5 April 2004
Only one day away

By way of explanation: Rich Appel has a spiffy e-zine called Hz So Good, and for the next, um, cycle, he asked rock critic, liner-note maven and all-around dreamboat Dawn Eden to put together some thoughts about Gene Pitney's 1963 hit "Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa." Since I'm somewhere within that radius myself, Dawn offered a copy to me for my own wacky site, and of course I said yes, so here it is.

Gene Pitney
"Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa"
by Dawn Eden

The first thing I notice about this song is that Billy Joe Royal or his arranger shamelessly lifted its intro for the intro of "Down in the Boondocks." Neither song is a favorite of mine, despite my appreciation of Royal and downright adoration of Pitney — a masterful songwriter and one of the greatest performers I've ever seen.

This song gets under my skin from the beginning, with Hal David's lyric, "Dearest... darling..." I realize that, compositionwise, it's a great lyric, because it captures the guilt that the protagonist feels in his situation. But knowing that doesn't make it sound any less cloying.

Bacharach and David understood camp, even before Susan Sontag popularized the term. Indeed, this song has a sense of wicked irony that would do Quentin Tarantino proud. It's all in the lyrics' unusual, twisted perspective.

Usually Brill Building songs sung by men were written in such a way that a female listener could pretend the song was being sung to her. This was true of so many of Pitney's early hits: "(I Wanna) Love My Life Away," "Every Breath I Take," "Only Love Can Break a Heart." What Hal David did with this song was put the listener in Pitney's place, imagining the risk and delight of succumbing to temptation. The girl to whom Pitney is singing — or, as the lyrics say, writing his letter — is a pathetic dupe, robbed of her eternal bliss by some floozy Pitney picked up at a motel just a few hundred miles down the road.

Even the title "Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa" is camp. To a pair of hack songwriters (and say what you will, Bacharach and David in 1963 were hacks) in an airless cubicle in the Brill Building, Tulsa was truly down in the boondocks. Those young but already hardened Tin Pan Alley tunesmiths, cigarettes dangling from their mouths, probably visualized the recipient of the protagonist's letter as some blonde Southern belle — maybe the virgin daughter of a wealthy oilman. How funny to think of her soldier-boy beau, returning from duty on some Texas base (for we know those Southerners are too thick to get a college deferment), falling for a streetwalker outside a Red Roof Inn.

Excuse me while I press "skip."

You can read Dawn Eden's daily exploits at The Dawn Patrol; if you'd like a free sample of Hz So Good, write to Rich Appel at audiot.savant@verizon.net.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:38 PM)
9 November 2004
That night in Berlin

It almost slipped my mind, and it shouldn't have: it was fifteen years ago that the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.

In November 1989, I was running a FidoNet echo and reading a lot of others. And a chap named Wolfram Sperber dropped into INTERUSER, and we dropped everything, because he was there, man. I saved his story, and it's followed me through half a dozen computers since then, which is a neat trick considering I was running a Commodore 128 at the time.

Sperber's story follows the jump; thanks to Baldilocks for the memory jolt.

After all these tremendous news from here and Germany at all, I feel the need to send a report to you all from Schoeneberg in West-Berlin about the "first night" from Nov. 9th to 10th.

At noon time on Sunday I'm sitting at my keyboard, listening to TV-Transmission of Beethoven's 7th sinfony from the Berlin philharmonics: a special free concert to our guests from the GDR... (Yesterday more than half a million has been in this part of the City where some 2 million people are living. It was reported that more than 4.3 millions of visa were given until now, i.e. for more than one fourth of the population of a state).-

You all get informed very quickly by your own mass media, and I don't want to duplicate lots of news...

What I want to describe, are my own adventures in that first night:

In the last weeks I had begun to look regularly at the GDR-Television: It had changed from the most uninteresting channels to the most exciting ones, and so I used to see them every day. - Transmissions of international press conferences had shown us the latest news from the official source directly... On last Thursday about 7 p.m. at the end of one of those transmissions I heard the longwinded formulated message, which was quotated in the West-TV-News some 20 minutes later (without special comment).

Without boasting, I can state to have recognized the real meaning of this complicated sentences at once... Some moments later I formulated the sentence "That means, the wall has fallen down just now!" This thought made me very excited. At once I began to phone friends, relatives, family in Berlin and West Germany. All reacted unbelieving to the unbelievable, some assuming I would tease them or something like that. So I had to substantiate the consequences of the message.- I dialed again. My conviction grew from one moment to the next and I wrote down some short messages to Fido and another Berlin Mailbox...

Interesting for myself now! The first thought and feeling I've got was NOT one of joy, but one of worry: Now the real chaos would arise here. I feared that all the events of the last weeks and months could have been preliminaries only, and just the practical aspects of the run from East to West would plunge us into huge problems.

So it took me some time not to worry, and better be happy :-)

(Till this Sunday it's the time of euphoria on the streets. Next week we have to deal with some problems...)

Evening main news at 8 pm ("Tagesschau") kept me in suspense, channel-crossing I spent the next hours in front of my TV. It needed some two or three hours until they formulated the short- and long-term meaning of this sensation clearly.

The first live reports from some checkpoints were shown. At this time, about 10 to 11 p.m. in the night, the first people from West Berlin arrived there, awaiting things or people to come. About midnight I decided to take my car. One moment I asked myself if I should quit it because of pure sensation seeking(?), but then I thought of the historical dimension and started.

There is a big boulevard in West-East-Direction leading through the Brandenburg Gate: In East Berlin it's called "Unter den Linden" (a historical boulevard of old Berlin), in West Berlin it's called "Street of June the 17th" (remembering those days of the year of 1953, when the revolt in the GDR was put down). When I arrived after 2 km at "Big Star" (traffic circle) this 8-track-Autobahn in the middle of the City already was overcrowded with cars and pedestrians, police cars with red lights (resp. "blue lights" here).

[Frenetic applause for Daniel Barenboim and the Berlin philharmonics just now on TV!]

Where to get a parking place now? I'd really luck to get one just in the forest, where it was forbidden, of course. ("Tiergarten" is our "Central Park")

[TV reports that not less than one million people are awaited from the other side today!!]

Walking, hurrying with hundreds of people I arrived at Brandenburg Gate after some 800 meters. There is no checkpoint but this is the most symbolic place of the wall. The NBC-Team already had built a small platform, and on their vans I read "Miet mich mal..." / "Just hire me...".

The American correspondent (Tom Broker ?) was rehearsing his part, being told new details every minute. Time for the the main news at home. Somebody grinned "These Americans, must have their scenery here, of course,..." Well, several other TV-Teams were working, too.

[Just now a picture from Brandenburg Gate: "Meet the press"]

The first four or five people had climbed upon the Berlin wall dancing in a storm of applause, and under the beams of two water-cannons from the other side (where we could not look).

The visitors' platforms, of course, were overcrowded. When I could get a short look from there over the wall, I saw some dozens of people in front of the gate coming to blows with the "Vopos". After a short time the frontier guards moved back to form a chain, rectangular to the wall, closing the areas on the left and right side.

More and more people climbed up, some had pick-hammers and begun to thump at the wall. I put a stone as a souvenir... (it's rather curious: It looks just nice, anyhow - this splinter and symbol of suppression and sorrow from that building surrounding us over a distance of 45 km, pop-art-painted over and over since years).

Some hundreds of Western people pushed onto this wall, one helping the other to climb up there.

I did it, too. There were a lot of discussions between all the people, one strange to the other. At the other side we looked at about hundred of people, which were dancing in front and under the Gate. It took me some time to understand that these were not East Germans but ours. The frontier soldiers had given up.

I talked with another man, and we decided to try it, too: We jumped down to the East, walked slowly through this Gate, the first time in our life and felt a little bit weired about all that...taking the last pictures of the film.

We could not recognize, whether the street was closed after about hundred meters and slowly approached: Small groups (from the West) in hotheaded discussions with very young guards. (I saw the strained and some helpless expression in one's eyes: "So what do you want to hear from him just now?!")

The nearly full moon in t