Bad Penny Exclusive: An Expo Download – And John Lane’s Brushes With Greatness

The Bad Penny has had a hell of a week. From exclusives courtesy of the Pinx and ex-Red House Painters/ current Desertshore guitarist Phil Carney to creative feature submissions crafted by Mike Watt, Kathryn Williams, Humanfly and Campfire OK, there’s been plenty to munch on. As if that weren’t enough, here’s yet another Bad Penny exclusive, coupled with yet another new Bad Penny feature. Equally cool, this piece – Brushes With Greatness – was actually conceived by, not proposed to, the musician in question: Expo’s John Lane.

It’s a simple, fun idea – talk about famous folks you’ve met – and fits right in with “Revising History” and “Cover Me.” Go below to read Lane’s testimonials about shadow-boxing with Muhammad Ali and saying hi to Dr. Ruth.

But first, here’s a Bad Penny exclusive download of a song by his indie-pop band, Expo:

• Bad Penny exclusive download: Expo’s “Pensacola

Calling to mind Mouse on Mars, Aluminum Group and the Beach Boys, Expo’s self-released She Sells Seashells dropped earlier this year and has one of those “Why didn’t someone think of that first?” album titles. The songs are gentle ripples made of xylophone, pedal steel and harmonies galore. The therapeutic album must’ve netted the band a good number of frequent-flier miles, as it was recorded not only in Expo’s hometown of Baltimore but also London, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Chicago and beyond.

If you like what you hear, throw down for the full album-o’-sunshine on Expo’s Bandcamp page.

And now, the inaugural edition of Brushes With Greatness, courtesy Mr. Lane.

The two most unusual celebrities I’ve ever met (although not in the same room, same time, sadly enough) have been Muhammad Ali and Dr. Ruth.

I met Muhammad Ali when I was in my early teens. On a hot July day, I happened to be mowing my parents’ front lawn when a TV producer asked me if I wanted to meet Muhammad Ali, since they were filming a commercial a few houses down. (This was not unusual, as they filmed parts of the movie “Diner” and “Avalon” in that neighborhood as well.) Of course, I jumped at the chance, so I grabbed my brother and we went up the street.

Ali emerged from the front door of a big Victorian house; the scope of his personality, his presence, made the house seem to shrink in size. The odd thing about being next to him is that he felt familiar – I’d never met him before, and yet he had a face and a humanness that I somehow “knew” already.

For a few minutes, we talked and occasionally he would shadow-box with me, sort of throwing funny, friendly, light punches at me. Not many people (aside from people in the ring) can say they got socked in the arm by Ali.

He spent a few minutes trying to perform a magic trick for us, until he got frustrated and then his handlers let us know that the meeting had to wrap up. Ali graciously signed an autograph for me (which I’ve lost somewhere) and that was it. My meeting with the greatest boxer ever. Whenever I see pictures of Ali with the Beatles or Bob Dylan, I always imagine I’m one degree away from having met those greats as well.
If someone can confirm Ali has met Kevin Bacon, well, then the picture will be complete.

Additionally, as an adult, I met Dr. Ruth twice in the same year, at book conventions. At one, she was hunkered down munching on a snack with a friend of hers – just munching from a bag of chips like any other visitor. I saw her, walked by, and then went back and said hello because (as I told her), “I couldn’t simply not say hello to Dr. Ruth.” She was the kindest person ever, the grandmother that everyone wishes they had (although you wouldn’t want to talk sex with your grandmother, of course). I later met her abroad in Germany, at another book convention, and she had the same sweet countenance.

Somewhere in my collection I’ve also got letters from Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who showed me nothing but kindness. And a Christmas card from Yoko Ono. And a postcard from Robert Wyatt. Good God, I’m more of a fan-type than I realized I was!

That said, when the world seems big and overwhelmed by hype, I remember that these folks are just normal people who happen to do big things.

Other Bad Penny exclusives:

• Bad Penny Exclusive Download: Pinx’s ‘Say When’
• Bad Penny Exclusive: Ex-Red House Painters Guitarist Phil Carney Gives First-Ever Interview, Premieres Desertshore MP3
• Bad Penny Exclusive Download: Blue Skies For Black Hearts’ ‘Dirty Water’ Cover
• Bad Penny Exclusive Song Premiere: Cassorla’s ‘My Tree’
• Meet And Greet Danny Ross; Download Exclusive MP3s
• Bad Penny Exclusive Premiere: TV Buddhas’ Third Vlog

Other Bad Penny features:

• Revising History: Kathryn Williams On Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter, Björk’s Homogenic, More
• Guilty Pleasures: Humanfly On Prince, Blur, Ice Cube, More
• Cover Me: Cassorla
• What You Readin’ For?: Climber On ‘Moby Dick’
• Great Debate: TV Buddhas On Supermarket Lunches Vs. Eating Out
• Memento: Winterlings’ Autumn Harvest

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