Saturday, July 21, 2012

You Must Marimba This

You do know that decades like naughty children do not end where they should according to the calendar, talking heads or the national media. They do not neatly come to a close with the end of the required rack or years. They have their own ways of telling time and they do it whether you agree or not.

The decade we call the Sixties did not smoothly begin in nineteen-sixty and end with the dawn of nineteen-seventy, like its brothers before it it began on the half decade, just past the midnight hour December 31 of nineteen-fifty-five in time for nineteen-fifty-six and ended just before the midnight hour December the 31th nineteen and sixty-five. So the decade we know as the Sixties was not the drug-crazed, flower-powered, hippie, free-love, Frisbee in the park, body paint, war protesting madness the media loves to recall but the buttoned-down, blazer wearing, plain vanilla, Lennon sisters, Pat Boone, Lettermen, Ozzie and Harriet world just before.

Don’t believe me, try this, When did the Nineties get so gay? They didn’t start out that way, and no they did not have to come out of the closet, gay was a different thing then. I’ll tell you when, nineteen-twenty-six. In fact the Nineties weren’t all that gay if you start with the top of the decade cause there was a severe economic depression sparked by the Panic of 1893.

And if you check it worked like that for most of the other decades too. The First World War broke out after the middle of the decade so the nineteen hundreds have to end in 1915 instead of 1910 like the history books want you to believe. That way the War Years get to cover the time from 1916 to 1925 and the Twenties get to roar from 1926 to 1935 and the Big One, The Real War, The Valiant Years are from 1936 to 1945 and so on.

Yeah I know too much information, but you had to hear it to make much sense of what I am going to tell you next. Those wild and crazy, hippie, dance naked in the park, long-haired, Rock’n’Roll years were the Sixties and the quiet, Ike-loving years before them were the Fifties, so in the late Fifties before the Beatles came to Ed Sullivan and Mick strutted and even Keith Richards was still alive, (There is no evidence that Keith Richards is still alive. After all he has put his body through if even half of the rumors are true he is long dead and his body just hasn’t gotten the memo yet), music still had melody.

In 1965 the best selling album was the soundtrack to Mary Poppins. In fact even after the turn of the decade according to me, the best selling album was…drum roll, please…Whipped Cream and Other Delights, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.

That’s right not a heavy metal guy in sight and that was the middle of the decade according to the media and the calendar.

But we know better don’t we? We have been reading and know that actually it isn’t a surprise that Rock hadn’t conquered all because the Sixties had just started.

And in this strange twilight before the Rock Gods there were all sorts of interesting and different artists working the music trade. John Phillips had the Mommas and the Poppas just breaking into the charts, the Beach Boys were still urging us to pick a California Girl and Spanky and Our Gang were doing wonderful melodies which rock producers and record companies had no idea what the hell to do with and the there was the alternative to Herb Alpert, Julius Wechter and the Baja Marimba Band.

The music was close enough to the Tijuana Brass you may not remember it and if you never saw them in concert you wouldn’t know why they should be remembered. They were just a bunch of studio musicians made up like Mexican banditos who played slightly tinkley mariachi music set to a jazz rhythm. They had three or four legitimate hits, Ghost Riders in the Sky, The Cry of the Wild Goose and Comin’ in the Back Door, and they raised the ire of Mexican-American groups for insensitivity because of their album covers but mostly they were ignored.

But if you ever saw them in concert or bought their albums you never forgot. Live they were electric, intricate comedy bits interspersed with their music so well performed and integrated that you never got distracted but the laughs were there aplenty.

I saw them at UT Arlington when I should have been working the swing shift at the plant and yes, Hayes, if you are still alive I did call in sick and wasn’t. It was a magical evening and I have enjoyed the memory for the last forty-five years.

Their album covers were works of art, see there is art buried in this post, and the biggest inside joke was trying to discover who was performing the lewd act where on the cover. I know but it was big doings in nineteen sixty-seven.

And unlike a bunch of albums I bought back in those days I have all of my Baja Marimba Band albums transferred to CD and loaded on my non-ipod and I listen often

So take a look at a cover or two and see if you see that unsavory act and if you do just how offended you are. I wasn’t, still am not and the part about the Banditos doesn’t bother me even though I am directly descended from Francisco de Miranda so live with it and get a sense of humor.

And one more thing, if you didn’t go to Shore Acres this noon and hear the White Rhino Marimba band you missed out, but there is still time. They are playing at Rogers Zoo, 2037 Sherman Avenue, North Bend, 541-756-2550, call for reservations and hurry they play tonight and even though they are serious musicians and play Afro-inspired marimba you will hate it if you miss out so shut off the computer and go, there’s no time to waste.

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