Top 25: Week 9 thoughts

Here are our thoughts on the Top 25 best teams in college football. In advance, we'd like to apologise to any Texas Longhorns fans for not mentioning your team. That's because they are horrible (we'll get to the Mack Brown question later this week).

  1. Oregon - Came from behind and thumped USC to end the Gameday curse.  
  2. Auburn - Jogged in Mississippi, and reinforced why Cam Newton's the best player in the country
  3. Boise State - They haven't lost, and they ain't bad. Why are they fourth in the real BCS, exactly?
  4. TCU- Unbeaten. Solid. Monster game with Utah on Saturday night. 
  5. Alabama - Suddenly, everything's moving in Alabama's direction. If Alabama beat LSU, then watch out. This team could anger a lot of non-BCS fans.
  6. Utah - See remarks for TCU. Oh, and they are hosting Gameday.
  7. Nebraska - Hammered Mizzou. Told you they were good.
  8. Wisconsin - Great for beating Ohio State and Iowa. Boos for losing to MSU. The headaches begin in the Big Ten.
  9. Ohio State - The loss to Wisconsin was a mistake, right?
  10. Oklahoma - Too much credit given to OU's loss to Mizzou. It was coming. FSU's loss to NC State makes the early-season wipeout look all-the-poorer on paper.
  11. Iowa - Wiped the floor with MSU. This team is pretty special when it gets its act together.
  12. LSU - The loss to Auburn's 'good' for LSU, but they really aren't that good. We promise.
  13. Stanford - Suddenly the loss to Oregon's looking better on the resume.
  14. Missouri - Rotten performance in the first quarter killed 'Zou, who ain't unbeaten anymore.
  15. Arizona - We can only wait to see if this team will fail against Oregon to get the proper feeling.
  16. Arkansas - Yep, this two-loss Arkansas team's better than a one-loss OSU and MSU, kids.
  17. Oklahoma State - If the loss to Nebraska looked bad, the road win at dangerous KSU looks pretty good.
  18. Michigan State - They lost at Iowa, and looked awful doing it, too. Could this be the start of downhill things (the rest of the Big Ten prays?)?
  19. South Carolina- Yes! They beat Alabama! But the loss to Kentucky ain't lookin' too clever, peeps.
  20. Baylor - This Robert Griffin kid's looking like Round 1 material.
  21. Mississippi State - Would the word 'solid' really go with a Mississippi State side? I think so!
  22. Virginia Tech - Be afraid, be very afraid. FSU and Miami's loss suddenly makes the JamesMads ACC favorites.
  23. NC State - Russell Wilson continues to have the Wolfpack playing some ball.
  24. Florida State - If it wasn't for a late-game mistake, FSU could be 5-0 in the ACC. Mind you, if I was any richer and handsomer, Claudia Schiffer might be my wife....
  25. Florida - An OT win over Georgia doesn't begin to cover the cracks that Florida have. Saying that, they'll probably beat South Carolina.

This Weekend.....I Have One Thing To Say...

I. Was. Wrong.

I thought Penn State wouldn't show up against Michigan. I doubted 110,000 people who hate Michigan. I doubted a loud and proud student section, who showed up reliably late after their 12-hour drinkathon. I doubted Matt McGloin. I doubted the offensive line. I doubted the running backs. I doubted the receivers. I doubted the defense. I doubted the coaching staff. I doubted us so much that I thought Penn State would lose by 14.

But they did. 41-31 made me pretty happy. No, I lie. Extremely happy.

Penn State might not be back. But heck, this is a right way forward. It's win number 399 for Joe Paterno. No. 400 will come. It might even come as soon as Saturday against Northwestern. Let's hope so, eh?

Silver Apples: a very special market-oriented sound

Silver Apples (electronics wizard Simeon Coxe and ace drummer Danny Taylor) deserve to be remembered as one of the handful of generally groundbreaking acts in late 60s American rock. The New York-based duo’s June 1968 debut was perhaps the earliest album to incorporate breakbeats, found sounds and atonal noise into (more-or-less) conventional song structures, and at its best their beat-heavy electronic music still sounds dazzling and other-worldly. Their achievement is all the more impressive when one considers the sheer logistical complications (and frequent electric shocks) involved in mobilising their battery of oscillators, generators and synthesisers. Their two albums are uneven, but both contain astounding music, with flourishes that may be mainstream now, but must have sounded completely out-there at the time. As with most visionaries, they were little appreciated while in business, and not much original press concerning them exists.  Here’s what I have.

Silver Apples signed to the small, mainstream-oriented Kapp label in April 1968. Their debut album was released that June, and came with a silver foil sleeve (which is a nightmare to photograph). It also came with a surprisingly lavish fold-out colour insert, from which the pictures above are taken (they are posing in sensible sweaters with cats: the electronic rock look for 1968). Here's the whole thing:

On June 7th the tremendous Go magazine (America's only pop weekly of the 1960s, distributed via radio stations - ) ran the following article:

The LP was launched at a reception held on the roof of the Manhattan building in which Coxe and Taylor lived and rehearsed. This article appeared in Go on June 14th:

And here's a picture of the launch party, taken from Billboard of June 22nd:

White-label mono copies were sent out as promos to the press and radio stations. Here's the hilarious press release that came with those, penned by one Tony Martell (who gives the strong impression that he'd rather be writing about a crooner):

Billboard covered the album in the same issue in which they wrote about the launch party. Billboard reviews tend to be bland, but this one contains the memorable comparison of the duo's music to 'the mating calls of two IBM machines':

The only other review I've encountered from the time was in Hi-Fi / Stereo Review's October 1968 issue, which dismissed it as 'moderately compelling' (though the reviewer does at least have the grace to concede that 'when it comes to the kinds and degrees of acidity, all I’ve got is Johnny Walker and heartburn, so I am probably not the best judge of such things’). On July 5th, Go ran this odd article, which gave as much attention to the duo's A&R man at Kapp, John Walsh, as to them:

(Walsh, incidentally, is thanked on the back of both their albums, with his Contact credit citing him as 'our Kapp contact and our local contact for...'). The same issue of Go contained an advert for the album, claiming that 'Silver Apples marry time to space through sound', as well as repeating the dumb instruction from the album's back cover to 'play twice before listening':

Coxe and Taylor played gigs on both coasts to support the record, as well as wasting no time in recording a follow-up. Contact appeared a mere five months later, in November, and advance copies were again accompanied by promotional material - but this time the PR wasn't handled by Kapp, but by Anonymous Arts, the hip company run by their manager Barry Bryant. First up was a general introduction to the new album, printed on pink paper:

Next came a biography of 'the simeon' (the name Coxe gave to the terrifying contraption he coaxed his electronic sounds from), printed on blue paper:

Third was a three-page biography of Coxe, printed on yellow paper:

And finally, having almost exhausted the colour options available at the time, there was a biography of Taylor on green paper:

On December 3rd the duo launched Contact with a week of gigs at New York's Cafe Au-Go-Go (supported by Pacific Gas & Electric, of all people). Billboard ran the following review in its December 14th issue:

and then offered these insights on December 28th:

General response was mixed. On January 3rd 1969, Go likened the LP to 'a wild jet plane ride' , while High Fidelity groused in April that it was 'full of interesting effects that are repeated endlessly, and would have been far more interesting if the liner notes had provided technical information. Still, at this point I’m ready to applaud anyone who can come up with even one new noise.' Stereo Review was even less fulsome in June, writing that 'Silver Apples jet into the nether-nether land of psychedelic, electronic-inspired musical tricks of tomorrow', adding that 'you need to be on a trip to get the most out of it. Stone cold sober and without the benefit of even an antihistamine tablet, it’s a bit puzzling', before concluding that 'you can’t listen to Silver Apples without experiencing an overwhelming impulse to break the record into several thousand pieces' and that 'Silver Apples drives cats and dogs bananas - so if you have pets, don’t play the record unless you want them to be unhappy.’ And that's as good an epitaph for them as I could ever devise.

baby wood

simple. classic. baby. 5 months. at that point of just starting to sit up on her own. i miss these stages. i could just kiss her kiss her kiss her.
babies make everything all better.
catch her momma and daddy at:
crown by gina gabriel:
tutu by miss teapot

Jimmy Page: the summer '68 interviews

Jimmy Page relaxing in his lovely home
As is often the way, it was only after I'd finished my Led Zeppelin book that I uncovered some of the most interesting material about them, especially concerning their early days. I thought I'd share two especially rare articles here, which I don't think have ever been reproduced since they first appeared. But first, some history...

Jimmy Page  had joined The Yardbirds in June 1966, initially playing bass to Jeff Beck's lead guitar. It quickly became obvious that this was a waste, so rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja switched to bass, in order for Beck and Page to share lead guitar duties. After releasing the fine Happenings Ten Years Time Ago / Psycho Daisies 45 in October (a chart flop), appearing in Michel Antonioni's Blow Up and undertaking a short UK tour supporting the Stones, the band set off for a gruelling and unglamorous American tour as part of Dick Clark's so-called 'Caravan Of Stars'. The band was fast losing its appeal for Beck, who started missing shows, and quit in December (after another trek around the US). In his short-lived Beat Instrumental column of January 1967, however, he was clear about the fact that Page was the one thing about The Yardbirds he still liked.

His former bandmates decided to remain a quartet, and gigged hard throughout 1967. Peter Grant took over their management from Simon Napier-Bell that April, the same month that another flop 45 appeared - Little Games / Puzzles. They may have been a spent force as far as the top 40 was concerned, but they were still a popular live attraction, and Grant quickly set up further tours (of France, Japan and the US). The Little Games LP appeared in the US in July, but not in the UK. It was another poor seller, but pointed the way towards Led Zeppelin with the folky White Summer, and guitar-bowing Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor and Glimpses. Further 45s bombed, but the US live circuit remained lucrative, and they continued to tour relentlessly. Cracks were appearing, however, with Page embracing experimentation, Keith Relf and Jim McCarty heading in a folkier direction, and Dreja wanting to leave the business altogether. After a low-selling final 45 in March 1968, Goodnight Sweet Josephine / Think About It (whose UK issue was cancelled), the band ran out of juice in June 1968. Page tried hard to keep them together, but when the split became inevitable, he immediately set about forming a new band, both to fulfil existing live bookings and to continue innovating musically. 

This article is taken from Go, America's best (and almost only) 1960s music weekly, which was distributed via local radio stations and is a goldmine of arcane information about the late 60s pop scene. Published on June 21st 1968, it finds Page happily planning his next band, and excited at the prospect of using Mellotron as a lead instrument in it:

As it happens, the band still had some bookings in the UK to honour, so their final gig took place on Sunday, July 7th 1968 at Luton Technical College in Bedfordshire. After it, Relf and McCarty formed the short-lived Together, while Page and Dreja agreed to fulfil some outstanding dates in Scandinavia that autumn. Go magazine in the US reported the following on August 2nd:

A month or so later, Page gave another interview to Hit Parader (which was, confusingly, dated three months in arrears, so the December issue was actually on newsstands in September). In it he both analyses The Yardbirds' split, and explains the progress he has made towards forming a new band. It's also worth nothing that the magazine uses the phrase 'New Yardbirds' in its headline: that is the  name under which Led Zeppelin supposedly performed in September and October 1968, but no hard evidence of them having done so has ever surfaced. Did the rumours start here?

There are several interesting things about the piece, not least of all how single-minded Page's vision for Led Zeppelin was from the start. He also mentions his boathouse in Pangbourne (where he famously had Robert Plant to stay shortly after the interview was given), and is intriguingly cynical about the process of making pop records, indicating his intention to synthesize existing ideas. Finally, and fittingly, he announces his main ambition: "to bring the guitar into a new level."

The Ride

The past six plus weeks have been quite the ride.  Not a ride like a roller coaster that has up and downs, but more like the Drop of Doom that only goes one way... down.  Or perhaps more accurately like the haunted house at the PNE - where it's dark and scary and bad things keep popping out at you making you want to scream.

The vertigo started September 7th. It was so strong and so violent that I had to call 911 and take an ambulance ride at 1am to the hospital.  Since then I've had several episodes, both big and small.  Mostly it's been constant and never ending.  I've  baffled the physiotherapist who guaranteed that I would not need more than three treatments to be cured. My eight appointment is scheduled for Monday.

Vertigo is a horrible and debilitating condition.  Making it worse is that there are two young children who depend on me for life and so I must go on, despite the nagging desire to spiral into a deep depression. 

Speaking of those two young children, Lincoln is currently undergoing treatment for his second urinary tract infection. Crying. Screeeeeaming. Doctors visits. Antibiotics twice a day. Nursing every two hours around the clock. Renal ultrasound. And now waiting to hear from Children's Hospital for him to go have some more tests to ensure the valves between his bladder and his kidney are working properly. And if they're not... surgery.  He's four months old.

He's also started teething.  And he's caught the cold that his sister has.

Ruby's cold has prevented her from sleeping through the night and we have gone through an insane amount of Kleenex. She is also fairly... needy. SO NEEDY.

I was called to a meeting at work yesterday to discuss some changes in the company which will affect my position. Since I do not like to discuss work on my blog, can I just say did not go well, leaving me with some fairly big decisions to make about my future career.

ANY sort of of social life that I didn't have anyways has been completely wiped out.  My gym membership continues to be deducted from my account on the first of the month despite my gym card collecting dust in my purse. I can not leave the baby for more than an hour and a half at a time because he is refusing to take a bottle and he's hungry all the time.  I am starved for human (adult) contact and socialization. And perhaps the biggest travesty is that I can not even enjoy a cocktail to relax at the end of the day and/or ease my stress and/or fool myself into thinking I have some sort of social life because alcohol aggravates vertigo.

But... BUT...

The silver lining of it all?  I am learning to become a more disciplined person.  I am learning to take pleasure in small things.  (Very small things).  I am learning to be thankful for what I do have.  And for what I don't have.  Things could be worse after all, and I am acutely aware of that.  I am learning that I am stronger than I thought I ever was.  That I can endure far more than I ever thought I could.  That I actually can function on little to no sleep for days on end. I remind myself daily that while it might be hard for a long time, it won't be like this forever.  And hopefully in the meantime all this is making me a stronger/happier/smarter/better person.

The ride always has to end sometime.

Some Tops 5s: College Football Eight Weeks In

It's been a crazy, crazy few weeks of college football. While we enjoy the bloodbath of seeing top-ranking team after top-ranking team fall away (and slowly come back), we stop for a moment and remember horrific injuries  - particularly one Eric LeGrand, a defensive tackle for Rutgers who will be lucky is he walks again. Eric, from the bottom of our hearts, we believe in you.

Now, here are our top fives for the season so far:

Top 5 Teams

1. Oregon - Who can stop THAT offense?
2. Auburn - Cam Newton's making believers of everybody. But we'll see how good he is against Alabama, eh?
3. Boise State - As Rick Reilly says, will probably get screwed for the BCS title game once again. Virginia Tech losing to James Madison didn't help. Virginia Tech coming back DOES help.
4. Alabama - Best one-loss team in the nation, and will prove that by beating LSU and Auburn.
5. Michigan State - We love a fake field goal..especially when it beats Notre Dame. Glad you're OK, coach Mark Dantonio

Top 5 Biggest Positive Surprises

1. Michigan State - The Spartans are 8-0. Go on...tell me you predicted it.
2. Auburn - We didn't think this Cam Newton kid was THIS good...
3. Baylor - We'll repeat this. The Baylor Bears are BOWL ELIGIBLE. That's something to invade the field about, peeps!
4. Missouri - We didn't see Mizzou knocking off Oklahoma. Truly, we didn't.
5. Florida State - Suddenly, this is the team to beat in the ACC. After Oklahoma, we didn't see it coming.

Top 5 Biggest Disappointments

  1. Texas - Wow. The people of the Big XII are right. Texas DOES suck.
  2. Florida - Losing 3 in a row - including one to Mississippi State - is horrible for the Gators. We're all quite happy about that.
  3.  Penn State - They've been awful all season long. Trust me - we've watched almost every game.
  4. Texas A&M - Despite promising much, the Aggies have again found ways to lose and suck. A pity for (some) of the nation's best fans.
  5. Georgia - The Bulldogs are on fire, but only after losing to Colorado and playing a sea of crappy teams. Miss AJ Green much, Mark Richt?
Top 5 Most Exciting Players

  1. Denard Robinson (Michigan) - Might not be the best, but he's certainly the most exciting!
  2. Cam Newton (Auburn) - Superman
  3. AJ Green (Georgia) - Hey Georgia fans, miss AJ much?
  4. LaMichael James (Oregon) - Feed the James and he will score!
  5. Taylor Martinez (Nebraska) - Take your breath, Huskers fans...he's going to be around for another two years. Good times ahead!
Top 5 Best Cheerleading/ Dance Team sets (There aren't reasons - work them out yourselves!)

  1. Oregon
  2. Florida
  3. USC
  4. LSU
  5. Arizona State
Top 5 Games We Wish We Were There For

  1. Alabama vs LSU at Death Valley - Think they hate Nick Saban much?
  2. Michigan at Penn State - Nothing to gain, but no love lost
  3. Auburn vs Alabama- Think the Alabama fans might like to derail Auburn's National Title hopes?
  4. Michigan State vs Iowa - The Spartans Big Ten and National Title hopes might die here.
  5. Ohio State vs Iowa - Into the Valley of The Hawkeye rode the Buckeye.

Ernie Graham: Ireland, chicks & dope

Ernest Harold Graham was born in Belfast on June 14th 1946. Having served his apprenticeship with Tony & The Telstars and The People, he became guitarist with the appallingly-named Irish psychedelic pop-rockers Eire Apparent. Their sole album, Sunrise, was produced by Jimi Hendrix, with whom they'd toured America for most of 1968 (along with The Soft Machine). Sunrise appeared in May 1969, rather late for music of its sort. It's pretty good, though, with some especially inventive guitar playing - but when it flopped, the band folded. Like many reformed acid rockers, Graham decided to eschew all psychedelic trappings (except drugs) and adopt a more personal and straightforward approach. Eire Apparent had been managed by Dave Robinson, who'd since established Down Home Productions, with Brinsley Schwarz and Help Yourself on its roster. 
Help Yourself and Graham played a gig together in January 1971, as this Melody Maker ad shows:

Having befriended Help Yourself's ace singer and songwriter Malcolm Morley, Graham invited the band (and members of Brinsley Schwarz) to back him on his solo album, which was recorded early in 1971 and issued that April.

It's a laid-back, good-natured collection, reminiscent (unsurprisingly) of both Brinsley Schwarz and Help Yourself, and features a few classics, such as the touching 'Sebastian' and 'Sea Fever', and the tough 'Blues For Snowy' and 'Belfast'. As original copies are rare, it has attracted a fair amount of attention from collectors, but remains unknown to many people who would probably enjoy it a lot. So (as an addendum to my Help Yourself post) I thought I'd put up a few odds and ends relating to it.

This is the original press release sent out with promo copies in April 1971:

Here's the half-page advert that appeared in the music press in April 1971, designed by 'Jeff Of 'Ello Mum':

And here's an interview that appeared in Beat Instrumental's June 1971 issue:

The album was moderately well-received but sold poorly, prompting Graham to join Help Yourself for a few months (he can be heard on their second album, Strange Affair, released in May 1972, though he'd left them at the end of 1971). On August 7th Sounds ran a piece investigating what was wrong with the Irish music scene, to which Ernie contributed a few thoughts:

He went on to form pub-rockers Clancy in mid-1973. They released a couple of LPs on Warner Bros. before he went solo again, though he only managed one 45, a cover of Phil Lynott's 'Romeo & The Lonely Girl', for Robinson's Stiff Records, in 1978. I've read that he worked as a railwayman thereafter, and was training as a counsellor when he drank himself to death in April 2001.

Help Yourself: pioneers of the West in the head

It's puzzling that Help Yourself aren’t better-known. In Malcolm Morley they had one of the UK’s better songwriters, and in Richard Treece one of its best and least showy guitarists. At a time when progressive excess and trashy glam ruled the charts, they consistently produced melodic, thoughtful and unpretentious music, yet to this day they are sadly under-appreciated. 

They got together towards the end of 1970, and were gigging by January 1971, when the live ad above appeared in Melody Maker. Between 1971 and 1973 they issued four fine albums (five, if you count Happy Days, the bonus disc that came with their last LP). Their debut was released in the UK only in April 1971, and is more West Coast-inspired than most British recordings of its era. Here's the appealing sleeve, designed by the mysterious 'Jeff of Ello Mum':

Despite a clear Neil Young influence, the album shows no desire to be hip or trendy, which accounts for a large part of why it stands up so well today. Their subsequent records have more prominent rock / jamming elements, but here the emphasis is on good-natured pop and ballads, and I like it very much. Here's the press release Liberty sent out with promo copies:

And here's the accompanying biography of the band itself:

A single was extracted from the album, but must have sold very poorly, as the copy I own is the only one I've ever heard of. Both sides, incidentally, are the same as the album versions:

A lovely half-page advert was taken out for the album in the music press, designed by the same artist who drew the front cover, credited only as 'Jeff Of 'Ello Mum':

On May 15th Record Mirror reviewed a gig at the Roundhouse, which found them supporting (of all people) Deep Purple:

Barely any reviews seem to have appeared, though Melody Maker did run an interview with the band in their May 29th 1971 issue:

Record Mirror also ran a short piece on May 29th:

ZigZag magazine was a champion of Help Yourself from the start, and as such they ran a lengthy profile of them in their May 1971 issue, which I hope no one will mind if I reproduce here:

Help Yourself also backed Ernie Graham on his fine album, which was released in April 1971 too, and about which I have put some similar material in another post.