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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 18, 2002 1:57 AM. The previous post in this blog was Well, here's another clue for you all. The next post in this blog is Tanks a lot. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Chief gorglist

When I was a college DJ, and even as a high school kid who couldn't wait to become one, the radio personality I worshipped most was Jonathan Schwartz over on WNEW-FM in New York. This was when album rock was in its heyday on the FM dial, and DJs on that station enjoyed considerable freedom. Schwartz could get away with mixing Chopin preludes in with Crosby, Stills & Nash and Arthur Lee's Love. If he decided that Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again (Naturally)" was a good foil for the latest psychedelia from the Jefferson Airplane, he'd play them back to back without any acknowledgment of their apparent incongruity. Then he'd throw a James Brown cut into the mix, and open a mike so that listeners could hear people dancing in the studio with him. It was a heady time indeed.

With all that leeway, what did the renowned Mr. Schwartz choose for the first cut on his first radio show on that station? If I am recalling correctly, it was a moody, languid number by the Lovin' Spoonful called "Coconut Grove":

It's really true how nothin' matters
No mad, mad world and no mad hatters
No one's pitchin' 'cause there ain't no batters
In Coconut Grove
The voice was clearly that of John Sebastian, the songwriting genius who knocked out a string of hits in front of the Spoonful over just a couple of years in the mid-to-late '60s. But this cut was unusual in that the writing credits were shared by the group's guitarist, Zal Yanovsky. His rich guitar work, which haunted "Coconut Grove," was an integral part of the Spoonful's eclectic, ever-changing sound. When "Do You Believe in Magic?" became a national anthem for rock 'n' roll fans, it was Zal's lead guitar that provided the perfect complement to Sebastian's daring (or at least offbeat) injection of the autoharp. So full was the sound the two of them created that legend has it even Phil Spector wanted to record them. The credits on the Spoonful's Rhino anthology list Zal as playing "electric gorgle" and Chinese gong as well as providing lead guitars, vocals, and lead six-string bass.

The Spoonful hit list between "Magic" in August of '65 and "Younger Generation" in December of '67 is mighty impressive. Perhaps the highlight was "Summer in the City," which provided the perfect soundtrack for exactly that in '66, and every summer since. We teenagers took the group's prolific output for granted to a large extent, but we surely relished it. I remember buying a used dictionary at the high school bookstore, and one of the music fans a year or two ahead of me in school had memorialized his admiration by writing "Zal" and "Spoonful" on the bottom edges of the book's pages.

Zal comes to mind this week because he died last Friday just short of his 58th birthday. The New York Times obituary can be found here (at least for a while), but a more thoughtful profile of Zal's life appeared in the Toronto Sun. (Yanovsky lived just outside Kingston, Ontario, where he retired after leaving the music business.)

The Zal story intersects with that of the Mamas & the Papas, as he was for a time a member of a predecessor to that group, the Mugwumps. The history is documented in the Mamas & Papas' classic song "Creeque Alley." Of course, in one of those eerie coincidences, it was just last Friday, the day Zal died, that I found a cassette copy of the Mamas & the Papas' Greatest Hits collecting dust under the driver's seat of my car. And so yesterday, just hours before I discovered the obituary in the Times, the Mamas refreshed me on the story:

John and Mitchie were gettin' kind of itchy
Just to leave the folk music behind
Zal and Denny workin' for a penny
Tryin' to get a fish on the line
In a coffee house Sebastian sat
And after every number they passed the hat
McGuinn and McGuire just a-gettin' higher
In L.A. you know where that's at
And no one's getting fat except Mama Cass

Zallie said "Denny, you know there aren't many
Who can sing a song the way that you do, let's go south"
Denny said "Zallie, golly, don't you think that I wish
I could play guitar like you"
Zal, Denny and Sebastian sat (at the Night Owl)
And after every number they passed the hat
McGuinn and McGuire just are gettin' higher
In L.A. you know where that's at
And no one's getting fat except Mama Cass

Cass was a sophomore, planned to go to Swarthmore,
But she changed her mind one day
Standing on the turnpike, thumb out to hitchhike,
"Take me to New York right away."
When Denny met Cass he gave her love bumps
Called John and Zal, and that was the Mugwumps
McGuinn and McGuire couldn't get no higher
But that's what they were aiming at
And no one's getting fat except Mama Cass

Mugwumps, high jumps, low slumps, big bumps,
Don't you work as hard as you play
Make up, break up, everything is shake-up
Guess it had to be that way
Sebastian and Zal formed the Spoonful
Michelle, John and Denny gettin' very tuneful
McGuinn and McGuire just a-catchin' fire
in L.A. you know where that's at
And everybody's gettin' fat except Mama Cass

The end of Zal's run with the Spoonful apparently was precipitated by a marijuana bust. As a Canadian citizen, he was subject to deportation, and reports have it that as a defensive move, he turned in a dealer, which led to tensions with other musicians. But following his return to Ontario, he was a successful restaurateur and a pivotal force in reviving downtown Kingston. He apparently didn't play music much in public any more, but he did show up with the rest of the band for their induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and you can see him in a nice little photo on stage with Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, and Robbie Robertson, the other inductees from that year.

Zal is said to have been the Spoonful's sense of humor. Here's hoping that he's cracking them up and enjoying the peace where "it's always warm like in the mornin'."


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Chloe, Pinot Grigio, Valdadige 2013
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St. Francis, Red Splash 2011
Rodney Strong, Canernet, Alexander Valley 2011
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Taylor Fladgate, Porto 2007
Portuga, Rose 2013
Domaine Digioia-Royer, Chambolle-Musigny, Vielles Vignes Les Premieres 2008
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El Perro Verde, Rueda 2013
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Indian Wells Red 2
If You See Kay, Red 2011
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Cherry Tart, Cherry Pie Pinot Noir 2012
Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Cabernet, Oakville 2012
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Campo Viejo, Rioja, Reserva 2008
Haden Fig, Pinot Noir 2012
Pendulum Red 2011
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Edmunds St. John, Bone/Jolly, Gamay Noir Rose 2013
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Ayna, Tempranillo 2011
Pete's Mountain, Pinot Noir, Haley's Block 2010
Apaltagua, Reserva Camenere 2012
Lugana, San Benedetto 2012
Argyle Brut 2007
Wildewood Pinot Gris 2012
Anciano, Tempranillo Reserva 2007
Santa Rita, Reserva Cabernet 2009
Casone, Toscana 2008
Fonseca Porto, Bin No. 27
Louis Jadot, Pouilly-Fuissé 2011
Trader Joe's, Grower's Reserve Pinot Noir 2012
Zenato, Lugana San Benedetto 2012
Vintjs, Cabernet 2010
14 Hands, Hot to Trot White 2012
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Silver Palm, North Coast Cabernet 2011
Andrew Rich, Gewurtztraminer 2008
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Silver Oak, Cabernet, Alexander Valley 2002
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Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead
Maria Dermoȗt - The Ten Thousand Things
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Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
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Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
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Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
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Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
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Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 377
At this date last year: 237
Total run in 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269


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