Friday, August 18, 2017

Drifters – "Under the Boardwalk" (1964)

Under the boardwalk
Down by the sea

Most people seem to agree that the boardwalk that the Drifters were singing about in their 1964 hit single, “Under the Boardwalk,” was the one in Atlantic City, NJ.

Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing is located in Cherry Hill, NJ, which is a good hour’s drive from Atlantic City.  But Forgotten Boardwalk’s owner furnished her tasting room with skeeball machines, fun-house mirrors, and other items reminiscent of what you might find along the Atlantic City boardwalk, and the names of Forgotten Boardwalk’s beers refer to tall tales and “pretty true stories” of the Jersey shore.

For example, FB’s “Funnel Cake” ale is named after a favorite boardwalk food.  “1916 Shore Shiver” IPA references a century-old shark attack that left four beachgoers dead and seven other wounded.  And “What the Butler Saw” wheat beer pays homage to a sleazy peepshow film that was popular in penny arcades a century ago.

Growler the Cat
FB’s mascot, “Growler the Cat,” was inspired by the feral cats that lived under the Atlantic City boardwalk and chowed down on discarded bits and pieces of hot dogs, French fries, and other Boardwalk viands.

*     *     *     *     *

I stopped at Forgotten Boardwalk for some refreshment on my drive back from Cape Cod in July.  Visiting FB was easy because it’s located only a few miles off I-95 (a/k/a “Highway from Hell”).

I liked Forgotten Boardwalk – in fact, I liked it a lot.  Here’s why.

Forgotten Boardwalk’s
unprepossessing entrance
First, while the FB tasting room was located in an unprepossessing industrial park, the place had real style.  

As noted above, it was furnished with quirky beach-themed stuff – including a couple of operating skeeball machines:

The Forgotten Boardwalk glassware, T-shirts, and can designs were attractive and idiosyncratic.  One of its pint glasses had a particularly colorful design:

Another FB logo glass had a weird shape that immediately caught my eye.  I was told to put my mouth at the lowest point of the rim of the glass – directly over the cat logo – to drink.

That positions the higher side of the glass so that it covers your nose, concentrating the aroma of whatever you were drinking:

The second reason I liked Forgotten Boardwalk is that it had an interesting and idiosyncratic lineup of beers.  

FB always has a few basic brews available – including a pilsner, an IPA, and a Belgian-style wit beer.  But they mix things up with seasonal releases like a smoked porter and a couple of potent imperial IPAs. 

The brewery goes all-in with a variety of barrel-aged limited releases they call “Sideshow Attractions” – which have included saisons aged in red and white wine barrels, a Belgian strong ale made with potato that spent time in apple brandy barrels, and a porter and a stout that were aged in bourbon barrels.

The third and perhaps most important thing that made me glad I visited was the way the Forgotten Boardwalk bartenders treated me and the other customers who had dropped in.

Marysia greeted me and made it clear that I should feel free to ask for a taste of anything that interested me.  (Most microbreweries do offer gratis samples to customers, but some do so a little begrudgingly.  It’s as they’re afraid that you’ll have a few complimentary tastes and then skedaddle without buying anything.) 

Based on her advice and a couple of samples, I chose a limited-edition barrel-aged version of FB’s “Morro Castle” smoked porter.  It was an excellent choice for me.

As I enjoyed my beer, Kai – the other bartender on duty – was thoughtfully quizzing a couple about their food and drink tastes in an effort to help them choose the Forgotten Boardwalk offering that they would most enjoy.  After serving them a couple of cans of a FB IPA, he pulled a third can out the fridge, poured small samples from it, and handed one to each person standing at the bar– including me.  

I’m not an IPA fan, but I’m also not a person who looks a gift beer in the mouth. So I took a taste and was pleasantly surprised by the balance and drinkability of the 100-IBU IPA.

When I told Kai that I was expecting the IPA to be way too bitter to be to my liking, he explained to me of why an IPA’s IBU (“International Bittering Unit”) rating was not necessarily indicative of its bitterness.

An attractive environment, unique and tasty beers, friendly and knowledgeable bartenders with a customer-first attitude – what’s not to like about Forgotten Boardwalk?  Not a thing, if you ask me.  

*     *     *     *     *

Forgotten Boardwalk gets something that some small breweries do not.  

While a tasting room can be an important profit center for a microbrewery, it’s highest value is as a branding tool.  

There’s only so much beer you can sell at a tasting room – which is probably open only a limited number of hours.  To be truly successful, most small breweries need to sell their product to people who drink beer in bars and restaurants, and who go to retail stores to buy six-packs to take home.  

If I have a good experience at a brewery tasting room, I’m much more likely to choose one of that brewery’s beers instead of one from a competitor the next time I visit a bar or a package store.  

This large prize wheel is mounted
behind the Forgotten Boardwalk bar
Sure, the beer has to taste good.  But there are more good-tasting craft beers available these days than you can shake a stick at.  Often as not, the reason I pick one brand over another is that I have a good feeling about a brewery I’ve visited.  

Because the folks at Forgotten Boardwalk treated me and their other customers right, I want to see them succeed.

Unfortunately for Forgotten Boardwalk, I live outside its distribution footprint.  (Cherry Hill is well over a hundred miles from my home.)  But the next time I travel to or through New Jersey, I’ll look for opportunities to have one of their beers. 

And if they grow sufficiently that I start to see their offerings on the tap lists and retail shelves in my neck of the woods, I’ll happily show them some love.

*     *     *     *     *

The night before the Drifters were booked to record “Under the Boardwalk,” the group’s lead singer – Rudy Lewis – died of a suspected heroin overdose.

But the show must goes on, so the Drifters quickly called up one of their former lead vocalists, Johnny Moore, who skedaddled down to the studio and recorded the song.

Here’s “Under the Boardwalk,” which made it to #4 on the Billboard “Hot 100” in the summer of 1964:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Incredible String Band – "Waiting for You" (1971)

Yes, the hydrangeas do look divine
This time of the year

If you took chemistry in high school, you probably remember that if a solution turns litmus paper red, it’s acidic.  If a solution turns litmus paper blue, it’s alkaline (or basic). 

The opposite is true of hydrangeas.  Most hydrangeas produce pink flowers in alkaline soil and blue flowers in acidic soil.

The acidity or alkalinity of the soil isn’t directly responsible for whether a hydrangea’s blossoms are blue or pink.  What matters is the concentration of aluminum in the soil.  But aluminum is more easily absorbed by a hydrangea when the soil is acidic, which is why pH affects the color of hydrangea flowers.

So if your hydrangeas are pink and you want them to be blue, amend the soil with enough acidifier to lower its pH and increase the uptake of aluminum.

If you want pink hydrangeas, raise the pH by adding lime to the soil around the hydrangea.

It may take some time for the hydrangeas to react to the change in soil pH, so be patient.

*     *     *     *     *

My recent visit to Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket came at the height of hydrangea-flowering season.  There were hydrangeas everywhere – and I do mean everywhere – and the vast majority of them were blue.  

I’m guessing that blue hydrangeas are preferred because there are a lot more plants that produce pink flowers than blue flowers.

It’s possible to manipulate soil pH to produce hydrangeas that have both blue flowers and pink flowers and in-between colors, too:  

*     *     *     *     *

Here’s are photos of some of the beautiful hydrangeas I saw on my bike rides around the Cape and islands last month:

*     *     *     *     *

The Incredible String Band, which was called a “psychedelic folk band” by one reviewer, was one of the more esoteric musical groups of the sixties.

Their music is pretty indescribable.  It’s often sort of Celtic-sounding – until they add Middle Eastern and Indian instruments (like ours and sitars) to the mix.

To say that the Incredible String Band’s music is an acquired taste is something of an understatement.  There’s a chance I’ll attempt to acquire a taste for it, but there’s also a chance – probably a much better one – that I’ll just forget about them.

The Incredible String Band at Woodstock
By the way, the Incredible String Band performed at Woodstock.  They don’t appear in the Woodstock movie, and none of their music was included on either the original three-LP Woodstock album.  

But there are two Incredible String Band songs on the six-CD Woodstock box set released by Rhino Records in 2009.  (That box set features several other of the more obscure acts that appeared at Woodstock – including Sweetwater, Bert Sommer, and Quill.  But it does not include anything by the Keef Hartley Band, which is the only band that performed at Woodstock but was left off all of the Woodstock compilations.)

“Waiting for You” was released on the Incredible String Band’s 1971 album, Be Glad for the Song Has No Ending.  It’s a very odd song, but if you’re looking for a song that mentions hydrangeas, you don’t have a lot of choices – and all the other hydrangea songs were even worse.

Here’s “Waiting for You”:

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Wolfmother – "Sundial" (2009)

The sundial wonders
How could you see nothing at all?

I decided to spend the last day of my recent Cape Cod vacation in Nantucket.  So I woke up early and drove to Hyannis to catch the 8:15 am departure of the M/V Iyanough, a high-speed, passenger-only catamaran that covers the 29 miles between Hyannis and Nantucket in just an hour.  (The regular car ferry takes over twice as long to get to the island.)

The Iyanough was in the news in June when its captain crashed it into the Hyannis harbor breakwater after mistaking two sailboats and a tall metal pole for the buoys that are placed to guide boats to the dock.

The ferry was hors de combat for about a month while undergoing repairs, but returned to service just in time for me to go to Nantucket.

The Iyanough is not only fast but also has the world’s coldest air conditioning.  (You could tell who the regular Nantucket travelers were because they came equipped with blankets or hoodies despite the 80-degree temperature.)  Why they can’t turn the A/C down a little is beyond me, but I’m guessing it has something to do with the fact that the Iyanough is owned and operated by a state government agency.

*     *     *     *     *

Once we docked, I headed to one of the nearby bicycle stores to rent a bike for the day.  My first destination was Siasconset, a very picturesque village on the eastern end of the island that is usually referred to as “Sconset.”

The most notable thing you see on the ride to Sconset is Sankaty Head Light, which is located on a high bluff just north of the village:

Sankaty Head Light
The Sankaty Head Light was built in 1850.  It was originally 60 feet high and equipped with a whale-oil lamp that was powerful enough to be seen by ships as far as 28 miles away.  The structure was later made 10 feet higher, and the light was converted to electricity in 1933.

The light, which still operates, is maintained by the Coast Guard.  But the structure was acquired by the Sconset Land Trust, which had raised $4 million to moved the brick lighthouse about 400 feet inland from the eroding bluff.  (The lighthouse was originally built 280 feet from the bluff’s edge, but that distance had shrunk to 76 feet by 2007.)

Here's a dramatic aerial view of the lighthouse and the bluff:

*     *     *     *     *

After a stop at the Siasconset Market for a Dr. Pepper and some chips to go with the sandwich I had brought with me, I got back on my bike and rode to the Cisco Brewery, which is located in a rural area just a couple of miles from Cisco Beach.

The always-crowded Cisco brewery
Cisco Brewery, which is also home to Nantucket Vineyard and Triple Eight Distillery, is always packed.  Visitors can usually purchase viands from three or four food trucks, listen to live music, and choose from an impressive array of Cisco-branded clothing, glassware, and other merchandise.  (The merchandise is nice, but it ain’t cheap – a T-shirt will set you back 35 bucks.)

One of the Cisco food trucks
One of Cisco’s signature beers is Sankaty Light lager, a relatively low-alcohol, low-calorie beer that is very popular in the summer:

*     *     *     *     *

The Sankaty Head Light may be my favorite thing on Nantucket, but this sundial – which is on the side of a Sconset house – is a close second:

Which explains today’s featured song: Wolfmother’s “Sundial,” which was released in 2009 on the Cosmic Egg album.

Wolfmother is a three-man Australian hard rock band that was formed in 2000.  They’ve been compared to a number of classic rock and metal bands from the sixties and seventies.  I think “Sundial” sounds a lot like Black Sabbath.

Here’s “Sundial”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, August 11, 2017

Kashif Saleem – "Edgartown Groove" (1984)

Come on, come on, come on down
Come on down to Edgartown

Edgartown, which was incorporated in 1671, is the oldest town on Martha’s Vineyard.  It's also the poshest town on that very posh island, so it's no surprise that 2 or 3 lines dropped by for a visit during my recent vacation on Cape Cod.

Unlike the many celebrities who vacation on Martha’s Vineyard -- the Obamas, the Clintons, various Kennedys, David Letterman, Larry David, Spike Lee, Carly Simon, Meg Ryan, and Lady Gaga, among others -- I didn't fly in on a helicopter or private jet.

Cars boarding the Martha's Vineyard ferry
Instead, I drove to Woods Hole one morning and boarded the slow ferry to Oak Bluffs with my bicycle.  I then rode to Edgartown on the bike path that's adjacent to Beach Road, which goes along the island's eastern shore.

From Edgartown I continued on the Katama Road bike path to Katama Beach, where elements of General George Patton’s Third Army practiced amphibious landings as part of their preparations for D-Day.  (David Letterman's summer home isn't far away.)

After riding back to Edgartown, I was ready for lunch.  I hit a convenience store and grabbed a Dr. Pepper and some potato chips to go along with the sandwich I had made that morning, then plopped myself down on a bench in Memorial Park (also known as Cannonball Park) to enjoy my modest repast.

*     *     *     *     *

The most notable feature of Memorial Park was its Civil War monument, a tall and handsome stone obelisk that was unveiled on July 4, 1901.

Edgartown’s Civil War monument
One of the panels at the base of the obelisk featured a keystone with the letters H T W S S T K S carved on it.  Those letters stand for “Hiram, Tynian, Widow’s Son, Sendeth To King Solomon,” which relates to Masonic ritual.  (You can click here to learn more about what those words mean to the Masons.)

The obelisk states that it was erected through the efforts of one Enoch C. Cornell, a Union veteran who saw action as a member of Company H of the 1st Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. 

Cornell, who was born in Edgartown on Valentine’s Day, 1827, sailed to California in 1849 hoping to find gold.  I don’t know if he found any, but I do know that he eventually returned to Edgartown, where he made a living as a photographer in the years leading up to the Civil War.

Cornell was 34 years old when he enlisted in August 1862.  The 1st Massachusetts Infantry had been organized in 1861, just in time to see action at First Bull Run, the first major battle of the war. Cornell was presumably assigned to that regiment (which consisted mostly of Bostonians) as a replacement for one of the regiment's casualties.

1st Massachusetts monument at Gettysburg
The 1st Massachusetts suffered heavy losses at Gettysburg.  Cornell was shot in the right foot at that battle, and was discharged from his regiment in May 1864.  He eventually applied for and was granted a monthly pension of $12, indicating that his wound was relatively serious.

Cornell died less than a year after the Edgartown monument he was responsible for was dedicated.  He was 75.  

*     *     *     *     *

Kashif Saleem (born Michael Jones in 1959) was a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer from New York City.

Kashif released five successful R&B albums in the eighties, but is best known as the producer of hits for R&B stars like Whitney Houston, Evelyn Champagne” King, George Benson, the Stylistics, and Jermaine Jackson.

His 1984 hit, “Edgartown Groove” (which features Al Jarreau), was nominated for the “Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal” Grammy.  

Here's “Edgartown Groove”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Mary Hopkin – "Those Were the Days" (1968)

Oh, my friend, we're older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same

In the last 2 or 3 lines, I told you about the 1924 Russian romance song, “Dorogoj dlinnoju,” which was given English lyrics in 1962 by architecture professor and folksinger Gene Raskin.  He called his version of the song “Those Were the Days.”  (Scroll down if you missed that post.)

Raskin and his wife – they called themselves Gene & Francesca – performed in folk clubs in North America and Europe for years.  From 1962 on, they usually closed their shows by singing “Those Were the Days.”

In 1968, the supermodel Twiggy told Paul McCartney that he should sign Mary Hopkin – a blue-eyed, blonde-haired Welsh teenager who Twiggy had seen perform on television – to the Beatles’ new record label, Apple Records. 

Paul McCartney and Mary Hopkin
When McCartney caught Gene & Francesca’s show at London’s Blue Angel club later that year, he thought that “Those Were the Days” would be a good song for Mary Hopkin to record.

Hopkin’s recording of that song, which was produced by McCartney, was the third single released on Apple Records.   (The first Apple single was “Hey Jude.”  Only one copy was pressed of the second Apple single – a Frank Sinatra recording called “The Lady Is a Champ – But Beautiful,” which was recorded as a gift for Ringo Starr’s wife, Maureen Starkey.)  

“Those Were the Days” was a #1 hit in the UK, but only made it to #2 in the U.S. , where it sold 1.5 million copies.  (Ironically, “Hey Jude” was the single that held down the top spot on the Billboard “Hot 100” at the time.)

Hopkin not only recorded “Those Were the Days” in English, but also in French, German, Italian, and Spanish.  (The song made it to only #15 in Italy, but was a #1 hit in France, Germany, and Spain.)   

*     *     *     *     *

“Those Were the Days” was recorded in a number of other languages languages by dozens of artists — ranging from Bing Crosby to Roger Whittaker to Dolly Parton to Wanda Jackson to Shaggy.

The song generated enough royalties for Gene Raskin to buy a sailboat, a Porsche, and a home on the Mediterranean island of Majorca.

President Francisco Macías Nguema
It’s not clear whether the then-President of the small African nation of Equatorial Guinea, Francisco Macías Nguema, paid royalties to Raskin when he had soldiers dressed in Santa Claus execute about 150 of his political opponents in a soccer stadium on Christmas Eve, 1975, as “Those Were the Days” played over the stadium public-address system.

Nguema later changed the country’s motto to “There is no other God than Macías Nguema.”

*     *     *     *     *

Here’s Mary Hopkin’s recording of “Those Were the Days”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Limeliters – "Those Were the Days" (1962)

Remember how we laughed away the hours
And dreamed of all the great things we would do?

Here’s Alexander Verlinsky’s 1926 recording of “Dorogoj dlinnoju,” which was Russian composer Boris Fomin’s most famous composition:

Sound familiar?

*     *     *     *     *

In the early part of the 20th century, Russians went gaga over “Russian romance” songs.  

The songs of that genre seem to have had a lot in common with classic American country-western weepers – rarely do the lovers who are the subject of Russian romances live happily ever after.  (It’s not uncommon for one or both of those lovers to commit suicide.)

Perhaps the most popular of all Russian romances was “Dorogoj dlinnoju” – the title is usually translated as “Endless Road” – which was composed in 1924 by Boris Fomin.  

Boris Fomin
But Russian romances were pronounced “counter-revolutionary” a few years, and Fomin’s 400-odd songs were banned.  Decades passed before Russian singers could perform “Dorogoj dlinnoju” in public.

*     *     *     *     *

Gene Raskin– who was born in the Bronx in 1909 – was something of a Renaissance man.

He earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Columbia University, and later became an adjunct professor of architecture there.  

In addition to being the author of three architecture books, he wrote a novel and two plays.

Raskin was also a folksinger – he and his wife performed as Gene & Francesca at the height of the Greenwich Village folk scene in the early sixties.  

Gene & Francesca
In 1962, he wrote new lyrics (in English) for Boris Fomin’s “Dorogoj dlinnoju,” which he had grown up listening to.  He then copyrighted not only the lyrics, but also the music – which wasn’t exactly kosher.  

In 1968, Mary Hopkin’s recording of the song became a big international hit.  We’ll learn all about Hopkin’s cover of “Those Were the Days” in the next 2 or 3 lines.

*     *     *     *     *

The Limeliters, a very popular folk trio that was formed by Glenn Yarbrough, included the song on their 1962 album, Folk Matinee.  Here’s the Limeliters’ recording of “Those Were the Days”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, August 4, 2017

Jim Croce – "Five Short Minutes" (1973)

She casted me in plaster
While I sang her a tune

In 1969, Rolling Stone magazine bought a full page in the New York Times to promote an upcoming special issue on “groupies.”  (The story goes that publisher Jann Wenner had to empty the magazine’s bank account to pay for the $7000 ad.)

The term “groupies” was originally used to describe the screaming teenage girls who innocently worshipped the Beatles and other pop groups of that era.  But by the time the Rolling Stone issue came out, the word had taken on a sexual implication.  Groupies didn’t go home after a concert, they went backstage and usually ended up spending the night at the band’s hotel or on the tour bus.

The cover of the “groupies” issue
Later that year, Delaney & Bonnie and Friends released a song titled “Superstar (Groupie).”  It told the story of a disappointed groupie who believed that a touring musician she had slept with would someday come back to be with her.  

That fictional groupie was left with only the memories of the night she spent with the musician.  But another famous groupie was able to retain something more tangible from her encounters with rock stars than just memories.

*     *     *     *     *

One of the women who was interviewed and photographed for the Rolling Stone “groupies” issue was Chicago native Cynthia Albritton, who called herself Cynthia Plaster Caster.

Cynthia was a 19-year-old college student in 1966 when one of her art professors told her and her fellow art students to make a plaster cast of something solid that could retain its shape.   

She and one of her friends went to a Paul Revere and the Raiders concert that weekend and managed to get backstage, where they asked the group’s lead singer, Mark Lindsay, if they could make a plaster cast of his penis.  Lindsay declined that request, but did agree to relieve her of her virginity that weekend.

Cynthia Plaster Caster in 1969
A couple of years later, Cynthia managed to talk Jimi Hendrix into letting her make a cast of his penis.  She also cast Jimi’s bass player, Noel Redding, and members of the MC5, the Young Rascals, the Lovin’ Spoonful, Savoy Brown, Television, the Mekons, and the Dead Kennedys – as well as the managers of the Who, Led Zeppelin, and Iron Butterfly.

Cynthia had some failures.  For example, tried to cast Eric Burdon of the Animals and Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks, but she messed up the molds both times.

*     *     *     *     *

Another of Cynthia’s subjects was Anthony Newley, the British star of the stage and screen who was also a successful singer/songwriter.  (He co-wrote the Goldfinger title song, “The Candy Man” – which was a number one single for Sammy Davis, Jr. – two Broadway musicals, and the score for the children’s movie, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.)  I vividly remember Newley as a witty and urbane talk-show guest and a “Hollywood Squares” panelist, and it’s hard for me to picture Cynthia Plaster Caster making an alginate mold of Newley’s erect 38-year-old penis.

Conservative talk-show host Bob Grant in 1970
Perhaps the most surprising of her subjects was Bob Grant, a very popular conservative talk-radio host who was on the air in New York City for over 35 years.  (Grant’s ratings were phenomenal.  At one point, he had a 24.3 share – meaning that 24.3% of all the people listening to the radio in New York City at that time were listening to Grant’s show.)

*     *     *     *     *

Frank Zappa persuaded Cynthia Plaster Caster to move to Los Angeles, where he hoped to organize an art exhibit of her plaster penises.  According to Cynthia, the exhibit never happened “because of a shortage of celebrity c*ck in the collection.”  (Cynthia never made a cast of Zappa’s penis.)

The casts ended up in the possession of Zappa’s business partner, and Cynthia had to sue him to get them back.  Pamela Des Barres, the most famous groupie of them all, testified on Cynthia’s behalf. 

Cynthia in 2010
Cynthia eventually moved back to Chicago, where she ran for mayor (unsuccessfully) in 2010.  

*     *     *     *     *

Here’s the trailer to the 2001 documentary about Cynthia titled Plaster Caster:

You can click here to visit Cynthia’s website.

*     *     *     *     *

In 1977, Kiss released a song called “Plaster Caster” that was inspired by Cynthia’s plaster casts.  

Cynthia never casted any of the members of Kiss.  She didn’t cast Jim Croce either, but the website says that Croce admitted to his wife that the Plaster Casters had “serviced” him.

Here’s “Five Short Minutes,” Jim Croce's tribute to Cynthia Plaster Caster.  It was released on the last album Croce recorded before dying in a airplane crash in 1973.  He was only 30 years old.

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: