Saturday, September 30, 2006

Deliver us from Johnny Knoxville

One less thing to do in Hoopeston on a Saturday night...

Friday, September 29, 2006

One and done

This one started out with a project from Sonia: finding obscure, one-hit wonders that could match up with places in an obscure, one-horse town in Iowa. A comment was made over there to the effect that Norman Greenbaum was the most famous of the one-hit wonders, and this got me to thinking: Greenbaum's a good one, but he can't be the best of the bunch.

The subject of one-hit wonders is always a good one to get music freaks stirred up; back in the day, I actually saw fistfights break out at keg parties over this very subject. For the question is not only one of quality, but what actually constitutes a hit itself. To use our previous example, most people associate Norman Greenbaum with "Spirit In The Sky", but admirers of the old Dr. Demento radio show remember Greenbaum's previous efforts with Dr. West's Medicine Show and Junk Band - who could ever forget "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago"? Also, if one uses the Billboard Top 40 as their guide, then Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead are technically one-hit wonders, since most of their tunes that dominate classic rock radio were never released as singles, or never caught on on AM, which was still important until about 1975.

Going through the Billboard Top 40 from 1965-95, I attempted settling the question of what the greatest one-hit wonder of that period was, and came up with, if nothing else, a list of 40 great songs from the period. I chose the cutoff dates because pre-1965 pop music is a whole 'nother kettle of fish, and after 1995, the proliferation of charts and radio formats makes the question, "What is a hit?" a muddy proposition. One can argue today that the whole concept of "hits" is archaic - who needs Billboard when you have 100,000 friends on MySpace? I've ranked these in order of my preference, which in the end probably tells you more about my tastes than the relative quality of what's being ranked, an ever-present danger when one sees lists of this sort. And the whiteness of this list surprised me - I don't know if that's because the best soul and R&B hits came from those artists with substantial careers or because I lost the thread when soul and R&B became hip-hop and rap and thus missed a lot of good music. Those are subjects to discuss and have your next bare-knuckle brawl over while I spend my weekend at work and try to figure out where to go next. And yes, Norman Greenbaum makes it:

1. Jimi Hendrix, "All Along The Watchtower" (#20, 1968)
2. Buffalo Springfield, "For What It's Worth" (#7, 1967)
3. Cannibal and the Headhunters, "Land of 1000 Dances" (#30, 1965)
4. Free, "All Right Now" (#4, 1970)
5. T. Rex, "Bang A Gong (Get It On)" (#10, 1972)
6. Brewer and Shipley, "One Toke Over The Line" (#10, 1971)
7. Elvin Bishop, "Fooled Around and Fell In Love" (#3, 1976)
8. Easybeats, "Friday On My Mind" (#16, 1967)
9. Thunderclap Newman, "Something In The Air" (#37, 1969)
10. Georgia Satellites, "Keep Your Hands To Yourself" (#2, 1986)
11. Standells, "Dirty Water" (#11, 1966)
12. Castaways, "Liar Liar" (#12, 1965)
13. Dr. John, "Right Place, Wrong Time" (#9, 1973)
14. Blues Image, "Ride Captain Ride" (#4, 1970)
15. Pacific Gas and Electric, "Are You Ready?" (#14, 1970)
16. Desmond Dekker, "Israelites" (#9, 1969)
17. Divinyls, "I Touch Myself" (#4, 1991)
18. Hugo Montenegro, "The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly" (#2, 1968)
19. Crabby Appleton, "Go Back" (#36, 1970)
20. Roxy Music, "Love Is The Drug" (#30, 1976)
21. Marshall Crenshaw, "Someday Someway" (#36, 1982)
22. Warren Zevon, "Werewolves Of London" (#21, 1978)
23. Mott The Hoople, "All The Young Dudes" (#37, 1972)
24. Tony Joe White, "Polk Salad Annie" (#8, 1969)
25. Stories, "Brother Louie" (#1, 1973)
26. Spirit, "I Got A Line On You" (#25, 1969)
27. Thin Lizzy, "The Boys Are Back In Town" (#12, 1976)
28. Midnight Oil, "Beds Are Burning" (#17, 1988)
29. Lou Reed, "Walk On The Wild Side" (#16, 1973)
30. David Essex, "Rock On" (#5, 1974)
31. Frankie Goes To Hollywood, "Relax" (#10, 1985)
32. Norman Greenbaum, "Spirit In The Sky" (#3, 1970)
33. Patti Smith, "Because The Night" (#13, 1978)
34. Focus, "Hocus Pocus" (#9, 1973)
35. Sniff 'n' The Tears, "Driver's Seat" (#15, 1979)
36. Tracey Ullman, "They Don't Know" (#8, 1984)
37. Music Machine, "Talk Talk" (#15, 1966)
38. Status Quo, "Pictures Of Matchstick Men" (#12, 1968)
39. Timbuk 3, "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades" (#19, 1986)
40. Napoleon XIV, "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" (#3, 1966)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The significance of Sardonicus

Sardonicus comes from my record collection. The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus was the fourth and most consistent LP from Spirit, and the last featuring the original lineup of Randy California, Jay Ferguson, Mark Andes, John Locke, and Ed Cassidy. On their previous albums, Spirit had established a psychedelic jazz-rock sound that was in some ways ahead of its time. Yet they could also rock out, as they showed on their only Top 40 hit, "I Got A Line On You".

Dr. Sardonicus could be seen as one of the last great psychedelic albums, or one of the first great prog-rock albums of the 70's. On Sardonicus, Spirit manages to incorporate jazz touches within their psychedelic rock framework. Also, this was overall the band's most solidly written collection of songs. The album contained no big pop hits, but "Nature's Way", "Animal Zoo", "Mr.Skin", and "Nothin' To Hide" received plenty of airplay during the glory days of progressive FM radio. Dr. Sardonicus sold poorly at first, but over the years gained stature and became a rock classic.

There was also a movie, Mr. Sardonicus, a sci-fi thriller from the early 60's starring William Castle, which I've never seen. That movie was based in turn on "Sardonicus", a short story by sci-fi writer Ray Russell originally published in Playboy. (Thanx to Emphyrio for the tip.)

This all came about for two reasons. First, when I originally got into the blogosphere, everybody who hung around Kos and Atrios seemed to have a cool handle, and I wanted one as well - Sardonicus was the first thing to come to mind. Also, when I'm on the machine at work (working the graveyard shift leaves plenty of time to kill) I'd rather my employers not be able to trace this stuff back to me, although they probably could if they really wanted to.

Sometimes I wonder if "Sardonicus" was the best choice of handles - I googled "Dr. Sardonicus" a while back and didn't like some of what I saw - a couple of hard-core conservatives use the name, as well as a couple of Sardonici who for lack of a better word could be described as perverts. But this is what I'm stuck with. I may one day revert to my real name - at least it's original, and if you Google around, there's still a post or two using my name floating around from the early early days. For right now, I've built something of a rep, so why not ride it out and see where it goes.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

One more jackleg with an opinion

First, a warning: I really don't know what the hell I'm doing.

What I have been doing, for the last few years now, is flinging my comments all over the internets, in various places left, right, and center. I also was briefly associated with a group blog - I had a one-sixth share in something called We're Americans which died after a little over a month for lack of interest on the part of the bloggers, who mostly were involved with other projects. I was recovering from back surgery during that period, as well as moving into a new house, and was in little mood to blog.

The original plan was to establish The Hill once we were moved in and I could sit at my chair reasonably comfortably. Some of you may have noticed that this stub has been sitting here for months without any activity going on. But I soon found myself asking what I was going to do with this place. Straight political blogging bores the hell out of me; so much of what you see on the nets is straight advocacy for a position or candidate simply because it's the Democratic or Republican position or candidate. I had written a couple of such pieces for the old blog. They were not enjoyable to write, and even less enjoyable to read. And although there are some good personal bloggers I drop in on from time to time, that was not a direction in which I cared to go.

Also, the technical side of blogging is intimidating to me. My template looks like hieroglyphics. At least Haloscan is self-installing, but everything else I've tried to do so far, like post a blogroll, has proven unsuccessful.

So, for months, The House on the Hill sat unoccupied. But from time to time, I would get asked, "Why don't you blog?" Which I would answer with any of 101 different excuses. And yet I still had this urge from time to time to do something with this place, at least to provide a venue for discussing those odd bits of trivia, political and otherwise, that come floating through here, and to have proof in future years that I did indeed ride the merry-go-round.

And so here we are. I'll spout plenty of political opinion, although this isn't necessarily a political blog. I may blog some on sports, but this isn't a sports blog. And despite occasional musings on religion, this isn't a God blog. Kevin Ayers had an album title from the early 70's, Whatevershebringswesing, and that's a nice way to sum up the spirit of what we're doing here. (And by the way, despite periodic references to 60's - 70's progressive rock, this isn't a music blog, either.)

As for my ongoing concerns as to the tone and quality of what goes on here, I picked up this bit of inspiration from the farmer:

...blogging is mostly like pissin' off the back porch. unless you're a "celebrity blogger" of some species or another the enthralled blog-o-masses generally speakin' haint much gonna be interested in watchin' you piss off your back porch.

Welcome to The Hill. Pull up a chair here on the porch. And if you get the urge, be sure you don't hit the folks down below playing badminton on the green.