Friday, January 5, 2018

Dandy | Lefsetz Letter

Dandy – Spotify

We used to live in darkness. It’s hard to explain. Everything was the same but we weren’t so connected. We took the telephone for granted, but it wasn’t until you were in your late teens that you became addicted, and really it was more women than men, can I say that, boys and girls, that a rite of passage for a girl was a Princess telephone straight from AT&T into her bedroom, hopefully on her own separate line, but oftentimes that was not the case and you’d hear people yelling throughout the house GET OFF THE PHONE!, long before call-waiting, when we didn’t assume we’d get someone on the first ring.

School never started before Labor Day. And it was hot, too hot, there was no A/C, and then it was cold. But never inside, they always overheated the buildings, long before anybody worried about energy depletion, never mind the prices.

And you’d ride your bike right up to Thanksgiving, albeit freezing, with your fall jacket on, you had a series of jackets, your Yankees jacket for the spring and summer, a nylon one for when it was just a bit cooler and a fall jacket that was not lined and then your winter jacket for the worst weather. And flannel-lined jeans. We became too hip for them, but I wish I had them today, they were so warm. And there was no water-repellence, never mind Gore-Tex, you got wet and you stayed wet. When you walked home from school, which we all did, when you went out and played in the snow, when you tobogganed.

We did that, a lot. We had a multitude of snow conveyances. Of course the Flexible Flyer, and what made that sled so good was it was truly flexible, you could steer it. And then the flying saucer, an aluminum pan that got dented the first time you used it, that you slid down the hill upon. And then the toboggan. We had two in our house. One with two seats and one with seven. And the trick with toboggans, or maybe the deficiency, was it was very hard to keep them going straight. You’d start out straight, but then the tail end would start to slip and you’d be going sideways and sometimes the whole thing would tip over and sometimes people would fall off and if you were lucky enough to be in front, with your feet tucked under the curl, you were along for the ride with no power, you got the biggest thrills, but the greatest injury. Oh, did I mention that sometimes you went over a bump? And then everybody came off in midair? But this was when we still got snow and you weren’t so worried about getting hurt.

And if it snowed, you went out and played. Even at night. Especially the first storm of the year. You liked being in what was coming down.

But most nights you were in your room, with the transistor, doing homework. Usually math. Why is it we were always doing math homework?

Of course there was television. But you did not have a set in your bedroom and you could not watch all night. You had to bargain with your parents how much you could view before you went upstairs.

And if you were lucky you had your own bedroom.

And the music was always playing. But it was not a cacophony of sound, it was the only sound.

Now I can’t overstate the impact of the arrival of the Beatles. Suddenly everybody was into music, just like everybody got into AOL in ’95. It existed before, but now it was a revolution. And the songs being played were no longer ditties, they had meaning. Oh, they might appear quaint today, but they were bleeding edge limit-testers back then. And so many came from the U.K., where it may not have snowed, but there was precipitation and darkness.

That’s what you avoid in Los Angeles, America’s hottest spot right now, precipitation and darkness. It does rain, but rarely, and it’s sunny nearly every day, and this does wonders for your mood. But when it rains, when it snows, when it’s gray, your mind starts to drift, especially when the records come on, it’s like your world is broadened, you gain insight, you get a feel for what the world is like and who you are.

I got this feeling last night.

I’d watched enough Netflix. I wanted to read and I wanted to listen to music so I did both, which is harder to do these days, especially if I want to concentrate.

And I’m reading a novel and listening to the hits of ’67 on Amazon Music. Not ’68, because that was sunny and upbeat. But ’67, when it was still dark, when “Purple Haze” was released. Most people didn’t hear it until the following year, but Jimi was there, if you had friends, if you listened to FM, if you were in the know.

But most people were still listening to AM radio, and that’s where they heard “There’s A Kind Of Hush (All Over The World),” by Herman’s Hermits.

They get a bad rap. But if you go back and listen to those tunes…

“I’m Into Something Good” has gotten its victory lap, mostly from the inclusion in 1988’s “Naked Gun,” I know that’s a long time ago, but the film still plays on TV and streaming services and look at the bump the “Sopranos” gave “Don’t Stop Believin'” and the one “Wayne’s World” gave “Bohemian Rhapsody”… One good placement can ensure legendary status.

And once you get past the unjustly maligned “Henry VIII,” which was a joke back then, I don’t know why you need to make fun of it today, you get to some truly fulfilling cuts that bring me back to that era, like “Listen People,” “A Must To Avoid” and “There’s A Kind Of Hush.”

It came up on the Amazon playlist.

And then I needed to hear “Dandy.”

I’m more of a late period Kinks fan, when everybody abandoned them. I prefer “20th Century Man” and “Preservation” but I owned the initial greatest hits album, it was an excellent value, I knew those songs by heart. And when I play them today…


That’s right, I played “Tired Of Waiting” just last week. I could picture myself on the steps of the high school, singing with my friend. We used to do this, before everybody rapped.

And the Kinks’ original version of “Dandy” was a hit overseas, but the single in America was by Herman’s Hermits. So most people have never heard the original. But you need to, it’s the same, but…


Dandy, dandy
Where you gonna go now
Who you gonna turn to

The amazing thing is they could play these songs. There’s a BBC album online that’s revelatory, it sounds like the Kinks, not a pale imitation, and what immediately grabs you is the acoustic guitar, listen to the Hermits’ instrumentation, it’s so close but not the same, there’s a jagged rhythm in the Kinks’ original that enthralls you.

But not as much as Ray Davies’s SNEER!

He was never anybody’s man (or woman!) To this day he’s sui generis, not a member of the group, an outsider who seems to know more of what’s going on inside than those ensconced therein.

You’re chasing all the girls
They can’t resist your smile
Oh, they long for dandy, dandy

It’s not Ray. From back when musicians were social commentators and not the story themselves.

Checkin’ out the ladies
Tickling their fancy
Pouring out your charm
To meet all your own demands
And turn it off at will
Oh, they long for dandy, dandy

He’s manipulative, he thinks it’s all about him, but it’s not.

Dandy you know you’re moving much too fast
And dandy, you know you can’t escape the past
Look around you and see the people settle down
And when you’re old and grey you will remember what they said
That two girls are too many, three’s a crowd and four you’re dead

Too much of a good thing…

Is not a good thing.

We’ve been taught that excess is part of success. But you get caught up in it and you lose yourself. You need to be called on your faux pas. That’s what musicians used to do.

But it’s the sound of the record that not only piques your curiosity, but keeps you riveted. Where is it cut, who are these people? This is not something you can see on Facebook Live. There isn’t any video. You have to know someone, you can’t get there. Still… If you were just a fly on the wall you’d know you were in the aura of excellence but you could not connect, the Kinks would not be friendly, the engineer would not give you the time of day, it was all somehow removed.

That’s what the amazing thing about this music was. It was right up front and center, ubiquitous, it meant everything to us, we needed to get closer to it, but WE COULDN’T! At best we could let it inhabit our own minds and create our own memories based on mood.

And when I hear “Dandy” I’m brought back to the midsixties. The pictures become clear, even though there are no photographs. I can remember what I felt. And it doesn’t seem like yesterday…

It seems like today.

P.S. We were a generation of Peter Pans. We never wanted to grow up. And even though some of us got married, had children and even bought houses and Teslas, we grow our hair long, don ponytails, jeans and leather and try to make like we’re still who we once were. But the joke is on us:

Oh dandy, dandy
When you gonna give up
Are you feeling old now
You will always be free
You need no sympathy
A bachelor you will stay
And dandy, you’re all right
You’re all right
You’re all right
You’re all right
You’re all right
You’re all right



No comments: