Now playing: “Red” by King Crimson

I’m listening to the album “Red” by King Crimson, and god knows how many times that makes it. It’s impossible for me to say how many times I’ve put it on and just gotten sucked completely into it, to pore over every detail and let it have its way with me for its 40 minutes. It’s one of a handful of albums that I can put on anytime, that I never get tired of, and that it always feels to me like it’s the right thing to put on.

I came to the party kind of late. I had heard “In the Court of the Crimson King” when I was in 9th grade, and I liked it, but it didn’t really stick and I kind of forgot about them. Years passed, and it was the summer of 1991, right before my last year at college, and my friend Morgan who I had played in bands with put on “Starless and Bible Black.” I liked it, but still no sale.

A few months later I ended up with a copy of “Red.” I had already been listening to a lot of Rush and Voivod, so discordant music in odd time signatures was already a thing for me. But then I put this album on, and that was it. It was a total “where have you been all my life” moment, despite this band having tried to insinuate itself into my life for years. I guess sometimes you just have to be ready, or it doesn’t matter who’s beating you over the head with what.

The only songs I listen to on their own from the album are “Fallen Angel” and the mighty “Starless,” but more often then not I’ll just listen to the whole thing. You kind of have to. Even though “Providence” isn’t really even a proper song, and on its own I probably wouldn’t care about it, it belongs there and it’s part of the whole experience. It has to be there, otherwise “Starless” wouldn’t emerge from the chaos the way it does. “One More Red Nightmare” would have nothing to dissolve into.

I figured that this album would launch me into more studious prog music and it certainly softened me up for a few things that I never would have listened to before, like Il Balletto Di Bronzo’s “Ys” (look it up, it’s essential listening) and maybe a couple of other things, but it seemed to close the door on prog more than it opened it for me. Nothing else was as good. Nothing else would measure up. There was plenty of dark, dissonant shit out there, and some of it was good, but none of it had the same effect on me as this album. Really the only major discovery that I made as a result of this album was just other King Crimson stuff, mostly live stuff from this lineup. And I don’t listen to anything they did afterwards.

I don’t think I heard another album as significant for me, in terms of how it affected my playing and songwriting, until I heard “Long Division” by Low. Maybe “Sky Valley” by Kyuss. But I don’t go back to those with the regularity that I go back to this one, because eventually they stopped paying off. “Red” has never stopped paying off. It’s like the “GoodFellas” of prog rock, in that if I’m flipping around on TV and “GoodFellas” is on, I get sucked into it instantly and get as wrapped up in it as the first time I saw it. And it has the same effect on me every time.

I’m seriously racking my brain here trying to think of other albums that have held up like that for me, for this length of time. Surprisingly, “Reign in Blood” by Slayer is one of the few contenders. A total essential listen from start to finish that I never get tired of. “Sticky Fingers,” maybe? There are some albums from the last few years that I listen to pretty regularly, but will I still be listening to them as religiously as I listen to “Red” 23 years later? Hard to say.

Advertisements

Everyone panic.

2015/01/img_1019.jpg

So. We’re supposed to get several feet of snow, and every weather service I’ve seen seems to be saying it’s going to be pretty bad. I’m hoping it’s all just misplaced hysteria, but even if it’s the real thing, I find the degree of panic that accompanies these things to be kind of weird.

By all means, stock up on supplies, keep your kids home from school, do what you’ve got to do. But there also seems to be this fear that after two days or so, we’re all going to resort to cannibalism, or descend into some kind of Lord of the Flies shit that you’d really need a nuclear apocalypse to get it going.

Am I under reacting?

Man With Serious Mental Illness Committed To City Bus

From THE ONION.

ALBANY, NY—Citing a range of severe symptoms including hallucinations, disorientation, and disorganized speech, the Albany County Department of Mental Health said Wednesday that local man Shawn Zellicoff will be involuntarily committed to the 125 Clinton/Sand Creek city bus until further notice. “For his own safety, Mr. Zellicoff will be restricted to the Central Avenue-bound line until such time as he is found competent,” said county health official Tamika Wright, adding that the mentally ill 58-year-old will be allowed to bring up to 18 bags and parcels with him but will not be permitted to leave the commuter vehicle. “Committing someone to a bus is always a last resort—Mr. Zellicoff would not be spending an indefinite period of time confined to side-by-side plastic seats were his psychological disorders not incredibly serious.” Wright went on to say she hoped Zellicoff would eventually be well enough to leave the bus for short periods and occasionally spend some time on the streets.

I wonder how long the NY Times had this obituary sitting around, waiting to be published.

Joe Franklin, Local Talk Show Pioneer, Dies at 88

Joe Franklin, who became a New York institution by presiding over one of the most compellingly low-rent television programs in history, one that even he acknowledged was an oddly long-running parade of has-beens and yet-to-bes interrupted from time to time by surprisingly famous guests, died on Saturday in a hospice in Manhattan. He was 88. Steve Garrin, Mr. Franklin’s producer and longtime friend, said the cause was prostate cancer.

A short, pudgy performer with a sandpapery voice that bespoke old-fashioned show business razzle-dazzle, Mr. Franklin was one of local television’s most enduring personalities. He took his place behind his desk and in front of the camera day after day in the 1950s and night after night in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.

In 1993, he said that he had hosted more than 300,000 guests in his more than 40 years on the air. Another way to have interviewed that many people would have been to go to Riverside, Calif., or Corpus Christi, Tex., and talk to everyone in town.

And although he never made the move from local television in New York to the slicker, bigger realms of the networks, he was recognizable enough to have been parodied by Billy Crystal on “Saturday Night Live” and mentioned on “The Simpsons.”

What came to be considered campy began as pioneering programming: the first regular program that Channel 7 had ever broadcast at noon. WJZ-TV, as the station was known then, had not been signing on until late afternoon before the premiere of “Joe Franklin — Disk Jockey” on Jan. 8, 1951.

Soon celebrities like Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby and John F. Kennedy were making their way to the dingy basement studio on West 67th Street — a room with hot lights that was “twice the size of a cab,” Mr. Franklin recalled in 2002. He booked Woody Allen, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Bill Cosby and Liza Minnelli as guests when they were just starting out, and hired two other young performers, Bette Midler and Barry Manilow, as his in-house singer and accompanist.

“My show was often like a zoo,” he said in 2002. “I’d mix Margaret Mead with the man who whistled through his nose, or Richard Nixon with the tap-dancing dentist.”

Mr. Franklin claimed a perfect attendance record: He said he never missed a show. Bob Diamond, his director for the last 18 years of his television career, said that there were a few times in the days of live broadcasts when the show had to start without Mr. Franklin. But Mr. Franklin always got there eventually.

And he always seemed to have a gimmick. He celebrated his 40th anniversary on television by interviewing himself, using a split-screen arrangement. “I got a few questions I’m planning to surprise myself with,” he said before he began.

Had he been asked, he could have told viewers that he was born Joe Fortgang in the Bronx. He explained in his memoir, “Up Late With Joe Franklin,” written with R. J. Marx, that his press materials had long said that he had been born in 1928, “but I’m going to come clean and admit that my real birth date was March 9, 1926.” He was the son of Martin and Anna Fortgang; his father was a paper-and-twine dealer who had gone to Public School 158 with James Cagney.

And although he never made the move from local television in New York to the slicker, bigger realms of the networks, he was recognizable enough to have been parodied by Billy Crystal on “Saturday Night Live” and mentioned on “The Simpsons.”

What came to be considered campy began as pioneering programming: the first regular program that Channel 7 had ever broadcast at noon. WJZ-TV, as the station was known then, had not been signing on until late afternoon before the premiere of “Joe Franklin — Disk Jockey” on Jan. 8, 1951.

Soon celebrities like Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby and John F. Kennedy were making their way to the dingy basement studio on West 67th Street — a room with hot lights that was “twice the size of a cab,” Mr. Franklin recalled in 2002. He booked Woody Allen, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Bill Cosby and Liza Minnelli as guests when they were just starting out, and hired two other young performers, Bette Midler and Barry Manilow, as his in-house singer and accompanist.

“My show was often like a zoo,” he said in 2002. “I’d mix Margaret Mead with the man who whistled through his nose, or Richard Nixon with the tap-dancing dentist.”

Mr. Franklin claimed a perfect attendance record: He said he never missed a show. Bob Diamond, his director for the last 18 years of his television career, said that there were a few times in the days of live broadcasts when the show had to start without Mr. Franklin. But Mr. Franklin always got there eventually.

And he always seemed to have a gimmick. He celebrated his 40th anniversary on television by interviewing himself, using a split-screen arrangement. “I got a few questions I’m planning to surprise myself with,” he said before he began.

Had he been asked, he could have told viewers that he was born Joe Fortgang in the Bronx. He explained in his memoir, “Up Late With Joe Franklin,” written with R. J. Marx, that his press materials had long said that he had been born in 1928, “but I’m going to come clean and admit that my real birth date was March 9, 1926.” He was the son of Martin and Anna Fortgang; his father was a paper-and-twine dealer who had gone to Public School 158 with James Cagney.

By the time he was 21, he had a new name, a radio career, a publicist and a too-good-to-be-true biography invented, he wrote in “Up Late,” by a publicist. In that book, he denied an anecdote that appeared in many newspaper articles about him: He had met George M. Cohan in Central Park when he was a teenager. That led to a dinner invitation from Mr. Cohan, who let him pick a recording from his collection and take it home — or so the story went. It never happened, Mr. Franklin wrote in “Up Late.”

But a real invitation to pick records was his big break. He had been the writer for the singer Kate Smith’s 1940s variety program, which featured guests like Clark Gable, Myrna Loy and Edward G. Robinson — “all my childhood heroes” — when the radio personality Martin Block hired him to choose the records played on Block’s “Make-Believe Ballroom” on WNEW. Block arranged for Mr. Franklin to go on the air with a program called “Vaudeville Isn’t Dead.” After stops at several other stations in the 1950s, Mr. Franklin settled in at WOR in the mid-60s with his “Memory Lane” program — “that big late-night stroll for nostalgiacs and memorabiliacs,” as he described it.

He was both. He owned a shoe of Greta Garbo’s, a violin of Jack Benny’s and a ukulele of Arthur Godfrey’s — not to mention 12,500 pieces of sheet music and 10,000 silent movies. His office was several rooms of uncataloged clutter, first in Times Square, later at Eighth Avenue and West 43rd Street. “You know, I was a slob,” he said in 2002.

Mr. Franklin met his wife, Lois Meriden, when she applied for a job as his secretary. Soon they were being mentioned in gossip columns. “Dorothy Kilgallen wrote that we were ‘waxing amorous,’ ” he wrote in “Up Late.” “Walter Winchell queried in his column, ‘What radio voice with initial J. F. seen ’round town with model Lois Meriden?’ ” Soon, too, she was accompanying him to the studio for his 6:30 a.m. broadcast. “Lois made faces at me through the control room window, wiggling her ears and her nose,” Mr. Franklin wrote in “Up Late.”

They were married on a television show called “Bride and Groom.” Off camera, he wrote in 1995, “things weren’t going right — it’s been like that for 40 years. But if we divorced, it would cost me a lot of money. Lois is happy, I’m happy, I live in New York, she lives in Florida.”

After his television show was canceled in 1993, Mr. Franklin repeatedly tried to cash in on his fame and his collection of memorabilia. In 2000, he lent his name to a 160-seat restaurant on Eighth Avenue at 45th Street. Eventually it became a chain restaurant with “Joe Franklin’s Comedy Club” in the back; later the restaurant and the comedy club closed. And in 2002, he sold some of his memorabilia at auction.

His survivors include his son, Bradley Franklin; two grandchildren, Billy and Sara; a younger sister, Margaret Kestenbaum; and his longtime companion, Jodi Fritz.

On television, Mr. Franklin did not like to rehearse, and he never used cue cards or prompters. The opening monologue and the questions were all in his head.

“I was the only guy who never had a preproduction meeting,” Mr. Franklin said in 2002. “You don’t rehearse your dinner conversation. I’m not saying I was right, but I lasted 43 years.”