Beware The Ides of March! Although they released seven singles from 1969 to 1971, “Vehicle” was the group’s only record to make it into the top 10, let alone the top 50, making them a true one-hit wonder, though one of their members would go onto much bigger success, as we’ll soon see.
Formed by a group of kids from Berwyn, Ill. (all together now: BERWYN?), the band was originally called The Shondells Unlimited — named in honor of singer Troy Shondell, himself a one-hit wonder with the song “This Time” in 1961, and no relation to the later Tommy James-fronted group also known as the Shondells. Some of the members of Shondells Unlimited had known each other since Cub Scouts and elementary school, and two supposedly were born in the same hospital on the same day.
About the name: “Ides” merely means a “division,” as in the half-way point of a month. In ancient Rome, the Ides of March (generally on the 13th or 15th) was the first full moon of the year on the Roman calendar and the day was marked by religious observances and the public settling of debts to be paid. Notoriously, the emperor Julius Caesar was murdered on the Ides of March in 44 B.C., setting off a two-year-long civil war.
I’ve made it no secret that I was a big fan of the late Tom Snyder, long-time talk show host. I enjoyed his radio and TV shows, as well as his early attempts at blogging at his website, Colortini. (The name was a homage to his recommendation, before the first commercial break on The Late, Late Show, to “fire up a colortini and watch the pictures as they fly through the air.”)
I wasn’t any particular fan of Robert Blake, who died this past Thursday. Blake was the star of In Cold Blood and the TV show Baretta, and he was a favorite talk-show guest for many hosts (including Snyder) in the 1970s.
After Blake’s TV career ended, he began a long, sad decline that more or less hit rock bottom in 2001 after his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, was found dead in a parked car shortly after the two had dinner in a nearby restaurant. Blake was charged with the murder and his bodyguard was charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
Although Blake was found not guilty, a civil jury eventually held him liable for Bakley’s death and ordered him to pay $30 million. (The judgment was reduced to “only” $15 million on appeal.) Blake filed for bankruptcy and slipped into obscurity, emerging for an interview in 2012 with Piers Moron … er, Morgan … and another on ABC’s 20/20 in 2019.
Anyway. That’s the background. While spelunking in the Internet Archive today, I ran across this blog post by Tom Snyder, written in 2003—after Blake was charged with Bakley’s murder, but before the trial.
If Snyder hadn’t been a great broadcaster, he would have been a great writer:
Even though it was the opening track on the “Nilsson Schmilsson” album, “Gotta Get Up” did nothing on the charts when it released as a single in 1971.
Instead, most DJs played the other side, which was Nilsson’s cover of the Badfinger song “Without You”; that song went to Number 1 on charts around the world, including for four weeks in the U.S.
It would take almost 50 years for the public to discover the song. In 2019, “Gotta Get Up” was featured in the Netflix series “Russian Doll,” and within a few days had been played almost a quarter of a million times on Spotify. Wikipedia also notes about 1,000 people paid to download the song.
I guess I’m enough of an old fart to wonder why people wouldn’t just pay the 99 cents or $1.29 to own the song and download it.
Yesterday, I wrote that despite its creator’s increasingly unhinged social media and YouTube commentary, I hadn’t noticed any overt political content sneaking into the comic strip “Dilbert.”
Well, I generally was reading the comic strips only on Saturdays and Sundays. Apparently I’ve missed a lot. According to media critic David Bauder, writing for The Associated Press, “Dilbert” has been treading in tin-foil hat territory for a while:
In a Sept. 2 “Dilbert” strip, a boss said that traditional performance reviews would be replaced by a “wokeness” score. When an employee complained that could be subjective, the boss said, “That’ll cost you two points off your wokeness score, bigot.”
In an August strip, the boss said the company was getting into the “pandemic prevention market” and creating demand by unleashing a deadly virus.
A Black employee featured in an Oct. 20 strip noted that his boss ignored his actual accomplishments to recommend him for a job for which he was not qualified. The employee backed down when told it would be a big jump in pay.
Mike Peterson, who blogs about comic strips at an industry website, The Daily Cartoonist (and for whom I used to occasionally work), told Bauder that “Dilbert” seemed to have run out of jokes about office and Internet culture, adding, “The strip jumped the shark.”
Yipes. Sounds like it jumped the shark, flew over the dock and landed in the tiki bar.
Trivia Question: Scott Adams’ “Dilbert” wasn’t the first widely distributed cartoon character named “Dilbert.” A character named “Dilbert” was used by the U.S. Navy during World War II in safety cartoons aimed at novice pilots.
What is there to say now about cartoonist Scott Adams that hasn’t already been said by a thousand other people, mostly better than I could say it?
Maybe that while others may enjoy seeing a rich jerk get rightfully clobbered by public opinion, I find it sad.
In case you’ve missed it, the creator of the “Dilbert” comic strip posted a rant on his YouTube channel in which he urged white people to separate themselves from Black people. The next day, while attempting to supposedly put his comments into context, he made them worse.
As Gene Weingarten wrote in his excellent analysis of Adams’ meltdown, “every viewer of 1950s TV Westerns knows when you walk into quicksand, you thrash as little as possible.” Not Adams, who fell into it up to his neck, arrogantly refused to stay calm or get help, and has just gone under for the final time.
Maybe Adams will find another syndicate to distribute his work, or maybe he will self-distribute it, but effectively, if the major newspaper chains and syndicates don’t want his comic strip any more, “Dilbert” is out of business, at least as a mainstream property.
Massive Music Weekend kicks off at 12 noon today (Feb. 24) on our flagship station, WRCT (88.3) FM, with half-hour sets from The Schizophonics and Les Negres Vertes, and continues through 9 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 26). That means regular programming will be disrupted on WRCT, including “Radio 9” on Saturday afternoon.
Remember when I asked listeners to suggest some bands or artists they would like me to feature during Massive Music Weekend? Sure you do! I wish I had remembered. I forgot to submit a list of bands to WRCT, so I will not be heard during MMW on WRCT. Oops.
I’ve been super-busy, but I’m always super-busy. I just forgot.
“Radio 9” will be on Tube City Online Radio from 12 to 3 p.m. Eastern time Saturday — and incidentally, for those of you who also listen to “The Saturday Light Brigade,” you can hear Larry and Rikki Berger and their crew from 6 a.m. to 12 noon every Saturday on Tube City Online Radio. Point your browser to www.tubecityonline.com/radio, find Tube City Online Radio on radio.garden, TuneIn, Streema or OnlineRadioBox, or just ask your smart device (Echo, Alexa, etc.) to play “Tube City Online Radio.”
(This week’s show will be a repeat from several years ago. After all, it’s new to you if you didn’t hear it the first time.)
From time to time, for my monthly cartoons in CQ Amateur Radio Magazine, I draw a “dubious moment in radio history.” It’s almost always based on some actual momentous occasion, but with a dumb anachronistic punchline.
For instance, in 2012, a Georgetown law student testified to Congress in favor of legal access to birth control. Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” and a “prostitute.” Dozens of sponsors pulled their advertising from his show.
I quickly drew a cartoon for CQ‘s then-sister publication, Popular Communications, which depicted legendary old-time radio announcer Graham McNamee getting in trouble in the 1930s for referring to a woman who wore trousers as a “harlot”:
NEWS ITEM: An administrator at Vanderbilt University has apologized after it was revealed that an email to students offering condolences following a mass shooting at Michigan State University was written by an automated text-generation tool.
The Peabody College of Education & Human Development sent an email on Feb. 16 saying that “the recent Michigan shootings are a tragic reminder of the importance of taking care of each other, particularly in the context of creating inclusive environments. As members of the Peabody campus community, we must reflect on the impact of such an event and take steps to ensure that we are doing our best to create a safe and inclusive environment for all.”
A note at the bottom stated the message had been written by ChatGPT, an AI text generator.
Don’t forget, we’ll be pre-empted on WRCT on Feb. 25 and we’ll be talking with Hugh Geyer of The Vogues on March 4. (I just got the CD and I want to spend a little bit more time editing before we air the interview.)
Hugh Geyer of The Vogues, shown here with his wife, Maria, will be my guest Saturday, March 4, 2023 for the 1 o’clock hour.
We’ll be talking about the upcoming release of a CD that features digitally remastered versions of all of their original songs from the ’60s. We’ll also ask him about how the group was originally formed (you may have heard the origin story before, but it’s a good one) and what a “Vogue” was.
(For years we’ve been told they were named after the Vogue Terrace nightclub near McKeesport, but Hugh says he’s not sure that’s accurate.)