Monday, March 30, 2015

Can You Feel It? Sunny by Bobby Hebb Is Fast Becoming The Official Cover Song of the Twenty-Teens

We're bad, and we're nationwide, of course -- as long as Google works. But we're invading other countries, too. It's no great feat. Everyone's always invading France. Sometimes they import Corsicans to invade themselves.

Our pronouncement that Sunny by Bobby Hebb is the Official Song of the Twenty-Teens is bearing fruit, or frog's legs, or something. In honor of this very wonderful and very French version of the song, I'm going to take up smoking unfiltered cigarettes and forgo shaving my armpit hair for a month.

Remember people, “Choisissez votre femme par l’oreille bien plus que par les yeux.”

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The New, Improved Official Cover Song of the Twenty-Teens

If you haven't been following along, about a year ago I made Wichita Lineman the Official Cover Song of the Twenty-Teens. I wield that kind of power.

With great power comes great responsibility, of course. I take my role as the ultimate tastemaker on the Intertunnel seriously. I could have foisted any number of lousy pop songs on an unsuspecting public as the OFFICIAL SONG OF THE INTERTUNNELS!!!11!!!!!!11, and everyone would have nodded and said, "Sippican wouldn't lie, so Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) by Edison Lighthouse must be the greatest song ever written!" Hell, I know my power. I could even have palmed off Walk Away Renee by The Left Banke as the greatest song ever, even though it's the most dreary, tuneless, and solipsistic song since Andy Williams hung up his figure skates and retired to Branson.

But I didn't. I do have a cruel streak, but I have to draw the line somewhere. I am mercurial. Changeable. That doesn't mean I don't know what I'm talking about. I've decided that Sunny by Bobby Hebb is going to be the Official Cover Song of the Twenty-Teens, and that's that.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Anchor Here

I don't know what to make of the Anchor and Hope in Charlton, UK.

They have made some form of pact with the Devil and they get Glenn Tilbrook to play in there like a regular old busker. Am I missing something? I mean, I'm missing a lot, I understand that, but have I lost my perspective? What is he doing in this place, and what am I doing someplace else?

[Earlier on Sippican Cottage: Inside Baseball and the Beatles]

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Unorganized Hancock: Doing the Show So You Don't Have To

My two sons, AKA Unorganized Hancock, played for the Skowhegan Maple Festival on Saturday.

We like Skowhegan. Everyone is always really pleasant to us in the only way it's possible to be pleasant to us: They're nice to our children. The town simply has a nice vibe. It's a hardscrabble place, just like the town we live in, but there's more life in it somehow. It seems more forward-looking than a lot of western Maine. There are more children than I'm used to seeing. Children are always the most forward-looking thing you can have.

It takes an hour and a half to get to Skowhegan from our house. That's considered "close by" where we live. The GPS always intones directions like, "Proceed for 27 miles." After 27 miles is over, Nuvi's clipped diction advises you to,"Keep right," even though there's no turn, and then, "Proceed for 26 miles."

The ribbon of pavement seems like it was laid solely to get us from Rumford to Skowhegan, and when we don't need it anymore, they'll give it back to the alces alces. If you want to be alone with your thoughts in western Maine, drive down the middle of the road from my house to Skowhegan. That's why we were a little surprised to find every parking space occupied when we arrived two hours early for the show. I haven't been in a full parking lot in Maine since never, which is a long time indeed.

The town had lots of goings-on, some whoop-de-do, and other assorted activities to celebrate the maple sugaring season that might never happen this year. It was the coldest winter ever in western Maine, and that's saying something. The sap is still frozen in the ground. My friends and neighbors rely on seasonal things like maple sugar and firewood and blueberries and Christmas trees to get by, and I wonder if this winter will be enough to break them. Regular people will just remark in July that it's deuced difficult to find a pint of maple syrup for less than eight bucks.

The audience in Skowhegan likes my children. They tell me so, with words and applause. They like them without quite knowing why -- the only kind of like that matters in show business. We are pleased to offer a little late winter sunshine to the nice people in Skowhegan.

There were other performers, and they boxed the compass of entertainment. A brave soul took a run at Brahms Third Racket, and another executed Asturias. There were a troupe of tapdancing girlettes that could have melted an investment banker's heart. There's a local fellow that sings the kinds of Broadway/cruise ship songs I don't care for until he sings them, and then I do care for them a lot.

I noticed quite a bit of bravery on stage. When people perform despite being afraid, that's bravery. In my experience, most people on stage are afraid the whole time. I always was afraid when I performed, deservedly so because I never practiced, but even really accomplished performers are on edge when they're on stage. It's part of the contract, I think. The only people not afraid to be onstage don't belong there.

There was also a band of brigands who played too long, then made an enormous ruckus behind the curtains by taking their stuff apart so they could leave early, while a brave young man was on stage trying to sing and play the guitar over their "four men in a coal mine" accompaniment. For an encore, these people with somewhere more important to be unplugged my sons' recording device on their way out the door. The only thing my boys were able to capture was from the ambient microphone in the camera hidden onstage behind their sign. It's enough to tell how it went. The boys Did the Show, like the pros they are.

The early leaver band members live in Skowhegan. We drove home for 90 minutes in a blizzard. That's what pros do. Even eleven-year-old pros.

[Update: Many thanks to Kathleen M. from Connecticut for her generous hit on our tip jar]
[Additional Update: Many thanks to William O from Tejas for his generous support!]

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Longer Than the Road That Stretches Out Ahead

I am partly responsible for these two humans. If I never do anything else, I will be completely satisfied that my time on Earth was not wasted.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?

Al Wilson was one of those guys.

He's dead now. Died about seven years ago. A year before he died, there was a fire in his garage, and it burned all the master tapes of his recordings. He must have died wondering why the universe was trying to scrub itself of him.

I like reading about people like Al Wilson. He was a good singer, of course, but not gifted or anything. He learned to sing in church in Mississippi.  His family moved to San Berdoo, and Al got jobs as a janitor, a clerk of some sort, and a postman, according to Wikipedia. He taught himself to play drums for some reason. He joined the Navy. He tried to become a stand-up comedian, but only so he'd still have a job if singing didn't work out. He hustled. I admire people who hustle.

He ended up in various club groups in the sixties, and he had a minor hit which I don't remember, but I was in second grade, I think, so forgive me. Then, nothing.

Lots of people have that nothing on their CV for long periods of time. I'm sure it wasn't anything truly resembling nothing. It was the kind of nothing that regular people find necessary from time to time. Furious activity is nothing. Despair is a blip on a resume, sometimes. Many people plug away anyway, mostly because there's really no alternative. I imagine he never worked harder than he did when the Internet says he was busy doing nothing. I can only imagine the convergence of cupidity and caprice that made the someones that decide such things decide to make Al Wilson famous in 1973.

Look how happy he made the people in the audience, just to hear their favorite song one more time. He probably didn't feel like it at the time, but his garage gave him the Viking funeral he deserved.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Skowhegan Maple Fest 2015

My children, also known as Unorganized Hancock, are performing at the Skowhegan Maple Festival tomorrow, for the second year in a row. They'll be performing at the Skowhegan Opera House, which is a pretty neat theater. Here's a video of them performing there last year:

It's terrific to play on real stage with a curtain and footlights and all that jazz.

Skowhegan is a nice little city filled with pleasant people. Unorganized Hancock has performed in more places in Skowhegan than in the town we live in. They've performed at the Skowhegan Riverfest in the summer, and at the Pickup Cafe, and at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Skowhegan is a friendly place, and I hope we return the favor by bringing three friendly faces there -- The Heir, The Spare, and Slim McGillicuddy, the fellow holding the sign.

Skowhegan participates in a Main Street program that runs here and there around Maine. They do civic things to lure people out of their lairs, especially when the weather's good. The Maple Festival is supposed to celebrate the culmination of sugaring season in Maine. There's a problem.

There is no sugaring season in Maine, and there might not be one this year to speak of. During the Maple Festivals, the sugar houses of small to medium-sized maple syrup producers open their doors for a pseudo-open-house look at how they make syrup, and to sell their wares to the public. There are no wares this year because there is no sugar. In order to get the maple sap that gets boiled endlessly down into syrup, the temperature has to rise above 32 degrees Farenheit for more than ten minutes at a time, and it hasn't done so. The temperature at my house was below zero last night, and the temperature has been 5-10 degrees below normal every month for two years. I've read that sugar houses are opening up for the Maple Festival and simply boiling water from the tap to show people what maple sugar season would look like if we had one, which we don't.

We'll drive all day in the snow squalls tomorrow, and on Sunday the temperature will be 22 degrees below normal. But the show must -- it will --  go on. I don't know how the show can go on for my neighbors with the empty sap buckets, but I wish them well all the same.