B-17

Cover Title Photo:  Pexels

“Please, Mister, please, don’t play B-17
It was our song, it was his song, but it’s over.
Please, Mister, please, if you know what I mean,
I don’t ever wanna hear that song again.”  (1975)  Please Mr. Please   Recorded by:  Olivia Newton-John  Composers:  Bruce Welch & John Rostill

Mama’s Pizza came to my north Dallas suburb in 1976, or so.  It was the first New York style pizza to land in our area and it was a true hit.  In fact, my single mom and I were one of their very first customers after they opened for business.  The interior was very much like the no-frills, old pizza joints in New York City.  It had its dark maroon painted brick walls kissing the eight or ten booths lining the long dark narrow dining area.  There were three, maybe four tables for those that preferred them.  The kitchen was out in the open with its used pizza ovens.  (I say “used” because they didn’t look brand new to me.)  Two brothers ran the place, both from New Jersey.  They were both in their 20’s and going to school.  One was in dental school, the other in business studies.  They often fought publicly, but it only added to the atmosphere.  They didn’t care how loud they were, or who could hear them.  I smile thinking about witnessing shouts of, “DON’T BOTHER ME WITH THIS!”…”I CALLED MA LAST TIME.  IT’S YOUR TURN, BOZO!”…”AH, FORGET ABOUT IT!”

One of my favorite things Mama’s Pizza had, there on the far back wall, an authentic mounted moose head, possibly a caribou, hanging out from the brick wall.  It’s nose was just about eye-level.  A couple of friends of mine had a tradition of kissing the nose of the poor beast.  Just beneath the animal’s mounted head, an old classic jukebox.  My classmates and I almost wore that thing out over our high school years.  It looked something like this…

woman lying forward on parquet floor in front of jukebox
Photo by Cleyton Ewerton on Pexels.com

From what I recall, you could select your song for a dime, or a quarter if you wanted to push more buttons for a few more tunes.  It seems they had current hits from the 70’s, as well as, some hits going all the way back to the late 50’s.  Zero country songs.  Very seldom did you ever see a goat-roper (Our word for cowboys back in those times.) come in for NY pizza.  That’s was fine with us.  We didn’t like country-western music.

Mama’s Pizza hasn’t been here in many years now.  I miss it.

One thing Mama’s didn’t have was this…

Jukebox Tableside Dallas memories

Photo:  Dallas Memories Facebook Group

Now, depending on how you are, you might not recognize what this is.  Back in the day many small diners often sported these little treasures.  Although most have thrown them out as the years marched on, from time to time you can still find some table-side jukeboxes.   It seems like the last one I saw was at the Lake Effect Diner in Buffalo, NY.

Lake Effect Diner curtinresturants.com

Photo:  Lake Effect Diner, Buffalo, NY.  curtinresturants.com

As a kid, and as an adult, sheer excitement would take over whenever I spotted these babies.  In fact, I remember searching for songs even before picking up the menu.

I will pretend you’ve never seen one.  So, allow me to describe the experience.  tThere is a knob, or lever, which turns the pages of the lengthy song-list.  As you scan the titles and the artists, you should have your dime ready for your selection.  Suddenly, you find your favorite tune, “You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hound Dog” by Elvis.  Next to the song is a letter or number, or both, that you would push the coordinating button for choosing.  Boom, somewhere in the building is a jukebox remotely playing your selection over the speakers at your table.  But usually there are speakers mounted in the ceiling for everyone’s listening pleasure…or hatred.  And there’s the rub.

Like Olivia, there always seems to be a B-17 in our memory.    Maybe you dislike Elvis, and there he comes, forced on your ears because some button-pushing customer in booth #3 selected it without consulting you first.  What’s worse, he might have added a couple more Elvis tunes with a quarter in the slot.  By the time your selection comes around, it may be time to tip the waiter and leave.  Before you know it, just about the time the second verse of “Blue Hawaii” comes around, you’re thinking of taking your sliced tomato off your burger and throwing it toward booth #3.  Do the math.  B-17 + Communal Music = Internal Sour Notes.

Turn Table wikihow.life

Photo:  wikihow-life

For me, the heavy remains to be my personal B-17’s.  You know what I mean.  It’s not so much a disliked artist, but rather a song.  There’s nothing like music that drags you back to a memory, whether it be a good one, or a bad one.  It could be a relationship that went south and the song on B-17 in the selector was what you called, “Our Song”.  Tell me about it, I know it very well.  I could cry a river a few times.  Maybe it was the song on the radio you were singing along with as a truck pulled out in front of you, leaving you in a body-cast for a few weeks.  Someone might think of a song sung at a funeral for a loved one.  That’s what happened to me with Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful”.  To this very day, I sink in sadness when it plays over the air.  The song was performed over the coffin of my friend and mentor back in July of 1981.  All these years later the song stings me.  Music has Velcro.  It’s the way God created it.  Music stamps visuals, times, and places.  So many songs do deliver sweet mental-videos of first cars, first dates, weddings, births, and graduations.  If the guy in booth #3 selected one of those I might be persuaded to buy his grilled cheese sandwich.

Sometimes being in a community isn’t always a pleasant thing.  Am I right?  It’s all about how you handle what you don’t want to hear, or see.  Maybe the group of kids in the corner booth are dropping the F-bomb for all of us to enjoy.  Maybe the idiot cutting people off in traffic gets your match lit.  It simply might be a neighbor with a political sign in the front yard you wouldn’t vote for.  Yep, sometimes being communal isn’t always tasteful.  What’s your B-17?

So Olivia is spot-on with, “Please, Mr. please, if you know what I mean, I don’t ever want to hear that song again.”

Grace, living out grace, handing out grace overcomes a lot of B-17’s in life.  Biblically speaking, it means giving favor to someone, or some thing, who you feel doesn’t deserve favor.  Grace fuels merciful action and thought.

“Lady” by Kenny Rogers is a B-17 for me.  It brings up a life-long choice which turned out to be a youthful mistake.  For many moons the sound of the song angered me, literally.  However, when hearing now, I work hard on hunting for the true value the lyrics have for others, not focusing, or feeding on the sour notes of my own past decision-making.  What’s history is history, grace would say.  I for one, need grace all the time, every day.  So glad the Creator invented it, and distributes it.  It’s what’s on God’s menu for us, the consumer.

Before selecting that button, it’s wise to order-up a good warm cup of fuel for the race.

“Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure–pressed down, shaken together, and running over–will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”  – Jesus –  Luke 6:38  (Holman Christian Standard Version)

Me…Mingle?

Photo:  Pexels
“I Went to a garden party to reminisce with my old friends,
a chance to share old memories and play our songs again.
When I got to the garden party, they all knew my name.
No one recognized me, I didn’t look the same.
But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself.”   Garden Party (1972)  Written and Recorded by:  Ricky Nelson

Did I catch you singing?  I know.  It’s got a terrific hook on the chorus.  Truly, it’s the iconic song Ricky Nelson was known for at that stage of his short life.  The lyrics sound as if it was a pleasurable garden party with old famous pals, but it was birthed out of rejection and sourness.

It was October of 1971, the Richard Nader’s Rock ‘n Roll Revival Concert was a huge gathering at Madison Square Garden in New York.  It was billed to showcase older American Rock ‘n Roll giants, prior to the British invasion, from the 1950’s and early 1960’s, with acts like Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, and Bobby Rydell.  They were among many kickin’ it on stage that night.  Back stage, and in the audience, the ultra-famous were in attendance from various corners of the entertainment and sports realm.  The lyrics in the song, “Garden Party” point that out.

It was his turn at the mic.  Ricky Nelson came out on stage in the fashion of the times, bell bottoms, velvet shirt, complete with bell sleeves, and long hair down to his shoulders.  Keep in mind, the order of the concert event was to reminisce with early American Rock ‘n Rollers, so the look was expected, too.  Well, unfortunately for Nelson, he didn’t take it to heart who the nostalgic demographics were holding tickets.  He performed some of his early songs from the late 50’s and early 60’s.  But then he played a peculiar country rendition of The Rolling Stones’, “Honky Tonk Woman”.  At that, the crowd began to boo, and boo, and booed some more.  He wrapped up his set and left the venue, not even waiting to show up for the all-star finale at the end of the night.  However, it worked out because he wrote a song about the experience in, “Garden Party”.  And I must admit, “…ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself.”
Me in session working on The Tree 2006 WDCX
In the late 1990’s I created an award-winning radio theater department for Criswell Communications Network.  I absolutely adored those years writing, acting and building those audio movies.  Later, I did the same in Buffalo, NY for the Crawford Broadcasting Network.  From time to time I am asked to voice a character for special commercials, promos, or projects.  But back then, life got in the way and now it’s been a few years since I was a regular working voice actor.
Mic
About a year ago, I was asked to voice a character for a dramatic read of a new novel and CD due to be released simultaneously.  Although it was a small walk-on role, I was thrilled to do it.  It was like going home again for me, even though I wasn’t the author or director.  What was very different, and a bit nerve-racking, was the author himself was in studio with me.  Being a hands-on kind of guy, he directed me while I fashioned the vocals needed for this particular character.  Don’t get me wrong, the author was/is a terrific guy.  I’m sure we will be working together in the future for more projects.
Me as Skunk Baxter of Dooby Bros 2016
This morning, before I could pour my first cup of java, I got a voicemail.  It was the author.  He made me aware of the recently released book and audio version.  He then invited me to a cast party he was hosting at his very lovely home.  I responded before lunch, letting him know how much I enjoyed the recording session, developing the character, and his invitation.  Then I politely declined to attend the party.  Why, you might ask?
people sitting beside table
Photo by Lee Hnetinka on Pexels.com
For as long as I can recall, I have never been good at cocktail parties, social dinners, or dances were strangers want me to do the Macarena.  Sure, I can act my way through it, which is what I’ve always done, but that’s work, not pleasure, and certainly not comfortable.  Being an old stage actor and radio personality, you would think I would be a hoot at a gathering of pre-friends.  Trust me, I’ll be the quiet guy in the corner with a china saucer full of chilled shrimp in one hand and a cup of punch in the other.  Yes, there’ll be clusters of revelers in a circle laughing, kissing cheeks, along with lines like, “What do you do when you’re not acting?”, or “What a lovely tie.  Who are you wearing, sweetie?”, or “So what project are you working on now?”  I just don’t mingle well.  It’s as simple as that.  There, I’ve said it.  Arg!  I would likely run off stage left like Ricky Nelson.

Cast parties are fine, in fact I have attended lots of them through my acting days, even hosted many myself.  Most all cast parties I’ve been a part of were packed with fellow cast-members I had the pleasure of working with face-to-face.  Those were actors and crew in which I developed relationships with, or at least decent acquaintances.  Those were parties where we could let our hair down and enjoy reminiscing about lines being dropped, favorite scenes, and wardrobe malfunctions.  (In 1978, while playing Johnny Brown in The “Unsinkable Molly Brown”, I walked out on stage singing with my fly opened.  Thank the Lord it was only a dress rehearsal.  Orchestra members noticed it first down in the pit.)  Cast parties are always a grand time laced in lots of laughter.  Here, the difference is, I never played against another actor in last year’s session.  My recorded lines were like a looping studio session where the dialogue was digitally dropped into scenes in post production.  There was no actor but me, myself, and I.  I played to a mic and a music stand.  I never met any of the actors on the bill.  To be clear, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that kind of session, it happens more often than not.  At the upcoming get-together I would know the author, his wife, and the recording engineer/producer.  It’s not that I am really anti-social…or am I?  Ouch!  What am I admitting?

If you’re a psychologist, you probably know why I am bent this way.  The ugly truth is, I am probably afraid of rejection, even eyes of rejection.  I’ve been at award shows, green rooms, and backstage at concert venues where you’re chatting with someone who won’t look you in the eye because they’re way too busy scouting out the next celebrity to be cornered.  You find yourself answering their question about family, career, or which hotel you’re staying at when suddenly they quickly interrupt with, “Oh, there’s Amy Grant with Vince Gill right behind you.  Gotta go.”  Is it just me, or is that not rude?  I’m guilty of that behavior as well.  So awkward.  Again, I say, Arg!  In the end, I dislike “…players who only love you when they’re playin'” (Fleetwood Mac)

Has it occurred to me that maybe I’m wrong about all this?  Maybe by now you’re saying silently, “Hey, this is weird.  He needs to loosen up.”  Okay, I’ll accept that.  But as I’m being super honest with you, hear me out.

To truly engage with another is to be associated with, connected with, to be in tune with the other, even if in a small way.  This is me.  If you and I are having coffee at a local spot, I will fully hear you, see you, and meld with you.  In fact, I like to make people feel that they are the only person in the room, complete with eye-contact and real chuckles, not out of nervous laughter for the sake of sound to fill up dead air.  This is how I was raised to believe.
Ricky Nelson
Photo:  Wikipedia
Poor Ricky Nelson.  Every time I hear “Garden Party” I listen for the rub, the angst, the sore spots between the words.  Bottom line, he didn’t “know” his audience.  Moreover, he didn’t take in serious consideration of the theme of the event.  Of course, the audience lacked true love for Mr. Nelson.  They only loved him when he played what he was known for ten years prior.  In those quick tunes he scratched their itch until he ventured onto something new from a British band.  It was a mismatch moment, a sting he took with him to his grave.  He died in a tragic plane crash on New Year’s Eve 14 years later.

In the end, I believe it’s all about “knowing” someone, or at least making faithful efforts in doing so.  Because inside that other person is a story which comes from their hearts.  A story worth the fidgeting, even if booed.  If we “play” at socializing, we do not do justice in the connection.  How else will we learn to love others, as God would have us to love?

Still, I remain shy with strangers in close settings.  I shared an elevator today where my total sum of verbiage was, “Third floor.  Thanks.”

Engaging another may start out with “How are you?”, but if they begin to tell you about their gout, making you’ll want to slip away with, “Ya know, I need a refill.”  If so, then where is the honest interest?

More and more I understand why Jesus told us to love others as we love ourselves, and to treat others as we want to be treated.

You know, maybe I should go to the cast party after all.  If I do, the boldness won’t come from my clipped persona, but from a deep well of fuel for the race.

 

“If you love only those people who love you, will God reward you for this? Even tax collectors love their friends. If you greet only your friends, what’s so great about this? Don’t even unbelievers do that?”  – Jesus –   Matthew 5:46-47  (Contemporary English Version) 

The Fading Fad of Fades

“La-Da-Daa-da-da-daa, Da-Da-Da-Daa, hey Jude.  (fade)  La-Da-Daa-da-da-da-daa, Da-da-da-daa, hey Jude.  (fade)  La-Da-Daa-da-Da-Da-Daa, Da-da-da-daa, hey Jude. (fade)……………”  From 1968, “Hey Jude”, By: The Beatles.  Composers:  Paul McCartney & John Lennon.

You’ve wondered, right?  Maybe you’re too young to have experienced it.  Maybe there have been times you were watching an old TV show where an artist like, The Monkees, Partridge Family or Elvis, were performing one of their radio hits, only to watch them try to look normal as the audio of their performance began to fade out into nothing.  Correct me here if I’m not accurate.  Two things always happened.  Number one:  The performer is left to look uncomfortable and awkward as they try to keep up with the lip syncing until the sound goes to black.  Number Two:  You, the audience member, are left feeling oddly unsettled watching them squirm on camera as the song fades.  You know what I mean.  Oddly enough, as a concert-goer, you never saw that occur on stage.  If you did, the audience would be in revolt.  It’s like, if they can’t perform live, why am I here?

I’m an old radio personality who has seen this scenario change slowly firsthand.  There’s nothing new under the sun. (Thanks King Solomon.)

Here’s what happened.  YOU, as a music lover, were manipulated by radio and record labels.  How does that make you feel?  Don’t be mad, we’ve ALL been like musical sheep following the sheep ahead of us, who followed a marching drum major from the razzle-dazzle boardroom on the 18th floor.  YOU were the Guinea Pig that proved the experiment worked.

The fade-to-black music ending of pop songs on the radio slowly emerged in the 1950’s, ruling over us for over three decades.  A good example, within the top 10 charts in 1985, there is not one produced song with, what is known as, a “cold ending”.  In the 1990’s, the fade-fad began to…well…fade away from the offerings coming out of the record industry.  Pushing the fast-forward button, the top 10 year-end pop list for 2011, 2012 and 2013 gave radio only ONE fade-out song.  Why did the musical-manipulation-melee-madness begin?

Radio Theater Trophies

During the 1940’s, and before, much of the music heard on radio was live, in-studio performances, like the big bands and torch singers.  After World War II, they began to play more of the recorded cuts, much of which were recorded live as well.  It was very difficult, if not nearly impossible, to fade-out the endings of songs.  Any band conductor, or composer, would’ve shouted out in frustration, “WHAT’S THE PURPOSE?”  Plus, what hard-line composer would invite such a thing to his/her music masterpiece?  After all, the natural sustained ending, or a cold “stinger” ending of a song, was and is well-thought-out and pampered from the chicken-scratches of a songwriter to the artwork of a mechanical/electrical recording studio.

Piano Keys Ebony and Ivory

The early idea was more psychological than for any other reason.  Some artist, composer or producer somewhere came up with the thought that the ebbing away of the power of the “hook” of the chorus could induce a feeling of the slow passing away of lyrical thought and musical dynamics.  It was to leave the listener soaking-in the song as it stamps more of its identity while lingering with repetitive bars ushering us to audio silence.  (As a side note, in radio there was a rule of thumb used to know when to manually fade out a produced song live in the studio.  In the 1980s, we were told, by those in the know, like consultants and record reps, to fade out after 2.5 repeats of the rotating chorus.  Some productions placed their fades in that spot, if not, we would.)  As for us on-air guys and gals, it allowed us the artistry of segueing and mixing the wrap of a cut with the intro of the next tune hovering over it.  If not done, it was considered bad, or lazy radio.

Not to be outdone by those in the industry who decreed such a tactic, was another school of thought.  Some felt the effect of faded endings also gave the feeling of the music, the hooks and the lyrics could mentally continue after a three-minute song finished.  “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony…(repeat & fade, repeat & fade)”  You get the idea.  Interesting thought, considering the entire idea of pop music is that the song must stand up as a “Velcro” tune sticking to the ears long after turning off the radio.  As you read the chorus of “Hey Jude” at the top of this article, you heard the song in your head, right?  Yep, it’s all about SALES!  It’s why some of the most talented songwriters are, or were, jingle writers for ads, like Barry Manilow, as well as “scores” of others.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)  You can sing them now, I’m sure.  “You deserve a break today, so get up and…..”  Or, “Like a good neighbor….”  Or, “Plop-plop, fiz-fiz, oh what a….”

Radio Car Vintage 1966

Early on, songs for airplay were too long.  Before you knew it, radio engineers were manually fading out the music on their own.  As it turned out, in the 50’s, radio fades on pop tunes became more of the norm as radio programmers, sound board operators and the sales department were looking to find ways to eat the clock for more ad space in programming.  After all, the sponsors pay for air-time.  Songs were the glue to hold the listener to the speakers until the next commercial break.  Fading out tunes was a perfect way to shorten the cuts played, making more room for the dreaded commercial breaks.  That’s why in the 90’s it became a big-deal for a radio station to promote the 30 minute music sweep.  Yeah, we all did it.  Most still try.  I know you’ve heard it, with a bouncy, happy music bed underneath…. “Hey, we love you so much.  So, we’ll treat you to more music per hour, (before the hated 10 minute commercial block.).  Come join us?  Your 30-minute music sweep starts right now.”

As for “Hey Jude” when the Beatles made the decision in 1966 to stop touring, cocooning themselves in the Abby Road Studio, they were not bothered by coming up with two or three different versions for tracks recorded.  Knowing they were not going to perform them live any longer, they allowed the fade-fad to be a signature for the fab-four.  Thus, “Hey Jude”.

So, that’s your radio hit parade of pop music history lessons for today.  However, in the end, I don’t want my life to mirror a radio hit.  If you’re like me, you probably don’t want to fade-out toward the ending of this life.  Sure, some with certain medical challenges have no choice.  Even so, the will is there to finish well, to end your musical adventures with a natural sustained chord, or possibly a cold stinger of an ending, that rings out in classic 1970’s reverb, “I WAS HERE AND MADE A DIFFERENCE!”  The Giver of life will never mind-bend, manipulating your life-song.  He certainly never has been in favor of fade-outs, but He does perform segues.

Nothing is impossible when filled with fuel for for the race.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they (you) may have life, and have it to the full.” – Jesus, from John 10:10 (NIV)