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Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Bill James Mailbag

The Tango Bar…and above it.

For the sake of discussion, let’s say that Schilling is clearly the better pitcher over Jack Morris (or find two other players historically that is a more clear example). Morris however will get 70-80% of the votes (14th year), while Schilling is going to get 30-40% of the votes (1st year), and they are on the same ballot. Do you think it’s a fundamental problem that the two are treated separately, that the writers have clearly thought and rethought Morris far more than they have Schilling and will only seriously get to Schilling in year 2 or 3? Or do you think it would make more sense to look at all the pitchers on the ballot, realize that Schilling is a far better choice than Morris (who is really as good a choice as David Wells), and vote on that basis? That is, rather than vote yes/no on each player, instead list all players in an ordered fashion from 1 to 10.
Asked by: tangotiger

One could create a better system by the use of a weighted ballot.  It is my opinion that when you collect more information, you get better results.  The weighted ballot makes a tremendous difference in MVP votes—and accounts heavily for the fact that MVP voting IS largely successful—and I strongly believe that it would have a similar beneficial effect were it used in voting for the Hall of Fame.

Hi Bill, I know “clutch” is a hard thing to define, and many people dispute it. I’ve seen some different ways of measuring it, so forgive me if you’ve covered this before, but is Runner Left On Base a way to look at it? I know Batting Average with RISP might cover this, but is it the same? And would one make any more sense than the other?
Asked by: 77royals

1)  I have made numerous efforts to define and measure clutch performance, none of which has been at all successful or has created any resonance in the analytical community, and none of which I want to dredge up now, for fear that I would be eaten by the alligators.

2)  I don’t really get what you mean by “Is Runners Left on Base a way to look at it?”  You’d have to ask a more specific question, I think.

Repoz Posted: December 30, 2012 at 08:22 AM | 351 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   301. bjhanke Posted: January 08, 2013 at 12:19 PM (#4342021)
I believe I AM the target demographic for The Graduate, being born on November 20, 1947, which is the leading edge of the Baby Boom. My take on the movie, when I saw it, had nothing to do with pandering to me. The guy who is a Boomer (Dustin Hoffman) is, well, a passive schlub. His personal plot in the story is his effort to actually get up the gumption to DO something. Not exactly the kind of character you use to pander with. However, the movie DOES pander to the zeitgeist of the time. The parents of the Boomers were very interested in what their children did, and regularly joined in, because they had spent their youths in The Depression and WWII, and wanted a do-over. This is where songs like "Little Old Lady From Pasadena" come from. Also the Hula Hoop, which our parents treated as very cool because it was something that they could still easily do physically that was a hit with their kids. Well, essentially, Dustin Hoffman is Mrs. Robinson's Hula Hoop. She's trying to relive her youth. It was either seduce Dustin or go to her kids' high school proms and learn to dance The Twist.

Now, you can easily, and I think successfully, argue that "the zeitgeist of the time" was to pander to the young Boomers, and that The Graduate is simply an expression of that. But that doesn't make the movie a pandering itself; it makes the movie an expression and examination of the pandering that was going on all over America at that time. If anything, it was pandering to our parents.

As for The Hunger Games - it's a complete rip-off of a Japanese movie of a decade or so ago called Blood Royale, which, being original and better acted, was better than Hunger Games. - Brock
   302. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: January 08, 2013 at 12:29 PM (#4342030)
As for The Hunger Games - it's a complete rip-off of a Japanese movie of a decade or so ago called Blood Royale


Battle Royale, actually ... though maybe Blood Royale is an acceptable translation as well.
   303. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 08, 2013 at 12:56 PM (#4342054)
Now, you can easily, and I think successfully, argue that "the zeitgeist of the time" was to pander to the young Boomers, and that The Graduate is simply an expression of that.

And that's it. You might even date the pandering to this 1967 issue of TIME magazine which named "Twenty-five and Under" as the "Man Of The Year", and it pretty much went downhill from there. Between the slobbering over we got from half of the country and the demonization we'd get from the other half, it was no wonder that we often wound up with half a screw loose.
   304. Tom Nawrocki Posted: January 08, 2013 at 01:18 PM (#4342067)
His personal plot in the story is his effort to actually get up the gumption to DO something. Not exactly the kind of character you use to pander with.


Yeah, I think it's obviously contradictory to complain both that "The Graduate" panders to a generation, and that the main character, emblematic of that generation, is a spoiled, unlikable brat. Movies that are actually pandering to a generation present their main characters as noble and lovable but oppressed and misunderstood. Like "Easy Rider" or "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."
   305. bjhanke Posted: January 08, 2013 at 02:16 PM (#4342153)
Jolly - Thanks! It (the zeitgeist) got started much earlier; Hula Hoops were popular about 1957, if I remember right. Maybe earlier. The break point, to me, is when Chuck Berry figured out that you could take the blues, which is music of frustrated people who, no matter what they do, will still be black and in the South tomorrow morning, speed up the tempo some, and write lyrics so that it expresses the natural frustrations of teenagers, and suddenly quadruple your target demographic. There were other pioneer R&R guys at the time, but I think that this invention of Berry's is what most seriously defined what Rock and Roll was mostly going to end up sounding like. It's the frustration songs of teenagers. Done as simple pop, it expresses the frustrations of middle schoolers, which is why it's called "boy bands" when it does that. - Brock
   306. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: January 08, 2013 at 02:41 PM (#4342181)
Jolly - Thanks! It (the zeitgeist) got started much earlier; Hula Hoops were popular about 1957, if I remember right. Maybe earlier. The break point, to me, is when Chuck Berry figured out that you could take the blues, which is music of frustrated people who, no matter what they do, will still be black and in the South tomorrow morning, speed up the tempo some, and write lyrics so that it expresses the natural frustrations of teenagers, and suddenly quadruple your target demographic. There were other pioneer R&R guys at the time, but I think that this invention of Berry's is what most seriously defined what Rock and Roll was mostly going to end up sounding like. It's the frustration songs of teenagers. Done as simple pop, it expresses the frustrations of middle schoolers, which is why it's called "boy bands" when it does that. - Brock

Chuck Berry rewrote a country song for "Maybellene."
His early hits sound much more like country than blues or R&B - a consciou$ deci$ion on Berry's part.
He didn't invent anything, as he'd tell you himself.*
There were other pioneer R&R guys at the time... and going back to thirty years before, too.
The idea of anybody "inventing" R&R - or jazz, for that matter, as Jelly Roll Morton claimed - is just weird to me.

* EDIT: he was a great lyricist and guitar player; I'm talking about musical forms, specifically.
   307. bjhanke Posted: January 09, 2013 at 08:15 AM (#4342678)
Fred - I'd be happy to concede all of that, since it's all above my head, which, when listening to music, is driven by the fact that I'm mildly tone deaf and respond mostly to weird noises, percussion and lyrics. In terms of lyrics, energy and cultural influence, I still think I have it right, and my bad ears aren't a problem there. Maybelline may well be a converted country song - I have no reason to doubt you. But Roll Over Beethoven, the song about not being able to get out of the seat belt while "cruisin' along in my automobile" (I am TERRIBLE at remembering names of anything), and the one about getting out of school and going to the juke joint to "drop the dime right into the slot / gotta hear something that's really hot", those are teenager songs. If there are other such songs before Berry, I don't know them, and I got into rock pretty early (1960, to be exact, when "oldies night" meant getting to listen to just about everything that had been classified as rock and roll, since there just wasn't that much old stuff out there to replay). Berry is hardly the only influence. Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis brought gospel into rock. Buddy Holly and the Crickets brought western music (as opposed to country, which was an early influence) in. Brenda Lee is, essentially, a teenaged Wanda Jackson, actually still in high school when she recorded most of her hits. Elvis Presley legitimized teenage sexuality, not just by selling tons of records fueled by his gyrations on stage, but by, in the middle of his career, accepting being drafted into the army (he could have gotten out, with his money and the odd exclusion options at the time), which meant that rock suddenly got much more adult acceptance. But still, I think that Berry is the crucial one, since he was the first to locate the CENTER of rock and roll, which is that it's teenage frustration music, regardless of which formal genre the musicians are stealing from this time.

Now, culturally, there is really no difference between Frank Sinatra and the other bobbysox crooners and rock and roll, except that the crooners didn't have all the energy of rock, partially because they didn't have amped up electric guitars. But I will still argue that the one guy who is most responsible for fusing the blues, crooning, C&W and all the rest of those influences into what became rock and roll is Berry, and he is crucial, because he pushed the genre in the direction it ended up going, with such force that I'm now 65, and today's teenagers still listen to rock and roll, even in forms like rap and art rock. No one young listens to Frank Sinatra any more, and haven't for decades. - Brock
   308. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 09, 2013 at 09:44 AM (#4342712)
Brock,

I think we're talking about two different types of pandering. The type you're talking about was mostly a commercial reaction to demographic changes, whereas the type I was referring to with my reference to that TIME "Man of the Year" tribute was something else, although sometimes the two can overlap, as in the case of the godawful "Easy Rider".

The rise of rock 'n' roll provoked a well-known reaction at first from nearly every adult without a financial stake in its success, but within a few years it was accepted and marketed like Hula Hoops and Mickey Mantle. I suppose you could call that "pandering", and strictly speaking it was, but in reality it was just a bunch of people figuring out a quick way to make a buck off on a generation whose numbers were exploding. If the birth rates and the technology had been around during the time of the Charleston, you might well have seen the same degree of exploitation then.

OTOH the sort of pandering exemplified by that TIME cover was limited to a distinct segment of the adult population---largely well-educated liberals with media connections, to be exact---and as we all know, it provoked an enormous counter-movement that provided a huge part of the energy and conviction to right wing politicians for the next several decades. When I came back to DC for a weekend visit with my parents after having been in Cambridge (MD) for the Summer (of 1963), during a time when that town's racial turmoil had been in the papers for weeks at a time, I was the somewhat amused object of spontaneous tributes from neighbors I'd barely even met before, as some sort of a generational spokesman. The number of times I heard or read about the glories of what us "young people" were doing had me rolling my eyes very quickly, but as the "movement" turned towards incendiary rhetoric a few years later, all that flowery prose stopped, and the pandering once again became strictly a matter of business.**

BTW a side note about Chuck Berry: In the 1% chance that you haven't yet seen it, don't miss the movie "Cadillac Records."

**On second thought, I should have said that that TIME cover represented the high point of this sort of pandering to the "Under 25s", rather than the beginning of it. That issue appeared at the end of 1966, but by the Summer of 1967 the backlash was already in full swing.
   309. Morty Causa Posted: January 09, 2013 at 11:45 AM (#4342888)
Everything in some sense is about finding a niche to exploit. That's not where the value judgment should be made. Discussing it in terms of "pander" makes it there. It gets us nowhere in the aesthetic sense. It's a social condemnation override. Note, that all this talk about pandering, no one ever discusses the creation in terms of whether it is aesthetically successful. It's character, story, the mechanics of plot (the interaction of characters and plot to give story), setting, dialogue, etc. Did Hoffman give a bad performance? What was the nature of the relationship with Bancroft--what does it tell us and why is it important? Did it work out. How was it told?

Chuck Berry, as great as he was, was sui generis and essentially without progeny. He was not emulated per se. His music did of course encourage the expansion of boundaries generally, and that's important. But Chuck wasn't alone. Bill Haley and Carl Perkins were right there (Haley antedates as to Rock 'N' Roll), and I would submit that they did have emulators and imitators--at least in the high profile sense.
   310. Morty Causa Posted: January 09, 2013 at 11:50 AM (#4342898)
The rise of rock 'n' roll provoked a well-known reaction at first from nearly every adult without a financial stake in its success, but within a few years it was accepted and marketed like Hula Hoops and Mickey Mantle.


You woefully underestimate the opposition, which continues in force to this day. Overtly and in a passive-aggressive way that has people returning to Country or Tin Pan Alley standards as their music of choice. "You tell me that you've got everything you want, And your bird can sing, But you don't get me, you don't get..."--John Lennon. There's a story behind that song that is inter-generationally telling.

Beatles's And Your Bird Can Sing
   311. Greg K Posted: January 09, 2013 at 11:57 AM (#4342910)
Amending my earlier list - The Trouble with the Curve takes over from Liberal Arts as worst movie I saw this year.

I think it's fair to give it a pass on the technical details - the movie isn't for baseball nerds after all, and if some details about how baseball teams are run, and how players are scouted have to be sacrificed in the interests of telling a story, I'm all for it.

But such stale writing! So many cliches! And absolutely zero depth to any of the characters. What an awful movie.
   312. Greg K Posted: January 09, 2013 at 12:07 PM (#4342922)
I haven't seen The Graduate mostly because I already feel so familiar with it through pop culture references (for instance, the Simpsons about 18 times...not to mention that Jennifer Aniston movie).

But also because I'm told it's one of those "you had to be there" movies, which is I think behind the conversation Andy and Morty are having. Is it possible to separate the cultural context of a movie from its aesthetic value? I guess it's easier for some movies than others. Or maybe aesthetics to the exclusion of cultural context is possible, but a boring conversation?
   313. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 09, 2013 at 12:37 PM (#4342978)
Everything in some sense is about finding a niche to exploit. That's not where the value judgment should be made. Discussing it in terms of "pander" makes it there.

Again, in the way I'm using "pander" in the context of what I wrote about music, it's purely a descriptive term describing the normal reaction of the marketplace to shifting demographics, with no pejorative intent. And yes, at my age I'm certainly aware that there are plenty of people who still haven't quite gotten used to any post-Sinatra music.

As for the aesthetic successes or failures of music or movies, I think your reactions are more that of a critic than mine are, as I tend to react more on a personal and purely subjective level. I can usually tell "why" I like or don't like a particular work, but my "whys" often have nothing to do with the sort of "whys" that Greil Marcus or Pauline Kael might have been looking for.

The rise of rock 'n' roll provoked a well-known reaction at first from nearly every adult without a financial stake in its success, but within a few years it was accepted and marketed like Hula Hoops and Mickey Mantle.

You woefully underestimate the opposition, which continues in force to this day. Overtly and in a passive-aggressive way that has people returning to Country or Tin Pan Alley standards as their music of choice.


Whoever said that the acceptance was unanimous? But how many Country or Tin Pin Alley oriented radio stations survive today?
   314. Kurt Posted: January 09, 2013 at 12:51 PM (#4342999)
But how many Country or Tin Pin Alley oriented radio stations survive today?

Country? Tons and tons. Go 50 miles outside the Beltway (south or west, obviously) and turn on the raidio - it's almost all country.
   315. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 09, 2013 at 01:12 PM (#4343024)
But how many Country or Tin Pin Alley oriented radio stations survive today?

Country? Tons and tons. Go 50 miles outside the Beltway (south or west, obviously) and turn on the raidio - it's almost all country.


I should have added "compared to 50 or 60 years ago", but I've driven south a lot, and heard a lot more than just country music on the radio. I admit that in the rural areas it's still a popular genre.
   316. Morty Causa Posted: January 09, 2013 at 01:27 PM (#4343035)
   317. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: January 09, 2013 at 02:10 PM (#4343153)
Maybelline may well be a converted country song - I have no reason to doubt you.

Not me: Berry's autobiography. Which is a darn good read, actually.

Berry is hardly the only influence. Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis brought gospel into rock. Buddy Holly and the Crickets brought western music (as opposed to country, which was an early influence) in. Brenda Lee is, essentially, a teenaged Wanda Jackson, actually still in high school when she recorded most of her hits. Elvis Presley legitimized teenage sexuality, not just by selling tons of records fueled by his gyrations on stage, but by, in the middle of his career, accepting being drafted into the army (he could have gotten out, with his money and the odd exclusion options at the time), which meant that rock suddenly got much more adult acceptance.
...
I will still argue that the one guy who is most responsible for fusing the blues, crooning, C&W and all the rest of those influences into what became rock and roll is Berry

All of these "influences" go still further back.
If Little Richard brought gospel into rock, it's because Sister Rosetta Tharpe brought gospel into rock 15 years earlier - again, as he'd tell you himself.
If Buddy Holly brought western music in, it's because Bob Wills did it 20 years earlier.
And the one guy who is most responsible for fusing the blues, crooning, C&W and all the rest of those influences into what became "rock and roll" is Jimmie Rodgers, 25 years earlier.
But what became rock and roll was never a one-person invention - it couldn't have been (this is a good thing).
And whatever today's teenagers are listening to, it's not "rock and roll" - and that's fine, too. "Rock and roll" - specifically, a genre fusing country music with R&B - has been dead as a cultural force for 50 years. I think of it the same way as a certain kind of jazz music, which the Wynton Marsalis types have been trying to keep under glass and yet alive for decades. There are still people making good "rock and roll," but never on Top 40 radio, and its cultural currency is long gone.

The rise of rock 'n' roll provoked a well-known reaction at first from nearly every adult without a financial stake in its success, but within a few years it was accepted and marketed like Hula Hoops and Mickey Mantle. I suppose you could call that "pandering", and strictly speaking it was, but in reality it was just a bunch of people figuring out a quick way to make a buck off on a generation whose numbers were exploding.

This is about right, for Berry and everybody else involved. If the kids had wanted a fusion of polka and tango, that is what these artists (and producers, and distributors) would have given them. Chuck Berry was (and still is) all about getting paid.

EDIT:
The laughing and giggling in this take was not because they were high on pot--or not just because they were high. McCartney is laughing at Lennon's precision knifing of Frank Sinatra, who had put the Beatles down in an interview, and who had also, incidentally referred to his male member as his "bird". Lennon took it from there with exquisite slyness. The infectious laughter was not containable. It's the current cultural generation kissing off an huffy older one--brilliantly. Also, some excellent twin lead guitar playing by Harrison and Lennon.

"And your bird is green"? Yikes.
This claim apparently first showed up in a 2007 book, without support from any Lennon bio or quotation.
   318. Morty Causa Posted: January 09, 2013 at 03:57 PM (#4343427)
A green cockatoo mingling to dissipate the holy hush of ancient sacrifice. Got it.

Did Sinatra refer to his "bird" according to Talese? Did derogatory remarks emanate from him or his camp that could easily be taken to be about the Beatles?
   319. Nasty Nate Posted: January 09, 2013 at 04:03 PM (#4343439)
I thought the story was that "And Your Bird Can Sing" was directed at Mick Jagger.
   320. Morty Causa Posted: January 09, 2013 at 04:08 PM (#4343452)
There are lot of stories (urban legend/wild surmises, etc.) No one knows for sure. The creative process being what it is, and Lennon being what he was as a songwriter (subtle, nuanced, and devious), it could be all of them. Everything's probabilities. What's more probable?
   321. Rennie's Tenet Posted: January 09, 2013 at 04:12 PM (#4343458)
Probative of nothing, but Sinatra apparently made a special recording of "Lady Is a Tramp" for Ringo's wife:

Maureen Is a Champ
   322. Tom Nawrocki Posted: January 09, 2013 at 04:26 PM (#4343483)

Did Sinatra refer to his "bird" according to Talese?


Yes, he did, and the chronology works: "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" appeared in the April 1966 issue of Esquire, and "And Your Bird Can Sing" was recorded on April 26, 1966.

I'm not sure I buy the story, though. "Bird" has a specific meaning in British slang, one that fits the song perfectly.
   323. Morty Causa Posted: January 09, 2013 at 04:39 PM (#4343510)
Well, I think Lennon's mind was capable of making connections among sources. He did it time and time again, taking a biographical bit here, a bit there, to make something resembling, but not entirely true, to either one (or any of them), for his own nefarious purposes.
   324. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: January 09, 2013 at 06:07 PM (#4343592)
Well, I think Lennon's mind was capable of making connections among sources. He did it time and time again, taking a biographical bit here, a bit there, to make something resembling, but not entirely true, to either one (or any of them), for his own nefarious purposes.

All true, but Lennon was also a hyperverbal egomaniac: he certainly was the type to drop clever-clever semi-hidden messages into his songs, but "And Your Bird Can Sing" would have to be the only time in his life he kept quiet about it.
   325. Morty Causa Posted: January 09, 2013 at 07:21 PM (#4343643)
Well, no, I have to disagree to some degree. He did like to talk about his mental processes that go into writing a song, no doubt, but there were times he was discreet about autobiographical bits, at least for the moment. "And Your Bird Can Sing" could have been one. He might not have wanted to express himself too freely and get into some extraneous controversy.

Many comments he made when discussing his songs in that last interview right before he was killed express opinions and feelings that he had been obviously holding back until then (unfortunately he does not speak of "Bird"--that was for another day that never came maybe). See what he says about "Norwegian Wood" and infidelity--that's why the song is so allusive, he had something to hide, and he only forthrightly admitted certain things years later. Also, this on McCartney and the Let It Be album, under the "The Long and Winding Road" comment: "That's Paul. He had a little spurt before we finally split up. I think the shock of what was happening between Yoko nad me gave the creative spurt for "Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road". That was the last gasp from him.[my emphasis]" If he had said that contemporaneously, I think the band would have broken up earlier than it did. But, true, until we have more facts, nothing is definitive as to "And Your Bird Can Sing" and its creative influences and antecedents.

EDIT: I like that "hyperverbal eogmaniac." Made me smile. So true. Now, that he couldn't hide ever.
   326. Morty Causa Posted: January 09, 2013 at 07:30 PM (#4343646)
321:

Indicating at least one Beatle had a good relationship with Sinatra. Actually, I feel that those little resentments and jabs based on jealousy are passing things. Here's what Lennon said about Sinatra on record in that last Playboy interview when discussing "Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out": I always imagined Sinatra singing that one. I don't know why. It's kind of Sinatraesque. He could do a perfect job with it. Are you listening Frank? You need a song that isn't a piece of garbage. Here's one for you. The horn arrangement, everything's made for you. But don't ask me to produce it." Lennon and Sinatra in the same studio working together. Nothing would survive that holocaust.
   327. BDC Posted: January 09, 2013 at 07:41 PM (#4343655)
Sinatra was known for opining that "Something" was the greatest love song of his lifetime, or words to that effect; so he admired George Harrison too.

And to go back to The Graduate for a moment, Sinatra's version of "Mrs. Robinson" has him asking "“How’s your bird, Mrs. Robinson? / Mine is fine as wine and I should know.” Whatever that means.
   328. Morty Causa Posted: January 09, 2013 at 09:20 PM (#4343729)
317:

BTW, that's some good observations. How trends and developments come about is like a James Burke Connections episode. It's cumulative cultural evolution where one damn thing just leads to another, without long-range intentionality, until there's a new species.
   329. TerpNats Posted: January 09, 2013 at 10:01 PM (#4343761)
Don't forget Big Joe Turner, who sang for Count Basie in the '30s and is arguably the bridge between swing and R&B/rock (thanks in part to the genius of Ahmet Ertegun). "Flip, Flop And Fly" isn't all that different from jump blues of the '40s.
   330. TerpNats Posted: January 09, 2013 at 10:03 PM (#4343765)
Sinatra was known for opining that "Something" was the greatest love song of his lifetime, or words to that effect; so he admired George Harrison too.
Frank recorded it twice; the 1980 version on "Trilogy" is far superior to his first try with the tune.
   331. Morty Causa Posted: January 09, 2013 at 10:27 PM (#4343779)
I think (I haven't googled or otherwise researched) that Harrison use to tell the story of how he was in the audience at a Sinatra concert or Vegas performance, and Sinatra introduced "Something" as a great Lennon-McCartney song, to Harrison's mortification and embarrassment. Not only is your competition the best, but when you attain its level, you don't the credit.
   332. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: January 09, 2013 at 11:16 PM (#4343812)
(unfortunately he does not speak of "Bird"--that was for another day that never came maybe)


Ah, someone else privy to the knowledge that Lennon is ensconced on a remote Pacific island with JFK.

Tinfoil hat salute!
   333. Morty Causa Posted: January 09, 2013 at 11:39 PM (#4343825)
????

The "maybe" means had he lived and continued the interview maybe he would have talked about "Bird", maybe not, broomstick cowboy.
   334. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: January 10, 2013 at 01:13 AM (#4343861)
BTW, that's some good observations. How trends and developments come about is like a James Burke Connections episode. It's cumulative cultural evolution where one damn thing just leads to another, without long-range intentionality, until there's a new species.

Thanks!
It's always weird to me that there are "purists" about something that is so obviously always going to be a mixture. Makes me wish more of Robert Johnson's repertoire (trad Irish tunes, Bing Crosby covers, etc.) had made it onto shellac.

Don't forget Big Joe Turner, who sang for Count Basie in the '30s and is arguably the bridge between swing and R&B/rock (thanks in part to the genius of Ahmet Ertegun). "Flip, Flop And Fly" isn't all that different from jump blues of the '40s.

Big Joe, or maybe Louis Jordan.
Turner would always say that he didn't change a thing to make hit records - that was the world catching up with him.
If you listen to his records from 1939, '49, '59, '79... yep, that's pretty much exactly right.
   335. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: January 10, 2013 at 02:51 AM (#4343896)
Tying together the Lennon & early R&R subthreads...
   336. simon bedford Posted: January 10, 2013 at 03:17 AM (#4343901)
Mccartney actually wrote and submitted an early song of his "suicide" to Sinatras people who passed on it, Harrison did a shout out to Frank Sinatra at the begining of the song "Far East Man" , its worth noting that no beattle was invited to the big Frank Sinatra tribute birthday show, but Dylan was there singing Sinatras favorite dylan song " restless farewell"
   337. bjhanke Posted: January 10, 2013 at 06:05 AM (#4343913)
AH! Having now read #317, I think I may finally have made some sense of why Fred Lynn and I are struggling with definitions. I consider the genre "rock and roll" to begin, essentially, with Bill Haley's appearance in a movie in about 1954, where he and his band did "Rock around the Clock." That was, IMO, the CULTURAL incident that made the audience for rock and roll huge instead of just an odd niche, largely driven by saxophones and R&B and country crossover artists. Everything before that, I consider an influence on or a progenitor to rock and roll. But remember, I am not capable of actually working through the formal music. I have a tin ear. I'm thinking culturally, and, especially, theatrically, where I DO have training and experience. What Fred seems to be saying is that rock and roll is part of a musical continuum, and it's oversimplifying to draw a line in the middle of a continuum. I have no reason to argue with that and every reason to believe it. But culturally and theatrically, Bill Haley and the Comets were a very distinct line in the sand, much like the development of FM rock stations in 1967-68, which had a very strong effect on rock, because you could now get radio time with a song that lasted longer than 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Musically, I would guess that Bill Haley was very similar to what the British Invasion gang called "skiffle", which sort of sounds (to me) like Bill Haley and Buddy Holly jamming, and whose big star appears to have been someone called Lonnie Donegan. But culturally, Haley's appearance in a full-release movie was a line in the cultural continuum because it expanded the audience so hugely. I give huge credit to Chuck Berry for identifying the audience for rock and then producing lyrics (and probably music) that did pander to them. It's his lyrics that were revolutionary. The songs aren't about dancing or falling in love, although they have those elements. They are about being a teenager, in a time when being a teenager was something that everyone wanted to be. The parents wanted the freedom of not having to make your own money in a depression, and little kids wanted the freedom of being physically big enough to interact with the world in full scale. Rock and roll is about those wishes, about being in the"middle of life", as Alice Cooper says in "Eighteen."

I also think, and would be VERY interested in Fred's take on this, that rock and roll may have stultified C&W. Every five years or so, some country fan will tell me that there's a new version of country that I will probably like. I listen to a song or two and say, "Oh, yeah. C&W has caught up to Buddy Holly again." Anyone who actually knows something about country can feel free to correct me, but I think the essential problem is that, if C&W started to actually move forward from its current state, it would merge into rock, like R&B did (not that there is no real R&B any more, but there's much more R&B influenced rock now than there is actual R&B, as far as I can tell). - Brock

   338. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 10, 2013 at 07:58 AM (#4343930)
Brock,

I think you could even say that "culturally" (though obviously not artistically) Bill Haley and the Beatles performed somewhat similar pioneering roles.

Bill Haley was the transitional musician (and Alan Freed the DJ) who brought rock 'n' roll to the mass white teenaged audience. Before that, R&R was pretty much confined to the "race" or "Rhythm & Blues" categories in the Billboard charts and on the radio.**

And the Beatles? That was the group that took it up a step, introducing rock 'n' roll to (quote) serious adults (unquote). Not right away, of course, not in their Shea Stadium or Washington Coliseum days, but it didn't take that long for a whole new industry of "rock critics" to spring up, and for some of those critics to be comparing Lennon and McCartney to the great Tin Pan Alley and even classical composers.

Of course by that time the Beatles weren't doing R&R anymore, any more than Dylan was doing the acoustical folk music and protest music that first introduced him to the public and made him a cult figure to the white part of the protest movement. But that's just evolution, and for those of us who far preferred the R&B sound, we still had an enormous and flourishing world of hundreds of Linda Joneses and Lorraine Ellisons to console us.

**A (white) friend of mine in elementary school heard "Rock Around The Clock" for the first time at my house, and said it was "good jazz". I never thought to ask him what he meant by that, but I kind of wish that I had.
   339. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: January 10, 2013 at 08:20 AM (#4343934)
One musical obstacle to Bill Haley & the Comets' 1954 recording of "Rock Around the Clock" representing the birth of the rock 'n roll genre is this Bill Haley record from two years earlier-- specifically, the instrumental break at 0:32. Haley also had the first rock 'n roll song to chart (and be heard on television) with "Crazy Man, Crazy" in the spring of 1953, two years before "Rock Around the Clock" became a sensation upon its re-release.
   340. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: January 10, 2013 at 08:54 AM (#4343951)
not that there is no real R&B any more, but there's much more R&B influenced rock now than there is actual R&B, as far as I can tell

trying to unpack this statement - what do you consider what others today consider r&b (meaning new material)?
   341. TerpNats Posted: January 10, 2013 at 08:59 AM (#4343954)
Bill Haley's music was essentially a northern version of Bob Wills-like Western swing with some R&B elements. And several R&B acts also had minor pop chart success pre-1955 (including Fats Domino), though more often than not it led to pop artists of the time covering their material. That practice wasn't inherently racist, but simply the way pop music worked in those days; a song would become popular, and several artists would make versions of it at roughly the same time. Thinking of the recent passing of Patti Page, "Tennessee Waltz" was originally a country song, and not only did she cover it, but so did Les Paul and Mary Ford (with Mary's own double-tracked vocal), although Page's pop version was superior and became the bigger hit. A few labels dominated the record industry in those days, so the A&R person at RCA Victor might hand a song off to one of its artists (e.g., Perry Como), while at the same time a rival label would do likewise with someone in its repertoire (Frank Sinatra at Columbia, Frankie Laine at Mercury).
   342. Morty Causa Posted: January 10, 2013 at 09:00 AM (#4343955)
Interesting comments above about C&W music. For a long time now I've believed that Country Music's dilemma--the cause of its stagnation--has been that it can't get pass Hank Williams. He's been such an imposing influence that only rarely does some real original make his mark in Country by transcending (or evading) Hank, and then only temporarily. And he does that usually by crossing over or hybridizing his music. But the Country Zeitgeist and style stays Hank, and any temporary deflection reverts and is absorbed by that Hank style and substance. You might facetiously say that Harold Bloom's the burden of influence applies to Country Music, too.
   343. Morty Causa Posted: January 10, 2013 at 09:06 AM (#4343960)
339:

Yes, it seems to me that with Haley all argument stops. He's a line in the sand. It's not about indications and potentialities and antecedent elements of Rock 'N' Roll. He's definitely the thing. You only have to compare Ike Turner's Rocket 88 with his, and that's in 1951.
   344. bjhanke Posted: January 10, 2013 at 12:34 PM (#4344195)
Der K - I have nothing like the musical ability to separate R&B from R&R; I have to go by feel and by what the music is called. I define R&B as whatever the artists who perform it call it. I keep track of things like the club listings in my local paper (St. Louis), and there sure seems to be a lot more self-identified R&R artists than R&B artists. On radio, I don't think I've heard a piece of R&B in a decade, but then, I listen almost entirely to R&R stations. I don't even know if Billboard still has a whole category for R&B any more. Perhaps they do, and I am vastly underestimating the genre's current fan base. But that's not what I feel, culturally. Musically, I have a tin ear.

TerpNats - I really do recall the period where black R&B artists found that no white R&R station would play their stuff, but they would play white covers of it. In the 1950s and early 1960s, this was so common that no one ever questioned that it was going on. My memory is that Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, LIttle Richard and The Coasters were the main early crossover artists who actually got their music played by themselves onto white radio. But I was 6 in 1954. I could be way off on that one. But I'm not trying to talk about musical origins, I'm trying to talk about cultural visibility. That's where Bill Haley draws a line. I have no question that he did similar music, and found an audience on radio for it. But in terms of rock having an enormous audience, his one movie song was the biggest reason why. Also, the new audience that came into the genre through the movie had no idea that Bill Haley had already had a string of hits. We were kids and teenagers (I was 6 in 1954), and what we did find out about the musical predecessors of rock came from listening to the oldies shows on rock/pop radio. Rock/pop DJs didn't feel any great drive to tell us kids what the context of rock was; they just played it because it sold a lot of records and your Arbitron ratings went up when you started playing it.

I also remember talk about a fiasco on a show called Your Hit Parade (I think), where four singers would undertake to do covers of all of the top ten hits on Billboard that week, which mostly meant covering bland pop jazz. The show, essentially, collapsed when their four VERY professional singers just couldn't handle Get A Job (I think that's the right song). It seemed to be too fast for them or something.

Morty - You might be right about Hank Williams and country music. I have nothing like the knowledge of that genre to comment. But in some ways, I think the same thing happened to classical and Mozart. After Mozart, classical seemed to fall into a period where they just did the best Mozart knock-offs they could, but the genre could not move forward because no one could go any further than Mozart already had. Classical still has an audience, but it's nothing compared to the size of R&R's. I don't know if it's still stuck in the Victorian era. And thanks for the Harold Bloom reference. I haven't dealt with anything by him since I was in grad school in theater. - Brock
   345. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: January 10, 2013 at 01:14 PM (#4344249)
You woefully underestimate the opposition, which continues in force to this day. Overtly and in a passive-aggressive way that has people returning to Country or Tin Pan Alley standards as their music of choice.

Whoever said that the acceptance was unanimous? But how many Country or Tin Pin Alley oriented radio stations survive today?


The kids today only listen to the radio when they aren't near the Victrola. They use the internet to listen to Electro-swing music.
   346. Morty Causa Posted: January 10, 2013 at 01:32 PM (#4344267)
I don't really have anything to say to that. Furtado needs to implement a thumbs up (and down, too, I guess) feature--this would definitely be thumbs up.
   347. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 10, 2013 at 02:18 PM (#4344322)
I really do recall the period where black R&B artists found that no white R&R station would play their stuff, but they would play white covers of it. In the 1950s and early 1960s, this was so common that no one ever questioned that it was going on. My memory is that Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, LIttle Richard and The Coasters were the main early crossover artists who actually got their music played by themselves onto white radio. But I was 6 in 1954. I could be way off on that one.

Depends on what station you listened to. In Washington there was a daytime-only radio station (WDON) that mixed R&R and R&B without any particular tilt towards one or the other, and its Oldies hour befor signoff was almost exclusively R&B, since before 1956 nearly all of the older R&R was by black artists**

**As soon as Elvis released his first big crossover hit, "Heartbreak Hotel", early in 1956, Bill Haley became yesterday's news to us hipsters. The main WDON DJ would give the (R&B) Rainbows' "Mary Lee" ten times as much air time as all of Bill Haley put together.

But I'm not trying to talk about musical origins, I'm trying to talk about cultural visibility. That's where Bill Haley draws a line. I have no question that he did similar music, and found an audience on radio for it. But in terms of rock having an enormous audience, his one movie song was the biggest reason why. Also, the new audience that came into the genre through the movie had no idea that Bill Haley had already had a string of hits. We were kids and teenagers (I was 6 in 1954), and what we did find out about the musical predecessors of rock came from listening to the oldies shows on rock/pop radio. Rock/pop DJs didn't feel any great drive to tell us kids what the context of rock was; they just played it because it sold a lot of records and your Arbitron ratings went up when you started playing it.

Haley really was the first singer to introduce R&R to a mass white audience, but that Blackboard Jungle movie with Sidney Poitier and Vic Morrow probably had an even greater effect in making "Rock Around the Clock" an icon. It was the Easy Rider of its day, even if at the end its message had to conform to what was left of the production code.

I also remember talk about a fiasco on a show called Your Hit Parade (I think), where four singers would undertake to do covers of all of the top ten hits on Billboard that week, which mostly meant covering bland pop jazz. The show, essentially, collapsed when their four VERY professional singers just couldn't handle Get A Job (I think that's the right song). It seemed to be too fast for them or something.

I can't resist----here's Giselle McKenzie's hilarious cover of Elvis's "Heartbreak Hotel". You don't even have to be familiar with the original to appreciate it. That was the most self-parodying show ever to last more than a month on network television, and this may have been their absolute low point. It's as sublimely awful as "Mary Lee" is sublimely sublime.
   348. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: January 10, 2013 at 02:44 PM (#4344354)
I can't resist----here's Giselle McKenzie's hilarious cover of Elvis's "Heartbreak Hotel".


What use is a proto-Morticia without the dancing Lurch?
   349. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: January 10, 2013 at 03:03 PM (#4344370)
????

The "maybe" means had he lived and continued the interview maybe he would have talked about "Bird", maybe not, broomstick cowboy.


And yet again my subtle, sophisticated humor sails over the heads of the hoi polloi ...
   350. Morty Causa Posted: January 10, 2013 at 05:01 PM (#4344503)
Back to high shoes for me.
   351. TerpNats Posted: January 11, 2013 at 12:32 AM (#4344753)
As soon as Elvis released his first big crossover hit, "Heartbreak Hotel," early in 1956, Bill Haley became yesterday's news to us hipsters. The main WDON DJ would give the (R&B) Rainbows' "Mary Lee" ten times as much air time as all of Bill Haley put together.
Legend has it that D.C. native Marvin Gaye was part of the Rainbows, but AFAIK, that's never been corroborated.

Let's not forget that Washington was also home base for the Clovers, one of the great early '50s groups ("Don't You Know I Love You," "Fool, Fool, Fool," "One Mint Julep"). They were among the many acts who recorded for Atlantic, the Motown of its day -- and I'm certain Berry Gordy analyzed the Atlantic formula for success, refined it a bit (more control over his artists, live package shows, etc.) in building his empire of the following decade.
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