I Gave Her a Ring...: Musical Minutiae About Fingers and Birds
Although we recently discovered how to access the primitive version of Facebook on our non-iPhone (so watch out), Rocks Off generally lives in an Internet-free bubble outside the office. And happily so, so it took until Monday's late local news for us to see - and subsequently laugh our fool heads off at - the video of
Houston Oilers Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams going all Hopalong Cassidy with his middle fingers during last Sunday's Titans/Buffalo Bills American football contest.
Naturally, this got Rocks Off to thinking about fingers and birds as deployed in various musical contexts. We did a little digging on the Interwebs and here's what we came up with.
1. This picture of Johnny Cash: Although the Man In Black was country to the bone - and not even wearing black here - some people call this the most famous rock and roll photograph ever taken. Somewhere at home Rocks Off has a T-shirt about two sizes too small featuring this image, supposedly snapped by Jim Marshall before a 1969 Cash concert at California's San Quentin prison (Marshall allegedly told him the next shot was "for the warden"). The photo was famously revived in the late '90s as a full-page ad in several publications after Cash's Unchained won the Grammy for Best Country Album.
If that type is a little hard to make out, it says, "American Recordings and Johnny Cash would like to acknowledge the Nashville music establishment and country radio for your support." Burn!
2. Morris Day & the Time, "The Bird": Rocks Off is about as big a Prince fan as we can imagine ever existing, but for our money, Morris Day & the Time's performances in Purple Rain - this song and the better-known "Jungle Love," both from 1984's Ice Cream Castle LP - are every bit the equal of His Purpleness and the Revolution's. And, dare we say, perhaps just a little funkier. Then again, we might be biased because long before we actually saw the movie - though not long before we went crazy over "Let's Go Crazy," "When Doves Cry," "Darling Nikki," etc. - we already loved this song, only as acrobatic WWF wrestler Koko B. Ware's theme music. Come to think of it, we wonder whatever happened to Koko's parrot/mascot, Frankie. One of The Time may well be wearing his feathers on that album cover there.
3. Steven Fromholz, "I Gave Her a Ring": Renaissance man Steven Fromholz - he's also a river tour guide and former Poet Laureate of Texas - may be one of the Lone Star State's most unsung songwriters. The general public may not know who he his, but Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett sure do. Nelson had a hit with Fromholz's "I'd Have to Be Crazy" in 1976, while Lovett recorded "Bears" and "Texas Trilogy" on 1998's Step Inside This House. The tone of "I Gave Her a Ring" is similar to Fromholz's "The Saddest Man In Texas," but even sad sacks have to crack a smile at the line, "I said that's the wrong one/ When she held out the long one." Listen to the song on Fromholz's MySpace page.
4. Igor Stravinsky, "The Firebird": Composers from Mozart and Haydn to John Cage and Dirty Harry scorer Lalo Schifirin have attempted to translate bird songs into beautiful music, and often succeeded. This interesting site even looks at the process from a science-fair-project point of view. Rocks Off's pick is this Stravinsky ballet, adapted into an orchestral suite in 1945 by the composer, mostly for the gorgeous, bassoon- and oboe-led "Berceuse (Lullaby)" and majestic "Finale." 5. Charlie Parker: Even to jazz philistines like Rocks Off, it's pretty obvious where "Bird" got his nickname from the way he makes that saxophone sing. 6. Finger 11: Rocks Off has a feeling from which finger the Canadian Staind knockoffs - in terms of truth in advertising, we prefer their former name Rainbow Butt Monkeys - take their name, and Beyonce sure wouldn't put a ring on that one. Gross.
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