All Us Doctors

The Dr Frank Weakly Reader for 4.17.2020

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ell, hello my friends (if such there be) and welcome to another Dr Frank Weakly Reader, wherein I assemble an assemblage of the week in Dr Frank, illustrated, expanded, and annotated by Dr Frank, with an introduction by Dr Frank. (And special thanks go to Dr Frank, without whom none of this would be possible. Or necessary.) I do it mainly for myself, so I can find these items in future should I ever wish to find them. But as always, you can read along if you wish. And for those few who do, I’ve tried to make it easy, if not exactly fun (though I suppose I try to make it fun too.)

Let’s start with the introduction, shall we?

ALL US DOCTORS

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What’s that “doctor” thing from anyway? There was a bit of Dr Seuss “content” this week because of posting that live on the radio “Green Eggs and Ham” thing for Song for Odin and that letter from him that I received as a kid when I wrote him to ask for his autograph. (See both below.) I joked that I learned important autograph techniques from him, like writing “authentic Dr Frank autograph” in parentheses with an arrow pointing to a signature that turned out squiggly and illegible (or just a picture of a house or bird) or just drawing the arrow pointing to my head. That kind of thing,

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So I hope I’ve established my bona fides as a genuine Seuss guy, longstanding.

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I am often asked why I’m called “doctor” and I’ve given many explanations of it over the years, some true, some made up. I’m not a “real” doctor. But the nickname does go back to when I was a kid, like early elementary school age. Kids sometimes used to call me Dr Frankenstein — as a flippant nickname or perhaps even as a mild insult. Insult or not, I liked it, and I’m not sure my history of Dr Seuss appreciation didn’t have a bit to do with that. (He wasn’t a real doctor either, by the way.)

Not everyone called me “doctor” but some did, and when they did I felt pretty good about it, and warmly towards them, and I imagine Dr. Seuss felt the same way at Oxford or wherever. There was this one girl, Connie, whom I used to hang out with and she always used to say “what’s up, Doc?” in that Bugs Bunny way whenever we would meet. Maybe you had to be there, but it was really cute and I dug it in that way you dig things when you are six. (Which is in some respects quite similar to the way one digs things now. The vagaries of digging bear a great deal of thoughtful analysis sometimes.)

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So the ground was well-laid to start using the epithet “professionally,” if you can call college radio a profession (which it’s obviously not.)

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There’s a long line of fake doctors on the radio, that is, DJs adopting the name “doctor,” like Dr Don Rose who was on KFRC AM when I was a kid, and most importantly for me, of course, Dr Demento. I’m not sure why this DJ “doctor” tradition exists, or how it originated, though I have a vague sense that it might have something to do with the term “spin doctor” and could reference the spinning of records (though that really just pushes the question a step further back.) Drug dealers are also sometimes called “doctor” sometimes, because they are supplying pharmaceuticals, get it? Maybe a lot of DJs sold drugs as a side gig. I’m not sure. But you don’t have to understand a thing completely to join in, and so join in I did. I was Dr Frank on the radio, like Dr Don and Dr Demento before me.

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When my punk rock band started up, the transition from DJ name to “punk name” happened kind of automatically, and after all these years it is so ordinary and commonplace that I never really notice it.

And that brings us to the present day. I’ve been Dr Frank, primarly, for far longer than I’ve been just plain Frank, and more meaningfully. My closest friends call me Doctor. My wife calls me Doctor. When people address me as merely Frank it sounds very, very weird and it often takes a couple of extra beats for it to dawn on me that I’m the one being referred to.

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Playing songs for the Random House staff pre-pub, 2006

When my first book was published I had to “come out” as my real full name, because it was judged that “Dr Frank” would look weird on a book cover and might be off-putting to the notoriously elusive book-buying public that we wanted to woo, if woo means what I think it does. They knew their business, no doubt, and I have no reason to complain with regard to how the novel was received, but looking back, I’d have to say I probably disagree. It worked just fine for Dr Seuss. His books sold even better than mine I think you’ll find. And, you know, at this point, it’s not really my name, and it kind of makes me wince when I hear it. “Frank Portman” was my dad. “Dr Frank” is me, and has been for some time.

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Rick Nielsen pretending to read King Dork — our finest hour

Oh Just Call Me Darling: I wrote about this “coming out” on my blog at the time, in a post called “Oh Just Call Me Darling” in reference to this foundational Monty Python sketchlet:

In Japan, the usual way fans address me is “Mr Dr Frank” which I’ve always loved. But of course, it — what you call me — doesn’t matter all that much. Nothing does.

Of course, many musicians besides me have styled themselves “doctor”… Dre, John, that Norwegian guy who writes all those Taylor Swift songs (if I have that right)… I’m sure they have their reasons just like I do. Because in America, if you say you’re a doctor, you almost pretty much actually are one, mostly, whatever that might mean.

But my favorite answer, and one I often paraphrase, to “what kind of doctor are you?” is from Victor Mature as Dr. Omar in The Shanghai Gesture (one of my favorite films):

A Doctor of Nothing, Miss Smith. It sounds important and hurts no one. Unlike most doctors.

Words to live by.

MTX WAS SO MUCH YOUNGER THAN ITS OLDER THEN-THAT NOW

Mtx forever on YouTube: the series — posting links to the newly mastered versions from my YouTube channel — continues with…

I know it ain’t “ramonescore” and I get why some don’t dig it, but Oakland looks like London today so

Plus: “Deep Deep Down” and “I Fell for You” and “End of the Ramones” with some notes about the state of the tapes of Big Black Bugs Bleed Blue Blood.

Playlist of full album is here.

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— Gabe (MTX bass player #4) got his Mtx forever and stacked it with Shards as intended. The spines of the three records (the two Shards LPs and the Mtx forever double LP) are meant to line up to form a single logo. Due to unforeseen circumstances, however, some edition combinations don’t line up as well as others. There was an initial error caused when we changed printers, and then we got confused trying to fix it. We’ll eventually get it right. In meantime, it works if you work it, probably.

— Form a band solely to meet girls & get free beer: scenes from a dumb little boardgame.

— Social distancing Alcatraz style.

…and your Friday morning “Sackcloth and Ashes”, a very nice rendition from our friend Lauren Banjo.

…and on the covers playlist it goes!

DOCTOR AT CAKE

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— Goin a bit mad to be honest: it’s hard to explain, sometimes you suddenly realize you might want out of your own head. And then, for some reason you take a picture of yourself and put it on the internet (inset). What are we doing here, people? Anyway, it all came out fine in the end. Totally cured.

— All My Vinyl Part 2: Some more stuff I wrote about records, feat. Atomic Rooster, Ethel the Frog, Celibate Rifles, the Wicker Man soundtrack, the Wombles, and Rufus Harley…

— Travels with my phone: walking the streets, so to speak, is about all you’re allowed to do these days and I’ve been doing lots of it. So here’s where I note my photos of a neglected ruin of: a pink Betty Boop sportscar, some free toilet paper (with an explanation), and, well, don’t touch this guy’s limes.

— My “North Korean spy” roommate: a “memory.”

— Musical Osmosis: in which I am podcasted, on Mtx forever, punk rock history, and coping with Covid-19.

(“Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret” — the song — features prominently; I feel it’s a “deep cut,” our host feels otherwise.)

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— Nerdy in the Extreme: for Odin, and for my sins, I put up the notorious recording of me “rapping” Dr Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham” over the instrumental side of Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message” live on KALX radio, ca. 1983. It was just a silly thing I did, but I get a lot of requests for it.

The story is here. Minor secrets and all that.

I also posted a pic of what Dr Seuss himself sent me when the ten year old future Dr Frank wrote to ask for his autograph (inset.) See, as I said above, I’ve been on the Dr Seuss train for a long, long time, not just as a stunt in 1983.

That got a whole lot more attention than the track, which I suppose I understand. It’s extremely cool and I’m glad it survived I only realized when I came across it looking for something else that I must have learned how to autograph stuff from him, because his is an approach I often take. Two doctors, one extremely useful arrow.

(Also, for reasons, you will only understand if you’ve read the “minor secrets” post linked above, I posted a throughly sound review of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music.)

— It’s not the wishing I was dead that’s killing me… rediscovering “Bitter Homes and Gardens” and glancing at the “Bitter Homes and Gardens” Club.

Really looking forward to being able to remaster this because the direct transfer sounds SO much better….

— Great moments in fanzine Chinese Telephones interviews:

I once did a fanzine interview where I was asked for my favorite rhyme and I mentioned how in “What’s Going to Happen to the Tots” Noel Coward rhymes “squadcar” with “vodka.” By the time the zine came out, this had evolved to rhyming “vodka” with “hardcore,” and Noel Coward had become Noel Gallagher. The song had turned into “Something about Tater Tots.”

And here’s that song once again, simply because it’s great:

OTHER PEOPLE’S MUSIC

— The Brains — “Money Changes Everything”, one of the all-time great New Wave singles:

— “He’s Alive”: Dolly Parton plays and sings the Don Francisco song she made famous, for Easter, on Twitter. Great performance. (I dig the Johnny Cash version too.)

— Life is good peace and love: a message from our Ringo, en masque.

PICTURE BOOK

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— Roman Calendar: the Harrowing of Hell (for Holy Saturday); the three Marys at the Tomb by Burne-Jones; a few years back, on Good Friday, I sliced open a potato and found a cross — it has been my go-to Easter image ever since; Caravaggio’s first painting of the supper at Emmaus, for Easter Monday; Magdelene with disciples; John 21:1–14, the Miraculous Draught of Fishes, from an illuminated manuscript, for Easter Wednesday; for Easter Friday a/k/a “Bright Friday”…

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— Would Be NSFW Maybe if Anybody Still Had a Job: I’m a sexual communist, but right-wing for money; the glasses make it; an Easter barmaid; just a nice Buckeye; this bunny looks like trouble; MOK; Britain swings; it’s tight; smoking in the study; girl with strategic shell necklace;

— Misc. & “safe”: in the graveyard; just some illuminated Medieval bunnies; a very MTX Easter; she’s turned us into rocks; dream date portrait pillow; let’s go back; “wretchedly unique” (from Alphaville)…

…and finally:

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IN THE NEWS

— Tim Brooke-Taylor: the British comedy great died, reportedly of Coronavirus complications. RIP.

— 7,345 out of a possible 128,312this sketch really hits home these days:

— Classic Italian clip, made me laugh:

— What Is the Deal with Birds?: academic publishing at its finest. It could not possibly be improved by any comment I could make so:

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END

And that’s all I got. But for those who’ve made it this far down the page, here’s a tattoo’d gal licking a Les Paul neck:

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See you next week.

Written by

I am Dr. Frank. I write books and songs. Mtx Forever.

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