25 July 2017

Nine Random Thoughts from an Aortic Valve Replacement Recovery

9. While Hartford Hospital is not a great place to get a good night's sleep, the surgery performed by Dr. Robert Hagberg and the care by the staff on the cardiac wing and ICU was phenomenal. (AND I recommend the all-you-can-eat sugar-free popsicles.)

8. Medical people really care about bowel movements.

7. When watching Rex Harrison in The Agony and the Ecstasy, I kept expecting him to break into one of those patter My Fair Lady-like songs, "Why Can't a Soldier be More Like a Pope?"

6.  To protect the incision on my chest, for a time I developed the habit of hunching my shoulders, which made me look like I was about to launch into some Bob Fosse choreography. (I wasn't.)

5. Better classic film voice: Ronald Colman or James Mason?
(I LOVE James Mason, but after Lost Horizon, The Prisoner of Zenda, A Tale of Two Cities, and especially Lucky Partners -- with GINGER ROGERS!--, I gotta go with Colman!)

4. Unlike Ms. Winehouse, I'm looking forward to rehab!

3. Felt a bit of the 18th-century aristocrat when I developed a little gout in my right foot. (Didn't like the intense pain at all, but admittedly, if shamefully, enjoyed the aristocrat-iness.)

2. Must finally admit I too attended that Russia meeting with everyone else last summer, but I wasn't collusional at all --- just a little Glasnost-y

1. With my new bovine tissue valve, I'm ready to run with the bulls. Not ahead of the bulls, WITH THE BULLS!

04 July 2017

Top 7 Things I Hope My Cardiac Surgeon Does...

...before, during, and after my aortic valve replacement surgery (Nota bene: a surgery to replace the worn-out valve that, in 2001, replaced the bad valve I was born with):

7. Learn, if he hasn't already, Nick Lowe's "My Heart Hurts;"

6. Enter operating room to Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey's version of Irving Berlin's "Be Careful, It's My Heart:"
                           Be careful; it's my heart.
                           It's not my watch you're holding;
                           it's my heart.
                           It's not the note I sent you
                           that you quickly burned.
                           It's not the book I lent you
                           that you never returned

5. Marvel at the Nathaniel-Hawthorne-fan-boy scarlet A tattooed upon my chest;

4. Remind everyone in the operating room it's "Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey;"

3. Well, THIS:

2. Stop suddenly mid-point in the operation and ask the others sotto voce, "Shhhhhhh. Does anyone else hear strings zinging?";

And the #1 thing I hope my cardiac surgeon does:

Upon finishing the operation, dramatically drop the scalpel, throw his hands up, turn quickly, and exit the room without a word.

07 June 2017

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: The Lost Discography

Yes, 50 years ago, the great "It was Twenty Years Ago...": Live in London was released, but what about the other Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band albums, on which all those great songs were originally released?

We did some digging, and here's the complete list:

1) The eponymous debut album:
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1947) with the band's first hits (and perennial fan favorites):
"Good Morning" (6 weeks on the charts, reaching #2)
"When I'm Sixty-Four" (10 weeks, reaching #1)

The Daily Mail raved, "Wake up, World, post-war Britain is singing the future now!"

2) SPLHCB II (1948)
The sophomore slump personified. No one listened; no one cared.

But the band rebounds (and knows it)!

3) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is Getting Better (1950)
"Getting Better" (8 weeks on the charts, reaching #3)

4) Nine Wholes (1951)
"Fixing a Hole" (5 weeks on the charts, reaching #5)

5) Friends, Lovers, Countrymen... (1954)
Their greatest album, according to conventional wisdom.
"With a Little Help from My Friends" (25 weeks on the charts, reaching #1)
"Lovely Rita" (15 weeks, reaching #1)
"She's Leaving Home" (10 weeks, reaching #5)

On heels of widely successful Friends, Lovers, Countryman... European Tour, frontman (and titular Sergeant) Billy Shears leaves to pursue a film career in the US. After a series of suits and countersuits, the band retains name, undergoes significant changes in personnel, and embarks on various experiments in their sound.

6. Passage to India (1958), also known as "That sitar album."
"Within You, Without You," (2 weeks on the charts, reaching #97)

7. One Word: Plasticene (1961)***
"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (4 weeks on the charts, reaching #52)

Billy Shears reunites with the original lineup for:

8. Home Again (1965)
"For the Benefit of Mr. Kite" (10 weeks on the charts, reaching #7)

The success of the reunion album sparks a new interest and the famous live album:

9. "It was Twenty Years Ago...": Live in London (1967)

What should have been not just a retrospective but a new beginning ends tragically with Billy's mysterious disappearance in a plane over the English Channel.  The band would never reunite.

***American screenwriter Buck Henry, a huge fan of the band since Friend, Lovers, Countrymen..., would make a punning allusion (which most American filmgoers missed) to this album in Mike Nichols' 1967 The Graduate.