Sunday, October 5, 2008

Look at that caveman go!

Palin Claimed Dinosaurs and People Coexisted”. I first saw this story in the Huffington Post, quoting the LA Times. Amidst the chorus of guffaws and Lurch- impressions emitted by my friends and associates, Parke Wabash offered: “Of course, people lived with dinosaurs! Read Alley Oop.”
I quickly located am online mp3 of Alley Oop by the Hollywood Argyles and gave it a spin. I can still remember listening to the song with my dad on the little jukebox in the booth at Aunt Martha‘s Pancake House in 1960. In those days, the truck stops and family-type restaurants of America often had individual little jukeboxes in the booths, into which you could deposit nickels or dimes to hear the latest hits while you waited for your meal, ate, drank coffee or just killed time hanging out. It is part of the “Old, Weird America”, beloved by the likes of Harry Smith and others, myself included. Such homey accoutrements did not seem “weird” back then, but rather, as normal as maple syrup, and they are gone forever, if you happen to believe in linear time.
In a funny kind of way, Alley Oop started the Sixties. The song was recorded and released early in 1960. It’s the first song to lyrically treat Einstein’s theory of General Relativity as a given:

“There’s a man in the funny papers we all know
He lives way back a long time ago”

“Lives”, not “lived”. Multiple temporal realities are here taken for granted. A further synchronicity is evidenced in the surname of Oop’s erstwhile 20th Century mentor in V.T.Hamlin ’s original comic strip, Doc Wonmug, a play on the name “Ein stein”- meaning literally, a single instantiation of the traditional implement the Krauts suck their suds from.
The song also has its own brand of quantum mechanics at play: two different groups released the song on the same day, May 30th, 1960, and the two versions charted at Number One- simultaneously!
That’s two objects occupying the same space in time. And, the original group, the Hollywood Argyles, never existed in the first place!
The guy who booked the session named the combo after the intersection where the studio stood: Hollywood Boulevard at Argyle. Go there and look if you don’t believe me. Last time I checked it was some kind of bank, but of course that’s not saying much nowadays.
The guys who played the original session each got paid the same amount; $25 flat, one time. The singer, Norm Davis, is a poet now living in Rochester NY (Wikipedia).
The other group that shared the song’s Number One status was called Dante and the Evergreens. If I ever heard it, I don’t recall.
There was a third group who also released a version of the song. The Dyna Sores’ version of Alley Oop made the top 60.