Friday, October 17, 2014

The Good Doctor: A Hunter S. Thompson Quiz

I’m still not sure how I was able to catch it. All I know is that Hunter Thompson, seated behind the table in preparation for his book signing, had reached into his glass of who knows what, pulled out an ice cube, and flung it at me as I waited in line to meet him. My reflexes took over and I snatched it right out of the air, earning a nod of approval from the good doctor. How I had managed to catch it, I’ll never know. Why had he thrown it at me in the first place? Well, he was Hunter S. Thompson.

It takes a lot to get me into a major city, but when I read that Hunter S. Thompson would be in San Francisco to sign his new book, I knew I had to be there. I arrived about five hours before the published time of the event, and was, of course, first in line. I soon realized that I was absurdly early and left the bookstore to wander around Golden Gate Park. I returned nearly two hours later and once again stood in front of the bookstore. I was still first in line.

That Hunter Thompson was a major influence on my writing is no secret. I’ve admired his masterful use of humor, and especially his brilliance in always choosing the exact right word, since I first read one of his books in high school. I was also bright enough to recognize early in my writing career that I would not be another Hunter Thompson, and so I shouldn’t try to imitate him, as so many others had. Besides, I didn’t really like alcohol very much, never fired a gun of any kind and used illicit drugs only with great caution. No, the world already had its Hunter Thompson, and we are all the better for it.


1. In which military branch did Thompson serve?
a. Army
b. Navy
c. Air Force
d. Marines

2. Who was Thompson brutally beaten by in 1966?
a. Student protesters
b. Hell’s Angels
c. A group of Marines
d. His drug dealer

3. Where was Hunter Thompson born?
a. Fort Walton Beach, Florida
b. Glen Ellen, California
c. Louisville, Kentucky
d. San Juan, Puerto Rico

4. Which Thompson book has the subtitle, “A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream.”
a. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
b. Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72
c. The Curse of Lono
d. Generation of Swine

5. Which article is considered the first example of “Gonzo” journalism?
a. “The Great Shark Hunt”
b. “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved”
c. “Freak Power in the Rockies”
d. “Strange Rumblings in Aztlan”

6. Who played the Hunter Thompson character in the film, Where the Buffalo Roam?
a. Bill Murray
b. Dan Aykroyd
c. Johnny Depp
d. Thompson played himself.

7. Finish the Thompson quote: “Buy the ticket;  ______   ______   ______”
a. Take the ride
b. Get a refund
c. Do your best
d. Sell the story

8. After his death, a piece of paper was found in Thompson’s typewriter with which word on it?
a. Hemingway
b. Silence
c. Counselor
d. Loathing

9. What exactly was Hunter Thompson a “doctor” of?
a. Journalism
b. Political science
c. He received an honorary degree from the University of Kentucky
d. None of the above

10. Who is Raoul Duke?
a. Thompson’s frequent illustrator
b. Thompson’s literary alter ego
c. Victim of an accidental Thompson shooting
d. Thompson’s convicted drug dealer



ANSWERS

1. Thompson served in the AIR FORCE, where he got his first professional writing job, as a sports editor. He was recommended for an early discharge by his commanding officer, who wrote, “This airman, though talented, will not be guided by policy.”
2. In 1965 Thompson wrote an article about the HELL’S ANGELS, and received several offers to write a book. He rode with the gang for about a year, but the Angels began to suspect that Thompson was using them for his own gain. They demanded a share of his earnings, and Thompson’s subsequent “stomping” was used an effective marketing tool for the book.
3. In the Air Force Thompson was stationed near Fort Walton, and lived at times in both Glen Ellen and San Juan. He was, however, born in LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY.
4. FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS began as an assignment from Sports Illustrated to write a 250 word caption for a photo. It was later published as a book-length article in Rolling Stone.
5. In 1970 a magazine called Scanlan’s Monthly would publish an article by Thompson called, “THE KENTUCKY DERBY IS DECADENT AND DEPRAVED.” Its manic style and incorporation of the writer as a character in the story would mark it as the first example of what would later be called Gonzo Journalism. The term, incidentally, was first used to describe Thompson’s writing by Bill Cardoso, editor of the Boston Globe, who in a letter to Thompson praised his Kentucky Derby piece as, “pure gonzo.”
6. In 1980 the movie, Where the Buffalo Roam was released, based on the writings of Hunter Thompson. Thompson was played by BILL MURRAY. The two became close friends, although Thompson hated the film, as did most critics. Johnny Depp played Thompson years later in 1998’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
7. Buy the ticket, TAKE THE RIDE. This is also the title of a 2006 documentary about Thompson.
8. The police report of Thompson’s suicide stated that a piece of paper was fund in his typewriter. On it was written the date, February 22, 2005, and the single word COUNSELOR.
9. Thompson, who did not graduate high school, neither earned a doctorate nor did he ever receive an honorary degree. He simply referred to himself as “doctor” in some of his writing and it stuck. He did however, purchase a doctorate from the Universal Life Church in the 1960’s.
10. Raoul Duke is a character who appears in much of Thompson’s writing, and THOMPSON’S LITERARY ALTER EGO.  He is a hedonist who consumes remarkable amounts of whatever drugs happens to be available. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was first published with Raoul Duke named as the author, although the first mention of him appeared a few years earlier in Hell’s Angels. The Doonesbury comic strip character Uncle Duke is based on Hunter Thompson.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

An Acre of Sand

It’s as heart-rending a task as you’ll ever do, going through your parents’ belongings as you empty out their house. There are photos of Dad in shoulder pads, looking young and lean and outrageously happy with his high school teammates. And Mom, stylishly dressed in her classic forties outfit and a smile, both of which say, I’m ready to take on the world. And yet no photo, no faded bit of clothing or shiny piece of jewelry brought me closer to tears than the deed to that acre of sand.

Throughout the house I found articles that were purchased because of some attraction that the buyer had felt, yes, but also with the unspoken hope that sometime in the future these items might increase, perhaps even skyrocket, in value. There are the Hummels and the Lladro and that Norman Rockwell collector plate, a plate that was purchased in 1981 and now, three decades later, sells on eBay for about four bucks.

It was quite out of character, and to this day I can’t explain it. It was 1972 and my parents saw an ad in the newspaper advertising land for sale in New Mexico. Nobody in our family had ever been to New Mexico, nor did any of us have any intention of going there. Still, my parents not only sent in a check for $300 for a half acre of land somewhere near a town called Deming, but soon changed their minds, adding an additional $300 and thus purchasing a full acre.

It must have been a time when the financial crush had finally eased a bit, and my parents decided they should put something away for the future. Why they chose land over the traditional bank account I’ll never know, but I have no doubt they thought that this non-liquid asset might be something of value to leave to their children, when the time came.

And inevitably the time did come this year. I went online and was able to find the tract of land that included my parents’ long-ago purchase. One website estimated that the value of the half-acre lots was now about $600 each. And as anybody can tell you, simply doubling in value over forty-plus years is a piss-poor return on any investment, and that seems especially true for real estate. But that’s not the entire story.

You see, my parents had acquired the land in 1972 dollars, and their $600 purchase was actually the equivalent of about $3300 today. So, when you adjust for inflation, over the last four decades the land had actually lost about two-thirds of its value. And this is what made me so remarkably sad.

It wasn’t because the land that I now owned was basically worthless. It was the thought of those two people, still in their forties, trying to win a game in which they never stood a chance. Who knows what kind of sleazebags originally concocted the scheme to unload their worthless lots on unsuspecting and unsophisticated working people thousands of miles away. Whoever they were, the numbers say the sales worked out for them just fine.

But that’s seldom the case for the ordinary, blue collar people like my parents, who were just hoping to finally get a little bit ahead, and maybe even make something of a score for once in their lives. And yet in the end my parents did win the game. They left me with a priceless trove of happy memories and fond looks back. And if they also left a worthless acre of sand somewhere on the outskirts of Deming, New Mexico, well, it turns out that really doesn’t matter much at all.   


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Notes From First Class


I’ve only seen it once before. A few years back I was checking in for my flight when the computer asked if I’d like to upgrade to First Class. If I remember correctly it was only about a hundred dollars, and that seemed like quite a bargain to me. In fact, it seemed like such a great deal that before committing to anything I felt the need to confirm it with the airline employee behind the counter.

“I can fly First Class for a hundred dollars?” I asked politely.
“Is that what it says?” snapped the employee. Did you ever notice how some people will leave a lasting impression?

And so when I checked in over the computer last week I again saw the offer to fly First Class. Now admittedly the price was a little higher than the last time I had splurged, but it still seemed like a bargain. Besides, I told myself, I had just spent two hellish months in Florida doing the most unappealing of chores. Who deserved a reward more than I? Nobody, that’s who. And so I bought the ticket.

* * *

When you get on a plane and file through the First Class section on the way to your cheap seats in Coach, do you quickly scan the faces of those sitting there to see if there might be anybody famous? Yeah, me too. And even though I’ve been flying for decades, I have yet to see a familiar face. I’m not stopping this practice, though. Hey, if I get within a few feet of, say, Neil Young or Jerry Seinfeld I want to know about it. And I’ll probably let them know about it, too.

And now as I sat in my cushy First Class seat waiting for the common folk to trudge to their tiny, cloth-covered perches in the rear, I noticed not a single person looked in my direction to see if I might be somebody famous. Okay, so most famous people probably wouldn’t have four days of beard growth on their face, a Supercuts-style coif and be sporting an aged and not completely hole-less pullover. But they might. Hey, have you ever taken a good look at Neil Young's wardrobe?

* * *

When she had been strutting through the Tampa airport an hour earlier, that lady in the row ahead of me had been looking quite stylish with her cowboy hat, cowboy boots and tight jeans. But now she was on an airplane, and even in First Class there seemed to be no place to put the hat. If she put it on the floor in front of her it would probably be stepped on. If she put it in an overhead bin it would surely be crushed. And wearing it was out of the question. And so she placed it in her lap, and there she would be forced to hold it for the next three hours. Perhaps to her the inconvenience was a small price to pay in exchange for her proud parade through the airport, but as for me I just didn’t get it.

* * *

The seats in First Class, as you might expect, are quite comfortable. And I, well, I was exhausted from my two month ordeal. And still, I desperately fought any urge I had to nod off for a bit. You see, I was flying First Class and I didn’t want to miss a thing. In the end, while the flight was pleasant and I decided the upgrade was money well spent, I wouldn’t have missed very much if I had nodded off. Oh, the hot hand towels were nice and the food was good. But I was looking for the First Class experience I had seen on that episode of Seinfeld. You know, with the giant chocolate chip cookies, the ice cream sundae (with the fudge on the bottom for more even distribution) and the gorgeous fashion model sitting next to me. Still, the hot towel was rather refreshing.


* * *

I did actually come close to falling asleep at one point during the flight. I only remember this because I woke up with a vague but definite sense of indignation. While the thought was by no means fully coalesced, I recall being annoyed, almost outraged, by the mild turbulence that had disturbed me. I was thinking that I shouldn’t have to tolerate such a thing, being in First Class and all. Then my head cleared a bit and I came to my senses. It sure doesn’t take much to create an attitude, does it?


* * *

The TSA really puts you through the wringer when you go through Security, don’t they? You have to show your boarding pass and your identification I don’t know how many times. You have to take off your shoes, put your belongings through an x-ray machine and subject your own body to a scan that apparently can see through clothing. Ah, but these are troubled times, and it seems a small price to pay for that sense of safety and well-being you feel when your disheveled self emerges out the other side of their humiliating gauntlet.

And so I board the plane and place my now-pampered fanny into the upgraded seat. I relax through the take-off and the climb to our cruising altitude. Eventually we are served lunch, which begins with a rolled-up real cloth napkin placed in front of each of us. I unroll the napkin and take a minute to decide how I feel about what I find inside. Inside the crisp, white napkin is a set of silverware, and I don’t mean the cheap plastic crap the poor saps in the back are getting. No, what I’m looking at is a shiny metal fork, spoon and knife.

At the very least I find it a bit incongruous to suffer the ordeal of going through security only to be handed not one, but three potential weapons once I’m already on the plane. And sure, it’s probably too short a flight from Tampa to Denver to grind down the spoon in to a shiv, as we used to say in the Big House. And yes, a fork has limited potential as a weapon. But Jesus, I can’t even bring my bottle of contact lens solution or a disposable plastic razor onto the airplane, but then they hand me a metal knife? Those maniacs took down the towers with nothing more than box cutters, for God’s sake!

And then I relax. The security people are professionals, and know what they’re doing. After all, it’s very unlikely that some lower-class, underprivileged terrorist could ever afford to fly with we upper-crusters in First Class. Unless, of course, they had offered him a cheap upgrade.



Monday, October 13, 2014

Please Beer With Me

There were six bottles of beer in the refrigerator. How long they had been there, I had no way of knowing. I was in the third week of cleaning out my father’s house, and I guess you could say the beer was part of my inheritance.

I never much cared for beer. I never liked the taste, right from that very first illicit sip from Dad’s bottle when I was a kid. I used to attend “beer blasts” in college, where for the admission price of a single dollar you could drink all the beer you wanted, all night long. More often than not you would have found me sipping a cup of water. The only time I ever drank beer on somewhat of a regular basis was when I lived in a warm-weather climate, and even then I would have much preferred a chocolate milkshake from McDonald’s.

And now each day I found myself throwing away contents from Dad’s refrigerator, and was surprised to find that the six bottles of beer continued to make the cut. Tossed were those dozen or so bottles of Boost that Dad would never need to drink, two or three containers of fruit juice of indeterminate age and a half gallon of milk that had only just bumped up against its expiration date. And still the beer remained.

And then one night, the day’s chores completed and the television calling my name, I pulled one of the beers out of the refrigerator and we headed together to the waiting couch. I suppose I looked at it as a well-deserved reward at the end of any busy day, which was odd considering how I had felt about the beverage my entire life.

Before I even got the bottle to my lips the aroma hit me, and I was surprised to find it to be quite pleasant. I took my first sip of a beer in probably a year or two, and found that to be pleasant as well. And so I eased back into the couch and spent the next half hour enjoying both my television show and my beer.

The next night I repeated the ritual with another beer from the refrigerator, and again found it to be an enjoyable way to pass some time. And then everything changed. I opened a third beer on the following night and noticed right away that the now familiar aroma just wasn’t there. The beer itself seemed almost flavorless, reminding me more of a harsh seltzer water than the flavorsome beverages I had enjoyed on the two previous evenings. What was going on here?

It didn’t take long to figure it out. The six bottles in the refrigerator were made up of two different brands, three of each kind in fact. Now I knew that we are living in the age of micro-brews, a time when people who once might have been dismissed as basic alcoholics have now been elevated as some sort of esteemed taste-masters, and that the best of them can pontificate on the subtle differences between dozens, or even hundreds, of brands of beer.

For me, though, it was a revelation that I, with basically no history of beer consumption, much less any knowledge of the ubiquitous brew, could tell the difference between these two quite common brands. I wondered if I actually was noticing a true distinction, and actually identifying the superior product, or if instead I was, as in so many other aspects of my life, completely full of shit.

Someday I’d like to talk to a true beer connoisseur or, failing that, even just an enthusiastic beer aficionado. I would tell him that there was a noticeable difference between the two beers and I, even with my obvious lack of a palette, had much preferred one over the other. I’d go on to tell him the names of the beers, which were Beck’s and Heineken, and then see which he thought I had identified as the superior product. I can’t help but wonder what a true lover of beer would say. What would you say?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Elvis’s Tombstone


I was reading an old comic strip the other day, Doonesbury to be specific, when I noticed it. In the strip Boopsie is at Graceland, standing before Elvis Presley’s grave. She is quite humbled by the experience, and reverently reads the inscription on the tombstone. Boopsie apparently glossed over one of the lines, but it definitely caught my eye. It says, “He became a living legend in his own time.”

I know, I know. With the current state of the world, with droughts presaging the coming water wars and a nasty and ever-spreading pestilence nibbling its way to our shores, why am I so concerned with such picayune details as a few poorly written words on the tomb of a long-dead singer? Aren’t there more perilous and urgent things for me to worry about?

And yes, of course there are. And so I now confess to you what must already be obvious to even the most casual reader; that I am a quibbler, a pettifogger and a top-drawer picker of nits. Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of you this very day wrote to me and said, Leonard, your the biggest fusspot I have ever seen! To which, of course, I’d hastily reply, It should be ‘you’re,’ not ‘your.’

Or perhaps, God help you, you’re much like me. Perhaps the line on old Elvis’s gravestone bothers you, too, because you know that while someone can be a living legend, or a legend in his own time, to say that someone was “a living legend in his own time,” is grammatically incorrect.

Or, at the very least, it’s horribly redundant. The only time, in fact, that a person can be a living legend is in his own time. Once he’s not living, then he’s no longer in his own time, right? And so, although I don’t have very high hopes for this, I think the inscription should be changed. Think of all the impressionable school children who visit Graceland each year.

And don’t even get me started on the correct spelling of the poor guy’s middle name. 

Friday, August 08, 2014


Have You Joined 

KINDLE UNLIMITED?




Time to Load Up Those Kindles!





Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Nixon Resigns


I don’t know why I’m always surprised when told that a certain amount of time has passed. After all, this is what time does. It passes. And yet when I heard that it has been forty years since the resignation of Richard Nixon I was again astonished.

It was the summer between my junior and senior years of college, and I was working as a busboy in Lake Placid, New York. It would prove to be an event-filled summer, four of which will always come to mind. One of the events, the death of Mama Cass Elliot, was sad. Two others—an arrest and the acquisition of a certain type of body lice--would involve me personally, and so be even sadder. The fourth event would prove to be the most historic, and that was the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

We, the younger generation, all despised Nixon, or at least we were supposed to. I never really could generate much of hatred for the man, but generally went along with the notion that his being forced out of office, and into disgrace, was a good thing. It would be another three decades before I would fully understand what it was like to truly abhor a sitting U.S. president.

Still, I knew that Nixon’s quitting, much like the moon landing and the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, was a happening of historic proportions, and I wanted to see it. We had been told by the news people of the time that Nixon would address the nation that night, and while nobody could say for sure that he was going to resign, that would certainly be the way to bet.

And then there was my girlfriend Mandy. We had met in Lake Placid at the beginning of the summer and after a somewhat rough beginning (See “body lice” above) we had settled into a rather pleasant Adirondack romance. Mandy was a waitress, and worked in the same dining room as I did.

Just about all of the other waiters, waitresses and busboys had completed their dinner shift responsibilities and had headed back to the dorm, most likely to gather around their portable televisions to gleefully watch Nixon’s farewell performance. Mandy, for some reason, hadn’t yet finished up, and so I found myself getting more and more frustrated with her.

Now, here’s where things get murky. I’m not quite certain why my heading back to the dorm was contingent on Mandy concluding her chores. I can think of only two possibilities: either I couldn’t finish my job until she finished hers, or I was waiting for her so we could walk back to the dorm together. I’d like to believe that I was enough of a gentleman that the latter was the case. I suspect it was. I know one thing for sure: If it had been ten years earlier and the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan that night, Mandy would have been walking that dark, wooded path back to the dorm all by herself.

I couldn’t shake then, and I can’t tonight, the vague suspicion that Mandy was dragging her feet that night, purposely taking much longer at her job than she needed to. But why? Was there some reason she didn’t want me to see Nixon resign? Was she being playful? Spiteful? Was she (gasp!) a secret Nixon-lover?

And now forty years have passed and it looks like I’ll never know the answer. And if she did have a secret strategy to spoil my television viewing pleasure on that historic night, well, she failed. We arrived back at the dorm in plenty of time to adjust the antenna of my tiny black and white TV and watch Richard Milhous Nixon become the only president in history to resign from office. Mandy and I would resign from each other about a year after that. 

Monday, August 04, 2014

Guess Who #38

There are a few people, and not too many I think, about who I always find myself saying, “Someday I’m going to learn more about this guy.”  This is certainly true about today’s Mr. X, and has been for quite a few years. I’m sorry to say that while I have made a little progress towards that end, I still have a long way to go.

For most of my life I recognized his name, but knew little else about him. Oh, I knew he had something to do with the movies, but that’s as far as my knowledge of him went. Still, there was a part of me that just knew that this person was in some way important, especially for anyone who considers himself a student, or even just a fan, of film.

Over the weekend I saw that one of his movies was coming on, and so I decided to watch it. It was strange, I thought, that I approached it as half entertainment and half, well, homework. I was only a few minutes into the movie when I realized I had seen it before. This made me feel pretty good, as if, in my slow and plodding way, I actually had made some progress towards my goal of familiarizing myself with the work of Mr. X.

And that’s enough of that. After all, what sort of quiz would this be if I told you the man’s entire life story before I even gave you the first clue?


Mr. X was born in 1898.

Mr. X was the first person to win an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Mr. X was married four times.

Mr. X’s last name at birth was Biden.

Mr. X was born in Chicago.

Mr. X served in the U. S. Army Signal Corps in World War I.

Mr. X sold his Academy Award-winning screenplay for $1.00, in exchange for being allowed to direct the movie.

Mr. X wrote the play Strictly Dishonorable in six days. It ran on Broadway for 16 months.

Mr. X wrote his greatest comedies form 1939 – 1943. Four of them are on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Funniest American Films.

Mr. X invented a kiss-proof lipstick in 1920 called Red-Red Rouge.

Mr. X was once the third highest paid man in America.

Mr. X signed a deal in 1944 making him one of only two writer-producer-directors in Hollywood. (The other was Charlie Chaplin.)

Mr. X did not start writing until he was 30 years old.

Mr. X died at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City at the age of 60.

Mr. X died while working on his memoir, which was titled, The Events Leading Up to My Death.


I think that’s all the clues you need. Who is Mr. X?


Sunday, August 03, 2014

Magic in the Moonlight


Damn. I usually try not to see any reviews before going to a movie that I’m particularly interested in. But there it was: one star, and only one star, right next to Magic in the Moonlight, the new film from Woody Allen. I skimmed just a bit of the review, and finally was able to pull myself away. I’d read it in its entirely when I got back from the movies, assuming, that is, that I still wanted to go.

From what I had gleaned, the main criticism of the film was that the lead actor was in his fifties, while his love interest was in her twenties. These were not the ages of the characters portrayed, mind you, but of the actors themselves. The reviewer was apparently outraged that Woody Allen, with his well-known personal history, would create a story with such an age disparity between the main characters. The reviewer said that because this was written by Woody Allen it feels “pathological.” And no, those quotations marks aren’t there by accident. “Pathological,” if you can believe it, is the very word that was used.

And so to the movie. And while, yes, it is obvious that the male lead is older that the woman, I doubt I would have noticed it much at all had I not read about it in that review. The movie itself does make minor mention of the fact that the lead character’s rival is young, handsome and a millionaire, but overall age is not a much of a factor in the story.

So, the bottom line: Did I enjoy the movie? Yes, very much. I’m not about to jump up and down and declare it to be Allen’s best movie since Annie Hall and demand that you see it. I will tell you, though, that the recreation of the French Riviera in the 1920’s is a treat, and there is some very clever dialogue throughout the movie, especially towards the end. Perhaps there were times when a movie didn’t stand out just because it contained some snappy patter, but alas, we’re not living in those times.

That night Spike and I returned home to find a movie from NexFlix waiting in our mailbox. It’s  called Last Love and was made just last year. It stars Michael Caine as an eighty-ish widower who meets a woman about half a century younger. And when the final credits rolled Spike said, “I liked this one better.” And I readily agreed.
 
And so while we had both had enjoyed Magic in the Moonlight, never before had the difference between a Grade B movie and a Grade A movie been so plainly demonstrated for me. And now I find that I am jumping up and down, and demanding that you see Last Love. And again, there is nothing "pathological" about it. Trust me.


 


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Quiz: What the Hell Are They Singing About?

No, Jimi Hendrix never did sing, “’Scuse me, while I kiss this guy,” nor did John Fogerty ever croon, “There’s a bathroom on the right.” Well, actually he did, jokingly, in a recent performance, but we all know the original lyric we heard in 1969.

One of the things that classic rock of the sixties and rap have in common, and I can’t believe I just wrote that, is the extreme importance of the lyrics. The music of the sixties, unlike that of previous eras, was generally not music you danced to. No, it was for sitting in your room, undergoing a few chemical adjustments and listening to the words, man.

And the fact that half the time we had no idea what those words meant didn’t seem to slow us down. Why, more than one iconic songwriter of the time has admitted that he, too, had no idea what he was singing about. But it sure was fun, huh?

So here we go. Sit back, relax, adjust chemically if necessary and see if you know just what the hell they were singing about!


1. Ringo Starr wrote this song after a sea captain told him about the strange habits of a certain underwater creature.

2. Justin Hayward wrote this song at the age of 19, after somebody had given him a set of bed sheets. He says it’s about the end of one love affair and the beginning of another.

3. Sometimes called the most famous rock song in history, Robert Plant will only explain the beginning of it. He says it’s about a woman who gets everything she wants and doesn’t give anything back.

4. This psychedelic song was written by two men who were not in the band that recorded it, and was sung by someone who also was not in the band. No one can explain the meaning of the tune for certain, but many have speculated that the title comes from an item that masks the smell of marijuana and one that hides the taste of marijuana.

5. This song is about the process of writing a song. The title refers to the time that it was being written, which was about 3:35 a.m.

6. After this iconic band had its first #1 hit, they thought they could relax a bit. Instead people were already knocking at their door, asking for their next single. This song was the group’s way of telling them to “get lost.” On November 6, 1965 it reached #1 on the U.S. charts.

7. Ray Manzarek has explained that this is a song about “driving madly on the L.A. Freeway,” either heading into Los Angeles or north to San Francisco. It invokes the beatnik spirit of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady.

8. According to the writer, this song is about being laid back, chilled out and being the guy who can “calm you down.” It’s also about “electrical bananas,” which are, it turns out, ladies’ vibrators.

9. Greg Lake began writing this song when he was 12 years old, on a guitar that had only one string. He claims that it’s just a kid’s song, a “medieval fantasy.”

10. Despite what most people think, this song is not about the anti-war protests of the 1960’s.  In fact, it’s about young people gathering to protest anti-loitering laws, and the closing of a night club in West Hollywood called Pandora’s Box.

11. The writer of this song believed there were a lot of drug references in a certain classic children’s book. The idea for the song came to her after taking LSD and spending hours listening to a Miles Davis album.

12. After the writer of this song had encountered many negative people at the University of Minnesota, and then later in Greenwich Village where people became jealous of his success, he wrote this song about them.

13. The title comes from the writer’s going on a vacation as a kid, and seeing the moon for the first time away from city lights. He says the song is about “finding hope in any situation, and being present and joyful right now.”

14. Although rumors at the time said the song was about Jesus, and was even sung in some folk masses, it’s actually about someone who said or did something wrong, and hurt a lot of people. When the singer of the song died in 2012, his son found the song on YouTube, placing his cell phone on his father’s chest as it played.

15. This is a song about the pointlessness of revolution. The writer expresses his belief that whoever replaces the old regime is just as likely to become corrupt, and that the new boss will be just as bad as the old boss.



ANSWERS

1. OCTOPUS’S GARDEN
2. NIGHTS IN WHITE SATIN
3. STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
4. INCENSE AND PEPPERMINTS
5. 25 OR 6 TO 4.
6. GET OFF OF MY CLOUD
7. L.A. WOMAN
8. MELLOW YELLOW
9. LUCKY MAN
10. FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH
11. WHITE RABBIT
12. POSITIVELY 4TH STREET
13. MOONSHADOW
14. I STARTED A JOKE
15. WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN

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