Saturday, August 31, 2013

Redemption Song

THC is a fan of Bob Marley. Redemption Song is atypical of his music.  No reggae beat, no backup band.  Just Bob and a guitar.  Simple, fierce and moving.

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our mind

As an extra added bonus this is a 2002 cover version by Cash (Johnny) and The Clash (lead singer Joe Strummer) both of whom passed away within the year after recording this duet.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Washington Crossing The East River

There is not a famous painting of this river crossing on the night of August 29/30, 1776 unlike the crossing of the Delaware before the Battle of Trenton four months later (see The Jersey Campaign) but it was just as important for achieving American independence.

In March 1776 the British abandoned Boston, sailing away to Nova Scotia.  There, they were reinforced and developed a plan to capture New York City.  Once New York was occupied they could move up the Hudson and sever the troublesome New England colonies from the other colonials and end the rebellion.  In July, a huge British fleet appeared and offloaded more than 20,000 troops onto Staten Island (lower left on map below).  The next step was to land on Long Island and from there launch an attack on the city (which in the 18th century was limited to lower Manhattan).  To counter this General Washington made a risky and foolish decision to place the bulk of the American army on Long Island. The problem was that with the British fleet able to control the waters around New York, a defeat of the Americans on Long Island ran the risk of having the entire army trapped and effectively ending the revolution.

That is what almost happened as a result of the Battle of Long Island on August 27.  British troops landed on Long Island and advanced to the hills shown on the map.  They found a path through the hills (far right on the map) and around the American's left flank routing Washington's poorly-trained soldiers in the ensuing battle.  Washington and his remaining 9,000 men retreated to the banks of the East River across from Manhattan.  With the British army preparing to attack on his front, if the British fleet could push up the East River the American army and George Washington would be trapped.

(Map from Racontours.com)

Providentially, on the 29th, a storm blew in from the northeast preventing the British from sailing up the East River.  The General ordered that every flat bottom boat and sloop in Manhattan and the Bronx be sent to Brooklyn and that night, Washington began to evacuate his men helped by a fog that came in after the storm ended.  With British soldiers close by any noise indicating an evacuation could trigger an attack.  Quietly and stealthily the Americans moved across the river completing the evacuation shortly after dawn with not a man lost.  General Washington was the last man on the last boat to cross.(From Racontours.com)

The British were stunned to find the American entrenchments empty.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Guide To The Middle East

If, like THC, you find it difficult to figure out what U.S. policy should be (other than "doing something") here is a handy guide from Elder of Ziyon, adapted from a schematic done by an Egyptian blogger also followed by THC, The Big Pharaoh.

Thanks to the chart it seems very obvious what our course of action should be.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Honest Trailers

With the end of another dreary summer of movie blockbusters the folks at Honest Trailers remind us (honestly) about a real blockbuster from the 1990s, Independence Day.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Volunteering For Auschwitz

http://i.wp.pl/a/f/jpeg/33808/pilecki_auschwitz_wp600_400.jpeg

"When God created the human being, God had in mind that we should all be like Captain Witold Pilecki, of blessed memory".
- Michael Sudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland  

Seventy years ago today, Witold Pilecki reached Warsaw, the headquarters of the Polish Home Army, the underground resistance organization struggling against the Nazi occupation, and reported on his two and a half years as a volunteer prisoner at Auschwitz, and his plan to liberate the camp.  Until reading articles last year in The Atlantic and Tablet Magazine, THC had been unaware of his story - one of the most astonishing and inspiring tales of moral and physical courage that you will ever hear.  Captain Pilecki's life story feels like it was lifted from an Alan Furst novel, except that it might be too unbelievable for a novel.  For an excellent non-fiction account about the region fought over by the Nazis and Communists and the awful plight of those caught in this merciless struggle read Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder.

Pilecki was born in 1901 in the remote Karelian region of northern Russia where his family was relocated after participating in the unsuccessful Polish uprising of 1863-4 against Czarist Russia (his father spent seven years in Siberia for his role).   After the 1917 Russian Revolution, young Witold made his way to what was then German occupied Poland.  With the collapse of Germany, and amid Russia's turmoil at the end of World War I, Poland regained the independence it'd lost in 1795.  From two years, Poland and the new Soviet Union fought a war in which the advantage swung wildly; at one point Polish forces entering Kiev, and later the Soviets on the verge of taking Warsaw.  The Poles eventually prevailed, preserving their independence.  Witold fought throughout the war, twice receiving the Cross of Valour for bravery.

In the period between the world wars, Pilecki operated a small estate, started a community agricultural club, was involved in local social work, and indulged his passion for writing poetry and painting.  He also married and had a son and daughter.

In August 1939, Pilecki was mobilized as a platoon commander.  When the Germans attacked on September 1, 1939 Witold and his command were plunged into heavy combat.  He also fought against the Soviet forces who invaded on September 17.  By the end of the month Poland was overrun and the Nazis and Soviets divided the country, which ceased to exist, and left Warsaw within the German zone.
(Pilecki in the Polish Army)
In November 1939 Pilecki, still in Warsaw, became one of the first to join the underground resistance  which eventually transformed itself into the Polish Home Army.  The end of the war found his family stranded in Soviet occupied Poland, and with the Communists taking away officers of the Polish army and their families, Witold's wife decided to flee with the children to Warsaw where the family was reunited.

The first camp at Auschwitz was opened by the Germans in 1940.  With the Poles uncertain as to its purpose, Pilecki proposed infiltrating the camp to collect intelligence.  His plan approved he took the identity of another Pole presumed killed in September 1939 (it turned out he was not dead, leading to another hard to believe series of events too long to recount here) and prepared himself.  On September 19, 1940 the Germans conducted a roundup in the area of Warsaw where Pilecki resided.  Though he had the opportunity to escape he made sure he was captured.  His last words to the companion he left behind were "Report that I have fulfilled the order."

In the Atlantic piece, a Polish historian remarks:
"I think he realized what he was getting himself into.  But even so, he was not prepared for the things he was actually able to witness."
The Auschwitz that Pilecki and the other 2,000 Poles in his transport entered in September 1940 was not yet the megaplex of Auschwitz-Birkenau.  The complex was to expand over time, and the extermination camp with its gas chambers did not become operational until the fall of 1942.   The initial inmates were a mixture of political prisoners, Gypsies, Jews, and members of the Polish intelligentsia which the Nazis planned to eliminate.  Even before the extermination camp began operation Auschwitz was already an extremely deadly environment.  Death could arrive via starvation, disease, random and planned executions, sadistic guards and their vicious dogs, or through the medical experiments run by the Nazi doctors.  One of many examples: about 10,000 Russian prisoners arrived at the camp in the fall of 1941; fewer than 1,000 were still alive the next spring.  Over the life of the camp complex somewhere between 1 and 1.5 million people were murdered.


Amidst this horror, Witold Pilecki began his work.  Initially he was appalled by the apathy of many of the Polish inmates, writing "A simple thought kept nagging me.  Stir up everyone and get this mass of people moving."  His objectives were to provide intelligence to the resistance and to establish an underground organization within the camp designed to keep up morale, distribute food and clothing, and prepare for an uprising.  Pilecki was eventually to organize several hundred prisoners into five person cells, and setting up a communication network to smuggle reports out to Warsaw which were forwarded to the Polish government in exile in London (a route that usually took about 4 months).
(Pilecki in Auschwitz)

Pilecki carefully documented the horrendous crimes he witnessed and the growth of the camp, observing the influx of Jews in the latter part of 1942 once the gas chambers were completed.  His final report recently became available in English for the first time under the title The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery.  Though I've read brief portions, I've simply been unable to bring myself to read the book.  You can read excerpts at Witold Pilecki's Auschwitz Report.

In the report he wrote:
"Camp was a proving ground of character. Some - slithered into a moral swamp.  Others - chiseled themselves a character of the finest crystal."
At violence escalated, the net was closing on Pilecki and his group as several of the resistance cells were uncovered by the Nazis, and they shut down their radio transmitter for fear of detection.  Convinced of the need for the Polish Home Army to attack the camp and liberate its inmates, in the spring of 1943 he decided to escape in order to make the case for the assault in person.  On April 26, 1943, Pilecki and two companions managed to escape though Witold was shot and wounded in the process.

It took four months for Pilecki to cautiously make his way across Poland, and back to Warsaw and the Home Army.  To his bitter disappointment, the proposal for the attack was not endorsed by the Home Army leadership which did not have the arms, ammunition and transport to carry it out.  The Poles made an attempt to gain logistical support for the operation from the British, including bombers and planes to carry airborne troops.  They sent Pilecki's report to the British who dismissed it, believing the report to be a gross exaggeration, and declining to help.

Pilecki remained in Warsaw, commanding a company during the Home Army's Warsaw Uprising in August and September of 1944.  The Uprising is often confused with the Battle of the Warsaw Ghetto which occurred in April and May of1943.  Shortly after occupying Warsaw, the Nazis forced the Jews of the city to live in a restricted area which quickly became terribly overcrowded, short of food and long on disease.  In late 1942, the Nazis began transporting Warsaw Jews to what they were told was resettlement in the East but was in reality was the extermination camp at Treblinka, where they were killed within hours of arrival (eventually 800,000 from all over Poland were to be murdered there).  When two transportees escaped from Treblinka, returning to Warsaw to tell of the true destination of the transports, they convinced some of the remaining Jews, armed sparingly with revolvers and homemade explosives, to undertake a desperate revolt which initially surprised the Germans, but was eventually brutally suppressed (fewer than one hundred of those in the ghetto survived the war).

The 1944 Uprising was much better prepared and armed.  In June 1944 the Soviets launched a massive assault on the Germans in what is now Belarus and shattered the Nazi front.  By the end of July, the Soviet army was within a dozen miles of Warsaw and the Home Army thought the time was ripe for an uprising against the Nazis, which began on August 1 with the expectation that the Russians would be in the city within a few days but, at the direction of Stalin, the Soviet armies halted in order to let the Germans wipe out the Home Army, which was anti-communist.  Hitler redirected German units to attack Warsaw with orders to kill every men, women and child.(Polish Home Army)

The German army initially carried out the order, with the result that Polish resistance became even more desperate and it was finally modified, though an estimated 200,000 Poles died during the uprising. Without the expected Soviet relief the Home Army was in a hopeless situation.  The Americans and British proposed to resupply the Poles by air but Stalin refused permission for their planes to land on Soviet territory to refuel.  Block by block the fighting continued for two months with Pilecki's company in the center of the struggle until the area controlled by the Home Army was reduced to a few streets. 

To finally end the uprising the Germans agreed to treat surrendered Home Army members as prisoners of war (elsewhere in Europe during the war the Nazis summarily executed resistance fighters).  The remnants of the Home Army, surrendered on October 5 and Pilecki sent to a POW camp in Germany, where he was liberated by the Americans on April 28, 1945.  But his war was not yet over.

Making his way to Italy, he joined the Polish Army Corps, which had fought its way up the peninsula as part of the Allied Army over the prior eighteen months.  Working in its Intelligence Section, he agreed to go back to Warsaw, where the Soviets and their Polish Communist puppets were tightening their grip.  Arriving in December 1945, he provided intelligence to the Polish Government in Exile in London, and organized resistance against the communists.  Pilecki was arrested by the Soviets in May 1947.  Beaten and tortured, subjected to a show trial in March 1948, and executed in May, his wife and two children were never notified of his fate, left hoping for years he was still alive.(As Soviet prisoner)

Two years later, a former prison guard who watched over Witold during his imprisonment approached the Pilecki family, telling them "I want to help you because your father was a saint  . . . Under his influence, I changed my life.  I do not harm anyone anymore."  But because of the familial association, Pilecki's wife and children had limited educational and job opportunities until the fall of the Communist regime in 1989.

The location of Pilecki's grave remains unknown though in 2012 the Polish government excavated a site in Warsaw which it believes contain the remains of 400 Poles executed by the Soviets, possibly including Pilecki.  DNA testing is underway to identify the remains but no announcements have been made yet.

On October 1, 1990, a year after the overthrow of the communist government, a Polish court exonerated Pilecki of the charges he was convicted of in 1948.  In 2006, Witold Pilecki was awarded the Medal of the White Eagle, Poland's highest honor.
(2009 Polish Stamp Commemorating Pilecki)

His 80-year old son, Andrzej, recently told of his father writing to he and his sister, advising them:
"We should live worthwhile lives, to respect others and nature.  He wrote to my sister to watch out for every little ladybug, to not step on it but place it instead on a leaf because everything has been created for a reason".

Of his father's rehabilitation, Andrzej says:
"There was a ban on speaking about my father.  There's been a rebirth now . . . I don't have a moment's peace at home because there are constantly phone calls and the like.  That makes me happy." 
On January 27, 2013 the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum held a commemoration in Captain Wilecki's honor.

In the forward to The Auschwitz Volunteer, Michael Sudrich, the Chief Rabbi of Poland, writes:

"When God created the human being, God had in mind that we should all be like Captain Witold Pilecki, of blessed memory".

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Incentives

From Coyote Blog

"I will give you my reminder of how to understand most government agencies:  Ignore the agency's stated purpose, and assume that it is being operated primarily for the benefit of its employees.  One will very often find that this simple heuristic is far better at explaining agency decisions than relying on the agency's mission statement  (this does not mean that there are not dedicated individuals in the agency truly, even selflessly, dedicated to the stated mission -- these two notions are not at all mutually exclusive.  Government agencies do not act badly because they are full of bad people, they act badly because their incentives cause good people to do stupid things)."
See, also, The Iron Law of Bureaucracy

Friday, August 23, 2013

Listen To The Man

He speaks with hard-earned wisdom:
"You know, there's a philosopher who says, 'As you live your life, it appears to be anarchy and chaos, and random events, nonrelated events, smashing into each other and causing this situation or that situation, and then, this happens, and it's overwhelming, and it just looks like what in the world is going on. And later, when you look back at it, it looks like a finely crafted novel. But at the time, it don't.'"

From the revered sage and guitar-player Joe Walsh, the same man who wrote:

My Maserti does 185
I lost my license, now I don't drive

It's tough to handle this fortune and fame
Everybody's so different, I haven't changed  

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Lights Are On, But You're Not Home

From Florence + The Machine, a cover of Robert Palmer's 80s classic, Addicted To Love.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Elmore Rides The Rap

One of THC's favorite authors, Elmore Leonard, passed away yesterday at 87.  He was working on a new book featuring Raylan Givens, the character from Justified.  Here's my stylistic tribute to him from last year. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Books I Like - Raylan

Raylan by Elmore Leonard.

Mark told himself that Elmore's last books weren't up to his usual standard.  "You want to know", Barbara said, "does Elmore still have it or not?"  Wanting him to get to it.  "He might", Mark said, "or he might not".
Looking at her over his glasses.
What Mark did the next morning, he picked the book up.   Got to it.  Mark liked it, but thinking Stick, LaBrava and Rum Punch had more snap.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Secret Of Khalkin Gol

In early December of 1941, the German army began its final assault on Moscow advancing through snow, ice and bitter cold.  On the night of December 5/6, the Soviet army launched a counterattack which over the next six weeks pushed the Germans back 200 miles and brought their army to the brink of collapse.  Many historians consider it the military turning point of WWII.


A large part of the Soviet army's success was attributable to a battle that took place 5,000 miles away, in which the critical event happened on August 20, 1939, three days before Hitler and Stalin signed their Nonaggression Pact, and twelve days before Germany invaded Poland triggering WWII; a battle that never officially happened, a battle between two countries that were never at war - the Soviet Union and the Empire of Japan, a battle that few in the West have ever heard of - the Battle of Khalkin Gol.

After ending two centuries of isolation in the mid-19th century, Japan embarked on an expansionist agenda in East Asia, occupying Korea in 1910 and establishing a military presence guarding railroads in the Chinese province of Manchuria. In 1931 the Japanese army staged a coup and established a puppet government in the province and then, in July 1937, created an incident at the Marco Polo Bridge outside Beijing that triggered a larger war with China.

Japan and the Soviet Union (and its predecessor, the Russian Empire) had a history of hostility going back to their war of 1904-5 in Manchuria which ended with a humiliating defeat for Russia.  During the Russian Civil War (1918-22), the Japanese army occupied the Russia's Far East province for several years, incurring the wrath of the new Soviet government.  Although the Japanese withdrew in the early 1920s the army continued to see resource-rich Siberia as a natural area of expansion for their country.

In the later 1930s tensions grew between the two countries over the demarcation of the border between Manchuria and the Soviet Union (border disputes in the same area led to military clashes between the Soviets and the Chinese in the late 1960s and early 1970s).  In addition, the Japanese were aware that in 1937-8, Stalin purged the Soviet Army removing 3 of 5 Marshals, 13 of 15 army commanders, 50 of 57 corps commanders and 154 of 186 division commanders (many of whom were executed or died in prison camps) and believing this had weakened the army were looking for a chance to test the mettle of the Soviets.

The first clash, the Battle of Khasan Lakes, took place from July 29 to August 11, 1938 and resulted in a Japanese defeat but relatively small forces were involved.  Khalkin Gol was to be on a much bigger scale.

While Manchuria was a Japanese puppet state, the Mongolian People's Republic served the same role for the Soviet Union.  Manchuria abutted both the Soviet Union and Mongolia and Soviet troops were stationed in both countries and borders among all of them were in dispute.

On May 11, 1939 a Mongolian cavalry unit entered the disputed area and was attacked by Japanese cavalry.  Both sides began building up their forces and in June, General Georgy Zhukov was dispatched to command the Soviet effort and heavier attacks were undertaken along the Khalkin Gol river.  Significant fighting continued into July and a stalemate ensued.


To break the deadlock, the Japanese planned a major assault for August 24, but Zhukov beat them to the punch by attacking on August 20.  Led by a massive Soviet fighter and bomber strike and with a well designed and executed battle plan, the Soviets smashed the Japanese forces surrounding many of them at Nomonhan village (the alternative name by which the battle is known) and by August 31 had achieved complete victory.  The Japanese and Soviets signed a ceasefire in Moscow on September 15.  Soviet casualties were about 25,000 and Japanese losses may have been twice that amount with each army losing about 200 aircraft.(Captured Japanese soldiers)
The ramifications of Khalkin Gol affected the course of WWII.  The Japanese Army continued to advocate for a strike north into Siberia.  But its decisive defeat by a supposedly weakened Soviet foe helped the Imperial General Staff and the Emperor of Japan to decide instead upon a strike south in 1941 and a policy of neutrality during the German-Soviet conflict which started on June 22, 1941.  The strike south towards the oil fields of Dutch Indonesia required the neutralization of the American forces in the Philippines and of the naval base at Pearl Harbor bringing the U.S. into WWII and leading to Japan's catastrophic defeat in 1945.

The Soviets continued to maintain large forces, including some of its best troops, in Siberia for two years after Khalkin Gol.  Even after the Nazi surprise attack in June 1941, Stalin insisted on leaving most of the forces there, despite the pleas of his military staff, though the Russians lost 4 million soldiers during the first 5 months of the war and were near the breaking point.  Then, in the late fall of 1941, Stalin learned from a Soviet spy in Tokyo that the Japanese, still intimidated by their defeat in 1939, would definitely not attack Russia and he authorized the transfer of troops from Siberia to the Moscow front.  These soldiers turned the tide in December 1941 with some of them disembarking from several days on a train to rush directly to combat at the front.

One other byproduct of Khalkin Gol was the rise of Georgy Zhukov.  Zhukov's performance in the battle gave him credibility with Stalin who desperately needed capable generals after eliminating so many during the purges.  Zhukov went on to become the most famous Soviet general of WWII, commanding at both Moscow and Stalingrad and during the final assault on Berlin (Stalin made sure to diminish his prominence as soon as the war ended, though he proved too popular to kill).



Monday, August 19, 2013

The Longest Game

Updated

. . . I ever attended.  August 19, 1968, Shea Stadium, San Francisco Giants at the New York Mets.  Appropriately enough it was The Year of the Pitcher because this was a 17 inning 1-0 game.

It was a warm summer night with announced attendance of 28,370 though I doubt more than 3 or 4,000 were there at the end.  My Dad and I usually went to see a Mets game anytime the Giants came into New York for a series.  We usually rooted for the Mets except when they played the Giants since Willie Mays played for the Bay Area team but by the 17th inning the few of us left were rooting for anyone to score and end the agony.

The two starting pitchers were dominant.  Mets rookie Jerry Koosman pitched 12 shutout innings allowing only five hits and five walks while Bob Bolin matched him for 11 innings giving up seven hits and striking out ten.

The Giants finally scored in the top of the 17th when Hal Lanier singled to left.  A sacrifice bunt moved him to second and then he made it to third on groundout.  The winning run scored on a single by former Met, Ron Hunt.  A typical 1968 rally.

The Mets only used two pitchers and the Giants three and the game took only four hours and nineteen minutes.

Update

That 17 inning game in 1968 took only seven minutes longer than the 9 inning game I attended last night at Fenway at which the Yankees beat the Sox.  Beautiful night, ugly game.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Millau Viaduct

THC wants to drive this.  The Millau Viaduct, opened in December 2004, provides a direct highway connection from central France via the Auvergne to the Mediterranean coast.  The last time THC was in this area was twenty years ago and the roads were narrow, slow and indirect.  The deck of this stunning bridge is 890 feet above the valley below and it is the tallest bridge in the world as measured from the top of its towers to the ground (1125 feet).  It was built in only three years and has become a popular tourist attraction.

Friday, August 16, 2013

One-Hit Wonders

The one year anniversary of THC's "greatest hit" post the subject of which was "one hit wonders".

One-Hit Wonders (1964-68)

Last week I proposed my nominee for the best one-hit wonder ever.  Now we'll go back to a four year period spanning the period from the arrival of the Beatles in America (February 1964) to the spring of 1968 which was a gold mine for one-hit wonders.

The Rules

  • I have to like the song.  There are a lot of one-hit wonders which are terrible so you won't see songs like Keep On Dancin' by The Gentrys, Five O'Clock World by The Vogues or Psychotic Reaction by Count Five.
  • Excludes bands or artists with successful album careers who happened to only have one hit single.
  • In some cases I've included artists who had two minor hits (like The Merry Go Round) or one huge hit and a minor hit (like Percy Sledge).

Away we go (in rough chronological order):


The first two are from The Beau Brummels.  They became the first American band to emulate the British invasion sound and broke their stranglehold on the charts with two top twenty songs - one in the fall of 1964 and the second in the early winter of 1964/65 before disappearing.

Laugh, Laugh
Just A Little (produced by Sylvester Stewart who later gained fame as Sly Stone of Sly & The Family Stone).

She's About A Mover (1965) by The Sir Douglas Quintet.  This band, fronted by Doug Sahm, came out of Texas and had a minor hit which mixed a lot of musical styles.  If you've never heard it you must give it a listen.  The band had another hit, Mendocino, around 1970.  Doug Sahm was still the front man but the rest of the band had changed and it was a California hippie song so I'm ignoring it.  

Rescue Me (1965) by Fontella Bass.  Top 5 hit.  Great vocal and bass line.  A Motown single.  She should have had more hits.

Pushin' Too Hard (1965) by The Seeds. An LA band with kind of a punk sound and attitude - "you're pushin' to hard on what you want me to be, you're pushin' too hard on me!".  A similar sentiment was conveyed a couple of years later by Jimi Hendrix - "let me live my life, the way I want to".  Really terrible lead guitar solo - by The Seeds, not Hendrix.

You Were On My Mind (1965) by We Five.  A San Francisco based folk band (you can tell they're folk music people from the video since they are wearing turtlenecks, they are all singing and they all seem cheerful).  Good use of dynamic sound variation to build tension.  The song is a remake of an original by Ian & Sylvia (which was not very good) and was a Top 3 hit.

Gloria (1966) by The Shadows of Knight (get it?).  Top 10 song.  A remake of an Irish original by Them (featuring Van Morrison, who wrote the song, on vocals) and another great punk sounding vocal.  The lyric was considered very racy for the time. I liked it cause it was simple enough for our band to play.  G-L-O-R-I-A!!!  Surprisingly, I can't find the original on YouTube so you'll just have to do with the version by Them.

Lies (1966) by The Knickerbockers.  Some folks thought this was by The Beatles when it was first released as it certainly captured their sound and melodic hooks but the band was actually a bunch of guys from New Jersey.  And listen to how the lead singer says "gurl" instead of "girl" so he can sound just like John Lennon.

This tune always reminds me of the best One Hit Wonders movie - That Thing You Do, produced by Tom Hanks, which captures this period perfectly.  Here's the big song from the movie:
Dirty Water (1966) by The Standells.  "I love that dirty water, ah Boston you're my home".  For those of you who remember the state of the Charles River back then, a very appropriate sentiment.  Strong lyric and cool vocal from start to finish.

When A Man Loves A Woman (1966) by Percy Sledge.  You all know this one.  Monster #1 hit, amazing vocal and great production.  Perfectomundo.

Hey Little Girl (1966) by The Syndicate Of Sound.  Interesting sound (no back beat on the drums).  Another vocal with attitude.  A Top 10 song, it was covered by a lot of late 70s punk bands.  Watch the video - nice suits and that lead singer can sure clap his hands!

Talk Talk (1966) by The Music Machine.  Wild instrumentation and production, and then there are the lyrics:

"I got me a complication and it's an only child
Concernin' my reputation as something more than wild
I know it serves me right but I can't sleep at night
Have to hide my face or go some other place

I won't cry out for justice, admit that I was wrong
I'll stay in hibernation till the talk subsides to gone
My social life's a dud, my name is really mud
I'm up to here in lies, guess I'm down to size, to size

Can't seem to talk about the things that bother me
Seems to be what everybody has against me

Here's the situation and how it really stands
I'm out of circulation, I've all but washed my hands
My social life's a dud, my name is really mud
I'm up to here in lies, guess I'm down to size, to size

Talk talk, talk talk, talk talk, talk talk"

And it's all jammed into one minute and fifty-six seconds.

Walk Away Renee (1966) by The Left Banke,  Reached #2, part of the short-lived baroque rock period (see also A Whiter Shade Of Pale by Procol Harum for the biggest hit of this genre).  If you understand the words please let me know.  The Four Tops charted with a cover in 1968.

96 Tears (1966) by ? And The Mysterians.  This song should be in the dictionary next to "One-Hit Wonder".  A garage rock classic which became #1.  Written by ? (subsequently identified as Rudy Martinez who has never confirmed this - he's one odd guy).  The term "punk rock" was first used by rock writer Dave Marsh to describe the band in a 1971 article.  Notice the cheesy Vox organ.  A large percentage of 60s one-hit wonder songs featured cheesy organs.  Watch the band on the link and dig Rudy's shirt and shades.

Knock On Wood (1966) by Eddie Floyd.  From Stax Studios in Memphis.  Co-written by Steve Cropper, guitarist for the Stax house band, and also co-composer of In The Midnight Hour and Dock Of The Bay.  Great hook, perfect vocal and the Stax band is just so tight.

Friday On My Mind (1967) by The Easybeats, an Australian band.  Catchy and clever guitar riff and a Top 10 tune.  The link takes you to what appears to be a rare TV show live version by the band.  One of the guitarists is George Young, the older brother of Angus and Malcolm Young of AC/DC.

I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) (1967) by The Electric Prunes (yes, you read that right).  Psychedelia begins to enter the field and the song hit the Top 20.  Horrible production but I thought it was pretty cool.  For some reason this band had a lot of success in Sweden.

Pretty Ballerina (1967) by The Left Banke.  The follow-up to Walk Away Renee, it charted weakly and then the band faded away.  Was I surprised?  No, not at all.  Features one of the few oboe solos in rock.

We Ain't Got Nothin' Yet (1967) by The Blues Magoos.  A rockin' song with some more cheesy organ!  I bought the album that featured this song and it was pretty good.
Live (1967) by The Merry Go Round.  The first of two minor hits by this LA band, both from their one and only album.

You're A Very Lovely Woman (1967) by The Merry Go Round.  Very odd lyric, particularly when you realize it's written and sung by a 17 year old guitarist.

Tighten Up (1968) by Archie Bell & The Drells.  It hit #1.  I still love this song.  Did you know they are from Houston, Texas and that according to Mr Drell "we don't only sing but we dance just as good as we want"? I like it when they "make it mellow for everyone". Funky guitar and, of course, some cheesy organ.

Time Has Come Today (1968) by The Chambers Brothers.  This is an oddity and an appropriate tune to end on.  The song has a long and complex history.  The four Chambers Brothers were from Mississippi and started out as folk musicians before electrifying their sound in the mid-60s.  Time Has Come Today was recorded in 1966 for their album, The Time Has Come, which was released in November 1967.  It contained an 11 minute version of Time Has Come Today, a song which contained elements of gospel, blues, rock and psychedelia and used reverb, guitar fuzz and lots of cowbell.  For the next 18 months if you listened to FM radio you were guaranteed to hear the song at least once a day in its entirety.

During 1968 there were two different edited versions of the song released as singles with one version hitting #11 on the charts.  A mixture of some wonderful off the wall lyrics ("and my soul has been psychodelicized" - I used to wonder whether it was actually "psycho deli sliced" - I bet Quentin Tarantino would write it that way if he had the chance) with possibly the most annoying mid-section of any song ever (in the unedited original version that section goes on for about 6 minutes), this song IS 1968 in all its coolness, craziness and excess.  I've linked above to the closest clip I can find to one of the single versions.  For the masochists out there here's the full length version.


Whew - I'm tired.  Might have gotten a bit carried away on this one.