Thursday, July 29, 2010

Three Dog Night -- "Celebrate" (1969)




Satin and lace, isn't it a pity
Didn't find time to call
Ready or not, gonna make it to the city
This is the night to go to the celebrity ball
Dress up tonight, why be lonely? . . .
Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music
 
A 40th high-school reunion in Joplin, Missouri, is hardly a "celebrity ball."  And I doubt that any of the girls I'll see there will be wearing satin and lace.  (Sorry, ladies -- you may be 57 or 58 years old, but it's hard not to think of you as "girls.") 
 
But no matter.  It will still be an occasion to celebrate.  

What exactly will we be celebrating?  Some of us can celebrate success in a career or a business.  (I'm not just talking about money -- I'm talking about the satisfaction you get from doing something well, and the recognition and respect you receive from your customers or your employer or your peers.)  Others can celebrate their children, or grandchildren, and the pride and joy they bring -- and is there anything in life more celebrate-able?

At the very least, we can all celebrate just being here.  Some of us have already survived close calls, and know from very personal experience that life isn't something to be taken for granted.  The fact that so many of our classmates -- not to mention parents and other loved ones -- are no longer around to join the celebration should make that very clear to the rest of us.

What I'm especially celebrating this weekend is growing up in Joplin, where I spent almost every day of the first 18 years of life.   It was what I experienced here that made me the person I am today -- for better and for worse.  

Certainly my parents were the most important influence in my life.  (I'm sometimes told -- not necessarily in a complimentary tone of voice -- that I am getting more like my father every year.  That is absolutely true, and it doesn't bother me a bit -- he and my mother have accomplished a lot with a little, and my sister and I owe them more than we can ever repay.)  

But my teachers (especially Mary Helen Harutun, a truly remarkable and dedicated woman who taught piano to quite a few of us) and especially my friends were very significant influences as well.

I moved to the Washington, DC, area after I finished law school over 33 years ago, so I've lived here a lot longer than I lived in Joplin (even accounting for for brief detours to San Francisco and Philadelphia).  And that's where I got married and where my kids were born and grew up.  

But where I live now is not really my home -- Joplin is, and always will be.  For better or worse (in the words of Little Big Town's "Boondocks"):

You can take it or leave it
This is me
This is who I am     

The last few weeks have really brought that home.  I can't overstate what an impact all the old photos that have been posted to the reunion's Facebook page have had on me.  

I've seen familiar faces that have been lost to me for many years -- I've allowed "out of sight" to become "out of mind" far too easily -- but it turns out those faces were not really forgotten.  Seeing them has triggered all kinds of wonderful and surprisingly intense memories.  And for some reason, the memories that have resurfaced have all been happy ones.

The Dugout Lounge at Mickey
Mantle's Holiday Inn in Joplin
The reunion will be a great opportunity to see many of the friends with whom I have kept in touch over the years.  Just as important, it will be a chance to really connect with other classmates for the first time.  I've already struck up some friendships with people I didn't really know in high school, or that I barely knew, and I hope those friendships will continue in some form after the reunion is over.  

It wouldn't be honest of me if I were to deny that this whole experience has also been somewhat bittersweet. 

One thing the reunion is forcing me (and, I suspect, many others) to do is to to look back and take stock of where I've been and where I am -- and where I'm going as well.  It's impossible for me to look at all those pictures from 40 and even 50 years ago without regrets -- regrets for all the mistakes I've made, regrets for all the things I wish I had done but didn't . . . but mostly regrets from (to quote from a book I recently read) "the realization there [are] a lot more leaves on the ground than on the tree."  

I can't resist sharing some quotes from my favorite poet and my favorite novelist from my high-school days, both of whom had a lot to say on this subject.

From William Wordsworth's "Ode (Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood)":

O joy! that in our embers
Is something that doth live,
That nature yet remembers
What was so fugitive!
The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction . . .

Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind . . .

In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.

(I need that "philosophic mind" right now -- I hope I don't have to wait much longer for it to arrive.)

And from "The Great Gatsby" (by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was laid to rest only a few miles from my home, and whose tombstone bears these words):

F. Scott Fitzgerald's tombstone
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.  

That's not altogether a bad thing, in my opinion.  I look at all the pictures on our Facebook page, and realize that life in Joplin when we were young was often wonderfully multilayered and rich.  It was a time of intense curiosity and intense feelings.  To paraphrase the song I quoted earlier, you can take it or leave it -- high school is us, high school is who we are.

Well, that's it from me -- my last post before the reunion.  I've been talking a lot, and now I'm going to concentrate on listening for a change.   I look forward to seeing -- and listening to -- all of you in Joplin (or elsewhere, if you can't make it to the hootenanny).

Get ready to celebrate.  And even if you can't be there in person, you can celebrate our shared history in spirit -- and get started on our shared future.  I hope this song -- the final cut from Three Dog Night's second (and best) album, "Suitable for Framing" -- will help put you in the right mood:

Jan and Dean -- "Dead Man's Curve" (1964)


He passed me at Doheny then I started to swerve

But I pulled her out and there we were
At Dead Man's Curve

I always assume when I start writing one of these things that I have a pretty good idea what the final post will look like.  But often I'm surprised by what I discover along the way, and how one detour leads to another.  That's the best part of doing this blog -- not writing about my favorite subject (that's me!), but rather the seredipitous little surprises and coincidences that pop up out of nowhere.

"The shortest distance between two points" is rarely a term that can be applied to this blog, and today's post is no exception.  We have a lot of ground to cover today.

Let's begin by going back to 1964, which was the year that Jan and Dean released "Dead Man's Curve" -- which was about a street race between a Corvette and a Jaguar that didn't end well for the Jaguar driver.  At age 12, I was much more into songs about cars than songs about girls. (Remember "Hey Little Cobra" by the Rip Chords? "Little G.T.O" by Ronnie and the Daytonas?) 

I still have my copy of this record:

"And then I saw the Jag slide into the curve . . ."
Now that I think about it, we'll have go back to 1962, when I won the second round of the KFSB-1310 spelling bee and took home a little red portable record player.
(Don't worry, folks -- this is as far back in time as we're ever going on this blog.  I won't be posting about "Christmas Song" by Alvin and the Chipmunks -- "Me, I want a hula hoop"/"Alvin!!!") or my other childhood favorites.)  

The very first records I remember playing on that record player were "Tossin' and Turnin'" by Bobby Lewis (1961) and "Twistin' the Night Away" by Sam Cooke (1962), which I think I knew about from the old KODE-TV "Teen Hop" show on Saturday afternoons.  I had pretty good taste for a 10-year-old, I think.

I bought those 45s at a little record store that was located on the south side of Main Street between 15th and 16th (I think) with the $3 I got for winning the first round of the spelling bee.  (By the way, I didn't win the bicycle that was the grand prize, however.  I got tripped up on an "e-before-i or i-before-e?" word and finished a disappointing third.  Bummer, dude.)

"Dead Man's Curve" is pretty self-explanatory.  It was 50% souped-up car song and 50% teenage vehicular death song, although unlike all the other teenage vehicular death songs I can remember (think "Leader of the Pack" and "Last Kiss" and "D.O.A."), there was no girl in "Dead Man's Curve."


In the early 1990's, when I left my job as a government attorney and went to work for a direct-marketing company, I had occason to go to Los Angeles regularly to oversee infomercial shoots.  On one trip I was driving west on Sunset Boulevard and crossed North Doheny Drive and immediately thought to myself, "That's what they were singing about in 'Dead Man's Curve'!"


I was such a fan of this song that I later bought a Jan and Dean album -- "Surf City (and Other Swinging Cities)," which included the duo's #1 hit, "Surf City," and a bunch of other songs about cities: "Memphis, Tennessee" (made famous by Johnny Rivers), "Detroit City" (a country hit for Bobby Bare -- "By day I make the cars/By night I make the bars"), "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans" (originally written in 1922, it was a hot for Freddy Cannon in 1959), "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," etc., etc.  I agree this was one of the lamest "concept album" ideas ever, and most of the cuts were tepid cover versions of forgettable, gimmicky songs, but you can't argue that "Surf City" had a brilliant chorus:


You know we're goin' to Surf City 'cause it's two to one,
You know we're goin' to Surf City, gonna have some fun now,
Two girls for every boy!




Jan and Dean are remembered today for their surf and car songs -- sort of a poor man's Beach Boys -- but they had been around years before the surfing craze hit.  Jan (as part of "Jan and Arnie" -- Dean was in the army in 1958) had a top 10 hit, "Jennie Lee," in 1958 -- more about who Jennie Lee was a bit later -- and Jan and Dean had several other singles that cracked the Billboard "Hot 100" prior to 1963, when "Surf City" hit big.  They followed up on the success of  "Surf City" with six consecutive top 25 songs n 1963 and 1964, including "Deadman's Curve" and "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena," which made it all the way to #3. 

The B-side of one of those hits was a follow-up to the "Little Old Lady" was titled "The Anahiem, Azusa and Cucamonga Sewing Circle, Book Review and Timing Association."  I remember hearing it on an evening call-in-and-dedicate-a-song radio show on a Joplin station that I listened to religiously in those days.  When you called in to request a song dedication, you only had to give your initials -- I was brave enough to request Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman" for a couple of girls under those conditions, although my intials were probably unique enough to identify me if  either of those girls had ever heard the dedications.  (For some reason, I'm thinking that show wasn't on KQYX-1560, which was a top-40 station during those years, but WMBH-1450, which I remember mostly as Joplin's country-western station.  Does anyone remember if WMBH was following a top-40 format in 1964?)


Riding their 1963-1964 string of hit singles like a real surfer would ride a big pipeline wave, Jan and Dean were invited to be the emcees of a two-night concert at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in 1964 that featured perhaps the greatest collection of top-40 musical talent ever assembled in one place at one time:  "The T.A.M.I. Show," which was filmed as released as a movie that I remember seeing at the old Lux theatre in Joplin in early 1965.  ("T.A.M.I." stood for "Teen Age Music International.")  Raise your hands -- or just type in the "comment" window below -- if you saw the movie there.

The movie was finally released on DVD earlier this year, and I just watched it in its original form for the first time in over 45 years.  (I saw it not only in Joplin in 1965, but also a midnight showing of it while I was in college.  We knew something was wrong with that version of the movie, and just assumed that the projectionist was high and had just forgotten a reel, but it appears that there was a legal dispute that resulted in the footage of the Beach Boys being removed from the movie after its initial theatrical run, so that may explain why the movie I saw in college was so f.u.b.a.r.).

All I have to do to explain why this is such a great movie is to list the performers who appeared in "The T.A.M.I. Show" (in order of their appearance):

-- Chuck Berry
-- Gerry and the Pacemakers
-- Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
-- Marvin Gaye
-- Lesley Gore
-- Jan and Dean
-- Beach Boys
-- Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas
-- Supremes
-- James Brown and the Famous Flames
-- Rolling Stones


Here's the trailer for the movie:





Most of the acts played three or four songs.  But two of the acts did six songs -- Lesley Gore and the Rolling Stones.  Yes, that's right -- Lesley Gore was a really big star at this time.




Here are the Beach Boys performing "I Get Around":




James Brown, who absolutely stole the show, may actually have been on stage longer than any of the other performers.  Everyone else pretty much just came out and sang.  The Miracles had a very cool set of dance moves -- they actually unbuttoned their matching sports jackets and loosened their ties by the end of their act -- but James Brown far surpassed them. 

I need a nap just from watching his performance.  He must not have had anything left at the end of his shows.  I've never seen a man sweat so much.  It's an amazing contrast to the robotic, lip-synched performances that were the norm on American Bandstand and similar TV shows of that era. 

The one thing I remember from seeing the movie in 1965 is the way Brown would fall to his knees while singing, either from exhaustion or despair (or both), then be helped to his feet and led off the stage by a couple of his backup singers -- one of whom would gently place a cape on his shoulders -- only to fling the cape off and stride back to the microphone stand to deliver one more impassioned chorus.  (The fun starts a couple of minutes into this clip.)



Mick Jagger -- who looks about 14, but is actually 21 -- does his best but couldn't hope to match Brown's showmanship.  (Keith Richards later said that agreeing to follow Brown in this show was the dumbest thing the Stones ever did.)




Click here if you'd like to buy this movie -- believe me, you won't be sorry:
The T.A.M.I. Show Collector's Edition

Jan crashed his Corvette into a parked truck in 1966, suffering serious brain damage and partial paralysis.  Ironically, the crash occurred not far from "Dean Man's Curve."  Jan never recovered completely from his injuries, although he did continue writing and producing music and eventually started performing in "oldies" shows with Dean.  At the time of the accident, Jan was attending medical school -- he was said to have had a near-genius IQ.  Jan died in 2004.

Back to "Jennie Lee," the 1958 hit by Jan and Arnie.  The "Jennie Lee" in the song is your basic innocent and lovable girl next door type, but there was a real Jennie Lee as well.

"The Bazoom Girl"
The real Jennie Lee -- a/k/a/ "The Bazoom Girl" -- was a famous burlesque dancer in the 1950's.  (Arnie of the Jan and Arnie duo had seen her perform in a Los Angeles burlesque house.)  Jennie had actually started a strippers' union -- the "League of Exotic Dancers" -- in 1955 to protest the low wages paid by burlesque joints in Los Angeles.  Jennie also collected photographs and burlesque memorabilia, and her collection was eventually turned into a burlesque museum.  She died in 1990, at age 61, a victim of breast cancer.  

Jennie Lee was born Virginia Lee Hicks in Kansas City.  After graduating from high school, she got a job as a chorus-line dancer at the Folly Theatre.  When another dancer at the theater said she could get Jennie a booking as a strip-tease dancer, Jennie thought it sounded like a good idea. 

The rest of the story can be found on the website of "The Golden Days of Burlesque Historical Society":

So she bought a gown with red fringe on it from a gal for $10 and headed off to work a stag show in Joplin, Missouri. . . .

For this first booking Jennie was required to appear on stage twice. The first number was to be played straight, but in the second number she was told to take it all off. Needless to say her first performance as a strip-tease dancer was a smashing success. But Jennie Lee was so embarrassed she couldn’t go back out on stage for a curtain call and hid in a closet backstage until the audience left. Of course it’s quite apparent that the initial shyness wore off and Jennie Lee eventually became a star in the world of burlesque.

Anyone out there have a father or grandfather who told them about seeing Jennie Lee strip in Joplin before she made it big in the world of burlesque?  No one?

Jennie had one unusual talent -- she could twirl the tassels that were attached to her pasties clockwise, counterclockwise, or both.  Watch this truly astonishing video if you don't believe me:





And to think that she got her start in my home town, little ol' Joplin.


A final note.  It seems like a lot more time than just three years passed between the time I saw "The T.A.M.I. Show" at the Lux in 1965 and the time I saw "Bonnie and Clyde" at the same theatre in the spring of 1968.  


Bonnie and Clyde's hideout
My friends came bounding out of the theatre like 7-year-olds on a sugar high, all jacked up from the old ultraviolence (you remember "Clockwork Orange," don't you?), especially the apocalyptic final scene.  You might remember that Bonnie and Clyde paid a visit to Joplin, and had to shoot their way out of a police ambush.


Here's "Dead Man's Curve" in all its 45 rpm glory:





Here's a link so you can buy it from iTunes:
Dead



Or click below to buy it from Amazon:





Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Focus -- "Hocus Pocus" (1971)



Yodeadodoyodeadodoyodeadodoyodeadodo
     yodeadodoyodeadodoyo-bab-baaaaa
Yodeadodoyodeadodoyodeadodoyodeadodo
     yodeadodoyodeadodoyo-bab-baaaaa
Ahhhhhh-aaahhhh-aaaaaa-aaaaAAA!
Ohhhhhh-ooohhh-oooooo-oooOOO!

I'm just a man -- flesh and blood -- and I have made some mistakes in my life.  Buying the "Moving Waves" album by Focus was certainly one of them.  

I remember hearing "Hocus Pocus" on the radio a couple of times and being absolutely fascinated by it.  I can imagine myself sitting at a stop sign in Joplin, Missouri, in 1971, slack-jawed and drooling as "Hocus Pocus" exploded out of my radio's speakers.  I thought it was the greatest effing record I had ever heard.

Friday was payday at all the summer jobs I had in Joplin when I was in college, and I would take my paycheck, head to the bank, and then head to whichever discount store (Katz? Walmart?) had the best price on record albums and buy one.  

The problem was that I would buy an album each Friday whether there was one I really wanted or not.  (It was like when our twin daughters were newborns -- it was hell.  And their older brother was just three years older than they were.  So whenever we could line up a babysitter for a Sunday afternoon, you'd best believe we were going to the movies -- whether there was anything good playing or not.  We saw some really lousy movies as a result, but my baby mama -- a/k/a "my wife" -- never complained.)

So one Friday, I walked into the store, a big wad of Benjamins burning a hole in my pocket, and grabbed "Moving Waves" by Focus (they were Dutch), based on the strength of "Hocus Pocus."  

I probably listened to that track a dozen times or so.   I'm not sure I ever made it all the way through the rest of the album, which was almost entirely instrumental.  That's not too surprising when you consider that side two consisted of something called "Eruption" a 23-minute long adaptation of what is generally considered to be the second opera ever written, Jacopo Peri's Euridice (1600).

By the way, the "words" quoted above aren't something I just made up.  That's the way one of the popular Internet song-lyrics sites renders the opening lines of "Hocus Pocus," which did  crack the Billboard top 10.

Until tonight, I thought that Focus did the theme for the "Miami Vice" TV show.  But that music was performed by Jan Hammer, a Czech who once played keyboards for John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra.  (Wow -- I wasn't even close to being right on that one, was I?  Like I said above, just a man -- flesh and blood . . .)



Nike chose to use "Hocus Pocus" in a brilliant TV commercial that was widely aired during the recent World Cup.  (The music starts about 45 seconds in.)



Without further ado, here's "Hocus Pocus" by Focus:



And here's a video of a competitive tap-dancing group performing to "Hocus Pocus" in a competition.  I can't think of a worse choice for tap-dancing -- it's excruciatingly bad:



Here's a link to use if you'd like to buy this song from Amazon.  Make sure you don't buy the album by mistake -- you'll be sorry.  (If you really want it, I'll sell you my vinyl version cheap.  My retirement plan took a big hit a couple of years ago, and I need to recoup pronto.)



XTC -- "1000 Umbrellas" (1986)



One thousand umbrellas
Upturned couldn't catch
All the rain that drained out 
Of my head when you said
We were over and over 
I cried 'til I floated 
Downstream to a town 
They call Misery
Oh oh Misery

I know that many of you are interested in knowing how the "2 or 3 Lines" team survived the storms that brought Montgomery County, Maryland, to its knees this past Sunday afternoon.

In case you haven't heard, our area was spanked with torrential rain and winds gusting up to 90 miles per hour at about 4 pm on Sunday. The storm moved fast – it took less than an hour for the skies to blacken, the rain and winds to move in and then move out, and the skies to turn sunny again. But that was more than enough to rip our fragile infrastructure a new one.

Over 300,000 people in MoCo lost electricity as a result of the storm. About half that many were still without power 48 hours later. Amazingly, the stoplights on a number of major commuting routes are still inoperable.

But the good news is that "2 or 3 Lines" offices lost power for only a few minutes – although we were without cable TV and internet service for several hours this morning, which was extremely trying.

One very important question remains: how did this affect my regular Sunday bike ride?

Unfortunately, other important tasks and duties prevented me from starting my ride until about 3 pm, so I found myself squarely in harm's way at 3:45 or so, when I looked up and noticed the sky was very, very, VERY dark. (Another person who lives in my house and has the same last name as I do suggested that I should have left much earlier, that we had gotten e-mails from the county government hours earlier warning us that the storms were rapidly approaching, that it was my own fault I didn't start and finish my ride earlier, yada yada yada.)

I was pickin' 'em up and layin' 'em down on my 24-speed Gary Fisher "Utopia" and less than a mile from my home, sweet home, when a sideways gust of wind almost blew me right off my ride. Then the skies opened up and I was drenched within the 10 seconds or so it took me to find shelter – in this case, the nearest front porch big enough for my bike and I to hide under. (The owner of the house eventually came to the door and invited me in, but I demurred – given that I was very wet and fairly smelly as well.)

Here's some very disturbing video from that front porch:

video


One of our neighbors lost this tree, which fell in such a way as to completely block our street:



This neighborhood mom will be getting a new minivan:



By 5 pm, the rain had stopped and the sun was out. I went back to finish my ride, but the paved hiker-biker trail to Lake Needwood was covered with tree limbs and assorted storm-tossed debris.

I was not optimistic about the condition of that trail when I left for my ride this morning. But lo and behold, someone had gone to "Chain Saws 'R' Us" and cleared the trail of the big stuff. There were a lot of leaves and small branches and pebbles on the trail, but that kind of stuff isn't enough to stop a hardcore biker like myself.

Imagine my surprise when, as I was returning home, I came upon a diligent county worker driving a tractor equipped with a really big-ass leafblower along the trail, so that there was nary a stick, leaf or cigarette butt left on it the rest of the way.
Needwood trail immaculate thanks to big-ass mechanized leafblower

Once he was done with the leafblower, I assume he went back and power-washed any remaining dirt off the trail until it was as clean as my kitchen floor – maybe even as clean as my mother's kitchen floor.

Sorry about all you folks who are still without air conditioning, TV, etc., but it doesn't really help to complain. Just be happy that I had a wonderful bike ride along an immaculately cleaned trail to a beautiful little lake this morning – it will do you good to think about someone other than yourself for a change.

Don't worry, I didn't forget our song – "1000 Umbrellas," by XTC.  

By the way, I considered but ultimately rejected these songs for this post:

1.  "Stormy" by the Classics IV (not a bad choice, but not very exciting);

2.  "Purple Rain" by Prince (I saw no hint of anything purple during our storm);

3.  "Fire and Rain" by James Taylor (no hint of fire either);

4.  "Summer Breeze" by Seals and Croft ("breeze" isn't really the right word for 90-mph wind gusts);

5.  "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" by B.J. Thomas (the raindrops weren't exactly falling, and they didn't keep falling very long);

6.  "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles (yes, it did, but that wasn't the main event);

7.  "Rock You Like a Hurricane" by the Scorpions (captures the feel of the event, but sort of a poopy song);

8.  "Blowin' in the Wind" by Bob Dylan (and covered by every girl in college who owned a guitar -- no thank you);

9.  "Texas Flood" by Stevie Ray Vaughan (geography is way off);

10.  "Texas Tornado" by Doug Sahm (ditto);

11.  "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC (shouldn't it be "lightning-struck"?);

12.  "Riders on the Storm" by the Doors (close, but there was only one rider – and I've already blogged about a Doors song);

13.  "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" by Creedence Clearwater Revival (I've already blogged about a CCR song, too).

"1000 Umbrellas" is from a very interesting and very quirky album, "Skylarking," the title of which was inspired by the Shelley poem, "To a Skylark."  My favorite song on the CD is "Season Cycle" -- the singer (a limey) pronounces "umbilical" with the accent on the third syllable ("um-bil-LIE-cal"):

Darling, don't you ever stop to wonder

About the clouds, about the hail and thunder
About the baby and its umbilical
Who's pushing the pedal on the season cycle?


Here's "1000 Umbrellas":





And here's "Season Cycle":




Here's a link to use to buy "1000 Umbrellas" on iTunes:

1000


And here's a link to Amazon.com:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Three Dog Night -- "One" (1969)




One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do
Two can be as bad as one
It's the loneliest number since the number one


The "Three Dog Night" album cover
"One" was Three Dog Night's first big hit.  I vividly remember hearing it on the radio while sitting in a Central Missouri State University dorm room during Missouri Boys' State in the summer of 1969.  

I'm not writing about it because it's a perfect little 3-minute AM-radio song ("PL3MAMRS") -- although it is -- but because I hope I can chase down an old rumor I've wondered about for years.

I heard that the committee that planned the 1969 junior-senior prom at Parkwood was having trouble deciding which of two bands to hire to play at the dance.  The band that was eventually chosen was a local favorite, the Pink Peach Mob (one of whose members, Steve Gaines, later joined Lynyrd Skynyrd and was killed in the 1977 crash of that band's airplane.)

The story goes that the other band was Three Dog Night, an up-and-coming California group that would have cost a lot more money to book than the local guys.  Later, of course, Three Dog Night hit it very big, and everyone who went to the dance missed out on being able to bore their friends, co-workers, children, and grandchildren with the story of how a hugely successful band -- they had eleven top-10 hits (including three number ones) -- had played at their high school prom.

Maybe Three Dog Night was a candidate to play at the 1968 prom, not the 1969 one as I've always heard -- looking at the band's recording history, 1968 would work a lot better.  

Surely some of my Joplin readers know whether this is a true story or just an urban legend.  Please -- post a comment and help me clear this up once and for all.

The Downstream Casino
By the way, I see that Three Dog Night played at the Downstream Casino this past July 4 -- so they did make it to Joplin, just 42 or so years late.  


You're breakin' my heart
You're tearin' it apart
So f*ck you!

Nilsson's biggest hits were "Everybody's Talkin' " (the theme song to the movie "Midnight Cowboy"), "Me and My Arrow," and "Without You," which was a #1 hit in 1971.  But my two favorite Nilsson songs -- both from the 1972 Nilsson Schmilsson album -- were "Jump Into the Fire" (which was featured during the scene in "Goodfellas" when Ray Liotta is driving all over town with a bunch of guns in his trunk while a helicopter appears to be following him) and "Coconut" (which was featured in the closing credits of "Reservoir Dogs"):

I said, "Doctor, ain't there nuthin' I can take?"
I said, 'Doctor, to relieve this bellyache?"
You put de lime in the coconut, you drink 'em both together
Put de lime in the coconut, then you'll feel better 

Here is a truly bizarre video of "Coconut" from a 1971 BBC special:


Nilsson released "One" as a single a year before Three Dog Night did.  His version went nowhere -- it's a beautiful performance, but no chance it was going to get played on the radio in 1968:



Here's the Three Dog Night version of "One":


I can't resist giving you the sequence from "Goodfellas" mentioned above.  It's just too good:



If you want to buy "One" from iTunes, click here:

One


If you want to buy it from Amazon, click here: