Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the nightclub for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. Glad you could join us. Bring your own beverage. There’s a two-drink minimum, so put one in each hand. I guess you’ll have to set it down to type something.
BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.
Monday was an off-day for the Cubs and I think most of us probably needed a break from that poor display on Sunday night. But the Cubs are taking on the Mets this evening (Tuesday) at Wrigley and the good thing about baseball is that you’re only as bad as your last game. And your last game was usually just one or two days ago.
Last time I asked you who you thought would win the NL Central in 2021. The poll was easily won by the Brewers with 53% of the vote. In second place were the Cardinals with 24%. The Reds were third followed by the Cubs and Pirates.
I wasn’t surprised that the Brewers won the poll, but I was extremely surprised by the margin they won by. To me, all five teams in the NL Central are extremely flawed and none of them have a huge edge over the field. While I definitely think the Pirates are an off-the-wall choice, I think picking any of the other four are defensible positions. Yes, even with the crappy start to the Cubs season.
Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. As always, you can just skip to the bottom if that doesn’t interest you. You’re not going to hurt my feelings.
I’ve been putting off talking about John Coltrane’s 1965 magnum opus A Love Supreme because I’m intimidated by it. I certainly can’t do it justice is a few paragraphs here. A few weeks ago I mentioned that Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue is often considered the greatest jazz record of all time. A Love Supreme is often ranked as the second-best. However, A Love Supreme is also more controversial than Kind of Blue. You’ll often see the line “Is this the greatest jazz album of all time or just the most overrated?” about A Love Supreme. Honestly, I can’t answer that question for you. You’ll have to listen to it for yourself and come up with your own decision.
Some time I’ll talk about why I started listening to jazz in the mid-nineties, but for today I’ll just say that when I decided to take the plunge, the first jazz CD I ever bought was A Love Supreme. I can tell you the thought process that went into that purchase. It was an album I had heard of and knew it was a classic. It was probably also cheaper than other CDs in the same category.
Talk about jumping into the deep end. While A Love Supreme is undoubtedly a classic, it’s not actually the most-accessible one. Whereas Kind of Blue is multilayered and complex, it’s also actually really easy to listen to. Even if you don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out what Miles Davis and the boys are doing on that record, anyone can instantly start bopping to “So What,” the first track on Kind of Blue, and keep right on listening to the end.
A Love Supreme is far more challenging, or at least it was for me. I certainly liked it the first time I listened to it, as far as I remember, but it didn’t grab me. It was a dense, four-part song cycle. If you pay attention, you can hear an introduction, complications, a climax and a resolution. A short story, if you will.
Adding to this complication, the only time Coltrane ever talked about the record was in the liner notes that came with it. In it, he explains that this record is his praise of God, or “The Love Supreme” that he’s talking about. For Coltrane, this album is the culmination of a journey that started in 1957, when he was fired from Miles Davis’ ensemble because his drug habit made him too unreliable. He spent the next few years seeking help for his addiction and finding the strength he needed through God. He’s very clear that there were setbacks along the way, but that through God, we can and will prevail in the end.
The four movements (or songs) on the album are entitled “Acknowledgement,” “Resolution,” “Pursuance” and “Psalm.” This is a spiritual journey that Coltrane is asking you to take with him. And although the language Coltrane uses is Christian, the message is far more inclusive. In the poem/prayer that Coltrane wrote to accompany the piece, Christ is not mentioned. He only praises God in a general sense, inviting listeners of all religions to take this voyage with him.
The record is a quest for salvation through God and music. You could say that it shares that in common with The Beach Boys Pet Sounds, which was recorded a year later. I don’t know if Brian Wilson was influenced by Coltrane, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he said he was.
I should mention one other thing that I completely missed when I first heard the record 25 years ago. The poem/prayer included in the liner notes completely follows the pattern of the sax part that Coltrane plays in the final movement “Psalm.” It is as if Coltrane is reading the words to you through his saxophone. I don’t want to call the poem/prayer lyrics, but in a sense, that’s what they are: Lyrics that are left unspoken.
As expansive as A Love Supreme is, it also demonstrates a kind of editorial eye that Coltrane had not always shown in previous recordings. Checking in at a breezy 33 minutes (close, but not quite 33 1⁄3, or the rpm of an LP), Coltrane is able to keep himself and his band (Elvin Jones on drums, Jimmy Garrison on bass and McCoy Tyner on piano) on topic and limit the wild improvs that go nowhere, which Coltrane often annoyed Davis with earlier in his career. But Coltrane was also influenced by the looser “free jazz” of Ornette Coleman and others. In turn, Coltrane’s ability to “jam” would later influence such rock bands as The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers.
So give A Love Supreme a listen. [Video] If you’re new to jazz, you may be as perplexed by it as I was 25 years ago. I don’t recommend you make it your first purchase like I did. But I do recommend that you come back to it again and again. I think eventually you’ll find it worth your while, if you don’t already.
I don’t really have a movie to focus on today as I spent much of my time listening to A Love Supreme again and again and watching the Dodgers and Padres over the weekend. (And wow, what a series that was. I wish the Cubs could play baseball that compelling that early in the season for once.) I was sitting with my wife doing work when the 1934 Leslie Howard/Bette Davis movie In Human Bondage came on Turner Classic Movies. This is the movie that made Bette Davis a star and made Kim Carnes singing career possible. It’s based on the W. Somerset Maugham novel about a man with a clubfoot who becomes obsessed with a waitress who is an objectively awful person who treats him like dirt and doesn’t even try to hide it. He’s not such a good person either.
My wife said that “Oh yeah, I’ve seen this” to Of Human Bondage to which I responded “I’ve seen this many times. I don’t think I’ve ever watched it though,” Does that make sense to anyone but us? That is, I’ve had the movie on television while I was doing other things and not really giving it my full (or even half) attention. I suppose this time I paid a little more attention to it than I have other times and I think between all the times I’ve seen it, I can probably say I’ve watched it at least once.
The film is undoubtedly a classic, but I don’t think it’s aged all that well. Davis’ Mildred isn’t really given any background or any reason that she is the way she is. She’s just awful because she is. The attraction of Howard’s character, Phillip, to her is shown as a compulsion or “bondage,” but the only explanation for his self-destructive behavior is his deformity. Which really doesn’t make a lot of sense because he’s got at least two other available women who are throwing themselves at him. It doesn’t even hold together as part of Phillip’s self-loathing, which is really only demonstrated through the abuse that Mildred tosses his way.
I’m not saying don’t watch the film—it’s clearly a classic that influenced later films and Davis’s scene-chewing performance (and cockney accent) is certainly worth anyone’s time. But I’d definitely recommend it after recommending many other films of the period first.
Here’s just one scene demonstrating how awful Mildred is. [Video]
You can apparently watch the entire film here. [Video]
Welcome back to the baseball fans who skipped the previous two sections. Today I’m going to ask a little bit about how you became a Cubs fan. I’m also kind of asking you to tell me how old you are, but don’t worry, the answers are anonymous.
I’ve been thinking about Jon “Boog” Scambi becoming the new television voice of the Cubs and what that means. Like it or not, most (although not all) of us become fans of a team through television these days. And in doing so, we invite those broadcasters into our homes nearly every day and we virtually watch the games with them. My hypothesis is that those broadcasters help shape the kinds of fans we become. If you started watching the Cubs when Jack Brickhouse was calling the games, you may think that the team is always a walk, a bloop and a blast away from getting back in the game. If you started watching when Len Kasper was the broadcaster, you may think more about the analytics of the situation and think that the Cubs only have a 1.4% chance of winning this game.
On top of that, many of us are WGN babies. We became Cubs fans because WGN broadcast Cubs games on cable to homes everywhere in the country and even other parts of the world. (Hi, Belize!) Many Cubs fans have little or no connection to Chicago or the state of Illinois, like myself. But even if you grew up as a member of a family of four generations of Cubs fans, you probably learned a lot about who the Cubs were from the man behind the broadcast microphone.
So the question is: Who was broadcasting Cubs games when when you first became a Cubs fan? Maybe you became a fan as an adult in 2016 and you’ve stuck around. Or maybe you started watching games on TV decades ago. And if you want, tell us in the comments if you became a Cubs fan through friends and family or if you did it through television.
I’m leaving radio out of this, but if you want to talk about the radio broadcaster who taught you about the Cubs, please do so in the comments. Except that I am including Jack Brickhouse’s time as a radio broadcaster to cover the era before regularly televised ballgames.
Who was the TV broadcaster for the Cubs when you became a fan?
This poll is closed
Jack Brickhouse (1941-1981)
Harry Caray (1982-1997)
Chip Caray (1998-2004)
Len Kasper (2005-2020)
Boog Scambi (2021—and welcome!)
Not really a Cubs fan.
I’ll see you again tomorrow night with a less-wordy BCB After Dark.