Here’s one of my many life goals: To be all ready to go on New Year’s Eve. Not just dressed to go out – I always aim to have my desk cleared, my body humming along like Ken Griffey Jr. rather than Boog Powell, and my big projects for the year lined up and waiting for me to dive in.

Some years I’m ready, or at least I’m close. Not this year. I gave up yesterday and finally started 2014. Happy New Year, everyone! Thanks for reading this blog, even though I’m pretty sure I insulted you last year and I’ll insult you this year. I wish you all health and prosperity and plenty of good music in the next 12 months. Which brings me to my last musical topic of 2013, the band we saw on New Year’s Eve.

But first: When did New Year’s Eve become a public party? When did people start gathering in clubs, taverns, and dance halls to listen to loud music and drink like it’s St. Patrick’s Day?

F. Scott Fitzgerald mentions raucous New Year’s Eve celebrations in his books, but I can’t recall reading anything like that in earlier authors – for example, Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, William Dean Howells, Ambrose Bierce, or Stephen Crane. If H.P. Lovecraft liked to party, he kept it out of the papers.

Here’s another question: What makes a good New Year’s Eve band?

While Special D and I have extensively researched this topic, I’m not about to speak for her. Here instead are three of my ideas:

1)      Please practice, and not just the stuff you play the rest of the year. Learn “Auld Lang Syne.” Federal law requires you to play it at midnight so it would be a good idea to memorize a couple of verses, or at least write them down in big block letters.
2)      You must have a sense of humor; not everything is about you. Your audience will begin to evaporate at one minute after midnight. Maybe they want to finish the evening in their bathrobes eating ice cream; maybe they want to copulate at home rather than against one of your speakers. It’s not a comment on your musical talent.
3)      Original material is good, but on New Year’s Eve we mostly want to hear pop songs we already know. Don’t fret if you massacre one or two originals. That’s part of the fun. If you wreck them all you’ll antagonize an army of idiot bloggers.

Not a whiter shade of pale
When we suited up on New Year’s Eve, Special D added her boa to the fancy black number she wore. White Fang was pleased to be let out of the Nordstrom bag where he usually lives. He practically growled with antici…pation. We then headed uptown to a hall called The Secret Society where they had two bands and two djs waiting for us. The band I want to mention is called Brownish Black.

Where most bands might offer one unusual characteristic, say double the horn players or double the guitarists, Brownish Black’s lineup included three horns and two singers. That’s plenty of firepower right there, but they also fielded a bass player who played barefoot. His flashing white feet were particularly striking when he started marching in place. Rounding out the personnel was a drummer who looked like Justin Timberlake and a guitarist who looked like he’d left Pearl Jam due to artistic differences.

I was very impressed that this visually striking outfit met my first two requirements but totally trampled the third. Brownish Black plays R&B, soul, and funk that they wrote themselves. I believe I heard one cover, maybe two, in two hours of music. (They were probably able to get away with this because they only played until 11, when the second band took over.)

We loved their music, which I can only describe in terms of artists from the ’60s and ’70s:

If everyone in Big Brother & The Holding Company were black, and
if the leads were sung by Aretha Franklin and Peter Wolf, and
if you could borrow Rare Earth’s or James Brown’s horns, and
if everything were written by Sly Stone and Otis Redding,
you’d end up with Brownish Black. Plus the female singer loved White Fang.

I did hear one outstanding cover, but that was from the second band, Satin Chaps. For their opening blast they gave us a funky version of Deodato’s 1972 cross-over hit, “Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001).” They couldn’t quite translate Deodato’s jazz-fusion into dance music, but I have to give them a shout-out for trying.

Best conversation of the evening
This happened in the men’s room, of all places. Ladies, we don’t have substantive conversations in there. There was one urinal and there were several of us waiting for one inebriated gentleman to finish. When he turned and saw the line, he said, “Oh, sorry fellas, I was reciting poetry.”

MAN IN LINE: What poem?
POETRY LOVER: The one where the guy’s wandering in the fucking woods.
2ND MAN: “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening”?
3RD MAN: Robert Frost.
POETRY LOVER: I love this club.

Robert Frost, by the way, was once arrested for dancing nude in a fountain on New Year’s Eve.

Random Pick of the Day
The Smiths, …Best I (1992)
The Smiths, …Best II (1992)
Twenty-eight songs by one of the most excellent bands of the 1980s.

I was looking for a job and I found a job
And heaven knows I’m miserable now

Morrissey says the right thing, always.

Random Pan of the Day
The Smiths, …Best I (1992)
The Smiths, …Best II (1992)
They could’ve done this on one disc! The filler they’ve included illuminates The Smiths’ biggest problem – how little their sound varies. Plus there’s no excuse for including “Oscillating Wildly,” the most boring instrumental in the history of boredom and instrumentals.

OK, it’s 2014. As The Smiths sang, “Please please please let me get what I want!”

Comments
  1. Bill S says:

    And oh, yes.

    If while trawling though YouTube looking for episodes and find http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leON-71pRns, please pay close attention to Jake Thackray’s introduction and ensure your wife is NOT in the room when you play it.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      I am probably performing a public disservice in publishing this information….No one should be in the room for this one. Plus now I have The Ruttles in my head and can’t get them out!

  2. Verlierer says:

    That’s what I thought too, but, surprisingly, the lower two thirds of the African continent has some form of Christianity as the majority religion. So, I gave them a pass there.

    “We Are The World” may be dripping with saccharin (as opposed to the bitter fear mongering in “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”), but it at least makes sense.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      I can’t believe we’re having a discussion about these appalling songs, but you’ve made me look at the lyrics to both and now I have to agree with you. “We Are the World” makes more sense. “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” sounds better (which doesn’t mean it sounds good).

      “It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid,” the all-star cast sings in “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, referring to the passage from Luke where God sends an angel to some shepherds who were hanging in their field, and of course when this phosphorescent angel appeared the shepherds, who until that point were having a typical mellow shepherd evening, were scared shitless. The sheep probably stampeded, but the Bible (and its sequel, the New Testament) isn’t much on animal rights so where they ended up doesn’t get a mention. “Dudes,” the angel said, noting that the shepherds were “sore afraid.” “Chill!” But at that moment “a multitude of the heavenly host” showed up and the shepherds made a run for it. The rest is history, or rather Luke 15-20.

  3. Verlierer says:

    “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is such a silly song. Like, no one in Africa has a calendar or can read?

  4. Verlierer says:

    The very first, January 1st, New Year’s Day began in the year 153 BC, at least in the Roman Empire. Demetrius I (seven years removed from killing the Fighting Maccabees of Judea) had no champagne to offer (which, ironically, the Romans would later plant in France in the 5th century, the bubbles not developing until the 1600’s) instead, partied down with Posca (a precursor to Jagermeister). My mom says the party rocked, though no literary writer was there to document it. She notes that Guy Lombardo improvised his first rough cut of Auld Lang Syne on the newly invented hydraulis. Sorry, she doesn’t remember what she wore.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      All they needed was Miley Cyrus and the BC equivalent of paparazzi!

      But what were the common people doing, besides dying, either from starvation, hideous diseases, or incessant wars? Band Aid sang “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” but these people might not even have known it was the start of a new year.

  5. Bill says:

    A bass player played barefoot? Brings a strange image to mind of a guy lying on his back, balancing his bass on his feet and singing:

    I was playing my guitar
    Lying underneath the stars
    Just thanking the Lord
    For my …. toes,

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      Jimi Hendrix could play a guitar with his teeth, so it’s not much of a stretch to imagine someone playing with his or her toes. Fortunately no one tried it.

      I’m reading a biography of Houdini. He could open locks with his toes!

      • Bil S says:

        Your New Year’s sound little better than some I remember:

        We arrived at the gig looking rough
        Not happy, we’d all had enough
        Of eight hours on the road

        And the hotel reception was empty and cold
        With ‘orrid red wallpaper forty years old
        It stank like a rhino house!

        And we wave to the people who frown
        At our hair as we ride into town

        And Chalky and Nozz had set up the gear
        In the club where the Dohl Pal Show would appear
        In person as themselves
        In person as themselves

        Then Neil, Fred and I played darts for a while
        Before we switched on our theatrical smile
        Hey, you remember?

        Can you name the song, Mr Musicman? (Clue: only track I know influenced by Marcel Duchamp!)

      • Run-DMSteve says:

        First-o, my New Year’s was fun, not like this drivel. Second-o, it’s the work of mere MICROSECONDS to determine that the song in question is “The Bride Stripped Bare By ‘Bachelors’” by Bonzo Dog Band. Finally, mentioning the Bonzos gives me the chance to mention their masterwork, “The Intro and the Outro,” which is 3 minutes of announcing various musicians as they join the band, including Eric Clapton on ukulele, Princess Anne on the sousaphone, Brainiac on banjo, the Count Basie Orchestra on triangle, and Adolf Hitler “sounding very relaxed on the vibes.” The announcer made a reappearance announcing even more instruments at the end of “Tubular Bells.”

      • Bill S says:

        …and Roy Rogers on Trigger! Actually, The Bonzo Dog Do-Dah Band always struck as a sort of musical (though very much poor man’s) Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Vivian Stanshaw was the driving force, but to my mind, Neil Innes was – musically – far and away the best. Did you ever see The Ruttles (Neil Innes, Eric Idle, Ricky Fataar, John Halsey)? And you should certainly check out The Innes Book of Records (for example http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCYNrklb3kc).

      • Run-DMSteve says:

        Neil Innes was a sort of Benny Hill gone to university!

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