8 January 2009
I really hate William Zantzinger. I mean, I really hate him.
In his politically charged days, Bob Dylan wrote many endearing numbers that touched the soul of America and was a voice of change amidst the turmoil of the 1960s. On his second and third albums, Dylan was at his most political, singing songs that would endure long after they were written, songs that would never grow old. “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “Masters of War”, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “Oxford Town” from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. “When the Ship Comes In”, “Only A Pawn In Their Game”, “With God On Our Side” and the title track from The Times They Are A-Changin’. And then there’s “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”, also from Times, the minutely fictionalized account of a society gathering in February 1963 and its aftermath.
Hattie Carroll was fifty-one years old. She had eleven children. She was employed part-time at the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland as a barmaid. She waited on the wealthy clientele as they thumbed their noses at her and her kind, as they championed segregation in Charles County. She was an average American who did her job, raised her family and who would never have been sung about if not for the events of February 8-9, 1963.
William Devereux Zantzinger (not Zanzinger, though perhaps the name change was to protect Dylan from libel) was twenty-four years old, a high society type who was born into the crust of American society. His father was descended from the first settlers of Maryland, his mother from a former governor of Maryland. He had gone to the finest schools, he was wealthy and he was landed. He had a large tobacco farm, employing whites and African Americans alike. Zantzinger himself even worked alongside them, he even drank with them. It is a shame he wasn’t a teetotaler, because it was his drinking that led to his most dastardly deed.
To put it simply, Billy Zantzinger was acting the fool. Having already assaulted employees at a prestigious restaurant, he walked into the Emerson in a white tie and tails, top hat on his head, cheap carnival cane in his hand. He started out imitating Fred Astaire, growing more sinister as he grew more inebriated, whipping staff for not addressing him as “sir” and engaging in fisticuffs with a gentleman trying to prevent him from hitting his wife with his shoe. And it all culminated with landing blows on the shoulder and atop the head of a part-time barmaid who wasn’t fixing his bourbon fast enough.
Patience is a virtue that was severely lacking in the young Zantzinger. With a garbled tongue, Carroll stated how Zantzinger had upset her. Worried, the staff called an ambulance, which took Carroll away to a hospital where she died eight hours later. Zantzinger was booked for his other actions at the gathering, only after Carroll’s death would the authorities charge him with his role, though he was easily able to make bail. The trial was moved for the benefit of the accused and Zantzinger was able to await the trial at the relative comfort of his 630-acre tobacco farm.
The trial was a bit more complicated than Dylan let on. Hattie Carroll had hardened arteries, high blood pressure and an enlarged heart, which could have contributed to her death, though the cause of death was still given as a brain hemorrhage. Still, the law was on Zantzinger’s side, as it generally is for the wealthy. When the judge handed down his sentence, it was no surprise. Six months and a five hundred dollar fine (thirty-one hundred dollars lower than what his bail had been), with the date of incarceration deferred for a few weeks so that the killer could harvest his tobacco crop and the place of incarceration moved from the state prison to the relative comfort of the county jail in Washington County, Maryland. Zantzinger walked out the county jail in 1964 a free man. His notoriety wouldn’t end there.
He eventually sold the farm and went into real estate. He bought several dilapidated shanties with no running water and no fixtures whatsoever, lost them to tax delinquency and managed to collect and even raise the rent on the shanties for years thereafter, never providing the residents with so much as an outhouse, in flagrant violation of county law. The residents simply had to dump their waste on the ground. He collected over sixty-thousand dollars in rent on properties he did not own. For the longest time, he simply could not lose. However, these actions would catch up with him, and he was eventually sentenced to a year and a half work release, given community service and a fine roughly equal to the amount of money he’d taken from the poor African American tenants who were unaware Zantzinger was no longer their landlord. Strangely enough, tenants in the courtroom actually cried at that announcement.
Did I mention that Hattie Carroll was African American and Billy Zantzinger was white? Bob never does, but the listener would be a fool not to realize it. The tale of Carroll and Zantzinger was but one of the tumultuous 1960s and had it not been for the young songwriter Dylan, the tale probably would have been forgotten. The date of the sentencing was August 28, 1963, the same day that Bob was at the March on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King and that story would trump any other that happened to be in the newspaper, though brief blurbs were printed in the New York, Baltimore and Washington papers. I really fucking hate William Zantzinger, but he died on January 3, nearly forty-five years after he got his freedom. Good riddance. May he rot in Hell forevermore.
You should put on “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” if you have it. It’s Bob Dylan at his most lyrical, a brilliant portrait of life in the segregated Southland in the 1960s. Dylan was already moving away from the topical material by the time the song was released, but he must hold a place in his heart for Hattie Carroll. He still breaks out the song he wrote about her.
21 August 2008
And here’s part two of “The Beatles’ American Releases”…
04) A HARD DAY’S NIGHT [26 June 1964]
This one had a unique release. For one, it didn’t appear on Capitol, instead appearing on United Artists Records. All seven of the songs featured in the film are present as is “I’ll Cry Instead”, which Lennon had unsuccessfully argued for placement in the film. The remaining tracks are performed by the George Martin Orchestra, three of them (“A Hard Day’s Night”, “I Should Have Known Better” and “And I Love Her”) also present as performed by the group on the LP. The fourth track, an instrumental version of “That Boy”, retitled “Ringo’s Theme (That Boy)”, is pleasant enough (its presence in the film is a highlight).
05) SOMETHING NEW [20 July 1964]
Capitol, who held the single rights to all of the material from A Hard Day’s Night, set about releasing six of the seven songs on 45s between March and July (for some reason, “Tell Me Why” didn’t make it). The album released four weeks after the American A Hard Day’s Night was a cash-in release if ever there was one. Four songs previously released on the American A Hard Day’s Night and four from the second side of the British version.
The remainder was devoted to the second side of the British Long Tall Sally extended play (recorded and released in June) and the German version of “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand”, which closes the album rather pointlessly.
06) BEATLES ’65 [15 December 1964]
Beatles For Sale was kind of a weak release. Exhausted at having had to write the entire A Hard Day’s Night soundtrack plus a non-album single by themselves, Lennon and McCartney had to rely on six covers to fill out their fourth album. At the same time as the British got it, the Americans got their seventh and final Beatles album of 1964. Eight of the fourteen tracks from Beatles For Sale, both sides of their most recent hit single (“I Feel Fine” / “She’s A Woman”) and the closing track to the British A Hard Day’s Night made up this ragbag release.
Side one is rather faithful to Beatles For Sale, presenting the first six tracks in the same order that they appear on that LP. Side two, however, isn’t.
It sold a million in its first week.
25 April 2008
The Beatles invaded America in a big way in 1964.
Well, the country was reeling from the loss of J. F. K. and needed something to deal with the pain and the music of the four lads from Liverpool helped this country to come out of its rut. Unfortunately, the Beatles’ music was not presented in a less-than-honorable way. Over the next few posts, I’ll be writing about the American bastardizations of the proper British albums and why they’re mostly inferior.
01) INTRODUCING… THE BEATLES [10 January 1964] and THE EARLY BEATLES [22 March 1965]
Vee-Jay Records released seventeen songs by The Beatles, seven on singles and fourteen on the only Beatles album they released, Introducing… The Beatles. Confused? You won’t be.
The Beatles’ debut platter (by a mere ten days) in America, this was actually a bit faithful to Please Please Me. Because American 12″ LPs usually had 11-12 songs per LP rather than the British standard of 14, Vee-Jay removed “Ask Me Why” and “Please Please Me” (previously released on a Vee-Jay single in February 1963) when compiling the album. Neither song from Vee-Jay’s second single, “From Me To You” and “Thank You Girl”, was considered.
Originally planned for July 1963, management shake-ups had prevented the album’s release then. Only after Capitol Records finally started to promote the Parlophone performers did Vee-Jay reconsider. Having already pressed album covers (the front covers, anyways), they went ahead and released the album, legality be damned.
And of course the legal troubles prevented Vee-Jay from capitalizing on the release. The fact that the American publishing rights to “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You” were owned by Capitol (and that the songs had yet to appear on Capitol) forced Vee-Jay to replace them with the two tracks they had already removed from their version of Please Please Me, “Please Please Me” and “Ask Me Why”. For months Vee-Jay fought with Capitol over the rights to the Beatles, but eventually got the rights to release the material in any way they saw fit until October 1964, when all rights would revert to Capitol.
They sold 1,600,000 copies in nine months. And this was when the 45 was king. Adding the four singles that they released either on Vee-Jay or one of its subsidiaries (which also sold millions of copies), the Beatles helped to keep Vee-Jay afloat for another two years. Losing The Beatles surely quickened the label’s demise.
Capitol turned around five months after gaining the rights to the Vee-Jay material and issued The Early Beatles, dropping “I Saw Her Standing There” (which they had already released on Meet The Beatles), “There’s A Place” and “Misery” (which would have to wait a decade and a half to come out on LP). Compared to other Capitol butchering, dropping one Lennon track, one McCartney track (albeit a previously released one) and one Lennon-McCartney track makes sense. Harrison’s and Starr’s showcases remain and that’s a good thing.
02) MEET THE BEATLES [20 January 1964]
Deceptive title and all (but then, there probably was no time to change it), Capitol’s first Beatles LP was truly a grab bag. One track from the proper British debut (“I Saw Her Standing There”), two from the November 1963 Capitol single (“I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “This Boy”) and nine from the second British album, With The Beatles, which shares the same cover shot as this release. Of the twelve tracks, eleven were original compositions, showcasing the genius of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison. While it may sound like a good thing, keep in mind that the five covers lopped off of the British LP would all be included on the next release, making it the only Beatles album with more covers than original compositions.
Ringo and George both have their showcases (though George loses two of the three he had on With The Beatles- though two of them were covers). It’s a great album, full of energy. And it wasn’t nearly as bad as any of the subsequent LPs issued in 1964.
03) THE BEATLES’ SECOND ALBUM [10 April 1964]
Second Capitol album. With another five tracks left over from With The Beatles, three single sides, a track from the as-yet-unreleased in Britain A Hard Day’s Night sessions and two from the first side for what would be the Long Tall Sally extended play in Britain (recorded in March, they would be released in Britain in June). A grab bag it certainly was.
The album did well enough to knock Meet The Beatles off of the top of the charts, but that doesn’t mean that it is the best example of the group’s recorded works. The biggest problem is that six of the tracks on the eleven-track album are covers, making The Beatles’ Second Album the only album to have more covers than original songs.
Part II will follow soon…
14 November 2007
Philip David Ochs. Some of the greatest singer-songwriters never got the recognitions they deserved. He’s near the top of my list.
Better protest writer than Dylan, equal to Bob in his years wandering through the wilderness.
I’d like some of my relatives to pay attention to the second song if they find this. Which they probably won’t.
Here’s a fifth song, real good.
15 August 2007
Arthur Lee, the leader of the Los Angeles-based Love, got incredibly screwed over in life.
After introducing his friends The Doors to Jac Holzman, head of Elektra Records (who wasn’t so impressed with the bass guitar-less quartet), he saw the label spend a fortune on advertising them. Love put out the greatest album of ’67, only to see the label sit on its hands and do nothing to promote it.
Love imploded, Lee set about reforming it only to have the reformed group implode. His solo career stalled. He was eventually sent to jail for a relatively minor infraction. When I think of all of the idiotic celebrities who do so much more harm and escape unscathed it angers me. Why couldn’t Arthur have won? If he had been more famous, he wouldn’t have gone to jail. I’m sure of that.
Of course, he got out, started touring and getting back to music. Only to come down with leukemia. And he died in spite of the best efforts to save his life.
8 August 2007
When you know as much about music as I do, you know when to spot a good deal. And the seven-disc issue of The Collection by Sly and the Family Stone is such a deal. Collecting the group’s seven albums for Epic (all rife with bonus tracks) in one tidy box, it provides the listener with a collection of all but three* of the 111 commercially available tracks that the group released between 1967 and 1974. It’s essential listening for any fan of great music. But hurry, it’s limited edition!
*=The group’s non-album tracks “Hot Fun in the Summertime”, “Thank You (Fallentinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” and “Everybody Is A Star” are missing. These were supposed to be the cornerstones for a 1970 album by the group but due to Sly Stone’s increasingly erratic nature, the album never materialized. Epic released those three songs on Greatest Hits instead. Sly and the group eventually emerged with There’s A Riot Goin’ On one year later.
Here’s the group doing a medley for television in 1969. It’s great!