Carlos on the Witness Stand

There are still quite a lot of posts that need moved out of my drafts folder already. This was originally scheduled for 31 March 2012, intended for the long-discontinued Sweet Saturday Samples bloghop, and set aside indefinitely. It differs slightly from the published version.

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This week, I’m featuring an excerpt from Chapter 36 of Adicia’s story, “Carlos Goes to Prison.” Carlos, Adicia’s oldest brother and the next-oldest Troy sibling, was paralyzed in an accident at work in early July of 1962, and while he was in the hospital, a number of charges were brought against him for his drug-related activities, stealing at work, and (accidentally) starting the fire that destroyed the Troys’ original tenement. Five years later, he’s finally mentally and physically fit enough to stand trial. Now he gets a chance to take the stand, and unwittingly incriminates himself for basically everything. The rating is PG-13.

***

“Will you raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help you God?”

“Yup,” Carlos says.

It is the second week in September, and the prosecution has decided to put Carlos on the stand.  The defense declined to use him as a witness, citing his alleged diminished mental capacity and the fact that he’s already been through enough trauma, but the prosecution lawyer thinks he’s either crazy like a fox or so genuinely stupid he’ll be putty in their hands.

“Will you please state your name?”

“Carlos Ghislain Troy.”

“Now, Mr. Troy, at the time of your accident, July 3, 1962, Wednesday, you were working at Mighty Mike’s Mechanics on the Lower East Side, correct?”

“It was the second job I had in my life,” he says proudly. “I was a car repairman and mechanic.”

“And what did this job entail?”

“I fixed people’s cars and performed basic maintenance services.”

“Did you ever take anything out of the cars you were entrusted with?”

“All the time.  That’s onea the reasons I wanted the job after I was fired from my first job.  I knew some rich folks would be taking their cars in, and I’d help myself to their belongings.  They either wouldn’t miss ‘em or would just buy new stuff.  Hell, my own mother right there told me she hoped I’d be stealing from the cars the same way I useta help myself to cereal when I worked in a cereal factory.”

Mrs. Troy hangs her head in her hands.

“So you are basically admitting to stealing from your customers and pleading guilty to the thirty counts of petty theft you are facing?”

“All poor folks steal.  We deserve nice stuff, and rich folks deserve to be put in their place.  Besides, I was told they found mosta the stuff in my work locker.  That problem is solved and the charges should be waived.”

“That’s not up to you, Mr. Troy.  That’s up to the judge and jury.  Now here’s another question for you.  Can you remember when you started using or selling drugs?”

“I was fourteen, maybe?” he guesses. “I think I waited till I started high school to start joining my parents in the wonderful world of drugs.  We useta have a whole drug lab in our old tenement, before it was destroyed by fire.”

Now Mr. Troy hangs his head in his hands.

“Did you start selling them at the same time you began using them?”

“I want to say yes.  I sold and used all kinds of drugs you can imagine, though my favorite to use was meth.  Speaking of, I’m dying for some meth right now.  Can anyone oblige me?”

Mrs. Troy wishes she could run out of the courtroom right about now.

“Mr. Troy, are you aware you are incriminating yourself by your testimony?  You do have Fifth Amendment rights to refuse to answer any of these questions.”

“You asked if I’d tell the whole truth, and I agreed.  I ain’t got nothing to hide.  I’m proud of my roots and what I’ve done.”

“Fine.  Now that we’ve quickly established you did steal from your customers at the car shop and that you’re a drug user and pusher, let’s move onto the most serious charges you’re facing.  Do you remember what you were doing on the late afternoon of June 27, 1962, Wednesday?”

“Using meth, probably.  Is that supposed to be the day our old tenement burned down?”

“Yes it is.  Does that jog your memory now that you know what exactly I’m asking about?”

“That was the day I got my job at Mighty Mike’s Mechanics.  On my way home, I siphoned off some gas from a fancy car for my buddy Nick and his wife Louise, onea the few families I knew with their own automobile.  Nick and his wife lived on the fourth floor of our old tenement.  Nick told me their electricity had gotten shut off ‘cause they hadn’t paid their utility bill, and asked if I’d please go into the basement to try to fix it by fiddling with the fuse box.  I gladly obliged.  I saw the cheapskate landlord had taken out the penny I’d put into the socket last time I’d been working with the fuse, so I stuck another one in.  It was really dark down there, so I lit a match to see.  After I was done fiddling with the fuse, I threw the match on the ground.  It musta come in contact with somea the gasoline I’d accidentally spilled when I was setting the gasoline canister down on the ground.  So as you can see, this fire was a total accident.  I did not maliciously set a fire or intend to kill nobody.”

“Sir, are you aware of what putting a penny into a socket or fuse breaker can do?”

“I guess it could cause a fire hazard, but that ain’t no reason to never do it.  Tons of people get in cars every day, and they ain’t avoiding ‘em for fear of dying in accidents.”

“And are you aware of how flammable gasoline is, and even more so when it comes into direct contact with a flame such as a match?”

Carlos waves his hand dismissively. “Those were complete accidents.  It was actually pretty funny when we looked out our door and saw a fire at the bottom of the steps.  It was onea them ‘Did little old me do that?’ moments.”

“You find it funny that you caused a massive gasoline and electrical fire that completely consumed a ten-floor tenement building where roughly two hundred people lived, claimed twenty lives, and left everyone homeless?”

“Of course that part wasn’t funny!  It’s like how you laugh when someone falls on a banana peel.  You know it ain’t funny for him, but it’s funny to watch since it ain’t you, and ‘cause people getting hurt are funny.”

Mr. and Mrs. Troy’s mouths are hanging open in shock by now.  They’ll have no reputation left if any of their friends, family, or neighbors read about this in the papers or hear about it through the grapevine.

“Sir, are you aware of how quickly a gasoline fire spreads, and that when combined with a concurrent electrical fire, the end results will be disastrous?”

“You act like I did this on purpose!  I hated losing everything I owned and being made homeless, though at least we was able to move right into my older sister and her ex-husband’s apartment in Two Bridges, since she’d just divorced him and he’d moved back in with his parents.”

“Did you make any efforts to report this to the police, or let the firemen know how it had started?”

“Now why in the hell would I incriminate myself like that?  Accidents happen.  That don’t mean all harmless accidents need to be treated like criminal matters.”

“Now I’m going to read you a list of names, and you can tell me if you recognize any of them or know how these names relate to one another.  Angela Barbieri, Maria Delmonico, Edward Gallagher, Hannah Gallagher, Stanley Houlihan, Jane Johnson, Lisa Jones, Nathan Jones, Timothy Jones, Adela Levine, Charles Levine, Peter MacIntosh, Georgia McIntyre, Philip McNulty, Alexander Nankin, Vera O’Loughlin, Richard Rogers, Randolph Spirnak, Jerry Teitelbaum, and Sharon Zoltanovsky.”

“My mother was friends with a Mrs. Nankin on onea the lower floors, but I don’t remember if I personally knew that family. The only name on that list that rings a bell is Spirnak, who moved in across the hall from us that May. He had a daughter Julie who’d just turned eight. Spirnak sold drugs as his full-time job. My parents and I became somea his best clients. There was no Mrs. Spirnak, since they’d divorced a couple of years prior. That bitch tried to tell the cops and lawyers he was doing degenerate things to their daughter, but we all know how girls and women make stuff up when they’re desperate for attention or trying to get people to take their side. The girl, Julie, disappeared not that long after they moved in, and I have no idea where she went to. Why, are these people the ones who are charging me for accidentally burning down the building?”

“No, they can’t do anything now, because they are all dead.  Most of them were found dead when the firemen arrived too late to save the building or anyone inside, and Mrs. O’Loughlin, Mr. MacIntosh, and Miss Lisa Jones, who was only nine years old, died shortly thereafter in the hospital of their injuries.  Do you feel any remorse, now that you’ve learnt the names attached to the people who died in the fire you started?”

“Why should I feel bad for something that I didn’t do on purpose?  I ain’t some pansy like my brother Allen, who was pathetic enough to quit all drugs, alcohol, and even cigarettes, and who don’t mind being surrounded by more girls than guys.”

The prosecuting attorney smirks and turns to the defense. “Mr. Hoffman, would you like to cross-examine this hapless witness?”

Carlos’s lawyer feels like throwing his hands up. “No, that’s fine.  I don’t think my client will be able to get out of the hole he’s just dug for himself no matter what I ask him.”

Mrs. Troy looks like she wants to murder Carlos as he wheels himself off of the witness stand.  Mr. Troy has to suppress the urge to reach out and smack his firstborn son upside the head.  Just about the only thing a poor family can claim to be proud of is its name, and now they probably don’t even have any name left after Carlos has cavalierly admitted in court to using and selling drugs, stealing at work, and starting a fire.

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Happy 50th birthday to The White Album!

The Beatles released their one and only double album on 22 November 1968. Though it’s eponymous, just about everyone has always called it The White Album, due to its plain white cover. Its working title, A Doll’s House, had to be changed when prog-rock band Family released Music in a Doll’s House in July.

This album is known for its solo showcase of each Beatle. Many of the songs weren’t recorded with all four in the studio at the same time, and the distinctive voice and style of each bandmember emerges loud and clear on his respective songs.

Many people know a lot of the songs were written and/or inspired by The Beatles’ sojourn in India. None were released as singles.

The album was recorded from 30 May–14 October 1968, and the sessions were fraught with acrimony. Ringo briefly quit the band in August, feeling like he no longer belonged; producer George Martin took an unexpected leave of absence; engineer Geoff Emerick quit; and John’s new love Yoko famously moved her bed into the studio.

Album one:

“Back in the USSR” (Paul)
“Dear Prudence” (John)
“Glass Onion” (John)
“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” (Paul) (an immediate skip button, and a song the other three Beatles HATED)
“Wild Honey Pie” (Paul)
“The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” (John)
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (George)
“Happiness Is a Warm Gun” (John)
“Martha My Dear” (Paul) (written about his Old English Sheepdog)
“I’m So Tired” (John)
“Blackbird” (Paul)
“Piggies” (George)
“Rocky Raccoon” (Paul)
“Don’t Pass Me By” (Ringo)
“Why Don’t We Do It on the Road?” (Paul)
“I Will” (Paul)
“Julia” (John)

Album two:

“Birthday” (Paul and John)
“Yer Blues” (John)
“Mother Nature’s Son” (Paul)
“Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” (John)
“Sexy Sadie” (John)
“Helter Skelter” (Paul) (an obvious outlier he likes to point to as “proof” he was really the hip, hard-edge, avant-garde Beatle)
“Long, Long, Long” (George)
“Revolution No. 1” (John) (never liked the slow tempo)
“Honey Pie” (Paul)
“Savoy Truffle” (George)
“Cry Baby Cry” (John)
“Revolution No. 9” (John) (a sound collage which is famously among fans’ most-hated songs, but which I’ve always adored and often listened to on repeat)
“Good Night” (Ringo) (almost the last song I heard in this lifetime)

There’s also an unlisted song snippet between “Cry Baby Cry” and “Revolution No. 9,” “Can You Take Me Back,” by Paul.

The majority of critics loved it, though a few were less than enthusiastic. It débuted at #1 in the U.K., and spent a total of eight weeks there (seven consecutively). In the U.S., it débuted at #11, shot to #2 the next week, and climbed to #1 in the third week, where it stayed for nine weeks.

The album was also #1 in Australia, Canada, France, Norway, Sweden, Spain, and West Germany.

I’ve always adored this album. My favourite tracks include “Revolution No. 9,” “Glass Onion,” “Dear Prudence,” “Julia,” “Long, Long, Long,” “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey,” and “Savoy Truffle.”

Celebrating The Ox on his 16th Jahrzeit

This year, in honor of the 16th Jahrzeit (death anniversary) of The Who’s bassist, John Alec Entwistle, I’m featuring my favorite songs he sang lead on. He was such a dear, special treasure, and often underappreciated. My estrogen Who lists were very active in the early Aughts, and it was rather uncommon for us to get a John girl. Most of us held one of the other three as our fave raves.

My all-time favorite John song! The lyrics are particularly poignant after his premature passing. Yet again, he proved how very deep still waters run.

This is John’s solo lead vocal on Who Are You, though he wrote three of its songs. It’s quite unusual how Roger sings two John songs. Like “When I Was a Boy,” “905” too has extra poignancy since his untimely passing. I also see parallels with Brave New World and We.

One of John’s two songs from A Quick One. It’s so cute how he sings his Rs as Ls and Ws (noticeable in the words “friend” and “drink”) in the hopes that they’ll run together and come out properly. He had a hard time singing his Rs at this early stage.

One of John’s songs from The Who Sell Out. Like so many of his other songs, it’s so full of his trademark dark, quirky, deadpan humor. His sense of humor is one of my favorite things about him.

John’s song on The Who by Numbers (which I’ll be writing a proper review of soon). It’s also full of his trademark quirky, dark humor, and fits so well with the overall mood of the album. While it’s not as dark and depressing as the rest of the songs except the insipid “Squeeze Box,” it still has that same sort of edge and mood. It also brings some levity to the mix, in its own quirky way. I also love the deep Boris voice he uses on the “fairy manager” line.

Originally the lead-off track on Odds and Sods, but moved closer to the end on the CD remastering. The songs (original tracks as well as bonus songs) are arranged in chronological order on the reissue. Yet again, it’s bursting with his trademark style of humor.

Doesn’t everyone love this song? It’s one of John’s classic Who songs, and the reason I named my stuffed spider keychain Boris. The name is truly pronounced Bah-REECE, not BOR-iss, but I can’t help but use the Anglo pronunciation for my spider when that’s the one used in his namesake song.

I’ve got the VHS of their incredible 1970 Isle of Wight show, and watched it so many times in my early twenties. Sadly, I haven’t been able to play it in years, due to not having a VCR at the moment. The Who often opened with “Heaven and Hell.” The lyrics have extra poignancy since John’s passing. The studio version on the remastered Odds and Sods majorly pales in comparison to the live classic. The Who were known as a live band, not a studio one. Even their greatest studio songs gained an extra level of fire onstage.

John’s song on Who’s Next. It’s one of his most belovèd and quintessential, and of course full of his trademark style of humor. So many of his songs are bursting with it.

John’s solo lead vocal on the rather unfairly denigrated Face Dances, though he also wrote “You.” This is one of his signature songs, and perfectly sums up so much about who he was. There are so many parallels between him and George Harrison, starting with the obvious fact that each was labeled The Quiet One of his respective band. Speaking from personal experience, once you’ve been saddled with that label, it’s damn-near impossible to throw it off, and people often don’t take you seriously. We have to prove how very deep still waters can run.

May your beautiful light shine forever, dear sweet Junnykins. The world is a better place because you were in it for 57 years. It was an honor to share Planet Earth with you for 22 and a half of those years.

Happy 50th birthday, Bookends!

Released 3 April 1968, only 24 hours before the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bookends was Simon and Garfunkel’s fourth studio album. I won a vinyl copy for myself on e-Bay as a university graduation present in 2002, after continually failing to find it at any of the record shops in Amherst and Northampton. It was well worth the wait.

The album was #1 in the U.S. and U.K., #3 in Australia and France, and #40 in the two Germanies. Both then and now, the album has generally gotten very good reviews.

Below is the track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks:

“Bookends Theme” (instrumental)
“Save the Life of My Child”
“America”
“Overs”
“Voices of Old People” (sound collage)
“Old Friends”
“Bookends Theme” (with lyrics)
“Fakin’ It” (released as a single, but only had moderate AM radio success)
“Punky’s Dilemma”
“Mrs. Robinson” (one of the most overplayed songs on oldies radio!) (#1 in the U.S. and Canada; #4 in the U.K.; #5 in The Netherlands; #6 in Switzerland; #8 in Australia, Belgium, and Norway; #9 in New Zealand; #39 in the two Germanies)
“A Hazy Shade of Winter” (#13 in the U.S.; #14 in New Zealand; #30 in the U.K.)
“At the Zoo” (#18 in the U.S.)
“You Don’t Know Where Your Interest Lies” (B-side of “Fakin’ It”)*
“Old Friends” (Demo version)*

Side One, which ends with the lyrical “Bookends Theme,” is generally considered to be much stronger than Side Two. The songs are deeper, more mature and complex, really setting the mood of a concept album with a stark, moody, black and white theme. It feels like a journey through life.

Side Two starts with two strong album songs (though some people feel they’re weaker than the ones on Side One), and closes with three singles. By 1968, artists had generally moved away from padding albums out with singles.

I also feel the album would’ve had a stronger closing, with a true sense that this is The End, had the final two tracks been switched. “At the Zoo” is fun and whimsical, but it’s not the kind of track I expect such a good album to close with. It’s just kind of there. “A Hazy Shade of Winter” feels more final.

Bookends was so successful, its volume of advance orders enabled Columbia Records to apply for award certification before the LPs had left the warehouse. Its success was due in part to the release, 10 weeks earlier, of The Graduate soundtrack, and because it came in the immediate wake of MLK’s assassination.

Columbia chairman Clive Davis wanted to raise the price to $5.79 ($41 in 2017), a dollar above normal retail, but Paul Simon dug in his heels and refused. Instead, the duo signed a contract extension with a higher royalty rate.

Though my favorite S&G album is Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme (which was almost the third-last album I heard in this lifetime), I think Bookends ties with Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. as my next-fave. My favorite tracks are “A Hazy Shade of Winter,” “Old Friends,” “America,” “Fakin’ It,” and “Bookends Theme.” It’s a beautiful musical portrait of 1968, an album I highly recommend.

Happy 50th birthday, BB&M!

Image used solely to illustrate the subject for the purpose of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine

Released 22 April 1968, The Birds, the Bees, & The Monkees was The Monkees’ fifth studio album, and their first to not reach #1. It reached #3 in the U.S., #5 in Australia, #6 in Canada, #8 in Finland, #28 in the two Germanies, and #44 in Japan. The album failed to chart at all in the U.K.

This album came at a very difficult crossroads in the band’s career. Their awesome TV show had been cancelled (the last episode aired 25 March 1968); their trippy movie Head was a box office flop; and the bulk of their fanbase were starting to move on to other music.

Track listing of the most widely-available remastering, with stars by bonus tracks:

“Dream World” (written by Davy and Steve Pitts)
“Auntie’s Municipal Court” (Nez and Keith Allison; an unusual example of Micky singing lead on a Nez song)
“We Were Made for Each Other” (Carole Bayer and George Fischoff)
“Tapioca Tundra” (Nez) (#34 in the U.S.)
“Daydream Believer” (John Stewart) (#1 in the U.S.; #5 in the U.K.)
“Writing Wrongs” (Nez)
“I’ll Be Back Up on My Feet” (Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell)
“The Poster” (Davy and Steve Pitts)
“P.O. Box 9847” (Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart)
“Magnolia Simms” (Nez)
“Valleri” (Boyce and Hart) (#3 in the U.S.; #12 in the U.K.)
“Zor and Zam” (Bill and John Chadwick)
“Alvin” (Nicholas Thorkelson)*
“I’m Gonna Try” (Davy and Steve Pitts)*
“P.O. Box 9847” (Early Mix)*
“The Girl I Left Behind Me” (Neil Sedaka and Carole Bayer)*
“Lady’s Baby” (Peter)*

I have a 1996 vinyl reissue with two bonus tracks, “I’m Gonna Try” and an alternate mix of “P.O. Box 9847.” It was sealed, but I had to open it. I normally don’t buy sealed editions, but that was the one and only copy in stock at either branch of Last Vestige Records. This was also 2003, so it wasn’t that old. I never would’ve opened a sealed LP of very old vintage. The plastic wrap is still loose around it.

In 2010, Rhino released a deluxe 3-CD edition, available only online from their website. As far as I can determine, it’s no longer for sale through Rhino, though one can find it through third-party sellers on sites like Amazon and e-Bay (for quite a steep price). This boxed set has the original album in both stereo and mono, along with over 60 bonus tracks, an essay booklet, and a commemorative pin.

My favourite tracks are “Writing Wrongs,” “Tapioca Tundra,” “I’ll Be Back Up on My Feet,” and “Zor and Zam.” The lattermost appears in the final episode of The Monkees, and the end never fails to give me goosebumps. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t heard it. “Zor and Zam” is also powerful evidence for Micky as one of rock’s most underrated male vocalists.

A lot of people trash “Writing Wrongs” as one of the band’s worst songs, but I absolutely adore how trippy and out there it is. The comparison to The Beatles’ “Revolution No. 9” is very apt. Many people hate that song too, but I’ve listened to it on repeat many times. You either love or hate it.

BB&M is often called The Monkees’ White Album, with each Monkee doing songs in his own respective style, a band album that’s more like a solo showcase for each. While I’d rate this album 5 stars without contest, I can see how it might not be the most ideal album for a potential new fan. It’s more of an album to save for after one’s fandom is stronger and more established.