The Really Big Store

realbigstore

Big box stores are not one of my favorite things for shopping…especially one particular one that keeps moving its items around to make finding what you really want a literal runaround.  But I have learned that big box stores will give your legs and neck muscles plenty of exercise if you’re a married man.

When I go to one part of the store, and my wife goes to another, I have learned that, once parted, she becomes impossible to find within one trip around the circumference of the store.  That’s when my exercise starts, walking around the store and turning my head back and forth to survey every aisle on the way.  By the time the third lap of the store begins, I not only feel frustrated, but ready for a rest.

In other words, she’s power shopping, and I”m power walking…until I give up and sit down and wait for her text message.

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The Strange (and Wonderful) Story of The Strangeloves

Strangeloves

One of my personal sore-spots about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (and there are many, including visiting the place in Cleveland and being very nonplussed by it) has to do with their snubbing of many fabulous rock acts of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s.  One of those acts:  Paul Revere and the Raiders.  When you rifle through the catalog of rollicking top-quality hits that Revere, Mark Lindsay and the Raiders put out for Columbia in the mid-‘60’s through the early ‘70’s, you have to wonder what one has to do to earn a slight from that place.  Well, I’m thinking I know why.  It has to do with the stigma of wearing Revolutionary War outfits when the band broke onto the scene in a big way in 1965.  It was a clever way to distinguish the group from the British Invasion acts that were infiltrating the American music charts in droves, and it led to not only great music, but also a fun, irreverent stage show that the band put on.  By the way, the name of the leader of the group,  Paul Revere (who passed away last year), was not a pseudonym…it was his real name.  The facts that they were dressed the way they were, they acted the way they did onstage, and that their fame was spread by regular appearances on an ABC daytime television program (Dick Clark’s “Where The Action Is”) are probably the three strikes that have kept the Raiders out of the RRHOF, which is a true shame.

However, the situation that has kept Paul Revere and the Raiders in the doghouse with the panel that selects inductees into that institution is minor compared to another act that put out three fabulous rock ‘n’ roll classics around the time that the Raiders where hitting the charts.  This group also has a great before- and after-story to compliment the peculiar backstory that drew not only attention, but rolled eyes, when they were at their peak.  The group we speak of is the Strangeloves.

Prior to their debut in 1964, the three that formed the Strangeloves–Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein, and Richard Gottehrer—had already made their mark on pop music by creating one of the greatest girl group records in the genre’s history:  “My Boyfriend’s Back” by the Angels. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFdzJ0j8lYo)  A year after that hit, the trio released their first single under the name Strange Loves.  With the release of their second single in mid-1965, a bio was written about the band which reads like this, according to the Strangeloves’ Wikipedia entry:

“According to the press releases, The Strangeloves were three brothers named Giles, Miles, and Niles Strange who were raised on an Australian sheep farm. The brothers’ fictional backstory involved getting rich with the invention of a new form of sheep crossbreeding (the long-haired “Gottehrer” sheep allegedly registered with the Feldman-Goldstein Company of Australia) which allowed them the time and financial freedom to form a band. Feldman, Goldstein and Gottehrer dressed up in shaggy wigs and exotic clothing for publicity photos as The Strangeloves.’

Strange story, indeed.  However, that second Strangeloves single proved to be the chartbreaker for them.   According according to the page “The Bang Records Story” by Mike Callahan and David Edwards, Bob Feldman tells the story of how it came to be:

“In 1964 we (FGG Productions) had basically cut ‘Bo Diddley” in Atlantic Recording Studios.  We were looking to sell the master, and Atlantic loved it.  They told us that they were starting a new label with Bert Berns (Bang Records).  We had cut the track, they had loved the track, and we were going to do ‘Bo Diddley’.  But Bert Berns told us ‘Why do “Bo Diddley’?  Let’s write a new song’.  That’s how ‘I Want Candy’ came about.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94Ol1j1l7g0)

The Strangeloves’ original version of “I Want Candy” is a powerful, beat-booming sing-along that was catchy enough to have it just miss the Billboard top ten by one position.  As for the fabricated Australian backstory, Feldman explains:

“This was in ’64, just after the British Invasion hit.  The West Coast was another world, but the East Coast writers and producers were having a tough time selling anything because all anyone wanted were English groups.  We had a track lying around, and I convinced my partners that the only way we were going to get (noticed) was if we were British.  Being that everyone was from England, we came upwith the ‘fact’ that we were from Australia, so we became the first Australian rock group to come to the United States”

Though the Strangeloves’ version of “I Want Candy” charted highly in 1965, the version that’s likely to be most recognized in 2015 (though it peaked on the Billboard charts at #62) would be the 1982 version recorded by the British group Bow Wow Wow.  According, again, to Wikipedia, “The enduring popularity of Bow Wow Wow’s recording is partly due to the memorable video that got heavy play in the early days of MTV. This recording is highly associated with 80’s pop music.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMICD3aMZpw)

The success of “I Want Candy”, however, led Feldman, Goldstein and Gottehrer into a troubling situation.  Again, to Wikipedia’s Strangeloves bio:

“The Strangeloves found themselves in the unfamiliar and uncomfortable position of performing as live artists. This short-lived experience was followed by a road group composed of four session musicians who had actually helped to record The Strangloves’ songs.   In early 1966, the lineup was replaced by a trio of FGG studio musicians that more closely adhered to the founding concept: guitarist Jack Raczka (Giles Strange), drummer/vocalist Joe Piazza (Miles Strange), and keyboardist/vocalist Ken Jones (Niles Strange).’

The Strangeloves put out two other great, beat-heavy rockers that hit the top 40…in the fall of 1965 , “Cara-Lin” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-xfp6ByvnU), and in early 1966, “Night Time” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Gxex2WwzM4). But they could have reached even greater heights had timing, circumstance and fate not caused them to forfeit a number one smash to another act.  Bob Feldman explains in his “Bang Records Story” interview:

“We were doing a show in Tulsa, Oklahoma with the Dave Clark Five.  ‘Hang On Sloopy’ was supposed to be the follow-up to ‘I Want Candy’.  The Dave Clark Five were leaving, getting ready to go back to England, and they needed a new single.  They loved what we were doing with ‘Sloopy’.  They taped it.  We were supposed to fly home, and there were tornados all over…that part of the country, and I didn’t want to fly in that, so I said, ‘No, we’re driving.’  So an agent said, “Listen, if you’re driving home, why don’t you stop in Dayton, Ohio and do a show on the way home and pick up a couple of thousand bucks?’  We said fine.  We stopped in Dayton, and Rick and the Raiders were a substitute backup band…a last minute replacement as a backup for the Strangeloves.  We were standing in the wings watching them, and I heard a sixteen-year-old that played guitar like I’d never heard anybody played a guitar.  And they backed us up.  We were worried about the Dave Clark Five, because they had told us that they were going to cut ‘Hang On Sloopy’.  Being that ‘I Want Candy’ was just out and on the way up, there was no way we were going to get it out (before the DC5 did without killing the momentum on “I Want Candy”).  We heard the group (Rick and the Raiders)…thought they’d be great, had them call their folks, and we all drove to New York.  We named them on the way, from Dayton to New York.  First, it was the Real McCoys, then just the McCoys.  We…put their voices on the track, then put Rick’s guitar on it…if you listen to the track, it’s the same.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLaGcHGTHgE)

The Rick of Rick and the Raiders/the McCoys was Rick Zehringer, who became rock legend Rick Derringer.  “Hang On Sloopy” hit the top of the singles chart in October of 1965.  Since then, and due to the McCoys’ Ohio roots, “Hang On Sloopy” was proclaimed the official rock song of the state of Ohio by the 116th Ohio General Assembly on November 20, 1985, . It also is the unofficial fight song of The Ohio State University Buckeyes, played at many Ohio State athletic events by the OSU bands (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DO2Y2sGZ1dk)

 The Strangeloves continued to put out records into the late 1960’s, but the three founders of the group, under their FGG Productions collaborative name, also recorded a Strangeloves-Angels collaboration in 1965 under the name The Beach-Nuts (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApXkWKf5Lbw) ; and, in 1969, the trio recorded an ode to the often-maligned genre of bubblegum music under the highly difficult-to-remember name The Rock & Roll Dubble Bubble Trading Card Co. of Philadelphia 19141. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJWP3E_CjLI)

Following their Strangeloves days, Bob Feldman, Richard Gottehrer and Jerry Goldstein went on to successes separately.  Gottehrer co-founded (with Seymour Stein) Sire Records, and produced records by a number of acts that performed at the seminal punk club of New York City, CBGB’s… among them, Blondie.  This connection to punk rock shouldn’t be a surprise since Bob Feldman said in his “Bang Records Story” interview :

“Max’s Kansas City in New York (the city’s other major ’70’s punk club other than CBGB’s) had all our records in the jukebox saying we were the fathers of punk rock because we dressed in zebra skins, leather pants, carried spears, and did all sorts of weird things”

Gottehrer also worked on the first albums of ‘70’s rockabilly revivalist Robert Gordon, and—in the ‘80’s—produced the brilliant eponymously-named debut album by the sparkling pop-rock singer-songwriter Marshall Crenshaw, as well as the first two albums of the Go-Go’s.

Jerry Goldstein’s post-Strangeloves journey wound down many musical roads.  In 1967, he co-wrote the top-ten hit for one-hit wonder Every Mother’s Son, “Come On Down To My Boat”.  In the later ‘60’s, Goldstein produced many of the works of Sly and the Family Stone.  In 1969, Jerry Goldstein saw a group called Nightshift playing at a club in North Hollywood, California backing Los Angeles Rams Hall of Fame defensive lineman Deacon Jones’s act.  Goldstein talked them into backing former Animals lead singer Eric Burdon, and the group eventually became War.  Goldstein has been producing, co-writing and working with War ever since.  Also, while at Uni Records, Goldstein helped sign Marcia Strassman (known to most in the ‘70’s as Julie Kotter, wife of Gabe Kaplan’s teacher character on “Welcome Back Kotter”), who recorded a song co-written by Goldstein whose title defined an era: “The Flower Children.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1F12o9j73dc)   Goldstein and his DJ friend Tim Hudson have been credited with coining the terms “Flower Power,” “Flower Children,” “Flower Music” and “The Flower Generation.”  Wbat’s more, Goldstein once also managed the hardcore punk band the Circle Jerks…getting back to that punk mention of Bob Feldman’s.

As for Feldman, according to an Associated Press story from 1998 (http://www.apnewsarchive.com/1998/Nashville-Sound-Bob-Feldman/id-e395321d5cb175d57080402bac27c373), he decided to retain his Australian Strangelove “identity” to promote a Strangeloves retrospective CD package in the mid-90’s, then tried his hand at becoming a country songwriter.  Feldman’s most famous productions since the Strangeloves, have been his offspring:  Daughter Mindy Feldman was one of the Mouseketeers in the original “New Mickey Mouse Club” (the 1977 version, not the one that later on produced Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake), and son Corey Feldman is a legendary child actor and musician who famously stated that he began the “Emancipation Proclamation in Hollywood” at age fifteen, when he was granted emancipation from his parents. Corey Feldman stated that he was worth $1 million by age 15, and by the time the judge court-ordered the bank records to come forward, only $40,000 remained.   In 2013, Feldman released his first memoir called “Coreyography”, detailing his early life as a child actor all the way up to the death of his best friend Corey Haim. It also discusses his struggles with addiction and as a victim of Hollywood pedophilia.

Fifty years has passed since three Brooklyn boys– Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein, and Richard Gottehrer—passed themselves off as Australian shepherds to get their distinctive records heard, but the punch and contagious quality of those great rocking efforts put together by these three, known as the Strangeloves, flavor the history of American rock ‘n’ roll with both quality and quirkiness to live through the ages.

Hoyt Curtin: Composer of The Soundtrack Of Our Lives

In the late 1970’s, a radio executive and jingle writer named Al Ham came up with a brilliant idea that kept AM music radio afloat in a time when most popular music radio was shifting to the AM band to the FM band.  Al Ham repackaged the radio music format known primarily in the 1960’s as Middle of the Road music, or MOR, into a presentation that featured not only the primary MOR artists of that era, like ‘50’s pop music stars like Rosemary Clooney, Patti Page and groups like The Four Lads and Four Aces, as well as longtime MOR favorites through the ‘60’s like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, plus the music of the Big Band era.  Al Ham called this presentation “The Music Of Your Life”.  Al Ham thought that people in his age group, in their fifties and sixties, would appreciate this mix of music.  Plus, seeing that most of that generation had not gravitated to the FM radio band as their children may have, the AM band was the perfect platform to serve up this musical montage for more mature audiences.   Al Ham was right.  Hundreds of radio stations across the United States presented his “Music Of Your Life” format during the 1980’s.

Today, if Al Ham were still alive, he’d be 90 years old, and many of those for whom the “Music Of Your Life” format was created would be in anywhere from 75 to 100+ years old, and that radio format that Al Ham popularized is now known as the Adult Standards or the Nostalgia format, which now airs on only a handful of radio stations in the nation.  Those of us in our fifties and sixties hear a different sort of “Music Of Our Lives”, and it generally starts with the Beatles and ends around when Paula Abdul decided to sing.  Still, for many in that age bracket, there’s another form of music that fits just as well and meaningfully as a music for our lives.  The music was composed by a man named Hoyt Curtin.  According to the Space Age Pop Music page (http://www.spaceagepop.com/curtin.htm)…

“After serving in the US Navy during World War Two, Curtin studied music at the University of Southern California on the G.I. Bill. He tried to get work as a composer and arranger for the movie studios, but instead he ended up writing music for television and radio commercials. One of the commercials he composed, for Schiltz beer, was produced by budding cartoon producers William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.  Hanna and Barbera were preparing a show for NBC Saturday morning TV when they cut the Schiltz commercial. Still looking for a theme to ‘Ruff and Ready,’ they asked Curtin to provide a melody to go along with the words they’d already written for the theme. ‘About five minutes later,’ recalled Curtin, he had a tune ready for them.  Curtin’s jazz-influenced no fuss/no bother approach matched up with Hanna and Barbera’s way of doing business exceptionally well. Over the next 25 years, Curtin composed most of the themes and much of the incidental music for Hanna/Barbera shows (“The Flintstones, “The Jetsons,” “Top Cat,” “Yogi Bear,” “Magilla Gorilla,” “Josie and the Pussycats,” “Scooby-Doo,” “Quick Draw McGraw,” “Huckleberry Hound,” and “Jonny Quest” among them). Usually, it was a very casual relationship. The producers would call of Curtin and describe the new shows they were working on. Curtin would write the songs, hire the musicians, book the orchestra, and conduct the orchestra, provided the final tape to Hanna/Barbera. When Hanna/Barbera was at its peak in the early 1970s, Curtin would single-handedly write and record the scores for at least 13 episodes each of up to 9 series.   Although Curtin preferred jazz to rock, he used both styles with ease. Originally writing ‘The Jetsons’ theme for a small combo, he adapted it to a full orchestra at William Hanna’s request.”

At the end of the Space Age Pop Music bio of Hoyt Curtin, Jean MacCurdy, president of animation at Warner Brothers*, closes the piece by stating “His (Curtin’s) strong suit was coming up with themes that almost anyone on the street could sing at the drop of the hat.”  Well, I think “sing” is the wrong word.  Hum?  Whistle?  Perhaps.  Rapidly recognize?  Now that hits the nail on the head.  A Hoyt Curtin melody doesn’t come to you out of the blue very often.  But once you hear one (as you do with a series of them in the attached video), you are taken back in time and know this music like the back of your hand.  It’s music that permeated many a Saturday morning or local kids’ TV program in our memories.  What Hoyt Curtin did was not only create a bright and lively underscore for some of the most loved cartoons of a later-stage baby boomer’s lifetime; he also created a soundtrack for many cherished childhood recollections.

Hoyt Curtin may not be remembered as a composer of great works of music, like classical composers or the Gershwin brothers or Cole Porter, Bachrach-David or even Lennon-McCartney, but the late Hoyt Curtin is getting this honor from me for his great work as a musician and composer of the music that some therapist may play me if—heaven forbit—I’m ever stricken with Alzheimer’s Disease.  Once I hear this stuff, I’ll remember plenty!  Thank you, Hoyt Curtin!

*-proprietors of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon collection after Ted Turner bought it, and Turner was absorbed into Time Warner, thus having the peculiar scenario of Bugs Bunny and Yogi Bear getting their paychecks from the same employer

The Republican Squares

RepublicanSquares

So if you’re the Republican Party and you have anywhere from 15-20 people running for president, what to you do when it comes to your format for debates?  Well, there’s been a lot of proposals, and a lot of controversy when it comes to those proposals.  Some talk about having the top polling candidates qualify for the debates…which could be a really bad thing if one of the low-polling candidates has some really great ideas that could make him/her a fantastic president.  You’ve got the prospect raised of splitting the field in two…which may leave fields from anywhere from eight to ten candidates at a time, which will leave not enough time for many questions nor adequate comments from the candidates involved.  So what does the GOP do?

Well, above, you see my first idea:  “The Republican Squares”…as the announcer proclaims, “And, now, here is the master of the Republican Squares, Candy Crowley!”  No, wait.  “And, now, here is the master of the Republican Squares, Bob Schieffer!”  Here’s how the game works:  You have two random voters selected from the studio audience select a candidate.  From there, Bob Schieffer asks the candidate a question.  The candidate answers the question, and the contestant chooses to agree or disagree with the candidate’s answer.  From there, that’s where I get stuck, because finding an arbitrator to decide on the answer’s validity or soundness is something I’m uncertain of.  But I’d just like to have a game of “The Republican Squares” to hear a contestant say “I’ll take Chris Christie to block”…which may be more appropriate for the game of football than this game.  In addition to the arbiter problem, we can only play the game with nine candidates at a time…much like the splitting-the-field debate idea.  Then again, if there were 18 candidates, we could play two rounds with different candidates in the squares.  In fact, we could play with 17 candidates, and let Mitt Romney play, too.  Though he announced his candidacy, then realized that it may not be that great of an idea for him after all, it’ll give ol’ Mitt that thrill of being a play-along part of the 2016 campaign.

Then followed my second idea, which kind of follows the concept of one of President Obama’s most favorite things:  the NCAA basketball tournament.  At this writing, there are 14 announced Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential election, with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker expected to announce on Monday 7/13, and Ohio Governor John Kasich expected to announce about a week later.  That brings the field to 16 Republican candidates.  Yes, the Sweet Sixteen, if you so desire.  From here, you break the candidates down to brackets in particular categories:

Bracket 1:  SENATORS–Ted Cruz, Lindsay Graham, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio

Bracket 2:  GOVERNORS AND FORMER GOVERNORS I–Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee and·Bobby Jindal

Bracket 3:  GOVERNORS AND FORMER GOVERNORS II–John Kasich, George Pataki, Rick Perry and Scott Walker…as you see, for fairness, the pairings for Governors and Former Governors are decided alphabetically

Bracket 4:  NON-FORMER GOVERNORS NOT CURRENTLY IN POLITICAL OFFICE–Dr. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum and·Donald Trump

From there, you turn three weeks of the political debate schedule into Republican Debate Weeks with each of the four brackets facing off Monday thru Thursday respectively.  Following each debate, four groups of constituencies vote on ranking the candidates in each bracket one through four.  Each of these constituencies have a differently weighted value in the night’s results·

The public voting, a la “American Idol” (10%)

A panel of party-approved debate and public speech experts (20%)

A poll of random voters from an organization like Gallup or Frank Luntz (30%)

National GOP delegates from all over the country, selected by their state party operation (40%)

Each vote gives 3 points to the debate’s winner, 2 point to the second best, and 1 for the third best candidate in the debate.  A cumulative score will send the winner of that bracket to the “Final Four” on Friday night.  In case of a tie, the national GOP delegates’ choice will advance to the Friday night final; if still tied, then the debate experts’ winner, then the poll winner. The “Final Four” debate will be scored the same way.  After at least three of these debates, the field of candidates should be winnowed down to a manageable number leading to the state primaries starting…if I’m not mistaken, in early August of this year.  No, no…I kid, I kid.

Plus, if more than 16 candidates enter the Republican race, each new candidate can be added to one of these debate brackets depending on their current life situation among the categories listed above.

So, of all the options presented at this point for the 2016 Republican presidential debates, I’m thinking that this may be the most fair, equitable, and exciting for those who are political junkies and want to get the most out of their candidate debates and, frankly, their candidates.  And if GOP national chairman Reince Priebus sees this, likes it, and thinks it would be valid and valuable, feel free to use it.  I offer it as a helpful citizen of the United States.   One more thing:  I started my proposed formatting for the coming year’s Republican Party presidential debates by offering it in a game show format, “The Republican Squares”.  However, something leads me to believe that the general voting public in this country would prefer that their debates model another very famous game show: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMS_DdEnYZ0)