After publishing Angel with a Broken Wing last Summer, my next thought was… what do I do now? Go to the beach?
After much rumination, I decided to write another book. I wanted to create a hard-boiled detective novel that took place near Philly. Should I try to make the story inspired by real events? Maybe…
I also wanted to make it about a couple of guys who were friends and decided to go into business together. Using the classic Hitchcockian premise of the common man getting caught up in extraordinary circumstances. I wanted to explore some of the darker sides of life but seen through the eyes of lighthearted unique characters. I also wanted something with a shorter, tighter timeframe than my previous book.
And, Below the Wheel was born.
Below the Wheel takes place over two weeks in the Summer of 1998.
Alex Hunter and Scott Appel are two ex-investment brokers turned private investigators. Burned out from the competitive sales environment of buying and selling stock, they open the Watchman Detective Agency in Camden NJ. They spend their days investigating disability claims for insurance companies and law firms. Occasionally, they perform surveillance on errant spouses and even solve a crime now and then. But Alex and Scott aren’t taken seriously by local law enforcement, especially the chief of detectives, Lt. Ezra Chambers, and his belligerent assistant, Sgt. Otis Guth.
Alex is the obsessive suit and tie-wearing overachiever, who drinks too much and lives dangerously. Lately, he’s been trying to tame some of his vices by quitting smoking and seeking some spiritual guidance from a local pastor. His life at the agency is a bit mundane, but Alex dreams of one day solving a really high-profile case.
Five years ago, he invested the inheritance of an attractive local newswoman Alyssa Ward. He was immediately smitten with her. But, the portfolio tanked, and she lost a small fortune. She blamed Alex for the loss and never spoke to him again. Recently her younger sister Jennifer disappeared, and Alex has taken it upon himself to find her. Jennifer always had a wild streak, and Alex thinks she may have been recruited to work in an exclusive sex club somewhere in Camden or Philly. The only problem is, no one knows where the club is located, or if it even exists.
His partner Scott is the laid-back one. He enjoys watching cartoons, listening to heavy metal, and smoking weed. He’d be happy to just work the cases they get referred, keep the agency in the black, and leave the exciting stuff to the police.
The guys share the office space with an insurance agent named Genevieve Bouchard. She’s an independent hard working woman but is trapped in a bad relationship with her abusive common-law husband Bruno Cartiglio. When Bruno’s not involved in some sort of sleazy activity, he’s working construction at one of the nearby bridges. Genevieve hates her life with Bruno but is afraid that if she leaves him, he’ll hurt her. Scott’s attracted to Genevieve, but she’s already involved in some dangerous activities.
During an unbearable heatwave, the boys are caught up in a bizarre case. The Camden Strangler, as the media call him, has been murdering prostitutes in the area.
A teenage girl named Luna, whose mother was the latest victim, turns to Alex and Scott for help. Scott is reluctant to take on a client who obviously can’t pay, but Alex sees it as an opportunity to be a hero and takes the case pro bono.
Alex enlists the help of coroner Ignatious Feeny, who gives him access to the morgue and autopsy information on the victims. Alex also picks the brain of the brilliant but cantankerous Robert Wick. He’s a professor of criminology at Rutgers University. Although he’s bound to a wheelchair, he’s a master of criminal profiling. He tells Alex that the only way to solve the case is to go where the killer goes and see what he sees. Subsequently, Alex is drawn into the dark and sleazy world of the skin trade.
The boys work the case and it’s full of twists, and red herrings. Will they ever figure out who’s doing the killings in Camden? Will Alyssa’s sister ever be found?
You’ll have to read the book and find out.
Planned Release Date: June 22, 2021
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If you were like me in the 1970’s you listened to top 40 radio most of the time. You heard a lot of great songs and instant classics. But among them were many unforgettable songs that were just weird or strange. I’ve tried from memory to remember the ones that stand out in my mind.
For weird reasons they became hits. They either made no sense or having any musical merit. Just a bizarre era of story songs.
Of course, this stuff is all pretty subjective but I did have a few criteria for what should be here. I decided to include a song if it:
made me sick without even listening to it again
made me want to break my radio
made my stomach turn
brought out violent thoughts of hatred, revenge, etc.
reminded me how lame the radio and record companies are
could make me want to break my stereo
would make me leave a bar or club if they started playing it
would make me boo a band who started playing it
suspended my belief in a divine force that governs the universe
I’m not saying that there weren’t ANY good songs during the 70s but there was just a truck-load of waste back then. If anybody’s stupid enough to think that ALL disco sucks, remember that it’s just a bastard son of rhythm & blues just like rock’n’roll is- so they’re related, see? Also, the 1970s definitely didn’t have a monopoly on shitty music- there was tons of crap unleashed on us in the decade before and after and now also (there’s a future article there somewhere). Clothes-pin anyone?
The 70’s was an interesting time for music. There was a lot of experimentation and creativity from that decade, but there was also plenty of crap as well. Here is my list of the worst and most irritating songs of the 70’s.
Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – Gordon Lightfoot – 1975
Compared to the rest of the songs on this list, this song should win a noble prize. I only just figured out that the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald wasn’t an ancient mariners tale, but was an actual breaking news story. The actual wreck in Lake Superior which killed 29 crew members happened in November of 1975. Gordon read a story in Newsweek about the tragedy and wrote and recorded this song the following month. It came out the next summer and got all the way to number 2 on the singles chart, which is pretty amazing for a 6-minute sea shanty with no chorus. Lightfoot changed a few details. The boat was actually loaded for Detroit not Cleveland and has actually revised the lyrics as more details of the wreck came out over the years. The other songwriters on this list should take notice. This is how you tell a story in a song.
Run Joey Run – David Geddes – 1975
Ahh… this disaster.
David Geddes wrote a song, and this song was later revived in an episode of Glee. Struggling songwriter, Geddes was in law school when he got a call from a songwriter that thought his voice would be good for a song, called Run Joey Run. In this tragedy, both in terms of the story and this song, Joey sings about his dead girlfriend Julie who haunts him when he tries to sleep. She warns him not to come to her house because she’s been fighting with her father. We’re to believe that Julie is pregnant but she promises her dad that she and Joey will get married. (Just you wait and see) Of course, Joey comes to be by her side, her father tries to shoot him, but he hits her instead. Yes, even in the ME decade of the ’70s these are the lessons and the morals we grew up with.
I was 13 years old when this song came out. Even back then I knew it was an awful pile of garbage. But there’s something about it that has this weird, B-movie vibe to it. Now I actually kind of love it for its kitsch. I love songs and films that are made in earnest that are terrible. I guess that’s why Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax are some of my favorite shows. Stuff so bad, it’s good. This is a welcome tune to my list!
Shannon – Henry Gross – 1975
Henry Gross played Woodstock as part of the group Sha Na Na, and he was part of Jim Croce’s band. Sadly his own solo work was going nowhere. But he struck gold with a song about a dead dog. Not just any dead dog. While he was touring with the Beach Boys in 1975, Gross visited Carl Wilson’s house in LA. He mentioned that he owned an Irish Setter called Shannon, Wilson replied that he also had an Irish Setter named Shannon that had recently been killed by a car. That was enough to score a top ten hit and an afterlife when Casey Kasem went on a profanity-laced tirade in 1985 when his producers stuck a long-distance dedication of Shannon right after an up-tempo song by the Pointer Sisters.
If you listen to it you can feel the whole Beach Boys vocal sound in the chorus. The only thing that could make this song worse would be if Mike Love sang it. Not a terrible song, but just a weird subject for a tune. Back then I always thought it was about a girl that had died.
It’s also way too long…
Convoy – CW McCall – 1973
Advertising executive Bill Fries created an award-winning campaign for Old Home Bread, featuring a fictional truck driver named CW McCall. A few years later, at the peak of the CB radio craze, Fries got together with Chip Davis from Mannheim Steamroller and they put together a song that chronicled a CB conversation between Rubber Duck, Pig Pen, and Sod Buster, about a fictional trucker rebellion that drives from the West coast to the East coast of the country without stopping. The song is mostly dialogue, thick with CB lingo and an annoying earworm chorus, Convoy became a number one hit in 1975, it inspired a major motion picture in 1978 directed by the great Sam Peckinpah and starring Kris Kristofferson Ali McGraw and Ernest Borgnine. I would watch this movie for the laugh.
Kids… that’s the kind of thing that was possible in the ’70s.
Look at the body on Kristofferson in this rendering! Lookin’ ripped!
Wildfire – Michael Murphey and the Rio Grande Band – 1975
Murphey and Larry Cansler co-wrote “Wildfire” in 1968, shortly after Murphey emerged as a solo artist. Earlier in the decade, he had been part of a duo known as the Lewis & Clark Expedition (which had appeared and performed in an episode of I Dream of Jeannie) in 1968 with his fellow singer-songwriter Boomer Castleman. When Murphey rerecorded “Wildfire” for a new album in 1997, he was quoted by Billboard as saying that what many consider his signature song “broke my career wide open and, on some level, still keeps it fresh. Because that song appeals to kids and always has, it’s kept my career fresh.”
In a 2008 interview, Murphey talked about the origins of the song and the context in which it was written. He was a third-year student at UCLA, working on a concept album for Kenny Rogers (The Ballad of Calico). The work was demanding, sometimes taking more than twenty hours a day. One night he dreamed the song in its totality, writing it up in a few hours the next morning. He believes the song came to him from a story his grandfather told him when he was a little boy – a prominent Native American legend about a ghost horse. Murphey didn’t have a horse named Wildfire until a few years before the interview when he gave that name to a palomino mare.
The lyrics are those of a homesteader telling the story of a young Nebraska woman said to have died searching for her escaped pony, “Wildfire”, during a blizzard. The homesteader finds himself in a similar situation, doomed in an early winter storm. A hoot owl has perched outside of his window for six days, and the homesteader believes the owl is a sign that the ghost of the young woman is calling for him. He hopes to join her (presumably in heaven) and spend eternity riding Wildfire with her, leaving the difficulties of earthly life behind.
This song is not annoying or weird. It’s just a really unique story song that was very popular in the mid-70s. It’s kind of sappy, but also sort of beautiful and sad. I like it so I added it to this list.
Muskrat Love – The Captain and Tennille -1976
I really have to hand it to my readers on this one. I was discussing compiling this list with a few of my followers and they sent me some of their favorite weird songs. The Captain and Tennille clearly deserve a spot on this list, but they didn’t go for the obvious choice with “Love Will Keep Us Together” or “Do That to Me One More Time.” No, they wisely went with “Muskrat Love,” by far their hit that’s aged the worst. The song (originally called “Muskrat Candlelight”) was written by obscure country-rock artist Willis Alan Ramsey in 1972. The band America covered it in 1973, and the Captain and Tennille cut their own version of it in 1976. The song isn’t some sort of analogy. It’s about actual muskrats falling in love. They played it at the White House in 1976 when Queen Elizabeth II came for a visit. It’s unclear why the Ford Administration thought that was a good idea. If they came a year later, Jimmy Carter would have probably pulled in a better act.
If you google pictures of them, Daryl always looks like he’s uncomfortable and doesn’t want to be in any photos with her. I can’t blame him.
Tennille filed for divorce from Dragon in the State of Arizona on January 16, 2014, after 39 years of marriage. Dragon was unaware of the termination of his marriage until he was served with the divorce papers. The divorce documents referenced health insurance or health issues, and Tennille had written on her blog in 2010 that Dragon’s neurological condition, similar to Parkinson’s, known as essential tremor, was characterized by such extreme tremors he could no longer play keyboards. Dragon later stated that some of his health problems were the result of errors in dosing his medication.
In 2016, Toni Tennille, Tennille’s memoir (co-written with niece Caroline Tennille St. Clair) was published. In it, Tennille painted an unflattering picture of Dragon and their years together.
Dragon and Tennille remained close friends until his death from complications of kidney failure on January 2, 2019, in Prescott, Arizona. Tennille was at his side when he died.
I always thought of Toni Tennille as a poser who sang flat with little range. They’re like a bad act you’d see in a hotel lounge in the middle of nowhere. This song is trash and I can’t believe why anyone would focus their songwriting energy on such an odd subject.
On a final note, the weird solo that sounds like little farts is supposed to be Muskrat Love sounds.
It’s just Awful!
I hate her and this song too. She just comes off like the type of person that would be best friends with Kate Gosselin.
You’re Having My Baby – Paul Anka – 1974
Nobody disputes the fact that Paul Anka is brilliant – the man wrote “My Way” for God’s sake. That feat alone earns him a spot on the Songwriters Hall of Fame. But in the summer of 1974 he released “(You’re) Having My Baby,” an uber-saccharine song about a man overjoyed about the news that his wife is pregnant. The song hit home for a lot of Americans, and it gave Anka his first Number One since 1959’s “Lonely Boy.” It’s aged about as well as a rancid bucket of sweet and sour pork. New life was breathed into the tune in 2009 when it was featured on Glee. Finn sang it to Quinn while having dinner with her parents. At the time, he didn’t know that Puck was the real father and that Quinn’s dad would throw her out of the house after hearing the news.
In 2018, heavy metal singer Glenn Danzig invited Anka onto the main stage at the Wacken Open Air Festival to sing “(You’re) Having My Baby.” Despite not having sung the song live in nearly 40 years, Anka agreed and appeared with Danzig wearing bell-bottom pants and a plaid shirt with a butterfly collar.
Less than thirty seconds into the song, the crowd of roughly 66,000 expressed their disgust with boos and empty beer bottles, forcing the two to stop singing. Unable to quell the crowd with offers of singing “Long Way Back from Hell” and “Do You Wear the Mark” together, Anka and Danzig fled the stage shortly before the frenzied crowd stormed the stage.
“These kids don’t know Anka as I know him,” Danzig later said through tears. “When I first heard ‘You’re Having My Baby,’ I knew that’s what I wanted to do in life.”
Despite the underwhelming catastrophe of the Wacken Open Air Festival, other heavy metal singers have followed suit with Danzig’s idea. Paul Anka is currently collaborating with thrash-metal band Slayer and an album is due in stores during the summer of 2021.
Watch the performance. Notice how Paul is up on stage singing it by himself? Odia Coates the woman who sings the duet with him isn’t with him on stage. She’s sitting on a bench at the piano. Was a white man and a black woman standing next to each other on stage singing about how he’s so happy he got her pregnant and she’s keeping their mixed-race baby, too controversial for 1974? I don’t know. Just sayin’…
My mother hated this song and so did I. My mother appreciated good music and couldn’t understand why someone would write a song like this. If you listen to the song you’ll hear how gross this song really is. “You could have swept it from your life, but you didn’t do it.” Nice Roe vs. Wade reference, Paul.
Watching Scotty Grow – Bobby Goldsboro – 1970
is a song written by country music singer-songwriter Mac Davis and recorded by Bobby Goldsboro in 1970 on his album, We Gotta Start Lovin. Davis recorded his version on his 1972 album, I Believe in Music.
This song deals with a father witnessing the activities of his son growing up, while the father does his usual laid-back adult activities. The phrase, “that’s my boy” is used in all 3 verses. One of the verses, “Mickey Mouse says thirteen o’clock,” refers to the Mickey Mouse watches which were popular at the time.
Who the hell told Bobby Goldsboro that this was a good haircut? It looks like a fur helmet. But I digress. I hate this song. It’s so sappy. The lyrics just make me want to puke. If my handlers asked me to record a song like this I would have quit the music business.
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You’re not going to believe this, but I didn’t buy this album. I heard the song, Pink on MTV but wasn’t thrilled, and thought Fallin’ In Love (Is hard on the knees) was a good song, but overall this is not a good record. But America is still coming in droves. Literally still lining up to date my once beloved. I feel like we broke up years ago. I’ve heard this record in its entirety, and it’s just not worth it.
Woodbury, NJ – 2001
Divorced. New girlfriend. She’s crazy. I’m making more money than ever, but I’m miserable. I didn’t buy this record either.
Not a bad blues record because all rock came from the blues. Saw the band on this tour and it was wonderful to see the boys alive and well. But it’s still a blues record. Nothing remarkable here. It’s about over for these guys creatively and artistically.
Philadelphia, PA – 2020
I was writing and editing my book, Angel with a Broken Wing that summer and decided to listen to every Aerosmith album in order while I was doing it. It was a fun ride that took a couple of days. I only listened to the classic Aero from the ’70s on occasion. But had never heard this album. Their final studio LP.
The song Lover Alot sounds like a classic Aerosmith song, but other than that the album is weak. Carrie Underwood cameo? Really guys? Anything by Joe Perry on this album is just trash.
So that’s it. My lovely lion has gone out like a lamb. It’s okay. Everybody hates the Star Wars prequels and we love Star Wars. It’s the same thing. We can’t all be the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, or Led Zeppelin. In the end, we’re all just a bunch of old guys who had a load of fun in our youth, and Aerosmith and others gave us a solid soundtrack to dance through life to. But we all grow up and you have to know when to retire your toys to the attic of your memories. But… you can go up there and listen to your records any time you want and relive all of those wonderful feelings again. You can’t go back, but you can always wrap yourself up in those songs like a warm familiar blanket and smile.
Thanks for the ride guys! I will always love you!
Okay, one last bit here. If my sister makes fun of Ozzy Osbourne, it’s not cool, because she doesn’t own every Black Sabbath record ever made. But I can because I love Sabbath! I can make fun of my idols because there’s so much love there. So, as I did on their first album cover let’s take a look at these grandpops now.
Brad Whitford looks like he just stepped out of a card game with Wyatt Earp. Joe Perry with his Bonnie Raitt two-tone hair looks like an old bone daddy biker. Joey Kramer looks like an activist at the NYC Gay Pride parade. Tom Hamilton looks like that twice-divorced, used to be hot, lady neighbor with the ’78 Camaro. Steven Tyler looks like the cool aunt who would buy you and your friends beer when you all came over to your friend’s house in the ’70s. Or, he just came from his audition for the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
I long for these days…
Here are my favorite Aerosmith albums in order:
Toys in the Attic
Night in the Ruts
Rock In A Hard Place
Done With Mirrors
Get Your Wings
Draw The Line
Honorable mention: The Joe Perry Project – Let the Music Do the Talking
There you have it. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series as much as I have writing it. If you liked it, hit me up in the comments or email me about some other bands I could write about!
P.S. “If you’re ever feeling sad and beaten down by the world and life, please do this: Go home, put on your favorite record and crank it up loud. Lean into the music and feel the joy that it’s always brought you. Just know that all the darkness in the world can NEVER take a single note of that away from you.”
Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.
This Oct. 6, 2019 photo shows actress Jane Seymour posing at The Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles to promote her role in “The Kominsky Method.” (Photo by Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP)
Jane Seymour was in her mid-60s when her husband of 20 years decided it was over. The actress was floored.
“I had a long marriage and never thought it was going to end,” the 68-year-old said recently while promoting the second season of Netflix’s “The Kominsky Method,” co-starring Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin.
“I’m going, ‘I what? I date? What? Are you crazy? How does this work?’” Seymour said. “And then my kids would say, ‘Mom, there’s this thing called Tinder.’ And I’m like, ‘No, that’s not going to happen.’”
But similar to her character in “The Kominsky Method” who runs into an old flame, fate intervened, and Seymour stumbled upon a new romance. She has been with boyfriend and British film director David Green since 2014, about a year after her divorce from filmmaker James Keach, who directed “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” Seymour’s iconic role.
“Accidentally I ran into somebody I knew 38 years earlier who had been in a long marriage and his marriage ended,” she said. “It wasn’t his choice and my marriage ended, it wasn’t my choice. And we randomly met accidentally 38 years later and realized we were free, and we’ve been together ever since. So I do not have to date.”
Her experience drew Seymour to “The Kominsky Method,” in which she plays Madelyn, who reconnects with Arkin’s character (Norman) at a funeral following the deaths of their spouses.
“I do get this whole thing of having a relationship with someone that’s contemporary, you know?” Seymour said. “We’re both dealing with older children, exes, and our future … how long will we live? How can we stay healthy? How can we tick off our bucket list? Do we still want to work or do we feel like we’ve only just started, which is the case with me and David?”
The Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actress has four children and two stepchildren from her four marriages.
On top of acting and a busy family life, Seymour designs furniture and jewelry. Seymour recently had a one-woman art show in Washington, D.C., she writes books, runs a nonprofit, and produces movies.
“I do what I do because I love it,” she said. “I don’t think of it ever as a job … It’s called living. So I don’t see retiring. You don’t retire from life.”
In fact, Seymour said her own children have a tough time keeping up with her.
“Inside of me, I’m 20. OK? I hang out with my 23-year-old boys, and the other day I was with them running around Europe and they said, ‘Mom, can you slow down?’” she said. “I went, ‘No, this is the pace at which I go and you are a third of my age, so you better just catch up with Mama.’ I just love life.”
With age, she said, has come “more of a freedom in kind of accepting who I am and what I look like and how I feel now than I did when I was younger when I was trying maybe too hard to be something.”
Seymour first caught the eye of audiences when she played Bond girl Solitaire in 1973’s “Live and Let Die.” Asked what it’s like to be a sex symbol for nearly five decades and well into her 60s, Seymour scoffed.
“I’ve never thought of it that way,” she said, noting that she and her Bond character were both virgins. “So hardly a sex symbol. I didn’t know what sex was.”
Since then, Seymour has posed in “Playboy” three times, in 1973, 1987, and last year, when the magazine said the actress “is more of a sex symbol now than when she played a Bond girl.”
To Seymour, sexy means being comfortable in your own skin at every age. That’s why she hasn’t had plastic surgery, the actress said.
“I made a choice a long time ago not to do all the things that other people do because I’m not trying to look like me when I’m 20 or 30. It’s kind of pointless,” she said. “So, I just thought, let’s put on a gray wig and have some wrinkles and actually play characters.”
Seymour said she’s one of the lucky actresses who’ve landed great roles after 40.
“Hollywood’s been pretty good to me, actually,” she said. “Back in the day, they used to say if you’re a woman and you’re 40, you’re done. Well, when I was 40, I got ‘Dr. Quinn.’ So that’s when I started. And to be honest, right now I feel like this is my moment because there are all these amazing characters that I can now play without having to worry about whether I look like a leading lady.
Her eyes glimmered: “And I can still play it like a leading lady if I put my hair and makeup together.”