Caldwell Jones

January 16, 2013

caldwellGrowing up in a basketball mad state should have made my friends and I rabid about the NBA franchise a mere two hours north of us.

We weren’t.

No one was.

Yes, it was a basketball mad state, but that fervor was stoked by the high school teams dotting the hinterlands and the in-state college programs, several of which were national powers.

Our NBA team during those childhood years was mediocre at best and abysmal at worst.

And boring.

Yet we were NBA fans and fans that were there as the league was suddenly becoming of interest to an increasing number of folks thanks to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson entering the NBA.

As we felt no strong allegiance to the state’s NBA franchise, we were more inclined to be fans of players than specific teams.

Of course, we loved the stars of the day – Bird, Magic, Dr. J – we all loved the good doctor – George Gervin, David Thompson, Alex English, Darrell Griffith, Sidney Moncrief, Gus Williams, Kareem, World B. Free…

There were also the non-marquee players who captured our imagination and, of these, none more than a spindly 6’11″forward for the Philadelphia 76ers named Caldwell Jones.

Caldwell was a teammate of Dr. J.

That was cool.

He had a way cool Afro and goatee.

And Caldwell was a rebounding machine.

Caldwell was a member of those seriously loaded Philadelphia ’76ers teams of the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Darryl Dawkins was breaking backboards and providing entertaining, fantastical quotes about the planet Lovetron.

Later on, Moses Malone arrived and the team won a title.

And though other players got more attention, Caldwell was in the line-up, blocking shots, grabbing rebounds, and hanging with Dr. J.

(I looked it up and the guy missed a mere ten games in his six seasons with the Sixers)

Well done, Mr. Jones.

Thirty-three years ago, Caldwell and the Sixers were halfway through a season that would end with them losing the finals to Magic, Kareem and the Los Angeles Lakers. At the time, I had far more interest in hoops than music.

However, here are four songs that I might have heard at the time as they were residing in the Top 40 of Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 in mid-January of 1980…

The Dirt Band – An American Dream
from An American Dream (1979)

An American Dream, written by Rodney Crowell and with Linda Ronstadt adding backing vocals, was one song which, even with my limited knowledge about pop music at the time, was quite familiar to me. It seemed to be on constant rotation on the jukebox of the bowling alley where my friends and I spent numerous hours loitering and playing pinball during the winter months of 1980.

It’s laid-back vibe and promise of a getaway to warmer climes had a distinct appeal to those of us mired in January in the Midwest.

Cheap Trick – Voices
from Dream Police (1979)

To paraphrase Mike Damone, it’s the magnetism of Robin Zander and the charisma of Rick Nielsen…

Hall & Oates – Wait For Me
from X-Static (1979)

Whether you listened to a lot of music in the ’80s or not, if you are old enough to have been there, you likely know (or would recognize) a good number of songs by Hall & Oates – Kiss On My List, Private Eyes, Maneater

And twenty-five plus years later, the stuff holds up and seems to have earned a measure of belated respect. As good as their big hits were, the duo had a lot of hits that seem to have been forgotten a bit – Did It In A Minute and Family Man come to mind – that were pretty fantastic.

I’d put Wait For Me on that list, too.

Fleetwood Mac – Sara
from Tusk (1979)

I’ve read for years that Sara was about a child that Stevie Nicks’ had aborted.

I have no idea what Stevie’s going on about, but I don’t care. The haunting Sara might be her finest moment and it really does sound like someone “drowning in the sea of love.”

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Sorting Out September*

September 6, 2012

Though it’s still quite summer during the day, the morning commute through the backroads has been one with less light and a slight chill in the air.

The chill is unmistakeably September.

As a kid, September meant that – like it or not – you were entrenched in the school year. Summer wasn’t coming back for months and months and months…

But, we would still try to squeeze as much time outside as possible, playing some hoops or football in someone’s yard until the dark ended the festivities earlier and earlier each night.

Of course, there was something about sleeping with the windows open in September. Following the heat of summer, the cool air induced drowsiness so effortlessly and completely that Pfizer or Merck would drown kittens to be able to replicate it in pill form.

Some Septembers, the night would be accompanied by the hum of machinary harvesting the crop late into the evening in the cornfield across the road. If that wasn’t the case, there was always the whisper from the interstate a mile or so down that same road.

It was a pleasant way to be lulled to dream.

And, September was a month for spectacular visuals, especially in our rural, Midwestern town.

September now brings the annual re-examination of the events that kickstarted this whole Orwellian misadventure known as The War On Terror.

And, since I no longer live in the Midwest, I haven’t gotten the full-blown autumn experience in two decades. There’s still color, but the season is far less defined.

Yeah, September is a mixed bag, man.

Perusing the files, there wasn’t much in the way of September songs that moved me. When in doubt, head for the ’80s, so here are four songs from Billboard magazine’s chart for the first week of September, 1980 – some I remember from the time, others whose acquaintence I’d make later…

Willie Nelson – On The Road Again
from Honeysuckle Rose soundtrack (1980)

I keep threatening – much to Paloma’s dismay – to cast a write-in vote for The Red-Headed Stranger in this November’s presidential election.

(and wouldn’t On The Road Again make a fine campaign song? – run, Willie, run)

Genesis – Turn It On Again
from Duke (1980)

From …And Then There Were Three… – with the wonderful Follow You Follow Me – through 1983’s self-titled album, Genesis deftly balanced their progressive past with the band’s more pop future.

Listening to the driving Turn It On Again for the first time in some time, I realize how cool of a sound Genesis had during those years.

Split Enz – I Got You
from True Colours (1980)

When Paloma and I started buying vinyl a few years ago, there was an initial burst of excitement. Paloma, in a fit of her enthusiasm which I adore, purchased ten albums by Split Enz knowing no more than a handful of songs by the Kiwi act.

It was a decision she regretted – “The members of Split Enz don’t even have as many Split Enz albums as we do.” – but the playfully creepy I Got You is still a classic from the period.

AC/DC – You Shook Me All Night Long
from Back In Black (1980)

Did people at the time realize what a perfect rock song that AC/DC had given the world with You Shook Me All Night Long?

It’s still an arresting three and a half minutes of bravado, lust, and adrenaline.


At Least Cooper Huckabee Got To Keep His Pants On*

July 7, 2011

I was channel surfing the other day and happened upon a station where the closing credits to the movie Urban Cowboy were rolling.

Perhaps because I can be amused by something as simple as a piece of toast, I watched as the names scrolled across the screen. One caught my eye – Cooper Huckabee.

It was an unusual name and it was nowhere near the top of the cast, but it made me wonder about this fellow as I had never heard of him and Urban Cowboy was released in the early ’80s.

Was this Mr. Huckabee’s fifteen minutes of fame?

I wondered what his life was like during the time the movie was filmed.

Was he a struggling waiter/actor who had finally landed a role in a major motion picture?

Did he make excited phone calls home (maybe some small town in the hinterlands of Iowa) telling family and friends that he had finally made it?

Did his parents breathe a sigh of relief?

Did their disappointment that young Cooper had abandoned a college scholarship or their plans for him to take over the family feed store to pursue an acting career turn to pride?

Did his hometown newspaper do a feature story on him and the mayor give him the key to the city on “Cooper Huckabee Day” as most of the town’s 2,000 residents watched?

Did he believe that this would be the stepping stone to his becoming the next Robert DeNiro or Al Pacino?

Does he regret abandoning the family business now that it is thirty years later and his career hasn’t followed such a star-bound trajectory?

I also wonder about Don McManus.

McManus has appeared in over 80 movies and television programs in mostly bit parts, including an episode of Seinfeld.

He also had a role in The Shawshank Redemption, a movie that is one of the most critically acclaimed pictures of all time.

If you’ve seen the movie, he appears in one of the iconic scenes, one in which Tim Robbins’ character locks himself in the warden’s office and plays an opera recording over the prison loudspeaker. It’s a powerful scene and one in which McManus gets most of his screen time.

Unfortunately, much of that screen time consists of him sitting on a toilet, reading a comic book as he, in his character’s words, “pinches a loaf.”

I wonder if he has mixed emotions about being in such a pivotal scene of such an acclaimed movie with his trousers around his ankles. I wonder if his grandchildren will brag about his cinematic career, pointing to that scene as the highlight of his work.

Maybe my musings concerning these two fellows are rooted in wondering what it’s like to get so close to your wildest dreams only to fall just short of it being everything for which you might have hoped.

I didn’t see Urban Cowboy when it was in the theaters during the summer of 1980 but – though I wasn’t quite interested in music, yet – I do recall hearing several songs from the soundtrack on the radio at the time.

Here are four songs that were on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 chart during this week in 1980…

Ali Thomson – Take A Little Rhythm
from Take A Little Rhythm

Ali Thomson is not only from Scotland, but his brother Doug was the bassist for Supertramp.

I remember hearing Take A Little Rhythm often at the pool during the summer of 1980 and it shuffles up periodically on the iPod. Yet, I couldn’t recite to you more than a few words of lyric aside from the titular ones.

I don’t want to know. I just want it to be a laid-back little song that feels like summer to me.

George Benson – Give Me The Night
from The George Benson Collection

Guitarist George Benson cut his teeth performing straight-ahead jazz with organist Jack McDuff as well as performing with the great Miles Davis. In the ’70s and early ’80s, Benson also notched a number of pop hits with songs like This Masquerade, On Broadway, and Turn Your Love Around.

Give Me The Night – written by Rod Temperton who would pen several hits on Michael Jackson’s Thriller – is a silky smooth ode to nightlife with a light disco feel.

Joe Walsh – All Night Long
from Joe Walsh’s Greatest Hits

Like Cooper Huckabee, the laid-back groove of All Night Long appeared in Urban Cowboy.

I should probably delve into Joe Walsh’s ’70s stuff as it seems to be fairly well regarded. I know most of his stuff from the ’80s as my high school buddy Bosco was a fan and, during the latter half of the decade, a college roommate and I were greatly amused with Walsh’s Got Any Gum?

I also recall Glenn Frey, Walsh’s Eagles bandmate, doing commercials for some health club at the time. One popped up late one night while I was watching television with another roommate. The commercial ended and, still staring stupified at the screen, he noted, “Joe Walsh is sitting on a couch somewhere, right now, with a bong and laughing his ass off after seeing that.”

The Pretenders – Stop Your Sobbing
from The Pretenders

From the debut by The Pretenders, the jangling Stop Your Sobbing is a cover of a song written by future paramour of lead singer Chrissie Hynde (Ray Davies) and produced by a man (Nick Lowe) who would later write a song (I Knew The Bride When She Used To Rock And Roll) alledgedly about the ex-wife of a former co-worker of mine.

That must mean something.

*reconfigured from a July 22, 2008 post while my head heals