Sunday, September 04, 2011

Slurpees and Murder Record Club: 50 Years and 800 Pounds

Well, hey, long time no see! August was kind of a bust for this site -- perhaps you had noticed -- but hey, if I was going to accidentally take a month off, it made sense that it would be that one. And it was a very nice month, indeed, but all good things must come to an end; the end of the summer has since ambushed our fair province, its sudden comparative cold chasing us all inside whenever we aren't waving sandbags around and hoping the water won't make off with all our stuff.

Yes, the transition into autumn has begun in earnest, and nothing heralds the arrival of dead leaves and early sunsets quite like the observance of Labour Day. The holiday is of course highlighted by its annual Labour Day Classic, the first of two consecutive football games between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and their hated Saskatchewan Roughrider rivals, and we here at the Slurpees and Murder Record Club are nothing if not dedicated to the journalistic concept of equal time. So! Today's super-special super-sized Labour Day installment will feature two timeworn vinyl selections -- one representing our beloved-until-hockey-arrives Blue Bombers, and one representing the fearsome (if backwards) scourge of the Roughriders.

We begin with a piece of Blue Bomber history, or rather a half-century chunk of it:

Winnipeg Blue Bombers and CJOB/68 - 50 Blue & Golden Years (1980)

I have been quite fairly accused in the past of going overlong on description in these posts, enough so that my rambling renders the intended content redundant. So I'll limit myself here to quickly pointing out a few of my favourite bits, and you can experience the rest for yourself.

-- The narration on the album is, as best I can guess, handled by Cliff Gardner; his is one of the two signatures on the liner notes, and Morris Smith conversationally addresses his segment to Cliff, but since Gardner predates my radio listenership considerably I can really only be reasonably certain in my guess. But what I can say with certainty is that, every time he uses extra emphasis and oomph to deliver the word "boo-ster!!", he makes me think he's Space Ghost.

-- Mo Simovitch was one smooth-sounding dude, and I wish I could pronounce the words "characters" and "clowns" ("kuh-lowwwwwns") half as effectively as he does in his segment on side one. He also uses the phrase "eastern hillbilly" in describing the team's conceptualization of the Argos, which... I guess must have been a thing at the time, but indicates what a different world it was in those days. (It might be fun to revive it, though, just to mess with Torontonians. You know? See how well a guy in a suit who pays two hundred dollars to read his Blackberry at the Maple Leafs game fields a bout of cognitive dissonance.)

-- By far my favourite part of the interview with (pre-"Cactus") Jack Wells is his hilariously casual dismissal of the '41 Vancouver Grizzlies, especially since there's no way to tell whether he's understating or overstating the team's problems. I'm not going to spoil it for you, but I got a real kick out of it. Something about Jack Wells' delivery always makes him sound like he would've been a blast to hang out with, too, this prototype-Larry-King-soundin' dude rattling knowledge off the top of his head like nothing.

-- The "Humble Pie" booster song is done rather well, but the "We've Got Ploen" song is... not. Ken Ploen, the other of the two signatures on the liner notes, had a Hall of Fame career with the Blue Bombers -- including four Grey Cup victories, three All-Star selections and one of the most memorable touchdowns in CFL history (to the point that the touchdown itself was included on the record's cover) -- and is popularly considered the single most outstanding player of his decade. He also made Winnipeg his permanent home upon his retirement from football, served for many years as a popular colour commentator, received the Order of Manitoba in 2007, and is by all accounts an upstanding citizen and admirable man. But when you listen to the "Bomber boo-ster song!!" that CJOB wrote and performed to support him, and it reaches its climactic dissonant chorus of "We've got PLOEEEEEEEEEEENNNN! We've got PLOEEEEEEEEEEENNNN! We've got PLOEEE-EEEENNNN!", for that brief but lingering moment, you will hate Ken Ploen. You'll feel bad about it, but it will happen.

-- "bomber-ooski", ha ha what

-- If you're wondering, as I was, about the part on side two when they mention (as briefly as possible) that "Herron and Thorpe both got in deep trouble with the law, and the football club felt it had no choice but to release both of them", it turns out both were canned for possession charges. I get why the feel-good commemorative album would gloss over the story, but I think adding "don't take a bag of cocaine through airport customs" would be a good teachable moment for the listener at home.

-- Jack Matheson of the Winnipeg Tribune puts on a clinic of succinctness near the very end of the album, having decided he will allow himself one sentence apiece for his descriptions of all the Bomber coaches he covered. And they are not particularly kind descriptions, but I think that's part of their appeal for me.

Now, perhaps you came into this post hoping for music, and perhaps you feel disinclined to listen to all the archival radio footage and the (very impressive sounding) rally recordings and the recollections from players and media. That's fine! I pulled out everything with music in or behind it, so I've got you covered:

Musical Selections from "50 Blue & Golden Years"
(6:38, 192kbps, 9.22MB)


One of the little variety pieces in the above, a mid-1950s-ish radio segment introduced as being by "The Football Philosopher", leapt out at me so much that I embed it here in convenient YouTube format just to make sure that people will believe me when I tell them about it. I need to stress here, as well, that the following audio clip is untampered and unchanged, reproduced as it was originally broadcast.

Winnipeggers, apparently, solved problems back then the same way they do now:

I, uh, wow. I dare suggest that standards may be a bit different now than they were fifty-five years ago. Can you imagine the fallout if a media outlet ran a similar segment nowadays? "Don't worry, football fans -- I just so happen to have a foolproof plan for our upcoming game against the Alouettes! The plan is I WILL MURDER ANTHONY CALVILLO."

That's our Record Club entry on the Blue Bombers' side; a bit dry at the outset, perhaps, but on the whole a dignified and gracious retrospective that emphasizes and celebrates the class and distinction of the organization over its first fifty years of existence. We move now to the Saskatchewan Roughriders' portion of our showcase, and I fully expect that their vinyl represention will present an equally sophisticated fr--

oh, christ

800 lbs. of West Country Rock (1971*)

Hey, uh, so. This exists. This is a thing that I own.

The funny thing is, going in, and knowing full well that I had paid actual money for this album, I was completely expecting this record to suck. You're doing it too, right now, aren't you? The concept of the album has just finished settling into your brain, and now your brain is rejecting it as the recipe for disaster that it quite honestly should be. So you can imagine how surprised I was when I fired it up and realized that I wasn't hating it, that in fact my attempt to purchase a Roughrider-themed trainwreck had instead landed me a perfectly enjoyable little exercise in country-and-western covers. What a twist! Amazing how these things can backfire sometimes.

You may have noted the asterisk by the date above; the year of the album is as well-educated a guess as I can provide, since no concrete date information is included anywhere on the record or packaging. Fortunately, all three being active Roughrider players at the time helps to narrow it down considerably: Tim Roth joined the team in 1971, Clyde Brock retired in 1975, and Nolan Bailey's only full years with Saskatchewan were 1970 and 1971. So unless the album was recorded and released amidst one of the two games that Bailey played in '72, the overwhelming likelihood is that the album dropped in 1971. I recognize and acknowledge that you the reader probably don't actually care about the date thing, but I like showing my work anyway in case I'm wrong and it might be worth partial marks.

So we have on our hands a surprisingly acceptable country cover band, one with fine enough taste that the album contains both a Tompall Glaser cover and a Shel Silverstein cover. (Not that all of these songs would fly in today's climate; "Kaw-Liga" is the kind of song that will get you thrown out of some venues and shot in some others.) I was sorely tempted to post "Beans Taste Fine" here as the sampler song for the album, but I ultimately caved in to the disproportionate emphasis established by the enthusiatically terrible, brazenly unproofread advertising copy on the back of the record jacket. So please enjoy the signature percussive effect in the following tune, the mellifluous tones of a two-hundred-and-seventy-five-pound man banging a spark plug wrench against a crescent wrench:

800 lbs. of West Country Rock (Roth - Bailey - Brock) - Workin' Man (Merle Haggard)
(2:18, 192kbps, 3.25MB)

And there you have it. Happy Labour Day! I figure this will be a decently busy month for blog output -- it's already busier than last month -- so you can rest assured that I'll be back sooner rather than later. Until then, readers!


Anonymous said...

When I was a lad, it was briefly hilarious to refer to Mack Herron as "Smack Heroin". ha. I'm old.

Anonymous said...

How come you have to download the audio MP3 from Mediafire? I just want to listen, I don't want to download it.

James Hope Howard said...

That's a valid criticism, and one I don't immediately have an answer for. I've been using Mediafire for file hosting because it's one of the less troublesome ones to download from -- fewest clicks, least waiting time, allowance of multiple simultaneous downloads, that sort of thing -- but you're right that it lacks the option of previewing or streaming the file rather than downloading it first and accessing it second.

4shared could theoretically work as an alternative for streaming the file in-browser, but then actually downloading from there requires multiple clicks and a waiting period (and, if I recall correctly, you can only download one item from their servers at a time). Less than ideal, particularly for multiple files.

So with that said, I'm entirely open to suggestions as to better free hosting options; I wouldn't doubt that there's a much better site hidden somewhere out there.