Friday, June 18, 2021

The Copperhead Affair

Illustration by Ed Catto
This short story was published in AHOY Comics' Second Coming: Only Begotten Son # 1 in December of 2020. It is in the same continuity as "The Last Ride Of The Copperhead Kid" and "The Copperhead Strikes!"

THE COPPERHEAD AFFAIR
by Carl Cafarelli

Secret agents are not prone to introspection. But this New Year's Eve, as 1965 prepared to slip into the abyss of history, the covert operative codenamed Copperhead reflected on the year about to pass. He had worked. He had fought. He had loved. He had saved the entire world once in '65, and saved the country three times more than that. All in secret. All for the common good. And all without breaking his own code. He had a license to kill. He had never used it. He always found another way.

Loud music, playing in a more public part of the restaurant, reached his ears. Everywhere a secret agent went nowadays, the bounce and sway of nightclub jazz seemed the inevitable accompaniment. Copperhead had grown accustomed to the sound. Hell, he'd even stopped joking about needing earmuffs to listen to The Beatles. He gave a silent chuckle as he finished his drink. 1965 had changed him.

Copperhead's hand, wrapped in snakeskin glove, set down his empty martini glass. At 5' 6", he knew he was shorter than most would expect of a secret agent. 
We can't all be Bond, or Napoleon Solo, he quipped. He was 39 years old, his red hair as yet untouched by gray. Not an old man. Not a young one either, not in this business. When the ball dropped at midnight, he would accept the fact of his 40th birthday descending upon him as well.

If he lived that long.

Director Morgan--Copperhead's superior at the clandestine agency--settled his large frame into a too-small chair to sit across the table from Copperhead. Morgan was flanked by a half dozen humorless security men, three of whom took their place behind Copperhead. Copperhead smiled politely and without warmth. "Director," Copperhead said in greeting. "I took the liberty of ordering you a martini."

Morgan picked up his martini glass and threw its contents in Copperhead's face. "A drugged drink?," the director sneered. "Surely you don't underestimate me to that degree, Copperhead."

Copperhead's smile did not change as he wiped the spilled liquid from his face. "I don't estimate you at all, Director. You're a traitor, and I'll be simply delighted to end your treasonous criminal career right now."

Morgan wasn't sure whether to laugh or sneer. "Your overconfidence is your undoing, you idiot." Copperhead interrupted: "Perhaps. Though the evidence I've gathered against you should more than compensate."

"Evidence...?" Morgan somehow refrained from sputtering. "Oh yes," Copperhead continued in earnest. "Photographs, documents, banking ledgers, many from secret overseas accounts. Incriminating correspondence. That sort of thing. Evidence of you working with the Chinese 
and the Russians, both ends against the middle, all of them in betrayal of your own country's interests. Some ex-Nazis, too. I can't imagine your soon-to-be-former comrades in the Kremlin will be happy with the dossiers they've received from...well, let's say from a concerned citizen." Copperhead's smile flashed more widely. "American authorities should be on their way here," Copperhead checked his watch,"ah yes, any minute now."

Morgan's face reddened with fury. "'Concerned citizen,' my ass. That slut Betty...!"

Copperhead's facade of congeniality disappeared. "Your 
wife, Director. The wife you ignored except when you insulted her, or beat her. I hate bullies. She's safe from you now."

"Safe in 
your arms, no doubt." Morgan turned to his thugs. "We have time to escape. Kill him quickly."

Before those words had finished leaving Morgan's scowling lips, Copperhead had already dropped to the floor, kicked, and permanently crippled two of his would-be assailants. Copperhead smashed a third foe's head into the wall. The three thugs at Morgan's side drew their weapons as Copperhead leaped across the table, tackling them all at once. One shot himself in the gut, and now writhed on the floor in agony. The other two saw their guns fly from their grasp as blows from Copperhead sent both of them far away from the conscious world. 

Morgan was still seated. He aimed his Luger at Copperhead, but found himself frozen stiff in place, even as he tried to pull the trigger. The director's voice could only manage a croaked "What did you do...?!"

Copperhead's smile was now genuine, if no less cold-blooded. "Neurotoxin. Old family recipe, actually. It was on the stem of your martini glass. Nasty stuff to touch." The now-silent director looked with dismay at Copperhead's gloved hands, and understood. "It won't kill you. You'll never move a finger, nor a leg, nor anything. You'll never be able to speak. And you'll never hurt anyone again."

Copperhead kicked the chair out from under Morgan's bloated carcass.

"And I don't give a damn what the Russians do to you." 

As Morgan fell helplessly to the floor, Copperhead stepped over the prone figures of his enemies. They never see it coming, never expect Copperhead to strike, he mused. Must be because I'm short.

Morgan's wife Betty was waiting for Copperhead downstairs. They embraced and exited the restaurant as police arrived. The Russians were coming, too. Whatever happened next was no longer Copperhead's affair.

Affair. It had started off as just another affair, and he'd had many of those before. But Copperhead hated bullies. And he had fallen in love with Betty.

Betty glowed in Copperhead's presence. She wasn't showing yet, but they both knew. The secret agent game was no job for a father. As the ball dropped to welcome 1966, Copperhead would spy no more. 40 years old. He wasn't a young man. He wasn't an old one either. His license to kill would not be renewed. He'd never used it anyway.

NOTE: I recently completed "Chaos At The Copperhead Club," which is the next short story in this sequence. I'll let you know if the good folks at AHOY choose to buy that one, too.

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC's Tip Jar!

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Hey! If you buy from Amazon, consider making your purchases through links at Pop-A-Looza. A portion of your purchase there will go to support Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do). Thinking Amazon? Think Pop-A-Looza.

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

The many fine This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin' pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:


Volume 1: download

Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset--Benefit For This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio:  CD or download

I'm on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Works In Progress (secrets, updates, and maybe even a few details)

As if writing a daily blog weren't enough, I have a number of other projects in some form of development. Today's Boppin' communiqué will go through the list of what I'm working on, and what I am not.

Though it shouldn't be a surprise at this point, my long-promised Greatest Record Ever Made! book is no longer a current project. I retain a naive belief that I will be able to see this book through to completion and publication some day. That day is not in the near future. I'm suspending my weekly GREM! video series on YouTube, though I may still do some more of those here and/or there as the mood hits. This project is not dead. I'm setting it aside for now, but I'm not abandoning it, and I continue to tweak it. An infinite number of songs can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. My GREM! book will get its turn yet.

That said, however, I am beyond pleased to say that I do have a book deal. It's just for a different book instead.

Yeah, although The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) was supposed to be my first book, a different tome is likely to appear before GREM! does. I have a deal in place for a book called...no, I can't tell you about that yet. That book has a publisher, we have a mutual understanding of terms, but we can't announce anything until the contract is finalized and signed. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Details will follow. Projected publication date is late 2022. I am delighted, and I look forward to sharing more news about this as soon as I'm able to do so. I have a book deal. That, my friends, is a life's dream come true.

In smaller-scale news, I was asked to contribute an article to a forthcoming issue of a music magazine. That article has been written, submitted, and accepted, and (like the above-teased book) it's also a secret. Shhh. Don't tell anyone.

One project I can talk about involves the liner notes for a live CD by Syracuse's own power pop powerhouse The Flashcubes. Flashcubes On Fire: Live At The Firebarn 05.26.79 preserves a killer vintage live show by my favorite power pop group, captured at the peak of their invigmoratin' live prowess. The hype will fly freely on this one, and you can hear a track from Flashcubes On Fire this very Sunday night on This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl. (That's Sunday night, 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, http://sparksyracuse.org/)

Speaking of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, we have an extra-special show lined up for you on July 4th. Our intrepid stats man Fritz Van Leaven is whipping up a playlist, fine-tuning a countdown concept we've used before, but with a specific spin that we have not used before. The stats aren't in place yet, so neither Dana nor I know exactly what we're going to be playing on that 7/4/2021 program, but we know it's gonna be exciting, and we know we'd love to have you tune in. There will be Flashcubes. Also Beatles, Kinks, Ramones, and...well, you'll find out soon enough.

Finally, I have started writing fiction again. 2019 was a breakthrough year for my accomplishments as a professional liar, as after decades of non-fiction freelancing I finally made my first-ever fiction sales. I wrote ten new short stories in 2019, and I sold five of them. Four of those five have been published by the good folks at AHOY Comics; the fifth remains bought and paid for, but still in AHOY's to-be-published queue. 

But, for whatever reason (and no, I don't think it was the pandemic, but what do I know?), I was unable to finish any more stories after "The Copperhead Affair" in late 2019. Last week, I dug out the beginning of a story I'd started in either late 2019 or early '20, and in one evening I completed it to my satisfaction. It's since been submitted to AHOY, so if you wanna wish me luck, I accept that wish with grace and gratitude. 

I have also set that new story in a file with three of the published stories, seeing how they might fit together as the first four chapters of a book. 

Yeah, another book. Why stop at just one? One book leads to another. Just gotta keep the faith. And just gotta keep writing.

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC's Tip Jar!

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Hey! If you buy from Amazon, consider making your purchases through links at Pop-A-Looza. A portion of your purchase there will go to support Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do). Thinking Amazon? Think Pop-A-Looza.

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

The many fine This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin' pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:


Volume 1: download

Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset--Benefit For This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio:  CD or download

I'm on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

POP-A-LOOZA: He THOUGHT He Was An Artist! (Memoirs From Back At The Drawing Board), Chapter 2: Hero

Each week, the pop culture website Pop-A-Looza shares some posts from my vast 'n' captivating Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) archives. The latest shared post is a look back at another one-page comics story I wrote and drew in high school, the grim 'n' gritty (and also dumb) Hero.

This piece was the second entry in my reminiscence He THOUGHT He Was An Artist! (Memoirs From Back At The Drawing Board), a series remembering my attempts to become a comics artist before I grew old enough to know better. Feel free to insert your own joke about me growing older without ever getting around to that "knowing better" part.

Re-reading the piece now, I realize that I promised (or maybe threatened) to follow up with a piece about my sketchbook from the mid '80s. I had forgotten all about that promise, but it ain't a bad a idea, so maybe I will get back to that in the not-too-distant future.

Meanwhile, we have a look back at a time when a square-peg 16-year-old tried his hand at creating an edgy pulp superhero story, and failed miserably. Hero is the latest Boppin' Pop-A-Looza.

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC's Tip Jar!

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Hey! If you buy from Amazon, consider making your purchases through links at Pop-A-Looza. A portion of your purchase there will go to support Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do). Thinking Amazon? Think Pop-A-Looza.

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

The many fine This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin' pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:


Volume 1: download

Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset--Benefit For This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio:  CD or download

I'm on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

10 SONGS: 6/15/2021

10 Songs is a weekly list of ten songs that happen to be on my mind at the moment. Given my intention to usually write these on Mondays, the lists are often dominated by songs played on the previous night's edition of This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl. The idea was inspired by Don Valentine of the essential blog I Don't Hear A Single.

This week's edition of 10 Songs draws exclusively from the playlist for This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio # 1081.

STOECKEL & PEÑA: Why

This new record has been our little secret for quite some time, and we're delighted to now be able to share it with the world. "Why" is the first release by Stoeckel & Peña, as in Steve Stoeckel (of The Spongetones, Pop Co-Op, and Jamie & Steve) and America's Sweetheart Irene Peña. Both were previously among the many fine folks responsible for "Waterloo Sunset," a benefit project credited to TIRnRR Allstars, covering The Kinks to raise money for whatever the hell it is Dana and I do here. 

So yeah, we're BIG fans of Stoeckel & Peña. We've been chompin' at the bit for this chance to spin their wonderful debut single, and its minty-fresh release on the mighty Big Stir Records label brings that glorious chance firmly into the now. Why? Because we like it. We like them. Much more to come from Stoeckel & Peña (in all their diverse pop incarnations) as TIRnRR rolls on. 

The secret's out. 

Spread the word.

And if you don't know "Why," well, you should.

JIM BASNIGHT: Middle Of The Night

This little mutant radio show has a long and proud history of playing Jim Basnight's music. Solo, with The Moberlys, with The Rockinghams...hell, if Jim ever joins forces with the chick who sang "Rescue Me," we'll start playing Fontella Basnight, too. "Middle Of The Night" is Jim's latest, a new single from the above-mentioned Big Stir Records. Of course we played it. It's Jim Basnight. Playing Jim Basnight is what we do.

ARETHA FRANKLIN: Save Me

Why does this lesser-known Aretha Franklin LP track from 1967 appear to be set on a collision course with our year-end countdown? Playlists are built on whatever groove we hear in our heads, regardless of whether or not anyone else can hear it as easily. "Save Me"'s mix of a "Gloria" riff with a casual lyrical reference to "the Caped Crusader, Green Hornet and Kato, too" establishes a groove that compels me to play it. Aretha's will. I am as Aretha made me. 

JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS: You've Come A Long Way Baby

Dana and I have established a willingness--an eagerness!--to play records by Josie and the Pussycats. The early '70s cartoon group? The 2001 film version? BOTH! We love both. We have no need for Riverdale or any of that angsty nonsense, but we're good with hearing either of those earlier Josies and their long-tailed (with ears for hats) cohorts.

This week's show included "You've Come A Long Way Baby," a 1970 shoulda-been-smash single by Josie and company. Here's an excerpt from my history of bubblegum music, talking a little bit about that incarnation of Josie, Melody, and Valerie:

"One Saturday morning act that may have deserved a better fate was Josie and the Pussycats. The group is something of a pop culture footnote for introducing the world to one Cherie Moor, later to find fame as actress/singer Cheryl Ladd. Though based on an Archie Comics title, the music for Josie And The Pussycats was produced, not by Don Kirshner, but under the direction of songwriter Danny Janssen, best known for co-writing "Little Woman" for Bobby Sherman. And the sound Janssen chose for Josie and the Pussycats was cast, not in the image of The Archies, but in the soulful pop style of The Jackson Five.

'That was fully the intention of Danny Janssen,' [bubblegum aficionado] Bill Pitzonka says. 'They held auditions for the girls for Josie and the Pussycats and he had selected the three girls. Cheryl Ladd—who wasn't Cheryl Ladd then—Cathy Dougher, and Patrice Holloway. And when he presented them to Hanna-Barbera they said, "Well, we really like Patrice Holloway, but we've never had a black cartoon character before." And he said, "Well, tough," Pitzonka notes with a laugh. "'I won't do the project unless she does it, because she's got the greatest voice for it."

"'So they sat on it for a while and he didn't hear back, and then they said, "Come down to the studio, we're doing Josie and the Pussycats." And (Janssen said), "You didn't fire her, did you? Because I wasn't gonna do it." And they said "No, just come down to the studio." They hired every major soul musician in L.A. to work on those sessions. Because they said, "We're gonna do this right, we are gonna do this right." And that's why there is a black character in Josie and the Pussycats, and why the music has such a soul slant.'"

THE LINDA LINDAS: Never Say Never

No, it's not a cover of Romeo Void's early '80s new wave touchstone of the same title. It's arguably better than that. The Linda Lindas have become the buzz band of 2021, deservedly so, and we're happy to do our little part to participate. "Claudia Kishi" has been our Linda Lindas Pick T' Click so far, but "Never Say Never" is my favorite. For now.

JOHNATHAN PUSHKAR: Junior's Farm

Like Red Bull, Johnathan Pushkar gives you Wings. I never get tired of that line. Everyone else is waaaaay past tired of it, but I never get tired of it. Never mind me; just listen to Johnathan's take on "Junior's Farm," from his brand-new album Compositions. C'mon, it's worth putting up with me if it means you get to hear that.

AMY RIGBY: I Don't Want To Talk About Love No More

Amy Rigby's gotten a lot of TIRnRR airplay over the years, both as a solo act and as a duo with her husband Wreckless Eric. I jumped on her track "Dancing With Joey Ramone" as soon as I heard it--it was one of my first iTunes purchases, and it's flat-out amazing--but the bulk of Amy's spins here have been as Dana's choice. I'm also a fan, mind you, but Dana's usually the one getting Amy Rigby into our playlists.

And lately, Dana's been playing a few tracks from Little Fugitive, the 2005 Amy Rigby album that gave the world "Dancing With Joey Ramone." "Like Rasputin" and "The Trouble With Jeanie" demonstrated that Little Fugitive held more delight beyond the great track I already knew, and this week's spin of the wonderful "I Don't Want To Talk About Love No More" made it obvious that I needed to own my own copy of Little Fugitive.

And now I do. Thank you, Discogs! I betcha I'll be adding more Amy Rigby to my collection soon. Radio's job is to sell records. Even if it's selling records to other DJs.

NANCY SINATRA AND DEAN MARTIN: Things

No, I didn't see it coming either. I'll take SONGS I DIDN"T EXPECT TO HEAR ON TIRnRR THIS WEEK for $1000, Alex.

IRENE PEÑA: Must Have Been Good

The release of Stoeckel & Peña's "Why" prompted us to celebrate Steve 'n' Irene as our Featured Performers this week, threading examples of their fine work throughout the playlist. With that plan in place, we wanted to close with a 1-2 punch of their greatest individual hits. "Must Have Been Good" was our introduction to Irene, a track from her 2017 album Trying Not To Smile. I think we first heard it as a single in 2016, courtesy of my former Goldmine colleague John M. Borack (who plays drums on the track). "Must Have Been Good" also found its way on to our own 2017 compilation This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4; its inclusion on TIRnRR # 4 helped to shape the overall feel of that set (a tale told here). Our Irene Peña feature absolutely had to culminate in a spin of "Must Have Been Good."

THE SPONGETONES: (My Girl) Maryanne

There was never any doubt about what song would close out our Steve Stoeckel spotlight. In a decades-long career loaded with oodles and oodles of great moments, The Spongetones' performance of his song "(My Girl) Maryanne" is the single greatest moment.

It is also The Greatest Record Ever Made!

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC's Tip Jar!

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 

Hey! If you buy from Amazon, consider making your purchases through links at Pop-A-Looza. A portion of your purchase there will go to support Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do). Thinking Amazon? Think Pop-A-Looza.

This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

The many fine This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin' pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:


Volume 1: download

Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset--Benefit For This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio:  CD or download

I'm on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.