Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What Was It Like to See The Beatles on Ed Sullivan? by Peter Reum

What is reasonable to expect from children regarding musical taste as they grow older is debatable depending upon who you speak with. For my teenage and twenty something daughters, the answers vary.  For my oldest,  who is 28, the preferences run toward world music and blues. She has always marched to her own drummer, and her preferences reflect her being a world citizen as well as a North American. As a child, she grew up singing in school, and by the time she was in high school, she had a beautiful soprano voice. She has a photographer's eye as well, and her love of the arts is exciting to me. She doesn't seem at all negatively oriented toward the older musicians that she enjoys, alongside the younger ones she listens to. I frankly expected to have encounters like the one below in talking about music with my kids.

Dennis Wilson explains music to an elder

My second daughter, here in Billings, is 5 years younger, and has fairly eclectic tastes from musicals like Mama Mia and The Sound of Music to Taylor Swift. She enjoys church music, and sings along with her congregation when hymns or songs she knows are a part of the service. My three step daughters are also musically inclined. The oldest, a recent high school graduate, seems to enjoy music from the last decade and the Nineties. The youngest of three seems to enjoys similar music to her oldest sister. The middle of the three step daughters is the exception. She loves Adele, but has a big weakness for The Beatles as well. She has developed a good working knowledge of Vocal Jazz as she managed the Billings High School Jazz band this last school year. I am usually interested to hear her thoughts about things that we Boomers might consider as classic music wise.

Dads and daughters.....a musical enigma?

My little ones react to music with movement. It is fascinating to see them enjoy music as a primal experience with no shame, self-consciousness, or reservation. They know a number of tunes from various childrens' channels, and especially like the bands that play on Yo Gabba Gabba. There is a group called the Aquabats that the little ones especially bounce around to. As my own musical tastes evolve, I struggle to stay in touch with new music, which is hard. I find myself cruising in the car to the local Seventies station. There is no doubt that the old chestnuts still move me. Jazz, especially Big Band and Cool, have entered my consciousness.

Cowkids groovin' to The Aquabats

When I think of my favorite artists from my youth, it is difficult to imagine them as either old or not here anymore. The Band has lost its three singers and most versatile musicians. The Beatles are the Half Beatles. The Stones are, well, the Stones, as long as Keith and Mick are alive. The Who are down to two original members. The people who shaped my musical tastes are dropping weekly.

My two favorite geezers  who are still rockin'

When a person who is a younger fan of the Beach Boys or The Beatles comes along and says "I never heard them with Dennis", or ask me "How was it to see The Beatles on Ed Sullivan," I have to reply that it was fantastic. They then say to me "you were lucky to be alive for that." The only answer I can offer is "Listen to the music today, and find your own Beatles."

Copyright 2013 by Peter Reum-All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Which Smile Is Real? by Peter Reum

I would place Smiley Smile as one of the most radical and influential uses of the human voice as an instrument. It has influenced numerous vocal composers and arrangers since its release. The bridge to the Smiley version of Wonderful has been lauded and copied in several choral compositions since SS came out. 

Brian`s use of human voice to convey emotions was never so finely honed as on SS. In particular, his use of various vocalists became finely crafted vocal equivalents of Zen minimalist paintings, or Bonsai trees, which he was exposed to at the time.

I think of Arny Geller`s GOOD!, Mike Love`s Yogi Bear "Ting a Liiiiinnnngggg," the reversed laughs on Vegetables, the Little Pad herb vocals, and the distorted voices in Fall Breaks among others as examples. Brian`s tonal cameos on SS are the opposite of what he was trying to do with Smile `66, and in my opinion, just as creatively radical.

I happen to agree with the point that some have made that Smiley Smile is as legitimate a conclusion to Smile as Brian`s 2004 Smile. Music is there for it`s composers to work with, massage. and reinvigorate. An example is Gershwin`s Porgy and Bess, which was later reinterpreted by that composer into a performance piece for orchestra. It is little known and rarely performed compared with the opera, but it is part of the Gershwin oeurve. He did the same with I Got Rhythm, which he redid into a performance piece entitled Variations on I Got Rhythm. I hope Brian keeps reinterpreting his work. He did it with Help Me Rhonda, Let Him Run Wild, and My Solution. Go Brian!

Copyright 2013 by Peter Reum-All Rights Reserved

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Muted Trumpeter Swan....? by Peter Reum

In my Beach Boys Collection, I am fortunate to have a hand lettered calligraph scroll of the lyrics to Surfs Up from the Smile Sessions done by their author, Van Dyke Parks. That set of lyrics has always fascinated me, and is my favorite set of lyrics from the Rock Era.The phrase "hand in hand some drummed along, to a muted trumpeter swan" is a turn of the phrase that caught my attention immediately. Being a person who has played all the brass instruments at one time or another,  I have used mutes are to temper the shrillness of certain brass parts of compositions or songs.

The other angle of this section of the lyrics to Surfs Up, taken literally, refers to the largest waterfowl in North America, the trumpeter swan, a majestic bird that nearly went the way of the moa, dodo, and passenger pigeon in the decade of the 1930s. The population numbered less than 70, and drastic action was taken to protect the remaining swans. Swans, trumpeters, at least, have the admirable trait of mating for life.  If a mate dies, they will seek another mate. They fly between 40 to 80 miles per hour, laying between 1 to 9 eggs each mating season.    Trumpeter swans stand about 4 feet high, and have wing spans between 6 to 8 feet wide. Their life span is between 20 to 30 years on the average.

Trumpeter Swans lakeside

In checking out the history of this magnificent bird, I was surprised to learn that there is no such thing as a "muted trumpeter swan." Muted swans are a separate subspecies, native to Europe and Asia. They were imported to the Eastern United States in the late 1800s, and have spread across North America. Muted swans are not capable of the distinctive trumpeting call of the North American trumpeter swan.

Mute Swan and cygnets

The Trumpeter Swan Society is a charitable organization dedicated to the vitality and welfare of the trumpeter swan. There are several threats to the continued existence of the trumpeter swan,according to this organization. Like the California Condor, numerous raptors, and other birds, it is not surprising. All bird hunters in the USA and Canada have been required to use non-lead based shot since 1991 and 1999, respectively. Birds still find lead based shot in feeding areas such as fields and near water. The lead becomes caught in birds' gizzards, and is ground down easily, being a soft metal. It then causes lead poisoning, with only 3 to 4 lead pellets being enough to cause death. Examination of over 300 dead swans over the last several winters revealed that the deceased birds had 30 to 40 pellets each in them. Over 50 of the dead swans had over 100 pellets in them. 

Other threats include power line collisions, poaching, loss of former areas of habitat, global warming, loss of the drive in the species to migrate, loss of farmland that was formerly habitat, and disruption of the nesting and wintering of the swans. Here in Montana, an initiative was begun in 2012 to develop habitat for trumpeter swans in the Madison River riparian area, south of Bozeman, and north of Yellowstone National Park. According to the Billings Gazette, my hometown newspaper, only 500 pairs of trumpeters are nesting in the USA at this time, as well as 4500 pairs nesting in Canada. Numbers are declining in both countries. Besides the cited reasons for decline, loss of wetlands is in need of being reversed for the same reasons loss of wetlands in the Everglades resulted in the loss of critical populations of birds and other wildlife populations. A similar project is underway on the Blackfoot Nation's lands near Glacier National Park, Montana.

Trumpeter Swan 

Organizations like The Trumpeter Swan Society, The Audobon Society, and The National Wildlife Federation are the front lines in the battle to save threatened and endangered species of birds. The Trumpeter Swan Society may be contacted by going to: Here is a youtube link to hear the distinctive call of a native North American treasure, the trumpeter swan:

Friday, May 17, 2013

Review of Super Chief by Van Dyke Parks by Peter Reum

What have we come to expect from Van Dyke Parks?  Lyrically complex and often witty compositions, orchestrated in a way that seems to reflect the times in which they were written.  Attention is turned to the experience of being American, whatever that means. Perhaps we hear tropical influences entering into union with themes of Yankee trading. There is an appreciation of being from the South, with suitable themes to highlight the unique flavor of that section of our country. Newer work offers progressive leaning political statements taking aim at influences in the American Life that are unethical, oligarchical, and unfair. Throughout his long career, Van Dyke Parks has made his music speak for influences that he feels are truly American.

In Super Chief, Van Dyke chronicles the experience of heading westward on that most American of experiences, riding the Santa Fe Railroad to Los Angeles. The wonder of riding the Super Chief was an experience that those of us who are Boomers may have had. I certainly did. Our family would board the Super Chief in Lamy, New Mexico ( didn't actually go through Santa Fe) and ride the rails Eastbound to my grandparent's home in rural Illinois. We would drink in the Midwestern experience...simple foods, ample portions, beef any way you want it, and grain elevators every 10 miles. But what of the ride? For me as a child, it was a wonder. There were unfamiliar people, places, and experiences. No tamales, chile verde, or tortillas could be had or found. We didn't hear conversations in  Spanish or other Southwestern Indigenous languages. Most of all, there were no mountains! Over and over, the crow flies.......

What truly made the Super Chief experience great was the change in people and topography one encountered on his way East or West. One could go to the Dome Vista Car and see for miles and miles. One indication we were getting closer to Illinois was the crossing of the Mississippi River Rail Bridge. We didn't have rivers like that Out West. The Rio Grande would be a creek in Illinois. I remember the first time we crossed the Mississippi, it seemed to go on forever. We'd be met at the rail station by our grandparents, and be doted on for days. There were free comic books, sodas, and more food than any kid could take in.

For a Southerner like Van Dyke Parks, the experience of going Out West was probably a revelation. Van Dyke speaks through his music, and this album is full of Wonder. The vignettes he has recorded here are his soundtrack to the voyage Out West. On the album liner, Van Dyke shares some impressions of his trip. His experience was not unlike mine, albeit, mine was the opposite direction. Like Van Dyke, I  was fearless in my approaches to strangers, and asked them whatever came in my  head. The only thing that saved me was that I was 4. The 10 years that separated me from Van Dyke were an eternity.

The album opens with a composition that can only be described as a theme from a 1940's motion picture, probably a romance.  The Super Chief theme plays as the imaginary credits flow past. There is a repeat of the main theme just before the credits fade to hears the train clacking Westward over the rails. The next theme introduces Our Hero, in a sound vignette entitled Go West Young Man.  There is somewhat of a Thirties feel similar to Gershwin's Concerto In F, which leads to an introduction of a theme that is warmly romantic. I imagine the young man peering out the window, wondering what going West would bring him. Toward the Dining Car is a theme of exploration, whimsical in its use of accordian, with almost a Parisian feel. Bar Talk offers a feeling of evening relaxation, with cigarettes burning and people chatting over a Manhattan, reviewing the affairs of the day.

Once again the train sounds return, segueing into a piece called Joan Crawford. There is a bending banjo and a harmonica, recalling perhaps a dance in a Western Barn or Tavern. Last Call follows, a chance for couples to retire to their compartments and let the train rock them. As the train streaks Westward, it allows a little extra time to enjoy twilight before night arrives. All retire to their compartments, and for the young man, the anticipation of the trip fades into sleep. The Crack of Dawn musically describes upon awakening, that the train is well into Northern Kansas, and early light brings the wonder of the Plains, which seem to go on forever. Trees are non-existent, and corn is everywhere. Flat As the Platte is a musical expression of the wonder of unending vistas and a sky with seemingly no end. One recalls Laura Ingalls on the Plains, with her morning companions, the meadowlarks and the crows. Perhaps each family member plays an instrument while two family members dance in the barn with neighbors watching.

Our Hero is asked for his ticket by the Conductor, a jovial African American who knows every inch of the trip West. The splendor of the Plains reveals itself, as the train speeds by the little Kansas towns. The young man continues to daydream and imagine what life Out West will be like. As the train streaks across Western Kansas into Southeastern Colorado, the land begins to enter the High Plains. The train rolls by rivers a "mile wide and an inch deep." The Water Is Wide is quoted, and Aaron Copeland writing of the West is recalled. The country appears almost empty. There are herds of antelope grazing on prairie grasses as the train goes by. The Dust Bowl is apparent in the train's windows. This is the land of the Kiowa and the Comanche, whose theme is echoed in Iron Horse. Ghosts of peoples eradicated by an overzealous expansion westward are recalled, and the Latin themes in the background recall the Conquistadors who searched for Quivira, the storied City of Gold.

The train begins to enter a country that is oddly familiar, and place names begin to reflect the American Southwest. Towns like La Junta, Raton, Las Vegas, Glorieta, and next to the mountains, Santa Fe, are passed by the train. The train stops in Albuquerque, with the old Alvarado Hotel, a Fred Harvey Way Station, siting nearby. Harvey Girls offer pie and coffee. Native Americans sell turquoise and silver jewelry and black on black pottery for a price seemingly inexpensive for the amount of time they put into making such gorgeous pieces. Leaving Albuquerque, the ageless Pueblos with their Spanish Colonial Missions can be viewed, and the terrain changes to red rocked wonders, worn down by eons of infrequent rain. The sacred instrument of the Native Americans of the Southwest, the wooden flute, can be heard, along with themes that sound almost ghostly in their recalling of cliff dwellings long abandoned. Dry arroyos are crossed, and there is no water to be found. The epic times of cowboys and Indians are recalled in Gone But Not Forgotten. The train crosses the Great Divide, and enters the land of petrified forests, The Dineh and their marvelous hogans, and, a short train ride away,  The Grand Canyon and its South Rim, again with a marvelous Fred Harvey Hotel, this time called the El Tovar. To the North, the wild, untamed country of the Canyonlands, Glen Canyon,  Zion, and the Rio Virgin.

Marimbas announce a stop in Flagstaff. It offers the chance to partake in Southwestern cuisine. The flavors of the Southwest jump out in the adobe homes, the pinon covered woodlands, and the Native Americans herding sheep and weaving as the train rolls on. The country is again dry, unforgiving. The heat is visible outside the train as it travels on. As the sun sets, the imagination is stirred, and thoughts of how one would survive in such an inhospitable place emerge. Once again night falls, and the train crosses into California without passengers even realizing it. The Mojave Desert is Our Hero's companion in these early morning hours. Dreams of what working on a film might entail begin to be entertained by this Westward traveler, and he and his companions discuss some of the Hollywood stars of the Forties, and what they are really like.

Themes of romance enter the music again in A Date With Valentino, and continue through A Short Chat With Miss Crawford. The Parisian feeling returns, as the train rolls through the Western Mojave. The train and its young traveler appear to be reinvigorated as the journey to Los Angeles becomes a matter of a few hours more. That symbol of the High Mojave Desert appears, The Joshua Tree. Romantic thoughts of adventure accompany the young traveler into the Los Angeles Basin. Hollywood is the next stop, and the train's final leg of the journey is met with visions of romance, intrigue, and frantic telegrams awaiting a response. Anticipation of arrival is interspersed with dreams of meeting new people who will be the contacts for making life comfortable. Excitement  grows while thinking about staying in a room the studio has payed for during the time the movie will be filmed. Themes of the LA of  Nathaniel West begin to appear in the music, and one expects Peter Lorre and Humphrey Bogart to be driving by, looking for The Maltese Falcon. Palm Trees are an exotic reminder that the young traveler is not in Kansas anymore. The train pulls into the station, and a ride to Hollywood and the Hotel await. The Hotel is a respite for the journey's end, and our young traveler has now crossed the continent.

The music in Super Chief is marvelously evocative of the country the train passed through from Chicago to LA. In an era of nostalgia, this is the real deal. For those of us  who made that journey on he Super Chief, it brings back memories of a more innocent time in our youth, when as Van Dyke Parks once wrote "Movies Was Magic." This is the soundtrack of the journey West, the ticket to a land of the next horizon. In the time that has elapsed since that journey, Indians have become Indigenous peoples, cowboys are no longer lionized on television or on the silver screen, and the land has become less innocent, more jaded. But for some of us, there was that time....that time we went Out West on the Super Chief. 

Copyright 2013 by Peter Reum - All Rights reserved

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Rock and Roll is Dead, Long Live Rock by Peter Reum

There is no doubt that music has changed radically since the dawn of Rock and Roll. Though as a musical style, it began as a marriage of country and rhythm and blues, at some point, the music changed into a multi-headed monster that couldn't be contained in any particular category. When it all started, what we now call Roots Music was just music. There were local scenes and record labels all over the country. I remember Glen Campbell playing with his uncle's band in Northern New Mexico.

 Glen Campbell with his Uncle Dick Bills 1958 in Albuquerque New Mexico

Local scenes were the center of the action for independent  and regional labels. Every region had bands that were well known in their part of the country but did not break nationally. In New Orleans, Memphis, Chicago, St. Louis, and other areas around the country, rock and roll established itself as the radio favorite of teenagers, and national programs like Bandstand were televised as well. I first heard Rock and Roll in the mid Fifties, and remember clearly seeing Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show. The medium of television was still in its infancy as far as popular music went. There was a show called Your Hit Parade that presented the top selling recordings each week. As Rock and Roll came to dominate the charts, the middle aged singers on Your Hit Parade sounded more and more ridiculous.

Your Hit Parade Singers 1957

Elvis on the Dorsey Show-1956

The power of radio and television to break hits regionally and nationally was nearly  indomitable. If your record didn't get picked up on the radio station that played hits targeted at teenagers, it was doomed to be a "stiff," as many of the disc jockeys called records that did not chart. Certain disc jockeys became major players in the determination of who had hits in a given area. Play for pay was the unspoken way of getting a hit. The radio station payola scandal of 1958 nearly destroyed Dick Clark, and did destroy Alan Freed. Whether this was genuine or not, the perception was that records should rise or fall on their own merit, and this illusion  continued well into the Seventies.

Regional styles also developed. Chicago had Electric Blues. Memphis had Delta Blues. New Orleans developed a style with Boogie Woogie pianists that also had quirky voices. In many cases, it was hard to tell whether a given artist was Caucasian or African American. I developed a love of rhythm and blues that continued into the Sixties and Seventies. In some ways, local scenes came to be key to records breaking regionally and nationally. The period when Elvis was in the Army from 1959 to 1961 was a time when things appeared to quiet down. Chuck Berry was in jail, Buddy Holly had died, Elvis was in Germany, and people like Frankie Avalon and Fabian appeared to be mainstream America's choices for replacements. The Four Seasons and The Beach Boys emerged in 1962, and Rock and Roll began to stage a comeback. Motown began to have national significance, and the people in the folk music movement began to think about how to electrify.

The Beach Boys Early 1962

The Four Seasons 1963

What really began to make a major change in how things were charted in Billboard and Cashbox was the incursion of the so-called major labels into Rock and Roll. RCA had bought Elvis's contract from Sun, but oddly enough Capitol, Warner Brothers, Columbia, and Decca did not enter into recording Rock and Roll in a big way until 1962. The Four Seasons, The Supremes, The Miracles, The Beach Boys, and many other groups began to dominate the charts. Strangely enough, it was not unusual for Frank Sinatra and Mitch Miller to place alongside teen music artists. Teen music artists began to make appearances regularly on network television programs. The Beatles' appearance on Ed Sullivan's variety program was a record in ratings to that date. Groups like the Dave Clark 5, The Who, and The Animals from the UK began to appear as well. Shindig and Hullabaloo were watched, as was a new program by Dick Clark called Where the Action Is.

Where The Action Is Logo

Shindig Screen Images 1964

The Righteous Brothers on Shindig 1964

By 1965, teen music had evolved into Art. Popular singers began to cover songs that were written by Lennon and McCartney, Brian Wilson, Mann and Weil, King and Goffin, Smokey Robinson, and Bob Dylan, Dylan's music, along with The Byrds, and Peter, Paul, and Mary, became entwined in the Civil Rights Movement, and protest music became a source of social change and non-conformity in universities and colleges across the country. For a major part of the Sixties, the charts reflected an integrated country long before civil rights were accepted as being the law of the land. Elvis had fallen into a series of formula movies with music that were rapidly erasing him from the charts. For many years, the only place one could see him was in the movies. Rock and Roll began to be called Rock Music, and there was the advent of Rock Stars. The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and The Rolling Stones became the triumvirate of Rock. Motown and Stax began to look inward and made music for African Americans a major focus of their music. The unity that was the Billboard Chart began to be less important, and FM album rock began to be the money format. Radio stations specialized in market niches, and the rise of Rock as an Art Form with its own language and Rock Criticism began. Innocence, if any, was gone, and taking its place was the institutionalized  Rebel. In its self-consciousness, Rock Stars' self-indulgence made Rock itself a self-parody.The era of the Rock Casualty had begun.

Text Copyright 2013 by Peter Reum-All Rights Reserved

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mothers by Peter Reum

This is the year of my mother's centennial. On July 10 of this year, it will be 100 years since she was born.  She was a generous, warm and caring woman who loved children, hers, and the children she taught.  At a time when women were not expected to attend college, my mom did, and graduated. She had a daughter when she was 18. Her life was not easy, and she had tuberculosis as a young woman when few people survived.  Her only sister died of TB.

She met my dad in Michigan. He was working and she and my dad fell in love over time. Both of them were the youngest in their family, and they both were used to lots of attention. My dad was from a family of 8 kids plus himself. My mother was the only child of her dad's second marriage. her half sister was her closest friend.

My mom's daughter was welcomed by my father, after they married. It was an instant family. She was 9 when they married. My father was a man who wanted children. As a team, my mother and father opened their home to all three of us. We were adopted. My mother and father were beyond generous, and their decision to adopt us was a blessing of our lifetime.

My birth mother is someone I also choose to remember this day. She carried me and allowed my birth, knowing she would never see me again. So, she gave me to my adoptive mother, and I carry her with me as well.

My childrens' mothers were a blessing and are a blessing to them. My older kids' mom died in 2007, and she is much missed by my daughters. I appreciate what she gave them, and she would be proud  of them, and was proud of them when she was alive. My 2 little ones' mother is a funny, generous, and kind hearted woman who does everything she can to make their lives wonderful. They are active, funny, and love their mom.

For all the mothers I know, and my own mother, I am grateful today. The decision she and my dad made before they adopted me and my sister changed our lives for the better forever.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Smaller Is Better by Peter Reum

As many of the people who read this blog know, I collected records for many years.  My collection was passed back to me by my kids because they didn't want to hassle with it. My ex-wife died in 2007, and she was the one who tried to sell it while she was alive.  The collection for me had become a symbol of the negative emotion I avoided by collecting. Somewhere along the line, the joy of music had grown dim, and the stress of compulsive behavior had become onerous.

I have been watching a little on television after not watching for several years. There are a couple of shows my wife likes that remind me of the emotional displacement that can be behind compulsive collecting. One show, called Hoarders, is especially sad, in that in most cases, there was a triggering negative event that began the compulsive hoarding. In the episode I saw last evening, a man's mother died, and he indicated he had begun hoarding shortly afterward. Among the things he "hoarded" were albums. He looked to have a substantial collection. It is impossible to know whether his albums were second hand store junk, or primo grade A collectibles.

For me the triggering event that began the collecting was a very horrible relationship with my first wife's family. Some of it was my fault, some of it was theirs. But, to shorten a long story, my walk  down collecting boulevard began. When I was getting divorced, I traded the collection for not having to do a child support arrangement. The divorce and the trading was painful, but, I had a weight lifted off me, and I no longer collected. It was as if the transaction had taken my burden.

Later, there was a brutal property dispute case that pitted me against my ex in a battle over certain items.  We won the suit, and the lawyer we had was instrumental in helping me understand how to testify. I understand some folks actually saw the court case minutes. I have had no such need to replay that awful time. I am now looking at music in the way it sustained me as a musician and as a music lover more each year that passes since that crazy case ended. Music has again brought me joy. I have a number of CDs, but am disposing of all of the vinyl I have except the items autographed personally to me, and it is liberating. I have lots to learn about selling, but as time has gone on I have slowly gotten the idea.

When I listen to music these days, it is pleasureable. The music I make or listen to has again brought me the great feelings I had before compulsion set in.  My Collection, well, it is nowhere near what it was, but the music that I have, I listen to. I have developed a love for CD boxed sets, and find that they usually meet whatever need I have for listening with respect to a given artist. I don't really find having stuff that no one else has any kind of a rush anymore. Music is a gift, a spiritual one, and although it is boxed and sold, it ultimately is a human experience, not a box, or a jewel case, or a vinyl platter.

Live music has especially taken on new meaning for me, as I have realized that like any art, music is a form of communication between two perceptions, the artist's, and the listener's. Singing is a joy again, and listening to my kids sing is a bigger joy. They don't have an album out.....Like any vehicle for human joy, food, booze, substances, video games, and so forth, moderation is the key, and smaller is better.

Copyright 2013 by Peter Reum-All Rights Reserved

Monday, May 6, 2013

Another Endangered Mascot: Save the Wolverine! by Peter Reum

After reviewing the list of species proposed for designation as endangered, the one that struck me as most sad is the wolverine. The wolverine is the mascot of the University of Michigan.  Like the endangered red wolf or lobo, mascot of the University of New Mexico, the wolverine is extinct in the state of Michigan, despite the status it is accorded in Ann Arbor. The Wolverine is also a character in the Marvel Comic Universe, and is the most maverick and hard to know of their array of mutants.

So, the wolverine is somewhat of a loner, very much known for its fearless and pugilistic way of life, and is thought to be a nuisance to ranchers, farmers, and outdoors lovers. While we don't currently have wolverine roundups, the literature on the wolverine reveals that they thrived until the Thirties, when they were summarily ejected from their habitat throughout the parts of the country they had previously occupied. Given their reputation as the real life incarnation of the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil, it is not surprising that they are misunderstood. Left to themselves, they are another predator at the upper end of the food chain.

definitely not from Michigan

The advocates for various species believed to be endangered initiated legal action with The US Government to enable designation of the wolverine by The US Fish and Wildlife Service as being endangered. The thinking on the part of wolverine advocates is that global warming has compromised the snowy habitat of wolverines in the lower 48, leading to reduction of their number to less than 300. Given their isolative nature, it is difficult to see how they will survive, unless new habitat is found. Some advocates have proposed new habitat in the treeless world above 12,000 feet in Colorado, and such mountain ranges as The Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming, and the highest reaches of the Sierra Nevada.

According to a 2006 study done by the US Department of  Agriculture's National Forest Service, the wolverine habitat in the contiguous USA was never very high, but did extend to snowy areas of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, as well as California, and the intermountain West until 1930. Habitat as of 2005 was only in very isolated parts of Western Wyoming, Oregon, Northern Washington, Northwest Montana, and parts of Idaho.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service period for public comments on proposed endangered species designation for the wolverine ended May 4, 2013. This does not mean that the public cannot exercise influence in final decisions. Below, please find the information sheet published by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in February 2013.

US Fish and Wildlife Service-Fact Sheet - Wolverine

The wolverine is an iconic species of the American mountain west, inhabiting arctic, boreal, and alpine habitats in Alaska, western Canada, and the western contiguous United States. South of the Canadian border, wolverines are restricted to areas in high mountains, near the tree-line, where conditions are cold year-round and snow cover persists well into the month of May. Most wolverine habitat in the contiguous U.S. – more than 90 percent – is located on federally-owned land, with the remainder being state, private or tribally owned.

The wolverine is a resilient species, which was likely extirpated from the lower 48 states during the early 20th century and has re-established populations by moving down from Canada into the North Cascades Range of Washington and the Northern Rocky Mountains of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. In the past 50 years, the wolverine has made a remarkable recovery, with little human assistance. However, climate modeling indicates that Wolverines in the lower 48 States are threatened with extinction in the future due to the loss of snowpack in the wolverine’s snowy, high-elevation habitat.

Currently, wolverine populations occur within the North Cascades Range in Washington and the Northern Rockies of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and a small portion of Oregon (Wallowa Range). Populations once existed in the Sierra Nevada of California and the southern Rocky Mountains in the states of Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico. Only one individual wolverine is known to inhabit the Sierra Nevada and one in the southern Rocky Mountains. Both are thought to be recent migrants to these areas.

Deep, persistent spring snow is required for successful wolverine reproduction because female wolverines dig elaborate dens in the snow for their offspring. These den structures are thought to protect wolverine kits from predators as well as harsh alpine winters. The area is covered by deep persistent snow also defines wolverines’ year-round habitat, probably because they prefer the coldest areas they can find here in the southernmost part of their range

Scientific publications from multiple research groups predict a reduction of wolverine’s cold and snowy habitat and our best estimate is that wolverine habitat will be reduced by 31 percent by 2045 and 63 percent by 2085. As wolverine habitat is reduced, the Service expects the remaining habitat will become more fragmented, with distances growing between habitat “islands”. Evidence suggests this diminished and fragmented habitat will support fewer wolverines with reduced connectivity between populations.

Definitely not a mutant....


What can we do to support this most majestic animal? Write your state's Fish and Wildlife Service if you live in the states mentioned in the fact sheet above, and let them know you support the protection of wolverine habitat. Second, contact your state's Congressional delegation and make your opinion count. Third, write the Governor of your state and share with him or her your concern for the wolverine, and for its long-term survival. This incredible animal deserves our advocacy and attention.

It's a wolverine!

Is It Live, Or Is It Doctored-Only the Engineer Knows For Sure....By Peter Reum

There is a magic in listening to live albums, and it doesn't replace being there in person, but as time has gone on, I have come to appreciate their place in artists' catalogs. There is rarely a live album that has not been doctored in its aftermath in the studio. Recordings passed between collector's seem to be the key to hearing the music as it happened the night it was played. Generally, the simpler the music, the easier it is to get as it was played. The exception is orchestral music, which is played live, and if recorded, is presented as played.

With other musical styles, collectors' recordings offer an unvarnished picture of an artist or band as they were at a point in their musical development. Every group wants to be remembered musically as having put their best performance forward, after all, it's only human. What makes collectors' recordings so aggravating to artists beside stolen royalties is the lack of artistic control they have over such music.

As music lovers, collectors are a different breed. They come to be preservers of a group's recorded efforts, and in some cases, have music that was cast aside by the artists themselves. Live recording has reaches new levels of sophistication, and many audience recordings sound close to mixing board quality these days. First and foremost, most people involved with music began as avid listeners. The late Barry Fey, who recently passed away loved certain bands, and if you lived in Denver, and loved music, you were blessed with an endless menu of great artists playing Fey Concerts through the year, year after year. Barry was, like Bill Graham, first and last, a fan of great live music. Bill Graham's website, Wolfgang's Vault, is the ultimate collector's recording site. There is stuff there that is not replaceable.

I don't know how many tapes are out there floating around. I stumble over them occasionally, sometimes free, sometimes at a price. Right now, I am fortunate to be listening to a Little Feat concert from the  Orpheum in Boston from Halloween 1975. This concert was broadcast on FM, and some industrious souls must have recorded the show. All I can say is that this is Little Feat with Lowell at the top of their game. The music is tight, the vocals are impeccable. It no mystery to me why many people consider this Feat lineup to be one of the best bands around from that time.  The band are playing from their strongest albums from the Seventies, and it is a delight. This does not take away from Waiting For Columbus, which is my favorite live album of all-time.

Last year, The Beach Boys released a dvd of their tour that left important performances unreleased. Well, low and behold, live performances from all over their tour started turning up. There was no shortage of music available for any collector who wanted complete performances. I have noticed that the Beach Boys organization has decided to respond to the demand by releasing a double dvd set of live performances from that tour. This is as it should be. Collector's will usually buy whatever is released by the artist they follow, and then buy other collectables to supplement. In this case, I will end up owning both sets of Beach Boys' performances from their 50th Anniversary Tour, and will probably buy other sets to supplement. As a for instance, The Beach Boys only did Summer's Gone twice on the last tour. It is not slated for the Double Set. I will endeavor to find a live recording of one of the shows where it was played.

One message board I frequent had a very interesting thread speculating on which live recordings were supplemented by post concert artist tinkering. It turned out that most legitimate live recordings we could name were doctored afterward. This doesn't even get at live use of technology to put singers on key as they sing. The charm of live performance was that the artists used to work "without a net." One of the greatest shows I ever attended was John Prine at Boulder's Tulagi Bar on tour for his epic first album, and he killed. He was lit, we were lit, and the chemistry between audience and John sizzled. The next year I caught Laura Nyro on tour with Patti LaBelle. Again, it wasn't perfect, but 40 years later, the memory of that night for me is very clear.

In 2002, I had the good fortune to hear Robert Mirabal's Music From a Painted Cave performance in support of his album of the same name.  He is New Mexico's own Grammy winner, and his sense of theater and visual interpretation of his music was amazing. He conveyed the connection he felt with his peoples' oral  history, and yet was able to make modern those ancient traditions in a manner that brought 2000 Indigenous kids to their feet from Montana and Wyoming who came to hear him for free in a double concert the afternoon before the paid performance. It is impossible to convey what we heard and saw that evening, but youtube has a great Mirabal video called "Stiltwalker" from the album he was touring in support of. This is concert music and performance taken to a higher level, a sacred prayer, perhaps matched by people like Reverend James Cleveland or other types of spiritual performers.

Recorded music is a young science, compared with the history of music itself. If King David had been recorded playing his psalms, would we buy it? If Jenny Lind could have been recorded, would we buy her dvd? If new Robert Johnson performances were found, would we buy them....Music is a powerful medium. My grandfather listened to Hitler in German on the radio when he spoke, just to piss off my grandmother, who was staunchly American, as every new immigrant is. He was staunchly American too, but he was fascinated with the power of Hitler's speeches as they were recorded and broadcast. My father quoted him as saying "this man is selling what Germans want...revenge!"

Such is the power of the live or the recorded voice, speaking or singing. It touches us as nothing else can.It reaches inside of us and releases pure unfiltered emotion. No wonder Brian Wilson's music has healed so many people. No wonder 2000 Indigenous kids were held in the palm of Robert Mirabal's music. Such is the power of live music.

Copyright 2013 Peter Reum-All Rights Reserved

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Mickey Mantle and Sandy Koufax: Heroes From a Different Time by Peter Reum

In the Fifties and Sixties, before baseball was upended by use of steroids and the Curt Flood case, I found heroes in that sport, and followed them loyally. I was 7, and my Great Aunt Olivia taught me the game, watching it on a small black and white television in remote New Mexico, far from any level of professional play, even class D ball. I sent off to Manny's Baseball Land for a plastic New York Yankees batting helmet, and fell  in love with my mother's friend's sporting goods store, where I had my first job when I was 13.

My dad built a baseball field on the vacant lot next door (with the owner's permission), and we had pick up games every weekend. I saw two or three games a week, learned how to keep score, and life was good. Baseball became an obsession. I became a fan of the Yankees and the Dodgers. The Yankees were in the prime of their Sixties streak, and Maris and Mantle were chasing the Babe's record.

That season, 1961, I think, was an amazing thing to watch. Even though  I was in remote rural New Mexico, it was a thrill to follow. Mickey Mantle was my sentimental favorite to get the record, but Roger Maris got it. I don't remember who won the series that year, but I think it was the Yankees. In 1962, the Dodgers were hot, and Sandy Koufax was on a roll. Sometimes during that year, he became injured and the Giants snuck in ahead of them to enter the Series. I rooted for the Yankees, and they won. As I remember, Mickey Mantle was hurt part of that season.

In 1963, the unthinkable happened....the Dodgers and the Yankees faced off in the Series. The Dodgers were my pick. I listened to their games nightly on clear channel station KFI in Los Angeles, and it was a treat to listen in rural Northern New Mexico. I bet $5 on the Yankees with the money I had with a friend of my dad's, and of course the Dodgers swept the Yankees, and Koufax beat the yankees twice and Drysdale once.

In 1964, my family and I traveled to Southern California to have a vacation. Dodger Stadium was still new, and I got to see a double header with the Cardinals. I got to see 4 Hall of Famers that day. Koufax beat the Cardinals in the first game, and The Cardinals with Bob Gibson beat Drysdale and the Dodgers that afternoon. Lou Brock was there, playing for the Cardinals. If Maury Wills made the Hall of Fame, that would be 5. I can't ever top that afternoon. It doesn't get any better. On the way home, we were in Vegas the same time the Beatles were playing a concert, and the whole town was agog with them.

Sandy Koufax pitched for a few more seasons, and Mickey Mantle played through 1967. They went on with their lives, and Mickey Mantle died of cancer, and Sandy Koufax still coaches in spring training with Dodger pitchers. I joined the Columbia Record Club and became enmeshed with music. I took up the trombone, euphonium, and tuba. I marched in the band, and generally transferred my love of sports into music. My mother discovered my copy of Highway 61 Revisited, and cut off my membership in the Club. I ended up having to buy music myself, which was much more difficult, seeing how my dad paid me 10 cents an hour to dig ditches and prune orchards. There were no child labor laws in our family.

These days, I don't watch baseball. I don't know the stats like I once did, and the Dodgers are still my favorite team, but I don't follow them the same way. My friend David Leaf has brought Mickey Mantle's story to Broadway with the consent of his family.  I wish him every success. Mickey was a hero in a more innocent age. He had his flaws, but to kids across the country, he was The Man, and no one will ever replace him as a hero from my youth.

Copyright 2013 by Peter Reum-All rights reserved

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Remembering Bob Hanes by Peter Reum

My friend Bob Hanes was someone who touched people deeply. He was someone that you couldn't just stay casual friends with. He was a person who inspired devotion in the people who crossed his path. If you stayed in contact with him, he took pains to get to know you. In going back through past correspondence with him, I am still amazed at how well he sized people up, shared himself and his experiences, and knew when to back off. He was someone who had human dimensions. He told me he had had a ton of anxiety, and he had no problem admitting that he was better off working part-time than trying to work full-time. He had dealt with past negative behavior in his own life, and didn't mind sharing his experience, strength, and hope.

Bob was am exceptional athlete. He pole vaulted in the mid Sixties for the University of Oregon, and had extensive contacts within he sports world, including 1968 Olympic High Jump Gold Medalist Dick Fosbury. Bob understood how to coach pole vaulters, and had a number of his pole vaulters, triple jumpers, and long jumpers finish as Oregon State Champions in those varied events. In his last few years, while living with cancer, he coached one of the top female pole vaulters nationally.

Bob was introduced to me through Derek Bill, and for many years, we didn't know what each other looked like, despite spending probably an hour a week on the phone for 25 years. Bob was one person who shared whatever he had, be it knowledge, books, cassette tapes, or friends. Bob was a guy who could not, and would not be stifled by any forces he deemed out of order. He was not intimidated by people or forces that would guard whatever he thought needed to be shared. He consequently was a literal traffic intersection for a number of interests with a wide variety of people from disparate backgrounds. He did not suffer bureaucrats or fools easily, and had no trouble letting them know that he was irritated with them. There were no pretensions with Bob, and he was who he was, whether talking to politicians, collectors, or teenagers.

Bob coached at South Eugene High School, and worked hard to raise money for increasingly difficult to fund track and field equipment, repaving of the running track, and other needs the student athletes had. The kids he coached were not silver spoon kids. They were the children of working class people who did not have unlimited funds to throw at their sons and daughters. Bob had no problems walking up to Eugene area businessmen, high rollers, and other fat cats and asking them outright for $5000 for his kids. Bob was fearless in this regard.

Bob was absorbed with the music of Brian Wilson, and loved The Beach Boys. He had an extensive collection that was one of the best in he world. He had an uncanny talent for finding a way to be able to not only find rare records and music, but to share it. When my ex-wife sued me for property that she said was hers, it looked bleak. I had had a Beach Boys discographer, his friend, and 8 Bernalillo County Sheriff's deputies in my living room seizing the property I had that was disputed one afternoon when my second wife and I were at our accountants. Bob sent me $1000 no strings attached to help me retain an attorney who eventually helped my wife and I win the property dispute.

Time marched on, and I became less involved in The Beach Boys, but more and more enriched by the friendship Bob and I had. He sent me books about the negative effect of sugar on the body years before it was common knowledge. My spirituality was enhanced by articles and books he forwarded to me. In 2002, we finally met in person, and he spent an evening with me listening to Brian Wilson and his Band play some extraordinary music at The Roxy. He supported and encouraged many people in that fine ensemble, including Wondermints members. We were amused at our appearances when we met, because neither of us was how we had pictured each other. Bob invited me to Eugene to hear Smile in 2005 on the last leg of Brian Wilson's two year tour. I piled into my old car and drove across Montana, Idaho, and Oregon to get to Eugene. I met Bob and Kandi's son, a magician, and got to hear Brian and a few group members do a little intimate show live the afternoon before Smile.

Bob always credited Kandi with saving his life when he was wrestling with chemical dependence, and did not hesitate to praise her at every opportunity. In meeting Kandi, it was apparent that she was the center of his life, and his biggest supporter. Things went back to our weekly phone calls, until one day, he called me and told me he had cancer. The news made me shudder, because so many of my friends had struggled with that disease. I was blessed to have biweekly reports from Kandi about Bob's fight, and for awhile, it looked positive. He then one day told me that he was in stage 4, and that his odds of living were very slim. Despite the experience I had with cancer, it was as if a lightning bolt had hit me. Bob was a person who remained as active as he could for as long as he could. Toward the end of his life, I grew guilty about calling, because I could tell he wanted to talk, but did not have much stamina. The last time we talked, he went out of his way to help me cope with HIS prognosis. I called on the 4th of July, 2010, and Kandi said his family had gathered, and that Bob was heavily medicated. When I called again on July 5th,she told me he had passed the previous night.

It was the end of a 35 year friendship, and I did my best to speak with other people who contacted me about his passing. His impact upon people was so strong. His passing left such a huge hole in the lives of the people he loved and was friends with. I remember when Brian Wilson was touring and came to Eugene, and Bob went out of his way to help the Wilsons, and their entourage, to feel loved and supported. Bob dropped everything for several days to make sure the folks who were touring had what they needed. Bob was one of the first people to reach out to them, and his affection for Brian's first and second families was unreserved.

We are left wondering why such a man was taken so young. The world has been poorer for Bob's absence. He is now a memory that will not go away, a presence who still fills me with admiration and respect. Most of all, he was a man full of passion---for sports, for music, for books, for his family and friends. He was a man who did not allow banal things to ruin his passion for life. His life meant so much to so many people, and what could be greater than that?