Silent Film Series: Halloween Edition

Over the weekend, I decided it was time to start transitioning my music listening into the autumnal mode, and rather than go straight to Harvest on the vinyl, I decided to ease into things with Jerry Garcia’s second solo album, a 1974 release known as Garcia (Compliments). The version I have comes from a Garcia boxed set, which means it has a number of bonus tracks appended to those songs that comprised the original release. Like a lot of Garcia’s solo work, there are plenty of cover tunes on this album, and while I generally like the release more than the two-star rating it received from AllMusic, there’s one song in particular that’s stuck out to me since my first listen.

The tune is one of the bonus tracks, an R&B-type cover entitled “(I’m a) Road Runner,” written by the hit-making Holland-Dozier-Holland Motown songwriting team, and first recorded by Junior Walker and the All-Stars in 1965. Of the versions I’ve heard, I like Garcia’s the best– it’s the most complete, to my ear– but Bo Diddley got ahold of it too, and it’s his version that prompted this post.

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Two things you might think would happen in this space are not going to happen. First, this being the continuation of our Silent Film Series, you might expect discussion of a video clip best viewed without sound, since that’s the premise of the Series. Second, this being a post about Halloween, videos, and music, you might expect me to go with this, which, if this was a Friday, is what I would’ve done.

Instead and in light of the above, I’m appealing to the common notion that, on Halloween, things that were dead take on an impressively lifelike quality (e.g., ghosts, mummies, zombies, vampires, etc.), and applying that concept to the notion of “silent” films as I’ve conceived it here. In other words, when a “silent” film takes on lifelike qualities on Halloween, you can hear it as well as see it. In other words, I was watching the selection, below, with the sound on, quickly reached the definite conclusion were the visuals of the sort that would make the clip a good feature in this spot, and then reached the probable conclusion that everyone would like watching it better with the music playing too. In still other words, turn up your volume, and enjoy a minor spectacle of live-action sight and sound:

ALDLAND Silent Film Series: Intermission

When I found the first selection for our Silent Film Series, I knew that I’d stumbled onto something special that could be the beginning of something even more special. I thought then that it would be easy to find other entries of similar quality, but after a while, I reached a point where I thought it might prove too difficult to ever find a suitable sequel. I remain happy with the second selection because I really like it and it showed me that the series could be broad in scope, encompassing different styles.

There is a certain energy in the first video, though, and I hope to recapture that in the future. While we wait (and I catch up on the past week in sports-on-the-internet), here’s an intermission in the form of a still photograph that immediately reminded me of some of the energy in the first entry.

In case you can’t tell, that’s thirty-onetwenty-three year old and new Seattle Seahawk Russell Wilson and his wife.

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Previously
Silent Film Series: Virgil “Fire” Trucks (Detroit, MI 1956)
Silent Film Series: Baron Davis (Oakland, CA 2007)

Silent Film Series: Virgil “Fire” Trucks (Detroit, MI 1956)

I’m sort of cheating with the second featured film in ALDLAND’s Silent Film Series, because a) it already is a silent film and b) its selection largely has to do with the music indirectly associated with it. Still, I’m guessing most artists would be willing to cheat a little if it meant avoiding a sophomore slump, so I don’t feel bad at all.

And this short (7:23) movie really is kind of beautiful. It’s amateur footage shot on 8 millimeter film by members of the Capurso family depicting an outing to see the Yankees play the Tigers on a sunny summer afternoon at old Tigers Stadium on August 4, 1956. It opens with scenes of downtown Detroit as the family heads to the ballpark, where the Tigers would win a game that featured home runs by both Mickey Mantle and Al Kaline.

Of greater interest to me is the Tigers’ pitcher that day, Virgil “Fire” Trucks. He’s the great uncle of guitarist Derek Trucks and was no slouch on the mound. From a Peter Gammons profile piece:

Virgil Oliver Trucks was born on April 26, 1917. He won 177 Major League games from 1941 until he retired in 1958. Ted Williams once said he might have been “the hardest throwing right-hander I ever faced.”

He is one of four pitchers who threw two no-nos in a single season and he finished fifth in the American league MVP race in 1953 for the White Sox (he started that season with the Browns). And back when the Tigers won the 1945 World Series, Detroit’s great staff was called “TNT” — Dizzy Trout, (MVP) Hal Newhouser and Trucks were three of the best in the game.

Go back to the beginning. Andalusia of the Alabama-Florida League. 1938. Including the playoffs[, he] struck out 448 batters.

448. That, Sweet Melissa, is the most strikeouts ever recorded in an organized professional baseball season.

And for the full season, he was 25-6, with a 1.25 ERA and two no-hitters.

After a strong 1939 split between Alexandria and Beaumont, in 1940 he pitched for Beaumont in the Texas League and threw another no-hitter, in 1941 threw another no-no for Buffalo in the International League and by the time he made his debut on Sept. 27, 1941, he had four Minor League no-hitters on his resume.

Somewhere along the way, they tried to figure out how hard he threw. “They found an old Army gun,” says Trucks. “It read 105 miles an hour.”

Gammons’ piece is full of stories about Virgil, including how he helped the Tigers win the World Series after taking two years off to join the war effort, how he nearly became the only pitcher ever to throw three no-hitters in one season, how he’d add two more World Series rings to his total, and how he decided, after meeting with Derek– who keeps one of Virgil’s baseball cards on his Gibson– and learning that his great nephew is considered one of the best guitarists who ever lived, that maybe he ought to start listening to the Allman Brothers Band (the 95-year-old former pitcher’s nephew, Butch Trucks, was a founding member of that band, with which Derek now plays).

The younger member of the Capurso family who uploaded this added some generic classical music from the London Metropolitan Orchestra, but I maintain that it’s best experienced silently, the original audio being lost to technology, and the music of Virgil’s descendants yet to be born.

(HT: @DerekAndSusan) 

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Previously
Silent Film Series: Baron Davis (Oakland, CA 2007)

Related
Album review: Tedeschi Trucks Band – Revelator

Silent Film Series: Baron Davis (Oakland, CA 2007)

The writers and readers of this site tend to be employed or otherwise disposed during the day such that watching video clips on full volume usually doesn’t happen. If there’s something I really want to hear, I save it for lunch or the end of the day, and I suspect a lot of people do the same thing. This means that there are a lot of us watching a lot of videos– the general tenor of the internet being what it is– on mute. Conventional wisdom suggests that this practice detracts from our experience of these videos. Conventional wisdom also suggests that you never get involved in a land war in Asia, but is Afghanistan even in Asia and anyway that’s not what we’re talking about because the fact is that conventional wisdom can be wrong about videos and about wars (but not about videos of wars), which is why we’re introducing the ALDLAND Silent Film Series.

The concept is simple: some videos are better without sound. Whether they’re made that way or are seen that way for some variation on the modern reality alluded to above, this addition-by-subtraction effect is very real.

The Series’ inaugural feature comes from Oakland, California in 2007. Yesterday afternoon, Amos Barshad included the clip in his possibly prescient (given the Knicks’ loss in Miami last night) contingency plan for the end of Linsanity. It stars a somewhat (i.e., five-years) younger Baron Davis in his role as point guard for the Golden State Warriors, and it comes in the final minutes of a 20+ point win over the visiting Utah Jazz.

I neither am nor aspire to be Chuck Klosterman: a second-by-second analysis of this video hardly seems necessary. Instead, as you watch it (sans audio!, of course), appreciate the silent cinemagic of every shot of Davis, his teammates, Andrei Kirilenko, the fans, and the referee. Sound can improve these visuals in zero ways.