.
Welcome back, my friends, to the "Battle" that never ends.
We're so glad you could attend. Come inside! Come inside!
.
This is 'BATTLE OF THE BANDS' ('BOTB') where you listen to different recordings of the same song and vote for the one you like best. A new Battle gets posted on the 1st and 15th of each month and six days later, on the 7th and 21st, I place my own vote, tally 'em all up and announce the winner.
.
Friend? Foe? Stranger? No matter, ALL are welcome. So pull up a chair, pour yourself 24 oz. of DOG BITE High Gravity Lager (or the poison of your choice) and turn it up to Eleven!
.
[NOTE: Links to the first year of 'BOTB' (#1 - #24) can be found at the very bottom of this page.]

Saturday, April 21, 2018

BOTB RESULTS: 2018, APRIL 15 (Or, WARREN ZEVON VERSUS JACKSON BROWNE)

.
.
My April 15th BATTLE OF THE BANDS (BOTB) installment took place [link> HERE. It was the latest in my "Battle For Los Angeles" theme and featured Warren Zevon's zong 'Carmelita' versus Jackson Brown's 'Boulevard(or, The Pioneer Chicken Stand versus The Gold Cup Coffee Shop).
.
.
The first thing I want to do is extend my sincere gratitude to every single one of you who voted. I was exceedingly pleased with the terrific turnout this time. (I believe the Email I sent out to remind some folks of the existence of my newest Battle may have had something to do with the better turnout. It's something I now intend to continue doing in the future, so keep an eye on your InBox, peoples!)
.
I really enjoyed the heck outta this Battle and I felt especially inspired in responding to y'all in the comment section. I feel like I was in a good, creative place. (Many of my favorite BOTB installments are those that have free-flowing back & forth exchanges in the comment sections! This was no exception.) 
.
This Battle was really close for quite awhile. With 6 votes in, it was tied 3 to 3. With 10 votes in, it was tied 5 to 5. Then Jackson Browne got three consecutive votes, giving him an 8 to 5 lead. But... that was it for Browne. The final 7 votes (including mine) all went to Warren Zevon:
.
Warren Zevon = 12 votes
.
Jackson Browne = 8 votes
.
The Amazing Sixwell and I both guessed wrong on this contest. I knew it would be a tight race but figured the uptempo hit by Jackson would beat Warren's mostly unknown ballad by perhaps 2 or 3 votes. WRONG! And this means that in "The Battle Within The Battle", the Magic 8-Ball takes a 2-0 lead over Sixwell. (Bringing in a little competition sure seems to have put the "magic" back into the 8-Ball. Suddenly, that dog can hunt!)
.
'Carmelita' is one of my very, very favorite Warren Zevon zongs. A person might ask, "WHY do you like a song about a heroin addict?" Well, there are a few reasons. 
.
Musically-speaking, I think it's an extremely catchy song. In fact, to me, it even has an "earworm" quality about it. I find myself singing or humming it often. But I concede that at first blush it doesn't appear to have a strong "earworm melody" to it. I believe it takes multiple listenings before that melody starts to worm its way into one's mind.
.
I also really like that Spanish guitar sound in 'Carmelita'. So, I think the song stands on its own, musically. But then there are also a number of elements to the song that very strongly resonate with me on a real personal level.
.
As a person, Warren Zevon left much to be desired. He had some good qualities, too, naturally, but he was certainly self-destructive and too often put his own self-interests ahead of others. But as a songwriter, the guy had an undeniable knack for reaching down deep and expressing feelings that many of us "Glass Half-Empty" folks share. Zevon had a dark sense of humor, and so do I. Therefore, the themes of some of his songs, and certain lyrics in some of his songs, have almost become a part of who I am because they express my feelings and attitudes every bit as well as I myself could. Honestly, I suspect that only a person who's a wee bit "twisted" could really appreciate these, but here's just a small sampling:
.
I'm going to hurl myself against the wall, 'cause I'd rather feel bad than not feel anything at all.
.
I'll sleep when I'm dead.
(Zevon's version of "Carpe Diem".)
.
I appreciate the best but I'm settling for less. I'm looking for the next-best thing.
.
Back in the 1980s, my buddy Pooh and I nearly wore this one completely out:
.
It ain't that pretty at all!
.
How are you and your girlfriend doing?
"It ain't that pretty at all!"
Did you pick-up your paycheck?
"Yeah. It ain't that pretty at all!"
How's your hangover?
"It ain't that pretty at all!"
.
And then there's what I think may be the truest thing ever said in a song -- a line I have repeated a godzillion and two times:
.
There's a sadness in the heart of things.
.
In 'Carmelita', the storyteller is having problems with heroin. But to me, it could be anything. Alcohol. Relationships. Bad luck. General depression. The bottom line is simply that for whatever reason, one is down 'n' out and feeling a strong longing for something that's out-of-reach. I can't relate to being strung-out on heroin, but I CAN relate to feeling down 'n' out and longing greatly for something that seems very far away -- unobtainable.
.
So that's why I love the song 'Carmelita' in general. But there are also explicitly personal reasons: Contrary to what Warren Zevon may have believed, there REALLY WAS a Pioneer Chicken stand on Alvarado Street in L.A. It was only 4 or 5 blocks from Echo Park, between Reservoir Boulevard and Scott Avenue. My beloved Grandfather, Floyd (R.I.P.), used to drive us right past it on the way to Dodger games:
.
My friend, Pooh, standing near the former location of "the Pioneer Chicken stand" on Alvarado Street.
.
And, finally, there's that opening verse in 'Carmelita'...
.
I hear Mariachi static on my radio 
And the tubes, they glow in the dark 
And I'm there with her in Ensenada 
And I'm here in Echo Park
.
That paints a vivid mental picture for me. I remember when I first started really getting into music at the age of about 15. While simultaneously exploring my teen-aged feelings, I would lie in the dark staring at the orange glowing tubes inside my radio while listening to the songs coming out of it.
.
And later, from about 1983 to '85, I used to listen to a radio station, 69 XTRA Gold, broadcasting from Mexico (Tijuana, not Ensenada -- where I once spent a night in jail. Uhp! I was an idiot!!). I fell in love with the beautiful Mexican woman -- whom I never saw -- who would periodically mention the station's call letters. I thought she had the perfect feminine voice, and I longed to meet her.
.
Over the decades, I had completely forgotten all about that mysterious woman in Tijuana -- my personal "Carmelita" -- who used to speak to me from Mexico through my radio in Santa Monica, California. But on Saturday, March 24th of this year, I was listening to an old cassette of things I had recorded from my radio back in 1985. Suddenly, "Carmelita's" voice came through the speaker saying the call letters in Spanish.
.
It was an incredibly intense feeling! Too bizarre to understand, let alone to try explaining. But in a moment, I remembered that "woman in my radio" and I had a kind of "Somewhere In Time" experience. I felt like I had been immediately pulled back to the 1980s and I re-fell in love with that woman, my Carmelita, in a single instant! In that same hour, I knew that Warren Zevon's song, 'Carmelita', would be used in my very next BOTB "Battle For Los Angeles" installment.
.
If anybody is interested, you can find an article about the old radio station 69 XTRA Gold HERE. That article even includes an old audio file which has "Carmelita" saying the station call letters in Spanish. (I'm still in love with her, and wish I could find a way to go back in time and locate her. ...I wonder if she looked as pretty as her voice sounded.)
.
Again, I thank you all for showing up and I hope you'll do so again, when I present my next Battle Of The Bands contest here on May 1st.
.
~ Stephen T. McCarthy
.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

2018, APRIL 15: BATTLE OF THE BANDS (Or, PIONEER CHICKEN VS. GOLD CUP COFFEE)

.
Republican Vs. Democrat, Male Vs. Female, War Vs. Peace, Light Vs. Dark, Good Vs. Evil, Man Vs. Machine, Love Vs. Hate, Dog Vs. Cat, Sun Vs. Moon, Brain Vs. Brawn, Oscar Vs. Grammy, Angel Vs. Demon, Laurel Vs. Hardy, Beer Vs. Wine, TV Vs. Radio, Pitcher Vs. Batter, Paper Vs. Plastic, Reality Vs. Fantasy, Yeshua Vs. Beelzebub, Rock Vs. Paper Vs. Scissors, Islam Vs. Everything, Singer Vs. Singer, Band Vs. Band...
.
'BATTLE OF THE BANDS' ('BOTB')
.
Yes, it's time once again for 'BOTB' and another installment in the "Battle For Los Angeles" category.
.
.
Alright, let's get on it. Let's get ON this thing!...
.
When the city of Los Angeles comes to mind, most folks probably think first of Hollywood -- maybe the movie studios, or the famous Sunset Strip, or the intersection of Hollywood & Vine and the hand / footprints of legendary stars at the Chinese Theatre. Others might first think of the warm, sunny skies and "The Beautiful People" on the beaches in Malibu, Venice or Santa Monica. 
.
For the majority of folks, the thought of L.A.'s seedy underbelly -- the hustlers, the prostitutes, the grime 'n' crime -- are probably just afterthoughts, if they are thought of at all.
.
Circa 1982, a buddy and I drank Jack Daniel's whiskey one night while hanging on the letter "H" of the Hollywood sign. But that's a story for another BOTB installment. 
.
Studying to become an actor, I spent a lot of time humanity-watching in different parts of L.A. The city has many moods and many types of people, and I liked to immerse myself in them and interact with them. 
.
Echo Park and Hollywood Boulevard (both of them pretty grungy and edgy in the 1970s and early '80s) are just two of the places I used to spend days blending into the background to observe people. 
.
Today's Battle looks at the sketchy side of L.A. life. The first song is from the point-of-view of a writer-wannabe with a drug problem and living in Echo Park. (Fun Fact #1: My parents' first residence as newlyweds in '58 was in Echo Park. The stork brought me the next year and they moved to an apartment in Santa Monica.) And the second contender is singing about the raunchy life of runaway teens hustling on dirty, dangerous Hollywood Boulevard. (Fun Fact #2: The second artist actually produced the song by the first artist.) 
.
Warren Zevon's eponymous 1976 album was produced by Jackson Browne and it contained 'Poor, Poor Pitiful Me'. Linda Ronstadt's cover of that song became a Top 40 hit for her. But the ninth track on that LP was a ballad titled 'Carmelita'. It was about a drug-addicted writer listening to a Mexican radio station from Echo Park in L.A. and it mentioned a "Pioneer Chicken Stand" on Alvarado Street. (In the 1970s and early '80s, Pioneer was Kentucky Fried Chicken's biggest competitor in the L.A. area. My family got the Pioneer take-out pretty often because it was cheaper than KFC.)
.
Let's listen in...
.
'CARMELITA' by Warren Zevon
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeb0OI8wXN4

.
Interestingly, in the old photo below of Hollywood Boulevard, there is a white Pioneer Chicken fast food sign at the right edge. On the left, The Gold Cup coffee shop sign dominates the photo.
.
Ironically, The Gold Cup plays a part in our next competitor's song...
.
"The Gold Cup" at extreme left.  "Pioneer Chicken" at extreme right.
.
If there truly is a "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams", it's Hollywood Boulevard. (I'd almost chuckle to think of the disappointment people must have felt after traveling across the country to stand at the world-famous intersection of Hollywood & Vine. That dirty little corner swarming with winos, druggies and prostitutes must have been one of the world's all-time greatest let-downs! Ha!!)
.
In 1980, 'Boulevard' became one of Jackson Browne's biggest hits. Wackypedia sez:
.
Browne said in a radio interview: "It's about runaways, and, you know... as sort of a bystander, it's about Hollywood Boulevard. I used to live right above Hollywood Boulevard, and there's a place called The Gold Cup and there's a lot of runaway kids and there's a lot of teen prostitution around there. It was partly written from the point of view of a young person on that street ...  You're sort of, maybe, empathizing with them to some degree, and also trying to say 'it's only time.' It's time on the boulevard, but this doesn't mean this is who you are and where you'll always be, I guess was what I was trying to say..."
.
From my old days of hanging out people-watching on Hollywood Boulevard, I vividly remember The Gold Cup (Browne refers to it as "the Golden Cup" in the song), and indeed there were always lots of teenage street urchins in and around that coffee shop.
.

'BOULEVARD' by Jackson Browne
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajnjhU4CAUw&t=16s
.
The Battle Within The Battle:
.
.
VERSUS
.
.
Question: "Will Warren Zevon lose to Jackson Browne?"
.
The Magic 8-Ball (1-0) sez:  "Don't Count On It"
.
The Amazing Sixwell (0-1) sez:  "Most Likely"
.
Alright now, “you know the gig”... I welcome you (whether I know "you" or not) to vote for your favorite of these songs in the comment section below. And feel free to tell us WHY you chose one song over the other. 
.
After voting here, I suggest - actually I insist - you pop over to the blogs of the other 'BATTLE OF THE BANDS' participants to see which songs they have chosen and vote there also.
.
Vote your vice... Vice your voice... Voice Your Vote...
.
@ ‘TOSSING IT OUT’ by clicking HERE.
@ 'MIKE'S RAMBLINGS' by clicking HERE.
@ 'CURIOUS AS A CATHY' by clicking HERE.
@ 'THE SOUND OF ONE HAND TYPING' by clicking HERE
@ 'JINGLE JANGLE JUNGLE' by clicking HERE.
@ 'CHERDO ON THE FLIPSIDE' by clicking HERE.
.
As I've done in the past, I will continue to return to my 'BOTB' blog bits on the 7th and 21st of each month to post my own votes and announce the winners in the comment sections.
.
~ Stephen T. McCarthy
.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

BOTB RESULTS: 2018, APRIL 1 (Or, WHEN THE SAINTS FINISH MARCHING IN)

.


.
So, the BATTLE OF THE BANDS (BOTB) installment took place HERE. It was a theme based on EASTER SUNDAY and APRIL FOOL'S DAY, featuring the classic Spiritual 'When The Saints Go Marching In'
.
The contestants were The Golden Gate Quartet and Louis Prima, and Sam Levine, and I very much liked all three of them. In fact, I own the Prima recording, as it's on one of my Pa's all-time favorite albums, 'The Call Of The Wildest'. I have had that album on compact disc for years and grew up hearing my Pa's LP recording of it. Oddly though, of the three recordings used in this Battle, Prima's was only my third favorite. I don't quite fully embrace the "call and response" aspect of it with his backing group. It seems a little too loose and ragged to my ears, which gives the song more of a "drunken Mardi Gras" atmosphere. 
.
I really loved Sam Levine's Dixieland styling, which I think was exceptional and one of the best examples of that musical genre I've heard. I could very, very easily split my vote and give half to Sam and half to The Golden Gate Quartet. But since BOTB REQUIRES a full vote for one participant or another, I lean just slightly toward the harmonizing of The Golden Gate Quartet, so that's where my vote lands.
.
While starting to put this Battle together, I heard the GGQ's recording for the first time and within 30 seconds I KNEW I would be using them in this contest. I instantly loved their harmonic arrangement and their voices were as smooth and sweet as warmed pancake syrup. I fell in love with that group singing in an instant. Dogged if I can give my vote to anyone else.
.
This was a terrific Battle -- close all the way to the end, with each of the three contestants getting votes. Frankly, the Battle was a little TOO close, and we wound up with the following results:
.
Golden Gate Quartet = 6 votes
Louis Prima = 6 votes
Sam Levine = 3 votes
.
Considering it was a 'First Of The Month' Battle (which seem to get lower voter turnouts than do the 'Fifteenth Of The Month' Battles), this was pretty decent participation. I SINCERELY THANK EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU who took the time and trouble to visit, listen, and vote.
.
Unfortunately, though, I've wound up with another BOTB Tie. I think this is my eleventy hundredth tie. And you know how I love them so. /sarc
.
I consciously left the Battle open one extra day, hoping some straggler would come along in the 13th hour and break the tie, but none did.
.
.
Our first installment of 'The Battle Within The Battle' between those remarkable prognosticators, THE MAGIC 8-BALL and THE AMAZING SIXWELL, was won by the 8-Ball. That's surprising. But then we DID deliberately hire The Amazing Sixwell to try to light a fire under The Magic 8-Ball, to urge it to take its BOTB predictions more seriously, and perhaps that's exactly what has happened.
.
The Amazing Sixwell is disputing the results. He claims that there were some "hanging chad" shenanigans and has called for a recount of the votes. He's also calling for a special Congressional hearing, charging that The Magic 8-Ball colluded with the Russians to rig the election. He also maintains that some of his votes were deleted by BOTB's former Secretary Of State and he wants the FBI to conduct an investigation into that.
.
We suspect it will take 4 to 8 years to get all of those charges settled one way or another. But until that is resolved, our Bored Of Directors has stated that the BOTB Book O'Statistics will, at least temporarily, show the current tally as:
.
The Magic 8-Ball: 1-0
The Amazing Sixwell: 0-1
.
Please return for my next BOTB contest on April 15th, when I will have a new installment in my 'Battle For Los Angeles' series. We'll see if The Amazing Sixwell can beat the 8-Ball next time and even the score.
.
Again, thanks Y'all for playing. I appreciate your time and comments and hope to see you back here again next week. 
.
~ Stephen T. McCarthy
.