Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


Leave a comment

Bad Gringo Hombres

 

IMG_0048

So this was yesterday.

I’m coming back from the center where I’ve dropped my son and a brief stop at Trader Joe’s for non-organic fruits and vegetables. Dinner’s my bag tonight and I’m already sweatin’ it. It’s just after 10 am.

I’m flying down Cesar Chavez/39th and way down there I see an old Chevy pickup slowing at an intersection as I approach, and here I am gunning it 45 in a 25 mile-per- hour zone and just as I get there the pick-up swings into his left turn directly in front of me, I’m jacking up the brakes and looking into a cab filled with four pale hombres who look to be casting rejects from “Deliverance” and meanwhile the driver looks like Donald Fagen from Steely Dan except here he’s been on a vicious meth run for the last two and a half weeks so my speeding-down-the-hill black Taurus is probably mistaken for some strain of mosquito, and since there are barely any mosquitoes in Oregon to begin with I take him and his cab-mates for Trump voters. As my Mexican wife would say – “Estupido”.

Good thing I make it back to the house, having swerved around Sheriff Arpaio or whoever he was, just in time for a traffic jam, my roommate Jannine crawling into the back seat of some road-trip pick-her-up in my parking place, so I’m facing down the street on the wrong side and coming flying in my direction, making my previous speed look lawful, are two small foreign jobs and there’s not much room between the Taurus and the Buick Regal picking up the roomie so I throw up my arms in the windshield in a slow-the-fuck-down you morons we got little kids on the street gesture, as if there are streets that don’t, and in the rear-view I see the tail lights jam to red and there’s screeching stops and out of both cars come the drivers, big scary white dudes both let me point out with Make America Great Again red caps, indicating in less than a half nanosecond that I’m dealing with morons and odds are bigoted pea-brains, and as Jannine’s about 50 percent of Jamaican heritage I slip out the 38 from the glove box and leap out the passenger side, whacking my nuts across the console which pisses me off further and the MAGA boys take one look at the piece of steel and my expression and skedaddle on back to their let’s- make-america-great-again Hondas and boot it around the corner. Which at the same time the Regal and roomie drive off so I can swing a half u-ee and pull in front of the house and unload the apples, raisins, and broccoli, fruits and veggie somehow unharmed after this decidedly trump-world danger driving home from the grocery. It’s 10:14.

Less than an hour later – I’ve been in the basement typing like there’s no tomorrow, which of course there might not be, listening to a YouTube collection of Brenda Lee and Zakk Wylde favorites when I hear some pounding on the door upstairs so I go up slowly – my cajones gently but persistently reminding of the less-than-ballet-like vehicle departure, so it takes a minute and I open the door to two millennials in white shirts and black ties with short hair and big smiles asking if I’d like to be saved, preferably today, never mind receive swell literature with only a monthly contribution to the great educational work going on at Liberty U over there in Virginia, and they confirm that yes in Lynchburg which I point out is surely always a welcoming vision for folks pigmented like my roomie Jannine, of whom they have no idea. But they morph into less than praise-go friendlies when I say no thanks I’ve just express mailed a check for two grand to the Southern Poverty Law Center, me and Morris Dees are tight bruh, and I see their hands curl into oppo turn-the-other-cheek fists, but I don’t think I mentioned yet that I brought the 38 into the house with me – ain’t America great after all – which I now produce in the hopes that even these trump voters (yeah, they got the red caps too, and one’s sporting a rather large button with the words “Goring was good”) so there’s another not necessary giveaway, anyway the 38 helps make the point that my abundance-filled self points in another direction from theirs.

Now get this. It’s not even 11 am on a Tuesday morning and here’s two MAGA imbeciles on the porch and one of them looks at me and quotes Eldridge Cleaver – “If you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem”. I have to laugh and it ain’t easy to laugh these days – though our laughter is a shield – but I’ve got to laugh that I’m being quoted Panther phraseology on a Tuesday morning by these two Liberty emissaries who are clearly not, like the Blues Brothers, on a mission from God, and after I’m done chuckling I unbutton my orange-hibiscus-on-blue Hawaiian shirt and reveal the Public Enemy t-shirt I’m wearing underneath.

Fight the power, kiddies.

And that was just the morning.

 

(Above photo contains no bad gringo hombres. But possible aching cojones.)

 

Advertisements


Leave a comment

A Wareham Druids Freshman Tabor Musical Contest

Blue Flowers

 

I’m thinking of a song.

This is a song that reminds me of my hometown of Wareham, Massachusetts, in the US of A. I’ve been thinking about my hometown more than usual this week and posted in this Blog Tuesday about the good old days and some of the bad new ones. That post received quite a bit of attention and a number of comments, one of which, from Thom Laine, was musical in nature.

I replied to his comment and in my response mentioned that I had been for a brief period in time a member of a musical group in Wareham. We called ourselves The Druids (I don’t remember why) and consisted of Billy Fisher on guitar, Wayne Lavallee on drums, and a summer kid from Hyde Park (in Boston) named Roy (last name lost in the cobwebs of my mind), who played bass or rhythm guitar (again, the brain cell thing) and lived summers with his family in Swifts Beach – one of Wareham’s many and distinct and wondrously enchanting beach communities. Oh, I was the singer. Billy was a couple of years older than me and actually was on active duty in the Navy, stationed in Newport, Rhode Island. Wayne was a year older. Roy was around my age and had a brother and I hung out in their summer house. We held practices in Wayne’s garage, poured concrete floor and all, which – I believe – officially makes me a member of a garage band. Cool.

 

April Flowers

 

We got to play in public, at least two places I remember were a Wareham High School freshman dance (and my memory here in crystal clear of screams and wails from the female members in attendance, just like with The Beatles) and in a battle of the bands in next town over Marion at Tabor Academy (along with Wareham’s Table Scraps), said Academy so many years later serving as the slightly unreal Tabler Academy in my first book, “Ring Around The Rosy”.

We sang cover songs. Other groups’ songs. One of which I’m thinking of right now. And in the spirit of fond remembrances of days past, I’m offering a contest. This is it — correctly guess which song we covered – one guess only – and in my mind today and be the first to post your answer on the Blog itself or my Facebook page and you will win one of these three paintings I have recently created, your choice. Each is painted on 11 x 15 watercolor paper in acrylic, and will be packaged as safely as I can get it and mailed out tomorrow. I might even throw in a Wareham-related surprise.

 

Duck

 

The rules are simple: Guess the song (remember, one guess per person) and reply on the Blog or my FB page. And be the first with the correct guess. Of course, as there are probably 127, 555 songs in my mind from which I might be listening I’m going to give you three hints. I’m hesitant to do so in fear it will be way too easy. Heck, I’d only need one of these hints to make the correct guess. But in the spirit of fairness I feel obligated to help out. So, here they are.

  1. The song was originally released between 1962 and 1969. (Which you probably could of figured from the years of and around my high school life. Duh)
  2. The song was released on Capital Records. (Hmm, could this be any easier….Beach Boys, Beatles, Bobbie Gentry, The Lettermen, The Righteous Brothers, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Helen Reddy, Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps, Don Yute….a few others. Heck, I might as well just tell you.)
  3. This would have been a great song blasting in a convertible roaring down Route 66. (Sorry Helen Reddy.)

Okay, I’m sure I’ve given it away. Thank you Billy and Wayne and Roy and especially Wareham for the memories. Swifts Beach and Tabor and The Table Scraps and The Revolutionaries and  The Monday Club and summer crushes Roberta Magarian (Lexington) and Pattie Parent (Wakefield) and Elaine Flinkstrom (Easton) and Parkwood and High Street and  Royal’s front yard and Main Street and Onset Beach and plain old Route 6 – thank you too.

I bet you get the picture.

Call me. We’ll have lunch.

(Contest ends tonight, 7/13/17, at midnight.)

 


1 Comment

Portrait of an Addict

Let me set the stageJAMC 6

Christmas morning, less than one month before my 68th birthday, I opened a small present from my wife Susan and found three CDs – one of which was something called “Darklands” by the group The Jesus and Mary Chain. I’d heard of that group, the name’s distinctive, but was not aware of ever having heard even one of their songs. At some point over the next couple of weeks I added it to my CD changer in the 2001 Taurus and played bits and pieces on trips between home and coffee shops or Trader Joe’s. It began to grab me.

Darklands was released back in 1987, when I was considerably younger and four years sober, and likely listening to a steady diet of Beatles, Beach Boys, Pretenders, Earth, Wind, and Fire, Springsteen, Thompson Twins, and Jefferson Starship, among others heavily tilted toward the 60s and 70s. With no thought ever for The Mary Chain. But some of the songs on the CD, in particular “April Skies” and “Happy When It Rains”, held me closer and closer and refused to let go.

So I went to Ebay and bought “Psychocandy. The Mary Chain’s debut LP (’85) and, I learned, a record considered by music aficionados the planet over as a breakthrough, game-changing creation. I remember playing it straight through on a trip up to North Portland and back one day, then calling my friend and music guru Gavin in Oakland and telling him that it was hard to listen to, it’s trademark squeals of feedback getting in the way of my pop-soaked mind. Gavin – who by the way had recommended Darklands to Susan in the first place, gave me the most beautiful explanation of why they used tJAMC 1he feedback – as armor against both public hostility and adoration, kind of a “Fuck off”, and that Psychocandy worked better in small doses. I’ll get back to that advice.

Soon I was back on Ebay dialing up and ordering “21 Singles”, a collection of singles released from their six studio albums (not counting B-side compilations, outtakes, BBC radio sessions). It arrived, I played it over and over, got mesmerized and knocked out by “Some Candy Talking”, “Blues From a Gun”, “Head On”, “Snakedriver”, “Just Like Honey” – all of it.

Professionally I was in the process of re-writing and editing, with my wife, what would be my second book, “Astoria Strange”, and doing no other writing, so I found myself at the computer day in and day out, forever on YouTube, listening to – exclusively save for the occasional Brian Wilson song – The Mary Chain, each of their albums through, song by song, over and over again, never getting enough of some songs, humming and singing them around the house and out on walks, The Mary Chain, The Mary Chain, more, I needed more. I ordered the biography “Barbed Wire Kisses” by Zoe Howe, and when it arrived I stopped reading (and doing) everything else and read it straight through.

The Jesus and Mary Chain are Jim and William Reid, brothers from East Kilbride, Scotland. Other musicians have played  and recorded with them through the time of their albums (’85-’98), some a little more than others. But like Donald Fagen and Walter Becker of Steely Dan, The Mary Chain is the Reid boys. They dropped out of high school, they stayed in their room for years playing and writing music, hiding out from the Neds (non-educated delinquents: see pre-Trump voters), recording early material on a porta-studio bought for them by their father. Eventually they played out, got recognized by people in the industry, fell in with the fledgling Creation Records, played hundreds of concerts that lasted 15 minutes or so, their backs to the audience, because, always, surely, nothing else mattered but the music.

I began playing the album “Honey’s Dead” on YouTube every day, ordered it on Ebay, and one day, while driving and listening from first track “Reverence” to final track “Frequency” I had the sudden thought, the moment of clarity, that Honey’s Dead was and is every bit the recording that is “Revolver” by The Beatles, considered as perhaps the best ever album recorded. That’s how good Honey’s Dead is.

I call Gavin on a somewhat regular basis and talk Mary Chain. On the sly I ordered the LP version of Honey’s Dead and had it mailed to him and we have gushed over what a creation it is. I have since purchased the sixth studio recording – “Munki” – and the B-side “Barbed Wire Kisses”. I told Gavin I had a plan to record a collection of my favorite songs, if I could puzzle out the technology of recording off YouTube, and there were 40 to 50 songs that were musts. He laughed, in recognition. Like a fellow addict would.

But, enough of me. Let me offer up just a very few of my favorites to date, songs I believe are as good an any ever recorded by anyone. After I’ve listed these I’ll no doubt wish I had listed seven others:

Happy When It Rains:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5x1F9ohRa4&list=PLjWqmPPqoIzeVdZ0yVk11LeDjfzVmSgQJ

Snakedriver:   www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncmCTvJoyDQ

Some Candy Talking:   www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTl3wdYEymw

Here Comes Alice:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmxfBgaPqhE 

Catchfire:   www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hLEZwxyQaE

Black:   www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6Nu3najgpk

Tumbledown:   www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbWYCVmW5Ww

Happy Place:   www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcPJu4uYuIU

So, I lied, I put eight instead of seven. I meant it when I said it. Honest. Tomorrow I’ll only put seven. Like, I’ll quit tomorrow. But, anyway, I had to add “Happy Place” because it’s so different, so happy, so poppy. They’re amazing, the Reids, the depth of their creativity, the brilliance and wonder of the span of musical style and spectrum. Gavin describes “Tumbledown” as “…demented hot rod music, like a James Dean death song at a surf bbq.” Must love that. And by the way, I love, love, Psychocandy. Other worldly wonder.

The picture up top, the one that says it all, is me – I’m there at the bottom – after 73 straight hours of Mary Chain listening, bathed in sweat on the floor, just one more, Susan, just let me hear “April Skies” one more time. Honest, Susan, I’ll be done then. I swear. Honest.

There are The Beach Boys. There are The Beatles. And there is The Jesus and Mary Chain. The three best musical groups of all-time.

Yes.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPPP3BXurHk 

JAMC 5


2 Comments

A Day, A Daydream

spoonful-1I awoke one day early last week with these words on my lips: “There’s something special ’bout six o’clock.” They were just there, no reason to be, I have no explanation. Then a couple of days later someone commenting on a previous Blog I’d written about The Byrds said this: “I was a Byrd’s fan, possibly as an extension of The Lovin’ Spoonful, my high school heroes, taking “Magic” and “Darling Companion” to a psychedelic level.

Hmmm. Two distinct Spoonful flashbacks out of the clear blue on an anonymous week in September. Where else to go, but here.

First this: “Darling Be Home Soon”   www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXjzOpz4Cyw

There was something very special about the music playing through radio speakers and on turntables when I was a kid. Maybe everyone feels that, I suppose they do, some type of ‘imprinting’. Our open to experience, fresh ears, big eyes, the dancing, the singing along in a friend’s car, gunning it through back roads, cranking up the sound in the beach parking lot. Summer days, radio days, good days. That’s how I remember it, and that time and place and the scene with all its sensory input, it comes back when I hear those sounds. Those songs. And how could you ever go wrong, or failed to be thrilled, with the songs of The Lovin’ Spoonful.

Listen: “Daydream“, “Summer in the City“, “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice“, “Rain on the Roof“, “She Is Still a Mystery“, “Did You Ever have To Make Up Your Mind?“, “Darling Be Home Soon“, “Do You Believe in Magic?“, the aforementioned “Six O’Clock”.

John Sebastion, Zal Yanofsky, Steve Boone, Joe Butler – They burst on the scene in 1965 with “Magic” and were done as a foursome with 1970s “Younger Generation“. Do you know that last one? “And hey pop, my girlfriend’s only three. She’s got her own video phone and she’s taking LSD.” Like them or not, those lyrics could never have been written in any other time. If you’ve never heard this wonderful song, here’s your chance:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbPiWwNeiKE 

Two songs reached #2  in the Billboard 100 – “Daydream” and “Make Up Your Mind” – and one made it all the way to the top – “Summer in the City“. Maybe of interest or not, but for a fun reference and blast from the past, here are the top 10 songs in The United States the week ending August 13th, 1966, when “Summer” took the top spot: 1) Summer in the City; 2) Lil’ Red Riding Hood – Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs; 3) They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haa – Napolean XIV; 4) Wild Thing – The Troggs; 5) The Pied Piper – Crispian St. Peters; 6) I Saw Her Again – The Mamas and the Papas; 7) Sunny – Bobby Hebb; 8) Mother’s Little Helper – The Rolling Stones; 9) Somewhere My Love – Ray Coniff and the Singers; 10) Sweat Pea – Tommy Roe. The Spoonful’s “Summer” held the top spot for three weeks that summer, and was joined in the top 10 during that time by “I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love” – Petula Clark, “Sunshine Superman” – Donovan, “See You in September” – The Happenings, “You Can’t Hurry Love” – The Supremes, “Yellow Submarine” – The Beatles, and “Summertime” – Billy Stewart. You remember that one – Bdddddddddddddddddddd  Ha!  www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2J5FjopWqM

spoonful-2So, here:

You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice”  www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iyBhPzuZZc

 

Do You Believe in Magic?”  www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGCVwk6bgeo

 

Anyway, this began with me waking up the other day with some Lovin’Spoonful lyrics the first thought I had, 5:35 in the morning, on my way to the chair and the coffee pot and the recliner and the books and the morning pages and all of it.  This song:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTGTOHeegDo

What’s your favorite Spoonful song? Please leave anspoonful-4answer in the Comments.


1 Comment

Bread Crumbs

The guy behind the counter was playing jazz when I took my coffee to a chair in the Just Bob Coffee Shop on Alberta in Northe20160916_142455_hdrast Portland last Friday. It was just after two in the afternoon, and while there was the occasional customer lining up at the take-out counter, most of the seats in the shop were empty. Mostly I didn’t hear the jazz music playing, and when it would intrude into my consciousness every once in a while, I’d ignore it. Jazz is not my thing. It’s funny, my non-appreciation of that purely American music form, because it was a favorite of The Beat writers, including Jack Kerouac, one of the writers I most revere, and try to borrow from as a writer. He wrote like jazz, these long, often connectedly discombobulated riff of words, sometimes making up new words to suit the flavor of the riff. Like jazz.keruoac

Which isn’t really the point, other than saying I love Kerouac and don’t like jazz.

There was a woman sitting in one of the three stuffed chairs in the shop — I was in another, facing her — and she was reading a paperback book, a softcover to be exact, and squinting my eyes I could see the title of the book was “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together In the Cafeteria?” She herself was a black woman, young, maybe mid 30s, and was taking notes in a bound notebook like the one I carried in. Mine was for recording any ideas I could brainstorm for the 11th and final story in my collection of Astoria, Oregon tales. (None happened to arrive while I was there.) So, I shifted tasks, and asked The Universe for ideas for future Blog posts — like this one — and the thought came to me to play detective — Buddy Cushman, Coffee Shop Sleuth — and follow the woman’s book wherever it would lead me.

When I got home, it took quite a while from NE way down to SE where I live, with Friday afternoon city traffic, but it was sunny and hot and I was playing, very loudly, one Tower of Power song after another, so the trip was not only tolerable but, in fact, a wicked blast, rolling, singing, howling, party on wheels (think The 52s “Love Shack” www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SOryJvTAGs ) Anyway, at the computer dr-tatumI googled the book from Just Bob’s and learned it is a highly valued thought piece on race and race identity and relations in the Country, collective experiences and perspectives written by Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, the President of Spelman College in Georgia. Here is a ten and a half minute review, very thorough and interesting, of the book and its author. It’s worth a look and listen:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_l5bO9KZrY&list=PLlFqqfHxQmjOGUX3oN6On3kJW253lUGRx     I now have the book on order from The Multnomah County Library system.

What can be more important than how we live with, and value, each other?

The woman with the book left before me, and I sat there looking at the sun stream through the multiple front windows of the shop. At some point the barista behind the counter changed the music and I instantly recognized the opening descending bass and violins of The Left Banke’s “Walk Away Renee”. Hard to imagine anyone doesn’t know the song, and certainly anyone who grew up in the 60s. I mean, the empty sidewalks on my block are not the same.

I was struck, wleft-bankehen “Pretty Ballerina” came on a couple of songs later, about the so-often-highlighted black and whiteness of the world — of the day. The woman and her book, it’s black title, and now a thoroughly ‘white’ sounding pop group from 1965 New York City. After another song I walked up to the counter and asked the guy what exactly he was playing. Turns out it was a “best of” collection by The Left Banke called ‘There’s Gonna Be a Storm: the Complete Recordings 1966 – 1969’. A
couple of songs , white poppy little things, stood out to me — I’d never heard them, shame on me, especially working in a record store most of those years and holding The Banke’s debut album in my hands many times. So here they are, for your listening enjoyment, and maybe they are long-time favorites. “She May Call You Up Tonight”:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZSlF2AkrS4   and “Let Go Of You Girl”:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=POdiO1xOg-E

Way cool. And maybe all this matters not a wit to anyone but me, Buddy Cushman – Coffee Shop Sleuth. Oh well. And by the way, as Oakland’s Tower of Power — a strong example of what glory we can get when you combine black and white — since they helped me along my way home, I’ll end with one from them. Thanks for showing up.

“So Very Hard To Go”:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9BRqGpppJw

tower-of-power-19731


1 Comment

Younger Than Yesterday

A couple of weeks ago I heard a song by The Byrds on the car radio. Can’t remember where I was, maybe cruising on Woodstock heading up to the coffee shop, or down Cesar Chavez. The sun was shining at the time, a gentle breeze flowing in through the open windows. It wasn’t 1965, but it almost could have been, as I bought my first ever car in October of ’65, a Byrds 6
1955 Plymouth from a guy named George in New Bedford. It could have been, other than the car ownership thing, because The Byrds were – and remain – all about 1965. And ’66.

The Byrds had burst on the Los Angeles music scene in the Spring of ’65 with their jingly jangly psychedelia cover version of  Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” : www.youtube.com/watch?v=Swqw5a8I4b4 . I suppose a Dylan purist might like the original better, but I can’t say I do. There was something mesmerizing and soothing and clearly peace and loving with the harmonies and the arrangement and the chimey, chords and individual notes from Roger McGuinn’s 12-string Rickenbacker guitar.

If you consider The Beach Boys a milieu of their own, a milieu of surf, The Byrds were America’s answer to The Beatles. Following in their footsteps, growing the LA Sound, would come Buffalo Springfield and The Doors and Arthur Lee and Love, and that’s just LA. But it was The Byrds that brought forth a new sound, and gave a 16 year old dreamer like me something more to dream on.

We know the hits — “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “Turn Turn Turn”, “Eight Miles High”, “Mr. Spaceman”, “So You Want To Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”, later on the wonderfully amazing cover versions of Dylan’s “My Back Pages”  and Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s “Going Back”. If you don’t know those songs, if you haven’t been buzzed and jingled and etherealized by those songs, well, a wicked big Duuuuh. Rush to your laptop or desktop and spend the next half hour under their 60s spell.

For this post I’m interested in the B sides, the album cuts, some other tunes frByrds 1om McGuinn and band-mates Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke. Like these that follow, all songs that helped me along my way, all favorites, all gifts.

“The Bells of Rhymney”, a Pete Seeger song:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6JhTSzZXzg 

“I’ll Fell a Whole Lot Better” :  www.youtube.com/watch?v=to-RVV_3anw 

“Set You Free This Time” :  www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QSTy3fkWSA

“Have You Seen Her Face” :  www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHOgkj7OuvQ        If you’d never heard this one before, now doesn’t your life feel bigger, and better? Doesn’t it?

“I Knew I’d Want You’ :  www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGLRV887bHE

and the aforementioned “Goin’ Back” :  www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqHb7RFpoxU   Such an LA  breezy, warm, canyon sound. With a later Byrds lineup.

“A little bit of courage is all we lack. So catch me if you can I’m going back.”  Goffin/King

People are always putting down the 60s now. It’s de rigueur.  Oh well. You know what they say:
“No, and I ain’t lookin’ to fight with you
Frighten you or uptighten you
Drag you down or drain you down
Chain you down or bring you down
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you ”            www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIEV1OanDGY

Byrds 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Yesterday Once More

 

One of my joys in life is listening to “Oldies” on the radio – preferably the car radio. I’m a siIMG_1258mple guy. Much to my delight, a new “Oldies” station showed up in Portland about a year ago, with an amazing playlist: songs that carry the banner of Oldies; songs tKaren 4hat would be considered “B” sides; and songs that are clearly album cuts, many unfamiliar to my highly trained Oldie ears.

I say this as back story. The other day, late last week, the song “Goodbye to Love” by The Carpenters flowed out through my wife’s car speakers while driving home from Trader Joe’s. It got me thinking about The Carpenters, Karen and Richard, and the basket-full of hit, Top 40, mainstream, gushy, pop songs they gave radio and turntable listeners back in the late 60s and right through the late 70s, a few years before Karen’s death.

I never would have described myself as a Carpenter’s fan, back then, waaaay too straight. But, there was something about some of their songs, and Karen’s voice. Something special about her voice. And something, all along, about her as well. A yearning after something else. Maybe that’s not the best way to say it, but that’s the way it felt.

I wasn’t enKaren 3ough of a fan, even secretly, to follow them, so I did not learn about Karen’s eating disorder until after her death in 1983 — the year I got sober at age 34 — when she was just 32. Reports and subsequent features make clear that most people had never heard of anorexia at that time, which, it turns out is what caused her death, by heart failure. I learned about anorexia first hand in 1985, when I went to work at a residential treatment center in Watertown, Massachusetts, and was assigned as a counsel-ee a 13 year-old girl with a diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa. I bought a book back then, still have it, titled “The Golden Cage”, a book considered one of the seminal studies on the subject. Anorexia is described in the book as “the relenKaren 6tless pursuit of excessive thinness.”

This isn’t a post about anorexia.You can Google it if you want to know more. It’s about the Carpenters and some of their songs, and Karen’s voice. I discovered a wonderful BBC documentary about The Carpenters on Youtube a while back. It’s a five-part series, with Dionne Warwick and Herb Alpert, Richard Carpenter, Petula Clark and Tony Peluso, many more. You can see it here, and it’s worth the investment of some 60 minutes:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOCk-D2fOpg

And the songs. Hard to not include this one from 1970 : www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFx-5PGLgb4    Or this one from the same year: www.youtube.com/watch?v=__VQX2Xn7tI      Or this one, released 1973:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTaWayUE5XA  Then there was this release from ’72, with a ripping, soaring fuzz guitar solo courtesy the aforementioned Tony Peluso:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdG-ITxL8ok

Turns out The Carpenters sold more records than Elvis. Turns out The Carpenters had more conseKaren 5cutive number one hits than The Beatles. Who knew. Doesn’t make them better or as good as, it’s just interesting.

My favorite Christmas song has always been “Let There Be Peace On Earth and Let It Begin With Me”. This song, released in 1970, holds the number 2 spot. Always will:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR1ujXx2p-I

In “Goodbye To Love”, the one up there above with the bitchin’ guitar, there’s a line, “All I know of love is how to live without it.” Here’s a Wikipedia blurb on the creation of the song.  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodbye_to_Love    Even though Karen was not involved in the writing, words and music, the line fits. That yearning thing right there. For me, at least.

Last week my Blog Post discussed Patti Smith. Next week I’m thinking about a little ditty on the musical merits of Black Flag, The Butthole Surfers, The Dead Kennedys, and X. This week, hearing a song on the car radio, I felt like writing about The Carpenters, and Karen. Too sweet?

Sue me.