazingly only #196 in the UK) - but which only became popular after the group had split-up.
It's the time of the season
When love runs high
In this time, give it to me easy
And let me try with pleasured hands
To take you in the sun to
To show you every one
It's the time of the season for loving