Zappa via the internet

I remember seeing an interview where Frank Zappa was explaining why so many weird records got made in the late 1960s. He didn’t mention drugs or inner visions, but he did say something interesting about business.

According to Zappa, the label bosses at the time were old men and they didn’t know what was going on. This made them willing to gamble for teenage dollars. I imagine that’s how a song about the thrill of nudism, sung by animated cats, made it onto Saturday morning television.

The Cattanooga Cats was a Hanna-Barbera cartoon that aired on Saturday mornings from 1969-71. The titular cats were a rock band. They “performed” a couple of original tunes on each episode. These were the bubblegum days when it wasn’t unusual for sessions pros to back fictional, and even animated, bands. Josie and the Pussycats, The Archies, and The Banana Splits were also fictional rock bands with Saturday morning shows. The Cattanooga Cats songs were sung by two teenagers named Michael Lloyd and Peggy Clinger.

Cattanooga Cats Country and Kitty Jo cruising

Cattanooga Cats Country and Kitty Jo, cruising

Lloyd also played in a handful of other short-lived groups, the least obscure being the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. They covered a Zappa tune. Peggy Clinger sang and played in bands with her sisters. A handful of 45s are credited to The Clingers and the Clinger Sisters. Post-Cats, she wrote some songs for the Partridge Family, and she put out an album in 1972 called Cymbal and Clinger with somebody named, no kidding now, Johnny Cymbal. It was a different time and details are sketchy.

Maybe William Hanna and Joseph Barbera listened to The Cattanooga Cats songs and thought, “Whatever. Go for it.” If so, that was pretty cool of them. Maybe they didn’t listen to the songs and thought the same thing, which is also kind of cool. The songs, including “My Birthday Suit” and “My Girlfriend is a Witch,” were written and produced by Mike Curb. He wasn’t a teenager, but he was still pretty young, and one gets the sense that he was seeing how much he could get away with. Later, he dabbled in California politics, bought a NASCAR car, and was inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame.

Hartman, a college friend from back east, calls himself a press agent but really he works on the truck that delivers the thousands of gallons of Gatorade required to fuel the Prudential Center in Newark each day. He told me the NFL was set to put the touch on Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch for half a million dollars if he didn’t show up and say something, anything, at a frantic PR circus called Super Bowl Media Day being held at the Prudential Center and sponsored by Gatorade. A threat like that would certainly put me in a bad mood and I love the sound of my own voice, so I can just imagine that this was particularly insulting to someone who just wants to play ball and actually has the money to lose. However, as admirable as contempt for the press might be, the man did sign a contract. Any time Lynch was asked anything he said, “I’m just here so I don’t get fined.” He said it 29 times. Hartman counted and I’m happy to take his word for it.


Two summers ago, I stayed three humid days with Hartman in his apartment after he scored the coveted truck route. It runs from a warehouse that sits adjacent to a typhoid swamp in Kearny straight to the Prudential Center. He said, “It’s the main vein, dude. Sixty-thousand gallons. Everyday.”
“Uh huh,” I said. “You told me. We’ve got to go.”
Southwest flight 183 to Oakland was leaving Newark Liberty International in 40 minutes and I was going to be on that plane. Hartman was fooling with the bong and looking for his keys at the same time.
“You have to see this,” he said laughing. He took a picture off the refrigerator. “Last Halloween. It’s me as Jim McMahon. Remember him? The Chicago Bears?”
“What difference does it make?” I yelled. “We have to go!”
He found his keys and got me to the airport, but I don’t like cutting it so close.

Until this week, I didn’t know Marshawn Lynch from Loretta Lynch, who I’m inclined not to despise only because her name sounds so much like “Loretta Lynn,” the coal-miner’s daughter.

Let's call it a  bargain.

Real talk

There’s no foreseeable reason that Loretta Lynch won’t be the next attorney general. Her confirmation hearing was yesterday. These types of things can be sort of fun if you’re in the right frame of mind, but ultimately it’s just another opportunity to be disappointed. I feel the same way about the Jersey Shore— the place and the show, even though I’ve never seen the show.

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa was the panel chairman. He’s also in Diane Feinstein’s bridge club. With the inmates running the asylum, the GOP’s brightest stars took the opportunity to pointlessly campaign against Obama. Lynch gave the steady impression that she thought Obama was doing reasonably well. She wants the job after all, and the job is being kind of a weasel.


Cruzin’ on empty

May Heaven help Ted Cruz. The Texas senator was as crazed and disoriented as ever, his speech confused, his mind addled. Reason isn’t anything he cares about and Lynch was at a loss for answers. It was an odd, strained exchange, but right on par when it comes down to it.

As a way of showing that she’s not a weasel, and that she doesn’t just go along with the Obama program no matter what, Lynch jabbered about her opposition to marijuana legalization in a manner so disjointed that Cruz sat up in his seat and smiled like the prize boy. It should surprise no one that Lynch doesn’t “currently” support marijuana legalization.

Is there anything to be gained by endlessly circling the same stupid May pole with lunatics like Grassley and Feinstein? Or listening to the same rotten answers repeated over and over again? And now that I’m paying attention, how risky is Marshawn Lynch for Super Bowl MVP at 4-1? Too bad we can’t ask Frank Zappa.