July 28, 2009

"Summer Wind"

Frank and Ava Gardner in 1951

"Summer Wind" was written in 1965 by Henry Mayer and Johnny Mercer. The version Frank Sinatra recorded was a stand out track on the album that found the aging crooner returning to the top (#1) of the pop charts, Strangers in the Night (1966). An electric organ figures prominently in the overall mix, the instrument's inclusion (along with electric bass guitar) being one of the concessions Sinatra made in order to be more relevant and contemporary. Described as having a "majestic sadness," it's one of those songs that seems to be biographical when done by Sinatra:

July 24, 2009

Ball Record Shop

ball record shop sign
ball record shop
I don't know if this record store in Crockett, Texas, survived the onslaught of the compact disc or not, but it has clearly been closed for a while. The Texas Historical Commission Atlas entry for it is from the '80s, and the building was constructed in 1900.

July 23, 2009

"Girl from the North Country"

Echo Helstrom, Bob Dylan's high school girlfriend. (Photo by Toby Thompson, source)

From the Wikipedia entry:

"Girl from the North Country" (also known as "Girl of the North Country") is a song written by Bob Dylan. It was first released in 1963 as the second track on Dylan's second studio album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. Dylan re-recorded the song as a duet with Johnny Cash in 1969. That recording became the first track on Nashville Skyline, Dylan's ninth studio album.

Dylan's 1959 Echo Harmonica, played during his high school days, this model chosen because it shared a name with his then girlfriend (source)

The song was written following his first trip to England in December, 1962, upon what he thought to be the completion of his second album. The song is a tribute to a former girlfriend, Echo Helstrom who Dylan knew before leaving for New York.

While in London, Dylan met several figures in the local folk scene, including English folksinger Martin Carthy. "I ran into some people in England who really knew those [traditional English] songs," Dylan recalled in 1984. "Martin Carthy, another guy named [Bob] Davenport. Martin Carthy's incredible. I learned a lot of stuff from Martin." Carthy exposed Dylan to a repertoire of traditional English ballads, including Carthy's own arrangement of "Scarborough Fair," which Dylan drew upon for aspects of the melody and lyrics of "Girl from the North Country," including the line from the refrain "Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine."

A February 1964 live Canadian TV performance:

Pete Townshend did an adaption of "Girl from the North Country" on his 1982 album, All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, an album with which I am somewhat familiar.

July 21, 2009

Garner's a goner

garner apartments
Oh, I'd had my fingers crossed on this one. Stuff like this just breaks my heart. Excerpts from The Daily Sentinel ("SFA's Garner Apartments' days are numbered," by Trent Jacobs), dated July 20, 2009:

It's official — the 14-story Garner Apartments at SFA will be demolished sometime in the next 12 months to make room for a new freshman residence hall and parking garage.

The Garner tower has been the tallest building in Nacogdoches since it was built in 1969. But late next month, when students enrolled in the fall semester move in, they will be the last to do so. The building will close for good in December when the semester ends.

With the demise of the Garner Apartments, which have become an iconic image of SFA's skyline, a long time tradition will also be lost: the lighting of the tower's roof to purple after an athletic victory.

purple-topped garner apts. from intramural fields
That last was the idea of Dr. Ralph W. Steen, the University's third president, from 1958-1976. We're talking about some fairly large roots being pulled up here, a lot of tradition being discarded. So much has changed about the SFA campus since I was a student there, from '88 to '91. I increasingly feel less and less like it is "my" campus, and I don't like it! I suppose the freshmen who move in to the new dorms around 2010 or 2011 won't have any idea what Garner was....I guess that now, the other structures which were built around the same time as Garner (Steen Hall and East College Cafeteria) are probably also doomed. I understand the need to modernize, but it's hard to watch these landmarks come down. So it goes.

east college cafeteria
Garner, as seen behind the East College Cafeteria

July 19, 2009

To the Moon

It's still not too late for you to check out the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum's interactive website, Wechoosethemoon.org. It is an interactive experience recreating the historic Apollo 11 mission to the Moon in real time. I wish there were more website "experiences" like it.

You really do get a sense of what it was like for the guys on the ground at CAPCOM and for the astronauts aboard Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins. Very soon, they will be Tweeting from the Eagle, but not yet. They aren't yet aboard Her! I just heard CAPCOM do their wakeup call (in "real" time). Too cool!

Kennedy addressing a joint session of the Congress on May 25, 1961

And let's not forget the reason for all of this. Here is the entire speech John F. Kennedy gave at Rice University on September 12, 1962, in which he lays out what must have seemed like an unimaginable boast. Even hearing it today, it seems impossible! Go to around 15 minutes in:

But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, reentering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun--almost as hot as it is here today--and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out, then we must be bold.

It gives you chills.

July 17, 2009

Erupting Krakatoa

Sometimes in photography, it's not so much who is holding the camera or even the quality of the camera that counts - it's being in the right place at the right time. Such is the case with a recent picture at Astronomy Picture of the Day in which, assuming the camera operator (the "photographer") has the minimal abilities to point the camera in the right direction and use autofocus, it would be hard to get a bad picture. And my point is not to minimize the technical and aesthetic skills of the actual photographer of this shot of Krakatoa, but rather to recognize the beauty and complete awesomeness of it.

This is the APOD explanation:

A volcano on Krakatoa is still erupting. Perhaps most famous for the powerfully explosive eruption in 1883 that killed tens of thousands of people, ash from a violent eruption might also have temporarily altered Earth's climate as long as 1500 years ago. In 1927, eruptions caused smaller Anak Krakatau to rise from the sea, and the emerging volcanic island continues to grow at an average rate of 2 cm per day. The latest eruption of Anak Krakatau started in 2008 April and continues today.

In this picture, Anak Krakatau is seen erupting from Rakata, the main island of the Krakatoai group. High above, stars including the the Big Dipper are clearly apparent.

There are more such photographs at Stromboli online.

July 16, 2009

Mattel's Football

I'm really enjoying a Gawker offshoot, Gizmodo '79, and I hope they keep it up beyond this "week-long celebration of gadgets and geekdom 30 years ago, as the analog age gave way to the digital, and most of our favorite toys were just being born." They just did a post about Mattel's Football, one of the "popular standalone handheld games of the late '70s." I spent sooo much time playing this game. It's amazing how mesmerizing those tiny red dots of light could be on that little screen. Those games are probably responsible for many people my age being able to pick up on current, similar technology with relative ease and irritation. But what a "trip" it is to think about these again!

July 15, 2009

Gulf Coast Deco VII

gulf building
gulf building
The Gulf Building, c. 1929
architect: Alfred C. Finn
City of Houston Historic Landmark
National Register of Historic Places

wilson stationary & printing co.
Wilson Stationary & Printing Co. Building, c. 1932
architect: William Ward Watkin

byrd's department store
Byrd's Department Store, c. 1934
architect: Joseph Finger
City of Houston Historic Landmark
National Register of Historic Places

mirabeau b. lamar senior high school
mirabeau b. lamar senior high school entrance
mirabeau b. lamar senior high school auditorium
mirabeau b. lamar senior high school auditorium frieze
Mirabeau B. Lamar Senior High School, c. 1937

parker bros. & co. building
Parker Bros. & Co. Building, c. 1939
architect: Joseph Finger

city hall
city hall
city hall
city hall
City Hall, c. 1939
architect: Joseph Finger
City of Houston Protected Landmark
National Register of Historic Places

ford motor co. building
Ford Motor Co. Building, c. 1947

lamar-river oaks community center
lamar-river oaks community center
lamar-river oaks community center
Lamar-River Oaks Community Center, c. 1948

Apartments, c. 1950

  • Gulf Coast Deco
  • Gulf Coast Deco II
  • Gulf Coast Deco III
  • Gulf Coast Deco IV
  • Gulf Coast Deco V
  • Gulf Coast Deco VI
  • Gulf Coast Deco VIII
  • Gulf Coast Deco IX
  • Gulf Coast Deco X
  • July 14, 2009

    The Apple Boutique

    Info from:

    The Apple Boutique started life in the 19th century as a four-story house. Over the years it evolved into an office and shops in the busy part of London at the corner of Baker Street and Paddington Street. During the 60's three Dutch designers had an initially successful fashion boutique called the Trend in Amsterdam. It was closed due to financial problems.

    Apple Boutique designs. From left: Pattie (Boyd) Harrison, Cynthia Lennon (John's wife), and Maureen Starr (Ringo's wife); kneeling in front: Jennie Boyd (George's sister-in-law). I guess Jane Asher was busy? - pic source

    The designers later met Simon Hayes and Barry Finch. Hayes became the business manager while Finch joined the three Dutch designers who became known as the "The Fool." Pattie Harrison was familiar with them and even wore some of their designs. How it all started is not clear, but in September 1967, The Beatles gave "the Fool" 100,000 pounds to design and stock the new Apple Boutique.

    Pattie Harrison and pals model Apple Boutique goods (pic source)

    "The Fool" engaged several dozen art students to paint a huge psychedelic mural across the entire front and side of the store. Instant complaints from local merchants soon had them erasing the mural. "The Fool" also created the psychedelic designs for John's Rolls-Royce and a fireplace for George.

    Tuning in, turning on, and checking out at the register

    Pete Shotton managed the store with Pattie Harrison's sister Jennie. Invitations to the grand opening, on 5 December 1967, read "Come at 7.46. Fashion Show at 8.16." John and George were the only Beatles that attended. The only drink available that night was apple juice. The Apple Boutique turned out to be a financial disaster and was closed just 8 months later. On Tuesday morning, 30 July 1968, the staff was told they could give everything away. Paul's "beautiful place" was no more.

    A relatively obscure 1968 film called Hot Millions (yes, that is Bob Newhart) has a scene set in the Apple Boutique, providing a sense of what an average day might have been like:

    July 11, 2009

    "The Paris Match"

    Do you remember The Jam? They sort of took Pete Townshend's "Mod" aesthetic to a whole new level. Being an American, I didn't hear too much of their music, but I thought they looked really cool and wore awesome clothes. And isn't that what rock and roll is largely about?? Anyway, that group's Pete Townshend, Paul Weller, formed a group after The Jam dissolved, called The Style Council. If you came of age in the '80s, perhaps you recall "You're the Best Thing" or "My Ever Changing Moods." These songs were off of The Style Council's second album, titled Café Bleu. To capitalize on the relative success of "My Ever Changing Moods," the album was renamed for it in the U.S.

    Being prone to melancholy as a teenager, I sort of intrinsically connected with the overall vibe of the music. I went to London and Paris with a bud as part of a high school graduation present during the summer of 1985 (we were in London during Live Aid). While in London, I bought a cassette tape copy of Café Bleu and listened to it over and over again, especially as we rode the Eurail to Paris. "The Paris Match" is one of those tunes from the album that really spoke to my bleu blue streak. Here it is, with Tracey Thorn doing vocals:

    July 7, 2009

    Nacogdoches, 1858

    Main Street Nacogdoches, 1858
    Whilst pursuing the ghost of you know who, I came across this postcard at the East Texas Research Center. It's Main Street (or El Camino Real or Old Spanish Trail), circa 1858. The two story structure in the background, just right of center, is known as the Old Stone Fort. It was constructed in 1779 and was originally used as a home for the founder of Nacogdoches, Antonio Gil Y'Barbo. Here is the same view, just slightly east (a couple of blocks back) of the vantage point in the postcard photo:

    looking west down main street

    Jermaine steps up

    As of this posting, Jermaine Jackson is said to be performing at the very end of the Staple Center memorial to Michael. He is reported to be singing "Smile," so it should be for many people an extremely emotional ending to top what will no doubt be a profoundly moving event. Here are just a few songs Jermaine would probably rather be associated with (for obvious reasons), or perhaps not. None of these has aged particularly well, and it's clear in a couple he was "borrowing" heavily from little brother. Nevertheless, in the spirit of the whole, sad circus the memorial will be, I pay homage. One thing is for certain -- I, as a suburban white kid in the 1980s, would have never seen any of these videos on MTV had it not been for Michael, so thank you(?):

    "Let's Get Serious" (1979, with Little Stevie Wonder)

    "Let Me Tickle Your Fancy" (1982, with DEVO??)

    "Tell Me I'm Not Dreaming" (1984)

    "Sweetest Sweetest" (1984)

    "Dynamite" (1984)

    "Do What You Do" (1984)

    July 6, 2009

    "Baby's in Black"

    Information from the Wikipedia entry:

    "Baby's in Black" is a song by The Beatles, co-written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and released in the United Kingdom on Beatles for Sale and in the United States on Beatles '65.

    The lyrics may be about Astrid Kirchherr, a friend and photographer the Beatles met during their first trip to Hamburg. She was Stuart Sutcliffe's fiancée, and was distraught over his death.

    The Beatles recorded "Baby's in Black" on 11 August 1964, the first song recorded for Beatles for Sale.

    Lennon and McCartney sang their vocal parts simultaneously through the same microphone. This was done at their own insistence in order to achieve a closer feel to the performance. McCartney was subsequently contacted by their music publisher in 1964 inquiring as to which melody line was the main tune (i.e. Paul's higher or John's lower melody). McCartney later said that he told the publisher they were both the main melody.

    The Beatles performed "Baby's in Black" live during their appearances from late 1964 until their last tour in 1966, and usually as the third song in their set after "Rock and Roll Music" and "Long Tall Sally." McCartney said they introduced the song by saying, "'And now for something different.' ... We used to put that in there, and think, 'Well, they won't know quite what to make of this, but it's cool.'"

    In 1996, a live version of "Baby's in Black" was released as a B-side to the second (and last) Beatles "reunion" single, "Real Love."

    "Baby's In Black" was also performed at The Beatles' 1965 concert at Shea Stadium.

    Here is that August 15, 1965, Shea Stadium performance. I love how John is temporarily distracted while introducing the song by a young fan who has managed to reach the field and break through a line of police guards. One does have to wonder though how this would have sounded through those stadium speakers: