Bullyland, Part I: Fast Learner

As a pious Catholic boy, I had never received lessons on how to deal with bullies.

IN WHICH I  deal with one type of bully.

Ex-marine sergeant and Troop 16 scoutmaster George Murray strutted four patrols away from the one I was in, Patrol 7. Its leader, tall, lanky, wiry Paul “Gussie” Gusterton, was frantically trying to button the collar of his uniform. If he failed at that, he wouldn’t be able to attach his neckerchief properly. It would look . . . sloppy. And there would be consequences . . . .

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Why We Listened to Gene Pitney

It’s a perfect three-minute teaser for a legendary western by the same name, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.

The song opens with a languid intro on the fiddle, followed by a simple quadruple drum pattern. Then, rising dramatic tension. A few bars later the voice enters, with a tessitura so distinctive I’d never heard one like it before or since. It was halfway between a country vocalist and a pop balladeer. The singer sets the story by painting a scary picture of a villain who terrorizes the townspeople with his “straight and fast” shooting. In the next stanza, the singer’s quavering voice softens the music to introduce an unobtrusive female chorus. In one line he describes the hero, a reasonable man who just wants to live in peace with his girl despite the gruesome gunslinger terrorizing them. Rising crescendos in the chorus inject even more tension, tattoos on the snare drum imitate gunshots, and the song suddenly ends, ambiguously, cagily, without revealing its surprise. It’s a perfect three-minute teaser for a legendary western by the same name. Continue reading “Why We Listened to Gene Pitney”

“. . . the Twist, the Stomp, the Mash Potato too . . .”

Chris Montez1 had it right. “Any old dance that you wanna do.” When I was 13 at Holton-Richmond Junior High2, attending class in wooden desks with dried-up ink wells, I used to go to the school dances that happened third Friday each month. They were called “mixers,” because that’s what the girls and boys were supposed to do. Mix with adults gaping on. Of course not many of us did. The concept of a sock hop, with minimal supervision and an outta sight disk jockey, was yet to be in Danvers, Massachusetts.

Teen Dancer (photographer unknown)

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