Franorama 2.0 airs live from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT Fridays (7-10 a.m. PDT, 2-5 p.m. GMT) on Cygnus Radio, and forever and ever in the archives. To listen to the archived link to this and all other Cygnus shows, click here.
Last Friday’s episode of Franorama 2.0 on Cygnus Radio revolved around three spheres
The Rain. It had rained heavily the two previous days, and Friday began just as dark and wet until the sky cleared considerably just around lunchtime. In fact, as I sat here in the cellar home studio, I would leave the laptop aside every half-hour or so and turn on the wet-vac and suck another buckets of water from the carpet near the cellar door. (Yes, multitasking.)
The spring here in Connecticut has been full of weather stops-starts like this, with intermittent storms and sharp temperature drops
Anyway, I had a lot more songs about rain , both literally and metaphorically, than I realized, but I kept it to two sets’ worth. Notables: ending one set with the Dead (“Box of Rain”) and beginning the next with the Dead, from their earliest recording session as The Warlocks (“Early Morning Rain”). And, of course, I had to play The Cowsills.
Newtown. It was six months to the very hour — also on a Friday morning — that the news crawls on local TVs began running the news that there were reports of a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown. And as morning progressed into lunchtime into afternoon into mourning, the disbelief that usually goes with such horrific events — and Newtown, as well as most of western Connecticut really IS a sleepy town where little ever happens — was countered by the wretched enormity of what had happened.
And living a half-hour away, and having the privilege of having a microphone on this milestone day — and having known a couple whose daughter was one of the murdered teachers — I couldn’t let the day pass unnoticed. But how to commemorate it? The TV stations were gonna milk it for all they could — the maudlin piano chords, the “Tragedy at Sandy Hook” graphics, all of which I find pretty damn offensive.
I didn’t want to get bogged down in the politics of it, but I read aloud the eloquent-but-angry op-ed piece in the morning;s Newtown Bee. It came from Tucson — from Gabby Giffords and Roxanna Green. (Green’s young daughter, Christina-Taylor Green, was killed in the shooting that critically wounded Giffords.) The words speak for themselves.
I don’t have a lot of kid-related music. But I do have parts of They Might Be Giants’ album NO! It was a children’s album, and my favorite song on the album was a Lovin’ Spoonful-style tune written about one of the great many questions a curious kid would ask about the world. And it sounded as if it were something that a first-grader would ask. Where do they make balloons? So that’s what I led with.
I also played one of Marvin Gaye’s most poignant songs from one of his most troubled and brilliant times, along with some of the childlike innocence from Brian Wilson at his most vulnerable and troubled period, and finished the set with Judy Garland. It was all I could do to not lose it. Had I played the version of “Over the Rainbow” that the surviving Sandy Hook students recorded (at Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth’s home studio in Fairfield), I most definitely would never have made it through the song.
And other things. Well, some of the other threads:
Arturo Vega. The Saturday before, Arturo Vega died. Technically, there were eight men who were Ramones at one point or another — Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy, Marky, Richie, the short-stinted Clem Burke (aka Elvis Ramone) and C.J. But in reality, Arturo was the fifth Ramone. He designed their iconic logo; he was a confidant; the band rehearsed and recorded demos at his East Village loft; and Joey and Dee Dee lived with him at various points. I remembered him by playing some better-known songs and some early and little-heard demos as well.
Jet-setting. Saw Los Straitjackets a few nights before at Cafe Nine in New Haven, and since their latest album is Jet Set, I put together the three songs I have with those words in the title — them, Joe Jackson and The Fleshtones.
Dock Ellis. Last Wednesday was the 43rd anniversary of one of the greatest feats in baseball history — Dock Ellis of the Pittsburgh Pirates throwing a no-hitter against the Padres in San Diego while tripping his brains out. Barbara Manning and her group, The SF Seals (named after San Francisco’s legendary pre-Giants minor league team, whose most famous alum was hometown boy Joe DiMaggio), recorded a three-song 7-inch Baseball Trilogy single for Matador 20 years ago already. A wild trip of a song called “Dock Ellis” was part of it.
The Style Council: It was 30 summers ago already, about this time, that Paul Weller’s post-Jam group made its American vinyl debut with the EP Introducing … The Style Council, a compilation of songs already released as singles in England. Still a favorite piece of my library. Played three SC songs — a killer instrumental called “Mick’s Up” from the EP, plus two of my favorite later tunes. From 1983-85, Weller, Mick Talbot and Dee C. Lee were the shit.
So that’s it. On to this Friday’s show, the first show of summer. Get your sunscreen ready …