Thursday, December 9, 2021

Leftovers: 1971-Thank You Daniel Ellsberg


Since I started writing here almost exactly 10 years ago (my first piece, a holiday post about The Roches’ Christmas album published as a guest ran on December 18, 2011), I’ve written more than 400 posts (plus a few special pieces, like our annual “Top Posts” collection), but I don’t think that I’ve ever created one like this. I’m also not sure that I’ve ever written a sentence with two parentheticals, but I probably have. 

What’s so special—or at least different—about this post? It’s about a song that I never heard until I decided to write the this, by a band whose name I recognize, but I don’t think that I could name a single song that they released. For the Leftovers theme, we’re supposed to look back on the previous year’s themes, and write something that would have fit in one of those. It’s a tradition here, and a good one, because it not only is appropriate for the post-Thanksgiving slot, it allows us to revisit ideas that we might not have been able to get to before, because of work, or life, or general ennui. (It also gives us a break in thinking up themes during the holiday period—especially now that, after all these years, it has become increasingly hard to think of something clever for the Christmas period that hasn’t been done already). 

But that’s not what I did here. In looking back at the themes that I only wrote one post for, I vaguely remembered some unwritten ideas—I thought about writing a Woodwinds leftover about obscure prog-rock band Gryphon, which featured crumhorns—but I decided to go in a different direction. (As you will see below, though, I still mention prog-rock and woodwinds.) For out 1971 theme, I wrote about the Fillmore venues, but I didn’t write another piece for that theme. So, what were memorable things that happened in 1971? (not my 10th birthday party, which I don’t remember. Sorry, Mom.) Well, on June 13, 1971, The New York Times began to publish sections of the Pentagon Papers. In short, these documents demonstrated that the U.S. government had long been lying about many aspects of the Vietnam War. Now, I’ve written once before here about Vietnam, and I mentioned in that piece that my senior thesis in college was about television’s coverage of the war, so I thought that a piece about the release of the Pentagon Papers might be interesting. 

Like today, in 1971, American democracy was under attack. There were marches in the streets over the war, civil rights and other issues. It wouldn’t be long before a president and his henchmen tried to subvert the democratic process, for which he was impeached. Even as a kid in those days, I could sense the uncertainty, distrust and division. 

What became known as the Pentagon Papers was a report commissioned in 1967 by Robert S. McNamara, then the Secretary of Defense, on the political and military involvement of the United States in Vietnam from World War II to 1968. The conclusions of the report were explosive, and it was classified, so that it would not be seen by the general public. 

Daniel Ellsberg, a government consultant, gained access to some of the classified documents and leaked them to the Times in June of 1971. What happened next was complicated, and included court injunctions, a senator using his immunity to enter part of the Papers into the Congressional Record, other newspapers publishing the papers, more court proceedings, and ultimately, the Supreme Court upholding, 6-3, the right of the press to publish, and the high standard necessary to obtain a prior restraint. Justice Black wrote in his concurring opinion: 

Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell. 

That’s something that we need to keep in mind today, when some politicians have tried to bully or force the press to stop doing this critical job. 

Ellsberg was indicted on charges of stealing and holding secret documents. But a mistrial was declared when it emerged that the Nixon administration ordered agents to illegally break into the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist and attempt to steal files; that representatives of the Nixon administration approached the trial judge to offer him the FBI directorship, and, believe it or not, other irregularities. 

The Post, a pretty good movie about all of this, came out in 2017, directed by Steven Speilberg, and starring some lesser known actors like Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, (and Matthew Rhys as Ellsberg) did a good job of explaining the situation, the risks that the various newspapers took, and the importance of their willingness to take the risks. I’d recommend renting it. 

Oh, yeah, this is a music blog, not a history or politics or law blog. Or a movie blog. There’s a song being featured here—“Thank You Daniel Ellsberg,” by Texas band Bloodrock, which emerged from Fort Worth in the late 1960s. Generally referred to as a “hard rock” band, their second album, 1971’s Bloodrock 2 hit no. 21 on the Billboard Pop Album Chart, and they released two more albums with this lineup. But the band’s guitarist, Lee Pickens, and singer, Jim Rutledge, left the band, to be replaced by vocalist/woodwind (aha!) player Warren Ham, and the band’s sound shifted more toward prog-rock (aha!), jazz, and pop (although the band’s third album actually contained a Soft Machine cover. Of all things.) 

The first album with the new lineup, 1973's Passage, contained our featured song, which is a bluesy number that does exactly what the title says. Here are the lyrics, in their entirety: 

I wanna thank you Daniel Ellsberg
For all the notes that came from you
I said I wanna thank you Daniel Ellsberg
And maybe Louis Packwood too
For scheming out all the schemers
You now have set a trend for you 

I wanna thank you Danny boy
For what you said
For what you said and done
I said I wanna thank you Danny boy
For what you said and done
You've stricken from all the pages
But you don't know that you're the one

 I can’t figure out who Louis Packwood is. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, December 8, 2021


If you are of a certain age (old) and in the UK, there is the classic line: "They think it's all over; it is now!" It refers to the football world cup final of 1966, which the more jingoistic members of the community of football fans and union flag wavers treat, along with "the" war, as one of the twin pillars of an Englishness I have never subscribed to. Probably because I consider myself scots, but, anyway, these were the classic last lines uttered by the hoarse, excitable TV commentator, Kenneth Wostenholme, as Geoff Hurst scraped in a last gasp fourth goal, right on the blast of the referees final whistle. No football fan me, but I do remember watching the game, aged 9, as it was probably watched by near every adult and child in the country, assuming, that is, they had a telly. There wouldn't have been anything else on anyway. But it is a lovely line, bearing repeating whenever something seems to be at and and then, suddenly, perhaps with an additional slight surprise, now is.

Which set me thinking about all this break-up songs out there, and the differing responses to the news that may transpire. With good old i-tunes coming up trumps on that score.


Fool, If You Think It's Over

I had forgotten how impossibly young Chris Rea actually ever was. I remember thinking this song great, when it came out, back in 1978. From his debut album, which garnered him a grammy, Best New Artist, if actually little then much to further his career. Indeed, so prophetic was it, Rea was thinking of turning his back on music thereafter, returning to running the family restaurant his parents wanted of him. Luckily, it wasn't, and he would have been a fool had he thought so. It was only after he drove home, that Christmas, that he found a substantive royalty check on his doormat, sufficient to reverse his fortunes and set up a sensible pension plan. (Actually not; he bought a Ferrari, but, should you wonder, yes, it was that Christmas!)


Fuck You, It's Over

I still wonder whether I am allowed to spell that word out, so much a product of my times and upbringing I am. Sure, I say it a lot, and enjoy doing so. But, having got that out of the way, I believe it a totally valid use of the word in this context, the combination of dismay, contempt and dawning realisation, and I praise the sometimes somewhat histrionic Glasgow band for its use. I may be wrong, but they sound dumpee rather than dumper. Fuck is a common word in Scotland's second city, finding application as a noun, a verb, an adjective and probably many others, adverb, pronoun, preposition or conjunction. Heck, even a good old interjection too, from time to time. Glasvegas seemed only to have a brief window of opportunity, always seeming to promise more than delivered, but were fun. (Stop press: they tour their new, 4th album next year!)


Glad It's Over

A curious little number from Jeff Tweedy's Wilco, one that was initially pencilled in for 2007's Sky Blue Sky, later ditched, appearing on the Alpha Mike Foxtrot rarities compendium, as well as OST appearance for Heroes, the TV series about special powered mutants. Very Beatle-y, I feel, as well as containing considerably sour grapey misogynistic lyrics. Unless you subscribe to it being a reverse projection of 10cc's I'm Not In Love. Which it could be, I guess, I didn't listen to the end.

Dream (or not):

Don't Dream It's Over

I like this song, the sentiment being very much of reassurance and reconciliation, even if against all the odds. Old suckers like me are always up for that. of course, it is New Zealand's finest, Crowded House, who did the original version you remember better, but I like the salty tang of this version, Sarakh Blasko's voice full of antipodean charm. Can do without the choral oohs and aah, mind, but still a great version. It comes from a not half bad Australasian tribute to the music of Neil and Tim Finn, occasionally bandmates in both Split Enz and Crowded House, the former Tim's band, the latter seen as Neil's, even if Tim stayed around for a while, ahead of some classic sibling frictions got the better of the two of them.


Don't Tell Me That It's Over

Well, that was a surprise! I was actually looking for the Amy McDonald song of the similar name, she occupying possibly similar territory as Glasvegas, being remembered more for her 15 minutes than the fact she still plays and performs. Blink-182 are seldom my bag, but their snotty nose brat schtick can appeal on occasion. Like here. But, like most snotty nosed brats, I can only stomach small doses.

And, talking of small doses, this brief interlude of a post is over.

*So sue me!

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Leftovers: Break/Broken: Bad Liver and a Broken Heart


purchase [Small Change]

SMM has done a fair number of posts of Tom Waits' songs, but to the best of my search-ability, never this one. From the Small Change album, this is classic Waits: sung (if you can call it that) in the rapsy voice with his own piano accompaniment. 

Small Change, in my opinion is by far the best of his albums. Just about every track is a winner and SMM has done something about many of them over the years. But never this one - if my searching is right. One online source defined Waits' songs as singing about the "underbelly of society". Love it! The song titles from Small Change are all about the people you see on the street and then cross over to the other side to avoid.

Some folks point to Dylan as a poet. For Waits, the better definition of his word choice is "lyrical poetry". I would agree: Waits' lyrical genius involves the use of known phrases and others that are politically incorrect to the Nth degree: Tom Traubert's Blues/Waltzing Mathilda with its clear uses of the original mixed with Waits' ? perversions? of the lyrics. He says/sings something and you hear something else - he splits the syllabication so that at first you hear one thing and then it resolves to something surprisingly else

Waits's lyrics are  often irreverent -or politically incorrect : "the owner is a mental midget", but WTF - that is how he communicates his message

Small Change includes from SMM

I Cant Wait to Get Off Work

Step Right Up

The One That Got Away

The Piano Has Been Drinking

and also

Monday, December 6, 2021


I'm enjoying my leftovers this year, the opportunity to concentrate on individuals who have caught my ears and my heart these last several few decades. The late Dick H-S is one of these, and given he died very nearly 17 years ago, his may be a name may are unfamiliar with. However you may well be familiar with some of the bands he added his mercurial sax playing to, even if, again, only by their name or that of better known members. So he was a member of Blues Incorporated, The Graham Bond Organisation, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and then Colosseum, treading the boards with names such as Charlie Watts, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, John McLaughlin and Mick Taylor. I first spotted him in that last band, as I flipped thru' the discs in the Eastbourne record store that indulged my daily appearances there, as a schoolboy, listening to all the weird and wonderful bands of the early 70s. The cover of their first album intrigued me: who was the old and bald bloke in city attire, alongside the rest of the band, all otherwise in de rigeur hair and flares combos?

Valentyne Suite was a very cool choice of record at my school. The second album by Colosseum, it also had the virtue of being cheaper than most other LPs, perhaps as it was the first release of the Vertigo label, an offshoot of Phonogram, and designed to make the label seem hipper, in much the way as other companies were doing the same, viz Harvest "disguising" its more staid EMI parent. Again, as was not unusual, it had a side long suite on one side, a popular step by the 'underground' (later 'progressive') bands of the day, like Pink Floyd and the yet to be uncool Emerson, Lake and Palmer. A mix of blues, rock, jazz and classical themes infused this title piece, and it remains one of my favourite nostalgic wallows. The other side contained four rather jazzier options, which, then at least, had fewer plays, my mind not yet ready for the J word. It was Dave Greenslade's organ solo that most instantly appealed, but, with time, my appreciation of the saxophone sounds of Heckstall-Smith that gathered most traction, alternately corncrake and clarion in turn. The bass and drums, Tony Reeves and Jon Hiseman, were pretty tidy also, with the guitar of (whatever happened to) James Litherland appropriately present and correct.

Valentyne Suite/Colosseum (1969)

Of course, there was a lot more to the band than just this piece, and I avidly devoured further releases, at least until the changes in band membership led to the unaccountable decision to bring in old foghorn leghorn himself, Chris Farlowe, which was a step too far, effectively ruining the b(r)and. But, to give a little more Dick, whilst you know the tune, I quite like here what they do with it:

Beware the Ides of March/Colosseum (1969)

Heckstall-Smith and his two simultaneous saxophones was certainly not done when Colosseum first split, in 1971, taking part in various group and solo projects, if all somewhat beneath the radar. Indeed, even when regrouping with old friends, acclaim and attention remained distant, at least until a 90s reformation of Colosseum, if marred, inevitably, by the vocal mayhem alluded to earlier. But welcome otherwise. A late solo recording, Blue and Beyond, also contained some moments to cherish, not least when linking up with old friends like Mick Taylor, in 2001. By now he was looking rather more the expected jazz daddio hipster look. 

Spooky But Nice/Dick Heckstall-Smith & Friends (2001)

Here he is again, with old mucker Jack Bruce, at a live festival appearance.

Mellow Down Easy/Jack Bruce & Friends (1988)

Plus, for good measure, here is the reformed Colosseum, with a live reprise of Valentyne Suite.

Valentyne Suite/Colosseum (1994)

He died in 2004, with a not insubstantial body of work, yet is more likely to be remembered for who he played alongside than for his own exemplary brand of woodwind. I hope this may tickle the odd palate into looking backward at his catalogue.

Those who enjoy lively lookings back at the life and times of the jobbing musician could do a lot worse than checking out his book, Blowing the Blues, from 2004, the year he died, itself an expanded version of an earlier volume, 1984's The Safest Place in the World. On that subject, the fact he died of acute liver failure, if aged 70, may possibly fit well with any image of the jazz, blues and rock scenes he inhabited for the 50 years preceding.