Throw Back Thursday: Stoner Shaggy

You remember this dude and his “meddling friends and dog” don’t you?  Let’s face, what they didn’t show us kids on screen was that this chicken-hearted, lanky, slacker was a first class pot head.  As evident by his insatiable appetite and chronic munchies.  And what’s worse is that his dog suffered from second-hand smoke.  He too had uncontrollable munchies.  Created in 1969 by Hanna-Barbera Productions, the Scooby-Doo cartoon and franchise has enjoyed significant longevity.  It’s not because of the cuteness of Scooby or the interesting, spooky mysteries that the teens solved each week.  I think it’s because a lot of us wanted to be Shaggy.  Or was it just me?  You kind of secretly wanted to lay around, solve a few mysteries, smoke weed, and eat anything that wasn’t nailed to the table, didn’t you?

Shaggy always had the munchies
Shaggy always had the munchies

We should have predicted then that marijuana would move from counter-culture nuisance to mainstream recreational activity.  We aren’t quite there yet, but the movement is growing and gaining steam.  Cannabis prohibition began in the 1920’s and was heavily regulated as a drug in the mid 1930’s.  Today, 23 states and the District of Columbia have laws on the books legalizing marijuana with Maryland, Minnesota and New York joining the ranks in 2014.

There is no real point to this post other than to say that Shaggy was harbinger of the socialization of marijuana in mainstream America.  Shaggy was the star of the show.  I can’t even tell you the other dude’s name.  He was flat and insignificant.

Side bar:  I was always more attracted to the bright and nerdy Velma than I was the pretty Daphne.  Not sure what that says about me other than I like smart, nerdy women.

Velma & Daphne
Velma & Daphne

It will be interesting to see how our culture continues to evolve around the legalization of marijuana.  Perhaps one day in the near future, some brave city will erect a statue of Shaggy, or Cheech & Chong or Jeff Spicoli or Smokey from Friday or Jeff Labowski or Harold and Kumar or…

Throwback Thursday – Petey Greene

Legendary broadcaster Peetey Greene
Legendary broadcaster Petey Greene

I thought I would take this Throwback Thursday opportunity to also recognize Black History Month because A) it is February and B) I’m too lazy to create two separate posts.  And since I am posting about achievements in Black History, I thought I would focus on my own industry – radio.

There have been some outstanding broadcast pioneers, trailblazers if you will, to come out of the black American experiment.  The “black DJ” was an integral member of the black community since the late 1940’s.  Not so much today given cross-over formats and corporate consolidation.  But back in the day, there were some true gems in the business.  Cats like Jack “The Rapper” Gibson, Rufus Thomas, and Jocko Henderson held daily parties in the studio and invited listeners in with their fast-talking, hip-talking lingo in the 1940’s and 50’s.  But by the 1960’s, things began to change.  The social conscience of black America gave the black DJ a platform from which he could speak directly to the community en masse, and with some authority.  That’s when cat’s like Petey Greene changed the game.

My hometown had its own stars like WEBB's Ron Pinkney
My hometown had its own stars like WEBB’s Ron Pinkney

Ralph Waldo Greene, Jr’s start in radio actually began in prison in the early 1960’s where he served some time as the prison DJ.  The charismatic high school dropout manipulated his way to an early release in 1966.  In the summer of ’66, Petey started his professional career as a DJ at WOL AM in Washington, DC with the Rappin’ With Peetey Greene show.  Unlike the trailblazers before him, Petey broadened his repertoire beyond popular music and included controversial subjects like race and politics.  And the people loved him for it.  Loved him for “telling it like it is”.  They loved him so much that his popularity elevated him to the television broadcast game.  He won two Emmy’s for his Petey Greene’s Washington TV show. Petey had the gift of gab.  He demonstrated how wit and charisma could move people to action, and in the case of the 1968 riots in Washington, DC, move people to inaction.  The human voice, amplified by radio, encourages sodality and community.  This is what he showed us.  He demonstrated the power of voice and the power of radio.  His life was chronicled in the film Talk To Me starring Don Cheadle.  Worth a view if you haven’t seen it.  And now…this moment in black history…is brought to you by Petey Greene:

Throw Back Thursday: Lost Art of the Album Cover

I thought I would take a more expressive approach to the #TBT trend in lieu of posting old photos of myself.  So every so often I’ll post a nostalgic piece and invite you to travel with me down memory lane.

I fell in love just staring at the album
I fell in love just staring at the album

Men of a certain age have witnessed some very cool technological advancements. The personal computer, e-mail, mobile phones and smart phones, blu-ray, wireless, mobile tablets and the internet are all things that I vividly remember being awed by. It was that way too with the advent of the CD. I remember my first CD player – a five disc carousel Panasonic. And my first few CDs.  But as much as we advanced our culture with the adoption of new, disruptive technologies, I can’t help feel that, in many cases, we lost something with each step forward.  In the case of the CD (and eventually the digital download), it was the vinyl album cover. The CD insert, much like watching a block-buster movie on an iPad, could not evoke the same emotional response that I had to the album cover art.

As a young lad growing up in Baltimore, MD, I’d spend many of my weekends staying at my uncles apartments. Both were typical bachelors and had typical bachelor pads for the time. Big fluffy pillows strewn about the floor. Aromatic incense burning in holders. A few Playboy mags spread out on the floor. Strings of beads dangling from doorways. A hi-fi stereo system with turntable on a shelf against the wall. And stacks of vinyl around the system.

I loved staying with my uncles because I was guaranteed a cheese steak sub or pizza for dinner and I had full access to their music.  The Playboy mags too. But it was the music that captured my attention. I would spend hours listening to their albums and staring at the album art. I was fascinated with much of the creative strategy utilized to sell music. Obvious depictions of the artists themselves, sexy women in sultry, proactive poses, and obscure, eccentric, and elegant art all caught my attention.  I fell in love with Minnie Riperton with ice cream dripping down her fingers, overalls with nothing under and that angelic voice. Killer combination.

Marvin Gaye's album featuring the art of Ernie Barnes
Marvin Gaye’s album featuring the art of Ernie Barnes

Who wasn’t drawn into this classic Marvin Gaye cover featuring the art of iconic painter Ernie Barnes? The elegant, elongated figures perfectly captured black folk in the mood and in the groove. Eyes closed and feeling the moment. I could never get enough of this cover. I studied every inch, every character, every outfit, the scene, the signs…everything. This “Sugar Shack” painting was my introduction to the genius of former Baltimore Colts player Ernie Barnes whose art work was used to represent the art of J.J. Evans on the show “Good Times”.

Earth Wind & Fire and Egyptology
Earth Wind & Fire and Egyptology

This classic Earth Wind & Fire album cover encouraged my interest in the futuristic, space, and Egyptology. Again, I would closely examine the detail in the art work and would day dream about the future. It was a tremendously powerful subliminal message that invoked interest in both cosmology and spirituality. Yeah, I was a deep ass kid. The band used Egyptian symbolism and mysticism on several album covers and it was also evident in their music.

Ohio Players used sex to sell
Ohio Players used sex to sell

Was their ever a band that could better capture the attention of pubescent adolescent boys more than the Ohio Players? If so, you’ll have to school me. Most of their covers objectified women, effectively so, by depicting them covered in honey or chocolate, partially nude in fire-fighters uniforms, engaged in sultry poses, or tessellating  with partially nude men. One thing is for sure, the boys from Dayton, OH had sex on the brain and they certainly had my attention.

Did anyone ever listen to Bitches Brew or was it all about the cover art?
Did anyone ever listen to Bitches Brew or was it all about the cover art?

This visual journey created by surrealist painter Mati Klarwein is the reason why Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew is on every “Top Album Cover” list. The music represents Miles’ foray into the experimental, esoteric jazz movement. I can tell you with all honesty that I spent far more time with the album art than I did listening to the music. That would come to me many years later. But this art work was very difficult to turn away from. A hard one to put down. The longer you held it, the more drawn in you became.

The bizarre foolishness of Parliament Funkadelic
The bizarre foolishness of Parliament Funkadelic

Lastly, I was always attracted to the bizarre foolishness of Parliament. I could not understand why grown men dressed up in such weird costumes, but I absolutely loved it. It certainly spoke to the band’s obscure, trend setting funk sound and made for good visual entertainment.

People often speak about the tactile feel of holding a book and flipping through its pages rather than using an e-reader. It’s the thing I miss most about vinyl. Holding the album cover, reading the liner notes all while listening to the music is the piece of our culture now lost to digital downloads. It was the art of the music combined with the visual art that gave birth to my love of music. I haven’t read the digital booklet that comes with digital files in years. Hell, is it even still an option? Is it even a part of the creative process today?  Do recording artists care what art is associated with their music?

We give to gain. It’s often a necessary sacrifice in the name of advancement. But somethings are harder to accept than others.  And while digital files take up zero environmental space and offer enhanced sound quality, you can’t de-seed your weed on an i-Pod the way you could on a folding album cover. Am I right?

I’d love to hear about some of your favorite album art. Do you have a favorite?  Do you miss having the visual with the audio.

Until next post….