Archives for posts with tag: Beatles

With the Moody Blues touring in celebration of their landmark album “Days of Future Passed”…we’ve been going through the archives.  

The fall of 1967 meant awaiting the Christmas offerings of the Beatles and Rolling Stonesto much disappointment. “Magical Mystery Tour” was merely an EP that served as a soundtrack to the Fab Four’s first misstep–a drug enduced home movie that shocked many and confused more on Boxing Day…while “Their Satanic Majesties Request” saw what happened when the Rolling Stones tried to imitate “Sgt. Pepper” instead of “Aftermath”–a psychedelic journey that never really began or ended with a Bill Wyman song to boot. Nobody expected greatness from a has-been band almost named after a brewery just a few years before. But that’s what they got with the Moody Blues “Days of Future Passed”.

A revamped lineup, a change of musical focus and consecutive singles that fail to chart is not the ideal way for a musical group to rebound from a two-year slump. Although neither “Fly Me High” nor “Love and Beauty” made a dent in the UK top 20, Deram Records thought they had something– guinea pigs. Recording at the time was making the move into stereo…and the label thought it would be great to have a demo of what stereo would sound like with classical and modern music. So naturally, they asked the Moody Blues to record and adaptation of Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9. Kind of like an aspiring painter asked to reproduce something they saw in art class, but with different paints to show off a new canvas.

Fortunately for the group, they were writing quite a bit of new material while touring in Belgium…and were able to narrow the fruits of their creativity into a song cycle about “a day in the life”. Mike Pinder had sat in on one of the Sgt. Pepper sessions for that Beatles song–and perhaps that got things rolling. But it wasn’t just Pinder who contributed songs: Hayward, Lodge and Thomas also wrote while Graeme Edge composed the two poems that bookend the album:

“Cold hearted orb that rules the night…remove the colors from our sight. Red is grey and yellow white…but we decide which is right. And which is an illusion…”

The spoken word poems, however goofy-sounding at times (and depending on your mood they range from profound to downright ridiculous) hold key posts in the groups first five “core” albums (with grunting emerging in their sixth)…setting the table (In Search of the Lost Chord’s “Departure”) or providing a finishing statement (A Question of Balance’s “The Balance”). In Days similar verses open and end a journey through the day.

It was a marriage of rock and classical music like none other. Peter Knight directed the “London Festival Orchestra” to fill the gaps in between songs moving through different day parts. The opening track “Day Begins” touches on different melodies we’ll hear later on the album…and the orchestral pieces mesh perfectly with the songs. Credit producer Tony Clarke with fitting the two genres in tandem.

“Dawn is a Feeling” wakes up the listener to the possibilities of the day ahead…even sneaking in a subtle narcotic hint (“the smell of grass just makes you pass into a dream”)…Hayward and Pinder trading verses and bridges. Justin’s sunshiny pleasantness would provide the Yin to Mike’s soul-searching Yang over the next seven years. “Another Morning” offers the double-tracked voice of Ray Thomas (also known as the dancing machine in the group’s “Ride My See Saw” video”) and no question about it, the Moodies’ flautist vocally dances through whimsical lyrics “a palace is an orange box”…with the key line “time seems to stand quite still–in a child’s world it always will”. “Peak Hour” brings John Lodge into the mix with a up-tempo rocker that ends the first side that showcases Graeme Edge’s accelerating drum solo that instantly makes one think of his intro “I’m Just a Singer (in a rock and roll band)” five years later.

“Tuesday Afternoon” opens side two with the hypnotic combination of Mellotron/bass for the first few bars…and by the time Hayward’s vocal starts and the guitar and drums kick in, the listener is lost in an audio undertow. “Evening (Time to Get Away)” lets us know Lodge has a falsetto in his arsenal and isn’t afraid to use it. “Sunset/Twilight Time” juxtaposes Pinder and Thomas effectively. Booming drums with an Oriental flavor set the tone underneath Mike’s initial vocal…and then Ray’s flute answers the Mellotron in between the verses. After Hayward’s guitar plays the introductory note to “Twilight Time” Thomas’ fall away jumper of a vocal boasts the lyrical gem “an aerial display of a firefly brigade…dancing to tunes no one knew”.

The final song remains 46 years later the group’s signature tune…”Nights in White Satin”. Reportedly inspired when he received satin sheets as a gift, Justin Hayward captures the heart of chances not taken (“letters I’ve written, never meaning to send”)…before being given confidence from Pinder’s Mellotron to declare his feelings. Thomas’ flute enters side by side with Lodge’s bass and Hayward’s acoustic guitar as support during the bridge. A tidal wave of emotion crashes with each line…and for a guy who was only meaning to send letters, Hayward delivers “I love you” no fewer than 15 times before the orchestra kicks in. I hope he bought forever stamps.

“Nights in White Satin” would chart three separate times (#19 in 1967, #9 in 1972 and #14 in 1979) in the UK and reach #2 in the US in 1972 (topping the charts in Canada that year) while taking #1 in the “Cashbox Chart” (the ESPN/USA Today Poll to Billboard’s AP) the same year. “Nights” would serve as scene-setters for movies set in the 1960’s like “Bobby” and “A Bronx Tale” while showing up in “Deuce Bigelow: European Gigelo”. TV shows from “Fringe” to “Two and a Half Men” would use “Nights” for emphasis.

Titled “Days of Future Passed”–and often misspelled “Past”–by the record company (the last time that would happen for the Moodies)…the album would see moderate success in the homeland (#27) while taking off on this side of the Atlantic (#3 in the US and Canada)…and the Moodies would make more than a few trips to America over the next few years. The album’s success ended a two-year descent and gave the group a blueprint they’d go back to six more times over the next four years.

Coming Up Next–How did they lose the chord in the first place?

With the Moody Blues touring and playing their 1967 landmark album “Days of Future Passed”, I’m returning to the archives for the first four parts of a summer-long series from 2013.  Eventually I’ll add pieces and bring us to the present…whether you like it or not.

 

1966 was an incredible year in music. The Beatles released their highly regarded Revolver while the Rolling Stones were spinning out singles like “19th Nervous Breakdown” and groups like Cream and the Jefferson Airplane were beginning to take flight.  Meanwhile, the Moody Blues were on their way to becoming insignificant one-hit wonders (GO NOW!, #1, 1965)–about to be devoured by the law of diminishing returns.  To add to their drifting into oblivion…the Moodies lost their rudder and sail as lead singer Denny Laine and bassist Clint Warwick fled the sinking ship.  As a last gasp the remaining trio reached into their past and future.

John Lodge had originally left the Moodies to attend technical college…but rejoined at this time as fill-in Rodney Clarke didn’t last long enough to merit a Wikipedia entry.  Lodge’s voice and songwriting would be an unexpected bonus to his bass playing:  he’d create and deliver band-defining songs from “Ride My See-Saw” to “Isn’t Live Strange”.  For a new lead guitarist, the band picked up a hand me down from the Animals:  Eric Burdon handed Mike Pinder a letter and demo from 20-year old Justin Hayward.  The sandy blonde songwriter had previously been a part of the “Wilde Three” and had done some solo work…and would go on to become the face and voice of the Moodies during their peak era of 1967-72.

Armed with two singer/songwriters, the band refined its sound.  R&B knockoffs wouldn’t work any more in a changing musical landscape.  The quintet grew together playing in Belgium–now focused on their own material.  The first fruit of their cross-pollination would be one step forward with “Fly Me High”…a Justin Hayward song that drives though the verses steadily before relying on John Lodge’s falsetto harmony in the bridges.  The kind of song where you enjoy the entire ride and are bummed when it’s over… thinking for sure you had one more verse to enjoy.  The B side would be a leftover from the Laine/Warwick days, “I Really Haven’t Got the Time”.  A song that feels like a Gerry and the Pacemakers derivative…only not as good. Thankfully, Mike Pinder’s next effort wouldn’t only be much better, but also feature a new instrument that would define the band.

“Love and Beauty” was the band’s next single…and in addition to featuring interwoven harmonies Mike Pinder swapped out his piano for the Mellotron. He discovered the instrument while an employee of Streetly Electronics. This keyboard instrument plays tape loops and gave bands the feel of an orchestra at times. It provided the perfect vessel for the band to take their listeners on seven remarkable journeys.


Coming up Next: One Incredible Day.

It was fifty years ago June 1st that The Beatles released their best-known album…one that would help mark the second half of their careers.  “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” helped re-set the rock world during the summer of 1967…and has spawned more than a few imitators in the years since.  The landmark LP was more than just what everybody was listening to:  Sgt. Pepper’s was one of the first albums of the rock era to not spawn singles (Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever was released months earlier).

It’s release came at a fortuitous time, because for the first time The Beatles US and UK album track lineups were the same.  Over the previous four years the group’s American (Capitol) and British (Parlophone) releases were similar yet different:  while “Meet the Beatles” was a mish-mash of two albums plus a stand-alone single, Revolver” cut out three Lennon-voiced songs.  By trimming the UK LP’s from 14 to 11 tracks and adding standalone singles into the mix, Capitol was able to generate 11 units from the 7 Parlophone albums.  This also created American LP’s that had no British counterpart…from “Beatles VI” to “Yesterday and Today” (that first featured the famed “Butcher Cover”).  What would Sgt. Pepper have looked like under this landscape?

Under the practice of slapping recent singles and slicing extra tracks to get each album to 11,  I would imagine Capitol would be more than okay with placing “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” on the LP.  That makes 15 tracks–and candidates to leave Pepperland would be “Getting Better”, “She’s Leaving Home”, “Being for the Benefit of Mister Kite” (Strawberry Fields getting the last spot on side one) and “Lovely Rita”.

 

The modified Sgt. Pepper-

Side 1-

1-“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

2-“With a Little Help from My Friends”

3-“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”

4-“Fixing a Hole”

5-“Strawberry Fields Forever”

Side 2-

1-“Penny Lane”

2-“Within You and Without You”

3-“When I’m Sixty-Four”

4-“Good Morning Good Morning”

5-“Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)”

6-“A Day in the Life”

 

Sadly, the presence of the Beatles’ latest single would spike sales even more.  This would also give Capitol a head start on their fall product (having been robbed the previous year of no new Beatles LP in November/December like 1964 or ’65).  They’d also have “Paperback Writer” and “Rain” from 1966 still waiting for an LP to be slapped onto.  Add the summer single “All You Need is Love” and “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” Capitol would be just three tracks shy of a new album.  Padding things out would be songs that didn’t make the “Pepper” cut and were consigned for the “Yellow Submarine” cartoon movie project:  George’s “Only a Northern Song” and “It’s All Too Much” plus Paul’s “All Together Now”.  That smokey big bite of songs would come together to form a late October/early November release by Capitol… “Magical Mystery Tour” be damned.

“Beatles on Safari” track listing-

Side 1-

1-“All You Need is Love”

2-“Baby You’re a Rich Man”

3-“Getting Better”

4-“Only a Northern Song”

6-“She’s Leaving Home”

Side 2-

1-“Being for the Benefit of Mister Kite”

2-“Lovely Rita”

3-“It’s All Too Much”

4-“All Together Now”

5-“Rain”

6-“Paperpack Writer”

I know, this completely messes up the “Magical Mystery Tour”…but I’m sure Capitol would be okay with holding their MMT back until after the film premiered in late December.  Seven tracks would be available…so one could pad the Capitol version with “Jessie’s Dream” (an instrumental never released anywhere) or “Death Cab For Cutie” (performed by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band in the film).  They could also mimic the US versions of “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help” by padding the album with soundtrack instrumentals.  Unless they wanted to wait for the “Lady Madonna”/”Inner Light”/”Across the Universe”/”Hey Bulldog” sessions of February ’68.

 

 

Fifty years ago this month.  Can you believe it was all those years ago that a quartet known for snappy hits and on-stage chemistry came out of the studio with facial hair and unleashed a number one album that would change our perception about them forever?

What’s that, you say?  The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper June 1st?  I’m referring to “Headquarters” by The Monkees. The “pre-fab four” had already posted a pair of #1 albums in 1967 (“The Monkees” and “More of the Monkees”)…but were burdened with the image as a group that didn’t write their material (mostly true) and didn’t play any of their instruments (almost completely true).  This was hardly a unique practice; the Beach Boys used “the Wrecking Crew” to craft most of the backing tracks to “Pet Sounds” and popular TV shows generated albums like “Bonzana: Christmas on the Ponderosa”.  But according to a music press that was beginning to think of itself as reporters of legitimate art, a TV show about musicians releasing an album where the musicians didn’t play their instruments rang false.

That changed with their third album.  Micky, Davy, Peter and Mike doubled down on their hit TV show (that would eventually win the Emmy for Best Comedy) and demanded musical input.  After the dismissal of Donnie Kirshner as their musical director, they had the studio to themselves and brought in former Turtles bassist Chip Douglas to produce.  Faced with the challenge of blending four completely different musical styles (Micky-California rock, Mike-country rock, Peter-folk rock, Davy-Broadway) and a drummer who was still learning (they often had to edit multiple takes by Micky to generate acceptable tracks), they produced a hidden gem.

Headquarters didn’t have any hit singles (although “Shades of Gray” received a ton of airplay and “Randy Scouse Git” was released in the UK as “Alternate Title”)…but went to #1 the week before the Beatles buried the Monkees with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.   One was a record of its time while the other would become a record for all time.

The success of “Headquarters” was both the best and worst thing that could have happened to the Monkees.  It proved that they could piece together an album of their material that they played on…but it also gave them creative control that convinced them to proceed in their separate directions.  “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd.” would be released that fall under the production of Douglas and even though they played all of their instruments on just one track (the Harry Nilsson-penned “Cuddly Toy”) PACJ felt like a unified musical effort.  They chose to produce their next LP and “The Birds, Bees & The Monkees” would seem more like multiple solo records instead of one album with four voices.  Combined with the cancellation of their TV series, the run of four straight #1 albums in ’67 ended with Birds & Bees charting at #3.  Future LP’s would chart at #45, #32, #100 and #152 with band members leaving:  Peter first in 1968 and then Mike in 1969 before Micky & Davy finally called it a day after “Changes” in 1970.

The Monkees went from rags to riches to rags in the span of five years…before eventually becoming a pretty productive nostalgia act in the 80’s.  But for one shining moment they went toe-to-toe with the greats of the era…producing music on their own terms and holding their heads high.  Hey, hey…

 

 

So they almost got swept by the Orioles amidst fans chanting “OH!” at Nats Park.  So they dropped two of three to a Colorado team going nowhere.  So the second-place Marlins got needed outfield help in the form of veteran Jeff Francouer.  The Nationals’ biggest concern is the amount of attention they’ll receive as the Redskins and college football monoliths take their proper places in the Beltway sports landscape.

This week is extremely crunching for yours truly…as WTOP.COM is rolling out a five day forecast of the upcoming college football season. 

http://wtop.com/ncaa-football/2016/08/3-9-season-maryland-football-selling-whats-new/

We also marked the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ last concert on their final tour…

http://wtop.com/entertainment/2016/08/dc-sportscaster-recalls-50th-anniversary-beatles-last-us-show/

So forgive me if this week’s notebook appears a little rushed…

Dissecting the Division…and Projecting the Playoff Picture- the Nats lead the Marlins by 8 games in the NL East and are 9 games in front of the Mets;  those two teams play a three game series this week.  At this moment the Nationals own the second best record in the NL- so they would have home field in the NLDS with the West Division leading Los Angeles Dodgers.  The Chicago Cubs would own the #1 seed while facing the winner between wildcards San Francisco and St Louis.

All about the AL East- the Orioles after taking 3 of 4 against the Nats turned around and lost their first two games with the New York Yankees.  They now trail Toronto by 3 games in the division…and battle the Blue Jays in a three game series this week.  While the division is within their reach…so is falling out of the wildcard as the O’s lead Detroit by two games for the final playoff spot in the American League.  Meanwhile, Boston continues to churn out high-scoring wins and losses in its usual frustrating fashion.

Last Week’s Heroes- Trea Turner hit .500 with 4 steals and 6 runs…scoring Friday night after an infield single, error, stolen base and grounder to first.  Bryce Harper tallied 10 hits while Daniel Murphy drove in 9 runs…to move within 100 for the season.  Max Scherzer struck out 10 over 8 scoreless innings…while Gio Gonzalez notched career win #100.

Last Week’s Humbled- Ryan Zimmerman hit .103 with 8 strikeouts…and gets a seat in Monday’s game at Philadelphia to clear his head.  Reynaldo Lopez had a rude awakening in Baltimore–coughing up 4 runs over 2.2 innings.  Blake Treinen posted an ERA of 33.75…

Game to Watch- Tuesday Max Scherzer (14-7, 2.92 ERA) pitches against Jerad Eickhoff (9-12, 3.87). Max is 5-1 since Independence Day while Eickoff has won three straight decisions.

Game to Miss- Saturday the Nats do not have a starter listed for their game against the New York Mets.  There’s a full plate of college football to enjoy, my friends…from Maryland-Howard to Virginia-Richmond to Navy-Fordham to Virginia Tech-Liberty.

Let’s be honest– the PGA Championship is the Ringo of Golf Majors.  Much like the Australian Open in tennis– the PGA is a Grand Slam event because you NEED four to have a grand slam (unlike the Champions/Senior Tour that has 5 grand slam events).  But even though Richard Starkey was not as talented as John, Paul or George he remains a Beatle for life.  Likewise–the winner of the PGA Championship gets to count that towards his major title total.  The Players Championship claims “fifth major” status–but really they’re just the Pete Best/Stu Sutcliffe/George Martin.  Close to greatness but not in the Fab Four.  Speaking of Fab Four–Rory McIlroy wins his fourth career major by one shot at 16 under par.  Other thoughts relating to Rory and Ringo…:

 

Boys— Rory’s win comes on a weekend dominated by youth:  he’s 25 as is Ricky Fowler who tied for third (after consecutive runner-up finishes at the US and British Opens).  Victor Dubuisson (24 years old) tied for seventh while Brooks Koepka (24) and Jason Day (26) tied for 15th.  Was this weekend the first page of a new chapter?

 

I Wanna Be Your Man— McIlroy’s victory was his second PGA Championship.  He joins notables like Lee Trevino and Gary Player in the group ahead of one-time winners but behind Jack Nicklaus (5) and Tiger Woods (4) in the stroke-play era (the PGA Championship used to be decided in match-play until the late 1950’s).  Rory also wins two majors in the same calendar year– a feat last accomplished by Padraig Harrington in 2008.  He also moves up the ladder with four majors–only 27 men have accomplished that feat (including both Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris from the 19th century).  The top ranked player in the world has every reason to believe there will be more majors.

 

Honey Don’t— despite not being as desirable a tournament as the Masters (tradition!), US Open (it’s our national championship!) or British Open (the birthplace of golf!)– the PGA is one tough tournament to win.  Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer never won the PGA.  Likewise for multiple-major winners Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Ernie Els.  While many think Rickie Fowler will eventually break through at the major championship level–many were saying the same thing when a 19-year old Sergio Garcia finished second to Tiger Woods in the 1999 PGA Championship.  And we’re still waiting…

 

Act Naturally— McIlroy shot 66, 67, 67 and 68 en route to victory.  His back nine dominance helped him regain the lead Sunday after Mickelson and Fowler surged ahead…starting with an eagle on 10 (the same hole he double-bogeyed in the first round).  McIlroy finished 12 under par on the back nine (-4 on the front nine) for the tournament– taking a two shot lead with a birdie putt on 17.  It still wasn’t over though…

 

What Goes On— Phil Mickelson was THIS CLOSE to stealing the spotlight on what was the Rory Coronation Party (after two days of the Will Tiger Make the Cut Mystery)…barely missing a pair of shots on the 16th and 18th holes.  His chip on 16 holed out-robbing him of a birdie before Mickelson missed the par putt.  Phil’s chip on 18 almost went in–if it had he’d have carded an eagle and there would have been a playoff.  Which probably would have meant we would have finished the tournament Monday– just like in 2005 when lefty triumphed.

 

Yellow Submarine—  skies of blue they weren’t Sunday afternoon…as rain interrupted the final day of play and forced a semi-furious finish where McIlroy was battling darkness as well as Mickelson and Fowler.  (Beatle aside– Ringo always said the best drumming he ever did was on “Rain”–the B-side to “Paperback Writer”).  On the 18th Rory hit his approach shot while the duo had yet to putt.  Thank goodness nobody was hurt.  It did feel uncomfortable watching Rory watch Phil and Rickie before he could proceed with his round.  Made for solid TV…except for those complaining about the pre-emption of 60 Minutes.

 

With a Little Help from My Friends— Chris Wood had one memorable Thursday…and it wasn’t his first round 66.  The Englishman split the seat of his pants early in his round…and had to wear a pair of his playing partner’s rain pants.  But the pants didn’t fit well… so Wood got his own rain pants from his locker.  The water-repellent pants didn’t exactly breathe well in the Louisville heat…but before Wood melted in the August sun his manager showed up with a fresh pair.  Wood finished his first round with 5 birdies while wearing 4 different pairs of trousers.  After carding the 66, Wood shot 73, 70 and 74 in rounds he didn’t have to change his pants.  I’m not suggesting he should have torn his pants on purpose, but when it’s working…

 

Don’t Pass Me By— it appears as though Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 Major Championships appears safe.  Tiger Woods misses the cut by five shots after shooting consecutive 74’s.  It’s now been six years since his US Open title–and while he’s at the same age as Nicklaus was when he won his 15th major (1978 British Open) the odds of Woods enjoying the same sort of sunset Jack did (4 majors after turning 38) aren’t encouraging.  Whether it’s injuries, bad luck, off the course distractions or just getting old– some guys just simply stop winning majors after reaching their mid-30’s (Arnold Palmer was 34 when he won his last Masters and Tom Watson was 33 when he won his last British Open).  If Tiger shuts it down for the rest of the year– perhaps he comes back stronger in 2015.  Will his back issues ever go away?

 

Good Night— 2014 began with a Bubba bang– as Watson won his second green jacket in three years (and enjoyed another trip to a Waffle House).  Martin Kaymer conquered the US Open before the tournament really began…and then Rory McIlroy after ending an engagement over the phone dialed in one incredible summer.  Now every April the “can he win the Masters to complete the career grand slam” question will be asked.  After spending much of the last few years focusing on Tiger’s travails, it’s nice to think about what might be as opposed to what won’t be.

 

Octopus’ Garden— other storylines going to seed after Labor Day include the manufactured excitement surrounding the Fed Ex Cup Challenge Playoff… Tom Watson’s tough decisions regarding his Ryder Cup roster…the Rickie Fowler breakthrough question…will Phil Mickelson finally win a US Open?…Tom Watson’s last time playing the British Open (at St. Andrews–where none of his 5 wins came at)…who’s affected the most in the belly-putter’s final year?…and how many times will the Players Championship refer to itself as “golf’s fifth major”?  Sorry, Pete Best–your drums are taken.

The college football season begins at the end of the month…and although I know we all spent the offseason not at the pool reading and doing crosswords but completely focused on the minutiae that is football 24/7. For those who decided to either get a life or leave the country briefly…:

Alabama starts where they finished. Again. The two-time defending National Champs begin 2013 ranked #1. Bad omen? The Crimson Tide began 2011 #1…and that’s the only time in the last four years they didn’t go on to win the title. As serious as they are down there, I’m surprised Tide fans didn’t try to stuff the ballot box for other teams.

Johnny Manziel is in a heap of hurt. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner has been a magnet of attention this past offseason…from living up the celebrity role like few college athletes can (his family is loaded) to allegedly signing autographs for cash. Partying at the University of Texas in Austin (an insult to Longhorn fans because they think they’re too good to hang out with Aggies…and an insult to Aggie fans because why would he want to hang with those snobs instead of his own kind?). Tweeting how he can’t wait to leave College Station. I’m surprised Manziel didn’t challenge the devil himself to a fiddling contest. All while the rest of the SEC lies in wait…

Introducing the American Athletic Conference (of America). The broken pieces of the Big East added a few schools from Conference USA–and like the Beatles album “Yesterday and Today” that didn’t really exist in the UK…a league is born. No butcher cover here–this is a conference I’m sure many will not care about. Two schools already have their bags packed for the ACC (Louisville) and Big Ten (Rutgers). I hope they use velcro on the league flag.

Speaking of changes, the ACC is “Now with 17% more!” as Syracuse and Pitt join the league this fall. The Orange caught fire after one of their favorite alums watched them rally past South Florida on Halloween weekend…and the Panthers still haven’t been the same since they ditched the Tony Dorsett/Dan Marino era royal blue jerseys with gold helmets and script “Pitt” as opposed to “PITT”. Just what ACC football needs…two schools that have won national titles but haven’t won 10 regular season games since the Reagan Administration. But don’t get that ACC Map tattoo just yet–the league adds Louisville (after the Cardinals load up on American Athletic Conference swag) while waving goodbye to founding member Maryland. And that’s not including the league allowing Notre Dame to stay married to its independence while treating the ACC like a cheap mistress for its “needs” in sports it doesn’t make a ton of cash in.

Maryland looks to turn the corner in Coach Randy Edsall’s third year…and after 2011’s surprise implosion and last fall’s injury riddled stagger, six wins and a bowl before the Terps go into the Big Ten would be beyond huge. Lightning rod Stefon Diggs returns to provide thrills and chills at Byrd Stadium…the only question being who will be his big play partner? Quarterback CJ Brown is back after missing 2012 with a torn ACL…while transfer Ricardo Young already is familiar with Coordinator Mike Locksley’s offense. The much maligned offensive line of last year (39 sacks allowed, 2.6 yards per carry) needs to gel better this fall…and the defense needs to make more big plays (4 interceptions, 16 fumble recoveries and 28 sacks). The schedule plays in a manner that would lead one to believe November will be nail-biting as the Terrapins zero in on six wins.

Virginia couldn’t decide last year if Phillip Sims or Michael Rocco would own the quarterback job…and this year the Cavaliers won’t have that decision to make as Sims is at Division II Winston-Salem State and Rocco landed at Richmond. Instead-Coach Mike London’s hopes rest on a trio of redshirt freshmen. Door number one is David Watford…who completed 41% of 74 passes two years ago. Door number two is Greyson Lambert…who sounds like he wears an ascot underneath his uniform. Door number three is Matt Johns…whose grandfather Tom Schreiner played for Gettysburg. Maybe he was in Phi Gam with my Uncle Jeff.

Virginia Tech tries to bounce back from an uncharacteristic six loss season where special teams were a far cry from the BEAMER BALL! of old…Thursday Night turned from Hokie Heaven to Hokie Hell…the defense was gashed with numbing regularity and VT needed to beat Boston College in overtime and Virginia by a field goal to keep its bowl streak alive. Logan Thomas is back…and the offense has been spruced up accordingly. Alabama (yes, the #1 Crimson Tide) awaits August 31st.