Monday, August 10, 2009

Brainbuster Question of the Day for Monday, August 10th, '09

Q: These two U.S. cities grew the most (showed the largest absolute population increases) during the decade of the 1990's. They are in neighboring states and one is a capital city. Can you name them?


Sensational '70's Tune for Monday, August 10th, '09

"Truckin'" is both a signature song for the Grateful Dead and an anomaly in its catalog. As the group developed a capacity for songwriting in the late '60s, it also embraced a private mythology that entranced followers and puzzled outsiders, its original songs featuring odd musical structures and highly abstract lyrics by poet Robert Hunter. With 1970's Workingman's Dead, both musical and lyrical tendencies were roped in somewhat, with the songs beginning to conform to folk, country, and rock conventions and Hunter's words turning more aphoristic than opaque. American Beauty, the follow-up to Workingman's Dead that was released only six months later, continued this trend. And with its final track, "Truckin'," both music and lyrics became surprisingly straightforward without losing any of their impact. In a sense, "Truckin'" was a typical Hunter lyric in that its verses were built on free-standing vignettes rather than a continuing narrative and were given over to striking imagery and turns of phrase. But for once there was no doubt about the scene the lyricist was setting. After accompanying the band on tour, he was giving his impressions of life on the road. He began with the slang phrase of the title, which dated back to blues songs of the 1920s, when it probably stood in for a similar word beginning with an "F"; which had been used for a 1935 song by Rube Bloom and Ted Koehler that became a number one hit for Fats Waller; and which had been adopted by underground comics illustrator R. Crumb, a popular San Francisco figure who had drawn Grateful Dead concert posters. Crumb's "doodah man," referred to in the lyrics, was pictured with exaggerated legs stretching out before him as he trucked down the street. In Hunter's terms, though, "truckin'" also referred to traveling around the country, actually, as well as metaphorically, in trucks. Hunter's travelogue owed something to Chuck Berry songs like "The Promised Land" as he named one city after another on the road. And he even recounted a specific incident, the January 31, 1970, arrest of the band on drug charges in New Orleans. "Set up -- like a bowling pin," was his defense. It was only the most extreme of the hassles mentioned in the lyrics; "Truckin'" is not a positive view of life on the road by any means, and even its most celebrated lines, the bridge "Sometimes the light's all shining on me/Other times I can barely see/Lately it occurs to me/What a long strange trip it's been," describe disorientation. Band members Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, and Bob Weir combined to write a Chuck Berry-derived rock & roll shuffle to accompany Hunter's words and recorded a vibrant version with guest musician Howard Wales on organ for American Beauty. They introduced the song as the opening number of their concert at the Fillmore West in San Francisco on August 18, 1970. Warner Bros. cut the 5:09 album version to 3:13 for release as a single in November, and "Truckin'" became a minor chart entry, while American Beauty reached the Top 30 and eventually sold over one million copies. Warner Bros. put "Truckin'" on both of its Grateful Dead compilations, ^The Best of the Grateful Dead/Skeletons From the Closet (1974) and ^What a Long Strange Trip It's Been: The Best of he Grateful Dead in 1977. The Dead played "Truckin'" in their concerts regularly for 25 years. In the statistic-happy world of the Dead, it ranks among the group's most played songs. According to John W. Scott, Mike Dolgushkin, and Stu Nixon's -DeadBase X: The Complete Guide to Grateful Dead Song Lists, the Dead played 2,318 shows between 1965 and 1995, and they played "Truckin'" at 520 of those concerts, or better than once in every five performances. That puts the song in eighth place among the Dead's most-played songs. (Here are the first seven: "Me & My Uncle" [613], "Sugar Magnolia" [596], "The Other One" (aka "Quodlibet for Tenderfeet") [586], "Playin' in the Band" [581], "China Cat Sunflower" [552], "I Know You Rider" [549], and "Not Fade Away" [530].) Naturally, live versions have turned up on the many Dead concert albums, starting as early as Europe '72. As a song closely identified with the band, "Truckin'" has earned few covers outside of the many Grateful Dead tribute albums, among which Dwight Yoakam's version on 1991's Deadicated is notable.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Brainbuster Question of the Day for Friday, August 7th, '09

Q: What Brand and Color of Hair Dye did Elvis Presley use?


Super 60's Tune for Friday, August 7th, '09

Bob & Earl were an American soul music singing duo in the 1960s, best known for writing and recording the original version of "Harlem Shuffle".


The original duo were Bobby Byrd and Earl Nelson (born Earl Lee Nelson, 8 September 1928, Lake Charles, Louisiana - 12 July 2008, Los Angeles) They had both been members of The Hollywood Flames, a prolific doo-wop group in Los Angeles, California whose major hit was "Buzz Buzz Buzz" in 1958, on which Nelson sang lead.

By 1957, Byrd had started a parallel solo career, writing and recording for contractual reasons as Bobby Day. He wrote and recorded the original version of "Little Bitty Pretty One", and had a hit of his own with "Rockin' Robin" (1958). In 1960, Day / Byrd and Nelson began recording together as Bob & Earl, on the Class record label. However, these releases had relatively little success, and Day / Byrd restarted his solo career.

In 1962, Nelson then recruited a second "Bob", Bobby Relf (January 10, 1937 - November 20, 2007), who also used the stage names of Bobby Garrett and Bobby Valentino. Relf had already led several Los Angeles based acts in his career, including the Laurels, the Upfronts, and Valentino and the Lovers. The latter two groups also featured the then pianist and bass singer, Barry White.

This duo of Relf and Nelson recorded several singles for different labels, before recording "Harlem Shuffle" in 1963. The song was written by Relf and Nelson, arranged by Barry White, and produced by Fred Smith. It was based on a number called "Slauson Shuffletime" (named after a boulevard in Los Angeles) by another Los Angeles singer, Round Robin. When released on the Marc label, "Harlem Shuffle" became a modest hit on the R&B chart. Its vocal interplay directly influenced later duos such as Sam and Dave. However, its main success came as late as 1969, when it was re-released in the UK and became a Top Ten hit there. Reportedly, George Harrison called it his favourite record of all time.

By that time, Nelson had achieved further success as a solo artist under the alias of Jackie Lee, with "The Duck", a hit dance record released in 1965, which reached #14 in the U.S. (Jackie was Nelson's wife's name and Lee his own middle name). When "Harlem Shuffle" became successful on reissue, Nelson and Relf reunited as Bob & Earl to tour. However, the duo split up for the last time in the early 1970s.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Brainbuster Question of the Day for Thursday, August 6th, '09

Q: Which U.S. state consumes the most spam per year?

Hawaiian soul food

dish of seasoned rice, dried seaweed, and Spam
Isn't Spam sushi a culinary crime? Not in Waikiki.

By Constance Hale

As Honolulu gourmands gear up for an unusual street festival, there's just one question on their lips: Could anything possibly top last year's Spam Jam musubi—a giant version of the island snack that consists of a brick of rice, a slab of Spam, and a belt of black seaweed—at its record-busting length of 313 feet?

The making of the gonzo musubi—which required more than 275 pounds of rice, 1,650 slices of Spam, and 600 feet of the dried seaweed called nori—kicked off last year's second annual Spam Jam, held along Waikiki's Kalakaua Avenue. And, yup, this year the wacky festival once again celebrates Spam, the luncheon meat everyone loves to ridicule. Everyone, that is, but Hawaiians. Fiftieth staters consume nearly 6 million cans a year, or almost six cans for every man, woman, and child. Some call the gelatinous pink pork "Hawaii's soul food."

Spam worked its way into the hearts—and arteries—of Hawaiians during World War II. Fresh meat was scarce at the time, so civilians loaded up on the brand-name C ration well known to GIs. Needing no refrigeration, the proletarian pork product soon became one of three items islanders stock up on (along with toilet paper and rice) during threats of hurricanes, tsunamis, or dockworkers' strikes.

More recently, McDonald's added Spam to its Hawaiian breakfast menu, while island chefs toy with it. Hawaii's Spam Cookbook lists recipes for Spam omelets, Spam and beans, and Spam with Japanese radish fermented in a syrupy sauce.

But it's Spam musubi, introduced in the 1980s, that reigns supreme in delis and 7-Elevens statewide and in Hawaiian eateries on the mainland. Foodies insist the Tamashiro Market in Honolulu serves the absolute best Spam musubi, its sticky rice flecked with furikake, a blend of seaweed, sesame, and other seasonings. It may not be 313 feet long, but, hey, it only costs $1.25. This year's Waikiki Spam Jam, held April 30, features live music, food, crafts, a Mr. or Ms. Spam contest, and hula performances. Information: (808) 923-1094,


Sensational '70's Tune for Thursday, August 6th, '09

The lone hit from the There's a Riot Goin' On album, "Family Affair" is truly a record that is ahead of its time. The overall urban grit of the atmosphere was certainly picked up in the 1970s particularly by groups like War. There are also the percussion sounds, which would later be utilized to a great degree by rap artists of the 1990s. The song itself is a loose comment on communal living, something that was extremely prominent in the early '70s. But make no mistake; the groove and feel are the main stars here.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Brainbuster Question of the Day for Monday, August 3rd, '09

Q: Which 1878 Gilbert and Sullivan operetta was subtitled "The Lass that Loved a Sailor"?