Amoeblog

The Dutch Rock Conspiracy

Posted by Whitmore, September 4, 2009 11:15pm | Post a Comment

All those conspiracy theories about how we never actually went to the moon, how NASA along with the Defense Intelligence Agency staged everything on a huge soundstage in the Nevada desert and how the three astronauts were actually just in Las Vegas boozing it up and living large while undergoing ‘guilt therapy’ lessons to lie better and feel good about lying better and how this entire madcap moon adventure was a 30 billion dollar swindle to defraud the world and convince everyone, especially the Russians, that we kick ass, just may have gotten a bit of a boost.
 
A moon rock collected from the first manned lunar landing on July 20, 1969 and given to former Dutch Prime Minister Willem Drees as a private gift from then-U.S. ambassador J. William Middendorf, who accompanied the Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin, Jr. on a visit to The Netherlands has been analyzed and appears to be nothing more than petrified wood.
 
This treasured piece went on display at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum Museum after Drees died in 1988; at one point the rock was insured for around $500,000. A new estimate suggests its value to closer to about $70.
 
Recent tests have proved that the moon rock is a fake; Geologists from Amsterdam's Free University said they could tell at a glance the rock was not from the moon. Needless to say NASA and U.S. officials have no explanation for the Dutch discovery.
 
Rijksmuseum Museum spokesperson Xandra van Gelder, said the museum will keep the artifact as a curiosity. “It's a good story, with some questions that are still unanswered,” she said. “We can laugh about it.”
 
Former U.S. ambassador Middendorf in an interview last week said he didn't recall presenting the rock to Drees, but does remember the astronauts visiting the Netherlands as part of their "Giant Leap" goodwill tour. Another odd unanswered question is why Drees would have been given the rock in the first place. In 1969 he would have been 83 years old and had been out of office for over a decade, though he was a national hero who helped rebuild the Netherlands after the Second World War.
 
My favorite lunar spin so far is that the plaque doesn’t actually claim the rock is from the moon, it just says it’s a gift from the astronauts who went to the moon ...

Junior McCants

Posted by Whitmore, February 22, 2009 01:08pm | Post a Comment
Last weekend I found myself babbling on about rare 45’s at a dinner party. I couldn’t shut-up, though I think someone other than myself was listening ... Anyway, the subject -- as to be expected in these hard economic times -- was what is the most valuable record waiting to be rescued from someone’s garage. It’s not an easy answer; there are a lot of hoaxes and misinformation on valuable vinyl out there try me for your new love by junior mccantsin the serious record collecting world. I blame the recent rise of tantalizing yarns on bored muckrakers and conspiracy theorists having outgrown tall tales of Area 51, JFK, the Masons, and the New World Order as a viable entertainment option. Now they have moved on to Ebay auctions and hobbyists.
 
More often than not, a record which exchanges hands for an astronomical amount of cash sits in the genre known as Northern Soul, a style best described as a mid-tempo to slightly uptempo heavy-beat soul music that was danced to in Discothèques in Northern England from the early 1960’s till about the early to mid 70’s. Many of the recordings were heavily influenced by the Tamla/Motown sound and, if not exactly rare, these 45’s are at least hard to track down. Most of these singles were originally released in limited numbers on smaller labels in the US. Finding their way to UK nightclubs was nothing short of a miracle and usually required luck, perseverance and a round trip ticket to Detroit or Chicago. Clubs like the Twisted Wheel in Manchester, King Mojo in Sheffield, The Catacombs in Wolverhampton and the Golden Torch in Stoke-upon-Trent would go till the wee hours of morn, dancers and DJ’s hopped-up on amphetamines acrobatically cutting the rug in a mad, unhinged style that in some respects resembled later day break dancing.
 
Last October on Ebay, one of those never seen, legendary, Holy Grail of Northern Soul singles came up for auction -- Junior McCants' "Try Me For Your New Love" / "She Wrote It, I Read It" on King Records #6106 -- and went for an astounding ... wait... wait ... you’d better sit down for this ... $15,099.
 
That is not a typo, the bidding started at a very humble $9.99 but after 25 bids the price went Fibonacci-like. Most reasonable and fearful people are very suspicious of the authenticity of such a final bid. But if it’s true ... holy mother of friggin’ god!
 
I could find very little info on Junior McCants other than that he was from Cincinnati and he usually sang in a falsetto. This was his follow-up single to another great King release #6076; "The Boy Needs a Girl / Help My Love” from 1967 which failed to chart but did receive regional air play. On the liner notes to a Kent CD collection called King Northern Soul, it states that McCants died of a brain tumor at the age of 24. But I’ve also read that Junior McCants died in a motorcycle accident when he and King staff songwriter/producer/arranger Charles Spurling went out riding. According to the back story "Try Me for Your New Love" was pulled, in respect for McCants family’s wishes. Only a couple of white label promos saw the light of day, obviously at least one survived.
 
Inevitably another part of the “how much can a 45 be worth!?” question is always “what does an expensive record sound like?” This time I tried not to come off typically jaded and blasé at the dinner party with the usual reply: “not all that interesting.” The fact is, these McCants records are really pretty great, and besides, my New Year’s resolution was to reduce my cynicism --- actually reduce, reuse, recycle my cynicism ... I’ll save it for another day.
 
So here it is ... what 15 grand sounds like! So pop a couple of bennies, throw on your brogues or your black suede loafers and now groove to the left...


Chet Baker

Posted by Whitmore, May 13, 2008 06:38am | Post a Comment


Twenty years ago today, May 13th, 1988, legendary west coast jazz trumpet player, silky vocalist (has anyone ever sung "My Funny Valentine" better?), and once gorgeous bad boy, Chet Baker, fell to his death in Amsterdam from his hotel room window. Of course, there has been a wide variety of conspiracy theories and speculation regarding the odd nature of his death. Because Baker’s life was so full of mysterious and scandalous details, a life full of intrigue and questions, why shouldn’t his death have a similar story line? I guess there is a possibility of some vendetta at play here-- at least once before in the mid 1960’s he had his teeth knocked out over a drug deal gone awry, why couldn’t another drug dealer, years later, just shove the poor son of a bitch out a window? Well, there were no signs of a struggle in his hotel room and the door was locked from the inside. Then could it have been suicide? Doubtful-- there wasn’t a note, and any person determined to kill themselves probably would have rented a room higher than two stories above the sidewalk. Sadly, Chet's death was an odd, common place accident; it’s just one of those way people accidentally meet their maker. Chet Baker simply fell out of a window. There was heroin in his system, and a considerable amount of cocaine and heroin in his room. He probably went to open the window, and simply leaned a little too far west, and lost his balance. Anyway, it’s been two decades since his death. Right now I have Chet Baker Sings on the turntable; I’m sipping some good Catholic Irish whiskey, hanging out in my new abode. Everything is perfectly copasetic. Thanks.

See It Now, March 9th, 1954

Posted by Whitmore, March 9, 2008 09:58pm | Post a Comment

On this date, March 9, 1954, America's most respected journalist of the day Edward R. Murrow narrated an episode of See It Now, a news magazine broadcast on CBS television, called "A Report on Senator Joseph McCarthy."  Murrow had produced several episodes looking into hysteria of the Communist witch hunt of the 1950’s, but this program in particular was a monumental step toward the collapse of the demagogic and Constitutionally reckless Joseph McCarthy. Often referred to as television's "finest hour”, Murrow takes apart McCarthy’s campaign, showing it to be nothing more than unsubstantiated accusations and persecution towards anyone with a different point of view. By mainly playing recordings of McCarthy himself bullying witnesses and making cockeyed speeches, See It Now showed what they felt was the most dangerous risk to democracy-- not suspected Communists working in the government, but McCarthy’s actions themselves. The broadcast received tens of thousands of letters, telegrams and phone calls running 15 to 1 in favor of Murrow.

As Murrow said in his ending:

"No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one and the junior Senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men -- not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.

Continue reading...

49 square inches and an invitation to party like it's 1958

Posted by Whitmore, February 14, 2008 08:45pm | Post a Comment

This is one of the dullest 45 picture sleeves I’ve ever seen! It’s actually a recorded invitation to come on down and experience the “modern expanded facilities” of Columbia Records Distribution. How exciting … it’s a party, the party to end all parties on February 3rd 1958 … with booze, hats and noise makers to boot … I presume today this building has either become overpriced artist’s lofts, or more likely, a parking lot. Anyway, here are some of the other big news events that took place in the ‘I like Ike’, cold war, atomic age, sci-fi world of February 1958:

Feb 1st - The #1 album in the UK for the next seven weeks is the Original Soundtrack to the Pal Joey, starring Frank Sinatra.
Feb 1st - Egypt & Syria unite to form the United Arab Republic.
Feb 1st - The #1 single in the U.K is Elvis Presley’s "Jailhouse Rock."
Feb 2nd - The word Aerospace is coined, from Aircraft (aero) and Spacecraft (space).
Feb 3rd -  “Get a Job,” the Silhouettes' only hit, is #1 on the Billboard R&B charts for the next six weeks. “At the Hop" by Danny and the Juniors is #1 on the Billboard Pop charts.
Feb 5th - A hydrogen bomb known as the Tybee Bomb is lost by the US Air Force off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, never to be recovered. Actually, there are at least ten other American nuclear warheads thought to have been lost and un-recovered over the years, but more about that another day.
Feb 5th - Gamel Abdel Nasser is nominated as 1st president of the United Arab Republic.
Feb 6th - Munich air disaster kills 21, including 7 players for the Manchester United soccer team.
Feb10th - The #1 album in the U.S. is “Come Fly with Me” by Frank Sinatra.
Feb 11th - Marshal Chen Yi succeeds Zhou Enlai as Chinese Minister of Foreign affairs.
Feb 11th - Ruth Carol Taylor is first African American woman hired as a flight attendant.
Feb 13th - Georges Rouault, French painter dies at the age of 87.
Feb 14th - The Iranian government bans rock & roll, saying that the music is against the concepts of Islam, and is also a health hazard. Iranian doctors warn of the risk of injury to the hips from the "extreme gyrations" of rock & roll dancing.
Feb 14th - The #1 single in the U.K is Michael Holliday’s "The Story of My Life".
Feb 14th - The Hashemite Kingdoms of Iraq and Jordan unite in the Arab Federation of Iraq and Jordan with the Iraqi King Faisal II as head of state.
Feb 16th - Tracy Lauren Marrow, better known as Ice-T is born in Newark, New Jersey.
Feb 17th - Pope Pius XII declares Saint Clare the patron saint of television. Of course all you good Catholics already knew that!
Feb 20th - Test rocket explodes in Cape Canaveral.
Feb 21st - The Peace symbol design is completed by Gerald Holtom, commissioned by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Feb 23rd - Cuban rebels kidnap 5-time world driving champ Juan Fangio; he's released 28 hrs later.
Feb 23rd - David Sylvian, leader of the band Japan is born as David Alan Batt.
Feb 23rd - Arturo Frondizi wins the presidential elections in Argentina.
Feb 24th - Chuck Berry’s biggest hit, “Sweet Little Sixteen,” is released.
Feb 24th - The Music Man debuts on the Billboard charts. It will hold the #1 spot for twelve weeks and remain on the Billboard charts for 245 weeks.
Feb 25th - Bertrand Russell launches the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Feb 28th - One of the worst school bus accidents in the US history kills 27 at Prestonsburg, Kentucky.
Feb 28th - For the next eight weeks Perry Como’s "Magic Moments" will be #1, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, in February 1958 George Harrison, age 15, joins the Quarry Men.

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