Round the Dial
Wednesday 16 April @ 13:05:52
by Tom Hallett
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Not all truth is funny. But that which is funny is true.” -Joe Henry
SONG OF THE WEEK: “After The Rain” -Chuck Prophet
Welcome to this week’s edition of Round The Dial! The sun is shining, the sky is blue, the mudpuppies and street-walkin’ cheetahs have risen their slumbering selves from a long winter’s nap—blah, blah, blah. Let’s just cut right to the chase—Spring Has Sprung! And it feels pretty damn good, even if the winter was just a kind of confusing, gray blur and not really one for the record books. Anyway, by the time ya’ll read this, the temps will probably have plunged back below any sane comfort level, and it’ll be nothing but a nice, warm memory. If that’s the case, simply clip and save this column for a few days—you know how crazy spring in Minnesota can be. It reminds me of the spring of ‘79, when...wait a minnit...WHAT IN THE HELL AM I DOING TALKING ABOUT THE WEATHER??!! AHHHHGGHH!! I’m becoming a typical Minneso-tan, ey? Christ...I guess spring fever’s got a chokehold on me, after all. I best just lay some springtime tunes on youse guys and go sit on the porch with a cold one. So here it is, Tommy’s One-Stop Mix Shop presents a spring music compilation tape/CD:
SPROINGGGG!! Volume One:
1 “Spring Fever” | Little Willie John
Arkansas native William Edgar John—who made his mark on the charts with the proto-version of the steamy classic, “Fever”—nailed it again with another early R&B classic in this track. Mandatory listening as you scratch your bloody finger stumps against the screen door and scream, “OHGODOHGOD!! JUST LET ME OUT!!
2 “Spring Again” | Biz Markie
Harlem freestyle rapper Marcel Hall may have been just a flash in the pan to some, but the frenetic, humorous wordsmith was cool enough to get sued by wimp/pop one-hit-wonder Gilbert O’ Sullivan for illegally using a sample of the obnoxious “Alone Again (Naturally).” This cut—and most of Biz’s other work—glaringly showcase what’s wrong with a lot of commercial hip-hop and rap today; NO FUCKING SENSE OF HUMOR. Quit takin’ yourselves so seriously—it’s just music.
3 “Spring Is Here” | Cannonball Adderly
Julian Edwin “Cannonball” Adderly not only helped flesh out the musical visions of contemporaries Miles Davis, John Coltrane and the like, but also kept the spirit of authentic jazz alive over the years with a baker’s dozen of his own great outfits. “Spring Is Here” epitomizes Adderly’s fresh, bold, free-form style and just makes you wanna throw up the sash and CLEAN HOUSE!!
4 “When It’s Springtime In Alaska (It’s Forty Below)” | Johnny Horton
Horton, who was a protege’ of doomed country forefather Hank Williams Sr. (and also married his widow when he passed away), may be best remembered today on oldies stations by his up-tempo, pro-war novelty songs “The Battle Of New Orleans” and “Sink The Bismark.” But before he hit the top of the charts, Horton actually did spend some time commercial fishing in Alaska, and bagged two top 40 hits, this one and “North To Alaska,” for his troubles. Perhaps he should’ve thought twice about marrying the widow Williams, though—Horton also died young in a car. That won’t stop you from enjoying this little ditty, which may even inspire you to shut off your television, step outside, and GET A LIFE!!
5 “Springtime For The World” | The Blow Monkeys
English pop/rockers The Blow Monkeys, led by one “Dr. Robert” (not the Beatles’ doc, either, this one was born in 1961), offered up their last gasp in 1990 with this magnificent anthem to world peace and harmony that’s replete with gospel-style backing vocalists, lush orchestration and booty-bumpin’ rhythms. Can’t you just feel the love? Or at least the solid, reassuring thump of a rogue cop’s nightstick across the back of your skull as the sun burns down and Dr. Robert suavely intones, “Just because you swing a different way/Doesn’t mean that we’re like night and day...?”
6 “Spring Song” | Xavier Cugat
Spanish bandleader/lounge artist/violinist Francisco de Asis Javier Cugat Mingall de Cru y Deulofeo, AKA Xavier Cugat, was one of the first artists to spur the worldwide Latin American dance craze in the thirties, then went on to help popularize the tango, the cha-cha, the mambo, and the rhumba. Though he was born in 1900, Cugat was still going strong by the mid-sixties, when he married legendarily hyper singer/performer Charo. This track finds him gaily celebrating the advent of the gentle season, and should be played with extreme caution around neighbors wearing hip-huggers and sporting four-foot-high hair-dos.
7 “Spring Rag” | Reginald R. Robinson
Robinson, a 30-year-old Chicago native, is something of a wiz when it comes to penning and performing authentic, modern ragtime music. He began writing on the piano at 13, when he quit school and dedicated his life to the art of the rag. On this track from 1993’s Strong Man, he lets a momentary flash of bright, mid-April sunlight into his fascinating world of hustlers, poker sharks, boogie men and devils. A sheer delight.
8 “Springtime” | Mongo Santamaria
Ramon “Mongo” Santamaria—one of the few traditional Cuban bandleaders to ever sell out The Hollywood Bowl, made a huge impact on both Afro-Cuban music and commercial Top 40 radio. His outfit’s version of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” shot straight to the top in 1963, but Mongo himself was far more distinguished behind the scenes. His 1959 composition “Afro-Blue” was covered by such luminaries as Dizzy Gillespie and John Coltrane, and he stands as one of the most respected artists in his genre today. This live track, from 1967’s Explodes At The Village Gate, is the ultimate lay-in-the-rays, soak-up-some-drinks, do-nothing-all-damn-day tune.
9 “Springtime Blues” | Scrapper Blackwell
North Carolina’s Francis Hillman “Scrapper” Blackwell, born in 1903, built his first guitar out of wood and a cigar box and taught himself to play. By the ’30s, he was playing behind one of the nation’s biggest blues stars, pianist Leroy Carr, and though he had a rep for being “difficult,” he contributed to over 100 recordings during that period. Once Carr—who liked to take a nip now and then—passed away in 1935, Blackwell disappeared into the mists of pop culture legend. In the fifties, as electric blues began to spread across the country, he was re-discovered and proclaimed a serious influence by the likes of Muddy Waters, Robert Nighthawk, and Sonny Boy Williamson. This pre-war track is the perfect vehicle for Scrapper’s —er—scrappy axework, and evokes hazy images of America’s long-gone golden age.
10 “Springtime Of Life” | Del McCoury
Delano Floyd McCoury, once a young acolyte of bluegrass godfather Bill Monroe, has made a massive impact outside the sometimes-cloistered world of his chosen genre in the past five years or so. The seventysomething singer/multi-instrumentalist formed the Del McCoury Band in 1987 from the ashes of his famous Dixie Pals, and along with his sons Ronnie and Robbie, turned a whole new generation on to his patented ‘grass stylings. In 1999, the group collaborated with renegade singer/songriter Steve Earle on his album The Mountain, and have since played non-stop, sold-out national tours. This track is what it’s all about, from the title to the groove, and if you close your eyes and wish hard enough, you just might be transported from your stinky ghetto rental unit to a rockin’ chair on a porch somewhere in the blue hills of Kentucky. Just make sure you wish yourself back before Pa gets home from the still and finds you in his settin’ chair.
11 “Springtime For Hitler” | Mel Brooks
Brooklyn-born comedic genius Mel Brooks (born Melvin Kaminsky in 1926), is well known for his gifts of a sharp wit and a knack for lampooning even the most untouchable subjects. This track, from his hilarious 1968 film “The Producers,” is a perfect example of that rebellious, untameable spirit. The only thing not funny about it is that, judging by the way the world is going, it’s always springtime for some little Hitler. For even more eye-opening satire, check out “Auditioning 100 Hitlers” while watching Bush footage on Fox News with the sound turned down. Hey! Are you really doing that? TURN OFF THAT BOOB TUBE AND GET OUTSIDE NOW!!
12 “Spring Time” | Spinal Tap
It’s time to take it home, and that means it’s time to ROCK!! And there’s nobody better suited to deliver the ear-splitting goods than the terrible hard rock/comedy triumvirate of Derek Smalls, David St. Hubbins, and Nigel Tufnel. This track, from 1992’s underrated “comeback” effort Break Like The Wind, is sandwiched between similar ‘Tap gems like “Stinkin’ Up The Great Outdoors” and “Clam Caravan.” They may never find a drummer who can (literally) keep his head, but they’ll continue to inspire sinfully delicious outdoors activities until the end of time. Don’t think about it, dumbass, just CRANK IT UP!!
Well, that’s it for this week, kids. Tune in again, same time, same place, for more idle speculation, rock n’ roll information, and my brain slowly slipping off into permanent vacation. And make sure to stop down at Twin Cities Leather & Boot in St. Paul (570 North Snelling, 651-917-8100) this Friday, 4/18, between 3 & 5 p.m., for a very special (and I do mean special, as it’s the 2nd-to-last one we’ll do) in-store acoustic performance by Rich Mattson and members of legendary local rock band Ol’ Yeller. Until next time—make yer own damn news.
If you have local music news/gigs/events that you’d like to see listed in this column, or if you’d just like to give me shit for not including Henry Gross’ 1976 chart tickler “Springtime Mama” on my spring mix, send replies to: TMygunn777@aol.com.