Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Champagne Charlie

From Andy (a comment from the last post): "Look boy. Don't make me repeat for the blog here what I told you (i.e., shouted at you, so the entire store heard) 25 years ago in Pennylane Records, when you dared question "who is that??!!" as they played Leon Redbone's greatest album and song, Champagne Charlie."

My response to Andy's comment:

I don't remember the song. That memory was discharged from me like a hairball from a cat.  I do recall this: The Pennylane Records "conversation" was the verbal equivalent of walking into a buzz saw. No, wrong. It was more like Mike Tyson walking up to me and then belting me with a left-right combination because I had the audacity to ask him the time.  True, I was puzzled by the song they were playing.  Unenlightened rube that I was, I didn't recognize Leon's vocals as a musical style nearly as much as the drunken mumbling of a white New Orleans pimp caught on tape. Now I do not recall how much of this attitude I conveyed in my question to Andy, but I must have asked it in a very very very offensive manner.  Because Andy’s (LOUD) response was merely three words. The first word being a quick "Well," and the ultimate word was "YOU!!!"  I'll leave the penultimate word to your imagination, which need not be especially astute or creative--or even awake--to accurately guess.

Being the fighter that I am, my response to Andy's "suggestion" was to lower my head, quiver my lips, and splatter the floor of the record store with big plops of salty cry-baby tears. 

Life does to us what she wants, and it turns out that nowadays I like Leon Redbone just fine. And Andy is correct: Champagne Charlie is a terrific little tune--er, masterpiece.  But at the time I was young and ignorant and…well, what can I say?  Oh how wrong I was. How so very very VERY wrong.  At the time, I had not known that Andy was raised on Leon and that my question was tantamount to wishing leprosy on his family.

I didn't know. I just didn't know. Oh sweet Being in heaven, I just didn't know.

--- This video commemorates the Hunter Museum of Art (the New NOLA) and that lovely memory of the beauty of friendship from some twenty-five years ago.


Andy D. said...

I cannot disagree with a single word here, and yes the video adequately commemorates it. Just a couple other "liner notes" for your readers.

1. As I think a little harder about the memory of that date, and yes in somewhat defense of myself and my strong reaction -- I have convinced myself within 80% certainty now that your question was not simply "who is this?" but, instead, "well what is THIS s#%@# !??" I think that is the specific question that honed my barb to a razor point. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

2. I also concur that my immediate reaction was, as you recall, well $#$#@ YOU. Which, as you know from our many conversations on the subject, is really conveyed best not by emphasizing either/only the first or second word, but rather BOTH words. And so that's pretty much how that came out of me that day.

3. I do believe at some point within 30 seconds of the intial question, the phrase "Leon ##$@@ing Redbone) also came out of me. Those are the only two parts of the tirade that I can clearly remember.

4. I also recall that both of the hippee dudes working the record shop that afternoon at least made an initial move to hop off the countertop at the register, where they were reclined (and probably toking up...), to come to your rescue. However, upon realizing (a) the ferocity of the verbal beatdown I was handing you, and (b) the reason I was obliged to do so -- since these were the dudes who put the album on in the first place, and no doubt loved him as well -- my recollection is that upon seeing those two things, the two worker dudes sat right back down on the countertop and left you to your fate.

4A. It is also clear that, given the frequency of our trips to Pennylane, and the duration of them, and the frequency of our arguments anytime we were/are together, the two hippee dudes probably had pretty well seen this day coming for a loooooooooooong time, and only after we left the store probably settled up their high-low bet with each other about "what date the skinny chatty one will finally make the other grumpy one totally lose his cool."

Andy D. said...

5. Shortly after this event, which I would pinpoint in time probably in spring 1986, Pennylane Records changed the name of one of its two locations to Streetside Records. Then a few years later, the other changed to Streetside as well. And then about ten years ago, they both closed. One is now a Greek restaurant, the one where this happened. The other (in Wstport) is some kind of modern day head shop, where they probably also sell rugs and Ikea and chimineas. But I swear that if you listen really closely at the Watts Mill greek place, you can still hear my shouting echoing around in the gyros, cucumber sauce, and bachlava. In fact, I take credit for helping close the place originally; after Mike's beat down I think the Pennylane became known by parents as "that place where that kid got his butt reamed by that angry kid." Because the only ones who knew the whole story was Mike, me, and the two hippee dudes. And none of us was talkin.

6. For the record, I had not been "raised on Leon Redbone," like some swamp kid. I was the founding father of his introduction to my family, probably just a year or so before the beat down. And other than an occasional listen by Brad and a laugh or two by my dad (probably one of the times he appeared on Carson, quite drunk), I think I'm the only one in the family who honestly appreciated him. I can guaranty I'm the only one who saw him live, in my family. And I am likely the only one who owned many of his recordings over time on each of 33rpm album, cassette tape, and CDs. I mean, the same albums, I just keep buying them. My point, I wasn't raised on him. I, raised them, on him.

6A. I did not, however, get a Leon Redbone tattoo. That's probably tattoo #2, however.

7. Not once in 25 years, despite the many retellings of this fateful story, and the obvious harm it did to me phsychologically, has Mike ever apologized to me for that insulting question. Commemorated, yes. Cried like a baby, yes. Wished it had not happened and admitted wrongdoing, yes. But apologized -- no.

8. It's too late, to pologi-ize... It's toooo laaaaaate, it's toooo laaaate....


timekeeper said...

AD--So you think this Leo fellow will be famous one day? Maybe if he puts out an album one day that more than two people in KC buy (you and Gary Smith), he can afford a second non-white suit. I think if he puts in a few more years hard work and stays off the drink, he could make it someday. He just needs to enunciate and I think he may have something magical.

(And I'm sure you are saying, "But four people bought the album. You're forgetting the two hippie dudes." Well, I hate to break it to you, they were just listening to it at work and were too cheap to buy it. In fact, due to the fact that you two were there every day that summer and every Saturday during school, they probably were doing some sort of experiement (cause you know they were majoring in psychology or art history at Avila, right?) of putting on random records--Led Zeppelin, Dire Straits, Peter Gabriel, Yingvie Malmstein, ELO--whenever they saw you approaching to see which artist would cause the crabby dude and the goofy dude to come to blows.)

Andy D. said...


While I cannot disagree with your paragraph second -- your paragraph first leaves SEVERAL GAPS IN AND TAKES SEVERAL LIBERTIES WITH THE REALITY OF THE SITUATION, NAMELY --


B. I AM QUITE SURE THAT LEON HAS SEVERAL MULTIPLATINUM ALBUMS. Not all purchased by me. Not all purchased by toothless swamp dwellers. But by other rational, clean living and clear hearing citizens and music lovers, like me. (Would they defend him to the death like me?... Well likely not. But they do enjoy his albums.)


Mike wrote this, didn't he.


Andy D. said...

MB -- How can you allow TK to speak to me that way?

Also MB -- please complete the following statement: "I, Mike Bailey, love New Orleans. I love the atmosphere, the craziness, the lack of sanity and inhibition, the general dark tone and booziness of it. The beniets, the hurricanes, the late nights, and the dark alleys and graveyards. I regularly photograph "NOLA" and share it with my blog readers, sometimes years later, to give strong testament to it. So great is my love, in fact, that I find it highly ironic that I can't tolerate or understand the art of it's most famous living musician, Leon Redbone, despite my love for everything else NOLA. I realize Leon Redbone's entire catalog is the music of New Orleans, and that his performance personality is the very embodiment of all that I otherwise celebrate about the City. I know Andy is confused by my seeming random decision to disrespect he who would seemingly be a focal point of my own music collection. But there is a simple reason for this juxtaposition, which seems otherwise irrational, baseless, and irreconcilable. It is _________________."


timekeeper said...

AD: Sorry, the first time I heard Leo was from Gary. The second time was on the Muppet Show. (But I must admit at the time I thought he was just a new muppet)

Andy D. said...

I need to find a run down record shop to go have a tantrum in.

It's LEON. LE-ON. Not Leo. Not Levon. Not Leedo. LEEEE. ONNNNN.


AND I WILL NOT... Ok, I can't even continue my thought about the Gary thread, it's just such a diabolical thing to say to me.


Mike Bailey said...

But there is a simple reason for this juxtaposition, which seems otherwise irrational, baseless, and irreconcilable.


Thanks Timekeeper for the brilliant insight. Suddenly the "juxtaposition" became crystal clear.

Andy D. said...

Oh now look who show up.

You need to delete that "he a muppet" comment, my friend, before I go explitcificfragalisticexpialidocious on yo ***.

Mike Bailey said...

Yeah, you're right. Leon is no John Denver. John Denver was a big star in the '70s. But maybe Leon wil be a star someday.

timekeeper said...

I hope I didn't hurt your feelings, AD. You know I think Leo Rathbone has a wide appeal. From the drunks in the alleys of NOLA, to the midwestern teens, to the small child who loves to see the shennanigans of marionette/puppets.

Mike Bailey said...

Yo TK: Winning!

Andy D. said...

Hurt my feelings? That's, how shall I say, imposstibalistic.

: )

Claudia said...

You have no idea how much I'm enjoying this little thread of Leon Redbone banter. Perhaps you don't remember that I worked at Pennylane during the time period of this historic event/beatdown. Although I was not present (or perhaps I was but was suffering silently back in the Classical section) for this particular AD/MB confrontation, I can vouch for the hippee dudes lounging around, undoubtedly toking up, playing Leon Redbone albums AD NAUSEUM. As a former Pennylane/Streetside employee I can say that it took YEARS for me to be able to listen to Leon Redbone without having some sort of hideous reactive Pennylane flashback. Had I known, AD, that you were such a fan, I would have suggested you join the crew working at the store where you would undoubtedly have had your Redbone fill for a lifetime.

(My little code word today is purbils. Purple Gerbils?)

Andy D. said...

Claudia! I had forgotten you worked there! How awesome.

Is it true that it becamse known as The Day of The Beatdown??

Had I thought there was a chance I could go to work there, it probably would have made my YEAR back then. Of course, once they realized that I accounted for probably 8-10% of their total yearly revenue with my purchases, they would have rejected hiring me immediately!

Can you please confirm for me that they actually had a special accounting code for repeat customers like Mike and me? In our case, probably like MOR1 and MOR2, for "moron 1 and moron 2"?? : )

timekeeper said...

Who's crazy now? Proof that Leo was on the Muppets. Believe me...this is probably the biggest audience he ever played for...(Even though they spelled Leo's name wrong, trust me...it is him)


Redbone's cultural ubiquity -- he was a regular musical guest on Saturday Night Live, did The Muppet Show, appeared in Budweiser commercials, was a voice in Elf, and has appeared in the PBS children's show Between the Lions -- would be unthinkable if he got his start in any decade after the 1970s.

(My catchpha word is "bisconsi". I think AD owes me a coffee and bisconsi for schooling him in the Muppets, right? Never doubt me when it comes to Muppets.)

Andy D. said...

Oh come on now. You can't believe everything you read! However the article did correctly note all his other appearances on SNL, and his cultural ubiquity!

I will buy you a bisconi -- and grind it under my heel.

: )