Monday, February 29, 2016

You Cunts! Beatle John diddles them San Francisco Bay Blues

One of the stupidest songs ever recorded is "San Francisco Bay Blues." It's one of those shitty up-tempo pseudo-vaudevillian pieces of crap. It's the kind of "let's wear bell bottoms and hold flowers" things that an Andy Williams might've sung on a 60's variety show, in a duet with Cher and/or Mama Cass (the vaginal Laurel and Hardy).

The irony is that it's an actual blues, written by a black guy named Jesse Fuller back around 1954. Unfortunately, he was a "one man band" who apparently was a novelty act for crowds of affluent white tourists. Based on a YouTube video of him doing this awful song, I can imagine him on the pier, banging his drum, twanging his guitar, and yeah, tooting a fucking harmonica between choruses, smiling as the hat on the ground filled with coins. Who was in San Francisco back then besides vacationers looking for amusement and a fish dinner with Rice-a-Roni?

By the late 60's the hipsters and the Boho homos took over. For the latter, "Ghirardelli Chocolate" was just code for wanting to ass-fuck an Italian. Also by then blues and R&B were eclipsed by several nefarious music forms, all of them somehow warping "San Francisco Bay Blues" like Jimmy Savile alone with a child.

Fuller's corny tune was picked up by the late 50's and early 60's folkies, the "let's all wear the same striped t-shirts" 3-man folk groups. They tricked up this blues piece the same way they trivialized Mexican rhythms ("Tijuana Jail") and hammering a mild joke into an overbearingly rousing gag tune ("The M.T.A. Song.") If you could get the crowd banging spoons on the table at the notion of a man unable to get off a fucking subway train because he didn't have a nickel (and his wife threw him sandwiches each day INSTEAD of a nickel), then the "snappy" ode to S.F. Bay was just your cup of espresso.

I'm not sure if one-man-band Fuller played kazoo or that was an affectation added by Greenwich Village musos, the type who failed to impress some girl who wore all-black clothes and mascara that could've been applied by a State Highway tar crew. The type who ended up coming home alone to moodily smoke an un-filtered Pall Mall, tap the bongos, and listen to Jean Shepherd musing on life's miseries on late night radio.

From the early 60's when Ramblin' Jack and the sprightly Peter Paul & Mary covered it, "San Francisco Bay Blues," like the infamous chicken, laid in the middle of the road. There it was plucked up by most any lame late 60's act. By then there was a new type of MOR music. One writer who got diverticulitis from sucking a lollipop with his ass all day called it "zunshine pop." You know the genre. It included retro-20's schlock and outright crap: "Winchester Cathedral," "Lady Godiva" and "Up Up and Away."

I don't know if this bit of Charleston Chew spewed from the gobs of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band or Ian Whitcomb, but I wouldn't doubt it. I'm sure it was a fave of all those psyche-dipshit bands that were melding pop and jug band or New Orleans "funk," and naming themselves Fungo Jerry or maybe Bill Wicks and His Dipsticks. Remember them? They were the kind that had at least one member wearing a top hat and a handlebar mustache, another never smiling, another was always grinning like an imbecile, and the lead singer milking crowd reaction with a prop box containing Mickey Mouse gloves, oversized orange granny glasses and a version of the arrow-through-the-head trick.

One thing about "San Francisco Bay Blues" that you have to admit: it's catchy. Downright infectious. It almost invites a Clark Terry parody. Terry you'll recall, performed "Mumbles," his "tribute" to marble-mouthed Ray Charles-styled blues singers. Well, ex-Beatle John, who was a wicked guy, would sometimes play around in the studio parodying rock stars and styles. He probably wore out his copy of Peter Sellers taking the piss out of Lonnie Donnegan. And so, sick and tired of uptight mama's little chauvinists in the recording booth taking too long of a toke break when he wanted to make some recordings, he skiffled over "San Francisco Bay Blues," mocking-up the lyrics, strumming like he had Formby's uke, and ending with an appropriate curse.

Off you go...

John's Minute Doodle of San Francisco Bay Blues

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