Archive for December, 2010

recent Teena

Now comes the truly sad news that Teena Marie is no longer with us in the physical world after only fifty-four (54) years….pause for tears.  To me, Teena was always the Petula Clark or Leslie Gore of her times.  Soulful hits that transcended the categories of the music business or American society (I’ve always had a more “Top 40” musical head).  I first heard of her when Programmer extraordinaire, Frankie Crocker, referred to her as “Tiny” Teena Marie over the airwaves of WBLS FM, New York City as the strains of “I Need Your Lovin'”  or “Behind The Groove” grew in the background.  During my glory days as a radio personality, I never got to meet nor share a stage Emcee-style with her, but I feel like I knew her just the same.  There is always that link between her and the late “Slick” Rick James, yet, I don’t recall ever being so “surprised” about her skin color visa v her material as many people profess to be and tried to make an issue out of  in the early 1980s.

So here is where I list my top ten (because I own only ten) Teena Marie vinyl records: On Gordy Records (“a product of Motown Record corp.”) 1980’s “Lady T” with the hit “Behind The Groove”, and where I noticed that the girl could write some very readable liner notes which is one of her unsung talents and now a legacy. I dug the baseball uniform she sported on the back cover! The 12″ DJ version with “I need Your Lovin’ ” on side one and “Behind The Groove” on the flip-side; also Gordy Records.  I remember like yesterday how excited I was to get this platter so I could play it at my next gig!  Next is my favorite front cover of the ones I own, and the second album to drop in the year 1980, “Irons In The Fire”.  What a warm and cozy pose without overt sexuality by Teena, with the fireplace roaring and herself wrapped in a satin quilt, OMG!  This album’s smash was “I Need Your Lovin’ ” which still should fill dance-floors whenever played in a club!  I noticed that all of these Gordy albums were “written and produced by Teena Marie” (the first one had someone named Richard Rudolph as co-producer), a source of some contention as I remember back then.  She dedicated “Irons…” to her father, Thomas Leslie Brockett, who passed away in 1976 – his picture on the back cover.

A year later in 1981, I was fortunate enough to get the Gordy DJ copy of  “It Must Be Magic”, an album with an all-star cast and hit-after-hit-after-hit!  From the title song to “The Ballad Of Cradle Rob And Me” to the sultry “Portuguese Love” or her first foray rappin’ to the beat on “Square Biz” (with brief Rick James cameo), to “Yes Indeed” with Patrice Rushen on keyboards, this was her best all-around album insofar as my ears are concerned.  And yours too?

Next, my library finds Teena on Epic records, where I had al great DJ-to-promotion department relationship, and that is probably why I ended-up with two copies of 1983’s “Robbery” album.  I suppose the relationship with Gordy finally disintegrated and the CBS group snapped her up, agreeing to her writing, producing and arranging all.  The standout on this album was/is “Casanova Brown” – not to be confused with the Gloria Gaynor disco jam with the same name, lol!

One thing is for-sure, Teena was always busy in the eighties; it didn’t take long before Epic added another 12″ to my collection, 1984’s “Jammin” (Radio Mix-vocal) culled from her next album, “Starchild” that I never was able to get my fingers on, but it didn’t matter, I had the first hit !  I say “first” because straight-away came a song that many defined Teena by to her dying day; also from “Starchild”, it was (in my library) the Special 12″ Dance Mix of “Lovergirl” b/w the Instrumental also off of the album “Starchild”.  Larkin Arnold was in the background as Executive Producer by now, and the polish and crossover access  available by being part of one of the ‘big three’ record labels paid off.  I played this song at a lot of weddings and parties during that decade.  

Next of mine, a curious and seldom-played 12″ Extended Version Dance Mix of “14K” which apparently was part of the soundtrack to a movie called “Goonies”.  I don’t remember either – maybe I have to go and play it right quick here!  Ok, L8R, only two more vinyls to go…the very green like St. Patrick’s Day, 1986 “Emerald City” effort.  I actually don’t think I ever played this record because as I write these words, I am pulling it out of the jacket, still neatly tucked in the inner sleeve and not turned face-out for easy DJ access, and…holy moly!  The vinyl IS really GREEN!! Who knew?  Haha!  I know why I didn’t play it though, as the final and tenth wax in my Teena library is the 12″ single “Lips To Find You”, which I remember, sounds a bit like “Lovergirl” beat-wise.  Hey, I just played side one for maybe the first time and there is a jam on there, “You So Heavy” – it says “for Rick”; I wonder if it is that “Rick? Regardless, what a strong song!!  Amped lead guitar solo takes it home Hendrix-style! The studio and musicians that Epic used changed some of her background sound to that “eighties beat”; kind of Prince-style sometime, but thankfully nobody could change her vocal approach.    

In 2009 I received what was at the time her “latest” (and probably last) album in CD form, “Congo Square”.  I was happy to see it on the legendary “Stax” record label, but initially disappointed by the material.  I guess I was still hoping for the “Lovergirl” who talked about “Square Biz”, but what I heard soon became unlistenable after she got bogged-down in trying to recreate the “torch-song” feeling of “Fire & Desire” too much, in my opinion.  I learn now, that is where she was at and at peace with it, having alluded to pain that she “suffered through the last few years…” on the interior liner notes – again very literate about herself.  What exactly the sources of those pains were, I can only guess in retrospect, but as I listened to that CD again multiple times today, I still like the first track, “The Pressure (featuring M.C. Lyte)” the best only because it is uptempo and her fast stuff shaped my fondest party memories of “Lady T”, however, the singing on the remainder of the album; the soulful way she portrayed every note of each selection from her heart, makes it every bit the portrait that each of her vinyl album covers displayed. For example, track four, “Ear Candy 101” has a bridge that evokes a Marvin Gaye groove! “Tiny” Teena left us with sixteen soulful, heartfelt songs, and I miss her for the future in the manner I miss what Jimi Hendrix would have become artistically, already.

**PICK HITT: and this one, “Behind The Groove” is most popular to dance to, as Frankie Crocker and WBLS FM 107.5 ran it into the ground to success!

“Cause M-O-N-E-Y never did a thing for L-O-V-I-N. I’ll never understand what peoples heads are in, oh,
Ask me what I need…”

Roger Goodell’s NFL  is for “sissies” or maybe my little sister (when she was “little”) and today he provided more evidence of this by postponing the Sunday night NBC game of the week between the Minnesota Vikings and host Philadelphia Eagles.  What a wimp and dangerous precedent!  Maybe it is another part of the curse of the Farve who stayed too long, because these days when the Vikings are involved, there is always some drama.  That is one reason I wanted to unwrap this game from among my Xmas presents.  Cheer denied.  I wanted to see Michael Vick, the human snowball!

Part of the charm of the NFL and football as a game is that there were never rain-outs nor any kind of postponement due to weather.  These guys get paid a king’s ransom and perform in any kind of weather – until Goodell took over as the “commissioner”.  I think he got off at the wrong exit on the way to his job interview; he was looking for the Nanny Fairy League offices.

So, thanks to their decision to postpone the game for not one, but two days because of a snow storm,  they shortened our holiday weekend considerably, and I personally was looking forward to relaxing on my futon, beverage in-hand, and milking the last few hours of the 2010 Christmas holiday weekend.  Many people are even off on Monday, yet Mr. Goodell is playing Ebenezer Scrooge and taking a gift of a game from under our Christmas tree. 

In October he had the players wearing pink accessories like ballerinas, and now he is telling them they are not tough enough nor the fans brave enough to play in the snow for the first time in my recollection of watching this sport which goes back to the 1960s.  This definitely is not “your father’s NFL”, nor now is it my NFL either!  I feel for the players who get themselves all practiced and psyched-up to play, traveling (in Minnesota’s case) to be  in-position to compete and win, only to have GODdell tell them they cannot at the last-minute.  Many of these guys played in the snow all through their amateur career in-preparation for the “pros”, and this decision is just ridiculous.  What do you think?  Do we need a nanny state in sports too?  I think Mr. Roger should resign, and all of those who cite “public safety” as a concern should be voted out of office.  We need a tough guy as the head of the National Football League; Pete Rozelle was in the background much more, and I love him for being that way. I nominate the NFL’s Roger Goodell and whatever co-conspirators in the city of Philadelphia who are also Nannies as 2010 Holiday Scrooge of the Year.  Stop protecting us from yourselves!

P.S. I never thought Michael Vick would make a blog post of mine. It just goes to show you, as my girlfriend overseas and I always say, “never say ‘never'”.

P.P.S.  Having watched the “game” this late Tuesday night I say this: As a NY Jets fan for decades,, GOD-ELL made a really bad call, which affected the outcome of the Philly/Minnesota game . In effect  he “fixed” the game in favor of Minnesota and should resign.  What a bad example to set as a Nanny!
You must know that Michael Vick would have juked the Viking defense all over the place in the snow, on Sunday night! Instead, Roger the Dodger and his cronies in Philly as co-conspirators, chose to impersonate Mother Nature and throw the game…A damned shame.

                                   It is always ominous when a huge star’s “people” keep secret what bad things are happening to them.  Recently, Aretha Franklin had a secret surgery that nobody wants to tell us exactly what organ the surgery was performed upon. I guess that is her perogative; however, when you are an icon, with millions of adoring admirers around the globe, I believe you owe them more respect than a vague press release, or some bulls*** from Jesse Jackson.  Maybe they surgeried some of that weight off of her! It isn’t embarrassing to be less than perfect anymore, yet slimmer is better for your heart.

It is obvious to me that Aretha Franklin’s health is in trouble; pancreatic cancer is the “word”.  Two of my radio mentors passed away due to that, “Hmmm”.  As I have said previously, I’d rather not write about her posthumously, choosing to send my recollections from my collection with the hope that they reach her hospital bed and possibly aid her recuperation and longevity because she is one of my first favorites!

“Ree-Ree” (as I heard one of my radio mentors call her affectionately), my Mum even says you’ve gained too much weight, by the way! Mum can say that, she is eighty-six at the time of this post.  Funny thing about that to me is that at first she did not want me to listen to your hit music, “Respect” when I was a boy, calling it “gut-bucket music”.  Fortunately, those kinds of protestations from my parents just made me want to defy them more and get into your music.

When I think of Aretha Franklin, I see that classic black and red (unless a promo copy) Atlantic Records label even though she recorded on several major record companies.  My first of hers was “Respect”, (wouldn’t you know it) followed by “Chain Of Fools” and “Spanish Harlem” as I dig though my boxes of 45s (45rpm vinyls, for you who are too young).  The first album I added to my collection was 1970’s “Aretha Live At Fillmore West” – still in excellent condition, thank you – which featured the late Billy Preston on organ, Ray Charles and King Curtis on tenor saxophone among other members of an all-star band behind her.

Aretha Franklin always brings to my mind the great musicians that she has worked with through the years.  Cats like Cornell Dupree on guitar, The Memphis Horns, and since I was a novice drummer back during her early hits, drummers like Grady Tate and especially Bernard “Pretty” Purdie,  who really defined the rhythm of her sound on tracks like the 1971 smash, “Rock Steady”, or how he wore it out behind one of Aretha’s classic, classicly clear vamps til the fade on her 1973 “Master Of Eyes”. 

Perdie’s signature snare-to-high hat accents always let me know that he was on the set.   Fortunately I have had the privilege of meeting Mr. Dupree and hanging out many nights with Mr. Tate over the past twenty years in Manhattan (The ole “Possible Twenty”!).  I still hope I can do an interview with The Queen Of Soul before her time soon comes.

Almost everybody knows the words to an Aretha Franklin hit song.  I was at a holiday party just the other night where we all broke into the lyrics of another one from ’73, “Until You Come Back To Me, (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” penned by Stevie Wonder! (I bet you didn’t know that!)

I grew-up with Ms. Franklin’s music on WWRL AM,WLIB AM/FM and WBLS FM (Program Director Frankie Crocker always played album cuts from her, not just the singles) in New York City, a phenomenon of style the made inroads on radio formats across the U.S. and across the great pond.  Therefore, I’m going to be kind of all over the place here if I don’t get a grip, as Aretha conjures so many different situations, hits , emotions and memories from my musical mind.  Admittedly she came up in an era where the competition of talent was the toughest and the dealings between major record labels was fiercest.  Most of the “soul” artist stars were on Motown, and here Aretha came as an equal in every way to the Gordy’s stable.   Mentored and chaperoned by the best including Arif Mardin, Jerry Wexler and Clive Davis,  a session with her recording must have been pure magic!

Aretha was kind of an afterthought with me as a teenager; she was always “there” in the background of the scene as most of the “great ones” are, until she would put something new out, and then “BANG!” we’d be right back singing to her songs and dancing to her energy within the beat.  There are too many songs to name here, so let’s quickly see what else I have in my vinyl crates: “With Everything I Feel In Me” is the 1974 album with one of her sexiest covers, wearing nothing but what looks like a mink stole under that neat Afro hairdo.  Everything she touched on this album brought a fresh feeling, and I loved her rendition of Bacharach and David’s “You’ll Never Get To Heaven”.   She always seems to really enjoy her voice and the things she can do with those lungs as proved by the acapella end solo on that cut. 

The next album in my collection is “You” released in 1975 which featured “Mr. D.J.(5 For The D.J.)” [obviously dedicated to yours, truly] an homage to the burgeoning trend of disco  jocks back then, “It Only Happens (When I look At You)”, a Tom Scott saxophone solo on “Without You”, which was also released as a single, and Ree-Ree’s excellent soft touch on the late Van McCoy’s “Walk Softly”.  You can tell she was jamming with a new bunch of musicians on this album – they were not as soulful as the previous albums were, but not a bad change necessarily.  I see that I underlined Whitney’s mum, Cissy Houston on the back of the album noted among the background singers!  Aretha would lay down a good monologue to introduce her songs every so often, too!

I don’t want to keep you up all night, and this is the internet, so let me say the remaining Aretha albums in my vinyl library are the widely successful 1976 movie soundtrack “Sparkle” featuring “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” “La Diva”, a  rare stiff from 1979 with another sexy cover photo, the jazzy “Aretha Sings The Blues”, which looks like a 1985 “ree-release” (couldn’t resist that one) of some early 1960s songs  on Columbia Records.  It is either nightclub material or they added the “feel” of an audience in the background with sfx.  Last-but-you-know-what, the 1982 album produced by the late Luther Vandross which includes two of my all-time favorite jams, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” and the title track floor-filler, “Jump To It” – I’ve even got the “12-inch” D.J. versions! 

So, what is your favorite Aretha song? You  may most recently remember her from President Obama’s inauguration day when she sported that stylish gray brim while giving proper “respect” to “America The Beautiful”, but let’s just talk hit music here. Prayers and blessings to the Queen.  We are pulling for you to stay around a while, Girl!!

Pickhitt: Update September 2017;

**PickHitt: Aretha Franklin did stay around a while. Indeed much longer than some predicted she would -strength. Alas, she finally left the physical world on August 16, 2018. Maximum Respect.

Your frozen-fingered bloggespondent is coming to you from Nashville, TN this time, where it is the first occurrence since I have had business to check out here, that it snows in December – measurably or otherwise!! I’ve heard that it hasn’t snowed here in December since the year 2000, and the thing of it is, it is cold enough for it to stick around for a few days, which is also very unusual for these parts.

Whenever it snows, it brings out the same excitement that I experienced as a boy growing up in the 1960s, and I never want it to stop – well, until I absolutely must go someplace like the grocery market or the wine store.  Ha!  Awakening to the first snow of the year, especially when it is not even officially winter on the calendar, can make you want to start your day with a fresh cuppa hot chocolate with marshmallows, a shot of brandy and a mint or cinnamon stick – especially, mid-day Sunday before the football or whatever pleases you to do on such a day, like a good book or working out a bit.  

Today’s snow is the powdery variety that you can blow off of your gloved fingers easily. The wind is healthy, hefty and gusty, and it sounds like a blizzard outside my house, even though it isn’t deep and drifting – but for Nashville it is a blizzard, LOL  The winds of change are happily (for those of us who need it in-earnest) a-blowing us through the end of 2010; Nashville, for example, had a first-time-in-a-hundred years flood seven months ago, and even though many experienced tragic loss of material things, if they survived it, might see new gains in new areas because of it going forward.  Now this, first in a long time early snow storm with wintry stability, is literally the “icing” on the cake.

Did you see the surreal video of the Minneapolis Superdome “baggie” ceiling collapsing under the weight of the same system that brought this snow storm to “the mid-state”?  That place is too old and dated anyway, tear it down.    Maybe something “sinister” is afoot…and so much for “global warming” – at least this week :-J

For a person form the northeastern U.S. to visit the “sunbelt” and experience these kinds of cold temperatures and graupel is almost a betrayal of the bargain. It is amusing to those of that ilk in that these natives to the center of Tennessee become truly paralyzed by less than three inches of the white stuff, LOL I despise cold weather, yet snow would not be possible without it, and it really does get you in the mood for the Christmas holidays and New Year’s celebrations. So I say, like one of Underdog’s arch-villains would, “Gooooo Snoooooow!”

(I LOVE the character voice-overs – Esp. Mr. Bar Sinister, LOL)

Is it only me? , but isn’t this international wikileaks guy, Julian Assange,  just a traitor on  the magnitude of all-time traitors like Benedict Arnold?  I don’t know about you, however, I value loyalty as paramount to any quality within a family or shared entity and endeavor.  This guy should be hung from the nearest gallows.  What does he hope to accomplish?  He reminds me of my younger sister, who is from a generation so clueless that they never learned  the concept of loyalty.

As soon as I heard of “Wikileaks” I thought “traitor” and “treason”. Why isn’t there an outcry now?  Is being a traitor now not so bad?  Yes! Because the US society has encouraged betrayal ever since the late Senator Daniel Patrick Monyihan introduced a bill that established states to enforce a thing they like to call “child support”,  based upon a woman betraying a former lover to achieve financial gain for herself and the state. It is just one example of the Benedict Arnold syndrome.  This Wikileaks guy…what does he hope to gain?  Does he hate the USA so much that his style of terrorism is to let loose bullshit secrets with the hopes of starting more chaos? Does this cat crave headlines from Australia to the point that he is jealous of not being in Hollywood?

  1. To Mister Assange, I say, “You faggot son of a bitch! I wish you were in The Godfather movie! You’d be wacked. in lieu of that scenario,  As if we collectively needed some more drama to try and take our minds away from the loving and creative constructiveness that will bring us together!  You selfish bastard…please go away,  and betray yourself upon yourself forevermore!  Then wipe yourself off, and leave the rest of us, with our state secrets and longstanding spy versus spy protocols, intact because they work to keep our diverse diplomacies together. 

The Modern Beggar’s Opera

 He is now the beggar,

Learning to beg when he came to Tennessee.

A poorer state than his mental was accustomed to;

He came from the sandy sea shores of New Jerzee!

Past lower standard road signs that engulfed him a charity.

Cast off from the casino coast as the beggar in the opera,

A part steeped in challenged integrity.

He learned how to plead.

From courtrooms to donations.

Asking how lives get to this station?

Lines at the food bank,

Social workers and a food stamp.

Massaged not to “worry” through personal indignation.

He became the Master of Ceremonies in the center ring,

Of the Beggar’s Opera.


Act One, Scene three;

Why fly south?

You see in him the modern-day slavery!

To paper the toilet with benefits and not afford to buy a roll.

The playwright casts him impoverished,

 Singing the hills of Tennessee blues.

There is too much of that already;

He’ll not commonly strum a guitar.

Granted a stipend for house rent,

Standing in a line that leads into a former school building.

Now used for adults to cry where formerly did children.

Because of all the years of this play,

He called me to vent and I wrote this for him:

Down and almost out, family had turned their backs;

Broke with no hope and at the end of his rope.

And then….

A sweet freedom angel lands in his inbox.