Tommy James, American Pop Legend

Tommy perfected the art of the AM-radio-friendly 3-minute pop song like few others from the 60s. His songs were masterpieces of musical simplicity and endearingly groovy melodies that were finger-snapping cool, energetically sexy, and dance-friendly, helping to get the girls on the dance floor and smiling. Hippies, greasers, jocks, and goody-two-shoes all loved these songs. And the chicks, forget about it: Tommy’s tunes moistened a whole generation of female underpants.

Moreover, every cover of a Tommy James song turned out to be cool too for the 80s generation, by such artists as Joan Jett and Billy idol; even Tiffany’s cheesy-peppy-dorky teen mall rat cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now” was annoyingly decent, though you’d have never admitted it to your hipster indie rock friends. But you know you secretly wiggled your butt to it. I wiggled my bootie to it, you pretentious motherfuckers, though mainly because the German hottie I was dating the summer of ’87 loved it. You should have seen Tanya dancing around my apartment in her panties while Tiffany’s version played on the French radio station I frequently blasted on my stereo. Magic, pure magic. Sue me, bitches.

Here are some of his gems:

Crystal Blue Persuasion (1969)
The Summer of 1969; I was 6. My family was visiting my Uncle Don’s lake house near Sturgis, Michigan, every day at this glorious locale spent swimming and sunning, then at night we had sumptuous cookouts and lots of fun family time, Uncle Don often reminiscing fantastically epic stories of his and my Dad’s youth in South-side Chicago during the Great Depression. I have vivid memories of seeing horrible reports on TV news about the battle for Hamburger Hill in ‘Nam, then watching the Apollo 11 Moon landing, which was one of the greatest experiences of my life. This song was on the radio that magical summer like a guiding beautiful light passing through all the good and bad, uniting life into a glorious sonic cacophony and visual kaleidoscope of psycadelic technicolor perfection. Some memories are better than others.


Mony Mony (1968)

Even now, 50 years later, I still can picture in my mind groovy hippie chicks in mini skirts and knee-length go-go boots dancing lasciviously to this hip little ditty with it’s snappy snare-and-handclaps beat and the tamborurine-led magic of its bridge. And Tommy wailing with his blue-eyed soulful pipes, not quite as badass as Otis Redding or Marvin Gaye or James Brown, but not bad for a whiteboy from southern Michigan. Back in the day you played this at a party to get the gang pepped up and dancing like fools. Billy Idol’s cover of this in the 80s was a sing-along staple in bars and pubs worldwide, with “Drink, get laid, get drunk, get FUCKED!” added by the singing-along crowd during each vocal-less guitar break, and of course “FUCKING BULLSHIT!” sung between the pauses in the chorus instead of “Mony Mony.” Good times.


Hanky Panky (1966)

Along with Louie, Louie, this was the epitome of lo-fi American garage rock. How many kegs were tapped at 1960s frat parties while this was blasting out of cheap record players as frolicking girls twisted and wiggled to its snappy beat? LOTS. The song was naughty in a clean-cut, white-bread way, and yet I am sure the evangelical Jesus freaks swore this was the opening salvo of Babylon taking hold of American hippie youth. Sure, the evangelicals knew black folk had been dirty dancing to their satanic R&B for a decade, but now the white kids were shaking their asses like those dirty negroes, ergo culture was collapsing. Bravo.


I Think We’re Alone Now (1966)

Bubblegum pop perfection. That goddamn bass line just ROCKS, and even an idiot can learn the one-finger organ line in about five minutes. There’s nothing fancy here, just a driving 4/4 beat and cool pop magic that made Tommy the master of AM radio. I stole this 45 from one of my sisters and played the crap out of it on our family’s hi-fi console when I was about 5, dancing around the house like a demon. So maybe in a small way I am channeling that little kid’s memory some 50 years later.


Crimson and Clover (1968)

The Summer of Love was dominated by San Francisco psychedelia-crazy hippies who made great music but were also pretentious douchebags. Tommy took that LSD-driven imagery and placed it into an AM-friendly format that proved he could be as cool as those silly San Fran fucks but without all the annoyingly tedious pretense. The result was some great music, such as this song and the wonderful Crystal Blue Persuasion, two great hippie songs if ever that really meant anything. Even the wankers from The Dead and Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape probably smiled every time this song played on the radio, and at the end they all muttered, “Well played, Mr. James, well played!”


Draggin’ the Line (1971)

By the early 70s AM and FM radio were polar opposites, culturally; FM was where the cool kids played while AM was the home to Country and bad, corny Pop. Tommy James, who was brilliant in both formats, had one last great tune to unleash on the airwaves of both with this snappy, groovy little pop song that rode up the charts merely because it’s awesome. He proved that, despite the popularity of LP albums and 18-minute Yes songs with ponderously boring instrument solos that dragged on forever, there was still a place for the 3-minute pop song, especially cool ones—Tommy James’s forte.

The Hall of Silly Goofy Awesome Rock

Ah, Rock & Roll. It wasn’t all long-haired macho dudes in cod pieces playing loud, misogynistic piffle. There were some fun and silly bands that also played great music. Here’s my homage to a few of the best ones.

Rock Lobster – The B-52s (1979)


Life Begins At The Hop – XTC (1979)


(What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love & Understanding – Elvis Costello & The Attractions (1979)

Another Nail in My Heart – Squeeze (1980)


Once In A Lifetime – Talking Heads (1980)


It Must Be Love – Madness (1981)


That’s Good – Devo (1982)


I Could Be Happy – Altered Images (1982)


Just Got Lucky – Jo Boxers (1983)


Five Get Over Excited – Housemartins (1987)

The Moody Blues

It’s about time the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame honored this superb band. Here are a few of my favorite songs. So light up a bowl of your best weed, put on your best headphones, and enjoy one of the greatest bands that ever was and will ever be, The Moody Blues. Deep, melodic, harmonious, mellow, rocking, brilliant, heady, psychedelic, profound, beautiful. This was the music for deep within your mind about the vast the universe around us, and of how it felt to be alive, breathing, and thinking. Goddamn I love this band.

Nights in White Satin (1967)

Ride My see Saw (1968)

The Story in Your Eyes (1971)

Tuesday Afternoon (1967)

Question (1972)

Legend of a Mind aka Timothy Leary’s Dead (1968)

I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock & Roll Band) (1973)

Confessions of a Social Media Dropout

I’ve tried in the past to quit Facebook, but was urged by friends and family to return. Lately, however, I find myself less and less interested in the whole thing. I’ve been absorbed by other activities like exercise and extensive reading to even want to participate any more. Thus I’m going to quit Facebook forever in a couple days. If anyone who doesn’t already have my phone or email wishes to contact me, I can be found at the following email address. Moreover my blog at http://journalofdoubt.com will always be a repository where I chronicle my quotidian life.

email: matthew.c.scheck@gmail.com

It’s not that I have anything against Facebook; as many on here know, I have participated in it with great enthusiasm for years. Nowadays as I approach my 55th birthday, I feel it’s time to move away from such an active online presence and return to a more distant and private lifestyle before the Internet made everything so public. I assure you all I have never felt better both physically and mentally in my life. It’s just time for a change. I was always more than happy to make my life such an open book for all to see, but now I think I’d like to get back some of the privacy such an online presence diminishes.

Peace out. I wish you all the best. You know where to contact me. I will disable my account Friday.

The Sophistry of Psychopaths

Sophistry: noun: the use of fallacious (highly untrue) arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving.

Calling this pile of ass-wart puss a Nazi belies the fact he’s far too much of a coward to be a true fascist. Though he does look like some 1920s Brown Shirt piece of shit, he is, in fact, the leader of the most vile special interest group in the USA, and is funded by an industry that has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of US citizens the last 30 years.

Here’s today’s insanity from NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, who, like VP Mike Pence, looks like the Nazis in The Sound of Music chasing the Von Trapp family around the Alps [hat tip: Billy Crystal]:

Wayne LaPierre: “What they want is more restrictions on the law-abiding,” LaPierre said on stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington. “They want to sweep right under the carpet the failure of school security.”

1. Everyone is “law-abiding,” even psychopaths, right up to the moment said psychopaths open fire on large crowds of innocent people with military-grade weapons. Take that maniac in Las Vegas last October. Up until he smashed open the window of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and fired his bump-stock-enhanced AR rifles at the crowd of Country Music fans below, killing 58 and wounding over 800, why, he was as “law-abiding” as any other person; after all, he legally purchased over 45 weapons in the previous year and passed every background check—you cannot get more “law-abiding” than that. And then he wasn’t when he pulled that trigger and unleashed hell on the crowd below. Can we please put this logical fallacy of “law abiding” to rest? It is a specious argument. Every person is technically law abiding until the moment he comes unglued and kill others. Who, we citizens ask, is the next psychopath to go from law abiding to total kill-kill-kill crazy in a matter of seconds and unleash hell with assault rifles and high-capacity-mag pistols on groups of innocents? Please explain this distinction, Wayne. Oh, right, there is no universal algorithm or pattern where you can predict when and where the next law-abiding idiot starts killing others. Ergo, the access to guns of mass casualty infliction is the issue, not the “rights” of the individual. Get rid of the guns and the slaughter will definitely diminish, even disappear. That is a logical fact, Wayne.

2. If what happened in Parkland was a “failure of school security,” what about what happened in Las Vegas? What was that a failure of, except to prevent a single citizen from buying over 45 military-grade weapons and thousands of rounds of ammo, checking into a hotel incognito, and murdering 58 people? Was that a failure or “security” too, Wayne, or just the fact you and the NRA encourage any and every fucking idiot in the USA to purchase a shitload of weapons and ammo for the so-called protection of liberty? What liberty was that asshole in Vegas protecting, Wayne? Again, can we dispense with the logical fallacy arguments? The easier security solution to prevent the thousands of gun murders every year is to get rid of the guns. Outlaw them. Seize them all. Now, this may seem impossible, and maybe it is, but, logically, that is the most correct answer to all this gun violence. Ask Australia. That brave country did exactly that, outlawing semi-automatic long rifles and seizing them from private citizens. Turning our schools into armed prisons? Insanity. Arming everyone in America into a giant Mexican standoff as a means of security? Really, seriously? You’re fucking insane, Wayne.

What’s so frustrating about the so-called public discourse on gun violence is that, for far too long, these specious arguments haven’t been rightfully ridiculed for what they are, a load of horse shit. Our right not to be shot by maniacs, as far as I know, greatly exceeds the rights of so-called “law-abiding” psychos for purchasing weapons designed for soldiers to kill lots of enemies in a war. Let’s not bullshit the citizenry of this country over this; Second Amendment rights are one thing, but how about the right to live free from nut jobs shooting at you with weapons that have no truly utilitarian use in the hands of private citizens?

How about the right not to get shot by a psychopath while attending a concert in Las Vegas? Or while attending church in Texas? Or watching Batman at a theater? Or having a work Christmas holiday party? Or dancing at a disco with your friends and loved ones? Or going to school or college in Colorado, South Florida, Kentucky, Virginia, et al.? Or just walking down the street? Your right to bear arms, Mr. Pretend Patriot Douchebag Wayne LaPierre, doesn’t trump my right to live peacefully. So while I think there’s lots of debate to be had about the validity of the 2nd Amendment—and the restrictions we as a civilized country should employ to prevent the thousands of gun murders every year—let’s not forget that the fundamental rights of a US citizen are the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, not to own a murderous war machine like an AR-15 rifle. Please, Wayne, with the silly bullshit arguments otherwise.

Party Like It’s 1978

Disco. Let me start by saying it did not suck. The only people who screamed that epithet in the late 1970s were monumentally douchie morons who dressed badly and couldn’t dance. They hated Disco because they were afraid of the unabashed sexuality and unbridled personal expression that dancing to this sensual, beat-driven music afforded so many people. Whatever. I was a teenager when Disco Fever struck the USA, and I loved every goddamn minute of it, all the crowds gathering to dance to this amazing and sexy music, bodies contorting, spinning, rubbing, bumping, and boogying. I kissed a girl for the first time to “How Deep is Your Love” by the Bee Gees; that was not unusual in 1978. Disco did not suck if one embraced its magical energy and let go of inhibition. Dancing to me is such an important aspect of my life even now, some 40 years later.

Straight, gay, black, white, latino, Asian, whatever, Disco was for everyone. It was the celebration of life and the truest, most sacrosanct democratic principles of liberty, fraternity, and equality.

Anyhow, here are ten of my favorite Disco songs. I could list hundreds, but these are my go-to songs. Enjoy.

1. Dance With Me – Peter Brown

 

2. I Feel Love – Donna Summer

 

3. Everybody Dance – Chic

 

4. Stomp – Brothers Johnson

 

5. Shame – Evelyn “Champagne” King

 

6. Love Thing – The Whispers

 

7. Born to Be Alive – Patrick Hernandez

 

8. September – Earth, Wind & Fire

 

9. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood – Santa Esmeralda

 

10. The Groove Line – Heatwave

Gomer’s Heroes

Gomer’s Rangers – It’s open carry cosplay! We’re not real soldiers, we’re just dressing up as them.

Gomer’s Rangers – Please, Rambo, don’t trip and shoot yourself!

Charlottesville, VA, Saturday, 12 August 2017. Do these gentlemen look like “peaceful” protesters merely exercising their Constitutional right of the people to peaceably assemble? Many are wearing body armor, dressed in military-styled camouflage uniforms, and toting military-styled assault rifles.

To police SWAT snipers: Aim for the fat guts protruding from the body armor. Center mass. Most of these idiots would accidentally shoot each other in a real skirmish. For the amount of money these yokels have spent arming themselves like they’re Army Rangers, they could have taken a nice vacation somewhere sunny and warm with the wife & kids. Or paid off their piles of debt to banks and credit card companies. Or just saved it for retirement.

My advice to you “militia” dudes: If you go out looking for trouble, trouble will certainly find you. Sadly, lots of innocent people will get hurt due to your insanely stupid concept of “vigilante” justice. You’re not chivalric knights or even patriots. You’re just a bunch of silly wannabe cops and/or soldiers who never had the moral and physical courage to actually serve your country. I imagine the guilt and self-loathing is immense because you didn’t serve, couldn’t serve because you were a fat, out-of-shape loaf, or you were just too fucking lazy. We the American people do not need your “protection.” What we really want is for you to put away your popguns before you hurt innocent citizens.

We have an Army,

Gomer’s Rangers – Be vewwwy quiet, I’m hunting lib-o-walls.

Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard defending the USA, the finest fighting force the world has ever seen. We have plenty of police at the local, state, and federal level. We even have a National Guard–the well-regulated militia of which the Second Amendment of Constitution addresses–comprised of willing citizens who have sworn to serve and protect the citizenry here at home, and lately they’ve served overseas fighting our wars to boot.

Gomer’s Rangers – The fitness requirements to join this unit are pretty lax, as you can see.

Moreover, an overwhelming majority of these brave American military and police serving and protecting us are good, decent, upstanding American citizens, our neighbors, our friends, our family. Plus they are magnificently trained in their work well beyond what most civilians can even imagine. Most importantly, they have sworn an oath to abide by the US Constitution and uphold the laws that our democratically elected representatives have passed. I still believe these brave Americans are protecting us well enough.

Gomer’s Rangers – On Monday these brave heroes will be back stocking shelves at Home Depot. But today they are WARRIORZZZ!

We do not live in a militarized police state. Not even close. I have been to such places, like East Berlin during the Cold War, and I can personally bear witness to the massive difference between a militarized, tyrannical police state and the current state of freedom and democracy in the USA.

What we don’t need are private citizens running around in vigilante posses like they’re Rambo the Ranger. You’re not Rangers. You’re not soldiers. You’re not cops. You’re nothing close to that. You’re play actors in military garb like cosplay goofballs at a comic book convention, with questionable mental stability while toting dangerous military-grade weapons, and, most importantly, without a lawful mandate for your actions and behavior. You’re a danger, threat, and menace to the peace and well being of civil society. You’re the problem, not government or the “them” you think is coming after you. It’s all in your head, Rambo Fatass.

Gomer’s Rangers – God, what fine specimens of American manliness on display here!

The only threat to any of you is your delusional mind that has led you to think you’re capable of “serving and protecting”–and against what, against whom, exactly? Your fellow citizens, a vast majority of whom don’t give two shits about you, let alone pose a threat to you?

 

I really have to ask: What great tyranny or grave injustice do you face? Being forced to pay child support? Highway tolls? Taxes, some of the lowest in the industrialized world? Being asked not to smoke indoors in public places? Facing the lowest violent crime rate in generations? Yes, the USA has its problems, like all civilizations great or small, but overall your chance of survival and living in peace is greater here than just about anywhwere on Planet Earth. BIG LOL on all your paranoid, existential angst, dude. You don’t need an arsenal, you need mental health counseling and a physical fitness program. Take away that dangerous weapon you’re waving around and your balls shrink to microscopic size.

Gomer’s Rangers – Freedom don’t come cheap. It cost General Patton here three months wages to build this Ricky Recon cosplay outfit.

Personally, I do not fear these chumps. One-one-one, unarmed, they are harmless little cunts to me. I certainly don’t fear their popguns. There’s nothing about these morons that sparks one electron of fear in my nervous system. I pity them as misguided losers searching for a manhood and masculine identity they’ve never quite gained.