Year: 2021
Original Format: mp3

The third installment of anything is usually the mistake. Godfather III, Alien 3, whatever that third Matrix movie was… and don’t get me started on Return of the Jedi.

It is with full knowledge of this that I’m plowing ahead with a third round of Gangsters & Pranksters. In the 17 years since the last one a lot of good material has piled up, including older stuff I didn’t know about or didn’t properly appreciate at the time. I like the way this one sounds; see if you agree.

Playlist:

If You Can Count Roger Hill
According to Wikipedia, “Hill was chosen to portray the doomed gang lord Cyrus in The Warriors after the original actor chosen for the part, a real life gang leader, mysteriously disappeared just before filming started.” It was a small but pivotal role and he killed it, but didn’t have much of a career after. He was in a few movies and a soap opera, and in 2006 he sued the video game company that had made a Warriors game:

When an adaptation of the 1979 film was released in 2005 for the PS2 and Xbox, Rockstar Games made a killing off of it, earning at least $37 million in revenue right away. Roger Hill had declined money from the company to provide his voice and likeness but Cyrus ended up in the game anyway, visually, at least. When Hill saw how much money they made he sued Take Two and Rockstar, demanding $250k in damages and for the court to bar the use of his likeness. After all, how dare they get another actor to dub his famous speech? And you know what? Without Roger Hill’s involvement the scene suffered greatly, as you can see here. Without Hill’s booming performance the power of the scene was lost. His call to arms is among the most-quoted and loved in all of film, especially among New Yorkers, gang-bangers or not. (gamenguide.com)

Gangsters & Pranksters Pavement
“At the beginning, [Richard] Alpert and [Tim] Leary administered psilocybin to 38 people: professional and non-professional normal volunteers, outstanding creative intellectuals and psychological drug ‘addicts.’ To produce the most positive reactions… the two experimenters ran their studies in ‘pleasant, spacious, aesthetic surroundings.’ Subjects were allowed to control their own dosages (within reasonable limits); no one took the drug among strangers, and Leary and Alpert usually took it with their subjects. The ‘outstanding creative intellectuals’ included Aldous Huxley, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs. Seventy-five percent of the subjects reported that the psilocybin experience was ‘very pleasant.’ Sixty nine percent ‘were judged to have attained marked broadening of awareness….’ Ninety-five percent thought that the drug session ‘had changed their lives for the better.’ Alpert and Leary began mimeographing these statistics for distribution to the center staff. They predicted the use of psilocybin in psychotherapy (‘instant psychoanalysis’), called it an aid to creative development and envisioned its regular use in a Harvard graduate seminar. ‘The students,’ wrote Leary, ‘will take psilocybin once a month and spend the intervening class sessions applying the insights to problems in their field.’” —“The Strange Case of the Harvard Drug Scandal,” Andrew T. Weil, Look Magazine, November 5, 1963

Fun Lovin’ Criminal Fun Lovin’ Criminals
When I looked this up I expected to find that it pulled elements from at least five different sources; but if Whosampled.com is reliable, and it usually is, “Fun Lovin’ Criminal” uses no samples at all. As this was the heyday of litigious clearance enforcement, that was probably a smart move.

When the Shit Goes Down Cypress Hill
The sample used here, on the other hand, is prominent and not subtle at all. It’s well deployed, though:

Baligaga Tricky
“‘Baligaga’ is a word that Tricky made up. It doesn’t really mean anything.” —Songfacts.com

The Baddest Man Alive The Black Keys & The RZA
So who really is the baddest man alive? Mike Tyson has long been called “The Baddest Man on the Planet,” but I suspect that’s a self-awarded nickname — like Michael Jackson and “The King of Pop” — and today Tyson disowns it. According to the UFC, the Official Baddest Man is heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, who defeated Stipe Miocic in March to take the title. But I suspect that we’ll never know the real answer, because he is too fucking cool to make a big deal out of it.

Nobody Speak DJ Shadow & Run the Jewels
The video for this is a work of absolute genius.

Hurt Feelings Flight of the Conchords
This one too.

Y’All Are Brutalizing Me David Cross & Bob Odenkirk
The Mr. Show sketch this is taken from features Cross as Ronnie Dobbs, serial recidivist with the voice of an angel. He later got his own feature film, Run Ronnie Run, which was a disappointment but did have Mandy Patinkin doing his interpretation of the song:

Run Boy Run Lee Hazlewood
I know very little about Lee Hazlewood, and I can’t even remember now how this song ended up on my laptop. Apparently it is from his 1963 concept album Trouble Is a Lonesome Town, his “first proper solo album, following his prosperous late-’50s partnership with Duane Eddy and prior to his mentoring and making of ’60s boot-walker Nancy Sinatra,” says Allmusic. In 2013 an ad-hoc group called Thriftstore Masterpiece, which included Frank Black, released a full-length cover of the album. I guess some more education is necessary.

Mama Tried Merle Haggard
“In ‘Mama Tried,’ Haggard focuses on the pain and suffering he caused his own mother by being incarcerated in 1957 in San Quentin. Haggard ultimately served three years on a robbery conviction. However, the song is not literally autobiographical, as many country music historians point out. While writer Bill Malone’s assessment of the song is in agreement with Ace Collins’ (referring to his own experiences that saw him sentenced to prison), Malone points out that Haggard never was sentenced to ‘life without parole,’ as the protagonist in the song was.” —Wikipedia

I’m the Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised Willie Nelson
For reasons too complicated to explain here, I am often awakened in the wee hours to feed two cats and let one outside. Usually I can go right back to sleep but not always. This morning, as I lay in bed, I found myself imagining Willie Nelson making a return visit to smoke weed at the White House — but openly this time, maybe in the Rose Garden. I don’t know if this country is ready for the president to get high, or if Joe Biden even partakes, but Barack could tag along — and they could bring Jimmy Carter in case they smoke too much and need to be talked down. This image made me smile and soon enough I was snoozing again.

Outta My System My Morning Jacket
I’ve Ranged, I’ve Roamed, and I’ve Travelled Jimmie Rodgers
I agonized over which order to put these two songs in — one seemed logical, but the other felt right. Fortunately this is ultimately of no importance whatsoever.

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