Thursday, February 25, 2021

San Francisco

 This is one chapter from my novel, "Nobody From Nowhere."  It's the story of a young man in the mid-to-late 1970's who becomes the lead guitarist for an up-and-coming band, The Wolves.

Dawn Kelly is the lead singer.  She's considerably older than James Grant, the guitar player.  She used to be in a group in the '60's named Medicine Stones, which was part of the San Francisco scene.  The band fell victim to a number of problems, from infighting to drug addiction.  It ended when she got busted for heroin and went to prison for a year.

When she got out, she formed The Wolves.  In this chapter, the current tour has taken them to San Francisco.  It's the first time she's been there since Medicine Stones broke up, and she's giving James a bit of a guided tour.

- - - - -

11 – San Francisco

Dawn and James stood at the corner of Post and Steiner streets outside the Winterland Ballroom. In a few short hours, they would use their 20 minutes to try and make an impression on the music fans of San Francisco.

Union Square’s just a little ways up there,” she said, pointing up Post Street. “We used to jam there. Played at the Fillmore, People’s Park . . . s***, I don’t think there’s any place in this town we didn’t play.”

She was trying to have a good time showing her young guitarist some of the city she knew so well. The trouble was, everything she laid eyes on dredged up ghosts from the past. Too much of it made her want to run into the bus and put her pillow over her head. Or, find a dealer and score some smack.

James, on the other hand, was fascinated. He’d been to Boston a couple times, Manchester and Concord, New Hampshire, but from here he could smell the Pacific Ocean. “Then you must have known Janis Joplin?”

Oh, man, I knew ‘em all!” she said. “Loved hanging out with Big Brother. Used to get high with Jim Gurley all the time.”

Wow! I love his playing!”

Dawn was surprised. “Really?!? He plays entirely different from you.”

Yeah, but it’s some bad s***,” James said. “Just hang on and let fly. You can’t make that stuff up!”

Dawn laughed. “Professor, you never cease to amaze me.”

So, you said you guys played Woodstock. Did you do Monterey Pop?”

No, but I went as moral support. In some ways, it was like a battle. San Fran versus Hollywood, with some Brits thrown in. Who knew Hendrix was gonna steal the whole show? But the Frisco team did well, I thought. And it all proved to me that the first two letters in ‘lame’ are LA.”

They walked down the street, James continually pumping her with questions. She was usually close-mouthed on the past, but was getting comfortable around the kid. It gave her a chance to remember the good stuff. Riding her thumb from Boston, finding kind strangers, the Haight in the Sixties, opening for Santana and Quicksilver Messenger Service at the Fillmore, busking for quarters at Fisherman’s Wharf. She even admitted about the time she slept with Janis.

No way!” James said, a bit shocked.

I have a hard and fast rule,” she said. “I try to only do what feels good. And the things I like . . .” She gave him a wink. “. . . I try ‘em again.”

He blushed a little. They hadn’t slept together since that first night, but she knew he was getting lucky on a regular basis. How could he not? With that face, and his ‘aw, shucks’ demeanor, he was irresistible. She was sure that every girl he nailed thought she was his first. She made a mental note to find out if he’d learned anything in the interim.

She was about to regale him with the tale of her passionate love affair with the other girl singer, Angel, just to shock him some more when they went around a corner. When she saw who was coming toward them, she stopped short.

Gotta quarter?” the disheveled man asked.

She gave him a sour look and dug around in the pocket of her jeans. She found a coin and handed it to him. “Hi, Tom,” she said, immediately wishing she hadn’t.

He accepted the coin and squinted at her. Then, a huge grin split his matted beard.

Dawn?”

The one and only,” she said. James could see how tense she was.

The scruffy man aimed his gaze at James. “So . . . this your kid?”

She laughed. “No, man, just a friend.”

James stuck out his hand. “I’m James. I’m the guitar player in her band.”

Tom looked at the hand, then shook it like he was handing someone a dead fish. Dawn shot James a quick shut-up glance.

James, huh?” Then the rest of the information seeped through and he turned back to Dawn. “You got another band?”

She shrugged. “Just futzing around.” James held his peace, having gotten the message.

Tom’s gaze wavered back toward James. “So, she probably told you all about me, heh?”

He gave Dawn a glance, looking for direction. He had no idea who this person was.

James, this is Tom Hayes. Oh, I’m sorry . . . Apollo. Like the Greek god, right?”

Tom’s eyes narrowed, and he looked back and forth between his old friend and her new one. “Dawn and me, we were in a band together,” he said finally. “We all had stage names. She was . . . well, she was Dawn. Couldn’t top that. Dawn, Angel, Frazz, Mikey . . . No, wait, he was . . . Hey, what did we call Mikey?”

Dead.” She gave her old band mate a look that indicated that her patience was at an end. “About a month after Angel. Or at least, that’s what I heard in prison.”

Tom scratched the back of his neck absently. “Oh. Right.”

She turned to James and cocked a thumb at her old band leader. “This is the clown that drove Angel and I up to the Emergency Room door and bailed.”

Hey, I saved your life,” he said with a scowl.

And your rich lawyer daddy hung that bus full of dope around my neck,” she spat back. “The judge said he’d have given me life, but his kids liked our music.”

Now, look, that wasn’t my –“ he protested, but Dawn cut him off.

This is also the bastard that got me addicted in the first place,” she told James. Then, in a sing-song voice; “You snort it, you can't get hooked.”

Why, you . . .”

Those were the last coherent words out of either of them for the next minute or so. The air turned blue as the two old bandmates screamed bloody murder at each other. James saw Tom – or, rather, Apollo – rear back to throw a punch at his lead singer. Before he could, the young guitarist grabbed the pinky finger of his other hand and wrenched it hard. The scruffy man immediately dropped to one knee and began to keen loudly.

It’s been a pleasure to meet you, sir,” James said with a lot more calm than he felt, “but we really should be going.” He gave Tom Hayes, former leader and rhythm guitarist for Medicine Stones, a shove. The man plopped on his back and continued his whining, cradling his injured hand in the other.

James and Dawn made haste, around the corner and back toward Winterland. When it became apparent they weren’t being followed, they slowed.

Can you believe that f***ing bastard?” Dawn roared. “What kind of f***ing bulls*** was that? Why, that s***y, lousy, f***ing . . .”

James just walked along silently. Dawn could tell that he was upset. She took his hand in hers. “Okay, Professor, it’s fine. You did well. You okay?”

James gave her a wan smile, remembering something his grandmother once said to his older brother.

Y’know . . . when every third word out of your mouth is ‘s***’ or ‘f***,’ it reveals a lack of imagination.”

Dawn’s jaw dropped. Then she laughed and plunked her head on his shoulder.

Point taken,” she said.

They walked along until they got to the back of the auditorium that they would be playing in a couple hours.

I’m not mad about the jail time,” she said out of the blue. “I deserved it. What makes me mad is the fact that I used to believe in that so-and-so. You’d never know it now, but he looked like he could have been Apollo. And, man, could he weave his webs. There were three girls in the band, and he had us all in bed and begging for more. Sometimes, all at once. We had two singles on the charts, got to be on Shindig . . .”

She stopped and looked James hard in the eye. “That, my young friend, is what heroin does to you. What you saw right there is a dead man walking. He had everything, and now he has a monkey on his back, and it will ride him to his grave.”

Friday, December 18, 2020

Deja Vu All Over Again

 

Recently saw a very good documentary on one of my all-time favorite bands, Crosby Stills Nash and Young. (Fifty By Four) I'll skip the long, involved history lesson, as everybody who has bothered to read this far probably already knows it. And if you don't, and are interested, go to Amazon Prime and find the doc. It's very good.

 

David Crosby is the creative flake of the band. Which never really was a band, just a collective of friends. It actually seemed to be a way for three very good musicians and songwriters to get a gig together, who hadn't had any luck doing so before. They all came from other bands, who either folded, or kicked them out, or they left.

 

Cros was the one who got kicked out; by the Byrds, as it happened. I heard him explain in an interview once that the story was, he was asked to leave because of creative differences. The real reason, he says, is because he was an asshole. There are reports that this has never changed.

 

That's one of the things that makes CSN&Y so interesting. Each of these guys has his own role within the collective. Crosby's was to be the nut. Er, sorry, the genius. He had the wildest, most daring ideas. He probably wrote the best, and the worst, songs in their catalog. He also had the nicest voice in the band. Maybe the best, maybe not, but surely the nicest. He was responsible for writing and singing:

 

Guinnevere

Long Time Coming

Deja Vu

Almost Cut My Hair

The Lee Shore

Triad

Delta

and half of Wooden Ships.


In the 1980's, he went to prison on drug and weapons charges. When he got out, the other three dragged him into the studio. They've always insisted that they did this, not to cash in, but to support their friend. The result was a rather disappointing album called “American Dream.” Oddly enough, the best song on it (imho) was “Compass” by Cros:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sB1efHJAhn0


Stephen Stills was the engineer. Not as in, sound engineer in the studio, but builder. He could construct great songs on command, and played every instrument on the first CSN album except the drums. Of the original three, he has been the most prolific and consistent as a solo artist.


Stills came from Buffalo Springfield, a band that everybody name checks but never caught on with the public at large. They were built around the same basic concept as the Byrds; playing folk music with electric guitars and drums. Everybody in the band were excellent musicians, for early 60's rock musicians, but the leadership quickly became the property of Stills and fellow guitarist/singer/songwriter Neil Young. They were great friends who simply didn't get along. Egomaniacs can be like that.


When the band broke up, Young began a solo career and struggled. Stills didn't even get that far. He found himself doing studio work, including one of the landmark albums of the mid-60's, called “Super Session,” with Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper. He used his contacts to get a little studio time and threw together a demo tape, just himself on an acoustic guitar. This tape was released decades later as “Just Roll Tape,” but at the time, it got him squat.


A chance meeting with Cros and a Brit named Graham Nash came together so well, they became the not-quite-a-band we know and love today. Before going into that, a quick list of some songs that Stephen Stills contributed:


Love The One You're With

Southern Cross

Carry On

As I Come Of Age

Dark Star

Find the Cost of Freedom

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

4 + 20

and half of Wooden Ships


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVUwrifwKrI


Graham Nash wrote their biggest hits. His school for this was a reasonably successful British Invasion band called The Hollies, and he wrote most of their hits as well. A great pop song craftsman, and a beautiful high tenor voice.


Lynn and I had the privilege of seeing him live a couple years ago at the Berklee School of Music's main auditorium in Boston. He was doing a tour in which he did his first two solo albums in their entirety (Songs For Beginners and Wild Tales). He and his band were fantastic. After doing both albums, and discussing the songs, he then went into a bunch of his better known works, including many from CSN&Y.


In many ways, he was the glue that kept this bunch of raging egomaniacs together, both musically and socially. His was the high voice that filled out those beautiful harmonies. And, his were the songs that got them on the radio, over and over again. Some of those songs were:


Teach Your Children

Lady of the Islands

Our House

Chicago

Immigration Man

After the Dolphin

Wasted On the Way

Just a Song Before I Go


In many ways, he was seen as the least of the three/four. He was probably the least skilled, overall, as a musician. And yet, his are the songs we remember the best. He was the lightweight, and yet his light songs often made the biggest impact.


Graham was the one that didn't come from the American folk and folk/rock movements. He probably has the most diverse catalog of any. Whether he wrote about romantic love, or his beliefs, you knew he meant it.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vnYKRacKQc


If that was where it ended, it all would have surely gone differently. Yes, there were conflicts between these three guys, but nowhere near to the extent as when they became a four-piece.


Neil Young had been in Buffalo Springfield with Stills, and the ongoing conflicts between the two were a large part of why that group didn't survive. From there, Young went on to a solo career and, while not a big star, was selling in respectable enough numbers that he was in no serious danger of losing his career. The same could not be said of the others.


CSN was a last-ditch effort for all three. It is very likely that, if their first record had tanked, they would have all had to go get real jobs. Say, didn't you used to be in the Byrds? When it turned out instead to be one of the biggest selling albums not by the Beatles of the entire decade, things changed. And when it got time to go out on the road, clearly, Stephen Stills couldn't bear as much of the load as he had in the studio.


According to that documentary, they approached Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, and one or two others about supplementing the band. There were also a drummer and bass player, but to adequately reproduce the album in a live setting required another guitar player on par with Stills.


I've never been clear on why Young was made an equal member, and not just a side man; whether somebody or everybody in the band offered it to him, or if he made it a condition of his joining. At any rate, CSN became CSN&Y, for good and for ill.


In a way, Young duplicated Cros' role as the class genius. He did not, however, duplicate the role of class clown. Too many times, the problem with geniuses is that they're unreliable. In Crosby's case, it came out as getting too loaded to be functional, and then sliding into too addicted. For Young, this would manifest when he got bored and suddenly left. He also had, and apparently still has, no patience with which to suffer fools. And in the Neil Young universe, anybody could quickly qualify as a fool.


It's somewhat strange that they're all so strongly tied together. They didn't need Neil, and he didn't need the others. And you certainly can't say that magic happened every time they collaborated as a quartet. As a group, they did three studio albums, and two of them are pretty disappointing. (American Dream and Looking Forward.)


On the other hand, the first of their combined efforts, Deja Vu, is quite possibly one of the greatest albums in the rock canon. It is certainly one of my favorites. And, in a lot of people's hindsight, it is considered the lesser of the first two. It's not as cohesive, but lightning strikes rarely are. The list of Neil Young's contributions to their legacy is not as long, but it is quite dramatic:


Country Girl

Helpless

Ohio

American Dream


He is, by far, the most successful of the four as a solo artist. Graham Nash's solo albums, on the other hand, probably didn't sell as many copies all together as any one of the group's by itself. Same with Crosby. Stills had a good run in the 1970's, but not much since.


Neil is also, by far, the most frustrating of the four. By the late '80's, he seemed determined to drive away every fan he ever had. After Deja Vu, he had a big hit with After The Goldrush, and a huge one with Harvest, and then . . . who knows?


He would go back and forth between apparently trying to recreate Harvest, with records like Comes A Time; and then go off on some tangent with something that left people scratching their heads. He experimented with country (American Stars and Bars), punk (Rust Never Sleeps), blues (This Note's For You), rockabilly (Everybody's Rockin'), and even techno (Trans).


For me, I largely lost interest in his continued output by the early '90's. Everything he's done in the last 30 years sounds the same, with a few notable exceptions. I liked Freedom, which had “Rockin' In the Free World” and a blistering cover of “On Broadway”. And the song “Let's Roll,” honoring the victims of 9/11, was great. The rest, or at least what I've heard, doesn't do much for me. Including Harvest Moon, which was supposed to be his great return to form.


Besides solo efforts, the four also worked in varying combinations. Crosby/Nash, a revived CSN, and even the Stills/Young band. At one point, there was even a Stills/Nash project in the works, but halfway into it they invited Cros. If a band is like a marriage, this group was more like they were fooling around. Hippies, y'know.


In the end, it was simply too volatile to survive in the long term. For one thing, they were all too prolific to ever be able to fit everything they wrote into one band. They'd have had to release three or four albums a year, and that would have quickly skewed in the direction of Stills and Young.


It's easy to dismiss these guys as musicians. There isn't a virtuoso among them. Nash is a serviceable enough guitarist and pianist, but if your band was holding auditions, he wouldn't make the cut. Unless, of course, you were looking for a songwriter or singer.


Crosby's guitar style is not the usual. He uses a lot of open tunings, which is part of what makes his songwriting so interesting. A big part of what makes him great is the way he voices chords; on guitar, piano, and he's had a lot to do with how the vocal harmonies work. You guitar players out there would be well served to find out what tunings he used for some of his songs.


In a way, writing a song is like owning a dog. A really skillful musician/composer can let the dog roam free. And yet, sometimes, you see that they've set a specific path, even dug a rut, of the favorite places they like to go. The places they've marked, and the food dish, so to speak. Many songwriters develop a template that they wind up using over and over; verse, verse, chorus, bridge; or whatever.


When you write using an open tuning, you're shortening the leash. It becomes a limitation of sorts, because the tuning is friendlier to a smaller group of chordal harmonies than standard tuning. And yet, those limitations also open up options that might not readily be available in standard tuning. In fact, if you use standard tuning chord shapes on a guitar that's tuned to an open chord, it creates some really interesting things.


This is a technique that Cros, and Stills, use quite a bit. The song, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, was written in a tuning of EEEEBE. He is alleged to have used the same tuning for Carry On and 4+20. (It's in the Wikipedia article, so it's gotta be true, right? Right?) So, it would be very difficult to use that tuning all night on every song. And, you can certainly play those three songs in standard tuning. But the tuning helped write the song. You tune your guitar, and start banging away on it, and pretty soon you've got a little pile of music in your lap. Gotta housebreak that dog.


Stills and Young were the band's lead guitarists and, to be honest, on a skill scale of 1 to Eddie Van Halen, neither of them score particularly high. Doesn't matter. Yeah, you Steve Vai/Ritchie Kotzen/Yngwie/Fripp/Guthrie Govan/Al DiMeola fans out there can scoff all you like. If you don't think it's possible to express passion with an acoustic guitar on your knee playing one chord, then you probably haven't read this far anyway.


To me, a great example of this can be found on the all-star Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary tribute album. There's a version on there of My Back Pages, sung by Roger McGuinn. Eric Clapton takes a solo, and it's very nice. Sweet, harmonically interesting, carefully crafted, and very good. Then, Neil Young takes a solo. He proceeds to rip the song's head off and shit down its neck. I suppose you either like that sort of thing, or you don't.


Here's another good example:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAkMlzOBFbc


I would also note that the drummer on this is New Hampshire's own Johnny Barbata.


It's very easy to pick out which playing is Stills, and which is Young. They've been in a weird sort of competition since Buffalo Springfield. Stills' playing is much smoother; Young's is rougher, angrier. Stills used to hang out a lot with Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Winter, and they would jam for hours. Young plays like he found his guitar on the side of the road and has never heard anybody else play, before or since.


Now, there's nothing wrong with skill. Plus, skill and passion are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to have both. But – and there's always a but to these – if skill was everything, rock and roll would never have existed. Sometimes, an artist is so good at expressing that burning thing inside them that skill doesn't matter. After that, it's up to the person with the ears to decide whether it's good or not.


It's hard to pinpoint why the second and third CSNY studio albums don't work. The songs are okay, but it's like they hired dull people to record them.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2OcysPh77E


This is one of Neil's from “Looking Forward.” The actual name is Queen Of Them All, but it's one of those tongue-in-cheek Neil songs that, seeing it was written in the late '90's, could just as well be Queen Of The Mall. This album's not actually too bad, but it doesn't seem to have the drive of Deja Vu. In fact, most of CSN's output in the late '70's on through is kinda the same. I don't know, I just think Neil should be more pissed off singing this, and Stills should be trying harder to cut heads.


My personal recommendation would be to listen to the first two albums; “Crosby Stills and Nash” and “Deja Vu”; and then the two live albums from that era; “4-Way Street” and “CSNY 1974”. They also have an excellent box set that includes a lot of alternate takes and solo stuff. And definitely check out “Fifty By Four” on Amazon Prime or DVD.


Happily, they're still around, although they're quite elderly these days. It's likely we'll never get another chance to see them live, but that's what I thought before going to see Nash in Boston. So, who knows? They are definitely important, if any creative person actually is. It's just entertainment, after all, but these guys, this grouping, is the bridge between the folk and folk/rock movements to the singer/songwriter movement.


Here's one last little treat. This is from the box set I mentioned above.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FK3TIYG9mqM


 

Friday, September 06, 2019

A Tale of Two Bands


They were the best of bands, they were the worst of bands . . . Okay, lame, sorry.

While digging through my extensive collection of ancient relics, I came across two albums I've always liked. They feature the same singer, and share a lot of other similarities, but are still strikingly different.

Janis Joplin left her hometown of Port Arthur, Texas in 1963, at the age of 19, for San Francisco. While there, she found herself slipping into serious drug abuse and, in 1965, returned home. She attended college, and was even briefly engaged to be married. She had left her mark, however, in the Bay Area. A friend of hers out there, who also knew an up-and-coming local band, came to Texas and convinced her to return to San Fran and join this band. Their name was Big Brother and the Holding Company.

BBHC was already pretty well established in their home town, but it was clear that they needed a good singer if they wanted to take the next step. In June of 1966, Janis joined, and history records the rest. They made one album for a small independent label called Mainstream not long after, which went nowhere. But, on the strength of that and their reputation as a live band, they were approached and signed by Columbia records. Columbia re-released their first album, adding two songs Mainstream had left off and putting “featuring Janis Joplin” on the cover.

Apparently, one thing that people remember about Big Brother was how loud they were. It was a point in time where amplifiers were making a leap in technological advancement. The original purpose of guitar amps was to help the guitarist, a member of the rhythm section, be heard alongside the horns in a big band. When rock and roll came along, the guitar took a more central role and the horns largely disappeared.

Guitarist Steve Vai once observed that “volume is tone.” The spirit of “Vai's Dictum” was being discovered by pickers along the way, from Charlie Christian to Chuck Berry to Jimi Hendrix. By the mid 1960's, Marshall, Fender, Vox, Ampeg, Kustom, and many other companies were producing guitar amps with increasing power and volume. The guitarists in Big Brother used them to their fullest effect. And, of course, the drums and bass had to keep up.

Getting Janis Joplin to sing over this, and help write new songs, was a giant step forward. But at no point, despite the widely held view, were they her back-up band.  The other members have made this abundantly clear in any public statements they've made since then. They were a five piece band, and she was the singer. And she didn't even sing lead on all the songs.  Still, she attracted a lot of attention, and to their frustration the perception grew.

Sam Andrew was more or less the band's leader. He was a good guitarist and fair singer, and usually took the lead vocal on songs Janis didn't. The main lead guitarist was James Gurley. He once stated that his main influence was saxophonist John Coltrane and his 'sheets of sound' style of soloing. This can be heard on the first cut from Cheap Thrills.


Sam Andrew is actually credited with the lead vocal on this song. He and Peter Albin would swap off playing bass and guitar, although Albin usually handled bass. Dave Getz played drums. A lot of people think that Cheap Thrills was recorded live, and the cover even states that the live recordings were done at the Fillmore. Actually, only the last song on the album, “Ball and Chain,” was recorded live. Any crowd noise on the rest of the album was dubbed in.

Big Brother was part of a Bay Area scene that included Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Country Joe and the Fish, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and others. Some people have called 1967's Monterrey Pop Festival “The Battle of California.” The festival was organized by music industry insiders from Los Angeles, including John Phillips of the Mamas & the Papas, and producer Lou Adler. One result of the show was to make clear the stark differences between rock music from LA and SF.

There were acts from all over the world, including The Who and Jimi Hendrix from England (yes, Jimi was from Seattle, but was based in Britain at the time), and Ravi Shankar from India, as well as R&B great Otis Redding. But most of the attention fell on the groups from San Francisco, and few if any made a bigger impression than Janis. Many people's favorite moment in the documentary about the festival is Cass Elliott, no slouch herself as a singer, gaping at Janis from her seat in the audience and mouthing “Wow.”

At some point in 1968, they began to be billed as “Janis Joplin and Big Brother,” which annoyed the rest of the band. Twenty years later, the same thing would happen to an up-and-coming group known as the New Bohemians, when their lead singer, Edie Brickell, started to draw attention. In both cases, the singers went along with it, and the result was the end of the band.

A lot of people say that was a good thing, arguing that Big Brother was never very good to begin win. I think they have to be seen in context. Yes, I suppose it's true that they could never get signed today. Their sound is rough and raw, but that doesn't mean they can't play. You get past the looseness and you begin to notice just how sophisticated the arrangements are, and how skilled the playing is.


Now, tell me, who else has the sheer balls to tackle a Gershwin tune? This is from the opera, Porgy and Bess. Here's the original, just to compare:


That clip is from a television production of Porgy and Bess, with Harolyn Blackwell singing and the London Philharmonic providing the music. The opera is from 1935, though this film is obviously much later. Even so, what made Big Brother pick this to cover?

Sam Andrews came up with the arrangement, which is pretty striking. Twin guitars playing contrapuntally, while Janis does the lyric in her bluesy growl. I don't care, this is not a mediocre band. Rough, maybe. Raw. Unschooled, probably, but not unskilled. Cheap Thrills shows a dynamic range that is galaxies wide and deep. They express the kind of passion you can't write on a page of sheet music.

Upon leaving Big Brother, Columbia Records put together a back-up band for their star. Sam Andrews was invited to join and be the musical director. The Kosmic Blues Band included numerous studio musicians that the big wheels at the label liked and trusted, including a horn section that made them more R&B, as opposed to the psychedelic rock Big Brother was known for. Among the musicians was a Canadian guitarist named John Till.

He was the leader of his own band, known as the Full Tillt Boogie Band. (The “Tillt” was in reference to his name, of course.) Janis' first solo album got mixed reviews, and she had conflicts with some of the members, so they were scrapped. 

Till was the one person retained from the project. He convinced Janis to use his band, (dropping the second L in “Tillt”) to which she agreed. She famously stated that “finally, this is MY band.” It seems unusual today, but they had two keyboard players; Richard Bell on piano, and organist Ken Pearson. Now, you'd have one guy on keys, and they could do it all from a single instrument, but Bell and Pearson work together beautifully. Till was also a brilliant guitarist.

Brad Campbell (bass) and Clark Pierson (drums) might at first seem weaker than their counterparts from Big Brother, but it's strictly a matter of style. While not as wild as Albin and Getz, neither are they mild. The same can be said for the entire band. They were tighter and more disciplined, but still energetic.


I chose this clip because it preserves the best parts of John Till's guitar solo from the album; that descending figure from high up that comes in the middle of his break. If James Gurley is John Coltrane, Till is Cannonball Adderley. (Get a copy of “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis and see what I mean.) Plus, being live, it shows the interplay between the musicians. Like Big Brother, they had been around for some time. Unlike BB, they were clearly and intentionally Janis' band.

And, also like Big Brother, they had a wide dynamic range. Backing up Janis Joplin, they had to.


This song shows how well Bell and Pierson work together, and why having both is just right. Full Tilt Boogie was as tight as Big Brother was loose. And yet, both bands burned with passion. Which, of course, was a requirement, considering the singer.

If you are of a mind to continue the investigation, I would recommend checking out “Buried Alive in the Blues” from Pearl. It was the last session Janis ever did, but they did not get the vocal down before she died. So, the band went back in and finished it as an instrumental. The song, written by Nick Gravanites, actually does have words, and it's been recorded several times since.


This is the late, great Paul Butterfield's 1973 version. You can also easily find a version by the composer, joined by Mike Bloomfield on guitar. Many other versions have been done as well, by James Cotton, the Chicago Blues Reunion, and even Big Brother eventually did a take on it. But to me, they don't touch FTB's version.


We'll just have to imagine Janis wringing out the lyrics. In the meantime . . . there is a way to enjoy these two great bands back to back. If you get a copy of “Joplin In Concert,” the first half is her with Big Brother, and the second, with Full Tilt Boogie. It's actually quite a good album, and still in print.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Answering a friend's questions




This list was posted on Facebook by a friend of mine, whom I will not name, because I don't want to embarrass them. The questions are from their post. The answers are my own. If they embarrass me, then so be it.  The words in bold, italicized type are from their post.  The answers are my own.

~

Copied in part...You call this great? I don’t.

Do you support separating families at the border.....put them into concentration camps? They are applying for asylum.....what he is doing is against international law. You do realize that?

- Okay, let's take this a bite at a time:

- If these same people were caught burglarizing homes, or stealing cars, or killing people, or committing any other crime, they would be separated from their children. People who are in holding awaiting trial for crimes they are accused of get separated from their children. Like it or not, entering this country illegally is a crime. It's a crime in every nation in the world. Just out of curiosity, why don't you find out what the penalty is for entering Mexico, or Guatemala, or China, or Luxembourg for that matter, illegally.

There is an alternative, though. Make it not illegal. It's a matter of passing a law, which would require electing representatives committed to doing just that. What you are asking the government to do, essentially, is let there not be a border. If crossing the border brings no penalty, then you don't have one. If you're cool with that, talk about that and not some bull**** thing about whether or not lawbreakers get treated like lawbreakers.

In the interest of having access to the necessary information to make an intelligent choice, I've done a little research into immigration laws in the countries I flippantly listed above. Here's the link to a website called Mexperience, and the page that discusses immigration to Mexico. https://www.mexperience.com/mexico-immigration-guide-published/ On the page is a link to the 2019 immigration guide, provided to them by the government of Mexico. It doesn't discuss any penalties for illegal immigration, and I've had difficulty finding this information. Plus, here's a link to a pretty comprehensive Wikipedia article on immigration to Mexico. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_Mexico Answers.yahoo came up with a penalty of two to five years in prison for illegally entering the country, but I haven't been able to verify the sources.

No luck finding information on penalties for illegally crossing borders into Guatemala. Here's a link to an article on immigration to Guatemala: https://legalbeagle.com/5465314-guatemala-immigration-requirements.html I don't know what the political leaning of legalbeagle is, or if they have one.

Here's a piece from the South China Morning Post on illegal immigration into China: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1272959/under-chinas-new-immigration-law-harsher-fines-illegal-foreigners Apparently, there are harsh penalties. The article dates from 2013.

The most I can found about illegal immigration into Luxembourg are news articles complaining about how many there are, and how it should be stopped. I'll leave it up to you to find them. Trust me, it's not difficult. And, I've seen nothing about whether or not your children are taken away in any of these countries if you bring them in illegally. I would guess that whatever would happen would happen no matter what crime you committed there.

Btw, here's an interesting piece from factcheck.org: https://www.factcheck.org/2018/06/illegal-immigration-statistics/ I don't know what their political leaning is. They are funded by the Annenberg Foundation, which also does a lot with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, so I suspect if there is a leaning, it is liberal/progressive.

- Concentration camps? Do you even know what one of those is? From the reports I've seen, even the ones put out by MSNBC, NPR, NYT, etc, they don't even really count as prisons, much less concentration camps. Comparing them with Auschwitz, Buchenwald, etc is ridiculous.

- Are they all applying for asylum?  All of them? How do you know? What's your source? And, what happens to them while they're waiting? Maybe you didn't know this, but there's a legal process to applying for asylum. They've committed a crime. (See above)

- International law? Which international law? Would you please quote it? We are not subject to international law. We are, in this instance, subject to the laws of the United States. International law does not apply to someone who burglarized a house, or steals a car, or murders someone, or speeds on the interstate. And the United States has borders. Did you know it's illegal to cross a nation's borders without proper authorization? Any nation? (See above)

Do you support him because he likes to grab women by the pussy?

- Now, let me think about that a minute. Do I support Donald Trump . . . BECAUSE he likes to grab women by the pussy? Uh . . . no. Although, I must say, it's not why I DIDN'T support Bill Clinton. I don't consider Bill Clinton a good president because I think his policies proved to be severely flawed. (That is, when he bothered to have policies. The worst thing about Clinton was, he didn't really do much. The best thing about him was, he didn't really do much. Which, after Reagan/Bush41, was a good thing. Still, it would have been nice to see some good and necessary things done.) Same with Teddy Kennedy, and many other misogynist politicians, Democrat and Republican. I think what you're asking is, would I hire Donald Trump as a babysitter for my daughters? No.

Do you support him because he makes fun of the disabled?

- Oh, there's another good one. Y'know, I was going to vote for Hillary, but then Trump made fun of a disabled guy, and that convinced me to vote for him instead. C'mon, now!! I suppose there are people who voted for Hillary specifically because she DIDN'T make fun of a disabled person. At least, not in public. Of course, it would be all right for her to make fun of a disabled person IF they disagreed with her. Then, it would be all right. But since it was Trump, it doesn't matter what his policies are, or if they improved the country and made people's lives better. He said something you find distasteful. And you know what? I did, too. But I also know why he said it; because the guy was cutting him down. He didn't send the FBI to take him in, he just gave back in kind. Didn't take away his job, didn't put him in jail, didn't have a couple of Arkansas state troopers shoot him, he said words.

Do you support him because he has increased our national debt by 4 trillion dollars making us financially insolvent?


-Ooo! Check your figures. How much did Barack Obama's administration increase the national debt? I'll leave it up to you to find out the answer to that one. If the country is insolvent, it's because the previous administration brought us to the brink of insolvency. Or does that not count, because your preferred news sources said that the money was spent on good stuff? Y'see, that's what happens when you only get your news from one side. You find yourself repeating lies.

And when you double-check the figures, please send me the links.  You will note at the bottom of the picture on the right, its sources are listed.


Do you support him because he is a racist?

- Another good one. Let me make one thing clear; I don't care if he's a racist. Let me repeat that; I do not care what his personal feelings about people's race is. Are. Whatever. What I care about is, what are his policies going to do? I don't actually know if he's a racist. And, news flash, you don't either! If you go by his policies, black, Hispanic, and Asian unemployment in this country are at historic lows. 

Do you know what that means? It means, those people, those demographic groups, have more jobs. Maybe I'm wildly off the beam here, but I think the biggest problem facing these demographic groups is, they're poor. Doesn't having a job kinda help that?

I think it's funny, any time I watch a sporting event, I see the same ads. Did you know the state of New York – one of the bluest, most liberal states in the country - publicly promises a tax break for businesses that are willing to move there? They've been running those ads for years. Why do you think they do that?

No matter what liberal/democratic/socialist politicians say, they all know that lowering taxes stimulates the economy. Reagan proved it. And before you think about how altruistic they are, remember that the stock market stayed strong during the Obama administration, in spite of the economy slowly turning to part-time jobs and the “gig economy.” Manufacturing was draining away, but Wall Street was booming. But I'm sure that's just a coincidence. >wink<

In a nutshell, if Trump is a racist, he's a stupid one. His policies seem to be helping the very people he's accused of hating. And these accusations didn't start until he was elected President. So, I don't care if he's a racist, any more than I care about his hair or the color of his socks. What I care about is what he does in the office of the Presidency. I hope he's not a racist, but I've seen no conclusive evidence that he is. And Don Lemon's opinion doesn't count as conclusive evidence.

By the way, not sure where this appropriate to include, but the Center for Responsive Politics puts out a publication called the Blue Pages. It's a directory of companies, rated by their politics and practices (quoting the cover). Basically, it tells you who the listed companies donate to, so far as politics and political causes. Interesting to just thumb through it.

Do you support him because he has taken all the ecological restrictions away destroying the earth for future generations?

- Careful. All the ecological restrictions? All of them? Or are you talking about the Paris Climate Accords? Have you read them? Here's the link, so that you can:
And that's the actual UN Framework Convention on Climate Change website, not some conservative blog. If you're going to talk about something, you should know what you're talking about. And, this link (found in the opening paragraphs) compares the Paris agreement with the Kyoto Protocol:

The two main arguments I've heard against both of these agreements are:
1) they are agreements. They have no teeth. It's just the governments of the signatory countries saying that they want these things to happen, but there are no consequences if they fail. I would be curious to know how many of the 192 signatories to the Kyoto Protocol actually met the stated goals.
2) they seem to have more to do with giving governments control over businesses, than restoring the environment. The “essential elements” section of the first page talk about “appropriate financial flows,” among other things. There's also a link to the complete text of the agreement, on the right side of the opening page of the link above. And if you can't find it, let me know. I downloaded the PDF file, and can send it to you.

Also, here's an article about the mixed success of the Kyoto protocols: https://www.factcheck.org/2018/06/illegal-immigration-statistics/ New Scientist is a British magazine, published since 1956. I have been unable to find any discussion on their political leanings, which means they may not have any.

I have argued for years that the whole climate change debate isn't about climate change. It's about division. Riddle me this, Batman; what is the alleged cause of climate change? I can answer that in one word: Pollution. Too much foreign matter and chemical compounds in our air, water, etc. When you break it down to that basic fact – if, in fact, climate change is even real – then it's easy to sell.

Try this experiment sometime, if you have the courage; go to some person's house that has a swimming pool. Now, urinate in it. The pretty blue water is very likely to turn a pretty green, slowly spreading to the whole pool. Then, somebody kicks your ass or runs you off, but that's a side effect.

This simple experiment PROVES that one person can negatively affect an ecosystem.

There are other examples. I remember seeing two pictures in a magazine – I think it was Newsweek, or maybe Time, in the late '80's – that showed two images of Los Angeles from about five miles off shore. One was taken in 1962, and all you could see was the tops of a few buildings. The rest of the city was blanketed in a gray haze, although it was a sunny day with a blue sky framing the top of the photo. The second one was, I believe, from 1988. There was still a gray haze, but you could clearly see the city, and it was a similarly bright, sunny day. That tells me that we've actually made progress, even if no one on the left is willing to admit it.

The other pictures were of the shore in Antarctica. One showed a shoreline of snow and ice. The other, a wide patch of green grass. These pictures as well were supposedly taken some 30 or more years apart. Now, the publisher of these pictures didn't happen to mention what seasons they were each taken in, but the message is clear.

But the cure is simple, and almost universally agreed upon: Pollution is bad. If you find anyone that disagrees with that simple statement, “pollution is bad,” let me know and we can go together to pee in their pool. Whether it's changing the climate or not is irrelevant, isn't it? The swimming pool experiment proves that pollution is bad, whether or not the temperature of the pool goes up.

So why isn't pollution the issue, instead of climate change?

Because climate change is something that we DON'T agree on. And look how much money changes hands, and how much power, keeping both sides spun up! If you believe in climate change and I don't, but we both agree that pollution is bad, then we can both agree on a solution. Argument over. Then, what would Rachael Maddow and Sean Hannity scream about?

But when you ask about “all ecological restrictions,” you're suggesting that we're back to using freon, leaded gasoline, asbestos, and many other things that we've stopped using decades ago. I haven't seen anything about Trump demanding a return to freon, etc.

Do you support the lack of respect he has for officials that do not agree with him?

- Yes, actually, I do. I don't respect them, so it comforts me that he doesn't either. Most of them are left over from previous administrations anyway, dating back to probably Nixon in some cases.

Here's a pop quiz for you; do you know where most bills presented to Congress are written? If your answer is, the offices of Congressmen and Senators, I'm sorry, thanks for playing, and don't forget your copy of the home game. The correct answer is, K Street in Washington. Where a lot of lobbyists offices are located. So, which officials are we really referring to, here? The official officials, or the unofficial officials they work for?

Did you support all those federal employees he used as pawns to try and get approval from Congress for his wall?

- I think his biggest campaign promise was the wall. It got him elected, so those who voted for him expect him to come through. And to do that, he's going to have to twist appendages. When Ronald Reagan left office, he warned that there was already a crisis because of illegal immigration. At the time, 1988, the estimate most popular was that there was possibly 3 million illegal immigrants in this country. The figure being thrown around for the last decade is 11 million, so it's hopelessly out of date. A Yale study (linked above; the FactCheck article) says it's probably twice that many.

Democrats AND Republicans have been lying ever since about fixing that problem. And they continue to get away with their lies. It's a problem, they all know it, and they lie when they say they're going to fix it.

Which makes me wonder; why? Why don't they just fix it? Why aren't they jumping at the chance to finally secure our borders for really real? To me, the wall makes sense. They actually do work. If you don't believe it, ask the residents of East Berlin. Or the Palestinian territories, where incursions by terrorists into Israel have been cut almost to nothing. The much-touted “high-tech virtual wall” disappears the second its funding is cut. It would be great to have that to supplement a real, physical wall, but the real, physical wall would be just as expensive to take down as it will be to build. And even its physical existence would be a major deterrent to illegal immigration. Not all immigration, btw, just illegal. Trump did, after all, also promise a big, beautiful door.

So . . . why, if most of the country wants a real, actual border, and all the politicians know it, and keep promising to do it . . . why don't they?

I'm just guessing here, but it might be because their patrons don't want it. Maybe, just maybe, they like having an army of available workers who have no legal standing and can't do things like demand minimum wage or decent conditions. Have you ever done any research on how illegal immigrants live? I read a piece a few years ago about Latino illegals living in Chicago and working for Ty, the company that produces Beanie Babies among other things. Squalid living conditions, ridiculous hours, poor pay and working conditions. And their only choice is to not work, and therefore not make any money, because they have no legal recourse. I did save the link to the article, but the last time I clicked it, the article didn't exist any more. How convenient. It was from the Yahoo news feed; I forget the original source.

So, just how compassionate is it to let these “asylum seekers” in to roam free? Again, it comes down to law. If anybody can come in, and have legal status, then do we actually have a border? If that's cool, then say so. Completely open borders. Advocate that, and I'll believe that you actually mean what you say, and that you've thought that far about it. No passports, no background checks required, you get here, you're a citizen, period. Even if I disagree, at least I could respect someone who advocates for that and honestly believes it's right for everyone. And if there's actually anything between borders and no borders, would you please explain it to me?

Do you support his lies.....daily lies? Is that the character you like to see in a president. You wouldn't tolerate it in a friend....why would you tolerate it in a president?

- I don't respect anybody's lies. I don't respect Mitch McConnell's, or Barack Obama's, or John McCain's, or Jean Shaheen's, or anybody's. But I think it's funny for somebody who probably liked President Bill Clinton to be so huffy about character.

And, I do tolerate it in friends. If I know they're lying, I shine it on in order to maintain my friendship. I try not to lie myself, especially to my friends. I've even told truths that harmed friendships. So, I have repeatedly, continually, put up with lies from politicians, because I honestly care more about how they do their jobs. And I do my best to keep track of when they lie, and about what, so I can parse who to vote for next time around.

I don't honestly think that Donald Trump lies a tenth as much as he gets credit for. I've looked through the ever-growing lists published on line about how many lies he's told, and most of them are horse pucky. Some have turned out to be true. Some of them are strictly up for interpretation, like regarding whether or not you believe in climate change.

And a lot of what he says is just to keep the pot stirred. The more people over-react and go ballistic, the more they show themselves for the tools they are. In my experience, most people have an active bull**** meter, and when somebody is spouting mindless hyperbole, it puts them in a bad light. 

Unless, of course, you've emotionally invested yourself in their point of view. So, when somebody keeps coming back with; “I know you are, but what am I” and getting rabid foam-at-the-mouth responses, I know which one looks like an idiot.

Give me a reason to support any decision or statement he has made and I will give you 10 reasons why that is not sound judgement.

- First of all, I would be skeptical of anyone who didn't have the “judgment” to even consider trusting their spell-check. (Btw, I copied the questions directly from your FB post, and you obviously didn't catch the mistake.)

10 reasons? Is that you, or just the K-Street cubical mouse that put out the original list? Okay, I would like to hear your 10 reasons why I shouldn't support each of the following:
- Tax and regulation cuts that stimulate the economy,
- Secure borders,
- Challenging deep-seated corruption in our government,
- Naming judges who respect the Constitution,
- Demanding real solutions to real problems, instead of offering promises they don't intend to keep.

I've said this in another blog post, but maybe you missed it. I believe that there are certain things that everybody wants: Peace, prosperity, equality, security, and freedom. In as equal measures as possible. I've watched the deterioration of this country for more than six decades now, while people I put my trust in lied through their teeth about fixing it. If I see somebody who understands what those five things actually are, and has a track record of getting things done, they've got my vote.


Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Album review - "Songs From The Goose" by the Whiskey Geese



This is a review of the Whiskey Geese's 2017 release “Songs From The Goose.” Dane Anderson, Tyler Wayne Drabick, and Jesse Farnham are listed as being who the Whiskey Geese are, although any time I've ever seen them live it's just Dane and Tyler. They often perform with two acoustic guitars, both singing, and simply told, you owe it to yourself to go see them. They're fantastic.

Now, over the years I have heard a lot of locally produced recordings and I have to say, until recent years they have just about all been sorely lacking. I am a faithful friend, and gladly pay whatever the going rate is to support a local artist, but probably anything in my local record and cassette collection from before 2000 has had one courtesy listen and left to collect dust. And the sad part is, most of these acts are/were great in a live setting.

The sad truth is, local acts don't often get to play the music that they write. Let's be honest now, people at clubs and parties expect to hear music that they're familiar with. Which isn't a bad thing, but for an artist there is no replacement for playing a song again and again. And when you don't get to play your own songs except a few times in rehearsal to learn the changes, and then in a hurry during an expensive studio session, they don't get their due.

That said, since the advent (and rapidly dropping price) of digital recording, there are a lot of good local things coming out, and this is definitely one of them. Most of it was recorded, as reported on the CD sleeve, “in a small cottage on Goose Pond in Canaan, NH.” And yet, in spite of the semi-amateur setting, the final result is very professional. The mix is good, the performances are excellent, the vibe is relaxed, the instruments and vocals are clear . . . all in all, an excellent effort.

Okay, so, because I know Dane and Tyler, I feel like I have to take pains to find what I don't like about it and present that as proof of my own integrity as a reviewer. And I would love to, but . . . damn, it's a good album. And it's one of those that's becoming an ear worm. I've now played it four times, and I'm liking it better every time. That's a very good sign.

I think Jesse Farnham does a lot of the lead vocals, although I hear Dane and Tyler's distinctive voices taking the lead on some. Blake Goedde plays excellent drums, very tasty, not overplaying but setting a deep, comfortable pocket for the songs. Drabick does some very sweet keyboard, and both he and Anderson contribute great guitar work. Their individual styles on guitar stand out as well.

This is a very tongue-in-cheek record, but far short of what I would call cynical. Cynics sneer at everything, basically despise anyone not as smart as they are (and nobody is), and at the end of the day don't really care because it's all an illusion, right? The Whiskey Geese view the world through smart-ass glasses, but do it with heart and soul.

In a lot of ways this is classic jam-band stuff. If you like Grace Potter, Keller Williams, the Allman Brothers, Umphrey's McGee, and Gov't Mule, this is right up your alley. They draw from a deep, deep well of influences; a true 21st-century group but with roots sunk deep in the ground. Yep, the usual suspects; jazz, blues, country, the whole kettle of fish. They like taking things just a little over the top, but not so far that they fall into head-up-the-poop-chute cleverness.

If I'm not mistaken, Dane is a Berkeley School of Music graduate, and I've heard that this is where he and Tyler met, but that's second hand. If I weren't so darned lazy, I'd ask them. More fun to just spread rumors, but they are both highly educated. And I'm not sure of how else to say this, but . . . they don't sound it. School didn't beat the soul out of them.

Oh, right. Songs. The opener, “Whiskey Goose,” chugs along with a Joe Bonnamassa-meets-John Lee Hooker guitar hook and then throws clarinets (played by Drabick) at you. And, at the end, you still have no idea why they call themselves Whiskey Geese. They won't tell me, either. (Assholes.) They probably tell everybody else, and then order them not to tell me. Fine. Be that way. I don't care. Good song anyway.

I'm trying to pick a few stand-out cuts. “Funkalotapuss” is great. And, yes, Jesse, you are a blues singer. Good effort, though. “Spittin' Blood” makes me wonder where they got that particular inspiration. Hmm, Drabick and Farnham . . . You bad, bad boys! “In The Snow” is one of those modern-classic-throwaway tunes; a very calm, very sweet, very gentle roller coaster ride. (See, right here is where your guts slam up against your rib cage.)

“High White Mountains” gives them a chance to show off their bluegrass chops. “Proper Man” is just absolutely righteous. “Bucket of Blood” is Dane at his best. “Mary Claire” might be funny, but they do it so damned well it comes over beautifully.

On the whole, “Songs From The Goose” is fun, often funny, smart, and very well done. I will give it, on a scale of 5, 4 ½ NH pine cones. After all, nothing is perfect.



Thursday, January 17, 2019

Film review - Chappaquiddick


Just watched this movie, and found it quite interesting.  Pretty good, obviously a good sized budget, good acting and writing.  The lead was played by Jason Clarke, who I'm not readily familiar with.  But he gave a good performance and, in the right setting and lighting, even looks a fair bit like Senator Ted Kennedy.

The picture above is the real Senator Kennedy, probably taken at Mary Jo Kopechne's funeral.  The movie explains its significance.  For those of you who don't know, Joseph Kennedy was the patriarch of a very rich and powerful family and was deeply involved in politics.  The height of his own career was serving as the US Ambassador to Great Britain.

He and his wife had many children, four of whom were sons.  He had very high aspirations for all of them, hoping that one or all of them might eventually become President of the United States.  The eldest, Joe Jr., was a bomber pilot who was killed in action in WW2.  The next son, John, also served in WW2 as a PT Boat Captain.  He survived the war and was a bone fide hero.  From there, he went into politics.  He became President, but was assassinated late in his first term.

The third brother, Robert, also went into politics.  He served as his brother's Attorney General and then won a seat in the US Senate from New York.  While running for President himself in 1968, he, too, was assassinated.

This left the fourth, Edward, also known as Ted.  While serving as a US Senator from Massachusetts, he went to a party one night on Martha's Vineyard.  One of the other people there was Mary Jo Kopechne, a former staffer with his brother, Bobby's Presidential campaign.  They left together in his car.  There was an accident; the car went off a bridge and turned over, sinking into the water below.  He survived, but she didn't.

About the only thing the movie glosses over is their relationship.  It's been presumed for decades that they were having an affair.  It's also been assumed, and admitted to, that they'd been drinking and that he was quite drunk.

Any movie has to have a central theme; a focal point from which everything else is connected.  The central theme of this movie is that Teddy Kennedy was an idiot and an ass.  The first part presents him as the dimmest of the four brothers.  He became head of the clan by default, not by merit.  The rest of it walks us through mistake after screw-up after blunder, most of it driven, not by remorse or concern for Ms. Kophecne or her family, but his own political future.

It also delves into the mechanizations and manipulations behind the scene.  By implication, it can be assumed that the same happens around anyone who is that rich and powerful.  The film makes it clear that there was a firm plan to run Teddy for President in 1972.  This event made that impossible.  He finally did run in 1980, trying to wrest the Democratic nomination away from sitting President Jimmy Carter, but found Chappaquiddick hung around his neck like a '67 Oldsmobile.

I find it amazing that Edward Kennedy, the fourth longest serving Senator in US history, is so revered, even in this age of Donald Trump.  Trump is rude, crude, and has been unfaithful to three wives.  The biggest difference between his personal life and Kennedy's is that Ted was only unfaithful to one wife.  And, he drank to excess, while Donald doesn't drink at all, according to legend.

The movie has made me think about the Clintons.  Bill is clearly smarter and more careful.  And Hillary has his back.  When the ballots are cast, do we really care about someone's personality?  Or is what they actually do on the job more important?  If you hate Donald Trump because of his tweets and Stormy Daniels, don't you also have to hate Ted Kennedy or Bill Clinton?

If you still believe that Ted Kennedy was a good man, it's because you agree with his politics. Not, because you would trust him to drive your daughter home after a party.

You want to talk about personalities?  Look at Richard Nixon.  Very likely, the most awkward and uncomfortable man to ever hold the office of President, certainly in the modern era.  He used to practice things to say at parties.  Whatever you might want to say about his competence or his honesty, nobody's ever accused him of having an affair.  Who would he have one with?

I think I'm well within the mark when I say that the most decent two men to hold the office of President in the last century, regardless of their policies or success/failure ratio, would have to be Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter.  This begs the question; is there a difference between good people and great people?