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JIM SHORTS – my first book

jim shorts cover.png

This isn’t a book for everyone. (I’m quite the salesman, aren’t I?) Inspired and influenced by the wordplayful writings of Lewis Carroll, James Joyce, Edward Lear and John Lennon, Jim Shorts is a decidedly non-mainstream collection of 50 stories, poems and specialty forms (playlets, advice column, letter, magazine article, etc.) with line drawing illustrations. In an era more suited to soundbites and short attention spans, the dense wordplay and punning preclude this from being a quick and easy read. Evelyn Wood herself, rest her speed-reading soul, would have been hard-pressed to zoom through my pages, at least without grasping the enhanced meanings the altered spellings and fused words add to these fictional pieces. Therein lies the key. The strange words are not arbitrary and haphazard. This is not merely a trunkload of malaprops (though there are many). This is not Norm Crosby on acid. No, most every syllable is deliberate and, more often than not, contextual. Some of the poems do appear in “straight” language, placed at intervals to clear the mental palette, as it were, but the majority of the book is stylistically what has become known as Joycean. Actually, while indebtedly tipping a glass and raising a hat to those afourmentioned authors, I would prefer, at the very least, Geoycean. Or better yet, Georgean.

How would I categorize it? Nonsense? Sure. Surreal? Definitely. Absurdist? Guilty. Avant-garde? Fair enough. Experimental? OK, but no Bunsen burners were used in the creation of this book. Above all that, humor–be it black, satirical or just plain wacky–is the aim. And in my art of arts, I do believe it’s a very funny book. Funny, punny and honey for those who are sweet on words and have a taste for cunninglinguistics. (Which reminds me, be advised there is adult content, albeit in distorted language.)

What are the stories and poems about? In plain English–unlike the stories themselves–“Blue Spaghetti” is about a floundering restaurateur who tries to spice up business by serving up a gimmicky, colorful dish called Pasta Azul. A disaffected young man with bad skin finds solace when he runs away to join other like-faced comrades in the “The Fresh Foreign Lesion.” A bandleader with a strict dress code faces a mutiny from players who want to wear shorts onstage in “The Litre of the Band.” “The Cardsharks” are a roving trio who goes door-to-door, forcing their hosts into playing card games for money that the intruders invariably win. In “Orville’s Raccoon Problem,” the protagonist faces a murder charge for axing his mother-in-law while claiming that in the dark garage he mistook her for a large raccoon. Not quite feel-good stories. Then again, if they trigger anything from chuckles to guffaws in the reader, maybe they are.

After wasting far too much time chasing my tale(s) seeking a publisher and finding them unwilling to even read the book, self-publishing seemed my only option. However, that method, too, is problematic, as I cannot afford to print hard copies. Furthermore, due to the idiosyncrasies in the book’s layout, it cannot be uploaded to the usual ebook formats. Consequently, I have decided to release it on a grassroots (sha la la la la, I live for today) level as a simple PDF. As such, it can be viewed in a two-page open-book format, which is better suited to an illustrated offering like this. It’s simple, it’s clean, it’s easily emailed, and, most importantly, it’s the book I created in the form I wanted without any interference from a muddleman.

And so, if any of you would like to try on Jim Shorts (one size fits all), it can be purchased at: https://payhip.com/b/Tf2K

Thanks for lending an eye.

 

(Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jim George and byjimgeorge with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.)

ME & HIM: COLLABORATING WITH MY TEENAGE SELF

In antiquity when I was a teenager, I was in a not very good trio named Atlantis, comprised of two guitar strummers and a marching band drummer. (Jack White did not invent the no-bass player band.) Despite our shortcomings, of which being bottomless was only one, we had the hubris to enter our hometown’s annual Battle of the Bands, this time judged by A&R representatives from Capitol Records. Seemingly big stuff in a small city.

Fancying ourselves good songwriters, notwithstanding the short amount of time we’d been at it, bandmate Dave and I chose three of our own songs for our mini-set, although originality was not a requirement. The contest spanned three hot August evenings with nine or 10 bands each night. Since no Atlantian broke a string, forgot lyrics, went off-beat, sang off-key (I don’t think) or fell off the stage, we thought we did OK. In fact, we did better than OK. At the conclusion of that night’s competition, when the Capitolist read out the names of the bands chosen to go onto the finals, our raggedy threesome was among them, which naturally thrilled us. When he mentioned us, however, the announcer offered something of a disclaimer, saying, “And a surprise choice—Atlantis, for their song ‘Soldier.’” Despite the qualifier (excuse?), I was nonetheless very happy to know a song of mine was the reason for our inclusion. A heady moment for a novice tunesmith. Unfortunately, “Soldier” was vanquished when we competed in the final battle a couple nights later. Of course, when you call yourselves Atlantis, sinking into oblivion seems preordained, right? Still, as the losers always say, “It was an honor just to be nominated.” Or, in this case, finalized.

When choosing songs for my new release, Semi-Suite, I realized that although I have a hefty backlog of new material, some of the songs I wrote in my teens still resonated with me—though only musically. The lyrics ranged from OK to awful because in those days I didn’t put enough importance on the words. If they rhymed or sang well, that was good enough. Or maybe I was simply too green to know the difference or, worse yet, care. Whatever the case, the lyrics did not do justice to the music, so I considered them as great little fixer-uppers.

I therefore decided to collaborate with my teenage self and use my current sensibilities to write the wrongs, as it were, and marry to the melodies the caliber of lyrics I was incapable of offering as a young lad, as well as provide some new infrastructure where needed. The resultant time-warped partnership yielded four of the seven songs on Semi-Suite: “Shoeshine,” “Serious Blue,” “Harvey Muscle” and “Public Speaker John.” The latter two retained their titles, while “Soldier” became “Shoeshine,” and the former “What You’ve Done” turned into “Serious Blue.” Three got a complete set of fresh lyrics, and three were expanded with bridges lacking in the originals. As such, these are all new tunes. It just took me a lifetime to write them.

The original lyrics to “Public Speaker John,” which, like “Soldier,” was written when I was 17, were previously overhauled a number of years ago, but I always felt the song was too short, so more recently I added another verse and a bridge. A demo of the second version, done in a funkier rhythm, is included in my compilation By George!, as is an acoustic rendition of the newest (and final) version. For the new one, I resurrected the initial straighter rock arrangement and put in back in the original key of B, proving I don’t always have to sing at the top of my lungs or the top of my range.

As far as I’m concerned, the collaboration was a success. I think we worked well together, and I’m certain he would agree. The young Jim had a lot to learn lyrically from the likes of John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Ray Davies, Steve Marriott, John Sebastian, Pete Townshend, Paul Simon, Cole Porter, Sammy Cahn, Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer, Frank Loesser, Johnny Burke, and others, but I value his early contributions to melody and structure. If the fates allow, we will team up again, as there are more vintage songs crying out for refurbishment.

Semi-Suite is rounded off—if you can call a seven-song half-album “rounded off”—with two of my newest songs, the all-acoustic (except for bass) “Semi-Sweet Estelle,” the rollicking “Anything, Anybody, Anywhere, Anytime,” and another tune that’s on my By George! collection in demo form, “I Knew Better.” I’ve painstakingly recreated the latter’s arrangement and made it my lead-off track and first single from Semi-Suite. It debuted on Mark C. Rogers’ Hometown Heroes radio show on Delaware Public Media, was also played on The Suzy Wilde Show on Radio Caroline and on Marc Platt’s Radio Candy Indie Show.

Those who know me only from my live appearances will find this set of songs more varied than the blues-rock fare I’m (un)known for. Along with the stylistic diversity, these new tracks feature more instrumentation than is possible within the limitations of a guitar-bass-drums trio, the format I’ve used playing live for many years (for both financial and musicians-can-be-a-pain-in-the-ass reasons). The augmentation includes extensive backing vocals, harmonies, keyboards, percussion, harmonica, violin (plucked not bowed), and cello. Acoustic guitars appear in six of the seven tunes. Except for the cello loop in “Serious Blue,” which came courtesy of Emily Ermolovich, every sound on Semi-Suite is by me, making this a true solo album (with a cello asterisk). I hear this McCartney guy just played all the parts on a new solo album, too.

Although I would have liked other musicians to have been involved, when the pandemic hit, I didn’t buy any orange-tinted assertions that it would pass quickly. Consequently, I didn’t want to wait indefinitely and decided to use the down-time to do it all myself. I’ve been laboring—with love—on this since the spring, and I’m happy to have it finally finished and available for anyone interested. The next seven songs are lined up for the sequel, Semi-Suite Too, slated for next year.

Anyone interested can order either a CD or a thumb drive for $15 (shipping included) via PayPal at: onehotvox@aol.com

The thumb drive includes a PDF with all the lyrics. CD-buyers can be sent the PDF separately by email if requested.

Semi-Suite is dedicated to the memory of David Crane, my aforementioned former bandmate, who died this past summer.

MY MIND’S EYEFUL – My First Children’s Book

my mind's eyeful

(© 2019 Jim George)

When I was a kid, we used to play this game in which we’d close our eyes and tell each other what we were “seeing” within the murky darkness of closed eyelids. Informed by our own imaginations, we would concentrate and soon perceive shapes of people, animals and objects in various surreal (at least in my case) scenarios.

That is the premise of my first children’s book, My Mind’s Eyeful. Because a rainy day prevents him from venturing outside to play, a little boy instead travels inside his own fertile imagination and recounts to the reader the zany things he has observed. The words “dream” and “sleep” are never used because it’s not slumber-induced. (What young lad naps of his own free will?) More of a daydream—with eyes wide shut, to borrow a phrase—an adventure unfolds simply by the boy closing his eyes and allowing his mind to usher him through this carnival of the absurd, where Lewis Carroll and Shel Silverstein might feel at home.

In creating this book, my modus operandi was probably the opposite of the way most authors work. Rather than write a narrative and then illustrate it after the fact, I went through drawings of mine and wrote verses (in normal English!) to fit each visual I chose. Every picture did indeed tell a story, and each one became a different scene.

My Mind’s Eyeful is available as a PDF for $6. As with my first book, Jim Shorts (read all about it in another blog here), I elected to make it available in this format for a few reasons. For one, I am unwilling to spend months or years hustling to get traditional publishers to read it, let alone publish it. For another, once again I cannot afford to print physical copies—although, even if I could, I wouldn’t pay a vanity press to produce it in a different form necessary to fit the limitations (size, layout, fonts, etc.) of a template. Most importantly, the book can be issued exactly as conceived, with no concessions—artistic or financial—to any editor or publisher who doesn’t see eyeful to eyeful with my vision.

Anyone interested in this oddventure with nary a video game or smartphone anywhere within its pages can purchase My Mind’s Eyeful at: https://payhip.com/b/cnXV

my mind's eyeful-back

(Back cover © 2019 Jim George)

 

(Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jim George and byjimgeorge with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.)

STELLLLLLA!! (The Backstory of My Stella Stevens Interview Appearing in Cinema Retro Issue #42)

stella stevens 3b

I probably first became aware of Stella Stevens in Playboy during my adolescence. In my circle of friends at the time was a fat boy I’ll call Larry. Although he was a classmate, because of his size and girth, Larry appeared older than the rest of us. I can’t recall if we elected him or if he boasted that he could do it, but just the same, he was put to the test and moseyed into his neighborhood corner store to buy a copy of Playboy using coins we’d all chipped in. While we anxiously waited outside, like some wheel men in a bank robbery, Larry emerged with a grin and a paper bag that signaled success. It worked! He got the goods!

This was our routine when a new issue hit the stands, and Larry always came through. Returning home with all of us in tow, and steering clear of his mother, our portly pal would smuggle the magazine, tucked under his shirt, into the house and promptly upstairs to his room. There in his lair, we would excitedly crowd around as Larry riffled through the pages—past the liquor ads, Jean Shepherd stories and Gahan Wilson cartoons–to the “Sex in the Cinema” section or the layouts that featured famous actresses au naturel. Then, with Larry authoritatively manning a razor blade, the glorious photos would be excised and divvied up amongst us. I nabbed the Stella Stevens ones. Which I still have.

Fast-forward to 1993. Having watched most of her films over the years and having seen or read interviews with her, I thought she’d be interesting and fun to talk to, so I queried the editor of Femme Fatales magazine to see if the idea of a Stella Stevens interview appealed to him. He liked my credits as a freelancer and immediately gave me the go-ahead. After putting in my request to Stevens’ publicist, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a phone call from Stella herself to personally schedule the interview. She was open, honest, earthy, quotable and as enjoyable as I’d imagined, and I ended up doing the interview right then and there, winging it as I hadn’t prepared any notes. She graciously agreed to talk again and address any additional or follow-up questions I might have. Soon afterward, she sent me a large envelope containing her latest 8×10 pin-up photos and a hand-written letter.

Unfortunately, the editor would never give me a straight answer as to how much I would be paid for the piece if accepted. I’ve dealt with many editors over the years, and they never mince words over payment (or, in some cases, non-payment), so that was a red flag. Byliner beware. When, after being asked for the umpteenth time, Mr. Vague finally gave me a figure, he quickly added, “But don’t hold me to that.” By that point, my patience had reached its limit, and I never finished or submitted the article. Curiously enough, he never asked for it either, and so I considered it a closed issue–in both senses of the word.

Last year, when I read the sad news that Stevens was in a care facility suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, not only did it literally hit home, as I lived through the nightmarish disease as a caregiver for my afflicted father, but it also triggered a fond memory of what a dream subject Stevens was when I conducted that never-published phone interview with her all those years ago. Rummaging through my archives, I unearthed the scribbled transcript of that ’93 conversation and crafted it into the Q&A that has just been published in Cinema Retro (Issue #42).

Among the topics covered are some of Stevens’ favorite roles, working with such directors as Sam Peckinpah and Jerry Lewis, the plight of aging actresses, her exit from and re-entry into Hollywood, her move into directing, and the charity work that gave her a sense of fulfillment.

It’s a good one because Stella was a good one.

http://www.cinemaretro.com/index.php?/categories/15-Current-Issue

THE SECOND COMING OF JOHN & YOKO

maxresdefault(This, with a few edits, is a newspaper piece I wrote on the release of John and Yoko’s Double Fantasy. It was published on Nov. 30, 1980, two weeks after the record’s release and eight days before Lennon’s murder. Despite all the hoopla, the much-anticipated album did not shoot straight to the top of the charts until after the tragedy (which gives the phrase “Number One with a Bullet” a chilling irony) and some critics were not kind. My editor at the time told me that following Lennon’s death, some of the bad reviews were pulled before publication and rewritten .)

 

Whether he was reshaping the world as a Beatle, giving peace a chance, exposing his jagged psyche, traipsing left-ward with the likes of Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman, about-facing and shunning the mixed-up media or settling down to family life in any one of his home-sweet-homes, John Lennon and his art have been one.

Mercurial, eccentric, quick-witted and brilliantly talented, Lennon has always plunged heart-first into anything he’s created. He’s given pieces of himself on the printed page (his two books, In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works) and on celluloid (the avant-garde films he shot with Yoko Ono). Vinyl-ly, with his records, he’s invariably left blood on the tracks (as Mr. Zimmerman would say) with his confessional offerings, beginning with such compositions as “Help” and “I’m a Loser.”

Though the mythology of The Beatles has in some ways proven to be a weighty albatross for him and the rest of the Fab Foursome, it was in the context of the group that he first quaked the earth. Lennon was the controversial one, the dream-weaver and the wave-maker. The intellectually-inclined slice of The Beatles’ audience gravitated, predictably, toward the brainy, zany Lennon.

No, he wasn’t The Beatles. No one of them was. But as Pete Hamill wrote, “In some way, John had been the engine of the group, the artistic armature driving the machine beyond its own limits, restless, easily bored, in love with speed the way Picasso was in love with speed, and possessed of a hoodlum’s fanatic heart.”

The post-Beatles Lennon was once likened to Sisyphus; indeed, ever since Yoko Ono supplanted Paul McCartney as his partner-in-rhyme, Lennon has been a twentieth-century Sisyphus, pushing his rock (and roll) uphill, with snide snipers taking pot shots at him—and, especially, his paramour—at every opportunity.
In their early days together, this ripening pair weathered a lot of bruises and eventually parted ways and means, only to be reunited eighteen months later because, as Lennon put it, “the separation didn’t work out.”

And then in ’75, with a pocketful of fresh songs and on the verge of booking studio time, the Lennons had a baby boy and John unplugged his guitar and stopped dead in his soundtracks.

“I became an artist because I cherished freedom—I couldn’t fit into a classroom or office,” he told Newsweek recently. “Freedom was the plus for all the minuses of being an oddball! But suddenly I was obliged to a record company, obliged to the media, obliged to the public. I wasn’t free at all!”

So he clammed up, offed the record, and became a hearth-and-homebody focused on the raising of his son. The man who back in ‘72 wrote the pro-woman anthem “Woman is the Nigger of the World” (which, sadly, was squashed dead by misguided objections to the title—usually by white males, as Lennon pointed out) went one better and swapped roles with Yoko. She became the breadwinner, he the bread baker. The Lennons invested in dairy cows and real estate, and it was moos and moola for five years.

Now 40, he has rolled away the stone and reappeared with a hot new single, “Starting Over,” and a grand-new album, Double Fantasy. Ah, but to set the record straight, this is not just a John Lennon album. It’s the Second Coming of John and Yoko. And it’s a superlative double-headed triumph.

Like it or not, it took guts on Lennon’s part to divvy up the 14-numbered LP with his wife. After all, their last collaboration, in ’72, was Sometime in New York City, generally considered to be the rough nadir of Lennon’s recorded output (not counting the trio of avant-garde albums, Two Virgins, Life With the Lions and Wedding Album). Consequently, starting over together, for better or for worse, as the wedding vowels go, could be sales-suicide. For the record, while doing well, the album currently is not topping the charts.

“It’s like a play,” Lennon said of Double Fantasy. “We wrote the play and we’re acting in it. It’s John and Yoko—you could take it or leave it…otherwise, it’s cows and cheese! Being with Yoko makes me whole. I don’t want to sing if she’s not there.”

Therefore, she is there with seven originals. One of them, “Kiss Kiss Kiss,” concludes with orgasmic panting, for which Yoko will, no doubt, get slam-banged once again. More exhibitionism, they will say. But no one crucified Donna Summer for doing it in “Love to Love You Baby.” Different strokes? Quite possibly.

Yoko clearly doesn’t have the pipes of a diva, but some credit is due. In 1970, Lennon told Rolling Stone, “She makes music like you’ve never heard on earth…It’s fantastic. It’s like 20 years ahead of its time.” Or maybe 10. Listen to The B-52s. Yoko was on the New Wavelength before it had a name.

But before anyone screams, “Yoko oh no!” about her inclusion on the new album, be advised that the oral hijinks are minimal, and her seven contributions are her finest to date. They include the lovely, classical-tinged “Beautiful Boys,” the edgy “I’m Moving On” and the ska-flavored “Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him.”

John, on the other half, has never sounded more contented overall. As contented as those quarter-of-a-million-bucks-apiece Holstein cows the couple owns. In “Watching the Wheels,” he speaks of his at-long-last peace:

I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

“I’m not interested in other people’s work—only so much as it affects me,” he said to Newsweek. “I have the great honor of never having been to Studio 54 and I’ve never been to any rock clubs. It’s like asking Picasso, has he been to the museum lately?”

The theme of Double Fantasy, which is a Jack Douglas and Lennons co-production, is simply John loves Yoko loves John. Not forgetting son Sean for whom John’s lovely lullaby “Beautiful Boy” was written. Lennon’s dreamy “Woman” is as beautiful and sensitive as anything in his catalog:

Woman I know you understand
The little child inside the man
Please remember my life is in your hands

In his funky “Cleanup Time,” a verse of which reminds one of his nursery rhyme-like “Cry Baby Cry” from The Beatles’ White Album, Lennon sings of his and Yoko’s juxtapositions:

The queen is in the counting house
Counting out the money
The king is in the kitchen
Making bread and honey

Yet, despite the album’s apparent bliss-blitz, the pair’s life together—“so precious together” (a little too precious for some people, it seems)—is not all Peaches and Herb. The underbellyaches of love are also exposed. Their fears, insecurities and tensions bubble to the surface in such cuts as Yoko’s “I’m Moving On”:

But now you’re giving me your window smile
I’m moving on, moving on, it’s getting phony

In John’s “I’m Losing You,” he sings:

I know I hurt you then
But hell that was way back when
Do you still have to carry that cross?

But the riled side of life is not dwelled upon, and Yoko concludes the album with an expression of hope in the gospel-tinged“Hard Times Are Over”:

It’s been very hard
But it’s getting easier now
Hard times are over
Over for a while

It is a fitting and optimistic finale to John and Yoko’s new peace of the rock.

THE CARDSHARKS

(This poem is from my book Jim Shorts.)

 

cardsharks

Raoul, Sylvie and her half-a-brother Yish
Were door-to-door cardsharks in search of sum fish.
“Let us in or we’ll torcher!” they all chunted with gleem,
All afiery of eye, all connivy of scheme.
“We mean no borderly harm,” they taled a nu family.
“Off course if you ‘fuse, we’re three pyros, you see!
“So ply us a few rounds of blackjag or poka,
“We’ll luff and we’ll merrymake and we’ll java some mocha.
“Is it too mush to ask? ‘Tis in yearnest we’re franker.
“Let’s let bygoons beat bygoons, don’t be sore as a canker!”
The main of the house shivered his timbres quite frightly
As the trio of gusts burched and belped impolitely.
“I demandate de deal!” Raoul Tabasco then sat.
“If it pleaseth the coat, just shaketh you hat.
“Jacks be nubile, jacks be wild,
“Jacks jumbo o’er thy first-bored sonchild,
“Doozies be wild, johnnies be good,
“Redqueens be monty, clift palettes be wood.”
So they plied and they plied by yon slivery moon.
The hosts heebie-jeebied and staid pat as a boone.
The cardsharks won potfuls as they mad their own luck.
Their cop ranneth over with plundy good buck.
“It’s been quite a pledger,” Raoul then boweled graciously.
“You’re a batch of good spots, believest ye me.
“Maybe sobtime we’ll all do it once more for the gypper,
“Only nicks time my Sylvie will bake a yum kipper.”
So into the horizone they twilighted three–
Raoul, spousewife Sylvie and her semi-sibly.
Dem’s de bones, dem’s de breaks, de cookies, de crunch.
Some gets de judy, some gets de punch.

© 2016 Jim George

For more information about Jim Shorts, please read:

https://byjimgeorge.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/first-blog-post/

https://byjimgeorge.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/jim-by-george-a-self-interview-on-jim-shorts/

(Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jim George and byjimgeorge with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.)

 

JERRY LEWIS: THE FILM BUFFOON RETURNS

(In 1981 I wrote a newspaper profile on Jerry Lewis and subsequently sent him a copy. Not long afterward, I received a personal letter of thanks from him. This is the original article.)

jerry lewis letter--

 

Genius is childhood recalled at will.

–Baudelaire

 

If Baudelaire’s definition holds even a speck of truth, therein lies the clue to the European view of Jerry Lewis as a comic genius on par with Chaplin.

“I’m 55, but I’m really nine,” said Lewis in a recent Tomorrow interview. “The key to my whole lifestyle is mischief, and I cannot, as a 55-year-old man, really think mischievously because that demeans my being. But there’s nothing wrong with a nine-year-old thinking that way. I cherish that nine-year-old because he’s everybody. He keeps me young. He keeps me thinking young. He’ll be at my next birthday, and he’ll have the most fun.”

Jerry’s kid, that mannish boy who has bumbled, mumbled and mugged his way through more than 40 films, is about to return to the silly screen for the first time in a decade in Hardly Working, which opens this week. Like it or not, the film buffoon is back.

The French toast Lewis’ comic brilliance. Director Jean-Luc Godard expressed his admiration to an incredulous Dick Cavett not long ago. But in America, there’s a split-decision. Statesiders generally find his juvenile Jerry-atrics either hysterical or grating. And it is the red, white and bluenosed critics who are Lewis’ most vicious detractors.

The reason for the animosity may be simple enough. Like Peter Pan, that impish, jerky, wonder-struck little kid who resides in the body and soul of Jerry Lewis has never aged. Therefore, he has remained unshackled from the rites, wrongs and constraints of society. On one level, he represents freedom. People not so free, people squeezed into role-modeled behavior, people who act the way society says they ought to act are likely to feel threatened by that kid and the freedom he represents. Hence, the jeerleaders.

Lewis’ self-imposed 10-year stretch away from filmmaking was provoked by some overexposure of flesh flicks in the early ‘70s. When the cinematic tide turned from boffo to porno, Lewis took a cab.

“I love the film industry,” he told Tom Snyder. “I took it as a personal affront that they were getting shabby. And it happened with a film I made for Warners, Which Way to the Front? a film I was really in love with. I put two years of a lot of blood and a lot of sweat into it.”

The skin-toned times created a condition which shocked Lewis out of his director’s chair—and right out of the industry. Driving by a theater one disenchanted evening, he spotted the marquee which had double-billed Which Way to the Front? with Deep Throat. That odd coupling resulted in Lewis’ giving Warner Brothers a shouting-room only performance of Hellzapoppin’sans jokes and music. But the Warner Brotherhood had a cop-out: they were so involved with their then-smash Woodstock that they gave the distribution rights of Lewis’ film to other companies.

“Well, I don’t want to know from explanations,” said Lewis, “’cause I was shattered by it. In the mail I got, I was the heavy. The mothers and fathers were writing me, ‘You are someone we allow the children to go to see, and you have a responsibility’ and all that jazz. And I got really turned off, really cold.

“Now the capper was Dick Zanuck comes to see me and he wants me to direct and star in Portnoy’s Complaint. I said, “Dick, that’s not my style. I don’t think I know how to make that kind of film.” Then I got a script where they wanted me to play a homosexual who had committed matricide.

“I said, hey, let me get back to Vegas. I’ll play concerts, I’ll go back to The Palladium in London, I’ll do my thing. And I said it’s got to turn. If it doesn’t turn, at that point I really didn’t ever want to make a film again. And it did turn, starting in ’78.”

Jerry Lewis has always been a G-man; family-oriented films have always been the Lewis trademarquee. Yet, despite all those Jerry-vanilla comedies, he is not about to march behind that other Jerry, the pulpit politico Rev. Falwell, and wage war on pornography. (That would make a hilarious scene, though: the unsure-footed stumblebum Lewis character traipsing behind the preacher like a spastic marionette, yelling in that chalk-screechy voice, “Hey wait for me, Mr. Fellman! Uh Rev. Failsafe! I’m comin’ Rev. Fallout!”)

“I don’t believe in censorship,” said Lewis. “If you want to see a porno film, an audience should have a place to go see it. But it’s a little incongruous and it’s hardly sensible to run Bambi with The Devil in Miss Jones just for the sake of Barnum and Bailey showmanship. The theater should run The Devil in Miss Jones for that audience, but leave Bambi where it belongs. It’s that simple.”

As Lewis hoped, the packaging of flesh and funny bone was a short-lived phenomenon which, he said, “had probably the same chance that the Edsel did, thank God.”

In spite of his predilection for tomfoolish behavior, Lewis is a slapstickler for professionalism. As a director, writer and actor, he takes his comedy seriously. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly—or any other way. He said, “I hate incompetents. I get very difficult when somebody shouldn’t be in the job they’re holding because they’re keeping it from a man who’s qualified. Moreover, they’re contagious. They’ll run through your crew, and they will dismember that crew.

“I’m making a film that I hope one day my great-great-grandchildren are gonna see. They’re gonna examine my work, and the fabric and character of this man is gonna be up for grabs. I’m not havin’ some moron on the set looking at his watch yawning ‘cause it’s just a job. He’s outa there. That’s only happened twice in 41 films.”

Lewis’ upcoming attractions include roles in Martin Scorsese’s drama, The King of Comedy (which also stars Robert DeNiro), and the screen-bound adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slapstick, being directed by Lewis disciple Steven Paul.

The Day the Clown Cried, Lewis’ own dramatic film (his sole to date), has been gathering Swedish dust, along with two Ingmar Bergman films, since 1973. Like the Bergmans, it was shot in Sweden as a Swedish-French co-production. When the political deal soured, the films were stopped dead in their soundtracks. A Godard picture, also part of the (mis)deal, was similarly thrown a French curve and lies in limbo in his homeland.

“They tell us,” Lewis said, “that this year, it looks like they’re gonna make nice with one another, and we can all finish our films.”

However, for the present, comedy comes first. Sight-gagging and language-mangling are back in vogue, and the maestro has returned to show ‘em all how it’s done. Hardly Working has Jerry Lewis heartily working. Maybe he is 10 years older. But that kid is still nine.

 

CHUCK BERRY 1979: OUR FATHER WHO ART IN PRISON

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In 1979 when Chuck Berry, one of the founding fathers of rock & roll, was convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to four months in prison in Lompoc, California, I was moved—provoked, actually—to write a song about him. My mission was twofold: a) to pay tribute to his indelible influence on music in general and mine in particular, and b) to protest what I, perhaps naively, perceived as an injustice. Not knowing the full scope of the case against him, I nevertheless concluded that someone–possibly chromatically motivated–was out to make an example of him. That was in no way excusing or defending the illegal actions to which he pleaded guilty.

“This tax thing that I was in was no bum rap,” he admitted in a 1983 Goldmine interview. “It was straight, true…”

However, as deep in the heart of taxes as the charges might have been, many others who similarly broke the law both before and after him, and often for a lot more than the $200,000 he denied Uncle Sam, were given the chance to pay their debts along with hefty penalties/fines/interest without serving any time. Years later, Willie Nelson, for instance, ran afoul of the law to the sour tune of more than $16,000,000 (that’s 80 times more than what Berry owed), yet he never spent a day behind bars. Crazy indeed. In addition, Berry received a run-on sentence of 1000 hours of community service. Whereas Nelson was On the Road Again, Berry had No Particular Place to Go. At least for four months.

 

The song I came up with, “Free Chuck Berry,” was purposely structured like one of his trademark tunes: a three-chorder featuring machine-gunned lyrics mixing humor with an issue, all propelled by guitar licks plucked straight from the Berry vine. A Chuck Berry song about Chuck Berry. It was a very crude home recording, but to my knowledge, no one–other than Elephant’s Memory with their “Chuck ‘n’ Bo,” which had gone largely unnoticed despite John Lennon’s production”–had written such an homage to the legend, let alone a plea for leniency, and I naturally hoped he would be amused by it.

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free chuck berry-

Unfortunately, red tape and Fed tape came between my tape and Chuck Berry. Prison officials sent my recording and letter, unopened, back to me marked “Unauthorized–Return to Sender.” The Sender was not happy.

After three calls to the joint and a round of pass-the-Chuck, I spoke to Berry’s cell-block leader and was informed that inmates, including the famous jailhouse rocker in question, were not permitted to receive any such packages containing bulk items. I guess it’s understandable; you never know what a convicted criminal might do with a cassette tape. And, admittedly, I did hope it would be considered a killer song.

“‘C’est la vie,’ say the old folks, which goes to show you never can tell”

(To hear the song, copy and paste): https://soundcloud.com/jim-george-101/free-chuck-berry-c-jim-george

(Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jim George and byjimgeorge with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.)

A Poem From JIM SHORTS

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     THE BRUCKO BROTHERS

The Brucko Brothers,
Buster and Buck,
Cut a fine figure
Despite their ill luck.
“My boys are all legs!”
Their mother exclaimed.
“But we’re fast as the wind!”
They said, unashamed.
“We bear no arms,
“No malice, no grudge.
“We never take handouts,
“And we make a mean fudge.
“We never need French cuffs
“Or mittens or gloves.
“We‘re experts at footsie,
“Just ask our true loves!”

© 2016 Jim George

For more information about Jim Shorts, please read:

JIM SHORTS – my first book

JIM BY GEORGE (A Self-Interview On Jim Shorts)

(Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jim George and byjimgeorge with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.)

 

A LOOKING-GLASSFUL OF LEWIS CARROLL

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Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies

Those lyrics from The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” a song directly inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, partially conjure up the scene which provided the genesis and revelation of what has become The Bible of so-called nonsense literature, a work which more than a century and a half later still influences prose, poetry, art, music and film.

There were no tangerine trees on the English shores on July 4, 1862 when Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, his friend Robinson Duckworth, and the three little Liddell girls—Alice, Edith and Lorina—went for a boat ride.

And whether the sky was marmaladen with clouds is debatable (the author described it as a “cloudless day,” but meteorological records indicate that it rained on the date in question).

Whatever the reality, on that tranquil “golden afternoon,” as Dodgson termed it, he ad-libbed a wondrously nonsensical tale of a girl named Alice who fell down a rabbit-hole. At the non-fictional Alice’s behest, Dodgson was obliged to recollect the story and commit it to manuscript so that she could make the return trip over and over again with her namesake.

Although the final version wouldn’t materialize until some three years later, it was on that fateful July day that Dodgson, tuned into the gods and inspired by the presence of his friends, planted the seed of the story which would give him an immortality he never dreamed of.

Its first incarnation was Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, which he illustrated himself. Later, he added more material and new characters (The Cheshire Cat, The Mad Hatter), commissioned artist John Tenniel to do a new set of drawings, rejected the earlier title for sounding “too like a lesson book about mines,” and the fairy tale became the celebrated Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865.

“In writing it out,” explained Lewis Carroll, Dodgson’s author alias, “I added many fresh ideas which seemed to grow of themselves upon the original stock; and many more added themselves when, years afterward, I wrote it all over again for publication; but…every such idea, and nearly every word of the dialogue, came of itself.”

Carroll cast himself and the other boaters in his magical tale. The Duck was an animalization of his pal Duckworth; The Dodo, Dodgson himself—in a self-deprecating jab at his own lifelong stammer (Do-Do-Dodgson) which, interestingly, vanished in the company of children; The Lory and The Eaglet, Lorina and Edith respectively; and, of course, Alice was Alice. In name and inspiration only, however.

“…Alice Liddell is not the character in the books,” wrote Jean Gattegno in Fragments of a Looking-Glass. “At most we can say that some kind of current passed through Alice Liddell and brought to life a picture waiting to become animated.”

Choosing one of four pen-names the author submitted to him, Edmund Yates (editor of Comic Times and The Train, a pair of publications for which Carroll wrote on occasion) christened Dodgson, Lewis Carroll. He might just as easily have been Edgar Cuthwellis, Edgar U.C. Westhill or Louis Carroll, the other names under consideration.

Both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its equally enchanting sequel, Through the Looking-Glass (1871), incorporated unfinished bits and piecemeal ideas Carroll had written years earlier. The first verse of the poem “Jabberwocky”—which Derek Hudson called “the ‘Kubla Khan’ of nonsense”—from Through the Looking-Glass is one such example.

Like Edward Lear, Carroll often invented his own language, and both authors’ words’ worth was primarily in their sound and meter. However, while Lear’s creations were purely nonsensical nonsense, if you will (or even if you won’t), Carroll frequently had a method to his mangling:

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogroves
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Unlike other welders of words, e.g, James Joyce—who let it up to his readers to fathom the meaning of his newfound language—Carroll bothered to relate, right there in his book, via the mouth of the on-and-off-the-wall Humpty Dumpty, how and why he put a little english on his English.

“I can explain all of the poems that were ever invented—and a good many that haven’t been invented just yet,” proclaims the famous Eggman to Alice.

“Slithy” is a fusing of “slime” and “lithe,” “gimble” is to “make holes like a gimlet,” “Mimsy” is a compound of “miserable” and “flimsy,” “mome” is a contraction of “from home,” as “wabe” is of “way before” and “way behind.”

Similarly, “chortle,” from elsewhere down the lines of “Jabberwocky,” is a blend of “chuckle” and “snort,” and it is but one example of Carroll-coined words that have become assimilated into our everyday language, as any dictionary will attest.

Wrote Gattegno, “…While continually stressing the difference between the meaning intended and the meaning understood, and showing how words are empty forms that one can play about with and not worry about the ‘sense’ one may arrive at, he also makes the word the basic unit around which the whole universe of significance comes into being. Words, which he does his best to destroy (with puns, plays on words, word games, etc.), also take on a certain almost magical value as objects of supreme enjoyment.”

Alice in Wonderland broke new ground,” wrote Derek Hudson in Carroll, “because it was in no sense a goody-goody book but handled childhood freshly and without sententiousness.

“The nearest parallel to the humorous method of Lewis Carroll is probably that of The Marx Brothers, whose dialogue not only has many verbal similarities with his, but who also, like him, assert one grand false proposition at the outset and so persuade their audiences to accept anything as possible…Both have been based largely on a play with words, mixed with judicious slapstick, and set within the framework of an idiosyncratic view of the human situation; their purpose is entertainment. Lewis Carroll has one transcendent advantage—with his limpid prose, he paints the color of poetry.”

And Carroll was, after all, above all, a poet. Continued Hudson, “He was, indeed, perhaps the most poetic when he wrote in prose, and we must think of the Alice books, with their harmonious and unforced blending of prose and verse, as being primarily a poetic achievement.”

Despite his fame and good fortune, Charles Dodgson struggled to keep his pseudonymous alter ego a separate entity. Dodgson was a mathematician, a logician, and a don at Christ Church at Oxford, England; Lewis Carroll existed only when tucked under the covers of his dreamlike books.

“I cannot, of course,” stated Dodgson/Carroll, “help there being many people who know the connection between my real name and my ‘alias,’ but the fewer there are who are able to connect my face with the name ‘Lewis Carroll,’ the happier for me.”

Such sentiments were not merely aw-shucks idol chatter from a humble soul; besides publishing a leaflet in which he “neither claims nor acknowledges any connection with any pseudonym, or with any book that is not published under (his) own name,” he returned to senders all letters addressed to “Lewis Carroll.”

In Lewis Carroll and His World, John Pudney wrote, “Lewis Carroll has been described as the best photographer of children in the 19th century…Children were of course the inspiration for his most creative work, both in literary and photographic terms…(He had a) penchant for the company of pre-pubescent girls and situations which would now trendily be associated with a Lolita syndrome.”

Not a book has been written about Carroll, it seems, which hasn’t in some measure touched on (no pun intended—for a change) those young girls, who seemed to be the joy of Carroll’s life. Alice was neither the first nor the last.

Speculation and Freudian interpretations aside, what we do know as fact is A) He loved to spend time with females aged anywhere from, say, four to puberty (though in later years, he seemed equally delighted by older young women—up to 17 or thereabouts); and B) He loved to photograph them–with their parents’ permission–in the nude.

“In the last three decades of Victoria’s reign,” wrote Pudney, photographs of children in the nude, and voluptuously fleshy paintings of naked adults, were not only acceptable but fashionable. Carroll’s portraits sans habillement were neither a novelty nor necessarily an outrage.”

Much ado about nothing on? His photo-graphic hobby and/or his attachment to his subjects reportedly incurred mom wrath on more than one occasion, but while there has been no incriminating evidence against the man, the debate as to his true nature and motivations goes on.

Though violence creeps into the Alice books (“Off with their heads!”) Carroll was a gentle man who despised the degradation of women and was vehemently anti-vivisection and anti-hunting for sport with its happiness-is-a-warm-gun mentality. In a pamphlet he once wrote, he predicted a future “when the man of science, looking forth over a world which will then own no other sway than his, shall exult in the thought that he has made of this fair green earth, if not a heaven for man, at least a hell for animals.”

On the flip side, Carroll was said to be extremely class-conscious and decidedly self-centered, somewhat of a prima don. As Pudney stated, “He just never did anything much that he did not want to do or felt that duty called upon him to do.”

Carroll’s other literary works, which include “The Hunting of the Snark,” “A Tangled Tale,” “Sylvie and Bruno,” “Sylvie and Bruno Concluded” and “Phantasmagoria,” showcased his genius in varying degrees, though none of them eclipsed or matched the pair of Alice books.

Virgina Woolf wrote of Carroll, “(Childhood) lodged in him whole and entire…He could do what no one else has ever been able to do—he could return to that world: he could recreate it, so that we too become children again…The two Alices are not books for children, they are the only books in which we become children…”

Lewis Carroll was, in the best sense, kidding us.

(Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jim George and byjimgeorge with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.)

GOING ROUND WITH THE SMALL FACES

smallfaces.PNG“God knows how it worked, but it did, and I’m very proud of it, and the other Small Faces are, too. It was worth the year’s work…It’s timeless to me.”
–Steve Marriott, Trouser Press, 1981

The Round One. That’s how the Small Faces’ 1968 LP, Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake, is sometimes referred to—providing it’s referred to at all.

The Round One? But aren’t all records round? Actually, plenty of records are square, but that’s another story. Getting back to the disc at hand (or in hand if you’re lucky enough to have an original copy in your possession), just as The Beatles’ White Album was so nicknamed for its distinctive cover, such was the case with this LP.

Released on the now-defunct and then-eclectic hot-pink Immediate label, co-owned by ex-Stones boss Andrew “Loog” Oldham (with the accent on ham), Ogdens’ inner tunes came shipped in a circular cover designed to simulate, in 2-D, a tobacco (wink wink) tin.

Unfortunately, although the album and its offsprung singles were hits everywhere else on the globe—topping the charts in their native England—the shape of the cover generated more attention back in the US than the shape of the music.

“While lacking the awesome stature of a Sgt. Pepper or a Pet Sounds, Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake is nevertheless a rock classic,” wrote Steve Clarke eight years after its release.

Another journalistic retrospectator, Richard Cromelin, opined, “Ogdens’ was the classic fulfillment of all the bands’s musical strains…Though packed to the brim with studio effects, minute overdubs and busy background din, its coherence and economy offset the tendency toward overproduction.”

Studded with no less than four musical jewels (“Afterglow,” “Rene,” “Song of a Baker,” “Lazy Sunday”), side one glistens with a refreshingly original blend of English music hall influences, psychedelia, R&B, rock & roll and pub sing-alongs.

“The Small Faces understood that power and fullness weren’t a product of sheer volume,” wrote Cromelin, “but of judicious arrangement and placement, as best exemplified in ‘Afterglow,’ which can attain monumental proportions and project an exciting ‘live’ atmosphere even when the volume knob is turned down low.”

Following the opening instrumental title track, replete with swirling phasing a la “Itchycoo Park”–Small Phasing—comes “Afterglow,” one of the ‘60s best singles. An unsilly love song, it is fueled by Marriott’s incomparable, impassioned vocal, alternately tender and frenetic, and beautifully colored by Ian McLagan’s soulful Hammond B-3 and insistent piano, Kenney Jones’ impressively dynamic skin-work and Ronnie Lane’s economical yet underrated bass lines (the bass by Lane stays mainly in the plain).

Ogdens’ unleashed a new aspect of The Small Faces’ melodus operandi: high-spirited humor. Side one’s nods to their jolly joie de vivre are the infectious “Rene (The Docker’s Delight)” and “Lazy Sunday,” the latter a jaunty tune sprinkled with the sounds of bells, whistles, birds, the ocean, a duo of paper-and-combers humming out a shaky Stones “Satisfaction” riff, and a comic Cockney vocal delivery by Marriott.

Wooden it be noyce to gat on wiv me nye-bas
They mike very clee-uh thy’ve gawt no room for rye-vas

Slotted midway between “Afterglow” and “Lazy Sunday” is “Rene,” a ribald classic spiced with lusty British humor, rich lyric imagery and English music-hallmarkings. The verses are a steal—they creep along Pink Panther-like, conjuring up salty visions of waterfront barflies on the prowl, while the choruses robustly sing out:

She’s Rene, the Docker’s Delight
And a ship’s in every night
Groping with a stoker from the coast of Kuala Lumpur

The elongated end of the song is somewhat reminiscent of the “Lovely Rita” climax on Sgt. Pepper. From a meter maid to a made meeter.

“Song of a Baker” is a mini-master-class in dynamics and pacing. Lane sings lead with Marriott high atop in harmony in the choruses. The killer guitar solo proves that Marriott was always an underrated axe-man, even when he was Facing the music in the ‘60s.

 Flipping the disc, The Small Faces went from apex to zenith.

“Are you all sitty comftybode two-square on your body? Then I’ll begin. Now of course, like all real-life experienstory, this also begins once apolly tie-toe…”

So begins side two, a thematic musical first. Narrated by English double-talk artiste Stanley Unwin, the story of Happiness Stan was the first (and possibly only) rock fairy tale, predating S.F. SorrowTommy or any of the so-called rock operas.

In a Trouser Press interview, Marriott recalled, “Me and Ronnie used to get very stoned and sit around the garden in the evenings, playing. We started talking about doing something about the idiot who wanted to find out where (the other half of) the moon went—a Cockney fairy story. It went from there…It made us laugh—anything that made us laugh, we liked.”

Quick of tongue and fractured of grammar, Unwin spins the delightful aslope fable which is interspersed with six numbers. Even more spectral in its musical stylings than side one, the A-grade B-side is a virtual surprise partita.

The Elizabethan-flavored “Happiness Stan,” with its harpsichord and chant-like background chorus, is followed by “Rollin’ Over,” in which the Faces are rock & rollin’ over with Marriott’s powerful double-tracked singing, a punctuative brass section and McLagan telegraphing the ebonies-and-ivories like some pint-sized Jerry Lee Lewis.

“The Hungry Intruder” is aurally woven into a tapestry of acoustic guitars, strings and flute, while “The Journey” kicks off like a Booker T and the MG’s workout—a hot cop of T.

Right down to its choral hi-diddly-hi-hi’s, “Mad John” is a beautiful evocation of an Old English folk song. Against the heavy-hearted strumming of his melancholy acoustic guitar, Marriott plaintively sings:

There was an old man that lived in the green wood
Nobody knew him or what he had done
But mothers would say to their children, “Beware of Mad John”
John would sing with the birds in the morning
Laugh with the wind in the cold hand of night
But people from behind their curtains said he’s not quite right

The tale tails off with the revelrous finale, “Happydaystoytown” with its infectious sing-along chorus and breakfast cereal philosophy:

Life is just a bowl of All-Bran
You wake up every morning and it’s there
So live as only you can
It’s all about enjoy it ‘cause ever since you saw it
There ain’t no one can take it away

When Happiness Stan is informed as to the moon’s whereabouts by the not-so-mad John, he simply says, “Of course, I nearly forgot it!”

Upon this revelation, he is joined, we are told, by a cast of characters including such nursery rhyme all-stars as Jack and Jill and Little Boy Blue, who “brought his mellotron amd freaked everyone out.”

“Stay cool, won’t you,” are the gnarly narrator’s parting words, and the band plays on, fading into the sunset—or, in this case, the moonglow.

Said Marriott, “I couldn’t see how we could follow Ogdens’…I thought, well if there’s a time to leave, it must be now…Whatever you read in print, it was in fact a case of Marriott was scared.”

America really missed the beat on this one. The Round One.

 

(Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jim George and byjimgeorge with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.)