December 31, 2020

“Silence often says much more
Than trying to say what’s been said before.”
— George Harrison, “That is All”

…which is why I chose this humble, yet majestic, closing track from his 1973 “Living in the Material World” release to announce that I’m shutting down the Goodboys Nation blog for good.

It’s time.

Hard to believe I’ve been doing this blog for nearly fourteen years. Fourteen years. That’s a long time! Heck, I was just fifty-one at the time. George W. Bush was POTUS. I still remember working with the DreamHost web-hosting team from my Gateway Center work cubicle to put it all together as if it were yesterday. Had someone told me when I made the very first post around the 27th of January 2006 (somehow the first few have been lost to antiquity courtesy of one of the WordPress or DreamHost server upgrades) I wouldn’t have believed it. But here we are.

Originally, the idea of the having the blog was to try and eliminate all the e-mails going back and forth between the Goodboys at the time – social media not anything near what it is today, and blogs were, at the time au courant: they were how one socially communicated over the internet. I figured all the guys could use the blog to communicate and write whatever else came to their minds for informational and entertainment purposes. That idea never took off – the Goodboys still prefer e-mail as the primary form of communication – but I enjoyed the prospect of writing just for the sake of it so the blog ended up as my vehicle for commenting on the ways and the whims of the world.

Initially, I did a lot of posts on western religion (primarily, the Episcopal Church and Protestantism in general), and I wish I wasn’t proven right about my views on liberalism’s ultimate goal of destroying the Christian Church and the nuclear family. One only has to see the current state of both and how precarious our situation is without the strong foundations of both to guide and protect our culture and traditional values. And it was fun to write about golf, politics, and music, or to just be silly and let my imagination run away for the fun of it. And it was really cool to get comments from people I used to know many years prior who had somehow come upon a blog post in their travels.

But the writing was on the wall the very moment I decided to formally retire from being a Goodboy this past July. I hadn’t really thought of ending the blog until one of my fellow Goodboy friends commented about me writing things on a blog referencing the Goodboys that didn’t reflect his views and opinions. And while the saying goes, “once a Goodboy, always a Goodboy”, it got me thinking that perhaps he was right, especially since I wasn’t an active Goodboys participant anymore. And especially since the whole blogging thing had increasingly become more of a chore and less of an exercise in creative writing. I found myself writing to “feed the blog” more than anything else, and I had reached a point where I was basically repeating the same themes over and over again – as Harrison’s lyric alludes to, saying what has been said before.

I mean, how many times can one write about the abject hypocrisy of liberals and Democrats who espouse the virtues of acceptance, tolerance, and diversity when they’re the very ones who seek to destroy anyone who, regardless of their race, creed, or color, doesn’t adhere to their own rigid orthodoxies regarding abortion, immigration, globalism, COVID-19, climate change, etc. etc. etc. Don’t believe me? Just look at how conservatives are being treated by major media and the Big Tech companies: if you don’t kow-tow to their belief systems you get shut out or risk getting shut down. I used to think these people were simply misguided; after a year of enforced lockdowns, nanny-state mandatory mask-wearing, and the media covering up the reprehensible actions of Democratic governors responsible for murdering tens of thousands of elderly citizens by placing COVID-19 patients in nursing homes and assisted-living communities, I have come to see them as evil.

And while I enjoy writing about the music I listen to and and my music collections, who really cares, anyways? I’m a dinosaur who knows he’s a dinosaur and is comfortable being a dinosaur. I’m not in that regard I’m entertaining anyone else but myself. The same holds true as far as my golf game is concerned: it’s a constant struggle and will always be a struggle, but heck, 98% of all golfers struggle with their game, so what’s the big deal there?

At some point it all starts to become a bit stale. Never mind the fact that when one turns 65 there’s only so much left to write about and time left to write about it. Whenever the inevitable health issues arise I don’t want to feel an obligation to have to blog about chemo treatments, coronary angioplasties, broken hips, or lengthy hospital stays. No, there comes a point where a body of work written over nearly fourteen years, for better or for worse, has to be allowed to stand on its own as a period piece. And after the kind of year we’ve all collectively had, it seems the right time to call it a day.

I haven’t decided if I will resurface in some form or another in another social media venue. I quit Twitter because it’s a cesspool and a reflection of the worst of human behavior. I enjoy writing, but I don’t enjoy seeing things going down the tubes as I believe things will in 2021. I truly believe things are about to get very dark, far darker than anyone of us in my age group might ever have imagined. I am extremely pessimistic about everything and anything associated with this country and its institutions, and I don’t relish the thought of commenting about the so-called “American Experience” as it disappears over the horizon. Because, to be frank, under a Biden / Harris administration ruled by the “Deep State” globalists in Washington and protected by a media and the “Big Tech” companies actively stifling any form of dissent, we are fucked. So instead of feeling the need to write about it, I’ll satisfy myself with playing “pool supply guy”, enjoy watching the sparrows flittering and fighting around the bird feeder, ride my bike around the neighborhood, maybe work on my golf game, and try to enjoy the remaining years I have left as “off the grid” as I possibly can.

In closing, I want to express my deepest tanks and sincere appreciation to all of you who over the years made this place one of your regular (or at least occasional) stops in your internet travels. I hope I have at least entertained you in what I have written over these past fourteen years. You may not have agreed with everything I have written, but (most especially with the posts involving work back in early 2018), I never lied to you and always wrote honestly from my soul. It might not always have been pretty and/or entertaining, but it was always from the heart.

Of course, the blog itself isn’t going anywhere; it will be kept around for posterity’s sake as long as I pay the hosting costs, which I will continue to do. I will, however, be shutting off the comments feature after a week’s time – I’m not willing to pay a monthly fee to keep the spammers away and they’re currently inundating the site to the point where it takes valuable time to clean them up on a regular basis. Besides, one of these days, perhaps when I’m much older, it might be interesting to go through the posts over the years to see what I was doing at the time and get melancholy at the posts of all the bunnies we took home and then said farewell to years later. Of course, y’all can still contact me with a call, text, or e-mail. And if I do end up on some other social media platform I’ll put up a post telling y’all where that might be. It won’t be anytime soon, however – I’m ready for break.

Thank you for allowing me onto your computer screens over these past fourteen years, it’s been an interesting ride.

That is all.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 12:00 | Comments Off on That Is All

Well, what a wild ride this year turned out to be. As with most years, there were plenty of endings and beginnings, with, unfortunately, the endings taking precedence – at least for us here in the Richard household. And, as y’all will see, there is one more ending to come. But then to add the whole COVID-19 bullshit on top of everything else, it made 2020 just a wearying, stressful year in so many ways. Between the lock-downs, the mask-wearing, working from home, kids at home learning remotely, and not least the presidential election, everyone seems fried. I see it in peoples’ faces when they come into the store and we start talking – most folks feel that they’ve been patient and willing to do their part, but the goalposts keep getting moved and there is zero faith in what the so-called “experts” have been saying; the level of trust in all of our institutions – most especially government and the media has collapsed.

(Personally, I think we’re in very dangerous territory, and I think 2021 is going to be the year of the Big Pushback, with a political reckoning coming in the 2022 midterms. Our tin-eared politicians in Washington don’t realize the fire they are playing with and there’s an economic reckoning coming next year when commercial real estate collapses and the banks get crushed as a result. It is going to be ugly. But I digress.)

It was a bad year for the rabbits, as we lost Marlie in early February, and Tammy’s Butterscotch in July. Both weren’t exactly unexpected, as they were both up there in terms of bunny years, but it was painful nevertheless. Of course, the best way to remember the rabbits you have lost is to saddle up and just bring in some new ones, and plans are already underway to bring three new baby rabbits into our house in just a couple of weeks once I get my old office cleaned out.

Ah, the office. Which brings me to the greatest change of the year, which was getting laid off from my healthcare IT job at the end of March. Never in a million years could I have imagined at this time last year that I’d be playing a pool supply retail guy at the end of 2020. But it has turned out better than I ever could have expected. Sure, it would have been nice to be able to make it to 2022 and formally retire when I turned 67, but I got a great severance that eased the pain and allowed me to find something that I could enjoy doing without all the stress. Sure, the pay isn’t great – it isn’t even good – and I’ve lost a certain amount of freedom to come and go as I choose (there’s no more “have laptop, will travel”), but for right now, at age 65 and less than a year away from my Social Security full retirement age I have the opportunity to get out of the house and interact with people and still make money doing something I enjoy without any stress. There aren’t too many people who can say that, I’ll tell you!

And there were also those blessings that we all try not to take for granted. We all got through the year without any major health issues, we all avoided getting the Chinese virus, and I’m especially grateful that my dad back in Massachusetts and his retirement community were spared. Financially we find ourselves in as good a place as we’ve ever been, and we avoided any major calamities as far as the house is concerned. A great joy of the year is the bird feeder I hung in the backyard under the Mesquite tree; we now have birds everywhere and they’re eating us out of house and home! Their fussing and constant chattering has brought the backyard to life and made morning coffee on the patio a time to cherish and behold.

One additional ending that 2020 brought was my official retirement as a member of the Goodboys. It was a long time coming, as I hadn’t really enjoyed the last couple of Goodboys Invitational weekends. Truth be told, if it wasn’t for all the COVID-19 bullshit and the increased hassle of travel I might just have seen it through to #30 in terms of years. But it ended up being a good decision; I couldn’t get motivated to work on my golf game, and whenever I tried to it went off the rails in a big way. Had I participated it would have been a disaster, at least golf-wise. I honestly don’t know how much, or even if, I’ll play in 2021. We’ll just have to see if I can generate some interest.

I don’t really have any goals or hopes for 2021. Just try to stay healthy and play everything by ear, I guess. I’ve committed to playing pool supply guy at least through the end of next year, but it’s also reassuring to know that if something were to arise in any way, manner, shape or form I can just walk away without it killing ourselves financially. It’s a good gig, but in the quiet times when I’ve had a chance to just sit and think about where I am and what I am, I realize I still haven’t come to terms with the loss of my healthcare IT career on someone else’s terms and not mine. Of course, it was going to happen inevitably, but the way it happened and what I’m doing right now just seems to reinforce how old I have become and what the coming years will inevitably bring. I guess I’m just not ready to be this old – it’s just puzzling to me where all the years of gone. Whether or not those years were navigated wisely isn’t the question – one only has one life and you live it the best you can; it’s just I can feel my world circle and world view shrink just a little smaller with each passing day. I guess all one can do is push back against it as much as I can, while I can.

At any rate, that’s it for 2020. Normally, this is the point where I’d be asking George Harrison’s “Ding Dong, Ding Dong” to help ring out the old and ring in a new year of blogging, but this year I’m choosing a different Harrison song.

To be continued…

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 05:30 | Comments Off on Auld Lang Syne
December 23, 2020

(continued from yesterday’s post)

It’s pretty obvious to me – and my GOP “deep insider” even admits to this – that the President lost this election not in November, when the voters were actually (or not actually) cast, but in the critical months of late winter and during the spring and summer when key states were setting the ground rules for how the November election was to be conducted. While I’m not happy with what Legal Insurrection’s William A. Jacobson writes, I think he’s right on the money:

There is no better example of why elections matter, and how the 2020 presidential election was lost months ago. Liberal Jill Karofsky defeated conservative sitting Justice Daniel Kelly in an April 2020 election the Wisconsin Republicans completely botched by allowing it to take place the same date as the Democratic presidential primary. Guess who turned out to vote? Democrats. That took the court down to a nominal 4-3 conservative majority, with Justice Brian Hagedorn the weak conservative link.

In many other states, legal and political battles were fought strategically by Democrats over the several months leading up to the election. Democrats organized for a mail-in election, Republicans didn’t. Republicans were out-organized, out-hustled, and out-lawyered.

Jacobson’s right. As the old saying goes, politics ain’t beanbag, and the fact is, the Democrats wanted this election more than the Republicans did, and, in true Democratic style, were willing to do whatever it tool and go to whatever lengths were needed in order to remove President Trump from the White House. They couldn’t do it with the sham “Russia Hoax” and Robert Mueller’s sham of a probe, they couldn’t do it by impeachment over a single phone conversation with a foreign leader, they knew they couldn’t out-hustle the legions of Trump voters who would crawl over two miles of broken glass to vote for their President, so they worked with Big Tech to create an electronic “kill zone” that required nothing more than software systems and software engineers coordinating with veteran Democratic operatives in Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and a few other urban centers to do the dirty work the Washington establishment couldn’t or wouldn’t do.

Of course, at some point, the real truth will come out. At least I sure hope it does because we’re the friggin’ United States of America, dammit, and you can’t have our elections – be they local, state, or federal – executed as if we were some worst example of a banana republic. People need to know their votes count and are given the same weight as everyone else’s. Look, I know politics has always been this way. I come from Massachusetts where the state, counties, and cities and towns are rife with corruption. It’s just the cost of doing business there. Same holds true in other Democratic bastions like New York, Illinois, Michigan, and California. And while it makes for humor and subject of derision for those of us who don’t live there, at some point it’s not a joke anymore. As Vince Goyner writes in The American Thinker:

But what happens when citizens feel as though their right to have a say is gone? What happens when citizens who already have a dim view of government in general have to sit by helplessly as they watch widespread fraud steal that right to say out from under them? What happens when citizens go to bed with one candidate comfortably ahead only to discover in the morning that in a nation with over 3,000 counties, the mysterious midnight machinations of a dozen counties flipped the election to the other guy — particularly when data suggest that such an outcome is less likely than finding life on Mars?

When citizens no longer feel as though they have a say in their government, when they feel as though their government has been stolen right out from in front of them, they no longer feel an obligation to live their lives by the framework laid out in the Constitution. There have always been Americans who have felt wronged or disenfranchised or powerless and decide to act in ways that are…anti-social, but they’ve largely been extreme outliers. What happens when fully half of the population feel as though they have been disenfranchised and were forced to watch the theft play out right in front of them while politicians told them, “Nothing to see here”?

One wonders how, after spending decades watching Democrats setting the table for this fraud (opposing voter ID laws, pushing for same-day voter registration, expanding voting periods, encouraging mail-in balloting, etc.) conservative, non-RINO Republicans and other freedom-loving Americans will react to this theft. It’s one thing to lose an election that appears largely above board – even when you vehemently dislike the other guy – but it’s a whole ‘nutha thing to have the election stolen from you when your eyes, common sense, and reams of data suggest that your guy won. If we were talking about dog-catcher or a state senator, this would probably not matter. But we’re talking about the head of the most powerful government in the world, whose reach extends from your kitchen table to the moon, literally.

Americans have always taken comfort in the face of election losses because our Constitution gives them the opportunity to do a better job of making their argument, getting out the vote, or selecting a better candidate next time. There was always hope. But not this time. If Democrats are allowed to steal this election in plain sight, then all is lost, including hope. No hope for honest future elections – of any kind. No hope for redemption. No hope for freedom. George Orwell said, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” If Democrats are allowed to steal this election, then America’s past becomes a fiction of hate; America’s present becomes a reality of lies, deceit, and coercion; and America’s future becomes one of oppression and subjugation. That is exactly what our Constitution was written to be a bulwark against, which is why Democrats have sought to undermine it for decades.

Such are the things revolutions are made of. This time, we’re watching history unfold right in front of us — and we all know it.

Given the obvious stakes involved, one would think our elected representatives at the state level (where, as the saying goes, the sausage is made) would give a shit about their roles and responsibilities and making sure no voter is disenfranchised for any reason, but perhaps that’s just the idealist in me talking. Perhaps, in the end, no one gives a shit anymore. It’s all about the fucking money, wherever it comes from. That seems fairly apparent at this point – at least to me – and it’s not hyperbole to say this country as we know it is over. Once you’ve lost the rule of law and confidence in our institutions the jig is up.

You have Democratic governors running their states like fiefdoms, using COVID-19 as an excuse to trample on the rights of their citizens to make a living and worship their Creator communally. You have the Washington elites agreeing upon a COVID-19 “stimulus” bill that prioritizes foreign nations over the saps who have seen their right to own and run businesses destroyed all because of a virus that has a > 90% survival rate even for those over the age of 65. And the only one standing for our freedoms, regardless of our color, creed, or gender, is President Trump, courtesy of his “America First” agenda. The same agenda that has pissed off the very same Washington elites, their pockets greased by trillions of dollars from the Chinese Communists and George Soros, for the past four years. They couldn’t defeat him by following the very same rules the elites expect us to follow, so they spent billions of dollars to perpetrate an unprecedented fraud on the America people in order to fund a return to their globalist / climate change / open borders / cheap labor agenda.

It sucks. And there’s no going back this time.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 17:46 | Comments Off on Requiem For A Heavyweight – II
December 21, 2020

In the end, all that’s left is President Donald J. Trump and the estimated 70+ million or so of us who re-elected him President of the United States. It ought not be that way, but that’s where we stand. How? Well, it would appear the president was served poorly by those whose job was to help him get elected.

Like the national Republican Party, who was obviously asleep at the switch while Democratic governors in key states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nevada – with Republican legislatures, no less – clearly and unconstitutionally augmented their election voting laws under the guise of taking COVID-19 precautions.

Like his Attorney General chose not to get involved in investigating anything related to systemic fraud, opting instead to basically be fired so he could spend the holidays with his family, blissfully and willingly ignorant at the controversies swirling around how this year’s presidential election was conducted.

Like his circle of advisors and his team of lawyers, who should have been paying attention to all things related to the above.

To echo Rodney Dangerfield’s old laugh line, the guy gets no respect. Heck, not even the U.S. Supreme Court, whom one might think would be interested in at least considering the way one state follows its own rules for how presidential electors are chosen versus those who don’t, seems uninterested. And this, even after Pennsylvania ignored Justice Sam Alito’s order to segregate ballots received before and after Election Day.

Not that I’m all that surprised at all this, mind you: Trump is, and will always be, a brute force to be reckoned with. He never was, and never will be, the kind of guy who easily accommodates working within someone else’s framework – he’s a businessman and a doer, not a politician who talks out of both sides of his mouth and practices the delicate art of persuasion by greasing both sides of his hands. He’s both impatient and demanding, and I’m sure the infighting reported within his administration from Day One involved people far more accustomed to the Beltway way of going about things was more than contributory in that regard. Even so, there’s no excuse for the President to be let down by his own party, his re-election team, and the supposed “army of lawyers” who assured us that they were working in the trenches to prevent the election from being stolen from him. Because they weren’t. Instead, they all appear to have been asleep at the switch thinking that the heavy lifting involving presidential elections involves only the campaign itself and not the “inside baseball” played during the prior winter, spring, and summer months when various key “battleground” states were finalizing the ground rules on how the election would be conducted.

I knew there was some factor I was missing in how the 2020 election game was being played, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. But looking back now, it should have been as clear as day. The Washington establishment (a.k.a. “the Swamp”) wanted a return to pre-Trump “go along, get along” normalcy, and that meant doing whatever was needed to toss Bernie Sanders and his legion of progressive dreamers to the slag heap for a second time in order to select a clueless, doddering, harmless swamp creature like Joe Biden to head the Democratic ticket. It didn’t matter who he chose for VP – in the end, he or she would end up doing whatever the Party establishment wanted because the fix was already set in place. Heck, the guy didn’t even venture out of his basement to campaign regularly; just enough to make the fix not so obvious to those who might suspect something was up. In that regard, fears relating to the COVID-19 pandemic provided more than enough cover.

It seemed weird to me how Biden could even be in the running with the haphazard way his campaign was being run: no door-to-door get out the vote, campaign events lacking any real coordination or enthusiasm, and zero information about what a Biden / Harris agenda would be, beyond pushing the wearing of masks. Not that Biden had to do much of anything beyond putting up the facade that a bona fide presidential campaign was being waged. After all, he had a full-court press of forces backing him and doing all the work: you had the major cable networks and the mainstream media hitting Trump with everything they had, and the Big Tech forces of Twitter, Facebook, and Google supporting them in shutting down conservative voices on their platforms and doing everything they could to suppress anything negative about Biden and his family’s corruption involving Ukraine, China, and other places.

Suckers that we were, we saw the over-the-top enthusiasm being displayed for the President at his own rallies and in the impromptu truck, motorcycle, and boat rallies created by his supporters each and every weekend. They were stunning to see. And completely ignored by the mainstream media. Little did we know that fix was in. I don’t think Biden actually meant what he said when he bragged about having the greatest election fraud organization in American history, but after the ways things have turned out one wonders.

I do think the powers-that-be were caught unaware as Trump voters piled up the numbers on Election Night – so much so that you had multiple swing states announce one after another that they were halting the counting of votes. Perhaps we’ll never know, perhaps we will one day, that software mechanisms had to be tweaked to enable the votes for Biden / Harris to be sufficiently calibrated to ensure the fix be assured.

One doesn’t need to be a mathematician or a data analyst, or a statistician looking at electoral models to know the election was stolen from Donald Trump. All you have to do is look at how the GOP mauled the Democrats in the down-ballot races and other election anomalies. As pollster Patrick Basham in the American Spectator writes:

Midwestern states Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin always swing in the same direction as Ohio and Iowa, their regional peers. Ohio likewise swings with Florida. Current tallies show that, outside of a few cities, the Rust Belt swung in Trump’s direction. Yet, Biden leads in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin because of an apparent avalanche of black votes in Detroit, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee. Biden’s ‘winning’ margin was derived almost entirely from such voters in these cities, as coincidentally his black vote spiked only in exactly the locations necessary to secure victory. He did not receive comparable levels of support among comparable demographic groups in comparable states, which is highly unusual for the presidential victor.

We are told that Biden won more votes nationally than any presidential candidate in history. But he won a record low of 17 percent of counties; he only won 524 counties, as opposed to the 873 counties Obama won in 2008. Yet, Biden somehow outdid Obama in total votes.

Victorious presidential candidates, especially challengers, usually have down-ballot coattails; Biden did not. The Republicans held the Senate and enjoyed a ‘red wave’ in the House, where they gained a large number of seats while winning all 27 toss-up contests. Trump’s party did not lose a single state legislature and actually made gains at the state level.

That ought to be sufficient evidence right there. But Basham continues:

The following peculiarities also lack compelling explanations:

1. Late on election night, with Trump comfortably ahead, many swing states stopped counting ballots. In most cases, observers were removed from the counting facilities. Counting generally continued without the observers

2. Statistically abnormal vote counts were the new normal when counting resumed. They were unusually large in size (hundreds of thousands) and had an unusually high (90 percent and above) Biden-to-Trump ratio

3. Late arriving ballots were counted. In Pennsylvania, 23,000 absentee ballots have impossible postal return dates and another 86,000 have such extraordinary return dates they raise serious questions

4. The failure to match signatures on mail-in ballots. The destruction of mail-in ballot envelopes, which must contain signatures

5. Historically low absentee ballot rejection rates despite the massive expansion of mail voting. Such is Biden’s narrow margin that, as political analyst Robert Barnes observes, ‘If the states simply imposed the same absentee ballot rejection rate as recent cycles, then Trump wins the election’

6. Missing votes. In Delaware County, Pennsylvania, 50,000 votes held on 47 USB cards are missing

7. Non-resident voters. Matt Braynard’s Voter Integrity Project estimates that 20,312 people who no longer met residency requirements cast ballots in Georgia. Biden’s margin is 12,670 votes

8. Serious ‘chain of custody’ breakdowns. Invalid residential addresses. Record numbers of dead people voting. Ballots in pristine condition without creases, that is, they had not been mailed in envelopes as required by law

9. Statistical anomalies. In Georgia, Biden overtook Trump with 89 percent of the votes counted. For the next 53 batches of votes counted, Biden led Trump by the same exact 50.05 to 49.95 percent margin in every single batch. It is particularly perplexing that all statistical anomalies and tabulation abnormalities were in Biden’s favor. Whether the cause was simple human error or nefarious activity, or a combination, clearly something peculiar happened.

Yet we’re led to believe that an overwhelming enthusiasm for Joe Biden – even more than that previously shown for Barack Obama – enabled him to win the presidency. Yeah, right.

(to be continued….)

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 19:06 | Comments Off on Requiem For A Heavyweight – I
December 15, 2020

[Ed. note: All traditions, sooner or later, must end. So this will be my last “holiday tribute” to the greatest rock n’ roll Christmas album of all time. I long for the innocence of 1963, the year Phil put this holiday gem together. Boy, is that long gone! Still, after the year everyone has had, if there’s some traditional Christmas cheer to be handed out, who am I to stand in the way?]

That’s right, cats and chicks of all ages, it’s that time of year again. I know the guy’s still sitting in a prison cell, whacked out, burned out, and for all intents and purposes checked out of society and the rock n’ roll world he was once such an iconic part of. But heck, it is the Christmas season and I know it’s not REALLY Christmas until I slap into my CD player the best damned rock n’ roll Christmas record of all time. Which is (for those of you cats and chicks who may not be hip to these kinds of grooves), Phil Spector’s magnificent “A Christmas Gift For You”.

I know what you’re thinking – that’s just The Great White Shank spoutin’ his “yeah-i-know-he’s-in-jail-for-murder-but-believe-me-Phil-Spector-really-was-a-genius” bull$hit, but in this case you need to give me a break. ‘Cause it’s not just me, it’s a whole range of critics across the media spectrum, from Rolling Stone (who rated it #142 in its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time), to bloggers like Hip Christmas and BlogCritics. BC’s praise of the album and its greatness is especially spot-on:

A Christmas Gift For You contains thirteen performances, all captured during that incredible early sixties period when Spector was producing these amazing records. You already know all of the songs, as they have all become tried and true radio staples at Christmas time over the years. Song for song, the wall of sound production — with all of its bells, whistles, and strings — captures all the magic and wonder of Christmas like very little music I can think of. When you hear these songs, it’s like being instantly transported to a kinder, simpler time. It really does feel like Christmas.

In addition to the Ronettes and Crystals classics already mentioned, the standouts here include Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and a version of “White Christmas” so gorgeous you’ll be checking your window for snowflakes. On Bob B. Soxx And The Blue Jeans’ “The Bells of Saint Mary,” the bells and the castanets ring gloriously amid a swirl of gospel-charged backing vocals.

So the thing is, Phil Spector’s recent legal troubles aside, this record just doesn’t sound any different to me. For my money, it’s still the single greatest Christmas record ever made. And tougher sell that it may be these days, it will definitely be on my CD player when the guys and I get together for some Christmas cheer next weekend.

For me, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without it.

The album, considered by many to be Spector’s finest piece of collective work (The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby”, The Righteous Brothers’ “(You’ve Lost That) Lovin’ Feelin'”, and, of course, Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High” being singular achievements), had a bumpy ride on the road to becoming a much-loved and respected holiday pop classic. Originally recorded during the summer and fall of 1963, it was understandably overlooked in those tragic weeks following the assassination of JFK and then virtually forgotten. It was only until its re-introduction to the public on the Beatles’ Apple Records label in 1971 – at the urging of John Lennon and George Harrison (both of whom utilized Spector on their first post-Beatles’ solo albums following his work on Let It Be) – that the album got radio play and finally earned its long-deserved place in pop music history.

So what exactly is it about A Christmas Gift For You that makes it both a holiday pop classic and a piece of work sufficient enough to warrant recognition among rock’s all-time greatest works? David Sprague, in his Amazon.com review, puts it simply: “[Spector’s] “wall-of-sound” technique is perfectly suited to the music of the season, as he proves with layer upon layer of piano, sleigh bells, buoyant percussion, and, of course, those legendary Spectorsound harmonies.”

True enough, but it’s only after you buy it and crank it up VERY loud that you start to appreciate not just the massive sound Spector lovingly and painstakingly crafted, but the way his session players and musical artists make the most out of the material given them. Here, Spector’s artists The Crystals, The Ronettes, Darlene Love, and Bobby Sheen are simply vocal instruments in the overall mix, working within the material and the arrangements, not overpowering them. Listen closely, and you begin to see how the subtleties within each arrangement illustrate Spector’s respect for both the material and the genre that brought him such fame and respect in his day:

* On “White Christmas”, Darlene Love’s lead is beautifully understated (something virtually unheard of in this post-Whitney armageddon of Britneys and Christinas who sound like wailing alleycats in heat). And listen to how the pianos, basses, and saxes (alto and tenor) underscore the rhythm, and how beautifully they finish the song’s fade-out. Magical.

* On “Frosty The Snowman”, Ronnie Spector takes a harmless children’s tune and turns it into a holiday pop masterpiece. Her earnest vocal is the showpiece here – think ‘Frosty’ meets ‘Be My Baby’, with enough warmth and sweetness to turn ‘the Frostster’ into a puddle of lukewarm H2O. Loved hearing it in that iconic scene in GoodFellas where Jimmy goes nuts with everyone buying expensive stuff after the Lufthansa heist.

* On “The The Bells of St. Mary’s“, Bobby Sheen’s lead is sweet and soulful out in front of a driving rhythm highlighted by chimes and Hal Blaine‘s amazing drumwork on the fade-out. Oh, and that’s Darlene Love doing the “yeah, yeah”‘s towards the end.

* The Crystals’ version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” rejuvenated the classic so much so that the artists as varied as the Jackson 5 (ugh!) and Bruce Springsteen, among others, felt it necessary to pay it homage with their own versions. Listen for how the bells tinkle out Brahms’s Lullaby behind La La Brooks’ spoken intro – talk about attention to detail!

* On “Sleigh Ride” The Ronettes give a big fat wet kiss to Leroy Anderson’s classic arrangement; their now-classic “ring-a-ling-a-ling-a-ding-dong-ding” back-up is pure icing on this sweet holiday confection.

* “Marshmallow World” is a fun piece – dig the opening piano with an absolute ton of echo on it. And listen to how the saxes underscore the piano/guitar rhythm – you’re talkin’ Wall of Sound here, baby! The mix has always sounded a little muddy to me, but I think that’s just the sheer number of musicians playing at the same time – Phil always did his mixing live while the entire ensemble was playing. Darlene Love’s vocal is energetic and playful, a great performance.

* “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”. You don’t get the #2 slot on my Top 10 Christmas list for nothing. Simply put, there is nothing wanting in this recording – the performances are top-notch throughout. Ronnie Spector’s lead is both devilish and sexy, and the arrangement rocks. Listen for the piano fills and the sleighbells workin’ behind the saxes. It almost sounds as if Ronnie is slurring her s’s here (‘kishing’ Santa Claus); I think she’s doing it deliberately so I fall in love with her voice all over again every year at this time.

* On “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer”, listen for the guitar riff (Tommy Tedesco? Barney Kessel?) that frames the song throughout, a style similar to what Brian Wilson would later employ on The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” a couple of years later. There’s also a piano (and guitar?) doing something funky from the instrumental break onward, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what it is.

* “Winter Wonderland” is a faithful and fun rendition. Listen for those trademark shimmering strings featured throughout – they sound kinda funky to me – and how drummer Hal Blaine absolutely beats the daylights out of his toms on every fill. Darlene Love’s vocal is both soulful and fun. A magnificent arrangement.

* “Parade of The Wooden Soldiers”. OK, listen to how the strings behind The Crystals’ rollicking performance absolutely shimmer like glistening snow, especially behind the trumpet solo in the middle. No one – and I mean NO ONE – could make Christmas pop music like Phil Spector. (If you doubt me, just listen to John & Yoko’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”) Again, Hal Blaine’s drum fills on the fade-out are pretty intense.

* “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)”. Arguably the showpiece of the album. If you want a true holiday audio feast, come inside Mr. Spector’s kitchen where everything – including the kitchen sink – has been tossed in here. Shimmering strings and double acoustic bass (how does he get that sound?) create the necessary tension, then horns introduce a TOTALLY PUMPED and unleashed Darlene Love vocal that leaves nothing – and I do mean NOTHING – in the tank. The grand build-up to close the song is classic Spector: layers and layers of guitar, piano, strings, and percussion back the call-and-answer vocals between Love and the backup singers (a seventeen-year-old Cher‘s voice can be clearly heard) until the tension is finally released in a tidal wave of vocal calisthenics, soaring strings, drum fills, and piano arpeggios. Simply put, one of the great pop vocal performances of all time.

* “Here Comes Santa Claus” is anticlimactic following Love’s tour de force, but it’s to Bobby Sheen’s credit that his straight, if understated, reading becomes the showpiece on this song. The trumpet solo in the middle has a ringing, jazzy touch to it which compliments Sheen’s soulful vocal.

What truly makes A Christmas Gift For You such a remarkable achievement is the success Spector achieved in fusing together what was then a radical way of interpreting familiar holiday songs without, as he would write in the album’s liner notes, “losing for a second the feeling of Christmas and without destroying or invading the sensitivity and the beauty that surrounds all of the great Christmas music.” More than anything else, Spector respected the music he was trying to interpret as his own. In the end, this is what makes this work an enduring classic for the ages.

So a final “Merry Christmas” to you Phil. Sure, you learned the hard way that tequila and gunplay can be a lethal combination, and in your pre-prison life you were an arrogant and wacko genius, but you’re still, and will always be, one of my musical heroes. I wish you all the best in the rest of the life you have left. You’re contributions to rock n’ roll will surely be forgotten over time – as we all will – but while it was good for you it was very good. I hope you find the joy your music brought to so many of us over time to be of some comfort.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 19:17 | Comments Off on My Final Holiday Ode To St. Phil

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