Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Though he had a common name, there's only one great R&B singer called Louis Jones. Louis was born in Galveston, Texas on April 28th, 82 years ago. He's no longer with us, but he recorded soul greatness for a variety of labels, mostly circa 1956 and 1964. He recorded as "Louis Jones" and also "Louis BLUES BOY Jones," tracks including "I Believe To My Soul" on the Enjoy label, "Come on Home" from Sabra Records, and the ultra strange, especially for a major label such as Decca, "The Birds is Coming."

Straining and frantic R&B singers were not too popular on AM radio back in 1963. Louis Jones is so raspy, just listening you'll want to reach for some cough drops. Adding to the growling and howling....some actual bird noises in the mix! Pretty amazing for its time.

The song attempted to cash in on the latest Alfred Hitchcock movie, which had gotten a lot of advance publicity thanks to the master's own choice of slogan, the correctly grammatical (referring to the title of the film) "'The Birds' is Coming." There were no black people in Bodega Bay (location for the movie) and Tippie Hedren is about as white and waspy as a leading actress can get, so it's hard to figure why anyone thought an R&B rave-up would be a tie-in. With it's constant cry of "The Bird is Coming," the few R&B radio stations out there probably didn't play the song, suspicious that it sounded more like a long movie commercial.

Jones' soulful style had zero crossover chances back in 1963, when even raw and raucous James Brown wasn't getting on the same radio stations that favored the smooth pop harmonies of The Four Seasons, who were on the charts with "Walk Like a Man" (Not "Run from The Birds.").

Yes, Top 40 radio aimed at white teens did offer black artists, but they had to be smoothies: Ruby and the Romantics with "Our Day Will Come" or cute girl group The Chiffons (who at the time of this Louis Jones release, were riding high via "He's So Fine," aka "My Sweet Lord"). Teenage ears in 1963 were much more likely to accept "Blue Velvet" from Bobby Vinton and "Surf City" from Jan and Dean. The following year The Beatles discovered that fans preferred a whiter shade of cover version over the then-obscure originals by Little Richard or Chuck Berry.

Now, most everyone's ears are attuned to gospel, Delta blues, rap, righteous R&B, and all ethnic stylings. Well, even so...BE WARNED! You have not heard anything quite like Louis Jones. This ain't no funky chicken. This is serious! Deadly peckers! Cover your heads. Protect your ears....



One of the lesser achievements of the pioneering Paul Winley, pictured at left, is the horror quickie "Rock Around the Tombstone."

He's better known for doo-wop and rap productions over many decades, but for a novelty cash-in, it's pretty good.

Back when "Famous Monsters of Filmland" was doing well on newsstands, and TV audiences were getting to know horror hosts such as Vampira and Zacherley, quite a few tombstone, cemetery, graveyard and monster songs were haunting disc jockeys. Many "failed to chart" (that's a senile zombie's catch-phrase).

"Rock Around the Tombstone" has a good beat, decent lyrics, and a pretty good vocal from "Jack Judge." You, the jukebox jury, can mourn it's obscure burial for such a long time...or if you don't dig it, dig it deeper into obscurity by deleting it from your computer.

Producer Paul Winley began his career as a songwriter. He wrote "Later For You Baby" for The Solitaires, "Smooth Operator" for Ruth Brown, and also wrote for The Clovers (his brother Harold was in that group). Speaking of relatives and nepotism, an early single on his Winley label was "Bow Legged Daddy" by Ann Winley. The indie musician remains best known for doo-wop, and for recording early faves The Jesters and The Paragons. Both groups came up with some good songs between 1957-1961 that fans still love to play. They had a longer life than some others Paul signed, such as Emanons, a Brooklyn quartet that didn't make it past one 1958 Winley Records single. When an act showed a lot of promise, Winley would arrange a deal with a label that had bigger distribution. The classic compilation "The Paragons Meet the Jesters" was released on Jubilee, which also handled "Rock Around the Tombstone."

Over the years, Winley expanded from doo-wop to other genres, and stayed in business into the 70's and 80's with everything from speeches by Malcolm X, to disco tracks and albums by the Harlem Underground Band. He also dabbled in electrofunk via Afrika Bambaataa. And, never forgetting his relatives, he produced some early rap singles, including the 1979 "Rhymin' and Rappin" and 1980 "Vicious Rap," both featuring his daughter Tanya.

Jack Judge lives! He's gonna...

Rock Around the Tombstone Jack Judge and the Jury

The Death and Suicide of A Whiskey Girl and Nowhere Man

Arizona is beautiful country. You can find a place where at night the desert stretches out blue-black; in some parts the horizon melding with the sky. Your eyes look up into that shockingly clear sky and you see the sharp pinpoints of stars. You can wonder how many more stars, invisible, are further out there, and whether there's a bright blaze beyond it, or more darkness. Depending on where you are...up in the hills or the mountains...you can look in a particular direction, and see different lights...the city of Phoenix, perhaps, stretched out in the distance, a jumble of lights and the vague patterns of highways and buildings...a place to go if you're lonely.

For Derrick Ross, there was no place to go, and no comfort in the heavens. He was a lonely "Nowhere Man," thinking about his wife and singing partner Amy, "A Whiskey Girl."

Together, they had played plenty of clubs in Arizona, especially in Tucson and in their home town of Bisbee, where Connie Finck booked them at her Copper Queen Saloon on Howell Avenue. The couple had been married for 13 years, and had performed as "Nowhere Man and A Whiskey Girl" for the past ten.

They played small clubs, sold some self-pressed CDs at their gigs, and managed to get by. "Sell t-shirts, sell some CD's," is the advice given to people like Derrick and Amy Ross. "Give away your music because piracy is sharing and it can't be stopped. Oh, and just book yourself all over the country."

This wasn't too easy for them, as Amy had been battling lupus for the past six years, and had to be on dialysis. Still, the couple played the local clubs, did what they could, and as anyone who saw them would tell you...they brought a lot of joy with them, and shared it fully with the audience.

They tried not to think too much about what the doctors said, which was that Amy was not likely to have a very full life. If she had another five years, she'd be lucky.

She wasn't lucky She developed a blood infection that would require heart surgery. She went to the Tucson Medical Center, hopeful the complications could be remedied, but after a week, she was no better. "I am pretty freaked out," Derreck said, guesting on a podcast with his friend, comedian Doug Stanhope, indicating that several "Nowhere Man and A Whiskey Girl" gigs would have to be canceled. He wasn't thinking that she was close to death.

Amy died. She was 40 years old.

Amy's Facebook page had a strange posting on October 14th, at 6:49pm.

It was Derrick, writing as Amy:

"Hey Kids! Bad news! I died this orning and Derrick didn't know how to tell you. I love yhou all and hope you go out and be nice to someone. Funerals are a bore so hopefully I don't have one. Give Derrick some space...He stinks at this stuff so leave him be for now. Thanks for all the kindness...Please spread it around."

Derrick's friends tried to console him, and he told a few that he was coping. He did not tell anyone that he had bought a gun.

The following day, October 15th, at 12:16pm, this message appeared on Amy's Facebook page:

"Sorry to bring more bad news but Derrick decided to join me at some point in the night last night. I thought it best you heard it from me. Enjoy every sandwich. We love and will miss you all. Go be nice to someone for us."

You might recognize the line "Enjoy every sandwich," as what the dying Warren Zevon said to David Letterman, when Dave booked him for a farewell show.

You know Warren's stuff. Here, a song from Derrick and Amy Ross.

IF ONLY I Nowhere Man and A Whiskey Girl

Saturday, October 19, 2013

ILL-ustrated Songs #26 - The Hitmen - BATES MOTEL

"Man," Lenny Bruce once said, "the movies did screw us up."

Sure did. When there's a murder, tornado or a bombing, what do the witnesses always say? "It was just like a movie!" So it wasn't all that real or shocking. It takes more and more to shock us all the time, although I think "Psycho" would still scare even the most jaded Rotten.com-loving tween ghoul. Too bad most wouldn't watch a Hitchcock film this time of year, just vampire love movies and zombie gunk.

Zombie stuff is just ooky-spooky. You can see the rubber on the mask and the creature is on the loose and easy to spot a mile away. Hitchcock's monsters were likely to be named "Uncle Charlie" or "Norman Bates," and seem normal most of the time. This is a little more unsettling, and you can't blame the violence on the supernatural. The inhuman killer is all too human.

Master Bates inspired the hard pounding "Bates Motel," a masterpiece from the two-album-and-gone group The Hitmen. Their first album "Aim for the Feet" didn't impress anyone, and despite issuing "Bates Motel" as a 12 inch and pushing it to disc jockeys and rock magazine editors (which is how I acquired it back in 1981), the excellent single from their album "Torn Together" did not do well enough to get them re-signed to Columbia.

The group's leader, Ben Watkins, would go on to various forms of musical infamy and success, but nothing he or The Hitmen did compares to this track, which has a menacing beat, strangled guitars, and even a touch of humor. It seems to be about a Hitchcock fan who is now a copycat killer in the real world, one who might even be filming his victim before and after (and maybe even during) the attack: "Lying in wait with my Super 8 [this was before VHS, folks], fame will be bait..." His bloody mission? "I'll turn my home into Bates Motel." He addresses Hitchcock's legacy: "The Master has gone, but you'll carry on…Biting your nails forever…"

The song rumbles along with an exaggerated heartbeat of bass and and even the jokey chorus can't really lighten the grim mood: "Check in, check out, check in, check out…I'll turn my home into Bates Motel!"

Some critics insist "Psycho" was a black comedy, and somehow even more delicious in that sense than Hitchcock's "The Trouble with Harry." So it is, that this number goes overboard at just the right times, so you're more likely to dance or doo-wop along than do someone in. That's an odd thing about classic horror movies...they do lend themselves to parody so well, and many of the best, including James Whale's "Bride of Frankenstein" and "Invisible Man" already have some humor to them and clear satiric intent. Which is why we love Karloff, Lugosi, Lorre and Price...all with a good sense of humor...their monster creations not pure evil like hockey-mask Jason or Freddie Krueger.

After The Hitmen went hitless, its two key members moved on to some actual success. Alan Wilder joined Depeche Mode. He was also in Recoil. Ben Watkins was on New Asia's album "Gates," and formed The Flowerpot Men. He was later part of Juno Reactor. In composer mode, he scored the Japanese film "Brave Story" and worked on the "Matrix" movie soundtracks. Another unusual credit: he contributed a key song to a Traci Lords album.

As the lovable Lolita Ms. Lords recalls, once she began putting together her cash-in album, she decided to do something more than predictable erotica with a "sexy ambient vibe. Now I wanted something with a harder edge to add another dimension. I was introduced to producer Ben Watkins, who was known for his aggressive jungle beats. He was a wild man and very passionate about his music. I told Ben I wanted to do a song that had elements of rock and roll but with a techno vibe and he ran with it, creating a slamming heavy metal guitar intro on an insanely hyper track…"

Well, maybe so, Traci, but the slamming, insanely hyper "Bates Motel" is still a haunting number, a deadly heart-pumper that lives on…at least for fans of grunge-grave rock and Hitchcock.



Here's a salute to freaks, Halloween, collectors items, and the retired Tom and Dick.

Yes, they went out with class, and without fanfare. The Smothers Brothers quietly turned down tour dates a year or so ago, and simply moved on to other things. They haven't staged a comeback tour, and there was no release of a multi-DVD set (sad to say). Actually, and this is unusual for comedy discs, a few of their albums should be re-issued on CD because the last vinyl pressing actually removed some tracks!

While almost no vinyl is really that collectible just because it's a 'first pressing,' in the case of Tom and Dick, you'l be missing some tracks if you happen to get a later pressing instead of the first.

"Map of the World," a nice addition to the canon of tattooed lady novelty songs, was dropped from the second pressing of "Two Sides of the Smothers Brothers." The first pressing of "Tour de Farce: American History" had three silly quickies, "Put-On Song," "Wagon Wheels" and "Military Lovers" and all were dropped from the second pressing. "Military Lovers" does turn up on the "Sibling Revelry" best-of CD, just to confuse matters further.

The later printings of "Mom Always Liked You Best" are without "The Last Great Waltz" (which was performed on their variety hour), along with the quick "My Favorite Holiday" and the serious "The World I Used to Know." Go figure. So, if you want ALL tracks, ye comedy record fan of elaborate obesity, try helping out a record store owner or eBay seller by buying some comedy albums for a dollar each. Most dealers don't know (or care) that the first pressing is more valuable than the second. It'll still be a dollar, cheap! Expecting to get everything free is just killing the economy and promoting Google and Nazi scum like Kim Doctom, and that ain't funny. (However, if you no longer own a turntable, as Emily Litella used to say..."nevermind..."an out of print comedy album at this point is not too likely to make a comeback on mp3. I'm just thinking the Smothers Brothers still have a good chance.)

So...only one tune below..."The Last Great Waltz," which might inspire you to dress up for Halloween as someone with three legs. Walking around with three legs would make you either the protagonist of this song, or the late John Holmes. This sample may remind you of how good these guys were. They were also restlessly inventive...they and their top writers, including Mason Williams. Why do just another novelty song, another folk song parody, when…you can experiment with tempo in an amusingly goofy way? Here's waltz time with a 3/4 beat for one dancer…but not the other. This is a deceptively hard song to sing and play

What a different time it was, when the brothers could get away with being this silly. Like The Beatles, the Smothers Brothers started the 60's as well-scrubbed and wholesome entertainers…and emerged with radical and political ideas, and a much more wicked sense of humor. But…going back to the early days, you just might still get a nostalgic kick out of this song about the three-legged woman. No Photoshop above, by the way…it's from the photographer Weegee, who worked pretty hard in a darkroom to create some of his oddities.

Last Great WALTZ Smothers Brothers

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Three Songs of Madness, starting with...BRIGHT WHITE JACKETS

So many of the songs you hear endlessly around this time of year are just ooky-spooky kid stuff. Some of it is still good if it's not overplayed, from the Addams Family theme to "Monster Mash."

But the dull adults who regress around Halloween into giddy, pants-wetting little monsters just never stop, and that includes Tweets about what stupid limited edition action figure they just won on eBay, proudly idiotic Facebook snaps of themselves arm and arm at a memorabilia show with Conrad Brooks, or sharing their "slaylists" all over the Net…when they really should be caught in a net and tossed into a padded cell.

A good friend of mine, dead of course, was a cult actor who appeared in a lot of peculiar films, often as a character that was basically him doing his own macabre (to the point of parody) lines. His stand-up act was an equally bizarre mix of lunacy and tragedy. But despite being the type of guy who'd be a pal of (the equally late) Forry Ackerman (editor of "Famous Monsters") he wasn't particularly a fan of the ooky-spooky.

Paraphrasing him, he told me once, "The real horror is not Poe, not monsters…but our very existence. What happens when we die? Why is there such madness in the world, and how heartbreaking is it to find every precious day governed by anxiety and fear because your mind is going against you? Your mind torments you as uncontrollably as the heart can attack you. Then it's all over. All over…to nothing. That is horror, not what you can see and destroy with a stake through its heart, but what you are truly helpless to control; madness and death. That is the nightmare that truly haunts some of us all through the "fever called living."

I think we get a kick out of Halloween stuff involving Frankenstein's monster or zombies…because they're cartoonish targets; kill them and it purges our fears for a while. This is why the giddy asshole who dresses up as Uncle Fester and serves pumpkin pie and pumpkin latte at a Halloween party with his geek friends is not going to tune in a movie like "Frances" once everyone's sleepy and burping. He'll choose "Ghostbusters." Because a movie about mental illness, about cruelty, about the way paranoia or schizophrenia can turn a person's world into a neverending horror show, is a little TOO real. The reality that people can lose reality, or be achingly and acutely aware of reality (such as the fact that we DIE) is just not…well…HALLOWEENIE.

Which is why it's here, on this blog. Go listen to "Monster Mash" somewhere else (although Bobby Pickett's ecological re-make "Monster Slash IS here on the blog).

The blog is offering three very different songs about madness this time. The first is very much in the spirit of "Frances." It's by April Smith, who has, fortunately for her, gone on to become a kind of rock Betty Boop, using her Lauper-like voice for tasty, sometimes campy rock songs that aren't nearly as dire as this. Her albums are well worth buying (and I have) and she gives a wonderful and varied show with her band (I'll go see her any time) but there's only one "Bright White Jackets," a song I don't think she performs on stage these days. Not when folks come for retro love ballads and escapist rock spiced with humor.

The song is about a woman who is going off to therapy…which will involve medication, or perhaps brain surgery. It may take away her stress, anxiety and irrational fears, or the side-effects might eradicate her entire personality and leave her the walking wounded...tranquilized to stress but barely living. April's music video for the song, which harkens back to the 40's when Frances Farmer was dragged away to asylum hell, is pretty good, but this is the kind of song where you'd rather imagine it all for yourself. It didn't exactly match images I had, personalized to my own specific fears and fatalistic despair. But you can find the video on YouTube and hey, Google's cyclops will pay April a few pennies for the hit.

Listen to it as strictly audio first. April's voice hits notes here that have raised the hairs on my neck. There are "one hit wonder" songs that are a wonder because they are unique...same way a film is unique. In movies about madness, you'll find, among other unique gems, "Dementia," "Frances" and "Carnival of Souls," each different and impossible to duplicate and get the same effect. In songs about madness, there's everything from an Alice Cooper concept album to "Shine on Brightly" from Procol Harum to this song. Each is unique in tackling a certain aspect of mental illness. It's no surprise really that April never attempted to top it with anything similar.

This is a unique ballad, and it's matched by a unique singer with an expressive range and distinctive, magnificent voice.


A $162 single: ROSE BROOKS and "They're Coming to Take Me Away"

Turning from the dire mental dilemma facing Ms. Smith in the post above, let's lighten the mood with the dark and soulful…"They're Coming to Take Me Away,"apparently the lone single from Rose Brooks. On some of the collector websites, this single has gone for pretty impressive prices. Hey, what's with the racist "white label" pressing getting so much more than the regular one? What's up with THAT??!!

Jerry Samuels had a controversial hit with the song. As kids rushed to buy it, some adults protested that it should be banned for making fun of the mentally ill. It was really just a looney tune, but in the character of "Napoleon XIV," Samuels' creepy and possessed vocals did take comedy to the edge, and the unique drumming and speeded up vocal parts were ahead of their time. Quite a few retards dismissed the song as no big deal, because, after all, it was about a guy's lost dog, wasn't it? "I'll put you in the ASPCA you mangy mutt!" Uh, no.

This novelty hit spawned a wide variety of copycat and answer versions. Among the two DOZEN versions of the song, you'll find one done by comical effeminate gays (Teddy and Darryl), a pure copycat job (Duke of Waterloo), a Jewish-accented answer song from the crazy's girl ("I'm Happy They Took You Away" by Josephine XIII), and "Down on the Funny Farm Oy Vey" (Josephine XIII).

There was also a kind of answer song, "Don't Take Me Back" (Henry IX) in which our hero decides he likes his peaceful life in the nut hatch. Foreign versions? Sure, there's "Ze nemen me eindelijk mee ha-ha" from Hugo de Groot and "Ellos me quieren lievar" from Napoleon Puppy among others. And the song has continued to resonate in strange ways, having been covered by Tiny Tim (via Genya Ravan producing) and everyone's favorite musical tranny, Amanda Lear.

Below, the soul version from Rose Brooks, who was getting taken away to the funny farm years before Richard Pryor's overtly titled album "That Nigger's Crazy." It really didn't take all that long before the revolutions in pop music and in comedy, which were breaking down barriers in the late 60's, yielded a totally new field on which to play. The mutations in the 70's turned even the mild mannered Rupert Holmes into singing a love ballad called "Let's Get Crazy Tonight." Through the 80's and 90's, and now into the 21st Century, we are happily surrounded by the spawn of people who took way too many drugs while listening to their favorite crazy music. Halloween songs from the post 60's happily dabble in paranoia ("Somebody's Watching Me" by Rockwell") re-write old horror movies into much more psychotic rock ("Ballad of Dwight Fry" by Alice Cooper) or even offer light-hearted commentary on being put away ("Baldry's Out" by Long John Baldry).

"Lets get retarded!" the Black Eyed Peas chanted not too long ago. And here? An early pop tune that let's us know that blacks don't just get the blues. The caged bird can sing in the nut house, too.

COMING... To Take Me Away


Our trifecta of Halloween madness concludes with "The Madwoman of Cork," which I came to know through the Irish Arts Center, which has promoted deserving Emerald Islanders ranging from Eleanor McEvoy to John Spillane. They've helped introduce many Irish performers to American audiences, and in promoting an appearance by Spillane, offered on their website a video of John performing this very dramatic song.

I was not familiar with the poem, or its author Patrick Galvin, until I heard Spillane, who added the music. Among the madwoman's dreams:

"I want to sail in a long boat, from here to Roche's Point. And t here I will anoint the sea with the oil of alabaster…" Which led me to Photoshop a Wm. Steig image (from his profoundly groundbreaking book of art-cartoons "The Lonely Ones") with a cork in a bottle.

Paddy Galvin (1927-2011) was, of course, more than an Irish poet, as the best of them always are. He was also a playwright prone to vehement works that promoted his particular political views and damned social traits that he found complacent. A colorful colleague to Brendan Behan, and showing the influences of Dylan Thomas (in his poetry readings), Galvin also was a singer and issued several albums in the late 50's. His colorful personality made him a favorite with the ladies, including some he would marry and divorce, and a few he'd borrow from friends. One of the more notorious examples was the affair he had with poet Ewart Milne's wife. Milne's book "Time Stopped" tried to turn the catastrophe into something poetic and literary. Milne, by the way, is somewhat immortal through his cat poem "Diamond Cut Diamond." The title reflects the way he arranged the words on the page to form, yes, a pair of diamonds.

52 year-old John Spillane isn't nearly as dark as "The Madwoman of Cork" song makes him out to be, a song that transform him on stage into the very image of eccentric menace. To quote Dan Regan, founder of the Kansas City Irish Festival, he's a "funny, quirky, massively entertaining….story teller...a shanachie.” John (yes, a native of Cork) has had his songs covered by some of Ireland's finest singers, including Karan Casey, Cathy Ryan, Sharon Shannon, and the legend himself, Christy Moore.

Spillane is a well-traveled performer who is not only popular in the U.K., but as far from it as Australia, where he's also appeared at many a folk festival. That's the mark of an enduring professional, a road warrior who just brings along his guitar and a good memory for traditional and self-penned songs. The definition of a hack would be anyone who tours…via cruise ships, performing oldies in front of middle-aged drunks, accompanied by inept guitarists and some birdshit drummer who sounds like he's bouncing a pair of turkey legs off a dinner plate.

John's latest album is "Life in an Irish Town," and he's got a TV show in Ireland on TG4 called 'Spillane na Fánaí' . For tour dates and other information, visit his dotcom, which is JohnSpillane (dot com!)


No capcha codes, delays to make you buy a premium account from some Kim Dotcom-type criminal worse and more ruthless to artist payment and rights than the RIAA, no pop-ups, links to dodgy porn sites, and tip jar Paypal requests from the uploader.


And here's a little salute to the (quite) late Louis Nye, who died on October 9, 2005. I had a little bit of corrrespondence with him, with some mutual respect, although I don't think "Teenage Beatnik" is anything he'd be remembered for. But this is a music blog, and it does try to specialize in obscure novelties. Nye's two solo albums were mostly spoken word…and one of them mostly keyed to his "Gordon Hathaway" character, the "mad man" ad exec of Madison Avenue.

Louis (May 1, 1913 – October 9, 2005) made a name for himself on Steve Allen's old "Tonight Show," with the artificially bright, foolishly full of himself and somewhat minty "Gordon Hathaway" character. As Gordon, Nye coined the fey greeting, "Hi-ho, Steverino."

For the next 40 years, fans would call out to Steve that way, and many an article affectionately referred to him as "Steverino" as well. But if you can find kinescopes or DVDs of Steve's show, you'll see that Nye, along with regulars Don Knotts and Tom Poston, were much more than the "Men in the Street" segment. They played a wide range of characters and were very much adept at physical comedy, too. Aside from Gordon Hathaway, Nye's most famous role was "Sonny Drysdale," the pretentious and pampered son of a banker on "The Beverly Hillbillies."

As for "Teenage Beatnik," it's hard to figure who was supposed to buy this thing. It was insulting to teenagers and to beatniks, and it's faux-rock music couldn't possibly be that amusing to the middle-aged middle-of-the-road crowd. And where would they hear it, since the soft music stations of that era were playing nothing but Mantovani, and the Top 40 stations wouldn't dream of alienating the teen audience by tossing it on the turntable. Nye's also using his comic-effeminate voice, which is neither teenage nor beatnik. (I'm not sure if he ever performed this on TV...or dressed the way I've Photoshopped him!) No wonder it's hard to find anywhere but here.

LOUIS NYE as the... Teenage Beatnik

John Lennon would've been 73 today. ELEANOR MCEVOY: OCTOBER 9th

October 9th, back in 2004: mid-way into her set, Eleanor McEvoy asked the audience, "Anyone know what day this is?"

From my ringside seat, I answered, "Yes...John Lennon's birthday." "Is it?" "Yes...October 9th." "Really. I didn't know that..."

The reason she asked if anyone knew the date, was so that she could segue into her song, "October 9th," which, because it's very sad and about a person gone missing, she only sings if it actually is October 9th.

While Eleanor wrote it about the disappearance of a girl, not someone assassinated, the theme of it is loss and helplessness. You can listen to it, and think of Etan Patz, of those who perished during 9/11, or other events and situations where "have you seen this person" photos appeared in newspapers or on lamp posts. And you can also listen to it and think about a loved one who was last seen in happier times, and simply does not exist anymore; not coming back from hospital, not returning home.

This is a simple, stark song about how quickly tragedy can happen...and how long it can take to heal in any way at all. In the song, her family puts up the posters describing her and when she was last seen...an act of futility dressed as hope.

After the show, I mentioned to Eleanor that home-made "last seen" signs, xeroxed with a snapshot of the missing loved one, were vivid on bus shelters and lamp posts and in store windows after 9/11, and stayed up until the rains and wind mottled and bent them, and the faces and names on them were faded and streaked.

And speaking of streaked, just a few days ago, John's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was defaced by graffiti. Nobody did a thing about it...it was up to a fan to clean it, and then search around to find some kind of chemical that could be burnished into the plaque to make it more resistant to another attack of paint and ink. Sad to say that at this point, Lennon, like Abraham Lincoln, John and Bobby (the "Dead Kennedys") and so many others are getting forgotten or even disrespected by a generation rejecting anything or anyone we've come to admire. And let's not forget all the humorous Photoshop memes that turned people jumping from the World Trade Center into Olympic divers...or how quickly people forget about children slaughtered by gunfire in Connecticut or blown up in Boston. Bring it up and ask for gun control and you get scorn. Mention the greatness of John Lennon and the eyes roll and the reply is, "There's a guy by the name of Springsteen..."

One of the nice things about having a real CD instead of a blip in your iPod, is you have the artist's complete vision, the artist's song order, and a booklet and lyrics. You also have something that can be autographed. For me, asking for singer or writer to autograph my item is a way of saying, "This is extra special to me. I will always keep it. What you've done is not just worth putting your name on, it's something you can pridefully sign as a great achievement." The autograph is reproduced here, amended a bit in tribute to John.

"Last Seen October 9th" appears on "Yola," Eleanor's first album after going indie. She's issued many more since, stubbornly insisting on the best quality recording and the best SACD reproduction of the CDs, even if most people buy inferior sounding mp3 files (which don't pay much in royalties from the download monopolies like Amazon or iTunes and almost nothing via Spotify).

I saw Eleanor recently in concert, and she is better than ever...a varied show of sad songs, upbeat songs, political songs...with often ironic and funny introductions, too. Not just a singer-songwriter with a guitar, her versatile set will include songs at the piano (she even sang a Piaf cover in French), and, Sapristi, the woman can sing and play the violin at the same time! She is the genius of Ireland's music scene, and if your collection of music includes Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, somewhere there should be a place for Eleanor McEvoy.

Eleanor MceVoy

OCTOBER 9th Listen on line, no pop-ups, porn ads or wait time.

PS...did you know Paul McCartney and Nancy Shevell were married on John's birthday last year? So romantic...