If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what is an empty desk the sign of? Here are some cluttered items from an empty mind.
Today’s trivia question: I’ve recently heard three different instrumental versions of this song on the radio—on WZUM (1550/101.1) and Eric O’Brien’s “Smooth, Relaxing & Easy,” which airs Saturdays on WRCT and Tube City Online Radio, following my show.
If you’re a child of the 1970s or ’80s, you probably know the tune. But can you recognize it from the seldom-heard lyrics? Here they are:
Got a feelin’ it’s all over now All over now, we’re through And tomorrow I’ll be lonesome, Remembering you. Got a feelin’ the sun will be gone The day will be long and blue And tomorrow I’ll be cryin’ Remembering you. There’s a faraway look in your eye When you try to pretend to me, That everything is the same as it used to be. I see it’s all over now— All over now, we’re through, And tomorrow I’ll be startin’ Remembering you.
Do you recognize the tune? Answer at the end of this column.
And the legendary Chicago columnist would have spotted Tucker Carlson as a lying fraud from a magnificent-mile away
Mike Royko knew.
Royko, for younger readers, was a legendary newspaper columnist in Chicago. I guess I also need to explain what it meant to be a “columnist.” A columnist was an opinion-writer, but more than that: At most newspapers, they were the stars, often (but not always) the best writers, and they were called “columnists” because they would fill up most of a “column” of type on the page.
There were other legendary newspaper columnists. San Francisco had Herb Caen, New York City had Jimmy Breslin, and Chicago had Royko. For a while, Royko’s columns were syndicated to hundreds of other newspapers all over the world.
Royko first made his mark in the early 1960s at the struggling Chicago Daily News, going after targets that other journalists were afraid to tackle, including Mayor Richard J. Daley. When that paper closed, he shifted to the morning paper, the Chicago Sun-Times, that was owned by the same publisher.
But in 1984, Royko quit the Sun-Times and went across the street to work for its mortal enemy, the Chicago Tribune. It would be like the Pittsburgh Pirates leaving the National League. People were stunned — including the people who ran the Sun-Times, which promptly filed a lawsuit to block the move.
Why did Royko walk? Because Rupert Murdoch had just bought the Sun-Times.
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This is true: Remember the freak-out a few months ago when a Chinese “spy balloon” was observed crossing into U.S. airspace, and Republicans and Fox News (but I repeat myself) lost their ever-loving minds, demanding that Sleepy Joe Biden do something and the military was ordered to shoot down any more “spy balloons”?
Well, at least one of the “spy balloons” shot down by the U.S. military in February was apparently an observation balloon launched by a ham radio club.
A few notes on “Dear Hearts & Gentle People,” and not-so-dear-hearts or gentle people.
Tuesday morning get-up-and-get-motivated song:
Canonsburg’s Perry Como is rightfully known for his laid-back, almost somnolent stage presence — memorably parodied by Eugene Levy on “SCTV” — but for my money, his relaxed style was really outstanding when he sang against an uptempo arrangement like this one.
From his 1959 album, “Como Swings,” this version of the song was arranged by Joe Lipman. The orchestra is conducted by Mitchell Ayres, Como’s longtime bandleader, who also worked with Connie Francis, Frank Sinatra and others become becoming the music director on ABC’s “Hollywood Palace” until his untimely death in 1969.
“Dear Hearts & Gentle People,” written by Sammy Fain and Bob Hilliard, has a Pittsburgh connection beyond Como’s recordings of the song. It’s based on the last words of Pittsburgh native Stephen Foster.
This scrap of paper was found in his wallet when he died in January 1864 and researchers speculated it was an idea for a song:
I don’t know that Foster ever envisioned Fain and Hilliard’s jaunty lyrics or a swinging RCA Victor Living Stereo recording.
Trivia Question: Which artist featured on the soundtrack of “Pulp Fiction” covered “Dear Hearts & Gentle People” in 1961? Answer at the end.
A bug crawled across my arm at 4:57 this morning. Roger Bannister in 1954 couldn’t have gotten across the bedroom any faster. I must have looked like a paunchy, pasty, Saturn V rocket.
Try getting back to sleep after that.
Anyway, with the help of a lot of coffee and refined sugar, I’ll be doing a show today from 12 to 3 p.m. Eastern on our flagship station, WRCT (88.3) and Tube City Online Radio at www.tubecityonline.com/radio.
Don’t forget, WRCT is Carnegie Mellon University’s station, and this is CMU Spring Carnival weekend, so the start of the show may be a little bit delayed due to CMU’s Sweepstakes races — more commonly known as “buggy” — through Schenley Park.
Buggy started out in the 1920s as a fun, “anything goes” race between fraternities and sororities, but the motto of Carnegie Tech has always been “nothing succeeds like excess” and it’s since become a deadly serious competition, with pages and pages of rules, long training sessions for judges, vicious disputes over alleged infractions, and bitter recriminations for years afterwards.
(Sorry about the lack of posts last week. It was a week with five Mondays.)
I changed jobs in 2022, which means I’m working in Oakland again for the first time since 2016. One of the first things I did when I moved into my new office was to bring in my “smart books.”
“Smart books” is a phrase I borrowed from the late Doug Hoerth, who used to talk about the reference works he kept in the studio to answer questions from listeners.
In the pre-Internet age, listeners would call Hoerth’s show on WTKN, then WTAE and finally WPTT, trying to get the answers to questions like “who was that one actor who starred in that movie?” or “what was the one-hit wonder that recorded that oldie?”
If Hoerth didn’t know the answer, he’d throw the question out to his audience (“the smartest audience in the world,” he said) or he’d look it up in one of his “smart books.”
I may not have as many listeners as Doug Hoerth, but at least I have my smart books. They include three dictionaries, three news-writing style manuals, and two New York Public Library desk references.
I’ll have an all-new show on Saturday (March 25) but I will be pre-recording it. If you have a request, “queue up early,” as Phil Musick used to say. You can leave a request on the studio hotline voicemail at 412-385-7450, email email@example.com, or post it in the comments section here.
I’ll be at the Arsenal Bowl on Sunday night (March 26) for our monthly Sunday night oldies party, spinnin’ the hits that give you fits in the Burgh of Pitts, to quote Jack Bogut. Someday soon I’d like to start bringing some vinyl with me and playing 45s. I have a suitcase turntable and I need to get it working one of these days. For now, we use those new-fangled compact discs.
Probably everyone who’s ever been married or in a long-term relationship knows the most perilous question you can answer is, “What are you doing right now?” closely followed by, “How do I look?” and “What should we have for dinner tonight?”
(And in all fairness, I’ve done it to my wife more than once, and she’s then found herself dragged to some ham radio or record collector event.)
Sunday afternoons are made for listening to the radio, reading, and napping. (Is there a better nap during the week than the one after church and a big breakfast?)
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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: