Born on this day in 1909, in Valley City, North Dakota, actress Ann Sothern. Sothern had an incredible 60-year career, in both film and television, appearing alongside everyone from Lucille Ball to Dick Van Dyke.
I’m not 100% certain how I first became aware of pulp magazines, but the book pictured above was certainly an early clue. I recall seeing the hardcover collection The Pulps at World Of Books in North Syracuse in the early ’70s, maybe as early as 1971, but probably ’72 or so. It was one of a number of books that caught my eye all at the same time, right alongside comic book celebrations All In Color For A Dime, Jules Feiffer‘s The Great Comic Book Heroes, and Crown Books‘ Superman From The 30’s To The 70’s and Batman From The 30’s To The 70’s. Edited by Tony Goodstone, The Pulps was the only one of these books that I didn’t acquire in that early time frame. I was certainly intrigued by it nonetheless.
My real indoctrination into the world of pulp magazines came via Steranko‘s History Of Comics, I’d say around 1974. My high school library had both volumes of Steranko’s captivating account of the Golden Age of comics, and I spent a lot of time immersing myself in those books. Steranko’s chapter on “The Bloody Pulps” fascinated me, and fanned the flames of my nascent interest in The Shadow, Doc Savage, The Avenger, The Spider, Operator 5, The Phantom Detective, The Black Bat, and G-8 And His Battle Aces.
(What’s that? I should have been studying when I was in the school library? Ahem. Just move along.)
I read my first pulp adventure–The Land Of Terror, a Doc Savage paperback–before reading Steranko’s account of the pulps, and possibly/probably before spying The Pulps at World Of Books. I told my story of discovering Doc Savage here–a sequel describing my discovery of The Shadow is forthcoming–and of my teenage fascination with superpulp paperbacks here.
Somewhere in there, I picked up my first pulp anthology, The Fantastic Pulps (edited by Peter Haining), plus my very first actual pulp magazine, a flea market purchase of a forgotten random issue of Dime Detective. The flea market also provided me with a copy of The Crime Oracle And The Teeth Of The Dragon, a trade paperback reprint of two vintage Shadow pulp novels, reprints which included the illustrations from the original pulps (something the paperback reprints lacked).
In the ’80s, when I was living in Buffalo, I snagged a few more ragged pulps at the flea market. In later years I also bought some of Anthony Tollins‘ exquisite pulp reprints starring The Shadow and Doc Savage, and some Black Bat and Spider books, too.
And I finally did buy a copy of Tony Goodstone’s The Pulps. Some time early in this newfangled new millennium, I saw a used copy on display (in very good shape) at Metropolis Books, one of the best little book shops that ever was. Metropolis was also in North Syracuse, pretty much kitty-corner across the street from where World Of Books used to be. I told Metropolis owner Mike Paduana about seeing The Pulps on the shelf when I was eleven or twelve, and gestured in the direction of the cafe that now occupied the hallowed ground that had once been World Of Books. And I mentioned to Mike how I always wanted that book when I was a kid, but never got around to getting it.
Mike kinda looked at me for a second before saying, “What are you waiting for? You know you’re gonna buy it today.”
Yep. Mike was right. Years later, it’s on my bookshelf next to The Great Comic Book Heroes. Some things just take time.
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Hey, Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made will contain 100 essays (and then some) about 100 tracks, plus two bonus instrumentals, each one of ’em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: https://carlcafarelli.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-greatest-record-ever-made-updated.html
Our new compilation CD This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin’ pop, starring Pop Co-Op, Ray Paul, Circe Link & Christian Nesmith, Vegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie Flowers, The Slapbacks, P. Hux, Irene Peña, Michael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave Merritt, The Rubinoos, Stepford Knives, The Grip Weeds, Popdudes, Ronnie Dark, The Flashcubes, Chris von Sneidern, The Bottle Kids, 1.4.5., The Smithereens, Paul Collins’ Beat, The Hit Squad, The Rulers, The Legal Matters, Maura & the Bright Lights, Lisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here. A digital download version (minus The Smithereens’ track) is also available from Futureman Records.
Gear up with Pop-A-Looza shirts, drinkware & device cases! All proceeds go to pay the artists and writers who provide us with content!
An infinite number of songs can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!
DAVID BOWIE: “Life On Mars?”
I am sorry that I’ve never written to you before. I’m sorry that I never took pen to paper to scribble a fan letter, and I regret that I didn’t write about you at all during the decades I spent writing about pop music. I wrote about Gary Glitter. I wrote about Toni Basil. I wrote about Stars On 45, for cryin’ out loud. How silly does that seem now?
The thing is, I always considered myself just a casual David Bowie fan. I mean no offense when I say that you were never one of my very favorite artists. Because, casual or not, I was still a fan. I heard “Changes” on the radio, and had to own the 45. I delved a bit deeper when I got to college, starting (perhaps incongruously) with a used copy of Pinups, and falling hard shortly thereafter for “Suffragette City” and your magnificent Ziggy Stardust album. I knew a couple of other disaffected teenagers who were big Bowie fans; one was a high school pal who adored the sense of alienation conveyed in the lyrics of “All The Madmen” on The Man Who Sold The World, and the other was a college acquaintance into hard rock, metal, and David Bowie. The high school pal killed himself in 1979; the college acquaintance was a kleptomaniac with a heart of gold, and I betrayed his trust in a manner I still regret, almost 40 years later. Let me collect dust. Memories….
But if I was just a casual Bowie fan, why am I so sad that you’re gone? The news was a true shock, delivered to me in an email from my friend Gretta, under the subject heading “Bowie Departs.” I have even found my eyes stinging, watering–just a little–in memory of this artist, of whom I was just a casual fan.
And I think I’m starting to understand the reasons why.
More than any other artist, performer, or public figure I can think of, you made it okay to be different. You made it okay to be weird, or strange, or left-of-center. You made it okay to be gay, or straight, or neither, or both. You made it okay for anyone to be whomever his or her inner muse wanted to be. Sometimes it was a struggle, and sometimes our efforts would fail, but you made it okay for us to try our own way. Maybe you even made it okay to be a lonely, chubby teenager from the suburbs of Syracuse. Casual fan? I loved your music more than I even knew. I still have my copies of your ‘70s LPs; they have survived every drastic purge of my record collection, over a span of many, many years. Although I stopped buying your albums after 1979’s Lodger–casual fan, that’s me!–I had a chance to see you in concert in 1983, and you were terrific. I’ve been listening to your stuff again all week, including a few things I never really played much before. You influenced so many other artists I love, and you made wonderful, timeless music that will live on and on and on.
I took you for granted. I miss you now.
Many of us believe in forever. In your new digs, I’m sure you’ve already had a chance to re-connect with Mick Ronson, with old friends like John Lennon and Klaus Nomi, maybe Freddie Mercury, Lou Reed, or Andy Warhol, perhaps Bing Crosby…because, why not? I bet you’ve chatted with Salvador Dali and Arthur Rimbaud, and with Einstein, too. I hope you’ll have a chance to meet Buddy Holly, and James Jamerson, and Elvis, maybe play with all of them. You can play with Miles Davis, and Count Basie, and Hank Williams, and Bob Marley, and Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Caruso, and Leonard Bernstein–that would be really, really cool, and each would consider you a peer. Lemmy’s probably got it all set. Heaven must indeed have one hell of a music scene. We wish we could hear it down here.
But now, there’s a Starman waiting in the sky. Our minds have already been blown. And we mere mortals can only gaze upward, and note that the stars look very different today. Planet Earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do.
There is one thing you were wrong about. Unlike the spat-upon children you mention in “Changes,” I was not quite aware of what I was going through. I know better now. And I wanted to write you, just to say thanks. Thank you, David. Thank you for everything.
I didn’t see it coming.
David Bowie’s death in January of 2016 had far more impact on me than I would have ever thought likely. There were external factors in play; my daughter had just begun a semester in London, and it would be, by far, the longest time I would ever go without seeing her. I felt fragile, mortal. I felt sad, my pride in her accomplishments and delight in her opportunities not quite sufficient to ease the ache inside. Bowie died. I wasn’t even all that much of a fan. Yet his passing hit me harder than any celebrity death since losing Joey Ramone on Easter Sunday in 2001.
I needed to release the feeling. Somehow. I wrote this open letter to David Bowie, intending to use it as commentary for the posted playlist of our This Is Rock’n’ Roll Radio tribute to Bowie, which played on January 17th of ’16. My 56th birthday. Look at that caveman go.
It wasn’t enough. I couldn’t email the playlist out and just let it go. I needed more. I started my blog on January 18th, with this letter to Bowie as my inaugural post. It had been ten years since I gave up freelancing; it hadn’t been fun anymore. I promised myself I would post something, however slight, every single day. Every. Goddamned. Day. No excuses. I had largely stopped writing. I needed to get back to writing. Immediately.
Although I had always liked the track “Life On Mars?,” particularly when I saw Bowie perform it in concert, it had never been one of my top Bowie tracks. “Rebel Rebel,” “Panic In Detroit,” and “Suffragette City” had been my go-to Bowie tunes. That changed in 2016, as I found myself listening to “Life On Mars?” obsessively, clinging to its…what? Its artiness? Its desperation? The smoke and mirror of its implied depth, the verve of its execution, the simple beauty of its being? Yes. And Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman, tickling the ivories so expressively on that recording. Sailors fighting in the dancehall, a lawman beating up the wrong guy. The song felt like a connection to what was lost, to what could still be recovered, to what could always be remembered.
The drumbeat of mortality seemed just incessant in 2016. Prince’s death in June felt like the last straw, but it wasn’t. Trump’s election was a vicious blow. On election night, Meghan texted me from college, looking in vain for reassurance as we both watched the electoral results with growing dread and horror. Jesus, 2016 wasn’t even two weeks old when Bowie died. We should have taken that as a sign to return the damned year to sender, postage due.
We survived. Not intact, not good as new, but…survived. As I mourned David Bowie here, my daughter was in England mourning actor Alan Rickman, so beloved by her for his role as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies. We commiserated with each other’s loss. She wrote Rickman a touching thank-you note, which she placed at Charing Cross Station in his memory. I wrote a letter to David Bowie, and I started a blog. I cried. I wrote. I wrote more in 2016 than in any single year before that.
And I played a song called “Life On Mars?” Is there life on Mars? Is there life anywhere? The ache we feel is part of it. Talking about it helps. Writing about it helps. It’s about to be writ again. It’s a God-awful small affair. That’s life.
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This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.
The many fine This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin’ pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:
Volume 1: download
Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio: CD or download
Hey, Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain 100 essays (and then some) about 100 tracks, plus two bonus instrumentals, each one of ’em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1).
Born on this day in 1930, in New Ulm, Minnesota, activist, model and actress, Tippi Hedron. Hedron appeared in several successful films, including; Marnie, The Birds, Pacific Heights, and I Heart Huckabees. She’s also been a stalwart advocate for animal rights.
So many countries are represented in our readership, and we’re proud to welcome ALL of them!
Action Now: 20/20 Re-Envisioned
(Futureman Records/Big Stir Records 2020)
No matter how commercially successful or how wildly obscure, there seems to be a tribute album for just about every group or artist imaginable. Nesting somewhere between the two extremes is 20/20, a band that reaped regional attention and acclaim amid the thriving Los Angeles power pop scene of the late seventies and early eighties.
Throughout the years, numerous groups have cited the band as an inspirational presence. Therefore, Action Now: 20/20 Re-Envisioned holds forth as a long overdue love letter to the group. Aside from the great music marinated within the grooves, all proceeds from the disc will go to MusiCares, which is 20/20’s chosen charity.
From Plasticsoul’s take of the energetic bristle of “Nuclear Boy” to Pop Co-Op’s cover of “Yellow Pills,” which sounds like David Bowie performing the cult classic at a somewhat slower stride than the initial version, Action Now: 20/20 Re-Envisioned is crowded with tasty treats. Despite the grim theme, The Armoires slap a bright and jingly spin on “The Night I Heard A Scream,” and Popdudes deliver “She’s An Obsession” in a pure and punchy pop rock manner bubbling with radio-rich qualities.
The fist-pumping title track of the collection is brought to you by Librarians With Hickeys, while The Brothers Steve’s remake of “Beat City” projects an appropriately catchy beat. Irene Pena’s interpretation of “Tonight We Fly” swings and soars with melodic excitement, and Chris Church’s copy of “Remember The Lightning” crackles and crunches with solid brass guitar riffs and robust hooks.
The Toms pour a splash of new wave quikiness onto their reprise of “Out Of This Time,” where Ransom and The Subset’s reading of “Fast Car” races with driving rhythms and high-octane harmonies, and The Hangabouts season the utterly infectious “A Girl Like You” with a sweetly-scented fragrance.
Sterling selections from Coke Belda, The Slapjacks and Joe and Tracy Sullivan are additionally included on Action Now: 20/20 Re-Envisioned. After sinking your ears into these credible homages, you will not only be spurred into revisiting 20/20’s deftly-crafted catalog of righteously rocking pop tunes, but you will also want to give a listen to the original recordings of the musicians who contributed their time and talent to this mighty fine effort.